Wednesday, August 22, 2007

DCRRC Paul Thurston 4.5 Mile Race

I decided to try something different last night. I ran a race put on by a local club, in a park near me, in the evening. I figured it would give me some idea what the DCRRC crowd is like and whether I'd want to join. And, I hate missing any races that are just a few miles from my house.

The registration was $5. I got no shirt and the timing isn't exactly perfect, but it was a great, no-frills experience. I showed up within 15 minutes or so of the start, parked, and followed the obvious runners milling about the parking lot to the starting line. A small crowd had gathered, maybe 60 people or so, listening to Ed Grant (President of the DCRRC) say a few words. When I approached him right before race time and asked him who to give the $5 to, he simply held out his hand and that was that. Nice.

As an aside, the DCRRC seems to be mostly populated by odd looking people. I know that is a crappy thing to say and it isn't like I'm freaking Brad Pitt. But, well, what can I say? I saw some ragtag running clothes, some floppy old hairdos, and some of the strangest running styles I've ever witnessed. I guess that is what hardcore looks like when it comes to running.

There was no gun or anything like that. Just a voice saying "GO!" and we did. I glanced at my Garmin and I was running pretty fast in the first part of the race. I felt very strange too. Maybe I was running too hard (6:00-6:30/mi for most of the first mile) because I was dizzy and felt out of sorts. I thought I might puke or pass out or something and I was having difficulty focusing on the fact that I was running. I was a little worried as to what might be going on, but I began to feel more normal as I continued on. I mean normal in the sense that I had my wits and knew what I was doing. Physically, I still felt off. I went from fast and dizzy to an exhausted and progressive slow down until the end of the race, with a finishing pace somewhere around 7:30/mi, I think. The overall pace was 7:22 or 7:23, so maybe I was even slower than that at the end. In any case, I felt increasingly tired and I began to cramp up with a bad side stitch. I keep saying it was a fun race, but I really felt like garbage for most of it. I had no second gear after the first mile or two and just tried to hold on. I kept hoping I'd catch up with the runners in front of me, but I couldn't make up a single foot on them no matter how hard I tried. I just didn't have crap in me.

I did say it was in a park. Did I say that it was mostly on a dirt trail? And that it rained all day and had started to rain again right before the race? You can imagine what happened then. It was a complete mudfest. The trail surface was well packed, so it wasn't too hard to run on or maintain footing. But, there were a lot of soft spots along the edge of the trail and loads of puddles throughout. I quickly gave up trying to jump over them or dash around them and I just started running right through, hoping to not step too deep into the water as I went. My socks and shoes were completely soaked and I could feel the extra weight as I plodded along. My legs were splattered with mud up to my knees and my clothes were pretty damp from the rain and the sweat.

Given the short distance, though, it didn't last too long. As I crossed the finish line, they handed me a blank card and called out my time. I walked over to the back of a Subaru Outback, filled in my name and age, marked my time on the card, and handed it in. Race over. It was kind of cool to not have a ChampionChip or any fancy mats and to just do a race like they used to do it (well, like DCRRC still does).

In the end, I'm somewhat disappointed with my performance, but not the general experience. It was short and fun and I'd do it again.

DCRRC Paul Thurston 4.5 Mile Race
Fairfax Station, VA
August 21, 7:00 PM

Time: 33:15
Gender Place: 26/48
Overall Place: 28/67
Pace: 7:23

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

All is Right Again

Football will soon begin again. College and Pro, thankfully. And, this year, I've got something to look forward to in both. First, Rutgers has a Heisman candidate in Ray Rice, an All American in Eric Foster, and a shot at the Big East Championship. Heck, they are ranked 16th in the polls, so a BCS berth isn't out of the question. Now, West Virginia and Louisville are going to be monsters, so this is one hard ass hill to climb. But, it should make for an exciting season, one that provides a good follow-up to last year's amazing ride. And, second, the Steelers are in position to rebuild after last season's mess. Big Ben is healthy, Cowher's lazy ass is gone, and the young guys are hungry. Plus, Willie Parker is going to be a superstar, particularly in the new offense (thanks Bruce). The Browns are still a joke, Cincy will be a disappointment again, and the Ravens are getting ready for the nursing home. Ed Reed is stellar, but you have to slap a question mark on every other player on that team. So, while all the pre-season prognostication has them winning the AFC North and all, I think it is far from guaranteed. In fact, while I am quite biased, I think the Steelers actually are better positioned from a talent perspective. The key will be Tomlin. Either he can coach or he can't, but we will soon know the answer.

Update on Running

So, I think I am getting back on track. I dropped my plan, which was really not a plan at all, and have adopted a new one which is solely focused on achieving PRs in my next two races. I am actually going to do a few more than that, but there are two I am focusing my energies on (meaning that I've actually registered for so far). So, the plan is mostly speed building with just a bit of distance in there to prep me for the longer race, the Army Ten Miler. I've got the distance covered since I've been running 10+ on a weekly basis for most of the year. But, it will be good to push the pace a bit over a 10-12 mile distance in prep for this race, something I haven't done much at all this year. I usually just run the longer stuff at 8:45-9:00/mi unless I feel like total crap. So, maybe running it closer to 8:00/mi will be useful, but we'll see how the plan goes.

In any case, I took an Advanced 15k plan from Hal Higdon and am using that. I think Hal's plans are too loose, even the advanced plans, but it is so easy to just take one and start running that I figured it was better to just do that than try to build some custom plan from various sources. Besides, I used Higdon's plan as a base for my marathon plan last year and I was pleased with the overall result. As an aside, I plan on using a Pfitz-style plan for my next marathon. Too many people have had loads of success with Pfitz's methods for me to ignore it.

I ran 5 days straight, something I haven't done in weeks, which is an accomplishment at this point. And, every run was "good". I felt strong during the runs and my speed was at or above where I wanted it to be in each instance. So, I feel positive about where this plan is headed, although it is still rather early. I'll do a 5K test in another week or two as a measure of where I am at and then I'll know how I'm doing. In the meantime, I am going to try and make it to the Paul Thurston 4.5 Miler tonight at Burke Lake Park. It's run by DCRRC and only costs $5, plus it is almost in my backyard (sort of). My only concern is that it is mostly on a dirt trail and it rained a good amount last night. muddy could this race be tonight? My guess is that it will be an absolute slopfest and that I'll be covered in mud, but that might make it all the more fun. I'll slip on the trail shoes and just have at it. If you (as if anyone is reading this) are in the area and don't mind the mess, why not come out around 6:30PM? Race starts at the ice cream joint near the carousel and kiddie train, which is next to the parking lot right behind miniature golf.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weird Things I Think About

...whenever I eat an apple, I think about the fact that the seeds contain a trace amount of cyanide. I worry about swallowing too many and killing myself and I know about this because they used truckloads of apples to kill a giant blob, which was clearly susceptible to cyanide, on an episode of GI Joe.

...when I pee in a urinal, I always think about climbing up on it. Partly because it would provide a weird new perspective on the bathroom. Partly because I want to see if I can just tear the fucking thing from the wall. And, partly because it is there and just seems meant to be climbed upon.

...when I buy something in a store, I often thing about ways to thwart the security system. So many of them seem so flawed that I am extremely tempted to try and subvert them. I don't want to steal anything; I just want to see if I can fool the system. You know, remove the security tag from the back of the book or try to undo the tag on a pair of jeans. I've read about ways to get around this stuff, like wrapping the tag with foil as a makeshift Faraday Cage, but I've never tried it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

YMCA Loudon County Leesburg 20K

So, this race established a PR for me since I've never run a 20K and this is the only one in the area that I am aware of. I don't know that I'll run this race again, so this performance will stand on its own for a long time.

I find it funny that they always suggest that there will be long lines for packet pick-up the day of the race because I never have any problem at all. Every time I've done it, I've never had to wait behind more than 2 or 3 people. And, I've never not been able to grab a t-shirt in my size. I'd like to pick my stuff up in advance, but driving out to a running store in rush hour traffic on a Friday seems like a big waste of time since I can just get everything the morning of the event. In any case, I say this because I left my house early to get out to Leesburg so that I could grab my packet and not have to wait too long in a big line. Traffic was light, parking was easy, and I was back at the car, sipping my coffee, within five minutes or so.

The crowd was larger than I expected, although I didn't read up on the race and can't say my expectations were in line with reality. A 20K race in Leesburg at 7:30AM in August doesn't sound like an attractive event to me. Of course, I did it. The crowds were not all there for the 20K, though. They run a 10K as well and about half of the runners were doing that instead. And, the folks who ran the 10K were clearly smarter than me. They finished in time to get bananas and to eat the ice cream before it got gotten all runny. That's right. They had ice cream, among other things, as a post race snack. I like the idea, but I don't want freaking ice cream at 9:30AM. I definitely don't want runny ice cream and soggy chocolate wafers that I get to peel out of wet paper. So, I avoided that stuff when I was finished. I did have plenty of water and all that and I drank a Harris Teeter Diet Coke which tasted like carbonated toilet water. Wow, that was some seriously horrible soda.

I felt kind of funny before the race. Funny in a "I have to take a dump, but it might not come out" type of way. So, I stood in line for the PortaJohn with the hope of dealing with it. And, I thought I had. I mean, I certainly felt better afterwards, but it turned out that I was quite done. In any case, I jogged down the block and back as a warmup and elbowed my way through the crowd to a spot in the corral. The race started on time, but they had a water station right before the starting line. So, I stopped and had a cup of water before crossing the mat. I felt a little thirsty and figured it might help out. Then, I was off. We ran a for a short bit through downtown Leesburg, making a circle in some shopping center parking lot, and then headed out on the W&OD trail for the rest of the race. The W&OD trail was pretty cool, for the most part. Heavily shaded, which was really welcome, and I've never run it before, so it was nice to get the chance. It quickly veered off into what seemed like a much more rural area with older homes and farms (or what seemed like farms from what I could tell).

Like all races, the crowd was pretty thick for the first mile or two and I had to do a lot of moving around to get passed the slower runners. I prefer running close to a small group and am always relieved when I reach the point in a race that the crowds have thinned out. I stuck with a general pack for a while on the trail. I'd gain a little on one person, they'd pull away. Someone would come up close and then fall back. I think I was about 100 meters behind the same guy for almost 10 miles of the race. The course seemed like a slow uphill climb for most of the first half. There was a short and fast downhill segment that was just a tease. I ran a little too hard on the downhill and immediately regretted it as I then had to continue my climb until we hit the turnaround. But, the nice thing is that the majority of the return trip was downhill. So, I dropped ten seconds per mile from my pace on the way back, going from what looked like a 7:5x/mi to the eventual 7:42/mi I ran. Around mile 4 or so, I felt like I really had to pee. And, I also felt the beginning warning signs of diarrhea. Now, I wasn't too worried about that since I often get some sort of a cramp that feels like that during a race. And, it wasn't bad enough to concern me. So, I kept running...and the general sensations got worse. And worse. I actually ran off on a side trail to take a leak, but I didn't do a thing about the diarrhea. The cramps got worse and I started to think that I might actually experience the thing I had always joked about: crapping yourself during a run. From mile 8 to mile 12 was basically a race against the poop; a delicate balancing act between running as fast as I could so I could get to the bathroom, but not running so fast that I lost control. it got close, but I made it across the finish without an incident and quickly got that chip off my shoe. From there, I grabbed a bottle of water and carefully made my way back to the PortaJohns to handle my business. Or, maybe, the business handled me. In any case, it was quite a racket and one of those times when you really wish you had a place to wash your hands appropriately.

I used my Garmin during the race. Now, I may have started it too early or something, but it kept hitting the mile marks almost a tenth of a mile before I actually past the marker on the race route. In the end, the Garmin had a few extra tenths of a mile on my overall distance and have me running a pace that was two seconds faster than recorded by the chip. So, I don't know which system is more accurate, but I am not happy about that large a difference. There isn't much I can do about other than to assume that the numbers I see during my training are not quite what I will see during a race. If I run a test 5K in 21:50, maybe I should assume I will run a real 5K in 21:55 or 22:00.

On the way back to the car, some volunteers were just handing out the extra t-shirts. I guess they would rather give them away then keep them and try to sell them for cheap. In any case, I am grateful to have picked up a second t-shirt. Since they were technical shirts, I'm now stocked on tops for running until the temps really drop. I just wish someone would give out shorts or running pants or something like that. I don't have enough of either of those. Hell, I'd take a hat or some socks once in a while too. Of course, corporate logos on socks wouldn't really work out.

Overall, it was a nice enough race, but not so nice or enjoyable that I would be compelled to drive out to Leesburg at 6AM on a Sunday to do it again. Although, to be fair, nicer weather and less gastric distress would have made the whole thing much more pleasant and might have changed my mind.

YMCA Loudon County Leesburg 20K Bib # 563
Leesburg, VA
August 12, 7:30 am

Time: 1:35:40
Gender Place: 119/385
Overall Place: 153/672
Pace: 7:42

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Closer to a Goal

So, at least this week, I've had little success in getting my ass to bed at a normal time, at getting up easily, and at making it out the door for a run. Nothing at all. When I want to get things back on track and I don't, I just feel like a jerkoff. I'm not really impacting anyone other than myself, but it does make me a bit grumpy. I'm not depressed, but I feel shitty about myself today.

I think I am going to take off early and head home for a run before dinner. I need to do something to get started and I'll feel a whole lot better if I know that I can still run 35-40 miles this week. Ugh. 35-40 miles is depressing as well. I had a few weeks above 50 miles, but I've completely crashed. And, with a few races coming and the need to schedule my surgery, I don't know if I'll break the 60 mile mark any time soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Absurd Comparison

It occurred to me last night that the box of Eva's medical records is much bigger than the box of her remains. 1100 pages of paper compared to maybe an ounce or more of ash. And while that seems like an infinitely cruel reminder of what happened, the ratio gives me some hope that her brief life was not simply a useless exercise. Those records bear witness to that.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm a Flip Flopper

So, I think I'll start posting again...for now. (Sidelong glances) People might be reading this. And, if I am going to post on other people's blogs, which I am doing with increasing frequency these days, it seems rather unfair to not share and update my own blog.

What I am moved to share tonight is that I have developed some rather bad habits this year and I'm having a great deal of difficulty in ridding myself of them. First, my sleep pattern is completely absurd and entirely untenable given my work and home life. I cannot stay up until midnight or later every night and still get up in the morning before 7AM. Okay, I can do it, but I won't feel rested and I certainly won't have lots of success in getting up earlier than that so I can fit in a run most days. I've always been a bit of a night person, but my pattern has been exaggerated ever since Audrey's stay in the hospital. I had to stay up late every night just to get everything done, but there is no real reason to do it now. Well, except for one, which leads me to my next bad habit.

My diet it also completely out of whack. I had very good control over what I ate last year and only really added a lot of carbohydrates to provide the energy I needed to train for a marathon. I gained a bit of weight after the marathon, in large part due to the fact that I couldn't run much in November. It just took the entire month to recover. By December, I didn't have the weekly mileage to really handle the holiday season's eatings and I had gained some pounds. But, again, when Audrey entered the hospital, I had the freedom to get very restrictive with what I ate and I was able to get down to below 170lbs early this year. My diet was pretty silly, though. I only ate a Balance Bar during the day, followed that up with a light dinner, and then had a big ass bowl of ice cream after Noah was asleep. Not the best way to go, I imagine. And, it didn't get any better after the twins were born. In fact, one of my reactions to the stress of the situation was to basically stop eating. I continued to lose weight, getting down to about 163lbs or so. I felt like crap, of course. I had nausea and dizzy spells, but I just didn't want to eat anything. It was easier to just drink some diet coke or a big coffee and to chew gum all day. After Eva passed away, I started to eat more normally, at least in terms of having normal meals and eating a healthy amount each day. But, my weird nighttime snacking became more exaggerated. And, in an effort to basically mask this snacking, I've continued to stay up until everyone else in the house is asleep so I can eat and not feel as guilty about it. By writing this now, I am outing myself and will hopefully have to deal with what I am doing in a more direct fashion with my wife.

In any case, so I don't sleep and I eat loads of crap at night. And I say that I want to run 60+ mpw or more and that I want to qualify for Boston and all that. But the two things don't mix and I've got to get control or I won't achieve my running goals. I'm just not sure how to start. Wait...maybe wrapping up this post and going to bed would be good. G'night.