Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Delaware Marathon

   After my highest 12-day mileage streak ever and a 3-day mini taper, I approached the Delaware Marathon on Sunday, May 15th with indefinite expectations.  I thought it'd be awesome to run a sub-2:55, but my legs were tired on a short run the day before so I wasn't too sure about that.  Anything sub-3 would be cool.  But the point of this marathon was to run on tired legs.  I wanted it to be basically an all-out effort, but obviously not a PR.  So I went out at 6:30 pace and decided to see how long it would take to die, and then just keep pushing through it after that.
   I made it 6 miles a little under 6:30 pace.  Then came the first hill, which was big.  I was excited to run this race because the 2006 Delaware Marathon was my first, five years ago now.  However, the course has changed since then.  When I ran it in '06, it was 4 loops and almost entirely flat.  Since they changed the course, I had heard that it became quite hilly.  It's now two loops.  So you hit the big hill from mile 6-7ish and 19-20ish, then a slightly shorter but still steep hill at the beginning of mile 12 and 25.
    So after that first hill, my pace slowed, and the majority of my miles for the rest of the race were in the low 7 minute range.  As intended, I was tired, and it was pretty difficult.  I had gone through the half in 1:27 something, and was happy with my 3:03 finish.

The 2:43 is NOT my time.
      Next up is a 50k this coming Sunday, May 22nd.  It appears to be a small trail race.  I'm excited, as it will be my first 50k race. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

100 Mile Training and the Trail Dawgs Marathon (4/30)

Well I’m definitely now in what I would consider the full swing of my training for the Burning River 100 miler.  I’m writing this to keep track of how my training has been going, what I’ve been doing, how I’ve been feeling, in case I need/want to come back and reference it later.  If you are reading this and you are not me, then I hope it’s not a waste of your time and maybe you get something out of it.
Since I was racing Boston for a PR, I didn’t want to sacrifice fresh legs in that race by beginning training before April 18th.  That said, signing up for the 100 miler as I entered my taper for Boston was not the best decision for taming the antsy-ness and desire to get out and move around that comes naturally with tapering. 
                So the Boston Marathon on 4/18 basically served as Day 1 of 100-miler-specific training.  That was 15 days ago now (that’s it?).  I’ve been focusing on running on tired/trashed legs, decreasing recovery time from races and long runs, and doing more (than usual) running at a pace that keeps my heart rate relatively low.  These seem like reasonable objectives in 100 mile training.  Am I doing it right?  I dunno..
                The four days directly following Boston were shake-out runs of 5 to 6 miles at whatever pace was manageable on the recovering legs.  I don’t use a heart rate monitor, but the idea was to keep the HR low and just let the legs shake out.  Then that Saturday, Jackie and I ran essentially the first 21.5 miles of the JFK course…approximately 15 miles on the App Trail at a slow but difficult at times pace, then pushing a bit harder for 4-5 miles on the C&O Canal towpath before cooling down.  It was a tough run, three and a half hours on our feet, with my legs probably still a bit trashed from Boston and post-Boston.  That week, counting the marathon, came out to 77 miles…which was actually my longest week of 2011 so far.
                I followed that week with a 74 mile week, made up mostly of 5 to 10 mile runs in the 7:30ish/mile range, three two-a-days (Tues-Thurs), and my first day off since Boston on Friday.  Then, my next significant training run/race!  I returned to the Trail Dawg Triple Crown Marathon, which I had done for the first time in 2010.  (I’m actually not sure what exactly to call this race…it probably doesn’t have an “official” name, cuz that’s how the Trail Dawgs roll.)  It’s an awesome, low key trail marathon that does the same loop twice, with 4 significant (knee+ deep) stream crossings, rolling hills (some of them pretty steep), mud, and a squiggly spray-painted line for a starting line (where the gun goes off a fashionable 5 to 10 minutes late). 
                I went into this race thinking, “If I take this hard, although my legs are tired, I could potentially make it my first race victory, depending on who shows up.”  When I saw the kid who won it last year on the starting line (he’s my age), the competitive spirit that festers in the depths of my heart fired up.  “Maybe I’ll tail him, see how he goes out, and make a decision from there how I’ll run this race.”  I also needed to see how my legs would feel…doing squats for the first time in at least a year two days before the race was not the best idea.
                Well, the defending champ went flying out right from the get-go and I was like, “Uhh, nevermind.”  Then my coach, who was also running the marathon, said something to me to egg me on, and seconds later I was flying down the hill after this dude.  My first two miles were sub-7 pace.  I felt okay, but knew I wasn’t going to be running a 3 hour marathon on this course in this condition.  I was staying 50 meters or so behind the guy, and he looked back several times during that first mile to see how closely he was being followed.  Then I thought, (here’s that competitive spirit), “Maybe I can stay here for a couple miles and scare him enough to make him go out too fast, and then maybe he’ll pay for it later.” Nothing personal, if you happen to ever be reading this, dude. 
                I settled back and ran with the next two marathoners, talking a bit with one of them, a guy named Art.  The trail was crowded with half-marathoners (who started 10 minutes before the marathon), so I took my time and was patient with passing them on the single track.  I decided I was in no rush.  I stopped for about 20 seconds at an aid table to grab a drink at mile 6ish, while Art and the other guy kept going.  I ran by myself for most of the rest of the loop, passing groups of half-marathoners occasionally.  On some of the open stretches, I could see that I was within 100 meters or so of the third place guy.
Coming through the half at the end of the first loop
                 That was the situation at the completion of the first loop (the halfway mark).  I thought I was gradually sneaking up on 3rd place.  A few miles into the second loop, though, I stopped seeing him and I decided not to push it too much.  I stopped to pee, enjoyed the stream crossing, grabbed a quick bite at the aid tables, and shifted back into “ultra” mode.  I had fun running the second loop completely alone, at an easy pace.  The final stream crossing comes at 23 miles or so, then some hills to the finish.
                Coming up a hill with less than 2 miles to go, half jogging, half walking, I rounded a sharp turn and looked up.  There, 20 meters in front of me, was my friend the defending champion.  I knew that if he did crash and ended up not winning, but still beat me, then he would take the age-group award (which I won the previous year when he won overall).  So if he was not going to get first, I had to beat him.  I took a couple breaths, shook out my legs, and broke out into a decent pace run.  He informed me I was the third marathoner now, I gave him some encouragement (and maybe a slight heckle), and made my way by him.  I kept up a pretty good clip for that last mile or so (now it was me looking back occasionally to make sure I wasn’t being followed), and finished third with a 3:37:xx, about 10 minutes behind Art, who ended up winning.  I felt fantastic at the end.  I finished maybe 2 minutes after the 5k race started.  If I had come in 2 minutes earlier, I might have hopped into the 5k for a “cool down”.  
Strong at the finish, probably saying "Got him!"
                I love that race.  The Trail Dawgs are a fun group with some very enjoyable events.  I was very pleased with how this “training race” went and how well I felt afterward.  Along with my training the last couple weeks, it has made me very confident about my 100 mile training.  Next up is the Delaware Marathon (road) on May 15th and the Dirty German Endurance Fest 50k on the 22nd.  I think I’ll do a mini-taper for those races.
Coach Nate on final straight, sees me approaching him

Nate breaks out in sprint as I chase him with wet shirt