Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The maraton

Today I wrote in a friend's livejournal; something about how I was balancing SCA fencing and running pretty well way back when. I was getting into both at about the same time, and I thought they complimented one another nicely. The endurance given by the running helped my fencing, as well as leg strength, coordination, and breathing. The lateral movements, balance, and mental concentration of fighting helped balance the running. It was fun to have two whole new worlds to explore, get better in, and play off one another.

Then came along the marathon, and she is jealous. Oh, yes. I got little injuries from all the training, certainly. I got worried about getting injured during the fighting, and set back my training. And then there's the time and energy commitment; the first marathon takes a hell of a lot of both.

And that may be the reason I love it so.

I can wing a half marathon. It may not be fast or even very pretty, but I can do it without a second thought. I got to a point in the last few training cycles that 13.1 miles felt like a decent run to get the blood moving, but not that big of a deal. That is, anything under 10 miles was barely worth getting dressed for, and it wasn't until 16-18 that I felt like I was moving. Though I didn't go much over 20 miles at a time, two or three days a week at 16-18 mies wasn't out of the question. It wasn't even abnormal. It just was.

And that's one of the amazing things I find about the marathon; the training is both teh suck and awesome, takes both sacrifice and commitment, and to do it well takes pain and tears. Well, maybe not tears, but curses certainly. The occasional dry heave isn't out of place, either.

The thing that I find I love about the marathon is that at mile 20 or so, I get to meet myself. If I've been running it hard and right, mile 20-21 I begin to find that parts of my body start failing to work right, and pain begins to set in. How do I react? How do I keep my legs moving when I feel like some of the muscles have entirely given up, and now are acting as dead weight? What does it take for me to keep moving and not give up?

And, if at mile 20 something is really going wrong, will I be bright enough to figure that out? DNF typically means "Did Not Finish" although some say it means "Did Nothing Fatal." On the other hand, the latter read isn't always true. Had I dropped during the 50K DNF would've had the first reading without the second. But I digress.

I love the marathon, and I love the training. I revel in the soreness in the morning, when I'm staggering around like I'm double (or triple) my age. I love the feel of humming along, running at my marathon pace and feeling like I could run that way forever.

I love the fire in my throat as I'm doing intervals, the rasp that comes from too much heavy breathing in the cold. I love how every footstep is an adventure, running hard on icy pavement and trusting in screwshoes to keep me upright.

I love being outside in the winter. Of being completely on my own without a care in the world except to do the next mile, or next interval, and slowly wear away the rubber on the sole of shoes. I love wearing a single layer in freezing temperatures and feeling hot, like the idea of wearing short sleeves might not have been a bad idea.

The marathon spurs me to these things like nothing else. Ultras don't have the interval sessions for the most part. Half marathons- well, I could train for them more intensely. And I've love to run a half marathon goal race, and shoot for 1:35 or less (1:37:02 is my current PR) but... the marathon is a daunting challenge. I've run six, I think, and they've all taught me something. I really can't say the same thing for the halfs or ultras I've run. Curious that. I'm going to have to think on that a little more.

Anyway, that's my love letter to the marathon. She's a cruel lover; but I've never had another who gave me so much back in return.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Running Year in Review

2010 was on interesting year, filled with triumphs, stupid moments, PRs, and the odd wasted opportunity.  The changing form through use of five fingers and Good For Running has been a success.  The move to a more minimal type shoe (when not using five fingers) has also been good... though after using five fingers any standard trainer feels over cushioned.

One thing nice about that, though, is that when I'm trying on standard trainers, it takes the cushion out of the equation.  They all feel equally over stuffed, and it doesn't feel like a good thing.  That way, I get to concentrate on things like fit, how natural they feel on my feet, and how little I like running in standard trainers.

But anyway enough about footwear.  What I'd like to do is go on, at length, about the last year focusing on the races I did and the major things that occurred.  Some, I'm sure, will be a repeat of older posts, and hopefully won't contradict them too badly.  As my dad used to say: "Memory is the second thing to go, they say, and I forget  the first thing."

So... onto the races!

I began training for the Martian Marathon in December of last year, but the training (and consequences related there of) greatly effected the first nine months of the year.   Daniels probably has been my favorite book plan I've tried, and I've gone through three or four, depending on how you count.  It was an extremely flexible and hard-but-not-too-hard program. 

January~  Didn't do any race, but did a lot of base building and the odd hard workout, as Daniels suggests.  I wish I could have done the Bigfoot Snowshoe race, but I skipped it.

February~ Superbowl 5K (21:28/6:55 pace).  I really felt the difference changing my form made, especially on downhills.  it make them consciously harder.  But on the other hand, I got in the habit of counting a long time ago in my running, and counting strides per minute is one day to make a 5K go faster.  It was also nice to negative split it as a race.  Race congestion had a little to do with that, but I also planned it that way, and managed to stick to the plan.  If history hasn't gone all rose colored on me.  :)

March~ More fun following the Daniels program.  This was the big build up to the taper, and a good chunk of the taper as well.  I remember some wonderfully difficult training runs that were longer than my long runs, but with intervals thrown in to boot.  I remember a few crash and burns, a few triumphs, and a lot of miles.  I spent a lot of time at Indian Springs, and got heartily sick of the two mile loop in the middle.

April~  Martian (3:27:46/7:55 pace) and recovery.  Martian went well, as I think I laid out in my race report.  What sticks with me is the feeling of deadness that hit some of my muscles in the latter stages of the race, as well as the jump in my heart rate near mile 21 that didn't stop till the end of the race.  Oh, and staggering about like Bambi after crossing the finish line.

I also seem to remember the race recovery going quite well, which I lay at the feet of changing up my form.  One of the problems of overstriding is the peak of force that slams through the body with a heavy heel strike.  It's fairly minor, but it adds up.  If I'm maintaining 85-90 strides per minute, over the course of a 3:27 marathon I'll have 35-37 thousand of those little shocks go through my body.  When I finished Bayshore last year, I felt a little like I had been in a car accident.  Martian was significantly different- at least in terms of abuse I felt done to my body.

A couple of weeks later I did the Trail half marathon (2:14:15/10:14 pace) in five fingers.  It went well, I ran it easy with a friend, and didn't have any problems or pain.  I love that half; it's challenging, but not technical in a way that would hurt me later on in the year.  Rocks and roots to trip over, sure, but less than at Pontiac, my trail running park of choice.  Some decent hills, but I wasn't running for speed.

May~ Brookshire 5K (21:22/6:53 pace) In a way, this was the opposite of the Superbowl 5K; I started off fast but my pace fell off toward the end.  Running with folk isn't always a great idea, especially when you know just how much faster they are.  Still, it was a PR, and done through some wet and rainy conditions.  If I had run it smarter, I think I may have done a little better.  But probably not much.

June~ this is where things fell apart.  Did a lot of five finger miles in the first week of June, and ended it running at Highland Rec, probably the most technical trail system in the area.  Stubbed my little toe, right foot, three times starting at mile 6.  I don't know which of those stubs might have broken it, but I'm pretty sure one of them did.

Sadly, that wasn't the problem; compensating for the stub was.  Left calf took up a lot of slack, and probably did the majority of the work going down hills for over 10 miles.  The next day, bad pain that didn't go away for the next six weeks.

August ~slowly built up miles.

Crim (1:20:33/8:03 pace) This was a test.  I wanted to know whether my body and my leg would be okay with a hard, if not a race effort.  It was, and I chopped 16 minutes off of my Crim PR of '06.  Of course, I was a *much* different runner back in '06, but still.  A PR is a PR.

September~ like a dam with a lot of back pressure, I scheduled a race every weekend I could.

Labor Day 30K (2:46:39/8:57 pace) One of my favorite races, i ran it with a friend and spent a lot of time chatting about various stuff.  i love the hills, the dirt roads, and the race distance.  If it were up to me, the English (or was it French?) would have set the marathon distance to this length back in the 20's, or whenever.  Beautiful day for easy running, and I couldn't have asked for a better race experience.

Romeo to Richmond Half (1:42:42/7:50 pace) Decent half, although I really didn't care much for the slightly sandy trail we had to run on, the sun in our eyes, and the wind in our face.  Nice day for a run, but  I was kind of glad when it was over.  I may have been happier doing a repeat of the Falling Waters half, but this made more sense at the time.

Woodstock half (1:56:10/8:52 pace) this was a fun half, though I think I was slowed considerably due to sleeping pretty poorly the night before.  I didn't figure out how to keep warm in my tent- the right combination of clothes with my sleeping bag, and woke up with a pretty fierce pain in my lower back.

Again, I ran it in my five fingers, and that was fine... though I did get a blister, which was unexpected.  I also ran through a pair of the Injinji liners.  That was kind of disappointing.  they were new, and the socks are good quality.  It just appears the the first generation of liners aren't.  I've heard better things about the second generation.  Not sure if the two were connected.

October~ Brooksie half (1:39:00/7:33 pace) Definitely one of my success stories of this year.  I originally signed up to run with a friend as far as I could, but probably would drop at the 6 or 10 mile mark.  Didn't quite work that way.  I remember feeling fairly strong throughout, and banking time at the beginning (a race tactic I usually don't recommend) really worked out well.  I remember being fairly whipped for the last three miles, but able to run strong.  It helped an awful lot to be running with a friend.  I'll have to see if I can arrange that for next year.

Run through Hell (44:04/7:06 pace)  I really enjoyed this race- like Labor Day 30K it was on hilly dirt roads, perhaps my favorite running terrain.  Still feels vaguely trail-ish, but I don't have to concentrate nearly as much on not tripping, and I can get some sort of momentum going.  And hills are fun because I like to go up them so much- I did most of my passing on the up hills, I think.  Lots of people, and I knew many of them, so the cheering back and forth helped a lot, too.

It was in October I decided to get an internet running coach, so I could take my flawed thinking out of the mix and learn from someone in a more fluid environment.  Someone who may have different ways of reacting to issues that come up during training.  It's been a good experience, and it got me to do certain things I've always been pretty lax on when assigning them to myself.  Cross training, for the most part.  But also increasing miles slowly, and being reassured that changing the schedule and downshifting miles isn't always a bad thing.

November~ Jingle Bell Run (43:47/7:03 pace)  Not bad run, though I know I could have done better if I had stuck with someone.  I lost concentration midway through the race- I really didn't have the mental focus.  But ran hard enough to earn a quasi-PR.  I did the race in '08 and ran in the 42s, but I thought the race was short, so I don't think of it as a PR.  Even if I did the same course today and do.  My garmin says that it was 6.3 something, so it certainly wasn't short if the garmin can be trusted.

December~ Fat Ass 50K.  Went well.  :)  The write up was fairly recent, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it.  But it was nice to come in first.  It give me some bragging rights to say I won a race with a 90% attrition rate (to be fair, though, I very much doubt that even if the day had been beautiful, that all 40 had plans to do the full three loops).

For next year: I'm signed up for Bayshore, and I'm going to continue my working relationship with my coach to hopefully help me run a 3:15.  May or may not be a Boston qualifier for 2012, but I'm not really concerned right now.  I just want to run as intelligently as possible, to get as fast as I can reasonably can with as little chance of injury.

So, I'd like a 3:15 Bayshore.  I'd also like a fast Martian time- a PR would be nice,  meaning sub 1:37:02.  We'll see if that happens.

I'd kind of like to do the Woodstock 100K, if that works out.  I'd also like to possibly do the Mohican 50M, though that's less of a goal for me.  Maybe pace if I feel up to it.

And that's the year as I remember it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fat A$$ 50K

You certainly don't have to enjoy pain to run 30 odd miles through snow and hills, but it helps. For the rest of us, there's Aleve.

You also may not think that warm chicken soup during a 7+ hour winter run might not be the most wonderful thing you've ever tasted. On this count, you'll either have to trust me or try it yourself. But honestly, if manna from heaven tasted this good, the children of Israel would've never left the desert.

The day was relatively warm, as days have gone this December; low to mid 20s feels positively balmy when you've been in single digits for a time. Easy to over dress, but that's why layers were invented.

The start had a sort of carnival feel; no complicated race instructions, no jockeying for position to find the right place for your pace- just a bunch of people trying to squeeze together for a group photo and a big "Thank You" to the RD (race director).

Not that FA50Ks usually have RDs, or aid stations, or awards, places, or race t-shirts, but this wasn't the typical FA50K. All kudos to Farra for making it so!

The first lap went well; I started off fairly slowly with the first few miles averaging somewhere around 15 min pace. I broke off from the group and moved along on my own, slowly catching up to a couple of runners somewhere around mile six. I chatted back and forth with them till the end of the first lap- the usual "when did you start running" "what races have you done" and the relatively merits of screw shoes vs Yak Trax vs Microspikes and the like.

First Lap 2:18
First Break ~15 minutes.

I started lap two with a fellow I had been chatting with for the last part of lap one- a marathon maniac who had PRed in a 50K the week before. Not quite as crazy as some of my friends who had run the HUFF 50K the day before, and were out of the trails with us, but still plenty crazy. He felt the fatigue building, though, and I left him behind about a mile into the second loop.

From then on, I ran pretty much on my own. It was pretty familiar to me- I run the trails at Pontiac Rec a lot, and occasionally in significantly worse conditions. There was maybe four inches of broken snow, but I was using screw shoes and only had to be kind of careful on the down hills. There were branches hanging over the trail, but I only had to be careful to not let them whack me in the forehead was I tried to run bent over at the waist.

I failed at that a couple of times. It's a good way to get a headache and neck pain at the same time!

Mile 15 is when I started to feel pain in my left hip flexor, which moved to my gluteus medius muscle after about a mile. This gave me two huge draws to finish the second lap- the chicken soup of the heavenly variety, and the bottle of Aleve I knew I had stashed in my car.

Second Lap 2:20
Second break ~21 minutes.

I started my third lap thinking "this could be bad." As much as I've run at Pontiac Rec, I've never done 30 miles there. And my longest training run for the race was *cough* 17. My longest run through heavy snow was 6. But the Aleve had muted the pain to a barely noticed sensation, and I had trained fairly hard for the past three months to "just finish" this race. And I wasn't feeling bad, just fatigued.

I ran the course never hitting the wall, and I only stopped running due to mental fatigue once or twice. My toes were wet and cold, but thanks to Smartwool I had neither frostbite nor blister. I love running gear!

I finished the lap with my gamin telling me I had run 30.5 miles. I popped out onto the parking lot with only two cars- mine and someone else's. I thought it might have been someone who was running the race, but I was too mind fogged to think to look for telltale bumperstickers, 26.2 ovals, or other signs.

I ran down to the entrance like I was told, turned around and came back to the car. The effort that had me at 13-15 minute miles on the trail had me at about 10 while on the roads, at the every end of the race. I really do wonder how I would have done without the snow fall.

I finished the race in 7:42:27 (BTW, Farra- sorry I miss reported 7:44).
Average pace: 14:45
Calories burned: ~4000 (maybe more)

I later learned that of the ~40 people who came to do the race, only four finished the 31 miles. Of those four, I finished first. I know at least one of them started early, did at least two of of the laps in snowshoes, tramping down and marking the trail for the rest of us. So much kudos and thanks to Jeff L, definitely the unsung hero of the race!

Also many thanks to Farra for being the driving force, RD and organizer. You did great, and I hope to see this race happen again! And Bruce, for being Aid station volunteer extraordinaire, and bringing tents and everything.  And those of you who actually managed to read this all the way to the end!  :)

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Six Days

Personally, I love the challenge of running through snow. 

It feels really hard core, like only the most dedicated (or addicted/insane/compulsive) are out on the trails plowing through inches of the white powdery stuff.  It works some muscles particularly hard; my hip flexors, quads, and particularly my Tensor Fascia Lata muscles are all deeply fatigued at the end of a long run through the snow.

And really, it's part of the game when running in a northern state.  All we can do is deal with it, or condemn ourselves to the treadmill for four months out of the year. 

Still, I am getting a little nervous about doing a 50K in this next Sunday.  It's going to be a an interesting journey.  Hopefully no injuries will result.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jack Daniels' talent for understatement

Jack Daniels was describing Threshold pace as being something between a person's 10K pace (30 minutes for the fast runners) and their marathon pace (best pace you can maintain for 2 or more hours).

Kind of struck me as funny. I mean it's hard to argue with... Most people's threshold pace will be between what they can run in a flat out 30 minute time trial and the time it takes them to run a marathon.

I guess his book was aimed at athletes a little faster than I am, is all. 30 minute 10K is only slightly more comprehensible than a two hour marathon for most of us- though the former might earn you a few thousand dollars while the latter would probably earn six or seven digits if you could do it consistently....

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