Sunday, July 27, 2008

Planning for November

One of the things I never get used to about marathons is the need to plan. I'm not a planner by nature. That's probably why my training tends to be unfocused. While I enjoy the competitive side of running, I most like that it doesn't need to be overthought: you put on shoes and get after it.

But maybe that's not really the case. I know to perform well requires not only running hard and lots, but doing quality runs. A big part of that is figuring out races. The past few years, I haven't been great about races. I only did a handful last year and a few the previous year. In fact, I ran a 3:01 without doing any races in the entire year leading up to the marathon. That's probably not the best approach.

After skipping the New York Half Marathon this weekend, I started thinking about my strategy leading up to the marathon. I went to the NYRR to register for some races and long-training runs, which aren't actually races of course. Here's what I'm looking at:

Aug. 2: Long-Training Run: 20 miles at 8:00/mile pace

Aug. 16: Team Championships: 5 miles. I want to see what kind of speed I have, as well as represent Downtown New York.

Aug. 31: Cross-Country Classic: 4 miles. Another speed test. I'm also interested in trying the Van Cortland trails. Not positive I'm doing this one. The 5-miler might be enough.

Sept. 13/14: Long-Training Run: 20 miles or Queens Half Marathon. I'm debating which is better for my training -- 20 LSD or 13.1 hard.

Sept. 28: Marathon Tune-Up: 18 miles. This race should tell me exactly how close I am to 2:59. Maybe it's better to skip Queens -- the bus leaves at 5am -- and concentrate on building up to this as a test.

Oct. 11: Harry Murphy 5k. This is in Van Cortland, a good chance to get out on the trails.

What's missing? A half marathon several weeks before Philly on Nov. 23. I'll have to travel somewhere to get one in.

7 miles, 54 minutes (20 minutes tempo)

The Week's Miles

I'm going to start to post my weekly running log. I keep it through an application on Facebook called Runlogger. It's OK, but not great. The app doesn't convert minutes into hours and sometimes it posts the wrong date. There are also very few trending features.

All in all, it was a good week. I only ran five times, rather than six, mostly because I needed to hoof it out to Westchester to speak on a panel very early on Thursday. This week saw the introduction of some speedwork into my routine. I also lengthened my regular non-speed runs to 7 miles. Maybe I'll change my approach once the Pfitzinger book arrives. Yesterday's long run was a little rough. I felt bad most of it on account of the heat and humidity. About 10 miles were on the Central Park road, which beat me up quite a bit. When a run is rough, I fall asleep later. I'm not much into naps normally. Yesterday, I fell asleep for three hours. It was rough.

Mileage: 41.75

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Figuring Out Pace

The biggest challenge for runners is pace, keeping a consistent one and finding the right one for training. Lately, I've done some wondering if my training pace is off. The problem is I'm too consistent: I've fallen into a habit of training at a pace not that different from my marathon pace. Now, I rarely run a 20-mile run at 7:00 pace. Typically, I run my long runs at 7:20. I'm wondering if that is too fast. At the suggestion of Barney, my friend who incredibly ran a 2:35 marathon, I ordered a copy of Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. (When someone who runs that fast recommends a program, I listen.) My plan is to follow his recipe, which seems premised on the twin pillars of tempo runs and long runs. Tempo runs build a runner's lactate threshold. That helps because lactate is what makes muscles tire during races. The way it looks, I need to start doing tempo runs once or twice a week. My question, naturally, comes back to pace. How fast should a tempo run be for a runner looking to do a 2:59 marathon? I don't have the book yet, but Pfitzinger's Web site talks about 15k or 20k pace. My guess: 6:30. Ouch.

Then there's the long run. I go back and forth about how easy to run these. I try to relax throughout the run, but they typically wind up around 7:20. Reading the site, I'm doing the long runs too fast, since they should be 10-20 percent slower than marathon pace. At 10 percent, that's 7:30; 20 percent is 8:07. A prudent pace seems about 7:40-7:45. Today, I went out for my first "real" long run of training. I did 17 miles. Since my watch is in Avalon, I don't know what the pace was. I definitely did the first five miles too fast, then made sure to ease off for the last 12. Overall, the run hurt a lot, partly because I began still tired from what turned out to be a fairly hard 7 miles Friday morning. By the last couple miles, when the temperature reached the mid-80s, I officially felt like dog balls.

I turned down a shot at a number in tomorrow's New York City Half Marathon. I'm not sure why. There was just the feeling that I'm not ready to perform at that distance right now. I'd probably do it in 1:28 or 1:27. I need to get down to 1:22 or 1:23 for the half. Much work remains.

17 miles, 2:07 (guesstimate)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Fartlek

Thanks to the encouragement of a couple commenters, Anonymous and Kupka, I'm dedicating myself to speed work. In the eight years I've trained for marathons, I rarely have done any speed training. One summer when I ran with a New York Road Runners Club class, we did speed workouts. But it only lasted a six weeks, then I went back to just running. This has worked just fine for me, but it's clear I've plateaued. Most of my runs, and even my marathons, are at about the same pace, from 7:00-7:15. Anonymous, a 3-hour marathoner, assures me I'm running too fast. I particularly appreciated the simple advice of Kupka: longer on the slow runs, faster on the short runs. Tonight, I tried a hard run.

The best thing would be to finally join a running group to have structured speedwork. But I figured I'd get started on my own with a fartlek run of about five miles. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play," and it's a way to shove a speed workout into a normal run. Basically, you just choose arbitrary distances -- like a tree 1,000 feet ahead -- to pick up the speed. Tonight, I tried it out at the Bridle Path. I ran over at an easy pace, probably about 8:00 per mile. I did this for nearly one mile. Then I picked it up. My watch is still in Avalon, but my guess is I was running about 6:00 per mile. Hard. I lasted for only 3/4 a mile. From there, things kinda went downhill. I did another five pickups of various distances. I felt like crap, eerily like my first runs ever when I was totally out of shape.

Tonight was hot and humid, but it's mostly a case of my body not being used to me demanding it work hard. That's good. The fartlek is good because it's interesting, and I can still do the workouts on soft surfaces. I figure I'll mix in some hill workouts on the Great Hill and even a trip to the 1/4 mile gravel track in the north end of the park.

5 miles, maybe 35 total

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Getting Serious

It's been awhile since posts, and one at 11pm isn't auspicious. Truth is, I've been busy and, naturally, lazy. The biggest change on the running front is I'm serious again. I went to Vegas, then tried my best to play the Euro playboy in France. I still ran. That's what I find crazy and awesome about running: Even when I was completely tired and hungover, I ate up miles in France. Tonight, a new runner (thanks @decourcy) reminded me of the running mantra: I've never felt worse after a run than before. That's what makes running second nature, like brushing my teeth.

I'm not into just feeling better. It's time to figure out how I run 2:59. I've thought about it a lot. I ran a 3:01 2.5 years ago. It was a crazy day. I hadn't done a race in over a year. My inclination was I was in good shape; I ran a 20-mile training run at 7-minute pace. No regrets, but I screwed up the pacing. I had the race but pretty much pissed it away because I was timid. My mom noticed at the end that I didn't look as horrible as previous marathons. She knew. I hope not to let that happen again.

My goal: 2:59 at the Philly Marathon in November. I need to train an insane amount. I'm OK with that. Right now, a good 18 weeks out, I'm doing 35 miles a week and 5-6 miles daily. I'll start to up the long run and hopefully add some speed work. I loved a recent story in the NYT by Michael Barry about what it takes to ride the Tour. His point is quite clear: it hurts.
The key to training well for the Tour de France is not only to train hard enough that the body is fit, but more important, to train it to recover from near daily racing and not collapse from exhaustion before the three-week race is over. If a cyclist is overtrained, his fitness will fade. But if he is not fit enough, he will be unable to tolerate the speeds in the first week of racing and will head home early.
5.1 miles, 36:30