Sunday, January 11, 2015



Houston, Texas.  January 19, 2014
US Mens Half Marathon Championships

2014 started off with the best half marathon of my running career.  Coming off of a 1:08:51 from 2013 I had qualified for the USA Half Marathon Championships.  The championship was held in Houston, Texas, 3 weeks into the year 2014.  I decided to go for it, taking a leap of faith and jumping on the bus with top tier athletes to compete on the national level.  Despite many qualifiers in the race being faster than I was, I performed really well under intimidating conditions.  While the great Meb Keflezighi won the race in 1:01:23, I finished in 1:07:29, good for 56th place, at 5:08 per mile, out of a field of 70 finishers(along with others entered who DNF'd).  This race put me on a level I've never been before, and opened my eyes to new possibilities on what I can achieve.  I am 8 years younger than Meb.  What is possible for me if I stick with this sport?  I intend to find out, and know I have a lot, lot more in me.

After Houston, I looked at my spring season and decided to shorten things up.  Once I recovered, I started a second build up to the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  The first part of that was doing some speed work on the track.  I thought about racing at a Virginia Tech meet, and contacted Ben Thomas, my college coach about participating in the Virginia Tech Challenge meet in February.  He was happy to enter me in as a VT alumni and I entered in both the 3,000m and 5,000m.  The idea was to get a really great workout in while also racing.  The 3K was Friday night, and the 5K was during the middle of the day Saturday, so I had some recovery, but not a lot between races.  I managed 8:48 and 8th place for the 3K, which was technically a PR.  The 3K is a bit fast for me, but it was good to work that a bit.  The next day, I recovered well and managed 2nd place in the 5K race in a modest 15:13.  I wanted to win, but I was pleased with the effort since the other competitors were fresher from not having raced the day before.  Even though these races were short, I got in good workouts, and it was fun to run on that track again.

The next tune-up race for Cherry Blossom was the Shamrock 8K in March.  I took 4th place overall in this race and was the 1st American, finishing in 25:01, and won some prize money in the process.  The next day I paced Christina, one of the top runners I coach, in the half marathon to a 1:28 finish(6:45 pace), a 3 minute PR for her at the time.

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
The 2014 US Mens 10 Mile Championship

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:
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.

Me(50:57), Conrad(50:30), and Kieran(50:32) dueling it out.

20th, or 19th, whatever you wanna call it, my highest place in a US Championship.

Pikes Peek 10K:

I think this race was a red line for me.  It was a few weeks after Cherry Blossom, and I was a bit run down.  I placed well(8th), and equaled my current PR of 30:43, but could not make a
 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.              

The Win at The Annapolis 10 Miler

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.

The Navy Half Marathon

Navy was a good tune-up race in September.  I wanted to win, but Pat Fernandez(in red), was too strong.  I ended up placing 4th, and though 1:09 is a slower time for me now in the half marathon, it was during heavy training just like Annapolis.

2014 Chicago Marathon: DNF

Chicago was a tough day.  I got sick the night before, and just felt plain terrible.  I had to drop out at mile 16.  If I was ready to run the whole thing, believe me I would have.  It's actually very hard to screw up when you're ready to run well.  That's why it drives me nuts when someone says "Did you start too fast?" The only way I would have been able to run the whole thing is if I jogged a 2:40+.  I wasn't there to do that.  On the contrary, a friend of mine, who went out extremely conservatively in his marathon-almost too slow for him, was running faster later on in the race, but still ended up dropping out.  The reality is his body just wasn't ready that day.  I missed the race by maybe 1 day.  Call it bad luck, whatever.  
I think the sickness symbolized that my body was not quite ready to make the push.  And that's ok, because I made tremendous fitness gains from the training cycle.  But I think the great races I had run earlier in the year had caught up to me too, and I was a bit out of racing gas.  Racing is like investment.  You invest in the ones you focus on.  But you can't be perfect.  You have to make choices.  And what I mean is that as well as Houston went for me last January, it might have taken away from Chicago in October.  I would not redo anything though.  I learn as I go.  And, the training cycle was a huge success.  I wouldn't have changed anything about the training.  I just got stronger from it.  It's all hidden, for now.  But there is another thing related to training that I have not done for a while, and that is as Roland calls it, an endurance segment.

December 13, 2014: 
The USA Club Cross Country Championships
Lehigh, PA

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

Total: 102

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!)

Total: 97

Despite not posting for a while, indeed I have been training.

2015, watch out, because here I come.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome training Chris! Can't wait to follow your adventures in 2015. You should join Strava! I'd love to see the progression of your training.