Archive for the ‘Marathon Autoposy’ Category

After consulting the sages at running ahead* I am starting to piece together my plan for running for the rest of the year. In a sentence, what I plan to do is slow down my runs slightly, increase my weekly mileage significantly, and race more. I hope that by doing these three things I can accomplish a new 5k PR at some point this summer and break four hours in the marathon this fall in Philadelphia.

Taking It Easy.

The first step to getting faster is running more. The first step to running more is slowing down. It is pretty clear that my “easy pace” of roughly 8:50 is too damn fast. If I am going to increase my mileage without getting hurt, I need to take this pace up to around 9:30.

You’d think that would be easy, but man, when I get out there, especially on the roads, it is hard to slow down. I want to push the tempo. I want to breathe hard. But I have to keep the breaks on. I have a long way to go.

Upping the mileage

It seems pretty clear that if I want to break four hours the most important thing that I need to do, more than speed work, more than tempo work, more than anything, is increase my mileage. My goal here is, after taking a week or two to recover from this marathon, begin increasing my mileage to fifty miles per week and eventually peak in my next training cycle somewhere around 65 miles per week.

Right now, this seems like a lot of running, but I think I can do it. In my last marathon cycle I maxed out at 48 miles. I know I can do that without injury, so if I take it slow, and listen to my body, I see no reason I cannot consistently make fifty to sixty miles a week happen.

Racing More and Loving the Training

One of the more experienced runners on Running Ahead said this in response to my question about breaking four hours:

Don’t focus on the far off future, best case scenario.  You are bound to be disappointed in the short-term.  The common theme I see with runners who make huge strides in improvement is that they revel in the short-term goals and going through the process.

I take this to mean focusing on a race five months away is silly. I need tangible goals between now and then to keep myself focused and motivated and to better track my fitness. What exactly those goals are going to be, I’m not sure, but I know I need to race more. With that in mind I am hoping to find some short races over the summer and am definitely going to do the Hartford Half in the early fall. Setting some new PRs through the summer and early fall should keep me motivated to get in the miles and stay focused in my training.

As I move into the early fall, I may add in some tempo or speed work if my body feels up to it, but for now, it is going to a trial of miles, miles of trials kind of situation. As I have been told over and over again, there is no secret; it is all about putting in the time.

*btw if you’re not reading the message boards at running ahead, you are missing one of the great running resources on the net.


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The synopsis

If for some unknown reason you don’t want to read seven hundred words on my running of the Vermont City Marathon here it is in a sentence.

I ran VCM in 4:27:16 smashing my previous marathon PR of 5:45.

The Lead Up

Ah Vermont, the land of Ben and Jerry’s, beautiful vistas and some of the largest mountains on the East Coast. It is gorgeous, and a great place to run.

On Friday night, I flew up from D.C. meeting E at the Burlington airport and then taking a cab to Stowe, where we were staying. Slept for a good eight hours and then spent the day with my parents who also made the trip.  Went to the expo, sat around the house chilling, and basically freak out with nerves about the coming race. Saturday night E made a delicious pasta dinner and I was in bed by ten o’clock where I proceeded to toss and turn for hours.

Sunday I was up at five, had two eggs and toast and was out the door by six fifteen. I was at the race start by 7:30, and then proceeded to wait in line for the bathroom for twenty minutes before dashing to the start to line up with the 4:45 pace group and listen for the start of the gun.

The Race

I had promised myself that I would go out slow in this race, and I did… sorta. I stuck with the 4:45 pace group for the first couple of miles. About four miles in, the two leaders of the 4:45 group decided to split up, one of them would be doing a steady jog for the length of the race and the other would pick up some speed on the downhills in order to make up for time lost on the uphills (Vermont is really hilly). I went with the woman who was banking time on the downhills and then when the first uphill start around mile six, I just couldn’t bring myself to slow down. Instead, I went on ahead alone.

Somewhere around mile eight I met up with a woman and ran with her until around mile 8, where to my astonishment, I’d caught the 4:30 pace group. I was a little nervous that this meant I had gone too fast, too early, but decided to just say screw it and stick with this bunch. The 4:30 pace group leader was great, just the kind of talkative, supportive person I needed, especially in those last five miles. A pace group is an interesting thing, as the miles piled up a group of ten of us stayed with the leader and created a sort of peer pressure group which assured that none of us were going to slow down. Around mile twenty four, a guy named Nam and I took off ahead of the pace group leader and just gave it all of what little we had left. Nam clearly had more than I did and pull away from me at mile 25. I just kept pushing, trying to ignore the pain in my knees and hips and crossed the line at 4:27:16.

me, making my "that's right haters" face

Summing Up

Reflecting generally on the race, I’d say it is a fun run. It is hilly, with an especially steep incline around mile 15, some of the course got pretty lonely, with little crowd support, but maybe that was just because I am slow. The weather wasn’t bad until the last couple of miles where the temperature had climbed into the eighties. I enjoyed the race, but I don’t think I will do this one again. Next year, I’d like my spring marathon to be a little earlier to avoid the chance of high temperatures.

On my performance, I’m really very happy with my time. I had no idea going into it what I was capable of doing. I would have been happy with anything under 4:45, and going under 4:30 is really pretty fucking great for me.

Now, of course, I can’t stop thinking about going under four hours.

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100 days

I got up this morning, and like I have done every day for the last 100 days, I ran. It was just three miles in a muggy Washington D.C. morning, up the 16th street hill and back down. I didn’t went without headphone and thought about my race this weekend, about the time I have put in, and about how to approach the race.

With this marathon, I wish I had run more and done some speed work, but fearful of getting injured again, I kept the training to just light miles. Still, I had eight weeks over thirty miles a week and three of those were over forty. I have focused on nutrition on my long runs and think I have that locked down. My hip is for some reason sore, but I am hoping a couple of days of very light running, plus stretching and massage will help with that. Regardless, I will run this race as smart and as fast as I can, and here is how I plan to do it:

The Plan:

Perhaps the reason it has taken me so long to write up my plan for this race is that I’m just not sure what the best strategy is for doing my absolute best. Currently, here is what I am thinking.

The night before will be a traditional pasta dinner with E and family, I’ll probably have a single glass of wine and drink a ton of water. Before bed, I will lay out what I will wear the next day and ensure that I have everything I need: bib, shorts, sunglasses, singlet, shoes, socks, gels.  I’ll attempt to go to bed early, but will probably toss and turn most of the night.

Morning of: Coffee, toast and eggs at five am. Lots of water. This has been my breakfast before all my long runs in training and I think it has worked well.  I’ll try and use the john before I head out of the house around 6:00. I’m staying almost an hour from the race start, and I want to make sure I give myself plenty of time before the gun goes off.

Race: The race begins at 8:00 am. I plan on lining up with the 4:45 pace group, and will stay with them through the fifteen mile point at least. I WILL NOT GO OUT FAST. I WILL BE SMART.  I WILL LET PEOPLE WHO ARE CLEARLY IN WORSE SHAPE PASS ME.

Regarding nutrition, I’ll take the cliff shot blocks I have used in training; the first one 1 hour in and then 1 every 45 minutes after that. I’ll drink water, and not Gatorade, as often as feels necessary.

If after fifteen miles I feel like I have something more than 4:45 in my legs, I will try and pick it up. Ideally, I’d like to run this thing in closer to 4:30 than 4:45, but what I really don’t want to do is blow up and end up crawling the last part of the race. Under no circumstances will I let the 4:45 pace group get ahead of me. I KNOW I can finish this marathon in less than that, I just know it.

This race will be a learning experience for me. My last marathon, was a disaster, an I hope that by being properly trained, starting off slow and replicating the nutrition plan which worked for me in training, I can avoid major problems. I expect to make mistakes, but hopefully none which are too serious. My hope is to finish somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45 without injury or major incident. I’ll lay everything I have on getting this done in less than 4:45.

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In 2005, I ran my first and (so far) only marathon, the New York City Marathon. It was a total disaster. I was undertrained and suffered serious gastrointestinal issues on the course. I finished in an extremely disappointing five hours and forty five minutes. Now, as I am deep into the training for my next marathon, the Vermont City Marathon (VCM) on May 30th, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit what happened in the lead up to and on the day of the New York.

Today I am going to focus on what went wrong with my training for New York. To put it bluntly, I didn’t put in the time. When I was training for New York, I was also working full time, finishing college and studying for the LSAT. I was beyond over extended and I missed many weekday runs and a couple of long runs. My running logs from those days is pretty spotty, but it seems that my biggest mileage week was 24 miles, which included one four mile mid week run and a weekend twenty miler. That is just unacceptable. It is insane that I ran that race so unprepared, when it was over, I promised myself that I would always respect the race in the future, and that is part of the reason why I have not raced the marathon distance since.

In addition to the lack of training, I did not think through what my nutrition needs were going to be on my long runs. I was trying a different gel every week and was not facing up to the fact that they were all making me feel nauseous. It is hard to admit this, because I like to think of myself as a person who is serious and comes prepared, but I just didn’t respect the race, I didn’t take the training seriously, and I paid for it on race day.

This time around, I am taking things more seriously. Since I have started training for VCM, I have been running seven days a week, (six of those I consider as training runs and one of them is a recovery run which I do mainly to keep my running streak alive). I have not missed a single run, and I have only cut one run short since I started seriously training a month and a half ago (I cut a three miler down to a mile. Freezing rain was coming down and I was in shorts and a t-shirt, like an idiot).  So far, my biggest week was last week at 33 miles and my biggest planned week is 42 miles. I’d like to have more time, and be able to put in more miles (and maybe even some speed work) but I think that this is a reasonable beginner program and I think I’ll toe the line prepared to break five hours.

Additionally, I feel like I really have my nutrition locked down now. I realize that my body just can’t handle gels, so I have switch to cliff shot blocks, and they’re working great. No nausea and, so far, they have provided plenty in the way of energy.

While New York in 2005 was a pretty painful experience, I learned from it, and I am not making the mistake I made then again. I am going to get the miles in come hell or high water and I am going to have variables such as nutrition and hydration locked down well before I get to the starting line. This time, I am respecting the race and this time, I am going to make myself proud.

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