Saturday, October 29, 2011

Boo Boo Dash

Sometimes you just don't feel like doing a workout by yourself. Rather than running back and forth down Lower Station Camp, I decided to make the longer than expected drive to Springfield for the Boo Boo Dash. The race was four miles and was on a mostly flat course, which sounded right up my alley.

My plan was to lock into 5:05-5:10 pace and keep it as controlled as I could. The first mile drops a good bit, before heading to the greenway. I accidentally took a wrong turn before the 2nd place guy called out to me and got me back on the right track. It only added 3-4 seconds, so no worries there. My first mile split was 4:57, so I backed off a little bit so I didn't go into racing mode. The next mile was entirely on the greenway, before making a U-turn the way you came.

There was no official two mile split marker, but my second and third miles combined were 10:32. That was slower than I wanted, so I had to speed back up and find my desired rhythm. The last mile was mainly uphill and on a confusing portion, I took a wrong turn, which added about 15-20 seconds. Luckily I had a few minute lead on the second place guy, so it didn't effect anything. I crossed the line in 20:54, with a long last mile in 5:25. With the wrong turns, I would have run around 20:30, which was exactly what I wanted.

Overall, I enjoyed the race a lot. The greenway ran along a creek, and was really scenic and peaceful. The race was very well managed and there were a lot of vendors that gave out free food, which is always a way to win me over. It was definitely a great way to start off the weekend and I will most likely be back next year.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Haunted Half-Marathon

I really hate half-marathons. With marathons, the the key is to stay relaxed and patient for the first 13-15 miles, with pain not really settling in until after that. With the 10k, the pace is intense and the wheels have some fast rpms but the race doesn't last very long. The half-marathon is a combination of the worst aspects of those two races. You get the intense gasping for air pain that the 10k gives, as well as the extreme all-around body fatigue that the marathon generously offers. The perfect explanation for the half-marathon is a tempo run where you die terribly the last few miles. I've run four of them, with only two of those being races. Both of those races were painful experiences for me.

I went into the race hoping that no one really fast would show up so I could run a 1:10-1:11 and use it as a marathon workout. Half-marathons are very hard on the body and take a lot of time to recover from. I wouldn't consider racing a half-marathon any less than four weeks out from a marathon, and even that is a little close. However, I was mentally prepared to race if I had to.

If I had to race, I wanted to at least run under 69:00 and with a great day, felt I could sneak close to 68:00. With my busy schedule, I really haven't had much time to get in any good, consistent half-marathon type workouts. I knew the mileage made me somewhat strong but being strong and half-marathon strong are two different things.

Two weeks before this, I got in just a hair under 116 miles for the week with a really good marathon workout. This week, I got in a little under 100 but backed off the intensity enough where I wasn't going into the race worn out. The race was in Cookeville, which is a little over an hour drive. The race started at 7am, so that meant a very early 3:15am wake-up. Luckily, I was having some company on the road with me. Ryan Chastain was riding down with me to experience his first half-marathon. He was more of a miler/5k guy in college but is a very tough long distance runner nonetheless.

Because it was still pitch black at 6:00am, it was hard to find out where to get our packets. We finally figured everything out, picked our stuff up and headed out for a 15 minute warm-up. The race weather was near perfect...just under 35 degrees, with it working its way to low 40s over the course of the race.

At the line, I saw my friend Bradley Chronister, who is a pretty solid runner and after looking over my shoulder, I got nervous because I saw Patrick Cheptoek and Micah Tirop behind me. Patrick absolutely destroyed my at the Goodlettsville Classic. I led him for a little over a mile before he put almost a minute on me in a little bit over two miles. I felt like a baby mouse playing with a lion. Micah is also very tough as well. He thoroughly spanked me the only two times we've raced but since he ran The Middle Half last week, I knew he'd be tired and thought I could have a shot of staying somewhat close if I played my cards right.

When the gun went off, some guy I didn't recognize took the lead and I filed in behind. I was a little nervous running ahead of Patrick and Micah but the pace wasn't very fast and I decided to go for a new PR.

I finished the first mile in 5:14 in a pack with five other guys. Micah and Patrick then took the lead, so I went with them. This mile had a pretty good downhill in it, so we ran a much faster, 4:59. I knew the next mile was uphill and the pace felt fast, so I gave them a bit of a gap in the third mile. In both half-marathons I've raced, I went out too fast and died terribly at the end, so I didn't want to make that mistake here.

Patrick and Micah continued to run together and were about 10 seconds ahead of me. My plan was to stay patient, keep them in site and maybe catch up to Micah if Patrick dropped him. Within the next few minutes, Patrick put in a small gap, so that's when I got focused and had a goal to slowly catch Micah in the next two miles or so.

The middle of the race included a lot of turns and small hills. I noticed that whenever I ran up a hill, I would make up a second or so on Micah, which gave me confidence because I'm a pretty bad hill runner. Shortly after the halfway point, I was only a few seconds away and then shortly after that, I caught up. He accelerated when I pulled up beside him but I stayed with him. I didn't want to make any moves because there was still a lot of racing left but I wanted to let him know I wasn't going anywhere.

Within the next few minutes, I slowly pulled away and did my best to keep Patrick, who was about 15-20 seconds ahead, somewhat close. I knew I wouldn't be able to beat him but I was hoping he would pull me to a fast time. At this point in the race, I knew I was going most likely going to break 68:00. At the Tom King half-marathon, I started to die around eight miles but in this race, I went through eight miles feeling really good. I knew I needed to stay focused until the 10th mile because that's when I started to really struggle at The Middle Half last year.

I went through ten miles feeling good and then decided I could make a run at sub 67:00. I had some muscle fatigue in my hamstrings and butt from all of the hills but aerobically, I was still really strong. I pushed down on the accelerator because I really didn't want to see 67:00 or 67:01 on the clock.

The last 5k included some more hills but I tried to stay strong on them so I wouldn't lose any additional seconds. With a mile to go, I was pretty certain I'd get sub 67:00. At this point, I was running consistent 5:00-5:05 miles but I didn't want to take it for granted. When I hit the final straightaway, I knew I had sub 67:00 in the bag and I crossed the line in 66:54 for 2nd place. Patrick had an easy win in 66:33, Micah was 3rd in 67:56 and Ryan ran really win to seal up 4th place in 68:10.

After last year's Middle Half, I had to lay down on the ground for a few minutes and after this year's Tom King half, I couldn't jog for more than a minute before having to walk. After today's raise, I was able to get in a good cool-down with Patrick without much trouble and there was never a point in the race where I didn't feel strong.

I was really pumped because I thought I was nowhere near that fitness level. Later on, I saw I set a new state record for 30 year old's and was only a few seconds from the open state record. Micah ran sub 66:00 last year but it's not listed as a record, which doesn't make sense. Maybe you have to be a U.S. citizen but fast running is fast running and if you live in Tennessee, you should be eligible for the record. Anyway, it was a great day and I feel like I'm where I need to be to make the assault at 2:19. It's now time to get full-fledged into marathon mode and ramp up the miles.

Mile splits: 5:14, 4:59, 5:07, 5:10, 5:03, 5:17, 5:10, 5:07, 5:08, 10:02 (2 miles), 5:05, 5:01

Friday, October 14, 2011

Marathon Cycle

It's now time to get serious. With eight weeks to go, it's time to transition to my marathon-specific cycle. The key during this phase is to get as efficient as possible at marathon pace, as well as teach my body to burn fats quicker and be able to respond in a low-glycogen state. The more efficient you are at burning fats, the longer you delay the dreaded wall. To run an event well, you have to replicate the stress your body goes through in the event during your training. For the marathon, that means that both my long runs and my weekend marathon paced workouts will be on an empty stomach, without taking anything in during the run, in order to get in a low carbohydrate state.

With my last cycle, I ran a variety of paces and intensities. Some days, I would run insanely fast and other days would be longer, steadier workouts The goal was to be more of a "complete" distance runner and be fit from the 5k through the half-marathon. One of the main goals of the marathon-specific cycle, is to extend the distance you are able to run at marathon pace. For example, for my first hard workout, I may run 6x3k, then move on to 4x5k, then something like 3x7k. Other than a sporadic race, I won't run anything much faster than marathon pace at all. I have already built up my motor in the last phase, so I need to now make it as efficient as possible.

I'm a little nervous going into this cycle because I don't feel very fit. I haven't had any great races or workouts, and have barely had any long runs. My plan was to get in around 2:22 marathon shape when I started this cycle, so I could slowly make my assault at 2:19. In order to get in 2:22 shape, I knew I would need to have a very good speed cycle, and that just didn't happen. My earlier plan was to run Chicago and after about 5-6 weeks of my speed cycle, I knew I wouldn't have a chance at sub 2:19, so I bagged my training, took a few easier weeks and started a shortened speed cycle. That went ok for a couple weeks, before I got sick and lost 1-1.5 weeks of solid training. You hear everyone say that two wrongs don't make a right but I'm hoping my two shortened cycles will somehow get me where I need to be on December 10th.

Based on my life schedule and what I need to work on, my training will be a hybrid of how I trained for the past two marathons (Country Music was more speed-focused, while Rocket City was a pure marathon focus.) Because I don't have the time to get in my longer, marathon paced workouts until cross country season is over, I'll work a little more on my half-marathon speed with things such as progression runs, tempos, etc. Once cross country is over, I'll have five weeks to train exactly how I need to, which should give me a good fitness boost. During that time, I'm hoping to get in at least a couple of weeks in the 120-125 mile range.

After the Country Music Marathon, I thought I would have a 60-70% chance of getting in 2:19 shape (getting in shape and then executing it on marathon day is an entirely different thing) but right now, I think the odds are just under 50%. But to be honest, I'm not huge on goals. All you can do is train to your maximum ability and see where that takes you. Hopefully my training will look something like this:

Monday: Two recovery runs
Tuesday: Recovery run; Easy run with 10x10-12s all-out hill sprints
Wednesday: Easy recovery run; Marathon-specific workout
Thursday: Two easy recovery runs
Friday: Medium run or medium progression run; Recovery run
Saturday: Easy run; Recovery run
Sunday: Marathon-specific workout or long run

It's pretty simple training but with running, there are no complicated formulas or secret workouts. The only "secret" is getting out on the roads and wearing out your running shoes as much as you can.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Harvest Moon 10k

I always look forward to the White House races because White House is where I do almost all of my hard workouts, so in a way, I look at it as my home course. Before getting sick, my plan was to run as many miles under 5:00 as I could, and if I died at the end, then so be it. Too often, it's easy to be concerned about having enough for for a strong finish or worrying about what's to come down the road instead of focusing on what's taking place at the current moment. Anyone can rally home with a strong finish but few can make themselves suffer in the middle (which I struggled with most of my college career).

After the Music City marathon, my legs were completely beat up for a few days, most likely due to my body still not being 100% from the sickness, so my new plan was to run a hard effort but not push it over the edge.

Normally the White House races are pretty low-key without a lot of competition. I didn't get to run this race last year because of a cross country meet, but two years ago, I ran 36 something and won by a few minutes, and the year before that, I finished as the first male (not first overall because I ended up getting "chicked"), running over 39:00 in the process. Festus Chemaoi showed up to the White House race this summer and while he didn't show up this year, one of my rivals, Jef Scott, did. He's almost 40 years old but is a low 15s 5k runner and I only beat him by a few seconds in a race this summer, despite being pretty fit, with him just coming back from a lay-off.

As soon as I saw him, I thought I would most likely lose. I was on track to get in about 100 miles this week, ran a pretty hard workout on Wednesday and still was not 100% from being sick. I still planned to go out on my shield, but I wasn't completely confident in my chances.

During my warm-up, I tried to get focused and prepare myself for the pain to come. Some people aren't big on visualization but it's huge with me. During my workouts and runs, I constantly think about upcoming races and visualize how I want them to go, as well as visualizing the things that can go wrong and how to work through them.

I decided the best strategy was to hang with him and then try to outkick him. He is usually a smart, consistent racer who closes up pretty hard over the last mile or so. When the gun went off, we stayed together as we made our way out of the park and into the neighborhood. The pace felt pretty quick but wasn't too bad. We hit the first mile marker in 4:16, which was definitely short because we were probably running 4:55-5:00 pace.

The second mile included a couple climbs, which I gapped him a tiny bit on. I'm normally a really bad hill runner but since I had a tiny lead, I decided to bluff and act like it was one of my strong points. He caught back up shortly and the course was pretty up-and-down for the next couple of miles as it made it's way to the greenway. I've out in a ton of miles on the greenway, so I knew all the ins-and-outs of it, which I was going to try to use to my advantage.

Once you hit the greenway, you hit a downhill that last 600m or so. Since I'm a decent downhill runner, I decided to make a little gap and then continue to hammer down the greenway. I got about a three second or so lead and continued to press so I could hopefully increase the gap due to the uphill finish.

Once you hit about 4.5 miles, there is a long, grinding hill that I dubbed "Puke Hill" after getting sick on it several years ago. I knew if I used too much gas before the hill, I'd have a heck of a time running up it. I then backed off the pace so I could have a little bit of mojo left and not get broken by Jef while running up it. I was feeling pretty good at this point but was leaving my fate in his hands. If he hammered the hill, it might be enough to mentally crack me and then I started losing a little bit of confidence before snapping out of it and getting focused again.

We stayed together up the hill and shortly after it, I felt him accelerate the pace a couple times but at this point in the race, I knew I would be able to stick with him and have enough for a hard, final push. Once we got off the greenway and entered the park again, I hung with him until I saw the finish line and then finished pretty strongly to take a two second win in 29:36.

After seeing the time, I knew the course was close to a half mile short. The course was pretty tough with all of the hills and it felt like I ran a little under 32 on a certified course. Despite that, I enjoyed the race a lot and always enjoy the small-town feel of the White House races.

Afterward, I got in several miles with Jef and got to know him better. His daughter runs for a killer high school cross country program and since Jef and his wife both coach, I was able to pick his brain on some coaching ideas.

Overall it was a great way to start the weekend. I ran much better than I thought I would be able to, had a lot left in the tank afterward and closed out a 100 mile week. It was also nice beating Jef because he's such a tough runner who will tear up the Master's scene in a few months.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Music City Half Marathon

Since it was only $35 and on a fast course, I decided to run the Music City Half Marathon and hopefully run it as a steadier pace. The winner usually runs this around 1:18 or so, so I was hoping to show up and run 5:40ish effort, which would be a solid but not overbearing pace. If someone ran faster than that, I would man up and race but I was really hoping to run

The week before this, I came down with some mystery flu-like illness, where my body had a high fever and a lot of aches, pains and chills. The fever lasted for less than 24 hours before disappearing. I was still really weak for a few days afterward, and then the fever decided to rear it's ugly head and put me on my butt again. I was debating skipping this race but for the past couple of days, I felt a little better (despite a constant, hacking cough) and really hoped I could still stick to my plan of 5:40s.

I ran three miles for my warm-up, which is a little longer than usual for a half-marathon but I was hoping to get in some good mileage during the morning. When it was time to race and the gun went off, I got out really relaxed and no one wanted to take the pace. I took the lead a few seconds into the race and was fortunate enough to keep it the rest of the way.

I finished in 1:14:06, with splits of 5:57, 5:37, 5:49, 5:46, 5:44, 5:40, 5:39, 5:28, 5:34, 5:31, 5:29, 5:34, 5:42, 35. I felt sluggish for the first half of the race, loosened up some in the middle and backed off the last mile because I started getting a little tired. Overall, I was happy with the performance considering my body is still beat up from being sick.

I enjoyed this race a lot. The admission is almost 1/3 the cost of the Country Music Half Marathon and the course is nice and flat (the course is almost identical to the Tom King Half Marathon).