Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week in Review

100-101 miles
4 doubles 
2 successful workotus
15-mile long run
48 hours in NYC

When asked by a few people if I had a good time in New York this weekend, I replied with total honesty that it was perfect. Though jam-packed, it was 48 hours filled with just the right amount of everything: running, friends, wine, shopping and cake (gluten-free, per the birthday boy's new dietary restrictions). I loved spending time with my favorite Charlotte buddies as well as getting to know Jay's parents and other friends a bit better. Perhaps my favorite part of the weekend was Sunday's long run in the Park, which doubled as a reunion with some of my favorite girls (accompanied by the birthday boy, of course) and included special appearances by Betsy and even Teresa, who is newly transplanted to Brooklyn after a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in India. I barely noticed how tired my legs were from the day before as the miles passed with great conversation.

Looking forward, I'm just under two weeks out from the Hartford Marathon Half. This means I'll likely have two substantial workouts next week before dialing it back with a mini-taper before the race. I'm not quite sure what kind of shape I'm in, but the next fortnight should be very telling.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jay's Birthday Weekend Workout

4.5 mile w/u
Target: 2x4 miles; first set w/Caitlin and Jay @~6:05-6:10; second set w/Caitlin, Jay and Sarah @6:00 or faster
Actual: Set #1: 6:09, 6:02, 5:55, 5:58; Set #2: 5:56, 5:56, 5:49, 5:52
1 mile c/d
Total: 14+ miles

Due to my delinquency in updating the 'ol blog, it is with great pleasure that I direct you to Caitlin's detailed recap of this morning's workout. As she mentioned, we're in NYC for Jay's birthday weekend, and what better way to kick off the festivities than with a Saturday morning workout?! As an added bonus, Sarah was using this as her last long run/workout before next weekend's Twin Cities Marathon, so everything aligned perfectly for a group session on the WSH this morning.

If you're paying attention, however, one detail you might notice which varies from Caitlin's recap is the last mile split. She and Jay and Sarah cheerily pulled away from me while I counted down every minute of the last two miles and willed myself not to drop out. It's frustrating and a bit perplexing why I'm struggling so much with these longer threshold efforts right now, but I have no choice but to keep plugging away and forcing myself to embrace the discomfort...until one day, marathon gods willing, it will feel easy. For comparison's sake, I felt equally shitty running four "fast" miles during my uptempo long run with Sarah B. a few weeks ago and both of the 4-mile segments today were at a brisker pace than that, so perhaps this does represent some sort of improvement after all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

5 x 8 minutes

AM: 4k w/u + strides
Target: 5x8 mins. @3:35-3:36/k (5:45/mile) pace w/2 mins. jog
Actual: Roughly the above
2k c/d
Total: 11 miles
PM: 4.5 miles
Daily Total: 15.5 miles 

I'm a bit behind on blogging so I don't remember much about this workout, other than that it was early and cold and hard and I did it with Jordan. Thanks to him I hit right around the target pace, save for interval #3 when we intentionally slowed down to about 3:39/k. Regardless, this was 40 minutes worth of work between half-marathon and 10k pace, so I'll take it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week in Review

96 miles
4 doubles
1 giant check
5 AFDs

Though I wouldn't call this a "down" week, it did end up falling a bit short of my typical weekly mileage due to several factors, mainly work- and head cold-related. Nevertheless, it included many highlights, such as my Saturday morning giant check and a weekend spent in Providence with friends. Today was the CVS 5k, which also doubles as the US 5k Championships, which gave us an opportunity to cheer on Karhu athlete Joe Moore and make ourselves at home as per usual with Kim and Pat. This time around her parents were also visiting from New Zealand, so it was a full and quite jovial house. After watching Molly defend her title and Joe crack the top 10 on Sunday morning, we all headed out to the bike path for Kim and Amy's tempo workout. I jogged easy with Jon and Joe (who was completing his approximately seventh run of the day, including the race) and then tried to conceal my mixture of awe and despair as Jordan paced Kim and Amy to a 5-mile tempo at a clip faster than my one-mile PR. Talk about a totally different level...

Speaking of races, now is a good time to mention I've officially decided to "only" run the half at Hartford in a few weeks. While my fitness is coming around, I'm almost certainly not in shape to win the full marathon and definitely not primed to attain the coveted sub-2:37 A-standard, so frankly what's the point. Instead I'll continue to plug away, race my little heart out in the half-marathon division of the New England's Finest program, and set my sights firmly on the Cal International Marathon in December. It will be hard over the upcoming weeks and months watching my speedy friends race to fast new PRs while I keep training quietly on the sidelines, but I trust the process and am confident it will all be worthwhile come December 8th. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wicked Half-Marathon Race Recap

3 mile w/u
Target: win some $$, run a comfortably hard effort
Actual: 1:20:18; first place female; $300
1 mile c/d
Total: 17 miles

Last year I ran the Wicked Half and used it as an opportunity to snag some cash and get in a good marathon training effort close to home. This year I was hoping for more of the same, and I invited my new long run buddy (and fledgling blogger!) Sarah to come up and join me. A 7am start meant she was in my parking lot before sunrise so we could get in a nice lengthy warm-up. As we toed the line and scanned the crowd, it looked like we might have a pretty clear go of it. I saw a few girls who looked fit but none I recognized from last year or from other local races, which seemed to be a good sign for our cause.

From the gun we started a touch fast, as most are wont to do regardless of the race setting, but I think Sarah and I both were surprised to quickly discover that we weren't alone. In addition to a handful of nearby guys, another woman fell into step with us quite easily. A few minutes later she asked us if we were using the race as a workout, then added, "I'm just going to hang on as long as I can." I was happy to have the company, and equally happy that her statement implied she wouldn't pose too much of a challenge.

I couldn't have been more wrong. As the miles clicked by, not only was she "hanging on"; she was pushing the pace! Approaching the toughest, hilliest section of the course we were hovering around 6-flat, at which point Sarah had wisely backed off. I'd previously hoped the ~3-mile loop around the Marblehead Neck would serve as an opportunity to relax and back off the pace, but instead I found myself scrambling to stay relaxed and cover her alarmingly quick tempo. This is not what I envisioned, I found myself thinking, and for not the last time. My spirits plummeted further when we came off the Neck causeway headed back toward Salem and I turned to see that Sarah was right on our heels. I was happy to learn she was having a good day and not at all disappointed that she had caught us; but it's hard not to be discouraged when it becomes abundantly clear that are were two competitors who feel considerably better than you!

The lowest moment, if one were to really pinpoint it, came just before the 10-mile marker. We were coasting down a long hill and girding our proverbial loins for a long uphill grind to follow. Speaking of, ah, nether regions, mine had recently been thrown into a bit of a tumult. (Side note: I really need to figure this out. I don't know if the problem is getting worse as of late or just happening at increasingly inopportune times. Either way, not ideal.) At the same time, Sarah whooshed by us on the downhill with nary a backward glance. A few steps later I was making a mad dash into a wooded area on the side of the road to take care of some pressing business.

When I emerged shortly thereafter and rejoined the race course, I could see Sarah and the "other girl who is currently crushing me" (whose name we would later learn was Nicole) rapidly distancing themselves up the hill by Salem State. Sarah's strong move had already opened up a bit of a gap, and she was already nearly 100 meters ahead of me. I'm not proud of this, but my first thought was simply: Give up. Write this one off. Jog the two miles back home and call it a day. Fortunately the second--and ultimately louder--voice in my head clearly stated: TIME TO HAUL ASS.

The ensuing three miles were not remotely comfortable (and for good reason; my calculations indicate that at low 5:50-pace they were the fastest of the morning). To the casual observer, they were probably quite ugly. By the time I made it halfway up the hill I was heaving like a chain-smoker and struggling to turn over my fatigued legs. I passed Nicole a few minutes later, but Sarah was still well in front and holding strong. It wasn't until just before the 12-mile marker when it looked like I might actually have a chance to catch her--although even when I did, I was sure she would kick it into another gear and summarily drop me. I wouldn't have been able to muster a response. Somehow I managed to hold this tenuous lead all the way through the finish, with Sarah close behind and Nicole notching a huge PR shortly after her. Sarah had executed her workout plan perfectly and Nicole had definitely proven she's in shape for her upcoming NYC debut. I'll admit this was much harder than I planned to run today, but in hindsight I'm thankful and appreciative that the three of us were there to push each other and improve the quality of the workout. And hey, Sarah and I got to pose with a giant check! If there's more excitement to be had before noon on a Saturday I've yet to discover it. 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tempo Tuesday

AM: 5k w/u + strides
Target: 5k road @18:00, jog to track, 4-5x400m @75 w/2 mins. rest
Actual: 18:00, 75, 75, 75, 74
2k c/d
Total: 9 miles
PM: 5 miles easy
Total: 14 miles

Monday night, Jordan and I hatched a somewhat elaborate plan for this workout that involved driving to Beverly, parking at Dane Beach, running the road tempo in (what we thought would be) a quiet section of neighborhoods close to the high school and then finishing up with some shape-cutting on the high school track. Incidentally, this plan would also involve us driving straight to work afterward, which had the unintended result of me not showering or changing clothes for the entire day. Oops.

The only part of our plan we hadn't really considered was the weather. Sure, we knew it was cool when we went to bed the night before, but both of us were surprised to walk downstairs in our warmups and find ourselves smacked in the face by fall. Unfortunately we were both too lazy to go back upstairs but fortunately I had some gloves in my purse, so at least one of us was able to adapt to the 40-degree temperature.

Okay, I lied; there was a second part of our plan we hadn't completely nailed down: the 5k course. We had a loose idea of where we wanted to go based on runs and races we've done in the area, but none of those had hinged on having us finish at the track. Because of this, my trusty queenmaker decided to wing it and make up the route on the fly. This worked out about as well as could be hoped save for the fact that there were way too many sharp turns--at least a dozen--in the 18-minute run. I found myself moving fastest and most comfortably on the rare long, straight sections and struggling to catch up every time he darted this way or that at an intersection. Still, I executed the tempo down to the second and felt like I had plenty left in my legs for the 400s...

...until I actually started running them. Perhaps due to the much-needed deep tissue massage I'd gotten a mere 12 hours prior--not ideal timing, but sometimes you have to work with the options you've got--or maybe the cooler weather, or maybe the fact that I'm just not all that fit, my legs felt sluggish and tired each time I tried to pick up the pace around the 200-meter mark. In fact, I felt much better a few weeks ago when I was closing at the same pace after 12 repeats on a triple run day. Whatever the reason, I was happy to call it a day at four reps. Workouts like this can be difficult for me because they require switching pace and focus, but with the help of my trusty queenmaker I was able to squeak a few more coins into the fitness bank.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week in Review

100 miles
5 doubles
18-mile long run
2 donuts
2 PSLs

No time to elaborate but wanted to put the numbers out there. Another triple digit week in the books.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Uptempo Long Run

Target: 16-18 miles incl. some uptempo
Actual: 18 miles in 2:00 w/4+ @6:09 pace

After a litany of emails back and forth throughout the week among myself, Hilary Dionne and Sarah Bard (two speedy BAA ladies), Sarah agreed to come up to Salem for a Saturday morning long run. (Hilary had to start early and I was dying to sleep past 7am, but I'm sure our paths will cross another day.) Sarah had never been to the North Shore before, but I promised ocean views, ample bathroom opportunities and post-run refreshments at Life Alive--what more could you want?!

Despite my excitement for the run and for hosting Sarah, I was also a bit hesitant about how this would go. My run on Thursday morning after Wednesday night's speed workout was a death march. I haven't felt that terrible in months. Clearly I was exhausted, because that night I went to bed--I'm talking lights out, head on the pillow--at 7:45. Now don't get me wrong, I've seen my fair share of 8:30 bedtimes and I'm rarely up past 10 on a weeknight, but even for me this was a new low. It worked wonders, however; 11 hours later I was up and at 'em and feeling like a new person on my Friday morning run. Perhaps Saturday wouldn't be so bad after all.

Except, from the outset, I felt horrible. Even as we jogged into the early miles on the soft surface of the Marblehead rail trail, my legs felt heavy and sluggish. Sarah's plan called for 8-12 miles uptempo, anywhere from 6:20 to 6:05 pace, and here I was struggling to feel comfortable running a minute slower than that. But gradually I settled in, and as we approached the one hour mark our pace naturally progressed down into the 6:30s. After a quick stop for water and bathrooms at Devereaux Beach, it was time to crank down the pace and take on the rolling hills of the Marblehead Neck. My legs still felt terrible--worse, actually--on the challenging terrain, and I couldn't have been more relieved when Sarah suggested we back the pace off again after one loop around. The remaining miles hovered in the 6:35-6:45 range, undoubtedly the most comfortable of the day, and by the time we finished in front of my building (just as the clock clicked over the two-hour mark; couldn't have planned it better) I felt like I could've easily gone another handful of miles. Go figure.

Overall, I'm pleased with the end result of this run despite not feeling too chipper throughout. I have to believe that my general state of fatigue means my body is absorbing all the quality work I've thrown at it over the past few weeks and preparing for a major breakthrough! Whatever the case, it was fun to take a new friend on one of my favorite local running routes...and the Life Alive smoothies weren't too bad either.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Beverly High School Benchmark

AM: 10k easy
PM: 5k w/u + strides
Target: 6-8 x3 mins. @3:20-3:25/k pace (5:20-5:30/mile) w/2 mins. rest
Actual: 8x3 mins.@3:23-3:25 pace
1 mile c/d
Total: 8 miles
Daily total: 14+ miles

Is it weird that one of my favorite workout venues is a high school parking lot?

Perhaps, but the legs want what the legs want.

Earlier this spring, Jordan and I discovered that a perfect interval loop was awaiting us just steps away from our office in the Beverly High parking lot. We frequently use their adjacent track for workouts (home to last week's 400s and countless other sessions) but somehow one of us got the idea to utilize the surrounding parking lot for some short strength-based intervals. Besides the obvious benefits--low traffic, no street crossings--its topography also presents a unique set of challenges. From our arbitrary start line, the interval opens with a gradual 45-second uphill that gets the quads firing. Just when it almost becomes too much, you hang a 90-degree left turn and then enjoy a long, floating downhill which allows you to regroup all the way to the halfway point. Another sharp left turn precedes 30-40 seconds of flat terrain where you can really crank up the effort, then a few zigs and zags (the least convenient part) take you around the final turn and on a subtle uphill grind to the finish. It's an action-packed three minutes, one that always proves challenging, and today was no exception.

Fortunately, my queenmaker was present to take over his assigned pacing duties. Before the workout began he said we were shooting for eight intervals, but in my head I was set on six. That would be plenty for where I'm at right now, and I had no doubt my quads would be quivering by then. In the meantime, however, all I had to do was fall in step and trust him to set the pace. I'd told him in advance that a solid performance would earn him his new favorite meal (Pork Three Ways) at our new favorite local restaurant (Naumkeag Ordinary), and with a battle cry of "Do it for the pork!" he led me out for the first interval. 

Overall, I felt good but never great. As Jordan commented later, I seemed to do a fine job of hanging on at the prescribed pace range, but never really had the wheels to go faster. I was consistently able to hang right on his shoulder until the zig-zag turns about two minutes in. Maybe Jordan is particularly adept at turns, because no matter what I did I would find myself instantly gapped by several strides after this section, at which point I had to spend the final 30 seconds struggling to catch back up. This doesn't surprise me, given where I'm at in the training cycle right now, but I wouldn't have minded feeling a bit more pop in my legs. That said, when I told him I was done after the sixth interval he coaxed/demanded I continue for two more, and I was able to rally and finish strong despite my accumulated fatigue.

What I really like about this workout is that it's a concise, easily replicated benchmark that can be done several times throughout the course of training. I also think its benefits translate well across different race distances no matter your ultimate goal. I look forward to coming back at the beginning of October, then at the beginning of November and even in early December before CIM to chart my progress.

Oh, and by the way, Naumkeag changed their menu for the season. No more Pork Three Ways. I now have the saddest queenmaker in all the land.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week in Review

105 miles
3 doubles
3 days in NYC
3 workouts
5 AFDs

Without question, this is the biggest week I've successfully completed since returning to "normal" training at the beginning of July. Not only did I hit my mileage goal, but I actually got in three quality efforts. Further, I had four single runs of 12 miles or more--the longest being Saturday's 17-mile workout, which actually ended up being farther than Sunday's 15-mile "long run" with Jay, Katie and a special guest appearance from Heidi--and those four runs occurred on four consecutive days (Thursday-Sunday). So, while I might have just thrown myself a pity party in the previous entry about my woeful lack of fitness, seeing these stats written down gives me confidence that huge gains are just around the corner.

Running aside, the weekend in NYC was awesome. Mom and I witnessed an epic women's final at the US Open on Sunday (complete with a Bill Clinton sighting! Eek!) and otherwise enjoyed the beautiful weather by taking leisurely walks on the Upper East Side, dining al fresco and taking in a spectacular Broadway production of Kinky Boots. If you are in New York anytime soon and haven't seen this show, make it a priority! (Just don't make the same mistake we did and end up seated next to the most obnoxious, demonstrative, excessively emotional person in the entire audience. Seriously, people, pipe down. It's a play, not a college football game.)

Our view in Arthur Ashe Stadium just before the women's final

And so, just like the final bite of icing from a Sprinkles cupcake (consumed while prone on the floor after Sarah demolished me Saturday morning), all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow is back to Boston, back to work and back to the quotidien. My only solace is knowing that Caitlin and I will be back in three weeks for Jay's epic 30th birthday celebration, which promises revelry and merriment and many more miles with friends. I can't wait!

But in the meantime...I'll just keep grinding.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

3x3 Miles on the WSH, or "Sarah is Fit and I am Not"

~4 mile w/u
Target: 3x3 miles; first set @6:05, second @5:50-55; third TBD
Actual: first set @5:53 pace; 5:45 mile + 2 mile jog; 11:50 two-mile + 1 mile jog
3 mile c/d
Total: ~17 miles

I'm in NYC this weekend for a few days of fun, relaxation and US Open spectating with my mom. Of course, having a chance to run with friends someplace other than my standard Salem loops is a huge plus. I enjoyed an easy mid-morning run with Jay and Josh yesterday and was looking forward to (while simultaneously dreading) a beast of a workout with Sarah this morning. Simply put, as this post's title suggests, she is in phenomenal shape right now and I am just beginning to attempt some legitimate marathon-specific training. Plus--and with Sarah being one of my favorite people and a close friend, I think she will respect my honesty here--she can be a bit difficult to workout with. It's not her fault; she's so speedy that it's hard to force herself to slow to the pedestrian-by-comparison pace I'm often striving to hit. So, despite what Terry had written as the suggested paces for the workout, I was expecting her to go much faster and doubting I'd be able to hang on beyond one or two sets. Jordan's take? "Yeah, that's probably a bit much for you right now," he said with an uncharacteristic amount of tact, "but if you feel good, go for it." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but he wasn't completely counting me out, either.

Stunning morning view of the Queensboro Bridge from our hotel on the East Side.

At 8am sharp, the air crisp and pleasantly mild, I met Sarah and Katie at Columbus Circle for an easy warmup down to Chelsea Piers. We'd chosen the bike path as opposed to Central Park for obvious reasons; it's much flatter and hopefully wouldn't be as crowded (although this part would prove to be wishful thinking a few miles later). After a few easy miles with Katie and a quick bathroom/water stop, we parted ways. Not a small part of me was wishing I could continue on a normal run with her, but at the same time I was excited to see what my legs could do for a longer, marathon-paced effort. "We'll definitely start at 6:05," Sarah assured me as we toed the imaginary starting line.

A few seconds later we were off to the races, or so it seemed. Between dodging cyclists and pedestrians and at one point nearly hurdling a veritable conga line of Asian tourists disembarking one of the cruise ships (thank goodness their suitcases weren't very tall), I found myself out of my comfort zone almost immediately. If this is 6:05 pace, I remember thinking histrionically, I'm never running another step for the rest of my life. So, it was with a mixture of relief and frustration that I received the news of our 5:53 average pace at the end of the first interval; relief because I wasn't trying that hard and still running slower than marathon pace, but frustration because I knew I was more tired than I should be, and much more fatigued than Sarah, and light years away from where I'd been when I crushed a similar 3x5k workout on tired legs before Philly last year. I know it's silly to make comparisons at this stage in the game--to Sarah, or even to my former self--but it's hard not to.

"Just being honest," I told Sarah when I caught my breath as we jogged between intervals, "at that pace I can only do one more set." At the moment, that was a course of action I was fine with. "Well, let's slow this one down," she replied. "I need to practice running marathon pace anyway, so let's just flip the paces and run this one slower since we ran the other one too fast?" Perfect, I thought, but there's no way that will actually happen. Sure enough, from the first few minutes of the second interval I felt like I was sprinting. If this is 6:05 pace, I thought as an eery feeling of deja vu swept over me, I'm never running another step for the rest of my life. Already a few steps behind Sarah, I split 5:45 for the first mile and was spent. I stopped to catch my breath while she trotted briskly into the distance, free to pick up the pace even more now that her dead weight had been jettisoned.

The rest of the "workout" merits no elaboration, at least from my perspective. I jogged along dejectedly until I ran into Sarah, who had simply crushed the remainder of the second set, and then nodded vigorously while not believing a single word as she swore she was going to pump the brakes on the final set. She proceeded to demolish the remaining miles while I flailed around for a bit before stopping to walk for a few minutes (the Ethiopians we'd passed during the first interval looked vaguely less impressed as they blew past me now) and then jogging until I met up with Sarah again.

And then, after all that, there was still the matter of getting home. First we trudged uphill from the WSH back to Columbus Circle, at which point I jokingly-but-seriously threatened to invade Sarah's apartment and force her to give me a few bones so I could catch a taxi back to my hotel. It was less than two miles away, but I was beyond ready to be done. (For the record, I remained bipedal.) If nothing else, this delightful little session showed me I'm still light years away from where I need to be...but I'm determined to put in the work to get there. Watching Sarah hammer this from beginning to end was definitely inspiring (and also slightly soul-crushing), as hackneyed as that sounds. Without a doubt, her effort was just as solid, if not more so, than anything I did before running 2:39 at Philly. I can't wait to see her big PR at Twin Cities next month!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Workout Wednesday Triple

7am: 4 miles easy
12:30pm: 5 miles easy
5:30pm: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 10-12x400m w/90 secs. rest in 82-78
Actual: 80, 80, 81, 80, 80, 80, 79, 78, 77, 77, 76, 75
1 mile c/d
Total: 7 miles
Daily total: 16 miles

The idea to triple first entered my admittedly demented brain when Katie, my new-ish coworker, asked on Tuesday afternoon if I would be up for a jog at lunch the following day. We've been working like crazy with presentations, order deadlines and a million other things, so getting out for a few easy miles sounded like a great idea. With a shape-cutting workout already planned for later in the evening, I knew I'd be doubling, but despite the intensity of 400-meter repeats the reality is it just doesn't add up to that many miles unless you egregiously pad the warmup and cooldown. So, why not knock out an easy run in the morning as well? That way I could enter the workout with near double-digits on my legs for the day but without feeling overly fatigued or having to cooldown for an hour on tired legs. Brilliant!

My decision was validated in no small part by the fact that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. After several days of hot, humid and muggy air, the morning dawned cool and crispy and sunny and breezy--like fall! I coasted easily through my first two runs with the 400s in the back of my head. Jordan was out of town for work, which meant I would be hitting the track for the first time in months and no queenmaker to boot. I wasn't exactly looking forward to it.

In the end, however, it went fine. Pretty great, actually. I felt strong, relaxed and comfortable throughout and recovered quickly between each interval. My form felt strong and powerful as opposed to weak and strained, and my body settled naturally into a familiar 80-second tempo despite having not approached that speed in quite some time. I don't plan to triple often, but I think it made perfect sense today and I'm happy with the result.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Run the Goose 7k

AM: 2.5 mile w/u
Target: 7k race @sub-26; win
Actual: 26:17; first place female
2.5 mile c/d
PM: 5 miles easy
Total: 14-14.5 miles

As Jordan, Jon and I awoke early on our holiday Monday to prepare for the race, the sky looked ominous at best. Sure enough, no sooner did we hit the road for Gloucester than the clouds opened up and unleashed an absolute deluge. Had I not been committed to the race for work reasons, I would've probably lobbied the two of them to turn around. Instead, we continued northward, and by the time we reached our destination (a middle school parking lot) the downpour had stopped. Instead, it was replaced by thick, heavy, humid air. I'd been bragging about our early fall weather to Jon nonstop for the past two weeks, but this morning felt more like what he'd left behind in Nashville than anything I would expect for early September in New England. Not for the last time, I felt relieved that I'd opted for the 7k instead of its sister race, the Cape Ann 25k. At least there was one silver lining to this storm cloud of a morning.

About 45 minutes before race time, Jordan and I warmed up along with Jon, our coworker Alex, and Jordan's nemesis/friend/training buddy Patrick Rich. Patrick is having a heck of a racing season and recently bested Jordan at the Beverly Homecoming 5k, after which they struck up a friendship and have begun running together every now and again. Having done this race several times, Patrick offered to lead us on a mini course preview. We traversed the first mile (which would also be the last mile), a gently rolling stretch that meandered down to a cove or nature preserve of sorts. The middle miles would take place inside the cove, which Patrick warned us would be quite hilly as well as possibly muddy and slick. In other words, slow. Upon exiting the preserve, we would return from whence we came on the same section of road. Simple enough, albeit challenging. Exactly how challenging would only be determined once we set foot into the back cove and assessed its condition.

Sooner than later, I had my chance to do just that. The gun went off at 9am and I quickly found myself chasing Patrick, Jordan and a handful of other guys down the now-familiar street. I split the first mile fairly comfortably in 5:40 and entered the cove a minute or two later. Although the ground was mostly paved, I was greeted about 20 meters later by a mucky, muddy puddle that sprawled across the entire path. Tiptoeing gingerly around, I proceeded another few minutes only to encounter a stream that could only be crossed by a group of rocks. With nothing to gain other than some serious soreness if I tripped and fell, I opted to walk across the rocks to the other side. I was growing frustrated with the conditions and lack of rhythm, but fortunately from that point onward the terrain grew much more manageable, all the while continuously rolling. I told myself to relax and view that section simply as a comfortable tempo; once I hit the road for the final mile I could try to open up the legs and get back on pace. The back section of the cove had a few steep, somewhat slippery descents, the last one followed by a sharp turn that plopped me right back into the huge puddle I'd tried to avoid on the way in. This time I charged straight through it, eager to return to the street. From that point on, with no one in front of me as far as I could see, my only objective was to finish strong and hold off any challengers. Any time goals had gone out the window and into the swamp several miles back. I rounded the final turn into the school parking lot and charged for home, tired and muddy but overall pleased with my effort. The 7k is a random distance, but I think I like it. If nothing else, I'll have to keep this race on the calendar for next year so I can chase a new PR.

Finishing strong or just finishing? Either way, thanks to Jon Gugala and Instagram for making me look hardcore.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

(Down) Week in Review

81-82 miles
3 doubles
15-mile long run
2 AFDs

Nothing to see here. Cut it back due to work constraints and the general need for a break in mileage, but ended up with a little bit more than expected without realizing it. Hey, if it felt like enough of a reprieve, then it was! My Friday-Sunday mileage is probably what bumped up the totals due to Jon G. being in town. Jordan and I accompanied him on a Friday morning tempo + evening double, then dragged him around the Neck with Emily for his prescribed 15-miler on Sunday. 

Now that it's finally/already September, it's time for me to get serious. I might actually, you know, start doing some workouts and perhaps try to get in shape. I'll kick things off with a 7k race on Labor Day (guaranteed to be a PR, since I'm pretty sure I've never heard of, much less participated in, a 7k) before hitting the track for some light intervals on Wednesday and then teaming up with Sarah for something frisky in Central Park on Saturday. Let's get after it!