Monday, September 26, 2011
My goal last week was to run 70 miles and complete all my workouts as planned, and somehow I managed to do it. My two "quality" workouts were especially intense. On Thursday I did four tempo runs with short breaks inbetween, and on Sunday I did 8 miles at marathon pace or faster, along with 9 easy miles for a total of 17. I knew Sunday's run would be especially challenging and I was surprised that Mark, Tommy, Matt, and Tim were all interested in running all or part of it with me.
Mark, Tommy, and I started at 6 am, running 6 miles at an easy pace. Then Matt and Tim joined for the tough part of the workout. The plan was to run 30 minutes at marathon pace, then a 5-minute tempo, then repeat. Marathon pace for me is now 7:40, so it's faster than I'm accustomed to running on long runs. Miles 1-4 felt good and we kept a solid pace: 7:41, 7:36, 7:35, 7:34. Then it was time to pick it up. I accelerated to a 7:00 pace and heard the other runners groan. At this point Mark, Matt, and Tim were with me, and they were all solid. We took a break for a couple minutes, then started off on the next series.
This time it things didn't seem quite so easy, but we managed to maintain the pace for 3 miles. Then I decided it was time to pick things up again -- once again, I was wrong; we should have run another mile. Matt and Tim weren't carrying water so they stopped at a water fountain after about 1 minute, and Mark succumbed to the temptation as well. I pressed on, knowing a 7:00 pace was out of reach on this uphill stretch, on a very muggy morning. I finished my 5-minute tempo and then stopped and waited for the guys. My splits for legs 6-9: 7:37, 7:34, 7:46, 7:15. Not ideal, but on this very muggy morning, I'll take it.
Mark, Matt and Tim caught up to me and we started our easy cool-down run into town. Only, as usual for me after tough workouts, the cool-down ended up being the hardest part. I let the three of them run ahead and met them at the CVS. Since I had messed up on the length of the marathon-pace workout, we still had a mile to go. Matt and Tim needed to head back to Birkdale (they were doing 20), but I convinced Mark to join me for another mile of cool-down, which gave me a solid 70.1 miles for the week.
This was my longest normal training week ever, with a rest day Monday and 6 days of running. I've run farther before, but only in weeks when I pushed my Sunday run from the previous week to Monday, which in my mind doesn't count because that Monday run "belongs" to the previous week.
Week in review:
T: Easy 12.38 miles
W: Easy 9 miles
T: Tough 13.5-mile tempo workout
F: Easy 10 miles
S: Easy 8 miles
S: Tough 17-mile Marathon Pace workout
70.1 miles, 9 hours and 40 minutes, 2,884 feet elevation gain.
Details on the core, marathon-pace segment of the run are below:
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Tomorrow I've got a very tough 17-miler planned, including 9 miles at my new 7:40 marathon pace. I'll be drinking much more water tonight, and I'll have a honey stinger waffle in the morning, so hopefully it will go better than today's run. Assuming I finish as planned, that will be a 70-mile week, the longest week I've ever run (I've come close several times this year but never done more than 70).
Looking forward to this!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
On Saturday, I completed an entire half-marathon at a 7:13 pace. Today all I had to do was four tempo runs, with breaks between them, at a 7:00 pace. The cumulative mileage at tempo pace would be just 7.2 miles. That shouldn't be too hard, should it? But there was one big difference between Saturday and today: This morning was a steambath, with a temperature of 70 degrees and 100 percent humidity, while Saturday was a lovely fall-like morning, with a temperature of 55 and just enough breeze to cool you off.
After a two-mile warm-up I started into my first tempo and could tell almost immediately this wasn't going to be easy. The workout plan called for tempo runs of 22.5, 18, 13.5, and 4.5 minutes, with progressively shorter breaks between each. A 22.5-minute run at a 7:00 pace should be just over three miles. But clearly at this time of the morning, and at this level of exhaustion, I can't add. After two uphill miles at a 7:15 pace, I decided I only needed to run 5 more minutes. Uh, that would be three minutes short, but I didn't figure that out until about 30 seconds ago while I was writing this up. So in fact my first tempo was just 19:30, and my splits were 7:16, 7:14, and 6:55. Given that the first two miles were uphill, I was okay with the pace, but I wish I'd actually run this as planned. That said, I might not have finished the workout if I had! I jogged home and drank a glass of water and ate a vanilla GU. I'm not sure what I think of the GU, but at this point there was no time to dither; I'd already exceeded my planned 5-minute break by about 5 minutes.
I headed back out and warmed up for a block before taking off for an 18-minute tempo. This time I got the timing right and ran it in 6:54, 7:02, and 6:46. What a difference a primarily downhill course makes!
I had 4 minutes to rest before the next tempo, and fortunately I was at the bottom of Patrick Johnson Lane. I wouldn't have to run up the hill this time! I decided to walk the hill, then jog until my 4 minutes were up before starting up Pine Road, a gradual incline. Then I turned onto Avinger, getting a brief respite on its downhill, before the rolling hills of the greenway and the tough haul up South Street. Splits for this tempo were 6:58, 7:19.
After a bathroom break, I headed back out for my final tempo. I was adjusting my shorts on Main Street when a woman passed me. I passed her again as I started my warmup, then hit the accelerator for the final 4.5 minute tempo up Concord Road. I made it, running a 6:50 pace, then instantly slowed down for a two-mile cool down. As usual on these tempo runs, I often find the final cool-down run to be the hardest. I ended up running past my house and nearly to Robert Walker Drive before turning around and heading home. I was so spent I decided to walk for 60 seconds, just as the woman I had passed came down the hill towards me with a smug smile that seemed to say "at least I didn't have to walk."
When I finally arrived home, sopping with sweat, I was as relieved as I have ever been to finish a run. Two hours later, I'm still trying to rehydrate from this one.
Details of today's run are below.
Monday, September 19, 2011
It's difficult to get a good sense of where you stand when you're training over the summer. The weather is so hot and humid, you're inevitably going to slow down. But how much? You can't know for sure until fall arrives and you can run in cool weather again. I got that chance on Saturday and what I found out is that I'm quite a bit faster than I thought.
I was never really pushing very hard, and yet I managed to maintain a 7:13 pace for 13 miles on what is, by all accounts, a very difficult course. The cumulative elevation gain at the Run for Green half-marathon is more than what I'll see during the entire Richmond Marathon. My plan for Run for Green had been to try to keep a 7:30 pace, but clearly I can handle a much faster pace than that. On a flatter half-marathon course, I'm pretty sure I could manage a sub-7-minute pace.
While I'm wary of putting too much stock in pace calculators, based on my Run for Green time, McMillan Running predicts a marathon pace of 7:37 per mile. That works out to a time of 3:19 for the race, or 6 minutes faster than my goal of 3:25, without even accounting for the fact that Richmond is an easier course.
So, what should I do when I get to Richmond? Should I stick with my original plan of going out at a 7:49 pace, just fast enough to minimally qualify for Boston? Should I go with McMillan's pace of 7:37, or even faster since this is an easier course?
I think given my end-of-race struggles in my first two marathons, it's a mistake to go out too fast. But I do think 7:49 is a little too conservative, especially considering that people who just barely beat their Boston Qualifying times can still fail to actually be invited to race. For now I think I'm going to shoot for a 7:40 pace. That works out to a 3:21 marathon, which would still be a fantastic time for me. If I'm feeling great at Mile 20, I might consider speeding up a bit and trying to finish under 3:20, which would allow me to register early for Boston.
After two weeks of training that were disrupted a bit by racing, this week is slated to be a tough training week: 70 miles including some hard tempo runs on Thursday and a lot of marathon-pace running on Sunday. If the weather stays cool, I'll be running at my new marathon pace of 7:40.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
I arrived at the town green at 6:50 a.m. and spent 20 minutes hobnobbing with the locals. Despite having lived here for 17 years, somehow I'd never been in a race in town; I'm not used to knowing 20 or 30 people at a road race. As I mentioned yesterday, it's a hilly course, with the toughest hills on the last half. Indeed, the total elevation gain for this half-marathon is more than what I expect to see for the Richmond full marathon in less than two months.
I lined up about three rows back at the starting line, next to fellow DARTers Mark Ippolito and Tommy Wagoner.
Now we were heading into River Run, and its rolling hills that are short but can be quite steep. A woman, who I later learned was Krista Schoenewolf, passed us, saying "I've been trying to catch you for four miles!" I guess that was supposed to be a compliment. As we ran, we started to wonder when we'd see the elite runners, Kalib Wilkinson and Molly Nunn, both contenders for the US Olympic Trials. Since the course was an out-and-back, we'd definitely get to see them leading the way home. The hills rolled along, and I was expecting to start to feel the need to get back to a 7:30 pace, as I had planned. Meanwhile we also seemed to be getting ahead of the mile markers; everyone's GPS was beeping a considerable distance past the markers. That means the pace recorded by our GPS timers would be slower than the official time — always a comforting feeling! Finally we saw Kalib around mile 5.5, looking very relaxed as he crushed the course. At the six mile marker we saw Molly, surrounded by three guys, including DART's own Tim Richter, who also looked quite strong. Splits for miles 4-6, 7:16, 7:17, 7:09.
|Julie and DARTer / husband Jeremy|
|Eileen and family|
Next we'd be hitting the biggest hills of the race. Ahead of me in the distance I saw Richard, who had predicted yesterday in the comments on my blog that I'd be passing him around mile 8 or 9; he was doing considerably better than that. The first steep hill came and went and I still felt pretty good. Then there was a gradual downhill before we started the final ascent. I passed Richard on this section and told him he was on pace to run sub-1:40, which seemed to please him. Tommy had now dropped a little behind me. I reached the water stop before the notorious hill on Patrick Johnson Lane. Though I still felt good, I stuck to my plan of grabbing a cup of water, taking it to the bottom of the hill, and drinking the whole cup as I walked up the hill. As soon as I finished, I went back to full stride and made it to the top. The toughest part of the hill is the fact that you don't get much relief afterwards; it's a short downhill, then a long, gradual uphill to the finish. Somehow I managed to keep up the pace fairly well. Splits for miles 10-12: 7:09, 7:09, 7:22.
Just over a mile left, mostly on a gradual upslope, and somehow I found the energy to get going even faster. Krista was still ahead of me and I thought I might be able to catch her. I focused on solid, even strides, and picked up the pace. The final 200 meters or so is a dramatic uphill, and I ran as hard as I could all the way across the line, but I never managed to catch Krista. I was a little frustrated with that until I looked down at my watch. My final time was 1:33:30, including a 6:42 pace for the last mile!
|Thanks, Bobby Aswell, for getting this picture of me crossing the line.|
We had heard that the Flatiron Taphouse would be giving away free beer at the finish, so Tim, Terry, and I headed over and each got free small cup. It was the first time I'd ever had a beer after a race, and it wasn't so bad. Then Terry bought everyone another round — full pints this time. Normally I can handle drinking a pint and a half of beer without much of a problem, but this time I found I felt quite loopy. I guess that's the difference between drinking beer on a relaxing afternoon and drinking it after finishing a punishing half-marathon. While I enjoyed the beer, I don't think I'll imbibe after a full marathon when I'm almost certain to barely be able to walk, with or without a beer.
Then Matt showed up with his prize and told us they had already announced the awards, so we hurried back to the finisher's tent to find out if we had won anything. Indeed, we had. Here is a summary of the DART take:
Tim Richter: 5th overall, 1st master, 1:24:20
Matt Williams: 7th overall, 1st age group, 1:26:31
Kathy Rink: 3rd female, 1st master: 1:29:46
Dave Munger: 1st age group, 1:33:31
Tommy Wagoner: 1:34:34
Mark Ippolito: 1st age group, 1:35:55
Terry Ake: 2nd age group, 1:39:14
Julie Alsop: 2nd age group, 1:39:53
Chris Joakim: 1:51:31
Tristan Van Vuuren: 1:54:47
Lori Ackerman: 2:01:26
Eileen O'Flaherty: 2:34:16
Let me know if I missed anyone!
My GPS measured the course at 12.97 miles, just a little short. That's within the margin of error of GPS, but even assuming it was correct, my pace of 7:13 for the race would have given me a time of about 1:34:30 over 13.1 miles, still a PR. All in all a great day of racing; I guess all my hard training over the summer paid off.
The photos here are all courtesy of Chad Randolph, who was a race volunteer; at the starting line I realized I still had my phone, so I gave it to him and he took some great shots!
My GPS record of the race is below.
Friday, September 16, 2011
That said, I am still a little concerned about the race. For one thing, I ran a very challenging relay last week and I'm not sure I'm fully recovered. For another, it will be the first really chilly day of the season and I'm not exactly sure what to wear. The weather forecast is for a 50 percent chance of showers and 50 degree weather. I'm pretty sure that's still singlet and shorts weather for me, but even this morning, on a breezy, 59-degree day, I felt a little chilly. That said, an easy recovery run is very different from running a half marathon at sub-8-minute-pace. I think the singlet and shorts will be fine. One thing I may consider doing is wearing compression socks. I wore them for the final leg of the Blue Ridge Relay and I think they helped keep my legs from wearing out on the strain of those long downhills.
The other concern is pace. I ran a preview of the course a couple weeks back and it's a challenging route, with 600 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Here's the elevation profile:
We Davidson runners like to say that every route in town ends with an uphill, and this course is no exception, with nearly 200 feet of climbing in the last two miles. While there are some undulations, basically you run into a hole, then run back out of it. So, should you "bank time" at the start with the intention of making it up at the end? I don't think I'll be doing too much of that. I'm shooting for a 7:30 average pace, which would be just over a 1:38 time for the whole race. I definitely want to keep my pace slower than 7:00 miles even on primarily downhill miles. The course is undulating enough that any time "banked" will probably be spent on the next uphill.
I think the key to the course is the final two miles. You're running up a slightly-uphill greenway, then with roughly 1.6 miles to go you hit the steepest hill on the course, Patrick Johnson Lane. It's not Blue-Ridge steep, but it's a dramatic hill for any road race. I think I will grab a cup of water at the stop right before this hill, then drink it as I walk up the first half. Then I'll get right back to running, finishing the steep hill and maintaining speed for the gradual uphill to the finish.
Given the cooler temperatures and possibility of rain, I won't drink much, just a sip or two every couple of miles. I will bring my usual gel-every-four-miles, which seems to serve me well at longer races.
If I manage to pull off the 7:30 pace, I'll set a new PR by nearly five minutes. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Head on over there to read the whole thing!Then the big hill started. I was laboring for breath as the hill just kept coming. Would I need to stop and walk? I tried to focus on good posture and good breathing, and I finished Mile 4, with its 212 feet of climbing, in 8:18. Then it got steeper. Breathing got heavier, and I wondered if there was any point to running. I knew that the grade would get as steep as 8 percent. Was it worth it to walk? Finally I gave in and walked for 30 seconds. I started running again, and almost immediately was laboring for breath. I promised myself I'd run for 3 minutes and then walk. I looked down at my watch and saw that only 90 seconds had passed.Holy sh-- this was hard.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
My team, Team D.A.R.T., has 10 members, which means six of us run four legs and four of us run three legs. Our team is renting two passenger vans to support the runners. Each van has 5 runners, and just one van is "active" at a time, so Van 1 runs legs 1-5, then hands off to Van 2, which takes legs 6-10, and so on until we are finished. The runners must proceed in order, after we've done 10 legs, runner 1 completes Leg 11, and we continue in this manner for the rest of the race. You're not allowed to change the order of the runners during the race, unless someone is injured, in which case they are removed and the runners complete the rest of the legs in their original order minus the one injured runner.
The course wanders through the backroads of Virginia and North Carolina, from Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia to Asheville, NC. Somehow, I talked my wife Greta into joining me as I drove the length of the course. She proved invaluable as a navigator; there are lots of turns on twisty mountain roads, and it would have been easy for me to get lost without her. After a two-hour drive, we arrived at Grayson Highlands at 11:00 a.m. -- coincidentally the same time D.A.R.T. be starting the relay next Friday morning. The park is well-manicured, and the visitor center is near the top of a 5,000-foot peak. Here's the one photo we managed to take during the entire day, a third of a mile up a trail at the mountaintop:
|I don't think they're starting the race all the way up here...|
The first leg of the race plunges 1,000 vertical feet, 4.2 miles from the visitor center to the park entrance. The lucky runner is Kurt Graves. He won't be so lucky later on when on leg 31 he must climb 1,430 vertical feet in just over 5 miles! After Leg 1, the course winds down quaint country lanes, along gravel roads, up mountains, down the other side, and back up again. After an hour of driving we had completed just 5 legs. This was going to take awhile! We decided to stop for lunch in West Jefferson, NC. In fact, my van, Van #2, could do worse on race day than to have lunch at the same spot.
The next leg, let 6, would be my first. The run is entirely on "Buck Mountain Road" and "Bald Mountain Road." As you might guess, it involves a lot of climbing. It starts with a 200-foot climb, then a steep descent on a gravel road, through Mile 2.5. Mile 2.5 to 4.5 involves 400 feet of climbing, including an 8% grade for the last mile. Yikes! On the official race scale (Easy, Moderate, Hard, Very Hard, Mountain Goat Hard), this counts as "Hard."
The first "Very Hard" leg isn't until Leg 10. Mark Ippolito will run this one, which is 8.2 miles long. It features another 400-foot climb with another 8% grade, but this leg is 8.2 miles long compared to my 5.2-miler, so I guess that's what makes the difference. After finishing our drive-through of this leg, at about 2:15, we did a quick calculation and determined that if we tried to drive all 26 remaining legs, we'd not only be utterly exhausted, we'd miss our 8:15 dinner reservation. We decided to skip Van 1's legs and go straight to the start of leg 16, my next leg. This "easy" 4.2-mile leg includes one 200-foot climb, but otherwise it's mostly downhill. I'll be running it at around 11 p.m. When we arrived at the start of Mark Ippolito's second leg, Leg 20, we realized it was going to be a very windy road, and we were still running short of time, so we skipped ahead again, this time to leg 26. It's a "Moderate" 4.5-mile route with about 374 feet of climbing. The navigation isn't difficult either. I'll be running this one at 5:00 a.m. after attempting to sleep in a church parking lot, so that may be my biggest challenge. The next few legs covered mostly rolling hills and didn't seem too difficult. But it was around 5 p.m. now and we couldn't figure out a way to skip Van 2's legs 31 to 35, so we went ahead and followed them as well.
Kurt's leg 31 is an absolute beast of a run, 6.5 miles long, with a non-stop, 1,430-foot climb for the last 5 miles, a solid 6% grade the entire way. Next Dave Moore takes the bracelet and runs downhill for 9.4 miles, nearly all of it on gravel roads, a 2,000-foot drop at 5-7%. That's tough on tired legs! Then Stephanie has an 800-foot climb with 13% grads for the last mile -- another "Mountain Goat" leg. Dave Fischli's Leg 35 doesn't look much easier to me, with 951 feet of climbing in the first two miles. Finally, he'll hand the bracelet to me and I'll take the captain's privilege of running the final leg. The first mile or so is uphill, then I start a 5-mile descent to Asheville, a drop of 1,276 feet. It's fairly steep in some places, and is considered "Very Hard." I'm hoping my legs won't be so tired that I can't cruise down these hills at top speed. The road changes quickly from a forested hillside into urban streetscape, where hopefully my teammates will be waiting to greet me!
- This is a fantastically beautiful run. There is drop-dead spectacular scenery through much of the race, and most of it is rarely seen by tourists because it's on little-traveled backroads.
- Whoever is driving, especially during the early legs of the race, will need a navigator to help with directions. There are tons of twists and turns and missing one could be fatal.
- Distances are critical. Often the only way we spotted a turn is because we knew it was coming 0.8 miles after the previous one. Fortunately the race directors have put together a fabulous package of instructions for drivers and runners, so as long as you follow their directions you should be fine.
- The distances are given in distance from the previous turn. But runners should probably also carry cumulative distances. (In other words, if turn 1 is at 0.7 miles and turn 2 follows 0.8 miles later, the runner's instructions should point out that this is 1.5 miles into her/his leg.) This will match the display on their GPS.
- Even if we screw up and get lost a few times, we'll probably still have a fabulous time. This is going to be a tremendous race.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
My left hamstring is still feeling a bit sore, but massaging the hamstring and my calf seems to help a lot, so I felt like I could complete this run okay. My warm-up was downhill and I didn't feel great. When I got to the point where I was supposed to start my first tempo run I was at the bottom of a steep hill: Patrick Johnson Lane, where I was running in the opposite direction yesterday when I fell. That didn't bother me so much as the thought of running a 7-minute pace up a steep hill, so I decided to continue my warm-up run to the top of the hill. Even so, I was winded when I reached the top, and now I'd have to start my 18-minute tempo, on what was actually still a slight incline. I managed a 7:19 pace for the first mile. I was determined to do better on the next mile, even though I'd be heading up the notorious South Street incline, a hundred vertical feet in 2/3 of a mile. I completed the mile, on Main Street, in 7:04. Relieved, I slowed down and was ready to hit "lap" on my timer, when I realized I still had another 4 minutes of tempo-pace running to do. Somehow I found some more gas in the tank and completed another 0.54 miles at a 6:56 pace. Then I slowed down for the easy rest jog home.
My planning wasn't perfect, so instead of a 4-minute cool-down, I got about 7 minutes, plus the time it took to head inside and take a sip of water. I headed back out on the road and warmed up for a block before picking up the pace for my 13.5-minute tempo run. This time, Mile 1 started with a slight uphill, then finished with a nice, long downhill. I had picked some inspiring music to run by and turned up the pace: 6:45. Mile 2 was a slight uphill, but the music kept me going, and I completed it in 6:46.
My 3-minute break took me up a hill and back down, so I wasn't sure how I'd do on the 9-minute tempo that was scheduled next. I was running the first mile at a solid 7-minute pace when, 5:19 in, I found myself back at the bottom of Patrick Johnson lane. I decided to hit the "lap" button right then and charge up the hill, to see what pace I could manage on the hill. It's a short but steep stretch, and I made it to the top in just 1 minute, at an 8:00 pace. I had 2:40 left in my 9-minute tempo, so I decided to see how much time I could make up. As I ran, I monitored my average pace for the lap, within a minute it was down to 7:30. Then it hit 7:20, then 7:15. I only needed to run at tempo pace until the lap time read 3:40, and at 3:20, my pace was 7:10 for the lap. Surely there was no way to get the average pace down to 7:00, was there? I picked a driveway about 50 meters ahead and ran for it at full speed, figuring I'd arrive right at 3:40. I was right, and when I pressed "lap" I was stunned to see that my average pace for the lap was indeed 7:00!
I walked for about 30 seconds to catch my breath, then jogged for another 1:30 before starting on my final 4.5-minute tempo run. I was running downhill, so even though I had barely recovered from the last tempo, I was holding steady at a 6:45 pace. Then I hit a greenway with rolling hills. I only let myself look at the timer every 60 seconds or so, focusing on good form and a consistent stride. I kept up the pace all the way to the end of the run, a 6:45 for my final tempo leg. I let myself walk for 60 seconds, then started back up South Street at my 9:00 "easy" pace, which seemed anything but easy after the workout I had just put in.
I've often found that the cool-down run is the toughest part of these hard workouts, and today was no different. It was all I could do to avoid stopping and walking on the two-mile run home. I did stop for about 20 seconds to say hi to my wife, who was walking in to work, but that doesn't count, does it?
Details of today's workout are below.