Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'll Be

Someone googled:

"I'll be your nasty black mother" and got to my blog.

I just thought it was funny, and wanted to share.

Monday, December 19, 2011

30 for 30

Saturday I ran my last race of the year - #30.  I never intended to run that number, but it's funny how that fell on my the year of my 30th birthday.  I certainly won't be going for 31 next year.

This weekend was the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler, a favorite of mine, and just about everyone else in the Baltimore/MD/DC/VA/PA areas, as 3500 people were registered for this hilly, cold, December 5 miler.  In the 7 years I've lived here, I have run this race every year except for 2009, when I wasn't running.  I've had good races, I've had okay races, but I've never had a bad race here, and I wasn't planning on a bad day on Saturday.  The course had changed, and was now slightly harder, so I figured if I could just run around 30 minutes, I'd be very happy with that.

In the past two weeks, I've tried to bring up my running mileage and see if I can get more comfortable running again.  I had a really good run on Thursday night with Ed, when it was 60 degrees and we didn't have to wear shirts.  But by Friday, the mercury dipped, and by Saturday morning, it was pretty cold.  I ran 10 miles with Brennan, Zero and Chrissie on Friday night, and was a little worse for the wear on Saturday morning.  My morning duties included riding around on a school bus that was shuttling runners back and forth to the start line.  I finished that up at 8:20, dropped off my stuff and tried to run for a minute or two to warm up.  Once again, I donned one of the best running outfits of the day - Under Armour camo spandex, my red and black striped gloves, and my bright orange Adidas Bostons. 

Despite the race being so huge, it's not at all a fight for the start line.  And, considering literally everyone in the top 50 or so runs with us or are other locals, it's a pretty friendly start.  Got going up the hill, and when I hit the first mile in 5:40 I knew the mark was clearly off.  I heard a GPS watch beep about 20 seconds later, which seemed more correct.  Mile 2 was 6:14, which probably made up for the short first mile, and then mile 3 was 6:03.  Seemed pretty good.  I was running mostly by myself, with the exception of a dude, also named Ryan, wearing pirate pants and Vibrams, who was just ahead, and responded to all my friends on course cheering for me.

As we hit the lake, I just tried to keep the legs turning over.  Mile 4 was a slow 6:17, so I wasn't sure if I was actually running that slow, or if it was long again.  Either way, with 600m to go, we turned downhill to the finish, and my knee was just not letting me open up.  I saw my watch tick just over 30, and I crossed at 30:07.  Not a bad day, a little faster than last year, on a little bit harder of a course, so I'm pleased with it. 

Sunday morning it was time for a long run, and I met up with some of the guys at Gilman to head out on a 13 mile run.  It was a difficult route conceived by Nate and Ed, a lot of climbing, a lot of downhills.  We held 7s for the run, probably starting a little slower and picking it up to the 6:50 realm by the end.  I then hopped on the track for a mile to see what we were running: 1:40 (6:40/mi-ish).  I felt that was about right for how we had finished the run.  Then I picked it up a little, going 1:37, 1:33, 1:29 for a 6:20 last mile.  I felt good about the day, but my knee is in bad shape.

I'm not sure why, the 53 mile week, while one of the biggest I've had in a while, is not the biggest week I've had - and I wasn't really doing much else to wear on the knee.  I think it's just the cold.  Knee is very stiff, very tight.  I hope it can loosen up or I'm going to be in trouble this winter!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Race Report: A Race I Didn't Do

I didn't race this weekend, but the amount of effort I put in made it feel like I did!

Friday afternoon I met Alyssa and Carly for a 4pm rollout of Baltimore, headed for Nowheresville, VA.  I was originally led to believe that this trip was 3.5 hours, and I figured we'd hit some traffic.  A little bit on 70 and then some near Frederick, but for the most part, it was a smooth trip to Winchester.  Where I then found out we were still 2.5 hours away.  Oh my God.  Part of my concern is that I'm too big for Alyssa's car, and my knee starts to swell as I drive.  But I can do it, I'm a big boy.  We stopped for a meal at Wendy's somewhere in VA.  I go to order a #6 - Spicy Chicken Sandwich, my go-to.  I ask for no mayo, as always, and the kid is confused for a second but then goes "do you mean you want a Spicy Chicken Sandwich?"  Yeah, that's exactly right.  "Well that's a #7 now."  WHAT?!  Apparently their new burger, the W, is a #6.  How are you just going to change on me like that.  And to top it off, they put mayo on it.  Dammit Wendy's.

Our car trip was peppered with some high quality banter, including the prerequisite "What If" scenarios, like what would you do if a chimpanzee ripped off your partner's face - would you stay with that person?  You know, the usual.  We also got some great games of 20 Questions going.  I think the girls were a little annoyed at mine, which more often than not including dead historical figures.  Whatever, it took them all 20 questions to guess Miley Cyrus on the first one, so I figured they couldn't do any worse.

Finally we arrived at Camp Bethel.  It looked like a great place for a cult to gather.  Alyssa registered while Carly tried to guess who would be fast based on appearance.  This is actually quite more challenging at ultras than it is at road races.  The start time is a cruel 12:01am, and the start is about 15-20 minute drive from the camp, so we caravaned out to the start and prepared for the LONGEST DAY EVER. 

It was a pretty neat sight to see all 130 or so people turn on their headlamps and start running through the woods, and as that would be the last we'd see of them for 5 hours, Carly and I headed to the first aid station we could go to, #4, about 21 miles in for the runners.  We got there by 1 and tried to catch some sleep.  Neither of us were prepared for just how cold it would get sleeping in the car, and my light resting was interrupted around 2am when we were asked to rearrange the cars on the road.  We "slept" until 5 (I figured I probably slept for about 2, 2.5 hours) and the alarm went off.  I had heard runners going by for a little while, and we expected Alyssa around 5:30.  As we were preparing her stuff, a runner was approaching the car and Carly goes "that doesn't look like Alyssa," but then the runner stopped at the car and looked in.  It WAS Alyssa, at 5:10am.  Shit, we are NOT ready.  We send her ahead to the aid station so she can eat while Carly tries to swap the batteries in her headlamp.  I can't see anything, it's so dark while it's not a difficult trail, I keep tripping on rocks.  We get to the aid station (maybe quarter mile from the car) and then send her on her way.  This is 5 hours into the race.

During this time I wondered how long 5 hours is when you're running in the dark woods of Virginia by yourself.  I also wondered how much longer I could have made it in that car, I was so cold.

We then drove to the next aid station.  Driving, by the way, on those unlit mountain roads, was insane.  Could not see anything.  But the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway was cool.  We kept missing our turns because they would be literally "drive 9.6 miles and then make a right onto dirt road" - none of the things were labeled, and it looked like little driveways.  Incredible.  Got out of the car and heard what sounded like a roaring river, but couldn't see it.  We could only see the lights of headlamps bobbing along a ridge high above us, and watch as they zig-zagged down the switchbacks of a long descent. 

At the next aid station, we could finally start to see the sun.  It was calm in the woods, and a beautiful morning.  Alyssa pulled into the aid station and looked good, and was ready to do a quick change into some different clothes.  Onto the next station.

This one was gross.  I don't know what was going on, but it was clearly a body dump for hunters.  This little kid goes "daddy a deer head" and I run over with my camera to grab some shots.  It was disgusting, just a decapitated deer head.  And a couple of rotting, picked apart carcasses.  Some in plastic bags, presumably what the hunters used to drag their kill out of the woods.  Then came the BEAR.  It was a bear head, partially skinned, it looked so peaceful, but so sad.  Its spinal column was still attached, with the white, fatty meat of its interior.  Really gross, really sad, really disrespectful. 

It was now just after 10am, and they were at 42ish miles.  Carly was set to jump in with Alyssa, after pounding 2 Red Bulls and eating some food.  Alyssa was doing pretty well, and I'm sure it was nice to have company for the remainder of the race.  For me, it meant I was now the solo one, and had to find my way to the other aid stations by myself.  It also allowed me to roll the windows down and enjoy the brisk air (the girls do not like the windows down).  It was a beautiful drive along the BRP again, and I found the next aid station - #8 at mile 49 - and hung out there for a while.  It was starting to get windy, and the temp felt like it was dropping, and it was only 11:30. 

Alyssa and Carly came powering up the path, looking better than any of the racers in before them (that I saw).  Most significantly, Alyssa was making up time on the woman ahead of her, a known rival.  Another important note in ultras is that the stated distance is never the actual distance.  If they say 7 miles to the next aid station, it's probably 8.  If they say it's 100k (62.4 miles) it's actually 66.6 (hence Hellgate 100k). 

The girls trotted off to enjoy some downhill running, while I packed up and had to start hauling to get to the next station.  The distance for the runners may have been 7 miles, but for drivers it was much farther.  I still knew I had at least 80 minutes to get there before them, so I wasn't in a supreme hurry.  During this entire time I was consuming very little.  I had a pop-tart and a couple small slices of pizza, and a Gatorade.  I resisted the urge to drink Coke so that I wasn't going to waste the effects of caffeine early in the day.  This would be critical on the drive home.

Aid station #9: the last one.  Nestled in the woods, 7 miles to go for the racers.  3.5 up, 3.5 down to the finish.  The 4th place lady was 5 minutes ahead of Alyssa as she exited transition, but she was walking up the hill.  Alyssa and Carly came flying in like BAMFs.  I gave them the time gap and they did serious work.  I had a 40 minute drive to the finish and I figured it would take them 60-75 minutes to get to the end, so I just rolled.  At the finish, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I was counting on them getting in around 14:45, so imagine my surprise when I see the two of them coming in at 14:32 with NO ONE around them.  It was like that scene in Troop Beverly Hills, I just didn't expect them.  AND they were ahead of the 4th place lady, which meant Alyssa was 4th.  They had covered their last 3 miles (albeit downhill) in 8:15, 8:05 and under 8.  In a 100k trail race, that is insane.

It was a great race, and maybe a mildly unexpected result, for Alyssa, who has now shut her last two races down in the closing miles.  Forget that lady that's married to Kevin Bacon, Alyssa should be The Closer.  Mariano Rivera could learn some lessons from her.  It has been a long, but prosperous season for her and hopefully now she'll chill out for a bit.  Mostly because I will not be going to anymore ultras in the winter.  Ha.

Then it was time to drive home, and we didn't get on the road until about 3:30, which meant 90 minutes of daylight.  Carly passed out right away and Alyssa couldn't be expected to drive, so it was on me.  And I was...sleepy.  I had to resort to a Red Bull - something I've only had when it accompanies a clear adult beverage, and it makes my heart race.  In just a few sips, I was ready to drive again.  We stopped at James Madison for dinner, where I continued my great eating (chicken and waffles!) and then back on the road.  It was a "quick" drive but still took us a long time to get home.  We stopped for snacks at a Sonic in Winchester and made it home around 9:30pm. 

Then Sunday was our annual Awards Night, which is a fun end of year party we have at the running store to celebrate the great year.  This year was probably the best as we enjoyed some great food: alligator bits, turducken, pizza, desserts - it was awesome.  Reminds me why our group is the best one around, because we do awesome stuff.

For my own personal week, it was a pretty quiet one.  I only made it into the pool twice, and didn't ride.  I did manage to run 44 miles on 5 runs, which was good.  I did not feel good through Friday's run, but by Sunday I felt a little better, and even hit the trails myself for the first time in a while. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Finally Coming Down...Off the Ledge

Just a little play on words if you read one of Alyssa's recent blog posts.

It's now December, and Arizona feels like a lifetime ago.  But don't worry, my feelings haven't changed.  I've just been able to process it, and have a little laugh.  My dad said to me over Thanksgiving, that I didn't fail, because finishing isn't failing, I just didn't meet my goal.

And of course I had to remind him: that IS failing.  I had a goal, I failed.  But that's neither here nor there, because I then told him that I know when to fold 'em, and that time is now.  So while I'm sure there will be a disappointed 6 readers who won't get to see depressing race reports any more, it will take the frustration out of sucking.

The highlights of my last two weeks have been a combined 11 hours of training, including a little attempt at the Born to Run 5 Miler over Thanksgiving.  Held the day after Thanksgiving, this annual race in Freehold (where Bruce Springsteen was born) has certainly changed over the years.  I used to go to it, know some of the people, see some friends.  Now they seem to have all disappeared.  It was a little sad this year as I showed up, signed up, did the race, and then just...left.

The race is not super competitive, last year I was 9th or 10th with a time just over 30 minutes.  That was also just a few days after IMAZ, so I figured this year I should be able to do at least that, maybe go faster.  My legs actually felt much better this year, and I went into it feeling like I could run 5:50s.  I was content with not going out hard, so I stuck behind some little kids and a couple of girls at the start.  After 600m, 4 guys went off, and so I decided I'd rather keep them in sight than sit back.  It felt supremely easy, and I was sure I was running 6:15 pace.  First mile coming up...5:42.  Ooof.  Not good.

Who ever knows if miles are totally accurate, but that was way too quick.  The next mile is mostly downhill, and I ran 6:01.  I felt like if I could keep the miles between 6 and 6:10, that would be good.  I was getting passed by a few people, including the first girl, but I didn't really care.  The middle miles are in this little park, some trail, some gravel, but generally not fast terrain, and a few turns, BUT the 6:35 I ran for mile 3 was a shock.  So then I realized I had virtually no shot and running "well" and just kept the effort there.  Back uphill, 6:45.  Ha!  Finished with a 6:30 and came across the line in whatever, like 13th or 14th I guess at 31:35. 

After the race, there was a small Spanish guy who I recognized from races up there, and he tells me (in his accent that I can do if I'm telling the story live) that I probably would have finished top three had I not gone out so hard, yada yada.  I said I wasn't too concerned, that I did an Ironman the other day, and he and this other guy just went "ohhh..." 

I took Mon and Tues off after AZ, and then swam a little on Wednesday.  Thanksgiving I took off, and Friday ran about 6 miles and then rode 22 miles with Jason Gers at the beach.  Good ride.  I then used the good weather (temps in the low to mid 60s!) and motivation to get on my bike on Saturday for about 18 miles - the same route I rode the day I got hit 2 years ago.  Made sure to go slowly by that spot.  I came back to Baltimore on Saturday and got in the pool Sunday. 

Ran pretty easy all last week, running 7 on Monday, 8 on Wednesday, 7 on Friday and another 8 on Sunday for 30 miles.  I didn't ride at all, but I got in the pool 4 times for 8700 meters.  I actually feel pretty good in the water right now, but not great running. 

With 11 months down, here is how I'm grading myself for November:

Swimming - B+.  1:01:27 at Arizona is the best I've swam there in the three years, and basically confirms that, unless I stop swimming altogether, would not swim worse than a 1:05.  As I've always said, 1:05 was the time I used to think that I would be stoked to swim.  But, I still feel like I should have been under an hour.  No big deal.  For the month, ended up with 37,500 meters, a pretty standard month.

Cycling - C.  I only have my performance at the race to judge this on, and that was...subpar.  437 miles for the month, which is about what I did last November.  At this point I'm going to really have to take a look at what's going on for me on the bike, because it's at travesty that my swim keeps outsplitting my bike and run at this distance.

Running - B.  I was running pretty well in November, and obviously the only real race I had was AZ, but I still don't even think it was my running legs fault, something else was going on.  I feel like if you're running 30 miles a week after an IM, you're doing okay.  130 miles for the month. 

One cool byproduct of the running mileage is that I eclipsed my 2007 mileage (1751) with my run on Wednesday, the last day of November.  I now sit at 1767 with 26 days to go.  My highest mileage (keeping in mind that I didn't keep track of things during college so I'm sure those were all much, much higher) came from 2008, when I ran 1874.  I won't crack 2000 this year, but I'll probably get to 1950 or so. 

As I began this post with a little jab at my own self-worth, things have been going well for Alyssa, as she was selected to the Rev3 Tri team for 2012.  Pretty cool, as Rev3 really does put on great races from what we've heard, so I'm sure I'll get to see some of them. 

In other news, Under Armour just partnered up with Tough Mudder for 2012.  I think Tough Mudder is a joke, and it makes me cringe to think of the money that they print for their dumb races.  Haters gotta hate, I suppose, I'm sure if I was the one making that money for not doing shit I'd be happy too, but still.  Maybe UA should focus on sponsoring REAL running events (Baltimore Marathon excluded) and making real running apparel and shoes...just my two cents.  After that Hot Chocolate race debacle in DC this weekend, and Annapolis Half Marathon a few weeks ago, I've got to suspect that these RDs have dollar signs in their eyes as they think they can just start a race and have 10,000 or more people.  These races are just TOO big.  You're not the NYC Marathon!