Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Looking ahead to 2018. Clouds and shadows.

Normally as I approach the beginning of a new year I have a good idea of what I would like to accomplish. And most of the time I have some major goal to work towards maybe even beyond the one year time frame but this year is different. Right now of course my main goal through May is to finish out the Running Journal Grand Prix Series. The only other goal is to race at Grandfather Mountain and hopefully run a course pr and place in my age group. I was signed up the past July but the injury kept me away so I have unfinished business there,

 Beyond that I am truly clueless as to what I want to focus on. A part of me wants to go back to running some long ultras again and do some 100 milers that I never got around to. Another part of me want to focus on the marathon and see how close I can come to pr shape and get a chance to run sub 4 at Boston. I'll just have to wait and see how the long training runs go over the next few months and maybe then something will stand out as the goal I want the most. OR, I could keep running short races and see how much speed I can get out of these legs in the 5k and Half marathon. What ever I decide I'll let you guys know when I reach the mid year review in June or July.

 In the meantime here is what I do have planned and considering for the first 7 months of 2018.


 Just one race, the Winter Flight 8k in Salisbury on the 28th. It is the only NC race in the Running Journal Grand Prix. It always has some very fast Seniors but I hope to get some points and maintain my narrow lead.


 Not sure of anything right now but training for March.


 I am already signed up for Myrtle Beach Half marathon but I'm leaning towards skipping it. For many years it was part of the Grand Prix so I took advantage of early bird special. Well, Capstone Racing bought the event and chose not to be a part of the series. Grrrr. But there is another Half Marathon in Germantown TN, a suburb of Memphis so I'll probably skip MB so I can give 100% and try to win my age group in Tennessee and maybe lock up the series depending on what happens with a few other guys in between.


 Not committed just yet but I may bring Ultraman back for a test run or two. Last year I was signed up for the Kal Haven 33.5 miler in Michigan and had planned a trip back to Promise Land 50k++ (34 Miles) but had to miss both because of the stress fracture.  Leaning towards doing them and hope they give me an idea of whether or not I want to get back into more ultras later in the year.


 Recover from April and be ready the last weekend to go back to Alabama for the Cotton Row Run 10k. Its the final race of the RJGP Series and if all goes to plan I'll get the championship at this prestigious event. I really don't expect to win the race but I hope to have enough of a lead going in to claim the series championship.


 Nothing planned yet. Depends on what else may pique my interest. If nothing comes up I will probably go back and get my butt kicked by Pete Gibson at the Rocky Mount Mills 5k again. Fun race on a fast course.


 Grandfather Mountain Marathon. I really hope by then I can get back to enjoying long runs so I can have a reasonable shot at a sub 4 here. It will take a perfect race and lots of hill work to go with endurance to get into that kind of shape.

 That's all I have for you right now. Nothing but fog, clouds and shadows when I peer into the crystal ball for August and beyond.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 in review

 2017 began with big hopes and expectations after finally getting the injuries that had been an issue for several years solved. Or I thought,. Well actually I have but a freak yard work stupid move of all things almost ruined my year as you will see.

 I had planned to begin the year by sneaking back into Ultras for a little bit the first week of January but the race was cancelled due to snow and ice storm, It was just as well because I had not really prepared well for it with no long runs other than the Kiawah Marathon a few weeks earlier and my heart wasn't really into it.

 Cancelling the 50k allowed me to focus on what I was in great shape for and that was the Run For The Roses 5k.  The race went well despite the unseasonably hot 80F and the hilly course and I was able to get my 3rd RRCA State Championship for Senior Grandmasters. Then about 9 days later it all fell apart when I had to bail on a workout with what turned out to be a stress fracture of my right heel. Ironically it was not running that initiated the injury but continuing to run and hope the pain would go away did it and me in. So frustrating after going for a year with no injuries at all to have this freakish injury occur.

March and April were total washouts with no running and lots of pain.

 Finally on May 20th I felt like a test run. I tried one mile and it was pain free so I was able to begin to ease back into running again.


 On the 3rd of June, just 2 weeks after I started back I decided to go ahead and run the Rocky Mount Mills 5k that I had entered well before the injury. I just wanted to be careful and not hurt myself and get an idea at just how much conditioning I had lost. It was much cooler and drier than last year and I ran a lot better than I could have expected in 25:04,almost exactly 2 minutes slower than 2016 but I was very happy to run that well.
  3 weeks later I went to Chapel Hill to run the Vegfest 5k for fun. The only reason I entered was because Laura and Susan's new yoga studio was sponsoring the awards and I thought it would be fun to race and spend some time hanging around at the booth at the festival. Wow ! I knew it would be hilly but it turned out to be the toughest 5k I have ever raced in my 40 years at this sport with nearly 300 ft of elevation gain ! And it was hot and 100% humid.
  I ran 26:12 which included an extra 10th of a mile thanks to the lead bike leading us front runners off course in the first 1/4 mile and then we had to weave our way through the entire field to get back up front. Grrrr. with the extra distance and hills and humidity I think my effort was definitely better than three weeks earlier. It wasn't a very competitive field and I finished 6th overall out of about 100 finishers. The best thing was Laura's daughter Isabella won the race overall for men and women and Sophia was running well in the top 4th of the pack but was led off course near the 2 mile mark. Julian was there to cheer for us and take pictures and its always the best to have Laura cheering me at the finish.


 I knew I was in no shape to even attempt the Grandfather Mountain Marathon ,one of my big goals for the year but a week later I decided to go ahead and race The Scream Half Marathon. Even though I hadn't run that far this year at least it was mostly downhill. Turned out to be harder than I expected but I fe;t great for 12 miles and hung on for a decent time of 1:46 and placed 2nd in my age group.


 After the Scream I focused on recovery and training for the beginning of what would be the main focus for the next 9 months, competing in the 40th Running Journal Grad Prix Series. The first event was the last weekend of August, the Midnight Flight 10k in Anderson SC with a 10pm start. Although I wasn;t 100% back from the injury I was finally starting to be confident in my racing again. Despite a fall in the dark which luckily I escaped with no damage other than a very small scratch on my knee, I was able to run a decent 48:53 on the rolling hills. I took first in my age group but only because the two guys in front of me which ran much faster placed in the Grandmasters division !


 Originally I had nothing planned for Sept but I wanted to test my speed on a flat 5k and found just the right course and timing in my hometown of Goldsboro on the 9th. I was happy to feel strong and continue to improve with a 22:59 and 1st Senior Grandmaster placing.


 At the beginning of the year I had tentatively planned on a marathon in Detroit but that was before the Grand Prix schedule was released and the Hero Half Marathon in Fayetteville Arkansas was scheduled for the same day. No worries because I wasn't prepared for a full anyway   
 The half was a really great event and on a near perfect morning for racing I ran a strong 1:47:21 on a tough course and took 1st place in the senior grandmasters again moving me into first place in the GP.


 Decided to start off Nov with a 10, the Old Reliable Run in Raleigh. It wnet much better than I expected and I ran my fastest 10k in about 17 years ! 46:54 and once again a senior grandmasters win !
 2 weeks later it was off to Birmingham Alabama and my first race in that state.  With nearly 1,000 finishers it was the largest so far in the Grand Prix Series. IT was a cold but beautiful morning and I ran strong once again on a moderately hilly course. Finished in 1:44:47 and beat out 25 others for the Senior Grandmasters win and to top it off the Alabama RRCA State Championship ! Woohooo !


 And then it was time for the reality check. If you want to race a marathon you need to train for a marathon ! No way around it ! Well I didn't train for it and suffered ! Oh well, a good experience and hopefully the next time I decided to race 26.2 I will be prepared.

 So there it is.  In spite of missing 12.5 weeks with the stress fracture I was able to make another strong comeback and other than the marathon I had an outstanding Fall of racing. I'm still not racing as fast as I was this time last year but I think by Spring that will change. As long as no more freak stupid injuries pop up ! Stay tuned for a look ahead to 2018 !

Monday, December 11, 2017

Beat down in Alabama. Rocket City Marathon 2017.

I'm not really sure where to start so I think I'll begin with the event itself by saying that its a great marathon. This was the 41st annual and the Huntsville Track Club does a wonderful job with this small city race. The organization is near perfect with good communication, plenty of friendly volunteers and the Hunstville Police and EMS out in full force.

 The race starts at the Von Braun Center, a complex of several halls and the Probst Arena which is a 10,000 seat multi use facility  and home of the Hunstsville Havoc minor league hockey team. The start is just outside the doors so it was nice to have plenty of rest rooms and stay inside before walking out 10 minutes before the gun, especially on a 25F morning.

 The course isn't flat but there are no major hills and overall is a pretty fast course. Plenty of aid stations and  no way to wander off course. a nice tour of the downtown, residential areas and the highlight is running through the NASA Rocket Center around mile 17 to 19. Very cool running by Saturn V rockets and under a space shuttle( not a functional one) and by lots of other space paraphenalia and aircraft. The finish line is inside the VBC so its nice to have a warm place and access to your clothes to change before heading back to the cold outdoors.

 The End.

 Ok, I'll spare you a complete blow by blow. But be warned, it got ugly.

 I felt fine at the start and was holding back close to the 3:58 and 3:53 pacers. They have pacers for just about every 5 minute increment ! It wasn't long before I became frustrated and regretting wearing my Garmin.. Normally I race with my chronograph so my splits are matching the actual mile markers. By mile 3 it was already off a full 10th of a mile or about 50 seconds at my pace. Grrrr. So I was having to just do a lot of mental math to figure out I was in the ball park of where I wanted to be which was close to 9mp this early.(by the end was off a full 3/10ths of a mile)

  It was nice and calm and sunny so I was quite comfortable and seemed to be dressed plenty warm for the conditions and by mile 5 I removed my gloves. I was in a nice groove and feeling good, but I should be considering this is my normal easy run pace. Things were going well and I was enjoying the day and very gradually getting my average pace to my goal of sub 3:55.(yes a fantasy)  Around mile 10 I noticed the breeze beginning to pick up as I felt a little chillier but the time was perfect at that point.

 I passed the half with about 45 second cushion on the 3:55 goal. This was by the Von Braun Center so lots of cheers along there as we headed out on the 2nd half of the course. By now the wind was definitely picking up (never got too bad), just enough to make me glad I hadn't tossed the gloves away.

 And then at mile 15. I was very disappointed to feel the race slipping away, several miles sooner than I had hoped. At first it wasn't too bad, just a short walk break here and there. The biggest hills on the course were around the Rocket Center and the pace and the pace was slowing and the walks longer.
 It was fun running by the rockets and passing underneath the shuttle, I just wished I felt better.

 By mile 18 I was ready to be done. At mile 20 I never wanted to run again. By mile 22 I lost the will to live. But no way I'm quitting. No pain, just dog tired and the muscles feeling completely depleted and achy. Each mile my pace was slower but I still ran as much as I could as 4:10 then 4:15 then 4:20 all faded away as impossibilities.

 The urge to just walk it in was so strong but I set a new goal of under 4:30 to keep me motivated to go as hard as I could. An arbitrary meaningless number but it was something to cling to and make the suffering manageable. So so happy to see the mile to go mark and the VBC looming ahead. Done. 4:28:47 chip time.

Some more thoughts later.
Thanks for listening to me whine.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Rocket City Marathon or Bust.

 Probably Bust.

 Yes, its road time again and the 4th race in the 40th Annual Running Journal Grand Prix Series, The Rocket City Marathon in Hunstville Alabama. This marathon is one of the oldest and most respected marathons in the South and has been around over 40 years and a fixture on the GP series for many of those years.

 And once again I find myself heading to a marathon in which I am ill prepared. When I signed up I had hopes of being in shape to imagine myself at least cracking the top 3 in my age group  and getting a Boston qualifier but despite having the leg speed I need to reach my goal I just haven't been able to put in the miles.

 Once I started back from the injury in early Summer I had planned to increase my long runs gradually but I struggled with the heat and humidity and just never got in anything longer than 10 until the weather finally began to cool off in Sept and by then I was focusing on the other shorter races. At least I did get in a 16 and a 17 miler this Fall but that's about it.

 So, I could just go and start really easy and plan some walk breaks and finish without suffering but that's just not going to happen. The reason I am going is for the points. In the series they go 8 deep with the points for everyone over 60 and  this race gives double points so I really need to get as many as possible. So the plan is to go out at a pace that will guarantee a spot in Boston and hope I can crack that top 8. OF course I will probably blow up and not do either but if I don't try there's no way  so I'm hoping for a bit of luck and a miracle.

 It's looking like a cold one, about 27F at the start and only warming to the low 40's but at least it should be pretty calm and no precipitation.

 You can check out the race on the website here.

 Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.