Monday, October 31, 2011

"Getting Closer"...My Marine Corps Marathon 2011

One of the best races around to honor the loss of a loved one is the Marine Corps Marathon. The race has so much meaning whether that person was lost during a war, 9/11, or for any other reason. For me, personally, I wanted to run this race for my cousin Jeff, who passed away almost exactly 1 year ago.

There is no race that has been more difficult for me than the marathon. Like I said in the earlier blog post, it is the race where I have run the most bad races, and it is my weakest time in comparison to my others. Still, though, I believe that I can get it right eventually, and learn how to race the entire thing at some point. Running a marathon is one thing-and believe me, I am not trying to make if sound any less for those who run to finish(most people don't have the will to run a marathon and it is a tremendous distance to tackle)...but racing it is what I have been trying to get my body to do...and it has required a lot of physical adaptation, patience, and faith. My definition of racing is running at a pace where my body is running evenly or my pace fluctuates very little during the entire duration. The world's best marathoners know how to do this. I can do it for 1 mile, 5000 meters, 10K, 10 Miles, and 13.1 Miles...But I have not been able to do it for the marathon yet. I know I can, it's just a question of when.

Here is how the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon went for me:

I lined up in the front next to Mike Wardian. 30,000 people lined up behind me in their respective corrals. The canons went off and BOOM! runners started each of their 26.2 mile journeys. I tucked right in behind Wardian(who eventually placed
2nd in the race). I felt smooth and relaxed and held my pace well. I did not feel like I was going too fast, but I felt like I was racing, which was the goal. If I were able to race the entire thing, I believed that I had it in me to run anywhere from 2:23-2:25 today, and I was going to give it the best shot I had. The hills in the beginning were quite challenging, though nothing I couldn't handle...I tend to be built for hills. Wardian pulled up ahead with a pack of 5 or 6 guys and I was in the top 10 keying off of them. A few dropped back who I passed and found myself suddenly in 6th or 7th position. Then I found myself being followed on my heels by an African guy. We made the climb up to the Key Bridge where thousands of people cheered. I saw some of the GRC team cheering as we approached Georgetown and Jake was the loudest. One of the bridges was icy which caught me by surprise. It was pretty cold out but it didn't really bother me much. I wore arm warmers and gloves and was just fine. As we ran down lonely Canal Road, I saw a woman cheering loudly who I didn't recognize until I got closer and realized it was Jeanette(PR's apparel guru) which was cool. I made the U-turn onto Reservoir where Rich Saunders was cheering and took a photo of me. As we climbed up the hill, the African guy lost some ground on me and I found myself alone on MacArthur Blvd. As I got back to Canal Road, many runners who I coach going opposite directions cheered loudly for me "Go Coach!" and "Go Chris!"....which was really awesome...I couldn't see them in the crowds since there were certainly so many people but I definitely heard was awesome. I did see Julia cheering and also Tracy while she was running.(Tracy ended up qualifying for Boston in 3:49).

I approached M Street and made the turn down under WhiteHurst Freeway. Then, a runner caught me, who I recognized. It was the guy in the USMC uniform who I barely beat in the Philly Half last month. Same build. I stuck right behind him. 55 minutes in, I hit 10 miles(5:30 pace), took a gel, and was on PERFECT pacing. This was 2:24 pace, right where I needed to be. We approached the Lincoln Memorial where thousands and thousands of crowds cheered. I was still in 7th place. I put my hand near my ear to give a "what I can't hear you" symbol...and I heard LOUD CHEERS. No wonder Ryan Hall does this. What a GREAT feeling. Then I saw my Dad and Marian cheering loudly who took a photo of me as I passed by and quickly glanced at him. It was awesome for them to come out. My Mom and Beth and Carole were there as well, who I didn't see there were so many people but knew they saw me.

Approaching halfway in, we ran to Haines Point where I was still keying off the USMC guy. I split 1:12(5:30 pace) at the half and was super excited. I felt like I could do this...just gotta keep the turnover, keep the turnover. I was racing...

The second half began eating me like a peeled orange...layer by layer...until I wouldn't have any layers left. I lost some ground on the USMC guy and tried to maintain my rhythm. I saw Becca cheering near Mile 15 or so and that was great. I also saw Dave and Eric running along the course which was also very helpful. As I got back towards DC, a pack of guys including Adam Condit caught me and Jake Klim found me and ran with me for a while. Just stick with the pack, and I did. I took another gel at mile 16. I still hung on with Adam and we approached Mile 20 in 1 hour 52 minutes(5:36 per mile pace)....but I was 1st 10 miles was 55:00, my 2nd was 57:00. By Mile 21 Adam pulled ahead, the pack broke up, and we were climbing up the arduous 14th street bridge. It was tough, and it ate me up pretty good. At this point I wasn't racing anymore, I was just trying to was all I could do and had in me. My legs were shot, and were no longer in racing mode. Still, I wanted to finish strong, so I kept my head up and Jake helped tremendously by coaching and encouraging me to hold things together and keep running. As I got in to Crystal City, Miles 22 and 23 were by far the hardest for me. A few more runners ran me down. I had to stop for a moment and get myself together. I was, quite simply, thunderstruck. I suddenly felt all the races I had done this year, every PR...every effort was hitting me. But I kept on truckin, and the marines gave me cheers for my persistence. At Mile 24, I saw Jake again and together we ran a memorable 2 miles, he stuck with me the whole way-the veteran runner coached me as I ran. It became just a memorable training run where he was pushing me like any other run.

Jake left me at the last hill up to Iwo Jima Memorial, and said, "You can actually still PR. Just get up that last hill and finish your great year." During a tough race that became a run to just finish, to STILL run a PR would be great, I thought to myself. Then, right before the hill to the finish, another runner was about to pass me when suddenly a surge of energy shot right through me and I roared "NO!" and charged right past him up the hill with the power that makes me a competitor, looking like the Chris Sloane that finished the Philadelphia Half Marathon last month. No one was going to stop me getting up that hill-I ate it up for lunch, and Jeff would have been proud. I pumped my fist as people cheered and PROUDLY finished in 19th place overall out of 30,000 runners in a new PR of 2:37:21. To end the year with a PR in a race that certainly was not my potential really shows what truly different level I have gotten to in 2011. I greeted my Dad, Mom, Marian, Carole, and Beth as they all hugged me at the finish. What a great event this is and I'm glad they were able to come.

2011 was the best year of running and racing I have ever had. I have PRed in nearly every event: 1 mile, 5000 meters(twice), 8K, 10K, 10 Miles(twice), 13.1 Miles(twice), and finally, even the 26.2 distance. There have been flashes of brilliance in some of my races this year, and by far the Philly Half was without a question the race of the year. 68 minutes for 13.1 miles(5:14 per mile) has put me on a new level in my running, and sets up for some amazing goals for next spring. And as Beth said, I am the strongest at the half marathon right now. But Marine Corps was also a race that reflected my year, showing perserverance and determination go a long way, and are the ingredients to what have gotten me to having such a great year. So yea, of course I wanted to run 2:24, it would have gotten me 3rd place and I was on pace halfway through. But I am not unhappy about the race either, I am content and satisfied it was all I could do given the phenomenal year I've had. It's all I can ask for. And I'm confident that I am heading in the right direction and my training is paying off. I am not injured, am training the best I can, and will be close to acummulating 4,000 miles for the year. I now begin to look ahead to 2012, and it is looking exciting with the races I am planning on. I will not do a marathon in the spring, however, but pretty soon, I will have that outstanding marathon race that I KNOW I am capable of. It is just a matter of time, really. The lesson here is never give up and be consistent, because the hard work will pay off eventually if you want it bad enough.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

1 Year & What I'm Running For

Forecast for this Sunday:

High of 51, Low of 42 Degress. Sunny. Wind: 4 mph. Humidity: low.

Conditions for Marathon racing: CLOSE TO long as the roads aren't wet!

Good thing the Marathon isn't Saturday-good grief it might even snow that day(which dear god hopefully it doesn't stick) will feel more like late November the way the weather looks right now. I'm thinking arm warmers and gloves...I can always throw them off during the race. But I have a feeling I will need at least a pair of gloves out there.

I am super pumped and ready to go. On Wednesday I did a dress rehearsal 3 miles on the track at goal pace. All I can say is if what I did on the track is my goal pace I'm in for one serious race. I will go out conservative though in the early miles. My goal is to run as evenly as possible and just run down anyone in front of me those last 10 miles. I believe I have a solid chance of getting on the podium(top 3) in this race. Of course it depends on who shows up. I did beat a guy in Philly last month who was 3rd in MCM last year. I am in the shape of my life and have had the best running year of my life...PRing in everything between 1 mile and 13.1 miles...

The first part of this race is just a run-seriously. I must relax and stay calm and NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. This is critical for me since statistically the marathon is where I have failed the most of all my races. I have run badly at my last 3 marathons: MCM in 2009, Shamrock 2010, and Chicago 2010. I have learned to master any other distance...but the 26.2 is certainly my challenge-it is my match. And I will give it a damn good fight this time around.

But in addition to running for personal goals and personal glory, I will run it for someone as well. That someone is my cousin Jeff Klein, who took his own life almost exactly a year from this coming Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon. He was 23 1/2.

Jeff and I shared many precious memories together, and his competitive spirit combined with a wonderful sense of humor made us 2 of a kind. We always pushed eachother past our own limits-I remember when we went on and on trying to break ping pong records. We would find a way to break records by playing videogames. And of course, we made eachother laugh until we couldn't stop crying. Jeff was also a really great basketball player, and unlike him, I was never any good at I just loved watching him play while I attempted to play 1/1000 of what he could play. His brothers take after him as well. When I was young though I was never really into American sports...I was like a European only focused on soccer...and then got into running. Jeff's whole family has a passion for all American sports, and though I got into college football once I went to VaTech, I have found I have grown to watching other sports Jeff loved more and more often because it reminds me of Jeff. I feel joy when I watch anything(particularly comedies LOL) that reminds me of him though, or when we get together with family and I think of the favorite foods Jeff and I loved to eat together(and jokes!).

I have found ways in which Jeff lives on in many areas of my life, and that includes my running. His competitiveness and joy for life lives on in me and I enjoy my running more, and enjoy racing more! I thank you, Jeff-for this new joy I have found. Sometimes I sense he would be very happy for me now...because I am happy. And that's what he would've wanted. Jeff wanted everyone to be happy. And he knows that there's no place better for me a year from his passing than running 26.2 miles out on the streets of DC this Sunday. Sunday will be a day where I will celebrate Jeff's life and what a positive effect he's had on mine.

If in position, I will run to win and run with all my heart those last 6.2 miles. I will leave nothing left out there. Not one single step. And Jeff will be there with me every step of the way. Jeff always loved cheering on the underdog in sports, and I leave this video as a symbol of his inspiration for EVERYONE running Sunday: Good luck to all the runners I've coached this Sunday-I'll be thinking of you all as I tackle the course with you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oct 17-23: 69 Miles/Week

Tapering is going well. Finished the week up in 69 miles. The longest I ran all week was 13 miles. I did a nice progression on the track on Wednesday, basically just sharpening up. I did a 4 mile progression on the track in the following splits per lap: 90, 88, 81, 81, 78, 79, 80, 79, 78, 78, 77, 78, 78, 76, 78, 76.(mile splits 5:40, 5:18, 5:13, 5:10). Was just enough to get my legs going. On Saturday I did a single Edwards Ferry/Whites Ferry Loop of 10 miles working down to MP for the 2nd half of the run. Finished in 60 minutes and it was no sweat. Rest of my runs have been easy and will be the rest of this week. I may do a 2 mile MP run on Wednesday as a dress rehearsal for the marathon if I feel like I need it. I have been getting physically hungrier and eating more and more as I am craving to store more and more energy my body demands. I listen to what it wants. Been stretching more as well which is a good thing. The final week is here...should be around 50 miles give or take. I have prepared as best I can at this point.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall, Oct 10-16, 95 Miles/Week

Fall is definitely my favorite season. I love the foliage and cooler weather for running. It can make running seem effortless many days. It doesn't last long enough though before winter makes it here.

Ran 95 miles last week as my first taper week. It was 35 miles less than my peak mileage the week before...which makes me think of what a different page I'm on with mileage now. I have averaged 80 miles/week for the entire year so far and am projected to finish the year with around 4,000 miles.

This week I will take the miles down to the 70s, and the last week before the race will be about 55 miles. My legs are feeling fresher as I keep taking the miles down. I did a 16 mile run this past saturday at a faster effort, in my flats, and I felt great.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Final Climb-10/3-10/9: 130 Miles/Week

Some days it just felt almost too easy out there. This is the best I've ever felt running as much mileage as I did-130 miles-and my highest ever. Over the summer, I ran two 120 mile weeks and I was quite sluggish. This week, on one day I could run 9 miles in the morning and then another 16 miles in the afternoon-and feel great clicking off 6 min miles. I would lie if I didn't say I am the strongest and fittest I have ever been in my entire life. I did 5 doubles, with a total of 12 runs. On Saturday, I ventured out to Poolesville with myself to the famous Duel Ferries Run...I found myself completely alone out there and loved every second of it. I loved the solitude. I thought a lot about my goals, my development as a runner, and what I saw truly capable of me doing in the years to come. The total distance of Duel Ferries is 20 miles(2 loops). I wanted to get in 22 so I decided to do a mile first out and back before doing Duel Ferries at a decent effort and then a 1 mile cooldown. I averaged 5:50 pace the entire way, and it was a solid moderate-hard effort. I finished both loops in 1:58:00, which made me think the last time I did both of these loops my fastest time was around 2:07:00. The BIG difference here is that this effort used to feel hard for it's just a run. Doing this on top of the high miles has made me very confident as far as my endurance goes. Once I take the mileage down, my speed will latch onto the endurance and I will be a killer. All I need to do now is some fine tuning. The 20+ milers are over. The hay is in the barn. My mileage will now drop each week during the taper. The rest is really set in place. I just need to do a few shorter tune-up runs at goal pace and I will be set.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

9/26-10/2: 100 Miles/Week and a 25 Miler

A week of just solid good running. Pure and simple. The goal was to get back into the groove of things since the previous week was a recovery week of 78 miles post philly. I hit 100 miles this week and had some really nice runs but didn't do any workouts. This week was a final endurance builder before I do some tune-up workouts next week. I did a long run of 25 miles at a relaxed 6:40 pace average and it felt good....really good. I started from Carderock and ran South towards DC and across the Arlington Memorial Bridge. I saw 2:15 marathoner Chris Raabe running in Georgetown and had a sudden urge to run with him, but thought I probably would bother him-plus he was going a little faster than I would've wanted to run. It was great weather running today and nice it did not rain. At mile 23 I felt like I could've run forever...30, 40 miles if I wanted to. But 25 would be enough, and the longest run I will do before attacking 26.2 on Oct 30. The plan for next week is to hit 120 miles with marathon pace workout(s). After next week I will start tapering the mileage but keep the intensity.

In other news, Lucinda QUALIFIED FOR THE OLYMPIC TRIALS today in a FANTASTIC time of 2:43:43!!! Luci ran the race PERFECTLY, executing a great race plan to go hard the last 10 miles and it payed off-she negative split and earned a spot to Houston 2012. I am really excited for her and am happy to have helped her in her training to getting where she is now. It's exciting to see a former QO runner do this. I hope to join that list someday.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Twin Cities-Good Luck Luci!

Lucinda, who I run with every now and then, will attempt her debut marathon tomorrow morning at Twin Cities(USA Marathon Champs). Luci has trained very well and did some solid training runs with me to help prep her for the race. She will be shooting for the 2:46:00 Olympic Marathon Trials Standard, and I believe she is certainly within that range. Lucinda ran in High School with me and knew much about running before I did(when I began running cross country as a freshman, she was a junior). I learned a lot about the sport from her and many of the older runners on the team. Most of QO's fastest runners never continued competing post collegiately, and it's nice that besides myself today, she still competes and trains at a high level. I wish her the best of luck!