Monday, May 21, 2018

Qualify for Boston?

Should I try to qualify for Boston? I need a 3:30 marathon to qualify, probably more like 3:26 to make the cut-off to actually register. I found a somewhat local race that is a "last chance" to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon race. Race date is September 8, 2018. In fact, the race is called "Last Chance BQ.2" and it starts/ends in Batavia, IL (Chicagoland). Only about 2.5 hour drive from home. They even have a kiosk to register for Boston after the race is over and results are final.

Howl at the Moon 8-hour ultra is 82 days away. This race would be 4 weeks later. Time to recover and sharpen?

The race begins at 6:30am and runs a flat 3.21 mile loop around a scenic park and river. Aid station even has your unique water bottle with whatever you want in it! Grab, drink, throw to ground and they place it back on your labeled aid table. Cool. Howl at the Moon is a 3.29 mile loop. This race is a 3.21 mile loop. Fate? Normally I'd simply wait for race week and register if ready, but this race usually closes in late May/early June. I need to decide soon. Very soon. Should I try to qualify for Boston?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Run as I Feel (+)

I've been trying to run a fast half-marathon over the last 18 months and it hasn't really worked out. I've run some solid times for my 50+ age group (1:36-1:40), but no PRs. And I've held back on my ultra training to focus on more speed and stamina. Compromises and sacrifices. Now I have a new plan. Run as I feel. No slave to heart rate monitors or training plans. But with a slight twist...I'll add in one McMillan workout each week (mostly steady-state, tempo, tempo intervals, cruise intervals). If I'm feeling frisky, then I might try a second one. Otherwise, just run as I feel. And lately, I've been feeling and running better! Had one of my best 10-mile trail runs yesterday. Recovered well too.

The only race on my horizon is Howl at the Moon 8-hour ultra on August 11. Plenty of time to build endurance (90 days), but still have plenty of fun "just running." I've settled into a nice pace and tempo on my last few runs--around 135-145 heart rate. Feels like the top end of easy. No hard breathing, but it's more than an easy morning jaunt. Looking forward to more "good feeling" runs without concern for heart rate or pace. My body knows what it wants.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Races Force the Truth

When you race, the truth bubbles up. You can't hide unrealistic expectations. Your training is exposed. Sometimes your hopes and dreams are crushed. At other times, they are validated. This past weekend, at the Illinois Half-Marathon, reality set in...very hard. I was not prepared and I had no business trying to run a fast race. My dreams turned into a moving nightmare. It wasn't pretty.

I was doing really well through the first 6 miles. Then started to fade a bit from 6-9 miles. Then it all fell apart after 9 miles. Miles 10, 11, 12 really sucked. My legs were dead. Nothing could get me to move faster. GU gel? Run Gum? Loud music? No, no, no.

The chart above shows my declining pace as the race progressed. I went out too fast. Thought I could run a 1:38 or faster time (7:28 pace). I ran even faster than that at the beginning. Need to be more realistic in future races with a predicted finish time that I can achieve, then start at that pace. And train better. I'm not injured and I am looking forward to future races. I'll smash this sucker next year! Maybe a 1:37? 1:35? New PR of 1:33? Here are changes needed for a better performance next year:

Long runs. My longest run in the last 3 months has been 10 miles. And I've only done 3 of those! Longest run of the last 6 months was 13 miles (a previous half-marathon in early November). That is not enough distance running to build significant endurance for a half-marathon. I need many runs greater than 10 miles in the 3 months leading up to my next race (6-10 runs). And the distance should go up to 13-15 miles.

Total weekly miles. My average weekly miles for February-March-April has been 25 miles/week. Not exactly an endurance monster. I need more miles on a consistent basis. At least 30 miles per week with peaks above 40 miles. With more long runs, this should be feasible. I've always been a rather low-mileage runner. But adding just a few more miles will help.

Leg strength. I certainly need more total weekly miles to build leg strength and overall endurance. Also need to incorporate hills. Maybe even a touch of strength training! With stronger legs, I should be able to maintain a steady fast pace. Tempo runs also build leg strength. I'll mix in hills, tempo, and fast repeats to develop strong and resilient leg muscles.

Race pacing. I clearly flubbed my race pacing at this event. Went out way too fast and faded. I need to determine an achievable goal and race at that steady pace from start to finish. Maybe even begin slightly slower and get a negative split. Plus, I should build in more race pace runs during my training. In general, I have the speed, but lack stamina and endurance. My mind thinks I can go out fast and not die. This weekend showed me I'm wrong. I need to combine solid training with wise pacing.

NOTE: My niece ran her first half-marathon and finished in 1:33! She was 7th out of 327 in her age group. Awesome. Helps to be young. And fit. In my defense, my 1:40:57 finish time placed me 12th out of 121 in my age group. Not too shabby for an old ultra runner.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Illinois (half) Marathon: How Will I Do?

McNaughton Park 100 miler. Not a half-marathon!
The Illinois Marathon is Saturday, April 28. In addition to the main event, there is a half-marathon, 10k, 5k, and marathon relay. I am doing the half-marathon this year. The weather is too risky for the full marathon--it can be brutally warm and humid, or cold, rainy, and windy. I can slog through almost anything for 13.1 miles, but 26.2 miles? Not for me. I ran the full Illinois Marathon a couple of years ago and they CANCELLED the race due to lightning! I was around mile 23 and still finished, but others were forced to stop and take a bus to the finish line. If I want to suffer, I'll do a trail 100-miler (and expect shit to hit the fan).

So, how will I do in the upcoming Illinois half-marathon?
In 2016 I ran a 1:40:02 (7:37 pace).
In 2017 I ran a 1:36:50 (7:24 pace).
In 2018 I will continue the trend and run 1:34! Nope. 
In 2018 I will run faster than I did in 2016 and slower than I did last year.

I'm just not ready. I'm healthy and injury-free. I have basic endurance, but not ultra-like endurance. Most long runs have been around 10 miles. Not sure I have the stamina to hold a good pace for 13 miles. My speed is missing. I started faster running about 3 weeks ago, but it is not enough to make a sub-7:30 pace seem feasible. I'll start at about 7:30 pace and see how long I can maintain that in the race. If all goes well and I feel good (unlikely), I'll pick up the pace and crush the last 5k! If things don't go well, then I'll slowly fade as the miles tick by and I finally stumble into Memorial Stadium and that 50-yard line finish chute.

My personal best for the distance is 1:32:35 (2014 in St Louis). I believe I can break that PR...but it will need to wait until this fall. I am already registered for the Monumental Half-Marathon in Indianapolis (November). I'll be ready. Endurance, stamina, and speed.