Sunday, May 30, 2010

Don't Let this Happen to You on Race Day!

ORN (Sat): 6+ miles, with 7x800m intervals at 4:12 average

I have a story which is ultimately funny which I forgot to tell you, related to the Illinois Marathon on May 1.  You'll see why I say "ultimately" in a moment.

I always like to arrive early on race day, if possible.  I appreciate a chance to relax, get everything set and not feel rushed.  It worked out nicely for this race; I scored a good parking spot, quite near the finish line, a full 90 minutes before the gun.  I got out, gently jogged about a mile to work out the kinks from the two hour drive, still leaving a full 30 minutes before I needed to walk to the start line. So, I sat back, popped on some music, enjoying it while the day was still cool.  I could read, think, watch other runners assemble; all in all quite enjoyable.  

Eventually, I was set to go.  I calmly assembled everything I needed.  I got out of the car and went through the routine you know as well.  One more check from head to toe, make sure I have the car key off the ring, in my shorts pocket, lock the car and head for the start.  

About six and a half hours later, I hobbled back to the car, still feeling somewhat nauseous but ready to head home.  I was grateful for the primo parking spot and as I got near the car, dug the key out of my pocket and got set to open the driver's side door.  

And I gasped.

I had left the driver's side window completely down. The car was locked, fully secured, with the window wide open.  

I reached in, popped open the locks and proceeded to survey the car for missing goods.  Amazingly, not a single thing was disturbed.  Nothing had moved.  My wallet, my Kindle, my camera, my bag, my cell phone; all of it right where I had left it.  

How did this happen?  I realized I had rolled the window down during my wait, enjoying the fresh air.  Well, the air was still fresh in the car.  And, astoundingly, nothing had been touched.  

I said a prayer of thankfulness and got in, quite chagrined.  I had checked the details carefully pre-race, yet missed a Very Big Thing.  Yet, ultimately, it was OK and I learned a Very Useful Lesson.  Granted, marathon runners are generally an honest and upright tribe.  But this was still a public parking lot and anything could have happened.  

So, smile with me.  And remember this story on race day or anytime you leave your car.  

Persevere...and roll up the window while you do.  


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Return of Humidity

ORN:  17.5 miles, 5/1 R/W, 3:07:06, 10:42/mile

After a week of rainy weather, it was no surprise to awake to muggy conditions this morning.  It felt a lot like July often feels here in Indiana, with the air hanging heavy, unable to suspend another molecule of water in its saturated state.  

Unlike July, though, the temperature was in the low 60s, not the mid 70s.  So, the planned 17 mile run went well, even if quite sweaty.  I was pleased I was able to hold a 5/1 run/walk ratio throoughout.  The Garmin told me the 31 run segments were at a 10:06 pace...just at my target. 

The legs feel as if they've pretty much recovered from the Illinois Marathon three weeks ago.  Now, I'm looking forward to the Sunburst Half Marathon two weeks from this morning.  This is the last long run before that jaunt and I'm encouraged. 



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Race Report: WRRC Summer 5K Series- May

ORN:  morning; 4.9 miles, 5/1 R/W
           evening:  5K race, 26:12, 8:22/mile

It is a rare event for me to do two workouts in one day but sometimes the calendar works that way.  I did my usual 5 mile run early this morning but the late afternoon opened up for a treat.

My running club, the Wabash River Running Club, has offered a no-frills 5K race series for the last couple of summers on the third Wednesday of each month.  Last summer I had some other commitment on each and every third Wednesday from May to October.  Wow.  So, when my evening opened up for tonight, I determined to at least get one of these in during 2010.

And, oh so convenient!!  I got home from work around 5:40pm, changed and then jogged the 3/4 mile from my front door to the starting line at a park, near our weekly Farmer's Market.  A perfect warm up.  The race is free to club members, all of $2 for the public with a maximum of $5 for a family.  A simple out and back course, past the Market, around some softball fields, around our new community garden, around a pond, past some woods...all off of city streets.  And a beautiful, sunny evening at 68 degrees.  About 45 people showed up, including three of my work colleagues.

Off we went, right on time at 6:30pm.  I set my Garmin to pace me at 8:45 miles, in preparation for the half marathon I'm running on June 5.  Turned out to be hard to run that slowly.  The three miles ticked off at 8:25, 8:30, 8:21 and then 0:57 for the dash to the end (a 6:48 pace).  I was quite pleased do to this, 2.5 weeks post marathon.  

After a brief chat with a few folks, a quick drink of water, I jogged home, changed shirts and sat down to grilled dill/yogurt marinated chicken kabobs at 7:15pm with my lovely wife, as the afternoon sun streamed in.  

Does it get much better??  



Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yasso 800s

ORN:  8 miles total, with 10x800m at 4:29 average

Two weeks now since the Illinois Marathon and a few goodies to pass along.  

In my race report, I focused on the struggle with nausea from mile 18 on.  I'm really thinking the humidity had a lot to do with that and probably some less-than-adequate hydration.  

But the good news was the legs.  This was my 16th completed marathon and NEVER have my legs felt so good after 26.2.  Immediately after the race I observed no blisters, cramps, pulls, soreness...nothing.  The next day, I almost forgot I had run a marathon 24 hours earlier.  On Monday, the predicted worst soreness day, there was nothing.  At work, I often have to go up and down two flights of stairs...I did that multiple times that day with no problem, nothing at all to notice.  Amazing.  

I laid off a full week from running, as is my practice.  The following Saturday, I went out for anywhere from 8-12 miles, easy.  Ten miles seemed about right as I worked through it and though the legs were "heavy" there was no discomfort at all.  This was wonderful and a marked contrast from the struggle I had for three weeks following the LA Marathon, just six weeks earlier. 

Encouraged, I turned my attention to the rest of 2010.  I already am signed up for the Chicago Marathon on 10.10.10, but what else?  Spreading out the calendar before me, I decided to register for the Sunburst Half Marathon on June 5.   It will be the sixth year in a row I've run this race which ends at the 50 yard line of Notre Dame Stadium.  Always one to have a plan, I then had to figure out what I'd do between now and June 5 to get ready for what I'm hoping will be a solid race.  

I pulled out Galloway's HM program and saw it called for 10x800m intervals three weeks before race day, 17 miles two weeks ahead and 6x800 a week ahead.  On the calendar it went.

Then it hit me.  Ten 800m repeats is also called the Yasso 800s.  Conceptually, the time in minutes and seconds at which you can hold up 10 half miles is the same time, in hours and minutes, in which you should be able to run a marathon.  I've never done this workout before.  Would it work??  

Today was three weeks before the race, so I gave it a go.  I have no access to a track and detest track running anyway, so I just set my Garmin for 800m runs with a 3 minute recovery and off I went.  Long story short, I tried to keep a consistent 9 minute/mile pace during the runs.  All 10 of the segments were between 4:24 and 4:36, with a 4:29 average.  Particularly during the middle segments, I had to hold myself back.  The last segment didn't feel hard and hit on the average time.  

So, does this mean I can run a 4:30 marathon???  I have a hard time believing it does, as it has been 3+ years since I've done a 4:30.   Nevertheless, it was encouraging to do this just two weeks after a marathon. I welcome any comments from any of you who have done Yasso 800s, as well.  

More to say about the rest of the year's plans, but that will wait.  



Sunday, May 02, 2010

Race Report: Illinois Marathon 2010

ORN:  26.2 miles, 5:23:07, 12:35/mile, R1/W1(to 19) then :30/1:30 to the end

Quick Summary:

Why do I run marathons?

I pondered this question deeply as I nauseously struggled through the last 4 miles of the Illinois Marathon on a warm, very humid race day.  During the drive home, I isolated the answer.

The Marathon is an excellent and exacting teacher.  

The Gory Details

It's really nice to have a marathon so close to home, not requiring an overnight stay and the associated expense.  Up at 4:00am, on the road at 4:30am, my wallet in hand. With the change from Eastern to Central Time Zones at the Indiana/Illinois border, I was at the race site before 6:00am local.  I did a very easy one mile jog an hour before the 7:30am gun and enjoyed the atmosphere always present on race morning. 

The weather had been a question mark in the days leading up to the race.  Thunderstorms had rolled through around 2am but drifted to the east by morning.  It was overcast, humid and 65 at the start.  And this single fact would prove huge. 

The Race

About 10,000 marathoners and half marathoners set off together on a pleasant, flat course through the University of Illinois campus and the twin towns of Champaign and Urbana.  I jogged the first mile slowly to let the pack thin a bit, then shifted to the run one minute/walk one minute experiment I had planned for the day.  Somewhere during the second mile, I noticed my singlet was already soaked with sweat...that should have been a clue.  

The early race went smoothly.  At mile 5, I was 2:07 ahead of my projected pace, about where I wanted to be.  The pattern continued and by mile 10, I was 3:20 ahead of plan.  

At mile 11.5, the half marathoners split off and the course opened up considerably.  The split is always a funny point, observing the puzzled looks of the spectators wondering just how crazy you have to be to willingly make the turn to run 15 more miles.  I hit the half-marathon mat in 2:27:15, still 2:45 ahead of plan.  

At mile 15, I was 2:06 ahead but noticed something odd.  The temperatures were rising and, so it seemed, was my stomach.  At the end of each run cycle I found myself feeling quite nauseous.  This was unfamiliar territory for me and I figured it would just "go away" as many other issues often do.  This was wishful thinking.  I was drinking plenty of fluids, having a Gu at the bottom of each hour and a SaltStick at the top of each hour.  Through mile 17, I tried to first understand this queasiness and then, to determine what to do with it.  It got to the point I truly wondered if I simply needed to find a gutter or trash soon.  But, with nothing in my stomach, I didn't want to try.  

So I experimented further, altering my run/walk ratio.  By mile 19, after several iterations, I settled on a run 30 seconds, walk 90 seconds pattern.  This seemed to work; by the end of each run segment I had a trace of the nausea but it was bearable.  Thus, I finished out the rest of the race.  

At mile 20, I was 1:49 behind my target pace.  By the end of the race, I was 23:07 off the pace.   I was encouraged, though that my worst single mile was the 24th; miles 25 and 26 were progressively faster.  

The end of the race was nice...a slow build through the U of I campus, into the stadium, under the north goal post and across the finish line at the 50.  Marathon #16, in the books.   

Post Race

I must have not looked too good at this point.  Within seconds of crossing the line, a medic walked directly to me to ask how he could help me.  I convinced him I was OK and he left, though not completely convinced, I suspect.  

Finding a seat in the first row of the stands, I sat down to collect myself.  The nausea was still real.  What to do?  I racked my brain and, after about 10 minutes, decided the best thing to do was to get up, get out of the weather and make my way back to the car.  The slow, steady movement seemed to help.  Swapping the soaked singlet for a dry cotton T shirt once I got to my car, I slid into the driver's seat, flipped on the air conditioning and dug out a jar of cold ice tea I had packed in a cooler.  The first sip tasted great.  The cool air helped a lot.  Two jars of the ice tea and five minutes of A/C made a world of difference.  I headed home, feeling much better. 

Reflecting on the Question

Why do I run marathons?

The question I posed in the race's final hour continued to bug me.  Over those last four miles, I seriously wondered "why" I would continue.  Yet, as I drove across the prairie, analyzing what went wrong, comparing this race to other marathons, it hit me just why I run.

A well-known principle in training and teaching theory is the hot stove rule.  If you touch a hot stove, you get burned.  Doesn't matter who you are, whether an experience cook, a young child or drunken guest; you get burned just the same.  It is gives you warning before it burns you.  It is proportional...the longer you put your finger on it, the worse you get burned.   It is get the message in a hurry.  

The marathon is such a teacher, though far more complex and nuanced.  And it teaches me so much.   That's why I run them.  The learning, alone, is worth the pain.  It extends far beyond running going to the core of life itself.  

Specifically, yesterday's lesson exposed, nakedly, my own stubbornness.  From last October, shortly after the Portland Marathon and my conversation with Jeff Galloway, I was determined to do a 1/1 marathon under 5 hours.   As I tracked the weather all week, I took no account of the fact that the rising temperatures would necessarily slow the pace I could hold.  I failed to take my own advice, which I emblazon on the sidebar of this blog:  Run the Best Race Conditions Allow.  I wrote about this goal way back on December 15, 2007.  But clearly forgot it yesterday.    

And the marathon, a skilled, complex, subtle and oh-so-clear teacher, reminded me of it again.  That helps.  There's a time to stubbornly cling to a certain concept.  And a time to see when forces larger than you rule.  

That's why I run marathons.