At the beginning of this week, I knew getting in my long run progression was going to take some sacrifices; sacrifices of sleep and of time. Aaron was going to be out of town and Paul had done a tempo earlier in the week. The big CRC group was running at Beatty, which if you want to make it through the run with both ankles in tact, is no place to push the pace. My only option was to drive up to Huntersville at the ass crack of dawn and run with Mike, Nathan and Bill. I looked forward to the running buddies. I did not look forward to the early hour and a running location that was not right around the corner.
But, I needed this run. Ever since Saturday's race, I have been in a mini-funk. Easy runs have felt tough. Workouts have seemed impossible and when that starts to happen, a hobby becomes a chore. A passion becomes a pain. I had told just Lauren and Aaron that if today's progression didn't go well I was going to force myself to take three to four days off. Ok, I know that's melodramatic, but my fear was I was burning myself out. Mark and I went over some of the reasons that may be behind the mini-funk, and over-training topped the list.
Like any runner, I don't like to take time off. I was going to do whatever I had to do to make today's run a mental and physical success. As soon as I got off work last night, I went by the Harris Teeter and filled a grocery cart with ice. I stood behind two guys buying enough alcohol to stock a sports stadium, and thought, "if they only knew I was going to sit in all this ice instead of using it to chill my beer." (Side note: runners find things normal that NO ONE ELSE would think is such. Whenever, I catch myself in one of these moments -- buying ice so I can sit in it, or rubbing vasoline on my nipples -- I think of those old Adidas ads.) Following my ice bath, Lauren and I went to Boriana's where she made us a delicious Bulgarian dinner. Then, it was a couple of chapters of The Art of Racing in the Rain, followed by an early bed time.
Fueled by a piece of bread with Nutella and a banana, I was in the Huntersville business park parking lot by 5:45 am. I got in a good stretch and we set out on an 8 mile easy run. We averaged around 7:20, carrying on a good conversation. Then, talking time was over. I told myself that if I could work my way down to about 5:55 on the progression portion of the run, I'd consider it a sucess. If I struggled to get out of the 6:20 range, it was hiatus time. I had planned to do six, but since the other guys were doing eight, I figured I'd run six then see how I felt. Right away I was 6:15 and it felt very easy. Good sign. From there each mile got quicker. By the fifth mile I was 5:50. The sixth mile I went 5:39 and thought, "I can do one more." I cranked out another 5:40 and shut it down. Success! Sure, alone these aren't lightning fast miles, but it sure is a nice way to seal up the back end of a 16 mile run. Plus, the other guys were going longer and a bit more conservative which made this a solo effort and that's always harder. It's also encouraging that I at no point felt like I was digging and could have done that eighth mile had I needed to.
A decent workout has set the tone for the day. I am in a good mood and have a good appetite. We just got back from Costco where I ate every sample they were offering -- some of them twice. I'm planning to eat a big burger tonight. For now, I plan to take a nap.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I have only raced the four mile distance four times. I think that’s enough times to decisively say that it’s not my favorite. In the hierarchy of shorter distances, it sits somewhere in between the 15K (Love) and the mile (Hate). Yes, I am aware that in length, it also fits in between those distances, but I am only referring to preference in this case. Saturday’s Run For Your Life Run for a Cause Four Miler was the second slowest of my four four milers, but by far the hottest. In last year’s race, I finished second in a time of 21:30. Given the conditions, I hoped to at least repeat that performance.
I am a sweaty guy. So, I wasn’t all that surprised when I showed up the line and a couple of runners asked me if I had already raced. I was dripping sweat from the easy warm up miles. This continues to be the hottest, most humid summer I have ever lived through. By the time the race started at 7:30 Saturday morning, it was near 100% humidity (but not near raining) and I was starting to think this competition would come down to who the best aqua jogger was. (Sadly for me, that was not the case. If it were, I might have won. I am one heck of an aqua jogger. I was the unofficial NCAA Division III National Champion when I couldn’t run my sophomore year of cross country.)
Knowing that the entire first mile is up hill, I put some effort in as soon as the gun went off. I wouldn’t say I went out fast – I didn’t even sniff Jordan and Bert -- but I did give myself a jump on Paul, Aaron and Mike who I know to be strong hill runners. That’s why it wasn’t long before Paul, Mike and I were in a pack, making our way up McDonald. Mike was baby-jogger-free, so I figured he’d be a contender. I’d been working out frequently with Paul and knew he was in solid shape. I clocked 5:28 for the first mile.
By the time we got to East Boulevard it was Paul and I testing the waters. It’s a long stretch down East, but at this point I was feeling pretty decent. We had talked earlier in the week about running near each other, so it felt like everything was going according to plan. We hit the next mile still side-by-side in a much quicker time of 5:19. At roughly two-and-a-half miles I could see a water stop up ahead. I waited to see what Paul would do, sort of like a race car driver waits to see who is going to go into the pits. When he took a cup of water, I followed suit. The plan was to dump most of it on my head and drink the rest. Unfortunately, I dumped all of it on my head and then attempted to drink from an empty cup. What can I say? It was my first time taking water in a race shorter than a half-marathon.
Approaching mile three, Paul opened a gap on me. If I have one weakness…well, I have many, but one of them is the inability to close gaps. I would later learn that this entire mile was a disaster. I was starting to feel the heat. My legs felt fine, but the rest of my body was moving toward exhaustion. I clocked a 5:42 for this mile. There are some climbs, but I should have run faster than that. However, looking at other’s recaps it appears everyone struggled with this mile. Almost everyone. Greg Isaacs did not. Just before the three-and-a-half mile marker he passed me. I tried to hang, but as we came closer to the line, I worried a little more about preserving my position and not getting passed again. I had no idea what was going on behind me and knew looking back would only slow me down.
I crossed the line in 21:44, thoroughly tuckered out. Due to Bert running off the course, I finished in fourth place, behind some pretty speedy runners and ahead of some pretty speedy runners too. I’ve gone back and forth between disappointed and simply satisfied. Elated is definitely not on in the list of feelings. The disappointment comes when I start thinking about my last couple of races. I ran a subpar 5K in New York, and this four-miler did not show any signs of progression. It’s discouraging after what I thought was a pretty promising start to the summer racing season. I know Paul can relate. I am happy to see he’s broken out of his funk. I move toward satisfaction when I think about the conditions. It seemed everyone’s times were a little slower than their potential thanks to the heat and humidity. Plus, these shorter races are hard to use as a good gauge. You either have it that day or you don’t. There’s no switching gears in the middle. You can run 16:00 one day in a 5K, and come back the next weekend in the same shape and run a 16:45. Some positive workout performances have kept me feeling like I am moving in the right direction. We’ll see what happens at Blue Points on August 7th.
In other weekend news, Lauren competed in the Lake Wylie Sprint Triathlon with Sloan and did a great job! It gave me the opportunity to get down to Lake Wylie, go for a swim and have a great lunch with the two triathletes and Jamie Doyle.
Sunday’s long run was miserable, but misery loves company. There were eight of us on this 15 mile (for me) death march on the hot asphalt at Mallard Creek. We all tried our best to stay positive, but by the end, the little conversation we were able to have revolved around how much longer was left and where water might be available. It go so bad that with two miles to go, Mike and I actually jumped in the creek. I may grow another eyeball, but I was cooled off just for that moment.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
It's always better to ease back into the real world following a vacation than to dive into it head first like it's a shallow pool. We landed in Charlotte early Monday morning, then I had the entire day and the following day off from work. There is of course, a trade off. I am in the middle of a ten day stretch that includes two 10 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday and a hellish Monday turn around of less than nine hours.
As we drove the rental car away from the cottage last week, I got the usual pit in my stomach, accompanied by -- I admit -- a few tears welling up behind the eyeballs. I don't like waving goodbye to a place that gives me so much peacefullness; a place that's mere location and ambiance is enough to reset my entire system, especially because I know that when I leave, it will be at least a year until I come back.
I'll briefly go through the high points of the 10 day trip to New York, although, the point was for there to be few highlights and a whole lot of R & R. The fireworks and ring of fire on Port Bay did not disappoint. I saw the family. Laughed with the family. Crammed in close quarters with the family. Lauren met aunts, uncles, grandpa and family friends. I ran one hometown 5K and finished 2nd in a slower time than I had hoped for. We hit wineries on Seneca and Kueka Lakes. We met up with Bfo, Camissa, Val and Jon to see Dave and Tim play an acoustic show in Canandaigua, took in an Irish football game with Hys, had beers at Colemans, ate the lighthouse in Oswego and bought a new boat ladder for dad. We swam off the bluffs. Lauren did handstands. I saw a naked guy. Dick and Katie have a baby. I did not run the Boilermaker. I did not check my work email. Well, once. Nate and I reminisced about the more rebelious days. The pranks will always be in the past. I randomly ran into Gretchen on a run. I sat in an inflatible whale filled with ice. Twice. We made smores, grilled burgers and corn and baked a tomato pie. I finished the third Steig Larsson book. There were nine nights on an air mattress, one night in a twin bed. A man told he was keeping tabs on the Canadian Coast Guard. Sarah gave me two silly bands. Kristy grew up. We stayed up late. And we slept until we felt like it.
Now, the routine is back in place. Up at 5:00am to run, work from 8:30 to 6, bed by 10:30. But as much the break from the routine is refreshing, it's a pretty good routine to have. I have a girlfriend I love that sees me off in the morning and eats dinner with me at night. I've got great training partners -- friends is a better word -- to share stories with on runs, and my job could be a lot worse (well, maybe not a lot).
Running-wise right now, I am feeling a little flat. The 5K in New York wasn't a disaster, but after running a 16:07, I expected to run a heck of a lot faster than 16:42. Yes, circumstances are totally opposite. China Grove was at night. Sodus Point was in the late morning heat. China Grove was flat. Sodus Point was hilly. China Grove had competition. I was in no man's land in Sodus Point. I just felt though, like I was lacking some hutspa (look it up)
This past week, I logged just under 78 miles and felt good for about 50% of them. Tuesday's tempo workout was a flop, but Thursday on the AM run, I felt great. Friday's Miles of Mooresville was so-so, but I probably could have done the three mile portion better. Saturday's long run was an absolute disaster. I think the heat and humidity contributed to me wanting to find the nearest bridge to jump off every step of the way. Today's run at Davidson felt AWESOME. I'm at a point right now where I need to get consistent with my training and my racing. So, let me take that back. I am not feeling flat. I am feeling inconsistent. I'd rather be flat and racing well than have all these unpredictable ups and downs.
Up this week, slightly less mileage, mile repeats Tuesday morning and a four mile race on Saturday....
NOTE: I am really irritated that my blog is not showing up as "updated" on people's blog rolls. If anyone knows how to fix this, please let me know!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
The reason I started blogging again is partly because I don't believe in Facebook. I know, I know. I am an avid Facebook user. However, I don't believe in the power of its little "status updates." They don't tell a story, just a headline. I could have made the topic of tonight's blog a status update, but the story is worth the added detail.
Tired of running on the unshaded, sun beaten roads near our family cottage, I decided to drive to the Chimney Bluffs State Park in Huron this morning to hit the trails for today's run. From the waters of Lake Ontario, the bluffs are a beautiful example of the natural land art created by glacial movement and centuries of erosion from one of the Great Lakes. From the land, the bluffs are a weaving, narrow, treacherous and dangerous patch of land where the admirers picnic and walk the dogs and the adventurers hope to come out with both ankles still functioning. With temperatures still reaching into the mid 90s and humidity still soaring, I decided the risk of falling over a downed tree was worth the cooler conditions offered in the shaded trails.
I arrived at the bluffs just before 10 (I have been sleeping in to put some added hours in my sleep bank while I can) and parked in a nearly empty parking lot. The only other vehicle in the lot was a big red van, one that might be used to shuttle a collegiate athletic team to a match. I parked a couple of spots away from the van and got out, removed my shirt and began applying sunscreen. During these pre-run activities, I struck up a conversation with the gentlemen in the van. He was older -- maybe 60 -- plump, and wearing only green shorts. He was sitting on the ledge of the van's side passenger door reading the paper. We made small talk about the unusual heat and he demonstrated that he visited the park a lot. I asked him some simple questions about the trails since it had been some time since I had run on them. Then, he put on a backpack and headed out for presumably, a hike. I finished stretching and then took off in the opposite direction, but on the same circular trail.
As soon as I started running, I knew this was the right choice. While the pace was slow because of all the footwork and the climbing, my legs were thankful for the soft surface and my entire body was thankful for the shade. I took some side trails that brought me to the edge of the cliff, hundreds of feet above the lake. I didn't hesitate to pause and take in the view.
About 15 minutes into the run, I noticed my friend from the parking lot was coming toward me. Only this time, something was different. He still had the backpack on. He still had his sandals on. He did not have the green shorts on. This man was naked. The time between noticing his nakedness and getting close enough to where I would have to have an exchange with the nude man was finite. In those few seconds, a number of thoughts went through my head. Do I talk to him? Do I just run past without saying a word? Is he on a mission? How do I hide my surprise? Do I make some sort of nude joke? Do I know any good nude jokes? And then there I was, passing by. Nude Ned made the first move. He commented on the amount of time it took me to loop this certain part of the trail. I acknowledged with a laugh and just kept running. And that was it. My first encounter with a naked man on a run was brief and painless...not even all that awkward and I immediately thought about the mileage I'd get out of the story.
I spent the rest of the ten mile run trying not to fall and trying to forget about the bear story. At dinner last night my dad remarked that there have been a lot of black bear sightings in the area this summer. Here I was in the woods. That is where bears live (and also shit, so I hear). In my head, every track I saw in the woods was made by a bear. At one point, I saw a big buck emerge from the woods. "I bet he's being chased by a bear," I thought. You see, some of my friends and oft running partners have a debilitating fear of snakes. I don't mind snakes, but I do mind bears. I am frightened by the thought of bears. Fortunately, I made it through the run without ever encountering a bear...although I did encounter a bare.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Despite what the automatically generated time on this blog post might tell you, it's 4:16 pm on a Friday...one hour and 14 minutes until my vacation starts. If I am here for one hour and 15 minutes, or even one hour, 14 minutes and 18 seconds, the chance of me strangling someone (anyone) or setting the building on fire in a fit of rage (which I guess is the only state of mind that would cause someone to commit arson) grows exponentially.
Without actually looking at a calendar, I think I am on my way to the finish line of the longest vacation-free stretch of my working life. Mentally and physically, I am exhausted. At work, my creativity barrel is nearly empty (although I did just write a killer script for another show) (I love parenthetical phrases), I am running (literally) on fumes. On the run this morning, I felt dead. 7:30 pace was pushing it.
So what exotic location are we jetting off to? The Florida Keys, Hawaii, Venice? Nah. I stick to upstate New York these days. When you grow up, go to school and begin your career in the same place, you never imagine it will be the very same place you go to get away from it all. But its absence gives it a certain appeal. Home is one of the few places you can go to have a stress-free vacation.
Not that we don't have a lot on our agenda. In the 10 days we are there, I am running two races. On the fourth, there's the Sodus Point Light House 5K, then a week later, I am hopping in the Boilermaker 15K in Utica for the first time since 2003. I reloaded the ipod too, so I'll have some company for the 75 miles I have on my training schedule next week. We also have tickets to the Dave & Tim show in Canandaigua on the 6th. We're going with Bfo who is moving out to Kansas City at the end of the week. We'll do some "wining" on the Finger Lakes, visit with the Hys, take the 5 minute tour of Newark and the 10 minute tour of Oswego. Other than that --- and yes, I know it seems like a lot -- our week will consist of a whole lot of sitting by the water and reading the Stieg Larson trilogy thanks to the advice of Caitlin Chrisman.
This is the first trip I am preparing for as a dog lover. I find that I have grown rather attached to Lauren's dog Pepper. Because Pepper is a bigger dog, bringing her with us would be what we consider to be inhumane. First, they'd have to drug her. Then, they'd shove her in the cargo hold of the plane for the duration of the flight. It just doesn't seem fair. But, it was tough to say goodbye to Pepper as Lauren took her to the Five-Star Pooch Hotel where she'll live while we're away.
Here's an anecdote that might sum up my mental fatigue. I have this thing I have been putting off mailing all week because I don't have stamps. I finally made it over to the post office today. Mailing the correspondence was my soul purpose. It wasn't until I got in the door that I noticed it had one of those "Postage Not Necessary if Mailed Within United States." Well damned if I'm not within the United States!
Whatever happened to Gallagher? I theorize a giant watermelon smashed HIM.