Thursday, December 29, 2011

12/29/11: Training Recap, Speed Workouts, and Kilian Jornet

I have had another two good weeks of training. Definitely laying the foundation for the National Marathon on March 17th.

Week of 12/10

  • Saturday: Magnus Gluteus 50K in 4:42. Very hard effort that brought a PR and 2nd place.

  • Sunday: 10 miles easy and some cross training / lifting

  • Monday: 12 miles easy

  • Tuesday: Off

  • Wednesday: 10 miles with 5x800 @ 2:40. My legs were still shot from the race, so this was a very tough workout. Would have wanted to do more repeats if I was fresh, but I was happy with this.

  • Thursday: 4.5 easy

  • Friday: 2.5 easy

  • Total: 70 miles

Week of 12/17

  • Saturday: 15 miles. Did a 14 mile route that I often run around DC in what I think was my fastest time ever. Averaged 7:10 pace on mostly trails with some hills. I didn't have a watch and wasn't even pushing the pace all that much, so this was a great run for me.

  • Sunday: 15 miles easy

  • Monday: Off

  • Tuesday: 8 miles easy

  • Wednesday: 5 miles easy

  • Thursday: 10 miles easy. Wanted to do a speed workout in the evening, but my legs just were not there, so I bagged it.

  • Friday: 9 miles with 4x1mi @ 5:43. Obviously I made the right call with postponing the speed workout. Rather than have a crappy run on Thursday, I had a very solid workout on Friday with somewhat fresher legs.

  • Total: 62 miles

For the first time in a long time I have been able to do speed workouts pretty consistently. I hate speed workout with the passion of a thousand burning suns. If you offered me the choice of a track workout at 6:30am in the dark and being kicked in the face, I'd have to think about it for a while.

But I will admit that I always feel fantastic afterwards and am really glad I did it. I am also convinced it is the key to success for me and more important than the distance and long runs. I have plenty of endurance at this point after years of a consistent base and running 3,500 miles a year. But I am not naturally fast and benefit greatly from more speed workouts.

However, I used to really force myself to do the workouts on a particular day of the week. That lead to some bad workouts and cutting workouts short when I wasn't feeling good. Sometimes I would skip them altogether and end up falling out of the habit.

I have recently been much more flexible on when they happen, such as the 4x1mi repeats I recently did on a Friday morning, which I wouldn't have even thought of doing a few years ago. But I make sure to do them regularly whenever my legs feel good, and I think it is producing good results.

On a less boring note, Kilian Jornet is one of the best ultramarathoners in the world and is also the world champion ski mountaineer. The way he runs up and down mountains defies explanation and is truly inspiring. I highly recommend clicking on this link and watching episode 7 for some sweet footage of Kilian running in the Alps:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

12/11/11: Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K Race Report

Yesterday I ran the Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K for the third year in a row. I've run well here the past 2 years, but I had a particularly good day this year and ran 4:42. That was good for second place and a 13 minute PR in the 50K.

The MGM 50K is a fantastic VHTRC event that has a solid post race party. I almost didn't show up this year since I had been traveling nonstop for work from Tuesday through Friday and was exhausted. But I managed to drag myself out of bed and figured I'd give the run a shot.

The course is 12 miles on the Bull Run trail, 7 miles on the unmarked and unnavigable "Do Loop", and the same 12 miles back. My legs felt pretty good at the start, and I took off at a decent pace feeling pretty relaxed.

I was running out front with 3 other guys for a while. My main concern in this race is always how the hell to make it through the Do Loop. 2 of the other guys were on the course for the first time, but the other guy said he knew the Do Loop pretty well. My plan was to try to stick with him, but he started to push the pace and take off after the first aid station at mile 5.5. I didn't want to push too hard, so my hope was that I could stay close enough that I would catch up at the aid station right before the Do Loop. He was my only hope!

I came off the Bull Run trail in 1:45, which was right on 8:45 pace. Luckily my plan of catching up at the aid station worked, and we headed off into the Do Loop. Our fearless leader navigated us through successfully, and man did we haul some ass. We ran a lot of it at sub 8 pace and ran the whole thing in just over 8 minute pace. That was a real stretch for me on that tough terrain, but I had no choice but to keep hanging on. I was worked over by the end of the Do Loop, but man did we make good time!

I came into the aid station again and was thrilled to see my good buddy Greg! I haven't seen him in a while, so it was great to catch up. His dog Ziggy was also there and was the life of the party as usual.

Given how exhausted I was, my plan was to dial it back and just try to survive. But somehow I managed to crank out a great pace and ran the six miles from 19 to 25 in 8:40 pace, which was even faster than my pace on that section on the way out.

I rolled into the last aid station at 25.5, refilled the water bottle, and grabbed some Coke and a cookie. I got back on the trail but was just toast at this point. I haven't been doing many long runs since I've focused more on speed, and I just couldn't hold this kind of pace beyond 25 miles. I pushed as best as I could and still managed to keep it together somewhat. The last 3/4 of a mile is straight uphill, and my legs started cramping up. Luckily that didn't happen until very close to the end.

It was quite a relief when I made it back in 4:42 with a big PR. My stomach was great the whole time, and the new system continues to work extremely well. The speedwork definitely paid off, and I have realized that I should do a lot of speedwork even when training for the longer stuff.

The only down side is that I had to leave before the beer and pizza got there. Quite a tragedy, but you can't win em all!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

12/10/11: Training Recap

I didn't quite hit the mileage I had hoped for last week, but I at least got one very good run out of it.

  • Saturday: 13 miles with Dad in NJ.

  • Sunday: Off. My legs were shot, and I really needed to take a day off.

  • Monday: 13 miles easy @ 7:40. Felt better after the day off.

  • Tuesday: 10 miles w/ 9 mile tempo run @ 6:18 pace. I was very happy with this run. I was initially planning on running 6:30s, but the faster pace felt pretty easy at the start. Definitely was getting tired at the end, but still a very encouraging run.

  • Wednesday: 5 miles easy @ 7:40

  • Thursday: 7 miles easy @ 7:20

  • Friday: 5 miles very easy @ 8:00

  • Total: 53 miles

This morning I ran the Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K and had a pretty solid run. I'll leave you all in anticipation for the race report I'll run soon!

Friday, December 2, 2011

12/2/11: Training Recap & Great Falls Pictures

First off, here is what I've been up to over the last week:

  • Saturday: 14 miles easy. I was still beat up from lots of racing and hard running, and my legs were shot. Took it very easy.

  • Sunday: 17 miles, last 8 @ 6:30. Still recovering, but finally had a little bit of pep in the legs. Ran the last 8 miles at 6:30, which actually felt pretty easy.

  • Monday: 12 miles easy. Lifting + core work.

  • Tuesday: 5 miles easy @ 7:40.

  • Wednesday: 10 miles with 4x1mi @ 5:41. My legs didn't feel as fresh as I had hoped, but I still managed 4x1mi in 5:49, 5:42, 5:39, 5:34. The first two intervals felt easy. Last one was tough.

  • Thursday: 12 miles easy @ 7:40. Lifting + core work.

  • Friday: Off (work travel)

  • Total: 70 miles
Now that it has turned cold and the leaves have fallen off the trees, here are some late fall pictures from a trip out to Great Falls the day before the Potomac Heritage race.

The canal that runs for 250 miles starting in Georgetown

One of the "small" falls on the way to the real deal

Great Falls in all of its glory.

Kayaking anyone?

Eve was very impressed by Great Falls

Sunday, November 27, 2011

11/27/11: Training Recap (Weeks Ending 11/18 & 11/25)

The main story of the last two weeks of training is that I ran better than expected at the Potomac Heritage 50K and then was not surprisingly pretty beat up afterwards.

Week ending 11/18

  • Saturday: 10 miles. Took it easy the day before the race.

  • Sunday: 31 miles. Potomac Hertage 50K in 4:58

  • Monday: Off

  • Tuesday: 5.5 miles easy

  • Wednesday: 12.5 miles. 4x1000 @ 3:23. My legs were still very tired from the race, so this was a tough workout. I was happy with how it turned out given how beat up I felt.

  • Thurdsay: 9 miles easy

  • Friday: 7 miles easy

  • Total: 75 miles

Week ending 11/25

  • Saturday: Off

  • Sunday: 27 miles. Philly Marathon in 3:44 with Dad.

  • Monday: Off

  • Tuesday: Off. Wanted to run and do a short speed workout to stay sharp before the turkey trot on Thursday, but I was traveling for work and got very delayed coming back.

  • Wednesday: 6 miles easy w/ one 800 in 2:30 in a futile last minute effort to get some leg turnover going before the turkey trot.

  • Thursday: 8 miles. Long Grove Turkey Trot in 18:03. Felt pretty good, but my legs still weren't 100%. The main issue though is that I didn't have enough speed and couldn't get comfortable running under 5:45 pace. I ended up running pretty even splits right around the 5:49 pace I averaged. I should have been at least 10-15 seconds faster in at least the first mile.

  • Friday: 9 miles. My legs felt all sorts of tweaked. My left hamstring and calf, which had bothered me towards the end of the race, were really flaring up.

  • Total: 50 miles

Friday, November 25, 2011

11/25/11: Long Grove Turket Trot 5K

First off, Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Yesterday Jen and I kicked off turkey day by running the Long Grove Turket Trot, which was near her parent's house. I ran the 5K, and Jen showed me up by running the 8K.

I had a pretty decent run and finished in 18:03, which was good for 5th place and winning my age group (results here). It wasn't my fastest time, but I was still pretty happy with it given where my fitness is. I would really have liked to finished under 18 and regret that I didn't wear a watch. There were no splits on the course, and I feel like I could have found 4 seconds if I had only known!

But it was a great race and a lot of fun. It starts and finishes in a cool little downtown area on a main street lined by shops. The race has also grown a lot in recent years and is up to about 2,000 people, which seems like the max they can actually handle.

I'm sure that I'll do this every other year when we are here in Chicago for Thanksgiving and make this part of the turkey trot tradition along with the Flemington 5K.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22/11: Philadelphia Marathon

I had a fantastic time yet again at the Philly Marathon, mostly because I was running with my dad. He finally hit the wall for the first time in his fourth marathon (as opposed to me hitting the wall halfway through my first marathon). He toughed it out though and held it together for a very solid finish in 3:44.

This was my fourth time running Philly, and I have grown very fond of this race. I realized that it is starting to become something of a tradition, as I’ve now done it 4 of the past 6 years.

The race has grown a lot over the years to 25,000 people and has 65% more marathon finishers than when I first ran it in 2006. Despite that, the race is still incredibly well organized and has maintained a great feel. I find it to be an excellent middle ground between a small low key race and the mega marathons (e.g. NYC and Chicago) that are cool but can be a huge hassle.

If you are looking for a fall marathon, Philly is a good choice for someone shooting for a PR and is just a great race in general. If you do find yourself running it, I highly recommend the semi-official beer aid station that you hit at miles 19 and 21.

Now I need to take it easy for a little while to let the legs recover from building up the mileage and intensity quickly. I’ll still plan to run hard at the Turkey Trot, but otherwise I will definitely back off for a bit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

11/20/11: Philly Marathon with Dad!

It's 5:37am. Dad and I are in our hotel room listening to the Rocky soundtrack and getting ready to go kick some ass.

The weather is perfect, and Dad is feeling good. It's time to Make It Happen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11/19/11: Potomac Heritage 50K Race Report

Last Sunday I ran the Potomac Heritage 50K for the third time. I finally had a good race for the first time in a very long time and ran 4:58 for 2nd place.

I am still not in very good long distance shape and came into the race with very tired legs, so I was thrilled with the outcome. I have been building the mileage back up and ran about 80 miles in the week before the race with a 10 mile run the day before. I have also been doing a lot of speedwork, which included 5x800 in 2:40 a few days before the race. That left me not exactly race fresh!

The weather was beautiful for race day, and conditions could not have been any better. The first 5 miles of the race are on some great trails that wind through northwest DC. I train on these trails pretty often and love running these stretches through Glover Archebald and Battery Kemble Park. From there you run down a rocky creek and through a crazy tunnel that definitely does not look like you can go through it. Then you pop out on the canal tow path for a few flat miles before crossing Key Bridge to the first aid station at mile 8.5.

I ran this section conservatively and felt pretty good. A group of people took off fast from the start, and I more or less ran with a chase pack in about 10th place. I had Mom and Dad Lewellen and Jen waiting for me at the first aid station, so I was able to run without water bottle, which was nice. When I got there, they passed me a bottle with HEED in it. I ran about 8:30 pace for this first stretch, which was right about where I wanted to be.

I also carried a gel flask the entire time with 5 servings of Vanilla Hammer Gel. I haven't ever run with with a gel flask, and it worked out great. It was easy to get gels quickly, I didn't have to fumble with wrappers, and it is also environmentally friendly! Mom Lewellen was not impressed that my main source of fuel for 31 miles of running would be a tiny bottle of yellowish goop, but it got the job done!

From there we hopped on the Potomac Heritage trail and would run the 10 mile length of the trail from Key Bridge to American Legion Bridge. The first stretch was the four miles up to Chain Bridge. The Potomac Heritage trail is hilly throughout with a number of stream crossings and some very rocky sections that aren't really runnable. The 3rd and 4th miles right before you hit the aid station at 12.5 are particularly gnarly. There is one section where you climb hands and knees up a rock face. As if that section wasn't already hard enough, the recent earthquake totally dislodged the handrail that was bolted into the rock. Thanks a lot, earthquake.

Early on in this section the tired legs started to take their toll. I was get sore already, and my left calf was starting to tighten up. I was worried about my legs holding out for 20 miles more, especially if I started to cramp up. But what can you do other than keep running? I came into mile 12.5 in 1h57 and a bit under 45 minutes for the previous 4 miles, which I was happy with given the tough terrain and not feeling great.

The family was here again to cheer me on. Each aid station also has different challenges you can complete, and you get to subtract some time if you complete the challenge. At this aid station you could drop 1 minute from your time if you took your shirt off and did five push-ups. Obviously it was a no brainer (though it probably took me about a minute to do it). I tried lobbying for additional minutes with more pushups, but no dice unfortunately.

The next section is listed as 6 miles but is really more like 6.5 miles. I train a decent amount on this part of the trail, and usually 70 minutes would be a solid time. My legs still were not feeling good, but it wasn't getting any worse, and I was moving fairly well. I was starting to suck on the hills since I haven't been doing much hilly trail running, but I think the recent speedwork was helping with the downhill and flat sections.

I ran into the mile 17 aid station with a surprisingly fast split, which really fired me up. The legs were tired arleady, but I wanted to see how hard I could push it and if I could keep up a strong pace until the end. I got to the end of the trail and the turnaround point in 2:57 and a 60 minute split from the start of the section. That was by far the fastest I have ever run that stretch of trail, which was shocking to me.

I kept pushing hard on the way back and ran 64 minutes for the same 6 mile stretch, which was awesome. I was walking a fine line and going all out with my legs on the verge of cramping up. I had been able to keep it up so far but was definitely worried about blowing up in the last 6.5 miles. I came into mile 24.5 in 4:01, which put me in striking distance of finishing under 5 hours, but it would be dicey given how tired I was.

The cheering squad was there for me again, and it was certainly great to see them. I chugged a glass of Coke, grabbed a few grapes for the road, and put my head down and trudged off to finish the last leg. Someone at the aid station mentioned something about another challenge, but I had no time for that. Man on a mission!

The first couple miles were flat as I crossed Chain Bridge and ran on the tow path again. I tried to keep a good pace going since the rest of the course would be on hilly trails and much hard to run well on tired legs.

I had steadily passed people on the Potomac Heritage trail and was now running in 3rd place. I was surprised every time I came upon someone else, but I guess running consistently and not slowing down much was enough to get the job done. This course is a lot tougher than some people expect, and it is very easy to go out way too fast and struggle with the tougher terrain later on.

Someone told me Keith was leading and 10 minutes ahead. Keith is very fast and a ridiculously strong and consistent ultrarunner, so I immediately responded with "yup, that isn't going to happen" (and it in fact did not happen ... Keith finished 11 or 12 minutes ahead of me). I had no idea how far ahead second place was, but the gap was close to 15 minutes at the mile 19 turnaround, so I figured I was still far off.

The last several miles were a real grind. I was sucking something awful on the uphills and just doing my best to move decently well on the flats and downhills. I figured I would probably just miss finishing under 5 hours but kept pushing on anyway.

I eventually popped out onto the last road stretch and kicked it in to finish in 4:58. I ended up catching the guy in second a few miles from the end. We ran together for a bit, but he was suffering from leg cramps and had to dial it back a bit.

I couldn't have been more thrilled with this race. I had been hoping to just run under 6 hours and figured 5:30 would be a great time, so I was blown away by running under 5 hours. It was also exciting to be able to push so hard and run well on really tired legs. I have continued to believe that I can run ultras faster and push harder. However, this hasn't really come together yet due to stomach problems and bad luck with getting sick.

My stomatch was great this time, and my new fueling system was spot on. I took in 5 gels, one 20 ounce bottle of HEED, two 20 ounce bottles of water, a glass of coke, and ~10 grapes (got to count the grapes). It was nice to confirm that I now have the experience and conditioning to really push hard for a long time, too.

I'm excited to keep seeing where I can takes things with ultras. If I can get a bit of luck going for me (or at least not have bad luck), I think I can string together some solid races next year.

The crew also took some great pictures that are below. Thanks again to Mom L, Dad L, and Jen for being out there. It really helped keep me going and inspired me to push a lot harder. I mostly wanted to redeem my poor performance for them at Chicago :)

The fans waiting for me to come in at the mile 8.5 aid station

Blurry as I come into mile 8.5. Guess I was running too fast!

Offshoot of the Potomac River by Teddy Roosevelt Island.

View towards Georgetown and the National Cathedral from the aid station

Another view of the River

A buck that the crew saw while waiting for me

Running downhill towards the mile 12.5 aid station

Coming up into the aid station

Happy to see everyone and about to do some shirtless pushups!

Back again 2 hours later at the same aid station at mile 24.5. Drinking flat Coke, the nectar of life in ultramarathons. Very tired but ready to close this thing out.

Trudging away from 24.5

The finish line in all of its glory

Pushing hard to finish under 5 hours

REALLY happy to be done

Sunday, November 6, 2011

11/6/11: Getting faster

My endurance training still has not been great, and my weekly mileage is no where near what I would like. But on the bright side, I seem to actually be getting fast again!

This last Monday I did 2 x 1mile repeats after work and hit the miles in 5:42 and 5:30. Both didn't feel too hard, and I only held off on a 3rd mile repeat because I was still sick. On Thursday I ran 5 miles of my run at 6:10s, which felt really easy. Then yesterday I did a 14 mile run with 10 of the at 6:34 pace. It is fun to run fast again! (or at least fast for me)

I'm still focusing on building up the mileage and getting back in good endurance shape, but I'm going to try to keep doing the speed workouts to see if I can throw together a decent Turket Trot 5K this year.

Here is the weekly summary. Mileage sucked in part due to being sick and in part due to work travel. I guess there is always next week!

  • Saturday: Off (sick)

  • Sunday: 12 miles easy & lifting

  • Monday: 12 miles, 2 x 1mi @ 5:42, 5:30

  • Tuesday: Off (work travel)

  • Wednesday: Off (work travel)

  • Thursday: 12, 5 @ 6:10

  • Friday: 10 easy

  • Total: 46 miles

Sunday, October 23, 2011

10/23/11: Training Update

  • Saturday: 24 miles. Mountain run in the Massanuttens by Elizabeth Furnace

  • Sunday: 15 miles. Mostly on trails around DC. Did some lifting and core work afterwards

  • Monday: 12 miles. 8 easy in the morning, 4 easy in the evening

  • Tuesday: 6 miles easy

  • Wednesday: Off (traveling for work)

  • Thursday: 9 miles. 3 x 1mi @ 6:00, which felt harder than it should have

  • Friday: 8 miles. Moderate effort (probably around 7:30 or 7:40 pace)

  • Total: 74 miles

Sunday, October 16, 2011

10/16/11: Back to the mountains

I was really excited to get back to the mountains yesterday. I hadn't made it out that way since early July, and I've been looking forward to this run for weeks.

It was a beautiful fall day with great weather and great foliage. It was a chilly 43 degrees when I started, but I didn't stay cold for long with the 1,500 foot climb over the first 3 miles. It also warmed up quickly and was in the upper 50s to upper 60s for most of the run.

There was a great breeze up when I was higher up on the mountain, and I was in all my glory listening to the wind rustling through the leaves and taking in the fall colors.

I did about 23-24 miles and overall had a pretty solid run. I felt pretty weak on the climbs and on the technical sections, which wasn't surprising as I still don't have all my strength back. I was pretty pleased with my running on the flatter sections though, and I was really able to hammer the downhills.

This is the trailhead where I started the run. I took one look at this trail with the all the foliage and knew it was going to be a good day!

Looking out to the western ridge of the Massanuttens (I'm on the eastern ridge)

The western ridge again

Very nice foliage on the mountain I'm about to run up

There were tons of wildflowers on this trail. I didn't know these flowers grew in the fall!

The near range is the western ridge of the Massanuttens again. In the distance, you can just make out the Shenandoahs. It was much clearer in person but the lighting wasn't great for this picture.

This has got to be the most runnable stretch of the 71 mile Massanutten trail, which is typically narrow and very rocky singletrack trail.

I've been running in this area for years now and have covered hundreds of miles, but somehow I never found this lake before!

The peak just above and to the right of center is where I ran from

You can see the Shenandoahs much more clearly in the background. This was a great view, and the visibility was fantastic.

This is how the week ended up looking:

  • Saturday: Off

  • Sunday: 28 miles with Chicago marathon in 3:33

  • Monday: 2 miles easy

  • Tuesday: 11 miles in ~ 7:50

  • Wednesday: 7 miles easy in downtown Chicago

  • Thursday: 7 miles in 7:45

  • Friday: 10 miles easy

  • Total: 65 miles

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

10/12/11: More running in Chicago!

So after the Chicago Marathon this weekend, I flew to San Antonio Monday night for a meeting on Tuesday. Then I flew back to Chicago on Tuesday night for a conference on Wednesay. Incredibly efficient use of time.

The upshot was that I was able to get out at dawn this morning for an incredible run along the lakefront. I was staying in a great location at the Hilton Chicago and was able to pop into Grant Park right outside of the hotel. I headed north along the lakefront for about 7 glorious miles.

The weather was perfect, and it was great to be able to watch the sun rise over the lake. Runs like these are what I really love about this sport. My legs were still beat up from pushing too hard in the marathon and from an overly exuberant 11 miles yesterday, but it still just felt awesome to be out there. One good thing about shorter days is being able to see more sunrises without having to wake up as early for runs.

I brought along the iPhone and took a few pictures en route.

The hotel I was staying at right along Grant Park

Looking out over fields towards the museum at dawn

For some reason, this picture came out very blurry, but it gives you some sense of how beautiful the sunrise was

Jen and I actually took engagement photos right around here

The Hancock building

This field is where the post marathon festivities were held. I spent a while after the race laying on the grass and pulling myself back together while drinking some outstanding Goose Island beer