Striding Through

Because a life well lived always finds the right pace

Monthly Archives: December 2009

Busy Race Calendar Ahead

The 2010 winter/spring season may not have started yet but I’ve already got a lot of races on the horizon. I almost certainly won’t do them all. But here’s the potential list leading up to the goal race, the Boston Marathon.

12/31 – Fairfax Four, Fairfax City, VA – OK, so this one’s technically not in 2010, by about 5 hours. But it’s close enough. It’s just a quick local New Year’s Eve race on neighborhood roads I run regularly in training. I’m already signed up, so I’m in. Enough said.

1/3, 1/17, 1/31 – Potomac Valley Indoor Track Series, Arlington – I’ve been doing these for years. They’re a great low-maintenance, low-stress way to get some really fast running in. Basically you show up and run whatever events you want. I always do at least one heat of the mile, either Open or Masters, sometimes both (only a few minutes apart!), then pick and choose depending on what else I feel I need to work on.  I’ve done anything from the 3000m down to the 200m in the past.

1/9 – Al Lewis 10-Miler, Kensington MD – I haven’t done this race before, but it is part of the DC Road Runners Club’s Snowball Series of winter races and it’s a distance I like to run. If I do it, I would probably use this one to experiment with tempo pacing and fast finishing.

1/16 – JFK 20k, Georgetown – another club Snowball race. I’ve done this one a few times in the past and think it’s a perfect “long tempo run” distance.  This race and Al Lewis would set me up well for the next race, if I do it…

2/7 – Melbourne Half Marathon, Melbourne FL – Why this race? Well, it’s the USATF Masters Half Marathon championship for 2010.  Obviously there are some logistics and expenses involved, so we’ll have to see. But I’d really like to do it.

2/14 – George Washington Birthday Marathon – This is the DCRRC’s official marathon race. I haven’t run it before but I did volunteer at it a couple of years ago. I won’t do this one unless I don’t run Melbourne. If I do run GWBM, it will essentially be as a long training run, not a race.

2/28 – RRCA Club Challenge 10 miler, Columbia MD – this race doubles as part of the Snowball Series and the big team showdown between all the running clubs based in DC and Maryland. I’ve done this race as part of the DCRRC team the past two years and see no reason why I won’t do it again. The course is tough, but the field is fast. I PRed on it in 2008 and that time stood until this past October. Plus the club picks up the tab for registering.

3/7 – Burke Lake 12k, Fairfax VA – another piece of low-hanging fruit. It’s a Snowball race and close to home, too. I train on Burke Lake regularly during the spring, summer and fall when I can still get there after work and before dark.

3/14 – Ft. Hunt 10k, Alexandria VA – I’ll only do this one if I feel like getting Snowball points is important.

3/20 – National Half Marathon, DC – I did the full marathon at National last year (3:35) as a pre-Boston training run and considered doing so again this year, and am now I’m leaning towards doing the half instead. But I’m not even sure about that. I’ve  got a little time to think about it.

4/11 – Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, DC – I’m already signed up for this one,  so I’m in. I’ll be in my final taper window by this point so Cherry Blossom will be the final polishing race before Boston.

4/19 – Boston Marathon – It all leads up to this race. If I’ve trained well I could have a monster PR in me. Either way I want to put the disappointment of last year’s injury-sabotaged performance of 3:41 behind me.

So there you have it, the potential race calendar for early 2010. If I’ve counted up right there are 3 10-milers, 2 half-marathons and a bunch of shorter races. My guess is when the dust has settled I will have done 2 10-milers and 1 half, which I will use as interim target races and benchmarks for progress towards Boston.

Perfect footballing weather

Time to take a little break from racing…with some soccer! I haven’t had as much time to play with my team as in the past due to all the races I’ve been running. But this past weekend we entered a small field tournament in Fairfax run by the good folks at Soccer Resort. On the line was a potential trip to Miami Beach for another tourney next month. To get there though all the teams would have to endure something really special: cold, snow and that ever-present ingredient of Washington DC-area winters, the so-called wintry mix. It made for quite an interesting day to say the least. At least one or two times I cursed myself for picking my turf boots over cleats for this day. I managed to break free and score one goal though, which was nice.

We didn’t win the trip to Miami but we had a great time anyway. Despite the conditions it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing the beautiful game. The team picture says it all.

Team picture

Between matches as the snow started to really fall.

A high school reunion, cross country style

Another day, another race report. This time it’s about a somewhat unusual race, but a fun one.

It all started a few weeks ago when a message appeared in my Facebook inbox, calling upon all who had once worn the colors of the Hightstown High School (NJ) cross country team to return to the area Thanksgiving weekend for the opportunity to take on the current group of Rams XC runners in a little “alumni  vs. team” race. As someone 26 years removed from my high school graduation I chuckled to myself, “this could be ugly.”  And then I promptly clicked “yes” on the invitation.

A couple of days before the event I went to the web page set up for it and saw a two other people from my era at Hightstown, who had confirmed they would attend. I wondered if us old-timers would be bringing up the rear, but decided I didn’t care; this was just for laughs.

Finally on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Lynn and I made the drive up to Central New Jersey from Philadelphia, where we’d been staying for the holiday weekend. I have to admit I have spent very little time in these old haunts recently, and I had to jog my memory of where some of the roads went. Moreover, I had never run at the site chosen for the race, Veterans Park in Hamilton. I wondered why the home course at our school wasn’t selected; only later did I find out that old course hadn’t been used in years. In any case, after some driving around the park looking for people who appeared to be runners I finally found the group. I even ran into one of the old teammates of mine who said they’d attend, but the other never posted.

I also noticed a group of very young runners warming up. I assumed they were the current crop of Hightstown Ram harriers, but it turned out they were from a different high school, nearby Steinert. Moreover, at some point they had agreed to turn this thing into a race between two schools’ contingents. So no longer was it a little internal race between the Rams of today and yesterday. It was now yesterday’s Rams vs. (mostly) today’s Steinert Spartans. Oh boy…was the smell of a slaughter ever in the air.

And we're off!

Hightstown runners get off the line heading towards the woods

After some milling around at the start, the old fashioned command of “go” got us off. Very quickly two of the young Spartans took off towards the front. I settled in with the next pack, content to follow along, since frankly, I didn’t know the course anyway. After some running along a bike path we took a quick turn into the woods over some mildly challenging single track. By now the pack had begun to string out a little and I had settled into about 5th place, which surprised me given I was the oldest person running this race at age 45, and that my legs were still not fully recovered from last week’s half marathon. I knew I wasn’t racing anywhere near my peak 5k race pace but was content to go at a tempo effort. As my pulse settled I even started feeling a little stronger.

my finishThen with about a mile to go another young guy went flying past us. Hmm, I figured that was probably  another Steinert guy. This may all be for fun, I thought, but I don’t want my team to get blown out either…better go with him. So I did, for a while at least. Eventually he started pullling away but by now I was all alone in 5th again, 3 Steinert guys and 1 Hightstown guy ahead of me. Well, at least this score would be competitive.

I crossed the line in 5th feeling fine, not the least bit concerned that my time of 20:13 was the slowest 5k result I had this season. It was about the best I had that day, and I’ll take it.

After the remaining runners in the field of 20 or so crossed the line, it was time for tabulating results and going to awards. As expected the Spartans pulled out the team title, but not by much. Our group of Ram veterans were within 3 points of victory, a pretty good result given our significantly higher average age. Not only that, my 5th place overall finish was even good for an award…a 3 pound ham. After all that turkey over the weekend it seemed appropriate. I know this morning’s ham and eggs breakfast tasted pretty good.

group photo all runners

Everyone from both teams comes together for a group shot after the race

All in all, this was a really fun run down memory lane. It was great to swap stories of our times as Hightstown harriers with alumni from all different years. One thing remains consistent though; our team is good. Hightstown was a cross country powerhouse during my time and it still is today. That said, it’s a really special feeling to know that we’re all part of such a tradition of excellence, one that started even before I entered as a freshman.

This is said to be the first annual edition of this event. Will I do it again next year? Sure…if my Thanksgiving holiday plans put me in the area again, why not? There’s even talk of expanding this to involve more than just two schools. Nothing like rekindling old rivalries…er, I mean acquaintances.  😉

This race also concludes my fall racing season, and a very successful one at that. I now look forward to a short “off-season” of one month before training for the 114th running of the Boston Marathon begins on New Year’s Day.