Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Week Recovery

Thanksgiving week always takes a toll on my training plans. Overeating plus staying out too late every night will do that! This year I attempted to do my long run in McLean Game Refuge, which was silly because of the amount of damage the freak October snowstorm did. Blowdown every twenty yards! After attempts to run continuously began to look increasingly silly, the workout degenerated into an impromptu trail maintenance session. Then I ran back along the trail, looking at what I had done and measuring it against the amount of work still to do: I hadn't even made a dent.

Additionally I somehow managed to cleat my own calf pretty hard during the Black Friday Ultimate game. It was pretty sore the next few days. I'm not complaining though--that game was totally worth it!

So, here I am with one more week until the unofficial end of my Fall season this Saturday. Despite residual soreness, I limped over to the track for my final interval workout. 3 x mile with an 800m cherry on top, in 5:24, 5:22, 5:22, 2:40. This is about what I want to do in the 5K on Saturday. As I hoped, I felt looser, stronger, and generally better jogging back than I had jogging out; I'm feeling like I'm back in trim for my final effort.

Nothing else hard to do, just an easy 9 miler Thursday, then on to round out my string of PRs with a <17 minute 5K. Now is the time!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Norwood Turkey Trot race report

Sunday marked my third year running the Norwood Turkey Trot. This year's edition--the 25th--featured a brand new course that finally moved the race start from the car dealership on Rt. 1 to the nearby Norwood High School. Consequently I knew nothing about the course layout except for the general verbal description from the sign-up sheet ("yes it's still hilly"--more or less). It was an unseasonably warm day, with temps over 60--pleasant weather for singlet running. I ran through the cemetary and down through some small neighborhoods around the high school to warm up, and returned in plenty of time to take the line.

As usual for fields that fill from the front (with competitors approaching the pack from the direction of the starting line), seeding was tricky, with early arrivals getting swept back and needing to fight upstream. I followed a guy and girl in BAA singlets onto the sidewalk and then back into the pack in the 2nd or 3rd rank.

This seemed plenty high up, but when the siren sounded I realized there were a good 50 people ahead of me. My goals for this race were: (1) PR--hopefully by a lot; (2) Come in inside the HFC top-5 (they usually bring a wicked good team to this race, so that's no joke). So I was a bit chagrined when I realized I had seeded myself about 50 people back, and a big pack of people (dotted, far ahead, by HFC singlets) was sweeping out ahead of me.

Fortunately I found a good line on the left-hand side of the road and sprinted the first 100 yards or so to get position. Then the course swept into a long downhill and, primed as I was by that sprint and the nervous energy of the start, I bombed down it. The first mile mark appeared before I knew what was happening: a 4:58 split, which is pretty damn fast for me, hill or no hill.

I tried to get my legs under me and focused on the two HFC guys ahead of me. The course stayed flat for the moment, and I felt strong; breathing in control, effortful strength flowing from my core out into my limbs. The course shot out into a parking lot and then 180'd around an island--I did my best to hit the racing line, but ended up swinging too wide.

Then it was on to the Nichols St. Hill. I took the left turn and a blast of wind hit me, for a moment almost seeming to suspend me in place. I buckled down and set to pulling up that hill for all I was worth. This did not stop someone from sling-shotting around me--a good play, as with the wind in my ears I didn't hear him coming at all.

2nd mile split passed in 10:35. 3rd mile split passed in 15:56 (a substantial net drop from the course start).

The fourth mile featured a big climb back up to Norwood HS. Well, I shouldn't call it big. Big when you're trying to run a 5:30 mile. My position was pretty well established by this point and I didn't feel anyone near me, but that was no reason to slack off. Once again I set to the work, and it was pretty stiff going by this point. I fought my way up to the top of the hill, and then almost went the wrong way around the rotary because I mistook the police officer's hand-signal. I could see the finish on my left-hand side, and tried to pick it up (though in retrospect I think I could have done more here--it was a pretty soft finish).

I saw the race clock reading 21:?? and started my kick. I knew I was going to PR, but breaking 22 minutes would be extra awesome. A final effort, and I checked my watch: 21:56!

Once I got my wind back, I walked around for a bit with a goofy smile on my face. I think I may be past the point in my running career where a PRs are truly unexpected. I know my body a bit too well, and have a pretty good idea when it's in record shape and when it isn't. Today was a day when it definitely was, and I just had to deliver.

It's been a pretty great fall season for me so far. The only thing that would cap it all would be to decisively break 17 minutes in the 5K, something I've never done, on track or road. I am racing again in 2 weeks, at the GNRCYO 5K. That will be my opportunity!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

CFC 10K race report

A little backstory. In my last race, the Houghton's Pond 10K on October 2nd, I had been training seriously for about 4 weeks following my semi-traditional summer slump. I started strong up the first long hill that climbs away from the Pond, and soon found myself in the lead pack. #3 faded a bit, and then it was just me, chasing the leader about 50 yards ahead of me. This continued for about 3 miles, the leader pulling slightly further away, but never quite breaking contact. Then, around mid-point--it was like the bottom dropped out. I searched for power and there was none. Massive slump. More or less the whole front-pack soon streamed by me, and I faded to 9th.

In retrospect, it was pretty obvious the aerobic base just wasn't there, nor was the necessary muscular strength to negotiate such hills.

For the last month I've been working to fix those things. Mileage crept up to the mid 50s; "track Tuesdays"; on Wednesday the "15 minutes of power": hill sprints, core exercises, push-ups, pull-ups, lateral leg lifts, etc. How did this play out on the hilly CFC course?

First, pre-race went as well as I could ask. My process is always evolving here. I had a light dinner last night, and then 1/2 a tortilla for breakfast. Following the new performance advice ("drink to thirst"), I had very little water--only a few sips, really. I timed my 2 mile warmup well, and arrived at the starting line just starting to sweat (as my HS XC coach advised, back in the day).

I felt really strong from the gun, legs moving effortlessly in my lightweight racing shoes (Nike Free 3.0s with the insoles taken out). I went out with another 10K runner from HFC, knowing they usually bring a good team (although no John Sullivan or Bob Ruel this time, unfortunately). However, an unaffiliated runner soon shot to the lead.

I felt like I could stay on his shoulder, but I was a little unsure about his pace. (Remembering the words of wisdom: "In the 1st half of the race, don't be a dumbass; in the 2nd 1/2, don't be a wimp"). I decided to keep running my pace.

The leader had put a good 150 yards on me by mile 2, which is mostly downhill or flat. At this point my brain was saying: good, you're totally in the mix for a top-3 here, just hang on.

Something funny happened over the 3rd mile, though. The leader came back. A lot. He was only 5 seconds up on me at the mile-3 mark (16:55 to 17:00). On the next significant uphill I pulled in right to his shoulder.

At this point, my brain is still thinking: awesome, you can definitely hold on for a top-3 here! I know, right? neck-and-neck with the leader, who is clearly fading, and I'm thinking, maybe I can get 3rd place. For once my brain is not keeping up with my body.

Fortunately my body has more sense. It overrides the equivocating signals from my brain and passes decisively. Now I've got the target on my back. Time to run hard.

Mile 5, still no sound of pursuit. I start my watch. Time to run this flat hard--just like it's the last 2k interval in the track session. Now I'm thinking, obviously: win. Hold the pace and win.

At last, turn the corner onto Washington St. I accelerate and start reeling in the tail end of the 5k race. Kick, kick, kick! Cross the line in 36:06. Victory and an enormous PR all at once. Couldn't have gone better.

So happy that everything I did payed off. I changed a number of things, and they all contributed to help me raise the bar. The main ones were:
  • Superior pre-race. Did not overeat. Did not overdrink.
  • Consistent track sessions. Practiced running 5:50 pace in 4x2k workout and--surprise!--that's pretty much what I ran in the race.
  • Consistent strength work. Usually my core feels weak during a race. Today it was fine, even on the hills.
  • Most of all, switching to light shoes for the race! I like training in fairly light shoes, but my trainers must still be a couple oz heavier than my racers. So obvious, but still not something I've done since high school.
I'm under no illusions that I would have won this race if it had run on its usual day--heck, the field was 1/2 the size of normal. But I'm OK with that--you race the field you get, and sometimes you have a breakout day when none of the other uber-fast guys show up.

...and hey, I'm the defending champion now; might be I can still drop another minute or so, and be competitive for next year!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

CFC 10K tomorrow

Canton Fall Classic is tomorrow. It's only coincidence that I'm running it, since originally it was the same day as the (canceled) Bill's Pizzeria 5K. But, where BPIZ got canceled, CFC was only postponed, so I get to run it after all! This is a really beautiful, hilly 10K--the fact that it is the location of my 10K PR says more about how few 10Ks I run than anything else. I've had about two months of good training, and its been a full month since my last real test in a race. In other words, I'm looking to really drop the hammer and find out where my fitness lies.

Here's the top 10 from last year:

    1 Chris Mahoney     32 M  32:37  5:15 
    2 Kevin Gray        32 M  35:08  5:40 
    3 Edward Gardner    34 M  35:16  5:41 
    4 Adam Greenspan    28 M  36:05  5:49 
    5 John Sullivan     50 M  36:36  5:54 
    6 Bob Ruel          58 M  37:21  6:01 
    7 David Woodruff    29 M  37:38  6:04 
    8 Alan Berch        21 M  38:32  6:12 
    9 Norman Everett    22 M  39:04  6:18 
   10 Dave Foley        49 M  39:18  6:20 
I'm really looking to race without being overly distracted by my watch. In fact I'm thinking of starting it at the 5 mile mark, since the only thing I really care about pace-wise is that I run the last (largely flat) 1.2 miles at sub-6 minute pace. In general, based on the track workouts I've done, I think 5:50-pace isn't out of the question--but again, just looking to beat as many guys as possible here!

Here's hoping for a fast day. I'll update with post-race thoughts tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Track Session #4: cruise intervals

It's getting a bit nippy out, these mornings! The fun thing about track work this time of year (i.e., right before going off DST), is that it is DARK when you get up, even if you're getting up at 6:15. I was kind of worried the track would have snow on it, but with the amount of insolation it gets, I shouldn't have.

Speaking of snow; that 5K last weekend? Canceled. Newton Public Safety had enough to do Sunday morning besides make sure a race course was clear. You wouldn't think 3" of snow would do so much damage, but this snow was about as wet and heavy as it gets. A lot of trees and branches came down!

That means a different race and a different goal. Now I'm planning on doing the Canton Fall Classic 10k, which was postponed from last weekend to this weekend.

I never blogged about last week's intervals. They went poorly. It's funny how how you feel about a particular workout is entirely determined by how you measure against the goal you set yourself, even when the goal is completely arbitrary (and in this case, not particularly smart). Last week's goal was 3x mile intervals @ 5:20 pace, with 70s recovery. This was a little bit ambitious, because my best 5k pace is 5:34s. I ran 5:20, 5:35, and a demoralized 5:46. 

Not wanting to repeat that mistake, I planned on doing 4x2K intervals @ 5:50 pace (my 10k pr is 6:04 pace), with up to 150s rest. It turns out that was WAY too much rest; I only used 90s of my first rest period and limited the next two rest periods to the 90s as well. 70s might have been manageable.

Times: 7:12, 7:15, 7:08, 6:58 (7:15 = 5:50 mile pace).

I felt fresh and strong throughout, with enough vim to kick the last quarter home in 77s. So it went...well. But maybe the bar was just too low this time. The next race will help me figure out where I stand.