Archive for October 14, 2011

I’ve had this post marinating in my not yet quite to the taper yet marathon training brain for a couple of days now.  Which is to say, it has been rolling around up there getting only bits and pieces of attention and focus as I find myself so easily distracted at this stage of training.

It seems like my mind wanders from moment to moment – thinking about my upcoming 22 miler on Sunday, then the next minute on breakfast, Landry’s swim lesson yesterday, the fact I have to cut the grass this afternoon, where we put the bag in the attic with the artificial pumpkins to decorate our lamp post area, did I remember to shut off the light in the garage this morning, Doh – conference call at 10!

See what I mean.

I’m not sure if it is the excitement building as New York is now the “next” race on my calendar or if it is something else, but I have to admit that since I started incorporating more racing into my 18-week marathon training plans, I find that it is easier to not have to think about the last race on the schedule so much. 

Looking back during the first week of training for New York, July 4th week, we had our final Wednesday night 5K race in the Sunstroke Summer Stampede Series.  Then it was our first open water swim and run event at the Pure Austin Splash and Dash two weeks later.

On my birthday it was our first Triathlon – July 31st.  My first event after turning 44.  Even if I was only a year older by a few hours.

In August it was the 5K – racing for a young girl who is battling brain cancer, just like my mother.

September arrived and it was the Austin Triathlon relay on Labor Day and then finally the last three weeks of hard racing:

SI Labs Marathon Relay, IBM Uptown Classic, Denver Half Marathon.

Each of those events served a purpose as they allowed me to run 40.9 miles at race intensity.  Those 40 miles had they been part of  my “traditional” training runs would have been done at a much lower intensity and not nearly as tough of a workout.  Yes, racing takes a lot out of you, but if your goal is to “run faster” and not just “run farther”, I think they are a key component to improving your finish times from the 5K to the marathon.

Which brings me full circle to the post that has been marinating for the last 48 hours or so.

As a 44-year-old runner who is still chasing time goals and PR’s I am in a difficult position.  The reality is that I do not have 10 years ahead of me to get faster.  Can I improve as a runner?  Absolutely.  I feel like I am still learning all the time and I continue to find new ways to challenge myself.   But the finish line clock tracks Father Time just as much as it does race performance, and the reality is that the day that I am “slower” is approaching a lot faster than I would hope.

One of the reasons I decided to run the IBM Uptown Classic this year just one week before the Denver Half-Marathon was so I could take an honest look at where I was as a runner in 2011 vs. 2010.  I wanted to race on the same course at the same event with the same goal (PR) to see how the 2011 version of me stacked up with the 2010 version.

I dressed the same for the event and set out to keep as many things “identical” as I could.  I wore essentially the same race flats from Brooks, just a new pair of T7 Racers instad of the T6’s I ran in back in October of 2010 and I left my iPod at home this year – but other than that – same runner, just a year older.

The race conditions even cooperated as the temperature on October 2, 2011 was only 1 degree cooler (59) than October 17, 2010 (60) for the two races.

The other major change was the race in 2010 marked the end of my Summer Race Season, where I ran a ton of shorter, fast events to get ready to kick off my marathon training for Austin, which began the day after IBM.  In a sense, the 2010 IBM Uptown Classic was my “end of summer” – it was the day before we started preparing for our next marathon.

In 2011, IBM arrived in week 12 of marathon training, with three 20-22 mile training runs in the books – I was better trained perhaps, but I also had three months of heavy mileage on my legs – not exactly a recipe for a fast 10 Kilometer race.


2010:  38:06

2011:  37:30

As I was making my way to the finish line over the final 2/10 of a mile I was frankly surprised when I caught a glimpse of the finish line clock and I saw it still ticking in the low 37 minute range.  Any PR is a great race by definition and at this stage in my life and running “career”, I will take every one of them as they come and cherish them.  The reality is, my next PR may very well be my last.

Right now with New York City just 3 weeks and 2 days away I continue to look at the runner who stares at me every morning from the mirror and try to take stock in where we are.  Why was I able to take :36 off of my 10K time at IBM?  What did my 1:26:33 half marathon at altitude in Denver mean for New York City 4 weeks later?  Am I stronger and faster or am I at the same point I was heading into Austin last February?

Instead of fixating on numbers and mile splits I decided to take a different approach and I compared race photos from the last two IBM Uptown Classics.  Same course, same photographer, same runner, same location, even the same shorts – only 351 days apart.

Below is the shot from the last 2/10 of a mile in the race in 2010.

2010 IBM Uptown Classic

Here is the same point of the course in 2011.

2011 IBM Uptown Classic

On first glance the photos above appear very similar, but upon closer inspection there are some distinct differences.  By looking at the next frame from the race in 2010, my strides are in synch and they reveal some changes.

2011 Left vs. 2010 Right

In the 2011 photo on the left if you look at my head position and posture you can see I am a much better balanced runner.  I have my hips tucked underneath me and I am tall and strong through to the finish line.  In 2010 my form is starting to go away from me a bit and my head is slightly tilted to the right.

I am much stronger on my plant foot in 2011 and have a stronger lean to the finish.

By going to the “film” it is apparent that all of the training miles and racing have indeed paid off.  We are in a better position at this point in 2011 than we were one year ago.  The only unknown is what that will mean on race day in New York.

A picture really is worth 1,000 words.  In this case, 1,203.