Tuesday, February 25, 2014

7 Weeks to London: Last Week's Training and Gasparilla

It felt good to get back out and race at the Gasparilla Half-Marathon. My last race was the NYC Marathon in November, and that already feels like a long time ago. I wanted to get the nerves going and put myself into that racing mentality once before toeing the line in London in April. It also forced me to take a few easy days during the middle of a long 14 week training bloc.

The Gasparilla race organizers did a tremendous job. It was the first time the race has offered elite prize money in many years, but with a very experienced group leading the way, every aspect of the weekend went without a hiccup. The course could definitely be fast under different weather conditions, but warmth is a risk you run in Florida. I don't know the exact temperature at the start of the race, but I know they made an announcement at 5:00 AM that it was 69 degrees with 95% humidity, so by the 6:00 AM start rolled around I imagine it was in the low 70s. Racing at 6:00 AM made the experience interesting as a good portion of the race was in the dark. Coming from the Pacific time zone, I was essentially waking up at 12:30 AM my body time for the race, with the gun going off at 3:00 AM my body time. That is a normal part of road racing and traveling. Fortunately I was tired enough after the race to go to bed at 8:00 that evening so I could wake up at 4:15 for a short run before heading to the airport. I was assuming I'd have the Bayshore jogging path to myself at that time, but I was wrong. Tampanians get it done!

The majority of the athletes were concerned about the warm conditions and went out conservatively. Jeffrey Eggleston and Abdi Abdirahman set their own pace and put 20 to 25 seconds on the field in the first couple of miles. For a while we had a chase pack that included Bobby Curtis, Fernando Cabada, and Carlos Trujillo. Eventually it was Bobby Curtis and I chasing down the leaders after some footwear trouble for Cabada. They had aid stations every mile, and I tried to either drink or dump water on myself at every single aid station to help keep my temperature down. At mile 9 I felt comfortable pushing the pace, having confidence that I could go for 4 miles without burning myself up. After catching Eggleston around mile 11, I was in striking distance of Abdi, and got to him with about 2km to go. I wanted to make a decisive move by him, but I had a great deal of trouble shaking him until the last couple minutes of the race. Winning the race is a real confidence booster for my last 7 weeks of training before London. The overall time was slow, but given the conditions I am happy that I could close down the last 4 miles, really pushing the last mile. Because the first 9 miles were only slightly faster than marathon pace, my legs should recover much quicker than after a maxed out half-marathon. The effort was still very high, but the temperatures did not allow myself to the thrash my  legs as badly as I could have. With that said, my legs do feel pretty beat up as I type this right now. A good portion of that could be the long travel back from Florida, so hopefully I'll bounce back quickly. I've put my morning run off for long enough now, so thanks again for reading. My weekly log is below, and follow me here on twitter for more training updates. 

Week 7 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 14 6

Tuesday 14 6 + drills and grass strides 30 minutes 20

Wednesday 5.5 10 x 1 km 2:56-2:57 w/ 1 min recovery

Thursday 11 5 30 minutes 16


Saturday 6 + drills and strides off

Sunday Race Gasparilla Half-Marathon




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

8 Weeks to London: Last Week's Training

With the Gasparilla Half-Marathon less than a week away, it is time to test my fitness half-way through my training block for the London Marathon. The competition looks great, and I'm looking forward to escaping the rain for a few days. Last week's training was a bit up and down due to the snow and indoor training situation. I returned to Portland from Seattle on Tuesday evening, and the roads had cleared up enough here by Wednesday to get back into my normal routine. The 6 x mile session on Wednesday did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. I have been doing my mile repeats on a hilly, paved loop, but this park was covered in downed limbs from the storm, so I went to the track. I was hoping this would mean I could really cut down the last few reps and get after it, but my legs were quite sluggish and I struggled each rep to drop the time by a couple of seconds. I think the indoor running, followed immediately by a taxing 24 mile run Sunday put me into a bit of a hole that was reflected by this workout. I dropped the volume slightly over the next couple of days and skipped a strength session in order to recover, and by Sunday I was feeling great. I was particularly pleased with my Sunday workout which included two shorter tempos on both sides of a 10 mile run. It was very windy, so my ability to hit those times has given me some confidence heading into next week.

The weekly volume was planned at 140-150, but it ended up just under this range after the midweek adjustments. That is a part of marathon training. You have to be ready to make adjustments to the training calendar on the fly depending on weather, injury, tiredness, etc. When speaking with newer runners in particular, this is where they tend to struggle. There are many training templates available for free and for purchase on some coaching websites that put all runners, but especially beginners, at a big disadvantage during a marathon build-up. It's nice to get a basic idea of how to formulate a block of training, but without the guidance of an experienced coach the whole way through, the templates are not particularly helpful. My coach, Dave Smith, has always been open about his training plans because he knows this is not where the real skill lies. The challenge is to adapt on the go, control the pace in certain types of workouts (no matter how good the runner is feeling), and know when it's time to hammer. After almost 10 years of working with Dave, I still rely heavily on his guidance in these areas.

Overall, the training is progressing as I had hoped, and I'm looking forward to putting on a jersey and testing my fitness a bit in Tampa on the 23rd. I'm going to keep the volume relatively high this week as to not peak 7 weeks out from London. I'll still have time for one big volume push after this race. Thanks again for reading, and I'll post following the race. To get training updates, follow me here on twitter.

Week 6 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 14 6 40 minutes 20

Tuesday 14 + drills and 8 x 200 meters on track 6

Wednesday 6 6 x mile starting in 4:38 working down to 4:28

Thursday 12 7

Friday 10 6

Saturday 14 6 40 minutes 20

3 mile w/u, 4 mile tempo (19:01), 10 mile run in 58:35, 3 mile tempo 14:14



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

9 Weeks to London: Last Week's Training

This last week has been quite a challenge in Portland due to the weather. It is rare for Portland to get sticking snow, but when it happens, the city shuts down. There are very few snow plows so only the major and necessary highways/roadways get cleared, making it nearly impossible to run outside. Freezing rain and ice came next. Getting 8 inches is not a big deal in many places in the US, but Portland does not know how to handle itself. I also do not know how to handle myself, especially when I'm in the middle of a 150 mile week. My 3.5, 2.5, 1.5 mile workout was scheduled for Wednesday, but this was the start of the bad weather, and the forecasters were not predicting the accumulating snow over the next several days. I pushed the workout till Thursday thinking the weather would be much improved and I could go out and hit my times. Unfortunately it worsened, and I shuffled my way over to the indoor track at the University of Portland (240 meter flat track). I managed to get an excellent workout in, but the number of miles on a flat indoor track definitely took it's toll. The next day brought 21 miles in two runs on the same indoor track, followed by a morning on the treadmill Saturday morning. By Friday it was clear that the snow and ice would keep coming for at least a few more days, and I was already physically and mentally burned out from the indoor running. I made a last minute call to book a train to Seattle and hopped on Saturday afternoon (the roads were too bad for me to get my car up there). Seattle avoided the rough weather, and Brooks took care of me once I got here. I am still in Seattle and am actually writing this blog from the Brooks headquarters right now. I plan on getting my second run in here this afternoon, and then heading back to Portland later tonight. Hopefully by tomorrow the sidewalks/roads will be clear enough for a tough workout.

I'm sure there are plenty of mid-westerners laughing at my dire situation here, but I didn't have to miss any training, and I'm still healthy. A huge part of marathon training and racing is risk aversion. Getting myself out of a situation that required me to either run 20+ miles a day on an indoor track, treadmill, or thick snow and ice allowed me to avoid risk of injury and avoid the possibility of having to take multiple days off. I am very grateful to Brooks for setting me up for the last 4 days and the Brooks Beasts for letting me jump in. This allowed me to pull of a 150 mile week of training, and set myself up to bring the volume down slightly on my own terms over the next couple weeks as I gear up for a tune-up at the Gasparilla Half-Marathon. Thanks again for reading, and I'll be back with a post next week. To get training updates follow me here on Twitter.

Week 5 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 14 7 40 minutes 21

Tuesday 14 8x200 meters on track

Wednesday 15 6 30 minutes 21

Thursday 6 Indoor track: 3.5 mile, 2.5, 1.5 starting in 72s and working down to 69s (rest 3 min, 2 min)

Friday 14 miles (indoor track) 7 miles (indoor track) 40 minutes 21

Saturday 11 miles on treadmill 3 mile w/u, 8x200, 5 mile c/d

24 miles pushing 18-21 (starting 5:07 and finishing in 4:50) 



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

10 Weeks to London: Last Week's Training

One week closer to London and one more week of solid training in the books. This week was highlighted by mile repeats on Wednesday on the same tough, hilly loop as the previous weeks. I didn't get much faster at the end even though I had an extra minute of rest, but the quality in the beginning and middle was better. These are the workouts that will have me ready for a half-marathon mid-way through this marathon training block. My coach and I decided to do something a little different on Sunday than we've done in the past: a long progression run. Before New York, I did hard 15 mile tempo around this point in the build-up, but we decided to get a similar effort in without forcing any kind of a pace this far out. We will save that kind of effort for the half-marathon in 3 weeks and a long tempo 3-4 weeks from London. 

I want to briefly discuss the dynamics of training solo versus training in a group. This is one of the first questions I am often asked regarding training, especially after leaving a talented college program at Oklahoma State in 2009. There are benefits to each style depending on the type of runner, the training environment, and the coach. I personally am not the type of person that needs someone to hold me accountable for training. I have no problem getting myself out the door, and I have no problems pushing my limits during workouts without someone standing there with a watch. Most runners don't have problems with motivation, but I find that some have issues with confidence. This can be confidence in the effort at which a particular workout should be run (am I going to hard, not hard enough?), or it can be confidence in one's level of fitness (after a good or bad training day). There have certainly been days when I have called my coach, Dave Smith, looking for validation after what I feel has been a great day, or I have called him to help me talk myself off a cliff after a rough day. Fortunately Dave and I are comfortable enough with each other to do this over the phone, but it can certainly be positive to have someone in person to help with the emotional swings. 

The training environment and the people around you can also play a big part in determining the pluses and minuses of training alone or with a group. In Portland I am in a place where I can do 95% of my training from my doorstep, and I have the ability to do my long efforts in a place where I can drop my own nutrition and fluids in advance. If you're in an area where you need to drive before or after a workout or have someone cycle with you in order to get fluids/nutrition, obviously the support of a coach on-site is very beneficial. 

Along with the environment comes training partners. Ideally a training group is full of athletes trying to accomplish similar goals as well as several athletes of similar fitness/talent levels. For the most part, this helped me thrive in college, but there were times when this was detrimental to my training. When German Fernandez showed up in Stillwater, OK as a freshman, I had no idea what I was in for. German was always extremely humble and looked to me for cues his first year, but he was a monster in workouts. As a 5th year senior, I was not ready to accept that he was simply better than I was. I raced workouts trying to prove to myself, to Dave, and to the team that I was still our number one guy. This led to me showing up to the NCAA Cross Country Championships feeling ragged and beat up, finishing 10 places behind where I had the previous year even though I had been training so much harder. After gaining some maturity and perspective, we were able to adjust that spring and Dave separated us for some of our workouts going forward. It is great to have someone around to help push through tough reps in training, but I know that I'm the kind of person that has trouble holding myself back when there are others running faster around me. I am very good at knowing my limits when I'm on my own. With that said, I do miss swapping leads with a group of guys and the camaraderie that comes with the pursuit of a common goal.

Finally, it is challenging to be on your own if you don't have a close and trusting relationship with your coach. I could not be doing workouts on my own in Portland if it were not for the relationship that Dave and I built over five and a half years in Oklahoma. I know his expectations of effort and paces when he writes a workout, and he knows how to adjust my training based on how each workout went. This is very difficult to do between a coach and an athlete who have not developed this in person. 

Overall I'm pleased with my current training situation. I've got some very talented guys in the neighborhood do log miles with, and I'm confident in my efforts during hard workouts. But with maturity, the right coach, and the right mix of athletes, a training group certainly has its benefits. Thanks again for reading, and check out my weekly log below. To follow more of my training, click here to connect on Twitter. 

Week 4 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 12.5 6 40 minutes 18.5

Tuesday 14 + drills and strides 5

Wednesday 5 7 x mile (4:42 down to 4:28) w/ 3 min rest)

Thursday 14 7 1 hour 20

Friday 9 15 x 200 (29-32) on track

Saturday 10 5.5 30 minutes 15.5

Sunday 16 mile progression run (starting 5:50 and working down to 4:45) + warm-up/cool-down off