Monday, November 3, 2014

Ghouls and Fools + Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10K's 11/2/14

I've been lazy with my posting.  Thankfully a little less lazy with racing.  With 2 more races to report on, it's been a good 2 weeks.

It's been a while since we've done a trail race which is a shame.  Making the race a nighttime trail run made it pretty awesome.  We had to miss last year's race for a wedding or some other nonsense but Ghouls and Fools is a great time.  It would be the first of three 10K's in 15 days.

My best time for the G&F 10K was 1:04:35.  I only wanted to beat an hour and have fun.  We made sure we were going to have fun and bring costumes into the mix.  I was considering a few options but went with a Viking.  Kristen was a lovable Hooter's Girl spin-off of my own: a Scooter's Girl.

We lined up for the start and before sending us off, Ron, the RD named his costume winners.  My first race prize in over a year!  He took me for a member of the Mongolian Horde but whatever, it's a win!

Time for business and we started off into the dark woods, always an awesome sight watching the snaking queue of running conga winding through the woods.  something I didn't bother to try to take a picture of because you should go out and see that for yourself!  And it likely would've been a terrible picture.

A minor change in the course just prior to the race inserted a lollipop loop pretty early on that created a tiny bit of confusion.  Some packs of runners went left at the loop, some went right.  I followed the guys ahead of me and we went clockwise, encountering other packs that went the other way.  For most of the mile loop, there was a good amount of time spent dodging runners going the opposite direction on single-track.  Before long, that was over and we were onto the rest of the course and some brutal climbs.  I left my Garmin plugged in the wall at home so I don't have the profile or any normal race data I get to geek out on.  Tough cookies, this time.

I managed to finish in 1:01 and 31st overall which was good enough for me to enjoy a beer and wait around to collect my award.

A week of rest later and a few days of some "maintenance run" and I was feeling great for a road 10K.  The Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge across the Ben Franklin Bridge from Camden to Philadelphia, then back across for the first 5K and another 5K looping around Camden and the waterfront. 

I imagined and planned on running about 47 minutes.  This is based on my lack of confidence in holding 7 minute miles which was my real goal.  But I felt good, I made sure I drank a lot of beer all day the day before to celebrate my dad and sister's birthdays as they were in town to visit and my sister, Mandy, was running her first 10K.  It was a cold day for it around 39 but windy as all hell.  Never have I had the wind physically blow me around while running.  Running a huge arcing bridge with very whirling winds allows me to honestly say we did go uphill both directions with major headwind all the time.  I saw some kid in a sweatshirt get blown like a sail 5 feet to the right when the wind changed.  

I had anticipated a good race.  Closing in on the first mile marker, I could see the clock was approaching 8 minutes.  I thought "no way; starting out at a reasonable pace is a concept lost on me.  I probably ran that in 6:20 and their clock was wrong."  Negative.  My Garmin confirmed the 8 minute mile and I started to wonder how that happened and how I was going to do the rest of this race.  Would I be near my goal at all or should I think about just finishing under 50 min?

The 8 minutes was a little demoralizing but I sucked it up and knocked the next mile off in 7:20, still surprised because it felt like under 7.  It's tricky to really know what that 7-mile pace really feels like.  I got a little closer again the next mile with a 7:02 and I was halfway done.  Maybe I did actually get some tail wind coming back across to Jersey.
I never really noticed how much bridges arch until driving across on our way to start this race...

Running down the bridge felt great, I hoped for some shelter from the 30-40 mph gusts between the buildings.  The last few miles ticked off, I passed a few more runners, got passed by a few others... then hit the waterfront.  Direct, nonstop headwind at its strongest right by the Delaware... I felt like a human sail.  I ducked down to try to give the wind less surface area to push on and powered through.  For a 200 yard run, it felt embarrassingly hard.  I had very little race left to run and I was excited to finish, I tried to continue on and keep the splits descending.  
PR Day!
The course wrapped around a few buildings as we began the return to Campbell's Field and I was amazed I had enough in the tank to have a fast finish.   I must be finally learning to properly run these things!  I clocked in at 45:45 with my chip time, very happy.  I realize now, in November, how far my goal of a sub-40 10K would've been early this spring.

The 3rd of our 10K series is this coming Sunday in MD.  The inaugural Across the Bay 10K should be another fun race.  If being out on the Chesapeake on bridges is anything like this race, it's going to be hard with it's unique challenges.  While inaugural, I think the race is making a return.  The field is huge at 20,000 runners.  Thankfully I'm in wave #1 so I only have to deal with a few hundred of them.   To make it a little harder, I'll be running 5K, 3K and 1500m races the day before because... why not?!

Get out there and run.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nation's Tri 9/7/14: Salvaging a Race

This weekend was my final race of 2014.  When I signed up for it, I knew it would be end the tri season for me for the year so I had a lot of ambitious plans for it in the year leading up to it.  I'd bike a million miles, establish a consistent sub 40 minute 10K in the books and get to an easy 20 minute mile swim.  I had BIG plans.  Much of which never materialized.

Anyhoo, I was not really that psyched leading up to the race.  I wasn't sleeping well (which I attribute to some anxiety that I'd race poorly) and since the last tri, North East, I only ran a few times.  There wasn't much to do anymore so what is it you really do in this case?

Drink beers.

I had lined up the weekend to stay with some of my best friends in Alexandria, VA.  So after swinging by the Etihad Airways sponsored Expo at the Hilton and dropping off my bike at transition Saturday morning, we headed over to our friends' Drew and Lisa's house.  We unloaded and started to unwind after the drive and catch up on everything.  Being friends of mine from Penn State, we cracked a few beers to start watching the Penn State football game.  As comes with being Nittany Lions, the beers kept flowing.

I kept the drinking in check and managed a bed time of 10pm with a 5:00 alarm.  Another light night of sleep but I was ready to rock at 5.  Drew dropped me and Kristen off at 6 and I said my goodbye to Kristen and made my way to transition to prep for the swim and leave my gear with my bike.

Adam and I ready to finish the season.
 Adam was racked 15 feet away.  Pretty impressive in a 2000+ person race.  We had our transition spots in order and we headed out making small talk.  I started to put on my pink swim cap and Adam asked if I was seriously wearing that.  Well, duh, yeah, we have to...

Not when the swim's canceled!

Adam asked if I was still drunk and explained to me that in the previous evening's rain, the Patomac got a little poopy so the swim leg was canceled and that he knew about it by 11:00 the previous night and texted me about it at 3:30.  Holy crap dude, at least try to sleep.  I didn't bother to check my phone for any messages or emails from the race regarding any news.  We had such a small amount of rain I couldn't imagine it would impact the race.

The ONLY leg of a race I have an advantage over most of the field and I don't get to do it.  That only meant one thing to me: Bloody Marys about 30 minutes earlier than previously planned.
Pre-Brunch post-race bloody with grilled cheese garnish.  Courtesy Evening Star in Alexandria.
So we lined up in our corrals and in time trial start, headed off in packs of 9 from the swim exit to T1 and onto our bikes.  Having counted on my swim as my warm up, I managed to keep a less "erratic" pace than I usually do in the first 5 miles before really getting into gear.  I wanted to not repeat North East tri and save my legs for the run still so I settled in and stayed fast but comfortable, sipping at my Hammer Perpetuem and focused on maintaining a solid ride.

Notable about the course: as I mentioned, 2000+ racers and a double loop course means it gets crowded.  With roads shut down, the course was mostly navigable and fun but a few pinch points and one could imagine a few fights break out due to some carelessness of some riders to not keep right.
Leaving for the bike
Finishing... behind some dude in a t-shirt.  
I felt great during the ride, hopped off the bike in a 1:13 and realized, "holy crap, if I could skip the swim, I might be able to compete with the pros!"  The great time and the ride itself were very lifting and I sailed through T2 and into a steady trot on a crazy flat run.  After the first half mile I saw Kristen and stopped to give her a kiss before going on the last 5.7 miles.
Finding Kristen in the crowd and headed in for the kill.
I really wanted a sub 50 run.  I pulled off one sub-8 mile and tried to hang in there for the rest of the race.  I hit 4 water stations, during the run,slowing momentarily at each for only a few seconds.  It really didn't add that much time but I just couldn't keep close enough to 8:00 miles.  Still, I felt great on the run.
I finished in 2:10 according to my chip and imagine if I'd swam it would have been around 2:47-2:49.  We'll never know.  I was roughly just ahead of mid-pack in my division which is OK, not great but I was very pleased with my race after starting it in a pretty down mood about the whole thing.
My fan base was pretty unimpressed with my race.
Just a badass you should see.
Adam giving it hell and finishing strong
Done for 2014!
I'm shifting my focus to running now for a few 10K's coming up.  It's a relief to be done with the triathlon season.  I'll work out next year's plan soon but I'm excited to think about going for my first half iron distance.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

7/10/14 Midsummer 5K Series Race #2: What have I been doing with myself?

So, I'm utterly ashamed of my training lately.  That's the race report in a nutshell.  If you care to read more on the race, go ahead.  If not, that's cool, too.

I have been happy to throw in a 3-race 5K series into the schedule for this summer.  Bryn Mawr Running hosts 3 5K's in Ardmore which are 3-loop races and a fast group of runners.  I did one of the races a few years ago with someone else's bib.  I missed this year's first race while I was away in Maine and I was happy to finally get another race in, only 10 or 11 days since the last one, of which all 10 or 11 days included zero training or even general maintenance/preparation.

This foreshadowing may give up some of the race results but pre-race, I was happy about getting out again for a race, feeling pretty great and pretty much knew I was not going to PR.  I was hopeful to be around 20:30.  No problem.

The one-mile-and-change loop is around South Ardmore Park.  That's 3 times around for you non-engineers.  It's on some quiet Ardmore neighborhood streets that get closed off for the race.  We arrived about 10 minutes prior to the start, jogged a little to warm up and test out a cramp or some muscle tightness Kristen was having an issue with in her foot.  I probably could have used a little more warm up but I felt alright and Kristen was trotting around pain free so we were ready to roll.

Knowing there were going to be a handful of sub 16-minute runners, I stayed clear of the front, about 6 rows deep from the start line.  I knew off the start I'd find a pack to pace with so it should be a pretty easy race.  I thought my first mile felt great, as usual when I'm fresh, and turned in a 6:09.  Not too far from where I thought I'd be.  The field spread quickly and I found an anonymous runner to chase.

All went well for about another half mile and I just hit a wall.  I tried to ignore it and push through because it's only a 5K.  I'm halfway through this so what's only 10 minutes of a little suffering?  Apparently on this Thursday evening, a little too much.  I hit the water station after mile 2, taking a moment to slow down for a few seconds before finishing the last mile.

The obvious break sure helped my heart out.  Holy crap.
I hung out by the finish line, disappointed with myself, and cheered on runners until Kristen came in a 29 minutes which was a great finish time for her, tying her PR.

A 21-minute 5K isn't the worst thing in the world.  Especially when my goal is now sub-19 minutes.  What's bothering me is that I have been getting soft on my training.  I spent the last 6-months putting in some pretty decent training time with some effective workouts but in the last month, seriously slacking making some excuses for recovering after Black Bear tri and healing after my bike crash.  I really should have only lightened my workouts after Black Bear for 2 weeks, and aside from a sore tailbone, my biking injuries were all upper body: nothing that would keep me from running.  The lessons learned were that recovery is not a vacation from training entirely and I should have appreciated all the time I had to train before I started a new job this week.  Once again, I'm going to have to fit in 10-hour work days around the rest of my life... what a drag but I've got to pay these race fees somehow.  I joked during my downtime that I finally had time to train like a pro.  It's a shame I didn't take more advantage of that.

Next race up is the final 5K of the Midsummer series, I needed a bad race to fire me up for the next one!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

9/28/14 Guilford Road Race 5K Report

Not often enough do we go on vacation but this weekend Kristen and I made a little getaway in Vermont.  I've only been to VT in the winter for some skiing trips so this was my first trip in the summer.  I expected it would be beautiful up there and it was.  We anticipated having a nice relaxing weekend and got to spend some time with Kristen's parents.

The weekend wouldn't be complete without a race so I surfed the web a bit and found 2 races: a 5K on Saturday morning in a town called Guilford and a half marathon a little further away on Sunday.  I've got an itch for a longer race but a few factors made this a no contest for just the 5K.  Four days earlier, I crashed while mountain biking so I had mostly soreness in my shoulders after the fall took me over my handlebars and into a brief handstand on the trail before collapsing into myself in a heap of bad mountain biker.  Fortunately, it wasn't too severe and there's only lingering pain in my upper body and it shouldn't hurt my running much.  Also factoring into the decision was some remaining pain from a bruised tailbone, unrelated to but slightly worsened from the crash and I really hadn't run much in the weeks prior.  I took the first 2 weeks in June off/easy after Bear Creek and really hadn't logged much training the latter half of the month.  A 5K would be a perfect distance to enjoy a morning run in rural VT and assess damage and some of my running fitness.

After breakfast, we made our way to the town of Guilford, about 45 minutes away from where we stayed at Mount Snow.  After the GPS tried to take us off pavement and down what I hesitate to call roads, we backtracked and still made it with lots of time to register and explore.
I had to scope out the road the GPS suggested we take
Even the Vermonters said don't trust your GPS
There were only a handful of runners when we arrived and only a handful at the start of the race.  I expected it to be small and was curious of the field's ability.  I felt a possible win if I could run comfortably and I wasn't sure of that after a test run Friday morning.  The prizes for the overall winners were probably the greatest ones I've ever had an opportunity to win: pie.  Strawberry rhubarb pie or an apple pie.  2nd place got a bottle of maple syrup and 3rd an ice cream gift certificate.  I wanted that strawberry rhubarb pie more than any crappy trophy I've ever seen.
The entire race field.  About 25 total ran.
Off we go
The finish chute.  I love simple races!
Sizing up the competition, I suspected that there was one runner that was probably about my speed.  Of course up in the VT sticks there's some dude that looks like he's ready to do a marathon.  I assume it's all for show so I line up ready to lead and win the race.

I've never led a race so with the start, I tried my best to sandbag it a little.  Really, I'd have preferred to chase someone but I couldn't really pull back any more.  I pulled away a little bit and had a 6:08 first mile, surprising the heck out of me since I'd really tried to slow it down.  Right after the first mile marker, another runner I hadn't expected pulled up with me and we paced a little stride-for-stride as we approached some pretty good hills.  I let him go ahead a bit so I had someone to chase and watched him conquer the hills quite easily and I'd hoped to try to regain some speed on the downhill.
I felt the effects of weak training recently as the climb beat me up and around mile 2, the guy I thought might be the best competition sped by and I couldn't catch him.  I need to work on building my runs so they get faster.  The second mile was horrible for me at 8:45 and feeling dehydrated.  I wouldn't even consider the hills especially hard.  The 3rd mile was much better and the 5K was actually only 2.95 miles so I wrapped up the race with a 21:21 finish with 4th place on my heels and, worst of all, no pie.  I suppose that on the bright side, I ran it pain free and my first mile was among my fastest while feeling ultra easy.  I've also forgotten the IT band pain I was experiencing only 2 months ago.  What a relief that turned into nothing!  Not a great race but far from the worst.

Two happy finishers.
This was my first race in my Newtons.  These are pretty great road shoes and I'm looking forward to putting more miles on them.  They're very different from anything else I've worn and I'm very pleased with them.  I'll be back in them on the 10th for another 5K and before then I'll be doing some solo open water swims while at Raystown Lake this weekend.  

Thanks for reading!  

Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 SOPA Games: A break from athlete to coach

2 weeks ago, I spent the weekend at some holy grounds.  Kristen and I went to my alma mater, Penn State, as an assistant coach for our county's special olympics team.  It's possibly the first non-drinking-centric weekend I've spent there as an alumni.  And it was awesome.

Seeking a volunteering opportunity, Kristen stumbled across the local chapter of special olympics and go involved quickly, not too long after her, I joined.  Practices were a blast and the head coach was glad to have another athletic coach around to pace some of the distance runners.  I'd only coached a few practices before 19 athletes from the track and field team and a handful of coaches loaded up 6 buses to unite at Penn State with athletes from all over the state.
Hail to the Lion!
We arrived early Thursday with a loop around the football stadium, always breathtaking, even when empty.  We unloaded and navigated to our dorm rooms and prepared for the opening ceremony and the olympic village where there were about a dozen activities for the athletes to do or check out.  Our county, Montgomery, was towards the back of the procession so we took our time and joined the other sports teams from our county and we made our way into the baseball stadium for the opening ceremony, lighting the torch and invocation of the Special Olympics motto.  All quite touching to see the excitement at a beautiful venue with Mt. Nittany in the background.  A cool video about the torch being run from Pittsburgh to State College ended with state troopers escorting the final torch bearer into the stadium on motorcycles.

One of our great distance runners, David
The T&F team

One of the best baseball stadium views I've ever seen.

T&F team photo
I met SuePa!  Hugely involved in the Special Olympics!
Day one was finally over, back to the dorms and lights out at 10.  No bar trips for the coaches.  We were going to be up at 5:30 anyway for 6:00 breakfast.

Days at the track were pretty long.  There are a few thousand athletes, requiring multiple heats per event, and the heat and sun were intense.  I'll have a great farmer's tan the rest of the summer... cool!  We coaches took turns enjoying the shade in the tent and getting our athletes to their events and prepared to be awesome.  I'm incredibly proud of all of them, they all did a fantastic job, many of them obliterating their former personal bests by a long way.  Photo overload below!

David, game face on

Ron and me

Laura at running long jum




Team Wicked Fast sidewalk art

Alicia, collecting hardware
Sean, one of the fastest overall at the games, leading his heat
Chip, in the red shorts
Head coach Scott with Laura and coach Tina
Wicked fast sweep! David, Lior, and Trevor
4x100 relay awards, Trevor, Alicia, Sean, Alex
Sean and Queen
Chip- who has time to read?!
Richard and Rob
Downtime football
Team stretch before 400m dash
Friday night was the Victory Dance, hosted by a local radio station that was a pretty huge deal for the athletes.  Saturday was much like Friday: fun, just different events except for the 100m dash final.

The Special Olympics track team is now on break for a while, long distance running begins in August which I'm excited for and possibly may join with coaching triathlon, newly added to the games this year.  I suggest if you are looking for a place to volunteer some time, you check out your county's local Special Olympics group.  I was surprised how much fun it turned to be.  It's immensely rewarding to help others achieve and improve on any athletic endeavor.