Thursday, December 22, 2011

XC Club Nats--A Blessed 2011

I'm starting to think about what happened on Saturday in Seattle.  It seemed like such an ordinary sort of day.  But I know it was not.
I don't take more than a minute off my best 10K every day.  In the mud.
Now I have a cold, but I don't care.  It was worth it.

On December 10, I ran a personal best by 70 seconds for 10,000 meters.  That's about 11 seconds faster per mile than a year ago at the same race, but in comparing all the data, the Seattle course with it's mud was about 20-30 seconds slower than McAlpine a year ago.  Maybe I can break 34 minutes in a year.  That would be great.

I didn't feel my best going into the race.  Travel was tough to the Pacific Northwest as we knew it would be.  As time would tell, a cold was coming on.  But I didn't feel particularly bad either.  Legs were surprisingly loose on the Friday shakeout run on the course.  I was having a great time with teammates and I just generally had my head in the game.  I felt calm and focused.  There's not much to tell about the race.  I ran the first 5K in 17:10 and the second 5K in 17:19.  I knew I would be near the back of the race and having experienced that sensation last year, I was okay with that.  I knew my teammates would do their thing and I would not be a factor in the scoring.  Basically, I knew what to expect and I didn't set my expectations too high.  Still, I was expecting to run much faster than I ever had before.  So there was plenty to keep me focused and nervous.  I went out pretty smart, maybe a few seconds too fast, but I held back as much as I could.  I consistently passed runners throughout the race and only lost ground in the final sprint.

I wanted to negative split, (run the second half faster than the first), but the course made that goal very tough.  It got muddier with each 2K lap and each hoof that trampled all over it.  I took wide lines rather than running the tangents and I think that was the fastest way around.  I wanted to push a button and really pick it up at both the 6K and the 8K mark, but the legs didn't have an extra gear.  The ground was just so soft and didn't give back much at all.  I was working harder, but still running the same splits or a second or two slower per kilometer.

Only real disappointment, I thought I was a little weak mentally in the last 2K.  I knew it was going to be a big PR, under 35 minutes, and I think I settled.  I knew I was the 7th runner and my score would not count for the team, but it was no excuse.  I should have pushed harder.  I think 15 seconds faster could have happened if I was just a little tougher mentally.  I should have raced every jersey in the last 10 minutes of the race and next time I will.

Still, the outcome was predictable.  I told the church a few days before, great day--33:59.  Bad day--35:00+.  I got out of Club Nats what I put into my training all fall--a huge PR and one of my most successful races ever.  Can I go faster?  Absolutely.  I had said all along that my intention was to take cyclocross more seriously next fall, not be in running shape this time next year, but now I am not sure.  I really love running and I want to keep moving forward, quietly, patiently, wiser for what has occurred in 2011.  Perhaps some cycling and swimming in the summer and then back to what I know and love best.

...I'm still sick, but who cares, really.  Even my immune system knew when to break down.  The only exercise I have done in the past 12 days was a long run at Uwharrie (could not pass up that opportunity) and a cyclocross race in Winston (I performed dreadfully with a smile on my face).  It is as if my body simply said, "We will not perform, not now.  It's our time off."  I think of my body as parts in case the plural seems odd.  My body has been in a hibernating, recovering, putting on weight sort of mode.  But it's time to get back off the couch.  Time to pull out of this chest/sinus virus and get back to work.  I ran 11 minutes steady today and felt terrible.  No problem.  Tomorrow I am waking up early to run with friends.  I don't expect it to feel great.  I just expect to show up.

Training goals leading to Boston...but there is no rush in the next month.  As 2011 becomes 2012, I just need to run and enjoy it.  Run fast.  Do other stuff like INSANITY: THE ASYLUM which is on the way from Team Beach Body. The running goals are very simple.  Over a 10 week period from January 30-April 7, I will accumulate 1440 Kilometers (a little over 900 miles).  Flesh that out with a lot of long runs, progression runs, speed work like 400s and mile repeats and a bunch of hills.  All that and I should be able to run about 2:40 at the Boston Marathon on April 16.

I may seem overly confident, but here was my 2011.
I keep up with seven Personal Records or PR's as we call them.
10 mile
Half Marathon

In my 36th year on the planet, and my 28th year of competitive running, I set PR's in all those distances excluding the 5K.  I have never had that kind of sweeping success at anything.

What did I do???
  • I pastored the Tobacco Trail Church.  I consider the training and racing one of the most important aspects of my pastoral ministry in God's church and my personal prayer life.  Church and running feed one another.  They always have, but 2011 was the first complete calendar year of my life when I was pastor of a church.  I don't think the athletic success is unrelated.  Others will disagree, but that gives us something to talk about, and that something is Jesus.
  • I ran more miles--a lot more.  As many as 85 per week this fall with one or two hard speed workouts.  In the Spring my marathon training peaked at 100 miles in a week.
  • I took Juice PLUS+ every day.  All fall I doubled the dosage.  I also drank a lot of smoothies.  I think these two contributed to less sugar consumption and more front-loading of nutrition early in the day.  I didn't lose a lot of weight, but people thought I did.  So, I guess my body changed.
  • I ran with a lot of friends.  Most consistent training partner was Jason and less consistent, but still very important, the rest of the Bull City Track Club.  This whole network meant a lot of accountability, fun, encouragement, discipline, tweaking workouts and probably 20-30 extra runs that I would not have done in years when I had fewer running peers and very few faster harriers to chase.  I ran a lot those other years too, so 20-30 extra runs in a year is a decent addition.  Sometimes running with faster people can beat you down, but you skip a few runs with the group and run by yourself.  If I had to choose, I would run with the pack.  It works for wolves and such.
  • I wrote more about running.  It helps me put it the experience in perspective and enjoy the process.
  • I worked at a running store and I am always being encouraged and educated by others successes and even failures.  Running can get pretty lonely, even when you train with others, but hearing how it is going from hundreds of other runners really helps me stick with it.  I am a part of an extensive running community which includes Bull City Running Company and BCTC, Trailheads, Godiva, and running friends all over the country.  Runners are weird.  Most of us will admit to this fact.  But we love running and we recognize the benefits of sharing it with one another.  I've always done this, but it grows and grows as the years pass and 2011 showed a steady growth if not a spike.
Even with all this I am still scratching my head.  I feel truly blessed by God.  Like I have been struck with a gift and one that I must not take for granted. Cumulatively on my six PR distances, measuring from 2010 and earlier I improved 26 minutes and 33 seconds.  I feel like I have started over as a runner--been re-purposed.  I don't want to be greedy and I remind myself that I hope to be participating in this activity 40 years from now.  But I don't want to squander this gift either.  I think, no, I know, I am still a runner.   Maybe next fall I can shave a few seconds off my 16:25 five kilometer mark.  Easier said than done, but I can do it.

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