Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kicking into full gear - 16 weeks out

The Austin Marathon is sixteen weeks from today. I am focused on this race -- and this race only. I have no other races of any distance planned at this point before 2/15/09.

I modeled this past week of training after the Pfitzinger "up to 70 miles" program while intentionally shaving some miles. I wanted to ramp up a little more gradually to reduce injury risk, since I ran a marathon P.R. only three weeks ago today. I hit 48 out of the 56 miles scheduled this past week without any issue.

I enjoyed a steady 17-miler yesterday through the autumn foliage at Waterfall Glen, which is a beautiful nature preserve. Splits were pretty consistent and averaged 7:41 for the entire run, with only one short stop.

Beginning tomorrow, I will use the Pfitz 70mpw plan as my base program. I will make some adjustments that will increase the amount of lactate threshold workouts. Later on, I will make sure I get plenty of goal pace miles, and maybe even a simulated 1/2 marathon on the treadmill.

The number of miles does not seem to faze me. It's a logical progression for me. OK, I admit that running 70 miles the week of Christmas sounds a bit daunting. However, it is the scheduling that stresses me more.

Now that we have a young child, I have to look at my time management very differently. With both parents working, planning is absolutely crucial to hit all the miles -- especially in the 55-70 mpw range. There's little margin for error.

Here is this week's plan, which includes a family visit to Rhode Island later in the week.

Mon 10/27 - 5:45 AM - Treadmill: 9 mi w/4 at tempo pace (target 6:30-6:35)
Tue 10/28 - 5:30 PM - 14 miles GA outside - target 7:40-7:45 pace
Wed 10/29 - Noon - 5 miles on tread - Recovery pace: 8:40-8:50
Thu 10/30 - 5:15 PM - 11 G.A - target 7:40-7:45
Fri 10/31 (Boo!) - 5:45 AM - 5 recovery on treadmill . Travel to RI for sis-in-law visit.
Sat 11/1 - 7:30 AM - 15 miles in North Kingstown, RI
Sun 11/2 - REST

Scheduled total mileage: 58 miles

I am early on in this journey and there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. However, I been here before. I've got the mindset, experience and focus to achieve yet another milestone.

I will run a sub-3-hour marathon on February 15th, 2009 in Austin, Texas.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Starting Up For Austin

This past week, I tallied up 30 miles to get me back into the swing of training. It was quite a jump from the big fat goose-egg the week after TC Marathon. It was great to take that week off altogether.

Last Sunday, I did something I never have before: watch a marathon live on the course. I headed downtown to the Chicago Marathon and cheered on a ton of runners. Warm weather again. It was a great scene, and it made me realize that I am ready to start eyeing the next prize.

Yesterday's 14-miler went alright, I suppose. However, I did feel a bit fatigued at the end. I suppose it's not surprising that I am not fully recovered from the TCM.

I'm trying to get my head around how to start up for Austin. It seems simple, right? Just start running like I have in the past. Provided I am recovered enough, it's straightforward.

I guess what I am wrestling with is how I can be sure to make serious gains on this next one. I'm serious. No messing around. I want to make a serious charge at sub-3.

How can I do it? More lactate threshold. More pace miles. Fewer distracting races along the way that hamper my progress. In fact, I really have no plans to run a single race between now and February 15th, 2009 in Austin.

Starting tomorrow, I will try to hop onto the Pfitzinger 70mpw program. All easy miles to start with. Since we are 17 weeks out from Austin today, I am entering week #2 of the 18 week program.

Last post, I mentioned that I was in the market for a treadmill. We found what seemed to be a pretty sweet deal on the Pacemaster Platinum Pro VR. It's all set up and ready to go.

I've a date with the 'mill at 5:45 AM in my musty basement, in which I have set up a TV and stereo to pass the time and the miles.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Up Next? Austin - 2/15/09

I want to take a moment to share my reflection as I cruised through my final mile at the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday.

The picture to the side says it all. Although it wasn't anything near pretty or graceful, it entailed a powerful feeling of sheer triumph. It's the reason we run the marathon.

Even after thirteen of these punishing events during which I question every single time why I am out there, I keep wanting more.

As you would expect, my rest days are numbered once again. Sure, it's been a whole four days since a marathon PR. I am already mentally committed to Austin on February 15, 2009.

Although I know I am not recovered, I am yearning. Once again, I am ready to enter the training cycle. And it will be at training cycle like none other before for me. I aim for it to be the cycle that enables me to break that elusive sub-3 barrier.

I will admit that I am nervous and have some concerns. I am fearful of missing out on family time with my wife and daughter. I am fearful of sacrificing a high level of performance in my career, which can be demanding. I am fearful of a reckless training plan that may result in injury.

There, now that I got those fears and concerns out of my system. I can relax for a few more days until I figure out how I will escalate toward the 70-mile weeks this coming winter.

Help needed on treadmill selection

To achieve sub-3 with my schedule, I need to be able to run at any given moment.

Despite losing thousands in the stock market, we are looking to spend. (Why not, right?) Jen is also pushing for a treadmill purchase so she can exercise more frequently with the baby in the house.

To be honest, I hated treadmills for many years and have never wanted one. This year, I seemed to have turned the corner - and realize that I can zone out watching ESPN. My tread distance record is 12 miles.

I learned to use the tread at the gym to my training advantage. I realized the benefits of speed work on the tread for pace control -- as well as a shield from the weather.

We hope to cap our spending at around $3,000. Brands we are exploring:


Does anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, October 06, 2008

New PR Set at Twin Cities Marathon

We are back from the Twin Cities. While I fell just short of the goal of 3:05, I achieved a new PR of 3:06:50. It was a hard fought race through some very cold rain and limited sleep.

If you haven't slept in a hotel room with an infant for two consecutive nights before a marathon, it can be a bit challenging.

Morning race conditions were great. This would be my 13th marathon. I always get choked up at the start of a marathon knowing how fortunate I am. I have a great family, financial stability and the fitness to be able to travel to these events and challenge myself.

Early on in the race, I really struggled with pacing. I started out too fast. I somehow missed mile marker 1 and saw 14:25 at the 2 mile mark. Sounds perfect, but this included 30 second pee break. Worse yet, mile 3 was downright reckless at 6:32.

Shortly thereafter, I straightened things out. I was happy with my 10k time of 43:50. Interestingly, my second 5k was a full minute slower than my first. I really felt strong and comfortable at the 10k point.

Then the rain started to really pelt us. I was content with the steady drizzle, but I was not ready for the intensity we felt.

It was as I approached mile 10 that I began to feel the effects of sudden temperature drop. Sounds crazy, but I had fears of hypothermia for a stretch there. I simply could not generate enough heat. Melodramatic, right? I truly became concerned. I felt my head and it was freezing.

I wore an orange singlet for the race. I was regretting it in the middle since I was really cold. However, it was really cool to hear the chants of "Go Orange Shirt Guy!" or "Go Orange Dude!".

My wife and baby girl, Alivia, were planning to meet me after mile 11. With the total downpour, I did not expect to see them there. But they were there. And it was a big lift. We shared quick kisses and I felt rejuvenated as I got back to task.

It was back to business miles 11-17. The rain began to slow. My half split of 1:33:15 on my watch was right where I had hoped to be.

Another strange moment happened at mile 17. My shoelace became untied, which is rare in a race for me. However, re-tying it was harder than normal. My hands were still very cold and I could barely manuever them to tie up the laces. After about 20 seconds, I finally sprung up -- almost too fast, since I felt dizzy all of a sudden. I was able to regain stride and not fall over.

I found new life when I hit mile 20. I was pumped when I broke through "the wall" (a display that had been set up there) knowing that I was right at 2:22 as planned.

This was the beginning of the ascent. Chad, who was out there racing as well, had said these hills were not that bad. I have to agree with him. It is amazing how the elevation chart can create fear. While I did run miles 22 and 23 at 7:25 and 7:21 respectively, it came far easier than I expected.

When I hit the crest of mile 23, I realized that I had enough in the tank to flirt with a PR. I also did not know how substantial the downhills would be. I really started to fly.

I cannot describe the determination I felt when I hit the downhills. I was ready to start pushing pace hard. Knocking out 7:03's for both mile 24 and 25 was thrilling.

And as I approached mile 26, I was on track for my strongest marathon finish ever. I kicked it into overdrive down the hills toward downtown St. Paul. Mile 26 showed a 6:39. Then it was showtime...

I was pumping my fist and waving my arms at the crowd as I cruised to the finish. Pure adrenaline. I was sprinting and flailing like a maniac. I covered the final 1.2 miles of the course in 7:57.

I am quite proud of this performance. It goes to show that even a poor half marathon (e.g. a 1:38 for me 8 weeks ago) shouldn't dash your hopes.

It has taught me that I can overcome a slightly fast start. It also taught me that I can overcome the feeling of despair from the conditions. I also know that I have more room to improve.

I am ready to step change my training and try for sub-3. I have said it before, but now I know what it is going to take. Pfitz 55-mpw has been great, but it does not have enough tempo work. I need to figure out a plan real fast if I plan to go for it in Austin. We are 18 weeks out from next week.

I admit that I am concerned about work-life-run balance. Can I achieve sub-3 and avoid my work and family life from suffering? For now, I will savor this one for a few days. After all, that's 3 BQ's in the bank now. Cool!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

TCM is Here

Greetings from downtown Minneapolis. The weather today was sunny and breezy here today – quite comfortable. I completed a 3-mile easy run earlier that took me to the start line, which is right in front of the Metrodome.

Fans from the Minnesota Golden Golden Gopher game were trickling out of the stadium. There was absolutely no indication that runners and crowds for “America’s most beautiful urban marathon” would be assembling there in the morning. I expect a flurry of activity from organizers later this evening.

We are staying approximately one mile from the start line. The leading x-factor for this race is sleep. I have run twelve marathons to this point. However, this is my first for which I will have my 5 month-old daughter staying in our room with us.

Liv is an absolute angel and a happy marathon goer. However, I am slightly tired today. Last night, Liv woke up several times since we broke her routine. I am praying we can get her back into her routine tonight. I need a good night’s rest.

Mr. Weather Man is saying we may get wet tomorrow. Although it is expected to be in the comfortable low-to-mid 50’s at the start of the race, the clouds are moving toward the city.

I plan to stay calm the first mile and proceed into the target pace range of 7:05-7:08. I hope to be around 2:22 at mile 20, which is where the ascent begins. I will try to hold pace through the climb to 23. Then I will crank it up and hold on for dear life.