Next Steps

I still have a runner’s high from completing my first marathon last weekend. I’ve decided that I want run another one, but I don’t know yet when or where. There are a few races I’m interested in running this fall, but I’ll wait to decide on fall races until my hip flexor heals…hopefully it will be back to 100% within the next few weeks.

Until then, I’ll be cross training, and I might resume easy running next week with the predetermination that I’ll stop if I have any hip flexor pain. Then I’ll work on rebuilding my mileage base and slowly incorporate some speed work. I really want to start signing up for local 5Ks and 10Ks as soon as possible, but that won’t be smart until my hip flexor is healed. Even then, it might not be smart given my lack of recent speed work, haha.

I’ve been a little disappointed this week about running a huge positive split in the marathon. However, I keep telling myself, “Dude – you just ran a freaking marathon, and you did it on reduced training with a lingering injury.” I can’t help competing with myself (or my expectations, at least) when I run, but I also need to keep things in perspective. I’m not fast enough to ever have anything at stake when I race, so the only pressure I really have is from myself. And I missed several long runs and speed workouts due to my hip flexor. I’d like to think I would’ve been able to hold up at least a little better during the second half of the race if I had a full training segment. I’m thrilled to be a marathoner now, but there’s that little part of me that occasionally thinks, “Positive split?! WTF?!” I guess the positive thing about positive splits, other than them being positive (haha), is that they’re great incentive to run better next time…

I hope you have a great weekend and run (or cross train) happy!

Are you racing this weekend? If so, at what distance?

Do you ever get disappointed when you don’t meet a goal, even though you should be happy with what you accomplished despite missing the goal? If so, how do you balance any disappointment with the sense of accomplishment?

Posted in Injuries, Running | 8 Comments

Bayshore Marathon Recap

Happy Memorial Day. My sincerest thanks and appreciation for all who have served in the United States Armed Forces and sacrificed for our freedom.

Well, I did it. I ran the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI on Saturday – my first marathon! I survived, and I had a lot of fun. That does not mean I thought all 26.2 miles were a blast, but I absolutely enjoyed the overall experience.

The day before:
My wife and I headed up to Traverse City the afternoon before the race so we would have plenty of time to get to the packet pick up before it got too hectic, then have time to get dinner, and relax. The packet pick up was in a high school gymnasium and was very well organized. We picked up our bibs and bags at one end of the gym, then went to the other end of the gym to get our shirts. It was a very quick process, and I think having separate tables for bibs and shirts helped speed things up. There wasn’t much of an expo at the race, but I was told that ahead of time so I wasn’t expecting a big expo. We randomly happened to see some family members as we were walking into the packet pick up, one of whom was running his first 10K, so we chatted with them for a while after we got our bibs and shirts. I don’t like to eat much before a race, so I had a pretty light dinner. I had a big breakfast the morning before the race and I made sure to eat throughout the day. I just don’t like eating a huge meal the evening before a morning race – my stomach is usually my biggest concern when running, and pigging out 12 hours before a race certainly wouldn’t help.

We were very happy to finally meet Alexis from Get 2 Fit 2 Quit and her husband Nate when we got back to the hotel after picking up our packets and getting dinner. My wife and I have known Alexis for several months through Twitter, but we hadn’t met her in person or run any of the same races before Bayshore.

The expo area (foreground) and bib pick up area (background).

The shirt pick up area.

The race shirt with my bib. The color cast in the photo is a bit off, but it’s a Brooks technical shirt and a good shade of orange.

Marathoners at Bayshore also get a nice pair of running socks.

The day of:
For some reason, I slept better the night before the race than I do before most races. I never sleep well before races, and I figured the night before my first marathon would be no exception. Luckily I slept OK, and while my alarm went off pretty early, I felt rested enough when I woke up. I got up about three-and-a-half hours before the start of the race so I could eat a little bit – a Honey Stinger Waffle, a banana, and a few Clif Shot Bloks – and drink some water and sports drink. I went back to bed for about 45 more minutes before I got up for good, and then it was time to get ready and go.

My wife ran the half marathon, which started near the midpoint of the out-and-back marathon course, and she had to catch a shuttle bus from the marathon start/finish line to the half marathon start line. Because of the need to get so many runners out to the start of the half marathon course before the marathon started, the last shuttle for half marathoners was supposed to leave at 6:15 a.m. (the marathon started at 7:00 and the half marathon started at 7:30). My wife understandably wanted to avoid the last minute rush, so we got to the shuttle pick up location around 5:30. We had no problem finding parking, and the shuttle line wasn’t too long at that point so it worked out very well for us. After she left, I went into the nearby gym and relaxed for a few minutes during the last-minute packet pick up. It was eerily quiet considering that there were several people in there…I guess it was the calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm in the gym about an hour before the race.

I started to get restless, so I left the gym and headed toward the marathon start line about a quarter mile away when I realized that the line for the half marathon shuttle had gotten at least 10 times longer during the 15 or 20 minutes I was in the school. I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard my name as I was walking past the shuttle line. Luckily, two family members who were running the half marathon had spotted me. I knew they were running, but I had no idea if they had already gotten on a shuttle, and I had given up trying to spot them in the huge line. One of them was coming off a great marathon PR just the week before, and his daughter was running her first half (she ended up placing in her age group – very awesome!). I chatted with them until they got near the front of the shuttle line. It was great catching up with them, and it really helped keep me calm during the down time before a race when there isn’t much to do except think about the race. I also saw Megan from Watch MeGo Run, who was running her first marathon, too. We had missed each other at the packet pick up, so it was nice seeing her before the race because it can get so hectic trying to find people after races. We were able to catch up a bit, and it was time for the National Anthem before we knew it. There weren’t pacers running the marathon, but there were signs next to the start corral directing people where to line up by pace. I had no problem finding a spot in the corral, and then it was time to go.

Ready to run!

With Megan from Watch MeGo Run before the race.

Time went by really quickly for me, and it was time to run before I knew it.

A great morning to run a marathon!

A great morning to run a marathon!

The race:
I started out very conservatively because of my hip flexor injury and because I had a lot of pain on my easy run Thursday morning. I kept a consistent pace through 5K and then got a few seconds per mile faster through the 10-mile mark. I got a little faster from miles 10-15, and the only issue I had to that point was my hip flexor flaring up around mile 11. I was thrilled that the pain held off that long, and luckily it wasn’t bad once it did show up. I felt great through the 15-mile mark and was having no problem gradually improving my pace, then both legs started to tighten up around the same time. It wasn’t awful, but it gradually increased over the next few miles to the point where both hamstrings and both calves felt like they could cramp at any time. My legs felt worse with each mile after 17, and my splits definitely reflected that. I kept plodding along until somewhere around the 24.5-mile mark when one of my hamstrings finally cramped up. I had to stop for a couple minutes to wait it out and stretch, but I was able to get going again and fortunately didn’t have any more cramps though both legs continued to feel trashed until the end. The race finished on a high school track, and I was able to pick up my pace a bit over the last quarter mile or so to finish relatively strong.

Other than the legs issues I mentioned above, I felt great throughout the race. I didn’t feel dizzy, disoriented, or dehydrated at all during the race. I took four Hammer gels with me – two without caffeine and two with caffeine. I had used them on some long runs and during the Borgess Half Marathon a few weeks ago with no problems, so I felt very comfortable using them for Bayshore. I took the non-caffeinated ones around miles 9-10 and 14, and the caffeinated ones around miles 18-19 and 23. I decided to not carry a water bottle; instead, I made sure to get water or Gatorade at every water stop, even if I only sipped or rinsed my mouth at some of those stops. I timed it so I took each gel just before a water stop and could get a full cup of water to wash it down. I also grabbed a cup from the “Not H2O” stand I saw in the last couple of miles. I figured, “Why not?” as it was my first marathon, I wanted to enjoy the entire experience, and it was close to the finish. Miraculously, I had absolutely no stomach problems during the marathon despite it being my longest run by more than eight miles. So my biggest pre-race fears – my stomach and my hip flexor – weren’t issues at all. If only my hamstrings and calves would’ve held up over the last 11 miles, haha…

The course is beautiful. Much of it is run along the East Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay on the Old Mission Peninsula, and it’s very scenic. Much of the course is shaded, the views of the water are spectacular, and there are some great-looking homes along the course. The spectator support was excellent, with people lining the course in several places. There’s limited access to much of the course though, especially once it starts winding up the Old Mission Peninsula, so there were a lot of places that weren’t easily accessible to spectators who didn’t live in the area or have a bike. But there were some “official” spectator locations that were accessible via shuttle bus, and those spots were filled with loud spectators. It was much appreciated, especially on the second half of the course.

A very scenic course.

The aftermath:
I really like the finish line setup at Bayshore. The course winds through a community college campus and finishes on a high school track (maybe the last 100 meters or so are on the track). There were a lot of spectators throughout the campus and in the high school stadium. They were loud and did a great job of cheering on the runners, and I was thrilled when I heard my wife and some of our family members cheering for me as I turned onto the track. I didn’t see them as I was heading toward the finish line, but I heard them and it really made a difference for me. After I finished, I got my medal, a banana, some chocolate milk from Refuel with Chocolate Milk, and some water. It took a few minutes for my wife and our family members to find me, as the spot where runners were funneled after the race was on the opposite side of the stadium from where the runners entered the track. I’m so grateful that they all stuck around to see me finish and chat for a while after the race. I didn’t know what emotions to expect when I finished, and I ended up feeling an overwhelming mix of pride, happiness, excitement, pain, and relief. I felt OK for a few minutes after I finished, but then I started to feel out of it and nauseous, so we didn’t stick around for long. We did stay long enough for me to get some of the ice cream available to runners. I’m just glad the “out of it” feeling and nausea went away fairly quickly…I think the ice cream really helped. I recovered enough to go have lunch with family at North Peak Brewing Company, and I felt fine (though sore and tired) the rest of the day.

With my wife after I finished the Bayshore Marathon. I can’t begin to express how appreciative I am for her support.

I really like the finishers’ medal. Here’s one side of it.

The other side of the finishers’ medal.

The volunteers, spectators, fellow runners, and race organizers were awesome and really helped make this a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed myself, and am very happy I chose this as my first marathon. I was torn before the race on whether I should set goals due to my reduced training and lingering hip flexor pain. I decided that my primary goal was to finish the marathon and have fun doing so – that’s why I didn’t mention my time or splits anywhere above. My “A” goal time was 3:30:00 and my “B” goal time was 3:45:00. I beat my “B” goal by a few minutes by running a 3:41:37, and a huge positive split (running the second half slower than I ran the first half) ensured that I had no chance of achieving my “A” goal. I knew I would be very proud and happy to finish regardless of time, but I also wanted to push myself and see how I would do. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to have a stronger second half and negative split, but I have no complaints at all. I’m not sure when or where I’ll run another marathon, as my top running-related priority now is to let my hip flexor heal. But running another marathon is definitely a goal, and I hope to have a full training segment and feel 100% when I run the next one.

Thank you for all of the support and encouragement as I prepared for Bayshore and dealt with doubts, injuries, and reduced training. I really appreciate it.

Chip time: 3:41:37 (gun time: 3:42:39)
Garmin time: 3:41:39 (26.30 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 8:26/mile
Overall: 423/1795
Gender: ???/????
Age group: 63/148
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 9:50 (mile 25)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 7:58 (mile 11)

Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?

What did you do for Memorial Day weekend? Did you travel or do anything special?

Posted in Injuries, Life, Running | 17 Comments

The Home Stretch

Only a few days until the Bayshore Marathon. Wow. Time has been flying for me, and while I’d love another six weeks or so to train, I’m also very anxious to just run the race already.

Am I ready for the marathon? Hell, no. I missed too much training, and unfortunately many of the training runs I missed were some of the most important to me (long runs and tough tempo runs). But I think I’ll get through it OK. I’ve been struggling lately with shooting for a finishing time goal vs. just running it for fun. I really want to enjoy the whole experience and not miss too many of the nuances along the way, like spectator signs, nice waterfront homes, etc. But a part of me wants to compete with myself to run the best I can. I want to enjoy the race, but I also don’t want to feel after the race like I could have run 30 seconds per mile faster. As I’ve discovered over and over again the last few months, marathon training is every bit as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge (at least for me)! I just have a couple of short, easy training runs left and then it’s time to put the training to the test, for better or worse.

I headed out to Stony Creek Metropark Sunday morning to do my training run and cheer on the runners in the Back to the Beach races at Stony Creek. I had a blast cheering for the runners, and I realized that I should spectate at races more often because I really enjoy and appreciate the crowd support when I’m running. It was fun to return the favor for a change. I was happy to see several friends before the race, and it was the first race for at least a couple of them. A huge congrats to them and everyone else who ran their first race!

I also saw Jeff from Detroit Runner before the race — he was running the half marathon. He had just run a full marathon in sweltering heat a couple weeks before, and he got stuck with another pretty hot day for Back to the Beach. It wasn’t too bad at the start, but there were no clouds and it warmed up in a hurry during the race. He did a great job though, especially running a challenging course on sore legs.

It was great meeting Lindsay from Run Knake after the half marathon. She ran the Chicago Marathon last fall, but this was her first half marathon. This was the first time we met in person, though we’ve known each other through Twitter for a while. She ran really well and beat her goal time by several minutes despite having to cut back on her training. It was great chatting with Lindsay and Jeff, and they gave me some excellent marathon advice that will come in handy on Saturday.

I’m not going to be able to do anything to get my legs more ready for Bayshore, so other than my two remaining easy runs, I’ll spend the remainder of my training trying to prepare myself for the unknown. I’m looking forward to it!

Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?

Any upcoming races? If so, at what distance(s)?

Do you follow a strict pre-race routine; does it vary depending on the distance, location, start time, etc.; or do you not have a specific pre-race routine?

Posted in Injuries, Running | 6 Comments

Borgess Half Marathon Recap

I ran the Borgess Half Marathon last Sunday. It was my fourth half marathon, and last year’s Borgess running of this event was my first half marathon. I really liked the race last year, and I enjoyed it again this year. It’s very well organized, has awesome crowd support, the volunteers are great, and the course has a nice variety of surfaces and elevation changes without being prohibitively challenging.

I absolutely love the sidewalk chalk messages to the runners that line the downtown mall. It was every bit as awesome this year as it was last year.

I really enjoyed running Borgess again this year, and I thought the event was even better this year than it was last year. While the course was the same except for a couple of minor changes, there was one logistical change that made a noticeable difference for me. Last year was the first year for the Kalamazoo Marathon, which is part of the same festival of races – last year, the half marathon and marathon started at the same time and ran concurrently for the first 3.5 miles. This year, the marathon started 20 minutes before the half which helped make the half less congested, though the course was still pretty packed as the number of half marathoners increased from last year. But every little bit helps when it comes to easing congestion on a race course.

I think it’s a great event. It was well organized and well supported, and everyone I encountered at the race seemed friendly and helpful. The race expo isn’t the biggest, but the race has some great sponsors that had booths, and we found some good deals on gear from Gazelle Sports. This year’s race shirt is a purple short-sleeve technical shirt. Unfortunately, I realized after the race that mine has some kind of mark on it that didn’t come out when I washed it, but it’ll be fine for wearing on trail runs this summer. In addition to getting some discounted shirts and shorts at the expo, we stopped by Gazelle’s store after the expo and I got a discounted lightweight New Balance jacket with the race logo.

This year’s jacket.

We got to the race location maybe 45 minutes before the half marathon started. As expected, traffic was pretty congested around the start/finish line. There was plenty of parking available in a grass lot maybe a quarter mile or so from where the race started and finished, and we made it to the race grounds with well over a half hour to spare. We parked about a mile away and took a shuttle last year, but that location wasn’t available for shuttles this year. The only shuttle spot that might have worked for us this year required us to drive through the start/finish area. There was no way I was going to go back through there after the race though, as there would’ve been plenty of runners still finishing the half marathon and marathon and traffic was very congested with the race-related lane reductions. It worked out well for us to use the almost-on-site lot.

The starting area was pretty organized, and everything we needed to find was well marked (gear check, Porta-Potties, starting corral, etc.). They added more Porta-Potties this year, which was a very welcome change as the lines were ridiculously long last year, even by pre-race standards. The PA announcer did a great job, and there were a variety of pacing groups. It was very tough to maneuver up from the official corral entrance (toward the back of the corral) if you needed to get in a pace group toward the front, but we found another entry point that put us much closer to the vicinity of the pace group we wanted to start near.

Not TOO far back from the starting line…

…especially compared to all these people behind me.

I had no race plan other than to try running consistent paces and hope to avoid as much hip flexor pain as possible. Because of my hip flexor pain and the need to not race this with Bayshore coming up, I ran without having time and pace available on my Garmin. I thought about running the race without a watch, but I like to track my runs and the related data, so I wore my Garmin but set every screen to only display the distance field. That way I had no idea what my elapsed time or pace were, and I didn’t have enough data to try calculating it on the fly (yeah, I’m more than willing to do pace- and distance-related math in my head while I’m running). I just tried to run conservatively yet consistently, though I was able to push myself a little bit when I had to pass other runners and when I hit the hills near miles 8 and 12. I had a little hip flexor pain at various points during the race, but it wasn’t too bad considering I had been running on a flat, softer surface for the prior month while this race is run on paved surfaces and has a few hills. The pain didn’t affect my running, luckily, and I felt my pacing was decent considering I hadn’t run more than 70 minutes at a time since Easter. Even though I don’t really need to eat or drink during a half, especially when I’m not running near race pace, I took the opportunity to practice that stuff for the upcoming marathon. I took a tropical-flavored Hammer gel somewhere around the 11.5-mile mark so I could get some practice eating a gel while running in a race, and I also got some water or sports drink at each water stop, even if some of them were only to take a sip and swish it around in my mouth. I ran with my wife from start to finish, and I think we stayed within 10-20 yards of each other the entire race. She did a great job, and set a half marathon PR by about a minute while shaving around four minutes off last year’s time on this course!

After finishing, I received a very nice commemorative medal and grabbed some chocolate milk, an orange slice, and a bottle of Gatorade. I was glad that Refuel with Chocolate Milk was involved with this race and provided some low-fat chocolate milk just after the finish line. I usually don’t have much of an appetite immediately after races, so I didn’t mind that there weren’t a lot of food options for runners who just finished the race. There were some of the standard things like orange slices and bananas (the banana selection didn’t look too appealing to me), but the more heavy duty food was available in a food tent for a fee. I waited near the fence where runners were funneled away from the finish line after the race in hopes of seeing a couple of friends who were also running the half, and luckily I saw each of them before they disappeared into the masses on the race grounds. We walked around the race grounds for a little while before taking off, and we didn’t even think to check for a posting of results. One of the things we saw while walking around the festival area was a table with pickle juice and pickle slices. I had a pickle slice and even decided to try some pickle juice. It wasn’t my favorite, but at least I can say I tried it. I don’t know how people can drink it during a race though!

Pickle juice, anyone?

I’ve learned a lot in every race I’ve run so far, and my biggest takeaway from this race is how much of a difference it made to not race it and just run it like a comfortably-paced long run without placing any expectations or pressure on myself. I was much less nervous before the race and I had a lot more fun during the race. I felt like I was able to notice a lot more of the little things going on during the race, like spectator signs. When I’m racing, I put pressure on myself and set expectations because even though I’m not going to place in my age group unless it’s a very small race and I run really well, I always race against myself and try to maximize my potential. So while it’s not pressure to win, place highly, or qualify for a bigger event, it’s pressure to run a smart race, push myself, and do the best I can. Because my hip flexor has been injured and I’m running my first marathon later this month, it was no problem for to come to terms with not pushing myself too much or racing this one. I accepted weeks before the race that I wouldn’t be racing it, and wouldn’t be close to a PR…keeping in mind the bigger picture of running (and hopefully completing) a marathon was more than enough to dissuade me from pushing it too much during the Borgess half. To sum it up, it was a very good run – I got in approximately 13.1 quality miles with an awesome running partner, a couple thousand other runners, and great crowd support.

A very nice commemorative finisher’s medal.

Chip time: 1:46:55 (gun time: 1:47:15)
Garmin time: 1:46:57 (13.17 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 8:07/mile
Overall: 284/2241
Gender: 216/910
Age group: 31/140
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 8:32 (mile 9)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 7:50 (mile 2)

Have you ever run a race as a training run, knowing ahead of time you weren’t going to try to race it or go for a PR? If so, was it easy to treat it as a tempo run or easier run, or were you tempted to race it anyway?

Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?

Did you do anything fun this weekend that wasn’t running related, like Mother’s Day stuff or anything else? We saw Blue Man Group this weekend, and thought it was a really cool show.

Posted in Injuries, Running | 6 Comments

The Good and the Bad

Hey there. It’s been a while…

The very condensed version of the last few weeks:

Busy season at work wrapped up last week. More time to run, relax, and catch up on a lot of things that were pushed aside over the last few months.

I got some new shoes (the Brooks Racer ST 5).

I finally felt like I was starting to get the hang of long runs…then I got hurt.

The longer version:

Work had been pretty hectic since late January, but much more so from the middle of March until the middle of April. The busy season ended last week, giving me much more flexibility in my running schedule. Now I can run on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings, and I won’t have to start all of my weekday runs before 5:30 a.m. I might try to shift some of my long runs from Sunday to Saturday, too.

I’ve been undecided about what shoes to wear in the marathon. I love running in the Brooks Green Silence, especially for races, but I’m not sure it’s enough shoe for me for a marathon or if it will offer enough counteraction for what I’ve heard is a fairly crowned Bayshore course. I don’t want my ankles turning constantly or my feet feeling like they’re always on a slope, yet I want something a bit lighter and less substantial than trainers. So I got a pair of the Brooks Racer ST 5, which are pretty light, but also have a decent amount of cushioning as well as some posting. I don’t think I really need the stability, but it isn’t too much and I don’t think it can hurt when running on a crowned course. I’ve only worn them for a few runs (more on that in the next paragraph), but I like them so far though I’m afraid I may have gone a half size too large with them. The sizing was a tough call because my normal size felt OK, but didn’t offer very much additional room in the front of the shoes for things like feet swelling over the course of running 26.2 miles.

My newest shoes – the Brooks Racer ST 5.

I struggled through a couple of long runs in March then had a couple of good ones in late March/early April, including a 16-miler with embedded 3 x 3-mile intervals. I finally felt like I was getting the hang of long runs and was ready to start focusing on improving my speed during them rather than just trying to finish regardless of pace. But then I felt some tightness in my hamstring following a Friday tempo run. It didn’t seem like a big deal, and I didn’t think much of the tightness even after it continued the next day. I feel some tightness in my legs and have sore muscles fairly often, and it usually goes away after a couple of days. So I did my normal Sunday long run that weekend, and finished it with no problems other than a chronically sore foot and a tight calf (at least one of my calves seems to get sore by the end of all of my long runs). But I could barely walk within a few hours after I finished the run. I still didn’t think much of it, as it was a fairly hilly route and I tried to push myself over the last few miles. But when my leg still felt trashed by the end of the day, I started to wonder if something was up with that leg. Yep. I couldn’t walk without limping the next day, and that’s when I started to really get concerned. I felt pain as soon as I started my next run (a couple days later), and the pain didn’t go away during the run, but it also didn’t get much worse. I took a few days off, and my next run was pretty good though I still had some pain.

I finally went to a physical therapist – Clint at Clint Verran Sports Medicine – after I hobbled through a 6-miler that was supposed to be a 16-miler with speed work thrown in. Clint is a great runner (as in 2:14 marathon great!), and needless to say he has an awesome understanding of running physiology. He suspects a hip flexor problem, and I’m currently in a stretch of running for time (rather than distance) at easy paces on flat routes. He also gave me some stretches to do before I run so my hip flexor is loosened up a bit before I hit the roads or trails. I’m supposed to keep from lifting my knees too high, as that can aggravate my hip flexor, so I’ve been using a short, shuffling type of stride. So far, so good. While I’ve had some pain on each of my runs since I saw the physical therapist, the pain hasn’t been been nearly as bad as it was a couple weeks ago. My 70-minute run today went very well – probably my best run since Easter – even though I changed it up and ran a fairly hilly route a little faster than the “no faster than” pace I’ve been assigned. My fingers are crossed that my hip flexor continues to feel better so I can run the Borgess Half Marathon next weekend and try to get my Bayshore training somewhat back on track.

Today was a great day to be out on the Paint Creek Trail.

I hope your running and other workouts have been going well!

Have you raced recently? If so, how did the race(s) go?

Do you have any races coming up? If so, how is your training going?

Have you ever raced a longer race (half marathon or longer) after having your training limited? If so, how much did it affect your race results?

Posted in Injuries, Life, Running | 8 Comments

Keeping it Together

The last few weeks of marathon training have been as much of a running roller coaster as I’ve had in my 3.5 years of running consistently. I’m quickly learning that marathon training can be as difficult mentally as it is physically, and I’m my own worst enemy. But I’m hanging in there and doing my best, and so far it’s going well overall.

My long runs have been hit or miss, with my first couple of 16-milers going pretty well, the next two 16-milers feeling crappy (I even bailed halfway through on one of them), and my most recent long run – an 18-miler – going fairly well. The 18-miler was my longest run yet, and I had run a moderately-paced 8.5-miler the day before. I took the long run very slowly and conservatively because I just wanted to finish while keeping the pacing fairly consistent. I didn’t care much about speed for this run – for the sake of my training sanity, my primary goal was just to finish (without falling apart).

One of my secondary (and very important) goals for this run was to practice my pre-run nutrition. I rarely eat before running, even for runs of 10 or miles, but I knew I had to make some changes after bonking on my last two 16-milers. I was very glad to meet Jeff from Detroit Runner last week, and he gave me some awesome tips for getting nutrition before and during long runs. He also wrote an excellent post about race nutrition and the marathon, and I took his advice (and that of his readers) before my long run last weekend. Because I have a somewhat sensitive stomach while running and I’m not used to eating before I run, I wanted to have something of substance without pushing my luck. I decided to try half a banana and half a bagel with peanut butter. I also had some water and Gatorade so I’d be a little more hydrated than normal. Because I wanted to give the food time to settle, I set my alarm so I could eat a couple hours before I planned to run, then I went back to bed for a while.

I took my Amphipod handheld water bottle with me (filled with watered down Gatorade) and put some Honey Stinger chews in its pocket. I had no stomach problems at all (very luckily), and I had chews twice during the run…I think around miles 10 and 14. I felt very slow on this run, and not as energetic as I would’ve liked, but I was able to keep my pace pretty consistent and I was running on tired legs, so I have no complaints. I think the pre-run nutrition definitely helped, as did having my wife run the final 12 miles with me. I hadn’t run with her in quite a while – her shins have been bothering her for several weeks now, and she’s had to build her long runs back up slowly after some time off and reduced mileage. It was great running with her again, and having a running buddy really helped me get through the last couple miles (which felt like hell). My next long run will probably be around 16-17 miles, including 3 x 3 miles at a target pace. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope the intervals will make it a little less monotonous than a normal long run. The race nutrition stuff is still very new to me, and I’m using my weekly long runs to test different nutrition strategies both before and during my runs. Thanks again to Jeff for the great advice last week. It helped a lot, and I’ll keep working on figuring out an ideal race nutrition strategy during the two months remaining before Bayshore.

Are you training for any races right now? If so, which one(s) and at what distance(s)?

What do you do to keep your long runs interesting and less tedious?

Do you eat before or during races? If so, what do you eat? If not, then why not? I prefer to not eat before or during races, but I know I need to in longer races to avoid (or at least delay) hitting the wall.

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Happy “spring forward” day! The weekend started off a little chilly here, but today has been warm and sunny. A perfect pre-Spring day in Michigan, and great for spending time outside.

The Paint Creek looked very scenic today. Spring-like weather doesn't hurt!

Running on back roads can be very peaceful and scenic.

I had 16 miles on the schedule today, with the first 14 miles at an easy pace and the last two miles at a faster pace. I finished the 16, but it was awful and I missed my target pace for the last two miles by quite a bit. I managed to finish the run while keeping a fairly consistent pace, but I felt awful and it got bad enough over the last several miles that I almost cut the run short. I finished my mileage about 3/4 mile from home and the walk/light jogging back seemed like it took forever. I didn’t feel quite right for a couple of hours after the run, but after hydrating a lot and having some snacks I started feeling a little better. I suppose it might be what “hitting the wall” feels like, though I didn’t expect to have that feeling on a run 10 miles shorter than the marathon distance. :/ But I guess it’s better to find out what that feels like now than during a race…

I know there will be plenty of ups and downs during marathon training, and today’s run was my first big “down” so far. It was the worst I’ve felt on a run in a long time, and it was the first time I’ve really doubted this marathon stuff. But I’ve been told that there will be plenty of high and low points (as well as everything in between), and I’m glad to get some of the low points out of the way now and hopefully save the high points for the race. I have no doubt that I’ll get through the low points, but it’s a pretty sucky feeling when you’re not expecting it and when you just want to stop and crash on the side of the road.

I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow, and I’m also looking forward to seeing how my training goes the rest of the week. My legs are pretty sore right now, but I hope they’ll be recovered by Tuesday. I hope you had a great weekend, have nice weather where you live, and have a good start to the week!

Have you ever “hit the wall” during a run? How did you get through it?

How do you push past the low points in your training? Is is more of a mental thing, more of a physical thing, or both?

How did your running go this weekend? What kind of running (or racing) did you do?

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Math and Other Problems

I ran an indoor 5K last weekend, and I didn’t wear my Garmin watch because the race was inside. I know Garmins can be used as regular stopwatches (without the GPS functionality), but when there’s no GPS signal available I prefer to wear my smaller and lighter Timex Ironman non-GPS watch. That made me realize how much I’ve grown to rely on my Garmin for pacing during races. I didn’t get my Garmin until last June, and I ran several races before that without a GPS watch. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time, and once I got my Garmin I realized how bad I was at pacing myself during races and training races. Not that I’m great at pacing myself even with the Garmin, but it has certainly helped. Before the Garmin, I used the RunKeeper app with my phone, which I think is a really good app with many great features. But it can be cumbersome having my phone with me and easily accessible on runs, I don’t want my phone getting soaked when I run in the rain, it doesn’t offer the easy-to-get-at-a-glance instantaneous feedback that my watch does (unless I were to hold my phone while I run, which I don’t do).

So last weekend I ran the 5K without knowing my pace or the exact distance I had covered at any given time, and it was a little weird because I’ve gotten so used to seeing pace and distance info at any time (even if it’s only approximate) on my watch. I know the indoor track on which the race was run isn’t quite full distance, but I don’t know exactly how long it is and the race started in the middle of the track, so I wasn’t able to accurately gauge the distance while I was running. I kept splits of each lap, but it was hard to calculate my pace during the race without knowing the exact distance. The volunteers were awesome about letting the runners know how many laps were left, and there was a clock situated at the finish line with the elapsed time. I love working with numbers and doing math-related stuff, but as I learned last weekend, the middle of a race isn’t the best time for me to try doing quick pace calculations.

Unfortunately, I feel like maybe I’ve become too reliant on having instant pace and distance info right in front of me during races, though I’ve relied less on it during recent training runs – running by feel instead and only looking at my watch occasionally. I want to say that the easy answer is to just run as hard as I can during races and then it won’t matter, but it isn’t that simple for me. I’m just not experienced enough, or otherwise don’t have what it takes to know my pace or elapsed distance by feel. I know the difference in feel between a 6:10 mile and a 6:50 mile, or a 7:20 mile and an 8:00 mile, but I couldn’t tell you during a race if I’m running 6:30 or 6:40, or 7:25 or 7:35. I’m not good enough to place in my age group in larger races and I’m not shooting for any type of qualifying time for fancier races. But I do try to set PRs whenever possible, and I always try to run to the best of ability in any given race. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I do try, and even small variances in pace like those I mentioned above can be the difference between a PR and a “blah” race. When I don’t have feedback available throughout a race, I’m not sure if I’m going too fast or too slow, or of my pace is fairly consistent. If I start out too fast, I’ll be a wreck by the end; if I’m too slow at the beginning, I’ll feel at the end like I could’ve run faster and given more of an effort earlier in the race. But for me, one of the beauties of racing is that it’s always a learning experience and I have yet to find the “perfect pace” throughout a race.

So while I feel like maybe I’m a little too reliant on that instant feedback (which I realize isn’t even accurate all the time) during races, I’m not sure how else to monitor my pacing and try to make adjustments accordingly while I’m racing. I feel like maybe I would’ve run a little faster time in the race last weekend if I had pace and distance info readily available, but on the other hand it’s frustrating to feel like I need to have that info in order to make the necessary adjustments and maximize my performance during a race. Maybe more running and racing experience will help me get better at estimating my pace, but who knows? In the meantime, I’ll keep using my Garmin whenever I can, but also try to develop the ability to reasonably estimate pace and distance so I won’t be totally out of luck or be stuck trying to do mid-race math calculations if I can’t use my Garmin during a race for whatever reason.

On a training note, I set a personal record for my longest run this morning, with a 16.41-mile run at Stony Creek Metropark. My previous long run was around 13.5 miles, which I ran a few times last year. I was planning to run 10-12 miles today, but I felt good as the run progressed so I decided to add on a few more miles. It went pretty well, though I had some foot pain around miles 8-10 and some calf and hip/glute soreness by the end. Nothing major though – my foot and hip/glute feel fine right now, and I think (hope) my calf will be fine with a little more stretching. The weather was great for running, and there were plenty of runners, walkers, and cyclists out this morning. The park was very scenic, as usual, and I got a couple of photos while I was out. I hope you had a great weekend.

Stony Creek Lake looked very scenic today.

One of the rare moments this morning where I didn't see any other runners, walkers, or cyclists on the main path at Stony Creek.

Do you use a GPS watch on your runs? If so, how dependent on it are you? If not, how do you usually track your pace and distance on runs?

Did you run this weekend? If so, race or training? How did it go?

Did you do any fun non-running stuff this weekend?

P.S.: Thanks to the band Marvelous 3 for inspiring the post title.

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Genesys 5K/10K Race Recap

We made the easy drive up to Grand Blanc this morning for the 5K portion of the Genesys 5K/10K indoor race. We were immediately impressed with the Genesys Athletic Club when we arrived, and that was before we even got to their indoor track where the race was held. I don’t know the exact distance of their track, but it’s almost full length, which is awesome for an indoor track. The 5K was a little more than 13 laps, while the same distance on an outdoor track is 12.5 laps.

The blue mats mark the finish line of the Genesys 5K.

The other end of the indoor track is way down there past the tennis courts. A great facility and very nice track.

I haven’t done speed work lately, and it really showed during this race. I felt sluggish throughout the race, and at times felt like I was struggling more than I should have been struggling. The good news is that my lap splits were fairly consistent, but the not-so-good news is that my splits weren’t quite as fast as I would’ve liked and got slightly slower as the race progressed (until the last couple of laps when I was able to speed up a little). I finished in 19:49, 31 seconds off my PR. Although I was a bit disappointed with the way I ran and how out of “race shape” I felt, I thought the race went well considering my recent lack of speed work and consistent mileage. I would’ve loved to beat my PR in this race, but I haven’t been training like I did when I set my PR, so I can’t complain about not running at that pace today.

A blurry cell phone photo from the race. I swear I was actually running a little faster than the photo suggests.

Despite not setting PRs, my wife and I both had a lot of fun in this race. There were two heats of the 5K, grouped by projected finish time, because the track has three lanes and two heats would minimize congestion and lapping. My wife and I were in different heats, so she was able to watch my race and try to get a few cell phone photos, and vice versa. We usually run in the same races at the same time, so it’s very rare that either of us gets to watch the other race other than when I get to see her at the end of a race. I thought the race was very well organized, and the coordinators, volunteers, and staff were great. We registered online ahead of time, and the onsite number pickup was smooth and the race started on time. Everyone we encountered was very friendly, and the spectators and volunteers along the track were extremely supportive and encouraging. The volunteers were able to keep track of each runner’s number of laps remaining, which was awesome because it was one less thing for us to think about while we were running lap after lap. I thought this race was a great experience, and we’re definitely interested in running it again.

Did you run/race this weekend? If so, how far and how did it go?

Do you expect to PR in every race, or do you adjust your expectations based on your training, the course, etc.?

Did you do any fun things this weekend that weren’t related to running?

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In the Race

It feels like I haven’t raced in forever, though it has only been about three months. That’ll change this weekend when I run the 5K portion of the Genesys 5K/10K. It sounds like a very cool race – it’s indoors on a three-lane track that’s almost full length. I’m really excited to run in this event, but I’m also a bit nervous. I’ve never raced indoors, I feel like I’m nowhere near race shape, and I haven’t done any real speed work since the end of November. But it should be fun, and it’ll be a great test of my shorter distance fitness a little more than three months before the Bayshore Marathon. Of course I’d love to get a PR, but based on my low mileage recently and lack of speed work I’m not counting on it. I just hope to run a strong race with consistent splits and see what I can learn from it (I firmly believe there’s a lot to learn from every race regardless of the result).

In other news, my trusty Brooks Launch and Brooks PureFlow are both at past their respective times for retirement, so it’s new shoe time. I don’t like wearing my Brooks Green Silence in the cold weather…I’m not exactly sure why, but it may have to do with a personal preference for more cushioning when running on frozen surfaces. I’ve had big toe pain for a little over a year, and it’s noticeably worse in cold weather. The extra cushioning in the Launch and PureFlow compared to the Green Silence seems to help my toe, as well as making the bumps and ridges of frozen trails and other uneven surfaces a little more tolerable in the winter. I’m always excited to get new shoes, and I’m very glad I’ve found a rotation of shoes that has worked well for me the last several months. I also got a pair of new gloves last week with a mitten-like cover over the fingers that can fold back (exposing the fingertips) if necessary. The gloves are pretty versatile as they seem to work well on their own or if I wear a thin pair of gloves underneath them for additional warmth. My wife has a pair, and they’ve worked pretty well for her so far this winter.

My training runs have been going well, though they’re still not quite as frequent or as long as I’d like. I’ve gotten in a 12-mile run and a 10-mile run, respectively, on the first two weekends of February, and both of those runs went well. I’d like to bump up my mileage a little bit during the week, and it’ll have to be in the dark either before or after work (my headlamp has been coming in handy a lot lately). I usually run before work during the week, but I don’t mind running after work if necessary.

Here are a few photos from the past week…nothing too exciting in terms of running scenery as my recent runs have all been outside of daylight hours or on cloudy days.

The skies were gray at Stony Creek, but it was still a great day for a run.

Pistons games are still fun, even though the team has been struggling the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, attendance at Pistons games has been way down since the team started to struggle a couple years ago. We still enjoy the games though, even though the atmosphere at the Palace isn't quite as energetic as it was a few years ago.

Have you ever raced indoors? If so, how different is it from road racing? This race won’t be super competitive like a collegiate indoor race or anything, but I have no idea what to expect racing indoors.

Have you been running outside lately, or hitting the treadmill/indoor track? I’m prepared to run indoors when the weather gets really bad, but until then I’m doing my best to run outside as much as I can.

Have you gotten any new running shoes or other gear recently? If so, what did you get?

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