Sunday, April 26, 2009

5Kin, Muddin, 90 Degree Heat, 10 Mile Race, and other random musings

I had my worst time in the 5K series this past Friday, but that's relative. 21:46 is damn good compared to what I could run in previous weeks. There's one more race to go in the series. While I don't like to run 5Ks all that often, preferring 10 milers and half marathons, I'm going to miss the Crystal City Friday 5Ks. Good camaraderie with fellow runners, an opportunity to get in a great workout, on a night that I don't do very much on anyway because Saturday mornings are usually taking up by long runs? It's a plan! And Old Scratch Amber Lager by Flying Dog is as good as ever. Just thought I'd mention it.

On Friday evening, I was asked to fill in on Saturday as the fourth team member for a costume run at the Run Amuck Festival at Lake Needwood Park in Maryland. Our team was cops and robbers. Lake Needwood has some deceptively steep and gnarly hills, I now know whay the hold cross country championship races there. For Run Amuck, we had to run through an obstacle course and two mud pits. Given that people were falling over the place in the mud, the "race" turned into a walk sort of fast on the trails trip. It was very fun though, I'd love to do more mud runs. They even had a place where you could wash off your shoes and donate them for a cause. I did that. The clothes? Thrown out, I purposely wore stuff that was in such bad shape I'd have to toss out anyway.

Which leads me to Sunday, the GW Parkway Classic. In a nutshell it's a 10 mile race from the Mount Vernon Estate to Old Town Alexandria. After meeting up with many Pacers Fun Runners and various other cool runners, off to the starting line we went. There was talk about getting near the front and getting off to a very fast start because it's a crowded race, and there is a downhill drop at the first. Guess what, I did just that! A 6:20 first mile! Close to the fastest one mile ever for me.

I paid for that at the end of the race. At around mile 5 I started to slow down a lot, zigzaging to find shade, drinking as much water as possible, but generally rueing starting out too fast. On a hot day that saw temps get into the 90s later on, (forecasted "Feels Like" Index was 67 at 8 am, 78 at 10 am - I use that more than the temperature to gauge weather conditions) I had to slow down my pace if I wanted to have a bagel and water at the finish and not IV fluids. I managed to suck it up, keep my focus, and cranked it up a bit on the last mile to finish in 1:16:35, my best 10 mile race ever.

I was very happy to have finished with a PR in this heat. The clock thermometer above a animal hospital a few miles down the street from me read 101 at 3 pm this afternoon, 96 at 4:30. While it wasn't that hot, it was a sudden change from a cool spring, that's for sure. And it's still very hot at 9 pm on Sunday Night. But I fought the heat, occasional shoulder trouble (Ali you're not the only one dealing with shoulder stuff) and earned another PR.

After that I had a great omlet at Caboose Cafe in Del Ray, saw the 100 degree thermometer reading, saw some new lanes on Route 1 near my apartment, and had a good yoga class. I must have been in a good zone during the final pose because I was so relaxed that I had to open my eyes twice to make sure the whole class hadn't taken off after class was over! That might been my favorite moment ever in the 7 1/2 weeks I've been practicing yoga.

Great times. Work week beckons. And the car wash. And more running Tuesday night.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Cumberland Blues last weekend - a great half marathon!

Last weekend I headed up to Western Maryland for the Mountain Maryland Marathon. This was a first year event in Cumberland, I ran the half marathon. Since the race organizers did not get permission to use all of The National Road (US 40 - original marathon route was from Cumberland to Frostburg and back), the course was changed a month before the race. That worked out just fine, the half marathon course went up the Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail. I turned around after 20 or so half marathoners did before me at the Brush Tunnel.

I was encouraged to not see the lead half marathoner until I got quite a bit past the mile 5 marker. I generally only complete within myself to see how well I can do but it was a good feeling to know I wasn't getting totally smoked either. Headed toward the Brush Tunnel I felt like I had climbed quite a bit, albeit gradually save for the short, steep hill to get onto the bike path from Maryland Route 36. At the turnaround, I touched the orange traffic cone for good luck or whatever, then looked at the watch. 55 or 56 minutes, somewhere in between.

Cool! I'm going at a faster pace than I figured I would in this race, my first half marathon with continuous vertical gain. The downhill in theory goes a bit more quickly, but you have to consider the effort already given to get halfway through the race when guesstimating your final time. I decided to concentrate on just running a solid, steady pace. Chatted a bit with a couple of locals who were running the half, made sure I thanked the volunteers and the locals who came out to watch, and made my way back down into Cumberland. Passed the Fruit Bowl and knew I was getting close.

It really hit me that I may actually set a PR at that distance when I saw Kevin, the Race Director, directing people on one of the last turns before the train station (the finish). I didn't realize I was that close when I looked at my watch and it read 1:45:something and I had one of those, oh yeah I actually did this s*t! Crossed the finish line after waving in appreciation to the spectators at....1:47:20 from my watch time (started when I passed the same spot that the front line runners started at), 1:47:25 gun time. That's a PR by over 3 minutes. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the end result, and the whole weekend in general. I went on a nice little 7-8 mile hike in Rocky Gap State Park on Saturday, and kicked a*s in the race. I can't wait to go back next year!

I'm the guy in the white hat headed back down the path. I know that guy!. This week is the GW Parkway 10 miler on Sunday, and the 4th of 5 5Ks in Crystal City. I have canceled my experiment where I'd run from work to the race to see how running 6-7 miles beforehand would affect my 5K time. Too much going on to do that but that's cool. Till next time, peace. And I want to go back to Cumberland this summer or fall and take my bike up the bike path I just ran on.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

18 mile run in the rain, and unbelieveable NCAA Hockey final, and Bring It On Habs!

Okay, yesterday was quite a filled up day for me. After setting another PR in the 5K Fridays series in Crystal City I barely made it out of bed and to my Saturday morning long run. I had decided the night before that I was going to run the 17.75 mile option, which was farther than all but the Pittsburgh Marathon runners were going. Turned out I ran 18 when you count the extra running to/from facility breaks. 18 miles, close to as far as I've ever run in my life, in a not downpour but still driving rain. I was one hurting dude after that. Stretched a bit but waited until I could get home via a warm car to do most of that since I was a cold as I've been in a while after I stopped running. I've made great progress as a runner in the past year, but I know my limitations. Yesterday showed me that I am not ready for a marathon just yet. I've got 6 plus months to get ready, but it's a good thing that I'm only running the half in Pittsburgh. It'll give me time to cheer on my friends who are running the full marathon while I'm out there.

Last night I went to the NCAA Hockey Championship game at Verizon Center. Bill wrapped it up better than I ever could, and got some great shots to boot. Let me say this, I am not a Boston University fan by any means. But what they accomplished all season and especially last night was nothing short of unreal. Two goals in the last minute to tie it up, the game winner was a bit of a fluky bounce but that's very unfortunate for Miami. I'm not sure I can really describe how great this game was and do it justice. A great game from the get go, not one of those games that doesn't get good until the third period.

Finally, before I go take the bike out for a spin, Bring it on Habs! The Black and Gold are waiting for payback from last year, 02, and 04. And as a DC area resident, please Caps, smoke the Rangers right out of the playoffs.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Jeff 1:17:06, Cherry Blossom 0

I went into Cherry Blossom thinking I'd run it as a "social race" with some friends and check out the Cherry Blossom Trees down by Potomac Park. However, not only were my friends in other waves at the start (or I didn't know they were running it), but something happens to me once I cross the timing mat in any race I run. I become quite competitive and possibly unable to run at a more relaxed, social pace. I'm not one of those people who has to beat as many people as possible, I won't complain about not getting an ideal starting spot, but I always want to see if I can improve as a runner.

Yeah, at least today, I improved by a lot. I knew I was a stronger runner than during my last 10 miler 6 months ago, so I had that in my favor. The temps were around 50, perfect for running a fast race. Somehow I managed to be placed in the second of five or six waves even though I felt the same way a female runner near me did when she said "I don't count myself in that group." (the announcer called our wave to the start line then called us the "still pretty fast" runners).

I was concerned all week about the course being very crowded, friends of mine have been knocked down and cut during this race on a rather narrow course. But that concern didn't materialize, as I was able to break to the outside and settle in at a solid race pace very quickly. Mile One, 8:20 or so. Mile Two, 16:05 or so. Each other mile, under 8 minute overall pace. Thank you trusty Armitron watch for helping with that, you didn't break after six weeks like my other one did!

The course itself is a bit uneventful but I was running at a fantastic pace so I didn't slow down for the trees, only for water and Gatorade, which I spilled over myself on more than one occasion as usual. So what, it isn't fine dining! I got to mile nine at just over 1 hour 10 minutes, so I decided to end with a flourish and pick it up for the last mile. Not a sprint mind you, but I stepped out of my groove nonetheless and hauled towards the finish. Someday I may be able to keep my just under seven minute a mile pace for 10 milers and half marathons, but for now I'm big time stoked about 1:17:06! A new PR by 11:31 officially, 9:31 after removing facility break from the net time. Okay, my limited racing career helps with this obliteration (smaller sample size than many runners). But I set the bar very high for the GW Parkway Classic in 3 weeks.

After finishing with a few miles of running to the gym to cool down and work some abs and bike a bit to flush out the legs, no Open to All Yoga for me. Didn't want to do too much.

My Cannondale bike rules!

Last month I bought a new Cannondale bike and love it! I just wish I got to ride it more often but last Sunday I got to take nice long circuit loop. I started at my apartment and rode the little more than mile and a half to the Mount Vernon Trail, which I picked up around mile 7.5. Just before mile 13, you will see a marking for Four Mile Run. That creek is nothing to write home about, but there is a nice little trail aside it called, well, the Four Mile Run Trail. I'm not sure how long it is, but while wind-prone along Glebe Road in Arlington, is a pleasant trail.

A really cool thing, the trail goes right under I-395 now and bypasses most of the condos and restaurants in Shirlington! I know because I beat the ribbon cutting too!. Now I'd love to be a condo owner, and restaurants are good, but the new path is more direct to the W&OD Trail (click for access points). Not to mention that you don't have to ride on a bunch of side streets and up and down a Z shaped ramp to cross the I-395 overpass. No more!!! I rode the W&OD, which parallels the Four Mile Run, until the Falls Church / Arlington Border at Mile 5.5 or so.

The Custis Trail was next, I picked that up at Mile 4.0. This trail is quite challenging for an "urban/suburban" trail, lots of short, rolling hills but hills nevertheless. It's really challenging to run on in the summer humidity. But I survived and was doing okay. Then the wind picked up after I left the Custis Trail. I ended up stopping my ride at the airport since I was tired but satisfied with my ride. Had I not made a dumb turn on to the Roosevelt Bridge thinking I was going to ride to L'Enfant and call it a day, it would have been about a, let's see, 8.5 miles or so until the W&OD plus 7 miles on W&OD plus 4 miles on Custis plus 4 on Mount Vernon = 23.5 mile loop. But my collection of wrong turns added 3-5 miles to that plus a crossing on the Memorial Bridge.

As I continue with my fitness travels, I may become brave enough to try the W&OD Trail all the way to Purcellville and back, 89 miles. There's a ways to go before I get there, but I finally have a bike to take on a ride that long.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and Committed......

To the Marine Corps Marathon on October 25! I've taken the plunge and registered for a marathon. I didn't think this would be possible just a few years ago, but after lots of running, better eating, and my new Yoga Project, I'm confident that I will be ready to at least finish the race. That's the only real goal for this, to finish, no time goals, none of that, as this is completely uncharted waters I'm sailing in.

But I did predict a finishing time of 4 Hours 15 minutes since you had to pick something while registering, so they can get you into a starting group on race day. FWIW, my Personal Records (PRs) are 23:12 for a 5K, 45:39 for a 10K, 1:28:30 something for a 10 miler, and 1:50:39 for a half marathon. Part of me knows that come race day I'll start thinking about how well I'll do, who am I kidding.

Either way, I am looking forward to this journey as much if not more than nearly anything else I have done for a long time. This will be a journey, as the furthest I have ever run at once in my life is 18 miles, and that was a best guestimate of 2 hours 50 minutes of running time on Super Bowl Sunday this year. There will be a lot more involved than arbitrarily picking a distance for Saturday long runs as I'm travelling to the meeting spot. I'll have to follow a program so I'm peaking on Marine Corps Morning. There will be some pain involved, both physical and mental. Some frustration, indeed. But it will all be worth it should I stay healthy through October 25 and cross that finish line near the Iwo Jima Memorial.