Friday, November 27, 2009

Ramping up for marathon #18 with an eye on the future

The handful of you that check in on this blog from time to time may have noticed that it has been seven weeks since my last post. Fret not, friends. After a brief recovery after Chicago, I have been running quite well as hopefully my training log will demonstrate.

I simply was not feeling all that verbose about my running. Simply put, I wanted to just run and not talk or write about it.

For the weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon, I promised myself that I would not commit to another marathon until after I gave it my all on October 11th. I held true to that commitment. I was able to put up yet another PR and savor my accomplishment.

Immediately following the Chicago Marathon, I decided that I would carefully evaluate my next running endeavor. This task has been fresh on my mind ever since October 11th, and not surprisingly, I have been waffling over a few options.

This time around, I wanted to fully recover and take a full 18-week cycle to make a big dent in my Chicago PR. That's why I wanted to push my next race out to March.

During the last several weeks, I realize that I need to be careful so not to take running for granted. The major impending change in my life is that my wife and I are expecting our second child in April. I am thrilled, and realize more than ever that I have a lot of responsibility to be a family man.

Right off the bat, this eliminated any consideration to go back to Boston this year. So, all along, my thinking has been I need to prepare to absolutely crush one more marathon before the baby comes.

I also have been giving my career a lot of thought and want to make sure I allocate enough time to accomplish my goals there. I also have been trying to broaden my horizons spiritually and in other areas in my life. Bottom line: I think that this upcoming marathon cycle will be about the most amount of running that I can afford to fit into my priorities.

The goal I have been thinking of setting is to qualify outright for entry into the NYC Marathon on November 7th, 2010. However, I do not want to take my chances in a lottery, which I lost out on 2008. I want guaranteed entry with a qualifying time.

What is the qualifying time, you may ask? For men 39 and under, it is a staggering 2:55 flat. And, unlike the Boston qualifying standards, there is no 59 second grace.

Disappointingly, I learned yesterday that a race in March will be too late to get me guaranteed entry into the 2010 NYC Marathon. Apparently, you need to have raced by January 31st, 2010. I will push this detail aside and press on. Running a sub-2:55 will get me into NYC in 2011.

I narrowed it down to two marathons on the weekend of March 5th, 2010: (1) Albany, GA and (2) Little Rock, AR. The factors that went into my narrowing it down are (not listed in order of importance):

  • Date of race - It needed to be before April and later than Feb 28th to allow for a full 18-week training cycle
  • Location / ease of logistics - I am going by myself, and I am Platinum on American Airlines, so it needs to be somewhere I can get to cheaply and easily
  • Course ease (or difficulty, depending on how you look at it) - To go for a sub-2:55, this sucker needs to be flat!
  • States in which I have not raced before are preferred - For when I decide to go for the 50 states club later in life (Texas and Florida are out, which made this tough for Feb/March)
  • The race must have reasonably favorable reviews on

Right now, I am training toward the goal to run a 2:54 at the Snickers Energy Bar Marathon on March 6th, 2010. Little Rock, although it has stellar reviews and is easier to get to for me due to a direct AA flight, may be a bit to hill to achieve that sub 2:55.

Currently, I have completed 4 weeks of an 18-week modified Pfitzinger training plan that will get me up to a new peak of 80 miles per week in week #15 in February.

While visiting my sister's family, I ran in Colorado last week at about 5,800 feet altitude, which was a great stimulus. I am pretty confident that was one of the factors that helped me absolutely destroy a 19-miler in the hills of Waterfall Glen today at an average pace of 7:08/mile.

I am presently 14 weeks ago from running this race. I plan to post a minimum of weekly going forward toward the race date. Please stay tuned and join me for the ride.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marathon #17: Wonderful PR in Chicago 2009

It was a marvelous day to run a marathon today.  Everything went very smoothly as I knocked out the splits pretty consistently today, which are listed below along with my unofficial result.

I feel very satisfied.  I ran exactly how I had hoped and achieved my "A" goal, which was to PR with a 2:58.  

I am currently undecided on my next goal.  I need to savor this a bit.  Running four marathons in the span of 8 months with an average time of 3:01 (w/ two sub-3's) in all major regions of the USA (West Coast, Midwest, East Coast and Southwest) is more than I would have ever imagined possible for myself.


0:44 - 13.1 mi - HALFWAY -- 1:29:00 
6:07 - Balance of mile 14
1:23 - final 0.2 mi
FINISH TIME: 2:58:28

NameNied, Ryan (USA)
START TIME07:30:19
Place (total)699
Place (Gender)642
Place (Div)128
Total (Net)02:58:28
Total (Gun)02:58:54

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chicago 2009: Ready to Roll

Just a touch above the freezing point with winds around 6 mph.  That's what is expected for conditions as we line up tomorrow for the Chicago Marathon.  Far more comfortable than the heat and humidity that runners felt the past two years.

I hit this week's mileage exactly as I had planned: 25 miles at relatively easy pace for the most part, with exception to a couple of miles at goal pace.  

Unfortunately, I had a really busy week with travel and a couple of poor night's sleep.  Also, my diet was not as strong as I would have like it to have been as I approach a marathon. 

It's all good.  I have put in the training.  I am in pretty good shape.  

I'll be running with the 3:00 pace group tomorrow.  Hopefully, I can sneak out in front of them as we approach the final miles and hang on for a sub-3.  We'll see.  

This will be my 3rd Chicago Marathon and my 17th overall.  I am excited that the conditions will allow us to leave it all out there tomorrow; unlike the last two years.

Marathon #4 of 2009 is here.  Time to go get it...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrating the taper with a 5k PR

Chicago is a mere 13 days away.

Taking a look at my training right now, I feel like I am in pretty good shape for Chicago.  I am in comparable shape to Austin and the good news is that Chicago is a faster course.

Giving me even a little more confidence was that I finally broke 19 minutes on a 5k this weekend.  OK, so I have not run a 5k in over a year.  That's why I decided to enter the local Plainfield Harvest Fest 5k to see if my speed work was progressing.

My goal was to run an 18:30.  I was really nervous on whether or not I could do this.  I haven't run intervals over 1200m and I simply not as strong on the shorter distances.  

Did I tell you that I hate 5k's?  They f'n hurt.  The good news is that I achieved my goal and ran an 18:22.  (Official time was later posted as 18:25 - but I trust my watch).

I ran splits of 5:48, 6:02, 5:56 and the final 0.1 mile in 0:36.  This earned me another 3rd place age group finish.  More importantly, this time lines up with a 2:59:03 marathon time, if you ask Greg McMillan anyway.

If I take this 5k result and compare it to the strong 22-miler that I knocked out last Sunday, I am feeling pretty good about my progress.  

The takeaway on the 22-miler was not necessarily the pace of the splits, but rather how I felt so strong toward the end.  Granted, I wasn't running race pace until the final couple of miles.  Nevertheless,  I felt stronger on this run that I have on any other training run of this distance in recent memory  -- and it was at the tail end of another 70 mile week.

I feel like I am right on the brink of a 2:59.  It's all about rest, recovery and mental preparation from this point forward.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuning up for the Chicago taper

Wow, where has the time gone? There are just over 3 weeks until the Chicago Marathon. I have a plan to nail about 68-69 miles this week and then it's taper time for the 4th time in 2009.

I am starting to build some confidence that I am on the cusp of another sub-3 hour marathon in Chicago.

I ran the Batavia Half Madness 1/2 Marathon about 10 days ago. I wanted a sub 1:25. I came up slightly short. However, I will say that I was happy to have finished as strong as I did.

I ran a 1:25:48, which lines up with a 3:00 marathon. It was a PR by about 50 seconds. I placed 3rd in my age group and 18th overall out of just under 1,000 runners (see results here). OK, so I was little pissed as I struggled to hold 6:30's. You can check out my splits here.

In retrospect, I could have pulled out the excuse monkey and had him say the humidity was very high that day (over 90%), that my weight was up (nearly 170 lbs) and I had a poor diet the night before (thanks to me caving into my neighbor's invite for dinner, since my family was out of town... ribs, chicken, cookies, etc) and that it was the last, tiring run of a 70-mile week (which it was).

But I didn't let the excuse monkey out of his cage. I chalked it up to more work to do.

Since then, I have been running pretty strongly. However, I will say that I have put in a ton of treadmill mileage due to my schedule and my all-weekend daddy duties. It's great fun to nail an 18-mile treadmill run (w/ 15 miles at 6:49/mi pace) while watching my daughter nap on a video monitor right next to me.

I am hitting the workouts. The indicators are there. I am right on the fringe of another PR. I would have felt better had I ran a 1:24 at that half, but I honestly think it wasn't my best day.

Regardless of what happens, it will be my best year of marathoning.... ever.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Margaritaville + Marathon Training = ?

I am continuing to make progress toward a sub-3 marathon run at Chicago on 10/11/06.

I've been able to keep up with the Pfitz plan pretty successfully -- even with numerous distractions, work travel and family obligations.

I did complete 70 miles the week before last even with my business trip to Miami. One of the nights in Miami included a night out at the bar with co-workers until 1:45 AM. No, I didn't get up and run before our 8:30 AM meeting, but I managed make it up in the evening and get back on track the following morning. This included a strong tempo run on the Hilton treadmill for a total of 12 miles. Not bad, right?

Last week, I hit 63 out of 64 planned miles and completed all the speed work. The toughest part was over the weekend. Friday night was my birthday and we had neighbors over late and celebrated. I killed a simulated 10k race on Saturday on the treadmill in 37:58 (which lines up with a 2:58 marathon) with a minor hangover.

On Saturday night, I went to my first Jimmy Buffet concert. I didn't see any others at the show that appeared to be attempting a sub-3 marathon next month. I did 18 miles on the treadmill on Sunday afternoon at an avg of 7:33/mi - with a slightly stronger hangover.

All in all, I am on track. Just got back from a Connecticut trip. I hit my 11 miles this morning - however, I did not get in the 6x1000m repeats on the treadmill as planned. It was 80+ degrees with high humidity in the Hilton fitness room. I did two of the intervals and then headed outside to beautiful temps and completed the final 9 miles in 7:29/mi avg pace. Enjoyed the hills of my former town that I last lived in!

I am pumped for the Batavia Half Madness 1/2 Marathon on Sunday. I should be in position to P.R. My goal is a 1:24:30 and I think it's very doable.

Off to bed so I can get up for a 15-miler... trying to stay on track for a 70-mile week (or something close).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting back on track toward sub-3

With recovery over from San Fran, I am back to following Pfitizinger's up to 70 mpw plan.

Last week on Monday night, I wasn't feeling so hot. I was on business travel to our HQ in Connecticut attending a dinner with colleagues, when I had to excuse myself. I felt suddenly very sick. I ended up leaving dinner right as the entrees were being served and headed to the hotel.

I don't know what hit me but it carried over a couple of days. I didn't miss any work, but I did miss last Tuesday's 10-miler. I felt extremely fatigued and had bouts of diarrhea.

On Wednesday, I was back home, had a great night sleep and ventured out on an 11-miler. I struggled through the back half. I felt weak and had a couple of brief rest stops. Having no choice but to finish the run (I took myself far out from the house), I dropped back to 8:30's.

Whatever bug I caught worked its way out of my system by Thursday. Fortunately, I resurrected myself later in the week on Friday when I nailed a pretty solid tempo run.

This week brings a test: Escalate to 70 miles. This week has three core runs out of the six. Today brought a 15-miler, which I completed pretty strongly. Friday brings a 12 miler with 7 at tempo and then Sunday brings a whopper at 22 miles. I have run 25 miles in the last 36 hrs and am right on track so far.

I am headed to Miami this afternoon for work. I am hoping the Airport Hilton has an A/C'd fitness room so I can nail the 6:25-6:30/mi tempo miles needed.

Seven weeks until Chicago.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Hungry for a sub-3 at Chicago

I am near recovery from my race in San Francisco and motivated to prepare for Chicago. I have nine weeks to get ready for what I hope will be my strongest race performance of the year.

I have been browsing the forum string called "Goal of sub-3 marathon". It's obviously a popular topic as it was initiated back nearly 1 year ago and has 133 pages of replies. I have found some inspiration as I read of others who are chasing and have nailed the sub-3 goal.

Yes, I achieved it earlier this year. But I want to do it again. I am feeling hungry after struggling in San Fran. Chicago is flat. Austin, Boston and San Fran all have substantial elevation changes.

As I write this at 7:03 PM local time, it's 87 degrees at 71% humidity, which makes it a "feels like" of 98. These conditions make it tough to nail long runs - even before 7 AM. Today was a prime example. I met up with my group and cut my run short so I could finish up inside on my treadmill. I was dying out there this morning.

I proved to myself this past winter during my Austin cycle that treadmill training is far more effective than dealing with poor weather elements. I set a PR with 90% of my mileage on the belt.

Today was the end of my final comeback week after San Fran. I nailed 50 miles and feel like I am ready to step back into Pfitz's 70mpw plan. I will follow this plan as closely as I can for the next nine weeks.

Up next: The Half Madness 1/2 Marathon, in which I hope to put up a 1:25 or better. I have a lot of work to do in the next 4 weeks to make this possible. It's a lofty goal, but I am going to go for it.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Lovin' the Bay area -- San Fran Marathon recap

Jen and I are back in the Chicago area after a wonderful jaunt in San Francisco and the Napa Valley wine country this past week. We had a memorable time touring the entire area. Some highlights:

We toured five different wineries and tasted countless delectable varietals of wines. (It pays to be in the industry.)

We saw Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows, one of my favorite bands, perform at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on UC's campus- after spending the day touring that interesting town. What a great show and a great venue.

We saw beautiful scenery in both rural and city settings - including breathtaking views of San Francisco from various angles; not to mention beautiful views of wine country from atop Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga, CA.

We stayed in a fabulous spa/hotel on Bodega Bay, which is a quaint little out-of-the way bayside town to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. We even rode horses on the beach looking out into the bay.

We saw all the major landmarks in the city. (The one disappointment was that the Alcatraz tours were sold out for the entire 7 days we were in the area.)

We saw the comedian John Heffron (Last Comic Standing champ) and laughed our butts off.

Oh, you asked about the marathon? I almost forgot!

Well, I finished in a respectable time of 3:06 after putting up a 4 1/2 min positive split.

I finished in 86th place out of 5093 in the total field. You can see my splits (which are quite jumbled due to missing mile markers) and further race finish details here.

The hills caught up with me late. The Golden Gate bridge out-and-back (miles 6-9) was the steadiest, longest up and down and, while I didn't know it at the time, it may have been my undoing. Unfortunately, the damn fog prevented any reasonable view of the city.

Tack on mile 10 right after the bridge which was a killer, steep downhill. I ran it in 6:28, which shredded my quads, then I had to pound back uphill on 11. Though the hills varied in size/grade, it seemingly was an unending cycle.

When a well-intentioned spectator tells you "it's all downhill from here" at mile 20, he or she is not telling you the whole story. While the total elevation change is downhill, there are still numerous ups and downs. I was slipping into the 7:30+ pace range the last few as I clung on for dear life.

I said I'd be surprised if I didn't put up a 3:05 or better and I came up short, so, there you have it... I am a bit surprised -- especially after a 1:31 first half! Nevertheless, it goes to show how the hills can zap you if you are not trained for them, which I simply couldn't do enough of where I live.

Anyway, that's three marathons down in 2009 and one to go. Here are my two remaining major goals for this year:

1. Put up a new PR for the half marathon on September 6th (

2. Break 3:00 again at Chicago on October 11th. I feel the need to tear up a flat course after San Fran and Boston on the last two!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Countdown to San Francisco

The taper has gone as planned: 55 miles last week, 45 miles this week -- with some decent speed work and plenty of recovery miles.

All of our travel arrangments are finalized. We fly out of Chicago on Friday morning. We will be staying 0.9 miles from the start.

My mother-in-law, bless her heart, will be traveling to our home from Pittsburgh to stay with our daughter. This will be our first time away from her since she was born 15 months ago.

No doubt, I am stoked to run this marathon. Afterward, I am totally pscyhed to visit San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma and the vicinity. Post-race, we have a great itinerary lined up including several winery tours in Napa/Sonoma, a Counting Crows concert, a Giants game, Alcatraz and lots of great dining and scenery. I call it a pretty good day when you run a marathon in the morning and see one of your favorite bands ever in the evening.

As far as predictions go, it's a tough call. I will say that, despite the elevation change to contend with, I will be surprised if I don't run a 3:05 or better. I think I would be chasing sub-3 on a flat course.

I'm in pretty good shape. Really good shape, I should say. I am going to soak in the thrill of running over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Temperatures will be in the low to mid 50's -- perfect. Can you believe this race starts at 5:30 AM on Sunday?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ready to run the Streets of San Francisco

Legendary actor Karl Malden died this past week and was perhaps best known for his work in the classic TV series The Streets of San Francisco. Recounts in the news of Malden's role with Michael Douglas chasing bad guys reminded me that I am bracing for my own experience in the Streets of San Francisco.

I've received a number of comments warning me to lower expectations on my finish time due to the difficulty of the course in San Fran. It's not lost on me that the elevation change in San Fran is pretty significant -- even greater than that of Boston.

This is my first try training for a summer marathon. It's going reasonably well, I must say. My most successful training run was my 20-miler of two weeks ago, which was run entirely on a treadmill. I ran much of the pace mileage at 4-7% incline. I ran the entire workout in 2:19 and finished extremely strong at the end. It was a true progression with over 15 miles at race pace through significant incline intervals.

Today, I capped off a 70-mile week with a pretty strong 21-miler - albeit not as intense as the one from two weeks ago. I did this run at the I&M Canal with running partners Nate and Dave. Nate and cruised the final five miles of the 21 in 34:10. Now, granted, this path is pancake flat.

I know the hills will be daunting, so I recognize it's a stretch to aim for a PR. Nevertheless, I will go out there and give it my best and try to run 3:00 pace and see what happens. If I decide to back off to the 3:02-3:05 range, so be it. I'm confident that I am in pretty good shape to run my third strong marathon of 2009.

Bring on the taper... three weeks to go.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slacking in blogging, but not running

If you have perused this page in the bast, then I suppose it's been obvious. I've somehow drifted away from my past diligence of updating this running journal at least on a weekly basis. Perhaps it's because I've found new pressures placed on my time, and this blog was one of the weekly tasks that got pushed down the list.

Nevertheless, the good news is that I am running as strong as ever, which my runningahead log hopefully indicates. Reflecting on 2009 to this point, I am extremely pleased with my running. Right now, I am six weeks out from my third marathon of 2009, which I will run in San Francisco.

Lately, I've been running weekly mileage in the mid-50's consistently, with plenty of solid long runs, tempos and now interval training this past week. For this week, I finally got back into the 60's for the first time since the week of March 23rd.

From a scheduling standpoint, it's been tough to get the mileage back up to where I was in the winter heading into Austin. I've been doing long runs on Saturday with my running group, which then requires a rest day for me on Sundays. My personal schedule really would allow me to nail more mileage if I did long runs on Sundays and took Mondays off. The gang is running Saturdays for now, so I'll need to adjust.

My plan is to have a really strong three week training period - then begin a three week taper for San Fran. I'd like to have the upcoming three weeks range from 65-70 miles each. If I hit the tempos, a long pace run and a solid 22-miler, I'm confident that I will be in 2:59'ish shape again for San Fran. Then I can figure out how to go for a PR in Chicago in October.

I also want to concentrate on nutrition and stretching. I know, I've said it before. I really want to make some improvements here. My weight has been hovering over 170 lbs recently. I feel I can run faster if I can get it down to 165 lbs, so there's a goal.

For 2009, I figure if I can run four marathons, in four large cities (Austin, Boston, San Fran, Chicago), in four different parts of the country (Southwest, Northeast, West Coast and Midwest), with times of 3:02 or better for all four -- then that's a pretty damn good year.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Soldier Field 10-miler - Looking ahead

For the second year in a row, I ran the Soldier Field 10-mile race along Chicago's lakefront path. Since Boston, I have been trying to recover and ramp up for the San Francisco Marathon.

After last week's 17-miler, I felt an usual level of fatigue. I will confess that trying to get focused for my 3rd marathon in a 5-month span has been challenging.

For this race, I decide to take a full two days off in advance. This race would really tell me if I have maintained my fitness level since Boston 5 weeks ago. I've not done really any speed/tempo work - with exception of a 4-mile tempo run a few weeks back. I really did not know what to expect. I was hoping to break 1:05.

I had really good race. I was able to hold 6:25's for the race. I will say that one of the miles on the course felt a bit short to me. You can see which one if you look at my race splits. Nevertheless, it was a successful race - and a monster PR for this distance by about 3+ minutes. I ran a 1:04 flat, which lines up with sub-3 marathon conditioning.

This race is becoming very popular. They capped it at 9,000 runners this year - and it sold out. I wanted to finish in the top 100. I came up slightly short finishing in 104th place.

I've got 9 weeks until San Fran. I don't think I will race until then. Here are some pics of my beautiful family, who came out to support me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ambitious running agenda

Is it May 14th already? This has been my longest stretch of not posting ever, I think.

Since Boston, it's been quite hectic. Outside of running activities, my daughter turned one year old and we had a big family party. We've got our basement finishing project well underway and it's about 65% complete. Then there are the usual work stresses, which are relatively under control at this point.

As for running, I've smoothly resumed getting back to a decent marathon training base. I am building back towards 60-mile weeks, which I should hit next week. I don't feel in the shape I was before (most likely due to my non-stop chowing of pizza, beer, sweets, etc.)

I've also kicked off the Plainfield Road Runners Club, which has required quite a bit of planning and organizing from time to time.

The PRRC has been a great experience so far. However, we've got such a long way to go. I'm learning about how to "sell" running to people, particularly those that are interested but are not experienced.

I'll be running the Soldier Field 10-miler next Saturday. Last year, I ran it less than one week after the Green Bay Marathon. I expect to be able to put up a far better time - hopefully a PR.

In June, I'll do the Downers Grove 10-miler for the fourth year in a row.

All of this is leading up to my next marathon in San Francisco, which is scheduled for July 26th. Not to mention an excellent vacation in wine country also on the agenda afterward.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Boston Marathon recap - April 20th, 2009

Well, it's been 6 days the grand event and I am finally getting around to a recap of the Boston Marathon that I ran last Monday.


First half - 1:29:27
Second half - 1:32:52
sh time: 3:02:19
Click here to see my race mile splits

Going into the race, I felt like I had a chance at a 2:59, and that was the goal. However, in the back of my mind, I wasn't sure if I was in the shape as I was for Austin nine weeks earlier.

Getting into Hopkinton is stressful. Since we had a rental car, I decided to have my wife drive me to Hopkinton from our hotel on the edge of downtown. This allowed me about an extra 1.5 hours in the morning and made it easier to handle our daughter.

Jen dropped me at a school where race organizers had "runners only" buses carting people over to Athlete's Village. It took at least one hour to be able to get off the bus. We sat in the bus just outside the village for at least 1/2 hour due to sheer volume of buses.

Once in Athlete's Village, I was too late to have a prayer to use a port-o-john. The lines were extremely long and it was 55 minutes to race start.

I texted my friend, Aaron, to meet me at the start. I dumped my gear at the check. I'm not proud to admit that I found a secluded, yet illegal, open urinal along with several other runners. However, in fairness to me and hundreds upon hundreds of others, race organizers still do not have enough port-o-johns to handle the pre-race surge.

I was in the 4th corral based on my Twin Cities time of 3:06 last October. I probably could have gotten to corral 2 if I had sent in a new time from Austin. I didn't.

The weather was near perfect. I was very comfortable, although, I knew the winds would catch us later in the race.

The race kicked off and the cattle drive began. First several miles were very crowded. My first mile was a 7:15 and I had to work through much traffic for it.

In the first 8 miles or so, I will say that I did not have the "pop" that I felt I would need to run sub-3. I felt a little drained early on. The first energy gel really helped and I was on a true high as we approached Wellesley College.

My 1/2 marathon split was 1:29:27. This is right where I would want to be for the first half for most marathons on a sub-3 attempt, but I knew this was Boston, and the second half is often slower. Running a negative split in Boston means you are sandbagging heavily on the front end.

As I approached mile 17 and the Newton Hils, I was definitely daunted. However, I recovered after the first major climb. I told myself "you can do, this, Ryan".

Enter Heartbreak at mile 20, where I was barely holding on to pace for 2:59. The Newton Hills did their damage. Heartbreak got me and, afterward, I could not again pace back down to 6:50 even in the downhill terrain.

For the final 10k, I wanted to make sure I didn't blow achieving my second best marathon time (3:06 in Twin Cities). I was able to muster 7:10's-7:20's as I took in the final stretch with all of the fantastic crowds. When I made the turn toward Boylston, I was ready to celebrate. And you know I did.

Losing sub-3 was frustrating and humbling, but I am too way experienced at this point with the marathon to respect the distance. However, I will say that I am proud that I hung on for a 3:02. Around 21, I was in a place where I thought I was totally going to fall part. That's what is very special about Boston. The final stretch is such an adrenaline rush with the fan support.

I am pleased with my performance. Putting up a 3:02 at Boston only nine weeks after a 2:59 in Austin is a great accomplishment for me. These are my two best marathons out of 15 now total.

Once back home, I had to turn my efforts to the kick-off of our new running club here in Plainfield, IL. We had our first group run yesterday and the start-up of the club has been a success to this point.

Now, I need to devise a training strategy for San Francisco on July 26th. I have 12 weeks until the race.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Two Days 'Til Boston

I am spending time with family in Rhode Island this weekend in final preparation for Boston on Monday. We are going to go to the Providence Zoo today with my in-laws.

I've done the usual final taper mileage up to this point. I am going to skip today's run so I can feel extra rested for Monday. I'll do a few tomorrow in Boston sometime after we check in.

This has been a 9-week marathon cycle, so it feels very different. Since running Austin on February 15th, then recovering, then ramping back up, it's going to be interested to see how my body responds on Monday.

It's hard to know if I've retained 100% of my fitness since Austin. My best runs were my last two 20-milers, one of which included 15 miles at goal pace. I also had a couple of strong simulated 10k races, and a decent half marathon.

My half marathon of 1:26 came up a little slower than what I would want for a sub-3 marathon predictor. However, it was at the back end of a 70 mile week and I faded in the race.

I feel optimistic. I will be rested. I hope my daughter sleeps well in the hotel room on Sunday night. Whatever happens, it will be great to run my 2nd Boston and my 15th marathon overall.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Fighting back toward a sub-3 at Boston

I hit a minor stumbling  block this past weekend on my road to a sub-3:00 Boston performance.  After watching my MSU Spartans clinch a berth in the national championship on Saturday night, I came down with a sudden bout of what I think was the flu.

At first, I blamed my condition on one too many celebratory beers and too much Tabasco on my pizza the night before.  As my Sunday progressed, something didn't feel right.  Citing the windy cold rain and in direct spite of my better judgment, I decided to go ahead with my planned 17-miler on the treadmill anyway.  

Bear in mind, with Monday set as marathon day, I had a day of cushion.  But long runs on Mondays are rough and I figured I could fight through it.  I wasn't planning on pushing pace too hard.  All of the hard work had been put into the bank, anyway.

I didn't finish the 17-miler.  I felt like I was running in a lethargic haze with no purpose and I was counting every 0.01 increment as the odometer clicked onward.  I fought through 9 miles and had to retire due to exhaustion.  

Later, I had a few bites of dinner and realized my appetite was gone.  I went to bed at 6:45 PM and, with several bathroom incidents and Ibuprofen doses in between, my wife woke me at 6:45 AM on Monday.

I found my lack of appetite and diarrhea stripped off 5 pounds overnight.   I called off work on Monday and, if I wasn't comatose, I laid hopelessly in bed in despair wondering how I would break back into the outside world in such miserable shape.

Enter Tuesday at which point my sheer will forced me out of bed.  It's funny how our exaggerated sense of self-importance takes over under these circumstances.  "My people need me at the office.  The company will shut down if I'm not there," we think.

I helped my daughter get off to daycare with my wife, cleaned myself up and got myself to the office.  I drank several Coca-Colas throughout the day to rid myself of my pale appearance.  I still had no appetite, a highly dynamic body temperature from various fevers and no interest in running.

Finally, today, Wednesday, I broke back into running.  After all, we are only 12 days out from the Boston Marathon.  I did a solid 10-miler on the treadmill in 1:13.  Call it a fartlek mixed with several interval inclines and the final two miles at goal marathon pace.

One bit of positive news.  Before all of this sickness crippled me, I nailed an outstanding simulated 10k race in 37:54 on Saturday.  McMillan tells us that lines up with a sub-2:58 marathon.

Now, I will stick to the Pfitz up to 70mpw plan from here on out.  I went over the plan by adding those two GMP miles today, but I needed to push it a little after falling down on Sunday. 

I need to believe that blowing that final 17-miler will not affect my time on April 20th.  And I do believe it will not matter.  I had solid twenty-milers each of the two preceding - one of which I nailed 15 at goal pace.

Onward to Boston, folks ... and my second sub-3:00 race in roughly two months.  This will truly be a spectacular accomplishment if and when I nail this race.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Plugging along toward Boston

It's been a couple weeks since my last post. I've been pretty busy.

Things are going really well in preparation for Boston. Last week, I ran 60 miles.

I just completed 67 miles this week. Highlights of this week's workouts included:

  • Wednesday - 6x1200m repeats w/ 2 min recovery jog
  • Sunday - 20 miles w/ 15 at goal marathon pace
I completed both of these workouts with very high quality. In addition, that makes two weeks in a row that I completed a strong 20 miler.

Boston is three weeks away tomorrow. I feel that I am tracking pretty closely to sub 3:00 condition once again.

If I look at my online training log over the past couple of week's runs, the results are strikingly similar to the same weeks of Austin cycle that I completed in January.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cary Half Marathon Report

Yesterday, I set a new half marathon PR at the March Madness race up in Cary, IL.

My watch said 1:26:38 and I think the official time was 1:26:42. There is no chip timing at this race and I was slightly behind the start line.

You can see splits and details of the run on my training log. I'm now using the cool GPS upload feature that the Runningahead site offers. Now you can see my routes for my outside runs.

I was a bit concerned about whether or not the legs would hold up late in the race given I'm a peak training mileage right now. I faded substantially late in the race, particularly when I hit the killer hill at back of mile 10.

I guess it's silly to be disappointed over a 2:40 PR, but I feel that, if properly rested, I am in about 1:24-1:25 shape. McMillan will tell you that my 2:59:10 in Austin last month is good for a sub-1:25 half.

I thought for sure I'd be able to hold onto a 1:25, but things fell apart for me late. That's OK. I feel good about my run and my fitness level. I hope I can get back to sub-3 shape for Boston on April 20th.

I rounded out yesterday's race with an afternoon recovery run. This got me to 70 miles to the week exactly as planned. Note: This is only my second 70-mile week ever.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Focus: Repeating sub-3 at Boston

Training for Boston is in full swing. I am pleased to have put in my first 60-mile week since late January. I think I really handled the transition from Austin recovery back into training extremely well.

If I look at my online log since running in Austin on Feb 15th, I ran weeks of 15, 42 and 60 miles the past three weeks.

On Saturday, I put in what is now becoming one of my staple "simulated" 10k races on the treadmill. With the incline set at 1%, I nailed the 6.21 mile distance in 37:55, which is a predictor data point for sub 2:58.

Yesterday, our weather was horrible. I had planned to connect with Liz, one of the new runners that will be involved with the launch of the PRRC, for an 18-miler.

After several phone calls and waiting out the weather, we decided to forget it and resigned ourselves to our home treadmills. Good call. We received over 2.5 inches of rain and flash flood warnings.

I was pleased to be able to put in a solid 18-mile workout with not a single stop and several incline/decline intervals in 2:16:20.

This week, I'm going to try for another 70-mile week, which would be only my second ever if I could pull it off. You can always count on Pfitz's programs to keep you challenged. This week is no exception.

I will cap it all of with what I hope will be an earth-shattering PR at the March Madness Half Marathon. All signs point to a 1:24, so that is the goal. This would be a 5-minute PR, which was set at, guess where else, the March Madness Half Marathon 2008.

This week's schedule:

Tue - 11 miles w/6x1000m repeats - 90 sec jog
Wed - 15 miles
Thu -AM: 6 miles recovery + PM: 4 miles recovery
Fri - 12 miles
Sat - 4 recovery
Sun - 13.1M RACE + 4.9 recovery

Total: 70 miles

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Back on the run - in more ways than one

I've basked in the glory of my sub-3 run at Austin enough for now.  I'm back at work training again.

Up next is the March Madness Half Marathon in Cary, IL, which I will run for the 3rd year in a row.  Ironically, I have my PR year from last year.  

It would be nothing less of a disaster to not at least shave three minutes to a new PR of 1:26.  I am training up for a 1:24.

Also, things are really picking up with the PRRC.  Planning efforts have begun to take up a considerable amount of my time, but I am enjoying it so far.  

I am really excited about the network of passionate runners here in Plainfield, IL that I have stumbled upon over the past few weeks.

We will be kicking off this club on April 22.  I am quite excited about being part of a running club in my hometown.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sweet Austin has forever a place in my running heart

Running the Austin Marathon in under three hours felt spectacular on Sunday. I have to honestly say that the whole race flew right by me.

It felt so care-free. So automatic. Just like a regular run out in the park with new found Texan friends.

I have to thank my pacers, Patrick and Paul, who were truly amazing. They kept us right on track mile after mile at near dead even pace to 3:00.

Official finish time: 2:59:10
1st half: 1:29:51
2nd half: 1:29:19 (**NOTE: Current "official" 1/2 marathon PR is a 1:29:21!)
50th place out of 4,051 finishers

The weather was picture perfect. The fans were outstanding. The elevation was challenging in many parts. There was really only one obnoxious hill at 24 as we headed into the UT campus.

I don't have any really dramatic moments to share. The toughest strech were miles 15-17, which were dead straight as an arrow into some strong head winds. When we turned the corner into mile 17 out of the wind, our entire 3:00 pack gasped a sigh of relief and joy.

I have a fond memory of the confidence I felt to hold what used to be such a daunting 6:50 min/mile pace through wind and hills. I worked so hard throughout the winter through some tough mornings, days and nights to get to this place.

Of course, when I made that turn into the final 385 yards knowing that I sub-3 in the bag, I let loose with my fist pumps and cheerleading antics. (See picture below with the Capitol building in view.) It was an amazing feeling, as usual.

I now have a list of shorter distance PR's that are not in line with my marathon PR. I'll need to chip away at a few of those this summer.

My next marathon goal will be to run a 2:55 to allow me guaranteed entry into New York. I need to improve a measely 211 seconds. Although this is very achievable, I do not feel I have enough time make this modest gain at Boston, which is only 9 weeks out. I'll mull that over a few more days.

I think I will attempt another 2:59 at Boston with my good running pal, Aaron in Pittsburgh, who is training up as I type. I can't wait to run the Super Bowl of Marathons again this year after waiting for Alivia's birthday last year.

I will have to decide if San Fran is a conducive marathon to make my attempt at 2:55. The course elevation does not appear much more challenging than what I just did in Austin.

For now, I am going to savor this one for a few more days. We head back to Chicago tomorrow morning from my wife's grandparents here in Houston.

When I arrive home, it'll be good to see my ol' buddy, Mr. Treadmill, in my basement, who I can thank for helping me achieve my goal in Austin. He and I spent a lot of hours and miles together the past few months.

I want to leave a thought with anyone who doubts their ability to achieve their next big marathon time goal, whether it be a BQ, a sub-3 or even just to complete a marathon.

I ran my first marathon in Pittsburgh in 2001 in 4:16, never dreaming I would be where I am today. I kept at it because I grew to love this sport, and what it did for me, my fitness and my confidence as a person.

I know from experience that with commitment, planning and perserverence, you can achieve your goals. When you do, it feels so amazing.

The success I have gained for myself out on the road has helped me tackle many challenges in life. I'm so thankful to God and my wonderful wife, and now my precious little daughter, for supporting my running endeavors.

Marathon #15 is in the books, and it's a special one, to be sure.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mission accomplished! Sensational sub-3!

Today, I achieved my goal and made personal running history this morning at the Austin Marathon.

Est finish time: 2:59:16
1st half: 1:29:53
2nd half: 1:29:43

It was a beautiful morning and a wonderful race experience. I've got to thank the 3:00 pace leaders who did an amazing job.

We are now driving to Houston to visit more family. Full race report and pics to come.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Final hours to Austin

Greetings from Austin, Texas.

The marathon lost its sponsorship this year and is not offering prize money. The crown will be up for grabs to all the local stars, which will bring even more of a hometown feel to tomorrow's race.

We drove the course today. Bottom line: There are some nasty hills out here in Austin. I figure if I can stay right on pace through 15, I will be in good shape. The back half of the course tends to descend. It's the front course that has most of the challenging hills.

Weather conditions are predicted to be close to ideal: Mid 40's at the start with light wind btw 5-10 mph. It's much cooler here than I anticipated. I am going to have to make a last minute call on whether to go long-sleeve or not.

The x-factor is sleep. We are staying with Jen's aunt and have Alivia sleeping in a pack-and-play next to us. She's not been feeling well lately and had a rough time getting to sleep last night. I hope she does not cause any interruptions tonight.

Aside from that concern, I feel pretty good. I feel ready. Even on a flat course, targeting sub-3 will be a daunting challenge. However, I know that I am ready. I've got the indicators. I've put in the hard work.

I am ready to make personal history tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Final prep for Austin - Less than 4 days

OK, I'm done training... Well, almost, anyway.  I don't want to run much more before Sunday.  

I'm experiencing the all-too-common, psychologically driven feeling of fatigue that comes with the late stages of taper.   I want to be clear.  The runs aren't hard.  It's just that I don't see their benefit and I can't wait to get through them.

It's time to drop the mileage and focus on the mental preparation.  I just want to eat right, sleep and relax.

I'm going to rest tomorrow, or maybe run an easy 3 miles or so.  I may take Friday off altogether.

I have one more day of work.  We leave on Friday morning for Austin.  We'll be staying with J's aunt, who lives 2.5 miles from the start.

Today, I did the usual 2-mile at goal marathon pace like I do every marathon training cycle on Pfitz's program.  I did it on the treadmill at 2% grade.  After a couple of days of nice weather which allowed for outside runs, today was windy, cold, rainy and crappy.

Early forecast in Austin right now shows a chance of showers, but really comfortable running temps.  It's not surprising that I could get drenched ... again.  

I'm expecting near ideal conditions on Sunday morning.  I am fully aware that this could be my only shot of earning a sub-3:00 marathon.  Life continues to get more complicated and I'm not getting any younger.  

That being said, I am fully prepared to go for it.  I'm psyched.  I am going to kill this marathon on Sunday.  I'm going to leave it all out on that Austin course.  On Sunday, I will run the best marathon of my life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bring on Austin - 12 days out

I am getting slightly anxious now that the marathon is coming up pretty soon.  I am excited.  It's been four months since I set my current PR at Twin Cities and it feels like that was years ago.

I have not run a single race since Twin Cities on 10/5/08.  It's been all solo training, with an unexpectedly high percentage of mileage on the treadmill.

On Saturday, I added yet another indicator toward my sub-3 fitness.  I ran a simulated 10k on the treadmill at 1.5% grade in 37:47.  Details of the workout are here.  This translates to a predicted marathon time of 2:57.  Wow.

Historically, I have struggled putting in strong long runs the day after an intense race pace workout.  Surprisingly, Sunday's pre-Super Bowl 17-miler felt reasonably strong.  The weather finally broke to the low 30's.  I ran a complete long run outside, thankfully, for the first time in weeks.  

I averaged close to 7:15/mile for the entire run with no problem and finished at goal marathon pace for the final mile.  My second half was definitely stronger than my first half.

I am feeling overall pretty good about my fitness.  It appears that putting in the highest mileage in my life is about to pay dividends.  After putting in weekly training volume in the consistent 60's combined with plenty of speed & tempo, not to mention a peak of 72 miles, my workouts are a breeze.

I'm trying to maintain my weight in the range of 167-168 lbs, which is my current sweet spot.   

And the taper rolls on... 46 miles planned for this week.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Taper is here - Counting down to Austin 2009

It's here.  I have entered the taper for my training going into the 2009 Austin Marathon.  

Seasoned marathon runners often have lots to say about the mystique of the taper period.  How do we really know if we are ready to run our best race in three weeks?  Should I taper for two weeks instead?

On one hand, I am confident.  Confident that I have worked harder and put in more consistent, quality workouts than ever before.  I've got some great indicators that make me feel really good about my progress.

There's another part of me that is cautious and reserved.  I haven't run a single mile in Austin, Texas in my life.  The course elevation chart shows hills.  Am I prepared for these? 

My training has been largely made up of treadmill workouts over the past several weeks.  Will this be a factor? 

I have averaged nearly 65 mpw for the past 4 weeks - all of which have included a range of killer pace, tempo or simulated race workouts - and a decent amount of incline work.  Suffice to say, I am ready.

For this past week, I nailed 66 miles in the plan.  I did it with careful planning and discipline.  For those of you who don't read here often, I am a careful follower of Pfitzinger's training schedules and am devoted to the "up to" 70mpw program at present.

I committed to myself last week that I would get outside for at least some of this week's mileage - particularly my final 20-miler yesterday.  Unfortunately, we've not been able to break out of this arctic cold snap.    

I did get outside for a little while by doing half my 9 miler on Friday night outside.  Yesterday, I set a goal of doing at least 10 of my 20 miles outside, with a quick transition if necessary to the treadmill in the house.  And that's precisely what I did:
  • First 10 miles - outside in single degree F temps / light wind: 1:11:34 (7:10 average pace)
  • *** 5-6 min changeover period ***
  • Second 10 - treadmill w/ incline intervals: 1:09:35 (6:57 average pace)  - Final 3 miles at sub-goal marathon pace.
  • Total workout - 20 miles in 2:21:09 (7:04 avg pace)
I will spend the next few weeks mentally preparing for running my first sub-three-hour marathon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

All signs point to "Sub-3" -- 4 weeks to Austin

I now have another indicator of my running fitness that bodes well for achieving my goal to run a sub-three hour marathon in Austin.

Yesterday, I nailed a simulated half marathon on my treadmill at 1:24:25. If this were a real race, this would be nearly a 5-minute PR! My total mileage for the workout was 18 miles.

OK, I realize it's not a real race. After all, I'm on a treadmill. The incline is set at 0.5%. I have access to fluids right at my side and don't have to weave to find a lane or the water station. The temperature is perfect with a fan blowing on me. I get to watch playoff football on the TV in front of me. Not exactly what you find at your local 1/2 mary.

The way I do a simulated race workout is as follows:

  • Warm-up with a recovery mile (usually 8:30-8:50 pace range).
  • Kick it in to race pace after the warm-up mile. Track splits with wrist watch.
  • Gradually increase pace toward the end of the run and finish very strong.
  • After the race mileage, ratchet the pace back down to recovery pace.
  • Gradually work back up to easy run pace (anywhere from 7:40-8:00) to finish out the targeted mileage.
When it's wintertime in Chicago and there are no races for months, I have found that these simulated races are excellent confidence boosters and a great way to prepare my body for the rigor of a competitive race.

I had a detailed pace plan written up with me on the treadmill targeted to a 1:24:50. I was amazed when I cranked up the pace to 5:26 for my final 0.1 miles. My 13th mile was a 6:05.

A 1:24:25 half marathon on the McMillan predictor table puts me at an astounding 2:58:02 for the marathon.

For the second week in a row, I did all of my mileage on my treadmill. That's 132 miles in two weeks all indoors.

I realize now that I need to get outside for at least some of the miles for this week's workouts. I need to feel the pounding of the pavement.

The forthcoming week plan is for 68 miles with a 20-miler next Sunday. Then I cruise into the taper period.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Monumental 72-mile week -- 5 weeks to Austin

It's official. I am in the best running shape of my life.

I proved that to myself this week with a PR of 72 miles in a single training week, which included a range of workouts from recovery to 6x1000m repeats, and was capped off today with a sensational marathon pace run.

Here's the kicker: All 72 miles were done on my home treadmill, which was repaired on Tuesday this week.

I realize running only on a treadmill is not ideal, but it is the best solution given the conditions right now. I have been smart enough to work in incline intervals in all of my runs, which I hope will reduce risk of any injury.

On the other hand, today's long run had zero stops, which helps really build the stamina and simulate a race situation. That's not likely to be possible outside with snow, ice and traffic. And the treadmill teaches pace control.

I can't believe how easy it was to run 19 miles on a treadmill today with 15 of them at an average pace of 6:46. I kept myself honest with incline and decline intervals ranging from -2.5% to 5.0% (yes, my treadmill has decline). I only had 17 miles w/14 at goal pace scheduled, but I felt so strong that I decided to add on.

The most mileage I had ever run on a treadmill before was 15 miles. The home treadmill has changed the game for my training. I have access to fluids, a cool fan, no max time limit and cable TV with a remote. I watched most of the Giants/Eagles game while I nailed this run.

You can see the details of this week's workouts in my online training log.

I am on track to run a 2:59 or better in Austin on Feb 15th. I am stoked.

Running club update

The initial steps of organizing the PRRC are well underway. I've secured support of the head coach of Track and Cross Country at the local high school, who is very interested to get involved and help launch it.

I also have lined up three other runners who will help organize. I also have received a couple of e-mails from new members who are ready to join. Not bad progress in a single week.

Monday, January 05, 2009

2009 Goals / Sub-3 training on track

I mentioned at last post that I would post my 2009 running goals. It took me a few days longer than planned, but here they are.

I have decided to keep it simple this year and focus on three main goals. If I can hit these three, it will be a successful year.

1. Run more total annual mileage in 2009 than I did in 2008 (2,276 miles)

This is getting harder every year. But I still may be able to pull it off this year with a treadmill.

2. Run a sub-three hour marathon.

Currently, I have three marathons lined up: Austin - 2/15/09, Boston - 4/20/09 and San Fran - 7/26/09.

Sure I want PR's in the half marathon and other distances, but I am going to place emphasis on getting that sub-3. Every thing else will fall into place.

3. Start up a local running club

Yes, folks, this is a new one. I've decided I have put in way too many solo miles. This is largely due to the fact that I love to be able to control my schedule and not drive excessive distances to meet groups.

It's time to connect with other runners locally and teach beginners the joy and glory of running.

Since there is not a running group in my town, I have decided to form one. I have a lot of passion and leadership that I can bring to a running club.

Please see my new website at and let me know your thoughts.

This will be the most challenging goal of the year. I am both excited and daunted about being able to pull together people and form a regular club.


Regarding training for last week, it went pretty well. I am back on track for my sub-3 run at Austin.

I cut back some of the recovery mileage so that I could nail the solid 22-miler that I cut short last week. I hit 22 strong yesterday with an average pace of 7:33 and a strong finish.

Perhaps the highlight of the week was the simulated 10k race that I did inside on a treadmill in 38:08. This is undoubtedly a PR for me (if I can count it). More significantly, however, is that it lines up with a 2:59 marathon.

I have no pain in my shin, so it must have been due to all the treadmill running I did for 2.5 weeks. It felt great to put in some outside mileage. I feel great and again very challenged as I approach my second attempt this year at a 70-mile week.

Please see my new online training log at The link is on the "Useful Links" on the left. This is a great site that Wayne pointed out to me, so I am going to give it a shot.