Thursday, February 28, 2008

Preamble to the Napa Valley Marathon

I wonder if the nervous jitters will ever not be there as race weekend approaches. Even though I've done 7 marathons or longer I still come into each one with a measure of doubt, completely unfounded at this point, but I still wonder the "what if". Something tells me that this will happen before every marathon and ultramarathon I enter. And it isn't altogether bad, I must say. This feeling does in fact make me think more about the race and how I want to execute it, what I should do to make sure I eat and drink enough, so for that I am glad of those feelings.

Napa this time of year should be great. Mustard flowers should be in full bloom giving a bright and wonderful yellow sea to either side of us as we run down the center of the valley from Calistoga to Napa. The valley was beautiful the couple of times I've been there to wine taste, and I know I will be able to see so much more running through it. I think the excitement is actually bubbling over and quelling the nervous jitters.

This marathon is in fact one of my two destination marathons of the year. I don't travel much yet for marathons (something I hope to remedy sometime in the near future), along with the Cowtown Marathon in Sacramento in October. In fact Napa was the first marathon I put on my calendar for this year, the first one I started planning for. So I am ready. I've ran a ton more than I have for other preparations, especially comparing with where I was at this time last year.

The last road marathon I did was in November and I ran a conservative and relatively slow pace in the beginning at about 10 minutes a mile. My calves tightened up again from loss of electrolytes, but I was able to keep that at bay by taking electrolytes and eating Shot Bloks starting about the half way point.

So the plan this time is to drink water at every aid station except the first one at mile 2. Then starting with the second aid station I will drink water and take electrolyte pills, as well as eat Shot Bloks, at every other aid station. So if all goes as planned I'm gonna rotate each aid station from water to water/pills/bloks.

That is the plan. Run at around an 8:30-9 minute pace. After the first 6 miles the remainder of the marathon will be a net descent, so that should help as well. What won't help is that the temp at the start will be around 30 degrees and by the time I finish it will probably be mid to high 60s, probably low 70s. Goal time? I'll be happy with anything under 4:30, but I want to shoot for 4:15.

Should be interesting and I am so looking forward to this run.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Great Training Run

This has been a weird month for me. I ran the most miles I had ever ran in a single week this month, 50.67 miles, and have ran the second most miles in a single month, coming in at around 100. Yet, interestingly enough, after the Overgrown Fatass Marathon I didn't run for 8 days straight. Go figure, and I still ran as much as I did.

And the last few days I've had trouble getting out there to run. On Monday I was going to run 10 miles, but got stuck at the office and delayed too long and lost my sunlight. Again on Tuesday I was going to do the 10 miler and I did a repeat of Monday. Which left me to today, but now I was getting close to the Napa Valley Marathon this weekend, so I wasn't sure how much I should run. I decided on 7 miles, but while I was running I was feeling good so I decided to do 8. I was finally able to get out there and it sure felt great, whether the three day break had anything to do with it I don't know.

I decided to maintain an 8:30 pace, the pace I felt I would try at Napa this weekend. I was amazed to feel as comfortable at this pace as I did. I never felt winded and my legs felt great.


At this point I was already feeling completely confident with this pace, a pace that now comes very easily, so I sped it up, and it wasn't until mile 6 that I started feeling a little winded as I pushed it harder.


I shot for and was happy to find that I was able to make each successive mile faster. I couldn't have asked for a better training run.

But then I realized I was close to breaking 100 miles for the month, something I've only done one other time before, so why not shoot for it? So when I went into the gym after the training run and I logged in another 3 miles, which put me at 97. Now I know I wasn't originally going to do any running from Thursday to Saturday before the marathon, but what could running another 3 hurt? So tomorrow's plan is to run another 3 at marathon pace tomorrow and come in at a 100 miles.

The year is starting off pretty amazing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Volcanic Spirit

When we think of hard endurance runs we think of Western States or other 100 mile events. We think of Pike's Peak Ascent, or perhaps Vermont 100. Maybe Badwater?

Well I just came across a pretty amazing race that a couple of runners decided to try and capture the spirit of. A race that involves climbing Mt. Cameroon in West Africa, then coming back down. Extreme temperatures and climate changes, not to mention the 10,000 feet of elevation gain for this marathon distance race. I had just completed a marathon that had roughly 5,000 feet elevation gain I was completely done. I cannot imagine doing twice that elevation gain in the same distance.

The video is called Volcanic Spirit. Check the trailer out, and if your interested give it a go. Now this is endurance running.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pushing Through the Hills of the Overgrown Fatass

I was unprepared going in to this one. I had ran plenty of miles, so distance wasn't the issue. What I wasn't prepared for was the massive elevation gain over long stretches. That being said I was ecstatic to finally see the finish and log in my first trail marathon.

Overgrown Fatass Marathon - 5:47:17 (12:40 pace; 13/15)

I had no expectations coming into this except to finish. I had ran 9 miles on Friday and a 10k on Saturday, in which I set a PR and strained my left hamstring, so I didn't expect anything. That being said I was hopeful to finish at around 5 hours. One of the beauties to this run was that it was 20 minutes from house, so I was able to sleep in again and get some good sleep.

2 bananas and a Gatorade later I was at the finish line listening with 25 or so others to Adam's last minute instructions. Away we went. I was keeping a good pace but wasn't optimistic at all to maintaining this pace. I knew that there were some pretty long and steep hills that would slow me down. I've never been good at running the hills, something I know I need to work at.

As I finally came to the top of the first peak, 2,800 feet and 7 miles later, I was happy to finally be running downhill. I set off at a great pace and just let gravity do the rest. The problem? These hills were even steeper with a ton of loose rocks. This, I knew, was going to be rough going on the way back up.

I finally hit the halfway mark in 2:28, and was happy to take a rest and refill my water bottles. What I wasn't happy about was the next five miles of hills. They did not disappoint. I completely hit the wall at around mile 16 and 17, and turned in my worst mile in 27 minutes. These hills were the worst, and it didn't help that I had ran out of energy. Taking many breaks I finally opened and ate a pack of Shot Bloks which buoyed my spirits and opened up the gateway to the energy my legs needed. Once to the top I knew I would enjoy the next 7 miles of downhill, despite legs not moving as fast as the beginning.

I am not sure how this happened but I missed a turn. I stopped where the water was stashed and couldn't find any, so I turned to the left and continued on down the trail. Apparently I was to turn right. Opps. My little mistake cost me .8 miles and about 9 minutes. Oh well, bonus miles I guess.

When i finally finished I was glad I was done. This was the hardest race I had ever ran, in large part due to the elevation gain. From one peak from 200 ft to 3,000 to another from 1,400 to 3,000, that puts the elevation gain to at least 4,400 ft, not counting the many ups and downs within each valley. This was comparable to many 50ks and yet it was all packed into less miles. Such an equation leads to a tough race.

Many thanks and congrats to Adum Blum for organizing such a great event, and to Pavan and Brian for volunteering at the aid station. A great event in the South Bay.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

PR at the Valentine 10k

Unbelievable. After 33.27 miles in the last 6 days I was able to set a PR at the Valentine 10k. Additionally, day 2 of my action packed 3 day weekend (or the first 15.2 miles of 41.4) are now in the books. Logic says that I shouldn't have ran a PR after logging so many miles in at a much slower pace. Logic says that I hadn't come close to setting a PR since my previous best 10k last June. And yet here I am, running the fastest 10k I've ever ran. Unbelievable.

Valentine Fun Run 10k - 46:30 (7:30 pace; 24/279)

I woke up this morning feeling strong. I had ran the 9 on the 9th virtual run yesterday and a nice even pace and this morning was amazed to feel as though I hadn't even ran the previous day. I set off and had a banana while driving the quick 20 minute drive to downtown Campbell. Clear blue skies with temps in the low 50s. Perfect weather to run in.

I'd ran this trail many times. Some in training, some in events, such as the Silicon Valley Marathon and the Jungle Run Half Marathon, so I was very familiar with what I was running. Another great path that follows a creek and some man made percolation ponds, and just as yesterday there is the freeway on the left. Still, a great path. Loud geese and ducks everywhere, ran past a dog park and a fly casting pond. Great atmosphere.

We toed the line at exactly 9 and after giving last minute instructions, and without warning, the race director blew the horn when nobody was ready. Kind of comical how quick he blew the horn after giving his instructions. Judging by past years I guessed that I would be in the top 25 to 50 runners, so I didn't mind moving to the front of the 250 or so runners, which made it easier when the horn went off.

Mile 1: 6:47 - This came in way faster than I wanted. I always start out really fast, perhaps too fast, and this was no exception. But I felt extremely strong at this point. Legs were solid and I wasn't winded.

Mile 2: 7:37 - This was a little more like the pace that I had wanted to run. I came to the first of many small little hills that are unexpected. I tried to maintain my pace, which was perhaps the wrong thing to do on these hills, or any hills for that matter. Anyway, this finally slowed me down and started making my legs feel not so strong. In fact I decided to walk one of the first mini hills, which was my first of three walk breaks this run.

Mile 3: 8:08 - I fell off pace here. The fast first mile combined with all the mini hills was slowing me down. The lead woman passed me up towards the beginning of this mile, which came into play later on in a huge way. Then by the end of mile 3 I took my second walk break as I grabbed some water. As I grabbed the water I saw the 2nd place woman coming into the turn around. I pushed on.

Mile 4: 7:36 - Shortly after the turn around the 2nd place woman came up alongside me. She had been chasing/pacing herself off of my pace and began encouraging me to keep on keeping on because I was pulling her along at a good pace. I couldn't help but tell her that I had ran 9 miles yesterday and was running a marathon tomorrow and thus would not be able to continue pushing her pace, but she was all optimism. Her name was Linda. Soon enough I was able to hold on to and maintain my pace. There is something about running with someone. It gave me a purpose during the race, and I suddenly couldn't let my new running partner down. And besides, I pointed out that the 1st place woman was in sight and we could catch her. Now we both had a purpose behind the run.

Mile 5: 7:48 - We were catching up to the first place woman and it was feeling great. We the predator with our prey in sight. But Linda was falling off pace. We had come on to a mini hill that I trudged up at the same pace, but she didn't maintain that pace. I eventually turned around and waived my arm for her to catch up because numero uno woman was mere seconds ahead of me now, and if I could pull her up closer than she would have a chance in catching her. My encouragement worked and shortly after we both moved past her and my running partner was now numero uno. This was great. With my purpose fulfilled, and just before the end of the mile, I told her to keep pushing on as I took my third walk break for about 15 seconds.

Mile 6: 7:49 - This was an uneventful and very evenly paced mile. Linda was still in front of me about 30 seconds. And then this woman came flying past me, and not the previous number one that we had already passed. I maintained pace and was stretching forward to see if Linda could cross the finish line before this new runner. After all, she wouldn't even know the woman was there until she was passed. But she held on to it and passed mere seconds ahead of the other woman. I shall have to check the results, cause I thought she was passed, but Linda said she wasn't. Ah, hard work come to fruition. Speaking of hard work, I couldn't believe it. I looked up and saw the time break 46:15. I could do it, I could set a PR in a race that I didn't even think had a chance of running well at. Finally pushing it hard I came in at 46:30, a whole 2 seconds faster than my previous best. Only 2 seconds, but I'll take it.

If you're out there Linda, thank you! You helped me just as much as I helped you.

This was a fantastic finish to a race that I had started thinking that a 48 to 49 minute time would be acceptable. The downside? Pushing it so hard stressed my left hamstring. Nothing pulled, and not injury, but a little tender. Low potassium or something. And the other downside is that the mini hills were very tiring on the legs after the 9 miles yesterday. So how will this affect me tomorrow in running 3,000-4,000 feet elevation gain at the trail marathon in Los Gatos? Granted, I will be walking most of the hills, par for the course for my trail running, and my average pace will be 4 minutes slower than today, so who knows.

So much for the theory that you must continue running every week, and if you don't run in a week then your training schedule must be changed or pushed back. So far my week off seems to have only helped my running.

Here's to my first trail marathon tomorrow. Two successes and a PR, what more could I ask for? For tomorrow if I finish the marathon then I will count it as a success. But, if I can run it around 5 hours I'll just be giddy with the overflowing endorphins.

Friday, February 8, 2008

9 on the 9th

So the first day of my action packed three day weekend has come to a successful close. Another way to look at it? The first 9 miles of the 41.4 I have scheduled for this 3 day weekend are now logged into the books.

9 on the 9th - 1:14:36 (8:16 pace)

I had fun in December when Nancy organized the virtual run 8 on the 8th, so I jumped at the chance to take part in 9 on the 9th. The problem came when I had already had a 10k scheduled for the 9th, and a trail marathon on the 10th. So I could have ran an extra 3 miles on Saturday, or even used the first 9 miles of the marathon, but that wouldn't be too accurate since I would be running both those races differently than I would a 9 mile run. Thus I decided to run the 9 on Friday. It would be demanding, and I won't know how running two events two days before a marathon will affect it. But why not give it a try? After all, if I plan on running a 50 miler then I'll need to see how my body responds to the stress. Anyway, this would also be a good opportunity to work on my pacing for the Napa Valley Marathon in March.

Mile 1: 8:36 - I had taken a nap and wasn't completely awake. Nonetheless, this was a bit slow for what I wanted to run. I was also enjoying the scenery, running alongside a creek, trying to ignore the freeway on the right.

Mile 2: 8:05 - This was more like it. Passed a few runners, a few bikers passed me. An uneventful mile.

Mile 3: 8:09 - Sped this one up a bit. The time doesn't show because I stopped for a 15 second water break. I knew with the run today and the run tomorrow that I had to take every opportunity I could to keep myself hydrated for the marathon on Sunday.

Mile 4: 7:58 - Was feeling pretty good with this mile. Passed a mother pushing her baby in a stroller and tons of dogs walking their owners. Was also running alongside a lake which, in conjunction with the freeway off to the left and the highway to the right, made it a bit windy. Really, the run is better than it sounds. Lots of noise and cars, but also a couple of bodies of water, a ton of trees and a creek with countless animals. I've seen bobcats, turkeys, squirrels, hawks, deer. There are even elk, mountain lion, fox, wild boar and coyotes roaming the hills, but I haven't seen any of them yet. You name it, we have it. Of course you don't see them all the time but the variety is fun to look for while running this trail.

Mile 5: 8:07 - I'd hit the turnaround and was on my way back, running over the bridge and back to the lake. Came across a good looking woman walking her dog, exchanged smiles, and I was amazed to remember her from my run on Monday. Geez, I should run this trail more often. But is there ever a correct way to approach/talk to someone while running and walking a dog? If there is, I don't know of it.

Mile 6: 8:19 - Uneventful and fell off pace a little. It was getting a bit toasty. I had decided to not wear a hat today and that makes a huge difference. Usually the hat soaks up the sweat, but without it it felt as though I was sweating buckets. It was the hottest it had been in quite a while, being in the mid 60s, and the average the last month or so has been low to mid 50s. Obviously great weather compared to other places in the US that are in 20s and 30s. But this was hot(ter) nonetheless.

Mile 7: 8:43 - I love finding places to run that have water fountains along the route, which is why I love running this route so often. This time I took a 25 second time out and stopped for water and to catch my breath. Despite the stop I was still a little off pace, which makes sense the longer you run.

Mile 8: 8:26 - I'm running along and I see a lady and her husband biking towards me. I think nothing of it. I mean, the bike path is 9-10 feet wide, how much space do you really need? Anyway, the damn lady didn't move out of the way! She kept riding next to her husband as though she had no reason to move. Almost running off the trail, squished to the far right, I dodged the rude biker. Okay maybe not that bad, but if I hadn't moved she would have ran me over and blamed me for taking her space.

Mile 9: 8:03 - I stepped this one up and wanted to try and run the last mile the fastest. The whole way it felt like I was running way faster than any other mile, and yet it is only the second fastest mile. I think I started running faster already a quarter of a mile in, so that would explain not running faster than mile 4.

All in all this was a great run. I didn't feel too tired and I could have ran it faster, but then I would risk being too tired for the marathon. So a nice, evenly paced run it was, and I know I'll be ready for the marathon in Napa Valley. Tomorrow I run the Valentine Fun Run 10k in Campbell and will work on my speed, hoping to run an average sub 8 minute mile. My PR is a 7:30 pace for this distance, but ever since I've started focusing on the longer distances I haven't ran the shorter distances quite as fast, but I'm still hopeful that I can set a PR.

And what's next? 10 on the 10th? Or maybe 10k on the 10th? Either would work. Can't wait to read Nancy's great recap.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

All Systems A Go

My mini test of two miles went perfectly today. After running 10 on Monday and 6 on Tuesday, both at a little over an 8 minute pace, I wanted to test my legs to see if they felt sluggish at all. Pace? A little faster than my marathon pace, coming in at 10 min/mile, which is a lot faster than my 50k pace, which is a better estimate for how fast I will be running for the trail marathon on Sunday.

Granted, two miles does not a marathon make. But all I needed to see was if the legs felt sluggish, which can be felt in the first few miles. Hills? I walk most of them, so how my legs feel running up hill doesn't matter. Down hill? Gravity, baby, is all I need.

So all systems are a go for my Friday through Sunday race weekend: 9 on the 9th, Valentine Fun Run 10k, and the Los Gatos Fatass Marathon.

Should be a fun weekend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Upcoming Three Races

So after three successive burps in my training I have finally been able to start my training anew. First I came down with a nasty cold that put me out for four days all the while it was raining, then I came down with another sickness shortly after I recovered from the first sickness, this one even worse and put me out of commission for a little over a week, and then it continued to rain for the rest of the month. A promising month turned sour.

But I would come back with a bang. Fully recovered just in time for next weekend. You see, I am planning an aggressive comeback, a weekend full of events. First on Friday will be a virtual run put on by Nancy, 9 on the 9th, one that I will use to work on my pacing. Then from there I will run a 10k on Saturday and work on my speed. But the big race of the weekend will be on Sunday when I run the Fatass Marathon in Los Gatos, my first trail marathon.

Might be a bit ambitious, and some may think I shouldn't run the two days before the marathon, but if I ever want to run the longer races then I will need to begin stressing my body and learning to deal with it.

So in preparation I ran 10 miles yesterday at an 8:21 pace, and then 6 miles today at an 8:08 pace. The point? To see how my body responded. I of course wanted to see how the 6 miler felt after 10 the day before, but the true test would be to see how my legs feel on Wednesday and see how they will hold up for the marathon. So tomorrow I will run a short 2 miles at the gym and that will be the true test.

And on a side note, we as runners often get caught up on the moment and think we need to run, run, run, as much as we can, every week, only taking a break after the event we had been training for. And the numerous marathon training schedules aid this, having you run, run, run all the way up to the race. But one thing I have always felt was take an extended break before the event, and not necessarily wait for after the race, and hand in hand with this is a rest during training. Being sick twice in a row, a dealing with rain for two weeks straight, forced me to take a week off without any running. And what do you know, the break actually felt great and my legs felt strong. The break in running didn't ruin my training, didn't set me back and force me to step it up or adjust my schedule.

The break helped, and I think runners should take more extended week long breaks during training to allow their legs to recuperate, not too mention their spirits. Breaks aren't only for after a race, but should be for during the training as well.

Anyway, hopefully things will feel great tomorrow. So far my legs felt good after 10 yesterday and 6 today, so hopefully tomorrow will tell me if I should do 3 races or limit it to 2 races.