New Year, New Training, New Goals

Where I’d like to spend more time in 2015. The White Mountains.

I firmly believe that there is something powerfully motivating in publicly stating ones goals. Once they are out there and have been spoken it increases the drive to accomplish them, even if you aren’t necessarily expecting the public at large to help keep you accountable. With that in mind, this post will have two parts; the first one being my statement of 2015 goals, the second will focus on how I’m going to achieve them.

2015 Running Goals

  • First and foremost, I want to cut another 10 minutes off my marathon best. It’s a big goal, but I think it’s well within reach. This means at Boston I’ll be shooting for a sub 2:30 as my A goal and as close to 5:40 pace for my B goal, or 2:28 high.
  • Second goal is to run a half in sub 73 as my A goal and sub 71 as B goal. I know in both the half and full my A and B goals aren’t very far apart, but I’m shooting for big improvements here, don’t want to set easy to reach goals. Obviously I will be happy to PR no matter how big though, to some extent.
  • Third goal is part and parcel with every running goal, DOING the ancillary stuff this year! No more skimping out on core work and strength training when I start running more. I seem to have gotten in a good habit of pre-workout dynamics thanks to XC coaching this fall, so I want to build on that. But add more post run/evening stretching and proper recovery.
  • Fourth, I want to race hard and smart! This fall I only had two XC races where I felt that there wasn’t a ton left in the tank post race, despite “feeling” like I was pushing hard in the race usually. I need to stay mentally focused mid-race and keep pushing. In light of that, I want to stay aware and connected to the race instead of drifting off.
  • Fifth, and again this one applies to everything involving running, I want to be a supportive teammate! I have a great team to train and race with and I want to make sure I’m giving the best of myself back to them too.
  • Sixth goal is for the fall season and no goal times are in mind yet, but I do know that I can get much faster in the XC races and I fully intend to do so!
  • Last goal here I just thought of, and it’s not so much a goal as it is just a nice thought, I’d like to win something. Obviously not in my first few races of the year as they will be some of the most competitive half and full marathons in the country, but possibly in the fall season. I’ve finished 2nd in many smaller races, but I feel like crossing that line first would just give me some big sense of accomplishment after all this work. It goes to show the competition level around New England though, that as a decent runner now, I’ve never even been that close to winning anything above a small local race!
  • Oh yeah, should also plan to eat better too. I’ve become quite good at eating everything over the course of my ravenous appetite life, but if I could actually get some vegetables back into the bread/grain/turkey diet, I’m sure it would be great.

2015 Training Plans

For the second marathon build up in a row I’m going to be following a training plan from Brad Hudson. With one major difference this time however, I will be following a specific training plan from Hudson. Last year I read Run Faster From the 5k to The Marathon by Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald and it completely changed how I was training. This fall I had every intention of putting together a similar plan for Boston 2015, but wasn’t sure exactly how to adapt last years training to my current, much higher, fitness level. Just as I was getting ready to plan out my training and figure out what do, Brad announced that together with the HTS Elite group training under him, he would be offering training plans and coaching for anyone! This new program is called HTS community and you can find all the details by clicking the link in my previous sentence. One thing I will mention here that is especially cool though, the fee is only $75/month and goes right to supporting the HTS Elite group in travel and training costs. Not only are you giving yourself a big leg up on training with the guidance of a renowned pro coach, but you’re supporting other runners chasing their dreams! I signed up right away and am now worry free on how to train for my current marathon goal. I’ll be working with the talented, recent Marathon ‘A’ Standard snagging Kara Lubieniecki, who trains with HTS Elite. Using a great new website, Final Surge, I will be posting my workout details and getting my workouts from Kara and Brad. In case you couldn’t read it in my words, I am very excited for this next step in my quest to keep getting faster!

The other big training improvement from other marathon build-ups will be a talented and motivated group of people to train with! From former teammates to current ones, after being in the area for a few years now, I know a big enough group of people that I suspect few long runs will be solo this time around. As much as running is an individual sport, it is likewise a team sport in the training. Even in my racing this year, we have already put some tentative plans to start out some races together as a team and help each other, at least through the first miles. Cross country season was so fun with this aspect, I can’t wait to have a couple guys to pace with at New Bedford Half in March and possibly at Boston in April. Of course none of this team talk would be complete without once again dropping a link to our page and giving a call out to New England runners looking for a super supportive and fun post-collegiate club. Sisu Project Facebook page. This year will be huge for Sisu Project in the USATF-NE Road Gran Prix and once again in New England XC too, so keep us on your radar!

2015 Non-Running Goals

  • Number one goal as a Christian, to better glorify God in everything I do, say and think. Always vast room for improvement in this one, but God is at work and is faithful and gives grace when I fail.
  • Not shave the beard for a year. Self explanatory. I’ve removed any semblance of manhood from my face just now, but with the purpose of starting out a fresh beard to dedicate to 2015’s new challenges and continued growth. Soon I will be back to this look I hope:
    15AyHSbC
  • Move to Oregon? I still want to get out there at some point. For as much as I love my family, friends and teammates here on the east coast, I still am in love with Bend. My job is secure for now though and I seem to be doing alright at it too and I do have a great support group here, so we’ll see. At some point you just have to take a leap and follow your dreams though, right?

    Run group besties, Makena and Trish. These girls came all the way to Oregon to race with a bunch of strangers! Love them! haha

    In Oregon for Hood to Coast in 2014. Run group besties, Makena and Trish. These girls came all the way to Oregon to race with a bunch of strangers! Love them!

  • Keep up with my blogging and become a better writer. I’ve enjoyed writing since I was in high school, but short of this blog, I’ve never really worked at being better. I’d love to do the research and write some articles on subjects I’m passionate about.
  • Buy and wear more flannel! Nothing is more comfortable, time to phase out my other button-ups completely. Also related; how do I not own a bow-tie!? Fixing this soon.
  • Be a more loving and thoughtful person, this means putting others feelings before my own. Also, not making decisions based off of feelings alone. Rational thought leads to a lot less regret!
  • Read more/Watch less TV. Nothing wrong with throwing on some Netflix during core work and foam rolling etc, but I seriously need to step up my reading game.
  • Drink even more coffee. It’s freaking delicious and makes me feel great. (unless I drink it after noon, haha)
  • Go to the dentist, floss regularly and actually have my eyes checked so I can get the glasses I know I need. Or I could say, just generally take care of the parts of my body that don’t directly affect my running.
  • Finish hiking the 4000-Footers in NH. I only have a few left and it’d be nice to fit that in over the summer if possible. I’d like to maybe take a week off and camp out up in the Whites with day trips out to some of the harder to reach peaks.
  • Another trip out west, maybe to the mountains this time? Colorado maybe?

Year In Review – 2014 Edition

Today officially kicked off my training for Boston 2015! Ran 7.7 @ easy pace with some teammates this morning with strides after and 8.3 with 5.3 of 400 on/400 off/800 on/400 off fartlek this afternoon at home. Such a beautiful, warm Boxing Day, probably last day of running in the 40’s for awhile, I loved it! Before I get carried away with training, though, it’s time to put a stamp on 2014 and send it on the way.

On Friendship and Training Companions and Teammates
I’ve been so blessed with amazing friends and family my entire life. I truly cannot imagine life without a great support system and people to confide in and challenge me when they see me going astray. From my parents flying up to Boston from Kansas to watch me at Boston, to my new and old teammates alike, to my awesome friends at run group; I truly appreciated the special people in my life this year (And sorry for those times I didn’t show it!) Out of all the great memories Boston and the XC season stand out the most in my mind. At Boston, all three of my sister’s came to watch, from NY, NJ and MA and my parents and many friends lined the course too, at almost every mile. I’ve said it more than a few times, but Boston was a party, seriously one giant celebration from start to finish. I started out the year with the Greater Lowell Road Runners and so many fans and runners from the club lined the route that it sounded like a constant cheer for “Lowell” and “Go Dan”, a truly special experience. Despite that singularity, it was one of the many times this year when I was stunned and humbled by the support and love shown to myself and others running. I got to spend some great time hanging out with friends and family over late Spring and Summer as I was running less. In VT to take my turn at supporting others running, in PA at my cousins wedding and on many a weekend where a long run wasn’t dominating my schedule. In the fall I made the switch from Lowell to the Sisu Project and though smaller in numbers, it was like Boston all over again at every race with the support and cheering. I’m so happy to have gone from one enthusiastic and supportive group of runners to another. Outside of the club and my family I also had many friends to rely on this year both in and outside of running. After a few years of almost every Wednesday together, I highly value the time spent with my run group friends. Quick to put me up for a night or two and ready to have fun at non-running events too, solid friendships for sure. Like I said, I’ve been incredibly blessed with great friends and family and 2014 was a great reminder of that all year long.

The Races
A year of trying new things and getting better at old ones! It’s hard to believe that some of the races I enjoyed so much actually happened this year as March seems so long ago, but Stu’s 30k and New Bedford Half Marathon are certainly in that category. They both changed my perception of my own ability in some way. At Stu’s I learned that my goal pace for Boston Marathon was totally feasible and maybe even conservative. At New Bedford I shot for a big PR and went one better for a minute under my goal time. Stu’s was a solo effort that started as a steady effort and ended up being a solid tempo feeling run. New Bedford was a case of getting soft 1/3 of the way through and having a teammate pull up beside me to push me until the end for a great time for both of us. Boston was, well Boston, I’ll simply link to my recap and leave it at that. A hiking injury a few weeks after Boston closed the book on my plans to run Vermont City Marathon on Memorial Day weekend, and consequently rendered me solidly out of shape for the first few races of the summer. But by Late July I had some good miles underfoot and was able to start checking off new personal bests. After getting a new 5 mile best at the Marathon Sports Weston 5-miler, I jumped right into shorter races and the quest to get faster! There were a couple slight detours, USATF-NE 15k in Vermont being the biggest of them; HOT weather and poor fueling combined for a brutal day. Mayor’s Cup 8K was another less than stellar day, despite feeling okay in the race, I realized afterwards that I did not push nearly as hard as I should have. Other than that, every XC and road race in the fall was just extra validation that a season off of marathoning was just what I needed. The final race highlight of the year was XC Club Nationals just a couple weeks ago, without question. One of the best weekends in awhile and one of my better race efforts this year to boot! I forgot all about running Hood to Coast Relay and just had to come back and add this. Another weekend that’s up there with Boston this April and Club Nats. The trip back to Oregon was everything I hoped for and then some, my awesome relay team were a blast and we killed it at the race. Not only did I have some very fun races this fall, I also ran workouts after many of them to work on speed/endurance with tired legs. The workouts combined with no tapering for any races but XC Club Nats, might have left me tired at times, but I can only imagine it leaves me stronger for marathon training.

The Records
As I mentioned, my goal this fall was to get faster over shorter races, having hit my goal times in the half and full marathon in the spring. Though at times it didn’t feel like I was getting a lot faster, I was very happy to notice the other day that every PR I have was set in 2014. I might not have broken 34 in a 10k as I so wanted to, but a 34:01 will have to be my mark to beat as I try to skip 33 altogether next year and go right to the 32’s. The same story was true in the 5k where I really wanted to get very close to 16 minutes if not break it. I did only race 5k on very hot and humid days and still managed to get into the 16:30’s multiple times, so once again that mark will be there to beat next summer or fall (or maybe next month when I try my first indoor race, hey, who knows!) Apart from personal time records, I also hit quite a few “PRs” in other areas this year. In mileage, I once again hit a new high number for yearly volume, where I will finish somewhere around 3575 miles. I also hit my first 100 mile week and then repeated it a few times, peaking at 102 a few weeks before Club Nats this fall. A fact that gives me great pride when I consider that the first week of 2014 was my first week of 70+ miles. Through early season core work and smart stretching, dynamics and hill sprints I was able to stay healthy for almost the entire year, except for the one big injury that had nothing to do with running when I fell while hiking. At the beginning of the year I printed out a list of goal times for this year and hit every one except the mile, which I never raced anyway, apart from a relay when I had just resumed training again this summer. I have already picked out my goals for the half and full marathon in 2015 and a plan to get there, and I can’t wait to try and one up 2014’s successes.

The Highlights, The Whole Year
Friends, family, teammates, epic races, big personal bests, traveling to races, meeting so many amazing runners. How can I fully recount one of the most thoroughly enjoyable years of my life, I simply can’t. I’m just ready for 2015 where I get to do it all over again, with bigger goals and new races to run and new friends to make and old ones to grow with.

XC Club Nationals Recap

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

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

Team picture before coming home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

CVS Health Downtown 5K Recap

After a week of delightful fall weather, today was back to 80% humidity and high 70’s, just have to start with that. I began to think I was getting pretty good at humid running, but this past week has made me forget all that and I felt weak and hot right away, while warming up. That being said, it was still a fun time and I felt like I put in absolutely everything I could, so no regrets.

Pre-race:
Another late morning wake up with an 11:15 start time and only an hour drive to the race, I definitely like these! I hit up Starbucks first for a breakfast sandwich and tall black coffee, per usual. Hopped on the highway and drove to the RI statehouse, claiming one of the last few parking spots on location. I wanted to get in a decent warmup as my lower back is still totally jacked and takes a good few miles to warm up and stop pinching my sciatic nerve. (I know, I know, but my chiro/Graston guy is on vacation until Monday) I ran around the ghetto that apparently is Providence; not hating, but if you can possibly move from there, do it. Anyhow, once I found the start line I did a solid 5 minutes of dynamics on a side street before fighting my way to the front of the corrals. Almost literally fighting too, I nudged a guy on the arm to go around him while saying excuse me and he started to talk all tough and told me the least I could have done was to excuse myself. I tried to laugh it off while explaining that I did excuse myself and he kept talking smack anyway. Didn’t let it throw me off my game though, I wasn’t about to not use my elbows and get stuck starting in the 20 min pace group. As it was I still had to dodge a couple randos in the first 400 meter who started up on the line with the pros while wearing the race day shirt…

The Race:
Mile one felt perfect, I tried to stay with most of the pro women per my plan, and hit the mile in around 4:56. A little faster than my goal pace, but the hill at the start of the race makes the first mile the fastest by far. By 1.2 miles, however, I was ready to quit. Felt like the humidity and quick initial pace zapped me completely and I just couldn’t deal with it. A guy next to me who I’d been chasing faded hard and pulled up onto the sidewalk, presumably dropping, and I instantly wanted to do the same. I caught sight of the lead pack coming around the loop near half way point and I had some more desire to keep pushing but my pace had dropped so significantly that I was already going to be short of my goal. I decided to try and stay locked in where I was, which I managed to do for the remainder, but boy did it hurt. Mile two should have been quite fast, being totally flat, but by hitting the two mile mark in 10:19, I felt like I was dying. I did pull up beside Amy Van Alstine of Northern Arizona Elite at about 2.5 and I tried to help pull her along, she looked like she was feeling even worse than me, small consolation. I did feel slightly better by the end of mile three, but it ended on the uphill from mile one, so my mile split of 5:29 looked even worse on paper. Last tenth or so I hit in 40 seconds, for a total time of 16:28, by the watch. Official time was 16:32 according to my chip, even though the clock read 16:30 after I crossed the finish and I didn’t start on the mat, but four rows back, behind all the pros. I suppose I have to go by the 16:32, which means I didn’t even technically hit my “easy” goal time of 16:30 and have now had to sign up for another 5k this weekend to try again. At the finish line I grabbed a couple waters and turned to hand one to the person behind me; Sara Hall… “Hey want a water?” She grabbed it in a daze and walked past, making me feel better about how crappy I felt. I liked the going out hard and trying to stick with it approach, something I would never risk in a longer race. I think I will go out slightly easier effort wise next time and try to speed up as I go. I definitely feel like the sticky weather and horribly out of place back were contributing factors to not being able to breath, which is probably what made my legs feel zapped, the lack of oxygen in the blood. I’m not actually that unhappy with the race though, I followed my plan, I just couldn’t hang on that day. Finished in 77th place, but it was a USA Championship race so I’m not complaining; very small minnow in a big ocean there. Official pace was 5:19 avg, watch pace was 5:17. Onward and upward, another breakthrough is coming soon, I can feel it!

Post Race:
I finished up with a couple easy cool down miles and some light stretching. I jogged back to the finish line area afterwards and watched the awards being given out, it was super cool standing there among the pros. I’m standing there drinking some water next to Matt Centrowitz, no big deal, Al Sal and I had already exchanged a head nod. I wish I’d stuck around a little longer to try and get a chance to congratulate Molly Huddle on her huge win, she seems like a total class act and is one of my favorite pros. If you have the chance to run this event or one of the other USA Championship races I highly recommend it. It feels very encouraging to be an avid runner racing beside (re: behind) the pros and milling about after the race with them. Runners are a close knit group that by and large understand each other and it’s pretty cool that due to the smallness of our sport, our pros can still fit right in that normal group. There are only a few things I like about running being such a small, fringe sport and the easy access to the pros is definitely a big one.

Second Workout:
With warm up and down, plus the race, I was only at about 9.5 miles and after warm down and a bunch of coconut water I felt ready to run again. I drove back up past Boston to my favorite trail in Lexington Ma. and planned on a fartlek at whatever paces I could manage. Decided on 8 miles with one warm up and one cool down; ran 400 & on 800 off, 800 on & 800 off, and than repeated until I was left with a mile and a half to go and used that to cool down. I was so depleted and tired by the end of the fartlek portion that my arms and legs felt shakey. It’s also been awhile since my legs were sore while I was still in a workout, usually have some post workout soreness, but not during. Definitely feel like I put in some real muscle building and endurance building work between the two workouts. 17.5 miles on the day, with close to 9 at hard or just under, effort level. Finished off the week with 71 or so miles, right near my goal mileage when accounting for taking Friday off with my back killing me. All this talk of my back killing me and I did finally have a chance to go to the chiropractor today and feel 100% better. Tonight’s recovery run was so good that I had to hold myself back for large portions of it.

Results and articles from USA 5k Championships:
Level Renner Recap
Let’s Run Results

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.

Training Through Discomfort

On Tuesday I was going strong on one full night of sleep out of the last six and was suffering from day two of a head cold. God delivered up a nice dose of humidity to really challenge my motivation, too. All day at work I was just thinking about how excited I was to go try a new workout and then trying to convince myself that I really was. I ended up leaving work with every intent to workout still in place and arrived at the park down the street from house with my ambition still intact. I set a wider goal pace range in my head to account for sickness and humidity and tried to be okay with the probability of running a slower workout than last week. I often try to mentally trick myself when I’m not feeling 100% by coming up with acceptable margins of error on my paces. I realign the goals for the workout, the trick is, I still fully intend to run the original pace. It doesn’t always work, but I can often start repeats easier when I’m telling myself that it’s okay to be slower and then charge to the finish to hit the desired pace. 

The selected workout is recommended by one of my favorite coaches, Brad Hudson, as a good 10k sharpening workout, best run at goal race pace 3-4 weeks out from a peak race. As I am preparing to race Lone Gull 10k in a few weeks and then some XC 10k’s after that, it seemed like the perfect time to do it. I elected to run on the rolling grass fields of Flerra Meadows in Boxborough, I wanted to get some more experience running hard on the grass in spikes. The target pace was 5:29/mile or in this case, 3:24/k, the workout is 4x2k @ race pace + 1k @ max effort, with only 1 min active recovery.
Repeats went as follows:
1- 3:15-3:17 (too fast!)
2- 3:19-3:22 (okay, now hold it here!)
3- 3:24-3:23 (good, good)
4- 3:26-3:22 (eh, close enough)
5- 3:12 (close to puking on mucus build up, pleasant, I know)

My total pace including the 1 min. recoveries ended up being right at 5:38/mile average for 6.1 miles. My current PR in the 10k is at a 5:34 pace so I was very pleased to hit my goal pace or just under on the grass, with some hills no less. It was a great confidence builder to go into a workout with multiple things not being optimal and still hit the pace I wanted. It seems like I’m getting in shape to possibly break 34 minutes after all! Still felt a bit stiff on tonight’s 6×800 track workout, but ran under goal pace anyway to get some speed in, averaged right around 2:38 per, with 400 recoveries and 1 mile at goal 15k pace at the end (5:38) Because, yes, all of this speed will not be put to the test for another week, this weekend I’ll be racing a 15k and I need to remember the right pace so I don’t go out crazy hard and fall apart! Next weekend is the first NE Gran Prix XC race and it will be a step down for me to 5k. My hope will just be that I can hold my 10k goal pace over the 5k XC course and use it as a starting point for XC racing. Tune in next time to read about some other new and exciting running happenings in my life and hopefully a positive race report from the GMAA 15k in Burlington, VT this weekend. Go Angry Chickens! (Greater Lowell Road Runners)

Hard Workouts and Fall Race Plans

I left off in my last training post looking forward to a 5 miler on July 24th and I’m excited to report that it was a one minute PR! I was actually a little slower than I thought my training would have put me at, but I started too hard and paid the price. First two miles were hit at 10:40 total, I don’t think the clock was totally accurate, but either way, I’m not quite in 5:20/mile shape for 5 miles yet. I did nearly hit a 5k PR though, just 5 seconds off over the first 5k of the course. Despite the sub par pacing, the race gave me just the confidence boost I was hoping for going into some shorter races. I’m going to keep hitting the track and working that pace down as I get some good practice at racing in over the next few months. As far as daily training goes, I’ve been keeping my mileage back up to 11-13 miles a day on average again over the past three weeks, apart from last week where I took three days off for a sore foot. Time off didn’t seem to help it so I started running again (I know, I know) the running felt good though and it’s now stopped hurting completely!

Three weeks ago, total miles 83, no days off, long day was a combo of 11.5 mile run and 12.5 mile hike, including aforementioned foot injury. Two workouts, one track and one progression run.

Two weeks ago, total 68 miles, one day off, shorter miles due to race prep. Two workouts, one long run. Track workout Monday PM (2.5m warm up w/strides, leg swings and high knees. One mile hard, 5:10 + 4 min. easy + 8×400 at 73 average with 200m recovery jogs. Two mile cooldown) Race on Thursday PM (2 mile warmup w/drills + 27:26 5 mile + 1 mile recovery + 1 mile hard -5:25 + 1.5 mile cooldown) Hard long run on Sunday AM (1 hr easy + 30 seconds on/off x 30 came out to about 5.5 miles at 5:52ish pace average per mile with “on” sections near 5k pace + 45 min. easy. 20 miles total)

Last week, total 50 miles, 3 days off. One workout, one long run. Progression run Friday PM, 12 miles and closed in 6:20-6:05-5:47-5:33. Long run Saturday AM 18.8 miles @ easy pace, no fuel and totally dead by the end. Good exhaustion workout, still a little tired on second day of easy running today.

So, with that training update in place, I leave you with my schedule for fall races, through December:
August 10th- Old Home Day 4 Miler Epsom, NH (21:54, 2nd)
August 17th- Level Renner 10k Brockton, MA
August 22-23rd Hood to Coast Relay Portland, OR
August 31st GMAA 15K Burlington, VT (NE Gran Prix)
September 7th GBTC XC 5K Wellesley, MA (XC Gran Prix)
September 14th Lone Gull 10k (NE Gran Prix)
October 4th WMDP XC Festival 5 Miler Holyoke, MA (XC Gran Prix)
October 12th GMAA Half Marathon
October 26th Boston Mayor’s Cup 8k Boston, MA (XC Gran Prix)
November 9th USATF NE XC Championship 10k Boston, MA (XC Gran Prix)
November 30th Warrior Run 2.8 Mile XC Brookline, MA (XC Gran Prix)
December 13th USATF XC Fall Club Nationals 10k Bethlehem, PA

It will be a very busy fall, but I’m going to use some of the races as hard workouts and some of them as peak races (NE XC Championship and Club Nationals, specifically)