Monday, February 20, 2012

2/20/12: George Washington Birthday Marathon Race Report

I had a fantastic time running my second George Washington Birthday Marathon. Three years ago I ran 3:14 here and really enjoyed the laid back feel of the race. This year's race did not disappoint, and I had a solid run in 3:04, which was good for 6th place and winning my age group.

My running was not good at all in the week leading up to the race. I may have been too exuberant in the prior week and pushed too hard. All throught last week, my legs were tired, and I had all sorts of aches and pains.

I took it very easy throughout the week and ended up feeling pretty decent on race day. I took off towards the front of the pack and tried to stay relaxed. I was pretty pumped to see the first two miles go by in 6:40 and 6:33. I couldn't help but smile after that. It felt good to be out there racing and feeling good on a beautiful day. It seemed like it had been too long since the 50K I raced in December. I do love racing!

I intentially dialed back the pace a bit and very consistently hit most miles in the upper 6:40s. Most of the course is 3 loops that are a little over 7 miles. I came through loop 1 at mile 10 feeling fantastic. Soon enough I hit the half marathon in 1:29.

I started to struggle holding pace around mile 15. "No problems", as a wine steward from our summer cruise to Bermuda would say. I knew I was not at 100% with little serious running over the prior 1.5 weeks, and I was not planning to go 100% anyway. This was supposed to be a hard training run and not an all out effort.

The old Will would have kept pushing really hard, likely would have blown up towards the end, and would be too worn out from the race given that the National Marathon is only 4 weeks away. The old Will was not the smartest.

Instead, I dialed it back right away to the 7:00-7:15 range and held there for a while. I slowed down a little bit more in the late miles, but overall I kept pace pretty well . Even the 3/4 mile steep hill starting at mile 25 was doable, though I will say that whoever designed the course to have that right at the end is very, very mean. I finished strong with plenty left in the tank and felt fine after crossing the finish line.

This was a great race and shows that I've come a long way. When I first ran 3:04 at Philly in 2006, it took everything I had and left me injured for months afterwards. Yesterday I was able to run 3:04 on a really hilly course (probably runs 4-5 minutes slow) without going all out. Today I felt fine and biked a little over 20 miles to loosen things up.

The time I am shooting for at the National Marathon will still be extremely tough for me, but I do have a bit more confidence now after yesterday.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2/11/12: Training Update

It has been a pretty solid two weeks of training. In the first week, I bounced back from the week long recovery well and had a great track workout with the DC Road Runners.

Then on Saturday I went out there with the DCRR again and hammered out a very tough 21 mile run (18 @ 6:50 pace with a warm up and cool down). This was one of those confidence boosting runs. My legs were still tired from the track workout, but the first few miles were at a pretty relaxed pace.

Then one of the guys who consistently runs marathons in the mid / upper 2:40s dropped the hammer around mile 3 and started cranking. By the top of a huge hill at mile 8, I was already toast. The thoughts of how I could shorten the route or when I would start walking were already creeping in.

I hung on to him until mile 11 or 12 and just couldn’t hold pace. I was cramping up and wanted nothing more than to walk / jog to ease it in and find a way to shorten the route for a few miles. I pulled myself together though and instead shifted to a more comfortable but still brisk pace. We had probably dipped down to 6:20-6:30 pace, and I adjusted back closer to 7:00s.

I was still hurting, though. The sustained fast pace and hilly section from miles 7 to 10 just killed me. The goal was to hang on as long as I could and then ease in the rest of the 18 mile loop.

Things got worse before they got better, but they did eventually get better. I guess the old ultramarathon saying that “it can’t always get worse” finally proved true (I have had plenty of ultras where it does in fact always get worse).

7 minute miles are pretty easy for me at this point, and I was finally able to start recovering from the punishing early miles. The cramps were easing up, and I was able to start dropping the pace into the 6:45 range. I put in a strong finish and a solid pace for the last few miles. It was great to be able to run for about 10 miles after I was already pretty spent and manage to hold a good pace. Hopefully it is good practice for the last 10 miles of the National Marathon!

That run took a good amount out of me, and my harder workouts over the rest of the week were not great, but that is to be expected and doesn’t worry me too much.

Anyway, here are the digits for the last two weeks:

Week ending February 3rd



  • Saturday: 7 miles easy. Still recovering.

  • Sunday: 7 miles easy. Still recovering.

  • Monday: 11 miles easy. Finally felt my legs coming back to me.

  • Tuesday: 12 miles easy. Again felt much better.

  • Wednesday: 14 miles. 20 minute tempo run @ 5:54 (almost 3.5 miles). 1x400 @ 68.

  • Thursday: 6 miles easy

  • Friday: 10 miles easy

  • Total: 67 miles

Week ending February 10th



  • Saturday: 21 miles with 18 @ 6:50.

  • Sunday: 15 miles easy with cross training & lifting.

  • Monday: 6.5 miles easy.

  • Tuesday: 12 miles. 5x800 @ 2:45. 800s were really tough. I was hoping to do 8 of them, but my legs were pretty wrecked, so I was happy enough with this.

  • Wednesday: Off

  • Thursday: 10.5 miles. 7 @ 6:27 pace. I was hoping to do 10 miles and for it not to feel too hard. The good thing is that the pace was pretty relaxed, but my body was just really exhausted.

  • Friday: 7 miles

  • Total: 72 miles

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2/2/12: Back in Black

Happy Groundhog's Day everybody! I sure know it is my favorite holiday of the year. (note, I wrote most of this on 2/2 but didn't post until today)

Any time I am feeling totally worn down and am forced to take some time off, I either come back quickly and better than ever or end up having more serious issues that require longer recovery.

Last week was a bit scary since I'm only 6-7 weeks out from the National Marathon and was feeling terrible, but I am back! Luckily this was one of those times where I just needed a short break from training before kicking it up to the next level.

On Wednesday I hit the track with some coworkers and the DC Road Runners for the first time in a while. The workout was a 20 minute tempo run, and I was hoping to run it in the 6:05 to 6:10 range.

I felt very strong and ran it in 5:54, which amounted to just under 3.5 miles in 20 minutes. I felt good enough to tack on a 68 second 400 at the end just for kicks.

I've come to realize that getting faster is mostly about knowing when to back off and when to push. I think I have been getting better at both parts, but most importantly have been better at backing off. There are usually few benfits to forcing a workout when you feel terrible and far more negative consequences. The flip side of this is that you have to go 100% and haul ass when you feel good. It isn't always easy, but that is the part of this sport that I love!