Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Summary

So May is done, with a fairly low total of 183 miles.  With the marathon taper, and a very easy recovery week this week I didn't have a lot of big weeks.  But the foucs wasn't miles it was Ottawa and that went OK.

June is going to be easy.  I have no preset plan, but I am not going to do anything fast until I am feeling completely recovered.  There's a 10k at the end of June that I may run, but only if I have found my legs again.

Chicago training is due to start of June 29th and go for 15 weeks.  Plan is to keep the intensity/speedwork I had last round, but go a little higher on the mileage.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ottawa Marathon Report

The plan was simple: Get it done under three hours (6:52 pace). I planned to run 6:48 for the first 20 miles, and then take it from there.  If things were good, I’d keep at 6:48 and run a 2:58.  If things weren’t so good I had a couple minutes wiggle room to still bring it home under 3.  Training had been solid, I felt great.

Course was described as honest; some rolling hills in the first half, but nothing major. Forecast called for 52 at start, low 60s at the end and 6mph winds from the west.  Overall, not bad conditions.

Start logistics were good and I met up with a couple other runners I had met online who were also shooting for sub3.  We planned to run some/all of it together.  It felt pretty warm, definitely more than 52 degrees (found out later it was 61 at the start).

Course was marked in kilometers versus the normal miles so I had some funky pacing worked out.  I’d broken the course up in my mind into 9 chunks: Eight 5Ks, followed by the final 2.2km.  I had planned paces for each section based on hills etc and planned to just take them one at a time.

One approach to long runs is to try and disassociate yourself from the task at hand by thinking about something else.  Another way is to focus intently on running form, stride rate etc.  I tend to do both during a race.  To help with the disassociation someone told me to “dedicate” each section to a specific person, and think about them during that time.  Seemed a little touchy feely to me, but I figured I’d give it a try.  Went with my family in England and my family at home in Los Altos – 9 people in total.

Chunk 1 – KM 1-5

  • This section was ‘dedicated” to my big brother Richard – someone who is not likely to be running a marathon anytime soon.  Gun went off and we were off fast – 6:15 pace.  Slowed it down a little but the first 3KM went by at 6:33 pace, despite the rolling hills (distances are kilometers and my pace times are minutes/mile, just to confuse things).  Got a little more controlled at that point but finished chunk 1 in 20:47, 24 seconds ahead of plan, feeling excellent.  So Richard had done his job.

Chunk 2 – KM 6-10

  • This one was run for Dad, who would hopefully be tracking me online from England if he was able to work out the instructions I had sent him.  Hills continued for a bit then we crossed back from the French side to Ottawa and started running thru a pretty nice neighborhood.  Kept things smooth and comfortable and ran this chunk on pace, finishing up overall by 27 seconds. Dad had done just perfectly (although he had failed with the tracking thing so he wasn’t aware of this….)

Chunk 3 – KM11-15

  • This was Mum’s section.  She’d be waiting for updates from Dad at home in England, but given his computer prowess, she had no idea what was happening in Canada. This section felt easy, just rolling off miles about 6:46 pace.  Uneventful, easy running and feeling very good. Smack on pace, ended up by 28 seconds overall.  My best section so far.  Good job Mum! 

Chunk 4 – KM 16-20

  • This was for Dave, my other brother, who is hoping to complete his first marathon next Sunday in Edinburgh.  We headed back West here and could now feel the wind for the first time, and it was a lot more than 6mph. But I still felt really good and this was another uneventful section run at 6:53 pace.  This was about 20 seconds slower than plan due to the wind, but still left me 9 seconds ahead of my schedule and feeling relaxed.  So Dave did his job, hopefully I can help him next Sunday.

Chunk 5 – KM 21-25

  • Next up was little sister, Kayte, who lives in Spain.  Not a marathon runner.  This brought me thru the halfway point, in 1:28:55 - 5 seconds ahead of my plan and feeling really good – this sub 3 was going to be easy!  I was running smooth and relaxed, sometimes on my own, but some portions with one of the 2 online runner friends or with random people I spoke to (most of whom spoke French…).  Got thru this chunk a little off pace, but still figured I was OK since I was pacing for 2:58 and I was only 8 seconds behind overall.  Thanks Kayte! 

Chunk 6 – KM 26-30

  • Having worked thru my English family it was time to start with Los Altos. Next up was Anna, my little princess who was at home asleep.  This section was when I started having to work a little to keep on track – It was now feeling like a race and not a run.  We were out in the wind and I was no longer running easy.  Figured I could still go sub 3 as long as I could run below 7 minute pace.  Ran this chunk at 6:57, now 36 seconds behind plan, but still within reach of sub 3 if I could keep it up. Princess Anna had done her job

Chunk 7 – KM 31-35

  • This was for Nick, my little boy.  He’d probably be waking up pretty soon.  OK I am feeling it now, but determined to stay on pace – Manage kms 31-33 at 6:59 but then there’s a hill in km34 and it just kills me.  Can’t do better than 7;35 pace and I’m dying.  It’s windy, sunny and hot and I am losing it fast – it is weird when you can feel things start to shutdown.  My quads are completely shot – I guess it was payback time for those fast early rollers.  Get to the top of the hill and decide that I need to suck it up and get back under 7 minute pace or this game is over.  Manage to get to 7:03 but it is soooo hard.  This chunk cost me another 48 seconds, and now I am 1:24 behind.  Doing the math (which was not easy with no oxygen in my brain) I worked out that I was in deep shit, and needed to close this round about 6:55, which looked awfully daunting.  Nick had kept me going but I could feel it slipping away at this point.

Chunk 8 – KM 36-40

  • This last 5k chunk was for Liz, my wife who puts up with all my running crap and is incredibly supportive.  If anyone could get me thru this one it would be her.  All I had to do was run a 5k in about 21 minutes for this chunk and I would be close enough to gut it out and get my sub 3. I tried to get back down to under 7 minute pace but I just couldn’t do it.  Managed to get to 7:13 and that was so bad that I knew that I was done – today would not be the day.  I was bummed but there was nothing I could do about it.  I’d had 3 goes to get back down to pace, tried every trick I knew but my legs just didn’t go that fast anymore.  Now it was time to roll back to plan B. Unfortunately there was no plan B.  I figured a PR (under 3:06:13 was gonna be pretty easy as I could jog it in at 8:30 pace and still hit that). So I sort of wallowed a little bit and eventually decided to just keep going as fast as I could without puking. Turned out that was around 7:45 pace, so that’s what I did.  It was getting ugly out there, I was not enjoying myself anymore and I was surrounded by people having a similar funtime.  Lost almost 2 minutes in this chunk and was now 3:33 behind plan – officially it was over.  Liz did her best, but I just didn’t have it left in me.

Chunk 9 – KM 40-42.2

  • Final chunk was for me, for all the miles I’ve run, for all the injuries, and for the surgery.  Just 2.2 kilometers to go, which is less than 6 laps of the track, but I was empty.  Legs were trashed, and I felt worse than I have ever felt.  However, I was determined I was not going to walk and that I’d continue to push as much as I could. KM41 was at 8:01 pace – it was a kick in the butt to see 8:XX on the watch when I was meant to be running 6:XX, so with 1.2 km to go I went into my finishing sprint…… this got me down to 7:30 pace and I was flying…… final 400 meters and I am into the final stretch, people cheering from the grandstands and the announcer calls my name out.  I give it one final surge and cross the line at 3:03:39.  Not the 2-something I had been looking for but I am just happy to be done.   I have absolutely nothing left so I sit down quick, before gravity does it for me and drink 3 bottles of water.  After 10 minutes I can stand, just. Off with the shoes, got my medal (which is a very cool medal), drink 3 Gatorades and lie down.  10 minutes later I am almost feeling human.


  • So it was something of  a trainwreck finish and a big missed goal but a new PR for me, of about 2:35. And this was on a day when there probably weren’t a whole load of PRs.  I came 96th out of 4,200 registered runners.  I was 14th in my age group (M40-44). 
  • In terms of race strategy it was solid.  Execution was OK thru 25km then it started to go pear shaped, and the wheels came off big time at 33km.  I did not handle the heat and wind in the second half of the course well.  Looking at the top 100 (which along with me, included some true elites like David Cheruiyot) only 6 of them managed to negative split (second half faster than first).  And no-one in the top 20 negative split at all.  Cheruiyot ran a 1:05/1:08, so he also buggered up the second part (although he likely didn’t run an 8 minute mile to close it out, plus he won the thing).  In post race interviews all the elites talked about the wind in the second half slowing them down, so it wasn’t just me.

  • Overall I am really pleased with my training leading up to this race.  6 months ago I was having surgery and hadn’t run in 3 months.  I worked really hard to get back to racing shape and I have had big PRs in every distance from 5K to the marathon.  I’m confident that the next one will be sub 3.
  • Maybe I went a little too fast that first 5km but it honestly felt easy thru 25km.  I had decided that I was not going to adjust my plan for the weather.  I did that in Edinburgh last year because of the wind and finished strong, feeling I could have gone faster. This time it was going to happen or I was going to die trying – Unfortunately, today I died.

They printed the top 100 in the Ottawa paper toady, and I just made the list down at #96.  I never expected to be on the same results sheet as David Cheruiyot.  (And yes, I am ignoring the fact that he beat me by about 50 minutes, or almost 2 minutes/mile)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Close, but no cigar

So it was not to be.... 3:03:40...... and it finished pretty ugly.  At 10k I was on 2:57 pace, at the half 2:58, and at 30k 2:59.  Then about 33-34k (~21 miles) the wheels came off and I lost 3 minutes in the last 5 miles.  

It got pretty warm towards the end and a lot of people were struggling, but I kept on running, and managed to drag it in 7:30-7:40 pace..... legs refused to speedup.  Only 76 made it under 3 (vs 130 last year), the winner did 2:13+ vs 2:10 last year, so it wasn't just me.

My time was good enough for 96th overall, out of 4,000+, which I was happy with as I didn't expect to make top 100. (that time would have been 156 last year)

Overall I am pretty happy with how it turned out - it was almost a 3 minute PR - would have been nice to go sub 3, but there you go.   Now I have to go and run sub 3 in Chicago in October, which if it is hot, will suck.

I'll post some more details later when I am capable of doing math.  

T minus 70 minutes....

Sunrise was 5:23am, here it is....

Partly cloudy, hopefully that remains for the next 4 hours 10 minutes.  Flags are fluttering in the breeze.

It's now 5:50am, heading out the door in 5 minutes.  Slept reasonably well last night, ate and hydrated well yesterday, and had the appropriate "movements" this morning!

All systems go!  Ottawa, we are green for launch!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


20 hours to go.  Just ran my final run, a nice easy 4 miler.  Ran 5 last night after getting in.  The course looks good. Big "mile" markers every kilometer, and the finish counts down 750m, 500m, 400, 300m, 200m, 100m.  Seems like a very well put together race.

Weather forecast for tomorrow looks reasonable - should be 62 degrees when I am done, and little wind.

So it looks like I have no excuses left.  Time to get it done, as they say.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tempting Fate?

I'm a believer in stating my goals for races in advance.  Perhaps it's tempting fate but I believe it creates a little accountability and when things get tough it can make the difference between backing off to something comfortable or pushing thru.

So Ottawa the goal is pretty simple; sub 3 hours.  And with the advent of preprinted race shirts, you now get the opportunity to publicise your goals during the race!  Ottawa is allowing shirts from, who print your race bib on the shirt, and allow you to add a message to the shirt.  Here's mine for Sunday (it is sweaty from my final pace run yesterday evening)...

It's going to be a little embarassing if I run a 3:25 wearing this.

And to put some more pressure on, the kids have decided that I am going to win the race (last year the winner ran 2:10, so it's not likely to happen....) since I came 1st and 2nd in my last 2 low key 5k races.  There weren't hearing it when I tried to explain that there are big races and small races.  They did a couple pictures of my much anticipated victory.......

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marathon Training Cycles

So part of the attraction of running is the science behind the training and the analysis of its effectiveness.  Some would say I am perhaps a little over analytical and should just “run more” but to each their own.

As I come to the end of my Ottawa training cycle I’ve done some comparison to my last marathon training cycle (for Edinburgh in May 2008).  Both were 5-6 months but different in composition.

Since I was coming back from surgery and 4 months of little to no running I knew I was not going to be able to do the same high mileage as I did before, so I laid out a plan that built up the miles gradually and was more reasonable in maximum mileage on the big weeks. In an effort to not get injured again I included a rest day every week.  And to compensate for the lower mileage I had more focus on speed with regular track workouts.

Chart shows the weekly mileage with Ottawa in green.  Mileage was much lower, but more consistent.  As I wasn’t doing any big weeks over 75 miles I didn’t beat myself up so much, and as result didn’t need to take as big a cutback on my easy weeks.  Plus it let me keep relatively fresh for the faster stuff. 

Even though mileage was lower, I still kept the 20+ long run as a staple of the plan.  In 2008 I ran 9 runs over 20 miles and it really helped build the endurance to finish strong. This time I still had 7 over 20, and 6 of those were in consecutive weeks, and a couple were fast (I did a 22 miler at the same pace as I raced Edinburgh last year). The other weeks I was running somewhere in the high teens every Sunday, so I think that I’m covered there.

Another core, every-week-workout, was the tempo run.  Did about the same number, but this time I went up to 7 miles Vs 6 last time, and regularly ran them under 6:30 pace.  For shorter tempos I was faster at 6:13, whereas last time I never got down below 6:20.

And speedwork was night and day.  Only 3 small track workouts last year, but 10 this time, with some pretty quick stuff (1200s in 4:21 = 5:50 pace).  And because of that speedwork I was able to crush my old 5k/10k and half marathon race times, taking over 2 minutes from the half, almost 2 from the 10k and a minute from the 5k.  So speed should be covered too.

Overall I’ve run much more consistently, haven’t had many days when it was a struggle and also run a lot more of my runs on hilly trails.  I feel in very good shape and the weekly rest day has helped keep any niggling injuries at bay.  I finally feel that I am running with no Achilles problem for the first time in about 2 years.  The sports hernia is fine, I get the occasional “feeling” in the neighborhood but nothing even close to how it was before. Compared to 2008 I think I am in better shape (which is good news as I’m trying to run faster this time around)

So the training has been good, and my various charts, data and race times suggest that a sub 3 hour marathon is a possibility, but definitely not a given.  The difference between 2-something and 3-something for a marathon is such a big difference to me that it is my only goal this time around and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t achieve it.  Backup goal, (to be used only in case of emergency), is a PR which means I need to beat 3:06.  I am pretty sure I can do that as I’ve practically done that in several training runs.  However, if I switch to the backup goal it’ll probably be because the wheels have fallen off at about mile 20 so all bets will be off.

Course is described as honest.  It’s a loop so there is no net elevation gain.  It’s got some small hills but nothing major.  Weather is a variable and shows Ottawa as pretty random (50s-80s, rain-sun, calm-wind) so we’ll see what race day brings although I will be shooting for 2-something pretty much whatever the weather. (There will be no excuses about the wind and running a safe 3:10 this time).

Only a few days to go, and it all comes down to whether I can run 26.2 miles 14 seconds per mile faster than I did last time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ottawa Countdown

6 days to go, so it's officially time to start obsessing about the weather.  Here is the 10 day forecast....  

It seems to be pretty random, ranging from cold and wet to hot and sunny. Ideally it'll be low 50s, misty with no wind, but that is asking for a lot!

Currently Sunday is forecast for a low of 50 and a high of 75.  Race starts at 7am, and I'm hoping to be done by 10, so it should still only be low 60's by the time I'm looking for a beer.  Partly cloudly with light winds is good, so I have my fingers crossed that this doesn't change too much over the next few days.

It's obviously a light running week for me this week.  Rest today and easy miles every other day except for a couple marathon pace miles on Wednesday.  At this point the "hay is in the barn" as they say, and there is little be gained, and a lot to be lost with a dumb workout.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tuneup 10k (5k)

Final tuneup race today.  A flat, certified 10k.  It was hot so I wasn't too sure what I was going to run, so decided to go out at 6:10-6:15 and see how it goes.  

Mile 1 was 6:10 but I was was sweating big time and knew that another 5.2 miles like that was going to be ugly and do nothing to help me in Ottawa next Sunday, so I dialed it way back and ran the next one at 6:25.  Decided at that point, which was conveniently at the 5k turnoff from the 10k, that I wasn't going to get much mental or physical benefit from a 40 minute 10k so turned left to run the 5k, and get out of the heat sooner.

I found I was in second place so picked it up a little to get back on 6:10 pace.  I could see first place ahead and was just doing the math to see if I could get him in the last 3/4 mile when some dufus coming the other way (we had just rejoined the outbound trail and there were lots of slower runners still coming out) jumped out from behind another runner and we collided head on.  I had enough time to get my arms up, he didn't - he definitely got the worst of it (and deservedly so) and I'm not sure if he has got up yet, but I got enough to remove any thoughts of a hero finish to win with a dive at the tape.   Finished in 19:33 (6:15 pace) which was good enough for 2nd.  Winner was 45s ahead, so I wouldn't have caught him anyway. 

10k winner was 36 something so I wouldnt have won that one in any conditions!

So not a great time, but given the weather it was probably the right decision.

and here is the picture......

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Catch Up

Been down in sunny Florida so it's time to catch up.

First, a picture of part of a run I did the other day.  For some reason I figured it would be fun to do this.  Apart from getting the "n" backwards it wasn't too bad.

Did my last long run on Sunday - 15-16 with the last 2 at marathon pace (Did them about 6:47).  Felt pretty good, so I'm officially done with that long stuff.

Ran a couple times in Florida - Once at 11pm on the treadmill and once outside around 6pm.  The air conditioning wasn't working in the gym so the treadmill run was worse than outside.  I got off looking as if I'd been in the pool.  It was my first treadmill run and it pretty much sucked, but it beat running at night on concrete in a thunderstorm.

I am planning a couple 10k pace miles today (round about 6:00 pace) in preparation for Sunday's 10k.  Depending on weather and competetion I will either go all out and attempt to get somewhere close to 38 minutes, or just make it a fast tempo and run at 6:15-6:25.  Will decide when the gun goes off.

Other than that it's mostly just easy running for the next 10 days.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back to the Track #10

Yesterday was my final, pre-Ottawa track workout.  It was time for some 1,200 meter repeats, aiming to do them in 4:21 (5:50 pace).  My last attempt at this a couple weeks ago was not great, with the first one too fast at 4:16 and then failing to hit 4:21 in any of the subsequent attempts.   So after a couple of good training weeks, including a solid 10k time trial I was ready to try again.  

I've technically started my marathon taper so wasn't dead set on doing all 6, but I was determined that all of them would be 4:21 or better!

Had planned to run early am but slept badly and didnt feel like it, so put it off to the late afternoon.  Hit the track about 5:15pm and it was hot, at 78 degrees.  Plus there was a reasonable amount of wind, making the final 100 meter stretch into a headwind.  Not good signs.......

Ran some warmup, with a few 100m sections trying to get on pace - they were 5:14, 5:21, 5:24 so still starting way too fast.  Oh well, better than too slow!  Again, 4:21 means 87 seconds laps, or 43.5 seconds for each 200 meters - Here's how it went.....
  1. Started fast again - first 200 in 40, 400 in 84, finished in 4:17.  So pretty much on pace except for that first 200.  Felt OK
  2. Fast start again in 40 - finished in 4:18.  still feeling OK
  3. 200 in 40 (yes, again...) - finished in 4:20 - feeling the effort and the heat
  4. Started a little better (200 in 41) and struggled a little in the middle 400, but closed it out in 4:21
Decided that 4 was enough for today.  I know I could have done #5 in 4:21, but #6 would have probably been hard - don't need to be killing my self within a couple weeks of my race.  Average was 4:19 (5:47 pace), so the 4:21 1,200s are officially checked off my list!

No track next week as I have a final 10k race on the Sunday, and apart form that it's just a couple tempos, some pace running, a few 10-15 milers and easy running to go.  Fingers crossed!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mountain Running

Pretty crazy elevation chart from today's run in Palm Springs!  Decided to run the 5 miles to the base of the aerial tram at about 6:30am (to get the 8am first tram to the top).  A big climb from 600 to 2,600 feet, with all of the climbing happening in 3.5 miles.  Relentless hill, just goes on and on......  Was ready for a rest by the time I got there.

The tram is awesome, goes up to 8,600' and is way above the valley - the views go on forever.  Plan was to run to the peak of Mount San Jacinto which is 10,600, so anotnher 2,000 feet of climbing.  However, trail conditions were not ideal, and what started as a great trail, went to trail with patches of snow, to snow with patches of trail, to just snow.  After losing the trail, sinking to my knees in icy snow and starting to climb past 9,200 I decided it was not going to be great running, and was likely to get worse.  So I turned around amd ran a couple other trails around the mountain top and got some good climbing in.  

Then it was time to take the tram back down and finish up with a hot 5 mile downhill run.  As I descended to the valley floor it got hotter and hotter - by the time I was back at 600 feet it was 95 degrees and my quads were fried from the downhill miles.  It didn't help that there was a 35 mile an hour tailwind coming down the hill so I was constantly braking to stay under control.

Overall a good run, and after a bunch of gatorade and beer I feel human again!

3 weeks to go - time to start tapering.