Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011 Philadelphia Marathon

So two mornings ago I woke up and did the Philly Marathon.  Saturday, the day before, I took the train to Philly from South Jersey where my family was visiting the in-laws.  (special thanks t0 Pete - for updating texting the Penn State score updates when I was riding a bus through south-central Jersey and adding 40 minutes to the commute).  Because of the train delay I headed out a little late to the convention center to get the packet - and the last 3:35 pace band before the cliff-bar pace people closed up shop.  This, it turns out, was great fortune - since I was waffling between a 3:40 and 3:30 pace - it never occured to me to split the difference.  Leaving the expo, I then crossed the street to Wawa to buy some fuel - and, it turns out, dinner.  Pre-marathon fuel:  Wawa pretzel, Wawa chicken salad on whole grain bun, Greek yogurt and diet ginger ale.  Not exactly the pasta feast I was planning - but it seemed a like a lot of carbs with enough protein thrown in.  The Wawa pretzel, in particular, isn't something I'd eat every day - but it seems as though they did try to have some nutritional content - and it had a butt-load of calories - I don't remember exactly - but something like 600 or so.

The next morning I awoke ready to go at 4:00 am - more or less on my own without the alarm.  I headed down to the special runners breakfast buffet and got toast with peanut butter, yogurt, fruit and drank lots of coffee - in an attempt to clear the system as much as possible.  About 6:10, in the dim dawn light, I headed out - with about 27,000 other runners - to the start outside the famous Philly art museum.  I got my bag checked in and did some dynamic stretches before heading to the black starting area.  Not long of a wait and the race was off.

I love the first few miles of a marathon - very easy pace - lots to look around at - and the miles really just fly by.  The course heads past city hall then turns south along the bank of the Deleware river before curling back in to the city center.  There - the crowds pick up and I really had to focus on not pushing the pace too much.  At about the one hour part - you head out of downtown to the 'University City' area - and some great crowd support from those Drexel Dragons (thanks students).

At this point, I was just off the 3:35 pace band (8:12 miles), but I had to stop and pee and also stopped to stretch - since I was starting to worry about my groins a little.  As hard as it was to do, I stopped and stretched on multiple occasions.  I could really feel the groins starting to act up as I headed up the hill by the zoo - and especially on the descent.  In retrospect - this is probably what hurt me two years ago - I'm glad I had the experience on my side and took that part relatively slowly and gingerly.

However, by halfway, I'd probably dropped to over a minute off the 3:35 pace (mentally - I knew that was 3:37).  I felt relieved though - because it seemed as though my body was going to keep it together and not break down.  I picked it up the pace then since I felt pretty good and wanted to try and 'race' this race.  The next 5 miles tick away - mostly flat - along the Schuykill river - and I managed to get very close to the 3:35 pace.  However by  mile 18 my legs were ready to stop racing.  I slowly started to give up time again against the pace band.  Rounding the 20 mile marker in Manyunk - I knew I'd be now racing/struggling to stay below 3:40.  Along the last few miles coming in I noticed a lot of runners walking or stopped along the side.  So I just kept the legs moving.  My pace coming in was slow.  Probably 8:40s or so.  It was funny - I would notice someone up ahead shuffling along at a ridiculously slow pace - only to realize that I wasn't gaining on them and probably looked equally ridiculous.  Nevertheless, as the crowds grew again near the end, I tried to pump those arms and at least look like a serious runner as I neared the finish.  I knew I'd done better and the final time was 3:38:49 - overall about a 8:21 pace.  A solid 15 minutes shaved off of my only other attempt at this distance.

Found wife, friends and drank beer at Monks.   A great day!

Overall, it was a great race experience.  I'm glad to finally have a good marathon under my belt.  The time and pace was good, but not great - certainly room for improvement.  What is amazing is the training plan I used maxed out at 31.5 miles/week running.  The monster month mileage hovered around 30 miles/week with the x-training making up for the 'missing' miles.  I did use one of the easier versions of the FIRST plan.  And I was lucky enough to have a friend at work willing to do the tough intervals (off-track), tempo runs and shorter long runs with me.  The big bonus of this plan is that the x-training - in my case swimming, weights (via 1 hour dvd workout) and some biking - had me feeling much stronger heading into the marathon.  Also, because the mileage is more manageable - I didn't overeat and probably ran the race ~155 -  a good 10 pounds lighter than 2 years ago.  Having said that - I'd have to do a more difficult - slightly higher mileage version - to really improve my time.  But, I'll obsess over that later.

Final 2 thoughts.  A big thank you to race organizers, volunteers and the thousands of fans that showed up to cheer us on.  And on a sadder note, I'd like to offer my condolences to the families of the 2 runners that passed away near the finish of Sunday's race.  Truly horrible news and my heart goes out to their families.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Marathon Week.

I'm watching Saint Ralph - one of the rare movies about marathoning.  A little motivation before Sunday.  Today I did fairly easy 6x400s.  They were off track 1:40s - I'm guessing that's about 400.  The run felt good and I got paced by local running legend 'its a good day' Les and my friend Larry.  I would say I'm feeling good - but my right groin is really tight.  Race day is only 6 days away - I'm sure it'll feel better before then.

Still can't wrap my head around the whole Penn State thing.  WTF were those people thinking.  9 years.  Maybe more.  How does that happen?  There is a part of me that's trying to figure out exactly how that could ever happen.    

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Best of the Week.

Multiple choice question - fill in the blank.  This is the best pregame prayer:
a.  ever.
b.  ever.
c.  ever.
d.  ever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Taper Time Again!

I still like the look of my graph.  Pretty cool stuff.  Red (and shading) is the miles run.  Blue is the comparison from 2 years ago.  Green includes estimates of cross-training (swim; bike) miles and yellow includes estimates for strength training miles.  The 'monster month', despite a drastically reduced run schedule, is actually mirrored well by the x-training.  Week 10 is a dip because I skipped the strength training - but other than that it looks pretty good.

This week's been a hard.  People complain that the taper is mentally difficult because they do so little- I actually have the opposite feeling.  I'm 100% ready to do nothing - and this week has felt tough.  Monday's intervals were 5 lung-searing 4:10 minute periods.  Yesterday's tempo run (over 6 miles) felt very difficult and it was tough today to drag my butt down to the pool for 38 minutes (more tough intervals).  Tomorrow's run - though light by comparison to past weeks - is still going to be well over an hour of running.  Sunday - weights - but no Bob Harper - something shorter and less intense.  Less, yes.  Easy, no.  I keep repeating - it's all about staying sharp.  Sharp.

Next week - 6x400 Monday, 3 miles easy Wednesday - probably an easy 800 in the pool Tuesday.  Then rest, rest, rest, Race!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

15 Days and Counting!

I finished my final 'long-ish' run yesterday.  Only 13.3 miles over 1 hour 51 minutes.  Kun, who went the whole way - said we averaged 8:20 pace - which felt pretty incredible.  Larry really stepped it up after about the 50 minutes time.  He's really feast/famine on these runs.  Anyway - a solid 3 runs - keeping some intensity during the taper.  Next week it gets even easier:  5x1000 Monday, 4 mile tempo (6 total) on Wednesday.  Friday - only 8 miles.  Let's get excited people!!


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tempo Wednesdays

I did one of the harder tempo runs today at lunch.  6 miles at a 7:30 (HM) pace.  It's not as lung searing as the shorter versions - but felt pretty hard anyway.  I added a mile warmup/cooldown for 8 miles total in an hour and 2 minutes.  That's 2 pretty hard workouts in 3 days.  Been hitting the yoga hard - but the faster workouts are really tighetening me up at a bad time.


PencilHead from qwaqa on Vimeo.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Week 14 Intervals

A very difficult 8x800 off-track session yesterday.  Luckily, Larry went out also - which made it easier and the weather was fantastic.  I took 26:15 to do the full 4 miles worth of intervals.  That's a pretty good clip.  My groins did tighten-up - so I did a solid yoga session last night and hopefully will remember the strengthening excercises tonight.  Little else going on today.  Tomorrow I do 8 - pretty fast.  Thursday is the swim (moved from today due to the busy work schedule).  Friday is a nice 2 hour 13 miler.