Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Month in Review (Long Form)

Well, it's been a while since I've done anything other than just log my miles, so I figured it was time for a recap. Sorry it's so long, but it's been a long month.
 The Covered Bridges 1/2 Marathon started out the month, and pretty much set the tone for things to come.  I wasn't able to make it to my goal, but I still set a solid PR.  The day was hot and super humid, but during the race, I don't think I consciously noticed it too much.  I just kind of felt sluggish after about 5 miles.  I went out pretty fast with Brad and Ockle, and as in most longer races, the pace felt fine in the beginning.  It didn't start to hurt until about mile six or so.  I got a big pain in my side, something that almost never happens to me.  Ockle and I had left Brad a little while back, but at this point it was my turn to let Ockle go.  I had to walk a couple times, and he just kept trudging along.  I couldn't seem to shake the side stitch.  By the time I got to the hill at mile 12 I was feeling a little better, and when I turned the corner, I could see Ockle in the distance.  He looked like he was struggling while I was feeling better.  I was able to catch him, and even though we both knew we weren't going to be able to meet the goals we had both set to be under 1:30, I knew I was headed for a good PR.  1:32.  Not 1:30, but still a PR by 3:25.

The next highlight for the month for me was at a Wednesday workout.  Brad and I had decided to do 800s at somewhere between 3-3:10.  The first two were just under 3:00, and that felt fine.  We dropped it down a bit for the next two, and then were at 2:50 for the next.  Brad had had enough, but I felt good and decided to do two more.  Greg had just finished his workout, and said he would jump in with me.  I felt good and went out well.  My splits were even for each 400, 1:23/1:21 for the first, and 1:23/1:24 for the second.  I was psyched to have all the 8s under 3:00, and  2:48 average for the last 4. I don't think I could have done those last two so fast without Greg's help, but I felt it was a good indicator of things to come.

Next was Pisgah.  Last year I really got beat up by this race.  This year I was hoping to break two hours, and it was a perfect day to do it.  Last year there were a lot more leaves down, and I tripped several times on roots and stumps.  This year, with all the rain we've had, the problem was loose rock on the trail.  I went out fairly conservatively, but still at a good pace.  I felt strong on the hills.  For much of the race I was running with, passing, or trying to catch back up to Glenn.  I was really glad to have him out there as a guide, but I kept giving up so much time on the downhills.  Glenn and I were at the top of Mount Pisgah together, but by the time I got to the 9 mile aid station, he was no where in sight.  By the time I made it to the road, I could see him again, and I caught him at the parking lot before Davis hill.  Up the hill I felt strong, and I was able put some time between us.  By the time I got to the road and the last mile or so, I felt stronger than I ever had at the finish of this race.  I usually am able to run fairly well on the last section, but this day I felt like I was really able to put the hammer down.  There was one guy I could see a ways ahead, and I was able to close the gap a bit, but I never quite caught him. 2:03.  For the second time in two weeks, I had made a significant PR, but I had missed my goal.  After the race I felt good,  and went for a 45 minute cruise back thru the park to complete my last long run before the Wineglass Marathon.

The next weekend was the Clarence deMar, and I was set to pace my friend Jeff in his first ever marathon.  Any triumph or accomplishment I may have made in the last couple of years pales in comparison to Jeff losing 70 pounds this year, and going from not running a step to deciding to train for a marathon.  And he trained hard.  When I met him at mile 13, he looked super focused.  He was a little ahead of schedule, and I was a bit worried by the look in his eyes.  Having run a few marathons, I know that at the midway point it should still feel kinda good.  The hurt should only be slightly beginning.  Jeff was all business at this point.  I went along with it, but I was a little worried.  I asked how things had gone so far, and he said fine.  He had run hard up the hill by the golf course and passed quite a few runners.  Alarms went off in my head, but he seemed ok. By mile 16 or so he got a big cramp/pain in his right calf.  We walked a bit, tried to stretch & massage it out, but it wouldn't go.  He was able to jog a bit on the downhills if he could focus on not pushing off with his toes.  But the pain persisted, and after walking most of the next 2 miles or so he decided to bag it.  A big disappointment for sure, but the accomplishment is in the courage it takes to decide to train.  Now he knows what it takes, and he'll be back stronger.

Next came the big goal.  A 3:10 marathon.  Roma and I went to Corning, New York, she was running the half and I was running the full.  The drive down took a little longer than planned, and we missed the expo so we had to get our bibs in the morning before the race.  Not the way to put yourself at ease before a race.  But, we were staying in a nice B&B,  so we relaxed, got a good night sleep and woke up to a good pre-race breakfast.  We went to the finish meeting area, said goodbye and good luck,  and got on our busses to our respective starting lines.  At the starting area,  things were a little disorganized for a marathon that's been going on for 30 years.  There was a huge line for the port-a-potties, and I only had 25 minutes to get my number, go, and get to the start.  Plus, there was no one to tell me where to pick up my number.  The start was about 2-3 blocks from where the busses dropped us off, and there was a long line of people walking up there.  I figured that was the most important place to be, so I jogged up there.  Fortunately, the lines for the johns were shorter, I found the tent to get my number, and it looked like I'd make it to the start on time.
So, now it was time for the rain to really start coming down.  The best $8 investment I've ever made was at the thrift store for throwaway warmup pants and jacket.  So many people were still streaming up from the bus drop off that they told us the start would be delayed.  More cold and rain.  It was about 20 minutes till we would start.  It was kind of a lackluster start, and I chalked that up to the cold and rain.  I kept the jacket on until the first mile.  I did well to keep the first few miles at pace, because of the adrenaline and a downhill start.  I was cold, and the rain wasn't helping, but the biggest factor in the first half was the wind.  Still,  I felt strong, and my pace was like clockwork for the first 15 miles.  7:13-7:15 for every split, and I was feeling good.  My GPS watch got some water in the screen, and that drained the battery.  It died at mile 19.  By then I was feeling the effect of all the extra effort the wind,  rain and cold had cost me. The last six were tough, as usual, but I was able to keep running the whole way, only stopping briefly to stretch out one cramp.  There were no hills in the end, but the course made several sharp turns, and when you are so focused on moving forward, u-turns can really throw you off.  Plus, there were mile markers for the full and half marathon, and since the half started at 13.1 they were always off.  That wouldn't be a big deal at the beginning, but when you are counting down towards the end, it can get confusing.  My calves were really starting to hurt now, and it took all the focus I could muster to keep going.  I didn't know what my time was, but the 3:15 pacer had passed me with about 2 miles to go,  so I was just hoping to break 3:17.  I was surprised to see 3:14 when I rounded the last turn, and I ran hard for the last bit, clocking in at 3:14:20.  Roma was there to meet me at the finish, which was great.

So, for 3 races, I dropped 16 minutes total off previous times.  I didn't make it to any of my goals, but I still feel great about the month.  Weather certainly had something to do with the half and full marathons, and I needed to get more time on the trails to be better prepared for Pisgah.  It's been a great time training for these races and I felt great and had a lot of fun running them.  I have 3 new PRs, and  I can still set my sights on the same goals.  What could be better?  If you made it this far, and you haven't done so already, please, get yourself a beer.


  1. Congrats on the PRs man!! You should definitely post more "reflections and updates" like these. Fret not, I am, indeed, having a Sierra Nevada right now!

  2. Way to go, James. I had no doubts. I should be back to the Wed. night workouts pretty soon. My xc season is over after this week. Can't wait to be back!