Monday, April 27, 2015

THE Boston Marathon

There is really one race you to you need to run as a marathoner.   Boston. This was my very first Boston.

I qualified in October of 2013 and it was a long wait until my turn came around.   In anticipation of the Newton hills, I did all of my long runs in Barrington on hills more severe than the race.   I also ran more than I ever had for a spring full and found a happy medium between the Pfitzinger 55 and 70 mile plans.  I had a good cycle (no injuries) with the exception of a couple of work heavy weeks dropped two weeks into the 30mile range.   I did all of my long runs.  I tried to run some of them glycogen depleted.

Two prep races did not excite me about my fitness.   A hilly March Madness Half resulted in 1:40:13.  The Shamrock Shuffle 8k ended in 35:24.   Neither got me excited about my fitness although I did not taper for either.  I plugged my times into Greg Maclin's calculator and it spit out 3:36:00 which was using the fairly aggressive setting.  That is 8 minutes slower than my qualifying time.   I had no idea how to pace Boston.

I met Amanda on the bus ride to Hopkinton.  She had traveled all the way from Adelaide, Australia and a 30 hour plane ride to get to Boston.  Just another cool part of the Boston experience.  We were both in the second wave.   I relaxed in the Athlete's Village and made the customary bathroom stops.   It's basically a series of tents that we all huddled under to keep warm.   They had all the necessary stuff in case someone needed some last minute supplies or Shot Bloks.  I was impressed that the loudspeakers were playing Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc. Tough to get psyched if they were playing Beautiful Day by U2 and according to the weather it would have been a lie.  My wave was called and we began the .8 mile walk to the start line.   As I stood in the 7th corral unbelievably I had to hit the bathroom again.  I dumped my K State sweatshirt and old softball pants that were keeping me warm.  We were off and I crossed the start line at 10:30.

I put the crowbar in my wallet pre-race for $5 and printed out two of Greg Maclin's pace bands.  One for 3:30 and one for 3:35 because I just didn't know what kind of shape I was in.  The first mile was beyond slow (8:49) but only because I needed to make a bathroom pit stop. Honestly, I don't know where all the liquid came from.   Then I was able to settle in.

Mile Marker
2  7:56                  5  8:02              8  8:00
3  7:56                  6  7:57              9  8:00
4  7:55                  7  8:01             10  7:53

The crowds were awesome.  In the rain, they cheered for every runner as if they knew them personally.   I felt the gusts of headwind and tried to tuck in occasionally behind another runner.  The rain was annoying but I've run a marathon in a monsoon before so I didn't mind it.  I was clicking off the miles with very little effort.  Mile 11 came and I had to go again and found a tree in the woods along with about five other runners.  I really didn't drink that much in the past two days but apparently I was super hydrated. 

11  8:03            12   8:20            13  7:58           Half 1:45:46

We approached the Wellesley scream tunnel at the half way point and I wasn't about to kiss any of the girls here since I have daughters that age.  It seemed creepy to me.  I did give almost all of them high fives as I ran.  It made me forget about the wind and rain for a bit and gave me a jolt of energy. It was here I made a conscious decision to back it off slightly.   I worried as the Newton Hills approached that I may not have enough for the finish.  The weird part is that I welcomed the upcoming hills.   All of the downhill running at the front of the race, I thought the change in muscle use would be good for me.  My stomach behaved.  No issues as I took three Hammer gels and got water and Gatorade occasionally throughout the race.

I saw my family a at Mile 16 and sprinted over to give my wife a quick kiss.
Quick detour to acknowledge the family
The first of the three Newton hills begins at Mile 16 and the last is at 19.3.   None of them were very difficult and maybe that was my training.   My quads were very cold at this point and maybe it was the hills having some effect on them as well.   The cheap cotton gloves I bought stayed on for the rest of the race.

14  8:02       15    8:05         16  7:57         17   8:15        18  8:16     19   8:06       20  8:20  

Heartbreak Hill wasn't very tough either for me.  A bunch of us runners cheered loudly when we saw the woman holding a sign saying we had just conquered Heartbreak.   Mile 21 8:34.   It was all pretty much downhill from here.   I decided to run on feel at this point and it felt like I was running faster and easier than the splits turned out.

22  8:03       23  8:19        

The Citgo sign was now in sight.  The crowds got louder.  The crowds got deeper. I kept raising my arms to get them to cheer louder.  I actually caught myself saying out loud to no one "There will be no fade today!"  Not sure anyone heard me and/or cared about what I said.  At Mile 24 I checked my watch and it read 3:14:xx and I thought for a brief moment I had a shot at sub 3:30.   Umm, race math this late in a race is dangerous and I forgot about the extra .2.   I was passing a bunch of runners at this point.  While passing a runner and looking next to me to make sure I didn't bump them I stepped ankle deep in a puddle.  I didn't care and tried to push the pace.

24  7:54       25  7:59
Final push on Boylston and my fastest mile of the day

Right on Hereford and left on Boylston.   My family saw me one last time right in front of the expo center but it was so loud I had no clue they were there.  The atmosphere was beyond electric at this point.  My last 2k was at 7:51 pace.   My Garmin claims I did the last .2 miles at 6:54?

I crossed the finish in 3:32:18.  As good as I felt, I think I underestimated my fitness.  In my tenth marathon, I have never run this consistently all the way through. Maybe I could have re-qualified here but I didn't care as enjoyed every step of the race.  Boston, I'll be back.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We're All in This Together

Most of us envery day runners look at elite runners with awe.  I do.  A top marathoner can run 26.2 miles in splits that  I cannot run for 1 mile.  Sigh...I guess that's what happens when you start to run in your forties.  But I still love watching the big races.  Paris, Chicago, Boston, etc.  Most of them aren't televised (damn you Universal Sports and your feud with Comcast) but I do get to see a few.  I love getting up early and watching the elites battle each other with a cup of coffee in hand.   I usually know some mortal runner like myself who's doing the same race. But the mortal runners are never seen on TV.

For some reason I seem to enjoy watching the women's races more.  Maybe they are more competitive, maybe I'm more familiar with the women elites.    But the coolest thing about the sport is that we all run the same course on the same day in the same conditions, albeit slower.   My first marathon was the 2008 Twin Cities.   As I was heading to the start line, I saw the elites warming up for the Elite TC10 Miler that takes place right before us.   I saw Kara Goucher, not knowing who she was at the time, and being a guy and uninformed I just thought wow she's attractive.  Turns out she won that race in 53:16.  The following spring I ran the slushy and snowy 2009 Shamrock Shuffle.  That race was won by Deena Kastor in 27:15.   I ran the Chicago Marathon and was in the Brooks expo booth right next to Desi Davila ,who is now Desi Linden, because Brooks is her sponsor.  I lost to her too in case your wondering.  So when I watched the New York marathon last week I was secretly rooting for all three of them.

The wind pretty much decimated the fast times.  Desi was top American in Brooks T7 racers. (Sorry, I had to throw in the Brooks plug being one of their Fanatics).  Deena attempting to get the master record fell short.   Kara admitted she was in 2:28 shape but would not win.  The wind had other plans for her.  But we all have bad days.   Even the elites find it hard to explain why their race falls apart despite being fit.  Oh and my friend Ed who ran the same race didn't exactly shine either.

I encourage you to read Kara Goucher's race report.  It reads like the hundreds of Runners World forum race reports by friends and others.   Honest, frustration, doubt.  We all have it no matter how fast or slow you are.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Double Good News

Well I got double good news today.   First was the official snail mail notification of Boston Marathon acceptance!

Second and more importantly, I was told I do not have a hip fracture!!  It's a big relief but I was getting quite irritated worrying about the whole mess.  I saw a PT from Illinois Bone & Joint who is a certified athletic trainer.  They offer free injury assessments.  My ortho belongs to the same group so it would have made for an easy referral. 

We could not duplicate any hip pain.   She tried pushing my hips together...nothing.  Pushing on my knee and forcing my leg toward my hip...nothing.   She did tell me my hips and legs are extremely tight which as absolutely no new news to me.  I got several pages of stretching and strengthening exercises of which I only was in the habit of one of them.  The Dynamic Hamstring Stretch.

The biggest question was how much down time do I take from running?  The answer is zero.  Except for injury and when my schedule is just impossible, I run all the time.  Six days a week most of the year and since April of 2008 I have not really taken any time away.   And although I hate to admit I'm getting older and still want to outperform the 30 somethings, it's good advice.   So I've been told to cross-train (swimming, biking, etc) for the next two weeks and let my body reset.
Can't I just hit this thing instead?
So it's on to cross training and slowly resume running.  If I'm still having issues in two weeks we'll see what else can be done.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Solution to the Problem

So here I sit almost four weeks post marathon without a solution.  I took one whole week off from running immediately after the race.  The second week was a slow return to running and I put in 25 miles.  But something was still not right.   Those adductors never felt perfect.   Maybe I strained them and so another full two weeks off.   This past Sunday, I ran 5 miles and that same soreness is still there.   There has also been some soreness right along in my pelvic area that should have been gone by now if it was a muscle pull.   Keep in mind at no point is there any pain.  Just a general soreness.

So I've been to the internet and back a few times to see if I can self-diagnosis this thing.  Any strains should have been healed by now.   It does not hurt to stand, climb stairs, walk or jump.   There is no pain when I run, just soreness.  What I really think this might be is a hip stress fracture or stress reaction.   Bottom line: I have given up the hope that this will go away on it's own.   And since the Boston Marathon looms in April I need to get this resolved...NOW!  

There is a really good article from Methodist Hospital in Houston which makes me think I'm right.  They cite, "Research suggests that most athletes who develop stress fractures have been training for at least two years, six or more times a week. A stress fracture is more likely to occur after an increase in how far, how often, and how hard a person goes."  Guilty as charged.  But that also describes almost every other marathoner I know.

What is the possible good news:  "One of your doctor's main goals will be to determine if other problems, such as muscle or tendon injuries, are causing some or all of your pain."   I would much rather have this diagnosis since hip stress fractures are slower to heal.  

The solution starts with a diagnosis.  I've scheduled an appointment with a sports medicine physical therapist.   I'll start there and not really sure what they can tell me.  I may have to go see my ortho at some point.  Boring deep water pool running may be in my near future.

I would have never run Milwaukee if I had even suspected this injury.   Maybe running a 3:37 marathon with a hip stress fracture proves I'm not as soft as I appeared during the race. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Race That Went South...Twice

The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon (Marathon #9 for me) is a point to point race.   It starts at Grafton High School and proceeds south to Veteran's lakefront park.   It's a fast race which usually negates the prevailing west wind.  Unfortunately, my actual running went south as well and led to a disappointing day.

I can't put my finger on any one thing the destroyed the race.  My parents decided to join us for the trip. The day before the race was very relaxing.   I got plenty of sleep the night before and we grabbed lunch about 2pm at AJ Bombers which is known for it's peanut delivery system.   A quick stop at the very small expo to get my bib and back to the hotel for some rest before dinner.   We found a fantastic restaurant before last year's race. If you are into homemade Italian everything while in Milwaukee, go to Mimma's CafĂ©.

I slept probably better than most nights before a race.   Usually, I'm waking every hour but not this night.  I got up about 4:45 and had brought my own breakfast.  Oatmeal and a half bagel w/peanut butter.  Standard issue marathon runner race breakfast.   I sipped on some Hammer Perpetuem.   The only thing missing was coffee.  But the Hyatt had promised to open their shop up at 5:30 for some Starbucks.   I refuse to drink in-room coffee.  Not because I'm a snob and I actually prefer non-corporate coffee. but who only knows what bacteria grows inside of the in-room makers and the coffee just plain tastes bad.   I got to the lobby to catch the bus to the start at the high school at 5:45 only to find there was ZERO coffee to be had anywhere in the lobby.  Even Holiday Inn's have some sort of coffee free in all of their lobbies.  Hyatt fail! (you could have sold overpriced coffee and breakfast and runners would have gladly paid it).   Luckily there was a coffee shop open across the street from the hotel and I grabbed some to go before boarding the bus.   I sipped on some PowerAde while at the school to top off any hydration deficit.  I really don't think I drank all that much but the race proved otherwise.

It was cold (36F) but the sun was out so I wore some layers and my Brooks gloves.    My goal was to go out at my PR pace of 3:27:00 and negative split the race.  My "A" goal would have been 3:25:00.  At 7:30 we were off.   I had no problem hitting pace early as the first two miles were downhill.  I felt good but my stomach felt bloated and slightly upset.  It took two port-a-potty stops to get rid of the excess liquid at Miles 4 and 12.    I brought four Hammer Gels but while rearranging them in my back pockets I dropped one and did not want to stop to get it for fear of being trampled to death. 

I knew early that it wasn't going to be my day with some stomach issues and legs felt beat up way too early.   I took my first gel at Mile 6 1/2.   The second gel I only took about half of it at Mile 12 1/2 because my stomach was feeling weird.   I tried to keep on pace thinking it would all pass eventually and I would be back to normal.  After Mile 12 when I took the second gel I actually gagged because I almost hurled.  Sometimes niggles, pain or discomfort do magically go away for no apparent reason during a run.  But they never did.  About Mile 11 I felt my adductor muscles sore.  During training they would get this way after a hard week or a really long run.  It never affected my running really.  Taper did not heal it I guess.  I saw my family at Mile 15 and even they said I looked like I wasn't having much fun.   I kept plugging away telling myself I might right the ship.   I was on pace early but it just kept slipping away.  I just refused to walk and let this become a complete disaster.

The cold hard numbers:
1 - 7:45
2 - 7:44.8
3 - 7:57:2
4 - 8:13:8 First stop
5 - 7:41.3
6 - 8:01.6
7 - 7:59.4  Expected finish 3:27:19
8 - 7:50.8
9 - 7:57.2
10 - 7:56.8 Not a good sign.   Fatigue in my inner thighs.
11 - 7:58.3
12 - 8:20.1 Second bathroom stop
13 - 8:04.6  Uh oh, it's slipping.
13.1  - Expected Fish time 3:29:11
14 - 7:59.1
15 - 7:58.6
16 - 8:10.2   The wheels starting to come off.
17 - 8:15.3
18 - 8:28.9   C'mon fight this thing.
19 - 8:26
20 - 8:36.5 Can only break 3:30 if I finish at 8:00 pace the rest of the way
21 - 8:14.7  Well so much for 8 minute pace the rest of the way.
22 - 9:00.7  Yep, the wheels are off.
23 - 9:21.7   What the...
24 - 8:59.4   Probably just quicker because I was angry at the last mile
25 - 9:21.5   No longer angry I guess
26 - 8:59.1   Final time 3:37:07  

In last year's race, my slowest mile was the last and even then I only slowed to 8:20.   So what was my major malfunction?  Too much food pre-race?  Too much liquid?  It feels like I didn't sweat much in this cool weather. Overtraining or sore adductors not resolved by taper?  Bad nutrition during training?   I've run three faster races on less training!  Sometimes it's as simple as it's just not your day.   Time to move on and schedule a shorter race within the next 30 days.  At least I have Boston for redemption.

"At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill" - Unknown quote

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon Countdown

So my fall marathon in now less than 24 hours away.  I stopped by my running store on Thursday to replace the sunglasses that got stepped on accidentally. As usual, the owners ask what I was training for and they go out of their way to make customers happy.  I snagged a new pair of Tifosi Saxons.  When I checked out they gave me some Shot Blocks on the house and Pom told me I look a little bit like Dick Beardsley?!  I don't see it but I hope I run like him in three days. After all his PR is 2:08 something.  Thanks for the ego boost.

Where does the time go?  Work, work travel, coaching flag football, etc have all conspired against me writing my blog.   Anyways....I am in full taper for Milwaukee.   I have averaged 64 miles over the last 8 weeks.   I was using Pfitz 18/70, the same plan from my PR.   My training has been pretty solid except missing a day here or there for non-injury reasons.  I am hoping the second year of Pfitz 18/70 will give me some benefits and make me stronger.

Here is the thing though, I have ZERO races to gauge my fitness.  My last race was a trail half on tired legs at the end of July (1:41:0) so I can't use that. Or a 4m race on 7/4 at 27:56?  Or a 5k race on 6/14 at 21:04? Or a 10m race on 4/10 at 1:12:39?   I'm flying blind so I only have to point to last year's training and race.  My longest MP run on 9/6 was 18m w/ 15 at MP. A really good run, buoyed by the cooler temps.   Average was 7:53 pace but most of it was at 7:51.   The weather will be cold (high 40's F and dry) so there should be no excuses there.   The course runs north to south and the predicted wind will be out of the west.

I did my final 5m run yesterday before Sunday's race.  I make it a point never to run the day before a full because my legs feel much fresher.   My training paces have been equivalent to last year.  My hope is to PR.   My goal is to run between 7:49 (3:25:00) and 7:53 pace (my PR).   The weather will be cool the entire way with a an 11:00 AM finish at 49F.

I would love to hear your wild guesses on my time tomorrow.

In other confidence boosting news, I am officially accepted into the 2015 Boston Marathon!   I got my confirmation a couple of weeks ago.  It will be my first after qualifying last year in Milwaukee.   I have have been chasing the Super Bowl of marathon racing since 2009 and it's been a long term goal of mine.  I don't think I'll run Boston in 2016 but I would love to qualify again. 

Lastly, a little bit of motivation.   Yes, I'm a sap and running geek but this trailer has always been my pre-game pep talk.   

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Marathon Training Doldrums

Back from vacation and an incredibly busy week at work playing catch up.   I used vacation as a cutback week and only put in 31m.  I did the same last year, however, this year I added a trail half marathon.  The Bear Cupboard Run which benefits the local food pantry.   The Bearskin Trail was not technical by any means but the surface was packed sand/gravel.   Final time was 1:41 flat. I did get 2nd in AG but feel iffy about my time.   I do not run many trails so not sure how the surface impacted my time.  I feel indifferent about my pace since I do not know if this was due to fatigue (7 mi previous day), surface or something else. I did get 2nd in my AG and the announcer said the course might have been 0.5 km long?? Mile 9 might have been the culprit since I did not walk or stop.
I did not get the Garmin synced until midway in Mile 1 so I couldn't verify that and there was many tress that could have blocked the signal.

Mile paces:  7:45, 7:43, 7:25, 7:35, 7:31, 7:45, 7:43, 7:30, 8:38, 7:56, 7:23, 7:41, 7:42

Age Group award compared to my keyboard

I'm so tired and feel beat up on every run after 5m since then. Paces have fallen off in the second half of my runs with paces near 9:20.   I realize it takes about 2 weeks to fully recover.  I do tend to overdo it on vacation with fishing etc also.  

It's relaxing but I tend to overdo it

A look at my easy pace runs from last year show roughly a 8:58-9:00 so I don't think there is any reason for concern.  I may move my 3rd 20m for this cycle to Monday and use tomorrow as a rest day.  Some additional sleep wouldn't hurt either.