Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Solstice Celebration Run

We've had pretty reasonable "pre-winter" weather in central Illinois. Offically, winter begins on Sunday, December 21st. What better way to celebrate than with a winter solstice run? If you're in central Illinois, there's an even better way to mark the occassion...the annual Clinton Lake winter solstice run that begins at sunrise (7:14am) on December 21. The 10-mile northfork trail provides an awesome venue to celebrate the day. Lots of hills and great views of the lake. Several local runners, including myself, will start at sunrise, trying to go for 30 miles. Others will run only 10 or 20 miles. Come one, come all. Start early, start late. No rules. Just come and run. Or hike. This is the same trail utilized for the Clinton Lake 30-Mile ultra in March. Why not practice now? Need tips and strategies for race day? Chat with the race founder (that's me!) while circling the lake. One of the current race directors will likely be there too. And plenty of previous race veterans. This is your chance to sample the course with experienced runners. We'll start from the northfork canoe access parking lot at the iron bridge (marked on map with yellow arrow).

This winter solstice run is made possible by buffalo runner Matt. For extra info and maps of the DNR area, here are links to Clinton Lake State Recreation Area. Remember, we are starting at the north fork canoe access lot off of Parnell Rd (yellow arrow on the map above). This is different from the official Clinton Lake ultra race start (which is the boat access parking lot).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marathon Training Begins!

I'm registered for the Illinois Marathon which takes place in Champaign, IL on April 25. That's about 19 weeks away. Perfect timing to start a full marathon training program. I plan on adopting an 18-week marathon program based primarily on the Hansons marathon method and their affiliated book. If I stick to the plan, it'll be my first time following a structured program. Why the more serious attempt for this marathon? I'm shooting for a Boston qualifier!

The Hansons method has a few key characteristics. The long run maxes out at only 16 miles. The program is designd to induce accumulated fatigue so the 16 miler feels like the last 16 miles of a marathon. You run 6 days per week and have two other "something of substance" runs each week--Tuesday speed or strength, plus a Thursday tempo run. Tuesday's faster session ranges from 5K pace to slightly faster than marathon pace. The Thursday tempo session is done at marathon pace...and it extends to 10 miles. With only one day of rest, and a long tempo session on Thursday, the weekend long run should be completed on slightly tired legs. Good training preparation for a full marathon.

My main worry with this program is that I don't do well on higher mileage and 6 days/week training. I tend to adavance better with more rest. Fortunately, I manage to squeeze out a lot of improvements from lower mileage training. If I stayed healthy and injury-free with higher mileage, I'm sure I'd run faster...but I normally get injured or burned-out. I'll likely add a second day of rest to the Hanson program. I'm running on older legs than a twenty year old...or thirty year old...and I need more rest and recovery.

When I run the Illinois Marathon in April of 2015, I'll be 49 years old. If I qualify and run Boston in 2016, I'll be 50. That means I "only" need a 3:30 at Illinois Marathon to qualify for the 2016 Boston race. Seems doable. You usually need a 2 minute cushion on your qualifying time to actually register for Boston. So, I need to shoot for a 3:28 or better. I'll be aiming for a 3:25 finish. In my dreams, I'll be crossing the finish line at 3:20. Maybe 3:19:59. We all need to dream.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Regular Running Route

I finally have a regular running route. I don't run it every single day, but it's my "go to" route when I have nothing else planned. It's a 7-mile, mostly trail loop, with an out and back road section. The begining (and end) road section allows me to warm-up and cool-down. Seven miles is just the right distance for me--not too long and not too short.  I can run it before or after work and still do other things. A one-hour run feels good. Not tired afterward, but I also feel like I accomplished something. Five miles doesn't cut it. More miles takes just a bit too long (especially before work). In addition to being the right distance, it's the right route. I have a short walk before I start running (and also at the end before walking home) and I know exactly where I start to run and where it will end. It's great having a regular route. I know each mile mark. I know each hill. I know where the wind howls and where I'm sheltered. It's comforting. And when I hit the stop button on my GPS watch, I know whether it was a good or bad run (timewise). I know what my average heart rate should be for the full route. There's certainly a place for variety in routes, but it's really nice to have a regular running route. It's not the fanciest route, but it's mine...and I like it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Skechers Still My Favorite Running Shoes?

Go Ultra from
Over this past year, I've tried several new running shoes that are not from the Skechers Performance line--Hoka, Altra, and Montrail. The Hoka and Altras just didn't fit right. Hoka Clifton was too narrow in the toebox (common problem for Hokas) and the Altra One2 was just a bit short and tight all over (a bit unusual for them, but this is their racing/speed shoe). Fortunately, I still love my Skechers shoes. Here are the 5 models I currently have in rotation:
  • Go Bionic (road)
  • Go Run 3
  • Go Bionic trail
  • Go Run Ride 3
  • Go Run Ultra
All of them work well. They have three key common characteristics that I look for in all of my shoes: lightweight and flexible with wide forefoot/toebox. Also, they tend to be very reasonably priced (I rarely pay more than $60 since thay are always on sale somewhere). Still, I'm always looking for that "next perfect" shoe. So, about a month ago, I found the Montrail Fluidflex 2 on sale and grabbed it. It's lightweight and fairly flexible. Past shoe reviews seemed to indicate it had a wide forefoot. It's OK, but not really wide. I've had several runs in them and it's a good shoe.'s not as comfy as my Skechers. It does hold my foot well in the heel and midfoot, and it might RACE better than my Skechers for short trail distances (5-7 miles). For regular training and longer racing, I'd still go with my trusty Skechers. 

The Go Run 3 is a fantastic mid distance shoe (3-13 miles), the Go Ultra is a great long distance shoe (30-50 miles). The Go Ride 3 fills the gap for runs and races from 13-30 miles. The Go Bionic trail is a nifty trail runner for almost any distance up to about 50K (31 miles). The Go Bionic road shoe is a fast racer and speed shoe--great for 5K races and speedy repeat workouts. I suppose no SINGLE Skechers model is my perfect shoe, but the full lineup fits all of my needs.  I cannot complain. Skechers running shoes are still my favorites. The Go Run 3 lead me to a new half-marathon PR. The Go Ultra got me to a new 50 mile PR. 

I'll keep looking, but I have a feeling my next "perfect shoe" will simply be a new Skechers Performance model. Maybe the new Go Run 4? Or the Go Ultra 2 (not out yet)? With Meb and Kara as sponsored athletes, I have confidence the brand will continue to grow and produce quality shoes.