Monday, March 30, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 14

Okay, folks, it’s getting to be that time. Last week was my last high mileage week and since the marathon to end all marathons (at least for me) is less than four weeks away, I really don’t have any more time to fool around. So I’m just going to give it to you straight. Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is I got all my scheduled miles in this week, all 54 miles of them. Wahoo! The bad….well, you’re just going to have to read ‘til the end to find out!

Week #14 (3/23-3/29)

What I Planned:

Marathon Paced Run: 14 miles at 6:52 pace
Recovery Run: 6 miles at easy pace
Tempo Run: 9 total miles with 6 miles at 6:22 pace
Weekend Long Run: 21 miles at long run pace
Recovery Run: 4 miles at easy pace
Total week 14 distance planned: 54 miles

What I Ran:

Tues – Marathon Paced Run: 13.1 miles at 6:49 pace
Tues – Cooldown Jog: 1.6 miles at 7:23 pace
Wed – Recovery Run: 7.7 miles at 7:00 pace
Thu – Treadmill Tempo Run: 9.1 miles with 6 miles at 6:19 pace
Sat – Weekend Long Run: 21.2 miles at 7:37 pace
Sun – Recovery Run: 3.0 miles at 7:11 pace
Total week 14 distance: 55.7 miles; avg pace – 7:10 min/mi

How I Ran:

Well, if you remember from where we left off last (If you don’t, I can’t blame you, I had to look back a few times myself because even though it was only a week ago, it seems so very long ago in retrospect), I had just come back from an injury-plaqued week to run a PR in a 15K race almost unintentionally. Although I was not bothered at all that day by my tight right hammy, it was still fresh on my mind as I set on Tuesday for my marathon-paced long workout Unfortunately, I made 2 mistakes that day that destroyed my run. The first was that I had a late greasy lunch and headed out almost immediately after. The second was that because I was so anxious to test out my hammy and set a good pace early on, I ran way too fast in the first downhill mile. My breathing became labored, I developed stomach cramps and it became a physical struggle just to get through the workout. Eventually, I ended up at 1:29:41 (avg 6:49 pace) for 13.1 miles, which is a far cry from the 1:28:13 (avg 6:43 pace) I had done for the same distance 12 days prior. I was somewhat disappointed by this result but sought solace in the fact that my right hammy strain was really a non-factor throughout.

After a late night recovery run the next day necessitated by another patient emergency at 4pm (Why do these always seem to happen in late afternoons?) where I found myself at one point racing a raccoon down Harlem Hill, it was again time for another hard speedy Thursday workout. If you notice, this was my third straight run in as many days, which is something I really don’t advocate but because this was high mileage week, I really had no choice. My right knee felt a bit gimpy over the past couple of days (perhaps from overcompensating for that pulled hamstring) so I was a bit relieved to see that it was actually raining all day, meaning my tempo run would be done on the treadmill instead. of on the road. Although the human hamster wheel totally chewed me up and spat me out that night, grossing out all the unsuspecting ladies doing their pretend light cardio on the machines next to me, I still hit my paces dead on and successfully completed the workout.

The 21 miler on Saturday was really a combination of two runs for me. Because I wanted to prevent further injury and run a bit slower that day, I decided to at least start the run with my running group, the NY Flyers. Unfortunately, less than a half mile into the run, when I dropped back to take a quick bathroom break, I prompted lost everyone and couldn’t find them again. Luckily, because the group leader had handed out pre-printed directions just in case of that exact scenario, I was able to find my own way and eventually found them again up in the depths of Inwood, about 8 miles into the run. For the next four miles, I ran with different people within the group, all running paces that were much slower than mine. I sacrificed a lot of speed during this stretch for the social aspect of running which I like. Unfortunately, this was also my last long run before Boston, so I really didn’t want to run so slowly for the full duration. So after I caught up a bit with everyone and made plans with several to meet up for brunch after the run, I sped up and found my own way back to the park. By the time I got back to the Boathouse in Central Park, I had done 12.2 miles with the group at 8:05 average pace and 8.9 miles on my own at 7:00 average pace. I was extremely sore after the run but was glad just to have finished strong.

The real damage from everything didn’t hit me until the day after, when I woke up Sunday with deep searing pain in my left lower calf. Ah yes, I nodded to myself. It was the reappearance of an old friend whose personality I’ve come to know well. After palpating and confirming that yes, it was indeed the old familiar Achilles’ tendonitis rearing it’s ugly head, I got up, limped around and went about my chores for the morning. I figured a little movement would ease the tension and satisfy the cry for attention, but by the time the early afternoon came and my calf still hadn’t resolved its differences with the Achilles, I wondered if even a slow recovery run would prove beneficial. So I waited and waited. Yes, I should go, it’d help. No, I shouldn’t, it’d wouldn’t help. Yes, I should because I’m 2 miles short of my goal. No, I shouldn’t because I have a speed workout planned for tomorrow. I was locked in a mental tug-of-war for several long hours. Eventually, by the late afternoon, while perusing around some running blogs, I saw this, and the decision was made for me.

Honestly, if you even remotely identify yourself as a runner, can you watch this and NOT run? Even if it’s not Kara Goucher, who I’ve met, and is from Queens just like I am, and who ran NYCM ’08 just like I did, and who will be running in BM ’09 just like I will, and who loves to run and compete just like I do (oh yeah, and do I have to mention she’s super cute!)…even if it wasn’t her or you're not a fan, can someone watch this and not believe in the run? Nope, not me. So I did three slow ones close by, up and back down the East River Drive. Despite it being windy and cold, my Achilles held up okay. I didn’t push it at all and slipped it into a bucket of ice the moment I got back. It is still quite sore this morning so I’m probably going to have to take another couple of days off. It’s alright though because it’s taper time! Wahoo! I’m so excited that I’ve made it this far! Now I have every reason to pig out, run just a little and get ready for the biggest and longest block party in the Northeast! Yeah, can you tell I’m bubbling right now! I can hardly wait.

Oh, and by the way, don’t worry about my Achilles. I’m not. It’s an old friend so I know its temperaments well. It will heal itself in due time. Everything will be fine by Boston time. Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Running: Physiologically Speaking
The Marathon and Hormones Edition

At times during the day, when I’m busy attending to patient affairs and practicing clinical medicine, I sometimes feel as if I’m Clark Kent, because hidden behind my long white coat and the stethoscope that adorns my shoulders like a Christmas ornament is a speed-crazed super runner that is unknown to anyone within the confines of the hospital. This suits me just fine because contrary to what someone might think, when I’m at work, I generally do not like to think about running because not only does it distract attention away from the patient at hand, but also because no one could or would understand my passion for it anyway. So as a general rule, running and clinical medicine don’t mix, at least for me.

But like they teach all the students in medical school, patients don’t read textbooks and there are exceptions to every rule. True to form, every once in a while, especially when I’m at the peak of marathon training, some running thoughts inexplicably force their way into my head even as I’m seeing patients and dealing with issues that have nothing to do with running. Below is a sampling of the random thoughts that flowed through my head this week as I was working. Some of it will be beneficial to you all, some not very much so. Read ‘em at your own risk.

Weighing In
Some kid came in early last week for evaluation of poor weight gain. He was a scrawny looking prebuscent kid who’s only abnormality I found after performing all the necessary tests, was having O.C.D. parents. As I was explaining to both mom and dad that their boy didn’t have malaria or parasites living within him, the boy said something that completely surprised me. “I’m okay. I’m not weak, or sick, or anything. I work out everyday. I can probably bench-press the doctor if I wanted to.” It would have been funny if it wasn’t so blatantly obvious. After some mild chuckling and further assurance that everything was indeed fine, I shooed the whole family out of my office and went to weigh myself. Sure enough, another 3 pounds lost since the beginning of the month. All together that makes 10 since the beginning of January! No wonder the kid picked up on it. I was turning into a stick figure faster than Haile Gebrselassie running a marathon!

Okay, I know for most of the population, this would be a cause for celebration, but for me, this is anything but since I’m already underweight for my size as it is. Unlike most everyone who have problems losing weight, I find it extremely difficult to keep the pounds that I have. Marathon training I’ve found is the worse for me since I tend to eat less even as I’m running more. Friends and patients have asked me how I lose weight so easily and I reply by asking them how they gain weight so easily (No I don't, but I so want to!). Last month, I was in contact with a nutritionist in my department who advocated many small meals for me throughout the day instead of the three large ones I’ve habitually consumed. It worked for a while, until I couldn’t find time anymore to have my seven meals and so now, instead of the three big meals that I started out with, I’m having only about three small snacks a day. So not good.

I’m hoping to get back to eating more regularly and eating healthy and gaining back my 10 pounds after the marathon. Ideally I want to gain 20, but that’s as likely as me running a 2:30 marathon so yeah, maybe in the next lifetime. I’m saying after the marathon too not because I think I want to keep my weight down to maintain top efficiency for the big race (as some friends have suggested), but rather it is because I think it’ll take me not running for an extended period to gain the weight back. It is not funny how many times I’ve wished that some of the obese kids I see in clinic everyday could just lend me an extra twenty pounds or so…

A Cure For Childhood Obesity
Speaking of obesity, Mr. Petes at Runner Write wrote an interesting article last week on how to solve the traffic problems in big cities like New York. He proposes the elimination of roads for cars and the construction of running routes to encourage people to run to work everyday. Not only so, but instead of parking lots, there’d be showers and lockers for each employee to change and clean up after their run.

I thought this was a brilliant idea, but thought it could be further extended down to children commuting to school. Instead of school buses picking up kids everyday, we can have coaches lead walking and running groups to school every morning. Given the lack of physical education and playground time in schools these days (most of the kids I see on average report only 2 gym sessions in school per week), they need all the exercise they can get. Traveling to school on one’s two feet (like they do in other parts of the world) would be a pivotal start. I’m sure the rates of childhood obesity would plummet if we could somehow implement that strategy.

Menstruation and Marathons
I don’t know if many of you know, but as part of my job description, I help young women deal with their menstrual problems on a daily basis. Whether it is a problem of frequency, irregularity or pain, I’m often the one that’s called upon to perform the detective work necessary to determine if there’s a hormonal basis for the abnormality. Most of the time, within the first fifteen minutes of the interview, I can tell that the issue is psychological or social and not hormonal. Yet I still find myself listening to the stories, hoping to nail down the root cause of the concern. In a perverse sort of way, I find the menstrual cycle very intellectually stimulating, similar in many respects to a marathon training cycle. The interplay of the rise and fall of different hormones at different times within the menstrual cycle parallels the synchronous nature in which different types of runs complement each other in a marathon training program. Not only so, but just as emotional stress can create havoc in a woman’s inherent cycle, so too can physical or psychological stress interfere with the success of marathon training.

Exercise May Be Dangerous During Pregnancy
I don’t want people to freak out over this because it is only one paper, and it’s from Europe no less. (Apologies to Xenia and whoever reads this from across the pond) According to this study (pages 12-13 here), exercise, even as little as 30 minutes per day, can dramatically increase the risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Really? Now I’ve already spoken to several colleagues about this, and they seem to think that this study only applies to a selective population that is already at high risk but still I am at least a little worried. More confirmatory studies are on the way.

I guess if this were proven true, it’d be just one more excuse to be lazy...considering you are pregnant of course. So from now on, if I hear that a female runner all of a sudden loses motivation and is sitting on the couch all day eating Doritos, rumors are going to start to fly. Just sayin’.

Hormone Doctor or Performance Enhancement Guru
Almost on a weekly basis, one of my patients, or their parents will ask if stopping some medication that I’ve prescribed for them previously will interfere with their athletic performance. Most of the time, I’m somewhat perplexed by the question because enhancing performance on the court or the ball field or track was never discussed as a potential positive side effect when starting the medication in the first place. And then it hit me late last week, as I was working at the office while ordering the Boston Marathon jacket online. Because I’m a hormone doctor, practically every medication I prescribe can be considered performance-enhancing. Seriously. Almost every single one. A partial list of common medications I write for include testosterone, estrogen, androstenedione, insulin, growth hormone, and IGF-1, and every single one has been banned by the I.O.C. and M.L.B. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay on this when the Mitchell report came out a couple years back, but I seriously hadn’t realize how prevalent my involvement in this arena was, or could be. So in essence I could be called a performance enhancing guru and be responsible for a whole generation of dopers out there. This is somewhat of a frightening proposition.

On the flip side, I wonder if people are getting suspicious of me running such great times recently. After all, I might not be so “clean” either. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering how long it would take for the Boston Marathon race officials to e-mail or call and ask me for a urine sample. If they don’t, and I end up running a sub-3 in three weeks, I wonder if I can voluntarily drop trough right at the finish line and ask the race officials to take my pee and run some tests. I’m sure they’d appreciate the honesty.

That’s all from me today folks. Can you tell I’ve got marathon fever up in the head? Hope you all are enjoying your weekend. I’ll be back later to recap the week of marathon training, which will the last for me before the taper. Wahoo!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Moving On: Pacetats and Pacing

Alrighty then. Now that everyone has gotten a chance to speak their mind on the mileage controversy, I think it’s about time we bury the hatchet and move on. But before I do, let me set the record straight. Although I was perturbed and rather perplexed by the harsh criticism, it was NEVER my intention to desecrate or otherwise ridicule the character of the critic. Nor was it my intent to assemble the minions to launch a verbal assault against the perpetrator. I highly respect everyone’s opinion, even those that do not agree with my own. However, I also believe that when the basis of ones hard work for the last several months comes under heavy scrutiny, I am similarly obliged to offer an objective defense using my own past training as evidence. Otherwise, if I continued forward in silence, it would appear as if I am acquiescing to the label of my marathon training as “soft” which I vehemently do not agree with. (As a matter of fact, even in further defining the term, the lesson learned in a sub 2:30 marathon was used – which is really not anywhere close to what MY marathon goals are. Therefore, the question of mileage for a sub 3:00 marathon is not the same as for a 2:30 marathon. So, in my opinion, to use that derogatory term to describe my training when it’s already been shown to be able to carry me to a 3:02 marathon is really not justified.) Furthermore, as I’m the acting running coach for more than a few friends and bloggers, how can I perform my duties honestly in helping them train for their own half-marathons and marathons with a custom plan I designed for them if I don’t even believe enough in my own training philosophy to offer a suitable defense when it is under attack. As such, I was more or less forced to build a strong case for myself not using slander or ridicule but using objective verifiable training data from marathons past. I truly hope I have done that. If anyone took offense from my arguments on my own behalf, then I am the one who’s truly sorry because I thought I handled the situation as tactfully as I could and took my time to select my words carefully.

I guess we can all agree to disagree and continue on with our individual methods for training for races the way we like.

Whew, now that’s over…I have other burning issues to discuss as it relates to the Boston Marathon, or just marathoning in general…

My new bloggy friend carpeviam made a recent discovery and sent me a link in the comments of the last post. It was for pacetat. It seems like they now offer temporary tattoos with pace tables for each mile of the marathon on them. How cool is that? Although I’ve never been one to use predefined set paces to carry me through a marathon (mostly because I often do not run marathons with a singular goal in mind), I’m tempted to use a pace bracelet on this go round just to keep myself on my goal pace. Are there people out there who swear by them? How have your experiences been running with and without a pace bracelet? The way I look at it, sometimes it can be a godsend when other times it can be a crutch.

Secondarily, even if I were to run strictly according to pace, what is considered good pacing strategy for a deceptive hilly course like Boston? I’m thinking strictly an even pace throughout is probably not the way to go since most of the hillier portions are towards the end. Still, I’m nervous that if I work too hard building up bank time for the hills, I’ll just burn myself out. As a guide, I’ve downloaded Greg Maclin’s amazing worksheet (as listed in RWOL forum here) and have been playing around with different numbers. I’ve also been looking with interest at normalized paces of the elites from the 2008 version of the race (as described in this thread) in trying to decide how I should tackle the course myself. Any helpful insights or knowledgeable insider info would be much appreciated.

Or if you don’t have experience in such matters, you can tell me how I totally just jinxed myself in ignoring all inhibitions for spending $90 on one of these.
So what if I’m planning to wear it in front of the kids at the hospital instead of my white coat for the entire month of April? I think I’m entitled. Besides, I’m sure the kids won’t mind…even if the administration or my colleagues might think differently. But then again, they've never qualified to run The Boston Marathon now have they?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Responding to Criticism

Okay, now it’s my turn...

As the loyal readers of my blog may recall, when I last voiced my opinions on the great ‘Quality’ vs ‘Quantity’ controversy here and here, it seem to sparked a great debate between those who choose the former over the latter and those who support heavy mileage as the be all and end all to marathon training. Although like most I was intellectually stimulated by the insightful comments the post generated, at some point the congenial nature of the conversation became somewhat personal when my training and my goals for the Boston marathon was called into question. The timing of the criticism was somewhat curious to me since earlier in that post I had just written about completing my fastest and longest marathon-paced run ever! The claim is that since apparently I can’t sustain heavy mileage, I should consider dropping out of the marathon altogether. The following week, when I sustained a pulled hamstring fresh off of my highest mileage week ever and posted the story, the sentiments were echoed again. “You were already soft going into it [Boston] and missing time now is a major setback.” What got me even more fired up is the comment that “it's [my training] not going anywhere and your objective has long since gone past a BQ but to shoot for a time well below 3 flat.” Really? How does anyone surmise knowing my race objectives better than me. The last I checked, I’ve always stipulated that my goal for Boston has just been to break the 3:00 hour barrier. I have not claimed nor have any desire to run a time well below 3, as it’s been suggested. Because I was caught completely off-guard by these remarks, I chose not to respond at the outset. Luckily for me, there are a few faithful blogger friends who have taken upon themselves to come to my defense both publicly and privately. To these people I owe a bit of gratitude. But since it was written about me and my training on my blog, I knew I would have to eventually draft my own defense.

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend soul-searching about running and digging through my running log to come up with the proof why this marathon training season has been the best ever and Boston is so going to rock for me. By posting this, I’m thinking that even if it doesn’t completely exonerate me in the mind of the so-called experts, at least it’ll give a bit of my running background to those who are relatively new to these parts.

Premise - Based on records from my past marathon experience, I hope to show that:
  1. My 2009 Boston Marathon Training Schedule is rigorous, more so than for any of my previous marathon attempts.
  2. It is designed to prepare me well for my goal…which is to run a sub 3:00 marathon.
  3. My training (thus far) has gone really well for the Boston Marathon.
  4. Because I have done the training, I will run well in Boston.
Exhibit A – Goal Marathon Training Plans
2005 NYCM - 20 Week Plan – 567 miles; Avg 28 Miles/Wk (Peak 40)
2006 Hartford – 13 Week Plan – 446 miles; 34 Miles/Wk (Peak 40)
2007 NYCM – 16 Week Plan – 519 miles; 32 Miles/Wk (Peak 41.2)
2008 NYCM – 13 Week Plan – 450 miles; 37 Miles/Wk (Peak 43.6)
2009 Boston – 16 Week Plan – 622 miles; 39 Miles/Wk (Peak 60.4)

Exhibit B – Marathon Finishing Times (Training Goal)
2005 NYCM – 3:26:42 (Goal – Just Finish!)
2006 Hartford – 3:11:33 (Goal – Less than 3:20)
2007 NYCM – 3:08:18 (Goal – BQ, Less than 3:10)
2008 NYCM – 3:02:20 (Goal – Less than 3:05)
2009 Boston - ?:??:?? (Goal – Less than 3:00)

Exhibit C – Goal Marathon Training Completed/Planned
2005 NYCM - ~500 Miles Ran / 567 Miles Planned = 88%
2006 Hartford – 398 Miles Ran / 446 Miles Planned = 89%
2007 NYCM – 533 Miles Ran / 519 Miles Planned = 103%
2008 NYCM – 442 Miles Ran/ 450 Miles Planned = 98%
2009 Boston – 464 Miles Ran/448 Miles Planned = 104%

Exhibit D – Best Half Marathon, Predicted Goal Time, Difference
2005 SI Half - 1:31:52 (McMillian Proj – 3:13:45; Diff +12:57)
2006 NY Half – 1:32:04 (McMillian Proj – 3:14:10; Diff -2:37)
2007 Queens Half – 1:28:06 (McMillian Proj – 3:05:48; Diff +2:30)
2008 SI Half – 1:25:44 (McMillian Proj – 3:00:49; Diff +1:31)
2009 Colon Cancer 15K – 49:48 (McMillian Proj – 2:58:07; Diff ?)

Marathon E – Marathon Splits 1st Half, 2nd Half, Difference
2005 NYCM – 1st Half: 1:38:21; 2nd Half: 1:48:21; Diff +10:00
2006 Hartford – 1st Half: 1:31:05; 2nd Half: 1:40:28; Diff +9:23
2007 NYCM - 1st Half: 1:30:37; 2nd Half: 1:37:41; Diff +7:04
2008 NYCM – 1st Half: 1:29:30; 2nd Half: 1:32:50; Diff +3:20
2009 Boston - ???

1. My Boston marathon training plan is the highest mileage I’ve ever ran both in terms of total miles and average miles per week, proving that the schedule is a rigorous one.
2. Since all my previous training plans have allowed me to accomplish my marathon goals, I am confident that this one will as well.
3. Based on my 15K (my last longer race before Boston), the projected marathon time is 2:58, which is perfect for me. Since I’ve been pretty steady with running my predicted times the last few years, I’m confident that I’m in the right ballpark for breaking 3:00
4. Despite the fact that I took days off last week, I’ve still logged more miles than was planned out for me.
5. My pacing for marathon has been steadily improving. Since I’ve done the training and logged the miles, I am destined to run a good race with a minimal positive split in Boston.

There you have it folks. My arguments for being well-prepared for Boston. Hopefully, it is readily clear that for me, the arguments for quality over quantity is pretty one-sided. Although I am running more mileage than I’ve ever done in the past, I’m pretty convinced that the quality is what has helped me to improve the most on my marathon times. I’m confident that Boston will end the same way for me.

And even if it doesn’t, I’ll be hard-pressed to blame it on the lack of high mileage training as the culprit, since I’ve had steady progress in the past with running significant less. We’ll just have to see what happens on Patriot’s Day!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 13

Well, if you’ve been following my blog for more than the past couple of days, you already know that this week wasn’t the best for me in terms of training. The silver lining is that the injury scare seems to have been just that, a scare, and the week ended with a great race effort and a huge PR (my first of the year!) Me thinks that this can only mean great things for Boston, even if the mileage total wasn’t nearly where I expected it to be.

Week #13 (3/2-3/8)

What I Planned:
Tempo Run: 10 total miles with 7 tempo miles at 6:30 pace
Recovery Run: 8 miles at easy pace
Marathon Paced Run: 16 miles at 6:52 min/mi pace
General Aerobic Run: 8 miles at 7:05 pace
NY Colon Cancer 15K Race: 9.3 miles at race pace
Total week 13 distance planned: 51.3 miles

What I Ran:
Tues – Tempo Run: 10.6 miles with 7.1 tempo miles at 6:21 pace
Wed – Recovery Run: 8.6 miles at 7:05 pace
Sat – General Aerobic Run: 7.1 miles at 6:58 pace
Sun – NY Colon Cancer 15K: 9.3 miles at 6:19 pace
Total week 13 distance: 35.5 miles; avg pace – 6:45 min/mi

How I Ran:
So, if you already read my injury account here, and my path to recovery and racing here, then you pretty much already know how I ran this past week. Although I cringed a bit as I was crunching the numbers, it really wasn’t as bad as it would initially appear. Considering that I ran 10+ miles more than I was supposed to the previous week, and missed essentially only one long run even as I was actively recovering, I am pretty confident that sitting out for an extra day last week was the right move…which, if you could imagine, felt like torture for me! In the big scheme of things, I think I’m going to just chalk up last week as a step down week, take the hammy strain as a reminder of the danger of overtraining beyond one’s capabilities and just move on. I consider myself fortunate that I only lost a couple of days of training through all of this and so far seems like there’ll be no negative consequences on my running going forward. Whew, crisis averted!
Looking ahead, there’s just one more 20 miler, one more long marathon paced run and one more long tempo run culminating in the final 50+ mile training week for me before the taper. And you know what, for once, I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of the quantity as well as the quality.
So as I say to my previous self who made this schedule way back when thinking half-heartedly that I'd NEVER make it this far... Bring. It. On.
Have a great week of running in this first official week of spring everyone!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Off The DL, Pacing for Boston, and
Race Report for the NY Colon Cancer 15K Challenge

Injury Update
First off, thanks for all of you who left supportive and/or insightful comments on my injury report. It was appreciated…even if it weren’t so justified. You see, two thing that my real friends know that my virtual friends don’t is that 1) I am a hypochondriac, and 2) I don’t run through injuries. What this translates to is that I will freak out (sometimes irrationally so) about every ache, pain, and scratch that is out of the ordinary for me. I will diagnose, research and seek professional opinions of others in order to find the best cure for my ailments. Instead of pushing through, I’m more apt to take unplanned rest days and temper down the training if it will help resolve the situation. Some will say I’m a wuss when it comes to marathon training because I don’t run heavy mileage, I tend to take too many rest days, and I don’t run if there’s a suspicion of pain/injury. I just think because of my profession, I know my body and my own physical limits all too well to jeopardize my health or my running longevity for false bravado or a few minutes or seconds off a race clock. The risk-to-benefit ratio just isn’t there for me to push beyond the capabilities.
As a result, I decided to take a short break after I had my latest injury scare. I knew it wasn’t really a serious problem since I felt well enough to complete an 8 miler the next day, but given that I had just ran in excess of 60 miles the previous week (by far my highest weekly mileage ever) and have a history of nagging injuries as a result of high mileage, I felt it was safer to take a few days off to recover rather than compound the damage by running another 50+ mile week. Although I was extremely frustrated to be sitting out during the peak of Boston Marathon training, I trust myself to know this is the right course of action for me.
So I took off Thursday and Friday last week even as I was kicking and screaming to anyone who would listen. I ended up missed a 16 mile long run and a planned hillwork session, but my hamstring improved significantly over those two days. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was walking and climbing stairs without any traces of pain and was ready to head back to training. I debated on running 16 miles on the first run back, but since I knew I had a race the next day and needed to know if I was in good physical condition to run well in it, I decided to forgo the long run in favor of 7 mile light test run around the park. Once I saw I was able to complete that distance comfortably (HR avg 145) at an average pace of 6:58 min/mile and felt little to no residual pain in the affected area, I gave myself permission to run my scheduled 15K race the next day as the last official training race before Boston.

Race Report For the NY Colon Cancer 15K
Although for some this race may have served as nothing more than an appetizer for the upcoming spring road racing season, this peculiar distance race on a familiar course was saturated with significance for me for many reasons. For one thing, as mentioned before, this will be my longest distance race before the marathon. As such, I wanted to use it to not only gauge my fitness and predict how I’ll finish, but also to develop a pacing strategy that I can use on the big day. For another thing, because the course will be two loops around Central Park, I wanted to use this opportunity to practice running up and down the rolling hills at a simulated race pace. Also, since I hadn’t yet run any miles faster than easy pace since the hamstring injury, I wanted to test them out on the 15K to see if any residual pain/soreness arises while I’m running at race pace.
As I jogged over to the starting line and thinking about the 15K, I set forth three goals for myself on this race today: Goal 1 was to finish the same way I started, i.e. injury free. Goal 2 was to PR (previous best was 1:01:30; 6:36 avg pace established a month after 2007 NYCM, when I BQ’d for the first time). Goal 3 was to run sub-60 minutes for the 15K. Because I was fairly certain that Goal 2 would come naturally as long as Goal 1 was achieved, I was seriously banking on Goal 3 as a confidence booster for a sub 3 effort in Boston.
Actually, given the events of the past few days, what was even more important to me today than the final finishing time, was the development and implementation of a new pacing strategy. Because I was going to run this race without knowing fully the condition of my sore hamstring, I developed myself a game plan to use for this race which would give me leeway to judge and alter the effort halfway through. Since the course is two loops of the park (lower five followed by the middle four), I wanted to divide the run into five miles at tempo pace and the next four at race pace. My hamstring hasn’t yet been tested at race pace since the injury so I wanted to use the first loop simply as an introduction.
As an incentive NOT to race the first mile, I purposely positioned myself in the far back corner of the blue starting corral. There was some excitement in the front as Mary Wittenberg made comments about the Boston Marathon coming up in five weeks. After a soulful rendition of God Bless America by a recording artist (forgot who) and some quick race instructions from the race course director, the starting horn sounded, and we were off.

The rest of the story, from here on out, can be summarized just by seeing my splits:

Mile 1 – 6:19; Avg HR 158 (Max HR 171)
Mile 2 – 6:24; Avg HR 166 (Max HR 169)
Mile 3 - 6:25; Avg HR 167 (Max HR 170)
Mile 4 – 6:24; Avg HR 163 (Max HR 169)
Mile 5 – 6:23; Avg HR 165 (Max HR 170)
Mile 6 - 6:18; Avg HR 168 (Max HR 174)
Mile 7 – 6:14; Avg HR 169 (Max HR 171)
Mile 8 – 6:23; Avg HR 169 (Max HR 173)
Mile 9 - 6:01; Avg HR 172 (Max HR 176)

Mile 9.3 – 1:53; Avg HR 177 (Max HR 180)

I won’t state the obvious, except to say that not only did my pacing strategy worked to perfection as I held myself back and kept running at tempo pace 6:20-6:25) for the first five miles, I was also able to speed up significantly in the second half and had enough to sprint the last 1.3 miles at an amazing 6:00 min/mi pace! My pulled hamstring did not bother me for the entire race and by running a huge negatively split, not only did I feel extremely strong towards the end of the race when usually I’m fading fast by this point, I satisfied all three goals I set for myself and earned a huge PR in the process. Looking back, I think this may have been the best tactical race I’ve ever run. Easy and loose at the start, holding steady in the middle and then fast and furious at the end. If God be willing, this will be exact pacing strategy I’m going to be using for the Boston Marathon!

Not too shabby for my first race coming off the D.L. So, yes, in case you’re wondering, Sub 3 in Boston is back on track! I’ll deal with the “other” issue sometime later in the week. Right now, I’m throwing my hammy a big congratulatory ice bath party. Wahoo!

Hope you all had a splendid weekend.

Final Statistics
Finishing Time: 58:49 (2:41 PR!)
Average Pace 6:19 min/mi
Overall Place: 45/2339 (1.9%)

Age Group Place: 10/231
Age Group %: 70.3
NY Flyer Males: 1/23

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taking A Short Break

Hi runners! Have anyone missed me, yet? I know it’s only been a few days, but I’ve already built up enough running drama to last me for the next several weeks. I’ve been trying to avoid posting and discussing the situation as if by discussing it, I’m legitimizing the whole thing which I’m not yet willing to do, but since I’ve already missed a run and might miss more because of it, I guess it’s about time I faced the music…

A couple of days ago, fresh from having just completed my highest mileage week ever, I was out at the park, planning to attack the ten miler (with seven at tempo pace) I had scheduled for that day. I could tell that something was a little off even as I warmed up with an easy loop around the reservoir (1.5 mile). Although mentally I was feeling good, physically, I was missing the spring in my step that I’ve grown used to at the beginning of my speedwork sessions. I couldn’t really understand why but went ahead with my run anyway, figuring it’d come back to me eventually. Well, it never really did. Goal tempo pace for the seven miles was only 6:30, but I started out super hard, with the first mile at 6:08, thinking I’d “jump start” the system. It didn’t work. I slowed down a bit to a more comfortable and tempo-like pace of 6:25, 6:29 for the next two miles to see whether I could settle down. Nope. I then tried to speed it up again and ran 6:23, 6:22 and 6:27 for the next three miles. But still there was no response from my legs. Although I was keeping a good pace that was well below my goal, I was getting quite frustrated with how much effort I was exerting just to keep my times there. Eventually, on the last mile, I gave up, got frustrated and tried to outrun myself. Although there was no obvious need to, I attacked the last hill hard, ending the tempo run with an 6:11 final mile.

It was during this last half mile dead sprint that I first felt it, a slight pull in the back of the right leg. I didn’t think much of it at first. I ran 2 miles for recovery and promptly forgot about the whole incident. The next day however, from the first steps of an 8 mile slow recovery run, I could feel a shooting pain from my right butt down to my right knee. Although I ran slowly, maintained form and tried not to care as best I could, the tightness became more noticeable and painful as the miles built up. It was especially hard going up and down hills as the elevation changes elicited more and more pain from the right leg. I was still able to finish the run albeit with a slightly altered form and a pace that was not natural, but I knew even before I finished that I’ll be on hiatus for a while.

So late last night, after RICE’ing and still feeling pain, I surrendered myself to the inevitable and added my name to the injury list with the diagnosis of a strained right hamstring a status of day-to-day, and a prognosis that I categorized as “cautiously optimistic (3-5 days)”.

There are no happy words to describe how I’m feeling right now, so I’ll spare you all the ranting. I hope to be back on the road again soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 12

I know there are quite a few of you who follow my weekly training updates likes it’s the roadmap to marathon running success. Over the past few days, many running friends, both virtual and real-life have sought me out to comment on my training based on these updates. Well, sorry to burst your proverbial bubble, but that really isn’t the point of these regularly scheduled interludes to my otherwise esoteric running-related ramblings. The reason I take the time to jot down what and how I run each week (and you take the time to indulge my silliness) is so when this is all over, I can sit back and review and reflect on what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong in training, and in doing so remember how and why I ran everyday at the pace or the distance that I did. Although I act as running coach for a lot of my friends, I actually don’t have one of my own. As a result, I have to do a considerable amount of reading, self-analysis and interpretation from past experiences to figure out the most appropriate way to train for me. I hope it’s understood that no one should copy what I do or train like me (heaven-forbid) expecting similar results. [Yes…this was another public service announcement instigated by the litany of friends who I found out was distributing my ingenious but personal training plan and using it as their own…]
Anyhoo…now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s see what the damage was this week. (Oh, and by ‘damage’, I’m merely echoing the sentiments of my lower body, which isn’t too happy with me right now…)

Week #12 (3/9-3/15)
What I Planned:
Speed Interval Run: 8 total miles with 4 interval miles at 5:55 pace
Recovery Run: 8 miles at easy pace
General Aerobic Run: 12 miles at 7:10 min/mi pace
Weekend Long Run: 21 miles at long run pace
Total week 13 distance planned: 49.0 miles

What I Ran:
Mon – TM Interval Run: 8 miles with 4 interval miles (5:46-5:52)
Tues – Recovery Run: 8 miles at 7:16 pace
Thurs - Midweek Marathon-Pace Run: 13.1 miles at 6:43 pace
Sat – Weekend Long Run: 20.5 miles at 7:10 pace
Sun – Slow Recovery/Coaching Run: 10.2 miles at 8:52 pace
Total week 13 distance: 60.4 miles; avg pace – 7:20 min/mi

How I Ran:
This running week was chuck full of unexpected surprises for me. In fact, if I had to lists all the training firsts that happened this week, it’d look a little something like this…

Mon – First time I’ve ever completed 4 sets of interval miles
(…all at less than 5:55 pace no less!)
Tues – First time I’ve ever run a mile with Runner26
(…would’ve done more too, but she was in a hurry!)
Thurs – First time I’d ever done marathon paced run for 10+ miles
First time I’d ever broken 7 min/mi pace for 10+ miles
First time I’d ever completed a training run in a faster time than a race of the same distance in the same calendar year!
(So much quality in so little time!)
Sat – First time I’d ever ended a 20 miler by running on bridges
First time I’d ever broken 7:12 min/mi for 20+ mile run
First time I ran with my RB since training ended for NYCM
(…and he simulated Heartbreak Hill for me…what a friend!)
Sun – First time I’d ever run 10+ miles after a 20-miler the day before
First time I’d ever ran with three friends in same week.
First time I’d ever run 50+ (60+) miles for one week.
(…how’s that for quantity?)

Needless to say, this was another fantastic week of running. Some speed, some distance, some quality and some quantity. Can you tell I’m straddling the fence here to decide which is better for me going forward?
Actually, I have to say, despite all the amazing accomplishments on the speed front earlier in the week, it was the steady slow weekend runs that were the highlights or me. As such, I’ll forgo my accounts of the weekday miles and concentrate on how I spent my running weekend.

Saturday – 20 Mile Long Run (Last Eight with RB)
Saturday’s run with RB was invigorating for many many reasons. First of all, he was one of my best friends, and one the earliest people I’d ever coached to run a marathon. Second of all, since he finished the 2008 NYCM last year, he hasn’t been running much, so to have him volunteer to run eight miles with me on my long run was encouraging and inspirational. Since he lives a block or so away from the Lower East Side path, I was expecting our time together to be spent mainly on the dirt roads. Instead, shortly after meeting up close to South Street Seaport, he led me away from the path and onto the Williamsburg Bridge. Gasp! Mind you, that I had run about 14 miles all the way from Central Park and down the West Side Highway to meet up with him and wasn’t feeling like climbing bridges to finish up the run. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that miles 16,18,20 is where all the treacherous hills will be in the Boston Marathon and so spending the last miles of the long training run on a bridge climb could prove somewhat useful. So I allowed him to lead me on to the bridge, which was more daunting mentally than physically I found, and down onto the nether regions of Brooklyn. Once in Brooklyn, we descended further, almost another mile to the waterfront before making a turnaround. The trip back to the bridge and back to Manhattan, was excruciating to say the least…one series of climbs after another…three monstrous elevations to conquer until we finally crested the bridge again and was able to cruise in a long descent all the way back home.
Afterwards, I wanted to kill him for springing such a tough course on me without ample warning. Then he said something during our recovery walk/jog that again was totally unexpected but something that I would truly appreciate:
Laminator, I got to hand it to you. You’ve inspired so many people with this running craze of yours. Not only me, my girlfriend, EW, and his whole family, now MA, and the rest of his folks…and it all started because of you. Yeah dude, none of this would have happened if you hadn’t asked, trained, and inspired us all to do the marathon. I think we’re all truly grateful.
Wow, how can you be mad at a guy after he says that? Yeah, I think he planned it this way on purpose. So instead, we went back to his place where he showed me the marathon training plan I had created for him was still hanging on the refrigerator and while refueling, made plans in the upcoming month to run together. I also got him to sign up for a few 10Ks and a couple of half marathons later on in the spring to help get back into the swing of things. Wahoo! Score.

Sunday – 10 Mile Coaching Run (8 Miles with MT)
It wasn’t really suppose to go down like that. Not after I had already run a grueling 20 miler the day before, and had already completed my highest mileage week ever. I was supposed to have Sunday all to myself, to rest, to recover, and prepare for more miles in the week ahead. But because I felt guilty for not having checked in with my friend MT who I was coaching to run her first half marathon a week after the Boston Marathon, I decided late Saturday night to text her to ask whether she had completed her weekend long run yet. No, she replied. I plan to do it tomorrow…but would love some company. I sighed. But figuring that 8 miles at a 9 minute pace was more consequential to her training than my recovery, I rescinded and agreed to meet her early this morning for the eight miler.
I was still debating whether I needed to physically run with MT as I made the necessary preparations to go running this morning. My body, especially the ankles and balls of my feet, wasn’t so appreciative of my decision to hit the roads so soon when the physiologic scars from yesterday’s brutal bridge run hadn’t yet sufficiently healed. Maybe I could just go, see that she got out for her run, and then go back home. But, in the back of my mind, knowing she didn’t have a watch, didn’t know the park course distances, and had a propensity to leave on a long run without bringing such essentials as water, I knew I’d be worried if I didn’t tag along.
So I muscled up the necessary energy to go through the motions, met MT in Central Park and East 72nd where we always met, and led her on an 8 mile trek around the West Side Highway up to Columbia University before coming back through Morningside Park and into the park again. I didn’t talk or coach much during this run, partly because I was tired, and partly because I was concerned about how these extra miles were going to affect next week’s training. MT though was her usual bubbly, upbeat self, at least in the beginning. She told me she had signed up for Bay-to-Breakers in San Fran. She told me she got a few other people in her office to come out for a four miler in Central Park in a couple of weeks, and even asked me what time goal she should aim for for her first half marathon. (I'm guessing 2:00 for her...) The funniest moment came when we came upon a long uphill exiting Riverside Park and she just stopped, stared, shook her head, and said “Oh, No way!” I turned back and said “Hill Training! C’mon!” and didn’t even stop to let her pout. I’m sure she was scared I was going to leave her there. So she reluctantly followed, muttering the whole way…”I hate you, Lam. Why…why?” Once I reached the top, I yelled back at her…”You signed up for this…remember?” She quickly shut up and followed me in silence the rest of the way.
In the end, we covered the required distance. The run itself wasn’t too bad, although we had to stop a few times so MT could drink from the water bottle (she hasn’t quite gotten the whole drinking-while-running bit down yet). My feet weren’t quite bothering me as much at the end of the run as it did in the beginning so I figured I wasn’t none the worse for training an extra 10 miles this week. After we finished, as I was about to drop her off and run back home, she stopped me and said “Hey Lam, thank you for coming out here with me today. You know I would’ve never made it out here if you hadn’t asked…” “Yeah, I know” I said sheepishly. “You’re a great coach, you know that.” “Yeah, I know that too.”
Wow, two running aw-shucks moments in one weekend! Yeah, You can add that one too to the list of “first time ever”! The perfect ending to a great week of running.
Hope you all also had a magnificent running weekend. Spring and warmer temps are finally here!

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Thoughts on the Great Debate and A Glorious “Quality” Half

(I apologize in advance that this post is a day late because the run I’m about to describe actually happened yesterday. Yeah, what else would you expect from a master procrastinator…)

Thank you all so much for all the insightful comments left on the previous post. It gave me and my running buddies so much to think and talk about the last day and half. I guess the consensus is that in terms of marathon training, quantity is what we all strive to achieve but in actuality, because of substantial time obligations and mitigating health concerns, higher quality (but lower mileage) becomes a more realistic and practical goal for us recreational marathoners to focus on. This is not to say that I don’t believe in running high mileage or have doubts that running more will likely make me stronger and probably even faster, because I do. It is just that I believe more that the risk to benefit ratio isn’t in my favor enough to warrant stepping outside the bounds of my comfort zone and tempt fate until I’m stricken with an overuse injury (or just the potential of one) enough to jeopardize my running future. Having said that though, I am still going ahead and slowly stepping up the mileage in the subsequent three weeks to numbers that my training log has never yet seen before. So yes, although I know I’m not training as hard as what “my talent” should or could do (apparently, my running is now referred to as a talent even though a more apt description would be average competency if you ask me…) I am doing as best as I can with as much mileage as I can within the limits that my body has taught me that it can handle from past experience. I sincerely apologize to those who may think I’m just “wasting my talent” by not running as far or for as long as what is expected of me at this stage of training.

From the above discussion, it is apparent that I’ve been feeling somewhat defensive about my marathon training the past couple of days. I don’t know why, but whenever I’m hanging with other marathoners in training or reading blog posts from other sub-3:00 marathon hopefuls or even just perusing the forum messages on Runner’s World, I feel so insecure about my training and my chances in Boston, even though by every objective and subjective measure, I know I’m running stronger and faster now than ever before! All of these conflicting psychological battles I have with myself are so bizarre to me. It’s not really like anything I’ve ever experienced before.

It is with these crazy thoughts rumbling through my head that I trudged out to the park today for my midweek general aerobic 12-mile run. Because of a patient emergency that kept me at the office about an hour and half later than when I originally intended to leave, I didn’t get to start my run until about 6:30pm. Although the weather during the day was slightly cold but pleasant, the temps had dropped a few degrees and the wind picked up exponentially by the time I got to the park. I cursed myself for starting this run so late and thought about going home, but I knew it likely won’t happen tomorrow either if I didn’t suck it up and face the elements. Besides, I had been feeling somewhat dejected and doubtful about my training techniques after reading some of the messages I had received on my blog post and really just needed to run to make myself believe in my training again. So I made myself a plan to just run slow and just see what happens. If need be, I could just run one big loop (6 miles) and do the rest inside on the treadmill.

Because I wanted to run against traffic and have the tougher Harlem Hill at the end of the run instead of at the beginning, I started running in a clockwise direction around the park. At first, it was somewhat painful. I was not dressed appropriately for the wind, my hands were cold, and I was getting frustrated with the large running groups taking up the whole rec lane forcing me to swerve onto on coming car/bike traffic or onto the sidewalks to avoid them. But somewhere between miles 1 and 3, either because I saw a few Flyers running in the opposite direction which lifted my spirits, or because I felt as if I needed to prove something to myself, I picked up the pace and turned a scheduled 12 mile steady state run (7:05-7:15 pace) into a 13.1 mile 2-loop marathon paced (6:52) run. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Total Distance: 13.1 miles
Total Time: 1:28:13
Average Pace: 6:44 min/mile

Mile by Mile Splits:
1 – 6:50
2 – 6:45
3 – 6:52
4 – 6:42
5 – 6:38
6 – 6:53
7 – 6:48
8 – 6:34
9 – 6:39
10 – 6:42
11 – 6:38
12 – 6:42
13 – 6:39
13.1 – 0:43

What happened to my general aerobic pace? Does my Garmin need recalibrating or is this my most glorious training run ever? Not only was this half-marathon run 8 sec/mi faster than my scheduled marathon-pace (in a negative split no less), not only is this by far the fastest I’ve ever run 13 miles in training (previous best was 1:35:42 sometime last year)…this training time is faster than my Manhattan Half Marathon race time of 1:29:06 run on the exact same course less than 6 weeks ago! How’s that for some quality! And to be honest, the effort wasn’t even all that difficult, as evidenced by my average HR of 143bpm with a max HR of 165bpm, which is about where I am on a typical long run. Wow! Looking back at my training log, I was shocked to find that previous to this run, I’d never run below 7min/mi pace for any run longer than 10 miles ever before in training! Crazy!

I know everyone is thinking I’m being facetious, but honestly, I really am mesmerized by my own running progress. I never imagined that I’d be training so well in the depths of the coldest winter I’d ever known. I’m not saying I’m going to tear up Boston in 39 days because I don’t have a good track record of running well in marathons outside of NYC (a topic for a future post!); all I’m saying is that I’ve never felt more prepared to run a good marathon than I do right now.

Oh yeah, and about these extra “quantity” miles that I should be running…totally overrated in my book. Haha!

Have a good weekend all, and thanks for reading and celebrating with me!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

'Quality' Over 'Quantity'

As marathon day approaches, now officially less than 40 days away (no, I’m not counting), I’ve been doing my share of research on the race, the course, and of course the hills. To be honest, I’ve also been doing some virtual “spying” on my competitors…well, the ones who have blogs anyway. I’ve been looking at their runs, their schedules and their races, and trying to gauge where I’m at in training in comparison to them. (Oh, don’t turn your noses up at me…you know you all do it too!) Although for the most part it seems as if I’m up to par with everyone else, there does seem to be a glaring difference in my training schedule as compared to theirs. While almost everyone who’s training at the same paces as me are already running 60, 70, and even 80 miles a week consistently, I have yet to push a single mile over 46 for the week. And despite feeling bad sometimes that I train at such low mileage whenever one of my running friend/teammates asks and starts comparing my marathon training plan to theirs, I’m confident that “Quality over Quantity” is really the best training strategy for me and will deliver a good time for me in Boston.

In case there are some cynics who still quite don’t believe, here are a few reasons why ‘quality’ is such a better training approach than ‘quantity’…for me anyway.
  1. Quantity requires more mileage on the road, which increases the risk of injury.
  2. Quantity requires more mileage on the road, which takes heck of a longer time to run. Because I have a full professional and social life outside of running which I have to attend to, the less time I have to spend in training to achieve my goals, the better the life for me.
  3. Because you’re running less miles, you can train faster with quality than you would with quantity. For me, I find the faster I train, the faster I tend to race too!
  4. Rest is a major component of quality, not so with quantity. I’ve found that running 3 and 4 days consecutively no matter how slow, drains me down physically and mentally. Running back-to-back days is a rarity on the quality plan.
  5. Running short and fast quality boosts and builds confidence more than long and slow quantity. The evidence for this comes from the fact that the last meaningful session before a race always include some element of speedwork at around goal pace as preparation for a race.
I’m not sure if anyone in blogland agrees with this approach. After all, it is somewhat contrary to what all the great books (Daniels, Pfizinger, Rodgers, etc) would recommend. But because I’ve had progressive incremental success training under this paradigm (and besides, it’s a little too late to change anyways) while avoiding injury, I’m sticking with this strategy until it or I break down.
How does the rest of you train for marathons? Do you tend to suffer the long miles or run them fast to get them over with? Let the great debate begin.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 11

After several straight weeks of increasing mileage and increasing speed, it was time for a step down this week. It came at a good time too because honestly, I’ve been feeling a little mentally fatigued training so hard for this marathon. On the one hand, I feel as if I’m peaking physically and yet Boston is still so far away. On the other hand, I look at my training calendar and realize that there’s just four more good training weeks left before the taper. It is so weird, but it seems like the fewer miles I run, which I know is the right thing for me physically, the more questions and doubts I have about my training, which isn’t so good for me mentally. Right now, I’m just trying to hold on to my current fitness and my sanity before I hit the big race.

Week #11 (3/2-3/8)
What I Planned:
Tempo Run: 10 total miles with 8 tempo miles at 6:33 pace
General Aerobic Run: 12 miles at 7:10 min/mi pace
Weekend Long Run: 15 miles at long run pace
Total week 11 distance planned: 37.0 miles

What I Ran:
Tues - TM Tempo Run: 10.0 miles with 8 tempo miles at 6:22 pace
Thurs - Midweek Long Run: 16.2 miles at 7:02 pace
Sat – General Aerobic Run: 6.2 miles at 6:54 pace
Sat – Slow Recovery/Coaching Run: 6.9 miles at 9:32 pace
Total week 11 distance: 39.3 miles; avg pace – 7:20 min/mi

How I Ran:
Cut back week began with a long tempo run on the treadmill. I had wanted to do this outdoors but because it had snowed heavily the day before, I didn’t want to risk injury by running too fast on slippery roads. I adjusted the ‘mill to a random setting at a level 5 incline to mimic the up and down terrain of a natural road course. The run itself went pretty well, except that I was sweating bullets and seriously dragging it by the end of mile 6. I held on though and completed the last tempo mile at 6:24 to finish my run averaging 10 seconds better than I had planned for this distance.
Thursday was a 12 mile GA run that for some reason turned to a 16 mile long run. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I had serious doubts about my sanity after that impromptu adventure.
Luckily, Saturday’s run turned out a bit better than I had hoped for. In retrospect, the unexpected great weather probably had more to do with it than anything conscious I could take credit for. I did one loop at a relatively easy pace around the park (I still can’t believe that easy pace is sub 7 min for me now…) and then I “recovered” by running with my friend who I am coaching for her first half marathon. It was so fun to run slow, enjoy the sunshine, and talk running that the pace felt easier on my legs than I thought it would. Because my friend is relatively new to distance running and was unfamiliar with the difference between going for a 7 miler vs a 3 or 4 miler, I was advising her with little tidbits on what to pay attention to and what to buy in preparation for higher mileage training. I had so much to say that I forgot to shut up as we were running up on Harlem Hill until I heard her huffing and puffing in between her single word responses. Woops! After that, I hung back and allowed her to determine the pace of conversation as well as the running for the rest of the loop. I enjoyed that social run more than any I’ve done recently as it forced me not only to run slower and focus on someone/something other than me and my marathon training, but it also allowed me to perform my coaching responsibilities, which I love with a passion almost as much as running itself. In the end, we did 7 miles all together which gave me 13.1 miles for the day and about 39 miles for the week. That’s not too shabby for a stepdown week if you ask me. I should now be ready to tackle my last training mesocycle of 3 straight 50+ mile weeks. I’m anxious because I’ve yet to complete even one 50 mile week at any point during any previous cycle of marathon training, yet I’m intrigued to find out if I’m capable of breaking that distance barrier.
Later that evening during dinner, a non-running friend asked if I was training for the Boston Marathon once she found out I was running that historical race. I mumbled a nonspecific answer (about training being the same as running) at the time, but thought of the perfect response only much later. If anyone should ever ask again, I’d say the only difference between running and training is a race to prepare for and a plan. Other than that, there is no difference really! (Agree or disagree?)
Anyway, have a good week everyone!

Friday, March 6, 2009

“Beyond The Epic Run” – The Review

As most of you know, the NYC running community was treated to a free movie screening of “Beyond The Epic Run” earlier this week, and although the city was caught in the midst of a snowstorm earlier that day (as if to mimic some of the sultry conditions featured in the film), we still managed a packed house that night which just in itself was somewhat inspirational to see. Before the feature, I hung out a bit with some local Flyer teammates and a few blogger friends from the outer boroughs. All the spirited conversations on training, racing, and blogging was not only fun, but also served as the perfect warmup for watching a running movie.

As for the movie itself, in a way it was exactly what I was expecting, but in another way, it was entirely not. For those who haven’t yet seen the film (which I suppose will be most of you, since the movie isn’t due for national release in selected theaters until the end of May), this is a reality documentary film about a Swiss couple, Serge and Nicole Roetheli, who left their lives, their kids, and their families for five years to run more than 25,000 miles around the world. [For a more detailed description of the film as well as the trailer, go to my original post on this movie or visit]

Coming into the film, I was expecting to witness the thrilling adventure story of the ultimate ultramarathon. In that respect, the movie did not disappoint as it gave vivid accounts of Serge battling through dehydration in the Sahara [clip], running amidst the Pyramids in Egypt, climbing the Himalayan mountain ranges in Nepal, and fighting through the humidity of Southeast Asia. All the while, we hear about the blisters, the tenditis, and other injuries and illnesses that threatened his physical condition during his 49,000 kilometer, 47 country journey. The demonstration of his indomitable spirit was obvious to all who witnessed it.

But what I didn’t expect to see, and what really touched me about the film, was the transformation of the film from a simple running documentary to a movie about love, sacrifice and passion. For as much as the story revolved around Serge and his quest to run around the world, it was also about Nicole, his wife, who rode beside him in a motorcycle every step of the way. As Serge said himself, his wife served as his coach, nutritionist, therapist, nurse, doctor, pacer, supporter, manager, accountant, cheerleader, and confidant, all rolled into one. It was as obvious to us as it was to him that his epic run would not and could not have been possible without her. Perhaps that is best exemplified by the detour the couple had to take when Nicole suffered a life-threatened form of malaria and had to fly back to Sweden for treatment. [clip] I was struck by how well they both worked together as a team; each knowing their own role and responsibility even as they were truly dependent on each other. It was a testament to the meaning of true love and devotion (as Dr. Joy Browne points out in her interview with the couple).

Finally, I was inspired by the passion and dedication they showed to the project despite all the trials and tribulations they had to suffer throughout their travels. Without going into too much detail (so as not to ruin the movie for you all), I was impressed by the sacrifices they had made and the faith they showed in themselves, in each other, and in the project as a whole to see the epic run to its conclusion. As I imagined myself going through some of the experiences they had to go through, I am not sure I could’ve lasted more than a month or two out there, much less five years. It was truly an amazing story, and a very inspirational one at that.

My overall assessment of this movie is most definitely a positive one. Although I have some small gripes about the movie, i.e. I wanted to hear a little more about his general training and running history prior to embarking on this epic adventure. I also would have liked to know how he got involved in ultramarathoning and if his diet and training differed from that of an average trail runner or even a trail marathoner. Still, I felt the film delivered a very strong message, which is that if you have faith, passion, and a strong support team, you can pretty much achieve any goal you set for yourself.

Because of Serge and Nicole, I left the theater that night full of energy and excitement , as if I too could run forever and conquer the world. If only I can remember and reiterate such sentiments when I’m at the start of the Boston Marathon next month. My own epic journey will be set to begin in 7 short weeks. Yikes! I’m anxious but intrigued to find out how that story will turn out. Only time will tell!

Thanks for reading my review of “Beyond The Epic Run”. I highly recommend checking out the film when it comes out nationally in your neck of the woods at the end of May. It is safe to say that you will NOT be disappointed.

Have a great weekend, everyone! (Don't forget to turn the clocks forward Saturday night...Daylight Savings, here we come. Wahoo!)

Confused by a Slow Turned Fast Midweek Long Run

Like most runners, I am definitely a creature of habit. I like my workouts nicely planned, way far out in advance, with fixed distances and fixed paces so there is no confusion about what I’m doing for training each and everyday. I’m perfectly happy as long as I can follow this pre-planned training schedule all the way to the marathon However, when I am forced by circumstance to start shifting workouts and mixing and matching paces from one run to another, that’s when things break down and I start getting confused and a little anxious. And if the chaos lingers for long enough, I can become downright miserable even if everything appears to be going well on the surface.

Let’s take today’s run as an example.

The workout on the original schedule called for 12 recovery miles at an easy pace. Because I had a hard tempo workout 2 days ago and the 5K race this past weekend, my intention was to give my legs a break from the speed and just run some slow mileage in preparation for a longer 16 miler this weekend. In fact, by the time I got off work in the late afternoon, I was so exhausted from having had to deal with a family with 2 boys who had BMI of 68.9 and 70.2 (a record for me!) at the office that I wasn’t even feeling the 12. Still, I figured I could at a minimum do six easy in Central Park and maybe jump on the treadmill afterwards to finish off the distance.
Although the temperature had miraculously climbed into the low 40s today while I was at work, it was a bit windy by the time I got to the park. Dusk was beginning to settle onto the city as I started my journey southward from Engineer’s Gate. I was still feeling tired at the beginning of the run so I made sure I took my time moving down Cat Hill. I finished mile 1 which coincided with the 72nd street transverse at 7:05, which is exactly where I wanted to be since most of the first mile was downhill.
For the next several miles, as I looped around the bottom of the park and up and over the rolling hills of the west side, I didn’t pay attention to the Garmin but just told myself to run at an easy and comfortable pace. The wind died down some as I saw myriad of runners passing me by in shorts and a single long sleeve shirt. I looked somewhat out of place in my hat, heavy Nike runner’s jacket, gloves and long heavy tights. Okay, so I overdressed for the occasion just a little bit but still felt pretty comfortable moving at my own pace.
I reached the 4.5 mile mark at the top of Harlem Hill, and for some reason decided that 8 would be better than 6, so I made a left and headed onto Morningside Park. As I exited the park, I checked the Garmin again and was astonished that I averaged 7:01 pace for those hilly park miles.
After dodging some brief traffic, I found myself standing alone on the precipice of Morningside Park. The day had already begun given way to night as I began running again. I had to admit. I was a little scared to be running there alone in the receding light, but still found the tranquility somewhat invigorating. My pace had slow down a bit mostly because I was unfamiliar with the terrain and had to dodge some snow puddles. Pace for this section – 7:10.
It had gotten a little darker by the time I reached the northern edge of the park. I stopped, took a sip from my Gatorade bottle, but instead of running back from when I came, I again made a left in the direction of Riverside Park and the West Side Highway. Hmmm…Laminator, shouldn’t we be heading back now, it’s getting dark. We can knock out whatever’s left over at the Reservoir or at the gym. But despite my sheepish complaints, my legs were having none of it and were already carrying me up over the steep hilly streets and onto the edge of the Hudson. What could I do? I was forced to comply. And so I ran, first through the streets to the park then cautiously and slowly down the west side. Night had set up permanent residence in the city and aside from the cars whizzing along the highway and the occasional dog barking at a stranger nearby, it was quiet, almost eerily so.
I reached 96th Street in the middle of mile 8. My pace had recovered from a lackluster 7:17 in the previous mile to a 7:07 in this mile, and I was happy that I was almost 2/3 of the way to knocking out my 12. Ordinarily, at this juncture of the trip, I turn back east to finish up the remaining 4 miles in the familiarity of central park. But somewhere between being freaked out that I was running alone at night on the opposite side of the island with no ID and no phone and feeling vindicated that I was going to finish my 12 miles completely outdoors without the use of a treadmill, I must have had an absence seizure because my mind completely froze and I continued running down the west side past the park exit. In my freaky head, I was trapped by the thoughts of hmmm…I’m feeling good…so let’s do 16 instead of 12…isn’t that the scheduled long run for this week…oh, and I heard it might rain this weekend, better to get it over with now then wait…
Again, I felt powerless to protest. So I ran completely down the upper west side, down to 59th Street before making it all the way back to 96th Street to the park exit. The whole extra excursion added another 3.5 miles to the run. The pace was 7:02, 7:05, 7:21 for the respective miles so that by the time I landed back on the west side of Central Park, I was looking at 12.5 miles with an average of 7:10 min/mi pace.
You would think I’d be satisfied, having run an extra 4 miles longer than I origninally expected, to be running this strong pace for an impromptu long run. But then you’d be wrong. For some reason, when I saw 7:10, my mind went completely numb and my legs took control and ran hard the rest of the way as if they was on a mission. I blistered the 3.77 miles back over to Engineer’s Gate (yes, even through Cat Hill) at a 6:41 min/mi pace. I wasn’t looking at Garmin during this impromptu speed session so I had no idea what I was running until I arrived at the finish. I wanted to carry a marathon pace (6:52) for the final miles, but 6:41 sounds completely ridiculous to me. My finishing time for the short-6-turned-long-16.17 miler was 1:53:51. Average pace: 7:02.
Now as I’m sitting here, trying to come to grips with this weird midweek fast long run, I am not really sure how I should really categorize it in terms of distance or speed. For distance, sure the 16 miles fulfills me long run requirement for the week, but does that mean I should only do 12 this weekend. Or maybe an 18 miler would be more appropriate now to improve my long distance stamina. For speed, the dilemma is even trickier. Up to now, my long run pace has been in 7:15-7:20 range, or so I had thought. So 7:02 is really unfathomable to me as a long run pace. By comparison, my previous training PR for this distance (established a month prior to NYCM last year) was 7:13! Combined this with last week’s 20-miler, where the average pace of 7:12 blows the previous best of 7:21 out of the water, and I truly do not even know what my long run pace is or should be anymore. On the one hand, I’m ecstatic that I’m running so much stronger than I ever have before. On the other, I’m afraid that I’m running everything too fast, risking burnout, injury or just peaking too early before Boston.
Gosh, this is confusing. If only I could’ve just stuck to the plan and run an easy 12 at a slow recovery pace…
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