Oct 24, 2010

Where in the world have I been?

So much updating to do. Since mid-August, my running life has been painful and a source of a lot of aggravation. But the Chicago Marathon is over (I dragged myself in, in 4:00:08). I was happy and disappointed. Injury, illness and a lack of sufficient training over the final 7 weeks made it tough. And there, in a nutshell, is the source of the aggravation.

But the nice thing now is I get to wipe the slate clean, and start fresh. And that is what I'll do.

When I get a chance, and am in a mood to rehash August - October, I will. And once I purge all of that onto here, that'll be it. Officially.

Aug 6, 2010

Not a great past 4 weeks

Training is going so-so. The heat we've had over the past few weeks has really been killing me. It saps not just my energy, but any desire to go run at all. And when I don't run, I eat. And the more I eat, and the less I run, the more I like it.

But I'm still plugging away as best I can until this God-awful heat breaks. Come Sunday, I'm 9 weeks out.

The other issue I'm dealing with for the first time since I started running, I'm getting really bored with my running routes. It doesn't help that I never stray too far from home, running 2, 3, and 4 mile loops over & over again, so I can double back to the house and refill my water bottle. Out where I live, there are no parks with fountains, no stores really close by where I can buy water and just keep running away from home. So I'm stuck with short loops. I'm going to start driving to nearby neighborhoods for some of my longer runs, where I can stop in a store and buy what I need, when I need it.

I've also been "investigating" vegetarianism, sorta. I'm looking through cookbooks, reading, etc. But my family (i.e. wife) isn't interested in being vegetarian. I'm not sure I am, for that matter. At least, not entirely. I'm considering being "vegetarian" until 6PM, since breakfast & lunch is usually me fending for myself. Then for dinner, since I'm the cook in the house, make whatever I want. Sometimes, preparing a vegetarian meal. My wife wouldn't mind the occassional veggie meal, just not everyday.

As for upcoming races, there's a trail run at the end of the month, and then in mid-September, I'll be running USAF half, and night trail race. Then...Chicago.

But right now, I'm trying to shake some boredom and lack of motivation/mental toughness.

Jul 5, 2010

Training update

With the exception of Sunday, very happy with this past week. 63.07 miles. Had to get the majority of my miles done M-Th so I could mini-taper on Friday & Saturday, so I could run my Sunday 5K hard. Probably cost me a bit on race day.

So, my 4th week in summary was:

Su - 0, unexpected/unplanned off day. Just simply got lazy, and couldn't motivate myself to go run.
M - 8.01
Tu - 16.02
W - 10.01
Th - 7.02 (morning), 7.0 (afternoon)
F - 9.01
Sa - 6.0

Week 5 is another 63-mile week, that started with a 5K race on Sunday, July 4th (held off my speedwork session from the previous week to this race day). The biggest issue is the weather forecast for the week. HOT, HOT, HOT!

My quality workouts for this week:
Q1 = 2 miles EASY + 2 x 10-12 min TEMPO (6:51/m) w/ 2 min rests + 1 hour EASY
Q2 = 2 miles EASY + Sets of 5 min HARD (6:14/m) with 3-5 min recovery jogs, total 5 miles

So like I said, yesterday I took my first crack at running a sub-19 5K. Here's my report:

Warmup - Way too short. My own fault for forgetting my shoes. Who in the hell forgets their running shoes before a race?!? Me, I guess. LOL. So had to race home and get them. I wish I'd had 20-25 minutes to warmup properly, instead of the 5 minutes I ended up having. I was not happy about this. But like I said, my fault.

Race - A good race, but not great. Finished 4th overall, 1st in my age group, with a time of 19:19. I should say it was not a big race. Only about 120 men, maybe 80 or so women. Warm & muggy 8:30 start (80*, 83% humidity). First mile, I was OK with a split of 5:44. I'd actually hoped to be closer to 5:30, so that was my first indication that I might have a tough time hitting my goal. At just after the halfway point of the race, I really started to feel it in my legs. From there on out, I knew I was going to be fighting the rest of the way. At that point, the runner who finished second had caught me, and I just focused on running with him as long as possible. I hit the 2-mile mark at 12:02. Again, not where I was looking to be at, at that point. With about 1/3-mile left, the 3rd place finisher caught me, and I knew there was retaking that spot either. But I knew no one else was close enough to me to push me to 5th. I don't remember what my split was at 3-miles, or I simply wasn't listening. I just tried to get to the finish. We were on the high school track, and as I rounded the turn into the straightaway, I saw the clock and knew 19:00 was not happening.

19:19 is a PR (by 1m 8s), but I am slightly disappointed that I didn't manage to get under 19 minutes. Still, after 63 miles of training, over the prior 6 days, I really can't complain. I'm absolutely certain I can go sub-19, I just need to put it all together (diet, rest, race conditions). The big thing will be doing a better job of resting a little more beforehand. But my marathon training is always the priority for me, so that will always make running a true, personal "best" difficult. But I'll take a few more cracks at it, maybe find a race on a "down week" in the plan when I can get that much needed, extra rest.

A takeaway from this race is that a 19:19 result puts me at a VDOT value of 52, under Daniels' running formula. This sounds about right as of right now. I was in better shape in March, and my eating habits were better, when I was on pace to run just under 19:00, which would have been the VDOT of 53 that I'd mentioned earlier, and was so concerned about. So I am going to move up to at least 51, maybe 52, starting this week, and see how I feel. In fact, when I look at my training thus far, I've been around 52 already.

Still a long, hot summer ahead, but I'm without a doubt having a better time training this summer than I did last summer.

Jun 30, 2010

End of June update

I continue to train for the Chicago Marathon. Training has gone fairly well, with the possible exception of last week. It was a low-mileage week (49). I made it an even lower mileage week (39.5), plus I ate like shit. So any hope of being at race weight by the end of this month...won't happen. Fine. Not gonna get bent out of shape over that, no pun intended. As for the running itself, I often find I have this issue when I get an easy week. Extra time on my hands = getting comfortable = getting lazy. So I'm happy that the week is over and I can get back to running some more significant miles.

On June 6th, I ran a local 5K. It was going to be my first attempt to break 19:00 at the 5K distance. But a late night out with friends the night before, alcohol included, prevented me from really going all out. I felt OK, just not like I was peaked for cranking out 100%. So I turned it into my speed workout for the week, and ran it as a 5K tempo run. Finished comfortably in 21:27 (6:45/m). No idea what place I finished in.

On June 13th, I ran my first trail race. It was a 3.4 mile run at French Park, here in Cincinnati. It was not an easy run. It's remarkable how much harder these races are, but I had a lot of fun. Course consisted of two, alternating downhill/uphill sections, and 5 creek crossings. Ridiculously humid that morning. Only disturbing thing was during my warmup, I had a sudden pain in my left knee that wouldn't seem to go away as I continued preparing for the race. So I dialed it down a notch during the race, but not much. Finished in 28:08, good enough for 30/134 overall, 27/87 among the men. No complaints for my first time running one of these. Not a fast average pace, but there was no doubt that I was working hard. I was huffing & puffing pretty good at the end, which ended with a big uphill as we came out of the forest and hit the 200 yard straightaway to the finish.

One of the things that has hurt my training is the World Cup. I'm a soccer fanatic, and so getting up early to run hasn't been happening because I've been waking up early to watch soccer. And with group play going from 7:30AM to 4:30 PM, I've been squeezing in my running either from noon-2:30 b/w games 2 and 3, or at night. And all that time on the couch watching TV leads to eating. And that's why I won't be at race weight by June. Well, that and my wife's and my recent quest to find the best burger in Cincinnati. =)

The actual plan I'm following, I really like. The flexibility has been great, and that's exactly what I was hoping for. First few weeks, there haven't been any real "long runs", just a lot of 7-15 milers, with some tempo and interval runs thrown into the mix. The longer runs will be coming up soon though. I'm actually looking forward to them.

What's next? July heat, about 271 miles of running, a week's vacation in N. Myrtle Beach the last week of July, at least one 5K (7/4) and another trail race (7/18). Sounds like fun to me.

Jun 8, 2010

My training plan for Chicago (Dr. Jack Daniels - Plan A)

Ok, let's get my fears out of the way first. The bulk of the training will be in the heat of summer. So one of two things will happen. I'll either become much more mentally tough, have a great training season, and have a great race, or I'll slack b/c I can't stand the heat and have a mediocre race day. I honestly think they're both equally likely right now. The thought of these long runs in July and August make me want to quit right now.

Because of how the plan is set up, I think it's something anyone can use. Reason being, you first determine the max number of miles you can/want to cover in your max week, and it then uses percentages of that max to set the weekly mileage totals for all the other weeks. In fact, if this goes well, I may use it from now on. I love the flexibility in the schedule.

I'm using his Training Plan A, with a max weekly mileage of 70, and training paces based on a VDOT of 50. My recent race times, for different distances, suggest VDOTs ranging from 41-53. JD says to use the highest value, but I just don't think I can maintain a full training season at a 53. The 41 is my Nashville time in April, when I got beat up by the weather a bit. Everything from half-marathon and shorter, my times yield a VDOT no lower than 47. So I compromised and will use a 50. Then after a few weeks, I'll reevaluate and adjust if necessary.

VDOT 50:
Easy - 8:32/m
Marathon pace - 7:17/m
Tempo - 1:42/400m, 4:15/1000m, 6:51/m
Interval - 1:33/400m, 3:55/1000m, 4:41/1200m
Repetition - :43/200m, 87/400m

Every one of these training paces I'm comfortable with...except that marathon pace. Whew, that's motoring. I have absolutely no reason to believe I can run at a 7:17/m clip. But I'll train at VDOT 50 and see how it goes. I believe in the science behind his tables. For me, it's actually an endurance issue. The shorter the race, the higher VDOT I'm at. My February half-marathon puts me at 47, my 5K at 53. So speed is not my issue, endurance is. Which is exactly backward of how I view myself. But I'll do what JD tells me to do, and see how it goes.

I'm of the mindset right now that I want to push myself hard in Chicago. Courses don't get any flatter, crowd support doesn't get any better, and there is no other marathon I want to run better than I do Chicago. Not Boston. Not New York. I just want to run those. Chicago is the one I want to excel at. So I'm already praying for partly sunny, no wind, 40*.

The reason I'm using Daniels' plan this time is that I like how I need only focus on the 2 "quality workouts" per week. The other days, I simply run enough mileage, at easy pace, to hit my target total for that week, with 6-8 strides after 2 of those runs. I like that flexibility, especially in the summer.

Also, I want to drop about 6 pounds and be at 155-156. I've been comfortably maintaining 161-162, without a ton of diligence on my diet. My goal is to be at 155 by the end of June and then maintain it. I don't want to be worrying about getting to race weight in September and early October.

Based on previous training, I think (no, I know) I need to do a better job of balancing training hard, but not so hard that I'm leaving some of my race on the training roads. I'm absolutely guilty of this b/c I love going for a run, even when I don't need to go. Or I run harder than I should b/c it just feels so good. Three years of running, and I'm still trying to learn some of the most basic lessons.

A little more explanation on how I decided to train at VDOT 50....

JD says to use your highest VDOT, based on a race performance. And for me, that's my 5K. If I do run sub-19 this summer as planned, my VDOT would be indicated at 53, not the 50 I am currently planning to train at. In March, I ran a 5K that would have put me right at that sub-19, but the race was unexpectedly short (the cop on the bike accidentally turned around too soon). It measured out at 2.83 miles, I ran that in 17:18, and I had a kick left to give if I wanted to. But once I realized the course got messed up, I just ran steady through the end. So, I'm 99.9% confident I have an 18:xx in me for this summer.

At 53, training paces look like this:
Easy = 8:09/m
Tempo = 6:32/m, 4:04/1,000m, 1:37/400m
Marathon Pace = 6:56/m

I could maintain that easy pace w/o a ton of trouble. But my heart rate would be higher than is to be targeted for an easy run, especially in the summer heat. My easy runs, I've learned to try to base more on my HR than pace.

If I feel good with my training at VDOT 50, I'll go to 51. And I'll go down if I'm not getting it done. He suggests sticking at a training level for 3-4 weeks before moving up. And then perhaps again 3-4 weeks after that.

As for his longest runs in the plan, some he describes as X miles, or Y hours, whichever is less. His longest in Marathon Plan A is 22 miles, or 2.5 hours. But he has many others where he combines easy/long runs with tempos or marathon pace runs, the longest MP run being 15 miles. I spent the time up front going through each quality workout, and estimating the mileage based on the paces for VDOT 50. In the middle of the plan, I go 11 straight weeks of running anywhere from 17-20.5 miles during one quality session, and 11 weeks of covering 11-14 miles during the speed quality workout. So while there are no strict 22-26 mile runs, these workouts seem quite challenging. Especially when done week after week for 11 weeks. This is one of those areas where I say to myself "just do what you're told, b/c he knows far more than you do". One thing I have considered is taking the week 15 "22 miles or 2.5 hours" and just doing the 22 miles.

First 6 weeks of the plan it's interval work, from there on out it's tempo. It's probably easier to understand seeing it than having me try to explain them.

Here are the quality workouts for the 17 weeks of training...excluding the 6 weeks of "base building" before beginning the program, and excluding "race week", week 18. Anytime it says "this OR that", it means whichever is less.

Week 2, Q1, I currently plan to do 40 minutes of ADJ TEMPO (7:05/m), not 20 minutes of TEMPO (6:51/m).

Week 1 - 56 total miles
Q1 - 14 miles or 2 hours
Q2 - Sets of 4 min HARD with 3 min recovery jogs, total 4.5 miles

Week 2 - 56 total miles
Q1 - 20 min EASY + 20 min TEMPO (or 40 min ADJ TEMPO) + 20 min EASY
Q2 - Sets of 4 min HARD with 3 min recovery jogs, total 4.5 miles

Week 3 - 49 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 5 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1 min rests + 1 hour EASY
Q2 - Sets of 1000m, 1200m, or 1600m INTERVAL pace w/ 3,4,5 min recovery jogs, total 2.9 miles

Week 4 - 63 total miles
Q1 - 15.75 miles or 2.5 hrs
Q2 - Sets of 1000m, 1200m, or 1600m INTERVAL pace w/ 3,4,5 min recovery jogs, total 3.8 miles

Week 5 - 63 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 2 x 10-12 min TEMPO w/ 2 min rests + 1 hour EASY
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + Sets of 5 min HARD with 3-5 min recovery jogs, total 5 miles

Week 6 - 49 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 6 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1 min rests + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - Sets of 1000m, 1200m, or 1600m INTERVAL pace w/ 3,4,5 min recovery jogs, total 3.9 miles

Week 7 - 70 total miles
Q1 - 17.5 miles or 2.5 hrs
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + 4 x 10-12 min TEMPO w/ 2 min rests + 2 miles EASY

Week 8 - 63 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 4 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1 min rests + 1 hour EASY + 15-20 min TEMPO + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + 4 x 1-mile TEMPO w/ 1-min rests + 5 min. EASY + 3 x 1-mile TEMPO w/ 1-min rests + 2 miles EASY

Week 9 - 56 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 12-13 miles or 100 min MARATHON + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + 2 x 15-20 min TEMPO w/ 3-min rests + 10-12 min TEMPO + 2 miles EASY

Week 10 - 70 total miles
Q1 - 17.5 miles or 2.5 hrs
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + 20 min TEMPO + 10 min EASY + 20 min TEMPO + 2 miles EASY

Week 11 - 63 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 2 x 10-12 min TEMPO w/ 2 min rests + 10 miles or 80 min EASY + 15-20 min TEMPO + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + 8 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 30 sec rests + 2 miles EASY

Week 12 - 49 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 2 hours or 15 miles MARATHON + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - 2 miles EASY + 4 x 10-12 min TEMPO w/ 2 min rests + 2 miles EASY

Week 13 - 70 total miles
Q1 - 22 miles or 2.5 hours
Q2 - 2 x (20 min EASY + 20 min TEMPO) + 2 miles EASY

Week 14 - 63 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 4 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1 min rests + 10 miles or 80 min EASY + 4 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1-min rests + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - 1 hour EASY + 6 x 5-6 min TEMPO + 15 min EASY

Week 15 - 49 total miles
Q1 - 22 miles or 2.5 hours
Q2 - 2 x (35-40 min EASY + 15-20 min TEMPO) + 2 miles EASY

Week 16 - 49 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 15 miles or 2.5 hours MARATHON + 2 miles EASY
Q2 - 2 x (20 min EASY + 15-20 min TEMPO) + 2 miles EASY

Week 17 - 42 total miles
Q1 - 2 miles EASY + 2 x 10-15 min TEMPO w/ 3 min rests + 30-45 EASY
Q2 - 2 x (35-40 min EASY + 15-20 min TEMPO) + 2 miles EASY

Week 18 - RACE WEEK

The biggest challenge in this plan for me might be learning how to program the workouts into my Garmin, b/c there is no way I'm going to be able to remember them (e.g. 2 miles EASY + 4 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1 min rests + 10 miles or 80 min EASY + 4 x 5-6 min TEMPO w/ 1-min rests + 2 miles EASY) I'll be delirious from the heat after that first set of tempo runs. LOL.

OK, that's about it. Let the games begin!

May 21, 2010

Time to post again, been too long

OK, now that my post-marathon break is essentially over, I think it's time to get back to blogging too. So let's see...what has happened since then?

1) My family & I volunteered at the finish line of the Flying Pig. Kevin, host of The Extra Mile podcast is in charge of a volunteer crew, and since we'd run the week before, we decided it'd be fun to volunteer. And was it ever. Great expereience. Plus, I got to meet Kevin as well as a few others guys in a "tweet up" before the race. Gordon, host of the Running to Disney marathon, Ed Marathon, Mark "Bama Runner", Doug "SweetDaddyD69", and Kevin "just_finish". We met at their hotel the night before the race, had a beer, and just had a great time getting to know each other. Great group of guys. At the race, we handed out finishing medals. It's a wonderful experience getting to see the joy on so many faces. Kinda puts your own running accomplishments into perspective.

2) The two weeks after Nashville, I ran a total of 4 times for 20 miles. Just couldn't get motivated to run. The rest was feeling good. Perhaps a little too good. Last week, I managed to get about 37 miles in, and I felt a lot better about that. This week will be in the 40-45 range, as I ramp it up again to prepare for Chicago. Training officially starts June 6th.

3) Susan is now signed up to run her next half, in Columbus, the week after I run Chicago. While I think she's a little nervous about already being signed up to run another one, I think she's also anxious to improve on her Nashville performance. But right now, she's more anxious to improve on her 5K times from last summer. We're running one on Memorial Day, with her 11-year old daughter Melanie, so no PR's there. But the following weekend, we're both running another, and will both be looking to PR.

4) I'm signed up for a variety of races over the summer. 5K's, trail races, might even compete in the "take-all-comers" track meet a local running store runs in June and July.

5) Cross-training has begun in earnest. Biking twice a week, strength training twice a week. Eh, it's not my favorite thing to do, but I know it's important. Gotta try and stick with it.

6) Trying to lose a few pounds. Not many. I ran Nashville at around 162. That's also what I weighed this morning. I want to run Chicago at something closer to 155-156. But unlike when I ran Cincinnati's Flying Pig last year, I don't want to lose weight as I approach race day. My plan right now is to be at race weight by the end of June, and maintain it. That's probably the tricky part. Losing the actual weight is the easy part for me. If I were really strict with myself, I could be at 155 in 3 weeks, no problem. But given it's summertime and it's just so easy to eat out, grill, drink beer on the back deck with friends, etc. I'm going to give myself until the end of June. Perhaps that's too much of a "free pass", but I'll try it. If I don't have it accomplished by June 30th, I'll go into uber-strict mode and just get myself there, no excuses.

Probably a lot of things I'm forgetting right now, but for the time being, that's a enough.

More to come...

Apr 29, 2010

Country Music Marathon - Race report

The Nashville Country Music Marathon was held on Saturday, April 24th. The weather all week didn't look good. Rain was in the forecast, starting about a week before race day. As the race approached, the forecast for mere rain turned into strong thunderstorms and the potential for tornadoes to suddenly “pop up”. Great. Even better. And those tornadoes were popping up earlier that week, west of Nashville, and most notably, in Mississippi. But as we got closer to Saturday, there did appear to be a window of dry weather that would allow much of the race to be run under decent conditions. But once the weather did roll in, it was predicted to be bad. Very bad. Nashville, it turned out, wound up being under a tornado watch until 2AM Sunday morning. With this being the case, the organizers decided the day before the race that anyone not on pace to finish the marathon in 4:30 or less were going to have run the half. You had until the 11.2 mile mark, the marathon/half-marathon split point, to be on that 4:30 pace. While I wasn't worried about that, barring injury, I was worried that conditions could worsen and they could tighten that criteria up, or just cancel the marathon altogether. Nothing I could do about it though. Out of my control, so I tried to just relax, get my sleep, and be ready for anything on race day.

In my two past marathons, I have experienced calf spasms. Once at 14 miles, that left me with a DNF at mile 22. The other at mile 23 that forced me to struggle the last 3.2 miles. I had come to the conclusion that it was a hydration/nutrition issue. I began training with Endurolyte capsules, and had good success with them. So my plan is to take 4 capsules every hour. In addition, I have a few Advil, if necessary, and my “secret weapon”...an extra dose of Flexall muscle rub, in a Ziploc bag. More on that later.

I woke up at 4am, fixed myself 2 peanut butter sandwiches, and a banana for breakfast. At 5am, I went down to the lobby for some coffee. I quickly get dressed, get my gear in order, rub some Flexall on my calves and quads and I'm ready to go. At 5:30am, my wife and I met up with the group we came with and we headed to the start to get our gear bag checked in before it got crazy. Susan ran her first half, another buddy of mine ran his first half, and his wife was looking to run her first full, if she could stay ahead of that 4:30 pace limit. Temp was around 65 degrees, with humidity in the low 80% range. Ugh. Since our hotel was about 4-5 blocks from the start, we decided to walk back to use the bathrooms in our rooms instead of the porta-pottys. Plus, the walk would serve as a gentle warmup before I spent 5-10 minutes running a few striders right before the start. We finish up at the hotel and we start the walk back to the start line. And then...BOOM! The starting gun goes off! What?!? I look at my watch. They're early. Apparently, the organizers announced via bullhorn (at 6:15am) that they were going to get things underway 15 minutes early. We were in our hotel at the time, and didn't hear this. Crap. I was scheduled to start in the third corral, so I was now late! I instinctively take off running for the start line. I was pissed. As soon as I took off, I realized I didn't get a chance to wish my friends luck, or kiss my wife, wish her the best, and give her some encouragement that she really would finish her first half. Now I'm doubly annoyed. By the time I get to the start area, the first three corrals have taken off already. I manage to get into the 4th corral, which takes off as soon as I get past the worker checking people's bib numbers to be sure they are in the right corral. As usual, they are far too lax in this department, and I take off with plenty of people who are supposed be about 20 corrals behind. No matter. I figure I won't be around them for long.

My race is now underway. My adrenaline is absolutely pumping, and I'm kinda pissed about it. Sprinting to the start line, my mind racing, was not how I wanted to start. Within the first mile, I realize how dumb this was to do. That's what chip timing is for, right?!? I just didn't want to be too far back in the corrals and get have trouble navigating into some open space to run freely. In hindsight, I should have taken my time getting to the line and dealt with any possible crowding.

I fly through my first mile too fast, 7:39. My heart is racing we're going downhill, and I'm still irritated by the early start. This split is a stupid mistake on my part. I start slowing myself down, and focus on keeping my effort level steady through this first uphill section of the course. 7:56, 8:09, 8:12, 8:16. I know that first five miles are the hilliest portion of the course, so I need to balance pushing my pace and not giving away too much time with not going overboard and gassing myself. At this point, I'm at the highest point on the course.

I feel like I'm now where I want to be, in about the time I wanted to be there, and now I want to settle into a steady pace. I do still have two somewhat meaningful rises, from mile 6.5 to mile 8, and miles 11 to 13, but I'm not overly concerned about them. What I am concerned with is that at around mile four I began to notice that my legs might not have the pep in them that I'd like. Primarily, my hips felt a little tight. But I put it out of my mind for now, push on, and I decide to reassess once I get to the halfway point. I get through miles 6-13 in 7:59, 8:00, 8:07, 7:53, 7:45, 7:58, 7:53, 8:12. My goal was to hit the halfway mark in 1:45-1:46, 1:47 at the absolute slowest. I get there in 1:45:36. I'm happy with that. It puts me right on target and it's time to reassess how I feel. Uh-oh. I don't like my answer. My hips are definitely getting tighter, and I'm confident that I'll be working harder than I want to in the second half of this race. This tightness is not going to go away. In addition, you could feel the weather starting to change. The sky was becoming darker, the day was warming up a bit, and the wind was definitely picking up, with some strong gusting.

So the question now becomes, how hard do I work right now in order to get the finish as quickly as possible, and hopefully, without pain and calf cramps? Thankfully, my calves are just fine at this point. In fact, everything seems fine except for my hips. I swear to myself, first thing I'm getting when I get back to Cincinnati is a foam roller, and that I'm going to use it religiously. For the record, I've already bought, I'm already using it, and I think it's going to be really helpful.

Backing up for a moment, when I hit the split at 11.2 miles, I quickly became aware of how lonely the second half of the course was going to be, and I was right. I'd heard this was common at Rock n' Roll races, so I was somewhat prepared for it. After reaching the midway point, I finished my 14th mile in 8:14. And then I hit a low point.

I was mentally battling the warm morning & humidity, the tightness in my hips, and the boredom of the course through this section. It was here where I decided I was going to add some periodic walk breaks. I didn't need to walk at this point, but I wanted to be sure that my hips didn't get worse this far from the finish. That's what I told myself, anyway. Now, I realize that I was also bored, a little depressed by it, and just didn't want to work as hard. Mental weakness on my part. That angers me now. My splits for miles 15-18 are 8:40, 8:44, 8:58, and 9:55. That 18th mile, I don't know what happened. I just got really lazy and walked too long early in the mile, without realizing it. This section, miles 13-17.5, we ran completely alone, through this park area near the river. No fans, no vehicle access, no support. I hated it and it had a direct impact on my “weak” attitude. But at around 17.6, we'd headed back for downtown again and out of the park area. We were back on the stretch of 8th Ave that we'd run north on and back at the folks a few miles behind us on the marathon course. At this point, seeing the other runners, I felt like I was “back in the race”, mentally. After finishing that very slow 18th mile, I ran mile 19 in 8:37. Not great, but better. But more importantly, my mind was in a better place. And then I lost all my momentum and was back to being in a poor mental state.

The 20th mile is where the marathoners met back up with the halfers again, who were finishing their race. The marathon course starts about 2 miles west of downtown. You run into town, then head south/southwest for a few miles before heading back into the city. Then you run north, turn around, and back into the city again. This is where I was at this point, the 20-mile point. Then you run east to Shelby Park, and finally back into town again. So you keep coming into the city, near the finish, only to head back out again.

I didn't mind it until this point. I immediately begin to think about how nice it would be to be finishing now, and that sort of depresses me. I try to forget about that as quickly as possible. The mental aspect was the worst of it though. Because of the halfers reaching the end of their race, the road was PACKED, and the halfers paid absolutely no attention to the fact that they were supposed to be using the right half of the street while the marathoners were to run on the left, on their way out to Shelby Park. And there seemed to be no volunteers or police to enforce this split. I had a lady cut me off badly, and I had to come to a dead stop to keep from running her over. She had no idea I was there. Argh. I had to do a lot of bobbing & weaving here. This destroyed any momentum, rhythm, and good feelings I'd regained in that 19th mile. Mile 20 came in at 9:43, and I was NOT happy about it. At the end of the 20th mile, I turned left and headed out to Shelby Park, and was again free to run in a straight line, without congestion. Albeit, it's straight into the wind.

Mile 21 is technically my slowest, 10:33. But that's misleading. When I arrived at the aid station during this mile, I was due to take my 4 Endurolyte capsules, but I also decided that I was going to reapply the Flexall to my calves. I'd yet to find my rhythm again, so this seemed as good a time as any to do this. While my calves felt OK, I figured I might as well apply it now. I had it, I was thinking about it, and I didn't want to wait until the last minute. I had the stuff in a Ziploc bag. I'd heard this idea on a podcast. Put the rub in a Ziploc, and when you want to apply it during the race, you can just turn it inside out, apply it, and not get it all over your hands. Worked like a charm. Between the Flexall and the Endurolytes, this was easily a 90-120 second stop. So I didn't get too bent out of shape at this split time. I told myself that taking the time to apply this little bit of “insurance” on my calves was more than worth it if it saved me the many minutes I'd lose if they locked up again.

I'm now approaching Shelby Park. Mile 22, 9:17. Mile 23, 9:15. Mile 24, 9:24. Too conservative, but at the time, I don't really realize it. I'm just moving along, hoping to beat the weather that has rolled in. It was right at mile 24 that a police officer in a vehicle drove down the road telling us that the serious weather was arriving and that we “might want to consider finding shelter”. He wasn't kidding. Dark skies, rain, wind, fork-shaped lightning. But where in the hell am I going to find shelter at mile 24?!? So I obviously just keep running. The rain really starts coming down. I'm not sure I'm ready to pick up the pace quite yet, so I just keep moving along at the pace I've been going at. Again, too conservative. At one point during this mile, I accidentally step on the edge of an uneven section of road along the shoulder, and mildly turn my ankle. I immediately start walking, and take about 30 seconds to assess it. Seems fine, I start running again. Mile 25, 9:27.

Mile 26, I realize I feel strong enough to pick up the pace. I should have done this about 3-4 miles earlier. I'm not trying to run all out, just running comfortably while not being “lazy”. I run mile 26 in 8:19. I actually have plenty of energy at the end. That's good and bad. Good that I feel good, bad that I could have gone harder in those last few miles. I'm supposed to hit the finish with nothing left, right? Oh, well. I officially came in at 3:46:23. My legs feel good, my hips feel no worse than they did at the halfway mark, my feet are fine, and I'm not cardiovascularly gassed. I left a lot in the tank. Did I have enough to run the 3:30 I was hoping to run? No. My legs weren't that fresh this day. 3:40? Yeah, I could have done that. With better mental toughness and awareness in the second half, I probably had a 3:36-3:38 in me. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give my performance a solid 7. But that's OK. I'm still learning. This is only my third marathon, and second finish. I'll get better at in-race strategy and assessments. In the meantime, 3:46:23 is perfectly good by me. That turns out to be a PR by 21 minutes and 30 seconds. My third PR of the year. Now I only have 5K and 10K PR's to set this year to accomplish my goal of PR'ing at every distance I'd previously run.

Now, I'll spend the next 2-3 weeks recovering with some easy, short runs, bike & elliptical at the gym, foam rolling and stretching, and rededicating myself to doing necessary strength training. Now is the time to get myself in that habit. Plan is to run 3-4X per week, cross-train 2-3X per week, and still get at least 1 rest day in there. Two would be better. I just hope I don't fall into the trap I always do, which is I'd rather just run.

Apr 18, 2010

Troy's Trip to Cincinnati

So the weekend after I went to Kenosha, Troy came to Cincinnati. He had no idea what he was in for.

My wife and I picked him at the airport and promptly took to Hofbrauhaus, in Newport. There, we had a couple of good German beers, along with some pretzels with cheese. From there, we left for the Montgomery Inn Boathouse, where we had a 6:30 reservation. But before that, I wanted to take him up to the bar. It was a really, really nice night, and the view of the Ohio River is very nice. When we get up there, Susan notices that out on the deck is someone she thinks might be Oscar Robertson. Entirely possible. So I walk to where I have a view of him, and sure enough, it's him. Troy immediately becomes fascinated with him, and thinks about walking up to him and just starting a conversation. LOL. In the end though, we leave Oscar alone, and head downstairs for dinner.

Dinner was great, as usual when you go to the Boathouse. BBQ ribs are a must, and I think he really enjoyed them. Some people think the sauce is too sweet and lacks any smokiness. It is sweet, and not smoky, but I've always liked it. All in all, a very good night.

Saturday morning comes, and we head downtown to run our 20-miler. I plan to have us run a good portion of the race route of the Flying Pig Marathon. We'll skip the section in Kentucky, and avoid running on Columbia Pkwy. We start at Fountain Square downtown, and head immediately up to Eden Park. Troy was NOT prepared for the hills he was about to encounter. The first 3 miles or so, are all uphill, but he manages really well. From there, we head to Hyde Park Square, and out to Mariemont. We stop there to use the restroom, and head back out. From here, we head down the Murray bike trail. Now, instead of turning at Waterson, we head back to Erie Ave in order to catch Delta, to head south and pick up Riverside from there. On our way to Delta, we stop at a convenience store to buy some Gatorade (for him)and Vitamin Water (for me) to refill out water bottles. Troy's very happy to run down Delta. All downhill. Finally, we hit Riverside and head back for downtown. At this point, we're about 16 miles into our run. The week before, Troy really started to tire at around mile 18. I'm curious how he'll do today. We cruise right by the 18-mile mark, he's doing great. He makes it to the 20-mile mark in great shape, and is happy, thinking he's done. Only problem...we parked somewhere different than I had planned so Troy could hit up the restroom before we started, and we are still about 1.2-1.3 miles from the car. So I tell him to just run however much he could. He ran 20 miles the previous week, and was gassed. This weekend, he ran 20 and was pretty solid. We make it another 0.6 miles, and he sees the uphill we need to go to get from US Bank Arena to Fountain Square and he says, “OK, that's it. I'm done.”. Could he have kept running? Yeah. He just didn't want to go uphill again. Ha! Fair enough. Besides, he had no idea what he was in for the next day!

We felt great after the run. We head home, shower, change, and head back out the door. On the agenda? Lunch at Skyline Chili, a trip to Jungle Jim's International Market, then back downtown for Beerfest 2010. We spent about 2 hours there, and headed to Terry's Turf Club for some food. Between Beerfest, and Terry's, we drank a fair share of alcohol. Not so much that we were unable to drive home, but enough to know that when we wake up the next morning at 5:30AM in order to prepare for the 15K race, we weren't going to be functioning at optimum levels. Especially on this course.

Now, if you don't know Troy, he's a bit of nut. Very outgoing, very energetic, and he loves to get reactions from folks. And so, in order to do that at the race, he ran the race in a kilt. Yes, a Utilikilt, to be exact. Good stuff.

We arrive downtown and head to the Westin Hotel, where the Cincinnati Runner's Club has reserved 2 rooms for members to be able to use pre and post race. We use the facilities and head down to prepare to run. Race starts at 8AM. I'm not exactly sure how well I can run, given the previous night's festivities.

We get lined up, and before we know it, the race is off and running. I push just a little, and know immediately that I am not going to “race” today. I slow down, and within a few seconds, Troy is up with me, and we run together. I'm actually really glad we did. We had a pretty good time. Or, that is to say, I had a really good time. Troy was mildly cursing Cincinnati, Columbia Parkway, and perhaps me. He was learning that when I said there wasn't a flat spot along the entire 15K course, I wasn't kidding. He couldn't believe it. He said he hadn't run anywhere near as many hills as he had these past 2 days. And I believe him. Cincinnati can be a tough place to run, if you're not prepared for it. But he did great. He even made it up and down the hill at Torrence without too much complaint.

With about 1.6 miles to go, I ask him if he has one last push in him to the finish. He said he didn't really want to push any harder than he was, but that if I wanted to, I should go ahead. I decided I wanted to just blow my legs out at the end, since the following day was a rest day for me. So I picked up my pace to about an 80% effort level, and held that steady to the finish. It allowed me to finish with a sub 8-minute pace. I came in at 1:13:53 (7:57/mile). Troy came in at 1:16:02 (8:11/mile). This was a PR for me, although not nearly the best I could have done. But, no matter. A PR all the same. So I have now PR'd two of the distances I want to this year, half and 15K. I still have the 5K, 10K and marathon distance to go. Right on schedule.

Afterward, we headed home, cleaned up, and went out to get a much deserved meal. We were spent! Shortly thereafter, I took him to the airport, headed home, and slept. Very well. Very, very well.

It was a great weekend, and I hope we can do something similar again. It definitely makes a tough time during a training session, when you're starting to burn out a bit, a lot more enjoyable. And it helped keep me on track. Since I'm normally a solo-runner, having a partner for 2 weekends was great. Makes me want to run with others more.

So that's my report. THANKS TROY. And good luck in Kenosha on May 2nd.

Apr 2, 2010

My Trip to Kenosha

On Friday, March 21st I boarded a plane to fly to Milwaukee, where my friend Troy would pick me up. The idea behind the trip was that we would swap training weekends. I would go up there and run with him, he would come to Cincinnati and run with me. So back in January, we looked at our calendars and planned the dates. I would travel up there on the weekend of his first 20-miler, he would come to Cincinnati the following weekend.

Troy is training for his first marathon, on May 2nd, the Kenosha Marathon. He took Friday as a rest day and we planned to run 20 on Saturday, 6-8 on Sunday. When I arrived in Milwaukee International Airport, it was sunny and 60 degrees. A perfect day. But the weather report said something very different for the next day. More on that in a minute.

We get to Troy's home in Pleasant Prairie, I meet his wife (Barb) and kids, get settled in and we prepare to leave for a nice Italian dinner. Downtown Kenosha is actually quite nice, and would be great if so many businesses didn't seem to have close up shop. A result of the current economy, no doubt. After dinner, we go to a local bar to watch some March Madness. Now, I've always known that beer is serious business in Wisconsin. Beer & cheese. But when we got to the bar, I realized just HOW seriously. This place, from the outside, didn't look like anything unusual. A small home that had been converted into a local hang-out place. When I walked in, I couldn't believe a) how nice it was, b) how many beers were available. 250+ beers, with about 50-60 available on tap! Wowza! This place was awesome. So we sit down, have a beer, talk and watch the ballgame. Barb's brother joins us a little later and we drink a little more. Shortly after that, Barb and her brother are ready to leave so he gives her a lift home. Troy and I stick around for about another hour or so, and call it a night.

The next morning, we wake up to 4+ inches of wet, heavy, sloppy snow. Ugh. So, do we slog through 20 miles, or hope tomorrow is better? We learn that tomorrow is supposed to be better, so we go into Kenosha again to have breakfast. And in Kenosha, there's one place you have to go. Frank's Diner. http://www.franksdinerkenosha.com Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, with Guy Fieri. We have a short (20 minutes) wait, before finally getting seated with another couple, visiting Kenosha from Chicago. Turned out the husband started running 2 years ago, and their son is a pretty serious marathoner. We have a great time meeting them. And breakfast was great. I had to order the garbage plate. It's their specialty. And it 100% lives up to the name. 5 eggs, with anything and everything you want thrown into it. Onions, peppers, jalapenos, hash browns, sausage, bacon, and cheese is what was in mine. Stupid good.

After breakfast, we go run 8 miles, in wet & windy conditions. We ran into the wind for the first 4 and the wind-driven rain felt like shards of glass on my face! But we managed to get through it. Troy even had his brother, an amateur photographer, take pictures of us running. LOL. With his buddy driving him to stay in front of us, he must have taken 100+ pictures of us over the last 4 miles. It felt like a photo shoot for a magazine or something.

That night, we hit up a bar where a bunch of his friends were going to for a campout they do every year. We weren't camping, but went for the festivities. A few beers, and Makers & Diet Cokes later, we went home.

Next morning we woke up, waited for the day to warm up a bit, and headed out for 20 miles. It was awesome. Sunny & cool, running alongside Lake Michigan. Everything was going great until we got to about 13 miles, when Troy's stomach started to feel a bit “sour”. We hit our turnaround point, and he was still feeling the effects. But now we were going downwind, and after a Chocolate #9, he seemed to pick up a bit. He got to the 18-mile mark OK, and then started to slow slightly. But he managed to tough it out, and he made it to 20. Really proud and happy for him. His first 20-miler.

At this point, he was done, but my schedule called for 2 more miles. So he drove up to a coffee shop back in town where I would proceed to run to and meet him. When I arrived, he was waiting, and feeling much better.

Sadly, at this point in the day, I had just enough time to get home, shower, change, and get to the airport to return to Cincinnati. But that was OK since the following weekend he'd be flying to Cincy. That report will come shortly. We punished ourselves that weekend. :)

Mar 14, 2010

The 5K PR...that wasn't

Ran a 5K yesterday. Well, it was supposed to be a 5K. It was an out-and-back, and apparently the cop who was responsible for telling us to turn around, had us turn around too soon.

I went into the day thinking I didn't want to run hard (I had a long run to do later in the day). I thought I'd run it about 24 minutes, enjoy the run, and be done. But the day was cold, wet & windy, so I decided I wanted to get this thing over with. So I went out early and tried to run hard, without going all out. About an 8.5, or 9.0, on a scale of 1-10. No redlining. I was successful at that, regardless of the actual distance we ran.

I hit the 1-mile mark in 6:03. OK, about what I expected. Just gliding along. I'm literally looking around, just having fun.

When we got turned around by the cop, it didn't feel like I'd gone 0.55 miles past the 1 mile mark (I wasn't wearing my Garmin for this, just my Nike watch). When I got to the guy at the 2-mile mark calling out splits, the guy calls out "10:30!" 10:30?!? WTF?!? Now I knew something was wrong. So I decided to stick with my plan and just run at the same level I had been.

I got to the finish in 17:18, I just didn't know how far I'd run. I learned that the course wound up being 2.8 miles. At that pace, I'd have finished in 19:09 for a PR by a 1:18. That would have been nice, but it was not to be. It does tell me what my goal 5K time for 2010 is...18:30. Good gawd, I can't believe I just posted that. But that's what I'm shooting for. On a wet, nasty, windy day, I could have gone sub-19, no doubt, had I chosen to. And had they actually marked the course correctly.

The race had 231 men, 296 women. I finished 4th overall, 2nd in my age group. I don't care what the distance was, I'll take 4th overall any day.

But since I ran considerably harder than I had planned to, my 18-20 miler later that day turned into a 15-miler, in pouring rain. Dinner tasted very, very good that night.