Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Holidays

Catching Up
I haven't updated lately because there hasn't been much to tell. The two weeks post marathon were spent celebrating and recovering. I did plenty of the former and probably not enough of the latter. I say I didn't recover enough because I have a couple of nagging pains that I don't know what to do about. I want to see if these pains will respond to ice and NSAIDs before I take time off.

I'm afraid of losing too much fitness by taking time off because my running has been so sporadic over the past six weeks. It's been taper, run a marathon, then recover. The mileage and quality just hasn't been there except for that small matter of running a Boston Qualifying 26.2.

Mountain Mist
I want to leverage my marathon fitness to have a good race at Mountain Mist. Wow, that's less than four weeks away! If I take time off, I won't have any fitness to leverage! If I have a couple of good weeks, a good taper, and a perfect day, I think I have a shot at 5 hours and a top 20 finish at Mountain Mist. If I take a couple of weeks off, I have no chance for a good race. Then, I could just treat it like a fun run and maybe circle it for 2011. Ugh.

My Crazy Idea
And then there's this other crazy idea I have... Right now, I am planning to run the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. My plan is to train like mad for that, and then go 3:00 or bust. Yeah, I know I'll bust. It's a harder course. It will be warmer weather. It's probably unrealistic to think I could even PR at that race.

I ran a conservative race at RCM, and I know I was in better than 3:11 shape. I had a goal to BQ and I was not going to risk that in any way. Now that I have the BQ, I can get aggressive. If I bonk at CMM, so what? A DNF or walking the last miles and not breaking 4:00 won't be the end of the world. At least I will have tried! I probably need a few more failures to learn a little bit more about racing. And I think there is a chance of success, or I wouldn't entertain the idea...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Much Better

After Saturday's miserable trail run, I thought I had ruined my marathon training fitness gains with a week of sloppy diet and no exercise. Yeah, I panicked. Saturday was a bad day. Everyone has them. Some days you just don't feel as well as you do on other days. I'm not sure why I forgot that.

Sunday's usual 10 miler was great, both the company and the run. I was pleasantly tired after the run. You know, I felt like I had run, but I still had lots of energy.

Today, Matt, Mark, and I hit the trails before dawn on Monte Sano and ran the Xterra race course. We ran some hard miles, and I felt like I could have run much farther and faster. It was an awesome start to the day! I haven't felt that good on a run in a long time. It was a good tempo (judging by heart rate) run with a very strong finish, 10 miles total.

It's good to know I can still run. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back On My Feet

I met my goal for Rocket City Marathon. I progressed more than I expected this year. I had set what seemed like ambitious goals back in January, and I exceeded every one of them. I mean, back in January, I thought 3:25 was the best I could do at Rocket City this year!

So, I took this week and behaved as if I had absolute impunity. Peanut M&Ms are only the beginning. Cheeseburgers, desserts, fries, Tex Mex, etc. Ha! I remember being asked what I was going to get at a Tex Mex restaurant in Dallas, and my answer was anything wrapped in a tortilla, deep fried, and smothered in cheese. Yeah, my diet was ATROCIOUS this week.

I only ran 9 miles this week before today. I gained more weight than I thought possible in a week. I really needed a break from the mental and physical effort that I put into getting ready for Rocket City Marathon. But here's a news flash... I did not have impunity.

Today, I went to the trails with Matt, and I BONKED hard at about 8 or 9 miles. It was miserable. Matt commented that he had never seen me in that condition. I was struggling. I'd like to blame it on my marathon effort, but he didn't bonk and he ran the same race I did.

That's it. I'm back. Sure, I enjoyed the burgers, but enough is enough. I honestly HATE the way a sedentary lifestyle with a poor diet makes me feel. I mean, I felt lethargic all week. I remember that I used to feel that way all the time. I will not go back to that. I am a runner now. The break is over. I may never take another break. I love cheeseburgers and desserts, but now I HATE the way they make me feel.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rocket City Marathon 2009 - Race Report

Check the Rocket City Marathon page for results. They'll continue to be updated over the next couple of days. Again, I really appreciate the effort of HTC volunteers to make this happen. They do a truly amazing job of scoring. And Dink and Suzanne Taylor of Fleet Feet do so much to keep the running community in Huntsville going strong. I wouldn't dream of buying running gear anywhere else.

I am proud of David Riddle for keeping the win local. He works as hard as anyone and is very deserving. Read about the win here.

WARNING!!! A long boring post follows. I'm not even sure my wife or mother care enough to read all those details.

My 3:11:11 was good enough for 86th overall of 1254 finishers and 16th of 148 in the 35-39 age group. I am truly blessed to have avoided injury and illness for 18 weeks and then to have a good day on race day. It wasn't a perfect day, but it was good.

The Weather
There was so much talk about the weather today. Rain was forecast. It was supposed to be cold, windy, with a chance of sleet followed by rain. What does one wear? I'm happy to say that we really caught a break with the weather. Winds were a factor at 10-15 mph, but they were only in our face during the first half. Really, weather cannot be an excuse today. 37 to 42 F with no precipitation. That's really good marathon weather except for the wind. And who wouldn't rather have the wind at their back in the second half? Note winner David Riddle's impressive 1:15 + 1:11 negative split if you doubt the effect of the wind.

I opted for shorts, a single long sleeve shirt, and Mizuno Breath Thermal beanie and gloves. That was just about perfectly comfortable.

Before the Race
Matt, Leigh, and I rode over and we arrived in plenty of time to find good parking and to get in the bathroom line and get whatever last minute visiting in before the race. Mark and I were planning to stay together for as long as possible during the race, so we arranged a meeting place beforehand. Also, we ran into fellow DC Ragnar (gotta do Ragnar again) teammates Justin Hulsman, Kevin Barnes, Eric Fritz, and Shawn Barber. I also had some time to chat with fellow Athenians Tim McNiell and David Quinn. And I got some last minute words of encouragement from Ronnie Nelson.

Matt, Mark, and I did about a .75 mile warm up with two strides up to race pace. Then, I didn't really HAVE to go, but I knew I couldn't hold it for 3 hours. So I did a last minute port a potty stop. This was a bad idea that caused undue pre-race stress. I was out and in the starting area just barely in time, 7:58. The Star-Spangled Banner had already started! I was so rude, but I had to get to my spot.

The First Half
I was planning a couple of 7:25 miles to start and then settle into a 7:10 pace that I would try to hold for the entire race. Mark, his friend Jeremy, Matt, and me all decided to adopt that same strategy. The only one who executed it completely was Jeremy. Congrats! It was nice running 20 miles with you, man.

We knew the downtown loop would be the least windy. After we headed south from downtown, we were taking turns of 2 people leading into the wind. It would be Matt and Jeremy, then Mark and I. It took until about mile 6 for us to work this completely out, but we decided to trade every mile. That worked EXTREMELY well. But if you ask any one of us, he would say the same thing. "It was windier while I was in the lead." That can't possibly be true for all of us, but I'm sure each of us believes that! :)

That worked well for two reasons. First, obviously, it gave us all a break from the wind. Second, it gave us something else to think about and talk about. The first half, from my point of view, was just ground to cover without getting tired. I wanted to use as little mental and physical energy as possible and hit the half split near 1:35. I did not train for the first half of this race; I trained for the second half. However, the only way to get to the second half was to run the first half.

Leigh was waiting at about 10.9 miles to snap a few photos and with a fresh water bottle for me so that I wouldn't have to stop at any aid stations. Jeremy had a crew that followed him and cheered for him several times along the way. Mark's wife and son (Chrissy and Justin) also found a spot to cheer for us along the way. See my mad wind breaking skilz below.

I could not believe how easy the first half felt. We hit the split at 1:35:43. Pretty close to plan. I was a little concerned because I knew that Mark and Jeremy needed to negative split by about 30 seconds to Boston Qualify. I knew it would take a disaster (though stranger things have happened) for me not to qualify. In retrospect, those easy first two miles were probably not a good idea.

During the first half, I met quite a few folks. The one I remember was a guy named Lee from Murfreesboro, TN attempting to qualify for Boston, and he did. Congrats!

On to 20 Miles
Just shy of the 15 mile marker, the course turns west before going north back to downtown. Leigh surprised me by being at this turn. It was good to hear her cheering for us. The group was still together and still taking turns fighting the wind, but the wind would longer be a factor after the turn.

The conversation basically stopped at this point. We said very few words between mile 13 and mile 17. I had a blister on the ball of my left foot that I first noticed at about mile 12. It was now starting to get painful. Oh well. What can I do? I sure didn't want to talk about it because I didn't believe negative conversation would do anyone any good.

At about mile 17, Matt started to fade a little. He was still close by, but not in the group. We came up on my Ragnar teammate, Justin, at about 17.5 or 18 miles. He hung with us until about mile 19. He didn't train for this race and ran a 3:20. That makes me a little jealous!

Near mile 19, there were volunteers handing out GU. I did bad math and didn't have enough gels with me. That was an inexcusable mistake. I attempted to take one, and dropped 3 before I finally got one! Ugh. By the time I fought that battle and downed the gel, Jeremy had pulled just ahead of me. Mark was maybe 5 or 10 seconds behind me.

The Last 10k
I commented to Jeremy at about mile 19 that it was one mile to go until the race began. He took that to heart and I did not. At mile 20, my right hip was hurting. My blister was hurting. My right calf really wanted to cramp up. In spite of that, I really wanted to speed up. However, I was still afraid of going too fast too early, so I convinced myself that a better idea would be to wait until Airport Road and turn it on for the last 5k.

The proverbial wall wasn't there at mile 20, but I was tiring. At about 20.6, at the turn onto Whitesburg Drive, there was Leigh again with another fresh water bottle. It was great to see her!

Jeremy continued to open up his lead on me because I was slowing a little. I really wish I had dropped the pace a little and caught him. I really think we could have helped each other during that last 5k. Ok, maybe he could have helped me. :)

I hate that stretch on Whitesburg up to mile 21. I don't like the road and I don't like the uphill. I'm just looking forward to the tunnel, which I also don't like. I made it, and had to pass someone at the turn in the tunnel. She couldn't have been a racer. I mean, there's no way she was at that point at that time in the race. She had to have been going 10:00 per mile or slower. And it was right in the turn and it was awkward. Oh well. That was the least of my worries!

Just after passing the school, I caught up with Joe Francica. Joe is such a strong runner and I really admire him. He destroys me at the half marathon and shorter distances. I was VERY surprised to catch him. I tried to encourage him to stay with me the rest of the way, but it wasn't to be.

I ran strong in miles 20, 21, and 22, but miles 23, 24, and 25 got me. Even though I was struggling and had slowed to 7:30 or so pace, I was still passing people left and right. I only remember one person passing me during this time, and I caught her (barely) before the finish. The look on my face was one of sheer misery. I'm so glad there are no photos during 23-25! There was no "turning it on" as I thought I would do for the last 5k.

I am really disappointed in how I handled these miles. I simply was not tough enough. I was prepared, and my body could have done it. I just chickened out. I had told myself over and over that I would run smart early, and let it all hang out during the last 10k. But that's not what I did. I slowed for no good reason other than the effort was painful. That frankly disappoints me and I will learn to race harder. That lapse in focus and determination tempts me to find a spring marathon to get revenge on 23-25.

Don't mis-interpret my critique of miles 23-25 to mean that I think I had a bad race. I had a GREAT race. I didn't have a perfect race, and 23-25 is where there is room for improvement.

During mile 25, I came up on Marty Clarke. I asked him to join me for the finish, but he did not. He did offer me some words of encouragement that I appreciated and I definitely sped up after our chat. Since he had just run a 3:15 seven days earlier in Memphis, I guess I'll let him off the hook for not joining me. :) Marathons in back to back weekends? Wow.

Somewhere during mile 23, Andrea McGehee passed me. I was able to overtake her near the 25 mile flag. As I was passing, some women on the street yelled, "Go women!!!" and Andrea said, "I think they just called you a girl." That cracked me up! She said a few other funny things during that last mile that I just don't remember. She even (not verbally) challenged me to a race to the finish! She did not back down as I dropped the pace and finished just behind me. And we did pass a few other runners along the way, too. I admire her for her strength and her sense of humor as the effort was painful. She is definitely the fastest 41 year old woman I've ever met!

The Finish
As I crossed the finish line, I was a little disappointed that it was not 3:10 something, but I knew that I had qualified. I had achieved the goal that I had set 18 weeks ago, and I had done so by a very comfortable margin. I can't really describe the feelings that were overwhelming me. When Leigh found me to give me a hug, I was overcome with emotion. I wanted to cry like a baby girl, but somehow I held on to my manhood. :)

Last Thoughts and Splits
3:11:11 with a half split of 1:35:43 means that I negative split this race by 15 seconds. I would attribute that more to the lazy first two miles and the wind than I would to a strong second half. My mile splits are pretty consistent. I'll say it's not bad for a second time marathoner. I still have a lot to learn about this distance, and I'm beginning my chase of 3:00 right now. My next one probably won't be sub 3:00, but you can believe that I'm going to be pretty focused on getting there.

Splits for those who are still awake. These are GPS and not flag to flag. My GPS was a full 0.1 off by mile 11 and showed 26.38 total miles for the course.
  1. 7:27
  2. 7:23
  3. 7:10
  4. 7:16
  5. 7:13
  6. 7:09
  7. 7:07
  8. 7:13
  9. 7:03
  10. 7:16
  11. 7:09
  12. 7:13
  13. 7:15
  14. 7:10
  15. 7:11
  16. 7:10
  17. 7:18
  18. 7:07
  19. 7:13
  20. 7:11
  21. 7:13
  22. 7:11
  23. 7:28 (lost focus)
  24. 7:19
  25. 7:35 (thinking negatively and lost focus. I HATE this split. Ugh.)
  26. 7:18
  27. 2:40 (0.38 miles, 6:51 pace)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rocket City Marathon 2009

This post is just a quick snapshot of my post-race thoughts. I'll post a more detailed race report later. Gun time results are available on the Run Rocket City web page, Overall and Age Group 1-39 and Age Group 40+. HTC does such an awesome job of scoring races. Thanks Carl and other volunteers!

Quick Summary
3:11:11 gun time. I'll know chip time later, but it's probably no more than 10 seconds faster. That was good enough for a BQ, and I intend to run Boston in 2011. As always when I finish a race, I believe I could have and should have run it faster. But please do not mistake that comment for disappointment. I was overcome with joy to the point of tears when I finished! I'm still learning how to leave everything on the race course, and I haven't figured that out yet.

Thanks to Dink and Suzanne Taylor and Fleet Feet of Huntsville for this amazing event that benefits the whole city! Thanks also to HTC. Thanks to Huntsville Police Department for their support of this event. Thanks to all the volunteers for their support. I can't possibly name them all! Thanks to TreeTrunkRick and good friend Madelyn Patton for serving us a much needed post race snack!

Thanks to my lovely wife Leigh for all her support during training and the race today. I cannot overstate how important her support of this crazy hobby of mine is to me. She sure tolerates a lot. And not only that, she encourages and helps me. She's pretty stinkin AWESOME. I love you!

Thanks to my buddies Mark Freeman and Matthew Davis for sharing endless miles with me training for this event. We discussed everything from the mundane to weightier matters such as the existence of God and the importance of Jesus and the cross and other teachings of the Holy Bible. (I'd mention specifics, but that totally violates the runner's code.) The friendships forged while running are strong and get stronger with miles. That's really what running is about to me.

Thanks to Carl Smith for being a fixture on my Sunday morning runs. He's always there. I look forward to that run every week (well, except for tomorrow -- I'm taking tomorrow off(: ).

Thanks to Eric Charette for giving me some solid advice and encouragement along the way. He showed a good deal of interest in my progress and helped with constructive advice. I certainly look up to him.

Thanks to Mike Greene for believing in me. He believes I'm capable of more than I believe I'm capable of. Sometimes, he convinces me that he's right. Mike, I'm praying for a speedy recovery for you.

The marathon definitely can become larger than life. I allowed that to happen this year. I'll have to improve on keeping things in perspective.

It's a crazy idea. It's an amazing amount of stress on the human body. It's a test of the mind and body. It requires months of preparation. The distance MUST be respected. If you have a bad day, you can't just run another marathon next weekend. It requires sacrifice, self-discipline, dedication, and doing stuff you don't want to do. It requires tolerance for pain with common sense to avoid ignoring injury. And yet, I really believe that most anybody can do it.

I'm still in some state of disbelief that I actually did it!!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tick Tock...

The time is just crawling by. Anticipation. Maybe even anxiety. Tick tock.

I'm taking tomorrow off from running and I plan to jog 3 or 4 miles on Friday. Tapering drives me crazy! I feel like I'm getting out of shape instead of getting rested. Tick tock. I haven't been sleeping well. Tick tock. Now, I'm a little concerned that I won't be well rested.

This morning when I ran, my mind was imagining things that hurt. My right foot hurt. My left knee hurt. My right hip hurt. My groin was tender. I'm sure something else hurt, too. None of that was hurting before today! What is wrong with me?!? Tick tock.

I suppose I need a couple of good running quotes to keep me going. How's this...
"Suck it up, buttercup!"
"It's all mental until you pass out. Then, it's physical."
"Pain is good. More pain is even better."
"The truth is that running hurts." (and I'll make my own addition here, racing a marathon hurts even more!)
Maybe more optimism is in order...
"Every serious marathoner should do Boston, to experience the close to a million spectators, the three generations of families out cheering, the little kids handing you water or orange slices. The whole city really appreciates the runners." - Neil Weygandt
"We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort." - Jesse Owens
Boston. To make it a reality, I've shown the dedication and self-discipline. Saturday is about determination and effort.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Less Than One Week!

So, believe it or not, this is the 18th week of training. The week of the race is here! This is what I've been working toward!

I've done 7 runs of 18 miles or more. 5 of those were 20 miles or more. I've averaged over 70 miles per week. I've topped 80 miles in a week 4 different times.

I didn't miss a single scheduled tempo run. I did every VO2 workout whether I wanted to or not. I've done back to back long and medium long runs. I've beat the pavement before 5:00 AM to get in 15 or more miles before work.

I've been very careful with my diet. So much so that I've lost 8 or 9 pounds since I started 18 weeks ago. I've passed on cheeseburgers, fries, and desserts (well, not always desserts, but I've missed a lot of desserts) because I was picturing some number less than 3:15:59 on the clock.

Now, all that's left is the simple task of racing for 26.2 miles.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hangin in There

I've been able to get most of my scheduled miles in this week. I knew this week would be a challenge because of travel. Having the trail so close to my hotel has helped a ton. I'm sure glad NOT to have to run on a dreadmill. I only ran on it once before I discovered the trail.

Today I did an easy 6 miler with some strides. My hip was a little sore after 5 strides, so I just quit the strides, even though the schedule called for 8. I did the last 2 at MP, just practicing pace for the big day.

I can't wait to get home and get rested up for next Saturday. I have to avoid getting too anxious between now and then.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The 6 Minute Mile

Ok, I know "the 6 minute mile" doesn't have the same ring as "the 4 minute mile". But for me, a sub-6:00 mile is something I've never done in my life at any time... before today. It's a milestone for me.

I do not have easy access to a track here in the middle of an industrial suburb of Seattle. I'm sure there's a high school somewhere within 2 or 3 miles of the hotel that has a 400m track, but I don't know where it is or how to find it. These are perhaps the most pedestrian-unfriendly streets I've ever seen. So, even if I knew where one was, I'm not sure I could get there safely. Luckily, there is an asphalt bicycle trail less than 50 feet from my hotel parking lot! It's about 15 miles long, so I have lots of room to run.

The schedule today called for 3 x 1600m repeats. Since I wasn't on a track and the trail isn't marked, I just used my Garmin and ran 1 mile repeats. Somewhere between here and Athens, I lost my gloves and headlamp. Ugh. Wait until Leigh finds out. So today was a cold, dark run. My hands were FREEZING! I left the hotel at 5:00 so I could finish up and get ready for my business here in the Seattle area today.

I did about a 3.8 mile warm up, 3 one mile repeats with a 3 minute jog between, and a 1.7 mile cool down for somewhere near 8.5 or 9 miles total.
  1. 6:07
  2. 5:54
  3. 5:50
Sweet. I finally broke the 6 minute mile! Those weren't all out miles. I could have run each of them faster. That's not to say that they were easy, but it does mean that I believe I can run faster for a mile and that I believe I can maintain that pace for a 5k.

The taper was beginning to take a toll on my confidence, so I needed today's workout to remind me that I have made progress and that I can handle a hard effort.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Weekend

I took a goose egg on Friday. I'm not really worried about it because I still was above 60 for the week without Friday's run. It's taper time, anyway. I suppose I could have squeezed in a run at about 1:40 or so. But there was this ball game going on at that time!

Saturday, Matt and I went over to Monte Sano to run the first half of the Mountain Mist course. I love running trails! It's definitely more challenging! I didn't take any food with me on the run and bonked as bad as I've bonked in a LONG time. Lesson learned. Also, all the climbing and descending have my legs a little sore today.

I look forward to getting prepared for Mountain Mist. My expectations are not very high for that race. I haven't trained for technical trails or hills at all, and that race has plenty of both. I've been focused on relatively flat road miles getting ready to BQ at Rocket City. Therefore, MM will definitely humble me, but I'm very excited about the challenge.

Today, Carl, Lanier, and I did the usual 10 mile loop in Athens. I'm still loving having that as a fixture on my calendar. I'll probably take Dec. 13 off, though! :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Trail Run

I needed to work up an appetite for the turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie today. So, I took advantage of a day off of work and a flexible schedule to drive over to Monte Sano and get in a 10 mile trail run.

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday! I get to spend time with family, count my blessings (which are really innumerable!), relax with time off from work, eat good food, watch football, and nap. It's a time to contemplate, visit, remember, and be thankful (though being thankful should be a daily habit).

With Christmas, there is just so much stress that I don't enjoy it. There's the stress of shopping and awkward gift giving. There's the stress of not observing Christmas as a religious holiday like most people do. I would honestly rather skip Christmas altogether. I'd almost rather work that day. Work is less stressful!

Before getting angry with me and questioning my reverence for God and his Son, here is my explanation about Christmas. I don't know of any evidence that Jesus was born around December 25. I don't find any evidence of Christians in the New Testament observing an annual celebration of the birth of the Messiah. I am aware of no commandment in the New Testament for an annual ritual honoring the birth of Christ. I don't believe God forgot to tell us to do that. I believe He has given us all the instruction we need in His word, and He left that out. Therefore, I'm bound by my conscience to attach no religious significance to that day. And if I did, I believe I would have a very difficult time truly separating that from our culture's materialistic commercialism (something else that I'm not fond of) that centers around the same day.

If you attach religious significance to December 25, I'm not condemning that based on Romans 14:5-6. (The covetousness and graven images that often accompany it are another story.) I'm giving my explanation to hopefully spare myself of some of the righteous indignation that I often receive when I mention that I don't like Christmas.

Oh, back to the unimportant topic of running... I need to get some trail runs in before Mountain Mist. However, I'm trying to adhere to the specificity principle and remain focused on road miles for Rocket City Marathon. So, I'll probably do a couple more easy trail runs before the marathon, but stay on the roads for the most part. Today definitely qualifies as an easy trail run.

After the marathon, I'll really need to hit the rocky, hilly trails. Mountain Mist would destroy me if it were next weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

VO2 - 5x600m - One Last Time

Matt came over to do our 9 mile run with a VO2 workout mixed in. We did a pre-dawn 5 mile easy run to the Athens High 400m track. It sure is good to have a partner for these runs!

As we started, I noticed that my right knee was pretty sore. That started yesterday during some strides that we were doing at the end of an easy run. After a mile or so, it loosened up, and I didn't notice it at all during the track repeats.

We did 5 x 600m repeats with a 200m recovery jog in between. I'm always surprised by how hard this workout feels.
  1. 2:02 (yeah, I don't know why I did that.)
  2. 2:08
  3. 2:05
  4. 2:05
  5. 2:04
Again, the level of effort felt very hard for those, but my heart rate showed a different story. I suppose that is because of the cold weather. Yeah, it was colder than I expected this morning and I wished for another layer and gloves and a beanie.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday AM Run

Today I met Carl to do our regular 10 mile loop through Athens. I ran the 2 miles from my house to the start and then the 2 miles back home afterward to get in almost 14 for the day. Hmmm. The first day of the 3 week taper starts with 14 miles? Yep. Taper doesn't mean stop running!

This morning's run was a good one. There's something about running in the rain that I like. The rain felt good, if 48F rain can feel good!

I could have done without the east wind driving the rain in our face during the last mile or so. Carl was telling me that there's a good chance that there will be a north wind in my face on race day. So now I've practiced it a bit. The effort definitely felt harder than the pace into the wind.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last Big One

Schedule Transition
The schedule called for a 22 miler today. This is the last big long run on the schedule. This is the last big mileage week on the schedule. The next 3 weeks are tapering for the big day. If I'm not ready now, I guess I won't be!

I do feel ready. I look forward to the taper. Before, I didn't really understand the taper and thought I was getting out of shape. I have lost confidence in previous tapers. Now, I understand that I won't lose fitness over the next 3 weeks. I'll be giving my body the opportunity to repair and adapt to the training I've put it through over the past 15 weeks.

Today's Run
It was a tough one today. Today's run put me over 80 miles for this week. My legs are tired. I had a hard week of training following a good effort in the Huntsville Half Marathon. I had no partner, so I knew I'd have to gut it out and be my own motivation.

I'd like to say that this was an easy one and that I was comfortable the whole time. But that's not true! I really toyed with the idea of quitting at about 15 miles. My heart rate was well under control, but my legs were just dead. I didn't want to go any more! Then, I remembered that this was the last one. Gut it out! I'll have at least that strong of an urge to stop on race day, so I had to overcome. And I did.

Based on the advice of Eric C., I ran the last 6 at marathon pace. Here are the splits.
  1. 8:37
  2. 8:10
  3. 8:13
  4. 8:02
  5. 8:09
  6. 8:08
  7. 8:00
  8. 8:05
  9. 8:06
  10. 8:05
  11. 7:39 (I didn't mean to run it this fast. Don't know what happened.)
  12. 7:53
  13. 7:53
  14. 8:11
  15. 8:22 (See, I wanted to QUIT!)
  16. 8:10
  17. 7:15
  18. 7:09
  19. 7:06
  20. 6:55 (Hmmm. Need practice to avoid these.)
  21. 7:14
  22. 7:09

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid Week 25k

Another mid-week 15 miler? Only one more!! These have clearly been the "hair on the chest" workouts of the program. A 15 miler isn't that bad, but a 15 miler the day after a tempo run or after a VO2 workout is tough. To do one of these, I have to get up EARLY. It takes 2 hours, minimum. And after the early start and 2 hour workout, I have to be able to function at a high level of concentration for the rest of the day at work.

I'm glad those are done!

It's not so easy to find someone who's willing to hit the pavement an hour before dawn and run 15 before work. But I found one! I met Ragnar teammate Justin at the CRR start. We did the 10k course twice and the 5k course once for 15+ miles. We did the 5k loop at marathon pace.

Nice start to a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


6 x 1200 with 400m recovery jogs. That's hard. It sounds hard, and it is hard! I probably dreaded this workout more than any other yet. I didn't have a partner this morning which made the workout tougher. I wanted to skip and mail this one in! I mean, I had a good race Saturday. Don't I deserve to skip a tough one? But off to the track I went in the misty yuck.
  1. 4:32
  2. 4:28
  3. 4:28
  4. 4:27
  5. 4:29
  6. 4:30
I could definitely feel the effects of Saturday's race. My legs were tired. The good news is that aerobically, I felt like I could go harder, but my legs were just dead. Those splits are as fast as my legs would go.

I had to talk myself into those last two. I mean, 4x1200 is a good workout, isn't it? I'm glad I gutted this one out. Could I have done one more? I don't know, but I'm glad I didn't have to!

Tomorrow is the last mid-week 15 miler. This week is it. It's taper after this week. I told myself that over and over to get through today's workout.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Huntsville Half - More Details

Huntsville Half Marathon results have been posted. Overall results and Age Group results are at the HTC Website.

This was a very difficult week for me. I was travelling for business all week and had 5 hours or less of sleep almost every night. I put up my first goose egg in over six weeks on Tuesday, and I was forced into another bagel on Friday. Perhaps the reduced mileage gave my legs some extra spring, but that was more than made up for by the mental and over physical fatigue from the work stress and the lack of sleep. I wasn't as ready for this race as I wanted to be.

I was not in my own bed Friday night, and I woke up every hour on the hour. Even fatigued, I was able to wake up and get my system worked out before the race. I rode over with Jeff Mooneyham (Congrats on smashing your 5k PR, Jeff!) and Jon Smith (Congrats on your first half, Jon!). We got there in plenty of time for Mark and I to do about a 2.5 mile warm up. With the delayed start (15 minutes), though, I pretty much cooled back down before the race start!

The First 5k
The first 5k heads north and loops through the neighborhoods near the start. Mark ran this with me. I had forgotten how rolling those were! My real goal for this race was to break 1:30. I believe I'm in better shape than that, but I was fatigued. I was just going to go out at 6:45 and see what happened. That would give me some wiggle room for a 1:30, and wouldn't be too aggressive. I really believe that 6:30-6:35 is where I should have been running. I hit those miles in 6:42, 6:49, and 6:43. Spot on target. It really felt easy.

On to the Greenway
After the first 5k, Mark backed off and wished me well. He's been battling a cold this week, and just didn't quite have his air back from that. I'll be glad when he's over this crud. We were in a spot between a few packs. When he backed off, I started picking out packs to join and pass.

First was a pack of 5 or so running together about 15 seconds ahead of us. As I joined them, there was no conversation. I could tell by how everyone in this pack was breathing that I wouldn't be with them long. I passed them one by one and I was ahead of this pack by the 4 mile split.

I had a sizable distance to cover to reach the next pack. I didn't join them until about the 5.25 mile mark. There were 3 runners in this pack. Everyone seemed to be working a little harder than I was, so I figured I'd leave this pack, too. There was some nice conversation in this pack. In this pack was Brett Wilks. I didn't know him, but he introduced himself, and we ended up leaving the other two runners behind before turning on the greenway . I really enjoyed the visit with him during this stretch.

6:50, 6:39, and 6:47.

Out the Greenway and Back
Brett and I stayed together along the greenway. After passing Mile 6, I noticed that we were catching a couple of Fleet Feet racers. I was worried that I must be running too fast! Brett recognized one of them as Conrad Meyer. We passed by before mile 7.

Approaching the aid station, I heard several people cheering for me! I recognized Madelyn Patton and Joey Butler working the aid station. Just beyond the aid station I saw a friend from work, Doug Fravel and his son Matthew, cheering me on. Brett took aid and I didn't, so I opened up a bit of a lead on him here. It seemed like forever to the turnaround from here!

After the turnaround, I saw so many people cheering for me by name. So many reached out and gave me high fives along the way. This really encouraged me and I started to increase the effort a little and picked off at least 3 people on the way back. I remember seeing Mark F., Glen, Ronnie, Phillip, Eric C. (pacing), Linda S. (pacing), Tim Murray (congrats on your first half!), Ragnar teammate Eric Fritz and his wife Casey, Ragnar teammates Shawn, Christie, and Elle, former manager Bob Vasse, and sometimes Sunday running buddy Mark York.

6:49, 6:43, 6:42, and 6:40

The Last 5k
I knew that I felt way too good to only have a 5k left. I should have dropped the pace about now, but I still lack the courage. I had a pack of two picked out. I caught them on Cheney Thompson and passed by fairly quickly. there was another pack of two ahead. Catching them would take a little more effort, but I did before the 11 mile split. With a significant lead on us was a guy in red. I told these guys that I thought we could catch him. One said, "I'm tired!" I said, "You should be. It's mile 11!" I said that I was going after him and he said go ahead and didn't come with me.

I later learned that this guy in red was Patrick Fagerman racing for 1st Place Athletics. I knew it would be a challenge to catch him because he was not coming back to me. I took a little aid that barely slowed me down, but set my eyes on Patrick. Up ahead, I saw another pack of 2 faltering. I passed them. Before the 12 mile split, I saw Marty Clarke struggling. I'm not sure what went wrong with him today, because he is MUCH faster than me. I tried to encourage him to join me to the end, but he encouraged me to go ahead and finish fast up the hill. Thanks for the encouragement!

The guy who was running with Conrad Meyer on the greenway came zooming by me just after I passed Marty. I think it may have been Dennis Fuchsberger, but I'm not sure.

There was one more guy between me and Patrick. I later met him. His name was Luca Massetti and he was on business from Rome, Italy and ran this race while in town! He was a super nice guy and I enjoyed chatting with him. I passed Luca en route to Patrick. Patrick did not let me go. He stayed on my right shoulder. He's clearly a more experienced racer than me, and it showed. Luca gave a little chase, too. Patrick and I could see Dennis (?) ahead and he said, "I think we can get him." He passed by me, and I gave chase, too. This last mile battle among Dennis, Patrick, Luca, and me was the most exciting that I've ever been in. Patrick truly almost caught Dennis. I gave it all I had, but Patrick had more. While I was gaining on him, he was recovering. When Patrick and I gave chase to Dennis, Luca stayed a little behind. I came in third in this 4 way battle, and I now have a taste of racing others instead of just racing the clock.

I was truly giving it all I had in this battle, and I need to work on my pure speed and my ability to ignore fatigue with the end in sight. With experience, I'll perform better in those battles, but it was FUN!!!

6:37, 6:44 (uphill), 6:13 (!?!?!, see what a chase will do!), and 1:07 (0.18 by my watch, a 6:10 pace).

I'm pleased with the finish time. One thing I know is that I have a lot of room to improve in my racing skill. I'm working hard and getting faster, but I need to race smarter. I should have run 6:35 miles early. I really believe I could have held that pace. I may not have had as fast a finishing mile, but I would have had a better overall time.

With a quality diet and quality rest the week before, I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to Boston qualify at Rocket City Marathon this year.

Again, thanks to all the volunteers and HTC for putting on this quality event!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Huntsville Half Marathon

I don't have much time to write, but I wanted to do a quick post about today's race.

First, I want to congratulate my Sunday morning running buddy Carl Smith for winning the Heroes 5k today! Nice job Carl!

There was a record turnout for the Huntsville Half Marathon today. I can't imagine how overwhelming it is to direct a race that balloons up like this one has. GREAT JOB to the RD and volunteers today. It was an AWESOME race and other than a late start, it went without a hitch.

I ran a 1:28:13. I believe I can run faster than that. I started too conservatively. That's just what I do. Maybe one day I'll lose the fear of blowing up and start fast and hang on.
  1. 6:42
  2. 6:49
  3. 6:43
  4. 6:50
  5. 6:39
  6. 6:47
  7. 6:49
  8. 6:43 (I realized that I was feeling better than I should.)
  9. 6:42
  10. 6:40
  11. 6:37
  12. 6:44
  13. 6:13
  14. 1:07 (Actually 0.17 miles by my watch.)
I'm very pleased with that effort, but I know I'm faster than that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

VO2 - 5x600m - Again

5x600m. It seems easy on paper. I mean, I just ran 20 with 14 at marathon pace. Last week I did 6 x 1000m repeats. 5 x 600m repeats would be easy, right? It only sounds easy! It hurt.

Because of my work schedule, I had to fit the VO2 workout in today. I should be able to get the miles in this week, but I wanted to get this workout in early so that I can do easier workouts through the week and be prepared for Huntsville Half Marathon this weekend. I'm going to be tired enough from the work week that I have in store that I need to at least have fresh legs.

Matt came over and we ran over to the Athens High 400m track to do our workout, a 5 mile warm up, repeats, and a 2 mile cool down.
  1. 2:08
  2. 2:07
  3. 2:05
  4. 2:05
  5. 2:06 (Matt ran it in 2:00 flat. Amazing! I couldn't keep up!)
I really almost puked after the 4th one. I'm glad I didn't eat breakfast before the workout! I haven't yet convinced myself that it'll be ok if I throw up, so I back off when I feel it coming on. I kinda hope I keep that mentality.

After the workout was over, I couldn't help thinking that it was fun. I didn't think so during, but after, yeah, it was fun. Running fast is fun.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tough Week

I just finished what is probably the toughest week of the schedule. The big workouts this week were a 15 mile medium long run, a 6 x 1000m VO2 workout, and a 20 mile long run with 14 miles at marathon pace. This was also my peak mileage of my life. Yesterday's run put me very near 86 miles for the week (85.90).

Yesterday's run was a pretty good confidence boost. Matt and I drove over to Huntsville to run these miles on the course. I need practice on the course. I want no surprises on race day. I had a slow start because my body wasn't yet ready to run. I had to stop a couple of times early. Once my system had everything worked out, I had a very strong run.

Once we hit marathon pace, it felt very sustainable. The plan called for 20 total with 14 at MP. We went more like 22 miles and I did about 15.5 at MP. I certainly could have continued at that pace for at least another mile or two. That's not to say that it was easy or that it didn't hurt. But the idea of running 26.2 at that pace did not seem out of reach.

One thing I've discovered about marathon pace is that it feels easier to find when I'm tired. Early in a run, I struggle to hit it. I'm either too fast or too slow. I need some practice hitting it with fresh legs. Late in a run, it almost feels natural.

Today, I did the usual 10 mile loop in Athens with Lanier. He was feeling good today, so we did a few low 7:00s at the end of the run. It was a fun run in great weather. I was surprised by how good I felt after yesterday's run.

I hope to stay healthy and injury free for 5 more weeks!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

VO2 - 6 x 1000

Matt came over and we ran over to the Athens High track. We did a 5 mile warm up and then hit the track for the hard part of the workout. 6 x 1000 repeats. The goal was 3:45 with 300 m jogs for rest.

1. 3:46
2. 3:47
3. 3:41
4. 3:41
5. 3:40
6. 3:35 (gotta finish strong)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooktacular 5k - A New PR

First, a BIG thanks to Sarah and Cheryl, Fleet Feet of Huntsville, and all the volunteers who made today's race successful and so much fun! Just to name a few, thanks Carl, Whitney, Madelyn, Eric, Laura, Jane, and others that I'm forgetting.

The Numbers
I ran the 5k in 18:53 for a 6:05 average pace. That was good enough for 15th overall (of 553) and 2nd in the 35-39 age group. I'll link to results when they're available. Of course, Josh Whitehead won. He did it near 16 flat with nobody pushing him. Candace Jacobs was the women's winner in 18:17.

This morning was a great morning for a race! The course is flat and fast. The weather was great, 48F with just a little rain before the start, but it stopped before the start. Sarah and Cheryl did a great job putting this event together. I think the participation was significantly beyond their expectations. The atmosphere was festive and the feel of the race was less competitive than other races.

Today, Mark and I reversed roles a little. I was actually early! That's pretty out of character for me. We spun our wheels a little trying to find each other and get packets picked up in the crowd. We got our warm up started at about 7:35 with just enough time to warm up and be ready for the start of the race. We did about a 2.5 mile warm up (mostly on the course) with some pickups at the end.

We timed our arrival to the start line almost perfectly. We saw some friends on our way to the line and chatted a little and enjoyed a live rendition of the Thriller video. It was enjoyable!

Mile 1
The start was packed. I knew it would be and I knew that I would have to start quickly to avoid those who start too quickly and then fall off. We ran the first quarter mile or so at about a 5:45 or so pace. After passing a several huffer and puffers, I backed off from that early pace to recover a bit and then settled into my race pace. Mark was with me the whole way. One of my main goals today was not to get beat by someone in a ridiculous costume. I passed almost all of the costumes that I saw early in mile 1. We hit the split in 6:05. That was a little slower than I was hoping for, but still easily on pace, especially considering that it is the only uphill mile.

Mark asked me how I felt, and I replied, "Not good enough to talk!" I really knew that today was my last opportunity to break 19 this year. I may not have another opportunity until April. I didn't want the opportunity to slip, and 6:05 is not a conversational pace for me! I hope I wasn't rude. I was glad to have a training partner nearby.

Mile 2
I felt really good after the one mile split. I wanted to break 6:00 in the first mile, but that just didn't happen. The good part is that I had LOTS of energy. It's not the best strategy to negative split a 5k, but I decided to drop the pace as much as I could. I had several runners ahead to pick off, and just ran them down one by one. I probably passed 5 people There was one costume ahead of me. I think he may have been a gladiator or Roman soldier or something. It wasn't a ridiculous costume, but I wanted to catch him nonetheless.

There is a mild uphill at the end of mile 2, so I powered up it. Mark fell off the pace just a little up this hill, but still ran strong. My watch beeped a little early and clocked a 6:01 2nd mile. They called 12:11 as I passed the split marker, making it more like 6:06. Still on pace to break 19 with a downhill mile to go!

Mile 3
There were 3 people left in striking distance during mile 3. I regret that I didn't finish ahead of any of them. Oh I closed the gap significantly, and passed one, a young 17 year old. Again, I was reminded that a 17 year old's fast is faster than my fast, and he passed me back in the last 100m. It wasn't a matter of willingness to hurt; I was giving it all I had. He was just faster. It was like a linebacker trying to chase a receiver (OK, neither of us are that fast, but I'm making an analogy here). The only way I could have held him off would have been to pass him earlier and build a bigger lead going into the last stretch. I have a lot to learn about racing! Today, though, I was mainly racing the clock. Soon, I'll start racing the competitors, but today wasn't that day.

According to my watch, I ran 6:01 and 0:42 (0.14 by my watch) to finish. There was nobody calling the 3rd split. I think my mileage payed off some today. I was ready to slow down because I was pouring it on during the last 0.1, but I still had some more 6:05 effort in me. I think that's why I closed the gap on that group of 3. If I remember correctly, there was only 6 seconds difference between me and the leader of that group I was chasing. There were probably 15 or so seconds at the 2 mile split.

That's 18:53. That's a PR! I'm happy with the performance! I met my goal of sub 19, but I can't help believing that I could have run faster today. It hurt, no doubt, but I could have and should have run a faster first mile. I'm learning.

Post Race
I saw lots of friends congratulating me at the finish. That was nice! Thanks! Eric Fritz gave me a big high 5 because he knew how badly I wanted to break 19. Carl took a break to come congratulate me in the finishing chute. He and I have spent a good bit of time talking about breaking 19 on our Sunday morning runs. Thanks Carl! He definitely could break 19 on this course.

Then, I ran back to pick up Jeff and finish the race with him. I'm VERY proud of the dedication he's shown! He's been on the track 5 or 6 days a week lately. He's just making no excuses and getting the miles done. KUDOS JEFF!! Congrats on your first race!!! Nice job!!

Congrats to Olivia for running her first race! Great job!

I also saw Ragnar teammates Angie and Elle along with Ragnar driver Bruce. Nice job! Nice to see y'all!

I also got to meet a blog follower, Byron. Congrats on meeting your goal today, Byron!

And the costumes...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VO2 - 5x600m

Today called for 9 miles total with 5 600m repeats at 5k pace. It is a light VO2 workout. I think that's because the program calls for a race this weekend and it's letting me be fresher for that effort. I'm doing the Spooktacular 5k in Huntsville, and I do plan to give a good effort at that race.

I ended up doing 10.5 total miles and I felt very good during the intervals. My goal was 2:15 (not that I have proven that I can run a 5k at that pace) or less on all the repeats. I did a 200m jog between repeats.
  1. 2:14
  2. 2:13
  3. 2:12
  4. 2:10
  5. 2:03 (I felt good, so why not?)
I also had some good company this morning. I walked a little bit with Jeff and Bryan . Also, I ran 1.5 miles with Lanier and got a first hand report from the inaugural Monte Sano Xterra 9.3 mile trail race. The results are here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Start to the Week

I knew that Matt and Carl wouldn't be able to run the usual Sunday 10 mile loop with me on Sunday. I decided to get up and go to the Rec Center anyway because I have a standing invitation to any runner in Athens/Limestone to show up at 5:45 on any Sunday morning and join me for a 10 miler. Jeff was there so I joined him for a nice shorter run. I ended up with 8.5 total Sunday morning. The easy miles felt good on my tired legs. And I really enjoyed the company!

Today, I endured a work-week 15 miler. Of all the runs I've done in my training, I think the work-week 15 milers are the toughest. Seriously, have you tried hitting the pavement before 5:00 AM so that you can run 15 miles before getting ready for the work day? Try doing that once per week for 5-6 weeks in a row, in addition to long runs and tempo runs. It's tougher than I thought it would be!

I really dreaded this run; I started dreading it Sunday afternoon. I had no partner. I didn't want to get up before 5:00 AM. How bad would skipping this run set me back? I was looking for excuses not to do this workout. Ultimately, though, I had no good excuse not to run. So, I made up my mind before I went to sleep last night. I think that's the key. If I wait until my alarm goes off to decide if I'm going to run, I'll decide not to run almost every time. John C. Maxwell teaches making decisions early, and then executing those decisions daily. That's sage advice!

At about mile 5, I wondered why in the world I dreaded this run. I felt GREAT and enjoyed this run more than any other lonely run I've done! So, I dropped the pace and decided to finish with 5 marathon pace miles. Today was a great workout in great weather that put me in a good mood that will hopefully last the rest of the week!

15 miles in 1:56 with 5 marathon pace miles and 11 sub 8:00 miles. I wasn't even tired after the run. I feel so ready for the marathon! I hope I can stay injury free and confident for 7 more weeks!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Peak Mileage Week! 24 Mile Long Run!

This Week
This week is the peak mileage week for the training program. The schedule calls for 87 miles this week. Since I was sick a couple of days and I just haven't been able to squeeze in doubles, I only got 84 miles this week. Ok, "only" might not be the right word, but I didn't quite reach the 87 that the plan called for. I really don't think those 3 miles are going to be the difference!

The Run
Today was the longest training run I remember at 24 miles. Mark and I met up with the Fleet Feet group to start at the Holiday Inn in downtown Huntsville. We ran the whole marathon course, except for the downtown loop. That turned out to be a little over 24 miles.

We started slow, with a 9:00 or so first mile. Then we settled in to a 8:00-8:15 pace that we maintained for the entire run. There was another 9:00 mile when we missed a turn and we were looking to get back on the course. We just weren't paying attention and ran past a painted "M" on the street. We finished strong with 8:05, 8:00, 7:53, 7:32, and 7:10 for miles 20-24.

The Race
I was glad that we ran the course today. I had forgotten about some late hills. From miles 20-24 on the course (18-22 for us today), there are some hills. They may not even be noticeable hills in a 10k race, but at that point in the marathon, you'll notice that it's not flat. We noticed today!

Today gave me a ton of confidence going into the last 7 weeks of training. I never thought a 7:10 mile for my 24th could feel so easy. Granted, a 7:10 mile when you've run 23 8:15 miles is different from a 7:10 mile when you've just run 25 7:17 miles. However, the 26th mile in the race won't be my 84th mile of the week, either. Today, I felt great during and after the run. My legs were tired from the miles during the week, but my heart rate stayed very low during those miles in the low 8s.

I have no delusion that the marathon will be easy. Today reminded me that the distance MUST be respected. However, today also confirmed that my training is preparing me well. Today also reminded me of how much easier long runs are with a partner.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I still feel yucky. I was barely able to avoid the goose egg today. I did an easy 9:00+ paced 5 miler, and that wiped me out completely. I had to take a nap this afternoon because I was just toast.

At least I feel some better this evening. Tomorrow will be better, I hope. I still have a lot of miles left to run this week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Last Tempo

Today was the last tempo run in my marathon training program. For the next 5 weeks, I get a steady dose of long runs, marathon pace long runs, VO2 workouts, and races. Then, it's taper time.

I knew this workout would be tough, but I really underestimated how bad it would be. The plan was for 12 miles total with 7 miles at tempo pace. I figured that based on my race performance at the Monte Sano 15k, tempo pace should be about 6:40 per mile. It was harder to hold that pace for 7 miles today than it was to hold it for 9.3 at the race. My heart rate was under control mostly. It was just above the tempo range for the last mile, but not bad. It was just hard to hold the pace today. Some days are better than others.

Matt came over and we ran over to the Athens High walking track as usual. There at the track I saw Jeff and my uncle Bryan getting their workout in. Good to see you guys! The miles on the track are a little long. I manually lapped the watch at the mile markers on the track instead of auto-lapping, so the splits below are for just over a mile, and some miles are longer than others. It came out to a 6:40 average pace overall on my Garmin.
  1. 6:55
  2. 6:40
  3. 6:45
  4. 6:42
  5. 6:36
  6. 6:42
  7. 6:40
I got a twinge in my right calf yesterday that started midway through the run and lasted until the end. It was there this morning, too. It didn't hurt during the tempo portion of today, but it was definitely sore afterward. I'm monitoring and icing it. It doesn't feel like something I can't run through.

Then, when I got home, I started feeling sick and have been at home sick all day. Yuck! Hopefully tomorrow is better. Maybe that's why it was hard to hold the pace.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Runs

After Wednesday's hard effort on the track, I took it easy on Thursday and Friday to recover. I did 7 or 8 at an easy pace both days.

I really wanted to run the Liz Hurley 5k yesterday, but for a number of reasons, that just didn't work out. Carl had a great run there! I like when he gets to opportunity to run a race because he does so much work to make the other HTC races go so smoothly. There were some other nice times there yesterday. Check out the Women's, Men's, and all Age Group results at the HTC website.

Instead, I met Mark and his friend Aaron up on Monte Sano to do some trail running. I didn't realize how much I missed running on the trails! There were a few cool things about that trail run.
  1. The weather was great for trail running! It was in the low 40s with clouds and a little rain. I could have done without the rain with those low temps, but it was still nice running weather.
  2. I got to try out my new Montrail Mountain Masochist shoes. I like them. I'll probably review them on a later post.
  3. We ran the course for the upcoming Monte Sano 9.3 mile Xterra race. That's a good course! It's runnable, but challenging. We were able to run sub 10:30 pace yesterday, so I would expect some fast finishing times at next week's race.
Today, I did the usual Sunday morning 10 mile loop. I meant to run a few extra before and after, but slept longer instead of running before. We ran the 10 mile at just below an 8:00 average pace. I was proud of Carl's effort today after yesterday's race effort!

After the 10 miler, I saw my cousin-in-law (is that a word?), Jeff, and we did a loop around the track before I headed home. I did 15 total for the day. Today is the beginning of my peak mileage week in the program.

Last, but not least, big props to my friend and Monte Sano 15k pacer Shane O'Neill for setting a marathon PR yesterday in KC! He was 16th overall and 4th in his AG. He had an awesome finishing time on a tough, hilly course!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back to the Track

The plan hasn't included any track work until today. I get a good steady diet of 5k pace track work from now until the marathon. I almost dreaded the workout today. I haven't run that fast in a long time and I didn't really know if I was ready for it. Matt came over and we ran over to the Athens High track, getting about a 3.7 mile warm up. We ended up with 9.3 total for the day.

The plan called for 6 x 800m at 5k pace. I've adjusted my 5k pace down a few seconds based on Saturday's performance. The goal was 3:04 or less for every 800m.
  1. 3:03
  2. 2:59
  3. 2:57
  4. 3:01
  5. 2:54 (Matt pulled me.)
  6. 2:49
I was content to run the last one at 3:04, but Matt suggested that he thought we could do it in the 2:40's. I told him that I didn't really want to. But when we said "Go" on the last one, I suddenly wanted to. It wasn't easy. It was just slower than "tossing my cookies" pace. But I'm glad he put the idea in my head. Running partners help a ton.

Running fast is fun.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just Past Halfway...

The training program I'm following is an 18 week program. It is based on the principles in Advanced Marathoning by Peter Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. I do a couple of deviations from their plan. First, I do back to back hard days almost every weekend. They address the concept, but don't include back to back hard days nearly as often as I do. Second, I don't always have convenient races when their plan calls for a race, so I'm racing when it's convenient.

This week is the beginning of the 10th week of the 18 week plan, so I'm just over halfway! I thought it appropriate to evaluate my progress now. The plan definitely gets harder in the next few weeks with both increased mileage and increased intensity. I feel ready.

General Feeling
I was concerned about how my body would respond to all these miles. I spent some time this summer ramping up, so I didn't just jump in at 70 miles per week. And, so far, so good! I feel as good as I ever have! I've had a few minor sore spots, but nothing that has lasted and nothing that has changed my gait. I'm thankful for the luck and blessings that have kept me injury free thus far. I hope that continues.

Race Performance
According to McMillan, Saturday was my best performance yet. Using Jack Daniels' VDOT, that race roughly equals my Cookie Dash 5k VDOT of 52, which is my best ever. I don't think I could have run Cookie Dash faster, but I do think I could have run Monte Sano 15k faster. This summer's race performances disheartened me a bit, so I'm glad to see improvement again. I feel faster than ever.

Heart Rate
My heart rate for a given workout is staying lower. On some workouts, such as long runs and tempo runs, I've increased the intensity to raise the heart rate. On others, I've simply enjoyed the increased comfort of a given pace. Some of this is weather related, I'm sure. But I do believe that some of it is related to improved fitness.

My weight has dropped some. I started the schedule at 171 lbs. I've been 166 lbs. for about a week now. I'd like to be nearer to 160, but I'm not going to risk slowing my recovery between workouts by not eating when I'm hungry. I'm simply paying close attention to what I eat and limiting or eliminating the splurges. After Dec. 12, BQ or not, I'm eating a cheeseburger, but not before then.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday AM Run

Well, I know that I didn't run hard enough Saturday based on how I felt Sunday. Or is the quick recovery a sign of the loads of miles and hard work paying off? I really think I just didn't run hard enough Saturday. Again, I'm very pleased with the time, but I should have gone out faster and dropped the pace some more on those middle miles.

I was able to give a very good effort on Sunday. I ran 15 total, including the usual 10 mile loop in Athens with Carl. Our average pace for the 10 miler was 7:38. My heart rate was under control for the run and I just felt great. If you can give an effort like that on the day after a 15k race, you didn't run the race hard enough!

I got the extra 5 miles by getting up a little earlier than usual and running an extra lap at the walking track before 5:45. Then, on the way home, I took a two mile route home after the 10 miler. Those two miles were sub 8:00, too.

Today, I avoided the rain and did a shoulder/triceps workout and an easy 5k on the treadmill. I can honestly say that I do now feel the cumulative effects of the weekend on my legs.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monte Sano 15k

The overall results and the age group results are posted on the HTC Website. Those guys do an amazing job of timely results posting. Thanks guys! I took 1:01:44 to run the 15k which was good enough for 17th overall and 3rd in the 35-39 age group.

One of the first things that stood out to me is the number of runners that were there in the misty, cloudy, foggy, breezy conditions. I mean, running 9.3 miles is not a trivial thing to do, and nearly 300 runners did it today. That was nice to see!

I toyed with a couple of different ideas for this race. The plan called for 18 with 12 at marathon pace. That crossed my mind. However, I've never raced a 15k. Except for last year's Rocket City Marathon, I've never given race effort in a race longer than 10k. So, I wanted to give it a go today.

I had good rest last night and settled in to my pre-race routine well this morning. I drove over to pick up Matt. We were able to get in a good 2.7 mile warm up with some strides at the end. I felt pretty good and was ready to race.

The First 5k
Before I get too deep into the details, I'd like to give a BIG thank you to Shane O'Neill. He's running a marathon next weekend and didn't want to put that goal at risk with hard effort today. So, he ran this race with me. He's much faster than me, and he's one of the guys I look up to. I admire the progress he's made over the past couple of years. It's amazing. Having him pace me helped a TON! It almost felt like cheating. His knowledge of the course and helpful tips along the way were most helpful. And to think, this wasn't even a marathon pace effort for him!

I simply started too slowly. I should have clocked those first 3 miles near 6:35, and I instead clocked them above 6:40. I was saving too much. Those 20 or so seconds are gone, and there's no way to get them back! Maybe those 20 seconds are what enabled me to finish strong. Who knows?

The first mile was mostly the forming of the packs. There was a lot of passing and getting passed. I don't remember much except that I ran behind Matt for a little while and I ran behind Randy McFarland some. The other memory of the first mile is that there was no cone or sentry for the turnaround. The arrows on the road were very visible, but I possibly would have missed it if I weren't running in a pack that was familiar with the course. Probably both a cone and a sentry would have been good there. I hit the first mile in 6:43.

I should have hung on to that next pack that formed ahead of me instead of letting them get away. There was a little passing and getting passed in the second mile, but I don't remember much about it. There was only one person who passed during this mile that I didn't track down. I ran it in a slower than expected 6:45.

The third mile has a slight rise early, but is mostly downhill. Also, I had someone to track down during this mile. I was able to pass John somewhat easily, though he did resist a little before letting me go. After John, there was another runner ahead that I didn't recognize and neither did Shane. I commented here that he shouldn't finish ahead of me. I should have said nothing. Not only was I unable to catch him, but I was unable to even close the gap. I was more pleased with the 6:27 split for mile 3.

The Middle 5k
The fourth mile is significantly uphill. I am less disappointed in the 6:46 split now that I look at the elevation of the course than I was when my watch rang. There is a turnaround near mile 4 on Old Chimney Road (the picture on the shirt is of the old chimney!). At that turnaround, I saw several familiar faces. Matt seemed no more than 15 seconds behind. Shortly behind him was Linda Scavarda, who ran incredibly well! Congrats on a HUGE PR, Linda! I cheered on some others that I knew and several cheered me on. That's about the only thing I like about a turnaround.

Shane warned me that the rest of the race would be like the trek up to the turnaround. There would be no worse hills, but there would be plenty of them. We headed down Monte Sano Blvd. to the Panorama loop. I'm happy to say that 6:40+ miles are now all finished! The rest of the race was lonely, except for Shane. By running faster miles now, I was leaving the people behind me. I wasn't running quite fast enough to catch the people ahead of me. Miles 5 and 6 were 6:34 and 6:37.

The Last 5k
Shane commented that I may have just run a 10k PR. It wasn't quite, but it was about 35 seconds or so slower than my 10k PR. I hit 6.2 miles at about 41:32 or so. I felt GREAT at this point. I knew that I only had 5k to go, and I was determined it would be the fastest 5k of the race.

The course continues to roll on this last 5k, and there were no runners in sight, ahead or behind. I was just running my pace. 6:36, 6:31, and 6:29, and 2:11 for the last 0.3. With a mile or so to go, Shane took off. He was able to reel in Dink, but not the other guy that I had wanted to reel in.

I was working pretty hard in the last 2 miles. I had a lot left in the tank coming into those miles, and I had to use it somehow. I probably waited too long to drop the pace.

Post Race
There is no doubt in my mind that I could have and should have run this race faster. I felt too good coming into the last 5k. I recovered too quickly after the race. Within 5 minutes, I was ready to run again. I felt great for the rest of the day!

Having said that, I am very pleased with the time. My goal was 63 minutes and I beat that soundly. Next year, I will be sub 1 hour in this race. If I ran this race next weekend, I'd try for sub 1 hour! That race gave me a TON of confidence that I'll break 40:00 in my next 10k.

After the race I did some cool down miles with Matt, Shane and Marty, then I found a co-worker, Jay Allison, finishing up the race, so Matt and I brought it in with him. Since both Matt and I got age group awards, I couldn't resist a trip to Fleet Feet since I was already in Huntsville. Hopefully I'll try out those new trail shoes soon!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ragnar Results!

I've had the results for the Ragnar Relay DC for a few days and just haven't gotten around to posting about it. Here is the link to the results. We are the ADTRAN Rapid Routers. We were the 29th overall team and the 2nd place Corporate team!! That's awesome!

The only corporate team to beat us was "Saucony Rocks". Hmmm. I wonder what those guys do for a living?!? We had to provide volunteers for this race. What we should have done is to get our volunteers to disqualify team "Saucony Rocks"! Then, we would have won the corporate division! (Of course, I'm joking here.)

First, I have to thank ADTRAN and Fleet Feet of Huntsville. Without their generosity, this experience would not have been possible.

I am very proud of the team effort during this race. I saw everybody on our team run until it hurt and then run more and run faster. Several team members gave PR type efforts during their legs of the race. What a great team!

Justin - Youth and speed. I wish I had more of both! He was clearly the star of the team.

Both Dave and Steve gutted out painful knees to finish up. Dave's long downhill effort was beyond painful for him and he gutted it out. And thanks to Steve for the medical help!

Gene and Kevin just ROCKED their last legs with personal best efforts. How were they able to do that on the 3rd leg? Not to mention Kevin’s 8.2 miles non-stop uphill.

Paul gave an awesome midnight effort chugging up that beast of a hill in the black of darkness!

Eric F. ran 10 miles at faster than my tempo pace. Dude.

Shawn gave a great effort on an 8.8 miler that turned out to be longer! I think he ran faster than he thought he could.

Elle really toughed out an underrated uphill night time run in her first leg. Nice job!

Angie gave a PR effort early and then braved a not so safe part of town in her last leg.

Christie braved Northwest DC in the rain to finish the relay. I was afraid for her as I was sitting in safety at the airport. She was a great hand-off partner!

And I can't forget Bruce who was the fearless driver for Van 2. It was great having you along, Bruce!

This was definitely an experience of a lifetime. If you get the chance to run a relay in the Ragnar series, take advantage of the opportunity! There are a few on the team worthy of special thanks. Thanks Angie for having the idea and being the team captain! Thanks Eric F. for your outstanding project management and organization skills! Thanks Shawn for getting the finances in order for this. And thanks Gene for hosting us Thursday and Friday night and for generously loaning your vehicle to be Van 1.

Big thanks to Angie for her effort in putting together this video. I had to destroy the quality to make it fit on my blog, but you'll get the idea. It was a GREAT experience, and the vid captures some of that!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Every Sunday

It's really nice to have things that are just a fixture on the calendar. The Sunday morning run is one of those things. I mean, I'll go easy or skip if I had a difficult Saturday or if I'm sick or something. By and large, though, I'm going to run at least 10 miles with a good effort on Sunday morning at 5:45.

Today, I might have skipped if Carl weren't waiting for me. Yesterday was humiliating. I couldn't have run another step after 22 miles. It hurt so bad! This morning, though, I felt much better! I'm glad Carl was there to encourage me to redeem myself.

I ended up with 13.5 total, and Carl and I ran our usual 10 mile loop through Athens. I really enjoy that run. The route, the pace, and the company are all solid. It's a great way to start the week!

We ran at about an 8:00 pace with all the miles from mile 5 and beyond below 8:00. It was just a nice, enjoyable run. The weather was great and it restored some of the confidence that yesterday's beatdown took away.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Catch up

I've been very busy this week and just haven't had time to update. Also, I've been living in the aftrglow of the Ragnar relay. So, here's the update for the whole week.

After Ragnar, I just didn't have a good effort in my legs for Sunday. So Sunday was a recovery day. Matt and I gave a good effort at a 15 miler Monday morning. Tuesday was another recovery day.

Wednesday was the key workout this week. It was 12 miles with 6 miles at tempo pace. The tempo run started a little slow at 7:03 for the first mile, but we finished strong with an average pace of 6:41 for the 6 miles. Nice job Matt.

After a couple more recovery days, I ran a 22 miler today. That was the most difficult long run to date. I have had too many short nights this week and they caught up with me on the run today. Today's run hurt really bad. Not my legs, but my abs killed me at the end. I had to stop and walk several times on the last 2 miles. Ugh! Pain! Now that I've stopped running, everything is fine. I had to run in the afternoon today, and that hurt me some, too. I had a strong finish until the last mile and a half, but after that, ouch.

That put me just over 82 miles for the week. Definitely my highest mileage week ever.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ragnar Relay - Leg 25

This last leg was one of the toughest things I've ever done.

Exchange 18
Dave was the last runner in Van 1. When he handed the wristband to Paul at exchange point 18, we departed quickly in the dark of the night to a hotel that Gene had reserved for us about halfway between exchange 18 and exchange 24. Having that hotel was one of the best ideas of the whole trip!

There were people lying on the ground everywhere at exchange 18! The weather was starting to get uncomfortably cool. I grabbed a cup of hot chocolate and was than
kful that I didn't have to try to sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground. They were serving a hot meal there, too, but I couldn't think of eating after Park-n-Dine!

One thing I learned about relay racing is that you don't have nearly as much time between legs as you think you do! Man, we didn't waste any time, but the time just flew by! We got to the hotel at about 1:30 and we were estimating the start my leg at about 5:00 AM. Counting time for a MOST welcome hot shower and drive time to exchange point 24, that left about 2 hours for sleep. The last leg was BY FAR my hardest! It was supposed to be 7.8 hilly miles.

Exchange 24
Those two hours of sleep just flew by! When we got to exchange point 24, it was very crowded. There was a lot of traffic and there was just no space to warm up. I tried to warm up, but it was just miserable. I didn't have space or desire to run. So, after about a half mile of jogging, I just hung out with the team and waited on Christie to bring me the wrist band.

I really wanted to run harder on this leg than I did. I wasn't thinking anything crazy like 6:30 or even 6:45 pace, but I sure was hoping to keep the pace below 7:00. A 6:59 pace would have been acceptable. However, I had a feeling that 6 something miles were a VERY long shot. I was trying to get warm and stay warm, but I just couldn't stop dreading the run! Justin said that there would be no more 6:00 miles for him. I agreed that my 6:30 miles were all used up as well.

The 25th Leg
At about 5:40, They called "1-1-5, Team 115 get ready, your runner is approaching!". Oh well, here I go. I guess I will if I have to! I knew that this section would be hilly. It was nothing like Runner #5 had to deal with, but it was rolling to say the least. I also hadn't studied this route like I should have, so I was more dependent on the course markings. Angie told me that if I was running uphill then I was going the right way! It sure seemed that way!

The first mile was mostly downhill and it still took almost 8:00! I wasn't warmed up and I was very tired. It wasn't "running" fatigue as much as it was "lack of sleep" fatigue! I just couldn't get going. The second mile was rolling, and took around 7:40. I knew then that sub 7:00 average was probably out of the question, but I was awake and warm now. I realized that I hadn't eaten since the Park-n-Dine. So I downed a gel and tried to dro
p the pace. The problem with dropping the pace was that it was still hilly!

Man, this route was in the middle of nowhere! I heard (and smelled, ugh!) cows and horses all around. The smell of this route was nearly unbearable!

When I started this leg, there was no other runner in sight. At about mile 1, I finally caught someone. I encouraged her as I passed. Yep, even running a 7:47 mile, I caught someone! And then there was another! Then, the Expedition leap frogged me and Van 1 was there cheering me on! That is really what lifted my spirits. I heard cheering teammates and I kept seeing blinking butt lights to chase. At this point in the relay, though, nobody was making even a modest attempt to hold me off! I encouraged everyone as I pa

Wow!! More blinking butt lights! I passed at least 14, maybe 16 runners on this leg. I was having trouble counting because of the lack of sleep! Nobody passed or even threatened to pass on this leg. I don't think I was the only one who was totally spent by this time.

At the two mile to go mark, a van passed and told me "2 miles to go!" I thanked them and tried to give more effort. I was just out of gas, and that next to last mile was uphill!!! Another van passed by at the one mile to go mark and said, "1 mile t
o go!!" I thanked them, and tried again to increase the effort. Thankfully, the last mile was somewhat flat. I was so glad to see the exchange point up ahead!!

This run didn't hurt nearly as bad as the first and second. It was like I just couldn't move faster. It was just the general fatigue of two previous hard efforts in the day combined with the lack of sleep. The leg was a little longer than advertised, 7.96. I averaged 7:15 per mile, up and down and up and down. I probably did let the team down a
bit on this leg. I just didn't give the effort that I should have. Looking back, I should have taken the attitude that this is the last leg and I have nothing to save for. I simply did not go all out.

Ragnar Relay - Leg 13

The Pre-Run Mistake
While Van 2 was running their legs, we joined them at the occasional exchange point. We tried to rest, but it just wasn't bed time. Since breakfast, I had only had a bagel, peanut butter, apples, chips, etc. So, I was STARVING. So was everyone else. Gene and Steve were familiar with the area, so they recommended a diner along the way, the Park-n-Dine in Hancock, MD. If you're ever in the neighborhood, don't miss this dive.

I made a huge mistake at the diner. There was this great looking sandwich on the diner menu. Roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, fried mushrooms, and cheese on sourdough. It was AMAZING! As I was about to take my last few bites, Steve reminded me that I had to run in 2 hours. WHAT?!?!?! OH NO!!!! I had completely lost track of time. Huge mistake! Um, yeah. Turkey on wheat with lettuce and tomato would have been a much better choice.

The 13th Leg - The First Half
Leg 13 was a 4.1 mile run that had a couple of noticeable hills. I've never run a 4 mile race before, so I was guessing at what pace I should run this leg. I decided I'd be aggressive and run it at 5k pace and see what happened. There I am taking the baton. (OK, it was a reflective wrist band, but whatever.)

At this point in the race, we had lost just a little bit of our planned time. We were maybe 15 minutes behind our plan, so I was going to try to make some of it up. Since it was a night leg, I was allowed a bicycle pacer. So, Steve rode alongside me. I warned him that I would be pushing too hard to talk on this leg. His encouragement and watching for traffic REALLY helped.

Immediately after starting this leg, I passed 3 people. I went out at 5k effort, but there is about an 85 feet hill in the first quarter mile of this leg. OUCH! It was NOT 5k pace! And when the hill let up, it didn't flatten or go downhill, it was just a gradual 40 feet rise until about 1.5 miles. UGH! The first mile was definitely harder than 5k effort, but ended up 6:37 for the mile.

About half a mile in, I got passed. Steve warned me that he was coming. His move was strong! I stayed on his shoulder, but he was determined. He dropped the pace to about 6:00, and I knew that I couldn't hang on to that, especially uphill. I had to let him go. This guy was at least 50. Man, I hope I'm that fast when I'm 50! I kept him in my sight. He backed off some when he realized that I wasn't going to stay with him.

At the top of the hill, at about the 1.5 mile mark, the 50-ish year old passed another runner. That runner was going at a sub-7:00 pace, and he didn't even try to keep up. So, I set my eye on him. At about mile 2, When I started to make my move, he stayed with me for just a few steps, but then he encouraged me and let go.

I kept the first passer in sight on the flat section at the top of the hill. I didn't know if I would be able to make a move or not. I knew that the downhill was coming and I feel pretty strong on downhills. I did close the gap some down the hill, but it was futile. He is faster than me! I asked Steve about the guy I passed, and my lead on him was slowly building. I had one guy to chase, and nothing really to worry about from behind.

The 13th Leg - The Second Half
Mile 2 was mostly flat with a couple of 10-15 foot bumps in it. I hit it in a disappointing 6:35. The next two miles were downhill or flat all the way! I hit them in 6:05 and 6:01. During them, I blew by 3 other runners, but the guy who passed me just built his lead. This leg was the only leg that gave me the "1 mile to go" sign. When I saw it at about 3.05 on the Garmin, I was determined to just get after it!

At about 3.6 or so miles, there was a turn to the finish. I could see this daunting 50 foot hill up ahead. UGH!. And, after the turn, there was this nasty smell of raw sewage! Remember the diner in Hancock, MD? Eww! At my current effort level, that was about the worst thing that could have happened. I managed to keep everything down, though. This leg turned out to be just a bit shorter than 4.1, and I was a little surprised by the finish, so I didn't start my ending kick soon enough.
I didn't feel as good as I looked, so I must've felt really BAD!! After the bad feeling went away, I got this extreme euphoria in the van. I guess that was endorphins combined with satisfaction?