Monday, June 29, 2009

Training & Living: Time and Place have Nothing to do with the Finish!

This past week I feel like I wore three different hats.

I spent a couple days satisfying the inner speed demon, then got my inner mountain goat some time climbing hills, and then finished off the week crazy coach mode. The latter was very interesting because I think I passed stationary race marshals and photographers over the last 1.5 miles of the race three or four times, it was a big race, but I was the only dork with a Garmin and Nathan Quickdraw in the New Charles River 5k.

Essentially, I wanted to support all of my walkers and runners, and after walking the first 7 minutes with my back of the packers, I was told to go on to support the runners. I blasted from 5th to last place (seriously) and passed about 50 runners and walkers, meeting up with a couple of my runners, they seemed to be okay, and let me know the whereabouts of the three others. I blasted by another 50, and met up with the other three. I doubled back and chatted with the first pair and they seemed to be content, I ran back ahead, passing some people for the third time, yeah, and saw one of the three ahead had dropped off a little. She was okay and wanted the tunes in her iPod over the coach, good choice. Up ahead I spotted the other two runners and sprinted back up to see how they were doing, both wanted to run the entire way for the 5k, but kept telling me before the race that they had their doubts. Upon rejoining them, both commented they felt okay, and were clamoring for some indication that they were at the halfway point. I assured them they were close, and were doing an excellent job. I really didn't have any doubts for one of the two, she was just coming back from a few months off, but had done some advance training with the Galloway groups in the area. The other, Rebecca, had never done a 5k before, so to run the distance would be a HUGE accomplishment for her. I stuck with her, and said little, only assuring her that she was doing great. She was curious why we hadn't seen a mile marker for the completion of the second mile, and was getting slightly discouraged. Having been here before, I tried to reassure her, because I know when the going gets tough, all one needs is that little excuse to stop. She soldiered on, and we saw a mile marker in the distance, it was for the 7th mile of the other race, which meant we only had a half mile to go. When I mention this to Rebecca, she elated says: "Rob, I am going to finish this!!". I was so happy for her! We heard the music and saw the flashing lights of the police cruiser funneling runners to the finish. Know she was going to accomplish her goal I urged her on, and then turned around 200 feet before crossing the finish, to a sea of upset and bewildered faces. I back tracked and caught up with the other three runners, they were laughing and assured me they were doing great. I ran with them for a brief moment, knowing they didn't need the coach, and head back to my two walkers.

One of the two was walking with her husband and was in great spirits. She also assured me that she was okay, and didn't need any assistance or encouragement. I continued back to my last walker on the course.

She was surprised to see me coming back, by that time I was running against the sea of runners in the 7.5 mile race, they were pissed, but I was courteous. She yells at me, "Why didn't you cross the finish line for a good finish time!?!" I tried to explain to her that this race was not about me, and we continued on with another walker.

Looking down, I could see she was close to breaking an hour for the 5k, which was way under her goal of 20 mins/mile. We came to finish and she crossed in 60:09, ahead of the ole coach in 60:10. This was easily the most rewarding 5k I have ever ran and walked, and I doubt there will ever be another to top it.

After the race my group needled me about not going and running a fast time. I told them my next race would be enough of a challenge, and that I was happy running like a mad man around the Charles to help them reach their goals. There is just something about beginning a program and hearing someone say "I can't", only to see them turn that into an "I did" eight weeks later.

Great Times.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Serving Two Masters: Redux

I had a similar post a while back where I mused about getting out and trying to work on two different elements of training. It isn't a great idea, as I have found that most coaches, including myself, instruct curious runners to select a goal, and make sure every action in the training plan is a worthwhile effort to achieve a specific goal.

For example, Runner #1 wants to improve their mile time. This typically involves lots of running drills to work on form and conservation/elimination of stuff that does nothing that wastes energy. There is also the element of a longer distance run, but it is down on the list of priorities. Hill repeats are also important, but the most important element is hot, sweaty, dirty speed. Track repeats in succession are usually the ticket here. Burn, baby, burn!

Runner #2 wants to improve their marathon time. This calls for some speed work, but it is usually less intensity, longer rep, sustained speed work. 800's at a moderate clip. Hills and tempo runs are also good, but the crux of a marathon plan is to increase the base of mileage and make being on one's feet for multiple hours as comfortable as possible.

Right now I am looking at my goals and thoughts, and I want to focus on being fit enough to run the Pisgah 50k in September, and the Olympus is really the GAC 50 miler in November. Obviously the key to this goal is to get out and increase that long run, and get comfortable with a run/walk progression, while also working with refeuling and nutrition schemes.

Deep down, though, I still have a little of an unresolved desire to get faster in general. My training so far this year has been all about going longer, which is great, but now I am thinking I want to test the waters with a little speed.

One thought has been to modify the "couch to 5k" training plan offered all over the place, and instead of using the walk/run method, I'll modify and work on run/run fast method. This makes the walking sections more of a controlled jog, and the 'run' segments a 'run faster' section. This way I am teaching my body how to run fast again, which may, in turn, help with the 50 mile training.

Right now I have no desire to get back into road racing, I am at home on the trails among friends, but it really would be nice to head to a 5k and clock in under 7:00/mile pace. Ultimately, I'd like to one day venture back under 20 minutes for 5k and get back into my old days of sub 40 minute 10ks. It is funny how when I was just getting into long distance running, I ran a road 10k in 38:27 and was disappointed. Oh, if I had only known then.... :-).

Let me be clear, the fact that I am able to run at all now is WONDERFUL. I spent too many years as a sedentary lump. So everything running related these days is a bonus and a blessing.

The trail goes on forever, and the party never ends!

Happy trails everyone!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boxford State Forest Trail Race Recap...

More details to come, but...

Tuesday Night Trail Race... Good (stress relief after a long day), the Bad (6:30 start times equal mad dash to car in order to make race starts), and the Ugly (commuter traffic and construction make an already tight squeeze even more dramatic).

- Arrive to race just in time to sign in, spray on Deep Woods Off, say hello to Trail Pixie, Michelle, and some of the GAC folks.

- Run back to car, dump camera and bug spray, run back to start.

- Hear Breakheart Dan's voice come out on nowhere and say "Oh crap, you made it!" We laugh, RD talks about stuff, we run!

- I found course to be extra tough for me. I am already working with my genetically reduced vision, so the combination of very dark sections of trail, mud, and roots and rocks made the first three miles challenging.

- Went out quick, held for one mile, backed off a little due to the footing and the desire to not bonk at three miles. Ran a decent second half, mostly in solitude as I could only hear the occasional woodland critter crashing through the nearby brush.

- Become one of the woodland creatures crashing through the woods as I come around a corner fast and clip a log. Get a nice slash down the side of my quad (didn't realize until after the race) and a nice welt and bruise on the quad. War wounds are cool. Almost wanted to wear shorts to work to show off, but a.) not in the dress code, b.) most people think I am crazy in the first place because I am a runner, regardless of the distances or locales.

- last two miles were tough, body still feels like it is working overtime to repair the trauma in my mouth, also have some nasty allergies working me over these days, and feel like I have bronchitis. Great times!

- Charge to the finish, bent on breaking an hour: 59:27, 19th place. So-so.

- Find out the kid that won the race was one of my main competitors in XC in college, we dueled a couple times back then and I smoked him. Not the case today, I have some work to do to get back there! Staying away from sharp objects and resisting the temptation to head out to the track right now to run 70 second quarters until I puke and pass out... almost positive I can't run a 70 second quarter at all right now... bummer.

- Sort of a short visit with the gang. We made a good XC team finishing within 10 spots of each other. Got a sweet NMC Pint Glass for my 'prize'. NMC events rock!

- Up next is the Dam Trail Race in Oxford, MA. Also considering the possibility of revisiting the scene of my first REAL trail race in the Skyline Trail Race. I do know the course now, and have slightly more time on really technical stuff, but man it is a toughie! I am sure Breakheart Dan and kZ will lobby me into doing it. No doubt questions of one's inner Mountain Goat will be tossed around!

-Otherwise, has been a weird week. 10 miles on roads Sunday, using Gallowalking, averaged 9:11/mile pace. Good stuff. Then race Tuesday. Maybe hills Thursday, and then long this weekend?

Really, really, really considering scrapping the long stuff and learning how to run 2-3 miles fast before resuming the long stuff. Not really extreme, but if I could get to a place where I am back at my base points of 12 mins. for two miles and Sub 20 for 5k, I would most certainly be able to bring my times WAY down for the longer stuff. There was once a time in college where I could run technical trails at 7/mile pace, and thought I was too slow. Come to find out that pace is fairly competitive in most trail races. Oh well.

Happy Trails!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What Am I Doing?

It seems like eternity since my last race. Not necessarily a good thing either.

Last time I checked in I was about an hour or so outside of my Wisdom Teeth being extracted, all four of them, and at the age of 30, I am told I should have done it 10 years earlier and it would have been less traumatic. I did get a week off from work out of the deal, but most of that time was spend wasting away on the couch, starving from my liquid diet. Of course running was put on hold, too.

Last major run was Lynn Woods long attempt with Dan, which didn't go as well as we had hoped. Beyond that I went out for a little over 5 miles on the roads Wednesday night after work, throwing in some speed work for good measure (3:30 run, with 30 second pickups). It was a decent workout, and I managed to do most of the workout at 7:30/mile pace. Bonked during the 8th pick up at about 30 minutes and 4 miles, and had to walk a little, but soldiered on to still finish the entire workout in 7:50 pace. It was probably a little much for the first run back, but I just wanted to run fast again. I am sick of being fat and slow, I am mad that I totally let myself go after college, and though I am in a MUCH better place now weight wise - topped at 235, now back into the 180's, I still want to get back down close to where I was in college. May never get to 150 ever again, but I'd be happy running at 160-165.

Yesterday I did the workout with my first 5k peeps, and I am SO proud of the group. They are a couple weeks away from the goal race and will definitely tear it up. Following the workout, I took my road shoes on a trail at Bradley Palmer, just a mile, and was just flat, which makes me a little wary about running the next race in the ENE Trail Series Tuesday Night, but my strategy all along has been to just enjoy each series race that I can get to, meet some of the Trail Vets, and get a little more acquainted with the names and faces of the trail animals here in New England.

Things are looking up, though. After Tuesday Night, the next series race isn't until August. Plenty of time to get back on track and feeling a little more confident and in shape. A bunch of us fellow trail animals are also arranging to head North to the White Mountains the first weekend in August to hike the Presidential Range Traverse. I am admittedly a novice when it comes to the mountain trails, and it should be a HUGE endeavor. Thankfully our group will be large and resourceful, and the next 6-7 weeks will certainly be rife with hill training locally if I ever hope to survive. Part of me wants to back out, but I have been really looking for a way to head North and experiment with Mountain Trails, especially if I ever hope to take on adventures like Wasatch and Angeles Crest.

Aside from that my mind has been filled with the quandaries of life. My current job is good for about as much as the paycheck so I can provide for my family. Other than that I find no worth in what I do, and am convinced I need to be back in a role where I am helping people everyday. I have been really attracted to the prospect of going into Clinical Social Work, specifically working in the fields of anxiety counseling, as well as providing services for 'End of Life" Care in a Hospital setting. I think it would be quiet rewarding working with cancer patients and their families, helping them get through the emotional rigors of that horrible, horrible disease. Of course, since my current bachelor's degree is in English, I have some work to do if I want to pursue this career, and would need a Bachelor's and Master's. Social Work also has a great deal of practicum involved in the education process, which is thrilling, but presents and issue to someone like me who is already working.

Sometimes you just wish 100,000 dollars would drop out of the sky with a note attached explaining that you now have the opportunity to do those things you need to do to wake up in the morning and go to a job where you get to make someone's world a better place...

...but then you wake up from the dream.

Anyway, more to come I am sure. Hopefully the trail will widen and brighten a little!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Frustration in Life, Frustration on the Trail

Gotta keep this short as I need to head off to my appointment to get the wisdom teeth extracted... all four.

Dan and I wrapped up May with a long run in Breakheart Reservation and Lynn Woods Reservation. I had hoped this would be a nice long run to settle up before today's surgery, but the heat, humidity, and hard workouts of the last couple of weeks really did a number on the legs. So much so that even at 30 minutes I was wondering if four hours was even possible, because my quads just felt like junk!

Dan sums it up here, about 2 hours in...

We ended up scrapping the run at about 3 hours and 13 miles. Which was a good idea because I felt hung over for the rest of the day, basically because of the dehydration incurred on the run.

Now I get to spend the remainder of the week off my feet, with a sore mouth, then head to the doctors Wednesday to have a 'suspicious look mole' removed from my back, AND as I was cleaning up after the run yesterday I found a lovely tick getting ready to hunker down. It came off easy, but there was blood, which of course has me thinking about Lyme Disease. So when the mole is removed I'll surely also get blood drawn. At least I found the tick early on, and can monitor the bite for the rash/monitor my health for the symptoms. This comes on the heels of a co-worker who spent 5 days in the hospital with heart issues, come to find out he has Lyme Disease.

Yeah, I am freaking out. So much for the Deet bath I took yesterday prior to the run!

Happy Trails Everyone!