Sunday, April 24, 2011

a great 11 miles

I had a *great*  *totally awesome* 10 mile run (that turned into 11 miles cause I was feeling so good)!  Plus, I also managed to average a 9:07 m/m pace.  This is exhilarating for me because it means that if I could keep it up that pace for another 2 miles (the equivalent of the HM), I would hit my 2hr HM  target!   What was even better about the run was that I started out doing 9:30 m/m splits in the early miles and then gradually upped the pace to 9:00 m/m splits and ended with at an 8:30 m/m pace.  In other words, instead of slowing down as I got tired, I was actually able to pick up the pace a bit.

About 4 miles into my run I sucked down some gel, and even though I had a bit of a hard time getting it down I knew that it would help boost my carbs, and sure enough by the time I got to mile 5 I could feel it beging to take effect.  By the time I finished the 11 miles I’m pretty sure that I could have done another 2 miles easily, but my legs were getting pretty tired.  Heart rate was steady and strong, and breathing was good.  But legs were getting done.  This next week will be an easier week, with fewer miles and the Burns Park 10K event (www.burnsparkrun.org).  The following week will be another 11 miler.

There is a spot along my route on South Maple where a van hit and killed a cyclist.  It was a tragic situation in which both the cyclist and the van were both going in the same direction and the van driver was simply distracted and strayed right into the bike.  Someone, I’m presuming the cyclists’ family, has taken a racing bike, painted it white and has chained it to a post near the spot as a memorial.  There are always fresh flowers there, but I’ve never seen anyone place them.  It touches me every time I run by.  I think about that guy and wonder what physical and life goals he was striving to achieve when he met the van. 

Most of my runs are on neighborhood streets with little traffic, with the exception of a few that take me down busier two lane roads without a side walk.  I always run facing traffic – I don’t want to be surprised by a wayward car or truck like the cyclist was.  I wave to all the cars that make an effort to give me a wide berth – I want them to know that I appreciate their consideration.  Especially on those roads where traffic is really moving.  Every now and then there will be a bone-head that crowds me and I give them a one-finger wave before I dive off into gravel.  I hate to go into the gravel or the weeds because I worry about slipping and twisting my ankle.  Now that would really piss me off….

Over the last couple of years I have learned so much about running, especially with regards to foot placement and posture…  I’ve learned that I need to land on the meaty outside side of each foot – not the heel – and allow my ankle to naturally pronate to the ball of my foot for the push off.  Take shorter strides.  If I try to stride too big, my heel tends to hit first, effectively slowing me down a tad, and not do my knees any favors.  When I try to do bigger strides, my hamstring starts to twinge a warning, so I’m learning not to do that.  To go faster, I just take quicker strides.

Another thing I’ve learned has to do with my posture.  As I get tired, my body wants to hunch over and gather itself.  But when that happens, it makes it harder to breathe, and I’ll get more tired faster.  So I’ve learned to run with my head up and chin out.  This seems to open the airway in my throat and obviously makes it easier to breath (if you don’t believe me, try it!)  The other thing is to “run tall”, i.e. don’t hunch over.  This lets my lungs expand fully.  But at the same time, don’t run like a stiff stick; I lean into the run a bit, keep my hips forward, so that I am almost falling into each step and my pace is keeping me from falling down.

When going downhill or a downgrade of any kind, I use the negative slope to help me re-charge.  I let my hands drop down and make sure that my feet stay under my frame, being careful not to over-stride.  I found that I can keep my pace and actually increase it a tad, but the real benefit is the re-charging that I feel in my legs and my body.  It’s amazing how it works!

As I start to get tired (which happens of course….), the first thing that I start to check on is my posture.  As soon as I fix it, it’s like I’ve gotten a new shot of gas.  It’s pretty incredible.

More in a bit –

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a long way to go...

As of today I have 24 weeks and 3 days until the Chicago Marathon.  Seems like plenty of time to prep and be ready.  You think?  I hope so…

I’ve seen training programs that range from 16 weeks to 6 months.  I’ve read several programs boasting “can’t fail” strategies, and some that are pretty sketchy (sketchy as in skunky and stinky…).  The net-net of researching them all is that I now realize that there is no “one” perfect training program for everyone, but rather that it is necessary to mold a program that suits your running style and abilities.   Since I have no style and little ability, it should be pretty easy, eh?… <imagine me smirking>

So what I’ve decided on is to build a strong base consisting of 20+ miles per week which would include a long run almost every week until around 10 weeks to go, and then amp it up a bunch.  I’m already registered for a 10K race (May 1) and a HM (June 5).  I’ve been working on trying to get a bit faster, and I’m curious how I will run in an actual race.  I did a St. Patrick’s Day 5K last month and I did surprisingly well for me, posting a 8:21min/mile pace!  That seems really fast for me… I do not expect to set that pace for the 10K, but it should be fun!  (To put things in perspective, serious runners post 5, 6, and 7min/mile paces - my dream of 9min/mile pace is pedestrian in comparison.  The winner of the Chicago Marathon will finish in just over 2hrs - at which point I will (hopefully) just be at the halfway point.  These guys and girls can move and have serious athletic ability!)

My big near term target is the HM on June 5.  I want to try to finish as close to 2hrs as possible.  That means being able to sustain a 9:00 min/mile pace for all 13.1 miles.  My personal best (PB) for a HM was a 9:39 m/m pace in the Detroit HM last October.  Can I squeeze out 39 seconds per mile?  For 13.1 miles?  Yikes.

Last week I did 10 miles and averaged a 9:23 m/m pace – and truthfully, I wasn’t seriously running for pace setting, but rather working on my endurance.  So maybe there is some hope.  I’m doing another 10 miles this weekend, so we’ll see what happens.  The funny thing about that run is that I took 3 phone calls while I was running (damn iPhone) and while I slowed down and sometimes walked during the calls, I still managed to keep my average pace at an ok level.

Speaking of iPhones, the damn things are a blessing and a curse.  I bring it with me because it provides me with music (I listen either to my stored music or Pandora) and for tracking my run (I use RunKeeper).  RunKeeper is pretty cool in that it not only tracks my route via GPS, but it also keeps track of my splits and gives me voice prompts at different intervals with my time, distance, and pace.  But the problem is that it is also a phone and a text messenger… so I’ll often get phone calls and texts while I run.  I usually ignore both the phone calls and texts, but sometimes there are those calls that I have to answer.  So the secret is that if you really, really want to reach me, call twice in a row, one call right after the other – then I’ll know that you really need to speak to me.  Another pain in the ass thing about the iPhone is that its not weather-proof, and in the event of rain, I have to bring with me a zip-lock bag to plop it into so that I don't ruin the damn thing.  I need to come up with a better tool...

I’ve got more notes, but I’ll post them after my 10 mile run this weekend…

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicago

On Feb 19, 2011, I registered to run the Chicago Marathon on Oct 9, 2011.  It will be my first marathon.  I keep little notes about my running experiences and it was suggested that I post them as a blog.  So here they are.  I'll add new notes as I dig them up.

I am excited and I am nervous about running a marathon.  A little scarred too.  But I’m actually very confident that I will be able to run the entire distance and that I will be able to post a reasonably good time. I’m anticipating being able to average a 10:00min/mile pace, completing the run in 4hrs 22minutes or better.  My real goal is to be closer to 4hrs.  But everyone tells me that my “ultimate” goal should be to just finish.  Ok – I’ll make that my goal – but I want to finish between 4hrs and 4hrs 22minutes.   Now the trick is to get to the starting line healthy and strong.

My biggest mental hurdle in deciding to run my first marathon is that I don’t want to wind up permanently hurting myself in any way.  I’ve been afraid of pushing myself so far that I do something that permanently pulls, tears, or breaks something in my body, and then I wind up regretting the effort for the rest of my life.  --- But obviously I’ve gotten past that. 

I started running about 2 1/2 years ago purely for the cardio-vascular benefits.  Since I'm in my 50's I thought that might be a good idea... but who in their right mind starts running at that age?    In the beginning I struggled horribly.  I couldn’t run a quarter mile without stopping. I sucked at running. It was embarrassing. It took me a *long* time before I could comfortably run even a single mile, never mind 3.  It was ugly and difficult.  But I did it.  AnnDee was a huge inspiration for me.  Eventually I was able to do a 4 mile St. Patrick's Day run (it was more of a beer fest than a run…), and then a 5K race.  Those events were good fun and I've run several events since. The term “race” with me is a misnomer – I’m not racing anyone but myself – there just happen to be a lot of other people also running…  I found that I really liked the “controlled chaos” of each race event and most of the people are pretty cool folks.  The masses pretty much kept me moving, and I loved the finish.  

In 2010 I was thinking of doing a 10K and got talked into doing a Half Marathon by a poker buddy and that was really the start of it.  I had such a good time with that first HM that I did second one just a few months later.  I found that I enjoyed the distance running, and was thinking that HM was my comfortable zone.  It might still be.

But about 3 months after my second HM I started wanting to run a full marathon.  Not that I had to, or that I should, but rather that I wanted to.  That was a big catharsis for me. I wanted to feel that ‘dig deep, dig hard’ feeling and get it done. I love that feeling, that tremendous internal joy, that comes with a physical  accomplishment.   I am confident that I have the ability to make it through the Chicago Marathon, but I also know that it will be hard on me.  But I will love, totally love, the feeling afterwards.  Even as I write this I am giddy about the expected feeling.