Thursday, October 29, 2009

Track Time and Racing

So I have found a bunch of local 5K and 10K races in the next 2 months. I now have a hastily assembled, poorly structured, high speed, low mileage, overly aggressive training schedule that gives me many opportunities to try out my shiny new green shoes.

The result should be monster PRs in 5 and 10K racing times, or humiliating oxygen depleted defeat to a bunch of schoolkids, or injury, or some combination of the above.

I have 9 races identified, so it's pretty much a race every weekend. I'll also be doing some speedwork most weeks, some tempo running and the rest is just easy miles (with the occasional 100 meter strides thrown in for fun). Probably running low 40's most weeks.

One of the main things I need to improve is staying on pace during these short fast races. I have a tendency to slow down because it hurts. Well, I think the point is that it is supposed to hurt, so running a few more of them will hopefully help me get over my wimpiness.

Hit the track yesterday morning (it was cold) and did some 1,000 meter intervals. Plan was for 5x1,000 in 3:34 (5:44 pace) with 400 meter jog recovery in between each. Went OK. #1 too fast at 3:30, then the rest were 3:35, 3:37, 3:35, 3:35. Not sure what happened with #3, probably paying the price for going too quick in #1.

5K this Sunday at Stanford. Not gonna shoot for a sub 18 (5:47 pace) just yet, but hoping to get under my current PR of 18:22 (5:54 pace). But to be honest, I'm not sure I will make that time as it's still only 3 weeks post Chicago and the legs are probably still recovering.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back to Reality

So after all the fun of Chicago, it's back to reality. I've decided that having met the big sub-3 goal, I am going to step away from marathon training for a while. There are a number of contributing factors here:
  1. It's hard work running lots of miles every week, and I'm tired
  2. I am old and creaky and things will break if I keep doing this
  3. Next race was planned as Boston, in April, and it clashes with spring break so have decided to not screw up the family vacation plans for "yet another race"
  4. I want to see if I can put in some decent times for shorter races
So the plan is to skip Boston, and do some short stuff. I am hoping that with the right focus and several attempts I can get my 5K, 10K and half marathon PRs down from where they are right now. I'm going to start by doing some 10Ks in November, and some 5Ks in December. There's a fast half on Superbowl day (Feb 7th) and finally Bay to Breakers (12K) in May.

So the training for now is going to be only 40-45 miles per week but with more focus on speed at the track. Since initially it's 10Ks I'll be doing longer distances like 1200s and 1600s. Then when I switch to 5Ks I'll do some shorter stuff 1000s, 800s and 400s. I'll still be doing tempo runs most weeks, but usually in the 4-5 mile range instead of the extended ones I have been doing. Long runs become much shorter, usually only around 10-12 miles.

To help with all of this fast stuff, I bought some very ugly fast shoes. Tried them out today with 4x400m at the track and they are super light and feel good.

I'll step the mileage up a bit in Jan as I start to gear up for the Kaiser half marathon. Not suer what I'll do between Feb and May, I guess it will depend on how things have gone.

Then after Bay to Breakers I'll come back to marathons with Berlin in September 2010, where hopefully my new found high end speed, and a solid training program will propel me to some great new time!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chicago Marathon

My second attempt at a sub 3 hour marathon, and this was the flattest marathon course there is – the biggest hill is a massive 24 feet! The weather was promising to be good and training had gone well, so this was definitely a “no excuses” race. If I screw this one up it was time to find a new sport!

Woke up early, about 5:30 Chicago time, after a reasonable nights sleep and got some food & Gatorade down and got ready to go. Forecast was for cold temps (30’s), but I hate being too warm when I run so it was still going to be shorts, singlet and gloves. I did pick up some arm warmers at the marathon expo just to make sure my arms didn’t fall off. I left the hotel at 6:15 to walk the mile to the start and the temperature was just 32 degrees. I was glad I had some throw-away sweats on as it was pretty damn cold hanging around chatting nervously with the other runners.

The Start
After a couple of trips to the boys’ room (OK, one was a portaloo, one was a tree), the start corral had filled up and we were approaching start time (7:30). We did the national anthem and the crowd was getting pretty pumped up - everyone threw their sweats to the side as we counted down to the start. The gun went off and we were moving, I crossed the line just 8 seconds later and it was game time! The crowd was already huge and noisy and I was feeling ready to go! Then I remembered that 5 minute miles were not the plan and got myself back under control.

The first 10K
My plan was to run a steady, constant pace and not go off like a bat out of hell like last time. Each 5K was planned around 21:10, which should bring me home at 2:59:00 – so that’s a 6:49 pace for 26.2 miles. Mile 1 was a little quick at 6:42, so I consciously slowed and did 2 & 3 at 6:47. 5K came in 21:03 (6:47 pace) and I was in a groove. It wasn’t crowded around me, the support was awesome and I was on my way. Next 5K was uneventful and it clicked by in 21:05 (6:47 pace), still feeling like an easy Sunday long run.

The second 10K
At this point I started talking with another runner. He was an 800 meter college runner, doing his first marathon. Turned out he was 22 and had used up all his eligibility as a college runner and decided to run a marathon before he got old and slow. He didn’t really have a time goal so we just started running together chatting away. Next two 5Ks were 21:05 (6:47 pace) and 21:18 (6:51 pace) and we went through 20K (12.4 miles) in 1:24:35 (6:48 pace), about 20 seconds ahead of pace. It was still feeling really easy.

The third 10K
As we approached the half I started looking for my support crew (Liz, my wife and my running friend’s wife). We headed back over the river into downtown and the crowd got really noisy. I was really pumped up and we were flying! I spotted Liz just at mile 13 as she yelled. We turned the corner and then entered the noisiest part of the course. Unbelievable support! My pace picked up with all the excitement (to about 6:35) and I was feeling like a million bucks. 5K times were 21:09 (6:48) and 21:02 (6:46). That was 30K down in 2:06:33, so I was now about 40 seconds ahead of plan. I was really surprised to see Liz again about mile 17, she’d run a couple miles to get to the next corner. Gave me another big boost!

The fourth 10K
This is where things can get ugly in a marathon, as I found out in Ottawa so I was very conscious of what my legs were feeling like. Quads were tightening up, but everything else felt good. I was done with the Gatorade I’d been carrying and I took my first and only Gu about mile 18. I was still feeling fine and decided this was gonna be my day. Mike, my new college running companion, was still with me and he was feeling good too. We were still chatting away, although a little less than before, and he said “No matter what happens, we are going under 3:10”. Having been on pace at mile 20 before and seen things go belly up real fast I wasn’t so sure. But we were still flying along like clockwork and did another 21:08 5K. Then about mile 22 he said “Fuck!” and was gone, he had cramped up badly, stopped on a dime and went to the side. I mumbled “good luck” and kept going. Felt bad for a second for not stopping but then got over it and got back on track. The course then turned back North for the final 3 miles. It was into the wind and people were starting to fade. I still felt great so kept pushing. I was passing people pretty steadily and did another 5K in 21:14.

The final stretch
At this point I knew sub 3 was mine unless something horrible happened. The crowd was massive and was really noisy. I was feeling better than ever and just kept going. There were the usual last few mile casualties and I felt a little guilty as I flew by. With ½ mile to go I reach the big 24’ hill. It seemed bigger than that as I ran up it, but I was on fire and nothing was gonna slow me down. I was sprinting now, passing a ton of people. As I rounded the final turn I had just 400 meters to go. The crowd was incredibly noisy and I ran right by the stands high fiving people as I went by – I didn’t care about the few seconds I lost, I felt incredible. I have never felt that good running and I crossed the line in 2:58:13. It was an amazing experience, and I was pretty emotional and pretty exhausted as it all sank in. It’s weird to finally do something you’ve been working at for so long.

Pretty much the second I stopped I realized it was really cold, it was still 37 degrees. I drank 3 gatorades fast and then heard Liz yelling at me from behind the fence. She’d made it to the end to see me finish but I’d missed her in my excitement. She had brought me some dry clothes so I put them on – what a great support team!

Overall it was a perfect race. My pacing was on the money with my 5K times being all between 20:56 and 21:18. I ran the second half 5 seconds faster than the first. Weather was perfect, course was perfect, organization was perfect and the crowd was unreal, especially Liz hauling ass around Chicago in freezing temps to cheer me on. And later I found out that Mike got over his cramp and ended up finishing just about 45 seconds behind me.

It was a new PR for me by more than 5 minutes, and I was 681st out of 45,000 registered runners, 81st in the male 40-44 division.

So now I get to kick back for a while and enjoy the feeling of being a 2-something marathon runner, which was beyond my wildest expectations when I started running just over 3 years ago!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

So it looks like the technology failed at the halfway point and the updates stopped. Luckily I didn't!

Ran a 2:58:13, which is a 5 minute PR for me. Came 683rd out of 45,000 runners. First half 1:29:08, 2nd half 1:29:05. Felt good all the way to the end. Pretty much a perfect day for running, with temps around freezing to start and high 30's at the finish.

Grisly details to follow, after a lot of beer has been consumed.

RUN Alert

Alan Fletcher, 02:58:13 (net) @ Finish (unofficial). Pace 6:47. Presented by Verizon Wireless.

RUN Alert

Alan Fletcher, 02:06:33 (net) @ 30K. Pace 6:47. Predicted 02:57:50. Presented by Verizon Wireless.

RUN Alert

Alan Fletcher, 01:29:08 (net) @ Half. Pace 6:47. Predicted 02:57:50. Presented by Verizon Wireless.

RUN Alert

Alan Fletcher, 00:42:08 (net) @ 10K. Pace 6:46. Predicted 02:57:24. Presented by Verizon Wireless.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ready To Go

So it is just 6 days until Chicago, and this training cycle is pretty much over. Did a 13 miler on Sunday and all I have left is some easy runs and a couple of marathon paced miles on Wednesday.

Then all I need to do is run 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours to make the last 4 months mean something!

This training cycle has been good. I kept the higher mileage element of my Edinburgh 2008 training (which helped me a lot in the last 6 miles) and the speedwork element of my Ottawa 2009 training (which helped me a lot with making 6:52 feel like a comfortable pace).

I am hoping that the combination of the two is going to work out. I compared the various training components from the three cycles and most of the numbers show I should be able to go under 3 if I don't do anything dumb, such as running first 5k in 19:30 and not the planned 21:10 like I did in Ottawa.

Mileage has been solid, with a couple weeks peaking in the low 90s. Not quite where I was for Edinburgh, but I am trying to train without the need for post-race surgery this time around.

Weather forecast is looking pretty much ideal, with temps forecast to be in the 40's, with light winds and partly cloudy. If that holds it's looking good.

I have a start in Corral A, which should get me over the start within a minute of the gun, so I have no excuses about crowding and having to weave through a bunch slower runners.

The course is pancake flat so the pacing plan is pretty simple. I'm planning to go for 2:59:00, which is 6:50 pace, so I'll pretty much start out at 6:50 pace and stay there for the next 3 hours. Not quite sure if I will start with the 3 hour pace group (6:52 pace) for the first few miles and then pick it up once I've settled down, or if I'll just go out on my own from the gun. Guess I'll see how the start goes, I added an extra 10 seconds to mile 1, so that is 6:59 followed by a bunch of 6:49/6:50s.

I am going to take a sports bottle of Gatorade for the first 5-6 miles to A) avoid the inevitable chaos at the early water stops, and B) get some early calories in. Usually in marathons I don't handle race nutrition too well, so am thinking the extra 150 calories of Gatorade early will help me in those last 3-4 miles when the wheels are starting to fall off. I did that on a number of my longer runs this time and they seemed to end better than the others.

It's a big race (40,000+) and if you look at the times from 2006, a 3 hour finish should be round about 1,000th place (last 2 years were crazy hot so far fewer broke 3).

Splits should automagically appear on my blog as I cross the timing mats due to the wonders of modern technology. I'm not sure exactly which splits will show, or if they are gun time (time since the start gun went off) or chip time (net time since I crossed the start line), but if things are going well my chip times will be around these splits:
  • 5k 21:19
  • 10k 42:28
  • 15k 1:03:38
  • 20k 1:24:50
  • Half 1:29:29
  • 25k 1:46:02
  • 30k 2:07:14
  • 35k 2:28:27
  • 40k 2:49:39
  • Finish 2:59:00
So that's the plan, pretty much nothing else to do now but run.