Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Knocking Down the Goals

                                                      The Raw Numbers

Miles run: 2235 which does not include today's run.  Not sure if I'll get one more in.

Time Run:  321 hours 18 minutes.   Or 13 days and 9 hours.
Races:  11 and this year it was void of a half marathon
Distances Raced:  4m - 1, 5k - 4, 8k -1, 10k - 2, 10m -1, Marathon - 2
PR's:  3 (5k, 4m and Marathon) 

My running goals for 2013:
Run a spring and fall marathon. Check

Qualify for 2014 Boston this April. Check. Finally got my qualifier but it happened in October! BQ -3:08
Win an age group in any race.  Check. Three AG wins.  All at 5k and one of those was a trail race
Go sub 21 minutes in a 5k. Check.  20:55
Enter more races. Check  

In particular, the CARA race circuit and help my club with great results. Incomplete as club results aren't in.
Run more with my running club. Check
Stay healthy and be in the best running shape of my life.  Check.   

I managed to achieve everything I wanted in 2013.  The monster goal of getting the Boston Qualifier was the most difficult and rewarding.   I started running in 2008 but the Boston goal was not truly a goal until summer of 2009 when I ran a a half in 1:38 and change.   I got there simply by running more miles.   I learned you need to get out of the comfort zone and push the limits a bit.   After peaking at 70 miles per week in August and averaging over 65 miles for two months, I knew I put in the work.   Now at age 50 I am in the best shape of my life.

So what do I do in 2014?  I', somewhat lacking in motivation but I'm pretty sure that is wind chill related.   I will run another marathon but I may hold off until the fall.    I just may try to push the envelope at the half marathon in the spring.  At a minimum I want to beat my PR for the half.   
I want to go sub 3:25 in the marathon which will get me a BQ minus 5 minutes.   Improve from 23rd place in the CARA 50-54 AG standings.   I only entered three out of 17 races.   If I enter more races I think the top 15 is doable.  Do more hill work.  Do core work which I've never really done.
How about 2400 miles for 2014?!   I'll be gearing up for Boston 2015.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Addicticted to Being High on Life

I think I've become an endorphin/adrenaline junkie.   After the recent elation of posting a Boston qualifying time and subsequent recovery time, I got depressed.   I had finally achieved  a goal I had been chasing for over four years. I can't register even register for Boston until the end of next summer. Also, my running recovery program is very conservative.  I won't even get back to 40 miles per week until this coming week.  So maybe all those exercise induced miles pre-race got me hooked on the runner's high?   I decided to enter a Halloween 5k to get my mind off things.

I got a slight reprieve from my gloominess with son's flag football team which I coach.   The team had an average season and they only scored one touchdown in their first three games.  However, we got better and went about .500 for the rest of the season.  The playoffs began after my marathon so it was a welcome distraction.   The first playoff game they caught fire.   We were up 30-0 at one point and every kid played their heart out.   We won easily and I was so wound up after the game I barely slept that night.  Our second playoff game saw us score another 30+ points and win again.  Our playoff run ended with a loss that would have put us in the championship game.   It was exciting to watch and help them win.  More natural adrenaline.

Which leads me back to the Halloween Hustle 5k in Palatine.  Nothing gets my blood pumping like a blistering 5k.  My wife and son came to watch which rarely happens. Not that I blame them since they get to stand around in the cold for however long the race takes. The Halloween theme gave my son an excuse to wear his Darth Vader costume.  It was odd though to pick up my race packet inside of a parking garage.   Reading the website the actual race used to start in the parking garage!
At least they are leaving the garage with traffic
This year it started on the street.  It was a CARA circuit race which meant any age group award was out of the question.   I really had zero expectations.   After all it was only 20 days since my marathon and my weekly recovery miles were 15, 22 and 17 the week of the race.  The only thing I told myself to do was to pace evenly.  It was a flat course but there was a pretty stiff 18mph wind out of the northwest.  

The first mile as usual started out quick.  Like 6:15 pace quick.   Which is fall down and pass out quick for me.   Thanks to the Garmin I got it under control and passed the first mile marker at 6:40.   Mile 2 of any race I tell myself to relax and just maintain the pace.  But what usually happens is I go too fast since Mile 1 has my muscles warmed.  Mile 2 went down in 6:35.   Only 1.1m left and I am chasing this guy who appears to be a bit older than me.   I decide to hang near him and blow past him in the home stretch.   However, just as I am about to light the after burner my gag reflex kicks in.  I didn't lose my breakfast but did cough a bit.   To make matters worse the guy I was about to pass runs of the course prior to the finish line.   Damn bandit!  At least I passed him...I guess.   Looking through the race photos I found one of him directly ahead of me near a last turn.

As I crossed the finish line, it turned out the last 1.1 was in 7:40 (6:58 pace) and I had a new 5K PR of 20:55 by 11 seconds.   One of my goals this year was to go sub 21 and I did it when I didn't even expect it.   More endorphin/adrenaline induced fun despite choking near the finish.  I could have worse habits.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Milwaukee to Boston in 3 1/2 hours

I have to admit in the days leading up to the race I wasn't excited as usual.   I was experiencing a quiet confidence.   I took a business like approach to marathon number eight.  I upped the mileage to an average of 65 miles per week.  I had never trained this hard before so there were no regrets.  

We got to Milwaukee after some pancake carbo loading at Cracker Barrel on the way north.   I was tired from only about 6 hours of sleep after playing poker with some friends the night before.   The expo at the Milwaukee School of Engineering was really small.  Pretty much what I expected for a race of only 3000 people.   No frills, no food samples, no blaring DJ booth like the Nike display at the Chicago marathon.   I think it fit with the way I trained.  No nonsense and just get the job done.  We had time to kill so we checked into the hotel and I managed to get about an hour nap in before dinner.  My wife found a fantastic Italian restaurant that night called Mimma's.  Forty six different kinds of homemade pasta among other entrees.  I was in bed before 9PM and unlike other marathon eves, I slept like a rock.   No nervousness, no pre-race jitters.  I woke only once about 4AM but was immediately back to sleep until 5AM when the alarm went off.

The marathon had school buses pick us up at the hotel for the 26 mile journey to the race start in Grafton.  The entire high school was open to the runners and spectators.  We had multiple bathrooms and locker rooms to use and runners took advantage of the gym and cafeteria to stretch out.

The race organizers had a sense of humor.  The start line had the usual signs with paces of 8, 9 and 10 minute pace.  But the there was a a special sign for anyone running under 2:02:00.  My BQ time was 3:30 so I had printed out a 3:27 pace band for my wrist.  I decided to give myself the freedom to keep my pace between 7:49 (3:25) and 7:54 (3:27).   I lined up behind the 3:25 pacer and planned to negative split this race and pass the pace group near the end.  It was PR weather.  Mostly cloudy, 54F and 86% humidity.  

We were off.   No traffic problems and it was easy to settle into pace early.   The first part was along rural country roads. 

Mile 1 - 7:41  A bit quick but plenty of time for correction.
Mile 2 - 7:34  I made the mistake of just following the pacer and he was going too fast.  Time to slow up.
Mile 3 - 7:59  The pacer must have noticed his mistake because even though I slowed down the gap between me and him remained the same.
Mile 4 - 7:56  Kept it slow.  It was about here we ran past a field of cows and spooked them  They were mooing and running in circles.  Call it a half-hearted stampede.
Mile 5 - 7:42 Still too fast but it feels so easy.  Saw my second favorite sign of the day.  "Can any of you return punts for the Packers?"   Their punt returns have been pitiful this year
Mile 6 - 7:47 I know were in Wisconsin now.  We pass on old guy sitting in his driveway playing polka music on his accordion.
Mile 7 - 7:49 (54:28 Projected finish 3:23:55) First Hammer gel as we enter the Concordia University campus.   Surprisingly the 3:25 group is nowhere in sight.
Mile 8 - 7:45
Mile 9 - 7:49
Mile 10 - 7:49 My pace has settled but it's still feeling easy.  We're running through residential neighborhoods now.  The course up this point has been overall downhill but there are rolling hills which I'm convinced is easier on your legs than a pancake flat course.


Mile 11 - 7:49
Mile 12 - 7:51
Mile 13 - 7:53    13.1 1:42:31  Project finish 3:25:14
Mile 14 - 7:48 Second Hammer gel.
Mile 15 - 7:49  Still on pace.  Here I saw my favorite signs.  First Sign:  Faster, Harder, Don't Stop  Second sign:  That's what she said
Mile 16  - 7:50
Mile 17 - 7:51 About here I started to feel a bad patch.  Nothing really wrong other than my energy seemed to get low.   My pace was OK but the crowds were sparse here and they weren't making any noise.
Mile 18 - 7:50  Still feeling low on energy but pace has not reflected it.  If this continues I gave myself permission to walk through the water stop at Mile 20.
Mile 19 - 7:45 The crowds are little more energetic here and my energy returns.  I actually stepped on the gas here a little.   Maybe I can still 3:25.  Third gel
Mile 20 - 2:36:35  On pace for  3:25:16.  Feeling good, no walking yet.
Mile 20 & 21 7:46 pace.  I forgot to hit the mile split on my Garmin at Mile 20. Projected 3:24:59
Mile 22 - 7:52  The view is fantastic of Lake Michigan now and the sun is out.
Mile 23 - 7:54  My energy is now gone as fast as it came back at Mile 19.   Maybe I should pop one more gel but my stomach really doesn't want a thing now except water.   I talk a quick walk break as I pass the aid station.  It's Mile 23.5 and the volunteer tells us to enjoy this section.   It's a big downhill and I take off running again.
Mile 24 - 8:05  Started to fade but I just kept repeating: Pain is temporary
Mile 25 - 8:11 Pain is temporary.   BQ is only a mile away.   Pain is temporary.  Guess what?  I caught the 3:25 pacer.   He's alone.  Walking.   I pass him.
Mile 26.2 8:26.  My son sees me about .3 from the finish and screams. There are no fences here and he's right next to the running path. We're going to Boston daddy!  He's taking pictures with my wife's iPhone.

Photo courtesy of my eight year old

 Ummm, where the hell is my wife anyways.  About 50 yards further, she's taking pictures and tells me congratulations.  I head to the chute pumping my fist most of the way.   Finish time 3:26:52.   BQ minus 3:08!!!  

I cross the finish line as the announcer calls my name.  I get my medal.   This one's gonna mean something.  It was here a medical worker starts talking to me.  I wasn't really ready for a conversation.   I'm wondering if I look like I'm out of it.  It turns out they are assisting everyone out of the chute.   Nice touch Milwaukee!   Make sure every runner who might need help gets it. 

I'm going to let this one soak in for a while.   No need to go out and plan another race right away. 
I do have to wait almost a year to enter Boston though.   I don't think I'll mind the wait.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Time To Put the Rubber to the Road

It's really October kids.  My big race of the year is Sunday.  Almost hard to believe that I committed to this date back in April.  The weather forecast shows mostly cloudy 53F at the race start and 58F when we finish.   Wind from the southwest at 12MPH.   Can you tell I have been obsessing during taper?

I have had close to a perfect cycle.   Back in June, I was worried about getting injured as I upped the mileage into the mid sixties per week.  I  did it slowly.  Half as fast as the 18/70 plan would ask me to and by Week 6 or 7, I finally matched the mileage of the plan. Before taper I averaged 64-65 mpw for 9 weeks. I took some of my LR's to softer surfaces. Before, I would bang them all out on asphalt. My longest run of 22m was around Lake Geneva with mostly dirt, grass and even some stairs!  I made sure my club runs on Saturdays were at marathon pace or better.  13 to 15m mid week runs became routine. I just needed to get up earlier. If you want something bad enough you just need to make time right? I also felt I needed more protein in my diet. I take Lipitor as a genetic disposition to higher cholesterol. It's a small dose but adding more meat protein was a concern that might affect it. I allowed myself to eat just a little more red meat this cycle. Previously, I would avoid it like the plague unless it was bison. I think it helped me gain muscle mass. I have not gained any weight (163#) and feel my body fat has decreased. I walked into my running store two weeks ago and was shocked to hear them tell me how in shape I looked. I must have looked like crap before huh.

Running expert friends have been consulted and I've plugged my recent 10k race time in the most reliable calculator as provided by Greg Maclin.  Everything points to a 3:25 on good day.   It looks like that day might happen. It will be possible to Boston qualify on marathon number eight by five minutes.   

It will be weird not running Chicago this year but switching to a smaller race on a fast unknown course may be just what I need.    I knew every inch of the Chicago course that might hurt.  I keep telling myself to enjoy the pain that might come late. The most reassuring thing is that I have never trained harder. If I was able to run a shade over 3:30:25 two years ago, the extra mileage gives me the confidence that five minutes better is doable.

Stay tuned for the result.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Late Summer Fitness Check

It's been a while since I've raced.  Two month of marathon prep without a benchmark.   When the summer started and I signed up for the Milwaukee Lakefront marathon I decided I needed to do something different.  That different was more miles.

I have always enjoyed Pfitzingers plans.   I've done his 18 week 55 mile plan several times and I've gotten to within 25 seconds of qualifying for Boston.   Twice I attempted to bump the miles from this plan and got injured twice.   But doing the same thing and getting the same results was getting old.   This summer I've progressed to the 18 week 70 mile plan.   I upped the miles slowly and have stayed healthy.  Tired but healthy.  I've averaged 64 miles over the last seven weeks.  The 14 mile mid-week runs at 5AM are no longer daunting. I can tell my fitness has gotten better but I had no proof.   I needed to race.  A scheduled half marathon two weeks ago was a DNS due to family stuff.  I was running out of time so I signed up for the Run for Home 10k.   It was a CARA emerging race.

The race site race map did not show elevation.  I was hoping for a flat course.   Turns out one of the race prizes was for King of the Hill.   Ummm, so much for flat.   The course combined 5k and 10k races and the 10k was two laps.   Rolling hills was the best description.  It was run on the streets of Wheaton right where the Illinois Prairie Path splits into two different directions.  I warmed up by running for about a mile and half.   Fifteen minutes pre-race I drank a Gatorade Prime Fruit Punch.  I'm not sure I get anything out of it other than it eliminates a dry mouth for the first portion of the race.   Other sports drinks don't seem to accomplish this for me.

The race start had one sign up which read Sub 8 minute mile.   No one was lined up there.   My PR is sub 7 but I hung back short of the sign in the second row with everyone else.   Just before the race started everyone moved up.  We were off. 

I started off a bit fast. Actually below my 5k PR pace.  I was feeling good and decided to let it fly for the first mile. A mistake but I wanted to see where my fitness was.

Mile 1- 6:32  It included the King of the Hill.  First male and female to get to the top and finish the race win the title but I was out way too fast.
I hit the top of the hill chasing only the candy stripe dude.

Mile 2- 6:52 
Mile 3- 6:59  Here the 10k and 5k split but soon we would be catching the 5k walkers.
Mile 4 - 7:00 The heat/humidity began to get to me.  We attack the hill a second time.
Mile 5 - 7:02 Here I began to run into the back of the pack of the walkers.  This is my only complaint with the race.   Walkers took up 3/4 of the street and I was forced to run wide and off of the tangents.   Several times I had to weave between walkers.   There was a race official on a bike ahead of me trying to tell people to get over but there was only so much he could do.  I really appreciate the help he did give. Thanks.  But if this race wants to bell full fledged CARA it needs to do something else with the walkers or 10k.
Mile 6- 7:09  As I hit the mile marker there is one more hill to conquer.
Last .2 - 1:32 (6:57 pace)

My final time was 43:07.  I snagged first place in my age group. My third win of the year.  I was eighth overall.   I really think this was my best 10k ever.   The hills and warmer temps were not present in my PR race in November of 2011.  More importantly, I now have a handle on my fitness.  Running friends and calculators all point to a possible 3:25 for the marathon.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Win, A Cold and High Miles

Despite my running for health and lifestyle reasons, I am still a competitor above all else.   Race time comes and I want to do my very best.   At the very least blow the doors off everyone in my age group.   So to give you an idea how I think, in order to beat the population at large I should at least be the best in my own neighborhood.  

I entered the Strive for 5k which was renamed to the Super Strive for 5.  The twist being it had a super hero theme. Great for the kids, meh for me since I was more into sports than super heroes as a kid.  Sign up was clunky at best.  Instead of signmeup or active.com you needed to sign up through the park district website.  Then you get an email from the RD who emails you a consent form to complete.  Awkward.   Anyways, I've run this race before and got second and thrid in separate years.  The only goal this year was to win the AG.   I had just PR'd two weeks earlier and thought I could do it again AND break 21 minutes.

This is not a chip timed race but an old fashioned chute finish.   I lined up at the line and took my best shot.   I ran even splits but failed to record my mile splits.   I ran pretty much on my own and was only surrounded by a few runners.   I hit the finish and found myself with a new PR by a slim 1.5 seconds at 21:06.5.   The quest for sub 21 continues.   However, I succeeded in a neighborhood AG win.   I'm not sure where I go to conquer after the neighborhood.  Frankly, I'm not fast enough to crush anything else really.

If you always do what you've always done, you'll never qualify for Boston.   So I am taking that advice to heart and upping my game using Pfitz 18/70 plan.   My only fear really is injury.  However, in week 15 of the plan I managed to get sick.  A one day fever which reached 101F and subsequent head cold put me on the shelf for a few days.   I skipped three days of running including a long run.  So to avoid upping the mileage too quickly, I treated it as a cutback week.  When I resumed running after four days, I simply repeated week 15.   This works on more than one level.  The actual Pfitz cutback week of 55 miles will be during my vacation week since I delayed it.   I love it when a plan comes together.

On the higher miles, which means getting up really early before work.   Like 5AM early.   This is that part of sacrifice you hear athletes ramble on about.  I hit 58 miles last week and the build-up continues.   This week I aim for 62.  I fully intend to do my long run on a softer surface.   Today's run of 13 rainy  miles was at a leisurely 8:57 pace.

Finally, the 4th of July holiday is here.   Tomorrow, I will run the Elmhurst 4 on the 4th for my club.   Yes, I aim to PR in my sixth year running this CARA circuit race. Speed work in disguise.  I am really hoping to go under 28 minutes for the four miles since it will not be hot this year as it has been every other year.  

Have a terrific holiday and if you are out of the US have a terrific Thursday.

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Shoe Smell

Two brand new pairs just arrived.   As I plan to push towards 70 miles per week I will need them


If you scan the QR code and type in your estimated mileage, Brooks will remind you via email when it is time to replace them.   I hope it's not a Certificate of Death.