Thursday, March 26, 2009

30 Miles, 26 Hours

Sure, I made it through Sunday's run bucket-of-chickenless, but that wasn't the only downside to a good run. There's the whole my being an idiot that came into play.

Eager to write and talk about the run, I plopped on the couch (still pretty gross, too), tucking my leg beneath me and making my achilles squeal. It felt like something serious all of Sunday and the better part of Monday. I rode an easy hour on my bike on Tuesday and took the legs for a test run on Wednesday after work.

Fingers were crossed.

Creakedy start —achilles sketchy, calves reluctant and tight— those first two long miles, and it almost seemed like a bad idea until I pushed through Little Italy, passed a cyclist up the hill, eventually hit my "base" stride and cut all the apocryphal thoughts ('you were marathon-training and you injured yourself sitting?') these tweaks induce.

The short, slow test run turned into a pretty good hill exercise and 11-mile run a touch under 9:00/mile. Warm-up miles were tragically slow, but I tackled each incline and flew the downhills to pick up the pace. And the achilles scare? All just a bad rumor.

Not that it helped my super tight legs today! I took the buses (express into downtown, transfer to HealthLine) to work in the morning and tried to keep my legs stretched and warm all day. It didn't matter: I started running on a cold, rainy day, and my calves were stiff as stones.

Seven some miles later, I met E on the Marginal, where it was 15-20 degrees warmer and 100 percent sunnier than when I started. My calves? About 70 percent less stiff.

We took the scenic lakefront route home, and I dipped and peaked all over the place. At some points I suffered from post-work malaise; other times I was just pumped to be finishing my long run on a week day. The post-work thing, however, is pretty rough for me, so I finished that few miles feeling more ragged than usual. E, as usual, talked me through it. Whew!

We reached the end of my street (just past 19 miles), and I bid E on the rest of her Wednesday run. I ran the slowest cool-down in human history and smiled. Feeling tight, rough and a little slow, I still managed 19 around 8:50/mile. Now I need a massage...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Road to May 17

Next time I plan a run in the afternoon, I’ll have to consider the aromatic spots along the way. Talk about distracting! I took a 15-miler today – four warm-up, 10 miles at 8:29/mile and 1+ cool down – to wrap up a 48-mile training week, which almost ended with more than one bucket of fried chicken.

And I don’t generally meat! (Unless, of course, you give me $2 burger night, or even dollar dogs.)

By noonish it was 20 degrees warmer than my typical 8-9 a.m. start. I was also more than 20 times hungrier by that time. Tour de Lakeshore makes for a mostly think-free run, but wouldn’t you know that it’s blocked up with wafty food joints—a couple Italian restaurants, several grills and burger joints, Wendy’s, Burger King and more than a few KFCs. Torture. Pure torture.

The run marked another solid week of training for the Cleveland Marathon – 9 miles around 8:45/mile on Tuesday, 18 with E on Wednesday around 9+/mile, 6 trail miles with E and Salty, and 15 mile today – and the beginning of figuring out what I’d like to do in that race.

When I decided to run Cleveland, I had hoped to just break four hours. Seriously: 3:59:59.99 would have been OK for me. But then I started picking up pace in my runs and feeling more confident with distance. Then I had all these fast birdies chirping in my ear. All this made me start to wonder: what could I do?

After last week’s PR at St. Malachi, I started adjusting my training paces (i.e., my “base” pace inched from 9:18-10:14 to 8:47-9:43) and reminding myself during long runs not to relax into something more like recovery pace. I’d like to incorporate a few more tempo runs—I’ve been touch-and-go on any speed-work lately—over the next several weeks, work on my distance pace, get in more progression runs and take the Hermes 10-miler at a serious pace.

By early May, then, I should begin to understand what I can do on May 17. Do I join the 3:50 pace group or dare I so much as think about 3:45… 3:40, even? Obviously, it’s easy to say, sitting on the couch and feeling fine, that I’d like to push for 3:40. Only the coming weeks will tell, though.

So, let’s see what they’ll say.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Malachi 2009 PR

Good thing getting back in the swing of blogging isn't as arduous as kicking up running again. What's it been? A few months? Well, on the up- and downsides, it's just been a ball of work, fun and training for me. I've been running a bunch with E*Speed and Salty while picking up some speed and 40-50-mile weeks in prep for Cleveland on May 17.

And part of the training plan was last weekend's 5-miler at St. Malachi. Anyone who's been around the blog awhile knows St. Malachi stays close to my heart because it was my first race ever. Somehow that little detail keeps me coming back each year, even when they seem to add new hills to the darn thing!

It's a great event, however, and I enjoyed it even more this year. I rode in and had a great warm-up with E before hitting the starting line a couple minutes before the gun. While I typically like to start closer to the front of any race, I was still feeling a little sticky at the start and welcomed the opening waddles of middle pack. All the slowed, stumbled people-dodging I had to do for the first quarter-mile was totally worth it.

I went into St. Malachi with one goal: run a steady race around 8:00/mile and finish any cut under 40. Lucky for me, E reminded me to ignore mile 1 split (last year I hit it "too fast" for my taste and slowed way down, not appreciating that it was plenty downhill), which was 6:49, and stay even through the hills. So, I did.

Pace didn't fall off too much through mile two —14:17 or 7:28 split— and my stiff morning legs finally loosened up right around the mile-three hill. I snorted some water as we turned up mile three (I finally reached the water stop at St. Malachi not parched and just wanted a splash of water... but I kind of need some practice with splashing that doesn't go up my nose!) and took a moderate slowdown up the incline. Of course, I was too busy choking to see my split... but I think it was around 22 or 23.

My recent hill repeats definitely made the hill more bearable, even if it wasn't any more fun. At least this year I didn't get heckled by a homeless man on a bike. The downhill, however, did bring much joy. While I rode that thing pretty smooth and steady, I could have picked up a few seconds with a touch of effort... but that's for next year.

Mile four gave me a boost— I crossed at 29:58, knew it wouldn't take me more than 10:00 to finish the last mile (even with the big even hill at the end) and just had to kill my goal!

Unfortunately the energy boost only lasted 2-3 minutes before race fatigue kicked in, and I started totally wussing the last mile. My mind flip-flopped between "yeah! let's shoot through this last bit" and "yeah... let's take a nap." Wimp.

It helped, though, to see my favorite fans —mom, Neil, Nino and Jessica— waiting at the last uphill turn to cheer me up the way. I don't remember that darned thing being so steep (I guess the hill repeats weren't as helpful on that part as I had hoped), but I wheezed my way up and crossed on a personal best 37:42 (7:32/mile)!

As always, I had a few moments of doubt after the finish (couldadonethis, shouldadonethat), but how could I complain about this personal best? It's almost 3:00 better than the Turkey Trot in November and 7:18 faster than my first Malachi. Here's to improvement!

Congrats to all the awesome runners to hit the race this weekend! Photos to come.