Saturday, December 31, 2011

One last post for 2011

I know, I know, I already wrote my year-in-review post but I wanted to write one more post about my final run of the year.

Today I had two goals:

1. Run a solid 15.5 mile run at mostly "marathon pace," which is a sort of bizarre concept right now because I'm focusing on half-marathons. According to the Daniels running program, based on my recent performances, I should be able to complete a marathon at around a 7-minute-per-mile pace. I don't think I'm actually in shape to do that, so I've adjusted "marathon pace" to about a 7:20 pace. This is actually what the McMillan Running Calculator projects based on my recent 5K time, so that's a reasonable enough guess (in any event, I'd be thrilled to run a 3:09 marathon, which is what you get when you run a 7:20 pace!).

2. Run in flats to decide whether to try running in flats during my half-marathon next week.

Goal #1 was a success. The actual workout involved 40, 20, and 10-minute segments at marathon pace, with faster 5-minute tempo segments inbetween. Given that I hadn't done so well at tempo pace earlier this week, I was a little concerned. But I ended up doing quite well.

MP segment 1 was 40 minutes, about 5.5 miles. I was running the DART loop and decided to stop at my house after ever loop to hydrate and fuel up, so there were two breaks, including one during this segment, but I don't think that affected my performance much. Here are my splits: 7:18, 7:16, 7:20, 7:12, 7:13, and a 7:22 pace for the final .5 miles.

Tempo 1 was okay, a 6:36 pace.

MP segment 2 was 20 minutes, 2.75 miles, including quite a bit of uphill running. Here are the splits: 7:20, 7:26, 7:24, including over 260 feet of climbing.

Then I went straight into Tempo 2, which was again okay, a 6:35 pace.

MP segment 3 got broken up by a water / fuel break, so I picked up the pace a bit: 6:59, and 6:41 for the final .46 miles before cooldown.

Overall my pace for the active portion of the workout was 7:10 per mile, for 11.2 miles. I'll need to go a little faster than that to reach my goal of a 6:52 pace, but I think it's in the realm of possibility, especially since Mississippi is a much flatter course than what I ran today.

Goal #2 was a success as well. I was definitely starting to feel a little pain in my feet near the end of the run, but nothing that wouldn't be manageable in a race. I think the lightweight shoes are well-worth the slight discomfort.

Details of today's workout are below

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: The year that was

It's been a good year, 2011. At the start of this year, the longest I'd ever run in a race was 13.1 miles. The farthest I had ever run was 15.1 miles, and that was just a couple months before, in November of 2010. This year, I've had at least 40 runs longer than 13 miles, including three marathons, three half-marathons, and dozens of training runs.

Oh, and there was that little race last month, which qualified me to run in another little race 16 months from now.

Let's take a look back, shall we?

During this month I steadily build mileage, culminating in the 19-mile Fellowship of the Idiots run. Total mileage for the month: 232

I continue to build mileage, but also start working on speed. To test myself, I run the UNCC Homecoming 5K and PR with a 21:32. Total mileage: 235, despite the short month.

Despite going on a ski vacation in the middle of the month, I manage to keep the mileage up, completing my longest run to date, a 22-miler. I also run a 10K where I PR and get my first-ever age-group award, and a disappointing half marathon that at least turned out to be a good story. Total mileage: 236

Things start to get real. I run a good 8K and an eventful 5K before flying off to California to get ready to run my first-ever marathon. Total mileage: 217.

Finally! I run my first marathon ever, the stunningly spectacular Big Sur International Marathon. While I don't quite hit the pace I was hoping for, my 3:37 time is quite good for a first-time marathoner on a difficult course. I also run a 10K that is a little short, and start to get ready for yet another marathon. Total mileage: 176.

Just five weeks after running my first marathon, I decide I can run another. My goal: Break 3:30 and qualify for Boston. For some idiotic reason, I choose the Steamboat Marathon, which starts at 8,200 feet and descends to 6,800. It's all downhill, it shouldn't be too hard, right? Wrong. At least the scenery is pretty. The rest of the month is spent licking my wounds. Total mileage: 127.

Time to regroup. I embark on a new plan: Running a flat race, near sea level, and seeing how fast I can go. I bump up the mileage, and run a 5K, where I get another age group award and PR. Total mileage: 240.

Somehow I manage to keep up the mileage while vacationing in Hawaii, including what has to be the steepest route I've ever run. And I run a cool 10K involving four river fords. Total mileage: 242.

I run an epic relay including one of the awesomest descents known to humankind. What a blast! Then I set an insane PR at the Run For Green Half, beating my previous best by more than 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I continue logging big chunks of mileage. Total mileage: 246.

On the spur of the moment, I decide to drive to Tennessee with Todd to run the inaugural Bridges Half Marathon. It turns out to be a good move: I set another half-marathon PR, 1:31:37. This has the additional affect of kindling a new goal in my head: If I can cut just a minute and a half off my time, I qualify for automatic entry into New York. Continuing with speedy efforts, I set another PR and finish third overall in the Mooresville Pumpkin Run 8K, despite running an extra .16 miles. Total mileage: 245.

Finally, I make it! I spend the rest of the month taking it easy. Total mileage: 141.

I had originally planned to take this month easy too, but with the new goal of qualifying for guaranteed entry to New York in Mississippi in early January, I decide to ramp my training back up. I do the best I can with training during a busy travel season. I run a crazy trail race at the spur of the moment. Then on Christmas Eve I run the Mount Mourne Elf 5K with the hope of setting another PR. Unfortunately the entire field takes a wrong turn, and while I am pleased with my overall pace of 6:16, because we all run an extra third of a mile, there is no PR, no sub-20-minute 5K. Total mileage (including 15.5 planned for tomorrow): 242.

Overall, I'm quite happy with my year. There were no major injuries, I set massive PRs at several distances, I completed my first marathon, and I qualified to run Boston. Next year I'm planning to mix things up a bit, trying some "fun" races that won't result in PRs but should offer interesting challenges. With any luck, I'll get to run New York, and then Boston in 2013. I can't wait.

Total mileage for 2011 (again, including tomorrow's planned run): 2,585. Wow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tempos then and now

A common workout for me has been the gradually decreasing set of tempo runs. As I wrote a couple months ago:
I had a familiar workout plan -- a set of tempo runs that gradually declined in length. I would start with a 22.5 minute tempo run, take a break, then do 18, 13.5, 9, and 4.5-minute runs. The breaks would also gradually decrease in length: 5, 4, 3, and 2 minutes.
Tempo runs are done at a fast enough pace to get you to VO2 max fairly quickly -- 7-minute miles in my case. By taking breaks between each tempo, you can increase the amount of time you spend at VO2 max and therefore increase your fitness.
However, this time around I've been trying to increase my pace on workouts, with varying degrees of success. Instead of 7-minute miles the goal was a 6:32 pace. I wasn't sure I'd be able to maintain quite that speed but I wanted to try to stay at least under 6:40. How did I do?

Just so-so.

Tempo 1, 22.5 minutes:
Last time: 6:59, 6:43, 7:00, 6:46 for .24 miles, 3.24 miles total, 6:53 pace
This time: 6:38, 6:32, 6:37, 6:41 for .38 miles, 3.38 miles total, 6:39 pace

Tempo 2, 18 minutes:
Last time: 7:06, 6:55, 6:59 for .54 miles, 2.54 miles total, 7:01 pace
This time: 6:43, 6:34, 6:43 for .4 miles, 2.4 miles total, cut short at 16 minutes, 6:40 pace

Tempo 3, 13.5 minutes:
Last time: 6:54, 6:52 for .95 miles, 1.95 miles total, 6:53 pace
This time: 6:43, 6:37 for .41 miles, 1.41 miles total, cut short at 9:25, 6:41 pace

Tempo 4, 9 minutes:
Last time: 6:54, 6:52 for .3 miles, 1.3 miles total, 6:53 pace
This time: 6:58 for .84 miles, cut short at 5:49, 6:58 pace

Tempo 5, 4.5 minutes:
Last time: 6:53 for .66 miles
This time: skipped

On the plus side, my first couple runs today were pretty good, and I did manage to keep up the pace for most of the workout. In general I was faster than last time, and the terrain was tougher this time, with considerably more vertical gain (696 versus 201 feet). On the minus side, I didn't complete the workout, cutting three runs short and skipping the last one. I did manage to complete a full 16 miles, as planned, by doing a 4-mile cool-down.

So how does this bode for Mississippi? I would like to be able to do the half-marathon in under an hour and 30 minutes, which calls for a 6:52 pace. I was faster than that today, barely, but I'm not sure I could keep up a 6:52 for that long. That said, after averaging closer to a 7-minute pace during the previous workout, I was able to run a half-marathon soon afterwards at the same 7-minute pace. So maybe I'll be just fast enough. We'll know in a week and a half.

Details of today's workout are below.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Mount Pisgah Frozen 8.2 mile run

Over on the DART blog, I've written a recap of the spur-of-the-moment 8.2-mile trail run I did last weekend. Head over there for the narrative. If you're interested in the raw data, this is the place.

Here's the Garmin record of the event:

And the official race results are posted here (PDF link).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Intervals and Reps: Then and Now

I'm attempting to ramp up the pace I train at as I get ready for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon in January. Today the plan was to run some 800-meter intervals and 400-meter reps. A couple months ago I did a similar workout, so I thought it might be handy to compare the two workouts.

Last time the plan was to run 6 X 1000 meters at a 6:30 pace, followed by 4 X 400 meters at a 6:00 pace.

This time, with my faster pacing, the plan was to run 5 X 800 meters at a 6:00 pace, then 6 X 400 meters at a 5:30 pace. As before, I'd get 2 minutes rest between the longer intervals, and 3 minutes between the shorter reps. But this time I wasn't running on a track, and I wasn't on my home turf, which I think made it a little more difficult. How did I do?

Then: 6:14, 6:28, 6:25, 6:22, 6:21, 6:18
Now: 6:00, 6:01, 6:08, 6:13, 6:09

Then: 5:51, 6:04, 5:43, 5:32
Now: 5:34, 5:44, 5:44, 6:01, 6:17, 7:17

I did all right on the intervals, but the reps were another story. I really started falling apart after rep #3. The last rep was on a fairly steep uphill, so that's understandable, but otherwise I didn't do great at all. Why? Perhaps I'm just in worse form than I was two months ago. Or perhaps the fact that I wasn't on the track and didn't have my iPod contributed. Also, running the intervals faster took a lot out of me -- maybe I'm just not quite ready for this much of an increase in speed. I have another similar workout planned for next week, so maybe I'll do better then.

Details of today's workout are below: