Friday, October 21, 2016

The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials

“The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

After the US Half Marathon Championship last April(photos above), I took a down week, then got back into gradually building my endurance and base.  My coach and I agreed that I could handle an increase in my mileage, and that summer was the time to do it, with minimal to no racing at all during this period.  The goal was to get used to 120 mile weeks.  Time to toughen up and work hard, plain and simple.

This period, from May through August, was the toughest training I have ever done.  I was tired all the time(including too tired to type on this blog).  There were days where I woke up exhausted, barely able to get out of bed...and yet somehow I got out the door and ran another 12-20+ miles on any given day.  I doubled nearly every day, 4 days a week minimum(no fewer than 11-12 runs).  I also somehow managed to work full time at the running store, and work on my personal coaching, and occasionally give my mom a phone call.  In addition, I have taken on a role as a volunteer assistant with the Mary Washington University Cross Country and Track Team.  So, I haven't had enough time/energy to get to this blog until now(and right now I have been tapering well for an upcoming race so I actually have the time and energy).  But I like to keep the blog going, because for my own documentation as well as for others to see the periods of change my training has gone through the past several years.  It helps me get better.  And, I appreciate the followers of this blog and hope it helps those reading.  One thing I love about this blog is that I can go back to 2011 and look back at a bad race I had or what race I was happy with, how I trained, etc.  It is an online storybook of data and memories, all connected to each other.  You can see the process of adaptation by looking at the periodization of higher mileage, then higher intensity, etc.  This year, for instance, is by far the most 100+ mile weeks I have put in.  Over the past summer the shortest I would run in a day would be 6 miles in the morning and 6 miles in the evening-those were the easy days, the recovery days.  I have the training outlined below, up until this past week.  I highlighted the long runs of each week, and the hard workouts as well.  You can see why I crashed in September, and that the rest/recovery was essential.  The physiological effects of running high mileage are that your body cannot fully recover, so that if you race during high mileage training, you will most likely not run your best.  However, if you can get through it, and once you begin to add rest and recovery, therefore allowing the body to absorb the training you have put it through, the adaptation process begins.  Your body reconnects the damage you put it through, and rebuilds back stronger.  Then, you roll the dice, and you race.  You have the strongest aerobic system behind you, and all you need is a little bit of luck and careful tapering.

5/09-5/15: 110 miles (no runs over 12 miles, hill repeats, drills, strides)
5/16-5/22: 120 miles (long runs: 16, 6 x 5:00 fartleks, drills, strides)
5/23-5/29: 120 miles (long runs: 14, 17, 20, hill repeats, drills, strides)
5/30-6/05: 116 miles (long runs: 17, 18, 6 x 5:00 fartleks, drills, strides)
6/06-6/12: 120 miles (long runs: 15, 16, 20, hill repeats, drills, strides)
6/13-6/19: 120 miles (long runs: 14, 18, 20, 6 x 5:00 fartleks, drills, strides)
6/20-6/26: 120 miles (long runs: 20, hill repeats, drills, strides)
6/27-7/03: 120 miles (long runs: 14, 15, 18, 6 x 5:00 fartleks, drills, strides)
7/04-7/10: 120 miles (long runs: 15, 18, hill repeats, drills, strides)
7/11-7/17: 120 miles (long runs: 20, 6 x 5:00 fartleks, drills, strides)
7/18-7/24: 100 miles (long runs: 20, 4 mile tempo: 20:45, hill repeats, drills, strides)
7/25-7/31: 100 miles (long runs: 15, 18, Track: 6 x 1600m w/ 400m jog: 5:17, 5:09, 5:12, 5:05, 5:04, 5:02, drills, strides)
8/01-8/07: 115 miles (long runs: 16, 22, Track: 8 x 1200m w/ 200m jog: 3:51, 3:48, 3:49, 3:48, 3:47, 3:47, 3:46, 3:45, drills, strides) 
8/08-8/14: 115 miles (long runs: 16, 20, Track: 3200m: 10:13, 1600m: 5:05, 800m: 2:35, hill repeats, drills, strides)
8/15-8/21: 112 miles (long runs: 14, 15, 24 miler - 2:32:00, Track: 800m: 2:33, 1200m: 3:47, 1600m: 5:03, 1200m: 3:48)
8/22-8/28: 68 miles (no long runs, Track: 600m: 1:45, 800m: 2:25, 1200m: 3:37, 1600m: 4:50, 600m: 1:46, South Lakes 10K: 2nd place, 32:08) 
8/29-9/04: 120 miles (long runs: 15, 18, 26 miler - 2:43:00, Track: 12 x 400m @ 70 each)
9/05-9/11: 100 miles (long runs: 16, Track: 1600m: 5:01, 2400m: 7:30, 1600m: 4:56, 800m: 2:22)
9/12-9/18: 60 miles (Philly Half: 11 mile tempo run(5:20-5:30 pace), strides)
9/19-9/25: 57 miles (long runs: 28 miler - 3:05:00) 
9/26-10/02: 82 miles (long runs: 24 miler)
10/03-10/09: 92 miles (long runs: 15, 18 miles @ 5:50 pace, Track: 6 x 1200m w/ 400m jog @ 3:38 avg)
10/10-10/16: 90 miles (long runs: 16 miles w/ 15 miles @ 5:30-5:40 pace, Track: 6 x 1600m w/ 400m jog: 5:11, 4:57, 4:57, 4:55, 4:56, 4:59)

It just dawned on me that  I have averaged over 100 miles/week for the past 6 months.

and this week:

10/17-10/23: (mileage projected to be mid 50's) 
Track on 10/19: 6 x 800m w/ 400m jog: 2:28, 2:27, 2:26, 2:24, 2:23, 2:22

At the end of August, I tested my fitness a bit by jumping in the South Lakes 10K on a humid day with Thomas Curtin(13:27 5K guy), in which he won and I finished about 100 meters behind.  Then, once September rolled around, my body was beginning to show signs of how far it had been pushed.  My heel was starting to give me trouble.  The week of September 5-11 was the last 100 mile week I have done.  On Sept 18, I had to pull out of the Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon, and I had some pain on the bottom of my left heel.  I was on edge.  I had to back off, and recover.  It wasn't that bad, but I could tell I needed to rest.  I took a few days off, and reduced my mileage quite a bit.  My goal was to get my body to recover and let it adapt to the training.  For some time I pondered whether or not I should tackle another race.  Did I need to just call it a season and start over?  I thought about the race I am entered in.  A race I could place well in next weekend.  But am I ready?  During the time I had the heel/plantar trouble, my training partner Conrad unfortunately got injured to the point where he was unable to run.  So, Conrad was broken down, and I was just barely hanging on.  I was walking on very thin ice.  On Sept 25, my good friend Aaron Anderson joined me in a long run where he ran about 23 miles and I finished 28 miles, my longest run to date.  As October came around, I was able to get on the track again and did some 1200m repeats & 1600m repeats.  I did a quick 18 miler, and then 1 week later an even quicker 15 miles.  This week, I did some 800m repeats, and felt good to get a final dose of speed in the legs.

Overall, I feel good and have decided I would be completely stupid to not run the race I entered, which is next weekend.  If you look at my running on paper, it says I am a great half marathon racer with 1:06 speed, but the marathon is a difficult event for me to translate.  However, I do feel like I have the advantage of being the faster half marathoner in this race.  If I can stay close to the leaders, I know I'll have the speed and strength to be comfortable at the slower pace.  We'll see.  I have entered in next weekend's Marine Corps Marathon. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

1,200 Miles in 10 Weeks

5/09-5/15: 110 miles (13 runs)
5/16-5/22: 120 miles (13 runs)
5/23-5/29: 120 miles (12 runs)
5/30-6/05: 116 miles (14 runs)
6/06-6/12: 120 miles (12 runs)
6/13-6/19: 120 miles (13 runs)
6/20-6/26: 120 miles (13 runs)
6/27-7/03: 120 miles (13 runs)
7/04-7/10: 120 miles (13 runs)
7/11-7/17: 120 miles (14 runs)

1,186 miles, average 118.6 miles/week

I woke up before 6 am to my buzzing alarm, and groaned.  I got up, and could barely stand up, my feet aching. In fact, my whole body ached.  My feet were tired, my legs were tired, even my arms were tired.  I got ready for another hilly 15 mile run out in Boyds, MD.  Thankfully, after my training run, I would see Terrel for an hour massage.  I immediately grabbed a Clifbar to get some food in me.  I knew if I didn't, I would fall back asleep.  My body had been doing 120 mile weeks consistently, and it was being pushed to the limit.  It was sore all the time, tired all the time, fatigued all the time.  There was no breathing room.  Nearly every day of the week was a double run.  Even running early in the morning, the humidity is still brutal in MD/DC.  I have been averaging 17-18 miles a day, with 12 being the shortest amount I'll do in any day.  Every day is hard work.  This is the endurance segment period of training.  It is brutal.  My coach says it is probably the toughest type of training distance runners do.  But not many can do it at this level of mileage-most break down or get injured.  Somehow, my body can handle it.  But it's not like I'm doing track workouts.  Most of the training is distance runs, fartlek runs, hill repeats, quick 12 milers, and progressive 20 milers.  But it's the day to day(almost tedious) exhaustion of doing it.  In terms of paces, I've done progression type 20 mile long runs where Conrad and I start around 7:00 pace and work gradually down to 5:30 pace, and most fartleks at 5:00-5:10 pace.  I've done some hilly 12 milers at 5:40 pace.  Many distance runs average 6:30 pace.  Some recovery runs are like 8:00 min pace.  I averaged nearly 120 miles/week for 10 weeks, the most I have been ever able to handle.  Somehow, I got through this training.  I owe it to my coach Roland Rust, my massage therapist Terrel Hale, Saucony for making the best training shoes to keep me healthy, and my training partner Conrad.  Conrad has also been hitting high mileage, hovering around 100 miles.  It's been great to meet with him on a regular basis.  Knowing you have to meet someone for a workout at 6:30 am gets you out the door in the morning.  I haven't raced in 3 months.  It seems like ages ago.  But not racing this summer is what I feel I needed.  To just train. and put in the work, and forget about times/places for a while.  To go back to building a stronger base.  The endurance period ended Sunday(7/17), and after last week, we are moving into a new phase of a bit lesser mileage and adding some more quality now.  I'll start to do some tempos on the track and getting a bit faster again.  On Monday, I came down with a minor cold(go figure my body was probably broken down a bit), and took a much needed rest day.  My brother also got married this past weekend too, and I somehow made a good speech during the ceremony without passing out from exhaustion.  120 miles/week + social events + working + coaching and other stuff can definitely be a lot to fit on the plate at times.  I felt better after practically doing nothing but sleeping/lying in bed all day Monday.  It was my first day off running since May 6.  My body needed the rest.  Rest is just equally as important-it is important to do it at the right time.  The rest will enable me to be ready for the next phase of training.                

Monday, May 16, 2016

November 2015 - April 2016

This post is a summary of the cycle of racing I did for the past 6 months.  Between November and my last race in April, I was in a sharpening period with "decent' mileage but more quality work.  Lots of sharpening on the track, etc.  After my last race in April, I took a little bit of recovery and am now back to base building, with the goal of working on endurance now.  Now is the time to build the miles up again, and do an endurance segment to move to the highest level of training I have ever endured.  "You will have to bust your ass this summer," said my coach, "but if you can get through it, you will be tougher and stronger than you have ever been."  I am currently in Florida, in the middle of my first 115-120 mile week, which is the target mileage for this period before hitting the target of 130/week later on.  But more on that in my next post, as well as what goal races are next.  Below are summaries of my races the past 6 months...

USATF 12km Championships
Alexandria, VA
November 15, 2015
Conditions: 45 degrees, little wind, relatively flat with a few hills
25th place, 37:37 (5:02 pace)

After my failed attempt at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, I came back and competed well in this race.  It also let me know that I was quite fit from the endurance work I had done for the marathon, so I began looking at more races to do after this one.

Bethesda Turkey Chase 10K
November 26, 2015
Conditions: cold, hilly course
2nd place, 31:30 (5:04 pace)

By this time I had decided to do the upcoming Jacksonville Half Marathon on January 3.  The Turkey Chase 10K was a fun race to do and I used it as a springboard for Jacksonville.  I knew my fitness was good after doing this hilly race in my fastest time ever on the course.  My previous course best time was before I set my previous half marathon PR, so that was encouraging too.  I knew that this 10K pace could be close to my half marathon pace with a little more work in me...

Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon
(Olympic Trials Qualifying Project)
January 3, 2016
Jacksonville, Florida
Conditions: 48-50 degrees, rainy, no wind, flat course
40th place, 1:06:50 (5:05 pace), PR
5K: 15:33
10K: 31:16
10 Mile: 50:32(also PR)

This race was special because there were nearly 60 men recruited to give one last shot at qualifying for the Olympic Trials Standard of 1:05:00.  I was proud to be a part of it, and though I failed, I PR'd in the process and left Jacksonville on a new level that gave me perspective on what I can accomplish in the years ahead.  This type of effort was special, once you get down to 1:06 it is a bit more rare territory.  I remember when I broke 1:10 how fast that felt.  But now, to begin to move into the unknown territory of where many either get injured trying or others move on, it feels special.  Thin air.  Not as many get to this level.  After the race, a friend of mine who ran 1:04:50 during this race, told me: "Breaking 1:07 is a really big barrier."  Though he is faster, he knew how hard that was to do when he did it.  Perspective.  My friend Dickson broke 1:10 for the half marathon this season.  I was so happy for him and KNEW how tough that is to do!  After this race, I began to feel new, like a new journey was beginning for me.  How fast can I run?  How fit can I get?  I thought.  I don't like to get too caught up in numbers.  I just run as hard as I can, and train as much and as smart as I can without having any injuries or setbacks.  Consistency.  More miles in the legs.  It seems I am a bit of a late bloomer.  I wasn't very fast in my early twenties, but my early thirties I have accelerated into a new era of performances of what I used to dream of.  What are my limits?  What can I DO?  It is my quest to find this out, because it is a beautiful thing-using our full potential is so very hard to do and find.  A guy like Meb Keflezighi gives me a lot of inspiration.  And what I think is pretty cool is that he has just moved up in distance as he got older, but he got better in those distances as well.  When he won the 2014 Boston Marathon(his all time best performance in my opinion), at the same time he certainly was not one of the USA's best 10K racers anymore.  With age, as he moved away from his shorter distance prime years, he had at the same time become one of the world's best marathoners.   

Virginia Tech Challenge Meet
February 20, 2016
Blacksburg, VA
Conditions: Indoor Track
3rd place, 15:13 (4:53 pace)

After the Jacksonville Half Marathon, I used the Virginia Tech Challenge Meet as a good workout to get back into things.  It wasn't fast, and felt pretty off, but it was a good workout to get things going again.  But I felt off.  I think doing the 5K made me realize I am just not a 5K racer this year.  It seems that longer distances are going more of my way in 2016...

USATF 15km Championships (Gate River Run)
Jacksonville, Florida
March 12, 2016
Conditions: Hot & Humid, tough course
27th place, 49:07 (5:16 pace)

This race kicked my ass.  It was a struggle from mile 2.  It was hot, humid, and just plain awful conditions for racing.  But the reason was I also wasn't acclimated to it, so it made things THAT much worse!  I can race in heat and humidity, but I need to adapt to it!  I was used to cold weather and BAM! just like that the world turns 180 degrees on you.  You can tell by the photo above I was toasted, but I did give it my best.  Last year in July, it was the hottest and most humid summery night in Rockville, MD for the annual twilight 8K race.  I went out with the lead Ethiopian at a suicide pace.  No one else went with us(and probably thought we were absolutely crazy) and we were alone the entire race.  But I was acclimated to the brutal heat from training in Florida a month earlier.  I held on and almost won(I should have won-it was poor tactics on my part at the end).  It was a good race though.  I made that guy work for it, he was on the ground at the end as I helped him up.  I at least won a few races in 2015.  I have yet to win a race in 2016, but I've been doing a lot of championship racing lately.  

Picture of last year's Twilight 8K race below, right before the finish!:

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run
Washington, DC
April 3, 2016
Conditions: WINDY & a bit cold
17th place(10th American), 51:27 (5:08 pace)

Cherry Blossom was the opposite extreme in terms of weather.  It was brutally windy and a little too cold, and it frustratingly made times go out the window.  It sucks when this race has been ideal in conditions every year and then all of a sudden a ridiculous 50 mph wind comes gusting to rip right through the race, at the perfect(wrong) time.  What are the chances?  It made things extremely difficult.  I kept trying to draft off the lead pack to block the wind, and was forced at times to just have to work against the wind.  It sucked.  Wind is the worst.  But I placed well, snagging top 10 American.  I also was able to hang with the lead pack for about 4 miles of the race, so that was pretty cool.  So it was a good race to place well.  But like others I am sure, it just really would have been nice if the conditions were ideal for fast times.  Still, with such rough conditions I ran within under 1 minute of my PR at least.  Hopefully next year will be fast!  

Columbus, Ohio
April 30, 2016
Conditions: cool, slightly windy, a few hills
34th place, 1:08:33 (5:13 pace)

The 2016 USA Half Marathon Championship was my 3rd half marathon championship.  Each time I run this event I move up in place.  My first one, in 2012, I crawled to 84th.  My second, in 2014, I placed 56th.  This one, I placed a solid 34th, beating about half the field.  It's tough just to get into this race, so that is always an accomplishment in itself.  My 1:06 from Jacksonville got me into this race.  The mens standard always seems to hover around 1:08:00 for this race typically.

But what's getting exciting now is that I am moving up, and beginning to look at the lead pack of a national championship not being so distant away as it used to be.  It also used to seem completely out of reach that I could handle running with some of these guys, but now it is starting to become a pattern.  I see it from race to race.  Cherry Blossom was similar where I was able to actually run with the lead pack for part of the race.  I fell off, but I've never been able to hang in there that far up before and felt like I had a chance running with those guys.  I looked at it as practice.  And the more you practice at something, it gets easier.  Pushing to be up with others who are better than me is why I love these championship races.  After the gun went off, I just went by feel and found myself running in high 4:50's(sub 1:05 pace!).  I maintained that through 4 miles, but then slowed the 5th mile considerably.  Usually I know if I can handle the pace by about mile 5 if I am still running strong.  If I am slowing by then, it kind of sucks, but it's the way it goes.  I kept trying to get back in that zone, but I wasn't ready to make that jump yet.  I like to know I am pushing my limits-I feel a little bit of that Prefontaine style-is in me.  The one thing I am realizing is that I can go out in 4:50's which feels more aerobic now.  4:50's....that's where I'm trying to be for the 1+ hour race distance.  It's just a matter of adapting the body some more with higher training and more workouts.  I ultimately could not hold onto the pace and slowed down, but I ran tough and competed as well as I could.  The time was super slow-a 1:08 to me these days is quite slow, but that's a good thing.  It certainly made me appreciate the 1:06 I ran in January.  And 34th is a solid place-and I was 1st from the little state of MD.  Conrad also ran, and finished a solid 37th to finish #2 for MD.  My Saucony teamate Graham, took MD's #3 and had a great day to finish 38th in a new PR.  After the race, Conrad and I had a hearty talk afterwards about the goals we are trying to achieve in the half and where we have gotten to from our training this spring.  The best workout we did together this spring was the 4 mile tempo in 19:43(4:56 pace).  That workout, we both knew, was a step in the right direction to running sub 1:05:00.  It told us we are adapting.  I will be back next year and will be hungry to place higher.  I am getting there.  The Trials of Miles, Miles of Trials.


Friday, April 29, 2016

USATF Half Marathon Championship Preview

ThomasAdamCharlottesvilleVARagged Mountain Racing
ScottBauhsSan Luis ObispoCAASICS Aggie Running Club
ShadrackBiwottMammoth LakesCAASICS Mammoth Track Club
IsaiahBraggDublinOHU.S. Air Force
MichaelCaprioloAkronOHTeam Ohio
BrianCullSomervilleMASomerville Road Runners
MattDanielsEvergreenCOHudson Elite
Sean DavidsonSan Luis ObispoCAASICS Aggie Running Club
ScotFaubleFlagstaffAZHoka One One NAZ Elite
BrianFlynnRockinghamVAPacers/New Balance
MasonFrankBloomingtonMNRun N Fun
PatrickGeogheganPortlandORGenesee Valley Harriers
JoeGrayLakewoodWAClub Northwest
IsidoreHerreraVenturaCACal Coast Track Club
CharlieHurtCharlottesvilleVARagged Mountain Racing
CoryIrwinCanal WinchesterOHColumbus Running Company
CoryKeehnHaysKSKansas City Smoke
RyanKienzleCantonOHTeam Ohio
BillKlimczakBoulder CO 
GregLeakTacomaWATacoma City Running Club
ChrisLemonSpringfieldOHDave's Racing Team
CraigLeonEugeneORTeam Run Eugene
ScottMacPhersonAustinTXRogue AC
ScottMateStowOHTeam Ohio
PaulMatuszakPhiladelphiaPAPhiladelphia Runner/Puma TC
TylerMcCandlessBoulderCOBoulder Harriers
SteveMenovcikGrand LedgeMIPatient Endurance Racing
DannyMercadoFlagstaffAZTeam Run Flagstaff
TonyMigliozziNorth CantonOH 
RyanMillerThe WoodlandsTX 
JoeMooreManhattanKSKansas City Smoke
AndyMorganPeninsulaOHTeam Ohio
TeageO'ConnorBurlingtonVTGreen Mountain Athletic Association
PhillipReidSan Luis ObispoCAASICS Aggie Running Club
MalcolmRichardsSan FranciscoCAWest Valley Track Club
AndrewRigginsCuyahoga FallsOH 
EricSchottCape GirardeauMO 
Evan SchwartzColumbusOH 
LouisSerafiniBrightonMAThe Heartbreakers
OrinthalStrigglesWest ColumbiaSC 
AndyWackerBoulderCOadidas Rocky Mountain Elite
LoganWellsWestervilleOHColumbus Running Company
VerelleWyattAkronOHTeam Ohio

Columbus, Ohio

This will be my 3rd US Half Marathon Championship in my running career.  My first one, in 2012 hosted by Grandmas in Duluth, MN, was a really tough day.  I finished 84th, and was nearly last in the entire field.  The second one, in 2014, was in Houston.  Houston was great-I set a PR at the time-1:07:29, and finished a respectable 56th.

This one is in Columbus, Ohio.  The course looks fun.  I will be competing as well as I can.  It's nice the weather will hold out this time-conditions look great for racing.  In March, I dealt with the brutal heat and humidity at the 15K Championship in Florida, and then 4 weeks ago the extreme winds and unseasonably chilly weather at Cherry Blossom.  Cherry Blossom was a solid place for me, snagging top 10 American, though I don't think I was as sharp as I am now.  I know I am fit.  My workouts show.  I feel fitter than when I ran 1:06:50 in January-which was 5:05 pace.  But it's not just about time-every course is different.  This course looks fun and I think it has a good variation of ups and downs.  I want to place well in this and show I am one of the country's best half marathoners.  This race is that-The US Half Marathon Championship.  It is not always about the time, it is about running with others who are better than you, running and pushing yourself towards the front.  That, is what I have been training for.  To run with the best.

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.
-The Impossible Dream