Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review; Goals for 2016

Wrapping up running for 2015, I must say I have been pleased with the year.  A couple of graphs capture much.

Here are my monthly miles for the year.  I started the year with a persistent pain in my right Achilles tendon.  Dr Williams got it diagnosed for me in February and I became very good friends with my foam roller.  From that low point, you can see the miles ramping up, touching 160 miles in both August and September, something I've never done in a month.  The total for the year was 1,538 miles, the second best ever.  Had I stayed healthy, it would have likely been a record mileage year.

I'm even more encouraged by the next graph.  I started my current job in May, 2004.  The job change eliminated 70 minutes a day of commuting, so I swapped the drive time for run time, going back to the sport I first fell in love with in the late 70s.  I'm thrilled to now have 11 bars on this graph, which represent, as of the end of 2015, a total of 15,022 miles.  I am grateful for the good health this's a gift for which I am daily grateful.

Racing was also good this year.  I reached my main goal for the year, going under four hours for the marathon.  Overall, I ran 23 races, including 9 5Ks, one 10K, 5 Half Marathons, 8 Marathons and one Ultra.  I never get tired of race day, even for our local running club's free Wednesday 5Ks during the summer. 

A true highlight for my year was the budding friendship with Jon, pictured below at the Blueberry Stomp in September.  We've traveled to a bunch of races around Indiana together and have much in common, far beyond our shared enjoyment of running. 


Somewhat related, I also picked up (for a song) a 1994 Mazda Miata 2 seat convertible earlier this fall.  What a hoot to drive this little car!  Since Jon has a Miata as well, we have dubbed ourselves the "Miata Maniacs".  

The year also saw the arrival of our fourth grandchild, Stella, born in April.  She's a treat and we are grateful to have her.  It's also fascinating to watch our children be parents.  

Our other three grandkids keep growing and it's great to have them in town so we can go out for ice cream whenever we want.    The twins are now in 6th grade and Miss B is in 4th.  

The running goal for 2016?  

Having run a 3:57 marathon in November, I now know what it takes to run at that pace.  So, I'm going now to qualify for and get entered into the 2017 Boston Marathon during this year.  Practically speaking, this means I need to get a 3:51 marathon on a certified course this spring.  I'll take my first shot at the Carmel Marathon on April 16.  If that doesn't work, I'll try again three weeks later at the Wisconsin Marathon.  I've run both courses before, they are flat and friendly.  Stay tuned...I'll keep you posted here. 

Thanks for reading.  Persevere. 


Monday, December 28, 2015

Race Report: HUFF 50K Trail Run 2015

Results:  50km, 5:59:51, 11:35/mile, R/W 4/1.  PR

What a fun day in the woods.  On December 19, I finished my fifth consecutive HUFF 50K Trail Run, a race that never ceases to amaze.  This one went very well, with a 19 minute PR, negative split and under six hours.

The Gory Details:

The HUFF holds a special place in my running history. I first participated on December 16, 2004, running a single 10 mile loop just seven months after the start of this era of running.  Until that day, I had never run trails at all.  It's funny to read now my race report of that day.  Dan Quayle, where are you now??

I've written about all four prior HUFFs since the organizers had to move it to its current location at Chain O' Lakes State Park.  Weather conditions in late December in Indiana give each year its own character . 

2011:  The Deep Water Year.  The most philosophical I've ever been on my blog.  The lessons of that wet, cold, muddy day still hold, remarkably.  link  It was fascinating to me this year how the 2011 race and the "aura" surrounding it has grown.   

2012:  A very runnable race day:   link

2013: Another nice HUFF race with more snow pack, but I ran in shorts anyway:   link

2014:  A good day and my prior 50K PR  link  

For this year's race, the forecast was for temps in the 20s all day. So I knew I'd need to put screws in my shoes once again to have traction on cold, frozen trail.  On Thursday night before the race, I pulled my least-old running shoes and added eight #6, hex head, 3/8" self-tapping sheet metal screws to each shoe, six on the forefoot and two at the heel.  Total cost of 32 cents and I had traction.  They worked great!  It was interesting, after the race, so see I actually dropped three screws somewhere along the course.  I guess you could say this confirms what many have known about me for some time; I do have a few loose screws. 

Put the screws where the shoe wears.

Have I ever mentioned my pre-race checklist?  I use this to help me pack.  It's saved me numerous times.  I checked this off on Friday night as well and went to bed home.

I like checklists

For numerous reasons, I varied the logistics for the HUFF this year.  Rather than driving up the night before, I was up at 3:50am for the 2+ hour drive.  Work colleague Michelle accompanied me for this race, as she started (and completed) her first Ultramarathon.

The day was nice (in a Midwestern winter sense...)...sunny, which was visibly pleasant in the woods, about 20F at the start at 8:15am and only 28F at the end at 2:15.  There was wind but for the most part the woods broke it up.  A few open areas were breezy but they were short areas. My layering was right and I adjusted the total temperatures via my hands.  I started with gloves, mittens and chemical handwarmers.  By mile 8, I pulled the handwarmers and stuck them in my windbreaker pocket.  I then left bare hands in the mittens around mile 17.  Then stowed the mittens on my water belt and wore just the gloves from mile 23 to the end.  I wore tights, a polypropylene base layer, a heavy-tech quarter zip turtle neck, a windbreaker, wind cap and balaclava.  I was comfortable.

I chose to use a 4/1 run/walk ratio and held that for the entire race.  I was surprised at how fluid the run sections felt to me.  We did not have to contend with snow, ice or mud this year and much of the trail looked like this.

Typical Trail conditions 2015

The first 8-ish miles of the course were with minor rolling hills.  I found I could open up and cover ground.  It hit me just what the training this summer and fall has done.   It felt great.


The HUFF has offered free race photos now for several years and here's a fun wrinkle.  Just before the first aid station, we ran up a steep park road.  That's me on the right.

Up close and personal with Joe's traction control
I look more bundled than my fellow runners....

Zooming in on my feet, you can see the photographer caught the bottom of my old Brooks Adrenalines, providing evidence I really did run with screw shoes.

The HUFF is a two lap course and I was just over 3 hours the first time through...officially 3:01:30.  I've done that before; lap one was 3:00:09 a year ago and 3:01:58 two years ago.   But would I slow on lap two, as was my pattern at HUFF?   As I headed out, though, I found the early part of lap two to feel even better than lap one and, looking back at my Garmin mile splits later, the times told me the feelings weren't phony.

But right about mile 18, I felt a fade.  Not unusual, I've often felt this 18 miles or so into a race.  I focused on drinking more water plus a couple of extra tugs on the JoeGel I had on my belt.  Soon, the fade faded, comfort returning.

I went through the Aid Station at mile 23, the one which supplied my Very Necessary Cheeseburger a year ago.  I pulled in and looked and, YES, they had them again!  I was excited, told the lady how much it helped a year ago, could I have another one?  She laughed, laid on an extra slice of cheese, cut it in half and off I went, the burger slathered in ketchup.  I also refilled my water bottles and headed back on the course, anxious to keep moving.

This cheeseburger ultimately proved less miraculous than the one I had a year ago but, then again, my needs were fewer.  The run still felt smooth and I hit the marathon mark on my Garmin at a time of 5:07.   I couldn't remember a comparison but, hey, it was fine and it was a marathon done.

But I then hit a second low spot, just beyond the marathon mark.  I was surprised at that, having worked through the 18 mile mark slump.  It was perhaps my legs saying "Hey, Joe, isn't this when we go off duty??  Why are you still making me work?  Do I get overtime pay??  Can I go on strike???"   It went on longer than the 18 mile slump.  I kept hydrating and downing JoeGel but I found I was mostly just focusing on each four minute run section, counting down the miles to the end.

Gradually this time, the energy came back.  By the time I got to mile 28  (note...all miles were on my Garmin, there were no mile markers in the woods) I noted with surprise I was comfortable again.

And, it hit me at 28 that I only had a 5K to go.  Hmmmm...I wondered what my total time would be.  Looking at my watch, I was at 5:30:00.  I wondered with the 3:01 first lap how close I might end up to 6 hours.  Hmmm...I just needed a 30 minute 5K to break 6 hours.  But I'm also on some rugged trails.  I just didn't know.  So, I kept running and working the 5 minute cycles.  I figured I had a PR in the bag, since my previous best was 6:19.  But a sub 6 seemed unlikely.    I simply couldn't be precise as to just where I was...I didn't have confidence my Garmin distance was right, being in the woods and all.

But then I popped out of the woods and could see the finish line.  Visually, think of it like this...on a clock, the finish line was at 2 o'clock, I was at 10 o'clock, the lake was the middle, so I could now see the finish line across the lake and had to run from 10, clockwise to 2.  It looked like a five minute watch said 5:55:00...could I do it in five minutes??  I knew it would be close and decided to go for it.

I  ignored any further walk cycles and ran continuously, with whatever I had left.  I knew it would be close.  I kept checking my watch, taking every tangent offered.  I got near the finish but still had a half trip around the parking lot, my screws clacking on the asphalt...I had 30 seconds to was still going to be close.  I pushed it as hard as I could and was thrilled to hit stop at the timing mat and see 5:59:53.  Marathon/Ultra #61 was complete.

Michelle and me after the race

Shortly after I finished, I saw Michelle cross the finish line.  It was great to celebrate her first ultra.  We grabbed some soup and headed home.  A long but good day.

A subsequent review of Garmin data showed the final "sprint" around the top of the lake-centered clock to be at a 9:17/mile pace...I was thrilled to be able to do a 9:17 pace after 30 miles of trail running.

Final official numbers on the race:

Lap one:  3:01:30  (11:41/mile)
Lap two:  2:58:21   (11:24/mile)
total:   5:59:51  (11:35/mile)

Prior lap twos:  2013, 3:30:03; 2014, 3:19:17

Other stats were also encouraging.  Overall, I was 166th of 377 finishers, 131st of 253 men and 8th of 19 men 60-64.  Way better than average for me all around and by far the best I've done in the HUFF.  I was also encouraged in that I had raced a 1/2 marathon a week earlier and ran 20 mile and 10 mile training runs the weekend before that.  No "taper" for the HUFF, yet it went well.

Why no fade this year, unlike prior HUFFs?  I think the biggest reason is simply the higher mileage I've done since last June.  The other reason, I realized later I made three pit stops on lap one but I didn't need to "go" on the second lap.  Worse, on lap one around mile 11 or so, I discovered my tights had slid halfway down my rear, underneath my shorts..had to stop and get rearranged before something bad happened!   Thus, the second lap, even with its downs at 18 and 26.2, was still 3 minutes quicker.  Evidently, I ran at about the same pace when I was running.  I just ran more.  Even splits for a 50K??  That's a good day.

So that's the HUFF for 2015.  Thanks for listening.  Persevere.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Race Report: Caribbean Christmas Half Marathon 2015

Results:  13.1 miles, run, 1:52:36, 8:36/mile


This was a good race close to home letting me test and tweak a new racing strategy.  The fact it was 67F in December in Indiana was a bonus.

The Details:

The Caribbean Christmas HM in suburban Indianapolis on Dec 12 was a late addition to my fall racing schedule.  I added it at the suggestion of running buddy Jon, who unfortunately ended up not being able to run, due to injury.  His input was key, though; he understands my running quirks.  It's good to have friends.

In my post on the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon , where I set a PR of 3:57 in early November, I noted a surprising discovery.  When I want to put down a really solid time, I do well to run steady and uninterrupted, not using the Run/Walk method I use for most of my training.  In that race, I hitched onto a pacing group for much of the race to help keep it even.  But how to run even splits in an event without a pacing group at the exact time I needed?  Eureka, I said to myself on a training run soon after the IMM...I have a Garmin Forerunner with a Virtual Partner feature.  My pacing leader can ride on my wrist.  So, I tested this plan.  

Race day came with unseasonably warm weather.  Work colleague Michelle rode with me and the weather was overcast and 65F when we got to the start area.  I packed several shirts (as usual) but chose the summer singlet for this race with "Christmas" in the title...go figure!  It turned out to be the correct choice.

We started on time, which I always appreciate, and the experiment was on.  I quickly settled into a groove and enjoyed the run.  The course was a pleasant loop through Carmel, Indiana, covering familiar turf from other races I've run there, including the Carmel Marathon.  

The virtual partner worked well.  The pace felt surprisingly comfortable.  I sought to keep the readout on my Garmin between 200 and 300 feet ahead of the even pace calculation.  I chose an 8:45/mile target pace;  the reason for this choice is later.  When ultimately downloading my mile splits, it was encouraging.

Mile    Time
1       8:33
2       8:28
3       8:45
4       8:44
5       8:40
6       8:54
7       8:39
8       8:50
9       8:39
10     8:42
11     8:53
12     8:38
13     7:52

I didn't really hit any low spots.  I was a bit fatigued at mile 10, which was at the end of a modestly long uphill but some additional water seemed to take care of that concern.  

Official finish time was 1:52:36, placing me 75th of 375 finishers.  I was very pleased.

I allowed myself to open up over the final mile and a half, knowing I was only running a HM.  It was interesting to discover this was only one minute slower than my HM PR.  I wasn't even racing but still got that close.  Plus, I had run 20 miles and 10 miles the prior Saturday and Sunday; hardly a race taper.  To do a 1:52, running continuously, on "tired legs" on a warm, muggy day was encouraging.  That's why I was grinning as I crossed the finish line. 

Many thanks to the race organizers for providing free photographs to all runners.  What a fine feature.

Why pick a pace of 8:45/mile?  Because I want to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon.  At my age, I need a 3:55:00 marathon to be able to enter but likely better than that to actually get in.  So, I'm shooting for a 3:51:00 marathon this spring in one of two races.  The 3:51 works out to a 8:50/mile pace.  So, I took it a bit deeper than that to see how I could do.  Much work remains, but the plan is in place.

It was a good day to run a good HM.