Friday, November 17, 2017

Racing Weight

IRONMAN training calls to mind a lot of things: long days of grinding on long rides or long runs or long rides followed by long runs, early bed times for early mornings at the pool, jam packed weekends of training, and of course weight gain. Wait, weight gain? That's right, weight gain. I know this from experience.

Before I started training for IRONMAN I didn't believe you could workout 15-20 hours per week and gain weight. But since IRONMAN races last all day long, one of the biggest challenges for an athlete is being able to take in and digest a days worth of nutrition while cycling and running.

Like all other facets of IRONMAN, this requires training. So unlike marathon training where I finish my workouts in a calorie deficit and once or twice a week in a large calorie deficit, I finished a lot of my IRONMAN workouts in a negligible deficit and I was always eating either in preparation for a workout or for recovery from a workout.

All that being said. I am up about 8 or 9 lbs from where I was when I started training for IRONMAN Louisville in May and about 12 lbs from my racing weight when I PR'ed the marathon in November or 2014.

Below are a couple of pictures that illustrate  and where I need to get to and where I am. The first picture is right after my marathon PR at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 2014 and the second picture is me before the same race just a couple of weeks ago.

Understand, this is not about body image. I have no problem with my current weight or the way I look. This is about performance and going after a big goal and doing the things it take to achieve that goal.

After all, my first goal for 2018 is a half-marathon PR. My current PR is no joke and this is a huge goal. I weighed in at 132 on race morning the day of my half-marathon PR which is a good 8-10 lbs from where I stand today.  I was literally in the best shape of my life and I ran "outside of myself"  meaning that I ran about a minute faster than I believe I was capable of. Even today, I still shake my head and wonder how I did it, you can read that race report here if you are interested. In order to beat that PR I'm going to have to really commit in several areas.

One of those areas will be to get back down to racing weight. It's a simple physics problem; the less weight I have to propel the faster I can propel it with a given force. Weight above racing weight costs a runner generically 2 seconds per mile. I'm not sure I buy that completely but I'll buy 1 second per mile. If I stay at my current weight, that could cost me over 2 minutes and with such a big goal, I need all the help I can get. So I am currently in weight loss mode.

I have about 3 weeks to make a really good run at dropping some weight during which I hope to get a head start by losing 4-5 lbs. Once my training plan starts, I plan to carry that momentum thru to finish off the weight loss at a reduced rate up to race day (3/24/2018). In order to accomplish that, I am not doing any designer or named diets. I'm simply refocusing on eating good foods at the right times for the right reasons. Food is fuel and whole foods are the best and 3 meals a day are a good way to divide it up.

I am really excited about this up coming training cycle and seeing just how fast I can get. It'll take hard work on the roads and focus at the dining table and I'm ready get at it.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Back to work!

It's been 3 weeks since IRONMAN Louisville (read the race report here) and I'm tired of watching my fitness slide. I have laid out my plans for 2018 and I am recovered so this morning it was back to work.

First I have to preface the "I am recovered" bit. My fatigue has returned to a state that will allow me to resume hard training. My left knee on the other hand, is still a bit cranky. I can ride my bike, no trouble at all but I can only run for about 20 to 25 minutes at a time before my knee gets really mad and won't let me go any further.

I'm planning another post about my goals for 2018 but, in the interest of brevity here, the first goal for the year is to go after a half marathon PR. My current PR is 1:18:56 and the course I set that on seems to have been a bit short. My goal race is the Sam Costa half-marathon on March 24th, 2018. That course consistently measures long by GPS. It's certified though and we all know GPS is not as accurate as the measuring devices used for certified course. All that being said my goal pace for Sam Costa, to ensure a PR, is a pace of 5:55 per mile.

I think I have devised a method to go ahead and get to work on the half-marathon PR despite the current situation with my knee. My official training plan doesn't start for about 4 more weeks and in the mean time the biggest challenge is to remember how to suffer like you have to suffer to run a fast half-marathon and getting my body used to running at those hard paces.

That being the case, for now I can do the warm up and cool down portion of workouts on my stationary bicycle trainer and run only the actual workout. This will allow me to go ahead and start teaching my body to run hard and right now 20-25 minutes at those paces will  be enough to acclimate to half-marathon training.

I put this plan to practice this morning in my first real workout since IRONMAN. The meat of the workout was 5 x 1 kilometer repeats at or close to goal half-marathon pace. I allowed for a little wiggle room this morning as I am simply trying to remember how to run hard, how to internalize that discomfort and how to push through that wall of pain that stands between me and my goal.

I was pretty pleased with this morning's workout which looked like this. For a warm up I used the Sufferfest video Ignitor and my bike trainer. It's whole purpose is to get you primed for a big effort. This is a much better warm up than just slogging around for 15 or 20 minutes. Ignitor got my legs, heart, and lungs ready to get after it.

Once I finished the 21 minute video I changed into my running shoes and loaded up the running workout on my watch. Since I was already warmed up the workout started right away with the first hard km repeat. Half marathon pace is tricky. It takes good fitness for sure but it also just takes some practice to get your body used to that level of suffering. It's not unbearable but it does take familiarity to be able to hit it. For the first interval I hit right at a 6:00 minute pace and it felt really hard.

That left me wondering if I would be able to maintain anything close for the remaining 4 repeats.  I m happy to report that my body adapted fairly quickly. That first interval was in a lot of ways the hardest and I ended up running a pretty good workout. The full set of intervals looked like 5:59, 6:04, 5:59, 6:05, 6:00. The 5:59s and 6:00 were all run one way on a 1 km stretch and the 6:04 and 6:05 were ran in the opposite direction so I'm guessing the disparity was due to the wind which was NNW at about 12 MPH.

I finished off with another Sufferfest video, Extra Shot which is a 20 minute race simulation. I took the intensity down to about 75% so that i didn't have to suffer any more but would get a descent zone 2/3 effort in as a cool down. I used the video to keep the power targets in front of me and make sure I wasn't just spinning mindlessly, being lazy, and wasting the 20 minutes on something that wouldn't benefit my fitness.

All in all I am pretty pleased with this workout and I'm happy to be back at it. I've got a ways to go but I've also got a while to get there. I'm also happy to report that my knee didn't bother me at all during the run which is great news because up until today, it would have so I am hoping I have turned the corner on this injury and can put it behind me and move on toward the goal on March 24th, 2018.

I'll be blogging thru the build up to this half-marathon training cycle and then through the cycle itself but if you are interested in following my workouts, check me out on strava

Sunday, October 29, 2017

2017 Ironman Louisville Race Report

On Sunday, October 15th, 2017 I raced my first full distance Ironman in Louisville Ky with about 2300 other people. I didn't post much about the training leading up to it because quite simply I didn't have the time or energy.

So for a quick recap of my training; Training started on May 1st. I am always in marathon shape and haven't needed to build up my long run in years, however, I was basically starting at 0 with the bike and swim. That being the case, my main focus for both was simply building up the specific endurance needed to complete a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride in a reasonable time. The weekly training hours ramped up from 12 to 20 over the course of the cycle.

 Fast forward to October 15th, 2017 4:00 AM. I slept like a baby and felt good when I woke up for breakfast. I had taken stuff to make peanut butter banana overnight oats. I use this basic recipe from fitfoodies with 2 exceptions; I use real milk and powdered peanut butter. I also had a bagel with jelly and a cup of coffee.

After breakfast I loosened up my hips with a yoga routine from the Sufferfest, put on my kit, grabbed my tire pump, nutrition, water bottles, swim gear and headed down to transition for final preparations. I left my family behind in the hotel room with plans to meet near the swim corrals. 

Walking to transition I was amazed at how calm I was. I got my bike all set up, made my way to body marking, and then on to the swim corrals. I waited around for my family for quite a while and had almost given up on seeing them before the start. Then at what seemed like the last minute, I finally saw them. They came over, we chatted for a few and it was time to start the long walk to the pier where my race would begin.

Hannah and Natalie waiting near the swim start.

The Swim
Start Time: 8:06 AM
Distance 2.4 miles
Time 1:16:46
Age Group (45-49):217th
Overall: 1657th 

This was just about 2 minutes from jumping in to start my day

The swim in Louisville is a self seeded corral meaning you line up with a group of swimmers expecting a similar swim time. The fastest swimmers go first with the slower swimmers behind. I was planning to swim 1 hour and 30 minutes and I lined up in the 1:30-1:40 group. It took about 35 minutes for my group to reach the water and jump in.

The first 1/3 of the swim is upstream and then you turn and finish downstream. I felt really good in the water from the first strokes. When I raced in Muncie in July I panicked in the water and basically did a breast stroke type dog paddle the entire swim. So to feel good in the water was a huge blessing. There was contact with other swimmers but I just kept plowing forward. I drank some water a few times when I meant to breath but I just kept moving forward.

When I made it to the buoy to mark the turn around I looked at my watch to gauge my time but the watch was gone! It had fallen off somewhere in the Ohio river. I started to panic because this watch is not only for swimming, it was the watch that I was racing the whole day with. On the swim it was really just a timer and I wouldn't use it hardly at all. On the bike it was my feedback for power output and on the run I would use it to keep track of my pace.Now, the day would have to be raced solely on perceived effort. Almost as soon as the panic started to over take me by the grace of God, it struck me; this is IRONMAN, adapt and move. I accepted the challenge and got my head back in the race. I still felt good swimming and was clipping along and moving toward the finish which came much quicker than I anticipated.

The finish came quicker than anticipated for good reason. It looks as though we had a very strong current on the downstream portion of the swim. According to one piece of analysis, the swim trended 10 minutes faster than the average Louisville IRONMAN swim. I had no idea when I got out of the water because of the lost watch but after the race I would learn that I had swum nearly 15 minutes faster than planned.

The Bike 
Start Time: 9:32 AM
Distance: 112 miles
Time: 6:13:15
Age group (45-49): 128th
Overall: 866th

Headed out for a little 112 mile bike ride

I'm very mediocre on the bike and the weather was bad. 15-30 MPH winds with gusts of as high as 42 mph. I trained to ride by power and the 920xt is the only display I have for my power meter. The bike would be 100% by effort. I did grab a running watch to use as a timer and to be able to have the gps file when I was done. But between the weather and the hills its only display of speed was no help at all on pacing.

The ride out of town was with a nice tail wind and I was cruising 20-22 MPH riding very easy. The course features about a 20 mile ride out to a 35 mile loop that you ride twice and then 20 miles back in. The loop has a lot of rolling hills and a couple of steep climbs. I live in the middle of Indiana so I really had no hills to train on.

The first loop went pretty good but the strong winds and the hills started to wear on me on over the course of the second loop. Mary and Hannah came out to the town of La Grange to see me on the bike. On the first loop I heard them and saw them but there wasn't enough time to really acknowledge them. On the second loop, when I came to La Grange I sat up and slowed down so that I could wave and say "Hi." They came all the way out to see me and stood out there for a couple of hours, I figured that was the least I could do.

Second loop through La Grange.

I ate and drank to plan on the bike taking in about 2000 calories over the course of the ride and about 60 ounces of water. I stopped to pee twice adding about a total of 10 minutes (there was a line both times) to my ride. The first stop was necessary while the second stop was just to "get off the damn bike for a minute" as much as it was for anything else. 6 hours is a long time to be on a bike.

Once the 2 loops are complete the course heads back into town. Normally you could expect your average MPH to increase on the ride back since it is downhill. Not on race day though as the ride back into town was into a strong head/crosswind. My legs and back were cramping pretty bad for this part of the ride and I was happy to see the bike dismount line. I handed my bike off to a "bike catcher" and ran to get my run gear.

The Run
Start Time: 3:54 PM
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 3:30:27
Age Group (45-49): 9th
Overall: 102nd

As you can tell from the stats, this is my strength. My running watch only had enough battery to last for the ride so I was now completely without a watch. There was a clock with the race's running time as I headed out of transition. I made note of the time so that I could keep an eye on my pace using the mile marker clocks. Little did I know that even though mile marker clocks are a standard feature in a marathon, they didn't have them in this race. I was running this completely blind.

I saw Kasey, Jacob, and Natalie on the run out of transition. Kasey asked me how I felt and I answered honestly. "I feel really good." I couldn't believe how good I felt and as I headed away from downtown I got a lot of "wow, you look really good." and "you look strong" comments from spectators and fellow athletes. I saw Mary and Hannah right around the first mile.

By about mile 4 I got a sharp but low intensity pain on the outside of my left knee. The severity of the pain would increase over the course of the run and I would have to fight it the rest of the day. The run is a 2 loop course and Mary, Kasey, Hannah, Natalie and Jacob were all near the half way point  waiting for me. When Natalie saw me her face lit up and she started to run toward me. I passed and waved but I only got a few steps past them before I couldn't bear to disappoint Natalie so I stopped, turned around and went back to say hi to her and give her a kiss.Seeing her face when she saw me was truly 1 of a couple of highlights on the day. I asked my family if they had any idea of my pace and since they were tracking me they did, They told me I was running about 7:40. That was exactly the pace I had set as a goal for myself.

Just about halfway through the Marathon. Other than my knee I was still feeling pretty strong.
I only shared this with my close family but this was about the pace I needed to run a run a Boston Qualifier in the marathon. I honestly thought they were lying to me. I would find out after the race that they were not. Unfortunately, my knee over the second half of the run and just the long day in general began to eat away at that pace.

The second half became exponentially harder with each mile and in the last 6 miles I was bargaining with myself between each aid station. Just run to the next aid station and I allowed myself to walk, if I needed to, thru the aid station but did my best to continue running if possible.

From mile 23 to mile 26 it got dark. Both the sky and my mind. I wasn't sure if it was actually going to end or not. I just kept focusing on short term goals and by short term I mean the next 30 or 60 seconds.

Finally, I was back downtown and nearing the finish line. With about 3 blocks left my friend Matt, who had already finished (9 hours, 47 minutes) was waiting. He started running with me assuring me it was almost over and gave me some really good advice. He told me to make sure I got the finish line to myself. So, when I hit the red carpet, I slowed until the 2 people in front of me crossed and then I took my turn coming thru the chute to hear "Christian High, from Kokomo, IN, You are an IRONMAN"

In that moment the long days melted away and just like that the months of training, the 4:15 AM alarms and 9:00 PM bed times, the 18 hour training weeks, the long grueling bike rides, the "big day" 10 and 12 hour training days, the long runs, the lunch time open water swims paid off and never in my entire life have I felt so satisfied and fulfilled by a personal achievement.

Overall Stats
Distance: 140.6 miles
Time: 11 hours 18 minutes 12 seconds 
Age Group(45-49): 51st of 289  
Male: 328th of1534 
Overall: 401st/2273

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2016 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Training Details
20 Weeks Total
1453 total miles
3 100 mile weeks
3 full distance training runs (2 at actual marathons)
7 20+ mile runs

Race Details
Finish Time 2:51:31
77th Overall
72/2412 Men
12/413 Men Age 40-44
First Half 1:23:55
Second Half 1:27:37

The short description of this race would be a solid 23 mile race and a really, really bad 5k. The long painful story follows.

First of all, I was very happy to line up healthy this year and finish the race. Last year I pinched a nerve and was unable to run the race after the best training cycle I have ever put together. The heart ache lasted for weeks and the disappointment was nearly unbearable. So, while the rest of this report may sound like a pity party, it's not. It's just an honest review.

My goal back at the beginning of this training cycle was to get back to the shape I believe I was in last year. I was pretty sure that a 2:47:00 marathon would have been a walk in the park. I think that if I was feeling brave I could have gone 2:45:xx. I was very anxious about how to get back into shape and I decided to hire a pro to write my training plan. I sought out a custom plan from Maximum Performance Running. I can't say enough good things about Mark Hadley, the guy who runs it. Check him out at his blog or twitter @MPRunning

I worked diligently toward that goal for about 15 weeks and it became apparent that I wasn't going to get there. But I did feel like if everything came together I could still hit 2:47:00. It's just that it was going to take a PR type effort and leave me spent. So my goal when I toed the line on November 5th, 2016 at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon was just that 2:47. That's a 6:22 - 6:24/Mile pace.

Once again we stayed downtown. I was seeded in corral A and It was a chilly morning, about 37* and no wind. This is perfect marathoning weather. I honestly couldn't believe how good the weather was. But 37* is a little cool for just standing around in. That being the case we stayed in the hotel room until the last minute and walked down and jumped in the corral with about 5 minutes to spare.

Once in the corral Garrett found me. I also see some other runners I know, Matt York, his friend Dustin, and Heather Weber. We all say hi and make a little small talk. I say I'm going for 2:47. Garrett and Matt both indicate they think they'll be a little slower than that.

Getting ready to start another marathon with Garrett.

First 5k 20:12 6:30/Mile
We get the start signal and we are off, slowly. We didn't realize how far back we were in the corral and the first mile is just wall to wall people. The first mile was 6:50ish. Way to slow. In the first and second mile I think I see every single marathoner I know. It actually started feeling a little ridiculous how many people I was talking to. I'm not a social guy. I don't have friends. But I in the first few miles here I feel like the kid in school who is friends with everybody. I saw Matt, Cliff, Glenn, Chad. At some point Garrett says "the moral of the story is you have a lot of fast friends." Yeah, I guess I do.

We hit mile 2 and I was averaging high 6:30s. Way too slow. I drop the hammer and I think Garrett has already decided he didn't want to run that fast. That's all right, it's just me today. Next thing I know there's Garrett. He decided to come with me and I'm happy for that. The marathon is a much easier beast when you have some one to work with. A few minutes later we catch up with Chad. He tells me he's going for 2:48. Cool, we'll run together for a while and see what happens.

Second 5k 19:43 6:20/Mile
I ran most of this with Chad and Garrett and there really isn't much to report except to say that I felt good, the pace felt good and I had high hopes for the day. I take a gel right at the 10k mark.

Third 5k 19:52 6:23/Mile
About mile 7 we split off from the half-marathoners. I was running with Chad still and I think Garrett started to fall off a bit. By mile 8 Chad had started to pull ahead some and I was running by myself but close to other runners. I know Matt must be close behind because I see a contingent of supporters from Kokomo and hear them call out my name and Matt's.

Forth 5k 19:47 6.22/Mile
Matt had caught back up to me and we ran side by side for several miles. Matt is an IronMan so I picked his brain a little about training and equipment. I have a draw to IronMan that I can't seem to kick. I was still feeling very strong at this point. Confident that my primary goal of 2:47:xx would be doable and entertaining going for it in the second half, putting up a big negative split, and getting in under 2:47.

Fifth 5k 20:00 6:26/Mile
I take a gel right at the half. Matt started to pull away as we turned back onto Meridian. I wasn't worried at this point. I assumed that either he was picking it up or my legs just needed a change of pace for a minute. Unfortunately, my Garmin wasn't a good indicator as it was bouncing thru a relatively large pace range. Whatever the case Matt stayed within 4 or 5 meters. I was still connected.

6th 5k 20:15 6:31/Mile
My pace slipped a little but it wasn't because I was tiring, there is a lot of incline in this portion of the race. really its the one of the only areas that isn't just about flat. I still feel fine and it takes no convincing what-so-ever to tell myself that its just the incline and once we get to the IMA the pace will come back to the low 6:20s where it needs to be. I should have taken a gel by mile 19 but I missed it. I believe this plays a significant role in the way the rest of the race unfolded.

7th 5k 20:26 6:34/Mile
I roll thru the 20 mile mark and I try to drop the hammer. The problem is, there is no hammer. The gap between myself and Matt is now significant. I am no longer connected. He ran a hell of a race and negative split by a minute. So He was picking it up and I was slipping a bit. For the first time I have started to worry that I won't meet my primary goal of 2:47:xx. I am also worried that the rapid deterioration would even cost me a PR.

By mile 21 my pace had dropped to 6:44. From behind I hear Garrett! "Looks like you could use some help." I was very happy to hear that voice. In my mind I thought "Garrett has come to at least help me salvage a PR." He encouraged me and I tried to stay with him but my legs were going down in in flames. All I could say to Garrett was "The wheels are coming off." Through all of this I still did not realize that I missed a gel.

8th 5k 21:47 7:00/Mile + Finish
I saw my wife and daughter Kasey at mile 23. My wife said she knew it was bad because Garrett was pulling away from me and she has never seen me look so bad in a race. I was passed I don't know how many times here. My legs gave up but my heart and mind didn't. Each time I was passed I dug deep to answer and regain my position. The only problem was my legs would not respond and I failed each time. I never quit though. Ever. I kept pushing. It was bad.

Dying at mile 23

At mile 24 I realized what was happening. I realized that I had missed that gel. Marathoners know that the body is capable of storing enough energy to run for about 2 hours. Anything over and above that you have to supply during the race and at the appropriate times so that your body can make use of it. I was out of fuel. Commonly referred to as "hitting the wall." I took my last gel in hopes that it would at least help me in the last mile or so and keep this from getting even worse. Hopefully, I could at least trick my body into thinking it had some fresh source of energy to pull from and free my legs to move with a little more strength. It must have worked to some degree because while mile 25 was in the mid 7s and I was able to get back to the low 7s for mile 26 and under 7 for the remaining .2

So, I was on pace to meet my goal even to mile 23. I should have easily PR'ed. I keep going back and forth about was it the gel or is that just a convenient excuse. I really believe it was the gel because I felt good until I didn't feel good. I believe it was the gel because my mind and my heart still wanted it but I couldn't will myself to move any faster. In other words it was a physiological fail.

What's next?
I am signed up for the Celebration Marathon in Celebration, FL on 1/29/2017. I was just going to run this for fun but I am weighing the option of turning around on a short cycle and racing it to get that 2:47:xx. I'll take this week and next week to decide but at the moment I am leaning very strongly in that direction.

Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 Detroit Free Press Marathon

A couple of years ago my uncle, who lives about 30 minutes from Detroit, invited me to come run the Detroit marathon and stay with them. It wasn't going to work for me that year and it didn't work out the next year. But this year, everything came together and I was able to put it on my schedule as the final long run in a build up to the 2016 Monumental Marathon.

Planning started about 8 weeks ago. The marathon begins in Detroit and crosses into Canada for a few miles. That being the case you need official credentials to cross the border. I haven't been out of the country in years and so didn't have any of the various options. We decided to go ahead and just get full passports in case we decided we wanted to fly to France for dinner some evening. While the State department recommends 6 week lead time to get your passport we actually received ours in about 2 weeks. It was a pretty simple process.

The race was scheduled for 7:00 AM Sunday, October 16th, 2016. We headed to Detroit about 9:00 AM Saturday morning and arrived to the COBO center for packet pickup at about 1:00 PM. There is good parking right at the center's parking garage for $10.00. We don't know the area at all so it was 100% worth the price. We parked and were in and out of packet pickup and the expo in about 45 minutes.

My aunt and uncle not only provided a place for us to stay but provided us with the most important meals of the weekend. Pre-race and post-race dinner. A Sunday morning marathon means a Saturday evening vigil mass. So, we went to mass, ate dinner and watched some collage football before turning in around 9:00 PM for a 4:00 AM wake up.

We headed downtown about 5:00 AM for a 7:00 AM start. We were parked by 5:30 AM in a little 20 space parking lot about a half mile from the start line. All of the usual pre-race stuff; you know, hit the port-a-pot, take a gel and load up in the corral.

At 7:00 AM it was 66* and 83% humidity, making for a warm and humid day in Detroit. This race was taking the place of a 24 mile "moderate paced" run in my training plan. That being the case, my goals for the race were: First, run a strong pace between 6:50 and 7:00 miles. Second, run a very controlled first mile no faster than 7:00. Third, negative split the race.

My wife got this picture right before I headed to the corral.

1st 5k -- 6:51 (5k in 21:20 @ 6:51)
7:00 AM made for a predawn start which was just fine with me and the race started right on time as you would expect at a large race. They started the countdown, I stripped off my shirt, tossed it to the side and started moving up. Knowing that I wanted to be at 7:00 minute mile or slower for the first mile I kept my eye on the 3:05 pace group and tried to not get ahead of them. First mile was 7:01, sweet.

In mile 2 is a climb up to the ambassador bridge to cross the Detroit river into Canada. This is a nice grind and because I was holding my pace back and running much slower than my goal marathon pace I was running really strong and just passing people. This was a great confidence boost and I remember thinking that I needed to keep it in check and not blow a negative split. Once on the climb to the bridge and across the bridge there is a lot of border patrol. You could tell that they were checking bibs and doing their jobs but they were also being great marathon spectators and giving encouragement to the runners.

5k - 10k -- 6:52 (5k in 21:18 @ 6:57)
Now fully inside of Canada, we turn back north and head toward Riverside Drive. I've never been to Canada and it was basically just what I expected. The only difference I could see from the USA was that the speed limit signs were in kilometers. We ran along riverside for a couple of miles and made our way to the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

10k - 15k -- 6:53 (5k in 21:38 @ 6:57)
If you weren't aware this is an underwater tunnel that runs for about a mile. I always do manual laps on my Garmin in a race so losing satellites wasn't an issue for me. Also, when a Garmin does lose satellites it draws a straight line from its last signal to the spot were it regains communication. The tunnel just happens to be a straight line so it even was able to stay on the correct distance once we climbed out of the tunnel. Took a gel right at 45 minutes.

Returning to the USA, at about the 8 mile mark, was great. There were crowds, music, and where I was they were even calling the names of the runners. A great boost of energy and motivation was the result. Again, I had to check myself and keep my pace under control. This is not a race for me. I needed to keep the pace at 6:50 or slower to ensure that I didn't need extended recovery and could return to my training for the Monumental. A look at my watch here had my over all pace at about 6:53 so not a whole lot of room to play with particularly if I'm going to negative split the race.

The course between the return to the USA and the half mark runs through downtown Detroit. I was hoping to catch my family down here. Sure enough, right around the 12 mile mark I hear Hannah. I am pretty much by myself here working between groups. Catching 1, leaving it and catching another. I easily make my way over to the left hand side of the road for a high-five from Hannah.

Getting a boost from a "Hannah High Five"
15k - 20k -- 6:51 (5k in 21:01 @ 6:45)
The course heads away from downtown and through some old but nice urban neighborhoods. The pace is picking up and I am confident that I will be able to hold and quicken the pace in the second half. At about the 15 mile mark there is a group handing out little 6 oz bottles of water. I grab 1 and it fits nicely in my hand and the mouth of the bottle makes drinking on the run very easy. I think I have a new drinking strategy for marathons and I need to find where I can buy these bottles. 

20k  - 25k -- 6:50 (5k in 20:59 @ 6:45)
Not much to report on this part of the course except that I was still feeling strong and was now fairly confident in hitting 3 hours and a negative split relatively comfortably. Being able to to drink from the bottle as opposed to dixie cups made drinking much easier. I took another gel right at 100 minutes.

25k - 30k -- 6:50 (5k in 21:11 @ 6:49)
Heading out to and on Belle Island there was a noticeable headwind and I had to work to keep the pace where I was. I wasn't going to let a little headwind derail my goal so I just dug in and did the work. I kept a close eye on my watch and if the pace started to drop I refocused.

30k - 35k -- 6:50 (5k in 21:27 @ 6:54)
The pace was dropping a bit so I knew that the work was beginning. It would take focus from here to the finish to meet my primary goals but I felt pretty strong and just knew that I had to put my head down and get to work. No problem, that's my draw to the marathon. It is hard physical work and I relish it.

35k - 40k -- 6:50 (5k in 20:56 @ 6:44/mile)
A couple of things helped here. I was ready for it to get difficult and mentally prepared for when it did. I knew there was just a 5k plus a little extra left so I was with in 25 minutes of this thing being over. A younger runner passed me. I don't like being passed especially late in a marathon. That's a point of pride for me. I get strong as people around me are falling off. I drop other runners late in the marathon, not the other way around. So when he passed me I made the decision to go with him. I stayed within striking distance through the run along the Detroit river back into downtown.

40k - the finish
Now moving back downtown there were 3 hills to go over. Again, I was running about 35 seconds under goal pace so the hills didn't cause me much trouble. I caught and passed the guy that passed me back along the river and then set my sight on 1 more runner and caught and passed him as well. I  really took the pace down here and ran 6:44 in for mile 25-26.

The course measured 26.45 my Garmin, on the strava route, and on the online map used by the marathon itself. That's fine. I've got no issue with that. It's the course and it's certified. There are actually a lot of turns. All of these turns mean that errors in running the tangents could add up quickly explaining the extra distance on my watch. Additionally, since online mapping uses center-lines for measurements all of the turns mean that the tangents are lost and you are going to get a long measurement from those as well. All that being said, I let completely loose over the last half mile running at a 5:33 pace.

Marathon #14 complete!
I was very pleased with my execution of this race. Coming at the end of a training cycle before tapering and further at the end of a peak mileage week as the race itself capped a 100 mile week, I felt very strong throughout the race and gained confidence in my goal of a 2:47:xx time at the Monumental on November 5th.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

2016 Indianapolis Half Marathon

I ran the Indianapolis Half Marathon Saturday Oct, 8th, 2016 as a tune-up for the 2016 Monumental Marathon. I had the basic 3 goals for my big tune-up half marathon. The primary goal was to run in the 1:20s while the stretch goal was to run 1:20:00 and the lest I would walk away happy with would be 1:21:30. The goals were not just pulled out of thin air. I wanted to run 1:20:xx because if you plug that number into my personal equation for half-marathon to marathon time that puts me right at my goal of 2:46 for the full marathon. I wanted to run 1:20:00 flat because that would give me hope to break into the 2:45:xx for the full and the 1:21:30 would still give me a personal course record.

I was up at about 5:30 AM for a quick shakeout before breakfast. We headed out right on time and made our way to Lawrence, IN which is a little less than an hour away. It was a cool morning with a little wind from the north that would end up having a noticeable effect in mile 7. We arrived and parked, as usual at this race, with no problems at all. The parking is really well done here.

Once parked, we had about an hour until the start and since I already had my race bib we just waited in the car until it was time to head out for a warmup. I warmed up and made my way to the start area with about 10 minutes to spare. Took a gel and a couple of drinks of water. This is purely superstition for me before a half-marathon. I got into the corral and started looking around for familiar faces but wasn't really seeing any.

Earlier in the week I exchanged a couple of tweets with Glenn and we loosely agreed to work with each other in this race. I finally saw Glenn with about a minute before the race started. I threw my sweatshirt to the side and moved up a few steps, "You ready, Glenn?"

We got the start signal and were off on a loop around some refurbished, repurposed army housing that was part of Ft. Ben. I knew I needed to control the first mile. I didn't want to go out crazy and tank my race in this mile but I also knew that I needed to keep it under the goal pace because we had a significant climb in mile 3 and a good grind in mile 4. First mile in 6:14. Damn! not only was I not even close to goal pace I just lost 11 seconds. I tried not to panic and make it all up here. Just picked up the effort to try to get to goal pace. Mile 2 6:02, there we go, that's better.

Mile 3 has a significant hill and from looking at past efforts on this course I knew I wanted to be around 6:10.  Mile 3 came in at 6:17. What is going on! Again, just get back on pace. Mile 4 is a net uphill but it rolls so I am hoping I can just get back to goal pace here. Mile 4 at 6:08 so not quite but not a deal breaker. However, I have now run 3 of the first 4 mile significantly slower than the 6:02 I was hoping for.

In mile 4 a small pack had formed between myself, Glenn, and the 2 lead females. Mile 5 at 6:07 and mile 6 at 6:10. I knew here that 1:20:00 was out and in all likely hood 1:20:xx was gone as well. I only held out hope because the next 4 miles were net downhill and I was hoping to make up at least some ground.

We formed a small pack that would hang together for most of the next 4 or 5 miles

We made the turn to head North on Lee Rd and were met with a nice headwind. Lee Rd is just kind of open with nothing to slow the wind down. Faced with this I let 1:20:xx go and just dug in to keep running strong.  I had been too conservative in the first 2 miles and it was going to cost me not only my stretch goal but my primary goal as well.

A turn around at mile 7.5 gives you a chance to see your position. I saw 3 guys out front with a very large gap between the next couple of guys in front of us. We didn't actually see the leader here as he was already in the park. I like this course because it breaks the race up very nicely. After you hit the turn around on Lee Rd you head into the Ft Harrison State Park which is a really nice place to run. I know that I have some more downhill before the next significant climb which encompasses most of mile 10 and culminates in a heart pounding steep hill just around mile 10.5

Somehow at mile 8 I thought I was in mile 9. I have run this race since 2012, you'd think I'd know the course by now. Since I had been overly conservative early and we were running on a slight decline, I was feeling pretty good and tried to take the pace down a notch. a few minutes later we hit the 9 mile marker. Ugh. I quickly put aside my mistake and just tried to continue with a strong pace.

In mile 10 there is a noticeable shift in the vertical direction and I could feel it immediately and my pace slowed accordingly. Somewhere in mile 10 the woman who would go on to be 1st female over all started to separate. Just a minute or so later Glenn started pulling away as well. We hit "the hill" and the separation grew. I just didn't have the strength to keep pace. Mile 10 would come in at 6:34, my slowest of the day by over 15 seconds.

Mile 11 I knew I needed to recover and just tried to keep the gap from growing any. I'd say at this point Glenn had about 20 seconds on me and had closed the gap with the 2 guys who had been running ahead of us all morning. Mile 12 we make the turn on 59th Street headed toward the finish. Glenn over took one of the guys who were out in front of us. My legs are coming back around and I focus on the guy between Glenn and I and try to start closing that gap with a hope of passing him before the finish. He's looking back, which is a good sign for me because it shows he's struggling and hoping he can cruise in. But he sees the gap closing and fights for it.

I ran mile 12 at a 6:04 pace and got with in 3 seconds of overcoming 8th place but he held me off just long enough. I ran the last .1 knowing that's were I'd finish. Hit the timing mat at 1:21:23, sign of the cross and call it a day.


Glenn, Ben, and me immediately reviewing the race

I failed to meet the goals of the day because I ran the first 2 miles too slow along with a couple of slow hilly miles and a bonus slow mile due to a headwind on what should have been a fast part of the course I had to settle for walking away achieving the least acceptable goal of the day, a personal course record. Still, I'll take some confidence away from this race. I could have held that pace a few more miles if I had to have so I think 6:22-6:25 is doable at the monumental especially with 1 more full marathon distance run as a strength workout next weekend at the 2016 Detroit Free Press Marathon where I'll just try to run about a 7:00/mile pace for sub 3:05 time.

Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Carmel Marathon: Race Report

As you may already be aware I pinched a nerve in my right leg at the end of October. The pinched nerve kept me out of running for a full 8 weeks. During this time I cross trained like a boss with pool running, cycling, arc trainer. That might be good enough for some people to stay in reasonable shape but when I pinched the nerve I was in the best shape of my life. I was a finely tuned machine that was crushing workouts and destroying PRs and it would prove to not be any where close to enough to maintain that level of fitness.

I have always used an 18 week training cycle but this time the injury still had me relegated to the aforementioned cross training when the start of the cycle came around. By the time I was back to running I was really out of shape and there was no way I could jump into my usual marathon build up: 7 mile runs were leaving me feeling like I got hit by a truck. I decided to use an abbreviated 12 week cycle and use the 4 or 5 weeks I had until then to just to get my legs back. Over the course of this time I was able to build back up to a long run of 20 miles.

As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I was never 100% or even close to it through the entire training cycle. As 1 injury would clear up another would flare up. It wasn't until 5 days before Carmel that I was anything close to 100%. That being the case, to actually call it a training cycle is a bit of an over statement and I was just about as out of marathon shape as I have been since I started this lifestyle.

When I realized how out of shape I was I decided that somewhere around 3 hours would be OK and I would just use this race as a base strength type of run. Running was very hard throughout this whole thing. The long runs in particular would have been very daunting to have faced alone but I was blessed to have a friend to do long runs with. I ran most of my long runs with Cliff, a friend I met by going head to head in the last few miles of the Bee Bumble 10k in 2012. We have kept in touch via facebook and local races over the years and have talked about running together from time-to-time. I knew I needed some help to make it through the long runs so I got a hold of him and he obliged. It worked out pretty good since he was training to run the Boston Marathon around 3 hours as well.

Enough about the training, suffice it to say I was unable to get to prime form and knew that even 2:59 would be a struggle. Race morning was finally here and the forecast was for sunny 70* and no wind. Sounds perfect to you non-runners, huh? Sounds like miserably hot conditions for running 26.2 miles to me.

I met Garrett before the race and he was planning on running his usual 2:52. I knew we wouldn't be running together and after the start signal was given I watched him barrel off into the distance. With no PR to shoot for and not even a respectable time given my past marathons it was going to be a long day.

That is me and Garrett behind what looks to be a very grumpy half-marathoner

About a mile in I came up on another local runner, Matt York. He's an Iron Man and has a marathon PR just a couple of minutes faster than me. Matt is a smart runner and keeps a controlled pace early on. I figured I'd latch on and just run with him. It was working well for the first several miles. We were running around 6:35/6:40 miles and I was feeling pretty good. Matt and I don't know each other well so the conversation was a nice distraction.

At one point Matt said something to the effect of "Well, if you get too far ahead of me, good luck." I assured him I was running way too fast and this was going to get ugly pretty quick. I knew I was going to blow up but I decided to just try to hold this pace as long as I could and take what comes after. It'd be a good strength builder.

At around 8 miles or so, I saw Steve Williams who i met at this years Sam Costa. I knew he was shooting for 3 hours and a Boston qualifier but he looked like he was out a little fast and I just hoped he wouldn't blow up. Steve end up finishing right around 3 hours and got his BQ so good for him!

Around mile 11 the crash began. It wasn't a total and complete collapse. I just couldn't stay with Matt any more and my pace dropped to the high 6s as I watched gap between Matt and I grow larger and larger. At this point I just wanted to hang on for a 2:59:59 marathon. I kept that delusion for another couple of miles until it became apparent that my pace was just going to continue to bleed. It was getting hot and I was out of shape.

About mile 16 I saw my family for the first time and for the first time ever I saw Hannah before she saw me and I started calling out "Hannah!, Hannah!" Hannah had a bottle of water ready for me and it was a welcome sight. My oldest daughter Kasey took pity on me and threw her bottle of water on me and it felt like heaven. My pace was still dropping but seeing my family was a great boost and while I wasn't feeling real bad yet, I sure shouldn't have been smiling like I was for the picture.

From 16 to 25 I really lost a lot of time with my pace slipping well into the upper 7s for several of those miles. Not a whole lot to say about the final miles other than that it felt like a death march for most of it. I really tried to pick it up in the final mile and coming down the stretch I passed a guy who I had been playing leap frog with over the last several miles. In the final 1/4 of a mile I was ready to shut it down but there is Hannah yelling at me "Don't let him beat you!" I found that last gear for the last 90 seconds or so and was able to maintain my position and that was really the only running win of the day for me.

Yeah this was a bad race. Yeah, I was out of shape and a lot of people would say I ran a stupid race going out faster than even my planned goal pace that I figured would be too fast anyway. I didn't get any kind of victory and there was no glory at the finish line this time; only relief.

All that said, it was a great race because it was at this race that I realized just how connected I am to running. I mentioned a few people in this report that I met through running and I saw and spoke to even more people that I know because I run. I've got to say, I love the fact that I can go to a bigger race in a city I don't live in and see a bunch of people I know because we all share a passion for this crazy thing called the Marathon.

A couple of other great points on the day. First was that both of my daughters ran in the 8k and I always really enjoy when several of us get after it on race day! Also, it was Nattie Jo's first road race and I cannot wait to continue to share this experience with her throughout her life. Foot races are a big part of the life of my family and thinking about sharing that with Natalie and other grand kids yet to be named just makes me smile.

The marathon broke my heart in November and it beat me up pretty bad in April. That's OK because  Fall will be here soon enough I will have my revenge. Looks like I've got a lot of work to do before the Monumental to ensure that I punish the marathon for what it has done to me this year.