Posts Tagged ‘Pace and Racing’

I woke up on Sunday morning to the sound of my alarm clock at 5:00 a.m.

I had been traveling since last Monday in a pretty action packed week.  6 flights in 6 days, work meetings, family Thanksgiving Dinner, a 5k race and my 25th High School Reunion on Friday night.  That is a whole lot of “action” packed into less than one week.

As I shuffled into the bathroom to get geared up for my Sunday long run I glanced at the thermometer in the window.  42 degrees.  Just about perfect weather for running if you ask me.  I had a 16 mile long run on the schedule, which would wrap up a pretty heavy week of training.

16 miles on the tri-bike on Monday.

8 miles on the Three Rivers Trail in Pittsburgh Tuesday.

10 miles on the Montour Trail on Wednesday.

The Hopewell Turkey Trot 5K on Thursday.

11.5 miles on the treadmill before my reunion on Friday.

(more on my reunion later this week!)

I had the feeling that I would be “tacking one on” as I had been doing for each of my Sunday long runs the last few weeks.  Careful to not increase my weekly mileage vs. the previous week too quickly, I have been smart about my ramp up this training cycle and my legs were feeling fresh.  17 miles felt about right as I was lacing up my shoes, and I had just the route in mind.

I would combine my 12 mile “hill route” with my 5 mile “Boston Course” that features some climbing but also some downhill running.  A perfect way to wrap up the week at 49.6 running miles.  My highest weekly mileage since ramping up for Pittsburgh in 2009, as last years Run for Dom “Double” came on the heels of a training injury. 

I was only able to run four days per week instead of the usual five.  I paid the price for that reduction in training miles when I reached the Newton Hills at the Boston Marathon.

Never again.

This was going to be a “no-look” long run, where I only listen for the beeps on my watch so I know when I reach specific distance points.   This allows me to know when to drink and when to take my Clif Shot Bloks for nutrition, but not fixating on every mile split.

Long runs to me are practice runs for the marathon.  I rehearse everything about race day, when I get this close to the marathon, I mimic my race-day hydration and nutrition plan exactly.

Locking it in I like to call it.

Water on miles 2, 4, 8, 10, 14, 16

Gatorade on miles 6, 12, 18, 20

Three Clif Shot Bloks (300 calories) at 5, 10, 15, 20

I’ve found that will get me through my 20 and 21 mile training runs feeling hydrated and with enough energy.  Come race day I will tack on water and nutrition “as needed” as it is tough to predict exactly how you will feel and what your body will need when you switch from your Glycogen stores over to burning fat. 

In Pittsburgh in 2009, I found I needed only water until the end of the race.

In Boston in 2010, I needed just about everything I could get my hands on to make my way past Fenway Park and onto the Boyleston Street finish line.

As I stretched against the garage waiting for my GPS watch to realize I was back home in Austin I caught myself yawning.  Never happens.

By the time I am outside I am normally wide awake.  The less than 4 hours of sleep I got on Friday night was catching up with me.  I thought it wise to shake loose slowly on Sunday.  I would have plenty of time to make up for a sluggish start.

I headed uphill away from the house towards Avery Ranch Road and would be making my way six miles out past HWY 183.   A lot of climbing over those six miles.  At my turnaround it would be time to take a shot of Gatorade and start making my way back to the house. 

This will be the start to all of my Sunday long runs throughout this training cycle, letting me get in a decent amount of hill work and drop one of my empty water bottles at the house on the way past at mile 12.

I will then add 5,6,7,8 or 9 miles to the run from there, stretching me out to my longest of long runs at 21 miles for this training cycle.

I managed the first two miles at a nice, smooth and easy pace – 7:32 and 7:35.  When I took my first sip of water at the start of mile 3, I gradually started to churn the legs a bit faster and ramped up the pace.  By the time I reached the first big climb  over mile 4 I was really feeling great.

Before I knew it I was back on Avery Ranch Road headed south into a slight breeze.  Free and easy, legs churning back toward home.

12 miles, a little under 1 hour 25 minutes and I had not crossed paths with a single runner.  It really was a solo mission on Sunday which gave me a lot of time to think about Austin.  I’ve been struggling a bit to “find my pace” for this particular marathon.  These Sunday long runs will play a big roll in me “locking it in” a few weeks before race day.

Prior to Pittsburgh in 2009, my goal pace was easy.  To qualify for the Boston Marathon I would need to break 3:20:00.  7:38 min./mile pace.

Neat, clean, simple.

This time around I know I am capable of much more.  Qualifying for Boston remains my “A Goal”, the goal by which if everything fails to come together I will either claim victory or defeat at the hands of Lady Marathon. 

My “B Goal” is also pretty straight forward.  PR at Austin.

That means bettering my 3:17:43 from Pittsburgh, 7:31 min./mile pace.

My “C Goal”?  That is the one that is up for debate right now.  I believe that every marathoner no matter their ability should show up to race day with several goals.   They can be as simple as, “Just Finish”, “Don’t Walk” or “Have Fun”.

But to only show up with one goal, specifically one time goal risks disappointment.  The marathon is a tricky, tricky race.  It exposes the smallest of weaknesses over its 26.2 miles.  A small training injury, illness, poor weather and your time goal can fall by the wayside very quickly.

To not have a series of goals for race day that will allow you to “claim victory” even if you miss your “C” goal or “stretch goal” by a handful of seconds or minutes is important in my eyes.  Afterall, running a marathon is a tremendous achievement in and of itself.  Less than 1% of all those on earth will ever even attempt it. 

I think that accomplishment should be celebrated without question.

I decided over the final 6 or 7 miles I would run free and easy and let my body tell me, and most importantly show me, what I am capable of on tired legs.

The miles frankly came very easy on Sunday.  As I was running my final mile, I knew that I had put together a tremendous run.  Having not looked at my watch for more than thirty minutes – I had no idea what my time would be.  I only knew that I easily had another 5 miles or so in me at that effort, which would put me at close to 22 miles.  From that point the marathon turns into a guts race.  Something we are more than ready for.

As I hit the driveway I glanced down and needed just another 1/10 of a mile to reach my target of 17 miles for the morning.  Tacking one on so to speak.

Final time – 2:01:11

7:08 min./mile pace – the fastest 17 miles I had ever run.

Individual mile splites for the run were: 

7:32, 7:35, 7:13, 7:11, 7:07, 7:15, 7:14, 7:09, 7:02, 7:05, 7:01, 6:58, 7:04, 6:54, 6:57, 7:00, 6:45.

A 7:08 Marathon would put us finishing Austin with a time of 3:07:01.  A monster PR of more than 10 minutes.  I have some friends, close friends, tremendous runners who know a thing about the marathon. 

They are encouraging me to dig deep this training cycle and bring my best to every training run and strength training session.

They know that I am running this marathon for me, but also in memory of Dom.

 They want me to push the limits to achieve all that I can on February 20th as do I.  Frankly, they think I have more in me than the time above.  Me, I’m not so sure.

12 weeks to go until we toe the line on marathon morning.  By then, our training will be complete and we will “know” what we are capable of that day. 

Right now, I’m just trying to stay in the moment and let this training cycle take me where I am meant to go.

Mondays are typically cross-training days for me.  I am usually pretty beat-up from a couple of days of tough running over the weekend and I simply need to back off and rest the legs to get ready for another week of training.

This week was no different as I decided to throw the triathlon bike on the trainer for a quick 15.5 mile ride to get the legs a little work, but save them from the pounding of a recovery run.

I’ve learned a lot about running since training for my first marathon in 2006 and one of the irrefutable facts remains that for me, five days of running with two days off is my “optimum” schedule.  It allows me to work hard on improving and reaching my goals, but also provides me with the downtime these 43-year-old legs need to stay injury free.

Not pain-free mind you, but injury free.  Two very different things.

I have my share of bumps and bruises just like any distance runner or endurance athlete does.  Which is why last week’s “step back week” was much-needed to allow me to get my legs “back under me”.  We had really been pushing the intensity over the last month and I simply needed to dial-back a bit.

What was interesting to see was the fact that I actually ran more miles last week (46.05) than I did the week before (44.85).  However, I only ran 13 of those miles at a pace under 7:00 min./mile.  The week before that number was closer to 20. 

That is an important lesson as it is not only the quantity of miles that need to be monitored, but the quality or pace of those miles needs to be carefully measured as well.  Effort is something that as an aging marathoner I will need to really examine if I hope to continue to progress as a distance runner.

Late Sunday night I had started to think about finding a local 5K race for this coming weekend to use as a “tune-up” with IBM still 19 days away.  As I hopped off of the tri-bike this morning after 50 minutes, my legs felt remarkably fresh.  I felt “Racey”.  Let’s do it I thought.

No matter how much I try to push pace on my training runs, there is no substitution for a true “race” to get those juices flowing and force me to run “hard”.  For me to get into that sub 6:00 minute/mile pace, I simply have to have a number pinned to my chest and a timing chip on my person.  That’s just the way that it is.

So, I took a look at the local race calendar and found a 5K just north of our home for Saturday morning.  The Harvest Fest 5K in Georgetown TX.  The race will be run at 8:00 a.m. at St. Gabriel Park – an area I have never run before.

The course looks like a nice flat out and back, some of which will be on the trail system. 

I’m not going to worry too much about “going low” or posting a “PR” this weekend as it is all about getting ready both physically and mentally for IBM on the 17th.  I do however want to run well, something in the range of 18:15 to 18:25 which will serve as a good boost of confidence with two weeks to go in our quest for that sub 40:00 minute 10K time.

I might even be lucky enough to have Little Miss Landry and Dawn at the finish line this weekend, making the Harvest Fest 5K her first ever race. 

Come to think of it, maybe we do have a PR in us this Saturday.

7:37 pace.

Sounds pretty innocent – nothing too outrageous.

Back in May at the Congress Avenue Mile we posted a mile time of 5:24.  That’s pretty fast for a 42.9 year old like me.

A couple of weeks ago at the Holland, TX 5K we raced to a time of 19:28 at 6:15/mile pace.  Not too shabby.

This Thursday night we will be competing in the Honor our Heroes 10K Shadow run as we start our journey toward a sub 40:00 minute 10K time this October.  That will require me to get my 10 kilometer race time down to 6:26/mile.  Tough for sure, but again, very much within our reach if we train hard, prepare fully and race smart.

Saturday's Long Run

7:37 should be a piece of cake right?  My training miles over the winter months when the temperatures cool here in Austin usually hover around 7:05 to 7:10 minutes per mile.  It shouldn’t be to difficult to cruise along at 7:37 pace, right?

But 7:37 is more than just a mile split.  Run 26.2 of them and I will qualify for the Boston Marathon for the second time in my life.  So that is what we are going to be chasing at the Austin Marathon this February. 

After recovering from the two marathon in 13 day challenge that was Run for Dom, the focus of training has been on speedwork.  We have been diligent in incorporating one speed workout per week, one tempo run as well as racing 5 events over the last two months.

Racing has provided me with the little something “extra” to push pace and run those low 6:00 minute mile times.  No matter how motivated I am or how much I want to “push” a workout – I simply cannot recreate the “race environment” on my own.  I need to sights and sounds of race day to get those competitive juices flowing.

The plan from here is to continue to build toward the IBM Uptown Classic on Sunday, October 17th.  My goal will be to post a sub-40:00 minute 10K time at that event, which will earn us entry into the first starting corral behind the elite runners at the Cooper River Bridge Run this spring.

The CRBR is a huge 10K, one of the five largest in the country, with more than 40,000 participants.  Having lived in Charleston it is a race that I have had on my “bucket list” since I started running back in 2005. 

Whether we hit our time at the IBM or not, October 18th will be a big, big day as it marks the first day of marathon training for Austin.  18 weeks later we will toe the line at the start of a marathon one more time with the hope of achieving that 3:19:59 that will provide our return ticket to Boston.

They say that life does not offer second chances very often.  As I approach my 43rd birthday in 19 days and the birth of our first child in 7 weeks +/-, I have to say that I have come to realize just how true that statement is.

It turns out “they” do know some things afterall.  But for me, getting back to Boston will be my second chance at the storied course from Hopkinton to Boston.  When I started chasing Boston the first time, my goal was to reach my qualifying time and to participate in one of the most prestigious footraces in the world.

What I have come to realize in the weeks since Boston and Pittsburgh is that as much as I enjoyed the experience of racing at Boston – there is a little part of me – deep down that seeks redemption.

Boston beat me on April 19th this year.  That is a fact.  Not having raced the course before I was at a serious disadvantage, no question.  I tried to learn as much as I could beforehand and train with great purpose.  But the fact of the matter is I was not fully prepared for the downhill start of the course like I needed to be.

I ran hills in preparing for Boston.  Tons of them actually.  But I focused much of my training on preparing for the climb up from Newton to Heartbreak Hill.  Running downhill really was not a focus of mine.  I ran some “downs” as part of my training – but I did not make it a priority.  Not like I will next time.

It was that downhill start to the race that taxed my quadriceps and calves to the point that they were unable to climb like I needed them to late in the race.  By mile 22 I did not have anything left.  A requalification time was not in the cards for me.

2010 Boston Marathon

I battled.  I hung in there.  I posted a 3:22:46 finishing time – nothing to be embarrassed by, especially with another marathon – a much more meaningful race for Dom in just 13 days.  But despite all of that, I feel exactly the same way I did when I finished my first Marathon in 2006.

I can do better.

That is the thing about Boston, I can’t just “sign up” and take another crack at the course this April.  Having not re-qualified with a time under 3:20:00 – I will have to “earn” my way back in again, just like everybody else.

Exactly the way it should be. 

So the plan from here until the IBM will be to focus on improving our speed , strength and leg-turnover.  By the time we start our marathon training for this year’s Austin Marathon the goal will be for me to be “faster” than I have ever been before.

My training focus will then shift to building the endurance and stamina during the 18-week marathon training schedule and be ready to rock that 7:37 pace and earn my trip back to Boston.  Last year the Boston Marathon sold out by November – meaning that we will have to wait until the 2012 race to take our next shot at the course.

That’s o.k., I have no problem being patient as second chances don’t come along very often in life.  But I will say this.  It will be 22 months at the earliest for me to get another crack at the Boston Marathon.  My yet to be born daughter will be walking and talking by then.  I will have had close to two years to think about that race and all the things I want to do differently making my way from Hopkinton to Boston.

This time it won’t be enough to simply “run the race”.  I’m looking forward to kicking 26.2 miles of Boston ass.

If I learned anything from Dom over the past year, it is this. 

Don’t bet against me.

Joe & Dom - Post Pittsburgh Marathon