Sunday, September 23, 2012

If 100 Miles/Week doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger

Training Week 9/17-9/23:

Monday: AM: 10 miles: 69:00
PM: EZ short run + 10x100 meter strides, 4 miles total

Tuesday: AM: 15 miles in Poolesville, hilly, 7:00 pace

Wednesday: PM: 8X800 meter repeats w/ 2:00 min rests:
2:24, 2:23, 2:21, 2:20, 2:20, 2:20, 2:20, 2:18, 10 miles total

Thursday: PM: 12 miles, 1:24:00(7:00 pace)

Friday: AM: 14 miles slow and easy(7:30 pace) on towpath in Dickerson, MD

Saturday: AM: 20 miles at Edward's Ferry/White's Ferry, 2:01:00(6:00 pace)

Sunday: AM: 15 miles at The MD/DC Line, 1:40:00(6:40 pace)


I felt surprisingly very little soreness the day after the Philadelphia RocknRoll Half Marathon last weekend.  I took it as a blessing and got in 10 miles Monday morning, and another 4 miles in the evening(plus 10x100 meter strides).  On Tuesday, I cranked out a solid hilly 15 miler in Poolesville and was still fresh enough to do a track workout on Wednesday of 800 meter repeats at 2:20 a piece, all with 2:00 min rest(there was only 1 interval where I rested a bit longer).  This is letting me know that my ability to recover is getting better.  My fitness is also improving as my long run pace from previous weeks has improved from 6:30 pace to 6:00 pace.  My pace tends to quicken during my runs as well.  5:50s are starting to become typical at the end of my easy runs.  Even on Sunday, the day after I ran the brisk 20, I was running 5:50s at the end of another 15 miler.  And if 100 miles total running this week doesn't kill me, I am stronger.  The weather is also really nice now, cooler temps and crisp mornings, especially on Sunday.  It's perfect running weather, no doubt about it. 

I also just wanted to say thanks to everyone reading this blog-I hope it gives a lot of inspiration no matter what your goals are.  Ryan from Illinois-thanks for commenting on my last post and I'm sure you are going to hit that 1:10 in the near future.  Furthur, don't lose sight of the bigger goal you have-just keep working hard and consistency will pay off.

In other news I was so disheartened to hear about yet another proposal to cut mens track and cross country from the University of Richmond.  Please support their program by going to  After the University of MD cutting their programs, this is just really unfortunate news.  I met coach and legendary runner Steve Taylor my senior year of high school on a visit to Virginia Tech.  Even though I was not as talented as some of the other runners on scholarships, he looked me in the eye and told me I could become a sub 30 minute 10K runner.  Unfortunately(but fortunately for Richmond), his whole staff was removed that summer after I had already decided to attend Virginia Tech.  He then moved to Richmond with his wife, Lori, who also coaches the womens programs.  They are fabulous coaches, and I was sad I never got the experience of having Steve coach me.  It is unfortunate for great track programs like Richmond and Maryland to deal with these misplaced cuts all because of simply, money and Title IX.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


September 16, 2012: Philadelphia, PA

Race: Rock and Roll Half Marathon
Result: 1:10:53, 38th male

I arrived to the starting line optimistic as always, but deep down, I had a feeling this wasn't going to be my peak race.  It sucked, because I had the race of my life here last year(my 13.1 PR to date) and felt it was a somewhat "magical" race for me.  I had every reason to believe I could PR again, based on workouts and just my overall progression of other shorter distance PRs.  2012 has been pretty much the same races as 2011(with the exception of this coming Oct/Nov schedule), and in all of those races until now I had run faster than last year.  I guess I was due for a major ass whooping.  Life ain't perfect, that's for sure.  You could analyze training any way you want, but the reality is that in the end running is all about perserverance.  You're going to have ups and downs, and it's getting through "the downs" that make your breakthroughs in racing.  This race was definitely a downer for me.  I guess my last bad race was the USA Half Championships in June-although it really didn't seem that bad since I was coming off a fantastic Spring of PRs and could only expect so much(and honestly was just happy to participate in the event).

The beginning of the race started very quickly.  I saw the great Ritzenhein speed up to the front pack of lead runners.  A string of male elite runners followed and I was somewhere not too far behind.  I had a great start.  I felt ok.  I actually went out 5:05 pace, which really was my goal-I was shooting to be anywhere between 5:05-5:10s. A group of the Hansons runners came up on me and I hung with them for a while-I honestly felt like I could run with them.  That would have to be another day.  They would leave me after about 4 miles or so.  I went through 5 miles in 25:30something but shortly after that was when the wheels began to fall off.  The pack left me, and I couldn't hang.  I had a slight cramp-but worked through it and it would eventually go away.  Still slowing.  Starting to not feel good.  I tried to get back in it and felt like I was going strong.  I kept my eyes on the runners ahead.  Then Sean Barrett passed me, a really good runner whom I barely beat last year in this race.  He STORMED passed me.  I tried to go with him but it just wasn't working.  The turnover wasn't there.  I hit 10K in 32:10-I was actually on 1:07 pace, even though I was slowing.  So I tried, and believe me, was motivated to try to keep the turnover going.  I would not give up.  I wanted 1:07.  I kept grinding but Sean gained furthur and furthur ground on me.  At mile 7 I saw the clock read 36:20(a very slow 5:20 split) and knew 1:07 was starting to fade, and I was continuing to slow despite how hard I was trying to keep my turnover going. 

It's unbelievable how some races you run fast and some races you don't-yet you feel like you're pushing just as hard-or feel just as bad.  No matter what though, I never quit.  I will never, ever drop out of a race unless for a damn good health reason.  Yes, I did not feel good.  I had a cramp in my side, my turnover sucked, my breathing labored-I felt shitty as hell.  I felt like Batman in the scene where he was fighting Bane and no matter how hard he fought, he was already physically unmatched and outdone.  I just wasn't in prime condition.  More runners had passed me, whizzing by me as if I were standing still.  Although I did pass someone laboring around mile 9.  At mile 10, I was at 52:52, realizing I had slowed even more.  I saw Carlos Renjifo passing me, whom I usually beat(not to discredit him though-he is a very good runner).  Then around mile 11, a runner came up on me who I stayed with for a while.  It at least helped that it was someone who I could run with instead of just flying by me.   I was crawling though.  My pace was really slowing now.  At mile 12, he picked up the pace and I had zero turnover.  I finished as well as I could and felt like it was just a jog at the same time.  I was CRUSHED.  I ended up crossing the line in 1:10:53, a time to me, these days, is pretty slow. 

The reality is, 1:10 really isn't a bad time!  It's amazing, how far I've come.  The beginning of 2011, when I ran 1:10 for the first time, I was ecstatic-but now it is a slow time for me.  It's sometimes a price you pay when you improve your times.  It is these types of races that make you a stronger runner.  They test you.  They test how bad you want it.  I have a marathon on 11/18(over 2 months from now) that I am training for.   I think, honestly, I am just not in peak condition yet. I think with a little bit more work and a few more workouts, I will be in prime condition for Oct/Nov.  Last year, I peaked for the Philadelphia Half Marathon, then I ran a mediocre marathon in Oct that certainly was not up to my potential.  I think the coach inside me tells me this, but the runner always wants that PR, always wants to make that extra jump, always wnats to be perfect, which is impossible.  At the same time it is a driving force for motivation and resilience.  I have been through this before.  It is nothing new.

I hope to claim redemption at the Army 10 Miler in 5 weeks.  I hope by then, I will be more primed, and ready to roll.  I am certainly hungry for more, and will hit some high mileage again after a low of 59 this week.  After Army, there will be 4 weeks until the Philadelphia Marathon.  I have 9 weeks.  I know what I need to do.  It is time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and do what I have always done, perservere.


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Return to Philadelphia

The photo above is me finishing last year's Philadelphia Rock N Roll Half Marathon race in a personal best 1:08:39.  It was pretty much the race of the year for me.  I ran a gutsy race, going out in 5:00 the first mile, and averaging 5:14 pace.  Looking at my training log, and one year later, one would think I am ready to PR.  There are plenty of workouts I've done over the past year averaging 5:00s and 4:50s, which I think, over time, the system adapts to. The question is when it finally does. Hitting a 4:39 split during a workout helps too.  When getting down to the science, it's also all about using a higher percentage of my VO2 Max as my lactate threshold, which the best marathoners and half marathoners in the world do.  This, I hope I have done-and hope the race shows for it.  For instance, this past Spring, I got my 5K pace down to 4:48, and my 10K pace down to 4:58.  The 10K(which uses part lactate threshold training and part VO2Max), which was also on road, is still the better performance when compared to the 5K on the track.  Taken a step furthur, when racing longer than 30 minutes(my 10K time), the faster I get, the gap between my half marathon pace and my 10K pace diminishes(even as I get faster in the 10K).  What does this mean?  It means my top potential lies in the half marathon(full marathon still in progress), not the 5K.  The 10K is somewhere in the middle-and a race I love.  Yes, I can get better at the 5K.  If I could claim a lifetime goal for the 5K, it would be under 14:00.  But I am not a 5K runner.  There are many runners like this, who show good example, of exponentially getting better and better in performance as the distances get longer.  This is why also it is very rare to see someone's mile time equivalent to their marathon performance, OR to see a top miler like Bernard Lagat race a half marathon equivalent(although I'm sure he could do pretty well!).  One of my runners, Tracy Heichelbech, who got into the 2013 Boston Marathon, is a lot like this too.  The longer the distance, the better her performance.  But she has a lot of potential, and worked hard on her 10 mile time this past spring which will help her future marathon.  I am excited to coach her to her first Boston in April.  
Conditions are also important of course, and, thankfully, they look quite similar to last year.  Temperatures should be in the mid 50s during the race, which is pretty optimal.  So, things are looking quite good.

I do think patience is one of the best things runners can learn.  And that is what I have learned-letting the races come to me, naturally.  Some are meant to be hard-some are meant to kick my ass, some are meant to humlbe me.  I train and train, and keep adapting the body, and all it takes is for that right race comes around, and everything shows for the hard work.  It doesn't come around often, but when it does, its when you MUST STRIKE.  Lucinda is a great example of this, when last year, she ran 1:20 for the half marathon, and then pretty much ran that time during the 2nd half of her marathon race in twin cities, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2:43.  She struke when the iron was hot.  She is now preparing for the Chicago Marathon, which I think she can make a statement as what a national class runner she has become.

I am excited to get out there Sunday and see what I'm capable of.  I fear nothing.  I will do my absolute best, and am excited to debut my Mizuno Wave Ronin 4s(pictured below).  Good luck to Maria who will be running as well.  Maria will be peaking for the Army 10 Miler, but she is still ready to run a very strong race this weekend.


"What has passed is already finished with.
What I find more interesting is what is still to come."

-Emil Zatopek

Sunday, September 9, 2012

9/3-9/9: 78 Miles/Week

I was a bit tired at the beginning of this week so I took Tuesday off and felt much better after doing so.  It was my first day off in about 7 weeks.  For the past 9 weeks, I have averaged 90 miles per week.  On Saturday I did a moderate workout of 2 x 3 miles at a brisk pace.  I basically ran from Pennyfield to Riley's Lock and back.  I hit 16:00 for the first 3(5:20 pace), took a few minutes rest, and came home in 15:45(5:15 pace).  This felt a bit quicker than marathon pace, but it felt good.  Perhaps this was my first real "marathon pace workout."  I also did a really nice very hilly 15 miler this week, on the backroads of Poolesville.

Next weekend is the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon, which I am gearing up for.  Am I ready? I have been closing quite quickly at the end of general aerobic runs, which is always a good sign for me before racing.  Based on really the last year of training, I am ready to PR.  It is tough though, and there are no guarantees.  The 1:08:39 I ran last year is my current PR, an average of 5:14 per mile, under perfect conditions.  The only thing I'm a bit worried about is the weather.  The forecast so far for Sunday calls for high of 80, low of 60's(of course this can change).  And of course it won't be 80 during the race(I'll be done by 9am), it will probably be in the 60s, which isn't bad.  Also, I think of all those workouts and training runs where I cranked out 5:00 or sub 5:00 miles in the heat these past several months.  Even workouts before I ran the USA Half Champs in June, I think will begin to pay off now.  The half dozen 20+ milers I did this summer are the building blocks for my marathon training, but are also serving as support training for the half marathon.  At any rate, I am looking foward to racing!       

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Power of the Mind

"All that I am, I am because of my mind."
-Paavo Nurmi

I think the most important thing in distance running is psychology.  Yes, you need to train your body.  Yes, you need to look at your splits.  But you also need to look at what you believe you can do.  You also need to train the mind.  Without the mind, you cannot push the body.  The mind controls the body-and when the body is in pain, the mind must not listen to it.  The mind can be very powerful when it controls the body.  When Roger Bannister broke the 4:00 mile, it was only weeks later it was broken again by someone else.  There are many examples like this in distance running.

I think there are 2 parts, really that the role of the mind takes place in distance running.  The first part, is it being able to push the body to train.  Intervals are hard, and they should be hard for the most part.  They are not meant to be easy.  The mind tells the body how many it will do that day, and it will do it.  The second part, and perhaps the most important, is the mind pushing the body to race.  Racing is different than training.  The goal of training is to get your body to adapt to a better pace, or higher amount of mileage, and to get stronger.  Sometimes, and very often with elite runners, the workouts are harder than the races in a certain way.  Besides the workouts being very demanding, this is also because the body is getting stronger, and the mind has to push HARD for the body to get where it is trying to be.  Racing is when the body is adapted and ready to perform.  But the body cannot race without the mind.  The mental push and focus required during races is very demanding, but physically, the body is there, ready.  All the body needs during a race is for the mind to tell it the ENTIRE WAY..."get to the finish line...with NOTHING left."

If you can do this, you have MAXIMIZED your potential on that race day.  If you feel you could not run one more single step faster during that race, that you had absolutely nothing left and everything was left out on the course, then your mind has conquered your body.

This is not easy to do.  It takes weeks, months, and years to master.  And yet, it keeps going, because as we break new barriers as runners, we have set new ones to break.


My mileage was a bit lower this week(I only hit 78), but I did the Kentlands 5K as a race tune-up to get my body(and my mind) ready for my first big fall race in a few weeks.  The race went well, and my goal was to compete and get my stride open, even though my body was not completely fresh from the pervious training weeks.  I placed 2nd and got nipped in the end for 1st place, running 15:15 and losing by one second.  In hindsight, I really didn't care that much that I lost, more so that I competed and got in the effort since the REAL race is in 2 weeks.  I am not in peak shape for the 5K right now-which is a good thing!  Still, I was impressed that, despite very humid conditions(worse conditions than last year), I ran faster than last year.  And, picking up $200 was pretty sweet too.  I am looking foward to getting in one last hard workout this week and then tapering down.  The day after the 5K I did another 20 mile long run (my 6th in a row!) at an easy average of 7:00 pace-I did sleep in a bit and it was humid as $hit though.  But its really great I have done 20+ milers every week for the past 6 weeks, I think just getting used to this is going to make me so much stronger by the time november rolls around for the marathon.