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.