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.