Monday, March 10, 2014

Half assed winter training and a trip to the UK





At the foot of the London Bridge


I have been long absent from writing about my running. The winter really crushed my spirits. So, catching up, I went to London after Christmas and the New Year to see my friend and protege, Johan. I met Johan while I worked in Jersey City at the now defunct Runner's High Newport. Johan wanted to be a runner, in short, I told him to learn long distance training theory. He has run very well, and quite a bit. It seems he probably has run now 6 or 7 marathons in under 3yrs. He holds a marathon best of 3:02, and I am fairly sure he will soon get under the magical 3:00:00 mark. It was good to spend some time with my friend in his adopted home. London is huuuuge, we spent a lot of time in the tubes, but it was cool to be in a different place for a short while. After this trip, the winter reeeally felt like winter.
So here are a handful of photos from the trip, and as you continue on, I'll fill you in a bit about my "training" through this winter.
The Regents Canal, where Johan and I put in some miles on several runs. Interesting, but not as nice as the D&R Canal Path

Johan and I along the Thames by Tower Bridge...at 4:45pm. It is just a bit sad how early it gets dark there. We stayed in good spirits, but alcohol surely was a factor.

Some art that I saw while in London. I like old dirty cars.

The display of flourescent tubes produced some interesting shadows on the adjacent wall. I found that more interesting than the "art exhibit".

Soviet Propaganda

In front of the British Imperial War Museum. This shell could be fired roughly 15-16miles as I recall.

Maybe the other beers were better, this one I thought was uninspiring. But the English Breakfast was very tasty, sadly I was too hungry to remember to photograph it before I attacked it like a starving wolf. Overall, this was a nice place to take in a meal.

Trafalgar Square, fancy huh?
The tubes, weird little walkway over this line. The tubes are a maze.

A street in Camden Town, near Johan's apt. The ground was wet the entire 6 days that I was there.

So,winter, yeah, we all had to deal with it.  I can't quite figure it all out, but being in your 30's is a lot different than teens or 20's.  Darkness, cold, ugh. This winter really got me down. Too many days came and went where I just couldn't motivate myself to get out the door for a run before or after work. Between my work schedule and constant half-injured state, rolling my left ankle on broken pavement by the Army Reserve base near Kilmer Rd, I skipped indoor racing this year. It feels a bit weird, and I want a time trial prior to the Miles for Music 20k on 3/23. My training calendar looks a bit like a piece of swiss cheese. Not proud of myself for this. But as I write this, I've run 6 days in a row and feeling a lot better about it.

Since the Club National XC Championship in December, I figured I could take a week off, and get rolling with training for the Boston Marathon. Despite what I would call fairly inconsistent training, I have done a long run every weekend.
Week 0-14 in Richmond Park (outside of London, UK).
Week 1- 16
Week 2- 16.5
Week 3- 17.6
Week 4- 21
Week 5- 19
Week 6- 19
Week 7- 22.2
Week 8 -21
Week 9- 20.06
Week 10-18.35
Thinking back, I know that I've put in more volume and it led to success. I still have some time, and being that my overall weekly volume has been about 75% of the ideal. I just don't want to be kicking myself later thinking, I should have added 15mins to some of these long runs. The good news is, I've maintained fitness and probably have my self more ready for a marathon than I might think.  I have had a tendency to finish these runs at or just udner marathon goal pace, and not tearing myself up too badly in the process. The intervals workouts I have done are faster than those that I did in 2010 or 2012, that has to be a good sign.
My goal is likely to need adjusting, which is incredibly frustrating, 2:29:59 might have to wait a while longer still. Perhaps, 2:30:59-2:31:59 is possible. All in all, I want to feel like I'm competing and battle it out with other high quality marathoners from Hopkinton to Boylston St. I want another duel to the finish with someone like the one I had in 2010.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The 2013 Club National XC Championship

1st lap of 5. Ken Goglas to my left, me wearing camo head band in honor of Andrew Capizzi. Dense racing over rough ground! Photo by Michael Scott
I write to inspire and amuse.  When you race with poor tactics, it is hard to talk about it. But I have to be honest, we have to look at the ugly truth. I started way too hard in this race. I told myself "Run 50-80m hard and then settle in". Given that the first turn was a straight line and about 350-400m out, around a tree into a 90. The starting line was not that wide for 400+ runners; I figured this made sense. Instead, I probably kept rolling for more like 150-200m into the steep incline and went into oxygen debt and ran like shit for all but the last mile. Arguably I ran well in the last 1000m, but was pained to see a clump of about 20 runners that were just a bit too far ahead for me to catch. It's a hard thing traveling to an important race and flat out blowing it.  I should know better, I'm 32yrs old, I've been racing for 18yrs.  But shit, I'm human too, right?

The upside is, a handful of my teammates had a pretty good race, and good for them! Two Men and One Woman inside the top 100 finishers (Chris Johnson, Ken Goglas and Cheyenne Ogletree). From where I battled within the race, I saw Matt Eder, Joe Zeoli, and Will Appman all run well. Joe kept a steady pace throughout, picking off the fast starters (like me). Matt battled with Will and I in the last 600m and ultimately laid down the hammer to outrun us both. And Matt, Will and I all passed 2-3 men each in the last 200m I believe. Also, all 18 men and 12 women, and 2 coahes, and Bill Zeoli(Joe's Dad), had a good time in the town of Bend, and just being around all of the other runners. I'd never been to Oregon, so it was a dream to go for a Championship race. Honestly, I never dreamed I would have a chance to race in Oregon on a team in a race like this. We really had a lot of fun!
About 50m from the finish, and yes, I beat #1752, his beard was no match for mine. Photo compliments of Michael Scott.
This was the toughest XC course that I have ever run. It was designed with intentional contour and challenges that resembled a cyclocross or motocross course.  It was a lot of fun being in a race where you can hear the ground rumbling under 800+ spiked shoes.  3600ft over sea level and a tilted, twisted, hilly, muddy course were tough. I got my assed kicked. 280th of 410, my time was 36:20. Next yr friends...next yr.


And now one more photo, because this is what teammates do:
About 2seconds before this, Paul went down, but Josh and Matt helped him up quickly. Ted is on the far right. In a crazy race like this, it's good to have some teammates nearby. That's XC! Compliments of Michael Scott

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going to Portland: Coffee, Beer, and Trail Running

Photo by Richard Jensen
Photo by Richard Jensen
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. We've all heard, "Portland has great coffee shops, breweries, and restaurants".  I'm looking forward to checking out a few of those. I like me some coffee, I'll even say I like a variety of coffees.  But in looking at the greenery they've got just on the edges of this city, I'm more excited for that.  Looks like some very good running to me. I'll take some photos of my own, and will be sure to post em' up here when I get back.  Looks like that end of season "break" is going to have to wait a couple more days.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Ashenfelter 8k: race report

Ashenfelter is an awesome race!  I have run this race in 2009, 11', 12', and again this year, 2013.  My own performances have been mixed each time I have run it (25:51, 26:15, 26:49, and 25:52). But I am always eager to go back.

Reasons I like racing the A8K:
1-A fast competitive field comes out to run-Random Africans you've never heard of, Collegiates home for T-day or recent College grads, and the GSTC army of running clone-bots, they can all be found here!
2-Cash Prize (small but effective, that's what she said!) to the top 3 overall
3-Top 3 finishers in each AG get a nice commemerative jacket
4-Top 100 finishers get a beautiful painted coffee mug
5-Shake hands with one of the oldest living American Olympian's, Horace Ashenfelter! He won gold in the 3,000 steeplechase in the Helsinki Summer Olympic Games in 1952!
6- You will see all your favorite NJ club running friends on Thanksgiving day when everyone is in a good mood!
7-There are lots of snacks that you would want after running an 8k road race!

The conditions today were tough, 15-20mph winds here and there, one seemed to find me just as I ran up a hill after the 3rd mile mark.  The temperature was about 28F at race time. I was in half tights and short over them, insulated arm sleeves, a racer beanie, and some duct tape over the end of my shoes so my toes didn't get too numb (it helped a bit I swear!).  I didn't feel terrific, I'll blame poorly timed eating from last night.
The start: Note guy on left w/neon vest and orange glasses, he knows what my palm feels like in the center of his back. He had no business standing there if he couldn't react any faster than he did. He finished about 7-8mins behind the leaders, that is a selfish racer, not cool!

How it all went down: The first 1/2mile was a weird scramble with a few pretenders in the way and trying to be in mix.  This is typical.  However, then as the true competitors for the top spots formed up, they all suddenly slowed down. It felt like we went from a 5:00pace to 5:40pace. after 3seconds of this, I made a surge ahead to maintain the pace.  So there I was in the lead for about 100m...and the pack of about 8 runners went by me and we all cruised through 1mile in 5:05-5:06.  They surged away and split 5:00 for the next mile, and a few were probably quicker than that.  I on the other hand wasn't feeling great rather suddenly, and obviously slowed down to a 5:16. So from about 1.2 until aout 3.5miles I was rather alone and just chasing a gap, fighting to figure out if I had it in me to close it back up or to even just maintain and not fall further back.
 Just after passing the 4mile mark, some audibly loud breathing behind me, got louder. I knew someone was close, and I knew I couldn't do a whole lot about it. I could tell I was losing a step. This breathing was so distracting!  As we climbed the last incline in the course, we made our last turn back onto Ridgewood Ave, and then he was alongside me.  I looked over to my right, it was David Nash, a very good runner in his own right.
Nash and I ran either side by side or with me 1/2 a step ahead for most of the last 1000m.  Just when I thought I could surge enough to break him, he'd respond and get right back on me.  The one last surge with about 80m to go was enough to get some separation, and still his last effort was very nearly successful. Sometimes a competitor will drag you out of a rutt when a race looks like it will end in worthless disaster. I ran the last .972miles in 4:58, which is a 5:06pace. Compared to when I ran 1 second faster in 2009, this was a faster last "mile" by about 8seconds.  More importantly I beat Nash for 9th overall by .04seconds! This is the closest margin I have ever beaten someoen by I am pretty certain.  So here's to you, David Nash! I would have probably wouldn't have performed as well without you pushing me all the way into the line. After we each caught our breath, we came face to face and congratulated each other on a great effort. We were both glad for it. You have to trust me, moments like that on a race course are more rare than you'd think. We gave each other something that only two true athletes can give to each other, everything that they have left down to the wire.

Getting close the end, fighting to hold off the always competitive David Nash

1 second later he nearly got me, i held him off by .04 seconds, 10th is mine! Thank You for a great race David Nash!

Lead pack at 3.5miles, L to R Chris Croff, Chris Johnson, Mystery-African-Guy#1, Andrew Brodeur, Stephen Mennitt, and Mystery-African-Guy #2. Things spread out not too long after this I imagine. These guys are not slow.
 My reaction to a 25:52: Given several factors, I am frustrated but as usual, further motivated to keep working and fighting. Finishing 9th against this field is good, but good is the ugly, talks-too-loud, annoying cousin of great. I missed getting a pr by 2seconds...grrr.  However, if not for the guy chasing me the last mile, and this were a 10k instead of 8k I believe I would have held out to the end\ with another 5:10 mile there instead of one 5:06 mile that accelerated in the last 1/4mile considerably. So, this still bodes well for the Club National 10k XC race coming in mid-december. So, to coin a new phrase, I'm finding seeds in the bird shit.

Further implications in regards to Club National 10k XC: Had I run the kind of race I'd hoped for, I might have caught one of my teammates, and been an arguable 8th man for the "A" team. But it is fairly apparent that I will end up on "Ze B squad".  Maybe, "The B squad leader"? If you've seen The Life Aquatic w/Steve Zissou...you are now having a light chuckle. If you haven't, watch it (or at least the scene below), read this again, then chuckle lightly.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Keeping Promises

Runner's set goals for themselves. Part of achieving certain goals is looking at these as a promise to oneself.  If you can't keep a promise to yourself, what good are you?  Some of my goals are as arbitrary as; "going sub fill-in-the-blank", sometimes it's placing "top 5" in a certain race. The toughest one I've found is running a set number of miles in a calendar year.  If you set that bar high enough, you're going to find that there isn't room for excuses or bullshit. Why does a runner set the goal of running X miles? Because it means you are doing more work and more work means faster race perforamces.

For 2013, I went as far as making it a new year's resolution to run 3,001 miles.  Why the extra one?  For good luck!  Today, I eclipsed the my highest yearly mileage total from previous years. In 2008, I ran 2,863 miles. The 9.5miles w/Ken Goglas, puts me at 2,866 miles so far.  I'll make it to 3,001 and then some. I'm 94 days deep into a running streak, and liking it.

This yr wasn't as smooth a year of training as I'd hoped for, and currently I'll complain that I'm having some struggles with my right foot.  But all in all, the year up till now has been very good.  There have been a lot of mornings were I ran alone feeling exhausted and sluggish, but infinitely glad that I did it anyway.  There have been workouts that I went into feeling like I would run poorly, and yet they went surprisingly well.  More than anything you have to keep that promise to yourself every day, and being sure that you understand that there is no making up for days that you didn't run when you could have.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Raynaud's Disease: how a runner deals with it

I first heard of this condition about a year ago. Honestly, I've had thousands of conversations about people's various running-related health issues while at work in one of numerous running shops. Much of it is seeming to blur into my memory, but naturally, some things will stick in your mind. I do recall hearing someone use this name, one I'd never heard of before; and so I was naturally curious.
A woman mentioned it rather matter of factly, she called it a syndrome.  I suppose it sounds less scary to call something a syndrome rather than a disease. A syndrome sounds like you were unlucky and just got stuck with it.  While people will almost immediately wonder if a "disease" you have is contagious.  Raynaud's is NOT contagious! The Mayo clinic has a good informational page about it online here.
She simply said, "Your hands get cold very easily and can't warm up!" In a nutshell, that's it. How ironic, just as this lady is telling me about it, I simultaneously start to suffer from it! Maybe this explains why my Mother says she is cold all the time? Lame.
This is roughly what I'll experience. Yup, it's uncomfortable both to feel and see.

I know you're going to click that link and take notes...but I'll go on.  While it is not completey undersootd, it affects the extremities.  Simply, your fingers and toes get very cold, because they are losing circulation in response to exposure to cold temperatures.  Usually, it affects only one or two fingers or toes on each hand or foot. I have it. Another cause is stress.  Tough brave runners like you and me go out and run all winter long. If you're training hard, you're cold and stressed. While many of us run for stress relief, some of us train hard.  When you hammer it, surely an epsiode is going to happen.

It happens often enough, that I'm fitting someone for running shoes, and they'll complain "My hands get very cold!" or "I hate running in the winter my toes get cold easily".  For years, I thought, "These people are soft." "What a bunch of crybabies!" I mean, ya' know, just put on gloves or mittens and suck it up! Run faster and you'll heat up! Layer up, it's not like you're crossing Siberia, you'll live!  I'm thinking, this has to be one of those "rich-people diseases", you know the kind that you only find out you have if you're wealthy enough to go for multiple Dr's visits to get a diagnosis for something that isn't that big a deal.

However, in recent years, my body is clearly going through changes (I have a feeling I'm going to get some wisecracks for that one!).  This condition will begin to show up in people age 15 to 30, lucky me, I got it on the late end! So, maybe these folks have it too and they just don't know it?
My fingers and toes simply start to lose circulation when temperatures start dropping.  Even if I start a run when it's 55 degress, if the temp drops 3-4degrees and the wind is blowing, I am likely to loose some dexterity in my fingers by the midway point of the run.  If I start a run at the freezing point, forget it, it's game over for my hands.

 If I fail to layer effectively, I have about 10minute until my hands are going numb.  I've lost count of how many times I've ended a Sunday morning Long run with my pinky fingers numb on both hands.  Even after the car is warmed up and I have the heat blasting; my fingers and toes (again, some not all) will look like something that recently arrived at a morgue. Even if I'm indoors quickly, showered, and dressed warmly, the circulation still doesn't return for quite a while.

Did I see a Doctor and get a diagnosis? No.  Do I need to do this? For now, I think not.  If I were experiencing other odd symptoms, or if it were truely as severe as some image I've seen on the web, I might want to get checked out. The signs are obvious enough once you experience it enough times, especially if you're the only person who is wearing gloves and still complains that their hands are cold!

Potential long term risks: If the problem is severe enough, it could lead to complete closure of arteries to the area, creating a for necessity of amputation to the affected extremities. But these cases are rare.

How this affects your running and related life stuff:
Q: How fun is it to try tying a loose shoe lace with cadaverous fingers?
A: Not much.

Q: How easy is it trying to dig for a key out of a pocket when you can't operate those same lifeless fingers?
A: Not at all.

Q: Do you think it will be enjoyable when your hands feel like they are slowly going to freeze off of the rest of your arm?
A: I assure you, it will not be.

Q: Cooking after an episode of this?
A: Quite difficult.

Combating this problem:
  1. Wear multiple layers of warm clothing, start warm and shed a layer: Starting a run in the cold, when you feel cold already is a bad thing, it makes it very hard to get your body temperature regulated when you're loosing too much heat.
  2. Wool socks for your toes: There are some very well designed wool running socks on the market, I have some from several different brands.
  3. Wear a light, loose glove and a light loose windshield mitt over it: Avoid compression around your wrist. Also, be sure that you do not overtighten your watch strap over outer layers of clothing!
  4. Bring handwarmers: maybe just one and switch hands if your hand starts to get too warm. Sounds like a lot of work, but on a long run you won't mind the distraction.
  5. Duct tape over the mesh of your running shoes: If you don't own water/wind resistant running shoes, this is a cheap, messy, yet effective method to keeping your toes dry and warm through a greater portion of a winter run. It's not perfect, but it's helped me a lot in desperate times.
  6. If running away from home, stash warm dry clothes in your car, change out of wet things immediately! Straightforward, simple.
  7. Move about 600-1000miles South of New Jersey: If you don't mind a lack of diners and people toting hand guns, this could be the easiest solution.


Monday, November 11, 2013

The 2013 Giralda Farms 10k: Gettin' a Pr, gettin' paid, and beating rivals

Among the many Road Races in NJ, the Giralda Farms 10k and 5k is one that I had yet to take part in.  I've been racing on the roads regularly since 2005.  Given the USATF-NJ Long Distance Grand Prix series schedule of Championship races for the Open age group, Giralda has just never made the list for me.
The race offers open unrestricted prize money. Which, until this year, I have not felt certain of having a shot at.  This touches on a subject that affects a very small number of runners, how much money is enough to get you to a race you wouldn't otherwise bother with?
Moments before the start of the race. Photo compliments of Thinnmann.
If the money you win is the same amount of money as the entry fee you paid, you're not really winning anything. Trying to look at this as "glass half full" irritates me slightly.  I think that race organizers have been trending toward stinginess in this, or laziness in attempting to convince sponsors to help out with this end of things more.  I mean, it's a sport, we're competing.  It's not a poker tournament, "getting your money back" is just...lame.
That all said, knowing the scene a bit, given months of solid training and improved fitness, and lack of a fall marathon, it seemed like a good time to give this race a shot. It paid off! 3rd place, $100.  I had to beat some fast guys to do it too!  David Nash, Atilla Sabahoglu, Ben Clarke, Dominic Kiralyfi, Rich Burke, and none other than Abdelaziz Rochdi (wait, that's Youssef Rochdi! yea buddy, we know it's you, what's with the fake name and now you're suddenly 35 when last year you were 29? BUSTED!! What's your game? This guy has some splain'n to do!)

I'd heard that this course was hilly, yup, no lie, it is, take a look at the cousre profile here.

Note, I measured it long with this tool, I might have erred slightly.

As for the 10k and running it: I wouldn't rate this as a day I felt great, but I had my mind set on competing hard. The first mile is almost entirely downhill, so much so that, you almost don't truely benefit from it because you sort of need to put on "the brakes" or you'll just pound it out of yourself early. I was in 3rd after 30m and remained there the whole time, gradually fading away from Mennitt.  At 1 mile I was at 5:15, feeling controlled, the winds were rough and from there I couldn't exactly get rolling.  Through 4miles I was on pace for roughly 33:10, at 5miles I was still holding steady in 26:42.  I was saving something for the last 1000m which is uphill. I did not anticipate, nor could I avoid a sea of runners who were running a much slower pace on this loop course. Having done my very best to manuever it, and having to shout a warning ahead just once, I finished strong in 33:14 officially. A pr by 17seconds.

This is less than what I expected for this day, but the winds were gusting around 20mph. So I'm pleased with the effort for the day.
But again, 1-PR+$100+beating a few guys I have never beaten on the roads before= a good day.

So, the GSTC men swept 1-2-3 in the 10k, and in the 5k, 1-5! The Women's Master's 40's team finished 4th, which is great! A year ago, GSTC didn't have 4 women in their 40's! Also, the GSTC Wmn's 50's team was 7th (yes, 7th scores points in the Club Grand Prix Championship)!  There were many great achievements at this event for our club and I'm sure there were also many among the other running clubs in our great state!

There was an avid crowd of supporters and running fans, the Rose City Runners were the organizers of this event. I know a number of them, all good people!
Here are some scenes from the 10k action!


L to R Atilla Sabahoglu of CPTC, Mike Anis, Stephen Mennitt, Chris Croff.  Croff blasted to the lead immediately, Mennitt gave chase, and I tried to keep them in sight. In the end it was Croff, Mennitt, Me, and Sabahoglu was eventually 8th.

Somewhere in the 2nd mile of the race I believe, being chased by David Nash and Atilla Sabahoglu


Taking flight toward the finish line! Beards enable flight, it's true.










No idea why I can't get this rotated in the right position. But here it is, a nice new mug to remind me of a great running club in Madison, NJ. The other side of the mug has the name and date of the race on it. Now, It can live in the cabinet with my Ashenfelter 8k mugs!