Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Running Season

Although it's cold, rainy, and windy today, this past weekend got me pumped for the spring running season. I'm hoping it lasts until at least July--no hot, humid weather until then. It'd be nice if the rain, wind, and unseasonable cold would knock it off too.

This past weekend the weather was perfect for running. Cool, not much wind, and a little cloudy on Saturday for an 8 miler run--my longest since the marathon. Then, it was a little warmer but still very comfortable on Saturday for a sunny, five mile jaunt. When the weather's comfortable and my quads no longer feel like they've been internally shredded, running is just awesome.

This spring and summer should be interesting for races. I'm pacing a marathon on Saturday at 8:47 / mile. After pacing a couple of 1/2 marathons I know what I'm getting into, but staying focused for twice as long while running an even pace is going to be a little more challenging. I'm looking forward to seeing a new course and possibly guiding some runners to a BQ or a PR.

Then, less then two weeks later I'll be running the TC 1 Mile road race. I haven't run a competitive mile since college (unless you count the one on a frozen lake) and I'm looking forward to seeing if I can run a decent time with very little speed work. I'm hoping to get a little bit of faster running in this week and next but I don't want to mess around too much after running two marathons in less than two weeks.

After the 1 mile I'm running a 50k in July. I told Laura I was done racing marathons, but that doesn't count out 50k's--they're only about 5 miles longer. The race is the Afton Trail Run--it's a very challenging course and there's also a very good possibility it will be hot and humid. I can't wait!

Then, in August there's a very good possibility that I'll be running the Ragnar Great River Relay on an ultra team. I think my legs will total somewhere around 30 miles.

Sounds like a great summer!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Boston: A Reflection

Two weeks before Boston I would have said I was in the best marathon shape of my life. Five days before Boston I was worried because I had started to get a cold. Three days before I was very worried because after the plane ride and all that I was very congested and afraid that I was going to get even sicker.

It turned out that while my cold was hanging around for the race (and still is), it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact, I don't think it was a big factor at all. Marathon Monday was a good day for weather, as evidenced by a world record performance in the men's field.

Since Monday I've been thinking a lot about the race and reflecting on my performance and training. I achieved my big goal of breaking three hours but I really felt I'd get closer to 2:55 than I did. I ran more miles than ever, did more 20+ runs than ever, and felt like I could get a more equivalent performance compared to my adjusted 10k than I had for my first two marathons.

Amazingly, compared to my adjusted 10k a few weeks before the marathon, of the three marathons I've ran, Boston was the slowest. It was an even slower ratio than Twin Cities where I averaged around 30 miles a week compared to the 54 I averaged for Boston.

Don't get me wrong; I'm still thrilled about breaking three hours. I have, however, been racking my brain about why with more miles and more focus on improving my endurance I still ran slower for a marathon compared to my 10k time several weeks out. I'm not sure, but here's some things I've been thinking:

The most obvious reason my 10k time and marathon time didn't line up was my cold. I did not, however, really notice the cold during the race so I don't think it affected me a ton. It may have been a bigger factor than I noticed though, as it might have taken some of my fitness in the several days prior to the race.

Another factor might have been that the race was much warmer than any weather I did a long run in besides one 20 mile run on the treadmill. The weather was great for the most part as a tailwind was definitely a factor, but I was definitely hot and drank way more water than I ever have during a race or a long run. I guess the slight warmth may have factored in for a minute or so.

Besides the slightly warm weather, I also felt I wasn't able to take advantage of the downhills like I wanted. I ran the uphills pretty strong, but the downhills after Heartbreak hurt. If I ever do Boston again I'll prepare better for downhill running.

One factor, I'm sure, is the fact that I'm just naturally better at shorter races than longer ones. With no specific training for a 5k I'm sure I could do a time with an equivalent faster than a 2:59 marathon. There's nothing I can really do about this besides to keep improving my endurance and getting older and losing more speed.

The last thing I think I'll look at when I run my marathon is having an even shorter taper period. I think next time I'll cut back but not as much--it's possible that one of the reasons I got a cold was because of the taper. I know trying to peak is always somewhat elusive but I am almost certain I'll change my workouts around next time to see if I can come closer to peaking. I didn't really follow any sort of training plan other than my own and I'm wondering if I'd do better if I used one for my next marathon.

Before Boston I told Laura that I wouldn't be running another marathon until I'm 30. Of course, I've got a 50k planned in July and I'm pacing a marathon in Brainerd next weekend. I guess I should say I won't race another marathon until I'm 30. I might pace a couple but I think after I run the 50k in July I'm going to focus on 1/2 marathons and shorter for the next few years, then shoot for a sub 2:55 marathon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boston Race Report

At 3:30 AM I was looking at the clock radio and hoping I could sleep a little more before my alarm went off at 4:30. By 4:15 I gave up and started the hotel room's little coffee maker. I was a little nervous but mostly excited to be running the Boston Marathon.

After eating a little snack and getting a good luck kiss from Laura I grabbed my race gear and headed out to the hotel shuttle. They actually had two shuttles leaving at 5:00 AM because there were so many people there running the marathon. I saw my new friend Chanda, who Laura and I had met a couple nights earlier on the hotel shuttle. We ended up riding the T together and then met her friend/coach, Heath.

On the bus to Hopkinton I sat by an older gentleman who wasn't much for small talk. "I'm not going to talk to you," he said after I asked him a couple of questions. "I do best when I stay calm." So, I rode the bus to Hopkinton admiring the scenery.

Athlete's Village was chilly. They had bagels, water, Gatorade, and bananas so I ate a little more. Then, just when I was on top of the world having gotten an extra trash bag from a worker who gave it to me on the condition that I keep in on the "DL," tragedy struck. I rolled onto my side to rest and enjoy the extra space my new trash bag afforded me when I felt something wet on my leg. This is strange, I thought. I'm on a trash bag, my leg shouldn't be getting wet. Was there a hole in the trash bag? Was the bag wet. Nope. Instead, in my infinite wisdom I had forgotten about the two gels in my pocket. The GU was fine, but the chocolate cherry Cliff shot had popped. After laughing about it and replacing the Cliff gel with another, I got to a porta-potty and was able to get cleaned up.

At 9:10 it was finally time to line up for the race. The amount of people there was just incredible. I was in the 3rd corral of the first wave so I walked with Heath where he left for the second wave. It was very sunny at the start but also very windy so I kept my throw-aways on until right before we started.

Although the crowd was thick and the street was pretty narrow the crowd moved along pretty well and I came through the first mile in 7:10. After that I wasn't hampered at all by the crowds except occasionally at water stops. The first 5k was mostly downhill but I was able to keep a conservative pace at around 6:53 / mile.

By the 10k mark things were going pretty well. My legs felt good and my cold wasn't bothering me too much at all. I couldn't believe how fast the race was going by. There couldn't have been more than 20 feet of street without someone standing and cheering and there were hundreds of kids out giving high fives. There was a solid tail wind and the temperature was in the 50s--pretty nice although it felt a little warm.

Around the 15k mark there was a group of people holding a big Nebraska flag so I had to shout, "Go Huskers!" That got the Nebraska fans all fired up and was a nice mental break for me.

I came through the 20k mark at 1:24:15. It was pretty cool thinking that last year I had went into a 20k hoping to break 1:25 and now I was right where I wanted to be time-wise at the Boston Marathon. My legs still felt good at this point and I was thinking more and more about the Newton Hills.

My half marathon split was 1:28:48. At this point I thought I might still have a chance for 2:55 but I knew I had to get through the Newton Hills first. But, before I got there I saw someone who looked familiar--it was a guy I'd run with for a while at the Fetzer 20k in 2010 named Kam. I said hi to him and we chatted a little before he slowed down a little and we separated.

The first of the Newton Hills comes around 16 miles and I actually thought it was the most challenging of the hills--maybe because before that it been almost all downhill and flat. The hills were tough but not terrible. I tried to relax and save some energy for the downhill finish. There were some people walking on the hill here and there but not a ton. On Heartbreak Hill there was one guy run-walking up the hill yelling to the crowd stuff like, "C'mon, I need it!" and trying to pump them up. Man, if I were walking up a hill I'd save my energy, but whatever.

I knew Laura was going to be watching somewhere around Heartbreak so I looked for her in the crowd from mile 20.5 to 22. She saw me, but somehow I just missed her. In one of the pictures she took of me you can tell I'm looking for her, but I'm obviously not looking in the right place.

After Heartbreak the course is mainly downhill. I was hoping to take advantage of the downhills and get close to 2:55, but yesterday wasn't the day for 2:55. My quads were screaming on the downhill portions and it was tough to hold my pace let alone push it. I don't really remember much about the last 4 miles. I remember seeing the Citgo sign, doing some math wrong in my head that made me think with 3.5 miles left that I still had a shot at 2:55 (I didn't), and the huge roar of the crowd at the finish.

Sub three hours wasn't in the bag for sure until really the last 1/2 mile. With one mile left I knew I needed to run around 7:10 for the last mile and it was by no means going to happen easily. I was able to dip just deep enough into the well to run it fast enough. Turning onto Boylston Street I knew I'd picked up the pace but when I looked down and saw I was moving around 5:50 / mile I was almost certain I'd break 3 hours. Final time: 2:59:42.

It was a great day for a race and I had an awesome time in Boston. Not only did I have fun, I also got to run in the footsteps of the fastest marathon ever run. I'd definitely like to do this race again.

The gel disaster:

Heath & Chanda:

"Where's Laura?" after Heartbreak Hill:

Geoffrey Mutai, on his way to the world's fastest marathon:

At the finish with my beautiful wife:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Live from Boston

It's day three for Laura and I in Boston. We flew in Friday night and had a very nice shuttle driver. Yesterday, after some problems with our trolley voucher, we did a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour. We stopped at the USS Constitution, known as "Old Ironsides." It was an interesting visitor's center and tour of the boat, the highlight of which was the sailor giving the tour. She attempted to be very enthusiastic but it was definitely forced. She also was very crabby with a group of boy scouts on the tour. I think they were interrupting her, but honestly I couldn’t even hear them. I think generally tour guides should just talk over people, but I guess boy scouts are pretty annoying.

After spending some time at the Boston Marathon expo, we saw a Christopher McDougall "Naked Running Cabaret" at the Boston Public Library. There were several people from the book who spoke as well as an opera singer who sang Caballo Blanco's motivational pre race instructions.

On the bad news front I've had a cold since Wednesday night. It did, however, seem to peak on Friday night and today is the best I've felt since it started. I'm hoping to wake up Monday morning snot-free for the marathon. I'm not as confident now of breaking three hours, but if this cold clears up I should still have a shot.

Today we're going to see some more sights in Boston and do a harbor cruise. Then we'll go back to the expo to listen to a speaker or two and finish seeing the exhibits. If you want to know the definition of cheap, how's this: instead of buying lunch yesterday, we filled up on gel, cliff bars, power bars, yogurt, and cheese samples from the expo. Today we might do it again.

Thanks for all the well-wishes for the race on Monday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Week to Boston

After a pleasant 15 mile run on Saturday with the last few miles at goal marathon pace, I can officially say my taper is proceeding nicely. I took Sunday off and went out to dinner with Laura's parents, watched The Masters, and was generally lazy. It was a nice day. I've had some weird soreness behind my right knee and in my right calf so I thought it'd be smart to rest yesterday and just take it easy.

Today I'm going to run easy with maybe some hill sprints thrown in while I continue to obsess about the Boston Marathon. The rest of the week will be mostly easy running with some marathon pace thrown in to remind my legs how we're going to run the Boston Marathon. My goals are set and with a week to go I suppose now is as good of time as any to share them.

Like other races, I like to set multiple goals so if my "A" goal isn't going to happen I still have something to focus on. Plus, a marathon is a long race and there's lots of variables, some of which are out of my control.

My "A" goal is to go 2:55xx. This would be a roughly 7 minute PR. It's ambitious, but definitely doable based on my racing and training thus far. With good weather and smart pacing I think there's an outside chance I might even break 2:55. Now I just have to obsess about my splits for the next week.

My "B" goal would be to break three hours. If it's really windy, too hot, or some other unforeseen circumstance prevents me from shooting for my "A" goal at the start, this is the time I'll be shooting for. If a 6:40-something pace feels too difficult at the halfway point I might regroup a little to try and save something for the hills and shoot for the "B" goal. Honestly, I'd be pretty disappointed if I don't break three hours at Boston. Sure it's a tougher course than Lake Wobegon, but I feel like my training's gone well, my fitness it there, and I'm ready to break three hours.

My goal regardless of how fast or slow my finish time happens to be, is to write a great race report. I don't know if I'll do another post between now and Boston--I might sneak one in once we arrive in Boston. Whether or not I write a post between now and the race, however, I hope to write an entertaining piece on how the race went. Probably not as entertaining as "Duel in the Sun" or this post, but at least interesting to runners. My bib number is 2442 if anyone is interested in tracking my progress. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and support--especially for my wife who puts up with the chunks of time spent running, my asking her to refill my coffee while giving my legs an ice bath, and occasional two hour naps the day after a long run.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Since running cross country in college I've noticed a huge range of eating habits in runners. Let me run down a few of the classic types:

The "I-ran-10-miles-so-I-can-eat-whatever-I-want" runner. This runner looks like a healthy person from the outside, but do some blood tests and you're bound to find high cholesterol or something else you wouldn't expect in a runner. Rumor has it that Bill Rodgers was one of these, known to eat mayonnaise on pizza when not eating it straight from the jar. These runners are known to repeat the phrase, "if the furnace is hot enough, it'll burn anything." I'm closest to this type of runner when I'm on a long run and get really hungry--usually for a burger. Then, I eat a big, juicy, half pound of beef with cheese, mushrooms, and sometimes bacon.

The "I-know-the-GI-index-of-seven-kinds-of-grains" runner. This runner will let you know exactly what the quality of carbohydrate your eating is. They also won't be shy to point it out to you. They may also be on a whole food, lean protein, grass-fed organic beef and free range chicken diet. I'm closest to this kind of runner in that I try and get whole grain everything--pasta, rice, even waffles.

The "I-haven't-met-a-supplement-I haven't-tried" runner. Sore knees--try some glucosamine. Want to improve mood, circulation, and overall health? How 'bout fish oil? This runner's multivitamin could easily be missed in the pile of pills he takes each morning. I'll admit that I do take fish oil and have tried glucosamine on occasion.

Obviously many runners, like myself, will oscillate among these extremes, or, in extreme cases, even be somewhat normal and balanced with their nutritional choices. I'd say that I'm generally health conscious about my eating, especially now that I can't eat whatever I want and not gain any weight. In college I could eat a whole pizza and still stay at around 155 lbs. Now, not so much.

Speaking of healthy eating, I tried something new today--a Green Monster. I found this recipe over at The Runner's Plate--a great blog that makes me feel bad every time I stop at McDonald's.

I put my own twist on this recipe by adding some frozen mango chunks and using natural peanut butter instead of almond butter (I didn't have any almond butter). It was pretty good, though next time I think I'll go without the peanut butter.

Check it out:

Make sure to get the recipe at The Runner's Plate.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ron Daws Race Report

Last night I went to get my racing clothes ready and I kind of wanted to go Ryan Hall style--shorts, a singlet, and arm warmers. Personally I thought it looked pretty sweet but Laura said I looked "stupid," so it was another long sleeve tech shirt race.

The weather was nicer today than last weekend. I'm guessing it was close to 40 by about halfway through the race--I even rolled my sleeves up (if I had arm warmers on I could've just put 'em in my pockets). I was planning to use the Ron Daws 25k as a marathon pace run to practice for Boston. I was thinking I'd go out at about 6:45 and see how that felt. If it felt marathon pacy enough I'd stay there and if it felt easy I'd pick it up a little bit. Then, I was planning on running the last two miles fast.

Instead, I ended up running the whole thing a little faster than I planned. I didn't run one mile at 6:45 pace--my slowest my ended up being 6:43. I felt good the whole time though and I really didn't feel like I was pushing it until the last two miles. Even then I never felt like I was redlining. The course was tough with a lot of up and down but I handled it better than I did during the 7 mile last week. My quads felt it a little but I was still able to move pretty quickly on the downhills and not give up too much going up.

Overall it was a pretty good race. I got to run with a friend from Minnesota Running Wild for the first several miles and another friend ran well out ahead of me while a third was somewhere behind us. I also got in a nice pace--a little under 6:30 for the whole thing with the last couple miles at under 6 minutes to finish at 1:42:18. It felt good picking it up the last two miles and passing four runners ahead of me. Now, no more racing until Boston.