Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The running base

I've entered the marathon taper for yet another marathon cycle and like in previous years, the big question is always, am I ready?

The graph above shows my first six marathons, one in 2007, one in 2008, three last year, and one so far this year (I'm running two this month!). Last year is the benchmark to which I can compare my latest training cycle. You can see in the graph that I put monster mileage in last summer, hitting in one crazy month 300 miles. My result in 2008's BQ attempt is pretty straightforward -- I didn't hit up to the potential that I had built up to.

This year, I ran a strong spring marathon off a relatively light training program. The key mark for endurance for me is reaching 200 miles a month. That tells me I'm putting in the long runs in the weekends plus plenty of mid-week mileage.

So while this year I haven't put in the mega mileage, I have four straight months of putting in 200 miles or more. Aside from my little leg injury that put me out for a week, I'm happy that I've got enough quality runs in.

As they say, it's in the bag now with the taper beginning. I have about 55 miles this week and it's all downhill from there. My job the next while is to get plenty of sleep, keep my fitness from slipping too much, stretching as much as I can, and fitting in my last few longish runs (a 17 miler, 13 miler). I'm looking for a race this weekend in Washington, but that's about it.

I ran 15K today, half of it with my friend Lee, who's running Chicago in a few weeks. I had lots of questions about fuelling, about tapering and stretching. We trade a lot of shop talk. We're both in the middle of our tapers so the type of conversation that we had a month or so had shifted from speed workouts and long runs to how to race a marathon or how to survive those last miles.

I will run my seventh and eight marathon in the next month. Lee will run his 12th. He's run Boston a few times and I'm aiming at my BQ. Between us, we've logged thousands of miles (I've run 7100 miles since I started logging my daily miles in 2006 -- yikes) but yet we feel like we've a lot to learn.

Taper time, it gets to you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon

It's been awhile since I've been able to race a half marathon, a few years in fact. I came to the decision to not chase a PR (1:31:30) and instead use today as a tuneup run, practicing marathon pace and also trying to get 20 miles in for the day.

Officially, I am calling this race the humid marathon -- It was a wee bit on the warm side for fall racing, but not bad for a shorter race. I had a long week and worked most of Friday so I took it really easy, napping, watching TV and eating carbs.

Fast forward to the race, I arrived about 30 minutes before the race and bumped into a former co-worker who ended up winning the media challenge in the half. Really speedy.

It has been a few weeks since I have been able to do some good paced running since my achilles tendon flared up a little. On Friday, I did 5K with a few kilometres at 10K pace so it felt pretty good.

As the race started, I knew my GPS would have some problems due to the bridges and buildings we would be running around. The first few kilometres made it a little difficult to gauge whether I was going too fast.

The first few splits let me to slow down a bit. Most of them were pretty bang ong.

1-5K (somewhat adjusted)

Around the time we were south of the SkyDome, I saw Ed Whitlock, a local running legend in his 70s and going strong.

It was pretty smooth sailing for the next little while, again just trying to regain a feel for the speed I've been avoiding for two weeks. Felt really good to open up and I was happy that my cardio system was able to take it in.


I knew I was going faster than the 4:37s than I'd planned so I just stuck with it and tried not to slow down.


Yes, it did occur to me that a year ago to the day, I was doing these types of splits, even faster in bits, as I was running 4:30s, trying to BQ at 3:10. I was feeling a little overwhelmed that today, I was merely matching the pace I did for most of the race a year ago. As we neared the splitoff between the half marathoners and fulls, I felt a swell of pride for those marathoners and said "good hunting, marathoners" to the guys to my right. Felt totally in awe of them. That'll be me in three weeks. Paying homage to their craft, I decided to start hammering it home. Why not.

So the last five kilometres, I just upped the pace and it still felt comfortable. I'm a little glad it didn't feel too hard.


The last kilometre up Bay Street, I just started to reel in a lot of runners and by the last 300 metres, I was entering sprint mode.

So that's it, half marathon in 1:35:31, four minutes slower than my PB but a few minutes faster than my marathon pace.

Chip time: 1:35:30
Pace: 4:33
Overall: 271/7921
Category: 44/556
Gender: 247/3412

I continued running after the race and put in another 10K. With my warmup, that adds up to about 32K for the day. Taper has started. Marathon countdown begins.

During my post-race 10K, I saw Marlene (first time we've talked in person) and ran with her for a few hundred metres. I saw her later on at the 600 metre to go mark. She did great, lowering her thon time by a big margin. Congrats and here's a blurry picture I took.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taper time Sunday, but first a race

Okay, I had my heart set on racing tomorrow and setting a PR for the half marathon, but now that I think more about it, I have to fit in my 20 miler. The half marathon will be done at a marathon pace, which will give me the proper stimulus and let me feel what MP will be.

Looking at it, it's a smart move as my small leg injury (which has totally vanished) resulted in me missing my last long run last weekend and a few speed sessions. Having the last long run three weeks out from marathon day is the perfect way to jolt my body back into some sort of top fitness.

My feeling is either I run 5K right before the race and do 6K after the race or just do the race and complete it with another 10K.

The aim will be do go for 4:37 kilometres, which should feel quite comfortable for a good while, I'm thinking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A setback

I scratched myself from doing today's 10K race because I'm dealing with a lower calf soreness that I'm worried could get worse if I don't take care of it now.

This past week, I skipped my Monday rest day after doing a 66 mile week and did 10 miles. The day after, I did 12 miles, but at the 6 mile mark, while I was doing some recovery pace (glad I wasn't giving it), I felt a tinge of pain in the left lower calf. I stretched it out and noticed it was pain I haven't felt before.

I jogged home and took the next three days off as R. was in town and we had tickets to see U2 for two nights. In the meantime, I think I have a slight pulled or sprained achilles tendon, which runs from the heel to the lower calf. The pain is not on the heel area but the area right below the calf. I've read that tight calves and high mileage can cause this.

The way to recovery is copious stretching, icing and rest. I've iced it and am using compression socks to give myself a little bit of support. Ran 10K yesterday at a 5:25K pace and it acted up a little. Right now, I'm going to try a 5K jog to get the blood flowing and see where things stand.

I've now missed the long run and some big mileage this week. I'm not too worried but there a more than 80% change I'll have to take this week really lightly. I can even see myself doing short aerobic runs (3-5 miles) in the next five days ahead of my half marathon next Sunday, which I may just do at an easy pace, do at marathon pace or skip all together.

I'm being tentative because I'm a week from the taper, I've put lots of training in the bank and I think I can miss major mileage in the next while to get in some recovery. I will switch to lower mileage and in a few weeks, I'll know if I even want to attempt a 3:15:59. I can build up some lost fitness during the taper period.

I'm a long term runner and though the sprain/pull is not major, I know that if I push it, I can injure myself for good. That's not what I want to happen.

UPDATE: Did a 5K run and it actually felt okay. Stretching, using The Stick and will see how this feels tomorrow morning. Think I may switch to AM/PM runs to get the mileage in but not all at one.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Road rash

I was just thinking on a recent run on my path how many hundreds of time I've gone back and forth. Soon enough, you see enough things, like mishaps. Back in 2006, a rollerblader hit a rock right as he was speeding around the corner. I was right there, helped him out, and called an ambulance. It was the one or two times I've ever run with my cellphone with me.

On Friday, I saw a rollerblader in the distance do a spin, then fall. Looked like any other fall, but when I came upon her, I saw blood dripping. She asked me to grab her iPod that she dropped a ways back and I fetched it but when I came back I saw that there was more blood missing and that's when I saw that it wasn't a scrape on her chin. She had a gash that definitely would need stitches. We hunted her backpack and there was a white towel. We got her blades off and shoes on and I handed her cellphone to her. She called her mom. I asked some event staff for a canoe/kayak race whether they had first aid people. They didn't, but we went to the staff. Luckily, she wasn't bleedly badly but I'm kinda glad she didn't see the wound, it wasn't looking pretty.

Anyways, I'm sure she's fine but it got me thinking again about getting injured on the trail. Lesson learned: When you're rollerblading, wear wristguards so you can at least put your hands in front of you. And second, when you see someone take a spill, stop and help. So many runners and cyclists just went by -- it could have been a lot worse.

Mileage was pretty good this week, up to 66 miles or about 106K. Today was supposed to be an MP run but I just didn't have it in me, and settled for a 30K run that progressively got faster.

Next week will be a stepback week -- partly because R. is coming to town and also because we have two nights of U2 (her favourite band). That's fine, I could use a little breather.

Monday, September 07, 2009

12 weeks down, 6 to go

Such is the life a marathoner in training. I've been at this for awhile and I've got a while to go.

The last week went quite well, I managed to hit the top end of the mileage (66 miles) while fitting in a few quality sessions: A workout at the track for the first time in a long time, a mid-week 13 miler run at faster than long run pace and a 30K long run.

I can't lie, the mileage is making me stronger but I'm getting pretty tired. So much so that I was going to go out for a run today (holiday) after putting a few hours into work but I just didn't feel like it. Today was a scheduled rest day and I took it.

This is another one of those peak mileage week. I don't have a massive 22 miler but a whole whack of medium long runs.

The schedule looks like this:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 10 miles w 5x600
Wednesday: 15 miles
Thursday: 6 miles a.m./4 miles pm
Friday: 12 miles
Saturday: 5 miles
Sunday: 18 miles with 14 at MP

That's five runs of 10 miles or more out of six days. Geez. Well, I've learned enough from experience to fit in quality and take rest while you can, so the plan is to try to follow through on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday workouts and make Thursday and Saturday shorter recovery runs. Sunday will be a challenging run to say the least, gonna have to find a route that will let me do 14 or so miles at pace.

The work over the next three weeks will get me to the taper.