Thursday, September 30, 2010

Going back to Selma for the Railroad Run 5k

The Selma Railroad Run is one of the oldest continuous road races in the State with this years event being the 33rd annual. The photo is me approaching the finish line in 1980 when it was a 10k. I ran the event several times back then and so did my brother and even my Mom and ex-wife ran in 1980. Part of the appeal to me is the small town atmosphere combined with a flat , fast certified course at a time of year when there is usually nice weather. I was never able to run as well as I would have liked under those ideal conditions because it was always the week after my favorite race, the Virginia 10 miler, a very tough course which I ran 15 years in a row.

In 1980 I ran 43:48, then lowered that to 41:27 in 1981. When I finally returned again in 1990 they had changed it to a 5k and I ran 20:59, which was the last time I was ever under 21:00. (my pr is 18:40 from 1984). I didn't do much racing in the 90's and returned again to Selma in 1995 to see how slow I had gotten and ran a 22:26.

It would be another 10 years before I would return once more and by 2005 I was well into my new life as an ultrarunner and in training to attempt to qualify for Boston. I had began my training with Karla and although I was not focusing on 5 K's, I had run several with her trying to get her under 24 and using them as tempo runs for my marathon training. On that day on 2005 though I decided to see how fast I could run and surprised myself by running 21:12 at age 49 in the fastest time I had run a 5K in 15 years.

We returned last year and I used the race for fun again and to gauge my progress as I began on my quest to once again qualify for Boston. I was a bit disappointed in my 22:43 time on a warm muggy morning but Karla ran a pr and my friends Margo ,Maureen, Laura and Katie all ran very well and Frank and Jerry were along for the fun too.

So it looks like we'll be going back again to test our speed before going back for some more 50k and marathon action. I am hoping that by some miracle I might crack the 21:00 barrier again but I don't really see that happening and will be happy to go under 22 just three weeks after racing hard at Lehigh Valley. I think if I were to focus on 5k and do my track work at the paces needed I could run under 21 again but right now it's all about marathoning for the next 7 months and then back to the long ultras. Stay tuned for the results !

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Useful running tools or should I be running 5k's?

Ever since I began racing back in 1978 I have tried to learn as much as I can about training properly to maximize my performances. I've done this by studying the coaching techniques of many of the great coaches of the 60's and 70's and others that have learned and advanced what they had learned from their mentors. I've read dozens of books and literally thousands of articles over the past 33 years on training theory, techniques and strategies and applied the knowledge I've gained to my training. Over time I have learned a lot of things that don't work too well for me and others that have given me success but I am still always tweaking things. This is especially important now as I have moved into the Grandmasters age group. And as the old adage says, we are all an experiment of one.

Which brings me to the point of the title of this post. A big part of making a training plan after choosing an event is to decide what type of workouts to do and secondly, what pace should those workouts be performed. Over the years I have used different charts and formulas that are usually based on times from recent races. This has been much easier the past few years thanks to some really nice tools available over the internet. My two favorites are located at McMillan Running and Runners World.

Each of these websites feature a training calculator that you just input a recent time for a certain distance and then it tells you at what pace different types of training should be used to maximize your racing potential. Both are based on formula's that have been studied for many years and I know that at least in the case of McMillans they are based on the charts in Jack Daniels Running Formula books.

Another feature of these tools is that after you put in your time for a recent race at certain distance it can predict how that performance relates to how you may run at another distance. Of course in a wide range of distances the predictions are not always going to be right but at least they can give you an idea of what to expect. You will also need to adjust your training to the distant you are competing in to maximize performance.

One very interesting thing that I have noticed in both of these tools is that I probably should focus more on 5k's instead of marathons and beyond. Based on my past two marathons this year which I ran in 3:45 and 3:44:30 I should only be able to run a 5 k in about 23:02 to 23:26 but I have already raced a 5k this year in 21:33 with no training specifically for a 5k.

Conversely, if I input my 5k time of 21:33 into the calculators they predict I should be able to run a marathon in 3:26 to 3:30. I wish ! Despite training specifically for a Boston qualifying attempt my best time of 3:35 was in 2006 and I ran a 21:12 5k that year. What this tells me is that although I love the marathons and ultra's, my body is actually better suited to running faster paces over shorter distances. And I must say I do love getting on the track and doing intervals and I do love doing the mile repeats and tempo runs on the streets and greenways but I haven't not done any true speedwork aimed at improving at the shorter distances in over 20 years.

So knowing this, am I going to go from being Ultraman and marathon pacer for the ladies and start racing more 5 and 10k's ? Not hardly. I do enjoy jumping into a few each year for fun and to see how I'm still doing speed wise but I'm not going to focus too much energy on it. I could focus all of my training on becoming as fast as I can at 5k and still come no where near my times from 25 to 30 years ago. Sure, I may be able to pick up an extra age-group award now and then but I get lucky and do that a couple of times a year without trying anyway and I'll never beat the fastest guys in my age-group that show up at the big races.

No, I love the long runs so that's where I will focus my running and see just how much better I can do before age and time win the battle and I have no choice but to slow down. I still firmly believe I have a marathon pr left in this body and without a doubt my 50k and 50 mile pr's will fall and hopefully when I go back to the long stuff next year it's only a matter of time before I go back after a 100 mile pr. And who knows? My half marathon pr from the early 80's was a pretty soft 1:34 and with my goal of a pr at Boston, that half pr may fall too on the right day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lehigh Valley Photos and Reflections

Here is a link to the photos from the trip

It's been a few days since the race and I've had a chance to get out and do a couple of easy runs and everything seems to be feeling good now. I was quite a bit sore from this one but that is not surprising considering the all out effort of racing a marathon for time. I'm still feeling very good about the results for my race too. The primary goal was to go under 3:45 and secondary would have been to run 3:40.

Had I not already run a Boston Qualifier in March I would not have done the Double Grandfather Marathon in July so I could focus more on this race. Since I have not done much in the way of ultra's in the past two years I knew my recovery time would be longer now than when I was running an ultra or marathon on an average of every 3 weeks. But everything worked out ok and although with the excessive heat this summer I was still able to recover enough to run a quality race at Lehigh Valley. I was beginning to worry if I had been able to get in the quality of workouts I needed with the hot, humid conditions and the race being in early Sept instead of later in the Fall than I would have liked but it all worked out.

Looking back over the race I really don't know that there is anything I could have done to run any faster. My effort was spread out very evenly from start to finish and I was able to pick it up and run a strong last mile to ensure I reached my goal. Although I was certainly getting tired I never felt bad and there was never any doubt that I wouldn't run close to that time. I'm sure that my many years and miles of experience at running on trails helped me to navigate the rougher sections of the canal towpath and the puddles at a faster pace and maintain my focus. this gives me even more confidence that I will be able to run even faster and reach my next few goals over the Fall and into next Spring and Boston.

Apparently a good pre-race breakfast is two cups of Gevalia Costa Rican Peaberry and an Iced Honey Bun

So now I'll continue to take it easy and then it's back to training hard for the remaining Fall races coming up. Next up will be the Selma Railroad Run 5k. More about that later ! Stay tuned !

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Good Day at Lehigh Valley Marathon

With a forecast for cloudy and cool conditions for race morning, I was feeling confident that I would at least have an opportunity to run well but I was a little surprised when we walked out of the hotel and it was raining. We were hoping it would just be a passing shower and perhaps by start time it would have passed on. Since the half was starting at a different location we said good-bye to Frank and headed over to the Lehigh Valley hospital for the start.

The rain continued while we waited so we stood under my umbrella until about 10 minutes before the start and then took off our extra layers to put in a drop bag to be taken too the finish. It was 60F so we knew we would be plenty warm once we began running. Bart Yasso was the Race director and sent us off promptly at 7am.

I planned to take it easy the first mile and then settle into my goal pace of 8:25 miles but the course turned out of the parking lot and immediately started down a steep hill for about 1/2 mile where we turned onto a flat crushed gravel bridle path. Even though I was making an effort to hold back I went through the 1st mile in 8:04. This section was along a pretty creek and close to 2 miles we ran underneath a large covered bridge. I relaxed a little too much and passed mile 2 in 8:51 so I picked the effort up once again but was too fast in 8:03.

About here the course went up a short hill and we got back onto roads through Allentown. I finally hit a split close to what I was hoping for in 8:27 for mile 4 and then I seemed to finally settle into a steady rhythm with mile 5 in 8:24. Perfect. As I approached mile 6 which I once again ran too fast in 8:09 it seemed that the rain was slacking off but after crossing over the Lehigh River Bridge and onto the canal towpath it began to rain heavier.

The canal towpath was getting muddy by now and we also had to be careful of rocks and roots. I still enjoyed this section quite a bit as it was very pretty and interesting in places. We had the canal on the left with a train yard beside it for about the next two miles and the river on our right. I was back on pace at mile 7 in 8:24 and then mile 8 in 8:33.

Passed mile 9 in 8:39 and mile 10 in 8:21. At this point my overall time was 1:24:01 so I was right on pace with a 9 second cushion and feeling good. By now the path was a mess and there was not much point trying to avoid the puddles and muddy parts. At least the mud was not the sticky slippery kind so it didn't seem to affect my stride and I was able to run normally and passed mile 11 a little too quickly in 8:10 just as we came off the towpath and headed up into downtown Bethlehem. It was nice to get back onto pavement for awhile and the next thing we did was an out and back spur through a park. This was nice and I was wondering if I might get a glimpse of Karla but I was already to far ahead.

The course then crossed a bridge and into the downtown area. I missed the 12 mile in the confusion of the relay exchange. I took a gel and then as the course began a long gradual climb I just relaxed not worrying about the pace thinking I could make it up on the way back down. My time for mile 12 and 13 was a little slow in 17:19 but overall my time for the half was only about 15 seconds over pace. As I headed back down to the canal we passed a beautiful 2 story brick train depot.

Now we were back onto the muddy trail but this next section wasn't as bad as from mile 7 to 11 and in places it was nearly dry and smooth. I was still feeling good but surprised myself to run another fast mile for 14 in 8:11 even though it did include a little downhill. The next several miles really seemed like it was a double-track trail marathon as the path narrowed and wound it's way along the river and through the woods. About here we passed by the massive Bethlehem Steel Mill which was on the opposite side of the river. This was a treat for me as I have always been fascinated by these historical industrial sites and especially ones with a big connection with trains and railroading

Mile 15 was 8:33 and then 16 in 8:37 but now I was not able to pick the pace back up. I was still feeling ok but I knew that a 3:40 was not going to be but if I just kept the effort going and didn't bonk I still had a good shot at my 2nd fastest time ever and that was my real goal. By now the rain had finally stopped but at least it was still cloudy. I still preferred the rain to warm and sunny.

Mile 17 was 8:44 but I didn't let that discourage me. I was actually getting my 3rd wind and was able to pick the cadence up again and was right back on pace with mile 18 in 8:26. Mile 19 was 8:34 so I didn't lose any more time on my new goal of sub 3:45. I was turning inward now and focusing on maintaining an even effort. Just before mile 20 we turned away from the river and up a small but steep hill and I was a bit disappointed how hard it seemed and I felt I slowed down way too much. As I reached the top of the hill we were now on a gravel road with big chunks of gravel and I passed mile 20 in 8:52. That actually made me happy because I expected it to be slower.

I was glad to final get off the gravel and back onto pavement as the coursed passed through the parking area for a boat landing. There was an aid station here and I took another gel and then passed mile 21 in 8:59. I picked up the cadence once again and the body responded giving me the confidence that I would be able to run this one to the finish. I was also steadily passing runners which is always a boost and although my pace was slower I was still running strong and counting down the miles. The course was now on a paved bike path still along the river as we headed into Easton.

I passed mile 22 in 8:41 and then mile 23 in 8:43. Woohoo, only 5k to go and I'm running strong and holding a decent pace. but oh no, another little hill and it slowed me down way to much in 9:12 for mile 24. It made me mad because I really didn't want to go over 9 and I was losing my cushion on the 3:45. Just two more miles to go now so just dig deep and keep pushing. I was beginning to think I would never see the 25 mile mark and was worrying I had fallen off the pace again but I hit mile 25 in 8:58 and 3:34:05. About all my cushion was gone now and I was angry again because I didn't want to have to push the pace and hurt that last mile but I was determined so I kicked it up another notch.

Once again the body responded but it was not easy I was moving past runners but moaning and groaning with every breath. I had my doubts and was nearly resigned to running just over my goal but I was determined to try. But before the finish we had to go up another hill as we left the bike path and back up to street level. I was gasping but still pushing and then we got a slight downhill to the 26 mile mark across a bridge which I passed in 8:34. Phew, I had done it. Almost 2.5 minutes to go 2 tenths but the finish was a cruel uphill to downtown Easton. I finally reached the end and high fived Bart Yasso as I crossed the line in 3:44:30. Another Boston qualifier and my 2nd fastest marathon. Frank , who had finished the half in 2:16 was waiting and got a picture.

I got my medal and then walked around while waiting for The Marathon Princess. She was not able to get her pr and while I waited I was interviewed for the local news and shortly after Karla came into view. She looked good coming up the hill and I was glad that despite running slower than she hoped that she felt good and ran well. She also was 2nd in her age-group just beating out the 3rd lace lady by 8 seconds. Good thing she finished strong !

Overall I was very pleased with the marathon. It was fun with a nice course although the trail was a little rougher than I expected in places. The aid stations were frequent and well supplied and the volunteers were very supportive. If you are ever looking for a fun event in early September then give it a try.

Here is a link to the results.

Here are some photos. I didn't run with the camera but I took some along the course after the race and Frank got a few at the finish line.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lehigh Valley Marathon-Preview

Way back before the New Year as I was planning ahead for 2010 my # 1 priority goal was to get in shape to qualify for Boston. I was hoping to do that early in the year at Tobacco Road but was looking for a back-up in the early Fall just in case. With Boston filling as quickly as it has the past couple of years I knew I couldn't wait too long in the Fall but I was hoping for later so at least I would have cool weather. The other criteria was that I would need a fast course. I found this race after searching the schedule on and other than being a little earlier than I had hoped it seemed to otherwise be perfect.

As it turned out I did get my qualifier at Tobacco Road in March so now I have no pressure to qualify but I am still planning to go for as fast a time as possible. With the extra hot weather we've been having I was beginning to have doubts but it looks like we may get very lucky with the latest forecast for Sunday in Allentown looking very nice with a starting temp around 58F, cloudy and a chance of a little rain and the high by 11am of only 63F. Not perfect but I'll take it!

The race itself looks like it will be fun. A small marathon with about 300 runners, a companion half with around 500 that starts halfway up this point to point course and a relay. The course was designed by Bart Yasso of Runner's World and is flat and fast. It begins slightly downhill on roads towards the Lehigh River and then follows along the river on bike paths and a canal towpath through Bethlehem and finishes in Easton near the New Jersey border and the Delaware River.

My training has been going very well since I seem to finally have recovered from the two 50 milers this summer. I was worried with the hot weather because I still seemed to be struggling with the paces I needed to be running but on the few cool days we've had since last weekend I have noticed a big improvement and I'm feeling more confident now in running well.

My training partner Karla "The Marathon Princess" Werner and her husband Frank are going to be joining me in Allentown on Saturday. She is running the marathon and hoping for a fast time too and Frank will be running the half as usual. As always, a part of me would like to run with her and enjoy taking it somewhat easy while taking some pictures along what should be a very pretty course in places but it is not in the plan this time. We'll have to run # 12 together some other time. I'm ready to RACE ! I want to RUN and JUMP and SEE BIG FIRES !

Here is the race website

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

"A Man's Got To Know His Limitations"

That of course is one of the more famous movie quotes of the Clint Eastwood character, Dirty Harry from 1973's Magnum Force. So what has that got to do with running you may be thinking? Good question, but for some reason it pops into my head when I'm training or thinking about past or upcoming races. Most recently I thought of it as I was thinking about a friend that is currently exploring his limitations as a relative newbie to the ultra world and trying to improve on his marathon pr.

The fact is that we will never know our limitations unless we have the courage to go out and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Once we take that next step into the unknown then we can began to see new possibilities and realize that most of the limitations we have are self-imposed. Ok, I know, that we do have to be somewhat realistic in our expectations. I know I'll never qualify to run in the Olympics and never could have but I can achieve faster times and finish bigger events if I just allow myself to dream a little and be willing to work hard toward a goal.

Friends and relations can be both a help and a hindrance as we go out and push the boundaries of what is possible for us and I will give examples of both.

When I was preparing to run my first 100 miler in 2004. I had been told by many that I should just run to finish and not worry about my time based on my previous experience and speed at shorter distances. Despite all the indicators suggesting that I would not be able to run under 24 hours, that was my goal and I felt in my heart that I would be successful. I ran 23:48 that day and immediately looked to other events to test myself further.

On the other hand in 2005 despite several attempts I had not been able to run under 4 hours for the marathon. I was resigned to the fact that I would never come close to the 3:35 I needed to qualify for Boston. It was only because of the encouragement of my friends Karla, Margo and Jerry that I would even give it a try. It was only after putting in the hard work over that Summer and Fall that I even began to believe it myself but by November I still was a long 12 minutes away from qualifying. But I remained focused and did the training and got my 3:35 just in time in February before the April Boston race. I still believe I would not have done it if not for Karla and some divine intervention but I do know for a fact that had I not been willing to do the work and push against the wall of my previous limitations I would never have made it to Boston.

So whats the point of this rambling ? I just hope all of you that read it will be inspired to dream and not be afraid to push beyond what you may think is possible. GO FOR IT !!!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Training update Sept 1st

Mom says I need to write something so I guess I'll tell you what I've been up to since Grandfather Mountain. Well, mostly sweating a lot. This has just been a miserable summer with hot humid days and warm humid mornings.

After Grandfather I took a few easy days to recover and prepared to begin training for the upcoming Fall season. Things were going ok but after a couple of good days I would have a bad day and it just seemed to be taking a long time to recover. But then I did do two 50 milers this summer after having not run that far in over two years and both of them were under hot conditions. Finally about two weeks ago I started feeling good again and getting some zip back in my legs.

Karla and I stopped with the hill repeats and have started going back to the track now. I've been experimenting with a slightly different approach that we will use for our next marathon and see how it goes. The past couple of weeks we have been joined by The Marathon Mom, Amy Surrette. With the hot weather still affecting us we are doing shorter repeats for 400m and 200m with just 200m recoveries instead of the normal one mile and 800m repeats. They are not as fast as normally we would run for those shorter distances but focus on 10k to half marathon race pace. I usually try to get in a little faster workout before they show up and have already seen a big improvement over the past three weeks running faster and with more spring in my stride.

We are getting in our long runs with Lisa on the weekends and the past few weeks have been running a little shorter but picking up the pace to Karla's marathon race pace. One week when she was away, Lisa and I did one at what was suppose to be her race pace but it was much faster and was actually faster than my usual marathon pace workouts. I believe Lisa will be smashing her PR this Fall at OBX

On Mondays I have been doing either a marathon pace run of 10 miles or a tempo run at 10k pace and they have been getting better each week.

Our usual Thursday afternoon runs were a bit different in August due to me hosting the NCRC August Umstead Series. During August we meet and run the course for the evenings club run to set a time for the runners in the series to try and win the Ultraman Joey Award. I was quite a bit slower this year and struggling with the mid afternoon heat and humidity but it was still fun to run with the ladies. I'll probably have another post about the series soon. That's it for now. Hopefully I'll have several more post over the next couple of weeks now that I've got more going on than training.