Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Topic 2: What Goals to set in Races?

There are many goals to focus on in running, but for this particular topic I will cover goals relevant to races.  Goals are important.  And, if you are signed up for a race, you have a goal for that race - whether it is to finish, run a PR, or place a certain position.  But there are also a few things about goals that a lot of runners can get trapped in.  In my 20+ years of competitive racing, I have made many mistakes in goal setting for races.  Here is an example.  In the fall of 2011, I made a big breakthrough in the half marathon, by running a personal best of 1:08:39.  I got excited and that following spring, my goal was to break 1:08.  Good goal right?  Challenging and realistic.  Problem was, I didn't set any others-I was only fixed on the time.  I ended up running a 1:09:27 in that race, and I felt upset about it because I was so focused on only that one goal.  So what are these other goals I could have set?  Well, one thing is placement.  I ended up 16th in a pretty deep half marathon field.  Another goal I could have set is to break 1:10:00 for the 2nd time in my career.  I didn't recognize that I had only run under 1:10 once at the time!  Another goal I could have set was to beat my personal course best.  I think a lot of runners forget about this!  Previously I had run 1:10:04 on the same course.

You can have a set of goals going into each race so that you don't become too focused on just one goal that may not be attained.  If you can attain a few of the other goalsisn't a bad race.  It may not be that ultimate goal you want, but it doesn't mean you have to get down about the race either.  This structure of goals also helps us respect ourselves, and that it takes a lot of hard work and patience!  I sometimes remind myself in races that my toughest competitor is myself.

When we talk about categorizing goals, the top goal should be the dream goal.  This is a goal that is possible and realistic, but it is understood that it is very hard to achieve and it takes some things to line up.  We may call this the "A" Goal.  If the A Goal seems to fall out of reach, then the B Goal should be the focus, and then the C Goal, and so on.  And, there are a lot of different goals we can set in races.  This past spring, I had some plantar issues with my right foot which forced me to sit out of the Ottawa Marathon.  I thankfully recovered with the help of my good friend Tom Stott, and decided to enter the Grandma's Half Marathon.  When I was there, a runner approached me asking if I was shooting for a PR, and I responded quickly, "Oh, absolutely NOT!"  I knew I was not close at all to the 1:05 shape I was in when I ran my PR 5 months earlier.  And, this was not my goal going into the race.  My A goal for this race was actually to race it completely healthy with no issues with my foot!  And if I had to put down a time goal, I was thinking 5:15 pace if everything went really well.  To fall back on a B goal, if my foot was not feeling good enough to race 5:15s, I would drop back and see if I could find Silvia to run the race with and help her out.  My C Goal was to avoid hurting my foot at all costs if it meant dropping out or if it meant running a whole lot slower (Silvia surely would be finishing ahead of me).  Luckily, my foot was ok and I achieved my A goal and actually finished in 1:08:45 (5:14 pace), a course best time (personally), and was happy to race healthy again with no injuries.  For Silvia's race, a month earlier, she had a rough day in Ottawa and had to drop out of that race.  So, going into Grandma's Half Marathon she needed something positive to come out of it.  I told her to use the race as a workout and not put any pressure on PRing, because we weren't sure how her body would respond after having a rough race the month prior.  We went into the race with modest expectations.  Silvia ran the race by feel, and she felt better as the race went on and found some faster gears she wasn't sure she had.  She ended up running a PR of 1:20:27!  She was pleasantly surprised and it so happened that her fitness from Ottawa carried her over to the half.  However, I felt it was very important before the race to not EXPECT that to happen, because she needed to just get a race under her belt first after the rough Ottawa race.  Just a great example of going into a race with smart goals that respect ourselves and where we are!

These examples help us gain perspective that what we runners are trying to do is really arduous, and to understand that there are other things we can achieve if we cannot make that A Goal.  For example, often we runners focus on PRs.  But we also must recognize how difficult it is to be better and faster than ourselves on our best day.  And sometimes there are instances where we are doing better than we think we are but we do not realize it.  For example, I like to keep track of Course PRs-a lot of runners do not think about these!  Another example might be placing higher than you ever have in a particular race, even if your time isn't as fast (how were the conditions?).  Another thing you can focus on is running within your top 5 best times.  I keep a record of all my fastest times on different courses, and it is fun to see where these were run, which courses are the fastest, etc.  Oftentimes I think a lot of runners are only set on one goal, and they have nothing else to look to if that doesn't go to plan.

Here are a few examples of how I have broken these goals down to categories, whether thinking about PRs and/or placing.  Keep in mind these are goals that relate to me and everyone's goals are different!  There are other examples that I will explain after.

Chris' goals Example 1 (placing):

A Goal: Win
B Goal: place top 3
C Goal: place top 5
D Goal: win age group

Chris' goals Example 2 (times):

A Goal: PR
B Goal: run close to my PR or perhaps my top 3 best times ever
C Goal: run a course best
D Goal: run under a certain time (maybe top 5 best times ever run, and so on..)

For me personally, in all my years of racing I have learned that it is really rare to win and run a PR in the same race.  But I think it is good to have goals for placing and goals for times.  For instance, this year I won the Parks Half Marathon (not a PR).  But earlier this year when I ran my PR at the Houston Half Marathon, I was far away from winning that race!  The difference of what my mind was focusing on was completely different in these 2 races.  Both were achievements for me, just in different ways.  During Parks, I focused on my strategy to catch the first guy who started out ahead of me.  The goal was to win-because it was realistic.  I also had a goal to run my course best time, which I did by over a minute.  Parks is a difficult course, and on top of that, understanding where I was in my training I knew that 67 or 68 min was probably the fastest I would run on that course during the tough training block I was going through.  To make my goal to PR on that course would be unrealistic.  Contrary to this, at Houston, the course was fast, weather was ideal, and the competition was stacked.  I knew there was a chance I could run a very fast time.  In a race like Houston where the winner gets $20,000  (opposed to Parks which gives $500), you get world class elites from all over the world and a very big sized race and a strong American field.  Famous runners like Meb have a tough time winning this race (he won in 2014 in 61 min, was 4th in 2015 in 62 min).  With my previous PR of 66:37 going into the race, to win Houston would be unrealistic for me....so it was more realistic to have a goal to place as high among the top Americans as I could-maybe top 15, and maybe top 30 overall.  And I knew if I was near top 30, I would most likely run close to 65 minutes.  I ended up finishing in the top 20 Americans in the race, 37th overall, and a big PR of 65:25.  What contributed majorly to me running that PR was competition.  I was pushed by a lot of others running 64:00-66:00 in this race.  And when it came down to the last 0.1 miles of that race, I was with 3 other guys sprinting to the finish.  I could have settled and let those guys go at the end.  I would have still run 65 minutes.  But settling would not be giving my best.  My best was to finish trying to outkick my competitors.  We don't just run races for times, we also run to compete with others and get the best out of ourselves.


Perhaps what I am getting at here is there might be a goal above that "A" Goal we all strive to achieve.  I would define this as doing the best you can on that day.  If you can say that you could not have run any faster, I think that's the top goal we all want to achieve.  Get the best out of ourselves.  To perform our absolute best.  I like this goal because it is there if we are having our best day, and it is there if we are having our worst day.  If you're having a rough day and don't achieve your D Goal, you can then say, "Let's do the best I can do today, whatever that ends up being."  If you are running the race of your life, remember to not settle, but rather say to yourself, "Let's see if I can beat this guy next to me by the time we reach the finish."  After Houston, I looked at some interesting stats.  I love numbers and seeing how things play out in races.  I had averaged 4:59/mile in the race-a huge milestone for me to go sub 5 for that long of a distance.  I calculated that if I had run just 8 seconds slower, I would have averaged 5:00/mile.  I would have lost those 8 seconds if I didn't grit my teeth and race with those guys next to me at the end.  No matter what goal you have, go all the way to the line with doing your very best.

We are all trying to get to the finish line.  The winner is trying to do this, and the last finisher is trying to do this.  Many runners' goals are to finish the race-especially if it is their first one!  But if the goal is to finish, you need to make sure you have those back up goals.  For instance, you could break down your goals such as:

A Goal: Finish (running the entire time)
B Goal: Finish (running with very small walking breaks)
C Goal: Finish (walk the amount you need in order to finish)

For more experienced runners, as I stated above, we can also use races as workouts.  We can make a goal to focus on running the race a certain way, such as progressing our pace, or working on the hills, or just getting in an overall strong run to boost fitness.  When using a race as a workout, we must understand that we are training through that race.  I definitely lower my expectations for fast times in these.  They serve a different purpose-to help us get stronger for the bigger races.   

Overall, there are several things below that can help you get the most out of setting your goals for races:

1) Respect yourself, especially if you're striving for a big breakthrough.  Understand that if you are going for that A Goal, you are trying to be better than yourself on your absolute best day.  It is really hard to do this especially if you have been doing this a long time!

2) Be patient with yourself.  Understand that achieving that A Goal may take more time and patience than you think or would like!  This is another big important thing a lot of runners forget.  Patience is a virtue.  Understand it is a process.  It takes not one year, but sometimes several years, perhaps decades.

3) Don't get too obsessed with times defining your races.  I see this all the time.  A runner is bummed about their time...when they didn't realize they placed higher in the race than ever before, and if they had focused on that, perhaps they might have done even better.  Remember to compete for place.  No one remembers what time the Olympic Gold Medalist ran.  People remember that Meb won Boston in 2014, not his time (if you must know it was 2:08, his all time PR).

4) Remember all the different goals you can set for races.  Have fun with it!  Don't make it stressful.   It is a lot more enjoyable when you start to think outside of the "PR" box.  There's a lot more to running.  Get creative!

5) Always fall back on the goal to do the best you can on that given day given the situation and circumstances.  You will be much more satisfied and get the most out of the race and most importantly, yourself.


Thanks for reading.

-Chris Sloane

Feel free to leave any comments below and feel free to reach out to me for coaching coachchrissloane@gmail.com

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Topic 1: What is "Easy pace?"

A few years ago I was at a race, and a friend/coach asked me a very good question.  She asked, "What do you define as easy pace for your runners?"  I thought it was an excellent question.

When we talk about easy pace, we need to factor in some variables.  For one thing, what is the weather like on that day you're going for a run?  Is it cool and crisp?  Or is it humid and hot?  The weather plays a very significant role on effort levels.  Those hot and humid days are slower runs because there is less oxygen in the air.  Runners need oxygen to perform better.  The more oxygen you can get to your muscles, the faster you can run.  So when you are running in the heat, don't be surprised if "easy" all of a sudden is 9:00 pace instead of 8:00 pace.  A second variable is the terrain.  Are you running up a mountain?  Are you running on a flat course?  Are you running on trails with rocks and roots?  A third thing to consider is what workout(s) and amount of miles have you done that week?  Are you fatigued and tired from a higher mileage week?  One runner doing 70 miles per week might actually be doing their overall easy paces faster than a runner doing 100 miles per week(even if the 100 mpw runner is faster in races), because of the muscle fatigue associated with mileage.  Did you do a race recently?  So think about those things first before you get upset how "slow" you're running those easy paces.  

I define easy pace as slower than anything that is approaching the aerobic threshold.  In other words, it should be aerobically comfortable and a pace you could run for a very long time if you had to.  However, I don't define easy pace as an exact pace.  I define it as a range of paces.  Some days the pace is faster, others slower(because of those variables above).  This range of pacing can also vary from runner to runner.  I believe it is a really good thing to have a bigger range of paces.  I have found that anything from around 6:00 pace to 10:00 min pace is my easy pace on any given day.  The important thing is to run by what feels right on each day, reading your body and how it is responding.  The goal of easy pace is to recover so that you can do your next workout(which is to push the aerobic system and/or anaerobic system).  If your easy pace right after a hard workout is pretty slow, chances are you ran a really tough workout and pushed yourself!  It is compensation for the effort you put in the previous day, so listen to your body.  

From my experience, I can break down easy pace into several paces as a result from training or racing.  The first is after a very hard race.  Either during a cool down or a short run after a race, my paces tend to be the slowest.  Sometimes I joke with myself on my slowest easy pace PR.  I've run some 10:00-11:00 min miles on post race cool downs(I've raced 4:59 miles for my fastest half marathon).  The next slowest pace is after a really hard workout-either on the track or a hard long run.  After that it is pretty much the rest of any mileage and other runs in between hard workouts.  These are runs that are not necessarily after hard workouts, but also do not need to be pushed in pace in anticipation of a hard workout coming up.  To summarize, I have found easy pace to be defined as a combination of cool downs, recovery runs, pre-workout runs, maintenance runs, and even warm ups.  Therefore, the pace can range quite a bit.  I believe that it is important to have a wide range of paces, but that can depend on the runner.  It is actually very difficult to have a range of paces to train at.  

There is one other variable related to easy pace that I have discovered through my own training.  The complexity of the development of a runner affects easy pace relative to speed.  In other words, take the current version of myself, at my fastest which is a 1:05 half marathoner in 2019, vs a couple of older versions of myself(let's say when I was a 1:16 half marathoner in 2004, and a 1:10 half marathoner in 2011).  During my training around 2004, I would say that my easy pace runs were not as much of a range as they are now.  I think a lot of them were something like 7:00-8:00 miles. Now, that range has shifted to a much wider expansion of around 6:00-10:00 miles.  But also, I run higher mileage now-so you have to factor that in too.  While I have gotten faster at racing because of consistency, higher mileage, and faster workouts, I have also gotten better at running slower.  If you want to get faster, don't just practice running faster; practice running slower too!  Several Kenyans I have talked to told me how easy they run sometimes(yes 10:00 miles).  But when they go to work, they get serious about running 4:00-5:00 pace.  While the Kenyans are the world's fastest distance runners, they probably are also the best at running a huge range of paces.  


Thanks for reading,

-Chris Sloane


Feel free to leave any comments below and feel free to reach out to me for coaching coachchrissloane@gmail.com.   

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Every Race Jersey 1999 - 2019

1997 - 2001
Quince Orchard H.S.

Photo: 1999 MD State XC Championship: 17:15




2001 - 2004
Virginia Tech
Photo: 2002 Hokie Invitational 8K: 25:43



2009 - 2010
Georgetown Running Co.
Photo: 2010 Colonial Half Marathon: 1:12:57


2010
Georgetown Running Co.
Photo: 2010 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: 54:16



2010
Potomac River Running
Photo: 2010 Pikes Peek 10K: 32:54


2011 - 2012
=PR=
Photo: 2012 Virginia Beach Half Marathon: 1:09:27


2013 - 2014
=PR= DC ELITE
Photo: 2014 US Half Marathon Championships: 1:07:29


2015 - 2016
Saucony
Photo: 2016 Jacksonville Half Marathon: 1:06:50


2015 - 2016
Saucony
Photo: 2016 US Half Marathon Championships: 1:08:33


2017
Capital Area Runners
Photo: 2017 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: 51:06



2018 - Present
MCRRC ELITE/CEP
Photo: 2019 Houston Half Marathon: 1:05:25










Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sub 5:00 pace: The Breakthrough at the 2019 Houston Half Marathon

 


In 2016, I ran an epic 1:06:50 (5:05 pace) at the Jacksonville Half Marathon.  In November of 2018, I finally broke that time by running 1:06:37 at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon.  Still, I hadn't really broken through to that next level.  There was more in me ready to be unleashed.  Photo below of Indianapolis.






































January 20, 2019

49:54.  Mile 10.  5K left to go.

It began building...we could feel it, that anticipation to unleash what we had left in our tanks.  We had been racing sub 5- minute miles for 10 miles, and now it was time to see who had the strength and speed the last 5K.  All we could hear were our footsteps and breathing-which was barely controlled right up to the edge.  That threshold.  I just needed another 15:30 5K.   

------------------------------------------------

The Chevron Houston Half Marathon is one of the fastest half marathons in the country.  I first ran this race back in 2014(you can find that race report on this blog), and ran a PR back then of 1:07:29 (that breakthrough was sub 5:10 pace for the first time).  The course is flat like a track, fast, and minimal turns.  The competition brings world class runners from all over the world, and some of the fastest U.S. half marathoners.  I walked outside of my hotel ready to do a shakeout run with Silvia, when I saw someone who looked familiar and knew immediately who it was.  He won this race in 2014 in 61 minutes.  I only saw the back of his head but I knew who it was.

It was Meb.  I introduced Silvia to him, and the guy is the nicest dude in the world.  He asked what our goals were, wished us luck, and even when we came back from our run he waved back at us again.  Meb is one of my favorite modern runners-he sets the example of what running really is-a lifelong sport.


On Saturday, I met my coaching client, JP, who I have been coaching virtually.  It is tough but we communicate well, which helps since I cannot see him run.  He is progressing well, and he ran the 5K Saturday morning in 15:38 for 3rd place.  He ran track and cross country for Texas A&M.  Silvia and I were also fortunate to meet Steve Magness, the coach at University of Houston, and who co-directs High Performance West.  I follow his podcast on coaching along with Jonathan Marcus.  https://www.scienceofrunning.com/?v=7516fd43adaa



JP (Pictured above)


THE RACE
January 20, 2019
Houston Half Marathon


Silvia and I jogged to the race start where we were put into the B section of the elites.  This race is super stacked with world class athletes.  They had a short separation between the A and B elites, so I crossed the timing mat 5 seconds into the race.  I worked my way into the race, opening up with a 5:05 first mile.


I love this race.  The course is fast, flat, like a track.  The competition is world class, the winner runs just inside or right at 60 minutes.  It was awesome to return here 5 years later.  The weather was a bit chilly- temperatures at the start were in the high 30s.  I wore 2 pairs of lightweight gloves(the cheap pair on top of the nice pair), a hat, and CEP compression socks.  Mile 2 was 5:01, and then I began hitting some sub 5s.  My third mile was 4:56, and my 4th mile was 4:55.  By now I had been running with a few other guys, and as we approached mile 5, a 5:03 split, we caught Fernando Cabada(the 2:11 marathoner was clearly having a rough day).  He then asked, "What pace are you all running?" A guy who had been running with me answered, "5:00 pace."  I heard that loud and clear, and it bothered me.

I thought to myself, Chris, you did not fly out all the way from DC to run 5:00 pace.  Last December(2018), I ran the CIM Marathon in a new PR of 2:25:05, but it was also a mixed emotions race because I was on pace for a 2:17(went through half in 1:08:40), and I was aiming for the 2020 Olympic Trials Qualifier(standard is 2:19:00).  35K in of the 42.2K race I was on 2:18 pace.  It was difficult to swallow that one, however it was a big improvement off my last marathon- I find the distance is improving for me as I age.

I did not come out here just to run 5:00 pace.

I then made a bold move.  I left the few runners I was with and I hammered mile 6, 7, and 8 in 4:54, 4:54, & 4:56, and then went ahead to work towards catching another pack of elite runners.  I had gone through 15K in 46:30(a PR) and was averaging 4:59 per mile.  I had never been here before.  It was the danger zone, the unknown territory.  But I continue to push.  I then caught up to the next pack, and together we rolled through mile 10 in 49:50-something, which was a 10 mile PR.  Again, new territory.

5K to go.  I felt I had what it took to run close to 1:05 flat.  I knew I could do it.  Just hang with the pack.  I felt so strong!  I knew I had the speed and strength for the last 5K, and perhaps a really good closing kick.  We hammered it out and approached the downtown area where the last mile is literally a straight shot to the finish.  We approached mile 12 with 59 minutes and 50-something seconds on the clock, which was so awesome.  Never have I run so fast!!  I flashed back to when I was in high school when I ran my first sub 5:00 mile.  Here I was running 12 in a row on my 13th.  I thought back to one of my favorite quotes from Once A Runner:  

“...Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God's own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race dark Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway....They'll speak our names in hushed tones, 'those guys are animals' they'll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!” 

― John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner

The Last Mile.  

I cannot count the amount of sub 5 minute mile repeats I have done on the track.  I have done them over and over and over again.  Now, my body was saying it was ready.  It was ready to put it all together.  The last mile of the race we stormed towards the finish line.  We went through 20 kilometers in just over 62 minutes, and our last 1.1 kilometers-according to the splits below, was a mighty 4:45 pace!  The last 3 minutes of the race we headed straight towards the finish in downtown, and as we approached mile 13 in 1:04:50-something, the last .1 mile was an all out sprint between the 4 of us.  I unleashed a kick like none other I have had before.  I battled with one of Canada's top runners Chris Balestrini and Mexico's Daniel Ortiz Perez.  The race announcer was going crazy as we all made a mad dash for the finish line.




Split



Time Of Day
TimeDiffmin/milemiles/h
5K07:16:43AM00:15:3715:3705:0111.94
10K07:32:09AM00:31:0315:2604:5812.08
15K07:47:36AM00:46:3015:2704:5812.07
20K08:03:16AM01:02:1015:4005:0211.90
Finish Mat08:06:31AM01:05:2503:1504:4512.58
My official chip time was 1:05:25, an average of 4:59.4 per mile!  I had finally averaged under 5:00 pace for the half marathon!

Splits: 5:05, 5:01, 4:56, 4:55, 5:03, 4:54, 4:54, 4:56, 5:00, 5:02, 5:03, 4:58, 4:59

But immediately after I finished, my attention switched to finding the other runner.  No not the guy I battled with.  Not Meb.  Not the guy who won the race.

No, I was focused on finding Silvia finish her race.

Silvia came through in a new PR of 1:21:16, which she most recently beat at the DC Rock and Roll Half Marathon, finishing that race in 1:20:39!  She also just broke 60 minutes for 10 miles at this year's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, running 59:34(edit: 59:48 converted from the 9.96 mile course).  Over the past year, Silvia has become one of the best runners in the DC area.  She ran her current PR of 2:48:38 at the California International Marathon last fall.

We both are working towards the Ottawa Marathon this coming May.



 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Year 2017



2008 
10K: 34:16
Half Marathon: 1:17:37

2009
10K: 33:29
Half Marathon: 1:16:16
Marathon: 2:43

2010
10K: 32:51
10 Miles: 54:16
Half Marathon: 1:12:57

2011
1 Mile: 4:27
5K: 15:13
10K: 31:26
10 Miles: 52:54
Half Marathon: 1:08:39
20 Miles: 1:52
Marathon: 2:37

2012
Mile: 4:26
5,000m: 14:58
10K: 30:56
10 Miles: 51:44
Marathon: 2:35

2013
Mile: 4:26
5,000m: 14:53
10K: 30:43
10 Miles: 51:35

2014
10K: 30:43
10 Miles: 50:57
Half Marathon: 1:07:29

2015
Mile: 4:21
5,000m: 14:49
12K: 37:37
10 Miles: 50:56

2016
10 Miles: 50:32
Half Marathon: 1:06:50

2017
1 Mile: 4:21
5,000m: 14:39
20 Miles: 1:48
Marathon: 2:32

Above are PR's I have set each year over the last 10 years.  I actually didn't realize that every year I have PR'd in something.  Looking back, I have been at this for a while-and I have come a long way.  See, I'm really not that talented-I'm good, but I'm not born with the perfect body to run like some other runners I meet at these championship races I run.  Some of these guys I meet at these big races humble the shit out of me....they are really good....there are guys who I meet at other races who run their first half marathon in 1:08 or something, then they jump to like 1:04.  For me?  My first was 1:17....I've worked down to 1:06 now with a lot of hard work and grit.  Yeah...that is good, but when I go to championship races I know I have had to work twice as hard as some of these other guys just to run as fast as them if they have a really bad day.  I beat Andrew Bumbalough in the US 10K Championships this past summer-which was pretty cool.  That guy is one of the U.S.'s top distance runners, and was one of the pacers at the Nike Sub 2 Marathon Project.  He was sick the day I was able to barely out kick him.  But I pride myself on the fact that I didn't start out as a top talented guy in high school or college....I started out as a 16:40 5K guy out of High School(now the pace I can race for 20 or more miles), and have chiseled down everything to as good as I can get with a lot of hard work over the years.  I've kept at it-consistency is one of the most important things I coach.  Looking at the careers of Flanagan, Meb, etc....gives me hope that I can truly master myself as I train in my 30's and my own god given ability to the fullest.  I think if I stopped running today, (or retired, so to speak), I would be mostly satisfied with everything, except the marathon I have some unfinished business with-which on paper appears to be the hardest event for me...but yet...I feel like at the very same time it is equally the event that I can be most strongest in and utilize all of my strengths and mental focus.  I continue to pursue this quest to find out my true potential in the world of running competitively.  Who am I as a runner?  I am a very good half marathoner.  Will I always be better as a half marathoner and just not quite as good at the marathon?  Or will I one day create just one painting in the marathon over several "ok" or "failed" ones....that stands out from the rest-like an artist does such as Wright when he did Falling Water, or a runner like Billy Mills when he surprised everyone winning the 1964 Olympic 10K, or Shalane winning NYC this year.  Whatever the outcome, I am not finished yet, and have something in me whether it is more strong races or one single race that stands apart from the rest.  Maybe both.
 
I have self coached for most of my running career post college.  Then, for 2 1/2 years, from 2014-2016, I trained very hard under my coach, Roland, which pushed my limits.  Under Roland, I ran some personal bests, the biggest breakthrough was a 1:06 half marathon in 2016.  That was the peak of the training at the time, and I put that race up there as one of my best pieces.  But I also trained really hard during those years and pushed my body to the highest mileage it could handle-and it eventually broke down a bit.  After my spring of 2016, things went in a rough direction.  After doing 10 consecutive weeks at 120/week, the fall of 2016 my body got injured for the first time in over a decade.  I wasn't able to finish a marathon, and my left foot was in pain, and I couldn't run, or run very minimally.  I had plantar fascitis.  My body had begun to feel the toll of what I had been doing to it.
 
I had to re-strengthen my foot, with lots of help from Tom Stott(sports performance institute) and Terrel Hale(georgetown sports massage), and REST.  Tom helped me understand where the problem was and what strengthening I needed to do for the weaker foot.  Terrel was a vital role in helping me heal the most efficiently I could and getting my body to the balance.  He is a master at his A.R.T. therapy-check out www.georgetownsportsmassage.com.  I also got back into my cross training-cycling and pool running which I had done before and getting back to that was what I needed to do.  As I built back from my injury over last winter, Tom actually thought it was actually a necessary and perhaps even good thing that I had pushed my body to the very edge, because I basically hit the ceiling-realizing where that tilting point was, and once I got back to it, I could dial back in and find the right balance.  You have to go through rough periods in order to progress at times.  That's how training works.  You push the body, and it will respond.  After a few months, I began running more again, and got stronger.  Roland and I respectfully decided to take a break(I still talk to him time and time again).  I started to look at a 2017 race plan-I then started working briefly with a new coach, George Buckheit, but we had our disagreements and that didn't work out.  So I went back to self coaching.  It felt like home.  I think Jerry Alexander(the GRC coach) said something to me that really hit home about me and my friend Jerry Greenlaw(who runs for GRC): "Chris, you and Jerry- you guys are unique runners-certain things obviously work for you guys that don't for others." 

My first race back in 2017 was the Saint Patty's Day 10K in March.  Actually, it was Jerry and I(pictured below) that ran this together.  It was a great first race back.  I was back-and not injured!  It was just great getting out there competing again!  Jerry and I took the lead with no one else in sight and ran neck and neck for the win.  We ran until we had absolutely nothing left-it was a great battle and he took the win in a sprint finish.


Then, in April, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  I ran a solid 51:06(my course best is 50:56), so clearly things were going in the right direction.  Jerry ran that race too and tried to run me down at the end, but I put enough distance on him to finish ahead.


A few weeks after Cherry Blossom, I ran in the US Half Marathon Championships in Columbus, Ohio, in a very slow time- it was pretty rough-the humidity was crazy high and the dew point was ridiculous.  But honestly I really didn't care- there was something else I was working towards at the time.  My interval training was going really well-and I really got back into my self coaching again of designing my own interval workouts-something I am very good at.  I did a very strong workout of 16 x 400m with 100m jogs between-and it told me I was ready to run a very fast 5K.

BREAKING FREE
Swarthmore College, PA
5,000m: 14:39, 10th place


2 weeks after the half marathon championships, in May, I ran a new PR of 14:39 in the 5,000m at the Swarthmore College Invite.  This was a 10 second personal best, and a big breakthrough.  It was awesome to PR after being injured the previous year!  This was a very emotional race for me, because all the work and frustration I had gone through was justified.  I ran the best track race of my career to date.  Video of the race below.


I fell in love with the sport all over again.  I enjoyed self coaching again like it was yesterday.  I think I needed it.  I began racing more again.  5 days after the 5K, I jumped in the Germantown 5 Miler and won in 25 minutes.


At the end of May, on Memorial Day, I ran the Loudoun Street Mile, placing 4th in a new PR of 4:21.0.  Pictured below I am out kicking Moise Joseph, who has run for Haiti in the Olympics.


THE RIVALRY

At the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in June, I developed a rivalry with Desta Morkama, who out dueled me for the win.  I was pissed to lose.


As a tune up for the US 10K Championships, in late June I ran the MCRRC Suds and Soles 5K, which I won.


THE USA 10K CHAMPIONSHIPS
33rd place, 31:59
Atlanta, GA

The US 10K Championships was held by the Peachtree Road race.  Besides the US championships, there are 60,000 runners who participate in this race.  It is massive.  My friend Exavier (who I also coach) and I made the trip down together.  It was hot and humid, and the conditions could not be tougher.  The course is also difficult-the second half is all uphill.  I ended up battling Andrew Bumbalough at the very end and outkicked him.  While he obviously had an off day, it was still pretty cool to beat a pro-sponsored Nike guy who was one of the pacers during the 
Nike: Breaking 2 Hour Project.  A story to tell my grand-kids one day?  I plan to return for 2018.




To top the weekend off, I met Bernard Lagat (who placed 5th in the race).



THE WIN
Crystal City Twilighter 5K
1st place, 15:11

After Peachtree, I returned to DC very fit and used to the heat.  My rival Desta and I, and a few GRC guys dueled at the Crystal City Twilighter 5K in mid to late July(death conditions in DC).  By now I was used to the humidity, and I had the speed, so after Desta kicked by me with 400m to go, I had another kick stored up for him, and passed him during the last 100m to take the win!






THE RETURN

In August, I took a trip out to Blacksburg, and I began to train for the longer distances again.  I did my first 20 miler of the year, on the new river trail.


My friend Conrad and I did plenty of running, biking, hiking, and sight seeing.


...taking an ice bath...



RIVALRY, PART II 

At the end of August, I raced the Annapolis 10 Miler, where I battled Desta again for the win.  He was able to out kick me this time to win by 4 or 5 seconds.  We both ran tough on the challenging, hilly course.


In September, we dueled again at the Parks Half Marathon.  Desta(#3), once again took the win in a sprint finish and he finished in 1:09:07, and I finished in 1:09:10.  He was just a bit better at finishing than I was.  We had a pack of 4 together until mile 10 I took the lead to break up the race.





Parks Half Marathon top finishers: Pictured left to right: Desta(1st place), Girma(6th place), Me(2nd place), Wilson(7th place), Conrad(3rd place)

Meanwhile...it was exciting to watch the end of the womens race.  Silvia, who I coach, took the win in 1:24, and a new personal best.


OCTOBER
Army Ten Miler: 14th place

Despite absolutely the worst conditions possible, the World Class Army Ten Miler was a really great placing for me.  I took 14th, and handled the conditions as best as I could.  I fought off Lucas Meyer of the GRC for 14th, my highest placing ever in this race.  My time was slow(everyone's was), but this was one of the best races I competed in for place.


battling the humidity


Then, a few weeks later, I drove up to Baltimore, to watch Silvia compete in the Baltimore Marathon for the win.  Silvia won the womens marathon in a new PR of 2:58!  Watching this happen live before my eyes as a coach was something special.




INDIANAPOLIS MONUMENTAL HALF MARATHON
15th place, 1:07:58
In November, my fitness really came around, and I ran my third best all time half marathon at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon.  It was a good tune up for the California International Marathon the next month.  I wanted to run close to 5:10 pace, and averaged 5:11.  I really enjoyed this race, and would like to come back again.  I took 15th overall in a very competitive elite field.



CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON
Splits:
10K: 33:23 (5:22 pace/2:20 pace)
13.1: 1:10:28 (5:22 pace/2:20 pace)
20 Miles: 1:48:15 (5:24 pace/2:21 pace)
FINISH: 2:32:21 (5:48 pace)

The California International Marathon/US Marathon Championship was my last race for 2017.  I was of mixed emotions from this race....it was both equally amazing and equally getting my ass kicked.  This was a 3 minute PR for me, but it was so close to a, like, 13-15 min PR.  I really felt like a 2:20-2:22 was doable, and I just couldn't quite put that last piece together....I almost had it.  It was the most amazing marathon I have had because I have never been able to do what I did during this race.  Running 5:20's for that long was new to me.  I hit the wall bad at mile 21 or so.  This race is so unpredictable, because you can feel fine at like mile 19, and then all of a sudden your legs have no more.  This is how hitting the wall feels like.  I was able to run the rest, but could not race the last 5 miles.  It sucks when this happens, but it also sure is humbling.

This cycle I was a bit more conservative because I wanted to get to the finish line.  In 2015, when I ran the Chicago Marathon, I dropped out because I was a bit over trained going into the race.  I did a 26 mile run in training during that cycle, and I did it too fast(I think I did that in 2:33 or something).  It did me in.  So this time, I did not go longer than 22 miles(22.5 was my longest) in training.  I also didn't run as hard.  I feel I trained very intelligently this go around, and I am proud of myself for not only getting me to this finish line, but for what I have achieved this year and staying injury free.

As I have reflected on things over the past month, I have come to understand that for me, when everything clicks, it really clicks.  If it doesn't, I might run a solid race, or fall short of my goal, but it gets me somewhere.  After this race my body has begun to adapt to running 5:20 pace for a longer period of time.  Maybe I can hold that pace for the entire length next time.  The great thing is that I didn't really feel bad running this pace until my legs hit the wall around mile 20-21.  So that tells me my body is adapting to a different level off handling the pace.  The trick is getting things together the last 10K.  I do think a big part of crashing the last 5-6 miles, however, is because I was glycogen depleted.  And to make it worse my nutrition was disastrous during the race.  I took gels WAY TOO LATE(and as I coach I know this!).  Even though I practiced this in training, I should have taken them earlier....I ended up taking all of them, but I should have spread it out more instead of waiting too late into the race. When I did my 22 milers, I practiced taking fluids and gels during the middle of the runs-so I know how to do this.  I think that I did that well....but the problem was I don't think I physiologically trained to avoid glycogen depletion.  In other words preparing myself to physically prevent my body from being depleted at mile 21-so I would have more at the end.  What I think I was missing in my training was actually doing the full distance in training, but instead of running it too fast(like I did in 2015)-going mostly easy for the majority of the run(maybe first 20 easy, last 6 hard to simulate this) to practice that glycogen depletion.  I think going back to 2015 I had the right idea-but the run was done too fast overall.  If I did a 26 miler in training mostly easy, and maybe the last 6 miles faster or something like that, that might just work.  Practice that so my body does not crash with 5-6 miles to go.  I know a few friends of mine who ran 2:17-2:18, and they said they did 26-28 mile training runs to practice that.  I think as long as I am smart about it and don't run it hard, it might be just what I need to do.  I think I was very smart this go around to make sure I got to the line though, and I really wanted to finish this race and not run too much to be dead going into it.  It feels like each time I have gone at this marathon I have taken small chunks off of the elephant, before I can eat the entire thing.  After my experiences with this race, I don't know if I can get the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials standard of 2:19, but I do know I have at least a 2:20-2:21 in me-that I feel in me.  But maybe... if everything comes together one day, and I am ready, at the right moment to strike, with 5-6 miles to go, if I am in striking distance, maybe then, I will go for it.

After the marathon in Sacramento, I traveled to stay with my friend Benson, and his wife, Nancy in San Francisco.  I enjoyed exploring the city-it was very cathartic after the entire year.

I want to thank Terrel Hale, my massage therapist, for continuing to work with me.  He has been a vital part to me staying injury free this entire year.  Check out his website www.georgetownsportsmassage.com.