Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hill Repeats

One of the workouts I look forward to the least is hill repeats. Why? Because they hurt more than anything! Although (relatively) short, when done repeatedly, the lactic acid builds up until the legs burn like no other. The one thing that I have learned about hill repeats over the years is that the easiest way to get through them is to just do them quickly and the pain train will be over faster. Go slowly, and it hurts just as much, only for longer.

The hill I've chosen for my repeats is a nasty one. A hill I hope never to see in an actual race. The entire thing is well over a mile long with a few flat sections, so I took a steep 1/4 mile section for my workout to kick my arse. Its so steep that when I am running up it, I am usually passing any cyclists struggling in their easiest gear. In fact, last time I was doing repeats I saw a man struggling his way up in the middle of hill till he could no longer pedal and he fell over on his side. Luckily, he fell onto the side that had a mound of grass next to him, so the impact wasn't as bad as it could be. So needless to say, this is a good hill for a tough workout.

Today's workout was a 15 minute warm up, followed by 6 x hill repeats, and a 15 minute cool down. The last time I did the same hill repeats (about 2 weeks ago), my times were around 2:05 per hill set and I did 4 repeats. My hill repeats this time went something like this:

1: 2:04 - I know I can go faster than this
2: 1:59 - Thats more like it
3: 1:58 - Starting to burn, but I can keep this up
4: 1:57 - Ouch, but only 2 more to go!
5: 1:57 - Hows that for consistency ;)
6: 1:48 - Gotta go hard on the last one

Yea, I pushed on the last one really hard. But, the big thing I learned from this is how much more power I have in my step. I was able to hold a faster pace, with more repetitions than last time, and I did it faster. That is what we call progress.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Beating the Snot Out of Myself

Its that time of the year now when everyone is getting sick. Around here, we've seen warm weather, freezing weather, cool weather, etc. People in my office are sick, people at the gym are sick, and germs are just running rampant around town. So it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me. Last week, I felt I was coming down with something. By Wednesday, it was clear that a cold was on its way. By Friday, I felt really bad for my officemates. Lots of sneezing and tissues.

The difficult part of being sick is knowing when to rest and when to work out. On Wednesday, I did a solid 8 mile run, per my training schedule and felt great. However, I could still feel the onset of a cold. Even when I'm sick, I always feel better after working out. The worsening conditions of my cold kept me from hitting the pool and getting in another run toward the end of the week. Then Saturday rolled around. Saturday is my long run day. I was faced with the always challenging question of to work out or not to work out. One thing I do know about marathon training, is that skipping a long run is bad. And since I was out of town skiing last weekend with Rebecca, there was no long run. If I didn't go, that would mean 2 weeks of nothing longer than 8 miles. Sure it may seem like not a big deal, but I'm getting pretty anal about my long runs, so I knew I had to do it.

I had decided on a simulated National Marathon course route that would take me through some early big hills in the first 10 miles and leave me with flat and rolling hills for the other 7, totaling 17 miles. This course was designed to be a bit hillier than the marathon will be, so if I could make it through this, I'd be feeling pretty good.

I woke up nice and early Saturday morning, took some nasal spray to make way for some breathing room and headed out on my run. After the first mile, the next 4 miles are all pretty much up hill. This definitely left my legs a bit battered, but once I hit the downhills and flats, they managed to recover nicely. About 7 miles in, I missed a turn a couple blocks back, but continued, figuring I'd find my way back to my original course. I went a bit out of my way for a while, but eventually found my way back on course. Unfortunately, things were brewing in my stomach, similar to those events that have happened before. I knew I couldn't make it the rest of the way back and I was in the middle of multi-million dollar homes and no businesses for a convenient pit stop. And that is when I stumbled upon the construction site of a new mansion, with what seemed like at the time, a heavenly port-a-potty. I looked around to make sure the construction crew wasn't around, took care of business and was back on track. Phew! The rest of the run was pretty solid. Around mile 10, I started picking up the pace and when I got to the 4 miles to go point, I picked it up even more.

When I got home, I immediately went to figure out exactly how long I had run, seeing as I had made a detour. I came to find out that I added an extra 1/2 mile onto my course, so I totaled 17.5 miles with a finishing time of 2:21:39. A little calculation from one of my favorite tools, and I come to find out that it equals 8:09/mile pace. I never intended to run that fast, nor did I feel like I was running that fast. I was a bit more worn out from this run, as opposed to my last long run, but this was also about 5 times more hilly. Each long run I go on, I am more impressed with my ability to keep progressing and feeling strong.

So you are probably wondering, how am I feeling after running with the cold. Saturday afternoon and continuing into Sunday proved to me that you can beat a cold out of your system with exercise. Obviously, if you have chest congestion, it is a different story. But with a head cold, don't let it stop you from getting outside. I highly doubt my cold would be as improved as it is, had I not gone on my run Saturday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When Rules Run Up Against Faith

I saw this article in the Washington Post this morning. Its kind of sad, considering this girl wasn't allowed to compete and potentially qualify for a national level event. Whats also sad is that the race director is my former track coach. Not that he did anything wrong, it just sucks that it involves someone who has done so much good to grow track and field opportunities in the DC area, only to have people question his religious intolerance.

When the Rules Run Up Against Faith

Prep Athlete Wearing Muslim Clothing Disqualified From Track Meet

Many area Muslim cross-country runners are forced to reconcile the commitment to their sport with the commitment to their faith during Ramadan.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; Page A01

Juashaunna Kelly, a Theodore Roosevelt High School senior who has the fastest mile and two-mile times of any girls' runner in the District this winter, was disqualified from Saturday's Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules.

Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for the past three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt's cross-country and track teams: a custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard that covers her head, arms, torso and legs. On top of the unitard, Kelly wore the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.

The outfit allows her to compete while complying with her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands.

As one of the other heats was held, two meet officials signaled to Kelly and asked her about her uniform. Meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly's uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event, by not being "a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches."

Rogers then told Kelly she was disqualified. Kelly dropped to her knees and began sobbing. Kelly's mother, Sarah, walked down from the bleachers at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover and argued with Rogers, but left without coming to an agreement to console her daughter.

"I saw that this isn't getting anywhere, and I wanted to go see her," Sarah Kelly said.

Rogers said he made three public address announcements prior to Kelly's disqualification requesting that Roosevelt Coach Tony Bowden meet with him. Bowden said he didn't hear any announcements.

Kelly has worn the same uniform for three years without any questions, including the 800- and 1,600-meter races at last year's Montgomery Invitational, at which Rogers also was the director.

"She ran in the same exact meet last year," Sarah Kelly said. "There was nothing said. No one has ever said anything to her."

Rogers said: "We run over 2,000 athletes in this meet. Most likely an official missed her uniform [last year] and a call wasn't made."

Juashaunna Kelly, who last week was named the 2007 Gatorade girls' cross-country runner of the year in the District, had her uniform custom-made by a tailor in Apple Valley, Calif., two years ago.

"It's not special," Kelly said. "It doesn't make me perform better."

She said she has been questioned about her uniform before every meet in which she has competed, including Saturday's.

"It was the same as the other meets: They pulled me aside and asked me why am I wearing this," she said. "I said, 'It's because I'm a Muslim.' "

Rogers said he knew Kelly was wearing the uniform for religious reasons and that he offered her several options to conform to the rules of the meet while still respecting her faith, including placing a plain T-shirt over her unitard and then wearing her team uniform over it.

"Every sport has uniform rules. It has nothing to do with religious discrimination," Rogers said. "They were provided with several options that would have allowed her to run without taking off her head covering."

Sarah Kelly said that was not the case. She said meet referees made several demands of her daughter before Rogers made his decision.

"First, they said she had to take her hood off," Sarah Kelly said. "Then, they said she can't have anything with logos displayed. Then, they said she had to turn it inside out. When I told them that there weren't any logos on it, they said she had to put a plain white T-shirt on over it."

Bowden said: "It never started off about color [of her uniform]. It started with her head wear.

"It wasn't a problem last year, and it's a problem this year? Make me understand why."

Perhaps the most prominent case in the United States of an athlete competing in Muslim attire occurred in 2004 at the University of South Florida. Women's basketball player Andrea Armstrong said she was asked by her coach to not wear her Muslim head scarf, long sleeves and long pants on the court. The school said it would appeal to the NCAA for a uniform waiver on her behalf, but Armstrong quit the team before a ruling was made.

Kelly, whose 1,600 time of 5 minutes 17.49 seconds and 3,200 time of 12:00.81 are the fastest of any District girl, was hoping to run a time fast enough at the Montgomery Invitational to qualify for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 8-9. Bowden said Roosevelt has no other meets scheduled that would allow her to qualify for the event, which attracts dozens of college recruiters.

"What she needs to do is get some religious documentation saying it's part of her heritage and bring it with her to every meet," said Jim Vollmer, the commissioner of track for Montgomery County public schools.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

National Marathon - Another Course Change

Well it looks like the National Marathon organizers are up some changes again. They are updating the course route. Its actually the same course as the last update, but they just switched the direction a bit. The course now goes through Capitol Hill and the Mall first, loops up hill through Dupont Circle and into Adams Morgan before coming back down toward RFK Stadium and beginning the 2nd loop, which takes you through the SW Waterfront area.
The previous course started with the up hill going through Adams Morgan and made the Dupont Circle part a nice downhill. Now it looks like a steady and challenging 3 mile climb in miles 4-7, rather than miles 1-3. Either way, I still think its better than having to do that from miles 16-19. You can also see in the elevation profile below.
After the big climb in the beginning, there are only a few minor hills left in the course. Once again, I'm looking forward to trying out some of the sections of the course in the new direction...particularly the early up hill. I'll have to incorporate that into some of my future runs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Weekend Recap Part 2

I forgot to mention one other notable thing about my long run on Saturday. Although I felt great, there was one casualty as a result of my run. Let me describe how I came to learn of the issue.

After I got back from my run, I took off my running vest and shoes, and went straight into the kitchen to get cookin on my recovery meal. I was well into cooking my omelet when Rebecca peered around the corner to see what I was cooking. And then she said "Uh - Oh". I was like, "What, whats the matter?". And she just started laughing at me. I wiped my face, checked every possible thing I can think of to see if there was something hanging off me or on me that would warrant a laugh like that. Nothing. Then she finally pointed to my problem. We had a bleeder! You see, I was wearing a white running shirt (coolmax material), so it was easy to see. I looked down to see a nice little red smear on my shirt. I checked underneath to see the damage and there were no signs of anything significant. Just a little stinging.

I will say, this is my first experience with chaffing. I was kind of looking forward to it, just to see what it was like, since I've heard so many people talk about it. Glad it wasn't too painful, because I'm sure people get it a lot worse. Guess I'll be using body glide in yet another place.

Weekend Recap

In case any of you were wondering, I survived my 16 mile run on Saturday. In fact, I more than survived it. Saturday was a huge confidence builder for me, because I really didn't feel like I was pushing that hard, but I managed to finish almost 15 minutes faster than I was expecting to. I was also able to even split the first and second 8 mile sections, even though the first 8 miles were relatively flat/downhill and the second 8 miles mere mostly uphill. I finished my run in 2:13:59, for a pace around 8:20/mile. I also felt really good by the end of the run and could have kept going for a lot longer. The rest of the day was spent running around doing errands and I barely had to slow because of the earlier long run. Sunday was more of the same. A little tightness in my legs, but felt pretty fresh the next day considering. I spent 45 minutes on the trainer Sunday evening to keep my legs loose while watching the Giants - Cowboys game. Seriously, I hate both teams, so I couldn't cheer for one over the other, but its always good to see the Cowboys lose. I'm sure I'd be saying the same thing if the Giants lost ;)

This week is somewhat of a recovery week. Rebecca and I are going up to Massachusetts to go skiing/snowboarding for the weekend, so I've got some workouts to get in early in the week. Then it is off to Massachusetts to get some cross training in. Long run this week will be cut down to 11 miles. I'm hoping to push the pace a little, like I did on last week's 10 miler to see what I've got.

Have a great week of workouts!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Feel Good!

Moving into week 7 of my marathon training plan and week 2 of the triathlon training plan, the numbers are starting to build up. I had been very comfortable with the marathon training so far, only taking 4-5 hours max of my week. Incorporating the triathlon stuff into my plan, the hours have crept up to between 7-8 this week. Its going to take some time to get into the groove with this schedule, but I'm sure I will get used to it. I'm basically going with a run focused triathlon training plan for the time being, with an emphasis on hitting 3-4 key running workouts a week, while incorporating some swimming and biking as well to keep me progressing in those disciplines.

Week 7 of my marathon training plan bumps up my medium long run from 6 miles to 7. Week 2 of my triathlon plan calls for some biking a swimming sessions of moderate effort for me. Since I can't do too much on the weekend (Saturday is my long run day), much of the biking and swimming has to come early in the week. Last night called for a 1600 yard workout in the pool, and a 7 mile run for the marathon training component. I figured I'd throw them together for a nice brick to see how my body is doing. Man, what a confidence booster. Not only did I get a solid swim in, but I rocked the 7 mile run. I wasn't sure how my legs would hold up, since swimming usually takes a lot out of me. I started off at a comfortable pace where I was pushing but not too hard. After the first mile or two, the training wheels came off and I picked it up to get to the turnaround point. I hit another gear on the return route and really pushed the last 2 miles. By the end of my 7 mile run, I averaged right around 8:00/mile pace. Not bad, if I do say so myself. I think all this longer distance running and really giving me the ability to pusher harder paces for longer distances. Just this past weekend, a recovery training weekend, I had a 10 miler planned. I pushed the pace, but nothing too hard, and ended up finishing in 1:16, for a pace around 7:40/mile. My best time on a similar course was during the Army 10 Miler, which I finished in about 1:20. Sure, the hot weather was a factor, but my overall 10 mile PR is 1:13:49 on a much flatter course. Which to me says I am doing something right ;)

To top off my week, I've got a 16 miler looming ahead on Saturday...stay tuned to see if I am still so positive after that.


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