Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Predict My Illinois Marathon Finish

I was pleased with my Clinton Lake: Predict My Finish blog post and replies. It got me thinking about what is possible, what is likely, and what I might need to be afraid of...or not. And I exceeded my expectations and predictions! In just over a week I have another race. Let's take a look at my first road marathon in 13 years: the Illinois Marathon on April 26th. Yes, it's been THAT long since I ran a ROAD marathon.

The fact that I haven't run a road marathon since 2001 (Chicago) says something about me. I don't like road races. I particularly don't like road marathons. Too much pounding on the streets. Trails may be difficult, but they generally don't beat you up with repetitive stress. Since the Illinois Marathon is in Champaign-Urbana, only 10 miles from home, I figured I'd give it a try. Way back around Thanksgiving, I thought this might be my Boston Qualifier attempt. That isn't going to happen. With the brutal winter weather, my training was pathetic. I've only recently gotten reasonable weekly miles and a couple of long runs. Still woefully unprepared, but I'm going to start...and finish...this marathon.

So, what might be my finish time at the Illinois Marathon?

Here are a couple of scenarios (from best to worst):

1. The weather cooperates and I run the hell out of this race! My "best effort" for this road marathon would likely be around a 3:45 finish. Not great, but OK. I would be extremely happy with this time. I give myself a 20% chance of achieving this goal. If I had another month to train, I'd think this was an "easy" goal. Not today.

2. Finish around 3:59...just breaking the 4-hour barrier. This is most likely. I think I can average 9:00 miles. I'd estimate this is about 50% likely. Sounds easy, but I'm not sure.

3. If things don't go well, I'll get discouraged and I'll probably end up with a 4:30 finish. About 20% chance of this outcome. I would really be disappointed with this kind of finish.

4. I "thoroughly" enjoy the day, chat with volunteers, including the buffalo aid station, and walk-jog the entire route. Finish with a time around 5:00. Well, maybe I sprint to the end and beat the 5-hour clock. Let's call it 4:59. About a 5% chance. This is not my plan and I think I can avoid the aid station temptations.

5. Did not finish (DNF). Fairly unlikely, but it's possible. I could push too hard and get injured. It could be a miserable day and I give up. 5% chance of this outcome.

Any thoughts from you, my loyal and dedicated readers and friends? How will this race play out? Will I knock off ultra/marathon #91?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Heart Rate Reserve


I'm really starting to get back in running shape. I'm gaining confidence. I'm getting faster. I'm running within my limits. How? Heart rate training using heart rate reserve percentages for specific workouts...including my easy runs.

Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) = Maximum HR-Resting HR
% HRR = %(Max HR-Resting HR) + Resting HR

Basically, it's the percent of reserve heart beats that you have to work with above resting HR. Slightly different than just % of maximum HR. You then have specific zones for your target goals (recovery, tempo, vO2 max, etc). For me, my max is 190, my resting is 50. So my various HRR zones are (based on Roy Benson effort-based training):

Max Recovery= 60-65% = 134-141
Jogging Fat Burning = 65-70% = 141-148
Long Endurance = 60-75% = 134-155
Stamina = 75-80% = 155-162
Tempo AT = 80-85% = 162-169
VO2 Max = 90-95% = 176-183

I recover when I'm supposed to and I work hard (but not too hard) when I need to to reach my goals. Most runners do too many middle effort runs, but never go easy enough on easy days, or hard enough on hard days. Everything ends up "not easy, not hard"--and you don't develop into a fit and efficient runner. Runners need to mix paces (efforts) with a rationale.

In addition to training efforts, you can target racing efforts:

5K = 93-97%
10K = 85-89%
Half Marathon = 80-84%
Marathon = 75-79%

Pretty convenient to have set target effort-based goals for racing and training! If it's hotter, your HR will be higher, your effort will remain the same, but you'll need to slow down to keep in the same HR zone. If it's cooler, you run faster for same HR. More stress in your life means a higher heart rate and thus slower paces. Give it a try and you may just develop into a fitter, and injury-free, runner. And your races may be under control and efficient.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Clinton Lake 30 Race Report

Last weekend I ran the Clinton Lake 30-Mile Trail Race in central Illinois. It's on a hilly 10-mile loop course. Great way to start spring racing season! I know this course (and race) very well. I started the darn thing back in 2007! This is also where I try and do my serious training. Unfortunately, this winter saw me on the treadmill and roads a LOT more than trails. I wasn't ready for a trail ultramarathon. But, you do what you can! I gave it a go...and it worked out well. Better than expected finish time of 5:42. I doubted I could break 6 hours. This has given me a lot of confidence that I can run and race fairly well if I stay patient and controlled. I ran all three loops holding back and running at a moderate pace Walked all the hills too. At the 25 mile mark, I kicked it up a notch to try and catch my running partner Matt...but he was too strong. I lost him by mile 27 and really struggled those last 3 miles to the finish line. That's OK. I beat my predicted time goals, finished uninjured, and enjoyed the day. It was fun catching up with runners I hadn't seen in months. Great family reunion.

Lessons learned at this race?

Stay positive and run under control. There is always time to push harder. Let the first 10 or 20 miles warm you up and see how the body and mind is handling the day. If you still feel great, then push the pace. I'm glad I waited until 25 miles to crank it up...it would have been a miserable day if I tried to go faster at 10 or 15 miles.

Another lesson...eat and drink as needed, but don't force the fluids or food. Take electrolyte pills on a regular schedule depending on heat/humidity. I carried a water bottle with sports drink, but only drank when I was thirsty. I would fill it at each aid station and grab a little food to go. Sometimes we worry too much about nutrition during a race. Do what seems natural--eat and drink what your body craves. If I ate a little more, I might have had the energy to carry me through those last 3 miles, but I may have had stomach issues too. It's a balance.

Even if your training is less than ideal, if you can reach the starting line healthy and injury free, you are ahead of many runners. Do what you can. With inadequate training, the pressure to perform is off so you can run smooth and steady without concern for a specific pace. You might surprise yourself and actually have a good time...both "finish time" and "fun time." I thoroughly enjoyed all 30 miles...and I ended up with a respectable 30th place out of 110 starters (97 finishers). I am happy with that performance...and looking forward to more good ultra races in the future.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clinton Lake Race: Predict My Finish

Clinton Lake Race
In four days, on Saturday morning, I'll attempt the Clinton Lake 30-Mile Trail Race. It's familiar terrain. I train there. The race is familiar too. I started it. None of that matters when you toe the starting line. You never know what'll happen. With the extreme winter, I haven't had solid training. Very few long runs. To put it bluntly, I'm unprepared. Really unprepared. I have no business even attempting this race. In this year's previous race attempts, I'm 0-3. I'd rather not end up 0-4. So, how do I think I'll do? How do you think I'll do?  Here are three possible scenarios.

Scenario #1: My first run at Clinton Lake in the last 3 months was this past Sunday. I did one 10-mile trail loop in 1:46. That's an OK time. Nothing fast, but not extremely slow either. If things go well this weekend, I might be able to average 2-hour loops and end up with a 6 hour finish time. Maybe even 5:59. Yeah, let's say 5 hours, 59 minutes is the best I can do. I'd be happy with that finish time. I'm thinking lap splits of 1:50-2:00-2:09 = 5:59. Doable, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Plus, pushing this hard will bring risk of injury.

Scenario #2: I haven't run much and I'm ill prepared to race 30 miles on hilly trails. I should take it easy and just finish. Seriously control my instincts and go with the back-of-the-pack runners and walkers. Hang out at aid stations, enjoy the day, socialize. It could be a very easy long run. I can imagine 2:30 splits for each loop with a finish time of 7:30. We'll under the 8-hour cut-off. If things go south, I still have a 30 minute cushion. I finish the day without injury and feeling strong. Not a bad idea, eh?

Scenario #3: I do not finish, DNF. It's possible. I might push too hard and get injured. I might be going along at a reasonable pace, get too tired, and feel that 20 miles is enough. I might "enjoy" myself so much at aid stations that I miss the cut-off and "finish" after 8 hours. I can also see several situations where I drop out at 20 or 25 miles. I've heard that canoe aid station (aka, "The Iron Bridge Bar & Grill") is pretty alluring. It's siren song may capture me and never let me go! Lounge chair, beer, veggie burgers, fire pit, good music, fun time...

So, what do you think? 
Do I run well and achieve a 5:59 finish time?
Take it extremely easy and finish around 7:30?
Or do I get another DNF and go 0-4?

UPDATE (March 29, 2014): Finished the race in 5:42! Sweet.