Monday, December 26, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Six

Week six of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, General aerobic + speed 8M w/ 10x100m strides
Tuesday, Recovery 5M
Wednesday, General aerobic 8M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium-long run 12M


Weight: 176

Health: Good


Sunday - Rest day. Christmas. Food. Lots and lots of food.

Monday - The plan called for 8M with strides but I missed my Marathon Pace (MP) run the weekend before so I did that instead.  16 miles with the last 10 at marathon pace.  I stressed over this run like crazy Friday night, I even woke up several times during the night thinking about it but then ended up having to cancel due to weather.  This time around I managed to keep the stress under control enough to get a good night's sleep, but I was still worried about hitting my paces in the morning though.

I like to do long MP runs on the C&O Canal towpath. The trail is flat and soft which makes it really good for finding a pace and locking into it. I also enjoy the scenery very much as well.  I decided to start/end this run at the Mouth of Monocacy Aqueduct.  My plan was to run 3 miles upstream toward Point of Rocks and back. That way I could stop at my car and shed a layer and grab a quick drink before I started the MP portion of the workout.

Arriving at the parking lot, there was one other car in the lot already. Judging by the stickers and magnets on their car, there was another runner or cyclist out on the trail already.  Whoever they were, they must have been on a long one because their car was still there when I left.

The temperature gauge in my car read 41 degrees when I parked.  I opted to wear shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt and a light sweatshirt.  I also got to break in a couple of Christmas gifts; a new Mizuno running hat and some gloves.  I don't mind my legs feeling cold when I'm running or even my core but I hate to have a cold head or hands.

I headed out and up the trail a couple minutes after 8 with mostly negative thoughts about the workout.  My back hurt and my Piriformis continued to nag at me. I jogged off anyway and tried to focus on having good running form and not starting out too fast.  I sometimes struggle to keep my pace in check for the warm-up miles.  I get so focused on the fact that I have to run fast that it's hard to keep is slow and conserve energy.  About halfway into mile two I accidentally hit the "lap" button on my Garmin.  I didn't want my auto-laps to be all screwy so I made sure to hit it again right at the mile mark.

I had the trail to myself and didn't notice much on the trip out. The three mile mark is about a half mile past Noland's Ferry, which is another frequent starting point for me.  I hit the turn around, still dreading the MP portion to come.  Three cyclists went past me on my way back.  None of them tried to tun me off the path which is always appreciated. They were the only people I saw on the warm-up run.

I got back to my car feeling less than confident about the upcoming miles but told myself to STFU and run. I dropped off my gloves and switched the sweatshirt for a lighter jacket, took a quick drink and set off as quickly as I could.  Now it was time to speed up and of course I was able to do it because I'm always able to do it.  I don't know why I'm always convinced that I won't be able to do these runs but it's a constant battle.

Again I had the trail to myself. I headed downstream this time which is a more scenic route with some landmarks.  I tried to focus on keeping my pace a little slower than I did on my last MP run.  I mostly succeeded in that.  For these miles, I use the "current mile" screen on my Garmin.  The difference in the display is that it only shows me data for the current mile.  Since my target pace is just under 8:00 per mile, I can keep a good check on my pacing by trying to check my time at the quarter miles.  The math is easy enough, even for a dumb guy like me. 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, repeat.  So as long as my time is just under each of those, I know I'm on track.

I know most of the distances between landmark points in this section of the trail by heart which helps to break up the monotony of the trail.  At .75 there is a lock house, at about 1.25 is the Dickerson power plant, 2.6 miles is Lock 37, 4 miles is a campground.  Passing each of these, particularly on the way back, gives me a nice mental boost.  I passed a couple out for a walk as I went past Dickerson Park.  I saw them again on my return leg but didn't see anyone else at all on the run.

I don't think I was actually confident that I could finish the run at pace until about mile 7.  There is only one more long MP run on my schedule and that isn't until February.  18 miles with 14 @ MP.  I'm already dreading that!  I'm pleased with the fact that I was able to reel my pace in a little better than the last time I did a MP run.  I definitely felt like I had better control over pacing than last time, so that's a positive.  After the run, I stopped by the little general store in Dickerson. The chocolate milk there is awesome and a big part of the reason I like to do towpath runs from Mouth of Monocacy.

New hat!


Tuesday - Life got in the way of my recovery run, so I took an unscheduled day off.

Wednesday - Life again, reared it's ugly head and tried to prevent me from getting in my 8 miles.  This time I kicked Life in the Johnson and got in my run.  An uneventful jog through my neighborhood.  I have discovered that if I run up and down every cul-de-sac in Windsor Knolls and Holbrook (except for that one short one that goes pretty much straight up, fuck that), it works out to be about 7.5 miles.  I've done this run twice in less than a week and I'm ready for a chance of scenery.

Thursday - Another uneventful run in the neighborhood. 5 miles at easy pace to make up for the Tuesday run I missed.

Friday - Five miles on my lunch break at work.  I jogged down to the CVS to pick up a few small things and jogged back.

Saturday - I met with a group of runners from my local running club for a 12 miler to finish out 2016.  My schedule for the day didn't leave much free time so I considered staying in my neighborhood and running solo. I honestly wasn't feeling up for this run after a couple of nights with less than ideal sleep but I needed to get it done.  I figured I would have an easier time running with the group so I decided that using the extra time was worth it.

The weather was cold but not windy so I knew I would warm up fine after the first mile and I did. The company was good and that lifted my spirits considerably. More than once, I thought that I was glad that I decided not to run it alone.  At the 6.3 mile mark, we had a brief celebration (as much as you can while running) to acknowledge a member of the group hitting the 2000 mile mark for the year.

I didn't come close to 2000 miles, but I hit 1500 which is my third highest mileage year.  I've only been running for about 8 years and didn't start tracking my mileage until 2010.  My totals for the last 7 years have been all over the place.

2010 - 537
2011- 452
2012 - 1287
2013 - 1568
2014 - 1587
2015 - 789
2016 - 1500

But, back to the run on Saturday...  I struggled a little to keep up because the group was moving a bit faster than I wanted to but it wasn't bad.  The last two miles I could have done without but no one offered to carry me so I didn't have any choice but to slog it out.  I finished and got home with enough time to take care of all my responsibilities but was feeling very lazy. As luck would have it, Cindi was feeling lazy too so we chose procrastination, coffee and the hot tub over chores.  Later we had lunch with the kids and then rang in the new year at the Blue Sky Bar and Grill watching Logan and Big Jim's Pontoon Boat.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just Keep Running

In the spring of 2014 I started a quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Before that time, the idea of being able to qualify for Boston (BQ for short) was something I considered impossible.  I ran three marathons between March of 2012 and October of 2013 and my best time was 3:54:21.  To get into Boston, I needed to get under 3:25:00.  Improving on my marathon time by 30 minutes seemed like a tall order to say the least! My plan was to train for a fall 2014 marathon and see how much I could improve and then, if I was healthy, go all out for a spring 2015 marathon and try to BQ.
I knew that I needed to get a lot faster in order to reach my goal.  So one of the things I did was to join a local running club. I told myself, if you want to get faster then you should run with fast people. I signed up for the marathon training program and started participating in the group runs. We ran long on Saturday mornings and did speed work on "Tempo Tuesday". The group was mostly made up of first timers but there were a few experienced runners too. Everyone was divided into pace groups based on your "easy" pace. Most of the groups were running slower than my easy pace and there was a couple of groups faster than I could run but there was one other runner who was at about my pace so we did most of our runs together.
One Tuesday, the group met for our speed work. Seven miles at Half Marathon Pace. I hadn't done much in the way of speed work before so I was a little nervous going into it. We did a shorter run the week before with some 5K pace intervals and I really struggled to keep up with my partner. I didn't know my way around the city very well, so I depended on her to guide the way so I didn't get lost.  This particular week, my training buddy didn't show up because she was caught at work. There were some folks from the slower groups and two guys from the "fast" group there. So my choice was to run with the slower groups, strike out on my own and most likely get lost or run with the fast guys.  After some thought, I decided to run with the two speedsters.  One of them was a younger guy (35ish) and the other was an older runner who is something of a local legend. He's in his 60's but still very fit and fast. He was a 2:20 marathoner "back in the day".  I had done some runs with both of them before and knew that they were much faster than me. So the three of us form a group. I let the other two guys know that I don't know any of the turns and will have to do my best to keep up with them.
So off we go, Young Guy is leading the way with me and Local Legend (LL) behind him. The first mile was our warm up and we averaged about a 8:21 pace.  That was easy enough but then we kicked it into gear and I knew I was in for it. I had never consistently run at a pace under 8:00 before so I expected to crash and burn hard. I struggled but was able to keep up and then Young Guy started running harder. He had us hitting sub 7:00 pace on the downhills and would slow for the uphills. After 4 miles he gradually started pulling away and I couldn't follow anymore.  LL was starting to pull away too but I was just able to reel him in, although it seemed like he was holding back just a little so I didn't get left behind.
Up to this point, there was no talking after the warm-up. It was all I could do to keep up, so I wasn't about to waste energy on talking. Somewhere along the way when I was feeling really gassed, LL turns his head back to say something. I was expecting some pearl of wisdom to come out of his mouth. Some trick or technique he could pass on that would help me get through this last part of the run. Imagine my disappointment when he turns and says to me, "just keep running" and continues on. That was it? Just keep running? Really? I laughed.
So I did. I kept running. Once I knew where I was in the city I let my guid know that I was good and he sped up. I tried to keep pace but couldn't quite. I think I finished the run about 20 seconds after he did and Young Guy was there waiting for us, still breathing hard.
I still think of this as the hardest run I've ever done. I was thinking about it recently and looked back in my log and found it. My average pace for this 6.5 mile run was 7:28. Four months later, I ran 26.2 miles with an average pace that was only a little slower (7:42) than this run. So what was for me at the time, the fastest I had ever run became really close to my marathon pace in just a few months.  I finished the fall marathon in 3:21:39 and got my BQ.
I think about this run when I have a workout that I don't think I can tackle.  In some ways, I think of this workout as my proudest moment as a runner. Even more than the marathon that followed it because it taught me a really important lesson about my limitations. It makes me wonder how much of my limitations are physical and how much are mental?  What am I capable of if I can just turn off that part of my brain that says I can't do something just because it looks hard or because I haven't done it before?  I don't know the answer to that but it's fun pushing myself, even at my "advanced age", to see how far I can go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Five

Week five of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, Lactate threshold 9M w/5M @ HMP
Tuesday, Recovery 5M
Wednesday, General aerobic 10M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 5M
Saturday, Long run 16M w/10M @ MP


Weight: 177

Health: Fair. More back pain than usual and I have developed an open sore on the top of one of my toes.


Sunday - Because I took Saturday as a rest day, I needed to get in a few miles.  I ran 5 in the neighborhood.  The first four easy and the last one at marathon pace.

Monday - This workout is not one that I look forward to, 9 miles with the last 5 at half marathon pace.  I'm typically nervous going into these and will spend the warm-up miles convinced that I won't be able to hit my paces when the time comes to speed up.  I don't think I've ever done a tempo run where I didn't hit my paces, but that doesn't stop me from trying to psych myself out of it.  I feel pretty good about the run, although I have my doubts about my ability to actually hold that pace for 13.1 miles.  I thought about that a few times when I was running it, but I just kept telling myself "fake it til you make it".  Here are my splits:

Tuesday - Just an easy paced five miler on campus.  The weather wasn't quite as warm as I expected so I was a bit under-dressed wearing just shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt and a light sweatshirt. I briefly thought about heading to the gym and running on the treadmill but decided to stick it out. It wasn't too bad as long as I stayed in the sun so I opted to run the one mile loop three times instead of going out to to the one mile walking trail.  The trail is lined with trees and I love the shade it provides in the summer months, but not so much on days like that one.

Wednesday - The workout for the day was ten miles at easy pace or what Pfitzinger refers to as a "General Aerobic run."  I joined a couple of guys from work after running a couple warm-up miles on my own.  One of the guys said he didn't have much going on in the office so he ran the last 8 miles with me which was very nice.  We stuck to running on campus and chatted about running, the FDA, running and a little bit of pop culture (past and present) and also running.

By chance, I happened to glance at my yearly mileage total over on the right side of the screen.  At the time the number was 1430.  I try not to get too caught up in that sort of thing, but 1430 is pretty close to 1500 and 1500 is a nice round number. So I took a look at my training plan and, if my math is right, calculated that I will have 1498 miles for the year if I stick exactly to my plan. I would probably get the extra miles just by running over a little here and there for the next 10 days but no need to chance it.  I'll have to pick up a couple miles on one of my rest days.

Thursday - Of course the best weather of the week shows up on my rest day!  It was sunny and in the low 50's so I got out and jogged a couple miles to take it in.  Now, as long as I stick to the plan, I'll hit exactly 1500 miles for the year.

Friday - I took the day off of work for the upcoming Christmas weekend and jogged a nice five mile recovery run.

Saturday - I lost a lot of sleep worrying about the MP run that was scheduled for this day.  In the end, the weather just wouldn't cooperate.  So I bagged the 16 miler and just ran 7 at easy pace through my neighborhood.  I pushed the the 16 miler off to Monday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Four

Week four of training looks like this:

Sunday, Medium Long Run 14M
Monday, General aerobic + speed 8M w/ 10x100m strides
Tuesday, Recovery 5M
Wednesday, General aerobic 10M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium-long run 15M


Weight: 177

Health: Good overall. My right Piriformis is still sore but manageable


Sunday - My training plan has me doing all my long runs on Saturday and taking Sunday as a rest day.  However, I really wanted to run with my friends Linda and Jesse this weekend as I haven't been able to run with them for several weeks now.  The only way that was going to work was for me to switch my long run to Sunday, so I did.  Linda organized an informal group run with our local running club (The Frederick Steeplechasers) so we got to enjoy the company of a few other runners which was a nice treat.  It's always good when you have a group to run and chat with to pass the time.  We met at the Frederick fairgrounds and planned to follow the Frederick Running Festival half marathon course.  The weather was cold and we even had an unexpected dusting of snow to surprise us!  We ended up having a group of six for the first 7(ish) miles and then five of us ran the whole thing.  Due to a little logistical error we ran long and wound up with 14.3 on the day. That was fine with me because I had 14 on my schedule anyway.  No one else complained too loudly.

All in all, it was a nice run with good company.   Afterward I went home and had pancakes and eggs. A great way to start a Sunday morning!

Monday - Because I had run long the day before, I decided to skip doing the strides at the end of this workout.  I just ran 8 at recovery pace and called it good.

Tuesday - I had a nice, relaxing 5 miler with a couple people at work.  There are a few groups that meet up to run together on campus. This group is organized by a guy named Chuck on the opposite end of campus from me and they typically run 3 or 4 miles at lunch.  Chuck is usually up to adding a mile or two when I want to go longer but I was able to get an early start and ran a little over a mile before I met up with them.

After work Cindi and I hit the fitness center at work.  Cindi used the eliptical machine and I did some upper body stuff and my PT exercises.  After that I stretched and used the foam roller.  Because of all that, I was pretty hungry and slipped up big time after dinner with a piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake.  This is why my weight won't budge.

Wednesday - I met up with Chuck and another guy, Dave at work to get in my 10 miler.  They weren't planning to run as long as I was but I thought having some company for at least part of the run would be nice.  We were joined a couple miles into the run by another runner, Kathryn.  I ended up having company for 8 of my 10 miles.

I set my Garmin for "other workout" so I could use it as a timer at the gym Tuesday night and forgot to switch it back.  I ran the first mile with it set like that and reset it when I met up with Chuck and Dave.  If you look at my log (links are over on the right side of the page) you'll see a 1 mile run and 9 mile run; that's why.

Sometimes I don't like running with other people.  I'm something of an introvert and carrying on a conversation with people I don't know very well can be stressful to me.  However, I have enjoyed my group runs a lot lately.  It's nice to hear other people's opinions on the world and the conversation is a nice distraction when you have a lot of miles to run.  I have run just about everywhere there is to run on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods so the thrill of discovering a new route is non-existent at this point.  So when faced with the choice between running the same boring loops around campus alone or having some company along the way to help pass the time, I'm leaning more toward the latter.  Most of the people in the group run their easy pace a little slower than I do, so that's a bonus too.  We averaged 9:00 on this run, which is about 30 seconds slower than my usual pace. My legs felt great the next day.

Thursday - A rest day! Just in time for the cold front to move in with 30 MPH winds.  No running or cardio on the schedule.

Friday - Because the weather forecast for the weekend was pretty ugly, I decided to do my long run Friday.  I took the day off of work and ran 15 miles through my neighborhood.  The starting temperature was 18 degrees and it didn't warm up much from there.

The development I live in isn't that big and most of the roads leading in and out are too dangerous to run on. That makes long runs close to home very dull, with lots of running up and down cul-de-sacs.  I wrote on Facebook afterward that the best thing I could say about that run was it was over and that about sums it up.

Saturday - Cookie making and drinking. Enough said.  I ate and drank too much but I don't regret it at all!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Three

Week three of training looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, General aerobic 10M
Tuesday, Recovery 4M
Wednesday, Lactate threshold 8M w/4M @ HM pace
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium long run 14M


Weight: 180

Health: Other than being fatigued, I feel OK.  Piriformis is holding steady.


Sunday - Grocery store, decorating for Christmas and football.

Monday - 10 miles of General Aerobic running.  My heart wasn't in it, but I got it done.  I took Copper with for the first slow mile then dropped him off and worked my way through the neighborhood a couple times.

Tuesday - 4 miles on the treadmill because it was raining.  I was supposed to run it at recovery pace but I hate running on the TM and ended up bumping the speed up so I could get it overwith.  8:15 avg pace.

Wednesday - I ran this one at work.  I did the first 4 at easy pace and headed over to the loop that is not quite a mile and did the HM pace workout there.  I think I ran this too fast but I didn't struggle much holding the pace and wasn't sore or overly fatigued afterward so maybe I did it right.  HM splits were 7:25, 7:13, 7:19, 7:18.

Thursday - Rest day.  I didn't so much in the way of cross training aside from push-ups. The office Christmas party was this day.  I ate way too much as usual but made up for it with a light dinner.

Friday - I'm proud of this little 4 mile recovery run because I was disciplined and kept my pace where it belonged, 8:38 avg pace.

Saturday - I pushed my long run to Sunday so I could join my training buddies for a change.  So instead of running I rode the indoor bike for an hour and then took Copper for a 1.5 mile walk.  I also did two sets of 30 push-ups.