Monday, October 26, 2009

New Strategies at the Silicon Valley Marathon

I'd signed up for this one almost a year ago, when I was still running somewhat. I didn't know what to expect coming in to this one, but I knew that I was going to finish it even if I had to walk it. Luckily I didn't have to walk.

Silicon Valley Marathon - 4:40:09 (10:41 pace; 460/769)

I was seriously skeptical about this one. Not only had I not ran that much in the past few months, but I also had come down with something about a week before the race. Lets start from the beginning.

I gave myself a crash course in running in order to trigger muscle memory. Mind you, I had no notions that this would improve my speed. I figured my speed was shot, but the least I could do was help my muscle memory try and remember what it was like to be on my feet for that long. So in the three weeks leading up to the race I ran 2 half marathons within 48 hours (both at 2hrs9min) as well as a smattering of other runs ranging from 3-8 miles, totaling 48.2 miles. A decent amount for me, even when I was running all the time. I felt confident that I would do alright.

Then a week before the event I came down with a bad cold, hacking, coughing and phlegm that I couldn't get rid of. I was annoyed, I wanted to get a couple of more runs in, but, alas, I was unable to. I played it by ear. Obviously if I felt too bad then I wouldn't run cause I wouldn't want to make everything worse. So I get to bed the night before and around 2:30 wake up completely soaked in sweat. At first you would think, "Oh no, maybe I shouldn't run", but as I lay there trying to fall back asleep I couldn't help but think, "Alright, whatever I had finally broke, I should be good to go in about 3 hours". Haha, oh how the mind works sometimes.

Perfect weather when the race began. I immediately felt good about the run, hitting my stride and not feeling too winded. I did notice I was sweating more than usual, but no biggie. About mile 11 I couldn't help but begin to dread running that whole course again as I was starting to feel tired. I wasn't even half way, oh well. I push through. I'd eaten 6 shot bloks (180 calories) at mile 9 and told myself to do it again at mile 15. By mile 14 my calves were starting to hurt and energy was low, so ate them then, vowing to repeat the process every 4 miles, thereby eating before, during and after I normally hit the wall. The next few miles were uneventful. I remember frog hopping with a handful of runners. I would run ahead, then walk, then they would run ahead, then they would walk. Repeat process. I hate it when that happens.

About the same time I noticed that I never hit the wall. I was at mile 19 and the only time psychologically I hit the wall, ever so tiny though it was, was when I thought to myself that I don't want to run marathons anymore (this is a common wall issue for me, when I begin to doubt myself and think why, oh why would anyone want to torture themselves this way!). Too tired. I coupled that thought with my fellow frog hoppers and knew I had to take a different tactic. My training was nowhere near what it should have been, so I knew I had to focus on my muscles. I immediately started a routine where I ran until my calves hurt, then took a 20 second walk break, then started all over again. Immediately I surged forward and left my frog friends behind. I never saw them again (in fact this one guy that I was doing that with finished the race about 20 minutes after I did!). In fact from mile 19 on I was passing a ton of people! I mean they would come on to my radar and I just pecked them off. I think I was on to something with this run walk routine, at least for times like this when my conditioning is completely gone.

So my morale is buoyed as runners are left in my dust (if only I was going that fast) and the miles went by so fast that I barely noticed. I mean I was running slower than my average marathon but it felt like the strongest (at least mentally) marathon I had ever ran! I came to within striking distance of the finish and realized that I might be able to pull off a sub 4:40, my only goal for the race. With 2 minutes to go I hit the 26 mile marker. I sprint past numerous runners in the final stretch, wanting, needing (for some reason) to run a 4:39:59 or better and... I don't know. My clock said 4:40:14 but I was off when I started it and when I stopped it, so I relied on the chip timing.

When all was said and done I missed my target time by 10 seconds! I ended up running a 4:40:09. Just one walk break less and I would have been exactly where I had wanted to be. I guys that's where the cards fell.

Anyway, I could not have been any more happy than I am after this race. I learned an eating strategy that helps break down the wall (eat at miles 9, 14, 18 and 22) and a way to speed up if my calves are beginning to cramp, notably a 20 second walk break. I didn't run this race faster than when I ran it in 2007, but I certainly felt much better during and after it, despite being sick.

(P.S. I was coughing during the race and needing to blow my nose a lot, which was the only sign that I was sick. But after the race I was having the biggest coughing fit. Add that to being sore that night, as well as sore the next day and still not feeling well, I think I did quite well considering. Now whether I made the right decision to run while sick is a completely different matter and I probably shouldn't have done considering it will probably prolong my cough and phlegm problem longer than it should have lasted. Oh well, you win some you lose some, and I think I certainly did a little of both.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marathon times predicted by weight differential

As the Silicon Valley Marathon approaches I can't help but be anxious. A few days ago I caught a cold and have been fighting it since. I was hoping to get a 6 mile run in yesterday and just couldn't. Hacking, coughing and phlegm filled nose and throat is certainly not conducive to a good run. So in my spare time I've decided to play a numbers game and predict what my time will be on Sunday (that is if I feel up to it and the cold and cough have subsided).

I've read in several different places that for every pound of weight you run a mile 5 seconds slower. So I wanted to put this to the test. You see I have the perfect base run, my first marathon in 2006 when I signed up for and completed with zero training and weighing 212 pounds. Using that I've gone back to the other 4 road marathons and figured out what the weight difference was, and thus what my predicted time would be.

Obviously there are several factors that go in to running, anywhere from hydration, eating, weather, hills and so on, so it would be hard to use the 5 second per mile as a hard rule. That being said the predicted times did pretty good. My San Francisco and Silicon Valley from 2007 were almost dead on, and you can bet there was a +- factor of a pound or two considering my weight was taken from a different day.

My training was different in 2007 than it was in 2008. In 2007 it was all about the shorter races until the end of the year when I started running longer runs. Then in 2008 the Napa Valley Marathon I had obviously trained much better and my body was ready to run the distance and thus I was able to do much better, adding a 38 minute cushion because of my training. Cowtown was better as well, but I had stopped running and I am willing to bet that the difference from the predicted time was my muscle memory picking up where I had left off.

All I can hope is that I can run better than the 5 hour predicted time of my weight and the 5 seconds a mile per pound rule. I certainly haven't trained that well, so I can't really expect anything other than the predicted time. But seeing as how I had ran 2 weeks ago 2 half marathons at a little over 2 hours each, then I feel confident I can run between a 4:30-4:40... Here's to hoping, not only for a finish but that I will have recovered sufficiently to run at all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Remarkable Week of Running (finally)

It feels strange to not be out running all the time. I went from running 9 marathons or longer last year to virtually no running at all. And I didn't have any good excuses!

A little background is in order. Last October I ran two marathons and then just stopped running. No miles in November and only 2.5 miles in December. I vowed to start the year off correct but still could only muster 28 miles. My first attempt at a 50k was at the end of February so I got a few 6 milers in and one 12 miler, but still couldn't get motivated, ending up stopping at the 30k finish of the Sequoia 50k. Then there were 6, 11 and 20 in the following months, leading to my finish of the Nisene Marks Marathon in the first week of June. From there it got worse, logging in only 3 more miles in June, 7 in July, 6 in August and 7 in September. Abysmal, I know. I just couldn't get motivated.

Along came October. I am planning on running the Silicon Valley Marathon at the end of the month. I mean the marathon is 1o minutes from my house and there is a 7 AM start time! What more could I ask for? The month started out slow with only 3 miles in the first week. Vowing to let my muscle memory regain control (about all I could do because speed is something that would take a lot more training, whereas muscle memory could at least be recalled) I moved in to the second week of the month, starting on Thursday (I use Thursday through Wednesday as my week in order to account for all 52 weeks, since January 1 was on Thursday) I ran 7 miles. No too bad.

Now here is the remarkable part. On Saturday I ran a half marathon, something I've only done for training twice before. Felt great if not a little slow. Understandable. The knees groaned a little at the end but quickly disappeared once I stretched. Wasn't sure what I wanted to run on Monday, but I knew I wanted to shoot for at least 7-8 miles. You see I found that my motivation for running increases when I plan on running longer runs as opposed to short 3-4 mile runs. So when I got to the half way point I felt great and kept running instead of turning around. Before I knew it I had ran another half marathon, my second in less than 48 hours! Better yet, I ran it the same pace as the one 2 days before and yet had no troubles at all with my legs and knees.

A truly remarkable and unexpected week for me. In fact this past week of 33.2 miles is my 7th best week of running ever! I know this doesn't amount to much compared to those of you running 100 mile weeks, but this is a lot for me. I know I will be ready for the SV marathon at the end of the month and I think I finally found a great motivating device to keep the miles coming...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Random Photos

Okay, so I attempted the Stevens Creek 50k last year but lack of training plus 100+ temperature ruined that effort. What is funny though is that I found a picture of myself at mile 1.5 of this race. I am the runner the farthest to the left.

I will run this race again. Hopefully I can get farther than mile 10.9.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

O Wonder of Wonders at the Nisene Marks Marathon

This was meant to kick start my running. I had no intention of setting any goals or even expecting to finish feeling a sense of accomplishment. What I ended up learning was that muscle memory has a long life span.

Forest of Nisene Marks Marathon - 4:44:24 (10:51 pace; 47/69)

I slept well and woke up at 5:38 sans clock. I must have been keyed to the moment as I rolled over wide awake. Grab my breakfast and head out the door for the 1 hour drive, putting me arriving a little less than an hour before the race. This, of course, is one of my favorite aspects of this race, the 8:00 AM start time. The other is the course itself.

Set in Aptos you run 13.1 miles up to the top of the hill. You don't run in the sun until the last few miles because you are running under a lush canopy of trees. The gentle climb, a 2,500 ft ascent, is not too demanding but certainly takes a determination. Then you turn around and run 13.1 miles down. Your legs take a beating as you concentrate on the fire road, hoping you don't hit that stick or rock then sends you tumbling. Ultimately you reach the end exhausted because of the constant pounding and climbing.

The race started relatively uneventful. I took it slow. In fact I started at the back of the pack to force myself to run slow and take it easy. I was taking this as a fast hike instead of a run. At about mile 2-3 I realized I felt good so I opened up some. We hit the first steep portion of the trail at mile 5 and I was already feeling tired. Huh, it was gonna be one of those races. I knew, though, that I would get to the top easy enough, and then the only way to get back to my car was to run back down. No way to drop off or quit. So I felt safe.

At mile 6 I stopped and ate 6 shot bloks, my miracle food while running. A few minutes later I felt myself surging up the hill. It was unbelievable. I mean I was literally running hard up the trail and not feeling my legs slow down at all. My heart and lungs were a different story, of course. Not running more than 100 miles in 7 months has killed my endurance so I had to take short 10-30 second breaks, then let my legs carry the day. I reached the turn around in 2:23 and was ecstatic. I had hoped to be to this point by the 3 hour mark, and yet I knew now that I had a chance of running my 3rd fastest marathon ever. I surged on.

Ironically, the downhill portion is where I couldn't hit my stride. Add that I was tired and it wasn't a good combination. Other factors, of course, were my corn and my calves. The huge corn in the middle of my foot was killing me running downhill because of all the extra pressure. Rocks, branches, holes and so on just seemed to be there every step as each step practically shot pain up my leg. The calves, well there was no way around this one. Not running much has its side effects, and calves that tighten up and cramp is certainly tops on that list.

The time I felt I could reach slipped away, ultimately leaving me running my 6th fastest marathon out of 10! I ended up running a 2:23/2:21 split. I've never ran a marathon with both halves that close, leaving out the fact that one half was up and the other was down. For not having ran or trained, I could not have been more happy with how I felt and the time that I was able to run this tough trail marathon in. I look forward to resuming my training and getting ready for the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July.