Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 9, 2011: Chicago Marathon (minus 8.2 miles)

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
~ Michael Jordan

The day.   The race.   4 solid months of training leading up to today.

After a typical night of restlessness (maybe 5.5 hours of sleep), I was up at 5:00 am to down my usual bowl of oatmeal with peanutbutter, cherries, raisins, and half a banana.   After an hour of resting, listening to relaxing Tibetan Wind Chimes, then a half hour of last minute gear assemblage and an FRS (lowcal Berry), Monica and I were making our way to the start.

Stress!  They are rigid about getting into your corral at the start(10 minutes beforehand).   I actually had to jump a fence to enter the C corral, then make my way up through C, B, and A before getting to where the sub-Elites start.   This gave me two minutes before the gun went off.

Mile 1 5:10.   Felt great.   The first mile seems to drop a little, and significant time is spent under overpasses in a tunnel (where it was really warm).   Massive group with/around/behind... that being said, I was a little fast, but there was a slight downhill.

Mile 2 5:22.   Elapsed time 10:32.  More like it.   Got into a really nice groove, and considering the slight climb, felt like I was right on the money.   Took a vanilla GU, mainly because I felt like it had been 2 hours since I'd ingested any calories.  This might be something that affected me later.  

Mile 3 5:18.   Elapsed time 15:50.  Perfect.  mindless.  effortless.

Mile 4 5:16.   Elapsed time 21:05.  Perfect.  smooth.   felt great.   still plenty of company.

Mile 5 5:15.   Through 5 miles in 26:20 (my goal was to be here in 26:30-26:35).   Felt like I needed to back off just a little bit.

Mile 6 5:19.   Elapsed time 31:39.  Perfect.  Later rolled through 10K in 32:51.   Definitely in a stone cold groove at this point.   Very deliberate in pooring water on my head and chest at every water station.   Getting a little warm, but not alarmingly so.

Mile 7 5:12.   At this point, I actually drifted off and away from the nucleus of guys (and a couple of ladies) running with the 2:19 group.  There was some downhill, but this mile felt a little short.

Mile 8 5:33.   Elapsed time 42:25.  Definitely long.  If I backed off on this mile, it wasn't by more than 5-6 seconds.   Mile 7+8=10:45 (or 5:22 pace)  Took a roctane GU here after the water station.

Mile 9 5:20.   Elapsed time 47:46.  Running with a group of 3-4 guys, maybe 40 feet behind 2:19 group.   Feeling comfortable.

Mile 10 5:18.   Elapsed time 53:04.  (my goal was to be here in 53min)  Felt great.  Ran with some guy from Phili for much of this mile and the next 2.

Mile 11 5:15.   Elapsed time 58:20.  Ate a little into the gap between us and the mob ahead.

Mile 12 5:17.   Elapsed time 1:03:37.  Running well, feeling good... getting warm.

Mile 13 5:20.   Later rolled through the Half-Marathon in 1:09:35.   Perfect!   feeling really good.

Mile 14 5:18.9.  Elapsed time 1:14:16.  got a water bottle from JC and Jesse Williams picked me up here.   feeling good.   took another Roctane.

Mile 15 5:23.   Elapsed time 1:19:39.  Beginning of the end.  This mile felt good, but near end my abs tightened up considerably on both sides.  Leading up to this mile, I'd been sipping a little gatorade at each of the previous 2-3 stations.  Not a good idea.

Mile 16 5:30.   Elapsed time 1:25:10.  Trying to relax, but acid reflux reaction has me spitting up gatorade/gu combo.  I told myself, it's ok to have a rough spell...there is plenty of race to be run and my legs still feel great.

Mile 17 5:33.   Elapsed time 1:30:43.  Desparately trying to relax, but at this stage, tightness has spread from my core to my legs.  Smoothness is gone.  Jesse back up and running with me.   Getting warm!

Mile 18 6:01.   Elapsed time 1:36:45.  Basically, this was a jog.  Felt really lousy too.  After running 5:30 pace the last two miles and basically have my rhythm in a nosedive, this seemed like the right call.

2.5 miles back to the finish line.

Disappointing, but on another level slightly encouraging.   I trained my tail off to get to this day, and it didn't go well.   Because of the warmth (I won't call it heat, because it was under 80 degrees, unlike many other years in recent history here), I was concerned about my mineral intake.   Sipping gatorade, and taking my feeds a little early hurt me(my normal pattern is first one at 6 miles, 2nd one at 12 miles, 3rd one at 18 miles.  Today I'd had three by 14, plus some gatorade)  The really sad(but encouraging) thing is my legs felt great.    After cramping up, my breathing was really labored over the 16th and 17th miles.   Not only was I able to jog 2.5 miles back to the finish line, later in the day I ran a mile and a half to get some tickets:  far from shattered.   I most definitely believe there is a sub 2:19 in these legs sooner as opposed to later.   

I've got 8 weeks to find out.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

9 Hours to Race Time

I'm about to hit the sack for some restless sleep... It's always that way for me before race day.   I cannot wait to put my training to the test against the Marathon here in Chicago.   I've just spent the last couple hours looking over my last 4 months.... close to 20 weeks.  Without a doubt it's the best running I have ever done in my life.    The race doesn't always validate the training, but the training sure as hell gets you ready for the race.

Looking back over the last 20 odd weeks, I know I took myself to that edge of doing as much as I could in preparation for tomorrow.   I might have done too much.   I also have a three week taper to thank for finally feeling like I'm at 100% again.     

Tomorrow is race day.   

Like Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman said:
"The real purpose of running isn't to win a race; it's to test the limits of the human heart."

I can't wait.

Below is a link to my training log for those curious to see exactly how i've been spending my time in running shoes leading up to Chicago.

9 Hours to Race Time

I'm about to hit the sack for some restless sleep... It's always that way for me before race day.   I cannot wait to put my training to the test against the Marathon here in Chicago.   I've just spent the last couple hours looking over my last 4 months.... close to 20 weeks.  Without a doubt it's the best running I have ever done in my life.    The race doesn't always validate the training, but the training sure as hell gets you ready for the race.

Looking back over the last 20 odd weeks, I know I took myself to that edge of doing as much as I could in preparation for tomorrow.   I might have done too much.   I also have a three week taper to thank for finally feeling like I'm at 100% again.     

Tomorrow is race day.   

Like Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman said:  
"The real purpose of running isn't to win a race; it's to test the limits of the human heart."

I can't wait.

Below is a link to my training log for those curious to see exactly how i've been spending my time in running shoes leading up to Chicago.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Philadelphia Half Marathon

September 18, 2011  8am

The following is an excerpt from my training log:

Weather:  Perfect Temp… mild winds up to 13-14mph.    Got a great warmup in:  walked a mile at 6:15 am so Monica could get some coffee, got back to hotel, ran 2.5 miles easy on treadmill from 8:00 - 7:30 pace, did a couple of light strides, stretched, jogged to start line with some more strides.   Perfect warmup.  Felt great.

mile 1    4:58       felt relaxed, but fast... tons of people ahead and behind, easy to draft, easy to move around
mile 2    5:05       settled in… let the massive group get away
mile 3    5:09       trying to find rhythm… running solo or maybe with 1 other guy, running good lines
mile 4    5:06       top ladies caught up… got in a better groove
mile 5    5:04       hanging with ladies (+10 other guys!)
mile 6    5:11       fell away from group (quads began tying up.. flooding with lactate…way early)
mile 7    5:12       slowly melted off off group
mile 8    5:16.5   struggling
mile 9    5:25       really struggled, although there was a slight uphill before two 90 degree turns and a bridge
mile 10  5:15       downhill mile, started to feel better
mile 11  5:10       got in a good groove, trying to embrace “the suck”, which it did
mile 12  5:15       still fighting
mile 13  5:24.5    got my ass kicked… legs ran out of juice.  heart rate too high; not my day.
last .1      :35    

gun time 1:08:13   chip time 1:08:11

today was a 7 out of 10.   I wanted to run a full 90 seconds faster, but i’m proud of the way i continued to fight.  heart was funny, maybe some arrhythmia around the 8-10 mile marks of race.. would have been interesting to see a monitor (but i hate wearing those during races)   felt OK on warmdown.  Another thing that strikes me is in training during tempo runs, my first mile is always my slowest.   I think running that first mile fast is fine, but I think I'd be more ready for it if I practiced the same way. 

I still feel really good about my upcoming run in Chicago.  Truth be told, I haven’t felt great since Lost Lake.  Lost Lake is the sort of race that can take it out of you:  seeing as how i hammered the last 3 miles of the downhill there so hard, there’s probably a correlation between SORE QUADS during the race and how they felt today.  Katie(my massage therapist) remarked how stiff and inflexible they were on Tuesday.   I came into this race on the heels of 87 miles over the last 8 days, so although I was more rested than usual, I was really knackered from the week before.  A week ago I felt really lousy at the end of my 22 mile run, so all things considered, I might even say I ran well.   I can't help but think of Ryan Hall running a 1:03:53 at the NYC Half 4 weeks before running a 2:04:58 leading up to the 2011 Boston Marathon.    This was not the race I am training for:   Chicago is.   I can't wait.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Goal of a Sub 2:19

In 2007, leading up to the 2008 Olympic Trials, the "B" Standard for qualifying was sub 2:22.  To run sub 2:22, one must average 5:22 miles for 26.2 miles.  Running into a headwind in Boston in April 2007, I knew it would be tough for me to achieve the standard.  I rolled through the half-marathon in 1:11:00, but couldn't maintain the pace up the Newton hills, nor down the hills all the way down to Boyleston St.  I ended up with a PR of 2:24:47, but that was as close as I came to running under 2:22.

Before the 2008 US Olympic Men's Marathon Trials, there were only 47 US runners who ran under 2:19:00 in the preceding 3 years leading to the event.   As of today, September 1st, there are 65 American men who have run under 2:19:00, but now there is no B Standard of 2:22 (No B Standard which allowed an additional 130 runners to participate in the '08 Trials ).   Now, I have to say, 150+ American men vying for 3 olympic marathon spots is ridiculous when it's common knowledge to anyone in the know that really those 3 spots are going to be taken by 3 out of perhaps 15 very good runners.   I don't have a problem with seeing the B Standard of 2:22 gone.   In the last four years, more American men have broken 2:19 than the preceding four by 50%.  Now instead of having to average faster than 5:22 per mile, one has to run faster than 5:18 per mile if they wish to toe the line with the nation's best marathoners this January in Houston.  Below is a link with all the men that have qualified to date (note:  some have also qualified based on the merit of a sub 1:05 Half-Marathon, or a sub 28:45 10K.   At the moment, I am not one of those speed demons)

Flash forward to 2011.   April 18, Boston Marathon.   Boston Marathon revisited.   The wind blows in the opposite direction.   The wind blows at the backs of all runners, and the world's fastest marathon ever run is completed by Geoffrey Mutai in 2:03:02.  Ryan Hall runs 2:04:58.   Jerome Ross runs a PR of 2:24:32.   Now, a PR is great, but considering the day, and also considering the day in Boston in 2007, I have to say a sub 2:20 would have been on par with my pre-existing PR.  To run under 2:19 on a normal day, there is still plenty of work for me to do.

It is five weeks to Chicago, and I have done plenty of work.   The last fifteen weeks, I have averaged 92+ miles.   I have been extremely fortunate to have avoided injury and major illness.  Running over 100 miles in a week is no longer a big deal.  A week in the 80s is a recovery week.  I have run a 10K PR and I have broken my course record at Lost Lake on a day not meant for course records.  Still there is work to do.  My taper doesn't begin in earnest until after the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which is September 18th:  3 weeks before Chicago.   In Philadelphia, I hope to run 13.1 miles somewhere close to 5:05 per mile pace.    This will make the 5:18 pace in Chicago feel comfortable.   Yes, there is still plenty of work to do.

Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug

Being sick is no fun.   Three days ago on Thursday morning, I woke up with a sore throat.   Me being the only member of a four person household who had somehow escaped being hamstrung with a nasty virus that has been making the rounds, I certainly had fears that I was vulnerable and this could really take me out.

Generally, when I get sick, I stay sick for a couple of weeks.   Being that the Philadelphia Half is on September 18, I really felt like I needed to stop this bug in its tracks.    I was proactive, and this was how I combated it:

Thai Soup:  2 courses.  One on Friday, and one on Saturday.   I love this stuff.  Loaded with salt, and spicy Thai chili sauce, I figure anything that makes the nose run has gotta be good.  Couple that with two batches of Monica's delicious Chicken soup and well, I feel like I'm living on a liquid diet for the past few days.   

Vitamins (really didn't deviate from what I've been doing, namely taking my liquid organic multi after running, and taking a dose of Hammer Nutrition Anti-Oxidants at the end of the day).   Also I've been taking liquid Vitamin D on a mostly regular basis.  I've been sure not to miss my daily dose.

Sleep.   I mean a lot of sleep.  I've been lousy at getting naps in the past 15 weeks, but the past 3 days I got three naps in.    Yesterday, I slept 11 hours.   I think this helped a lot.

Easy Runs.  It is not uncommon for my easy pace to drop down under 6:15 pace.   I made sure that the past three days, my heart rate stayed under 125 for easy runs, and for several of them, this meant running at 7:15 pace or slower.  Also, the past few days, I've done all my runs on the treadmill.   This gives me an escape parachute in case I'm really not feeling well, and want to quit on my run early.

Today, I finally felt like all my vitality had returned, although warming up for my Tempo-Long-Tempo workout, I had my doubts.   I told myself if things were bad (HR high, or general lousy feeling), I could pull the plug.   After my first Tempo mile, I really didn't feel good, but rationalized that I could make it through the 2 miles of Tempo, then evaluate how I felt.   I ended up feeling better and better, and can now hang my hat not only on a "Keystone" workout, but also a "Keystone" week.    Considering I ran Lost Lake 1 week ago, and had a very solid workout on Wednesday(17 miles w/ 2x3miles Tempo in 5:07 pace), this has been a very productive 8 days (128 miles with 3 great quality days).

Workout today:  
2 miles easy 14:41
2 miles of strides 13:07
2 x 2 miles Tempo (400 jog between): 10:20 - 10:18
6 miles easy (6:27 pace)
3 miles Tempo 15:20 (5:10 - 4:58 pace)
1 mile easy 7:27

I'm the windshield again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 27th, 2011: Lost Lake Race Recap

Last race of the year for me in Alaska was this year's Lost Lake Race.  The field set to toe the line was stellar:
  • Brent Knight  :  National Class Nordic Skier and Runner Up in 2011 Mt Marathon and Bird Ridge 
  • Matias Saari : 2011 Mat Peak Champion, Yukon River Marathon Champion, Moose's Tooth Marathon Champion, 3rd Place in Crow Pass, perennial Equinox Champion 
  • Brandon Newbould : 2010 New England Marathon Champion, 2:25 marathoner
  • Eric Strabel: 2011 Mt Marathon Champion, Crow Pass Runnerup
The anticipation of a great race against the field got me really excited, the one glaring omission being Mark Iverson, last year's runner up.   In last year's race, like most years on this course, I took the lead early and set a hard pace, running from far out front with the idea it would be hard for my competitors to catch me if they couldn't feel or see me.

Conditions from a climate standpoint were excellent:  Temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s and light rain.  From a footing standpoint, they were sub-par.  I'll take good climate any day, as it's really a bear to run in hot temperatures, extreme low temperatures, high humidity, or nasty wind.

The Climb

     For the most part, the first 5 1/2 miles 'roll up'.  There are 3-4 tough climbs that reduce many to a walk, but there are also flat or rolling downs that allow a fast runner to rally.   This part of the course marks the greatest extremes in pace.
     From the gun, I took off fast and hard, but what I deemed to be comfortable.   I felt someone off my shoulder for the first 15 minutes, thinking it was Brent (although it turned out to be Brandon).  This year, I told myself to be patient on the uphills, allowing myself to 'recover up', despite the increase in difficulty.   I tried to find that sweet spot of lactate flood, avoiding crossing that red line, no matter how slow I had to run uphill.    Then, at the crest of each hill, I was very deliberate in accelerating back to race 'tempo'... in other words, finding that spot just off the red line.

The Plateau

     The key word for this section of the course is undulation.   Marked by little flat running, the downhills are brief as are the climbs.   It's very easier to find rhythm on this section of the course.
     I felt great.Cresting through the trees to beyond treeline, approximately 5.5 miles into the race, real running begins.  No longer did I have to meter my effort on the uphills.   I felt like I ran this section very well.   Downhills were very fast, yet controlled.  Uphills were speed bumps that did little to deviate me from my rhythm.   Crossing the bridge at the river (52:53), I was totally in control and felt like I was picking up speed. Making my way up the final climb to the high point, I knew I was running well, but at the same time also knew I had reserve left in the event I'd have to fend off a charge from any one of the other guys who undoubtedly had me in their line of sight.

The Descent

     The last five miles of Lost Lake are fun to run because there really are no more climbs.   It's 90% downhill and 10% flat that feels like downhill.  If anything, the hardest part of the descent is staying on course, whether it's navigating a ridiculous 150 degree turn or even worse passing walkers or hikers just past one of these speed killing curves.
     Dropping off the high point (just before 10 miles), the course footing took a turn for the serious worse.   At some point around 9 miles on the ascent is where I generally begin to pass walkers in mass.   Off the top as the course begins to descend, this continues, and what made it particularly nettlesome this year was the combination of passing walkers AND poor footing.  It was REALLY slippery up top!   It was actually easier to run on the grass than the trail in a few spots.  Half a mile into the decent, I was fed up and angry.   The course at this point really didn't lend itself to my shoe of choice:  the Adidas Supernova Light:  A marathon racing flat, this shoe has seen me through plenty of fast miles, and I've taken to racing Lost Lake in a road flat, namely because i appreciate the cushion/flexibility combo and also the fact that when it's all said and done, my feet do not hurt (unlike 2010 when I ran in the Adidas Swoop IIs).   Also, there were numerous walkers that did not yield to me barreling down the trail.    I checked myself out mentally, and told myself:   "Screw it.   If someone wants to be a maniac and faster than me on this stuff, they can have it this year:  I've got too much at stake with Chicago only 6 weeks around the corner.  It's still a good marathon workout."   At this point, from 11 miles to 13 miles, I really felt like I lost an edge that was previously there.   From 13 miles for the next 1.75 miles or so to the trail head I ran hard, and gradually increased my resolve to win the race.   I also felt like like I was running 1:38 effort (over a minute slower than my record time of 1:36:50 from the year before.  I was shocked to pop off the trail onto the road at the trail head and see a time of 1:33.    With somewhere close to half a mile to go, I knew I could better my record!!   Talk about kicking into high gear.   I ended up running the last .3 miles in sub 4:20 pace and crossed the line in a new record of 1:35:17.

   The best part is not only did I run 93 seconds faster than the year before, on a lousy day for footing, but that I felt so good and had so much left at the end.

   I'm really excited for Chicago.

Mile Splits for 2011 Lost Lake Race 
(wheeled the day before by Matias!)
Mile 1 - 6:19
Mile 2 - 6:48
Mile 3 - 6:37
Mile 4 - 7:39
Mile 5 - 8:55
Mile 6 - 7:02
Mile 7 - 5:54
Mile 8 - 6:21
Mile 9 - 6:10
Mile 10 - 5:34
Mile 11 - 5:23
Mile 12 - 5:34
Mile 13 - 5:11
Mile 14 - 5:11
Mile 15 - 5:13
Last .3 - 1:18