Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review of the 2012 Spring Season

"Some days you have it, some days you don't," is what my Dad always says.  This is so true in running, and in other sports, no matter how "perfectly" you train or how knowledgeable you are.  Perfection is impossible, and this is why we never see even Olympians run every race perfectly, and sometimes even drop out of a race.  But races that don't go as well, races that don't pan out as expected, are actually necessary for the overall goals of improving.  Based on Brad Hudson's book(my personal favorite self-coached running book), in mathematical terms, good training and racing are similar to an asymptote(a curved line that approaches closer and closer to "0" but goes infinitely never really hitting it).

There always must be something that needs a "change" in the next training cycle.  Even if it's just a slight difference.  There is always something that is ready for improvement.  Maybe you realize you need to do more marathon pace running this time around.  Or maybe you need to do more threshold work.  Perhaps more intervals.  Or pure speed and muscle training.  Whatever it is, it should be something.  This doesn't necessarily mean that you should have done more of (whichever of the above) in your previous training cycle at the time.  Perhaps during the previous training cycle, you were concentrating more on XY as opposed to YZ, and that helped you achieve certain goals.  But it's not ideal to repeat exactly the same thing.  Constant variation is what I'm talking about.

I will now talk about the USA Half Marathon Champs, and give a full review of my Spring 2012 season.  As most of you already know who saw results/heard from me, the USA Half Marathon Championships did not go as planned.  Is this dissapointing? Of course.  Am I going to dwell on it? Maybe a little.  But at the end of the day, when I look at my spring season, I am overall satisfied with it.  Out of 6 races from January-June, I give myself a 5 out of 6, with 3 new PRs.  I call that success.

This year, I decided to repeat last year's spring with the exception of adding on the USA Half Champs at the end.  Since I had qualified for this race from the Philly Half last fall(1:08:39), I felt this was a great opportunity to compete on the national level.  However, I also knew in order for me to improve as a "longer term" runner and for my "long term" goals, I knew I needed to work on races like the 5k, 10k, and 10 mile distances and not forego peaking for them.  I certainly did so, PRing in all 3 events, and leaving myself with not much juice left for another long distance race in June.  I also felt though, at the end of the day, the right decision was to run the USA Half Champs.  Because running is about taking risks.  I never regret decisions I make in training or racing.  I think the best example of this is the Swarthmore race.  Let's say I had decided not to run Swarthmore(therefore not breaking 15 in the 5k), just to save a little extra for the USA Half Champs race.  Had I done this, maybe I would have run a 1:09 or so.  But would this have been beneficial?  Would it have gotten me furthur?  Absolutely not.  And the reason is even though I perhaps would have run a more decent time for the 13.1, I most likely still wouldn't have made a breakthrough race.  The other reason is I would have cut short my development of speed for the 5K, thus gaining nothing from either end.  I'll take the 14:58.

I do believe that "bad" races need to happen, to put one back into perspective and aim towards the next level.  But, I wouldn't even call the U.S half champs a "bad" race.  What I define as a "bad" race is a race where not enough effort is given and could have been used to furthur better a runner.  This I learned in high school.  I learned how to push to my absolute max.  What I would prefer to say is that simply, it was also "not a good race" meaning you weren't ABLE to push yourself.  There is a big difference here.  This is the type of race I had.  I realized very very quickly during the race, that the USA Half Champs wasn't going to go my way.  I started out the first 5K averaging 5:05 pace, and felt pretty good until I hit about 4 miles (20:32).  Then, very quickly, I slowed up and hit 5 miles (25:58).  It kind of just creeped up on me.  The turnover stopped.  My legs were getting heavy.  My breathing not too great.  I think at that point I realized I was no longer able to race and guys were passing me left and right.  I was getting walked all over.  Yeah...this just wasn't going to happen today-no matter how hard I would try-my body was already done.  I think I had about 4 miles of racing in me, then I was out of gas.  So I adjusted my goal and decided to shoot for goal marathon pace(1:10-1:12) and sort of treat it like a run.  It was the best I could do.  Brian Flynn came up on me around mile 7 and I heard him curse "this is a fuckin death march"...I somewhat laughed and agreed.  Together we ran for a few miles before he too went ahead and would run a 1:10.  I was still slowing and I think runners were passing me pretty much all the way until about mile 11.  Then I found someone to run with who also had a PR of 1:08(he mentioned he was surprised at how bad he was running-I told him I had the same PR as him and encouraged him that he was not alone) and we ran together through the streets of Duluth.  The other guy grabbed some powerade and kindly offered me some.  I took a little bit and it tasted good.  Even though temps were cool, it was 100% humidity out there, which felt very can't breathe but it's still cool out?  Spectators cheered and said "way to work together".  It was actually quite humbling to finish this championship race and I began to enjoy "the run" a bit.  But I was also pretty tired, and ready to be done.  As we approached the finish, I opened up my stride and passed the other runner, but I honestly felt bad passing him at the end.  He was having a really rough day.  Not that I was having a good day, haha!  I ended up running 1:12:47, good for 84th out of 99 male competitors.  I think that is the slowest half marathon I've run in 2 years.  We shook hands at the end and I wished him well.

It's certainly easy to say that perhaps I should have not run this race.  But given the opportunity to compete with the nation's finest distance runners, it was a good experience that I believe will benefit me for the future.  The other thing that I think I will benefit from is the extra training cycle I did for this.  The 8x1mile in 5:00 a piece workout on the track was a great workout that eventually I will put to use in a race.  Eventually the adaptations occur.  Indeed, I have furthur strengthened myself as a runner.  But, it is time to rest to some degree, and get back to basics.   

Below is a comparison of the same races I ran in Spring 2011, and Spring 2012:

UMD Indoor 5000M:

2011: 15:26
2012: 15:11

Shamrock Half Marathon:

2011: 1:10:04
2012: 1:09:27

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler:

2011: 52:54
2012: 51:57

Pikes Peek 10K:
2011: 31:26
2012: 30:56

Swarthmore Outdoor Track 5000m:
2011: 15:13
2012: 14:58

With these improvements, I am excited to see what I can do in the fall.


  1. It's a season to hang your hat on for sure. Great work. Keep after that 5k speed and all else will follow...

  2. A terrific season across the board!! You should be excited about what you will accomplish in the fall. On another note, thank you so much for coaching me this winter/ spring. You have enabled me to run faster and smarter than I would have ever thought possible as a masters-age runner. With your continued coaching, I'm also excited to see what I can do in the fall.