Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Speed Anew

Back at it after the two winter marathons, taking it kind of slow and easy. I've stuck with the three day a week program for the time being. I continue to nurse a few nagging aches and pains - right ankle, left heel and left buttock/hamstring. I'm too stubborn or stupid to take the proper time off. For now the plan it to focus on a time goal at Missoula in July and to train through Illinois at the end of April. To some this might seem wrong, but for me right now its the right choice. After Missoula I fully expect to take a break, assuming I can hold thing together until then. Most of the winter I got my speed work in by taking extended lunch hours to be able to run in the sun and the daylight on a well marked bike path. Now that daylight savings time has blessed us with its presence I was able to move those workouts back to the end of the day. And as an added bonus I've decided to join a local group of folks, the Glendora Ridge Runners, at their Tuesday evening speed sessions on the track of Azusa Pacific University. The Ridge Runners are a speedy bunch. I'm always bringing up the rear of the elite group. They are gracious enough to wait for me before starting the next interval. When I was doing my own speed work based on the first plan I always agonized over the distance and pace, bringing notes along with me to be sure I didn't forget any of the details or the prescribed pace goals. Now that I'm running on Tuesdays with the Ridge Runners, I don't know what I'm in for when I get there, so I just run as fast as I can. Every week we are in for something different. Each week calls for a 2 mile warm up, the speed stuff and a 1 mile cool down. Exactly the protocol I was following anyway. Week 1 we ran 5 x 1K. I averaged 4:35 for each 1K. Last week we did 1 x 1 mile, 1 x 1200 and 4 x 400. This week we started off with a 2K that I thought was never going to end. I got lapped on my 3rd lap by the fastest guy, Joe and then lapped on the 4th lap by both Owen and Jose. At 9:34 it was finally over (7:41 pace). We followed that with 1 x 1K, 1 x 800 and 1 x 400. My times were 4:41, 3:44 and 1:42. I don't think I could have gone any faster on that last 400, I gave it pretty much all I had. It kind of sucks to always be the last one done, but I know that the challenge of keeping up should help improve my speed. My left heel and arch were shot by the end and are on ice now. I'm enjoying the new challenge so I hope my poor tired wheels will hold on for a couple of more months. I promise to take a break after that, really I do.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What's The Plan, Man?

After taking the last from running, I finally hit the road again this morning. I opted for the lonely and lazy way out and ran by myself at the San Gabriel River Trail around 9:30 this morning. Most of the CA Cruiser are running a half marathon in north San Diego County. It was a coolish, less than 60 degree, overcast morning. Which is in stark contrast to the wonderfully sunny, high 70 degree day we had yesterday. It must have been great bike riding weather, because there were more bikers on the trail than I remember seeing.

I ran 10 miles on a double out and back route on the bike way. The first 9 were at 9:20 pace; the last 1 was barefoot at 11:51. I got three comments this morning about running barefoot. I've been running my last mile barefoot since Christmas on the trail and this is the first anyone's ever commented.

The big debate at the moment is what training plan should I use. I've got the Illinois Marathon in 6 weeks and then the Missoula Marathon 10 weeks after that. I'm still chasing the sub 4:00, but don't know if either of these will be the one. Missoula probably offers the best shot for that.

For Austin a couple of weeks ago I used the three day a week approach of the FIRST system. I enjoyed the speed work and tempo runs midweek but the long runs never did come together. For me those are the best predictor of marathon performance and true to form Austin was slow.

The last time I was able to break the 4:00 barrier was at the Des Moines Marathon in October 2009. I was using Bart Yasso's training program from Runner's World and his book "My Life on the Run". A year later, still using Yasso's plan I ran a disappointing race at the Twin Cities marathon. Thinking I was over training and not recovering from the 5 day a week schedule I switched to FIRST. So far it hasn't lived up to its promise at least for me. I like the three day approach but I worry that the mileage just isn't enough. With Yasso's plan I topped out at 50 miles a week. On the FIRST plan I topped out at 30 miles or running combined with 2 days of cross training on the bike, elliptical or stairs at the gym.

What to do for these next two has been on my mind for the last week or so. Although I'm tempted to go back to Yasso, I think I'm going to give FIRST another shot. I'll train through Illinois, running with Joe at his pace, and then give it a go at Missoula. It would be fun to go sub 4:00 on the last day before I jump age groups.

There's never a shortage of things to ponder and obsess over as a runner. Let's just hope I can stay healthy through it all.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Little Rock Marathon

The numbers:
State #20 - 40% complete
Bib #1099 (not the tax form)
Temperature at race start: 37F
Temperature at race finish: 48F
Finishers: 1811
Final Time: 4:42:01

The end result - a completely enjoyable race experience.

What a difference two weeks can make. My time in Austin was only 9 minutes slower but boy did I beat myself up over that one. I approached Little Rock with a whole new attitude and perspective and a rejiggered set of expectations. I went into Little Rock with the goal of enjoying myself and finishing off state number 20 without any unhealthy mental and emotional gymnastics.

I flew in the day before the race just in time to pick up my bib, buy some Gatorade and to enjoy the pre-race Pasta Feed with fellow CA Cruisers - Margaret, Cyndee and John and John's wife. I'd talked to Margaret a couple of days before and asked her about running together, since we'd done a few long runs together recently. She agreed. The Pasta Feed was a nice event capturing the spirit of the Little Rock Marathon - An Event of Mythic Proportions.

Race morning dawned cold and breezy. I'd counted on slightly warmer weather but had packed for the weather. The one thing I'd forgotten were gloves. I picked up a pair for $2 at the expo and was glad to have them on race morning. I wore my Marathon Maniac singlet and arm sleeves, topped that with at long sleeve tech shirt and then a long sleeve cotton t-shirt. I wore the gloves and a cap just to help keep some warmth in by keeping my head warm. Dave Mari, Maniac #2465, organized a Marathon Maniac photo before the race. There were over 80 of us there. On the course you were never far from one.

Part of the plan of running with Margaret was to start off slow with the hope that I wouldn't die so dramatically at the end. I hit my watch at the mile markers, gave the time a quick glance and then moved on. Margaret and I seemed to be pretty evenly matched. She said that she was doing her best to keep up with me and I was doing my best to stay half a step behind so that I wouldn't pull her faster than she was comfortable with.

The first few miles were chilly. My face was cold and the gloves felt good. I took off the long sleeve cotton T at mile 2 and held onto to it for about a half mile. I finally tossed it, not wanting to carry it along with me the entire way like I did in Austin. I wasn't going to be needing in to mop up sweat at these temps and I didn't need the added stress on my shoulder from carrying the thing around. It was harder than it should have been for me to toss it, but I did it.

The course winds its way back and forth through and near downtown Little Rock and the adjacent North Little Rock for the first 12 miles and it seemed like we were getting no where. We were always within a mile or two of the starting line. The course was up and down and full of many right and left turns, but never overly crowded

Mile 13 to 16 contained the most challenging section of the course. We'd left the half marathoners behind so the crowd thinned considerably and the 3 mile climb up Boone and Kavanaugh made us all did deep to keep moving forward. The climb seemed to never end. Margaret and my pace slowed understandably. Margaret began to press me to go on without her, but I stuck to my plan to stay with her and enjoy the day. Margaret and I had used a one mile run/one minute walk break so far.

After mile 16 we were rewarded with a nice nearly 2 mile long down hill, through a pretty section of town with large homes up on the hill to our right and a forested area off to the left. The sun broke through for the first time during this section. Miles 18 to 23.5 were an out and back flat section. It was fun to see the others coming back already. Margaret and I were able to spot Cyndee coming back. She'd taken the early start two hours ahead of us.

At mile 20 Margaret asked for an additional walk break. She'd been struggling with her asthma from the start and had used her inhaler twice already. She needed to walk to get her heart rate under control. Again she urged me onward. I finally agreed to go after making sure that she was going to be OK and that I'd see her at the finish line. It was along here that I was warm enough to take off the long sleeve tech T and was finally recognized as a Marathon Maniac. Wearing one of those shirts sure gets you a lot of attention from the other runners and spectators alike.

I continued with my 1:1 schedule to the end of the race. My pace had slowed into the 11 and eventually the low 12 minute range but I was happy that it was there rather than in the 14's and 15' as there were in the end of Austin. In addition my feet, ankles and hips didn't hurt nearly as much. Maybe even better than that was the complete lack of negative thoughts from Austin.

I crossed the finish line to Bart Yasso calling out my name feeling happy and tired. Cyndee was already there to see the rest of come in. It was very cool for her to be the one waiting for us this time rather than knowing that we were all waiting for her. Margaret finished about 6 minutes behind me and then John came in 5 minutes later. We enjoyed the post race food and walked the mile or so back to the hotel together.

Later in the evening Cyndee, Margaret and I went over to Bid Bodacious Post-Race Party for some BBQ in the Clinton Library. It was quite the affair and included in the registration fee. The folks that run the Little Rock Marathon know what they are doing.

The course isn't easy, but it is well marked and well staffed. The citizens of Little Rock seem to embrace the event. The pre-race dinner and post-race party were well run as well. And of course the marathon medal is truly of "mythical proportions." It dwarfs the other 23 marathon medals hanging on my wall.

I've come to really like races of this size, less than 2000 marathon runners. They seem to really be able to cater to the runners without all the crowds and confusion that can sometimes accompany the big city races. If you are like me, you should put Little Rock on your schedule.