Posts Tagged ‘3M Half Marathon’

Here we are – the first of three half-marathon races on the road to the Boston Marathon in April.

Much like I did last year participating in the Austin Distance Challenge leading up to the Austin Marathon or in my ramp up to the New York City Marathon in November, I will be racing half-marathons to help me peak for a strong marathon performance.

So far I am 2 for 2 with consecutive PR’s in the marathon using this strategy, so if it’s not broken  …. well, you know the rest.

So this coming weekend perhaps the fastest half-marathon course in the state of TX will be on display at the 3M Half Marathon in Austin.  Due to some construction around the finish area at Waterloo park, the talk is that this year’s 3M course may be even FASTER than previous years.  Hard to believe, but if that is the case, there are going to be some monster PR’s set at 3M this coming Sunday.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I’m not running that one.

I’ll be running The Texas Half up in Dallas a day earlier on Saturday, January 28th.

Now you may be wondering why, if all I’m looking for is a tough workout on the road to Boston, why don’t I aim to go low at 3M and maybe lower my half-marathon PR of 1:23:55 in the process.

To be completely honest, I’m not really interested in running a PR on Saturday.  Well, that isn’t completely accurate – I hope to do exactly that up in Dallas, but that is not the goal.  The goal is to prepare for Boston and to do that, I want to post three “legitimate” half-marathon times on neutral to slightly difficult courses to help me gauge my fitness for race day in Hopkinton, MA.

Just as last year I made the trip out to Denver to race at altitude in the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon as my final tune-up before the New York City Marathon, I’m not looking for an “easy” course or a “fast” course.  I’m looking for an “honest” course – and by all accounts, it looks like I will get exactly that at White Rock Lake in Dallas.

The course is relatively flat, there are some turns and of course there will be winds kicking up off of the lake.  I do not think it will be as challenging a race as Denver was for me last year, but I do think that whatever my time is at the end of the day, it will serve as a strong predictor for Boston.

Take your half-marathon time, double it and add 10 minutes.  That is a good gauge of wkat your marathon potential is if all factors such as wind, injuries, fitness and race course are equal.  Boston is a tough marathon course, no doubt about it – so instead of 10 minutes, I will probably look to add 12 minutes to my “double half-marathon” time.

That means I am going to need to run something along the lines of 1:23-1:24 at The Texas Half, The Austin Half Marathon in February or the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach in March to have a legitimate shot at 3 hours at Boston.

I did not want to have only one half-marathon time to work with as anything can happen on an individual race day.  Both good and bad.

But by having three half-marathons in the books to compare as well as the tremendous workout that racing 13.1 miles at true race pace will supply to our training cycle – I think we will have a very strong grasp on our potential come April 16th at Boston.

If 3:05 is what our predictors are saying for Boston, then so be it – that is what we are going to zero in on and run to the best of our abilities on race day.  But if we are able to lay down a 1:23:30 let’s say at one of these half-marathons, then we will take dead aim at 3 hours and give it our absolute best shot on race day.

Had I run that time at 3M on Sunday, sure it might look impressive in my training log or on the wall in my office where my race bibs from my PR’s hang in frames, but I would know.

I would know that the course was fast and I simply took advantage on a favorable day.

I’m not one for self-delusion.  If I am going to stand on Main Street in Hopkinton, MA with the thought of a 2:59:59 marathon in my head, I damn well better be sure that I also have it in my heart.  Knowing that I am ready.

That is the thing about the marathon, you can kid yourself for a while, but late in the race, the marathon will expose you.  Those final 10 kilometers have a way of separating the contenders from the pretenders.

If we don’t run well on Saturday in Dallas or if the weather plays a role in a slower than hoped race time, all is not lost.  I know that I have been training hard up to this point and I am not rested.  There will be no taper for this race, in fact, I’m coming off of another 20-mile long run on Sunday and a third 66-mile training week.

But the race will be a strong indicator as to where we are right now, what work needs to be done before our next two races, especially that final tune-up out in Virginia Beach just 4 short weeks before Boston.  I’m going to eat right this week, get my sleep, take my runs a little easier than usual and let it all hang out on Saturday.

Whatever the clock says when we come across the line, we’ll know we earned every second.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This morning I hopped up into the saddle on my Tri-bike for my first ride on the trainer in 6 weeks.  I had stopped my cycling workouts as my mileage hit its highest levels preparing for the New York Marathon.  I’m a big believer of cross-training to help strengthen the legs, lungs and heart on my “off-days” from running – but as my mileage started pushing 70 miles per week, taking Monday and Friday off as complete rest days was the right move for this now 44-year-old marathoner.

It was great to get on the bike today and gauge where I was from a cycling standpoint – which was not very good actually – as I have the next four weeks to fully recover from New York and build my mileage back up to over 50 miles per week with a long run of 16 miles the Sunday before Boston Marathon training begins on December 12th.

That’s right – training begins again on December 12th.

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of “down-time” which is actually a good thing.  One of the challenges I had last spring was that nagging little knee inflammation I had after the Ragnar Del Sol team ultra marathon in Arizona last February.  Just one week post-Austin Marathon I ran with the team from Wickenburg to Tempe and developed a sore inner left knee during the race.

It took 5 weeks away from running to clear the condition and I lost a lot of my previous fitness.  I started back slowly and it took me quite awhile to get back to my pre-Austin marathon “shape”.  In the weeks after Ragnar I posted consecutive run weeks of:

0 Miles

1.66 Miles

1.18 Miles

2.00 Miles

6.25 Miles

By then I was back to square one and gradually increased my mileage from 20 to 25 to 30 to 35 on up to  40 miles before starting my training for New York.

Health permitting that will not be the case this go round.  After running just 13.75 miles last week in the days after New York to get the legs moving a bit and get blood flowing back into the damaged muscles we’ll be back to a more “normal” schedule this week of 39 miles with a long run of 10 miles this Sunday.

I won’t run very hard this week, just relaxed pace to get some mileage back under foot, then increase to 45 miles next week, 48 miles the following week and then a 50 mile week December 5-11.

When we kick off our training for Boston we will already be up to a long run of 18 miles on Sunday and on 7 occasions this training cycle we will cover between 20 and 22 miles.  We will not be doing a lot of short racing this cycle, instead focusing on longer events with three half-marathons on the schedule leading up to Boston.

January 29th – 3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX

February 19th – Livestrong Austin Half-Marathon, Austin, TX

March 18th – Shamrock Half-Marathon, VA Beach

The hope will be to peak with a sub 1:25:00 half-marathon in VA Beach one month prior to Boston which should put us in the 3 hour conversation once again at the Boston Marathon.

I will be racing the Capital of TX 10K three weeks before the Boston Marathon to cap off our final tough workout of the training cycle and we’ll be racing another ultra-marathon event the first week of January with our “Where’s the Damn Van?” team from Miami Beach to Key West, FL as our “fun” events during this period.

I have decided to forego racing on Thanksgiving this year at the Turkey Trot as I need a little bit more time to recover fully from New York.

One race that I have decided to run in the month of December will be for a special charity – the Lights of Love 5K/Kids K which benefits the local Ronald McDonald House – I will be profiling that race on the blog this week as well as telling you about Landry’s Special friend Caleb who we will be running for as part of “Caleb’s Army”.

This will be Landry’s first race and we’ll be shooting for an Age Group award for her.  They have those things for 14 month old’s right?

So come back tomorrow to check in on the race details – Landry got some practice with Carbo-Loading in New York last week – we’ll make sure she is ready to go on race day in a few weeks.

Landry at NYCM Pre-Race Dinner

 

Sunday morning, 3M Half Marathon – it was the race before “the race”.

Race number 4 in the Austin Distance Challenge.  When it was over, all that would remain would be the Austin Marathon on February 20th, now just three short weeks away.

All week leading up to 3M I found myself constantly taking stock of how my body felt coming back from last weekend’s bout with the stomach flu.  It seemed that with each passing day I was feeling better and better.  More and more like myself.

I had been eating, strength training and hydrating like crazy, trying to get back to my race weight of 138 lbs.

Sunday morning, 136.5.

Still not where I needed to be, but I was feeling strong during my quick 2 mile shake-out on Saturday, so I tried not to let it bother me.  Obviously I still wasn’t “all the way back” from the flu.  But maybe, just maybe I was close enough to really run my race on Sunday.

I knew that I could run strong for 8-10 miles.  I just wasn’t sure how much I would have left in the tank for the final 5 kilometers.  But that is why we race.  If every runner “knew” what their time would be coming through the finisher’s chute, I don’t think very many of us would bother to show up and toe the line.  That is part of the beauty of our sport. 

The unknown.

After a low-key night at home with Dawn and Landry watching SECRETARIAT, (not a bad inspirational movie to watch on the eve of a race), I set the alarm for 4:25 a.m. and tried to get some sleep.

As is usually the case the night before a race, I couldn’t relax.  Couldn’t stop thinking about mile splits, hills, water stops and course management.  I dozed off around Midnight and accepted the 4 ½ hours of sleep as a gift.

After a breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana, chased by a grape Gatorade, I got dressed in my race gear and left for the start.  The 3M Half-Marathon is the second largest stand alone half-marathon in Texas.  It is a point to point course, so I would be leaving my truck at the start and hooking up with Dawn and Landry at the finish line.  It was just a matter of how long it would take me.

Pre-Race:   The temperature at the gun was announced at 73 degrees.  The rain that was in the forecast never really fell, but the humidity was well over 90% as the runners stood listening to the National Anthem.

Dressed in just shorts and a singlet, I did not do my usual warm-up of ½ mile to shake loose.  I felt very limber and light on my feet.  I just did a quick group of strides, more or less ¼ miles worth and ducked back into my spot in the starting corral.

I chatted with a young man named Brian who was on the cross-country team at the University of Texas when he was in college.  A 2:55 marathoner, Brian was going to be running out ahead of me.  I wondered if we would see each other at the finish.

Miles 1-4:  As I was standing in the starting area I clicked on my iPod and got ready to rock.  I was amazingly calm Sunday morning which surprised me.  After stressing about my fitness and strategy for the race all week long I felt like I was ready.  No sense over-thinking it.  I would lock into a “comfortably hard pace” and hold it as long as I could. 

At the gun I started out quickly looking for open road to start the legs churning.  3M which is a “fast course” with a lot of downhill sections actually starts with climbs over the first two miles.  Due to its reputation as a “fast half-marathon”, I believe a lot of runners get too aggressive early both where they line up and over the opening miles.

It requires a lot of “dodging traffic” over the first mile which can be frustrating.  I just hung to the left and tried to stay even and smooth.

I could tell that my legs showed up and the opening climb up 56 feet felt like I was racing on flat ground.  My Brooks ST4 Racers felt light on my feet and I went with what I knew was a pace much faster than I had planned.  It “felt right” however, so I didn’t discourage myself from the pace.

My first four miles sped by at:  6:16, 6:20, 6:22, and 6:18.

So much for going out with an opening 6 miles in 39:10.  I was feeling it however, shame on me to back down with Dom’s initials on my shoes.  That’s not really what any of this is about.

Miles 5-8:  Mile five was another mile that was more or less fair, slightly downhill, but mile 6 would be the first chance for me to really let my momentum carry me along downhill.  This stretch bottoms out just over Loop 1 or the MOPAC Expressway and leads to the exchange area for the relay portion of the half-marathon.

My friend Nina who I will be racing with at Ragnar Del Sol on team, “Where’s the Damn Van?!” in a month would be waiting for her relay partner at the exchange.  I was hoping to get a chance to see a smiling face and say hello as I was running by.

True to form I saw Nina on the right side of the course and said a quick hello.  The course was flattening out now and we would be doing some climbing shortly.  I told myself to dial back a bit and just lock in to even effort.  Something around 6:30 if I could hold it.  It was far too early to go all-in at this point.

Miles seven and eight felt tough but consistent.  At this point I started to think that I was going to get away with starting out a little bit to fast on the top half of the course.

Splits for miles 5-8 were:  6:10, 6:21, 6:33, and 6:31.

Miles 9-11:  I had finally seemed to find my rhythm and lock in on pace.  I told myself that this was the part of the course, climbing up onto North Loop where the last of the hills would be found.  I just needed to stay in rhythm and keep it together.

It was at this point of the race when runners started to come back to me for the first time.  I wasn’t going any faster than I had been.  But others were starting to feel the hills.  This seemed to energize me. 

I actually thought for a moment during mile 10 how much did I want it today?  A strange thought to have during a race, but I suspect a lot runners think that way at some point.  More than would care to admit it anyway.

I mumbled to myself that I did want to race today.  Hang tough.  Mile 11 will be here before you know it.

Splits for miles 9-11 were:  6:33, 6:35, and 6:31.

Time to go to work.

Miles 12-Finish:  As only a runner can I began to do the math.  I had a legitimate shot at breaking through the 1:24:00 barrier if I could ramp up my pace over the final two miles.  I would need to run something in the :20’s and then something in the teens if I was going to get there I thought.

If we didn’t quite make it we would certainly beat our goal time of 1:25:08 with some panache.

I started to push harder, but not all the way at this point.  There would still be the flattening of the course at the University of Texas football stadium, the climb up the last hill and then the final 1/10 of a mile sprint to the finish.

I had to dial-up the pace, but I needed to leave a little in the tank for my kick.  It was going to be awfully close.  All of a sudden I noticed the back of a runner’s shirt with a Longhorn logo across his shoulders.

Brian.  I gave him a slight nod as I powered past.  His shoulders had fallen and he was struggling to keep it together.  I would be lying if I said that passing him did not buoy my spirits.  I felt my pace quicken.

Mile 12 came in at 6:24 pace and I once again reeled in a handful of runners who had been racing out in front of me for more than 1 hour and 15 minutes.

One mile to go.

I can do anything for one mile.

Honestly this part of the race is a little bit of a blur to me.  I remember hearing a lot of shouts as we approached the final 400 meters.  I started my kick with 2/10 of a mile to go and as I approached the chute I could make out the clock:

1:23:49, 1:23:50, 1:23:51

A final burst and I hit the timing mat at 1:23:55.

The final mile came in at 6:16 pace.  The final 1/10 of a mile in :38 seconds or 5:17 pace.

6:24 pace for the race overall.  Two seconds faster than the 10K pace we were shooting for earlier in the year in October to break through the 40:00 minute 10K mark at the IBM Uptown Classic.

Out of the more than 4,500 half-marathoners on Sunday we came through the chute in 91st place, owner of a new half-marathon PR by 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet.  Does it mean that we are now entering the taper for Austin ready to run a best-ever marathon?  I think it does.

Does it mean that we have a legitimate chance of raising our sights even higher and chasing that mystical sub 3 hour marathon in three weeks?  I’m not so sure.

I can take one thing away from Sunday for certain and that is the fact that our stomach might still not be 100% recovered, but there is nothing wrong with our heart. 

We out-hearted quite a few fine runners on Sunday.

Dom, I miss you more than ever.  Man, you should have seen that last mile today my brother.  You would have loved it.

Joe (on right) Fist Raised

Phew.

I have to tell you that the thought of racing the 3M Half-Marathon this Sunday made me extremely uncomfortable all week long.

Last weekend’s stomach flu really knocked me for a loop.  I spent all of Sunday and Monday in bed this week.  I tried my best to eat a little something here and there, but just the thought of food made my stomach churn. 

My food intake on Sunday consisted of 6 saltine crackers and 4 life savers.  At dinner on Monday I was able to fight down some broth and noodles, but the damage had already been done.

I lost between 5 and 6 lbs. in 36 hours.  Not good leading up to a road race.

Tuesday I was able to get out and run my scheduled 8-miler.

Wednesday I felt a bit better and ran 10 kilometers in 42:22 or 6:50 pace.  A workout that I had really “nailed” the Wednesday before the Decker Half Marathon back in December. 

As of Friday morning, two days before race day I have gained all but one of those pounds back and about 90% of my confidence.   I don’t think I am really going to relax until I fall into my comfortably hard pace on Sunday morning around 6:35/mile and start ticking off a few splits. 

A race that just over a week ago I was really looking to go out and crushing, I am now quite a bit nervous about.

That is probably a good thing however as when I made my traditional “drive of the course” to mentally download the ups, downs, twists and turns of the route, I was reminded that the course while forgiving has it’s tricky patches as well.

3M Bib for Sunday's Race

Time for the traditional pre-race course preview:

Miles 1-2:  The course starts with a climb of 90 feet spread over the opening two miles as runners travel up Stonelake Boulevard, make the left hand turn on to Braker Lane and approach the frontage road of Highway 183.  I thought a lot about this opening stretch since driving the course and I think this will really help me find my rythym and stay “honest”.  Not just charging out there like a maniac and pushing pace far too quick too soon.

I would like to tick off two 6:35’s over the opening two miles and I will be right where I want to be at the two-mile mark sitting at 13:10 on the clock.  If that pace seems too rich for me at that point, I will know that my illness last weekend has taken more out of me than I had hoped.

Miles 3-5:  Miles 3,4 and 5 feature a few rolling ups and downs.  There is a climb along the frontage of highway 183, and another making the turn up onto Mesa to Spicewood springs.  There are five turns on the course to this point on a 1/2 marathon course that only features 13 turns total.  This is the point in the race where I will be looking to lock into my pace and click off consistent mile splits right around 6:30 pace.

3M Half Marathon Course Elevation

If I am able to hit mile five with 32:10-32:20 on the clock we will have the course right where we want it.

Miles 6-9:  At the start of mile 6 the course starts to tilt in the runner’s favor in a big way.  Elevation will drop from 880 feet above sea level to 700 feet at the mile 6 mark.  A slight incline heading up into miles 7 and 8 will make runners feel like they are running “uphill”, when in fact the course only rises about 25 feet.

It is the flattening of the course after the serious downhill section that is more or less an “illusion” at this point.  It is welcomed however as it gives runners a chance to rest those calves and quadricept muscles which were working so hard on the downhill.

Split goals for this part of the course?  Something around 6:20 for mile 6 and 7, 6:35 for miles 8 and 9 would leave us at the 58:10 mark entering mile number 10.  Aggressive goals for sure to this point, but if the legs show up on Sunday, I think we have a shot.

Miles 10-12:  A hill rises in front of the runners at the 9.5 mile mark on the course.  It is somewhat steep and lasts approximately 3/10 of a mile.  Similar to one of my Thursday hill repeats, it will be important to focus on form and not let the hill sap too much energy. 

Mile 10 is going to be an important mile to try to stay tall and smooth.  The race won’t be “won” here, but it certainly can be “lost” if I don’t stay smart and hold back a bit for the closing push.  I’ll let myself slow a bit here and turn in a 6:40 to gather some strength for the end of the race.

With only 5 Kilometers to go it will be tempting to “push”, but not yet.  Not quite yet.

I need to remember to be patient.

There is one final crest at the 10.30 to 10.40 mile mark depending on how economically I’ve taken the corners and managed the course.  It also lasts about 3/10 of a mile, but is a bit smaller than the previous climb.  As we approach mile 11 any climbing with the exception of a small hill over the closing 1/2 mile is done. 

Now it’s time.  Time to go to work.

Goals for this point in the race would be an 11th mile at 6:25 and a 12th mile at 6:30.  Will I be able to hold on to my pace at this point?  I guess that’s what we will find out on Sunday. 

The Finish:  Mile 13 starts with another significant downhill stretch it bottoms out at the mid way point and throws the final climb at the runners with just 6/10 of a mile to go.  If we reach this point with anything left in the tank the final 400 meters should be pretty quick, pace dropping close to 6:10 I am hoping.  Let’s call the final mile at 6:18 and the last 1/10 at :45 seconds.

Goal time for the race:  1:25:08.

That time scares me a bit as it would be a  1 minute and 40 second PR at the half-marathon distance.  But after driving the course it is a time that I think is on the edge of what we are capable of.  A stretch goal?  Yep.  But with Austin just 3 weeks away, it’s time to cowboy up” and find out what kind of race we are capable of running for Dom.

Weather right now is calling for 49 degree temperatures and a 6 mph wind that would be blowing at the runners for most of the race on Sunday morning out of the South/Southwest.

Not perfect for a fast race, I would prefer the temperature to be closer to 45 degrees and the wind to be blowing behind the runners from the North, but it shouldn’t be anything like the conditions we dealt with at the Decker Half Marathon back in December.

If we have a shot at going sub 1:25:00 on Sunday we’re going to go for it.

No shame in failing, just in failing to try.

The most recent update to the Austin Distance Challenge was posted this week.

The distance challenge is the 5-race series that I have been competing in that will culminate with the Austin Marathon on February 20, 2011.

The further I progress in the race series, the more I am starting to appreciate how helpful it has been in preparing me for Austin. For first time Marathoners, this series is tremendous. I would strongly recommend it to any local runner of any ability level wanting to run Austin.

The race distances are challenging with a 10K in October, a hilly 10-Miler in November, a hilly half-marathon in December, another half marathon at the end of January featuring a fast downhill course and of course the Austin Marathon on February 20th.

Each race and distance poses a different challenge for the participants. The IBM Uptown Classic is a first-class 10 Kilometer race on a speedy course. There are some hills thrown in over the last half of the race to test the runners, where learning about pacing and racing is important to run a good time.

The Run for the Water 10-mile race was one of the more difficult race courses I have ever run. Climb after climb the runners test their strength and climbing skills while still “racing” over the 10-mile distance. Longer than a 10K to really let it all hang out, but shorter than the half-marathon, where runners could really put the hammer down to test their fitness level. I loved this race.

Race number three was the Decker Challenge Half-Marathon on December 12th. In its 32nd running, this race was absolutely as advertised – as one of the most difficult half-marathon courses in Texas. Hilly, windy, cold – Decker had a little bit of everything and really prepared runners for what the middle miles of the Austin Marathon will be like.

All throughout the series for runners who are new to racing, the Distance Challenge provides valuable lessons are to be learned.

What a large “race day” experience is like. How to handle water stops. How to dress appropriately for the weather on race day. What it feels like to run at 10K pace, half-marathon pace. Even what it feels like to struggle over the final miles of a hilly course. All great practice for the Austin Marathon in February.

All participants in the Austin Distance Challenge are required to register for, race in and complete all five events. If you miss one event, you are out of the challenge. Again, a great lesson in stick-to-it-ive-ness and perseverance. Every runner who completes all five events receives an Austin Distance Challenge Jacket and are eligible for overall as well as age-group awards, similar to what you would find at a single running event or race day.

After three races I feel pretty good about where we are right now. Seventh Place overall in the Male Standings, 2nd in the Male 40-44 Age Group.

Overall Standings after Race 3 of 5

As much as I would like to place in the top 10 at the end of the challenge or even take home an age group award, I am much more excited about “how I have raced” than the results from those races.

At IBM we were able to chase down a goal set during the hot Austin summer of running a sub 40:00 minute 10K time earning my spot in the elite amateur corral at this Spring’s Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC.

At Run for the water, I was able to really test myself in the hills of West Austin and start believing that I was in fact ready for Decker.

At the Decker Half-Marathon I again surpassed my expectations by running a sub 1:27:00 half-marathon on a tough, tough course. That effort earned me a guaranteed spot in the 2011 New York City Marathon which I will be able to run with my good friends Winston and Bob in November. That will also by Landry’s first ever trip to NYC, and an opportunity for my then 15 month old daughter to see a real-live Broadway show.

Next up on January 30th will be the 3M Half-Marathon my final run before entering the 3-week taper period leading up to race day. 3M is a course where a smokin’ fast time is very possible if I am able to stay healthy over the next month. Something sub 1:25:00 is certainly “possible” given the right conditions and a little bit of race day magic.

Male 40-44 Age Group Standings

We’re going to keep pushing to see if we can hold on to that number two spot in the rankings above, but I’m sure Michael Andre’ Ford is looking at the same standings I am looking to chase me down. As for Brendon Cohoon, a 2:59:00 runner at last year’s Austin Marathon, congratulations Sir!

You are simply crushing out there right now, I look forward to raising a glass to you at the post race Austin Distance Challenge party. Just some tremendous running you are doing out there – you give this aging Marathoner something to shoot for down the road.

Sunday’s 14-mile long run at 7:08 pace wrapped up a great third week of training for Austin and took us one step closer to race day on February 20, 2011.  Monday’s training called for 16 miles on the tri-bike in the morning, followed by strength training in the afternoon.

This is the part of marathon training that seems to drag for me just a bit.  Still four weeks away from the first “real” long run of 17 miles on December 5th, I find myself looking ahead at this point toward what is coming next instead of looking behind me at all of the great training that is already in the books.

As much as my training schedule looks familiar stuck to the refrigerator door when compared to past training cycles, there are quite a few differences this go round.  There are more tempo runs sprinkled throughout the calendar when my legs are fresh and I am not in need of a recovery run.  Hill Repeats are featured on Thursdays in seven of the next fifteen weeks, replaced by pace runs on weeks where we are running 20 or 21 miles on Sunday as well as the final three weeks of the taper period.

But the real difference is the three race days that are on the schedule:

Thursday – November 25:  Hopewell, PA Turkey Trot 5K

Sunday – December 12:  Decker Challenge Half-Marathon

Sunday – January 30:  3M Half Marathon

The Thanksgiving Day 5K race in Hopewell, PA is the inaugural running of the event.  The race will start and end on the very football field where one Dominic V. D’Eramo, jr. did battle for the Hopewell Vikings.

Dom #13 Bottom Left

This was a race that will be pretty special for a lot of reasons on Thanksgiving morning.  Even though I will have to run home from the race back to my Mother and Father-in-Laws house, and probably throw in an extra couple of miles along the way to reach my 10-miles for the day, it will be well worth it.

For those of you in the Pittsburgh Area, I will be writing a feature about the race in a week or so with all of the registration details.  The race will benefit the Humane Society, so if you are looking to race, walk or simply meet-up with the Run for Dom crowd, we’ll be back together at the event for the first time since the Pittsburgh Marathon in May.

The remaining two races on the schedule are the next two events in the Austin Distance Challenge.

The Distance Challenge is something that I decided to participate basically “last minute”, but I am getting happier and happier about my decision as the weeks move on.  Racing is something that is going to help me really zero in on my pace for the Austin Marathon. 

The two half-marathons that remain are very, very different.  The Decker Challenge, one of the oldest races in Austin, features a traditionally very windy and extremely hilly up and down course around Decker Lake.  The 3M half-marathon is known as one of the fastest half-marathons in Texas due to its downhill course starting in North Austin and finishing a point to point route just past the University of Texas.

By the time those two races are in the books, I will have completed my three 20+ mile training runs and started my marathon taper.  I should be able to look back on the Distance Challenge and our performance at the 10K, 10-Mile, Half-Marathon (2) races and zero in on exactly the pace and race we are capable of for the Austin Marathon, barring any adjustments for health and weather.

As of the second update to the Austin Distance Challenge Standings we are currently in 10th place overall among all male runners:

As for the competitive 40-44 Male Age Group we are firmly in third place.  Still chasing a couple of runners ahead of us and fending off a challenge from the fourth place runner:

Male 40-44 Top 5

As much as I would like to run within the top 3 in the 40-44 age group and win a series award, the prize is truly Austin on February 20th.  We have set two consecutive PR’s running in the Distance Challenge, and the way things are shaping up, we might very well set two more at Decker and 3M.

As great as achieving those times would be, it really is all about Austin and earning another shot at the Boston Marathon in 2012. 

Stay tuned, it is going to be one heckuva run over the next 15 weeks.

Peer pressure is a funny thing.  I remember back in High School it revolved mostly around girls, beer, girls, cars, girls, smoking, girls and well, girls.

Now 43 years old, a beautiful wife and baby daughter at home, you would think that I would be more or less “immune” to the trappings of peer pressure.  But alas, I guess I am not as strong as one would think.

On Thursday I registered for the Austin Distance Challenge.

The Austin Distance Challenge is a one of a kind series of races here in the Austin area that are put on by local businesses, non-profits and supporting charities.  To participate runners are required to compete in and complete all five races in the series, wrapping things up with the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 20, 2011.

The five races that make up the series are the:

IBM Uptown Classic 10K 10/17/10

Run for the Water 10-Miler 10/31/10

Decker Challenge Half Marathon – 12/12/10

3M Half Marathon – 1/30/11

Livestrong Austin Marathon – 2/20/11

Truth be told I had the first and last events of the series on my race calendar already.  It was a matter of whether or not I could work the 10-Mile Run for the Water race as well as two winter half-marathons into my training schedule for the Austin Marathon.

IBM Uptown Classic

I was vacillating back and forth, thinking about all of the pros and cons until I saw my friend Mick in the starting area prior to IBM.  During our conversation Mick got me excited about the prospect of running my first distance challenge. 

As my future marathon plans become more and more murky as I contemplate a return to Boston and several other races I would “love to run” in the coming years – this may in fact be my one and only Austin Marathon.

It seemed like a now or never proposition, but I still wasn’t sure.

After IBM I traded a few messages with my friend Andy, the same Andy who I came upon in the late stages at IBM, and he asked if I would be “Running for the Water” this coming Sunday.  He offered to meet me for a run over the extremely challenging course this Sunday as a “training run”, but I had to beg off as we will be christening our baby daughter Landry this weekend with Uncle Keith and Aunt Kim coming in to serve as Godparents.

Andy shared the course with me and how it will serve as a great training run for Austin in February.  Huge elevation changes over the middle portion of the 10-miler, as well as a killer ascent up over 150 feet in less than a half-mile at mile 6. 

The back side of the course is downhill returning along Town Lake to the 1st street bridge.  What a great test for a great cause I thought …. You know what …. I’m in.

So with very little fanfare and a few clicks of the mouse I was registered for the ADC.

I found out that at each of the races in the series I will gain a little “VIP” treatment in the form of tents and refreshments and even a special post-race party after the Austin Marathon at one of our local restaurants.

The race series results are tabulated after the Austin Marathon; there are overall winners of the series as well as age-group award recipients.  I’m not sure if we have what it takes to compete at the Age Group level, but we will receive one of the Austin Distance Challenge Jackets for our trouble – which is definitely a nice touch.

So thanks to Mick, Andy, Shelly and a few other runners here in the Austin Community – I’m in.

Next up, The Run for the Water 10-Miler on Halloween Morning.  It will be my first ever 10-mile race, and yes, I’ll have to run an additional 4 mile workout afterwards to hit my Austin Marathon Training Mileage for the day, but I can’t wait. 

This won’t be a “goal race” for me obviously as I won’t be able to truly taper and recover properly given my marathon training to “Go Big or Go Home”, but I do expect to run well and enjoy the event. 

I am going to try to gain a little something from each of these races, and for this coming Sunday it will be to stay with my race strategy and pace even though I know I am “capable” of running faster.  That will be a very valuable lesson for the early stages of the Austin Marathon when I want to attack the course and chase down a new PR.

That is foolish in the early stages of a marathon.  No matter how foolish that may be, it is also a trap that many an experienced marathoner falls victim to on race day. 

The next 17 weeks will have a lot of smaller “steps” that lead to the starting line.  The first 20 miler, my 21 mile longest of long runs, recovery weeks, hill repeats and tempo runs.  All geared toward showing up on February 20, 2011 ready to run the race of our life.

The journey has begun, we’ll just be taking a slightly different path to get there.  Thanks guys for the motivation (peer pressure), to take on the Austin Distance Challenge.

By all accounts Dom personified the adage it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog …. I think he would be proud of me to be participating in this series of races. 

I’ll do my best not to let him down.