Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beginning Again/Continuing On

Well, it's finally here. The start of my training for the NYC Marathon. The goal race. The point of this whole endeavor. Yes, it feels slightly strange to say I am finally starting the trek towards my goal when I just completed my best marathon yet. But this has been the plan since the start. A lot of people get kinda bummed-out after a marathon. You spend 18 weeks or so training your butt off...and then it's over. Whether it went amazingly, or poorly, suddenly it's all done. Well, I didn't really have that experience after Grandma's, likely because I did not spend 18 weeks training for the race. Really, I only spent 5. Sure, I was running before that...and I definitely had the race in mind. But I wasn't specifically training for it. There was no plan until those last 5 weeks.

It's a good thing. I am still jazzed about what I was able to accomplish there and I am mentally ready to really get going with training. I have already made the complete mental switch to where 4:23 is my current, too slow PR that I need to train hard enough to completely crush.

Yesterday was my first run since the marathon last Saturday. I ran an easy 2 miles and followed that up today with an easy 6. Now, they didn't feel stellar. There is still a lot of gunk in my legs from the race and my diet, etc. has not been the best this past week. Time to get back on track.

I still know nothing about my NYC training plan. OK, that's not exactly true...I know that I still have Wendy guiding me and that the basic schedule will be similar. This time, however, it will be a bit more involved, more specific, and there will be many, many more miles. To get my coach up to speed on this particular race, I sent her a copy of this great book:

I highly recommend it.

I am so excited about this race. I have a number of super cool friends running it this year including: Tyler Crockett, Susie Hellman, Natalie Wolf, Vivian Adkins, Dave Wolfe, Michele Keane, Bob Kujawski and perhaps others I am forgetting at this moment.

Also, my mom and step-dad are coming to NYC that weekend and will be able to watch the race, as well as join me at the Team Up! with Autism Speaks team dinner the night before.

So much to look forward to. So much work to do. Bring it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Grandma's 2011 - The Race Report

The Goal: To Race a Marathon

So the plan was set. What Wendy wanted me to do with this race was to, well, race. In my previous 4 marathons, I had run for the experience. To finish. That's not to say I didn't have goals. For every one of my marathons, based on my training, I thought: "I should be able to run 4:30." But it never happened. Why? Well, I was never really properly trained...and I never pushed myself. When it hurt, I slowed down. When I wanted to, I walked. I enjoyed the events...but, as I referenced in my first blog post I was never really happy with the result. People always say running a marathon will change your life, etc. Well it didn't change mine. All it did was make me wonder why it is I can't reach my potential. Well yesterday, I finally reached, and killed, that 4:30. I also realized that is not, in any way shape or form, the limit of my potential.

My PR before this was 4:47. With a 2:02 PR in the half, and faster PRs in even shorter races, I just wasn't fulfilled. Sure, my body is not naturally made for long distances...and yes, that excuse worked for a while, but I, as you know, wanted more. I am now realizing that those relative PRs at shorter distances are no longer what I am trying to match. Those records are going to be shattered too.

Wendy set out a very specific, mile by mile, plan for me. I asked her to. I wanted that. I wanted to feel like I was attached to and committed to something - someone. When it hurt, I wanted a number to look at to say: "Well, Wendy did all this hard work for me and I don't want to let her down, so I better push it and meet this goal." And no, wanting it myself wasn't enough. That is evidenced by my first 4 marathon results. Wendy has analyzed the results of every single race I have ever run (there have been dozens and dozens for years and years) along with my training over the past 5 weeks. While she thought I was capable of much more, she decided to be conservative and put me on pace to run a 4:26. Yup. She said she was being conservative in suggesting I run a 21 minute PR. Gulp.

The goal of this race, as I said, was to learn how to race a marathon. To start slow and finish strong. To have something left in the tank in the last few miles. To be smart - to think about what I am doing at all points in the race, to focus, and to stick to a race plan. I had yet to do any of the above before yesterday.

The plan had me starting out with ten miles of 10:15s. She said this would feel pedestrian and it did. I imagine I have started many of my marathons around this pace (I don't have any mile by mile data of past races). I stuck at this pace, more or less, for 10 miles. After that I moved to 10:10 for a few miles, then 10:05, and then finally 10:00 minute miles until the end. I was given much more specific instructions about how to carry this out...what to do if I felt good, bad, etc. But this was the basic outline.

I will skip all of the reporting about the race expo, etc. and also all of the drama about the torrential downpour race morning and my complete panic at the start area - where I didn't even have my race shoes on until about 10 minutes before the start! I was a bit of a spaz, to say the least.

My friend Kei decided to run with me and stick to Wendy's plan. She was skeptical. She wanted to start strong and just finish with whatever she had left and hopefully finish in 4:30. I convinced her to try and follow my program and end at 4:26 with me. She ultimately agreed.

We started out with the 10:15s and truly just felt like we were out for a slow jog. Because of my last minute panic, etc. we started near the very back of the field and had to pass a lot of walkers, etc. But we soon got into a very comfortable groove. I had the garmin gps, so I spent a lot of time reigning Kei back in to get on pace. It is very, very hard for me to stick to a consistent pace - in a race or in training, with a watch or without. This was great practice. There isn't too much to report. We just stuck to the plan and felt great.

We both sort of had to pee starting around mile 10, but neither of us was interested in waiting in line. As we came upon the half marathon start (13.1 miles in, of course) we saw the huge line of bathrooms - there for the start of that race an hour earlier. Brilliant! We briefly discussed whether we should go or not. I wanted to cross that mat on time! I was terribly nervous and worried that if I took the pit stop (which was literally about 10 yards before the half marathon timing mat) Wendy would be at home freaking out (via the online tracking) because I was already off pace. We decided it made the most sense to just go now, while we had the chance with no lines. I jumped in and jumped out so fast - and I didn't even wait for Kei...I just TOOK OFF sprinting so I could get across that mat! After which I completely stopped. It must have looked extremely comical. I was SO worried about Wendy being worried. And I felt SO GREAT I didn't want to give her the wrong idea. So, after crossing the mat I waited for Kei, we laughed, and set off on our way. We had a little bit of time to make up - but not much.

Based on all of her analysis, Wendy thought I would start "feeling it" around mile 16. And she was right. "It" wasn't was just...there. A little bit of tightness...some soreness, etc. My biggest problem was in my ankles, or maybe my achilles, and I am left wondering if perhaps I need more support than my Frees. They provide so many other benefits and so much comfort in other ways that I would hate to use anything else. Perhaps I just need more time on them. I really did not experience any physical problems whatsoever in this race. Just things, little niggles, that I noticed were "there."

Things went great as we headed into town. Don't tell my coach (I was supposed to be focused), but Kei and I were chatting up a storm the entire way. We were both just having so much fun...enjoying the beautiful course, the PERFECT race weather, the wind at our backs, and hundreds of jokes from our friendship together. It was around mile 20 that I started getting quieter. I really felt great...but, as is the case in every marathon, I just didn't know how much I had left in the tank. I worried that at any moment things would take a turn. I had felt so good all day I didn't want that to change. Thankfully, it didn't.

I saw various friends as spectators along the way. At mile 24, I was excited to see my family. My nephew Jack had made a sign for me at our spaghetti dinner the night before. He was so completely adorable - getting excited as he saw me coming and holding up his sign. Here he is with Neil, my stepdad.

My brother-in-law Foster is an amazing he got several shots of Kei and I was we passed by, still feeling awesome.

Now, don't get me wrong...I was feeling it at this point. But I was completely fine. And somewhat baffled by this. At some point in between miles 24 and 25 I said to Kei: Oh my god...I am gonna do this." I knew Kei was fit to go faster than me...and I told her at this point to go ahead whenever she wanted. However, she was loving the race plan - and loving her some Wendy - she could not believe how great she still felt. Remember, she thought she was in shape to go 4:30 and was going to start with 9:40s and just see what happened from there. She kept saying: "OK, I am a believer in starting slow! This is amazing!" She said her plan was to stick with me until mile 25 and just take off from there.

So, at mile 25, she took off. And so did I. I decided I wanted to stick with her as long as I could. And we just went for it. In fact, according to the results, we passed 94 people in the last 1.2 miles!

After I ran around the DECC (the large convention center near the finish) it was getting very tough. Sprinter tough. The lactic acid was building up, the breathing was heavy, and that mile seemed to take forever. I was glad to see my friend Matt about half way or so into the mile. Having someone there cheering definitely gave me a boost - I had felt so good all race I didn't want to look shabby now! About 30 seconds after I saw him...there he was again, sprinting ahead to cheer for me again. I was, again, thankful. It was just so timely and needed.

The end of Grandma's is terribly deceiving. You SO think you are there and then you have to do this major wrap around before you get to the finish. I, of course, knew this having run the marathon there 3 previous times and the half marathon twice. We were about .25 from the 26 mile mark when Kei, whose shoulder I had been sitting on this entire time, turned around and yelled "where the hell is the finish?!" This sentiment is echoed by MANY a first time Grandma's runner.

I saw my family again at mile 26 but this time there were no more smiles and waving. I had been going all out for an entire mile and was pretty spent - though still moving fast. This picture pretty much sums up how I felt.

I just kept hitting it hard until the end. I knew I was ahead of Wendy's plan...and I wanted to blow her mind as much as possible. Literally. That is what I wanted. She had spent SO MUCH TIME making a plan just for me - a completely individualized training and racing plan. I literally wanted to knock her of her feet. I was so, incredibly excited in that moment. And so, incredibly, grateful to have found Wendy. No, Wendy didn't run the race. But her guidance - in not only my training and racing, but also my mental toughness - has been invaluable. She has made me believe I can achieve things in running I really never thought possible.

I finished in 4:23:07. A 24-minute personal best.

And this is only the beginning!

She hardly even trained me for this race! Only 3 weeks of training and 2 weeks of taper. Yes, I had some miles on my legs before that...but not many, and nothing organized or planned. The fact that we have an entire training program ahead of us makes me incredibly excited.

I love running. And I am starting to be proud of, and believe in, the runner I can become.

We have some HUGE plans and goals for NYC on November 6. Stay tuned.


For those who are interested, below are the stats. I also turned off auto lap (and hit my own individual laps) for the first time ever in my garmin-owning life. I worked out really well. I enjoyed not panicking when my watch beeped well before the mile marker. ;)

*Note: Wendy built in an extra 45 seconds to miles 21-22 at lemon drop hill, a fairly steep hill preceded by a long, gradual, and slight incline.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Plan

I haven't posted lately because, well, (1) I have just been tapering without a lot to report, and (2) I've been busy!

I started my summer clerkship at a law firm in Minneapolis and it has been a major whirlwind. Things start earlier here in the Midwest - and I have no car so I have to bus to work. As such, I have been having to get up around 5am-ish to get in my short runs. I have no idea what I will do about this when I start NYC training and the runs are longer. That's a problem for the future...

6 days until Grandma's! I am SO excited. I absolutely love Grandma's weekend in Duluth. It's hard to explain to those who aren't from there, but the race really takes over the whole town. Not because everyone there cares about's just a huge, fun, summer weekend with lots of traditions. I get to see so much family and so many friends - sometimes it's easy to forget I will be trying to execute my fastest marathon yet! I loved Grandma's marathon weekend loooooooong before I ever imagined I would run the race. It's just, well, fun.

My taper runs have been going well. Honestly, I can't really say much about them. My head has been elsewhere - which is perhaps good. A lot of people go crazy during taper...but I have been way too busy to even think about that. I have been relieved to have the reprieve from running so many miles just because there was so much else I had to accomplish.

Today I ran my final "long" run. 8 miles. After being VERY hot here in the twin cities last week (it got up to 102 and when I went to bed one night, it was still 96 - and I had no A/C) it has really cooled down and the run this morning was simply refreshing. Cool and crisp.

As for "The Plan"...Wendy and I decided last week that she would give me a very specific (mile by mile) plan for this marathon. I asked her to. I need goals to hit...something to be trying to reach - otherwise when it starts to hurt, I will be able to easily convince myself that just finishing is an accomplishment. It's not anymore. Not for me. Because I have done it. 4 times. It is no longer satisfying to drag myself across a finish line wondering why I can't go any faster. So, this time, I am racing it. That's right, I am racing a marathon instead of just running one. Or so says my coach. At the beginning of this, I don't even think I knew that that is what I wanted. I think Wendy was just able to tap into my frustrations and desires and to articulate why it was that I do not yet feel fulfilled by what I have accomplished in the marathon. She gets me. She's smart. I trust her. So we're racing next Saturday.

But we're being conservative. (This is likely the last time that C word will ever be typed by these fingers!) :) We aren't going all out - and the plan isn't even to run as fast as we think I am currently capable, fitness-wise. I simply haven't been putting on the miles long enough and, from the beginning, the goal of this training program has been my fall marathon - New York.

So, a plan is in place that will allow me to race, finish strong, and PR.

Wish me luck! After this...the real training starts. Once we have this baseline time, I intend to be a bit more specific in this blog about my workouts, times, splits, goals, etc.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Relay Fun! - Race Report

Today I participated in the Minneapolis Marathon Relay. What a blast. This is a great event, from what I could tell - and a great least the first 5.2 miles! That was my leg. We had a near perfect morning...maybe a bit warm if you were running the full, but it felt great to me. Not a cloud in the sky and a nice cool breeze.

This is a smallish event - 4800 people they said, and that includes the full, half, and relay. The logistics were flawless even with some recent flooding that required the course to change a bit...and maintenance on the local light rail system that meant the race organizers had to enlist last minute school buses for those needing transport to the relay zones. From what I saw, it all went off without a hitch.

Let's just say Grandma's definitely has some competition.

I started the relay and my leg was a blast. Not a lot to report when you run only 5 miles of a much longer race! I knew my legs would be tired. They were pretty trashed after yesterday's 16 and this was my final push before taper. Wendy told me I was free to "race it" but reminded me not to be surprised if my legs didn't have a lot of pep. They didn't. But I still enjoyed running fast. I actually got my heart pumping (in a way that long slow runs just don't require) and it was fun to sprint it in at the end.

This whole course is centered by and around the Mississippi river and I think my leg alone went over 3 bridge. It was quite picturesque. (I can't wait to move back here for good!) My leg had a few hills, but nothing to really report about them - especially since I wasn't out there that long. I did, however, have some negative thoughts. Well, if you consider envy to be a negative thing. I wanted to be running that pace and be in a full marathon, just like all the people around me. I want to be that fast for 26.2.

OK, this is my favorite part...

There weren't very many relay teams, from what I could tell. So when I entered the "exchange zone" I was all alone. I sprinted in and was standing in the middle of the chute, which was lined with spectators...and I couldn't find Mark, my second leg. Finally I stopped. Started spinning in circles...took the chip off of my ankle...and froze. Um, Mark? Hello? "What does he look like"? people asked. He's blonde and he's wearing the race shirt. OK, well that narrowed it down to about half of the people standing there. Lots of blondes back here in my home state. "What's his name"? They asked. Mark. Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE in the exchange area started yelling: MARK! MARK! This was, of course, quite startling to him as he exited the port-o-pottie! ;)

I did run faster than I had expected, so I arrived a bit "early." :)

Wendy told me I could race it and gave me an expected pace that she thought I'd be able to hold, given the large amount of training I'd been doing. But there was no pressure to hold it. I had no idea how "racing" would feel after all these miles I have been running. Well, as it turned out...I far exceeded our plan. I averaged 45 seconds/mile faster than what she suggested. It felt pretty easy out there, actually, and I know that I could have gone faster. Had I been rested, I could have gone MUCH faster. That feels good. So much exciting running to come as I keep getting fitter.

Have I mentioned lately in one of these posts how much I love having Wendy in my life? Really, I just love Wendy. I feel SO lucky to have her coaching me. And she is coaching me. We keep putting "coach" in quotes - but she is truly a coach. And a good one. I love the dynamic we have and the program we are developing. She has already helped me improve my running in so many ways - many of them having nothing to do with what happens when I am actually running. Again, I can't wait to see what's to come.

2 weeks until Grandma's. Taper time.

Here is a picture of me, Kei, and Mark at the finish waiting to cheer for Lori:

Here is the whole team:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Welcome to Minneapolis!

On the schedule today was 16 miles. It was originally a 20, but after the 18 trashed my legs last weekend, I asked Wendy about the possibility of actually doing a more of a traditional, 3-week taper. I usually prefer 2 - at least I think I do. I got that in my head at some point. Today is exactly 2 weeks from Grandma's Marathon so in 2-week taper land, it was the day for my final long run. Wendy thought about it, consulted with her husband (who helps her train) and all agreed that a 16-miler would be fine. It would get the job done, but not risk being just too much. I have only had 3 weeks of training under this new system with Wendy so my legs are still asking a lot of questions!

I am living in South Minneapolis very close to "The Lakes" as people in the Twin Cities call them. I really had it in my mind that I knew the Twin Cities - and that I knew Minneapolis. After all, I went to college for 4 years in St. Paul. But that was: 1) a really long time ago, 10 years to be exact (my reunion is this weekend) and 2) I didn't live in Minneapolis. I drove over here a lot, hung out, but never really got to know this city. I have a LOT of exploring and learning to do on foot, on bike, and by bus because this summer ... I am carless.

I stepped out the door today and headed towards Lake Harriet. Wow was that slick. Exactly one mile away, straight down the street. Brilliant. I got on the lake path and all was well. It was busy for sure, but not too crazy. I meandered over to Lake Calhoun for one lap...but it was busier over there so in the end, I finished up back over on Lake Harriet. You may wonder how big these lakes are around. Hmm. Me too. I guess I am not sure! I think Harriet is 2.75 and Calhoun is a bit bigger. Ah, the things we fail to pay attention when we are attached to our Garmin.

Here is an internet pic of Lake Harriet.

This run was tough. TOUGH. My fitness level feels great, but my legs are so, so, so tired. Not hurt. Nothing's wrong. They are just fatigued.

But they won't get a break quite yet.

Tomorrow I am running the Minneapolis Marathon. No, not the whole thing. And not even half of it. I am running the relay! I put together a team with a friend from high school, a friend from college, and a friend from grad school. Our team name is School Ties. The three of them don't know each other...It's going to be an interesting day. I am the first leg: 5.2 miles. I think Wendy wants me doing 10, so I will have to add a little on at some point tomorrow.

Anyway, I am very excited to finally be starting my summer!