Saturday, December 31, 2011

Recover From the Holidays 50k

Wow. Just wow. For the first time that I remember, I smashed my expectations for a race. Even so, I know I could have run a better race today. But I'm not complaining. Really, I am not the least bit disappointed. I only say that I could have run better because I didn't aim to run the best possible time today. Besides that, I was not in complete misery at the end of the race. I felt great, in fact.

My A goal was 4:30. My B goal was to set a 50k PR (sub 4:47) and my C goal was sub 5 hours. I smashed my A goal with a 4:14:45 and 5th overall finish. I say I could have run better because I started very slow and didn't really prepare for this race at all. And, make no mistake, I know my place. DeWayne Satterfield won going away today in 3:50 and change. Tim Vinson was second about 6 minutes behind. I am not an ultra machine like those guys are. I look way up to them.

The Plan
I'm laser focused on Albany Marathon. So, I trained right through this race. Today's race put me at 90 miles for the week. Last week was an 82 mile week. My schedule called for 20 miles with 12 at marathon pace. Since this was a 50k, my plan was to run 11 miles easy. Then run 10 miles at my typical long run effort, and then whatever I had left for the last 10 miles, hopefully marathon pace effort.

Since I'm focused on March 3rd, any good performances between now and then are just gravy. Today was delicious gravy on top of country fried steak! :)

The Race
There's not much to tell here. It's 1 mile followed by 10 repeats of a 1.5 mile out and back. The only thing more boring than running it would be reading about it! Huge thanks to Eric Charette for putting on this event. He has found a way to make 10 repeats of 1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back next to a smelly dump a cool thing to do. Major props to him for that.

I started out at 8:30 effort. I actually went a little faster than I planned at first because I had some friends running a little faster. So, I joined them. I enjoyed the early laps with Andy Davidson, Mark Freeman, Jon Elmore and others.

After 11 miles, I did crank up the effort a bit to more like 8:10 effort. The only low point came at about 15 miles. I really was struggling then and ran a 9:00 mile. I was just thinking, "I don't feel so good to be less than halfway." I battled it. I thought positively, and thankfully, it passed. Also, I had to take two bathroom breaks which was very frustrating. I didn't want to stop running.

After 21 miles, I dropped to sub-8 effort. I didn't quite think I had marathon pace effort in me. I didn't want to go too hard too early. But at this point, I felt very confident of my A goal. When I hit the next to last lap, I passed the lead female. I was very glad to not get chicked! I was seriously worried about that for most of the race.

The last lap, I decided to just let it go, leave it all out there. I started too late because I had a lot left. I ran about a 6:30 final mile because I knew I was close to breaking 4:15 and I really wanted to do that. And I recovered very quickly. I'm only just a little sore. I really had more than I gave today. But I'll be recovered and ready to hit marathon training hard again next week.

I am so thankful to God for the health I have enjoyed to be able to accomplish this!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Should I Streak?

So, should I streak? No, I'm not talking about running naked across a football field during a bowl game. I'm talking about starting a streak of consecutive days of running.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a streak. It seems like a good idea to create motivation to get out the door. It's also something that lots of runners do. Could I run every day in 2012? I don't know. It would certainly be a challenge. I'm just not sure it's realistic given my crazy travel schedule. It could mean running at some very weird hours, either very early in the morning or very late in the evening.

Pros: Interesting challenge. Extra motivation on some mornings. 4 miles is better than 0 miles.
Cons: Crazy travel schedule will make it difficult sometimes. It could add extra stress. I like a day off sometimes.

I don't know. I guess I have a couple of days to decide.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not My Day

I had my first bad workout in a while. I was planning to do a 12 mile run with 6 at tempo pace. Lately, 6:15 - 6:18 has felt about like tempo pace. I've been able to hold that without a lot of trouble. It feels hard at the end, but not too bad, and nothing like a race. Every tempo run, I've felt like I could have run a couple more miles at that pace, maybe more.

Well, Wednesday that streak ended. I planned to do 6 miles at 6:15. It was wet, windy, and a muggy 60 degrees, but that shouldn't have done me in like it did. I totally tanked at 4.5 miles and barely kept it below 6:20 pace. I had to completely stop. I don't know. I'm just chalking that up to the fact that it wasn't my day. I hope that's all it was.

The next day's 11 mile trail run felt great. My total mileage this week is pretty high at 83 miles. So, I hope it was just a bad day. We all have them right? I'll have to admit that I am losing a little confidence since I'm not cranking out the super fast 200s and 400s any more. I was very confident while focused on 5k training. But marathon training is a different animal. I could really test my 5k fitness any given week on the track. Marathon fitness, not so much. I've typically used tempo runs and long runs to feel marathon fitness. And it's just a guess.

Well, my long runs have been ok. I've done some marathon pace runs that felt hard, but ok. My normal long runs have not totally drained me. I've felt fine afterwards. But Wednesday's tempo run... The others have been great. Yeah, unless it happens again, I'm just going to say that Wednesday wasn't my day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Training Update

I don't remember if I've mentioned it on this blog or not, but I've settled on an early 2012 marathon. I'll be running the Albany Marathon (formerly the Snickers Marathon Energy Bar Marathon) in Albany, GA, on March 3, 2012. I chose this one because it's supposedly fast and it is within a drive-able distance. Also, it's not one of the mega marathons with all the stress of tens of thousands of people at the same place. This was just the kind of event I was looking for to attempt a BQ minus 20 minutes. A BQ minus 20 minutes basically guarantees entry into the Boston Marathon for 2013. It allows one to register with the first wave of registrations during the first week of registration. So, that's my plan for this winter.

Along the way I'll run Recover from the Holidays 50k on New Year's Eve 2011 and Mountain Mist 50k on January 28, 2012.

The past 3 weeks have challenged my mettle. I've been in 6 cities in 3 weeks. I've honestly had trouble remembering which rental car is mine and my hotel room number. I did wake up in the middle of the night (only once, thankfully) wondering where I was. That's why they print the address on the phone in a hotel room! This time of year, it's dark in the morning and it's dark after work. So, I have to really know the area or I have to run on the treadmill. So, I've done most of my mid-week miles on the treadmill for the past 3 weeks. The end result is that my mileage isn't as high as I would like for it to be. These were the treadmill runs: 11 miles, 15 miles, 6 miles, 8 miles and 13 miles. Man, that was really tough.

Here are some things I enjoyed about the travel.

  1. I was able to do a 12 mile run with 6 miles at tempo pace (6:15 per mile). This was a beautiful run along the Red River in Shreveport, LA, in 60 degree weather. It was awesome!
  2. I followed that near sea-level mild weather run with a recovery run at altitude in 28 degree weather on icy, snowy, muddy trails in the foothills of the Rockies just outside of Denver.
Here are some things I didn't enjoy about the travel.
  1. A 15 mile run on a treadmill.
  2. A 13 mile run on a treadmill.
  3. An 11 mile run on a treadmill.
I'd like to do the rest of my training for the Albany Marathon outside! One funny thing that I noted... While I was doing the 13 miler on the treadmill, I noticed that no fewer than 6 people came in and out of the hotel fitness room while I was running. I outlasted them all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rocket City 3:30 Pace Group

This year, I was asked to lead the 3:30 pace group at the Rocket City Marathon. I have to say thanks to Eric Charette and Fleet Feet Racing for giving me this honor. I am so glad that RCM has added pace groups. That is a feature of many much larger marathons. I am being honest and trying not to be such a homer when I say this, but Rocket City Marathon is one of the best marathons in the country. Run this one.

RCM Pace Groups
I'm pretty sure it was Eric Charette's idea to add pace groups to RCM, and he does the work to organize them. I'm very thankful that he thought of me and asked me to lead a group. It's a ton of work and juggling to organize these groups. You have to find 15-20 runners who are able to run a steady pace for 26.2 miles. It really helps if those runners are personable and know a lot about running and know the course. Then, those runners have to be willing to give up their goals to help others. Those kinds of runners don't grow on trees and the fact that we have so many here in North Alabama speaks highly of the running community in this area. Those kind of runners are usually busy professionals and are also fairly likely to get injured. So when someone drops out because of a stress fracture or IT band or hamstring or work schedule, you have to scramble to find replacements and you have to put people where they can run comfortably. What a job to organize that! Big thanks to Eric for pulling that off.

Leading a pace group is FUN!!!! Man, that was amazing. Last year was my first experience. I was leading the 3:45 pace group and we finished in 3:45:04. This year, Boston Qualifying times do not give a 59 second grace period, so I had to bring the group in sub 3:30.

The 3:30 Group
I was amazed by how many runners joined my group at the start. They all had different stories. Some were looking to BQ. Some were looking to BQ-5 to get an early sign up. Some were looking to BQ with a 3:35 but to stay with 3:30 as long as they could. Some just picked a 3:30 pace group because it seemed like a good round number. I really don't know how many runners started in my group. I tried to introduce myself to them all, but it was nearly impossible. There must have been 30 runners who started in the 3:30 group.

I warned them that the second half would be difficult. I let them know that we would have a fairly stiff breeze in our face after about mile 15 or so. I also assured them that we would run as even splits as possible, except for mile 8 and mile 21 which would be a little slow because those two miles have hills. I also let them know that I would try to never run slower than 8:10 and never faster than 7:55.

There were runners from all over the Southeast and one from Kansas in our group. The states represented were Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, and Kansas. The guy from Indiana was from southern Indiana, which is a lot like the South, so we'll consider him from the Southeast.

The Runners
It was really an honor to get to meet and hear about the lives and training of all the runners in my group. They all had very interesting stories to tell.

One guy was a 4:35 miler on his high school track team and he just wanted to train for and run a marathon to improve his endurance before track season.  It was his debut, and it was a very good one at 3:34. He hung in there on pace until about mile 23. It was awesome to hear his track and cross country experiences and to hear that his coach encouraged him to run a marathon. I hope my children are as well mannered as this young man when they're 17.

Another guy had just recently paced a 70 year old man to a marathon finish. He had helped him train and ran with him all along the way. Wow.

Another lady was running her first post pregnancy marathon. She had a 4 month old baby! Um, and she left the pace group at about mile 21. No, she didn't fall behind, she dropped the hammer and took off!

Everyone in the group was so nice and we all just had a great time! I know that several were suffering at the end, and I tried to help them through it, but there's only so much that words of encouragement can do.

The Run
I consider this pacing effort a very good success. If I had it to do over again, I would have run the first half about 10-15 seconds faster and positive split this run. This is because the wind was stiff in our face from mile 15 to the finish. I ran the first half in 1:44:47 and the second half in 1:44:22. Most of the negative split was in the last mile. I ran it in about 7:50. There were about 4 in my group who were feeling good in the last mile and dropped the pace. Three of them pulled way ahead of me. There was nobody near me from behind, so I decided to run a little faster with them. My slowest mile was mile 8 at 8:08. My fastest mile was mile 26 at 7:50. Other than that, pretty much every mile was between 7:55 and 8:02. I'm particularly proud of that consistency.

On a funny note... While we were running into the wind, there were a couple of runners from the group out front. I asked them, "Do you want me to break wind for you?" Um, that didn't come out quite right! Everyone laughed at that, and most people said, "No, thanks. Hold it if you will." :) The bad part is that I said it more than once... Anyway, I did spend much of the time leading to shield the group from the wind.

For some reason, I didn't have very many catchy quotes for this one. The only one I had was, "Extraordinary accomplishments require extraordinary effort." The group really liked that, and I think it helped some.

At the end, three or four from the group couldn't resist giving me a hug. I'm not much of a hugger, but after running 26.2 miles with someone and suffering through the overwhelming desire to quit or slow down, I'll make an exception. It actually made my day to know that they appreciated my efforts that much.

I really hope I'll be invited to do this again next year. Thanks again to NikeFleet Feet in Huntsville and Eric Charette for giving me this opportunity.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dizzy 50 (40)

Dizzy Fifties is not an easy 50 miler. Sure, it's not very technical. Sure, it only has one major hill (that you repeat 5 times). But, anyone who says it's easy has never tried to complete 50 miles on that course. Could I have finished 50 miles today? Probably. Did I want to? Not after finishing 40 miles. That's the thing that makes this race so difficult. When you approach the start/finish area, you really want to be finished! The freedom to quit without any real consequence was just too much for me to handle again this year.

The results... I was the second place 40 mile finisher in 6:46, (way) behind Dewayne Satterfield. There were no 50 mile finishers today.

The First Lap
Check out the Dizzy Fifties website for details about the laps. It starts with a little 2-ish loop and then it begins the North loop then South loop alternation. I started out conservatively at about a 9:20-ish pace. I let all the competitive 50kers go. I would have liked to have gone a little faster, but I was in a pack and saw no real need to push the pace.
That's me, #56, finishing up the 2.3 mile Little Loop. Happy.
The North loop has a long hill from the Sinks/Stone Cuts/Keith Trail intersection up to the Bikers parking lot. My plan was to try to run it the first time through and then walk it every time after that. The pack I was in was walking the hill, so I just joined them. Then I saw Matt running up ahead. I had to go catch him. Which was a little fun.

The South loop is an uneventful, mostly flat, windy, dizzying section of trail. On the first time through the south loop, I was with Matt early. I eventually pulled away and didn't see him again until after he finished the 50k. After pulling away from Matt, I caught Wayne Heckler (Alabama half marathon record holder for 61 year old men at 1:30). We chatted some and I pulled away because he was still recovering from his record setting effort last week. From that point on, I was all alone except for very short sections the rest of the way. That probably hurt my chances of finishing 50 miles as much as anything.

The Second and Third Lap
There isn't much to say here. I ran all alone for all of these laps. My nutrition plan was to eat Gu Roctane on the South loop and to eat a Clif Bar on the climb up Sinks and refill with water at every stop. That was working very well. My running plan was to run the flats and downs and walk the ups on the North Loop and to run 10-12 minutes and walk 2-3 minutes on the South Loop. I was feeling absolutely great through 50k. I hit 50k at 4:55, which is my second best 50k time ever. I think I could have had a very good 50k race today if I had planned for 50k.

The Fourth Lap
Again, all alone. As I started the North Loop, I was feeling great. I ran a solid pace until the downhill on Cold Springs trail. Then, I probably had my best descent of the day. 50 miles seemed to be just in the bag. I continued to run the flats and downs and walk the ups. I was passing some slower 50kers. Life was good. Then, out of nowhere, my stomach was turning sour. I couldn't think of eating anything. When I began the walk up sinks, I simply could not eat the Clif Bar. I thought I was going to throw up. I did a little in my mouth. I was just feeling awful. As I topped the hill, I continued to walk. I was completely falling apart. As I ran to the start/finish area, Matt was there holding up a bowl of chili and celebrating a 50k finish. So, I knew he wouldn't catch and pass me on the 50 miler. The chili was not even tempting at all. Throwing up was very tempting.

I got out of the start/finish very quickly to avoid any temptation not to go 40 miles. I was still walking and fighting nausea. I just could not eat. I hadn't had any calories in about 2 hours. I knew then I was done. I got more liberal with my walk/run on this south loop. I caught Joey and Shannon, and hung with them for a while. I knew that I could finish this 40 miler in less than 7 hours. I also knew that I had very little chance of going beyond 40 miles.

With about 3 miles to go, I decided I would just run the rest of the way. There was no use conserving energy now. I still couldn't eat and I had made up my mind to stop at 40.

Rob is trying to get me to go back out there!

The Finish
I finished in 6:46. Yep, it took me 1:51 to run that last 10 miles. Rob Youngren was at the finish really encouraging me to continue. He wanted me to finish the 50 miler very badly. I really appreciate the advice he gave me leading up to this race and I really appreciate the encouragement he gave. He continued to encourage me. He almost had me talked into going out there, but I really don't regret not going. I was done. But I am thankful to Rob for his support!

I'll take it. I was clearly falling apart. That's the best I could do in this race with only 5k training leading up to the event.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I've really enjoyed my recent 5k training. I've loved those fast track workouts. Love the 37 or 38 second 200m and 75 second 400m repeats. Running fast is fun. And the 5k training has paid off with a drastic reduction in my 5k PR. I went from 18:29 to 17:46. Forty-three seconds is a large chunk to chop off of a 5k time. What's crazy is that I really believe I could chop off at least 30 more seconds if I specifically trained for a 5k for the next few months. 5:25 per mile doesn't seem as crazy fast as it once did. And there is just something about racing a 5k. You can take silly risks because if it doesn't work out, you can race another 5k next weekend! It's a fun, no pressure, let it all hang out kind of a race. I used to despise the 5k, but now I view it as fun, plain and simple fun.

But I don't think that's the best preparation for a 50 miler.

It has dawned upon me that I have signed up for a race this weekend for which I am unprepared. I mean, I've known for a while that Saturday, November 19 would arrive. I just haven't done very much to get ready. Since I skipped the fall marathon this year, I let my buddy Matt talk me into signing up for this.

So here is my Dizzy Fifties race day strategy... Run the first 5k comfortably. Then, hang on for the next 46.9 miles. If it's too miserable at 50k, just stop running and get a 50k finisher's award.

Also, I'm focused on a March 3, 2012 marathon, so I'm just running through Dizzy Fifties. I'm not tapering and I'm continuing to do my marathon prep. Today I did a warm up with 6 strides, 5 tempo miles (6:15 pace), and a cool down with 4 strides for 10 miles total.

And maybe I'm not as unprepared as I think... I've had a few 75 mile weeks, and an 85 mile week. But no single run has been over 17 miles. We'll see. I should have learned from last year that you can't fake your way through a 50 miler, but I'm going to try again this year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ragnar Tennessee

If you've never done a relay race, you're pretty much missing out on one of the silliest things you can do. It's silly, and you get 5 or 11 other people to do it with you. You run 196 miles together, usually 15 to 30 miles each, in just over 24 hours. And you do it while depriving yourself of sleep. Just. Plain. Crazy. But it's fun!

I would try to describe this for you, but no words can adequately explain the relay experience. It's an excuse to break all the rules.

Rule 1: Recover properly from a hard effort before giving another hard effort.
You gotta break that one or you're not giving your teammates what they deserve from you. Give your best effort for 10.9 miles. Then, 7 hours later give your best effort for 11.2 miles. Then, 5 hours later give your best effort for 12.7 miles. While your best may get progressively slower, give your teammates your best.

Rule 2: Eat well to fuel and recover from a run.
Reese cups, peanut m&ms, Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, cookies, PB&J (okay, that's not so bad), chips, and a Clif bar or two thrown in just to give the appearance of balanced health in convenient ready to eat packages. Midway through, you're badly craving a cheeseburger or a pizza or a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. Better yet, a cheeseburger pizza with bacon and a biscuit crust. And oddly enough, you don't want dessert when you're done with the cheeseburger pizza.

Rule 3: Sleep plenty.
How are you gonna sleep while the van is in motion and everybody is talking about directions and where the next exchange is and who's running next?

Rule 4: Warm up and cool down properly.
Yeah. There simply isn't time. You get to the next exchange just in time for your runner to get there. And you're really guessing about when he'll get there. You don't want to be out warming up when he gets to the exchange. If you warm up too early you'll get stiff again waiting. And cool down? You don't want to run after you're done with your leg and your teammates are all... "Let's get goin to the next exchange." Run hard from cold. Get in the van and get stiff. Repeat. Repeat.

Having said all of that, it's insanely gross and fun. Dudes stink anyway. But now think about this van we were in... Dudes were running hard and getting sweaty. Then, we'd get right into the van, change clothes and shoes and leave the nasty smelling shoes in the van floor. Then we'd compound that odor by having 6 dudes do the same thing. Then, we'd eat junk food which creates its own set of different odors. Now, don't shower and only use port-a-johns for 24 hours. GROSS! You gotta try this. It's so much fun.

Now... How did we do? We ran 196 miles in 24 hours, 2 minutes, and 51 seconds. That was good enough for first place ultra team and third overall. Yep. That's right. We won that. And second place was over two hours behind us, so it wasn't even close. We had people at the finish line saying... "You guys were an ultra team? And you're finished already? You started later than we did!" Yep. That's right. We're bad. And we're sore, too. :)

Here's my quick rundown of my legs on this adventure.

Leg 1: 10.9 miles
This was an extreme downhill leg. I had a net loss of 1140 feet over the first 6 miles. That was some of the most fun running I've ever done! I had to climb about 180 feet in the first mile which slowed my overall pace down, but then I let it fly on the downhills. Then, I got disoriented with about two miles to go. I didn't see any other runners or any course markings and panicked and thought I had missed a turn. So, I turned around and walked a bit. Then, I ran. Then I saw other runners so I turned around and ran like mad to the end! Even with that diversion, I averaged 6:20 pace for 10.9 miles. I only passed 3 people during this leg.

Leg 2: 11.2 miles
This leg started at 10:00 PM and the first thing I saw after getting started was a couple of dogs to chase me. Nice. But they backed off because the road was busy and cars were coming, thankfully! Running at night is neat because you see the blinking butt lights ahead and you just go and try to pick them off. Pass. Next. Pass. Next. Pass. It's pretty motivating to pass people like that. I was able to reach 6 people during this leg with the concentration coming toward the end. There was one guy who was trying to hold me off at the end. I wanted to ask him... "Are you on an ultra team?" But I didn't. That seemed... not nice. So I told him that I was very tired and he'd probably hold me off. He ran faster and I stayed with him. Then he faded and I kept going and put about 10 seconds between us. I was kinda glad that he did that because I would have mailed in that leg without his motivation.

Leg 3: 12.7 miles at 4:40 AM
Still running in the dark for this one. And fog... Man, it was foggy. I was so sore from the downhills and the fast running of the previous two legs. I really just wanted to keep a sub-8 pace. Anything faster would be gravy. Given that I wasn't warmed up, I just started at about a 7:45 pace to shake my legs out. Up ahead, I could see a light that I wasn't gaining on very quickly. So, I tried a little harder to gain on him. When I did, I didn't blow by. I was toast and not feeling it on this run. I asked him if he wanted to work together for a bit, and he did. We ran pretty much 7:00 miles for about 4 miles before he faded. That was very nice to have some company. I just tried to hold on to that pace for as long as I could. The last section was uphill and my pace slowed way too much. I averaged about 7:30 for this leg. Very disappointing, but it was all I had given the sleep deprivation. Really, I'm convinced that the sleep deprivation contributes more to poor performance  than the previous hard efforts. The good news... Even with that slow pace I was able to pick off 35 runners on this leg! Too fun!

Do a relay some time. It's an experience.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spooktacular 5k

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The Spooktacular 5k is the funnest 5k race in the area. It is a great combination of festive and fast. Sarah, the race director, does all the things that runners like including accurate timing, a fast course, standard race amenities, fast crowd, and very cool awards. But when you add to that the costume contest and the Thriller dance show before the race, she does some cool and fun things that normal people like. If you haven't run this event, you should.

My numbers... 17:46 for a PR and another sub-18. That was good enough for 14th (I think) overall and 2nd in the 36-42 (unusual, I know) age group.

This was my circled race for the fall. I knew I couldn't get in good marathon shape in time to do a BQ-20 for Boston 2012. So, I decided to focus my training around the 5k. I've never thought about racing short distances before. I have to say that I have found this type of running to be quite fun! I'm probably better at the 5k distance than any other that I've run, but I'm not good enough at any distance to do anything but have fun with it. So, the plan was to get in peak 5k shape for Spook, then shift my focus for an early 2012 marathon.

Late Again
I have to break this cycle that I've gotten into of showing up just before race start. I did not have time to get in a proper warm up again today. I woke up in plenty of time, but by the time I read Facebook and drank my coffee, time just slipped away and I was late leaving the house. And I had stomach problems again this morning. I don't know if it's pre-race anxiety or something in my pre-race diet, but this is happening too often and I need to fix it. I was barely able to get my number pinned on and run 1.5 miles before the start.

The First Mile
I really didn't know what to do with this race. The temperature was great for running. The crowd was fast. The course was fast. What am I capable of? Sub-18 for sure, but by how much? I had grand thoughts of hanging onto Donald Bowman or George DeWitt's shoulder for as long as I could. Both of those guys are much faster and tougher than I am. They're heroes to me. They're out of my league, and they know it and I know it. I tried that for about the first half mile. I knew that wasn't sustainable for me, so I settled down a bit.

I could see Marty Clarke and Jon Elmore up ahead. I had to surge just a bit to catch them. I didn't expect to beat them, but I wasn't going to let them go this early. Again, both of those guys are well ahead of me. Marty is a guy that I have never beaten. And I know that Jon's best is better than my best. I was about a second behind them at the 1 mile mark which I hit at 5:33. That is the fastest mile I've ever run by 5 seconds!

Mile 2
After the 1 mile mark, I decided to make a move. I surged a bit and passed Marty and Jon just after the turn on White Street. Jon came along and passed me back as we ran on Clinton Avenue towards the downtown area. I hung on to him for the rest of the second mile and even passed him after the turn on Holmes Avenue. I had no idea how close Marty was, but I figured he was near. Jon passed me back on the hill up to the courthouse area just before the 2 mile marker. My watch lapped early, and had us running this mile in 5:41.

The Finish
There is a long downhill stretch on Madison Street. I made my move on Jon here. I wanted badly to stay ahead. I felt like I was pushing the pace, but my watch was showing a 5:55 pace, even downhill. My legs were dying. They just weren't kicking like I wanted them to. But I could still feel that I was opening a gap between Jon and me. Again, I had no idea where Marty was, but I figured he was very close. I wasn't about to look.

My watch was showing a lap pace of 5:54 for the third mile. I was so disappointed in that! So, I just decided that I had to dig deep and push to the finish. I felt like I was going to puke. My instantaneous pace was showing 5:25, so I figured I'd try to hold that to the finish. I didn't quite do that, probably running a 5:30 pace or so for the last quarter of the third mile, but I was sure giving all I had. My watch lapped early again at 5:49. The final stretch showed 0.13 and it took me 44 seconds to cover it. That's about a 5:28 pace. I was able to hold off both Jon and Marty, but not by much. They were both less than 5 seconds behind me!
Jon just over my right shoulder!

Post Race
You know you had a good race when people ask you, "What have you been doing in your training?" at the end. Well, my dirty little secret is that I've been relatively focused on the 5k distance for about 10 weeks now. Most people just run 5ks to see where they are while they're training for other stuff. Many of the folks I finished ahead of today would crush me in a 10k or 15k (see what Marty did a few weeks ago at Monte Sano 15k) or a half marathon. I'm not sure I could run a 3:15 marathon right now. This is the best I can do in a 5k. Now, I'm shifting my focus to a March 3, 2012 marathon. I'll see what I can do there. 2:55 is the goal for a BQ-20 early entry for 2013.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Mile Repeats

Last Saturday, I accomplished one of my big goals for this year, breaking 18 minutes for the 5k. The good and bad news is that I did it before my target race. My target race for breaking 18 was Spooktacular. Then, after Spooktacular, I was planning to shift my focus to marathon training. So, I have a decision to make. Do I want to keep on the 5k training schedule and be ready to peak for Spooktacular, or do I want to go ahead and shift my focus now and get a couple of extra weeks of marathon prep? I've decided to stay on the 5k schedule and see what I may have on a cool day on a fast course. Hopefully I can shave some time off of Saturday's 5k PR.

So today was 4 x 1 mile repeats at 5k pace with good friends and Ragnar Teammates Jake McCleary and George DeWitt. Just a shade over 10 miles total including warm up and cool down.

  1. 5:45
  2. 5:38
  3. 5:39
  4. 5:42
Great way to start a day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sub 18

I did it! I don't know what is so special about minute markers, but they're meaningful. I remember trying to break 20 minutes. That was big for me. Then breaking 19 was big, and I tried several times before I actually broke that one. Then, 18 was the next big minute. I've only seriously tried to break 18 once, and that was today, and I did it with a 17:54 at the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run 5k.

I had a pretty hard week of training along with a couple of emotional ups and downs. (I'm still considering posting more about that some time, but things are drastically improving, thankfully.) I had fast 400s on Tuesday that really zapped me on Wednesday. I felt great after them on Tuesday, but Wednesday, my legs felt like concrete, heavy and stiff. Then, Thursday, I was planning to have an easy day, but I saw fellow Athens runner Chris Ramsden doing a tempo run and I just HAD to join him for a few 6:30 miles. My weekly mileage is over 70. My legs just didn't feel fast this morning, but I had tons of confidence that I could pull this off anyway.

The Event
Wow, this race is an event! I had never run this one before, so I did not know what I was missing. I'm still amazed that they had to turn runners away. 5500 runners!?!?!?! Wow. Congratulations to Liz Hurley and her breast cancer awareness foundation for an incredibly successful fund raiser. And it was a very fun event, too.

There was pink everywhere. I need to get some pink just for this event. I felt like the only oddball not wearing pink. Any other time, I'd feel like an oddball for wearing pink! And there were lots of fast people at the starting line. There's just something about an event this size. It was very festive and fun.

The Race
My plan was to run an aggressive first mile and then hold on the best I could after that. I was thinking 5:35 or so. There was a lot of bobbing and weaving avoiding runners at the start and through the first turn that wasted some time and took some energy. I don't know what the split timer said, but my watch recorded 5:40.

There was a pack that pulled away from me just before the mile marker that included Dink Taylor, Jon Elmore, Sean Allan, Tim Horvath and Blake Thompson. They probably were 5 seconds or so ahead of me. I decided not to let them go. If I were going to break 18, I needed to stay with them, so I kicked it after the mile marker and joined in. Sean fell off the pace early, but I stayed with this group for the whole way. I couldn't have broken 18 if I hadn't done this.

The second mile is no joke. It rolls and gains about 40 feet. I probably ran harder during this mile, but split it at 5:46. The pack thinned and clustered, but I stayed with them, just waiting for the downhill finish I had heard about.

The third mile has a hill in it, too. It loses 20 feet or so, but that hill is mean. The third was another 5:46 mile and I was tired.

The last uphill and downhill were very eventful! Jon and Blake pulled ahead. I passed Tim Horvath. Dink put some space between him and me. I caught Dink on the downhill, but he would have none of it and dropped me pretty good while chasing Jon and Blake toward the finish. Tim Horvath and Tim Vinson came zooming by after I gave up on chasing Dink. So, I got picked off by three people in the last 0.1. Oh well. I BROKE 18 MINUTES!!! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On the Track Again

I'm still struggling a little to get going in the mornings. I don't know what my problem is, but I need to solve it quickly. I was able to get a lunch workout in today even though I wasn't able to roll out of bed. I did 10x fast 400m repetitions. I did full recoveries in between reps. It was a good workout. I felt like I could have done a few more, but I was out of time. 76, 78, 79, 76, 78, 78, 77, 78, 78, 74.

I'm pretty focused on that sub 18 5k this fall. I'm going to give it a go this weekend at Liz Hurley. I still have another chance at Spooktacular on Oct. 29. Maybe I'll break 18 twice. Maybe not at all!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Monte Sano 15k

First, the numbers. I ran a 58:58 which was good enough for 13th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group. This race always draws several fast runners. That was a PR by 2:40. My goal was just to be faster than an hour, but I felt like running faster, so I ran a little faster. I really couldn't be more pleased with this race. Sure, I made some mistakes and I left some seconds on the course, but I ran about as well as I am capable of running today.

I had been traveling this week and it had taken a heavier toll than usual on me. Thursday and Friday, I worked in three different time zones in that two days. I ate drive-thru garbage on Friday (well, I did the best I could with drive-thru). Friday afternoon, I had to choose between a shake-out run or a nap. I slept for 2 hours! Then, I spent over three hours on my feet at the Fiddler's Convention in Athens. I had excuses ready for this race. I felt tired and heavy.

I woke up feeling icky. I could not think about eating. I had stomach problems all day, before, during, and after the race. This may be TMI, but I spent way too much time in the restroom before and after the race.

Eventually, I was able to choke down a gel about 10 minutes before the race started. I sure couldn't eat anything else. Because of all of this unwanted "activity", I barely got warmed up and showed up at the starting line about 2 minutes before the start of the race.

The Start
The race started right on time, which is the norm for HTC races. (We Huntsville runners should be very thankful for such a great organization as HTC. They really help to make the local running scene great.) I looked around and knew that top 10 was very unlikely. So, I decided to just run my own race and shoot for anything less than 1 hour. I'll just have to go whether anyone is with me or not. During the first mile, I ran a good part of it with Dink Taylor and Marty Clarke. I've had my eye on Marty as someone that I should try to hang on to during a race some time so that I can step up to the next level. Marty made it clear late in the first mile that today wasn't that day. He and Dink had a pretty good battle all day and they left me behind right at about the one mile mark.

The first mile was 6:28. I really thought my one hour goal was in trouble. That pace felt about right, but the split was too slow to beat an hour. So, I dropped the pace a bit, and it oddly enough felt better. With one exception (mile 7, which is a brutal hilly mile), the first mile was by 10 seconds my slowest mile. Wow.

This pic, courtesy of Gregg Gelmis is about 1.5 miles in.

The Rest of the Race
There are a couple of overlapping sections in this race. During these, I got to see several people who cheered me on. I cheered back. This, for some reason, really helps. I can't explain it. Dale Carnegie said that the sweetest sound to any person is the sound of their own name. There is a lot of truth to that. I took tons of energy from that and from the smiles and encouragement. And I tried to reciprocate.

Other than those sections, I was all alone. I could see the battle between Dink and Marty for the early part of the race, but I really couldn't gain much on them. During the out and backs, I could tell that nobody was threatening me from behind. So, I knew that I was not going to have anyone to realistically chase and I knew that nobody was going to push me. It was me versus myself. How badly do I want to break an hour?

I ran like this until about mile 7. That's when I got Dave Purinton in my sight. But he was pretty far ahead. He would have to come back to me. And, man, that 7th mile is a beast. I tried to keep positive thoughts, but the hills during that mile are relentless. And my stomach came calling again. I was beginning to worry that I wouldn't be able to finish this race. This was not good. So, chasing Dave was pretty far out of my mind. Keeping my shorts clean was the primary goal! TMI, I know.

I just tried to think about other things and keep my effort consistent and strong. I really didn't look at my watch very much for some reason. I don't know why. I looked at every mile marker, but that's about it. I really couldn't believe that basically every mile was sub 6:20, except mile 1 (6:28) and mile 7 (6:29).

During the 8th mile I had gained significant ground on Dave Purinton. I thought about giving chase, but I wasn't really competing with him for anything, so I didn't see the point. Also, up ahead I could see Greg Reynolds. I was really surprised to be this close to him. But he was far enough ahead that catching him did not seem realistic. Looking back, I probably had a shot, but I just didn't. If I had it to do over, I definitely would have given some effort toward that.

When I crossed the 9 mile marker, I heard FFRT teammate Christy Scott say "56:59". I nearly jumped for joy! I knew that sub-1 hour was IN THE BAG!!! I'd have to death march at near a 10:00 minute pace to not beat 1 hour. I then figured that I had a realistic shot at sub-59. I think that 9 mile split time was a little off, because my watch tells me I ran about a 6:05 pace for that last stretch. I really did run hard. Eric Charette was cheering me on near the finish to break that 59:00 barrier. I thought again about trying to pass Dave but I just focused on beating 59:00 and did with a 58:58.

I did the obligatory congratulations to other runners on my way to the restroom after crossing the finish line. I still can't believe I ran that well while fighting stomach issues. I have no idea what upset my stomach so. After I got settled down a bit, I went back on the course to bring some other runners in. Knowing how much of a struggle those last couple of miles were for me, I figured someone else could use a little help.

Jeremy, a fellow Athens Sunday morning 10 mile regular joined me. I met a fellow Limestone County runner, Stacey Glover, and Jeremy met some people from his Mizuno 13.1 group and we brought them in to the finish. Fun stuff.

Final Thoughts
I had a little left, but I am still VERY pleased with this race. This gave me tons of confidence going into the winter training months for a March marathon. I'm thankful and excited to be running.

I've run my last three PRs in these Nike Lunaracers.

I've struggled with blisters in those shoes, but man, they make me feel faster. I really like the ride, but hate the blisters. I've tried breaking them in by walking around the house in them, and it seems to have paid off. They were much more comfortable today. I ran 12 miles total with no sign of a blister or hot spot. It just took a little breaking in. Now, I'm not saying that these shoes magically made me PR, but a good, fast feeling pair of shoes never hurts!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Mile Repeats

Sometimes, I just do things that don't make sense. I really want to break 18 minutes in the 5k. So, I'm doing considerably more fast running. However, just like last year, I signed up for the Dizzy Fifties Trail Run. I signed up for the 50 mile. A fast 5k and a 50 mile trail run are about as incompatible as two goals can get. My mileage is pretty high (for me) right now, so I'm hoping that base will let me hang in there for one day. If not, I'll drop at 50k again! :) I'm not remembering last years lesson that you can't fake your way through 50 miles. But I'm going to try again anyway.

So, with the focus on a fast 5k, I did another set of 4 mile repeats at 5k pace. I'm figuring if I can do 4 of them at 5k pace, running 3 without a break should be possible, right? I don't know. I'll just connect the dots of my training on race day.

Yesterday I did 4x 1 mile repeats during lunch. It was warm out, and that affected how I felt and how fast I was able to run. In my recent track workouts, I've left the track feeling like I could have done one or two more. That was not true yesterday. I may have been able to do an additional 800 at that pace, but not another mile.
  1. 5:45
  2. 5:43
  3. 5:45
  4. 5:46
My shoe came untied during the 3rd lap of that fourth mile, or I would have brought it in under 5:45. I didn't stop to tie it, but I did slow down to keep my shoe from flying off.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Odds and Ends

One of the things I've learned this year about running is that sometimes you just have to take what the day gives you. Saturday was one of those times. I really wanted to get in a long run. A long run would have put my weekly mileage into the mid-70s, which is where I want to be. But Saturday, it just wasn't to be.

I've mentioned some personal struggles on this blog. One day soon, I'll do a post about that. Like my story of weight loss has been inspirational to some, I hope this story, the parts I'm able to tell, can help some. Anyway, last night, I hardly slept at all. Though I was in bed before 11:00, my first wink of sleep did not come until well after 2:30. Based on that, I abandoned any early morning running plans. When I finally did get out of bed, it was like I was walking in quicksand. I just could not get going and could not get out the door. I didn't leave until after 10:00 AM.

I had to go to Huntsville anyway, so I went over to Monte Sano to get in a long trail run. Well, I forgot how different trails are. I struggled early and often. I had stomach issues. I could barely move. I was exhausted when I started. I finally settled into a groove about 8 miles into the run, but by that time I was already on my way back to my car and had given up on the run. Just. Plain. Awful. Oh well. Take what the day gives you. It was beautiful weather, and I really enjoyed being in the woods. I'll try again another day.

I still had a solid week of training with mileage in the mid-60s. I had a good track workout and a good tempo run in the hottest temps of the week. I still believe sub-18 in the 5k is attainable. Just keep moving forward.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rails to Trails 10k

What a beautiful day for a race! Thanks to my good friend Whitney Hollingsworth for directing this great event. I really like the 10k distance, and there aren't very many around. I'm glad that one of them is in Limestone County. I haven't seen any results yet, and I had to leave early, so I'm taking a guess at the numbers here. I think I was first in the 35-39 age group. I think was sixth overall and I ran a personal best about 38:03 or so.

UPDATE: I got my name in the paper! Thanks Whitney! It turns out that I ran a 38:01, officially.  Also, results are available at the HTC website.

I had back to back good nights of rest leading up to this race. I really am starting to think that rest is a key that I have been overlooking. When I woke up, the temps were lower than I expected. I just felt good this morning. I knew that I had to leave early because I was planning to go to Tuscaloosa to watch some football (Roll Tide). So, I was a little out of my routine getting out of the door. I had to do a little extra getting ready. I had to get everything ready so I could shower and leave my house as quickly as possible when I got home from the race.

As I was driving, I was thinking of goals for this race. I struggled for so long to break 40 in the 10k. I knew I was capable of much better than sub-40, but it just never came together for me on race day. I finally broke that silly mental barrier three weeks ago when I ran 39:09 at Monte Sano. I remembered that it was very uncomfortable to run that 39 minute 10k. I felt better today than I did that day and the temps were cooler. So, I just set the modest goal of sub 39.

Oh no. Really? I was over halfway there and realized that I forgot my watch! Nooooo! Oh well. I can't go get it now. I just have to run. What would my strategy be? I saw Tim Vinson and Jon Elmore before the race. I know that both of those guys are much more talented than me, but I knew that they were both coming off the summer doldrums and not quite in peak shape. So, my strategy without a watch was to just hang with them.

The First 5k
This race is really two 5ks. The first 3 miles is on a curvy, hilly road. There are some steep downhills, some flats, and some small climbs. But it is very much a net downhill first 5k. Then you turn onto the Rails to Trails trail that covers an old railroad track. It is a nice, scenic crushed gravel trail. But it is all uphill. There is nothing steep about it, but it is just gradual uphill for 3 miles.

So, you have to positive split this course.

For the first mile, we, Jon, Tim, and I, all ran together. During the second mile, which is a very fast, downhill mile, Tim pulled a little ahead. I wanted to be sure not to let him get too far ahead. The split caller said 7:00 at the first mile. I said, NO WAY! Jon reassured me that it was 6:05 and not 7:00. Whew! The second mile we hit at 11:50. Wow! That didn't really feel THAT fast. But it was pretty close.

Tim extended his lead some in the third mile, but I wanted to keep him close, so I covered part of the distance, and Jon came with me. We were gaining on him late in the third mile and he was coming back a bit. We hit the 3 mile split at 18:00 flat. Wow. I'm just above 5k PR pace. But it was a downhill 5k and I know what's coming. Steady uphill.

The Uphill 5k
During the turn on to the trail, Jon and I passed Tim. He wished me well, telling me to get a PR. I appreciated that and it gave me some energy for the grind I was about to have to endure. All I had to do was to average a 6:15 pace till the end and I'd be near 38. Wow! My goal was sub 39, so I was feeling really good about that. I changed my goal to sub 38 right after the turn. I knew I'd have to work for it, but I also knew it was attainable.

I had Jon right behind me pushing me along, so I was counting on that to help. But, somewhere before the 4 mile marker, Jon fell off. There was nobody calling splits at any of the mile markers on the trail, so I was completely blind to my pace. So, I just focused on effort level.

During the 5th mile, the pace became quite uncomfortable. I allowed negative thoughts to enter. I feared falling apart. I had a new blister on my right foot. I don't really know the split, but there is no doubt that the 5th mile was my worst. I missed Tim and Jon. I was all alone, except for a young guy who started out too fast and was falling completely apart and death marching to the finish. I encouraged him as I passed, hoping that wouldn't be me in the 6th mile.

When I saw the 5 mile marker, I took some new strength. I could see Greg Reynolds in the distance, but I knew there was no way to catch him. I just wanted to keep him in my sight, in the distance. I figured he would be running somewhere near 37 for this race, so I figured I was still close to 38. I just gutted and gritted until I could see the clock.

On this race, you can see the clock for about the last half mile. But you can't make out the numbers. I saw the clock, I was running hard, but I was not getting closer to it! I'm sure we've all had those strange dreams like that, where you're running and running toward something, but you just aren't gaining on it, kinda like Alice in Wonderland. That is exactly what it felt like, except that it was real. And it hurt!

Finally I could make out the numbers on the clock... 37:44... Noooo!!!! There is no way. I knew that I could not break 38. The clock was too far away. I still gave it all I had, and nearly puked before the finish. I turned myself inside out for that last stretch, but didn't make it. I was frustrated when I saw 38:00 and still wasn't there. I almost stopped right then. I did slow down a bit, and crossed at 38:02 or 03 or something like that. Oh well.

Still, I cannot be disappointed with a 1:07 PR. I wanted sub 38, but that wasn't the goal when I left the house. That was a minute better than the goal! Would it have been better if I had my watch? I have no idea. I won't be intentionally leaving my watch behind, that's for sure.

I once read somewhere, I can't remember where, that if you don't have the genetic makeup to run a 38 minute 10k, then you probably won't be able to run a sub 3 hour marathon. Well, I'm calling this a 38 minute 10k, and that on a not very easy course. This gives me confidence that with work, dedication, and focus, I can break 3 hours in the marathon.

Fast 800s

Yesterday called for a set of 6 "fast" 800s. Fast means 15 seconds per mile faster than 5k pace. Doing the math, that would come out to 2:45 per 800. Ouch. But hey, it's only 6, right? I did feel like I could have run one or two more at that pace, so good.

  1. 2:48
  2. 2:44
  3. 2:44
  4. 2:47
  5. 2:44
  6. 2:46

A little off, but it still counts.

I have been running a bit faster lately in my workouts. When I run faster, I typically decrease the volume and increase the recovery between workbouts. Before this summer, I almost never ran faster than 5k pace, and I rarely ran 5k pace. This summer, I ran some fast (for me) 200s (35-37 seconds). I ran some fast 400s (76-79 seconds). And, I was sure to do strides once per week and twice on most weeks. I really believe this faster running has helped. I know it has helped my finishing kick (which is still pretty weak). We'll see if it helps me get to sub 17. I'll try to keep it up through the winter and see if it has any benefit in ultra and marathon racing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mile Repeats

I don't know how long it's been since I did mile repeats. The last time I remember was back in April of 2010. It just seems like it's been forever! I had planned to do them all week last week, but it just never happened. I had a crazy busy week at work and actually took two days off from running. Oh the horror! The week before, I had an 80 mile week and felt pretty good. My legs were dead and just wouldn't turn over fast, but I felt great. I knew that jump was pretty quick, and it followed three consecutive 70 mile weeks, so I turned down both the intensity and the volume last week. I did about 50 miles and most of them were fairly easy except for a tempo/speed combo workout on Friday. As a result, I'm feeling great again this week.

Today called for 4 x 1 mile repeats at 5k pace. I dreaded it, but I'm so glad I did it! Matt joined me for the first couple of repeats.
  1. 5:49
  2. 5:43
  3. 5:44
  4. 5:43
Sub 18 sure feels like a possibility if I have a good day and the weather cooperates. It was a joy running in the rain this morning. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Battling Lee

Now those of you who know my wife's name is Leigh but don't know how to spell her name may misinterpret the title of this post. No, I didn't battle my wife today. I battled the remnants of tropical storm Lee. The wind was very stiff and the rain was yucky. I like running in the rain, but I don't really like running on the track in the rain and wind.

The track that I workout on has straightaways that face pretty much north and south. The prevailing winds are from the southwest around here. So, it's actually a pretty nice layout. There's a large stadium protecting you from winds from the west and there are tarps on the fence to the south to block some of those winds. But today the winds were out of the north. There was no protection. I felt like I was running to stand still.

Also, my legs felt totally dead today. I'm not sure what that was all about,but they just wouldn't turn over as quickly as I wanted them to. They were very heavy. Aerobically, I was fine, but my legs were just heavy. And running into a 18mph wind with gusts up to 30mph slowed me some, too. I think that's all the excuses I have for today.

11 miles total. 8 x 800m intervals with 400m jogs between. 2:58, 2:55, 2:54, 2:57, 2:53, 2:56, 2:56, 2:46. What a difference two weeks makes. Those were slower than I wanted. But I got them done and I did take some encouragement in the fact that I was the ONLY runner that I saw all day today. I didn't see another soul at the track, and I usually see a dozen or more people at that time of day. I am doing today what you won't so that later I'll be able to do what you can't.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Monte Sano 10k and 5k

Well... I think I just want to talk about the 10k today. I pretty much mailed in the 5k after 1 mile. But I did give good, consistent effort in the 10k.  I have always struggled with exactly how to approach this race. I'm not a big fan of racing, then taking off some time, and then racing again. I just struggle to put it together again for the second race. I had a big fat case of "I don't want to" during the 5k.

The numbers up front... I was 10th overall in the 10k and 2nd in the 35-39 age group with a time of 39:09. I was 14th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group in the 5k with a time of 20:29 (blech).

My prerace routine was much better today than it has been. I have been really struggling to get out of bed for a variety of reasons (maybe I'll detail those on a later post). As a result, I've been showing up with hardly any time to warm up and haven't been able to, ahem, take care of business (runners know what I'm talking about here) before the race. All was good for this race. Plenty of time.

The First Loop
This course is a rolling double loop with a crowded out and back that I really don't like very much. I really only run it because it's the place to be for runners on Labor Day weekend. Well, that and 10k races are scarce around here. And it's an excuse to mix hard miles into a long run.

Anyway, I was hoping to hit 39:00 for this race. I was figuring that I had recently run about a 19:00 5k. This is a difficult course, so double your 5k and add a minute. That's how I got 39 minutes. I probably should and could run this a bit faster.

The first mile is pretty much all uphill and not a nice uphill at that. I don't know why I didn't take that into account, but I didn't. I went out a bit too hard and hit the first mile in 6:11. The second mile rolls quite a bit, but it is still a net downhill mile. I didn't keep even effort here, slacking a bit on the uphill portion and already tiring from the aggressive first mile. Still, the split was okay at 6:12. The third mile is another rolling net downhill that I didn't keep even effort on and split at 6:15. I was feeling pretty good as I hit the 5k split at about 19:24 with a very good chance to beat 39:00. But I knew I was tiring.

There are a couple of spots on this course where you see the runners ahead and behind. On this first loop, I was battling Dave Purinton, Robert Whitaker, and Chad Davis. (The wrong part of that is that all of them have several years on me. I have work to do!) As we were coming back and other runners were going out, I kept hearing so many people shouting my name! That was totally awesome! I really appreciate it. I cheered for those that I know and recognized. Big thanks! It really helped.

The Second Loop
I knew I had some work to do on this second loop. I was tiring and needed to keep consistent effort on the last half. Chad had dropped the hammer and pulled a good 30-40 seconds ahead of me. He really ran a great race today. Robert and Dave were still in sight, so I hung on to them. I probably let their effort level dictate my effort level more than I should have.

Mile 4 is pretty much the same as mile 1, uphill. I worked a little hard up the hill, but no way I was going to 6:11 this mile this time. It was more like 6:20. Ewww. Just after the 4 mile marker, I passed Dave Purinton, but he hung on to me pretty good. I put some distance on the way out to the cone turnaround. After the turnaround, I decided to make a move on Robert. I did and he didn't really give chase. I think it was more of those two fading more than me running strong, because the 5th mile (again a rolling but downhill mile) split at 6:28. Ewww again. What is happening to me? Oh yeah, I'm not really prepared to run a 10k, that's what's happening.

After that, Chad was out of reach, and there really wasn't anything left to run for except to break 39:00. I still thought I had a chance, and I really did. But that 6:28 really discouraged me. I let it get in my head. This was my biggest mistake during this race. I lost focus during the fifth mile and let it discourage me during the 6th. One thing that helped a TON was that Linda Scavarda saw me and I was really tense. She said, "You're looking great. Relax your arms! You got this!" I really needed that. I relaxed my arms, and my pace almost instantly dropped! I ran the next mile in 6:19. Much better, but not where I should be and not good enough to undo the damage. Oh well.

I cruised in at 39:09 when I saw that I had no chance of sub-39 I just mailed in the last few yards. Shame on me.

Post Race
It was great to see everyone and I had some good easy miles between the races and some good cool down miles after the 5k with Fleet Feet teammates. And, I've never placed in my age group at this race. I was glad to do that today!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Was That Fall?

Wow, this morning felt great. It's the week of the first college football games. Fall must be near. It was a cool 57 degrees this morning. I could not believe the pep that the cooler temps put into my step. Wow.

I met my good buddy Matt at the track for a 2x 2 miles at tempo pace followed by 4x 400m at repetition pace. What a beautiful morning to run fast. And, to think, I had to talk myself out of bed this morning. Boy am I glad I did!

The 2 milers were 13:02 and 12:37. I could not believe how easy that felt. I definitely should have run that first 2 miler faster, but I was trying to stay in control. The cool weather just felt so good! I sure hope that enduring these miserable midday 95+ degree runs will pay off this fall!

I ran the 400s at 78, 78, 78, and 76. Those didn't feel easy, but I could have done 3 or 4 more. I was really reining myself in today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that I occasionally ramble for no good reason. Today is a rambling day.

Workouts... I had a good one today. I did 11 miles with 6x800m intervals at 2:50. I was wildly inconsistent, 2:54, 2:47, etc., but I averaged under 2:50 and finished strong with a 2:46 and a dry heave. Saturday was a miserable, hot 18 miler on the XC course after volunteering at the triathlon. I hated that, and that pretty much firmed up my decision to never ever run recover from the holidays 50k. Well, actually, I'll probably run it this year.

I honestly feel great physically and for the first time in a long time, I'm excited about running again. Actually, I'm kinda excited about life again. Dark times pass, but sometimes you have to take action (sometimes drastic) to make them pass. Man, it's nice to have some optimism back.

Back to running. I have this love hate relationship with the track. Man, I didn't want to go this morning. That alarm went off, and I rehearsed at least a dozen excuses not to run this morning. You know what got me out the door? It was as simple as the fact that I had my running clothes laid out. No, that doesn't always work, but it did this morning. I didn't want to leave them there all day. My Nike Lunaracers were right next to my clothes, so today seemed like a good day to go to the track.

I spent the first 2.5 miles trying to talk myself into going to the track. I knew it would not be pleasant because it never is. But the weather sure was nice. And I had on my racing flats. How silly it would be to run an easy 10 miles in my racing flats. So, I was able to convince myself to go to the track. I secretly hoped that the track would be closed when I got there, but it was open. Now, I have to do it. Boy, I'm glad I did.

Optimism... I spent my getting ready for work time today daydreaming. I have two numbers in mind. Sub 18:00 for the 5k and sub 3:00:00 for the marathon. I spent my time imagining running 17 something at Spooktacular and 2 something at an early 2012 marathon. I have this silly condition where that I imagine I'm faster than I really am. But I once imagined running a Boston Qualifying marathon, and I did it. I once imagined breaking 19 for the 5k, and I did it. So, I'm going to keep on daydreaming about sub-18 and sub-3. Yeah, I'll probably need to put in some long runs, tempo runs, hills, and intervals on the track, too. But daydreaming about it sure won't hurt, will it?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brooke Hill Run for Awareness 5k

I made a last minute decision to run in the Brooke Hill Run for Awareness 5k in Decatur yesterday. A super big thanks to fellow Fleet Feet Racing teammate Jon Elmore for putting on a great event. Also thanks to Fleet Feet Racing teammate Eric Charette for encouraging me to run this event and congrats to Eric for taking the overall win. Congrats also to Fleet Feet teammate Kathy Youngren for her overall win.

Limestone County also had a strong showing at this race with fellow Athens Sunday morning 10 mile runners taking wins in the 30-34, 35-39, and 40-44 age groups! So, the lesson is this: Come run the Athens Sunday morning 10 miler and you'll get an age group win! Congrats to Danny Harrison for taking the 30-34 age group and Lance Perry for taking the 40-44 age group. I took the 35-39 age group.

Post-race, I had an opportunity to visit with some friends that I wouldn't know without running. Running has been a source of great blessings for me. I had a chance to visit with Dan Burleson, April, my Fleet Feet teamates, and my Athens running buddies.

So, the numbers... I ran an 18:46, which is an August PR. (Hey, don't knock my qualifying statements. It's hot and humid. In Alabama, you're allowed to keep separate PRs for July and August, at least in my rule book for PRs.) That 18:46 was good enough for 4th overall and 1st in the 35-39 age group. I was pleased with that time given the heat and hills on the course.

The First Mile
I felt really good and had some idea of aiming for 18:00 flat until I ran my warm up on the course. The course was just too difficult and the weather was just too hot for me to have a reasonable chance at that. Fellow Fleet Feet teammate Marty Clarke was there. I know he's faster and a much more experienced racer than I am, so I had no delusions of beating him. However, I wanted to stay as close as I could. Well, that lasted all of about half or three quarters of a mile. He ran that first mile probably somewhere around 5:40, and I just didn't hang. I was afraid that I would blow up if I kept that pace. I ran more like 5:54 in that first mile, and that may have been a bit too quick.

I looked ahead, and the race seemed to be settled already. Eric Charette took the lead and held it. Victor Brown followed a few seconds behind. Marty was a few seconds behind him. And I was keeping Marty in my sight. That never changed after the first quarter or half mile. There were a couple of youngsters who were around for the first three quarters or so, but they fell quickly off of the pace.

Mile 2
The second mile had the steepest hill on the course. It was draining. I could feel myself slowing. Marty had opened his lead on me by just a few seconds, but I sure wanted to keep him in sight. I could not hear the split callers at any of the miles and I didn't really look at my watch, so I'm just looking retroactively at the data now to get my splits. I was looking at Marty and not my watch. I took a cup of water at the aid station and dumped it on my head. It was a hot one. I ran this mile with the hill in 6:03.

The Finish
I still was looking at Marty, but I could feel myself slowing down. No matter how badly I wanted not to slow down, I was still slowing down. But I noticed that Marty wasn't opening the gap, so he was slowing down, too. I wish I had more, but I just didn't. I ran the last mile in 6:11. I ran the last 0.1 in 0:37.

This course is no joke. There is a significant incline in every mile, with the first mile being by far the easiest mile on the course. I need more strength, speed, and hill training. So, I basically need to step up my all around training. Still, though, I feel very good. I feel fit and ready to attack some races this fall. My body feels as good as I remember in a long time. My mental outlook is getting better.

I am so thankful to God for my physical health. What a blessing it is to be able to join friends so often and be healthy enough to do something I love to do. Also, God has lifted some burdens from my mind in recent weeks. He gives grace and answers prayer. Every blessing comes from Him.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekly Update

I suppose a weekly update is better than the non-existent updates lately. I survived another summer week. And I had a pretty good week of training. I'm getting stronger, but not really faster. That's ok. I'll take whatever improvement comes along.

I also had a silly revelation this week. I say silly because I knew it already, but for some reason I didn't behave as if it were true. That silly revelation is that a day that begins with a run is better than a day that doesn't. I've known that to be true for over three years now, but I had let myself get in the habit of sleeping in. I was sometimes getting in my runs in the afternoon or at lunch, but the day was just not right because it didn't begin with a run. The extra hour of sleep did not make me feel better. The hour or so of running did. Besides that, a run as the first thing in the morning just sets up the day.

I got in a decent track workout with five 1200m intervals. I kept them all around 4:26. Not great, but not bad considering the heat I was running in. I got in a long tempo run of about 11 miles total with about 7 miles near 7:00 per mile pace. That run did not feel good at all. I was just happy to survive it. It was hot that day, too. And today's 17 miler put me at 60 miles for the week. I think I'm ready to begin training for something. But what?

Also, this week, I made the decision to forego a fast fall marathon. I am planning to be a pacer for the Rocket City Marathon. Pacing the marathon last year was an incredibly rewarding and fun experience. I have to do that again. I just can't resist getting in a nice long run and helping people achieve their goals at the same time. Not to mention, it's an opportunity to run a marathon without hurting! I gotta take advantage of that! I don't know what pace group I'll be leading this year, but I hope it's the 3:45 group again. I already have the shirt. :)

So, I'll probably make this fall/winter the year of the ultra for me. I may get in my first 50 miler. I'll run as many trail races as my schedule permits. I'm pretty excited. I'll pick out a 2012 marathon soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

18 Miles Is Far

I've had a couple of good weeks in a row now. I'm expecting that I'm turning the corner and getting past some things that have been hindering my running. Also, cooler weather can't be too far around the corner, can it? And, I took a look at the calendar yesterday... If I'm going to run a fall marathon, I have to start getting in marathon shape!

This summer has been admittedly a struggle. I've had some lingering personal issues that I just haven't been able to shake. Those have ZAPPED my motivation. I've been substituting 12-13 mile runs for long runs. While those are okay, they are no substitute for 18-22 milers. My weekly mileage has been in the 45-50 mile range. While that isn't terrible, it's not where I need to be if I want to run a 3 hour marathon.

One positive thing about this summer so far... I have been doing most of my quality runs. I've done tempo and track work and several races as additional tempo runs for the week. I'm probably in as good of 5k shape as I've ever been in (not the best I could be, but as good as I've ever been in). I don't think I could have dropped a sub 19 at this time last year. I think I have a very good chance to break 18 minutes this fall.

So, today, I decided I'd just run far. I planned for 15, then to just see what happened after that. Well, I was feeling pretty good at 13, so I thought I'd try for 16. Late in a run, my math gets pretty bad, so as I was trying to figure out where to run to get 3 miles before I got home, I got all mixed up and ended up running 18 miles. 18 is a lot farther than 12. But, I needed a good, long run. I was exhausted, but it was a good exhausted. I'm glad I did it, and I need to keep doing that.

It's time to get ready to run a marathon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paint the Streets 5k

I had no idea what to expect today. I haven't raced a 5k since October. My fitness has been on again off again. And it is hot!! I had two terrible weeks of training leading up to this. I've just been discouraged. I'll probably post on that later. But last week I had 10 miles for the week. Yep. 10 miles. This week I had 40, so that's a little better. I have to get better and more consistent. Anyway... the race today.

The numbers... 18:58 which was good enough for 8th (of 433) overall and 1st (of 27) in the 35-39 age group. It wasn't a PR, but it was a reasonable performance for July. I'll call it a July PR.

The Start
This event was very well organized and very well supported. It reached the limit of 500 runners and had to turn some away. It has grown since the inaugural event last year. There were so many co-workers from ADTRAN there and I know that several ran their first 5k today. Nice!

I need to get up earlier. I just didn't quite have enough time to get warmed up like I wanted. I got 2.25 miles and just a couple of strides. It had to be enough. After some nice welcome announcements, we were on our way at about 7:04 AM. The early start helped with the heat.

I really had no idea what I had in the tank today. I probably had more than I gave, but I always think that afterwards. But at no time during this race did I feel absolutely horrible, so I didn't run hard enough. I started at about a 6 minute pace and backed only slightly off of that the rest of the way. There were so many who went out WAY too fast today, but the roads were wide so it wasn't a problem.

The first mile is slightly downhill, the very slight breeze was in our face, and the sun was at our backs. So, there was really no excuse for running this mile in 6:04. But, I honestly had no idea what my splits were at any time during the race. I barely looked at my watch and I just didn't know was running. I was going by how it felt. And, the first mile actually surprised me a little. I glanced at my watch and saw 1.11, so I missed it. I had to look at the data post-race to know the split. There was no split caller. That is something this race needs to add. Before the mile marker, we had pretty much settled into our places.

Mile 2
Mile 2 starts back up the slight incline that we descended in the first mile. The small breeze was at our backs, but probably not as fast as I was running. The air was barely moving! And the sun was in our faces. It was a hot second mile. I don't know why I ran it in 6:05 if I could only run the first one in 6:04. I caught and passed one guy before the mile marker, but I didn't know him.

Mile 3
The third mile is just plain flat. Again, the sun was in our face and there was no breeze. I had two guys in my sights. One I passed at about 2.5 miles. The other was Dink Taylor, and I just couldn't gain any ground on him. Really, the passing I did was by just running a steady pace. I didn't speed up. In fact, mile 3 was slower than I wanted and slower than it should have been at 6:11.

The Finish
Near the finish, I heard footsteps. I thought it may have been the guy I passed in the third mile. It was not. I later learned that this was fellow Athenian Ben Greene. It was a realization that I'm still not very competitive with others in running. I didn't really care to chase him down. He could have the next place. But when I saw the clock, that's when I poured it on! I saw 18:49... Can I make it sub-19? That's when I just turned on the jets, and almost caught Ben. But really, I didn't notice how close I was to him because I was just thinking sub-19. I even let up a little when I saw that I was going to make it. I nearly caught Ben and didn't realize it until I looked at the results and saw that we had the same finish time!

Maybe one day, I'll learn to compete with fellow runners. For now, running is purely me against myself and the clock.

Nice race. I'm pleased with sub-19 on a very hot day. It was tons of fun. I had a great time just hanging out with friends and running fast. I ran the course a couple more times for 11 miles total.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Another Summer Week in the Books

It's a typical Alabama summer: hot, humid, and afternoon thunderstorms. I've been moving some runs to the lunch time and afternoon, hoping that my body will make some adaptations to the heat that will result in faster race times in the morning races. Also, I'm hoping that it will result in some really fast times when the temps cool off. We'll see. I'm hopeful and I'm hanging in there.

HTC Weekly XC Runs
On the 4th, I really tried not to overdo the food. I ate some bad stuff, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. I still had a bit of a food hangover on Tuesday when I ran the HTC Cross Country race at the John Hunt running park. It was especially humid. Yuck.

I was undecided about how to approach these. My stomach wasn't right, so I decided not to race and just do a 3 mile and a 2 mile tempo run. For the 3 mile, I tucked in behind Dewayne Satterfield and kept him in sight for most of the run. I had no intentions of passing him, but I also didn't want to let him get a way. He was a pretty good pacer for that 6:40-ish pace. I ran 20:08 or so.

For the 2 mile, I was feeling horrible and ready to just mail it in. I was going to run 8:00 to 8:30 miles. But then I got caught up with Jon Elmore and Timothy Pitt. I decided to just hang on to these guys and see what happened. We were running just under a 7:00 pace. Maybe 6:50 or so. Good enough. I felt like I could hold that, so I did. At the end, I could tell that they were going to make a race of it, so I joined in and out-kicked them down the final stretch to the finish line. It was fun. Maybe those 200m repeats are paying off!

Thursday Track
Thursday's track session was miserable. I planned 5x 1200m intervals. I could not do it. I could only do 4, and the 4th one nearly killed me. I ran 4:24, 4:26, 4:30 and 4:35. I knew that it wasn't my day and it was best to just mail it in and not even attempt the 5th. So, I added a couple extra easy miles to the cool down run. It was just a miserable workout, but I believe I accomplished some good. I got some positive stimulus without destroying my confidence.

Saturday Long
Today was a ho-hum 16 miler. I just wanted to get the miles done in the heat without coming apart. Mission accomplished. It wasn't pleasant. I have a lot of base to recover before marathon training begins. But I am surviving the summer without weight gain and without significant speed loss.

It's weird. I had a week where that I didn't feel good on any single run. But I still consider it a good week for some reason. Oh well, maybe I'm delusional. Definitely I'm delusional. I've always thought I'm faster and fitter than I really am.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Love the Track

I'm going to try to begin maintaining this blog more regularly. It's relaxing for me. It forces me to think about things I enjoy. Lately, I've only been thinking about heavy stuff, and it's wearing me down to a nub. I love running, and I love it more with almost every run. So I need to spend some time thinking and talking about it to refresh my mind.

Before a month ago, I had never run 200 meter repeats. That first attempt nearly killed me! It was much harder than I expected. Twenty 200m repeats. How hard could that be? Pretty hard! I ran most of them at 37 or 38, which is quick for me.

Today, I was back at the 200m repeats. I did 24 this time. Wow! It felt great! Okay, it hurt and I was tired and grimacing, but it hurt good! My plan was to do 20. I was going to do 2 sets of 10 with an easy mile in between the two sets. But I was feeling good, so I didn't take a break. And I was feeling good after 20, so I did 24! I kinda liked it. Running fast is fun. I ran mostly 37 and 38 seconds. I got lazy and ran two 40s and a few 39s. But I did have a 33 and a 35 after the 40s to punish myself for being lazy!

My mileage is down this summer to 45-50 miles per week. However, I'm not missing my quality workouts. Almost every week since Boston has included track work and a tempo workout. I've also added some races as faster tempo workouts, getting two tempos in several of those weeks.  I'll probably start adding a few miles at a time through July to get a solid base for a late fall marathon.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Helen Keller 5 mile

Perhaps I should update this blog. I really have had good intentions, I just haven't gotten the updates done. Maybe today starts a trend toward more regular updates. Long time readers will remember that I've mentioned some personal struggles. Well I thought I saw light at the end of the tunnel. But, a good friend told me that it wasn't light I was seeing; it was only my eyes adjusting to the darkness. So true!

Anyway... Helen Keller 5 Mile...
I ran 32:55 (with an extra 0.14) which was good enough for 6th overall and 1st in the 35-39 age group. This just isn't an easy course. It's a far drive from Athens, too. But it's part of a series of events in Tuscumbia, AL, the birthplace of Helen Keller. It's really a nice way to make a day out with the family. There's a car show, a foot race, some kind of arts and crafts show, live bands during the day, and an excellent play The Miracle Worker in the evening.

Enough... How about the race?

This was a last minute show up and run type of event for me. Apparently it was for everyone else, too. The race day registration line was LONG! I wondered if I would get registered in time. I did, barely. I had just enough time to hit the port-a-potty and run a mere 1 mile warmup. YUCK! I wasn't ready for the start, but I had to go when the Race Director said "Go!"

The First Mile
This race starts on a flat section just north of the courthouse. Then, it slopes drastically down to spring park. I started just a bit too fast, but I was surprised by how many were ahead of me. When we hit the downhill, people kept passing. I was in like 20th place. Oh well. The race turns out of Spring Park and goes up the hill we just descended. It's a TOUGH uphill for the first mile! I passed back a few runners here, but I wasn't sure how many and I didn't know how many were ahead. I really wish I had kept track of this. I hit the first mile in 6:25. That wasn't bad given the uphill.

Mile 2
I have no idea what happened here. I just got lazy at the top of the hill and ran a 6:40 second mile. Nobody passed me, and I passed about 2 runners. But still, why was I running so slowly? Why did I just give back 15 seconds? Why did I hit this at 13:05? It gains about 50 feet, but I simply didn't focus. Ashamed. I took water and ran through a hose at the aid station here. It was starting to get warm!

Mile 3
I had a group ahead of me that I wanted to catch. I think they ran about a 6:05 first mile, but I could tell that they were slowing. So, I just kept working and working making sure that the distance was getting less all the while. This is a rolling mile, but doesn't really net that much. 6:28. That's a little better, but I'm not making up that ground that I gave up in mile 2. Just focus on the group ahead and close the distance. One runner fell out of that group, and I blew past him.

Mile 4
This is the good and the bad. That group? Well, another runner fell off the pace and I caught and passed him, but he didn't want to let me go and stayed on my shoulder. I was determined to catch the group ahead. I closed almost all of the distance. There were only 3 runners, and they were less than 5 seconds ahead of us.

Ugh. Why do I do stupid things when I know better? Why do I follow a crowd? I saw green arrows on the street pointing left. The race had been marked with both green and orange, and there was no sentry. Also, Heath White was just ahead of the group I was trying to catch, and he's a Shoals runner. He knows the course, right? He went straight. The group went straight. I said, "Hey guys, I think we should turn!" One guy said, "Heath went straight, that's the right way!" I followed. Ugh. That was an unwise move. I glanced at my watch and noticed the distance was 3.97. I looked over my shoulder, and I caught a glimpse of the 4 mile marker about a block from where we should have turned. I said to the guy on my shoulder, "We've got to turn around! They're going the wrong way!" So, we turned around and went back. He stayed ahead of me because he turned first! I crossed the 4 mile marker at 4.14 on my Garmin. I was MAD!

There were two people working the 4 mile split. I slowed down and told one of them to go to the intersection and that several had gone the wrong way. One said that she would take care of it and was walking that direction. I heard from later finishers that there was still nobody working that turn. Ugh. Race directors, please put sentries on your turns! I've never missed a turn before this year, and I've missed two this year! I suppose I should take the responsibility myself since it has happened twice now.

Well, I auto-lapped at 4 miles even and it was 6:30. Still a disappointing split. Mile 4 is very much a rolling mile.

The Finish
The guy I was running with said, "Weren't you in front of me when we made the wrong turn?" I said, "Don't worry about it, man. If you can take me from here, you should do it." I didn't want to move too early, but I didn't want him to think he could just hang on and out kick me, either. So I moved past him. As we went on, I saw the others who had gone straight joining back up with the course. WE WERE AHEAD OF THEM! Cool! They seemed to be upset that we had passed, but we had been angry and running faster!

Here, Stacey LeMay separated from the group and stayed on my shoulder. He should have known the course and not gone astray. He's a Shoals runner! I asked him if they had run extra. He said that they had a little, but wasn't sure how much. Stacey is known for sprinting at the end and passing, so I dropped the pace with about 0.6 miles to go to get enough separation to weather his kick. I ran the last 1.14 mile in 6:17 and :37.

What I didn't account for was two teenagers or twenty something sprinting at the end. Ugh. Remember that I thought I was in about 12th place? It just wasn't worth going with them for the difference between 12th and 15th place. BUT... This race was for 3rd place! I JUST MISSED a podium finish. Ugh. Disappointing. I had no idea. So... if I hadn't run an extra 0.14 miles, I would have gotten a spot on the podium. If I could have sucked it up at the end, I would have gotten a podium finish. ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!

The good news? The guy who did get 3rd place? He puked. That's what he gets. I hope it tasted bad. Really, I'm just kidding here. We spoke and he was a nice guy and we joked about it. He ran hard and deserved to finish ahead of me.

Overall, I didn't give race effort today, but still won my age group. I'm very much enjoying this twice per month race schedule I'm on. It was a good day and a very good 5 mile tempo workout with 11 miles total. I hope this more laid back approach to racing doesn't soften me up, but I'm liking it so far.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Final Thoughts on Boston

Those who don't like it when I'm hard on myself for not meeting my own expectations may want to skip this post. I was completely unprepared to race a marathon on April 18, and Boston revealed that. A lot went wrong, and this post is about that. I am severely disappointed with my finishing time. Please don't interpret this post as detracting from the Boston experience. I had the time of my life. I was able to do something very special and I'm thankful for that. This post is about what went wrong in my training and in my race to prevent me from being in marathon PR shape on April 18.

Early Training
Ugh. I was battling a hamstring injury through November and December. I pretended that it didn't hurt, but it did. I wanted everything to come together for Boston, but it just wasn't meant to be. Then, I got the flu during the holidays. That forced me to take some time off, but I was too stubborn to take enough time off to allow my hamstring to heal, too. Remember, I was pretending that it didn't hurt.

I recovered from the flu, but because of the hamstring, I took two weeks off prior to Mountain Mist. With the flu and a two week layoff just prior, I opted to treat Mountain Mist much more like a jog/hike than a race. I ran a 6:30. That meant that I wouldn't need any recovery time before resuming training.

I was 6 weeks into my training and had gone backwards. So, I opted to punt the whole program and try for a 12 week training program instead of 18. But I wasn't at a good starting point. I had gained weight and lost speed. I had hardly done any quality work in 4 months. I was out of shape.

So I reset my expectations and restarted with a 12 week schedule. That started OK, but it wasn't long before I was struggling and inconsistent. I let some personal struggles get the better of me during this training cycle. I gutted out some tough workouts, but had more days of sleeping in and laziness. I'm hoping I'm past those personal struggles, but they really had me down. Boston certainly lifted my spirits to the point that I'm simply determined. I will run! I will run fast!

In addition to the mental struggles that were defeating me, I had more physical sickness this spring than I've ever had. (I'm not sure the mental stress and physical illness are unrelated.) I caught a stomach bug that weakened me for a week. Then, I had a case of bronchitis that had me out for another week.

Ugh.I was out of shape and not getting better. So, restarting with a 12 week program was a miserable failure. I averaged less than 50 miles per week and I was woefully inconsistent. I don't think it's possible for me to get in marathon PR shape on mileage that low, especially when the miles weren't really quality miles.

So, that's what went wrong in training. I was injured some, sick some, stressed, lazy, and for some reason unmotivated.

Race Day
So, I did take advantage of the opportunity to taper before the marathon. Why not?!? Fewer miles and more carbs? I'm in! That also meant that I was probably as heavy as I've ever been for a marathon at about 172 or so. That's pretty inexcusable, but I'm on my way down already.

Likewise, I had no goal or plan for the race. How about this for a goal... I'll just run however I feel like and hope for the best. It's not totally true that I had no goal, I had the typical 3 goals. The "A" goal was 3:05. The "B" goal was 3:15. And the avoid disaster goal was 3:30. I really thought I was in about 3:10 to 3:15 shape. It turns out that maybe I've learned a little bit about my body in the past 3 years because I ran 3:13:05. I was close to 3:10 before the come apart I had at the end.

I also used a lot of energy interacting with the crowd. I sure wouldn't change that, though.

So what went wrong on race day? I was fat, out of shape, had no plan for the race, and ran an inconsistent pace by getting excited and running fast sometimes and losing focus and running slow at other times.