Monday, July 29, 2013

Pro Football HOF Enshrinement Festival 2 & 5 Mile

Harold, Alan, Patti and me       Harold Dravenstott photo
That's the official name of the race. Good thing I didn't spell out Hall of Fame; we could have had Post Title Overflow.

This would be the second week in a row for a large and prestigious five-miler. This time the race was the Canton Football Hall of Fame Five-Mile. I met up with Patti Tomasello and Harold and Alan Dravonstatt for the ride down to football-land. Like last week, it's a fur piece. Unlike last week, the weather actually did decide to cooperate. As we arrived, we all noticed that it was relatively cool, and, more importantly, not humid.

Like last week, my goal was to keep the miles under seven minutes. This really shouldn't be such a big deal for me; I do my weekly tempo training runs at this pace. As it turned out, the first mile was fine, and the second mile, very downhill-ish, was screaming fast. Even mile three was okay, but mile four was uphill, and it was my first over seven minutes. Could I hold it together for the fifth?

This race is in the Ohio-Subway Challenge Series. Since I used to participate in the series, I was familiar with the race and the competition. It's the same old group of arch-nemisises: Ron Legg, Al King, and, in my very own age group, Don Cassidy, Vince Russo, and Doug Hradek. We all pretty know the general pecking order, and where we each fit in that old food chain. (Like that? Doing my best to mix my metaphors here.)

I thought that Alan and I would run pretty much together, but I didn't see him after the first half-mile. I also didn't see Don after the first half-mile; he was moving fast, and was well up ahead by the first mile mark. I did see Vince for pretty much the entire way. I caught up with him around the McKinley monument - mile three - mumbling 'hey Vince' as I went by. That was about all the conversation I was capable of.

Vinced passed me back a short time later, saying, 'you probably have another thirty miles to run when we're finished.' My brain tried to say something like, 'no, I'm no longer running so many miles.' Unfortunately, this came out of my mouth something like this: 'noarghh!' I noticed, however, that Vince was breathing very heavily as he tried to maintain his slight lead.

Not that I wasn't doing the same thing. But it was good to know that I was making him work. I passed him once more around the four-mile mark. It felt like I was pouring it on for my final mile, but in reality I was only maintaining that seven minute pace. Then came what's known there as 'Heartbreak Hill': a short but very steep hill leading to the finish,

Trying my darndest to stay ahead of Vince, and also to keep my overall time under thirty-five minutes, I somehow managed to (barely) do both. I finished in 34:49 by my watch (34:55 on theirs). That was good for second in the age group, well behind Don, but just ahead of Vince.

This was much hillier than last week's run, but also much less humid. And about 3/4 minute faster. Looks like cooler/less humid wins. Now I will take a week off from racing, before my next big push.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Johnnycake Jog

Here I am prior to the start. Thanks to Chip Jenkins for the photo
As I've been fond of telling anyone who will still listen to me, the very first Cleveland Marathon in 1978 was also my own very first marathon. Similarly, the very first Johnnycake Jog 5-mile in 1977 was my own very first road race.

Back in those days there weren't nearly so many road races as there are today. I remember going in not knowing what to expect. I drove up with my training partner, Paul Coleman, in his conversion van. The reason I remember that little detail is because of the aftermath.

It was a hot one. Ninety-five daggone degrees. And that year they held the race at one o’clock in the afternoon. In the heat of the day. Relentless sun beating down. Mad dogs and Englishmen. Cook an egg on the sidewalk. You know all the sayings.

I wish I could remember my time. I do remember how I nearly collapsed due to that heat. When I came back to Paul's van, my skin was bright red from heat - not sunburn. And it seemed that I just could not cool down. Paul, who felt nearly the same way, opened the cooler in his van and got out some large blocks of ice that we proceeded to rub all over our bodies. Funny how you remember something like that.

Thirty-seven years later, it seemed as though this time would be different; cooler temperatures were in the forecast for Sunday. Too bad they were wrong. It was still hot, sunny, and extremely humid.  I drove that long trip to Painesville with Chip Jenkins. I saw Becky, Mike and several other acquaintances once we got there. I also saw plenty of other top-notch runners as well.

The heat caught up with me soon enough. I'd kind've hoped to keep all my miles under seven minutes. Didn't happen - beginning as soon as mile two. Even so, I thought I might still be able to break 35 minutes as I turned onto Mentor Avenue for the final straight, flat and hot, hot, hot final mile and three quarters into the sun.

Would I be able to pick it up? In the words of grandson Malcolm, nope. I kept loping at the same old just-over-seven-minute pace to finish in 35:38. That turned out to be good for second in the geezer division and one second ahead of third.

Maybe I'll get faster NEXT time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Midsummer Morn's Steam

My first thought at 3:55 am is this: I slept well, but not enough. The air conditioning (it's the latest thing) helps. We try to hold off turning the darn thing on as long as we can, but yesterday we gave in, and of course kept it on for the night.

As I start ambling/stumbling around the house, I shut down the A/C and proceed to open windows and doors to let the cool night air in. The only problem is that the night air is not the least bit cool. After all the nice cool weather and rain, Summer has finally arrived. With it comes the warm, humid nights that I'm not very fond of. Not that I'm fond of the humid ninety-degree daytime heat either. But it would be nice if it cooled down at least a little more at night.

The coffee takes longer than I had hoped to have its desired effect. I don't get out the door until - get this - 6:15 am. What did I do for those two hours? I checked email, turned on the tv to check the weather, did some push-ups, fed Rosy the cat and rubbed her belly... all the usual stuff that could be accomplished in 30 minutes if I'd put my mind to it.

But that's the key. With the coffee not working as speedily as I'd like, I have no mind at all.

I'm about 45 minute too late for the country road course that I used to do regularly, and wanted to get back to but haven't been able to because I haven't been getting up and out early enough to get onto the course early enough to beat the traffic on those country roads that I can't stand and is somewhat dangerous so instead I have to do what I've been doing instead for a while now, and that is to run up to North Park and five times around and back to make it a ten-miler. Don't you just love that sentence? I don't know what got into me, but okay, I'll return to English now.

The heat is stifling, and the sun has only begun to rise. The humidity is so high, I'm sweating before I even take my first step onto our street.

I've run my first two miles in seventeen or so minutes - faster than my usual early miles. But it's time to start moving even faster - down to sub-seven pace. Yes, it's tempo time again. I've been just barely making it through these workouts - defined by me as three or more consecutive miles at sub-seven pace. And they don't seem to be getting any easier. The steamy weather doesn't help at all.

I do two miles, the ones leading up to the park, in 13:30. That's pretty good, and I think those miles are fairly accurate. Now I have two miles to do at the park, which consist of five laps around the lake, along with the short trip there and back from the entrance.

I know that I've got to do the first and last laps, which include the there and back parts, in under 3 minutes, and the middle three laps at sub-2:40 each. To summarize, I make it through each lap with no more than a second or two to spare.

I've accomplished my mission - over three miles (actually, four) at sub-seven pace. And now the heat and humility have really gotten to me. I stop to stretch and get a drink of water.

It's really tough to get moving again, but somehow I even do an extra couple miles on my way back, for a thirteen mile morning. Another (barely) successful tempo run. A decent amount of mileage. Probably a record number of buckets of sweat.

After yet another run in the still hotter afternoon, I'm ready for a day off.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When to Back Off

I thought I was finally getting smarter.

The smart people say that you need to back off your hard training when you feel an injury coming on. After all those years of running, I never really figured out how to do this. It seemed as though the injuries would come on suddenly and without warning... and then I was stuck with them. This wasn't all that bad, because I was fortunate enough to spend most of my time injury-free.

But the last couple years were different. Now I was spending most of my time:
a) about to become injured (but I didn't know enough to back off).
b) injured.
c) recovering from injury (but a new one was probably coming on, so go back to a).

I didn't like this. So around the beginning of this year I made a conscious decision to run a bit less, and to try to get a little smarter about this injury thing. I was going to back off when I felt an injury coming on. I wouldn't worry about losing fitness or about my weekly mileage numbers.

It worked. By no longer worrying about training for marathons, my weekly mileage was also no longer a concern. It went from around 70 miles per week - my "standard" for many years - to 50 or less. And as a result (I think), I haven't been injured for over six months. What a relief after those injury-prone years of 2011 and 2012.

Until now. Even though the mileage is down, I've tried to work on the intensity. Every Tuesday is track workout day, and I have also tried to get in one or two tempo runs, or a race, each week. And now I'm experiencing a bit of plantar fasciitis in my right foot.

It's not bad. Maybe if I back off, it will get better faster. Maybe I'll be smart about it. But then there are some races coming up. And I don't want to lose this fitness....

Thursday, July 04, 2013

New Stuff

The whole gang - just before the start    thanks to Marsha Clifford for the photo
Those of us who've been around awhile are well aware that the Half-Marathon is the new Marathon. Those who've been around even longer know that 5K is the new 10K. Believe it or not, 10K's used to be one of the more common race distances. Now I'm here to tell you that 21 minutes is the new 20 minutes for a 5K goal.

There was a time - not all that long ago - when two (count them, 2) 5K's in a row at sub 20 minutes were the goal. Even sub 39 minutes for the 10K was doable. As recently as 2006 I was still doing 39 and change. There were some 41's in 2007 and 2008. It looks like the last time I broke 20 minutes in the 5K was at this race (the Medina Twin Sizzler) in 2010. In fact, as far as I can tell, my last sub 21 was that year as well.

Not that I'm obsessed with numbers in general or specifically with race times. I'm much too far gone for any of that. Pilots say that any landing that you walk away from is a good one, so I've been going along those lines with my 'any race that you finish in vertical fashion is a good one'... But dad-gum it if I would really, really like to have a good race once in a while.

Well, it happened. At today's Medina Twin Sizzler 5K, I decided to concentrate on, and only do the 5K. For one thing, I've never done well at the 10K. For another, more important thing however, Veronica and the Grandkids are visiting, and I wanted to get back home relatively early so as to spend time with them. So I figured it's best to not even worry about that second race this time. Recent speedwork and tempo running haven't hurt, and it all turned out as well as could be expected.

It was warm and extremely humid. The Medina square was alive with activity. The whole gang was there. There was, as usual, a good sized bunch of runners at the start. The first mile was down, then up for a 6:44. The second was also hilly, but slower, for a 7:08. The final 1.1 miles - mostly downhill - were 6:55, for a finish time of 20:49 by my watch. That was also good for first in my ancient age group.

Now the question must be asked: can I knock a minute off this time for my next 5K? And then do two in a row for a sub-40 10K?


North Canton YMCA 4th of July 5-mile

Since I have participated in the Ohio Challenge Series many years, I've done this race many times, albeit many moons ago. It's a fun...