Sunday, February 27, 2011

Out. And back.

Last night, while I was watching all the pretty flakes accumulate, I started to dread my long run. I had planned 18 miles. Even thought about 18.6. Maybe 20.

Forgot to charge my iPod so brought out the phone for the run (thus the rare photos I took today).

Here's what the trail looked like heading out. A really pretty morning for a run.

Of course, sometimes the signs ahead are an omen. Though about 5 miles of my trail (10 out and back) were cleared, there was a lot of snow for the other half of the run.

As I was nearing the western part of my out and back, I took notice of the street signs. Around 35th street, I wondered if I'd hit 42nd. (Running geeks know why).

So it was a little bit of a shock that Forty Second Street was right at my half way mark. Weird.

Where I took my almost frozen solid GU. Yes, gross.

After another 10 miles and 20 miles in total in 2:49, I needed more fuel.

So scarfed down a homemade turkey burger with a fried egg, guacamole and this little forlorn looking mango-strawberry-yoghurt smoothie wishing it was a pint of Guinness.

That'll do.

52 miles on the week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eyeing my MCM club membership

Today I registered for my favourite 'hometown' marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. I'm predicting it'll sell out faster than the six days it took last year. In fact, by the time I registered after noon, about 17000 people already had. (Update: 28 hours)

Since R has been living and working out of D.C., the area has become a second home and who wouldn't love a 'big city' marathon where you get free accommodation. I have run this race in the past four years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).

The race's critics say it attracts a lot of first timers. They say that it's not conducive to fast times. They say it's not fast in general since the big races like New York and Berlin (and even Toronto) get the cream of the marathon crop. But I love the vast array of runners it attracts, nothing like running back to Georgetown on M Street when you can see the long line of runners behind you and in front of you. Nothing like the hilly first five miles, followed 18 miles later by the hard long slog from Crystal City past the Pentagon and finally up the hill with a view of the Iwo Jima Memorial. And it's always cool to get handed a medal by a Marine and get called 'Sir' countless times. Awesome medals too. So much more history to this race that makes it special for DCers and frequent runners like me.

Of course, now I find out that the MCM has created a little club for those of us who have run at least five MCMs. You get a certificate, a patch (yes, I also have four years of patches) AND guaranteed entry for future MCMs.

Take that Boston and NYC. I'm going for my fifth.





Sunday, February 20, 2011

Turning up the pace

I'm in a real meaty part of the training program. The miles aren't quite up there, in fact this was a quasi 'step back' week where I'd go lower on the mileage and effort.

This week, things changed a bit. I was making an effort to run a little harder and today, instead of doing a long slow distance, I went at a 8 minute mile pace (5 minute kilometres) for 13.1 miles.

Reason 1 is my pace bunny assignment in two weeks which at the time I volunteered felt like I'd have no problem but now, with some urgency, I got to get the pace work in in order to nail it down. Also wanted to get a feel for the pace and build some fitness so that race day is actually easy when you add the mysterious 'race day' magic. Today's run achieved that. Reason 2 is I've been getting the miles back into some reasonable marathon training mode and it was time to add the hurt.

The last seven weeks:
39 miles - First week of Jan
43 miles
35 miles
46 miles
49 miles
40 miles
43 miles - This week

This week's 43 were decent. I started most runs at a plus 8 mile pace and ramped each one that by the end I was going at a pretty good clip.

This week's mileage:
Tuesday: 8 miles - 7:43 mile average
Wednesday: 8 miles - 7:52 average
Thursday: 6 miles - 7:45 average
Friday: 6 miles - 7:48 average
Sunday: 13.1 miles - 8:01 average pace plus 2 miles warmdown

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Damn you Boston, give me those 59 seconds back!

That news ruined my scheduled recovery run. Was supposed to do 8 miles at a slower pace but for some reason, I stepped it up and soon I was running harder than usual, faster than usual.

If I want to run the BAA's little marathon in 2013 and beyond, I gotta get faster or stay fast and get older. The Boston Athletic Association tightened its qualifying for the marathon, and I can't really fault them when it comes down to it given last year's registration stampede.

The result? Rolling registration and an ultimate BQ (to place you at the front of the registration line) of 2:50 for my age group. Sure, I can get a 3:10, but there will be three groups of runners (2:50, 3:00 and 3:05) who would line up before me. Suddenly just qualifying by the skin of my teeth is like getting general admission for a Ticketmaster concert when all the 'superfans' snapped up all the good seats.

The moment I qualified for Boston, with a full 3 minutes to spare, I celebrated with some certainty that I would run Boston. In fact I remember telling my buddy after the finish line, "I'm going to run the Boston Marathon." I couldn't imagine crossing the finish line at a future marathon and without that 5 minute buffer I'd say, "yay, I can line up behind all the faster runners and maybe I'll have a chance to run Boston."

Ugh. Probably why Adidas is shilling this 'qualifier' gear.

Will we complain about the new faster standards? Yes, especially on those painful training days. Will some think that a BQ is even more out of reach? Yes, I believe that I've got some work to do if I want to run it again. I'm a lucky one, I've already booked my second trip to Hopkinton. I know there are other races to do, other reasons why I do marathons, other things to check off my running list.

But one thing I don't understand about the BAA's new rules, one of the things I just loved about their old vaunted qualification system. It was a quirk, one that many of us had put in as a buffer. It was two seconds a mile. Sure, you could aim at a 3:10, but that 59 was that gimmie. The version of our sport's mulligan.

But they took it away with this little phrase: "Unlike previous years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard."

Fine, BAA, round it to the neat :00s, we'll revolt on the streets. Just as well, I'm already running faster.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Runner's World taught me about running

Recently, I did a big magazine purge. Something about the journalist in me makes me a pack rat when it comes to the printed copy. Maybe that's why I have a copy of the front page for most major news events of the past 15 years or so. I've filled a huge storage container with newspapers.

But recently, I dumped almost five years worth of Runner's Worlds into the recycling bin. The only saving grace is that I think all those thousands of pages have taught me these things about running:

  • Every month of the year, you will have a reason to lose weight/trim up/tighten abs/work core/strech/don't stretch. You may clip out these pages and if you're lucky try them once in awhile.

  • Read about 15 food varietals you've never heard of, and a couple recipes you think in theory you'd eat, but ultimately won't. Except for the general I gotta eat better bit.

  • Get tips on running long/fartleks/tempos/speedwork/recovery/race pace and rest that will make for the ultimate first marathon/20th road race/5k/10k/half

  • Understand that no matter how annoying they are, politicians/actors/broadcasters/chefs/retired football players/celebrity are also runners

  • That no bio of any of the above is complete without a PB race time that in theory gives you one chance to be faster (ie. better) than said famous person

  • Someone out there has this amazing running trail that makes your kinda beautiful route look dull

  • They make lots of brands of shoes, for all shapes and pronation, but in the end you're just going to look for your shoe (or the closest to it) and read about that one

  • U.S. running is on the verge of something great. Again. Cue Prefontaine/Portland/Mammoth Lakes/Hansons/Salazar/Hall/Dathan reference.

  • There are really awesome races. You wish Runner's World would stop telling everyone about them. And Boston and New York are a big deal too. We'll remind you every March and October of that till you want to run both of them.

  • That every issue is pretty much like the last, but like that same old route, it's always good to know you've got company

  • And once in awhile, a Steve Friedman or John Brant or Benjamin Cheever or Kenny Moore will write a piece that will leave you in awe, maybe in tears and make you believe that running is truly the most beautiful sport. Google Steve Friedman he's the best of the bunch, the Gary Smith of running writing.

    Somehow, over the years, most of it sunk in. So I threw most of them away, but I think I got the gist of it. One foot in front of the other, right?
  • Wednesday, February 09, 2011

    Back to where this all started

    As I was struggling through my final miles at the Chicago Marathon on that cold winter-like day, I don't think I had my next 26.2-mile race on top of mind. Hours later, over pizza, the three of us friends who just did our first marathon mused about whether we'd do another.

    This marathon was always on my to-do-again-but-do-it-right list. Revenge is sweet when you're well prepared, and to this day, I'm ready to set a new course PB.

    So tonight, exactly five years and one month after I signed up for that first marathon, I signed up for Chicago 2011.

    This time, at least one of those friends is also doing it. It's his 2nd marathon. Chicago will be my 16th. This will be interesting.

    Tuesday, February 08, 2011

    What we do for a good run

    There was a time when I could get up at 4:30 a.m. and be out the door at an ungodly hour, putting in 10 miles or a big tempo run before heading out to work.

    Hello, my name is Kenny, and I'm addicted to running. My schedule said run 5 miles today, so because I had a dinner with a friend after work, there was no other choice but to wake up at 5 a.m. so I could -- irrationally, it seems -- head out with 'only' three layers on top, two mitts a neck gaiter and a lot of hope that I could generate enough body heat in the -13C (windchill was something like -20C but who cares, it was cold enough).

    As usual, 10 minutes in, hoping the wind wouldn't pick up, I was feeling kinda okay. People were shivering as they were making their way to their early morning jobs. You could only pay someone to be out there in that weather. And me. And others, it seemed.

    By the time I was rounding a corner, I was spotting other winter runners. We were all bundled up. Some ran in pairs, others like me solo. The misery of it all, a little better once we know it's shared.

    The worst part? I got 10 miles tomorrow, and it ain't getting any warmer.

    All is well about running in crazy conditions, but it'll be nicer when I line up for my spring marathon. There will be thousands of others who got through a winter like we're going through right now. We suffer so the pain we feel of race pain is the good kind, the pain of being prepared, the pain that was earned so many months ago.

    A pain that you feel when your alarm goes off and the best course of action would be to hit the snooze button and stay in your warm bed.

    Thursday, February 03, 2011

    The running peak

    Runners go through highs and lows, sorta like those hilly courses we encounter. Sometimes we tackle the incline with purpose, upping the pace like we were racing, whereas at others, we slow to a crawl, every step up a painful muscle memory that is only erased when we hit the downhill portion. Downhills in the running sense are usually perfect if you take them the way you're supposed to: coasting, letting gravity do its work, leaning into the grade.

    Peaks and valleys is the natural cycle to a run, but also to a runner's seasons and ultimately the runner's livelong obsession with training. Yes, a lifelong runner is training not just for a race, but for longevity.

    I've peaked many times in my seven plus years of distance running. Chasing PRs was definitely the easiest pinnacles to scale, breaking a time barier like a sub-20 minute 5K. Tackling distance took another discipline entirely. It was instead of learning to push yourself to a maximum speed, you pushed yourself to a maximum pace you could sustain while imagine yourself running forever (or at least until you gratefully hit your pre-planned mileage).

    The first few times I went 'long', that is going at least 13 miles, I felt I had reached some sort of peak. Looking back, many years later, the distances I piled on top of those miles dwarfed the first 13.

    But the pause always comes, a step-back always beckons, a time for recovery is a runner's necessity.

    I mention this because even as I tackle long distance again at the start of this winter training season, I feel like the summit is far away. From the low point, hitting 15 mile Sundays on my way to 20+ miles six weeks down the road, where I am now seems very hard, and climbing up will be just as daunting.

    The great thing about peaking is not just the feeling of getting to that level, but then applying all that added fitness for your perfect run, be it a race or a perfect spring Sunday morning when you've clocked another 20 miler when the rest of your fellow citizens are getting outside for the first time after a long hibernation. You've hit the ground running.

    In fact, I can picture myself, in the early days in April, cooling off at this park after that long run.


    This post was prompted by my running buddy Marlene, who posted about hitting her peak so early in the season. I posted my reply here.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    They closed down the city for winter

    The best part about my run today was bypassing the two poor cross country skiers who hoped they had enough snow cover to do some power skiing. The second best was having another bare excuse to use my winter running-spiked shoes.

    They closed down schools for this? I mean, if we were to do a snow day, what about Chinese New Year tomorrow. That would have been a perfect day to take off and get some dim sum. (Or usual vegetarian Chinese New Year fare.)

    I ran my five miles and now I'm looking forward to tomorrow's 10 mile run after work. The paths should be clear.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    The calm

    In 24 hours, I suspect we'll have exhausted all talk of the snowstorm and just look outside and marvel at the accumulations. Me, I'm all about storm preparedness. I got my 8 miler in tonight, the windchill was biting through my layered gloves and my face was frozen, but it's tomorrow's run I'm looking forward to.

    Snow sometimes gets in the way of a good run. Part of me is hoping that the snow clearing folks don't make it out to the trails, and part of me thinks that they will. Regardless, I am anticipating an interesting adventure. Actually, the wind gusts and whiteout conditions will make it like many a run I've done years past.

    The running is going well as I ramp up the mileage. A total of 46 miles last week, including 15 in DC where I spent the weekend -- glorious run. In total, I logged 171 miles for January compared with 123 in December and 99 in November. The fitness is ramping up. In a little more than a month, I've got my first race of the season, a total of four weekends before I do my pace bunny assignment. Trying to get a feel for speed and decent pace while I trim down post holidays (yes, it's working).

    In the meantime, there's tomorrow. My Asics winter running shoes and spikes are ready to go, ready for groundhog day. Yes, winter will linger but the days are already getting longer.