Monday, September 10, 2012

The long leadup

I have a very peculiar marathon training program this year. It's not mapped in a Google calendar as I've done years past, nor do I consult a schedule or a printed program. Yep, it's all neatly in my head.

Not that the type of marathon training progression will result in great times -- in fact, I think I've had one of the slowest buildups I've had since beginning marathoning in 2006.

I've been through the ringer when it comes to marathon training. Between the years 2007 and 2010, I was a faithful devotee to the Pfitzinger-Douglas Advanced Marathon program, which I've written about at length (especially if you go back and read this blog from the summers of 2008 and 2009).

My general belief, as I enter the ranks of a 'veteran' marathoner who isn't aiming at fast times, is that with age and experience, one can successfully train for a marathon based on this formula.

Simply build endurance: I believe in building up to at least 40 miles, hopefully topping at the mid to high 40s. That's at least 65 kilometres a week topping up a little higher.

Run consistently: My formula is to run four weekdays a week (one rest day) and then run both weekend days. I know I've had a halfway decent week if I've put in at least 20 miles over the course of the workweek. These days, I tend to try to put in at least three 10ks and maybe a shorter run. In my heart of hearts, I wish to get in a 10 miler in mid-week but time has always been against me.

Go long: This is my golden rule, in that the long run is the key building block. Nothing prepares you for the marathon like running long, and by long I mean more than 15 miles (ideally more than 17).

This last point, going long, has got me a tad bit worried about my buildup to my fall marathoning season. In 2009, I logged 15 15+ milers from my spring marathon to fall. In 2011, I did seven 15+ milers before my triple marathon fall (three in one month). Since I ran the Ottawa Marathon in late May, I've only done three runs more than 16.5 miles. 

So now I'm five weeks out from Scotiabank and seven from MCM, I have a new tactic: Run long this weekend, step back the following weekend (when I'd typically taper), then run long again two weeks out from Scotia. Use Scotia as another 'long run' two weeks out from MCM. In other words, i'm going to do three long runs in the next five weeks and use Scotiabank as a 'training' marathon.

Feels like a little bit of cramming miles, but I think it's doable. 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Paul Ryan, Kip Litton and why you can't run away from running lies

I blame Kip Litton and Paul Ryan for making me miss my long run this morning. I was ready to go to bed last night before midnight, hoping to get up early to escape the heat in DC but I made the mistake of following some links on a social media site. By 2 a.m. I was just putting away the fascinating reading about the unrelated cases of a vice-presidential candidate and a dentist in his late 40s.

Paul Ryan, as it turns out, gave a radio interview recently where it came out that he once ran a marathon. When asked, he said, casually, that he had done a 2:50 or so (um, wow?!). As it turns out, he ran a 4:01 when he was 20, as reported by RW. (I love it when Runner's World is doing U.S. campaign coverage and sparking a bunch of coverage about his fib.

Kip Litton, long the subject of blogs and discussion boards, was the subject of a very lengthy New Yorker feature that was published in early August. The absolute page turner (or in web terms, a screen scroller) sees journalist Mark Singer detail the Michigan man's stunning turnaround into a sub-three marathoner. In short, it asks "Is Kip Litton a Marathon Fraud." It's a runner's version of a short mystery.

Go read the pieces now if you haven't. See you in an hour or so :)

Both Ryan and Litton can't run and hide from the truth. In Ryan's case, it took some digging and reporting to find his past marathon result. For Litton, it proved more so a challenge and it there seems to be a lot of evidence of course cutting (and in one case, when he actually created a race, submitted it to Athlinks, and had a website built with race results). Again, the Internet sluths were on to him.

Me running the MCM in 2009.
Another example (and well documented) is the case of the Jean's Marines, where a group of runners cut the Marine Corps Marathon course so they could 'beat the bridge', a point in the course you had to be past by a deadline so you can finish the marathon.

I've run more than 80 races, 20 marathons and even during in the last 30K, I thought about the runners' code. Long distance running, as a course, can't be governed, every last square inch.  Plenty of opportunities to turn off the path and cut corners. And in races where thousands run, you really hope that the Rosie Ruizs of the world are an abnormality.

Technology in part has helped us create an honor system with some checks. As the Litton case showed, fellow runners used race photographs (now in most races) to piece together the puzzle. Chip timing mats, I believe, are a great check. We may decry gadgets and what they are to running, but most serious runners have a GPS device that will break down any race by the metre. I have every marathon I've ever run on some sort of device or computer.

We runners race against ourselves. We know our limits and we work hard to get faster. Both Litton and Ryan threw up sub-three marathon numbers like they are an easy add to a running resume. As a runner who aspired (and worked, and earned) to run Boston, I see nothing in that cavalier attitude but a big slap to the face to the rest of us, including those who work for running careers just to get to that point. The pain they suffer and the miles they put in the roads are just too much to ignore such dubious claims by others.

In Ryan's case, there is no doubt that there is a world of different (and pain) between a 4 hour and three hour pace. Four hours is tough, three hours is hard for most runners to even aim at.

My PB (and every runner who has them should be able to tell you) is 3:12:36, a time that was earned on the streets, on the course, and though it may be my peak, there's no running away from it.

Running ragged

Why don't more runners suffer from allergies, we may wonder. Well, meet my nemesis,  the plant that is growing in droves in Toronto and one that has taken me down for the second summer.

Ragweed in Toronto. I risked my life taking this photo.

Stupid ragweed. See how sinister it looks. The plant sends more more pollen than most others and in this time of year, the pollen count in Toronto is in high mode. (Today, as I post this, it's in medium - yippee!)

I, like many others, have to deal with life with allergies throughout the year. In reality, I go through various times of years where I am susceptible to allergies, and it is all the more sensitive given that I run outside year long. During those few weeks in early April and in late August, I'm usually getting the antihistimes prepared, becase in general, 11 months of the year, I'm actually great outside.

As an allergy sufferer, I make sure that when I travel to other climates that I have the antihistimes just in case. Sometimes as a precaution, when I know I'm encountering cities in a full bloom, I may just keep a Reactine, Claritin or Aerius handy.

Last year, just after racing the Midsummer's 30k, I took off on vacation and promptly was slammed with allergies. A few days after this year's race, I felt the symptoms and started to bombard my body with antihistimes. The allergies did it, and I suffered a few days at work with congestion and other symptoms. I generally hate antihistimes, as they dry you and a few of them also knock you off balance. I know Benedryl for example knocks out quite a few people who take them.

So here I am, two weeks later with a reduced running schedule as I try to get my body back to normal. Choosing between the symptoms and a body battling the symptoms, both are pretty horrible for running. Allergies that causes sneezing, nasal congestion and general (yes, it's gross) mucus building -- not ideal for running. Our lung capacity diminishes and it's hard to get a rhythm going, not to mention the coughing, sneezing and general 'can't breathing thing'.

I'm better now, testing out the climes in DC and thankfully this humid city doesn't seem as bad. Bring on the fall, is all I can say.