Sunday, September 19, 2010

Marathon Training - What I've Learned So Far

I've just completed the first 10 of 18 weeks of marathon training. It will be my first marathon, so I'm learning as I go and know there's still a lot more to come. Here are some random thoughts about my journey so far.

- If you live in the South start your training at least in late September, and not early July like I did. The oppressive heat and humidity take not only a physical toll, but affect your psyche as well when your body can't deliver.

- Hammer Endurolytes in capsule form do not do well in the pocket of your shorts. They are good at preventing muscle cramping, however.

- Training for a marathon is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Before embarking on this I thought of marathons only in passing. A lot of people do them so it can't be too hard, right? Wrong. Maybe my perception is skewed because I'm trying to qualify for Boston and jumped right into an advanced training plan, but this is anything but easy.

- My training plan is pretty balanced. It pushes me hard when it's time, and backs off every few weeks to give my body time to adjust. Despite this, I actually look forward to rest days now. I've even adjusted my schedule to make sure I'm doing nothing on a rest day. No recovery runs, fun runs or strength training. Just rest.

- I use Body Glide in more places than ever before. Let's leave it at that.

- Long runs can get to be really long. I generally don't mind the solitude. In fact, I relish in it much of the time. But when you're out there alone for 2-3 hours you eventually start to consider distractions like podcasts or music. I haven't got there yet, but it's on the table.

- If you want to simulate a ride on the SS Minnow run 9 miles on a treadmill and then step off. I had to steady myself on a conveniently located wall for a minute.

- You become more finely tuned into your equipment. Shoes you once loved are no longer good enough. You'll need another type for long runs and maybe even some specifically suited for track work. And you are now more sensitive to things that never occurred to you in the past. These socks are too thin for these shoes. I need to wear this shirt with my hydration pack to prevent chafing. These shorts are the wrong material for a long run. The list goes on.

- You don't just need extra shoes for different types of runs. You need them to be used on a rotational basis. They need time to dry out and rebound before the next thrashing. And they don't last as long either. Force (Hal Higdon) = mass (you) x acceleration (tempos, intervals and hill sprints).

- Joints recover from a workout much more slowly than muscles. My quads and calves are a little tight from yesterday's 20-miler, but my hips and knees are where I still feel it the most.

- Showering all the time gets really old. After a daily running workout, of course. But then there are days where I'll get in strength and core training and have to do it all over again. And that doesn't include cleaning up after yard work, etc.

What nuggets of wisdom you can pass along about your marathon training experiences?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Marathon Training Update, Weeks 5 - 8

This is the second of four training updates as I prepare for my first marathon, the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon. To catch you up, I'm following Hal Higdon's Advance II training plan and the race is on Saturday, November 13th.

The past four weeks have been significantly harder as the demands ratchet up. This week in particular was extremely difficult. I doubled up on workouts twice: once to move up my long run so it would coincide with a training run on the race course, and a second time to accommodate a busy labor day schedule. I finished out the week with 57 miles, a personal distance record that has left me very fatigued.

I've made a few adjustments to my training regimen. I had been swimming regularly on Wednesdays, but after repeatedly feeling the affects during my Thursday runs I decided to give it up. It wasn't an easy decision because I enjoyed it and understood the benefits of cross training; however, the fatigue was preventing me from living up to my training expectations. I felt that I needed to focus more on running.

As I mentioned earlier, I also moved up my schedule by a day. In addition to the training run on the marathon course I did this past Saturday, there are two other upcoming events that have caused me to make it permanent. For now. The Montgomery Half Marathon on Saturday, October 2nd, will now fall on a scheduled 12-mile day and another trip to Chickamauga may occur on October 23rd. The final decision may rest on how the bump works out on Fridays, which are scheduled to get longer and harder.

As far as health goes, I'm feeling pretty good. A month or so ago I was experiencing a sharp pain in my left hip (femur head). I went to see Anthony, a massage therapist at Hands on Healing, and got "aligned." He contorted me in all different directions and prescribed some stretches to help keep things where they're supposed to be. It didn't get better immediately, but I stuck with the stretches and after a couple of weeks the pain was gone. Even better, I haven't experienced any new injuries. The usual tightness and fatigue after long runs is present, but so far it passes.

The only other thing worth mentioning is that I've started running in a new pair of shoes. After reading up on the hot, new Saucony Kinvara I decided to give them a try for myself. I eased into them with a couple of short, 3-4 mile runs and have already graduated them into my long runs. I put them to the test on this weekend's 18-miler and they passed with flying colors. They provide more cushioning than my Adidas AdiZero Manas, and offer an even smaller 4mm heel-to-toe drop that I'm liking. So far, so good.

Generally speaking, I'm happy with how my performance is going. I've finished every workout strong with the exception of hill repeats, which reduce me to mush. I've hit the mark on my tempo and pace runs, and am doing a lot better than expected when it comes to 800m intervals. I still wonder about the unknown, but try not to get consumed by it. Que sera sera.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chickamauga Battlefield Training Run

10-lb Parrott Cannon
I started this blog in January of this year, and therefore never published a recap of the half marathon I ran in at the Chickamauga Battlefield National Military Park last November. I looked back in my training log, however, and I did record little bit there. Before I write about my training run there today I thought I'd give you a taste of what I experienced last fall. Here are some excerpts from the first couple of paragraphs:

"It was a gorgeous day for a race.  Sunny and crisp.  We started out near the museum and made our way on a trail to the paved majority of the course.  About 1.5 miles in I heard a sudden movement in the woods on the left side.  As quickly as I could point at it, a deer ran across the road about 25 yards in front of us.  The doe moved so gracefully and so fast it was breathtaking.  You could just feel it.  We all let out big yells and cheers, and everyone chattered on about it for a few minutes.

At about the 4.25-mile mark we left the woods and came into a short, quarter mile clearing called Winfrey field.  The fog still hadn't lifted, and that combined with the cannon monuments made it a surreal sight."

I'm currently preparing for my first marathon - the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon. A couple of months ago I was browsing the training section of the site and noticed the Chattanooga Track Club would be holding weekly training runs beginning in July. I looked at the schedule and saw that three of them would be on the race course. Knowing the confidence that comes with familiarity, I decided I would make the 3-hour trip at least one once.

I pulled into the parking lot about 20 minutes before the 7:00 am start and had a hard time finding a parking spot. Almost all of the 75 places were already taken. I approached a group of about 20-25 runners and tried to find out what was going on. A man by the name of Doug was giving directions to the crowd, but I knew I wouldn't remember all the street names. I asked who else in the crowd was running 18 miles, and hands shot up. I saw two guys across the group from me that "looked" like they might run the same pace as me and approached them. Steve said they were going to be running around 8-minute miles, but there was a risk that the other guy, Ryan, had a tendency to increase the pace. Even though it was a little faster than I was planning (8:15 - 9:00/miles) I decided to stick with them as long as I could. It was a crisp 61° with low humidity, and I was eager to get moving.

Shady running through the forest
We started out at a reasonable 8:40 pace the first mile, but after that settled in just under 8:00. Ryan and Steve appeared to be good friends and kept the conversation going. The miles went by quickly, and I drank in the scenery. There were plenty of deer lining the edges of the roads and the occasional rabbit. Everything about the course was as I remembered it. Even the fog hung just off the ground in the fields as we broke out of the forest.

The track club had things organized pretty well for the 9-mile double loop. At miles 3 and 6 there were water stops in the beds of pickup trucks, and at the start/finish there was more of the same plus snacks. It was a real treat getting to run without a humidity blanket and my hydration pack.

Ryan knew the park like the back of his hand and took us off the course on a short trail to keep things interesting. I was really surprised at how good I was feeling as we finished the first 10 miles at about an 8-minute average.

During our midpoint stop we were questioned by a park ranger about some food that had been left out near a club member's car. For some reason he singled me out, called me over to his truck and interrogated me. He wanted to know if it was my truck we transferred the food to, and when I told him it wasn't he asked if I knew whose it was. He was serious as a heart attack and very tightly wound. Later some of the other runners told me that the park service had it out for us. They didn't like how we took up all the spaces in the parking lot.

Huge open fields with monuments
We headed out for the second half and found the same pace again after the first mile. More cannons, more breathtaking fields, more monuments, more perfect running weather. Despite the warnings about Ryan, it was Steve that started to pick up the pace. Ryan was coming back from an injury and the two of us hung back just a little. After finally getting back together at an intersection, the three of us hit the homestretch and finished out with a couple of strong 7:30/miles. It was the longest run I've ever done at one time, and I was really pleased with an overall 7:54 pace for the day.

We stood around and chatted in the parking lot for a few and I gladly tossed a few dollars in the donations bag before I left. Unfortunately, I had to get going back my hotel to shower, change and check out within 45 minutes.

I returned to the park later and spent a couple of hours taking it all in and snapping photos. I stopped by the visitor's center and watched a film about the battles of Chickamauga (the Rebs won) and Chattanooga (the Yanks held it). I was then able to visualize where some of the battle lines were and followed the maps to see for myself where the soldiers faced off. One aspect I found impressive was that all the cannons in the park are properly positioned for battle. You can see right where the lines would have been formed.

A big thanks to CTC for the support, water stops and snacks, and to Steve and Ryan for making me feel like one of the group. I hope to make it back up again on October 23rd for one more run on the course before race day.