Friday, March 21, 2014

A note about training and races....

Consider this post a random stream of thought brought to you in due part to others posting there race schedules. This has made me look at my race schedule some and start to lock down my training with these races in mind.

Now that winter seems to be mostly gone, (while it is officially spring, we do have some cold and snow in our forecast for the next week here in the Mid-Atlantic), it should be easier to get out and enjoy training. This winter has been harsh and I have been lucky to not only train as much as I have but race as well as I have.

Last week's marathon and the prior week's 50K (34 mile - 50K) have served as a jump start to my racing year that has some big races coming up. So without further ado my confirmed 'big' race schedule:

Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 100K - April
Broad Street Run (10M) - May
Cayuga Trails 50M - June
Hudson Highlands 100K - June
Viaduct 100M - Jul
Fire on the Mountain 50K - Oct

Now in there will be additional races like Trap Pond 50K two weeks prior to Jack Bristol and I am hoping to pencil in the Steamtown Marathon before Fire on the Mountain. I also will be running a number of 5K's too. (Ideally, some 10Ks and 5Ms too.) Some small, some large all with the goal of keeping me speedy. Plus, I love the social atmosphere at them. As my focus this year appears to be on a lot of ultra distances, I need to keep sharp, especially for a race like Broad Street. I finished last year in 53:29 and feel I am primed to cut that down some more, especially if Two Rivers was any indication.

However, right now my focus is on Jack Bristol. It is my 100K debut and all on road. While not my most favorite of racing surfaces anymore, this race is where I want to go sub 7:20. It is a lofty goal. And I might not hit it as 7:04 miles over 62 miles can be tough. I do feel the loop nature of the course will assist me. As a tune up, I will be running Trap Pond with the objective of hitting solid splits on a loop course. Unlike Jack Bristol, Trap Pond is fine crushed gravel. I'm three weeks out from that race which will be my last long run before the 100K. In the upcoming week, I hope to get one 20 mile run in (hoping tomorrow) and since I have some time off of work, a 5-6 hour training run that I would like to get 40 miles in. (It was funny yesterday even discussing a 5-6 hour training run with my partner since it is never a topic I thought I would ever bring up.) After that I will taper down and rest up a bit more. I don't want to risk breaking down too early.

Also, with the recent addition of Cayuga into my race schedule, I'm up in the air about racing a 50K two weeks prior. I'm thinking it will be smart since I likely would not want to go for a long run otherwise. Once Cayuga passes, I will lighten my training load over the summer. I didn't do it last year and I'm not sure I enjoyed the season as much. I'm definitely looking forward to what is in store.

All this is not without paying a price, I admit I will be missing some races I love, particularly those in the Trail Creek Outfitters series. The people who put the series on are great and the courses are wonderful. Also, I might be missing the entire XTERRA Mid-Atlantic series put on by the folks over at Adventure Geek. I really enjoyed hanging out with them and still hope I can squeeze in one race.

One race that MIGHT be back on my radar is a local gem, the Wissahickon Trail Classic 10K. With Cayuga on the slate, I have dropped Old Dominion (I hadn't signed up yet) so chances are good I'll be in the city on the day of the WTC. And considering it benefits the organization my partner is now involved with, something I am glad about the prospect of. The question will will my legs feel about this?

Maybe that should be the question for the whole year.....Hmmm...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Surprise! A HUGE Marathon PR....2:24:55!!!

After having a few hiccups getting to the starting line of a road marathon since Boston in 2011, I have been very quiet about my sign-up and intention to run the Two Rivers Marathon on March 15th. To chronicle my issues, in 2012, I got violently ill the day before Steamtown, in 2013, I had a stress fracture before Harrisburg and recently the cancellation of George Washington Birthday Marathon. Obviously, with three false starts, I did not want to make much of it. Plus, my goal at Two Rivers was not to chase any particular time but more to gauge my ability to run a marathon along with using it as a tool towards next month's 100K.

Also, I was driving up the morning of the race and driving home immediately after. A trip that was close to 3 hours each way. I told my partner that I was aiming to go under 3 and maybe 2:45. She would not be coming up with me mainly because I did not see any reason due to it being a small race. Not to mention, this race is one week after the Seneca Greenway Trail Race (aka the 34 mile 50K.) Further adding no reason to expect much performance wise except the stated goals.

However, there was one thing that could factor into my performance, the course. The profile of the course is a largely downhill course without any major climbs. Think of it like Steamtown without the final 4 miles or California International Marathon with a larger drop. Still not expecting the world.

I say all this because it was my mindset of expectations going into Two Rivers. And then.....two days before the race, a roster of entrants was sent out by the race director. Obviously, being curious, I did some looking at who was racing. And I knew of one registrant in particular: Chuck Engle . He is an incredible talent with his ability to churn out quality marathons like no tomorrow. I figured he would be the man to beat and that I could run with him. That became my plan on race day. Or so I thought.....

On race morning, as I was walking to my car, Chuck passed by and said hi. Apparently, I was known. I was taken back a bit. I'm not someone who expects to be known by other runners unless it is a local road race or maybe an ultra where the same people tend to be seen. For much of the hour before the race, I got to enjoy some pleasant conversation with him. We both had an understanding that we were the two guys in the marathon.

Just prior to 9am, we lined up at the starting line in Hawley, PA at the Woodloch Resort. (Well, the road near the resort but then again, it is a large resort.) As the start command was given by RD Marck Hughes, off all of us went. And it was within maybe 50 feet of starting, I had a choice to make: run with Chuck or just go. I just went for it. Not entirely sure why I had that thought. Looking back, it feels like it was just something that needed to happen, like I just had to do it. So off I went pounding the pavement pushing my pace. With Chuck in the field, I knew my decision could backfire. I immensely respected his ability and knew the risk I was taking that I could be caught. But I kept going. In the past, I would mark my splits on the watch, this time I did not do it. I also did not even look at the watch every mile or do any head calculation. In retrospect, those moves might have been a sign of how all in I was. Mile by mile I kept pushing. By the half way point, I was pushing into a darn headwind!!!! Really?! All that I could think was to keep going, worrying about getting caught and that if I am lucky have a tailwind on the way back during the out and back section. Usually, I hate out and back sections. This one not as much. I think the winding road helped and the relatively flatness of this section. As the miles ticked by, I was beginning to pine away for the turnaround. And there it was!!!!! After the turn, I glanced at my watch. This was where I could see how much of a lead I had. I did not expect it to be much but had no clue what it was at all since I had not looked back since maybe mile 5. Around 4 1/2 minutes later, I saw Chuck. 9 minutes, I had 9 minutes with around a 10K to go. I just kept pushing. Pushing. I looked at my watch. I had over 40 minutes on the clock before 2:30. It was at that moment, I began to realize, I could hit my PR. Not only that but hit the time I had as a goal. Just not the goal at this race. I kept pushing. Pushing. Before I knew it the bridge crossing came up. I was there! I was going to do it! Just did not realize by how much. I made the final turn and saw the clock. Not my watch but the clock...2:24! HOLY COW....

I was happy! Really happy. I was shouting in joy pumping my fist in the air. (While the awards for the other races were occurring.) Official time: 2:24:55!

Not only sub 2:30 but 2:25!!!

Thankfully, I had made the last minute choice to put a bag in the trailer carrying bags to the finish line. Warm clothes! Yay! I savored those clothes.

Mark Hughes presented me with my overall award. I chatted with a number of nice people while waiting for Chuck to finish. As soon as I spotted him on the bridge I cheered him in. When he saw me on my way in from the turnaround, he was so encouraging. It shows how great a sport running is. And I was honored to cheer him in. His time: 2:35:30. A great time.

I did not talk with Chuck nearly enough after the race but I thank his presence at the race. (The reason I did not stay around long was, the shuttle bus came and I hopped it to make the trek to the car to drive home.) It helped push me. It encouraged me. To him, I say thank you.

One thing, I do think made this performance possible has been my increasing dedication to ultras. Running longer and longer has had an impact on my ability to sustain my speed longer. And today, I think that played a part much more than I thought it would have. It shows that I still have potential to tap and growth to experience.

Also, importantly, I thank everyone who has been a supporter of my running. My family, friends, teammates and competitors. All played a part in yesterday. Thank you all!

My CR only lasted a day as today's winner (it was a two day festival with marathons each day) ran a 2:22:49. Darn. However, I wonder what would have gone down with both of us in it together.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And update of sorts

Here we are nearly two months since my last posting. Not very good of me, huh? It is not that I do not think about posting. I do. I just don't. FAIL.

But alas, here I am, once more doing an entry. While you would think two months would yield a boat load, in this case you are wrong. The 2013-2014 Winter in Philadelphia (and much of the Mid-Atlantic) has been brutal. Training has been more of survival with much of my running being commutes to and from work. Not exactly ideal but if I had to run and couldn't bike due to the endless snow and ice storms impacting my bike commute route. In this two month span, I have only done two races. One more was slated but got cancelled due to...wait for it....winter weather. That race was the George Washington Birthday Marathon. I was ready for that so on the day of the cancellation I guessed it a marathon. Obviously not hard but I wanted the distance. And it gave me a good gauge of my fitness level. As a result, I signed up for another marathon, Two Rivers taking place this weekend. One of the races I did do was the weekend before GWBM, it was a 5K called Cupids Cranium. Very happy with my time result was 16:10. Smoking for the 1st time out.

My lead-in to this weekend's race was last weekend's Seneca Greenway Trail was that course a mix of everything...including getting lost on some rerouted trail. Yep. Amazingly, I still managed to pull out a victory in the 50K (more like 34 mile) race. In fact, I was the 3rd person to cross the finish line behind two marathon finishers by less than 9 minutes. Time was slow but that was partially due to the getting lost more than the sloppy trail conditions. Those did help however with the slower time.

I'll probably add another 50K to this spring....I'll finalize some my schedule soon....there are a few things to move around and possibly a tentative or two but before the weekend is out, the majority of races through June will be known.

That ends this rambling post now......I'll try to make the next entry more substantive.