Monday, December 27, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 2000 Miles for 2010 (and some highlights)

After taking a 2 week break after the Dash for Cash to heal up from a bunch of nagging injuries, I was itching to get back on the roads and trails to get that last 65 miles to hit 2000 for the year. 2009 was my first year back to training with consistency and I hit 1411.5, so 2000 was a pretty big jump. After getting a solid week of training in this past week (51.5 miles), I was sitting just 14 miles shy of the mark after my Christmas run. Charlotte got dumped on with snow Christmas evening, making a Sunday long run nearly impossible. I took the rest, headed back to Greenville today (Monday) and set out for a 14-miler, only my third double digit run since Chicago. Snow was all over the place and I was forced into 10" of snow during one mile stretch of highway. Made it through and took a gel and a half a bottle of water at 8.5 before cruising the last 5.5 and rolling home in 6:41 for the last mile. I felt best on the last 20 minutes of the run. Hopefully a sign of good things to come. Now, onto 5 highlights from 2010...

Boston - This was a race I have watched since my teens and qualifying for it at NYC in 2009 was one of my biggest sporting thrills ever. Competing at Boston was everything I had hoped it could be. Felt great from the gun, went through the half in 1:22 and was on 2:48 pace through 30k. Didn't quite hold it, but still ran a 9 minute PR and had a blast. A trip and event to remember. Here's the full race report

Gate River Run - Luckily, this race fell over my spring break and a few good friends of mine live in Jacksonville. I was lucky enough to qualify for the top corral and it was cool warming up with the pros and having our own port-o-johns! It was a hot day and the race was tough, but coming down the Green Monster, I turned on the jets and ran from the 9 mile mark to the finish (600 meters) at 5:08 pace (and passed a ton of people); good enough to get me on the scoreboard for the USATF National 15k Championship. Here's that race report

Get Your Rear in Gear 5k - This was my first competitive race back in 2009 and I almost won, just running out of real estate against a high school kid, running 19:29. This year I took it out conservatively and was mentally tough the whole race. I hammered the last downhill mile and finished 3rd in 17:29, my best 5k time since starting to compete again (and only 12 seconds off my lifetime road PR of 17:17 from the Stumptown 5k in 1996). Here's that race report

Lifestyles 5k - After battling a troubling hamstring for the last 23 miles of Chicago, I was eager to heal up and get back to it. I hopped in this race in Little Washington as a test/tempo to see where I was just 13 days later and was rewarded with my first road race win since 1991 (Eastover Fun Run)! Here's that race report

Falmouth Road Race - Probably the quintessential All-American Road Race. Although we stayed in probably the crappiest hotel that $150/night can get you and my girlfriend went to get Meb to autograph a poster for me that ended up being addressed (and personalized) to her (he's charming :), this was an awesome event. It included dueling with Joan Samuelson for about a mile and experiencing the Falmouth Cinema Pub, plus great weather and a very cool race. Here's that race report

Now we'll look towards 2011 and can't wait to up the miles a little more, run Raleigh's Second Empire Grand Prix and Boston again. If you are reading this (or following my twitter), you'll hear all about it!

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 12/5/10 - Greenville, NC - Reindeer Dash for Cash 5k

If you are ever going to do a road race in Greenville, NC, the Reindeer Dash for Cash is the cream of the crop. Dawn Cash-Salau does an excellent job and really works hard all year to put on an excellent event. Every year it draws a larger and larger crowd and this year there had to be 700+ (most races here have ~100). It was a very cool day for a race after we got an unexpected coat of snow last night. I was a little worried about the wood bridge finish being slick, but then realized the Army helps put this race on and had it swept and salted by 0700. Now the cold didn't really bother me today, but the wind, that's another story.

Got in a good warmup and got to the line with 5 minutes to spare. The start was called on the bullhorn and off we went up 1st Street. Got out good and controlled and started to settle in on Evans before turning up 5th. By the time we got a half mile in, I had settled in with my buddy Nic Boerio and Adidas Raleigh's Heather Magill, both who were running the 10 mile. Ran up the hill on 5th and went through the mile pretty comfortably in 5:42. I started pressing the pace a little on mile 2 as it was slightly downhill and felt pretty good doing it. Legs didn't have a lot of pop, but was hoping to just maintain what we had going. When we turned left onto Brownlea, the wind came cranking hard right at us (~20mph). I'd like to say it didn't bother me, but it did. We got through the 2 mile in 11:30, which was right about where I wanted to be. I started pressing again, but just didn't have it. Slogged up 1st and started to lose touch with Nic and Heather a little, so started to go into maintain my place mode and be ready to kick if you hear footsteps.

Hit the 3 mile in 17:31 and the last .1 turned into .14, but came home a solid 3rd overall in 18:13. After coming in 4th last year, it felt great to get an overall award. Afterwards, grabbed a cup of coffee and a bagel with Kevin Sheehan and jogged home to throw on my compression pants and pullover to cooldown and see how Heather and Nic were doing. The funny thing about the Dash for Cash is that Kenyans show up every year and rip it in the 10 mile. I think they don't realize the race is in Chris Cash's memory and not a race director making it rain. This year there was indeed prize money for the top 3 in the 10 Mile, so 3 Kenyans took some money home and Heather took the title on the womens side for a nice $200 payout. My teammate, Erin Duke, should have come up as she would have gotten 2nd and $150. No money in the 5k, but got a nice medal, tech shirt and tech hat (things I can use!)

After Nic and Heather got done, did a good 2 mile cooldown with them before some more coffee and the award ceremony, where I met my old friend Laura MacLean, who I know from back in the day when I ran a couple days a week and couldn't break 20 in the 5k. Was good catching up with her and she took home the masters title in the 10 mile (and is doing what I think she told me was her 13th marathon of the year next weekend at Thunder Road). She's a maniac.

As for me, I need 65 more miles this year to join the 2000 mile club. That's my final goal as I am done racing this year and am looking forward to the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series in the Spring and a return to the Boston Marathon in April. So I'll log some easy miles, then take about 10 days off to heal up before getting ready for the 2011 season. My legs are lacking pop and I think a little break will get that back as I get back into Jack Daniels style training in 2011 that I had a lot of success with in early 2010. Can't wait!

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Hold my spot, Mom"

Something caught my (and David Willis') eye today while watching the races at the Foot Locker South meet. Immediately after one race would start, parents of the competitors in the next race would immediately rush to the starting line to hold their child's starting spot for the next race that would go off in 30 minutes. This was one time I wish I didn't leave my Blackberry in the car (to take a photo of the madness). If anyone did take a picture, please email it to me to add to the blog. Now while I didn't get close enough to see if any fisticuffs ensued for pole position, I wouldn't be surprised if some heated words were exchanged!

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Hobby Jogging: 11/27/10 - Charlotte, NC - Foot Locker Cross Country Championships

Being from Charlotte, during high school I either ran in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships or worked at them from 9th grade on. I even did my high school senior exit project about the event as at the time it was the only true high school national championship. It was fun coming back and running them at 32, even though it wasn't really my day. I've been training pretty hard for the past few weeks getting ready for my last race of 2010, which is the Reindeer Dash for Cash 5k in Greenville next Sunday. Hopping in the open race at Foot Locker South seemed like a great idea...

It started off as a great idea. Felt pretty good after waking up at 6 to grab a shower, Powerbar and some water. Drove over to McAlpine Park and got in a good warmup with my buddy David Willis. Got lined up right in the "trail" section of the start and everything was looking good. Gun went off and I settled in to a good, but not too fast pace. Went through the 800 in 2:47-ish, 1000 in 3:28 or so and the mile in 5:37-38 and felt great. Was picking people off and felt well within myself. Kept cruising through the 2000 and that's when things got off on the wrong foot. The hill absolutely ruined my race. The insane drop off downhill at about the halfway point took a little bit to recover from. I ran the hill wrong and too slow and didn't get my way about me until about a k to go. If you look at the Garmin dump (and ignore where it dropped out of coverage), you can see I was rolling the first 2k and the last k. 2-4k were not my finest. Finished the last 200 strong to hold off a few challengers in a modest 18:26 (5:38, 6:05, 6:02).

That's ok. Just another piece of the puzzle. Had a good time watching the races with Dave after ours was done and was happy to see Raleigh's Wesley Frazier qualify again on the girls side as well as future Tar Heel Blake Williams qualify on the guys side (along with Scott Morgan and Thomas Graham). A strong NC showing. Now back to business for one more week before my last race of the year!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 11/13/10 - Greenville, NC - Boys and Girls Clubs 5K

Last week was a short course and this week was a long one. Now it wasn't terribly long, but after driving the course a few times and racing it and then running it in reverse on my cooldown, it was a good 100 meters long (~20 seconds) if you cut the tangents as close as possible. Oh well, at the end of the day it's a race and that's truly all that matters unless you're on a track and you are told to run an extra lap (been there).

The Boys and Girls Clubs 5k was just another step in getting some speed back in my system after a summer and early fall of marathon training, with the goal to run some fast races in the Spring. I knew my legs would be a little heavy today after a race last weekend and a good 4 mile tempo on Wednesday with my friend Tyler Pake. All this in mind, I went in with a goal of 17:45-18:00, similar to last weekend. The race got out to a wild start as a high school kid sprinted off the line like nothing I had ever seen before. He had 100 yards on us within a quarter mile. Without racing the kid before, I had no idea what he was capable of, but kept it steady and watched him turn his head every 200 meters or so and look back (rookie mistake, but the kid was 15, so I'll give him a break!). Another guy was right on my shoulder and started to pull away from me a little before the mile mark. I went through in 5:39 or so and wanted to run a good sub 6 second mile. This course was out at Metrics Inc, which is some kind of industrial park in the middle of an old cotton field. It would be a good place for a tempo run, but not a great place for a race.

We had to run through a few parking lots and had to do a 180 degree turn right after the 2 mile mark. This being said, after running through a parking lot and by a cotton field I hit the 2 mile pretty strong in 11:32 (5:53 mile 2). The guy running with me earlier had just passed the high school kid and was pulling away with a very strong 2nd mile (about 100 yards up). Seeing this I made my goal to go get the kid. After the hairpin turn, the wind was right in our faces for the last mile or so but I was working it and caught the kid with about 600 left. I was really starting to dig in and the last mile kept going and going and going. I think the sponsor wanted to have it end at a certain place in their parking lot so that the finish would be right in front of the DJ and the moonwalk. This is Greenville, NC people!

No worries though, I finished strong in 2nd in what I though was 18:08, about 9 seconds back from the winner.  Another quarter mile or so and I would have gotten him as he was fading and probably didn't know I was coming after he passed the kid earlier and he was blasting his headphones. About the 18:08, or 18:10 officially: every East Carolina Road Racing race I have ever run has been 2 seconds off of what they tell you at the finish line (and what my watch says) and what comes out on the results sheets. Again, not a huge deal, but a little bit of a pet peeve. I am guessing it is a software glitch as everyone else that frequents these races acknowledges it as well! My old high school friend who lives in Greenville now, Brandy Gamboa (pictured below), who won the womens race joked about it before what she thought was a 19:48 PR quickly turned into a 19:51.

All nit-picking aside, this was a well put together race. Kip Sloan does a great job and was nice enough to email me the map this week (as he does with about every race I run down here so I can study the courses I am not familiar with). The post race spread was awesome with Jimmy Johns subs, Gatorade bottles, Powerade Bottles, Goldfish and Bruegger's Bagels. They also had great looking shirts (a rarity) and excellent awards, as I got a nice plaque to hang on the wall. They did have an interesting DJ at the finish, but that's a whole 'nother story I'll have to tell you about in person!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Film Major: "Running the Sahara"

When I started running again in 2008, there was an article I distinctly remembered reading about a guy who had pretty similar high school running credentials to mine and then had gotten into some trouble while attending the University of North Carolina, ultimately getting back into running later in his 20’s with a great deal of success. This article was Jeff Pearlman's Runner’s World profile on Greensboro’s Charlie Engle. Now while my twenties weren’t nearly as wild as Charlie’s were, running was something that took a back seat to "socializing" and then came back into play around my 30th birthday. So when the opening scenes of the film showed Charlie running on Irwin Belk Track at Fetzer Field and in the Eddie Smith Field House, I was hooked.

All this being said, I found it shocking earlier this year when news surfaced that Charlie had been arrested for fraud as “IRS special agent Robert Nordlander began looking into Engle’s finances after reading a story about the ultramarathon across the desert and wondered how Engle could afford to pay for such an adventure.” This just goes to show, don’t try to cheat the IRS, “they read the newspaper.”

All this aside, “Running the Sahara” was an enjoyable documentary about Charlie, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin running over 4300 miles in 111 days across Africa, the equivalent of 170 marathons with no days off. Quite a feat to say the least! The cinematography was great as was the narration, which was done by Matt Damon, who also was an executive producer on the project. There were some expected testy moments as runners can get a little grumpy and running in sandstorms would likely make one extremely on edge. As you would expect, ultimately the three men and their crew soldiered through and they finished up at the Red Sea with a little daylight to spare (and with their friends and family looking on).

While admittedly I am a fan of the "bigger picture" Charlie Engle story and not just the movie, I can assure you “Running the Sahara” is worth a few hours of your time (and it is available on Netflix and on Showtime with regularity per the Track Superfan blog). Also, they started a charity, H2O Africa, that raises “awareness about the African water crisis, and facilitates cost-effective and impactful work that eradicates the problem in targeted regions of Africa.” They were able to secure a slot on the Jay Leno show to tell about their trek through Africa and to champion their noble cause.

And if you are interested in following Charlie’s case, he’ll be sentenced January 10th and has just written an excellent note over on his blog and tweets occasionally as well. Best of luck to him in a tough situation. It sounds like he is pretty remorseful of what happened and is doing his best to make the best out of a difficult situation.

Pick up "Running the Sahara" on here.

Pre-Sentencing Update: Quick update (1/9/11) from the Greensboro News & Record before sentencing tomorrow: Click here for the article

Sentencing Update: Charlie got 21 months today (1/10/11). Probably about as best as he could hope for. Here's the link to the story

Check out the trailer for "Running the Sahara" here:

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 11/6/10 - Raleigh, NC - Free to Breathe "5k"

The schedule I have been following post-marathon has been great. My legs are coming back to life and thanks to Heather at Back to Basics, my hamstring is too. I had a tempo on the schedule today, but opted to run the Free to Breathe 5k in Raleigh as I knew there would be some competition, being that it was part of the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series. Goal was to run a little faster than my last 5k and hopefully be in the 17:45-18:00 range. This felt like a safe goal considering I haven't done any real speedwork aside from a few mile repeats. I nearly missed the race...

I misjudged my warmup a little and found myself with 4 minutes to spare and about a half mile to the starting line. After finishing my strides and changing into my race gear and flats, I hustled over to the line, probably too fast, but made it about 30 seconds before the gun went off. I got off the line well (as my heart was beating fast for fear of missing the start) and then settled in about 200-300 meters in before the first hill. The first mile has 3-4 good climbs and I was hoping to go through around 5:45-5:50. Thought I heard 5:48,49 at the mile mark, but it was 5:28, 29. Ouch, too fast, but I was competing. This is where it got weird.

I rode the course 3 times last night to get a feel for the hills. I generally do well on hilly courses, but less than 4 weeks out from the marathon, I wanted to prepare myself mentally for where it would hurt. Right after the mile, I was probably in the top 15 or so and was ready to run the down and up part of Oval Dr. After running the tangents to the T on mile one, I angled to hit right and cut the corner perfectly. One problem, the police car went left and everyone followed him, cutting approximately 600 meters off the course. At this point, it was time to just compete and run well on the downhill section.

Went through the 2 mile in 9:29, a 4 flat second mile! I'm the man! Haha, I knew what was going on. Now my goal was to break 16. Was it really breaking 16? No, but sometimes you can get in the top corrals of other good races with times like these. Was it my fault they screwed up the race? No. Might as well take it for what it is. I paid $30 to run ~2.7 miles (UPDATE: Race Director remeasure was 4.34k)! With that in mind I rolled the next half mile and then hit the half mile to go sign with one final hill. This one hurt and I was competing with one other guy at this point. I was laboring and he passed me with 400 to go. I rallied and got it together for the last 100 meters to pass him back and finish 12th in 15:29. "PR"!

All the guys were kind of laughing it off in the shoot and no one seemed too mad. Seeing the joy on the masses faces when they came across the line was a lot of fun as I imagine most people aren't as geeky as I am and don't wear a Garmin to know something was up. "I PR'd by 2 minutes!" was heard often. 2 things I do know: I legitimately ran the first mile in sub 5:30 and the last 1.1 in 6 flat. The middle, who knows! Probably a 17:45-50-ish effort (UPDATE: A 17:50 effort according to race director remeasure).

After the race, cooled down with Aaron Hale and grabbed some bananas and bagels before throwing my compression pants and pullover on. It was pretty chilly this morning, but felt great to race in. Took 2nd in my age group on my last day as a 31 year old. Tomorrow will be my double sweet sixteen and I got an awesome cake of me sitting in a hot tub, one of my favorite pastimes!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bookworm: "Run to Overcome" by Meb Keflezighi

November 1, 2009 is a day I will always hold special. The New York Marathon was the first marathon I had really trained for and it was on what would have been my Grandmother's 83rd birthday. She had just passed away the week before and I would be channeling her for strength in those last 5 miles. Luckily, I persevered and achieved my goal of qualifying for the 2010 Boston Marathon. Not long after I finished and got my phone from the UPS trucks that had our personal belongings, I called a friend of mine in Raleigh who had been watching the race on Universal Sports. "Who won?" I asked, being a huge fan of the sport. "The American!" he said. "Ryan Hall?" I thought? "No, Meb. He left Robert Cheruiyot at Mile 22 or so." I couldn't believe it. I was one of those that had all but written Meb off on the world marathoning scene, but after reading "Run to Overcome," I should have never doubted him.

"Run to Overcome" is a nicely put together biography written by Meb himself with the help of ex-longtime USA Today Track & Field contributor Dick Patrick that will please new runners and experienced veterans alike. It is a genuine account in the vein of Tom Jordan's "Pre" that starts with Meb's childhood in Eritrea and his family's difficult trek to the States. Being a long time fan of Meb, "Run to Overcome" does a focused job of telling the story of his rise through the ranks in the US running system, starting with his outstanding San Diego High School career that ended with a 2nd place finish at the 1993 Foot Locker Cross Country Championship and would earn him a full scholarship to UCLA, where he would meet his longtime coach, Bob Larsen. For those unfamiliar with Meb's college career, he would win 4 national titles including the 5k/10k double on the track in the spring of 1997, followed by the cross country title later that fall. He would also go on to receive a bachelors degree in Communications, something that he is very proud of, even negotiating with Larsen to let him retake a Calculus class over the summer to better his GPA.

Where the book will please more serious runners is in the later chapters where Meb divulges some of the tough aspects of being a professional runner and he pulls back the curtain a little to show how that side of the business works, and how he has been affected by it. Meb also shares what goes into a typical training week and some other key components (weights/core/diet/massage) that have kept him world class into his mid thirties. What makes this book excellent is the fact that Meb doesn't shy away from his failures and uses each of them as fuel for his next achievement. He mentions a goal that has eluded him is a Boston Marathon victory. I, for one, hope he lines up with me again in 2011 to take it to the Newton Hills one more time before preparing for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston!

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 10/23/10 - Washington, NC - Lifestyles 5k

So believe it or not, my legs have been feeling very good after the marathon. Hamstring still hurts a bit, but everything else has been feeling A-OK just a few weeks out. I have been doing some swimming and have been following Hal Higdon's Post Marathon Training Guide to get back to where I need to be. I'll also be having my first A.R.T. session Friday to do some work on the hamstring. Thanks to Leo Manzano and my friend Scott Williams for the advice on that.

I had a tempo on the schedule today and saw there was a 5k in Little Washington that would suffice. I had run one race here before and it is a beautiful town on the inland coast about 30 minutes from Greenville. Figured it would be easier to try and throw 3-6 minute miles together in competition than by myself in Greenville during Homecoming. Last year I did my last 20 miler before NYC during the Homecoming Parade and accidentally ran over a drunk guy who was swaying on a bike at 18.5 miles (I couldn't sway at this point due to muscle memory). It was an excellent decision to head east.

It was a little chilly this morning, clocking in somewhere around 40 degrees at the start. I wore some gloves until about a mile to go (that I luckily was able to recover on my cooldown). The race started (and finished) in the grass field beside the NC Estuarium on a gravel trail (similar to McAlpine Park in Charlotte) before heading off onto the slightly sloped roads of Washington. Went out pretty relaxed and hung behind a few younger guys for a half mile or so before they began to fade. After that it was just me, the lead biker and the volunteers with the pointing signs (and 2 unchained dogs that needed to get some strides in). Hit the mile in about 5:53 going over the bridge before heading onto a greenway path. Wasn't hearing as many footsteps at this point and the kind locals were cheering me along back to the bridge and 2 mile mark around 11:53. I crossed the bridge and was getting cheers from the people heading into the loop the first time while continuing to follow the lead biker down Main St. With about a half a mile left to go I threw off my gloves and picked it up a little before hitting the 3 mile in 17:48 and then finishing up in 18:22.

All in all, it was a nice run. Didn't kill myself, but ran strong only 13 days after the marathon and it was definitely exciting to win a race. Initially, I put on twitter that this was my first road race win since 1990. Well, it was actually 1991! The good ole Eastover Elementary Mile Fun Run. I also wore my new pair of Brooks Green Silence today. I have trained in the first edition of these for some track work, tempos and even a 22 miler at Umstead. I got the second edition via UPS yesterday from Running Warehouse and they felt great. A few minor modifications have been made that have made it a better shoe. Will look forward to doing more in them. Great day!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 10/10/10 - Chicago, IL - Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon has been very popular for its flat and fast route. It is also known for its very unpredictable weather. Last year it was 32 degrees at the start and 2 years ago it was over 80 by 11am. Fingers had been crossed for the cold, but we weren't so lucky. It was brutal!

Ever since Boston last year, I have been dealing with some hamstring issues. They would be ok for the first few miles of most runs, but would really bother me when I was running fast and racing. These issues had been plaguing me all season, but I kept running, stretching, getting massages and hoping for the best. After they bothered me a bunch during the Virginia Beach half, I thought of pulling the plug on Chicago, but I am glad I stuck it out and did it, as it was a tough mental challenge that I was happy to get through.

My teammate, John Simons, and I got out conservatively and went through the mile around 6:28. We picked it up slightly in mile 2 for a 6:18 or so. Mile 3 was more of the same around 6:20. At 5k, I felt a big pinch in my right hamstring. Hoping to run it out, I just kept trucking through a good second 5k to hit the 10k in a good, but conservative 39:40 or so. The pace didn't feel hard, I just had no pop in my stride because it hurt picking my right leg up. I continued to slow, but ran effectively through the half in 1:26:30 or so. This is when it got tough.

The second half of the race was outside the comfort of the shade of the buildings and the wind that whips between them. Crossing the bridge at the half I threw in a little surge just to see how my legs would react. It wasn't what I had hoped for. A quick half mile turned in to a slow second half before mile 14. The heat was beating down and I was limping around the south side of Chicago on a bum leg.

This was when I had to toughen up mentally. I knew that a PR was out the door. I knew that sub 3 was likely out the door as well as I had no action in my legs. I then knew a 2012 Boston Qualifier was on the line as Chicago qualifies for 2011 and 2012 because of where it falls in the calendar. With the pain I was in, the thought of doing another marathon to get me through 2012 was too painful to fathom. It was either make it through the last 11 or so at a decent enough clip to get me under 3:10:59 or try again later. I decided at this point to see what I was made of. When I made this decision, I could feel some strength in knowing I had an attainable goal out there that I could accomplish.

Erin, John and I
Now my splits from 30k to 40k are downright embarrassing, but the key was staying up, hydrating, not walking and getting to that next aid stop. It was a death march with a purpose! Luckily, when I hit 40k, my blistered feet and legs had gone numb and I just started moving faster. I was downright competitive in the last 1.6 miles or so and that felt good. I saw someone drop flat on the asphalt with 400 meters to go and I just put my head down, hammered up the last hill, then cruised in. Now my time was far from sexy or a PR (in 3:05:22), but I learned more about my pain threshold here than I did in New York last year or Boston in April.

Sometimes the will to keep going is just as important as the will to finish fast. Some dreams come true and some are nightmares, but the good part is that we get to wake up the next day and gain more fodder for these dreams. Looking forward, I can't wait to get this hamstring right and then run some shorter races. I didn't win the war, but I did win a battle. The marathon is a tough race and they all aren't going to be perfect. I just know next time, that if it gets tough again, I can handle it.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 9/5/10 - Virginia Beach, VA - Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Today was my first longer test before the Chicago Marathon. My training has been very consistent mileage wise this cycle, but has been marred with a few nagging injuries. This was a great week of training, so I was hoping it would translate. It did (for the first 4-5 miles and overall place) and it didn't (second half of the race and overall time).

The race got off well. I intentionally held back a little and still got through the first mile in 5:57 or so. Got into a good little group over the bridge and hit the 2 mile right around 12:04 or so. Things started to spread out in the 3rd mile, but stayed consistent and relaxed to hit the 3 mile in 18:15; right on pace. Mile 4 was my best mile on the course today. Caught a second wind and started rolling by people and was getting closer to the next pack. Was around 24:20 or so before turning off toward Camp Pendleton. Mile 5 was when my hamstrings started to bother me. They've been bothering me ever since Boston in the spring and after Chicago, they'll get a break. Still hit the 5 mile around 30:40, not too far off pace, but the next few miles were rough.

There were about 10 turns in Camp Pendleton and I just couldn't get into a rhythm. Set my sights on just getting out of there and trying to push the final 3.5 miles. When I turned back onto the main strip to head back towards the boardwalk, the wind was in our faces about 25mph or so and it was a slight uphill for the next 2 miles. This didn't agree with my hamstrings, but I hung in there and cruised over the bridge and around the windy strip before getting to the boardwalk where the wind was really kicking right in our faces. The idea of running on the boardwalk is cool, but not for 3/4 of a mile into the wind with no fans until the last 0.1 mile. Fought off the wind going slower than I wanted and then kicked it in for the last tenth to pass one guy. I really wanted top 100 and was happy with 98th, even though my time wasn't what I wanted. C'est la vie. Now just have to focus on getting my hamstrings right over the next 5 weeks for a respectable showing in Chicago!

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 8/28/10 - Greenville, NC - Greenville-Pitt County 8k

Being a little unsure of my fitness, I chose this race as a "competitive tempo run" of sorts as I had one (tempo run) on my schedule and the event started about 100 yards from my apartment. I have been going by a planned scheduled in training for Chicago and it is very different than the training I have done in the past where I have just coached myself. It is all leading up to one big peak, where in the past I have tended to get in good shape fast and then hold it. All this being said, this was the inaugural Greenville-Pitt County 8k Road Race and the course was interesting. It had a lot of slow inclines and declines and finished with about 2 miles straight up and down 10th Street in the sun. After my longest mileage week of the season, I was excited to see what my legs had in them.

The race got off a few minutes late and I may have charged down Cotanche a little hard as I was in the lead at the left turn onto Reade St in front of Chico's. Soon up the half mile long hill, Phillip Rowan passed me on his way to a 55 year old age group state record. With more speed, I feel like I could have run with him. My stamina has been lacking a bit lately. Maybe it's because I've been hitting it hard for 18 months or so after not really competing for 12 years and maybe I am still developing this season. I hope the latter! Ran up 5th St and was passed by one more guy before the mile mark (5:45) before almost being hit by a sorority girl driving home. This happens a lot in Greenville, so it doesn't shock me. After this I cruised down Elm St and got into a pretty good groove before the 2 mile (11:43). Miles 3 and 4 were slow. I was in no man's land after turning it on during mile 2 and hit 3 up the hit on 5th St in 17:53 and 4 up and down 10th St in 24:07. Tried to focus on staying in 3rd in the final mile and staying straight up although I was pretty tired and my feet hurt. I was trying out a new pair of flats as my trusty Victory's are running out of racing miles and I am hoping to squeeze Virginia Beach and Chicago out of them before retiring them. Can't believe Nike discontinued those. I have raced 2 marathons and countless road races in them in the past year+ and they still feel pretty good.

Anyways, I weaved through the mini-maze at the end where we turned around Joyner Library and the parking lot behind Wendy's to finish up in 30:02 or so. I was 45 seconds or so ahead of the next competitor, but not 100% pleased. At minimum, it was a great tempo run! Got in a long cool down to finish up a 60 mile week, which was my longest since February. Hoping that'll wake my legs up enough to race a half at not too much slower of a pace next weekend!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 8/15/10 - Falmouth, MA - Falmouth Road Race

I had always heard great things about the Falmouth Road Race growing up and through friends in the running community, so when I saw information on the race's website this spring about the lottery to get in, I figured "why not?" I knew it was tough to get in out of state, but luckily they selected my ping pong ball and I began planning the trip. Had to fly into Boston and take a rental from there (about 75 miles) and it was a busy weekend on the cape.

Falmouth was beautiful and the race was run perfectly. The first night we arrived, there was an event called the Falmouth Mile at Falmouth High School where the packet pickup was and everyone got right up on the track to cheer the runners on. It was pretty cool seeing Olympic Silver Medalist Nick Willis from 2 lanes out in his first comeback race after injury. He was outkicked in the final meters by Russell Brown from the Oregon Track Club. Here's a photo I took at about the 650 meter mark with Rob Novak leading Brown and Willis. Laid low after this and went to the Falmouth Cinema Pub to see "The Other Guys" before calling it a night and resting up for the race.
Rob Novak leads Nick Willis and Russell Brown

Race day started about 6:30am as the race didn't start until 10am. Got everything together and hopped on a school bus at the Lawrence School to head to the starting line at Woods Hole. Was on the first bus and got there very early, so had time to kill. Searched out the area around the start and found a nice shaded backyard of a restaurant right on the water with picnic tables. Set up shop there early and soon after all the pros found my location. I knew I had picked the right place at this point. After relaxing for a bit, did a 2 mile warmup and went pretty slow, but still passed all the Kenyans and Scotty Bauhs. I was going slow, but they must have been going 10 minute mile pace. Am I missing something? Was lucky enough to get seeded in the first corral, which I have found is essential for big races. As long as I can run the times to get me up front for the start, it's worth it! Lined up and a slightly older gentleman bumped into me at the starting line, just some guy named Frank Shorter, gold medalist in the 1972 Olympic Marathon & Silver Medalist in '76. Not a bad resume. 

The gun went off and it was a pretty controlled and rolling first mile around 5:45. The hills kept coming in mile 2 and a big cheer came up from behind me at about 1.5 miles. I look to the side and Joan Benoit Samuelson had drawn beside me; gold medalist in the 1984 Olympic Marathon. I did my best to hang with her for a mile or so. On the up and downhills, I would pass her (or catch up) and she would speed away on the flats. Hit the 3 mile around 17:45 before the long run along the cape and that's where she took off. I ran the hillier sections of the course much better than I did the flats, probably due to all the base and strength work in my training cycle thus far and my lack of speed/track work. That's fine though, 2 more big races this fall. Miles 3-6 were pretty tough as it got a little humid and we were fighting some strong cross winds off the ocean that felt like they were going to blow my number off. Turning back into the neighborhoods shortly before the 10k was a godsend as I was able to get my legs back under me and start the drive home. Went through the 10k in 37:55 and started to roll past people. Maybe I had saved too much, but I think the heat just zaps me as all my best races are in the far cooler weather. We headed back out to the cape and had one more big hill before the downhill finish. I charged it and then took the brakes off for the downhill finish, getting home in a respectable 42:44 for 7.1 miles (6:01 avg) and 128th overall in a field of 10,000 or so.

After the race, we hung out at the big field beside the beach and had a few gatorades, hot dogs, clif bars, cape cod potato chips and Sam Adams (from the British Beer Company). That afternoon was finally able to get some chowda! Everyone was very nice and it was a great experience. New Englanders take their running seriously and know how to put on a race! I hope to make it back next year!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 7/17/10 - Winston-Salem, NC - Beat the Heat 5k

I decided to hop in this race a few days beforehand to see what kind of shape I was in and because it was the NC USATF 5k Road Championship. After coming in 8th in the USATF Road Mile Championship in the fall, I was hoping for another top 10. The course was described as "predominantly flat and fast." That must have been a joke. It had plenty of turns and hills and was anything but flat and fast. What was fast was the competition. I lined up upfront and when the gun went off there was quite a bit of pushing and shoving in the first 200 meters or so before starting to level out. The first hill came just 1/4 mile into the race and lasted for a half mile or so. Being on a program that is gearing me towards marathon success in the fall made the first mile in 5:30 seem much faster than it really was.

The second mile started up a hill before flattening out and then headed up that first hill again at about 1.5 miles. I was pretty cooked at running a fast pace at this point and just tucked in behind my Bromar teammate John Simons. Hit the 2 mile about 11:22 at the end of the long hill before a flat stretch before the last big hill heading up to 2.5 miles or so. My recent strength training began to pay off here as I began to roll past people on the last hill. The last half mile was fairly downhill, but I really couldn't get my legs turning over like I did at the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k in March. I was able to muster a little bit of a kick over the last 50 meters or so to pass 1-2 more people to finish 31st overall and 12th in the USATF comp in 17:44. This was only 15 seconds off my best since I began competing again and was significantly faster than my training has been. It was also a treat having my whole club there competing (Bromar Track Club). The race was well put on and the post-race spread was nice as well with tons of water, fruit, pizza and (free) beer. This will likely be an annual event!
Bromar TC (Joe, Erin, Me, Mary Aiken, John)
Video from Mile 1:

Video from Mile 2:

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 7/3/10 - Raleigh, NC - Great Raleigh Road Race

I had a great time running this race last year and decided last minute to hop in again this year in lieu of a scheduled tempo run because the weather was so nice. This year proved to be a good one again. The race got out pretty quick and my legs weren't ready to hammer too hard after racing the mile on Tuesday and doing a fast workout on Thursday. No matter, that wasn't the goal. Let the first group go and tucked in with a guy to roll together through the mile in 5:41-5:42 up Hillsborough.

Lots of turns in the second mile as we wove through the neighborhood between NC State and Cameron Village. Passed one guy about 1.5 miles and ran the tangents of the course really well. Hit the 2 mile around 11:36 and kept trucking up Peace toward the big uphill on West Park. My legs were pretty beat up at this point, but I held serve and went through the 3 mile in 17:35-36. The last mile hurt more than it should have. It started up the hill on West Park and then up the last hill before the finish on Hillsborough. Couldn't really get the legs turning over until the last 400 which I ran in 80 or so to finish in 23:34. This was 36 seconds faster than last year and I felt I didn't have quite as good of race. Nice weather and a well run race. If I'm in Raleigh over the 4th, I'll be doing this one again.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hobby Jogging: June '10 - Charlotte, NC - CTTC Summer Track Series

After dealing with some hamstrings that have been very slow to heal after Boston, I have been taking it slow working my mileage back up and haven't done a lot of speedwork. I used to run these track meets as a kid all the way up through high school and luckily I was able to make it over after work a few days and hop in. Here's my recap of each night:

6/22: I decided to go hop in the mile this day about an hour and a half before the race. Sped over to Myers Park after work to get in a 3/4 mile jog and 4 strides right before the race. Had no idea what to expect after doing no real speedwork of late. I also didn't expect to see the old Myers Park coach, Richard Prince and Charlotte running legend Alex Coffin hanging out as well like it was 1995. Was good to catch up with those guys as they were always around in the old days! The race got out a little slow and I was about mid pack out of 30 or so competitors. It started to spread out after a lap of 77 or so. I begin to pick off 1 at a time until there was just me looking at a small pack a ways up. Ran strong 2nd & 3rd laps and then a kid passed me with 400 to go. I tucked in and tried to shake and bake him with 150 to go, but I kicked too early. The 14 year old passed the 31 year old with about 30 to go. Good kick, but it couldn't hold off youth. 5:08.30 for the full mile. Super hot day, I'll take it. Managed 5th overall amongst a competitive crowd.

6/29 Championship Mile: When I arrived, I wasn't supposed to be in the Championship Mile, which was reserved for the top 10 qualifiers from the first 4 meets. I was ranked around #15 or so going in, but snuck in due to some folks opting to run the 5k that evening that had qualified. I went in ranked #1 in the 30-39 age group and didn't want to relinquish that! The race went out a little faster this week, but I still only went through the 400 in 76 or so and then 2:32 at the 800. Once again, I had a small pack pacing off me as I was in no mans land behind a pack of 3 a good distance ahead of me. A very strong 3rd lap ensured that no one pacing off me would catch me. Went through the 1200 around 3:49-50 and ran an average last lap + 9 meters to finish in 5:05.93 with no real pressure behind me. Another very hot day and I ran tough enough to finish 4th overall, my best finish in a CTTC Championship Mile (even though my times were faster in the mid-90's). Ran into an old friend from high school who is getting the running itch again as well and we did a nice 4 mile cool down on the grass inside the track and watched the 5k once the weather cooled a shade. Fun night. Fun series!

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 4/19/10 - Boston, MA - Boston Marathon

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon has always been a big goal for anyone who competes in running and making the trip to Boston for the race is quite like the pilgrimage in the religion of distance running. I have watched the Boston Marathon all my running life and this would be the first year I didn't get to watch, because I would be competing. I flew up Saturday and was greeted by many others wearing their Boston Marathon jackets at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Just grabbed some pasta at the restaurant beside my hotel Saturday night and watched the Red Sox game on TV before calling it a night. Sunday I headed in town for the expo to get my race packet and coveted Boston Marathon jacket. I refused to wear it until I finished the race. To wear prematurely felt like wearing the shirt of the band you are going to see. Don't be that guy. Had a great dinner Sunday night at Puritan Pizza across from my hotel in Dorchester. Spaghetti with Italian sausage, Greek Salad, Garlic Bread and a Grape G2 for only $10. Watched a little TV and then went to bed at 10pm. 5am didn't come as early as usual as I slept great! Grabbed a bagel with PB & honey and hopped on the shuttle to the T. Rode that to Park St where the buses picked us up to take us to Hopkinton. The Athletes Village was much more subdued than that at the NYC Marathon & I brought the right stuff to relax (a poncho to lay on). Walked over to the start and got great position at the front of the 3rd corral.

Stripped off my sweats and before you know it, we were off. The first few miles were straight down and really loosened me up. Probably went a shade too fast, but it felt easy and after some fatigue in the past month, I wasn't planning on trying to save anything as I knew the last part was going to be tough no matter what as I was only able to get one 20-miler in for this training cycle. The first landmark I remember was the biker bar on the left side of the road at about mile 2. Those folks were having some fun. Looked like the party you'd want to be at if you weren't running. Went through 5k in just over 19 and kept rolling along. Started to go uphill a little and hit the 10k in mid-38. Kept rolling along at 3:50 per K for a bit until we hit some hills around 10 miles. Wellesley was so loud. I had to move over a bit because it was deafening. Still put a huge smile on my face. Suburban Boston is really cool because it is so old. Every little town you would run through had it's own feel. Hit the half faster than planned at 1:22:16 and knew the hills were coming.

Top of Heartbreak (courtesy of Jim Rhoades)
Immediately hit a long slow uphill at the half and could tell it was going to be tough when I got to Newton. Continued on and right about mile 15, the first of the Newton Hills was upon us. This one was long and slow and hurt! Leveled out for a second before the next one, which wasn't as bad. The 3rd hill came and went and I knew Heartbreak was coming. My quads were shot at this point from all the up and down, but I slugged up it without walking (as many were). Cemetery (down)hill was next and I got my legs back under me a little before the next hill that they don't tell you about. There were a few of these and I was just getting from water stop to water stop at this point. It wasn't the death march, but my lack of long runs and hills in Greenville certainly hurt me a little in this stage of the race. Passing the Citgo sign at mile 25 was great as I knew I was almost there. Chugged through the last mile and through the finish in 2:55:04, a new PR by 9:25. A great day and it gave me a lot of hope that I can really bust one when I truly train for a marathon and get better at the distance. Had to walk down some stairs to get a massage and that hurt, but then got to put on my well earned Boston Marathon jacket. A hard days work and it felt great to slip on! Also great were the kind folks at the Ramada Inn, who let me back into my room after checkout to take a shower and relax for 4 hours before my flight. Headed back to Logan International in fresh clothes, except for my jacket. Can't wait to get back next year with more of my friends in tow!
Now I can wear the jacket!
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