Saturday, October 29, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 14: Let the taper begin

     Recovery: 4 miles (Mon): After about 10 steps into it I knew my regular Monday morning tempo just wasn't going to happen. Even for recovery miles they were kinda slow. Glad that tapering has started. Energy levels should be in high gear by this time next week.

     Tempo: 10 miles (Tues): Energy level still a little low, but I ended up with an average time for this course. Kicked it around in the 7's for awhile, then finished up in the 8's. The hay is in the barn. All I need to do is maintain it till Nov 12th when it goes to the market. I doubt one slow tempo will have much effect in the grand scheme of things.

     Intervals: 8.5 miles (Thurs): Physically I was ready to get back at it, but mentally I just didn't want to push the paces. My initial taper strategy, to maintain intensity while decreasing mileage is somewhat controversial in that many plans actually call for decreased intensity during the taper. Now that I've had 5 days of reduced workload I'm just loving it so much that pushing the pace past anything more than a slight effort seems beyond consideration. I'm just gonna play it by ear rather than force anything right now. Typical interval paces at the Explore Park beginner trail are sprints in the 7's and recoveries in the 9's, today was 8's and 10's. Its been a long 13 weeks of base and endurance building, so I guess physically I'm just soaking up the reduced work load this week. Time will tell.

     Long: 14 miles (Sat): Felt really good out there today, never really felt like I was pushing it, but still had a solid pace of 7:37 and felt like I could have kept it up all day. Two weeks before Richmond last year I ran my dedicated parkway 12 mile route with a 7:11 pace and I had debated trying to beat that today, but the more I read up on tapering last night the more I felt like leaning to the cutting back intensity and mileage route instead of just mileage. I guess we will see how it all plays out in two weeks.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Greenway Memory 10 Miler Race Report with BONUS Into the Darkness Recap!

     That's right! I don't know what other blogs you may follow..., but today Cardioholics Anonymous is practically giving content away by offering TWO (Count 'em 1...2...) reviews of two different races all for the unbelievably low caloric expenditure of ONE mouse click! If you can find a better deal anywhere, just leave a comment below and I'll MATCH IT!!!

                                    Greenway Memory 10 Miler

     What a day! The Greenway Memory 10 Mile race was to be my 3rd and final warm up race heading into the Richmond Marathon on Nov 12th. I often plug numbers into THIS calculator to determine a ball park estimate of what my finish time in Richmond might look like. My hope was that race day adrenaline would push me to a max performance and give me some confidence boosting numbers to put in the calculator.

     To be fair, the Roanoke River Greenway is a very flat location to run on and with my experience evaluating elevation profiles, I had expected some good numbers. A few weeks ago I had come out here and ran the bulk of the course as a 10 mile tempo run with the goal of kicking each mile in the high 6's. I couldn't quite pull it off that day with my 9th and 10th miles dropping into the low 7's, and this race seemed like a good shot at a 2nd chance. Also, I wanted to test a theory about pacing and determine if their might be any benefit to holding back early in a race in order to finish stronger in the later miles.

     I'm not going to go into much detail about the race itself, it was very flat, I established 4th place during the 1st mile, I eventually got passed around mile 4, and I held 5th place from that point on. I took in water at a rate of 1 sip per mile using what I was carrying plus what little I could splash towards my mouth as I ran past the aid stations, and I used a gummy type snack product from Kellogs for during race "nutrition" which I hit rather hard during miles 5 and 7.

     Crossing the finish line, I once again had no idea what my overall time was since I tend to get so focused on sprinting to the line, that I can't actually get any bearing on the remainder of the surrounding environment, including the time clock. Come to find out that I finished with a 1:07:39 and when you plug that into the calculator above, you get 3:11 for a marathon finish time, which is exactly what I was looking for! Interesting note is that I used a mathematical ratio in a previous post on Oct 18th and came up with that exact same time for hour and minute...hopefully its a sign.

     As for my pacing theory, well, Garmin statistics for this race prove to me that there would have been no benefit at all to starting out slower that full speed. This does fly in the face of conventional wisdom and after a post race conversation with James I., I deemed it likely that the idea of running slower in the early miles in order to run harder in the later miles is probably a valid strategy for folks who racing distances on the high end of their range. If I were to break it down to a formula I'd say to start running at max effort, then determine the distance you can run before fatigue starts to limit your pace to about 80% of what your first mile was, multiply that number by .65 (rough estimate) and then I'd call that my "max effort" distance where pacing has limited to no benefit.

     That said, I do think that for training purposes pacing can be a fun way to introduce variety into a training run, and in a sport with as much repetitiveness and monotony as running has we need all the fun and variety we can introduce into it.

  Ok, to keep a long post short...I had a lot more running to do today, so after the awards ceremony (5th overall, 1st among 40-44 yr old) I went home, changed into trail shoes and scooted around the Chestnut Ridge Loop trail for 2 laps to get a total of 23 miles running. My daughter, Faith, and I were going to hike the Anthem Into the Darkness 4 mile night trail race that evening, so I knew I wouldn't be able to use those miles for training purposes, but they did serve a valuable purpose.

                               Anthem Into The Darkness 4 Miler

     I had been wanting to see my daughter, Faith, take a little more interest in the cardio disciplines for some time, so when she expressed an interest in hiking the Into the Darkness 4 mile night race with me I jumped at the opportunity to drop down out of competition mode and enjoy the Roanoke Valleys premier "fun run" as just opportunity to mix some more fun in with my past time/passion.

     As a guy who usually trains solo, even on trails, I have had to pick up on a few survival skills in the event of an emergency. One of those skills is that "mentally" I have to be ready to wrestle a bear in the event that one should present a threat. I have literally ran across a few bears over the years, but they all either ignored me or became intimidated by my speed, stamina and/or endurance, and they ran away. My daughter, being a bit of a cautious child, decided that since my bear wrestling skills had not been tested that she might benefit from wearing "bear bells" to scare away the bears. (Pictured above is Faith wearing her dalmatian costume with at least 4 "bear bells" sewn into it.)

    As a strategy Faith and I decided we would alternate between running, jogging, and walking every half mile. I felt this might be a bit ambitious given her lack of specific training, but I knew with her cheering practices that she was getting good conditioning for an hour or two of physical activity at a time, so we went with it.

     Faith and I had registered as walkers, so we watched the racers take off and waited for our run/walk wave to start 10 minutes later. Finally the horn sounds and were off! We quickly establish a comfortable little "scoot" and make our way along the long downhill section of the route, after about 1/2 a mile we switch over to walking speed and keep on movin' down hill for the remainder of the first mile.

     Just before the one mile mark the course switches over to single track trail and stays that way for the remaining 3 miles. At that point I ask Faith if she's ready to pick up the pace, but she says we need to take it easy a little longer so we walk a ways and chat about school, Halloween, forest animals, and a trail hike she did with her cousin a few months back.

     Then, just as we were getting past the 1 mile pumpkin marker, we ran into a mother/daughter team who were moving right at about the same pace that Faith and I had settled into. The two girls hit it off really well and just got to chattin', so without even saying a word we just moved along at a good hike pace as a group. It was very dark out or I might have recognized the child's mother as Pam R., whom I had very briefly met at another race I did a few months back in Damascus. After the formal introductions were made the girls just kept up their conversations and it turned out this was Sophie's first trail event too, and both girls like to read, and have similar tastes in TV, and animals, so the miles slipped right on by without even one word of being tired, or wanting to stop, or something hurting. Here are their pictures at the 2nd and 3rd mile markers:

     So, we finish our night hike, and the girls are thrilled with their accomplishment. We head over to the main building where the Mountain Junkies have laid out an excellent assortment of post race food that included two types of pasta, bagels, peanut butter crispy treats and hot chocolate. Here are some pics of the girls eating and lounging after their meal:

     In summary, a good time was had by all. Faith is still excited about her accomplishment and she is happy to have made a friend that she is likely to see at future events. As for Daddy, well...I got to finish an event in last place. This was an important accomplishment for me because at the last 2 events I went to I overheard random people say they just don't want to finish last, now that I've done it I just don't see what the big deal is...finishing last IS finishing...I just don't want to be the guy that never started!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 13: *The Hay Is In The Barn*

   *The Hay is In The Barn* is a Hal Higdon expression refering to the point in training when you can't get any faster or increase your endurance before race day, but you can still get injured or lose fitness. In other words...Let The Taper Begin! 

     Tempo: 12 Miles (Mon): I guess I still had some lingering fatigue issues from Saturdays 20 miler cause I never really could find my target paces out there today. I pushed where I could, but for a tempo run it was really just sluggish. Still, the final overall pace of 7:44 does represent about a better than average time for me on this course, just not an excellent one like last Mondays 7:11. Here is the comparison data:

     Intervals: 12 Miles (Wed): Steady cold drizzle outside influenced me to take the interval routine to the treadmill for a 2nd week in a row. Sticking with last Wednesday's template, I through a 1000yd indoor pool swim into the workout after mile 6. I'm not certain what influence the non-continuous running routine is having on my interval training, but at this point the "hay is pretty much in the barn", so I'm not gonna stress on it too much. Compared to last Wednesday R1 was considerably faster, T1 was twice as long, S1 was slightly longer, T2 was about the same, and R2 was a good bit faster. The main thing is the running was faster on both ends, so I'm not overly concerned with the rest of it.

     Long: 22 Miles (Sat): Split my scheduled 22 mile long run up into 4 segments with a good 2 hour break between the 3rd and 4th segment.Not sure how splitting it into segments compares with continuous running, but I really wanted to do the 10 mile race figuring it to be my best chance to run 10 with no miles slower than a 7 min/mile. Happy to say I did succeed in that goal. After the race, I ran 2 laps of the Chestnut Ridge Trail at a very comfortable pace to get my mileage in. Then I hike a 4 mile night trail race with my daughter at the end of the day. All in all it was a 27 mile day, with 23 running and 4 hiking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Richmond Marathon Mindset (where I'm at mentally heading into next weeks taper)

                                                           The EVENT

This year will be my 2nd running of the Richmond Marathon in 2 years. My first running of this marathon last year became something of an enigma to me and in the back of my mind almost everyday since I've felt a calling to come back and make a more definitive statement about what I'm capable of at this distance. Last year's running of the Richmond Marathon was certainly an accomplishment to be proud of with a 3:35:30 finish time, but I have never really gotten over what happened to me at about mile 19-20. I was holding my own with the 3:20 pace team and then I just stopped digging. My feet had been hurting, my speeds had dropped from the 7 min/mile paces into the 8's, and mentally I gave in to fatigue and ended up walking about half of the last 6 miles. For my own peace of mind I have to come back..., and finish strong!

     Now the nature of marathon training is a bit different than with shorter events in that typical training routines only take you up to 4/5ths of the distance being trained for. (That would be a peak 20 mile training run for a 26.2 mile event). Whereas most other shorter distances, say a 13.1 mile half marathon, typically call for weekly long runs in excess of the distance being trained for such as 14-16 miles. A few mathematical calculations and the truth becomes almost evident...I didn't respect the distance and I didn't anticipate for it very well.


     This year I have tried to take a more disciplined approach to my training without following a prescription training plan. Part of the appeal of running for me is designing my own training plans in a way that combines fun, hard work, variety, and challenges. Last year my training and the race itself were basically just following the "run the distance as fast as you can" technique. This has worked remarkably well for me overall in that I typically finish street races in the top 10 or at least in the top 10%. This technique didn't work so well at the 26.2 mile distance, so I've made some changes this year.

     Each week typically has 4 running days with a tempo day, an interval day, a recovery day and a long run day. During the first 8 weeks of the 16 week plan I also cross trained with roughly 40-80 miles of cycling over the 2 days that I didn't run and about a mile of swimming after the recovery run. After 8 weeks of that I started seeing a decrease in running performance, so I dropped the cycling down to once a week for short mileage and added more swimming and resting and that seems to have helped get my results back on par with my expectations.

     Also,this year I'm maxing out my training with a 50 mile week as opposed to a 40(ish) mile week last year, I'm focusing more on pacing in the low 7's and less on maintaining my low 6's 5k pace, and as I write this paragraph (during week 13 of training) my intention will be to taper with a lot more emphasis on maintaining intensity as I decrease my mileage base.


    Too many variables make statistical predictions somewhat less than accurate, however here are some number patterns I'm seeing based on the first 13 weeks stats. A) Last years fastest 20 miler was done with a pace of 8:32 and I finished the marathon with a pace of 8:13, using a mathematical ratio with this years best 20 miler pace of 7:36 we get 8:32/8:13=7:36/x, where solving the equation would make x=7:19. This statistical comparison would indicate that I will finish with a time of 3 hours 11 min which is 4 minutes faster than 2013 Boston Qualifying and 9 minutes faster than 2012 Boston Qualifying.
     The above ratio however does not take into consideration differences in last years 20 miler elevation profile and this years which was an easier route. Last years 20 miler had roughly 3x the elevation change that Richmond has and this years best 20 miler had about 1/4 as much. Now my elevation change handicap is roughly a loss of 15 seconds per mile for every 1000 foot of elevation change over a 20 mile distance. Factoring the elevation handicap into the above equation we get 8:32/8:13=7:51/x where x solves to equal a pace of 7:33 which is 6 seconds per mile slower than the 2013 Boston Qualifying pace of 7:27, but still 4 seconds per mile faster than 2012 Boston Qualifying. This number is also strikingly close to my 2nd best 20 miler pace of 7:58 when you consider that it had 2.5 x the elevation change of Richmond AND I held way back on the downhills.

     What about heart? You can't measure that statistically, or experience either for that matter. Knowing what to expect is invaluable and knowing my determination and aptitude for focusing on a given task I think I'm going to call my race day finish time in at 3:10 for a perfect race, 3:18 probable and 3:25 for a good bet.

     In summary...beating last years 3:35 and getting a PR is likely barring unforeseen circumstance. Qualifying for the 2012 Boston Marathon, which is already full, with a 3:20 or better is a 50/50 shot, and Qualify for 2013 Boston with a 3:15 or better is a statistical long shot, but within the realm of possibility.

     Did I mention I love statistics and number crunching? This is fun for

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 12: Peak Mileage Week (50+)

     Tempo: 12 miles (Mon): This was my first of 3 attempts at a 12 mile tempo run for this training cycle. I try to set new PR's on my Dedicated Parkway routes during my tempo runs and I had been somewhat pessimistic about this one because I set it during the taper period of marathon training training last year when I was truly at my best for this distance. In my first attempt today I missed the course record by 3 seconds. I can be happy with that even if I don't beat it during this training cycle. Here is the today-vs-course record Garmin data: I'm undecided if I will use my other two 12 mile tempo runs to try and beat the course record. In this instance close enough may be close enough and I may use at least one tempo on a level course for variety's sake.

     Intervals: 12 miles (Wed): Used the treadmill again for this interval run. The numbers aren't really good for comparative purposes because I threw in a 1000yd swim right after the 6th mile. I really like a good treadmill run when its 4 miles long, but 12 miles on a treadmill sucks so I had to break up the monotony with something. I just can't evaluate this workout from a marathon training perspective, but I'm sure it was beneficial on some level.

     Recovery: 6 miles (Thurs): Emphasizing comfort and just staying active. This is going to be my peak mileage week for the current training cycle and I want to get as much out of my recovery miles as possible by not pushing the pace at all.

     Long: 20 miles (Sat): At this point in the current training cycle every run seems like its some kind of critical, all defining referendum on my chances of achieving a specific goal pace of 7:27 in Richmond next month. If that is so then I'd have to say that this week and this run in particular have been very encouraging. Even though my pace today was an avg of 7:36 and I was fading, I know that race day adrenalin can push me to exceed my best training run. This week was my first week of running 50+ miles and most miles were clocked in the low 7"s. Today was also my fastest 20 miler to date and with 1 more week of hard running and 3 weeks of tapering to look forward to I feel great about my odds of a PR and relatively good about my odds of Boston Qualifying!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Randomness...(with a side order of sarcasm)

1) Overcoming negative thoughts. Sometimes a negative thought can creep in while trying to maintain a challenging pace. Usually it says something like "slow down", "this is too fast", or "your not ready for this yet". At times like that I think the best approach is just to grab a baseball bat and whack myself in the shins real good. After awhile my mind will start to associate negative thoughts with pain and eventually it will suppress negative thoughts altogether in order to avoid pain.

2) Pacing. Last year while running the Richmond Marathon I "bonked" after about 19-20 miles and had to walk/run the remainder of the race. In all the miles I've ever ran, that and GU energy gels, are the worst memories I've got. As a rule of thumb I like to give it all I got right from the word go. Start out with a violent pace and hold it till I cross the finish line. Unfortunately that strategy didn't work out so well over 26.2 miles last year so I've been playing with pacing myself a little bit during this current training cycle. I think I may try to just run with one of the pace teams from start to finish this year in Richmond and just see how it goes.

3) Listening to your body. In athletic circles I tend to hear a lot of talk about "listen to my body" as it refers to avoiding injuries. Thats all good, but what about when my body is lying or saying mean things like "Ouch! This hurts!" or "I need a Doctor! QUICK!" In times like that I think it's best to revisit random thought #1 and possibly modify it by applying the blunt force trauma directly to the head...because nothing says "Stop lying to me!" like a blunt force trauma wound to the head. Incidentally, if my body continues with the same chatter even after my self guided therapy, then I would have a good idea that maybe their actually is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Training for Richmond: Week 11

     Tempo: 10 miles (Mon): Happy to see this tempo run finished with an overall pace under a 7 min/mile. I wanted to see if I could keep all 10 miles at a sub 7 pace, but mile 9 saw me needing a recovery mile and mile 10 I was on the verge of a comeback, but not there yet. I believe if I had been due another mile or 2 I probably could have got back in the 6's. Oh well, it was a great very flat run on the Roanoke River Greenway and it was my fastest 10 miler to date. Last weeks 10 mile tempo was a course PR, but I was a little disappointed with the avg. pace. This week I effectively eliminated the elevation gain and loss and that seems to have made a significant difference. Here is the Garmin comparison data:

     Intervals: 12 Miles (Wed): Even though I was due for an interval workout on one of my asphalt courses, I wanted to see if I could detect any significant week to week improvements by swapping my regular Tuesday x-training over to swimming from cycling so I went back to Explore Park to run interval laps on the beginner trail. Week to week comparison data looks reassuring that I did the right thing. I held target paces of 9's and 7's for 11 laps this week vs 9 last week and I kept the burn out paces in the 8's and 10's versus 9's and 11's a week ago. Think I'll stick to the more swimming, less cycling x-training strategy for now.

     Recovery: 5 Miles (Fri): Just jostling the bones around to get in the miles and not burn myself out for tomorrows long run. Intended to do it all on the Chestnut Ridge trail, but my gas tank was low and I didn't have my wallet so I went to the closer trails at Explore Park. That didn't work out so well for a trail run either as I thought I smelled a bear on the beginner loop and ended up running most of the 5 miles on the streets. I ran it progressively with a slow cool down mile at the end. Not really a challenge since I started out so slow.

     Long: 20 Miles (Sat): I went out looking for just a comfortable 20 mile route, but I didn't feel like driving somewhere flat, so I decided just to run 5 laps of my primary 4 mile loop. I intended to run every mile in the high 7's which translates into a downhill slow/uphill fast strategy. I pegged it for the first 18 miles, but the 18th mile was tough and I knew I needed to fall back on my paces to finish up. Ultimately content that I still pulled off an average pace in the high 7's for my first 20 miler of the current training cycle. Interestingly enough, my first long run of this training cycle from week 1 was 3 laps of this same route and my final pace ended up in the mid 8's... you say "massive improvement" ? I knew that you could!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weight Management

     My journey from a life of pseudo foods, pharmaceuticals, and obesity to one of health has mostly been motivated by a numbers game. It's not like I was just sitting around one day and said "Hey! I think I'm gonna train for a foot race or a triathlon!" No. For me it was about weight management. Everyday I step on the scale at least twice. Once after breakfast and once after my exercises. Then I reflect on what I did over the past 24 hours. Gradually over time I figured out that the simpler I made my routine, the easier it would be to tweak for changes so that I could determine what works for me.

     The above chart (Click it to Enlarge) is one year of entries using the Garmin Connect software, but there are many options available including pen and paper for those so inclined. I think the most startling thing that I have learned on this journey so far is that maintaining a statistically perfect ideal body weight is only slightly easier than losing excess weight in the first place.

     Looking at the chart over recent weeks I can see that my weight is trending up slightly. I can conclude several possible reasons for this. A) I'm gaining muscle mass, which my recent bench press PR would support. B) I'm eating too much ice cream, which I do tend to consume to regulate my weight upwards whenever I regularly drop below 160 Or, C) Too much processed foods, including meats, since marathon training can make me a bit ravenous and indiscriminate with my food choices.

    All in all, it's some combination of the 3 and if I start trending above 170 I know exactly what to do to bring it back down. A) Stop lifting weights and/or increase cardio intensity so as to burn muscle mass. B) Ditch the ice cream. Or C) Decrease my percentage of processed foods. Again, the course of action would undoubtedly be some combination of the 3.

     The idea I'm wanting to present here is just that if weight management is important to an individual, then it requires monitoring and actions to regulate it. It's kinda easy really and it just takes a few minutes a day. I learned what works for me and I believe everybody can learn what works for them. Some people may be able to do it with little to no exercise and almost all with dietary adjustments, others may be the opposite. Probably, I believe, it will be some combination of the two and you just have to establish a routine then tweak it to get the results you want.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 10

     Tempo: 10 Miles (Mon): Established a new PR for this route by just under 2 minutes. Content, but not incredibly happy with todays effort. For some reason this particular 10 mile course challenges me in ways that other 10 mile courses can't. Recent statistics would support me running a 72 min to 74 min 10 mile tempo run. I'm going to be content with this PR and just let it ride, but next weeks 10 mile tempo will have a flatter elevation profile.
     Here is the Garmin comparison data for todays new PR versus the old PR set on July 16th 2011

     Intervals: 12 Miles (Wed): Maintained the same target paces of 7's and 9's as was the case the 2 other times I did my interval workouts here during weeks 4 and 6. I just missed the target 7 on lap 10 and then I just took the last 4 laps at much slower targets of 9's and 11's. Consistent with weeks past, I just don't do as well on Wednesdays probably due to the vigorous cycling that I tend to do on Tuesdays ( As compared to week 6, where I hit all targets for 12 laps on a Monday, I faded out early. Yet, as compared to week 4, where I barely hit any targets over the 9 laps, I did exceptionally well.
     Recovery: 4 miles (Fri): I done good. Sometimes it hurts to hold back when I really want to let loose, but tomorrow is long run day and I don't want to go into it with any fatigue. Also worth mentioning is that I'll be tweaking my cross training routine towards less cycling and more swimming. I had hoped the 60-100 miles of cycling per week would go a long way towards conditioning me for longer and longer workouts, it seemed to be helping for awhile, but at this point it seems to just be burning me out instead. Besides now that my weekly running mileage is higher than its ever been I need to take extra precautions to not over do it. This blog is called Cardioholics Anonymous for a remind me and others not to over do it with training and end up injured or neglecting other aspects of life.

     Long: 18 miles (Sat):  The first 12 miles of this course is the south bound version of the 18 miler I ran 2 weeks ago and the last 6 miles are identical. My mindset was that I wanted to toy with the idea of pacing in mid 7's. Ultimately pacing is not a practical idea where I run because of the huge differences in elevation gain and loss from one mile to the next, but I seem to have done ok with it. I was also experimenting with nuun electrolyte tablets and breaking in new shoes. The new shoes did cause some discomfort, but after the run was over I felt a lot stronger than what I can describe as typical, so maybe the electrolyte tablets helped. Interesting that this 18 mile run was only 2 seconds faster than the one I did 2 weeks ago, I guess thats what they call consistency. Final avg pace of 7:42 is 15 seconds slower than a Boston Qualifying pace, but conventional wisdom suggests that its nothing to be discouraged about. 3 more long runs to go...2-20's and 1-22 miler. Here is the comparison data from the 18 miler 2 weeks ago, I'm omitting the 18 miler from last week since it was intentionally slow.