Oct 29, 2009

Girl Informed Me

James Mercer is collaborating with Danger Mouse on a new project called Broken Bells. Good stuff but looks as if The Shins are a flash in the pan. No more "You gotta hear this song. It'll change your life.". No more obscure Sportscenter references comparing Lew Ford to James Mercer. Even if they launch another album, it'll be a different cast of characters... just not the same. Oh well. I'm a proud owner of three of their albums. And besides, my taste in music is ever expanding thanks to my ultra-cool wife ; ) Lady Gaga (Lah-D Gaga as I like to say) is fascinating to me... and I totally dig The Ting Tings! I mean, at least the two songs that are always played. And I still listen to Metallica, my old school fave, all day at work. You gotta have balance. There's nothing like creating a diverse playlist of 20 songs all approximately 3-minutes in length and alternating between easy and hard running for an hour.

Oct 21, 2009

2009 Columbus Marathon

In April/May my goal for this race would have been a sub-3. On the heels of Boston I finally convinced myself that I am a sub-3 marathoner and there should be no excuse to run anything over 3 hours on a course like Columbus. Unfortunately, I lost focus and maintaining a sub-3 level of fitness became less of a priority. Nonetheless, in order to achieve one of my long-term running goals, I planned for a fall marathon (second marathon of the year). With this said, I wanted to avoid running a marathon just to run a marathon. I needed a goal. Enter long time running friend Elizabeth. She has made huge strides in her running over the past 6-8 months and was setting her sites on a new PR at Columbus. For anyone running faster than 3:10-3:15 pace, this course can be very challenging from a mental standpoint. The half-marathoners drop off after 13 miles and it's practically no-mans land until the finish. In my previous two races at Columbus, a buddy on my shoulder would have made things so much easier.

Race day conditions were good. Not ideal, but good. The temperature in the morning was roughly 34°F. I wore shorts, arm warmers underneath long-sleeve under armor heat gear with a singlet over the under armor. I also had on gloves and a winter running/racing hat. I never felt overly chilled but I never really warmed up. Elizabeth had provided me in detail her plan for the day: start slow, fall into a consistent pace by mile 3, hold a steady pace until mile 21-22, maintain or increase pace over the final 4-5 miles.

Running with Liz provided me a different marathon experience than I’m used to. People were eager to talk to us (her). At times it seemed as though guys were making stuff up. Like this one guy who said, “You guys ran this race last year, didn’t you?” Maybe this guy was sincere and truly thought we looked familiar, but as we blew by him, it seemed a cheesy attempt to spark conversation. One of Liz’s directives was to keep her mouth shut, which she did a good job of… for the most part. There was a time or two when she got a little too chatty with other runners and I had to decide how to intervene. I could have told her to zip it… or I could have told the other runners to shut up because she needs to conserve as much energy as possible, but that would have been really lame… I decided the best way to minimize the small talk was to insert myself between her and anyone we were running with at the time. This seemed to work! With that said, some of the conversation with other runners was great. We single handedly helped ‘Eric’ to a new half-marathon PR and enjoyed hearing about his plans to qualify for Boston.

Battling headwinds was a bit of a challenge throughout the day… must have been a Northwest wind because running east and south was a breeze. The other battle we faced was getting through “boring” sections of the course, especially those late in the race (after 18 miles). Fortunately it was at this point when we noticed one of the female runners who passed us early on slowly coming back to us. As we steadily gained on her, Liz commented how she hoped to pull her with us, which I thought was extremely good-natured and a great display of sportsmanship.

Between mile 19 and 20 I could feel my calves wearing down and the pace was becoming uncomfortable. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out and was relieved when Liz began making comments like, “Now’s the time when I get strong” or “time for a little 10k race action”. I think it was just shy of mile 21 when my lack of fitness caught up to me and like Leo in Titanic, I let go and watched a very determined gal surge ahead in complete control of her race. For a mile or so I could still see her ahead and managed a slight smile each time she passed someone.

My race became dramatically different at this point. I immediately backed off the pace, which was a relief both mentally and physically. I was getting passed right and left but was also doing a fair amount of passing. With no concern for my own time, I did what I could to help those who were struggling, telling them how amazing the downhill finish is… all the people, balloons, brick-lined street, etc. This was also keeping my mind off of my cramping right quad. Around mile 25 I snagged 2-3 chocolate covered buckeyes being offered by volunteers. Being all too aware of the carnage on the course at this point in a marathon, I couldn’t help but smile as I made a final push towards mile 26. After all, only a marathoner could find humor in subjecting ones body to such distress. Hit the finish line in 3:14:36. Liz never faltered and realized her goal with a solid 3:05:57 (1-second negative split).

I’m extremely happy with yet another marathon finish (#14) and thankful for my family for supporting me in this ridiculous hobby of mine! It was great coming home to hugs and kisses from Teresa, Caden and Cole. My training may go up and down but their love is constant!

OU Alums Reunited before start

Early in the race - Liz still has zebra gloves on

Nearing the finish - Cole and Caden protecting my knees

Sep 15, 2009

Low Expectations

Last fall I was ill-prepared to run the Erie Marathon and had no idea of what my finishing time might be... As fate would have it, race day temps ventured into the mid-80's and it was a long day, providing no indication of my fitness level at the time. I feel even less prepared for Columbus, which is now less than 5 weeks away. However, I'm going to give myself credit for having continued to run over the last 2-3 months as the challenges at home have mounted.

My only goal on race day will be to finish (hopefully with a smile). I've run and observed enough marathons to fully appreciate what it means simply to finish. I'll go into it with a gameplan and will pace myself for a goal time but will not be at all disappointed if I begin to fall off pace.

With no pressure and/or expectations, I may actually enjoy this marathon!

Jul 31, 2009

Columbus for a third time

For me, the second time at Columbus was a charm (broke 3 hours for the first time) but I've decided to give it another go. I won't say I'm aiming for another sub-3 but I will definitely give the race a solid effort and hope for the best.

Jul 27, 2009

2009 Pirate Triathlon

Had a great time at the newly themed triathlon held annually in Fairport Harbor. My time was a little off from last year but not by much. The swim went as expected, slow. Had a decent bike, but battled some nasty headwinds (not to mention car traffic) on the second half of the course. Felt very sluggish transitioning from bike to run. This is where I think proper tri training (bricks) makes a big difference and since I haven't done any of that this year, it's no surprise that nearly 5 minutes passed before I got my run legs back. I was at or near 6 minute/mile pace for the last mile and was able to finish with a relatively strong kick.

Following the race, I marveled at a 12-year old whos finish time was only a minute or two off from mine. Next year, I'm pretty sure he'll beat me with ease.

My final splits were as follows.

Swim - 15:00
T1 - 3:15
Bike - 36:11
T2 - 1:26
Run - 17:57
Total - 1:13:51

Jul 17, 2009

Back In The Saddle Again

Got out for a 20 mile ride with D. Mika on what was a perfect evening for biking, especially in the valley where it was nice and cool. Mounting and clipping in to my bike felt great! There were three moderate climbs on the course we chose and plenty of straights to make use of the higher gears for short sprints. To my surprise, I never dropped out of my 53 chainring (fresh legs make a difference). Going to swim/bike brick in the AM. I forgot how much fun tri training is!

Jul 13, 2009

2009 Painesville Sunrise 5-Miler

Woke up super early Sunday morning to be at a race on the other side of Cleveland by 7AM. It was a 5-miler, organized by my brother, through the streets of Painesville (the neghboring town of where I grew up). It's been 2+ months since I've run mile repeats or 800's or any sort of consistent tempo running. Nonetheless, my plan was to go out running 6:00 min/mile pace and see how it felt. About 1/4 mile into the race I was in 5th place. The leader/eventual winner established what looked to be about a 5:30 pace and didn't look back. He was smokin'! I sat comfortably behind #2, 3 and 4 waiting to see how the race for second would shape up. Mile 1 (5:58) was no sweat. A long downhill and equally long uphill defined mile 2 (6:21). By mile 3 I was in 3rd place and holding 6:00 min/mile pace with relative ease (despite coming off a hill). I never fell off pace but had a hard time finding that extra gear at the end. Finished 3rd overall with a time of 30:21 (6:04 min/mile).

Talked with the 4th place finisher following the race and was surprised to find out he was just a 22 year old "kid" working towards a Boston qualifier. He was throwing questions at me left and right and I was happy to share with him what has worked for me. Kinda made me wish I would have said a few words to him out on the course as I pulled even with him. Some runners are so hardcore though... say two words to them and they chew your head off. This kid would have loved some encouragement. He's local so it's possible I'll see him again. I hope so.

Jul 6, 2009

Pittsburgh 2010

Columbus 2009 is likely to be my fall marathon... but why think fall when I've got spring 2010 to look forward to? I got a heads up from a friend on a one-day-only early bird special on Pittsburgh 2010 registration so I'm in for a run through the steel city. Should be fun!

Jun 1, 2009

On the Bright Side....

...now I can finally get back to my normal routine, including spring/summer house/yardwork, running, etc.

As disappointing as it was to watch another Clevelend professional sports team go down in flames, life is back to normal once again. I hit the trail this morning for a quick 4-miler, just to get back into the swing of things. My plan is to average 45 mile weeks in the month of June and then gradually bump up the mileage/intensity from July-October, culminating with a fall marathon on October 18th. Soon I'll have to buy new shoes as my Sinister's are nearing the end of their life. Since I will be doing a lot of "trail" running this summer, I'm thinking of getting a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus.

May 18, 2009

Fall 2009 Marathon

Got out and ran this morning for the first time since Boston. It's been a lazy 4 weeks filled with ice cream, late nights and not having to separate running clothes from the rest of the laundry! I was afraid I'd be a little slow to get back to where I was just before Boston but it seems I haven't missed a step, running 4 miles in 25:29 for a 6:22 average pace. I wanna dip under 2:55 in the fall so I need to maintain my current fitness level - at the very least - and hopefully add to it by working in 20-30 extra miles per week in the evenings.

I'm deciding between Columbus or Detroit. I'll probably go with whichever one starts later in the morning but I'm having a hard time finding out what time Detroit starts... hopefully their race is better organized than their web page!

May 13, 2009

Photo Dilemna

#1, #2, #3 or one of each? A photo dilemna?

Apr 24, 2009

2009 Boston Marathon

I've had two weeks to soak up my performance at Boston and am having a hard time finding anything I could have done better or different. My goal was to finish under 3 hours and since I tend to slow a little over the last 5-6 miles, I developed a pace strategy for 2:58:00, allowing a mere 2 minutes of wiggle room. The temperature was a bit cold at the start (low 40's) and there was a slight headwind. Uta Pippig spoke to the masses prior to the start of the race and commented on race tactics under such conditions. In addition to Uta's words of wisdom, I received some valuable advice from an 18-year Boston veteran lined up in my corral. In his late-40's (possibly early 50's), he shared with me his secret to success on the course. It was nothing I hadn't heard or read before but it was nice to hear it from a "pro". I couldn't be sure but I assumed he too was aiming to run under 3 hours. Notable events from the corrals: Wore a long sleeve cotton t (2006 St. Malachi) until the last minute and then tossed it to the side; sipped orange Gatorade until the last minute; F-15 flyover about a minute late following the end of the national anthem; many shouts urging Ryan Hall on when the gun sounded; Relatively slow movement before hitting the START mat (1 minute 2 seconds).

Hopkinton to Wellesley College
I got a little wrapped up in the excitement at the start and it wasn't until about mile three that I started to focus on hitting my paces as detailed on the pace band I was wearing. By the time I got "serious", I had fallen off pace by about 40 seconds. I now had only 1 minute 20 seconds of wiggle room and would have to be near perfect through and after the hills. The weather never changed and by mile four I was as warm as I was going to get, which wasn't that warm despite wearing gloves, arm warmers and a Brooks racer hat. At this point and throughout the race, I felt a slight urge to go to the bathroom, but thankfully never had to stop. By mile ten I was hitting my splits and feeling good, maybe a touch out of it mentally as it was sort of dreary out. To combat this, I would turn to the crowds on occasion for a pick-me-up (one of the many wonderful things about Boston). The stretch through the Wellesley College was remarkable as usual. It's amazing those girls can keep at it for so long.

Wellesley to Newton (the calm before the storm)
Hit the half at 1:28:52. Pace strategy called for 1:28:08, meaning I had not lost any time since the initial 2-3 miles. I've found in other marathons that a lull can creep in after the half way point, sometimes due to the fact that nearly half the field (half-marathoners) peel off toward their finish line. At Boston, the course becomes quite dynamic around mile 15 and I knew this upfront. So, instead of the usual lull, I enjoyed two miles of flat terrain and steady running. Since my pacing strategy was based on putting forth an even effort (versus an even pace), I never physically upped the effort when it came time for a fast mile. I simply let the course/gravity do its thing to guide me along. The best example of this is mile 15, the fastest mile on the course per my pace band due to the long gradual downhill. As fun as it was zooming downhill, the first of the Newton hills was waiting at the bottom.

The Newton Hills
The trick to this course is to take it easy (i.e. conserve energy) the first 15 miles, run strong through the hills and still have something left in the tank to "race" the remaining 5.5 miles. As crazy as it sounds, you've gotta have fresh legs after 20.5 miles! The first hill in the Heartbreak series starts at mile 16, just past Newton Lower Falls. This is the longest (0.6 miles) but also the "flattest" with an average grade of only 2.4%. For the most part I had no trouble staying on pace through the hills. I remember feeling tired, legs heavy, etc. but never “beaten”. One of the keys to successfully navigating the hills was to take advantage of the level sections after each hill. In years past, I wasn’t as aware of these flats and probably thought of them as part of the hills. This year, I used them to make up time and stretch my legs out. I remember pumping a fist when I reached the top of heartbreak still on pace.

Cemetary Mile - Coolidge Corner
If Boston ended at the top of heartbreak hill, it would be considered an easy course. Sure, finishing with 4 miles of uphill running is a challenge, but at least it’s over at that point. What makes Boston such a challenge is the 5.5 miles following heartbreak hill and having to hammer already sore quads on what is a gradual downhill to the finish (save one hill near mile 25). My memory of this section of the course is simple… I couldn’t believe I was still running at pace and feeling good. It seemed as though my legs were fresh. As hopeful as I was, I couldn’t help but wonder when I would crash and lose the 70-80 seconds of wiggle room I had. Another strange thing happened, mentally I began to let go of the moment. I’ve grown so used to slowing at this point that I thought, “it’s time to slow down”. However, the better part of my mind stayed the course and I kept on pushing. I still remember thinking to myself how good I must look to the spectators standing on the sidelines. How is it possible to be running so well after 23+ miles? This also kept me going.

To the CITGO Sign and Beyond
My legs were crushed as I approached the CITGO sign but there was no way I was backing off with just over a mile to go. The crowds were great as usual and I used this as a distraction from the pain. I wasn’t entirely sure how much longer I would be on Commonwealth but I knew it was only a matter of minutes until the turn onto Hereford and then onto Boylston. ‘Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston’ is the ultimate for many runners and how cool to still be on pace at this point. Looking at my watch, I knew I would get in under 3 but wasn’t sure by how much. One of the things that kept me going at the end was the thought of hitting the line with the race clock under 3 hours. As I got within 40-50 meters of the line I knew it was going to be close and I kicked as hard as I could. I saw the 2 switch to a 3 just about the same time I hit the line and wasn’t sure what would show up on my finish line photo, 2:59:59 or 3:00:00. Turns out it was 3:00:00, but a little work in photoshop fixed that right up and I now have a Boston Marathon finish line photo displaying my official time of 2:58:58!!

Apr 4, 2009

A Perfect Training Run

My final long run of Boston training went exceptionally well. The plan was to complete 8 laps of the 2.8 mile French Creek Reservation loop for a total of 22.4 miles. As far as pace goes, I wanted to be in the ballpark of 7:00-7:10 min/mile (roughly 19:49/lap).

Lap Time Pace
1 20:03 7:09
2 19:25 6:56
3 19:44 7:03
4 19:41 7:02
5 19:27 6:57
6 19:17 6:53
7 19:55 7:07
8 19:17 6:53

Total run time of 2:36:50 (7:00 min/mile average pace). No trouble mentally or physically throughout, not even a slight burn in the legs. Wrapped things up just shy of 9AM feeling very happy having wrapped up a 71.4 mile week. I'll run 2-3 10-milers this week along with some speedwork on the track.

Mar 30, 2009

Almost April

3 weeks until Boston, which for me means 1 more week of hard training before I back off the mileage . The plan is to do between 75-80 miles this week, culminating with a 20-22 miler on Saturday morning. Highlights of the past 4 weeks include an indoor 18 miler (never again)... back-to-back 12-milers done at planned marathon pace, back-to-back "fast-finish" runs, the first being 8 miles easy, 4 miles at 6-minute pace; the second being 5-miles easy, 4 miles at 6-minute pace. Runner's World says these runs yield the same results as 18-20 slow miles. I hope to come out of this week feeling mentally and physically prepared. Hill workouts have been notably absent from my training, which I'm afraid will keep me from my "A" goal.

Mar 3, 2009

Running Ducks

Just under 7 weeks remaining until Boston. I'm trying not to obsess but it's getting more difficult with each passing day, especially those days when it feels like spring. I've been obsessively checking Bill Rodgers web page daily waiting for the 2009 line of adidas Boston Marathon clothing to appear and it finally did earlier this week. The jackets are the traditional blue and yellow colors of the BAA. There's a really cute kids shirt as well, featuring a running duck and the words 'Just Keep Running'.

Training is going great. I've nailed every key workout in the last 6-8 weeks, including weekly LSD's, pace, tempos, and intervals. I'm averaging about 40-45 quality miles a week. I'll bump that up to 55-60 in the next 3-4 weeks, which should leave me feeling very confident as April 20th approaches. Found a geat link on the internet to a spreadhsheet written specifically for developing a pace strategy for Boston's course. I plan on starting moderately fast, running an even effort (rather than pace) and allowing for maximum fade at the end (is there really any other option?). The last time I ran Boston in 2006 I was familiar with but not intimate with the course. I truly think knowing the course in and out and having a plan on how to run each section is key. Time will tell!

Jan 21, 2009

Is it spring yet?

Boston training is going well. The five workouts I try to squeeze into a week are very structured and challenging. In a way, they're the same workouts I've been doing for years but are presented differently. Different enough that somehow they seem new. There's no fooling around this go-around, which is good because I don't have a lot of time these days. So far my favorite is balanced pick-up's; 2.5 minutes easy, 2.5 minutes hard (faster-than-5K pace). Repeat for about an hour or so. Also, instead of 800-meter repeats, which I've done loads of in the past, mile repeats are what's called for. The equation is simple... run one mile every 7 minutes, no matter what. I aim to run a 6 minute mile, allowing 1 minute to recover. So far I've done as many as 5 repeats.

Returned home from Phoenix on Monday evening after spending 4 days basking in the Arizona sun! Highlights include a day trip to the Grand Canyon, a visit to the Arizona Cardinals stadium, and the reason for the trip in the first place, the Rock'n'Roll Marathon. Pics and stories to follow.