Monday, October 25, 2010

Marathon Training Update, Weeks 9 - 15

Apparently, posting a training update once every four weeks was too much to ask. I said I would write something for weeks 9 - 12, but time got away from me and I never got around to it. Fortunately, it doesn't appear anyone has noticed. :p


The highlight of the past seven weeks was my performance at the Montgomery Half Marathon. I blogged about it here, and it served as a huge confidence booster when I did better than expected. I now feel that unless events beyond my control conspire against me I should be able to achieve my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Speaking of Boston, one development that has me a little concerned is how quickly the marathon sold out this past Monday. With the popularity of the race soaring it stands to reason the Boston Athletic Association has some tough decisions to make. The pundits say they could institute a lottery, increase the size of the field, or make qualifying times tougher. Or, they may choose to implement a variation of the three. Whatever the case may be, I feel now that I need to do more than post a 2011 qualifying time of 3:20. Fortunately, I've been training for a 3:15 all along, so no last-minute adjustments are needed. I just need to mentally commit to this being the actual goal, instead of a stretch goal.

So, what to do about a new stretch goal? Based on my recent half marathon time and the McMillan calculator I should be capable of finishing under 3:12. As my friend James would say, that's one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). Well, the thought of even qualifying for Boston a few months ago sounded preposterous, so I won't dismiss this as a possibility. Time will tell.


As is probably the case with most people at this stage of training, I'm dealing with some aches and pains I believe to be minor. My left hip flexor has felt strained for almost two weeks now, though it hasn't hindered my workouts. It's sore when I start and stop, but once moving I don't really notice it. Otherwise, it's the usual fatigue and soreness - especially after an intense running weekend. I'm hoping and expecting that as the taper begins, so will the healing.


Not a lot to discuss here, as I don't have any big decisions to make regarding shoes or clothing. On race day I'll be wearing my Saucony Kinvara Vizis that have about 50 miles on them. I wore them for the Montgomery Half Marathon and never once thought about my feet, so choosing them for the full was easy.

If I did have a dilemma it would be whether to carry my PowerBar Energy Gels in the Hydrapak Softflask I recently purchased. I learned about it from Pete Larsen at Runblogger, and have used it on my last two long runs. I got the 5 oz. version, which I like, but I probably should get the 8 oz. one instead. I can fit 3 gel packs in the one I have, but think I want the larger one so I can take along at least one more.

That's all for now. I suspect I won't have any more updates at least until the taper is in full swing. Until then, happy running!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Montgomery Half Marathon - After

So, it turns out all the pressure I put on myself before the race was either an unintentionally effective race tactic, or not warranted at all. I exceeded my expectations and couldn't be happier.

After a sound night's sleep I woke up ready to go. I took a really hot shower to loosen me up and shake off the cobwebs, quickly got dressed and headed down to Montgomery. I was greeted by Duane at my car, and then just a minute later found James and John, who I'd been wanting to meet for a while. Even Eric stopped by for a minute. We talked for a few and then I broke away to begin the process of warming up.

I wasn't as bad off as I'd expected, but I was still pretty nervous about the race. Just before the start Hilary found me and was bubbling over with excitement. She was the distraction I needed, and almost managed to hug all the nervousness out of me. When the corral filled up I tried to keep my mind busy by chatting with those around me. Dave snapped a picture of me and Duane, I spoke briefly to Frank Garcia, and I even got a chance to talk with Lynn, the woman who bested me at the Woodland Wallahatchie 10k a few weeks ago.

After spotting the hand cyclists a couple of minutes head start the siren went off for the rest of us. The first two miles up Jefferson and into Capitol Heights amounted to about 140' of climb. As expected, it felt like it kept me from going out too fast, but looking back on my splits I averaged around 7:10/mi. I'd expected to start out the first couple of miles at my marathon pace of 7:30/mi.

The next five miles were mostly flat and I was able to pick up the pace quite a bit. I stayed right around a 6:50/mi pace, with little fluctuations. At the 7-mile turn, however, I started to slow a little. Despite eating a Gu my splits started to drop to around the 7:10-7:20/mi range. Still, I felt pretty good and was pleased to be staying with some of the other runners around me since the beginning.

The start of mile 10 meant it was time to climb South Perry. It slowed me to a 7:25/mi pace for that mile, though I recovered just before reaching High St and was rewarded with the stretch down Dexter. The last mile felt short, but I didn't care when I rounded the corner to the finish and saw the clock.

Me and General Funk. Check out his
awesome jacket with all the patches!
My chip time was 1:30:06. I finished 9th out of 113 men in my age group (40-44), which wasn't a surprise, and 39th overall out of 1063 finishers.  Absolutely nothing to complain about, and I'm feeling a lot better now about my chances of qualifying for Boston next month at Chickamauga.

Shortly after finishing I was greeted by Hilary and her dad, General Dave Funk. I was thrilled to learn that she smashed her 5k goal by two minutes! And she placed 3rd in her age group, too! So proud!

All in all it was an ideal race day. Good weather, good course and great friends. Congratulations to the City of Montgomery for improving on what was already a good race and kudos for involving Joy to Life. Also, a special thanks to all the volunteers that helped make it all happen.

Montgomery Half Marathon - Before

This post was written on Friday, October 1st and its publication intentionally delayed.

For weeks I've been eyeing the Montgomery Half Marathon on October 2nd. One of the reasons I bumped up my schedule a day was so it would coincide on the same date as a scheduled 12-mile long run. Back when I did that, however, it was hot and humid and I had no plans of actually racing it. I figured at best I might just use it as a marathon pace run, which would require 7:30/minute miles.

A few days ago all that changed. We were blessed with a cold snap this week and I started thinking outside the box. Maybe I could use it as a measuring stick for my marathon in November? I started reading through my training plan notes and found that Uncle Hal, as some of us like to call him, was a step ahead of me.

"If you want a test race, this might be a good weekend for it. A half marathon would fit perfectly into the training plan, since today's workout is 12 miles."

Well, I figured, if he's going to give me carte blanche, I'm going to take it. But exactly what was I going to do? I then decided I would set a goal commensurate with my marathon pace. To determine exactly what that meant I turned to Greg McMillan's Running Calculator, plugged in my desired 3:15 marathon finish time and looked under the 13.1M column to see what my equivalent pace would need to be.

What? How the heck am I supposed to run 7:04/miles for an entire half marathon? That equates to a finishing time of 1:32:28, which is 8 minutes faster than my PR! Needless to say I'm now a nervous wreck, which is a new thing for me. I usually don't lack for confidence like this. But what would it mean if I can't pull this off? Are my chances at qualifying for Boston over?

I'm trying to keep some perspective about this. First off, this is a challenging course. I've run it a few times. And while I'm not intimidated, its elevation is slightly more challenging than Chickamauga. Plenty to climb over the first couple of miles and some nice hills to keep you humble towards the end. And second, I still have four more weeks of intense training before the taper begins, so there's still time to make adjustments.