Tuesday, February 24, 2009

FAT Tuesday

Note: I normally do not do any sort of hard running. Ever, if I can avoid it (outside of races), but usually I wait until the weather becomes more to my liking, and even then I'm real careful about it. I certainly don't fear it, I just tend to race more than most, do long races and prefer to go into them fit rather than fast.

Two years ago I employed this strategy and ran a decent time at the Shamrock 5k in March. Last year I did the same thing, and ran even faster. It's pretty sweet. In fairness, I do let the races act as hard running, and last year I did two indoor meets consisting of the mile-2mile double.

This year my training has been going well. I haven't taken a day off since December 1st, and there haven't been any days that I'm absolutely dead tired. I've had a couple of days where I didn't feel like doing anything, but thanks to my planned group runs throughout the week, I can usually avoid the temptation. So I've been running more days per week and more miles per run, and feeling good about that.

But I had a little itch to do a workout tonight with the trio of Brennan, Arjun and Ben, otherwise known as BrenJunGram. Their workouts have been daunting lately; a lot of 2 mile repeats and up. I haven't done any extended efforts like that in a while. The most I usually do is 3x15min or 3x2mi every so often in the summer on grass. The workout tonight: 2x3mile w/3min recovery, then a 2mile. Yikes. 8 miles of hard running, just two days after Club Challenge.

I felt surprisingly good after the race, but last night I was a little tired and today I was sore. I got down to Fed Hill a little late and only had about 8 minutes to warm up, during which time I regretted my decision to join them for this workout. After a quick hostage release in the Harbor, we got going.

Their plan was to run high 5:30s for the first mile, and I figured I would try and hang on for as long as I could and if I couldn't make it through the whole workout that would be okay. First mile felt quick, but only upon confirmation of a 5:24 did we realize it was way too quick. Definitely for me, maybe not so much for the other guys. Either way, I slowed down a little and came through the 3 miles in 17:05. Shoot, that probably would have worked out to be my 5k PR from high school.

A little under 3 minutes later for me we got going again, this time into a slight headwind. I was determined to go out slower, hopefully 5:45ish, and just stay even. For the most part I accomplished that, hitting the mile in 5:40, but the 2nd mile is a little tough with some road obstacles slowing you down - so I came through that 3 mile in 17:26. Considering I was 16 seconds slower on the first mile, I was cool with that.

Now my stomach was feeling pretty bad, and I still had two miles to go. I was hoping to be able to hang with Ben and Arjun (Brennan had abandoned due to stomach ailment) for at least a mile, no matter the pace, and then play it by ear. They ripped into the interval and I had to slow down. I wound up running an even split 11:36, so all told it was a good workout and I averaged somewhere around 5:45 for the 8 miles. If by September I could hold that pace at Philly Distance Run, I'd be real psyched.

The workout definitely took its toll on my legs, and I'm going to take it easy until the weekend when I'm hoping to get in two solid runs while I'm in NJ. For now, I'm pleased I made it through a workout on a chilly evening around the Harbor. Of course the weather over the next few days is supposed to be much nicer, but whatever.

THEN it was party time. Mardi Gras clearly doesn't hold the same weight in Baltimore that it does in other parts of the country, but I was determined to make it out for some Fat Tuesday celebrating. I talked a few people into going out with me, so the BrenJunGram trio did in fact make it out as did Luna and Leighanne, and we hit Kooper's in Fells. They actually had a big banner out front and had some Mardi Gras specials, which was cool. Now that it's over, I guess it's onto 40 days of being good.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Club Challenge 2009

First and foremost, I have to acknowledge the Falls Road Racing Team that this weekend earned its first overall team title at the RRCA MD 10 Mile Club Championships since 2002!

It was a huge accomplishment, and a very proud moment, for our team.

It's actually the event I take most seriously in my year. Ever since the first year I ran it, in 2006, I've been hooked, and have made it my mission - nay, obsession - to win the team title.

The 10 mile race takes place every February in the challenging neighborhoods of Columbia. I say challenging because for those of you familiar with Columbia know that it's hilly. That might be an understatement. You won't run a hillier route for 10 miles anywhere around here (evidenced by our love for flat 10M races - Cherry Blossom, Broad Street and Army). All of the local clubs toe the line, and for being such a difficult, long, winter race, it draws a large crowd (over 500 this year). It also draws one of the most competitive fields of any race I've done.

The real reason for doing this race is simple: bragging rights.

In years past, the scoring was based on the highest number of people from the smallest team. So say there are 5 teams entered and 4 of the teams have 30 guys and 15 girls, but one team has 20 guys and 10 girls. All teams would score 20 for men and 10 for women. There seem to be some years where only 3 girls have scored. Now the scoring is simplified: 12 guys, 4 girls (despite complaints by some people I know to score more girls, it remained at 4).

Normally Howard County Striders (hosts of the race) come out guns blazing and have a stranglehold on this race. I've seen them sweep the men's, women's and overall team titles and do it in commanding fashion. The first year I did the race, in 2006, despite our small numbers, we weren't too far back in the standings. I, of course, ran a forgettable 1:04:10. Even though I had just started racing again, I remember how terrible I felt. I felt extended from the gun, and it was really, really cold. I completely fell apart in the second half of the race, and was miserable afterwards. I ran with Jake and Ryan Schmidt until they took off. Spider won the race that year and Chris Nowakowski had taken 2nd, so Falls Road went 1-2, but it was no match for the Striders' offensive.

The following year, 2007, I was actually excited for the race. We had a solid team and a bunch of us were running pretty well at that point. Then the weather gods reared their ugly heads, and the Striders canceled the race as a precaution due to impending snowstorm. For the record, it didn't start snowing until 11am.

Onto 2008. We've got the biggest squad Falls Road has ever assembled, and we liked our chances. It was cold again. Kip managed to pick up 2nd place overall (1st in team scoring), but HoCo put 6 in the top 10 and just outmanned us. I wound up improving almost 5 minutes to a 59:25, which was nice for me, but that was our 5th scorer - and you're not going to get anywhere with that being the 5th person.

I don't care about my personal performance at this race, as long as it's not detrimental to the team if it's bad. And if I do well - great, as long as I ran the best I could. Every runner counts.

Usually beginning in January I have the task of putting together a squadron for the race. It involves prodding, bargaining, sometimes even begging. For the most part, this year wasn't that bad. Everyone has been running really well, but as always I felt like we weren't going into the race fully loaded - there are always a few people you'd like to have out there that were just not going to be.

Fortunately, Kyle led the way, taking 1st overall, and despite an expected strong showing from Howard County, Ben, Brennan, Arjun, Ed, Justin and Rodney all put in better than expected performances and helped balance our attack.

In the men's team competition we were still not able to take the top spot, losing to Howard County by over 100 points. That meant our women really had to run strong to help get the overall. On the women's side, Falls Road was again 2nd, but this time to Westminster. They handily outpaced HoCo Women. Then the announcement for overall team came down, and when they said Howard County picked up second, that left only one spot for us - first. A sigh of relief was about all I could muster before running up to receive our award.

As far as my own personal performance - 27th place at 58:55 - I was pretty psyched. Going into the race with two subpar performances this year (Miami and USATF XC) I didn't know what to expect. I've been running more miles this year, but not doing anything that remotely resembles hard running. The only time I have been running "hard" is when I run uphill. To record a 30 second improvement over last year is great. Weather was pretty good, definitely the warmest I've ever seen at CC, and I actually felt comfortable the whole race - runningwise. Taking a dump-wise, I actually had to STOP for 5 seconds around mile 8 to squeeze back the hostages that were attempting to escape. I also felt like my left big toenail was ripping off, which it kind of was, and is black and blue today. These didn't amount to much time, but a little discomfort towards the end. I was really close to getting Chuck Powell today, and without those little hiccups I know I would have. There's always next year.

Speaking of next year, at least we have a reason to go back - 1) Defend our title and 2) Attempt the sweep.

I won't mention the people that let the team down this weekend, but hopefully it doesn't happen again next year. We ended up missing a bunch of people and to do what we did with such a small team is awesome.

The race capped off a decent week with some highlights, including 3 4000m days in the pool and 54 miles of running. It was the first week where that distance didn't faze me. Great sign heading into 7 weeks to go before Boston. I want to hit a few weeks at or around 70 and then start to throw in some mixed efforts. I didn't get on my bike at all this week, but I needed to watch out for my knee a little bit after it was hurting a little.

The most exciting day of my week was Friday, when I ran 12 miles at Patapsco with The Kris, ending on a 7:08 trip up Gun Rd. This is the fastest I've run up the road and while it doesn't match what Godsey used to do, it was a good way to end a run. I then headed to the pool and swam a 3000m straight swim - the longest I've ever done by 500m - and was swimming pretty fast (for me, not OJ). So that was promising. My goal this year is to be stronger and fitter going into race season, and let the early races help with the sharpness.

This week I'm psyched because I'm going to the TERPS game vs Duke on Wednesday, and heading back to NJ this weekend to go see Seton Hall take on soon-to-be #1 Pitt on Saturday night. I think the Terps won this weekend over UNC because they wore yellow; in a similar fashion Falls Road donned the red singlets of the past on Sunday and won. Hmm...

Also interesting to me is to peruse archived results from Club Challenge. You see a lot of the same names, people who have been staples of the MD running community for years, and a lot of has-beens that no longer seem to run. There were a lot of triathletes a few years back, including one-time runnerup at Hawaii IM, Desiree Ficker. Then there are a bunch of people who raced for Falls Road once, and still do for other races - just not CC. That's annoying. It also appears that we only began our presence in 2002, around the time Jim was transitioning as owner, and went by the "Baltimore Running Coalition." I kind of like it, maybe we should go back to that!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What's Your Motto?

We all have little mantras and euphemisms we use in daily life and training...here are a few of my favorites, some I've come up with over the years and some courtesy of others:


It's exactly what you think it is. Don't be a pussy. I came up with this one my junior year of college (2002). When you think of being one, stop doing that thing and man up. Sometimes, I'll admit, this is fairly difficult. It's in those exact moments that you can establish yourself as a man.

Get tough, asshole

This little gem is from OJ and his college days. Sometimes it's as simple as that - get tough. Asshole.

Diamonds in the haystack

The jury is still out on what this really means, but it sounds pretty sweet. Credit goes to Ben for this one. We think it had something to do with diamond in the rough + needle in the haystack, which I suppose would mean a difficult-to-find, unpolished athlete or something.

Hay in the barn

Another one of Ben's favorites, although I don't think it can be credited to him ultimately as it's a common saying. Again, not being from the midwest I have no idea what this fascination with hay is, but the idea is that you put hay in the barn and then later you're able to take it out - similar to my next one. Hay: it's not just for horses anymore.

Money in the bank

I tend to get made fun of for the way I race and think about racing - which is to go out fast and suffer at the end. Alright, so I've been racing that way forever and I like that style. It suits me. I look at it like I'm putting money in the bank by going out hard. If I go out slow, I'm not going to speed up along the way. If I go out fast, I've accrued some time, and therefore can slow down a little bit and still reach my goal. Now I'm starting to use it more to define training volume, similar to hay in the barn. Gotta deposit money now so you can take it out later!

This week I've been a little tired and somewhat under the weather. I haven't taken a day off since I started training again December 1st, so getting on near 3 months. But I'm doing okay. Keeping an eye on a building situation in my left knee, which has felt a little weird since Sunday's ride in Frederick. So this week I'm cutting out the doubles and trying to actively recover as best I can.

A few things about my outlook on this year:

  • A little bit everyday goes a long way. I'm trying to make sure I get in something every day. You don't need to go out and kill it when you have a day off from work or because you feel like you're out of shape. That will take more out of you down the road and you'll wind up having to take a couple days off after a hard effort like that, or risk not recovering fully before your next real training session.
  • Don't kill yourself. While I want to make sure I don't take a lot of time off, it's more important than anything to listen to your body. If you're not feeling it, don't push it. It's going to be a long year this year and you'll do yourself no good by crushing it now.
  • You can race on speedwork, but won't get far without fitness. This is huge. All too often people are concerned with pace and distance. I see so many people using unimportant units of measure. If you don't have a solid base under your legs, you're just risking injury and burnout. Of my friends who have done Ironmans, I haven't seen one average under 7min per mile in the marathon yet. Not that it's not important to be faster than that, but you also have to get used to running that pace. Of course, I mean running that pace after a long bike ride. It's about time and effort, not speed and distance.

I'll share a few of my other tidbits that come from my phallus of knowledge over the weeks and months to come.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Flipper: King of the Sea

"But I knew him as James, the [expletive deleted] dolphin..."

I just got back from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, which I haven't visited since I was a kid. It was pretty sweet, and the dolphin show was a cool way to end the day. Except for the chick that made out with the dolphin. That was just weird.

Last week turned out to be my highest volume week in a long time at 21.5 hours, and as I look back on it, it seems pretty meager. We lucked out with 60+ degree temperatures midweek, which baited me into believing I could rock a 30 hour week with 350 miles on the bike. Here's how that turned out:

Monday: Easy 6 mile run, Fed Hill Runners. In college I used to only swim on Mondays as a recovery day, but now I've got to be at Runners so I try and make it pretty easy.

Tuesday: 50 mile ride, my Loch Raven loop. Warm temps, felt pretty decent.

Wednesday: 60 mile ride, my Hunt Valley loop. Even warmer, a little bit windier, and I was already pretty tired. Then I met up with the guys for our Wednesday evening 12 mile run, so it was a big day.

Thursday: Biggest day of the week. It was quasi warm but SUPER windy, and I knew a road ride was going to be challenging. I opted instead to ride in the confines of Patterson Park. I have a good 2 mile figure-8 that I do, and planned on doing it 15 times before going inside and riding 2 more hours on the rollers. Well, the wind was so strong that I was riding dog-slow, and then a few times the crosswinds blew me into the grass and almost into some trees. I headed back in after 14 laps and then rode the rollers for 95 minutes. My taint could take anymore of it. I then ran an easy 4 mile brick after the ride, and earlier in the day had swam 4500m - my longest workout of the year. It was a seriously long day and I was wrecked.

Friday: Plan was to ride LONG, but when I woke up and it was cold and windy at 8am, I scrapped that idea. Instead I opted to do nothing. Actually I ran at Patapsco in the afternoon for the slowest 12 mile run I've done in a long time. I stopped a few times to contemplate why I was continuing to run, only starting again when I remembered it was getting colder and darker, and I was still a few miles from the car.

Saturday: I met up with Ben, Brennan and Arjun at the NCR Trail for a medium long run of 13 miles (they were all doing more + some kind of workout). I hate running there and whatever, I got through it.

Sunday: After about 4 hours of sleep I woke up at 7 to go out to Frederick to ride. Frederick is tough because it doesn't care what kind of shape you're in, it's going to beat you somehow. We are rarely treated to fair weather when we're out there, and while the temperature wasn't freezing and it was sunny, the wind was nuts. I was riding pretty well up the hills, but the first two are brutal and really take a lot out of you. My back was very tight and my legs were tightening in preparatory anxiety of the climbs. I finally hit my stride on the back half, when I managed to climb South Mountain the big ring. That was pretty sweet. We made it back and were pleased with our effort out there for the day.

So the week wound up looking like this:

Swim - 4500m
Bike - 230 miles
Run - 47 miles

Certainly not a great swim week, but I only had so much energy. I can't believe last Memorial Day I knocked out 260 miles in 3 consecutive days. I've got a long way to go before I'll be in that shape, but this was a good week to get ready for down the road.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Washing and Wondering

Actually, I haven't taken a shower today. Nor have I shaven my sweet new "Recession Beard." That's what I'm going to call it after reading this article today.

I then read this little gem about karaoke rage. I have actually experienced this before, so I know what they're talking about. If I were a serial killer, I think I'd like to be known as the "Karaoke Killer" or "Microphone Murderer" or something.

Then I read this one about parents joining Facebook and requesting friendship from their children. My mom recently joined and I avoided accepting her request for a while, but figured whatever.

In between all this worthless Interweb reading and getting out on my bike, I contemplated my career search and wondered, what the heck am I going to do?

The first option is to stay in some kind of sales position. I would really only do this for the right company/product. Of course there are millions of people looking for jobs right now, many of whom have pretty sick resumes, so beggars can't be choosers.

Second option is for a career change. But I'm not qualified to do shit. I have no real background in anything, and no degree for anything specific. My halfway completed Journalism degree doesn't count for much, nor does my almost minor in economics. And I've been out of school for so long any courses I've taken have emptied themselves from the vault.

I don't want to go back to school, but I'm stuck without a lot of options. I'm not even qualified for half the government jobs I saw online.

I need some guidance, like a life advisor. Maybe I can be one of those.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lessons Earned

It was August 1, 2003, just a few months after graduating Maryland. My intentions were to basically chill out for the summer, train hard, see how well I could do in some triathlons, before seeking truly gainful employment. Then in one fell swoop on a Friday morning at Hartshorne, I destroyed my ankle and running has never been the same.

But that's not really the point here, the point is that I didn't have health insurance at the time, and I had to scramble to get signed up for COBRA so I didn't have to pay out-of-pocket for what amounted to $15,000 of x-rays, MRIs, electronic bone stimulators, physical therapy, etc.

This past Saturday at the USATF Cross Country National Championships, I was sure I had done it again. On the 2nd of 6 laps I kicked my left ankle with my right foot as I slip-slided down the hill on the back half of the course. It was pretty swollen when I finished, and I was really having trouble just walking around on it the rest of the day. And once again I don't have health insurance (that ran out a week or so ago) so my only thought was "shit, I don't feel like seeing a doctor or getting an x-ray."

It doesn't feel a whole lot better even two days later, but I doubt it's really bad. It feels like the ankle is probably sprained, which isn't a big deal - but across the top of my foot it feels like there could be a ligament or two damaged. That would be annoying.

Anyway I'll worry about that later. The event on Saturday was a lot of fun, although the race itself wasn't as fun as last year in San Diego. The SD course was certainly more scenic, and despite being sick and partially hungover, I ran decent. Saturday was a different story. The course was much more difficult, but I have been feeling like I'm in decent shape and thought I could run alright. My plan was to go out slow and try and build through the race. Normally I'm one for taking off, trying to put some money in the bank and fading towards the end. This time I'd actually done what I intended to do - probably even going a little too slow. The first 2k came and I was feeling pretty good.

A kilometer later is where I knocked my ankle, and while I don't think it had too much affect on my race, it certainly didn't help. It's also really hard to get pumped up for a race in which you are clearly outgunned, and going to get stomped. So I slowed down gradually and by the end was barely above a jog. Meb flew past me around his 9k (my 7k) which is where I got passed last year, so it goes to show you how much harder this course is (since I was also running slower).

Some of my friends did pretty well, I was impressed with the performance of the Red Fox, who really had a great race, and their Georgetown team took home the team title. Even some of the pre-race favorites had tough days, it was in the mid to high 50s for temperature and the course was just sloppy. But anytime you throw a few Olympians into a race it's going to be a good time.

The post-race party was pretty fun - and after the party the Saucony troop of Julia Rudd, Brian Mahoney and Nate Jenkins, and myself and Kootman had dinner at the Rio Grande. Then the four dudes rolled down to Bethesda to the abode of some GRCers and enjoyed a little after-after party. Nate, a 2:14 marathoner, is ridiculous.

The next morning a few of us ran from Silver Spring for our long run. Joining us were Josh Glaab (23rd at the race) and Julia. I was surprised I could walk, let alone run, but I guess that was a fairly good sign. We ran down the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda, then took Connecticut Ave into DC. We blew up some Subway bathroom and then hopped down into Rock Creek Park. While negotiating the steep, narrow, muddy downhill into the park, I definitely ate it and nearly smashed weiner-first into a rock.

We then took the trail along Beach Dr up to Military Rd/16th Street and then back to where we started. I did alright, but the last 2-3 miles were pretty painful for my foot. All in all it was probably about 15 miles, which was a little less than I hoped to do but better than not running at all. It was a really nice day, felt more like April than February. I haven't run down this way in a real long time, and I haven't ridden down there in a while either, so it was a good return.

For the week it was pretty low volume. I had planned on running a little less, and it was my first week under 50 in the last month and a half at 47. I only got in the pool twice and didn't get an opportunity to ride.

The week ahead, particularly with my ankle, may not be filled with much running. I want to take advantage of some potentially better weather to get on the bike.

Monday, February 02, 2009


I had a few unexpected road bumps in the month of January, but I've been making do and by volume it was one of my highest of the last few years.

My time on the bike was good at the very start of the month, but then faded in the middle and right now I've been more focused on running as it is - so I'm not completely concerned.


For January I ran 246 miles. The most I've run in any other month since at least 2003 has been 206. My last 5 weeks have been 55, 55.5, 58.5, 62 and 58.5. Not bad considering I probably have only had 5 weeks over 50 in the last couple of years. I haven't been running very hard, I've been struggling enough with just the volume. This usually comes on 5 days of running so my average length run has bumped from the 7-8 range to 10-12.

We've also been handling the cold pretty well. As I've remarked to everyone, this is definitely the toughest winter since 2003. We had a lot more snow then, but it was easier to run on the snow than it is to run on ice. Patrick Reaves put it well when he described it like creme brulee. Ice on the top, snow underneath. Sucks for running.

This was true yesterday when Ben, Brennan and I took off for a 17 mile run from Ben's. I ran down from my house (3.5) wearing my super awesome Venom spider suit. First things first, I had to handle a hostage situation up at Penn Station. Upon leaving Penn Station, we noticed blood drops on the sidewalk. They last until Charles Village, so about a mile. We made it up pretty far on Charles, normally I'm only riding my bike up around there - I've never run that far. We descended into Robert E Lee Park on some real treacherous ice. That was where hostage situation: the sequel took place.

I was feeling better, and made it up the hills of Mt. Wash pretty well and into Pimlico before just really starting to feel terrible. Ben began to open it up, so I let him and Brennan go and just shuffled home through Druid Hill Park and down Fallsway. Then I noticed the blood again and it led into Ben's apt building!! It was crazy, like a CSI episode. Ultimately it was just under 21 miles, my longest since, well, the marathon. I'm pleased with just making it through.


January yielded 36,000 meters. I was a little disappointed that I didn't swim more but I had a few positives. This past week was promising, on Friday I put in a 2500m straight swim. That's the most I've ever swam, and it felt alright. My goal is to build up to the hour+ range over the next few months. This was about 42 minutes. Not blazing, but I started around 1:43/100m and finished around 1:35/


Like I said, a pretty low month. Factors NOT helping were the weather, which has been very cold, and the past week the roads weren't great; no car - not having a car means I haven't gone out to Frederick yet; running more than I usually do.

So in terms of mileage it was only 210 for the month. Obviously that should be a WEEK, but like I said, I'll get that back fast.

Goals for February

I've got two races this month. The first is this Saturday, a 12k cross country race in which I will most certainly get my ass beat. I'm looking forward to that. Then in a few weeks we have Club Challenge, our loathsome 10 mile race in Columbia. I think I'm going to decrease my running mileage a little bit, and run a little faster perhaps over the next few weeks. I also want to make sure I ride some more, so I'm putting that on the front burner.

As far as swimming goes, I'm just going to keep doing what I do. It seems to work alright, and I seem to be ahead of where I was last January (32,100m swim; 291 miles on the bike; 168 miles running).

In other news, here is my website of the week: Snuggie Sightings