5K(?) Courtesy of the Washington They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named Professional Football Team

The sun rolled out from behind the clouds for a mid-morning (10:30am!) start time out in Maryland at the Package-Handler-That-Supports-The-NRA Field, home of the Washington They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named Professional Football Team. Murat, Nick, Steven, and Geordie gave a reprise of their bachelor party 5K performance and joined me for the race!

Still dealing with my foot injuries, I wasn’t sure what to expect for this race. My fitness doesn’t feel great, but I hoped I could surprise myself run around a 6:15/mile pace.

The race was a small part of a much larger event to celebrate the NFL Draft. Why that is an event worth celebrating is beyond me.

That meant that there would be a lot of non-runners there and given last year’s slow finish times, a 6:15/mile pace could make for a Top 5 Overall finish. Last year’s winning time was peculiarly slow for a 5K….. I wonder why…..

Race Goals:
1) Don’t reaggravate injury /X
2) Run a 6:15/mile pace X/?
3) Finish top 5 X

Nick, Murat, and I arrived with plenty of time to check in. We knew that the course was an odd one, featuring a handful of switchbacks through the stadium parking lot before entering the stadium itself and finishing on the field:

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What we didn’t expect? The hilliest parking lot ever. Apparently, this part of Maryland borders the Eastern Himalayas because there was not a single part of the race that was not on some sort of incline and sideways slope. 

Murat would be be going for the win… this threw him off. 

We were soon joined by Geordie and Steven and had a good chunk of time to warm up. Nick enjoyed a carb-laden waffle and Steven pounded some Run Gum while we got on our gear and stretched.

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We headed to the start… where we met our first obstacle. The start of the race funneled everyone through a giant inflatable football helmet. The 20-foot-wide starting line widdled down to about five feet wide. Great. 

Couple that with a handful of overly-ambitious youngsters who jumped to the very front of the start line and it was a bit of a mess…. but wait! There’s more!

Just before the start, the wife of the Washington They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named Professional Football Team’s terrific owner, Dan Snyder, and a few of her friends (?) were placed in the very front to create a photo opportunity. It was decided that they would start the race too before trying to jet off to the side. Awesome. 

The Race:
The gun fired, everyone crashed through the helmet and almost into a photographer who decided it would be a useful/safe idea to camp out in the very middle of the road just beyond the helmet-funnel, and finally we were off. 

Murat jumped out with a pack at the front while I did my best not to trample any children and also not go out too fast. After a few too-tight turns, I saw about 12 folks ahead of me. I knew I could take a chunk of them who had definitely gone out too quickly. 

It was clear that this course was going to be a mess. Several runners almost took a wrong turn early. It was unclear whether or not we were supposed to run inside or outside a set of cones. (Usually, you run outside). 

At about a half-mile, a few runners faded.

I kept cruising. My GPS watched beeped one-mile a good deal ahead of where the 1-mile marker was placed: 5:58.

Much quicker than I had wanted… but I didn’t feel too bad. Maybe I could chase a six-minute pace? 

Mile two was hilly and I focused on using the uphill zigzags to pass runners who were fading. I tried to maintain a similar pace and did pretty well… at least, I thought I did. My watched beeped again: Mile two was 6:14. Okay, so there was a good deal of uphill there, not too bad. 

….but the second mile marker was positioned a solid 30 seconds later. Maybe my GPS is just being screwy because of all the zigzagging? 

One nice thing about the course was that I could see the entire field of runners. Murat was trading the lead with another runner and then left him behind a little ways into mile three. That fired me up. 

I was feeling tired but reasonably strong. My foot was a bit uncomfortable but the pain was manageable at that pace. 

I passed a few more runners, now knowing I was comfortably in the top 10. I felt like I could chase a sub-19min 5K (about 6:07/mile pace) as we approached the entrance to the stadium.

I look at my watch: 18:24. Hmm. That’s slow.

Nobody is within 40m of me and I’m a good 30m behind the nearest runner. I have some energy and can pick it up for a final kick, perhaps enough to catch that runner if he begins to show sign of fatigue. We must be near the finish line, right? 

Wrong. 

We navigate through the stadium and I assume we’ll soon turn onto the turf for a final sprint. We keep going. This isn’t what it said on the course map…

Instead, we have to loop down and around several long walking-ramps underneath the stadium. My watch says I’ve passed the 19min barrier and there is definitely quite a bit left to run. Suddenly dawns on me: This course has been measured wrong. 

Knowing that I can’t break 19 minutes, I focus on not getting passed and I cruise through the last bit of the race. We finally emerge through the tunnel and onto the field. The finish line is just ahead and the clock ticks past 20 minutes. 

Post-Race:
I’m tried, clearly. But not exhausted. 

I see Murat ahead: he won! 

He is pleased with the win but understandably frustrated. “That course was definitely long.” 

I look at my watch: it confirms our suspicions. We calculate that the course was potentially as much as one-fifth of a mile too long. 

Well, that sucks. 

Still – I’m pretty pleased with how I ran and insanely psyched that Murat was finally the Overall First Male! He ran a tactically perfect race – not letting the leader get ahead, not letting the hills get to him, and taking off when the time was right before shutting it down with plenty of room to spare. 

My finish was good for 6th/1742! Steven and Geordie ran strong, tough races and finished within striking distance of one another at 28th/29th in the men’s category (out of 843 men, 34/36 overall out of 1742). Nick started out too fast but still managed to hang on for a solid 28:50 (equivalent to a 13:21 for an actual 5K distance…). 

We stuck around for a bit to watch Murat collect his award and snap some photos. 

Overall, we were quite annoyed with the course (even if it had been the correct distance, the course was miserable). Still, the event was a decent sign for my fitness and goal of running next week’s 10K in sub-40 and it was all worth it to see Murat crash the tape. 

Very pleased that Nick, Geordie, Steven, and Murat were able to join me… but I probably won’t be running this race again.

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Not the Slowest One on the Trail Today…

Workout Recap:

15min easy
6 x (2min @ 5:45/mile pace + 2min recovery jog)
15min easy

I love these west coast morning workouts! Already up for a few hours, I drove to two different local high schools to try and get on the track. Both locked. What is with California and not letting the public access local tracks while they’re not being used by the schools?! I’m not even a local taxpayer and I’m furious. 

Ultimately, I found a soft, quarter-mile-long gravel loop path for the workout. 

It was tough. My foot didn’t bother me (yay!) but my legs were lethargic and my core still needs work. The hard two minute intervals were a little over 1/3 of a mile and I managed to complete the workout but was pretty tired by the last three. 

It’s nice to have a workout done by 7am… though my 8pm west coast bedtime is less fun. 

I don’t think I squished any snails, either.

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Team 30@30 Destroys the Loudon 8K

Injury? No time for that. 

The weather was a crisp, sunny mid-40s by the 8am start of the Loudon 8K (5 miles). Team 30@30 would be competing for the Team Championship on a smooth, flat course in Ashburn, VA. PR Races timed the event. 

A little backstory: Back in January, after my half-marathon debut, I circled this race on the calendar and set a private goal of running it at a 6:30/mile pace (32:30). After a strong 4-Mile race at 6:14/mile in March, I thought I could shatter this original goal. However, my recent plantar injury has meant that I couldn’t run much, which jeopardized everything – now, even my 6:30/mile goal seemed questionable. 

Would my foot hold up? How would my fitness be given all of the cross-training and time away from running? Should I wear full-length tights in this weather? 

Race Goals:
1) Don’t aggravate foot injury 
2) Break 32:30 (6:30/mile pace) 
3) Finish top 10 and win the team award 

I arrived an hour early to grab my race bib, warm up, and find my teammates. Murat, Dathania O’Brien (Kat), Brendan, and Geordie joined me way out in VA for this one, as the race featured a team award: Like a cross country race, the top four runners (including at least one female) on a team score points based on combined times. 

My pre-race routine was a bit chaotic and I should have given myself another 15-20 minutes of prep time. 

Eventually, I got in a short jog, put all sorts of weird creams on my leg muscles, chowed on a pre-race carb waffle and some Run Gum, and found a men’s room out in the corner of a parking lot……

I cut my warm-up pretty close to gun time and arrived at the starting line just as the National Anthem played. I found my teammates and we were off…

The Race
My plan was to run the first mile at what “felt” like a 6:30/mile. I wanted to focus more on effort-perception than constantly pacing against my watch. 

That didn’t last very long. 

I checked my watch more often than I should have but discovered we had started at a pretty reasonable clip. 

The pack quickly thinned out and after only a quarter mile it was clear that myself, Murat, and Brendan were nestled nicely in the top ten.

At about the half-mile mark, Murat casually turned to me and said “I think I’m going to chase the lead guys,” at which point he and Brendan began to pull away from me and a few others in our group.

Buh-bye.

Now running with only a few other competitors, I tried to focus on keeping my pace even. The first mile finished in about 6:25 – not bad! I felt pretty good. 

The pack of runners near me began to thin during the second mile. It seemed like a few of the guys had gotten excited by the slow competition and had run out front a little too quickly. I stuck with this pack for a bit and then decided to pick up the pace on a gradual uphill around the second mile marker.

I like passing people going uphill. I get the sense that it’s more psychologically devastating to have someone looking strong coast by while you’re working hard up a hill – especially at a point in the race when you might be wondering if you went out too quick. 

My plan works and I drop the group… but now, I’m by myself. 

I can see Murat and Brendan ahead in the distance – but they’re already 45 seconds ahead of me. 

I pass a group of spectators by the water station and raise the roof a bit to get them cheering. I even get a high five (okay, mid-five) from a guy in a full-body Chewbacca outfit. 

Ever since the half-marathon, I make a point of trying to enjoy myself with the people positioned along the course of longer (than 5K) races. That means high fives, thumbs ups, and cheering inducement (when required). It keeps me relaxed and enjoying the experience, which is worth much more than a second or two that I might lose to an imperfect step. (It’s also a psychological tactic: Imagine that you’re running hard and suddenly a guy racing next to you reaches out and excitedly high-fives a traffic cop. That’s gotta be a little spirit crushing, right?)

Now it’s time to hold this pace until there are two miles to go, when I can try to pick it up a bit.

Oh, hi foot!

My left foot doesn’t hurt – but it starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. This is also my first race in my new Brooks Asterias – which feel pretty good! They’re light and the bottom feels similar to the Brooks Hyperion, but with slightly more stability and width. 

Luckily, the pain doesn’t increase, so I know it should hold up for a few more miles at this pace. Mile 2 had a bit of an uphill stretch and my pace was about 6:35. 

Right about on pace. 

The third mile meanders along a major road. Occasionally, I can see the outlines of Murat and Brendan ahead in the distance when I careen around a long turn, but they’re just green and orange dots that have at least a minute on me. 

A quick peek behind me reveals just one runner who is probably about 45 seconds behind and slowing. 

It’s just me. 

Mile three averages just over 6:30 pace. I want to try and pick up the pace just a tad in mile four, but I struggle to generate more speed. My aerobic strength feels decent and my legs don’t feel too tired… but I don’t feel much power. This is where the lack of recent running is beginning to show itself. 

Mile four finishes and I glance at my watch. I don’t feel great, but that last mile felt like it was about 6:20-6:25 pace. My GPS watch bleeps 6:34. Shit. 

That’s okay, I tell myself. I’m still on pace and have been planning to pick it up the last mile. Then, the course changes.

We switch from running on roads onto a few meandering walking paths of gravel, wood, and dirt. The gravel is a bit slippery, though the softer surfaces are a nice change… but the course itself winds through the woods and it’s hard to increase speed around the sharp corners, especially with the slight uphill.

At one point, I glance behind me on a tight turn to see if anyone is closing. A course volunteer cheers and yells: “Don’t look back! Don’t look behind you!”

Listen, lady, I appreciate the strategic advice and all, but I’m good, thanks. 

Eventually, we get back on the road for the final quarter mile. I check my watch and it looks like I should break the 32:30 barrier without changing pace, but it would probably require a really heroic effort to dip below 32 minutes. Running by myself without anyone to chase down and not wanting to push my foot further and harder than I should, I just pick up the pace a tad and cruise through the finish line at 32:24.

Post Race
I was pretty tired but not exhausted and recovered relatively quickly. My last mile was about 6:14. Not exactly the 5:31 at the end of my four-miler, but enough to meet my original race goal. 

The 30@30 Team crushed it!

Murat was the Overall Second Place Livestock Male at 30:03 and Brendan was right behind in 3rd place with a smooth time of 30:09. 

My time of 32:24 was good for 6th overall out of total of 340 runners (112 men), while Geordie had another strong running performance in 24th overall. 

Meanwhile, Dathania Kat was the 10th female finisher and surprised herself with a solid 38:48 time on no training. Really looking forward to seeing what she can do in a 5K on Memorial Day weekend…

Team 30@30 was the clear winner – beating the 2nd place team by nearly 40 total minutes. While only the top four finisher’s on a team count in the scoring, our team was so strong that all five members of our team combined to beat the top four from the next team!

We posed for a few photos, grabbed our awards, and headed to breakfast. 

It was an encouraging race given my recent setbacks… but I’ve got a long way to go. It does mean that I can knock off another 30@30 spring goal of running at least four races of distances other than 5K/10K!

Next weekend – a fun 5K that finishes at the 50 yard line of FedEx Field. Join me if you’re in the DC area!

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Injury Duty

With a big race Saturday and my foot still aching, this week has been mostly cross-training and rehab. 

I really, really dislike cross-training.

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So naturally, I was psyched to be able to run five slow miles on Thursday in my new Brooks Asterias. The run felt… terrible. Amazingly rusty. But! It was good to get out there and my foot didn’t bug me too much. My legs are just out of practice. 

Friday morning = easy pool jog and strides. The shoes felt good and my foot felt decent too.

8K race tomorrow morning… I think my foot should do okay, but my legs are weak from a lack of running. We shall see….

Great Podcast Episode: Jason & Keira

You may remember my recommendation a few weeks back to check out this great episode of the Strength Running Podcast where my old college teammate, Jason, interviews my protege Henry Wynne (I taught him everything he knows and am 97% responsible for his success…..) about running the mile?

Jason crushes it again.

In this great podcast episode, he interviews Potomac River Running’s Keira D’Amato about her quest for the Olympic Trials marathon standard, training for Boston, and what it’s like to balance motherhood, career success, and running. 

Awesome, very accessible podcast for runners of all levels. Keira sounds like she has had years of radio training. In fact, she may have convinced me to check out Strava.

Check it out. Episode 56. 


Chillinjury

Living the injury dream. Both feet now have some sort of plantar issue… so I’ve got my special plantar socks (thanks Jess) on. This week has been lots of brutal biking, ellipticalling, and pool running. 

Hoping to have my feet better next week so I can get a few runs in before the 8K on the 21st

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30@30 All-Stars Win the 29-Mile Marathon Relay! Yes, 29 mile marathon.

29 mile marathon – you read that correctly. More on that later…

Today marked the premier of the 30@30 All-Star squad – four of the squad members teamed up to race the Reston Runners Marathon Relay. A little about the all-star squad:

Leg 1: Brendan Chestnut > 5K PR: 15:30, Nike Outdoor Nationals competitor
Leg 2: Murat Kayali > 1500m PR: 3:47 (converts to 4:04 mile), 5K PR: 14:34
Leg 3: Terence Lee > Half-Marathon PR: 1:16, Marathon PR: 2:45
Leg 4: Jake Tuber > Has recently completed several races.

The anchor leg is supposed to feature the slowest guy, right?

Race Goals
1) Win the Relay 
2) Don’t aggravate my foot injury (meh…)

Background: I’ve been sidelined the past two weeks with a moderate plantar fasciitis injury to my left foot. I’ve only run once-twice and am terrible at cross-training. Had this not been a team event, I would have skipped it. But when it comes to the squad, the show must go on…

The Race
Brendan lead off for us after only a few hours of sleep and refusing to warm up. No matter. He crushed his leg and arrived at the relay exchange with the lead pack, averaging about a 6:20/mile pace for his leg of about 6.9 miles. The dude was barely breathing when he made the relay exchange. Filthy. 

Murat took the second leg out fast, quickly blowing by the runners also in the lead pack. Murat claims he went out too fast… but his strategy worked. He crushed a 6:11/mile pace and got Terence the relay belt (yes, the ‘baton’ was a belt with a chip-laden racing bib attached) in the lead.

Terence crushed his leg. Opening up a the lead with only the lead police motorcycle in front of him. By the time he finished his leg of the relay averaging about 6:20/mile pace, we were several minutes clear of anyone.

That’s when it got interesting. 

Worried about my foot, I opted for a short warmup jog and lots of strides/drills. When Terence came charing through the relay exchange zone right behind the lead motorcycle it really fired me up. I took the belt and ran the first mile in about 6:30. 

At this point, the marathon course ran mostly on a beautiful bike path that swerved through the wooded neighborhoods of Reston, VA. It was just me and the lead motorcycle. It was pretty damn cool. I have never trailed the lead car before and it’s an experience that every runner should have.

The tough part is that it was very hard to understand my pace being all alone out there. No matter. I had my watch, I was cruising and knew we were going to win. My foot hurt a bit but it wasn’t too bad. I was averaging around 7min/mile pace through the hills and working hard… my legs felt unpolished and sluggish. Not running for the better part of two weeks and then racing a distance event will do that. No matter… I just wanted to finish strong without hurting my foot and was on pace to negative split the last two miles like I had planned… what could go wrong?

Perhaps I should back up a bit.

In addition to the marathon relay race, there was also a full marathon, half-marathon, and even a half-marathon (2 person) relay. All events began simultaneously and would run the same half-marathon loop… the runners in the full marathon and full marathon relay (us) would run that loop twice. 

Okay. So. I’m churning up what I thought was the final hill and my watch says that I’ve covered just under six miles. I am tired but feeling ready to kick in a hard last half mile.

There is a split in the course. 

I’m not sure which way to go so I look to one of the volunteers directing runners. Part of me thinks that I should be turning left… following the sign that says “Half Marathon”, which I know turns back into South Lakes High School and the finish line. But I’m not sure. I look to the volunteer holding the flag and say “Relay?” – she points me to the right. That sign says “Full Marathon”. I’m surprised… but okay, I don’t know exactly where I’m supposed to go and the course has been well-directed thus far. 

I head up a hill. This seems wrong.

I cross a timing mat… is this not the finish? 

I keep going and turn a corner… the course keeps going… so I keep going. Now, I’m reasonably sure I’ve gone the wrong way. 

I shout a question at another volunteer stationed up the course: “How long ago did the motorcycle pass by?”

“Oh, it’s way ahead.”

Hmm. 

Okay. I’ll keep going. 

I thought my leg was supposed to be about 6.2 miles… my watch now says I’ve ran 7.2. Was the course distance just listed wrong? 

I keep going.. now I’m certain I’ve been misdirected. 

I pass a volunteer who cheers me on. I yell: “How far away is the finish? I think I’ve ran too far!”

She laughs and keeps cheering. She thinks I’m making a joke about wanting the race to be over. 

I lap a runner wearing an orange bib… which is a marathon relay bib.

“What leg are you, two or three?!” she shouts at me, confused. 

“Four!” 

At this point, I’ve run just under eight miles when I finally recognize the street I’m on. The cone-lined course takes a left turn… but that can’t be right. I’ve had about enough of this so I stop to ask the cops there what is going on. 

“Is this the way for the relay? Where’s the finish at the school?”

They tell me that this turn takes runners a long way from the school. I clearly made a wrong turn. 

I know that if I continue straight and don’t turn left, I can make it back toward the school quickly. At this point, I don’t even care what happens. I’m tired, really angry, and my foot hurts. I just want to get back to my teammates. 

I’m done with this.

“Well, I’m running back the direct route… you can tell them to DQ team #404 if it turns out I’m wrong. This is bullshit.”

I start running again and soon link up with the course, hitting the turning point where I was misdirected. 

Suddenly, it becomes clear to me what happened. Charitably, the flagger must have thought I was running the second leg of the relay – which would mean that I should continue to the right instead of taking the left toward the finish line. 

This time, I turn left and head for home. I soon reach the finish, having run just over an hour, and instead of the jubilation of winning, I’m just pissed. 

I explain what happened and have my GPS watch to prove it. Luckily for me, Terri and Mike for CRM/PRR are timing the race, and they immediately get what happened. The race officials are incredibly apologetic and do a great job assuaging the situation. 

Luckily, because my teammates we so damn fast, our clock time was still good enough to defeat a small field of relay teams, despite the extra 2.75 miles that I ran! Our actual time – likely in the mid 2:40s, was good for a relay course record. 

Check out my splits for the distance below:

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That 8th mile also includes about 25 seconds of stopping to talk to the police, meaning that I probably averaged about 6:50/mile pace for 9 miles – not bad given my current level of fitness, foot injury, and a tough course. 

Unfortunately, I was so upset about the missed turn that I couldn’t even enjoy our victory. 

Murat had to head off to his first of two soccer games before we could get a team picture… but we did get these sweet victory batons:

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Next up: Loudon 8K… assuming that I am healthy enough to train these next few weeks.