Monday, May 16, 2016

November 2015 - April 2016

This post is a summary of the cycle of racing I did for the past 6 months.  Between November and my last race in April, I was in a sharpening period with "decent' mileage but more quality work.  Lots of sharpening on the track, etc.  After my last race in April, I took a little bit of recovery and am now back to base building, with the goal of working on endurance now.  Now is the time to build the miles up again, and do an endurance segment to move to the highest level of training I have ever endured.  "You will have to bust your ass this summer," said my coach, "but if you can get through it, you will be tougher and stronger than you have ever been."  I am currently in Florida, in the middle of my first 115-120 mile week, which is the target mileage for this period before hitting the target of 130/week later on.  But more on that in my next post, as well as what goal races are next.  Below are summaries of my races the past 6 months...

USATF 12km Championships
Alexandria, VA
November 15, 2015
Conditions: 45 degrees, little wind, relatively flat with a few hills
25th place, 37:37 (5:02 pace)

After my failed attempt at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, I came back and competed well in this race.  It also let me know that I was quite fit from the endurance work I had done for the marathon, so I began looking at more races to do after this one.

Bethesda Turkey Chase 10K
November 26, 2015
Conditions: cold, hilly course
2nd place, 31:30 (5:04 pace)

By this time I had decided to do the upcoming Jacksonville Half Marathon on January 3.  The Turkey Chase 10K was a fun race to do and I used it as a springboard for Jacksonville.  I knew my fitness was good after doing this hilly race in my fastest time ever on the course.  My previous course best time was before I set my previous half marathon PR, so that was encouraging too.  I knew that this 10K pace could be close to my half marathon pace with a little more work in me...

Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon
(Olympic Trials Qualifying Project)
January 3, 2016
Jacksonville, Florida
Conditions: 48-50 degrees, rainy, no wind, flat course
40th place, 1:06:50 (5:05 pace), PR
5K: 15:33
10K: 31:16
10 Mile: 50:32(also PR)

This race was special because there were nearly 60 men recruited to give one last shot at qualifying for the Olympic Trials Standard of 1:05:00.  I was proud to be a part of it, and though I failed, I PR'd in the process and left Jacksonville on a new level that gave me perspective on what I can accomplish in the years ahead.  This type of effort was special, once you get down to 1:06 it is a bit more rare territory.  I remember when I broke 1:10 how fast that felt.  But now, to begin to move into the unknown territory of where many either get injured trying or others move on, it feels special.  Thin air.  Not as many get to this level.  After the race, a friend of mine who ran 1:04:50 during this race, told me: "Breaking 1:07 is a really big barrier."  Though he is faster, he knew how hard that was to do when he did it.  Perspective.  My friend Dickson broke 1:10 for the half marathon this season.  I was so happy for him and KNEW how tough that is to do!  After this race, I began to feel new, like a new journey was beginning for me.  How fast can I run?  How fit can I get?  I thought.  I don't like to get too caught up in numbers.  I just run as hard as I can, and train as much and as smart as I can without having any injuries or setbacks.  Consistency.  More miles in the legs.  It seems I am a bit of a late bloomer.  I wasn't very fast in my early twenties, but my early thirties I have accelerated into a new era of performances of what I used to dream of.  What are my limits?  What can I DO?  It is my quest to find this out, because it is a beautiful thing-using our full potential is so very hard to do and find.  A guy like Meb Keflezighi gives me a lot of inspiration.  And what I think is pretty cool is that he has just moved up in distance as he got older, but he got better in those distances as well.  When he won the 2014 Boston Marathon(his all time best performance in my opinion), at the same time he certainly was not one of the USA's best 10K racers anymore.  With age, as he moved away from his shorter distance prime years, he had at the same time become one of the world's best marathoners.   

Virginia Tech Challenge Meet
February 20, 2016
Blacksburg, VA
Conditions: Indoor Track
3rd place, 15:13 (4:53 pace)

After the Jacksonville Half Marathon, I used the Virginia Tech Challenge Meet as a good workout to get back into things.  It wasn't fast, and felt pretty off, but it was a good workout to get things going again.  But I felt off.  I think doing the 5K made me realize I am just not a 5K racer this year.  It seems that longer distances are going more of my way in 2016...

USATF 15km Championships (Gate River Run)
Jacksonville, Florida
March 12, 2016
Conditions: Hot & Humid, tough course
27th place, 49:07 (5:16 pace)

This race kicked my ass.  It was a struggle from mile 2.  It was hot, humid, and just plain awful conditions for racing.  But the reason was I also wasn't acclimated to it, so it made things THAT much worse!  I can race in heat and humidity, but I need to adapt to it!  I was used to cold weather and BAM! just like that the world turns 180 degrees on you.  You can tell by the photo above I was toasted, but I did give it my best.  Last year in July, it was the hottest and most humid summery night in Rockville, MD for the annual twilight 8K race.  I went out with the lead Ethiopian at a suicide pace.  No one else went with us(and probably thought we were absolutely crazy) and we were alone the entire race.  But I was acclimated to the brutal heat from training in Florida a month earlier.  I held on and almost won(I should have won-it was poor tactics on my part at the end).  It was a good race though.  I made that guy work for it, he was on the ground at the end as I helped him up.  I at least won a few races in 2015.  I have yet to win a race in 2016, but I've been doing a lot of championship racing lately.  

Picture of last year's Twilight 8K race below, right before the finish!:

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run
Washington, DC
April 3, 2016
Conditions: WINDY & a bit cold
17th place(10th American), 51:27 (5:08 pace)

Cherry Blossom was the opposite extreme in terms of weather.  It was brutally windy and a little too cold, and it frustratingly made times go out the window.  It sucks when this race has been ideal in conditions every year and then all of a sudden a ridiculous 50 mph wind comes gusting to rip right through the race, at the perfect(wrong) time.  What are the chances?  It made things extremely difficult.  I kept trying to draft off the lead pack to block the wind, and was forced at times to just have to work against the wind.  It sucked.  Wind is the worst.  But I placed well, snagging top 10 American.  I also was able to hang with the lead pack for about 4 miles of the race, so that was pretty cool.  So it was a good race to place well.  But like others I am sure, it just really would have been nice if the conditions were ideal for fast times.  Still, with such rough conditions I ran within under 1 minute of my PR at least.  Hopefully next year will be fast!  

Columbus, Ohio
April 30, 2016
Conditions: cool, slightly windy, a few hills
34th place, 1:08:33 (5:13 pace)

The 2016 USA Half Marathon Championship was my 3rd half marathon championship.  Each time I run this event I move up in place.  My first one, in 2012, I crawled to 84th.  My second, in 2014, I placed 56th.  This one, I placed a solid 34th, beating about half the field.  It's tough just to get into this race, so that is always an accomplishment in itself.  My 1:06 from Jacksonville got me into this race.  The mens standard always seems to hover around 1:08:00 for this race typically.

But what's getting exciting now is that I am moving up, and beginning to look at the lead pack of a national championship not being so distant away as it used to be.  It also used to seem completely out of reach that I could handle running with some of these guys, but now it is starting to become a pattern.  I see it from race to race.  Cherry Blossom was similar where I was able to actually run with the lead pack for part of the race.  I fell off, but I've never been able to hang in there that far up before and felt like I had a chance running with those guys.  I looked at it as practice.  And the more you practice at something, it gets easier.  Pushing to be up with others who are better than me is why I love these championship races.  After the gun went off, I just went by feel and found myself running in high 4:50's(sub 1:05 pace!).  I maintained that through 4 miles, but then slowed the 5th mile considerably.  Usually I know if I can handle the pace by about mile 5 if I am still running strong.  If I am slowing by then, it kind of sucks, but it's the way it goes.  I kept trying to get back in that zone, but I wasn't ready to make that jump yet.  I like to know I am pushing my limits-I feel a little bit of that Prefontaine style-is in me.  The one thing I am realizing is that I can go out in 4:50's which feels more aerobic now.  4:50's....that's where I'm trying to be for the 1+ hour race distance.  It's just a matter of adapting the body some more with higher training and more workouts.  I ultimately could not hold onto the pace and slowed down, but I ran tough and competed as well as I could.  The time was super slow-a 1:08 to me these days is quite slow, but that's a good thing.  It certainly made me appreciate the 1:06 I ran in January.  And 34th is a solid place-and I was 1st from the little state of MD.  Conrad also ran, and finished a solid 37th to finish #2 for MD.  My Saucony teamate Graham, took MD's #3 and had a great day to finish 38th in a new PR.  After the race, Conrad and I had a hearty talk afterwards about the goals we are trying to achieve in the half and where we have gotten to from our training this spring.  The best workout we did together this spring was the 4 mile tempo in 19:43(4:56 pace).  That workout, we both knew, was a step in the right direction to running sub 1:05:00.  It told us we are adapting.  I will be back next year and will be hungry to place higher.  I am getting there.  The Trials of Miles, Miles of Trials.


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