Friday, November 30, 2007

Pre-race Jitters?

Coming into this one I can definitely say that I have the pre-race jitters. I've ran a 50k before, so I know that I can do the distance, so that is not a problem. So why the jitters? I haven't figured this out yet, but something similar to this happened before my second marathon. Perhaps it's the nagging thought that perhaps the first time was a fluke and that I will set out on this one and find myself lost, or perhaps the distance proves too much and I get injured. Who knows, with time these thoughts will go away. This I know because going in to my third marathon I didn't have the jitters at all.

I think it all started with the cold I came down with about 12 days ago. All of a sudden I felt like crap and didn't feel like doing anything. No running, no gym, no nothing. Granted, 12 days does not break the camels back, but it still is a concern. In fact I still have a cough that won't go away. Will this impede how I run the 50k? I ran the 10k sick last week, granted I was right amidst the worst of it, but it still was tough towards the end. Will this affect it?

Tomorrow it will probably be in the high 30s when the race starts and the whole race is almost entirely in the shade of the redwood forest. How will the cold affect my running, especially when combining it with this cough/cold that won't go away? Granted, by the time I am done with the race it will be in the mid to high 50s, but I don't think I have ever ran in weather that cold. Anyway, whatever the reason the jitters are there.

Going into the race I am not sure how I will do. The course has only 4,500 ft elevation gain, which is relatively small for a trail 50k, so that will help. As well will the cooler temperature, at least once I warm up and the temp begins to rise. Coupling both these together then I can at least feel safe to assume that I should be able to come in around 7 hours. I know, you are wondering how I could think this since my last 50k came in at 8:15? Well beside the temperature and larger elevation gain I also got lost and ran an hour longer than I needed, thus the 7 hours.

Now here is the kicker. Another runner at the Stevens Creek 50k came in 45 minutes after me even though I was lost for an hour, which means I technically should have come in around an 1hr45min ahead of her. She also ran the Woodside 50k last year and she completed it in 7:30 (and recently I ran the SV marathon 1hr25min faster than her). So if I use the 1hr45min estimate then I should be able to complete the race tomorrow in 6:15, or using the 45 minutes then I should come in at 6:45. Using this estimate, although a bit stretched since each race is different, than I see myself coming in at 6:45. Of course I also have two secret goals but, uh, those will remain secret.

Anyway, here's to a 50k, jitters and all. I've looked forward to this one for a long time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10k

This was perhaps the most common race across the states, a 5k or 10k turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day, and with good reason. What better way to assuage your health conscious than to burn 900 calories before the big meal? Eat an extra slice of Pumpkin Pie, maybe an extra serving of mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. The world is your oyster.

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10k - 48:03 (7:44 pace; 221/1,445)

Coming in to this one I wasn't sure what to expect. I had been sick since Sunday night and it seemed that the cold was getting progressively worse with each day that moved towards the 10k. Was I going to have to do the 5k or, worst case scenario, not run at all? Even as late as last night before I went to bed I wasn't sure how I'd feel.

Race morning everything went my way. Granted, I wasn't feeling the best, but the cold worked itself out and broke up a little, leaving me confident enough to take on the 10k. I ate some banana bread and orange juice and set off for the 10k that was practically in my backdoor, being only 10 minutes away. When I arrived it was freezing and was second guessing wearing only a short sleeve shirt and shorts. But by race time the temp had warmed considerably to a comfortable mid sixties.

When I arrived to the start line I was floored. There were people everywhere and had the longest race day registration line I had ever seen, wrapping around and away without being able to see the end. Luckily I had signed up months ago and only had to wait as long as it took me to walk to the counter.

This was a 10k and there were thousands of people milling about. I'm used to 10ks with hundreds of people, not thousands, so this would be interesting. With a marathon or half marathon the large crowds thin out and don't really affect your time, but how would the much shorter 10k handle so many runners? We eventually moved to the start line and the announcer announced that there were 6,000 runners in both races. Amazing.

The horn went off and away we went. Uh, at least we were supposed to. I crossed the timing mat and started, but then had to stop and walk again as the congestion backed everything up. So our chips had activated our time and we were walking. Luckily this was only for a short while before we started up again, only to have spectators walking in the streets and slowing everyone down. A friend of mine that was running it this year had run the race in its first and second year and said that this was a lot more runners than both years. So suffice it to say the race director was a bit unprepared for the mass amounts of people, especially the large number of race day registrants. Back to the race, this was why there were so many spectators walking the streets because the race volunteers were not prepared.

After close to 3/4 of a mile things started spreading out, leaving me to a 7:24 first mile. Not too bad for getting over a cold where the congestion and running/stuffed nose constantly made its presence known. This was also not too bad considering the start problems, the cluster of runners and the rude spectators. So it made sense that my second mile came in at 6:54. I didn't speed up and tried to run a very steady pace. The legs felt strong and the pace was a little difficult when I weighed it with the fact that I had another 4.2 miles to go.

By this point the 5k runners had peeled off and the course slimmed some but at no point did I ever find myself all by myself. Around 2.5 was when I first felt the effects of the cold as well as the pace I had set while sick. I had one of the worst side stitches I had felt in a long time and even when I slowed my pace it didn't lessen, so I took my first walk break. Even with the walk break I still ran a 7:40 mile and felt strong, but the sore throat and running nose were starting to take their toll.

The rest of the race was a little uneventful. I had ran consistently, albeit now at a slower pace, but I still had to take some walk breaks. Miles 4 and 5 came in at 8:10 and 8:03 respectively, but I had to walk some. So with mile 6 I decided to slow the pace a little but not walk, that way I could finish feeling strong. As I finished mile 6 I came in at 8:01 and pushed through the last .2 of a mile. I felt strong, even though this wasn't my fastest 10k. When I finally stopped my cold jumped up and said hello, making me so nauseous I almost had to, uh, run to a garbage can to void my stomach. Luckily I kept it under control but didn't feel at ease until I found some water, about 2 minutes later, and calmed myself down. Looking at my watch I finished in 48 minutes.

I was very pleased with this 10k, especially in how I had ran even though I was coming off a cold. I was a little surprised about being nauseous, but wasn't surprised about the toll the cold had on my pace. But I have no complaints and it felt good to finish a 10k before 10 AM. Hopefully the after effects of the cold will be gone by the time I run the Woodside 50 on the 1st, otherwise I will be in for a long day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Second Test Passed!

So I had two tests for myself that would be a good indication on how well I was responding to endurance running and whether I was improving at all. The first I already passed, which was to run the day after the marathon and not feel sore doing so. The second was to run a long run within a week after running a marathon.

So I decided to do test myself by running a half marathon (or close enough at least as a shortcut I took decreased my run by .4 of a mile), one that I have wanted to do for a while but haven't been able to because of some race or other that prevented my from this test, besides the fact that I knew I couldn't before. I would park at the bottom of the hill my parents live on and run to their house, which was about 6.5 miles away. The trick here was that there is about 947 feet of elevation gain for the whole run, most of which was in the first half going to my parent's house.

Starting out I felt extremely strong. My legs were solid and I knew today would be a good run. Almost immediately I started on a 1/2 mile of flats and then went straight into a steep hill, which lead into some more not as steep hills. This continued on all the way to their house with only two respites: one a downhill section, which of course meant I had to go back up, and two a flat section. So I knew getting to their house would be a little slower. It ended up taking 59:54 which was a 9:26 pace. Not bad at all and I wasn't feeling any ill effects from the marathon the Sunday before.

So I rested for about a half hour and talked to my parents for a while before refilling the water and heading back out. In the beginning it was tough, even though it was all downhill, because of how cold it was, which caused my sweaty shirt and cooled down body to become very cold, and because I filled my water bottle up with ice water and had to carry it, thus making my hand very cold. Anyway, about a half mile later I finally warmed up again and was flying down the hill, onto the flats, and then to the first minny hill, which I walked. I started feeling a little tired at this point because I was about 9 miles in and 1 1/2 hours of running and I hadn't eaten anything more than a doughnut and a small glass of OJ since 7 AM (and it was 11:45 AM).

To this point I was running around 8 minute miles down the hills, so I was still taking it a little slow. But then I hit the one massive hill that was on the way back and slowed considerably. This hill took me a little over 11 minutes to complete the mile, but it was another victory. Last year before the SF marathon I attempted to run this hill. I went into it thinking I would conquer it and start getting into shape. I didn't even get half way up it, and at that very slow, before I stopped and sat on a bench to rest my aching legs and overtaxed lungs. I turned around and didn't run again, other than a mile or two on the treadmill, because of how out of shape I was. Of course it was about 90 degrees and I had zero training before that run, but the mind is hard thing to fool sometimes. Anyway, this time I attacked it and kept at it, and this isn't some small hill. About 300 feet elevation gain in less than a half a mile.

Once to the top it was a race to my car to see how much I could better the second half of the run. Eventually I came in at 1:55, or a tad over five minutes faster than the first half. My pace for the 12.7 miles was 9:06 a mile.

I think I passed this test with flying colors and now feel very secure in how well my body handles the endurance runs and the hard pounding on the legs. And with 3 marathons and 1 ultramarathon under my belt I know I can go the distance. Now all I can do is work on improving my speed, which will be a test in and of itself.

No goals with this one, though, and no personal tests. This one is simply: run faster!

Monday, November 5, 2007

A First!

So yesterday was my fourth marathon or longer distance. After each one my legs muscles and joints were sore for a while and I couldn't, or didn't want to, run for a while after. Until today, that is.

Perhaps after my fourth one my body is growing accustomed to the stress that long distance running causes and thus heals faster. Who knows, but today I was able to run 2.08 miles (treadmill) as a warm up before weightlifting. Ran it at an 8:50 pace. Then I ran outside for a little over 3 miles on the sidewalk as a cool down. Ran it at a 8:49 pace.

It felt easy and effortless. Joints and muscles were not sore. When I first woke up, granted, a little stiff, but after I walked around I felt as though I did not run 26.2 miles yesterday.

This is a first.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Silicon Valley Marathon

I had high expectations coming into this one as it would be the last marathon of the year for me and would be the one that I would be able to test what I have learned and see how this affects my running. On a simplistic level it met those expectations, but on a deeper level it left me with more questions on how I can prepare myself for the future.

I started out the night before with my traditional dinner before an endurance event: pasta in a homemade marinara sauce. I loaded up nicely in order to carb load myself ( I made sure I ate my protein for lunch). I love doing this dinner because it is easily digestible and easy on the stomach, which gives a quiet reassurance that my stomach won't become upset in the middle of the race and I would have to use a nasty port-o-pottie that smells and would, ultimately, take a few minutes off of my race. Was able to get some decent sleep after this because of the daylight savings and woke up early enough to have a nice, full breakfast. For this, again, I stuck to my traditional pre-race breakfast: two bananas, two slices of wheat bread with peanut butter and a Gatorade.
And away I went to the ever accessible downtown San Jose. Parking was a cinch, even as race time approached I was able to find free parking very easily. I met up with a friend and we marched to the starting line just in time to use the bathroom before the race started.

I was amazed out how low key this large city (10th largest in the US) marathon is. You arrive to the "expo" and are funneled to printouts on the wall where you find your number, then turn directly around and tell the volunteers your number, who then hand you your bib and timing chip. Curious, you turn to the right and enter a very small room to get your shirt and where a smattering of tables of people hocking their services and, well, that was it. The expo was done in a few quick glances. The same can be said of the race itself. There aren't any funnels and everyone is just kind of packed in and milling around. No structure at all. It doesn't seem like a lot of people standing there, but results show that there was just about 2,000 runners in the 5k, half marathon and the marathon, of which there were 762. So, as I said, a very low key and small race. Surprising for an event that has been on for as long as it has, this being its 10th anniversary.

As we started we ran south and away from downtown on main streets. For as little people as it seemed at the starting line it sure felt like we were all crowded together as we all marched along. I was running with my friend Jill and was going to keep myself pacing with her since her half marathon pace was about what I wanted to run for the marathon, which was a 9:50-10 minute pace. This was one of the main things that I was doing differently this race, which was to take a moderate pace and keep it steady. This was working much better than I thought it would. Soon enough we were running through the beautiful residential district of Willow Glen with its old, over sized Victorian houses checkered amongst newly remodeled and high priced homes. The weather was perfect and in the low 50's. I couldn't ask for a better situation.

Luckily the crowds thinned out as we turned on the Los Gatos Creek Trail at about mile 4 and began our trek northward. This was the tricky part that other past runners have talked about. They complained that since it is run on a bike path not closed to the public it was too crowded because not only were there many runners but you also had to deal with other bikers, runners and walkers enjoying the trail. I certainly did not find this the case as we rarely were congested and the few people out enjoying their morning were few and far between (although I was boxed in at about mile 7 by other runners, so the moron that I am I was watching the ground and decided to take a step out to the left and speed up to get around them when I hear a shriek from in front of me as biker was bowling speedily down the left lane. I barely dodged out of the way as I too let loose my somewhat deeper shriek).

I've ran this bike path many times so it was very familiar as we moved through Campbell at around miles 6-10 and then into Los Gatos at about miles 10-13.1 before hitting the lollipop portion of this out and back course. At the half way point I had ran an extremely conservative and easily manageable pace of 10 minutes and my miles were consistently within 5-10 seconds of this goal. This put me at the half way point at 2:09, right where I wanted to be because now I wanted to speed up a little and try and run a negative split. I felt this was also manageable because the course was gently sloping up to the half way point before turning around and gently sloping back down.

Not so dramatic as it seems because each increment is only 25 ft.
As I said, gently sloping and barely noticeable.

It was at about mile 15 that I noticed the one spot I would have never imagined I would need body glide was chafing and felt raw. Behind my armpit below my shoulder a ways. I mean I can't even really understand what caused it. Perhaps my water belt was pressing the shirt down and forcing the shirt to rub there? Who knows, but it didn't bother me that much as I sped up and was able to build a little over a two minute cushion off the 10 minute pace by the time I reached mile 18. Each mile was so steady to this point I am not sure what went wrong.

My calves started hurting again, similar to what happened at the SF marathon. The difference was that this time I was taking electrolyte pills (4 to this point), had eaten two Cliff Bars, ate 4 Cliff Shot Bloks and had consumed around 45 oz. of water. So I had things in balance enough to prevent cramping, but was it enough to stop my calves from cramping? More on this later.

My miles slowly dipped into the 11 minute range and by mile 20 the cushion I had built in had vanished. Then I ran a 12 minute and change mile, and then a 14 minute and change mile. At this point my calves were tight. They didn't hurt enough to prevent me from running, but it was uncomfortable. I took time during the 14 minute mile to drink a lot of water and to eat the remaining 6 Cliff Shot Bloks that I had left. How is it possible for something to taste so good? Their texture is like jelly bears and are gummy and dissolve in your mouth. Had raspberry, mango or something like it, and Margarita mix with extra salt. This was heaven and a great relief to my senses to enjoy these while I slowed down.

I sped up a little and was able to get back into the 12 minute range and knew that a PR was slowly slipping away. Mile 24 rolled around and I looked at my watch and calculated that I could still make it so I picked up my speed and away I went. And I don't mean running a 12 minute mile. I mean I was running a little faster than a 9 minute pace with ease. The calf discomfort was gone and running felt easier there at mile 24 than it did at any other point in the day. I was racking my brain on what I did differently that made the difference when I remembered my slices of heaven, 6 to be exact, that I had had 2 miles before and 24 minutes earlier. Especially the Margarita ones with the extra salt. Maybe it was my imagination but something in those must have kicked in as I digested them and gave me what I had been lacking during the race.

Everyone that had passed me miles before were now being passed with ease as I cruised on. I took one more walk break to catch my breath before kicking it into high gear and finishing strong towards the finish. Clocked in at 4:35:47 - a PR by 3 minutes and 1 second.

I learned a lot during this race. That I paced myself, ultimately, didn't really help too much as I ran about the exact same time as the SF marathon when my calves cramped and seized on me. My calves gave me a problem this time but I had taken enough precautions to prevent them from fully cramping. With this in mind I think the electrolyte pills I was taking are either not enough or I am not taking enough of them, and I should take salt tablets instead, which seemed to work better when I had the Cliff Shot Bloks. Ultimately, pacing felt much easier and manageable and if I can figure out the calf problem I will be in a good position to PR at my next marathon in Napa next March.

Ultimately, the race was a success and I am happy that I ran it. As a side not, despite the low key and not too well organized event at the start, finish and expo, there were plenty of aid stations and the volunteers were great in making sure there was plenty of water and cheering you along. Additionally, the shirt is a great tech shirt and the medal is a first class medal, perhaps the best one I have received yet.

Nutrition and Hydration:

Pre-Race (690 calories total)
2 Bananas (200 calories)
2 Pieces of Bread w/ Peanut Butter (360 calories)
20 oz. Gatorade (130 calories)

During Race (840 calories total)
2 Cliff Bars (510 calories)
10 Cliff Shot Bloks (330 calories)
7 Electrolyte Capsules (0 calories)
65 oz. Water (0 calories)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Wow, I stumbled upon this site when I went to the Quicksilver 50 mile/50k website to see if there was any new information on next year's event. Once there I saw a link to made by Gary Wang, an ultramarathoner himself.

It started when he wanted to figure out how many people had ran the American River 50m so he started going through the old records and recording their times and the year that it was completed. Soon enough this lead to imputing just about every endurance race out there, running, cycling, swimming and, of course, triathlons among them. There seem to be a good amount of races not there, at least out here on the West Coast with the Pacific Coast Trails not included, but the list is ongoing.

From one data rat to all the rest, this site could prove interesting if you are an ultrarunner and want a neat, clean searchable database for all ultra runs you have done. Or if you were curious about a particular runner, such as Dean Karnazes or Scott Jurek, you could look them up and see what they have run. Fun site to go through.

Note: The best and easiest way to search events is to go to All Time Lists and chose the state you want to look at, then find the event. Once you click on the event you can see who has completed that event the most all the way down to those that have completed it once. Then you can click on that person's name and it will show all their ultra results, or you can search by name. Once you start searching it is a little tricky to search for someone else as it seems to be stuck on whoever you search for first, even though you are searching a different name. It takes getting used to, but it is fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Damn The Taper!

I just finished reading Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and I remember a line that will stick with me for a long time. Baba is in a bar with his son, a bit inebriated, and is celebrating his son's graduation. At one point he stands up, taken by the moment and the revelry of celebration, and yells "Fuck the Russia." A classic line. Not only for its succinctness but for its ability to capture the cultural aspect. I so want to stand up and say "Fuck the taper."

But I won't. I can't. Last night I was itching to go out. Great weather, calf is healed, everything aligned. So I started thinking, nay, trying to talk myself into throwing my running shoes on and taking them for a spin. I've had to battle this demon a lot this past week.

I mean, there is so much the taper causes that goes against the grain.
  1. It doesn't allow me to run when I want. I feel I can run a ton, but I know I can't, and that is frustrating. Not only because of the taper but because I want to be sure my calf is fully healed.
  2. The weather is perfect for running. I step outside and feel the air, breathe it in, look at the falling leaves and think to myself, "What great weather to run in" only to turn around and walk back into the house.
  3. Finally, I feel like I gain weight during this week. That I eat more and become more lazy because I can't go outside and run. It is so strange to feel so healthy during a run, in fact during the run I will do this weekend, and yet the weekend before I feel unhealthy because I can't run. Strange.

Ultimately I know what I must do in order to better my chances at running the marathon that I want.

It doesn't mean I have to like it.

(and I won't like it when I can't run the week after because of sore joints and muscles, so I will have to go through all this again)