Saturday, December 17, 2011

A whole new beginning.

Once again, I'm back after a long hiatus from blogging to give you a long overdue update. You probably expect to read the same old story; a few months with little training but an improvement in consistency as of late. Well, that's sort of true I guess but things are a bit different this time. On quite a few occasions over the past 3 years, I was getting excited and optimistic about a return to competitive running once I started running close to 40-50 miles a week. This time I've actually had 2-3 fairly solid months of training and even competed in a couple of national championships. I've been running consistently over 60M/week over the last 3 months and close to 80M for the last 3 weeks. In the beginning of January I competed in the 10K at the Cyprus national XC championships and placed 4th in 35:42 (probably 300-500m longer than 10K though). Three weeks later I raced at the half marathon national championships and finished 3rd in 1:13:37. Having put in another month of training since then, where I've been increasing the mileage and running progressively faster workouts I can definitely say that I'm getting fairly fit and I really look forward to racing again.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that my training is back on the right track is that I'm now a member of Dromea Racing , one of the few running clubs in Cyprus. Dromea was founded about 3 years ago and has grown to a few hundred members, including people with a wide range of running abilities. There's a social part to being member of the club but I also get to train with a couple of pretty fast teammates, at least while I'm in Cyprus. I'm also being coached by George and Stavros Loukaides and having a coach has definitely helped me structure my training a lot better. I took a VO2 max test as soon as I joined and we based my training on the outcome (my VO2 max was calculated at 69 ml/kg/min). My first workouts were at a pace where I was getting a good workout but also feeling like I had more to give at the end of it. I hadn't run any track workouts in a long time and it definitely helped my confidence to come out of the first ones feeling strong instead of struggling to run an ambitious pace. The workouts have been gradually getting faster and more challenging but I'm still feeling strong at the end and I haven't had a bad workout yet. My race results also reflect the leap in fitness as I went from running a 35:42 10K (albeit a long one) to running a 35:05 10K enroute to a 1:13 half, only 3 weeks later. Having put in one more month of training since then I'm getting pretty excited and I'm thinking that I could be getting close to PR territory in another month or two.

So what's in the plans for the future? There's nothing definite yet but my long term goal is to pick things up where I left them before my Achilles surgery and move up to the marathon. That's not gonna happen in the immediate future, though, as I want to build up a solid base and have a few months of consistent training before I attempt to race a marathon. In the short term, I'll focus more on shorter distances, try to run some 5Ks and 10Ks and return to the track for the national championships. Interestingly enough I've never ran a 10K on the track and haven't really trained to run a 5K either so it will be good to see what I can pull off. One thing is for sure; I'm motivated, I'm having fun running and I can't wait to be a competitive runner once again.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Week Recap (1 May 2011 - 7 May 2011) - 40 Miles

Sunday: 15M
Started the week off with a nice 15 miler. Headed out from home and to the Presidio up Arguello Blvd. Picked up the bay trail towards Lincoln Blvd, then continued along the Coastal trail and finally headed home through Golden Gate Park. Averaged right around 7:00 pace which is pretty decent for this loop since it includes a fair amount of rolling hills and some slow parts on the trails along the coast. Felt pretty good too, probably the best I've felt in a long run in quite a while.

Monday: 8M
Pretty slow run at golden gate park.

Tuesday: 0M
Day off.

Wednesday: 10M
Hill repeats, 2x up Hayes St, 4x back and forth on Divisadero. I decided to run some hill repeats, partly in preparation for Bay to Breakers. I started from home and made my way to the botton of Hayes St hill after a couple of miles. The B2B course includes a rather brutal climb up to the top of Hayes St by Alamo Square. This workout brought back memories of workouts we used to run up Summit Ave in Boston and it was surprising how similar Hayes St and the long side of Summit ave are. They are both close to half a mile with similar elevation gain. Hayes St starts out a bit more gradual though and is a lot steeper near the top, making it pretty hard to top well. I started my workout as soon as I crossed Laguna St and started working the hill well. I slowed down as I was getting closer to the top, as expected, but I managed to put in a good effort. My legs we already feeling it though and I wasn't looking forward to heading back down and running another repeat. Even the downhill part was rather brutal and I was running on tired legs on the second one, making it noticeably slower. I was feeling pretty tired for the rest of the workout and I didn't feel like I was running very fast but it was a somewhat decent effort. I was considering adding a couple more short repeats but opted for a longer cool-down instead. I even stopped by Kezar and ran some barefoot strides before heading back home.

Thursday - Friday: 0M

Saturday: 7M
10x400 with 200m rest: 75, 76, 73, 73, 73, 70, 69, 70, 69, 67. Some speedwork to close out the week. I wasn't expecting a very challenging workout since I was taking 200m of rest between intervals and my head wasn't entirely in it when I started. I came through in 36 on the first one but relaxed too much on the second half. The second one didn't go much better and I was a bit surprised to see a 38 turning to a 39 at the 200. At that point I starting getting worried that it was going to be a rough day and even thought about cutting the workout short if the next interval continued on the same trend. Fortunately I managed to get into a better rhythm from then on and pulled off a decent workout. The last half, especially, felt pretty good and it was good to see that I still have some kind of speed in my legs.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Zippy 5K


Splits: 5:17, 10:50 (5:33)

I had a range of goals heading into this race, ranging from conservative to very aggressive. On the more conservative end I wanted to run under 17:00, which would give me a seeded spot for Bay to Breakers. I knew of course that was a very soft goal and I thought something in the mid 16s would be more realistic. After my last workout, though, I started raising my expectations a bit and even entertained thoughts of running sub 16. And if I was gonna shoot for sub 16 I thought I might as well try to run faster than Schmeck's recent 15:52. In all seriousness, though, it was hard to know what to expect. I've been getting in better shape but I hadn't raced a 5K in ages and the biggest challenge was to get myself into a competitive mindset. After some thought I decided to shoot for a 5:10 opening mile and play it by ear from then on.

The race was at 8:30am and I got myself to Golden Gate Park around 7:15am so I had some time to spare. The weather wasn't great for sitting around, it had been raining overnight and everything around was wet. A few minutes before the start we got some more rain but it more or less died out by the time the gun went off. I was near the front at the start and stayed close to the leaders for the first few hundred meters. I knew of course that I had no business following those guys and I tried to settle to my goal pace. I didn't really have a good sense of pace and I kept trying to evaluate how I felt. I wasn't too excited to see a 5:17 at the mile mark as I wasn't too comfortable and I was hoping that I had perhaps gone out a bit too fast. I made an effort in the second mile to move up a bit and passed a few people but was a bit surprised to see a 5:33 split. It probably makes sense though as the second mile is the slowest of the course. There's a couple of short hills, some turns going around Stow Lake and not all that great footing. I ran this race 3 years ago and back then I had run a 15:34 with 4:50 and 5:10 for my first two splits. I can't really say that one should expect a 15-20 second deviation between the first two miles but I think it's safe to say at least that mile 2 is somewhat slower. I tried to push myself to finish strong but I wasn't really able to switch gears. I was sort of in no mans land, there was a group ahead of me but I wasn't able to gain on them much and I could hear some guy running behind me but I never got to see him either. I had a decent kick at the end and I finished feeling that I had more in the tank. I even went for an 8 mile cool-down afterwards and was feeling rather fresh.

I can't say that I was very pleased with my race although not terribly disappointed either. In the back of my head I was hoping to be close to 16:00 but maybe that was a bit overambitious. There's no doubt that I could have raced better but I can't beat myself up about it. I'm just starting to push myself in workouts and I can't say yet that I've managed to get outside my comfort zone. Even before my surgery I was training for a marathon and running longer races so for a long time I hadn't been in a competitive situation where I needed to be aggressive from the start. It's gonna take a while to get myself race sharp and saying there's quite a bit of rust to be busted would be a huge understatement. So I guess there are some positives to take away from this race; I am getting in better shape and I just need to stay motivated and keep at it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Post Kaiser updates

I know that over the last couple of years it hasn't been my habit to post frequent updates, mostly because I haven't been running all that much and didn't feel motivated to write about my lack of training. Things have been getting better lately so hopefully that will be motivation for more frequent updates, although I'm not promising anything. We'll see how things progress from here I suppose. In any case, the latest thing I have to show is a 16:38 5K, at the Zippy 5K about a week ago. I'll write a race recap in another post so this one is intended to fill the gap between the Kaiser half and this 5K.

The Kaiser half took quite a bit out of me and I was pretty sore for about a week after. I didn't run for a couple of weeks in an effort to recover and before I knew it I was falling into the same pattern as before. Sign up for a race, get motivated for a while then go back to mediocre training after the race. Throughout February and March I was only running 2-3 times a week so about 25-30 miles. Things got better over the last month though, to a big extend because I finally got a gym membership at a gym pretty much right across from work. Being able to go for a run in the middle of the day has helped out a lot since I hate running in the mornings and getting the run out of the way early in the day is the best way to avoid skipping it. This way I managed to get my mileage closer to 50M/week and while I still have ways to go before I'm as competitive as before at least I'm now seeing myself heading in that direction.

Besides the increase in mileage, I'm starting to put in some better workouts as well. I had some good fartleks and tempos but what got me pumped the most was the last track workout I ran before Zippy. I ran 4x1600 the week before the race, trying to get a sense of what I should be shooting for. I was shooting for 5:20s to begin with and started out with a 5:21, followed with a 5:20. I felt a lot better than I expected and picked things up on the 3rd, hitting a 5:11. I still felt that I had more in me and tried to shoot for a sub 5 on the last one. I started out on pace, coming through in 74 and 2:29 but lost some focus on the 3rd lap and came through in 3:47. I made a bid for it on the last lap but came just a little short, rounding up the workout with a 5:00. It would have been nice to see a 4 on the watch but I was still pretty happy with the workout. In general I'm happy with the way my fitness is progressing and I'm getting excited about pushing myself more and racing at a more competitive level. Hopefully my motivation levels will remain as high moving forward.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon

A couple of months ago I ran the Kaiser half and started writing a race recap afterwards but somehow managed not to save most of it. I didn't feel like writing it again but I figured I should at least write a shorter version. The very short version is that I ended up running a rather painful 1:19:50, averaging ~5:50 pace for the first 7 miles before slowing down significantly for the last few miles. Here are my splits:
5:48, 11:34(5:46), 17:36(6:02), 23:37(6:01), 29:33(5:56), 35:11(5:38), 40:52(5:41), 46:54(6:02), 53:05(6:11), 59:36(6:30), 65:59(6:23), 1:12:39(6:40),1:19:50(7:11 for the last 1.1 mile)

Before getting into some more details about the race I should I guess mention what I've been up to since the last time I showed up signs of life on this blog. Last September, as I was getting ready for Alumni XC, I was starting to get a little more consistent in my training and I was hoping I would carry on and increase my volume even more afterwards. Unfortunately that hasn't happened and I was actually less consistent over the last few months. I've been good about running on weekends and in general I would run 8-10 miles on Saturday and follow that with a 13-16 mile long run on Sunday. Weekdays though were pretty much hit or miss and most weeks I would only manage to get out the door once or twice more. So I probably averaged something around 30-35 miles per week and wasn't running any workouts either.

A few weeks before Kaiser I started thinking that I needed something to motivate me and that's why I decided to sign up for the half. I knew I wasn't really in shape to run a half and I wasn't expecting much but thought it would be good to get in a race again, even if I would run it as a workout. When I signed up I was thinking that I'd probably start out running 6:30s and try to finish up the last few miles at a tempo effort. Two weeks before the half I ran my first workout since September and ran 3200-1600-4x800 in 11:16, 5:15, 2:32, 2:32, 2:31, 2:31. The following week I ran 5x1600 in 5:21, 5:21, 5:21, 5:25, 5:16. I was definitely surprised as I was running considerably faster than my last workouts without really having trained much in between.

After those workouts I wasn't sure what to shoot for and thought it would be best to start out somewhat conservatively, somewhere around 6:00, and push the last half if I felt good. That plan kind of went out the window once the race started and the adrenaline rush I got from racing again made the first couple of miles a little faster than what I wanted. I was feeling rather comfortable though so I just went with it. I settled a bit in miles 3-5 but got faster again on miles 6-7, thanks in part to a downhill section through the park. I was still feeling pretty good at mile 7 but soon things changed once we turned along Ocean beach. While I was still feeling fine aerobically, my legs started having trouble handling the pounding and soon I was in survival mode instead of racing. I struggled to keep myself moving and got passed by quite a few people, which was a bit disheartening, but at that point I wasn't thinking about racing and only wanted to get myself to the finish. I somehow managed to get to the finish line without completely falling apart but was pretty much wiped out. I walked straight to my car afterwards and headed home without doing any stretching or cool-down. It was definitely one of the most painful races I've ever run.

I had mixed feelings after the race but after thinking about it for a while I wound up feeling fairly good about it. I know it's hard to get excited about running almost 10 minutes slower than my PR but it's not too bad considering how much I've been running. In September I only managed to average just under 6:00 for 5 miles and now I was just over 6:00 for 13. I know the comparison between cross country and the roads is not exactly fair but still, that's quite an improvement in my book. So, a step in the right direction I suppose.