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.