Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spring Makes Me Want to Run

Old brick road reclaimed by the woods near Peninsula, Ohio.

This is the best time of year for runners, or at least for this runner. Our northeast Ohio weather has completed the transformation from cold and gray, to warm and sunny. The spring mornings are often foggy, dewy, with a slight chill...invigorating. On early morning runs through the woods, you are enveloped in misty shades of green, like the image above. As the sun moves higher in the sky, it burns the fog away, and as the air becomes clear. These are the days when, if you are a trail runner, you cannot wait to lace'em up and hit the dirt.

This was the first training week since several weeks before Boston, in which I hit 80 miles, 39 of those on Saturday and Sunday, and ran real tempo and speed work. I made it to the track on Tuesday and resumes speed work in earnest. Instead of 3 x 1 mile repeats, I did 1 mile at 5:49, then 4 x 400 at 1: 26, 1:25, 1:23, 1:20, then my last mile at 5:47. Not my fastest but starting to get my wheels back. On Friday, I did a short (7 mile) tempo run, but really pushed through the hills in and out of Glenwillow. I kept the pace in the 6:50 area, not where it should be but getting back into the range.
Saturday, I met up with a few runners to start an hour earlier, then continued our trail running with the 8:00 AM group, for a total of 15.7 miles. It was a nearly weather for running in the woods, yet my legs were feeling tired and sluggish. On Sunday, I ran 15.15 with the SERC group, mostly with E-speed and Kurt M. I had planned to do 20, but again my legs were heavy and I felt like I was working too hard for the pace we were keeping. E-speed convinced me to break it off and just go 15 miles. Later, around 3:00 in the afternoon, it was such a gorgeous, sunny day, I decided to tack on another 7+ miles. I was still not feeling bouncy, but not not hurting.


I saw the following video on boingboing.  I don't know what to say about this, only that Damien Walters is amazing and if you start to watch this, you will not be able to stop.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Post Cleveland/Pre-Seattle/Blossom Time

This first part of the blog is the boring, training mileage summary. Feel free to skip this and go directly to the scintillating Blossom Time Race report below. Really. It's OK.
Since I have not talked much about my training miles in the last few posts, I though I had better summarize quickly. The week of the Cleveland marathon, I started with 10 miles on Monday, followed by 9 miles on Tuesday at the track with 2 miles at 6:30 pace. Wednesday and Thursday, I ran recovery pace 6.1 and 5.04. Friday and Saturday, my runs were simply intended to keep my legs moving, so I kept the mileage down to 4.3 and 3.5 respectively. With the marathon on Sunday, the total for the week was 64.5 miles.

With the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon just 4 weeks away, it's unrealistic to think about taking a break after the Cleveland. I did give myself a light 4 mile Monday. On Tuesday, I was back at the track for some intervals. After a few miles of warm-up, I ran three 1 mile intervals at 5:59, 5:58, 5:54, with 400 yard recovery between and 2.5 miles of cool down. Wednesday was a recovery paced 6.2 miles, and Thursday just a little longer at 8.2 miles. On Friday, I rode my bike to and from work for a 21 mile round trip, and I did not run (first day off since I was sick in February.) Saturday was a great day in the woods. The weather was perfect and we had a reinvigorating 12.88 mile run. On Sunday, a warm sunny morning, I rode my bike to Chagrin Falls, ran the 5.25 mile Blossom Time Run, did a couple of miles of cool-down after, then rode my bike home. See below for the race report. On Memorial Day, I ran with a group from Vertical Runner. We did 11 pacey miles on the trails, starting and ending at Pine Lane.


Blossom Time Run

This is one of the most competitive short races in Ohio. It draws the best from the area and beyond, and is always challenging. The course, flatly stated, is not flat. It is 5.25 hilly miles that can make you wonder why you paid money to put yourself through it. Coming out of the Cleveland Marathon, where I had run all out, I was probably not in prime racing shape, but I did not feel too bad either. Just to add to the challenge, I rode my bike rather than driving to Chagrin Falls. Again, probably not setting myself up for my best race, but it was such a beautiful, warm sunny morning, I wanted to ride. Honestly, even though I had not properly prepared for this race, I had thoughts of defending my age group victory from the prior year. I knew that the smart thing would be to run it as a speed-work training run, and forget about going all out for a win.
I arrived in town about 45 minutes before the start, and picked-up my bib at the check-in. There I bumped into MB, and any thoughts of an age group win were eliminated. He has a track background, and an excels at this distance. I have run track workouts and see his speed in 1 mile intervals. I talked with him for a minute, he congratulated me for the win in our age group at the Cleveland marathon, and I headed out to warm-up.
I met-up with Joe V. and we did some stride outs to get ready for the start. Joe said he was going to go out at a 6:26 pace, which sounded safe and conservative. I told him that I was thinking I should take it easy, with Cleveland only a week ago, and Seattle coming up, so I would run with him. Basically, I had resigned myself that I should stick to the training run plan, because the age group thing was not going to happen this year.
A couple of runners, in their race gear with bibs pinned on their shirts, played the national anthem on trumpets, then handed their instruments off and jumped into the start area. The gun sounded and we were off.
That was the last time I saw Joe, you remember, the guy I was going to run with, conservatively. The first mile has a moderate up hill, and I crossed the marker at 6:15, not burning fast, but faster than last year's pace. I could see MB around 100 yards ahead. I decided to see if I could keep him in sight. At mile two, the timer called out 12:18, so that was a 6:03 mile, and I was within 50 yards of Mike. I had a thought that if I could keep that close through mile 4, I might have a chance,...a slim chance but a chance.
Mile three was rough. The hills were getting to me and I was struggling to hold the pace. I was hurting. My breathing was strained. My heart was racing. My quads were throbbing. But I held on. The timer called out 18:23, so that was a 6:05 mile. Amazing considering the hills and the way I was feeling. And Mike was now only about 40 yards ahead.
Mile four had the last of the hills, and I was pumping hard. My turn-over was very fast, and I was trying to keep my form, but I was starting to lose it. I heard the tell-tale foot slapping, warning me that I was striding out too much, striking heel first. I adjusted, fixed my forward lean, got my center of gravity more forward, and felt the mid-foot strike return. Never the less, my legs were not happy with all the work I was making them do. I saw the four mile marker and heard the time..."24:20", a 5:57 mile. And Mike was about 50 yards ahead.
I knew that it was crazy to think I could catch him, but I was close enough that I had to give it everything I had.
As hard as I had run the first four miles, I needed more speed. I concentrated on faster turn-over, and stretching out my stride Fortunately, the course was flat from there to the finish, because I think one more hill would have done me in. I keep my feet moving as fast as possible, and pushed as hard as I can ever remember in any race at any time. That 1.25 miles seemed to go on forever. Finally, I saw the finish, and I saw Mike, still 50 yards ahead. I had not gained anything on him in that last mile. I knew at that instant that I could not catch him, but with the finish so close, I did not slow down, Now it was about getting the best time I could get. I ran the last quarter mile full out and crossed the finish at 31:50. I took a couple of steps, then doubled-over with the dry-heaves. The volunteer at the finish told me I had to keep moving...he said this to me while I was throwing-up. Have you ever tried to walk and throw-up at the same time? Don't.
Fortunately, the nausea passed quickly, and I felt better, walked around a bit, grabbed a water and a banana. I found Mike and congratulated him for a great race, and for kicking my ass. He was very gracious and congratulated me as well. I ran a few cool-down miles with Steve G., hung around for the awards ceremony, picked up my plaque for the hardest won 2nd place finish of my life. I had beaten my previous AG first place time on that course by 2 minutes, but this year, that was not good enough to win. Still, I can live with 2nd, knowing that I had improved substantially in the past year, and that I had put in an effort I could be proud of.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cleveland Marathon Race Report

Fortunately, I have an unflagging ability to sleep, regardless of stress levels, noise levels, pain levels, and levels of any of the other categories that disrupt the sleep of less gifted snorers. I don't take any credit for this uncanny ability to sleep through any conditions; I thank good genes. My sister (lil' sis) has demonstrated similar abilities. I've witnessed her sleeping like a lamb through a party in her own apartment, with her head less than a foot from a speaker cranking at full volume. This is a valuable asset on the night before a big race, when I am keyed-up. It was especially helpful on Saturday before Cleveland, because I had put so much pressure on myself for that race.

I told everyone who asked that I was going sub-3 hours. I said it as a statement of the most obvious fact, with neither equivocation nor hesitation. I put it in writing and published it on my blog. Of course, all of this was stupid. I knew there were thousand of scenarios wherein I would fail miserably. I think it was an unconscious strategy to put as much pressure on myself as possible. I respond better to pressure that than encouragement. Yes, that is ripe for analysis, but I'll leave that to you. I'm moving on to talk about the morning of the race.


So, after a cracking night's sleep, I woke a little before 5:00 AM, showered, shaved (not sure why I bothered on a race day.) I put on my SERC race shirt and a pair of race ready shorts (pockets in the back to hold gels and electrolyte pills), had a light breakfast, and headed out. I picked-up Dawn M. and Barb B., and we drove downtown. Dawn was also running the marathon, and Barb was running the half. We parked and walked to the start. I worked my way through the hordes of stretching and hopping runners, toward the starting line at 9th and St. Clair. I passed the 3:00 hour pace group and talked for a minute with the pacer, Greg D. I move a little closer to the starting line and found E-speed and Steve H. E was running the half-marathon only. She told me earlier in the week that, on the advice of her coach, she was going to try to stay with me for my first ten miles. This was on the expectation that I would hold my target pace of 6:47/minute miles. Hmmm...we'll see about that. ;-)

The horn sounded and we were released onto the marathon course. I crossed the start about five seconds after the clock had started, therefore none of the Bostonian advanced mental mathematical calculations of actual time versus the official clock would be necessary. We ran north on E. 9th, then looped around Browns stadium, and south on W.6th. There was a little congestion in the early part of the first mile, but after than, we could run our own pace. We hit the first mile marker at 6:51, four seconds slow but that was probably due to congestion in the first 1/4 mile. The second mile clipped by at 6:27, which sounds fast but didn't seem difficult being mostly flat and protected from the wind as we were still in the downtown area. By that time, we were a group of four, e-speed, a new-found friend named Yohan, a twenty-something guy (Sean, I think), and me.

For the third through the seventh miles, our group ran westward on Lorain, Detroit, and Lake, holding an average 6:33/minute mile pace. Despite that pace, we were able to have a nice conversation, the contents of which was not important, only that there was a diversion, Between mile seven and eight, we turned first north than east, on our way back into town. Much of that run was along the exposed and very windy shoreway. The times show the effects, as we slowed to 6:51, then 6:49 before bringing the pace back to 6:33, then back down again to 6:56, my slowest mile of the day. Here is a photo of me, Sean (I think) and E-speed, taken by her parents.

Somewhere around mile ten, Yohan fell off the pace. Near the end of mile eleven, E-speed took the exit for the half-marathon. (Huge congrats to E, who kept up with that very aggressive pace, and ended up with 2nd female overall in the half-marathon.) About the same time, the young runner also fell back a bit. I continued on alone. I didn't realize then that I would run the rest of the race alone. The new course goes east out of town first on Lakeside, then continuing on the Marginal Road. Again, exposed with nothing to block the wind, it was not a good situation. The winds gust were over twenty miles per hour, and I was feeling the effects. For mile 14 through 17, I averaged 6:51/minute miles. These were tough miles,and I caught myself falling into the marathon doldrums...running alone..strong head-wind...then in the 17th mile, I heard a familiar voice. Wayne V. was there, cheering me on. "You're my hero, Frank!" It was so unexpected, it gave me a boost. I thanked him and picked up the pace.

Just past Wayne, the course turned south on Martin Luther King Boulevard. It is the longest uphill stretch of the course, but then it hairpins north and provides a low-grade downhill on East Boulevard. I kept all of those miles in the 6:40 range. Just before the 21 mile mark, the course turns west on St.Clair Avenue. It is flat and potentially fast from there to the finish. I say 'potentially' because you have to have the reserves to run those last five and a half miles hard.

Initially, I thought I was holding a pretty good pace through mile 22 but when I checked my time, it was 6:51. The stretch along St. Clair is so familiar to me; I've been up and down that road so many times, yet it seemed eerie running it on a Sunday morning, with almost no one around. I adjusted and ran the next mile at 6:44, passing the only two runners I would see for miles. One of them was the first place woman. At 40th, the course turned south, and E-speed was waiting there. I heard her loud and clear, cheering me on. I was so zoned-out from running the lonely St. Clair miles, it really caught me by surprise. I was glad to hear a friendly, familiar voice shouting encouragement. Here is a photo she took at that point. Do you see any other runners?

Mile 24 is south on 40th, then mile 25 is east one Euclid Avenue. The Euclid stretch ends at 18th where the course turns north again. That turn marks the end of the 25th mile. In Boston, the first of my leg cramps struck me at that point. In Cleveland, my only thought was, 'None of the last 25 miles mean anything if I don't run this next 1.2 mile strong and get my sub-3'. I ran north on 18th, then made the turn west on to Lakeside, totally focused on keeping my form, holding my pace, and ignoring everything else. For the only time in the race, there were crowds, actual crowds, lining the street, as I approached the finish. I felt a pre-camp twinge in my right calf about fifty yards from the finish, and within twenty yards it was a full on cramp. I was not going to stop to stretch it out, so I ran awkwardly, with my right foot on tippy-toes, through the finish line.

As soon as I crossed, I saw Mark G., Steve G., and Barb B. waiting. My calf went into a rock-hard cramp just as I reached Mark, and I am glad he was there to lean on. I walked it off for a minute, then lay down on my back in the street. One of the volunteers came over to check on me. I told her I was fine, and she gave me a water bottle and a banana. After a few minutes, I got up, feeling much better, and got another water. I spent the next half-hour walking around, mostly with Barb. It felt better to keep moving. We walked back to my car to get something to put on to keep warm, then back to the finish to rejoin the group.


My official time was 2:56:55, which was first in my age group,and 27th overall.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cleveland Result- 256:56 OR 2:55:56

I don't have much time at the moment. I'll follow this up with an actual race report in a day or two, but here are the highlights.
The official chip time listed in the newspaper and on the Cleveland Marathon website is 2:55:56. The official clock time is 2:56:59. The 1 minute difference is, how can I put this bluntly, wrong. I crossed the starting line about 5 seconds after the horn sounded, meaning the difference should be about 5 seconds, not 57 seconds. I spoke with other runners, and they all had the same issue. So, there is definitely a something wrong. I assume the race director is investigating and will make an official statement, to confirm the clock or the chip times. Here are the official times as of this morning, and finish positions from the website.

And here are my mile-by-mile times from my Garmin. By my watch, my finishing time was 2:55:53. We'll see what the final official time is when the RD makes them public.
Split Summary ====
1) - 1m - 6:51(6:51/m)
2) - 1m - 6:27(6:27/m)
3) - 1m - 6:30(6:30/m)
4) - 1m - 6:33(6:33/m)
5) - 1m - 6:42(6:42/m)
6) - 1m - 6:21(6:21/m)
7) - 1m - 6:37(6:37/m)
8) - 1m - 6:51(6:51/m)
9) - 1m - 6:49(6:49/m)
10) - 1m - 6:33(6:33/m)
11) - 1m - 6:56(6:56/m)
12) - 1m - 6:45(6:45/m)
13) - 1m - 6:30(6:30/m)
14) - 1m - 6:48(6:48/m)
15) - 1m - 6:56(6:56/m)
16) - 1m - 6:50(6:50/m)
17) - 1m - 6:49(6:49/m)
18) - 1m - 6:46(6:46/m)
19) - 1m - 6:41(6:41/m)
20) - 1m - 6:39(6:39/m)
21) - 1m - 6:49(6:49/m)
22) - 1m - 6:51(6:51/m)
23) - 1m - 6:44(6:44/m)
24) - 1m - 6:45(6:45/m)
25) - 1m - 6:43(6:43/m)
26) - 1m - 6:43(6:43/m)
27) - .2m-1:23(6:55/m)

Regardless, I ran my sub-3 hour and won my age group. It was a brisk, windy morning, but we did not have any rain, and the skies cleared so we had sunshine through most of the day.
The post race SERC party was at our house. We had about 40 people over, and everyone seemed to be having fun. SERC runners had a pretty good day overall, with E-speed coming in second overall woman in the half-marathon, and Barb getting a PR in the half.
More later...

Friday, May 15, 2009

One Day Until Cleveland: Yes, I Am Ready

Sue and I drove down to the Convention Center for the Cleveland Marathon Expo this morning. We got there right as it opened at 11:00. Sue's sister Lisa had volunteered, and was working the check-in. We talked with her, picked up my bib, then wandered around the expo. Its a smaller expo but there is a good collection of running gear, clothes, and food vendors, along with lots of other marathons trying to get runners to sign up. We saw quite a few of the SERC crew there. A group of us cornered Bill Rodgers and had him telling us stories of the old days when American runners used to win American marathons (He has won NY and Boston 4 times each!).  He also talked about staying competitive as a masters runner.  I listened attentively to everything he said.  Here is a photo of (4th from left), surrounded by us.

I bought a pair of race shorts with pockets in the back for gel and electrolytes and whatever.  Now I can pack a few extra, just to be sure I have enough. Other than that, there were not many deals, or maybe I wasn't in the mood to buy. I did have an interesting talk with the Race Director for the Akron Marathon, Jim Barnett.   We talked about Boston, and he asked about my target time for Cleveland.  Then he offered me an 'Invited Runner' position for the Akron Marathon. Basically, invited runners are comp the registration fee and given a few perks like a place to relax before and after the race with massages, drinks, etc.  All very nice. Of course, I accepted and will be running Akron on September 26th.  


I want to take a moment to thank my family for their wonderful support of my running adventures. On Thursday, I receive a delivery from MarathonPhoto. Everyone had chipped in and bought me one of those classy looking plaques with engraved legend and a photo of me running down Boyleston toward the finish. Thanks to Sue, Andy, Alex, Sharon, Lisa, Sandy and Jeff, Mom and Dad, Georgeann and Phil and Kathryn, Brian and Jo, and Earl and Lin. THANKS!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Six Days to Cleveland

Weekly Training Summary
Unseasonably cool temperatures and lack of sunshine aside, it's been a good week. I'll dispense with the usual day-by-day narrative this week, mostly because I am bored with the monotony of "On Monday I...then on Tuesday I..then on Wednesday I..." The daily mileage totals are as noted to the right, and the total for the the week was 67 miles. I did a my speed work, but opted for 800's at around 2:47 - 2:50 pace, rather than my usual 1 mile repeats. My legs are still not back to 100%, but getting closer. The Saturday trail run was the most fun I had all week. Splashing through creeks is much more pleasant in May than in December.

Cleveland Goal - Strategy
My goal for Cleveland is 2:58, which is a 6:47/mile pace. Cleveland being a relatively flat course, I'll try for a fairly even pace through-out. See my wrist band at left for target times for each mile.  I'll be taking electrolytes (Endurolyte) every half-hour to prevent the cramps that cost me minute or so in Boston. I'll take a Hammer gel at mile 12 and another at mile 18. I'll take a vivarin at around mile 19 or 20, depending on how I feel.
I am disappointed that I have not been able to locate any information on the marathon website regarding tracking runners during the race. If I find out that this service is available , I will post the link here on my blog before Sunday.

Dancing Machine
Against all reason, I tried to get into the spirit of the post-marathon party in Boston by dancing. Thankfully, this was only captured in still photos. Video of this would have gone viral in hours, and I would have had to change my identity and move to different continent.  

Barb and I groovin', old-school, showin gthe kids how it's done.

Amie looking for anyone else to dance with. I can't explain the expression on my face.

What am I doing here?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

2 Weeks Since Boston - 2 Weeks Until Cleveland

Running two marathons thirty days apart is not ideal, but it is not all that unusual, especially among SERC runners.  Since Boston, I've been trying to balance my training between allowing myself to recover, and running enough so that I don't loose my fitness for the Cleveland marathon. I was fortunate to have come out of Boston without any significant injuries, just the usual post marathon tightness. I reread Pfitzinger, talked with fellow runners, and checked some of the on-line resources. None of these sources agree, but I decided to go with the recommendations from a couple of very accomplished runners in our club, Mark G. and Kam L.
Mark and Kam gave me very similar advice. Keep my miles up, but not fully to my pre-Boston peak, do speed-work but reduce the interval distance, start to taper for Cleveland about 10 days before the race. I have been following this as well as possible. (BTW, in my race report last week, I neglected to include a photo of the stylish Boston Marathon 2009 official runners shirt, so here it is.)

The day after Boston, Jeff Z., Steve Hawthorne , and I ran a moderately paced 6 miles along the banks of the Charles, and I added another mile around the back bay. Contrary to expectations, I did not feel too bad, but toward the end of the run, my quads wanted to take a break. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I kept the runs in the 6 mile range, keeping a recovery pace. Saturday, I joined the group at Lock 29 for a sloppy 11 miles on the trails.  About half-way through, the mud sucked one of the shoes off my foot.  I was able to find, pull it out of the muck, and put it back on.  Squishy.  
On Sunday, I ran the 12 mile route with the SERC group, keeping the pace slightly under 8:00/min.  The next day, I ran two 6-mile recovery runs, one at lunch and one in the evening. Tuesday, I went to the high school for speed work, but there was a lacrosse game, so we were not allowed to use the track. Mark G. and I decided to run around Solon, so we did eight miles together. I added another 2 miles for an even 10. On Wednesday, I did 2 warm-up miles, followed by 6 miles at marathon pace...well...almost...for an average pace of 7:14. Thursday should have been a recovery pace day, but I felt good enough to do five of the miles around 7:00/min pace. Saturday was a good morning with the Lock 29 group. The trails were muddy, and we did 13.77 miles, but we kept a slow pace. Sunday, Steve Hawthorne and I ran an early, easy five miles at 8:00/min pace before joining the group . We did the first mile with the group at 7:57, but after that, we picked it up and ran the rest of the miles as follow: 7:27 7:12 6:55 6:52 7:52 7:10 7:13 7:12 7:52 6:56 6:03. Total for the week: 74 miles. My log for the last two weeks is below.