Friday, April 30, 2010

Palo Alto Down Time

AM: 5 miles
PM: 3 miles incl. 2x60 secs., 2x30 secs.
2 laps jog the curves, stride the straights

Typically when we travel to meets we arrive the day before, particularly when traveling out west. Since Payton Jordan is a Saturday only meet, our Thursday arrival meant we had an entire day--almost two, since our race isn't until late Saturday night--of down time before racing. Today was that day.

I started things off with a relaxed AM run from the motel with Pezz. Yes, I said motel. To call it a hotel would be doing a disservice to fine establishments everywhere, but that's a whole different story. At any rate, the morning run was relaxed and enjoyable. A few minutes after the run, Pezz took a call from Allison Grace, one of the Zap Fitness athletes who was also in town for the race. The Zappos were headed to a late brunch at Hobee's, a Palo Alto institution, so Pezz and I decided to tag along. Everyone knows breakfast is my favorite meal, and I wasn't about to pass up an opportunity for some tasty deliciousness. I was quickly realizing there are some benefits to not racing the day after our arrival.

After a few hours of relaxing (and trying to dissolve the blueberry coffee cake that was sitting like an anvil in my stomach), we headed over to the track for our afternoon shakeout. The stadium was hopping with athletes getting in their pre-race prep, and we spent a few extra minutes soaking up the buzz. The energy around here is truly contagious. I found myself getting excited for tomorrow night for the first time since I got here.

Here's the thing though. The fields are stacked. Galen Rupp is going for a new American Record in the men's 10k. In the women's 5k, Olympians Shalane Flanagan, Amy Yoder-Begley and Shannon Rowbury will be duking it out with current NCAA 10k record holder Lisa Koll (who ran 31:18 at the first Stanford meet in March). And so on and so forth throughout the meet. While my race isn't the headliner of the night, there are several girls who are more than capable of running under 32 minutes. The field is populated with about an equal mix of professionals and D1 standouts; the only D2ers in the race are Tanya, myself, Sarah Porter from Western Washington and one Adams State girl. In short, I need to run the race of my life. No scratch that; it is very possible that I could indeed run the race of my life, break 34 minutes and still be very near the back of the pack. I find this prospect equal parts intimidating and exciting. If I run smart and tough, I should be able to latch onto a few people and get carried along to a big PR. That's the plan.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Interesting Flight

AM: 6 miles
PM: 4 miles

Today's waking hours were largely dominated by coast-to-coast travel. Seems like just yesterday Tanya and I were headed out west for the Stanford, five weeks later, we're making a return trip with Pezz and Mike in tow (Simmons and Futsum to join us tomorrow). Everything was progressing as usual until our layover at Dulles airport in DC, which is when things took an unexpected turn for the better (and more coincidental). I'll excerpt from Jilane's blog to share the story:

Also of "running world" note... Dan [Jilane's boyfriend] took off for San Francisco this morning for a squash tournament, only to be booked on the same flight as the Queens team! How jealous was I?? Meago is heading to the Pacific to throw down another sick 10k out at Stanford, so two of my all-time favs got to bond a bit in the terminal before boarding. Further confirming the "damn this world is small" thing, Dan and Mike Crouch were seated next to each other on the flight. Dan attempted to explain how he knows Jeff and Meagan, but something got lost in translation, as 15 minutes later in the conversation, Mike cuts him off to say, "Wait, just so we're on the same page here, you're dating Jeff?"

Can't make that stuff up.

Yup, that's right, less than a week after I had some delightful care and share with Jilane at Penn, I end up on the same flight as her boyfriend headed to California. And, apparently Mike thinks he and Jeff are dating. I love it.

Anyhow, that encounter was by far the highlight of the day. By the time we arrived at SFO, claimed our luggage, checked in to the Super 8 Palo Alto (which was a headache I don't have the time nor energy to detail here) and made it to Stanford for our shakeout, it was close to 7pm. Worse, the wind was gusting upwards of 25mph--waaaaay too much for comfort. If it's like this on Saturday I could straight up cry. But since it's Stanford and the racing conditions are always perfect here, I'm choosing to push that unpleasant thought out of my mind altogether.

I'm tired. It's been a long day. Must sleep.

When Common Sense Wins

AM: 46 mins.
6+ miles
PM: Greenapple

According to Jordan, I'm forbidden to double today. He cited my upcoming race, my tweaked calf and my need to finish up my last (!!!) paper and pack today as reasoning. I agreed with all his logic but it sure was hard to skip out on an afternoon run in this gorgeous weather. Luckily, I'd already pre-scheduled an appointment with Dr. Duffy--strictly preventative at the time, though it ended up being fortuitous in light of my calf--and, since I don't like to run after treatment, I reluctantly agreed to sack the evening go. I think it was probably the right call. Now it's time to pack and get ready to head back out to the west coast for Round 2 at Stanford!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Payton Jordan Pre-Race Workout

AM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 2x200m; mile, 800, 400 @race pace (~5:25-5:30); 2x200m fast
Actual: 2x200, 5:22, 2:41, 71, 31-high, 31-low
2 mile c/d
Total: 8 miles

As far as pre-race workouts go, this one was pretty standard. By that, I mean I came away from it thinking, "Oh crap, I have to run that pace for 5 more miles?!" Don't get me wrong, it's not that I was straining for the pace today, but to say that it felt like a jog would ring false. I'm attributing it to the wind, to the hard long run Sunday, to the workout being at 10am, yadda yadda yadda. Tanya felt pretty sluggish too, which I suppose provides a bit of consolation.

Also of note, I decided to switch from flats to spikes between the mile and the 800 and immediately regretted it. Halfway through the interval my right calf started tightening up like crazy--possibly residual soreness from the 5k at Penn?--and I knew the smartest course of action was to put the flats back on as soon as the interval was over. I was able to get through the rest of the workout fine, but I'll definitely need to keep an eye on it over the next few days. This late in the game I can't afford for anything to go wrong.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boyce Monday

AM: 58 mins.
8 miles
PM: 3 miles
15 mins. core

This was a perfectly pleasant, if unremarkable, Monday. Since I had the rare luxury of being off work, Jordan and I met Jenna for a morning run at Boyce. My legs are a little tired from yesterday's long run but nothing significant. Hopefully they'll feel light and snappy by Saturday!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week in Review

72 miles
20 hours in the van
12.5 laps at Penn
18 hours of Team MJ togetherness

Another crazy, exhausting, roller coaster of a week is officially in the books. I think it's pretty obvious that I view this week as a mixed bag; on the one hand, I screwed up the 5k at Penn and didn't get in any hard workouts, but on the other hand I qualified for Nationals, felt strong on my hard long run and of course enjoyed a much-needed Team MJ reunion.

Looking ahead, it doesn't appear that things will slow down in the immediate future. I'm leaving for California on Thursday with Tanya, Mike and Pezz (Simmons and Futsum to join us Friday) for Stanford Round 2 (aka the Payton Jordan Invite). Tanya and I will be running the 10k, both shooting for USA Outdoor Nationals qualifying times (that's 33:45 "A" standard, 33:55 "B"). For Tanya it's almost a given, but I'll have to run the race of my life to dip below 34 minutes. I'm hoping the Stanford track will be as magical as it was last time and come through for me.

Oh yeah, and somewhere along the way I'm supposed to finish up my remaining two papers for school, then get ready for my graduation and a visit from the parentals the following weekend. And I'm sure I'll be working at RFYL somewhere in there too. The fun, it never stops. Here's to another busy week!

Another Sunday, Another McAlpine Long Run

1 hour 23 mins. (12 miles)

My original plan for the long run today was to get after it pretty hard. But after a lethal combination of homemade margaritas and homemade ice cream (both prepared with the help of a little liquid nitrogen) at Matt's going away party last night, I wasn't so sure how I would feel today. The thick, damp, muggy air certainly didn't contribute positively either. The past few days have been a sobering harbinger of the summer weather to come, and I'm certainly dreading it. I decided to revise my plan and run based on feel.

Jordan and I met a small group of Queens athletes at Old Bell at 9. As per usual, I'd planned to stick with Jenna and Tanya for the duration, but as of last night Caitlin had expressed interest in joining us as well. We found her less than a mile from the start, as she'd parked at the main entrance and headed our way shortly thereafter. Our first few miles as a foursome were slow and conversational, with none of us feeling great or eager to push the pace. Shortly after reaching the Footlocker course we bumped into Billy Shue, another CRC member, and he fell into step with us as well. Our group was growing by the mile.

At this point something very disturbing happened. As I've mentioned in previously entries, the park is virtually overflowing with duck and geese families this time of year. We saw a group of about half a dozen little ducklings trailing their mother in the pond this morning. A few minutes later, on the final mile of the Footlocker course, we spotted an injured adult goose laying off to the side of the trail. His eyes were open and his chest was rising and falling rhythmically, but it was clear that something was very wrong. A few seconds later he staggered to his feet and attempted to cross the trail, and we discovered that his neck was broken. He more or less took his last breaths in front of us before collapsing on the other side of the trail for the last time. I've had several bizarre wildlife stories while on runs before, but this was certainly the saddest. Our group fell silent for the next few minutes.

By the time we reached the park's main entrance, Caitlin was ready to finish up her run. Billy spotted Jordan and co. a few minutes later and ran off to join them, leaving the Three Musketeers to finish up the run together...except that Jenna and Tanya weren't feeling great and I finally wanted to push the pace. I reasoned that since I hadn't run a workout the entire week (crappy 5k notwithstanding) and probably would only do a pre-race workout on Tuesday, I should hammer the rest of the long run. I dropped the pace considerably the final three miles, probably averaging around 6:15s. I ran into Jordan with 1.5 to go and he helped me stay strong and focused for the final few minutes. I may have finished looking like I'd just jumped into a swimming pool, but at least I felt good about the effort.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

CPCC Skyline "Non-Race" Race

AM: 3 mile w/u
5k "race" @23:40
2 mile c/d
Total: 8 miles
PM: 3 miles

After a long and inexplicably exhausting day on the road (how can sitting make you so tired??), we arrived home at 10pm last night. I wasn't looking forward to getting up early today, but unfortunately it was mandatory. I was scheduled to work at RFYL the entire day and also needed to run the CPCC Skyline Run. I'm not sure if I told you before, but I signed up for the RFYL Grand Prix series. Basically, the way this works is that you earn points for how high you finish in each race--but, the kicker is you earn 250 "bonus" points for completing all 10 in the series regardless of time. I need those bonus points if I want to have a shot at winning the overall Grand Prix in the fall. (Jordan realized the same thing a few weeks ago, which is why he made the game day decision to run the Shamrock 4 Miler despite having a marathon on tap for the following day.)

At any rate, I clearly had no aspirations of running hard. My calves are still rocked from the 5k, and my back is now sore from the drive home (again, just from sitting?!). So when I found out that my friend Jay, who just ran 2:43 at Boston on Monday, was planning to jog with his girlfriend, I jumped at the chance to tag along. A group of us met at John and Caitlin's just past 7am, planning to warm up and jog the quarter mile to the start together. A light drizzle was falling, blanketing the warm air with humidity, and after a few miles of warming up on the race course I was completely soaked with sweat and rain.

As gun time drew near, I positioned myself on the line with Jay and Lauren. It was a bit strange not to stand front and center, and I had to fight the urge to do strides with Caitlin and the rest of the crew. After a quick countdown we were off, and I made a conscious effort to keep from sprinting out with the leaders. If you're used to always, well, racing at races, it can be surprisingly difficult to hold back when the circumstances call for it. Fortunately Jay and I conversed the entire time, which kept my mind off the pace we were running and the number of people who were passing us. It was also cool to see Lauren, who hasn't run a 5k in quite some time, pushing herself toward a new PR. I hope she wasn't too annoyed with me and Jay for chatting the entire time!

With a half mile to go the course takes a dramatic downhill slant, and I knew that Jordan and Caitlin and our other speedy friends had used it to their advantage. Lauren used it as well, kicking home the final meters to a new sub-24 PR. After finishing I discovered that Jordan had won in a tactical 15:52, while Caitlin had dominated the ladies' race in 17:3x. Solid races for both of them, not to mention they won framed pictures of the Charlotte skyline as a unique prize. Heck, I was pretty proud of myself and Jay for exercising such self-restraint as well. All around, the second Grand Prix race was a rousing success.

Caitlin and me at Saturday night's post-race bbq. I think we clean up
pretty nicely!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Team MJ Philly Run

AM: ~5 miles + Rocky steps
PM: Road trip

I wasn't super excited when my alarm went off at 8 this morning. Normally that hour would be considered late, but after a 1am return from the track last night I was left feeling less than well rested. Unfortunately, with a 10-hour return trip to Charlotte looming,
hitting the snooze button wasn't an option.

The Schuylkill River Trail in downtown Philly

The silver lining? For one, it was a gorgeous morning; sunny, cool and breezy. Secondly, we would be running someplace new and interesting, the river trail adjacent to downtown (or Center City, as the locals call it). But most importantly, this morning's run would be fully attended by both members of Team MJ, a feat not accomplished since October. After inadvertently donning identical outfits--OU longsleeve tops, Brooks shorts and shoes--we were ready to meet up with the rest of the group.

Predictably, we kept the pace slow and relaxed for most of this jaunt. Everyone was feeling the effects of last night's races, and in particular my calves were rocked from the spikes I'd worn. Midway through the run we spotted the Philadelphia Museum of Art, setting of a famous scene from the first Rocky movie, so naturally we had to sprint up the steps just like the film's hero. Jenna challenged all of us to a race, then promptly finished in last place (or second to last, but either way she was pretty far back there). Exhausted by that brief burst of energy, we returned to our slowpoke pace for the rest of the run. I would've liked to put in a few more miles, but I knew that the longer we stayed in Philly meant the later we would get home, so I cut the run short. My mileage is already screwy from this week's crazy travel schedule an

Can you hear the theme song playing in the background?

The saddest part of the day was bidding farewell to Jilane after spending a mere 18 hours together. We tried to plan another reunion before realizing that our plans always fall through, but I'm hoping that another spontaneous opportunity will present itself soon. Once we said our goodbyes, it was time to board the 'ol 16-passenger for our drive home. See you back in Charlotte.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Penn Relays 5k

16:44: Not a total disaster, but certainly not what I was hoping for! Will update more later...

Update: Well, later is now. Here we go.

AM: 3 miles
PM: 2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5k race @16:30 or faster
Actual: 16:44
20 min. c/d (2.5 miles)
Total: 7.5-8 miles

After a leisurely morning on the Harrisburg waterfront, we arrived in Philly just after 2pm. This would afford us a full five hours to lounge around our Chinatown hotel before departing for the track in the evening. Normally this amount of down time would drift by in a painfully slow manner. Not so today, because I had a very special treat: Jilane came to watch me run!! For those of you who don't know, Jilane is the "J" of the original "Team MJ" for which I started this blog. Coincidentally (or not...?), today marks the exact two year anniversary of the first night she and I met. I also haven't seen her since the Peaches' wedding extravaganza in October. So, needless to say, I was absolutely stoked that she was making a special trip to watch me run and stay for a slumber party. She arrived around 4 and kept me occupied until go time.

Once we got to the track, I only had a few minutes to spectate before starting my pre-race prep. After checking in and securing my number, I set off for a few miles on the streets around Penn. My 10k warmup at Stanford, run in the darkness of the campus trails, was pensive and very solitary. Tonight, surrounded by the rush of freeway traffic below and the steady pulse of the city, could not have been more different. I felt nervous, antsy, ready to get the race started. I finished up my warmup inside the stadium--unlike most meets, the infield was free for the taking--and cinched up my spikes a few minutes before go time.

We toed the starting line just after 9:15. There were nearly 40 girls in my race, and the officials spread us out into three waterfalls. I was in the middle waterfall and, worst of all, was the girl farthest to the outside of the track. In hindsight, I know this meant I should've made a beeline for the rail (and for the front of the pack) if I wanted good positioning. In actuality, I blew it.

The gun went off and I was immediately lost in a sea of elbows and ponytails. During the first lap I found myself quite literally jockeying for position but always settling for a second-rate spot. I should've fought harder, moved more decisively, and asserted myself. I didn't. I'm pretty sure I was almost in second-to-last place at this point, and for no good reason. The first lap was 83 seconds--slower than my 10k pace and almost 5 seconds slower than the pace I was hoping to maintain tonight. The second lap wasn't much better, and I spent the majority of it in lane 3 trying to go around people. I think I split the 800 around 2:44, but honestly I had no idea at the time. I would spend the entire rest of the race simply trying to catch up. I didn't see a single split of the night--not a mile split, not a 3k split, nothing--which should tell you how busy I was trying to fight my way up to where I thought I belonged. I never settled in, never got comfortable, and never felt like I was running my race. That, as I'm sure you well know, is a very frustrating feeling.

Honestly, the rest of the race is a blur. I tried to kick things in the last few laps--looking at Simmons' splits afterward, I think I split 2:35 for the final 800--but honestly I just wanted to be done at that point. I crossed the finish line in 16:44, a full 15 seconds slower than I expected to run. Granted, the time was a PR by 10 seconds. It also earned me an automatic qualifying spot for Nationals. But to only run 10 seconds faster than I did two months ago indoors, knowing how much fitter I am now, was a huge disappointment.

There's not much more to say about the race without dwelling on the negative. Instead, I'll focus on a few positives: It was awesome to have both Jilane and Ozzie there to cheer me on. Oz, thanks for postponing your beer drinking for at least 15 more minutes to come watch me. Jilane and I also cooled down with Neely Spence (D2 indoor 5k champ who ran 16:13 tonight for fourth place), and it was fun to get to know her a little bit better. Thanks to Cornell coach and LetsRun founder Robert Johnson for tracking me down afterward and giving me the opportunity to catch up with an old friend. And lastly, a big shout-out to my teammates Holly and Jess for running 36:33 and 37:14 respectively in the 10k. Huge PRs and provisional qualifying marks for both of them. Putting all this in perspective, the race itself was just a slight hiccup in the way of what turned out to be a very successful night.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Harrisburg Riverfront

AM: 6 miles
PM: 29 mins. + strides (4 miles)

I was supposed to meet Caitlin at the Dowd to run at 6am. I didn't. I suck at life. Instead, Jenna came over at 6:30 and we got in a quick six before hitting the road.

Aaaaand nine hours later, we arrived at our interim destination: Harrisburg, PA. To my pleasant surprise, the city had a lovely riverfront area and downtown. Fortunately our hotel was located adjacent to both, which meant we had some viable options both for our shakeout run and for our subsequent dinner.

Me, Alex, Jenna, Jess, Patricia, Holly, Simon on the evening run.
Photo courtesy of Maraya.

After spending literally all day in the car, I expected my legs to feel like mush on the run. Instead they actually felt fresh, quite possibly the best of the week, and I could've easily gone farther if tomorrow's race weren't looming in my mind. Instead, I cut the run at four miles, went up to the room to grab my spikes, and indulged in some strides on the grass near the river. The air was cool, the sun was setting, the water was calm. I'm not saying I'm booking my vacation to Harrisburg any time soon (although did I mention that the Hershey factory is just down the road?), but as far as road trip stopovers go it wasn't half bad.

Me feeling artsy with my spikes.

Harrisburg sunset underneath the bridge

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Tuesday, 4/20
AM: 5.5 miles
PM: 5.5 miles
15 mins. core

Monday, 4/19
AM: 8.5 miles
PM: 3.5 miles incl. 2x60 secs., 2x30 secs. pickups

I gotta make this quick. It's 8:00am on Wednesday morning and we're about to shove off for Penn. Yes, we're driving. No, I'm not looking forward to it. So in the interest of catching up, I'm postdating this blog for yesterday. As you can see it's been lots of easy running, nothing fancy, just trying to get the legs fresh for tomorrow night. I'll update more when we reach the Liberty bell.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week in Review

73 miles
20 mins. pool
4 AFDs
1 DQ

After such a spectacular showing last week, I suppose I should've been expecting a letdown. The only notable effort this week was my mile repeat workout on Tuesday; everything else was pretty lackluster (minus the general entertainment factor of Friday night's debacle). My legs don't feel bad per se, but they don't have quite as much pop to them as in weeks past either. Hopefully after a few more easy days I'll be ready to roll at Penn Relays. It's time to earn a respectable 5k PR.

Starting the Mini-Taper

66 mins.
9 miles

Today's planned 12-miler was dropped down to 9 once I got to McAlpine this morning. I guess Simmons wants me to be extra fresh for the 5k at Penn Relays on Thursday. Part of me was looking forward to a solid long run, but the rest of me enjoyed bagging the last few miles and cruising in at just over an hour. Tanya, Jenna, and I ran with Jordan--who, naturally, was only scheduled for 5--and kept the pace slow and relaxed. All in all this run was perfectly pleasant and unremarkable.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Freedom Park Saturday

AM: 51 mins. (7 miles)
15 mins. core

I was a little wary about how my stomach would feel after last night's misadventures, but luckily everything seemed kosher today. Jordan and I slept in to the indulgent hour of 9am, then lounged around reading the newspaper until almost 11 before heading out for a relaxed run around Freedom Park. His brand new training schedule from Coach Jeff dictated that he take the day off, so naturally he did just the opposite. Off to a great start.

Normally Freedom Park is jam packed on nice weekend days like this one, but I was particularly impressed by the sheer variety of activity going on this morning. In addition to the standard influx of walkers, runners, dog walkers, baby joggers and cyclists, I also saw the following: a Little League baseball tournament, a group tennis lesson, a soccer tournament or camp of some sort, a bounce house birthday party, a professional photographer snapping some family photos, a yoga class, a few bird watchers, and--my personal favorite--the 8th Annual North Carolina Tree Climbing Competition. Fun for the entire family.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My First Ever 10k DQ

AM: 3 miles
PM: 2.5 miles w/u + strides
Target: 10k predator run starting @6:00
Actual: 5:58, 5:54,'s a long story
Total: ~9 miles

I can't decide if this is my most embarrassing running story or my proudest one. Maybe you can be the judge. At any rate, suffice it to say I'm glad this, er, "incident" happened at our conference meet rather than anywhere else. Let me start from the beginning...

So basically our conference meet is a joke. The level of competition is nonexistent and, as a result, so is the quality of the meet. We generally use this more as a "participation" meet and an opportunity to do workouts/predator runs than anything else. Consequently, the plan for tonight's 10k "race" was for Tanya and I to get in a hard predator run effort starting at 6-minute pace. Everything went to plan the first few miles, as we took turns trading off the lead every 800 meters. This was both to practice working together for Nationals and to get a break from the wind, which was gusting at almost 20 mph despite us being sandwiched in between the mountains. (We were at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, a small community just past Boone. It sits at 3500 feet, which means we get a hefty altitude conversion for the distance races despite not feeling the altitude at all.)

Midway through the third mile, Tanya started to pick up the pace a bit. Normally I would've been on board, except it was at that exact moment when I realized that I, um, needed to take a bathroom break. Obviously in a real race this would not be an option, and even tonight I resolved to push the urge aside and finish up the workout. Unfortunately, after a few more laps I realized that just wasn't going to be an option. Jenna was standing in the infield near the home curve, and the next time I passed I informed her of my situation and asked if I could go to the bathroom. She relayed the message to Simmons, and the next time I passed the finish line he simply said, "Go for it." I had no idea if I would get disqualified or not, but there was hardly time to discuss. Without another word I sprinted off the track, through the gate, down the hill and into the fieldhouse bathroom. It was a solid 200 meters away, but I covered the distance in record time. I can only imagine what the race officials and spectators were thinking. A minute later I was out the door, up the hill, onto the track and back to my workout. I think I still had eight laps to go at that point, but to be honest I'd sort of lost track of what the hell was going on.

Oh, and did I mention I was still in second place?

That's right, with a finish time of 39:00--including my slight detour--I still managed to finish ahead of everyone except Tanya. I kid you not. Tragically, I did end up being DQed for leaving the track, but I thought it was an impressive feat nonetheless. Less impressive was the state of my stomach, which for some reason was so topsy-turvy that I couldn't even fathom attempting a cooldown. I have no idea what was going on there, but you can bet I'm glad it happened here rather than at an important meet. If nothing else, I got a great story out of the whole experience and my first ever DQ. You can't put a price on that.

P.S. As for the altitude conversion I mentioned earlier, it definitely worked in Tanya's favor. She earned an automatic qualifying time for Nationals in her workout tonight, as her 35:30 converted all the way down to 34:48. Glad things worked out for somebody.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Standard Recovery

Thursday, 4/15
AM: 8.5 miles
PM: 3 miles

Wednesday, 4/14
AM: 9 miles
PM: 2-2.5 miles

Lots of easy recovery running the past two days. Highlights include accompanying Jenna out to McAlpine on Wednesday morning so that she could tackle her own mile repeat workout (unfortunately she had a staff meeting on Tuesday and couldn't work out with Tanya, Pezz and me). She averaged mid-5:40's for the first three and brought the last one home in 5:36, which made for one of her best workouts of the spring.

I feel guilty even counting my mileage for Tuesday afternoon, as it was undoubtedly the slowest I've run in, well, probably ever. I made an attempt to pinch hit for Jordan at Let Me Run since he was running late on his return trip from DC, and as a result my "mileage" consisted solely of jogging with a motley crew of 10-year-old boys. There was also plenty of walking and an occasional water break thrown in for good measure. A few of the kiddos were actually maintaining a respectable clip, but I spent most of my time making sure the stragglers got from point A to point B without being kidnapped or sustaining any bodily harm (which, to be honest, I pretty much failed at considering that one of them somehow managed to trip and fall on the greenway--fortunately he directed his downward motion toward the grass and thus the injury was minimal). As much as I am anti-kid I have to admit that for the most part they were a well-behaved and enjoyable bunch.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

(Short) Mile Repeats

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 6xmile w/3:30 rest; hammer 2nd half of #5
Actual: 5:24, 5:21, 5:18, 5:20, 5:15, 5:19
2 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

Tanya and I had just finished our warmup and I was stretching near the Footlocker stage when it happened. You know what I'm talking about. One of those situations where you're sitting (or standing) there, minding your own business, and some 70-year-old guy shuffles up to and decides that you look like you want to have a conversation. Not a real conversation, mind you, but a scenario where you stand motionless save for the nodding of your head and the frantic darting of your eyes for an escape while he relives his glory days. "You know, I was a four-minute miler way back when." "I used to go through 10 miles of a marathon in 56 minutes, no joke." "Are you any good? What kind of times do you run? Because let me tell you, runners in New York are better than runners down here. They just are. It's a fact. Maybe we're better at sprints down here, but at distance events they're in a completely different league."

After enduring what I promise is represented factually by the transcript above, it's no wonder I ran fast today. I couldn't run the risk of getting cornered by Grandpa again.

Anyhow, once I escaped from that painful interaction, I was pretty much ready to get on with the workout. I was slightly bummed that we were running on the last mile of the Footlocker course today, as I knew it wouldn't give me an accurate reflection of the progress I'd made since running the same workout with Jordan a few weeks ago. That workout was on a different section of the trail. Today's intervals would take place on the notoriously "short" mile of the course, which is also gently rolling for the first 800 meters. I guess the objective of the workout was more about effort than actual pace, but I would've liked to replicate the last workout conditions instead. Oh well.

From the beginning, however, I could tell things were going well. It certainly helped to have Tanya 5-7 seconds ahead of me, as her presence definitely kept me focused and motivated through each section of the interval. Normally 3:30 rest between intervals would feel like an eternity, but it actually took us almost three full minutes to walk from the finish line back to the start line, so it was just about perfect for today. If I had any complaint (which I always do), it would be the temperature. We seriously underestimated how warm it would be out there today, and as a result suffered from not strategically placing water at both the start and finish. We were able to snag a few gulps here and there but I definitely could've used more.

With two intervals to go, Pezz joined us as she was starting her own 4xmile workout. Since we were supposed to hammer the second half of this interval, I benefited greatly from her presence. She really helped me pick up the pace in the final meters and finish in a respectable time. (Incidentally, Tanya blazed an eye-popping 5:05 on her hammer, by far the fastest interval of the day.) All of us were able to get back on pace for the final mile, which is a sure sign that the workout is fulfilling its purpose. We finished exhausted and thirsty but definitely excited about what we'd accomplished.

As I mentioned at the outset, this mile is short, so take the splits with a grain of salt. If I had to guess, I'd say it's around five seconds off at the pace we were running. But still, I believe today's splits translate pretty accurately to what we could run for the same workout on the track when taking into account the dirt surface and rolling terrain of today's course. That makes this undoubtedly the best mile repeat workout I've ever done, and further solidifies my goal if running 16:30 or faster at Penn next week. Perhaps then I will prove to that old guy that we Charlotte runners aren't so slow after all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recovery Monday

AM: 20 mins. pool
45 mins. (6 miles)
PM: 5+ miles

I enjoyed a rare Monday off from work by waking up early to go to pool. Yay. Fortunately that lackluster experience was followed by a jaunt with Jenna around Freedom Park and the Booty Loop, so I suppose the morning wasn't an entire loss. I took it nice and easy on a standard SFPL (Short Freedom Park Loop) in the afternoon. I ran into Jordan's Let Me Run kiddos on the bike path and it looked like they were having a great time despite one of their fearless leaders being out of town. Other than that, nothing exciting to report. I pledge to my loyal readers that tomorrow's 6xmile workout will be much more entertaining.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week in Review

75 miles
20 mins. pool
4 AFDs
3 trips to JCSU

I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but I really feel as though this week has been my best week yet for training. By "yet" I mean this year, and since I've been at Queens, and quite possibly my entire life. Tuesday's track workout was the speediest I could've hoped for, and Friday's predator run was solid if unspectacular. But to me what really stood out was the quality of my long run given all the intensity I'd sustained earlier in the week. For me to run as fast, and feel as fresh, as I did yesterday is a testament to how well my training is going.

One thing that surely plays a role in this is my ferritin. I forgot to mention that we got our iron tested a few weeks ago and received the results last week. When I first got my ferritin tested at the beginning of cross-country, it was a whopping 18. Not near death, but not nearly as high as is desirable. The second time I got it tested the number was 26, and as of last week the number is now up to 36. I would love to see it get as high as 50, but even 40 would be a good goal. Supplementing and consuming as much red meat as possible is the best way for this number to increase, and I'm making a conscious effort to be diligent about both tasks. (Selwyn Pub sliders, here I come!)

Also, I would be remiss to close out this Week in Review without giving a shout to the rock stars from CRC who totally killed the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler this morning. I'm sure Jordan will update his blog soon; in the meantime, you can read about Caitlin's experience here. Way to represent Charlotte!

Best Long Run. Ever.

1 hour 29 mins.
13 miles

You know those runs where everything just clicks? The pace feels comfortable, your legs are fresh, and perhaps you even have good conversation as a bonus? Against all odds, this turned out to be one of those runs. I say "against all odds" because the volume and intensity of this week logically suggested that today's long run would be a slow slog-fest. Instead, it was simultaneously uptempo and relaxed without involving any additional effort.

The best part, and yet another element that makes runs like this so rare, is that for the first time I can remember (and I have a good memory), we held together a solid group of girls for almost the entire run. Tanya, Jess, Maraya, Jenna, Pezz, Holly and myself cleaved together from the outset and somehow managed to stay together for a solid 11 miles. This NEVER happens. But despite seeing consistent splits of 6:55 to 7:05 after a 7:30 opening mile, no one fell off or dropped back. Perhaps it was because no one really "raced" this weekend, or because the weather was so gorgeous, or maybe it was just a pack mentality after the first few miles--whatever the reason, I was digging it.

In an effort to capitalize on the rare speediness of this run, I decided to pick up the pace the final few minutes and see how my legs would respond. I closed the last 1.5 in 9:15 with a 6:05 final mile, a pace I don't think I've ever touched in a long run before (and did I mention I have a good memory?). Now, the purpose of this whole entry isn't to brag about how fast I am, but rather to illustrate how much more beneficial (and, as an added bonus, more enjoyable) a run like this can be when a solid crew is involved. Though it would be naive to hope for a replica of this experience next week, I think it's realistic to aim for another quality group effort.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

JCSU Invitational

AM: 5.5 miles
PM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 1500m race @don't drop out
Actual: 4:48
10 min. c/d (1+ miles)
Total: 5 miles

So this afternoon was the Johnson C. Smith Invitational, a meet held more or less on our home track. Since this was one of the two "everyone must participate for NCAA reasons" meets on our schedule, it meant that, well, everyone had to participate. Including those of us who'd just done 6-mile predator runs the day before. The nice part is that there were literally no expectations placed on today's performances other than the requirement of finishing, which is a task I thought I could manage. I toed the line for the 1500 with Tanya, Jess, Holly, Patricia and about 15 other girls. Yup, there were a lot of us bunched up on the

Prior to the race Tanya had decided she wanted to run hard. Why not, she reasoned, since it's the only 1500 she'll race all season? I wanted to share her ambitions but just didn't know if it was smart to go all-out during what was turning into my biggest training week of the entire year. Don't get me wrong, it would've been cool to run a fast time, but I just didn't think it was worth it in the big picture sense. So, while Tanya and the other girls spiked up and maintained a semblance of seriousness on the warmup, I opted for flats and a more lackadaisical attitude. I was pretty sure I didn't wa
nt to finish last, but beyond that I wasn't setting the bar too high.

Tanya solo-ing her way to a 1500m PR

Predictably, Tanya shot out like a rocket from the start. (She would end up clocking 68 for her first lap, quite a bit faster than her goal of 72.) I sort of remained bunched up in the pack, content to tuck in with those around me for the majority of the race. I passed through 800 meters in 2:34, comfortable but noticing the lingering effects of yesterday's workout in my heavy legs. There would be no sprint finish from me. While Tanya kicked her way to a very respectable 4:28 (which works out to about a 4:47 mile and--this part should be embarrassing for other D2 1500-meter runners--puts her in second place on the current national performance list), I was still halfway around the track shuffling my way home. Miraculously, I passed almost everyone else in the race--or rather, they passed me going backwards--and ended up finishing in third place overall. My 4:48 finish time indicated that I'd evenly split the race down to each 400 meters, which I suppose is somewhat of an accomplishment. More importantly, I was able to not get last while preserving my legs and lungs for another day.

Best part of the afternoon? I made off with a bag of bagels, three bananas, five granola bars and an almost full jar of peanut butter (the kind with honey!) from the team's snack stash. Shhhhh...don't tell. Totally redeemed the time spent at the meet.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Successful Predator Run

AM: 20 mins. core + strength
PM: 3 mile w/u
Target: 6 mile predator run starting @6:00
Actual: 5:55, 6:00, 5:45, 5:53, 5:45, 5:42 (35:00 total)
1 mile c/d
Total: 10 miles

I was a bit bummed at the prospect of doing this workout solo, as work prevented me from going with Tanya and the rest of the team. However, Jordan gamely offered to tag along (despite two races looming within the next 48 hours), and I knew I would appreciate the company even if we ran no more than my warmup together. As it turned out, he agreed to run the second half of my workout and provide timing services.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous for the first time this week: sunny, low humidity, (relatively) low pollen count, warm but not hot. It was a bit windier than I would prefer for this type of effort, but given the otherwise flawless conditions I wasn't complaining. I'm pretty sure that a large part of why I sucked so badly on last week's predator was a result of the weather, so I was hoping for better today. (Which, given that "better" only necessitated finishing, I felt pretty good about my chances.) Given the aforementioned wind and the risk of boredom, I opted to start the workout with a loop of the Footlocker course. This would mean I'd have to deal with the steep hill on the second mile but would also be protected from the wind during the wooded sections. I hoped to start out around 6 minutes and then gradually reduce the pace. After bidding Jordan adieu, I set off down the trail.

The first mile was just a touch fast, 5:55, but it felt very relaxed and casual. I maintained the effort for the second mile, knowing the split would be slower because of the hill, and focused on keeping my breathing calm and relaxed. The third mile is my favorite section of the course, but due to the rolling first half and the wind around the pond on the second half I could tell that I was laboring more than I'd expected. Fortunately Jordan jumped in for mile four; combined with his presence, the completely flat terrain made this mile feel the most comfortable of the day. I felt my breathing normalize and was able to regain focus for the final portion of the run. The last two miles were tough but not unbearable, and I was pleased to see my two fastest splits of the day recorded on those miles. No doubt Jordan's encouragement played a large part in that.

Given my less than ambitious goal at the outset, I'd consider this predator run a success. Not only did I not drop out, but I also averaged a faster pace (5:50) for six miles than I did last week for four on a more difficult course. This is also only a few seconds per mile slower (5:50 vs.5:47) than my all-out 10k race pace from Stanford a year ago, which further illustrates the progress I've made in that time. I wish I would've felt more comfortable throughout today's effort, but overall I'm satisfied.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jenna Does the MFPL

AM: 63 mins. (8.5 miles)
PM: Thesis presentation

Jordan and I were fortunate to have Jenna tag along for a run this morning. Since she's never experienced the MFPL in its entirety, we decided to take her on a spin today. The air was thick with humidity and the promise of (thank goodness!) an impending rainstorm, and we all worked up a sweat pretty easily. Good times and good conversation were had by all.

I didn't run after work this afternoon because I wanted to prepare for my thesis presentation tonight. I'm pleased to report it went well (I think) and all my classmates were impressed that I came to class showered and wearing a dress as opposed to sweaty and in spandex like I usually do. Thank goodness the semester is almost over because otherwise they might start to expect that more often.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Weezy McSneezy

AM: 20 mins. pool
3 miles
PM: 5 miles + strides

So, here's the funny thing about taking caffeine pills at 5:30pm: they wake you up. Like, for a long time. Here is essentially a breakdown of last night:

9:30pm: Return home from workout; shower, eat dinner, etc.
11:00pm: Get in bed.
12:00am: Still awake.
1:00am: Still awake. Cat vomits. (Oh, have I not told you we now have a cat? More on that in a second.)
2:00am: Finally fall asleep.
7:00am: Wake up for pool. Hate life.

This chain of events leads me to feel torn about using the caffeine pills. I thought they really helped me feel alert and excited for the workout last night, but obviously I can't take them this late (which, essentially, is the scenario we were practicing for at Nationals) and expect to attain a semblance of a good night's sleep afterward. I don't know if having a strong cup of coffee would have quite the same stimulant effect, but most of the reasoning behind taking the pill instead of drinking actual coffee is that I'm exceptionally wary of how a cup would affect my notoriously tenuous stomach situation so close to race time. So, I need to think a little bit more on this matter.

Now to the kitty. Last week, one of my classmates informed our class that she and her husband are moving and that they can't take their cat with them. Apparently the local shelter is currently full and not accepting any new pets at this time. Fast forward to a few days later, and somehow we ended up with a three-year-old feline named Weezy. After a few days of hiding exclusively underneath our bed, she has gradually become accustomed to her surroundings and is turning into, if I may say so myself, the coolest kitty in the entire world. When she's not eating her food too quickly and throwing it up at 1am.

P.S. I added the "McSneezy" on the end because the pollen is making her sneeze just as much as Jordan. It's pretty adorable (Weezy's sneezing, not Jordan's). I never thought I'd say this, but I might actually be turning into a cat person. Or at least a Weezy person.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Twelve By Twilight

AM: 3 miles
PM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 12x800 w/2 mins. rest @2:35-2:40; hammer #11
Actual: 2:38, 2:38, 2:38, 2:38, 2:37, 2:36, 2:36, 2:37, 2:37, 2:36, 2:34, 2:35
(Average: 2:36.7)
1 mile c/d
Total: 10 miles

Tanya and I along with Jenna and Sean headed up to the track to meet Coach Simmons just before 7pm. With the current heat wave, working out mid-afternoon wasn't an option, and neither of us were relishing the prospect of running this hard early morning. So, with my class being canceled and Tanya having never missed a Tuesday class, we elected to change things up a bit and head out to the track in the evening. We knew that temps would be tolerable once the sun began to set, and you can't argue with the logic of working out on the same track and at the same time as our Nationals race will be held next month. This seemed like the best option for the day.

JCSU was bustling with activity when we arrived, which made for a good buzz on the track. The youth track team that Jordan spotted last week was there, as were a few stray JCSU athletes and my friend Danielle and her fiance from CRC. It was still about 80 degrees when we began our warmup, but the air was fairly dry and it didn't seem particularly pollen-intensive. Taking that into account, along with the caffeine pills we'd ingested (for a fun experiment) at 5:30 and our matching flame spandex, it seemed as though conditions were primed for a solid workout.

My goal was to run the first half on cruise control, settling into a solid rhythm and not straining for the pace. I knew Tanya would be far in front of me and I tried not to let that mess with my head.
The thing with 12x800 is that it's a bear of a workout, no matter how you slice it. Sustaining the intensity while achieving the desired volume is no easy task, particularly if you start out too hard. I'm not going to lie though; it was quite humbling to be running one of my best workouts ever and yet still be lagging so far behind. For each of my early 2:38s and :37s, Tanya was clicking off 2:28s and 2:30s. As we progressed through the workout, however, I began to notice her coming back a little bit. She was still finishing ahead of me on every interval, but the gap between us narrowed considerably as I slowly inched down the pace. I felt comfortable through #8, which was pleasantly surprising, and knew that if I just kept things together I would end up running my best workout of the spring.

Meanwhile dusk was fading, and with each passing interval the track began to disappear from sight. I haven't run a workout this late in a long time, and I have to admit there was something electric about gliding silently through the darkness with nothing but the downtown Charlotte skyline to illuminate our path. At some point we'd planned to ditch the flats and don our spikes but forgot, our breath too ragged between the final few intervals to process coherent thought. The second lap of #11 was our designated hammer, though neither of us felt like we had much left to give. I somehow managed to gain on Tanya as we rounded the final curve, pulling up beside her at the line. The last interval was the toughest as we both struggled to get back on pace, and to my disbelief I found myself swinging around her with 200 to go and kicking all the way home. We both collapsed on the track, exhausted and relieved to have this effort behind us.

So, reflecting objectively (completely unbiased, of course), we pretty much kicked ass out there tonight. Both of us completed six miles worth of work at 5k pace or below. In looking back at my few previous 12x800 workouts, this shows marked improvement. (Actually, the last time I attempted 12x800 I ended up getting injured, so I suppose anything would be an improvement over that.) It was just over a year ago that I ran 12x800 and hammered 2:38; tonight that number was slower than my overall average. If we both stay healthy and well-rested, there's no reason why Tanya and I can't go 1-2 at Nationals in this event. You can bet that thought was on both of our minds as we pushed through twelve by twilight tonight.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Some Like it Hot

AM: 8.5 miles
61 mins.
PM: 3 miles + strides

The heat wave continues unabated. Ran early-ish this morning with Jordan on the MFPL (Medium Freedom Park Loop) and was quite toasty. The legs felt pretty good despite yesterday's long-ish run, and we clicked off the miles at a respectable pace.

In the afternoon I had the good fortune of running into Tanya and Sean up at the school. They had a short run planned on the Booty Loop so I was more than happy to join. Did a few strides afterward--something I need to do more of, by the way--and called it a day. A very warm, very humid day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Week in Review

71 miles
20 laps on the AG track
3 days above 80 degrees
4 AFDs

Overall I'd rate this week a solid "B" or maybe even "B+" in terms of training. I nailed the 400 workout on Wednesday and had a good long run Sunday, but Saturday's aborted predator run prevents me from rating the week any higher. Oh well. At least I have the opportunity to string together a few really solid weeks of training before my next important race; in my mind, that diminishes the emphasis put on each particular workout and makes everything less stressful. Just gotta keep rolling.

Easter Sunday Long Run

1 hour 34 mins.
13 miles

For those of you who don't live in the area, we're experiencing some record high temperatures here in Charlotte. As I'm typing this entry, we're forecasted for a 90-degree high tomorrow, which would quite literally be an all-time high for this day in history (and a 17-degree increase from the norm). What this means is that although our long run started just past 9am today, we were all shirtless and sweating profusely just a few miles in.

Mercifully, however, I felt none of the breathing problems I experienced yesterday. The pollen count is still high but the humidity is a smidge lower, and apparently the combination was enough to make this run fairly enjoyable. We started out as one big happy family--Jordan, Sean, me, Jenna, Tanya, Simon and a few others--but after a few miles I settled in with Tanya and Jenna for the duration. Considering that last Easter I could barely walk, I was particularly grateful for the chance to run long today. This was a solid way to close out the week.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

McAlpine Dropout

AM: 15 mins. core
3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5 mile predator starting @6:00
Actual: 5:56, 5:48, 5:51, 5:52
2+ mile c/d
Total: 9+ miles

Those of you who are math majors may have noticed that while my "target" for the workout was five miles, the "actual" only came out to four. Um yeah. I'm consoling myself by saying that I haven't had a sucky workout in a while, so I suppose I was due. I further consoled myself after talking to Caitlin and Jay later in the day and discovering that they also cut their scheduled tempo runs short. All of us felt terrible but none of us really knew why, although I have a hunch that the off-the-charts pollen count had something to do with it. I mean seriously, I don't have allergies or anything, but when you walk down to the parking lot and see that every car is literally coated in yellow, you can't really hold out much hope for the air quality.

That said, it's a shame the workout didn't go better considering how well it was set up. I had the day off work and was granted the rare opportunity to run with Tanya, Jenna and Pezz. We even had Jordan along as designated pacemaker. Given that setup, I shouldn't be making excuses for not running stronger. Things started well--the 5:56 first mile felt like a jog--but midway through the second mile I felt my chest tightening up. I simply could not breathe as well as I should. By 2.5 miles, Jordan and Tanya had effectively pulled away from me--Pezz, who was only scheduled for four miles, was also up front; Jenna was in back--and I simply couldn't respond. I reached the four-mile marker feeling as though I was straining way too much to maintain--not even increase--my pace, and made the executive decision that to run another mile going backwards would just be foolish.

Normally I would be pretty discouraged after an effort like this (after all, I ran over 30 seconds slower than in the Shamrock Four Miler with Caitlin several weeks ago). But I know I'm coming off a difficult track workout on Wednesday and a cold that I can't seem to shake, so I'm not stressed about it. Time to shake it off and enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Friday, 4/2
AM: 6 miles

Thursday, 4/1
AM: 5.5 miles
PM: ~5 miles

Slowly but surely I'm regaining breathing capabilities through both nostrils. Can't ask for much more than that. These two days were kept busy with work, school, preparing for my thesis presentation next week, and a few fun times with friends. I'm looking forward to the rare weekend at home AND off work for the next few days. Hopefully it will give me a chance to rest up and fully heal from this nagging cold.