Sunday, August 24, 2008

Training Update - Lessons on Pace and Hydration

Sunday - Recovery Day

Monday – 5.5m – easy mileage – worked on some pacing and really not over extending myself too much. Was actually quite a scary run. First time I have run after dusk around Rowley and Ipswich and I heard something screeching above my head for about a quarter of a mile. Land of the Lost type stuff! Worse yet, people have no sense when the see someone in a fully reflective hat and jacket coming at them and they pound on the high beams…. No, I did not use any sign language. It was tough running slow and over the 5 miles I was able to run comfortable, but also found I ran negative splits the whole way. Oh well, I always run faster in the dark.

Tuesday – 4.2m – easy mileage – Yes, woke up before work and got my training run out of the way. Pretty sure I felt EVERY step of the run as I was extremely tight. It is just bad news when I got from pillow to shoes to roads in the span of 20 minutes. Fortunately, the sun rise was awesome and it was nice and cool. Marathon pacing run tomorrow…. 7 or 8 miles… not exactly sure what I should be shooting for pace wise.

Wednesday - 9.2m - Pacing (Marathon... kind of) - After work, went out at an easy clip, leaving my brain at the door. Just running, no thoughts, except for keeping a comfortable pace and not looking at the watch every time it marks a mile. Ran a new out an back to Boxford and Georgetown, kind of a nice route, but people in expensive cars amaze me sometimes with their lack of common sense when they see another human being hugging the shoulder of the road. (definitely one problem not often found when running trails!) Just went for comfort and a blind pace. Felt tight the last two miles, and I suspect it was because I was running at an 8:17 pace. Yes, I too laugh because 8:17 pace once, for me in a previous running life, was about as slow as poop passing through a constipated turtle... but I digress.

Was probably more like half marathon pace, because I am sure if there is indeed a wall to hit at mile 20 of a marathon, a good way to find it is with this pace. Then again, maybe I am just getting a little faster. We'll see. Not taking things for granted, though, totally psyched that I am back to a place where I can run 9 miles at a comfortable pace and feel good. Ask 235lbs Rob about running 9 miles...... Yeah.

Thursday - No running. No particular reason. Do we have to belabor this point?

Friday - 3.3 miles - Should have taken it easier. It was a long week in the cubicle and I just wanted to run without worrying about anything. 7:52 1st mile, 7:27, 7:12 for 2 and 3, allegedly sub 7 pace for the .3 at the end. Why not? I didn't feel too thrashed at the end. Not smart with the long run tomorrow, but in memory of Isaac Hayes, who played Chef on South Park - "Fudge It!"

Saturday - 16.1 miles - Long Run (2:18:17) This was sort of one of those good news/bad news runs. Overall my average pace was 8:35, which would be a great marathon pace for me at this level of fitness, but if I were running a marathon today I definitely would have been in trouble. I am not sure if it was because of the conditions and lack of hydration during the second half of the run, but the last mile of this run - though I persevered and did not have to walk - was really quite tough. I ran a new course that took me on a northeasterly heading, through most of Rowley and into Newbury. I was hoping to cross the Parker River and turn around for an 8 mile out and 8 mile back run, but evidently the Parker River Bridge is being repaired. Nonetheless, it was a quite scenic run, spending some time running through the salt marshes and farm pastures of Newbury. Came back slightly faster than I went out, but of the 32 ounces of water and Gatorade I carried with me, I was tapped out by about mile 12. I started rationing water when I realized I was getting low, but the slight heat of the afternoon - it wasn't really hot, as much as it was just very sunny and very bright - was enough to make 32 ounces of fluid not nearly enough. At about 14.5m I made it to a store and slammed a 20 ounce G2, but I felt like I waited too long to reverse my hydration issues. If there really is a wall at 20 miles I know I would be crashing head first into it on this day. Thankfully I arrived home and made my way through another 64 ounces of fluids. I think I am realizing that pacing is definitely the key for the marathon. I think on a cooler and cloudy day 8:35 pace would have been just fine, but on a cloudless summer afternoon with temps from 75 to 80, there really is only so much one can ask from their body. I guess I see both sides. I have had much more misery on short runs in similar conditions, so the fact that I essentially ran 16 miles without any walking breaks is a positive.

Next week the ante goes up one more mile: 17 miles on the long run; The following weekend will be some half marathon happiness in the 02360! I think I need to be a little careful with my mileage without compromising on the distance of the long runs for the sake of staying healthy. Looks like August will easily end as my highest mileage month of the year, and right now all I really have in the way of injuries is a sore heel. Fingers firmly crossed.

Weekly Mileage: 38.3
August Mileage: 117.8
YTD: 689.8 miles

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Men's Olympic Marathon - Thoughts (I'll be brief...)

Okay, so I am watching Sammy rocket around the track to the finish line in Olympic Record style and Gharib running a pure guts race to win the silver, I am sort disheartened by the baffoonery of the commontators. If I had a nickel for every time they mentioned the heat and humidity and how it would lead to carnage at the end of the race, I could go out and buy a case of G2.

It isn't like the competitors didn't know about the chance of it being hot and humid. In fact, these same commontators were elaborating on how most athletes were going to places to simulate the conditions. Yes, if the runners were not smart there would be carnage, but most probably knew what they were capable of handling in the conditions - Sammy Wanjiru certainly did.

I think the smart pacing of Ritz and Hall should be admired, as it earned 9th and 10th places, respectively. I think this was a great performance, and given their ages, they will be back for London in four years, where there will probably be other Kenyans and Ethiopians to contend with.

I am continually astunded by the ability to run Sub 5 minute miles 26 times, consecutively. I know there is a formula to making yourself faster, but that kind of fast is so amazing.


So it is official, I am registered to participate in the 31st running of the Cape Cod Marathon. I guess part of the reasoning was that there is not a Marathon in my hometown of Plymouth, and I always wanted to run my first marathon close to where my running career began. Bay State was just filling up way too quick, and 2 x 13.1 road loops was not really that appealing to me. I really wanted to run a point to point or loop course. Obviously with it being a shoreline course I have assumed the possibility of the weather being absolutely nasty, not to mention the wind.

It is sort of cool though, the marathon is on October 26th, which is around the time my college XC season would be peaking with our conference meet. I think it is also sort of appropriate that the same weekend I was once preparing for a big race in college will still be big in this, my second life as a runner. It certainly makes me reflect here on August 23rd how long and short the Fall can be. In some ways there are over 8 weeks of training between now and then, but in the same light.... there are only 8 weeks! It is hard paying a large fee for a race with so much time to go before the gun, but if I wait a couple more weeks, I may not have a spot in the race. Definitely a paradox.

Now with a commitment for the race I am locked in. There is really no backing out now. I have been waiting for this and I really hope this is the endurance race that inspires me to do longer and tougher races.

As of right now, the calendar just has the Run to the Rock in two weeks, and, of course, the Cape Cod Marathon. As far as goals are concerned, I'd like to run Cape Cod in under 4 hours, and, depending on the conditions in two weeks, I really think I can run the Half Marathon in 1:45 or 1:50. Breaking 2 hours is the basic goal, but there are too many extended downhills on the second half of the course that can be attacked to warrant anything more than 2 hours. Of course, if the conditions that forced me to not run last year's race are present I'll still be running, but it will be a far different strategy.

Beyond Plymouth and Cape Cod, I am hoping to get back on the trails for more endurance and trail racing. Perhaps the Fat Ass 50k in January and then any number of options for a spring ultramarathon. Locally the Pinelands Races in Maine, or, not so locally, the Promise Land 50k down in Virginia:

There is so much out there I want to try!

In any event, I imagine once the bug population takes a dip in September I will be back entrenched on the trails, even with road running goals.

Training update when I get around to my long run today!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Some Olympic Running Thoughts.....

The Men's Olympic 10k was amazing.

Team running at it's finest as it really looked like a tri-meet between the Kenyan, Ethiopian and Eritrean men. Tadesse Bekele's last lap was amazing. Navigating the traffic of lapped runners and keeping the focus and awareness of where the other lead runners were is something that other's can't really understand unless you have ever been in a situation where you are trying to sprint through traffic in a larger race. It was also amazing to see Haile be so successful as the elder statesman of the 10k field. I really would have liked to see Geb run the Marathon as he was originally pegged for before pollution concerns caused him to dial back to the 10k.

Speaking of the elite elders, Tomescu from Romania was amazing in her Olympic Marathon performance. It takes an amazing amount of guts and fortitude to break away from the lead pack with over 9 miles to go in the race. It has been widely mentioned that this is her tactic in marathons, and she has won and lost using this tactic, but I have to say that I was glued to the TV while my wife and brother in law were puzzled by my trance-like interest in a seemingly boring event. Nonetheless, it was amazing to see that her move proved to be at the right time and she cruised to Olympic Gold.

Definite congrats go out to Shalane Flanagan for her run in the Women's Olympic 10k. Shalane is a runner I have followed over the years, basically because she was a Massachusetts Cross Country and Track standout at Marblehead HS. When she ran well at UNC and set herself apart from other collegiate runners and began to ascend on to the world class level, it was clear that one of the Mass HS phenoms might actually break through on the Olympic level one day. With her medal she sets herself apart from the other outstanding MA runners that have yet to accomplish 'Olympic Hero' status.

As I type.... Wow, Jamaican women go 1-2-3 in the 100m final.... speaking of fast Jamaicans, is Usian Bolt not insane, as well as insanely fast?

Kiprop from Kenyan just smoked the field in the 1500 meter semis.... he, too, made it look way too easy and is scary fast! Lopez Lomong will definitely be back in London four years from now.

Worried about Bernie Lagat on the bell lap...... were is he? There he is..... there he goes.... no automatic qualifying spot.... time? Nope, .2 off and out. What a disappointing Olympics for USA 1500m runners.... Alan Webb doesn't even make the team and Lagat doesn't even make the final. Lopez Lomong and Manzano are definitely the rising young talent, but at this point Webb and Lagat have flamed out after so much hope.

Wow, China's super hurdler Lu Jong is out.... achilles injury, having had achilles issues in the past he is done for the Olympics... Does this not rival the American let down with with the 1500m for the Chinese Track team?

Training - An Update

My goals for this past week were to slow it down a little and keep the mileage a little lower as this is a step back week according to the marathon training plan I am using. The basic capstone of the week was a long run of 11 miles, which should have been gravy since the last three weeks have featured long runs of 13, 14, and 15 miles, respectively.

Sunday - Rest day - After running 15.3 miles Saturday the rest was welcome. I did actually get out and walk a couple of miles, though, but it is always good giving the body a chance to recover and rebuild. I was also impressed that on a very full weekend socially with rehearsal and pre wedding festivities Thursday, Wedding Friday, and Pool Party for the newlyweds Saturday, I still made time to get in my prescribed training. Definitely a good sign!

Monday - Another Rest Day - Alright, probably not exactly what I was hoping for, but life happened. Didn't run before work and then I was tempted with Pizza and family time after work, which screwed with my usual time table for training. Rest and recovery might be okay for the legs in the long run, pardon the pun!

Tuesday - 5.5m Tempo Run - What started as an innocent tempo run descended into an internal "I triple dog dare you to try to push for another mile". First mile, 7:47, not bad, good tempo pace for my current fitness, plus if things get hairy I can back off a little, right? Mile 2, 7:32, okay, this is like last summer's 5k pace, but I wonder if I push a little, can I sustain it? Mile 3, 7:08, AHHHHH, I said a little push, I don't feel too trashed, let see if I can hold it (I double dog dare you!)..... Mile 4, 7:06, okay, this is crazy, I now know I am faster than last year, but can I sustain this pace a little longer (I TRIPLE dog dare you!)? Again, back off anytime you feel too thrashed. MILE 5, 6:52, ............, not sure where all this came from? Smashed my PRs for 5k and 5 miles from last summer, but my feeling is that PRs are only good when you do them on race day. A big step up, though, and good to see I am more fit than I was last Thanksgiving where it hurt to run 7:52 pace for a 5 mile road race.

Wednesday - 8.1m Marathon Pacing Run - After yesterday's descent into insanity, I felt alright. The whole point of this run was to get in some sort of training around goal marathon pace. Again, faster feet prevailed and I ended up running most miles around 7:55 to 8:05 pace, when I should have been up closer to 8:30 to 8:40. Ugh.

Thursday - No run - Eldest son's birthday + not getting up to run early before work = no training in the PM, plus I killed a basket of chicken fingers and fries at Friendly's for dinner. Chipotle sauce will not be coming with me to any of my race day nutrition meetings! BAH!

Friday - 4 miles - Half day at work, then to the "company beach blowout" where the Ipswich Ale flowed and I swam for while (against the current) and tossed around the children. It was actually sort of impressive that I made it out to run when we got home. Stupidly, 4 miles in 32:23, which is a little fast for an easy run the day before a long run.

Saturday - 11.1 miles - Absolute crapulence. Last week I ran 15.3 and managed to run the last 5 with a couple accelerations, without having to stop over the 2 hours and 10 minutes it took. Over 1 hour and 39 minutes I basically participated in a death march. Nothing felt comfortable. I felt the soreness from the swimming and lifting of children. Plus, as cool as the temperature seemed for the duration of the run, the humidity seemed awfully high because I was pouring with sweat. I made it through all 32 ounces of fluid and had numerous walking breaks. Not so much a demoralizing run, as much as it was a frustrating and embarrassing run. I also noticed that it might partially be because I had run fairly soon after waking up and didn't necessarily have something solid in my stomach... taking note of such things.

Weekly Mileage - 28.7
August - 79.5m
Year to date: 651.5 miles

I think some of what transpired this week was based on a very good long run last weekend. I was able to run my 15 miler on a large portion of the course for the Run to the Rock Half-Marathon in Plymouth. In fact, many of the spray paint markings on the roads to signify the 5k splits and mile markers are still visible, so it was interesting and kept my mind off of over analysis of pace. One initiative for the run was to get the 15 miles prescribed in my marathon training, but I was also testing my body, and how the last 5 or 6 miles during the half marathon would feel on the actual terrain and in a similiar lactic acid situation. Additionally, I was gauging if there were any spots that might be accommodating for step backs or surges. The splits for my last 7 miles were 8:30, 8:04, 8:16, 8:30, 8:15, 8:06, and 8:13. Conditions were very good, and I was very smart with hydration and calorie intake on the run. I think this run, combined with my run Tuesday really got me thinking outside of my ultimate goal: finishing a marathon. Obviously, finishing a half-marathon in the 1:40's as opposed to the 1:50's would be a marker of improved fitness since starting to run again, but I think my focus slipped a little, and, as in past experience, when speed is something I try to improve on, at least at this point in my physical abilities, it usually results in a strain and nagging injury.

Next week should be more focused. The capstone this week will be the 16 mile run - no speed play here! A little under 3 weeks to the Run to the Rock Half! Hoping for continued health and good training. Can anyone believe Autumn is fast approaching? Traditionally my favorite time of the year because of XC season.... Certainly not the same as I am much slower than I was in college, and want to wait a season before perhaps running some higher level XC races, but Saturday Mornings with the Spikes and teammates were perhaps my best memories from college.

Happy Trails Everyone!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Long Run: A Parable

I love running because of the simplicity. In fact, I get a little uneasy when conversations of hydration belts, gels, electrolytes, and strategies come into the room and take the focus away from the beauty of the sport. Sure, many of the above allow runners to accomplish greater feats and enjoy the sport in greater doses, but I think the magic and the greatest understanding of the answer to the ultimate question: "So, why do you run?"is encapsulated in two elements: the runner and the journey.

My initial disappointment and inevitably destructive attitude when I was trying to whip myself back into shape the first couple of times were because I was trying to feed the feeling. The desire to go further on the course, and deeper into myself. I stood fat and cardiovascularly challenged, remembering the peace and serenity I often found during my Sunday long runs in college. Sometimes it was about the view, other times it was about the sense of accomplishment, but most of the time it was the freedom to be away from the other factors in life that subdue our senses and cause us to put on a facade to appear to be the right person in the right place. Over the long run, it is just you and the distance.

On a few occasions I have had the privilege to train with other runners and share simple, yet profound, observations of the more important things in life. My freshman year of college was my first year of cross country, and my first year training with a weekly long run. As one of the faster frosh, the second fastest runner on the team, I was given the task of shadowing the senior captain of the team each Sunday afternoon. It didn't take long before John and I were sharing stories from our personal lives as we chased the miles away. You learn to trust others quickly, and spending so much time training together you establish a trust. Not only does the long run teach trust, but it begs honesty.

There is absolutely no faking it on the long run. I have trained with people that have not opened up to me about all of their issues and beliefs, but there is almost always a mutual respect. It is established that everyone in the group is asked to accomplish the same thing. Some might do it faster and with more grace, but at the end of the journey, we are all part of the same club. This is the lesson I wish we could teach to everyone around the world. Perhaps this is revelation that could end the horrors of our time. The human race is the same. At the end of the journey we are all brothers and sisters through the experience. It is true that I have no clue what it feels like to be racially profiled, or have to wake up each morning worrying about bullets flying through the window, or know the depression and destitution of homelessness, but I have experienced pain, depression, happiness, and accomplishment. Emotionally we are all on the same level.

Individually, though, the long run represents reflection and challenge. One week your long run can be filled with pain and disappointment, the next it can be a flowing work of art where you simply cruise over the miles without a care in the world. It can be a period of time where one is lost in the euphoria of effortlessness, and then around another corner the pain of every plodding step is felt to the core. Whether the effort is easy or hard, the fact remains that we choose to face whatever comes. Hills, stream crossings, snowfields, traffic filled intersections, open fields of alfalfa, dusty deserts..... Adversity, challenge, loneliness, chaos, happiness, despair.... life and the long run are both a continuous interwoven cloth of separate moments.

As in life, the only way to approach the long run is to simply put one foot in front of the other.

Happy trails!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Where Have I Been.....

First, I want to apologize because as I am conceiving the words of this entry in my mind I have about three different threads of thought working. As someone who is extremely susceptible to going off on separate tangents I will do my best to keep everything in line. So as Stephen King might say: "Bear with me, constant reader".

Plans for the Fall...
So this trail runner has had some fun these last few weeks running a couple longer trail races. Blue Hills was the toughest thing I have ever done, and the Greenbelt was one of those races of which I am not particularly proud, but I got to meet other trail runners, which is inspiring on its own. To be honest, since the greenbelt race I have been entirely running on the roads. No particular reason, but for someone who wants to be considered a trail runner, this is sort of embarrassing. Nonetheless, one subconscious reason has been because my short term and Fall goals are centered around running two road oriented races.

First, I have a score to even with the "Run to the Rock" Half Marathon. Last year I entered a week before the race, foolishly thinking I could run the race. It was a "I have the guts" moment, and Plymouth my hometown, and the course following some of my old training routes, and finishing a quarter mile from my parents house, made the allure too much to resist. Plus, there was that matter of never officially racing at a distance more than 10 miles. Back in my swifter days I was relegated to the track and cross country paths, but never raced anything longer than 10 miles (South Mountain 10 Miler, 65:07, Lehigh Valley, PA 1997 and Yankee Homecoming 10 miler, 61:57, Newburyport 1999) and the Great Stew Chase 15k (Lynn, MA 1999 - perhaps my finest hour running roads - 55:39 - 5:59 pace). Basically, between a nagging knee injury, and temps on the morning of the race ranging from 85 to 90, I punked out. It was probably a good move as hindsight would have it. I ran three miles that morning and completely flopped. So alas, I stand awaiting the challenge of the gun on the morning of September 6th, MUCH more prepared to deal with running in the heat and humidity.

Run to the Rock Half Marathon

Basically I am using the Run to the Rock as a tune-up for my first marathon. One more interesting point is that two weeks ago I laid out my plans looking at the half marathon as a good tune-up, and a "can I do it?" moment, since most of 'long runs' in the last six months have been 10-12 miles, and not much fun. Sure, it is 1.1 miles from 12, but I have been unable to really keep a weekly long run in my training as it usually aggravates an overuse injury, which has been the end result of two other attempts to run that illusive marathon. In any event, my plan is to run the Bay State Marathon. The hard part is that most training plans are set on an 18 week schedule and I jumped in with about 13 weeks to go until Bay State. Part of the idea was to run Bay State to help out my running club in the USATF-NE Grand Prix standings, as last year our club only had three guys in the Cape Cod Marathon for the GP race. I guess the latter part of the challenge is sort of a moot point, as running my first marathon really is the goal, and frankly, if I am going to compete in any 'series' I'd rather have it be the Grand Tree series or the eastern NE trail series.

So far my training has gone well. Two weeks in an two long runs completed - 12 and 14 miles respectively, and the good news is that after completing the long runs, I am sure the first piece of the puzzle - the Run to the Rock - will not be a problem, or will leave me with doubts about running Bay State. But more on that to come.

There is an outside chance I am waiting too long to enter Bay State, as the race is capped at 1500 this year, and at this point in time there are less than 500 spots left. The good news is that this is New England, and there is always a place to run a marathon in the Fall. The Cape Cod Marathon would be one very attractive option as I am basically someone born and raised near the Cape, and, of course, I have the option of running Stone Cat, but with the growing popularity, and a smaller field allowance, I might miss out there, too.

Either way, I feel blessed that I am able to once again think about training plans and setting somewhat more challenging goals. A couple years ago it was running a 5k without having to stop and walk, and this past weekend I ran 14 miles without walking. Great times.

I think I am just going to publish this one and begin another post.

Happy trails!