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!

Ready for a Break, but LET’S RACE FIRST!

Current Thoughts on Training
Just a single hard workout and tempo remain before my peak race of this training block. I can’t say I’m totally satisfied at this point, though I have had a few quick races and my consistency has certainly been there. I think I need to change things around and challenge myself in different ways next time, if I really want to get faster at these shorter races. I’ve been putting in my biggest and most consistent mileage yet and my endurance does seem to be stronger all the time, certainly one big positive as I do still refer to myself as a marathoner! I know that having started running with marathon training, I’m going to be challenged in working against a couple years of long endurance workouts and staying controlled at all times; to increase my VO2 max and fully use whatever fast twitch muscle fibers I actually do possess. Fortunately after the 13th, I have almost six months before I will really care how fast I can run for anything shorter than 13 miles. And that leads me to my next topic, what will I be doing for the next two weeks and what have I been up to for the last two+ weeks since my last post.

Training For the Upcoming Week of Dec 1st
I’m planning on running 4x2k @ goal race pace (5:20-25) + 1k @ all out (Sub 3:00?) in my workout on Wednesday as the peak workout for the 10k in two weeks and then taking part in a glorious and much desired taper before the race. I have a sneaking suspicion/hope that one of the major reasons I haven’t been as fast as I’d like is because I’ve been carrying such big mileage. Friday or Saturday will most likely be my last longer workout as I’ll run an 8 mile tempo and shoot for 5:40-50 pace. With the workouts and easy runs, this week will still be over 80 miles I’m sure, but next week I’ll probably keep it closer to 70, or slightly less. I’ve never done well with big tapers, so I’m keeping some miles in, but will cut short the length of most of my runs and keep workouts short and race specific. I want to put my goal out there for XC Club Nats , rather than just elude to my goal pace. I want it set it in (digital) print, to make it real. I want a PR and I want to have my best race of the year! I’ll be looking to definitively break 34 minutes and shoot for 33:30 range. I know the course is 200 meters long, but I don’t care, I’m gonna try and PR on it anyway!

Training Recap Week of Nov 17th
Mon- Easy run + 10×12 sec strides, 9 miles
Tues- 3 mile warmup, 8x1k w/60sec recovery jogs (3:20 avg.) 3 mile cooldown. First really cold workout day at only 18 degrees. Made the workout feel much harder than I wanted, not a good one. 12.3 miles
Weds- Easy run 13.1 miles
Thurs- Easy run 13.1 miles
Fri- AM 3 mile warmup, 6 @ tempo on hilly and windy route, quite cold too. Avg. 5:42 with a couple stops to cross streets, not great pace, given the effort level I was putting in. PM 6.1 easy, 17.1 miles
Sat- AM 4+ miles hiking, PM 8.2 mile easy run, 12.2+ miles
Sun- AM Easy run 13.7 miles, PM Easy run, 11.4 miles, 25.1 miles
Total of 102 miles and 10 runs, happy with my biggest week yet

Training Recap Week of Nov 24th
Mon- Easy run + 10x10sec hill sprints, 9.2 miles
Tues- Medium push tempo, had to scrap hard tempo plans, when hit with a cold. 11 miles at 6:15 after 1 mile warmup
Weds- Easy run, 13.1 miles
Thurs- Turkey Trot XC 5K, couldn’t quite get it going and ran a 17:00, after fading a bit in the middle mile. Ran a second workout shortly after; 2 mile warmup, 4 @ 5:45 avg, 1 @ 6:20, 1 @ 5:22. 12.1 miles
Fri- Easy run, 14 miles
Sat- Easy run, post bus trip, legs felt like lead, 8.5 miles
Sun- Warrior Run, 2.8 mile XC Race, very challenging course of steep up and downhills, 16:00 minutes (5:40 avg.) About what I would expect with how tough the course is. Followed with another workout, running low on fuel and energy in general an hour later. 2 mile warmup, 4 @ 5:49 avg, 3 mile cooldown. Felt sort of fresh again by the end of the cooldown, but today was a tired grind overall. 17 miles
Total of 86 miles and 9 runs, happy with it considering the traveling and lack of sleep.

Total of 376 miles in November, average of almost 13 a day, total of 1445 in the last 4 months, or about 11.85 a day average, as well as my first couple 100 mile weeks, this has definitely been a consistent fall for running.

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.

Take the Focus off Running

I was mad about the weather and fading so hard after the first mile last week, so I picked out another 5k for this weekend to get my revenge on the distance and chase a PR that I found acceptable. I didn’t feel very excited about it and definitely knew in the back of my head that I needed a weekend off from racing, but I let emotion make the choice and today’s race absolutely sucked. I’ve realized that missing a time goal in a race is a bit like missing a workout; you can’t cram the miles from a missed workout back in during the week and you can’t just reschedule a new race to make up for a crappy one. I didn’t start too hard today and felt more controlled a little further in than I lasted a week ago, but at almost 90 degrees and humid, there was NO chance I could have PRed. As it was, I did manage to run the 5k distance in 16:40ish according to Garmin data, certainly a time I should be proud of given the weather. After off and on fuming about the race and the weather and many other things, it finally got through my head that I should have just run my planned sweat-fest of a long run and saved the hard work for training this week and the race next Sunday. I felt guilty about getting so mad about it and I felt guilty about spending the money on so much racing and subsequent expenses this fall and just generally miserable. I’ve really missed the Sunday morning services at church, since I’ve been racing this fall and today would have been a great chance to go. I did squeeze in a nice lunch with my room-mate and had a much better second workout on the Charles in Boston before going to the evening service of church tonight. Of course, said enjoyable run and service were after I did realize why I was actually so frustrated today. I needed a weekend off and I ignored the signs and raced anyway, but a valuable lesson was learned without too catastrophic a result, other than my own pride and emotions getting the best of me.

I posted this quote from Ben True on facebook the other day and than promptly forgot the relevance of it in my own training. “The whole baseball analogy, you don’t want to hit home runs, you just want to get on base. And so the whole point of the workouts is just to get on base and you don’t have to hit them out of the park, you just wanna get B grades on the homework. And then once or twice a month you wanna aim for that A+ to sharpen you up and get you ready for the race.” -Ben True

I think this is excellent advice for any runner, but especially for those who struggle with feeling like one or two bad workouts mean that a goal is out of reach then. Just focus on putting the work in and don’t worry about hitting the workout perfectly, think about those workouts where it all did click and don’t dwell on the ones where you felt off. You wanna save “going to the well” for the race anyway, and not use it up in training. And here I was today, essentially trying to go to the well and trying to hit a 100% workout in training. Today was not a peak race, 5k has never been my goal distance and my next XC race is a week away, which has been my focus all along. Note to self, keep it simple stupid and don’t over train or over race! I’ve had a couple real A+ workouts as of late and I’ve had some good race results too. I need to keep my focus on realistic short term goals and remember that there is much more to life than getting better at running. I still have my long term dreams, but to keep them exciting I need to manage my time and emotions better while working towards them. Running has taught me so many great lessons over the past few years, but today it taught me that I need time apart from it too.

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

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)

Level Renner 10k Recap

Race Thoughts:
Sometimes you need time to reflect on how a race went to get a good reading on it, sometimes you finish and are already ticked off at your performance. I’m no seasoned racer, as this was technically my second 10k ever and first on all roads, but I had a plan and I didn’t follow it, that bugs me. I only ended up 4 seconds a mile off my goal pace, but when I look at my last 3 splits and see 5:40 something I can’t shake the annoyance. A positive split marathon doesn’t bug me too much, but a positive split 10k where I hit a 5k PR in the first half is stupid; a conservative start could have saved me in the end. That being said, having miserable indigestion for the majority of the race was out of my control (mostly) and that was what kept me from actually being able to breathe at goal pace. I don’t believe in using excuses like that though. I am happy that I started to feel stronger again near the end (after some good burps… tmi) until the big ol’ hill to the finish nearly induced some puking. I would give my efforts a c+ at best, mostly because I just didn’t stick to my plan, but also because I didn’t buckle down and get back to work once I started to slow, but rather played mind games on myself. A PR is new baseline though, and even though I was hoping to break 34, I only have 36 seconds to go now, rather than two minutes, next attempt will be at the Lone Gull 10k.

Event thoughts:
The Level put on a top quality race, just as expected! The course was closed to traffic, of the automotive variety, plenty of walkers around, most of whom cheered for us. The swag was awesome, 3rd place age group still netted me a sweet mug and athletic bag. The entry price was CHEAP and I didn’t even register early, the post race food and raffle were also top notch. Not only did the Level do the race right, but they attracted some great talent too! I started on the line with Sully (James Sullivan) and we quickly watched 5 or so guys charge up the first hill at a much faster pace than we wanted! I ended up finishing 7th, but the difference in times was immense, then again… I don’t mind being beat by the likes of Amos Sang (63 min. half) and Nate Jenkins. (2:14 marathon) Many congrats also to Sully who set a PR a week after finishing third at the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Wisconsin. Good to see many familiar faces of the underground keeping it on the level today. 

What’s Next:
Next post will most likely be on the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. I’m flying out Thursday to run in the legendary (and original) 200 mile relay from the top of Mount Hood to the Oregonian coast in Seaside. I’m not planning on killing any of my relay legs, but between the sitting in a van and traveling, my legs will probably be shot by the time I get back on Monday. Labor Day weekend I’m planning on racing the GMAA 15k in Burlington, VT, another dead legs from 3 hr+ drive to get there will make that one a challenge too. Now to munch on some Tums or something, seriously, what is going on with my stomach today!?

Manchester City Marathon Recap

‘Never again’ is the first thought that comes into mind when thinking of this race. My watch calculated a total elevation gain of 1700 feet over the entire course and while much of that was in the first half, the second half had its own share of hills, none of which were unaccompanied by brutal headwinds and sub 40 degree temps. In other words, never again will I choose to run this one. I do enjoy a good challenge, but I’d like to think that 26 miles, 385 yards is tough enough on its own, with no need to toss hills, wind and cold into the mix. That being said, there were a few areas I could have improved on myself and seen a faster time for the effort put in.

My fueling – was atrocious. I brought a packet of strawberry Gu Chomps and managed to eat only 2 of them. Took water at most aid stops, but grabbed Gatorade only twice. My pre-race breakfast has always been a bagel and banana, but for whatever reason this one had me burping through mile 20. Indigestion certainly did not make things any easier.

My pacing – was not even a thing. I started out slightly slower than goal pace for the first 10k, as intended. When I should have started picking up the pace in the second 10k though, I was besieged my relentless hills and by halfway point I was 10 seconds a mile off pace. It only got worse over the second half and by 19.3 I had dropped back down to just quicker then the pace of my previous PR. Over the last 10k I was probably 50 seconds a mile slower than goal pace, just trying to not walk and ended up averaging 24 seconds a mile more than I wanted.

My mind/heart – were strong until the end. Positive rating on that front, despite wanting to walk desperately over the last few while knowing I wouldn’t even PR, I kept running somehow. Had no reason to go on, but did not quit, that I can be happy with.

I knew this would be a tough course to run my goal time on, but I thought I had a good chance of breaking 2:45 and I was convinced at the very least that I would PR. Nothing of the sort was doable and I now have to be okay with only coming within 8 minutes of my goal in 2013. I know this year of running has been far from a waste as I have now finished three marathons nearly 10 minutes under my PR from last fall, but it has been a hard couple days of learning.
I have a few fun runs left in 2013 and the very beginning of my Boston build up in the last half of December, until then I will be doing my best to continue working on my core strength and injury prevention measures. I don’t want to lose any fitness right now, or get injured again so I will continue running. I will be cutting out speedwork and long runs for the next couple weeks to give my body a break. I’m also going to use the time gained from lower volume to research the best plan and coaching options for Boston, it’s time to bring some other input in and get some confidence in my approach again. I have such an insatiable hunger to do better now. I need to prove to myself that the time in my head is realistic, but more than that, I need to run for those who can’t. Starting with Boston I will be running to raise money and support for those who need it so desperately. More on this soon!