It was pretty awesome Cherry Blossom hosted the US Mens Championship this year. The competition awards the top 10 US male athletes, aside from the top 10 international competitors. This race was my highest place in a championship, taking the 20th US mens spot. I also PR'd with a 50:57 effort, 5:05 per mile. This race was right up there with my effort at Houston. In my opinion Cherry Blossom is somewhat fast, but also not the easiest course because of the Arlington bridge and the late hill climb towards the end when you're trying to sprint. I had to work hard to get in 50:xx territory.
I later found out that Mo Trafeh, who had taken the 3rd American spot in the race(running 47:27), was found guilty this year of using performance banned substances. Born in Morocco, Trafeh became a U.S. citizen in 2008. Upon hearing this news I now consider myself finishing as the 19th American in the race. It's frustrating hearing this, when you train clean and put all of your energy into the sport you love. What's scary is that Mo Trafeh passed 21 drug tests, in fact he never failed one. He was caught with the illegal substance EPO, and he would stop taking it 10 days before competitions. His example shows how easy it can be for athletes to get away cheating in big races. This is a tough thing for the honest athletes to deal with, because they cannot compete with those taking these substances. The motive is to have an advantage to win, or perhaps not only to win, but to win money. Perhaps some cheat because monetarily speaking, running awards only the very few at the top. For instance, take a look at the New York City Marathon's prize money structure. It dwindles down pretty quickly from 1st-10th place out of 50,000 some runners($100,000 to the winner, but 10th only gets $2,000-and this is if that athlete runs a certain time, otherwise the money awarded is cut in half). Even what the world-class/world record runners make yearly are fractions of a fraction of a fraction worth of what your average NFL player makes. But that is obviously no excuse to use banned substances. We need to keep running pure, because it is the purest form of competition, a footrace, to see who is faster. If runners are using PEDs and getting criticized for it, the sport is, if not already in danger of losing its credibility. Nobody cares about the men in the NFL or MLB who use banned substances. But when there is an endurance athlete or even cyclist caught blood doping or using a banned substance, why is it so much more hyped up by the media? I'm not trying to defend those guilty as charged but I believe it is important to recognize these differences of perceptions perhaps the media makes. David Torrence wrote an excellent piece on how underdeveloped the media is with running/track and field. You can read it on Tony Reavis' blog here: http://tonireavis.com/2013/09/27/pro-runner-david-torrence-dont-blame-elite-athletes-for-state-of-the-sport/
Before other non-violent sports such as golf, basketball, etc, perhaps running/track and field has historically been viewed as the most "pure" sport of non-violence. And as Bill Bowerman said, "competing was an answer to war during the ancient Olympics." Man vs Man. We need to keep running/track and field pure, because it is the purest form of competition: to see who is faster; to see who can throw farther; to see who can jump higher, without any advantages.
20th, or 19th, whatever you wanna call it, my highest place in a US Championship.
breakthrough. I started to realize something. I needed a coach.
Greenville, South Carolina
In the spring I was invited to make a visit to Greenville, South Carolina. I had been in contact with Mike Caldwell, the coach of GTC-ELITE: an elite professional training center, near Furman University. I started searching for a coach because I felt that I needed someone to oversee my long term development as a runner, and help me achieve my ultimate potential. I was 30 going on 31, and entering my peak years as a runner. For a while I had self-coached myself and it obviously worked well to help me achieve great things, but I yearned for additional support, guidance, and reassurance. Mike is an extraordinarily smart guy and I had a wonderful time meeting with him and the team. I learned a bit about their training methods and whether that type of training would suit me well. The team is sponsored by Asics, and it is a nice set up. This was a difficult decision to make for me. Perhaps one of the most difficult in my life. It was a big move, 8-9 hours away, and I would have to find a new job, new coaching clients, pretty much start over. Over the years, I have established numerous relationships throughout the DC area running community. The connections I have made in DC have been a big part of my running: people I coach, many friends helping to publicize my running, thanks to RunWashington editors Dickson Mercer and Charlie Ban, as well as Jake Klim. Jake's blog in fact, inspired me to start this one. I pondered back and forth for weeks, adding up the days I wanted to go to Greenville and the days I didn't. I sat down, added the numbers up, and in the end my gut gave me the answer.
But I still needed to find a coach.
I had met Roland Rust earlier in the year, and I approached him around the same time that spring about the possibility of coaching me. I think I just kind of knew, that it was the right thing to do to talk to this man. He has coached an 11th place finisher at the Olympic Trials, but I was more interested in his knowledge of training specifically for the marathon. I sat down with him and gave him my background, sent him my past workouts, and learned about his approach to where I am at with my running, and my goal to qualify for the Olympic Trials. He knows I am good at the half marathon, but in his view, I have not done recent endurance training to support the specific marathon training. And deep down, I knew he was right. I have not excelled at that distance either, and much of my training has been catered to the shorter distances(half marathon on down) over the past years. Some people get confused and think I have been working on the marathon this whole time, but I assure them, it's been precisely the opposite. The confusion might be that the type of training and racing I have done has helped me become more efficient, which will help me be faster. I got to work with Roland in May, shooting for the Chicago Marathon as my target. Because of the timing, we didn't really have time to do the endurance piece though, because we had to go right into a specific marathon cycle soon. Plus, I had already committed to doing the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon in June, which Roland tried to persuade me not to do. Looking back I think I would have benefited doing some of the endurance training during that time, instead of getting ready to race again, which ended up being a slow time for me anyway. But I think that was a transitional part for me to learn that way, learning to dig into what racing investment really is.
Over the summer I got strong, very strong, hitting 110 mile weeks. In August, I won the Annapolis 10 Miler in the middle of a lot of heavy training.
December 13, 2014:
The USA Club Cross Country Championships
It took a little while for me to recover after Chicago, but not too long since I had only raced 16 of the 26.2 miles. It was more so to recover from the arduous training cycle. Nevertheless, I needed to reboot and build up gradually. I also decided to do the club cross country championships to finish out my year. I was not in great shape, but "ok" shape enough to run decently. I placed 236th out of nearly 600 competitors and it was a blast. I had a lot of fun and it was a good way to end the year. Cross Country is always a good battle between various types of runners. It was a good summary of my year and redeemed myself from not finishing a race since September.
What's for 2015?
Well, I got into the half marathon championship again in Houston. It's next weekend.
Newsflash: I'm not running it.
It's nice I qualified again, but my goals are shifting, and my body has needed a specific endurance period of training badly. This calls for improving the aerobic threshold, and starting to adapt to paces that used to be hard for long runs.
The last 7 weeks my mileage has been 90, 94, 85, 97, 97, 102, 97, but it is only the last week or so that my Saturday and Sunday runs have dramatically picked up, and they will continue to. Though I really wanted to, I am very happy now that I have chosen to not race Houston this year, but get in good true endurance training.
My last 2 weeks training is below:
Monday- 6 miles w/ drills: skipping, high knees, butt kicks, skip-bounds
Tuesday- am: 10 miles, pm: 5 miles
Wednesday- am: 4 x 5:00 fartleks, 12.5 miles, pm: 4.5 miles
Thursday- am: 16 miles, pm: 6 miles
Friday- 8 x 200 meter strides, 10 miles
Saturday- 12 miles
Sunday- 20 miles
Monday- 6 miles w/ drills: skipping, high knees, butt kicks, skip-bounds
Tuesday- am: 5 miles, pm: 14 miles
Wednesday- am: hill repeats(high knees, bounds, sprints x 4), 9 miles, pm: 4 miles
Thursday- am: 10 miles, pm: 8.5 miles
Friday- 8 x 200 meter strides, 7.5 miles
Saturday- 12.5 miles: 1:12, averaged 5:45 pace (@ Beach drive)
Sunday- somewhere between 19.5-20 miles: 1:56, averaged around 5:50's (out and back twice @ Beach drive, hilly!)
Despite not posting for a while, indeed I have been training.
2015, watch out, because here I come.