Monday, October 23, 2017

IMP 5K (3 mile?) Race

I ran the annual Illini Mentor Program (IMP) 5K race this past weekend on the University of Illinois quad. (Quad photo on left.) Finished in 20:05. Good enough for 4th overall and 1st in age group (50-59). I felt OK with that finish. Great speed work out! My Garmin watch said it's really more like 3 miles than 3.1 miles (5km). It's organized by a student group--guess you can't expect perfection. At least it was well-marked with course marshals and had good finish line food. Pretty campus too. Awards took a long time to be announced, but the day was warm and sunny so it was fine hanging out chatting with fellow runners. I'll do it again next year. Maybe it'll be a full 5km race. Another thing I love about this race? It's only ONE BLOCK from my office on campus! Sure makes pre-and post-race tasks easy and stress-free.

Thoughts on this race and my performance? Running on a university quad is hard--literally (concrete sidewalks) with many sharp turns. And you need to do three loops to get the full distance so you lap other runners/walkers, plus weave in and out of students that were just walking around the Quad. This wasn't a big race, so not a big deal. I would have preferred cooler weather (it was 65-68F). Overall, I should have pushed a bit harder. After all, this was a race. Based on heart rate data, I basically used this is a tough tempo run. HR max=176, HR avg=169.

I did tell the race organizers that you should NOT have the starting line 20 feet from a 90 degree turn! Just start on a straight section of wide sidewalk. I almost trampled a couple of young kids on that quick, sharp turn.

My next race is Allerton Park trail race on October 29 (6 days to go), then the Indianapolis Monumental Half-marathon one week later. That will make 4 races in 5 weeks. Good stuff.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

3 + 3 + 0 Run Program

I have a new running program! Yep, another new one. This training program is based on two books: Run Less, Run Faster and the new book by same authors, Train Smart, Run Forever. I like both books. They essentially cover the same training regime, but with a different perspective and emphasis. The later is targeted more for "aging runners" who want to keep training, racing, and running. The masters, or older, runner and racer. I'm 51, so this new book resonated well with me. Both books call for a 3+2 training plan: 3 hard runs (long, tempo, speed) with 2 serious cross training sessions each week. The newer book also incorporates stretching and weights into a total 7-hour workout week. Authors provide guidance on running paces and perceived effort too. The first book even has Boston Marathon qualifying training plans for each standard. Both books stress quality over quantity. Recovery over junk miles. And the runs are pretty hard. The cross training is not easy either--it's meant to improve aerobic capacity without adding pounding to the legs. Both books want you to train and race well, but stay injury-free. Good stuff. (NOTE: I followed the first book's ideas and did get injured--I think the paces were too fast for my abilities--I reached too far and broke). 

I have changed the plans slightly to accommodate my personal style. I call it my 3+3+0 plan. Three hard runs (long, tempo, fast), plus three days of fairly easy aerobic cross training with light core work and stretching. One day completely off from any training. Mon-Wed-Fri are cross training (elliptical, cycle, uphill walking on treadmill, rowing, etc), Tu-Th are faster runs (tempo and speed) and either Sat or Sun is the long run with the other day as rest. The big changes for me are the three high quality runs at faster paces than I've been doing, no easy/junk miles, and regular cross training. One week down and I'm loving the plan. We'll see if 4 weeks of this new plan help for my next half-marathon race in early November. The proof will be in the finish time!

Why do I think this will work for me? Less running means I'm eager to "get out there" and perform when I do run. Less chance of burn-out and injury. The cross training gives me active recovery, works different muscles, and keeps my aerobic fitness at a high level. One day off is good for family time. One weekend day is always zero training so more time with my lady. Happy wife, happy life!

Warning to readers--the three runs are definitely high quality. No messing around. These are at a high effort. Even the long runs are more steady-paced and uptempo than this guy ("slow ultrarunner") was used to doing. No more Maffetone for Chris.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Racing Teaches Lessons

I ran the Indy Half at Fort Ben in Indianapolis yesterday. Nice half-marathon race course. Good organization. But it sucked. I was terrible. Finished in 1:51. My slowest half-marathon ever. I was thinking a 1:37 was within reach (my best is 1:32:35). The cool thing about racing is that it teaches you lessons. You can't hide your weaknesses. Your faults are exposed. Well, I felt pretty naked yesterday! Plenty of faults.

What went wrong? What are my weaknesses?

1. I can't run well in the heat. The race was warm and humid. Started around 67F and went up to 77F. Humid and a little rain in the beginning, then sun and heavy humidity. Not the best racing weather. I was hoping for 50s, overcast, and dry. I need cool race-day weather.

2. My pacing was wrong. I started with the 1:35 pace group. Felt easy for first 3 miles, then I realized my mistake. With the warm weather and my inadequate training, this was too fast. I adjusted, but it was too late. The damage was done. The 1:40 group passed me fairly early, then 1:45, and eventually 1:50. I tried to stay ahead of the 1:50 group, but it was not in the cards. I was toast by mile 10. I need better and more disciplined pacing.

3. My training was inadequate. I did some reasonable long runs, but not enough race-pace training. I needed more tempo, track, and upbeat aerobic runs. Hard to race at 7:30 pace if you haven't trained at that level. My bad. The warm weather really exposed my training faults. Even if cooler weather, I would not have maintained a 7:20 pace. I need faster training.

4. I should have consumed more calories (and caffeine). I ate one gel around 8 miles, but I think one at 5 and another at 10 miles would have been wiser. With caffeine (or caffeine gum). I felt really tired and depleted--probably due mostly to the heat and poor training, but maybe lack of calories played a role too. I need more calories and caffeine.

5. My leg turn-over was slow. My cadence averaged 156. That's what I do in my slow training runs. Slogs. Again, fatigue likely played a role, but I should focus a bit more on keeping a fast cadence in training. Strides and faster running should help. If I keep a slow cadence, I'm more likely to over-stride and fatigue quicker. I need faster turn-over.

6. I'm not strong on hills. This course wasn't super hilly, but there were enough to eat me up. Including a long one around 10 miles. Running up a hill in the sun, heat, and humidity is not easy. Especially for me. Central Illinois isn't the best place to practice hill running, but I can find a few hills. I need to incorporate hills into my training.

Lots of things to work on. I control everything but the weather. I have another race test in 4 weeks: the Indianapolis Monumental half-marathon. Time to train! And hope for cool weather.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Still a Skechers Runner

Skechers GoMeb Razor
I started wearing Skechers Performance shoes around 2012. Since then, I have rotated Altra, Hoka, and Innov-8 running shoes into my lineup. As of yesterday, I now have 6 pairs of Skechers and no other brands in my rotation. The other brands are good, but Skechers always seem to work for me. I'm a Skechers guy. Their shoes are lightweight, flexible, and fairly wide in the toebox area. Good prices too. Retail around $85-$110, but they are always on sale somewhere on the web for around $55-65. Got my last pair of GoMeb Razors for $45.

My current Skechers shoes:

  • GoRun Ride 6 (daily cushioned trainer)
  • GoRun 5 (faster trainer and racer)
  • Go Meb Razor (race and fast running)
  • GoTrail 2 (trails)
  • GoRun Ultra Road (long runs, mostly roads or flat trails)
  • GoTrail Ultra (easy trails or roads, super cushy)
All of them are great, but the two ultra shoes are a bit too "tall"--they can twist your ankles on tough terrain. I'm settling in with the first three models (Run, Ride, and Razor). I'll be testing the Go Meb Razor in a half-marathon this weekend. It has a little more firm cushioning than the other shoes. Hopefully perfect for fast racing. 

If you have looked down on Skechers as a running brand, you should give them a try. Meb and Kara are sponsored athletes and they actually help with the shoe design and testing. I have really enjoyed all of their models in the performance running group. When I "retire" them from running, a good washing and they are ready for casual around-town wear--and are pretty snazzy too!

NOTE: I'm not sponsored by Skechers, but if they want to support me in any way, I'm game!