Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Superstar In the Garden

I've almost made it to the end of Monster Month. My body is worn out. Race nerves are building up. I took a walk in the garden and offered up this prayer to the Loop Gods.

(For those of you who didn't grow up wearing out the grooves of your parents' LP of Jesus Christ Superstar and memorizing all the words, that is where this comes from.)  Here is a link to the movie version if you want to sing along.

(With apologies to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber)

I only want to say,
If there is a way,
Take this race away from me
For I don’t want to feel the bonking,
Feel it crush me,
I have changed.
I’m not as sure
As when we started.

Then, I was inspired
Now I’m freaking tired.
Listen; surely I’ve exceeded expectations
Blogged for three years; trained for thirty,
Could you ask as much from any other man?

But if I run,
See the saga through and do the things you ask of me.
Run and cramp and walk and limp and pee behind a tree.
I'd wanna know, I'd wanna know, my Loop
I'd wanna see, I’d wanna see, my Loop,
Why I should die.
Would I be more noticed than I ever was before?
Would the blogs I’ve posted then matter anymore?
I’d have to know, I’d have to know, my Loop
Why do you make me jump through hoops?
I’d have to see, I’d have to see, my Loop
I'd have to see if I can write a bloop
If I run what will be my reward?
If I fail, will I then be ignored?
I’d have to know, I’d have to know, my Loop
What if I have to take a poop?

Whyyyyyyyyyyyy should I run?
Why, why, oh why should I die?
Can you show me now that I won’t hit the wall in vain?
Tell me just a little that I won’t collapse from strain.
Show me there’s a reason for your wanting me to die.
You’re far too keen on where and how fast, but not so hot on why.

Alright. I’ll run!
Just watch, just watch me run!
Seeeeeeee, see how I bonk!
Oh, yes, just watch me die.

(Stirring instrumental, and then calm)

Then I was inspired
Now I’m so damn tired
After all I’ve trained for three years, seems like ninety
Why then am I scared to finish what I started
What you started -- I didn’t start it.

Loop, thy will is hard
But you hold every card.
I will take the flight to Boston,
Run up Newton, so you can break me,
Feed me, greet me, thrill me,
Inspire me now.
Before I change my mind....

Happy Maundy Thursday!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monster Month - Week 3: Boston is getting Closer!

Hey there.

It's been a week, so I feel the need to update all of you who I'm sure are wondering how my training is going. (That is the blank stare I often get when I talk about training)

Another 41 mile week under my belt. Legs are pleasantly sore, but not injury sore. The knee seems 100% now!  Weird how it just kind of went away just as I started doing more and more miles.

So, Tuesday was 7 miles, where I was still pretty tired from Sunday's 20. Took it pretty easy. Wednesday was some strength work at the gym. Thursday I was planning to do speed work, but my legs were still pretty tired. I figured I didn't really need more speed work since I have no short races in the next 3 months. Better to just get in some miles. So I ran my hilly 8 mile course. Still a bit sluggish.

I planned to double up on the weekend. Saturday I met up with the Mountain Goats and did 11.5 miles up and down a big hill - about 1500 feet. I hooked up with a weekend visitor from Vancouver who was running at my pace and we chatted the whole way. The uphills were not too bad, only a minute or two of walking. The downhill last 5 miles were all sub-8 and fun! Just another amazingly beautiful run in the mountains.

Sunday I went out for 14 flat miles at the beach. Body was tired, but I was close to normal pace. Definitely felt heavy legs, but it reminded me of the second half of a marathon, which was the goal. Averaged 8:24.

So, one more solid week down, one more week of over 40 miles to go, topped with a 20 miler next weekend, and then the taper begins. Boston planning is picking up on our FB group. We have a bunch of loopsters doing the Boston Duck Tour together, followed by a carbo-loading dinner on Sunday. We will also probably be meeting up at the Expo Saturday, and of course on race day. Now if it will only stop snowing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Monster Month Week 2 - On Track for Boston

Nothing too exciting this week. No monster hilly trail runs, no crazy fast speed work, no stellar race report. No pictures. Just a solid week of mileage, capped by my first 20.

My monster month for this cycle (weeks 2-6 before race day) meant 40-43 miles per week. Not a lot for marathon training, but considering my last 4 months of reduced running, a very solid base of mileage. The good news is the injury problems are 99% gone. I'm running without the knee strap, and not feeling any abnormal pain (just the normal fatigue and aches). I'm guessing my knee problem was just tendonitis, and eventually got better with more rest. Yay.

So this week I did 7 on Tuesday and felt good. Last 4 miles at sub 8 pace. Then 8 on Thursday on my hilly course and felt really good. Averaged 8:10 with the last 4 at 7:49. Saturday was 6 easy, at 8:22 pace, but I felt a bit tired, and a little worried about 20 on Sunday.

Sunday was LA Marathon day, and the 1-year anniversary of my BQ run there last year. I watched the start on TV and got psyched up, then let the DVR catch the rest and headed out for 20. I wore my Boston race day outfit, black shorts, black singlet. Perfect weather,  50-55, overcast skies, no wind. I can only hope Boston will be so nice.

Plan was to go easy for the first 7 and ramp up to pace, then find a good cruising pace for the last 13 at the beach, and hope it was close to 8 minute pace. I expected 8:05-8:10 would be reasonable and I hoped to not die at the end.

First 7 went to plan - felt pretty good. 858, 907, 842, 829, 819, 830 up the hill, 815 down to the beach.

Then I found my groove and cruised. 804, 756, 819 (had to go through a soft sand detour here), 757, 753, 749, 754, 752, 748, 802, 755, 801, 804.

BOOM! 2:43:55, 8:12 pace, last 13 at 7:57

Felt pretty darn spiffy at the end. I faded a little, and thought about pushing it to get every split under 8, but sensibly decided that was silly and would be better off relaxing and maintaining effort. Yet the pace did not drop much at all, and I could have kept going! So I finished very, very encouraged and excited for race day! Even started considering I may have a shot at getting a BQ in Boston if conditions are good. I didn't think I would be making so much progress after my December and January. I even did a Bangle Pump during my cool down walk. Life is good!

After my recovery, ice bath and shower, I settled in to watch the LA marathon, and got excited all over again. Ready to be out there doing that marathon thing!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Endorphin Overdose

Marathon training involves an almost constant testing of your boundaries. Every week seems to bring a new longest run, or highest weekly total. And since I spread my marathons out, I always have to regain that endurance.

Well, this year I am stretching out to my first ultra, and doing more trails, and more hills. So this beach runner is pushing his boundaries a little more. This week's test was to move my long run from 17 up to over 18, and I would do it on a ridiculously hilly trail run. My trail group selected a fun little hill climb for this week. It was a big loop of 9.35 miles, so I figured I would just do it twice.

So I get there and find there is no water on the trail, so I would have to make do with my two belt bottles. But I could refill after 1 lap, so I figured that would be enough. Temps were about 50 or lower when we started at 7:30, but with bright sunshine promising a warming up later.

The first mile or so was really nice single track up a creek bed (dry) with many creek crossings, rocks and trees. Very fun.

Then it really started to climb as we got out in the sun. And the walking began...

Yes, we are going over that hill. Parts became quite "technical".

Or worse...

I was gasping as I hiked up this section. Had a healthy sweat going, lactic acid building, joints complaining. But I had faith it would get better. Long, long way to go. I was running with my buddy for the first lap, and we hooked up with a few others from the group as well. Misery does indeed love company, so that made it bearable.

Eventually we made it to a fire road. But the climbing did not ease up!

At least we got some decent views.

I jogged when I could, hiked when I had to, and eventually got to enjoy some leveling. And then the downhill began. It was fun at first. But then it got just steep enough to be annoying and painful on the quads and knees. But at least I could breathe. And it looked like this.

(We're the goats) I chatted with another guy as we finished the loop, about how tough it was but how beautiful, and I said it was such a great trail that I decided to do it again. He laughed, and then said "You're serious?" Yes. Yes I was. I got to feel like quite the bad ass. I took a minute to drink a lot and refill my bottles while the rest of the group celebrated being done, and then I was off to do it all over again.

Second lap I was on my own, but I still felt good and attacked the hills knowing what to expect, which made it easier. I stopped to take some pics, walked as needed; just enjoyed the day. Yet I still did the second lap in almost the exact same time as the first lap. By the final downhill, my legs were QUITE unhappy with me, and I was very glad to be done. But I loved it.

Here is my Garmin link. Over 3,500 feet in elevation gain over 18.7 miles.

After a short rest, I drove the 40 minutes home. I think I had an endorphin overdose, because my emotions were getting out of control.  I went by Malibu Beach where the sun was sparkling off of the water and many surfers were riding the waves. It felt like the perfect California morning, and I was giddy with happiness. I got choked up just thinking about how awesome it was to be there at that moment, having just rocked a killer trail run in the mountains. Then I was really enjoying the music. Like way too much. Songs would get me to choke up. The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again came on, and I started thinking how amazing it was, with the guitar riffs and the synthesizer going hard in the background, and the driving bass, and Roger Daltrey's vocals all just rocking hard at the same time, and Keith Moon's INSANE drumming on top of it, and how it all tied together, and my eyes filled with tears. It was ridiculous. Had to be the endorphins. And then We Are Young came on, and THAT got me choked up. Good thing I didn't put Les Miserables in the CD player.

Anyway, I was enjoying life way too much. But the high lasted all afternoon. Through the ice bath, the hot shower, the HUGE Fatburger that was sooooo good! And then the nap of the Gods. It feels so good to lie down when your body aches, huh?

Well, it was a great day. Then I followed that up with 7 more miles on Sunday, just to show that I could. And it wasn't too bad! I'm a little sore, but I am building that endurance! Next week, 20!

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Early St. Paddy's Day 5K? Do I have any Speed Left? Sure and Begorrah!

My local running store does a few 5Ks every year; 4th of July and St. Patrick's Day. This year the holiday (March 17th) is on a Sunday, so perfect for a race, right? Well, the LA Marathon is that day, so they decided to move it up a week. Then because that was daylight savings time change day, they decided too many people would miss it, so they moved it up again. So March 3rd it was.

So everyone was wearing their green. Except me. I figured DW would have a better shot at seeing me for pictures if I wore red instead.

My goal today was to stay under 7 minute pace. I wasn't ready to go after last year's best of 20:06, but I thought I could do about 21:30, and maybe have a shot at an AG placement.
The race was mainly along the esplanade up above the beach with this kind of view:

Temps in the 50's, hazy skies, here we go! What is wrong with this picture?

I was going to complain about the kids. But a 10 year old beat me, so never mind.

Off we go, and after a block or so I check my watch...and it says "switching to power save"! Apparently it did this within seconds before the start, so when I pushed the start button, it didn't start. Ugh! So I had to fiddle with it to get it started. I think I lost about .07 miles. And another little while before I could see pace. And then the pace said 6:11! D'oh!

So I went out a little fast and was sucking air and slowing down and trying not to blow this whole thing in the first 3 blocks. I have a rival in my AG who was out ahead of me, but normally I can catch him mid-race. So I was watching him. But I was hurting more than I should have. Duh, because the pace was still around 6:30! But after about 1/2 mile it started to feel OK for a race pace and I stuck with it. It was manageable, so I decided to see what I had in me. First mile was 6:35.

The course was a little different from the one I was used to. They actually took out a few little hills, so it was mostly flat. But mile 2 was about 75 feet of steady climb (which we would come down in mile 3). So the pace slowed as I was trying to maintain effort. My rival stayed stubbornly about 50 yards ahead of me, but I hoped to catch him in mile 3. Had some good cheering going on.

At least I was ahead of this guy.

Mile 2 was 7:02.

But then I was at the high point with a downhill to go, and I felt pretty good. Meaning I was suffering heartily, but at a rate I felt I could maintain for 7 more minutes without dying. My rival was not coming back to me though. it looked like he would win this round. But I stepped it up and passed a few people. Opened up the stride on the downhill and let it all hang out.

Caught one last guy in the homestretch. Mile 3 was 6:36, and 5:59 pace for the last bit. Because of my Garmin snafu, I checked the race clock as I finished, just missing 21 and getting an official 21:01. 6:47 pace. Finished 37th overall, but 5th in my AG. My rival got 4th, so we were both shut out of the awards. 2nd overall was a 49 year old with 16:45 or so. I hope he stays 49 for a long time!

So I am happy with that! Solidly beat my goal and gave it my all, with even a dry heave right after the finish to prove it! Luckily I kept it dry. Many of my local running friends were there, so we hung out and told race stories. Here are some of my local geezers.

To get in some more miles, I ran the 2.7 miles home. Nice and easy. So now my attention turns to my next race. Boston.

Six weeks to go, so the next 4 weeks are Monster Month. I have been doing 30-32 mile weeks for 4 weeks (after 10 weeks where I averaged 10-12 miles). I'm a little tired lately, but I plan to go up to 40 or more for the next 4 weeks. Looking forward to some good long runs. 18 next week, then 20, 13 and 20. The dream is getting closer!