Apr 29, 2009

T-minus 4 days and counting

Antsy. Nervous. A little scared. A lot excited. Yup, that describes me to a tee these days. The longer I wait, the longer it's been since I ran long, the more doubt I have. I know I need to relax, trust my training, and just run smart. But it's tough to not have these thoughts, especially when I've never run a full marathon before.

Weather still looks OK for Sunday morning, not perfect, but not awful. Saturday, High of 69, Low of 51, partly cloudy, winds at 9mph, humidity 61%. Sunday, High of 61, Low of 50, few showers (30% chance of rain), winds at 7mph, humidity 59%. I can live with that, rain or no rain.

Looks like my new shoes should be OK to race in. Moleskin is good stuff, my feet feel good, and that blister won't be an issue. I'll cover it, if necessary.

All that's left is to eat smart, rest, get my 2 remaining SUPER-EASY runs in, and make it to the starting line, on time.

Apr 28, 2009


A bit of tough week, last week. Not much mileage, doing my best to eat right, and not overeat (a bad habit of mine when I have off-days). Thursday's run was a little sluggish. Sunday's was VERY sluggish. The heat here at 4PM was near 90, so that didn't help matters. But I have read that in the 7-10 days before race day, when you are right in the middle of tapering, it's not unusual to feel that way. I hope that's it.

Did a good job of staying off my feet over the weekend, hope to continue that. Studying for my actuarial exam should help that. Ugh.

So, race week is upon me. I'm getting nervous already. Slept AWFUL on Sunday night. Worst night's sleep I've had in a long time. Studying so much per day has never helped this either. Last night, asleep by 10:00, slept the whole night through (very unusual for me), feel much better today.

Looking forward to getting through to Sunday, as fast as possible.

My race morning plan is to wake up at around 3:30 & eat breakfast. I may, or may not go back to bed. Depends on how I feel. I think I might be better off staying awake, and just lounging around on the couch until it's time to go downtown. That's my tentative plan, for now. At a little before 5AM, I'll start my way downtown, hopefully getting out of the car b/w 5:30-5:40AM, and be at the starting area b/w 6:00-6:10AM. Race starts at 6:30AM. Hopefully the weather will be good. On the Runner's World forum, there's a meteorologist posting weather reports, based on their computer models, for Cincy that weekend. So far, it looks like the temps should be OK. Question is, will there be rain on Sunday? Hope not. No sense worrying about it right now. It'll be whatever it'll be. I'll still be running.

For anyone who cares, I'm bib #3026.

Week 15 mileage: 24.44
Weeks 0-15 mileage: 615.77

Week 16 schedule (RACE WEEK):
T: 4x400 SI
Th: 3 miles, 6x100 S
Sa: 2-mile jog
Su: RUN LIKE HELL!!!!!!!!!!

Apr 21, 2009

My new game plan...

OK, forget everything I said on April 10th. LOL. I've decided that my 3:45-3:50 is too conservative. I'm truly convinced of that. I know, I know. It's my first marathon, just finish. Feel free to ridicule me for being a gung-ho, first time, newbie-idiot. And you'd probably be right. I've heard all that. But I need/want a target time, in order to develop a race plan, and I'm just not the type to go into this without an aggressive goal (3:45, 6 months ago, I thought was aggressive). Also, and I think this is important, to me anyway, I'm not afraid of failing. In my mind, the fact that failing is a possibility, is part of the excitement of it all. And it makes success all that much more enjoyable.

So now I'm left to finalize my preparations for the race. From what I eat, to how much sleep, to developing my race strategy.

Like I said, my initial goal was 3:45, based on previous half-marathon finishes. But here's why I've reconsidered that...
1) I'm in far better shape than before (that's a given, I should be, for a marathon, right?),
2) the 3:45 goal was based on times I know I can better right now...significantly,
3) looking back at my training log, my training runs, both long runs & speedwork, have consistently indicated that I can better 3:45, and
4) I've dropped just over 20 pounds from where I was when I ran those half times (at 153 lbs, today). This has been one of the biggest surprises in all of this. I'd planned on 10. But I have been uber-diligent about my training, and my eating. Far better than I expected.

As to that last point, I wondered what kind of impact that can have on my times. So I dug around and found an article relating to overall time improvements from having lost weight. It was from Runner's World, June 2007 (I think), that illustrates how much faster you could be if you lost weight. Of course, this would not take into account speed increases due to training.

Pounds Lost 5K 10K 1/2 Mar. Marathon
2 :12.4 :25 :52 1:45
5 :31 1:02 2:11 4:22
10 1:02 2:04 4:22 8:44
20 2:04 4:08 8:44 17:28

According to RW author Amby Burfoot, the table is based on research that runners, on average get 2 seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. The times you see above are the amounts a runner can shave off his/her race times by losing weight.

Using my last (non-injured) actual half time (Chicago), the MacMillan calculator has me for a 3:45:40 marathon time. Now, adjust for the 20 pounds that have come off since, and using the table, that would suggest a 3:28 finish time. Whoa! Really? That kinda scares me, and excites me, all at the same time. Despite my improvements in the past few months, I must admit, that kind of finish just doesn't really compute in my head. Still, I don't want to sell myself short either. I want to run my best. I just have to figure out what that is, and shoot for it. I feel like too much has changed since I set that 3:45 target. Granted, the Pig course is hillier than many, so that 3:28 should perhaps be adjusted to 3:35-ish? That still sounds great to me. So when I take into consideration this MacMillan/Burfoot projected time, and the points I made earlier, I truly THINK I can go better than 3:45. I just need to determine the mark I want to hit, that I feel I can make. I think 3:35-3:38 is the range.

Yes, I may fail, but I truly feel like my training supports the idea that I should finish sub-3:45. The science seems to support it too. Question is, will my mind accept it, and will my body actually accomplish it? I find out in 13 days.

Apr 20, 2009

Experiencing the course

I wanted to run specific sections of the Flying Pig course, in order to be as familiar with the sections that worry me, as possible.

So I came downtown to run two major sections of the race course, the hills & the finish. http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2745325 I started downtown, but skipped the bridges (which I've run numerous times before). Once I hung the right onto 7th St, I was "on the course", and headed to Eden Park. This is the major uphill section of the course, about 2.5 to 3 miles. I'd driven the entire course the day before, and this section actually seemed MORE difficult when I drove it, than when I ran it. I came out of Eden Park yesterday feeling confident that I'd be OK, so long as I was smart, and that I'd trained on hills enough to handle this just fine.

Next, I ran through O'Bryanville and Hyde Park, which along with Mariemont, is my favorite section of the course, and perhaps my favorite area to run in, in all of Cincinnati. I'm going to love this section of the race. It's just so easy to get lost in the atmosphere. And b/c it's such a big running community here, the support should be top notch. Once I got to Erie & Delta, I veered "off course" and headed south, for the finishing miles of the race course.

I'm really glad I did this, but not b/c of any hills or tough aspects of the course. There's a spot, about 3 miles from the finish line, when you can first see the skyline of downtown, and it just seems so far away! But it's only 3 more miles, albeit the toughest 3 miles, right? I first noticed it while driving the day before, and thought the same thing. Running it yesterday, I tried to keep that in mind, and be very focused on telling myself that it's just 3 miles. I did a good job, and I think I'll be fine on May 3rd. In any case, the view is great, but had I looked up to see that for the first time during the race, I think it would have messed with my head.

With about 1.5-2.0 miles to go, we get into a section that I am intimately familiar with since it's the area I most often run during my lunch hour runs. I was able to ID specific spots of the park running alongside the road that tells me exactly how much further to go, and when I'll be OK to pour out every last bit of energy I have, and not risk burning out too soon.

So yesterday's run was very educational, and I feel ready.

This week is a significantly lighter week, before next week being downright lazy! Until Sunday, anyway. Carbo loading starts soon, and I'll likely gain a pound or two, as my body retains the necessary water to burn those carbs on race day. Good thing I love pasta.

Week 14 mileage: 40.25
Weeks 0-14 mileage: 591.33

Week 15 schedule:
M: WT (only doing 1X this week and next)
T: 2GP/4T, yoga
W: 3 miles + 6x100 S
Th: 60-min run, including 6x400 SI (1:52/400m), yoga
F: rest
Sa: extra rest day
Su: 60-minute run

Apr 15, 2009


If you haven't heard of the site, I recommend you check it out. It's very cool. To me, it sort of seems like a BuckeyeOutdoors, meets twitter, meets facebook (from what I know abut facebook). I wasn't too sure about it at first, but now that I've tooled around in it a bit, I'm hooked! And the nice thing is it automatically downloads your training log from Buckeye. Go check it out. And don't forget to request to be friend. Please? :)


Apr 12, 2009

Sigh of relief

OK, I feel much, MUCH better now. Wind was tough when I ran east on the loop, but other than that, I had nothing to complain about. Weather was perfect. I hope it's like that on May 3rd.

I made it to 20 miles very relaxed, no fatigue, easy as can be. I was surprised on how good I felt at that point. I really focused on not overrunning, getting out too fast, and bonking again. Wanted to run nice & steady miles, which I feel I did better than usual (see below).

At this point, I decided I was definitely running 3 more miles. "They" say, the pain starts at 20 miles. So being able to run 20 didn't necessarily give me a ton of confidence that I can run 26...strong. I know I can get to 26, but I wanted the confidence that comes from having already run 23. Telling myself I can gut through 3 miles is much different than trying to convince myself that I can gut through 6. So I ran 3 more miles, for a total of 23.

Miles 21-22, I wasn't trying to run any different, but they came in a little faster than most of the rest. Mile 23, I decided I'd kick it up, but just a little, to see how my legs would react. I could have run it much harder. I had plenty of gas in the tank, and freshness in the legs. When I was done, I felt just fine. Legs feel great right now. No pain, no lactic acid, nothing. The only issues I had while running was a little tightness in the front of the hips (no surprise), and the balls of my feet are sore (they are hurtin', big-time). I can help the feet issue. Just need to wear a slightly thicker pair of socks. I'm glad I experimented with that today. Also, just put a pair of Yankz shoestrings on my new shoes. Left one was a bit too loose. By the time I finished running, I had the beginings of a blister on the inside of my left heel. Easy fix.

Also, I took a cooler with my water bottles, and extra fluid to refill. I wore my belt, with just one bottle. Depending on the weather on race day, I may wear it with just the one bottle that I can fill to carry fluid with me, if I feel I need to towards the end. I didn't find that too encumbering.

So, all in all, I'm pretty pumped. I'm ready, I think.

1-9:05 11-9:03 21-8:49
2-9:15 12-9:00 22-8:57
3-9:02 13-9:13 23-8:12
4-9:01 14-9:01 Total Time: 3:27:21
5-8:51 15-8:50
6-9:06 16-9:12
7-9:14 17-9:08
8-9:06 18-9:08
9-9:06 19-9:06
10-9:05 20-8:49

My moment of truth

After failing my 19-miler last week, thanks to dehydration causing me to bonk, I have my final long run before tapering down to race day. 20-miler today. I hope I've prepared sufficiently well for it. I overate last night at the Mexican place pokerwidow & I went to, but I should be fine from that today. I've really monitored by hydration this week, and should be OK there too. Weather here is sunny, mid-to-low 50's, 15 mph winds from the east. Temp should rise to high 50's by the time I'm done. No excuses.

Going out to the local park to run, in case I bonk again. 20 miles on a 1.42m loop doesn't thrill me, but I think it's best. Aside from being able to get home on my own if I fail, I can set up a cooler at the start of the loop, throw my water bottles in it, and not have to wear my hydration belt loaded with bottles. I can simply have one clip to hold the bottle I'm currently drinking from. Besides, I don't have enough bottles (four 8-ouncers) for my hydration belt to be enough for a full 20 miles anyway. And I don't want to figure out strategic spots to drive out to to place bottles. So I'll set the cooler up, and every 2 laps, quickly stop to grab a bottle, and drink on the run. 4 Gu's, ready to go. iPod loaded with the most recent episodes of Phidippidations, Adam 20, and TheExtraMile (turns out, the guy who hosts this show lives right here in Liberty Twp - small world).

So now, I'm ready to go. Please God, don't let me fail. Failing would be devestating to me, especially after last week's failure. I think I'd have to consider NOT running the full if I fail today. Truth be told, I'm hoping to feel good at 20, and run a few more. I figure since it's the last, true long run, it'd be OK to. 23 miles is my inner, secret goal for today.

If you're reading this, wish me luck.

Apr 10, 2009

Flying Pig strategy

I am in the final weeks of my preparation for the 2009 Flying Pig Marathon, in Cincinnati. I'm ready to go...I think. I hope. Hell, I don't know, I've never run a marathon before!

Basic info about the course: The course rolls along slightly through the first 5 miles as you cross the bridges and work your way back to downtown. Mostly flat. Then over the next 3.0-3.5 miles, it’s almost entirely uphill running, climbing a total of around 280 feet. After that, you pretty much cruise back downhill the rest of the way, especially miles 9-15. From 15 to the finish, it’s almost entirely flat-to-slightly downhill. Here’s the course map/elevation map, from the site this year. I assume they are using the same course as in 2008.


Basic info about me: My goal is to run a 3:45-3:50 (8:35-8:45/mile). I've had a tendency to get out too fast and not feel super-strong at the end. I am aware of this, and am determined not to let that happen here (I suspect fear will help in this regard). I will have my new Forerunner for the race, to help. Something I’ve not had in past races. I hadn't planned on using my heart rate monitor, as it can be mildly annoying at times, especially when it slips and I need to adjust it on the fly. I want to be as unincumbered as possible. No unnecessary distractions. But it might be useful on the uphill section, to make sure I'm not working too hard. By then, I'll have enough data to be able to determine an appropriate range to be in for that section. I'd like to think I can gauge my effort without it for 3.5 miles, which is why I still think I won't use it, but we'll see.

My thoughts: The first 8-9 miles are key for me, given my past history. I have to take it easy here, but not so easy I dig too big a hole that I can't make it up. Just get through them in good shape, and then I can look to make up any time on the back end. So I know I will not be “on pace” through mile 9. Hopefully, by expecting it, I won’t let it bother me. Miles 9-15, I can make up some time on this predominantly downhill section, while hopefully maintaining the same effort level. Miles 15-20, just get through them. Miles 15-18, maybe a little up & down. Miles 18-20, slightly downhill. I’d like to run this section without looking at my watch. Just run comfortably, and mentally prepare for the (pain at the) finish. Miles 20-Finish, almost home, it’s flat, and I’ll hopefully be psyched to have made it here feeling like I have some gas in the tank. Ain’t no stoppin’ now! Right?

So in a nutshell: Miles 0-9, go slow, but not too slow. I'm thinking...be "on pace" thru mile 5 (but no faster), then deal with the climb. Miles 9-15, this is the most obvious spot to make up some time while not burning myself out, since it’s downhill. Miles 15-20, cruise, maybe get a little time back, maybe not. But certainly don’t lose any time. Miles 20-26.2, get to the finish!

Apr 6, 2009

...and finally, the (very) ugly

Lousy day yesterday. No, terrible is more like it. I didn't complete the full 19 mile long run. I'm absolutely furious. 3 miles short. After getting home and completing my post-run weigh-in, I am 99% sure the issue was that I was dehydrated, and I didn't realize it until it was too late. I didn’t drink much early on, but that’s not uncommon. I’m afraid today my lack of hydrating cost me. Plus, the front of my left hip was sore near the end too. But I’m also quite sure that was from a complete breakdown of my form as I began to fail, not a “real” injury. Today, my legs feel just fine, hip too.Yesterday caused me to reflect back on some of my habits, and I think I need to do a better of job in two areas:

1) Taking in the necessary calories during my run. For me, the rule of thumb says about 200 cals/hr (Cals/hr = Wt in lbs * Speed in mph * 0.189). That shouldn't be too tough, but again, I didn't get there yesterday. I just lost track of my intake, and it caught up to me.

2) Hydrating sufficiently in the days leading up to the long run. I can get bad about that, especially when I'm cooped up at my desk at home, studying as much as I am now. But I think this is a lesson best learned today, rather than in 4 weeks.

As soon as I got home and showered up, I put down a protein shake, and 3 bottles of Vitamin Water 10, all within the first 90 minutes of finishing my run. Plus I had a great dinner (Italian Skirt Steak w/balsamic onions, served over mashed Cannellini beans with garlic and rosemary, and grilled asparagus). Lots of protein. I ate like a champ, and my weight was back to where I expected it today. I feel infinitely better now. I could have gone back out last night to knock out those last 3 miles. I sure as hell wanted to! Just to make myself feel better about them. But 3 junk miles last night <> 3 miles at the end of that long run. I know. Oh, well.There were other issues that might have led to yesterday too.

1) As you could read in my previous entry, on Thursday, I just didn't feel like running, I quit after 45 minutes, and on Friday morning I decided to run the other 45 minutes, instead of taking the rest day. TAKE THE REST DAY!

2) Saturday I ran my 4 miles considerably faster than I intended to (1:00/mile faster). That was just dumb of me. It's supposed to be an easy run. I just didn't pay attention to my watch to see I overran it.

3) And finally, late on Saturday night I had a couple of beers, a “4th meal” (albeit a small one) at BW3's watching the Carolina/Nova game with some buddies, and did not get to bed until 12:30AM. None of that could have helped either.

None of those things are major sins, I know. But they certainly don't help, and they can add up. I need to be smarter than that. I need to remember what’s important, and make more appropriate choices (food, hydration, rest, etc.) as May 3rd gets closer. And I know that coming up short yesterday isn’t the end of the world. But I have no intention of coming up short at the Pig. And that is why not getting through yesterday's long-run worries me slightly. If I struggle on the 20-miler this weekend, I'll be in panic mode. Just going to try and forget about yesterday, learn my lesson (again), and move on.

Speaking of the 20-miler, that all-important training run marathoners refer to as the true test of where your training has gotten you…I have a friend who is part of local running club that is going to be running the final 20.2-ish miles of the Pig course on Saturday, and I was invited to join them. I think I just might do that and swap my Sa & Su runs. I wanted to cover the course somehow, prior to race day, and this would be the perfect way to do it. Plus, running with others might be a great way to help me ensure I complete the run. They even plan to have aid stations set up too. Score! And it would get me out running at the same time as the race, i.e. early morning, which I am not crazy about, but will have to start getting in the habit of doing. I think my wife’s family is planning on having dinner out as a group on Friday, so I’ll have to be extra careful.

So here are last week’s totals, and this week’s plan.

Week 12 mileage: 47.79 (3 miles short of plan, from long run)
Weeks 0-12 mileage: 501.35

Week 13 schedule:
M: rest
T: 3x1 CI (7:53/mile), 3x800 SI (3:34/800), yoga
W: WT, 3 miles + 6x100 S
Th: 75-min run, including 6:00-8:00 TUT, yoga
F: rest
Sa: 4 miles, WT
Su: 20 miles

Apr 3, 2009

The good, and the bad

Funny how things can go from so good, to crappy, so quickly.

Tuesday, I have my 2GP/4x2T/3GP workout that has just been kicking my butt every time. Here in Cincy, they were calling for rain and high winds that evening, so I got out that morning instead, to make sure I got the workout in. Beautiful morning. 50-degrees, no wind. I'm not looking forward to how I expect to feel at the end, but I take off anyway. It was incredible. I felt great the whole way, at no point did I feel weak, or tired. I ran all my splits well below what I was scheduled to, and I did it with nothing more than a moderately-hard effort (PEL 7-ish). I kept thinking I should slow down, that I'd burn out at the end like always. After my 1st 2T, and seeing the time, I decided to quit looking at my watch until I knew I was close to finishing those 2 miles. I simply focused on running at a pace that I felt I could keep up, but that I still thought was fast enough to at least match the split I was supposed to be running. Turned out, each of my 2T runs was faster than the last. And the 3GP at the end that has always seemed so tough at that point in the workout, was nice & easy, like I think it's supposed to be at this point in my training. So, coming out of Tuesday, I couldn't have been happier with my progress.

Last night, not so much. Just no desire to run. And it was a beautiful afternoon. But right before I take off to run, I'm put into a really lousy, pissy mood. I leave the house completely upset and in a funk. I start running, and right from the start, I know I'm not getting this entire 90-minutes in. I have no desire to be out there. I just can't get my head right. So I run half of the workout, go home, shower, change, and go study until it's time to go to bed. I figure, I'll run another 45-minutes today, even though it's typically a rest day. But I finished the night really bummed out about feeling the way I did, and it affecting me like that. Not completing a 90-minute run, at this point in my training is not really a big deal. What bothers me is seeing how much it affected my running, a simple run at that, not to mention how much I was bothered by everything else last night.

Thankfully, I'm over it now, and we'll see how things go. Hope it's a nice weekend.