Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 2017 Pre-race Thoughts and Palm Springs

On Sunday it's Shamrock Shuffle time, which will be my first race of 2017!  I'll be gunning for a decent time, but only have an inkling of how fast I can run it. Based on my weekly mileage, I'm about a full month behind of where I was at this time last year when I was training for a marathon. Twelve months ago my higher mileage enabled me to hold a fast pace extremely well. This year I'm running about 20 miles less per week (50 vs. 70), so I probably shouldn't expect a PR or actually anything too close to a PR. My lungs feel strong however, and my legs feel a little looser than last year - so don't count me out!

I spent last week in Palm Springs doing some pretty serious pool relaxing as well as some hill work. On Sunday, my brother and I took the tramway up from the hot desert valley (it was 90 degrees) and hiked in mountain snow where the temps were in the 40s. Up on top, the air was pretty thin - we started at 8,300 feet and ascended to about 9,000 feet. The footing was not ideal as the snow was slippery. Most of the people we passed were either wearing snowshoes or skis!
Spring hiking near Palm Springs
On Thursday, I actually ran up a "mountain" trail near downtown Palm Springs for three miles.
Trail running in the mountains
Despite the inclines, I felt really good and didn't get winded. It was so much fun and the views were spectacular, I had to fight the urge to go up again when I was finished!
Elevation chart of Thursday's Mountain trail run 
Since there is no such thing as a truly flat street in PS, I saved my 20% speedwork for the downhill portions and was cruising pretty well - between a 6:00/mile and 6:20/mile in one mile intervals (with more than a little gravity assist).

Oh yeah, in addition to the 50 vacation miles I ran/hiked, I also had a lot of time to chill in the pool and try out my underwater camera.

Underwater in PS
Anyway, the entire trip provided a huge confidence boost and made me realize I'm peaking at the right time. Since the Shuffle is my goal race, I have the luxury doing a full taper even though it's only a five mile race!

I now know I have decent endurance and can go uphill pretty well, so what should my strategy be on the flat Shuffle Course? I came up with this pace strategy off of the top of my head:

6:30, 6:10, 6:10, 6:00, 5:55 = 30:45

I like going out slowly for the first mile (as I may have mentioned in my last post). Even though my goal will be a minute and a half slower than my PR time last year, I am hoping if I feel good after mile three, I can always speed up and try and set a 2nd fastest PR of a sub 30:35.

In addition to being pumped for the race, I also scored a pass to the VIP tent, so it'll be a fun time regardless of what happens!

 Anyone else shuffling?

Friday, March 10, 2017

How many runners did I pass? Shamrock Shuffle Edition

Since the 2017 edition of the Shamrock Shuffle is the only race on my calendar, I've had more time to focus on 8k race strategy/planning than usual. In order to glean some insight as to what I should do strategy-wise this year, I went to the race website and looked at my splits from the Shuffle last year (which was a huge PR). Looking at the splits, I was surprised at how big of a negative split I had run. The first mile was run at 6:05/mile and the last mile was at 5:36/mile! Now in full disclosure, I purposely held back during the first mile to see how I felt, since I was unsure of my fitness going into the race. Anyway, as expected with such splits - I passed lots of runners most of whom weren't negative splitting. So, of course I was curious of exactly how many I passed. So like I did two years ago (post 2015 Shuffle) I wanted to find out.
2016 Shuffle Finish

Since the 2016 results have 1 mile and 5k splits, I was able to come up with the following analysis:

Shamrock Shuffle 2016:

Number of runners I passed after 1 mile mark:

Number of runners I passed after 5k mark:

Number of runners I passed total:

Number of runners who passed me after mile 1:

My place at the 1 mile mark:

My place at the 5k mark:

My place at the finish line (8k):


So, over the last four miles I passed 128 runners and moved up in the standings accordingly.  Here is another interesting tidbit:

Of the people that I passed after mile 1, the average runner ran the first mile 10 seconds FASTER than me (5:55 vs. 6:05), yet that average runner finished the race almost a whole minute (50 seconds) SLOWER than me!

Now, I guess you could say I should have run more even splits which seems to be the consensus best race strategy. However, if not the best strategy, at least negative is better than positive. If those average runners had kept at that 5:55/mile first mile until the finish line, they should have been 40 seconds faster than me (10 seconds x 4 miles) overall. Instead they ended up 55 seconds slower. That's a swing of 95 seconds over four miles.

Why do so many runners go positive a the Shamrock? I think it's because it's the first race of the season for most people, and they tend to overspeed in the beginning thinking that they have the same fitness that they did at the end of the last season. Also, there are actually a few people who think it's a 5k rather than a 5 miler and then at mile 3.1 (after burning up all of their energy) realize too late they have another 2 miles to go and so they have to crawl for the remainder!

In any case, my recommendation for all of 2017 Shufflers:

Run the first mile relatively slowly - then open things up and start passing...
Here I am at mile 2 of the 2016 Shamrock Shuffle (red hat and gray shirt)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

80/20 Running

As readers of my blog probably know, when I have a goal race on the horizon, I tend to dive in head first with my training and then keep ratcheting up the miles without too much attention to pace. But doing miles at any pace means that there are usually quite a few that are run too fast. This has left me feeling flat and burned out once my goal race/marathon is finished. I now realize I need to train at paces that will keep me feeling fresh while still giving me the best bang for my buck from speed sessions.

I read 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald a while back, and although I bought into his philosophy at the time, I never could bring myself to run as slowly as the plan's training intensities prescribe. I don't like slow, because I want to feel the burn of a good workout. This is what Fitzgerald calls running at "habitual pace", which is a pace run faster than necessary for peak fitness. A habitual pace is one that's difficult enough that you feel like you're getting a good workout because it causes strain. However it's the area where paces are too fast, causing unnecessary stress, yet not fast enough to allow you to reap the benefits of speed work.

So, what does mean for my training? Well I started reading 80/20 Running from the beginning in order to come up with a solid plan for the long term. In the meantime, I took a cue from Xaarlin's tempo training where she throws in some race pace miles in her long runs (which she used successfully to prepare for the Carmel Marathon last year). So, I'm swearing off running any miles at what I'll call "junk pace". Instead I plan to run easy for 80% and then throw in 20% of relatively fast miles. This will also keep my runs interesting - I can look forward to a couple fast miles while shuffling through all of those slow miles, instead of waiting until the next day for a speed workout.

In order to measure if I'm actually running 80/20, I came up with some general parameters (for the moment) of what I consider fast, slow and junk paces:

For example, here's how my run on Sunday run breaks down according to these paces:
Sunday 80/20 run
So, I ran a "perfect" 80/20 run without any "junk" miles! Running all of those slow miles is harder than it seems because if I'm not looking at my watch, I might accidentally run a moderately fast mile and end up with a 70/20 run or even a 60/30 run. In any case, I hope to keep this pattern up until I finish reading the book, which will probably be around the time of the Shamrock Shuffle. At that point, I will hopefully have a more scientific training plan laid out (even without having a goal race on the horizon). In any case, for the next few weeks I'm going to see if a dash of fast mixed with a lot of slow helps me to become a better runner.

Running in 70 degree February weather last week