Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Not Well

I keep trying to get out the door even though I don't feel like it.  Some nasty funky germ is ravaging my house. Everyone has been running a fever and coughing and sneezing and just feeling miserable.  Me too. We just can't seem to shake it. I've had good days and bad, but I haven't felt well since about last Wednesday. This is messing up my training!

Today, even though I didn't feel like it, Andy and I rode over to the Owl Creek Horse Trails in the Bankhead National Forest to run the Black Warrior 25k course. The plan called for a 14 miler today. I love those trails! The mountains were still snow covered, and it was an absolutely beautiful run! I ran hard, too.  I finished the course in about 2:02, which is faster than I raced it in 2009.  I think I inadvertently shortened the course by about a quarter mile, though. I wanted to finish stronger, but my left hamstring just kept whispering to me to slow down. I listened. It's still sore. Ugh. I just want to run fast again without worrying about injury!

The rest of the day I have been completely wiped out. I was not well enough to run, but in a way, it was worth it. I'm miserably sick now, but the joy of the beauty of nature and camaraderie was almost worth it. Almost.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Holiday Week in Training

I mostly did what the plan called for this week. First, I did a 12 miler with 10 of them with the usual Sunday morning 10 mile crew. Have I mentioned how much I like having that Sunday morning fixture on my calendar?  I think I have.

Monday, I did a recovery run and 10 strides (yay! I didn't hurt myself with the strides!).  Tuesday, Matt and I did a 13 miler at a much harder pace than my plan called for. It was miserable at times, but overall it felt awesome.

Wednesday, I went to the trails and did an 11 miler mostly on the second half of the Mountain Mist course. Joining me were Matt, Marcus, and Andy.  Marcus and Andy are much younger and faster than I am.  I need to hang out with young fast people more often. I was still feeling Tuesday's 13 miler and totally tanked at about 10 miles.  I had no idea how I was going to finish that last mile. I stopped and walked a bit, let them all pass me and even get out of sight.  Then, I had to just "suck it up, buttercup" and tried to catch them.  As they were cooling down on the last quarter mile, I got back in sight and was able to nearly catch them.

Thursday, I felt like garbage.  I'm sure that was a combination of the back to back hard days and the fact that everyone in my house except me is running a fever.  I generally don't run a fever even if I am sick. I feel sick. I thought a recovery run in the warmest part of the day would make me feel better.  Wrong.

I had to try to squeeze the long run in on Friday because I have to see what Santa Claus brings on Christmas Day.  So, I tried to run 17 miles with 8 miles at marathon pace.  That was a complete no-go. I dreaded the run before I started.  I struggled to get out the door. I finally got out the door an hour later than planned. Then I ran at my normal long run pace for 9 miles.  I never relaxed and enjoyed it, which is unusual for a long run.  My HR was fine, but I just couldn't get comfortable.  Then, I sped up to the 6:50 3 hour marathon pace after 9 miles.  I ran 3 miles at that pace and just had to stop.  My left leg was hurting and I knew that it would only get worse. Also, I just felt horrible.  So, I slowed to about a 9:00 pace and ran home from where I was.  That turned out to be about a mile, so I got 13 in with 3 at marathon pace.  Ugh. I hope I feel better soon so I can train for this crazy 3 hour goal.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chugging Along

I battled weather and flight delays to get home on Thursday. What a day.  I had to get up too early to get in a run before heading from my hotel to DFW.  I figured that getting home at 12:40 would allow me to get in the missed medium-long run of 12 miles.  But Delta Airlines had other plans for my day.  I spent much of the day cramped up in a plane out on a tarmac awaiting departure and awaiting an open gate.  Ugh.

Business travel is great.  Ask anyone who travels 20 or more times a year and they'll tell you how wonderful it is to sit at an airport and be away from your family and have your diet and schedule interrupted. And the wonderful sights you see. Hotels, airports, and offices pretty much look the same no matter where you are. Seriously, if I didn't run, I don't think I'd be able to bear business travel.  I do get to see things that others don't see because I explore a bit on foot. Wow, I just got off topic, didn't I?

I did the 12 miler when I got home and barely finished before dark.  It felt really good, but my body is tired from the travel, lack of sleep, and horrible diet this week.  I really enjoy those medium-long runs.

After recovering Friday, I went to Monte Sano today and ran the second half of the Mountain Mist course.  That race is going to eat me alive! Natural Well trail is much rougher than I remembered, and I remembered it being nearly impossible. I have a lot of work to do to even run close to last year's time on that course. 5:00 is out of the question. It's brutally difficult and I am not in good shape, and I'm nowhere near trail shape right now.  But the run was really good. I love it out there on the mountain.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Tempo

My mettle to train for Boston has been tested early! I have been on business travel in a very unfamiliar city this week.  The only place I've found to run is a 2.7 mile concrete path.  So, if you run out and back on it several times, you can get your scheduled mileage!

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles with 3 miles at 6:29 overall pace.  Yep, all 10 of them were on that concrete path that goes by the dump and the jail and the airport and the middle school. In fairness, it also goes by two nice parks, too.

Today, I needed to run 12 miles.  I tried running on the roads around here, but apparently there is no leash law.  after getting chased twice by dogs in the pitch dark black of pre-dawn, I decided that the trail was my safest option.  I only did 10 miles because I ran out of time and I couldn't bring myself to running out that silly path again.

The upside is that the weather has been gorgeous!  50 degrees this morning!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Boston Training... Day 1

My training schedule for Boston started this morning.  It was a 9.7 mile recovery run.  I met with the usual Athens 10 mile crew.  One in the group was struggling a little with a sore Achilles, so I stayed back with him at an easier pace.  We also cut the run a little short to avoid a hill on a recovery run.

It was cold and WINDY!  I guess that is a sign of things to come this winter.  I have to get in 3:00 shape.  I have a tempo run and a med-long run scheduled this week.  It will be a challenge to get them in while I'm traveling, but I'll do whatever it takes to get the miles and quality done.

Everything counts.  Miles. Quality. Diet. Recovery. Strides. Core work. Hills. Stretching. Drills. Rest. 3:00. 3:00. 3:00.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rocket City Marathon 2010 - 3:45 Pacer

I was more nervous for this than I was for any race I remember, even my first one.

There will be people counting on me! What if I have an injury?  What if I mess up the pace? What if go out too fast?  What if I get behind?  What if nobody shows up to run in my pace group? What if I get a jerk in my group? What if I'm just boring?  What if, what if, what if.

Well, it was an absolute blast!  Running a marathon without hurting is fun!  I thoroughly enjoyed the company of the entire group. I really wish we had stayed together the whole time, but I know that was not realistic.

As I made my way to the starting area, people began to crowd around me.  I had a group of maybe 25 or 30! I couldn't believe it! I tried my best to chat it up with all of them and get their names.  I only remembered a few names, and I simply didn't have time to get everyone's name before the anthem.  Most of them needed a 3:50 to BQ and were planning to hang with me as long as they could.

I warned everyone before the race that we would get as much as 40-45 seconds behind in the first three miles.  I told them not to worry because we would make that up in miles 4-15, but not all in one mile.  I told them that we would try not to run any mile more than 5 seconds too fast.

The Early Miles
We had to run a slow first mile because of the crowds. Very early in the race, my Garmin was way off of the markings on the course.  I should have disabled auto-lapping and pressed "lap" at every mile, but I didn't do that. My Garmin actually measured this course at 26.45 miles. Because of this, my splits were not as consistent as I had hoped. The second mile was also a little slow, but we had a good third mile and were about to settle into a pace.

I got all kinds of questions about my running and the course and the area and the weather and who knows what else.  The chatter just kept the miles clicking away. It was a fun group of miles, for sure! Our splits were pretty consistent here, too.  Mile 8 was a little slow, but it is uphill.

The long stretch on Baily Cove was even boring with this big group.  We were out of conversation, and this section of the race is just brutal.  I tried to take the lead as much as I could, but the group had spread out some, with some running ahead. I tried, but pretty much everything I said was artificial.  I just couldn't stay cheery here.

Near the halfway mark, I HAD to go to the port-a-potty.  I was about to burst.  I hated to do that because there are no scheduled bathroom breaks on the pace group.  I just had to, though.  I did not want to, but I had to.  So, I spotted the ugly blue plastic stall and told everyone in the group that I was going to run ahead and told them not to chase me! That made mile 13 a 9:03 mile and mile 14 an 8:00 mile trying to catch the group again.  I did catch them and settled down quickly.

On to 20
After the turn on Cheney Thompson, the conversation picked up again.  The group stayed together well, and we were having fun.  I kept reminding people how much fun it is to run. The conversation was amazingly positive and it was just plain fun.  I don't remember a lot here.  I could see people beginning to fade, and I was trying to bring them along.  It worked for the most part.  I got several of them to 20 with me.

The Last 10k
People really began to drop here.  I told the group, "If you feel good, you can drop me at any time.  I won't chase you.  Leave me."  Only one took me up on it, and I passed him again before mile 23.  I hope it wasn't bad advice that caused that.

Actually, the opposite was beginning to happen.  People were dropping.  Oh... I wanted to go get them.  I wanted everyone to finish with me. Badly.  It hurt each time I passed someone.  People kept saying, "No! I don't want you to pass me!" My response was, "Don't let me!  I don't want to! Hang with me! I'll get you there in 3:45!" Some would lift and hang for a while, but most just faded.

I know how difficult that last 10k is. I kept telling everyone that.  I kept telling them that the secret to the marathon is conquering the last 10k.  You haven't lived until you've experienced the last 10k of a marathon. The last 10k is what you love.  The last 10k is what you train for. Embrace the last 10k.  Overcome the desire to quit.  Overcome the desire to slow down.  10k? That's an easy distance! At 5k I was saying, "5k? we laugh at people who only run 5ks!"  During the last mile it was a pure celebration! I was saying, "DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING ON THE ROAD! You should not be able to take another step when you cross the finish line! Dig deep! You got this! A mile? A mile is NOTHING!"  I was supposed to finish under 3:45, but I yielded to some in my group to allow them to finish ahead of me and went across in 3:45:04 chip time, 3:45:24 gun time. That's pretty close for a first time pacer, I suppose.

Rocket City Marathon is one of the best marathons ever.  Run this one. Great race. Great people. Great town. I'm super excited that it now offers pace groups.  I'd lead a pace group again if asked.  Awesome fun.

And I'd like to give a shout out to Bob, Sheryl, Lisa, Gretchen, Amy, and Stephanie for Boston Qualifying today! Also, nice job David, Lucas, and Matt for hanging in there the whole way. Sweet! I hope I was some help to you along the way.

After the finish, I wanted to hang out to find all of those that I lost.  I found some, but not all.  It was great to reunite and congratulate.  I'd love to do this again.  The star of my group was clearly Stephanie.  She BQ'd in her first marathon EVER!  She absolutely dropped the hammer in the last mile. She showed toughness and guts that are rarely seen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What To Say?

I'm really looking forward to this weekend's Rocket City Marathon.  Helping folks reach the goal that they have trained so hard for will be a pretty neat experience.  I've been thinking about what I may say to the group.  I like to talk, but I have to make conversation with strangers for nearly four hours?  I'm sure I'll get by.  And I need to mix in some trite running quotes to inspire them, too.  You know, the classics I use in this blog, like "Suck it up, buttercup!" I'm guessing that one will get old sometime before mile 26. I'm open for new suggestions.

I'm happy to report that my hamstring seems to be cooperating with me now.  I tried some fast running yesterday (well, faster than I've been running).  I did a 6:30 mile and 5 or 6 strides.  I could feel it, but it never tightened up on me.  Today, I did 6 strides again with no problem.  I think I'm ready for the hard running that will be my training for Boston.  Oh yeah, Boston training starts Monday.  3:00.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Really Do Maintain a Blog

I know, I know.  It's been a while.  My posts here have been anything but regular.

I have been under considerable stress recently. When you add to that some nagging injuries, it's just been hard.  Are the injuries related to the mental stress? Anyway, it's been a real struggle to break the 50 mile per week mark.  60 miles per week has taken almost super-human focus.  The few times that I've broken 70, I honestly don't know how I did that.

However, I'm coming off of a 65 mile week that felt fantastic.  I believe that I have the necessary 65-70 mile base required to begin serious marathon training.  So now it's time to come back and focus again. Now everything counts: planning, stretching, diet, drills, mileage, hills, quality workouts, recovery runs, rest. Three hours at Boston.

I'll end with a funny story from yesterday's 18.5 miler.  After 17.5 miles, some kids on bicycles were riding alongside me and we started chatting.  They seemed like good kids, maybe 10-11 years old. I asked them if they thought they could beat me in a race to the end of the street.  One said, "We've been out here a long time and we're pretty tired."  I said, "I'm working on my 18th mile, I'm tired too." "WOW! 18 miles?!?!" "Yes. It's fair. Let's race to the top of the hill there." I took about 5 or 6 quick steps and said, "GO!"  I had the lead!  But of course, bicycles are much faster than feet after 17.5 miles and they pulled ahead.  My hamstring actually stood up to that fairly well.  At the top of the hill, I congratulated them and paused for a minute to share some high fives and idle chatter.  It made my run.  The moral of the story? Have fun.  There are more opportunities for innocent fun than we ever realize.  Little things can make big things more enjoyable.