Archive for September, 2011

So here we are.  IBM.  Sunday.

About a year ago I went over to packet pick-up to get bib number 205 for the IBM Uptown Classic 10K.  Last year’s race was held a couple of weeks later in the year on October 17th.  It was a big day for me last October as I was trying for the first time to punch through the 40:00 minute mark for 10 Kilometers.

Reaching that goal would gain me a seeded entry into the Cooper River Bridge Run later that spring in Charleston, SC.  The third largest 10K in the United States behind only the Bolder Boulder in Colorado and the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta.

Last year’s race set-up nicely for me as I was not yet into Austin Marathon Training – in fact, the IBM Uptown Classic was my final workout before Marathon training would begin on October 18th.  I was coming off of a summer of speed work, lots of short racing and was “as fast” as I had ever been.

Still I remember lying awake before the race that morning after a fitful night’s sleep wondering if I had 6.2 miles at 6:26 pace in me.  Could I punch through that 40 minute mark.

Cool weather and no wind greeted me last year on race morning and I ran to this point perhaps my greatest race at any distance.

38:06 – finishing in the top 50 at one of the most competitive local events of the year here in Austin.

The race report from last year’s IBM can be found HERE:

Last Year's PR - 38:06

12 months later and I am in week 14 of Marathon Training for New York and just a week away from our tune-up half-marathon at the Denver Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon.

I’m a little beat up.

I’ve been focusing on strength and endurance rather than speed these last 14 weeks and have slugged it out with the hottest summer on record here in Austin.

I have run 1,980 miles since coming through the chute at last year’s race.  Bib number 205 pinned to my race shorts and a smoking fast time of 38:06 (6:07 pace) was 100% mine.

This year I still have those same butterflies circling around in my stomach and it is only Friday.

I know deep inside that I have little to no chance of matching last year’s performance this Sunday.  In fact, it is foolish of me to even entertain such thoughts.  I’m in shape and I’m healthy, but it is a different kind of “in shape” right now.  Over the past 14 weeks I have been increasing the mileage and intensity of my longer workouts, already with three 20+ mile long runs in the books with two more to go before New York.

I will not have the advantage of a proper taper, and of course I have not constructed my training schedule to peak on October 2nd, but in fact five weeks later on November 6th. 

That said there is still pressure on me to perform on Sunday.

This pressure is 100% internal of course – the kind of pressure that only athletes tend to place on themselves.  I’m fairly certain no matter what the clock says on Sunday morning Dawn and Landry as still going to think that I’m pretty awesome.  As awesome as they do now anyway.

38:40 is the magic number on Sunday.

If I can come through the chute with that time up above I will be on track for a 1:26:02 half marathon and a 3:01:28 Marathon.

Striking Distance.

I know that with a proper taper before New York and a tough half-marathon at elevation, we will be in a position for a legitimate run at 3 hours in New York.

A time of 38:30 would translate to a 1:25:40 half and a marathon of 3:00:41.

So that’s the sweet spot for Sunday 38:30-38:40 and we’re there.

That puts us in position to finish off our training for New York, hope for great race weather and get ready for the toughest, most challenging 26.2 miles we have ever run.

As I look ahead to the course in New York, all I am visualizing right now is crossing over the Madison Avenue Bridge at Mile 21, glancing down at the pace tat on my right arm showing me that my time to this point should be 2:24:09 and my watch on my left wrist showing 2:24:00.

5 miles to go and we still have a chance.

That’s really what Sunday is all about at IBM.

I have absolutely no chance at winning my age group.

I have basically no chance at finishing in the top 3.

I have little to no chance of beating my time from last year.

No chance at a PR.

So what am I racing for?

I’m racing for a chance at New York.

With five miles to go that is all I want.

Just a chance.  If it turns out that way in five weeks, strap yourself in.  I’m sure the spectators along the course in Central Park have seen some inspiring runners on Marathon Sunday.  In fact I’m quite certain of it.  But I have a feeling some of them are going to remember that little 40 something year old in the USA singlet leaving everything he had out on the course on the way to the finish line at Tavern on the Green.

8:00 a.m. Sunday the gun will fire and we’ll be off like a rocket.

By 8:39 we’ll know if we’ve got a chance.

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Peaking vs. Tapering

When it comes to marathon training, as is the case with most things in life, there are a few things that you hear so often you feel as if they certainly must be facts not merely opinion.

Don’t play with matches.

Don’t run with scissors

Wait 30 minutes to swim after eating.

You need to run a long run of 20 miles to prepare for the marathon.

These may be good ideas, but I would not say that they are necessarily facts.

Another one that will hear runners and coaches alike talk about when preparing for an “Arace, whether it is a marathon, half-marathon, 10K or timed mile – is that to really race your best you need to “Taper”.

The Taper, specific to the marathon is defined by a reduced training load in the final weeks leading up to race day.

Many training plans, marathoners and coaches feel that a three week taper period is appropriate.  Some, more in the minority feel that two weeks is the best formula.

The idea of the taper is that after a tough 14-15 week training period, your body has been beaten down.  Muscles, tendons and joints have been placed under an increasingly heavy load and need time to repair.

By reducing your weekly mileage and your training intensity (speed of your workouts, hill work etc.) those muscles will repair themselves and go through an adaptation process making you stronger.

At the end of your taper, you will feel better than you have in many weeks and will be primed for your best performance on race day.

A typical three week taper would reduce your weekly mileage from its peak four weeks prior to the event to 75% three weeks away from race day, 50% two weeks away and 25% in the final days leading up to the marathon itself.

A 60 mile a week at its peak training plan would feature a three week taper with mileage totals of:

3 Weeks out:  45 miles
2 Weeks out:  30 miles
Race Week:  15 miles

As positive as the taper period is physically, it can wreak havoc on the marathoner mentally.

After weeks of hard training the reduction in miles and the intensity of those miles makes the marathoner feel “weak” Negative thoughts begin to creep into the mind of the runner, which when preparing for the marathon is a huge problem.

The delicate psyche as an A race approaches is something that even the most talented and experienced runners exhibit.  Instead of focusing on the positive training runs and performances, the limited amount of hard work being put in makes the runner lose that feeling.  Those endorphins that come from really nailing a tough workout are lacking and not just for a day or two, but repeatedly day after day for as many as 21 days.

It is sometimes tough to “get right” again before race day.

Last year preparing for Austin I felt like I was ready to go after the first two weeks of my taper.  On February 13th, I was locked and loaded and mentally recharged.  Let me at that course I thought on my easy 8 mile run.

I still had 7 more days to go until the marathon.

Too long.

So this marathon training cycle I am going to replace the “Taper” period with my “Peaking” period.  I am not going to look at those final weeks leading up to race day as the time frame where I heal up, but rather when my body begins the process of building itself up for the greatest single run day of my life.

Instead of taking three weeks to “Peak” I am going to reduce that time to just two weeks.

After next weekend’s Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Denver I will be 4 weeks away from the gun in New York.

My next two weeks will feature 60 mile+ training weeks with a 21 mile run 3 weeks away from race Sunday and a final 20 miler 2 weeks out.

I will then taper reduce my workload to 75% and a very easy final week leading up to race day.

I will be thinking about “Peaking” for the race in New York and send those final 14 days getting physically and mentally “right” which I believe will put this marathoner in the starting corral with their best chance for a best ever race.

5 weeks and 4 days to go.  We’ve got two more race Sundays – this week’s IBM Classic and next weekend’s Denver Half Marathon.

Two more weeks of tough training, followed by two weeks of Peaking for NYC.

It will be here before I know it.  Just like the final 6.2 miles in the marathon – right now, it”s time to go to work.

Two years.

That’s a long time to spend thinking about something.  Whether it is with anticipation or regret, fondness or remorse.

Two years is a long time.

Well, when we toe the line at the 116th running of the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2012 it will be exactly two years from the scene of my greatest disappointment as a runner in my life.

For those of you who have been following along since the beginning, I know that I do not have to rehash my first attempt at the storied Marathon course from Hopkinton to Boston.  I have a dozen reasons and excuses that I could latch on to in an attempt to explain why my performance that day paled in comparison to not only my qualifying time set 11 months earlier in Pittsburgh, but more importantly to the expectations I had for Boston that day. 

Another Boston time in the first of two marathons in 13 days for Dom.

I knew that Boston was a tough marathon.  I knew that the hills had swallowed up many a marathoner.  But I had trained, prepared, focused and was ready.

Or so I thought.

Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you when it comes to this sport.  I know that.  But after an 18-month focused training period to earn entry into the biggest marathon on the planet and then another 11 months prepping for race day, you don’t expect the bear to get you on that day.

But alas, he did.

So what’s going to be different this time around?  Afterall, I will be two years older when the gun fires on Patriot Day in Boston this Spring. 

Two years slower. 

Well, it’s because I will have had two years of thinking about that race every single day.  From the time that finisher’s medal went around my neck until the time I received my acceptance message from the B.A.A, all I have thought about was earning my shot at redemption. 

Just get back there.

On February 20th last spring on a terrible day for racing I slugged it out with the hills, heat, humidity and wind here in Austin crossing the finish line of the Austin Marathon in 127th place.  3:15:01.

2:42 faster than my qualifying time from Pittsburgh in 2009.

7:45 faster than my Boston time in April 2010.

It still was not the marathon that I am capable of running.  The conditions cost the Austin Marathon back to back winner 11 minutes off of his time from the previous year.  I think they cost me close to 10 minutes as well.

But in the end that didn’t matter.  All I needed was a time fast enough to get me back to Hopkinton, and on Monday of this week – we got exactly that.

One of the things that I hope Landry learns as she gets older is that not everything that you want in life is going to be handed to you.  Sometimes you have to go through the not so good stuff to get to the REALLY good stuff.  It’s just part of the journey, part of the price of admission.

You can either run from it or run toward it.  The choice is yours.

The truth of the matter is I have thought about this moment every single day for the last 526 days.  Here we are.

Dom, we’ve got a little work to do in New York in a few weeks, but don’t you worry about a thing.  We are going to kick some tail in New York and post the lowest time possible to move as far up in the starting corrals at Boston as we can.

On race day in April two years worth of focus, training and energy are going to be poured into those 26 miles, 385 yards.  We’re going to show up in Hopkinton the smartest, most well conditioned marathoner we have ever been, and I’m prepared to leave everything we have that day out on the course.

For the second time in our lives we will be a Boston Finisher, that medal is going around Landry’s neck and we’re going to move on from the Marathon.  I am going to run that race like it is my last. 

Because when it comes to the marathon.  It will be.

Sunday morning marked a milestone in our preparations for New York as we started three straight weekends of racing before finishing our final two high mileage, 22-mile long run weeks and then the final 2 week taper to the New York Marathon on November 6th.

After several high mileage weeks in a row, I wanted to race a bit over the next few weeks to remind my mind, legs and cardio system what it feels like to really “race”.  That is one thing that I found lacking in my early marathon training cycles where I lost that eye of the tiger preparing for only one race after 18 weeks.  It was easy to start clicking off the miles in the marathon forgetting that you need to be pushing it a bit, finding that somewhat comfortable “uncomfortable” feeling where race-pace lives.

Today’s event was a 5-person relay covering 26.2 miles.  My teammates, all over the age of 40 were going for the Men’s Master’s Title in the event that was won last year by my good friend Scott Birk’s team.  Scott, you may recall was the runner who was killed tragically when he was struck by an automobile out on his morning run earlier this spring.

Scott’s team from Riverplace would be our main competition.  They had singlets made in Scott’s signature race-day black color, with his likeness on the front of their jerseys.  It was a beautiful tribute to Scott, and I have to admit it had me a bit misty-eyed when I saw them before the race.

Our team – called, 5 Sorta Fast Old Guys was composed of:

Brendon Cahoon – Running the 12K leg.

Joe Marruchella – Running 10K

Lee Toowey – Running 10K

Mick Swope – Running 5K

David Boone – Final 5K

If we all ran to our abilities, it looked like we would have a chance at finishing under 2 hours and 45 minutes – a pretty smoking fast Marathon Time, which goes to show you just how “elite” the professionals who can run a 2:05 marathon truly are.  Simply incredible athletes.

Pre-Race:  When we arrived on-site Mick, Lee and I who carpooled together caught up with Brendon and set up camp.  We retrieved our timing chip that we would have to pass from runner to runner at the exchange area and got ready for a quick warm-up.

Brendon and I went off for an easy run a little over a mile and chatted about one of the runners on the Riverplace team, Michael Budde.  Michael is a tremendous local runner with a marathon PR of 2:50 in his younger days.  now 44 years old, Michael is the top runner in the age group I share with Brendon, Mick, Lee and David locally.

Brendon was chatting about how he hoped to stay with Michael and keep him in contact during the race.  Brendon said to me, “you know, everyone has that one runner that you just can’t seem to stick with during a race.  The one who is just faster than you, but pushes you to try to hang with them”.

I took a few strides, looked over at Brendon and said, “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.  I’m warming up with him ….”

It was good for a chuckle, but is 100% true.  Brendon keeps me pushing at these events, trying to close the :05 second/mile gap that he always seems to have over me no matter the distance.

When we got back to the starting area Brendon tucked into the starting chute and got ready for the Air Horn Start at 7:15 a.m.

Leg 1 – 12K:

After a short 5 minute delay as there appeared to be some issue up on the Capital of Texas grounds, the horn went off and Brendon thundered away.  Brendon was hoping to run this leg somewhere around 45:30.  It was a warm morning on Sunday, with temperatures forecast to reach 100 degrees again by the afternoon.  Fall has still not arrived in Austin, and with the 12-15 mph wind that was blowing out of the Southwest, it was going to be a tough day to post a really fast split. 

If anyone was up for it, it was Brendon.

The route took runners West through the circle on Auditorium Shores to the turnaround point and then back past the starting line where we caught a glimpse of Brendon locked into his pace.  Like clockwork, 20 meters behind and to the right of Michael Budde.

As Brendon went off to the capital I had a Gatorade and made my final porta-poty stop.  in 40 minutes or so it would be go time.

Transition:

I went off for another warm-up mile and got back to the starting area for a quick sip of Gatorade 42 minutes after the race started.  I said a quick “see ya” to Mick and Lee and headed up to the start line.  At 45:30 I started to look for Brendon and a few seconds ticked past.  Just then I saw Michael Budde come over the line in his black singlet and I started to shake loose a bit.  Brendon should be behind him in just a few moments.

At the 46:20 mark I saw Brendon come into view – I ran out into the road, shot a quick two fingers in the air for Dom and took two quick hops into the air.  Brendon came across the line at the 46:30 mark, about 1 minute slower than anticipated which told me everything I needed to know about the route.

It was going to be hot.  Probably measure a bit long and the climb up Congress to the Capital was going to be punishing.  Boom goes the dynamite.

Leg 2 – 10K:

I grabbed the timing chip strap from Brendon and took off west toward the circle.  Waaaaay too fast, but I knew that was going to happen.  I have been having trouble settling into anything but 5K pace over the first half mile lately, and as I closed quickly on the runner from the Riverplace team, I knew I had done it again.

The first half-mile split came in 2:52, much faster than the 3:05 I was hoping for.  I slowed coming out of the turnaround and fell into a much more steady pace.  Just lock in here I thought and keep it steady.

Unlike a lot of short race courses, this route had a lot of technical aspects to it.  Two cone turnarounds, a long climb up Congress Avenue which would be close to 100 feet of “ups” in just under a mile, and a long rolling hill section over mile 5, when a 10K runner’s legs start to leave them.

I hit the end of the first mile with a time of 5:57.  I had made a correction, but was still a bit too quick at this point.  Going to pay for that later I thought. 

As I made the turn up toward the Capital which loomed large up on the hill I stayed steady and my next half-mile split was spot on at 3:07.  The hill got steeper as we approached the Capital grounds and I knew I would be giving back perhaps :10 or :12 seconds over this section.

3:16, 3:15 to the top, climbing a little over 82 feet.  Solid, now it was time to try to get back on pace.

The next three and a half miles would start with a run down Congress.  I decided to play this a little bit conservative as the temperature was in the upper 70’s and I would need to save a little bit for the return trip up Cesar Chavez to the 1st Street Bridge.

3:08, 3:08 – back to back identical splits as I took a splash of water at the aid station and tried to keep steady. 

3:11, 3:11 – again smooth turnover and identical spits, but I was starting to lose a little steam as we reached the final turnaround.

Just 1 1/2 miles left before the final .20 mile kick to the finish.  I grabbed another splash of water and followed the center line of the course back towards the 1st Street bridge.  I thought about last year’s Run for the Water 10-Mile race that features the same route to the finish line and let my mind wander back 11 months before.  A much cooler day where I ran a fast 1:03:57 on the 10-mile course.

3:08, 3:11, 3:12 were my final 1/2 miles as I hit the middle of the bridge, crested the last hill and started to push to the finish.

I had be measuring the course a bit long throughout the race and it proved to hold true as I made the final turn off of the bridge and headed back to the transition area.  I hit the 6.2 mile mark about 100 yards from the finish line and ended up with a distance of 6.28 miles.

Final Time for my leg:  39:23 – 6:17 pace.  I was hoping to run 6:15 and fell just :02 seconds/mile short. 

All things considered after a tough week last week and a 22 miler on Sunday, hot weather and a hilly course, I’ll take it.  that same effort should bode well at the IBM uptown Classic if the weather cools off a bit before next weekend’s race.

Leg 3 – 10K:

Lee posted a 10K time of just over 40:00 minutes.

Leg 4 – 5K:

Mick ran a tough 5K leg that measured long at 3.25 miles in just a hair over 20 minutes.

Leg 5 – 5K:

David took the timing chip for the final leg and he too finished just over 20 minutes.

Finish:

Our team time of 2:46:55 was good enough for 1st place in the Men’s Masters Division as we were able to edge out the Riverplace team who finished second with a time of 3:02 and change.

On a hot, steamy, windy Sunday 5 sorta fast old guys ran a full marathon at just under 6:24 min./mile pace – not too shabby.

The best part of the day was honestly spending some time with some good friends and making a difference along with the other 2,500 competitors for the races charity – Junior Achievement.  The real winners of the day.

I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit that winning was pretty darn satisfying.  If we want to defend our title next year, we better hit the training hard.  I think our showing up and taking down the team from Riverplace was akin to poking a sleeping tiger with a stick.

We better run faster of get a bigger stick next year.

Mick, Brendon, Lee and David – thanks for leaving it all out there today.  You guys are the greatest.

One down, two to go on the road to New York.

Sometimes the best questions I get about running and racing come from people who neither run nor race.  They simply have a healthy intellectual curiosity about training and road racing, and ask questions that are completely devoid of any “runner misconceptions”.  In the past week as the New York City Marathon has inched closer and closer, now just 6 1/2 weeks away and the number of training miles I have been piling up grows higher and higher, I have been asked – “What kind of time are you shooting for in New York?”

It is a great question, and seemingly one that you would think you could automatically answer if you were a runner like me who times and measures every single one of the now more than 1,989.83 miles that I have run over the last 365 days.

I know that my average run or race is 8.19 miles.

I have climbed 55,200 feet of hills.

I have averaged 8.1 mph for those 1,989.83 miles.

Running for a total of 244 hours, 49 minutes and 48 seconds.

That’s about 10 1/2 days of doing nothing but running.

So how fast are you going to run that 26.2 miles Joe?

Honestly – I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.

Qualifying for Boston in May of 2009

The marathon is truly a different animal when it comes to achieving a time goal.  For races such as the 5K up through the half-marathon, if you have been training and are “in race shape” – you can run very close to your potential on just about any given race day as long as you are not injured, not sick and do not have extreme heat, wind or humidity to deal with.

The races are short enough that you can “tough it out” or “dig deep” late in a race and hang in there until the end.

Sure you may run a 5K :15 seconds slower one day vs. another or perhaps miss your goal in a 10K by :30 seconds.  Even in the half-marathon out in Denver in 2 1/2 weeks I can predict with great accuracy the kind of race I am going to run that day.  That is a 13.1 mile race on a course I have never seen before, at an elevation of 5,300 feet above sea level, which I am not accustomed to.

Dollars to doughnuts I will run within :30-:45 seconds +/- of 1:25:45.

But the marathon takes you places that are tough to predict.  It becomes a race as much about nutrition, hydration and mental toughness as it does about fitness and running ability.

Unlike the shorter races, where we will have covered that many miles and much, much more usually in countless training runs, for example you need to turn back the calendar all the way to April 17th to find the last week where my Sunday long run was not at least 12 miles.

It was 10.

In 14 of the last 16 weeks, my Sunday run was at least 14 miles.  Longer than a half-marathon.

So when it comes to the half-marathon or 13.1 mile race – I’ve been there.  I know what it feels like.  I know how much energy I have in the tank over the opening mile and how to dole it out evenly and consistently before I empty the tank sprinting the final 400 Meters to the finish line.

The marathon is all about patience and being able to hold back your legs to stay on your target pace early in the race when running :05 or :10 faster per mile FEELS exactly the same as your target pace.

That is the trick in the marathon.  Because you taper your workload and training down the final 2-3 weeks before race day, your legs feel fresher than they have felt in MONTHS!  If you have decided to go for a 3:10:00 time in the marathon which is 7:15 min./mile pace – to the marathoner that morning, running at 7:05 pace truly feels like 7:15 did during training.

But if you are not trained to run at that 7:05 pace, and are not capable of sustaining it, those :10 per mile on the first half of the course will easily cost you :30-:45 seconds per mile if not more on the back half of the course.

You gained 130 seconds during the first half of the race, but lost 390-585 seconds on the second half.  Those 585 seconds equate to 9 minutes, 45 seconds.  When you remove the two minutes and 10 seconds that you were “fast” on the front half, your net time is now 7 minutes and 35 seconds slow.

Your target time of 3 hours and 10 minutes just became a finish time of 3:17:35.

That is how much a slight miscalculation early in the race will mean over the course of the marathon.  Just :10/mile too fast costs you dearly.

So how do you arrive at a proper and attainable race goal?  By proper, I mean a goal that is appropriate for your level of fitness and talents as a runner.  One that is not a lay up by any means as if achieving a time goal in the marathon is the driving force behind your race, you want to pick a challenging goal and chase it down.

That is the point in it for a lot of runners.

If it is your first marathon, or even your second where perhaps your first race did not go as smoothly as you might have liked, setting a goal such as:

Finishing.

Not walking.

Enjoying the experience.

Finishing with a smile.

Those are all GREAT goals for the marathon.

But if you are going to try to challenge yourself by setting a time goal, you want to pick one that is “proper”.

Secondly, you want to choose a time goal that is “attainable”.

There are a lot of marathon “calculators” out there that will tell you what your capabilities are in the marathon based on a time that you ran at a shorter distance race.

The McMillian Running Calculator found HERE is the one that I rely on the most.

The premise is that you enter in a recent race time for the 5K, 10K, half marathon, 10-miler – virtually any traditional race distance – and the calculator will show you what you are capable of in the marathon.

For example, my recent 10K time running the in the triathlon relay of 38:50 when entered into the McMillian Pace Calculator shows that I am capable of running a 3:02:15 marathon, based on my 10K performance.

If I enter in my 10K time from last October’s IBM Uptown Classic of 38:06, the McMillian Running Calculator shows that I am capable of running a 2:58:48 marathon, based on my 10K performance.

So which one is it?

Well, there are quite a few things to consider.

1.  Which time is the most recent?  Putting in a PR that is close to a year old is probably not going to be as accurate a predictor than a race just a few weeks ago.

2.  Race conditions?  What was the situation surrounding the event?  At IBM I had a proper taper period, I warmed up as I normally would for a road race and ran in 60 degree temperatures.  At the Triathlon relay I did not taper, I sat around for 3 hours waiting to run.  I did not have a proper warm-up as I did not know when Ed would return from the bike leg and the temperature was over 90 degrees.  I also had a 400 Meter sprint out of the transition area before I hit the timing mat to start the clock.

Neither race then is really very helpful.  But picking a midpoint between the two races might be a much better idea.

If I record a 10K time of say 38:30 the McMillian Running Calculator predicts a finish time of 3:00:41

3.  The longer the race distance used, the more accurate the calculator will be.  Point being that putting in a time that you ran in a mile race will need to be extrapolated much further out to 26.2 miles than say a half-marathon time.  The best scenario would be to run a half-marathon, close to the target marathon, in similar or slightly more difficult conditions.

Whatever that half-marathon time is, input it into the McMillian Running Calculator and WALA – you have a pretty accurate gauge for your marathon capabilities on race day.

If you are catching on, that is exactly why I will be toeing the line 4 Sundays before New York City at the Denver Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.

It will provide me with a great litmus test as to where my marathon training is just a month before race day.  The race temperature(s) should be very similar in Denver in October at 7:15 a.m. MST vs. New York City in November at 9:40 a.m. EST.

New York may be a bit more hilly, but not by much according to the elevation charts of the two courses.  Certainly not as hilly as the routes I run here training in Austin.  There could be more wind in New York, but the altitude difference in Denver will of course add a degree of difficulty that New York City cannot match.

There are a lot of easier formulas out there, such as the old – “double your half-marathon time and add 10 minutes.”  or Hal Higdon’s “multiply your 10K time by 5”.  These are all generally accepted, solid estimates for your marathon capabilities on race day.

The key points from my perspective are that you must have a “litmus test race time” that is only 4-8 weeks “old” if you want an accurate gauge as to where you really are.  And secondly, you of course have to be preparing for the marathon in a serious, organized way.

Just because you can run a 38:30 10K does not mean you can run a 3 hour marathon.  You have to train to run a marathon, including all of the long runs, tempo work, hill work etc. to be ready.  Without that preparation you will fade and fade badly over the last 6-8 miles of the marathon.

The tune-up half marathon has become a key part of my marathon training 4 weeks prior to race day.  Just today, looking ahead to the Boston Marathon in April 2012 I registered for the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 18th.  It will give me a great peak behind the curtain a month before race day in Hopkinton, MA to let me know exactly what kind of race I am capable of at Boston.

As for New York.  I have a number in the back of my mind that I know I need to hit in Denver to make a run at 3:00 hours at New York.

Whatever the finish line says in Denver on October 9th is what it says.  I have the digits memorized and before I slow to a walk after crossing the finish line I will know if we are ready to chase 2:59:59 four weeks later.

There is a print that hangs in our office here in Austin that reads – Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Exactly.

Of course there is another one that hangs just three feet to the left of it that reads – 61.5% of all statistics are meaningless.

So there’s that.

After yesterday’s 22-mile long run which wrapped up the endurance building portion of the NYC Marathon Training Cycle we are moving on to a three-week stretch of racing each Sunday to put some speedwork back into the schedule.

September 25 – Silicon Labs Austin Marathon Relay

October 2 – IBM Uptown Classic 10K

October 9 – Denver Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

Three straight race weekends and then two final 20+ mile long runs will take us to a two-week taper for NYC.  I am reducing the taper by one week for New York, feeling that adding a 5th 20 mile long run just two weeks out from the starting line on Staten Island will help us close strong over the final miles in Central Park.

Adding races to my marathon preparation is something that I did for the first time last year competing in the Austin Distance Challenge.  The Distance Challenge was a 5-race event featuring one 10K race (IBM), one 10 Mile Race (Run for the Water), two Half-Marathons (Decker & 3M) and finally the Austin Marathon on February 20th.

I felt like the miles run at race pace really paid dividends during my training cycle as it is so hard to run at “race pace” alone in the morning through a training run.  It takes the spectacle of race day, other runners and pinning a bib on to your shorts or singlet to get that race day mojo going and drop pace that final :10-:15 seconds per mile that make the difference between “running” and “racing”.

Each event will test my readiness in a different way, racing this coming weekend on somewhat tired legs without the benefits of a taper.

Then on to the IBM Uptown Classic where I hope to rebound and make a run at my 10K PR of 38:06 set last October.

Finally the Denver Half-Marathon, run at elevation, which should tell the tale of the tape regarding my ability to punch through the 3:00:00 mark in New York.  1:24-1:25 in Denver means we’ve got a shot.  Anything over 1:25:30 – even at elevation, and it will be tough for me to even decide to go for it on race day. 

Amazing in a footrace of 13.1 miles how much :30 will mean.

But this weekend’s race is an opportunity to shake loose some of the cobwebs from our race legs and have a great time racing with friends.

The SI Labs Austin Marathon Relay is a 5-person relay event covering 26.2 miles in Downtown Austin.  Each runner on the team is responsible for handling their leg of the course, which is divided into a 12K opening leg, two 10K legs and two 5K legs.

Our team comprised of Brendon, Mick, Lee, David and yours truly are running in the Men’s Masters Division – as all of the runners on our team are over the age of 40.  We are running under the moniker – 5 Sorta Fast Old Guys or 5 S.F.O.G.

Last year’s Men’s Masters winning entry ran a time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.  On that team was my good friend Scott Birk, who you may remember passed away on June 13th of this year after being struck by an automobile during a morning training run here in Austin.  The post about Scott’s accident can be found by clicking HERE.

On Sunday, on my left race flat I have Scott’s initials and date of his accident.  On my right instep are Dom’s initials and the date he passed away in August of last year.  With the team we have put together we should be able to throw down a time in the 2:42:00 – 2:43:00 range – which we are hopping will be fast enough to earn us some race day hardware.

I will be running the second leg of the event, the first 10K taking the timing chip from Brendon who is leading things off for us, and handing it over to Lee for the third leg.  Mick and David will run all out over the final two 5K legs and bring home the bacon so to speak.

It is going to be a lot of fun to race with some good friends, and kick off this mini-race season of ours before things turn very serious over the final few weeks leading up to New York City.

As for Boston – we registered for the race just a few minutes ago.  The final spots will be awarded based on how far under the qualifying time a runner ran their qualifying race.  Today’s registration date is for all runners who beat their time by less than 5 minutes, giving out spots from fastest to slowest.

Our qualifying time was 4:59 below our standard, meaning we are at the front of the line for Bibs, only competing with those who ran an identical time as ours.  It looks like we’re in for Boston in April.

Lookout Hopkinton.  A VERY different marathoner will be there on April 16, 2012 than the one you casually threw aside on April 19, 2010.  I look forward to putting a size 9 Adidas Adizero Aegis squarely up your ass.

The NYC Marathon is now just over 7 weeks away.  I am smack in the middle of the most challenging marathon training cycle I have ever attempted, and within that cycle, I am in the most challenging two weeks.

Back to back 65 mile weeks with consecutive Sunday long runs of 21 and 22 miles respectively.

This week the singlet that I plan on wearing on race day in NYC arrived from the USA Track and Field Association.  Being the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this year, racing through the 5 boroughs of New York, I thought the singlet below was very appropriate.

On Friday I visited our local running store – Rogue Running – to pick up what will prove to be my race shoes for the Denver Rock N’ Roll Half-Marathon – our tune-up race – and then 4 weeks later – the New York City Marathon.

I have gone to a lighter marathon race shoe than my traditional training shoes over the last two years as I found that the lighter race shoe helps me feel a bit more like I am “racing” the marathon, not simply trying to survive the distance.  Each ounce a marathon shoe is lighter saves the runner :01 seconds/mile on pace.  

Meaning that a 9.5 oz. shoe given the same runner and effort would produce a time over the measured mile :03 faster than a 12.5 oz. shoe like my Asics trainers.

.03 seconds X 26 miles = 78 seconds or a time 1:18 faster when I make the turn at Columbus Circle and head for home over the final 385 to the finish line at Tavern on the Green in Central Park.

As I walked into Rogue Running I was prepared to purchase another pair of Brooks ST5 Racers for New York, but as I spoke with the sales person at the store I decided to try on a different shoe.  One with a slightly roomier toe box and a sole with a bit more grip.  As much as I liked the ST5’s, on wet streets they were a bit slippery.

Given my recent history with bad weather on race day, I thought I would try on the Adidas Adizero Aegis 2’s.

As soon as I slipped the shoes on my feet and took a few strides on the indoor track at the shop, I knew I had my race shoes for NYC.  The only problem was that the color of the shoes did not whisper “NYC” in my ear …. instead they screamed out “BOSTON”!

Zoom

 The shoe colors are the identical race colors that Boston used for the 114th running of the Boston Marathon in 2010.  The first marathon of my two marathons in 13 day double running for Dom.  The Boston marathon where my legs simply did not match my heart and I ran what I considered that day and still do my most disappointing race in 3:22:07.

Ironically, Monday is “Boston” day for me.  The day where if the race has not filled up over this weekend, I am allowed to log on and register for the 116th running of Boston this April.

My time in NYC will not earn me a qualifying time for this year’s Boston Marathon.  It will actually place me in line for the 2013 Boston Marathon.  A marathon should I decide to go to Boston, I would race as a 45-year-old.  At age 45, I need a marathon time better than 3:25:00 to qualify for Boston. 

Should I run a PR in New York City in 7 weeks, bettering the 3:15:01 I ran on that hot, humid, windy race day in Austin this past February, I would have a qualifying time of better than 10:00 minutes faster than the age group requirement, allowing me to register on the very first day, all but guaranteeing entry.

But we’re not thinking quite that far ahead right now.  Should my 3:15:01 be enough, we will be racing at Boston this April.  If I run a better time in New York City, which frankly will be a huge disappointment if I do not, I can use that new time for a higher “seed” in Boston, moving me forward in the starting corrals, closer to the starting line.

The good news is that we will know one way or another before we run in New York if we are “in” at Boston for 2012.  I will not have to play it conservative worrying about the chance that I might blow up chasing my best marathon time and risking missing out on a Boston time completely.

I can let it all hang out and if the weather cooperates, perhaps, just maybe, have a shot at 2:59:59.

The clock is ticking for this 44 year-old dadathoner.  The chances I have left to chase breaking the 3 hour barrier in the marathon can probably be counted on two or three fingers.  New York 2011, Boston 2012 and perhaps one final attempt in the winter or spring of 2013.  Then it will be time to understand that improving as a runner while still a goal, will more than likely not show up in the form of PR’s or lower race times.

It will all be about staying healthy and competing with runners in my age group – not necessarily chasing the ghost of marathons past, where a younger runner in a Team USA Singlet roared through the streets of New York City at 6:52 pace, saw the trees up ahead of New York’s Central Park and knew that he was in for the toughest 10 Kilometers of his life.

Those final 6 miles, where 6 more 6:52 minute miles would give him a chance at something that less than 1% of any marathoner in the world has ever done. 

2:59:59

Make it or not one thing is for certain – we are going to leave it all out there on the streets of New York.  We didn’t get this far by playing it safe.