Saturday, February 27, 2010

Preview: Hyannis Marathon, or, 'My Education as an Ultrarunner'

I don't have too much time to dilly or dally, as I need to get in the car and start heading south toward Cape Cod, but I have so many feelings about the marathon this weekend that I feel like I need to set at least one or two free.

I think I view this race as a chance to learn something. But, wait... Is there really a race, or, if we are lucky enough, a run where we aren't taught something about our lives, or our personality, or our friends? I know most of the time on the shorter runs I am transfixed with form and pace that I miss the teaching moments, but I imagine that is why the longer runs, hikes, and adventures bring out the most in us. Eventually the action becomes rote and we are able to see beyond the basic.

I feel prepared. I slept - which is a huge win for an insomniac like me. I tapered, another win for a runaholic like me. I feel dreadfully under prepared strategy wise, and am not altogether convinced I have a decent fueling strategy. I am thinking of going with gels, but they are natural and the last thing I need is a body rejecting gels early on. I might try ultra foods, but I'd have to carry my own supply or at least have family throw me a supply for the second loop. I have been thinking of trying sweet potatoes, as Trailgrrl and kZ have been talking about how well those worked for them during the recent Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50k, but as the wisdom suggests, do not try new things on race day. Unfortunately, I need to try something new because I got nothing. :-)

My body seems to be in a good place, my left achilles seems a little tender, and I am not entirely sure why, but that is basically it.

So I guess I am ready! This race is another race is really a dream for me. It is largely a lower key winter marathon (don't tell Paulie I said that!), but it is one that I have been hoping to do ever since I started running again nearly 4 years ago. Last year I sat here injured blogging about how I wish I could run three miles, and wish I could have been running the Hyannis. This year I am health enough to do so, which is a blessing in itself!

Happy Trails!

Monday, February 22, 2010

One Week to 'Go' Time!

I must admit I am a little nervous about my 'real' marathon debut coming up next weekend. My body is definitely going through I bit of a metamorphasis, and I have felt like a training butterfly lately fluttering from one long run to the next, with no cares about any set plans. In fact, this week I took the initiative for the first time to even look at a training plan to get an idea of what I should and should not be doing these last couple of weeks ahead of the marathon.

I know taper is the word, but I look at next week as just another long run in a succession of long runs to prepare me for the longer adventures I hope to tackle. I know that staying healthy is key, and all this mileage on the roads has been great because it has kept me fit and focused for bigger things this spring, summer, and fall, but I know the pounding on the roads can come at a cost.

Two weeks ago I put in 37 miles, and I am hard pressed to believe I got anywhere near that number in 2009, but most of the mileage was accumulated during a couple long runs at a very easy pace. This we I backed off a little and ran about 23 miles, but I am starting to understand that this easy pace is what can preserve the body through the weeks and months, as long as we respect our limitations and know where the line must be drawn with the fast, hard training that is so necessary, but can be damaging as well.

I feel like these last couple of weeks I have found a little more endurance, and have logged a couple 10+ mile runs without walking breaks. They have been slow, but they have been liberating, and encouraging. One of those runs happened today, and where I was happy that it occurred, and happy that I am just a hair off of bring my easy road pace down into the 8's instead of the 9 or 10 min per mile pace, I am left wondering how in the hell I am going to finish a marathon next weekend.

My 19.7 mile pain fest that happened a few weeks back is still looming in my mind, especially the last 4 miles that were about as painful as I can remember, and a large part of that was due in part to improper pacing. Today when I went out I wanted to use a run walk strategy, but I also just wanted to run. So I took it easy and smooth, and I resisted looking at my watch. I wanted to 'feel' it. Great news was that I felt pretty good, but could start to feel the fatigue setting in, and wrapped up 10.25 miles feeling like I didn't have another 16 miles in the tank... Maybe another 4 or 5, but certainly not 16.2. The fatigue probably also had something to do with a fast 3.5 miles run Saturday in my Vibrams, but it doesn't really address the issue of bad pace.

Granted at 9:05/mile pace, a pace I knew I wouldn't be running next weekend, I failed in grasping the purposes of this final long run. I know I need to run slower, I know I probably should use a run/walk strategy, and I know I love all this.

Let's face it, if anything, I am psyched that most of my runs lately have been at a set distance, but I always seem to find that little voice that says, "Go a little longer". Maybe this is that initial stage of really becoming an ultra runner? David Horton's quote from 'The Runner': " I am a runner. I like to cover distances; I like to cover miles", seems to resonate more and more each day.

I just wish I had a better idea how to solve the algebra problem that is my race next weekend. It is like a proof where all I have is a start line, finish line, and my body. The problem lies in figuring out how to 'x' from A to B.

This is such a weird place, I can see that 2010 might be a much better year than 2009 for me, but in the present I have a marathon that I kinda, sorta, but not formally trained for!

So here comes the taper. I'll shut up, rest up and revel in the grab bag of training that included all of the long runs that one usually gets in preparation... perhaps in a little different order, but I must be confident I did run the miles.

At the very least, I'll get the road marathon out of the system and off the list, and then will think about Pineland Farms. I was thinking about Traprock, but I am going to clear out the schedule and set my sights for, most likely, the Pineland Farms 50k. Probably throwing in a few of the Grand Tree and Eastern New England Trail Series Races for good measure between now and then, but I think the next race I run will be done with a proper training base and schedule.

Who knows... the joy is in the journey as much as it is in arriving at the destination.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thoughts and Ramblings...

First, I need to apologize because I have Uriah Heap's 'Easy Livin'' blaring in my headphones, which makes me want to be EVEN less conformist than usual! I guess I'll give it a shot, though.

This past week of training went about as well as trying to sail a submarine with a screen door across the Atlantic Ocean. I did do strength training a couple times this week, and ran both Sunday (10.2 miles) and Monday (7 miles), but my diet was atrocious. It seems like every day I'd spend the day happily engrossed in the plan - all natural, all the time, with small meals more frequently, and then in the shadows of the night I'd sneak a cookie, or a bunch of pretzels, or a half a box of wheat thins. Then I spent the weekend visiting family and my Mom hoisted out a large carrot cake for my birthday, which is my kryptonite.

I like Trail Pixie's thoughts, that extra baggage is just energy stored for later on, and this weekend I am pretty sure I stored enough of that extra energy to last about two months. Today I am back on the wagon, but it is early yet!

To the running, I was a little bummed that I had to miss out on the Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50k this weekend, but I have been swept back into 'family first' mode, which is fine, and was probably what I needed since my body felt terrible this weekend. I was able to get out early Sunday Morning to stomp on some of the old home ground. I had every intention of running 20 miles, but evidently there is an unspoken law of nature that suggests you are not supposed to run more miles than degrees of air temperature, and it wasn't until after I realized my handheld water bottle was frozen about 45 minutes in that it was slightly more than just a little chilly! In fact, when I left it was 13 over the course of the two hours I was outside the temp only rebounded to 19! Brrr....

Even before the run I found my Garmin had about five minutes of battery life, which was really distracting, since my only other alternative was my old Timex that has a burnt out bottom half of the digital readout. So you can tell 1, 4, 7 on the read out, but the top halfs of 8 and 9 are the same, as are 5 and 6, and 2 and 3. It makes for great fun trying to plan walking breaks!

Distracted, but not deterred, I dropped the idea of run/walking 20 miles and just figured I run whatever I felt. No way I was going to let a PB&Rasberry all-fruit go to waste!

A few shots along the way:

(Plymouth Harbor and the Mayflower just ahead of the sunrise)(Where It all began...)(Surf kicked up by the blizzard off in the Atlantic)
(Composition-wise a terrible shot, but for some reason I really like it)
(I was able to find a little single track!)

The run was actually sort of invigorating - not because of the cold - as I love running at pre-dawn and sunrise whenever I am at home. There are few things that compare with watching the congress of sea and shore, especially a day or two removed from a big storm, and then see the brilliant sunlight cascade over everything.

For a while I thought I might be able to get in all 20 miles by running a couple long out and backs, only stopping to refuel at my Mom's house, but as mentioned, my hydration was limited, and I found both of my quads were deep red and itchy like crazy when I got back into the heat of the house. I am still wondering if it was an allergic reaction to the detergent that my running clothes were washed in, or the beginnings of frost bite.

The brewing coffee was more than I could bear, and I figured 10 miles with a bolus of Blue Moon, pizza, and nachos in my belly was a respectable showing... good grief.

Okay, not to uncomfortably segway into bodily functions and the advantages of trail running, but with the amount of road running I have been doing lately, I have realized that long runs on the roads suck primarily for the lack of opportunistic locations to release excess bodily waste. I have almost found it more comfortable running the roads at night because at least an extinguished headlamp provides the right level of incognito to fertilize the roadside shrubbery. For all the ladies out there, I can't even imagine!

So back to running!

Last night I was content heading out for an easy RUN. That is right, an actual RUN. I realized that with all this ultra training I have been doing, where run/walk strategies have been the focus, I haven't been doing too much straight up running.

The goal was to run 20 minutes easy, which, of course, morphed into 30 minutes, and then into an hour as I realized I had a little more cardiovascular fitness deep down than anticipated. I kept it easy and relaxed, focusing in on effortless footsteps and form. In the end I finished a little more than 7 miles over the hour of running, running negative splits for each consecutive mile!

Seven miles and an hour of running isn't all that impressive, but for me it is a baseline and a place to work from in the effort to increase my long RUN mileage and time back to the levels I was at over a year ago.

Before closing off this post, I have been thinking more about 2010, and with recently family situations springing up, I realize that this year should be about accomplishing goals and realizing dreams, becasue we never really know what tomorrow holds.

With this in mind, I am looking at my race schedule for 2010, and where I have only committed to the Hyannis Marathon, my goals include:

2/28 - Hyannis Marathon
4/3? - Traprock 50k (maybe?)
5/30 - Pineland Farms 50k/50m
10/31 - Marine Corps Marathon (for my Dad & Grandfather).
11/20 - JFK 50 miler

Yes, it does go a little against the grain of local offerings and staying strictly on the trails, but MCM and JFK are races that are chock full of meaning for me, and if I can get into both and stay healthy I will be extremely satisfied with my year.

End of post soundtrack - 'Godzilla' by Blue Oyster Cult... gotta love it... "History shows again and again, how nature points out the folly of man. Run, Run, Robzilla!"