Archive for the 'planning' Category

California Internationa Marathon 2013

This was my 5th CIM, and my first trial of the Hansons training program. I was curious about it having seen so many good reports, and decided the best way to learn about something is to do it. I added some miles to the Advanced plan in Luke Humphrey’s book, peaking at around 75, but the “Something Of Substance” workouts were performed as written.

I was feeling pretty good going into the race, and set a goal of 3:15 or better. I made up a ‘flat’ pace band of 7:25 minute miles and left the Garmin at home. The temperature was in the 20s at the start, but the road was mostly dry and ice free. Mostly. I did slip on a small patch of ice in the start corral but took the warning to heart, and only slipped one other time. I carried a “throwaway” water bottle which in fact lasted the whole race, allowing me to avoid most of the ice at the early aid stations.

I lined up at the back of the 3:15 pace group intending to use them as a rough pacing aid. I had my own geeky scheme for the first mile, where my pace band included target splits for six intersections, the first of which was just 107 meters from the start. Thanks Google Earth.

The first half mile was a little slow, but I got into gear on the downhill and reached the first mile marker just 2 seconds behind the pace band. The 3:15 pacer had zipped off ahead, then gradually come back to me. I think that without the reassurance of my mini-splits I would have wasted energy staying close to him. The group ran mile 2 about 5 seconds fast, then the next mile 16 seconds fast! While I was cogitating this, the pace leader slowed at an aid station and I found myself out ahead of the group. Hmm. If you think the group is going too fast, is it really wise to quit it frontwards?

Things felt good at first, and I was entertaining thoughts of going for a big PR, but by mile 6 I decided this was a little optimistic, and allowed myself to give up some time on the uphills. Note to self: More hill training next cycle! While in this cruise mode, 2 to 7 seconds slower than goal pace, I reached the half in 1:37:06 and got all the way to mile 14 before the group came level again. By this time they were hitting their splits with some accuracy, so I stuck around.

At mile 20 I oozed ahead again to see how much under 3:15 I could get. Not much it would seem. The pacer’s encouraging exhortations were still audible behind me. After the bridge around mile 22 a headwind got up, which pierced both my shirts with little needles. I found a young guy to draft behind and worked hard as the cross streets counted down. He gapped me at mile 25 but that was OK.

I was still ahead of the group, which seemed to have gone quiet. They were no further away, but were now so few in number that the pacer had no need to raise his voice! The surge was not happening, I was actually losing 1 to 3 seconds per mile at this point, but much of that was extra distance, snaking through the slower runners. The 3:10 pacer had also slowed slightly to get back on schedule, or he would have passed me. He is in the background of my finish photo, about 20 yards back. Chip time 3:14:50, somewhat slower than my PR(3:13:14) of two years ago, but I cheered myself up by plugging the times and ages into an age-grading calculator. At 77.1% this was an age-graded PR, so there’s that.

Could I have beaten that PR with better pacing? It’s a stretch. If the wind had been friendlier at the end, then probably. Hansons worked for me, although there’s nothing magical about it. I will continue to use a version of it because it’s pattern suits me. For instance, not everyone can do a lengthy MP run on a weekday, but I just about can. The dialed-back intensity of the workouts was also helpful in keeping injuries at bay.

Trying to put some space between me and the 3:15 pacer!

Trying to put some space between me and the 3:15 pacer!

California International Marathon 2011

Preparation.

This has been my fourth year in a row running CIM. The previous three have all produced PRs, so I was definitely returning to the trough for more. I had seemed to be slowing down in the spring, having run a 1:36 half marathon, and the Napa Marathon in 3:24.
So a I took a two week break, then worked up to lots of volume, 70-80 mile weeks, while also doing weekly track workouts. Another half would have been a good pointer to how things were going, but I never got around to it.
The arrows started to point up. I got a small PR in a tricky 10K at Lake Merritt. The two cross country races where I ran the same courses as last year were also course PRs.
So what would be a good goal, assuming conditions were suitable? Well Duh. I had been aiming for 3:15 last year and missed, so it was time to knock that down before it became an insuperable barrier in my mind. What else?

The New York Marathon is changing it’s rules for guaranteed entry times. They used to be just a little harder than Boston qualifications, but too many people were qualifying so they are toughening it up for 2013.  So for instance a man under 40 would need to run under 2:45, and I would need to get under 3:14. I have sometimes felt envious of those who have struggle to qualify for Boston. Not for the struggle part, but for the huge sense of achievement when they get it. My BQ time is 3:40, which um, lacks excitement. But 3:14 could be my reachable Holy Grail.

Last year I followed the 3:15 pace group, but eventually fell off it after some non-ideal pacing. The CIM course is easy to foul up on. The early downhills tempt a runner into going too fast, while the rolling hills are short enough to invite attacking at constant pace. This approach, while satisfying, burns precious fuel that needs to be conserved for the fast final miles.

My training was extemporized around a weekly framework. A track workout on Tuesday and something else challenging at the weekend, either a race, long run, or combination run with faster miles. Weekly mileage was in the 70s with the biggest week at 83.

People.

Early in the program a suggestion had cropped up in the Runner’s World Online forum that I frequent, which I described to Cathi:
“CIM is on the morning of the 4th, the Las Vegas marathon is in the evening of the same day, and there’s a flight…”
“Hahahahaha!, I’ll go straight to Vegas and scrape up what’s left of you, then.”
“I’m not going to do it.”
“Oh.”
But others would, and we had a get-together at the Spaghetti Factory on the Saturday evening. Some familiar faces were there, including James, who has run three or four marathons with me. “With” in this case means “Some considerable distance on front of”, but we seem to have a knack for bumping into one another at expos. He was doing the double, and was planning to run CIM at about 3:20 to leave something in the tank for Las Vegas. 3:20 was considered the cutoff for making the plane. At the dinner he was talked into trying for a PR (sub-2:58), then risking total flameout in the evening. Excellent advice as it turned out. Steve, who was doing his own version of the double, arrived to applause. He had run the North Face 50-miler in Marin that morning, cutting nearly two hours off his previous year’s time, and would be running Las Vegas the next day. In the company of these people, the prospect of attempting to PR at 26.2 the next day lost all it’s gravitas. It was as if I were about to run a 10K turkey trot. There were some new faces present, including Joel, about whom more later.

The Race

It was clear, chilly and windless in Folsom that morning. Predictably I ran into James at the bag drop. He showed me his well-stuffed CIM drop bag. “Everything is in there, street clothes, phone, everything.” Wow, talk about traveling light. He headed forward while I lined up near the 3:15 pace group. I asked the leader if he was the same guy that had led this group last year. No. I considered this excellent news.
I hung back a little as we surged to the line, wanting to take care of my own pacing until the pace leader proved himself. Even at a runners race like CIM there are a few rubes who start too close to the front, and once I’d weaved though them I was about 30yards back from the pace leader’s stick. Perfect. Nothing to do but relax, think about good form on the downgrade, and keep an eye on that stick. I was not wearing my Garmin, having reverted to the old-school method of stopwatch and pace-band (7:25 per mile, 3:14:27 finish). Nothing to obsess over until that first mile marker came into view. This pace felt more like casual group run than a race. What a lovely morning!
The leader was scoring points with me. There was an abrupt little rise just before the first mile marker, and he slowed quite a bit. First mile 7:35, so far so good. now for the real test. I missed the mile 2 marker, but mile 3 (22:30) revealed he had given up a little bit more and was in no big hurry to claw back those seconds. Excellent! I moved up level with him, complimented him on a good job, and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. Ther was Joel. He was a very fast runner at shorter distances who had yet to run a satifactory marathon. On top of that he had had a dose of strep throat that week. “Hi. How are you feeling?” “”Pretty good at the moment, but I always hit the wall at 23 miles.” “Don’t say always, say up till now.” I advised. The only other runner whose name I knew was because she had felt-tipped it down the sides of her legs. “Go Brittany!” “Ha! Apparently they don’t do that here.” She was from Detroit.

We ticked off the miles over the rolling terrain, 7:16, 7:28, 7:24, 7:25, gradually homing in on the 7:26 average required for 3:15. The leader knew the course well, and would loudly announce upcoming hills and aid stations. After the first relay handover point I found myself ahead of the group and went on autopilot for a little while, then I discovered I could not see the stick behind. Oops, this was too early to be leaving the group, no matter how comfortable I felt. I wanted to make solid sure of beating 3:15 before trying for anything faster. I tried to relax and pretended I was driving a car on empty. Just enough gas pedal to get up this hill, don’t pass that guy, coast down the other side. Relax, relax… After about two miles of this the group caught me again, and I stayed with them for quite a while. 7:33, 7:27, 7:14, 7:23 to mile 11.

I missed mile 12, but mile 13 was 14:49 (7:25 average), and we reached the half in 1:37:16. Still able to do basic math at this point, I thought Hey, we’re now ahead of 3:15 pace, how’d he do that?  Gradually. We were right on my 3:14-and-a-half pace band.

Things got more purposeful now. While the pace was still comfortable, there would be no inadvertent drifting ahead anymore. My disposable water bottle finally ran out at mile 15. One unexpected problem had come up. My gels were in a small 4 oz. flask so that I could avoid the whole rip, squish, sticky fingers dance. Usually I diluted them a little bit but this time I had wanted to get the maximum gooey goodness into the flask. Big mistake. I had to squeeze really hard to get any out, and ended up only consuming about half of the contents. Oh well.  Joel was running a little ahead of the group, and I joined him. “I seem to have got ahead of the plan” He said. Without really discussing it we dropped the pace slightly and started passing people.

7:19, 7:17, 7:19 to mile 16, speeding up a little now than most of the rollers were behind us. My friend Karen, out to support several LMJS runners in the race, intercepted my headband and gloves as I dropped them in front of her. She later commented “They skidded right past me. I was amazed at how fast you were going”

7:17, 7:17, 7:18, 7:20 (some uphill there) to mile 20. Joel was quite entertained by the ‘wall’ archway that we ran through at mile 20, with the grim reaper capering beside the course.

7:17, 7:17, 7:15 to mile 23. The hill to the bridge was the last uphill of any significance, So we just punched over it. This late phase of a race where you are passing people has been described as “assassin mode”. You pick out a runner, reel them in, pick out the next one, etc. This was not so much assassination as massacre, we were passing dozens and dozens of runners. It was good to have someone to run with to help keep a steady pace amongst all these slower runners. Joel was overjoyed not to have experienced the wall this time. “It’s a modern miracle” he exclaimed, and dropped the pace quite a bit. This was faster than I wanted to go, so he waved goodbye and tore off at sub-7 pace.

On my own now, it was time to do some serious work in the last three-plus miles. The pace band put me in sub 3-14 territory but my brain was now in innumerate mode and I wanted to make sure. At one point I had had to remind myself “Er, number on watch lower than number on band, that’s good, right?” The course did a quick left-right onto Sacramento’s L street. Brittany brushed elbows as she took the inside on the second turn. Assassinated! She must have been chasing us hard for several miles. Having passed me she faded a little and I was soon in front again. I saw from the results she finished a few seconds back, so must have witnessed what happened next.

Back at mile 18 or so Joel had remarked “These bottles are a life saver.” My response: “Er yeah. Wait, what? Bottles?”. Since my hand-held ran out I had been drinking from the little cups held out by the volunteers and had failed to notice a table at each station stacked with 12oz water bottles. Thus alerted, I guzzled two of them in the next five miles which turned out to be too much. After the 24 mile marker the queasiness set in. Uh oh. Please go away, I have a race to finish here. I fought for control but it got worse. That mile was unsurprisingly a bit slower at 7:24. By the 25 mile marker it was obvious I was going to be sick. I thought about Meb Keflezighi, who stopped to spew at mile 18 before running a PR at New York this year. Do I have to stop? let’s find out… After a some preliminary sputters, about half a pint of water/gel mix came out in a neat stream and hit the roadway. None on my shirt, Whoohoo! I was going though the final aid station at the time. My sincere apologies to the volunteers and to Brittany for that grossness. The effort of doing it made my head swim, but I felt better after slowing for a few seconds and started running hard again. That was one of my fastest miles at 7:15.

The remaining .2 was disposed of in 1:35 (7:12 pace). I saw Cathi yelling at me in the last 100 yards. She was startled at my slightly early arrival and failed to get a picture. I saw 3:13:low on the finish clock and felt very much better coming up to the line. Someone was handing out cartons of chocolate milk, and I chugged one right down.

Postscript

So: 3:13:14 chip time with a 1:12 negative split. Mission accomplished. Joel must have really hauled ass after leaving me, since he managed a 3:10. I found him with his friend Rachel (3:05) from Australia, gleefully reading splits from their Garmins. I had failed to notice training buddy Bob quietly tailing the 3:15 group. He got a 3:14 PR.
And the Vegas-bound crew? Gone when I got there. James ran a 2:55, Matt a 3:01, Kevin 3:02, all PRs. Paul, whose crazy idea that had been. missed the flight to Sacramento and only ran Vegas. That was a terrible race, so it it was just as well that they slow-jogged it.

Race: Napa Valley Marathon 2011

Race: Napa Valley Marathon 2011

This is the first time I’ve run the Napa marathon, although I’ve heard good things about it and had it on the list. I’ve had a persistent cold lately and was not feeling very fast, so had trouble deciding on a goal pace for the race. A PR seemed unlikely, but I noticed that a 3:20-ish finish would have been good enough to place in my age group in some previous years. I decided to head out at 7:40 pace (3:20 finish time) and see what developed. I was in an experimental mode, and trying several new things in this marathon. I have had trouble eating gels while running and usually only manage two or three of them. This time I had four diluted gels in a small flask which was much easier and did not make my fingers sticky. This worked really well, and now I can experiment with different mixes.
Experiment number 2 was the Garmin. I’m reluctant to use it in races because it’s a lot more to think about than a simple split timer. I used it this time because I really wanted to record my heartrate for future trining purposes, and to see if the “average pace” display would be a reasonable no-brains way to keep track of pace.

We had dinner the evening before with some of my online buddies. James, who has been running for just two years, was shooting for his first sub-3:00, and Amy was also gunning for a PR in the low 3:0x area. Carrie, who was looking for an improvement on her 3:10 at CIM, had gone and injured herself in the last week playing a computer dance game and seemed a likely DNF. She planned to start anyway in case of a miracle recovery.

James, Amy, Carrie, Me (Lit by someone else's flash)

The buses deposited us on the Silverado Trail – despite the name it is a road – at the edge of Calistoga while it was still dark. Two rows in front of me on the bus were two older guys, one of whom had been talking nonstop the whole trip. I found this a little wearing and filtered it out, but I gathered that this guy had run a whole lot of races. I was glad to get out into the gentle rain. The temperature was comfortable. The drop bags – choice of duffle or backpack, were the best I’ve received from any race. My bus was one of the early ones so I got to the porta-potties while the lines were just forming, so no problems there. Some later arrivals had to get creative in this department, the announcer even suggested the oak tree! There was a vineyard nearby, but at this time of year the vines were bare and provided no cover. A few trees and bushes saw good service I think. It was light by the time we started at seven.

With no pace groups, start corrals or pace guide markers at Napa, lining up is somewhat chancy. I probably put myself too far back, since I had to pass quite a few runners in the first half mile. After a bit of weaving, I found the edge of the road had fewer runners and was easier to navigate. Unusually for a rural road, the Silverado Trail has bike lanes and is thus quite wide. We had the whole width to play with, and it seemed that many runners stayed clear of the bike lanes because of the camber.
Mile 1 is slightly downhill and was slightly fast despite the manoeuvring. We were mostly sorted out by then and I eased up slightly. I heard a familiar droning voice, and the two guys from the bus came past me at a good clip. I was impressed, they appeared to be in their 60s. I hoped they were, anyway. I was already looking out for people who might in my age group. One such was playing cat and mouse with me already. He was studiously avoiding the bike lanes, even crossing over to the outside of the curves on the uphills to reduce the gradient. He passed me on each uphill, but so did everybody. My uphill running was just terrible, which just shows how quickly you can lose something if you don’t keep at it. I was trotting past him on the downhills though. that’s more of a skill than a muscle-strength thing, and I still had that going for me. Miles 2-3 were slower thanks to the hills, then I got back on track with in the next two miles.
This became the pattern for most of the first half. It rained harder for a while which caused me some concern about my choice of shoes. My Brooks Green Silence, new for this race, are lightweight shoes with a lower heel than most, and a novel tongue-less lacing arrangement. These features were just fine, but there’s a very shallow tread pattern which made for some splashing. The roomy toe box had some water squishing around inside too. For a while I was running with the same set of people.
Around mile 12 a tall young guy in a red shirt came by. It had stopped raining, but there was a noticeable headwind. I tucked in behind him and drafted for about two miles. He betrayed no awareness of my presence – my feet were now quietly dry – but I let him go around mile 13. This burst of speed pulled me away from anti-tangent guy and the others I had been running with, and I never saw any of them again. This was good because my speed had been lagging somewhat.

An unusual feature of this race is that you can have your own bottles placed on a table at aid stations that you designate. I did not use this but I did glance at the bottle tables. The secret seems to be to have a short stumpy bottle, because those get placed at the front. Some aid stations only had a half-dozen bottles while others had thirty or more, so it helps to pick non-obvious aid stations for your pickups. It generally seemed workable though. I did just fine with the cups, and the volunteers were really good, often jogging a few steps to ease the transfer.

Now that we were into the second half, it was time to push a little, and I started picking off occasional runners. Red shirt passed me again – huh? pit stop? He was going quite fast after his little breather so I did not follow this time. I was passing some other runners though. As the miles advanced I started to push harder. My splits show that I did not really speed up, but it sure seemed like it. I was overhauling runners whom I had not seen since mile 1, including a couple of age-group likelys. Hey, I was even catching Red-shirt! He walked though an aid station and was gone.

There is a very gradual uphill from mile 19 to just past mile 20, and without many runners around I just had to work it myself. At the crest there was a view of the coming downhill and of nearly three miles of road ahead. Hm, cluster of runners a short way ahead, looks like at least two older guys in it, then dribs and drabs, another cluster about a mile away. dont think I’ll be catching them… I set to work catching the group ahead. Any guys with grey in their hair must die! That’s two disposed of, I can see two more, work, work… The other people that got passed were just collateral damage. I was enjoying this. In no time at all we were at mile 23 where the course abruptly left the Silverado Trail and went on a winding gentle uphill. I had been warned that this section really takes the wind out of peoples sails, so I pushed hard. There’s a walker, being passed by a couple of older guys. One of them is taking about something. Hey, it’s those guys from the bus, and they really flew away from me at the start! “Looking strong” I said going by, “Nice work” came the response.
Another straight road with trees either side, more runners, and a couple of walkers, to pass, and here were a knot of supporters. They started whooping at this solitary runner, and I felt like quite a star. With limited road access to the course, we saw these clusters of spectators every few miles. Some looked familiar, since they had been moving from pace to place. One woman was holding a large sign: “NICE LEGS”, and shouting “Marathon runners are sexy!”. On spotting her again, I pointed at my thigh and gave a thumbs up. “Yeaaah, that’s what I mean!” she cried.

Another straight, another corner and we transitioned from rural to suburban streets in the last mile. I overhauled two more runners, then heard footsteps behind. Was one of them coming back? No, it was a twenty-something guy, the first person to pass me in about 14 miles. I was miffed. More corners. Where the heck is the finish? Vintage High school came in to view, and we crossed the road towards it. Time to start kicking. I was plainly not the only one with that thought, as another young guy came flying by. Where did he come from? I managed a sub-7:00 spurt in the last quarter mile, but there was no catching him. At the finish, the volunteers kindly enquired if I was feeling all right, hung a medal on me, and pointed me towards the refreshments.

James got his sub-3 (by 6 seconds), Amy got a big PR at 3:04, and Carrie called it a day after just a quarter mile. No miracle recovery for her. Me? 3:26:06, 3rd in my age group. Nearly 10 minutes slower than CIM just three months prior. I had abandoned the dictates of the timepiece and paced most of the race by feel, arriving at the halfway point in 1:41:16 or so. This would have set me up for a negative-split 3:20 but I was just not that fast. The ingredients are equal parts: Poor health, compromised training, the weather, and the self-fulfilling knowing-I-was-slow bugaboo. Throw in a minute or two for the course, which is a little slower than CIM. Never mind, I still really enjoyed this race.

Coming up: Two weeks rest, and a short-race-appropriate training program, then some shorter races.

Dusting Off The Old Negative Split

Saturday provided a rather interesting practice run, and got me thinking about pacing strategy. The LMJS training group previewed the Tilden Tough Ten course which we will be racing in two weeks.. This is an out-and-back along four somewhat hilly miles of asphalt trail and a fifth mile of very hilly dirt trail. I had a vague plan to do some tempo running during the session but started out at a very easy pace, chatting with my fellow runners, and enjoying the beautiful weather. This was easy running. When I got to about mile 5, I found myself alone and started to increase the effort level. Miles 5 and 6, being on steep trail chewed up by cows, were necessarily slow,  and I didn’t push it too hard, walking up the steepest hill.  Once I got back on the asphalt trail I got down to business, staying close to tempo effort the rest of the way. Not race effort, just tempo. I got a surprise when I looked at my watch at the end. I had completed the course just 68 seconds slower than I raced it last year.  OK, that was a hot day, but it still seems that the easy-then-hard effort had produced an efficient result. Here’s the course profile from my Garmin.

Looks like a positive-split course, does it not? dropping about 200 feet on the outbound leg, then gaining it back on the return. But if you don’t count the middle two miles of trail, it looks much more even. Still hilly though.

Although it’s a trail race, there are some pace goals here. Running it sub-80 minutes gets you an imprinted shirt, and there are others for sub-70 and sub-60. Last year no one went sub-60. I only have to cut 6 minutes from my practice time to get a sub-80 shirt. Rather than try to compute a pace for each mile, I shall simply have the Garmin display average pace from the start which will give me an idea how I’m doing relative to that 8:00 goal. Last year the middle two miles took me 20 minutes., so the other 8 should average about 7:30 pace. My plan is to get to the 4 mile marker at 7:35 pace, and the 6 mile marker at 8:15 pace, about 90 seconds in arrears. Then I will “put the hammer down” as they say, and claw it back in the last four miles. That’s the plan, anyway.

Billat 30-30

Veronique Billat.
Now there’s a nice French name. A movie star perhaps? Government minister? Nope, she’s an exercise physiologist at the university of Lille. She’s been applying her treadmill and exhaled-gas analyser to the study of vVO2max. There’s a more detailed explanation of her work here, but basically vVO2max is how fast you need to run to maximize your oxygen consumption for conditioning purposes. Every coach knows that the way to spend maximum time at VO2max before exhaustion sets in is to do intervals.But what intervals, and how fast? Mme. Billat has come to the conclusion that equal intervals are best, 3 minutes on, 3 off repeated 5 times. The “off” periods are done at a recovery jog.
Recently Mme. Billat has been working on shorter intervals, which are are nearly as good for most runners, and better for some. 60 seconds on, 60 off or even 30-30 seconds. There is no fixed count for these. You simply continue to failure, in the manner of pushups.

The answer to “How fast?” is simply the fastest speed you can hold for 6 minutes. I found this test difficult to do solo, but McMillan’s predictor says I should be able to run a mile in 5:51. I’m sure I can’t do that yet so I picked a time that seemed do-able to start: 6:20.

The 30-30 workout suits me pretty well. The bouts are short enough that I can say “just one more” 4 or 5 times before I really have to stop and commence serious air sucking. I’m now up to 22 of them, and averaged 6:13 pace on the latest set this morning. When I can do 20 of these sub-6:00 I should graduate to the 60-60s. This is only my third week of doing these, and the improvement is noticeable. That means I’m a little soft in the speed department of course, but these workouts are working better for me than anything else I’ve tried.

This Sunday’s Kaiser Half will test that assertion. I ran this course in 1:37:49 last year, which was a PR at that time. No predictions this time since this race is notorious for nasty weather, but if conditions are good I’ll set out at around 7:00 pace and see what develops.

An Evening With The Stars

I need to post here more often, I’m stating to accumulate topics to write about.
I got paced by a bus this morning. Yes, really. The Park Street bridge that I cross at the beginning and end of my runs is a lifting bridge and the buses are required to stop before crossing. And so I ran past the Transbay bus as it was stopped. When it started again and drew level, it stayed level. I could not see the driver in the dark, but waved anyway and sped up. So did he. So then I turned on the jets and drew ahead. By the far end of the bridge I was going full out (The Garmin recorded a few seconds at 4:25 pace) and the bus blew past. That was fun.
Yesterday thee marathon training group was hosted by Innersports Chiropractic in Berkeley, where we saw a demonstration of video gait analysis, and listened to a talk on Marathon training and prep by Perter Gilmore and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. On the subject of the big hill in the Oakland marathon course, Peter remarked “You have two months to go. Be afraid of it now so you’ll be well prepared on the day.” This led to a discussion on hill work. Magda talked about specificity in training. Although she likes the treadmill, particularly for hill repeats, and loves the trails, sh runs the majority of her miles on the roads. It’s not just a matter of gait-tuning for hard surfaces, but the road miles strengthen you so that you’re less likely to get injured during an actual race. When I asked her afterwards what races she has coming up, it turned out she’s training for the cross-country nationals, so some of her miles are on grass in spikes. If she gets onto the U.S. team, she’ll go to the world championship in March in her native Poland, and her 98-year old grandmother will get to see her race. Here’s hoping she makes the team!
Nutrition factoids from the talk: Women don’t benefit much from carbo-loading, And don’t have your regular breakfast on race-day. You need to be vary low-fiber in the final 24 hours, to avoid those emergency bathroom breaks during the race.

Pace: December LMJS 10K.

That was the goofiest 10K I ran yet.
Some background – I have volunteered as a pacer for the Oakland marathon, but there’s a requirement to have paced before. This sounds a little Catch-22, but is understandable. It’s acceptable to have paced a non-marathon, like for instance an LMJS 10K. So I thought I would do that in the new year, and showed up for Sundays race all ready to deep-six my pathetic old 10K PR.
While we were standing around yakking before the start, I had a sudden realization. I can’t do it next month, because I’m co-directing that race, and there is no 10K in February because of the Couples Relay. Gotta do it today!
I found Melissa, the marathon pace coordinator. “OK” she said. “What mile pace do you want? We’re about to announce the pacers”.
“Um er, Eight minutes?”
And off I went to the start line. Argh! Why didn’t I pick 7:30? My legs know that one.
“Um anyone know what finish time 8:00 would give me?”
“50 minutes” said a voice, and we were off.
Hm. going to have to check that 50:00 thing. I was not wearing the Garmin, which has been a bit flaky lately. This is two laps around a 5K course, with mile markers at mile 1 and 2. These are of course wrong for the second lap, so I’d have to figure out something for that too. Is this too fast? Shouldn’t there be more people in front of me? It looks a little sparse up there. Worry worry.
First mile marker: 7:43. Ouch. Slow down, relax, watch the ducks and boats on the lake. Someones was passing me, good. It takes an effort of will not to speed up when there’s a sweaty hard-breathing guy on your shoulder.
Mile 2 split: 7:51. I really thought I’d slowed more than that. Gotta put on the brakes some more. I had a plan for the mile markers now. I’d simply hit the split button as I crossed the start line, so I’d have two meaningful per-mile splits during lap two. The field was quite spread out now, but I was catching someone who had slowed. “Are you the 50-minute guy?” he asked. “Yes. Actually I’m a little ahead of that, but I’m making adjustments”. He looked crestfallen. I thought about cajoling him to run with me, but it seemed hopeless. He had plainly gone out way too fast and was fading badly.
The first mile of lap two was 8:03, Good, giving some of that time back. Now, about that finish time... One benefit of running slowly is that I was still able to do math. 5K is 6.2 miles, so 8 times 6 and 1/5 is …. 49:36 exactly. Glad I figured that out.
Next split: 8:09. Good. Still need to slow a bit.
Dawdle dawdle.. Here comes the finish, with the clock. Maybe four seconds early. I slowed down and bunny-hopped across the line to the amusement of the timekeepers. Only two seconds early. So now that’s done.
I was amused to discover I’d placed third in my age group. It was a useful exercise though. I’ll need to go slower than that in the marathon – 3:40 is 8:23 average pace – but the hill will help. The time that it adds will probably mean running about 8:10 on the flat, and there will be 26 markers for me to keep track. I might even measure how far apart the streetlamps are on the first part of the course so I can get my pace accurately dialed in within the first few hundred yards – something Garmins are are not too good at. Speaking of Garmins, mine is having problems. It turns itself off mid run-even though it’s well charged. I’ll try the big reset, and see if there’s a software upgrade, but maybe its time has come. I’m in no big rush to replace it. It would make a change to time myself over measured distances for a while, and train my builtin pace-keeper.

2009 – Three marathons, two half marathons, a 10 mile trail race, 15K, a 10K, and a 5K, That’s all the racing I did. Not much, really.
Of these, just two were not PRs, The 10K was held in San Francisco’s Chinatown in wind and torrential rain in February. Fun in a splashy way, but not fast. The other one was the Big Sur Marathon, which rather famously is not a PR course!
So the newbie improvement curve is continuing with the help of some serious mileage. Last week I passed the 3,000 mile mark for the year. I must admit that these back-to-back marathon training cycles are becoming stale. So here’s the loose plan for 2010.

Boston is the next goal race, but just to make things a bit more interesting I’ll be leading a pace group in the Oakland Marathon three weeks beforehand. As my final long run of training it will be over-length and slightly fast, but I don’t care. My pace will be 3:40 over a course with a 600 ft hill in the first half.
The other marathon I run next year will likely be New York, which gets Cathi’s vote. I’ll skip San Francisco, maybe run the half. In the summer I’ll attack the shorter distances which I have so neglected in my training.
I’ll likely dip my toes into the barefoot/minimal shoe thing soon. My gait still needs a little work, and that should help it.


Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
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)

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