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.

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

Running? Oh yeah, I Am Still Doing That…

Well, it’s about time I posted an update, with Boston 4 weeks in the rear-view. It’s been a bit up and down since the marathon, as it often is, but more on the downward trend than up, unfortunately. I’m still running, but mileage has definitely taken a hit, partly planned, mostly from nagging pains and tweaks.

So, after Boston I took 4 days of complete rest then started building back up. Just easy pace stuff, letting my body set the distance and pace. The week after Boston I ran 50 something miles and felt pretty rusty for most of it. Before I go on, I should mention how I felt about Boston mentally, I suppose. The weather was the major theme and in a bad way. As with most people, my pace too was affected by cruel headwinds which intensified when running over the Newton hills. I can’t blame the wind completely for missing my goal time by almost 7 minutes though, running 2:36:54. I think a few factors played their part, one being an overestimation of my fitness going in, and two being a lack of proper planning in my pace over the beginning and finally the cold and rain along with the wind. I couldn’t find anyone to run with when I really could have used them too, but that was due to moving up in placement significantly from last year, one of the positives. I was also happy that I was able to keep grinding along even though I didn’t sustain the pace I wanted. And like they say, a personal best is a personal best at the end of the day.

With that brief recap given, I’ll gat back to the post Boston training and recovery efforts. Over the two weeks following Bostons rest week I increased mileage back to the low 60s and started working some fartleks back in. I’ve been struggling with some intense tightness in my right hamstring and the ever-present plantar in my left foot, though it has improved greatly! This has hampered the comeback enough that I’ve decided to drop out of VT City Marathon this weekend as a precaution against further injury. On Saturday I did get the chance to carefully run my first track 10k, certainly the highlight of May so far! I was still too tight to fully go through warmups, yet brazenly chose to push hard anyway and came away with my second fastest 10k yet, 34:14. I can officially say that I’m addicted to track now too! I’ve spoken with my awesome coach and she’s adjusted my training to work on speed as I focus on some more track over the next month. The plan all along has been to work on getting much faster over the summer before switching back to marathon training in early fall to prep for CIM in December. With skipping VCM I’ll now be able to get back to speed that much quicker. In fact, if you’re in Burlington this weekend and also not running the marathon, please join me for a track workout Saturday! Plan is for 3 x (5×400, first 4 @ 5k, last rep @ 3k pace) Should be a real butt-kicker; assuming the ART and graston work I got today accelerates the healing enough in my leg that I’m ready to attack it all out again.

That’s where I’m at! Apologies to regular readers on the long delay, post marathon blues… kills motivation every time. Thanks for reading!

Discomfort and Pain, Friend and Foe

Any good distance runner can probably tell you a great deal about what discomfort feels like, along with constant hunger, fatigue and thirst. Pain however, pain is something we learn to compartmentalize or remove from our lexicon entirely. I can’t think of the last time when I wasn’t in at least mild discomfort and I’m actually quite okay with that, even proud. I can distinctly remember the last time I was in pain though (when I slammed my knee last May) You see, training for marathons is simply one long grind of discomfort, often extreme discomfort, with even more discomfort as the reward in the races themselves. Discomfort becomes then, a valuable training guide and a close friend and ally, it’s often the only one out there with us on those bitter winter runs. It’s often the only one sweating it out on the muggy summer runs too, only really leaving us alone on the easy paced runs in comfortable weather, or for those few moments of running euphoria when we’re coasting through the trees or gliding like a goat down a mountain. It always show up when we ask it to though, just as surely as the need to nap and extreme hunger are present after a hard 2 hour run or a set of 20 x 400 meter intervals. It’s not only there as a silent companion, but as a great source of feedback too. When we have to run faster and push harder just to be together again, discomfort tells us that we are now faster and stronger runners. When we are trying to run based on effort level, our discomfort tells how long we can sustain that effort on that day. In the end, discomfort is really a solid protagonist in the distance runner’s story, a bit grumpy and rough around the edges sure, but with a good heart. Pain is a sworn enemy however, it never comes along side to guide us to the right pace in a workout, it never tells us that foam rolling and massage our actually helping through the hurt. It never does anything positive, it just intrudes and barks unwanted orders to the components in our bodies that propel us forward, based on it’s own silly bias and ideas. Pain is a jerk and a dream crusher. Obviously it is still in my lexicon, though rarely used or admitted to. I’m not socializing with it right now, but I have been in that middle ground where localized discomfort hangs around long enough to create doubts about the reality of actual pain. This time my nearly p-word foe has materialized in the form of a very common running antagonist, plantar fasciitis. I would call it an injury, but that word is even more seldom used then pain, and certainly never applies to things that you can sort of run through! Real injuries have to involve broken bones and large ligament tears, right? Plantar is just an annoying pest that makes you feel like an arthritic octogenarian. After going through bouts of it for about two weeks, I’ve arrived at the taper portion of my marathon training with more discomfort then I’d like to admit to. Normally a few days of easy running, massage and stretching can clear any lasting plantar, but after two “easy” days last week (32 miles between the two) I decided that action needed to be taken since my foot was already in some righteous discomfort before the start of my scheduled 20 miler. So I did something that causes me real, genuine, honest-to-goodness pain, I skipped my workout and took the day off from running. As I mentioned in my last post, the reality of this being the right decision has no bearing at all on the morose and sullen lethargy that a runner feels when forced to skip his running. I moped around all day trying to focus on the positives in my life on the day before Easter Sunday, but hardly moved from the chair or bed. I managed to put on a happy face and go out to a friends house for a get-together Saturday night and did enjoy myself by employing the tactics of forced forgetfulness and ignorance, something I normally reserve for the first few miles of a run, when I’m not ready to hang out with discomfort yet. Yesterday I used similar methods and genuinely enjoyed time spent at Easter service and with friends who are more like family for the remainder of the day. Today I’m not sure how I’ll manage, but between work, strength training and enough core work to make myself cry, I think I might survive my third day of no running. Tomorrow I run, because to think that I won’t is just too scary an idea to fully accept. After all, I have felt slightly better each of the past two days, I’m not even limping in the morning!

Trusting the Training

The good news, I ran over 76 miles in the 5 days I did run this week; the bad news, I missed last Sunday due to plantar pain being bad enough to warrant skipping my recovery run and skipped today’s marathon pace long run to avoid further stress on my foot. My foot has been hurting on and off for a couple weeks, but it usually clears up fine after stretching and massaging it over a couple days of easy running. Rather than keeping that cycle going though, I elected to skip the harder run altogether today since my foot would have been in pain from the start and really sore tomorrow. At some point you just have to rest and even though plenty of people say that all the time, I’m not often inclined to agree. I’m trying to tell myself that resting today is the equivalent of putting that good long run in, because resting is what will prepare me for Boston better at this time, not more running.
I don’t know if someone who hasn’t trained before can understand how absolutely awful you feel when skipping a workout, but for those who have and also have this compulsion to train hard, you know what I mean. I’m trying very hard to appreciate the positives and lack of real injury and just focus on the solid work I’ve put in like the title says. I don’t have a real fear that this will affect how I run at Boston, the race is only 16 days out and the real hard work has already been put in. Today was probably more of an ancillary long run than a real building workout anyway, but when your in the pits of missed workout despair, reality is not much of a comfort. I’m not intending to make this a pity party here, so I’ll move on quickly. Because after all, there IS much to be thankful for and not just in my training. Tomorrow is Easter and that means once again spending some extra time thinking, appreciating and praising our Savior, something I spend too little time on the rest of year. God has seen fit to bless me with great health, wonderful family and many friends and this weekend He has also given me more time to think about that as I’m sitting at home today, I truly believe that.

I’ll leave the training update for my next post, where I’ll hopefully have more training to detail. Happy taper to those who are running in the next few weeks, hydrate well and sharpen that mental game!

Luke 24:1-12 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with, came to the tomb bringing spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.'” And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.

He is risen!!! Happy Easter!

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 Fartlek

I was inspired by Nate Jenkins’ Fartlek Friday post, and by how my fartlek went tonight to post a little something on the workout favorite of both elites and regular folks. The fartlek has been one of my go-to workouts in early season training for the past few years and an important supplemental workout during peak training. I usually will run a harder/faster workout on the Tuesday of a week and then run some form of a tempo run or longer, slower intervals on Thurs/Fri, but when I’m feeling fatigued from Tues or have a race coming up, I usually run a fartlek. The best part about them to me is the adaptability and lack of complete structure. Unlike long intervals, or repeats on a track, you’re not chasing some distance, you’re simply going by time. For myself and I’m sure a lot of other runners, it’s very hard to know what my “effort level” equates to in a pace per mile. Depending on soreness, fatigue, stress, sleep, eating, etc etc, my effort level changes daily, not by too much usually, but still, it does change. Especially when I’m just getting back to fitness, I might feel great running at a 6:40 pace due to my legs being fresh and rested one day, but three days of solid mileage later, my easy pace could be 7:10. I bring this up to illustrate the beauty of the fartlek being based on time (in most cases that I’ve heard of anyway) When you run a fartlek like the one Jenkins posted today, a simple 6min/1min setup, running 1 minute hard in every mile (6,7,8 min. whatever that moderate pace mile is for you) or so; you can have ample time to recover on the moderate section in the rest of the time before your next hard minute. So, before I copy more of Nate’s post about it, I’ll move on! I’ve touched on why they work well in early season now, but as I mentioned, my favorite part is the adaptability. So, what does that later in the training block, supplemental workout fartlek look like? Well, tonight’s run is the perfect example, at least in my humble training, for that later season pre-race tuneup. The fartlek I ran tonight was the same one I ran a few weeks ago before the 10 mile race, link here to that workout. Tonight I ran the same workout again before my half marathon on Sunday, and with a few more weeks of good fitness in my legs I felt even better than last time and it was a great confidence booster. Link to tonight’s run here. The structure was; 3 mile warmup, :30 seconds of “hard” followed by 2:30 of “moderate” pace x 10, 2 mile cooldown. Rather than focusing on a specific pace for the hard and/or moderate sections, coach just has me run these with an average mile pace goal in mind usually. A couple weeks ago I ran a different variation; 20 x 1 min hard/ 1 min. moderate and my goal pace was 6:30/mile, also as a pre-race workout on the Thursday before a Sunday race. For tonight I had no specific pace goal in mind, but with warmer weather and feeling stronger I was out to beat my time on the same loop from three weeks ago. I averaged about 6:10 pace over the 30 minutes of fartlek last time and tonight my average was probably at about 5:48, total run time was 1:07:42 for 10.07 miles last time and 1:02:16 this time. Certainly a significant improvement, and I can honestly say that I kept the same effort level, hard pace was not an all out sprint, and moderate pace was easy enough that I was fully recovered about 1:30 into the 2:30.

Hopefully for some Fartlek newbie who finds this post, it will encourage you to go out and try any version of the run! It’s really just a great way to go run like a kid again, even if you strip away all structure from it and just run alternating harder efforts for changing distances throughout the middle section of a run. It’s a great way to break up an otherwise plain old run and inject some fun speed work too. If you’re a fartlek pro, please comment with some of your favorites so I can try them out!

Thanks for reading, and good luck to everyone racing LA Marathon, NYC Half, New Bedford Half or any of the other great races this weekend!

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!

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