Feb 28, 2010

An unbelievable day for me

Today I ran the Last Chance for Boston half-marathon, in Dublin, OH. I was hoping to accomplish a few things:

1) Set a new PR My current PR is 1:47:38, set in Chicago in 2008. This PR has bugged me ever since I ran it. You can read below about their mistake in measuring the official course. It was also the last time I ran a half-marathon, healthy. I was nursing a sore groin when I ran San Antonio, in November 2008, and at mile 8, I knew my day was essentially over.
2) Establish a time that qualifies me for start corral C, in this year's Chicago Marathon.
3) Get a clearer picture of my current fitness level.

Went up to Columbus on Friday night to relax, away from home, with my wife. She also ran today, the 10K, in preparation of her half-marathon in Nashville. It was a nice weekend. We haven't had much time together, just us, lately.

Today, I woke up at 4AM in order to have breakfast. Went back to bed, got up at 6:15AM, and prepped for the race. I was feeling quite good, and best of all, I had no lingering soreness, or nagging injuries. I was definitely ready to go.

My goal was to run a 1:42 (7:47/m), but hoped that perhaps I could run 1:40 (7:38/m) if I ran perfectly, and felt good at the end.  So I set my target, overall race pace at 7:45/m. The race course is a flat, 1-mile loop. I ran this race in 2008, so I knew exactly what to expect. While running laps doesn't sound like fun, it's actually not bad when in a race environment. If it were for training purposes, multiple times per week, I couldn't do it. For one race? No problem. The half-marathon runners and 5K'ers, they set up 0.1 miles behind the start/finish line, have you run outside the finish setup your first time by, in order to avoid the timing chip mats, and then you run the loop as normal. So one nice thing about the setup is you get mile splits when they post results.

For a 7:45/m pace, my plan was to run the first 0.1 miles in 45-50 seconds, the first full mile at 8:10-8:15/m, the second mile at 7:55-8:00/m, and be at 7:45/m race pace to start my 3rd loop. I'd run that pace until I had 2 laps/miles to go and then let loose, if I had anything left to give. If all went well, I'd make up the time I gave up during the first two laps.

Good day to run, but not great. At the start, it was 30 degrees, overcast, with a 10 mph wind blowing. Once the race got started, I got through my first 0.1 miles in 42 seconds. Fine. Now I have thirteen, one-mile laps to run.

First full lap, I ran in 7:42 (8:24). Too fast. So now I'm really focusing on keeping it nice & easy. I don't want to run hard, at all.

Second lap, 7:44 (16:07). OK, not the end of the world. It felt like a good pace, I was very relaxed, breathing easily, running easily. So let's just keep it there, if we can.

Third lap, 7:43 (23:50). Good. But wait a minute. I'm honestly thinking this is TOO easy. One thing I've noticed in my training is that my lactate threshold pace seems to be considerably lower than my current plan called for. It just so happens, my training plan LT pace is b/w 7:38-7:48, very similar to what I want to run today. But I've thought during training runs that that pace doesn't actually feel like an LT run. I've had to run them harder than that to really get the effect I'm looking for. Closer to 7:15/m. And this is exactly the thought I'm having right after my 3rd mile.

Fourth lap, 7:37 (31:26). Yup. I think I've underestimated my race pace. I may pay for this at then end, but I'm going for it. I plan to continue running strong & steady, but just a bit faster than I have been.

Fifth lap, 7:30 (38:56).
Sixth lap, 7:22 (46:17).
Seventh lap, 7:25 (53:42).
Eighth lap, 7:27 (1:01:08).

I'm really gaining confidence now. I'm feeling great, I'm running well, and it seems to be coming almost effortlessly. By how much did I underestimate?!?, I'm beginning to wonder.

Ninth lap, 7:23 (1:08:30).
Tenth lap, 7:22 (1:15:51).

3 miles to go. Start turning up the heat now, or wait? I decide to wait one more mile.

Eleventh lap, 7:22 (1:23:13).

OK, let's pick it up a little and see what happens.

Twelfth lap, 7:08 (1:30:20).

YES! Bell lap, and I think I have a little juice left. I start the final mile with a big push. I look at my Garmin, and see that I'm at 5:50/m pace. But before I hit the 1/4-mile mark of the lap, I know I can't keep this up. I bring it down a notch and just try to hold steady until the 1/2-mile to go mark. When I get there, I start to gradually pick it up again. Before I know it, I'm 1/4-mile from the finish and I keep pushing. I make the final left turn, see the clock, and push as HARD AS I CAN. I throw my body through the finish line.

Thirteenth, and final lap, 6:35 (1:36:55).

Final time: 1:36:55 (7:24/m). Wow! I can't believe it. A new PR by 10 minutes, 43 seconds. That put me 26th out of 159 overall, 8th out of 30 in my age group.

I accomplished all 3 goals I'd set for this race, and I learned a lot too. My suspicion that I am in better condition than I give myself credit for, is true. This is especially true of my lactate threshold level. I felt like I could have just kept cranking out miles in the 7:30-7:35/m range without compromising my form or risking crashing into the wall.

I probably left a little bit of time on the course today, specifically during the first 3.1 miles. Not sure how much. Had I run 1:35:59, or better, I could have gotten into corral B for Chicago. That's the best I could hope for this year. So, did I leave 56 seconds out there by NOT running at my appropriate pace the first 3 laps? Maybe. Maybe not quite. It would have been really close. But I'm not going to worry about it. I'm beyond happy with my performance.

One PR taken care of. Next on the list...15K, 4 weeks from today. Then, full marathon in Nashville, 8 weeks away. BRING IT!

Feb 18, 2010

A goal of mine for 2010 is to PR in every distance I run this year

Ambitious? Perhaps.

So that means I am looking to PR in: 5K, 10K 15K, Half-Marathon, Marathon.

My current PR's:

5K: 20:27 (July 2009) - Had been battling a sore right foot/ankle for a few weeks, but I was still very happy with this when I finished. I've only run this distance 4 times, one as a fun run (Jingle Bell Run, 2009)

10K: 51:19 (Nov 2009) - I've only run one of these (Thanksgiving Day 10K in Cincinnati), and it was with a friend as a fun run, so running a PR should be easy.

15K: 1:17:52 (March 2008) - I've only run this distance once. Ran as a training run, after only about a year of running to that point. This one would normally be a fairly easy PR, but this year it won't be the best I could possibly post b/c I am running 20 miles the day before with Troy, and I don't think the course has a flat spot on it. Still, should be fun. Troy's running this too. We plan to run it best we can.

Half-Marathon: 1:47:38 (August 2008) - I expect to PR this distance in 10 days at The Last Chance for Boston, in Columbus, OH. Funny part about this PR...I ran this at the Chicago Distance Classic. After the race they sent an e-mail saying the course had been certified incorrectly and the course was LONG by .1668 miles. And it was right where they made the mistake (around the 7-mile mark) that I then made my mistake of thinking I'd suddenly slowed down drastically. Of course, at that moment, I couldn't know it was miscalculated and was long. I just thought that somehow, I'd run a ridiculously slow 8th mile. My goal was 8 min/mile. At that pace, .1668 miles is 1m 20s. So I see the clock set up at mile 8 ,and I panic. Now I'm thinking I have only 5 miles to make up that time. Clearly, I thought I'd blown my chance at a sub-1:45 that day but I decided to kick up the pace hard and try to make up the time. I'll either do it, or crash. I crashed. I had some GI issues late in the race too that didn't help at all. But nonetheless, 1:47:38 is my official time. So long as the weather isn't brutal in February 28th, I should be good.

Marathon: 4:07:53 (Nov 2009) - My one (completed) marathon to date. After my Flying Pig fiasco, I decided I'd run Indy with no other purpose than to finish. So I ran at a normal long run pace, and not any faster. At mile 23, my calf cramps jumped up again and bit me, but I was able to suffer into the finish slowly. I've trained harder than ever since, and am ready to take my first crack at Nashville, on April 24th. The other marathon already on the schedule is Chicago on 10-10-10.

I actually hope to do more racing this year than I did last year, so I'll have plenty of shots at these PR's, with the exception of the 15K. Not many of those around here.

We'll see what happens, but I think I have a real shot at a PR in every one of these distances.

How often do you have a chance to do that? I'm thinking not very often, so I'll give it my best. I will not cheat myself this year.

Feb 11, 2010

Sometimes you just have to stop hating

Actually, I suppose you should never start hating in the first place. And there are few things in this world that I can say I truly hate. Fortunately, most of them are inanimate objects (olives, mushrooms, bleu cheese), or concepts (e.g. racism). But there is one object that I just don't have anything good to say about, at all.

The treadmill.

And I'm sure I'm not alone. As many runners will tell you, once you get outdoors and start throwing down the miles, you just don't want to spend time on a spinning belt anymore. You don't go anywhere, you don't see anything, you don't get the satisfaction of running into that headwind at the start of your run, knowing how much you'll enjoy heading downwind on the way back. There's any number of things that simply trump the convenience of a treadmill. And if you're like me, and you don't have your own treadmill, it's not even that convenient. You have to get in your car, go to the gym, hope the gym isn't packed so you can hog a 'mill for 2 hours, run, then drive home. Walking out the front door and taking off immediately is far more convenient. Additionally, for me anyway, I tend to blister and/or callous the balls of my feet (specifically the ball of my big toe) and it can be rather painful. I swear the heat that eminates from the belt literally softens the skin of my feet, as if cooking them. As for the TVs' they have on the machines, to entertain you as you workout...if you run, you can't watch it. It makes you nauseous.

So I've been a firm opponent of running on the 'mill. If there is any way for me to run outside, any way at all, I will. That being said, the weather has been less than cooperative the past few days in a lot of areas around the country. Here, it isn't so much the temperatures, and it isn't even so much the amount of snow. But we've had freezing rain, high winds that have caused drifting snow and poor visibility (for drivers). This past Saturday I managed to get out, after being forced to run indoors on Friday (more on that in a bit), and the roads were very wet & slushy. That's miserable too. Thankfully, it was only for 5 miles. Then we got blasted again on Sunday, and back indoors I go.

On that Friday, I was scheduled to run 12 miles. I knew running them outside was going to be impossible. So I went to the gym...slowly, and vowed to make an honest effort at completing the run on the damn 'mill. Normally, I get on the 'mill, run for about 3 miles, and want to jab a steak knife in my eye. I become a mental midget, unable to focus on running, instead focusing on how excruciatingly bored I am. This day, I was hellbent on going the full 12. Since the 'mill only allows me an hour at a time, I was forced to think of it as two 6-milers. That helped some. So I started running, and to my surprise I was at 3 miles before I knew it. Then 6. Stop the 'mill, restart it immediately, and prepare for 6 more. That's when....wait, what?!? That's when I proceeded to run the final 6 and actually ENJOYED it?!? How did that happen? Nonetheless, I did, and I was thrilled. I should have been thankful. Instead, I mentally gave the 'mill the finger, and stalked off, the conqueror. Rich 1, Treadmill 0.

Sunday I was driven back by the weather. This time I was there to run 18. I made it to 10 before the previously mentioned treadmill cook setting did a number on my feet. They were burning up. The soles of my shoes were on fire. The 'mill got its revenge. All tied up.

Monday, I return again, but only to run an easy 5. While I got through it w/o issue, and easily enough, it really wasn't a long enough, or tough enough run to claim victory, so we'll call it a push. Still all tied up.

Tuesday, 8 miles at general aerobic pace. I crushed it. Felt great. A clear win. The 'mill did officially give me a blister though. I think of that as a bad, late tackle, from behind, boot up, in a match that is already decided. The 'mill got a red card on that one. I'm up 2-1.

Yesterday, 12 miles scheduled again. I prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. I get some moleskin to protect the balls of my feet. And to my astonishment, another good run. A little GI issues from the dinner I ate beforehand, but not a big deal. That was my fault. I finish my run, and while my stomach isn't tip-top, I'm very pleased that I have managed to complete my run, on the 'mill, again. I take the win, and lead 3-1. But I also realized something else. The 'mill and I have come to have an understanding, and I can even say, it has rejuvenated my motivation.

The past few days, I've logged more miles on the 'mill than I did in all of '08 & '09 combined. And I've found that I kinda enjoyed it. One of the reasons...I'm enjoying running in shorts and short sleeved shirts. It's nice to break them out after a few months. Sounds silly, I'm sure, but for some reason, I think it's helped me. And now, I'm definitely ready to start logging my miles outdoors again, and looking forward to getting out there.

The other nice thing...I think I've conquered my HATRED for the 'mill. Oh, we're still not friends, per se, but we're no longer enemies either. The 'mill respects my desire to run outdoors, and I have come to respect the 'mill's ability to keep me on track w/o boring me to death anymore. Weird. Never thought I'd say that.

Feb 3, 2010

Training update, new shoes & Fall Marathon (Chicago!!!!) scheduled

Training Update

January is over, and as such, so is 1/4 of my training for Nashville. All in all, I'm very happy with my progress so far. I've had a couple of tough days, dealing with fatigue or drop in motivation to get out and get my workout done, but that's pretty normal in this phase. I never had 2 of these days in a row, so that makes me happy. I've managed to get myself back on track immediately after a bad day. The end tally for January...4 weeks of training, 219.44 miles of running.

Now comes February, and that will put me exactly halfway through my training. It's a 252 mile month. Wait a minute. A what?!? OMG. That's...yeah. A lot of miles. But I knew what I was getting into when I chose this plan, so it's time to get after it. I'll finish the month with my first half-marathon since San Antonio in Nov. 2008. I'll be participating in The last Chance for Boston Half-Marathon, in Dublin, OH, on 2/28. Initially, this was simply meant as a tune-up race, to evaluate my fitness level halfway through training. Now, it's more important than that. More on that in a minute.

New Shoes

Last week I got myself a pair of the Brooks Launch. Very lightweight, very comfortable, very colorful. Obnoxiously colorful! But that's cool with me. Nothing wrong with a little splash of color.

I've put 3 runs in so far. When I first put them on, they slid on really nicely and had an extremely comfortable fit around the ankle. The toebox is plenty big. My first impression was that there was going to be nothing to worry about. But when I started walking in them, I noticed that the top mesh of the toebox rubbed oddly against the top of my foot. But once I started running, I didn't notice it anymoew. And now, I don't notice it at all, even when I'm walking in them.

The shoes are a very stable ride. A little softer than I'm used to, but not obscenely so. The lacing midway up is a little different too. The laces almost run directly sideways, as opposed to diagonally. Seems to be a nice spot for a little extra snugness.

I give these a solid thumbs up. And at $90, a fairly decent price. 

Fall Marathon - Chicago, 10/10/10

I'm going to fulfill one of my dreams...to run a marathon in the GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD. I am an official entrant in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, scheduled for October 10, 2010. Oh yeah, baby! This is a race I would consider a "bucket list" type of event. I don't have many running, bucket list items yet (Chicago, NYC, Boston, an international marathon, and a 50-miler), but Chicago is probably my #1 item on that list. Now, I'm committed to run, and they're committed to giving me a bib number.

I'm hoping to qualify for one of the non-open start corrals. The race is open to 45,000 runners. They have 4 non-elite corrals for roughly the fastest 12,000 runners, but you have to qualify for them with a recent half or full marathon time. Here are the qualifications...

Start Corral A
Half Marathon time:          <1:25:59
Full Marathon time:           <3:10:59
Expected capacity:             1,500

Start Corral B
Half Marathon time:           <1:35:59
Full Marathon time:            <3:35:59
Expected capacity:               3,000

Start Corral C
Half Marathon time:            <1:45:59
Full Marathon time:             <3:55:59
Expected capacity:               4,000

Start Corral D
Half Marathon time:            <1:50:59
Full Marathon time:             <4:00:59
Expected capacity:               4,000

I already have a time to qualify me for no worse than Corral D. I am very confident that I can run well enough in Dublin to get into C. I'm mildly curious if I can get into B. My initial thought is no. I don't think I have a 1:36 half in me (yet).

I'm sure I'll have a lot more on Chicago in the future, so I'll just leave it here for now.

Lastly, looks like I'm going to get some mild weather this week for training. That'll be nice given the bitter cold and winds we've had recently.

OK February, I'm ready. Bring it.