Monday, April 30, 2007

15 and 4 To Go

Fifteen miles under a nice morning sun and gentle breeze! That was my Saturday morning. I hope it's just like that on May 26th! What are the chances the weather is absolutely perfect? Does that ever happen?

I approached this LR as a chance to test where I am at time-wise. Like a few weeks ago, I ran these 15 miles exactly how I envision myself running at the Bayshore Marathon. I had a tough start though. For some reason, my legs were tight...breathing was heavy...mentally I just wasn't in it. As always, though, once I stopped and took some water and let my breathe "catch-up", I was able to get right into my planned pace and all the previous impediments melted away. There is something odd about the system reset that takes place whenever I stop for a minute.

I felt strong through-out but particularly in the last 3 miles. I was attempting to average around 7:20/mile for the duration of the run. Each of my last 3 miles were around 7:08/mile and I felt really strong. All in all, I was pleased with the latest time trail. I feel pretty confident I'll still be below a Boston Qualifying pace through 20 miles. After that, all bets are off. I may be able to gut it through...or I may drop off quickly and realize you can't BQ without at least a couple 40-50 mpw in the training bank!

15.0 miles
1:50:13 time
7:21 pace

Four more weeks to go. Well, less than that now. This week is my last real tough week of training. I'll still go hard on my two remaining mid-week medium runs but no more time trials on the LR's.

Looking forward to 21 miles on Saturday...hope everyone else is starting to get psyched.

Next week: My revised goals for the 2007 Bayshore Marathon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Perfect Mile

I was going to wait to comment on Neal Bascomb's The Perfect Mile until I actually finished the book but now is as good a time as any.

I love true life tales of people pushing themselves to the limit and accomplishing their goals. It could be sports, music, education, whatever, I'm always fascinated by people with such dedication to a singular task that they cannot be satisfied until it is accomplished. I'd love to claim a similar driven attitude but I suffer from varied interests and wandering goals.

Looking back, it seems impressive but not very monumental to beat the four minute mile mark. People do it all the time these days. However, in the early 1950's, it was thought to be impossible. In fact, the best medical advice of the day was that, if anyone was to run a 4 minute mile, they would no doubt collapse at the finish line and die of heart failure. Many runners never attempted the feat for fear of shortening their life spans.

The book chronicles the three main challengers to the 4 minute mile - Bannister in England, Landy in Australia, and Santee in America - as they train on 3 separate continents while keeping tabs on each others progress through news reports. Of course, we know that Bannister was the first to accomplish the goal while simultaneously completing his medical degree doing rounds at a local hospital. However, even knowing the outcome, it is very exciting to read the accounts of each runner's progress as they inch closer and closer to the record before Bannister finally breaks through. If you have a chance, take a look. Any runner will be fascinated by this book. It gets my highest recommendation for a sports book.

I see that the film rights to the book are owned by Universal Studios but, as yet, production hasn't begun. I guess we needed another Die Hard installment first.

Running Update: 10 miles last night at a 7:20 pace. This weekend, I'll do 15 miles at around the same pace. I read an article recently that suggested a marathoner should run at marathon pace on the LR every three weeks. I've also read differing accounts that say you shouldn't do your LR's at marathon pace ever. I'm going with the former as I feel stronger and more confident when I hit the LR's at my marathon goal pace and visualize myself working that hard at the marathon itself. This will be the last LR at marathon goal pace. Next weekend, 21 miles and then the blessed taper!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Battle at Paint Creek Trail

Despite the title of this post, this is not a tale of an old Civil War battle. Or a shoot-out between legendary Old West figures.

Rather, this is the tale of two intrepid marathoners - myself and Mike - who battled some physical and mental barriers on our way to a successful 18 mile training run.

Paint Creek Trail is a former railroad path running between Rochester and Lake Orion about 9 miles in length. The rails, of course, have been removed but a nice packed dirt trail remains for joggers, walkers, and bikers. Lots of trees, a few homes, and a golf course or two line the course. It is a very relaxing setting to tackle a long run.

Due to my son's morning soccer game, Mike had to wait until 11:30 for my arrival at the park - just as the sun was heating the path to over 70 degrees for the day. Combine that with some early morning chores and BOOM! a recipe for a struggled run.

We had targeted 8:30/mile as a goal pace and, I think, we hit that on many of the miles if you discount a walking break here and there. For me, this was a nice pace. I've been dealing with a mild right hamstring strain for the past 6 weeks and have been privately fearful of it turning into something major. This was just what I needed. My hamstring didn't feel sore during or after the run. I'm sure I've been pushing too hard during training runs and needed to pull back a bit.

The second half of the run proved to be a bit of challenge. I think Mike felt he was holding me up when, in fact, I was enjoying the pace quite a bit. There were a few walking breaks and some encouraging words exchanged to spur us to the finish. We made it reasonably close to the targeted time considering the running clock during some walking breaks.

A beautiful day. A good run. Good conversation. For me, the time flew by.

And then tragedy struck.

I realized that my car keys were nowhere to be found. Several miles into the trail, I had the feeling that something was missing and started patting down and couldn't locate my car keys. At that point, there was nothing to be done but finish the course and hope someone turned them into the concession stand or, maybe, I had left them in the car. Either way, I was hoping my car wasn't stolen.

On return to the park, no luck. The concession stand was closed. My car was locked. And I was pretty certain that I had left the key in the grass when I bent down to tie my shoe. A search of the suspected area did not turn up the treasure.

I had to make the phone call.

How do you nicely call you wife and ask her to put both kids in the car and drive them 80 miles across the state to bring you another car key in the middle of the best day of the year?

You just do it.

Big thanks to the wife and kids for putting up with yet another inconvenience this running obsession sometimes creates.

We didn't hit our planned 20 miles but I think this run was a good lesson. Marathoning isn't easy and everything doesn't go as planned. I think the battle we fought on Paint Creek Trail will toughen us up for the marathon.

18 miles in 2:45.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Good Luck, Boston Runners!

The 111th Boston Marathon is underway in less than desirable conditions as I understand. Wind. Rain. General ugliness. While out on a run, I've often thought (feared?) what it would be like to have to run a marathon in terrible conditions. How would it effect your time? Would you even care and go instead into survival mode? I think of all the conditions (outside of several inches of snow on the ground), I least enjoy running into wind. It feels like you are trudging across a swimming pool. Lately, it seems I'm constantly running into a wind storm. During the real hard gusts, I'll shout "Aw, c'mon now!" to no one in particular. At least it makes me feel better. Best wishes to the Boston Marathon participants. I'd love to join the crowd at the 112th!

With Boston taking place and a recent mention in Runner's World magazine, I decided to rent a little independent movie called Saint Ralph. It's the story of a Catholic school teenager in the 1950's whose father is dead and mother passes into a coma. As he deals with typical teenager adolescent issues, the threat of being forced into an orphanage now hangs over his head. He comes to believe that only through a miracle will his mother awaken from her coma. Coincidentally, he is also told that it would be take a miracle for him to win the Boston Marathon. Ultimately, he decides that he needs to win the marathon in order to save his mother. It's a pretty funny and entertaining little film. I think it would appeal to any Catholic, runner, and fan of independent films...or at least 2 of the 3. Check it out. Besides, where else will you get a Paavo Nurmi reference in a flick?

As for this weekend, my LR wasn't as long as previous weeks due to this being a step back week. Next week I have my first 20 miler. Sunday, due to the lower mileage, I decided to do 13.1 miles at my Bayshore first half-marathon goal pace as a sort of trial run.

I'd like to do the first half in 1:36:30 at Bayshore. My Sunday numbers:

13.1 miles
1:35:47 time
7:19 per mile

Three more weeks of hard training to go!! Getting excited!?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Need for Speed V

Ugh. It's snowing again. A nice sideways blizzard going on as I type. I've been seeing lots of global warming reports these days and the possible climate in the U.S. in, say, 50 years. There's talk of raised temperatures in the South and Southwest, increased hurricane activity, and near dust bowl conditions in the Plains states making life there plenty uncomfortable. The irony is that all the folks that have moved South due to the weather may soon be flocking back to the Midwest and Northern states for the same reason. I doubt that will happen. But an interesting thought. I doubt people will ever give up the sun and ocean as long as there are sturdier homes to build and bigger air conditioners to buy.

On to the running update. Yesterday, a return to some speed work!

Goal: 5 miles with each under 7 minutes.

I've decided to wait until after Bayshore before I start doing my speed work on a formal track in intervals. Instead, I approach my speed training fartlek style. I do about 1/2 mile at a brisk but comfortable pace followed by 1/2 mile at sustained, uncomfortably fast pace.

5.0 miles
33:02 time
6:36 pace

Mile 1: 6:31
Mile 2: 6:45
Mile 3: 6:39
Mile 4: 6:46
Mile 5: 6:21

Mission Accomplished (and not the standing-on-the-deck-of-an-aircraft-carrier style but actual mission accomplished)!!

I'll update soon with my read of Bascomb's The Perfect Mile which chronicles the race to become the first person to break the 4 minute mile barrier between Australia's John Landy, Englishman Roger Bannister, and America's Wes Santee. So far, pretty interesting to read what these guys would put themselves through just to shave an extra second off their time.

And the fact that these guys would run hard 50-60 mile weeks in shoes that were little more than strips of leather with string around them and small spikes glued to the bottom really makes me feel pampered in my Asics.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Weekend Report

Okay, so, a few things went on this weekend: running, a performance of Rent (viewing - not performing), drove to Traverse City (3.5 hours) and back in one day to pick up the kids from a week at grandma's, and, of course, Easter.

Starting with....RENT.

What a terrific show! The wife and I enjoyed it. It was a a great evening all in all. First, without the kids around, we headed out to a quiet dinner at the Red Cedar Grill in Williamston. Our tastes don't run to the expensive but this was a slightly classier place than we would normally visit (i.e. no kids crayons and coloring books for children). The wife ordered the chicken and mac/cheese and I had the best pot roast I've ever eaten. Of course, half of our check came from drinks from the bar. It was that kind of night.

The show itself was terrific. Great songs and an interesting plot. At first, I was having a hard time getting into it but it slowly grabs hold and you are absorbed before you know it. Les Miserables still holds the title as my favorite musical but this was right up there. Having just received the brochure for next season's Wharton Center shows, it's time to order again!

Running Update:

On Friday, I headed out for my 8 miler. It was cold and windy and I was back in wind pants and my North Face Apex Bionic jacket. In other words, bundled up. I had every intention of doing 8 on Friday and 18 on Easter Sunday. For the first 7 miles, I sputtered about the cold and wind and how tight my legs felt until I was nearly home. Then, I made a split second decision to stop for a GU break and continue on and get the 18 out of the way. I was already out, loosened up, and cold anyhow right? Might as well do 10 more miles and call it a day. So I did. (18 miles @7:35 pace)

Sunday's 8 miler was a little tough. More cold. More wind (some paranormal investigator needs to come to Okemos and examine how the wind can be blowing directly in my face during an entire run when I travel every geographical direction on my route!) My legs were still extremely tight and sore from Friday's LR. Sunday night found me leaning hard on the stair rail for each up/down trip. My Achilles and quads were aching. Mental note: I must look into this "ice bath" concept. (8 miles @ 7:35 pace)

Easter Sunday was a nice day home with the kids and wife. I think they liked what the bunny brought them. My daughter loves Care Bears and she found a few of them in her basket. My son received a new aluminum bat for his upcoming baseball season. We tried to hit some balls for a couple minutes but everyone was frozen so the game ended quickly.

This is a cutback week on my running schedule. I think I need it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A New Crown

Sadly, not the kind you wear on the head. Instead, I spent nearly 3 hours reclining in the dentist chair this morning as saliva, water, and tooth shards flumed into the air from my pie hole. Half-way through, I was informed that, on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the most difficult, mine was a 10. Lucky me. Fortunately, the dentist was terrific and I barely felt a thing. Afterwards, I even got a high five as he told me we nailed a "10.0" on the scorecard. That was a bit odd...but funny.

Side Note: I don't give high-fives. I avoid them at all costs. I typically feel this overwhelming sense of shame when I'm forced into one. I've even been known to walk right away from one and "leave someone hanging".

After a successful dentistry procedure? Alright, I'll give you one. Plus, you still have control of the drill.

Meanwhile, the wife and I are heading to see RENT tomorrow night at the Wharton Center. Sure, I know it's like the 23rd touring ensemble and all and we are several years late but, hey, better late than never. We usually go to 3-4 stage plays/musicals a year and they are always entertaining. Plus, these occasions allow me trot out the phrase "We simply must get to the theater more often" in my most aristocratic tone all evening long to matching eye rolls from the wife, bless her heart.

As for running, what a kick in the gut is this cold snap? I don't have the heart to put all those layers - which I had dutifully tucked away in my drawers - back on again. I should have known. This is Michigan after all. I'll tackle my weekly LR either tomorrow (day off = woo- hoo!) or Sunday all decked out in mountain climbing gear once again. The plan is for an 18 miler and an 8 miler by Sunday in no particular order.

Happy Easter.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day!!

Opening day for the Detroit Tigers is here! Hard to believe it is baseball season again what with both the Pistons and Red Wings leading their respective conferences and their playoffs right around the corner. I love baseball. At least, I love watching baseball. I don't really play it anymore. In fact, I haven't played an actual organized game of baseball since about 1992. But, for a statistics geek, baseball is heaven. And it doesn't hurt when your team is one of the favorites to win it all either. Go Tigers! The wife, on the other hand, hates baseball season. She tolerates the occasional Red Wing or Piston game but the Tigers? Yes, hun, they pretty much play every day.

Prediction: 93-69 and a wild card playoff spot.

Weekend in Running:
Slow down, relax, take it easy. These were the thoughts heading into Sunday's 17 miler. Two miles in, I pretty much ignored them all. Again, I went at a faster than planned pace for the duration of the run. I'm trying to convince myself that I'm building stamina, strength, and confidence at this pace. What I'm probably doing is running myself into injury, burning out, and "peaking" too soon. Time will tell. Next week, I promise to pull back a little. Really, I will.

The Numbers:

17.0 miles
2:05:13 time
7:22 pace

Miles 1-5 7:23 pace
Miles 6-10 7:22 pace
Miles 11-15 7:23 pace
Miles 16-17 7:18 pace

Three comments:
1) I was able to maintain a BQ pace for 17 miles. Can I hold on for 9 more miles? Not sure...but more time to train.
2) I like the consistency across each 5 mile segment. That's encouraging. I've been focusing on smoothing out my running pace and these results indicate some success.
3) Not one mile was above 7:30.

Like Spring, marathon training is in full bloom! Nice, big, round beautiful blood flowers appeared on my chest after Sunday's run. Time to dig out the body glide.