Archive for May, 2009

The Importance of Easy

A marathon paced run is a fragile thing. When things are going well it can be an exhilarating ticking off of miles, each one executed within a few seconds of the target pace.

Sunday’s run was not like that. I had done a trail run the previous day, in lieu of a slow recovery run. Also went a little fast in the 9-mile preliminary. The subsequent “10 miles at marathon pace.” Became a struggle, not helped by a stiff breeze. I mostly stayed in the general neighborhood of the right pace, but it felt more like a very long tempo run. Ugh. I took a rest day to recover, whilst wondering about my goals.

But then Tuesday’s 13-miler went just fine, and Wednesday’s 15 miler took me out in beautiful sunshine. All is right with the world again.

The lesson here is that, as the routine gets more intense, There’s less latitude to add gratuitous stuff. Easy runs should be just that, or the hard workouts will suffer. Pfitzinger’s 12/70 plan has some hard stuff in it so the recoveries should be taken as seriously as the rest.


Yet More Tilden, with a Correction.

Well, I was completely wrong about the number of runners needing help in the Tilden Tough Ten. There was only the one, and he didn’t need CPR. The others were just finish-line scuttlebutt. I suppose anyone who sat down to rest got counted as a downer, for the purposes of rumor.  I have edited that stuff out of the report, in fairness to the race directors.  All those extra emergency vehicles were sent in a fit of zeal by the 911 dispatchers.

My official time was 87:08, and I was 16th in my age group. Perhaps I should stick to marathoning! But it was a useful experience in coping with heat for this apprentice.

More Tilden

This morning I tripped and bashed my knees, hip and elbow. Ow! To add insult to injury it happened at the same spot where I came off my bike two years ago, breaking my wrist. A sort of inadvertent commemoration, I suppose.

I was in mile 3 of a 14 mile run. Run the rest of it? You bet I did! A little blood doesn’t stop a marathoner. Felt pretty stiff later, though.

Now for some Tilden thoughts.

Here I am not far from the finish. I managed a smile for the camera, but notice how I’m not hugging the corner. I was a little spacey by this point.

I never even looked at my splits before writing about the  race, figuring that they wouldn’t be very useful on such a hilly course. Oops. Here they are.

Mile 1 – 6:55. Yeah, I pretty much blew my sub-80 in the first mile. On a cool day, given that mile 1 is easier than most of the others, 7:20 would have been good. Add on another 15-20 seconds for the heat. It’s interesting that I remembered this as “about 7:00”. I need to fix these first-mile pacing errors in races where there are no pace groups for guidance. So I’m going to start wearing the Garmin in races. I can always ignore the little beeping beast once I’m in the groove.
All that from one split! So what about the others?

2 – 7:52
3 – 7:43
4 – 8:27
(more uphill in this one)
That’s more like it.

I didn’t hit the button at the turnaround, being too intent on grabbing water at the aid station. So intent, that the volunteers had to remind me to run around the marker before heading back up the hill. Oops

5,6 – 20:05 (10.03 pace) This was the trail part. Slow, but to be expected. I walked the two steep uphills, like most other people.

7 – 9:06
8,9 – 18:34 (9:17 pace)
Missed another marker there.
10 – 8:26

So quite a positive split. While slowing down, I was passing other runners, so they were doing worse. I asked a couple of the faster runners and they had slowed on the return leg too. I could have run faster than I did on the return, but I was scared of heat stroke. Notice how I sped up in the final mile, which was a net uphill.

So that’s what it’s like in the heat. This course has spanked me twice now, but I’ll be back.

Race: Tilden Tough Ten

The Bay Area spoils me, with it’s temperate climate. I never need to run in the heat. Truly hot days are rare enough that I’ve got through two years of running without ever racing in temperatures much above 60 F.

Until today.

I did have decent warning. It’s been in the forecast for a few days, so I drank plenty of water and hoped the forecast was wrong. It wasn’t. On the drive up the hill from Berkeley, there were heat advisories on the radio. Pre-start conversations with other runners could all be summarized as: “Wow, it’s hot today, this is going to be brutal”. 8am, and already in the high 70’s. Ugh.

I was quite close to the line at the start, and let the pack carry me along for a while. The early part of the course is an asphalt trail in rolling hills with a reasonable amount of shade. The signals were conflicting. The pace seemed OK, perhaps a little fast, but the stress level was way too high. The first mile took just 7:00. Dial it back Jim. Your job for today is to finish. Never mind the clock, or the other runners. It’s dangerous today.
I slowed and runners started to pass me. Hmm. maybe I’ll see some of you later. It was still stressful, but sustainable now. Loraine, who was handing out water at the 2 mile aid station, told me later that the runners looked frazzled on the outbound leg, about how they should have looked on the way back. So I wasn’t the only one.
The shade petered out, and my eyes started to fill with sweat. Good thing I had put on some non-running sunblock, or I would have been blinded completely. My singlet was stretchy enough that I could wipe my face with it. Take a small towel next time. After taking it easy on the uphills for a while, and allowing myself bursts on the downhills, things got a little more comfortable, and I wasn’t being passed any more.

At mile 4, we left the asphalt and commenced the tough part. Dirt trail with shorter, steeper hills. I was getting a feel for the pace now, and the cast of characters around me had stabilized. In the last half mile before the turnaround, there were two steep downhills. My lightweight Asics, which had served well on the asphalt, started to skid on the dirt. Careful, don’t go down this hill on your butt! I was gratified to see that many of the leading runners were walking up this hill on their way back. One was pushing his knees with his hands while wearing a bitter-lemons expression. Oh yes, I am so going to walk up this thing! And I did. Passed two other walkers while doing it, which seemed amusing somehow.

Back on the asphalt, the rewards of conservative pacing became evident. It was like the last miles of a marathon, where I was passing runners who had slowed dramatically. Then I came around a bend and saw a small group tending to a runner on the ground. I slowed. “It’s OK, they know, and there’s a truck on the way.” “OK, Thanks”, and I continued, glad that I didn’t need to sprint to the next aid station to raise the alarm. The guy on the ground had been near the front when I saw him last. Later, I ran on the dirt shoulder as an ambulance came by followed at intervals by some other emergency vehicles. A medivac helicopter flew by. Oh dear, It must be bad back there. It later turned out that this rescue fleet was all for that one runner!
An intermittent breeze was helping the comfort level now. I continued to pick off runners, but I really wanted it to be over. It had been evident for a while that a sub-80 shirt was not going to be mine today.
Final uphill. There’s a runner 50 yards ahead. I remember him. He passed me at mile 6 going at a good clip. I wonder if I can catch him? As the hill started to flatten out, I kicked. I blew past him at the top and accelerated downhill to the finish. I hope the photo looks good.

That runner I saw was evacuated by helicopter, and left hospital the next day. No one else needed medical attention, as it turned out.

I forgot to press my stop button, but my time was about 87 minutes. A little ahead of last year’s time, so it’s a PR I guess. Position-wise I did poorly. There are some hard-core trail runners in my age group who take this kind of thing in their stride. Good for them. I don’t want to run another race in those temperatures anytime soon. (but I will if I have to)

In The Beginning

This week it’s been fun to see so many runners out. They smile and wave conspiratorially. One lady even even inquired if I was running on Sunday. “Yes!” which is true, but not in the Bay to Breakers this time. It seems quite a few people start training when there’s just a week or two to go. Two years ago I had the good sense to research the little matter of training and followed Hal Higdon’s novice 10K plan, extending the distances by 20%. I cross-trained on my bike, until about halfway through the program I did an “endo” going downhill and broke my wrist. The cast on my arm prevented cycling so I started running full time and have not stopped since.

My long run was a 6-mile loop. The program worked, and I enjoyed the race enough that I wanted to do more. (12k in 1:10:46, thanks for asking) I ran a 5k at the LMJS two weeks later. I couldn’t drive with the cast, so just for fun ran four miles to get to the race. My time: 25:13. I was hooked.

Thanks, Hal.

As for the matter of running with a cast, pumping that arm hurt, so I wore a weighted wrist-band on the other wrist and pumped on that side only. It worked, but my gait was a little asymmetrical for months after that. All my aches and pains were in one leg only.

I had no inkling of running a marathon. That came later.

Tilden Preview

I’m racing on Sunday, a trail race called the Tilden Tough Ten. This marks the two-year anniversary of my first race, which was the Bay To Breakers 12k. These two races are always on the same day. The TTT is capped at 300 runners, and the other race attracts 60,000 or more. One of those runners this year is Deena Kastor. I suppose she didn’t submit her Tilden entry in time.

Anyway, I was having a nostalgic browse of my training log of a year ago. I was rejoicing then at how much faster I had become in my first year. I’m sill enjoying that newbie improvement curve. This morning I blew past my 5k PR while doing a four mile tempo run. OK, it’s months old, but still…

I did not have a terribly good race last year. Under tapered and poorly paced, I completed it in 88:13. This year, We’ll see. Apart from division awards, there are special shirts for sub-80, sub-70 and sub-60 finishers. That sub-60 shirt is quite rare. No one got one last year. You might be wondering what sort of feeble runners we have around here if no one can do 10 miles in under 6:00 pace. The course is somewhat three-dimensional, with some steepish gradients.

Last year my pace was a touch slower than in the S.F. Marathon three months later. Now that I’m planning 7:37 for S.F.M., that sub-80 shirt is in my sights. Awards? In my age group those were all sub-70 last year. Hard Core.


So how did week 1 of the new program go? OK so far. I’ve been learning to do my recovery runs reeeeeal slooow – 9:30 to 10:00 – to not waste any energy that I’ll need on the other days.

Today was the big test, taking the new 7:30 marathon pace out for a spin. The assignment: 15 miles, with 8 of them at M.P. I was nervous during the 7 mile warmup. The internal dialog went something like this:

This is insane. It’s not much slower than my 10k PR, and it’s 30% further!
Ahem, a certain recent marathon time, over hills into a headwind, says Yes You Can!
Oh, OK then.

The Garmin beeped the 7th mile, and I accelerated.

Hmmm, Doesn’t feel too bad now I’m doing it. But 8 miles?
One mile. See how accurate you can be.

Taking it one mile at a time did the trick. I averaged 7:28, with the slowest mile being 7:31, fastest 7:26.
Yes I Can! So now that 10k PR is looking a little vulnerable…

Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


May 2009
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