Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 A Year of Running in Review

Total Mileage: 75

I started the year still over 200 lbs (from an original high of about 240 lbs) and mid-way through training for the Gasparilla Half Marathon. I resolved to run through the winter and if successful plan for a marathon by the end of the year (and continue to lose a few pounds along the way). A record breaking cold winter tested my resolve and I ran for the first time with temperatures in the 30’s. (Those of you from arctic climes cut me some slack. Remember I grew up in Florida and 30 degrees is cold!)

Total Mileage: 73

I completed my first half marathon, The Gasparilla Distance Classic, in 2:16:51.

Total Mileage: 71

I made the decision to start training for a marathon and began Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon program.

Total Mileage: 110

My first 100 mile month and I increased my running schedule to 4 days per week.

Total Mileage: 145

I started this blog and completed my marathon program but discovered I was all dressed up with no where to go – no summer marathons. For the next few months I got measurably faster virtually every time I laced up my shoes.

Total Mileage: 114

I joined the West Volusia Running Group and ran my first sub 8:00 mile (no coincidence there). I also reached my weight goal of 180 lbs. I spent most of June and July with no formal running program, just running for the pure pleasure of it and increased my workouts to 5 days per week. Took my first ice bath.

Total Mileage: 101

I started racing again, running a four miler and my first 5k since 2006. I began formal training for the Space Coast Marathon.

Total Mileage: 127

I discovered I had a DoppelLaufer and together we birthed virtual racing.

Total Mileage: 102

I set my current 5k PR of 23:07 which was immediately followed by my first running injury serious enough to affect my training - ITBS. I spent three weeks on the mend.

Total Mileage: 173

I PR’d at the Daytona Beach Half Marathon, improving my time by more than 24 minutes over the Gasparilla Half Marathon in February. This was my highest mileage month of the year.

Total Mileage: 139

I began the month with my highest mileage week, 47, and ended it by finishing my first marathon, the Space Coast Marathon in 4:27:39.

Total Mileage: TBA

I won my first age group award and set a new record for my fastest mile – 7:14. I ran in the coldest weather to date with several workouts in the mid 20’s. I registered for my second marathon in Charleston on 1/15/11 where the DoppelLaufer Crew will converge and meet face to face for the first time, racing head to head.

As of this writing, I am 12 miles shy of completing my 9th consecutive 100 mile month.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Candy Cane 5k – Close, but no PR

To quote the great patriot, Maxwell Smart:

“Missed it . . . by THAT much.”

My official time was 23:24, 17 seconds shy of my PR. The official time for this race was the gun time so a comparable chip time would have been a few seconds faster, but I was lined up fairly close to the start line.

On the positive side – I set a new record for one mile with the first split of the race – 7:16, only to beat it again with the second mile – 7:14.

Oh, and then there is also the small matter of this:

My first age group award! 3rd Place in the 40-44 age division.

I placed 61st overall out of 404 runners with an average pace of 7:33.

So, what could I have changed to improve that time and PR the race. It seems I’m full of excuses.

1.  I didn’t plan to eat or rest well the day before the race. I spent the evening stressed out driving all over town and ate a fast food dinner in my car way too late in the evening.

2.  I didn’t even get in five hours of sleep.

3.  I didn’t get to the race early enough to give myself enough time to properly warm up before the race.

4.  I didn’t familiarize myself with the route and was surprised by a bridge crossing at the 2 mile mark. I wrongly assumed it would be the same course that I ran in a 5k earlier this year because it started at the same place. Even worse, there was a turn around at the bottom of the bridge so there was no time to recover before having to cross it a second time. The two bridge crossings left me spent for the final leg of the race and my pace for the last 1.1 miles slowed to 8:05.

On a flat course with true chip timing, I’m confident I would have PR’d and I would have been damn close to that 7:00 mile I’m hunting.

Front Running Sports did a great job organizing the event.  Despite my whining about the bridge it was a nice route that followed the Cross Seminole Trail through Winter Springs.  They somehow even managed to arrange for the rain to hold off until after the race was over.

I owe many thanks to my daughter, Tori and to Rick from WVR who were able to capture some great photographs and even better, rare video of the elusive Running Bird crossing the finish line (I'll try to embed it here if I can figure out how).  Also congratulations to the other WVR members that gave a strong showing at the race:  Mike (3rd in Age group with 19:59) , Luis, Elizabeth (PR'd), Sandy (PR'd while running with a debilitating injury ;-} ), Claire and Walter.

Today I think I’m suffering from a minor case of DOMS. I didn’t do anything to aid recovery after the race and I think I’m suffering the aftereffects. I need to learn not to take these short races for granted.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Last Race of the Year

I made a quick stop at Front Running Sports yesterday to pick up my race packet for the Candy Cane 5k on Saturday. This will be my last race of the year which somehow makes me a little sad even though I’m planning to run the Deleon Springs Half Marathon on January 2.

My luck with bib numbers continues as I drew a nice even number 50 for this race.

It’s been several months since I ran a 5k so I’m interested to find out what impact all this long distance running has on my speed in a short race.

This will also be my first 5k in my Saucony Kinvaras. These shoes make me feel faster from the moment I lace them up so I have high expectations for how well they will perform.

The weather warmed up a bit over the last few days. The temperature should be comfortable in the mid 50’s for the race and there is a slight chance of rain. Hopefully we will get lucky with the rain.

The race course will be the same as the Run for Africa 5k I ran in July. I finished that race in 24:10 and placed 5th in my age group, the closest I ever came to an age group award. The course isn’t optimal for a PR because of some tight turns that cost precious seconds but I have improved a lot since then. My current PR is 23:07 and my best mile split is 7:19. With any luck, I’ll be able to improve on both of those numbers tomorrow.

I've been running well the past two weeks and seem to have completely recovered from my marathon three weeks ago.  On the other hand, I slacked a little bit with my training this week and overindulged last night at the West Volusia Running Group's Christmas Party.  It was worth it though.  We had a great time and the hosts did an awesome job organizing the event.  With about 60 people in attendance, I'm sure it took a lot of work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

DoppelLaufer Update

We had another great weekend of DoppelLaufer Racing!

Ronda (Fruitfly) ran just one second off her 5k PR and won a first in age group award!

Melanie (Mtaurus575) knocked over 2 minutes off her PR and is on the verge of breaking 30 minutes.

Cristina (CLS89) improved her half marathon PR by 6 minutes in just 6 weeks.

MaryAlicia, with virtually no training, came within 6 seconds of matching her half marathon record.

There are only 3 races left in this challenge unless we pick up some last minute contenders before January 1.

As of now the leaders in the 5k standings are:

1. squeakygirl
2. Surfing_Vol
3. Fruitfly

My final entry in this challenge will be next Saturday the 18th.  The Candy Cane 5k in Winter Springs, FL sponsored by Front Running Sports.

Here are the complete standings including all race results (17 runners in 39 races over 3 months, not too shabby):

And the sorted standings including only everyone’s best races:

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What’s next?

Charleston Marathon
January 15, 2011

A drove of DoppelLaufers will be meeting face to face for the first time when we invade Charleston next month for the Riverfront Race Festival. We will be running virtual non-virtual, non-virtual virtual, live, real, in-person (I’m at a loss for words for a change, but I think you get the idea) marathons and half marathons to kick off the winter season of virtual racing. The race will be followed, I’m sure, by the consumption of massive quantities of medicinal hops to help soothe our aching muscles.

I’m a little worried about how cold the weather will be for this race, but Mother Nature has graciously provided near record lows for Florida this week to help me acclimate. How thoughtful of her.

Wait a minute – I need to crank up this space heater a little.


Where was I?

Oh yeah - training. I modified another Hal Higdon Marathon program to set up a training schedule over the next few weeks. Here it is:

I also analyzed my last few months of training to try to figure out why I hit the wall at the Space Coast Marathon.

This is what I’m thinking:
  • Overconfidence – shooting for 4 hours for my first marathon and starting out too fast.
  • Inexperience – especially relating to eating and drinking during the race.
  • Inadequate speed work and hill training – my training was pretty light on these workouts, mostly because of a bout with ITBS half way through and the fear of a recurrence that lasted for several weeks.
Fortunately, the sadistic leaders of WVR have scheduled a reprise of the notoriously difficult Victoria Park meets Deland Hills route next weekend. From my quasi-paranoid, self-centered, delusional world perspective, I know they did this solely to address the deficiency in MY training. So I will offer apologies in advance to the innocent neophytes who will be unwittingly subjected to this tortuous ordeal for the first time.

Good luck.  You may need it. ;-}

Sunday, December 5, 2010

1000 Micro Dramas

I’m still reveling in the high from last weekend’s accomplishment.

Even though I’m feeling great, I exercised some self restraint and resisted the urge to enter the OUC Half Marathon this weekend. No racing for me, but I still needed to feed my endorphin addiction. So, I showed up to take on the roll of cheerleader and photographer hoping to catch a good contact high from the more than 2000 runners who took part in the event. It worked.

I spent about 90 minutes standing on the finish line taking pictures and found the experience incredibly rewarding. I watched a thousand little micro-dramas unfold right before my eyes.

    Running for Two
  • The joy of both first time finishers and experienced runners achieving new PR’s.
  • The competition between perfect strangers as they approached the finish neck and neck struggling to out kick each other as if they were life long rivals.
  • Couples and friends crossing hand in hand.
  • A wipe out as spectacularly cringe worthy as any NASCAR accident as a runner tripped a few yards away from the finish line, slid belly first on the asphalt like a baseball player sliding into home, finally coming to a rest 2 feet from the finish line. Everyone held their breath for a few seconds until he lifted his head, shook it in frustration (and probably embarrassment), and then crawled across the line.
  • Innumerable desperate sprints to beat the clock before it ticked off the next minute. It mattered little whether the clock time read 1:29:50 or 2:29:50, the frenzy intensified in the last 10 seconds of every minute.
I left the race in a state of well-being nearly equal to any I experienced from running myself.

If you are interested, I uploaded many of the photos I took here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Space Coast Marathon – All the Gory Details

Maintaining this blog over the past few months has been incredibly cathartic for me so I feel an obligation to be brutally honest about what I experienced running the Space Coast Marathon on Sunday, even if some of it is a little embarrassing. So here you go . . . .

The race is advertised as Florida’s Oldest Marathon and has a great reputation locally for being well organized and picturesque. The race course is basically an out and back route following the Indian River, which separates the east coast barrier islands from the mainland of Florida. The race starts in the middle of the route at a quaint shopping district called Cocoa Village. I have driven within blocks of this area many times and never knew it was there, I will definitely return to check it out.

The half marathon ran south, following the river for about 6.5 miles and then doubled back to return to the start. The full marathon ran north 6.5 miles along the river, doubled back to the start/finish and then followed the half marathon course to the south. This was the first year the two races were separated in this manner and I heard that it was done in an attempt to reduce overcrowding. It was a good idea in theory, but it created a significant problem for the full marathon runners late in the race. I’ll get to that later.

I don’t have much to say about the first half of the race. It went almost exactly as I planned. My goal pace was 9:09 per mile in order to finish the race in 4 hours. The plan was to take about 3 miles to work up to that pace and then just try to maintain.

My split for the first mile was 9:25, close enough to the 9:30 I had planned. I hit my race pace in the second mile, a little bit early. My fastest mile was an 8:53 for mile 7 in the vicinity of the first turnaround, probably due to the excitement of passing friends as the course doubled back on itself.

I reached the midpoint of the race averaging 9:11 per mile, right on target, and thoroughly enjoying the experience. The course was beautiful with just a few gently rolling hills, nothing too steep, long or challenging. I was still feeling great.

I noticed over the next few miles that my pace was slowing down with each passing mile by about 10 seconds. I was still feeling good though and was not yet concerned. I was also beginning to feel the affects of changing conditions. It was a pleasant 57 degrees at the start of the race but now I was feeling uncomfortably warm. The wind steadily gained in intensity as the sun rose higher in the sky and I swear it somehow managed to change directions with the curves in the road so that it was always a hindrance. The curves suddenly seemed to be more steeply banked than in the first half of the race. None of these things would have bothered me when I was fresh.

I noticed a growing disparity between the distance measured on my Garmin and the mile markers on the course so I made a concerted effort to “run the tangents,” weaving back and forth in my lane to reduce the distance travelled around curves. The race had thinned out enough that I wasn’t worried about impeding other runners. Fatigue was starting to set in though and I soon found this to be too mentally taxing, preferring to hold my line down the center of the road.

Rather than rely on the Gu provided by the race organizers I was carrying two packs of Power Bar Gel Energy Blasts that I used in training. These are little gummy candies with each package roughly equivalent to two packs of Gu. There are 9 pieces per pack and I noticed in training that each piece is a small enough dose of carbs and electrolytes that I could wash them down with either water or Gatorade without upsetting my stomach. My plan was to eat one candy per mile beginning at mile 4.

Around mile 10 I noticed that my stomach was starting to feel full and heavy. I had been slowing to take water at every water station and eating my gel candies according to plan. I intentionally skipped the next water station and decided to cut back on the gels. This was probably a mistake because within just a few miles I was finding it hard to keep track of when I had last eaten. At some point late in the race I became so fatigued that it required too much effort to reach into my pocket to fish a piece out of the package. I think I eventually forgot I was carrying food altogether. I checked my pockets after the race and realized I hardly touched the second package. Looking back, I have no recollection of when I stopped eating.

I started to hurt around mile 15. I didn’t really notice it at first until I slowed to take in some water and realized that for the first time, slowing to take a drink did not provide me any relief.

My pace continued to deteriorate and by mile 18 I had my first split over 10:00. As I realized that a four hour marathon was no longer a possibility I started to adjust my goals. 4:10? 4:20?

I was beginning to struggle and told myself that if I could just make it to the turnaround at the southernmost point of the course I would be OK. Only 10k left in the final leg. I was willfully ignoring the advice I heard literally 1000 times while training – the second half of a marathon starts at mile 20.

Mile 20 required more than eleven minutes.

Within half a mile of passing the turnaround, Robert, a friend from the West Volusia Running Group and veteran of many marathons, caught up with me. We ran our final long run together in training for this race, nearly 24 miles, and I found it funny that I recognized the sound of his footfalls approaching me from behind. He caught me, faded for a minute with a cramp, and then passed. I struggled to match his pace for a few minutes but couldn’t keep up. As I watched him pull away, I remembered how I cockily believed I would beat him. I remembered our conversations in which I confided that I thought I would be able to finish the race in four hours. He never said anything to discourage me, but would always give me this knowing look, as if to say I had no idea what I was about to experience. He was right.

Shortly after that I was passed by the 4:15 pace group. Again, I struggled to pick up my pace to keep up. I was a little more successful this time which is reflected in an improved 10:52 split for mile 22, but ultimately had no choice but to watch them slowly pull away.

By this time, most of the nearly 1600 half marathon runners and about half of the full marathoners had already passed through this section of the course – twice. The next two water stations had run out of supplies. When I reached the first I saw a bizarre scene with runners gathered around the water table, some of them trying to lap water from the spouts on the sides of the Igloo coolers. In my already confused mental state, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening and I decided to continue on without stopping.

When I reached that next water station, there was a similar scene and I heard that the problem was that they had run out of cups. A volunteer offered me a pitcher full of water. I needed a drink, but I was feeling nauseous and needed to sip the fluid slowly. As I blankly stared at the pitcher in my hand I wasn’t able to even consider trying to quickly chug water from the pitcher and pass it on. I told her I didn’t care and I would take one of the discarded cups from the ground. She quickly sorted through a pile of crushed cups, found me one that would work, and helped me rinse it out and pour the water. When I turned around I realized I was now the guy holding the pitcher and I was confronted by a dozen outstretched hands holding salvaged cups. I quickly poured a few cups before realizing I was supposed to be running, so I set the pitcher on the table, and fought my way out of the crowd.

I hope I wasn’t too snippy with that volunteer, I honestly can’t remember. The problem wasn’t her fault and she was very helpful. I hope I thanked her, but again I can’t remember if I did or not. If she by chance is reading this – Thank you!

It was shortly after leaving that water station that I completely stopped running for the first time. I was spent. The sensation is difficult to describe but I had nothing left.

Just one minute, I promised myself. Walk for one minute and then you will be able to finish this damn race.

I spent that minute visualizing the short routes I ran in training – 5 miles on the Gemini Springs Trail, 5k around Victoria Park, 3 miles to the Debary Hall – all distances that I could easily complete. The race was almost over and the short distance left should be easy. At least that’s what I tried to make myself believe.

I dutifully started to run again when the minute was up but managed only a few minutes of a shuffling run before I had to stop again. I was devastated.

One more minute, just one more minute of rest.

This cycle continued throughout mile 23 which took me well over 12 minutes. Mile 24 was even worse. You can see my pace graph on my Garmin page here. This section of the graph has more peaks and valleys than the Appalachian Trail. I kept trying. I refused to give up, but I could not maintain a run.

I heard someone shouting my name and turned to see Leigh, another member of WVR, who showed up to support the racers and cheer us on. I was embarrassed that she caught me walking. She took this photo of me and was gracious enough to wait until I started running again before clicking the shutter. This lifted my spirits enough that I was able to continue running again, at least for a short time. She yelled to me that Jennifer, WVR’s organizer, was waiting just ahead.

Jennifer spent hours pacing runners in the last few miles of the race, encouraging them to the finish. She caught up to me near the end of the 24th mile, just after my last spurt of energy faded. I was again embarrassed at being caught walking and dug deep to start running. She ran next to me and tried to use humor to lift my spirits. After each joke she told I heard an odd sound escape my mouth - part chuckle, part exhalation, part grunt. The sound seemed to emit itself without volition, over and over again. It seemed I had even lost the ability to control my speech at that point.

With Jennifer’s support, I was able to complete the last two miles of the race without stopping, slowing only once to drink some water at the last water station. I even began to get faster with each mile. She left me with a final cheer at the 26th mile marker and doubled back to assist the next runner.

The final stretch was crowded with cheering people including my friends from WVR. The race ended on a columned sidewalk that encircled the finishing festivities. It made for a dramatic end to a tough race. I wouldn’t call it a kick, but I was able to speed up just a little as I approached the finish line. When it finally came into view around the curve in the sidewalk I felt myself start to get choked up.

I stopped running the moment I crossed the finish line and stumbled forward awkwardly, nearly falling and frightening a young volunteer who reached out to try to support me. Someone draped a towel around my shoulders and hung the finishing medal around my neck but I never saw their faces. I didn’t have the energy to raise my head. My struggle to restrain the emotion welling up left me gasping for breath and I reached out for a column to hold myself up. It took a few minutes to compose myself.

For the next hour I was miserable. I could barely walk. I was too nauseous to even drink any water. I made my way over to where WVR was encamped near the finish line to watch other runners come in, but I could not get comfortable. When I stood my legs complained. When I sat it was my back, shoulders and neck. I laid out my towel on the ground hoping to lie down and then realized I was unsure if I would be able to get down without falling over. I finally succeeded and in time began to feel human again. I even managed to shuffle around like a zombie in my bare feet in search of food and drink.

I continued to watch and cheer for runners as they came in and felt a bond with each and every one of them.

Will I do this again?

You may think I’m crazy but the answer is - hell yes!

I know I painted a gloomy portrait of the experience, but in some weird masochistic way this was one of the most glorious moments of my life.

There is also a small matter of revenge. I’ve come to the conclusion that “the wall” is inaptly named. A wall is impersonal - rigid but passive. What I encountered was very personal. It was animate and malicious - an evil thing singularly bent on my destruction that nearly bested me.

I will be better prepared next time.

413th Overall
53rd in Age Group