Skeleton Run Race Report & What's Next

Had a solid race at the Amherst Skeleton Run yesterday finishing in 17:41 for 1st in my age group and 6th overall. A much tougher course than the one I ran on 3 weeks ago so I'll take it. I definitely didn't feel quite as sharp, but I've been training really hard for Charlotte in December, so I think that was part of it. A few days before the race I ran a pretty difficult ladder workout consisting of mile-1200-mile-800-mile-400. The miles were all at tempo/10Kish effort and the shorter surges were progressively faster. Anyway, back to the race. First mile is flat and partially downhill and I did my best to hold back hitting it in 5:32. The second mile is really rough with a pretty tough gradual climb of maybe 600 meters or so leading to the 2 mile mark. I hit the 2 mile in 11:17 passing about 5 people on the hill. After that my legs were pretty rubbery but I gutted out a decent final mile.

I decided not to do another 5K on Halloween weekend and get 3 more weeks of training in for my next race, The Twinsburg Turkey Trot. This is a great combo trail/road race and the closest thing to cross country that I'll be racing before Charlotte. A course map with elevation charts can be found here. The race is managed by my teammate Jim Chaney's company, Chaney Events, and I definitely recommend it if you live in NE Ohio. I had a lot of fun there last year (unlike many races Jim will have the results up for you in minutes, not days!).

With 7 weeks to go before Charlotte, I've mapped out my final weeks of the season. Yesterday's race made me realize that I could use a few more hill workouts so I'll be doing a few hill repeat sessions in the coming weeks as well as my usual strength interval stuff. I'm going to drive out to Mastick Woods for a few trail runs as well.


Training Update: Rolling Along

I had a really good week of running post last weekend's 5K race. Hit around 50 miles with two quality workouts. On Tuesday I did 5 x mile on the grass path at Lakewood Park in my cross country spikes. The times weren't all that fast but the conditions were pretty sloppy since it was raining and the footing wasn't the best. A good workout for getting used to the elements. Not all cross country races are in ideal conditions (at the end of the fall they usually never are), so best to prepare for the worst. My other key session was an 8 mile progression run on Friday, which I really nailed, running 46 seconds faster than I had done the previous two times I did this workout. The last 3 miles were 6:14, 6:07, 5:46, which was exactly what I was looking for. This week I had been hoping to run in an 8K cross country race at Oberlin on October 16, but it looks like they will not be letting unattached runners compete. Too bad. I was really looking forward to that. My plan B was to do the Rocky River Spirit Run on October 17 (hilly course so a decent XC simulation), but that just got canceled. So now I've decided to race again on October 24 at the Skeleton Run in Amherst. I've done this race before. It's very competitive and there are a couple of good hills in there, plus you veer off onto a scenic bike path, which is pretty fun. Not a PR course but I really want to get in a race on something other than a pancake flat course. Speaking of that, if all goes well in the Amherst race, I may do the Pumpkin Run 5K in Lakewood on October 31. That course is FAST, same one where I did my recent 17:06. On the workout agenda this week is 20 x 400 on the XC course with super short breaks tomorrow and a hilly fartlek workout on Friday to get into the groove for the Amherst race.

As for the shoe on the left, that's the newest color scheme of the Brooks Launch, which I just got. Great shoe (see my review from earlier this year) and I hate not having a visual when I post something on this blog.


Crocodiles - Sleep Forever

Crocodiles are a duo from San Diego consisting of Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez. Though they may hail from temperate climes, their acclaimed 2009 debut Summer Of Hate was definitely no Beach Boys theramin-heavy sunshine trip, owing much owe much more to the dark, druggy sounds of icons such as Suicide, Spacemen 3, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Songs like the title track, “I Wanna Kill,” and “Refuse Angels” contain elements like spooky tremolo, brutal beats, and nasty feedback, and most importantly, they are catchy as hell. Sleep Forever isn’t a huge departure from the debut.  Like Summer of Hate, Sleep contains only eight songs and clocks in at under 35-minutes, the band again not wasting time on any excesses whatsoever; in other words, another noise pop masterpiece.

Recorded in a desert studio in Joshua Tree with James Ford, who has worked with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons, Sleep blends together all of the influences that were prominent on the debut with a tad more experimentation. Tracks like “Stoned To Death” and “Hollow Hollow Eyes” feature prominent Krautrock beats that pound like a Mack truck speeding trough the Autobahn. On the other side of the spectrum, the lovely “Girl In Black” and, especially, the masterful closer “All My Hate And My Hexes Are For You” sooth like the dreamier side of Spacemen 3/Sopiritualized with hypnotic drones and lush instrumentation (the latter is about the prettiest ‘fuck you’ song you’ll ever hear!).

The more ‘typical’ sounding Crocodiles tracks on Sleep Forever are stone classics that belong on jukeboxes worldwide. The absolutely fantastic title track (released as a pre-album 7” with a bewitching fuzzed-up cover of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” as the B-side), is a ridiculously catchy, bordering on bubblegum, shoegaze nugget that sounds like a cross between The Telescopes, Jesus and Mary Chain and ‘60s sunshine pop. The staggering “Mirrors” begins with dreamy drones before soaring to epic heights like the best of The Church or Echo and The Bunnymen (probably not a coincidence that Crocodiles share the same name as the first Echo record), while best of all is the infectious “Hearts Of Love,” which combines a sickly catchy melody with a crushing wall of sound that would put a huge smile on Phil Spector’s face, especially the juvenile delinquent-themed video for the song, which is like something out of a vintage James Dean or Marlon Brando movie.

Fires Of Comparison is a digital only EP that can be downloaded for free on the Fat Possum label website. All four of these instrumental tracks are as engaging as Crocodiles’ two proper albums. The none-too-subtly titled “Kill Joe Arpaio” attacks the controversial Arizona anti-immigration sheriff with a heady brew of experimental beats and talk show samples, while “A House With Skin Like Yours” explores similar psychedelic ground to The Black Angels. The brief title track is a little bit of an overly experimental throwaway, but the EP concludes on a high note with the exquisite “Hearts Reprise.” 


Nature's Bin 5K: Does strength = speed?

Amazing what a difference a month came make. On September 4 I ran an o.k., but nothing special 5 mile, feeling like I should have been about 10 seconds faster per mile than I was. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, but all the pieces weren't there. After that race, I made the decision to focus on strength in order to get ready for the Club Nationals Cross Country race in Charlotte in December. Since that Labor Day Weekend race, I've done three sessions of long intervals (mainly mile repeats) on grass paths, three progressive 8 mile tempo runs,  several long runs, and a really good mixed pace fartlek session this past Wednesday. All good quality workouts, but certainly nothing 5K-specific. I felt like I had been lacking aerobic power, and today I proved myself right, running my best 5K of the year by 18 seconds, hitting 17:06 (5:30 pace on the nose) at the Nature's Bin race in Lakewood. The winner, Curt Bachus (also a masters runner) ran 17:02. The conditions were pretty ideal. 53F and some light rain. Curt took it out hard and after I passed the usual crew of misfits who sprint at the beginning of races, I found myself in second place trying to chase him down. I hit the mile at 5:35 and was probably about 6 seconds behind at this point. I was feeling really good, and didn't ease up at all during mile two but couldn't close the gap. Curt was definitely running hard as well. He told me after the race that he could hear my footsteps splashing in the rain the whole time, which forced him to keep redlining it. I hit 11:10 at 2 miles and still felt like I could maintain pace. The last 1.5 miles of this course is very fast as it is a straight shot down Lake Avenue with no turns and you almost always catch a bit of a tailwind here.  I REALLY tried to close the gap at this point and I think I may have got as close as 3 seconds or so with 800 to go but couldn't quite seal the deal. In any case, I'm really happy with the race and feel like I have my groove back.

Now for the second part of the entry. Over the years I've noticed a pattern where I seem to race my best 5Ks when I'm not really training for the 5K. When I do 5K specific workouts like 400s and 800s at those V02 max zones, I seem to lose power and general fitness. It doesn't really make sense, but I seem to gain speed when I don't really focus on speed. I think there's something pretty magical about the 10K/tempo pace zones, especially for older runners. We don't recover as fast as the youngsters, so I think that may be the best way to stay consistent over the long haul. Anyway, my big goal for the fall is cross country, so I'll be at Lakewood Park again this Wednesday lacing up the spikes for some mile repeats.At this point, I'm waiting to find out if I'll be able to get into a college XC race at Oberlin on Oct. 16. That would rock!

Here are some strength workouts that work for me:

1) 4-5 mile repeats at 10K effort  with 400 jogs (or 2-3 minutes) for recovery.
2) 8 mile progression run, starting at normal conversation pace and trying to drop 10-20 seconds per mile. If you do this workout right, you should be running somewhere between 5K and 10K pace during your last mile. I usually start at 8:00 and do something like 7:40, 7:20, 7:00, 6:45, 6:30, 6:10, 5:40-5:50.
3) 6-5-4-3-2-1-30 fartlek w/ half-time recoveries: This is one that I read about in Running Times magazine that the Zap Fitness team does. After a decent warm up, run 6 minutes at about half-marathon race effort, jog 3 minutes and then run 5 minutes slightly faster, jog 2:30 etc. Basically, after each surge you get half-time recovery, so while the reps become shorter, you have to run them faster, and you get less time to recover. This is a great race simulation, especially as you get down to the one-minute and 30 second segments at the end.


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