Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Crow Amongst the Loons

On May 11 (Friday) and 12 (Saturday), just over a week from the big Sugarloaf race, I will be participating in something I've never done since school:  a relay race.  Set around the hook known as Cape Cod, the Ragnar Cape Cod Relay looks like it could be a very fun experience.

Run ALL the Cape Cod towns!

I have joined a team called the Maine Loon Squad and have been placed on the first, 13th, and 25th legs of the 36-leg course (roughly 16.6 miles total).  This group intends to run this for fun and I'm perfectly okay with that knowing what I really need to be focusing on.  Nonetheless, I am excited to try something new in the running world that doesn't involve zombies or live electrical wires.  It's good old-fashioned team running though what is a very scenic region of Massachusetts.

What will prove to be a bit of a challenge is how I will fare running in very odd hours on a very odd sleep schedule.  Most know how I fared after trying to run the Vermont Marathon on the same weekend as outdoor camping.  At least I don't have to push hard and run for 3-4 hours straight but it will be interesting to see how my legs handle the 13th and 25th legs, especially if I run one of those at night.  And I'm likely sleeping in and driving a big van through these areas.  It's going to be very different.

Three weeks from now I'll already be heading down and getting ready to represent the loons on the first leg. I hope to have a lot of reporting to do before, during, and after my experience.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Running Hunger

I finished 15 today.  I feasted on mileage.

I am definitely catching the fever of running and dreaming the big goals of sub-5 miles and sub-3 marathons.  I really want to hammer down a good regimen and stick with it throughout the next 6-8 weeks.

50-70 miles
After my recovery week from ES20 (42+) I am determined to get 50 miles again and build upon it until Sugarloaf week.  If I plan it right I should be able to get around 70 miles on my 20-mile long run week.  It's going to take some extraordinary discipline so I need to fight procrastination more than ever.

Speed Workouts
I was amazed at my Hyannis and ES20 times knowing I haven't done a single speed workout since last fall.  I can't get away with that though.  My big goals are not going to happen by just building mileage so I somehow need to fit in a midweek speed workout.  I am thinking of using the Back Cove for this and on a Wednesday lunch hour but it's actually applying it that will be the trick.  If needed I may try the workout in the mornings, but I'm not confident of having good workout speed at 6AM.

Races to Sugarloaf
Unity Spring 5K - April 21 - Unity College, Unity, Maine - I love running this and it's very easy to PR if I run the initial downhill right.  My two finishes - 20:52 in 2008 and 18:52 in 2010 - were personal 5K bests at that point.  I'd love to smash the 18:30 barrier on this course.

Orrington 10K - May 5 - Center Drive School, Orrington, Maine - This one is a nice test to see how my fast twitch muscles are coming along.  I have generally posted sub-41 races here but I want to smash the 40-minute mark (I love smashing things) which would give me a nice PR to try and beat at B2B in August.

Ragnar Cape Cod Relay - May 11-12 - Not as much of a road race as it is a fun run relay.  Of course the real fun is that I am running almost 25 miles over 3 legs.  Why?  Because I can.  At least there will be plenty of time to rest (~8 hours) in between legs.  Two 9s and a 10K should get me primed for the next week.

Early Sugarloaf Goals
2:15/:45 - This would be ideal if I can pull these times off.  2:15 through the first 20 would get me a PR for that distance and 45 minutes in the final 10K would also be the fastest time for my final 10K of a Marathon.  If I stick to my workouts/mileage and stay healthy there's no reason why I can't meet these goals.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unusually Favorable - Eastern States 2012 Results

Overall Time:  2:20:03
Pace per mile: 7 minutes, 0.2 seconds
Overall place:  38/443
Age group finish:  22/81 (male 39 and under)
Splits (5-mile):  33:24, 35:00, 36:08, 35:32

It's amazing what a little favorable weather and a little extra confidence can do.

I stormed out of the gate hard and kept the pedal down as much as I could.  There was no reason not to; even with the similar start to last year, I knew I wasn't going to hit the same wall that I did before.  I finished 5 miles well under 34 minutes knowing all this banked time would be important later in the race.

The next 5 was even and steady.  The goal for the rest of the race was to maintain a sub-7 for as long as I could and I was confident I could hold it through most of the race.  It was only after 14 that I started to feel the weight bear down on my legs, but once I hit 17 I was able to find the final surge and push hard to the very end.

There were a few places - namely the start and finish areas - where I could have shaved time.  They're really just minor details.  I set a personal best by over one minute (2:21:13) and beat my best time for this course by over 5 minutes.  I'd say that this was a huge success.

With less than 8 weeks to go I stand at a great position for the elusive 3:04:59 time at Sugarloaf.  I need to continue to be at that position, however, to make it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Eastern States 2012 Preview

Easily the windiest race of the year (Hyannis is likely second), the (typically) 3-state run is a challenging midpoint race that bridges the Hyannis and Sugarloaf Marathon most years.  Even if I don't excel at the race, it's a necessary linchpin to the long-distance racing season.

The direction of the wind is always important.  The day chooses one direction and sticks with it.  If it's at my back, I'll have an easy day, and if it's in my face...let's just say that all sorts of fun will happen.

2009 - 2:26:53 - 103 overall - 49 age group
2010 - 2:25:56 - 53 overall - 31 age group
2011 - 2:30:33 - 65 overall - 36 age group

The times I'm up against aren't difficult to beat with most other courses - in fact I have beaten 2011's time in most 20-mile splits of marathons - but weather will play a very major factor and why this race is particularly challenging.

Temperatures are expected to be around 50 degrees with light rain.  So far they're not expecting a lot of wind but that could change.  We'll see what Sunday brings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hyannis 2012: What Went Up, What Went Down

Overall Time (Net):  3:24:44
Pace per mile:  7 minutes, 49 seconds
Overall place:  34/403
Age group finish:  8/46
Splits (5-mile): 37:13.6 (0-5), 36:47.9 (5-10), 37:12.7 (10-15), 40:25 (15-20), 52:23.3 (last 10km)
Splits (Half): 1:36:55.5 (1st half), 1:47:48.5 (2nd half)

With consistent temperatures in the 50s right now, it's difficult to recall how bitter that wind on Cape Cod was just two weeks ago but make no mistake: the conditions were what one would expect on the Cape in the middle of winter.


This was a race that started with a bit of self-doubt.  In addition to the bitter weather, the lack of speed workouts (including no other road races in the month of February) and getting stuck near the back of the pack with the 12-minute pacers made the opening minutes frustrating.  I knew that I had to push it all aside - dwelling on it was pointless.

The first mile was spent caught behind a sea of runners, but once I broke free the pace was much easier.  One thing I did notice early in the race was that my upper legs felt heavy (I guess that's the best way to describe it) which may have been a blessing in disguise.  Though it kept me from posting anything below 7 minutes in a single mile, it kept me focused on keeping a slightly slower but more even pace.  I stayed around or under a 7:30 pace through the first 15 miles, stayed under 8:30 for 23 of the 26 miles, and managed to avoid a 9-minute mile entirely - especially at the end where I returned to under an 8 minute pace in the last 1.2 miles.

Though far from my PR (3:08:21) and BQ (3:04:59) goals, I was proud of my endurance both during and after the race.  There was significantly fewer sore leg muscles the next day which is a testament to my winter workouts this year.  It was my best for Hyannis, beating out last years time by about 2 1/2 minutes.  Which means if I can keep this up I should be in great shape (literally) for the rest of 2012.

Friday, February 17, 2012

10 days from Hyannis Year 5 - the beard is in full effect.

I love Hyannis.  Not convincing enough?

I LOVE HYANNIS.  A little better?

2008 - 4:42:35
I mean, that should be the reason I keep coming back year after year.  It shouldn't have nothing to do with the challenge factor of a New England marathon in winter, or the propensity of endurance runners to always take masochism to the next level.  Right?  Anyway.  Here it is, for the fifth time.  It's hard to believe I've already run 11 marathons, 4 of them in the same place.  Hyannis was my first - perhaps that's the biggest reason to run it year after year - and always helps me set myself straight for the rest of the running year.

I've made the odd little tradition of growing a beard for February just for the race at the end of the month.  I suppose it's largely symbolic to the ruggedness and chaos of the winter...because it is far from tame.  At least it doesn't last long after the marathon.  I'm not sure how acceptable looking like a lost band member of ZZ Top would be in the workplace.
2009 - 3:32:03

My weight has stayed down between 185-190 in the months of January and February.  Considering that these are my hibernation months and my metabolism naturally slows down in the winter, holding steady at this weight is a huge sign of progress for me.  Perhaps there's hope for me to to hit 170 again - that hasn't been done since 2008 and that was when I had less muscle mass.  It's exciting and I hope it will really reflect in my spring and summer running.

My running times - including the easy runs - have stayed amazing fast as well.  I've only run one race since the new year (4.5 miler) but it was far faster than any of the previous years (29:12 compared to 31:31 in '11 and 30:03 in '09).  Unfortunately I have not been able to run the other February races that prep me for Hyannis so I don't have much to go on in terms of speed preparation.
2010 - 3:45:34

My weekly mileage has been consistent this year, too, which has always been a struggle.  I have logged at least 35 miles every week so far, only going below 40 twice since the new year began.  I even logged 50+ last week during my final long run.  That will only help me improve my Hyannis time.

Pretty much the only thing left to do is to slowly start tapering and keep my diet and exercise in balance as I head into the final stretch leading to Hyannis 2012.  Weather is the only thing out of my control at this point, but as many of us know, weather could be the huge factor for a Cape Cod February.
2011 - 3:27:04

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Full Vermonty

I succeeded in completing three marathons in 90 days.  This last one didn't go as well as the first two, but the major goal was the completion of this race.

Overall Time (Net):  3:46:50
Pace per mile:  8 minutes, 39 seconds
Overall place:  535/2403
Age group finish:  59/160
Splits (5-mile):  35:58 (0-5), 36:18 (5-10), 39:39 (10-15), 49:24 (15-20), 1:05:31 (last 10km)
Splits (Half):  1:37:16 (1st half), 2:09:34 (2nd half)

Little sleep, long travel, bad sleeping conditions, bad weather conditions, mistakes during the race...I can't blame any one factor, but those combined created a wall so immense that I almost dropped out at a few different places of the race.

I had spent the previous two nights camping over an hour away from Burlington.  The air mattress I slept on was uncomfortable at best, which caused a sore lower back to develop and (maybe) a combined 8 hours of sleep in those two nights left me with almost no energy on race morning.  In spite of adequate preparation and a relatively healthy start to the race, the cards were stacked against me.

The rain let loose around the start of the race and kept up for the first 3-4 miles, soaking every inch of my running gear.  In spite of some good splits in the first few miles I could already feel an odd pressure in my right leg - muscle fatigue - and I had a bad feeling that I would not be able to hold a BQ pace for very long.

Miles 5-9 departed the city streets and entered an open stretch of highway.  I was glad that the sun was not out; it would have cooked me early. The humidity was increasing with each mile but I stayed fairly consistent -  hugging the 7:10-7:20 mile pace right up through the re-entry into the city.  The one big mishap, however, came at mile 7 when I reached for my first GU packet and had it slip though my hand.  I had considered stopping to pick it back up but I decided against it after noticing the large pack of runners behind me.  I would have to try to find a way with only two gels instead of three.

The clouds partially gave way to a hazy atmosphere during miles 10-12.  It was on this stretch where I hot my first wall and recorded my first mile over eight minutes.  Desperate to ration my gel, I successfully took my first one on mile 11.  Miles 13-15 were very rough as I tried hard to recollect myself but I had no energy.  The first GU was only helping me to hold on by a thread.

Then there was mile 16 - the assault on Battery Hill.

I turned the corner to see the long ascent ahead of me.  At that moment I had thought about stopping there and dropping - I could not will myself to go any faster and I could only think of the damage this hill was going to do to me.  Then, I heard a wonderful thing.  The rhythmic pounding of the taiko drums perked me up like no amount of caffeine could.  It was like a rally for the defeated troops of my body.  Renewed by adrenaline, I fought up the hill, raising a fist-clenched arm to the drummers as I went by (as they shouted back - which bolstered me further).  For just a few minutes, I forgot what ailed me and conquered the hill.

I would carry the fleeting momentum through 17 and 18, but the endless labyrinth of streets could do nothing to maintain that energy.  I go through a park forest on the first part of 19 and cross the makeshift plywood bridge that kept us from the flooded muck of the ruined trail.

I slid -slightly- on one of the floorboards and my left calf muscle seized up.

The pain stops my running for a few moments as I walk it off.  After a couple minutes the pain gives way to a bit of soreness but I can resume running once again.  I hobble through miles 20-22 though I walk through each water stop and put considerable effort into running again.

As I approach the long bike path on 23, the sun fully emerges from a break in the clouds.  The air is set on fire and breathing slowly gets more difficult.  The aid station announced that 'condition red' is up as I run by (meaning unsafe conditions for running - one step down from calling off the remainder of the race).  I knew, however, that I had this last road to finish before I was done.  I made it over 22 miles in spite of almost giving up at several places.

This was the point of no return.  I needed to finish as long as I was physically capable of doing so.

The last 4 miles was a blur of hazy sun, shouting crowds, and broken racers.  It wasn't until I passed a muddy stretch of trail that I realized I was opening into Waterfront Park and was a half mile away from the finish.  I tried hard to push with anything I had in the tank and finally made it to the finish.  After getting out of the way, I laid down for over 20 minutes to let the pain subside enough to walk.

My disappointment was in the fact that I will likely not be running Boston 2012, as I still have yet to qualify for it. I did succeed in finishing when for the longest time it didn't look like I'd make it.  It's my third worst time (behind Hyannis and Sugarloaf 2008) but time was relative on a weekend that was clearly not the time for me to run my best.  The best thing for me to do at this point is to focus on the summer ahead and prepare for MDI after that.