Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Post-Race Runs

So after taking about 10 days off after the marathon, I finally stepped back into my running shoes and onto the treadmill last Wednesday night. After the race, I decided that I want to focus a bit on getting faster, so I'm going to be doing some things differently with my training.

Anyway, Wednesday night I decided I wasn't going to push it (too much), and ran 3 miles at 6mph with a 1% incline. It felt pretty good; it was a bit hard (I haven't run at that pace in awhile, as my marathon training was a bit slower), but the effort felt good and my legs felt great. No post marathon rust, which I was a bit afraid of.

Last night I decided to give some speedwork (again on the treadmill) a shot. The workout went as follows:

.5 mile warmup@5.4mph
5 repeats of .25 mile@7mph followed by .25@5mph
.5 mile cooldown at 5.4mph

I have to admit that the final cooldown .5 was the final "rest" portion of the interval repeat, so the workout as was 3.25 miles instead of 3.5. The fast portions of the intervals felt a bit hard (isn't that kind of the point?), but the rest laps gave me ample time to recover. My only concern is that the recovery time was too slow/too long. If anyone has any input, I would LOVE to hear it, as I really want to get faster and don't want to try to do speedwrork that isn't goingnto benefit me.

That's all for now. I may try to squeeze in a 5 mile this weekend, but with a trip to Disney coming up in a week, there's lots to get done.

Thanks to all for the congratulations and encouragement on the marathon. It really means a lot to me. I just have this sneaking feeling that if I work just a bit harder I can break 5 hours. :-)

Later all!

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, April 13, 2009

"C'mon, bring it home!"

Though it's not completely clear from the header (and there will be more on that later in the post) this is my pre-race, race, post-race report for the inaugural Illinois Marathon.

My sister got to my house about 9 on Friday morning after several flight issues the previous day. The plan was to check out the expo early, run a few errands, then chill until dinner. So we drove to the expo and made our way to the floor. Having been to only one expo previously, I was a bit disappointed. Granted, the previous expo was at a much larger race (The Flying Pig), and this was the first year for this race, but I was expecting a little more. I did, however, get some info on a couple of half-marathons that I'm considering running in, so that's good. Not many (read no) freebies, and the goodie bag was mostly just info on other races.

So we got our chips, and headed over to get our shirts. When I signed up for the race, I must have requested a XXL shirt, because that's what my info said. When I showed the gentleman at the shirt pickup my packet so he could get my shirt, he commented "So you're one of the guys who wears these big shirts. I finally get to give one away." Thanks for the confidence boost there, buddy. So we were back to the clydsdale issue again, huh?

I did see a fleece vest that I liked at the booth for he local running store, but they had no XLs in stock, so they were nice enough to call over to he store and put one on hold for me. Again feeling really special about my size at that point, but whatever.

On our travels to the store, I noticed that one of the Walgreens had put up the following on their electronic sign : "Welcome Marthaon Runners." While they get an A for effort, their execution fell flat. We did, however, get much humor from our new battlecry "This is Marthaon!"

We ran a couple other errand, then relaxed until dinner with my family Friday evening. We were lucky enough to have had our cousin reserve a hotel room for us for Friday night so we could get up and walk to the start, so after dinner, we went home, helped get the kids to bed, I packed a bag and we were off to the hotel for the evening. By the time we got. To the room, it was almost 10pm because after putting the kids to bed, we had to make a detour to he airport where my brother in law had left his carry on bag when my sister picked hi
up. Luckily it was still there. So we got to the room a bit late and decided to start getting our stuff ready for the morning, when I realized I forgot my shirt back at the house. So one more trip home, pick up the shirt, back to he hotel, get stuff ready and then hit the sack. I think it was close to 11:30 when we finally turned out the light.

The next morning was chilly as we walked to the start. I was pretty much committed to wearing shorts with a long sleeve wicking shirt and a pullover. My plan was to dump the pullover with my wife and daughter at about the halfway point. There was some confusion about where to put our bags, but we eventually located the trucks and waited as long as we could to strip down. I saw my friend Doug (Zak from 99.1) and we chatted for a couple minutes before we headed off to the start.

Our plan from the beginning was to hook up with the 5:00 pace team (led by Pacer Tom) and stick with him through the whole race to come in right at 5 hours. He was very enthusiastic and motivating, and let us know that if we could see and hear him, he'd bring us in right on time. Never having run with a pace team before, I was looking forward to the experience.

The starting area was a bit confusing, with a mass of runners in the starting area. About the only thing that gave the runners some idea of where to line up was the different signs held by the pacers. The lines for the porta potties at the start was ridiculous, and I realized with 5 minutes before the start that a) I had to go to the bathroom, and b) there was no way I was going to be able to do that and still make the start of the race. So I held it. Until somewhere around mile 16. More on that later.

As we shuffled toward the start I remember thinking that it was a good day to run. I was looking forward to running with my sister (she had run a couple marathons previously), and looking forward to the challenge of finishing my first marathon.

It may seem a bit of a cliche, but the first miles went by pretty quickly. We fell in right behind Pacer Tom, and before I knew it we were through the first 10 miles or so, with things seeming pretty good. Kris was awesome, and would call out when it was time to gel, and we would check in with each other to see how the other was doing. I saw my friend Steve around mile 12, and a bit later stripped off my pullover in anticipation of seeing my wife and oldest daughter around mile 13. I saw them from about a block away and headed to their side of the street. I paused for just a second to high five my girl, and pass off the pullover to my wife. About a half mile later we saw our family camped out along the side of the road and they waved and cheered us on as we ran by, still on pace.

It was getting a little bit harder to maintain the pace by about mile 15 or so, and I remember thinking about the horrific 15 mile training run I had several weeks earlier. Maybe that started the negativity creeping in, because shortly after that point (really after I decided I HAD to stop and use the porta potty at mile 16) things started to get a bit worse.

First of all, it was becoming harder to keep up with Pacer Tom. I knew from his bio that he could run a 3:30 marathon, so pacing a 5:00 group was pretty easy for him, and he maintained a steady pace throughout. He would check in with the group from time to time, and it seemed that by this point, there were fewer and fewer cheers when he asked if his team was still with him. I noticed us slipping back from him a bit, but we could still hear him, so I thought we would be ok. After the pit stop, however, he was quite a ways in front of us, and it was really hard for me to start running again. Kris kept on encouraging me, and echoing the advice of her coach "No sassy talk" from the head.

By the time we rolled around to mile 18, I NEEDED to take a walk break. The distance was messing with me; nothing really HURT, my legs just felt SO tired. So we walked. And my sister kept telling me it was ok, that we were going to finish, and that was the important thing, and that the time didn't matter, even as I apologized for (in my mind) messing up her race. As we hit mile 19, we saw our family again, and we were walking. (This was a trend throughout the last part of the race; walk a quarter mile or so, then run for a half to three quarters of a mile). I felt like I was disappointing them because I was walking, but they cheered me on anyway. I learned later from my brother in law that as Pacer Tom went by my family, they mentioned that we had been with him on the way out, and he asked them "Is there even anyone behind me anymore?" So maybe I wasn't the only one having a rough go of it.

As I mentioned, the trend became to walk a bit, run a bit, and that seemed to work, as we got closer and closer to the finish. Step by step, mile by mile, we journeyed on. The miles went past, though not as quickly as in the beginning, and when we got to mile 25, we decided we were going to run the rest of the way. At that point, we could see the practice facility next to Memorial Stadium, and knew we were getting close. And we just kept running. For that last 1.2 miles we kept running. I know we were both exhausted and hurting, but we kept at it. Coming into the stadium was awesome, and hearing the cheering of the crowd gave us the energy to finish.

Let's talk about the finish for a moment. When Kris and I ran the Flying Pig Half Marathon together last year, as we approached the finish I picked a runner ahead of us and decided I wanted to sprint to pass him, just to finish strong. Now my sister specifically said that at the end of the marathon, there would be no sprinting. Ahem. So as we ran through the endzone, we ran together pretty much stride for stride. And then someone yelled into a microphone "C'mon, bring it home!" This was apparently the cue for my sister to start sprinting the last 50 yards. Um, excuse me, what happened to the "no sprint" clause? It took me a couple seconds to realize what was happening, and I sprinted to catch up with her. Hard as I tried, though, I couldn't quite catch up and she finished 2 second ahead of me. She's going to hear about that 1 second for a LONG time. Hear that, Sis?? A LONG time. ;-)

Finish Time - 5:14.06
Kris's Finish Time - 5:14.05

Oh wait, should her time go BEFORE mine??

All in all I'm happy with how the race went. Sure, I could have done better, but I PR'd, and my sister beat her PR by 26 minutes, which is awesome. The volunteers were amazing, encouraging runners every step of the way. The community came out to support the runners in a big way. I'm sure some people were inconvenienced ( I even saw one person chastizing a volunteer about being inconvenienced), but that's going to happen in any event like this. The course was good, the weather was great. Would I do it again? Run a marathon, that is...not right away, but probably. I'm looking at what to do next and considering my options.

Guess that's about it for now. I know this has been long, so thanks for sticking with me. I know there will be more to post later, so look for that. Right now I'm going to take a week off and road a bit. Then we'll see what's up.

Congrats to my Sis on her PR (and for finishing a second before me). Oh, and for winning the Kona lottery. You'll be awesome!!

Later all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

48 hours

Well, only 48 hours (actually less as I post this) until race time. 48 hours until we see if all of the training, running in cold and snow, the six mile walk home against gale force winds, etc. has all been worth it. And by worth it I mean has it prepared me to finish the marathon. I hink it has, I HOPE it has.

And yet I'm still nervous. Sure, I've done some things in my training I never thought I'd be able to do (run 20 miles, for example), but this seems like a whole different level. I know from the half I ran last year that the excitement of the day, the adrenaline rush, can get you through to the end. But this is 26.2 miles. It's extremely intimidating to me right now.

I don't mean to sound like I'm not mentally prepared, because I think I am. I know it's going to be hard. I know it's going to hurt. But I also know that when I finish, I'll probably be like the fourth most happy I've ever been in my whole life. And that's something I'm looking forward to feeling.

My sister flies in tonight, so we're going to hit the expo in the morning, pick up our packets, and run some other errands. Then mostly hang out. We've got dinner reservations at an Italian place here in town, so we'll have dinner with my family, and then crash.

And in another 52 hours from now (hopefully) it will all be over. Then I'm going to take a little bit of time off from running and figure out what's next.

Be back in a few days with a race report. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Down With the Sickness

So we had a birthday party last Sunday for our youngest daughter, who turned 2 the week before. With all the preparation that morning, I knew I'd probably have to squeeze in my run (12 miles) sometime that night. After the party, things settled down and I thought I had eaten too much as I was having some stomach issues. Net result: long run skipped. While I realize I'm in the taper before the race, I was still concerned about missing the run.

The next morning I woke to stomach cramps and pretty much felt likeid been hit by a bus. GREAT. I should have figured that when the two ladies at work (both of whose cubes adjoin mine) were sick at the end of last week that I would end up catching something. So I was home sick for 2 days, and didn't really start eating much of anything until Thursday. Needless to say, no running this week.

So I'm concerned. Concerned that all the work i've put in over the last 16 weeks has been in vain. Concerned that I'll crumble on race day and not be able to finish. Concerned that my body will have forgotten what I need it to do and what it is supposed to do.

I certainly plan on getting my runs in this week, just to get things moving again. Hopefully i won't feel like dying.

We'll see in 8 days. 8 frakking days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There's a First Time for Everything

Well, yes, I am still alive and kicking. I realize it's been quite some time since my last post, but life and training continue on. Here's a brief, bullet-point update of events since my last post:

1. A sixteen mile run that went MUCH better than the fifteen mile run from the previous post.

2. My Nike+ Sensor died.

3. Three weekends ago, I went out for what was to be my 18 mile run. The first 10.5 miles were great, and I felt good. Then I turned around to come home, and was hit with winds of 30-40 mph that I later found out blew over some utility POLES (not LINES, mind you, but POLES). Needless to say, I could barely walk against this wind, let alone run against it. So I ended up walking about the last 6 miles or so, for a total of just over 16 miles instead of the 18 I had planned on. Oh, yeah, then it started raining and it felt like my skin was being flayed from my body.

4. Right after returning home from the wonderful run described immediately above, we took our oldest daughter into the emergency room with a fever of 106. Doctor said it was something "viral", which seems to be doctor speak for "we can't really tell why this is happening."

5. The next weekend, we took our youngest daughter into the emergency room after she fell out of a swing. She has a broken arm, and has a pretty cast (she calls it her "purple") on it for the next couple weeks.

6. All of the usual midweek training runs went off without much to-do. On the treadmill, but that's ok.

And that takes us to last Sunday. The big culmination of my training: the 40 mile week, capped off with a 20 mile run on Sunday. The midweek runs of 5-10-5 were nothing out of the ordinary. On Saturday, I sat down with and plotted out a route that, rather than covering new territory, would allow me to stop by the house quickly and refill my water bottle with Gatorade, and pick up another bottle of water and a few more gels. I was a little apprehensive since technically I hadn't run further than 16 miles before. Call it mental toughness training.

Really, the run itself was pretty noneventful. Sure, it was hard, but doable. My splits were pretty even for the most part (I'll post them here in a minute), but they did get a bit slower as I went along. I gel'd on a regular basis (at :15, :45, 1:15, 1:45, etc.). I felt like I hydrated pretty well (I went through 2 bottles of water, and a drink bottle and 3/4 of Gatorade), and it seemed like I had something left to push the last mile just a bit. I think that when I get to that last mile, my body realizes that "this is it" and allows me to push just a little more than I thought I could. As I described it to my sister, and I know it sounds weird, but the run was better than and worse than I thought it would be. That's the only was I can describe it.

After the run I experienced something that was equal parts heaven and hell: the ice bath. I asked my sister about it, and she thought it would be a good idea, so when I got home, I filled the tub about half way with cold water (no hot or warm water at all), and then added a bag of ice. I soaked for about 12-15 minutes. My legs hurt and felt numb all at the same time, but it really seemed to help. The day after the run I felt good with very little soreness, and today is even better.

Here are the splits from my run:

Miles 1-5: 57:20, 11:29 per mile
Miles 5-10: 57:29, 11:30 per mile
Miles 10-15: 59:08, 11:49 per mile (this is when I stopped to refuel)
Miles 15-20: 58:02, 11:37 per mile

Total : 20 miles, 3:52, 11:36/mile.

Not too shabby. My sister is worried that she'll die the last 9 miles because she hasn't had any runs longer than 17 miles, but let me tell you this: She's a rock-star, and will totally blow it out of the water. I have NO worries.

Well, now it's on to the taper. And the race is in 18 days. WOW.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Road to Hell

As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. My intention for last week was to post at least once during the week so my post long run post (say that 5 times fast, huh?) would not be so long. Obviously that didn't happen. And let me tell you, I've seen the road to hell and am pretty sure it's about 15 miles long. More on that later.

So my midweek runs last week were 3-7-4. Really not too much to report on those. They were all done on the treadmill at a pretty easy pace, generally somewhere between 10:30-11:00 per mile. With the lower leg pains I'd been having, I didn't want to push things with speedwork, as I was afraid the extra pounding would make things worse. That plan seemed to work out pretty well, because the lower leg pains haven't been an issue of late, even on the long run Sunday. More on that later.

I have to say that during the whole week, I was pretty apprehensive about the 15 miler. I'd never run that far before (the closest I'd come was the half marathon) and it was messing with my head a bit. Could I do it? How hard would it be?

During the course of the midweek runs, I'd developed a new soreness. Not pain, mind you, just muscle soreness kind of near the top of my right thigh and wrapping around to just under the bum. I'm not sure, but after having talked to my sister, it sounds like it could be my right hip flexor. Normally, once it gets warmed up it's ok, but it gets kind of tight otherwise. This probably added to the concerns I was having about the long run.

So Sunday morning came, and it turns out we all slept in. Which as fine because we all needed the sleep. So it looked like an afternoon run was in the cards. By the time I started my run, it had warmed up to just over 20 degrees or so. I mapped out my run on and headed out. I'd decided ahead of time that instead of listening to music as per usual, I was going to listen to some podcasts instead. After all, I was going to be out for 3 hours or so (my unofficial goal was to average 12 minute miles), and it might be nice to hear some actual voices talking rather than just music. So I loaded up a playlist with more than enough podcast goodness and started running.

The first 8 miles or so weren't too bad, just the usual. My plan was to gel at 2, 7, and 12, and I had both a bottle of water and a bottle full of Gatorade with me so I could hydrate throughout the run. I know from prior runs that I probably wasn't drinking enough, so I wanted to make sure that wasn't going to be a problem.

Things got tougher as I got past 9 miles. I was REALLY looking forward to mile 12 when I could walk while I gelled. As it was, I took a quick walk at 10 miles and drank some Gatorade. As I got to 12, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to walk, and even ended up walking .10 of a mile as I drank and gelled. By this point, I was just feeling whipped. My legs were tired and sore, and I just wanted to be DONE. But I continued on. I actually took walk breaks at miles 13 and 14, walking for the first .10 of each mile then picking up with the run again.

I finally made it home after the 15 miles, and I felt like crying; that run was SO hard. How am I going to go for 11 MORE miles in just over 7 weeks? I thought. To this day I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, just that it will get done somehow. I think up until that long run I was under the illusion that if I followed the training plan it would be ok, that things would work out. That 15 miles last weekend really humbled me. The marathon is going to be HARD. No matter how much work you put in, no matter how much you've prepared, it is still going to be HARD. PERIOD.

On a side note, as I sat there trying to recover, I wiped my face with my hand and it felt like I had dirt on my face. I tasted it, and it turns out it was VERY salty. My guess is that part of the reason the run took such a toll is that I lost too much salt. I did a better job hydrating, but I still think (and my sister agrees) that I probably still need to drink more. I'll give that a shot this weekend on my 16 miler.

I don't have my Garmin with me, but I know that I finished in the 2:50's with an average pace of 11:31 per mile, even with the walking breaks. I guess that's not too bad, as it's only 4 seconds per mile off race pace.

I did a 4 mile run on the treadmill on Tuesday night, with a 1 mile warmup (GASP!) at 5.5 mph, and then the final 3 miles at 6.0 mph. It felt pretty good, and my aches seemed to go away while I was running. Tonight is an 8 miler on the mill.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First Things First...and the Dangers of Slacking

Grab some popcorn and strap yourselves in. It's been nearly a week since my last post, so this is probably going to be a lengthy excursion.

First things first. You may notice that I've renamed the blog slightly. It's still the same URL, but I felt that since the majority of the posts deal with my running/ training, Jedi Dad Runner seemed to fit a bit better. We now rejoin our regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.

After my long run of last weekend, I was set to run a 3 miler, a 7 miler, a 4 miler, and then a 10 miler. While it was technically a step back week, the milage of two of the midweek runs increased. The 3 miler ended up being a no brain, no strain treadmill run which I knocked out on Tuesday evening.

As the midweek "sorta long" run gets longer, I hate to run them on the treadmill. With schedules between work and home, however, this seems to be the most convenient for everyone involved. So I set the treadmill for 5.5 mph (about a 10:54 pace) and popped the movie "Wanted" in the DVD player. As I plodded along, I realized that the usual lower leg stuff was still happening. I'm not sure if it's just me pushing too much, or my legs are just protesting the pounding that my 215 lb frame causes. See, in the running world I'm what's known as a Clydsdale. Apparently my weight alone qualifies me to pull a Budweiser beer wagon along with a number of my hefty buddies. Now, I know I'm overweight, that much is obvious. I face it every time I look in the mirror. But I somehow find the comparison to a horse to be kind of insulting. If I could run as fast as a horse, it may be a different story. As it is, when I registered for the upcoming marathon, the application gave me the opportunity to register as a "Clydsdale". I opted not too, not out of any kind of vanity, but simply because I'm a runner. Fat, thin, fast, slow. It shouldn't matter. I'm a runner. Period.

Enough of the rant. I finished the 7 miler pretty easily and felt really good afterwords. I haven't seen the end of the movie yet, but I didn't think it was too bad so far. Sure it's not going to win any Oscars, but taken for what it is (an action flick based on a comic) it's not too bad.

Friday evening rolled around, and I was scheduled to do a 4 miler. I ended up skipping it because I was just wiped by the time evening rolled around. Between a couple late nights, and a couple early mornings with the kids, I was exhausted. I hated to skip the run, and felt guilty about it for quite awhile, but in the end 4 miles is not going to make a difference one way or the other as far as my training goes. And the night of rest probably helped me out as well.

So this morning rolled around and I was all set for my 10 miler. Except that I didn't feel like running. I didn't feel like getting up and going out for a run shortly after the sun came up. So I didn't. I'll run on the treadmill tonight, I told myself. So I hung out with the girls, we went to get groceries, ate some lunch and sat down to watch Wall-E while the youngest took a nap. Truth be told, dad kinda napped during Wall-E, too. And as the movie was ending, my wife asked me if I was going running. Part of me thought, I'll run on the treadmill tonight. Part of me thought, I don't feel like running today. Part of me thought, If you don't go now you might not run again. Luckily the last part won out, and I got off the couch, put on shorts (Yeah, it was in the lower 40's; AWESOME) and headed out for a midafternoon run. I don't know what it is, but the couch can grab ahold of you, suck you in, and make you think all kinds of nonsensical thoughts. It's almost like the scene in The Wizard of Oz where they have to cross the field of poppies. Except, of course, the couch would be the poppies and, well, you get the idea.

The sun was out for the first bit of the run, but quickly ducked behind some clouds. I felt pretty good after the first mile (man, I HATE that first mile. It REALLY sucks. For most of it I feel like it's my first time running, and I'm out of breath, and I can't seem to get in rhythm. Hit that second mile or so, though, things start to shake out and all is well with the world.) and decided I'd gel at 2 and 7 (roughly). I took Gatorade in my bottle today to see if it would work for me. I have to say, it didn't upset my stomach, and was a refreshing change from just water. It wasn't so good for washing down the gel, but oh well. I'm thinking that during the race, I'll take water in my bottle, and hit the aid stations for Gatorade. At least that way I'm not having to carry everything with me. The first gel I took was a PowerBar Tangerine. I'd had it once before and as soon as I tasted it, remembered WHY I'd had it only once before. Not good. I took some comfort in the fact that the second gel I had on hand was Green Apple, which I particularly enjoy. As I said, I felt pretty good, so I decided to push a little and see how it worked out. I also decided that I would check my splits half way and see how the first half of my run compared with the second. Somewhere between miles 3 and 4, I picked up the pace for a half mile or so, just to see how I could handle it. For that half mile I ran at about a 9:30 or so pace, and it felt pretty good. I recovered pretty quickly afterwords, and when I checked my split for "Lap 1", I finished the first 5 miles in 53:15 (10:39 pace). Not too bad, I thought. Just under a minute faster than "race pace" for my goal of finishing the marathon in 5 hours. I wanted to hold off a bit before I got too excited, though, and see how the second half of the run went.

The second half of my "loop" had a few more hills than the first, so I wasn't thinking about running negative splits or anything, just staying consistent throughout the run. It was a bit tougher than the first half, but I still felt pretty good. No real pain in my lower legs, though my thighs were burning a bit. A good burn, though. I decided that for the last mile, I was going to really push, try to finish really strong and see how things shook out. Turns out, pretty good. My second "lap" came in at 51:30 (10:18) pace. Almost 2 minutes faster. That made me happy. See, it does pay to get up off the couch and get moving.

Total for the run (based on Garmin): 10.0 miles in 1:44:45.

That's it for the runs (ha, ha) this week. But I wanted to pose a question and mention a couple other things. The question is this: What music do you listen to when you run? What really gets you moving? Is it a particular song, or type of music? For me there are a lot of songs, so it's hard to narrow it to just one. I'd have to say Stronger by Kanye West, anything from the Rocky soundtracks (these are good when things feel really hard), or anything from Linkin Park. Rob/White Zombie also gets the feet moving. So if you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

I've mentioned this podcast before, but Running With the Pack is really good. Just a couple guys talking about their training and their racing. Jeff and Allan are way faster than I'll ever be, but the podcast is really accessible.

I've also discovered a site called Runner's Lounge that has all kinds of great info, stories, links, etc for runners. Check it out if you get the chance.

That's it for now. I'll try to post during the week this week so I don't bore you all to death next weekend with tales of my 15 miler.