Friday, May 10, 2013

Fine Tuning for the Brooklyn Half

Although I hate making post-marathon race plans before I've actually raced the marathon I'm training for, race registrations and quick sellouts have a way of screwing up that logic.  I simply don't think it is good karma to plan for the next race when you haven't finished the first - kind of like counting your chickens before they've hatched.  Anyways, I've long wanted to run a big race in NYC and failed miserably at getting into the NYC Marathon through the lottery program.  Unfortunately, they are ending the guaranteed entry after 3 fails after this year (this would be my 3rd miss if I don't get in), so I had to look for alternative options.  The Brooklyn Half is just that, being that my sister lives there, so this should make for a relatively easy logistical event.  So with that said, I decided to go ahead and register when the race opened.  I figured that since it was a good 2 months post-Shamrock, it would be more than enough time to recover properly without the temptation to get back into things too quickly due to the race looming.

The basic structure of my training plan went something like this:

  • Weeks 1-2: Focus is on recovery from the marathon and only running toward the end of Week 1 and if I want to, in Week 2.  Big mental and physical reset with flexibility to take as much time as needed.
  • Weeks 3-4: Transitional phase of getting back into the normal structure of training habits (5-7 runs/week), with the slow integration of some preliminary speedwork (ie fartlek, short tempos).
  • Weeks 5-7: Build toward half marathon specific progression, including longer tempos, intervals, and strength work.
  • Week 8: Taper with some shorter quick workouts and a focus on recovery.

I'm at the tail end of Week 7 right now, which means that I'm effectively in taper mode.  For me, it really is just a slight step back in total volume, but with more of a focus on recovery (ie sleep).  As a morning runner, this has been difficult.  My typical routine is to just hop out of bed while everyone is still sleeping for another 1-2 hours and get my run on in the darkness.  I come home feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  But with sleep as a priority to help with recovery, I have shifted the number of early morning runs I am doing in the hope that the extra sleep will give my body a bit more quality time to rebuild.  I have to be honest though - as hard it is might be to get up so early, I miss the post run energy and the ability to carry that around with me the rest of the day.  There's just something special about having that little secret in the back of your mind when you hear people complain about how busy they are.  It just makes me feel productive no matter how the rest of my day goes, because I made time for to do something I care about when when I had to "find" time for it to happen.  Removing most of my early morning routine is just a small tradeoff though for what I hope is a great race.  Before I'll know it, I'll be back to business as usual in a few weeks anyways.

This short build period has been fun though, since I've been so marathon focused for the past 4-5 months.  It has given me a chance to add a bit more speed quality with faster efforts, rather than some of the longer moderate efforts typically found in marathon training.  However, it has come with its own set of challenges.

Life frequently has a way of dictating exactly how much volume one can sustain.  Not always from a healthy/injured runner perspective, but from a happy family one.  With Rebecca and I focusing on her final preparations for the Nike Women's Half, combined with an insanely busy work schedule, I ran out of time to keep my volume even remotely close to what it was during marathon training.  Even with moving my wake up time 20 minutes earlier (and trust me, 20 minutes when it is already insanely early is a BIG deal), I was still unable to get in as much volume as I would have liked.  During marathon training, my "return home time" was typically something in the 6:15 am range, which would allow me to get 12+ miles on some mornings.  But during the last two months, that return home time has moved to 5:15 am, which means I'm lucky if I can get 8 miles in.  Now add to this the fact that I usually run with the dog (typically when it is just an easy run), who tends to add a few minutes here and there due to the need to pee on every plant in existence, and those runs are more like 6 miles.  I could be selfish and leave the dog at home, but the guy goes a little crazy when he doesn't get his runs in (sound familiar?).  He's just as much addicted to running as I am.  Occasionally, he'll go two days without running and when that happens, you better have some food or a toy to play with him, because he tends to get a big moody and go stir crazy.  So I try to avoid that with the Z man chasing him around all the time.  So that was a long way of saying that between everything going on, I haven't be able to train ideally, though I have certainly trained enough to run well.

At the end of the day, a happy dog + a happy baby + a happy wife = a happy family.  And that is what it is all about.

My hope is that my sustained high volume base achieved during my marathon training will carry me through on race day.  Most of my workouts in the build cycle have been more of the quality focus, rather than quantity, simply for the fact that I just haven't had enough time to do both.  So when something had to give, I had to drop some of the total volume in favor of more race specific quality (ie faster 4-6 mi tempos versus longer steady state workouts). 

When I look at my indicator workouts, I'd be lying if I didn't see gaps where I would to have more to pull from.  This fact has me slightly hesitant about my goals for this race.  While I am still shooting for a PR, I have expectations quite a bit beyond that time (1:29:34).  I know my fitness will allow me to PR, so I am really trying to hone in on my race plan execution to ensure I get the most out of myself.  Where one might lack fitness, one can make up a moderate amount of the differential simply through proper pacing.  And while additional fitness gives you some more flexibility on that front, a properly executed plan should get you pretty darn close to the same place.  At least that is what I keep telling myself.  Afterall, you've got to be a confident athlete if you want to toe the line and expect to succeed.

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