Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back on Track

Since crossing the finish line of my first Boston Marathon, I’ve enjoyed the freedom of simply running on a whim, however far or fast my body felt like taking me that day.  The bumps and milestones have balanced themselves out in the nearly three months that have gone by: a trip to the ortho for what turned out to be a phantom issue in my right knee; running purely on marathon fitness, I recorded a new 5K PR (18:24) three weeks after Boston in a race my wife and I have competed in for the past four years, my first trail race, summiting Mt. Battie on a last second decision to "run up a mountain," and others.

First, that pesky half marathon trail race that kept staring me in the face each time I looked at the calendar.  When my cabin-fever was at its peak during Snowpocalypse 2010, I found myself wandering the internet to different race sites looking for races in May and June to, who knows, siphon the heat from those months.  Never had the thought of running outside in the heat, in shorts and a singlet, seemed like such a luxury…of course I’m eating those words now that the mercury has climbed to over 100 three days in a row here in VA, and *gasp* it’s only July. 

Anyway, I mocked up a quick 3-4 week training plan that included some easy runs of no more than 7 miles and a long run that I believe topped out at 9.  I missed a run here and there but felt fit enough to cover the distance but not racing sharp.  I planned to run for the experience and enjoy the scenery through my first trail run. 

It was a fair success.  Though I ran my slowest half marathon time to date (1:51:00), I placed 13th overall out of nearly 500 racers. I also learned that trail running pace is MUCH slower than road race pace.  Plus, I took home a few racing badges: sustained my first bee sting with five miles to go, brushed through a patch of nettles that left the right side of my body tingling until the next morning, saw two snakes (one alive, one dead), and slogged through a creek (twice). My favorite part of the race, though, other than finishing, was reaching the halfway point of this out and back course.  It was a man sitting in a folding chair holding a marker.  You had to stop, let him “x” your bib to prove you’d gotten out there, then turnaround and head back to the start.  Very official.  I'm glad I got to check this race off because I've been eyeing the North Face Endurance Challenge for a couple years now but have always managed to miss it.  I do believe it will be on my calendar again in 2011.

Beyond that race, I’ve run to the top of a mountain in Camden Harbor, ME, quads quivering and lungs searing. And my wife and I spent a week in Acadia National Park racking up more than 30 miles hiking up and down mountains and exhausting our intrepid dog.

But, now it’s time to get back to work, on the bus if you will.  I’ve been keeping up with Ryan Hall’s preparation for Chicago, and several blog posts and articles talked about his return to the track for some good ‘ol fashioned 5K/10K workouts.  It’s with this in mind that I rifled through my running magazines, my dad’s old training log the year he earned his scholarship to UF, and picked the brain of my uncle to put together an 8 week pure speed development program. Coupled with this, I've been steadily doing the General Core Strength videos from the Running Times Web site to strengthen my hips and hopefully put an end to my ITB Anxiety.

Nearly three weeks in, I’ve been on a steady diet of 200 and 400 meter intervals on the track…much less combative now that school is out.  I’m blending that with some sort of fartlek/tempo run later in the week and 90 minute long run each weekend to ensure I hold on to the distance component. 

I have the middle of August circled on my calendar to hopefully blaze a new 5K PR that starts with a 17.  Once I’ve completed this program, I’ll transition to a more traditional half marathon plan to get ready for this year’s Army Ten-Miler, with the hope of getting as close to 60 as possible and maybe even a second or two under.

What’s surprised me thus far is how quickly the body remembers how to run fast.  I feel like I’ve slipped back easily into these workouts. That whole thing about rest seems to be a good thing.  Knock on wood, I’m not sidelined by nagging IT band issues as I was this time last year after finishing the Vermont City Marathon.

In a year that I vowed to take on new running adventures, I'd say I've done pretty well at this halfway juncture.  And still much more to come, including captaining team Got the Runs in the Washington D.C. Ragnar Relay Race in September, and cheering my wife and father-in-law on in November's Philadelphia Marathon.

Back on track. Back on the blog.  Back on the bus. 

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