Monday, April 23, 2012

There’s No Formula But Race Day

When I put together my marathon training for Big Sur, I asked myself why should I do different to improve my running. Hard for this “do-not-take-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone” type of people that I am. After 5 years doing pretty much the same thing, I decided to give it a try. My answer was to radically change the plan. I was simply tired of the typical schedule: Tue speed, Thu tempo, Weekend long.

I created my own plan, based on the theory of David Holt. It was very creative. Training season was divided in 4 phases, where each phase had a key workout. This key workout was schedule to be done every 5-6 days. That made the plan “non-repetitive”. For example, if I had to do hills on Monday, I’d do them again on Friday, and again on Tuesday or Wednesday, and so on. I had a "menu" of these key workouts to pick from, so I was never doing the same key workout. This way I had a lot of variety in my week; and as I race every weekend once or twice, I accommodated the key workouts to be part of the race or to not collide with it.

I also added every week very good recovery miles. My initial weeks were in the 30 miles range, increased most of the season to mid 40’s, and peaked at 55 miles. I ran 7 times a week in 5 days, but because 4 of these runs were recovery, I never felt tired, fatigued, or got injured.

I watched my nutrition very closely and I lost 10 lbs. Those that know me would ask, how a skinny person could lose more weight and stay healthy? I don’t know the answer, but I did and I always felt energetic.

Then, the results started to show up during the very same training season, from the 2-miler, to the 10-Yassos, 10K, the Half Marathon, 30K, and 20-miler. The improvements were dramatic. The Half Marathon bettered every week 3 min at a time for a total of 11 minutes. And I have nothing to feel but that relief that my training and its acolytes (nutrition, and rest) have been all good! And these results came attached to gazillion of formulas with marathon predictor times… and these formulas were playing games with me…but I know better.

Big Sur is difficult. As somebody wrote: Some marathons aren’t designed to be fast. "Hard," "grueling," "mountainous," "windy," "spectacular," and "unforgiving" are but a few of the words that the Big Sur International Marathon uses to describe itself. Needless to say, it’s hilly… Combined, the bounces and the net descent make for about 950 feet of climbing and 1,225 feet of descent. It sounds horrific…a hill tactician’s dream.”

Being that said, I not only need all I have done to run a great race. I need my brain. I need to run this race smart. I need to pace myself the first half at a low effort as I have already practiced. I have to run the hill between miles 10 and 12 as I have already practiced. I need not to deviate of what I already know.

I am super ready, and though the formulas predict me a heck of a race There's No Formula But Race Day. 

Earth Day Half Marathon - Magnuson Series - Apr 21, 2012 - Taking an ice bath. Water was cold, but the day was warm (54F)
Earth Day Half Marathon - Magnuson Series - Apr 21, 2012
1- 9:38 - 133 - 73%
2- 9:36 - 143 - 80%
3- 9:36 - 143 - 80%
4- 9:39 - 154 - 84%
5- 9:30 - 154 - 84%
6- 9:30 - 156 - 85%
7- 9:28 - 158 - 86%
8- 9;02 - 159 - 87%
9- 9:02 - 159 - 87%
10-9:17 - 164 - 90%
11- 9:08 - 167 - 91%
12- 8:41 0 167 - 91%
13- 8:40 - 167 - 91%
13.1-0.7 - 167 - 91%

Monday, April 16, 2012

Oh! My Strategy. I Take You Seriously

I finished the marathon training a week ago with a 17-miler and 10 Yassos two days later.

The 17-miler went pretty well.  Started with an easy mile, then 2 uphill miles of 6% gradient, to mimic Big Sur miles 10-12 (4.7%). Though it will be different to run 2 uphill miles at mile 10, I still wanted to sense the incline and the effort. Then I jogged one mile and toed the line for Easter Half Marathon in Lacey. I can't describe how strong I felt… to the point that I PRd by 2min 23 sec with 1:56:58 for 8:56 min/mile pace. 

On Tuesday I attacked the 10 Yassos at 3:57 min each. I felt really good throughout all of them, and finished really strong.

I feel really happy with the whole training process from all points of view. I added 35% of additional miles every week, I ran good speed work, good quality long runs, and a lot of fantastic recovery runs. Now it comes that time desired by many: tapering time. Curiously, I felt so good throughout all these past weeks that I didn’t feel like resting, but as disciplined as I am, I will welcome it wholeheartedly.

Yesterday, I went to run 13 miles (of course in another Half at Elma, WA). It was my 45th Half Marathon, which would take me to another level of madness in the Half Fanatics world (Earth level, 6 moons).

Plan was using that run to practice and mimic marathon effort during the first 13 miles: First 2 miles at 75% HR and the rest at 80-82%. Pace? No idea; whatever the HR dictated was the pace at that effort. I did what I was supposed to do: first 2 miles at 75-77%, then 80-83% without allowing the HR to go beyond that. At mile 10 I wanted to know how easy or hard was to crank it up and to unleash. A good sprint would be OK. Oh Boy, it was very easy! Did mile 11 & 12 at 90% and mile 13 at 98%.... and, without looking for any time, or glory, I PRd again, not by much, 5 seconds, but I was not expecting that with such low effort for most of the race. 1:56:53 - 8:56 pace. How do you run the last mile of a Half Marathon at all-out effort? With a lot in the tank. Oh! My Strategy. I Take You Seriously.
Easter Half Marathon, Lacey, WA - 1:56:58

Spring Fling Classic Half Marathon, Elma, WA - 1:56:53

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Long And Winding Road

I have said this many times. 20 miles is a daunting distance. It’s sort of a punishment to later achieve the satisfaction and mental power that we are ready for, at least, to finish a 26.2.

I have done in my short marathon career, about 15 twenty milers, at least one for every marathon I have run, with a max of three. My first 20-mile run ever, in 2007, was very exciting. I was curious with the results (body-feeling speaking). When I finished in 4:27 (13:12 min/mile) I felt absolutely triumphant and ready to hit the paved road of my first marathon. The message always was, time does not matter; the important thing is to cover the distance, especially for the inaugural experience.

The times had been from 3:40 to 4:45 (this one just before Houston). Considering that I was in better shape for Houston than ever, 4:45 was not a thrilling result, but I remember being a horrible 20- miler in the hilliest and steepest course that I could've picked. At mile 16 the legs were ready to quit but mind wasn't. At mile 17 the mind joined the legs, saying 17 hilly miles equal 20 regular. Something in the background said: yeah right; a 2 and a 0 must be registered in the watch. I kept going with nothing in my system. One of the hardest 20-miler I've run... or the hardest??? But as always, I told to myself, the importance is to cover the distance.

And then 2012 came with Big Sur in the plans as the selected spring marathon, and a 20-miler was scheduled as part of Ft. Steilacoom Resolution Races. Because it was a race, I knew I would run it much better than if I was alone by myself meandering through roads for endless hours. The results were more than fantastic. I had a solid run and clocked 3:10:12 for a 9:31 min/mile pace. If I felt in 2007 so ready, I felt now more than geared up to conquer my 7th state, California.

A week after, I went for another long race, this time a familiar one: 30K (18.6 miles) at Birch Bay. I knew that I would do well, and that I should be under 3 hours according to the 20-mile results. Race results were good. I PRd the distance by 16 min: 3:00:33 for a 9:42 pace. The funny thing was that my body didn't cooperate much. My tummy hurt most of the race (food issues), and my right leg wanted to give out at every step of the way, and be removed and hung like a Spanish Serrano ham leg. I didn't feel good at all, and after 15K I started to lose ground by the K. But, as always I was happy. I still pulled off a good result!!!

5K - 29:10 - (29:10)
10K - 58:40 - (29:30)
15K - 1:28:49 - (30:09)
20K - 1:59:48 - (30:59)
25K - 2:31:00 - (31:12)
30K - 3:00:33 - (29:33)

Big Sur should be a success. Though is not a PR course and it’s described as a difficult course, I am in such a shape that I have to do much better than my actual best which is Coeur D’Alene 4:44.

The road to a marathon is not easy: from the training, the 20-mile long runs, the recovery, the nutrition, the hydration, and without question, the mental preparation to just believe and trust the process. The road to a marathon is nothing but A Long And Winding Road.

Ft. Steilacoom 20 miles
Birch Bay 30K (18.6 miles)
Birch Bay 30K (18.6 miles)