Monday, August 31, 2009

Windrunner 10K Race Report

Let's cut to the chase, here's the lowdown on yesterday's race. Whoa! Don King got a hold of my keyboard for a second.

It was a really cool morning, right around 60 out in the Western Suburbs. I got down to the course at abour 7:25 for the 8:00 race. I went and grabbed my bib and talked to my former boss (from a previous job) for a few minutes. His running club puts on this race every year. The race is really well run, the course is nice and they have the best post-race food I have ever had. Fresh fruit, bagels, pizza, and a restaurant also provides some finer foods like brie cheese, roasted duck, roasted chicken breast and some fresh salmon. It's really amazing.

So, I had some time after I went back to my car and pinned on the bib and changed into my shoes. Then I took down a nice vanilla Gu, did an easy warm up mile and was running by the start line area when I heard that the race was going to start 10 minutes late. No problem, I thought, it'd give me enough time to get another easy mile in. So I finished my second mile and headed over to the start line.

I was chatting with a couple guys at the start line as we were waiting for the race to start. The younger of the two was wearing some nice, tight, blue shorts and a running club singlet. Pretty serious stuff. The other guy was a bit older, but was a nice guy. As we were chatting, the younger mentioned that he blew up in the last six miles at Grandma's Marathon and ran a 3:0X. I suppose blow-ups are all relative. The other guy said he was trying to hit a 1:19 half the following weekend. I decided at that point to make sure I did not run with those two out of the gate. Just before the race started, I asked the younger guy if he was going to win this race. He replied, " Don't know, that guy (nodded to his left to some other guy) is pretty fast." The results are not officially posted yet so I don't know his time, but the younger guy did finish first overall.

With that, the horn sounded and we were off. The first and last 75-100 yards of the race are in grass. It was a very wet at the beginning, so I was trying to make sure I didn't lose my footing. After the grass ends, there's a sharp left turn. As we're coming out of the turn, a group of guys pull away. I am being very cognizant of not going out to fast. I look down at my Garmin and see 6:0Xs, so I back it down a touch. I wanted to hit a 6:25 first mile. This allows a decent group of guys to pass me. Before the passing stopped, I think I counted about 22 guys in front of me. As I get to the half mile mark, I see I hit it at 3:05. Whoa, slow down! So I am reigning it in at this point. I feel like I am holding myself back the rest of mile 1, running very easy and hit the 1st mile marker at 6:24. Nice. Right where I wanted to be.

Somewhere near the end of that mile, I started running in a group of two others. One was about 40 and the other was 12 or so. No lie. This little dude was motoring. I made a mental note to myself that I will not lose to him. I think this is probably the equivalent to losing to someone dressed as a superhero in the marathon. I ran with these two for all of mile two. Again, it felt nice and easy and my breathing was very under control. I have found that's the key for me in these shorter races. I hit the 2nd mile marker at 6:27. I was thinking I'd try to be in the 6:20-6:25 range for miles 2 and 3. There are definitely some turns and slightly narrower parts in this section of the race. There was a lot of single file running as guys were trying to run tangentially as much as possible. I was feeling good and my breathing was still very solid.

Somwhere during mile three, I picked off a couple runners from the pack and my little friend fell off the pace too. I felt I was holding this 6:25ish pace. As I hit the 3rd mile marker, my Garmin (manual lap) read 6:30. Hmmm. I wasn't disappointed, just wondering a little bit as I felt my effort level hadn't changed. Maybe it was turns and curves on the course. At that point, I decide it's time to pick up the pace a bit. Not a ton, but I need to start putting up some 6:20 miles here. I basically have a 5K left at this point, so I am feeling good.

So I start passing guys, without really using too much effort to go around them. I'd sneak inside when I could or just follow the natural flow of the course. I think I passed 5 or 6 guys in this mile and hit mile marker 4 with a 6:21.

Okay, that's more like it. Still feeling pretty strong, although I am focusing more on my breathing. The last thing I need at this point is a cramp or my breathing to get out of control and I fall off of my pace. There's a guy in front of me that is hugging the inside of every turn and I am breathing down his neck. He won't give me an inch. So after about a quarter mile of these shenanigans, I bite the bullet and pass him on the outside. Still focusing on my breathing as it's becoming slightly more labored. I made it a point not to look at my HR throughout the race. There's nothing I can do about it, so why even bother?

Somewhere around mile 4.5, the course turned and I was running into the wind. I was starting to feel it a little bit as I saw my Garmin go back up from the 6:1Xs to the 6:2Xs. I hunkered down and decided that there was only about 1.75 miles left, so any pain I was feeling was only temporary. I hit the 5 mile marker with a 6:11. Nice!

Just about a mile and a quarter to go and there's no one anywhere close behind me and a shirtless guy off in the distance in front of me. I decided to see what I have left in the tank and run it as hard as I can. As if I would have considered anything else. My breathing is becoming very labored by the 5.75 mark. I hit the 6th mile marker with an even 6:00 on my watch. Awesome.

Just .2 to go and I have made up considerable ground on the shirtless guy. As we make the final turn into the grass, I am giving it all I have. So is this guy, so I never do catch him. I think I finished a second or two behind him. I ran the final .21 (Garmin measured) in 1:11 (a 5:36ish pace) and hit the finish line with a 39:07!

What a great feeling. I remembering struggling my way to the finish line last year in a 43:54. Yep. That's not a typo. I beat my time on this course from last year by 4:47. And beat my November PR of 41:48 by 2:41. I am pretty sure my days of 10K 2 minute PRs are over now, but it was fun while it lasted. I finished 2nd in my age group and received a nice fancy medal for my efforts. I am not sure where I finished overall and I did lose track of how many guys I passed. I am guessing somewhere in the 10-15 range. I think I may have left a few seconds (10-15?) on the course in miles 2 and 3. Not positive though. No regrets here at all.

I also learned my max Heart Rate is 200, not 195. I hit that in the last .2. Here are the splits and AHR for the race:
1-6:24 (176)
2-6:27 (182)
3-6:30 (184)
4-6:21 (187)
5-6:11 (189)
6- 6:00 (194)
.2- 1:11 (197)
The 39:07 translates into a 6:17 overall pace . Average HR for the race was 186, or 93% of my new max. I'll make another post over the next day or two chronicling last week and previewing this upcoming week.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

10K on the Horizon

Sorry about the second consecutive mid-week blog update. We had a really busy weekend with Isla's blessing (baptism). And sometime on Monday, it appears as though she came down with something. She's had a rough couple of nights. Hopefully she'll start feeling better soon.
So, I have my first race since April this Sunday, the Windrunner 10K. I have run this race three times in the past, posting my best time last year with a 43:54. I am hoping to crush that time on Sunday. I did run a 10K in November, as some of you may remember. I put up a 41:48 at the Lincolnwood Turkeytrot. Ideally, I'll go sub 40 on Sunday. The weather is supposed to be very cool, maybe in the 50s or 60s for the race, which is awesome.

At the same time, I am not intentionally cutting back for this race, so I'll take what I get and keep my eyes on October 11th. It should be a very good measuring stick to see how much I really have improved from last year. I don't think a 2 minute or so improvement is out of the question. I'll try to post something here on Sunday night.

Last Week:
Monday- 6.5 Recovery @ 9:06, 125AHR
Tuesday - 12.1 Miles, middle 7LT @ 6:53, 175AHR
Wednesday - 13.3 MLR @ 8:18, 141AHR
Thursday - Recovery Double of 5 in the morning and 5.3 at lunch
Friday- 21.5 Miles @ 8:20, 151AHR
Saturday - kind of a recovery run, but kind of GA - 5.5 miles, 8:27, 143AHR
Sunday - Rest Day
69.3 Total miles

This week:
Pretty much up in the air at this point as I have had to move things around and try to get in some running whenever possible. I have a few target workouts I'd like to hit, but other than that, I am hoping to still be in the low 60's for the week. If not, it's not the end of the world. Sometimes life can throw your running a curveball.

M- Unscheduled Rest Day
T- Somewhere between 8 and 9 miles with 4x400m and 2 hill sprints
W- 7.15 miles @ 8:21 pace, 130AHR
R- 4.2 Recovery in the AM and and somewhere around 6 in the PM
F- 13 MLR
Sa- 3-4 easy w/some strides mixed in
Su- a couple warm up miles, the 10K, a couple cool down miles and hopefully a few extra later in the day to get me to somewhere close to 18 miles for the day.
Total of 60-ish

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How's Your Intestinal Fortitude?

I don't really have a clear direction for this post, so bear with me as I try to find one. In the middle of my 12 mile run yesterday, I had 7 miles planned at Goal Half Marathon Pace, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:52/mi. I have pretty much nailed all of my previous GHMP and Goal Marathon Paced runs in the cycle. After those runs, I now kind of expect to hit everything as I feel great and have quite a bit of confidence with where I am at. We are just under 8 weeks away from the big day. Plus, I am in better running shape than I was at the beginning of training and have dropped about 8 pounds since the start of this cycle. I hope to be at 165 by the time the horn sounds on October 11th, so I have maybe another 4 or 5 pounds left to shed.

Anyway, back to the run. It was 71 degrees with 91% humidity when I left the house. Not really ideal. At all. I knew my heart rate would be elevated. Oh well, you never know what kind of weather race day will bring, so you have to suck it up and knock 'em down. I started with 2.5 nice and easy miles before I started my attempt of 7 at 6:52. The first mile is usually tough to gauge as I typically work down to that speed and then surpass it. I'll end up somewhere in the 6:15-6:30 range before I then start to get closer to 6:50, which will invariably take me closer to 7:00. By the time the Garmin dings Mile 1, I have no idea what the pace will say. On Tuesday it said 6:55. Not bad. Not too fast, just a touch too slow.

I figured I could keep right around there and avoid any major pacing swings for the next few miles. I figured wrong. Mile 2 was a poor 7:04. At that point, I started to let doubt creep in to my head just a bit. Compound the 10+ seconds over goal with the fact that I felt I was working harder and my heart rate reflected it. My HR zone for HMP miles is 159-177 and I was already up to 170. Crap.

The mental aspect of training (and more importantly, racing) is one that probably gets too little attention. 15+ seconds over goal two miles into a seven mile tempo run on an extremely humid day in the middle of August is a decent test. It's not mile 23 of the marathon when your legs are starting to feel like lead and your 7:15 pace (here's hoping) is on the verge of becoming a 7:30, but it will do.

How do you overcome this? Mental toughness will get you to a certain point. How much can you really will your body to do something? Can you? Does it hurt too much or is it just physically impossible?

I don't have the answers, but I like to think that the training I am putting in right now will allow me to dig a little deeper if(when?) the shit starts hitting the fan on October 11th. I'd really like to believe that my training is going well enough that the shit never hits the fan, but I am a realist. Things happen. For those of you newer to the blog, I am shooting for a 3:10 at Chicago this year. It would qualify me for Boston. It would also represent an improvement of 19 minutes over last year. 19 minutes is a huge number. I'd be a an idiot if I told you it wasn't. I'll be testing where I am at in a 10K and half marathon in the coming weeks to see if the 3:10 is a possibility. I have made several large changes in how I train from previous years to this year and hope they will get me the result I am looking for.

And now back to mile 2 of the GHP run. I decided to keep on trying to hit that 6:52. I was beginning to doubt it could happen, but wussing out at this point would do no good. I wasn't hurting. Just couldn't hit my pace. The phrase "intestinal fortitude" popped into my head at some point soon after the third mile started. I remember my brother Michael frequently referencing it during some sporting event back in the mid-to late 90's. Was it Mike Fratello - "The Czar of the Telestrator" - that used to say it back in the days of the Bulls championship runs? Or maybe it was Matt Millen before he turned the Lions into the worst franchise in the NFL. Maybe both of them? Either way, you could count on at least one a game from whoever it was.

So, it was time to see what kind of intestinal fortitude I had. As I was nearing the end of mile 3 and my Garmin would soon show my time, I figured I'd be sub 6:50 for sure. I was working even harder at this point. No luck - I put up a 6:52 and my AHR for the mile jumped to 174. I still did the math in my head to try to figure out how fast I would need to run the remaining miles to hit 6:52. I would aim for some 6:48-6:50's and hopefully turn it on the last mile.
That didn't happen.

Mile 4: 6:54, 175AHR
Mile 5: 6:53, 177AHR
So, after five miles, I was at the top of my HR zone and I still couldn't hit my goal pace.
Mile 6: 6:55, 177AHR
Jesus, now I was getting slower.

With one mile to go, I decided to see what I had left. I didn't pay attention to my heart rate either. I was sopping wet at this point and could feel sweat dripping down my legs. I managed to put up a 6:41 mile with a 183HR. Garmin claims this run averaged a 6:53 pace with a 175AHR.
I didn't feel bad after it was over and ran the last 2.6 home at an 8:20 pace.

Initially, I was a little disappointed. After I thought about it a little more, I think this was a good thing. I may have been getting a little too confident. A run like this humbles you and reminds you that there is still a lot of work to be done between now and October 11th. At the same time, I was able to gut it out and pretty much hit my goal pace. So I damn near hit the 6:52 in miserable conditions on what wasn't my best day. I think it's a good sign. A 7 mile tempo run in the midst of summer isn't an easy thing to do.
Last Week Recap
Monday- 9.6 GA @ 8:22 pace, 143AHR
Tuesday - 9.1 VO2 w/6x800 repeats @ 2:56 pace
Wednesday - 7.3 Recovery @ 9:16, 120AHR
Thursday - 7.5 GA w/10x100 strides @ 8:08 pace, 147AHR
Friday- 9.2 GA @ 8:20 pace, 141AHR
Saturday - 15.3 MLR @ 8:26, 149AHR
Sunday- Rest
58 total miles

This Week:
Monday- 6.5 Recovery @ 9:06, 125AHR
Tuesday - 12.1 Miles, middle 7LT @ 6:53, 175AHR
Wednesday - 13.3 MLR @ 8:18, 141AHR
Thursday - Recovery Double of 6 or 7 in the morning and 4 or 5 at lunch
Friday- Longest Run of the cycle - 22 Miles
Saturday - Recovery Run - 6ish
Sunday - Rest Day
70+ Total miles

Monday, August 10, 2009

Halfway Home

9 Weeks down, 9 to go. I have enjoyed this marathon training cycle more than most. I don't feel beat up and worn down. There are several reasons, so why not get into them? In no particular order:
  • The base building I did in the first five months of the year gave me my best chance at a successful training cycle. I don't have the exact numbers (because I didn't keep them year-round), but I am pretty sure I just passed my 2008 mileage total.
  • Following a regimented training plan has been huge for me. I increased my days running per week from 4 to 6 and am following Pfitzinger's 18 week/70 mile program. I have moved some runs around here and there, but have hit the types of runs and the total mileage within a mile or two either way every week. Mileage-wise, I was in the mid 40's at this time last year.
  • Wearing a Garmin and HR monitor. I can better monitor my efforts and also go back and analyze my runs. And not going to before or after each to see how far I went is a time saver and a plus.
  • Recovery Runs. One great way to add in some extra miles on to a plan is throwing in recovery runs. I have been running most of mine in the 9-9:30 range, so about 2 minutes slower than goal marathon pace. People can debate how fast or how slow they are supposed to be and how much they really help, but I am a believer and they will be a part of every training plan I do in the future. Side note: I just read a book about Neil Diamond. In the first chapter, the author annoyingly started multiple sentences with "I'm a believer that Neil Diamond..." I enjoyed the book, as I do enjoy some Diamond, but this reference of a Neil Diamond song that the Monkees made famous was pretty bad. I thought about making this post in a similar fashion but thought much, much better of it.
  • Chicago's mild summer has been pretty helpful. It was crazy hot here last weekend, but I have been really lucky with the lack of heat up to this point.
  • A very supportive wife who doesn't mind her husband's alarm going off at 5:00 A.M. several days a week to get up and run...and then being gone anywhere from an hour to three. Tiffany has always been my biggest fan but our lives have changed over the last 6+ months after the birth of our daughter. Almost all of my runs now come in the morning, with the exception of a few easy runs occurring at while I am at work. I wouldn't be able to do this without her support.
  • I really feel like I understand running and training more now than I ever have. I do not know everything by any stretch, but I have learned a ton between reading some books and soaking in knowledge on Runners World.
This week is a cutback week down and I'll get down to 58 miles. Then the next 5 five weeks will all be in the 60s and I'll hit 70 twice. I may tack on few extra miles on the second week of 70. I also have the Windrunner 10K on August 30th and the Chicago Half Marathon on September 13th. It's really amazing to think that training is half over and these races are nearly here.

Last Week Recap:
Monday- 7.1 Recovery @ 9:09 pace, No AHR
Tuesday - 15 Mile MLR @ 8:11 pace, 154 AHR - steamy
Wednesday - 5.7 Recovery AM @ 9:23, 124 AHR, 4.6 Recovery PM @ 9:11, 122 AHR
Thursday - 13.1 MLR @ 8:16, 143 AHR
Friday- 7 GA Miles w/ strides. Pace for the first 5.25 miles was 8:20, 136 AHR. Last 1.75 was a 7:49 pace, 143 AHR.
Saturday - 16.5, w 12 @ Goal Marathon Pace(7:15). The 12 GMP miles came in at 7:12 with a 167 AHR.
Sunday- Rest
69 Total miles

This Week:
Monday- 9.6 GA - DONE
Tuesday - 9 VO2 w/5x600 repeats at 5K pace
Wednesday - 7 Recovery
Thursday - 8 GA w/10x100 strides
Friday- 9-10 GA
Saturday - 15 MLR
Sunday- Rest
58 or so total miles

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another Brush With Greatness

Before I get into my most recent encounter with someone famous, I'd first like to thank all of you that have donated to FSMA. We're currently sitting at just under $3,000. I truly appreciate the generosity that has been shown in the few weeks that we have been fundraising. I really can't thank all of you enough for you support.

For those of you that have not yet had the chance to help the cause or are new to Running for Cru, you can get to the fundraising site by clicking the link just above this post. Cru's story can be read by clicking on the link at the top of the right maragin.

Now, on to the brush with greatness. Well, maybe not a brush. More of a breeze. When you compare him to the others (Mr. T, Jeff Tweedy, the Bin Laden look-a-like) I have bumped into over the last few months, it does stand out, especially if you are a runner. On my 20 miler on Sunday, I was on mile 14 or so when a blur of a man passed me. I was running somewhere around an 8:20 pace at the time. I had never seen anyone run that fast on the lake path. I thought, that has to be somebody. The Rock-N-Roll Chicago Half Marathon was going on at the same time, so I thought maybe it was someone getting in some extra miles. After doing some math and looking at my watch, there was no way one could have been done with the half and be that far north. So I waited to see this guy on the way back. Sure enough, despite that fact he was probably running a sub 6 minute pace, I could tell that it was this guy:

Yep. It was Ryan Hall. He currently holds the American record for a half marathon (59:43), finished 10th in the Beijing Olympics and finished third in the 2009 Boston Marathon. He was running too fast for me to even yell out his name after I confirmed it was him. He always looked bigger on TV, but as it turns out, he's only 5'10". I later found out he was in town for the race (not running it though) promoting some things for Nissan.

Besides that, the week was pretty normal. There's a guy at work who happens to be a Facebook friend who has seen a couple of my mileage status updates. He seems concerned that I am running too much and asked me if I was worried that I could break my heel off. Seriously.

Lastly, July was a record month for me, as I finished with 277.1 miles. I am feeling good and am looking forward to August, which should be another new monthly record. I also have a 10K at the end of the month that I am pretty excited for.

Last Week
Monday- 7.1 Recovery @ 9:06, 126 AHR
Tuesday - AM 4 Recovery @ 9:22, 131 AHR, PM 6.1 Recovery @ 9:17, 128 AHR
Wednesday - 13.6 Mile MLR @ 8:14, 149 AHR
Thursday - 6.15 Recovery @ 9:32, 123 AHR
Friday- 11.15 Mile LT, with 6 @ 6:51, AHR 173
Saturday - Rest
Sunday- 20 Mile LR @ 8:24, 141 AHR
68.2 Miles total, another new personal nest

This Week
Monday- 7.1 Recovery- DONE
Tuesday - 15 Mile MLR
Wednesday - 4 Recovery AM, 6 Recovery PM
Thursday - 7 Recovery with 6x100 strides
Friday- 13 Mile MLR
Saturday - Rest
Sunday- 16 Mile LR with 12 @ Goal Marathon Pace
67 Planned Miles, although I am currently on pace to go a little over.