Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Hard Training

I got back into town late on Sunday, so I opted to sleep in a little on Monday. I headed out the door around 7:30 and got in an easy 8 before leaving for work.

On Tuesday, I ran the TV Repair Loop backwards, but tackled some hills in the neighborhoods to the east of Rock Creek. Near the end I found myself cruising along around 6:00 pace. This pace is definitely getting easier and easier to "get to" and maintain on runs. I ran my last 4 miles of the 9.5 miler in about 24:00.

On Wednesday, I wanted a change of scenery so I drove over to Randolph Road and ran the Matthew Henson Trail, which I had never explored before. I was very cold at the start, but started out pretty easy; slowly meandering along the asphalt bike path through some gritty neighborhoods. After about a mile and a half, after Connecticut and Georgia were behind me, the trail (always a bike path) began to weave through various green spaces. I was surprised to see deer bedded down in some of these pockets. The further and further I ran the more I was impressed with the trail and its surroundings (see photo). There are lots of sections comprised of long wooden boardwalk-like bridges. The trail ends 4.5 miles from where it begins, so I spun around and bounded back towards my car. Once I got there, I ran another two miles. 11 for the day.

I planned to run a low key MCRRC 5k race on New Year's Day, but I had a flat tire...and no spare. Long story short, I had no way of getting to the race so I instead, ran the Walter Reed 11 mile loop from my home. Motivated partly by anger, but mostly by the cold (it was about 20 degrees when I started), I got after it early. Mile 2 was just above 6:00, so I decided to continue that tempo until I got to the 2-mile section of trail approximately 4.5 miles into my run. From there, I'd keep up that effort, but not the pace (it's hard to run very fast in the trails) and then really hammer the last 5 miles back to my place. Unfortunately, my stomach was giving me trouble. After I emerged from the woods, and after I had found salvation from my stomach issue, I attempted to run marathon pace (whatever that is) for the remainder of my run; 5:42, 5:34, 5:32, 5:41 and 5:38. The last two miles were net uphill and I was laboring pretty good, but I ran the 11 mile loop nearly 90-seconds faster than I ever had before - 1:05:35 (which included a 13:00/2-mile section in the woods). It was a great run, though I don't know if it made up for missing the 5k as I desperately lack speed right now. Still, it was a great motivator, for sure.

On Friday, still without a car, I ran down to Cabin John and got in an easy loop through the woods there before running back home. I need to do this more often - the trails are only 2 miles from my place. 9 miles for the day.

On Saturday, I met Outlaw and Texas Paul at Manassas Battlefield. It was cold, windy, rainy and the trails were beat to hell by horse hoofs, but it's always great to run here. We kept the pace pedestrian (the trail conditions wouldn't warrant anything much faster), but the undulating rhythm of the path worked us all the same. After 7 miles, the cold rain started to come down in sheets. My hands, soaked through my gloves, were frozen, as was a certain other extremity. I called it quits after 10.

On Sunday, I met the Chicken Tender Runner, who more appropriately should be called the Chicken Tender Lifter, and Conrad at Riley's Lock. We started by running north up the towpath. The limestone path was in pretty rough shape; pockmarked with cold, soupy puddles, as a result of the recent rains, I suppose. We were constantly swerving around said puddles, but, after 3 easy miles, I could see that Conrad was itching to get moving. I haven't run with him much, but, rumor has it, he's notorious for pushing runs. Although it was out of my comfort zone to start hammering so early, I felt it was important to get out of my comfort zone. By the time we hit Sycamore Land we were already humming along at 6:00 pace and by the time we reached River Road, we were sub-5:50. I was pretty tired, but I just tried to hang on to Conrad as best I could. If I ever pulled even, the pace would pick up and given the fact I still had 10 miles to run (was aiming for 15) I didn't want to press too hard, too soon. Nevertheless, press we did. As we approached the Buddhist Temple, we opted to stay on River Road for the remainder of the run, instead of hopscotching down the waterlogged towpath. We ran the next 3 miles in 5:45, 5:54 and 5:41 before we reached Riley's Lock Road, which is when I bid Conrad adieu (he was only running 10-12 miles today). Before we parted, we were cruising along at 5:05 pace (downhill) and I was feeling both smooth and comfortable, but now I had to make it up by climbing the large hill alongside the golf course (5:42) and then up and down Violette's Lock Road (5:24). Once I reached the towpath, I shut it down. I ran 2 miles south, then 2 miles back to my car. It was another great long, hard run - this time pushing the middle (7) miles.

74 miles for the week, which is the most I've run in a 7-day period in quite some time. Mileage aside, the long, hard running is getting easier and easier. I'm definitely in the best shape since the spring of 2013.

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