5k PR: 25:57 23:00

Something pretty amazing happened yesterday: I ran a 23:00 5k. Not 23:29 or 23:01 rounded down. Twenty-three flat.

My last 5k PR was achieved this past September when I had a bit of a cold. The course was fairly flat* and my previous best wasn’t too stellar, so I didn’t have too much difficulty in setting a new one.

Somehow in just a couple of months, with no specific 5k training (and granted, no cold either), I sliced nearly three minutes off of my 5k time. I went out fast (like 7:02 fast) and managed to hang on without slowing down too much. I must be making progress and doing something right!

*I once ran a race that was entirely in a parking lot and I’d call that full-on flat. Tracks are full-on flat. Most races that bill themselves as flat aren’t actually full-on flat, so I always qualify the term “flat” when I use it in describing a race course.


“Just” a 5k?

Recently the 5k has gotten a bad rap. With the increased popularity of couch-to-5k programs and untimed Color Runs, the 5k has become the newbie distance, and the “well, at least you’re running” distance at events with a longer race available.

I’m not a good 5k runner. Or even really a halfway decent 5k runner. And I think that positions me well to defend the distance’s reputation. Since I’m not a talented 5k runner, but I’m an otherwise not-totally-embarrassing runner, even in longer distances, I can appreciate that the 5k is a different breed of cat with its own unique training demands.

Just finishing a 5k is a major accomplishment for a lot of people. They get motivated to get serious about their health and completing a 5k, even if they have to walk some of it, is a tangible goal to work towards.

However, for a lot of runners, a 5k would be an easy recovery day workout. Barring some sort of injury, such a runner would have no doubts about his of her ability to finish a 5k. But finishing strong, with a competitive time is a whole other matter entirely. Shaving a couple of minutes off of a marathon time is easier than dropping 30 seconds off of a 5k time.

There are plenty of couch-to-5k first time racers in a typical local 5k field, but there are also a lot of local-level elites. People train diligently for this distance, fine-tuning their mechanics, strategy, strength, and endurance with targeted workouts. These people do (gasp) speedwork. Lots of it, I bet! I think that sounds miserable, so more power to ’em. Not all running talent gravitates towards, or is even suited for, middle- or long-distance, but that in no way diminishes it; it’s just different.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that part of maturing as a runner means stepping up to progressively longer distances. It’s natural to want to test one’s mettle against more miles and run further than one has ever run before. Moreover, as runners age, it can be easier to stay competitive at longer, slower distances.

But that doesn’t mean that the 5k is only a newbie distance, or something from which seasoned runners should graduate and never look back.

I generally don’t start feeling good in a race until I’m about eight miles in, and the first three miles can be a slog. However, I still find the 5k distance to be fun and worthwhile. It’s a challenge for me to push through that slog feeling since the whole race is slog-miles for me, and it’s a real gut check for me to see how not-spectacular I am at short distance running. My 10k PR speed is significantly zippier than my 5k speed; in no way have I tamed this beast!

So tomorrow as I’m straining my eyes in search of my long-lost mile marker friends in my local Turkey Trot (“Come on, 2, where are you?!” Seriously, that will start about 0.5 miles in), you can bet that I won’t be thinking, “Well this is just a 5k.”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Shoes

The title of this post is a play on the title of a Raymond Chandler short story collection. I majored in English in college and that sensibility will always be a part of me, even though I’m no longer regularly writing analytical essays.

I broke a cardinal rule of running and picked out a pair of shoes based on their looks. Well, kind of. I was aware from a little research that they were a cushioning-focused model, and I did try them on at Pacers, the specialty running store where I purchased them. But initially they piqued my interest because they’re sharp-looking kicks.

I’m talking, of course, about my beloved Brooks Glycerin 11s.

I came into the late summer/early fall running season with the goal of dropping my half marathon PR of 2:01:05 to sub-2:00. I stumbled in a hot Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach with a disappointing time of 2:01:43 and again in the Parks Half Marathon with a 2:12:29 while suffering from a cold (and having run two 5ks the previous day, one of them in my old Marine Corps boots…I really didn’t set myself up for success so I shouldn’t have expected any and I can only blame myself for that).

So I really wasn’t in sub-2:00 territory.

Fast forward to October 4, 2013. Pressed into service for a business trip in Lisbon, Portugal on short notice, I had to transfer my Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon entry to a friend (I was able to do the race anyway since it got moved to November 10, 2013 due to the government shutdown and fit in my schedule). As luck would have it, the Lisbon trip coincided with the running of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon and Half Marathon. The president of my company, also a runner, jailbroke me from my Saturday responsibilities so I could join him for the race. I hauled my swollen legs and a very patient Jenny along to packet pickup instead of touring the city. We were able to register for the sold-out race only because we’d traveled from outside Portugal, a lucky break.

Shod in Glycerin 11s I hadn’t yet done a long run in, and having been on my feet most of the previous day despite the swelling I experienced during my international flight, I really didn’t expect much from myself in this race. But I wanted to beat my boss; I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I didn’t.

Given all that was against me (again, I can only blame myself), you can imagine my surprise when I felt not just good, but great on the course and cruised to a 1:53:30 — not just under 2:00, but under 1:55, too!

And I positively smoked my boss.

I thought that the time might be a fluke, but I improved on it a week later at the very difficult Baltimore Half Marathon, posting a 1:53:09. For the first six or so miles of the race I was simply not present; I later likened it to the probable mentality of a stripper while working: I just went somewhere else.

My Glycerin 11s have carried me through a number of performances I’m proud of, and I love them for it.

Including tax, I paid north of $150 for these beauties, so I was hoping to get 500-600 miles out of them. They’ve got less than 250 miles on them now and the sole has worn away completely in places, exposing the midsole. I’m not experiencing any physical issues, but this lack of durability is troubling. For both emotional and financial reasons, I’m not ready to say goodbye to these shoes yet.


Some Clif Reviews


I stopped in at REI yesterday to pick up some hand warmers (they’re good stocking stuffers, especially for outdoor runners and football fans who brave the stadium even in frigid temps) and was pleasantly surprised to find a sale on Clif products, so I picked up a few flavored I’d never tried before.

Full disclosure: I’m a pretty big fan of Clif stuff. I eat Chocolate or Chocolate Peanut Butter Builder’s bars and Lemon Zest Luna Bars almost every day. Recently I discovered Mojo Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars, and I like those too. They’re drier and a little bit messy to eat (but not Nature Valley Crunchy Oat Bar messy — those are delicious, but invariably end up all over me), but I like the flavor and the protein factor. I regularly buy Clif products, and I bought the items in this review. I’m just a regular person!

Clif Builder’s Bar Chocolate Chip

I’m very familiar with the flavor and texture of Builder’s Bars from my experiences with the Chocolate and Chocolate Peanut Butter flavors. In the protein bar world, there are different types of “good.” For a protein bar, “good” might mean, “I can choke it down without wanting to hurl,” or it might mean, “I’m not sure that this isn’t a Snickers in a different wrapper, it’s that tasty.” I’ve found that Builder’s Bars fall somewhere in between; they’re pretty tasty and the texture is palatable — there’s some of that typical protein bar glueyness, but it’s tempered by some crunch. I’ve had better chocolatey coating on protein bars, but I’ve also had far worse. They’re about an 8 out of 10 in my book.

Given all of that, I had certain expectations when I bit into the new Chocolate Chip flavor. And I was pretty disappointed. Instead of the moderately chewy texture I was used to, I found the bar I had to be downright stiff and hard to chew. The usually gluey layer (which I figure contains much of the bar’s protein) was too chewy. I detected a little, tiny bit of that raw cookie dough flavor (if you’ve ever risked salmonella for a bite of Tollhouse cookie dough straight from the roll, you know what that is) in my first bite, but that was soon overshadowed by the dried paste texture of the bar. No bueno. I give these a 2 out of 10. Your mileage may vary, and maybe I just had a bad example of an otherwise good flavor.

Clif Builder’s Bar Chocolate Mint

Yum — I’d read good things about this flavor, and I was not disappointed. I don’t really like Clif Bars (the soft bars with fig is a primary ingredient — I think that the fig contributes to an overall disconcerting fruity taste in even the chocolate-infused bars), but in a pinch, the Chocolate Mint flavor is my favorite. This was better than that. I was reminded of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. Don’t expect to close your eyes and forget that you’re eating a protein bar – they’re not miraculous, but they are darn tasty. Minty enough, but not too minty. I give these a 9 out of 10. When I order my next box of Builder’s Bars, it’ll be the Chocolate Mint flavor.

Luna Bar Peanut Honey Pretzel

Luna Bars are kind of hit or miss for me. The Lemon Zest and Blueberry varieties are big hits with robust flavors — I look forward to eating them. They’d both be a 10 out of 10 for me, but more than one of either in a day can give me some digestive issues, so I’m docking them a point — 9 out of 10. Nuts Over Chocolate and S’mores, on the other hand, are both pretty forgettable. Unfortunately, the Peanut Honey Pretzel flavor falls into the latter camp — ho hum, not much taste. I didn’t discern peanuts, or pretzel, and only a little honey. The bar looked awesome, with visible pretzel pieces and peanut butter chips. Texture was fine, basically what I’ve come to expect from Luna. This one is a snooze. It’s not bad, but not really good either, so I’ll give it a middle of the road 5 out of 10.

Clif Builder’s Bar Crunchy Peanut Butter

I was surprised by the non-chocolate coating on this bar — it’s enrobed in a blonde, peanut-buttery coating that lends some moisture and tenderness to the bar. This one isn’t a gunky nightmare like the chocolate chip flavor! A little salty, a little sweet, and nice texture from the addition of peanut pieces. I liked this, but I can see myself getting sick of it since it’s not quite bold enough for me. I give it 7 out of 10.


Saucony Trail Run

Today is easily the coldest day so far this fall. I’d signed up for a fun run hosted by Saucony (the regional Saucony rep brought shoes to take for a test run) and Potomac River Running held at Lake Fairfax Park. I started the run with the 90-minute group, but I lost them at the turnaround. Everybody else turned around where they were and instead I decided to run the 50-ish uphill yards to the point where the front of the group turned around. Big mistake, as I went from the front half of the pack to second-to-last in the group. I quickly lost sight of the people in front of me and when I got to a road crossing near the parking lot which was a 4-6-way intersection, I had no idea which way they’d gone. So I made my own way. I chose a path that took me back to where my group started. After a few minutes I linked up with the 60-minute group and ran back to the parking lot with them. My legs felt pretty tired, but I tacked on a few more minutes to push my total mileage for the outing above six — the mileage I’d prescribed myself in my training plan.

I’m glad that I didn’t go for the full 90-minutes. Targeting that group was really a matter of pride. When I’m running a shorter event at a race that offers multiple distances, I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough, not trying as hard as I can. Part of the discipline of training is sticking with the mileage/workout that’s right for me at the right time, not just hacking through something because I’m physically capable of surviving it.

My trail running club has a casual 25+ mile run on its calendar for Black Friday. It seems like all of the club runs are for ultrarunners. Since I’m just a wannabe right now, it’s a little intimidating and is keeping me from being as involved as I’d like to be. I’ve been thinking about doing the Black Friday run in order to meet some other members, but a 25-mile trek doesn’t fit with my training schedule for next week. The smartest thing for my training would probably be to not participate in the run. I suffer from a pretty debilitating case of runner’s FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) — witness my eight race weekends in a row from earlier this fall — so saying no to something that interests me is a big step in the direction of running discipline.

Saturday Long Run

After a less than stellar experience in my second run in my new Kinvara 4s (more on them later when I’ve put enough miles in them to write an informed review), I worried that I’d worn myself out with my crazy fall race schedule, so I skipped the four miles I’d assigned myself for Wednesday in my training plan and truncated my assigned Thursday miles from six to under five. Not a great start to the training plan.

Unsure of whether taking the rest was a good thing or simply a sign of my inability to stick to a training plan, I was staring down my appointed 10 miles for today with some trepidation. I didn’t want to overdo it and hurt myself and I also didn’t want to cheat myself by not working hard enough.

The first four-ish miles were pretty miserable, but I gutted through them and was rewarded with a glorious final four miles in what turned out to be an 11.04 mile run. Success! I’m still enjoying the endorphin high.

The Beginning


I’m the kind of person who relishes new notebooks and months that start on Mondays — I like fresh starts and beginning at the beginning. So although this blog is coming into my running life in medias res after 64 races, its arrival does coincide with a beginning: the beginning of the off-season.

After a 2013 which saw me run upwards of 30 races including eight weekends in a row with a race of at least 10 miles, this fall and three marathons in four weeks (also part of that eight week streak), I’m taking some time off from racing. My wallet is ready for the break, I’m ready to not have to fight a logistical battle every week to get myself to packet pickup and the start line, and my body is ready to recover. Also, I’ve never really trained specifically for a race; I just run when I feel like running and I run however much I feel like running. The focus of this offseason will be on actually training and preparing adequately for races. I’m physically strong and gritty so I’ve experienced a lot of success recently in races, including a PR by about 12 minutes in my final marathon of the three marathons in four weekends sequence I ran this fall and a PR in the half marathon I ran in the middle of that sequence! But I want to do even better. That means racing less (even though I love it) and training intelligently.

I’m targeting a 50k in February, so this is week one of a 12-week training plan I’ve developed for myself, yet another beginning.

Looking ahead at what I hope to write in this blog, I’d like to cover the following:

-Gear I Use (teaser: I have two new pairs of shoes I’ve never had before)
-Stuff I Like (distinct from Gear I Use)
-Race Recaps (later on…)
-Stories from My Life
-My Routine
-Gear Reviews

Sound good? I think it’s a start.