Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

And just like that, 2010 is over. In some ways it seems to have stretched on forever, considering everything that has transpired in the past 365 days. And yet there are moments from those days that are so vividly etched into my memory that they could have just as likely taken place this morning, or yesterday, or a few weeks ago. I remember exactly one year ago today strapping on the flats for my first tentative workout after battling an autumn full of injuries. I was standing on the track at San Diego High with Jordan, basking in the warmth of the late morning California sun, asking for nothing more than to get through 3x mile in one piece. I remember turning to Jordan after closing the last interval in 5:32 and remarking that I had about five weeks before attempting to run a 5k almost 10 seconds per mile faster to qualify for D2 Indoor Nationals. At the time, the idea was almost unfathomable. Little did I know that I would accomplish that goal and so many more in the whirlwind year that was to follow.

One way to sum up my running in 2010 would be to call it a year of redemption. In 2009, my first "collegiate" track season as a graduate student at Queens, I achieved modest PRs of 17:27 (indoors) and 36:12. Both of these were provisional qualifiers for their respective National meets but neither made the cut (though I was only the third person left out of the 10k). Or, to go back even farther, prior to coming to Queens in 2009 my PRs at the same distances were something like 18:30 and 38:00. I was a decent local runner and nothing more. So that first track season at Queens, though unremarkable, ignited something within me. I caught a glimpse of the potential I never knew was there, that had possibly been lying latent within me the entire time, and I knew that I only had one chance to maximize it. To be fair, that's not entirely true; I can run track meets until I'm 90 years old if I so choose. But with only two semesters of track eligibility at Queens, the spring of 2010 was truly my final shot as an NCAA athlete. It was time to see what I could do.

As most readers of my blog know, the year went better than I could have ever imagined. Don't misunderstand that statement as me being boastful; on the contrary, I'm humbled every day by the performances of the friends and competitors who surround me. Rather, try to view it as I do, as someone who is still a bit in awe of the fact that she was, through the efforts and beliefs and positive encouragement of her coaches and friends and family, afforded the opportunity to transform from an average local runner to a legitimate competitor in some of the most prestigious track meets in the country. (Granted, I got lapped in most of those meets, sometimes twice, but it's still pretty freaking cool.) I raced twice at the Armory, twice at Stanford, once at Penn Relays. I spent two miles jogging in the 5k at Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque and two miles sprinting my ass off in the 5k at Outdoor Nationals in Charlotte. I was absolutely ecstatic to run 34:37 for 10k at the first Stanford meet--and, unbelievably, held the top spot on the D2 national performance list until Tanya and Sarah shattered that mark at the Payton Jordan Invite five weeks later. It was there where I watched Chris Solinsky break the US 10k record--except I barely noticed because I was too busy pouting about my own performance, when I'd run an almost identical time as the previous meet but experienced completely opposite emotions. There are some races I'd like to forget--sprinting off the track during Conference to find a bathroom, anyone?--and others that, no matter what, I know I'll remember for the rest of my life. There isn't a week that goes by when I don't flash back to the last lap of the 10k at Outdoor Nationals, when I was in second place and gaining on Tanya. I remember looking up with 300 to go and seeing Jordan at the fence. He yelled, "You can win this thing!" and I swear that I spent the next 50 seconds trying to prove him right. In the end, it didn't happen. Tanya held strong, and despite my 2:33 last 800 I got my doors blown off by Sarah with 100 to go. Part of me was absolutely devastated. The other part is still amazed, to this day, that I was even there at all.

And so, gradually, the accumulation of all those experiences brought me to the most powerful result of 2010: the realization that I do belong in those races. I went from never qualifying for Nationals to earning three All-American honors in as many months. That doesn't happen by accident. So even though my brief collegiate career is over seemingly just as it was beginning, my mindset as a runner is forever changed. I refuse to go back to being complacent with haphazard training and mediocre race performances. Sure, running can't always be my top priority--let's not forget I finally have a wonderful, fun, amazing real job!--but 2011 is my year to set ambitious, yet achievable, goals. For starters, I will qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. Megan Hovis and Caitlin made it look easy in 2010, and I'll never hear the end of it if I don't join them soon. If I can achieve that early enough in the year, I plan to put together a track season with the hopes of qualifying for US Outdoor Nationals. I have some unfinished business in the 10k, and I'd like to try to drop my PR by another minute or so. It won't be easy, but I believe it's attainable. Finally, and tightly interwoven among all of the above, I need to stay healthy. This is an obvious statement but one that always proves difficult for me to enact. With that said, in looking back at 2010 I only missed four weeks of running--in early fall, when I messed up my foot--and there's no reason why 2011 can't bring even more consistency.

Of course, this past year wasn't all about me. (Maybe 99% about me, but not completely.) It's been amazing seeing so many of my friends and training partners achieve great things. From Caitlin and Megan's marathon qualifiers to Tanya and Mike's national titles, Jordan and Danielle's victories and PRs at Thunder Road to Pezz's top 10 finish at Club XC Nationals, these achievements and many more have been pretty inspiring to witness and, in some cases, play a small part in. 2010 was also the year I became a member of the Charlotte Running Club, which in my unbiased opinion is quickly turning into one of the most engaging and supportive local running clubs I've ever seen. Having such a great resource here in Charlotte has transformed what could be viewed as a less than stellar training environment for serious runners into a wonderful and supportive community. Remembering the cacophony of their voices screaming my name every time I came down the backstretch at Nationals--that's 25 times in the 10k, but who's counting--still brings a smile to my face. There are some intangibles that you can't put a price on (well, other than the $20 a year membership fee), and this cohort is one of them.

And so, as 2010 draws to a close, I have many things to be thankful for and proud of. I also know I have a long way to go if I want to make another incremental jump as a runner. 2011 is the year I am up for the challenge, and with the help and support of all the wonderful people around me I truly believe that anything is possible.

Happy New Year, friends. Let's make it great.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

(Christmas) Week in Review

81 miles
3 doubles
4 AFDs
6 states and a district (NC, VA, DC, MD, WVA, PA, OH)

Yes, I realize that skipping straight to the "week in review" is cheating. I'm doing a disservice to the entire week by not detailing the City Sports run club where we posed for a photo in front of the White House Christmas tree, or my 11-mile run around the Mall with Jordan, or the frigid runs in Ohio where I trudged along solo after Jordan and I traded Achilles injuries. But, simply put, I'm going to fall even farther behind if I don't wrap up the Christmas week with a neat little bow (no pun intended) and move on to the final week of the year. Don't worry; I'm including a few photos to make up for my laziness.

Madison and Tyler finish opening their Christmas presents. They already
got up and opened their "Santa" gifts while the rest of us slept--at 3am!!

As you can see from the stats above, I once again managed to notch a respectable mileage total despite all our traveling and despite my Achilles not being 100% (although it's like 98.4% right now, I swear). I still don't have any workouts to speak of, although I did sneak in 12x1 minute intervals on Christmas Eve morning around the streets of Mason. Nothing crazy, but it felt good to pick up the pace a bit. As I mentioned, Jordan is now experiencing some lower leg issues of his own, which meant that I was left to fend for myself most days. That inconvenience was coupled with the snow and ice that rendered the two parks within jogging distance of our home base in Mason completely impassible. Our only other option, a 100+ mile bike path a short drive away, was even less hospitable. So not only would I spend the majority of the week running by myself, but I also would have no idea where to go. Fortunately that's where Jordan's uncle Dave stepped in. Dave, a middle school principal who has the rest of December off, happens to be an avid runner and a solid 3:30 marathoner (and, at a mere 42 years old, he has already completed a whopping 58 marathons). He also lives a literal stone's throw away from Glenn and Eloisa's house, which made meeting up for runs incredibly convenient. So Dave became a lifesaver for me, accompanying me on at least half my runs and steering us through pedestrian-friendly streets and neighborhoods. He made for great company and a reliable tour guide and more or less salvaged my Ohio running. Though I know he doesn't read this blog, thanks a bunch Dave.

When he's not running, Dave mixes a mean cocktail.

Jordan icing his Achilles the old-fashioned way--with snow from outside.
Little bro Tyler wanted to compete in the "tough guy" contest as well.

And so, with one final week remaining in 2010, it's almost time to reflect on the past year while simultaneously setting goals for the next one. I hope to close out the year with a bang--and by that I mean a week of high mileage and a long-awaited workout or two--and start off 2011 feeling healthy and fit. With Jordan pulled up lame and Caitlin out of town until 12/31, I will probably be solo for most of the week once we return to Charlotte. If I can make it until Saturday, however, I'll be rewarded with the first annual CRC Hangover Run at McAlpine, a guaranteed opportunity to see tons of running friends and swap New Year's Eve stories. Until then, it's time to finish this year off right.

Jordan really liked Whitney's glasses... he decided to try them on. Looks like a perfect fit!

Enjoying our Christmas dinner. Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Lots to discuss as I am falling a bit behind on the blogging, but this post unfortunately will not provide any immediate amelioration. Instead I want to report that Jordan and I are safe and sound and enjoying a snow-capped Christmas holiday with family in Mason, Ohio. I'm currently sipping a glass of champagne garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds before settling in for a long winter's nap, er, feast; what could be a better way to spend a holiday afternoon? We arrived here on Christmas Eve eve via DC where I made my third trip this past week. Naturally between the two locations there has been quite a bit of revelry and merriment with a few runs sprinkled in for good measure. I'll provide more details tomorrow, but for now here's wishing you and yours the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f@#king Kay! (Any and all red-blooded Americans should get the reference, but since I know there's at least one Brit reading I'll throw you all a break and link you to one of the greatest scenes of one of the greatest holiday movies of all time.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week in Review

78 miles
3 doubles
0 workouts
1 ugly sweater party
4 AFDs

Am I really typing this entry five days before Christmas?? Holy moly, how time flies! It is incredible to think that 2010 is less than two weeks from becoming a slowly disappearing object in my rearview mirror. Many of my fellow bloggers are jumping the gun a bit to produce their "year in review" lists, but I'll probably hold off a few more days on that. Instead, let's take a brief look at this penultimate week before Christmas.

For starters, the Achilles and/or lower leg is better. Not 100%, but better. I'd put it at about 92% and steadily improving. The fact that I was able to notch almost 80 miles while still rehabbing and not feeling my best gives me some mental confidence, but the knowledge that I'm still not able to work out sort of cancels out any of those gains. Jordan has rightfully reined me in a few times, such as when I wanted to join in for Caitlin's stellar 3x2 mile workout on Friday, telling me under no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to go hard until this thing is licked. I know he's right, but with a goal race looming on the horizon it's hard to remain patient. Still, I'm trying.

The other confounding factor of the week was the snow/ice that impeded my DC travel. The fact that I managed to make it home without slipping on the sidewalk or sliding Mini into a curb or achieving some other vehicular misfortune is about the best one can hope for in that type of situation. I will return to the District one final time next week, this time with my trusty co-pilot in tow, for the last City Sports DC Run Club of the season and a few more store visits. After that, Jordan and I will make our way to Mason, OH for our Christmas celebration. Last time we were here Jordan wrestled with the swine flu and I was struggling with shin sp
lints, so let's hope that this visit goes much more smoothly. We are both pretty excited about catching up with his family members and seeing little sis Madison's new kitty, so this should be a great trip.

I will close with a few photos from arguably the highlight of the week, Tyler/Matt/Jay's Ugly Sweater Party on Saturday night. Our dysfunctional family comprising me, Jordan, John and Caitlin failed in finding sweaters but succeeded in looking sufficiently awkward in a set of matching little kids' pajamas from Target. Matt apparently had the same idea, but his PJ's fit better (and by "better" I mean "more like Hugh Hefner"). We made quite the motley
crew and hopefully did justice to the Awkward Family Photos site we were hoping to pay homage to. Christmas, consider yourself properly celebrated.



Friday, December 17, 2010

DC in December, Round 2

For the second Tuesday in a row, I hit the road early with the District as my destination. Craft and Karhu is sponsoring the City Sports DC Run Club for the month of December, which simply means that I am in attendance at each of their Tuesday night runs with wear test products, giveaways and of course lots of enthusiasm. Last Tuesday was the first run of the month and it was a rousing success. It was also painfully, take-your-breath-away cold and windy, and I remember avowing right then and there (as soon as my mouth thawed enough for me to enunciate properly) that there was no possible way it could be colder the following week.

It was.

This Tuesday night run was quite literally numbingly cold, and for the second week in a row I was amazed that over a dozen intrepid souls turned up of their own volition to go for a run. I respect that. Plus, have I mentioned that running down the Mall amongst the historic monuments and memorials still fills me with wonder every time? Not a bad place to take an evening jog if you ask me.

I'd planned the rest of the trip to be nearly identical to the week before: shacking up at my friend Dave's place in Georgetown/Glover Park, running along the canal, visiting some Pacers stores and then heading back home on Thursday. All went according to plan until the first great snowstorm of winter 2010 struck Thursday mid-morning. I was actually driving to Pacers in Lo
gan Circle when the first flurries began to fall, and by the time poor Mini slipped and slid her way to the Arlington location it seemed as though the prospect of driving home was a bit dubious. Poor Dave. Just when he thought he'd successfully gotten rid of me, here I was inviting myself over for another night. (Little does he know that Jordan and I will also be requesting his couch and Snuggie next Tuesday. I didn't have the heart to mention it to him just yet.)

Fortunately by this morning the streets had been sufficiently plowed and the bridges adequately sanded and the idiot drivers calmed enough to allow me to return to the Carolinas. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say it was almost worth staying the extra day to witne
ss this morning's exquisite sunrise. As I drove toward the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial directly in front of me and the Washington Monument just off to the left, my breath was literally taken away by the intense hues of purple and pink that flooded the lightening sky. I tried to snap a photo with my phone while driving, which as you can imagine proved unsuccessful, but fortunately I found this shot online that almost perfectly captures the morning palette. What a way to start the day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week in Review

45 miles
1 double
1 day off
4 nights on the road (ATL, DC, Raleigh)
6 AFDs

Welp, my mileage was quite literally cut in half this week due to the Achilles/lower leg muscle thing. On a positive note, I made it through Club XC despite this niggle and was able to run well for the team. On a negative note, it's pretty stiff and sore today. Such is to be expected. I can only hope I'm able to train through it and not compromise another few weeks of mileage, as Houston Marathon is a mere six weeks away. I have a feeling that several visits to Greenapple & co. will be in my immediate future.

Moving on. This was an incredibly busy week followed by an equally busy weekend, but in reflecting it was an absolute blast. I had a great time visiting accounts and putting on a Craft and Karhu wear test run in the nation's capital; maybe it's because I'm an outsider, but I'm certain that running up the National Mall at dusk and seeing the White House Christmas tree ablaze will never get old. Big thanks to my friends Dave Nightingale (more on him in a minute) and Sarah Swiss for letting me crash with them in their respective cities and saving hundreds of dollars from my travel budget as well. Dave has more of the same to look forward to next week as I return to DC again from Tuesday until Thursday. I've just finally gotten the hang of navigating around the seemingly infinite number of traffic circles and circuitous back roads in the District and will hopefully repeat my nearly blemish-free driving record from last week (didn't wreck, didn't get hopelessly lost, only received one nominal parking ticket).

And then, of course, there was this weekend. What an amazing few days to be in Charlotte. Between the Thunder Road Marathon, the USATF Club XC Champs and the ensuing afterparty, suffice it to say the Queen City did things up right. Everyone who competed in these races ran their little hearts out, but a few shoutouts are deserved for the following:

Danielle Crockford rebounding from a DNF in Chicago to shatter her PR (and the 3-hour mark) and claim victory at TRM
Dave Nightingale enjoying a belated 25th birthday present by finishing a surprising 3rd at Club XC
Queens University of Charlotte stud Michael Crouch rebounding one week after his victory at DII Nationals to take fourth at Club XC (girlfriend Sarah Porter of Western Washington placed 2nd and 7th respectively at both races)
Billy Shue staying tough to set his own PR of 2:41 at TRM
Matt Jaskot finishing the Club XC race wearing a pair of neon green shorts with CRC logos emblazoned on both butt cheeks less than three hours after biking 30+ miles all over the TRM course (same goes for Aaron Linz minus the butt cheek part)
Ben Hernandez finishing the marathon despite pulling a Jordan Kinley and barely training
Camille Herron woman-ing up to race Club XC and scoring for her team despite just winning Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2:42 less than a week prior
CRC women's team finishing 9th overall in our Club XC debut!

Many more kudos are due, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. This weekend made me realize how privileged and grateful I am to participate in the sport I love with such an amazing running community, both local and national. If this weekend doesn't get you pumped up for training, I don't know what will. See you out there!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Big Day of Racing

Part 1: Thunder Road Marathon
Result: Jordan won, 2:24:46

Part 2: USATF Club XC Champs

3.5-4 mile w/u + strides
6k race @21:04 (21:06 in official results)
9th place overall team

1.5 mile c/d
Total: 9-9.5 miles

Wow, what a day. I don't even know wh
ere to begin, but I suppose chronologically would be the best idea. For Jordan, the morning started just past 5am when he awoke to begin his pre-race prep. He was already long gone by the time I got up around 7, then woke Jenna who was crashing on our air mattress. We'd made plans to go see Jordan around the 10 mile mark on the Booty Loop, then head over to Caitlin's for the second half viewing. The only contingency factor would be road closures and traffic backups due to the race course criss-crossing every major thoroughfare in town, not to mention the fact that we had to get ourselves across town later in the morning for our own race, but we hoped we'd be able to avoid most of the chaos.

Jenna, John and Caitlin: Jordan's trusty cheering squad

Jordan striding down the Booty Loop on Queens Road West at mile 10

For the most part, the Thunder Road viewing went off without a hitch. Jenna and I saw Jordan right at 10 miles, which he came through in 54:30 looking strong and confident. He was also completely solo, as his pacer Paul had peeled off just past 10k. For the rest of the race it would be nothing but Jordan, the cop car, the lead cyclist and a few people dedicated enough to brave the cold and cheer outside. We immediately hustled over to Caitlin's, taking a bit of a circuitous route after reaching one of the aforementioned race crossings at Morehead and Kenilworth, and arrived within plenty of time to see Jordan again at 18 miles. Again he was solo and again he looked strong and relaxed. From that point on he would be entering the loneliest part of the course, but unfortunately this was also the part that would be too logistically challenging for us to reach by car and too far for us to traverse on foot given our own upcoming race. We opted to stay put and see Jordan again at 25 miles which passed literally in front of John and Caitlin's house. We knew he was hoping to break the course record of 2:24:20 and by our calculations he would be right on. When we saw him charging the downhill with a mile to go we were confident he'd broken the mark, only to be a bit deflated a few minutes later when Jay rode up on his bike to tell us that he'd missed it by 26 seconds. Sounds like a lot, but only one second a mile for an entire marathon seems a bit of cruel irony. My initial disappointment was quickly overshadowed by my excitement that Jordan had bested his PR by over two minutes, completely solo on a tough course. Definitely a respectable run. We stuck around to see Billy finish in 5th place with a new 2:41 PR but had to depart before Danielle came cruising by with her sub-3 hour victory. I would've liked to cheer her and several other friends on, but we had business to attend to.

Caitlin shouting words of encouragement as Jordan passes mile 25

I'm not going to lie; for the entire drive out to McAlpine I was a nervous wreck. Nervous because I have very little cross-country experience, nervous because I'd barely run 25 miles the entire week and most of all nervous that I'd let my team down by having to pull out if my Achilles (or whatever muscle) became too painful. I had no way of knowing what would happen and could only hope for the best. We set off on our warmup together as a team, the first and maybe last time for all seven of us to do so. The park was absolutely packed and it was cool to see so many teams and fans out to support them. Our race was scheduled to go off at 12:45, and with 10 minutes to go the CRC lady harriers approached the starting box.

Now, a word about that. I'm not one to make excuses or complain about things that affect everybody equally ("it's too cold" or "it's too hot" or "the course was too
difficult"), but I think I am justified in complaining that we got pretty much the worst starting location of all time. Or, to be precise, we got the 51st worst starting location of the 55 available. Our box was situated all the way to the right of the starting line, which meant we would have to sprint across the tangent as quickly as possible in order to make it onto the narrow dirt path without getting stuck behind 100 other people. It was definitely not best case scenario, but at least Jordan had prepared Caitlin and me for that situation. We would simply have to get out hard for 90 seconds and then settle, just as we'd practiced. So simple, right?

Running side by side with Caitlin early in the race

12:45 came quickly and before I knew it we were off. Caitlin and I had hoped to work together for most of the race, and by the time we'd reached the dirt path I was situated right on her shoulder. We'd gotten out as well as could be hoped for and were probably in the top 60-70 at this point. Just before making the first turn Caitlin reminded us to "settle," and we tried to do so despite the throng of women around us. We'd said in advance that going out faster than 5:30 would be suicide given our current fitness levels, so we were both relieved to split 5:31 through the first mile. I still felt comfortable and it was reassuring to have my teammate by my side. I heard countless shouts our names and of "Go CRC!" which of course boosted my spirits and resolve. Though the Achilles was in the back of my mind it hadn't yet become an issue, but I was apprehensive about testing it on the first pass of the hill. Fortunately the hill came and went uneventfully and I didn't even seem to be in any danger of falling down the steep descent (my other great concern), and before I knew it Caitlin and I were running down the familiar path beside the pond preparing for the second loop.

At this point in the race, the powers that be had changed the course in a way I'd never seen before. Basically we had to run up a small, rather gradual grassy hill, make a sharp 180-degree turn at the top of it and then come back down to where we'd started. It was, in a word, stupid. So stupid, in fact, that as I ran up it I very distinctly remember thinking, "I've run at McAlpine a million times and have never once had to go up this ridiculous made-up hill." I guess they were just trying to add on some extra distance to the course, but there were several other ways to do so without this awkward addition. Whatever. This was also the point in the race when I began to pull away slightly from Caitlin. I silently willed her to come with me but would not see her again until the finish. Instead, I tried to focus on staying strong and maintaining form down the long straightaway, but at this point my legs were beginning to fatigue. I was just as worried about being caught as I was about catching others, but fortunately more of the latter occurred than the former. The second trip up the hill felt like an absolute crawl, and the final straight to the finish seemed to go on forever, but I charged for home and pumped my arms as hard as I could. I saw the clock tick past 21 minutes just a few seconds before I crossed the line, which was a bit of a bummer as I'd harbored aspirations of breaking that mark, but there was little time to dwell on it. Caitlin came in just a few seconds later and we immediately went over to congratulate an exhausted Pezz who'd finished 10th.

Coming down to the pond for the finish

The next few minutes were a blur as the remaining 200 runners came in, including the rest of our team. We exited the chute to find tons of CRC members, friends, family members and even Jordan who'd managed to make it just as our race was starting. There were plenty of hugs and congratulations to go around, especially when we found out that our team had cracked the top 10. As club president Aaron said later, to compete among teams that have many more resources than us (we didn't even have matching warmups, though I had managed to score us some sweet Craft tees for our uniform tops), some of which are populated by legitimate professional runners, and still finish as high as we did was definitely an accomplishment. I couldn't have been prouder to run with this group of ladies and to represent CRC today.

From a personal perspective, the race showed that my fitness isn't too far from where it needs to be. Had I found those extra five seconds and cracked 21 as I'd hoped, I would've beaten a few other "professionals" who were just over that mark. However, I will note that two of the girls I finished between, Esther Erb from Zap and my friend Jemissa Van Hoy who works at Fleet Feet Raleigh, just ran in the 27:30s for 8k less than a month ago. Knowing that tells me I could probably achieve similar results at that distance on the roads, which is far better than I expected to be at this point. If nothing else, this provides a solid foundation for me to build on in the weeks leading up to Houston.

But enough about me and this running talk. Now it's time for the afterparty!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thunder Road and Club XC Eve

As I'm typing this entry, we are less than 24 hours away from the biggest racing weekend Charlotte has seen since...well, forever. (D2 Track Nationals was arguably a more prestigious weekend but tomorrow's events will by far have more participants.) As many of you already know, Jordan decided a little over a week ago to attempt to defend his title at Thunder Road. Like last year, he plans to wear the Karhu Racers. Unlike last year, he plans to wear a pair that aren't three sizes too small. Another difference between this year and last is that he actually has a time goal this year, specifically something in the 2:22-2:24 range. There's no question that he's strong from having put in over two months of consecutive 100+ mile weeks; now the question will be whether that strength is enough to overcome the inevitable prospect of running solo for the last half of a somewhat hilly race. Fortunately he has been able to "legally" enlist the help of a pacemaker in the form of Paul, who will probably be able to take him through 8-10 miles at the pace he's aiming for. Caitlin and I and hopefully a few other friends plan to track him down at several points during the second half of the race, as we don't really need to be at McAlpine for our own event until at least 11am.

Speaking of, I must admit that I'm approaching tomorrow's run with a bit of trepidation. I've had to cut my running practically in half this week due to the Achilles situation, and as we speak it is still a bit swollen and sore. The worst is in the morning when it is especially stiff. As you can imagine, the frigid weather we've been experiencing this week is also less than ideal. Fortunately our race tomorrow is rather late (12:45pm) and is forecasted to be significantly warmer than the rest of the week (upper 40s to low 50s), both of which will benefit me from an injury standpoint. My spirits were further lifted during my appointment with Dr. Duffy this morning (have I mentioned that the folks at Greenapple Sports & Wellness continue to save my life on a regular basis?) when he concluded that the problem isn't my Achilles at all, but actually a muscle that runs down the medial side of the Achilles called the flexor hallicus longus. I realize that sounds made up but he swears it's a real thing. It also connects down at the big toe which means, as per usual, this probably all comes down to my bunions and generally deformed big toe joint. Thanks again, Mom. Fortunately, however, the upside is that he doesn't think my Achilles is in any danger of rupturing or otherwise rendering me incapacitated tomorrow. I will probably experience some discomfort during and after the race, but nothing that will further exacerbate my injury. Once I get through the race tomorrow I'll just need to take several days of icing, stretching, Sticking and easy peasy running until this thing clears up.

So, with that bit of relief in mind, I'm definitely feeling more confident about tomorrow. Not necessarily about my placing, as there are some seriously legit girls running, but about my ability to compete to the best of my ability without being distracted by this injury. I hope tomorrow brings a new PR for Jordan, a successful race for the CRC team and a bitchin' time at the afterparty. Let the great Charlotte running weekend begin!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week in Review

80 miles
3 doubles
7 days in Charlotte
5 AFDs

This entire week was built around Wednesday's monster workout, and it went incredibly well. The flip side is that now my left Achilles is in a bad way. I'm still able to run, but it's stiff and swollen for most of the day and growing increasingly uncomfortable. I had planned to go at least 12 this morning but cut it to 10 after things didn't improve. While at home I've been rehabbing like a madwoman with ice, heat, epsom salts, compression socks and the Stick. Treatment seems to lead to some noticeable immediate improvement, but I'm still waking up in the morning with some pronounced tightness. It doesn't help that next week promises record low temperatures and lots of time in the car, neither of which is conducive to loosening up these old legs. I'm hoping this recent unpleasant development doesn't curtail my plans for Club XC next season, and even more hopeful that it doesn't compromise my upcoming training for Houston Marathon. I'll know more in the next few days.

In the meantime, I'm hitting the road again. I'm driving to Atlanta tonight to spend Monday traveling with our new rep Kyla, then home Monday night to prepare for a 12-hour turnaround. Tuesday morning I depart for DC, where Craft and Karhu is sponsoring the City Sports run club for the month of December. I'll stick around to visit some accounts on Wednesday, then head back to the Carolinas on Thursday for a Craft wear test run at Fleet Feet Raleigh. And then finally I will return home Friday morning just in time for a busy weekend of running in Charlotte! Whew! It's a crazy lifestyle but so far I'm loving it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ladies Run at McAlpine

4.5 mile w/u
Target: ~30 mins. of Caitlin's tempo
Actual: 5 miles (6:17, 6:13, 5:58, 6:07, 6:09)
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 12 miles

Earlier this week Caitlin and I responded to an email Aaron sent out trying to rally a group of speedy girls for a fun run at McAlpine. We agreed to meet at 9am, starting at Main Entrance (Caitlin) and Old Bell (me) and running toward each other, and we very beneficently opened up the invitation to a few select guys as well. That said, we had no idea that over 20+ people would rally on a cold Saturday morning and join us. It was quite an inspiring sight to see the formidable size of the Main Entrance group running toward us just before the mile marker, and as per usual made me proud to be a member of CRC. I don't think I've ever run with Caitlin, Alice, Kelly, Megan and Danielle all at the same time, not to mention the throng of others who joined us. Pretty sweet.

After a few miles of easy running and lighthearted conversation, Caitlin's plan was to peel away for a 50-minute marathon pace tempo. Though my legs and, particularly, my left Achilles were a bit fatigued from Wednesday's monster workout, I figured I was game for at least 30 minutes. After assembling a male entourage of Lat, Jordan, John, Ben, Thomas, AJ and one new guy (David?), we set off.

Overall the run went fine, as you can read in Caitlin's blog. Though we didn't chat the entire time, I found the pace to be perfectly conversational whenever I did have something to say. Aerobically this was a walk in the park, but as I approached the fifth mile I could tell my legs were more tired than I thought, and that my Achilles was tightening up at an alarming rate. By this point John and Jordan were long gone and Lat was also pulling away, and I could see that unfortunately Caitlin would get caught in no man's land once I stopped. For that reason I would've liked to continue, but pulling the plug at five was definitely the right call for me. Thomas and NGD (new guy David) followed suit, which meant that I had some company on my cool down jog back to Old Bell. I'm going to have to closely monitor my Achilles over the next few days, as now is certainly not the time to face an incipient injury.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Club XC Nationals Prep Workout

2+ mile w/u
Part 1: 3x6 mins. w/first 90 secs hard, 3 mins. rest
Part 2: 4xhill loop (500m), 1 min. rest
Part 3: 5xlake loop (~600m), 2 mins. rest
Part 1: 3x6 w/mile splits of 5:42, 5:35, 5:33
Part 2: 4xhill @ avg. 1:52
Part 3: 5xlake @2:00, 1:59, 1:59, 1:58, 1:57
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

For at least a week, Jordan has been scheming to create a workout for me that would, as he rather gleefully put it, "take me to the well." Another time he boasted it would "make me vomit." The closer we came to the fateful day, the more excited he became. I have to admit, I was starting to get a bit worried. Fortunately I was able to recruit Caitlin to join me on her lunch break for the first 2/3 of this behemoth, which boosted my spirits more than she probably realizes. As many of you know, she and I will be teaming up with a handful of other speedy ladies to represent the Charlotte Running Club at the USATF Club XC Championships hosted here at McAlpine next weekend. To say we are familiar with the course is an understatement, but Jordan wanted us to go over some specific sections and tactics to help us be best prepared for our upcoming race.

Part one of the workout was designed strictly to simulate the chaos of the start. The starting line at McAlpine is not very wide to begin with and proceeds to narrow onto the dirt path almost immediately. Going out hard at the gun will be imperative unless we want to be stuck back in 100th place going into the woods. Thus, for the 3x6 minutes Jordan had us practice going out hard--what felt like a sprint to me--for the first 90 seconds, then settling into a more comfortable, but still pressed, pace for the remainder of the interval. I must admit that this ended up being the toughest part of the workout for me, as I simply haven't sprinted nearly all out in a long time. Fortunately I was able to regain my composure after the first 90 seconds and continue pushing in a more controlled, relaxed manner to come through the mile marker in a respectable time. Caitlin ran incredibly strong for this part of the workout, and I was content to tuck in behind her and Jordan for the duration.

Part two sent us straight to the hill. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the McAlpine course, it boasts one solitary hill, and I can assure you now it will be a doozy on race day. The fact that it's a short, steep uphill followed by a shorter, steeper downhill, all on dirt, means that there is almost guaranteed to be at least one person who goes careening down and tumbling into the pond at the base of the hill. The women's 6k course traverses the hill twice and the men's 10k course three times, which makes those odds even greater. No doubt it will be most challenging on the first pass, which comes just over a mile and a half into the race when people will still be bunched together. Today our pack was only three deep, but even at that I had to force myself not to be overly timid on the descent. There are definitely a few spots where a carelessly placed foot could result in disaster, but fortunately all of us remained bipedal today. After the third interval Caitlin had to call it a day due to time constraints and chest congestion (which seems to be going around), which left me solo save for my coach/pacer for the rest of the workout.

Surprisingly, I began to feel the strongest and most confident at the time when I'd expected the worst. Guess that's the benefit of setting the bar low. After finishing up the final hill repeat we jogged over to the pond, where Jordan wanted me to practice running fast with tired legs. This was the point when I was most grateful for his presence, as a stiff wind gusted against us for the first half of each lap. Every time I stayed tucked behind him for the first 300 meters, then tried to open up the stride and finish hard with the wind at my back. It wasn't until the final two that I truly began to feel the weight of the entire workout descend upon my legs. It was time to wrap things up. I managed to save the best for last and finished with my fastest split of part three, exhausted but thankfully nowhere near the vomiting that Jordan had so hopefully predicted.

During the slowest cooldown on Earth, Jordan and I were able to reflect on the workout. It had gone just as well if not better than either of us had expected and provided me with a much needed confidence boost for Club XC. If anything, it showed me that while I still might not be very fast, I'm stronger than I thought. Certainly the same can be said for Caitlin. I can only hope we will reap the benefits of this during the second half of the race next weekend.