Sunday, December 31, 2006

The end of 2006

No running today. Resting for a New Year's 10k race tomorrow. - my first ever 10k race.

It's been 3 weeks since the marathon and I've been running probably a little too hard since then and my knees are telling me to back off a little. I'm on an 8 week schedule for the Kaiser Half Marathon on Feb 7th. 5 days a week, 35-40 miles/week and lots of speedwork (400m and 800m). Plus I've thrown in a couple 10k practice runs for fun (best time so far 46:52).

Looking back over the last 9 months I can see a lot of progress (the advantage you get of starting from zero...). I've gone from 60-70 miles/month in June/July to about 130 in December. My fast pace in April is now my easy pace.

2007 is about doing some much more structured training, and scarily I am also starting to look at what I eat! (I had promised that running was not going to start changing what/when I eat but there you go....). The focus is on half marathons for the first 6-7 months and then I need to get serious about doing a "well-under-4-hour-marathon" in Sacramento at the California International Marathon on December 3rd. Reviewing my two somewhat subpar marathons of 2006 I realise there are 2 major problems....

1) I have been running nowhere near enough miles in training to run a good marathon
2) I need to stop wimping out at the end of the race

For now though it's an easy day with the family - Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Honolulu Marathon - Race report.

Aloha from sunny Hawaii! It's Tuesday, 2 days after the marathon and it's time for my final update....

The Plan....
The plan was good, maybe even excellent! Basically I split the race into 3 parts: A steady first 10 miles in 1 hour 34 (9:24 pace), a slightly faster 10 miles in 1 hour 31 (9:06 pace) and then a fast 10k to finish in 55 minutes (8:51 pace) - total time 3:59:59 (9:09 pace).

The First 10 Miles.....
After a long & restless night the alarm went off at 2:30am. Got down to the start about 3:45 and lined up for the restroom for 25 minutes (25,000 people, 200 restrooms - you do the math). Spent 45 minutes sneakily edging my way to the front of the 2-3 hour section along with everyone else who had absolutely no chance of achieving that time. At 5am we set off under a huge firework display. Not sure how smart that is as 25,000 people start running thru dowtown in the dark and no-one is looking where they are going because they are all staring at the fireworks - saw a few people trip over curbs etc but I managed to avoid most of the mess. After a mile I was running on pace, and in the clear, but was already drenched in sweat, so I knew this was going to be a rough race. Things go well except for the pit stop behind a bush in downtown Honolulu at mile 2...(that cost me 30 seconds, but it was worth it), and at mile 8 we get to Diamond Head. It's not too bad and I keep on pace as we go over the hill for the first time. As I cross the 10 mile marker at the bottom I'm at 1:34, right on pace and feeling really good.

The Second 10 Miles...
At mile 11 we hit the highway for a boring 4 mile stretch . On the left it's miles 11-15, on the right it's miles 18-22. We get to see the elite athletes and the wheelchair racers zip by, barely sweating and looking very relaxed. It's always cool to see them go by but it's a little humbling to think that they are going at about a 5 minute pace. The highway stretch is into a reasonably strong headwind and it's tough. I look around for someone big to follow and realize I'm probably the tallest person in the race. Slogging on thru the wind I cross the halfway point at 2:03:20 (74 seconds behind plan). Then the sun came up and we move from hot and humid, to hotter and humider. At mile 15 we thankfully leave the highway, and the headwind and loop around the neighborhood for a few miles. At mile 18 we get back on the highway and this time I'm the fast guy passing the slower people coming out on the other side. However, what should have been a tailwind still seemed to be a headwind and it's now about 120 degrees. But I keep going and cross the 20 mile mark at 3:07:55, which was 2:59 behind pace. The wind and heat had really slowed me and I was feeling pretty tired with 6.2 miles (10k to go).

The Final 10k....
This is the final stretch - you reach this point after a 20 mile warmup run feeling fresh and ready to kick it into gear for the final 10k. Nice theory. Doing the math in my head I realized that to hit 4 hours I needed to run a 52 minute 10k, including going over Diamond Head. They say that great racers have the ability to change their race strategy on the fly to account for raceday conditions. I'm certainly no great racer but I sure as hell knew that I wasn't going to be turning in a 52 minute 10k right then, so I switched to plan B. Unfortunately there really wasn't a plan B so the "Marathon Voices" started whispering..... "it's hot, you can walk, you can't beat 4 hours so why are you still running., take a quick break, slow down....". I am determined to fight the urge to walk and remain strong and try to hold to a 9:30 pace which would get me in about 4:05. This goes on for a while getting worse and worse as the voices get louder and louder. Eventually, after about 150 yards the voices win and I'm taking a walk break, but just a quick one. Of course, that's the time I see my marathon coach, who is patrolling miles 20-22 helping all the AidsMarathon runners. Our program is a run/walk program, meaning you run for 5-6 minutes, then walk for a minute. I hate the walk part so I always skip that, so she is surprised to see me walking. She asks me what run/walk ratio I'm on and I tell her it's the run 20 miles, walk 6 miles plan! At this point I'm seriously considering walking the last 6 but I was also looking around for a bus. I walk for about 2-3 miles, only running when I pass a camera, and then get bored of it and start running again. By then I'm about 25 minutes behind plan but manage to get going again. I cover the last 3 miles at about a 9 mile pace, including up and over Diamond Head. I finish feeling OK, at 4:26:11 a good minute per mile behind the planned pace, but I managed to smile for the cameras and pass a few people on the home stretch. The rest of my running pace group comes in between 4:41 and 5:23 so it wasn't just me finding it tough. Even the winner was 8 minutes behind the world record, and he didn't have to run in the sun!

The Conclusions....
26.2 miles is a long way.
I beat Oprah twice, not once.
I got beaten by a 10 year old girl.
I crushed the 7 year old girl by almost 2 hours.
Nobody over 77 years old beat me.
Hawaii is hot, and it gets worse when the sun comes up.
I was the top AidsMarathon fundraiser in the country, raising over $17,000
I'm now a runner.

thanks for your support - Alan

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Honolulu Marathon - Final Countdown!

I can't believe it, but it's finally time for the big race! It's next Sunday, December 10th, starting at 5am Hawaii time. Weather forecast is 73 at the start climbing to 82 with 70% humidity. A little change from my run yesterday morning at 34 degrees....

It will have been 6 weeks since I ran a marathon in San Jose, and at the end of that race I swore that I wouldn't run fast in Hawaii. That lasted all of a day, and then I started looking for some training advice for people dumb enough to do 2 marathons, 6 weeks apart. Most of the advice was along the lines of "Don't do it, it's a dumb idea" but I miraculously found a training plan from a reputable running coach designed exactly for people silly enough to be doing this. It's been much more intense than my previous training, including 400 meter sprints, hillwork and 5 days running a week. I've been running 35-40 miles for the last 4 weeks and I'm feeling great. I've run in the dark, the cold, the rain, when I'm sick and even on my birthday. I have one 8 miler left tomorrow and then it's a few 2-4 milers before I line up to race, in theory better prepared than I was 6 weeks before.

My goal for Hawaii is to beat 4 hours (average 9:09/mile), which should be possible given the training. Of course, the heat, humidity and 35,000 other people could mess things up, and I'll be sure to blame all of them if I fail miserably. But I have a cunning strategy - to avoid getting bogged down by the crowds I plan to start with the guys who will run it in 3 hours. That'll mean lining up about 4am and trying to look like a serious runner for an hour, talking about technical things like "glycogen and negative splits", and then, at the gun, I'll try to avoid getting trampled to death by the 7 minute milers as I trot off on my 9 minute miles. The alternative is to start with the 4 hour gang but then I will have to run over all the people dressed as Santa Claus and Darth Vader, and the crazy Japanese families who have decided that dragging their 10 year old kids through a marathon in homemade flip-flops will be a good bonding experience. I have no real strategy for the heat other than hoping for rain. Bottomline is that I have no idea what to expect but I know that I'm going to enjoy a nice beer or 5 at the end.

So, many people have asked "What happens after the race - Will you keep running, or return to the couch from whence you came?". Well I have to admit, I am hooked on this running thing. I love the measured improvement that you see from following a structured training plan. I love the time alone being able to just think about stuff. But mostly I love all the cool gadgets and gizmos that I am allowed to buy. I am probably being a little too organized/analytical but I have already worked out my running plan for 2007. The plan is to focus on half marathons thru July (I have 5 planned), with a goal of getting down to one hour thirty-something (i.e. 1:39:59). This is only 11-12 minutes improvement over my best half, which doesn't sound like much, but it means running at a 7:38 pace. Once I've achieved (or failed completely to achieve) that, I turn my attention back to the full marathon. I am going to run the California International Marathon in Sacramento early December, with a goal of under 3:45. This is a course that is conveniently downhill the whole way so that should be good for a few minutes. Of course, by February I could be bored of it all, in which case you should look out for my "Amazing News - Alan to climb Everest!" email....

Thanks to everyone for their support, encouragement, advice (well, some of it anyway) and generosity over the last 6 months - I've been amazed at the response to this whole thing, it's certainly changed my life. - Alan