Saturday, May 31, 2008

Calling on all those interested in a trans-Ohio run

I am thinking seriously about running across Ohio--whether it's west/east or south/north--this November. Depending on which direction we go, this will span about 260 miles unless we elected to run the approximately 320-mile canal way trail from Cincy to Cleveland. I would want to run the distance over a long weekend--say four days--with hearty dinners and hotel stays on a nightly basis. I have long wanted to try a journey run and am starting to get serious about actually doing it. If you are interested in joining in on the action as a runner or as a crew member--there may be a group of us--please let me know.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Training week 5/19-5/25 - 4 weeks to Mohican

This was definitely not one of the easier weeks of training--far from it. I entered the week pretty banged up from the Cleveland Marathon, displaying all the signs of a runner who pretty much left it all on the course--incredibly sore and dead legs and very little physical and emotional energy. Top that off with sleep deprivation--although it could have been worse--and you have the makings for a tough week.

Ordinarily, I would have taken this week easy to allow for recovery, but with the Mohican 100 so close I felt I needed to at least hit 70-75 "easy" miles to try to stay in shape. The "easy" departed on Sunday, when I caved to peer pressure from SERC and my wife and ran the Blossom Time Run (5.25 very hilly miles) in my hometown of Chagrin Falls. This was my first time running Blossom. The timing has never been good, but this year I thought: What the hell! More on that below.

Off/rested/ate like a horse

AM: 5.1 miles
PM: 4 miles
Legs a little sore and tired but these were better runs than I anticipated.
Total miles for day: 9.1

PM: 7 miles
Legs totally trashed--totally, totally trashed. Didn't help matters much that I got 4 hours of sleep the night before.

AM: 6 miles
PM: 4.5 miles
Legs still pretty sore and very tired. Just lacking the zip I usually feel.
Total miles for day: 10.5

AM: 9 miles
PM: 6 miles on the Bridal and Buckeye trails in South Chagrin Reservation
Felt really good to get back into the 15-mile-per day mode. My legs still felt pretty bad, but I was so happy to be putting in good mileage that it didn't bother me that I felt like running death.
Total miles for day: 15

AM: 12.1 miles in Cuyahoga Valley National Park with SERC. I felt pretty tired, still with some lingering after-effects from the Cleveland Marathon, but I was so happy to be at Lock 29 (didn't think it was possible...until Saturday morning) that it didn't matter. Is a theme developing?

Blossom Time Run in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, one of the most beautiful, charming towns in Ohio and probably the northern United States
*5.7-mile warm-up on the Blossom course (added a little in the beginning) with Mark G. and Steve H.
*Blossom Time Run, 5.25 miles, finished in 31:34, averaging 6:01 miles and winning my age division (30-34). Considering that I'd just run a marathon 7 days prior, I was extremely pleased with my splits, especially my last mile and a quarter. Once again my strength got me to the finish strong. My splits were as follows:

1: 6:04
2: 6:05
3: 6:01
4: 6:04
5: 5:56
5.25: 1:22

This was just another example of going into a different mindset once the number's on my singlet. I originally was aiming just to break 35 minutes at Blossom--not thinking my post-Cleveland Marathon legs could do much better--but once the gun went off 34 minutes was out the window and I was looking to bring the house down. I still don't know where I finished at Blossom, but I'm sure I was in the top 15 or 20 out of a field of more than 1,000. There were some great runners on the course, such as the Godale brothers, Fred Kieser from the Cleveland West Road Runners (a sub-2:30 marathoner and reigning Blossom champ), and others.

*Afterward, I ran a 6.65-mile cool-down, including running the course again with Mark G., who regaled me with great stories and helped make these rather uncomfortable miles go by faster. I couldn't help but wonder as I was getting in my car after running the Blossom course three times, including once for the race all balls out: Who in their right mind does what we just did? Are we crazy?
Total miles for day: 17.6

Total miles for week: 71.3

Next week my goal is 80+ miles with quality workouts, and then the following week I'll aim for 90+ high-quality miles with an ultimate goal of 100, and then start tapering for the Mohican 100, where I plan to bring several cans of whoop-ass unless I use them up between now and then trying to keep up with Noah! I'll make sure I save some for Mohican.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cleveland Marathon & Mohican 100 observations

Above: Me at Cleveland after finishng with a 2:58.

Man, my recovery from last Sunday's Cleveland Marathon has been slow and frustrating. It just seems to me that I should be feeling better than I do now. My legs are tired, dead and still a little sore. Maybe it's a lack of sufficient sleep, though for most of the week I've been able to get 7 hours each night. I got only about 4 hours on Tuesday night. Perhaps that did me in.

Maybe my slow recovery is also the result of coming back from Cleveland too fast. This week I'm looking to log 70-75 miles. I'm so focused on the Mohican 100 now that I felt a week of reduced miles, which would follow two taper weeks for the marathon, would be detrimental to my Mohican conditioning. I'm not looking to finish Mohican; I'm looking to go under 19 hours, which would put me in contention. There will be some very good ultrarunners out there that day. I know former Mohican winner Steve G. will out there. Vince K. may also be there. Who knows who else will be there. The field will be formidable, and I intend to go hard and set an aggressive tone.

Back to the Cleveland Marathon, as I have some observations arising from a lot of thought about the race this week. I'm very proud of the fact that I went sub-3, especially nine days after the birth of our son, Noah. A 2:58 is a solid time. But what I'm most proud of is how I ran the race--with consistency and strength. I remained in the 6:40-6:50 zone the entire way, finishing the race in that zone. My half splits were virtually identical, with my second half being a few seconds faster than my first half for my first-ever negative split. Even when I began hurting at mile 20, I never wavered and my strength, which I consider to be a major advantage I have over many other runners, was there for me every step of the way. All of that said, I am man-enough to admit that I owe a great deal to Paul R. and especially Jeff U. The three of us kept each other going strong when we were down on the lake and Shoreway, which is the hardest section.

I think that with continued focus I could potentially go sub-2:55 in the fall. This will require not only continued high mileage, but also ongoing track and tempo workouts through and beyond Mohican. Realistically, I'll need July to recover from the 100-miler, but then I'll need to get in some aggressive tempo and track workouts in August and September. If I do the Burning River 100, my fall marathon may suffer as a result. We'll see....

Now back to Mohican. My goal is 70-75 easy/recovery miles this week with potentially Sunday's Blossom Time Festival 5.25-mile race here in my own backyard, 80-90 semi-aggressive miles next week, and hopefully 90+ high-quality miles the week of June 2-8. My mileage would be much higher if I didn't have other more pressing priorities, such as a baby! If I am unable to hit, or come really close, to those goals, or if my sleep still isn't where it should be (the current amount of sleep I'm getting just ain't cutting it in terms of 100-miler training), I will back out of Mohican and look to the Burning River 100. I simply will not race in a 100 miler unless I feel I am in good-enough condition mentally and physically to contend. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. I want to run Mohican.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cleveland Marathon / Training week 5/12-5/18

This was the week of the Cleveland Marathon, my tenth marathon and my first real shot at a sub-3-hour time. My goal was to run Cleveland in 2:55. The result: a 2:58:28 and an overall finish of 33rd! I am extremely pleased with this result, especially given how much energy I expended all week having fun with Anne and our son, Noah, who doesn't like to sleep between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. I said in my last post that I was dedicating my performance at Cleveland to Noah. Well, the photo below says it all.

I am also very grateful for all the support and encouragement I've received from readers of this blog, my fellow Cleveland Southeast Running Club members and other runners, my parents, my brother, my entire family, and my wife, whose unconditional love and support made it all possible.

I've written more about the Cleveland Marathon below. First, a recap of my taper week as it happened:

5 miles easy on the treadmill
Our first day home from the hospital. Pretty tired but excited.

8.4-mile track work at the Solon High School track with Frank D., Wayne V., Mark G., and Steve H. Completed 3x1600s at 6:10, 6:30, 6:15--a little faster than I originally planned. Felt fresher than Monday but still tired and missing that extra jolt I usually have.

4.5 miles easy on the treadmill
Felt pretty good

4.25 miles easy on country roads
Felt totally run down from a long, long, long night in which I got next to no sleep. Felt nauseous, tired and very discouraged, like everything I'd worked for going into the Cleveland Marathon was going down the tubes, but yet at the same time happy as could be and having a great time with Noah and Anne. Talk about mixed emotions....

4.5 miles easy on the treadmill
Felt good after 9 1/2 hours of sleep the night before. Afterward I enjoyed a huge spaghetti dinner (as part of the carb loading process) with Anne and my parents. I wish Noah could have joined us.

Off / carb loading
Enjoyed a huge bowl of brown rice and vegetables for lunch, and then a huge bowl of spaghetti for dinner. For the spaghetti, I chose to forgo the normal whole-wheat pasta for white pasta for fear of GI issues during the race.

Cleveland Marathon
2:58:28, 33rd overall, 6:46 pace and a negative split in the second half
I basically ran anywhere from 6:38 to 6:49 miles, with just one 7:00 minute mile at mile 24. I got to the half in 1:29:19--about 2 minutes slower than originally planned--and ran a 1:29:09 in the second half for my first-ever negative split. Going into Cleveland, I never even considered the possibility of a negative split. This was without question my best-ever marathon--my first time breaking 3 hours and beating my previous PR of 3:05 at last October's Columbus Marathon by 7 minutes. The biggest difference between this marathon and previous efforts was how I felt the last 10K. Although I was hurting, I just had that extra something I needed to keep going strong. My split times during the last 10K tell the story:

21: 6:45
22: 6:43
23: 6:47
24: 7:00 (tough head wind)
25: 6:57
26.2: 8:53 (1.2 miles)

Going down the home stretch, I didn't have a whole lot more in the tank, but I had enough to cross with a time I was really proud of. I owe a big thanks to Kam L. (2:38), Mark G. (2:43) and Steve G. (2:49), who all finished with awesome times and came back to encourage me as I made my way to the finish line. For me, it was all about desire and wanting to make my family and running club proud.

As happy as I was with my own time, I was just as happy for my good friend Jeff U., who at 52(!) years-old ran a 2:57 at Cleveland, finally achieving his longtime goal of breaking 3 hours. His performance was made even sweeter when you consider that only a month ago he bonked badly at mile 24 of Boston while at sub-3 pace. It took a lot of courage and character for Jeff to come back from Boston and run Cleveland the way he did--which was flat-out awesome. Jeff and I basically ran the whole Cleveland Marathon together--always within earshot of each other--but from mile 21 to 24 were side by side, encouraging each other. Sometime just after mile 24, he dropped the hammer and got ahead of me, finishing a minute before I did. We celebrated and, I think, really shared the joy of a hard-fought race.

At SERC's after-party, I met ultrarunning great Howard Nippert, one of the all-time 100K ultrarunners who has anchored the US national team for many years. He was in town to run Cleveland, finishing the race in 2:38, and was invited to Barb B.'s house by Mark G. He seems like a very nice guy and meeting him was pretty cool.

Total miles for the week: 52.85

The Mohican 100 miler is a little more than a month away. This week I'm going to take it easy, and then next week try to start ramping up again for Mohican, with a hopeful 90-100 mile week the first week of June. With a newborn to take of, this will not be easy. In all candor, I've debated whether Mohican is really practical this year, but I will stay the course.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Training/taper week 5/5-5/11 - 2 weeks to Cleveland

The photo below says it all about this week--the most awesome week of our lives as we had our baby boy, Noah, on Friday morning. His arrival in our world signals a new life for Anne and me--a life that will bring even more joy. My priorities have suddenly shifted--all for the better. But I remain a hardcore runner....

PM: 6.5 miles at easy pace
Experienced dead legs and some lingering soreness from Sunday's hard run.

AM: 9 miles
Legs still really tired and worn out.
PM: Legs still really tired, but better than in the morning.
Total miles for day: 15

AM: 9-mile track workout
3X1600 at 5:34, 5:34 and 5:36 with a 400 meter recovery after the first and an 800 after the second. I was very pleased with my times even though my legs were still feeling pretty dead from Sunday's hard workout.

AM: 9.2 miles
Legs felt much better.

AM: 11.5 miles
Ran miles 3, 5 and 7 at marathon pace (6:41-6:45) and felt fairly bouncy and fresh, though nervous about the coming c-section. Got back to the house, showered and left for the hospital with my wife.

AM: 7 miles easy
My first full day of fatherhood--the second-greatest day of my life (the first being the previous day, when Noah was born). Felt bouncy and fresh despite a lack of sleep from Friday night. I would soon learn that 6 hours of sleep isn't a "lack of sleep."

PM: 6.5 miles easy
Ass dragging big time from about 3 hours of sleep from the night before. I'm having the time of my life with our son, Noah, but at the same time am a little concerned as to whether or not a sub-3 at the Cleveland Marathon will really be possible without sufficient sleep. The good news is that Anne seems devoted to helping me get some rest on Friday and Saturday nights.

Total miles for week: 63.5

The goal next week is to stay the course--Monday off, easy runs of 3-5 miles, and 3 one-mile repeats at the track at marathon pace, all followed by the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday morning. The most important goal, though, is to treasure this time with Noah and my wife before I have to go back to work.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cleveland Marathon taper plan

This morning I had an excellent speedwork session. I did 9 miles total with 1600s at 5:34, 5:34, and 5:36 with a 400-meter recovery after the first repeat and an 800 after the second. Overall, I felt pretty good despite a mild case of dead legs.

Having averaged over a 100 miles a week the last four weeks and completed five 100-mile weeks over the last seven weeks with aggressive speedwork and tempos mixed in, my goal this week is to run about 65-70 miles, with a marathon-pace run on Friday. This total mileage may be difficult as our baby will be born on Friday! Yes, we're extremely excited!...more than I could possibly express in this post. :)

Back to running! I'd like to have about 50-52 miles done by the time we go into the hospital on Friday morning, and then chip away at the remaining 15-20 miles over Saturday and Sunday, if that'll even be possible. My wife wants me to go to Solon on Sunday morning and get in 12 with the club. Yes, she really said that. I don't know if I will. It depends on how she's doing.

For next week's plan, I consulted with Mark G. to come up with the following:

Tuesday--3x1600s at marathon pace (6:41-6:45 pace)
Wednesday-Saturday--3-5 miles with a day off somewhere

He also said to focus on protein until Wednesday and then up the carbs on Thursday. I'll do it, though it'll be tough with the hospital food and all.

My goal for Cleveland is a 2:55, with the first half done in 1:25-1:27. I'd like to get to the 20-mile mark in about 2:10-2:12 and then, of course, break the tape at 2:55. That's 6:41 pace--a tall task. But I can do it. And I will do it.

I'll take it easy the week after Cleveland, maybe running 45-60 miles to get me back to feeling good going into the Mohican 100. I have a planned 90-100-mile week the week of June 2-8. To get in that kind of mileage with a newborn at home, I'll likely have to do my second/PM runs during my lunch hours to ensure that when I get home I can be the husband and father I want to be and should be.

Then I'll taper after the big week.

What happens after Mohican? I have a big 2008 race schedule, which includes the summer Buckeye Trail 50K, maybe--just maybe--the Burning River 100 if (I break 3 at Cleveland and won't need to focus like a laser beam on breaking 3 in the fall), the Columbus Marathon, potentially the JFK 50, and a few other events--that I'd like to complete. We'll see.... I'll keep running hard and never stop, you can count on it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

An emotional training week (4/28-5/4 - 8 weeks to Mohican)

This was an emotionally tough week. On Monday, we found out our baby will have to be born by c-section as he's breech (feet first). While the news could have been a lot worse, this was not the news we were hoping for. Every parent-to-be hopes for a "normal" child birth. On Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after hearing the news and feeling fearful, I was out for my early-morning run watching the sun rise and lost my composure at one point but kept going. This was probably good for me. My emotions remained mostly in check the rest of the week as I tried to focus on my goal--strong track and tempo workouts, a marathon-pace run on Sunday, and breaking 100 miles for the week yet again, all of which I did. In reality, all the running this week was probably good for me emotionally. I have found that, through it all, running is always there for me. Who needs a therapist when there are running shoes?

PM: 6.5 miles at near marathon pace (6:50)
I'd just heard the news from my wife and ran this one hard for a Monday because, well, it's what I needed at that point. Running scared, you could call it.
Total miles for day: 6.5

AM: 8.5 miles
PM: 5.5 miles
Without question the hardest day of the week for me. I don't know what got me through these 14 miles--something beyond what I could understand.
Total miles for day: 14

AM: 9-mile track workout
3x1600 at 5:40, 5:36, 5:39 with 400 recovery
Still not quite mentally there, I was off-speed for the first 400 of my first mile-repeat, running it in 1:30 when it should have been 1:23-1:25. But then I compensated for the lost time, picking up my speed for the next three laps and, in the process, wearing myself down. I was able to get through the second repeat in pretty good shape, but then I was hurting on the third repeat...but hung on. Overall, a pretty good track workout.
PM: 6 miles
Total miles for day: 15

AM: 8.6 miles
PM: 5 miles
Total miles for day: 13.6

AM: 12-mile tempo run
Absolutely busted my ass on one of my better tempo runs. I held a 6:15-6:30 pace on a hilly, punishing course. I ran my first mile at 7:56 to warm up, and then I dropped the hammer, not going above 6:26 through mile 8 (ordinarily, my tempo pace would be about 6:15, but these hills slowed me a bit). Then on mile 9, I "slowed" down to 6:54 and then to mid-7-minute miles the rest of the way to cool down. By the time I was done I had salt around my mouth, was tired as hell, definitely not mentally 100 percent, and was so dehydrated that my urine was sludgy. Sorry if that was that too much information.
PM: 4 miles at recovery pace
Total miles for day: 16

AM: 19 miles in South Chagrin Reservation, starting at the sledding hill parking lot. I met Jeff U., Ted F., Tim C., Scott, Jeff T. et al and from there we went to the Polo Field and back, adding extra miles in the end via a 25-minute loop. Then Ted and I went out for about 10 more, unexpectedly meeting up with Wayne V. and his son-in-law short of the Polo Field. We all ran together for the next several miles, trading entertaining stories. I ended the morning with 19 miles, feeling very strong and fresh. Ted looked strong, ending with 18 miles.
PM: 4 miles at recovery pace
Total miles for day: 23

AM: Ran with the Southeast Running Club in Solon. This was my last long run going into the Cleveland Marathon. My goal was to run at marathon pace from the start to the water-stop, and then remain at marathon pace as long as I could. I knew that, having run 23 miles the previous day, holding marathon pace would be tough and that the wheels might come off. Fortunately, they didn't. After a 2.5 mile warm-up, I got back to the parking lot and then left with the club, going immediately into marathon pace. About 2 miles into my jaunt, Mark G. passed me going about 5:30 (the guy can flat-out haul ass), and then his brother Steve motored by. I maintained a 6:19 pace going into the 6-mile water stop (faster than marathon pace but what the hell, right?), also getting passed by Kam. From the water stop, I ran with Jeff U., Paul R., and Steve H., and then finished the run with Paul and Steve (Jeff headed back, whereas we went 14 miles) at sub-7 pace. Paul is definitely in great shape and poised to break 3 hours at Cleveland. I think there's a good chance he, Jeff, and I could finish together. For the morning, I covered 16.9 miles in 1:57:36, including the 2.5 mile warm-up that took about 19:30. I was very pleased with my run.
Total miles for day: 16.9

Total miles for week: 105

Next week, my goal is to get in 65-70 miles as I begin my taper for the Cleveland Marathon. Our baby will be born likely on Friday, which obviously means I won't be getting much running in over the weekend--maybe a few miles, but nothing major. Obviously, I won't want to run a lot then anyway! Then the following week I'll aim for about 25 miles going into Cleveland.

A guy in my running club has told multiple people that there is no way I'll break 3 hours at Cleveland due to the lack of sleep I'll experience going into the race (the baby will be a little over a week old by then). He's in the minority as most people think I will break 3. I love it when people like this guy bet against me, thinking I'm not strong enough to endure challenging circumstances. It motivates me. I've been beating the odds all my life and I can't wait to prove this guy wrong.

On that note, I am dedicating my marathon to my son-to-be, Noah. I will run it with all my heart and soul, just like Big Brown at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, and just like runner-up Eight Belles who was tragically put down following the race after running her heart out. I want Noah to be proud of his father, not because I broke 3 hours, but because I laid it all on the line and left nothing on the course. I am ready.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I saw something awesome this morning

I saw something awesome this morning. About 15 miles into our trail run one of the guys in our group was struggling badly and was close to packing it in for morning, even though he needed 18 miles for the day. Wayne dropped back as we climbed a nasty hill in South Chagrin Reservation and stayed with him the whole way up, motivating him to keep going, and he did keep going. He achieved his 18 miles for the day and took a big step in his training for the Buckeye Trail 50K. He told me later that Wayne's motivation made a huge difference in his ability to keep running.

Motivating and helping others is what running is all about, at least to me it is. Wayne was there for this guy this morning and he helped him get to the top of the hill and keep going.

Sometimes I think we could all use a little help and motivation. Sometimes it's hard putting one foot in front of the other, and you need someone there to give you a nudge, a word of encouragement, some help. Many say running is an individual sport. For many, it is. But in my own world I think of running as a team sport. It's an opportunity to help others and to draw strength from those around me when I'm struggling.

If all we did was run for ourselves, and only ourselves, what kind of life would that be? I guess this is why the Southeast Running Club means so much to our members.