Map of Marathon States Completed

  • Kentucky – 1 – KDF 2012
  • New York – 1 – NYC 2011
  • Tennessee – 3 – Flying Monkey 2008, 2010. Memphis 2009.
  • Illinois – 1 – Chicago 2010
  • Indiana – 1 – Indianapolis Monumental 2009.
  • West Virginia – 1 – Hatfield McCoy 2008
  • Ohio – 1 – Flying Pig 2008
  • North Carolina – 1 – OBX 2007

The First Moment of Truth / Doubt #nycm #running

I don’t know if it’s a prioritization thing or a psychological thing, but I have yet to fill out my training plan completely, either in my Training Plan or in my Google Docs spreadsheet.

Last week featured back-to-back 11 and 13 milers, ending with a 15 miler at the end of the week.

Wednesday (tomorrow) and Sunday this week and next feature a 14 miler and an 18 miler.  Those seem pretty daunting at this point.

It’s not the distance or weekly volume that has me apprehensive. I’ve went as far as 23 miles in training runs before. My plans have peaked with a few consecutive weeks around 80 miles per week. With this plan, my first 20 miler is still weeks away, and the plan peaks at 70 miles per week.

One difference is that this plan is structured differently: My former (often improvised) 80+ mile plans consisted of lots of “doubles”: 2 runs in a day. It’s a little easier to squeeze in workouts when you do 7 miles, 5 miles, etc… then one 20 miler. I’m also trying to stay fairly faithful to the up-tempo and marathon pace long run schedule (so far).

Another possible difference is that my work and family schedule have made me favor (almost exclusively) the early morning run. I was doing outdoor runs for some of those, but the excessively humid air on the one cool day in the middle of a long hot streak was so laden with gnats that I really haven’t had the interest in getting back out there in the darkness until it cools off a little.

That leaves me running on the treadmill, and for the interest of time, the treadmill downstairs.

For 2+ hours.

Twice a week.

Maybe I’ll venture outside tomorrow morning.

Two 2+ hour runs on a treadmill in the same week.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Sends an Email on the Course Change, Finally

Email from KDF Mini/Marathon

Of course, it’s a marketing email.  (Speaking of which, I seem to always see “Constant Contact” on emails that get me more fired up than other email.)

You’ll noticed that this email was received February 8, 2011.  The early registration deadline is February 14, 2011.  I would imagine that most procrastinators probably wouldn’t have made the early registration date, anyway.

Thanks for the notice of the advance change for the early registrants.

The text reads:

– Now with both the start and finish lines downtown, our new Marathon and miniMarathon courses have been designed to be faster than ever while taking runners past some of Louisville’s best-known landmarks!

– More great entertainment along both routes to keep you going on your 13.1 or 26.2 mile journey.

– Runners will enjoy the sights of Old Louisville and the Original Highlands and pass landmarks like Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Slugger Field, KFC Yum! Center and the Speed Art Museum — just to name a few!

– It’s a whole new challenge

On point 3:  I guess the Southern Parkway crowds weren’t supportive enough.

Switching focus away from the marathon for a little while

I’ve had a combination of really good marathon experiences and really bad marathon experiences at this point.

The race day experience doesn’t bother me too much. The marathon is a challenging distance to run well, because little problems early on (and even 24 hours before) multiply over the 26 mile 385 yard distance:

  • Blisters start before the halfway point.
  • Lack of proper fueling or hydration shows up between miles 15 and 20.
  • Unseasonably warm weather usually takes it’s toll for the 8-10 minute miler about the time you hit mile 20-23.
  • Eating the wrong thing that morning becomes exponentially nasty with every mile you’re out on the course.

The problem is, I’ve had 3 bouts with injury, including one that occurred within 7 weeks of this year’s Chicago marathon. There’s an aggressive mileage target that I want to hit (80-100 miles per week) for the performance that I want out of my marathon. The mileage itself is not an issue: I’ve successfully run 80+ mile weeks before with only the expected fatigue. The problem is scheduling that mileage into my routine.

I end up injured because I stubbornly stick to my mileage target on weeks that I don’t have the time to follow-through. That means that I:

  1. Stack too many runs in a day [triples with well over 20 miles total]
  2. Run too fast [within 10 seconds per mile of my marathon PR for every run]
  3. Start building up 5 or more miles per week at a time.

I guess the whole “marathons disrupt a runner’s progress” line of thinking finally got to me. (See: The Marathon: A Race too Far?)

I’ve completed 7 marathons so far, and I’ve only had a consistent 16 week training period for 3 of them.

  1. My first one was a 4:34 PR in Outer Banks, NC [My first marathon, ever]
  2. The second one was a 3:39 PR at Flying Pig.
  3. The third one was a 3:32 PR at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

The others? I came off of injury or ran 4-6 weeks after another marathon. Two of them were extremely hilly marathons:

  • 4:42 at Hatfield-McCoy six weeks after a 3:39 PR at Flying Pig (I also vacationed the week before and had sore leg muscles when I start).
  • 4:32 at Flying Monkey coming off of 6 weeks of injury.
  • 3:49 in Memphis after a 3:32 in Indianapolis–the second marathon wasn’t hilly and I was still in good shape.
  • 4:24:50 in Chicago after injury within 7 weeks of the race and 86’F high downtown.

So far, it appears that the recipe for the greatest chance of success is having at least 16 solid, consistent weeks of training. Also, after running the marathon, my running takes a huge step backward for at least a month. To get to where I want to be for marathon training, I think I need to back off the focus on the marathon.

So, instead, I’m going for some INSANELY lofty goals for my current ability–basically, race paces below 7 minutes for all races up to the half.

  • A 19 minute 5k
  • A sub-40 10k
  • A sub-70 10 miler
  • A sub-90 half

I can do 5k training plans in increments of 4 weeks, and even the half in 12 weeks. I can also race a 5k every weekend without really risking injury if I run easy the rest of the week.

Don’t think that I’m giving up on the marathon; I have a ticket that I need punched for the NYC marathon next year.

The Five Stages of a Bad Marathon Run

  1. Denial – You went past the first couple of mile markers, and you’re not anywhere near where you need to be in terms of time. Your legs may not feel like they’re going too easy, but your brain is making up excuses, such as start line crowds, slow turns, and misplaced mile markers.
  2. Anger – You’re half-way through the marathon, and you’re coming to the stark realizing that you’re off today.  You begin to blame the chef from last night, the beer you had last week, the fit of your shoes, and having the wrong flavor gels.
  3. Bargaining – At mile 15-16 you begin to realize that it’s going to be a stretch to come up with a “respectable” time.  You may have been shooting for a 3:20, but now you’re bargaining with yourself for a 3:30, then a 3:40, then 4 hours.  No one seems to be hearing your pleas.
  4. Depression – You decide that you’re going to miss your goal time by more than an hour, despite [conservatively] being about 15-20 minutes off track. You wonder if someone will scoop you off the pavement if you collapse right where you are. You can’t really tell if you’re crying or sweating, but you feel like bawling your eyes out, regardless.  You still have 6-8 miles to go, and you’re close enough to not really need transport to the finish line, but too far to walk it in.
  5. Acceptance – At about mile 22-24, the pain and humiliation plateaus, and you feel oddly serene and peaceful about your fate.  All that’s left is a weekday recovery run.  You will finish.

Elevation chart of one of my bad marathons:

Hatfield McCoy Elevation Chart

Race Report: Monumental Marathon


I’ve spent the past 6 months working up to this day.  Twice in the past 16 months, I’ve been sidelined from running for more than 6 weeks.  I began running everyday at the end of my last injury recovery, making it my goal to be able to run the next day, and trying to increase mileage by about 2.5 miles per week (0.1 mile per day, with two half mileage days).  Once I was up to around 50 miles per week, I felt comfortable that my bad habits had subsided enough to introduce rest days.

I hit 70 miles in a week, felt some familiar pain, and decided to back off and build-up again.  This time I cruised past 80 miles in a week with little difficulty.


The marathon:

As for the marathon race itself, this was my fastest marathon by 7 minutes and 25 seconds, but it was not my best performance.  My Flying Pig Marathon last May (just before all the injuries) had even splits to negative splits.  However, I did manage to run this race without my GPS watch on–just a simple stopwatch.

I started this race out at a pretty solid 7:30 to 7:40 pace.  My stated goal time was 3:18, and I was right on target at the 10k split.  That was probably a sign of trouble right there.  I was running at the peak speed of my natural stride.

The 10k-halfway segment was only about 4 seconds slower pace.  At the half, I was at 1:39:40, which would be a 6 minute and 28 second PR for a half (although, that half PR was set the Saturday before my old Marathon PR, so I probably held back.)

This is the point where my training has fallen short:  My longest race this year was before my injury–a 10 miler.  Since recovery, I haven’t run a race longer than 5k.  I neither had the mental fortitude or mental training to adjust my pace.

I faltered around mile 16, and my splits started slipping past 7:40 to around 8:30.  The 30k split actually benefited from a descent down an exit ramp.

Around mile 20, I was no longer shielded from the wind that was whipping all around.  For the last 6 miles, I was perpetually running with my head down, arms flailing, running sideways…  anything to push through the wind.  For the final few miles approaching and in downtown Indianapolis, the wind blew even harder, whipping between the buildings.

Post race, I struggled to stabilize myself while retrieving food and powerade.  The 1 mile walk back to the hotel was brutal, and slow–but I still managed to get back to the hotel sooner than I would have finished my first marathon time in…  4:34 vs. 3:32.

A comparison of hitting walls:

It’s amazing how differently hitting a wall looks today than in my first marathon (OBX in 2007).  I hit those last miles at a 12 minute pace.  There was a lot of walking.

10 20 Finish
Split Time 1:32:03.6 3:17:43.5 4:34:05.6
Split Point 10 20 26.22
Average Pace at Split 09:12.4 09:53.2 10:27.2
Segment Time 1:32:03.6 1:45:40 1:16:22
Segment Distance 10 10 6.2
Segment Pace 09:12.4 10:34.0 12:19.0

For my marathon today in Indianapolis, the wall constituted of a 8:56 average pace segment.  More importantly, only two of those miles were slower than 9 minutes.

10k Half 30k Finish
Split Time 0:46:55 1:39:40 2:24:14 3:32:20
Split Point 6.2 13.1 18.6 26.22
Average Pace at Split 07:34.0 07:36.5 07:45.3 08:05.9
Segment Time 0:46:55 0:52:45 0:44:34 1:08:06
Segment Distance 6.2 6.9 5.5 7.62
Segment Pace 07:34.0 07:38.7 08:06.3 08:56.3

Don’t trust a pace group #running

I have observed a pace group divide: accuracy decreases with target time increase. The pace groups that approach 3 hours come closer than the pace groups that approach four hours and beyond. I have witnessed a 4:15 pace group come in close to 4:30, while the 3:10 pace group was pretty much dead on. I imagine the difference is that there are more experienced runners at the faster paces. No matter. It wasn’t the pace group’s marathon to run for you.

A marathon is a race. Run your own. Yes, I know that there is a popular movement to “just finish” a marathon, but let’s face it: If you’re capable of finishing a marathon, you’re capable of racing a marathon.

If you’re going to race, you have to maximize your performance. Now, most of that comes long before race day. You should have been training for marathon race day in mind for at least the last 16 weeks… Maximizing your performance means listening to your body. Part of your training for the marathon should have been toward understanding what your body is telling you. It’s good to practice this at progressively longer distances: 5k, 10k, 15k/10mi, 13.1 miles… Each one of these distances has a different feel in terms of the speed and fatigue factors.

To paraphrase some pacing advice I received:
On race day, start out by running at a pace that you believe you can sustain for 26.2 miles [forget what your Garmin is telling you]. Constantly listen to your body, the conditions, and the terrain. At mile 20, if you’ve run the race properly, doubt and some serious fatigue will set in. At that point, run like hell until you finish.

My Hatfield-McCoy placement:

Field Placement: 108 / 210 (51.4%)
Age group: 30 – 34
Group Placement: 9 / 12 (75%)
Gender Placement: 82 / 142 (57.7%)

I refuse to take this lying down, standing up, or anything in between.

I haven’t finished in the bottom half of the field since September ’06 (15k, 2nd race), 3 months after I ran my first mile EVER.

This is intolerable, even given the tough course, lack of rest, possibly tougher overall competitors… this was just an unacceptable showing for my conditioning level.

I don’t care about the time. It’s WAY more personal than that. My goal is top quarter in my age group. Next year. Period.

For this year’s race, that would have been a 3:48.

This is not me whining. This is me finding motivation for the next 12 months of my running.

I have printed out my Run Entry for myself to stare at.

This will be the rottweiler at my heels whenever I think about walking on a long run.

I may have to sign up for Flying Monkey as a training race.

Hatfield McCoy Marathon

As for race report: My perspective will be tainted by the fact that my legs were still sore (hamstrings, gluts) from crashing into waves on Thursday and a 12 hour car ride Friday. All I had at the start was a 8’50” pace on the flat/downhill start. It got worse from there. My time was a painful 4:42 and change.

The big hill between 6 and 8 wasn’t really an issue, but it took away what I had left. Down hill from there was steep, but also helped gain quite a bit of time.

The rest of the course was rolling hills forever, slick roads (from the incessant rain), and very nice scenery for my casual jog/walk at the end.

Motion Based Elevation Gain (ft) +3,877 / -3,869

Race Map: