Sunday, August 25, 2013

First Legit Long Run (and Week in Review)

104 miles
5 doubles
20-mile long run
2 runs in Maine

On Saturday afternoon, Jordan and I were working an in-store event at Maine Running Company in Portland. We'd been there since the previous day and were planning to head home later that evening. Around 3pm, I received a beseeching--one could say desperate--text from Kim essentially asking if I could drop everything and hop in the car to Providence for a long run. Now, aside from the logistical impossibility of that actually taking place immediately (Portland being the exact opposite direction from Providence), I had also been tentatively planning to support some friends and race the inaugural Level Renner 10k the following morning. Admittedly, having done no recent speedwork and being a little low on my weekly mileage, a Sunday long run would actually make better sense if Kim could postpone her ambitions until the next morning. Still, making the drive down 95 was going to take a little convincing...

What can I say, she knows how to lure me in.

Flash forward to 9am on Sunday, and Kim and I were downing our homemade lattes and loading up her car to head to the Lincoln bike path. We planned to park there, run an hour or so warmup along the flat out-and-back path, then jog over to Lincoln Woods for a few rolling loops in the hilly state park. After that we'd run back to the car, assess our progress and then decide how much (if any) to add on at the bike path again. Though the sun shone brightly and temps were already creeping into the upper 70s, the humidity was ridiculously low (I think the dew point was in the 40s) and we had plenty of drinks and gels stashed at the car. Though I hadn't attempted a 20-miler since Philly, I was excited to give it a go.

The run started out tentatively, with our first few miles well over eight minutes apiece (yup, we're 30) but then the pace began to naturally progress. By the time we reached the undulating rollers of Lincoln Woods we decided to continue pressing. (Hey, if you're already dying from charging up and down the relentless hills, might as well keep the pace honest and make the terrain go by quicker!) When we returned to the car we'd already eclipsed 17 miles and probably would've been content to stop there, but when Kim suggested we push through to 20 I reluctantly agreed. To be honest, I actually felt quite good until the final 10 minutes, when my legs suddenly realized they hadn't been moving at a decent clip for this long in quite some time. I was thrilled to stop the moment we reached 20 miles, but satisfied with how strong I'd felt for most of the run. Maybe my fitness isn't so abysmal after all!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week in Review

100 miles
5 doubles
18-mile long run
4 days in MD/VA/DC

Of all the 100-mile weeks I've run over the past few years, I can honestly say this is the one I'm proudest of. Not necessarily for the overall quality or quantity of miles, but for overcoming the challenges posed logistically, mentally and physically by my exhausting work and travel schedule. Many of these runs took place at sunrise or sunset, just before or immediately after yet another busy day on the road. And yet, paradoxically, I felt better on some of these runs than I have in quite some time. Thursday night in particular I had an amazing run along the C&O Canal in Maryland. I'd been traveling and working with my coworker Nora since she picked me up at 6:30am at my hotel. Twelve hours later we were finally finished for the day and headed back toward her house in Maryland. I knew that any run shorter than 90 minutes would put me behind the eight ball for my necessary weekly mileage, but at the time I could barely fathom jogging for 30 minutes. So, I resorted to drastic action. I asked Nora to drop me off at one of the locks along the canal and pick me up 10 miles down the road. I would have no choice but to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I reached our designated meeting place.

Maybe it was the unseasonably autumn-like weather or the change of scenery--I've run on this towpath, which starts in Georgetown, many times but never on this section--but within the first few steps I could tell it was going to be a good run. Countless times in the first 30 minutes I kept cautioning myself to slow down, anticipating the inevitable bonk that would deliver a powerful wallop to my weary body at any minute. But the faster I ran, the better I felt. At 50 minutes I finally allowed myself to release the brake and accelerate to whatever pace my legs dictated. I cruised comfortably through 10 miles in just under 65 minutes, feeling fresher than when I'd started and indescribably rejuvenated. This never, and I mean never, happens to me. More often than not the opposite is true, and I find myself slogging miserably through runs that should feel far easier than the resultant pace indicates. But on this night I honestly felt like I could've run forever, faster and faster, without a care in the world. I'd pay a healthy sum of money to bottle this one up, but maybe its rarity is what makes it so special. (Nah, who am I kidding...I could handle feeling this good every day!)

On Sunday, I capped off the week with a solid solo long run in DC. I'd spent the night with my bestie Jilane after--you guessed it--a long workday on Saturday, and I relished the opportunity to sleep in before heading out the door at the leisurely hour of 9am into an unseasonably cool, gray, drizzly morning in the District. I knew the general route I wanted to traverse, having done variations of it several times before, and the miles passed quickly as I clicked off the familiar DC landmarks. We capped off the morning with our favorite takeout brunch and homemade pop tarts from Ted's Bulletin before Jilane dropped me at the airport. Another crazy, eventful, productive, successful week in the books!

Mmmm Ted's poptarts: chocolate Nutella, blueberry cheesecake, strawberry, cinnamon sugar and PEANUT BUTTER BACON
P.S. If you haven't already, pick up this month's Running Times magazine with my seasonal training buddy and fellow North Shore resident Abbey D'Agostino on the cover! I first met Abbey on Thanksgiving last year when I crushed her spirit she jogged with a friend at the Gabe's Run XC race in Hamilton. We exchanged contact info there and have since taken to meeting for miles anytime she's in town on break. Although this summer that's been a few times per week, in characteristically humble Abbey fashion she didn't so much as mention that she would be the subject of a lengthy feature story (much less the cover model!) in this month's edition until it showed up in my mailbox at work on Tuesday. Naturally, I begged her to autograph it after our Wednesday morning run but she declined. Guess I'll have to find something else to put on e-Bay. But seriously, read about her story and amazing attitude--you'll be inspired!

I'm saving this for when she makes it to the Olympics--Rio 2016!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week in Review

96 miles
25k long run in 1:46
5 doubles
4 runs with Jon G.
4 airports (BOS, ATL, BNA, PHL)
1 AFD (oops)

Despite my most valiant effort, I couldn't quite eek out triple digits this week. Actually, that's not true; I could've doubled back for a four-mile slog after my long run on Sunday, but there would be absolutely no point or purpose other than to pad the total. I was actually proud of myself for exhibiting that much self-restraint (aided by a full belly and light buzz after my boss's birthday BBQ on Sunday afternoon, but still).

That said, overall it was a solid week of training, buoyed by runs with some of my favorite people (Wil in Atlanta, occasional guest blogger Jon in Nashville) on some familiar stomping grounds like the Chattahoochee River and the Shelby Bottoms greenway. On Thursday night I was all set for a fun cross-country style race at Percy Warner Park in Nashville with Jon (newly transplanted to the area--as in, he just moved there Monday) but, alas, the typically mercurial summer weather intervened in the form of thunderstorms and torrential downpours, so it was not meant to be. Instead, we did 8x20 second strides on Friday morning and I felt quite accomplished.

Back at home on Saturday morning, I slept in delightfully late only to realize I had managed to miss the entirety of the World Championships marathon (as if I didn't already feel lazy enough). To my surprise, one of my new Italian acquaintances from my Sardinia trip took the silver medal! I "raced" against Valeria at the Chia Laguna Half-Marathon (I use that loosely, seeing as she finished over a mile ahead of me and probably did not walk four times) and I spent a bit of time with her and her family at the resort throughout the trip. She's a nice woman with an incredible story, and it was cool to see that she courageously led the entire race and pushed the pace despite the conditions, prevailing over all but one competitor for a silver medal. If that wasn't enough inspiration for my long run the next day, I don't know what is!

While there are probably no medals of any color in my immediate future, I'm happy to report that I felt stronger and fitter this week than I have any time in recent months. Slowly but surely, my fitness is coming along and I'm making progress toward a great fall season!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

(Down) Week in Review

76 miles
4 doubles
1 day off
2 races in 48 hours
6 avocados

After four weeks of progressive mileage building, it only made sense to take a step back this week, especially when factoring in two weeknight races. I hadn't planned on taking a day off, but after sleeping in on Friday morning I found myself with exactly zero motivation to run after work. So, I didn't. Instead, I read a book and drank a few glasses of wine and fell asleep at 10pm. It was glorious. I capped off the week with two mid-day 20k runs, Saturday with Emily and Jordan around the Marblehead Neck and Sunday with Jordan through Salem and along the coastline in Beverly. 

Most productive part of the weekend: buying new sheets. Weezy approves.

Next week I plan to return to high-mileage business as usual, although things will start with a whimper thanks to a 6:30am flight tomorrow. Starting off with a Monday morning goose egg will make it all the more challenging to hit triple digits--as will the weather in my destination cities, Atlanta and Nashville, which will likely approach triple digits themselves--but I'm up for it. I can feel myself getting stronger with each passing week, and I'm excited to keep laying the foundation for a great fall season!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Beverly Yankee Homecoming 5k Race Recap

AM: 4 mile shuffle
Lunch: 10 minute shuffle
PM: 1.5 mile w/u
Target: Win, 17:30ish?
Actual: 2nd place, 17:24
Results; Salem News article
1.5 mile c/d
Daily total: 11 miles

Last year at this race, I totally surprised myself by emerging from the depths of high-mileage summer training and finishing in a course record time of 17:06. This time around I knew there would be no similar outcome, with my woeful lack of fitness being the lesser of my worries. On Wednesday morning I'd been pleasantly surprised by how decent my legs felt after the 10-miler the night before. Maybe this whole two-races-in-48-hours thing wouldn't be so bad after all! But that optimism came crashing down on Thursday, when DOMS set in full force on my morning run. Actually, "run" is too strong a word for what I was doing out there. I felt horrible. So bad, in fact, that I went out again at lunch for another 10-minute shuffle with the desperate hope of shaking out a few more meager drops of lactic acid from my lifeless legs. It was entirely possible that I wouldn't be able to break 18 minutes, much less defend my title, at this rate. I was fervently hoping no one else would show up.

Race time came quickly, as Jordan and I spent the better part of the afternoon preparing for the event (which we sponsor this year) and setting up the Karhu Airstream trailer near the finish line. The race would double as a company BBQ, with many of our coworkers and their families participating and spectating before sitting down to a picnic table dinner. As silly as it sounds to say I wanted to win the race because it was the company cookout, well, I wanted to win the race because it was the company cookout. My hopes were still delicately intact until I spotted Larissa Park on my warmup jog. I don't know her--she lives in Somerville and doesn't run with the BAA--but I was well aware of her speedy reputation and saw her break 35 minutes for 10k at one of the New Balance Twilight meets a few months back. Technically speaking, I was screwed. As we trotted toward the start, I sidled over to Jordan and asked what I should do. His advice: "Let her take it out hard if she wants but stay close behind, run relaxed up the hill in mile two, then close the gap in mile three." So simple! It had to work!

Believe it or not, I followed his directions to the letter. I followed her out comfortably hard, trying not to panic when she opened an immediate gap or when I split the mile in 5:26 (my first "fast" mile in...months?). I was easily 20 meters back but felt totally in control, seemingly gaining a few steps on her during the rolling second mile. I knew I could make up more ground during the third mile, but would it be enough? "It doesn't matter whether you can actually beat her," said a Yoda-like voice in my head out of nowhere. "It only matters that you believe you can."  So I continued to believe my little heart out, willing my wearied legs to follow suit. It was a valiant effort, but it wasn't enough, and in the end she bested me by a full 10 seconds. I finished nearly 20 seconds slower than last year, firmly in second place, but given how depleted I felt this morning it was probably as good as I could've hoped for. And my lackluster performance aside, it was well worthwhile to see so many of our coworkers and their family members competing--a few finishing their first ever 5k!--and hanging out to enjoy a beautiful night by the ocean. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I'd call my second race in 48 hours a resounding success.