Striding Through

Because a life well lived always finds the right pace

Tag Archives: trails

I’ll be home for Christmas…and training

With my recent offseason break, followed by a frustrating foray back into racing at the Gar Williams Half Marathon at Carderock this past weekend, it’s time to put a wrap on 2012. Gar Williams wasn’t the way I wanted to end the year, that’s for sure. It was supposed to be just a training run at far less than full intensity, given I was just ramping back up to running. On top of that the C&O Towpath, on which this entire race was run, was muddy and slippery after a night of hard rain. But when the horn sounded I foolishly took off as if I was in top form. Needless to say I couldn’t maintain anything close to that pace and even bonked at around 10 miles, sheepishly slogging home the final 5k at around 9:00/mile pace, dropping from 19th overall to 29th, and finishing in 1:39:36, or about 8 minutes slower than I ran at Philadelphia just three weeks ago. So what did I learn from the experience? Well, first of all, that you can lose a lot of fitness even over a short break. Second, not to be an idiot and run as if you are in peak condition when you are not. Third, it is possible to crash and burn in a half marathon the same way as a marathon if you are not properly trained. And fourth, running a race that long isn’t worth the post-race recovery issues if you don’t approach the race properly and/or fail to stick to the plan for the day. So now I go through a few days of recovery and rehab, mainly because my right calf is still screaming at me, hoping that I will be able to start marathon training as scheduled next week. Most likely I will be fine for that goal, but it has been a humbling couple of days.

So about that training. I’m looking to get into it, and for this cycle I am actually going to try following somebody’s else’s instead of using my own home-brew method. Doing my own thing hasn’t been bad; it has, after all brought me across 9 marathon finish lines. But there is a nagging feeling I can do better. The McMillan pace conversion table, for example, shows that based on my times at shorter distances, I should be able to run around a 3:10 marathon, but I never been able to crack 3:20. I have 5 results between a PR of 3:20:41 and 3:23:52, so the consistency is there, but so is the plateau. Unfortunately, high mileage plans such as Pfitzinger are not for me, though; the times I have tried to push the mileage numbers up to similar levels I have ended up injured. I need something else, something that will get me ready to run at my desired marathon pace for the whole distance while not taxing my joints too much and hopefully allow me to still squeeze at least some of the cycling and swimming I depend on for cardiovascular endurance.

Enter the Hansons Method. I had heard lots about it in the past, particularly about its “radical” cap of 16 miles on the long runs, but always thought the plan was something reserved for elites who were already super-fit and just plain genetically superior. But then last February a 40-something club teammate of mine told me he had just used the Hansons Method for a marathon and run under 3 hours for the first time. Then in the intervening time, Hansons runner Luke Humphrey published a very detailed book on the method, including why and how it works. I purchased the book about a month ago and decided maybe this was what I have needed. In particular I like their argument that while other marathon plans do a great job of getting you ready to run the first 16 miles of a marathon, theirs trains you for the last 16 miles of the race. The other key distinguishing characteristic is the amount of marathon pace running, which parallels what another club teammate advised, that for me to get better I needed “more miles and more marathon pace miles.”

So I will give the Hansons a shot.

I should be clear that despite the lower prescribed mileage numbers, this is still a pretty intensive plan, even using the “beginners” plan as I intend to do. As for why I chose beginners, my reasoning is threefold. 1) the mileage numbers correspond well to what I have been doing, offering a slight increase; 2) the plan ramps up gradually enough that I can continue to cross-train as an “optional” activity under the plan, particularly during the early weeks (1-5); and 3) there is enough flexibility built in that I can squeeze in a tuneup race or two along the way. Actually I had been planning to run about 5 races in the club series, but I am now backing off of that a bit. I think 2 races is probably the most I will do prior to Patriot’s Day in Boston.

In short, I want to give this plan a chance to really work, and that means following it as closely as I reasonably can. The early aspects actually seem a little too “easy” given my background but the plan is designed that way, so that before you know it you’ve been lured into something where you now are working really hard. By the time I hit peak I will be at probably the highest intensity I have ever been in a marathon cycle.

The 18-week plan starts next week. Until then, I just need to shut this calf muscle up.

Spring Season Race Roll-Up

Normally I post a race report after every race I run, but in the early part of 2011 I fell off the wagon so to speak. Not with my running; that proceeded as always, but rather my reporting here. I could make lots of excuses but what would be the point? Instead I’ll just quickly bring everyone up to date.

Basically I’ve cut back on overall racing this season. After running the New York City Marathon last fall, I needed to dial back the intensity a little bit and focus on rebuilding my fitness. So the early months of 2011 saw a lot of base-building mileage and almost no speedwork. I still raced, but only about once per month, nowhere near my normal competitive volume. In March I finally started adding some speed to my training, but largely have kept to the lighter racing schedule. That may change as spring turns to summer, but I’m not sure of that yet; time will tell.

In any case, here’s the wrap-up of my in-progress spring season (I still have one more big race to go).

1/15: JFK 20k, Washington DC. This was one chilly day, about 30 degrees at the start. That may have kept a few people home and in bed but after doing nothing but easy runs I was eager to get a gauge on my fitness as I began to ramp up training. I had no particular expectations but ran quite well on the day anyway, going 1:25:45 for the distance and getting a new PR in the process. Thanks to the somewhat smaller than normal turnout, I also notched my highest finish at this event, coming in 6th overall and first in my age group. All in all a nice start to the season.

2/27: RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler, Columbia MD. Throughout February I really ramped up the distance and added in some tempo training but the lack of trackwork was something I knew would handicap me in this highly competitive race. Not surprisingly I was a little flat this day. On a course where I had once set a PR of 66:42 (since broken), I only managed a 68:46. As with the previous month’s race I looked at it, however as an opportunity to assess what I now needed to do. The target races in April in May still loomed and those were the true objectives.

3/6: Burke Lake 12k, Fairfax Station VA. This was never a target race, more of just a hard workout on one of my favorite trails. I had modest expectations, not only because I had run the 10-miler in Columbia just a week prior but also because the weather that morning was awful. The temperatures weren’t bad for this time of year – mid-to-high 40s – but it was raining steadily, sometimes quite heavily. The skies calmed a little bit while I warmed up, only to really open up just as we lined up at the start. But off we went, slogging through deep puddle after deep puddle. It was actually kind of fun, even if the finish time was nothing special at 50:58. And the finish was good for 8th overall.

4/3: Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, Washington DC. Finally one of my target races arrived. I trained very well in March and felt ready to rock in this race. Unfortunately, I was undone by a logistical nightmare of a journey to the race. The Metro train from Vienna to the Smithsonian station took what seemed like forever and I arrived at the Washington Monument grounds with barely enough time to strip off my outer gear and get into a corral. The corral I had been assigned near the front had already left and I was now near the back. Throughout the race I weaved my way through slower traffic, probably passing a couple thousand runners, but never really settling into a consistent pace. It all made for a very frustrating day as I ran a 68:50 and was barely even tired after the race. Frankly the highlight of the day had nothing to do with my own performance but rather that of my wife, who completed her first ever 10-miler. After my finish I jogged back out to the 9-mile mark and waited for her; we ran most of the final mile together with me pulling off the course just before she headed to the finish.

4/23: Race to Stop the Silence 8k, Washington DC. This was another non-target race, one that I jumped into with fairly short notice. I did so mainly to get a tune-up for my race the following weekend, the Broad Street Run. This was a downtown affair that had a course that was flat but loaded with turnarounds, 7 in all. It was also another rainy day. I didn’t expect a PR and didn’t get one, but got a solid 32:39 result out of the day.

5/1: Broad Street Run, Philadelphia, PA. Finally the race I’d been really pointing to arrived. I had long wanted to run Broad Street but with Boston on my race calendar in previous years, I never felt I’d be sufficiently recovered in time to enter Broad Street. I had heard of Broad Street’s fast “net downhill” course and envisioned a big result in the form of a smashing new 10-mile PR. Throughout April I had sharpened my pacing and I had a good taper week leading up to race day. But sometimes even the best-laid plans can be undone and that’s what happened on Sunday morning. This time the culprit was intestinal issues that had me making numerous visits to the bathroom in the early morning. When I finally toed the line I felt dehydrated and warmer than I should have felt. On top of that the corral was extremely crowded and when we got off the line the start was slow. I only managed a 7:20 first mile, then was able to pick it up a bit, but the events of earlier in the morning limited my ability to really get after it. By Mile 6 I was starting to slip again and I fought hard to beat back a crash. I continued to struggle and very nearly slipped back over the 7-minute mile barrier in Mile 8 at 6:59. But in the final 2 I put it all back together and finished strongly, going 6:33 in my final mile. I came across in 67:32, which was 1:04 off the PR I was initially so sure I would destroy this day, but given what I had dealt with, I was pleased with the performance.

As mentioned earlier, my spring season continues. The official capper of it will be on June 5, when I run the North Face Endurance Challenge‘s half marathon trail race. To be honest I’m not really sure what to expect of this one. I certainly have no illusions of threatening my road half marathon PR. In fact I think if I break 2 hours that will be quite an accomplishment. That said I will do my best to be prepared to run well. I’ll be increasing my emphasis on trail runs, but will keep up the track work and fartlek runs. I’ll also probably knock down some long bike rides on my cross-training days. Ironically my other cross-training activity, soccer, will probably also be a help for this race because of its emphasis on quick turns and varying speeds. I’ve only done one truly “hard” trail race, so this will be something of a learning experience. But if it goes well, I wouldn’t mind adding the occasional trail race to my repertoire.

After I finish my post Broad Street recovery week, let the training begin!

Road to NYC, Ramping up in Week 3

I’m just about done with the third week of this marathon training cycle and this should be my strongest week yet in terms of overall mileage. Add in a midweek trail race and it definitely looks like a “power week” of running. There is one big hurdle to get over yet, however, and that’s an 18-miler tomorrow.

Done so far:

  • Monday easy progression run 6.4 miles
  • Tuesday 6 miles including 4.5 mile trail race
  • Wednesday double easy runs of 8 and 4 miles
  • Thursday hill repeats, total 6.9 miles

On tap for the rest of the week:

  • Friday 6-8 easy trail miles
  • Saturday long run of 18 miles
  • Sunday rest day (traveling for vacation)

About the race: there’s not much to say about it. It’s a DCRRC race I do just about every year, at Burke Lake where I frequently train. One loop around the lake is 4.5 miles. I ended up 17th overall and 3rd in the 40-49 age group, in 31:09. That’s 12 seconds slower than my result last year but the heat and the fact I trained through the race probably had something to do with that. I’m pretty certain my conditioning is much better than it was a year ago and that when I actually start tapering for some races I’ll see more optimal results.

If all plays out as planned it will be about a 53-55 mile week. I’ll be on vacation next week. While the running certainly won’t stop I expect the totals will be a little lower, but with lots of other “active” vacationing activities taking place. Then I’ll be ready to go roaring back into another big week heading towards Labor Day.

Burke Lake 12k race report

The spring racing season got off to a nice start last weekend at Burke Lake. This location is one of my favorite training spots, with a forested trail that goes around the perimeter of the lake, most it unpaved. Every March, DCRRC sponsors a 12k race there, which basically goes about 3/4 of the way around the lake then turns back. I ran it once, back in 2008 and thought this year it would fit in very nicely as my final tuneup for the National Half Marathon, which I’m running for Team in Training.

On race morning the first signs of spring were beginning to make themselves evident. Morning temperatures were cool, but not cold (mid-40s) and there was no wind. By the time I got to the lake it was clear I would not need the long-sleeve shirt I was wearing, so after warming up I quickly switched to a singlet and arm warmer sleeves. I met up with Franco, a friend from the club who I often run with and we talked about race strategy a bit. We’re both at about the same level, so not surprisingly our goals were quite similar.

Pretty soon we were off and headed down a paved path towards where would pick up the trail. It wasn’t long before the lead pack of about 3 or 4 runners broke off from the rest of the field. That put us in the chase pack, not a bad place to be as we entered the forest. During that first, mostly downhill, mile I was concerned primarily about going too fast and putting the rest of my race in jeopardy. But for the most part I stayed calm; I don’t know what the splits were because there were no mile markers and I was wearing my Timex Ironman stopwatch rather than my Garmin, but I definitely felt like I was in control.

After about two miles my legs started to feel a little more relaxed and I opened it up a bit. To this point Franco had been doing most of the pacing so I surged ahead and told him to follow me for a while. As we came out into a clearing shortly before the turnaround I could see the other runners ahead. As the turnaround approached the leaders started heading back and it wasn’t long before I figured that I was sitting in 7th place overall. Moreover I was on a blistering pace at the halfway mark, well ahead of what I needed to meet my goal of breaking 50 minutes.

On the way back I finally started to tire a bit. Franco, who had been trailing behind me for a while, now caught back up and I let him go. At this point we had done our jobs of helping each other along, now it was “let the better man today win.” And with about 2.5 to go, he made his move strongly. I tried to go with him but the legs were just too fatigued on this day, no surprise really since I did not do any tapering prior to this race (I even ran 8 miles the day before).  So I focused on just trying to finish strong and not leak too much time. Then with about 1.5 to go I got caught from behind by someone else, who was clearly running a negative split race. There was no way I could go with him, but I resolved to keep him close.

As we came back out of the woods heading back towards the finish, I knew the big hill we went down at the start was now a big uphill to the finish, and that I could get up it strongly even on tired legs. I dug a little deeper and started powering up it from my 9th place position. The guy who had recently passed me was now really struggling to get up it, and I was drawing closer to Franco again, too. But before could complete the comeback, I ran out of real estate as the finish line approached.

I crossed the line 9th in 49:20, which was both my first top 10 finish in a while, but also a new PR for me. by over a minute. That’s not bad at all for somewhat tired legs. I also got 2nd overall in the 40-49 age group. All in all, it was a great start to the spring races and I was very pleased with the outcome. I think it sets me up well for a great race at National. For that one, I’ll be rested and feeling confident. Now I just have to get through this little 10-day taper…

Busy preseason underway

Well after two months of training through all the challenges that a winter can throw at me, some tentative signs of spring are emerging as the snow melts away. Not the least of these is that I suddenly find myself lined up to run some races again.

This actually started last week, when I ran in the RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler, in Columbia MD. I’ve done this race now three years in a row. Back in 2008, I had a banner day, shattering my PR at the time. Since then the results have not been quite so stellar. It’s a tough course and a very competitive field so if you don’t have your “A” game you’re going to take a whipping.

Last weekend I didn’t have my best race in me at all, and it’s no surprise really.  I decided to train through the event this year, and even ran 14 miles with Team in Training the day before. Suffice to say, I was anything but fresh for this year’s club challenge.  I got out to a surprisingly fast start, one that would have positioned me for a great race on a better day, but I could tell right away that my legs were way too fatigued to continue at that type of pace. So I started to dial it back and by Mile 4 I had resolved to just take this as a marathon pace training run and save myself for another day. All that said I still ran solidly, albeit slower, finishing in 71:11, and 7:08/mile pace that falls right about where I’d like my pace at Boston to be. So I was pleased with the result.

Since Sunday, I’ve taken a step-back week of sorts to recover from all that running last weekend. I had a lot of soreness to work out. But by yesterday I was ready for some Yasso 800s and I knocked them out at about 3:06 apiece. That’s yet another great sign that I’m ready for Boston.

Next up, this weekend I will toe the line for the Burke Lake 12k, a DC Roadrunners Club race right near my house, on the lake trail that I often run during the spring and summer. I’ve really missed running at the lake during this harsh winter and I can’t wait to get there on Sunday morning. I hope to air it out; if I do, a new 12k PR should happen even though this is a trail race. This will also be my last tuneup for the National Half Marathon (which is itself a tuneup for Boston).

Ah, I love running, but I really love racing. Let’s get it on! 8)

2009 In Review

I haven’t gotten a chance, until now, to really take a look back on what type of year 2009 was for this runner. It’s been a roller-coaster, that’s for sure…started off with a bang, then got quickly derailed by injury and recovery, yet finished strongly. Most importantly I’ve learned a lot that will help me be better this year.

January – I entered the year with two different targets in mind. One was the Boston Marathon in April, which would be my first Boston. The other was a target showed up in late December 2008, the USATF Masters Indoor Championship meet in Landover, MD in March, where I would run in the 3000 meter. For the most part I kept Boston in mind as the primary goal and really stepped up the mileage to get ready for it. But I also did a lot of speedwork and took advantage of the Potomac Valley Track Club’s indoor meet series in Arlington. I ran the 3000m in the first of these and put down an 11:09 – not bad but I knew I could do better. Later in the month I got a 5:30 mile time, just a second off my PR.

February – This was a very busy month indeed. Up first was the USATF Cross Country championships, also in Maryland, where I was part of the DC Roadrunners masters team. That was one tough 8k race and against some very good competition, I got my head handed to me. But it was well worth the experience. Getting to see some top flight runners, like Meb Keflezighi, in the elite races didn’t hurt, either. The very next day, I dragged myself to the last PVTC indoor meet of the season, and somehow managed a 3000m in 11:09. Based on that result I felt pretty sure I could break 11 minutes for 3000m at the USATF meet in March. Finally there was the RRCA Club Challenge 10-miler in Columbia, MD. Again I was running for DCRRC – and again I had a tough day, very tough indeed. I felt terrible from the beginning, because the previous night’s dinner wasn’t agreeing with me. Let’s just say I made it across the line just in time to, um, get rid of it. My place and my time (67:32) were both substantially diminished from the previous year’s performance at this race.

March – Here’s where I really started to lock in the big targets, mixing in both short hard speed workouts with long runs of over 20 miles. It was all coming together nicely.  Then came the USATF indoor meet. I came into it rested and ready, and I nailed that 3000m time, in 10:36, even better than I thought I would do! Then the next day I got up early and headed down to RFK Stadium for the National Marathon, which I did as my final long training run before Boston. I ran a 3:35 and barely broke a sweat.

April – The momentum seemed to keep right on rolling early in the month as I did a final 10k time trial on the track in 38:56. Boy was I ready to roll at Boston, I thought. But then disaster struck, for the second year in a row at that. The day after Easter Sunday, one week before Boston, on a routine trail run, I started feeling an intense pain in my lower leg. At first I feared a stress fracture but it turned out to be a soft tissue injury: not enough to keep me out of Boston as the previous year’s groin injury had done. But it clearly turned my race strategy into “just survive and finish” which I did in 3:41. And then it was shutdown time.

May – There’s not much to say here. I couldn’t run, but after a week or two I was at least able to get in the pool and swim. On Memorial Day I tried a little trot of maybe 2 miles and it went OK. But wow, had I lost conditioning.

June/July – I spent these months rehabilitating and ramping back up. I had to take it slowly, first doing a lot of mixed running and walking while my heart rates recovered to their old levels.  By late July I was feeling more like my old self. I hadn’t done much speedwork but felt like it was time to get out and race again, just to see where I was.

August – I started the month off with my first race since Boston, the Friends of the W&OD 10k in Vienna, VA. I had very low expectations on the performance after such a long layoff, plus it was hot. Under the circumstances the 42:59 result was just fine with me. I rode my bike to and from the race to make it a brick workout. The rest of August was pretty active and results quickly started to pick up.  I had a nice 5k result (19:43) three days after the 10k, then later in the month, I ran a 4.5 mile trail (30:57) race to tune up for the month’s final race, the USATF 10k Trail Championship in Laurel Springs, NC. Befitting a race of this caliber the course was brutally challenging, basically climbing a mountain at 18% grade, four times.  It’s probably the hardest race I’ve ever had to do at any distance. But it was fun and I promised myself this would not be my last trail race.

September – By now I was back on course with my training. With no fall marathons planned, I felt free to really work on shorter distances, which I did starting with 5k races.  I also started a string of age group award finishes at this distance, placing third at the National Press Club 5k (19:35) and then first at New Orleans Rebirth 5k in Alexandria, VA despite running only 20:02 that day. Then it was off to Miami for some vacation – and some very warm runs on the beach.

Displaying my medal after a great Army Ten Miler!October – In early October it was time for my first big fall target race, the Army Ten Miler. When it finally came, I was ready. I had a great day and nailed a new PR of 66:28.  Then I added yet another age group award finish at 5k, this time a second place, at the Great Pumpkin 5k in Reston, where I ran my best 5k time of the season, 19:22. I finished off the month with one more trail race, the Black Hill Trail 10k in Montgomery County. The course wasn’t as tough as the USATF course in North Carolina but it was no pushover. I was happy to come in with a respectable 45:36. After that it was time to train hard and get locked in for the last of the fall targets, Philadelphia in November. I ended the month with a 20-mile training run, my longest run of any kind since Boston.

November – I continued working really hard throughout the month, focusing on training and not racing. Around mid-month I started to feel a little fatigue but I pushed through until it was time for a 10-day taper prior to the Philadelphia Half Marathon, where my goal was straightforward: break 90 minutes and thereby earn qualification to the 2010 New York City Marathon. As race day approached I was nervous; one hand I knew I could do it, but I kept wondering if something would go wrong again, like it did before Boston. But I stayed healthy this time and when race day came, I was up to the task. I ran ahead of the 3-hour marathon pacer for the first 11 miles, and then broke away for a ferocious finish in 1:29:09. I had done it!  I finished off the month with one more race, just for fun, a high school reunion race over Thanksgiving Weekend in New Jersey. Still tired from Philly, I ran 20:13 for 5k and – you guessed it – won another award, this time for finishing top 5 overall.

December – After a very busy fall I decided to step back a bit in December, and give myself a break before training for Boston would start again on New Year’s Day. Then I got hit with a bad cold, and a couple of long nights at the office, which ensured my mileage would be low. Still, I managed to get some racing in anyway. First there was the club’s annual Christmas relay where a teammate and I each ran 10×400, relay-style (i.e., rest while your teammate runs). I put down some strong splits despite not doing any speed training this month, topping out with a 79-second quarter for my last one. Then on New Year’s Eve, I ran the Fairfax Four Miler in a cold, driving rainstorm over slick, icy roads. Despite the conditions I earned myself one final PR for the year, a 25:27.

All in all, it was a pretty good year despite the injury setback:

  • 2 marathon finishes
  • 4 5k award finishes
  • new PRs at 3000m, 4 miles, 10 miles and half-marathon
  • 2 10k trail race finishes

With 2010 now underway I think I’ve learned a lot from 2009 and am approaching this year’s Boston with, hopefully, a little more balanced approach. There’s no track target this time so all my training can focus on what I need to do to be ready in April and that helps (I’ll have more on training in a later post). Meanwhile I’m excited about the prospects ahead and also for representing Team in Training this spring. Well, with all that riding on my training, it’s time to stop blogging for today so I can get ready to run!

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.

Black Hills 10k Trail results

It was a mixed bag on the results for me this morning at the Black Hill Trail 10k, sponsored by Montgomery Country RRC. Overall I ran 45:35, which is nowhere near my road/track PR (38:56) but good for only my 2nd trail race, and huge improvement over my trail debut in North Carolina 2 months ago. I’m not sure how big the field was (100 maybe?) but I was 17th overall…and the dreaded 4th place in the AG.

The race started on a road going uphill so I opted to stay slow for a while and ease into it. Still I was around 15th heading into the woods. Then followed a couple miles of quick rolling hills. I came into the water stop at 5k about mid-22s, still feeling fairly fresh, hoping to make a strong push late. At this point the trail started getting quite rocky which made footing a little tricky but I held my position at 17th. With about 1.5 to go I decided it was time to make my move. I caught and passed the guy ahead of me and then started slicing into the lead of the next guy. Unfortunately that was poor planning on my part because next thing I know we’re back on pavement scaling a massive hill; it had to be at least 12% and went on for about a half-mile. Suffice to say I was toast after that, faded badly and got caught from behind by another guy.

With better tactics I probably would have been top 15. Oh well.

For a club race and a first-time course this was pretty well organized. I haven’t done a MCRRC club race before but as a DC Roadrunners Club member I came away impressed. The course was well marked and there were plenty of course marshals out there to make sure nobody got lost (important when you’re tromping around the woods tired). I’d definitely run it again…and in the meantime will have to plan some trips up this way to train.

Now it’s time to focus on training over racing for a while. The big target for the fall is the half marathon at Philadelphia on 11/22. If everything holds up for I should be in for a great result that day. Between now and then increasing endurance will be a priority. On tap next weekend – probably a 20 miler.

Hopefully Happy Trails this weekend

After taking last weekend off from racing to celebrate our anniversary, it’s back out there for me this weekend, for something called the Black Hill Trail 10k, sponsored by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club. Apparently it’s a first-time race, so I really know nothing about it. But the race fee is only $10 and I have run on some other trails near this venue, at Seneca Creek State Park, and those are really nice. So we’ll see.

As with most trail races I’m not going with any set goal times; there are too many variations during a trail race for predictions to be meaningful. Plus comparing trail times to road or track times is like comparing apples to oranges. So I’ll just look to have a good race and hopefully place well relative to the rest of the field.

At this point I’m not sure whether I should go with my trail shoes or cross-country spikes. I guess I’ll bring both pairs on Saturday and decide there. That said, if any readers have information about this course, I’d love to hear from you.