Sunday, July 23, 2006

Marathon Training Update - 4 months and counting.....

It's been a couple month since the last update, so here goes......

First, the important stuff. Despite the significant side benefit of everyone getting to make fun of my attempts to get into shape, the real reason for all of this is to raise money for the San Francisco Aids Foundation. People have been very generous so far, and to all who have donated, thank you very much! I have already passed the minimum required donation amount but I am still slightly short of my "original personal goal", and a long way from my "adjusted personal goal" of $15,000. There is an intermediate fundraising milestone approaching on August 2nd, so if you've been thinking about making a contribution, now would be a great time. No amount is too small, of course, no amount is too large. And remember, if you work for Oracle there is an easy donation matching program available.

Secure online donations can be made here -
Oracle Matching can be made here -
Organization = San Francisco Aids Foundation (ID = 0004936),
Purpose = Runner Alan Fletcher,
RunnerID = SF-4071.

OK, so now that you've made your generous donation, onto the fun stuff.....
It's been 4 months and I've run 235 miles, biked 164 miles and swam a staggering 0.1 mile. I am hoping that the swimming piece isn't the important part! Obviously a triathlon is not in my future, plus I've heard that a "gentlemanly-breast-stroke-without-getting-your-hair-wet" is not the the typical swimming style of an ironman.

I'm still running 3-4 times a week and biking once. I even ran in Vegas, which was not a good idea - Too much sun, not enough sleep, too much beer...... not pretty. But as they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

The last 2 months have been part of the "official training program". This is a gentle, beginners program, based on the training philosophies of Jeff Galloway, who has apparently run 100's of marathons. It seems to have a goal of getting you to the startline uninjured and with enough endurance to finish. No focus on finishing quickly or anything like that.

Our first meeting was a timed 3 mile run, to be completed at a comfortable pace, to determine your pace group. "Comfortable pace" is not exactly specific, so most of us interpreted it as "run as fast as you can without collapsing". The guidance was that you should be able to carry on a conversation without huffing and puffing. Off we go, casual banter for the first 200 yards, then it gets less and less. By the second mile, no-one's talking much, people are panting. By the end most of us have run 3 miles quicker than ever before, but everyone fakes a grin as they cross the line and the coach falls for it. Mission accomplished - we are all now in a training group that will be too fast for us to sustain! I'll deal with that problem later....

They then add 90 seconds to your pace, and that is your training pace. I'm in a group of 8 with a target pace of 10:30. A marathon at that pace would be 4 hours 36 minutes..... 7 minutes slower than my nemesis, Oprah Winfrey. And just for fun, they then throw in walk breaks - 1 minute walking for every 6 minutes running. At that rate I'll never finish. Apparently, on "race day" it all clicks and you can run faster than your training pace (despite the humidity, heat, and the 35,000 other people in the way). So I haven't (yet) dropped my ill-advised and improbable 4 hour target. (If anyone has a good idea how I can get rid of that goal without huge loss of face, please email me privately...)

We ran 9 miles yesterday, and it was a blistering 96 degrees, plus they added some hills for the first time. We ran at about 10 minute miles, and with the walk breaks averaged around 10:30. Not too bad. A few people are beginning to feel the distance and struggle in the heat but I'm still OK at this point. I must admit that I was a little hot at the end so came home and jumped in the pool. We have an old thermostat which is on the fritz, so the pool was 95 degrees. Not refreshing at all. Over the next few months we run the miles up, all the way to 26 in November.

One thing I am proud of is the huge growth in the number of GPS watches in our whole group. First week I was the envy of everyone with my new toy. Now there must be at least 50 of them. They are all beeping and chirping all the time, no-one really knows how to use them but Garmin must be very happy. I should be on commission.

On the health side it's all good except for my knees. Just had my regular checkup and my weight is down, heart rate is down, blood pressure is down, cholesterol is down, and I'm taller! (OK , so I made up one of those). All of my research indicates that knee replacement is far easier than heart replacement so I'm gonna keep going. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that my knees are going to hurt after I run, and given that I'm running all the time, they hurt all the time. I've been told that chicken stock helps but I'm dubious.

At some point I will need to get some leg muscles so my ligaments can stop doing the job that my muscles should be doing. I've been back to the knee doctor and he told me this is a common problem with senior athletes....That's about it for my saga.

Thanks again for your support - Alan