Bast Track

Bast Track

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mikro Marathon Race Recap

The last time I toed the line in a race was Memorial Day 2014, almost 29 months ago. So, to begin easing my way back into the race scene, I decided to use this past weekend’s Mikro Marathon, which is actually a half marathon held as part of Roanoke’s Greek Festival, as my long run for the week. I was a bit nervous about it for a couple reasons. First, I didn’t have a good week leading up to the race, having to take Tue and Wed off due to feeling worn down and beat up thanks to overdoing it in the heat/humidity the week before. In addition to that, I haven’t put in all that many long runs in training over the past year, even at a relatively easy pace, so I knew holding a solid pace for 13.1 miles could prove difficult.

That said, I came into the race with a plan of running somewhere around 7:00 flat pace for the first half, then trying to crank down into the 6:50’s, 6:40’s, and 6:30’s in the second half if feeling good. That would be similar, albeit a little faster, than my long runs from the previous two weekends and at least seemed doable. I was thinking sub-1:30 would be good and around 1:28 would be great. I didn’t even think about running any faster than that because it didn’t really seem feasible (or smart).

After the aforementioned poor lead-up, including a pretty crappy feeling 5 miler the evening before, I was thinking it would be really good if I hit that 1:30 goal. I did a nice, easy shakeout mile before the race and stepped to the line for the first time in what seemed like forever. It was good to see a lot of familiar faces around me, and as the race director counted down the final 10 seconds until the gun would fire, I had no sooner thought “what have I gotten myself into?” until we were on our way.

My daily training partner and RunAbout Sports Roanoke teammate, Andrew Parkins, hit the front immediately, which was exactly as expected. A runner I didn’t recognize went with him and Matthew Wright settled into third with me and a couple other guys holding down the next few spots. By the time we hit the mile, Matthew had moved into second and I was sitting in fourth, slowly closing in on third. At this point, I had to make the first of several in-race decisions. I knew I was out well faster than planned, and the 6:19 first mile split confirmed that. It was time to commit to running that pace for a while and hope it wouldn’t cause me to completely blow up somewhere down the road or back off and revert to the original plan. I did a quick systems check and realized that I felt quite comfortable, so I decided to try to keep in touch with third place and possibly secure an overall finish and one of the cool, Greek goddess Athena trophies that came with it.

I hit the second mile in 6:22 according to my Garmin and was now running alongside the third place runner and maintaining a gap of probably 30 meters or so behind Matthew. By the time we hit the 3 mile mark, another split of 6:22 for me, I was well clear of fourth place and actually closing on Matthew. It was time for another decision: back off a bit, which would likely still secure me third place from what I could tell was going on behind me, or soldier on and see what would happen. I decided to maintain, figuring if I ran a few more miles at this pace I could really back off towards the end if needed.

Somewhere close to the 5 mile mark, which was at Valley View Mall, I caught Matthew. I told him I thought the course might be short based on what I was getting on my Garmin vs. the course mile markers and also told him not to worry about me because I was going to back off at some point. I actually started to go past him shortly thereafter but thought better of it. We ran together through the turnaround and all the way past mile 7, at which point we hit the big climb on the greenway that would put us back at the mall.

I knew this climb was going to hurt, and it was time for another decision. Miles 4-7 had been extremely even for me according to my Garmin, hitting splits of 6:21, 6:21, 6:21, and 6:24. I was so ridiculously outside my original plan that it wasn’t even funny. It was now time to commit to holding that pace for the last 6 miles and try to race Matthew all the way to the line, possibly blowing up hard at some point, or I had to back off a little and make sure I got to the line in a more comfortable fashion. Whereas I’d made the aggressive choice each time up to this point, this time I considered my original plan/goal and decided I needed to be smart and back off. I knew there was no guarantee I could hang with Matthew, but there was an almost certainty that if I tried I would pay the price with several days of soreness and poor training afterward, if not something even worse.

It was hard watching Matthew slowly pull away those last few miles, but in hindsight, I definitely made the right decision. He ran a very strong race, not only maintaining the pace we’d run in the first half but even hitting a couple faster splits the last 3 miles, and even though I backed off a bit, I definitely started feeling the effort the last couple miles, which were very hilly as was the entire race. After averaging 6:21 pace the first 7 miles, I wound up averaging 6:31 for the last 6, crossing the line with an official time of 1:22:19. Andrew got the win in 1:17:17, and Matthew took second in 1:21:24. Full results can be found on the Mountain Junkies web site. We all had the course a little over a quarter of a mile short, so add 90+ sec for what we would have run for the full distance.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out. I honestly would have thought 1:25 or 1:26 would have been the best I could do in an all-out effort for a half marathon, maybe not even that fast on a course as hilly as this one was on what was a cloudy, but very humid, morning. To run the equivalent of a sub-1:24 at what was a mostly controlled effort is encouraging. It tells me that even though my training has been very inconsistent over this entire year, which saw me have to take 8 straight weeks off from mid-Jan to early-Mar with plantar fasciitis, my strength isn’t all that bad. Now I just have to work on being more consistent and getting faster. I have a long way to go to get to where I would like to be, but this was a nice step in the right direction. I’m sure I’m going to have to endure a few poor performances along the way that I might even feel somewhat embarrassed about, but hopefully there will be no more 29 month stretches of no racing. Furthermore, I’m really going to try to not take the experience for granted and enjoy both the process and the journey, something I haven’t always done in the past. In the words of LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback!

Below are a few pics from the race:

The Start

Somewhere during the middle of the race
Team RunAbout Roanoke Pre-Race
Team RunAbout Roanoke Post-Race

Top-3 Post Race

Top-3 with Awards

Monday, September 19, 2016

Training Summary: Sep 12-18

Sep 12-18
Mon: 6 miles easy
Tue: Off
Wed: Off
Thu: 7 miles
Fri: 5 miles
Sat: 15 miles, including Mikro Marathon
Sun: 5 miles
Total: 38 miles

As the warden said in Cool Hand Luke, “some men you just can’t reach.” That pretty much fits my running perfectly because I never seem to learn my lesson when it comes to crossing the line. To borrow Charlie Murphy’s description of Rick James, I’m a “habitual line stepper.”

After running 71 miles last week and feeling pretty good while doing so, it all came crashing down this week, just like it has every other time I've run that sort of volume here lately. I struggled mightily on my run on Mon, and by Tue, I could tell that I’d dug myself into another hole. The only good thing is, I did recognize it quickly this time and immediately took a day off. I planned on running easy on Wed, but I could tell I was still run down and beat up, so I took that one off too.

Two days off seemed to do the trick for the most part, as I felt pretty good while running 7 on Thu. However, the next day I felt pretty rough again, which basically left me feeling very nervous about using the Mikro Marathon (which was actually a half marathon) as my long run the next morning. Thankfully, I didn’t feel too bad Sat and got in a very solid effort (recap to come in the next day or so). I finished the week off with a 5 mile shakeout on Sun, which felt surprisingly good.

Going forward, don’t look for any more 70+ mile weeks out of me for a while. I had actually hoped to build my way back to 80, and maybe at some point I will, but it’s gonna be a while. For the foreseeable future, I’m going to be in the 60 miles per week range and see how well I can progress at that level. Once I hit a plateau, maybe I’ll try an uptick in volume, at which point hopefully I’ll have enough 60 mile weeks in me that 70 won’t wreck me like it has here lately. I do think the heat/humidity this summer has had something to do with it, but I’m not willing to risk it and continue to try to run 70+ this fall. I need to train to race not train to fill up my log, so I’d rather err on the side of caution for the time being.

Until next time, Happy Fall, and Happy Running!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Training Summary: Sep 5-11

Sep 5-11
Mon: 6 miles easy
Tue: AM – 4.5 miles; PM – 7.5 miles, including turnover workout
Wed: AM – 4.5 miles; PM – 10 miles
Thu: 6 miles easy
Fri: AM – 4.5 miles; PM – 7.5 mile light progression run
Sat: 6 miles easy
Sun: 14 miles
Total: 71 miles

It’s been a few weeks since I posted a training update and running during that time has been a bit of a roller coaster just as it has for most of this year. I had a 10 day or so stretch where I really struggled before rallying and having a really good 10 day stretch the past week and a half. Hopefully I’m on the right track now and ready for a good fall of training and racing. This has been a really tough summer for me that’s left me drained on multiple occasions, so I’m definitely ready for some cooler weather.

I’m not gonna bother going into any great detail about this past week because there was nothing spectacular, which is probably a good thing. Consistency is king, and I’m better off hitting moderate workouts week after week than nailing a killer workout here and there then having to back off for several days to recover. Right now I’m trying to get in as many comfortably hard miles as I can plus adding a few strides here and there to work on the neuromuscular component. As those things start to come together, I’ll incorporate more formalized workouts to address VO2 max, aerobic threshold, etc.

I’ve put together a loose long-term plan for myself as well as some goals, and I’m excited to go to work and see what I can do. As crazy as it might sound, I’m actually training for next fall, as in fall of 2017. Based on just how out-of-shape I got over the past two years and all I’ve been through injury wise, I think that’s how long it will take for me to get to a point where I can run what I would call fast by my own standards. Phase I will be to get back into competition this fall and winter, really not worrying about time or place but instead using the events as hard workouts and focusing on building a rhythm. Then, next spring and summer, Phase II is where I hope to be a little more competitive with more structured workouts in my training and some solid efforts in races. Phase III then comes next fall, when if the first two phases have gone well, I’ll be able to take advantage of one of the best times of year weather wise for racing to see if I can hit some of the goal times I’ve set for myself, which I won’t disclose just yet.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I actually plan on “racing” for the first time in 28 months this coming weekend, although it will be a half marathon that I’m simply using as a hard long run rather than a true race effort. Aside from not overdoing it, my goal is to run sub-1:30, which is a little faster than my long runs have been over the past couple weekends when I’ve gone through 13.1 in the 1:34 range. It should be doable and be another step towards getting stronger and building the aerobic endurance I need to get fit. Have a good week, everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Training Summary: Aug 15-21

Aug 15-21
Mon: 5.5 miles easy
Tue: AM - 3.5 miles; PM – 6.5 miles, including turnover workout
Wed: 9.5 miles
Thu: 6 miles easy
Fri: AM – 4 miles; PM – 9 miles, incl 5/4/3/2/1 min fartlek
Sat: 5.5 miles easy
Sun: 5.5 miles easy
Total: 55 miles

In spite of a number of challenges, from more hot/humid weather to a busy week at work, this week went pretty much according to plan right up to the very last day. The problem is, things came crashing down that day, meaning I still haven’t been able to put together a complete week, and somehow or another I need to get that figured out.

Monday was an easy day coming of Sunday’s workout, and I followed that up with some turnover work on Tuesday that consisted of an up and back down ladder of short intervals (30/60/60/90/90/60/60/30 sec with 60 sec rec). I actually felt pretty good the next day and got in a nice medium long run of 9.5+ miles in 70 min (7:18 avg). I felt good again on Thursday, only to have dead legs on Friday for my next workout, which was a fartlek of 5/4/3/2/1 min on with 2 min rec. I battled through that one though, averaging 5:42 for the intervals and closing the last one at 4:49 pace, which I was pretty happy with. My legs were tired and heavy on Saturday, but I fully expected them to be and I took it nice and easy accordingly. Sunday I had hoped to get in 10-11 miles total with pushes of 15 and 10 min in the middle, nothing fast, just leaning on the pace. I woke up feeling bad, however, and when I started the run I knew it just wasn’t happening. It was bad enough that I felt run down and my stomach was bothering me, but that wasn’t the worst of it. My legs just felt completely dead, especially my quads. I struggled through 5.5 miles at an average of 8:04 and called it a day.

Overall this week was a step in the right direction and a model of what I would like my training to look like going forward. As I wrote earlier, I just needed to be able to finish the week strong and couldn’t. I’m not sure if I overdid it in the Friday workout or what, but Sunday was definitely a struggle and more evidence that I have a LONG way to go, a fact I’m slowly coming to grips with. Essentially I’m going to have to spend the rest of this year just getting basic fitness back. If I can do that, then hopefully I can have a solid spring, which will, in turn, set me up for an even better fall. In other words, at this point the real goal is fall of 2017. That’s the point at which I feel like I can be ready to achieve some of the goals I’ve set for myself. It’s a long way away and will require lots of focus and likely enduring some pretty disappointing and frustrating performances along the way, but it is what it is.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Training Summary: Aug 8-14

Aug 8-14
Mon: 7 miles, incl turnover workout (7X60 sec, 1X90 sec)
Tue: 5.5 miles easy
Wed: 8.5 miles, incl fartlek workout (:30/1/2/3/3/2/1/:30)
Thu: 5 miles easy
Fri: 5 miles easy
Sat: 3 miles easy
Sun: AM – 9 miles, incl aerobic interval workout (2 X 1.5 miles); PM – 3.5 miles easy
Total: 46.5 miles

This week had some positives, but it also had one major negative, the heat/humidity. I implemented my plan to start running more workouts, and the first one on Monday went well. Aside from feeling like I hadn’t done hardly any workouts in the last 8 months (hmmmm, wonder why that was?), I ran at the expected paces or faster and then felt pretty good the next day as well. From there, however, things went south quickly.

Wednesday saw the return of high temps and high humidity, and it was 91 degrees with a heat index even higher than that when we did the scheduled fartlek workout on the Salem Distance Run 5k course. Now, the SDR course is tough in the best of circumstances, but when the heat index is approaching triple digits, it’s just plain brutal. I felt bad from the start, including during the w-up, but since I was determined to run workouts this week, I went through with everything as planned, although I was smart enough to temper my expectations and not try to pursue a very fast pace. Unfortunately, that didn’t matter. By the second half of the workout, I was just cooked. That night I got multiple calf cramps and couldn’t even sleep well. A couple days later I jokingly said I thought I had a heat stroke, which I know wasn’t the case, but I did put myself in a major hole that took 3 days to dig out of. So much for a really solid week of training! I did recover well enough to do a workout on Sunday. I can’t say I felt good during that one, but I got some work done and wasn’t totally trashed after like I was on Wednesday.

Honestly I’m frustrated and unsure of what to do at the moment. I want to make a return to racing, but I don’t feel my fitness level is quite good enough yet to do so, and thanks to one of the worst summers for running I can remember, I don’t know how I can change that. It’s so hot I can’t run enough volume and/or enough quality to improve my fitness. Very many miles, and I’m feeling burned out; reduced miles with workouts, and I get something like this past week. There just doesn’t seem to be a good answer. I guess all I can do is try to strike the best balance of training I can and wait for it to get cooler. Morning workouts might be an option, but with my work schedule they’re pretty hard to pull off, especially on a consistent basis.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Try to stay cool, everyone, and remember, fall is on its way!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Training Summary: Aug 1-7

Aug 1-7
Mon: AM - 3.5 miles; PM - 5 miles easy
Tue: AM - 4.5 miles; PM - 6.5 miles, including 6 X 20/40 strides
Wed: AM - 4 miles; PM - 5 miles easy
Thu: 4.5 miles
Fri: Off
Sat: 5 miles, incl 6 X 20/40 sec strides
Sun: Off
Total: 38 miles

Whereas last week was a lackluster week of training, this was one just a flat out bust. Monday and Tuesday went as planned, but they were forced and then some. In other words, I went through the motions and logged runs exactly as scheduled, but I felt more like sleeping than running. I took Wednesday morning off, with the hope I could salvage a workout that evening, but when time to run came around I didn’t really feel like doing the easy 5 miles I did much less running farther and/or faster. At that point, I realized I’d dug myself into a hole yet again, and the rest of the week became about making sure this coming week went better. Accordingly I took a couple days off and just ran easy the other two days.

So now what? Well, you’d think I would have learned my lesson by now, but old habits die hard. I know what worked for me 10-15 years ago, so I want to repeat it. The problem is: 1) I was in my 20’s and early-30’s then and now I’m…..not, and 2) I’ve missed a LOT of time for various reasons, making it exceptionally difficult to advance back to higher mileage, and the recent heat/humidity hasn’t helped. While I’m not saying I’ll never be able to run 70-80 miles (or more) a week again, I just can’t do it right now. It wears me out and doesn’t accomplish much either.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve accomplished some things over the past several weeks. I’m not struggling as bad as I was back in April and May, and my average paces are a little faster while my average HR is a little lower, all good things. However, in the end, my goal is to get faster so I can race and I feel like I’m more filling up my log book with pretty numbers than making progress towards that end. In fact, I feel like I’m no faster now than I was a month ago. My guess is if I’d done a time trial then and another now, there would be little to no difference, and that’s just not acceptable.

That said, I’m changing up my training to focus less on quantity and a lot more on quality. Going forward you’ll see fewer doubles, shorter long runs, and a lot more in the way of intervals and workouts. I don’t know if it will work or not, but I feel like I have to shake things up and try something. If it works really well, I’ll stick with it for as long as I’m improving, then if I level off, I’ll start tweaking. Time to see if this old dog can learn some new tricks!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Training Summary: 7/25 - 7/31

July 25-31
Mon: AM - 4 miles; PM - 6 miles easy
Tue: 5 miles
Wed: 7 miles easy
Thu: 6 miles
Fri: 6.5 miles w/ drills after
Sat: 6 miles, incl 6 X 20/40 sec strides
Sun: 14.5 miles
Total: 55 miles

Well, thanks to one of the nastiest weeks of heat and humidity I can recall, this week was basically a bust. In the grand scheme of things, after building up pretty steadily and running some of the most consistent mileage I have in a long time over the past three weeks, it was probably a good time for a cutback week anyway, but I would have rather had that on my own terms than as a result of the weather. However, in the end, I did what I needed to do and that was the right move, as forcing things likely would have led to big problems.

I probably made my first mistake of the week on Monday when I tried to double the day after a long run where I’d really wilted the last 5k. I was likely in somewhat of a hole from that and dug myself in a little deeper with two hot, humid runs. Furthermore, I rode my motorcycle to work that day and got caught in a storm heading home that forced me to seek shelter and delayed me by almost an hour. Not good when you’ve had nothing to eat and a limited amount to drink, and once again a compromise to recovery, especially since it also cut into my nightly stretching/massage routine. It might sound silly, but the little things are extremely important, especially as you get older, and if you fail to do them you notice it.

I had intended to double again on Tuesday, but I was at least smart enough to sleep in that morning in the hopes I’d feel better that afternoon. Wrong! Tuesday afternoon saw the heat index hit triple digits and I struggled from the get-go, calling it a day after just 5 miles. From that point forward, I spent the rest of the week playing catch-up. Friday was the first day after 12 straight that the temp didn’t hit at least 90, and in spite of the fact it was still 89’ when we ran, the humidity was down a little as well and I actually felt good. That told me the weather was a big factor, although certainly not the only one, in how poor I’d felt all week.

I closed the week out with a normal weekend. I did an easy run with some strides on Saturday then the longest run I’ve done in quite a while on Sunday. While the last few miles of that run weren’t what I would call easy, I felt the most solid I have in quite a while for a long run, and it showed with the last 3 miles of the run being the fastest, including a final mile of 6:43.

This week I hope to get back on track and log around 70 miles along with a couple workouts. The workouts will likely be pretty light and on the slow side thanks to lack of fitness as well as the heat/humidity, but I need to start incorporating some faster efforts if I’m going to race anytime soon, which I actually hope to do as early as the latter part of this month. Anyway, July is in the books and it’s on to bigger, better, and as hard as it is to imagine, possibly hotter, things in August.