Archive for November 14, 2010

Sunday morning arrived leaving 14 weeks until the starter’s gun will sound and we will take our first strides toward the finish line of the Austin Marathon. 14 weeks sounds like a lot of time to prepare, but from a training perspective, it goes by in the blink of an eye.

One day you feel like you are coasting through 12 mile training runs, the next thing you know you are entering the taper and Marathon Sunday is just a week or two away.

Sunday also marked the four year anniversary of our very first marathon – Philadelphia, 2006.

I thought a lot about my first marathon on Sunday, how far I’ve come since then and how far I still would like to go in this sport. That first race was a celebration of my first attempt at training for the marathon.

My first ever 12 mile run, 14 mile run, 16 mile run, 20 mile run and of course, my first ever 26.2 miler.

In my ramp up for Philadelphia looking back with 20-20 hindsight, my running history and base mileage did not equal my heart and desire. I trained a bit too hard. I pushed a bit too much and in turn, ended up with a very sore Iliotibial Band (IT Band) that blew up on me at the 12 mile mark on race day.

The final 14.2 miles of the 2006 Philadelphia Marathon were a struggle. I was in a world of hurt, but never thought about quitting or giving in. I finally came through the finishing cute in 3:58:08 and earned my first Marathon Finisher’s Medal.

I learned a lot that day. I have learned even more in the 4 years since, and feel like my training and base mileage are finally at the point where they are close to matching my heart and desire to run my best-ever marathon.

Sunday morning was a run that I was looking forward to all week long. 15-16 miles were on the schedule, but I knew I was going 16. I also knew that after a pretty tough week of training, my legs would be a bit fatigued, but strong enough to run well.

I set out to run what would amount to “two” 8-milers. The first 8 miles at a comfortable pace, something between 7:20 and 7:25 minutes per mile. Over the second 8 miles, I was looking for a negative split or “faster” than the first half of my run. Something between 7:10 and 7:15 minutes per mile pace.

A workout that I was not capable of back in 2006 due to both my level of fitness, but also something just as valuable for a marathoner, my level of patience.

They say the marathon is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) race. I never fully understood that comment until I started racing shorter distances this year. You can’t attack the marathon as you can a 5K or 10K race. Pushing yourself to the limits of your speed and stamina from the start.

You have to have a sound plan and you have to have the patience to stick to that plan. Go out too fast and risk blowing up on the course. Go out too slow or not manage your pace effectively, and you will miss your time goal.

So Sunday was a great test early in my marathon training cycle. I was able to work on my pace, try out a new pair of shoes and start working on my nutrition plan for race day by incorporating the gels that I will be using at Austin in February at mile 5 and mile 10.

I left the house shortly after 5:30 a.m. in near perfect conditions for running. 45 degrees with light variable winds. I chose shorts, singlet, Moeben Arm Sleeves, my light gloves and skull cap. If I had my choice, exactly the weather I would like to see on February 20th for race day.

This run was the “maiden voyage” for my new Asics Gel Nimbus 12’s. A shoe that I have been running in for more than four years, but the latest “upgrade” from Asics. The shoes are a little bit lighter (11.3 ounces), a more ergonomically designed lacing pattern – and of course a new color scheme – bordering on obnoxious – but I really like the looks of them.

Asics Gel Nimbus 12

I chose the hilly route on Sunday as one of the features of the Austin Marathon course are quite a bit of hills over the first 17 miles of the race. Learning to understand your effort and pacing with elevation change is a key to racing well. It is something that was honestly “lost on me” back in 2006, but one of the things I have been spending a lot of time and energy on since our experience last spring at Boston.

The first 8 miles on Sunday went very much according to plan. After the first mile or two my new shoes seemed to lose their initial “stiffness” and started to cushion my footfalls quite comfortably. Although my legs wanted to roll into a quicker pace, I held myself back a bit and looked forward to my first three Clif Shot Bloks at mile 5.

Bought in bulk from Zombie Runner

It had been since the 2nd of May since I took in any fuel on a training run, but just like old times I was able to pop the package out of my Moeben Sleeve, drop each Blok into my mouth, a quick bite in half, followed by a swallow and we were hitting our water bottle to wash them down in stride.

Splits for the first 8 miles came in at:

7:24, 7:27, 7:17, 7:16, 7:15, 7:27, 7:20, 7:22

Mile 9 features a little bit of a climb on this route, it was time to pick up the pace a little bit, so I got “up on my toes” and started to gradually increase my leg turnover.

Still no traffic on the early morning Austin streets, I had the road virtually all to myself. Very different than the experience will be on February 20th, surrounded by runners and spectators at every step, I enjoyed the solitude however and started to push a little bit harder.

At mile 10 I took in three more Clif Shot Bloks, washed down with some Gatorade this time, another change to my fueling as up until this training cycle I had used only water on my training runs. I think that took a toll on me at Boston last year, so now I will be alternating between water and electrolyte replacement during my runs of 15 miles and longer.

Before I knew it I was pushing onto Brushy Creek Trail and the climb to the top of the dam. Only 4 miles to go and I was feeling just about perfect. I glanced down at my watch for the first time in several miles and saw that we crested the last big climb at 7:13 pace. Feeling good, feeling strong – and I started to think about the closing miles at Austin in February.

How would my legs feel at that point? How much would I have left? What kind of time will I be capable of that day? I let my legs go a bit and knew I was clipping along at close to 7:00 minutes per mile pace.

I popped out of the trail system about 4/10 of a mile from the house. My watch was sitting at 15.80 miles meaning we would push just a bit past the 16 mile mark for the run. Up the final hill I had plenty left and kicked through the driveway.

16.20 miles – 1:57:11 at 7:14 pace.

Splits over the final 8 miles:

7:21, 7:12, 7:14, 7:05, 7:13, 7:05, 7:02, 6:48

Sunday’s run wrapped up one of our best training weeks ever.

6.2 miles on Tuesday – Easy run in 46 minutes 10 seconds.

8.3 miles on Wednesday – 7:00 minute/mile effort over hills.

10.2 miles of Hill Repeats on Thursday – Fastest Hill Repeat Session to date.

7 miles under 7 minutes/mile pace on Saturday – Tempo run with a closing 6:31 mile.

16.2 miles – hitting my goal for a negative split and sub 7:15 min/mile pace.

47.9 Running miles with another 16 miles logged on the Tri-bike.

We’ll be dialing back the distance and intensity just a bit in the coming “step-back” week, which I have learned to “respect” over the years. During Marathon Training I push hard for two weeks, and then dial it back for a week allowing the body to adjust to the increased workload and grow stronger.

Push hard for two weeks again and repeat. It is a formula that allows me to train hard and improve, but also stay injury free leading up to race day.

All in all, we’re off to a pretty good start for Austin. That goal time I had in the back of my mind this summer seems like it is in need of a revision. I’ll be working on that over the next 6 weeks and with two months to go we’ll lock in on our goal for Austin and train specifically to hit that mark.

As of this morning 73 Training runs and 610 miles to go to get to the starting line, don’t blink, it will be here before you know it.