Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon: Training Review

OK, let's get it out of the way to begin with. The race was the definition of suffer-fest. It took me nearly a month to recover mentally. If this is the first post of mine you have read, I spent the last 8 weeks of the cycle literally limping by with a strained groin muscle so when I toed the line on 4/21, muscle still pulled, I was as under-trained as I have ever been heading into a race..

All of that aside, before the injury I was in the best shape of my life and by a whole lot at that. I had a very aggressive goal of 2:49:59 and the week or so before I got hurt I was thinking that I would be in shape to make 2:49:59 look like child's play. I had 8 or 9 weeks left and I could have run a 2:49:59 at  that point. In fact on 2/22/2014 I ran a very tough workout. It was supposed to be 16 miles with 12 at marathon pace. I felt so good I tacked another 4 on the end for a cool down. I just remember how satisfied I was with that run. You can read about it yourself here. This was no anomaly. I was literally exceeding my expectations on every run.

I've never written a training review before but I am recovered and looking for revenge on the marathon. I'll start with the Indianapolis Monumental in November but make no mistake, I am looking to give Hopkinton, Heart Break Hill and Boylston Street a big smack down. They abused me terribly and I want satisfaction. Oh yeah, it's personal. I'm not looking at 2015 because it was so expensive that my bank account will need adequate time to recover. Aside from that, revenge is a dish best served cold. So maybe 2016?

Back to the point of this post though. The point is a whole lot of stuff went right this time and this will serve as a way for me to summarize so that I can repeat the steps that lead to such success. First of all, I came off of a PR at the Indianapolis Monumental. I took only 2 recovery weeks after that race and promptly got back up to 60 miles per week. I have long been a believer in what I term "running piles of miles." 60 or more per week even in between training cycles. The big miles give you a solid base to work from. They familiarize your body with the necessary levels of fatigue that marathon training entails so that you can adapt. Once the cycle begins again you don't have to get you body used to the number of miles and you can focus on getting your body used to the number of miles at a faster pace.

Along with "running piles of miles" I didn't shy away from big long runs. It's tough to get out there and run for 2 or 2.5 hours by yourself. For me, when I don't have a regularly scheduled 20 + mile run I start to fear them. When I run them regularly that fear goes away. So while I prefer to keep them on my schedule for that reason alone the more important reason is just like running lots of total miles, the more familiar my heart, lungs, legs and feet become with those distances the faster I can start running them. They begin to take much less out of me so that I don't need long recoveries. I did this between the Monumental and the start of the Boston cycle by running 3 20 mile runs between the Monumental on11/2 and the start of the Boston cycle on 12/23.

Another ingredient was a lot of the miles were faster than "easy" pace. While a lot of training advice says that most of your miles should be "easy" I feel like that is short changing myself. Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking "but you hurt yourself." I did, but not while running. My injury came from me stupidly acting like a power lifter at the gym and trying to squat heavy weight and get down super low. I have suffered only 1 running injury in the several years I have been running and that was during a race taking a hairpin turn while trying to maintain pace.

For me a steady diet of progressive pace, marathon pace and tempo paced runs is important. Progressive meaning starting out a bit slower and ending up down around marathon pace in the last few miles. Marathon pace meaning somewhere within 10 to 15 seconds of the pace I want to hold in the race and tempo meaning the pace that I can race a half-marathon at(about 10 to 15 seconds faster than marathon pace).

Finally, running while in a fasted state and taking no nutrition or fluids during the run. I don't think that I can overstate the importance of this. I would go out for a 16-20 mile run first thing in the morning without taking any food and maybe just a sip of water to wet my mouth. Sometimes I would finish and feel like I had been in a heavy weight title boxing match. Sometimes in the last couple of miles I would be unsure how I was going to finish. This isn't necessarily the safest thing to do as you really start to become confused and unable to think straight. I would literally not be able to make the decision of whether or not to cross the street. But the body is a wonderful thing and will adapt to whatever you throw at it. My body learned to run 20 miles fasted. It does this by learning to burn fat at a faster rate. We've all got plenty of that. This makes it stretch the much easier to access carbohydrates further allowing me to run longer before running out and slowing down. I'm not doctor or scientist but that's how I understand it.

So training for the Monumental starts on 6/30/2014 and the race is on 11/1/2014. I will be employing these training techniques between now and then and I'm going to come looking for the marathon. I've got a score to settle and I'll just put it out there now. 1/11/2014/Me vs. Monumental Marathon/2:49:59

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon: A Thank You Note.

Running; for me it is not an individual effort. I have said it many time and many ways and I'm going to say it one more time. I couldn't run like I do with out a whole lot of help and this year the Boston Marathon and the training cycle that proceeded it just magnified that fact. If you haven't already read the race report you can find it here. As you might imagine I had support and encouragement from everywhere, social media, work, church, the gym I belong to. It was the Boston Marathon after all. Even people who have no interest in running know about and respect this historic road race. But when I got hurt 8 weeks out there were 3 people who really stepped it up and helped me limp through the last 8 weeks and without them I wouldn't have been able to run Boston at all and I'd like to take a minute to thank them.

First of all, to deal with my injury I went to St. Vincent Sports Performance in Carmel which is about 45 minutes from my house. The doctor set me up with one of their trainers to keep me patched up and running through the injury allowing me to maintain enough fitness to actually go and finish the race. Scott Hudson is a trainer at SVSP. Scott kept me running with a variety of joint manipulation techniques and soft tissue work. I would literally limp in after a 15 mile run and after an hour with Scott I would walk out. It was pretty amazing. I don't think just any trainer could do this. But as as a 100 mile utlra-marathon finisher,  Scott understands running. Thanks Scott!

All of the time I spent with Scott including driving to an from the facility brings me to my boss, Dave McChesney. Before my initial visit to the doctor Dave said "right now, Boston is top priority. Do whatever you need to do." What I needed to do was visit Scott twice a week during business hours. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays Dave allowed me to come in at 10:00 AM after I had been to see Scott. Getting into to Scott could have been much more complicated and Dave would have been justified in not letting me miss so much work. But instead he invested himself in my running and gave me the freedom I needed to get through. Thanks Dave!

Now, if you read any of my race reports or follow my training in any way you know who the 3rd person I need to thank is. Do you ever get sick of how thankful I am for my wife? This woman puts as much if not more in my running than I do. From making sure I have the things I need to run and coordinating all of the details for races, keeping me honest when I don't have the motivation and giving me a kick in the butt when I need it. Even getting up early to ride her bike along side me in the last 5 miles of a stupid long run. She truly makes me feel like a pro.

This injury was no different. She watched and learned from Scott so that the 5 days a week I wasn't seeing him she could work on me to keep it all held together. She spent her evenings and even lunch hours working on my injury so that I could get back out there in an effort to maintain as much fitness as possible. She listened to me whine, she listened to me wallow in self pity, she provided the assurance that I would run Boston. That I would finish, and that it would all be OK. Not one complaint. The whole time. Not one. Thanks Honey, you are the best!

Running is often seen as an individual sport and I suppose in many ways it is. I suppose a person could run without support, without a team, For me though, I know that I couldn't run like I do without a whole lot of help. To all of my social media friends, dailymile people, church friends, and especially the 3 people mentioned in this post. Thanks!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon

This half marathon was less than 2 weeks out from the Boston Marathon. When I got my entry for Boston I knew this wasn't going to be a half that I would PR in but past that I wasn't really sure how I would do so I held off on setting any goals for this race until late last week.

If you read my Boston race report you know it took a lot out of me. Honestly, I am usually way more recovered by now. I think it was Wednesday or Thursday before the race that I even attempted to set some vague goals. I was still feeling pretty beat up and on top of that I had gone to a couple of CrossFit classes earlier in the week and was suffering from a bad case of DOMS. So, I settled for the goals of sneaking in under 1:30 and getting a top 500 finish (special "500 club" medal for that). Even these goals were based mostly on vanity and not really on what I was confident that I could go out and do and as such they actually caused me a great deal of anxiety.

This race has become a family affair. My wife and daughters all were running the 5k. My Uncle was also running the 5k and a close friend was coming in from out of town to support us all. We met up for dinner and packet pickup in downtown Indianapolis Friday evening. We headed over to our hotel, the Westin, which is the host hotel for the event. As the host hotel, all of the pros were staying there and we saw several of them. They were being lead around by event officials. It was pretty neat to see actually.

Laying in bed I was more nervous for a half-marathon than I have been in a very long time. Boston really scarred me. When I woke up around 5:00 AM race morning, I laid there contemplating just lining up for the 5k.  I just didn't feel like I had it in me yet to go out and race a half-marathon and I wanted no part of a slow 13.1 miles. Instead I just decided to quit thinking about it, shut down, put it in auto-pilot mode and pretend like nothing was happening. So I got dressed and ate my ritual cliff bar and banana pre-race breakfast.

We headed down to the corrals. The 5k starts about a half hour before the half so I saw my family into the start area and watched the 5k take off. They cleared and we started loading the corrals for the half. I was seeded in corral A and apparently we have a lot of fast runners in Kokomo because I started seeing several guys that I know. I made small talk with a few of them as we were waiting to run. I was still nervous and unsure how the race was going to go here and still trying to pretend nothing was happening.

We started and I had no trouble holding back. I was shooting for under 1:30. The course is pancake flat so I knew I could run even splits around 6:50/6:51 and hit my goal. First mile in 6:46. I dropped the pace from there averaging around 6:40 for the next few miles. Each mile I hit and was below pace was a surprise. I was working hard and surprised I was able to maintain a 6:40ish pace. Each mile started with an uncertainty about how much longer I could keep up the act.

About mile five I got a true humongous blessing for the day. I had been a few steps behind a guy I was pretty sure I recognized as another runner from Kokomo. I have known Jay's name for a while from local race results and the Club Kokomo Road Runner newsletter but had never met him until a few days ago in Boston through a mutual friend. We ended up side by side right at the mile 5 mark. Remember, there are over 25,000 runners in this race and Boston was packed. The fact that we met there and then ran into each other in this race right where I needed something I in no way count as a coincidence. We reconnected and exchanged a few words about the Boston race. Mainly that we both still felt pretty beat up. He told me that the pace we were running was right where he was looking for and I said I was happy here too. I needed this as I was just about to give up the sub 1:30 and relax the pace a bit. But with someone to push me on I knew I could maintain.

We didn't really talk much but just kind of stayed side by side. There is not a whole lot to say about the rest of the race. We just kept clicking off miles and were in a good place; passing other runners and not really being passed ourselves. I think it was mile 11 I realized that we could let up a little and still hit 1:30. But Jay pointed out that if we could maintain our current pace we were on track to finish in under 1:28. The difference between 1:28 and 1:30 in a half is pretty big on a good day and seemed huge under the current circumstance. I was happy and fearful at the same time. Finishing the day at 1:28 would be a huge confidence boost but the next couple of miles were going to be uncomfortable.

Making the turn to hit the last mile it was all business. I was right on the verge of puke threshold and was hanging on for dear life. As soon as the finish line clock became visible I knew we were going to miss 1:28 by just a few seconds. Kicked anyway and finished the last .1 in 35 seconds for a 5:42 pace. Frustrating but not devastating with an official time 1:28:10. Hit the timing mat, paused the watch, Sign of the Cross, dry heave, nearly puke and done! I gave it a good go and for starting with such a lack of confidence to finishing nearly 2 minutes faster than my goal for the day, all in all I was happy.

Mile 13 and starting to kick.
Jay and I ran most of the race together and I think we were both glad it was over.

It was a good day for racing in my family. My wife has been battling endless injury for a nearly a year now and she had a good race in the 5k. My oldest daughter Kasey was supposed to run the half but has been fighting shin splints for the last 4 weeks or so and dropped back to the 5k. She had a good race on very little training in the last month and best of all no shin pain at all in the race. My youngest daughter Hannah has been out of the sport for a while but is getting back to it and this was a good baseline race as she is gearing up for Cross County in her freshman year of college.

A great day for racing for the whole family.
Thumbs Up!

So highlights abounded this Saturday. A successful race for my whole family. And it is always a good race when you make a new friend. I also met an old friend after the race. Fr. Hasser, maybe my favorite priest, moved on from our parish a few years ago. He recognized me and came out to greet me from the Race for Vocations club tent. To say I was very happy to see him and spend a few minutes talking to him would be an understatement. It was the explanation point on the day.

Meeting Fr. Hasser after the race. A great surprise!
No real training. Just coming off of the Boston Marathon 12 days prior. I spent most of that time either not running at all or running very easy.

Overall -- 304/25525
40-44 Age Group --32/1594