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.