With New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, the local Resolution Run 5K at St. Phillips Methodist Church was moved to 2:00 p.m. so it would not interfere with Sunday services. The late start time and the need for me to log a long run of 18-20 miles on Sunday conspired to make me unable to participate in this year’s race. We will be back in 2013 for sure as I hated to miss such a great event and one that sets the tone so well for the coming year of training and racing – but I won’t have long to wait to lace up my shoes and race in the new year.
In just a few minutes, I leave for Miami, Florida to race again with my “Where’s the Damn Van?!” teammates in the Ragnar Team Relay Race. This is the same group of crazies that I raced with last February from Wickenburg, AZ to Tempe as part of a 12-person, 2 Van, 200 mile race.
This year we are entered as an “ultra” team, meaning that there will only be 6 runners on our team, each running 6 legs instead of 3 as we cover the 199 mile course from Miami, FL to the Florida Keys. The format for the race is the same as one runner puts on the slap band bracelet and heads out onto the course for their leg, while the remaining 5 teammates climb into the van and drive ahead to the next exchange area.
The next runner gets ready and as his/her teammate approaches, the team number is called out by a race volunteer. The slap band is exchanged and the next runner is off. After a short cool down, the runner who just completed their leg hops into the team van and the process is repeated all over again. Over and over and over. There are a total of 36 legs to the race – all of various distances which allow runners of different endurance levels and different abilities to compete with a team. In our case, as an ultra-team of six runners, we will run essentially two legs instead of one every time we take to the course.
I will be running out of the number 1 slot, meaning my assigned legs are:
Leg 1: 5.7 Miles, Leg 2: 4.4 Miles = 10.1 Miles Total
Leg 13: 8.8 Miles, Leg 14: 4.7 Miles = 13.5 Miles Total
Leg 25: 3.0 Miles, Leg 26: 9.1 Miles = 12.1 Miles
Total Total Mileage: 35.7 Miles
Based on the predicted pace of my teammates I should be running at 1:00 p.m., 11:30 p.m. on Friday starting my final leg at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Our team should complete the 199 mile course in 24-25 hours putting us at the finish line sometime shortly after lunchtime on Saturday.
I heard that down in the keys, every hour is happy hour – I expect our post-race carbohydrate recovery to start shortly after we come through the chute. This is indeed a race, but it is falling in the middle of Boston Training – something that I for one moment am not losing sight of.
The difference between running relaxed and smooth at 7:30-7:35 min./mile pace and pushing it to 7:00’s is about 15 minutes total in a 25 hour race. Simply put, it’s not smart for me to go out there and really try to hammer double-digit length runs every 6-7 hours. I am going to lock in to a comfortable pace and just cruise – using this Ragnar event as an endurance and stamina workout on the way to Boston. After easy running on Monday and Tuesday – I will be taking off completely from running this week on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday – letting my 35.7 miles in Florida push our weekly mileage to just 54 miles – a 10-12 mile reduction from the previous two weeks of training.
Then it will be back to “normal” – whatever that means nowadays as we prepare for The Texas Half Marathon on January 28th – our first in a series of three half-marathons, one each month, on the way to Boston. I am going to let it all hang out on January 28th, just as I will at the Austin Half Marathon in February and the Shamrock Half in Virginia Beach in March.
Those three races are going to go a long way in predicting our abilities in Boston this April and whether or not we will be setting our sights on a sub 3 hour attempt or just continuing to move the needle closer to that mark and settle in around 3:05-3:06 after our 3:08:09 effort in New York this November. Big gains at this point are challenging – dropping 7-8 minutes off of a marathon time, which is what I did from Austin to New York was one thing.
Doing it again 6 months later is something else entirely. That would mean I would have shaved off 15 minutes from my marathon PR in 14 months. Starting from a 3:15:01, that is a tall order, but one that I feel we have a legitimate shot at should the remainder of this training cycle go the way it has been going to this point.
Last Tuesday night’s second run of the day was an 8.3 mile tempo run that I completed at 6:25 pace. That run came just 11 hours after 7 miles in the morning at 7:11 pace. We are certainly running strong and fast right now – something that I know I will need to continue to improve on to hold on to that 6:52 pace that we need to break three hours late in the race at Boston. We were able to do so in New York through mile 20 until the last of the bridges took their toll on us.
Boston sets up very differently with the tough climbing between miles 16 and 21, then it is a downhill 5 miles to the finish on Boyleston Street. If we make it up and over heartbreak hill on pace with just 5 miles remaining – we have a real shot in Boston. The next 15 weeks will all be about preparing for those 5 miles.
This week? It comes as a perfect time as training for a marathon is hard. It is physically demanding, which everyone knows – but it is also mentally draining. 109 workouts make up my Boston Training plan. It is tough to “get up” for 109 runs. This opportunity to run with my good friends Thomas, Sean, Jenny, Ally and Steve in sunny Florida to the Keys and take in some amazing sights (One of my legs will take me across the 7-mile bridge) will be as restorative mentally as it will be physically exhausting.
Running over 35 miles in less than 18 hours is not supposed to be easy – add in the van, little to no sleep, poor nutrition – I’m not sure Twizzler and Gatorade is going to cut it this year – and you have a pretty tough physical test. But spending time with the team that I haven’t seen in more than 10 months is going to make it all worth it. Make sure you come back on Monday for a race report – it will certainly be epic.
You can also follow us on Twitter throughout the race at: @TheDamnVan @Joe_RunforDom Below are the various legs that I will be running and the accompanying maps courtesy of the RAGNAR Relay Site. The start times are estimates based on the pace that my teammates and I will be running.
Next year Steve Speirs and I are talking about running this as a two-man team – 100 miles each.
Just kidding Dawn.
Wanted to make sure you were still out there reading and paying attention … Seriously, it’s three-man team.