Wahoo’s OC 5k… err… 2.66mi.

I nearly forgot. This is a story worth telling. Two blogs ago I told you I was gearing up for a PR shot at the OC 5k. I had some friends running the marathon and I thought it would be fun to race and then cheer them in. (Getting up much later than them was also very appealing). I didn’t get much of a warmup before the race but I made it to the start through the crappy traffic and parking. It’s just slow getting into the lot.
Pre-race they introduced the Hawaiian founder of Wahoo’s. Then we were off. Immediately a group of 4 broke for the lead. I looked down at my watch and saw sub-5 minute pace and decided to stay steady and not break for the leaders. They settled into a pace about 25 meters ahead of me and I locked in. The leaders were mostly young guys, so I was counting on their youthful exuberance to blow them up. A mile in I passed a straggler that tried to catch the leaders and we ran through the campus of Orange Coast College. There were students cheering and a lot of markings so we didn’t go off course. I was kind of pleased with the tall cones and police tape. There wasn’t a bicyclist leading the field or anyone directing us, so signage was important. I didn’t know how important it would become. Heading into mile two the lead pack split up and I started picking guys off one by one. I was slowly catching the leader and before I could, he hung a right onto Fairview Rd, as we were about to enter the fairgrounds. I slowed and looked to see if that was the right direction. The cop behind me yells “Hey! Where ya going?” and I responded back “That’s what we want to know!”

There was only one direction to go, straight. Runners were still running on the other side of the street, coming from the startline which was only a few hundred yards away. Police and spectators stood in between, in the middle of the intersection. I crossed the 4 lane road and the former leader tucked in behind me. Quickly I realized we were running out of real estate. What?? It was fenced off.. so I took the only turn I could, I went right, following the route I took the day before when I had to pay for my expo parking. At this point I was having doubts. I didn’t see any spectators or signs and I slowed a little bit thinking “I don’t know if this is right.” But then I saw the mile 3 marker ahead so I picked it up again to put some distance on my competitors. When we got to the mile 3 marker, my watch read 2.55mi. Not good. We missed something. There was a final hard 90 degree turn (I had no idea which way I was turning) and then immediately the finish line. I threw my hands up in the air and said “Something was wrong, the course was too short.” My finishing time? 14:05. 5k finishers started piling in behind me. A race official came over and asked who won. I told them I had, but that the mileage wasn’t right. I then explained what happened at the intersection and she told me not to worry about it, that they’d sort it out, and that I should go to the VIP tent and enjoy a nice breakfast.

At the VIP tent, I explained the situation again. The lady there says, “Oh, so you didn’t win?” Well.. everybody followed me, so what does that mean. Then the girl from the finish line comes up and explains. She said the police officer at that intersection didn’t seem to know what was going on earlier, so she wasn’t surprised. At this point, I still didn’t know what turn I missed or where I was supposed to go. I know I was supposed to go back into the fairgrounds, but it wasn’t at all clear as to how. No signage. Nothing. When I left, I looked and still couldn’t tell. On the bright side, I got my VIP breakfast and then shuffled out to meet my friends who were running the half and the full.

So I won, in 14:05. Only, if that’s my 5k PR I’m going to retire. It’s bittersweet. I mean, I won fair and square. The leader who took the wrong turn wasn’t even close to me at the end, so I’m sure I would’ve beat him anyway. But I was on PR pace and with a kick could’ve gotten it. We’ll never know.

I got interviewed by the local paper and did the best sports interview I could. No really, I said a whole lot of nothing, trying to sound gracious. Afterwards I realized how stupid I sounded. I should’ve been eloquent and said I came to watch my friends run the marathon, but couldn’t turn down the chance at a PR. I didn’t even mention the course mishaps. It’s probably good I didn’t. The race ended up sending out an apology about the course and offering 50% off next year’s entry. I don’t think I’ll be running the 5k again. I might run the half, but I don’t want to put myself through the awkward situation. I feel like I ruined their race.

Let me say on my behalf, after looking at the race map, I’m still not 100% where I was supposed to go. All I can think is that I was supposed to cross back over into oncoming traffic (which hadn’t cleared) and run that way. But there were police and spectators standing, making a line where I would’ve crossed. They need signs or volunteers or a bike.

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PRs… Finally.

The ebb and flow of desire has reared it’s head in the last couple months when it comes to running. I’ve been pretty busy and when I wasn’t busy, I wasn’t thinking about running. I finally set some PRs, without really trying this time so let me catch you up with some race reports.

May 20, 2012 – Rock’n’Roll Portland Half Marathon
I decided to run this race because a bunch of my friends signed up for the inaugural and they were offering a deal for $60. I love Portland. Hell, I tried to move there a few years ago. It was a no brainer. My training leading up to the race had been an odd mix of marathon style long runs and fast track work. My goal was to put in some track work and run a PR in the 5k and 10k this summer. I didn’t do much specific training for the half and after my last few experiences, I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself.

When asked before the race about my goal, I just said I’d like to PR. That means sub-1:17:28. Not shooting for the stars this time.. just running for the hell of it and enjoying it as much as possible. We arrived on Friday with about 8 of us in tow. Got to our hotel room and acted like tourists for a few days. On race morning, my phone was showing a temperature of 50 outside. I throw on long sleeves (yeah, I know) and jog the half mile to the start. I notice immediately that I’m warm. Portland has a funny way of being warmer than the temperature indicated. I noted it on my Saturday run too and I should’ve known better. No worry, so I slink into the first corral where I’m too many rows back from the front.
I need to stop doing that. I always think I’m in a good position a few rows back from the start and find myself passing small children and old ladies. From now on, I need to be on the line or right behind it. I’ve earned it, I think.

The gun goes off.. I take off comfortably. I think my first mile was 6:00. I was using a borrowed Garmin that didn’t beep on the mile, so I didn’t know my mile splits until afterwards. I was using the clock and basing my pace on how much faster than 6 minute pace I was. I was enjoying the run, conservative but somewhat fast. Looking around, smiling at the locals cheering us on, small children waving and clapping, it was nice. It was also hillier than I expected. I knew Hawthorne was uphill, but the neighborhoods that followed were all up and down. I was running about pace with my PR through 8 miles. I smiled at a spectator who said “Wow.. big smile” and at that point knew something good was going to happen if I was still feeling good 8 miles in. (See Surf City, where I was ready to quit at mile 7 and scowling terrible) At mile 9 it started becoming work. I had been sitting behind a group of 3 guys and a girl for a mile or so and was trying to slowly reel them in but wasn’t making progress. I slowly started ramping it up. At mile 11, we finally got the benefit of coming back downhill and I went into orbit. I passed one guy who had been dropped and threw down a 5:38. Then we crossed the Steel Bridge and went down the onramp for a big straightaway finish. I threw down and was running a 5:20 pace when I passed the second place female. I said some words of encouragement, but ended up putting about 8 seconds on her in the last quarter mile. When I saw the clock I was elated. 1:16:42. I finally ran a time worthy of my fitness and PR’d by 46 seconds. I wasn’t really even trying.

Boy that put me on top of the world. That half marathon PR is almost 2 years old! It’s about time!

June 3rd, 2012 – Rock’n’Roll San Diego Marathon
Wait.. a marathon? What? How did that happen? That’s about how I feel about it. So about 3 weeks before the marathon my training partners Matt and Jess start discussing going to Boston next year. Our other buddy Mitch is going and we know a few others so it sounded like fun. Wait! They’ll probably sell out before Chicago is run… that means if I want to go I have to run a marathon before September. No!! And that’s how I got talked into Rock n Roll San Diego.

I initially said I wanted to run as easy as possible to qualify and that’s all I was there for. I didn’t want it to screw up my 5k training (it did) and I wasn’t worried about time. I finally decided that I’d pace Jess and Mitch, who were running about 2:55 pace. Perfect. Shouldn’t kill me and it would be a little PR and a little bit of confidence. Matt wanted me to run sub-2:50 but I was concerned that I had done ZERO marathon specific training and that it would take too long to recover.

So race morning the gun goes off and we’re running comfortably. Actually, we’re running too fast. But Mitch has MITCH painted on his chest and 2:54:59 across his shoulderblades so we’ve got an unofficial pace group here folks. About 7 guys deep and we’re chatting. Heading downhill into downtown we’re clicking off 6:25s instead of 6:39s. We went through the half in 1:26:47 (although the clock was off and said faster). On the downhill of the 163 I noticed that my quads were already fried. I was worried it was going to be a long day as it was only mile 11 there. As it turned out, my quads held up. Jess dropped off the pace at 14 due to stomach troubles and still managed a 3:04. (She wasn’t terribly happy, but it’s still a fantastic time) I led the group around 2:54 pace and was even getting drafted off of at one point. For me it was a surreal out of body experience. I’ve had such trauma from the marathon that I don’t even want to experience it. I was just there for everybody else and it stayed that way until I started hurting after mile 21. I paced with Mitch through just before 22 when he started to slow. I found myself in a place where mentally, if I slowed down, I was done. We were in Mission Bay, home to hundreds of my training runs so at least it was comfortable territory. I slowly pulled away. Then Jeff pulled up on his bike and told me Matt was only 45 seconds ahead. Not good! He should’ve been in 2:48 territory, not 2:53. I put my head down and picked up the pace about 5 seconds/mi. I finally caught him on Fiesta Island and tried to pull him along, but he wasn’t going and I couldn’t slow.

At that point, it was about survival. I just wanted to be finished and knowing there was less than 3 miles to go and I was on 2:53 pace, I was pleased. For a moment at mile 25, I did the math and thought I could break 2:53 and sped up. I ran 6:28 for that mile, but quickly realized that I wouldn’t break 2:53 and what it would do to my body would probably hinder recovery.

I crossed the line in 2:53:16 for nearly a 3 minute PR. Not bad for a pacing job. I could tell I didn’t do any race pace work though. It felt good to stop. And then it didn’t! I started cramping as Mitch came across the line, almost ghostlike. He ran 2:54 and change, beating his goal time handily. I suddenly remembered that after the marathon your body hates you. It certainly hated me afterwards. I needed to sit down and I needed to stretch my calves. But being surrounded by a bunch of 3 hour half marathoners, I was trapped and getting cranky. Don’t underestimate the raw anger of a marathoner who can’t get through a crowd to a place to sit down. I’ve never felt so bad in my life. When I finally got to the gear check, I pulled the towel out of my bag, laid it down on the ground and got down like I was dead.

Takeaways: It was nice to PR. The marathon hates my body. How in the hell am I going to run 2:39?? Who in the hell do I think I am? Batman! Did I really just run this marathon so I could run an additional marathon? I’m an idiot.

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Strength in Numbers

I’ve been running a lot lately. I’ve been putting up big numbers (for me) averaging over 70 miles a week since the Carlsbad 5000. The last few weeks have been some of the busiest in recent record, so it’s been a task in doubles and finding free time to squeeze in runs. This week saw 4 morning runs, which should’ve been 5 but I got to sleep too late on Wednesday. I’m not sacrificing sleep, because I need the recovery time. I’m hoping these solid weeks will lead me to the promise land and I’ve been seeing some results in training.

I’m getting strong. My ritual 7 milers aren’t being done on the flats anymore because of my neighborhood. I run through the rolling hills of Balboa Park and I can tell from the strength alone. Lately my legs have felt great. On days where I should be tired from the previous day’s workout I haven’t been. I ran a 5 mile tempo last Tuesday night and followed it up with a fast 10 miles over the hilliest parts of Balboa Park I could find (read: Pershing Ave and 6th Ave) on Wednesday. I was in shock. I should’ve been dragging a little but my body was aching for a challenge. My only limiter right now seems to be my oxygen, which I still haven’t figured out. Some days my inhaler works amazingly well, other days it does nothing. I’m almost to the point of seeing a respiratory specialist.

Wahoo’s OC 5k is in 9 days. I don’t have a goal time. I’ve been running workouts indicative of 16:20s but I’m thinking about ditching the watch. The last time I ran a 5k without benefit of the watch I accidentally ran a PR. Or tied it anyway. The competition in the race has varied the last few years. Some years it’s in the 15s, other years it’s low 16s. I stand a chance of winning, but I don’t want it to become a tactical race. It’s flat enough to PR or to come close. I’ve gone 10 months without a PR. It’s time to shine.

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Highest of Highs and Lowest of Lows

Last week was disappointing with my poor race at the Carlsbad 5000. That’s something like 5 bad races in a row after a string of good ones. Instead of moping, I did what I do best, I punished myself with quality running this week. After tomorrow I’ll be at 75 miles for the week with three high quality runs and a fast 10 miler on Monday morning.

Today I ran 18 miles, planning to do some kind of tempo at the end. According to my logs, I haven’t run more than 17 miles since October. I was a little concerned about my lack of long runs lately anyways and the last 17 miler I did was rough. But my run this morning turned out way better than expected. We ran 10 at 7:35/mi and then I accompanied Mitch for close to 4 miles at 6:45ish and then put the hammer down going for 6:05s for the last 4. The last 8 ended up being (6:48, 6:49, 6:45, 6:23, 6:21, 6:01, 5:59, 5:54) on hilly terrain. I was pushing but not struggling at the end and that’s a huge confidence booster. I also realized I haven’t been pushing myself on the long runs and building that kind of mental toughness I used to have. Maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve felt myself shying away from the pain rather than leaning into it and embracing it. All I know is that I felt strong at the end of today’s run and felt recovered and ready to go quickly after. Another few weeks and workouts like this and I’ll be ready to make a big splash. Work hard!

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Fuck! And other four letter words.

I had a shitty race today. It’s just another in a string of shitty races I’ve had over the last 6 months or so. I don’t know what the problem is, I just can’t pull it together and when I do I get a side stitch or something else ridiculous that wrecks the race. My last PR was last July. I was in really good shape over the winter, which makes it all more frustrating. I was running faster last year when I was coming back from an injury and had no aerobic base. So.. what to do?

Carlsbad 5000 is a fun race. It’s a festival of running and I enjoy watching the other 6 races that are put on. I can’t think of another event that works this way. I didn’t really get a proper warm up this morning as I had been in a rush and wasted a lot of time trying to find a port-a-potty with toilet paper pre-race. I really only had 10 minutes to do some strides besides the jog from the car. I wasn’t worried.

The gun goes off, for once I’m not worried about trampling middle school kids who started on the starting line. This race was very different, people actually backed off from the starting line so getting close wasn’t a problem. I definitely went out too fast. I looked down at my watch and saw four-fifty-something. Nope!! I should be closer to 5:15. I definitely felt a little winded before marching up the hill and making the left onto Carlsbad Blvd. I regrouped and all systems were a go. I was thinking about how much pain I was planning to endure and preparing myself for it. I hit the first mile in 5:14, right on plan. A little downhill and then the first 180 degree turnaround.

Wind! Fuck! Uphill! Double fuck! The uphill is usually a little rough on the turnaround, but I couldn’t keep any sort of pace with the wind in my face. It was pretty strong. So I went from a controlled effort to maximal effort and breathing went to 100% pretty quickly. It’s so demotivating to run into wind like that. I tried to draft off the guy in front of me, but there was no way. Before long I passed him and was in no mans land. The next group was too far up to catch and I had some space behind me. I hit mile two in 5:31 and thought I might be able to salvage the race. The problem was that I couldn’t get my breathing under control. Involuntarily my leg speed slowed. I pretty much knew I was toast at that point. I just wanted the race to be over. This is the hard part for me, knowing that it’s not something I can push through. If it was tired legs I could force myself to mush, but when I’m breathing as hard as possible, there’s no pushing through that. So I tried to hold up as best I could until I hit the downhill before the finish. The announcer on the corner told the crowd “When the runner in the red shirt gets here, let’s make some noise for him and send him home!” It was much appreciated. It’s also where my friends were standing. I love the sled downhill finish at this race. My Garmin has the last .15 at 4:28/mi pace. That sounds about right. Unfortunately there was nobody to chase or hold off since I was pretty much on my own at the finish. When I heard the finishing announcer say “You’ve still got a chance to go sub-17!” I sort of laughed and thought “Of course I’m going sub-17, are you kidding?!?!” and as I got closer, I saw that it wasn’t in the bag. Not good. I finished in 16:57. It was my slowest time since I ran a 17:04 a couple summers ago.

So what am I to think? The wind played a part. Only having two weeks of fast track workouts played a part, but my breathing was so bad that I feel like I’m really out of shape. I’m not totally sure what to do about it. I have a few options:

  • Run higher mileage.
  • Keep running track workouts and build the distance.
  • Go back to running tempos regularly, which got me into great shape 18 months ago.
  • Whatever I end up doing, I think it means longer long runs, faster easy runs, and steady mileage. My mileage keeps going from 50 to 65 to 50 to 70 and back. I need some solid 70+ mile weeks here. My next official race is Rock n Roll Portland Half. I was hoping to run some 5ks and what not beforehand but after today, I don’t really want to. I just want to train my ass off. I gotta fix this and fast before I lose my motivation completely.

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    On Track

    With the Carlsbad 5000 coming up, I decided it’s time to start hitting the track again, hardcore. Since I basically had a season of half marathons in the fall/winter, I haven’t really been running track workouts because I’ve been focusing on my tempo efforts. Now that I’ve got a few 5ks coming up, it’s time to get serious. I ran a 10x400m on Monday and 8x800m on Thursday. I can tell I’m rounding back into form quickly, which is a relief, because I really don’t want to embarrass myself in Carlsbad. I’ve run 16:40s the last couple years, but my last few 5ks have been in the 16:20s and I’d like to be moving in the right direction. Originally I was wanting a PR (16:19 or faster) but I think that’ll be a stretch. Carlsbad isn’t a fast course.

    I’m hoping to hit some short distance races this summer before I really get into my Chicago Marathon training but it’s hard to know when exactly I should cut it off. I have a 10k on the 4th of July that I’d like to run well at, but it’ll probably be right when I start the high mileage. I suppose I should look at a calendar and make some solid plans. It helps to be a man with a plan!

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    I’ve seen wind and I’ve seen rain

    I ran the St. Patricks Day 10k this weekend in the blustery mess of weather that San Diego rarely sees. It wasn’t raining particularly hard when I showed up and I was thankful for that. It seems like it’ll pour right until the race starts. But since this race was around Fiesta Island I wasn’t as worried about the rain as I was about the wind. For good reason too. The tempos I’ve run out there when it’s windy have been miserable. MISERABLE. So while I was warming up for the race, I knew what was coming.

    I ran into a few friends before the race. It’s always nice to have some company. The race plan was run sub-35, stay in the 5:35ish range. I very quickly noticed that my flats weren’t getting much traction due to the rain. Every push off I was slipping. I can’t really formulate how much it was slowing me down, but it had to have been a noticeable amount. In the first mile I was sitting just behind the lead pack (it wasn’t fast this year) trying to get into my groove. I just couldn’t seem to get it under 5:35 and with every foot slip I was getting more and more frustrated. At some point I just gave into it, I knew it wasn’t a PR anyways. So I switched to a quicker turnover where I wasn’t pushing off as hard. It’s not faster, but I wasn’t wasting as much energy. First mile 5:39. Second mile 5:38. We were about to round the curve on Fiesta Island and I knew what was coming. Unfortunately I had created a little bit of separation from the small pack Matt and I had been leading. Coming around the turn was like hitting a wall. Immediately I slowed down. There was nothing I could do. I looked down at my watch, noticing my time slipping from 5:35 to 5:55… 6:05… 6:15. I tried to rally and push, but it felt like 100% effort and I wasn’t going much faster than 6 minute pace. Third mile 5:42, Fourth mile, 6:05. Not pretty. I looked back, but the pack was too far behind to catch up so I was left to break the wind alone. Then the rain started up, pelting me in the face. I kept thinking “This sucks, but what can I do? If I stop this crap will only last longer” so I kept pushing. When I finally hit the bridge to get off Fiesta Island, the pack had just caught up to me and it took me a little bit to get the turnover again as the wind was no longer an issue. A guy from the pack bolted out ahead and I tried to keep pace. He had the correct strategy, sit in the pack and wait, then use the energy you saved to crush the last mile (with the wind). Fifth mile: 5:54. I had some legs for the last mile, but not as much as the guy who passed me. I quickly gapped the pack that had caught me for a 5:32 sixth mile.

    I crossed the finish line in 7th place, with a disappointing 35:45 finish. But on days like that, you can’t worry about the time. I did the best I could under the conditions. I wasn’t expecting a PR as I haven’t run a tempo in 2 months outside of the half marathons I’ve run. If it had been a still day, I certainly would have covered my goal time. Now it’s time to start sharpening my fitness a little bit so I can run a fast 5k at Carlsbad in two weeks. I was hoping to break 16, but there’s no way that’ll happen. I’ll be happy with a 16:30. At least I’m not in the whippersnapper division anymore. There won’t be any 13 year olds defeating me on April 1st.

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