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 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!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It isn't all about running

Why do we write? Why do we speak? There are hundreds of languages that humans speak. What's the point?  For sure, we want to be heard. We want to express ourselves, to be understood.  I like to talk about running.  But I like to talk about a lot of other things too.  There are things that I want to hear. So I listen.
I am a surely a runner, and most people I know make that association right away.  I've found I have to hang out with other runners, because at least we get bored of asking each other about running. So, we will do and talk about other things once in a while.
For instance, my housemate is learning Spanish translation. He is very fascinated with language, and we have some great conversations about words and various languages, roots and origins. Good for the brain.I'll have to say that once in a while, I need to remove my mind from running. I need to be a bump on a log. Move little and just think.  Maybe pick up my guitar, read a comic book (don't pick on me, some of them are really well written!). Or go somewhere, get a snack, watch some people. Do something, experience something, as long as it isn't running.
A happy dog! What could be better?

A shadow of my former self. If you want to get philosophical, you are a different person every day. You aren't who you were yesterday.

There is a lot more to all of us, what we like, what we do, where we've been, who we are. People just need to remember that. I'm more than a runner. And so are you.
Who are you? Who am I? I am fairly sure that I know the answer to that in my mind and in my heart. Running is maybe just my favorite way of putting it out there, but there is so much more.
With that, I bid you all a good day. And now, I am going to take my parent's awesome dog, Fonzie, for a walk, because I love him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Oregon Trail

Commuting in a 10yr old Honda Civic w/138k miles and worn out struts to work 35-40hrs a week and running 100miles in that same week, is tiring. Yes, I put out another 100mile week (103 to be precise), but I have to admit, it will likely be the last one for the year. With the remaning races and roughly 8 weeks in the calendar yr, I'll have to start cashing in the chips soon. This is not to say, "I've found my limit", rather, "I'm in a good place and know I shouldn't push beyond it for now". Keeping things in check around 80-85mpw would be wise.

Last night, with my GSTC teammates, Ken Goglas, and Steve Mennitt I prodcued an effort in a workout that was unprecidented in any of my previous training.  I know we were battling a bit in this workout.  Or maybe it's only in my head, because I'm the one battling to stay close to them.  Our team is deep and figuring out who will be part of the A team, B team, and perhaps C team for the Club National 10k XC Championship in Bend, Oregon will be a series of tough decision. I'm working on making those decisions more difficult for our Captains and Club President.
Behold my lack of graphic desgin abilities! Or some 3rd grader's attempt at a history project. Note: Currently the members of GSTC are searching for the Oxen, as it appears they have wandered off during last night's interval workout.

2 miles at T pace-10:22-this felt smooth, no lie.
4x1k at 8k race pace-3:00, 3:02, 3:02, 3:01-too fast, oops.
4x200 at mile race pace-30-32ish-yea, oops again.
Still, I feel good today. Onward ho!

The trail to Oregon is long. The pace has been grueling, if our flights are delayed, we might have to ford the river...

Friday, November 1, 2013

No Fluke, Crushing the XC

We all "pop" a good one, now and then. Well, some of us do. It has always seemed to me that I seldom do. But, I've been running well this yr, and people are taking notice. Post race conversations with competitors have been a bit longer than usual. It's nice to get some recognition for your hard work.
Far Left to Right: Sean Donohue, Ted Doyle, Paul Matuszak, Matt Eder, Me, Ken Goglas, Mike Fonder. There are a couple other people in this photo, identify yourselves! This was just before the end of loop 1 at the 8k nj xc champs race. Note: Like me, Paul has a beard, he beats most others due to his beardpower.

Oct 20th-On a course that was claimed to be short(and I honestly don't care if it was I still ran fast as hell), I "popped" a 15:35 for "5k", finishing 4th.  This was remarkable to me. I felt strong through the whole race.

Oct 27th-Before anyone could recover from the shock of seeing me beat some well accomplished runners the previous week, I ran 26:00 for 8k. I'll admit, my case was overstated, but not by much. Ken Goglas beat me by 16 seconds (coincidentally the same gap he beat me by in the previous week's 5k race), and Mike Fonder just ran away from us in the last lap (25:20)  Let's not ignore, I ran 26:53 on the exact same course last yr. I am pleased with this result.

Putting things into perspective: the past three months I've been like a ticking clock with my training, I expected 25:30-40 for the 8k if I felt good. Honestly, I felt weird. Not bad, just not all that good either.  If 26:00 on a rough day is what happens, I can live with that...for now. Anyway, I finished 3rd, and I'm stoked about that. In both races I beat guys that I figured I wouldn't.  After the 5k, I stepped onto the starting line for the 8k telling myself, "I can win this race"! I don't frequently feel that way. Confidence can do a lot for you in racing! Am I satisfied? Not

As I've said before, there is more honor in the fight than there is in the win. Some may have been surprised, and some may doubt it, but results don't lie.  Cross Country is my thing, and I'm crushing it.