Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

Yes, Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is more of a season than a day. And let me be clear: I like it that way. This is the holiday when it's only about family getting together. IMHO, it's the best of all holidays.

Veronica stayed with us for a week, and it was wonderful to have her around. She helped out a whole lot, especially with the preparations for Thanksgiving Day itself. Valerie and Barry made it in on Thanksgiving Eve, as did the usual bunch for Thanksgiving Eve dinner featuring my two lasagnas. We also had the usual bunch for Thanksgiving Day itself. Lots of fun and good food. No one starved.

Barry and Veronica ventured out before 5am on Black Friday. They did get the deals they were after, as well as a GPS for us. Then we all went to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens where they had Christmas displays and their usual indoor gardens. I think that turned out to be a good activity for everyone.

Valerie left Friday, and Barry and Veronica went home Saturday. The house is nearly (except for Mom) empty again. Sigh.

Did I run during the week, you ask? Yes, but poorly. After that pretty-good half marathon, my runs were slow and then got worse. Worst of all was an 11-miler on Black Friday morning. We got a snowstorm, with about 3 inches falling during the run. I often used to enjoy these kinds of runs in new snow, but I wasn't dressed properly, and this one turned out to be miserable.

To recap, it was a wonderful week with the family, not so wonderful running-wise. I did manage to get my 70 miles in however. And I should be thankful that I'm not injured. All I really need to do is continue to maintain this mileage level, and also lose those extra ten or so pounds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 CWRRC Fall Classic Half Marathon

Ninety Minutes. It wasn't too big a deal for much of my running career. I even broke 90 for a tough half (Stomp the Grapes) last year. But this year has been even more mediocre than last, and I haven't come close for the two halves I've run. Therefore today's expectations weren't high: to run around 92 minutes. Even that seemed a bit ambitious. That's 7 minutes per mile, and it's what I did here last year on a cold day. Yes, if I could do 92 minutes today, it would be a good one.

Temperatures were nice - low 40s and some fog. I started a little too fast, but I felt good the whole time, so I stayed with it. I came through the half-way point at around 44 and a half minutes. This was going better than expected. I did begin to slow down a bit in the second half. A couple energy gels perked me up some, and I did pick it back up, but I never got the pace back to as fast as those first few miles.

I passed a few runners in the final miles, and was closing in on a guy who looked to be in my age group, when we suddenly ran out of real estate. He was in my age group, so I missed out on an AG win by about 10 seconds. Sound familiar? My last three longer races have been like that, except that I did win one of the three. Although I did not manage to break 90, my 90:42 time was a good one. I'll definitely take it.

One other thing to add: I absolutely love this race. I see so many new and old friends that it's like a homecoming run. I'll never stop doing it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long on Lester, Achieving Eightness, and Other Stories

After Saturday's 14 on the towpath I hit the trail again on Sunday. This time it was the Lester Rail Trail for my usual four loops of six miles. I say usual because that's usually what I do run there. It has, however, been a while since I've run there. It's much simpler to just run from home, but I like the softer surface of the trail as well as the lack of traffic. The goal was, as usual, to run each loop a little faster, and this time I succeeded: the approximate times were something on the order of: 54.5, 51.5, 50, 47.5 minutes. Good trend. I'm reasonably happy with it.

It took a lot, however, to get down to eight minute pace for that last lap. This has been the case quite a bit lately: it's just tough to run the kind of speeds that used to be routine a couple years ago. In fact, it wasn't so far back in the past when I would average eight minute pace for the entire year! This year my average pace per mile has been hovering around 8 and a half. Is it any wonder that my race times are also slower?

How was the rest of the week, you ask. It's been going ok, and I'm reasonably happy with it. Slow going Monday morning and then evening with the MCRR gang prior to the meeting (and it was a good meeting, with Mark Croghan as the speaker). A little better for Tuesday's twelve, and then better still today (Wednesday): I just barely managed a tempo run as part of the 11-mile course, which I completed, along with an additional three, at exactly eight-minute pace.

I signed up for the Fall Classic Half this Sunday, and then just yesterday learned that there's a little 5k in Brunswick on Saturday. Now running the 5k would probably slow me down to some extent for the half. But I'd like to do the 5k, and I really don't know how much slowing would occur. Decision time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Floors and Countertops and Appliances, Oh My

As with the countertops, the floors - just finished a couple days ago - look great. The scary part is that some of the bills are now starting to come through. Then there's the really scary electrical problem the other day - the light fixture in the back bedroom shorted out two circuits. Oh and the weird car problems. You'd think it was Halloween again. I got it- it was all the stuff leading up to yesterday: Friday the Thirteenth. Scary.

We visited with Mike and Iris and Bob and Linda at the Rafalski's last night. Lots of laughs.

Taking Mom out for her birthday tomorrow.

Recent Running

After Monday's long run, I took Tuesday off, ran my 11-mile loop on Wednesday, including a pretty-good tempo portion, and then on Thursday drove to AND FROM the Stop&Go to run with the MCRR gang. I also ran a few extra with Ladd afterwards. Friday was an off-day, so I felt fairly well-rested for today's run on the towpath with Dave. We did the usual - from Station Rd. to Peninsula and back for a 14-mile total. And it wasn't a bad run at all - about 61 minutes out and 54 back. Now I will try to recover for a long run tomorrow.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Joke and The Challenge

After last week's fiasco with being locked out of the car and having to run home, Ladd, Chuck and I joked about me running all the way to the Stop&Go, running the loop with the MCCR gang, and then running back home for a grand total distance of 26 miles.

But then yesterday I started to think about it. I had been considering a long run for sometime during the week. Monday would be a good day for it because the weather would be good and I could work around any possible conflicts. And I like to try different things to inject some adventure into my running. Some, but not too much. So at some point during my muddled thinking yesterday, this whole concept began to change from a joke to a challenge. It would be tough: I'd have to leave the house by 3:30am to arrive in time for the 5:05am start. I'd have to plan for my hydration, fueling and bathroom needs. I'd have to run fast enough to get there on time, and then fast enough to get home by 8am. Yes, it would be a challenge for sure.

Awake before 3am, I was out of the house and running by 3:33. I didn't think that nine minute miles would be a problem, but there was that pit stop along the way. Arriving after everyone left would be a disappointment. I had started fairly slowly, but got faster as I went on. I could still feel yesterday's race in my old legs. But at least I was moving in the right direction. I made it with a couple minutes to spare.

Jeannine, Ladd, Marsha, Steve, Chuck, Shelby and I had a nice run together. The only thing was that it felt like a fast pace but it turned out that it really wasn't. We were several minutes slower than last week's run, but it still felt pretty durn fast. Of course everyone thought I was nuts. "Last week I forgot the keys, this week I forgot the car." And so on. Afterwards we talked a bit, and Jeannine donated some water. I took a gel and used the restroom before continuing my Odyssey.

Now I had to get home, and I had an hour forty-five to do it. At least I knew the distance. I started slow, but once I got north of the Medina square, I felt better and began to run better. I took one last gel with some water at the golf course and then embarked on the final 4.5 mile leg up Hamilton and Substation. By about 7am, the traffic was picking up, making the running less safe and definitely less pleasant.

By about 7:45am, I was back home. The last 10 were a bit slower than the first 10, but not by much. The challenge was met. I don't think I'll feel the need to do this particular sort of thing again, thank you. Now excuse me; it's time for a nap.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dick's Horseradish 5K

Run the course, run the race, run the course. That always seems to be the plan for 5k runs, especially when Connie is involved. Today it was Ladd, Chuck and I, along with Connie making the trip to Canton to run Dick's Horseradish 5K. The weather was perfect - just about 50F and clear.

After the warmup run of the course, we started the race. As always, there was a mad sprint at the start. I was determined not to start too fast, and I didn't. The first mile, the hilliest, as in about 6:27. The second mile was close to the same. I felt pretty good, so I tried to pick it up for the third mile. It turned out to be only a little faster than the first two, but just enough to pass a few folks, including Connie just before the finish. "You're not going to let an old man beat you, are you?" I shouted as I went by. She only replied, "you're not old!". I think she lies. I was also trying to catch Ladd and Chuck, but I wasn't able to.

I hit my watch as I crossed the line: 19:59. I usually lose a second or two somewhere, and sure enough, the official results did show me at 20:02 or something like that. Oh well. I wound up second in the age group. Don Cassidy was first. Oh well.

It was my best 5k in a couple years, so I'm pretty happy with it.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Stupid Dan Tricks, Number 3,247

Today's plan was to run 6.2 miles at 5am with some of my MCRR friends. We met at Stop&Go at Sturbridge and Rte 3, south of Medina. And we had a very nice brisk run, finishing the hilly 10k loop in a bit over 50 minutes. Afterwards, we talked for a couple minutes and everyone left. I then realized I had locked my keys in the car.

Now it was a bit after 6am, and I was ten to twelve miles (wasn't at all sure) from home. I didn't want to wake Debbie up, but I did have to get home by 8am for a meeting. Would I make it? Only one way to find out.

Luckily, it wasn't as far south as I thought, and I was into Medina in no time. Then it was past Walmart, Second Sole, and up to Hamilton. At this point I knew I was only 4.5 miles from home (via Substation) and I'd been running at a good clip, so I'd make it in good time. Of course I did slow down for those final miles on Substation, but I did make it.

Final tally: 9.91 miles in 83 minutes. Only the final four were slower than 8 minute pace.

Other stupid Dan tricks: after Sunday's marathon, I did a couple on the mill on Monday and didn't feel too bad. On Tuesday, I DID feel bad as I did my 11-mile loop at an excruciatingly slow 9 minutes per mile. Wednesday was decidedly much better: I did my 12-mile route to/around North Park under 8.5 minutes per mile, with a nice strong finish.

Now I have almost all the miles I wanted for the week and it's only Thursday. I DO need a rest.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Inland Trail Marathon

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: *almost* nothing feels as good as running strong at the end of a marathon. It had been a while: nearly all my recent efforts have been marked by either a gradual slowdown or an outright crash and burn. But I was determined not to let that happen at today's Inland Trail Marathon. I would be running it for the third consecutive year of the four years of its existence. It is fairly scenic, very straight, very flat and very well managed for such a small race. I always run fairly well there, in part because the weather's always perfect.

Today was no exception on any of those counts. The weather was once again exceptional: mostly cloudy with very light winds and temperatures in the forties. I ran most of the first half with Chuck D. We both wanted to pick it up about half-way, but we both figured that Chuck would pick it up faster than me. I hit that half-way mark on this out and back course at about 1:42. I had been thinking that it would be 1:40 and that a 3:20 finish would be nice. Regardless of the time, I just wanted to be strong through the finish.

Chuck was well ahead of me as I turned and picked it up to a 7:30 to 7:45 per mile pace. He ended up with a great second half and a great all-round effort. I think I hit mile 20 at about 2:33 or 2:34, and I picked it up just a bit more, to 7:30 or better for each of the final 6 miles. I passed several people, including one guy who turned out to be in my age group. I finished very strong and crossed the line in 3:20:30, good for the age group win. Note that the opposite occurred (I was the one passed in the final mile) at the Towpath Marathon a couple weeks ago.

It may be obvious, but I'm very happy with this one. I finally did what I thought I was capable of, and I actually got that rush as I finished strong. Just to temper that optimism just a bit, here's a disturbing trend of my Inland Trail times for the past three years: 2007: 3:14, 2008: 3:17, 2009: 3:20. I'll try to reverse this in 2010.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...