Striding Through

Because a life well lived always finds the right pace

Tag Archives: running

Striding Through at Tumblr, too!

Just a quick note to let you know I have launched a companion to this blog at Tumblr. I plan to use that one for quick interim posts, micro blogs if you will, but my detailed blogs will continue to be published here at WordPress. In any case, the Striding Through Tumblr blog is available at cmjhawk86.tumblr.com.

One month down, three to go towards Boston

It’s been a little over a month since I initiated my Boston Marathon training cycle using the Hansons method. And I have to say while the approach has been a bit unorthodox I have enjoyed the change.

When I started training up in mid-December I was rather surprised by how “easy” it was in the initial weeks. There were no long runs, no speed, just a lot of easy 3, 4 and 5 milers.

While according to the book it is permissible to add more volume to easy runs to boost mileage, I stayed away from doing this for the first two weeks and stuck to the prescribed numbers. But by the time Christmas rolled around I was ready to start experimenting. The longest runs in the plan at this point had still only reached about 5-6 miles, but I cruised easily through a 9-miler with a buddy on the 28th.

Then the next day, I introduced another tweak. I have no idea whether the Hanson brothers would approve of this, but I didn’t ask for permission, I just went with my instincts which said it was time to start introducing a tiny little bit of quality work. I did this in the form of a progression run, tearing a page out of the McMillan library. Out of respect for Hansons’ start-slow approach, I took this step modestly with simply a marathon pace mile at the end of a planned three miler, followed by a one-mile cooldown. Since then, I have added more work to the weekly progression run, while the weekly mileage has also slowly crept up into the 30s.

Throughout this whole mesocycle I have felt that despite the small weekly mileage totals that my fitness was building in a very discernible way. But until today I hadn’t really had an opportunity to test that belief so I set out for a “tempo” run (Hansons version of tempo is actually marathon pace run). It was a fairly warm day for January at 49 degrees and humid thanks to a perpetual fog that has hung over the nation’s capital the past several days. Perhaps I was a bit excited to finally do a “real” quality workout, because I put down a first mile much faster than my typical warmup at about 7:36. Then in the next mile, when it was time to work I quickly found myself heading down a long hill. I decided to just the hill take me down while I worked to stay over my center of mass and the result was a 6:32 mile that felt no harder than the first mile. Over the next two miles I cruised over flat bike paths and that provided an opportunity to finally locate a pace close to the target of 7:15 per mile. Then in mile 4 came the inevitable correction for that big downhill mile earlier as I had to work up a very long climb that I hadn’t run in several years. However, the drop-off was only into the 7:30s, and that was then followed by two more quick miles at MP. After passing 6 miles I decided to keep it going for a 10k marker, which I hit at 45:11, for an aggregate pace of 7:17/mile…not quite 7:15 but right in the range and a very good place to start. Full run stats and log report are posted here.

All of which leads into the plan’s sixth week, where the intensity visibly ramps up. The first track workout is this week, as well as another MP run later in the week. After today, I feel like I am very much ready for the step-up. This next mesocycle will be one jammed with hard work as it approaches 60 miles per week, but when I come out of it I should be well positioned for the Club Challenge 10 Miler in Columbia, MD, which will serve as my benchmark race. More on that in 6 weeks or so. Now it’s time to get some rest!

2012 in review and the road ahead in 2013

With yesterday’s little 45 minute spin workout on the trainer I put the wraps on an interesting 2012. I ended up with the lowest total run mileage in quite a while with just over 1300 for the year. But I also cycled over 800 miles and swam 22.5 miles. Some of the decrease in run mileage is attributable to a couple of nagging injuries in the early part of 2012, and some of it is due to introducing more intense bike training during the summer when I was training for the 2XRip Duathlon. Nonetheless when it came time to run the Chicago Marathon in the fall, I was ready; if anything I felt like the varied training brought me to the windy city stronger than I had been in a long time.

Lesson to be learned from it? I think so. Clearly varying my training is something that works for me. Biking in particularly keeps my cardiovascular strength at a high-performing level while easing some of the stress on my joints, especially the knees. Even now as I start on a Hansons program in preparation for Boston, I plan to leave a little room for the bike. I am also considering getting back in the pool, if I can fit it into my busy schedule. Cross-training is an essential part of my training, and besides, I haven’t ruled out another duathlon or maybe even an Olympic triathlon someday.

One of the more disappointing aspects of 2012 was the lack of any new PRs. That is, of course, except for the automatic PR earned at my debut duathlon. I thought Chicago for sure would be that kind of a day and I felt fantastic during the race, but at the finish I found myself two seconds shy of the marathon PR I set in 2010 at Boston. Still the fact that I cruised so easily to that result at Chicago leaves me encouraged that with solid, consistent training I can get that time down at Boston in 2013.

I’m now into the fourth week of the Hansons program and feeling pretty good. The first five miles of 2013 are now in the books so I am clearly off and running towards this year’s goals, which include the following:

  • Successfully complete the Hansons plan this spring and stay healthy
  • Boston and a new marathon PR (aggressive goal is 3:10, PR to beat is 3:20:41)
  • Make sure to allow myself proper recovery time after goal races (not always easy)
  • Sub-90 minute half marathon
  • Sub-19 5k race
  • At least one multisport event
  • Marine Corps Marathon? I’m thinking about it
  • Win my club’s summer racing series for my age group (finished 3rd in 2012)

I may add more goals later as the year progresses. Happy New Year to all and let the chase begin! 🙂

I’ll be home for Christmas…and training

With my recent offseason break, followed by a frustrating foray back into racing at the Gar Williams Half Marathon at Carderock this past weekend, it’s time to put a wrap on 2012. Gar Williams wasn’t the way I wanted to end the year, that’s for sure. It was supposed to be just a training run at far less than full intensity, given I was just ramping back up to running. On top of that the C&O Towpath, on which this entire race was run, was muddy and slippery after a night of hard rain. But when the horn sounded I foolishly took off as if I was in top form. Needless to say I couldn’t maintain anything close to that pace and even bonked at around 10 miles, sheepishly slogging home the final 5k at around 9:00/mile pace, dropping from 19th overall to 29th, and finishing in 1:39:36, or about 8 minutes slower than I ran at Philadelphia just three weeks ago. So what did I learn from the experience? Well, first of all, that you can lose a lot of fitness even over a short break. Second, not to be an idiot and run as if you are in peak condition when you are not. Third, it is possible to crash and burn in a half marathon the same way as a marathon if you are not properly trained. And fourth, running a race that long isn’t worth the post-race recovery issues if you don’t approach the race properly and/or fail to stick to the plan for the day. So now I go through a few days of recovery and rehab, mainly because my right calf is still screaming at me, hoping that I will be able to start marathon training as scheduled next week. Most likely I will be fine for that goal, but it has been a humbling couple of days.

So about that training. I’m looking to get into it, and for this cycle I am actually going to try following somebody’s else’s instead of using my own home-brew method. Doing my own thing hasn’t been bad; it has, after all brought me across 9 marathon finish lines. But there is a nagging feeling I can do better. The McMillan pace conversion table, for example, shows that based on my times at shorter distances, I should be able to run around a 3:10 marathon, but I never been able to crack 3:20. I have 5 results between a PR of 3:20:41 and 3:23:52, so the consistency is there, but so is the plateau. Unfortunately, high mileage plans such as Pfitzinger are not for me, though; the times I have tried to push the mileage numbers up to similar levels I have ended up injured. I need something else, something that will get me ready to run at my desired marathon pace for the whole distance while not taxing my joints too much and hopefully allow me to still squeeze at least some of the cycling and swimming I depend on for cardiovascular endurance.

Enter the Hansons Method. I had heard lots about it in the past, particularly about its “radical” cap of 16 miles on the long runs, but always thought the plan was something reserved for elites who were already super-fit and just plain genetically superior. But then last February a 40-something club teammate of mine told me he had just used the Hansons Method for a marathon and run under 3 hours for the first time. Then in the intervening time, Hansons runner Luke Humphrey published a very detailed book on the method, including why and how it works. I purchased the book about a month ago and decided maybe this was what I have needed. In particular I like their argument that while other marathon plans do a great job of getting you ready to run the first 16 miles of a marathon, theirs trains you for the last 16 miles of the race. The other key distinguishing characteristic is the amount of marathon pace running, which parallels what another club teammate advised, that for me to get better I needed “more miles and more marathon pace miles.”

So I will give the Hansons a shot.

I should be clear that despite the lower prescribed mileage numbers, this is still a pretty intensive plan, even using the “beginners” plan as I intend to do. As for why I chose beginners, my reasoning is threefold. 1) the mileage numbers correspond well to what I have been doing, offering a slight increase; 2) the plan ramps up gradually enough that I can continue to cross-train as an “optional” activity under the plan, particularly during the early weeks (1-5); and 3) there is enough flexibility built in that I can squeeze in a tuneup race or two along the way. Actually I had been planning to run about 5 races in the club series, but I am now backing off of that a bit. I think 2 races is probably the most I will do prior to Patriot’s Day in Boston.

In short, I want to give this plan a chance to really work, and that means following it as closely as I reasonably can. The early aspects actually seem a little too “easy” given my background but the plan is designed that way, so that before you know it you’ve been lured into something where you now are working really hard. By the time I hit peak I will be at probably the highest intensity I have ever been in a marathon cycle.

The 18-week plan starts next week. Until then, I just need to shut this calf muscle up.

Philly and a finish with purpose

Time really does seem to fly sometimes, and now I find the fall racing season to be nearly concluded. Next weekend’s race, the Philadelphia Half Marathon, will wrap it all up. For the most part my training has focused on recovering from the Chicago Marathon, then maintaining the fitness level attained for that race, and finally sharpening up my tempo paces for a half marathon as opposed to a full marathon. Now I enter a brief one-week taper period before heading up to Philly on Saturday. I’ll be gunning for a new PR, which means breaking 1:29:03. I think I’m ready to run well; the high-end goal would be a 1:27:19 (average pace 6:40 per mile) but that admittedly may be a bit aggressive. The bottom line, from a racing standpoint, is I will go out chase the best result I can get on the day. As Ryan Hall likes to say, “today I will PR for today.”

All that said, I really want to get on to the primary purpose for this post. Specifically, when I toe the line at Philly on Sunday morning I will be doing so for more than just meeting my own running goals. About two weeks ago, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy I learned that two women from New York and New Jersey areas, who I’ve encountered in various running forums such as Kickrunners in the past, had come together to organize a “virtual race” as a fundraiser in support of Red Cross relief efforts. The concept was simple, to just run the race you were already planning to run in November and using Crowdrise tools, turn it into a fundraiser that would be part of an overall campaign. It all seemed easy enough, and as someone who likes to make my running about more than just myself, I was eager to jump in and help the cause.

This is a rapid start-up campaign, in response to an unforeseen calamity, so my campaign has quickly started up in kind. We’re all trying to keep pace with the rapidly developing situation in the NYC area, and my Crowdrise website just went up this past weekend.

The bottom line is, my fundraising effort for Sandy relief efforts, centered around my race at Philly, is underway. And that’s where you come in. I’d like your help, not for me but those who really need the assistance right now. And I have already put my money where my mouth (or keyboard) is; I have donated $10 for every mile I’m running at Philly, for a total of $131. I ask you join me in this campaign and make the impact even bigger. Just click the logo above, where you can either match my donation or make a contribution of any other amount. Funds go directly to the Red Cross, not including an optional $10 donation that assists Crowdrise in processing your donation. Any amount you can contribute would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading and considering my request.

Well timed rest day, hopefully just one

Well as Sandy works her mischief over the DC region, I am fortunate as of now to still have electrical power and to make Monday my typical rest day. Tomorrow – hopefully – I will pick it back up as usual. That is, if the power is still on and I can use the treadmill in my basement.

I hit a bit of a speed bump about 10 days ago, just as I was starting to ramp back up after Chicago. I came down with a nasty cold despite taking every precaution knowing post-marathon immunity is compromised. Most of last weekend was spent in bed but I finally was able to hit the roads again this past Wednesday. Given that late start I had a pretty good week, finishing up with 28 miles along with one cross training day on the bike. The good news is I haven’t lost any fitness. The legs are rarin’ to go once again.

So I should be ready to log about 10 days of intense training – hopefully – before dialing it back to taper for the half marathon at Philly. Now I just need Sandy to get on her way.

Recovery break over, now for the pivot

After my Chicago Marathon experience last week, I returned to Virginia and took some needed time off from running. In fact, the little holiday is still going on as I will rest once more today. Over the past week I’ve been walking, getting a massage and I did a little bit of cycling in the neighborhood.

But I’m feeling the itch to get it going again. So this week I’ll start it back up, albeit slowly. 3 miles tomorrow, 5 or so on Wednesday, 7 on Friday. No speed work. And I will fall back on the bike again to maintain aerobic endurance. I’m hoping to maybe pop out a long easy ride on the road bike Saturday, 30 miles or so.

Time will tell how quickly I return to the prior training intensity. I have the Philadelphia Half Marathon awaiting as my season closing race. It will be my 4th Philly; so far I’ve done the marathon there twice, including last year, and the half there once in 2009 when I set a then-PR and qualified for NYC. I don’t think it will take much to be ready for that one, not with base marathon fitness under my belt. The biggest challenge will be to get accustomed to running a faster tempo for an extended time. So I anticipate several quality workouts to get sharper, and maybe a long run topping out at 15 miles.

After such a big target marathon race, it feels like starting a new season within the season. But if I can manage the next month properly I should be primed for a big Philly result. PR to beat is 1:29:03 and hopefully this time the standard falls!

My almost perfect Chicago Marathon

World Marathon Major finish #3 finally came for me this past Sunday at Chicago; actually it’s WMM #4 because I have now run Boston twice (2009, 2010), New York City (2010) and Chicago. It was also my 9th marathon finish overall. All told, it was a very good day, as the stats below demonstrate, but a bit of unfinished business remains.

Actually my first Chicago Marathon was supposed to happen a year ago. I had signed up for the 2011 event and had begun training in early summer of that year, but after a hamstring injury, then a knee injury suffered playing soccer, it was just not meant to be. Despite the summer 2011 setbacks, I managed to put together a nice Philadelphia Marathon performance in November 2011 and that gave me encouragement about making another attempt at a Chicago run in 2012.

After spending a good portion of the spring and summer of 2012 training for and racing in an Olympic distance duathlon, there were only about 10 weeks available to prepare for this year’s Chicago Marathon. Most marathon training plans are 16 weeks in length. For the first several weeks of this abbreviated cycle I wasn’t so sure I could pull it off. The body needed to recover a bit from the duathlon, and even 10-12 mile long trail runs were a slog during the Northern Virginia dog days and nights. I finally hit the 20-mile long run mark on Labor Day weekend in conditions that could best be described as miserable, close to 90 degrees and humid. But about two weeks later, as summer heat eased its way towards autumn, it all started to click into place. My second and final 20-miler of the cycle was a night-and-day difference as I cruised through it for 19 and then jacked up a fast finish in the final mile. In addition my tempo and interval workouts were now nailing the target paces. Then I topped off my Chicago resume with a solid 5k/10k double performance at the Clarendon Day Races in Arlington on September 23. As I hit the short 2-week taper period, I knew I was ready.

Lynn and I boarded the short flight to Chicago on Friday and before long we found ourselves at the expo. Having gotten that step out of the way, all that was left then was to enjoy a nice dinner and relax on Saturday. We enjoyed the downtown area a bit and that helped keep my mind at ease. As eager as I was to get it on, I was remarkably calm throughout Saturday and I even slept relatively well.

Finally the alarm sounded at 5:05 am on Sunday and having planned everything out 24 hours before it was a simple matter of eating breakfast, which ended up being two energy bars, and heading out for the 5 block walk to Millennium Park. The weather was chilly with a bit of a wind blowing but I felt well equipped for the temperatures, with a race outfit consisting of my DC Roadrunners singlet, shorts, arm sleeves, calf sleeves, lightweight gloves and beanie, lightweight merino wool socks and my new favorite shoes, the Skechers GoRun. I had my race nutrition all lined up, too, a Peanut Butter GU for just before the race, then Pineapple Roctane GU for miles 5, 10 and 15, followed by my “secret weapon,” a Honey Stinger Berry Blast gel teed up for mile 20. If an electrolyte boost was to be needed in the final 10k, I’d go with Gatorade since only that would metabolize quickly enough to help at that stage.

I said goodbye to Lynn and headed for the gear check, then made it into the B corral with about 2 minutes to spare. The anthem was sung, the wheelchair athletes were off and then it seemed like barely any time went by before the cannon for the rest of us sounded. It took me roughly two minutes to cross the line and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace. As we proceeded through the north side of Chicago I was pleased with my pacing; it was a little slower than I have taken out other marathons but I was on a sub-3:20 pace that actually felt easy. So I resolved to stay at that level…and not worry about racing until I got to 20 miles. As we headed back south I passed where Lynn was watching but managed to miss seeing her on the other side of the street.

I proceeded onward, cruising past the half marathon point in 1:39:27. Perfect, I thought and I felt no signs of wearing down. Through it all it seemed every new street we turned onto bore a new surprise from the crowds. Sometimes it was a band, sometimes a dance troupe, and sometimes a few very amusing signs. It seemed the spectator sign of the day was “Worst Parade Ever.”  Finally at 17 miles I got to see Lynn, still feeling great and thinking about dropping the hammer in a couple of miles.

Before long that 20-mile mark came up and I pulled out that Stinger gel, downed it with some water and said “OK, it’s go time.” In retrospect it’s a good thing I did step up my intensity because it turned out I was slowing down, just a little bit, despite the fact I was now starting to pass other runners in large numbers. Still I felt strong.

I saw Lynn again at mile 23 and couldn’t help but smile because I knew I was having a great run. The only question was could I hang on, or was a crash lurking in the darkness. I worried about that a little bit as the 24-mile mark approached, when I felt my right calf starting to really tighten up. Luckily the aid station was only about 400 meters past that; once I got some water in me the developing cramp went away. As 25 miles approached I knew it was time to go for broke with whatever I had left. I continued to be the hunter, passing other runners in droves and in the distance I could see the final turn towards the finish. I knew the 3:20 plateau I have been staring at for 5 years was probably going to live another day (darn it!) but a PR (3:20:40) was still in reach.

As we turned turned towards the lake we were greeted by something we hadn’t really seen all day on this course: a hill. That seemed a little cruel, especially as I was now trying to imagine myself as a half-miler rather than a marathoner. It was really hard to get it going up that hill which continued to climb past the 400-meter-to-go point. Finally with 300 to go it crested and the last 200 looked to be a downhill sprint. I gave it all I had from that point, dragging a couple of other runners hoping to draft off of me. As I approached the arch I couldn’t believe my eyes, which were witnessing the excruciating march of time. I finally lost sight of the clock as it clicked to 3:20:38. I had no idea if I would make it at this point…but I had a feeling, later confirmed, that I had come this close.

As I crossed the line I initially felt frustration over having come so close, after running such a great race, and it seemed incomprehensible that I could come away without at least a new PR to brag about. I had missed it by 2 seconds, finishing in 3:20:43. How on earth could a race so long come down to 2 seconds?! But as I had the medal put around my neck, my mood quickly changed. I had achieved some great things today, beyond just a marathon finish. The stats clearly showed that this had been my most evenly paced marathon ever, with a mere 2:14 positive split, compared with that PR day in Boston where my positive split had been about 10 minutes. Moreover, my training, which had consisted of lower mileage than any previous cycle and relied heavily on cross-training, had worked. I felt strong for the entire race. And I raced well, focusing on the my surroundings and tactics instead of being a slave to my watch. PR or no PR, it could be argued this was my best marathon ever. And let’s not forget, it was yet another BQ result, one that punches my ticket for eligibility up to Patriots Day 2014.

As I reunited with Lynn and we enjoyed a Goose Island 312 in the post-race party zone, I basked in the sunlight and satisfaction of a job well done. In the coming weeks, I’ll have plenty of time to evaluate how to build on this performance and get off the 3:20 plateau at Boston in the spring. Lots of ideas are on the table, like maybe getting a coach, but no decisions yet. In the meantime, I will enjoy the accomplishment, hang my hat on consistency: 5 marathons of my 9 have fallen between 3:20:41 and 3:23:52. And that’s a good platform from which to jump to the next level.

Riding (and running) through a brand new challenge

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As much as I love my sport of running, there are times when it gets a little monotonous. This is especially true when you run marathons, where the cycle of “train long, race hard, recover, repeat” proceeds unabated through the seasons. I’ve long thought that variety is the key to keeping not only physically but also mentally fit to take on the challenges of long-distance racing; perhaps that’s why I cross-train so much and don’t hit anything close to the mileage numbers that the Pfitzingers and Higdons of the world recommend. It seems that when race day comes I am just as ready as those who follow such plans religiously. That’s not to criticize, just to say my approach is what works for me.

All of which has made me wonder from time to time, what if I actually tried racing in a manner similar to how I train? Until this year it was only a fleeting thought, but back in late February I had an inspiration of sorts, as I walked back to my car after a disappointing performance in a 10 mile race. Underneath my windshield was a postcard advertising an “Olympic Duathlon” for July. I glanced at the card for a few seconds and rendered no decision, other than to think about it some more. But a month later, as the weather warmed up and biking outdoors became more inviting, I noticed the fee was about to go up and that now would be a good time to jump in, if I was up to challenge. Of course, with the question framed in that manner, there was no way I wasn’t going to sign up.

In mid-May, once I had my spring races behind me, it was time to really focus on the duathlon. Whereas cycling before had really just been a means of supporting my running it was now something demanding equal if not greater time and attention. So I quickly went from 40-50 mile running weeks to 15-20 mile running weeks, with anywhere from 40-70 bike miles a week. As the weeks progressed my legs got used to the increased bike burden and to my surprise my running started to really take off as well after slogging through a lackluster spring season. In June I knocked out a 5k in 19:34 for my fastest one of the year so far. Clearly this training plan was working for me. The closer I got to race day, the sharper I could feel myself getting in both disciplines. When race day came I definitely felt ready.

This event was in rural Howard County, Maryland, not far from the scene of that flop of a 10 miler in February. It was only an hour or so away from my Virginia home, but with an early start and my newbie status in multisport racing, I decided to book a hotel room in Columbia the night before. It turned out to be a wise decision as I was able to relax, get a fairly decent night’s sleep and arrive at the site before the traffic with plenty of time to prepare my transition area and warm up. For a fairly big race, it was about the most stressless pre-race scenario I have had.

The format for the race was a 2-mile run, followed by a 26-mile ride, then capped off with a 4-mile run. Both of the runs took place in Western Regional Park over a loop course, while the bike ride did two times around on a 13-mile loop over hilly country roads. We started gathering in the corrals at 6:45 AM and at 7:00, after the anthem, the elites took off. My corral of 45-and-over men was next and off we went at precisely 7:05.

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In preparing my race tactics beforehand it was obvious that the runs would be my strong suit and the ride was an area where I would be severely tested by more seasoned cyclists. So the temptation was strong to really fire off the line and be as close to the front as possible and “bank” some time or position. But in the final days leading up to the race, I reconsidered that idea and decided to conserve some energy in the hope of staying strong for the whole day. I watched others bolt out and down the first hill but largely bided my time at a tempo pace. I came through the 2 miles barely laboring – but still in good age group position. Time: 13:35.67 (#6 in age group). Transition 1 to bike: 2:02.07.

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As I headed out on the bike course I started in a fairly low gear, and spent much of the first mile looking to get into a comfortable cadence while gradually adding more gears. Meanwhile we rocketed down some hills and whipped around some quick turns. Finally in about mile 4 the first big climbs came upon us. For the most part I had been getting passed by a lot of riders and was a bit disappointed by that, but I then noticed that many of them were not as strong on the hills as I was. So this commenced a jockeying of sorts that went on for the rest of this segment: me being passed on the descents or flats, then me catching the same riders on the climbs. The humidity really started to take hold on the second loop and temperature was also on the rise. I think I slowed down a little bit, but as we entered the park again to head back to transition I powered it up the final hill and passed a couple of those riders I had been battling for 26 miles. But I was also pretty hot by now; and I wondered how much I had left for the final run. Time: 1:26:30.77 (#13 in age group). Transition 2 to run: 2:03:53.

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The second run did the same park loop as the first but in the opposite direction and twice. I jogged from the transition area to let my legs adjust back to running then tried to pick it up once I got onto the course. But my legs felt like jelly and it seemed I was barely shuffling along. However I was apparently doing much better than that, or others were suffering far worse than me. For the next four miles I passed one runner after another, including a few who had passed me on the bike and who I thought I would never see again. Throughout this segment I think only 2 runners passed me and they were both younger age-group runners. On the second loop it was not uncommon at all to see walkers but that just made me push harder. Just like in a marathon, I told myself “no stops!” As I got to the top of the final hill I knew I had my first multisport finisher’s medal all but in hand. As I finished I felt tired, soaked with sweat to the bone…and totally awesome. Time: 30:59.09 (#5 in age group). Finish time: 2:15:11.13 (#8 in 45-49 age group).

It was a great day, all told. While I had no formal time goal in mind, I did think 2:15 would be nice result if everything came together. So, I guess it all did come together nicely. 🙂 I’m glad I stepped up to this challenge and am also glad my wife Lynn was there to cheer me on and take some great photos for the blog. I also have put a shout out to the race organizers and volunteers, who were absolutely top-notch. As for the next multisport event, that will have to wait until 2013. Right now I have the Chicago Marathon to prepare for. But there will definitely be another such race, because this one was a blast!

And not to forget these details, which I see on just about every multisport report I have ever read:

Running shoes: Saucony Hattori

Bike: Litespeed Tuscany with Zipp wheels

Bike shoes: Specialized

Bike Helmet/gloves: Bell/Pearl Izumi

Apparel: Pearl Izumi sleeveless triathlon jersey, CW/X running tights, Point6 lightweight socks, Under Armour headband

Other equipment: yellow tinted shades, Timex Ironman 30-split watch

Back in the saddle with Spring Racing!

After an up and down spring training cycle, the target races start to come whether you’re “ready” or not. And sure enough that’s exactly what happened on Earth Day (April 22) when I toed the line at Rutgers University for the UNITE Half Marathon.

To be honest I really wasn’t sure what I would have in me on race day. After starting off well with training in January, I hit a bit of a speed bump in late February, starting with a mediocre race performance at the RRCA Club Challenge Ten Miler in Columbia, MD. From there I went into a funk, either mental or physical, probably a little bit of both, as my workout performances just lagged. Then my sometimes-balky knee acted up – tendinitis, which has been nagging me since. I ended up taking about 2 weeks off from running in early March. While I clearly needed the break it didn’t do much for my race preparations. So when I started half marathon training again, I decided let’s not worry about PRs (sub-1:29) and certainly not the lofty goal of 1:25 I had conceived back in December. The goal was now just to get a solid run in that would set me up for Broad Street Run on 5/6. As for a time, I decided I would be happy with anything under 1:35.

Race day morning logistics went off without any hitch whatsoever and the shuttle from downtown New Brunswick got me and Lynn to the start area on Rutgers’ Busch campus with plenty of time to spare. I was completely relaxed at the start and when the gun went off I started with what felt like a comfortably hard effort. That ended up being a 6:39 opening mile, faster than I expected and I wondered if I could hold onto it. As it turns out I did hang on to it for a while, until about 5 miles or so. But then the gaps in my fitness started to show and by mile 7 I was running 7 minute miles.

We continued to wind our way through the Busch campus, until about 9.5 miles in when we finally crossed the bridge over the Raritan River and into New Brunswick proper. As we completed the crossing and turned to dip down into a park I saw Lynn who was with several other spectators.

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At this point I knew I was tiring – the pace had slipped into the 7:20s – but I also knew I could hang on and have a nice result if I didn’t do anything dumb. As I passed the 10-mile mark I noted my split time was better than the race result I had achieved at Columbia two months prior, which made me feel good. I knew that had just been a bad day but it’s always nice to have validation of that. We continued to wind around the park for another two miles; I chatted and ran alongside another runner for part of that stretch but had to let him go ahead as the finish drew closer. Meanwhile a female runner who had been jockeying places with me all morning surged ahead yet again and put a 100-yard gap on me.

We came out of the park into downtown New Brunswick, the finish just 0.6 miles away when I saw Lynn again. This time I was climbing a steep hill, whose placement seemed rather cruel given the stage of the race and my mounting exhaustion. Still it was great to see Lynn, and while I was suffering I still managed a smile for the camera, sort of. I have a great one-woman race crew. 🙂

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As we crested the hill I told myself, let’s see what we have left. I was easily going to beat the 1:35 goal I had set, no worries there. I tried to run steady but hard, not an all-out sprint. Just finish strong, that was the goal. I did get caught by one person from behind but in the meantime I passed two other runners, including the woman who had seemingly left me in the dust two miles earlier.

As I crossed the line I was tired, but could feel myself recovering quickly. That was a good sign because it meant my conditioning was just fine. Final results were 1:33:23 on the gun, 1:33:19 on the chip, good for 116th place overall out of a couple thousand entrants. In my age category (45-49) I was 7th overall with an age-graded result of 70.4%. For a guy not in top form, that’s a result I can definitely live with. Now it’s on to Broad Street…where I think I’ve got a good race in me!