Monthly Archives: May 2006

I’m glad my car isn’t a stick-shift.

Start time: 05/28/06, 7:50am
Location: Clarendon neighborhood
Distance: 2.66 miles
Average pace: 9:56min/mile

Well, the plan was to knock out a 5 miler this morning. It went well at first, running through Clarendon and all the way down to the far end of Rosslyn before starting to come back up on the huge hill that is Wilson Boulevard leading away from the Potomac River.

It all got cut short, though, when my left calf started to feel sore. I slowed down to stretch it, and that just made matters worse; it completely tightened up and running no longer became an option. So, that was the end of this morning’s run. I don’t know if it was the extra-hillwork (that is one steep hill), a potential lack of potassium, or perhaps that I’d done extra stretching this morning before running. Ah well, win some lose some. Fortunately it was the left leg, since I’m now off to drive up to Pennsylvania. Wheeee!

Greg vs GPS, Round 1

Start time: 05/26/06, 8:45am
Location: Clarendon neighborhood
Distance: 3 miles
Average pace: 8:57min/mile

The plan was a pretty simple one; head out around 8am, run 4 miles and give the Garmin 301 Forerunner a whirl. It’s supposed to be raining/storming after work today, so running before work was paramount. I was running a little late, but that was ok–an 8:15 start time would still work. So, suited up and ready to get moving, I stepped out the door, turned on the Garmin… and it said that it was at a “low battery” level of power and had “0 hours” of battery life left. What??? I’d charged it fully up on Wednesday, surely it was all right? The only thing I could think is that when I played with the software on the computer and hooked it up through the USB port, it somehow drained the battery rather than charging it. It’s either that, or it can’t hold a charge. Hmph.

So, back inside I went, and hooked it up to the charger for about half an hour until it said it had “1 hour” of power. Then it was back outside for a now-shortened 3-mile run. It went pretty well; I didn’t mess with intervals, just wanting to get used to the basic functions of the watch itself. I was thinking for some reason that it was going to beep at me each mile, although for all I know it did and I just didn’t hear it over the headphones. But it did auto-lap each mile, which was more important, and afterwards I was able to download the data off to provide me with a cheezy map, and more importantly my splits. The first one supposedly was a 7:59 (?!), the second and third more reasonable at 9:24 and 9:29. Considering that a good portion of mile 3 is uphill, such a small slip is a great thing in my book. Afterwards I used the Gmaps Pedometer and it said the route was 2.9 miles. So it could have been a hiccup in the first mile (a distinct possibility with that split), or just an overall slight slide in distance. With some more usages I’ll have a better idea. Regardless, even if it was only 2.9 miles, it was still a good run… despite the last third of a mile involving getting rained on. Hmph.

In Which Greg Runs With A Local Group

Pacers Tuesday Night Fun RunStart time: 05/23/06, 7:00pm
Location: Clarendon and the Custis Trail
Distance: 4.25 miles
Average pace: 9:57min/mile

About a month ago, lostchaos e-mailed me a picture from her cameraphone telling me about a local running store (Pacers) and how they had a weekly “fun run” open for anyone. I saved the e-mail and kept telling myself that I’d actually do it. But (and I know people find this hard to believe!) when it comes to new things I can be a bit shy; if there isn’t someone that I know there, I just as often will not go. Then, last Tuesday, I was standing outside the Clarendon metro station to meet jblum and kateorman for dinner and saw the Pacers group across the street assembling and heading out on their run. They all zipped by me, and suddenly I realized… I knew someone there. It was Chris, a fellow site assistant for AIDS Marathon (he’s working with the Half Marathon runners). So I dropped him an e-mail, asked him a couple of questions, and then decided that this upcoming week would be a perfect time to start.

One quick stroll down Clarendon Boulevard and I was at Pacers. There were about… oh, fifteen or so people there, including Chris. We were sorted into time groups (the first one was “6-7 minute miles” and I had to keep from snickering in response as I quickly scooted out of that rance) and we headed out for what was promised to be a “5 mile” course… and oh yes, we were going to head down the hill that is Highland Street, and go from there onto Hill City, aka the Custis Trail. Ack.

That said, it was a nice run. I chatted with Chris as we ran about this and that, and while we were towards the back of the pack we weren’t last (phew!) it was a pleasant run. I figure some hill work could do me good, and the change of scenery was huge. Running with different people and a different place just felt really… really good, really refreshing. It could be just what I needed, having something different. (And no walk breaks either.)

The only downside (well, aside from hill mania) was that when I looked at my time, I felt really surprised because it seemed a bit… low… to really be a 5-mile course. (42:17? Really? Although having the two splits being 20:42 and 21:35 was a relief to know it wasn’t that different.) I didn’t have the GPS unit with me so I mapped it out afterwards… sure enough! It’s actually just a 4.25-mile course. Still, not bad at all!

Return to Capitol Hill

Race: The Capitol Hill Classic 10K
Start time: 05/21/06, 8:30am
Location: Downtown Washington DC
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
Run:Walk ratio: 6:1
Finishing time: 57:30
Average pace: 9:16min/mile

With my last race I was mentally composing a journal entry five seconds into the race about how I knew I wasn’t going to get a PR. Around mile 3 today, I was wondering why I hadn’t already done the same thing.

But let’s rewind a bit. Readers of my other journal will know that I’d been feeling like I was dragging and just generally not up to par all weekend, and this morning was unfortunately no exception. Cal told me that ten seconds into the race today he was thinking, “Why am I here?” and that’s actually what was going through my head before I’d even left my home. Ugh. I got to the start of the race, though, and found a pack of AIDS Marathoners to start with. We were all going to be runnign different speeds, though, so it was with a bit of regret that I realized I’d be running this one on my own again. I was hoping to have someone to pace off of; this year I’ve felt like several times I’ve headed out of the gate too fast (races or otherwise) and was afraid that we’d get a repeat performance of this bad running behavior. Sure enough the first two miles were just that (8:13, 8:30) and I just knew that I wasn’t going to be able to maintain this pace. (It was also around this time I was wishing that it was a 5K because I like to think I could’ve kicked it out on the final 1.1 miles.)

Sweltering in the sun (it was 52 degrees when I left, but the heat and sun seem to have shown up five minutes later), I hit the third mile marker at 9:50 and I could just feel my heart sink. My previous PR was a 9:22min/mile pace and I spent a lot of the rest of the race diong math in my head, trying to figure out how many extra seconds I had “banked” from the first two miles to see if I could beat that. Mile 4’s time looked the same (9:48) but it was also a two-walk-break mile so I felt like I was starting to rally a bit. Sure enough, mile 5 was at a 9:29 and I began to think that yeah, I could do this so long as I didn’t bomb out. “All right, Greg,” I told myself. “You just finished mile 5 and your time is a 45:53. To beat last year’s 58:06 you just need to finish the last 1.2 miles in 12 minutes. That’s a 10-minute pace. No problem.

What I really need to be thinking at this point of a race is really “don’t forget that you still have to climb Capitol Hill before you hit mile marker 6.” Ugh, ugh, ugh. I hate that stupid hill with a passion, to put it mildly. Struggling back up the hill, even though I’d taken my walk break just two minutes earlier I just couldn’t do it. I was out of gas. I finally told myself I could walk for an additional minute and that I’d make up the time once it leveled out a bit. Walking up even part of the hill felt like… well, defeat. At the same time, I kept scanning the side of the course for the mile marker. Where was it? Where was it?

And there it was. 9:53 for the mile. I could still do this, I’d get a PR, and it wouldn’t be the one I wanted as of yesterday but it would still be an improvement and a real victory. I pushed through the last .2 miles as best as I could, and while my old adrenaline burst never did hit (ah well) it was all over in just 1:44, for a new PR of 57:30.

Phew. Not my most glamorous race, and I didn’t feel strong the way I did after the race last year… but I did it, and it’s done. Now I just need to really start getting out there regularly again (and drop off these extra five pounds that have once more come back to haunt me) and all will be well. I hope!

2005: 315/386 (81st percentile) (30-39 group)
2006: 166/233 (71st percentile) (30-34 group)

Return to 5

Start time: 05/12/06, 6:30pm
Location: W&OD Trail
Distance: 5 miles
Run:Walk ratio: 6:1
Average pace: 9:14min/mile

It’s been a while since I’ve run a 5-miler for a maintenance run… apparently the last one was just over two months ago when I was in Florida. Yeesh!

Anyway, it was a nice day, and while my allergies seemed to really be drying me out I decided that now was the time. The first mile, unsurprisingly, was a little fast (8:57) but the second seemed to be as well (9:08). I was bracing myself for the inevitable Mile 3 Slowdown, but even it wasn’t too bad (9:29). As I continued to head back I kept waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, but it never did (9:20, 9:16). Considering the second half is uphill, I was quite happy with that. Really, a genuinely nice run.

Well, except for deciding to eat a gel because I felt like I was on an empty stomach and the entire Carb Boom shot out of the packet in one big blob that made me feel like I’d just swallowed a gigantic ball of snot. Mmmmmm, yum! Isn’t running fun?

Anyway, a nice run and a bit of a confidence booster to boot. The one strange thing? Running on a Friday. Now I don’t have running logs for November or December 2004, but I’m pretty sure that the last time I ran on a Friday was in October 2004. And in my May through October training season it was the only time I did so. This may be the second time I’ve ever run on a Friday! Oh, the difference of not having a run scheduled for Saturday mornings…


Start time: 05/09/06, 8:20am
Location: Arlington Boulevard Trail
Distance: 4 miles
Run:Walk ratio: 6:1
Average pace: 9:23min/mile

It’s funny, because while I’m used to running early on Saturday or Sunday mornings, the past year and a half has been me almost always running on weekdays after work instead of before. The end result is that it still feels a little strange to do so, even though I think overall I enjoy the benefits more with having gotten everything moving beforehand. I was actually a bit behind schedule this morning when trying to get out the door, and it was a bit chillier than I’d expected, but I’m quite happy I finally started hoofing it.

I started a little fast—the first half-mile clocked in at 4:01 and I could just see another colossal “crash and burn” on the horizon if I kept that up. The rest of the run was me trying to find a new pace that I could stick with. I was hoping for a good 9:30 that I could find and then maintain. The second half of the first mile, I think, was actually that once you factor in the walk break having landed there (8:57). Mile two was me a tiny bit off-kilter (9:38) and mile three I was happy with considering it was the two-walk-breaks zone that a 6:1 will have it fall in (9:39) and I was clearly starting to find what I was looking for. Sure enough, mile four was more or less at the same point (9:20) once it was back to one walk cycle. Since miles 2 and 4 are uphill (a slow grade at first, then steeper at the end) I’m happy with that. lostchaos hasn’t commented on me looking like death warmed over when I passed her as she was walking to the metro around mile 3.8, so that’s a good sign. Now let’s see what happens on Thursday (another solo run as jabulous is out of town on a business trip through Friday afternoon).

(I must say that I was surprised to see no other runners out when I started, though, but a ton of them at the very end. I’d have assumed it would be the other way around!)

Oh, and big props to confessions_123 for hooking me up with Girls Aloud, whose “Waiting” is a really fine running song. That and the Go-Go’s “Unforgiven” have got a great beat to try and sync up with.

So Far, So Pleased

Race: The Race for Hope 5K
Start time: 05/07/06, 8:30am
Location: Downtown Washington DC
Distance: 5K (3.1 miles)
Run:Walk ratio: 6:1
Finishing time: 27:01
Average pace: 8:43min/mile

Within five seconds of starting the Race for Hope 5K, I was already composing this journal entry in my head and it began with, “There’s something very liberating about instantly knowing that you won’t be getting a personal record in a race and simultaneously not worrying about it.” That was this morning for me; I crossed over the start line, and my head just wasn’t in it. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. A better description might be that my body just wasn’t in it; I was feeling extremely tired before we even began, and raceday adrenaline just wasn’t doing anything. (I hit the first marker at 8:03 and thought “well, that’s not going to stick.” Sure enough, mile 2 was 9:16 and mile 3.1 was 9:40 (which is an 8:47min/mile for the last 1.1 so that’s not as bad as it looks).)

But you know? This wasn’t a sour grapes “but I didn’t want a PR anyway” moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take one in a heartbeat; this broke a run of PRs that began with the St. Patrick’s Day 10K in March 2004 and extended for a whopping total of 15 races. And if this had been any other race I think I’d have been a lot more disappointed. But it’s the Race for Hope, which raises money to benefit brain tumor research. There are a lot of survivors who run the race, as well as people who have both “in memory of” and “in celebration of” bibs, shirts, signs, bandannas, and anything else they can think of. It’s an extremely emotional race; I get choked up at least once or twice throughout the race course every year.

So, no PR. That’s ok; I’m just really happy that I got to run this race for the fourth time in a row, and that I was there. In terms of this time last year there was improvement, I’ve come a long way in the past few years in general, and it was a good day. (A tiny bit disappointing that my maintenance run last Monday had a faster pace, but ah well.) I’m pleased.

Oh, and stats:

2003 — 79/99 (79th percentile)
2004 — 92/148 (62nd percentile)
2005 — 56/141 (39th percentile)
2006 — 60/109 (55th percentile)

Pre-2006 they were automatically assigning timing chips to everyone, running or walking; this year you had to sign up for a timing chip.

Once More With Feeling

Start time: 05/03/06, 6:30pm
Location: W&OD Trail
Distance: 4 miles
Run:Walk ratio: 6:1
Average pace: 9:54min/mile

I went out running with Julie today for a four-miler. The first three were pretty standard miles for when we run together (10:01, 9:46, 10:32), perhaps a tiny bit faster than the last couple times we paired up. With one mile to go, though, Julie wasn’t feeling well so I took the last one in by myself at her directive (9:17). Afterwards I turned around and started heading back towards her but she was just around the corner, not far behind me at all. I felt bad about having gone on ahead and said as much, so she yelled at me. 🙂 (Ok, not literally yelling.) But it was a good run despite finishing a minute or two ahead of J-Money.

One week later.

Start time: 05/01/06, 6:15pm
Location: W&OD Trail
Distance: 3 miles
Run:Walk ratio: 6:1
Average pace: 8:35min/mile

I want to say that this was a full week since the last time I ran, but considering how disastrous THAT run went… the last real successful run was actually on April 19th. Phew!

I figured the best thing to do would be to just stick with a 3-miler, get back on track and all that fun stuff. Knowing it was just a 3-miler, and with the Marine Corps Marathon training program starting up again on Saturday, I know that in the back of my head I had AIDS Marathon’s training program and its kick off time trials bouncing around. One of the pace groups I’d been eyeing this year is the 9:30 group, which means finishing the 3-miler at under an 8:30 pace and doing so in a comfortable manner. (It’s that last part that’s the kicker. Right now my 5K PR is a 28:23, or an 8:31min/mile pace. I’d like to pick up a new PR at a 5K this Sunday, but we’ll see.) But anyway, it was definitely rattling around in my brain when I headed out.

The first two miles were pretty comfortable; I was surprised at the times I picked up (8:23, 8:28)… so in retrospect what should’ve NOT been a surprise was that I felt like crap for the third mile. Definitely running out of steam, the whole nine yards of “I’m pooped”. With it came a noticeable decrease for the final mile (8:53) which landed me at an 8:35min/mile pace. And I really felt like crap when I was done; I actually walked over to a bench and sat down for a minute or two when it was over because I was at empty.

What does this say? Well, that I’ll probably not be in the 9:30 group this year. Don’t get me wrong, I can run a comfortable 9:30min/mile pace for a good distance right now (the National Half Marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler this year both said that to me) but… I’ve also always said that ultimately I need to land in the group that the training program puts me in. If everyone else in the 9:30 group did a comfortable 3-miler at a speed that I can’t, I probably shouldn’t be there. But, we’ll see. A lot can certainly change in a month, and I do need to remind myself that this was the first post-sick run I had. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not giving up hope but I’m also not setting myself up for disappointment.

And hey, if I am in the 10:00 group, that’s still pretty rocking good. 🙂