Big Announcement: The Sub-5 Challenge

With just two weeks of formal time left to reach our goal of $30K, we have less than $5K in pledges to go! 

And now that my 30 races are complete and I plan to continue training at a vigorous pace, I need (at least) one new goal. 

Enter: The Sub-5 Challenge:

I’m going to attempt to run a sub-5 minute mile at the famous 5th Avenue Mile, on Sunday, September 9th, in New York City! 

While I could hit the track and cruise a sub-5 mile as a fit high school runner, I’ve never actually recorded a sub-5 mile in an actual race. You might remember that I did run a one-mile race this winter indoors at the Armory, where I surprised myself with a strong final lap to run a 5:28.

Running sub-5 at my age requires a different level of fitness with the real need to improve my speed and anaerobic ability, and doing more speed work as a part of this effort should help improve my 5K times as well. 

So I’m going for sub-5… in more ways than one!

Want to run the 5th Ave Mile with me? Sign up
Want to help my other sub-5 goal? Pledge a donation!

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What’s Next?

The 30 races are complete!

So…. what now? 

Should I continue to build on the immense fitness improvements, healthier lifestyle I’ve created, reignited passion for running, and rediscovered drive for self-improvement by continuing to train and race as a competitive amateur runner?

Or should I just stop?

Hmm. When you put it that way….

While my body desperately needs a reset and the proper cyclical training approach, I am definitely going to keep pounding the pavement (and rubberized-surfaces). 

I’ve got a few ideas for some racing goals – some more attainable than others – and I’m going to get started with periodized training right away. In fact, I plan to announce an ambitious goal in the next week, so stay tuned…

The real question I have for you is… should I keep this running blog going? Would you read it? If so, do I change the name/website? Take the poll

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30.

Race #30: complete.

Woah. 

With morning temperatures already in the 80s and humidity hovering around 2,000,0000,000%, the PR Races’ Firecracker 5K in Virginia still drew a huge crowd.

It also drew the fabled 30@30 CTC Running Squad (CTC = Chip-Time Champions). Murat, Dathania Kat, Kelli, and Brendan all Voltroned’ up with me to try and score some team points in the final race of the campaign. 

The day went better for some than others. 

After arriving early and getting in a solid warmup (dynamic stretching, two-mile jog, more dynamic stretching, a few drills), I was drenched in sweat and probably more dehydrated than I let myself believe. Jess and Russ kept me company while I got my gear set up. Singlet, Run Gum, arnica cream, headphones, shades.

The start of the race seemed to arrive faster than anticipated.

I felt reasonably ready. Despite a few weeks of training that consisted primarily of intervals and heavy weights (focused on weight loss), I felt like I would be ready to run decently. The previous race on this course was one of the best of the campaign. 

My plan was to run the first mile in about 6:10. The second mile is a general net-downhill, so I hoped to run that in about 5:45, and then would just try and push through the final mile (80% of which was uphill). 

I fired up my music – mostly so that I wouldn’t hear my own heavy breathing, which always psychs me out.

Gun sounds. Let’s go.

During the first mile, I felt okay. About a mile in, my watch beeped 6:15. Not terrible, but not great. My quads felt heavy and my calves were sore from all of the track work and lifting. 

I saw Jess and Russ on the side of the road which gave me a slight boost.

Then, things got progressively worse. Like, much worse.

I wouldn’t say I “blew up”, though that is the running term for what happened.

Instead, I felt like I very quickly withered away. 

My legs had no power and my turnover felt forced and difficult. My foot started to hurt (oh, hello again, plantar faciitis). At about the halfway point, things got even worse. 

I felt heavy and bloated, like I was carrying around a fanny pack full of marbles. Every stride was a struggle and I felt like I was losing, not gaining ground.

Two miles in I was exhausted. I had slowed down tremendously during the very mile I was planning to pick things up: 6:45 for mile two. 

Runners were starting to pass me one by one. I had thought that I had began far enough back from the starting line that it would be unlikely that anyone would pass me. (I suppose if I had been running at PB pace, that would have been true.) Instead, I was continuously getting passed and had nothing in the tank. 

I felt like I was going to throw-up. I immediately switched my focus from running a decent time to simply finishing the race and not stopping/walking. 

I slugged through the last mile. More runners continued to pass me and not even my playlist could save me. I tried some running techniques. Counting, thumb-tapping, positive talk. Nothing. My mind would immediately drift back to the pain. 

At about the third mile marker, I saw Jess and Russ once again. They could tell I was not looking good. 

I did manage to pick up the pace slightly over the last 0.1, but my final mile was a disastrous 7:15. I ran through the finish line and nearly collapsed.

My time was a pedestrian 21:04 – just a few weeks after running 18:42 over the same distance. I barely cracked the top 100 – finishing 99th overall (out of 1,578). I was so relieved to be finished.

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I staggered around and grabbed waters for the rest of the squad. Importantly, Murat, Kat, Kelli, and Brendan had each run very strong races in the heat. 

After dowsing myself in water and debating sticking my head into the garbage-bin full of Gatorades, I found Jess and Russ and we joined the group for a photo.

The final 30@30 race photo:

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The race didn’t go as planned, but it went.

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30 races complete.

I’ll need some time to reflect on the accomplishment. In the coming weeks, I hope to ink a few summarizing blog posts, touching on subjects ranging from what I learned along the way (about running and otherwise), ranking my performances and various events, recommending the best gear/books/etc. that I found throughout the year, what my future plans are (should I keep this running blog alive?), sharing some photos, and much more. 

So stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, we are closing in on $30K. We have about $3.5K to go. If you haven’t made a pledge yet, please consider doing so here. It just takes 23 seconds. 

Thanks, as always, for the support. In so many more ways than one. 

Final Race: Tomorrow!

The 30th and final race of the campaign is nigh! 

While it is the last race, this is the first time I have used the word ‘nigh’.

The 30@30 Chip-Time Champions will compete for a chance at team glory in PR Races’ Firecracker 5K, in Reston, VA. The weather promises to be too warm, my legs promise to be too sore, and the competition likely too good…. but alas, the show must go on. 

Despite being far from peak form at the moment and off-cycle in training, I plan to run this one hard. Last time, I enjoyed this course for what was a solid season’s best. If I can even match that time tomorrow, I’ll be happy. 

Join me if you’re in the DC area!

600m Intervals, Weights, Depletion Run

Saturday: 1.5 mile warmup, 6x600m @ 5K pace, 1.5 mile cooldown

5:45am wakeup for this one to beat the heat – and it was well-worth it! It was already high 70s by the time I hit the track at 6:45am, though there was a decent cool breeze that made the weather tolerable. 

Hoping to average 2:15/600m (6min/mile pace), I did fairly well. I averaged about 2:17 for the first few, and then dropped to about 2:14 for the last couple – including a quick 2:09 for the final interval. The workout called for 200m jogs between each 600, which took me about 100 seconds each. 

Saturday: Weights

I pushed it a little harder than past days, upping the weight total and trying to get a bit closer to “failure” on every set. A solid session requiring significant Run Gum intake for caffeine after the tough interval workout. 

Sunday: 9 mile Depletion Run

This calorie-free run at 6:30am was much better than last week’s, thanks to Rabbit Lindsay (aka Lindsay O’Brien) joining me for much of the jog. It’s amazing how much less painful a long run can be when your mind is free to focus on a good conversation. We averaged about 9:20 pace for the nine mile jaunt, as we did our best to find shady paths. Temperatures were already in the mid-80s by the end of the run.

Next up: Final race of the campaign on July 4th! 

400m Intervals, Weights, Depletion Run

Friday: 6x400m @ 5K pace.

The run felt good! With 2:30 active jog rest between intervals, my splits were strong, averaging about 1:22/400m. Afterwards, I joined some of my Friday track workout friends and paced them through their 200s in 40-45 seconds:

Saturday: Weights

Felt good as well… though I probably didn’t push hard enough. Generally, I should be “lifting to failure” – getting to a point in each set where I can’t complete any more reps. Evidence suggests that this really builds muscle – regardless of how heavy the weights. Will try to push harder next time. 

Sunday: 8 mile Depletion Run

A Depletion Run is a long run done first thing in the morning on a completely empty stomach. By depriving the body of any calories to burn, you burn through your carbohydrate stores and train your body to start burning more fat. As Coach Matt pointed out, during trim-down portions of an early training cycle, athletes often incorporate one long depletion run per week. 

This was my first ever long depletion run. My muscles felt like they were trying to wrench energy out of my bones. Still, it wasn’t too miserable, and was an overall good experience. The best part? You get to eat whatever you want right afterwards. So I polished off my run with a jelly donut, a bag of fruit snacks, and one of (former race rabbit) Lindsay O’Brien’s famous dessert brownies. 

And then I polished that off with a long sugar-and-fatigue-induced nap with Russ:

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Workout Recap: Treadhill Intervals Aborted

Wednesday morning’s workout was a rough one.

To help accelerate a weight-loss phase as part of my newest training cycle, Coach Matt prescribed some tough High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). 

On the treadmill. 

On an incline.

Great.

I set my alarm for 5:15am and planned to eat right away – giving my body just over an hour to wake up before the tough workout.

After a 10min warmup jog and some dynamic stretching, the workout called for:
7x(1min hard + 2min easy) at a 10% incline grade.

The hard parts were at 8.7mph – just under a 7min/mile pace.

It did not go well.

I lasted 45-55 seconds per hard interval and only made it through five before calling it quits due to fatigue and pain. I came closer to leaning over a trash can than I have in quite some time. 

My head just wasn’t in it – neither was my body. 

It’s probably good that I stopped – sometimes you have to keep yourself in check when you don’t ‘have it’ to prevent injury. 

Ugh. Next time. 

Chasing a Season’s Best 5K in NYC…

One of my major goals for the 30@30 campaign is to break 19min for a 5K.

Despite a strong 19:06 performance early in the Spring season, the barrier has remained elusive. So I scheduled race #29 on a flat 5K course in NYC, hoping that I could overcome my recent setbacks and finally get it done. 

However. I’ve struggled in the past month or two. My training has been sub-optimal, I’ve drifted further from my ideal racing weight (thanks, wedding), and I’ve been psychologically exhausted. 

Heading into this race, I predicted a time that could be anywhere between 18:40 – 19:30. That’s a big window. 

To break 19 minutes (6:07/mile pace), I would need to have a performance that drastically exceeded recent results. I would have to run very aggressively from the beginning. Typically, breakthrough performances at the 5K distance involve fast starts and hard finishes. Basically, I was going to have to red-line (be in significant pain) for a long time. No more starting slower and trying to pick up the pace. 

Pre-Race
Gun time on Roosevelt Island (the New York City one… not the DC one…) for the Running of the Balls 5K (race in support of testicular cancer, amazing pun) was at 8:30 on a slightly cloudy, drizzly morning. We arrived shortly after 7am for bib pickup. 

Bibs were not ready yet. 

Okay. 

I decided to extend my warmup a bit. First, I jogged a half mile and then went through my dynamic stretching. After another failed attempt to pick up my bib (now 7:45am), I went for a longer run of about 1.5 miles at a slow pace interspersed with some speed bursts just above race pace. Didn’t feel great. 

Next, I went back to grab my bib and then do some sprint drills and strides. 

Not so fast. Bibs not there. Have to wait. Now 8am. 

Finally (8:15), bibs arrive. I get to wait in line and pick mine up. Fun. 

Racing buds Patrick, Kelli, and Kapelman all arrive and Russ (the pup) is happy to see them. At 8:20, I finally have my race bib. I throw on my singlet, rub a combination of weird creams on my body, and devour some Run Gum (one mint and one fruit – my new favorite combo).

Thanks to a snazzy wedding gift, I could race with music again! Our new GPS watch also stores music, meaning that I can run with tunes without strapping my bulky phone to my arm. Only downside is that I was having playlist issues and couldn’t get my planned playlist to load properly. Oh well, any music is better than none, right?

Didn’t feel great or fully warmed up, but oh well. Go time. 

The Race
I couldn’t get to the very front of the start line, meaning that I would have to weave around a few slower runners and foolish children at the start. 

My goal was to be aggressive, knowing I would probably blow up (the runner’s term for hitting a wall of pain mid-race) and have to hang on. I wanted to be slightly ahead of 6:07 pace by the end of the first mile. 

We round a series of tight turns to start and I am moving quickly but feeling okay. There are a handful of runners just in front of me when I look down at my watch at the half mile mark to see that my “current pace” is averaging about 5:55. Okay, I say to myself, that’s okay. 

Two runners pass me just before we hit the one mile mark. I am working hard but I don’t feel awful just yet. I can tell that I won’t be able to keep this pace up, which worries me. My watch buzzes: 5:45. 

Woah. What happened to that 5:55 average pace? My GPS must not have fully accounted for the fast start at the outset of the race. 

This is good, I say to myself. I know I can’t sustain this pace, but I’ve given myself a solid cushion off of the 6:07 average I need to hit. 

Another minute passes…. and suddenly I really feel it.

My abs ache and I am working hard to sustain this pace. This isn’t good. I fiddle with my music (on shuffle) to try and find a song with a slightly faster tempo. I chew down hard on my gum, hoping to tap into a hidden crevice of caffeine. 

I consider slowing down a ton and giving in to the pain. I tell myself that I had planned to pick it up at the 1.5 mile mark so I can hold this pace at least until then.

After about what feels like an hour later, we hit the 1.5 mile mark and the course turns south back toward the Start/Finish area. I get a nice boost when my music shuffles onto a favorite running song (Kid Ink’s ‘The Movement’).

I know I have slowed down a bit and turn my focus toward external stimuli. I pick a point ahead on the course and concentrate on running toward it. Get there. Pick another point. 

It’s not going too well.

I feel heavy and out of shape. The two mile mark comes and my watch beeps: 6:15 for that last mile. 

*Gulp*. 

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I feel terrible and I’m not sure I can hold this pace… but a little quick math and I realize that I’m still averaging about a 6min/mile pace. If I can improve a little bit, I’ll be where I need to be. 

Now, it’s time to play mind games. 

I try counting my steps in sets of 18. It helps a bit as I try to synchronize my steps to the music, but the tactic doesn’t work all too well for too long. I am really tired. 

My pace begins to get a little erratic as I slow down for 100 meters or so, only then to tell myself to pick it up just for a short while. These bursts probably last for about a half mile.

I really just want to quit. Not just ease up – completely quit and walk. But I tell myself just to hold on and give myself a chance at a sprint finish. You’ve already done all this work, I tell myself, don’t undermine it by slowing down. You’re going to be so mad at yourself if you’re close. 

2.5 miles complete and I peek at my watch: pace says about 6:20 for this mile. Ugh. Maybe I should just quit. 

Time to try some positive self-talk – which is known to be helpful. “You got this,” I tell say out loud to myself.

Then, my personal favorite: “This ain’t shit. Gimmie more.” 

I can begin to see the finish area as the course takes a few winds around some nooks and crannies. I look down at my watch which says we’ve gone 2.77 miles. Just a little more than 400m to go. Pick it up, Jake. 

A runner passes me. Shit. 

Then, I finally get toward the finish area and can see Jess and Russ, which gives me a huge boost and helps me maintain pace. 

While the finish line is in sight, unfortunately, the course involves a series of tight turns just beginning about 200m from the finish line. Terrible setup. 

We have to turn 90 degrees left, run 80 meters, then make a hairpin 180 turnaround and head back for 80 meters, before finally turning left again 90 degrees and then hitting the finish line 40 meters later.

IMG_1980.PNGNavigating the bizarre turns just before the finish line. 

I look down at my watch, expecting to see about 18:30 and dreading a tight sprint finish.

Watch reads 17:59.

Oh! I’m ahead of pace!

I try to pick it up as best I can around these tight turns. When I finally round the last turn, I can see the clock ahead next to the finish line reading about 18:34. 

I don’t know if it’s completely accurate, but it’s accurate enough!

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Seeing the finish line clock with 30 meters left. 

I barrel through the finish line and nearly collapse from exhaustion. I lean against a barrier railing and try to catch my breath. I finally remember to stop my wristwatch. Relief. 

Post-Race
I wobble over to the hydration station in search of some watered-down Gatorade (Pepsi: I am still available for sponsorship, just sayin’). 

I stagger over toward Jess and Russ and we go to cheer for the rest of the crew. 

Kelli put in a strong race (ending up 3rd in her age group!) as did Kapelman (who ran a comparable pace to a competitive 5K he ran recently) and Patrick (who stuck to his plan and definitely had the last laugh, finishing without the same exhaustion as the rest of us fools). 

My final time clocked in at a season’s best and barrier-smashing 18:41. Good for 9th overall and my best 5K in a dozen years.

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I’m trilled with the outcome but still suffering from the process. Going out so fast was a gutsy, uncomfortable strategy that paid off… but made for a miserable racing experience. I hope that the next big barrier can fall without such a brutal effort. 

Overall, a good learning experience. One that I’ll probably be much happier about once I can shed the memories of pain and focus on the outcome. 

My incredible thanks to Kelli, Kapelman, and Patrick for coming out to join me. And of course, to my wife (it feels really cool to write that), for coming along and supporting me. 

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Race crew, Russell, and the Testicle Mascot.

Next up… race 30! The final race! What should it be? TBD. 

Sunday Fun-Day: 10 Mile Long Run

Zone 2 (fairly easy pace) ten miles felt great!

Feeling good half way through and running at a faster pace than I anticipated, I didn’t hold back too much. The last few miles felt strong and I was pleased to bust a quick 6:29 mile to finish off the run.

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My hips felt tight and my legs sore at the finish, but my breathing didn’t really pick up until the last half mile when I opened it up once back on the track. 

Solid confidence builder heading into next week’s 5K!

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