Bast Track

Bast Track

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Long Road Back

So, it looks like it’s been a little over four months since I last updated my blog. At that time, I was ready to make some changes in my training in anticipation of taking a shot at running a sub-5 minute mile, but unfortunately that “project” never got off the ground. When I started, I was having what I thought was a relatively minor hip issue, but as is so often the case with me, especially now that I’m older, something minor can turn into something major quickly, and I spent somewhere in the vicinity of 15 weeks fighting whatever the problem was. Having come into that 15 weeks with my fitness not very high to begin with, needless to say I’m pretty much at ground zero at the moment at least in terms of running fast.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately since it may have just extended the amount of time I was hindered, I was able to run at least some throughout the injury. I just couldn’t string together more than a few days at a time without having to take one or sometimes several days off, and of course I wasn’t able to do anything other than just jog. As such, I logged lots of 20-30 mile weeks and maintained at least a little fitness, which allows me to ramp things up more quickly now than I would be able to if I’d been totally off during that time (don’t worry, I’m definitely not going to go nuts as I build back).

That said, two of my last three weeks have been at 50 miles, with the one in between at 37 mainly due to laziness and lack of motivation on my part. The good news is, my motivation is back, in part due to some things going on that I’d rather not get into at least at this point in time. Let’s just say I’ve got some stuff to think about that will help me dig a little deeper when I’m suffering in a workout or finding it hard to get out the door to log my miles.

My plan over the next few weeks is to continue to build my mileage until I get to 60-65 per week, where I will likely hold for quite a while. I’d love to be able to hit 70-80, but that’s just not gonna happen in the foreseeable future as the risk far outweighs the reward. Essentially I have to learn to do more with less. I’ve taken my long run from 9 to 10 to 11 over the last three weeks and plan on getting to 13 before leveling off and staying there for a while. I’ll also be adding in some light workouts and strides to get my body used to harder, faster efforts. I figure it’s going to take several months to build a proper base and really start to move the fitness needle, which unfortunately will put me somewhere in the dead of winter when I start to get race ready, but that’s ok. I’ll likely race some between now and then, but the real goal is to be ready to go next spring when the racing season kicks into high gear. That allows me to do things properly rather than trying to rush it. I also plan on doing as many of the little things as I can to stay healthy and get the most out of the work I’m putting in, stuff like drills, stretching, strength training, good nutrition, etc.

I never thought running fast as a Master would be easy because it’s not supposed to be, but I also didn’t think I would run into all the challenges I have, some running related and some just related to the busyness of life. To date, I’ve fallen flat on my face, and those who know me know I really hate to fail. Unfortunately it’s probably too late to achieve some of the goals I set for myself as a Master, but all I can do is refocus and see what I can salvage, and I look forward to the challenge of doing so. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this sport is it’s a personal journey to see what is the most you can get out of yourself. You get what you put in, and running really is competition and sport in its purest form. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never understood those who take shortcuts like PED’s, whether it be things like EPO, or in the Masters world, the anti-aging prescriptions such as testosterone and HGH that are all too easily obtained. Not only are you cheating your competition, but you’re cheating yourself out of finding out who you really are and what you can really do. I’d much rather do things the right way and find out for sure what I’m made of, so here’s to that process and journey. Let’s go!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Project Sub-5

Fair warning in advance, this is a rather long entry. It's been almost 8 months since I last posted, and I guess I could say that both a lot and not a lot have happened during that time. I had just completed a decent run at the Mikro Half Marathon but had gone into that race tired and a little beat-up. Running harder and faster than planned that day was the nudge I needed (or didn’t need as the case may have been) to push me over the edge. I attempted to continue training hard with a goal of running several fall races, but my hip, as well as my energy level, had different ideas. I finally gave in and took some downtime, but by the time I started to feel better, I had lost a lot of the fitness I’d built and any shot I had at running well in the fall was gone with it.

Over the winter, I struggled a bit with motivation since the spring racing season seemed a long way off and I’m not a huge fan of cold weather on top of that. Factor in general life business, and I would get my act together for a week or two and train fairly well, only to follow that up with a week or two of low mileage, no quality, and several days off. Essentially my training log began to look like a roller coaster. One thing I noticed during this period is each time I built my mileage up and did a few quality runs I would start to get really tired and dead-legged. Serious training is always a grind and you have to fight through fatigue if you ever want to be successful, but you also have to at least somewhat enjoy it, and that’s where I was falling short. I simply wasn’t having fun, and while that’s ok at times, when it’s the case day after day it’s hard to make any progress and you start to ask yourself why you’re doing something. I found myself in an odd situation where I had the desire to run and really wanted to get back in shape, but at the same time I couldn’t seem to force myself to do the work necessary to accomplish those things. I doubled down on my nutrition, sleep habits, etc. to try to make sure all those things were as good as possible, but nothing seemed to make a difference.

That brings me up to the past few weeks where I made a real push to get myself going so I could be ready for the spring/summer racing season. I was able to log a couple weeks of good training and was actually feeling pretty solid while doing so. I began to think I was finally on the right track, only to quickly realize I wasn’t. I started to experience signs of another impending crash, which led to me asking myself a lot of questions. Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is essentially the definition of insanity, yet that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the better part of the last three years, maybe longer. That being the case, it finally become clear to me that it’s time for a change, and yes, I know, it shouldn’t have taken me nearly this long to reach that conclusion but those who know me well understand just how stubborn I can be.

When I made the biggest improvements in my running is when I went from running 40-60 miles per week to running 80, 90, and even 100+. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it got me some PR’s that I never would have thought possible when I was in college, but it turned me into a “more is always better” kind of runner. That eventually led to injury problems as well as burnout that probably kept me from running faster than I did, but the philosophy became so ingrained in me that to this day it never has gone away. Even though I’m years removed from my last PR, my answer to getting into shape is still to log a lot of miles until I hammer my body into submission.

That’s led to a twofold problem. First, I’m a Masters runner now and my body simply can’t handle anywhere near the workload it once could. Even when I’ve been able to stay injury free, I go into the early stages of overtraining fairly quickly and the fatigue limits what I’m able to do. Second, always focusing on mileage for so long has deadened my legs to the point where I just can’t seem to run fast any more. I’ve neglected the muscles and systems involved with fast paced running for so long that those things are all but gone (the use it or lose it principle). As a result, anything from low-6 pace down feels fast, and when something feels fast, you can only sustain it for so long.

Ok, that’s a lot of writing to get to this. I’ve decided to take some time to focus on running fast again and I’m making my goal a sub-5 minute mile. Now first off, when you’ve done 5X1 mile all under 5 min in a workout and run a 5k at 4:56 pace, just setting that goal is kind of humbling and to a certain extent even sounds silly to me. However, right now, I’m a LONG way away from being able to do it, maybe even farther than I think. It’s going to take a lot of the right kind of work for me to get there. It means you won’t see me running any 60-70 mile weeks because I’m going to have to have my legs ready to run fast on my quality days. It also means doing lots of things like drills, hill sprints, and strength training so I can re-engage my central nervous system and the other muscles and systems involved with running fast.

Wrapping this post up, first and foremost, my goal with this “project” is to try to make running fun again. I’ve basically come to dread slogging out the miles day after day on tired, heavy legs, and this will be a nice change of pace, pun intended. Second, always being a competitor, I hope that I can build some basic speed and parlay that into being able to run a decent 5k. If so, who knows, maybe I will have hit on a type of training I can do long term that will help me get back to where I would like to be when it comes to running. Regardless, it will be a type of training I’ve never really done and should be interesting. Wish me luck!

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!