Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2008: a year of taking it to the "next level" / Training week 12/1-12/7

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2009 and what it will bring. In many ways, 2008 was a year in which I took my performance to the proverbial “next level,” setting PRs in the 5K, half marathon, marathon, 50K and 100-miler.

The year got off to a great start with a first overall finish at the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K. Although many of the region's top ultrarunners weren't there that day, I'm proud of how I ran that race and it was made all the sweeter by the fact that my parents and Anne, who was pregnant with Noah at the time, were at the finish line when I crossed. I went out hard and led the entire way, fighting off a very tough guy from South Africa who I thought was going to pass me at about mile 12. But I persevered through some agonizing blisters and hamstring cramps. The Winter Buckeye Trail 50K gave me valuable experience and it beat the hell out of me all at the same time. I think as far as winter ultras go, that may have been all she wrote at least for the next few years.

After the Winter Buckeye, my focused turned first to rest and recovery for about a month, and then to the upcoming racing season. In my tenth marathon, I finally broke 3 hours, clocking 2:58 at the Cleveland Marathon in May only 9 sleep-deprived days after the birth of Noah, whose days and nights were mixed up for the first few weeks of his life. Even though I got far more sleep that my poor wife, Anne, who was beyond exhaustion, God only knows what I'd have run at Cleveland if I'd gotten enough sleep going into the race--sub 2:50? To this day I've never been in better shape than I was right before Cleveland. I was running 105-110-mile weeks, 5:35 mile intervals, super-fast tempo runs, 25-30-mile training runs. I hope I can get back to that in 2009.

Five months after Cleveland, I again broke 3 hours at the Columbus Marathon, crossing the finish line in 2:59 on a bad hamstring that robbed me of at least a few minutes. But no complaints or excuses—I broke 3 in both 2008 marathons.

Also in 2008, I finished a strong 4th at the Mohican 100-Mile Trail Run with a 19:22. I led the race at 60 miles, but then tailed off a little and by mile 80 was hampered with a shot knee (that would force a 2-week shut-down after the race) and horrible GI problems that had me making pit-stops every 10-15 minutes with my pacers, Ted and Kenny, looking on in horror. Reflecting on the whole experience, I think I left at least 90 minutes on that course. Successful 100s, I’ve found, come down to four key factors: 1) Preparation (which I had), 2) patience (don’t go out too fast, as I did), 3) perseverance (which I think I have down) and 4) luck (which clearly I didn’t have at Mohican). Mohican was a tough blow. I was so focused on a big-time finish there and it was really crushing when things went bad the last 20 miles. A learning experience, to say the least....

I thought after Mohican my days of serious running were over. My knee was obliterated. I couldn't run a step for two weeks. I didn't know inflamed cartilage could be so painful. Finally, after I was able to start running again in July, I couldn't even go faster than 9-minute miles for a week or so. Not until August did I really start to feel pretty good again.

Two achievements in 2008 that I’m very proud of were my 1:22 at the Spring Classic Half Marathon and my 17:45 at the Aurora Labor Day 5K. I think these PRs are still breakable, but they won’t be easily breakable. I’m now 35 years-old and not getting younger.

I’m also proud of my contribution as a pacer to Tim Clement in his win at the Burning River 100. I ran the last 31 miles with Tim and, in the process, learned a great deal from a tried and true veteran with four national championships to his credit. Tim battled through a tough stretch on the Perkins loop, but still managed to regroup and break the tape first. This was a great learning experience for me.


I’m creating a 2009 race schedule that will allow me to keep improving and gain valuable experience in my bid for a 2010 Western States 100 appearance (should my name be selected in the lottery). I want to continue setting PRs and I’m still determined to compete at the 100-mile level. My first key event in 2009 will be the Lt. JC Stone 50K in Pittsburgh on March 21. This will be my first road ultra. With the Lt. JC Stone run on a fast paved course—the old GNC 100K National Championship course—I’ll be looking to set a new 50K PR with a sub-4-hour time—so long as the weather cooperates. To prepare for the Lt. JC Stone, I’m going to start quality workouts (intervals and tempos) in late January and will be logging 70-80-mile weeks by early February.

After the Lt. JC Stone 50K, I’ll scale back my mileage for two weeks, and then in early April start building up to 100-mile weeks, with weekly intervals and tempos, to prepare for the Mohican 100-Mile Trail Run on June 20-21. Assuming I’m able to get in the necessary training, I’m going to shoot for a sub-18-hour time at Mohican.

Since the Lt. JC Stone 50K and Mohican 100 are key events only 3 months apart, I’m not planning a hard spring marathon. However, I am planning to run in a spring marathon. I’m not sure which one—likely Cleveland but maybe the Cincinnati Flying Pig or Pittsburgh Marathon. Whatever marathon I run, I’ll probably go for a 3:10.

After Mohican, I’ll relax a bit for a month or so and then start training for my fall marathon—likely Columbus—where I’ll be going for a PR of sub-2:55.

Maybe around Labor Day or after my fall marathon I’ll go for a 10K PR in the neighborhood of 36 minutes or better. Of course, all of these plans hinge on my being healthy. Training for and running a 100-miler can really take a toll on the body. Who knows what Mohican will do to me….


I had a pretty mundane week of training, fighting a horrible cold and cough and some moderate discomfort in my right hip, which eventually went away. My leg turnover isn’t great right now. I’m avoiding fast running so my hamstring can heal. I haven’t felt any pain or discomfort in the muscle in some time, leading me to believe it’s completely healed. But I’m going to stay the conservative course through the end of January, when my next training cycle begins.

Here’s how the week went (short entries since the week was pretty uneventful):


AM: 8 miles easy
Roads very slick from the snow and ice

AM: 8.1 miles at moderate pace
Very cold and windy

AM: 8.2 miles at moderate pace
Temperature was a comfortable 37 degrees, allowing me to wear shorts. It's amazing how weighed-down running pants make me feel.

AM: 9.1 miles at moderate pace
Pretty cold—22 degrees and windy. I felt a little discomfort in my right hip, maybe from the cold. My last mile was at a somewhat brisk 6:53.

AM: 15.2 miles in South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club
With the aid of my YakTrax, I ran with Jeff U., Tim C., and Fast John. The temperature was about 14 degrees and the trails weren't too good in areas, especially between the sledding hill and the Polo Field. Tim I ran the last 7 miles together. This was a very fun run. There’s something about trail running in the winter that I love. My hip was better but not great.

AM: 15 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
There’s not much to say about this run, except that it SUCKED! First off, very few members were there, leaving only a few of us to fight some horribly slick roads from the snow and ice, a very cold 13 degrees and some killer winds to boot. The biggest mistake I made was not wearing my YakTrax. In just under 2 hours and 1 minute, I covered a measly 15 miles. Usually in that time I cover at least 16 and usually around 17 miles.

Total miles for week: 63.6
Total miles for month: 63.6
Total miles for year: 3,698.77

Obviously, I’m not going to achieve 4,000 miles for the year—probably falling short by 50 or so miles. While I’d love to end the year with 4,000 miles, it’s just a number.

My goal for the coming week is 70+ miles and to return to good health—no more cold or hip problem.

Onward and upward!

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