The Frederick Marathon is Tomorrow and I feel confident in my fitness.  There were a number of goals I set out for myself before starting my training, which I thought would indicate that I was fit enough for a 3:10 (7:15 min/mile) marathon:

  • Be able to run a half marathon in 1:30:00 or faster
  • Be able to run a 26 mile training run at an 8:15 pace
  • Be able to run 16 miles at 7:15 pace
  • Be able to run 10 1 mile repeats at a 6:15 pace

In the past couple of months, I’ve met all but the last of these goals.  I’ve had a number of amazing runs for myself.  Without further ado, here’s a summary of races and key workouts:

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I have returned.

February 21, 2010

Well, it’s been over a year since I’ve blogged about running.  Looking back, I think the reason why I stopped blogging was because I injured my tail bone, was in a great deal of constant pain, and didn’t want to drag people down by constantly writing about it.  In short, it was a persistent, painful injury that originated from too much downhill training leading up to the Tucson Marathon in ’08.  I started to recover from it at the beginning of  ’09, training for the Frederick Marathon, but it came back with a vengeance at the start of Spring.   I withdrew from the race, and focused on recovery.  I did a lot of cross training on an elliptical since it didn’t aggravate the injury.  I saw a doctor about it, who gave me a shot of cortisone.  This made me feel good for a couple of weeks but then the effects wore off, so I could see all it really did was mask the pain.  I then went back to my chiropractor, who performed a series of adjustments.  I felt better after the first session, and eventually made a full recovery.  It’s yet another personal experience where chiropractic adjustments have proven to be a far better treatment method for injury over conventional medicine/drug therapy.  My general recommendation for injuries, based on personal experience, is to give a good chiropractor a try first.  You may be surprised what a good adjustment can do.  It’s also generally a great deal cheaper.   I may revisit this topic at a later time, but first, I’d like to recap some key races from  ’09, since it ended up being a great year.

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Gigantic Recap

December 1, 2008

Have I really not updated since September 10th?  I kind of wish I updated more consistently, to keep you all along on my journey toward a Boston qualifier, but unfortunately I have not.  Better too busy running to blog then the other way around, right?  

Anyway, just thought I do a big recap of some of the key runs I’ve had in the past couple of months, as I start to get ready for my final marathon of the season.  

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New Mexico Marathon Recap

September 10, 2008

Last weekend was the big weekend – my first marathon of the year, my first step towards a Boston Qualifier, and a true test of my current training program.  

I arrived on Friday in Albuquerque at 12:30AM, eight hours later then expected, due to bad weather at the Dallas Airport, and the ensuing flight cancellations.  I woke up the next morning at 5:30AM, with my jetlagged body thinking it was 7:30AM.  So I didn’t get a lot of sleep then, nor did I the night before the race because of the 3:45AM start.  

Talking to other runners, many of them were curtailing expectations for the race because of the high elevation (went up to 6100 ft), the hill at the beginning, the possibility of heat, and the early start.  I kept my expectations the same, shooting for a 3:30, even though my best time was a 3:54::59, and I had to deal with all those factors I just mentioned, and far less then an ideal amount of sleep.  I didn’t think the eleveation was high enough to be a factor, the downhill section would be steep and long enough to make up for the uphill, and I just kept reminding myself that my legs had not felt better before a race ever.  I was completly healthy, and wasn’t about to make any excuses, I just wanted to go out and run the race I knew I was capable of.

The race was to start at 5:30AM, so I took the earlier shuttle out there, and started my warm up and drills.  It’s the first time that I’ve actually done a warm up before a marathon.  I was hoping that this would help me run faster in my first 1-3 miles, rather then spending those warming up.  

The race started in the dark, on the far right lane of a desert highway.  There weren’t any pace groups, and people weren’t necessarily lining up in order of likely finish, since there were only 260 runners, so few that the starting position really didn’t make much of a difference.  With no sense of how fast I was going, I came through my first mile in 9:30.  This was slow, as I was hoping to keep an 8:15 going up the initial hill.  I started to hear the voice of common sense – it’s high altitude, it’s uphill, it’s the first mile of the race.  Then I told myself, “no, I’m not running that race”.  I’m going to run that 3:30, not settle for another 4 hour race.   I picked up the pace, but still had little sense of how much.  I didn’t see a mile marker #2, so I checked my watch after that, 7:30 pace for #2&3.  I had overcompensated.  I tried to slow it down, and settle into a good pace, but then I came in at a 9:22.  I didn’t feel like the early hills were all that steep or were taking a lot out of me, but I do think they were a big part of why my initial pace was so erratic.  

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Well, my first marathon of the season (of 3, maybe 4) is coming up this weekend.  I’m doing the New Mexico Marathon on Sunday.  With multiple marathons on my schedule the idea is to get race ready by racing.  The most specific way to train for a marathon, simply put, is to run one.  So with that said, I by no means intend to Boston Qualify in this race.  I hope it will prepare me for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in September and Harrisburg Marathon in November, which is the race I intend to peak for.

Originally I had thought about running a 7:15 pace for a long as I could hang on for, then just hanging on to finish.  I think that’s a little risky, certainly at this point in my training.  Instead, I’m hoping to keep a solid 8 minute pace, staying with the 3:30 pace group for at least the first 20 miles, then do an assesment.  I’ll see how I’m feeling.  If I’m feeling well, I’ll make a move, charge ahead of the group, and run the remainder of the race solo.  Otherwise I’ll try to hang on with the 3:30 group until the end.  In either case, I should shatter my previous marathon PR (3:54:59).  I think if I can do this, it will be a big confidence boost, and will validate how I’m training.

I’m happy with how my training has gone lately,  particularly in the past couple of weeks, where I’ve put in a 1:29:36 12 miler (7:27 pace), a 30:18 4.5 mile race on trail (6:44), a good set of 8 800m repeats w/ 400m rest (all at or under 3:15), and a memorable run on the Appalachian Trail where I somehow was able to run the second half of my run, which was uphill, faster then the first downhill half.  The only question mark is if I’ve put in enough miles.  Because I’ve been doing my long runs on the Appalachian Trail, including some very hilly rocky sections, and doing my runs based on time, not distance, my longest long run has been only 15 miles.  This run took me three and a half hours.  That’s just how much the conditions of the trail slow me down.  I’m hoping that the length of time and the mental toughness forged on the trail will be a good trade-off over mileage.  This race will be the test.

Quick post this time…

I found a couple of scientific articles that support the barefoot running paradigm:

First link’s a little dry, have to warn you.  The other two are more accessible.  None of the studies are conclusive, and none of them examine a great amount of subjects in a controlled enviroment for a long term period of study.  Perhaps that’s next, if it is at all feasible.  Nevertheless, the info does support a lot of what is beleived anecdotally: Running w/ shoes interfers with proprioception, can increase risk of injury, in particular ankle sprains, and is less efficient then barefoot running.

So with that established…does barefoot running necessarily mean landing on the ball of the foot?  Is a ball of the foot landing any better then heel-to-toe?  In particular, is there a difference for longer distances?  Does a shod ball-of-the-foot landing have similar benefits to running barefoot?  These kind of questions plague my tiny little brain…more on that later, but alas, time for some sleep, as I have a 10k race coming up on Saturday.

Forefoot/Midfoot running

July 15, 2008

There are a number of ideas of how to prevent injuries – running on trails, weight training, doing long runs slowly, or even incorporating walking breaks (Jeff Galloway‘s perspective).   Another perspective is good bio mechanics.  There’s a growing trend of running techniques out there: Chi Running, Pose Running, and Evolution Running, all of which have one thing in common: landing on your forefoot/midfoot (aka “ball of the foot”), rather then the heel.

I touched upon running this way when I discussed barefoot running and the Vibram FiveFingers.  In either case, the tendency is to land on the ball of the foot, and this enables the “lower-leg spring” to be activated greater.  This is the combination of the plantar fascii, achilles tendon, and the calf muscle, which function together to absorb energy upon impact and release it as you take the next step.  While this initially causes some soreness while adapting to the new stress in that region, it’s quite clear that it’s better suited for handling the shock forces than the knees and hips, which take more abuse in a heel landing.  I think the animation from Newton Running illustrates it best.

After developing my “lower-leg spring” w/ my Vibram FiveFingers, I started to incorporate a forefoot/midfoot strike with my current pair of running shoes.  It has not been a seamless transition.  I tend to run faster at the beginning of my runs, and slower at then end then I would w/ my normal heel strike.  I think this is because the technique does allow me to run faster, but I don’t yet have the necessary muscular endurance in the muscle groups that are greater used.  I end up deriving more power from the glutes, for instance.   This is potentially a good thing, as the glutes are the biggest muscles in the human body, so I would think it would have more potential for power then pushing w/ the quads.

A strange aspect about the transition is that I’m finding it difficult to accelerate while running on the balls of my feet.  When I ran track events in high school on track spikes, I’d run on the balls of my feet, so I’m used to running fast that way.  I’m also used to shifting to the balls of my feet when sprinting to the finish of races and training runs.  Running fast seemed to come natural in this manner, but accelerating while having run the rest of my run on the balls of my feet seems to be more difficult for some reason.  Perhaps, again, this is because I’ve yet to sufficiently develop the necessary localized muscular endurance.  Time will tell if I’m able reap the benefits.