Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Philadelphia Marathon - 11/23/08

So long time no posting. Busy family + busy job + 70 mpw left blogging on the cutting room floor. I did keep training this fall though and ran the Philly Marathon this past weekend.

My biggest fear going into the marathon was what would happen after mile 20. I was very confident in my ability to roll through mile 20 on a great pace, but what would happen to me physically after that was anyone's guess. Coming out of September and a hard HM I've struggled with a hamstring strain and I knew that at some point the marathon would expose this. It was more a question of when than if.

I spent a lot of time picking the brains of some friends - including one with almost 75 marathons under his belt and they were hugely helpful. The plan, based on my condition and background, was to take it out easy through 8 or 10 (the end of the bigger hills on the Philly course), then pick it up. I had run 15+ @ MP in training, so a plan like that would put me in the position of being pretty fresh at mile 10, then more or less doing a run I've done before, and left with just a few miles to wrap things up.

Race-week in Philly broke in a January cold come early. Sunday morning was low 20s with a teens windchill. Possibly the only upside to this was that it let me obsess for the last few days over something I at least had some control over - what to wear! Ultimately I went with my original plan, race shorts, tank top, compression sleeves.

Race morning I was up around 4 and it was as cold as predicted. Thankfully the corral was pretty packed and not too cold.

It was cold enough though that the air horn froze and would work, so the race started with a countdown instead.

I intentionally started a little further back than I would have knowing that it would force me to start at a more relaxed pace. We crossed the line and wooosh, underway. I tried to limit my picking and moving up.

The crowds in the first mile or two were thicker than I was used to, and I missed the first mile marker if it was even out there. Mile 2 split came by 13:27, 6:43 pace, a little on the slow side but around what I was looking for on those miles. As we moved onto Delaware Ave, I picked the pace up a bit and went through the 5k with a split just over 20:30.

The next few miles lead to a confusing cycle of "easy on the gas" / "easy on the brake". I don't know if my internal spedo was off or if some of the miles were mis-makred but I saw splits like mile 6 (6:16) then 7 (6:49)? Huh? The run up Chestnut street is one of the best parts of this course and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I remember moving up in that 6th mile and hearing 2 spectator guys commenting on me and how relaxed I looked. I took that as a good sign. Miles 8 & 9 have a good uphill portion and I settled in a small group. I was trying to be conscious to keep my pace & my breathing well under control - I wanted to hit the 10 and the HM feeling fresh. I settled in for most of miles 8 & 9 with a Philly guy and we just chatted about the weather and the pace.

The amount of conversation that goes on during a marathon was a surprise to me. I'm used to a little more spitting and gasping for air.

Coming up in mile 9 & 10 the course heads up toward Memorial Hall and a confusing set of twists and turns. Every time I looked up I saw hordes of runners shooting off in some opposing direction. The 10 mile checkpoint was a biggie for me. I thought that a number of the previous splits had been off and I knew that if I wanted to hit my goal for the first half (1:25) I needed to get through 10 in around 65. I saw the 10 mile marker and my watch and knew I wasn't close enough. 10 miles in 65:41.

I was a little pissed. I had wanted to be relaxed in the first 10 but I also wanted to put myself in a position for a strong time and being off pace at that point was not something I was happy about - I had planned for high 6:20s and averaged mid 6:30s.

I told myself not to get too fired up and not to try to make it all up by the half.

So of course, I ditched my last layer and got all fired up and made it all up by the half.

Next 3 miles as we worked down onto West River Drive and toward the Art Museum - 6:13, 6:15, 6:17. I made it to the HM just under 1:25.

I knew that my wife Jen and some family were waiting just after the half. As we came past the Art Museum and headed out toward Kelly Drive my heart started to sink - I was sure I had missed them. But no - they were right on the turn for our last last legit hill and I took the boost from seeing them into a spurt past the group I was with and up to 2 West Point cadets who I ran with for a bit (and who insisted on calling me sir!).

When we came back down Lemon Hill and onto Kelly Drive I all of a sudden felt at home in my race. The first half, starting slow and mixed in with the HM runners was much more crowded than I was used to, but by mile 14 I was in much more familiar territory - small groups of people, fairly spread out.

Outside of seeing family and friends on the course, in retrospect miles 14-19 were my favorites of the race. The crowds really disappeared, the packs had thinned out and it was just me and my thoughts. I started putting down the miles I had planned on and was feeling really good. I was just moving from small pack to small pack, chatting with them briefly, then moving on again. (Splits - 6:15,6:22,6:23,6:18,6:14).

A good friend of mine, and the guy who had really gotten me into running 3 years ago - rode his bike down to the bottom of Lincoln Drive (right before Manayunk) and I was ecstatic to see him there. Pretty much as soon as I passed him though things took a turn for the worse. I had started to feel some cramping in my hamstring back maybe as far as mile 15. But my pace had been ok. Now it was starting to hurt.

Mile 19 was a downhill mile into the turnaround. I would have through that would be easy on the hamstring, but it just started getting tighter and tighter. I was looking for a place to stretch and just not really able to comprehend that there were still 6+ miles left. I made the turnaround and a guy I had just passed passed me back. As best I can recall he was the only person to pass me after the 10 mile mark, but that could be a hazy lie. ;)

Mile 20 I was going back uphill and out of Manayunk. I tried to relax a little in that mile and looking for people I knew coming down the hill. I tried to keep the turnover going and mentally relax everything I could to take the stress of my hamstring. I made it up the hill and back to my friend. He remarked later that I looked a lot better on the way in (when we talked) than on the way out (where I just slapped his hand).

Somehow in mile 22 I came back around (6:18). I remember passing people and seeing a bit of a crowd at the Falls Bridge. I knew deep down at this point that I would make it, and probably in a decent time.

To be honest, I don't really remember much of 23-25. I would just focus on the person in front of me, reel them in a step at a time, then on to the next. Based on the crowd I knew I was moving up through the top 5 women (who has a good race going on) and I started keeping away to pass to not interfere in any of that.

I remember being careful going through the water stops, since they were icing up and putting down rock salt. I stopped drinking Gatorade after getting a slushy mix that dropped my core temp in a hurry.

As the crowds started to get thicker into mile 26 the cramps started to get worse, but at that point it was just a matter of trying to keep my leg tracking straight and moving forward.

At mile 26 or so I somewhat saw (or really heard) my wife, family, but I can't say I was really able to focus on them.

Then, as slowly in real life as it is now quick in memory, it was up a short hill and woosh, into the chute and I heard the kick cheer squad erupt in the stands, then I was done and my left leg was swinging at a crazy angle and I was grabbing at trash cans and people who looked more stable than me and trying to stay on my feet.

Official time - 2:49:11. 80th overall.

First 10: 1:05:41 6:34 pace
Second 10: 1:03:06 6:18 pace
Last 10k: 40:24 6:31 pace

I was lucky that my family was there when I came out of the chute - if for nothing else than to help me get some clothes on! Within minutes of finishing I was shaking like a leaf.

Perhaps my biggest regret at this point was that no one had a camera ready to capture my mom's expression when I started pulling various pieces of clothing out of my race shorts that I had stuffed down there in a desperate attempt to keep my crotch warm!

It was a great run and I was really ecstatic to hit my goal.

Here's some pictures that my wife took on race day:

Me at mile 26:

Going past:

Trying to warm up:

And that's the Philly Marathon for ya:

Numbers for those of you who care about that sort of thing:
1: 6:43.5
2: 6:43.5 (based on 13:27)
3: 6:20
4: 6:34
5: 6:21
6: 6:16
7: 6:49
8: 6:44
9: 6:26
10: 6:39
11: 6:13
12: 6:17
13: 6:15
14: 6:15
15: 6:22
16: 6:23
17: 6:18
18: 6:14
19: 6:27
20: 6:22
21: 6:29
22: 6:18
23: 6:27
24: 6:36
25: 6:31
26: 6:27
.2: ?

Some takeways:

- The weather was tough. I've never raced in weather that cold before and I can't say I'm anxious to do it again. On the plus side, you feet don't sweat much when they are frozen.
- I upgraded from my normal racing flats to a (slightly) heavier show (Asics Speedstar). I think I would have been fine with new T5s.
- I don't think I was really close to running out of gas at any point, but I was pretty close to running out of time on how much more pulling my hamstring could do. I think it might have been ugly if I had gone out hard.
- As everyone says, but you don't don't really know what they mean until you do it, the marathon really is a very different beast than the shorter races.
- The slow start / faster finish probably saved my leg enough for the end. It might not be an optimal plan for time, but it is fun passing people for the last 16! :)

The next few weeks will be an off season for me, so again with the no blogging! Hopefully in the spring the time will be there for some more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Philly Distance Run - 9/21/08

This Sunday was the Philly Distance Run. This was my 3rd time running the PDR and my 3rd HM.

My goals going in were to PR and run 1:15.

My wife also ran this race as her first HM with a local friend - Alexis. Both got their goal with and both PR'd with a 1:55. I am so excited and proud of them both!

This race was not going to be a goal race for me. That said, I hurt my back early last week on a work all-nighter and ended up trying to balance enough rest to get my back in shape with a couple fast workouts to be ready for a HM.

Based on last years race, I also had some sub-goals - I wanted to get out quicker than I have in the past, stay focused through the middle miles, and get into a pack for the last 3-4 miles.

My plan this year was to go out at low 5:40 pace and give myself the chance to run a 1:15 low and have a chance at a 14 if everything went well. I went out on plan - 5k around 17:40 and 10k at 35:30.

Around mile 3 or 4 I picked out a guy about 30 seconds ahead of me that I knew from some local 5ks. His stride is unmistakeable. I made it my mission to keep my eyes locked on him and try to reel him in over the next couple miles. Last year I struggled to keep focus in miles 6-8.

The plan worked and around mile 8 I caught the guy. Looking at my splits now, it was as much him slowing down as it was me keeping up. We said our hellos and ran together a bit. He asked how I was doing and by 8 I knew I was getting tight.

I hung with a decent-sized pack from 8-10. 10 mile was about 57:30 - about 25 seconds off my 10 mile PR. A cool moment - as we came up the hill towards the Falls Bridge I looked off to my right and coming off the bridge and down Kelly Drive was the lead pack, and in the mile or so I could see between us all, all the chase packs. Very cool.

At the 10 mile mark I knew that I would need a sub-17:30 5k to get close to 1:14 high. With the rising sun and the heat, I was beginning to cramp up (hamstrings, back, shoulders), and I knew my chances weren't great. As the last 5k played out it became a battle to hang on for a PR. Every mile went by felt a little slower and while I knew I had some time in the bank, I knew it was slipping away.

That said I was running as fast as I could. Between the heat and the fast early pace, it was taking it's toll. I saw a lot of low 1:teens guys ripping off shirts, a few dropping out and a few slowing to a walk. That was surprising.

I was dry-mouthed and couldn't get enough water down in the water stops to change that.

Unlike last year, there wasn't a lot of horse-trading in the last few miles. I was in a small pack of guys that strung out as we got close to the finish and didn't swap any places for the last mile or 2.

Finish was 1:15:50 - a PR by about 25 seconds.

Overall I was really happy with the results. I ran according to plan - given better conditions I think there was a little more there, but it was easily the hardest I've run a HM.

My splits were: 5:40,5:40,5:44,5:42,4:56,6:33,(mile 5 was obviously off so probably 5:44, 5:45), 5:46, 5:49, 5:47, 5:49, 5:55, 5:54, 5:55

So what did I learn? Well, I ran the perfect race plan for 2007. :) I knew it was warming up faster than I thought by mile 1 or 2 but kept with the plan. By the time the 10K came around at that pace - there weren't many options left - I was committed. It was a struggle to hang on and PR but I was glad i did.

Overall: 1:15:50, 118th overall, 15th AG.

The PDR has always been a fun race - it's a great fun, fast race. It was great to see so many KR people there.

Some photos from Jen's husband Matt:

Me at mile 5 or so, feeling pretty good:

Then again, around 20K. As Matt said, I looked a little better at 5 miles:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Week of 9/1

Mon: 5 easy
Tue: 9+ with tempo, backed it off to start since the temps were over
80, but picked it up 5:56,5:51,5:50,5:44,5:50, felt good
Wed: 5 easy
Thu: 11 @ 7:10 pace
Fri: 13 @ 7 pace
Sat: 8 easy
Sun: 21 progression in 2:31, last 2 in the 6:30s, felt good

For a total of 72+, a new high for me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Week of 8/25

Cutback week this week, and it was about time. The little nagging
things were piling up and my legs were a little tired, so it was nice
to take a little break. Of course a cutback week is also a good time
for a tune-up race, right? Right? That's was a funny.

Just over 52 miles.

Mon - 5 easy
Tues - 5000 on the track, 16:54, led for about a mile and a half to
pace a friend to a PR, 2nd OA
Wed - 5 easy
Thus - 11 harder
Fri - 14 hard
Sat - 0
Sun - easy 10

In September I've got 2 half marathons coming up, one this weekend and
then the PDR on the 21st. This weekend is just for fun - I'll
probably do it as a marathon pace workout. The PDR I will run hard.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Week of 8/18

Another week in the books. Still just putting on the miles but I had
a good tempo this week and my first 20 ever on Sunday.

Monday: 0. A real actual honest day off.
Tuesday: 9 with 4 at tempo - 5:37,5:39,5:35,5:43. I felt strong but
kind of all over the place form-wise.
Wednesday: 14, 7:30 pace overall, nothing fast than 7:15. Kinda sore
around the edges from the tempo.
Thursday: Easy 5
Friday: 10+
Saturday: 5 easy
Sunday: 20 in 2:26, felt pretty good, took a few slow to warm up then
just hovered in the 7:10 range. A little tired at the end. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Week of 8/11

I ran a total of 67+ miles last week, which is pretty high for me. At
this mileage I start to feel it a little with the aches and pains, so
I'm sure I'll get a few weeks into the 70s, but I don't have plans to
go significant;y higher - just to hang out between 60-75 mpw and build
some strength in that zone.

Monday: 5 easy
Tuesday: 9+ at a moderate pace with 10 striders
Wednesday: 14, average low 7s, middle 10 were all 6:40-7:00
Thursday: 5 easy
Friday: 18 @ 7:20 avg, started slow, then walked it down to the high 6s, low 7s
Saturday: easy 5
Sunday: easy 11

The long run right now is definitely the hardest workout I'm doing.
I'm pretty tapped out by 18 miles, so I know that these runs are doing
me some good.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wha Happenin?

Now my 2 year old son's favorite line. "Daddy, wha happenin?". Sit
and watch Cars with him and you'll hear it an even hundred times.

So, wha happenin?

Mostly just got busy with life and work. I ran that 5K on the Fourth
of July - much the same as my other efforts this spring - 16:55 or
somewhere thereabouts. I took some downtime the next week or so after
that, then started in with a base building plan for the fall. I've
decided that I'm going to train this fall a little bit more like I did
last year - higher miles, more LT pace workouts, and focus on some
longer races for the fall. I decided that I could use some aerobic
development for the fall so I've started my season by following the
Pfitzinger 18/70 plan. The last 3 weeks have been just around 60
miles with a 15-17 long run.

I'll probably do a 5k late this month for a fitness check. In
September, I've got a couple half marathons. I'm doing a trail HM
early in the month - probably just as a good hard workout. Then the
PDR in late September. I'll run that one hard but don't really expect
to be in great shape by then. I'll probably plan on something at the
Philly Marathon in late November for a peak race.

This past week, 62 miles and my first tempo run of the fall season, 4
miles at 5:45 pace.