Returning to Philly

Not a lot of fluff this week, just some straight-to-the-point updates and information for y’all.  After a very productive 10-day training block back in Eugene, I’ll be flying back to the East Coast tomorrow for Sunday’s Philadelphia Rock n’ Roll half marathon.  Strictly a business trip – flying from PDX on Friday and back to Oregon on Sunday after the race – this will be my last real tune-up before the Chicago marathon on Oct. 7th.

Speaking of Chicago, a complete list of the men’s and women’s elite fields were announced earlier this week.  As the executive race director of the Chicago marathon, Carey Pinkowski, alluded, “the men’s field is the deepest we’ve ever had in Chicago.”  I’m grateful to be a part of this year’s race and believe that I have a tremendous opportunity in front of me to run well on one of the biggest marathon stages.  I’ll share more thoughts about Chicago as we get closer to raceday.

Turning the attention back to this weekend, I am optimistic that my string of good races in Philadelphia will continue.  My last 3 visits to the City of Brotherly Love have resulted in 3 new PR’s – one for the 10k, one for the 10-mile, and one for the half marathon.  Almost by default, Philadelphia has become one of my favorite cities to run races.  I’m not necessarily looking for a new half marathon PR this weekend, especially considering the 132 miles I logged last week.  But Philadelphia is noted for putting up some fast times, so if I accidentally stumble across one, I won’t complain.

An added bonus to racing in Philadelphia, will be the short, but quality time, I get to spend with a few of Philly’s best doctors, Pat and Virginia Harvey.  If nothing else, I’ll return back to Oregon a smarter person; you can’t spend 5 minutes around the Harveys without learning at least one new/interesting fact.

I’ll end by giving you some reading material for the weekend.  When I was in London, I met up with current OU journalism student, Danny Medlock.  He stumbled across my website and realized that we were both in London during the Olympics, so he reached out to me for an interview.  We had to work through the difficulties of trying to coordinate a time and place to meet sans phone service, but like any good Bobcat, he adapted well. Ohio’s journalism school is one of the best in the country, and it’s because of students like Danny, and the opportunities OU provides them.  I might be a little biased, but he put together a fantastic narrative on my running career – past, present, and future.  Give it a read.

3 weeks from today, I’ll be in Chicago.  There’s still a lot to do between now and then, but it’s close enough to start getting a little antsy!

Go Bobcats! (sitting 34th in last week’s AP poll, in case you were scoring at home).

When winning doesn’t always mean winning

9/5/2011 – 1:04:19, 17th place.

9/3/2012 – 1:02:09, 17th place.

The numbers above tell the story of my performances from the past two year’s US 20k Championships.  Different year.  Different times.  Same damn place.

It can be somewhat deflating to think that running 2 minutes faster than my time last year did not get me any closer to the front of the race.  Insert my time from 2012 into the 2011 results, and I would have been 7th.  But, I can’t say that I wasn’t prepared for what transpired, as I knew the competition at this year’s race was really good.  Almost prophetically, during my run the day before the race, I told a Mizuno teammate of mine, that I could see myself finishing in 16th place and being happy with it, provided I ran well.  Fast forward 24-hours: I had missed that pseudo-prediction by 1 spot, and despite the disappointment of being relegated to pack-chasing from the gun, I am happy with how I ran.

I learned a while ago that you can only worry about the things that you can control.  In running, I can only control how I run.  That’s it.  Unfortunately, I can’t play defense on others to try and slow them down – it’s a shame, too, because I would probably start off with a man-to-man, then play some sort of half-court, trapping zone, and finish it up with a little full court 1-2-2 when they get tired.  Nope.  If the guys I race against wake up in the morning and decide they feel good and want to run fast, I can only hope that I wake up feeling the same way.

And on Monday, I did.  I probably ran as fast as I was going to run, right now.  The reality is that when you are a month out from a big marathon, your training is not built around being ready, and able, to run a fast 5k, 10k, or in this case, 20k – running consecutive weeks of over 120 miles per week does not lend itself of having “fresh” legs all of the time.  For over 2 months now, I’ve been running workouts geared specifically for the marathon, so when the lead pack clipped through the first mile in 4:33, I had no other choice than to run my own race.  I quickly abandoned my pre-race strategy, less than 5 minutes into a race that would take a little over one hour to run, for something that would allow me to leave New Haven with some confidence.

As the second mile approached, I caught up to a group of about a half-dozen runners, who I would ultimately run most of the race with.  The group included 2:13 marathoner and 8th place finisher at June’s USA half marathon championships, Pat Rizzo, the 10th place finisher at the half marathon championships and 2:14 marathoner, Mike Reneau, US Master’s record 10k, 5k, and now 20k, record holder, Kevin Castille, among others.  I was in good company, and found solace in having a little race within a race.  We traded off sharing the lead through 12k, before things began to break up and settle.  I ended up catching a few more guys that had fallen off the lead pack, but there wasn’t a whole lot of passing happening over the final 5k.

In the end, I ran 5-minute pace for 20k on a warm and humid day, which is exactly what my training would indicate I should be able to do.  And hopefully, a month from now, when it’s all said and done and my mileage drops, I’ll be able to carry a pace close to that for an additional 22k.

So, no, last weekend I didn’t leave New Haven with a win.  That distinction belonged to Matt Tegenkamp, who impressed mightily in his real road-debut.  But I didn’t walk away emptied handed either.  I’m 2 minutes faster than I was in 2011 and returned to Oregon with some positive juju for my last month of training leading up to the Chicago marathon.

One of the keys to longevity in sport – regardless of what sport it may be – is an athlete’s ability to define success.  Careers are constantly cut short because too many athletes choose to define their success solely on outcome goals.  But sport can’t be just about the outcome; there’s an evolving process.  Two months ago, I laid out a plan that I thought would give me the best chance to PR in Chicago.  I’ve spent all of July and August grinding away, putting some action behind that plan.  And now, I’m just 28 days away from making that oft-dreamt, fast time, a reality.

Evolution: how I choose to define winning.

See you in Chicago.

Race Splits – powered by Garmin
Mile 1 – 4:50
Mile 2 – 4:55
Mile 3 – 4:52
Mile 4 – 4:55
Mile 5 – 4:58
Mile 6 – 5:03
Mile 7 – 5:00
Mile 8 – 4:59
Mile 9 – 5:07
Mile 10 – 5:15
Mile 11 – 4:57
Mile 12 – 4:57

US 20k Championships

Labor Day weekend is here! And whether you’re ready or not, that means fall is right around the corner.  It doesn’t feel like it here in New Haven, CT, but back home in Eugene, summer is quickly winding down.  Don’t worry, the sun is still shining in the EUG (thankfully), it’s just cooler. I’ve even worn a long sleeve on several morning runs during the past week!

Summer’s stranglehold is very much alive here on the East coast though, which is where I find myself this weekend for the US 20k Championships.  Warm and humid temperatures will certainly impact everyone’s race strategy for tomorrow morning.  But, this is exactly what might happen in another month at the Chicago Marathon, so it’ll be good to practice racing in warmer weather.

After a long day of travel yesterday, with stops in Denver and Chicago, and a late-arrival into the Hartford airport, being greeted with a stretch limo for the hour-long commute from Hartford to New Haven was a welcomed surprise.  Talk about arriving in style!  10 hours of sleep last night, a light shake-out run this morning, and a massage has me feeling ready to compete against a great field.  Headlining the event is 2012 Olympian Matt Tegenkamp (10k), along about 25 other very talented runners.  This will be my last “race” before the Chicago marathon – I put race in quotations because I’ll do a few more tune up races, but will use them as workouts in prep for the marathon.  So here’s to a solid race and picking up some ‘mo’ as Chicago draws nearer.

RunnerSpace will be providing updates and interviews, so if you want to keep up with things tomorrow morning, head over to their website: http://www.runnerspace.com/USA-20km

Oh, and GO BOBCATS! I’ll write more about that win in my post-race recap.  Every day is a great day to be an OU alum, yesterday was just a little better :)

Chicago Marathon update

After some longer posts, I thought I’d shorten things up for y’all.  There are a little over 6 weeks remaining before this year’s Chicago marathon, which will take place on Oct. 7th.  My training has ramped back up since returning from Europe.  Below, you will find an interview I did following my 30k progression workout last Sunday.

To summarize the workout, it’s a continuous 30k progression run, where the pace is increased every 5k.  I jog for 20 minutes prior to starting the workout and then go through a full set of stretches and dynamic drills.  The first 5k begins at a comfortable pace and progresses from there.  The hope is that you can finish the final 5k at a pace slightly faster than marathon pace, while at the same time not pushing so hard you won’t be able to recover in a few days for another workout.  Sometimes it’s tough to hold back a little, especially when you know you’re having a good workout and feeling great.  But, it’s more important to be able to stack workout after workout together.  Advice to younger runners: save your racing for race day!

…and now for the feature presentation.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSrZJuwBAR4]

I see London, I see France… (part 2: Paris and France)

With the women’s marathon in the rearview mirror, it was time to pack our bags and embark on part two of the trip: a train ride to Paris for a 4-night stay in France’s capital city.  It’s crazy to think that in less than 2.5 hours you can take a train ride from London, through the chunnel, and be in Paris.  For anyone traveling to both cities, I highly recommend making this your mode of transportation!  If only the US could catch on to this whole train-travel concept…

We made it to Paris before sunset.

By Sunday night, we had reached Gare de Norde, in the northern suburbs of Paris.  After exchanging some currency, we found a restaurant across the street where we could chow down and watch the Olympic track and field events.  It only took one meal for me to realize that our dining options in Paris would be much improved over London; for me, the bread alone would have been enough to seal the deal.  When you start throwing in some crème brulee, it’s no contest.

We gathered our stuff after dinner and rode the metro down to the Montparnasse neighborhood of Paris, which is where we stayed for the week.  As one of your typical American “sightseeing tourist”, you couldn’t ask for a better location; we were less than 2 miles away from the Eiffel Tower, the Champs de Elysee, and other great Parisian attractions.

After a much-needed recharging of the batteries on Sunday night, and a let’s-get-acquainted-with-Paris run in the a.m., we formulated a plan of attack for how to spend our next few days.  On Monday, with a map in our hand and a fresh baguette at the ready, we made like Unk and “walked it out” all over Paris.  Strolling down the Champs de Elysee, we checked out the Louvre (from the outside because the line was ridiculously long to get in – it can’t be that cool), then visited the Notre Dame cathedral and the Bastille rotary, and saw the Maison de Victor Hugo and park.  Afterwards, we walked up the hill and had dinner in the d’Itale district, where we had a delicious Italian meal – by this point in the day, we were so hungry that we would have eaten anything! – and were able to watch Bridget’s steeplechase final.  During the meal, we also made friends with our neighbors.

I’ll give the credit to Juli on this one, as she initially began speaking with the woman in French, only to learn that she was an American.  She and her husband, both of whom are doctors, now reside in Paris.  While Juli received some advice from the woman about  things to see and places to eat, I made friends with the woman’s husband, who just so happened to be a former French national team handball player!  He was intently watching France’s semi-final matchup against Sweden, all the while giving me the lowdown on handball.  More than anything he told me, what I will remember the most were his dismembered fingers, every one of which had been broken or dislocated at some point in time!  Handball, definitely not for the meek.

Just an average day of walking while in Europe

Needing to walk off everything we just consumed, we chose to walk home rather than take a taxi or the subway.  And after making it back down to our sleeping quarters, with a solid 12-hours of walking under our belts, logging just over 10 miles, it wasn’t more than 2 minutes before I was down and out.  Side note, are you supposed to count that kind of mileage in your running log?  Cross-training, maybe?

I began Tuesday morning with repeat 400s in one of the gardens – Jardin des Plantes – we passed on our walking tour the previous day.  One of the toughest things about traveling in an unfamiliar place is figuring out where you can go to do a workout, especially one like 400m repeats.  There wasn’t a track in sight and it was difficult finding an uninterrupted stretch of road that would suffice.

Jardin des Plantes, a great makeshift track!

Luckily, this park had 500m-long straight-aways and a very runner-friendly crushed rock surface; I had found the perfect place!  Workouts always seem to hurt less, and go better, when you find a fun place to run.  And having a little cheering section didn’t hurt either – allez! allez! allez! – thanks goes out to the school kids who gave me some encouragement on their walk to the zoo.

That afternoon, we went back to the park where I ran earlier in the morning.  It’s unbelievable how well kept the gardens are throughout Paris.  You think you’d found the best garden in Paris, only to stumble upon a more immaculate one 3 blocks later.  For even the most uninterested florist or horticulturist, it was truly stunning.

We made our way down to the Eiffel tower later in the evening to see what all the fuss is about.  After initially seeing the Tower during the daytime, I was a little unimpressed – it wasn’t as tall as I imagined it would be and it was rather unsightly.  My opinion changed once we saw it lit up at night and Paris’ most iconic landmark wooed me over.  And in a moment that could only be characterized as rather cliché, Juli and I found a bench along the river and downed a bottle of wine, as we looked out across the Paris night.

On Wednesday, we decided to take a train ride out to Versailles, to check out the palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV.  Only one word comes to mind: wow!  The most opulent and spectacular of any palace we saw in both London and France.  You could easily spend an entire day, heck a week for that matter, checking out the grounds at Versailles.  Once we reached what had to be the furthest point in the garden from the actual palace, and finally were away from the hundreds of tourists, we plopped down for a good ole’ fashioned picnic.  It felt good to sit, and even better to eat.  If I ever make it back to France again, I’ll definitely make a point to return to Versailles – and I’ll take some running clothes with me as well!

Thursday was a travel day for us, as we rode the train from Paris to Marseille, located along the Mediterranean in Southern France.  I’m not sure what would be comparable to Marseille in the US, but the best I can think of is a cross between Myrtle Beach and Miami (FL).  It’s hot and tropical in Marseille, a very different climate from what we left in Paris.  And Marseille had your typical beach/tourist crowd, and I feel ok describing it as a little trashy as well.  The views down along the water were stunning, but I’m not sure I would return to Marseille again.  Next time, Monaco!!!

So that is Paris, and France, in a nutshell.  Below are a few additional thoughts I made note of during the 2nd part of the trip:

  • I wish I had paid a little more attention in my high school French class.
  • French men have very elaborate ways of both wearing, and tying, scarves.
  • The French have a much different opinion on personal hygiene than we do here in the States.  So too on PDA and public urination.
  • In France, eating food is taken very seriously.  You need to arrive with an appetite and time on your hands.
  • The French have a wild obsession with bread, which is ideal for someone like me who has a self-acknowledged addiction.  I’m pretty sure I averaged 1.5 baguettes a day.

In closing, I’ll recommend that anyone who has a chance, travel abroad.  Being exposed to a culture that is different than your own makes you rethink the way in which you see the world.  I know that being here in the US, we tend to think that everything should revolve around us – it’s the kind of attitude that is instilled in Americans from birth, and has probably attributed to our success.  But, there’s a big world out there, and we’re not the center of it.

Here’s to having a more open mind…