Sunday, July 31, 2011

USATF Masters 10k

Three months ago I wasn't even aware that this race was out here. Heck, I assumed 'Masters' races began at age 40. Also from experience of previous USATF events I have come across, my non US citizen status has precluded my being able to enter. However, coach emailed me and told me that the USATF Masters track championships were being held less than a mile from his house, that over 30 was the Masters age requirement on the track and non US citizens could compete as 'guests'. I was in!

Originally we were contemplating doing the 5k/10k double, with the 5k on Thursday and 10k on Saturday. However I had just run a decent 5k on the track and knowing that the weather for this July meet was not likely to be conducive to fast running I figured what was the point in running a slow 5k and then having to come back for the 10k two days later with sore legs.

So the 10k it was. I had never raced more than 5k on the track so I was going into the unknown. We set up my training plan and for the last couple of months this race has been my focus. Obviously I've jumped into loads of races in the mean time but the end goal was always this race.

I was pretty happy with how training had gone. The heat had had a big impact on some of my workouts and longer runs but in the last couple of weeks of the schedule I'd gained confidence with a new 4 mile PR and was feeling pretty good about everything heading into the race.

We headed up to Ohio on Wednesday and arrived in Berea (where the meet was being held) on Thursday after a quick pitstop in Marietta. The first thing I noticed was the ridiculous humidity. A storm had just passed through and I literally felt wet as soon as I got out of the car. Tim had just won his age group in the 5k and considering the dew point was in the 80s which apparently is 'rainforest', his time in the 15:40s was nothing short of outstanding! I was hoping the dew point would drop before Saturday!

Thursday and Friday we just hung out with the Budics. Tim won another race on the Friday (3k steeple- he is attempting to pull off the hatrick with the 1500m later today) and I just did a couple of short runs each day, turning the legs over but keeping them fresh for Saturday.

Saturday morning dawned and, as forecast, the weather was somewhat less humid than Thursday, but the sun was out and you could tell it was going to be a hot one! I warmed up with Salisbury running legend Bob Marchinko who had also come up to race and we discussed race strategy. Knowing that the race was going to be pretty painful in the heat we decided we would work together as much as possible and in Bob's words "try and beat the rest of the field up"!

We were called to the track and 31 of us toed the line. Lisa and the kids had stationed themselves in the shade down the backstretch and Bob had family and friends positioned on the homestretch so we had plenty of support. A sprinkler had been set up to provide water over our bodies each lap and there was a water station at the 250m mark. The temperature was in the 80s and rising and the sun was beating down relentlessly.

Originally the goal had been to attack my 10k (road) PR set years back in England of 32:30 but with the weather as it was, the goal was now more simple, just win the race!

The gun went off and I tried to get out of trouble as soon as possible and settle into a nice early rhythm. With 31 runners on the track the first couple of laps were likely to be quite hairy. Soon a lead group of 5 of us developed, with Bob at the forefront, the guy who had finished runner up to Tim in the steeple and two other guys from California who we had been told to look out for. Tim was at the 200m mark calling out splits and we were going along pretty comfortably splitting 80s.

I knew this was 33:20 pace and figured that sort of time would probably be good enough to win in the conditions so I decide to settle at the back of this group and just sit in while we were churning out 80 second laps. This was the pattern for the first mile or so before the first move of the race was made. Bob suddenly sprung out of our group and dropped a 2:32 800 to establish a 20 yard gap on the field.

I was surprised by this and my immediate reaction was just to stay in the group and hope Bob came back later. My negative side was worried that he was feeling good and was just going to run away with it though!

The four of us carried on splitting 80s and Tim was telling me each lap just to stay right where I was and be patient- there were still over 4 miles to go! Gradually our group started dwindling as the pace became a bit too hot to handle for a couple of the guys. I was still feeling comfortable and decided this was the time to start pushing the pace along a little. I broke out of the group and now it was Bob about 20 yards up ahead, followed by myself and then the rest of the field now strung out behind. I went through 5k in about 16:44 and the race was now well and truly on.

I was feeling pretty decent still, although I was very warm at this point! each lap I would grab a cup of water and douse it over my body, taking the occasional sip, but soon my singlet and shorts were drenched and I didn't know if it was worth adding more and more weight or keeping as cool as possible! Bob was now running 81s and myself 79/80s. If I could stay patient and Bob didn't get a second wind I would be able to reel him in within a few laps.

With about two miles to go I was eventually up to Bob's shoulder. As I passed him we exchanged a brief couple of words and decided to work together the next few laps. We traded laps for about a mile and then just as I was expecting Bob to come through and take lap 20 he wasn't there as I pulled to the side so I just carried on regardless. The move had been ade for me and now it was just a question of whether I would be able to hold on to the finish.

The stadium announcer exclaimed that I had taken the lead and I could hear the girls screaming excitedly on the backstretch. I was suffering now but trying to plough on, just a mile to go. I was now on autopilot but still hitting 80 second splits and I mustered up enough energy to close out the race with my fastest mile split. Bob followed just 6 seconds behind to win his age group and complete a notable one-two for the Charlotte Running Club at a national championships! We were thirty seconds ahead of the next guys.

As soon as I finished I didn't get much chance to reflect and congratulate the other racers coming in as I was whisked off for random drug testing! Needless to say after putting my body through the ringer for over 33 minutes the old bladder was not ready to cooperate! I downed three Gatorades and five bottles of water and waited patiently for the body to do its stuff and let me get out of there. After over two hours (!!) of waiting around, eventually I was able to do my business and they let me go. I jogged back to the hotel where the girls had been waiting for me patiently, grabbed as much food as I could find in the room and then headed out to the pool for the afternoon for some welcome recovery in the cool water. Needless to say, I was going backwards and forwards to the bathroom for the rest of the day!

So for the next year I can call myself USATF 10k Masters track champion. That's pretty cool I think!

Definitely taking a couple of down weeks now to let the body recover and
recharge the batteries for my Fall goals- hold on to my lead in the Grand Prix series, Blue Ridge Relay and Thunder Road Half Marathon on November 12th!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Final tune up in the books

Having had mixed fortunes of late with my workouts it was with a steely determination that I headed out this morning to try and nail my final workout before Saturday’s race. Luckily Jay was back in town for a couple of days so he kindly agreed to work out with me while he was down and this helped us get a pretty decent workout in this morning! The goal was to run two miles tempo to the track, rest a minute, run a 5 minute mile, rest three minutes then finish off with 2 ks in 3:05. I hit 11:54, 5:01 and then two 3:06s to finish off. I’m not going to lie this was hard work but at least I didn’t pussy out of the workout like I have for a few of the last ones!

So I’m happy with my form heading up to Ohio and will take it nice and easy for the rest of the week before hitting the race hard on Saturday. With the weather looking hot and humid through the weekend all bets are off with regard to what time I think I can run but I plan to get in the mix and race well

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week in review

After the ups and downs of the past few weeks, at last just a normal solid training week where I hit my plan. Nothing fancy, nothing exceptional just a boring week of getting the work done. I did two workouts, a longer run (12 miles) and sweated a lot in the ridiculous weather we have all faced! I got a massage on Friday and the legs are feeling pretty decent heading into the last few days before the 10k on Saturday. All easy runs until then with one last workout Tuesday morning. Heading up to Ohio on Wednesday so looking forward to a nice two day work week as well!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ups and downs

After the swampfest of the Saturday workout, it was on to the Sunday long run and the 15 miles I had on the schedule. Luckily I had managed to spread the word around and was very happy to see about ten other guys rock up to Old Bell to keep me company. The first ten miles passed pretty smoothly as we all chatted along comfortably. I had staged some water bottles at the halfway mark of the loop which were very much appreciated and the fast rising heat and humidity was being kept at bay. By the end of it we were all strung out along Sardis Road however, just wanting to be done! I weighed myself before and after the run and despite ingesting a good amount of water during and immediately after the run I had lost 5lbs! With the girls no longer due back until Monday and no visit to the office required like I'd had to all day on the Saturday, I thoroughly enjoyed recuperating on my couch for the rest of the day in front of the Tour and the World Cup!!

My next workout was planned for the Wednesday. I was hoping that two days of easy miles since the hard weekend efforts would have been sufficient to at least have given me a shot at successfully completing the workout but I was wrong! 4 repeats into a planned 8*1k workout and I was done. I literally stopped and lay down by the side of the track, just wanting to sleep! As I jogged back to my car I was not feeling good about this workout at all. All the doubts about overtraining were creeping back in and I felt so weak I was mentally arranging doctors' appointments so that I could go and get my iron levels, etc tested.

Thursday and Friday, however, the weather changed dramatically! It was suddenly back in the 70s with less humidity. I at least felt human on these two days of running and was ready to give the 4 mile race a good effort on the Saturday. And a good effort indeed I gave. I managed to run a 4 mile pr of 20:51 and came 2nd in front of Bob Marchinko for the first ever time! All of a sudden the confidence is back. Three days earlier I had written myself off! I need to stop doing that! Coach was not surprised by the outcome of Saturday's race, commenting on the consistency I've been able to maintain through all the ups and downs of this cycle.

Sunday I had another 15 miler on the schedule but I was far too tired from the race to even contemplate doing that so an easy 4 it was and now in 'active taper' mode for the next couple of weeks before the 10k on the 30th where I'll get Bob Marchinko again as we represent the Queen City up at US Masters!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Workout in the swamp

Last year coach Budic posted about taking dew point into consideration when deciding on pace ranges for workouts rather than simply the temperature itself. In essence running in 90 degree heat but with low humidity may be 'easier' (and more sensible!) to handle than running in 70 degree heat with high humidity.

Once the dew point hits 70 and above, serious consideration should be given to delaying your workout until more comfortable conditions are in place. Unfortunately during a Southern summer you are very rarely going to get those conditions so this is an impractical solution unless you never want to work out! The solution is to temper your pace expectations and get the most you can out of your body without killing it.

Bearing all this in mind, to set yesterday's workout in context, workout partner Meagan discovered after our run that the temperature was 78 with a dew point of 73....

Coach had prescribed a workout of 3 mile, 2 mile, 1 mile with half mile recoveries with the paces cutting down from 5:30 to 5:20 to 5:10. This looked a pretty daunting workout to me but Tim has an uncanny knack of suggesting the correct paces that will challenge and improve me. I assumed that this workout was originally planned to be run on the track. I was going to be doing it at Mcalpine on the trails so I popped a note to Tim and he replied that I should adjust the paces by 5-8 seconds per mile. What I neglected to ask was how I should adjust the paces for the anticipated humidity. I've been whining all summer about the humidity and didn't want to sound like I was looking for an easy way out with this workout! As you will see, this proved to have a significant impact on my run!

Earlier in the week I had sent out an email requesting company for the workout and fortunately I was able to attract the interest of three of my partners from last week's tempo, Meagan, Jordan and Spada. We met at the relatively earthly hour of 7am and headed out to the three mile mark of the trail. We were already drenched by the time we were doing our strides in preparation for the first three miles!

It was a great foursome for the workout. Steve and Meagan were going to have each other for company throughout while I was hoping to be able to take advantage of Jordan's relative lack of fitness and have him to hang on to for once. We got down to work and settled into a nice early rhythm. Jordan and I ran side by side back to Old Bell in paces of 5:35, 5:35 and 5:34 for a three mile time of 16:44. The effort felt hard but sustainable at this point, unfortunately I was now supposed to run the next section at a faster pace!

We grabbed some fluids and jogged back out to the half mile mark for the 2 mile portion. My body was already very hot and the four minute reprieve and copious amounts of water did little if nothing to cool it down. I hit the next mile in 5:30 but was definitely struggling now. Jordan was pulling away making it all look so effortless whereas I was seriously considering pulling the plug on the workout already! Instead I decided to run hard to the 1.5 mile mark and then get some extra recovery in before attempting the last mile.

I rejoined Jordan who had done the two miles no problem and we discussed what my approach should be for the last mile. We decided that I should start it but as soon as the pace started slipping I should ease off. Luckily I was able to get through the last mile okay in 5:30 (while Jordan pranced off into the distance- this will probably be the closest I will get to Jordan in a workout in a long while- he's clearly coming back nicely!).

So I had not completed the workout as prescribed but still felt that I had at least got 5 good miles of running in. Clearly I had run the first three miles too hard. Spada and Meagan on the otherhand had run a more sensible pace for this section and Jordan and I were able to cheer them in as they successfully completed their efforts. We were all absolutely drenched with our shoes sloshing in sweat, desperate to get back to Old Bell and the fluids that awaited! It was great to be able to work out with these guys and share our stories afterwards. Thanks all!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

On a more positive note

After the doom and gloom of my last post I am happy to report that there are signs of Captain's mojo returning. I've been taking it nice and easy on my easy days, staying away from the bottom of the well during my workouts and making a conscious effort to keep on top of my massaging and stretching.

The legs and lungs have appreciated this and I'm starting to feel more positive about everything again. With a couple of weeks without racing I'm now looking forward to Grand Prix race #7 next Saturday which should give me a pretty good indication of where my fitness is at two weeks out from the 10k.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Learning lessons

A lot has happened in the two and a half weeks since my last update, from being crowned fastest male in Mecklenburg County to feeling just about the slowest! I ran a solid 5k and mile on the track followed by a disastrous showing the other night in Championship week. I won my second GP race in a row at the Summer Breeze 5k to solidify my position at the top of the leaderboard (2 wins, 3 2nds and a 3rd in the 6 races to date) but had a couple of pretty poor workouts as well.

In short I've been showing signs of over-racing and at the moment I'm a little concerned that I've tipped myself over the edge of over training, with not much time to get my mojo back in time for the Masters 10k at the end of the month.

Let's look at the evidence. Since the start of April I have raced 10 times on the road and 5 times on the track. That is ridiculous, especially when you consider the weather conditions we face at this time of year.

The Grand Prix is part of the problem as 5 of those races were packed into this time (with the remaining 5 races nicely spaced apart until October). I have a special affection for the Grand Prix and also am very motivated to try and win it this year at last so I have no regrets about running those races, it's just a shame the schedule is so front loaded. It's the other races in between that I could probably have done without competing in.

Also the track series. Originally Coach and I decided that we would use these evenings as one of the workouts for the week. Unfortunately there's a big difference between working out and racing and I was definitely racing all those weeks.

So this has taken its toll and I'm feeling pretty tired right now. This week
was already scheduled as a down week so I'm making extra sure that I do use this week as a recovery week. In that way I can hopefully nip this in the bud and get back on track for the 10k.

One thing that will help with all this is that Lisa has taken the girls to VA to stay with her Mom for a couple of weeks now that school's out. So my running schedule is a lot more flexible and I have much more time for doing all the other stuff before and after runs that is so important. Not to mention that I can look forward to a nice couple of restful/napful weekends of tennis and TDF watching!

So the lesson from this post readers is never lose sight of your main goal, focus on the long term race and not the short term ones in between. Listen to your body and back off when it seems that would be the best thing to do regardless of what your training plan says.

Happy running!