Garmins, Gear and Groundwork – 3 weeks to Buffalo

Prepping for a 12 miler today. I’ve fortunately been pretty healthy over the last 6 weeks. Today I have a little bit of a tweak in my left shin, so hopefully that won’t blow up into more of a problem. Figure I’ll just tape it up and get a wrap on it.

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I am a little concerned that I haven’t been putting enough work in though. I tend not to do quite the kind of mileage that you find in the half-marathon training plans. I mentioned in a previous post that I ran my fastest half last year on 20 mile weeks, but of course as runners we are all concerned with getting that PR, and so I have to wonder if maybe I’m doing myself a disservice by undertraining. Lately I’ve been sticking mostly to a schedule of 2-3 road runs, 2 shorter treadmill runs, a couple of XT sessions on the bike, and a couple of core strength workouts each week. I’ve slowly worked up my mileage to just shy of 30 per week running and 12-15 miles of cycling. This is a little less than the 35 miles of running suggested by Higdon, as an example, but they are quality miles I think. My shorter road runs are generally done at a pretty fast tempo, about 90% of full on. So a typical week has looked like this:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4 miles treadmill (run at 8:00/mile),  XT cycling 6 miles, core strength x 20-30 mins
Wednesday: 6-7 miles tempo (generally run at about a 7:30/mile pace)
Thursday: XT cycling 6 miles + core strength x 20-30 mins
Friday: Rest or speedwork x 4 miles (depending on length of Sunday’s run)
Saturday: 4 miles treadmill (run at 8:00/mile)
Sunday: 8 or 12 miles (alternating weeks, run at 9:00-9:15/mile)

There have been some ah, deviations, from this.

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When I say deviations, I mostly mean that I’ve been a bit lazy with the XT some weeks. And the core strength. And sometimes the running (but not as much).

Anyway, times in the shorter races have been good. Buffalo is flat, so that’s a big plus for me. I plan to do one more 12 miler about 10 days before the event, and hit 30 miles for the week prior to it, then taper. We’ll see if I manage a PR or not.

I have been considering breaking down and buying a Garmin before the race. I just don’t know if I need it. I can pretty much go out with Strava on a smart phone and without looking hit almost exactly a 9:00/mile pace by feel on my long runs. The problem, I think, will be that adrenaline hit at the start of a long race that screws up one’s ability to do that. For a PR I’m going to need to maintain about a 7:20 pace. In the first half of the Toronto Waterfront, I was under that at about 7:10. The plan, I think, is going to be to stick with the 1:40 pacer for about the first 3-4 miles or so and then crank it up and try to run negative splits. In other words, no blowing past the pacer after a mile like I did last time.

Curious to see what the weather will be like, although I’ve run in all kinds of weather this year with no problems, so there’s that.

And finally, I gotta give a shout out to Asics – I switched from Saucony to Asics GT 2000s earlier this year and I don’t know if I was picking the wrong Sauconys (a pair of Guide 7s and a pair of Hurricanes) but the difference has been unbelievable, at least for me.

Can’t wait to get to the Queen City and hit the road.

Back to training, and the (delayed) beginning of the 2016 season.

It took me a hell of a lot longer than expected to get healthy after coming down with a respiratory infection in January. Fortunately for me, I was able to do some running down in the warmth of Florida and managed to avoid having to do any training in the February chill of the Great Lakes region. The “Extreme!” 5K I was supposed to do in the Orlando area? Yeah. Didn’t happen. Leaving aside the appeal of sitting poolside with a beer, I didn’t feel based on the runs I did that I was anywhere near being able to compete effectively. Every time I came back from a run I spent 5 minutes doubled over, coughing. To make matters worse, the sinus infection that plagued me in January seemed to be rallying.

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Ahh. Now, I was supposed to do something, wasn’t I? Something athletic? Forget it, just pass me another beer.

It took a few days, but by the time I was back in Ontario I felt like I was on the mend. Lucky me, I got to turn around later that week and head to Costa Rica on a family vacation. Bouncing around the backblocks of the country in a little rented 4 x 4 was tons of fun, but what really struck me was the number of Costa Ricans who are either runners or cyclers – we saw them everywhere, laboring up and down the many hills in the country. I did my best to join them over 17 days. Running in Central America poses some interesting challenges; the heat on the coast is like a blast furnace, the humidity can be overwhelming, the roads are pretty bad in parts of the country and you have to constantly be watching out for large vehicles that don’t really yield to those on foot, and especially in Guanacaste province in the dry season the dust thrown up by those vehicles can really be choking. Also, there are a lot of hills (which are great for training, but also which, as I mentioned before, I tend to be crappy on).

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We saw these guys everywhere in Costa Rica, especially on weekends along the coastal highway. Lots of runners, too.

 

Nevertheless, I got some good work in, and am now prepping for the Buffalo Half. Tomorrow is the Laurier Loop in Waterloo, ON, first event of the season. And since I’ll be traveling to Chicago and San Francisco for conferences, I added a couple of events in those places to the schedule. Should be fun.

 

My plans for 2016, or, wherefore art thou, marathon?

Well, it’s December here, and I gotta say that we’ve been pretty lucky with running weather as the temperatures for the most part have been several degrees above the norm. I went out and did a 44 minute 10K tempo run today in lovely 40 degree weather with calm winds and it felt great. This isn’t going to last forever, though, and it got me thinking about my race schedule for next year. I’ve got a few things figured out, but I also have a few questions. It’s getting somewhat difficult to work the weekend races in with my wife working 20 weekends a year and no one to watch the kids. Here’s what I know for sure.

  1. My next race is going to be in Florida in February, and it’s going to be in the Florida Everglades. Despite the fact that my dad’s going to be in Central Florida when I visit him, he expressed interest in making the 3 hour trip down to Fakahatchee Strand State Park so that I could do the 25K race that is part of the Everglades Ultras series in late February. This looks super cool, though I may be dodging some gators along the way, and we’ll see if El Nino decides to drench us with rain.
  2. I need a March race, and it’s not gonna be in Costa Rica. We’re heading down to Central America in early March, and I was really hoping to do the 10K race that was part of the Arenal Ultramarathon Series. Unfortunately, we are heading back that weekend and it’s just not going to work. There’s not a lot of choice when it comes to March races in Ontario. In fact, there’s none. Not sure what I’m gonna do about that yet.
  3. I’m going to do another three half-marathon-ish races in 2016. Right now I’ve got the Everglades 25K and the Buffalo Half as targets. I have to pick one out for the fall so that will require some thought. I’d love to travel to one, but have you seen the Canadian Peso’s exchange rate recently? Geesh.
  4. I’m definitely going to do the Kitchener Kids for Cancer Run again. Not only is it a good cause, but it’s now part of the Run Waterloo series, which I was really thrilled to see. They have a 10K this year as well.
  5. There will be another 12 competitive races in the plans for 2016. Don’t know how it’s going to break down yet, but it’s happening.

Here’s what I don’t know for sure (running schedule wise, I mean – there’s lots I don’t know about everything):

  1. Will there be a marathon in 2016? Man, I don’t know. Maybe. I’m gonna see how things go with the spring races. I think if it does happen, it will almost certainly be the last scheduled race in my area, Hamilton Road2Hope.
  2. Would the mystery race please sign in? There’s some talk about a trail race this spring here in Cambridge which sounds pretty killer. Have to see if it will work in my schedule, and indeed if it’s actually going to happen.
  3. Can I finally break the 20 minute barrier in the 5K? Hope so. I just started a new training regimen that’s a lot more formal. We’ll see if it works.
  4. Is this plan to do a series of races in the US National Parks viable? More on this later, but I really like the idea. Plus the family are all keen hikers. It may not be viable, because, Canadian Peso.

Anyway, I’m excited. Hope everyone has a great 2016.

A few things I learned in my failed marathon training attempt.

There’s a lot of stuff they don’t tell you as a neophyte would-be marathon runner.

I think I was a bit overconfident in trying to feel my way through the process. Somehow, I was under the impression that I could find an online plan, blindly follow it, and everything would work out. That clearly didn’t turn out to be the case at all. Things would probably have gone better if I had just tried to seek out some advice from friends of mine, and there are a few, who are veteran marathoners. Pride cometh before a fall, as they say.

So, for this post, I thought I’d look back and try to come up with some clear lessons learned, in order to help myself and maybe anyone else who reads this.

Here we go:

1. Marathon plans involving rigid running schedules and a specific number of miles don’t work for me.

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I felt like absolute shit after I ran my first 40-mile week, and I got hurt shortly after that. In addition to the problems with actually fitting all of the mileage into my schedule, I never felt like there was enough time for me to recover in between runs. The other thing I noticed was that it TOTALLY sucked all the enjoyment out of running for me. It really made me wonder about the concept of “junk miles”. A lot of the training I was doing was probably low quality miles where I was just slogging through and I don’t think it was helping me.

2. I was doing my training runs way too goddamn fast.

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The run I got hurt on was an 18 miler that I tried to do at an 8:15/mile pace because I struggle with running slow enough on long runs. This was a theme in training.

3. Going from being basically a couch potato to being a sub 4:00 marathoner in 6 months is probably not going to work for most people (it didn’t for me).

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Not me. But you get the idea.

I mean, holy crap. I read that sentence above again and I can’t believe I was so naive. I was really buoyed by some encouraging early results when I made the commitment to do a dozen races this year, but I was ignoring the clear fact that a marathon is so far removed from even the 1:40 half marathon I ran in February that it might as well be another sport. Building a base on which I could work toward the marathon should have been the priority, and it wasn’t. As a result, the overuse injuries killed me. The good news is, I have that base now.

4. I probably don’t need to run all that much to be successful, as long as I put in quality work.

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Yeah. This is how I felt sometimes.

I’m not saying I can do a marathon on 20 mile weeks. But consider this: I ran three half marathons this year. My fastest time came when I was “undertrained” and running… uh… 20 mile weeks. To be fair, I did throw runs of 8, 10, and 12 miles in there. The key was I did all my mileage at or near half marathon pace and added speedwork every couple of weeks. Yes, I did feel the lack of work in the second half of the race in Toronto and given my 10K split I should have been faster. But feeling great physically going in really helped.

5. I’m wayyyyyy faster at the shorter distances.

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Again not me. This is from the film “The Fast Runner”, which, apparently, is about a fast runner. I don’t run naked over ice floes. Usually.

My half marathon PR equates to a 21:17 5K, apparently. My real 5K time is almost down to 20:00 flat. I will continue to do a mix of distances, but my podium finishes in the 5K races have me thinking about leaning a little more toward these as opposed to the longer ones.

6. Half marathons are great, people are still impressed when you say you run them, and you can still, like, do stuff with the rest of the day after you finish one.

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Yeah, we know. You a bad bad man.

 

I gotta say the marathoners I saw in Cleveland did not look like they were doing well after finishing. Not that I am disparaging the marathon. I still want to run one. But, if your goal is to seem like a badass, you can probably get away with the shorter distance as long as your friends aren’t ultramarathoners or something.

7. On balance, I really prefer running in Florida in the winter.

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Hey, what do you know. I can reuse the photo.

 

Because, you know, genital nip and stuff. I also ran in San Francisco when I was there which was pleasant weather wise but, wow. Hills.

8. Don’t say you’re going to run a marathon for charity when it’s your first time.

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Yeesh. This was dumb. It’s pretty tough to admit to a bunch of people that have given you money that you can’t physically do the race. They were understanding. But still, don’t do it.

9. I’m still doing the damn marathon. But next time I’m gonna do it right.

It might not be next year, or the year after. But it is going to happen. Mark it down.

Rehab, and a difficult decision.

It’s hard to blog about running when you’re… not running. I kind of feel like this:

The groin strain I’ve had has kept me out of action for a couple of weeks now. Today was the first day I actually got up and felt no discomfort from it at all doing daily activities (although the discomfort had been minimal for about the last week or so it was still obviously there). A test run, however, proved it wasn’t 100% yet and I shut things down after about 10 minutes.

So, a change to the race schedule is definitely necessary. After much deliberating about it, I have decided to push the first marathon back to the fall and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I’m also going to miss the Mercedes-Benz 10K tomorrow in Oakville (I could probably physically run it, but I’m too concerned about reinjury). And I will be trying to change my registration in Cleveland from the marathon to the 10K, so at least I can get something out of the weekend, since Cleveland is not a race that allows deferrals. I could maybe try to run the marathon, but the combination of recent recovery from injury and undertraining is a recipe for disaster, and I just feel like I’m not willing to take the risk at this point.

I’ll be looking for another race to replace Oakville and right now the tentative plan is to do the Rotary Huron Shore 10K Run in Southampton, Ontario which we can do whilst visiting the home folks.

So right now, I’m trying to aggressively rehab my injury with daily cross-training. I’ve been alternating the stationary bike with core strengthening exercises and runners yoga. So far, it seems to be working – things have gotten a lot better in the past week.

I don’t consider my inability to run Cleveland a failure, so much as it is a setback resulting from mistakes in training. Unfortunately, I tried to do too much, too fast. Looking back, the timeline I set involved trying to go from being an overweight couch potato to a sub-4 marathon runner in 8 months, and it was just too aggressive. I do feel rather pleased to have gone from my sedentary status to a 1:40 half marathon runner in less than half a year; that, I think, was a great accomplishment. But I’ve had to face the hard truth that I need more distance running experience (and a lot more core strength and flexibility) before I tackle the marathon. That was a conclusion which wasn’t easy to come to, but it was the correct one.

Going forward, I think I’ll focus on the reasons why I started running again in the first place and try not to get derailed by obsessing over the competitive aspects. And, I intend to have a more comprehensive plan for training for the fall. Until then, I’m just going to bide my time and build my strength as best I can.

Arghh. Repetitive Strain Injuries Suck.

You know, walking around with an icepack strapped to one’s groin is pretty much exactly as fun as it sounds.

This thing seems to be getting a bit worse with each long run I do. And it’s pissing me off. I’ve been finding that I can go back to midweek training after a couple of days, get some short runs in, everything’s OK, then another long run, and:

I kind of like the agonized way the word pain is written in the picture above. And it’s in red too. Seems to fit.

Anyway, I had a real crappy 17.5 miler this weekend. In addition to the aforementioned discomfort in the groinal region (inguinal is the proper term, but I prefer groinal, even though it’s, well, not actually a word) I didn’t hydrate very well and the thing turned into a death march by the end (it was my first long run in above freezing temperatures and apparently I forgot that I sweat while I exercise under normal circumstances). I’m sure I looked like I was trying to chase Rick Grimes down or something. Fortunately no one decided to stick a penknife in my brain in the interest of public safety.

So, now the dilemma. Should I push on, and continue this unfortunate cycle, with the hope that I can nurse the injury enough that I can still get some training volume in and run a relatively fast time after my taper? Or should I hop on the dreaded stationary bike for a couple of weeks, sacrifice training volume, and show up to the line healthy but probably unable to do much other than maybe just break the 4:00 barrier?

I think I’m going to pick door number two, unfortunately. I’ve obviously been overtraining, so I’ll be shutting it down until my next 10k in a couple of weeks. It’s not like I was going to BQ with my first marathon anyway. We shall see how things feel next week, but this is going to limit the number of long runs I can do (it looks like I’m going to have to settle for one 20 miler instead of the three I was planning).

I guess it beats hobbling around like I just got hit with a sledgehammer by Kathy Bates.

Just Finished My First 40 Mile Week of Training. Ow.

So, it turns out 40 miles is a lot of running.

It took me quite a long time to figure out how to fit everything into a reasonable schedule and be able to ramp the mileage up without worrying about work schedules, or getting hurt. One of the problems I had was the sheer number of marathon training plans out there, and trying to pick between them. Pfitzinger. FIRST. Galloway. Jack Daniels (did a double take with this one, obviously). Higdon. BAA. Hanson. And so on.
The opinions for and against these sorts of plans seemed to revolve around a couple of important questions. First, what should be the maximum weekly mileage to aim for prior to tapering? And second, how long should the longest runs be?

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I wasn’t really prepared for the wide variation in answers to these questions proposed by these plans. In terms of the longest run question, the runs varied from 14-16 miles (admittedly, these distances came up in plans designed just to get runners across the finish line, and I’m looking to do a bit better than just finishing) to 29 miles (this in the Galloway plan, which emphasizes intermittent walking with the running and a very slow pace, which was a deal breaker for me, though I know it works for lots of people).

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Now, I’m a novice at this. I know that the goal with a first marathon should be to make that finish line with time being de-emphasized, but I’m stubborn. I want to run a sub 4:00, and am shooting for sub 3:45. Based on my race times at shorter distances, the calculators available to estimate my marathon time tended to spit out around a 3:25-3:30 time. This, I knew, was completely unrealistic.

I felt, according to the bulk of what I read, that multiple 20 milers were probably necessary to reach my goal, but more than 20 miles was probably a concern for me given my propensity for inflammatory type injuries and this training distance was probably best left to the elites.

Interestingly, the most scientific approach to marathon time projection I found came not from Runner’s World, or Running Times, or any of the other major sport-specific publications, but… from Slate.com.

It used real world data provided by runners from over 4,000 races in order to more accurately predict the marathon time in particular. The methodology used was sound, and the results seemed a lot more accurate than with other calendars. It solved the weekly mileage question for me too, as training schedules were surveyed, and the runners who logged 50 miles per week prior to tapering performed better than those who did not (the average being 35 miles).

The calculator and methodology can be found here.

So, I am actually doing a sort of hybrid between the intermediate Higdon and the FIRST program, with the mileage coming from the Higdon, but my running pace more similar to the FIRST (I do my long runs at the slowest marathon pace I would be satisfied with, i.e. a 4:00 marathon pace, rather than 60-120 seconds per mile off pace). I also alternate shorter, easier workouts with longer ones, and take back-to-back days off.

Just for illustration, this week’s runs included:
Tuesday: Speedwork – 8 miles total, including warm-up, cool-down, and 5 x 7 minute reps at a 6:45 mile pace.
Wednesday: 5 miles at slightly faster than marathon pace (around 8:20-8:30 mile)
Thursday: 7.5 miles at marathon pace (8:45 mile)
Friday: 3.5 miles at slightly slower than marathon pace (around 9:20 mile)
Today: Long run of 16.3 miles, at slowest marathon pace I’d be happy with (9:10 mile) followed by 2 days off.
Total: 40.3 miles.

As far as injuries are concerned, it’s gotten to the point where I’m basically managing a couple of minor injuries (left groin tendonitis and right medial tibial tendonitis) and trying to keep them from becoming bigger problems, using the same ice, compression, elevation, intermittent rest, and use of anti-inflammatories that I’ve used before. And it seems to be working, although we shall see if this holds when I get up to 50 plus miles in a couple of weeks. Anyway, now I’m off for a couple of days, so at least there’s that.

I’m gonna go eat some cupcakes now.