Sunday I ran what is known as the Club Challenge, a 10 mile race on the roads in Howard County. It’s hosted by the Howard County Striders and is for all of the Maryland (and nearby) running clubs to get together and see who’s the best. Because of the club aspect, it’s free for members of the various clubs and pretty much every good runner in the area comes out, making it an unusually competitive race, especially for the end of February. I ran it last year, only a few weeks after returning to running from an extended layoff to deal with a myriad of injuries and pseudo-injuries. I ended up running a 1:02:30 which really surprised me because I didn’t think I was in very good shape at all and I wasn’t particularly running all out during the race. It was a good way to start what was a sort of up and down spring of racing that culminated with a 59:07 10 mile PR at Broad Street in May.
This year, I’m living five or so hours south of Baltimore and until early in January figured I’d be missing Club Challenge. And then I went ahead and re-upped my membership in the BRRC JUST so I could register for Club Challenge and have an excuse to visit and see a bunch of people who I miss. The timing wasn’t ideal, in that I had a work retreat that went Friday overnight into Saturday morning so I would be driving up on Saturday afternoon, running the race Sunday morning, then driving home. In my mind, it would be worth it. Going into the race, I didn’t really know what to expect from myself. This year has obviously started much better than last year, but for the past few months my focus has shifted from shorter distances to ultramarathons. My goal races are the upcoming 100 miler and some 12 and 24 hour races later in the year. I’ve done a handful of runs that could be considered workouts, and those were mostly half-assed or lacking any sort of focus. I knew I was in pretty good shape but had no idea how my legs would respond if I tried to run about an hour or so quicker than normal. Last Tuesday’s 9 mile sorta-quick run on the super flat ATT made me think I should be happy if I could run the same pace for 10 at Club Challenge because I remembered the course being pretty hilly last year.
Enough backstory. I got to Baltimore early Saturday evening. Johnny and I jogged a little 4 miler around his neighborhood in crazy cold wind and went to get some dinner. I got to sleep around 11 and the couch cushions on the floor were surprisingly comfortable to sleep on. I woke up a little after 6, feeling better than expected, small bowl of cheerios, and I was ready to go. We got to the community college where the race started and finished a little after 7. Bib picked up, caught up with some BRRC people I hadn’t seen in a while, went to the bathroom, and then headed back out to the car to finish getting ready. Went with a t-shirt because while it was a little chilly, there wasn’t much wind and the sun was kinda warm. Johnny and I jogged a little 15 minute warm-up and headed to the start just in time. Having no delusions of winning the race, or even coming anywhere close (seriously, some REALLY fast people run this!) I lined up a row or two off the front just as the starter was saying, “Runners set, GO!” And we were all off.
My goal for the race was primarily to run fairly hard but under control and even. It would be a bonus if I could beat the time I ran last year, despite having A LOT more volume on my legs this time and not even close to fresh. With that I allowed the mad rush of people to dart off the line and I settled in to what felt like a good rhythm. I knew the first 5ish miles are mostly downhill with a few ups and the second half of the race is much more uphill, so it’s easy to go out hard and pay for it later. After the first minute or so I settled in a few meters behind a group of about six or seven guys in Falls Road Running singlets. Falls Road sponsors Team That’s What She Said, which comprises basically every good runner in the city. I heard someone mention they were aiming to run right around an hour and I figured if it felt good, I’d just hang here for the time being. I also saw Serge Arbona a few seconds up ahead. Serge is one of my ultrarunning heroes, having already accomplished some mind-boggling things (like holding the world record for distance run in 24 hours on a treadmill). He’s also running Umstead next month which is part of why I decided to sign up for that. I think it’s such a cool aspect of the sport that you can run right there with the best of the best (albeit not for very long but still!).
It’s well-known that the mile markers along the course are kind of off so I was happy to have my Garmin to get at least an idea of what I was running. It appeared that I was running right around 5:55s for the first few miles which was cool because I felt like I was expending less effort than on Tuesday’s run. Of course, there were some nice downhills where it felt basically like cheating. Around mile 3 we crossed over this bridge and began a loop of some neighborhood. I went by one or two guys here and at this point I had a literal wall of five Falls Road guys in front of me, and Serge and another BRRC runner tucked into that group. We went by a few people but that group essentially stayed together for another mile or two.
We hit what is close enough to the halfway mark so I’ll go with it in about 29:30. Right after the sign, the course turns left and begins climbing a decent hill. To that point, there had been a few rises but nothing terribly substantial. I had noticed that on the ups I didn’t need to really push much harder to maintain, and I seemed to be stronger than the people around me. When we hit this rise, Serge kind of took off ahead. I was feeling really good, definitely not like I was racing yet, and figured if I pushed here I wouldn’t have far to go even if I got tired. So I did. And I ended up going by everyone in that little group, catching and going pass Serge too. By the top of the hill I had caught up to two other runners and one of the Falls Road guys had caught back up to me. We turned and wound around some more neighborhood streets, me, the Falls Road guy, and a Howard County Striders runner. Back over the bridge and into some other development right around mile 7. The uphills had slowed me some, but I was still right around pace to finish in about an hour. It was around this point that I entertained the thought that it would be realistic to do just that, break an hour. Last year, the hour 10 mile seemed like this giant goal that would be real tough to achieve on the flat, fast Broad Street course. And here I was running well within myself and thinking that if I just maintained, I’d do it again.
A little before mile 8, the course turned onto a larger road that ran by a school. I remember passing some fading runners here last year. No longer tucked in neighborhoods to protect us, there was a headwind for most of this stretch that kinda sucked. It was at this point it stopped feeling like a tempo run and felt more like a race effort. My legs were also starting to feel the cumulative fatigue of 120-130 mile weeks. 2ish miles to go, mentally I knew I could dig in and gut it out. The Falls Road guy was a few seconds ahead and I just locked my eyes on him and tried not to lose ground. The course turned back onto some side streets, there was a downhill that I let loose on and then another short climb. A few more turns and with about a mile to go (probably less), I recognized the street I was on as leading back to the college. I made the final turn onto the street the race had started on, which meant there was about half a mile to go. I thought about going all out to try to catch the Falls Road guy but was a little worried how the hamstring would react so I just tried to accelerate gradually to the end. Two quick turns in the parking lot and it was a short downhill to the finish line. When I turned and could see the clock I was a little surprised to see it reading 59:22, :23, :24,… I sprinted that last bit and crossed in 59:29.
That’s a 3 minute course PR and only 22 seconds slower than I ran Broad Street last year. I was also 37th overall (last year I was 57th) and the first finisher for the BRRC. This was about as big a confidence booster as that Saturday 44 miler was. I ran almost the same time for 10 miles on a much harder course, feeling relatively comfortable for a large portion of the race, despite not having focused on running fast or short races at all. Progress! Falls Road ended up crushing skulls and winning everything (individual male and female, team co-ed, male, and female). I was able to see Johnny finish up in a big new PR, crushing his under-70 goal (66:14)! Success and great days all around!
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone
Another pretty good week here. This is something I will not get tired of saying. Let’s jump right in and then I’ll prattle on about running- related stuff and also semi- to barely-relevant crap that will probably cause most readers’ eyes to glaze over long before they’re done.
Mon - am: 6 miles, 45:15, Black Creek greenway to Umstead & back//pm: 22 miles, 3:06, Umstead, bridle trail with 2x Turkey Creek loop (meaning, HILLS)
Tue – am: 4 miles, 37:30, Duke XC loop//pm: 16 miles, 1:53, ATT (soft side), 3 easy, 9 miles moderate (sorta maybe M pace? 56:49; splits: 6:28, 6:27, 6:27, 6:24, 6:12, 12:40 2 mile, 6:07, 6:04), 4 easy
Wed - am: 5 miles, 45 min, Duke XC loop//pm: 8 miles, 56 min, Duke east campus loop//evening: massage from John Stiner, ouch, and yay
Thu - am: off//pm: 18 miles, 2:24, Duke XC loops, first ~7 with Alicia Parr, last 11ish solo and a little slower
Fri - am: 7 miles, 57 min, BCG to Umstead & back//pm: 15 miles, 2:04, random roads along Lake Gaston near Littleton, NC
Sat - am: 5 miles, 47 min, more random roads on Lake Gaston//pm: 4 miles, 37 min around Parkville with Johnny
Sun – am: 20 miles total incl Club Challenge 10 miler (59:30), 1.5 jog warm-up, 8.5 miles (75 min) after with Johnny
Total for week - 130 miles, ~17.5 hours
Relative to last week, about an hour or so less running, which makes sense as there are eight less miles. Not a big deal. The volume is still within a range that I want it in. And I got in two sorta quality runs (Tuesday’s whatever sort of quicker run and then yesterday’s race). I’ll talk more in depth about Club Challenge in a separate post. For the week’s recap purposes it suffices to say that the first half of the race felt considerably easier than Tuesday’s effort, the next three miles felt like a tempo workout, and the last two felt hard. To have that be how I cap off the fourth consecutive pretty high mileage week was a nice confidence booster. I commented to Johnny toward the end of our post-race run that my legs actually felt like they could/wanted to keep going for another hour or two. I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve shaken off the general laziness and rust that lingered like a bad infection for 2+ months after Stone Cat.
This coming week, the goal is to get the volume a little higher and do a longer long run. Last week’s longest was 22 and that was on Monday, but in general I think it was a good way to recharge from the 44 miler. I’m running the Umstead trail marathon on Saturday which utilizes a lot of the same ground as the 100 mile course. My plan is to run about 30ish Saturday including the race, hard but not all out, and then come back Sunday and do my standard two course loop 30 mile long run. Monday – Friday is going to be just volume, maybe another half-assed workout Tuesday or Wednesday. Getting down to crunch time, less than five weeks to Umstead.
Now for some semi-related ramblings! It was really awesome to see so many people I like a whole lot this weekend. I got to stay with Johnny and Sara Saturday night. Johnny quickly became one of my best friends when I moved to the Baltimore area a few years ago and the two of them recently got engaged. They are two of the best and awesomest people I’ve ever known and getting a chance to see them, and run some with Johnny, was a big factor in me deciding to inconvenience myself by driving 5 hours north Saturday afternoon and then turning right around and heading back to NC Sunday afternoon. I also got to meet Stella, their rambunctious, playful kitten, who cuddled with me a bit while I was sleeping on the floor Saturday night (I felt a little like I was cheating on Puck, my own kitty). At the race I got to see basically anyone who runs in Baltimore. It was particularly nice catching up with Dan for a bit after the race, and David too. I also finally got the sweet plaque and a tech material BRRC polo for winning last year’s Grand Prix series for my age group. I also got to see Henry Peck, Christian, and Serge. Coincidentally, I spent the first 5 miles of the race running in a group of mostly Falls Road guys and Serge. I ended up finishing about 40 seconds ahead of him, which was kind of surreal, as he’s been one my running idols for a few years now. I’m sure at Umstead it will be just as cool to try not to get lapped by him!
Now for some less-running-specific ramblings that are probably interesting primarily just to me, but because this is my blog and I have too much rattling around in my head, I need somewhere to get these thoughts out…Under basically any other circumstance, the race (and the seeing awesome people that went along with it) would have easily been the highlight of my week, and basically my month too as I haven’t had a lot of social and/or fun time in February. However, it was not. Instead, the highlight of the week (month) was the part of the long drive home from Baltimore to Cary. Specifically the part where I spent three hours in Fredericksburg, VA. This IS somewhat running-related because the drive home certainly affected the way this new week is starting. I had planned to leave shortly after getting back to Johnny’s and getting showered. I didn’t leave on time. I almost never leave anywhere on time. This resulted in me getting to Fredericksburg at 6pm instead of more like lunch time. But ultimately, I think that was serendipitous. I got to have a delicious semi-spicy burger with a chile habanero rub and applewood bacon and PINEAPPLE at Capital Ale House. I also got to taste Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew (but just a sip, a 10oz cost $13.50 and I had to drive home still). I also spent three hours utterly wrapped up in the company I was keeping, having a great damn time, actually happy and relaxed for a change, and reminded of how good life had started to feel back last June.
Unfortunately, I had to get back on the road and finish driving. I had popped a 200mg caffeine pill and chugged some Coke to ensure that I wouldn’t fall asleep and slam into something and once back at the apartment, I was definitely still feeling those effects. All of that meant I ended up finally settling down some time after 3am and only getting about 3 hours of sleep. I was surprised how ok I felt on my 4 mile morning jog today but all I can think about right now is going home and taking a nap. The past few weeks, Monday has gotten the week off to a good start with some fairly high mileage. That probably won’t be the case today. So this week will be different but no worse. Yesterday managed to provide cause for a bit more optimism and positivity than usual for me; both with running and life in general. Pretty great end to another good week.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
I had a third consecutive solid week, and ran 100+ miles for a third consecutive week, a first for me. I’m not going to dwell on that, it’s just a byproduct of the fact that I’m being consistent, I’m healthy, and I’m trying to get a good amount of time on my feet in preparation for all the long races I have this year.
Mon - am: 3 miles, 29 minutes, Duke XC loop//pm: 21 miles, 2:56, 7+ loops of the Duke XC course
Tue - am: 4 miles, 36 minutes, Duke XC loop//3p: 4 miles, 33:30, Duke XC loop//8:30p: 6 miles, 55:30, Cary Parkway
Wed - am: 3 miles, 28 minutes, Duke XC loop//3p: 7 miles, 58:30, Duke XC loops+//6:30p: 7 miles total, incl track workout (100, 200, 400,400, 800, mile, 800, 400, 400, 200; 200 slow jog after each, everything around 5:30-5:50 pace), 1.5 up/1 down
Thu – am: 3 miles, 29:30, Duke XC loop//pm: 19 miles, 2:43, four long Duke XC loops+some additions (cold, rainy, muddy, miserable)
Fri – am: 3 miles, 29 minutes, Duke XC loop//pm: 8 miles, 63 minutes, Duke east campus loops (also did some squats in between the runs)
Sat - am: 44 miles, 6:02, Umstead, three 100 miler course loops (1:41, 1:42, 1:41:45) + running back and forth to the car (~1 mile) in between loops, first one with Alicia Parr, last 30 miles solo. Felt GREAT!
Sun - am: off//pm: 6 miles, 54 minutes, treadmill at the Y
Total for week – 138 miles, ~19.5 hours
For those following along, obviously this is yet a new new Monday – Sunday high in terms of both mileage and time. However, going from last Sunday through Saturday’s long run, I logged 148 miles and a little over an extra hour. Like I said above, the specifics and personal bests and all that are nice but ultimately not as important as the net result, which is hopefully that I’m going to be in good shape to run 100 miles in six weeks and some 12 and 24 hour races later in the year. More generally, I feel like if I CAN handle the mileage without breaking down, the MORE I run, the better it will be because I’m certain I haven’t maxed out my aerobic capacity. With six weeks to go before Umstead, I’m finally starting to feel like maybe I WILL be ready. I spent a lot of time running loops of the Duke XC course, mostly out of convenience as it’s across the street from where I work. But also because the surface is soft and it’s fairly hilly compared to other runs I could do which keeps the speed in check and (I hope) will make me stronger. Plus it’s a good mental toughness workout to just run loop after loop when I could bail every 25 or so minutes.
Saturday’s long run went so much better than I had expected. I intentionally did my weekly squats and other random leg lifting workout Friday afternoon and while I didn’t go as hard as other weeks, I went hard enough to leave my legs feeling pretty heavy Saturday morning. I wanted to start the run with tired-ish legs. And then somehow I cruised the first 14+ miles with Alicia feeling just fine, a little worried that we were going to fast and the last hour or two would turn into a death march. Never happened. I stayed on top of my fueling (tried out some Perpetuem and mostly Cliff shot blocks and Honey Stinger chews). I was almost metronomic as far as speed, each course loop within a minute of each other. And the last mile of the day was sub-8:00. I never hit a point where I started flagging or feeling significantly more tired. I also ran faster through 40 miles than I did in my 40 mile race last year (by 15 minutes). And I’d say the run I did Saturday was more difficult than the Triple Lakes race course. So… improvement? I guess.
Ramblings time! A lot went through my mind over the course of almost twenty hours of running last week. And of course as I sit here, I can’t remember most of it. I do know I hit a bit of a low point around Thursday/Friday. Mostly just semi-depressed about how ultimately futile doing what I’m doing is. Blah blah existential crises about how there really is no meaning behind what I’m doing and ultimately I’m going to die and is this really how I want to have spent the majority of my life? The answer I came up with is… better than the alternative. The alternative being get drunk far too often, eat far too much (or, basically as much as I’m eating now), sit on my ass and play video games, etc etc and then I’d be fat, miserable, unlovable, kind of a socially inept jerk, as opposed to now where I’m just a miserable, unlovable, kind of socially inept jerk with off the charts measures on virtually every possible test of cardiovascular fitness. I was drawn to ultrarunning in large part for the social aspect, the big camping, cookout party-type atmosphere I saw at Finger Lakes (which I’m very excited to return to again this year), and yet here I am, spending in inordinate amount of time alone still. And it’s still by choice. I’m sure any distance runner who’s spent any significant block of time training seriously for something has felt similarly. The fact is, most of the time, especially, when I AM running, I like the solitude. It’s more comfortable for me. Even when I was regularly going to Fullsteam runs, if the handful of people that I’ve gotten kind of friendly with werent there I’d find myself finishing the run, getting a beer, standing around awkwardly watching pretty much every other runner socializing away and wondering how it’s possible for me to be this disconnected from a group of people who should actually GET it. And then I’d leave and be mad at myself for spending the money on a beer when I had some at home in the fridge. I do a lot of things thinking, “this will be a good chance for me to get out of my comfort zone and do something social.” And I almost always end up getting home mad at myself for wasting the time and money. Which leads to me being less and less inclined to do so. Jeez, this got a bit depressing. And this is threatening to get pretty significantly unrelated to running and waaaaaay more personal than most people who read this blog really care so I’ll cut it there.
Fact is, I’m pretty content most of the time. Whenever I sit down to write, I’ve always found it easier to write about the negative stuff than the positive. I’m pretty uncomfortable with happiness, in general and specifically with discussing it, like if I do, I’ll ruin it or something. It’s why it’s so easy for me to look past any sort of accomplishment and focus on things I could do better next time. Which I suppose is a good trait to have if you want to keep improving, but I wonder if I’ll ever REALLY enjoy anything I do or accomplish. It’s why that Dogfish Head 120 minute bottle is still sitting in my fridge almost five years after I bought it and why the bottle of Bitches Brew I picked up in October will probably be there for at least a couple years too.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
This is what 19 miles and almost 3 hours of running on muddy, wet trails in cold, miserable rain looks like. I was NOT very happy yesterday while running. I wanted to stop after about two miles when my shirt was so wet it was clinging to my stomach and chest and making everything even colder than it already was. Obviously I didn’t. I wonder why the right leg got it so much worse than the left.
It’s been a while since I was THIS much of a mess after a run. It looked much messier in person (as opposed to the crappy computer camera quality). Fun times.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
For the past few weeks, pretty much every morning I find myself doing the same thing — slowly jogging three or four miles on the cross country trail that encircles the Duke golf course (which has an entrance conveniently located directly across the street from where I work). Two or so weeks ago, there were men out doing some tree work along a stretch of the trail. Chainsaws. The smell of gasoline and sawdust and pine needles. Every morning since then I have meant to get back and blog about it and then I get caught up in work and put it off. But I have a longer-than-usual break so here I am.
Every morning when I run by that stretch, particularly when the tree work was actually taking place, but even now when there’s less gasoline and sawdust and more just pine and a scent I can best describe as ‘the woods’, the same memories and emotions hit me. I immediately remember the fun parts about working in Maryland state parks. I remember all the chainsaw work I got to do, how I loved the smell when I was felling a tree, how exhausting it could be, how awesome it was. I remember running out my front door and being in the woods immediately, often without another human being for a few miles (save my roommates), and forcing myself to realize just how lucky I was to be where I was at that moment and how most people would love the opportunity to have what I have available to me. Part of me really misses working in the park. There was a lot that I don’t miss, and I love where I’m at now and what I’m doing and, for the most part, my life is as I want it to be (for now), but there are few things more fun (and exhausting) than starting a chainsaw and cutting down a tree and doing it well and then cutting it into logs and hauling them into the woods.
Every morning, now, I run along the west end of the golf course loop and that’s what I think about for a few minutes. It’s peaceful, it’s a trifle wistful, it’s a nice break to the monotony. I’ve always known I prefer trails to roads, running along any surface that’s not paved, through trees, birds chirping, squirrels scampering, the woodpeckers going to town, an occasional fox scurrying along; it’s nice to get that reminder so regularly. And I always take a moment to think about how lucky I am at that moment.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone
I finally have put together two decent weeks in a row! Hallelujah! Praise Cthulhu! Or FSM! But yeah, two weeks of the highest volume running I have ever done and right now as I write this on Sunday night, a little drunk, a little tired, I am surprised at how GOOD I feel! Here’s the recap, then I’ll babble about dumb crap:
Mon – pm: 23 miles, 2:59, downtown Raleigh, first 15 with Jessalyn, last 8 solo a little quicker
Tue – am: 3 miles, super slow on Duke XC trail//3p- 3 miles, slightly less slow on Duke XC trail//830p: 13 miles, 1:51 on treadmill at Y
Wed – 5:30p- 12 miles, 1:39, Umstead and then Cary Parkway to Y, then some squats and other lifting at Y, then 8:30p- 6 miles, 55:30 back home along Cary Pkwy
Thu – am: 3 miles, super slow on Duke XC trail//pm: 13 miles, 1:49 on Duke East campus loop, bathroom pitstop at mile 5
Fri – pm: 12 miles, 1:27 at American Tobacco trail (soft side), 2 easy, 4×1 mile quickish/1 mile easy (6:20, 5:00*, 5:50, 5:47 for quickish miles, 2nd mile cut short at 0.9 to take shit in woods), then 2 miles steady ~13:40, then 1 mile easy
Sat – am: 29 miles, 3:58, at Umstead, 2 loops of Umstead 100 course (1:43:45, 1:38:15) plus some extra
Sun – 16 miles, 2:18, at Umstead, started with some fast ladies from BCTC, ended with just Kate as everyone peeled off to do slightly less
Total for week - 133 miles, a little over 18 hours
The distance covered represented both a Mon-Sun and an overall any-seven-days personal high, ever. Last week I had set the seven day high at 132. The numbers are not particularly important, the time on my feet is, at least I think. To be completely honest, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing. I figure I have a 100 mile race in seven weeks, a 12 hour race a few weeks after that, and two 24 hour races later this year. The more time I spend running, and un-injured, the better. So that’s what I’ve done. I feel pretty good. I’ve slowed down and just run more. Although this week’s average pace for all miles is somewhat faster than last week’s, probably mostly because of Friday’s pseudo-workout and the quicker long run on Saturday. Either way, I have no business feeling as good as I do considering what I’ve done the past two weeks. My legs actually felt like they could go a lot longer today. This bodes well.
A few random thoughts: today’s run was nice. I started with five awesome, fast ladies from the Bull City Track Club. Most of them are running the Boston marathon this year. We ran some of the bridle trail and some of the single track at Umstead. I’d say at least 85% of the running I do in a given week is by myself, so it’s nice to do some miles with other people. The main issue is that it’s hard to find someone who wants to run upwards of 2 hours during the week, although Jessalyn has done that a few times already, including last Monday. I kind of like doing the long, long runs solo as it helps not just with the physical stuff but with some mental toughness too (at least I think it does), but the other runs, like today, are much better with some company. I think I’m doing a better job of branching out and trying to be more social, at least within the running group. I went to the Bull City spring kick-off event at Fullsteam tonight (how can you argue with free Fullsteam beer?!) and actually talked to people instead of just standing awkwardly by myself drinking beer and reminding myself how much of a loser I am!
Another thing that I wanted to mention that amused me — Friday night I was on the phone with my mom. She asked me about what my plans were for the weekend. I mentioned that Saturday I had plans on running 28 miles (obviously I overachieved) and her response was simple, “Oh, that’s not too bad.” That’s not too bad. For a 28 mile run. I had to laugh, out loud. The type of running I have gotten into, this ultrarunning stuff, has completely skewered my mom’s perspective on running. Most people in the world will never even attempt a marathon. For the ones who do, it’s a gigantic achievement. And a marathon IS a big deal. But the distance (not the race, there is a big difference) is not a big deal for me anymore. I did my long run yesterday and was absolutely fine this morning. Ho hum. A year or so ago, telling my mom that would have elicited serious concern and worry for my safety and well-being. Now it barely registers. I have ruined my parents as far as realizing what constitutes a significant distance to run. It kind of put into perspective just how far I’ve come in a year. Last year, at this time, I was still thinking my goal for the fall would be to race a fast half marathon. Oh younger Mark, if only you’d known what your future held. So naive!
This week I’m looking to run similarly to the past two — lots of miles, lots of time on my feet, lots of time on the trai. A longer long run at Umstead this weekend, maybe another sorta-workout, hopefully some more running with people (apparently my pace fits perfectly with all the women in the track club that are running Boston this year, why the hell would I complain about that?!)
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Those who have read this blog for a while will maybe remember about a year ago I wrote about a particularly awful incident that happened to me while doing mile repeats at the Goucher College track. Running-wise, I felt great that day. Strong, smooth, crushing my workout. Unfortunately an hour or so before I decided to head to the track, I ate some leftover spicy quesadilla. MISTAKE! The short of it was that I did two full mile repeats and the third one was cut to a 1200 as I was sprinting down the homestretch directly to the track-side port-a-potty. I didn’t make it. It was the first time I had run so hard, I’d crapped myself. Not bad, but enough to make me bag the rest of the workout. I’ve had a number of close calls and near misses before and since. Until last night, they had all been directly related to Mexican food consumption combined with track workouts.
Last night was different. Originally I HAD planned on doing a baby workout, just to get my legs moving faster than the slow slog I’ve been doing 99% of the time. OF COURSE, by yesterday afternoon I was running to the bathroom every half hour or so. UGH. To make it worse, I hadn’t even eaten anything particularly delicious (or spicy) the night before. My GI system just decided to hate me. I amended plans and headed to Duke’s East Campus loop. Only a little over a mile and a half, and with a Whole Foods across the street from the where I was starting, just in case anything went awry.
Things DID go awry. I didn’t notice it on the first loop. But by the mid-point of the second, I was feeling some distress. Stupidly, I went on for another loop instead of heading to the bathroom. Halfway through the third loop I was in emergency mode and I still had about a half mile at minimum to go before I could get the Whole Foods bathroom. I cursed myself for not having the forethought to bring some toilet paper, as at least then I could have ducked behind one of the big bushes dotting the loop. Instead I trundled on as some dude came flying past me. This will be important in a second. With about a quarter mile to go I honestly thought, “Goddammit I’m going to shit myself right here.” I didn’t. I slowed it down and waddled across the street. I was trying to find a balance between moving fast enough so as to get to toilet ASAP while going slow enough to not cause a second catastrophe. As I got to the door, I noticed the runner guy who had gone flying by me minutes earlier entering the bathroom. And as I entered the bathroom I heard him narrowly missing a catastrophe of his own. I chuckled to myself, “THAT’S why he was flying. I empathize.” My empathy was short-lived, as I realized there was only ONE toilet! I briefly considered going to the women’s room. I briefly considered crapping in the urinal. Or the sink. I didn’t. I beared down; not moving made the problem much less dire. Finally I had managed to get in there.
I went back out and jogged another 8ish miles, my stomach somewhat less of an issue but still VERY uncomfortable. It seems I must have just caught some sort of stomach bug. Occupational hazard of working with 300+ children on a daily basis. I had other thoughts I thought I wanted to write about on my morning run the other day, but I forgot them.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY (and with some toilet paper in your pocket) everyone!
First, YEAH GIANTS!!! SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!!! WOOOO!!!!
Second, a quick recap of what definitely the best week of the year, training-wise, (not saying a whole lot) and probably ever (saying a little more) for me.
Mon – pm: 23 miles, 3:19ish at Umstead mostly (with a loop of the 100 course in there)
Tue – am: 3 miles, 30ish (Duke XC loop)//3p- 4 miles, 36ish (Duke XC loop)//830p- 8 miles, 73ish, Cary Parkway meanderings
Wed – am: 3 miles, 28:30 (Duke XC loop)//pm: 15 miles, 2 hours, downtown Raleigh with Jessalyn who is also on the BCTC listserv
Thur – am: 4 miles, 37:30 (Duke XC loop + mile of hills)//pm: 16 miles, 1:58:30 on the American Tobacco Trail (soft side)
Fri – am: 3 miles, 29 minutes (Duke XC loop)//pm: 8 miles, 66:30 on treadmill @4%, preceded by my weekly squats and stuff, followed by another much needed and super helpful John Stiner massage
Sat – pm: 32 miles, 3:48 at Umstead, two 100 course loops (1:46, 1:47), plus some extra on the bridle trail
Sun – am: 6 miles, 57 minutes on the greenway to Umstead and back
Total for week: 125 miles, almost 18 hours
Both the time and the distance are, by a lot, Monday to Sunday lifetime highs for me. However, from last Sunday to Saturday, I had run 132 miles which is a general seven day high. Throw a freakin parade, right? A year or two ago, I would probably be looking to tell as many people as I could all about this. While I may have stopped short of full out bragging, I would have made a pretty big deal about it. I have a slightly different perspective on it now. I AM very pleased with how the week went. Monday’s run really set the tone for everything. It helped that pretty much every day it was in the 60s and sunny (at least until the weekend) and all I wanted to do when I got out of work was run. I had no major plans for the weekend (aside from the Super Bowl yesterday. GIANTS!) either so I was able to run as much as I pleased Saturday. It all added up. I remember back in January of 2009, I ran 93 miles one week in training for the National Marathon. I thought I was hot shit, I thought that 93 mile week was going to make me soooo good. Now I understand that one good stretch of seven days (or hell, one good month even) doesn’t magically make you a good runner. Consistency, that’s key. This week isn’t going to make the rest of the year a success. But it IS a very solid step (or, lots and lots of steps) in the right direction. I finished the week feeling about as good as I did at the start, which is a great sign. And both mentally and physically, I feel hungry for more. When I walked in for my massage Friday, John mentioned that I looked like I had started training in earnest again, something about my face. I guess it shows.
Semi-related… Part of why I love going to John has nothing to do with the excellent work he does, it’s almost like a two hour therapy session. I go in, I get my body fixed, AND we talk (mostly about running) and I always find I leave with my mind in a better place too. There have been thoughts rattling around in various stages of clarity for a while now. One thing I probably knew but didn’t admit to myself until this week was that I was at a really low point. Physically, I’ve been a little beat up since November, but it’s been more mental and emotional. I’ve run, I’ve even raced, but I haven’t enjoyed a whole lot of anything. I’ve been trying to find enjoyment and purpose and fun in the things I’ve done the past few months but it’s been a major struggle. This always seems to come up this time of year for me, and despite the nicer weather than most winters, it seems to have happened again. However, the overriding emotion I was feeling on Monday afternoon could probably most accurately be described as bliss. I was (mostly) alone in the woods on a beautiful early evening with the sun setting over the trees and my legs felt good and everything felt as it should be. I had intended to run about 18 and added an extra 5 because of that feeling. And that theme pretty much dominated the week; running more mostly because I felt like it. It was such a nice change from the way I’ve operated for so long; being semi-obsessed with the numbers, the number of miles I have to run in a week in particular. Sure, I knew I wanted to run a good amount last week but I didn’t have a specific number in mind. I felt good, I was running easy, so I ran a lot more than usual, and it felt great. I ran primarily for the sheer joy that the act of running brought me, not because I felt like I HAD to do it. Honestly, there were precious few moments when I actually even thought about upcoming races and goals while I was running, even while I was running the course at Umstead, a race that is drawing ever closer.
Another thing that turned into a more coherent thought on Monday was how while my life is far from perfect, I have a pretty sweet deal going on right now, at least for what I want out of life in the immediate future. I’m a single guy. I live alone. I have a job that, while demanding, allows me to mostly leave work at work so when it’s quitting time it becomes ME time. I have no real major responsibilities or attachments to anyone or anything other than me. So if I get home from work and decide to spend 3-4 hours running, I can do so without having to worry about coordinating dinner with someone else, or not spending enough time with someone else, or any of that. It’s a double-edged sword for sure, there is a great amount of loneliness that goes along with it, but it’s (mostly) by choice. My cousin (who is awesome, a couple of years older, married, and has two kids) was joking with me last night saying that it’s good and all that I have this running, but wondering if I ever want to have sex again, or eventually get married, have kids, etc. The short answer is yes… someday. Would I love a scenario that allowed me to have both? Of course. IS there a scenario like that possible? I’m sure there is. A lot of people seem to make it work. For me, it goes a lot deeper than just not having or not willing to sacrifice the time to find other people or cultivate something with someone. Ultimately, RIGHT NOW, this is working for me, mostly. There are rough times still, and I’m sure there will be many more, mentally and emotionally, but it’s hard to argue with, or compare to, the feeling I had for almost 18 hours of last week. I could go on for a while, but this has taken enough of a tangent for one day and I have a nap to get to.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Another week, another slow start. Fortunately, by the end of the week, I was feeling better than a week ago and was a bit happier with how things went in general.
Mon – nothing
Tue – 3 miles very slow on the Duke XC trail in the afternoon
Wed – 7 miles total (3 mi, 39 minutes on treadmill @15% followed by 4 miles, 30ish minutes at Fullsteam group run)
Thu – 21 miles total (am: 3 miles slow on Duke XC trail//pm: 12 miles around Umstead then down Cary Parkway to the Y, did some squats and other lifting, then ran 6 miles back home for an 18 mile evening)
Fri – 20 miles, 2:38, 12+ loops around Duke’s East Campus loop
Sat – 10 miles total (830a: 7 miles, 47ish minutes on the soft side of the American Tobacco trail followed by a slow, relaxing 3 miles at Durham Market Run with some lovely ladies)
Sun – 13 miles, 1:47 along the Black Creek greenway to Umstead and back
Total – 74 miles, a little over 10 hours
Last night I was a little disappointed with myself that I hadn’t run as much as I had originally intended to this weekend. And then I realized I somehow put in 74 miles and over 10 hours this week, despite only running 10 miles through Wednesday. So another week that started off kind of meh and ended up being pretty solid. I experienced some Achilles soreness Thursday toward the end of my 20 miler, but being proactive and diligent about rest and recovery seems to have kept it under control. It’s a miracle I ran at all Tuesday. I had a 45 minute window from the time I worked with my last class and the time I had to be in charge of a bunch of 3rd-5th grade girls so I just jogged across the street to the trail. I needed some me time to break up the 12+ hour workday. Friday was a bit impromptu. I felt good so I kept running. My entire Saturday was spent running, then eating, napping or lying around with my feet up, then more eating, and back to sleep. I must have gotten an extra 3 or so hours of sleep from naps. Sunday was the best I’ve felt since before the 100k. If I didn’t have to be at my 6 year old cousin’s birthday party I would have run for hours.
I would have liked to get a bit more “running” on the treadmill at 15% in throughout the week and that’s a goal for this coming week. I don’t have mountains out my front door and I know it’s not quite the same but it’s better than nothing. I also want to spend more time on the Umstead course, especially some long runs next weekend. Overall, the volume will inch closer to where it was most of last summer and where I’d like it to be most of this year. I actually DID manage to sleep more, drink less, eat more vegetables, continue my once a week squats commitment, and some of the other extraneous crap I beat myself up about on an ongoing basis.
I’m still about 10 pounds too fat and I can clean up the eating some more to help with that (Friday’s lunch was a GIANT slice of cake, cookies, chips, twizzlers, you get the idea). The beard will stay away for the time being because 1- I’d like to get laid again, eventually, and 2- I’m not in shape yet. I’m gonna try to get an extra half hour or so of sleep per night this week, drink less beer (which shouldn’t be hard because I’m running out of the everyday stuff, leaving only the special occasions stuff and while I love the NBC Thursday night lineup, new episodes of 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and The Office does not qualify as a special occasion), and be less of an outward misanthrope (inwardly, all bets are off). What DOES qualify as a special occasion is the Super Bowl. And the GIANTS in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, again. I will be wearing my makeshift Eli jersey Sunday night and rooting like crazy for New York. And this post has officially gone off the rails from training and whatnot so here’s a good place to end it.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
The primary goal for last week was to recover from the 100k race. To that end, I think I did a decent job. Considering how wrecked I felt after Stone Cat, and that was 12 miles shorter, I can’t complain much. Of course, after the 40 miler in October, I ran 93 miles the next week and basically didn’t miss a beat. Of course, at THAT race, the only issue I had was gastrointestinal in nature. I digress. I took the first three days of the week (and actually the last day of last week too) and did absolutely nothing. I watched football, I gardened on Monday, I can barely remember Tuesday and Wednesday they were so uneventful, and then I got back to work. I definitely didn’t feel 100% on Thursday (still don’t, not quite), but there’s improvement.
Mon through Wed – fuckall
Thu – 4 miles, 35 minutes on treadmill at Y, ankle mobility drills and some recumbent biking (45 min) too
Fri – 3p- some weights, highlighted by 5x5x165 squat workout and some one-legged squats, step-ups, then 2 miles at 15% on the treadmill (23 minutes)//830p- 13 miles, 1:55. I went out for an actual run run in the rain Friday night (because I couldn’t possibly have anything better to do on a Friday night) planning on maybe 6-8 miles. I felt so good that I just kept going, seeking out any potential hills I could find in the area
Sat – 10a- 12 miles, 1:41. Up the greenway to Umstead and back, it was a pretty nice morning and I ran longer than planned again//6p- 6 miles, 55 minutes. Again it was raining and I just wanted to go out and shuffle a bit. I actually felt a lot better running than I had just lounging around all day in my underwear watching tv
Sun – 9 miles, 83 minutes. The fact that I ran at all Sunday morning was a victory. I was kind of hungover and every step reminded me of the poor decision making skills I exhibited Saturday night. I spent a lot of time thinking about what’s important to me and the changes I really need to stop thinking about making and actually make.
Total – 46 miles (a little over 7:30)
All things considered, ok. Taking a long view of this, I’m sure it’s better that I didn’t push it when I wasn’t feeling very good early in the week. Next week I want to increase the volume obviously. I also need to get more sleep, eat better, drink less, blah blah blah. Don’t hold your breath.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!