Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Taper Time!

This past Sunday I ran the last long run of this marathon training cycle and am now officially into my taper. I’ve been looking forward to this for the last couple of weeks as my mileage and speed work ramped up and my body started feeling the full impact of the training. At the end of my 21 miler last weekend my calf was pretty sore and after consulting with Jen I decided it would be best to take Tuesday off (as well as Monday my normal day) to let my body rest. On Wednesday I went out for a run and towards the end it was bothering me again. Admittedly, I probably ran faster than I should have (8 miles at 7:25 AP) and that likely played a role in the continued soreness. With another off day on Thursday, ice bucket, hot tub, Tiger Balm, compression socks, foam roller, and two easy runs on Friday and Saturday I felt fine by the time I started running on Sunday.

While I was out running I was thinking about my upcoming race and I realized that I was pretty nervous about and excited for it. Nervous because, well because it’s a marathon; and excited because, well because it’s a marathon. To ease my nerves a bit and to pass the time during the run I started thinking about the training I’ve done and the things I’ve accomplished over the last four months.

I ran three races during training; two half-marathons and a 5k.

The Shamrock Run 5k was in week four and although I had been doing hill work I had yet to do any speed work. This race features nearly a mile of incline and only about two-tenths of a mile of decline so it’s a tough one. I managed to push hard and set a new PR of 19:37.

One week later Jen and I were up in Washington for the Mercer Island Half Marathon which is on twisty, hilly roads for the majority of the race. Since I knew it was a tough course my plan was to run strong but not push too hard and then really try to hang on and pick up the pace at the end. I hoped that the hill training I had been doing would help me push through. It was a hard course but I managed to pull out a new PR of 1:32:38.

On May 2nd we were down in Eugene where Jen was running her marathon and I was running the half. This race was a good confidence boost for me and I ended up finishing with a new PR of 1:30:15.

Weekly Runs:
Even though there were a few days when I really didn’t feel like heading out the door I managed to complete every run except the one mentioned above and one in April when I was traveling for work. I still have a few left during the taper and while I hope to get them all in it is the taper after all and I’m not going to beat myself up if I have to miss one (although I’m sure I will spend some time agonizing over it).

Long Runs:
I used a plan that had me doing two 20 mile runs and one 21 miler which I was a bit intimidated by at first but as I completed each one it was a good confidence boost. I was able to run two of them point to point on the Banks Veronia trail and one of them on a new out and back route along the waterfront downtown. I really enjoyed the runs on Banks Vernonia because it gave me a chance to get out away from people and enjoy my surroundings. I felt progressively stronger on each run and was able to run the last six miles of my 21 miler at an average pace of 7:06. Granted that is likely the primary reason for my sore calf but thankfully that appears to be on the mend. My 21 miler was also only the second time I’ve run over 20 miles

Speed Work:
I felt confident in all of my speed workouts but there were definitely days when I wanted to quit on the second interval when I was scheduled to do six or eight. I pushed through the mental blocks and finished all of them on pace and feeling good; tired, but good. I think the hardest part of speed work is the warm up and cool down. If I’m at the track I don’t mind running fast intervals, but running a 2 mile warm up and cool down can be quite boring.

37 Miles:
As of this evening I have six runs left for a total of 37 miles. The majority of the miles will be at a GA pace or an easy pace and on the last two I’ll likely throw in a couple of goal pace miles just to remember what they feel like. Tonight I ran five miles at an 8:00 average and of course I was questioning the taper the entire time. Luckily I’ve had Jen telling me how important the taper is and to have faith in my training which I definitely do. At this point no amount of speed work or heavy mileage would do me any good. What I need now is to let my body recover so that come race day I am ready to roll.

The Weather:
Springtime in Oregon – I think that about sums it up.

Overall I think I am more excited than anything else. The visual I have is that I am a chocolate chip cookie with the cookie part being excitement and the chocolate chips being nervousness.

I’ll post a race report after I get home – since the race is on a Saturday I should be able to get one done sometime on Sunday.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Eugene Half Marathon Race Report

After running this race last year and enjoying the course and the city of Eugene so much, I was excited to head back again this weekend to run it for a second time. Jen had decided to run the full this year after debating between this and another race, but since I had already picked a marathon this was going to be a training race for me and hopefully a good indication of my fitness with five weeks of training left to go.

Saturday morning I got up and got in a short easy run before we packed up the car, grabbed a bagel and coffee, and hit the road. When we got to Eugene we hit up the expo, grabbed a sandwich downtown (I’m a big sandwich fan and am always looking for a good sandwich shop), bummed around for a bit, then went to our hotel to check in. After that we walked over to the University to scope out the start (they had changed it a bit from last year) and then walked over the river to find a spot where I could hopefully catch Jen at around mile 16/17 of her race the next day. Then it was back to the hotel for a nap followed by race day prep, picnic style dinner on the bed (chicken, pasta salad, and bread), then some reading and bed.

Sunday morning I was up at a little after five to have some coffee and toast, get ready, and hit up the rr a couple times before walking over to the start. Since our hotel was a four minute walk from the starting corrals (we timed it on Saturday) we were able to stay in the room until around 6:40 which was great. When we got over to the start I did a couple short warm up jogs then Jen and I got into the corral together before we wished each other good luck and lined up in our respective time zones.

Going into the race I my main goal was to have an average pace in the mid 6:50’s with an A+ goal of breaking 1:30:00. Leading up to the race I had been telling myself “remember not to go out too fast” and for the most part I stuck to that (although I did go out a bit fast and had a moment of “this is happening!” before reigning myself in.

The three miles are basically flat with a few downhill sections mixed in so I spent this time getting into a groove and constantly reminding myself that I was likely going a bit fast and needed to reign it in a bit.

Miles 1-3: 6:46, 6:43, 6:44

The next two and a half-ish are basically a slight incline capped off with a steep pitch at the end before the course turns and comes back down the incline one block to the west. During this section I knew that I had started pushing my luck with the miles in the 6:40’s but I felt like I had caught myself before doing any real damage. I was certainly glad to see the turn and the beginning of the decline after the climb.

Miles 4-6: 6:54, 7:02, 6:46

After the six mile mark I felt like I was getting into a good groove but at the same time I could feel myself starting to get tired and knew that it was going to take some mental effort to hang on and keep pushing. It wasn’t that I was ready to give up, I was just running fast and started to question myself and wonder if I could keep it up for another seven miles. When I hit 6.55 I shook out my arms, took my Gu, and knew that I was halfway done and that I could hang in there. After rounding a corner at mile eight and running by the water stop I saw Alisa holding her sign and cheering which was a nice pick-me-up before I had to tackle the biggest hill of the course. I kicked it down a notch and was surprised when the hill didn’t seem nearly as daunting as it did the year before. I don’t know if I had just built it up in my head or if I was just in better shape or what but it really wasn’t that bad. After reaching the top I used my strategy from last time where I didn’t push too hard downhill and let myself relax and recover until I hit the bottom. The rest of the mile was uneventful and before I knew it we were at the nine mile mark.

Miles 7-9: 6:53, 6:51, 7:09

The rest of the race was basically an exercise in perseverance and trust in my training. What really seemed to help me was thinking back on my speed work at the track and remembering how it felt running that fourth mile at 10k pace or my sixth 800 at 5k pace and I knew if I could do that I could hold on and make it through these last miles. There were a couple people who had passed me in mile ten that I managed to pick off over the last three miles and that gave me nice short term goals to focus on. When I got to about 12.6 or so I looked at my watch and thought if I was going to break 1:30:00 I needed to pick up the pace and push hard. Right after that another part of me said, in a very sarcastic tone “Sure, you go ahead and do that, just start running faster”. I pushed as hard as I could but when I hit the stadium I knew I was going to fall just short of breaking an hour thirty, but I was also very happy to be taking a sizeable chunk of time off my PR from the Mercer Island Half marathon in March.

Miles 10-13: 6:51, 7:04, 6:53, 6:51

After I was done I downed a couple bottles of water and ate a pancake then hurried over to the hotel to change, grab the camera and a water bottle for Jen, put on sunscreen, and hurry over the river to catch Jen at mile 16.5. I made it with about five minutes to spare and was able to get a few good shots of her as she ran by. I ran with her for a short bit to pass off the water bottle and let her know she was looking strong, and then I took a couple more pics and watched her run off to finish the race.

You can check out her report on her blog to get the full details and also to hear about the exciting conclusion. She ran great and I was really proud of her for tackling her eight stand alone marathon.

Final Results:

6:54 AP
17/185 AG
84/1,274 Males
109/4,056 OA