Friday, April 30, 2010

To marathon or not to marathon

As I've trained for and run my last couple of marathons, I have felt like a tortured and conflicted soul. I really don't enjoy the 20+ mile long runs all that much, and I don't really like running for 2-1/2 or 3 hrs at a time. When I am training for a marathon it seems like my life consists of run, work, eat, sleep, repeat in varying order and I always feel tired and beat up. My body hasn't really been 100% since a 10k I ran on Thanksgiving day and my 2 marathons since then have both been worse than I would have liked as my training has been somewhat limited compared to what I would have liked to have done. As I suffered through a painful last 10 miles of the Boston marathon, I had plenty of time to think about how much I hated running marathons and wondering why I put myself through the torture. I don't enjoy getting up at 4:30 to go up to Conroe to run 20+ miles on Saturdays when training for Boston.

On the other hand I'm extremely competitive and I love challenges. I don't run to stay in in shape or primarily for the social aspect. I run because I'm driven to push myself and I want to win races and set PRs and beat other people in races. I enjoy speed workouts. I like running hard and pushing myself. I know that I have the potential to run a sub 2:40 marathon if I do the right training and stay healthy. After my last two sub-par marathon times, I'm motivated to come back and PR and prove that I'm better than that. One of my friends, Sam, who I've run with over the past couple of years with the Kenyan Way has stepped up his training big time over the past 9 - 12 months and run some impressive times. For the past couple of years we had pretty similar race results and would finish close to each other in races. Sometimes I'd beat him, sometimes he'd beat me. Last fall I PR'd in a 1/2 marathon and he beat me by 40 or 50 seconds. Then we ran separate 10k's on Thanksgiving day and each PR'd and I think I had a 20 or 30 second faster time. Then my training went downhill and his flourished and he ran a 2:40 marathon and I ran 2:54. I really believe that if I could stay motivated and disciplined enough and injury free that if I put in 80 - 90 miles a week consistently for 6+ weeks leading up to a marathon I should be able to break 2:40. Of course that's a big if.

Even though I don't like the training and the pain and suffering of the marathon and I seem to continually be asking myself why I keep torturing myself, there is something that seems to keep drawing me back to wanting to run them. There's an allure and a challenge to the marathon. It's such a brutal and tough race and a true test of who is the toughest person out there. If I'm running a 5k or a 10k and have a bad day, I'm only seconds or a couple minutes at most off of my good race times. Halfway through a race I know that it's only a matter of minutes before I'm done. When you are out there in a marathon and things fall apart with 10 miles to go, it feels like an eternity. I can think of numerous great American marathoners and some of the best US and International performances. Outside of the current crop of US track athletes, I'd be hard pressed to name many great American 5k track stars beyond Bob Kennedy and Adam Goucher. I'd like to have a long streak of consecutive Houston marathons and one day be listed in the program with 20 or 25+ consecutive marathon finishes.

It seems like every marathon I've run has been painful and brutal on my legs. Even in my two good marathons I felt like I was just holding on for dear life trying not to fall apart the last few miles and praying my hamstrings had enough left in them for a strong push to the finish. Some days I wonder if I'm cut out to be a marathoner or if I should stick to just shorter races. I really like running half marathons and they don't seem to beat me up so badly. I know that my wife would love for me to take a break from marathons for a long while. She doesn't particularly enjoy me rolling out of bed at 5:30 or earlier on Saturday mornings to go running and then being wiped out the rest of the day. Some days I think that if I could just train hard for one season, break 2:40 and check that off my list I would be content to stop running marathons, but if I broke 2:40 I know that I would just want to run a 2:37 marathon and finish one averaging 5:59 pace. I probably would never be content. I have a love/hate relationship with marathons. I love running them fast and setting new PRs, but I hate training for them and all the agony and misery that the training and races inevitably seem to bring. Every time I run a marathon I tell myself that I'm just going to quit running them, but then a week or two afterwards I must have forgotten all the pain and misery and I'm inspired to run another one and do better than the last time. If I run a bad marathon, I want to come back and redeem myself and if I run a good race, I want to run the next one faster and improve upon it.

I think I can handle running 1 marathon a year. It's usually the training for the 2nd one that really burns me out. Since I started running marathons I've done two marathons about 3 months apart each year - Chicago 07, Houston 08, Houston 09, Boston 09, Houston 10, Boston 10. I always seem to be in better shape for the 2nd marathon, but I'm also pretty much burned out by then too.

So what's next? My first goal is to get healthy and improve my leg strength and flexibility. In the next week or two I'll be going to Koala to probably start some sort of physical therapy/rehab program to work on my hamstrings. I have some other big changes on the horizon too. My wife and I are expecting our first child in September and that will definitely change my life a bit, and we'll just have to see how fall marathon training goes with a baby girl interrupting my sleep every night. I don't have any plans to race anytime soon. I'd like to run some of the summer 5k's but we'll see how my recovery and hamstrings are doing. I'd rather take a month off and recover and miss the summer 5k's and be able to get back in shape for some of the fall races than start training too hard too soon and have lingering hamstring problems all summer long. The heat and humidity kick my butt and I don't usually run very fast in the May/June/July races here anywhere so it won't give me too much heartburn to miss them. It was quite depressing last summer where I seemed to get progressively slower every race I ran. I still haven't done any running since Boston, but I may go out for an easy run at the Park sometime tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Boston bust - 3:04:12

I'm not sure even where to begin. I've had a couple days to think about my run and numerous thoughts have crossed my mind. I did re-qualify for Boston if I wanted to run it next year. This was a new personal worst for me excluding my first marathon that I DNF'd. I'm disappointed with the results, but the worst part is I don't even really know why it went so bad. I did beat Minnie Mouse though (more on that later) I thought I was in shape to run a ~2:50 or better and I hit the half at 1:25 and things were falling apart before mile 15 and with 11 miles to go, I was no longer running for time, but just to finish. Last year when I ran Boston, I got to the top of Heartbreak Hill around mile 21 and I thought I was going to break 2:45 and I started down it and my legs just couldn't respond. This year I went out easier and my quads were toast before I even got to the Newton hills.

We arrived in Boston on Saturday and was on the same flight as several fellow Kenyan Wayers who I had trained with some - Guy, Andres, Monte, Jiyhe. I arrived at my hotel and saw Jeff, another Kenyan Wayer and I found out that a large group from the Kenyan Way was staying at the same hotel. At the marathon expo, Team Hoyt had a booth set up and Dick Hoyt was there and I got a signed bobblehead of Dick and Rick Hoyt. If you've never heard of them before, they have an amazing story. Rick was born as a quadriplegic and his parents refused to institutionalize him and pushed for him to be integrated into society. His dad (Dick) started running races pushing Rick in his wheelchair and they have now run over 1000 races together including 6 Ironman triathalons. The video on the website might put you in tears.

Sunday I took it pretty easy and stayed off my feet for most of the day. On Sunday evening I was in my hotel room and we were watching a show on the weather channel about the Badwater Ulramarathon through death valley and they talked about this guy that dressed like a fairy in a pink tutu and ran a bunch of races and I thought to myself- I would probably give up running if a dude like that ever beat me.

I woke up Monday and walked about 10 minutes to where the buses were loading for Hopkinton and I got on a bus a little before 7:00 am. After a few minor delays we arrived in Hopkinton and the weather was pretty nice out. It was sunny out and in the mid to upper 40's. I had forgotten to bring sunglasses to the start with me, but I hadn't really planned on wearing them during the race anyway. I found a large group of Kenyan Way runners and hung out with them before the start and I was feeling pretty good about the race and relaxed. The only real complaint I had about athletes village was that they must have used the world's thinnest toilet paper in all the port-a-potties. I don't think it even qualified as single ply. It was more like 1/2 ply or 1/3 ply. I would have to use one hand to turn the entire roll with the other hand very gently pulling the end of the tp away from the roll. If you just grabbed the end and pulled it, it would break off and then getting it going again was kind of like when you have a roll of tape that sticks to itself and it is kind of hard to pull it off of itself. The other funny thing is they had a bunch of military or national guard people around the athletes village and some snipers up on the roof of the school. I guess they were there to take out people who were cutting in line at the port-a-potties. It seemed to work though since I didn't see anyone cutting in line and I didn't see anyone get taken out either.

I started to head over to the start line about 45 minutes before the race to give myself plenty of time. It was warm enough out that I just went with a singlet and gloves and didn't wear arm warmers or a long sleeve shirt which worked out fine. One thing I didn't think about beforehand was that if it was sunny out, I could be out in the sun for 3 hrs in the heat of the day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and I ended up getting a nice sunburn on my arms, shoulders, back of the neck and face. That didn't ruin my race, but it sure didn't help it either. I started out fairly easy and was able to stay in the 6:20 - 6:25 pace for the first four miles which were downhill. I felt pretty good the first part of the race and was determined to keep it relatively easy and not push it hard until the end and I really wanted to run a negative split marathon. I was sticking right on my plan and went through the half in 1:25 and I still felt good at that point. I knew that a 2:45 was pretty much out of the question, but I thought that with a relaxed 1:25 first half, I should be able to run a faster 2nd half and I was hoping that I would beat my 2:48 from last year and maybe even PR.

Somewhere between mile 13 and 16. In the 16th mile, there is a pretty good downhill and then the 5 miles of the Newton hills begin. As I got to the first downhill, my quads started hurting like they had hurt last year going down heartbreak hill except this was 5 miles earlier. I had felt that same pain before and instantly I new that my race for a PR and fast time was done. There isn't much more demoralizing than realizing you have almost 11 miles to go and it is all going to be very painful. I quit looking at my Garmin for the most part and just focused on staying relaxed and keeping going. Another problem I had is that I laced my shoes too tight because I was worried about them being loose like they had been on a couple of my training runs and around mile 16, I could feel it digging into my foot. A little after mile 17 I had to stop for a few seconds and loosen the shoe and I saw I had a nice bloodstain on the shoe from it digging into my foot. After I loosened the laces it didn't bother me the rest of the race though.

The Newton hills were miserable this year in contrast to last year when I felt really strong going up them. I kept trudging on and saw my time slip further and further away. Going down heartbreak hill I looked up and saw the back of a Kenyan Way singlet and saw my friend Shawn Emerick just ahead. I told him good luck and finish strong. With a little over 3 miles to go I stopped for a minute to down a bottle of water and a couple orange slices that a friendly spectator was giving away. I don't think that I was staying well enough hydrated during the race even though I was trying to get fluids at every other mile. I don't think the lack of good hydration had anything to do with my quads being destroyed in the first half of the race. Shortly after I started running again I noticed that Jace was just ahead of me and I put in a little surge and told him I'd try to stay with him for a bit. That lasted all of about 15 seconds until I told him I didn't have it in me.

With 3 miles to go I jsut kept thinking it was like running a lap at Memorial park and then I would be done. Somewhere with a couple of miles to go, I get passed by a guy dressed like Minnie Mouse. I just didn't feel like I had anything in the tank and I wondered if it was worse to get beaten by Minnie Mouse or a guy in a pink tutu dressed as a fairy. When I hit the mile to go mark I tried to pick it up a little and started catching a few people and when I was half a mile out I really started cranking it in. With around a 1/4 mile to go you make a couple of quick turns and then get on Boylston and can see the finish in the distance ahead. The crowds are packed 8 - 10 people deep along the road and just roaring and I could see Minnie Mouse up ahead and I started sprinting as hard as I could. I kept getting closer and I caught Minnie Mouse with about 200 yards to go and I kept pushing it in for my 3:04 finish ahead of Minnie.

If I had a bad race and I didn't feel that I had been training enough or if I had gone out too hard or had really bad weather conditions I wouldn't be as disappointed, but I had a lot more mileage and my hamstrings were much better than before Houston when I ran 2:54 and I fully expected to run faster than that, especially considering the good whether conditions. I did 20+ mile long runs up on the hills in Conroe as well as a lot of hill work around the cloverleafs. I got a massage on Friday before the race, but that was 3 days before. My quads were really sore when the therapist worked on them so I don't know if that was a sign that they were in trouble before the race or if I just wasn't recovered from the massage and that hurt my race.

I'm going to take a couple weeks off of running and I may take a little while off of racing and concentrate on improving my flexibility and strength before I start training hard again. My quads are still in agony today and I shuffle around pretty slowly and avoid stairs as much as possible.

My dad ran his first Boston marathon and finished in 3:48. He was hoping to run a little faster, but still did pretty good for his first Boston.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Boston Marathon tomorrow

We made it safely into Boston yesterday and I'm just relaxing and waiting for the race to get here tomorrow. The weather has been cold and raining off and on but the weather forecast is looking pretty good for the marathon tomorrow. It's supposed to get down to the low 40's tonight so I'm expecting it do be in the mid 40's at racetime. I feel pretty relaxed because I don't really have high expectations of a specific time I think I should be able to run. My hamstring still isn't 100% but it's much better than it was before Houston. I think I've lost a little of my speed from the fall but my endurance is better. I will be reasonably happy with anything under 2:50. I'm planning on trying to run 6:25 pace the first 4 miles to take it easy and then stay in the 6:20-6:25 range for the first half of the race. I really want to try to negative split the race and if it's cool enough then I may wear my Kenyan Way negative split shirt during the race. I didn't realize it beforehand but it seems like half the Kenyan Way group is staying at the same hotel as I am. I've run into 4 or 5 of them in the lobby. It should be a good day for running tomorrow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

4/10 - 5 miles

Went out for a nice easy run at the park Saturday evening after the 3rd round of the Masters finished up. I did 5 miles in just under 37 minutes. I wasn't running particularly quick, but two guys passed me at the park which was a little surprising. Usually there aren't that many fast people out at the park on a Saturday afternoon. One of the guys was wearing those feet glove shoes that are kind of like a glove for your feet. I think it basically like running barefoot, but gives your feet a little protection from rocks and stuff on the ground. I've seen a few people out wearing them over the past month or two.

Friday - 4/9/10 - 8.5 miles including 6 mile tempo run

I made myself do a tempo run run Friday evening since I hadn't run hard since last Saturday. I did a 1.5 mile warmup, a 6 mile tempo run and then a one mile cooldown. I probably should have done another mile warmup or so, but it went ok. My tempo splits were 6:05, 6:00, 5:58, 5:54, 5:58, 5:56. It was in the low 70's and I was hoping that I'd be a little quicker or it would feel a little easier, but it went ok. I was running at the park so I lose a little time on the dirt trail and it was fairly crowded out and I was having to avoid people too.

I got a new pair of shoes a week ago that I'm planning on running Boston in (same model as my current shoes), but it's taken me longer to get used to them. The fit just seems a little different. I think they were laced up differently at the store and I'm still working to get the right fit on them. I didn't feel particularly smooth during the run even though I was moving at a pretty quick pace. I stumbled a couple of times and knocked my legs together numerous times. I've been feeling a little lethargic lately. I'm not sure if it is related to my allergies or allergy medicine, but they have been pretty bad the last week. Hopefully I will get well rested as I Boston is a week and a half away.

Thursday - 4/8/10 - 8 miles

I felt pretty good and ran 8 miles in 55 minutes at the park. Planning on a harder workout on Friday.

Wednesday 4/7/10 - No run

Had a really long day at work and was wiped out and took the day off

Tuesday - 4/6 - 8 miles

Ran an easy 8 miles 7:05 pace at the park after work

Sunday 4/4 - 14.5 miles

I got up early Sunday morning to get a long run in before I headed up to the Shell Houston Open with one of my friends. I made it through the run, but it wasn't a lot of fun. It was 100% humidity and misting on and off and about 70 degrees out. My legs were a little tired and I averaged about 7:50 pace for the first 11 miles. I ran from my house down to Rice and Hermann Park and did a lap around each and back home. Near the end of the run I picked it up a little and averaged about 7:25 pace for the last 3 miles to finish the 14.5 miles in a little over 1:52.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

4 the Park race - 6th overall

I finished the 4 miles race in 6th place in 22:09 and 1st in my age group once you throw out people they put in the wrong age group. This was a tough race and not my best, but considering the week of training and the weather conditions I wasn't too disappointed. When I picked up my race # at Luke's Locker yesterday, Joe Flores told me that Adam Davis was running since the winner got a free airline ticket. Any time a race gives out airline tickets or a decent cash prize you get some of the good runners showing up so I knew I didn't stand a chance at repeating as winner. I wish they had given away an airline ticket to the winner last year!

The weather was warm and it was very humid. When I got up at 6:45 I checked the weather and the temp was in the mid-60's with 94% humidity and it didn't get any better at race time. I like this race since my house is only 3/4 of a mile from the start line. I did a 1.5 mile warmup with my friend Benson and changed shoes and did some stretching at the house and then about 8:20 left to jog to the starting line and did strides while I was on the way. I saw Adam Davis, Luis Armenteros and Junior Mitchell at the start line so I knew realistically the best I would get was 4th unless one of them dropped out.

The gun went off and Adam, Luis and Junior took off and Rudy Rocha, Tom King and Brian Alvarado all were ahead of me and they quickly separated into two packs. I was all alone in 7th place and probably 10 - 12 seconds back of Rudy, Tom and Brian. I've run quite a few races against these guys and usually I can beat Tom and Brian and sometimes Rudy depending on what kind of shape he's in. I hoped to reel them in later in the race. I was still all by myself at mile 1 and went through in 5:23 which is pretty close to where I wanted to be and I was probably 12 - 15 seconds back of the 3 guys in front of me. I didn't really gain any ground during mile 2 and went through at about 10:59 with a 5:35 2nd mile. I tried to pick it the effort during mile 3 and I started to gain a little ground, but midway through the 3rd mile Brian put a gap on Tom and Rudy. I thought I'd be able to catch Tom and Rudy, but Brian was pulling a little farther away.

I ran mile 3 in 5:38 and was gaining a little ground. The last mile was tough and I could tell I was going to catch Rudy and I passed him with a little over 1/4 mile left, but there was too much of a gap to catch Tom and I finished in 6th in 22:09 with a 5:31 last mile. My 21:00 from last year would have gotten me either 3rd or 4th place, but the weather conditions were definitely better then

I was slower than I would have liked to be, but I ran a tough 20 miler on Tuesday and it was hard running in warmer conditions than I've done any hard workouts in. My hamstring didn't bother me at all during the race which I was felt good about. I may think about running the Bellaire Trolley Run next weekend.

I kind of got screwed for the age group awards since somehow they put Luis in the 30 - 34 age group even though he's in the 35-39 age group so I "officially" got 2nd in my age group. I won't complain too much though since 2nd place got a free 1 hr massage at Koala and 1st place got 5 free personal training sessions with a personal trainer somewhere. I'm not sure if I would use those or not, but I can always use extra massages.

Last week of training

I haven't been doing a great job of keeping my blog updated and when I get too far behind I forget what some of my runs were or how long they were and I had to reset my watch memory since it was full (I only usually wear my Garmin on my longer runs). I'll just give a quick recap of this past week's workouts.

Monday - 3/29 - Kenyan Way hill workout.
I made it out Monday morning for the hill workout and we did 20 minutes of 200 m repeats up one of the cloverleaf hills followed by a 5 minute break and then one mile hard. I started out easy and my first 200 was 44 seconds, but by the end of the workout I was down to 34 seconds. After the 5 minute break I took off pretty hard up the first hill of the mile. We ran on all 4 cloverleafs (up 2 and down 2) and Sean had measured out a full mile. I was running alone and it was probably the quickest mile I've run since sometime last fall and I finished in 5:17. Obviously I've had much quicker miles, but I was happy with the finish to the workout.

Tuesday 3/30 - 20 mile long run in Conroe
Note to self - 20 mile run on hills on one of warmest days of the spring the day after a hard workout isn't always the smartest idea. I took the afternoon off work and headed up to Conroe to try to do a 24 miler. I set out water and gatorade at a couple of the normal water stop locations and started out. The temperature was around 77 degrees and very sunny. I was feeling pretty good to start and was averaging about 6:55 pace for the first 10 miles, but that was a little too quick for the day. I don't think I did a great job staying hydrated enough before the workout started and this was one of the warmest runs I think I have done all year and big chunks of the run had no shade cover. I also misjudged the distance of a couple of loops that I thought were about 3 miles but ended up being about 4 miles. By the time I got to my water stop at 15 miles I was starting to struggle and had to take a little extra time in the shade. My last couple of miles I fell off the 7:00 pace and was running about 7:30 pace but it was tough. My shirt was just covered in salt and I was dripping sweat everywhere. I took about 5 minutes and ate a whole package of clif shot blocks and drank about 20 oz of water. At that point I decided to just head straight back to the car which was about 5 miles away instead of adding on a couple of extra loops to get to the full 24. By the end of the run I hit my last mile (mostly uphill) in 8:20 and I was toast. I finished the 20 miles in 2:26.

Wednesday 3/31 - Day off recovering from last couple of days

Thursday 4/1 - 8 miles
My legs were still a little tired, but I headed out for an 8 mile run Thursday after work. My left quad muscle was a little tight and I had to stop about 5 minutes into my run and stretch it for a while, but it felt ok after that. I averaged about 7:20 pace for the run and finished in just under 59 minutes

Friday 4/2 - 4.5 miles
Easy day Friday afternoon jogging the "4 the park" race course plus a little extra add on. I ran the 4.5 miles in 33 minutes. We'll see how the race ends up going. I didn't really taper too much for this race and I haven't raced anything under a marathon since Thanksgiving. My goal is to break 22:00 and hopefully be down in the 21:30 range.