US Mountain Champs & Chilling With the Front of The Pack

Three weeks ago I ran in the USATF Club Track Champs steeplechase at UPenn. Despite coming down with a cold and running much slower than desired, it was a great experience running on that legendary track at Franklin Field. The day was filled with amazing performances by amateur runners competing purely for the love of their event and to see what they could achieve by giving it their all. But with the poor result I was able to achieve, I had a big hole left in my satisfaction and goals for this season and after some of the best training I’ve ever put in this past spring, too. Isn’t that just one of the best and worst things about running, though? You are rarely satisfied with the result of your efforts, but you almost always have a chance for personal redemption just around the corner (barring nasty, evil, mean-spirited injuries) Such was the case here, in the form of one of those metaphorical mountains to climb on the path to success. Only in this story, that mountain is no metaphor and that success has different definitions depending on where you are on that path…

Last weekend just so happened to be that instant chance at redemption for me in the form of the Loon Mountain Race also serving as the US Mountain Running Champs this year. My only goal was to make it hurt from gun to finish line and as I quickly learned, in mountain running, that’s a remarkably easy task! I might have finished way back in 46th place at the end of the 6.5 mile course up and around Loon Mountain, but I had smile across that finish line for sure. Before I go on yammering about my race though, let me take a minute to talk about how the weekend kicked off. Like most experiences in running, this one involves making some new friends and having a great time making memories, as my Gram would say.

What started with a quick message on Facebook offering a ride up from Boston area if needed, led to me spending the weekend with a crew in town from Colorado and Utah and all gunning for top spots in the race and births on the US Mountain Running Team headed to Bulgaria in September. I had seen that Addie Bracy, who trains with my coach Kara Lubieniecki under Brad Hudson’s tutelage out in Boulder, was coming in to try and was able to provide some small assistance in giving her a lift north. In turn she graciously offered me a place to crash at the condo they had rented. After the standard holiday weekend traffic on the road to NH we arrived in Lincoln,, NH and headed over to the Loon Mountain course to get in a nice course preview. Spirits were high despite our relative lack of experience in mountain races, all around. So high that Matt Daniels convinced his friend and fellow Adams State alum Naseem Haje to register for the race, after initially not even planning on running the course preview/shakeout run with us! After hitching a ride back down on the gondola we headed over to packet pickup and caught Alyson Felix crushing the 400 on the TV before leaving the brewery. With mountain and trail races, brew-pub packet pickups are apparently the norm; no one complains. The course preview had worked up a serious hunger so we quickly set upon a pre-race dinner with a visit to The Common Man. Back at the condo afterwards it was fun to hear discussions on race strategy and guesses and predictions on the top finishers and World Team spots. More than a few times did the discussion come back to wondering what that Upper Walking Boss section would feel like, too. Runners at every level are humble and genuine it seems, and my own race plan and personal bests were even asked about. And many thanks to Naseem, who was returning from injury, who determined that we might be seeing some of each other on the course. A humbling thought considering the divide between our best times in most distances… but such is the pride in distance runners, rarely seen until the race starts. I was happy to not be the only one in the condo who wasn’t gunning for a spot on a world team, though I’d hazard a guess that we all went to sleep dreaming about it, just the same.

On race day it was all business, but in a relaxed sort of way, it was trail race after all. A few warmup miles and dropping off of bags in the ski lodge and we were all lining up at the base of the big hill, well the guys anyway (separate men’s and women’s races, but over the same course) It took all of 200 meters for me to lose the leaders from view as the trail seemed much steeper than the day before and I was quickly experiencing a jolt to my confidence. After the first climb my heart settled down and I began to feel good, and honestly, I began to smile (between guffaws and pants of course) The mountain runners, the race and the mountains themselves simply exude joy and fun. It was the most painful race I’ve ever run, but when I crossed that finish line I felt all of the euphoria and joy and I had missed in my unsatisfactory track races this season. I managed fairly even splits when looking at Strava’s GAP time, too. And though I couldn’t relate in my race time, in this feeling of satisfaction upon charging up a mountain vs grinding out on the track and roads, I could indeed relate to that elite company I had adopted for the weekend. Matt Daniels and Hayden Hawke and Naseem are all recent converts to the trails and Addie Bracy was making her trail/mountain debut and all of them had reasons to seek the trails over the track or roads. At the top I was thrilled to discover that Matt had finished 3rd and Hayden 4th and Andy Wacker, whom I also had the fun of meeting and hanging out with, had grabbed the final team spot in 6th, despite suffering from some nasty sickness in the weeks leading up to the race. A short while later, I was even more excited to see Addie leading the women’s race by a healthy margin, one she would retain, to take her first national title! Addie’s performance was even more stunning, given she had almost left the sport a few weeks before the race, which you can read about here. Post race it was all smiles at the awards, with the New England crowd cheering for the west coast and mountain time runners taking most of the top honors. I elected to stick around another night in Lincoln before meeting up with family for the 4th of July and again had a blast with the now newly minted US team members. It seems in post race celebration, we also enjoy the same things, from the middle to the front of the pack. And what other sport can genuinely claim to be a single unified pack, from first place to last? Making new friends and celebrating with those who celebrate was just the welcome reprieve I didn’t know I needed. I can’t wait to have some additional direction in finding the best places to run when I visit Boulder later this year, as well as getting in some runs with Naseem, who lives in NH currently.

Thanks for reading!
~Dan

Photos of Loon Mountain Race from the incomparable Scott Mason, here.
Full results from the wonderful race hosts, Acidotic Racing can be found here.

Racing Everything, Everywhere.

At the beginning of the year when I normally sit down and plan my goals, I was still recovering from an injury sustained the day before I planned on running XC Club Nats in San Fran last December. So, rather than put together a list of goal races and some form of schedule, I was forced to learn the art of letting go and taking it easy. My coach’s recovery/training plan for me went perfectly and by the end of January I was back to running 7 days a week, feeling a little slow, but very healthy. With nothing to lose and lots of fitness to gain I decided to run a few indoor races for the first time and by mid March found a new 5000 and 3000 PR to give me some confidence going into the New Bedford Half Marathon (one of those peak races I would normally be anxiously prepping for) Despite only a couple of longer workouts, I nearly got a new best half time and beat last years time on the course by 30 seconds. Less stress + more fun = personal bests! To follow that theme I also decided that with a 3k indoor time to my name, I might as well run the rest of the races in the USATF-NE All Terrain Series, fun is found in trying new things! The next race up in the series was the Merrimack ‘Rivah’ Trail race, a fun, technical 10-mile out and back. Though I haven’t raced on the trails often, my NH hiking roots give me plenty of confidence when giving it the beans cruising through the roots, rocks and trees. After a relatively comfortable effort got me 16th at The Rivah I knew this should happen a lot more often! Luckily the next race in the ATR series is the Loon Mountain Race, a 10k up a ski resort, plenty of trail to attack there. Back to the race everything theme though, before I arrive at the base lodge of Loon in July, the focus has been on steeplechase; which I daresay has replaced the marathon as my favorite event. Early season struggles to find races left me with only a few opportunities to steeple this season, so I found myself opting to run a steeple/10k double on the track a few weeks ago. Naturally the ATR Series includes a 10000 for the outdoor track portion, and wanting to make sure I had a time to submit, the double happened. Turns out, if you’re post collegiate the two hardest races to enter/find are 10000s and steeples. However, after running my second fastest steeple I somehow managed to run my second fastest 10k on the track too. Any lingering doubts about current fitness, gone.

That brings us up to last weekend, the Pineland Trail Festival 25k. Pineland is so fun that I had to write about it; the reason for my first blog post in… well, ages. I toed the line at Pineland with an attitude that has been growing all year in my racing, confident and carefree. I consulted some previous year runners and all-around trail running aficionados (hat tip: Kyle and Maartje) and knew that the course was constantly rolling, but non-technical and had no significant climbs. With that in mind I looked up the course record and decided to try and run it at around marathon effort and see how close I could get. Found the lead early, with a couple common faces from the New England running scene. It quickly turned into a three-man race, with two of us taking turns up front and the multiple time winner cruising behind, waiting to attack. Had I known that defending-champ detail during the race, I probably would have left off the gas a bit and followed his approach, but I went for it and didn’t surrender the lead until 6 miles to go. I was quickly gaped, but closed hard and managed to stop the bleeding, eventually finishing only 53 seconds back. The hot early pace might have cost me some time, but I was pumped with 2nd place and just 12 seconds shy of my goal of hitting the old course record. Kudos to Ryan Kelly on the win and new CR, taking down a record last set in 2007!

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Next up for me is another shot at running the steeple Sat, June 4th. (UPDATE: 10 sec PR!) Than it’s onto Club Track Nationals at UPenn on June 25th, where I’ll hopefully be geared up for my best steeple yet. The following week it’s back up to NH for that Loon Mountain  Race which serves as the National Mountain Running Champs this year too. Nothing like back-to-back weekends running National Championships in entirely different events! BTW, if you’re wondering what kind of coach can train you to run PRs in every distance and  over every terrain; Hudson Community has you covered! Coach Kara has transformed my training and my appreciation for running over the past year!

Race everything, have fun!

Assorted pictures below of the races mentioned: Special plug to Scott Mason Photos!

 

When a Slow Time is Still a Good Race – Lone Gull 2015

Maybe I’m just trying to justify in my head the time from today and how far from my expectations it was, or maybe I’ve finally learned to be a little bit content with each race for what it was, apart from my time goals; either way, I did genuinely have fun. Lone Gull 10k last year was one of those rare races where I actually ran my goal time, but my placement was nowhere near remarkable, 60th overall. Running it for the second time today I finished in 36th against the same Gran Prix crowd and stunningly ran 9 seconds slower! One of my big goals this year was to finally get to the 32’s for 10k and to that end I’ve failed miserably, but in terms of racing and being competitive I feel I’ve grown immeasurably. With that being said, I really feel like I can genuinely say that it was a good time today despite being much slower than desired. Let’s also be honest here, how many times has any runner felt completely satisfied with the their time in a race? The day I am 100% content is the day I stop really competing I think. I am trying to learn to appreciate the experiences no matter how they go, but total satisfaction feels like a lack of hunger and that’s something I’ve never been accused of! (Literally and metaphorically) My goal was to use the spring and summer training to get faster and become more competitive; while faster never seems fast enough, I have just accomplished my two highest finishes in NEGP races yet to cap off the road series. New England probably has the deepest base of competitive runners in the country, even if we don’t have the fastest guys at the front necessarily, so to start moving up in the ranks a little in placement has me feeling confident about my training.

I’ve been completely lacking in desire to blog about anything since June as the lack of posts indicates, but now that I find myself in the throws of marathon training again, I suddenly feel the need to document the process once more. No better time to start than the present, so here I find myself recapping today’s race and ignoring the last 3 months of training like they never happened. They did actually happen though and they might be the most interesting and wild bit yet of my little running experiment. I could sum them up properly and I might some day, but for now I’ll simply leave you with the cliff notes. Steeplechase. I am an addict for running, jumping, and occasional splashing it turns out. I tried it for the first time in June and knew instantly that I was hooked. From starting out in last and moving up to 4th place in my first race to placing 3rd at Club Nats and going on to win the New England Championship, it just became more and more fun! It was exciting to break 10 min on my 3rd attempt and already have a goal in mind for next season. A season with no spring marathon planned and a strong desire to see just how fast I can get when I put my everything into it.
11415543_871462636277230_5363151331654016850_oBefore I talk about skipping a Spring marathon and just focusing on steeple I should probably talk about the marathon I am training for though. Next time I post I’ll bring the blog up to speed on training for Calforina International Marathon and my goals, dreams and ambitions this time around. As always, many thanks to awesome coaching from Hudson Elite and Kara! And congrats to the boys of Sisu for our 8th place finish in the Gran Prix this year on the back of a strong 7th place showing at the 10k Champs today! Sisu up! 8th place is great, but top 5 will be much sweeter.

Track Races and Watch Tans

Not much can compare to flying along some fun single track on a dry, sunny day, at least not by my estimation. I’ve certainly been enjoying plenty of trail running since the snow melted, but man is it a lot more fun when the weather is +/- one degree of perfect like it’s often been for the past couple weeks! Granted on race day it always seems to crank it up to 11 with humidity and Fahrenheit, but otherwise it’s been ideal. Plenty of runners hate the really hot days, and while I’m not a necessarily a fan of them myself, as long as it’s not humid and I don’t have a race, it’s kind of fun to grit it out and work on those classy runner tan-lines. Anyhow, enough chatting about the weather in New England, it’s about to change again (seriously, a high of 61 and rain is forecast for tomorrow…)

So, onto the running! I left off in my last post having just returned from a fun-filled VT City Marathon weekend and boy oh boy has a lot happened in the two weeks since then. After returning from VT I ran what I thought would be a great 5000, but ended up being a disappointing and slow time. The humidity was in full effect and to top it off I had no one in my heat who was willing or able to push the pace at all. I led from the gun and won the heat, which was one small bonus, but still left me feeling thoroughly ready to put in some more work in training and a desire to forget all about it.

Scott Mason making even me look pro.

Scott Mason makes everything look good, even a crappy race!

Thankfully, the next event in the local series only offered a 3000 or 3k steeple, so I had to either take the weekend off from racing or try something totally new. I went way out of comfort zone and raced the steeple. As is often the case for me, trying something new was just the kick I needed to get me even more psyched about running again and to boost some confidence. I started right at the back of the pack and just pushed hard and consistently worked up my effort and ended up finishing 5th. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until half a lap to go that I was close to getting the club nationals standard and was unable to grab it, closing hard. Still, finishing in 10:16 gave me confidence that I can go a lot faster and was perfect inspiration to try the steeple at least once more this year and go for the <10:10. It also made me realize that I need to buckle down and push harder in the 5k.

Thanks to Tom Derderian for this great shot!

Thanks to Tom Derderian for this great shot!

Well, that was last week in a nutshell. Steeple is my new favorite thing and I would have gone right out and raced it again this week, but it wasn’t offered, so it was back to the 5000. This time I found mostly great weather and some solid people to run with, perfect. Took off in 3-4th for the first few laps and was content to hang on and churn out mostly 78’s with plenty of cheering and splits called out from the SISU family around the track (we also gathered enough people for three co-ed DMR teams, the highlight of the night, for sure) My goal was to break 16, but that was going to be a big ask, I knew, the smart move was running 16:1x pace so I followed the advice of those on the sides and just tried to hang tough. With a few laps to go the lead guy started to slow but the girl in front me also was losing steam and he was losing us. I made the move and got right up on him and then thought about making a move with a couple to go, but he sensed it and sped up. With 200 to go I moved into lane 2 again and tried to pull ahead, but again was matched. With 50 to go I finally got the lead and literally found a whole new speed, hitting close to 30 seconds for the last 200 according to GPS data. Big confidence boost, finally cutting some time off my 5k best, even if 16:15 is nowhere near where my aspirations lie, still felt good exercising some racing tactics. Did get plenty of ribbing about my “sit-and-kick” race after this getting up on the Level the other day, but I’m fine with that! Speaking of kicks… did anyone else jump up from the couch screaming when Ben True out-kicked Nick Willis to be the first American to ever win a Diamond League 5000 yesterday? Maybe I was inspired by that last night, come to think of it. Enough breaking down past races though, time to focus on what’s ahead and chase faster times!

Next up is my second go at the steeple on the 21st, followed by what should be a racing filled July, with some 10k and 5 mile action on tap. Hopefully some good tune-ups for some really fast XC this fall in mid-marathon mode. If I do get the club nats standard in the steeple, I’ll def make the trip down to NYC and have some fun!

As always, thanks for reading along and putting up with my self-aggrandizing race recaps. :p

And last but not least, please go try out some track if you haven’t before! This complete newbie here has had a blast in every race and never once felt like an outsider. Even adult runners can fit in and have fun, so don’t be scared to step up and give it a go! Just ask this lovely team of DMR runners; some with no experience, some with college in the recent or distant rear-view, all with smiles!
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Running Vacations and Weekend Shenanigans

I’ve only been on a few vacations in adulthood that didn’t center around my current pursuits, so I can’t quit understand the thrill found in sitting on a beach for a week. I want to chase my dreams, not chase a tan. I do enjoy relaxing and certainly value having downtime, but I try to get those during my weekly routine, not when I’m visiting a new place. I’m really more of a homebody anyway, so when it comes to vacations, that’s the time to get out and explore! In light of that, this past weekend checked all the boxes for me.

The Vermont City Marathon served as the backdrop of a fun-filled trip to Burlington, but it wasn’t the only highlight. The weekend started early with my second year of attending the 500 For The Fallen relay on Thursday night. The 500 mile relay supports the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation which assists with education costs of military children. With running being a mostly selfish pursuit for me, I really value the times I can actually give to others through running and what better way to do that than by also remembering veterans on Memorial Day weekend?

On Saturday morning the weekend started for real with fellow runners at my house bright and early to pick me up for the carpool to VT. We arrived in Burlington by noon and following a quick stop to pick up bibs, we arrived at UVM where I was planning on getting a track workout in. The prescribed workout was 3 x (5×400 with first 4 of each set at 5k and last rep @ 3k) recoveries were supposed to be 1 min, but I forgot and jogged a full lap after each repeat (1:40) full recovery of 4 min between sets. The weather might have been the nicest I’ve ever done a workout in and UVM’s relatively new facility is quite nice too! I was happily able to hit the pace I wanted throughout and feel like it should be sustainable in the 5k on Sat night (well… maybe)
Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/311782780/embed/65becd6a732f5794854d51531b4db03039335f81

Saturday afternoon we went out touristing in the city. Some other friends were up in VT on vacation so we all met up for lunch, dinner, taking part in street performances and walking around by the lake. The most fun I’ve ever had the night before a “marathon” for sure. We called it a night fairly late for a race night and checked into the hotel around 10. The next morning we filled up on the hotel’s continental breakfast and shuttled ourselves and some others to the race start. VCM does an excellent job with everything and we were able to easily locate our group of friends in the front corral. My buddy Austin and I were both planning on pacing some friends shooting for mid 2:50 times, and were going to try and lead them for at least the first 13. The plan when I signed up was to be pushing up with the front and racing the whole thing, but I’m very happy with the change in plans and I’m certain this will be better in the long term. I had a blast in the 16 miles I did run, laughing and talking the whole way and hamming it up for the cameras. My friend and club-mate Amanda crushed it, finishing as the 5th female overall! Alex and E-J who were also running with us both ran 2:58 or faster and Austin and I got to feel like we actually helped as pacers! After a post marathon team brunch at the Skinny Pancake we went back to the hotel to clean up. Sunday night we sampled some more local cuisine and hung out with other runners before succumbing to fatigue and crashing early.

Monday saw a lazy start to the day and a traffic free cruise back down to Hanover NH to tour some trails around Dartmouth and film some cool scenes running through the woods. Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/311779843/embed/b5d6da6e3555ca54cbee7331151fb914ba5c8a6a
After refueling at the Dirt Cowboy Cafe we made the drive home and happily closed the book on another super fun, amazing running weekend. Also, one last shout out to Burlington for awesome restaurants and coffee shops, I think I sampled 4 coffee shops and drank more than I care to admit. haha Now it’s time to plan out the details on some summer mountain running trips and a full running vacation in CA this December.

Thanks for reading!
-DJ

The Biggest Training Weeks are Now Complete!

This post originally started off with the title, last big week starts tomorrow, that changed to today, and then yesterday! Well, my last big week actually finished today, it was so big in fact that I couldn’t even get around to finishing this post for an entire week. Anyhow, I have only one long fuel run left on the horizon next Saturday and around 100 miles planned for this coming week and then it’s truly taper time! Today was a miserable attempt at 35k fuel run workout. Started off alright, but used ALL of my energy by the end of 14 miles after leaning into 10-20mph headwinds and stinging snow in my eyes. The worst winter wins yet again. On a positive note, I also wrapped up a 126 mile week today, so it wasn’t like I was exactly fresh going into the long fuel run and I did still cover 24.2 in just under 2:29 with some painful plantar in one foot.

So now that my original intro to this post made no sense and I had to scrap it, let me just jump right into a recap of my last three weeks of training. Last week was one of my bigger weeks yet with 108 miles and 1 solid workout. It was also a grind starting out, coming off of a hard half marathon effort, but like they say; it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. The week before that contained that half marathon race and some quality speedwork and this past week was my peak for mileage.

So, from where I left off in the last update on March 7th…

3/8- Easy/Recovery Run. This was a slow 13 mile grind through soaking slushy streets in Boston. A good run but legs were nowhere near recovered from the big workout the prior day.

3/9- Easy + Hills 9 @ easy pace + 10 x 10 sec hill sprints. Legs felt fresher by the end.

3/10- AM Recovery Run 5.1, felt great in 50 degrees. PM Track Workout- 3 mile w/u, 8 x 1k @ 10k intensity w/90 sec jog recoveries + 4×200 strides in 32 secs w/60 sec jog recoveries, 2 mile c/d. Back over to the indoor track for the first time in more than three weeks. Legs were a bit stiff, but cardio felt great. Felt more comfortable and better as the workout went on and added a few 200m intervals at the end for fun. I did want to be around 3:15 per k and not 3:20, but I felt like pushing any harder would have been around 5k intensity so I kept it there. 17.3 miles on the day total.

3/11- Easy Run, 15 miles with run group in Wellesley

3/12- Fartlek Workout. 3 mile w/u, 10 x (30 seconds hard, 2:30 moderate) 2 mile c/d. Same workout I did before the 10 mile race a few weeks back ran the fartlek portion around 6:10 pace that time and 1:07 total time, this time I averaged around 5:48 in the fartlek portion and 1:02 total time. 10 miles total, 55 minutes of strength/core work afterwards.

3/13- Easy Run, 8.5 miles

3/14- Easy Run, 6.2 miles with 6x100m strides, 7 miles total.
Week totals: 81 miles with two workouts, one set of hill sprints and one core/strength training session. Pretty light week compared to most of them recently, but a good down week to prep for the peak training weeks to follow. 10 hrs 22 minutes total workout time.

3/15- New Bedford Half Marathon, 2ish miles of warming up and strides/high knees etc, then right into the race.
Cliff notes: Didn’t trust my training enough on the hills and allowed slacking off, also slowed down too much after a fast first mile. Confident I left 1-2 mins on the course, but other than that, fairly happy with it. Ran almost the entire race solo which sucked, especially on the 3 headwind miles running right along the ocean from 9ish to the big uphill at the start of 12. Still a PR, which is always a good thing. Net time of 1:13:48 and 55th place (finished 94th here last year) Next year, goal has to be top 20 and sub 70 minutes! Ran 5.6 for cooldown for a total of 20.7 on the day. Photo below from Krissy Kozlosky:

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3/16- Easy/Recovery Run, 9.6 miles with 45 min of core/strength after.

3/17- AM Easy Run, 7 miles. PM Easy Run. 12.2 miles. Felt pretty good on the second run, legs almost back to strength post half marathon.

3/18- Easy + Hills 13 @ easy pace + 10 x 10 sec hill sprints. Good set of hills after the run. Intended to do another good core/strength session after this run, but my hips were feeling pretty tight so I did 1 hr. of yoga and foam rolling.

3/19- Noon Easy Run, 4 miles. PM Mini-fuel Run Workout. Ran 4 miles to warmup and then decided to call it on running outside for this, just so sick of wind and cold. Went to the indoor track and ran another 2 miles outside first as a second warmup due to legs getting stiff sitting in the car. Workout was: 3 miles of 1min. fast (5:00)/1min easy (6:40) 3 miles Marathon pace 6:05-5:55, 1mile jog, 3 miles Hard 5:40-45, 1mile w.d. I ended up misreading the first bit and thought it was Min hard/min moderate and went out at too fast pace of sub 5/6:10-20 pace, came through first 3 miles in 16:34. Was worried I might have dug a hole for myself with all the miles already in my legs so I tried to be very controlled in the 3 mile tempo and ran 5:56-5:53-5:50 still feeling pretty good. Mile jog took about 7 mins and then it was time to push for the last 3; ran them in 5:38-5:47-5:32. Lost contact a little in the second mile as I was carrying maple water for one lap while taking sips. I grabbed a Gu and plenty of water on the 1 mile jog section also, to make sure I actually was fueling on a “fuel” workout. Went back outside for a 2 mile cooldown with a little yoga and stretching afterwards, it felt warmer out then at 10:30PM, go figure. 22 miles total on the day.

3/20- Noon Easy/Recovery Run, 6 miles. PM Easy Run, 10 miles.

3/21- Easy Run, 6.5 miles with 45 minutes of core/strength afterwards.
Week totals: 108 miles with one race, one workout, one set of hill sprints and two core/strength training sessions. A really good week overall, after coming off of some up and down training and a hard race effort. Very encouraging to still run my second biggest week of mileage yet when starting it out with tired legs. 14 hrs 34 minutes total workout time.

3/22- Long Run, 24 miles with strong winds and temps in the teens, what’s new, right? Ran with my friend Steph, she was doing 20 miles of harder pace with 2 mile w/p and c/d, she’s also racing Boston. We ended up running 21 at the harder effort and ran all 24 in around 2:47. Solid long run to kick off my peak week of training.

3/23- Noon Easy Run, 4.2 miles. PM Easy + Hills 12.5 @ easy pace + 10 x 10 sec hill sprints, 45 minutes of core/strength afterwards. 17.5 total on the day.

3/24- Track Workout. 3 mile w/up, 4 x 200m strides w/200m recovery jogs, 4 x 2k w/3 minute recoveries, jogged for two laps (goal was start a little faster than lactate threshold, work down to 10k pace) 3 mile c/d. Pretty much nailed it, despite feeling fatigued from the get-go and being a little slow on the 200’s. (33-high avg) Splits for the 2k’s were: 6:58-6:56-6:52-6:38, works out to 5:30 avg. mile pace. Total mileage of 12.7.

3/25- Easy Run, 15 miles in some pleasant snow/hail/rain/sleet. haha

3/26- Noon Easy Run, 6 miles. PM Easy Run, 12 miles with 45 minutes of core/strength afterwards.

3/27- Noon Easy Run, 6.5 miles. PM Easy Run, 8 miles.

3/28- Long Fuel Run Workout. Cliff Notes: Old man winter is a miserable dude; constant headwinds on the Boston course today and snow flying down stinging my eyes completely sapped my energy moving forward. Goal was as follows: 2 mile w/u, 10k at 6 min pace, 10k at 5:50-5:55 pace, 10k at 5:45- 5:50 pace, 5k at 5:40 pace, 1 mile c/d. Fueling as I will during the marathon. No rest between segments, smooth transitions. Really go hard the last 5k, okay if I bonked and had to stop. Goal of trying to really challenge my fuel stores to my help body adapt for marathon. Unfortunately, I used up my energy just running the first two 10k segments at goal pace and had nothing left to give when I got to the Newton Hills with 15k of hard running still to go. I’m not really that disappointed though, because driving snow and wind is expected to take a lot out of you and it was only 30 degrees to top it off. Also, I went into this with the most miles my legs have ever had on them, so I was expecting it to be a bit of a grind. Obviously I am still unhappy with how it went as I always am when I miss the goal of a workout or race. My effort level did stay up for the last 15k though, I kept pushing hard until the final mile of cooldown, still averaging just over 6 minute miles. I think I did still challenge my energy stores in a good way as I had to consume a bagel as soon as I finished. haha. Total mileage of 24.2. 45 mins. of strength and core in the PM.
Week totals: 126 miles with one workout, one easy long & one hard long run, one set of hill sprints and three core/strength training sessions. Another solid week mileage wise and apart from the long run today, pretty much got everything desired out of it. This was my peak week of training, but next week will still be around 100 miles, with a 25k fuel run planned for next Saturday as my last long run. 16 hrs 33 minutes total workout time.

Thanks for reading, hope it didn’t put you to sleep and as always feel free to comment with any questions about the training or what it’s like to have Hudson Elite Community provide you with excellent coaching!

The Work-Training-Life Balance

Working hard for something you don’t care about is stress, working hard for something you love is passion.

Ah, how well that quote encapsulates my two current jobs. I strive to be a diligent, attentive and valuable asset to whatever business I am part of, but at the end of the day, a passion cannot be forced for a topic that feels totally mundane. The office life is something that will never feel natural for some of us. I am convinced that we simply belong out in the great unknown; doing, seeking, learning and chasing dreams. I’m so thankful that I do also have the opportunity to chase that dream, doing something I love, chasing that passion! The work days may drag on sometimes as I chase deadlines, cost saving opportunities and program updates, but when I leave the office I get to hang out at college again and have the honor of passing on my passion and love for running in the kids I help coach. I often run the workouts with the kids as well as calling out their splits and helping out at meets. I think it gives me a unique perspective on coaching as I’m still being coached, I think it helps me relate well to them as we train together. Coaching has also helped me realize that as much as I used to act all stoic and arrogant I really do have a love for people, and not many things feel better then watching someone you’ve been coaching make a breakthrough or just gain some new confidence and trust in their abilities. The passion and love the kids have for the sport is so infectious too, as is their hunger to keep learning. They’re always asking questions about training and running and quite a few of them actually follow the pro scene and top collegiate runners, which makes it even more fun to talk running with them.

So, what have I been up to in my own training? Well, I’ve been up, down and all around in training since my last update. I think it’s much easier to keep a running blog updated when each week you’re out crushing workouts and hitting new weekly highs for mileage. Could be why I haven’t posted an update in a couple weeks! After a fairly successful race a few weeks back, I had a week of training that just felt kind of off. I had some cold symptoms and fatigue and was honestly just getting sick of running in the bitter cold and dark every day, combined with a stressful time at work preparing for a big conference and presentations I had to give. That week of feeling off led into a race at the start of last week that was way off. I knew from the first mile that I wasn’t going to be able to get my goals for the workout in and had to turn it into a long tempo, just kept pushing so I could nab second place. It was an improvement by one place from last year, but two minutes or so slower than my time then. I knew it didn’t mean I was slower than last year or that my training was way off, since I only couldn’t push hard due to intense congestion in the cold weather. Nevertheless, it did nothing to help my already crappy feeling body and outlook on current training. Coaches are so great though! Was given the word to take some days off and fully recover so I didn’t make it worse by training through, something I’d never do on my own. I’m happy to report that my running felt effortless in the warm air of Florida for work last week (albeit dehydrated) My presentations went great, and yesterday I nailed a long workout. I did end up only taking last Monday off to rest up and ran on Tuesday and Wednesday but skipped Thursday due to travelling. I did double up on the days I ran and got in 92 for the week with two workouts. I’ll start off from my last update and work up through today on the daily training here, going over what I had planned vs. what I actually ended up doing. The last couple weeks have been an important reminder that marathon training and training in general is never a linear track of progression up. There will always be bumps in the road and most of them can make you mentally stronger and smarter when you tackle them the right way and work through them. So far this has been my longest and most healthy period of running to date, going all the way back to May of last year when I fell hiking. This marathon block has also been my most consistent mileage and workout wise. And really, the long term view is the only view to measure actual progress in training; it’s all about year over year improvement, not short quick gains, just grinding on. Of course with my personality and love for chasing after my passions with determination and endless enthusiasm, it’s a perfect fit!

2/17- Track Workout: 3 mile w/up, 1 Mile hard (5:13) 6 minute rest, 5k in 17:35 (5:39 pace, a little quick) 5 minute rest and 4 x 400m at 75 sec. goal w/1 min rests. (74, 57, 75, 74) 2.2 mile c/down. Total 11.2 miles. 45 minutes of strength and core work when I got home.

2/18- Easy Run: 10.2 miles (1:22:59)

2/19- Fartlek: 3 mile w/up 10 x 30 seconds hard, 2:30 moderate 2 mile c/down. This one felt okay, wasn’t as fast I wanted it to be, but good run though. 10 miles total. (1:07:42) 45 minutes of strength and core work after.

2/20- Easy Run: 6.3 miles (47:10)

2/21- AM Easy Run: 6.8 miles running the warmup with the college kids before DIII Regionals (57:33) Finished with a set of 8×100 meter strides. PM Easy Run: 3.2 miles cooldown with kids. (26:36)
Week totals: 82.1 miles with two workouts, one set of hill sprints and two core/strength training sessions.

Eyes down, grinding up a hill. Need to keep my eyes up in races and stay more relaxed!

2/22- RACE: 3.2 mile w/up nice and easy, followed by some light drills and a couple stride outs. 10 miles in 57:41. Felt great and controlled. Fully recovered feeling after each uphill. Didn’t go all out on the hills or over the first 5 miles, pushed a good bit by the end. Happy with the overall effort and felt like I could give a lot more on the cooldown, nice and fresh feeling. Cooldown was 7 miles long to keep my legs used to the longer efforts and I had nice negative splits while staying mostly easy in my effort on the c/down, finished with 6:28-6:17-6:10. (49:26) 20.2 miles total. 45 minutes strength and core in the evening.

2/23- AM Easy Run: 6.1 miles (41:07) PM Easy Run 9.25 miles (1:04:57)

2/24- AM Easy Run: 10.6 miles (1:14:40) PM Easy Run: 6.2 miles (42:19)

2/25- Easy Run + Hill sprints: 14.43 miles (1:46:59, didn’t reset for hills, so that’s total time)

2/26- 3 mile w/up 20 x (1 min hard, 1 min mod) Goal avg. of 6:30 pace, actual avg. 6:01 pace. 2 mile c/down. Felt pretty good on this along over the Newton Hills of the Boston course. 12.16 miles (1:20:30)

2/27- Easy Run: 7 miles (52:19) 1 hour strength and core in the evening.

2/28- Easy Run + Strides: 5 miles + 6x100m strides.
Weekly totals: 91.8 miles, one race, two workouts and two strength/core sessions.

3/1- RACE: 2 mile w/up 30K race .5 c/down with 3 mile c/down when I got home and put some warm clothes. This was that poor race I mentioned. The goal was to start moderate but fast and then work up effort as I went, finishing hard. The idea of the workout was to go totally spent at the end to help the body make the adaptations for the marathon. I also wanted to improve on my time from last year, 1:52 something. I thought I could run 1:49 and still follow the plan of starting at a moderate effort. However the congestion and fatigue from being sick finally did me in as the temps were not up to where they had been predicated and we were still breathing in 30 degree air with strong winds halfway through. I did find myself completely alone in second place almost from the gun, so I just resolved to push on at the only effort I could put in, which was very frustrating. My lungs were spent from the get-go but my legs felt full of energy at the end, which bugged me the most. I did walk away with an improvement of one place from last year and a nice sweatshirt, great consolation! (Guess I gotta go for the win next year now. haha) Watch said 18.68 miles and time was 1:53:40 (6:05 pace) 24.2 miles total.

3/2- DAY OFF. Ended up being able to attend an awesome trail running film festival with my evening free!

3/3- Flew down to Orlando in the AM. Was planning on another day off, but I felt great in the warm air and couldn’t resist going out for a run! Original plan before the race was to get in a 10xMile workout at lactate threshold pace with 1 min. recoveries. A big, fun, hard workout for sure and not the right thing to run with a still weak body and in 85 degrees of direct sun for the first time in 6 months! haha. I couldn’t just got out and run slow though, so I slipped on my road flats and decided to run 5xMile at half marathon pace with 3 min. rec. jogs. 3 mile w/up (6:29 avg. oops!) 5×1 miles at consistent 5:26 avg. 2 mi c/down fairly spent and very thirsty and feeling so happy. Ran another 5.2 in the late evening. for 16.2 on the day total.

3/4- Easy Run: 5.5 (36:50) Squeezed a run in between presenting all day and dinner session. 2nd Easy Run: Ran 3.1 miles (21:20) to Downtown Disney and had to walk through (didn’t want to get escorted out for running) started the watch back up and got in another 5.1 (34:04) Finished the run at 10:30 PM but felt great in the warm weather! 13.7 on the day.

3/5- DAY OFF. Simply no way to fit in a run with more work all day and then late flight home. Body could use some more rest anyway.

3/6- AM Easy Run: 11 miles (1:14) back up in the cold of New England, ugh. PM Easy Run: 5.3 (37:35)

3/7 Long Marathon Pace Workout: 3.22 mile w/up (21:33) 4 x (4k hard, 1k moderate) goal of hard intervals @ half marathon intensity, moderate intervals at about 6:45 minute pace- 5 minute recovery- Hard 3k (10k pace) 3 mile c/down (20:30) I was pumped and bit nervous to get this one in for a few days, but it felt great once I started. Found a good loop/out and back road of 5k there and 5k back. My avg. for the 4k hard sections was 5:34 pace and overall avg. was 5:44. I rounded up to half marathon by adding an extra moderate effort 1k at the end and hit the half in 1:15:10. I did pause the watch quick to grab water and one Gu during the workout, so factor in that too for what it’s worth. For the hard 3K I was ready to let it all loose, but didn’t have a ton of energy left at that point, ran it in 10:20 (5:31 pace) On the cool down I felt pretty tapped for energy, in a good way. Went straight to local burrito place afterwards! 21.3 miles total. 45 minutes strength and core in the evening.
Also should mention, this was my first workout in Asics Hyper Speed 6 and I absolutely love them! I also picked up a pair of New Balance 980 Boracay and 980 Trails recently and love both of them too. The new 980 Borocay is quickly becoming my favorite trainer yet. Sorry Saucony, you didn’t win me over with those Breakthru. I will be posting a couple shoe reviews soon once I’ve put some more miles on the New Balance and Asics.
Weekly totals: 91.8 miles, two days off, one race, two workouts and one strength/core session.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Hoping the weather forecast is right for this week and we really do hit 40 every day and I can keep rolling again with the good training. Only one more workout planned for this week as I prepare for New Bedford Half Marathon on Sunday.

Thanks for reading!

-Button

XC Club Nationals Recap

The XC season has now concluded for me, as has my training in 2014. Only recovery and easy runs from now until Boston training starts in a few weeks. On no better a note could I have ended, what has been my favorite and best year of running yet. XC Club Nationals might have been the most competitive XC race in the US this year and certainly had the best party and atmosphere! Only Christmas could dull the sadness of this weekend being over, I now understand the scheduling of it in mid December. It would be impossible to accurately sum it up in words so I’m just going to touch on some highlights as I think of them.

The Team
The recap has to start with this, because the entire trip is owed to my awesome teammates for planning, logistics and support. I set my season up with this race as my peak, back in August, but I had only planned on racing it individually at that point and never dreamed I’d be going down with a new team! Sisu has already been responsible for some big improvements in my running and I feel like that potential to get better has barely been tapped yet. We certainly had people talking at the race and afterwards, with our enthusiasm and matching attire/mustaches game on a high level. No longer just a New England club, we are officially making our national presence known, not at the front of the race pack yet, but definitely at the front of the fun! So incredibly proud of our entire team at nationals, we bravely faced the best in the country at the biggest XC Club Nats in history and had a blast doing it. Next year should be a fun time out in San Francisco!

Team picture before coming home

The Race
I’m not sure if the intimidation level of an event with a deeper field than NCAA D1 Nationals, or a bigger field than XC Nationals should be higher or lower when you’ve never run in college or even high school. I do know that, having run in a the five XC races of our New England Championship as my only cross country experience to date, this was incredibly intimidating for me, but equally exciting. After doing a few miles as warmup with the guys, while cheering on the girls team, I went through some dynamic drills and jogged over to our starting box for bib/uniform check. As if the intensity of the race hadn’t hit me already, none other than Matt Tegankamp should walk up to have the official check the numbers for Bowerman Track Club next. We were casually placed in a box just down from Asics Aggies, Bowerman and Zap Fitness, among others. Not to be too intimidated by it all, Matt led us in our standard pre-race huddle though; “What is our middle name? PASSION! What are we gonna do? GO FOR IT! Who is gonna stop us? NO ONE! YAHHHHHH!” Then we got in some final stride outs to add to the affect.
I often have a tendency to start way too hard, but that wasn’t even a worry here, when keeping up with the leaders would mean starting off at 4:40/mile pace. Instead I started out within a few seconds of goal pace and kept it there for the first two miles. I slowed down much more than I expected going up the hill in mile three that amounts to close to 700 meters, but cranked it back down in four and five. The hill got me bad again on the second loop in mile six, but I surged hard over the last 1.4k, passing a slew of other guys and even had some left for a flat-out kick at the end. I was fairly pleased with my race afterwards even though I was 20 seconds or so off my goal, the course had some muddy parts and the decent hill, but the smooth flats and even downhills definitely made up for it. The Paul Short Course at Lehigh might actually be my favorite XC course yet. I feel like with some more work I could really do well on it, it could also be the fact that it was a 10k and not an 8k; here’s to longer races! My official time was 34:19 and I finished in 376th place, considering the level of my competition, I’m absolutely thrilled with it. In few sports can a guy who took it up at 24 be in the same race as a cadre of professionals and sub-elites. It truly was an honor to be there and be racing against such great runners. But before I get too effusive in my thanks to the sport of running, I will say that I fully intend on beating a lot more of those guys in this race next year. Here are some great shots of our women’s and men’s teams off of the Sisu FB:

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The Rest
I’d love to explain the rest of the amazing things that happened and fun times experienced this weekend, but I’m honestly not sure how to. Here are some high points though. Pre-race dinner and pretty much every other meal this weekend. Meeting so many great runners. Getting to know my amazing team better. Mustache compliments from the winning team. PAINFUL DAY AFTER, 12 miles of the hardest ‘easy’ running I’ve ever done, ugh… And last but the opposite of least, THAT AFTER PARTY THOUGH!

What a season, what a sport, what a team. Loved it all! SISU UP!

Catch the XC Nationals Recap Video here- Awesome work by Caitlyn!

NEXT UPDATE: Year end recap. Another best year yet, by a long shot!

The End of One Season (Coaching was a blast!)

Happy to report that we had a great time at NCAA New England DIII Regional’s at Williams today. Definitely reinforced one of the main things I have (re)learned this season; college kids are crazy. Haha But on a more serious note, there is a lot positivity in that craziness too. Life gets far too serious and boring, far too quickly for many of us post graduation and that makes it so fun to be around these kids with everything ahead of them and little reason not to be crazy, wild and happy. Our girls and boys both ran the races they were capable of on a moderately challenging course and everyone seemed positive afterwards. I’m honestly not sure who gets more out of it, the kids or the coaches, but I know for sure that this assistant coach had a blast all season long. I can’t wait to pursue more coaching opportunities and learn more about coaching and helping others with their running in the future. I’d love to help out through the indoor and outdoor seasons this year, but the reality of marathon training and working full time might render that an impossibility. It was easy enough working in my own cross country workouts while running the team workouts with them, but marathon workouts are pretty far removed from indoor distances.
That being said, this past week was week one in my transition from building work and volume to sharpening over the next 3-4 weeks as I prep for Club XC Nats in 28 days. Started off with USATF-NE XC Championship 10k at Franklin Park, where I excised some slow/weak demons from Mayor’s Cup and ran much better. Even though I had the worst cramp or muscle spasm that I’ve ever had in my side on a run before in the race, still came away with a solid time. It naturally occurred on the last downhill with 1000 meters to go and though I was able to work through it and it subsided, my last mile was painful! My time was 30 seconds off my 10k PR, which doesn’t thrill me, but given the cramp and the difficulty of the Franklin Park course, it doesn’t make me cringe either. (ok, only a little, I did want a PR after all) I felt great after a large post race brunch and decided to double down on the workout when I got home. There was just enough daylight left to get in a 6x1k on my favorite hilly grass loop and my splits were closer to 5k goal pace than 10k, felt strong. After a nice recovery run and hill sprints, I ran 14 on Tuesday with 9 of it fartlek; just went off of effort level and didn’t follow my pace, but felt like I was pushing it. Thursday was 3 miles at 10k goal pace followed by 5x1k at 5k goal pace. I couldn’t quite push to the right pace in the 3 miles after losing focus in mile two and ended up with a 5:31 avg, hoping for mid 5:20s. On the 1ks it was a similar story, should have been in the low 3:1x’s but avg. 3:18 per k. Still felt fairly happy with it considering I’ve only been working that kind of volume into a hard workout on race days, like last Sunday. The rest of the days this week have been easy days and tomorrow will by a tempo workout. I’m at 72ish miles for the week, starting on Monday, and should finish up with 86 or 87 after tomorrow. I would be grossly understating how happy I am with the volume I’ve been able to keep up since September if I simply called it satisfactory, but I’m not sure it’s helped me get much faster anyway. It has certainly given me plenty of confidence to hit higher mileage in my next marathon training cycle though, after I peaked at 91 miles in a week last time around and have already hit 100 in 7 days a few times in the past month. Now I just need to keep my mind focused on cross country for a few more weeks, before I let the marathon training and planning begin, but boy am I itching to get started!

So, here’s what’s next:
11/27 XC 5k tuneup with an untimed Turkey Trot in Moorestown, NJ
11/30 XC 2.8 mile race, USATF-NE Gran Prix final race and best chance for us to move up in the team standings and hopefully finish in second or higher! Brookline, MA (possibly followed by a hard workout afterwards)
12/7 Road 5k Winter Classic, tuneup for XC Club Nats in Cambridge, MA (probably followed by workout afterwards)
12/13 Club XC Nationals 10k in Lehigh, PA (followed by an epic party afterwards!!!)

Changing Clubs

Gratitude and Growth
First off, I want to say what an absolute privilege it has been running as an Angry Chicken, better known as a Greater Lowell Road Runner, for the better part of the last year! I learned so much about running and about myself too, and I have a large debt of gratitude to the club that got me into racing. I knew after my first couple years of running that I was never going to stop pushing myself to get better, but I never felt the desire to race against other people. After attending a month of indoor workouts at the Lexington High School track last fall, I ended up getting a huge 5k PR in my last race of 2013. It was all thanks to the guys I was running with, especially Bash, Theodoros and Alex Eld, who all convinced me, either verbally or just with workouts that I could run faster than I previously thought. 2014 was just more of the same. After a long, cold winter of hammering out workouts and hearing about other guys in the club doing the same I was inspired to unleash a little in my first race in the green and was rewarded with a 3rd place overall at the competitive and challenging Stu’s 30k. From there it went on to New Bedford Half Marathon, my first Gran Prix race ever, where I worked with Bashkim and he helped me along to a 5 minute PR! I’ve elaborated about my first Boston Marathon too many times already in this blog, but the support from Lowell family along the course was simply unmatched. Competitors near me were even muttering about all the cheers I was getting. (okay, two of them did) Workouts with the Pocatello Kid and E-J taught me that it’s cool and normal to be a little crazy if you want to do this (and also assured me that I’m only beginning to understand what tough is) As the year went on, I felt that it was time to try something new this fall and an opportunity to help as the assistant cross country coach at a local college presented itself and I decided to go full in with the cross country theme and skip a fall marathon. I’ve completely fallen in love the cross country and will certainly plan for it every fall from now on! Spring will still be devoted to a marathons though, nothing like long runs and training in a New England winter. 😉

As for the club change I’ve mentioned though; I have started spending more time and doing more training with the great crew that is, the Sisu Project and found yet another great group of teammates and people! As my own focus has shifted to cross country and the desire to get faster, it only makes sense to run with guys who are going to help me do just that and working towards similar goals. While I won’t technically be on the team until the season has already ended, I am looking forward to this next chapter in my running and what 2015 will hold. My goals will once again be massive, and once again it looks like I will be incredibly blessed to have a fantastic USATF-NE Club to help me achieve them. So, as I look back on what the last year has taught me, I’m overwhelmed with support of the club running community in New England and the positive impact it has. I’ve learned that I am fiercely competitive, always hungry to get better, and always in love with running. Thanks to Greater Lowell for the awesome part it has played in my running and my life, I look forward to seeing you all at races and elsewhere for many years to come. I’m now looking forward to the part Sisu Project will play in the future and the many memories still to be made.

Training and Mayor’s Cup Recap
As for training, it’s still going very well, from what I can tell. After hitting my two biggest mileage weeks ever, this week was a slight dip as I thought I would taper a little for Mayor’s Cup. I didn’t really taper much as it turned out, but my legs didn’t feel too garbage either and I still finished a set of 4xMile in my workout after the race. I’m no Galen Rupp, but at least I can say that I know how painful a post race workout feels, I’m sure the Nate Jenkins of the world can relate to that, too. I didn’t even come close to the goal for time or placement that I had for the 8k yesterday, but my tactics seemed okay and I closed hard. The field was super, super deep with pros on both the men and women’s side, which somehow isn’t much consolation as my silly mind wants to believe I can just run up there with them! I am humbled, hungry and fired up after it though. I was initially content with the effort, but after a day to dwell on it, I’ve determined that I have a massive chip on my shoulder now, that can only be removed by demolishing myself and running a wicked fast time in the USATF-NE XC Championship 10k. I was able to work my way past some guys I normally get dusted by, but I know there is a lot of gas left in the tank and lot more pain I can endure. It’s a healthy motivation, I think, I’m not distressed by the result, but I’m nowhere near satisfied with it either. I know that my best races have all felt easy and yesterday, by comparison, felt painful from the gun. As I run ‘unattached’ in the last few races of 2014, I have no worries about good team scoring to affect my strategy, so I will most likely be taking some risks and going out hard to see what I can hold onto. I know the prudent approach is to pace for even or negative splits, but when you take the race as a training exercise, what’s the harm in going out in a blaze of fire? haha

I guess this post should now end with a #sisuup!