Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rocket City Fail

Since the Country Music Marathon, I have been focused completely on running under the Olympic Marathon Trials standard of 2:19. Originally, my plan was to attack the standard at the Chicago Marathon. The Chicago Marathon is one of the most competitive marathons in the world and word on the street was that there were a tons of guys going for the time there. My summer training didn't go completely according to plan and once school and cross country practice started, I was too mentally exhausted and pushed for time to get in the necessary training. I had a really positive experience at the Rocket City Marathon in 2010, so I figured that I would make my assault on sub 2:19 there.

Since the Rocket City Marathon was about two months after Chicago, I had to adjust my training a good bit so I could time my peak perfectly and not arrive on the starting line too stale. I backed off training for a bit and then did a short speed phase to get my motor to where it needed to be before starting my eight week marathon cycle to build the necessary fitness to make my assault.

My first marathon workout went very well. A little over a week later, I ran 66:54 in the half marathon, which was only a few seconds away from the Tennessee State Record. That time pointed towards being in around 2:21 marathon shape, which was really motivating because I felt I was far from peak shape. I then got in several 110+ mile weeks and three weeks after the half marathon, broke the 10 mile state record by a very large margin, running 50:09. I used that race as a training run being it was the 7th day of a 120+ mile week and ran with a controlled steadiness. I had a ton left in the tank and felt like I could have run under 49:00 if I really went after it. With exactly four weeks to go, I knew I was very close to, if not under 2:19 shape. The race was rapidly approaching and I was really looking forward to it. Before Huntsville last year, I was terrified of the marathon distance. At the Country Music Marathon, I didn't really have a strategy until the gun went off and wasn't sure if I would even race that hard. However for this marathon, I was very hungry and ready to attack.

With two weeks to go, I began my taper. My normal taper is about a 20% reduction in volume two weeks out and then I reduce the volume about 40% for the last week. It's a very generic taper but it has worked very well for me in my prior marathons. With exactly a week to go, I ran my last "quality" workout, which was a few seconds per mile faster than my other marathon workouts, despite running much more relaxed. I knew my body was rested and ready to go.

Before a major race, I'm always paranoid about becoming sick. Deep down inside, I thought I had nothing to worry about because I'll catch something about once a year and because I came down with something a couple of months ago, I figured I had paid my dues. Despite that, I was doing my best to play it safe. At church that Sunday, there was an overly coughy guy behind me, so I got up, went to the bathroom, and washed my hands.

At school, I never use hand sanitizer but the week of the race, I would use it every few minutes. I also usually get a kid to fill up my water bottle for me a couple of times a day. Traditionally, I will pick a girl because I figure they pick their nose less and are less "germy." Since I was not taking any chances this week, I even made them wash their hands before touching my bottle. On one occasion, one of my "water girls" coughed while carrying my bottle towards the cafeteria, so I called her back, washed the bottle and then chose someone else. With all of these precautions, I felt I would be perfectly safe.

Wednesday night, I started to feel a trickle in my nose. A couple of hours later, that turned into a constant drip and I knew things were about to get much worse. Mary tried to reassure me but I knew that a sickness was beginning and it would probably reach it's peak on Saturday...the day of my race. As time wore on Thursday, I felt progressively worse. Later that night, I had a fever and stayed up pretty late because I figured I wouldn't be able to race. However, I planned to still see what happened and on Friday morning, I was Huntsville bound with Mary, Chris Herren and my own personal fuel man, Vance Pounders.

When we got finally arrived, I tried to lay down for a bit. I wasn't really sleepy or anything, I just wanted a temporary escape from reality. Later on, I went on a short shakeout run with Chris and Vance, in which I felt really weak. I still planned to toe the line but was debating between still attacking 2:19 or running a controlled 2:25 or so, to get the third place prize money and then try another marathon a couple of months later. Deep down inside, I didn't think I'd have a shot at 2:19, or even be able finish in third place, but I figured I'd attempt it anyway.

After hearing about my friend and running partner, Doug Boomer's pasta primavera gone wrong experience, I decided to shy away from the pre-race pasta party and made my own dinner. I attempted to eat some pasta but had no appetite at all. I forced down a few bites and ate some Bojangles fries, which are never too difficult to force down. After tossing and turning for a couple of hours, I was able to finally fall asleep.

When I woke up that morning, I had a terrible migraine headache. I don't get bad ones very often but when I do, life is not very fun at all. A side effect of them is that I have a lot of nausea and can't eat anything. Because the marathon requires every ounce of energy you have and more, I knew I had to force down some food. I was able to eat half of a Clif Bar but couldn't eat anything more. A few minutes after eating, my nausea became much worse and shortly after that, I went to the bathroom and lost my Clif Bar and much more. Because I lost all of my morning calories, as well as my fluids, I knew I was in no condition to race, or even finish a marathon. I was really depressed but that's how life treats you sometimes.

Because Chris wanted us to help him out with some fuel support, we went out to watch the start of the race. At this point, I was mad and not in very good spirits but when the race started and I saw everyone run by, I lost it and had to walk away for a few minutes. Being on that starting line and taking my shot at the standard was my journey that I worked for and deserved. Knowing that the opportunity was literally running away from me without even be allowed a shot felt completely unfair. I don't mind falling on my face and failing but not even getting a shot to chase the time after putting in so much work and being very fit was gut wrenching and unfair.

That ended my bid for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. In both of my marathons, I felt like I overachieved based off what my training told me I was capable of. For this race, I KNEW I was in at least 2:19 shape, which made things very hard for me. But for now, I won't get a chance to qualify for the Trials until the window opens up again in a couple of years. I expect to take a shot at it again but a lot can happen in two years and age is not on my side.

However, I did not want all of my hard work to go to waste, so I had to find a new marathon. I knew the Jacksonville Marathon was the next weekend and like Rocket City, it was flat and fast. I also felt like I would be able to some decent money and Tom Dolan and Boomer even volunteered to come down with me. But I wasn't sure how recovered I'd be and knew I would have a hard time getting amped up for a race a week later when I was in such a mental low.

I also thought about the Mercedes Marathon in February but I didn't want to continue to train hard for that much longer and because the Chicago Marathon was my original plan, felt like I could become stale by then. After looking around online, the Mississippi Blues Marathon struck my interest. It was exactly four weeks away, which gave me time to recover and get in a couple hard weeks of training. I emailed them and was able to get into the race, as well as a hotel for a couple of nights. The race also is pretty competitive, which makes things more tactical and fun. With Rocket City, I was focused on racing the stopwatch and looked at it as a time trial. Those type of races aren't particular fun, so I welcomed the idea of some good old fashioned head-to-head racing.

Unfortunately, the race is very, very hilly and much more hilly than the Country Music Marathon. To make matters worse, I'm a pretty bad hill runner. However, I have enough time to sprinkle in some small changes into my training to become a little more efficient over the hills. Running well there won't give me a chance to run in the Olympic Trials but hopefully with a good race, I can end this never-ending training cycle on a positive note.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Man vs. Wild

With a little over a week until the Rocket City Marathon, I headed to Moss Wright Park to do my last hardish workout. I was going to run the first two miles of the Team Nashville 10 Mile course as a warm-up and then run the last eight miles at marathon pace and then add in a mile cool-down at the end. I anticipated the workout to be tough but didn't expect to struggle very much.

By the time I got Kate and dropped her off with Mary, I would have just enough time to finish before darkness fully settled in. I hid my keys at the top of my wheel and headed out for the first mile of the course, which was a loop around the park. After the first mile, you head out into Indian Hills, so i stopped by my car to drop off my long sleeve shirt. Normally, I forget which tire I place my keys on, so it's a guessing game until I find them. However, after checking all of my tires, my keys were nowhere to be found. I then looked under the car and under each wheel because sometimes I place them there but still, they were nowhere to be found.

At this point, I started to become a little frustrated and then noticed my car was unlocked. I was pretty certain I locked the car but thought there was an off-chance that I forgot to lock-up and left the keys inside the ignition. Again, the keys were nowhere to be found. I then looked in every nook-and-cranny and moved around everything in the car. I still couldn't find them and after losing about ten minutes of daylight, I decided that I needed to hurry up and start my workout.

After shutting the car door, I thought I heard a jingle in the distance. I looked over my shoulder and saw a squirrel about 50 feet away with my keys in his mouth. I couldn't believe what I saw and then charged after him. He must had been toying with my because I chased him around a tree several times and when he made a move to climb up the tree, the keys fell out of his mouth. For a second, we stared each other down, sizing each other up.

When it comes down to dogs, normally I'm not scared of them and if one chases me, I will charge it or throw stuff at it and nine times out of ten, it will run away. But squirrels are crazy and you never know what is running through their mind and in that brief moment where I debated what to do, he charged towards the keys, grabbed them with his mouth and he was up the tree. To make his ownage of me even more complete, he somehow set off the car alarm.

I spent the next few minutes throwing sticks at him in the tree while he alternated running around the tree and chowing down on my key chain. After a few minutes, he jumped to another tree beside it and the chunking of sticks continued for the next few minutes. He set off the car alarm again before jumping onto the roof of a building beside the tree.

At this point, I wasn't sure if I would ever get my keys back (well, technically Mary's). I picked up the frequency of my stick throwing and then he ran over to the side side of the roof. I sprinted around and must have had a moneyshot throw because the keys fell out of his mouth, slid down the roof, and onto the ground. I froze for a second, not knowing what to do. Just like earlier, we stared each other down for a second or two and then I made a mad dash for the keys, while fearing he would jump on the back of my head and start biting me in the neck. Luckily, I got the keys unscathed and was on my way. Unfortunately, he had the last laugh because all of the buttons on the keyless entry were chewed off and to make matters worse, I had to bail on the workout because my first two marathon pace miles were several seconds too slow. If only I got this on video, I would be telling this on the Ellen show and not typing it a couple weeks late in here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indian Lake Loop

I'm not much of a Thanksgiving guy. I really only eat turkey if it's fried and I don't like most of the other traditional dishes, except for macaroni and cheese, rolls and a couple slices of pumpkin pie. Rather than sitting around a table eating, I'd rather be up stairs watching TV or playing Xbox and eating some Halloween candy. However, I'm trying to make it a Thanksgiving tradition to run in a race on Thanksgiving.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in South Carolina and was going to run an 8k in Greenville, but woke up sick. Two years ago, I ran the Indian Lake Loop and really enjoyed it. I was thinking about running the Boulevard Bolt this year but since Ryan Snellen wasn't racing it and it was more expensive than the Indian Lake Loop, I decided to give my hometown race another go.

I had a really hard workout on Monday and wasn't planning on racing this all-out. I was shooting for somewhere around 5:00 pace, so I was looking to run just under 25:00. Two years ago, I got beat by an out of town guy, so I was really hoping he showed up again this year.

I did my normal warm-up routine and since the Porta-John line was insanely long, I decided to visit a bush before heading to the line. It was hard to camoulflage myself in my neon orange singlet but I did my best.

The race seemed like it was pretty big compared to when I ran it two years ago. There was at least 300 people but I didn't see the guy who beat me a couple years back, which was a little disappointing. When the race started, I let some little kid lead for a little bit before crushing his ego and stealing his soul. After about a quarter of a mile, I was moving pretty quickly and was anxious to see what my first mile split would be.

I figured I was going sub 4:50 mile pace so after the watch went past five minutes, I figured the first mile was long. Unfortunately it turned out there were no mile markers during the entire race. It was frustrating because every race I've ever run has had mile markers and the split data is what gets me from mile-to-mile and lets me assess my performance on the run.

When we were running down Indian Lake Blvd., it turned out the biker had us on the wrong side of the road and instead of reversing it and going back on the other side, he just had me do a 180 degree turn and run back down the road.

After heading back down Indian Lake, we turned onto Saundersville for quite a while. Even though there were no splits, I was pretty sure I was under 15 at what would be 5k and shortly after 15 minutes, I started to struggle a little bit. I did my best to stay relaxed while not taking my foot off the gas too much. It felt like we were running down Saundersville Rd. for way too long and once I hit 22 minutes, I knew the course had to be way long. That made me back off the pace a tad because instead of getting a legit time, I would run something that wouldn't really mean anything.

I crossed the line in 26:25 and it turned out we took a couple of wrong turns and the course was closer to 5.4 miles, which would have resulted in a five mile time of around 24:25. Based off my Team Nashville race, this was a harder effort, which was a little frustrating but I was a little tired from a marathon workout three days beforehand. However, since this was my last race before the marathon, I wanted to get the wheels moving and hurt a little bit and that's what happened.

With just 2.5 weeks to go, it's now time to get a feel for and lock into marathon pace so I can make my assault on 2:19.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Team Nashville 10 Miler

On this weekend last year, I ran the Nashville Half-Marathon. However, the Team Nashville 10 miler took place practically on my home turf and I've always heard great things about it. What made me decide on this over the Nashville Half-Marathon was that it was 1/3 of the cost and you get a hoody, as well as pizza. And not some crappy chain pizza but Painturo's pizza, which is pretty stinkin' good.

I changed my mind back and forth between how I wanted to run. Inititally, I wanted to run this at 5:10-5:15 pace and use this as a harder workout. That way, I could get in a good, long session, and not beat up my legs very much so I could train really hard the next week. The other side of me wanted to use this as a near race effort to see if I could get under 51:00. My next hard workout wasn't scheduled until the next Wednesday, so I would have time to recover. While half-marathons trash my legs for several days, I figured a 10 mile race would be a quicker recovery. However, Wednesday's workout put a beating on my legs, so I decided to go with the more controlled effort.

Looking at the forecast the night before, I anticipated a pretty good temperature, with some steady wind. However, the weather was under 40 degrees and luckily, there wasn't much wind. I wanted to get in about 15 miles for the morning, so I ran just under a three mile warm-up with my token strides and drills. I got to the line just in time and saw a lot of Hendersonville Running Club members, as well as Scott Fanning, who's a really tough Master's runner in the area.

When the gun went off, I got out pretty slowly. I always hate starting off fast and looking like an idiot. After running for the pack for a hundred meters or so, I slowly left them. We ran in the park for a mile, which took me 5:15. That was slower than I wanted and I knew the next mile was pretty rolling, so I picked it up some. I also knew a lot of windy roads were coming up, so I practiced running the tangents, to get a mental feel for it so it's fresh on my mind for Rocket City.

My second mile was a 5:03 but it felt relaxed. I realized nearly everyone feels relaxed two miles into a ten mile race, so I tried to make sure I kept it comfortable but my body was locking into the rhythm and I split 5:04 the next mile. In this mile, we were about to start the four mile Madison Creek Loop. The first part contains a couple very gradual inclines that you really don't notice until you start running fast on them. The first half of the loop climaxes with a short but steep climb before giving you an instant downhill with some additional very gradual declines.

Because I knew the first half of the loop was going to be a little more difficult, I tried to stay focused and not get lazy on the hills and split 5:08 for the fourth mile. I was still running faster than I initially planned but the pace felt so relaxed and even felt easier than a tempo run. The next mile went by in 5:11 and then shortly after, it was time to climb the hill.

At first glance, the hill doesn't really look that tough. As I mentioned earlier, it's a pretty short climb but what makes it bad is all of that slow, gradual climbing you did before that. By the time you start the hill, you realize you're already tired, so it's a struggle to make it to the top. Similar to being stuffed by a plate of spaghetti at Demos' because of all the bread I ate beforehand, I struggled up the hill due to the pre-hill "appetizers."

After getting to the top, I knew it was going to be smooth sailing for a while. I took advantage of the downhill and went through the sixth mile in 5:09. At this point, I wasn't really paying attention to how fast I was running, I was just going by effort. And becasue my watch display only showed the current time of the mile I was running on, I wasn't sure of my overall time. However, I knew I was definitely sub 52:00 pace and still felt really good. I then decided to go for around 51:30.

The new goal most have motivated me because somehow I dropped a 4:52 the next mile. I have a hard time running a 4:52 mile in a 5k, so I was definitely pleased with how relaxed this felt. I also continued to get more greedy because I then decided to shoot for 51:00. It was over a minute faster than my original goal but I wasn't running any harder than what I thought a 52:00 would feel like, so I decided to go for it.

After doing some rough math, I figured I'd need to run in the low 5:00s to break 51. I tried to focus on the next mile and lock into 5:00 pace but again, I got overly excited and ran a 4:42 mile, which was insanely fast. For a brief moment, I debated trying to keep up the fast pace and break 50:00, but I didn't want a few days of dead legs, so I made myself relax and went through the ninth mile in 4:57.

The last mile contains a somewhat tough hill. Even on easy runs, I struggle up it a little bit, so because I knew I'd lose several seconds on it, I turned up the pace a notch. I was surprised with how strong I felt running up the hill and I enjoyed the downhill after it before entering the park for the last minute or so of running.

Coming into the final straightaway, I expected to see around 50:30 or so on the clock, so I was really amazed when I saw it was right near 50:00. I relaxed a little bit and ended up running 50:09, with a 4:48 last mile. A few minutes later, I was told it was a new state record by over a minute, which surprised me because I honestly could have run a minute faster if I would have run harder, not to mention, this was the 7th day of a 121 mile week.

About the only bad thing about the day is that I almost potentially got beat up by some fat guy. I was waiting for one of my high school runners to finish up and some guy in a car laid on the horn at some runner who ran in front of him. When the car drove by me, I shrugged my shoulders and gave him a "what's your problem" look. Immediately the driver slammed on his brakes and came out of the car towards me. He was a really big dude but I couldn't tell if he was just fat-fat or grizzly bear fat. He asked me what my problem was and I told him to relax because the guy was just running a race. We debated back and forth for a bit and then he mentioned something about breaking my legs so I wouldn't be able to run. I then let him know there was a bunch of cops just around the turn and threatening someone is a crime. After the situation, I realized that I should have told him that even with broken legs, at least I would still be able to wipe my own butt but the best comebacks are usually thought of after the situation. He then walked back to his car and I may or may not have yelled something about Krispy-Kreme donuts.

If it theoretically did come down to a scrap, hopefully my time getting beaten up and choked on a near daily basis at Westside MMA would come in handy. With a fat guy like that, I guess I would just keep my distance and leg kick him until he fell down or had a heart attack. Who knows. Well, four more weeks to go and things are looking good. I feel like I'm in 2:19 shape now and still have some fitness to gain. I guess I just have to avoid the sicknesses and not get beat up by random fat guys.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Month to Go!

Well, time is winding down. With only one month to go, I don't expect to gain a lot of fitness but there are several things that will take place over the next month before I get to the starting line.

#1. Train Hard. With cross country season over, I now have the time to ramp up my mileage a little bit. And with a little over four weeks to go, I'm experiencing my hardest period of training. I'm trying to get in around 120 miles a week and put on the finishing touches to my cycle. As race day approaches, become familiar with marathon pace takes the utmost importance. Running a few seconds too fast or too slow early in the race can have a drastic effect, so I'm doing my best to learn my goal race rhythm and become as relaxed and efficient as possible at it.

#2. Clean up my diet. For my entire life, I've struggled to eat healthy. I've tried to cut out the junk food but I just love it too much. Not a single day goes by where I don't eat something "bad" for me. And with the heavy mileage, I burn a lot of calories and it's hard for me to maintain my weight unless I snack a lot. Some people might call it binge eating, I call it fueling the furnace. However, my marathon goal is going to be tough enough as it is, so I need every advantage possible. I hope to start the race 3-5 lbs. lighter than my last two marathons, which could give me an extra 30-60 seconds. Those precious seconds could be the difference between running in the Olympic Trials and watching it on TV, while eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

#3. Get used to my fuel. For my marathons, I prefer to mix a packet of Vanilla Bean Gu into water bottles. And because I struggle so much to drink on the run, my bottle of choice is an empty Tummy-Yummies bottle. They are only about 50 cents each at Wal-Mart, and have a top attached to it, which makes it much easier to drink. By combining the two, it's easier to drink than water because the solution is a little thicker, which makes it come out of the bottle slower. which Before now, I haven't taken in any fuel on my training runs. A major focus of marathon training is to teach your body to react in a low carbohydrate state. By taking in fuel during long training sessions, you may help that individual session but you are hurting your performance down the road. If your body is used to constantly taking any carbohydrates while running, it won't be very effecient when the carbohydrates are running out. I've always viewed taking in carbohydrates during marathon training runs as similar to training for a trail race on the's just not very logical. But to make a long story short, I'll take a Gu bottle or two on some of my training runs to get my stomach used to the contents of the drink.

#4. Practice running the tangents.
I've never been good at angles and tangents. I'm terrible at pool and I made a D in high school geometry (I could partitally blame that on the ADD). A marathon is 26.2 miles when you run the shortest possible route at all times. Not to mention, you have to add an additional one meter per kilometer to account for human error. You frequently hear of people running an extra half mile or more during a marathon, according to their GPS. I think a large part of that is due to their GPS being not 100% accurate and not a result of the runner adding in an extra several minutes of running during the race. However, I feel like you can easily add in an extra tenth of a mile or so if you don't run the optimal tangents. An extra tenth is worth over 30 seconds at my marathon pace, which is a huge chunk of time. As a result, I will practice running the tangents more often on my daily runs to keep the idea fresh on my mind, so I can execute it on race day.

#5. Last and definitely least, become paranoid. I've runs thousands of miles the last few months and am banking all of my training on this one performance. I usually peak pretty well, which is very important because I need to be in optimal shape come race day. However, early December is a very "sick" time of the year and the viruses and sicknesses are starting to run their course around my school. Even a simple cold could shatter my dreams, so I'm starting to get worried about catching something and am contemplating buying one of those big bubbles and rolling around in that until race day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lunch Lady Land

Two days a week, I serve a 35 minute shift in the cafeteria. In my own happy world, I wouldn't have to do this but when it comes down to it, I don't really mind that much. In this bad economy, I'm just happy to have a job and if I have to hand out forks, mop up spilled slushies and clean tables, so be it. When I'm in the cafeteria, I either dismiss and spray down the tables, watch the classes in line as they wait for their teacher or hand out items/open random stuff for kids, which is probably my favorite job of the three. I get to move around a lot, talk to the kids some and it's not overly repetitive.

However, sometimes it can become my least favorite job whenever I see a kid with a raised hand at a table, with one of these five items in front of them.


While I guess fruit in sugary syrup is better than no fruit at all, I despise opening these things. They are sealed so tightly that you have to use the strength of a grizzly bear with the gentleness of a baby when opening them. Over 90% of the time I open these, I get showered by the juices contained in the cup. I've even tried poking small holes in the top before opening it, which doesn't really help that much. On the bright side, at least I get a quick, sugary pick-me-up nearly every time I open one.


I hated opening these as a kid and it's still the same story over 20 years later. While kids find this drink delicious, I find it obnoxious. I rarely am able to get the straw through the opening without puncturing the other side. It seems like the company realizes the difficulty of the opening process because some of the flavors have the container spread out at the top with the goal of pushing the straw through the top, which does nothing except bend the straw. I've learned to choose your battles wisely, so with this guy, I've learned to just stick a fork into it (literally and figuratively).


It was tough to choose to choose between #2 and #3 but the Nacho Lunchables take the bronze. This package is somewhat of the same story as my #5 pick, except I find fruit syrup on my hand a little more appetizing than salsa and nacho cheese. I can very rarely open this without the plastic covering splitting down the middle. That means I have to try and reopen it an additional one or two times, which require a visit through the salsa and nacho cheese departments. I guess if I carried some extra nachos with me, these wouldn't be too bad but until then, I am not a fan of these, especially when a certain second grader eats these almost every time I'm in the cafeteria.


Go-Gurt takes the #2 spot because it sometimes takes the extra mile...literally. Of course it says "tear here" but that is more of a Hail Mary suggestion rather than reality. The rare times I can tear it open, I get "yogurted", which can be good or bad, depending on the flavor. You also have the possibility of the kids already chewing and biting on it before asking you to open it. Of course they always deny using their teeth, so who knows the truth?

But most of the time, I have to take the Go-Gurt, walk back into the kitchen, cut it open with scissors and then walk back into the cafeteria. By that point, I've forgotten whose Go-Gurt it actually was, so I just wander around the cafeteria with it until some kid raises his hand and reminds me.


Man, I hate these things and Kool-Aid Bursts is the perfect name for them. While the fruit cup just gets my hand and occasionally, part of my arm wet, these things are usually an explosive, high fructose corn syrup bomb. To open them, you have to twist off the top and most of the time, the bottle is filled to the brim. The bad thing about these is that you can't just hold the top and twist because not enough torque is generated. You have to gently squeeze the bottle while twisting the top off and the second the top comes off, Kool-Aid bursts out of the opening at all angles. I've gotten my hands, arm, shirt, eyes and even my ears wet because of these guys.

I guess if you are able to stop squeezing the bottle the milisecond that the top comes off, it wouldn't be so bad but I'm a physical education teacher, not a rocket scientist. Over time, I've learned the best route is to stack up as many things behind it as possible, reach over a kid and then attempt to open it with the understanding that part of me is going to get wet.

In the future and with many years left until retirement, I'm sure I will wage battle with many other obnoxious items but for now, these are my five most hated cafeteria items.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Boo Boo Dash

Sometimes you just don't feel like doing a workout by yourself. Rather than running back and forth down Lower Station Camp, I decided to make the longer than expected drive to Springfield for the Boo Boo Dash. The race was four miles and was on a mostly flat course, which sounded right up my alley.

My plan was to lock into 5:05-5:10 pace and keep it as controlled as I could. The first mile drops a good bit, before heading to the greenway. I accidentally took a wrong turn before the 2nd place guy called out to me and got me back on the right track. It only added 3-4 seconds, so no worries there. My first mile split was 4:57, so I backed off a little bit so I didn't go into racing mode. The next mile was entirely on the greenway, before making a U-turn the way you came.

There was no official two mile split marker, but my second and third miles combined were 10:32. That was slower than I wanted, so I had to speed back up and find my desired rhythm. The last mile was mainly uphill and on a confusing portion, I took a wrong turn, which added about 15-20 seconds. Luckily I had a few minute lead on the second place guy, so it didn't effect anything. I crossed the line in 20:54, with a long last mile in 5:25. With the wrong turns, I would have run around 20:30, which was exactly what I wanted.

Overall, I enjoyed the race a lot. The greenway ran along a creek, and was really scenic and peaceful. The race was very well managed and there were a lot of vendors that gave out free food, which is always a way to win me over. It was definitely a great way to start off the weekend and I will most likely be back next year.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Haunted Half-Marathon

I really hate half-marathons. With marathons, the the key is to stay relaxed and patient for the first 13-15 miles, with pain not really settling in until after that. With the 10k, the pace is intense and the wheels have some fast rpms but the race doesn't last very long. The half-marathon is a combination of the worst aspects of those two races. You get the intense gasping for air pain that the 10k gives, as well as the extreme all-around body fatigue that the marathon generously offers. The perfect explanation for the half-marathon is a tempo run where you die terribly the last few miles. I've run four of them, with only two of those being races. Both of those races were painful experiences for me.

I went into the race hoping that no one really fast would show up so I could run a 1:10-1:11 and use it as a marathon workout. Half-marathons are very hard on the body and take a lot of time to recover from. I wouldn't consider racing a half-marathon any less than four weeks out from a marathon, and even that is a little close. However, I was mentally prepared to race if I had to.

If I had to race, I wanted to at least run under 69:00 and with a great day, felt I could sneak close to 68:00. With my busy schedule, I really haven't had much time to get in any good, consistent half-marathon type workouts. I knew the mileage made me somewhat strong but being strong and half-marathon strong are two different things.

Two weeks before this, I got in just a hair under 116 miles for the week with a really good marathon workout. This week, I got in a little under 100 but backed off the intensity enough where I wasn't going into the race worn out. The race was in Cookeville, which is a little over an hour drive. The race started at 7am, so that meant a very early 3:15am wake-up. Luckily, I was having some company on the road with me. Ryan Chastain was riding down with me to experience his first half-marathon. He was more of a miler/5k guy in college but is a very tough long distance runner nonetheless.

Because it was still pitch black at 6:00am, it was hard to find out where to get our packets. We finally figured everything out, picked our stuff up and headed out for a 15 minute warm-up. The race weather was near perfect...just under 35 degrees, with it working its way to low 40s over the course of the race.

At the line, I saw my friend Bradley Chronister, who is a pretty solid runner and after looking over my shoulder, I got nervous because I saw Patrick Cheptoek and Micah Tirop behind me. Patrick absolutely destroyed my at the Goodlettsville Classic. I led him for a little over a mile before he put almost a minute on me in a little bit over two miles. I felt like a baby mouse playing with a lion. Micah is also very tough as well. He thoroughly spanked me the only two times we've raced but since he ran The Middle Half last week, I knew he'd be tired and thought I could have a shot of staying somewhat close if I played my cards right.

When the gun went off, some guy I didn't recognize took the lead and I filed in behind. I was a little nervous running ahead of Patrick and Micah but the pace wasn't very fast and I decided to go for a new PR.

I finished the first mile in 5:14 in a pack with five other guys. Micah and Patrick then took the lead, so I went with them. This mile had a pretty good downhill in it, so we ran a much faster, 4:59. I knew the next mile was uphill and the pace felt fast, so I gave them a bit of a gap in the third mile. In both half-marathons I've raced, I went out too fast and died terribly at the end, so I didn't want to make that mistake here.

Patrick and Micah continued to run together and were about 10 seconds ahead of me. My plan was to stay patient, keep them in site and maybe catch up to Micah if Patrick dropped him. Within the next few minutes, Patrick put in a small gap, so that's when I got focused and had a goal to slowly catch Micah in the next two miles or so.

The middle of the race included a lot of turns and small hills. I noticed that whenever I ran up a hill, I would make up a second or so on Micah, which gave me confidence because I'm a pretty bad hill runner. Shortly after the halfway point, I was only a few seconds away and then shortly after that, I caught up. He accelerated when I pulled up beside him but I stayed with him. I didn't want to make any moves because there was still a lot of racing left but I wanted to let him know I wasn't going anywhere.

Within the next few minutes, I slowly pulled away and did my best to keep Patrick, who was about 15-20 seconds ahead, somewhat close. I knew I wouldn't be able to beat him but I was hoping he would pull me to a fast time. At this point in the race, I knew I was going most likely going to break 68:00. At the Tom King half-marathon, I started to die around eight miles but in this race, I went through eight miles feeling really good. I knew I needed to stay focused until the 10th mile because that's when I started to really struggle at The Middle Half last year.

I went through ten miles feeling good and then decided I could make a run at sub 67:00. I had some muscle fatigue in my hamstrings and butt from all of the hills but aerobically, I was still really strong. I pushed down on the accelerator because I really didn't want to see 67:00 or 67:01 on the clock.

The last 5k included some more hills but I tried to stay strong on them so I wouldn't lose any additional seconds. With a mile to go, I was pretty certain I'd get sub 67:00. At this point, I was running consistent 5:00-5:05 miles but I didn't want to take it for granted. When I hit the final straightaway, I knew I had sub 67:00 in the bag and I crossed the line in 66:54 for 2nd place. Patrick had an easy win in 66:33, Micah was 3rd in 67:56 and Ryan ran really win to seal up 4th place in 68:10.

After last year's Middle Half, I had to lay down on the ground for a few minutes and after this year's Tom King half, I couldn't jog for more than a minute before having to walk. After today's raise, I was able to get in a good cool-down with Patrick without much trouble and there was never a point in the race where I didn't feel strong.

I was really pumped because I thought I was nowhere near that fitness level. Later on, I saw I set a new state record for 30 year old's and was only a few seconds from the open state record. Micah ran sub 66:00 last year but it's not listed as a record, which doesn't make sense. Maybe you have to be a U.S. citizen but fast running is fast running and if you live in Tennessee, you should be eligible for the record. Anyway, it was a great day and I feel like I'm where I need to be to make the assault at 2:19. It's now time to get full-fledged into marathon mode and ramp up the miles.

Mile splits: 5:14, 4:59, 5:07, 5:10, 5:03, 5:17, 5:10, 5:07, 5:08, 10:02 (2 miles), 5:05, 5:01

Friday, October 14, 2011

Marathon Cycle

It's now time to get serious. With eight weeks to go, it's time to transition to my marathon-specific cycle. The key during this phase is to get as efficient as possible at marathon pace, as well as teach my body to burn fats quicker and be able to respond in a low-glycogen state. The more efficient you are at burning fats, the longer you delay the dreaded wall. To run an event well, you have to replicate the stress your body goes through in the event during your training. For the marathon, that means that both my long runs and my weekend marathon paced workouts will be on an empty stomach, without taking anything in during the run, in order to get in a low carbohydrate state.

With my last cycle, I ran a variety of paces and intensities. Some days, I would run insanely fast and other days would be longer, steadier workouts The goal was to be more of a "complete" distance runner and be fit from the 5k through the half-marathon. One of the main goals of the marathon-specific cycle, is to extend the distance you are able to run at marathon pace. For example, for my first hard workout, I may run 6x3k, then move on to 4x5k, then something like 3x7k. Other than a sporadic race, I won't run anything much faster than marathon pace at all. I have already built up my motor in the last phase, so I need to now make it as efficient as possible.

I'm a little nervous going into this cycle because I don't feel very fit. I haven't had any great races or workouts, and have barely had any long runs. My plan was to get in around 2:22 marathon shape when I started this cycle, so I could slowly make my assault at 2:19. In order to get in 2:22 shape, I knew I would need to have a very good speed cycle, and that just didn't happen. My earlier plan was to run Chicago and after about 5-6 weeks of my speed cycle, I knew I wouldn't have a chance at sub 2:19, so I bagged my training, took a few easier weeks and started a shortened speed cycle. That went ok for a couple weeks, before I got sick and lost 1-1.5 weeks of solid training. You hear everyone say that two wrongs don't make a right but I'm hoping my two shortened cycles will somehow get me where I need to be on December 10th.

Based on my life schedule and what I need to work on, my training will be a hybrid of how I trained for the past two marathons (Country Music was more speed-focused, while Rocket City was a pure marathon focus.) Because I don't have the time to get in my longer, marathon paced workouts until cross country season is over, I'll work a little more on my half-marathon speed with things such as progression runs, tempos, etc. Once cross country is over, I'll have five weeks to train exactly how I need to, which should give me a good fitness boost. During that time, I'm hoping to get in at least a couple of weeks in the 120-125 mile range.

After the Country Music Marathon, I thought I would have a 60-70% chance of getting in 2:19 shape (getting in shape and then executing it on marathon day is an entirely different thing) but right now, I think the odds are just under 50%. But to be honest, I'm not huge on goals. All you can do is train to your maximum ability and see where that takes you. Hopefully my training will look something like this:

Monday: Two recovery runs
Tuesday: Recovery run; Easy run with 10x10-12s all-out hill sprints
Wednesday: Easy recovery run; Marathon-specific workout
Thursday: Two easy recovery runs
Friday: Medium run or medium progression run; Recovery run
Saturday: Easy run; Recovery run
Sunday: Marathon-specific workout or long run

It's pretty simple training but with running, there are no complicated formulas or secret workouts. The only "secret" is getting out on the roads and wearing out your running shoes as much as you can.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Harvest Moon 10k

I always look forward to the White House races because White House is where I do almost all of my hard workouts, so in a way, I look at it as my home course. Before getting sick, my plan was to run as many miles under 5:00 as I could, and if I died at the end, then so be it. Too often, it's easy to be concerned about having enough for for a strong finish or worrying about what's to come down the road instead of focusing on what's taking place at the current moment. Anyone can rally home with a strong finish but few can make themselves suffer in the middle (which I struggled with most of my college career).

After the Music City marathon, my legs were completely beat up for a few days, most likely due to my body still not being 100% from the sickness, so my new plan was to run a hard effort but not push it over the edge.

Normally the White House races are pretty low-key without a lot of competition. I didn't get to run this race last year because of a cross country meet, but two years ago, I ran 36 something and won by a few minutes, and the year before that, I finished as the first male (not first overall because I ended up getting "chicked"), running over 39:00 in the process. Festus Chemaoi showed up to the White House race this summer and while he didn't show up this year, one of my rivals, Jef Scott, did. He's almost 40 years old but is a low 15s 5k runner and I only beat him by a few seconds in a race this summer, despite being pretty fit, with him just coming back from a lay-off.

As soon as I saw him, I thought I would most likely lose. I was on track to get in about 100 miles this week, ran a pretty hard workout on Wednesday and still was not 100% from being sick. I still planned to go out on my shield, but I wasn't completely confident in my chances.

During my warm-up, I tried to get focused and prepare myself for the pain to come. Some people aren't big on visualization but it's huge with me. During my workouts and runs, I constantly think about upcoming races and visualize how I want them to go, as well as visualizing the things that can go wrong and how to work through them.

I decided the best strategy was to hang with him and then try to outkick him. He is usually a smart, consistent racer who closes up pretty hard over the last mile or so. When the gun went off, we stayed together as we made our way out of the park and into the neighborhood. The pace felt pretty quick but wasn't too bad. We hit the first mile marker in 4:16, which was definitely short because we were probably running 4:55-5:00 pace.

The second mile included a couple climbs, which I gapped him a tiny bit on. I'm normally a really bad hill runner but since I had a tiny lead, I decided to bluff and act like it was one of my strong points. He caught back up shortly and the course was pretty up-and-down for the next couple of miles as it made it's way to the greenway. I've out in a ton of miles on the greenway, so I knew all the ins-and-outs of it, which I was going to try to use to my advantage.

Once you hit the greenway, you hit a downhill that last 600m or so. Since I'm a decent downhill runner, I decided to make a little gap and then continue to hammer down the greenway. I got about a three second or so lead and continued to press so I could hopefully increase the gap due to the uphill finish.

Once you hit about 4.5 miles, there is a long, grinding hill that I dubbed "Puke Hill" after getting sick on it several years ago. I knew if I used too much gas before the hill, I'd have a heck of a time running up it. I then backed off the pace so I could have a little bit of mojo left and not get broken by Jef while running up it. I was feeling pretty good at this point but was leaving my fate in his hands. If he hammered the hill, it might be enough to mentally crack me and then I started losing a little bit of confidence before snapping out of it and getting focused again.

We stayed together up the hill and shortly after it, I felt him accelerate the pace a couple times but at this point in the race, I knew I would be able to stick with him and have enough for a hard, final push. Once we got off the greenway and entered the park again, I hung with him until I saw the finish line and then finished pretty strongly to take a two second win in 29:36.

After seeing the time, I knew the course was close to a half mile short. The course was pretty tough with all of the hills and it felt like I ran a little under 32 on a certified course. Despite that, I enjoyed the race a lot and always enjoy the small-town feel of the White House races.

Afterward, I got in several miles with Jef and got to know him better. His daughter runs for a killer high school cross country program and since Jef and his wife both coach, I was able to pick his brain on some coaching ideas.

Overall it was a great way to start the weekend. I ran much better than I thought I would be able to, had a lot left in the tank afterward and closed out a 100 mile week. It was also nice beating Jef because he's such a tough runner who will tear up the Master's scene in a few months.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Music City Half Marathon

Since it was only $35 and on a fast course, I decided to run the Music City Half Marathon and hopefully run it as a steadier pace. The winner usually runs this around 1:18 or so, so I was hoping to show up and run 5:40ish effort, which would be a solid but not overbearing pace. If someone ran faster than that, I would man up and race but I was really hoping to run

The week before this, I came down with some mystery flu-like illness, where my body had a high fever and a lot of aches, pains and chills. The fever lasted for less than 24 hours before disappearing. I was still really weak for a few days afterward, and then the fever decided to rear it's ugly head and put me on my butt again. I was debating skipping this race but for the past couple of days, I felt a little better (despite a constant, hacking cough) and really hoped I could still stick to my plan of 5:40s.

I ran three miles for my warm-up, which is a little longer than usual for a half-marathon but I was hoping to get in some good mileage during the morning. When it was time to race and the gun went off, I got out really relaxed and no one wanted to take the pace. I took the lead a few seconds into the race and was fortunate enough to keep it the rest of the way.

I finished in 1:14:06, with splits of 5:57, 5:37, 5:49, 5:46, 5:44, 5:40, 5:39, 5:28, 5:34, 5:31, 5:29, 5:34, 5:42, 35. I felt sluggish for the first half of the race, loosened up some in the middle and backed off the last mile because I started getting a little tired. Overall, I was happy with the performance considering my body is still beat up from being sick.

I enjoyed this race a lot. The admission is almost 1/3 the cost of the Country Music Half Marathon and the course is nice and flat (the course is almost identical to the Tom King Half Marathon).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Commodore Classic 8k Cross Country

After nearly eight years away from the game, it was time to once again lace-up my spikes (well, I actually had to borrow some from a kid on my team) and race the young whipper snappers in a college cross country race. I have some friends in the Nashville area who formed a team and gave me the invite to join. After coming off of five weeks of easier mileage, I knew I wouldn't be very race sharp but I was looking forward to seeing what I could pull off.

I didn't really have any concrete goals for the race. I knew the course was tough because my freshman year of college, I completely tanked in this race and ran 27:27. It was so bad that my coach went off on me right after the race and me being the sensitive diva I am, ended up fighting tears. Ryan Chastain was part of my team and he's a pretty solid runner and has done some recent races, so I decided to key off him for the first few miles and see how I felt. I also saw that the top 20 runners received a T-shirt, which then became my goal.

There were 22 teams in the race and I pegged Alabama as the favorite to win. Our team goal was to take out Vanderbilt and see how close we could get to Belmont and Lipscomb. I didn't know who the top individuals would be but I did see a lot of Kenyans and college kids with terrible looking tattoos. It's funny how in your late teens/early 20s, something looks so cool but down the road, just looks ridiculous. I'm just glad I didn't get the Flash tattoo I was planning on my junior year if I made All-American in the steeplechase (missed by just one spot.)

With some people being out with travel and sickness, our final team was me, Ryan Chastain, Ted Towse, Dan Muller, Alex Moore and Hunter Hethcoat. We were hoping to at least take out Vanderbilt and make a run at Belmont and Lipscomb.

I checked out the course on the warm-up and wasn't a big fan of it. The terrain was pretty bumpy, the grass was thick and there were a couple hills that I knew would put a whooping on me. Too often it's easy to subconsciously expect and rationalize a poor performance before you even step to the line.

When I headed to the line, I did a few strides but felt pretty flat. From my past shorter races, I've realized that I don't keep the pace fast enough and often settle into the patience of marathon mode. With the longer races, I still constantly focus on the pace, but in a more relaxed fashion. With races 10k and under, I have to make an effort to constantly press on the gas.

Everyone finally got settled, and it was time to go. When the gun went off, I tried to make my way in the top 20 or so. I got in my desired position about a hundred meters into the race and then slowly settled into my groove. That was a big mistake because in about 10 seconds, I went from about 20th to close to 100th. Guys flew by me and I got stuck in the middle with no escape. With training primarily by myself and running races were I'm usually towards the front, I've learned how to get a real read for my body, paces, etc. The problem was, I was racing about 200 other guys and I forgot what that was like.

I tried to shift my way out of the middle so I could move up. I had to push a couple of guys out of the way and cut off a few others but eventually, I was at the edge of the massive herd and for the next 10-15 seconds, sprinted my way up the side, passing about at least 50 people in the process.

A few hundred meters into the race, there is a bridge, which made traffic come to a standstill. However, once I got off that, I was able to pass a lot more people and a little over 1000 meters into the race, I was in the top 15. I continued to pass people and moved my way into the top 10, hitting the mile marker in 5:00.

Anyone can run a good first mile of a race when you're out of shape. You're pumped up, the adrenaline is pumping and you have a temporary false reality of your capabilities. Reality doesn't start creeping in until a few minutes later, so I chose to slightly slow down before science made me. I relaxed a hair and was within 10 seconds of the leader but over the course of the 2nd mile, I slowly lost some time. There was a hill that to the naked eye didn't look too bad but it definitely slowed me down. I split 5:15 for the second mile, which frustrated me because I knew if I lost 15 seconds in one mile, things could get ugly if I didn't consciously stay focused and work on attacking the guys ahead of me.

In the third mile, I was starting to get passed. Shortly before the end of the third mile, Ryan Chastain passed me, which was frustrating because I wanted to be close to him. And with me bleeding time, I knew if I got passed by him before three miles, I would probably lose to him by 15-20 seconds. In college, I really struggled with the 8k cross country distance. If I ran well for three miles, I would have a good race. However, if I struggled before the end of the third mile, I would not finish the race as a happy camper. Throughout the years, I've become a much improved and mature racer, so I mentally caught myself resorting to my old college habits and tried to get back into gear.

I split an even slower mile with a 5:27 but with a renewed focus, started chasing some guys again. I was probably in 15th-20th or so place at this point and tried to work my way back up into the top 10. I was gaining ground on the people in front of me and even passed a couple of them. I struggled up the hill again but after getting to the top, I started making up even more ground. I ran a really solid 5:06 split this mile, which put me back in the thick of things.

I heard Dave Milner yell to some Belmont kid that there was about 1000 meters left, so I tried to push. I went from just outside the top 10 to right behind a pack of several guys. I didn't want to start my kick too early, so I tried to stay close to the pack until it was time to sprint. My mental laziness cost me a few seconds and a few spots, as a Belmont kid and a couple of Kenyans went by me.

Finally, it was the final straightaway. In high school, I loved getting into kicks. It was mano-a- mano and if you were gritty and stubborn enough, you would win nearly everytime. In college, I learned that everyone is tough and even if you raced your butt off to the line, some guys would still beat you and then steal your lunch money. Since starting back running in Tennessee, the only time I've been in a kick is when Ryan Snellen beat me at the Fangtastic 5k this past February. So I was excited at the oppurtunity to test my manhood for the next twenty or so seconds.

I started gaining ground on the guys ahead of me and with about 50 meters in the race, passed a couple of guys. I could see the two Kenyans who went by me earlier on, starting to struggle, so I tried to kick in another gear and caught them both in the last 10 meters of the race.

I crossed the line in 11th place in 25:33 with a 4:45 last .97, and ended up with my t-shirt. It was a little bittersweet because if I would have run 2.5 seconds faster, I would have been 7th, which I think I could have done. But then again, if I would have run a little over 2.5 seconds slower, I would have been 14th. But we did beat Vanderbilt, which I was happy about.

One of my high school runners on his way to the Vandy game came to watch me run. Within a minute of receiving the shirt, I realized that I have too many shirts as it is, so I gave it to him. It's funny how little extrinsic rewards like a shirt, medal, etc., motivate you to achieve a certain task, but after you receive the reward, you realize it's meaningless and the real reward was completing the task.

All in all, it was a pretty good day at the office. I feel like this was a better performance than my Crazy 8's and Goodlettsville Classic 4 Miler even though I'm really rusty right now. The plan now is to spend the next month or so trying to get some wheels before laying down my marathon-specific fitness.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Death of Chicago

I've always wanted to run the Chicago Marathon. Everyone tells me it's a really cool town, they are known for great pizza (my favorite food) and most importantly, it's a very competitive race on one of the fastest courses in the world. And with Chicago being three months before the Olympic Marathon Trials, I figure that 90% of the people who are still shooting for the qualifying time will be there.

The Chicago Marathon is just over five months after the Country Music Marathon. Before a marathon, I prefer at least six months before my next one. Ideally, I would have two or three weeks rest time, eight weeks of base training, ten weeks of speed training and then eight weeks of marathon-specific training. My Chicago training definitely felt more rushed because of the shorter time frame but I thought I would still be good to go.

My rest break was shorter than I would have liked and my base phase didn't go as smoothly as I anticipated but a couple of weeks into my speed phase, I felt I was right on track. I was having good workouts and getting in some strong mileage. However, my two races during the phase were much slower than I anticipated. You can blame it on the heat or on dead legs but it was definitely unmotivating, especially when you sometimes live and die by the stopwatch.

At the end of my speed phase, I was hoping to have the wheels to run around 14:30 in the 5k and sub 68:00 in the half marathon. I felt that would give me the speed I need to lay the foundation for a sub 2:19 marathon. However, in addition to the slow races, my legs constantly felt like crap. When your running slowly, battling the heat everyday and constantly feel drained, running just isn't much fun.

And when it comes down to it, running is just my hobby. I'm a new father, I have a teaching career that I really love and I'm also a cross country and track coach. And with around 90% of my athletes being first-year runners, this year will take some extra time and focus to get them to where they need to be. Trying to find small blocks of time to get in 100-120 miles a week of running without sacrificing other things and being too stressed out is near impossible.

To make a long story short, I've decided to make the Rocket City Marathon on December 10th my main training focus. It's only five weeks before the Olympic Trials, so if I ran sub 2:19 there, I'm not sure how much of my mojo I would have left just a few weeks later. But the main goal is to just get to the Trials and if I can somehow bust out a sub 65:00 half-marathon sometime in November, that'll punch my ticket and then I can skip the full marathon.

I really wanted to run Chicago and was looking forward to it but I felt like I was trying to swim in the ocean while keeping my head above the water. Running Rocket City lets me swim in the ocean, while wearing a snorkle. Cross country is over five weeks before the race, which gives me some good training time, the weather will be colder and I can also be more patient with my training. I'll have a lot less competition but I run most of my hard workouts by myself anyway, so that's not really an issue. I"ll also be able to do some more lead-up races and hopefully make some money in the process.

Now it's time to back off for a week or so and then I'll figure out my battle plan. I'll most likely do 3-4 weeks of base training to get my miles back up and let my nervous system recharge. I'll follow that with a short 4-5 week speed phase and then do a full eight week marathon-specific cycle. I feel much better about my chances now and can work on some weaknesses and make some improvements off this failed cycle. It also helps knowing that I can take a deep breath and focus on more important things in life.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Goodlettsville Classic

This was the race I was most looking forward to. While Crazy 8's is a big race with a lot of top competition, the Goodlettsville Classic takes place at Moss Wright Park, where I do most of my training and feels like it's my "home" race. There's also several guys who are somewhat my rivals who come down for it, so it's a race I really look forward to.

Lately, I've been getting in some really hard work. The six weeks prior to this race, I got in over 600 miles of running and decided to take a "down" week this week to be a little more fresh for this race. While I haven't done much work at the pace I wanted to run this race at, I was hoping my endurance would pull me through.

The course isn't really fast and makes somewhat of a figure 8 around the park. There is really only one hill, which is just after the second mile marker and is followed by a downhill. Last year, I ran this race in 21:16 and really wasn't happy with my performance. My goal for this race was to run as far under 20:00 as I could. I felt that I was a lot more fit than last year and with a 25:07 "bad race" 8k a couple of weeks ago, I felt that I wouldn't have too hard of a time breaking 20:00

With money to the top three runners, I was halfway expecting a random Kenyan to show up, and I knew Jef Scott and Nate Pennington were running. Chris Herren also planned on coming, so I felt I definitely would have some company to push me the whole way.

Chris didn't end up running but a Ugandan did and at the time, I didn't know what to expect from him. My pre-race plan was to run the first mile in around 4:50, hoping Nate would take it out hard because he took it out quickly at the Tom King Half. If I was fighting for the win, I was going to make a hard push after the downhill, which was about 2.5 miles into the race, and hope I mentally broke the other runners.

When the gun went off, Nate and I took the lead. The pace felt a little slower than I wanted but my legs felt really heavy. After about a half of a mile, I had a 1-2 second lead on Nate and kept that through the mile, which I hit in 5:01. I was frustrated with the split, so I tried to push again.

Shortly after the mile marker, you make your way onto the trail. At this point, the Ugandan guy (who I later found out was Patrick Cheptoek, who ran 22:58 at Crazy 8's) flew by me, so, I knew I was racing for second. I went through two miles in 10:04, and had about 6-7 seconds on Nate, Jef and Colin Johnson (college runner at UT-Martin). I really struggled on the uphill, sped up on the downhill and then picked it up again once I got back onto the trail.

My pre-race plan was to start to put the hammer down at this point but my legs just didn't feel like moving. Aerobically, I was feeling good, I just had some mushy legs. I guess I got really lazy in this mile, because I went through three miles in 15:19, which gave me a much slower, 5:15 third mile.

I was really frustrated with the split but was slowly putting increasing the gap on Jef and Colin (who were 3rd and 4th at this point), so I wasn't feeling like attacking. During the last mile, I put in a couple short pick-ups to keep my lead and finished up without killing myself. I wasn't working on my math while I was running, so I was expecting to run around 20:15 but when I crossed the line in 20:34, I was really frustrated. Patrick Cheptoek won in 19:24 and Jef Scott finished 3rd in 20:47.

That's only a little bit over 10 seconds a mile faster than last year, and at that point, I had a lot more room to improve than I do now. Granted I didn't race all-out until the finish line but even if I did, I couldn't have seem myself run much faster than 20:15 or so. The weather was also 80 degrees, which is about 9s a mile, using the calculator I use but calculators don't count for real times.

At the beginning of my speed phase, I felt like I was right at 15:00 5k track shape. At this point, I was hoping to be in 14:30 shape. I've run some mega miles the last few weeks but I'm just not firing on all cylinders right now. I have some small changes I'm going to make in my training these next couple of weeks but as of now, I'm way behind schedule.

I'll see how the next 3-4 weeks of training go and then make a decision about running Chicago for sure or taking a little down time and then going after 2:19 at Rocket City. Chicago is definitely what I prefer, so hopefully it works out.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Crazy 8's

With my 5k debacle a couple of weeks ago, it's time for my first real race. I've gotten in some pretty decent training and after this weekend, will have over 500 miles in over the last five weeks. My "A" goal is to run 24:30 with my "B" goal being 24:59. However, while I've gotten in a lot of workouts between 5:10-5:20 pace, I've done very little running at under 5:00 pace, so I didn't know how well my body would to respond to sub 5:00 pace.

Crazy 8's is advertised as "the world's fastest 8k." While the course itself isn't really fast, the world record (22:02) was set at this race and they always have a very competitive field, full of top-level Kenyans. While it's nice to win some money in a small-town road race every once in a while, the races where I have guys constantly pushing me from behind and guys to constantly chase down are the races I enjoy the most. Winning is nice but I'll take constant battles any day of the week.

The race takes place in Kingsport, TN, which is about a 4.5 hour drive from Nashville. I headed down to Chris Herren's place and then we left for the race. Luckily the race took place at 9:58pm, so it gave us plenty of time to get there and relax. At about 6:00, we made it to our hotel and did a short one mile jog to loosen up our legs from the car ride. I was feeling really tired, so I took a short nap and then headed to the lobby for a couple of cups for coffee.

About 8:30, we headed down to the race and at 9:15, started warming-up. It was pitch black at this point and Chris and I got in about 20 minutes of running. I then did some drills and got in several strides. I felt really sluggish on my warm-up but was still expecting to run very well.

My race plan was to go out in about 4:50 and key off Chris a good bit. He's been running some hard workouts and has gotten in several races, so I figured he would be a lot more racing sharp than me.

Eventually, it was time to race and when the gun went off, everyone took off. With the lead pack most likely running the first mile in around 4:20, I was nervous that I would start too fast, so I tried to have some restraint. I was probably in about 50th place or so a couple of minutes in, but started to reel in a lot of people and make my way up the pack.

Start of the race

Chris and I were leading the main chase pack and we hit the mile together in 5:00. I was a little mad because I thought we were running well under 5:00 pace for sure. After the split, I put in a surge and shortly afterward, Chris put a few second gap on me and I hit the two mile a little bit behind him in 10:06, with a 5:06 2nd mile. I was a little upset I was over 25:00 pace, so I tried to surge again and ended up catching Chris and by the 3rd mile (15:10 split), had about a five second lead.

Right at the start of the third mile, there was a 1/3 mile gradual uphill. While it wasn't too steep, I definitely felt it and started struggling towards the end. I expected Chris to pass me back but I still had a few second lead. At this point I was getting frustrated because while Chris was pushing me from behind, the person ahead of me had a good 20 second or so lead on me, so it was hard to try and chase him. Shortly before the fourth mile, I was confused at a turn and had to ask which way to go, which cost me a couple of seconds. That didn't help my cause because I ran a 5:17 that mile and split 20:27 for four miles. At this point, I thought my shot at sub 25 was gone and because I wasn't making up any ground on the guy ahead of me, my goal was to try and pull away from Chris because he was hot on my heels.

Right at the start of the last mile, my stomach started to ache, probably as a result of the coffee. I tried to forget about it and really work on turning my legs over. It felt like my legs were moving really quickly but I couldn't get that deep-down burning in my legs and muscle weakness that I was hoping to have at this point. After a couple of minutes, I could tell I was slowly gaining on the guy ahead of me, so I did my best to reel him in. I could tell I was getting close to the end and when someone yelled I was at 23:53, I started to really move because I wanted to break 25:00.

I started to quickly gain on the guy ahead of me but once I got on the football field for the last 75 yards or so, I could see the clock approach 25:00, and knew my shot was gone. I ended up crossing the line in 25:07 with a 4:40 for the last .97 miles to finish in 17th place, with the guy ahead of me in 24:59 and Chris in 25:23.

Crossing the line in 25:07 on the race clock

Overall, I was really frustrated with this race. I've been running my tempo runs feeling pretty comfortable at under 5:15 pace, so I definitely thought I could run under 5:00 pace. While I closed up really well, I didn't hurt as badly as I should have after crossing the line. Races are about making your body suffer and going out on your shield and I didn't do that too well. I had way too much left and felt like I could have run at least one more mile at 5:00 pace.

I guess it's easy to make excuses. I had a long car ride that day, I had pretty heavy legs from the past few weeks of training, I never really had anyone to chase down and I have trouble running fast at night. Being a bad night racer sounds stupid but when I'm in pain in races, I will focus on the farthest thing ahead of me and not let up on the effort until I get there. After I make it to that spot, I reset my mind and find a new focal point. But during the race, I couldn't really see that far ahead of me. But I always tell my kids I coach that anybody who looks for an excuse will find one. But if you're truly looking to improve yourself, you have to identify what you as an individual did wrong and work to improve that rather than find excuses to justify a bad performance.

I'm halfway through my speed phase and in another four weeks, I need to be at the point where I can run another eight miles at this pace. I definitely have some work to do, will make a tweak or two in my training and will make sure I run my next important race, the Goodlettsville Classic on July 30th, on some fresher legs. At least it's not run at night...

But besides the bad race, overall, I really enjoyed Crazy 8's. Racing through the candle-lit streets at night time was really cool, there was tons of crowd support, things were run very well, and it was just a cool and fun environment overall. And how many races do you run where results are being updated during the race? I definitely plan on going back next year (and hopefully will race better).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Indepedence Day 5k

I decided to make this the first race of my Chicago Marathon build-up. It's two weeks before Crazy 8's (which is a really big/fast race) and gives me the chance to get work out some of my racing rust. This race is usually really low-key, so I'm not expecting to be pressured. However, I'd like to still get in a solid effort and run around 15:30.

The race is in White House and the course heads straight down the greenway and turns around by the high school. This means the first half is a net downhill, before turning around and going back the way you came, which includes a pretty nasty uphill. It's actually a pretty slow course but based off my recent workouts, I still think I could take a stab at sub 15:30.

I got in my usual warm-up of 5:00 slow jogging, 5:00 normal speed and 5:00 medium speed, followed by several fast strides. Low and behold, shortly before the race, I saw a Kenyan warming-up. I didn't know who he was and he told me he could wasn't in shape and was hoping to run around 16:00. I knew he was probably much fitter than that, which made me a little nervous.

When I headed to the starting line, I didn't see the Kenyan anywhere. The gun went off and I thought he must have missed the race. I took the race out pretty slowly and worked into my rhythm by about a minute in. The good thing about the greenway is that there are markers every quarter mile. I split my watch at the start of the greenway and focused on keeping a hard effort.

A little over half a mile in, I looked over my shoulder and saw the Kenyan several seconds back. I knew he was gaining on me, so I decided to change-up my strategy. Most likely, when he missed the start, two things happened that negatively affected his race: 1.) Obviously he was already at a several second disadvantage, from the get-go and 2.) Because he started late, instead of being relaxed and sticking to his original strategy, he was probably freaking out a bit and trying to play catch-up, rather than focusing on proper pacing.

Because of that, I decided to slow down the pace a hair, to let him catch me more quickly. I felt if he could tell he was reeling me in, he would continue to press down on the gas faster than he wanted to and would feel less threatened by me. I went through the mile in 4:50, which was right on target and shortly after that, he caught me. My plan was to wait a minute or two and then push the downhills and drop him on the uphills on the way back, hoping his faster than expected first mile wore him out more than he anticipated.

We stuck together through 1.5 miles and after crossing Tyree Springs, we saw a water table with some high schoolers sitting by it. I was pretty certain this was the turnaround last year, so I asked if this was the turnaround spot, but they said it wasn't and to keep on going straight. I looked at my watch and we were under 7:30, so I thought the turnaround could be a little further down.

We continued to race but after a couple of minutes, I knew we were off-course. I then asked if we should turnaround, but he wanted to come on going. We then started backing off the pace and just made small-talk. I found out he was Festus Chemaoi, who just graduated from MTSU and has PR's of 1:48 in the 800m and 14:17 in the 5k, so he was definitely legit.

After about three miles in, we eventually decided to turn around and head back the way we came. We ended up finishing in 131st and 132nd place in times of 38:54 and 38:55. It turns out several other people went the wrong way and eventually one guy argued with the kids because they insisted they were not at the turnaround table. If that guy didn't stop, I can't imagine how much of a disaster it could have been.

It was definitely a frustrating race because it cost me a chance at $100, an opportunity for a fast time and the fact that the kids at the turnaround table's only job was to have people run around a cone and they couldn't even figure that out. Oh well, back to training.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Speed Phase

With my base phase in the bag, it's time for my most grueling phase of all, the speed phase. My base phase went ok, but it could have gone better. I finished with a week just over 100 miles and got to the point where I could be pretty relaxed at sub 6:00 pace. However, I had trouble finishing up my medium progression runs at the pace I wanted. I debated extending it another week but I felt I met most of my objectives, so I decided to move on.

In the speed phase, I try to build up my engine as much as I can and get in very good 10k-half marathon shape. At the end of the phase, I hope to be in sub 67 half marathon shape and have the speed to run close to 30:00 for 10k. Joe Rubio said it best when he said the point of this phase is to turn into a Porsche, while in the marathon specific phase, you take that Porsche and turn it into a hybrid. While I'd prefer it to last 8-10 weeks, I think I'll only have time for eight weeks.

I'll run a variety of speeds in my workouts, race a good bit and also increase my mileage. The key is to attack the body with a variety of stimuli to help it develop in different areas. While I can't yet know how my body will respond to the training, I'd like to be over 100 miles for most of the weeks in this phase and get in a couple 110-115 mile weeks. While in the marathon specific phase, it's very important to be fresh enough to hit your workout times and I'll delay a workout if it's not going well, in this phase, I'll run my harder workouts tired and will stick with them, even if I'm running too slowly or am running slower than planned. I expect to hit some rough training patches and have many days where I feel like a zombie.

During my Rocket City speed phase, the focus was more-so on building half-marathon fitness. I did a lot of long intervals, 6-7 mile tempo runs, finished up some of my long runs with some hard running and did a weekly run at 90% of my marathon pace. I only raced a couple of times and placed most of my emphasis on workouts that would give me a good gas tank.

During my Country Music speed phase, I focused more on speed. I raced about every two weeks, did a lot of fartleks, and really didn't get in any longer tempos or long, steady runs. It really wasn't the best training for the marathon but I wanted to have some fun and get in some fast running and workouts, which I hadn't done in years. I also needed to get used to running under 5:00 pace, which will help my efficiency for this fall.

This go-around, I'll probably do a combination of the two. I'm racing 3-4 times in July, with a race or two in August. Every other long run, I'll include some fast running or run most of it at 90% of marathon pace. These long, fast runs will be something new for me, but as a result, it will hopefully help me breakthrough to the next level. My body wasn't strong enough to do those kinds of runs so frequently last year, but with a year of solid training under my belt, I feel that I am ready. And as boring as it sounds, I'm going to do the majority of my tempo runs and all of my intervals on the track. It will help me regulate my speed and work on more efficient pacing. A two week period might look something like this:

Monday: Easy running
Tuesday: 10x10 second hill sprints with 2:00 jog recovery
Wednesday: Workout around half-marathon race pace
Thursday: Easy running
Friday: Workout at around 3k-10k race pace or a controlled long progression over hills (if I'm racing on the weekend, I'll make this another day of easy running)
Saturday: Easy running
Sunday: Easy long run with every other long run including most of it at 90% at current marathon race pace

I'm both looking forward to and dreading this phase. Luckily, I can knock out six weeks of it during summer break, which gives me enough time to get in some good sessions (rather than having them be rushed during my lunch break) and also give me a chance to get enough sleep.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Saucony Grid Type A4 Review

When it comes to running shoes, I'm a bit of a diva. When it comes to racing shoes, I'm an even bigger one. I have some fragile feet and if a shoe doesn't fit me well, I'll get some killer plantar fasciitis within a couple of weeks. And while I'm more of a natural midfoot/forefoot striker, if a shoe has too high of a heel, it will cause me to heel strike and overpronate. I've tried out nearly every racing flat known to man and have found something wrong with pretty much all of them. My focus for this spring was to just have some fun with running and do a lot of shorter races. So I needed a lightweight, flexible racing shoe, so I decided to get a pair of Saucony Grid Type A4's and I've been nothing but impressed with them.

When racing shoes approach 7 ounces, they feel too heavy and don't have that fast feeling for the shorter races. When shoes are under 6 ounces, they wreak havoc on my calves. The shoe weighs in at 6.3 ounces (size 9), which I feel is around the perfect weight. The A4's also have just a 4mm heel to forefoot drop off (13mm-9mm), which makes it much easier to run with a more "natural" footstrike. This 4mm dropoff is the same as my training shoes, the Saucony Kinvara but the Grid Type A4 sits much lower to the ground, which gives its a fast feeling and gives your feet a better feel for the road.

One of my favorite things about the A4 is that it's very flexible. Flexibility is very important to me because if a shoe is too stiff, it creates havoc for my arches. While most racing shoes have too much plastic running through the midsole, the A4 has primarily foam, which lets the shoe flex naturally. However, it does have a tiny bit of plastic in the inside of the arch but it doesn't interfere with the flexibility at all and gives the shoe a little more support.

The outsole of the shoe comes equipped with drainage holes that run the entire length of the shoe. In rainy weather, this helps drain water from the shoe, so your shoes don't end up weighing more than you do. This will also help during the brutal and sweaty Tennessee summers when the heat index is regularly over 100 during the afternoon. The only flaw to the drainage holes is that small rocks can get trapped inside them when I run on the cinder trails at Moss Wright Park but the rocks are easily removed and this isn't an issue when I run on the roads.

I raced in these shoes all throughout the spring, ranging in distance from 5k to the half marathon. While the Asics Piranhas I used in the fall gave me everlasting calf knots, I never once had any calf issues with the A4. About a month before the Country Music Marathon, I even flirted with the idea of using them for the full 26.2 distance. On most sites, they recommended the shoe for distances between 5k to half marathon. But just like most doctors usually tell you to rest for two weeks and come in again no matter if you sprained your ankle or got hit by a truck, I felt like the suggestion was too conservative.

When you race 26.2 miles, your muscles get beat up pretty badly and go through a lot of trauma. To make sure the A4's would take me through the whole distance, I tried them out on several longer runs. The first long session I used them on was my longest and toughest workout of the season, so I felt it would be the perfect test: 6.2 miles at 85% of marathon pace, 1:00 rest and then 6.2 miles at faster than marathon pace. That workout sounds somewhat tough but did I mention you have to repeat it again later in the day? And what really puts it over the edge is that once you wake up until you finish the second session, you can't take in any carbohydrates. This super-compensation workout mimics the marathon pretty well without putting you totally over the edge. After it was all said and done, I got in about 26.5 miles for the day and the A4's worked great. I also tested them out on two 22 mile runs and again, I had no foot or calf pain and I was really pleased with how they performed.

I decided to use them in the marathon and they worked perfectly. After the marathon, nearly everyone asked me if my feet hurt. While almost my entire body felt like it was run over by a tank, my feet were perfectly fine. For such a lightweight shoe, they offer a surprising amount of responsive cushioning.

The shoes now have almost 250 miles on them and show little to no wear. My Asics Hyperspeeds and Piranhas have almost the same amount of mileage and the tread is already worn out completely in some areas. Overall, I'm really impressed with them and I think they are a great pick for nearly any runner. They are the most comfortable shoes I own and I will gradually turn them into my everyday training shoes. If you're looking to knock several seconds per mile off your race time (which could give you that extra boost to knock out that Boston qualifying time), the A4's are definitely worth a look.