Monday, September 28, 2009

Tick...Tick...Tick...Two Weeks to Go

As this training cycle winds down, so do things to talk about. In a lot of ways, this week of the cycle is the toughest. The miles are reduced, there is only one tough run to look forward to and the excitement that comes with marathon week is still a week away. With that, let the rambling begin.

Last week ended with a total 0f 55.1 miles. Nothing too fancy. I commented to some friends that it was kind of a boring week. Pretty amazing, considering I gimped my way to a peak of 54 miles last September. I did put in a 17 mile long run yesterday. It was pretty uneventful, minus covering the last half mile or so the marathon course in the middle of the run. The run started a little after 6 in the morning on the lake path. If you like to run (even a little bit) and live close to Chicago, I'd encourage you to wake up early on a Sunday and hit the lakefront path. It was pretty empty for much of the first half of my run. You kind of feel like you own the city and wonder why everyone couldn't be out there enjoying the fresh air, the sunrise and the view out over the lake. I put a ton of slower-paced songs on my shuffle last week to try to keep my paces in check. Combine that with the general peacefulness and it was borderline religious.

As I was down near Soldier Field approaching my turn around point, I decided to head to over to Roosevelt so I could run the last bit of the marathon. Now, it's not new to me as this will be my 6th time running Chicago. Wow. That last line makes me feel kind of old. I would have never imagined that my running habit would be born after I laced up my running shoes that fateful day just about 6 years ago. Back to the run - I headed west over Roosevelt and hit Michigan Avenue. I stopped on the corner, kind of peeked south, looking at the part of the course that precedes the final 0.3 miles or so. I turned around and started running. I remembered one of the other times I ran over that stretch in the marathon. The sidewalks packed, runners all around and digging as deep as humanly possible to make it over that bridge and make that final left turn up Columbus. It's very odd to see it pretty close to empty. At 7 something in the morning, there's hardly anyone out and I was able to actually run that stretch on the street. Pretty bizzare, as I have played out this stretch hundreds of times in my head. What will the giant clock above the finish line read as it slowly comes into focus? Despite my heart rate jumping up a tad, I was able to keep my pace pretty even despite knowing that in two weeks to the day, I'd be giving it all I had in that very spot and hopefully bringing home a 3:10 or better. Overall, the run went well, as I was able to average an 8:20 pace across the 17 miles, with an average heart rate of 145.

This upcoming week will feature only 43 miles, but will include a 13 miler on Sunday. I am considering trying to make that 13 mile run cover a good chunk of the last half of the marathon course. If I can figure out the logistics of either parking or taking the L down, I'll do it. I also have my last tough workout on Thursday. It will be an 8 mile run with 3x1600 at 5K pace in the middle. Fun times.

Besides that, I am trying to rest the legs and not overdo the eating over the next two weeks. I have been in the mode of eating whenever I feel the urge over the last 16 weeks and have not had to think about the ramifications because of the number of miles I have logged. That obviously has to change with the reduced miles the rest of the way. I'll probably check in a few times next week with some pre-marathon excitement posts and will put up a picture of my race day shirt. Until then, see you later.
Oh, if you are planning on coming out either with my regular support crew (which appears to be a little thin) or on your own, please let me know. If you are on your own, I'll need to know where you'll be and I can give you a pretty good idea on when I'll be passing that area.

Also, you can track me here on race day:
You can sign up for texts or emails letting you know of my splits. For the record, I am bib number 2033.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's All Downhill From Here

I mean that in a good way. I am now less than three weeks from the marathon. The remaining weeks will hopefully get my legs re-charged and I'd love to catch up on some sleep. In a way, I'll miss the 5 A.M. or earlier alarm going off. I usually start reminiscing about the training cycle in the week of the marathon, but it's starting to hit me a little earlier this year.

As those of you that have been around for the last 15 weeks or longer, I've trained smarter and harder this cycle than I ever have. I know in two and half weeks or so, I'll be toeing the line for my 8th marathon as prepared as I could possibly be. It's a good feeling, but at the same time, I know I need to stay focused and realize that I still need things to go my way on the 11th for me to hit my goal. As the saying goes and a few people have told me, the hay is the barn.

Speaking of goals, there is one goal for the 11th. 3:10. That's it. Anything slower than that will be a disappointment. As I mentioned back in May, I know the jump from a 3:29 to 3:10 is huge. But I have hit every goal that I set back then and everyting points to me being able to hit my goal. Here are the goals I set back in May:
  • Train my ass off
  • Get down to 165 pounds
  • Run 6 days per week
  • A sub 40 minute 10K
  • A 1:30 Half
I fully expect to run a 3:10 on October 11th. As of now, the strategy is to hit the first half somewhere around 1:33:30-1:34:00. An even split would net me a 3:07 to 3:08. It will give me a couple to few minute cushion in case things get a little rough in the second half.

I know it may be a tad early to talk of strategy, but I think that will help me focus on the task at hand and get me through these next couple of weeks without going crazy. I have about 55-58 miles planned for this week after hitting 66 last week.

Last week was kind of a jumbled mess as life threw the ole' running schedule a curve ball. I recovered pretty well, but did have to a run 10 miler on Saturday and my final 20 miler on Sunday. The original plan was to run the second half of the 2o miler at goal marathon pace, but I found myself running upstream into a few thousand runners after I hit my turnaround point.

This group of runners was participating in the Chicago Area Runners Association's Ready to Run 20 Miler. It's really kind of ridiculous. I can appreciate a Gatorade and water supported final 2o miler run, but signing up (which cost a good chunk of money - as much as $50 - for a training run) doesn't give you a license to run wherever you want. The lakefront path in Chicago is pretty congested as it is. Add to that groups of runners running as many as 7 and 8 wide in spots. I really was afraid I was going to bump shoulders and get knocked into the lake between Oak St. and Ohio. Anyway, I ended up getting away from them with 7.5 miles left and turned it on for those miles. I ran all of the first 7 miles in the 7:11-7:17 range, so I was pretty happy with my last really long run. I still have a 17 miler on tap for this coming weekend.

I did manage to take a few pictures on the first half of Sunday's run. Here they are:

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Chicago Half Marathon

I made the annual pilgrimage down to the south side on Sunday to run in the Chicago Half Marathon. This was my fifth time running this race. They did change up the course a little bit this year, so at least it had that going for it. I am really not a huge fan of this race - it's a pain to get down there and park and the course is pretty boring as a good 2/3 of it takes place on Lake Shore Drive. Over the years, I have learned that the best bet is to get down there early and park a mile or so away. Anyway, I got down there about an hour before the race. I was planning on running a nice warm-up to the start area before I checked my bag, but as I was coming up the Metra stop, a ton of people were exiting, clogging up the sidewalk. So much for that part of the warm-up.

Before I go any further, I'd also like to throw in a few details about the two days leading up to the Half. Tiffany woke up on Friday at about 1AM with a pain in her abdomen. After a trip to the hospital and several tests, we found out that she needed to get her appendix removed. By Friday afternoon, her appendix was out and she was recovering. Needless to say, Friday and Saturday we not very much fun (especially for her). She has been recovering at home since Saturday morning and is getting better every day.

So back to the warm-up. I walked it to the area near the the gear check and ran into an old high school classmate and his wife. She was running her first half. We chatted for a couple minutes, wished each other luck and I headed over to the gear check, swapped out my shoes and got in line for a port-a-potty. By the time I walked over and grabbed a water to wash down a Gu, I had about 20 minutes before the race was scheduled to start. I couldn't really see a good path to run, so I headed to the start area and proceeded to run mini-laps in the start area. I put in about a mile. I would have felt pretty stupid if not for another 20 or so people doing the same thing. I wasn't one of the weirdos doing incredibly high knees or power skipping, but hey, whatever floats your boat. In my warm-up mile, my heart rate was high. I was about 15 beats higher than I would normally put up for such a slow pace. I was slightly concerned, but didn't put too much weight into it.

I made my way up to the "B Corral, " which was a small area roped off by those flags people use for garage sales and such. I ran into my pal Walter in the Corral. He said he was going to start out a 6:50 or so pace. I said, "How about 6:45?" He said deal, and we were off. Actually we weren't. The start of the race was delayed 10 minutes. Eventually the race started.

The first mile went by pretty quickly we hit the marker at 6:44. Pretty damn spot on. The first couple miles of any half or full marathon are always a little tough to gauge. Your adrenaline's pumping and you're trying to get in a rhythm and not get too excited. It was kind of weird, because I wasn't really excited. That's a good thing. I think the adrenaline and excitement have gotten the best of me in the past and that then leads to me putting extra pressure on myself. The biggest difference in this race heading in was that I expected to run it well. I knew I could run a 1:30, barring something catastrophic. The question in my mind was how could I pace myself to ensure my best possible time. The fact that I had enough confidence in myself to run a 1:30 at this point is pretty amazing in retrospect. Back when I threw down the BQ gauntlet in May or whenever, I honestly thought my chances at a 1:30 half and hopefully subsequent 3:10 full were maybe 50-50.

Back to the race - I was still trying to find my groove and we hit the second mile @ 6:46. Very nice. As we were running the third mile, I was still searching for a rhythm and still coming up empty. I glanced down at my HR and I was in the mid 170s. I made a mental to ignore it because it was already running higher than where I wanted to be. Miles 3 and 4 were both 6:50s. I got a few seconds back in mile 5 with a 6:40 and I was really close to my pace plan as I hit the marker.

Mile 6 was a nondescript 6:43 and while I still was not feeling good, I was hitting my splits really well. Things got a little interesting in mile 7. It measured slightly short (.99) on my Garmin and I put up a 6:32. At that point I let Walter go ahead as he seemingly started to pick up the pace. I really wanted to put up a 6:45-6:50 for mile 8 after mile 7.

The good news is that I did slow it down. The bad news is that mile 8 measured 1.04 miles and my Garmin said I just put up a 7:03. Crazy thing is a 7:03 for 1.04 miles is a 6:45 pace. Oh well. Regroup and forge ahead. I looked at my HR for the first time since mile 3 after that 7:03 split. My HR was at 191 with 5.1 miles to go. Not so good. Mile 8 did end on a very slight uphill, so I am sure that didn't help.

I ran mile 9 in 6:36 as there was a very slight downhill at the beginning of the mile. I still wasn't feeling good. I know, the race is almost over at this point. There's just over 4 miles remaining. If I am not feeling good by now, it's probably not happening. Mile 10 was a 6:42.

The original plan was to reassess at the tenth mile and see if I could turn it on for the last 5K. I decided to just try to pick it up to the 6:30s or so. I hit the 11th mile in 6:28. Upon further review, it measured .97 miles. I can understand being .01 over here and there, but I and still not sure why there can be .03 and .04 variances both positive and negative. Anyway, only 2.1 miles to go.

I hit my 200 max heart rate in mile 12 and put up a 6:50. I tried to start to dig down deep and turn it on, but I couldn't find anything when I was digging. The familiar feeling a race slipping away from me started to tickle my stomach. I had a brief moment of weakness where I considered slowing it down for a quarter mile or so and then finish strong. I decided that was absolutely stupid and I was dumber for having thought of it to begin with. I hunkered down and sucked it up.

At that point I start doing the math to see what I'll need to run the last 1.1 miles in to get me a 10 minute PR (1:28:35). I bargained with myself throughout the mile, reminding myself how much more is left. I finally hit the 13 mile marker and I had a 6:53 to show for it. All things considered, not bad as it measured a 1.03.

I got a nice rush of energy after I hit 13 and could see the finish line. I ran the last .1 (.12 on the Garmin) in 40 seconds, a sub 6 minute pace. Final finish time: 1:28:25. A PR by 10 minutes and 10 seconds.

I was really happy with my time. I never got into a solid rhythm and didn't feel like I had my best stuff. I do think I ran the fastest race I could have on Sunday though. That's a huge step for me. You never know how you're going to feel on race day. Often times, I have given in on those days that I didn't feel the greatest in the past. And the fact that I could overcome my moment of mental weakness at mile 12 makes me feel good that I'll be able to gut it out in the latter miles of the marathon if I need to. I do think I could pick up another 1-2 minutes in a half, but that's obviously not my focus.

This 1:28 confirms for me that I am in great position for a 3:10 at the Chicago Marathon. There are just 4 weeks remaining until the big day. I have one more big week left this week. I'll come close to 70 miles for the last time in this cycle. All that's left is to get these miles in, stay healthy, don't do anything stupid and be patient waiting for October 11th to get here.

Final Splits / AHR
1-6:44 /169
2-6:46 / 174
3-6:50 / 174
4-6:50 / 178
5-6:40 / 181
6-6:43 / 183
7-6:32 / 186
8-7:03 / 186
9-6:36 / 191
10-6:42 / 191
11-6:28 / 196
12-6:50 / 198
13-6:53 / 202
.1- 0:40/ 206

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spirit of 75.5

The peak week of training is in the books as is the worst pun for a title of a blog post yet. 75.5 miles last week, a new career high. A scheduling shift also had me run 12 day in a row, also the longest in my career. Here's what this past week looked like:

M-7.3 @9:20pace, 133AHR
T- 7.3 @8:59, 132AHR; 5.1 @9:19, 126AHR
W- 14.85@8:13, 149AHR
R- 10.4 w/6x1000 repeats @5:52 pace
F- 8@8:33, 147AHR; 4@9:36 ,132AHR (with jogging stroller)
Sa- 18.5 total. First 13.5@8:27, 143AHR. Last 5 @ 7:11, 170AHR

I am feeling pretty good overall. I took it easy early in the week following the 10K from last Sunday. It took a couple days to get my legs back under me, but was able to finish the week strong. I was contemplating ditching the GMP miles at the end of Saturday's Long Run, but I figured simulating race pace on a tired set of legs on a long run is about the best practice you can get. I think I can bounce back from the 5 miles easily, which is important considering I have the Chicago Half Marathon this upcoming weekend.

I've lost at least 14 pounds since training started in June. Two weeks ago (the lats time I stepped on a scale), I was 1 pound under my race day goal of 165. I am not sure how far my weight will drop, but I definitely will have to watch what I am eating the last two weeks leading up to the marathon. I feel like I am eating constantly but the weight keeps coming off. I guess that's one of the benefits of averaging 62 miles a week over the past 13 weeks.

I am not really going to taper for the Half. Here's what I have scheduled this week:

M- 7 Recovery (done)
T- 8-10 Miles, with 3-4 400m repeats@5K pace
W- 14 MLR
R- 8-10 GA
F- 6 Recovery
Sa- 3 Recovery w/ a few strides thrown in
Su- Chicago Half Marathon with a couple warm up and cool down miles
Total- 60-67 miles

As was the case for the 10K two weeks ago, I am looking to have a significant PR in the half. My goal is to run it in 1:30, which would make me feel really good about my attempt at a 3:10 for the marathon. My previous best half was last year, when I ran a 1:38:34. So we could be looking at an 8 minute PR or so.

The half is also a good opportunity to practice some other things like drinking on the run, running in some congested areas and most importantly, trying to pace consistently. I'd like to run the first 10 miles at a 6:50-6:55 pace. If I am feeling good when I hit the 10 mile mark, I'll crank it up and see if I can bring home the bacon with some 6:30s. I'll be sure to a race report up here as soon as I can after the race.