Thursday, May 31, 2007

ChiCOWgo and Army 10 - 2004

In early June '04, my Command contacted me to see if I was interested in being part of a team that would participate in the Army 10 miler, because I was part of a team the previous year. In 2003 I happened to be the fastest runner in my team, not a good thing. I ran a 69:43, just a few seconds off my PR. This year, I told the COL organizing the running teams, I would shoot for a low 68, maybe even break it. I started training for this race about 12 weeks prior.

My training was going so well I even dreamed of running significantly faster than the low 68 I had ‘committed.’ I was running 24 miles per week, divided into three or four runs. Most of these runs were quality, which means they were either repeats, tempo or long. The core of this training was a four mile tempo. I progressively improved from an average of 6:53/mile to a 6:29/mile. However, soon after the 6:29 'peak,' my training would turn sour. The time I ran the tempo run in 6:29, my breathing, my form, my mind, were all one; everything was in sync. I should note that the last mile in these tempo runs was always difficult, but not during 'the' peak. BUT, one should peak in a RACE, and NOT in training as I did.

The week after my peak, I was barely able to average 6:51/mile… for ONLY three miles, mind you; I was so out of breath I could not complete the fourth mile. The next two weeks would see marginal improvements. My last tempo run was the week of the Chicago marathon. This time I was able to run the full four miles, and at 6:45 pace, with three miles of w/u and three miles of c/d for 10 miles.

Two days after this 10 miler, I had a very stiff back, painful really. I ran a couple of days later, and I was running lob-sided. Once my back warmed up I was able to run at a decent ‘tempo’ pace. I had hope after all. On Saturday October 11, the day before the Chicago Marathon, I ran a 5K; however, I believe it was not accurate, so I am not sure I should consider the 19:45 time a PR; my back hardly bothered me. The following day I lined up w/ some 33K runners from around the globe.

This was going to be my 26th marathon. Having ran slow times, for me, the last two ‘thons (4:43 and 4:12) I wanted to run around 3:30. I knew I had the speed, but I did not have the training. My longest run consisted of one 15 miler. So I approached this race as a training run for my upcoming 10 miler.

I started slow, 8:20s, for the first three miles. I settled into a comfortable 8 minute or so pace. The day before, I had tried this new energy drink, Monster, and I believe it was causing me to have stomach gurgling; I hoped I did not have to stop, or worse yet that I’d have an accident. Also, from time to time whenever I’d land a certain way, I’d feel pain on my lower back... sciatica, argh! Please don’t let it get bad enough where I’ll have to stop. Half marathon time 1:45:XX, right on target.

The lack of long runs would get me though. And at 14 I started feeling tired. BUT, I remembered reading that speeding up during a race often helped the feeling of fatigue. So I picked up the pace, 7:43, oops, a bit too fast. I slow it down a notch. I would run the next few miles in the 7:50s. At 25 I picked it up one more notch, 7:35. Mile 26, 7:21. Last 0.2 were ran in 83 seconds (my fastest 0.2 ever). Final time of 3:27:13, and second only to St. George where the course drops 2500 feet, and where I ran an obviously gravity-aided 3:14:28 [this was before I ran a 3:12 in St. George and a 3:17:56 in Boston].

I was quite pleased with this result, but I was afraid I had left too much in this race. I ran an easy three two days later. No injuries seemed to be present. Three days later I attempted speed-work; probably not a good idea, since I barely managed to run 4X400 @ 90 seconds with one minute recovery, and I did feel some pain in my quads and hamstrings. Did not attempt a tempo run until one week before the Army 10. Although, it wasn’t a tempo run, I had to take a break after 10 minutes, and another one five minutes later. I was getting worried I would not recover in time to run the 67:30 I believed I could run.

The day before race day, I ran an easy four. Let the chips fall where they may. No time for regrets or reflections.

Race day I woke up to rain on Sunday morning, more like a drizzle. I jogged the mile to the hotel where we were going to meet. My legs felt light and springy. Our group then walked a few blocks to the Pentagon. Luckily, the bag turn-in was on the way, but it was rather chaotic. Jogged to the start line for it was getting close to race time. As I was approaching the corrals, the National Anthem started playing. Stopped and took it all in. I made it to my corral just 15 minutes before. I jumped the concrete k-rail to try to run some strides. It was kind of crowded so my strides were 40 meters long. I did three of them. I was nervous but felt ready; as ready as I could be.

The race starts five minutes late. I take off with a bunch of runners wearing green bibs. First mile comes surprisingly fast and my watch reads 6:45, perfect. To this point the effort seems easy, too easy I think. I would miss the next mile marker. I press the split button and it reads 13:42, oops I slowed down. I now have to make up 12 seconds. In this two-mile stretch running continues to be smooth, with my breathing becoming labored during a couple of mild inclines (this would happen in ALL positive inclines). Right around this time I hear this guy playing the clarinet; he’s playing something patriotic and he’s keeping a good tune… while running. The next split reads 6:06 - don’t I wish! A tall and buff marine, carrying a rucksack, and a medium size flag, passes me [take that DANCON]. He is running strong and effortlessly; i guesstimate he is running 6:30s. I immediately HATE him.

The following split would confirm the fourth mile marker was misplaced, 7:30. So now I am 18 or 19 seconds off my target time. Time to pick it up. I start passing runners consistently. Mile 6, 6:44, good, I am feeling a bit tired but my breathing is okay. I miss the Mile 7 marker. Not a big deal. Miles 7 and 8, 13:28, or 6:44 pace, only 14 seconds behind. It’s now or never. I pick up the effort but this bridge has an incline that my legs are feeling. Even though the effort was more than the previous eight miles I only clock a 6:40. I feel strong during this last mile; I pass some roadkill… I make the turn into the underpass, the finish banner is visible. This guy and I go for it… we’re running neck and neck, we’re practically sprinting, yet my legs still feel strong. We cross the finish line together; I commend him for his efforts. My final chip time is 67:25.

I am quite happy; I met my goal. The cool weather certainly helped. My team did not figure in the awards, but there’s always next time, perhaps break 66 for me???. Or... break 3:10 in CIM come December 02, 2007? Which will it be? Stay tuned!

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