Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ukrop Monument Ave 10k Race Report

In the wake of the marathon madness of the past week, Rebecca and I had plans to travel south a bit to Richmond to hang out with a friend and run the local 10k race down there. That was what he told us at the time. What we didn't realize until we actually looking into it, is that the Ukrop Monument Ave 10k is one of the largest 10k races in the US. Turns out, they had 32,600 runners show up to nice cool temperatures, perfect for a road race.

Rebecca and I drove down the night before through torrential downpours and got in to Richmond around 9:30 pm Friday night. We quickly settle in on our "cozy" air mattress at our friend's place and set the alarm for a leasurly 6:45. The nice thing was that our friend lives about a block off Monument Ave, and about 1.5 miles to the starting line. So that meant no pre-dawn wakeup calls, no getting to the race early to get a good parking spot, and no need to worry. We were out the door by 7:10 to walk down to the starting line.

The only unfortunate thing about a race this large was that there were about 40 (I'm not kidding) waves. That meant that Rebecca's wave didn't go off until 30 minutes after mine! Although they didn't use every letter in the alphabet to name a wave, they had waves with double letters - there were THAT many! However, they handled the race with precision, starting each wave several minutes after the next, exactly on time. Waves were set based on expected finishing time, so in theory, most people won't run into people from the faster waves ahead and likewise with the slower wave behind. For me, it worked like a charm. I was in Wave C - expected finish time of 45-47 minutes. With the National Marathon only a week prior, I had no idea what to expect coming into this race. I figured as long as I was healthy, I should be able to run something in this range.

With the first 2 waves off, they shuffled us to the starting line. Feeling good and ready to run hard, I placed myself at the absolute front of the line. (As a side note, I went for a hard run to see how the legs were feeling on Thursday and managed to run 5.5 hilly miles with an average of about 7:15/pace. I knew based on that run, that I should have no problem running 45, which is why I set myself right at the front.) The announcer began the countdown from 10, as we all braced ourselves for the race start.

A quick horn sounded the start for our wave and we were off. I went out pretty hard, but in control. Studying the course beforehand, I knew the first 3 miles were a slight uphill and the last 3 were a slight downhill, since the course is a straight out and back. I was among 3 or 4 other runners from my wave to take off at the start and within about 60 seconds, we started catching people from the wave ahead of us. Something tells me those people probably didn't sign up for the correct wave. The first mile was a lot of weaving, even with their predicted times being 43-45 minutes, and giving our wave a 2 minute delay between start times. I hit mile 1 in 6:34. I knew it was a little too fast, so I forced myself to slow down. My 10k PR pace was 7:00/mile, so I decided to try and hang around that pace and see how it felt. I continued in control and just tried to focus on my form and breathing. It has been nearly a year since I've run this fast, so it was quite the shock to my body! Mile 2 came through in 6:56.

At this point, I started doing some math. I felt in control, but was starting to tire a little. I knew that if I could hold my pace close to 7:00 for mile 3, which was the most uphill section of the course, then I could cruise the remaining 3 miles, which were mostly downhill, to a new PR. Mile 3 came in at 7:02. I just told myself to hold on for the next 2 miles and then pick it up for the last 1.2. Miles 4 and 5 felt like forever and since the course was straight, I found myself constantly sighting to find the next mile marker. Mile 4 came through in 6:58. I tried to stay relaxed, but all I could think was PR, PR, PR. Wholly crap, I ran a marathon last week and I am going to run a 10k PR?!?!? WTF!

Mile 5 came through in 7:03. I started picking up the pace. I knew it was in the bag. My previous PR was 43:46, so I set myself the goal of trying to finish in less than 43 minutes. That seemed reasonable with my 6:34 first mile split and near 7:00/mile pace for all the others. I started kicking in the next gear, but I was hoping to see the finish line in sight. With still no finish line, the course moved uphill ever so slightly, but enough to block the view after the crest of the hill. As I neared the crest, I finally saw the finish line banner in the distance. I quickly approached Mile 6 with a split of 6:51. I picked it up some more. I covered the last .2 in 1:21, which is about 6:45/mile pace.

The numbers:
- Final time: 42:48 - I new PR by almost a whole minute!
- Pace: 6:53/mile
- Average HR: 171
- Overall Place: 542/26242 finishers
- Age Group: 106/1515

Overall, I am amazed that I pulled this race out. I had no intention of going for a PR and still am kinda clueless as to how I still have the speed in me to run like this, since I haven't done any speedwork and the fastest I had run in any of my marathon training was maybe 7:30/minute pace. Whatever it was, I felt great! I really had a blast running this race and am looking forward to running it again next year. It is a flat and fast course and despite the large crowd, felt much smaller than most other large races I have done. It has a neighborhood feel to it since it runs through the middle of a nice and scenic part of Richmond with tons of fans, bands, and crowds cheering.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

National Marathon Race Pics

Here are the official race pictures. Some good...some ok. At least this year, they took finisher's photos, unlike last year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SofSoles - The Secret To My Success

I have had this post written in my head for a long time, and despite the temptation to write it prior to the marathon, I just coun't bring myself to do it. I am THAT superstitious.

As many people, including myself, have wondered, how was it possible for me to progress so quickly back into marathon type training, after being sidelined with plantar fasciitis for nearly a month? Well my friends, it is time to let the cat out of the bag. I first heard of SofSole after Ray's review and instantly a lightbulb went off in my head that it seemed like a neat product to consider using. Of course, at the time I wasn't injured and frantically searching for a solution to get me back on the road. Then, Bill posted a similar review, in which he specifically mentioned how their product may have helped him alleviate some IT band/plantar fasciitis issues he was having. Bingo! You see, when I read Bill's post, I was injured, so that set in motion a very important set of actions. I was going through PT at the time, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, orthotics didn't want to make their way to my PT's office as quickly as I needed them. So, the following took place:

1) Comment on Bill's blog to ask for more details about his experience with their products
2) Consider my options of using SofSoles or waiting on my PT to order the orthotics that I had been asking about since the first day I started PT, since I knew they'd recommend them for me
3) Receive email from SofSole asking if I'd like to try out and review some of their products
4) Respond as quickly as possible by trying to reach my hand through the Internet to get SofSole to send their products to me
5) Receive SofSole products and begin using them

Let me back up for a moment first. Having read both Ray's and Bill's posts, I was particularly interested in the heat moldable Adapt model, which you bake in the oven and the insert molds to your foot by putting the insert into your shoe and standing tall for a couple of minutes while they shape to the contours of your foot. Since I knew I'd needed some type of orthotic, I figured these might be the best option for me. So I specifically requested those inserts, along with any other products they would like for me to review. SofSole also sent along their Athlete model insert, and a pair of their Anti-Friction socks.

I will review each of these items individually below:

SofSole Adapt
Within seconds of receiving the package in the mail, I was preheating my oven to bake those bad boys in the hopes of going on my 4 mile run the next morning to test them out (just ask Rebecca to recap the giddiness in my eyes as I tore open the box). A few minutes later, and I had myself some custom molded inserts. The next day, I rolled out of bed for a nice 4 mile run.

It was at this point in my recovery that I had literally just started to run again. Based on my workout log, I had just run my first 3 runs post injury, with 2 miles being the longest run. Everything felt great on my first 4 miler - no plantar fasciitis pain or nothing! That week alone, I was able to increase my mileage to about 20 miles for the week, a significant jump from almost nothing the week before. Toward the end of my week, I went for my longest run since my recovery - 13 miles. My foot felt a little sore, but not from any plantar fasciitis pain. After a few more runs that next week and still the sore feeling, I decided that the Adapt insole may be a bit too stiff for my foot.

Bottom Line
As a whole, these are drastically improved inserts over the basic inserts that come in your shoes. They kept my foot stable and secure in the shoe, reducing the potential for overpronation, which tends to cause lots of lower leg injuries. I wear a size 10 and the Medium size insert they sent me required no trimming and fit perfectly into my running shoes.

While I never experienced any pains that had left me unable to run, the stiffness of the insert did have me feeling a bit sore. As they state on their website, this insole offers the max in the cushioning department. For me, it was a bit too much. I put about 50 miles on these before I experienced any discomfort, so they worked well for a while and kept me injury free. However, since I am a lighter runner, I think there was just too much cushion for the pushin. I would imagine these would work best with larger athletes needing max cushioning, but also a customized shoe insert.

After putting nearly 50 miles on my legs, I started to have more confidence that whatever I was doing was working. I decided to give the SofSole Athlete inserts a try. While they are not custom moldable to the foot like the Adapt, they felt much softer, and they have gel inserts in the heel and forefoot, exactly where my plantar fasciitis pain was being caused. So I figured these inserts might be good for me with that extra cushioning where I needed it most. Off the bat, I ran a 6 mile tempo run, which happened to be on the schedule that day. Everything felt great. The soreness I had from the Adapt inserts was gone and my feet felt fresh after the run. As it turned out, I would continue to use the Athlete insert for the majority of the miles left in my marathon training.

As a side note, my PT finally got my insoles in their office and I rushed over to get them and ask a million questions about how quickly I can break them in, when I can/cannot run in them, etc. Sure enough, they told me that putting serious marathon type miles on my orthotics so quickly would likely result in injury, because orthotics typically have a 2-4 week break-in period. I needed to run long NOW.

I continued my marathon build by using the SofSole Athlete inserts for all my longer runs, which was basically anything over 8 miles. I wanted to break in my orthotics as well, so I took the orthotics for a spin on my shorter runs. While I can't compare my true orthotics and the Athlete inserts, since the orthotics are made to my foot, I can say that the Athlete inserts provide cushioning and support where it is needed most. As evidence of that, I ran the National Marathon this past weekend in them! I finished the race without any foot pain and my legs feeling relatively fresh for having just run a marathon. Only a day after the marathon, I felt like I was ready to start running again. Was it a function of the insoles? I'm not sure. But the end result is that I finished the race injury free and feeling great.

Bottom Line
I think any runner should have these inserts in their shoes. I dare you to pull out the footbed of your current running shoe and hold it straight out by the heel cup with one hand and watch it sag to the ground. I tried this will all of my running shoes (about 4 different shoes) and all of the footbeds become paper thin after as little as 50 miles and when you hold them out like this, the front toe area droops down. Now try to the same thing with one of the SofSole products. The first thing you'll notice is that they are much thicker firmer, giving you the support your foot needs to put up serious mileage. I've put a total of about 175 miles on the same pair of SofSole Athlete inserts and they still feel great. A definite must have for any runner.

SofSole AntiFriction Sock

The other item sent to me was SofSole's anti friction sock. The sock is designed to limit motion of the sock on the foot, limiting the ability of blisters and other fun stuff that can happen to your feet while logging serious miles. The socks have strips of cushioning along the bottom, which help provide a soft feel for any type of activity. I used these socks as my weekday running sock. By that, I mean that I used them primarily to run distances ranging from 3 - 10 miles. When it comes to the longer distance stuff, I have a very select few socks that I consider worthy enough to carry my through longer runs. More specifically, the socks I use for longer runs are the ones that don't tear my feet up or cause any blisters. I tried using the Anti Friction Socks on one longer run and although my foot remained pain free and blister free on the bottoms of my feet where the cushioning strips are, my toes did get a few minor blisters.

Bottom Line
For the average runner, these socks are great. They wick sweat away, keeping your feet nice and dry. They are also a low profile cut, which is a design I prefer, rather than something that goes up and over the ankle. For anything less than 10 miles, I've had great success running pain free and blister free with these socks. I'd recommend these socks to anyone who runs within those distance ranges. For more serious runners going the full distance, I'd recommend trying their other socks, like the Cushion model, which likely will give you the durability your feet need to carry you longer distances.

I'd like to thank SofSole for letting me sample and review their products. Were it not for them, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to run the marathon. For that, I am ever greatful. I am looking forward to continuing to using their products, specifically their Athlete inserts, as they seem to provide the exact support I need for long distance running.

If you have any questions about any of these products, drop my a comment and I'd be happy to provide additional details.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Graphage - National Marathon

I should have included this in my race report, but I was too lazy to connect my watch to my computer. So here it is in another post. Unfortunately, since I turned my pace off and went with basic laps, I can't seem to get my software to display the lap times overlayed on the graph. It only shows when I mouse over it in the graph. Displayed is my HR and the altitude. The altitude ft measurements are off because my watch measures altitude based on relative altitude to my start location, which is typically set for my house. Suffice to say, RFK is not at the same altitude. So, sorry for the loss of details on my pace not being charted. My mile splits are below for your reference if you are interested in seeing those details relative to elevation and HR. Mile 1: 8:59
Mike 2:8:36
Mile 3: 8:30
Mile 4: 9:35 - was a bit long due to mix up with posting of sign
Mile 5: 7:51 - a bit short due to mix up with sign
Mile 6: 8:47
Mile 7: 8:55
Mile 8: 8:19
Mile 9: 8:25
Mile 10: 8:15
Mile 11: 8:16
Mile 12: 8:34
Mile 13: 9:14 - includes the .1 for the half way marker
Mile 14: 7:40 - a bit short due to half way measurement
Mile 15: 8:25
Mile 16: 8:16
Mile 17: 8:15
Mile 18: 8:32
Mile 19: 8:31
Mile 20: 8:57
Mile 21: 8:27
Mile 22: 8:57
Mile 23: 9:30
Mile 24: 10:01
Mile 25: 9:46
Mile 26: 9:31
Mile 26.1: 1:55
Finish Time: 3:49:14

The Meet Up

Some of those who attended have already posted, but I figured I'd post as well. Those of us who were planning to run/volunteer at the National Marathon/Half Marathon, and a few others decided to have a meet up for dinner the night before the race. Despite not being able to get a reservation at the first 10 or so places we wanted to go, I finally found a reservation at the District Chophouse. I had never eaten there myself, but heard it was pretty good. Turns out, we got a private room, since we had a larger party, which made the dinner much easier to talk to everyone. Rebecca and I had to circle around a million times before finding parking, but eventually we showed up (casually late).

I stole the below picture from Audrey, who smartly brought a camera as evidence of our meetup and private room. From left to right, Danielle, me, Rebecca, Joe, Audrey, Jeanne, Ray, and Peter. I'll note that Peter brought a camera too, but he'll have to finish up the roll on the disposable before getting the pictures. I liked the reaction of our waiter when trying to take a picture with it, because I think he forgot how to take a picture without using the digital lcd screen. Kids these days...

Anyways, it was a great dinner and a great way to spend those nervous hours the night before a big race. Great meeting everyone!

National Marathon Race Report

Well the good news is that I made it through this year's race without injury. It is also good news that I managed to PR, though given last year's performance, I expected nothing less. However, the marathon holds no prisoners and strike you down anytime. Final numbers on the race:

Official time: 3:49:14
Avg Pace: 8:45/mile
Avg HR: 158 bpm
Place: 673/2094
Age Group: 99/229

Bottom line was that I finished in 3:49:14, which is 8:43 faster than my time last year. So I did accomplish 3 out of my 4 goals. If you recall from my post a couple days ago, I outlined 4 possible goals.

a) Finish without walking a majority of the last 6 miles - CHECK (though I did have to stop and stretch a good 8-10 times, killing my average pace, but no actual walking)
b) Finish in a time that is faster than my PR of 3:57 - CHECK
c) Finish in less than 3:50 - CHECK
d) Finish in less than 3:45 - I almost had it but as you'll see in my recap, it slipped away from me

Definitely not where I know I can be, but again, given the circumstances, I am happy with the results. The injury bug seems to like to bite me for marathon training so far, but who knows, maybe the 3rd time will be the charm and I'll be able to race at my full potential next time. I hate to keep using being undertrained as an excuse, but it is true, as I'm sure you all know by now. In another post, I'll provide more details about this.

Onto the race! I'm going to recap my strategy and compare it to reality.

The morning was actually pretty simple. I forgot how simple running race mornings are compared to triathlon race mornings. I went over my checklist the night before and felt like there was something I was forgetting. Nope! Shoes, gels, chip, HRM, Endurolytes, clothes. That's it! Much easier than my 100+ item triathlon checklist.

Rebecca and I drove down to RFK and pulled into the lot around 5:45. Around 6 or so, we got out of the car so she could head over to the metro to get to her volunteer station at Mile 3. But before that, I ducked into a porto potty, which to my surprise had zero line! I walked Rebecca to the metro and walked to the DC Armory, where they were letting people in this year, to stay out of the cold and warm up a bit. I was glad, because I was pretty darn cold just standing outside for the 15 minutes or so before.

Shortly before the start, I left the Armory to go find my coral (Coral 4). Without much room to move, since it was jam packed, I stayed where I was until we began walking forward as the race time approached. The gun went off and we stood still waiting for the people in front of us to start moving. Some people shuffled, some jogged in place...I walked as easily as I could until I hit a couple steps before the start line. And I was off!

Miles 1-4
The recap the goal of this section - KEEP IT EASY! The plan was to hold a low zone 2/8:45 pace and start off slow, increasing pace each of the 4 miles. I sort of did that, but my HR was a good 5-7 bpm higher than normal. I'll attribute that to the adrenaline. I hit my first mile in 8:59, which was mostly due to the congestion at the start of the race. Even though there were corals, walkers still managed to find their way toward the front. It was frustrating, but I told myself I'd remain calm, not dodge people by going up onto the sidewalks and wasting energy. By mile 2, I had room to breathe and my pace was at 8:36, which was a little too fast this early, but brought my average back to 8:45 where I wanted to be. With a steep downhill for part of mile 3, and trying to look fast infront of Rebecca as I passed her water station, mile 3 came by in 8:30 as well, even though I was trying to slow my pace a little. Mile 4 was pretty flat, but because of the fact that they put the mile 4 marker on the wrong side of the street (it was out and back), I didn't mark off mile 4 until I saw the sign after the turnaround. Averaged between miles 4 and 5, it came out to 8:30 pace, which was still a little faster than I planned. However, I knew I'd lose the time back over the next 3 miles, which were all uphill.

Miles 5-8
The goal of these miles was to increase level of effort, but hopefully keeping the pace around my planned 8:45 pace. I kept it pretty consistent through the climb up to Adams Morgan. I took my first ClifShot just before mile 5 and the water station. Shortly after I saw my mom, who was waiting at the beginning of the climb. Mile 5, was close to 8:30 and I knew I needed to back off a bit more on the hill. I hit mile 6 in 8:47, which was much closer to where I wanted to be. According to the official results, my 10k split was 54:23, an average of 8:45 - spot on with the plan. The climb definitely was starting to work the legs and I kept backing off the keep my HR under 160 to stay in zone 2 so early into the race. Mile 7 came in 8:55. After finally cresting the hill and starting to get my legs to turnover faster, I clicked up the pace for the start of what was to be my race pace through Mile 20. Mile 8 clocked in at 8:19.

Miles 9 - 13.1
The goal of this section was to pick my pace back up and start hitting my goal marathon pace, which was anywhere comfortably under 8:30 but with a HR of no higher than 159. Mile came through in 8:25, right where I wanted to be. Once we turned onto North Capitol St, the real downhill pace was in full effect. Mile 10 was in 8:15 and Mile 11 was in 8:16. Then we hit H St, which was a false flat/uphill and my pace slowed a bit to 8:34 for Mile 12, but still within goal pace. Around this time, I caught up to the 8:45 pace group. Based on the way they started, it seemed like they started off a bit fast, but since I started off slow and gradually picked up the pace, they probably were right on based on the averages we were hitting at the time. I pulled up next to the leader and started asking him how he was pacing it out. He said they were doing even splits the whole way. To me, this set off a couple bells in my head. 1 - Since I am progressively pacing, I should pick up a good lead to allow for the expected fade toward the end, if I want to hit my D goal of finishing under 3:45; and 2 - Whenever i hear their footsteps, I better pick up the pace or else I'm going too slow. For the rest of the race, the 3:45 pace group was like my SAG wagon. Any sight of them and I wanted to speed up so I could feel secure. But strangely enough, they seemed to keep reeling me in, even after a few good miles of faster than their pace. It helped me get through the middle of the race though, by taking my mind off other stuff that I could be thinking. So away I went with the 8:45 group at my back. Mile 13.1 came through in 9:14, which I assume is right on track or ahead of my 8:30 pace goal, since I remember moving pretty swiftly at that point. I just don't feel like doing the math to figure it out. I came through the half at 1:52:21. My goal was to come through in 1:54, so I was slightly ahead of the plan but feeling good.

Miles 13.1 - 20
During this section I honestly felt too good. I went through all these landmarks that I remembered from last year where I began to feel depressed as I came to the realization that my body was about to explode. This year, I couldn't have felt more comfortable. My pace was quick, my HR was consistent, and most importantly, I still had a smile on my face! Mile 14, came though in 8:24, which included a pretty long uphill out of the RFK parking lot and back toward the start line. Mile 15 was 8:25, and similar to what I remember from last year, felt a lot more uphill on the 2nd lap than at the start. Go figure. Finally Mile 16 was the flat/downhill, which I hit in 8:16.

At this point, I started to notice my HR drifting up, which is normal. I just had to closely monitor it. I told myself I can go over 160 a bit after the 13.1 point. Mile 16 is where I began to average above 160 for the rest of the race. However, I still felt great, so I pressed on. I saw Rebecca again at her water station. She asked me how I felt and I said I felt great with a thumbs up - and I meant it! I was all smiles going into the tunnel of death (9th St tunnel). There isn't anything particularly terrible about the 9th St tunnel, except for the fact that all the spectators are gone, you are in a dark tunnel that seems like an endless uphill leading to nowhere. It drew on for quite a while. (This is where they made a few changes due to some ongoing construction. We continued uphill toward an off ramp, instead of going straight in SW, like we did last year. Nothing like a few more hills!)

Mile 17 clocked in at 8:15 and Mile 18 in 8:32. The SW Waterfront area is a great part of the course. Its a refreshing feeling after going through the 9th St tunnel to find green grass, boats, and water. But that was short lived, because a quick turn off the waterfront and back into the city toward the Nationals Stadium brough Mile 19 in 8:31. The legs were starting to tire, but I was going OK. I knew it was coming though, because Mile 20 is where I lost it last year. I wasn't expecting this year to be any different. A good portion of Mile 20 is on the South Capitol St Bridge. This bridge is terrible for running. Last year, if I wasn't mistaken, I thought they had placed some wooden boards along the bridge to even out the surface for at least parts of it. The majority of the bridge is the metal wire material. The worst part was that each step landed differently, because the metal wiring was not flat. As my legs were tiring, my hamstrings and calves were about to call it quits by having to take extra energy to stabilize my body differently with each step. I finally go off the bridge and was happy to never see it again. Mile 20 came through in 8:57. I could start to feel the 8:45 pace group over my shoulder. When I clocked my Mile 20 split, I knew they had to be close. I'd pass by some spectators and then only a few seconds later I'd hear, "Go pace group!". They were coming to eat me. I tried to pick up the pace for Mile 21 and came through in 8:27, still feeling good. I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, I'd make it through the race without crampage or walking. Too bad the success of Mile 21 was short lived. I started to feel the twinges in my calves and hamstrings that I knew were inevitable, but I kept on moving until they told me no. Mile 22 came through in 8:57. At this point, I was even with the 8:45 pace group, but barely holding my pace. They started to pull away a bit, but they mentioned that they were about 1 minute ahead of their pace group, so I still felt confident that even if I slowed a bit over the next 4 miles, I'd still be able to get close to 8:45.

Unfortunately, Mile 23 is where my calf first said to wait a second. A short but sharp cramp forced me to stop and stretch for a few seconds. I picked the pace back up with the 8:45 group still within striking distance. Only a few seconds later, the calf went again. This time I stopped for 15 seconds and thoroughly stretched in hopes of settling it down. I started to pick the pace back up, albeit slower, but I was moving again. Mile 23 came through in 9:30, which was reasonable, considering a few stretching breaks.

Mile 24 was the toughest stretch for me. It was a long uphill, which I slowly jogged up safely without a cramp. However, on the backside was a steep downhill. From this point on it was the downhills that were my nemesis. I couldn't run without a twinge, so I had to stretch/awkwardly run down the hill to get to the next uphill that followed. Again, once I reached the top, awkward downhill running ensued. However, I had to stop and stretch a good 5 or so times in this mile alone. Mile 24 came through in 10:01, my slowest split by fall all day.

I finally spotted the last water station, which brings runners to the bridge that heads back to RFK for the finish. Mile 25 and 26 were a straight shot to the stadium, but a constant uphill the whole way. Lucky for me, that was the only type of running I could do. Mile 25 came through in 9:46 and Mile 26 came through in 9:31. I am happy to report that I made it through the last 2 miles without having to stretch or walk. It was a slow jog, but I made to the final straightaway. The last .1 came in at 1:55, which doesn't make sense, because I know I was running faster than that pace would work out to. I'm guessing they put the mile 26 marker a bit early to get people's hopes up. It was definitely not .1 from that marker to the finish. more like .25. Anyways, I heard Ray's voice as I turned the corner toward the finish and which helped me to squeak through in just under 3:50, at 3:49:14.

In all, I am very happy with my performance. I accomplished 3 out of my 4 goals, held my nutrition and race strategy almost to the T, and finished with a smile on my face. For the first time after finishing a long endurance race, I was instantly thinking about when my training begins for my next event! More on that later, since this post is long enough already.

Update: I'm an idiot. My original thinking was that since the first half had a marker or 13.1, the 2nd half marked 13.1 as well, hence my comment about the last .1 being longer and closer to .25. Thanks to Danielle for pointing it out, that my head math is wrong and it would be .2, since the race is, you know, 26.2. I'm stupid, I know.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Marathon Morning

Good morning marathoners! Thought I'd share a few last minute thoughts before heading out the door.

Check out my cheering section that I awoke to this morning - photo courtesy of Rebecca.

I also wanted to share my bib info, because they let us personalize them. Yea, I'm a dork.

Friday, March 20, 2009

As The Commute Turns

As seen on last month's episode, we followed by travels through downtown Vienna en route to work to witness protesters. In today's episode, I bring you a timely spotting of the following:

Five minutes after snapping picture number 1, I spotted this truck a bit further up the road.

Anyone have a clue where they MIGHT be going? Me thinks I know the answer!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Race Strategy and Goals

I figured its about time to go public with the plan. Not that I have ever been one to stick to a plan when actually in the race itself. But here we go.

Race Strategy
When I first started training for this marathon in December, my plan was to NOT do what I did last year. For those of you too lazy to read through that race report, let me recap what not to do.

Don't go into the race having not run for 5 weeks due to injury, run the first half of the race at the pace I should have run if I had been training for those 5 weeks, and end up walking a good portion of the last 6 miles because I ran the first half at a pace I never should have run at.

Did I finish in a respectable time? Sure, but my race experience sucked for those last miles. And, I know I should have run much more efficiently if I would have been able to control my race strategy. Which is why I am writing it out this time, because it will at least be a mental note that I thought it through this time.

Miles 1-4
I need to go out at an easy pace this year - something in the 8:45/mile range. This has been my low Zone 2 pace, so I'm going to try and stick to it. The first 4 miles are pretty flat, save for the slight flat/uphill of the start and the big downhill at the US Capitol Building.

Miles 5-8
In an ideal world, this is where I would start picking up the pace. However, these miles happen to be the biggest hills on the course - oh joy! So I plan on picking up slightly the level of effort, however my pace will likely remain at or around the same pace. Because last year I planned for the unexpected and brought extra ClifShots, I am going to do the same, since it appears that first gel station isn't until Mile 7. I'd like to keep at least 1 spare ClifShot with me at all times for emergencies. In training, I had been taking a gel every 45 minutes. That means I'll likely be taking my first around mile 5. I've also been taking Endurolytes for a year or so in triathlons, so I figured it would only make sense to take them for longer distance running, given the success they have provided in reducing crampage. I've taken them on my longest runs and they worked very well. I'll be taking 2 of those every hour, which should be around Mile 7 this go around. This is also where I plan to grab a gel at the first gel station to replenish my reserve.

Miles 9-13.1
This is the steady downhill section of the course, starting at North Capitol St and eventually flattening out and heading back around RFK. I'd like to be into my goal pace for the rest of the course by this section. Considering the first couple miles of it are downhill, it shouldn't be an issue hitting a pace of 8:30 or under. Gel #2 should be taken around Mile 11. I'd like to come through the half at or around 1:54, averaging around 8:40/mile for the first half. At the half is another gel station to pick up and replenish my stash.

Miles 13.1-20
Shortly after passing through the half, I'll be taking my next set of Endurolytes. I remember mentally struggling through this section, because coming around RFK was where I started to begin unraveling last year. I'm hoping to start feeling strong at this point and ready to continue the pace, although the mile or so around the stadium is a bit uphill leading back to Independence Ave. Once past the US Capitol again and down the hill, the pace should be steady. Running through the tunnel of death from last year (9th St tunnel) and into SW DC I should continue to push my 8:30ish pace. Gel #3 will come around Mile 17 and Endurolytes around Mile 20.

Miles 20-26.2
No strategy here. Just hopefully run through to the finish and pick up the pace if possible. I also hope that those slight hills in the last 3 miles before the final bridge crossing back to RFK don't break me like they did last year.

Time wise, I have several levels of goals:
A) Finish the race without walking the majority of the last 6 miles
B) Break my PR from last year of 3:57
C) Break 3:50
D) Break 3:45

If I can keep to my plan like I did in my longer training runs, I should have no issue meeting Goals A-C. I think Goal D will come down to those last 6 miles and seeing how my body responds.

So there you have it. More details than you probably care to know about my race strategy. I'm hoping that by writing this down, it will be set into my head. After my injury in January, I didn't really expect to be thinking about PRs, let alone running the full marathon. I am happy to be where I am and just hope to have fun out there. And by fun I mean set a PR. We'll see how it goes ;)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekly Wrapup

Its finally here - MARATHON WEEK! Woo! This past week has been a nice light week, which has left my body craving more volume. I keep telling it to settle down, but the taper bug has set in, and everyone knows that the mind does crazy things around this time. Lets hope my patience wins the battle this time and I stick to the plan. What is the plan? Glad you asked - here we go:

-Monday: 3 miles nice and easy
- Tuesday: A fun splash in the pool equally something around 2000 yards
- Wednesday: 4 miles at easy pace
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: A little jog around the hood to just wake up those legs
- Saturday: RACE
- Sunday: Party like its 1999...oops, already happened. How about relax and recover?

I'm actually enjoying the HIP schedule, even though it really hasn't changed my workout routine yet, save for the addition of swimming. Its honestly been too cold for cycling (planned to on Sunday but it was nasty and I was not about to risk getting sick a week before the marathon), so I am yet to dust off the Kuota. Training riding is so last year. This year, I prefer to not be bored to death. However, adding in swimming (I needed the motivation/fear of an actual race to get me into the pool - sad but true, per my last post) has given me a fresh perspective on working out. It has me (gasp) looking forward to swimming workouts...for now.

Anyways, that is how the week is shaping up for me. Hope everyone else tapering for the race this weekend has similar success.

Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, March 13, 2009

SU vs UConn Highlights

I don't talk too much sports on this blog (aside from those that I participate in), which is shocking, because I am a huge sports fan. It just never occurred to me that I don't discuss it that much. Well this recap is too much not to share. For those of you who may or may not follow college basketball, last night was one of the most ridiculous games I have ever heard of. Syracuse and UConn went through 6 overtimes in the Quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. And as an SU alum, I have to say I am quite happy with the outcome.


Of course without cable tv (since we just moved into our new home), I didn't watch the game. But thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to find the highlights.

Schedule Changes

What? A 2nd post in the same week? I know, its rare. But I couldn't save all this for my usual weekly update. So here I am with an update of a different kind - to my schedule, which by the time you read this will have changed on the table to the right.

My original plan was to take the season to focus on running, and do a little triathlon dabbling in there just to keep the training up. That plan included doing the Luray Double, based on the idea that I was going to use my credit from the canceled Patriots Half from last year and only have to pay to sign up for the sprint. Well I read the letter a little closer and realized that Luray isn't on the list. bad.

So I did some thinking and reviewing of the other races on the list and came to a conclusion. Doing a sprint or an olympic as a standlone race isn't going to motivate me enough to adequately train for it. I know that I could enter a race of that distance and finish it with minimal training. I know myself too well. I need to be scared into training. Sometimes its the fear that motivates me. Fear of failing and fear of just having the race dominate you. Races are so much more enjoyable when you dominate the race. So given that there were no other options on the list of races to choose from to give me that fear factor, I had to sign up for something, otherwise my credit would go to waste.

And then I saw this. And it got me thinking. Wouldn't being a part of that be fun?

So I signed up for the Patriots Half!

The training plan started this week. I actually jumped into the pool for the 1st time since oh September ;) Yea...oops on that one too. The first workout called about about 2000 yards of work. I got er done, but it wasn't pretty. Today's swim is something around the same. I will say though, that by the end of that 1st swim, I was already feeling better. Hopefully these next couple of swims will re-awaken my inner fish.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Weekly Wrapup

This past week was the last week of what I consider the major mileage component of training. Although I've only been hitting pavement hard for the last 5 weeks, it has come as a nice welcome. My body feels great considering it all and it has been responding well. This week's plan called for about 30 miles, down from near 40 last week. And this coming week - only 20.

Here are the numbers:

- Tuesday - easy 4 on the treadmill due to the big snow we had on Monday (ugh)
- Wednesday - 6 miles of tempo running, forced to do on the ice outside
- Thursday - 4 miles easy
- Saturday - 13 miles of off road running followed by 3 hours of yard work
- Sunday - 5 hours of yard work
TOTAL - 27 miles

You see those 2 days on the weekend where I mentioned yard work? That is what I call cross training. As I rolled out of bed this morning, my legs were fine from the running. It was my fingers, forearms, abs, shoulders, back, and just about anything else that were sore. Yard work is hard! When we first moved into our townhome, the backyard was (and still is) a bit overgrown. And by a bit, I mean a lot. So Saturday morning, Rebecca got some shears and we began working on the ivy plant that wrapped its way all around and into the fence that wraps around one side of the yard. This ivy plant managed to wrap itself through every wood plank, jump across an entry door onto the satellite dish across the way and onto the deck. It is simply amazing what these kinds of plants can do when given the chance to run wild. So, we began with a clip here and a clip there. And by the end of the weekend, I'd estimate that 90% of the plant is gone, save for the giant roots that need a saw or something larger than a set of shears. All told, we managed to fill about 10 giant trashbags full of leaves and branches! Still have a bit to yet, but it is sweet progress.

Anyways, thought I'd whip up a post, since life continues to be busy...have a great week of training!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Weekly Wrapup

Finally, a chance to report back! I feel like Rebecca and I are living on a foreign planet with no internet access yet. And with the snow today, we packed up, shoveled out, and hopped on over to the local Caribou Coffee for some web time. Thank goodness! week. Well in one word: productive. Lets get to the numbers:

- Monday: Off
- Tuesday: 5 miles easy
- Wednesday: 8 miles, 6 at tempo
- Thursday: 5 miles easy
- Saturday: 20 miles - Woo!
TOTAL: 38 miles

Now I did want to get in a brief run yesterday to get that magic total to 40, but I resisted the temptation. We were doing more moving (it never ends!), so I was already doing work with my legs. Oh, and that 20 miler on Saturday...after the run, I stopped by the condo and continued moving some remaining boxes for 2 hours. Tiring? YES. But, it has me feeling really good for National. I felt good on the run and great after it. I took it easy, but the miles seemed to tick by. In the end, my average pace ended up being around 8:40/mile, which I was pleased about, since I felt completely fine and could have continued on for those last 6 miles. Lets hope all remains the same moving forward.


I started this week's workout with my first inaugural shoveling of the driveway at the new house. Now I remember why people used to pay us back in the day to do their dirty work. Shoveling is tough! But a good workout nonetheless. Mileage this week is a step down finally, so I'm looking forward to that. Lets just hope this snow melts so I have a path to run on!


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