Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rule of Simplicity (or is it specificity?)

The last two weekends I ran short races (5K and half-marathon). They went well. Starting this weekend, and for the next 3 weeks, it's all about simplicity. I'm training for a 50 mile trail race and I need to get back to fat-burning, easy, aerobic runs. I suppose it's simple training. Easy. Every single day for 3 weeks. It's also about SPECIFICALLY training for the race you are targeting. Don't need speed, I need aerobic fitness and endurance. Lots of easy trail runs with long runs on the weekend. Not a ton of time to truly train, so it's more like "getting back" to training. I'm fit. I'm helathy. Let's keep it that way. No heorics. No short races. Easy does it. Simple.

The 5K and the half-marathon showed me I'm ready to knock off a fast marathon in the spring. I need a 3:30 for Boston, but would be more comfortable with 3:25 or faster. My recent race times predict a 3:20 marathon. I'd take that finish time! For now, it's easy training for 3 weeks, then race the 50 miler, set a personal record, and recover. Then, it's winter marathon training for my BQ attempt at the Illinois Marathon in April.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New PRs Are Possible (even when you're old)

This past wekeend I ran the St Louis Rock & Roll Half-Marathon. My personal best for this distance was 1:33 set in Madison, WI way back in 2000. I was fast back then and I ran a lot of road races (5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons). In 2000, I was getting hooked on trails too, but the ultramarathons were still in my future. Now in 2014, I was a bit frightened of the challenge a half-marathon presented. It's a tough combination of both speed and endurance. And the St Louis RNR half was on roads. I'm now a solid trail ultra guy. Roads are not my thing.

I signed up for this race a long time ago--about 6 months ago because of "the bet" I had with Joe at work. We challenged each other to train consistently and toss in some speed work. This race would be the "final test" of our training. Yeah, I did some reasonable mileage, and I did incorporate a little speed work, but my focus has always been on the ultras. Only recently did I shift more toward tempo and progression runs with some 1-mile repeats. Would it be enough to win the bet? Enough to not embarrass myself?

Race morning dawned with cool temperatures, calm winds, and a rising sun. It was going to be a fantastic race day. Not sure if I'd make my goal (1:35) for "the bet" with Joe, but it seemed possible. We walked from our hotel to the starting line together. The sun was coming up from behind the Arch. It was pretty sweet. Could this be my day? I knew I'd be fine to about 10 miles, but the last 5K might turn nasty if my pace was too fast in the first part of the race. My mantra for the race was "Hold back, stay steady, finish strong." 5 miles easy, 5 miles strong and steady, 3.1 miles hard.

First 5 miles. When the starting gun sounded, I took off. I knew I had to remain under control, but everything felt good. My first mile was 6:44 pace. Does that count as "holding back?" Yikes. Then 7:18, 7:09, 6:50, and 7:09. The multiple hills made it very difficult to maintain consistent pace. I went for consistent effort. It worked. Average HR each mile: 163-163-162-162-161. Perfect. Faster pace than expected, but about the right heart rate. Maybe I was holding back just enough...even with a 7:02 pace for first 5 miles.

Second 5 miles. I felt great at the 5 mile mark and I had a fantatstic cushion toward my 1:35 goal. Keep steady, stay strong. The hills came and went. My mile splits: 6:55-7:04-7:21-7:14-6:59. Again, hard to keep consistent pace on the darn hills, but effort was steady. Average HR for each of these miles: 160-159-161-160-162. This section had an avaerage pace of 7:06. Still below the 7:15 needed for a 1:35 finish. Excellent. I slowed just a bit, but I stayed strong.

Last 3.1 miles. Oh my...I knew I was almost certain to hit my 1:35 goal. And my 1:33 personal best seemed within reach too. Was I too ambitious? Would I crash and burn? Could I actually "finish strong?" My heart and lungs were still in the game, but my legs were starting to feel the pounding. They wanted to let up. Instead of resilient limbs, my legs were turning to lead beams. Heavy. Inflexible. My brain was telling me to slow down. I'd still get the 1:35. What's the rush? My mind fought back. Only a couple miles to go, hang in there, increase the effort, hold the pace. 7:04-7:01-6:54. (Heart rate: 163-164-173). I ran the last 1/10th mile fast. It was a sprint to the finish! Done. 1:32:35. 82nd overall out of 6,361 finishers (7th out of 298 in my division). Most importantly, I won the bet and I SET A NEW PERSONAL RECORD!

Old dudes can still set new PRs.

Less than 4 weeks to the Tunnel Hill 50 miler. I plan on setting another new personal best at that race. Bring it on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Can I Win "The Bet"?

On May 5th I posted about a bet I had with Joe in my office. There were two parts to the bet--a process oriented aspect (weekly training) and an outcome portion (the actual race results). Well, I bought my way out of the process part ($20 lost) a few weeks ago and now the race weekend is almost here. We'll travel down to St Louis for the RNR Half-Marathon on Sunday.

Do I have a chance to win the race part of the bet? Maybe. Joe needs to run 1:50, I need to run 1:35. Joe has an outside chance of hitting his mark, but it'll be a reach. I think he'll break 1:55, but not reach 1:50. Plus, he keeps talking about being in "marathon training" mode rather than half-marathon training. Whatever. Lots of excuses. We'll see what happens on Sunday morning.

So, do I have a chance at hitting the 1:35 finish time? Probably. It won't be easy, but I'm optimistic. If the weather is good and I don't screw anything up in the next few days, I think I have a realistic shot at 1:35. I ran a 5K race last weekend in 20:28. That time predicts a half-marathon finish of 1:34:36. That's cutting it close! Since I felt pretty darn good at the 5K race (see blog post here), I hope to pull off the 1:35 in St Louis. If everything goes well, and I actually RACE this half-marathon, I might surprise myself with an even faster finish. I'd be happy with 1:35. That would predict a marathon finish of 3:20. I need 3:30 in April for a Boston qualifier (but you need a couple minute cushion to make the Boston registration cut-off). With a 5K finish of 20:28 and a 1:35 half-marathon finish, I'd feel confident entering winter marathon training and aiming for a 3:20-3:25. BQ baby!

If I run my own race on Sunday, don't worry about Joe or any other runners, then I have a good chance at reaching my goal. I'll go out at a steady 7:15 race pace and hold it until 10 miles. If I feel good, I'll pick it up the last 5K. I'll need to hold back the first 5 miles so I don't run too hard and blow up. Then the middle 5 miles will be "stay steady" time. With 3 miles left, if I'm on track for the 1:35 finish, I'll make it. You have to finish strong. Three themes for three sections of the race: hold back, stay steady, finish strong. Not a bad plan. I like it.

I predict Joe runs slower than 1:50 and I run faster than 1:35. I'll be $20 richer around 9am this Sunday.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Happy, The Sad

Ran the Illini Mentor Program 5K race this morning on the Quad at the University of Illinois. Three big loops and lots of turns on sidewalks to complete the course, but not too bad. Reasonable weather too (50 degrees, sunny, little wind). This was my first 5K race in 7 years. Crazy. I wanted to break 20 minutes; I finished in 4th place overall in a time of 20:28. I think I was one of only two people over the age of 22. Again, crazy. I can't compete with college students. But I held my ground the best I could. I beat all the women and everyone over the age of 22. Still, I have mixed feelings about the race outcome. Here's the good, the bad, the happy, and the sad.

THE GOOD. I actually got the heck out of bed, registered, and ran this race. That's good. Even last night I had second thoughts. Why run a short race when I'm an ultra runner? What if I injure myself? What good can come of a 5K race? Am I in shape enough to push it? Why disappoint myself? How will this prepare my for a 50 miler? Lots of questions. I needed some answers. So I woke up and raced. That was good.

THE BAD. I was ill prepared for this race. Hadn't run a 5K in a long time. Forgot what it felt like to run hard. So, I ran what I knew. I ran tempo pace. It was a lactate threshold run for me (80-85% heart rate reserve). Heck, it was actually done at 81% HRR. That's a basic moderate tempo run. I didn't run 5K race pace...or half-marathon race pace. It was limbo land. Fast, but not fast enough. That's bad. I should have pushed harder...or held back a little and made it a half-marathon test run. Now I'm left wondering. Could I have run sub-20 minutes? I didn't even get to test out my maximum heart rate. My sprint to the finish didn't drive my HR very high. I took it too easy. That was bad.

THE HAPPY. Even though I didn't push it, I ran pretty well. With an 81% HRR effort, I ran 6:32 pace. That's a great lactate threshold pace (my actual LT is probably around 80% so a little slower than 6:32). Much faster than I would have predicted. That makes me happy. That LT pace predicts some nice future races. McMillan Running claims that a 6:32 LT pace would predict a 1:28 half-marathon and a 3:06 marathon (and a 19:00 5K race done at real race effort). Freaking awesome! Even my actual 5K race finish of 20:28 predicts a 1:35 half-marathon and 3:20 marathon. Not too bad. I'm happy.

THE SAD. I didn't put in a race effort so I don't know what I could have run. This is really sad. I took the easy path and played it safe. I ran what was comfortable. I know what a tempo run feels like and this was a basic tempo effort. Maybe just a tad bit faster. 81% heart rate reserve? Really? Is that all I had? Sad. Very sad. I'm not happy. I'm not proud. I'm sad. Maybe next time I'll push the pace, push my heart and lungs, and know what I am capable of racing. I'm confident I could run 20:00. I'm cautiously optimistic I could run 19:30.

A big thank you to the Illini Mentor Program for putting on this fun race. They do great mentoring in the community and it's fantastic to see college students helping local youth. I hope it was a productive fund-raiser. I'll be back again next year to run this IMP 5K race. Hopefully I'll be better prepared and I can pull a top 3 finish against these college kids.