Monday, November 17, 2014

Potomac River Run Marathon.

Short version: 
I ran a marathon on November 16th. My finish time was 3:21:39, a 32:21 PR. 

tl;dr version:

Prior Races
This was my fourth marathon.  Prior results were
4:29:54, 3:54:51 and 3:53:18. My most recent marathon was Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in October of 2013.

The Race
The Potomac River Run Marathon is a very small race (capped at 300 runners) held twice each year. The race is held on the C&O Canal National Park towpath. The course begins and ends at the Carderock Recreation Area and consists of a 6.55 mile out and back. Those running the HM run it once, those running the full run it twice.  The trail is mostly flat and smooth except for the occasional rocky patch.  I chose this race primarily because of the location.  I run on the towpath regularly and it is without a doubt my favorite place to run.  There are two access points a short drive from my house. It’s flat, quiet and I really enjoy running under the trees and catching a glimpse of the river every now and then. Although I had never run the section of the trail where the race is, I know the trail very well.

Injury and The Fat
After a disappointing finish at MCM 2013 I learned that I had a couple of what the doctor called “stress reactions” in my left leg.  I had to take some time off to heal and wasn’t able to run regularly until the end of January.  During my layoff I thought a lot about trying to qualify for Boston eventually.  I thought for me to have a decent shot at a BQ I would need two strong training cycles and (most importantly) I needed to lose weight.  I spent the early spring easing back into running but I didn’t do anything about my weight.  I ran a HM in May weighing 187 lbs and did OK but something clicked and I decided to get serious about trimming down.  I didn’t go on a “diet” but I just stopped eating like crap and increased my running a little bit.  Over the next couple months I dropped 20 lbs.

I chose Pfitz 18/55 for the third time.  Unlike in the past I actually followed the plan pretty closely.  I also joined a local running club and started doing group runs with them.  We did long runs on Saturday morning and tempo runs on Tuesday night. The marathon training group was small and consisted mostly of newbies that were running slower than I wanted and a few faster people that I couldn’t keep up with.  There was one lady that wanted to do her long runs a little bit faster than I did so I decided to run with her.  I discovered that I was able to keep up with her just fine and we ended up running a lot together.  On one of our first runs together she told me flat out that she thought I was underperforming and I should target my fall race to try and BQ.

I also picked up a copy of Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry after seeing how much it helped others.  I used the evaluations in that book to identify some areas of weakness and started targeted exercises to work on those.  Between the weight loss and the exercises I had the best training cycle so far. I needed to average 7:50 to get a 3:25 marathon so I ran the MP miles that Pfitz calls for early in the training cycle at 7:35-7:45.  To my surprise, I was able to maintain that pace consistently.  That pace wasn’t easy but felt what I think of as “comfortably hard”.

I have a history of getting injured during marathon training but I thought I had escaped that this time around until right at the tail end of it.  On my last week before taper started, my right Achilles started giving me trouble.  I blame this injury entirely on the fact that I stopped doing the exercise routine from the book. No excuses. I was just tired of fitting it into my schedule as the weekly mileage increased. I believe 100% that if I had stuck with the routine I would not have gotten injured.  The injury wasn’t bad, but painful.  I could run without pain until I got past 12-14 miles and then it would start to ache.  It was also really painful in the morning.  I went back to doing the prolonged stretches (3 minutes on each side) and heel drops but the damage was done.  

Big Mak
A few weeks out I posted on the Facebook page for the race that I was shooting for sub 3:25 and wanted to form an informal pace group.  I didn’t get any response until about a week before the race. A lady asked me what I thought my HM time would be because her daughter was running the race. The race director wanted her to find someone to keep an eye on her because of her age.  Intrigued, I asked a few questions and learned that her daughter is 7 years old and was attempting to break the single digit age world record in the half marathon!  The record time she was trying to beat was 1:41:12 which was right around my targeted HM time.  After exchanging a few messages with her Mom I said I would be happy to run with Makenzie and her older sister (13) for the first half of my race.  Another runner (RS) commented on the thread that she was also running the full marathon with a similar goal as me so we agreed that we would try to meet up before the race.

Race Day
I didn’t sleep well for a couple of nights because of nerves but managed to get a solid 5 hours the night before the race which is pretty good for me.  The race offered two options for start time at either 8:00 or 9:00.  I opted for 9:00 but still got up around 5:00. I ate a bagel and had a cup of coffee to get things moving.  I took care of business a couple times and then took two Immodium tablets at 7:00.  This has worked great for me in the past and it worked again today with no PM attacks during the race.  I packed 6 GU Lemon/Sublime energy gels in my bag.  I planned to take one about 15 minutes before the race and consume 4 more on the course. I kept the 6th one in case I needed it. 

Parking at the start was very limited so the plan was for Cindi to drop me off at about 8:30 and if all went well she would be there with the kids to pick me up at 12:30.  I checked my bag, took a couple of short warm up runs, downed my first energy gel and headed to the start.  I met up with Mak, her sister and her Mom at the start line but couldn’t find RS.  It didn't help that I couldn't remember her bib number!

Timing for the race was old school with no chips.  Just a big clock running and people checking off bib numbers at the turn arounds.  When I got to the start the clock was running and read about 0:50:00. Since they offered an early start for those that wanted it, the 9:00 folks would start when the clock said exactly 1:00:00.  The race director said anyone trying to qualify for Boston or a set a world record (with a wink at Mak) should move to the front of the line so we did.  Some announcements were read, a guy played the Start Spangled Banner on the clarinet and we were off.

First Trip Out
As we started I realized that I forgot to turn on my Garmin! I can’t believe I did something that stupid.  I turned it on but it took a while to sync with the satellite.  Once I got it started I asked another runner how much time had elapsed. I was almost exactly one minute behind.  Once I got over the panic I realized that Mak and her sister were going too fast.  I caught up with them and said something but they weren’t slowing down.  I ran the first couple miles with them but I needed to slow down a little so I let them go.  They pulled ahead but eventually they slowed too and were maybe 150 yards in front of me through most of the first trip out.

I have read that the first few miles of a marathon should feel easy.  I was thinking about that as I was running those first few miles and it didn’t feel easy at all! I thought this meant trouble for my later miles. I also thought about something Shalane Flanagan posted to her FB page the night before “If it isn’t hard, you aren’t dreaming big enough”. Keeping that thought i mind I said screw it, if I blew up then I still had plenty of time to BQ for 2016.  I kept on my target pace but found that I was gradually catching up with Mak and her sister.  

Splits: 7:37, 7:40, 7:48, 7:42, 7:50, 7:47.

First Trip Back
When I got to the turn around I was suddenly right behind Mak and her sister.  Her pace had dropped quite a bit so I said “Hey Mak, it’s time to pick the pace back up just a little. Not all at once but we need to go a little bit faster”.  She said OK and we moved up a little.  Her older sister was really struggling and fell off the pace right away.  I really wanted to tell big sis that she did her job and we would guide her the rest of the way but there wasn't time. I wondered if she was upset that she wasn't able to keep up with Mak and I felt bad for her.  Having two daughters of my own I know that kind of thing can be difficult sometimes.

After hearing me talk, a runner right in front of us asked me if I was Scott and introduced herself as RS.  We exchanged pleasantries and then the three of us started running together.  We stayed on pace for the next couple miles but Mak was starting to have trouble.  We slowed our pace a little but she was still struggling to keep up.  RS and I encouraged her as best we could but there is only so much anyone can do for you out there.  In the end either you can do it or you can't.

After two miles at 7:50+ I needed to make a decision to either stay with her or head out on my own.  I felt very conflicted. On the one hand I had I had my own goal for this race that I had worked toward for the past 18 weeks and on the other hand there was this adorable 7 year old kid working her tail off to try and achieve something incredible. Fortunately, RS made the decision for me.  She told me to go ahead and she would hang back and run her in and try to catch me later.  I picked the pace back up and hoped that Mak and RS would use me as a rabbit to chase.  I turns out that is exactly what they did.  As I neared the HM finish (and turn around point for those of us running the full ) I heard Mak’s mom yelling for her.  I hit the turn around and cheered Mak on as she crossed the finish line.  I learned later that she set the world record by 12 seconds!  Huge props to RS for guiding Mak those last few miles.  I spoke with RS after the race and she told me they both sprinted a few times to reach the finish in time.  I can't imagine doing sprints in the middle of a marathon and still finishing with the time RS had.  She is a very strong runner and was just the person Mak needed to be running with on that particular day.  Some people might say that's a fortunate coincidence, others just say serendipity.

Splits: 7:49, 7:46, 7:51, 7:54, 7:49, 7:49, 7:46
If you look down the trail, you can see Mak coming in for her finish.

Mak and RS. Mak is flying!

Turning off the trail to cross the finish line! 1:40:00 even and a new world record!

I borrowed this pic from Mamma Mak's Facebook page. Is that smile worth a million bucks or what?

Second Trip Out
I missed seeing RS and wasn't sure what happened to her. I guess we must have passed each other while I was watching Mak finish.  I thought about slowing a little to wait for her but decided to just run the second half alone unless she caught up to me.  I passed Mak's sister about a half mile back down the trail and cheered her on.  From there I just got to work and headed back down the trail. I took my third GU at mile 15 and got a nice bump from that.  I decided I would use both of my remaining gels on the way back.  Somewhere in mile 17 or 18 I started to feel confident. 
Splits: 7:40, 7:41, 7:43, 7:43, 7:48, 7:47

Second Trip Back
I hit the turn around and made sure my bib number was called out.  Thanked the volunteers and told myself that all I needed to do was run 7:50's all the way back and I had it in the bag.  The only real problem I had was my vision.  My eyes were filled with gunk and I was having a hard time seeing the trail so I was landing on a lot of pointy rocks that I would ordinarily adjust for.  I was also having a hard time seeing my Garmin.

There is a gradual climb of about 40 feet that starts at mile 25.  You pass 5 canal locks in a little less than a mile. The trail at each of the locks has a little bump and is typically somewhat eroded. The climb itself is nothing but hitting the loose gravel passing the locks is a little extra work.  I ran up that "hill" four times in training so I knew what to expect. Once you get clear of that and pass under the I-495 bridge you have one mile to go.  I was surprised to see that I still had enough energy to run the last mile hard. I passed a lot of people in this stretch, I think most of them were slower runners that started at 8:00.  There were a few that were running at about my pace that I managed to pick off in the last mile.  That felt really good.  One of them was a guy in a Superman t-shirt that I saw several times at the turn arounds during the race.  He had to be at least 6' 5" tall.  So yeah, I beat Superman.

Adidas hat and Mizuno shirt. Is that a fashion no-no?

Crossing the finish and staring in disbelief at the clock.

My Garmin only has the distance as 25.8.  Most of that is from the fact that I forgot to start my watch at the start but not all.  I suspect that running under the trees has something to do with it, but I'm not sure.

Splits: 7:51, 7:49, 7:50, 7:50, 7:49, 7:48, 7:28

I met up with RS at the finish line.  She finished in 3:24:xx.  She said she had me in sight for much of the race but couldn't quite catch up.  It was great running with both her and Big Mak and I hope to get the chance to run with them again.

Post Race:
After the race I called Cindi and she, Logan and Samie picked me up. We drove up to Germantown to meet up with Lauren and Bryan at Cafe Rio where I inhaled a chicken quesadilla and some chips.

My Achilles is pretty messed up right now, a bit more than 24 hours later.  It's very sore and painful to walk on.  On the good side the rest of my legs don't feel too bad.  I'll take at least a week off from running and then try to ease back into it slowly.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon

On October 27th 2013 I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon.  This was my third marathon ever and my second in 2013.  I ran my first marathon in March of 2012 so this made for 3 marathons run in 19 months.  I hope it won't be my last, but I have no plans to run another one in the spring. My legs are pretty beat up and as much as I don't like to admit it, I'm starting to get a little past my prime.

The short version:
  • Training for this marathon was difficult.
  • I suffered two injuries along the way that both sidelined me for a couple weeks each.
  • I decided to shoot for 3:45 which would have been a 10 minute PR.  I was on pace to hit that until mile 17 when my calf injury really started to hurt.  I slowed my pace but ended up walking a lot after the 21 mile mark.
  •  I finished in 3:53:18 which is a PR by about 90 seconds.

The long boring version:

Training:I used Pfitz 18/55 again for this training.  I planned to get in as much of the speed work as possible although that didn't work out for me very well when I trained for my last marathon.  As I said above, my training for this race didn't go very well.  I developed PF in my right foot in early July which sidelined me for a couple weeks.  When I was able to return to running I couldn't push my pace without pain for another couple weeks so I lost a lot with that injury.  August and September went OK and I had some decent long runs.  I managed to get in a few quality sessions but not nearly as much as the training plan called for.  Still, I felt like I was getting back into the groove by the first of October when I developed a calf strain in my left leg.  I (again) stopped pushing pace wise and just focused on keeping my miles up but the injury just kept getting worse.  I went to see my witch doctor (chiropractor) for ART four times in the last couple weeks before the race.  That helped some but I knew that race day was going to be painful.  The last three weeks before the race I hardly ran at all which didn't help my confidence.

The last two weeks before the race were complete mental torture.  I was tapering and I didn't feel prepared because I had missed some runs the week before and I couldn't decide on a race plan. I considered just running it at my long run pace and enjoy the crowd support and water tables.  Eventually I decided to go for my A goal of 3:45 and see what happened.  I had never really blown up in a race before so if nothing else, it would be good experience and a chance to see what I'm made of.

My boss lives in Crystal City and agreed to let me set up camp at his apartment about a mile from the start.  It was great having a place to get myself together and use an actual bathroom instead of a port-o-potty.  I got to his place at about 5:30, pinned on my bib, took care of business and chatted with him for a while before heading off to the bag check.  Eventually I made my way through baggage check, two security screenings and found my way to the start area.

MCM is a really big race. 30,000 runners and all of them running the marathon distance.  The start line is huge and there are no corrals or a wave start.  Just signs up with projected finish times for people to line up next to. I took a few pictures of the crowd but they really don't show just how many people there are.   I worked my way up through the crowd to find the 3:45 pacer.  I asked him if he planned to run even splits and he said he was.  There was not any room to warm up my legs so I braced myself for the calf pain that comes with a cold start.

Skydivers during the national anthem.

The crowd. You can make out the red arches in the distance that are the start lines.

The Race:
The race started and that was pretty much the last time I saw the pacer up close and personal.  The crowd was really big and the streets were narrow.  I immediately got held up by a lot of people in the way.  I don't know why it still surprises me that so many people line up way too far up front.  I tried my best not to panic or get frustrated but it was difficult.  My calf hurt a little but it settled down after about a mile or so.  After three miles the crowd started to thin out a little and I wasn't dodging quite as many people.  I could see the 3:45 pace group about 10 seconds ahead and was content to just keep them in sight.  Because of the slow start I expected the pacer to try and make up some lost time but I didn't think he would try to do it all at once.  He had other ideas and took advantage of the long down hill that started after the 3 mile mark but it felt too fast to me.  I followed along anyway which was probably a mistake.  I've had both good and bad races when following a pace leader.  This was one of the bad ones.  I have decided I will not use a pace group again for a marathon.

Splits from my Garmin:
1    8:55
2    9:00
3    8:18
4    7:32
5    8:18

According to my pace band we were right on schedule here and the next few miles went well. I tried to close the gap and catch up with the pace group but couldn't quite get there in the crowd although I did get close. I didn't want to waste a lot of energy going around people so I gave up on that and settled in about 5 seconds behind them.  The next few miles felt smooth and I started to gain a bit of confidence.

6    8:30
7    8:27
8    8:29
9    8:22

On mile 10 the pacer picked it up again and I couldn't figure out why. We were still right where we needed to be.  I followed him anyway but when I saw the split time of 8:05 on my Garmin at the 10 mile mark and I decided to let them go.  I settled in to go it alone.
10    8:05
11    8:28
12    8:28
13    8:38 - According to the official results my HM time was 1:51:59 (8:32 pace)

At the half way I felt pretty good but my calf injury was making itself known.  Nothing terrible but just an occasional twinge or spike here and there.  I decided to back off my pace a little and shoot for sub 3:50.

Random memory #1: Somewhere the course went under a bridge and there was a large group of young men. I happened to be running near someone carrying an American flag and the spectators started shouting "USA" in unison. It was almost deafening in the enclosed space and gave me chills.  I'm not normally a big GO USA kind of guy, but this race your national pride swell.  We might have the most dysfunctional government on the face of the earth but the American people as a whole are fantastic.

Random memory #2: There was a spot along the river on the DC side that was lined with large pictures of fallen service members. They were all captioned with the name, age and other information about the person that was killed in action. There were dozens of pictures and it was hard to take it all in.  After a few minutes I had to look away because it was overwhelming.

14    8:43
15    8:44
16    8:32
17    8:48

At mile 17 I knew I was toast. My calf was getting progressively tighter and I had to fight the urge to walk.  I told myself that if I made it to mile 20 I could take a 30 second walk break.  When I passed the 20 mile marker I told myself that I was just kidding and that I should stop being such a wimp and run this fucking thing out.  I almost made it to mile 21 and found myself walking on the I-395 bridge. I was only walking for a short time when another runner that was really struggling passed me and said something along the lines of "OK, that's enough now pick it back up again. That seemed to be enough to get me going and I started running again.  I thanked him as I ran past.

18    8:54
19    8:54
20    9:12
21    8:50
22    9:15
23    9:31

The rest is kind of a blur. I don't know how many times I stopped to walk. Maybe once each mile for about 20 or 30 seconds?  I remember seeing my boss as I hit one of the water tables on mile 24.  He yelled for me and I managed to give him a wave and then I kept going.

I stopped to walk up the ramp leading to S. Washington Blvd and saw a familiar face standing on top of the hill cheering.  The lady I know as Julia1971 from the running forum I frequent had posted that she would be on mile 25 near the Pentagon. We are friends on Facebook too so I had seen her picture but I had never met her before in person so I wasn't 100% sure it was her.  As I walked up the ramp I caught her eye and then we recognized each other. I stopped for a real quick hug (brave woman to hug someone who just ran 25 miles) and told her how much I was hurting.  She asked if I would finish and I said I would and might even PR.  Seeing her gave me a nice boost and I ran off but I didn't have much left at that point.

24    10:15
25    10:21
26    9:31

The last thing I want to mention is how great the Marines were.  All through the course you would find them cheering and encouraging runners.  It was really inspiring. I don't know how many times I yelled out "thank you Marine!" to be answered back with a loud "OORAH!" in response.

MCM ends with a short but steep climb to the Iwo Jima Memorial.  I tried to muster a sprint up that hill and was surprised to feel my RIGHT calf cramping with every step. I guess I had been favoring that leg for so long it couldn't take any more.  Half way up the hill it locked up and I had to stop.  Three Marines came to me and started shouting words of encouragement and pointing to the finish line up the hill. I couldn't do anything but try to run and I managed to limp up the hill and cross the line.
27    4:22.0     (0.45) - According to my GPS I ran an extra .25. That could be from not cutting corners tight enough or from all the dodging around other runners or just the GPS being a little bit off.  Most likely it is a combination of all three of those.

In hindsight, it was really stupid for me to run this race injured. It is now four days after the race and I'm still in a lot of pain. My right leg feels fine but the left calf is damaged and I probably won't be able to run again for weeks.  Still, it was a good experience and I would probably do it again if I had to choose over again.

Time: 3:53:18 (Previous best was 3:54:51)
Age Group (males 45-49): 330
Males: 2989
Overall: 3963

Finish Time
Finish Net3:53:18
Finish Gun3:55:40
LocationNet TimeClock TimeTime of DayPacePace Between
5K 27:10 29:33 8:29:37 8:44 /mi
8:05 /mi
10K 52:19 54:42 8:54:46 8:25 /mi
8:47 /mi
15K 1:19:39 1:22:01 9:22:06 8:32 /mi
8:30 /mi
20K 1:46:03 1:48:26 9:48:30 8:31 /mi
8:41 /mi
Half 1:51:59 1:54:21 9:54:26 8:32 /mi
8:42 /mi
25K 2:13:05 2:15:27 10:15:32 8:34 /mi
8:31 /mi
30K 2:39:33 2:41:55 10:42:00 8:33 /mi
9:09 /mi
35K 3:07:59 3:10:22 11:10:26 8:38 /mi
10:17 /mi
40K 3:39:57 3:42:19 11:42:24 8:51 /mi
9:47 /mi
Finish 3:53:18 3:55:40 11:55:45 8:53 /mi

After the finish. I talked to another runner and we took pictures of each other so we didn't have to pay Marathon Foto $1,000,00 each for race pictures.

In the car on the way home.  I wish my parents would have made me get braces when I was a kid.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rock n Roll, USA 3.16.2013 - Race Report

Here is my race report for the Rock n Roll, USA Marathon on March 16, 2013.

The short version
This was my second marathon.  My first was almost exactly one year before and I finished that one with an official time of 4:29:54.  My goal for this one was sub 3:55.  I finished in 3:54:51.

The long version
Training for this race went very well. I'm learing more and more about myself and what my limitations are.  I am an injury prone runner that is learning that I can't push too hard when it comes to pace improvements.  Patience and progressing in small increments is the way for me.  For the most part I stayed true to that thought in this training until about 2 weeks before race time.  Without going into exhaustive detail, I started pushing too hard and I ended up injuring my right Achilles tendon. It wasn't a show stopper but I had to spend the last week of my training on the couch instead of tapering. Another lesson learned.  Actually, the same lesson learned again.

I didn't run at all the week of the race until the morning before when I got out for a four mile shake out run.  Race day arrived at last and I drove down to the city. The plan was for my wife and one of my daughters to take Metro down later and meet me at the finish and we would drive back together.  The alarm went off at four and I got up and took care of all the pre-race stuff. A little coffee to get things moving, I put four coats of New Skin on my nipples to guard against chafing. I can't recommend that enough for guys that have chafing issues but don't want to shave their chest in order to get band-aid's to stick.  The drive to the race was uneventful. I parked my car and grabbed my energy gel's and other supplies and put them in my belt. I decided not to check a bag so I didn't have to deal with the drop off and pick-up later.

A short walk to the Metro and 15 minutes later I was at the start.  The port-a-john lines were long but I had a half hour to kill.  I chatted with a few people in line about other races and all the usual runner stuff to keep from being focused on my nerves too much.

Once done with that I found the 3:55 pacer and talked to him for a few about his strategy.  He said he wanted to bank "a few seconds" in the first 3 miles by going out at 8:50 and then run even splits after that. After that mission was accomplished I jogged around for a couple minutes to warm up and then it was time for the first coral to start.  I ditched my warm-up clothes that I bought from Goodwill and fell in with my group.  A few minutes later, off we went.

Miles 1-3.
The pacer was a little off here.  It felt like he went out much faster than advertised.  By the time we got to the two mile mark I was kind of pissed and I had decided to let him go. All of a sudden at mile three I passed him. I was pretty confused by that and I decided to just keep going.

 Miles 4-7.
I tried my best to keep even splits. My GPS was still pretty close to the mile markers but I just focused on my time, the pace band and the mile markers.  My splits were pretty close. I was still a little ahead but I wasn't gaining or losing time so I just kept at it.  Then I hit the hill at mile 6.  That thing was really steep and a lot of people started walking.  I slowed way down and expected the pacer to pass me but he didn't.  At mile 7 I used my first energy gel.
Miles 8-13.
Getting up the hill without losing too much time was a real confidence booster.  There was a nice downhill stretch and then the course leveled out for the most part for a while. I just tried to focus on keeping on pace.  Somewhere around mile 12 I caught up with a couple other runners that had "3:55" tags on their backs that had ventured out on their own.  We talked for a little bit and it seemed like we were on the verge of deciding to run the rest of the race together when all of a sudden the 3:55 pacer caught us.

Miles 13-18.
The three of us fell in with the pacer and the (8-12) runners that were with him.  I honestly don't remember a lot about this part of the race.  I just focused on staying with the group and keeping an eye on my pace band. According to my pace band we fell about 45 seconds behind but the pacer kept saying that we were right on.  I don't think he had a pace band and was doing the math in his head.  I thought about pushing out on my own again but I was starting to struggle a bit with some pain in my hip and lower back so I just hung on.

 Miles 19-20.
The big thing I remember clearly about this part of the race is listening to the pacer talk with someone else that was asking if we were on pace when we hit the 20 mile mark.  He said "Yep, we've got it easy. We just hit 3 hours on my watch so all we have to do is hit 9 minute miles from here and we'll come in a minute under."  When the lady responded "but then we have to run another .2" I said "Which means we are a minute behind" and I picked up my pace.  The pacer came with me and everyone else followed.

Miles 21-25.
I was able to hold the (slightly) faster pace until about the mile 24 mark and I really started to struggle.  We made up the lost time (which was actually only 45 seconds) but I was pretty fried and my legs were trashed.  The group left me at a water station somewhere in mile 22. I don't drink gatorade when I run because of GI issues but I use energy gels instead.  I have to drink a lot of water with the gel in order to keep my stomach calm and that is just too hard to do without slowing down a lot.  When I got to the 24 mile marker the pace group was long gone and I all but decided to give up on sub 3:55 and be happy with going sub 4:00.  Mile 25 was really slow.

Miles 25-26.2.
I checked my time when I got to the 25 mile mark and realized that if I picked my pace back up I for the last 1.2 miles I might be able to still hit my goal despite the lost time.  I mustered every bit of determination I could and went for it.  The last mile was just a blur of pain in my hip and feet (I don't remember when the blisters came) but I hung on as best I could and crossed the finish line with 9 seconds to spare.


Splits are from my watch. I decided to keep the auto lap on because I didn't want to deal with remembering to hit the button, worry about hitting the wrong button, etc...

TypeDistance DurationTotal DurationPace

1 Interval 1 mi 8:53.23 8:53.23 8:54
2 Interval 1 mi 8:38.98 17:32.21 8:39
3 Interval 1 mi 8:33.06 26:05.27 8:34
4 Interval 1 mi 8:39.05 34:44.32 8:40
5 Interval 1 mi 8:55.22 43:39.54 8:56
6 Interval 1 mi 8:50.58 52:30.12 8:51
7 Interval 1 mi 9:20.85 1:01:50.97 9:21
8 Interval 1 mi 8:57.27 1:10:48.24 8:58
9 Interval 1 mi 8:46.35 1:19:34.59 8:47
10 Interval 1 mi 8:58.86 1:28:33.45 8:59
11 Interval 1 mi 8:08.70 1:36:42.15 8:09
12 Interval 1 mi 9:00.69 1:45:42.84 9:01
13 Interval 1 mi 9:04.95 1:54:47.79 9:05
14 Interval 1 mi 8:52.19 2:03:39.98 8:53
15 Interval 1 mi 7:41.78 2:11:21.76 7:42
16 Interval 1 mi 9:38.55 2:21:00.31 9:39
17 Interval 1 mi 9:14.25 2:30:14.56 9:15
18 Interval 1 mi 8:58.79 2:39:13.35 8:59
19 Interval 1 mi 9:07.94 2:48:21.29 9:08
20 Interval 1 mi 8:59.21 2:57:20.50 9:00
21 Interval 1 mi 8:38.99 3:05:59.49 8:39
22 Interval 1 mi 8:47.20 3:14:46.69 8:48
23 Interval 1 mi 8:45.08 3:23:31.77 8:46
24 Interval 1 mi 8:52.31 3:32:24.08 8:53
25 Interval 1 mi 9:09.04 3:41:33.12 9:10
26 Interval 1 mi 8:32.54 3:50:05.66 8:33
27 Interval 0.58 mi 4:48.31 3:54:53.97 8:18

ETA - The times for miles 15 and 16 are way off.  There was a long tunnel in the middle of all that and the GPS didn't like it.  If you take the average of the two it should come out pretty close.

ETA Again - I actually found the pacer after the race.  They finished it in 3:54:09.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Taper Madness

Wow, I have done a really poor job of updating this blog!  I can't believe it's been since the middle of December.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised though, I don't write all that much normally so why should this be any different?

For my first marathon I really had no idea what I was doing.  I found what I thought to be a reasonable training plan on the internet and followed it.  This was a very basic plan, designed to get you across the finish line but just barely.  There were no "quality" workouts (speed, hills, tempo) at all, just miles on a calendar.   Eventually I figured out that my plan had me running a lot less miles than most "beginner" plans but by that time it was too late.  I couldn't safely increase my miles significantly without risking injury.  I was still clueless about most aspects of training for a marathon.  The good part is that I didn't know how much I didn't know.  I was just focused on finishing the race and I wanted to finish in less than 4 1/2 hours.  I accomplished both of those goals and I was and still am really happy with the way it turned out.

After that race I went on to make a whole series of bad decisions that resulted in getting injured a few times and missing out on running a fall 2012 marathon.  Somewhere along the line I decided I should probably get at least a little bit educated about this sport that I find myself infatuated with.  So I started reading more and corresponding with a group of people on the Runners World website.  Eventually that group of people moved to a different website called Running Ahead. The group is pretty varied, men and women, young and old, married and single, fast and slow but all with a shared interest in training to run marathons,sharing information and encouragement to other runners.  These folks have been an invaluable part of my training.  The really cool part is that there are some very FAST runners on this site.  People that run at paces I can only dream of. The great part about that is they treat everyone the same. You might expect the "elite" runners to be a bit snobby and well, elitist but not in my experience.  They treat us mere mortals great and I think that is a great testament to the running community. Runners always want to win but they always encourage each other too and I really like that.

Several training plans were recommended to me by online friends.  I looked at a few and ended up selecting one from a book called "Advanced Marathoning".  By no means am I advanced, but I really wanted to make a big improvement for this race and I felt like the quality workouts included in this plan would be a big benefit to me.  I still don't know what I'm doing, but I have a much better idea of how much I don't know.  At least I think I do, maybe I'll look back later and realize that I was wrong!

I felt like I had a pretty solid base laid down before staring this training.  I was running 25-30 miles per week.  I struggled to get the runs in the first few weeks and looking back though I think I should have been getting a few more miles each week.  I also should have varied my distances more.  Most of the time I was running three of four 5 mile runs during the week and then a 10-12 mile run on the weekend.  I think that getting one mid-week run of 8 miles or more and stretching the long run to 14-16 would have been better.  Still, I adapted to the training plan fairly well.  The big exception to that was the additions of speed work to my training.  It seems that I'm perpetually on the edge of Achilles tendon injuries.  I had a lot of AT soreness after runs that included any runs that were faster than my half marathon pace.  After the injury scare that I had at the beginning of December, I decided to replace all of the really fast runs with "tempo" runs at either marathon or half marathon pace.  That seemed to work for me pretty well.

January went well. I hit all of my runs and got a new weekly mileage personal best of 57 miles and a new monthly mileage personal best of 216 miles.  Most importantly I stayed injury free.  I had several long runs that went really well.  I ran a 20 and a 22 mile long run that both went great.

February was good too.  I can only remember one run that didn't turn out good and that was my half marathon time trial.  I ran too fast.  I knew I was running too fast but I couldn't slow down enough and ended up blowing up at mile 12 and walking the last mile back to my car.  I don't think I let that shake my confidence much.  It was a good lesson in learning to pace properly and what happens if you try to run faster than your ability.  Other than that, all my runs went pretty good and my only complaint was starting to feel a bit burned out from all the running.  I learned from some others that this is just part of the process and even the crazies that run 75-85 miles (and more) a week start to feel that way after a while.

The other big news from February is that I changed races!  The logistics of driving all the way to Virginia Beach to run on the 17th just weren't working so I registered for Rock n Roll USA in Washington DC on the 16th instead.  The course looks really cool but it has hills which is not something I had to worry about in Virginia Beach.  To try and prepare for that, I stopped doing all my long runs at the C&O Canal and switched to running long in my neighborhood instead.

So that brings us to March.  I officially started my "taper" the last week of February but I like a two week taper better than three so I added an extra run during the week to keep my mileage up a little bit.  I also capped the week with the 16 mile run that was on my training plan, but I decided to treat it as something of a dress rehearsal and did a 1 mile warm-up followed by 15 miles at marathon pace.  I ran this one at the canal, which I really missed.  It was my good-bye run at the canal for a while.  I probably won't get back there to run again until April.  I ran the 15 just a little bit too fast but not enough to make me blow up.  I took a rest day yesterday and had planned a 7 mile easy run today. My legs felt good yesterday but they were sore when I started out today so I slowed down and ran at "recovery" pace instead.

That brings this blog up to date.  I don't know if I'll make time to write more before the race to help me deal with the "taper madness".  For those that don't know that is really just the stir crazy time that runners experience the last two or three weeks before the race.  You run a lot less to let your body recover from all the training which is what it needs, but at the same time you get more and more anxious as your race approaches and you don't get to burn off your worries with running.  Many runners use running as a way to deal with stressful situations so it's a bit of an irony that the one thing that that will help you deal with being nervous about a race is the one thing you can't do (very much) if you want to run well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18, 2012 Update

I just thought I would update both of my readers (one of them  is me) on my training so far...

It's been an interesting start to this training.  I just checked and was surprised to see that I am currently in week 6.  I thought I was only 4 weeks in!  The first couple weeks were pretty tough.  For some reason I really struggled mentally.  Maybe it has to do with having run through this once before but I wasn't enjoying any of my runs and had to force myself through them.  For the most part those negative feelings have passed although I am really, really sick of running through my neighborhood.  I'm trying to mix that up a bit by choosing routes I've never taken before but no matter what I still have to run the same streets and I just need a change of scenery sometimes.  Maybe we can sell the house and move? Preferably to somewhere flat. :-)

The thing that seemed to knock me out of the negative attitude funk is (surprise, surprise) picking up a little injury.  I don't know what it was, but the top of my right foot started hurting a few weeks ago after a 14 mile run.  I ended up having to rest for almost a full week to let it heal.  I resumed running last week and the pain has gone away.  I cut my long run from 16 to 12 last Saturday to be safe but I don't feel any pain in my foot today.  This week is a "cut back" week on my training plan.  I am scheduled to run 12 this Saturday but I think I'm going to run 16 instead to get myself back on schedule.

I think that about puts me up to date here.  I took some pictures on my run last Saturday.  The first one is a "panoramic" shot on top of the Monocacy Aqueduct.

The second one is from the white water kayaking place that is hidden behind the Dickenson Substation.  They use water from the Potomac to feed it. There is a sign out front that says it was used a training facility by the US Olympic team back in the 1990's.  It's really not that interesting of a picture except that it just looks entirely out of place sitting along side the trail. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marathon #2

I am currently in training for my second marathon.  I started this training program on November 19th after a 10 day lay off. So far, training has been less than ideal. I'm really tired and most of my runs have pretty much sucked.  I'm not sure what the problem is.  I had a very solid base going into this.  I was running between 25 and 30 miles a week for several months so jumping to 33 miles the first week shouldn't have been as hard as it was.  Maybe the 10 day rest was too much? Maybe I'm just psyching myself out by thinking about it too much. 

Yesterday I ran 10 miles on my lunch break.  I felt pretty good for the first 7 or 8 miles but then I was really struggling in the end.  I needed to nap for an hour after work and I still went to bed right at 10:00 and fell asleep almost at once.  If I wasn't in my (very) late 30's, I would think I had mono or something.

Oh well, enough bitching.  I have 4 miles on the calendar today but I think I'm going to take a rest day instead.  I'll make up for it on Sunday when I run the Christmas-Town Dash on my scheduled rest day.  Let's hope that things improve quickly!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Race Report: Baltimore Running Festival 2012 - Half Marathon

The 2012 Baltimore Running Festival's Half Marathon was my fourth half marathon and my second on this course.  The course starts in downtown Baltimore on Light Street which is right in the touristy part of town and takes you through the central part of the city and then finishes at Camden Yards (where the Baltimore Orioles play).  If, like me,  you aren't familiar with Baltimore, there aren't a lot of really great sights to see along the way.  The exception being running around Lake Montebello and the finish at Camden Yards.  Crowd support is excellent and the race is very well organized.

The weather was perfect for running.  Temperature at the start was about 50 degrees with clear skies and very little wind.

I live about an hour from Baltimore and decided to drive to the city myself instead of taking the light rail.  I found a place to park about a half mile from the start.  I don't know the city very well but I managed to find the bag drop after stopping a couple times to ask people and got my stuff stowed away.  I brought an old sweatshirt with me to discard right before the start (it would have been donated to charity) but changed my mind at bag check and stuffed it in my bag.  I didn't bring a clean shirt to change into after the race and I felt warm enough to go with out it.

On my way from bag check to the start line I realized that I forgot my pace band.  I knew that this might cause me to miss my 1:50:00 goal time but I didn't let it bother me too much.  Thanks to the long line at bag check, I got to the start about 5 minutes before race time which I think was ideal.  It was really crowded with lots of non-runners clogging up the street.  I was in corral 2, so once the first group was gone and we moved up all the non-runners stayed behind and the crowd thinned out somewhat.

This was definitely the least nervous I have been before a race.  I just felt focused and ready to go.  Because I didn't have my pace band I knew that I would get totally screwed up by the math if I tried to run the 8:23 and keep track of that in my head.  Instead I decided to just try to run even 8:30 splits and see how I felt on the last mile and pick it up if I could.

Miles 1-3 (8:19, 8:48, 8:16) The start was fine.  Not a lot of crowding but there was the usual number of people that were running too slow for where they put themselves at the start.  I didn't have much trouble moving around in traffic and after a couple miles it thinned out.  I really don't know what happened on mile 2. I guess it was the big hill, but it really didn't feel like I ran that slow.

Miles 4-6 (8:30, 8:35, 8:50) This is the toughest part of the course.  It's almost all uphill until about the 6.5 mile mark.  Peter Gabriel's "I Have the Touch" came on my iPod.  The cadence to this song felt perfect so I kept hitting repeat until I got to the top of the hill.  I'm not sure how many times I listened to the whole thing, I think at least 5.

Miles 7-10 (8:39, 8:28, 8:30, 8:33) Shortly after the 10K mark the course levels off for a while as you go around Lake Montebello.  I was passed by a lady that looked strong and I decided to pace off of her for a while.  I ended up following just behind her for almost four miles and ran my most even splits all day.  At about 9.5 miles the course starts a nice long decent and I decided to pass my pacer and try to make up for some lost time.

Miles 11 - 13 (7:52, 8:27, 7:40) I tried to hold the faster pace but the bridge and then the long hill on the other side had other ideas.  I was happy that I still had enough in the tank to make the last mile my fastest all day.

After I crossed the finish I waited for a minute or so and the lady I had been pacing off of crossed.  I waited until she caught her breath and thanked her for helping me PR and complimented her for running such solid splits.  She thanked me as well.  Evidently she followed when I sped up but faded on the bridge.

I don't typically hang around long after a race so I just headed over to bag check and grabbed my stuff.  I was pretty sore but was able to walk back to my car just fine and head home.

For the first time ever, the time from Garmin and my official finish time matched up at 1:50:55.  About a minute slower than my goal time but all things considered I'm very happy.  This is a 6:05 PR and beat my time on this course by almost 45 minutes. Last year I ran this race in 2:24:28! 

I don't have any race pics yet, but I do have the elevation chart from my Garmin.  If you made it this far thanks for reading!