Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Proof that I Hit the Marathon "Wall" Very Hard

In my last post, I examined my three best marathons ever, and decided I still had some work to do as far as holding pace past mile 15. For this post, I decided to average the pace per mile from all six of my previous marathons and then graph the results. Here's the graph I came up with:
Hitting the Wall with a Vengeance!
There are five distinct phases to my marathons:
  1. Miles 1 to 8 "Yo-Yo Paces": During the initial eight miles, my pace is as low as it is going to get. This is bad. I also have issues surging then falling back. For example, miles one, two and three are: 7:25 down to 7:11 up to 7:23. This yo-yo style running is bad as it burns up energy needlessly early on. 
  2. Miles 9 to 13 "Already Slowing": After mile eight, I settle into a groove, but am already slowing down from 7:22 to 7:31.
  3. Mile 14 "Surge": I try to throw in one last surge after the halfway mark which I think will get me back on track. 7:24.
  4. Miles 15 thru 19 "Calm Before the Storm": The surge doesn't last long as I jump from 7:24 back into the upper 7:30s then by mile 19 I run my last mile under 8:00.
  5. Miles 20 thru 25 - "The Wall": The wheels don't just fall off right at mile 20, they EXPLODE and my car goes screeching to a crawl as I ride on the rims. My pace jumps from 8:05 at mile 20 to 9:45 at mile 25.
  6. Mile 26 thru 26.2 "Kick": After riding on the rims for so long, my wheels get a little tread back, and I'm somehow able to mount a slight comeback as I head for home and gain energy from the cheering crowds near the finish line.
Bottom Line: By looking at the average mile paces of every marathon I've run, I can conclude that I do hit the wall, as much as I've told myself I don't. In any case, I have to devise a plan so I can turn this graph around so the high numbers are on the left and the low numbers are on the right, or they are all the same number!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Mile in The Marathon When I Start to Fade

I was comparing the paces from my three fastest marathons and I noticed a trend:
In all three marathons there was a consistent increase in pace per mile starting right after mile 15:

During all three marathons, between miles 16 and 24, my speed gradually got slower until mile 24. At mile 24 I start to "kick" and use up any energy reserves, hence the faster paces for 24 through 26.2. This chart shows that I always seem to start slightly sucking wind at right around mile 16. This is the point where my race should actually start, however in each case I started to slowly to lose ground.

I'm not quite "hitting the wall" at mile 16, but this upward trajectory is a tell-tale indicator that I need to figure out how to stay strong through mile 24 when my kick starts. I am guessing one thing I need to NOT do is to increase my speed dramatically after mile 13, which is what I think I have done in the past (consciously or unconsciously).

Friday, September 26, 2014

"A Fortnight Remains" or "The Heart of the Taper"

Only two more weeks until the Chicago Marathon, and I can safely say that my training for the race has been the most I've ever trained for any race in my entire life. This is a good thing, but there are so many other factors besides training mileage that go into a good marathon performance that I may just have to accept whatever time the run gods deem me worthy of on October 12.

In a later post, I will put together a comparison of this cycle vs. my previous marathon training cycles, but suffice it to say, I have targeted this race and only this race with a vengeance for about 10 months and have not let my foot off the gas until now.

As far as taking my foot off of the gas: This week, my first taper week, I ran 70 miles. It's hard to believe that a 70 mile week is running less, but since the previous two weeks were both over 80 miles, it is indeed. I once thought that I might max out once at 70 miles, but this cycle I've had five weeks over 70.

 As for "taper madness", here are some symptoms I'm experiencing:

  • One day I think that it's frustrating that I won't be able to run as much as I have previously. I worry that I'll experience lower daily endorphins, gain weight, and slowly watch as my fitness declines. Then the next day, I'll be frustrated that my taper doesn't entail only running one or two miles per day! I still have to run 90+ miles over the final two weeks. This includes two 12+ mile runs. Not exactly chump change.
  • I'm having the typical "injury paranoia" where every little twitch and pain might signal a marathon DNS. I tripped over an open kitchen drawer (near the floor) the other night and bruised my right shin pretty badly. I thought for sure I had done something which would shut down my running, but when I woke up the next day, the pain was gone and I was back to normal.
  • I'm second guessing myself if my four 16 mile long runs were enough. I've read about numerous people who have at least one or two 20+ long runs under their belts. Then I remember that some coaches recommend the long run be 20% of weekly volume. Guess what, I was dead on 80 miles * 0.20 = 16 miles. My marathon PR was based on maxing out at 16 miles, so there's that as well.
Anyway, here is my training chart with only two more weeks of red line (forecasted):

So now I'm about to start the "heart of the taper" and try to stay mentally and physically healthy for a couple more weeks! Is anyone else having interesting "taper madness" symptoms?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Looks Like I'm Already Tapering for the Chicago Marathon

I didn't plan it exactly this way, but I might already be tapering for the Chicago Marathon. I just ran my highest mileage week last week in Boston where I managed to run 82.5 miles (a weekly PDR) at an average of 7:57 per mile. I don't think I will run that much mileage again this week. I have been doing cutback weeks every other week all training cycle so I probably need to treat myself to another cutback and (only!) run about 73 miles this week. As you can see below, after this week, there are only three weeks left and I'm planning on decreasing mileage from here on out. So I guess you could stay I'm in the first week of my four week taper!

My marathon training plan with the actual miles in blue.
I may be jinxing myself here, but since last week, I have had absolutely no problem holding a 7:00/mile pace for what seems like indefinitely. If shooting for a sub-3 hour marathon meant a 6:58/mile pace then I would probably not hesitate at "going for broke". But alas, I would realistically need to hold a 6:46 pace for 26.5 miles*, and I might be just shy of the fitness required to do that come race day. So as of right now, I'm still planning on just PRing this marathon (6:59/mile) which would put me at somewhere under 3:05:03. Not only would that be a PR, but it would BQ me by over 20 minutes which means early, early, early registration for Boston 2016!

Speaking of BQing, I decided not to submit my finishing time (and money) in order to run the 2015 Boston Marathon next April. I am thinking instead of running a "local" marathon for the spring, perhaps Carmel, Indiana, which is a flat course and only costs $65! I'll probably set my sights on the running the Boston Marathon again in 2016. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, so I'll (try and) keep my focus on Chicago next month!

Here are some more pics from my runs during my trip to Boston last week. I stayed on Beacon Street near the 23 mile marker on Beacon. The Boston Marathon mile indicators were painted on the ground every mile along the street:
Boston Marathon Mile 25 Marker painted on the Street.
The Water Station goes here!
Sailboats on the Charles River at Sunset
Rowers on the Charles River at Sunset
Boston Skyline in the Morning
Anyway, that's it for now. I just need to keep healthy and I should be good to go for my PR attempt on October 12th! How is everyone else's training going for the Chicago Marathon (or other races)?

*26.5 is my typical marathon length due to an additional 0.3 miles of not running the tangents perfectly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Staying on the Boston Marathon Course

I'm back in Boston again. My hotel is on Beacon street at about mile 24 of the Boston Marathon course. So of course I was going to run as much as I could of the course when I woke up this morning! After my 5 a.m. wake-up, I ran five miles west of my hotel along Beacon Street, covering miles 19 through 24 of the course. It was dark when I started at about 5:45 a.m., but surprisingly, I wasn't the only runner out on the "course" at that time. Once I reached "Heartbreak Hill" I saw runners with headlamps trucking up the hill for an awe-inspiring training run!

Looking down Heartbreak Hill (I  probably didn't need so much sunscreen at that hour!)
I turned around in the town of Newton Centre and headed back up Heartbreak Hill for my return trip. During the Boston Marathon 2013, I walked up part of HH before running the last five miles. This time, I ran up the whole thing, so I did not stop for pictures until I got to the top which is the entrance to Boston College:
Taking a post Heartbreak Hill run break at Boston College 
A little further east n Beacon Street (still on the Boston Marathon course) there is a nice little reservoir "Chestnut Hill Reservoir" that had lots of runners going around its very own "reservoir front trail":

Runner with Boston skyline in background.
Reservoir with Boston College in the background
So it was a nice relaxing 10 miler despite the hills, which I hardly noticed, probably due to the adrenaline rush I got because I was on the Boston Marathon course.

Also, last night I went to a Red Sox game for my first baseball game at Fenway Park. We walked up to the ticket booth in the sixth inning and the Red Sox box office gave us two free seats. Gotta love the Boston Hospitality!
Sitting in my free seat at Fenway near the "Green Monster"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chicago Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap

GOALAs I mentioned in my last post, my main goal for this race was a sub-1:28, which would indicate that I was on track for a marathon PR (3:05:03) next month. If I could do that perhaps a Chicago Half course P.R. (1:27:53) was in the works as well. I did not know what kind of fitness I had, so I was going to go out conservatively, then open it up later on. I figured a 7:15 to 6:15 progression would be ideal.

EXPO: I paid $25 to park at Navy Pier which was the location of the race expo on Saturday. I found out later they were validating parking for $12, but they did not have a specific validation booth. I guess I should read the informational e-mails beforehand! Oh well, at least I bumped into Jenny, Manny and Eric. Here I am with Eric:
Eric ran to the expo, thus parking for free!
Getting To the Race: On Sunday morning, I rode with my neighbor Tad who I now have dubbed the "Master of Parking" as he found a place to park for free about 3 blocks from the start line at about 6:15 am.

Pre-Race:  With 45 minutes to spare we milled about, used the facilities and then checked our bags.
Hanging out pre-race
Once we parted ways, I made my way over to the "B" corral. While waiting for the gun to sound, Adam introduced himself and we chatted a bit. I purposely lined up way behind the 1:30 pace group. I would make an effort to pass them around mile 8 which would give me something to work towards during the first part of the race.

Miles 1 to 3: Temps were comfortable and in the low 60s for the start of the race, so it all set up for a faster than normal Chicago Half Marathon for me because the temps are normally pushing 80 degrees. The first three miles through the Hyde Park neighborhood are relatively shady. I somehow got in a group of runners and we all introduced ourselves. I think they thought we would be a group for the whole race. 7:03/mile.

Miles 4 to 6: We reached LSD (Lake Shore Drive) with beautiful views of the lake. I left my new friends behind as I think they were running even splits and I was slowly starting to negative split. Around mile 6 I finally spotted the 1:30 pace group again and attempted to close the gap between them and me a little more. 6:44/mile.
On the course somewhere before mile 8
(when I ditched the water bottle)
Miles 7 through 9: By mile 8 I had still not passed the 1:30 pace group even though I was laying down 6:30 miles. I think they were going faster than 6:52 per mile! Anyway, as we got to the turn-around at 31st street bridge, I saw my opportunity to pass them on the up-hill. I floored it up the hill and got by the entire 1:30 pace group by the time we started heading back down the ramp. Unfortunately, I started to gasp for air as it had taken a lot of effort to pass them on the uphill. I thought that maybe I would have to slow down for the rest of the race as I was gassed. 6:27/mile.

Miles 10 through 12: Well, the miracle of 70 mile training weeks became apparent as my "gassed" lungs got a second wind and I was able to push even harder and go faster without a problem. Turns out, the feeling like I would have to slow down was mostly in my head. Had I not put in all the miles during the training, I probably would not have held pace. 6:23/mile.

Miles 13 through 13.22: I spotted Lynton up up ahead by his tell-tale red BRC singlet. I caught up to him, said "hi" and then sped off. I laid on the speed up the last uphill towards the golden "Columbia" statue next to the finish line. 6:04/mile.

Adam was at the finish line, and we attempted a high-five, but I was so winded I ended up missing his hand. Fail! Sorry Adam! Anyway, I made my way out of the chute and grabbed my bag.

Course PR for six Chicago Halfs!
Official finishing time was 1:27:19 for a new course PR by 34 seconds! However, my main goal of finishing sub-1:28 was accomplished. I have a decent shot at a 3:05 marathon based on the running calculators. I just need to finish off my training the next few weeks and I should just be hoping for nice weather on October 12th!

Post Race:
I picked up my gear and my second medal for completing the "26.2 Challenge" and headed over to the finish line to watch the runners for awhile.
At the finish line watching runners
Then it was off to the beer tent where I caught up with Eric, Jennifer, Lynton, Jenny and Manny.
Manny, me, Lynton and Jenny enjoying the post-race festivities
Great race temps, course PR, on track for a good marathon, and catching up with lots of running friends made it a great morning!

Next Up: St. Michael's Oktoberfest 5k with the Wurst Running Club Ever!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thoughts before the 2014 Chicago Half Marathon

I finished my weekly training today, because I want to have a couple of days of rest before the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday. One two mile shakeout run on Saturday is all that stands between me and the race. That shakeout run is also the only thing left standing between me and being two weeks away from my Chicago Marathon taper. However exciting that is, I have yet to test my race fitness. My training runs have (almost) all been above average. I feel like I am reclaiming some "powers" that I haven't had since 2011, the year of my 8k and marathon PRs. Even the training miles where I am suffering and I feel like I'm crawling, I'm actually holding pace quite well. However, like I said, I have not tested my race fitness yet, but I am getting very excited for the opportunity to do so. That opportunity will be on Sunday.
Water-skier seen on my run near Diversey Harbor on Tuesday 
The weather forecast for Sunday's Chicago Half Marathon is for partly cloudy skies an agreeable 61° at the start. Not spectacular, but for early September it's pretty nice. I seriously doubt that a half PR is within reach for a variety of reasons. But, I've surprised myself before, so you never know. A sub-1:25:00 would be awesome as it would punch a ticket for an automatic entry for me to run the NYC Marathon next year. However, I only need a sub-1:28 for a McMillan confidence boost that I am fit enough for an equivalent 3:05 marathon. That's really all I need to be really happy. So if I'm not feeling like I can go faster during the race, I won't push it. My world revolves around the marathon at the moment, and I don't want to sit out for an extra day or two next week trying to recover from a tough effort on Sunday.
Sunrise on the Lakefront Trail on Tuesday
I'm about 95% ready for the marathon and I'm fairly confident that I will only make small fitness gains between now and October 12th. So my main focus will just be to get in my planned miles and not try anything cute which could lead to an injury such as:
  • New shoes: That pair of shoes I am wearing for training runs now is the pair I will finish my training in and run the marathon in. 
  • Track work: The track is also off-limits for me until after the marathon.
  • Extra long runs: Only one more 16 mile run is in the plan and I am sticking to that. 
  • Too many "fun runs": I have only one "fun run" planned: The Oktoberfest 5k, but I am using it as a training run and as an opportunity to have a recovery beer with the WRCE. 
  • Staying out late and drinking: I don't want any interruptions because of colds (or two day hangovers!) which could set me back. Okay, the one exception is Riot Fest. But that should end relatively early.
Time to dial in my focus for a few more weeks and see what happens October 12th. The excitement builds...