26 January 2010

Stopping Short

Week 4, one-fourth of the way through the marathon training period. Half-way through the Endurance Phase. Saturday's run was, again, my longest run to date. Not just the longest in this training period, but ever. Unlike last week, it turned out to be a solo run. Also unlike last week, it was unsuccessful in several ways.

The week, with its built-in complications, seemed to work better with some adjustment. So again Monday - instead of the 20-30 minute jog, was on the trainer. Tuesday's run was outside, on the street, in the neighborhood, just as it was getting dark, after work. The neighborhood is not a particularly interesting place to run, but it's good enough up to about 5k. (I have run up to 5m without leaving our little subdivision, but ... well, it's not fun.) And my Wednesday schedule of teaching did not work well for the 12x400 speed intervals; so another workout on the bike. This is how I got 30 miles on the bike this week. Which pleased me no end!

The speed intervals had to come on Thursday. The weather and the timing kept me indoors at the Wheaton College Sports and Rec Center. I know running a track for this workout is better than a treadmill, but I couldn't face 3 miles of sprints on their flat, small, concrete oval. So I set the incline up a bit and ran my quarters at about 2 minutes each, with a 2 minute jog between. It amounted to just over 6 miles for the day, and wore me out enough to feel that I had earned supper. (But not so much I couldn't face a choir rehearsal.) That left me one more cross training day, and another 10 miles on the bike on Friday.

Saturday's run was an experiment in planning my own distance run; an experiment in running in the (light) rain and cold; a mental experiment for endurance. Ultimately it turned out to be less than satisfying. But still, it was my longest run to date. In the end, it proved (if nothing else) the wisdom of planning the long runs as loops, or out-and-back runs. Also, the benefit of running with someone else.

It was to be a 13 mile run, and from about miles 8 - 10, I mentally wrote this blog entry. Today I am writing a very different entry ... My final distance was 11.6 miles. Not bad, really, considering that I am new at this and still have 12 weeks until the marathon. But a failure in terms of endurance/perseverance, and a failure of the mental game. That is a cautionary tale.

I used Map My Ride to figure out how to get 13 miles on safe residential streets (the Prairie Path was still unrunnable then), without being too far from the house should something happen. (I'm pretty cautious, really.) The first 3 miles would be neighborhood laps; from my driveway, 3 times round and on to the egress street to the east. That would put me in the next neighborhood, where I ride hard laps in the spring, when I'm getting used to the road again, on my bike. From a a loopy course there, across a major street into the next neighborhood, and I was able to get 4 additional miles without being more than a mile from my house. Across the major arterial street, and another residential loop, then back across the arterial. Now I'm at 6 miles outside of my own neighborhood, or a total of 9 miles on the run.

This was when I started to feel the burn. My quads had not felt the effects of running since the day before I ran a 5k in June. I didn't expect it, and began to wonder about it. I also - to my discredit - began to wonder how much I had to run to make the day successful. And began to see that planning the end of the run to require a couple of laps in my own neighborhood, was probably not a good idea, endurance-wise speaking.

At 11 miles, then, I was back in the 'hood. Here I stopped for the first time, drank some water, and popped my last "shot block." I had planned this run with hydration and nutrition in mind. With a 6 oz. bottle of water and 3 shot blocks of carbs, I would keep sip every couple of miles, and ingest at miles 3, 7, and 11. That last shot would (ideally) carry me to mile 13. Well, it carried me around the subdivision to my driveway, where I stopped, walked in the house, and called it a morning.

Inside, I got a small orange, a little sport drink, a lot of water. And I stretched. And I took a hot bath and stretched some more. By lunch time, I felt like a failure - surely I could have done another loop and block, to reach 13 miles. Or another loop to reach 12.5? Just like a hard bike ride, it didn't take me long to convince myself that "it wasn't that bad." But to be honest, I have to consider: why did my quads burn on me after all this time?

Was it my speed? I wasn't trying to run fast - quite the contrary - but I averaged one minute faster per mile than the week before with Rich. Too fast, and faster than I expect to run the marathon, by quite a bit. Was it nutrition? Did I eat too little at breakast? The wrong things? Should I have taken something else, or more of what I did take? Should I have drunk more water? Less? Lots of questions. Maybe running the intervals a day closer to the long run ... I could see the wisdom in an extra recovery day between the two most challenging days of the week.

Oh well, this week is a kind of recovery week. The speed intervals are only 8x400. And the long run only 8 miles. Advice I'm getting, and things I see, vary widely as to how soon to build up the long miles, so I'm not freaked out that I didn't hit 13 on Saturday. I will benefit from the humbling. But some lessons learned:
* do what I can to run long with others
* plan a solo long run differently, without such an easy opt-out
* learn more about my personal nutrition needs for running

And ultimately, to consider the long haul ... it is still 12 weeks to April 25! Shake it off, and move on.

17 January 2010

The Routine

This week's training was worked around a head cold, and the first week of teaching after a 5-year hiatus. Given the new course, new material, less than ideal preparation, etc., I had to put the training in 2nd place priority. Make the course work, then see how the training fit in. And the course itself - this is the first time I've held 2 sections during the same term, and that takes some getting used to, also.

My training plan, from 4 Months to a 4-hour Marathon, unfolds in 2 halves: Weeks 1 - 8 the Endurance Phase, and Weeks 9 - 14 the Stamina Phase. Endurance Training, then, looks like this:
Monday - 20-30 minutes, jogging. I'm not entirely sure what "jogging" is supposed to mean, relative to speed or pace. On a treadmill, I set the speed to 6.5 (mph); when I run outdoors, it's like a 27-minute 5k in the neighborhood. I don't know if I should run this faster or slower. I gather the main thing is the time. Other workouts are more specific.
Tuesday - 20-30 minutes, cross training. For me this is on my bike, at this time of year in the basement on a trainer, about the length of an episode of the old TV series "Get Smart." Anything better, you know, and I'd be tempted to stay longer on the bike, which my body already wants to do, so you know why tempt it?
Wednesday - speed intervals, quarter-miles. This is the most interesting workout, in the sense that I would never do this on my own, and would never have thought of it. Along with Saturday's mileage, this is one of only 2 weekly workouts that changes from week to week. Setting a pace faster than I would run a marathon (2:05 - 2:15 minutes per quarter mile), I run a quarter, then have a 2-minute recovery period. Repeat for x times, the number growing from 6 (week 1) to 16 (week 8). This workout changes in the Stamina Phase. My speed workout in Week 2 was on a small indoor track (12-laps = 1 mile); Weeks 1 and 3 were on the treadmill. I wish the outdoor tracks were clear!
Thursday - 20-30 job, or optional Rest Day. Well, I'm feeling well enough so far that I am using this day to get more easy miles in. So far, so good.
Friday - 20-30 minutes, cross training. Again, on the bike.
Saturday - Distance run, at marathon pace (10:40 - 11:20 minutes per mile). The miles build through the Endurance Phase, with a couple of lighter Saturdays thrown in, to a high of 17 miles. During the Stamina Phase, this run will finally hit 24 miles, a couple of weeks before the marathon.

So, that's the plan. This week, a little different!
Mon. - 20-30 minute jog? Well, I was sick, and class started today. So it was cross-training, at home, at night, on my bike with a borrowed trainer since mine broke last week.
Tue. - 20-30 minutes, cross. A lighter day, obligation wise, so though I didn't feel great (and only marginally better than Monday), I ran before going into the office. 5k in the neighborhood. The nice thing about this run? It was my first outdoor workout since December 14! Which means my first during the official training.
Wed. - Quarter mile speed intervals. Ah, but today, teaching and still sick, I took that rest day I normally ignore. C'est bon.
Thu. - 20-30 minute jog? No, today I did the speed intervals on a treadmill. 10x400, jogging (not walking) for the recovery time. This ended up giving me 5.3 miles total without walking. The run portion was fairly brisk - I ended up covering each quarter in under 2 minutes. And it felt good.
Fri. - back on track, with a cross day on the bike.
Sat. - This was my longest run ever, pushing past 10 miles (last run on September 3) but perhaps falling a bit shy of the scheduled 11. Compensating for the distance, I hope, were the Glen Ellyn hills that comprised the course my running friend and de facto coach, Rich, set for us. This was also the first time I've run with someone else except for a short run with my son Andrew back in August.

Some things that surprised me about the long run:
* The pace (turned out to be about 9 minute miles, on average) felt good nearly the whole way.
* I would not have predicted that I could engage in conversation throughout a run of this distance.
* Without being scientific about it, I was dressed appropriately for the temperature, wind, etc. It was more comfortable than I had any right to expect.
* I never go 90 minutes (the length of the run) on a bike without finishing a small water bottle. I often eat something on a ride of that length, but not always. This run was without water and without calorie intake. I wonder how having one or the other, or both, would have changed the run. The advice I see about race day is to be sure to take a drink every couple of miles, and to know what you should eat, and how often. Surely before I run the 17 miler in February, I will have to think about that.

Well, so the end of Week 3. A little stretching, some good nourishment back at home. And today, the day after, feels good. The goal for the coming week is to do all the jogging outdoors. I think I'm stuck inside for the speed intervals, for now. I may have to alter the routine still to accommodate teaching - I don't see how to fit in speed intervals on a teaching day, for example. But that's 3 down, 13 to go. I'm sure there will be many surprises ... and not all of them pleasant!

12 January 2010


My objections and reservations aside, I am in training to run my first marathon.

"I am not a runner" - I will still assert this. As I said to someone in the gym recently, "running is still my love language." Still, after my toe in the water with a charity 5k run in June, and people telling me I did well (surprised to hear this was my first 5k) ... well, I don't know if it was flattery, curiosity, or endorphins - I kept running, a little bit. In addition to time on the bike, I ran once or twice a week, and decided to see how far I could go without a lot of pain. The goal? "Friends" were egging me on to register for a specific marathon. I set a distance goal, and decided if I could handle a 10-mile run by the opening of registration for the marathon, I would do it. By September I had, and on September 1 I registered for the Big Sur International Marathon.

The Big Sur is NOT the ideal "first marathon." I have worked through this with the men I'll be going with (all of whom will finish the course before I do). It is a dumb idea; but on the other hand, since I have never run a marathon, I have nothing to compare it to. So, the reasoning goes - and even if it's only to make me feel better, I'm buying into it - I can just enjoy it.

Two things attracted me to the idea. Three things: 1 - it is a chance to get to California and see my son Chris, in the Bay Area; 2 - I have driven the coastal highway, and the idea of trotting along and being able to take it in is hard to resist; 3 - it is an "anniversary year" for the event (25th), and so should be specially interesting and fun. To top it off, I will be with 3 other men from church, including one of my pastoral colleagues. That will provide some training camaraderie, and an extra bit of personal engagement before, during and after the race.

While sorting out this prospect, I spent a few days in Portland, OR, with my Karen. As I do whenever we go there, I spent one of those days at Powell's Bookshop. There I found a cheap used copy of a 10-year-old training guide: 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon by Dave Kuehls. I almost disregarded it, then noted that Kuehls wrote the book after his father - A MAN IN HIS 50's! - decided, trained, and ran his FIRST MARATHON. OK, so this book had to come home with me. I ran it by a couple of marathoning friends, who said, yes, the training program looks good. The age of the book primarily meant information about gear had changed, but the advice was sound.

So by September I had bought my first pair of "running store running shoes" and registered for the Marathon. I wasn't ready to give up the bike in good weather, but I committed to running twice a week, just to keep the legs where I wanted them. These were mostly 5k runs in the neighborhood or on the paths across the road from me. 5k or 5 miles. For one of those runs I had ridden a bike into town to give to a friend, prepared to run back home, on streets and the path. The next day my knee was in a great deal of pain, which lasted a couple of weeks. That's when I stopped using my old running shoes as alternates ...

Christmas Day was exactly 4 months to the April 25 marathon in California. Happily, by tracking the weeks instead of the dates, I could put off the start of official training for a couple of days. This past Saturday I finished week 2, with a 9-mile run. This coming Saturday, at the end of week 3, I am meant to run 11 - which will then be the longest run of my life.

The only frustration so far is that with the intense cold - and actully more to the point, with icy streets and snow-packed paths - my first 2 training weeks were indoors, at the Wheaton College Sports and Recreation Center. That has got to change! Quarter mile speed intervals are lousy on small tracks, and 9 miles on a treadmill ... well, the Decemberists helped, and Johnny Cash. But still.