Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Real Work

Prep week #2 is the real thing. While it doesn't have the heights of my mileage goals, the 90 minute / 60 minute rotation feels so much better than the last two weeks. I'm still taking it easy pace-wise but the added time is adding just enough fatigue to make the training feel like training.

The last two weeks were just horrible. After a 60 minute workout, I had to look forward to the prospect of three 30 minute sessions before the next 60 minute workout. Lacing up for 30 minutes is not my idea of good day.

The pains are diminishing somewhat. I'm still on the Ibuprofen when I need to be. I find I hurt more just before the morning run than I do before the evening 30 minute recovery jog. It is easier to handle the pains when you're working on 90 minutes. Seems more worth it. I was stuck in the recovery that would not end. Blah!

My last two 30 minute workouts were on Sunday. Yesterday I got 90 minutes in the morning (11+ miles) and 30 mins at night. This morning I got in 7+ miles and 30 minutes at lunch. Tomorrow, back to 90 minutes. After Sunday, I'll be switching over to the hard mileage numbers instead of the time. This will have the effect of increasing my time on the course in the mornings by about 1/2 hour per session give or take. I'm expecting to make the transistion ok with the usual fatigue complaints and gripes from the muscles.

This is the worse part about triple digit running - getting there. Once I'm established, I can handle it and soak in the rewards. But right now, I think my conditioning is trying to find its valley after the peak at the marathon. I suspect it found it late last week as I'm just starting to feel a little better out on the roads. My HR is down, I'm running with greater flexibility and ease, and the enjoyment factor is much higher. Especially during the my evening supplemental runs - it's hard to call 30 minutes 'supplemental' when that's what I ran in the morning as well.

I'm eating too much candy these days. The increased mileage coupled with a certain holiday is wreaking havoc with my diet. Yuck.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It took 2 weeks, but it got done.

Finally, I have gotten the green light to progress to prep week #2. This is after two weeks of trying to successfully navigate the aches and pains of post marathon running. It hasn't been easy. The prep week #1 called for 30 / 60 minute alternating days with 30 minute recovery runs in the evenings. While this sounds easy - it was far from it.

First, motivating onself to get all geared up for a 30 minute core recovery run is difficult. I'm barely warmed up and the run is over. Secondly, there's the evening run of thirty minutes. Easily accomplished, but since this was new to the schedule, it became a burden rather quickly. Thirdly, because the evening run was the exact time as the morning run every other day, the body didn't know which run was the "core" run and I'd find myself running too quickly for both. And last - despite the reduction in mileage, I had every ache and pain known to man. My left knee hurt, my right knee hurt, the quads were sore, I got charlie horses in my calves at night, and to put the cherry on top, the bottom of my left foot is now complaining.

This is part and parcel for me whenever I bring the old body back online. It knows I'm planning something uncomfortable and it's dragging its heels like a stubborn mule. This week, whatever the niggles, I have completed prep week #1's required workouts without dropping out or sustaining a run-threatening injury. I did the repeat at a lower intensity (lower speed) and it has seemed to work. At least it worked to get me out of this rut of low mileage running and into something resembling training beginning tomorrow.

This week, I am to do a 90 / 60 minute alternation (if that's a word) culminating in a 2 hour hour "long run" on Sunday. I have the feeling the 2 hour long run will be increased to 3 hours because Marc and Mike are descending on Boyden's Lake to start the winter version of the Sunday long run. So this means tomorrow morning, instead if being faced with the prospect of 30 lousy minutes of jogging, I will be on course for 90 whole minutes. I cannot wait. This is where I need to be. Let's hope I am successful with this week in just one attempt so I can continue my climb into the stratospheric environment of triple digits - where I feel most at home once I'm over the pain of the ascent.

I do believe that was the key to my success this last time - stopping the climb. Getting up to the mileage level I wanted and just staying there. No more climbing, no additional stress. Just let the body adapt. It's a farther climb this time but less steep in that I have a couple of interim steps before I reach the maximum rotation (125 miles). I should see about 77 miles next week I think. Last week I finished out Saturday with 52.2 miles as opposed to 56 miles the week before. I lowered the average pace from 8:15 to 8:48 per mile and lowered the avg HR to 138 from 145. This made a difference in how my poor old bones responded.

Sundays begin my week on my logbook but end my week on my plan. Oh well. I'm sure this will change to yet another day when the new year rolls around and I have to start another log.

Congratulations to Mark for his 2:52 finish at Cape Cod.

And now with this time change thing, I am exhausted and it's only 8:30. Goodnight.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Week 1 (Prep) Evaluation

I believe it was Renato Canova that mentioned in one of his interviews that he liked to write out the training plan for one of his runners and then compare what he wrote with what actually happened by the time the marathon arrived. The two were always radically different. He said (and I paraphrase from memory),

"If I write out a twenty week plan and complete week number one, I am not now starting week number two of twenty. Rather, I am now at week number one of nineteen."

Meaning of course he evaluated the result of the training on the runner and made adjustments accordingly. This resulted in a trained runner but a plan that could change weekly depending on the response. I don't have a coach, but I can try to follow the concept of weekly evaluation and make adjustments accordingly that promote the desired final outcome.

I have completed the first week of my 2007 Sugarloaf Marathon training program and these are some findings:

* Body felt 'creaky' with some muscular soreness that abated over the week
* Right knee felt brunt of return to running. Inflamed by end of week. Did not improve.
* Average HR was 145 or 69% maxHR.
* Mileage = 56 miles @ avg pace of 8:15.
* 2nd run of day felt harder than the 1st
* 2nd run on Saturday indicated need for day off to relieve stress to right knee
* Looked forward to every run

From the feedback of last week, I conclude that:

* Added doubles added significant stress to the body - especially in terms of effort
* Right knee is weak member at the start of this program and is in need of care
* Average pace was too fast / average HR was too high
* Muscles are recovering properly
* Motivation / enthusiasm is good

Adjustment to plan: Along with taking today off (done), applying ice (done), ibuprofen (done) I will repeat week #1 with a significant reduction in intensity to see if I can get better results from the knee and additional recovery for the muscles. This will add an additional prep week to the overall plan thus reducing the core training weeks by one. The deleted week will be #8 - the week prior to the regeneration week scheduled after Christmas. Thus there will be 7 weeks instead of 8 before the rest week.

Last week I have to consider a failure. The double is a calculated risk that I am still wishing to proceed with. However, I will fail to collect the benefits of the additional mileage if I do not control the intensity properly. And I believe based on my daily effort, the pace was too strong. This can be attributed to over-enthusiasm and fresh legs from the two week layoff. However, now is not the time to increase the mileage by 55% to step #2 on my way back to triple digits - not if I am having recovery issues with skeletal system.

******* ********

So I took today off following my rule that if you "bag" a run it's time to stop. I did the 30 minutes last evening as scheduled but it was apparent some aggressive care was needed to deal with the knee. The quad and calf muscles that were sore and tired in the beginning were all healing nicely and responding well. Only the knee was causing continued problems. So today I iced while I watched the Chicago marathon broadcast live on the internet. Congratulations to Zeke for his 2:58:xx, Greg for his 2:38:xx, and Dallon for his 2:42:00. And this guy for getting his BQ 3:10:xx.

The elite race was a nail biter to the finish for both the men and women. The poor winner of the men slipped and fell (hitting his head on the pavement) right at the finish line. What a horrible sight to see. He just lay there with his body across the mat and his head on the course.

For the women, it was exciting to watch, root for, and be worried for Dita as she powered an impressive pace for 16 miles. Sure enough, (and unfortunately, for we all at times would like the seemingly impossible come true) the torrid pace did its work and she slowed dramatically to a distant 5th. The true racers were running very nearly even splits and the final stretch chose the winner.

On to week 1 (again). And let's get it right.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Shoes

I just need to say that my new shoes are great! Saucony Fastwitch. Light and comfortable. I'm going to buy as many pair as I can.

Training this morning w/Eric. 3.9 miles 31:28. HR 143.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My 2nd 60 minute run

It went better than the first. It feels like the legs are getting back into the groove. Still sore, but it seems like I'm enjoying the run even more now that I'm getting a little sense of fatigue from the doubles.

At first the workouts were like massages. It felt very good to have the muscles worked a little and get the blood flowing. Now I feel like I'm getting some stride back - especially near the end of the run. I've always felt better on the longer runs. And this is probably why my 30 minute recovery runs at night are 'Ok' but not great. It takes about 30 minutes just to get warmed up - and it's over. But at 30 minutes, no damage, just the benefit of accumulating miles and keeping the blood flowing.

This evening as I was stretching slightly before my run when I realized that with my current schedule this week, I was about to embark on 3 consecutive 30 minute workouts. Ugh. 1 down, 2 to go before I get to do 60 minutes again on Saturday.

My nightly 30 minute "doubles" are getting progressively slower. This is good. The trouble with fresh legs is that you tend to go out there a little too fast - especially when recovery is the purpose. So now that I am consistently doing two per day, my legs are bounding down the path with a little less vigor than before after work. Good.

This is early in the game but as I emailed Mike in response to his recent comment, I do better getting the program up and running and holding to it rather than slowly building up. I think it's because I cease increasing the stress in terms of mileage immediately and it allows the body time to adjust and adapt to the new requirements. I once did a long, long buildup to 100 miles a couple of years ago and it did me in. This last time, a quick jump, super duper fatigue, and then, like leaving a cloud, I was good to go once I got over the initial fatigue.

I expect something similar with this new program. I started the doubles even during the two week prep period because I want to be in a daily rhythm of nightly 30 minute recovery runs once I'm back to doing the standard 102 mile weekly morning rotation. It's just a little hard to call these runs 'recovery' just now because A) I run them too quickly due to fresh legs and B) they are currently a high % of the weekly mileage - not exactly the definition of recovery workouts. But this will change soon enough.

Today: 7.7 miles AM 1:01:22 HR 145
3.7 miles PM 30:37 HR 144

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Two Week Prep

I thought my blog would liven up after the two weeks of rest. But now after 3 days into week 1 of "prep" or active recovery as it were, I'm beginning to realize that this is pretty boring too.

The runs aren't boring - I'm really enjoying them. Especially after two weeks off (don't even talk to me about it). But running 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening just doesn't seem to warrant a post. But like the rest weeks, I have to muddle through the prep weeks too.

It's a good thing. My legs are already sore from running. Nothing bad, but it just tells me that I left a lot of my training on the streets of Corning, NY three Sundays ago. So I repeat: Core workouts: 30 mins / 60 mins alternating this week. Starting next Monday: 60 mins / 90 mins alternating ending with a 120 minute run a week from this Sunday. Supplemental running is 30 minutes daily in the evening.

So far so good. Running easily but the HR is a little higher than I would like. Oh well. I don't need it to be any particular number just now anyway. In fact, I'm 31 weeks out from the marathon. Plenty of time to let the training take its effect. I am truly looking forward to a very successful winter. It is going to be hard work but I am up for it and mentally prepared. My goal is challenging yet achievable. And to top it off, a new pair of shoes are on the way from National Runner Center. It's the Saucony Fastwitch shoes. I hope I like them. I have used up my Saucony Grid Azura i's. I have about 7 pair laying around - all worn out. The last two pair have been pressed into service after my NB 833's went kaput. I wouldn't buy another pair of those 833's. So back to Saucony.

A little update on Marc. He's not blogging right now, but I can tell you he's running. Very faithfully in fact. He's begun a new program of Lydiard style high mileage - about 85% of the Lydiard's suggested mileage. This level suits him - giving him plenty of stress without overdoing it. Since he must run fast to be happy, his hard days are all progression runs instead of a steady pace at MP. We'll turn to that the weeks just prior to the marathon. And his easy days? Finally under control! No more fast back to back. Thank goodness. This man will run a BQ after this winter's training.

All to report from Downeast Maine. Training:

Monday AM 3.7 miles 31:28
PM 3.7 miles 30:17

Tues AM 7.4 miles 1:00:11
PM 3.7 miles 30:23

Weds AM 3.9 miles 31:25
PM 3.7 miles 30:57

Monday, October 16, 2006

On My Way

After two rather lengthy weeks of required rest, I embarked on my quest for 2:45 by running for 30 minutes. It was great.

I also ran for 30 minutes this evening. It was great.

Another two weeks prep before I launch back into the triple digits. This week should see 50 miles, 77 the next. Each run is recovery with paces on the plus side of 8:00 most likely. Tomorrow I'm allowed 60 minutes then back to 30 alternating back and forth as the week wears on. My evenings are 30 minutes daily and this will remain the same straight to the taper.

Feeling pretty good. I ought to since I've done nothing since the marathon. I have the typical creaks and groans but everything should work itself out over the next two weeks. The temperatures are cooling to below 40F for the morning runs. Cool air with a starry sky - what could be better?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

The longest two weeks

I hate rest.

It must be done. I've got to come down from my peak. I've got to recover from the effort on 10/1. It does more damage then we'd like to admit. This has been noticeable on some walks I have taken. I'd be feeling fine then suddenly feel a twinge in the quad. Lingering effects. Well, if I'm going to be running hard through the winter to break into 2:45 come May then I need to arrive at training camp ready to train.

This foolishness will end Sunday night. Monday - we're good to go. Unfortunately, it's only 30 minutes! I feel like I've gone bonkers and completely gone to the other side of caution. But I'm committed. This will be done right. Stress, rest... repeat. Two weeks of unstructured - which, by the way, I mean no mileage, no route, no pace, just running for the time assigned. No doubt, running easily will produce a basic average pace kept during these two weeks, but that's alright. The important part of these upcoming two weeks is assessing the body for injury and bringing it online for the time on course required for the training by the end of the two weeks.

There are three significant changes from the last training cycle. I have considered all three and believe that I am ready to do them and that with successful completion I will achieve my goal. They are:

1. Training is extended. This change, while appearing rather inevitable given the fact my next race isn't until next May, still needs to be mentioned. My history is one of start and stop. So to be successful with this change, I need to pay attention to what makes training sustainable. --Recovery--. Recovery pace: learn it, use it. Mileage trumps intensity in marathon training. Fuel economy is job #1.

2. Doubles. Running twice a day is not new for me but this time it has a specific purpose - volume training through recovery running. This cycle, it is limited to 30 minutes daily at recovery pace. It is not to be used to break up singles or harder workouts. It is purely supplemental to the morning core workout. It should contribute to the benefits derived from high volume training and caloric throughput. It should not contribute to fatigue or stress the system beyond standard stress from volume. I did not run doubles the last cycle due to the limited time I had to train. I felt the added stress would not iron itself out in such a short time. This time, I have plenty of time to gain the benefits.

3. Specificity in training. My hard days are scheduled specifically to adapt the body to run MP for long periods of time. Using Lydiard mileage guidelines and Canova's suggested workouts I have arranged a rotation of specific workouts specificly designed for training the body to run MP for a long, long time. It all comes down to fuel economy at MP.

Stress, rest. Repeat. ~123 miles per week.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The new plan is typed

After spending days putting my new plan to pixel, I better do it. The plan is rather simple really but seemed complicated when I was trying to put it in writing. It is a high mileage program of about 102 core miles each week with slow daily supplemental miles ~ 30 minutes. It follows the hard/easy rule with 'easy' being recovery pace (slower than the long run). 'Hard' paces will be based on goal MP and whether I'm just under or just over depending on the workout.

The hardest thing about the plan is its length - 27 training weeks. That's a long time to stick with something. But I keep thinking if I can do it, I just may meet my goal. Besides the risk of injury, training can only bring good things. So let's do it.

The first drop week occurs after 8 weeks. The 2nd after 9 weeks. Then it's two up, 1 down (3x) as I focus in on the resulting MP. 4 races are embedded. Thanksgiving 3.5 miler, New Year's Eve 5k, Somesville 20 miler, Shamrock 5k. Races are not prevalent up here in the winter and the thought of driving 6 hours to Portland (one way) for a 10k is not appealing.

But for now this is all dreaming as I'm still in week #2 of complete rest. This will come to an end Sunday. Then it is two weeks of easy unstructured running as follows:

**** Begin 2 Weeks Unstructured ****

10/16 – Core workout: 30 minutes unstructured running. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: Ease body back into running, get relaxed and determine recovery status. Supplemental: 30 minutes if body says ok.

10/17 – Core workout: 60 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes if ok.

10/18 – Core workout: 30 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/19 – Core workout: 60 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/20 – Core workout: 30 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/21 – Core workout: 60 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/22 – Core workout: 30 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/23 – Core workout: 90 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: Increase time towards entering program. Supplemental 30 minutes.

10/24 – Core workout: 60 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: Same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/25 – Core workout: 90 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/26 – Core workout: 60 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/27 – Core workout: 90 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/28 – Core workout: 60 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

10/29 – Core workout: 120 minutes unstructured. Target pace: none – easy pace in recovery zone. Purpose: same. Supplemental: 30 minutes.

**** End 2 Weeks Unstructured ****

Monday, October 09, 2006

Boston... No Thank You

Both Mark and Mike mentioned that I should consider Boston as a possible Spring Marathon. To that I say, "No Thank You."

Mark wants to know if I'm scared. Absolutely! Scared that this country bumpkin' will end up wasting a perfectly good training cycle on an overpacked race course, spending precious energy fruitlessly (and stupidly) weaving through masses of runners.

Boston, how do I dislike thee? Let me count the ways:

1. My first and (so far) only DNF. It couldn't have been my poor race strategy and disregard for the effects of heat could it?

2. Too many runners on too narrow a course. I mean, we're all friends and all, but on our long runs, we don't cuddle. So it turned out I was unprepared for the closeness the Boston marathon promotes.

3. Pace? What pace? You run the pace of your assigned box. The box of runners comprised of the one in front of you, to the left of you, the right and just behind. Not to mention those runners at the corners to complete the phalanx. No sniper will get me!

4. Then there's atom smashing. My little box of runners occasionally will get ripped apart by an accelerating free runner smashing into our nucleus on its quest for H2O. Recombination occurs with amazing randomness and once again I am relegated to the pace assigned the new box.

5. Cheering crowds. Too much! I can't think!

Most of all, I admit, is that I had a really bad day. And it has tainted this race forever. How about quick snapshot of the splits from my post race report....

The decline by the numbers:

Mile 1 7:11 (crush of people)
Mile 2 7:06 (same - easy running)
Mile 3 7:08 (not happy but I figured on slow early miles)
Mile 4 6:43 (finally got into a faster pack)
Mile 5 6:44 (feels faster than this)
Mile 6 6:44 (happy pace is steady but I can't even squeak out the goal pace of 6:41)
Mile 7 6:37 (this should have been a 6:28 according to effort)
Mile 8 6:56 (race is over - same effort, slower pace - heat taking its toll)
Mile 9 7:00 (I know something is wrong - real wrong)
Mile 10 7:14 (slip sliding away - starting to worry about hydration)
Mile 11 7:54 (this is way too early to be feeling like this)
Mile 12 7:28 (had to push for this)
Mile 13 7:34 (push through 'hall of screams' at Wellesley College
Mile 14 7:54 (concerned now with only getting from one water stop to the next)
Mile 15 8:15 (walking longer through water breaks)
Mile 16 8:01 (downhill)
Mile 17 8:51 (falling apart at the seams - shuffling now)
Mile 18 9:24 (up very steep hill - legs turning to jelly)
Mile 19 8:39 (downhill - very painful)
Mile 20 9:08 (up very steep hill again - just surviving one mile at a time)
Mile 21 9:39 (up Heartbreak Hill - life is not good)
Mile 22 9:43 (downhill past Boston College - extremely painful)
Mile 23 13:26 (long bout of walking/shuffling/walking)

My goodness it hurts just to read that split list again. So basically, I have resolved to avoid big city marathons until I am able to run smoothly (basically in the upper ranks) or when the time comes that I don't care about such things anymore. Well, I'm not there yet on either account so I will keep running the smaller races.

Today starts week 2 of 2 of complete rest. It's a beautiful day. Marc's out running, Mike just did the Phedippidations half marathon and I am still sitting here obviously waiting for the weather to turn bad before I go out. In the meantime, I have put together my training program for the my '07 Sugarloaf attempt. The first two weeks are unstructured, followed by 19 weeks of fundamental marathon preparation. It follows the 102 mile / week Lydiard schedule with recovery pace running on alternate days. The 'quality' days consist of increasing my ability to run the marathon distance at a higher percentage of maxHR. That is two problems: 1) marathon distance (i.e. not 20 miles), and 2) higher heart rate. My program follows the advice of Renato Canova. Then it's on to marathon specific training for 8 weeks.

My goal right now (and this is really early so take with a grain of salt) is to run a 2:45:56 marathon (6:20 pace). My reasoning is nothing more than that this pace, while higher than 80% maxHR is still less than 90% during normal training and is also the result of the crude "clock predictor". The clock predictor being the theory that a well trained marathon runner should run his marathon pace at 45 seconds per mile slower than his pace for his 5k. (The clock is basically: 12 o'clock = 1 mile pace, quarter past = 5k pace, half past = 10k pace, quarter to = 1/2 marathon pace, and back to 12 o'clock = marathon pace). Rough as it may be, for some reason I like it. Perhaps for its simplicity or maybe because I just wish it to be true. (I did read that elites narrow this spread to 12 seconds per mile instead of 15).

So using this theory, it places my goal lofty enough to make it something that must be worked very hard for, yet within the scope of reason if I can improve my ability withstand higher paces for the entire distance. I will adjust the goal up or down as my conditioning dictates. For example, if I find I cannot withstand the training paces I will lower the goal pace (and thus the training paces) until my conditioning improves. Otherwise I do nothing but invite injury. I have read that running at the level you are at and not at what you wish to be is important for improvement. Currently, I can run 6:20 for "many" miles so I think it is a good place to start. That and the recovery pace running (albeit at high volume) should work. If not, we will know won't we?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nothing At All

That's what I'm doing. Nothing at all. A mandatory two week rest period which is driving me nuts. At times I think it unwarranted, then all of a sudden, a full body ache envelopes me crying out for Motrin. It's best that I be patient but sometimes it's hard.

Like this morning. I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a strong desire for a run. Any run. Just something simple. It probably wouldn't have hurt anything but I just don't know. Later on today I walked to my parents' house to tend the dog and my left quad was slightly sore from the walk (2 miles roundtrip). So I am reminded that the proper thing to do is get my complete recovery.

Enter my 33 week plan begun October 2nd.

2 Weeks Rest
2 Weeks Unstructured
27 Weeks Training
2 Weeks Taper

Race 5/20/07 Sugarloaf Marathon

So far I'm on plan.

Some random notes on Wineglass:

Oddly placed water stations. Unless I had my math wrong, they showed up in a 3 mile / 1 mile / 2 mile pattern. I couldn't figure it out. But then again my mind was on other things. The longest I had to go was three miles which worked out perfectly fine. I don't like to take on water in consecutive miles so there were some water stops that I didn't take anything.

I finally learned how to run and drink at the same time. Step one, pour out excess fluid. Step two, squeeze cup into funnel. Step three drink. Of course, I couldn't maintain my pace but it worked better than all my previous marathons.

Here are the splits combined in 5 mile increments: 34:51, 33:47, 33:39, 32:13, 34:31. As can be seen here, my 4th 5 mile "loop" was a little too agressive and paid for during the last.

Here are the splits combined in 3 mile increments: 21:06 / 20:35 / 20:10 / 20:20 / 20:06 / 19:33 / 19:17 / 20:20 / 21:45* - *extrapolated equivalent 3 for the final 2.2 mile split. These splits show a steady progression run (except #4) until the final 5 miles. Each reduction in time seems to be reasonable or at least not too shocking. Using Kiplagat's comment of 30 second faster splits each 5k, this pattern fits in pretty close until the last two splits.

Intuitively, it seems reasonable that 30 second spread splits (faster each time) is a valid approach to marathon racing. I didn't mean to follow such a plan but since I did, my problem lies right there at mile 21. I can't race 26 miles. The good news? It can be fixed.

Theoretically here (and this is all hindsight etc..) I should have been able to run split #8 in 18:45 and #9 in the equivalent of 18:15 or a 6:05 pace. This would have made my time about 2:53:00. Interesting.

With all this time on my hands I have been dreaming, reading, scheming, planning, talking, emailing, searching, and eating running. Everything except actually running. Only 8 days to go.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Race

I didn't hear the gun, but I heard a bell. No matter. We all shuffled across the start line through a square wire instead of a mat so the chips behind our bibs would be recorded. The contraption that recorded the chips was very narrow - thus the reason it took me 8 seconds to cross the start line in a field of 700 runners.

A quick turn out of the parking lot and down the first of many hills. I started back in the crowd in order to ensure a slow first mile. I kept my eye on my pacers, Marc & Mike knowing that they would be disciplined as I got swallowed up by the crowd. I didn't have a specific first mile goal but I was determined not to ruin the race in the first mile. The first mile can be a delicate affair as the body gets the blood flowing to the muscles and the heart rate rises to meet demand. In this mile some oxygen debt can occur without the runner realizing it - but will pay for it later. So I wanted to get up to pace in a smooth, fuel efficient manner.

The field immediately spread out in one long line of runners - a lane wide and a quarter mile long. Knowing my own goal, I was amazed at the sheer mass of people in front of me and thought maybe I was going way too slow. But I doubted it and slowly smoothed out my pace by running at the left edge of the crowd and made my way to Marc & Mike still in view.

As I approached my two friends from the left I knew I'd get grief. I'm such a nervous creature before a race I'm sure I had them worried I'd bolt like a racehorse in the first mile. But I passed slowly and sent a good luck wave their way. Then I heard Mike yell, "Hey, take it easy up there!" I didn't hear Marc's comment but I'm sure he had one. I put the blinders on, took the hearing aid out, and dropped into the depths of my own little world called The Race. Total Focus.

I find getting into my own thoughts early helps me. I won't talk, look around, or otherwise be overly sociable in a marathon. It takes all my concentration to stay on pace - either by staying conservative or (later on) keeping the pace up. I think of nothing else but the task at hand. Admittedly, it makes for a long day since the race is so long. But when you're rewarded with steady pace splits, smooth delivery, and building confidence it is worth it to do away with distractions. In the first two miles I passed many conversations in progress.

I missed the first mile marker but hit #2 in 14:14 for a 7:07 average. My guess is I ran a 7:24 first mile and a 6:50 2nd mile. By mile two I had found a group of runners settling into the pace I was running. Since I hadn't slowed down, they must have started out quickly and dialed it down to the current pace. A lively conversation was in progress in front of me. I wondered at their ability to talk and run on a 3 hour pace. I ignored the talkers and kept the pace steady at an HR of 158. This number is 80% maxHR which I assumed to be "marathon pace". In training this level of effort has always been comfortably fast for me. However in the past five weeks I haven't spent much time right at this level. I had been either running below it or above it (hard days) with the training runs averaging MP by the end - basic progression runs.

So I was disheartened when mile three went by in 6:51. While it represents a 3 hour pace, I had expected an effortless 6:40 based on recent on training runs. Unfortunately, this was a false positive from training - a product of some good speedy runs of 5 miles or so during the first week of taper. While those runs were refreshing, they were not a proper indicator of marathon preparedness. If 6:50's it is, then 6:50's it was going to be.

I was very glad I chose to wear the HR monitor. Still too much of a novice at these paces to adequately "hold back", the monitor kept me in check, providing valuable feedback - especially to one whose shorter race paces do not translate properly into marathon paces indicated by internet predictors.

Mile 4 went by in the same manner, keeping the pace in control. This part of the race was the hardest mentally for me. Not because I was holding back but because I started to feel tight in the legs and the shins were talking a little. The expanse of the race was before me and I just wasn't feeling fast. This always causes a little doubt. But finally, the course took a left turn and went up a hill thus adding a little variety into the course and providing some relief to the shins. At the same time, the talkers faded and I picked up another runner with impressive arm muscles. He had a tatoo on the left arm that was becoming distorted with the increasing muscle mass. It's funny how closely one can scrutinize fellow runners when you're directly behind them. The same thing happened later on when I'd catch runners with elaborate shirts (I'd end up reading the tiny map of the drawn state). Anyway, we seemed to be running the exact same pace. This was not good. The danger with this is I can lose my own race and pick up someone else's. So with this in mind, I allowed myself to leapfrog each other as our paces differed on the changing terrain. He ran stronger up hills and I ran faster down. Usually, I can't stand leap-frogging runners due to the constant distraction. But this time, I reminded myself that it was just part & parcel of ensuring that I was running my own race, at my pace, and not his.

Together, we caught a good gaggle of runners between miles 4 and 7. I felt badly for those we were catching as it was a sure indicator that they had run the early miles much too fast. Miles 5 and 6 in the 6:53 range. Finally mile 7 brought a much needed confidence boost.

My new friend and I cruised through mile 7 in 6:41 and this changed my whole outlook on the race. In the latest mile my natural pace and effort had increased to a heart rate of 162 and I felt more comfortable at the slightly increased effort. And the 6:41 pace made me smile. For a small price in effort I gained 10 seconds per mile! I'll take it. For the next few miles, instead of trying to hold the effort under 160, I focused on holding it under 165. This new development worked wonders on my confidence. The next miles were 6:41, 6:46, 6:47, 6:49. I wasn't "slowing" as it was just me siding on the conservative side of the new range I had selected. This was reflected in splits. But I felt these per mile splits were netting me the needed incremental seconds to bring the average pace down to 3:00 by the end of the race.

Somewhere along here, I lost my new friend and came upon two more chatters. I would gain a little then hold, gain a little then hold, until eventually they came to me. I was running a steady pace so I think they were slowing down ever so slowly. Mile 12 in 6:43, mile 13 in 6:41. I was feeling good as I passed the half a few seconds under 1:30. The chatters were right behind me at this point and they exclaimed about being dead on pace. I don't know if they made 3:00 or not. I was pleased because by keeping my current pace I would have a slight negative split. (The blessings of a slow start).

Further, this time I didn't dread the distance of the second half. Normally, I go through the half and large doubts enter my head about my ability to finish the distance at the pace I am going. Like having my head stuck in the sand, I have in the past failed to consider the length of the race and it only hits me as I approach the end of my rope at 20 miles. But not today. I was in control but getting a little anxious about starting my second half plan.

During recent training runs, (hard days of 10 - 12 miles), I had been running a version of progression. Basically, running the first half at 80% or so, then bring the 2nd half up to 90%. These paces generally were 6:50's for the first half and 6:10's coming back. Occasionally, the pace would creep a little faster. A lesson learned from these training runs (and the recent 5k) was that the higher efforts, while feeling a little uncomfortable, could be held a long time. This was the result of all those miles. So I fully intended to apply this to my marathon and had initially set 18 miles as my launch. So miles 14, 15, and 16 were rather tough. I was getting stale at the 6:40 pace. 6:41, 6:41, 6:37 and I couldn't take it anymore.

A little early and a little risky since I was more than an hour out with 10 miles to go, but I flipped the switch at mile 16. The immediate effect was instant gratification as the legs thanked and thanked me for the new fuel source and the confidence was sourcing as I passed another dozen runners. My 90% HR yielded only 6:28 in that first mile - not the 6:10's I enjoyed in training. What a difference 13 miles make! But the engines were humming, I was strong, and the finish was approaching that much quicker.

6:28, 6:28, 6:18, 6:21 for miles 17, 18, 19, & 20. As I ran the 21st mile I was on a busy highway and not on the greatest running surface. Cars were speeding past on my left elbow, and the breakdown lane was the typical pavement littered with pebbles, etc. Traffic lights, brake lights, a narrow bridge, parking lots, and finally the mile marker atop an overpass bridge. Ugh - 6:37. For the entire mile I was trying to reel in 3 runners running in a pack. The distance didn't diminish but as they reached the water stop two of them walked with their drink. Sensing weakness I urged myself on and sure enough one of them takes a 2nd cup. Definitely a sign something's wrong!

I surge past the first one and go looking for the second walker. I find him running but as we approach a steep drop he slows and I hammer by looking for number 3. He's up ahead and we turn into a headwind. I mistakenly press to catch him and the effort does me in by mile 22. I cross in 6:31 but do not catch him. I never caught him and he looked amazingly strong with no sign of slowing. (It didn't occur to me that this runner was a relay entrant - I hate relays.) Try as I might to get my act together, it took 6:42 to cross 23 miles and the engine was sputtering.

Pain set in and life got real tough. However, I have 25 minutes to finish to hit 3:00 and there's only 3 miles to go. I can do this. Since mile 16 I have been repeating the line " x miles to go - have faith in the training" and I kept repeating it now. 3 miles to go, have faith in the training. And this time, I had faith. Those early mornings and long miles were going pay off now. I was going to keep running. I was not going to walk, no - matter - what.

The trail took me over a bike path that twisted and turned and went through tunnels and down concrete alleys as we made our way into Corning. I say "we" since I now was running within sight of two more runners. One of whom I would catch before mile 25.

It took 7:06 to get to mile 24 and another 7:33 to get to mile 25. During this mile I kept repeating "it's only a 2 mile cool down, a 2 mile cool down, 2 mile cool down". Murder.

Then I gave it all I had left. Footsteps behind, people cheering for two, I had company and I was unhappy. I did not want to race someone to the finish nor did I want to lose a spot. I hadn't been passed since mile 2. At mile 26 (6:56) I suddenly thought this guy might steal any award I might get and I bolted up the bridge towards the finish into the crowd. I only had half the bridge in me but he didn't know that and he didn't respond. So I finished by myself, super happy as I saw 2:57 on the clock.

Undoubtedly, my best race ever.

Thank you to everyone that encouraged, advised, commented, and emailed. It really helped. A special thanks to Marc and Mike - they are great friends. And further thanks to my friend Eric in town here who always has time to run some of my miles in the early mornings with me to keep me company. And also to my Sunday morning long run crew - time for some more sub zero 22 milers!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Run Done Right

Can't stop smiling... 2:57:08, 12th place.

Borrowing Marc's computer here, so I won't take too long. But what a race. Here are the splits:

Mile 1 & 2: 14:14 (I missed the first mile marker)
Mile 3: 6:51 - 80% HR
Mile 4: 6:50
Mile 5: 6:53
Mile 6: 6:50
Mile 7: 6:41 - brought the pace up 4 bpm and this made a big difference
Mile 8: 6:41 - gaining confidence
Mile 9: 6:46
Mile 10: 6:47
Mile 11: 6:49
Mile 12: 6:43
Mile 13: 6:41
Half Marathon: 1:29:30
Mile 14: 6:42 - starting to get anxious. Trying to wait until 18 before I go.
Mile 15: 6:41
Mile 16: 6:37 - engines are warming
Mile 17: 6:28 - liftoff. brought HR up to 90%
Mile 18: 6:28 - accessing fuel reserves in faster fibers
Mile 19: 6:18
Mile 20: 6:21
Mile 21: 6:37 - fuel stores lowering, a tough mile on a busy highway
Mile 22: 6:31 - mistake made pressing too hard into headwind
Mile 23: 6:42 - pace slows at 90%, fuel running low
Mile 24: 7:06 - vapors now
Mile 25: 7:33
Mile 26: 6:56 - last mile gut run, runner hard on my heels
Finish: 2:57:08 - outkicked competition

Chip time was 2:56:59. 2nd half in 1:26:30 for a 3 minute negative split. I learned a lot in this race but I'll save for it a future post.

Now I take my first sub-3 and the 6-minute Personal Best with me back to Maine for a full post-mortem. See you then.