Peak Training for the NJ Marathon

For the first time ever, I have remained very consistent during this marathon training cycle. This is not to say that there have not been hiccups or things that I could have done better (more cross training and hip strengthening mostly), but I have kept to my training plan for the most part.

This Saturday, I have my last tune up race before the NJ Marathon on 5/5. I am running the Rat Race. It is a local 20k on a course that seems to challenge me no matter how many times I run it. It has some special meaning for me since it was the first race I ever ran after only 3 or so months running. It went as terrible as you could imagine. Ran way too fast and blew my endurance in the first 3 miles of a 12.5 mile race; terrible ITBS pain after about 6 miles; reduced to walking spells by 7; ended up finishing second to last. I am definitely looking forward to running it better than I did 2 years ago.

A little more interesting to me is the workouts I have planned for the next 3 weeks. Here is what I have planned for next week.

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Normally, I run long on Saturdays; I’m adding an easy 8 on Sunday to make up those miles. A slower 5, followed by a 9:20 (hopefully) tempo, and Yasso 800s (my first time – I’m excited) should thoroughly tire me out midweek. Then, I cap it with an 18 mile long run. This will be the highest mileage week ever for me (44) if all goes according to plan, which it never does. On top of that, I will be 88 miles in March after Saturday’s race. That will put me in the 130s for March; my previous best was 94 in January.

I don’t want to get too hung up on distance or personal records in training, since I know depending on which stage of training I am in, I won’t hit them every month. They are motivating to me though.

After that, I have 2 more weeks of hard training. The mileage is a little lower since I won’t be on spring break, but I am including a 20 mile run in each of the 2 subsequent weeks before starting to taper for the 5/5 marathon. These next 3 weeks are crucial for my training; I hope I can stay consistent and uninjured.

Have you hit any significant milestones lately? How do you keep yourself motivated during training cycles?

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Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

Recently, I was at a conference at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, NJ. Stockton is only about 45 minutes south of me, but I very rarely get down to that part of New Jersey. I am fully convinced that running is one of the absolute best ways to explore a new area. Last time I was at Stockton was to visit when my wife attended back in 2007, I believe.

I presented twice, but even so I sat and was much more sedentary than normal. I also had it hanging over my head that my training plan called for an 8 mile run. With leaving really early to get to the conference in time and knowing that I couldn’t get out to run until after my daughter’s evening class at the church, I was not going to be able to leave for my run until at least 9:30pm. I do it when I need to, but I think the lack of energy by that point really does impact some of my late runs.

I Googled “Stockton trails” during lunch and found a 4 mile trail. I had no running gear on me. I was wearing an old pair of Vivobarefoot Aquas. They have no traction, no cushioning, and no longer fit well. I really just wear them for walking; running in them, I feel every stick, rock, and acorn.

I walked to the bookstore and bought a cheap pair of shorts and an athletic tank. It was no where near as comfortable as my normal gear and I had to carry the cell phone the whole time to run RunKeeper.

The next obstacle was that none of the students had any idea where the trail was and it wasn’t marked on the official map. I ran until I found it (about half a mile). I didn’t get on the exact trail. I was on it for parts and linked together others that I found. I was a really pretty area of NJ. I could hear the nearby road most of the time, but it was still great to get off the paved road and explore a new area.

I encourage everyone to take a chance and run somewhere new. As I travel (which I don’t get to do nearly as much as I like), it is a wonderful way to explore.

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Reflecting on Progress

Saturday, unfortunately, was a much less than ideal race. I went out for today for a planned easy run. I ended up running a little harder than expected and basically ran a consistent 8:30 tempo.

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This 6.4 mile circle in my neighborhood is where I really started running in late 2010 and where I did nearly all of my marathon training building up to the Atlantic City Marathon in October 2011. It was a beautiful day. I’m sure the full night’s sleep (6:30 is sleeping in by 2.5 hours for me) and running during the afternoon, when I’m actually fully awake, definitely had something to do with it. What’s fairly neat, to me, is that an 8:30 pace seemed relatively easy. I could have continued and maintained that pace.

After the disastrous race on Saturday, it was a nice place to reflect. I started to think of when I started running in late 2010 and early 2011. The first time I ever ran that circle fully was in February of 2011 (Thanks, Runkeeper.). I had to stop and walk 3 or 4 times. I had no idea about different paces for training; my main pace was consistent but slow.

You can see where I started walking losing steam (mile 3) and where I started walking (miles 5, 6, and 7). It took me 18 minutes longer to run .6 miles less.

1 10:16
2 10:37
3 11:33
4 11:24
5 12:38
6 15
7 16:20

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I am an extremely goal oriented person. I am never happy nor content when I do not complete a goal that I set for myself, whether it is my fault or the fault of something external. I did not meet me goal of finishing a 50k on Saturday. However, it is very beneficial to occasionally reflect on where we have come from to keep some perspective.  I went from 11 minutes being my average pace to being able to hit close to a sub-8 minute mile pace during speed work and keeping 8:30 on a tempo.

Where have you come from? Are you able to see any progress in your own training, whether pace, distance, attitude, or otherwise?

 

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Febapple Race Report

I got up at 3 am today hoping to run a 50k for my first ultramarathon; that’s 31 miles for those of you who don’t speak kilometers. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.

The race was the Feabpple Frozen 50 put on by NJ Trail Series. It was a very well run course. I was there a few hours early because I’m always a few hours early to everything. I walked from the truck to the start and realized I was walking on straight ice. Thankfully, it was only misting. It didn’t start full on raining until after I left. Talking to people before hand, I realized I was one of only a small number of people who did not have either Yaktrax or screws in their shoes for traction. That was my first thought that it might be a tough run. Here is a view of the 50 milers starting; they got going an hour before the 50k runners.

Febapple-start

The races – 50 miles, 50k, 20 miles, and 10 miles – were run on the South Mountain Conservancy. Since the area I live doesn’t have any hills (really, there are no hills anywhere around here on the shore), I was a little worried about the elevation of 1100″ on each of the 10 mile loops. Here is a view from the race.

Febapple-Ice

Image credit to https://twitter.com/bethweinstein

There was quite a few things I really liked about the race. I’m finding I enjoy smaller races; NJ Marathon is going to be huge in May and this was a nice contract with 300 runners spread across the 4 distances. Also, this was my first run where people were running ultra distrances. I was struck by the camaraderie. Everyone, as I’ve generally found to be the case with runners, was both friendly and chatty.

The race started and I was running with another first time 50k runner who also said he wanted to start out running a conservative 12 minute pace. I ran with him a little too quick for the first 3 miles but I felt pretty good. Ran around a 9 minute pace for the first 2 miles. That was around the time he told me that he runs a 1:37 half and trains 60-70 miles per week. I let him run on without trying to keep up.

Around mile 3, there was a ton of ice (not small patches – the entire trail) on a steep downhill. I slipped but thankfully did not get hurt. It would turn out that about 30% of the course was just ice, which was really hard to run on. Even wearing trail shoes, traction was non-existant. There was also a very steep hill on this part of the loop. Taking the advice of some of the faster people who were already doing it, I walked some of the steepest parts to conserve energy. I ran the next 2 miles with another guy who turned out to be a 3:29 marathoner (way too fast for me).

Around the 4 mile mark, the race director, who has a sarcastic streak that I appreciate, was lining up the 20 mile runners for their talk. He turns and looks at the 2 of us and yells “Do you need aid?” in a way that really means, If you’re a wimp, run past all those people for some supplies. We kept running.

It was around this time that my right arch started throbbing. I didn’t travel an hour and a half to stop at 4 miles though. This started originally in December when I was wearing stability shoes at the advice of a sports doctor. The medial posts (hard arch supports)  killed my high arches and possibly did some unresolved damage. On my last 3 20 mile long runs, it started hurting around miles 17-18. I was unpleasantly surprised that it started so early.

I slowed my pace and spent the next 5 miles mostly solo. The aid station at mile 7 was amazing. Never having been to an ultra, I was used to the water and gels every 1-2 miles at road races. On this figure 8 course, you passed the first aid stations at miles 4and 10 and the second at mile 7. The aid station had water, 4 kinds of sodas, oranges, bananas, soup, PB&J, chips, M&Ms, Skittles, and more. It was like a small convenience store.

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Credit to Hillcrest Photography for bracing the conditions to take good pictures.

I was limping by this point and starting to have doubts about the race. Over the next mile or two I came to the realization that I was not going to go for the second 20 mile loop. My foot was hurting too much and compromising my form. Once I realized that, around mile 8 or 9, I just wanted to be done. I checked out at the 10 mile mark. They nicely gave me credit for finishing the 10 mile race as opposed to a DNF for the 50k. Regardless, I didn’t set out for a 10 mile finish. I didn’t finish and this is the first time that has happened. I have 3 major races coming up: NJ Marathon in May, Rat Race 20k with some friends from work in March, and Tough Mudder with my friend Ryan in June. I didn’t want to put those at risk to finish this one. I’ll admit to a slight paranoia of injury after being injured for a better part of a year after the Atlantic City Marathon in October, 2011.

My pity party for not finishing lasted about the last mile of the race. After that, I had accepted it. I’ll try to figure out what is going on with my foot, heal up, and start transitioning into preparing for the NJ Marathon.

 

 

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Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?

Why do we do this to ourselves? I ask myself this occasionally and other people ask me this all the time. All runners have had the questions - You’re running how many miles? Why?

I started thinking about this about an hour or so ago. I was washing laundry and packing my gear for this weekend. I’m running the Febapple Frozen 50 put on by NJ Trail Series in a day and a half. It starts 8 am Saturday morning.

Training went pretty well into January. I ramped up my mileage to an average of 25 miles per week and was running 16-20 miles on my long runs. Unfortunately, February had different things in store. I lost a week due to illness and then pulled my left calf during some speed work last weekend. So, I ended up missing my last long run and most of the training during the taper. I’ve got my calf taped and am hoping that it is close to healed by Saturday morning.

There were a couple of posts from the NJ Trail Series Facebook page that gave some fun details. Apparently there are no bathrooms and the course – which has 1200″ of elevation every 10 miles – is covered in ice.

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Then, I got the good news about the weather. It’s supposed to snow Friday night and rain all day Saturday.

Forecast

Back to my original question, why am I getting up at 4 am, while I’m undertrained, to get tail kicked up and down a frozen mountain in the rain?

There are a ton of reasons:

  • I love to push myself past my limits.
  • I like to be outside as much as possible.
  • Running gives me strength and confidence.
  • I feel better mentally when I run.
  • Running is cathartic.
  • Running helps me to think most clearly.
  • I like the simplicity in running.
  • I like the challenge of figuring out which ways to run, train, and eat works best for me.
  • Running inspires me to eat healthier and live better.

I could go on. The funny part is that this is just what I tell myself and tell others. The real reasons go deeper. They are all of the above and none of them, depending on the day. It is who I am. I’m a runner. I’m definitely a work in progress, but I’m a runner. I’ve come to realize that other runners get this naturally, whereas it cannot be explained adequately to those who have not experienced it.

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Consistency Benefits Constantly

In my running over the last 3 years, one of the main principles that has escaped me is consistency. There are a lot of reason – 2 jobs, 3 kids, etc… – but they boil down to excuses. Anytime we want to improve at something, whether running or any other endeavor, it requires consistent effort.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am approaching running with a sense of consistency. For a few months now, I have been doing the Insanity program for general cardio, strength, and explosiveness. I don’t think that there is anything particularly amazing about Insanity. It’s fun and challenging. I incorporate Insanity because it targets a lot of muscles that running does not. In particular, the focus on the core, squats, and explosive jumping has yielded great benefits. I actually feel stronger while running. I can feel my core while running in a way that I did not a year ago and hills are becoming more manageable (when I can find any on sea level).

There are 2 other areas where I am trying determinedly to be more consistent. The first is injury prevention. I do a dynamic warmup before every run, which puts me at a smaller risk of injury. I also do “prehab” exercises several times a week on the areas I am prone to getting hurt: calves, shin splints, Achilles, hips, and IT.  My problems haven’t magically disappeared, but they are far more manageable and they are not controlling me for once.

Second, I have been trying to incorporate 3 key workout each week: speed work, tempo, and long-slow distance. In the past, I would never do speed work. I basically my “normal” pace, my long slow pace, and my recovery pace. That translated to pretty slow, slow, and really slow. I’m not a speed demon, but it is making a difference. My normal pace has come down to the 9:30 range from the 10:30-11:00 range a year ago. I doubt I can hold that for 26 miles – yet. So far, it culminated on Sunday.

Half Marathon

 

I’ve run 13.1 miles many times, but never anywhere near 2 hours. I ran the first mile in 8:41. Feeling good, I decided to shoot for 2 hours. I made it, even if barely. It really was difficult, and I didn’t negative split like I had hoped, but it was manageable. I look forward to getting back on the trails this weekend (easier to recover and better hills around here) and continuing to build.

On a side note, has anyone run the Garden Spot Village Marathon? Thinking of running it in April and would be curious to hear your thoughts.

 

 

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Recovery and a New Training Method

This blog has been sorely neglected; there is unfortunately a good reason for that. In October of 2011, I ran the Atlantic City Marathon. I had some problems, mostly due to training and going out to hard. It didn’t go well, but I finished. I’m proud of that and wanted to continue and build off of it. Unfortunately, within a month of the marathon I developed terrible shin splints. Ridiculous amounts of time spent resting, rehabbing, sports medicine doctors, and physical therapy. I wasn’t able to actually run consistently or move than 2 or 3 miles without intense pain until around September of this year.

In the last few months, I have been able to finally beat the shin splints (or tendonitis tibialis posterior, which I think is actually what I had). Now, I feel great, having been doing a lot of research. First, I am reading Brain Training for Runners, which is outstanding so far. In it, Fitzgerald documents the 3 types of workouts that every runner needs to do each week to improve (speed work, intensive endurance, and extensive endurance). It is these workouts I am trying to adapt to my training each week.

Second, I am consistently doing what I am calling prehab.

  1. First, before every run I do dynamic stretches. I have been using this set from Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running. http://strengthrunning.com/2010/05/elite-core-and-dynamic-warm-ups-a-comprehensive-guide/ They’re excellent, although I may be looking for others to vary it up.
  2. For my shins, which thankfully haven’t had any pain in a while, I use a Theraband. I learned the movements from the physical therapist I had. Basically, I do 30 reps in each direction (pulling, pushing, left, and right) using the Theraband as resistance.
  3. For my IT band, I do either Jason Fitzgerald’s ITB Rehab Routine (http://strengthrunning.com/2011/02/the-itb-rehab-routine-video-demonstration/) or  the Myrtl routine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GLrKr54yA0) from coach Jay Johnson 3-4 times a week.

Third, I am trying a new training method. I’ve mentioned the three types of runs I am doing each week. They are already paying off. My normal pace has improved by about 1 minute per mile and I took a minute off my 5K PR (down to 23:30). Because of my injury history, I don’t want to overdo it and get hurt again. I am only running 3 days of week most weeks; I am filling in the gaps with Insanity and biking. Intense cross-training can help yield great cardio benefits and help with well-rounded fitness. I would rather be running, but this seems wiser at this moment in time. Also, this Runner’s World article (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/less-more-marathon-plan?page=single) has some interesting points about marathon training on 3 days per week.

Lastly, I have, over the last few months, found a real love for trail running. It is much more fun than road running for me. On top of that, I’ve gotten up to 14 miles on the trail and I recover a lot better than on my road runs. Unfortunately, the closest decent trail is about 30 minutes away, so I can only get there on the weekends. For the first time in over a year, I have a very positive outlook on my running at the moment.

 

 

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Long Slow Progress

This lastweek was difficult for me. It was the first week in 3 that I didn’t break 20 miles training. It started with a non-running related foot injury when I cut my foot open at the beach. That forced me to take Sun-Wed off to allow my foot to heal.

Thursday night, I ran 6.7 miles. It didn’t make up for all the lost time, but it was a nice night running near the ocean with a full moon.

I was planning my long run for Saturday. Family obligations prevented it, so I ran about 2 PM on Sunday. I really am becoming acclimated to the heat. I only had 11 miles planned, but ended up running 12 on a new route. I’m still a little sore, so I may try to find some trails that are more forgiving than the pavement. My pace was atrocious (2 hours and 40 minutes, but it was about 90 degrees out), but I felt good. I took 3 walking breaks for .1 miles each.

One thing that has me disappointed lately is my energy level. I always was the consummate morning person, getting up between 4:30 and 5:30 no matter what. Lately, I haven’t been able to. I even skipped my easy run today because of it. I’ve been going back to sleep and feeling dead in the mornings. I know I don’t sleep very well with the baby, but I’m going to try take 1 agonizing step to help. I think I am finally going to give up Coke. I love my Coke and I have one every day around 8 am (I don’t drink coffee.). I know how terrible it is for you, but I just never seem to be able to break the habit. I want to make a habit not to drink any at least until after I complete the Atlantic City Marathon, preferably without dyeing.

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Barefoot Progress

I love running barefoot. I haven’t been running barefoot as much lately because I feel like I’m faster (I am, by about 1-2 minutes per mile depending on the terrain) and can push harder in my Saucony Hattori. It’s a little bit of a Catch-22 because I know that the more I practice running barefoot, the faster I will get and the harder I’ll be able to go out.

So, last night, my wife and I were both exhausted from a teething baby. I wanted to go for a run; she wanted to grab some pizza. So, we stopped for pizza on our way to my mother-in-law’s house and I ran home from there. It was only 3.7 miles, but it was near the record for my longest barefoot run. My pace was 12:39, which is probably a minute slower than with the Hattori.

What impressed me the most, though, is that my feet felt perfectly fine afterwards. There were a few rocks that hurt, but for the most part I was able to run normally. I was jumping out of the way of obstacles. I’m building strength in my feet so that I can run over most terrain. It was a cracked, rocky road that would have had me walking a few months ago. I had no torn skin and my feet didn’t look or feel beat up.It was also the first time in a week and a half that I didn’t have much ankle pain. I usually feel the most injury free when I’m running barefoot, but part of that may be because of the slower pace or shorter distance. I’ll have to run one of my long runs barefoot in the near future to see how I hold up.

 

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“Tired does not mean you’re incapable”


Reminder: tired does not mean you’re incapable.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


I came across this tweet from Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running yesterday and it really resonated with me. I skipped my run yesterday morning because I was flat out exhausted. I had a 5 mile run scheduled on my training plan, so I set my alarm for 4. The one thing I hadn’t counted on was being up all night with a teething baby. So, morning came and I felt like I couldn’t move. I was in a haze all day, trying to stay awake at work.

At some point yesterday, I saw the tweet above from Jason Fitzgerald. It kind of guilt-tripped me in a good way; the way that makes me want to run. I finally got the kids all to sleep and got ready to run by 9:45. By this point, I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep, but I went out and ran a very slow 5 miles. My knees wouldn’t go higher when I wanted them to, my legs weren’t turning over as fast as I wanted, but I still got it done. Thanks, Jason, for the kick in the tail yesterday.

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