The Worst Winter Yet and Treadmill Woes

I’m getting quite sick of all these people who won’t admit this is a tough winter, or that some workouts must be moved inside to be done properly. We’re breaking all sorts of snowfall record totals and going on a month straight of temperatures barely up to the freezing mark and usually far below it. Not to mention the frequency of those snow storms or the arctic winds that seem to be creeping over from the mid-west for no good reasons. Working remotely from home or missing work seems to be a normal occurrence at this point (not really a downside as it makes fitting in running easier) and it seems every long run is planned to take place during an actual blizzard.

So, with all of that being said, I’m not at all ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I have been getting my workouts in on the treadmill and indoor track. Now I’m still not saying that I like the treadmill, but I do like it a lot more than missing a workout. There are even advantages to using it for workouts, the obvious one being the ability to simply set it for the pace you are aiming to run and not needing to worry about hitting that pace. Looking back to last year, when I was clearly much tougher and avoided any treadmill runs, I remember a couple times when I kicked the ground in frustration and sullenly marched back to the house after being unable to finish workouts due to the ice/snow/cold/wind. I have yet to miss one this year. I have had the option of getting some workouts in on the indoor track in addition to friends hooking me up with ‘mill access and that has been wonderful too. Between longer repeats and shorter tempos on the mill and shorter repeats and intervals on the track, everything but long marathon effort workouts should be doable for as long as this brutal winter continues to vex and harass us. If the goal is continued progression of training and getting faster, than we just have to embrace every tool that helps us get there, even when that tool is the very epitome of boredom. I know that challenging weather, like any other challenge in training, can be used as a stimulus to get stronger when it has been beaten. My mantra has been; if I can train hard through this, I can race easy through the nice weather. The training has continued to be spot on for me and I’m so glad that Hudson Community was started at the perfect time to help me go after big new PRs in 2015! Brad’s training plan and Kara Lubieniecki’s coaching have both been great, and also having training partners on many of the runs has been ideal. I know I bring it up a lot, but seriously, I gotta keep talking about what works! Speaking of what works, consistent core work and strength training has been another big goal of mine in this training block and I’m happy to report that I’ve got at least two solid sessions in a week since the beginning of the year. I’m sure that it’s made a big difference in many areas, but especially the ability to hold fast paces for longer with efficiency. Time is flying right along, and we are hopefully (fingers crossed, knock on wood, with any luck and other things I don’t believe in) less than a month from the weather getting warmer again. In light of that, the first race of 2015 for me is coming up in less than a week! The plan is not to go all out from the gun, but to start conservative and work my way up, using the race as a solid longer workout, more than a race. It’s the first race in the New England Grand Prix series and it’s 10 miles of hilly terrain in cold and snowy Amherst, MA.

Below is my training over the past week, along with the planned training for this week, leading up to the 10 miler.

Boston Training, Week 7

2/8- 22 Mile long run, closed in 6:30-5:50-5:24-5:15 as covered in my last post.

2/9- 13 Mile easy run, very slow pace due to, you guessed it! MORE snow. But I went by feel and it was a good run. finished with 10×10 sec hill sprints up the slippery slopes. Around 13.5 total.

2/10- Mile Repeat Workout. 4.1 mile w/u in 30 minutes followed by 4 x 200 (33 seconds avg.) strides had me feeling good and ready to run fast. Hopped inside to do run the miles on the treadmill. Target pace was between 5:30-5:10 for 6-8 miles, splits were: 5:30- 5:24- 5:15- 5:10- 5:10- 5:10- 5:05. 3 minute jogging/walking recoveries between miles. Felt controlled and strong throughout, and finished with 2 miles in 14 mins cool down. Had no time for an 8th mile, or I would have kept it at 5:10 and run it. Happy with this workout.

2/11- 12.4 easy pace with Austin at run group. Got some manly frost beards on the run and had a good time. Austin is also training for Boston and is getting fit very quick!

2/12- 6 miles easy at lunch in 41:58 and 8 x 100 meter strides (15-13 seconds) PM: 10 miles easy in 1:11

2/13- 3 mile w/u, 4 x 3k with 3 minute recovery (5:42 pace) 5 minute walk/jog rec. 4 x 400m strides w/3 minute jog recs. 2 mile c/d. Workout felt a little harder than I’d like at that pace, but it was my first AM workout ever, if I’m remembering correctly. On the strides I had to stay inside on the treadmill, it only goes to 5:00 pace so I brought the length from 300 to 400 meters and just ran them at 5 pace on the mill. Cut my cooldown a little short to get to work, but still got in over 15.5 miles total.

2/14- 7 miles easy in Boston before helping coach at the BU Valentine meet and then staying to cheer for people in the 3k and 5k. Ate some burgers afterwards while watching Millrose Games and adding up the 36 sub 4:00 miles from the day!

103.6 miles for the week with two very solid workouts and one good long run. I continued with my core work, with and epic session on Monday and a lighter workout on Friday

Boston Training Week 8
2/15- 20 mile long run. Started out with another scenic snowy run and hit mile 11 before the wind got so fierce that it dropped to -20s with the windchill and we thought we might actually die out there. Finished up on the treadmill again. Blah run overall, wasn’t feeling strong and motivation was low.

2/16- 14 miles easy with 10 x 10 sec hill sprints. Felt much better motivation wise by the end of the run today. Took me forever to get myself outside and running on a work holiday, but was glad I did by the end. PM: Strength/core work

2/17- Planned: 3 mile w/up, 1 Mile hard (~5:15 pace) 6 minute rest, 3 miles at 5:45, 5 minute rest and 4 x 400m at 75 secs. with 1 min rests. 2 mile c/down.

2/18- Planned: 10 miles easy. PM: Strength/core work

2/19: Planned: 3 mile w/up, 10 x 30 seconds hard, 2:30 moderate and a 2 mile c/down

2/20- Planned: 6 mile easy run.

2/21- Planned: 6 mile easy pre-race run + 6 x 100 meter strides

Weekly total for this week should be in the mid 70’s, excited to see what that does for my legs in Sunday’s race.

2/22- Planned: 3 mile w/up, 10 mile race. Practice being competitive. Ideally start out conservative and work up. 7-8 mile cool down (cool down can be very easy, just want to add it to the end to keep legs used to long efforts)

Still reading? Good, here’s some bonus content! Here is a great article on some treadmill workout ideas and the differences between running outside and on the mill, from Brad Hudson.  http://www.coloradorunnermag.com/2014/02/13/master-treadmill-workout-hts-elite-coach-brad-hudson-shares-keys-making-indoor-workouts-count/

Base Phase – 14 Weeks Out From Boston!

14 Weeks to go and less than 100 days until the big one! I’m already trying to reign in the excitement for New Bedford Half, 5 Colleges Realtor 10 Miler and VT City… but honestly, Boston is the only race that really matters to me.

It’s quite nice to have that tangible goal picked out and training planned to get you there in the desired fitness to run at the pace you want to. Compared to the seasons that I have focused on general training and improvement to attack multiple races, building each cycle around a marathon is far easier. And even easier still when it’s your job to just put the work in and leave the training plan and coaching to the experts! 🙂 Now, onto what that training has been so far!

Two weeks back I logged around 70 miles of easy runs with one set of hill repeats and two core/strength training sessions. This past week the volume went up a bit but we kept the runs at easy to moderate pace and my legs felt fairly fresh on every run. I was able to get in another two quality core workouts, which is my goal number. I’ve tried for three a week and some more serious strength training in the past but found that I would not have the time and once I skipped one or two sessions it was far easier to skip more than it was to add them back in. My goal is to get in consistent ancillary work this entire cycle, rather than high-low periods that I’ve often been beleaguered in historically. I’m self motivated in my training, but I’m also quick to depart from intelligent training in favor of grinding out the miles every day, usually at too hard of a pace. An advantage I’m quickly finding in having a coach is that I can set my self motivated hard work or die attitude on following the training and advice and stick that like I would previously stick to stubbornly running hard every day. Obviously that means adjusting for sickness/injury/etc. now, but also for me, that means keeping up with the core work too and forcing myself to run easy on the easy days, even when I’m bored and want to turn it into a tempo. So, that being said, here’s a quick breakdown of the past week and the start of the new one with today’s long run.

1/4- 14 mile long run. Felt okay at first and quite good after making a quick pit stop halfway through, averaged 6:38 pace, with mostly negative splits.

1/5- 10 miles easy and 6×10 sec hill sprints

1/6- 13 miles easy pace, first actual cold day. Felt decent, little bit quicker at the end.

1/7- 5 easy -pause- 5 easy. Ran with my buddy Austin that waited for a few minutes and went back out for another 5 with the run club. Didn’t do the 13 scheduled due to getting very chilled on the second half of the run. Got in 45 min. core work after getting home late. 10pm workouts, w00t w00t! Not planning on doing that very often.

1/8- 12 easy, made up for missing a couple the night before after feeling pretty good the first 10.

1/9- 12 easy pace, but moderate effort. Random poor mood and poor stomach combined for a wicked start to the run, but after 8 miles I cam around and finished feeling good. Core work/strength for 45-1 hour again, felt great.

1/10- 6 easy pace to finish up the week. Started out too fast, due to first sunlit run in awhile, made myself hold it in and stay easy breathing by the end.

1/11- 17 mile long run. Felt comfortable, ran with DJ and Austin up in scenic Groton Mass mostly, found a great state park and ran on some snow for a bit, then came back to Ayer. Finished up with a few solo miles where I worked down from 6:15-5:46-5:40. Only felt like I was really working a bit at the end of the last mile, overall definitely kept the run in the easy to moderate zones.

This week I’m going to get in my first easy workouts of this cycle with a fartlek and tempo by feel on Tues and Fri respectively. Will try to update again next weekend post first couple workouts.

Signing off now feeling confident, determined and excited for more!

Loving XC and Training Update

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La-dee-da, just skipping along through the woods. Credit to Ray Cloutier for the perfectly timed shot just before the finish line.

I’ve mentioned more than a few times that my running life didn’t start until my post college, boring adult life, necessitated a change in interests. I’ve often wondered what I missed out on by not running in the high school and college years. I usually console myself with the idea that I’d probably be burnt out by now, or by assuming that the person I was then wouldn’t have excelled or enjoyed in running much anyway. On the topic of cross country though, I thoroughly missed out; who I was then, who I am now, irrelevant in comparison to the pure fun that is cross country racing. There is no way I wouldn’t have loved this at any point in my life. It’s much more of a party atmosphere than other road racing and much more of a team sport, at the club level. That being said, I am so happy that I’ve found it now! As is often the case, trying something new and out of my comfort zone led to a new favorite activity. I’ve been volunteering as the assistant XC coach for a local DIII college in addition to racing XC myself this fall and both activities have increased my love for running and the XC/Track and Field community in general. It’s been a lot of fun working with and helping train the kids and supporting and helping them at races. And as I suspected with my own racing, XC is surely my strongest department, having grown up running through the woods and hiking.

After hitting a new personal best over 5k in the first race of the USATF-NE XC Gran Prix, yesterday was another solid breakthrough! The last two weekends I raced road 5ks in brutal hot weather, so my plan going into the 8k yesterday was to try an run at close to the same pace as those races and hope that my effort level would be sustainable, given the more comfortable temps and mild course. ( for the TLDR crowd: It was!) Before I break down the race though, I’ll briefly share what my training has looked like over the past few weeks.
Week of Monday Sept 15: Ran 7 times with one day of doubles, one race and one day off with a sore back. My workouts were on Tuesday and Sunday, the latter was a race and a tempo workout. Tuesday I ran 5 sets of (1×1200, 2×400 on hilly mixed loop) pacing the college guys (the 400’s were definitely all out, around 70 seconds on dirt in trainers) Sunday I ran a muggy and hot 5k in the morning at a 5:18 pace, PR for me. Legs didn’t feel too fatigued considering I had run almost 14 the evening before and ran 4 that morning to warm up. After my cooldown and some lunch I drove back up to Lexington, MA and ran a second workout consisting of fartleks. Started with an easy 1.5 and than ran 800 on, 800 off, 400 on, 800 off and repeated until mile cooldown for 8 miles total and 17.5 on the day, ended the week with 71, lighter mileage due to the missed workout.
Week of Monday Sept. 22: Ran 8 times with one day of doubles, one race and zero days off. Workouts on Tues, Thurs and Sunday. Tuesday paced college guys again, this time the workout was 1.6 miles hard tempo around Chestnut Hill Reservoir followed by 6×200. Ran first set in 5:33 pace for the 1.6 and 30 seconds avg. in the 200’s, second set was 5:30 and 31 sec avg. for the 200’s. Ran 1.2 easy before running a final solo 1.6 at 5:19 pace. 11.5 total with warmup and cooldown. Thursday was a big one too, 2 sets of 1×800, 2×400 hard on grass and 4×400 tempo on long hill with jog down recoveries, 11 miles total. Sunday was a 90 degree miserable 5k, but I still managed to run a 5:22 pace on the slightly long course. My afternoon workout was much better though, ran 1.2 warmup followed by tempo 8.5 (6:05 avg.) and 1.3 cooldown for 11 total and 19.3 on the day, with 80 miles for the week.
Week of Monday Sept. 29: Ran 8 times with one day of doubles, one race and zero days off. Workouts on Tues, Thurs and Sunday. Tuesday 2 mile warm up + dynamics (as with every Tues/Thurs workout) followed by 15 minute tempo from 6:00 down to 5:45 pace. Than 3×1200 hard, 1×1200 med and 1×1200 all out. Ran 7.5 as a long cool down. Thursday was one set of 4×800, 4×400 and 4×200, on the second set I only ran the 4×800 as my hamstring had start bothering me. Sunday was the aforementioned 8k XC race with a 5 mile tempo as the evening workout, 19 total on the day and 85 for the week.

Western Mass Distance Project XC Festival
Now, to go just a bit deeper into the race yesterday. I carpooled down to Holyoke with some members of the Sisu Project (cliff notes: super fun, super cool) I ran about 3 miles to warm up and did some easy dynamics before the race. Started off at goal pace for once, rather than going too hard and told myself to stay focused on running fast and ignoring everything else. First few miles ticked off really well and I still felt like my breathing was controlled (5:20, 5:21, 5:24) Mile four I did briefly lose focus a bit, but thought of Dennis Kimetto and Emanuel Mutai at Berlin and the big engines that they are, their hearts and lungs and told myself I was a big engine and also reminded myself to run tall and swing my arms well. That helped me tuck right in behind Matt Germain from Sisu again and try to stay with him as we were picking off a few others. Mantra’s for me aren’t something I plan out or practice, but if muttering in my head about being a big engine and thinking of Kenyan world record holders helps me run faster, I’m not going to stop it. Mile four was a 5:29. The last .97 I was able to increase in pace and find another gear finally, something I’ve been trying to work on very hard. Despite two of the only hills on the course (bumps really) I managed to get back to a 5:15ish pace and kicked up the hill at the end through the finish. Official time was 26:41.3, Avg. pace of 5:22 I’m psyched to have a good time to work off of in future 8ks and what would have been a definite PR for 5 miles, had it been .03 more. Looking forward to Mayors Cup in Franklin Park on the 26th and a well deserved little break from racing until then. I know Franklin Park will be a bit tougher course, but I’m hoping that the next couple weeks of training go well and I work towards another PR anyway.

Lone Gull 10k Recap

Cliff notes: YES! Finally! I picked a goal time that seemed reasonable and actually nailed it. Well, one second off, but close enough! I wanted 34 minutes or under and I ran a 34:01, only regret is not cutting the tangents better, that could have been the difference. But thinking about that more will just drive me nuts, so back to thoughts on how good I felt during and after the race.

Pre-race prep was a serious of errors this morning and I nearly flipped out on the way to the race, especially when I got stuck in the traffic jam and realized I wasn’t gonna have time for a proper warmup. I did pull it together though after yelling at myself that it was my own dumb fault for leaving late, going the longer way and stopping for breakfast behind a woman who must have actually been brokering a deal to purchase the Dunkin Donuts itself. I ended up parking in a random plaza and getting a mile warmup in as I ran to packet pickup. Of course I didn’t want to run back to the car and away from the start line afterwards so I had to improvise and stuff my race shirt behind a rock after pinning on the bib. See, I told you it was a series of errors. After arriving at the start I was able to get a few dynamic warmups and strides in before the race began; which was a few minutes late to account for the people trying to park still.

The course starts off quite fast and my first mile showed that, I cruised through in a 5:16, even though it didn’t feel like a ton of work. In mile two I backed off the pace a little to try and conserve once I saw the split from mile one; I sometimes wonder if the watch is a positive or negative, probably both I suppose. Mile two split was 5:26. Mile three was probably the fastest of the course, protection from the wind and some little downhills made it a lot of fun. I was passed by Mark Reeder, another GLRR guy, and that really gave me the fire to push harder, I passed him back somewhere in the next mile. Mile three clocked in at 5:17. I started to feel slight fatigue by the end of mile four, after a few little uphills, but I was focused on the battle that had developed between myself and the guy who finished just ahead of me at the 15K a few weeks back (went through four in 5:31). We traded places a couple times before I surged on a downhill past him and a few others. I heard someone behind me for most of five and assuming it was that same guy, I kept pushing and hit the mile in 5:28. (By that point I was hitting the mile splits a full tenth before the sign on my watch. Actually, that started by mile two, come to think of it. I did try to cut every tangent hard in the second half to bring my watch closer to the course markers) The footsteps behind me in mile five quickly overtook my in mile six, but it wasn’t my new nemesis, so no worries! Truth be told, worries, competitiveness and racing included, I couldn’t have matched the surge of that guy anyway. Mile six had the uphill that we enjoyed going down in mile one and a strong headwind coming directly off the ocean, so I’m going to factor that in when seeing the 5:36 split. I still felt like I was working hard and didn’t feel like I was fading too bad. On the final .21 we started off by cresting the top of the hill that the race started on, a good little kicker, and after that was a slight downhill and flat sprint to the finish. I worked back to a 5:18 pace over that, mostly due to the rival club’s runner yelling out the name of the guy I knew was still on my tail. I did end up beating him and he finished one place behind me, which I found quite ironic. I finished first for the Angry Chickens, the third Gran Prix that has happened now. It’s a hollow victory though, when you know the team could have placed much better had faster guys shown up. Only two of our top 8 weren’t masters and I was the only guy under 30 years old. better than last week’s XC GP race where I was THE only runner in the men’s open race though. That being said, all those who did show up today, raced very well! Good job to the team on a day that was nearly perfect for racing!

I finished the day by running an easy 15k on the river in Boston this evening, which brought my total mileage to 19.7, including the warmups and cooldowns this morning. All said and done I’ve put in 57 in the last four days and my weekly total was 74, with one day off. September is off to a good start and I’m incredibly excited to cut the distance from today in half and go after my fastest 5k yet next Sunday. I technically hit a new personal best of 16:36 for 5k, in the first half of the race today. You know your PR is soft when you are breaking it in double the distance, while still setting a PR at that distance too.

GMAA Labor Day 15K Recap

Thanks to Thomas Cole for the epic shot! I knew I felt at least one person behind me. Didn't realize it was all aboard the America train!

Thanks to Thomas Cole for the epic shot! I knew I felt at least one person behind me. Didn’t realize it was all aboard the America train!

“Almost what I wanted to do” just about sums up the race. Almost happy with it is better than angry at it, or some other unpleasant adjectives though. As most of the field was heard complaining this after, I know I’m not the first to say it, the first 5k went fairly smooth and then my pace and my mojo dropped significantly. It wasn’t just the hill(s) on mile four, I usually crush hills, it was the hills and suffocating humidity that did me in, a powerful tandem killer for running hard.

Mile 2ish

Mile 2ish

First 5k
Smooth sailing in mile 1, except it felt like slightly more work than it should have to run the pace I was. I counted it up to race nerves and over thinking and settled in to the groove. Mile 2 brought no real reprieve, as it was billed as fast and did not really feel that way, I shifted up and started to work a bit. Mile three actually felt good, I knew some hills were coming up and I focused on running smooth and breathing even and controlled. Had a guy pull beside on a bike and yell some encouraging words, too. “Good job Lowell, great great form!” Really helped out, knowing that there was a guy right on my tail drafting off me and biker guy had no complements on his form! haha

Team shot before the race. No Race pics in the middle.

Team shot before the race. No Race pics in the middle.

Second 5K
Mile 4 as alluded to above, was a total groove buster. Took the second turn on the course and looked up at a hill on the horizon. The hill felt like it never really ended over the mile as it only leveled out for a bit to regroup and rise up again. I normally take a some forced deep belly breaths near the top of a climb to reset my pace clock and continue the charge if the hill was big enough to slow me down, but in this case It took me nearly all of miles 5 and 6 to recover. Upon review of the course, it’s no wonder it took so long to recover, mile 5 ended on a slight uphill and 6 ended on a big uphill.

Near the end, all aboard the pain train.

Near the end, all aboard the pain train.

Final 5k
I rediscovered the beauty of longer races near the end, you can bounce back from some bad miles! Over 7, 8 and 9 I negative split and ran my fastest mile on 9. 7 Was a smooth easy mile, that still felt like ouch due to the humidity and garbage legs. 8 had a significant bump near the end of it, but I was grinding again at that point and stayed right on pace. Over the last full mile there was some significant downhill and I used it to my advantage when chasing down some Central Mass Striders who passed me. I took 6 seconds off the preceding mile split and nearly drew level with one of the guys ahead of me as we charged up the final 3 tenths of a mile. Unfortunately he threw down a legit final sprint and I could only maintain my grind, being out of gears to shift up to at that point and running low on NOS.

All in all, I’m happy with a crappy race; part of which should be a reflection on the excellent job the GMAA did in hosting the Gran Prix race at their second annual Labor Day 15k. The race swag was great, as was the post race food spread. The competition was steep at the front of the pack and adequate the rest of the way back. The course was also well staffed, marked and organized. It was certainly a long day with 7 hours+ of driving, but I could see myself racing it again, with a hotel room the night before!

At the finish line.

At the finish line.

Bonus run thoughts! (Hanover, NH)
I did a second cool down on the way home with my buddy Alex who rode with me. We stopped in Hanover, NH to grab a coffee and stretch the legs, but the Dirt Cowboy Cafe had closed early, we then decided to venture back into the full on swamp of humidity and get the second cool down over with. We ran through Dartmouth from downtown and cut through a golf course to discover some absolutely gorgeous trails in some very old forest near the river. It was a perfect place to break down the race in my head while exploring. Ended the day with almost 20 miles and felt happy and accomplished afterwards.

Returning From Injury!

First off, I’m so thankful that this injury only sidelined me for three weeks, it seemed much more serious initially. Second, I’ve practiced actually resting completely and hope I can remember this lesson next time something happens. Third, I have fallen back in love with running immediately.

I was given the all clear to try a run last Wednesday, in the hope that some easy running might aid in the draining of fluid from my knee. I made it through a couple miles and felt no pain or discomfort, so I tried again the next day and managed four easy miles. Fluid was mostly gone and no pain either, so after resting Friday I went out for 10k on Saturday, with some pickups and faster sections and ended up running too hard at a 6:25 average pace. It just felt too good to slow down! I ran another four easy miles Sat night and still felt no pain, tentatively started thinking, “I’m back!” Sunday seemed like a good day to take it easy again so I skipped running and did a brutal core session. I had been doing core almost every other day while I wasn’t running, mixing up it up with 30 minutes of Greg McMillan’s and Lauren Fleshman’s favorite exercises. Fleshman has some seriously sexy abs and by sexy, I mean tough as nails and well conditioned! (McMillan’s Core Workout – Lauren Fleshman’s Favorite Moves) After taking Sunday off I got back to it Monday with 6 easy miles and 4×10 second hill sprints, the hills felt especially good and my legs felt much better on the 10 I ran Tuesday, followed by core. Wednesday was an easy 7 and Thursday another 7 + 5×10 sec hill sprints followed by core again. Friday I ran 8.5 and picked it up over the last mile, running a 6:01, smiling the whole run! Today was a comfortable 6.3 as I get myself prepared for a fun 5 mile race tomorrow. As a final note on my first week back to running; I have been very carefully paying attention to what my body says after and during every run, training my mind to be more aware of pain signals and when they are telling me I need to stop. After a few years of telling myself to push through any pain I feel while running, it’s been a critical area for me to work on and relates to my summer training goal of being mentally in better shape than ever before.

I have been telling myself all week, that pending swelling and/or pain, I will line up for the 5-miler tomorrow with no time goal and just hope to make it through and have fun. Thankfully, that is still my goal, everything feels great and I can’t wait to kick off solid training once again with a USATF-NE Gran Prix race. I’d love to be more fit going in and try to place for my club, but with no speedwork in a month and only one week of easy runs, I’ll be very happy to go sub 30 minutes. (Not a goal, just speculation on current fitness!) My watch is conveniently broken so I will be racing purely by feel, no doubt the better approach when so recently returned to running anyway. Speaking of Gran Prix races, I just looked through the individual standings from last year’s Gran Prix and was psyched to see that I had actually made it on there with one point in the marathon last year! Too bad I was still unattached, could have helped Greater Lowell out in the standings, too!

One last topic for this post. Happy Father’s Day to a dad who has shown me how to be passionate about what I enjoy, intellectual in my pursuit of knowledge and above all, desiring of giving glory to God in all I do! I just read this article on How Elite’s Fathers Have Inspired Their Running and though I wouldn’t say my dad has inspired my running in particular, he has inspired my personality in such a way that encourages me to run. He was a college basketball coach and athletic director and a various times a high school basketball and soccer coach or referee. His favorite sport has to be basketball, but he’ll watch football, soccer and baseball too. He puts up with my excited ramblings of pro runner’s accomplishments and my favorite Americans and who’s up and coming, as long as I let him respond with some exciting basketball news. We shared very little in interests when I was growing up and though I often wonder what my life would be like had I started running as a kid, I’m so thankful that my dad let his youngest son focus on books, imagination and then working on cars, never pushing me to play any sports. My dad supports me doing as well as I possibly can in my running, but would never want that to be at the expense of my faith, putting God first in everything. We might not share many interests even now, but we both share an intense passion for the things we love and combined with the incredible work ethic and drive of my mom, I’ve been blessed with a passion and drive to fully pursue every goal, as long as consult with God first. I truly couldn’t ask for better parents, so Happy Father’s Day dad, wish we could all be together!

Silly Injury and a DNS

DNS-Vermont City Marathon
My last post was written with lots of enthusiasm and the excitement of unexplored potential. This post, a few short days later, comes with all of the somber disappointment of a running life put on hold. I don’t know exactly what this is or how long it will sideline me until I have it looked at again next Wednesday, but for now, I’m a definite DNS for Vermont City Marathon and bitterly disappointed. I do know that my knee is still quite sore and stiff, I know that it was very swollen and had tons of fluid and I know that it isn’t able to be run on at all. I’m not too upset to be missing this race in particular as it isn’t a goal race, but I’m unhappy to not be able to run for Greater Lowell RR in the club challenge or run with any of my friends who are running. I will still be a spectator CHEERING SQUAD and will try to help everyone else racing however I can.

The Injury
I took a really hard fall while hiking on Saturday, bruising ribs and landing with lots of force on my knee. Good news; I was able to continue my hike and then get back down the mountain safely. Bad news; with a mile of descent to go it really started to bother me, swelling and stiffening up, I kept it as loose as I could though and drove home thinking it would be good in the morning. On Sunday I scrapped my planned 14 mile run, just to be safe, and by Monday evening I felt good enough to put in a few easy miles. My right leg was incredibly sore after bearing the brunt of my weight on the descent from my hike, so I was hoping to help it recover faster by running at least 4-6 easy miles. After a half mile of very easy pace my left knee was already starting to feel funny and I paused to feel it out, assuming that it would just take some working out I continued the run. After one mile I knew I was in a bad place and stopped running again, my knee felt like it was constricted and was already starting to swell up again. I’ve never experienced that feeling in any joint before and thus went through every stage of panic and feeling that I would never run again until finally having it looked at on Wednesday. The prognosis isn’t complete as I haven’t had an MRI done or anything, but my ART and Graston guy thinks there is a contusion behind the patella somewhere and between that and the hit that the bones took, it created tons of fluid and swelling which were combining to not let the knee track properly. That made perfect sense based on how it felt when I tried to run. He did some work to help the fluids drain and put some KT tape in place to assist with the tracking and gave me strict orders to rest and ice it. I’ll go back to let him see how it’s progressing and I guess go from there. If it hasn’t improved we’ll know there is some other more serious issues going on. It has steadily felt better the last couple days and the swelling and fluid seem to be mostly be gone, I’m just trying to be positive about it now.

What’s Next
It is very, very difficult to not feel that all of your recent hard work and fitness have been wasted when something like this happens. I’m sure any serious athlete or runner can relate to the feelings of helplessness and lost training. I’m trying to stay positive, because after all, Boston was amazing and my training over the past six months did lead to some big PRs. The only place I’m really not satisfied is the marathon, I know my fitness could have put me a few minutes faster had I raced an easier course on a less hot day than Boston and now I can’t prove it to myself. I guess that is a good sign though, when I’m fully content with my running it’s time to stop competing. I am still pleased with how I raced at Boston, I’m just itching to be even faster. Trying not to think about when I can start training and how long and slow that process to rehab this might be, I am still desperately hoping and praying that I can save most of the fitness I have right now and work back into a good place by the fall season. On the flip-side of that, I know there are some good lessons to be learned right now so I’m trying to seek God. Every time a trial hits me God has used that to pull me closer to Him and teach me big things. I do feel as though I’m am being trivial and selfish to some extent when I talk about it, because I can still walk around fine and my health is still great, but running is very important to me and I really want to improve so much.

Second Marathon of The Season

Vermont City One Week Out
I keep telling myself that this next race is just for fun and that I’m not going to go for it, just going to cruise. The reality is, my fitness level feels pretty close to where it was for Boston though and I know this is an easier course… so there’s no way I’m taking it easy on Sunday! This spring I trained to run Boston as my peak race, but due to a couple factors, I decided to sign up for Vermont City also, mostly because it looks like massive fun. Last fall I ran two marathons, using the first one as a long hard training run and the second as my peak race, having been injured in my prep for the first race I went with a backup peak race. I was 3+ minutes faster in the second marathon, also one month later, if I can somehow manage that again, I would be over the moon! That being said, the pressure is totally off for this race, it’s just going to be pure easy fun (easy is a relative word) My taper has become the easiest taper yet, with an unplanned off day today on what would be my last medium length run (14 miles scheduled) I put in my last hard session on Friday and then decided to go hiking yesterday. Between picking a very difficult trail with 3 hours of grueling hiking time and one really hard fall, today was made an impromptu rest day. I’m hoping my knee will have stopped being swollen enough tomorrow to get back out for an easy run and just trusting that it will be healed completely by Sunday. The hike was amazing and I’m glad that without the pressures of an important time goal I can let myself have some riskier fun before a marathon, even if it does hurt sometimes.

 

Goals for 2014 Adjusted and Accomplished
I was essentially building up for and trying to qualify and run Boston for three years and with that massive goal finally accomplished, everything from here on out is a bonus this year. I had set time goals in every distance from marathon to 800m for 2014. With the training for and racing of Boston, I set personal bests in the marathon, half, 15k and 10k. I was able to best my goal marks by a minute in the full and half. I still have some work to take time off the shorter races to reach my goals, but PRs in almost every distance are making this year feel like the best one yet for running. I haven’t even started training for a fall marathon and I’ve already met my goals… which means the new goals have to be even more aggressive! haha I was planning on focusing on shorter races over the summer, if I met my marathon goal at Boston, but I’m just too in love with the 26 miles to give it up, even for one season of training. I hope to still put in some fast shorter races this year and hit the goal times I was shooting for, but I will be planning those around marathon training. I think with track and field and road running, you should focus on performing best in whatever event/distance you love the most, for me that distance is the marathon. Until the fire has gone out for marathons, I will keep pushing and grinding and as soon as it gets stale, it’s time to switch it up and make it fun again. One of the few perks to training this hard as an amateur in a sport is that I can choose to switch it up with no consequence. If I decide that I want to focus on 5k distance, or even shorter, I can make a new training plan and simply do it. Fortunately, I feel that my greatest strength is in the marathon anyway, so it’s nice that I enjoy it so much! I don’t have the quick turnover and leg speed of some people, or the history of running fast at a younger age, but I can mentally push through some pretty big pain walls. I do need to work on my speed though, if I want to take another 21 minutes and 9 seconds off my marathon best. 😉

 

Training Since Boston Recovery
May 2nd Fartlek – Stiff starting out, felt awesome by the end. Ran unstructured on sections, with a 5:30 mile even, at mile 9. (11.2 Total)

May 3rd Easy Run + Core- Easy pace run and 20 minutes of core work (6.6 Total)

May 4th Trail Run- Met up with some GLRR guys and ran 14 on trails and road at medium tempo level

May 5th Easy Run + Hills + Core- 4.6 easy pace + 5×10 sec hill sprints followed by 20 min core (5.1 Total)

May 6th Track Workout- 2mi warmup + drills and 2x(800, 800, 400) + 2mi cooldown. Felt good and ran under negative splits. (8.1 Total)

May 7th AlterG and Easy Run- 4.6 on AlterG and 8.5 easy run at run group (13.1 Total)

May 8th Easy Run + Core- Sore hamstrings cut run short (8.3 Total)

May 9th Marathon Pace Workout- 2mi warmup + 10mi @ 5:54/mile + 2mi cooldown (14.1 Total)

May 10th Easy Run- Easy run in first real warm day, felt hot (6.8 Total)

May 11th Long Run- Steady pace long run in the evening, hottest day of the year, so far. 80+f starting out. (20.1 Total @ 6:37/mile avg. neg splits over last 5, too)

May 12th Easy Run + Hills- 6.5 easy pace + 10×10 sec hill sprints (7 Total)

May 13th Fartlek + Core- 8 miles with 8×2 min. at half marathon pace (10 Total)

May 14th Progression- Last 4 neg splits, closing with marathon pace mile (9.2 Total)

May 15th Easy + Core- (8 Total)

May 16th Marathon Pace Workout- 2 mi easy + 2×4 mi @ marathon pace (5:55) 5 min recovery jog in between + 2 mi easy (12.5 Total)

May 17th Hike- Brutal 2:50 of hiking and 6200′ of elevation change (7.6 Total)

May 18th Rest and Recovery- Day off to recover from soreness and swelling

Back to the Basics (Again)

Here are my running musings on this beautiful May evening.
I can’t help but fall in love with running all over again on these perfect spring days. Meeting new runners and swapping stories has become a staple of my weekends lately. What an amazing community we have. I’m incredibly blessed, as cliche as that sounds at times, God has seen fit to give me far more than I deserve and far better friends and family than I could even desire.

I’ve been in marathon recovery mode for the past couple weeks and I so quickly forget how uplifting it is getting out and running hard, just for the fun of it. I went out yesterday and ran 11 or so that turned into an unstructured fartlek, I couldn’t resist the urge to push the pace every time I caught my breath. Nothing makes me feel the fun of being a kid again more than running through the woods on an awesome trail and just sprinting and jogging along with no plan in mind. I had thought I would feel good doing 6 easy miles, but was so happy my legs got their spring back on a nearly perfect afternoon for running. Today I did run an easy 6 with a fellow runner I met at EMS, always a good time meeting new runners.

The back to basics title I’ve given this post is in reference to the mindset I always get when starting a new training block. While I might not actually be starting the fall marathon training in earnest yet, I am putting together the building blocks to get that training kicked off right. I’ve found some good core work routines to put in place at least 3 times a week. I know that I was partly lucky more than intelligent in not sustaining an injury since last fall as I’ve been totally slacking on core work and drills. I did do pre-run drills and dynamic before almost every run for the past 6 months, but my post run stretching and rolling was only done when I felt tight. Additionally, I think I might have done serious core work beyond three sets of planks maybe three times in the entire Boston buildup, not good. I did have a great time running medium volume (50-60 a week) for a month before marathon training in this past cycle. I also ran hard track workouts once a week in that month, another thing I plan on doing again. But I will be adding in the core and more dynamic stretching, rolling and drills to get as much strength as possible before I even start training hard again. I have huge goals and big dreams and I’m going to chase after them with every bit of my being. That means being smart as well as strong. I have some new mantras to keep my focused in training and one of them is: Training is where you work hard and racing is where you enjoy the hard work! I want to put in the work, without going quite to the well, or at least all the way down the hole, so that every race feels like a justification of my training. I’ve had three races that were all big break through’s this year PR wise, but they didn’t feel like that, they felt like the speed I was supposed to be running at. I want that belief in my training to continue, as I get faster.

One last picture of Boston. The face says it all, this is Heartbreak hill, is that all you’ve got Newton? I want that feeling in every race, to know I can dig even deeper when the hurt sets in.
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Boston Marathon Recap

As part two of the recap of one of the best weekends of my life, I figure I should start with some of the high points for the; “too long, didn’t read” crowd:

1. Overwhelming joy. I spoke of it in post number one, the wave of optimism and joy just washed over Boston.
2014 Boston Marathon Weekend

2. Big personal record! Very happy with a 9 minute and 18 second PR and finally breaking the 2:40:00 barrier!
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3. Media attention for running at an all time high! (at least in my lifetime) http://running.competitor.com/2014/04/boston-marathon/fraioli-mebs-boston-win-powerful-many-levels_101169
Coincidentally, my own face on some news stories!
NBC News special on my favorite running store. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/boston-bombing-anniversary/store-runs-boston-bombing-victims-n85846
Interviewed on a local weather segment! http://www.necn.com/04/16/14/Spring-chill-hits-New-England/landing.html?blockID=865191&feedID=11106
Sports Illustrated web coverage of the marathon! http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/more/photos/1404/boston-marathon-118th-2014/27/

 

On to the race recap…

Sat. 19th Up early and ran 2m Easy/2@MP/1m Easy. Met my parents and two of my sisters for brunch. Brought my parents and sister back around my place afterwards to show them the area. Went to an Easter service in the evening. Came home and had a large dinner of mostly carbs, then got to bed earlyish.

Sun. 20th Up early to watch Liverpool match, picked up parents and went to church, hung out with a bunch of family and ate lunch then ran 4 @ easy effort (6:33) Small dinner of pancakes and banana and coconut water, in bed at 9:30 PM.

Mon. 21st MARATHON MONDAY! Up at 4:30 AM Last minute gear check, load up and drive to T stop to ride into the Boston Common and take shuttle to Hopkinton. Met up with my good buddy and usual race pal, Austin at the T stop and rode in together. Our bus left the common at approximately 6:45 AM and we arrived at the athletes village by 8 AM. I grabbed a cup of coffee and ate half a bagel while sitting around in nervous excitement. Met a couple guys who met and raced against THE Ian Sharman in an ultra. Felt good vibes floating around for an hour and observed a fantastic moment of silence for the victims of last year’s bombing. At 9:05 AM we were let go to make our way to the start line a half mile down the hill. After loosening up and shaking out the legs I cheered for the elite women as they made their way from the church to the start and yelled for the American’s as the gun went off at 9:35 AM. A short while after that at 9:50 AM an intense flyover from some National Guard helicopters took place, immediately preceding the elite men taking the start line. Ryan hall gave us all high fives as they went past and the general excitement was at a fever pitch, though all around me remained reserved, if a bit antsy. Before I knew it the gun went off and we were bumping and shuffling our way across the start line.

The Race: 10:01 AM I cross the start line of the Boston Marathon for the first time and hit start on my Garmin. The first mile is a bit crowded and I have to spend a little energy not running into anyone. The crowds of screaming fans are a bit distracting, but totally appreciated! The first mile clicks off on my watch at 6:13, okay considering that I couldn’t start running until a few tenths in. By now the crowds have thinned a little and I can hit my goal pace, mile 2 is completed in 5:59. For the sake of not being super repetitive, I’ll just say that all the way up to the Newton Hills I was simply focused on the crowds and enjoying every minute of the run. It felt like a fast effort but easy enough that with every watch check I found myself reigning in my pace a bit. I’ve developed a habit in marathons, of looking at my watch about 3/10’s into every mile to see what my pace looks like, just a quick glance to see if an adjustment is needed. I also take a peek if I feel like I’m really struggling sometimes, but other than that, it’s just there to record some data for post race synopsis. The splits for miles 3 through 16 were: 5:57- 5:50- 6:02- 5:48(Wait, what… in a marathon? What was I thinking?) 5:53- 6:06- 6:00- 6:00- 6:03- 5:52- 5:49- 5:53- 5:45(Big downhill in Wellesley to Newton line) Those miles just listed were by far the most fun miles I’ve ever run in any race and had I been falling apart, they still would have been fun. I’m serious, the crowd was so loud and so fun that I just floated through. I also saw A TON of friends along that stretch, all of whom inspire me daily in my running and in general! From 16 at the Newton town line you hit the first of the big uphills, it’s not steep, but it’s nearly half a mile of up, followed by a decent downhill though. I started out of breath after screaming at the Newton town line for more noise and spotting some great friends at the base of the hill, but I stayed controlled and told myself to slow up a bit on the hill intentionally, mile clicked off in 6:09. Mile 18 has some long slightly down hill bits before punishing you with the first of the hills on Commonwealth as you make the turn to the city, completed it in 6:08. Mile 19 is fairly easy, with a gradual down hill before the long climb up Heartbreak Hill, I sped up a bit and hit 6:03. Unfortunately the heat was really starting to get to me and I could feel my energy being sapped. After pounding up and over the last of Newton’s hills, I was unable to ratchet my pace back down again and 6:03 was my last truly fast mile split (for me) Mile 20 sees the bump prior to Heartbreak and I hit my slowest split yet in 6:12, felt okay though, considering the terrain. Heartbreak was indeed difficult at that point in the race and pushing that hard, I was nowhere near the 6:00/mile I cruised up it in a training run, but I stayed sub 6:30, with a 6:24. After Heartbreak I tried to speed back up and did hit 6:13, 6:09 and 6:13 again in the next three, but I knew by then that it was time to just hold on and run with the heart and the mind, because the body was done. 25 and 26 were 6:18 and 6:16, and the final .3, according to my watch, were at a 6:00 pace. Total average pace on my watch reads 6:03, which means I nearly ran the tangents perfectly, only a tenth over with 26.32 recorded. My official time is 2:39:08 for the 26.2 which gives me a 6:04 average pace, certainly close enough to my 6:00 goal to be happy with, given the difficulty of the Boston course and the 70+ degree temps by the end. My dream goal of a sub 6:00/mile average marathon now feels like it’s really within reach and had it not been for the heat, I might already be there. My first 20 miles were at a 5:59 average and considering my previous PR was at 6:25/mile average only 11 months ago, it looks like the training has started to pay off! It was a race I will never forget, a weekend I will never forget, a Meb I will never forget and a total honor and pride to be a part of any of it. I can’t wait to return to Boston next year.

By The Numbers: 2:39:08 Net time, 6:04 average pace, 78:25 first half and 80:43 second half. 305th out of 32,000 in my first Boston Marathon!

What’s next? I feel that the pressure I’d put on myself to get a sub 2:40 has been totally lifted. I do still have a strong hunger to get much faster, but I feel like the rest of this year will just be relaxed and fun. I’ve now checked off my long distance goals in the half and the full for 2014 and can focus on trying to PR in every distance from 10k down to 800 meters now! I’ve never had a lot of leg speed or tremendous strength so I think a summer of speed work and shorter races with lots of core and hip strengthening should set me up nicely for a potential half PR again this fall. Just maybe I will manage to snag another full PR, if everything works out. Immediate future is a 14 mile trail race this Sunday (yikes, don’t follow my example post marathon) Then after another easy week I will start to work the mileage back up in the first full week in May, next race in the USATF NE Gran Prix series is a 5 miler in June where I will look to set a big 5 mile PR. My current best came last year on a humid 85 degree evening in July, so I’m really hoping to improve on that number.

Finally, a huge thanks to all who have supported me so far this year, or read the blog, or trained with me! It means so incredibly much to know that I have inspired someone in some way to get out there and run/race/exercise or cheer for others. I get so much joy and satisfaction out of this fantastic sport that my top goal has to be drawing others in! Also, even bigger thanks to those who donated to my charity efforts for World Vision while training, with your awesome work we were able to raise over $550 to help bring clean drinking water and medical supplies and education to war torn and devastated areas of Africa.

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