Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Positive Split - Philadelphia Marathon Recap

It’s been over a week since I crossed the finish line of the Philadelphia Marathon in 18th place and a respectable time of 2:29:10. This race was also my 12th marathon finish, and after looking back at each marathon performance, it has definitely been an up and down process. Since I’ve never dropped out of a marathon, you can definitely see which ones went bad and which ones when horribly bad. Nevertheless, after each one, I’ve taken away a few helpful lessons, and Philadelphia goes without exception.

To highlight some useful facts, I had a solid summer of training leading up to Philly. I was healthy all summer and fall, and had some decent mileage. I say decent, because I didn’t get as high as I’d like. The 15 weeks leading up to the race I averaged 69 miles a week. That included a 90 mile week and a few solid 80 mile weeks. But it also included some low 50 mile weeks and even a 40 something mile week. My workouts were somewhat quick early on, where I was hitting some 6 Mile Tempo runs in low 5:30s, but as September and October rolled around I was extending my workouts out and hitting 5:40s. It’s hard to gauge true fitness on a few weekly workouts, but I knew I wasn’t super sharp, but perhaps a little stronger.

A big confidence booster was winning the Duke City Half Marathon for the third time in a row. My time wasn’t fast, in fact, it was my slowest of my 3 wins. So, after that race I knew I wasn’t ready to pop a quick time in Philly. My goal from the summer was to run as close to 2:20 as possible and definitely run faster than 2:25:50 from CIM last year, but those dreams slowly washed away. I had a new plan, I was going to run as smart and strong as possible, something I don’t think I have ever done before. Usually, I go out pretty quick and then fade a little in the last 10k to finish with a glorious 2-4 minute positive split. But, if you saw my splits at Philly - that did not happen. And I shocked myself to run relatively even for me, considering my PR came with a 2 minute positive split, and most of my quicker races have had significant positive splits.  In Philadelphia I ran 1:13:55 for the first half and came home with a 1:15 positive split to finish in 2:29:10. Not my fastest marathon, but a proud marathon finish.

So, with further reflection, I’ve taken away a few things. One of which is my continued appreciation for being health and enjoying every moment I get to train and be outside. Aside from all the mushy happy feelings that come with training, it’s also a great feeling to push yourself. Either it be with teammates or by yourself, it’s a great sensation of self worth. Having trained on my own for most of my marathon build-up, I only reached a dark place in training a handful of times. I really miss when I can push myself towards uncharted splits that really put the scare in your bones. This will be one thing I would like to work on moving forward towards Boston. I want to push the envelope a little more and not run as conservative as I have in the past.

When looking at the timeline of the Olympic Trials, there’s not a lot of time left. It’s only a spring marathon and maybe a fall marathon if needed. So there’s no time like the present. And looking at my marathon times, someone could say I have no business chasing that dream again. What I really need to do is fully commit to chasing that dream and see where that takes me. I’ve spent too much time afraid of injury and afraid I won’t get to race, when the reality is, there’s only 1 year left of training, after that I can run for fun and not worry about the consequences of overtraining, because let’s be honest, all the guys from the 80’s were constantly overtrained and overworked, but they still managed to run fast! Now, I’m not saying I’m going to train with reckless abandonment but I am going to train with more purpose and self discipline so that the next time I toe the line of a marathon, I’ll be racing all out from mile 1 to the finish.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Carlsbad 5000 Race Rant

Another race report, but in this pure instance, it will be a pulsating wake of ranting, followed by acceptance and finally, a deep contemplation and optimism of what’s to come in the running world of Jesse Armijo. So let’s get started…

First off, the Carlsbad 5000 is a pretty well known race in the world of road races. The tiny beach town of Carlsbad, California is home to my college coach and American mile legend - Steve Scott. Steve helped design the fast course back in the day, and in it’s 33rd year, it still draws the attention of many sub-elite, masters and professional runners looking to post quick times. I last ran this race in 2006, and had that race T-Shirt on to advertise the fact that I’m beyond my age but still willing to race fast. At my ripeful age of 35, I would now be racing in the 30-39 age group and hoping to dethrone Roosevelt Cook, who has won this race for nearly 6 years in a row. Roosevelt and I have known each other for awhile, and he’s a great Southern California competitor.

For the last month I had been changing up my training to suit the competitive speed that’s required to run a 5000. I also decided to scratch a spring marathon and just have a little fun this spring. Without the stress of marathon training being compromised, I focused back on the track and had some wonderful revelations that I still had some speed in my legs. I did a lot of combo workouts with tempo runs on the track, followed by 800’s or 400’s. Dabbling with quicker turnover felt great! I started to feel like a college kid again, just ripping through some quarters, and clicking off splits that make you smile once you can manage to catch your breath again. So with all that said, I felt ready to race in Carlsbad and win my first Carlsbad 5000m. It was also comforting knowing that I had some teammates out there racing. Brant had raced earlier in the master’s division, and Sal was going to race after me in the 29 and under group. I knew I had to do well and represent the Dukes Track Club as best as possible.

Fast forward to race day, and I could tell with confidence I was ready to win. I was ready to race and to race smart. Once we gathered at the line, I tried not to notice all the other competitors whose sheer physique, flashy racing kits and sweet looking road flats could intimidate the most seasoned runner. All I knew was that I was fit and ready to roll.

When the gun/horn went off, everyone bolted out. I managed to settle in just fine, as so did everyone else. The turn at the top of the hill came quicker than I imagined, and from that point on, I told myself to just relax and tuck in. We had about 8 guys in the lead pack with Roosevelt amongst the group. We cruised through the first mile in 4:48 or perhaps quicker. The 180 degree turnaround wasn’t too far away, and once that came, I still decided to stay close to the group and follow. At about 1 ½, I decided to make a small surge and try to break away. The only one to go with me was Roosevelt, so I figured this was going to be it. But, once we passed mile 2 and a small incline, Roosevelt made another surge, and I thought, “damn it, he knows the course better than me!”. He broke away by a few meters, and I just kept in contact. Then 2 guys passed me at the other 180 degree turn. We had less than 800m to go, and I was suffering in 4th place; I wasn’t even going to be on the podium! I managed to stay relaxed and save a little for a strong kick to nab 3rd and at least get on that damn podium. That plan was about to get derailed…

At the Carlsbad 5000, the finish line sits on a nice 200m downhill… and on the other side of some train tracks. In the past, a train never really interrupts the tops competitors of any of the races. This year would mark a different story. As I was settling in for that last left turn and a sprint kick towards the finish, I actually managed to produce that turnover I was mustering to edge out 3rd place. 1st was a solid 5 seconds up, and 2nd was somewhere unreachable with the small amount of real-estate left after the turn, but 3rd was right there. We were shoulder to shoulder and I was pulling away until I looked up and saw the railroad crossing signs flash and ring away. I thought it was a mistake but started to ease up. Once I saw Roosevelt get stopped by a race official, and then 2nd place stopped, I slowed down and stopped immediately. The gates came down, and a few moments later the train blasted by. The race official started yelling out that he was sorry and that we should stay in our positions. But before anyone knew it, the gates went up and it was a mad sprint to the finish. In the fog of confusion and frustration of knowing that I was going to be well under 15 minutes for a road 5k, you could say I was beyond pissed off! The guy that was in 4th managed to be ready and sprinted to 2nd place, I was left in a moment of confusion and before I knew what to do, I was sprinting all out to get back to my position, but the 80m to the finish just wasn’t long enough for me to make it up. I ended up in 4th in 15:09 with an asterisk.

I honestly hate asterisks. I hate converting my altitude times when I race in Albuquerque, or calculating what I could’ve run if I wasn’t directed the wrong way on a course. This may be why I love the track and discredit most times that aren’t run regularly on the same course or if someone gives me their BS excuse for why they think the course was long because their GPS said differently. I know most people don’t race anymore. I know many people are in fact racing themselves, which is a wonderful way to push themselves and gauge their fitness. A PR or personal best is a wonderful thing to have, and a great motivator, so if race officials over mark a course or undermark a course, it can be frustrating. People are paying to run that distance, so I get that aspect of it. But, it’s hard to validate a performance when there’s inconsistencies.

 A race is merely how fast you can get from the start to the finish, and I’m disappointed with myself for not having that tenacity to race from the train to the finish. I felt as if that small bit of disappointment got to me once I had to stop at the train. I somehow managed to turn off my racing mentality when that race official barked orders to us to hold position. The race wasn’t over yet, so why should we stop here at 4920 meters?!?! I should’ve raced until the finish. So, I guess in all my experience with racing, I never had to do that, and now I can thank this race as I continue on as a competitor willing to give everything from start to finish. Anything can happen in a race, and we need to be ready to respond. I’m very glad no one passed Roosevelt, as he was the clear winner on the day. And of course, without a minor debacle there wouldn’t be this post race recap, or encouragement to continue on with training and racing. Which leads me to ponder what to do next?

I’m signed up for some ultra races this summer, and will be attempting to race the Jemez 50k in May, which will be a tough 50k with a ton of vert! But, do I want to give up on running fast times in California, do I want to go back to the oval and hug the rail to a new shinny 5000m PR with spikes flying at your shins? Do I want to feel that wonderful anxiety of sitting around waiting for your event to start at the crack of a starter's pistol…? Or am I too old for all of that? Until I can figure out what path I want to take, I’ll continue to be humbly appreciative of my health and fitness.

Onward and upward!              

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mountain 2 Fountain Race Report

M2F 15k

I’ve had this race marked on my training schedule for quite some time. It’s a fairly competitive road race in the suburbs of Phoenix that rolls downhill on a wonderful point to point course. The prize purse is usually pretty nice and the race generally offers plenty of elite runners an opportunity to race hard and earn some extra cash for their travel to such a nice climate for early March.  Sunny skies and mild weather make race day competition ideal, and by looking at the net downhill course, you could say the course is perfect for a pr, however some hills deter that from happen to even the Olympians that have toed the line.  But, all in all, it’s a great race and I was looking to run this as a solid gauge of fitness leading towards the Carlsbad 5000 at the end of the month.

It was a lovely road trip from Albuquerque as a nice crew of Dukes Track Club members headed out to M2F.  Once we got in Friday night, and relaxed around Saturday, race day was already here. I wasn’t too concerned about who was racing, as I was going to race within myself and set a solid pace for my fitness, and once I started to realize there weren’t many elites at this race, I slightly thought I could make the podium. I saw Daniel Tapia, who is a good running friend of mine, and we warm-up together and caught up since we last saw each other at Cal International Marathon. But besides him and Stephen Kersh from Flagstaff, I was hoping to race smart and make the podium.

I could go on and on about how the race turn out, but I’ll keep it short and sweet - I finished 3rd and in the money! The last time I raced M2F I really sucked it up. But, I knew I was fitter this time around and wanted to run strong. I knew I couldn’t keep up with either Daniel or Stephen so I ran my race and had a nice 1st 5k of 15:30...ish. Which bodes well for Carlsbad 5000 at the end of the month. Then I ran solid through the next 10k and finished with a smile. Now the reflection… was I really happy? I had 3 goals going into this race and accomplished 2 of them. First, I wanted to run faster than my abysmal time from 2016, then I wanted to place higher than that, and lastly I
wanted to run under 49 minutes for 15k. I managed to accomplish 2 out of the 3 goals, and was fairly happy with that.

Now, what to do next…? I had a small conversation with Arlene and some friends about holding off on a spring marathon this season. I haven’t felt too into the whole marathon vibe right now. And after a sweet track session where I felt some speed burrowing out of those old muscles of mine, I’ve been contemplating what to do next. I know Carlsbad 5000 is uber high on my list this season, which is why I’ve added a little bit of speed into my regime, but once that race is over, I’ll be in lala land trying to figure out what to do next? One option that I am excited about would be to hit the trails. I’ve already signed up for a 50 miler this summer in July, but that’s beyond my short term goals. And to stay healthy and excited, I think I am going to focus on some local races and attempt the elusive Jemez 50k in May. Trails are fun and with the weather getting warmer, it’ll be nice to sweat and grind some mountain races. Cheers!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Training Post CIM - Heading towards Spring

Training post Marathon

It can be slightly difficult to get back into the groove of training after posting a good marathon in the fall/winter.  In what feels like forever ago, the California International Marathon looms in the not-so distant past of 2017, and all those long runs and heavy training days have all but disappeared along with the crisp fall weather.  Even though some of these winter months have felt like spring months, it still feels like a long time ago, and easing back into training is now an excuse for not laying down some heavy training.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be healthy and have been racing a little to keep the spark of training at the forefront.  However, I know my actual training is not matching up to the program I have sent out to accomplish.  After every marathon, I anxiously pull out the calendar and plot out races I want to do and workouts to fill in the void of racing.  I evaluate and reevaluate my desires to race nearly every race possible; to the reality that I should only race a few key races leading up to one significant race.  In this case, that major race will be the Lincoln Marathon in May.  I’ve already raced two local races and have three more before Lincoln, so my plate if plenty full.  But how has the fitness been compared to the training I set out to accomplish…?

Well, after taking a quick look at my training plan, I’ve only got 10 weeks left of training.  That seems like enough time, but it doesn’t feel like enough.  At this point, I would’ve liked to have more miles under my belt and feel sharper in workouts.  The reality is: I’m healthy and can train, I have a decent amount of time to get fit, and the workouts are slowly coming along.  It’s hard for a lot of runners to stay focused all year long, but by having a nice racing calendar keeps things in perspective and motivated.  I like that I’ve hit every workout I’ve planned; they’ve just not been fast or impressive, but I’ve been hitting them.  I don’t like that my mileage sucks and is nearly half the amount that I’ve run in my hayday, but that was a different me.  I LOVE the fact that I’m healthy and motivated to train, so the only issue is, I just need more time to run all the miles in the world!

This past week, I was on a vacation/wedding trip, and in most cases it’s hard to train while on vacation, and especially in Hawai’i. However, I managed to run everyday I was on the beautiful island, and got my 20 mile long run in, despite having no fuel and surrounded by heat & humidity.  All in all, it can be a fun challenge and adventure to train in a new environment.  I loved running with some locals (Johnny Bananas from The Big Island Running Company shoe store) and seeing so much lush forest and water everywhere.  I was very fortunate to have that opportunity to see the island in a different and slower pace.  So, with new vigor and a rejuvenated approach to my final 10 weeks leading up to Lincoln, I can confidently say I am ready and excited!  Aloha & Mahalo!