Monday, April 27, 2009

training Apr.26th-May 2nd (taper week)

4/26-4.5 mile stop and go run at Vulcan Park (trail overlooking downtown Birmingham). Got to do some work on both uphills and downhills. Overall pace was just under 8:00 and that's fine.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=4.5
4/27- Easy 7 miler in 57:20 (8:12 pace). Never really pushed it. Pace slowed just a tad towards the end but still felt smooth and relaxed throughout the run
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=7.5
4/28-planned rest day. Interview tomorrow and want to be fully energized.
4/29- Pretty much an all around bad day for me. I don't think I did well in the interview and didn't have my best stuff in the run. Put forth tempo effort just to run an "easy" pace. Finished the 4.8 mile course in just over 37 minutes (roughly 39 minute 5 mile). I don't think I could have broken 37 in a race and that is more than 30 seconds/mile off my best. Legs were stiff and sore. Is this the start of another major setback before race day?
Grade:C/1 credit/distance=5.0
4/30- Answer to the previous question is no. Solid performance today. 1 Mile run in 5:39 (best time of the year) Splits were 85-89-87-78. I could have gone faster if I had pushed harder at the beginning but this was not meant to be an all out time trial. I think I'm in low-5:30s shape now and expect to break it when I add more speed work this summer. The long term goal is under 5:20. I ran a 5:25 on Adrenal Boost in '04 and I want to beat that time without it. Finished the workout with a 3 mile cool down at 8:00 pace.
Grade:B+/2 credits/distance=4.0
5/1- Comfortable 4 mile in 29:54 (7:28 pace) on a moderately difficult course with a tough last mile. In between tempo and easy pace but it felt closer to easy because I'm fresher than normal because of my lower mileage. Legs were slightly stiff but felt energized after the run.
Grade:B+/1 credit/distance=4.0
5/2-Another run that was supposed to be easy but wasn't. 5 miles in 37:26 in 85 degree weather at 4 PM. Splits were amazingly even early: 7:32-7:32-7:32-7:36-7:14 (last 200 sprint in 33.5). I suck at tapering but it is somewhat encouraging that I could do this without pushing too hard. I don't feel my absolute best but would have done well if this was race day.
Grade:B+/1 credit/distance=5.5
Weekly summary: Probably my least stressful taper week so far. Maybe pushing a bit too hard but I've got a few planned rest days ahead next week. I feel good overall.
Distance=30.5/Weekly GPA= 21.2/7= 3.029

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reflections on my marathon training

With one week to go before my taper begins, I am generally pleased with my condition despite the recent setbacks. I know that I am in better shape than last year and I showed it in my time trial so if I bomb on race day, I will be disappointed but not crushed. No matter what, I can say that I have set at least 2 PRs for the marathon distance in 2009. Including the cutback weeks for tapers and race weeks, I have averaged slightly over 40 miles per week over the past 15 in spite of illness and failure to finish 4 planned long runs. My median mileage over that same period was 46/wk and included 5 weeks at 50 or over and a high of 63. I did not keep a log last year but I know that this year's mileage is a great deal higher. Still, I am somewhat frustrated that my health is still not perfect. I know that my neurotransmitters are no longer low but if I had a medical report, I don't think it would show significant improvement in my thyroid and adrenal function since last Fall. It has now been almost 3 years since the initial diagnosis and many times I have thought that I am one step away from bringing it all together and getting in balance once and for all. Each time, I was rudely reminded that it was not so. Just how far away am I now? I'm not sure and I will get some answers both on race day and in the medical report.

Let me take you back to 2005-06. Without powerful adrenal stimulants, I was nearly bedridden and only if I took the precise amount (neither more nor less) could I do some light workouts. Often those workouts, which usually lasted about 10-15 minutes, would leave me exhausted for several days. I started small with my goals. First, it was being able to go 20-30 minutes a few times a week. Then, it was getting back to respectable shape to compete in 5Ks, 10Ks and if I really push it, maybe a half mary. My highest aim was to finish a marathon in less than 4 hours and get back to where I was before the energy crash in the shorter distances (sub-20 5K). Last year, I achieved both of those "highest aims" but I want more. I don't want to be one of those people that consistently set new goals and obsess over continuous improvement even though they are already excellent runners with little potential for further improvement and little to gain by reaching 100% of their potential versus 98%. How much more fruitful will life be for a 2:40 marathoner if he can reach his limit of 2:36? FYI: You need a 2:22 just to make the Olympic trials and that is light years away. I think my lifetime goals are fairly moderate considering my potential if I can stay healthy:
Mile: 5:20, 5K: 19:00, 10K: 40:00, Half: 1:30:00, Full: 3:10:59 (Boston qualifier)
Let's say that I break 19 for 5K or run a BQ within the next year or two. I certainly will not stop training and striving for improvement but I will be satisfied by maintaining that level. I really don't know what my limits are because I've never trained at 100% balanced chemistry. I do think that I could have run under 4:50 for the mile in high school and probably faster in college but I hope to have the wisdom to know what my true limits really are in this, my 2nd running life. I know of runners who have run a BQ then become obsessed with getting under 3:00. Many end up injured or burned out within a few years. Fewer accomplish that goal because in some cases, it is very close to, if not beyond their limits. In this running life, in spite of illness, I broke both the 22 and 21 minute barriers for 5K with relative ease. Getting under 20 was hard. 19 will be even harder because I am getting closer and closer to my limit. I don't like to say anything is impossible but getting under 18 is highly unlikely. I'll be 30 next fall and probably have about a 5 year window of improvement for 5Ks and 10Ks and maybe 10 years in a marathon. Yes, I will train hard for all distances but when I get close to my limits, I vow that I will not obsess about cutting off a few seconds per mile when the risk outweighs the relatively small reward. My current focus is on the marathon because that's where my greatest potential for improvement and greatest reward exists. There is no prestigous event that I could enter only by breaking the 40:00 barrier in a 10K. I hope to run 3:35-3:40 in my second marathon and figure that a downhill course (2000-3000' elevation loss) could be worth up to 10 minutes so a downhill 3:10 may be equivalent of a flat 3:20. I may be within 15-20 minutes right now. Still, that is a significant amount of time. Even 15 minutes is almost 35 seconds per mile. To achieve this, I'll need to be healthy for at least a year and average upwards of 60 miles/wk during that time. I believe that is possible for me but if it's not to be, I certainly won't let it ruin my life. That would be ridiculous.

Monday, April 20, 2009

training Apr. 19-25th

4/19- well deserved rest day after a 26.2 run.
4/20- 4 miles easy running. Untimed but felt pretty decent. Some soreness in my upper left calf but it felt no worse when I was running. I should be fully recovered soon.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=4.0
4/21- 5 mile tempo in 36:32 (7:18 pace) followed by a fast quarter mile at the end with no break, which I ran in just under 90 seconds. Calf is still a bit sore from the 26.2. This was a strong performance and I feel very good about it just 3 days after running the marathon distance. Some might call me "nuts" for pushing that hard that soon but they call me Crazy Justin for a reason.
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=6.0
4/22- So called "easy 10" with a time of 76:49 (7:41 pace). Very strong throughout the run. Took off at 7:20 pace and actually had to force myself to slow down. Felt great the entire way and never slowed beyond 7:48. Splits were very good (38:26/38:23). Final 200 was nearly a dead sprint, which I ran in 37.5 seconds unofficially. Man, if I had that much left especially after yesterday, I may not be too far away from being able to maintain that for 26.2. A marathon at this pace would bring me home in the low 3:20s and I consider that to be almost as good as a downhill 3:10. I've got to believe that I've got a shot at a BQ by next year.
Grade:A/2 credits/distance=10.5
4/23-Easy 4.5 recovery run in 35:59 (8:00 pace). That's still acceptable on an easy day. Performance was average. Faded a bit in 2nd half but didn't want to push too hard. I'm cutting back on chromium because I have lost some of the weight that I've gained recently (146 now).
Grade:B-/1 credit/distance=4.5
4/24-Body wants a day off and I granted the request. It was not a demand.
4/25- Strong but not sensational performance. 15 miles in 2:04 (8:16 pace) with pretty even splits (only 1 was over 8:20). Took a Gatorade and water break and ran a mile as fast as I could. I was hoping to go under 6:30 but ran a "still good" 6:36. I was better in the workout before Mercedes but I'm still pleased with it. Came through 13.1 in 1:48:22 which was right on pace for what I am shooting for in the full mary.
Grade:B+/2 credits/distance=16.0
Weekly summary: Very good week overall. Everything was average or better. Managed to hit mileage target the week after going 26.2 in training and over 90% of the mileage was at marathon pace or faster. Let the taper madness begin.
Distance=41.0/ Weekly GPA= 27.7/8=3.463 (highest since Feb)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

training April 12th-18th

4/12-Another Easter alone. Had a rather scary afternoon low after lunch (a burger cooked at home) but I got better in a few hours. Plan was to go as long as I could at an easy pace. Nice and steady improvement over yesterday but I still feel like I'm operating at about 90%. I decided that I would not attempt a 26.2. That will be next week and it will also be my last opportunity to do so before the taper. I ended up at 18 miles in 2:35:48 (almost a minute slower per mile than my best). I could have gone 20 but I quit early because of an approaching storm.
Stats: 1st half: 77:33, 2nd half: 78:15. That's only 5 seconds slower per mile, which is not bad.
Overall pace was a 8:39 and never slowed beyond 9. Performance was only fair overall but I did show some surprising life with a solid 1:36 final quarter mile. 3:47 marathon pace.
Grade:C+/2 credits/distance=18.25
4/13- 6.5 mile threshold run, not quite tempo pace but I'll take it after yesterday. Time was 48:58 with good splits of 24:34/24:24. Final 200 sprint was a strong 38 seconds. Pace per mile= 7:32. Felt like myself again. Can I hold this momentum through race day? If I do my long run on Saturday as planned, I may hit 60 miles in a week for the first time.
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=6.75
4/14- 5 miles in 39:07 (7:50 pace) felt easy the whole way except for a solid but not blazing finish. I have now done 44 miles in 4 days and I don't feel too bad. I'll hit 60 for sure this week, maybe even 65.
Grade: B/1 credit/distance=5.0
4/15- The fast finish yesterday was a mistake and I paid for it today. I felt weak most of the day and had to really force myself to get this workout in. Ended up with a quarter marathon distance ASAP (as slowly as possible). Finished it in 55:00, which is still good for a 3:40 for a full mary. Pace per mile of 8:24 is slower than most runs of that distance but I meant for it to be slow so I'm fine with it. 51 miles on 5 straight days of running. I've earned 2 days off. Saturday's workout will be murder.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=6.75
4/16-planned rest day. Body feels very tired.
4/17- elective rest day. Body still feels a bit weak and tired but I could run today if I wanted. I'll finish the week with 63 miles and 77 in 8 days if I can finish tomorrow. A good time will be a huge confidence booster. A DNF will shatter my confidence.
4/18- Attempt #2 at 26.2 was successful even though I didn't feel that I had my best stuff. Most runners do not run that distance in training and I can see their point. 26.2 hurts a lot more than a 20 or even a 22 and the recovery time is longer. Still, I feel that I need to run the full distance to know what I am getting myself into and get a feel for the pain of that last 10K.
Here are the stats: 8:30-8:31-8:31-8:33-8:33-8:37.
1st quarter in 56:00. Feel decent but not the best and slowing just a tad. 3:44 pace.
8:31-8:30(back on target)-8:34-8:40-8:40-8:31-8:38
2nd quarter in 56:23, 1st half in 1:52:23. Still feeling reasonably well but a sub-3:45 doesn't look like it's going to happen.
8:40-8:43 (not good)-8:34 (better)-8:42-8:49 (starting to hurt)-8:44 (hanging on)-8:48
3rd quarter was 57:10, time at 3/4 mark was 2:49:33. Hit Mile 20 at 2:52:19. 3:45 won't happen now but I should be well below 3:50 and I feel better after 20 than I did the last time.
In the last 10K, at first I felt like I had picked up the pace but my watch told a different story. It was probably the least painful final 6.2 of the 3 times I have run this distance. I have described the feeling in my legs as raw hamburger meat before. This time, they merely felt like lead. I suppose that is an improvement. By mile 22, I knew my pace was slowing. Again, I didn't feel all that bad but no matter what I did, I could not keep from slowing down. After mile 23, I stopped to refuel ahead of schedule. I must have been dehydrated because I drank a lot and my next mile was a bit better. By this point, I didn't much care about my finish time. I just wanted to finish this thing. For a while, it looked like I would need a fast finish to break 3:50 but I was able to do it by a comfortable margin.
8:56-9:14(can't avoid the wall)-9:23 (ouch)-9:08(hydration)-9:11(sub-3:50 is mine)-9:19(I don't care anymore)-1:56 last lap (7:44 pace).
4th quarter was a somewhat respectable 59:53. Final 10K was 57:07.
1st half-1:52:23, 2nd half-1:57:03= 3:49:26- PR by 3 minutes on more tired legs than my New Year's time trial. I know I can beat this on race day but even a 3:40 will be tough.
Grade:A-/3 credits/distance=26.25
Weekly summary- My first 60 mile week and an unofficial marathon PR. I feel good about this. Unfortunately, my chromium deficiency has flared up again. It never was balanced and had been masked by fast oxidation in the past. If I get both in balance, I have no doubt that I can improve significantly. I'll try to hit 40+ next week if I can recover well then my taper will begin.
Distance=63.0 (PR) Weekly GPA: 29.1/9 credits= 3.233

Monday, April 6, 2009

training Apr.5-11

4/5- returned to Monty and ran an easy 5 in 39:20 (7:52 pace). Faded a bit in second half but pace never slowed below 8:00. Even effort. Feeling a bit let down but it was the day after a race. Average performance overall.
Grade:B-/1 credit/distance=5.5
4/6- Easy 10 in 82:32 (8:15 pace). Felt good the entire time. Smooth and relaxed. Negative split and plenty left at the end. This is a 3:35 marathon pace. Can I hold it for another 16.2?
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=10.5
4/7- 5 mile tempo run in 36:06 with a 39 second last 200 sprint. Felt great the entire way and actually picked up the pace in the 2nd half. Splits: 18:15/17:51. I almost felt like I could have gone all day at this pace. My pace per mile was 7:13 and I want to get used to that type of speed for longer distances. That's a Boston qualifier with time to spare if maintained over 26.2. I could have gone 10 at that pace, maybe 13 but 26.2 is an entirely different beast. I'll need to average 60 MPW over a full year to have a chance at that.
Grade:A/2 credits/distance=5.25
4/8- Easy 4 in 31:38 (7:54 pace). A little sore but nothing abnormal. Even splits and even effort. Good workout for an easy day. Weight:148.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=4.5
4/9- Easy 3 in 25:56 (8:39 pace). Started out around 8:20 and ended close to 9:00. Very poor performance. Feels like the thyroid is getting better but chromium deficiency symptoms have reappeared. I am disgusted.
Grade:D/1 credit/distance-3.0
4/10- had to work on Good Friday. Scheduled off day to rest up for important time trial.
4/11-AM- Pathetic attempt at marathon time trial. Felt the effort immediately and slogged through 3 miles in 25:51, no improvement over Thursday. Splits:8:30-8:29-8:52. Done.
PM- energy had improved so I gave it another shot. Better than this morning but still a failure.
11 miles in 95:36 8:42 pace). In an all out effort, I was 3 minutes slower than what I did on an easy day. Pathetic and unacceptable. Splits: 8:20(skewed by fast start)-8:38-8:42(need to maintain this)-8:37-8:35(feeling decent)-8:36-8:41-8:36-8:37-8:50 (imploding)- 9:24 (can't go on) That 10th mile felt as hard as the 20th and my 11th felt like I had already hit the wall.
Grade:F/3 credits/distance=14.25
Weekly summary: 2 good days, 2 average days and 3 bad days. This is unacceptable to me. If I have 1-2 bad days per month, I can live with that. My average weekly GPA is now below 3.0, which I consider to be the minimum that I tolerate. I don't care about setting PRs if I rarely have the energy to run at that level. Again, I'd rather be stuck at 2008 levels and be consistent than continue to have these wild ups and downs that are emotional torture. I have failed on 3 out my last 4 attempts at 20+ mile runs. If my body chemistry is out of whack, I cannot be happy even if the circumstances are good so this is not just about running.
Distance=43.0/ GPA= 22.1/10 credits= 2.210 (that sucks)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A different type of race report

Normally, when I race, my heart is into it 100 percent. This was a different story. It was purely a fun run and I told myself the day before that I really didn't care how I did. Heck, I didn't even know the name of the race until I signed up for it. My buddy Nick from Atlanta told me about it a few weeks ago. It was his first race and he talked me into coming to town for the weekend so we could do a race together. I had not left the state of Alabama since Christmas of 2008 so I figured Why not? I would miss my normal weekend long run but oh well. My relationships with friends are more important than running.
The race was a 5K called "Pounding the Pavement for Peter" and its $25 entry fee would go towards research for treatment of a rare disease with crippling effects. Given my history of medical problems, I am happy to contribute to research that may improve the quality of life for others.
Training: I loaded up with weekday miles including 2 runs of 10 and 11 miles respectively. The latter was done just 36 hours before race morning. My Sun-Thurs. mileage of 35.5 was my highest total ever for a race weekend. I did not run on Friday but it was not an easy day by any means. I worked until 5, stopped for a sit down meal in Auburn and ran into nasty road construction on my way. I did not arrive in Atlanta until 9:45 (I lost an hour going into Eastern time zone). I did not sleep very well that night either. Still, I woke up the next morning feeling pretty well. Fortunately, the race did not start until 9 AM so we could eat some cereal and hydrate ourselves without rushing. Despite the high mileage during the week, I was feeling strong warming up and predicted a good time. Unlike Mobile, the weather cooperated well (clear skies with temps in the 50s) and I was primed for a fast time.
Race: There were a lot of walkers and baby strollers and seemingly very few serious runners. My plan was to go out with the lead pack and if the field was very weak, I might have a chance to be the overall winner. The gun went off and I was out well. A couple of young kids took off at a sprint and I just let them go and they faded within 200 yards. We turned out of the parking lot and I was in third place. Unfortunately, I was losing ground on the two runners ahead of me. The course was steadily downhill for the next half mile and I looked down at my GPS to see a half mile split of 2:50. I thought that was fine considering the slope and I had actually fallen back to 8th place. I knew that uphills would be ahead and boy was I right about that. The course was a loop around a golf course through a upscale residential section of Atlanta. The downhill ended and the course did not level off. We went back uphill and made up the lost elevation plus more. I maintained an even effort but of course, my pace was slowing. I passed 1 mile at 6:15, which put me in good shape for a sub-20. The uphill continued but it became less steep. I do not remember any steep climbs in Mile 2 but the rollers took their toll as well. Flat sections were few and far between. I managed to pass two fading runners to move into 6th place, which was where I would finish. I passed the halfway point right around 10-flat so I would need an even split to finish under 20 so I made an effort to pick up the pace but the hills were just too taxing. I passed 2 miles in 13-flat so my pace had slowed to 6:45 for the 2nd mile. A sub-20 was now out of the question. I was probably looking at around 20:30, which would still be respectable on a course like this. Another thing that was hurting me was the fact that I was in no mans land, which had never happened to me during a road race. Nobody else was in my sight up ahead and nobody was coming up on me from behind. At the finish line, I learned that I was almost a minute out of 5th place and almost a minute ahead of the 7th place finisher. I guess you could say that it was a glorified time trial. Around 2.5 miles, we finally hit our last and steepest hill and at that stage of the race, with the finish line more than a half mile away, it really demoralizes you. Again, with a fast time out of the question and nobody pushing me, I never quit and ran the hill as hard as I could. Fortunately, a nice downhill followed and I used it to recover. Soon, I saw the turn for the parking lot and turned on the speed. It turned out to be a very good finishing kick, which brought me home in 20:22. I figured that I would have been good for a sub-20 on a track and I'll take it. The goal is closer to 19-flat and I'll need more training and more balanced chemistry to do that.
Splits: 6:15-6:46-6:45-35 (.11 at 5:17 pace)
Aftermath: In his first race, Nick ran a 26:17, a very good showing for a beginning runner. Way to go Nick! I did about a mile cool down in the parking lot to bring my weekly total to 40 miles. The physical exertion of the day was not over yet. We drove to the north Georgia mountains and hiked up Brasstown Bald (4784 ft above sea level) on a steep 6/10 mile trail.