With the Columbus Marathon three weeks out, this week was supposed to be one final hard push toward a 2:55, which would be 3 minutes faster than my PR at the Cleveland Marathon in May. It was to be a confidence-boosting week to cap off an intense 12-week training cycle specifically geared toward running a 2:55 marathon. The week and cycle were to end with a 12-mile marathon-pace run (6:40), which would confirm whether or not I’m ready for 2:55.
Unfortunately, this was not a good training week even as I logged 90.5 miles! A lot went wrong. I felt terrible all week, weathering aches, pains, a low-grade fever and a wicked sore throat from some mysterious bug. I thought I had strep throat but apparently didn’t because my sore throat eventually cleared up. Then I thought I had a cold but never became congested. Not until Sunday did I begin to feel much better, and even now I am not 100 percent.
I also “tweaked” my right hamstring during Wednesday’s track workout—maybe because of my body’s weakened state. At first, I didn’t pay the discomfort in my hamstring much attention. But then when I was barely able to run home after my track workout I knew this might be a big deal. In fact, for a while there I thought Columbus was history. As I write, my hamstring is much better and hopefully by the race will be 100 percent. I’m likely going to avoid any all-out interval efforts between now and then just to play it safe.
I’m proud of my Columbus training. I’ve had quality track and tempo workouts basically every week of my training cycle. When I think about where I was after Mohican (barely able to walk due to a knee injury) v. where I am now, I feel confident in my plan. I am in much better shape for this year’s Columbus than I was for last year’s race. My weekly mileage has been solid over the past 12 weeks. I’ve averaged 83 miles per week and have stuck to my tempo runs and three-week speed-work circle. My lactate threshold and VO2 max are at good levels. I would have liked to get in some 100-mile weeks, but fell short.
This will be my fifth consecutive Columbus Marathon. The Columbus Marathon is very special to me. Every year I look forward to joining my father-in-law at Columbus, where we always go for our own best efforts. This will be his 10th Columbus. He walks the course and usually always comes in around 6 hours. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d ever have taken up marathon running if he himself hadn’t made 26.2 a part of his own life. When I first set my sights on the marathon in the spring of 2004, his good example was a big part of the decision. I just wanted to finish, and I did—in 3:22. A lot has changed since that 2004 race.
The marathon is tough. It hurts badly. The last 4 miles of a marathon separate marathoners into two categories—those who are walking, and those who are still running. The marathon requires not only mental and physical toughness, but also a certain measure of precision. You have to find that sweet spot, where you’re running at a pace that you can maintain for 26.2 miles, but yet have nothing left in the tank when you cross. You want to leave it all on the course—like running out of gas right when you arrive at your destination. It took me 10 marathons to finally find that sweet spot. People who saw me cross at Cleveland say I came down the home stretch looking like I was in agony. I was. That’s how it should be—laying it all on the line. Can I find my sweet spot again at Columbus? We’ll see.
Here’s how the week went:
PM: 7.05 miles at 7:27 pace down MLK with Dave S.
I felt horrible—very achy as in I knew I was coming down with something bad.
AM: 8.5 miles at 7:20 pace on the treadmill
Still feeling awful and barely able to make it out of bed at my normal 4:50 a.m., I didn’t want to run outside in the pitch-black dark with it raining cats and dogs. Instead, I elected to put in the miles indoors, going somewhat easy.
PM: 7 miles at 7:30 pace down MLK with Dave S. and Don L.
Really under the weather, I wasn’t planning to run but Dave and Don practically dragged me out of the office. I managed to hang in there and have a decent run.
Total miles for day: 15.5
AM: 7.5 miles on the treadmill
Wednesdays are interval days, but forget about the track. Just running was hard enough.
PM: 7 miles down MLK and back with Dave S.
Dying…. Isn't running when you're sick what being a runner is all about? Or am I just plain dumb?
Total miles for day: 14.5
AM: 8.75-mile track workout
I woke up feeling a little better and decided to go to the track for my scheduled 2x3200 and 1x1600 workout. I started conservatively, running my first 3200 in 12:02. Then for my second 3200 I dialed it up a little and ran an 11:47. Unfortunately, during the seventh lap of that last 3200, my right hamstring blew up. At first it felt like IT band pain, but then, sure enough, I felt the pain midway up my hamstring. I managed to finish off that last 3200, but barely. I decided to skip the last 1600 and just run home. Unfortunately, the spasms in my hamstring got so bad that I had to take a few walk breaks on the way home. But then the spasms got better and I was able to begin running again.
PM: No running—right hamstring injury
AM: No running—right hamstring injury
PM: 7-mile aborted tempo run down MLK and back
Like an idiot, I decided to test out my hamstring only 30 hours after killing it on the track. So I went out on a tempo run and everything was going well…until the third hard mile, when in the middle of a 6:10 mile my right hamstring blew up again. I immediately turned around and began heading back to the office, just hoping I'd get back within my lunch hour. I had to take a few walk breaks until the spasms subsided. I also felt “heat” in the area. I later iced the injury.
AM: 14.1 miles in South Chagrin Reservation
My hamstring hurt for the first 6 miles and then the pain subsided as the muscled warmed up. This wound up being a solid long trail run. I ran most of the way with Tim C., who afterwards gave me some arnica gel as a treatment. The arnica gel seemed to work and the next day I bought some at Mustard Seed Market (in the homeopathic section) for my own use. Apparently, arnica has been around for many centuries and is a leading homeopathic remedy for muscle injuries and inflammation. Scott Jurek used it on his ankle after he sprained only three days before the 2007 Hardrock 100, which he won with a record-setting time. I’m going to stay on arnica gel until my hamstring is 100 percent.
PM: 7.15 miles at 7:30 pace
Total miles for day: 21.25
AM: 9 miles on the treadmill with Noah
I couldn’t go to Solon for the Sunday club run as I was on kid duty while Anne rode in her final horse show of the year. Though still a little tight, my hamstring felt really good. I ran the last 3 miles at marathon pace (6:40-6:45) and experienced no pain or discomfort, unlike my efforts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
PM: 7 miles easy
My hamstring still felt good.
Total miles for day: 16
Total miles for week: 90.05
Total miles for month: September/385.05 , October/67.5
Total miles for year: 3102.88
This week my tapering begins. With my hamstring problem and weekend plans (Noah will be baptized on Sunday), this may be a more aggressive taper than usual. My goals are:
1) 50 miles for the week
2) 3x1600 at 6:00, 6:20 and 6:45
3) 3-mile tempo run at 6:20
4) Lots of arnica for the hamstring
Onward and upward!