Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I survived 'Killer Week' - 59 miles

Between my 20 miler last Wednesday, a 12 miler on Friday, a 9.1 mile run on Sunday and the 18 mile tempo run with Brian today, I've done 59 miles in the past 7 days. The longest 7 day running distance I did when training for Corning and Niagara was 53 miles, so I've definitely taken the training up a notch.

And it feels like it too. Maybe its the weather (a bit warmer -- around -2 C/28 F. today) or the fact that that we aren't running on snow/slush covered roads as much, but I just feel more confident about my running in the past week or so.

Today was the long tempo run that I've been dreading. The plan was to do 18 miles, including 1 mile of warmup, 5 miles each at 8:40, 8:20 and 8:00 per mile (marathon pace), and then 2 miles of cool-down. While a week ago, I could barely keep up to Brian and we finished the 20 miler with an average 8:32 pace, today I had no problem keeping up.

Because of the snow-covered gravel roads, we decided to stick with paved roads for the run. The paved roads were wet, but generally clear of snow because of all the sunshine we've had the last couple of days. There was a slight wind -- about 10 km/hour -- from the south, but by the time we were done, it was coming from the north. But it wasn't really enough to be much of a factor.

Our first mile was easy at just under a 9:00/mile pace. We then stepped it up to 8:40 and, looking back at the GPS results, its amazing how close we kept to that pace for the next five miles: 8:32, 8:46, 8:38, 8:39 and 8:38. This run was also generally uphill, but we were able to keep the pace pretty consistently.

The next 5 miles were to be at 8:20 pace. We instantly stepped up the pace and had to actually slow ourselves down at the start until we got into the 8:20 "groove". We did 8:20, 8:19, 8:15, 8:14 and 8:19 miles -- again, surprisingly consistent. This particular run was a net "flat" since it was an "out-and-back" part of our route.

Now the tough part: Marathon pace for 5 miles. But, in fact, it wasn't that tough. The first 3 miles at marathon pace were relatively flat and we knocked off 7:54, 7:56 and 7:53 miles. The next 2.5 miles was generally downhill so I stepped it up even further and knocked off 7:39, 7:32 and 7:41 (half mile).

Finally, we did a mile-and-a-half of cool-down at an easy pace of roughly 9:20/mile.

Overall, we did the 18 mile run at an 8:21 pace -- but if you take out the warm-up and cool-down, our "running" pace was 8:14 per mile. It was the ease at which we transitioned from one pace to the next that amazed me -- not to mention the fact that I still had lots of "gas in the tank" at 16 miles to keep rolling along at a much better than marathon pace -- even during the uphill segments.

So, at Virgina Beach it will likely come down to the weather (again). I'm certainly feeling confident in my training. I have Brian coaching me along to keep my pace in check. We have a strategy that make sense, aiming for a couple of minutes "in the bank" by the halfway point (i.e. run 7:55/mile for the first 13 miles to give us a little wiggle room at the end). And with the training we've done, I'm hoping we'll hit mile 23 and _know_ that we have my BQ in the bank, and we can step it up at the end.

That's the plan, anyhow.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

'Killer Week' - Part Trois

After my really good run on Friday, I wasn't ready for anything overly strenuous today and so the 8 to 10 mile easy run that Brian suggested worked out perfectly. It also worked out well for Jenny, who joined us for our 9.1 mile run, and then ran home for a total run of 13.9 miles (22.25 km) with a very consistent pace of between 6:12 and 6:15 per kilometer. She had an excellent run, despite being frozen at the end of it (fingers and toes, mostly) and the fact that she was running alone without a pace bunny or GPS to help her keep pace.

My run was good too -- especially considering that my right knee started bothering me after my Friday run. Jenny did some research and we believe that I'm experiencing "patellofemoral pain syndrome" since I'm feeling pain under and around my kneecap. The funny part is that when I run, its not an issue. But an hour after I've stopped running and I try to climb stairs or something is when it starts to bother me.

Anyhow, I've started to put ice packs on it regularly (a couple of times a day at least) and I've popped a couple of ibuprophen and both tactics seem to be doing the trick. I'm taking it easy on the ibuprophen (just had 1 today) since I don't want to overstress anything by 'working through the pain'. If it hurts too much, I should just stop. At the same time, I know that ibuprophen should reduce the swelling which should help it heal faster.

Next run... the long (18 mile) tempo run that Brian has planned for me on Tuesday. I'm really not looking forward to it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

'Killer Week' Part Deux - "Bring it on!"

I emailed Brian last night to get him the running schedule that my Runners World chart was suggesting. I was sort of hoping he'd agree that a rest for the rest of this week followed by another 20 miler on Sunday would do the trick. But my hopes were dashed at 7:41 this morning:

"I'd suggest you go ahead with a run today if it's around 20 k at an easy pace,, rest Sat and then Sun we'll run something like 8-10 miles. If Tuesday is good weather wise let's then do 18 miles with a warm up, 5mi at mp +40sec, 5mi at mp+20sec, 5mi at mp, then cool down. Then 1-2 easy runs of 4-7 miles before your hockey weekend. See you Sunday."

20K today!? That was what I had planned. I simply wasn't psyched up for that long a run -- at least not this morning -- so I looked at the weather forecast and it looked to be pretty good this afternoon -- around -4 C (25 degrees F) with a 6 mph wind out of the north -- and sunshine!

So I got a fair bit of work done in the office and then at around 3:00 I took off early to go for my run.

What happened after that I hadn't felt for months. I started looking for 8:58/mile pace, as my chart was suggesting for long runs. But I started knocking off 8:30 miles fairly easily along the gravel roads and so I decided that would be my target pace for the run. But when I hit pavement that the sun had actually dried off, I was all-of-a-sudden doing 8:07s and then sub-8's. My GPS recorded it like this:

7:27 (1/10th of a mile)

I was actually getting progressively faster as the run went along. And the last 3+ miles were on a slight uphill grade and into a slight wind!

Ultimately, I think the difference was the dry paved roads on which I was running, combined with cool weather, sunshine and just an ever-so-slight breeze. But mostly the dry roads.

It's funny how one day you wonder how you'd ever make the full 26.2 miles, and another day you're thinking, "Bring it on!".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The 'Killer' Week of Long Runs

This is always the part of the marathon training that I dread -- that high-mileage week (relatively speaking, of course) three weeks before the marathon. And because of schedule conflicts, this is going to be worse than normal.

My schedule called for a 20 miler last Sunday -- but I had been in a hockey tournament that weekend and, while we didn't end up playing on Sunday (because we suck), I wanted to run a 10k race in London Ontario as part of the Really Chilly Road Races. I did the 10k run as a training run and, because of the slippery conditions, set out to just do 'marathon pace' (5 min./k.). As it turned out, though, I felt pretty good and as the run went on, I stepped it up a bit and ended up finishing just a hair over 48 minutes for a 4:48/k. pace.

Anyhow, the point is that I didn't intend to run another 22 k after that race to get in my 20 miles, so Brian and I decided to do the 20 miler on Wednesday. This was the official start of 'killer week'.

Brian met me at my house at 8:00 am on Wednesday and we started our run. It was a cold -13 Celcius (8 degrees F.) outside, and there was a slight wind coming out of the southwest. We headed off towards Lucan where we did a couple of 5 mile loops on the country roads. But by the time we were done a half-marathon distance, I was getting tired.

To Brian's credit, he kept motivating me on -- and I dug deep to keep up a strong steady pace -- but by that time we were heading west and the wind was right in our faces. Have I mentioned that I hate wind? Anyhow, I kept chugging away, concentrating on every step as well as I could, to keep pushing myself forward.

By this time I had screwed up my GPS and was, quite frankly, too tired to see what I had done. It was showing me a pace of 8:05/mile which I knew wasn't right. So I just kept trying to keep pace with Brian and while I was unsuccessful, I was certainly giving it everything I had.

Brian had a finish time in mind for us and, while I don't know what that finish time was, I do know that we had a substantial 'negative split' -- where the last 10 miles of the run were faster (1:23:30) than the first 10 miles of the run (1:27:10) by a good 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

My legs ached when I was done -- and I couldn't face an ice bath to prevent them from stiffening up -- but a warm shower with some cold water on the legs at the end seemed to be a not-bad compromise.

Our overall pace was 8:32 -- not bad considering our first 10 miles was at an 8:40 pace, and the last half was basically into the wind. But I still had to wonder how I'd keep an 8:00/mile pace for 26.2 miles in a marathon.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Been a while since I've posted...

We've simply been super busy. I should be working now, even. But I had a relatively good run today, so I figured I'd update my blog.

I've been putting in lots of miles -- staying on track with my schedule. Today was a 'speed work' day, which I always 'love'. I had to do 4 miles of 7:02 or better pace, but the closest I got was 7:07 on the first mile. I'd like to blame it on the wind or hills, but (as much as they were both factors on my route) I think that I just didn't have enough strength to keep it that fast for that long. My 'speed' laps were 7:07, 7:14, 7:13 and 7:22. The warm up, cool-down and mid-speed miles jogs were at an easy pace -- but my overall pace for the 8 mile run was 8:05 minutes per mile -- almost my marathon pace! I worked hard, though, and my muscles certainly felt it. But I probably need to do more.

We've had some brutal runs over the past couple of weeks, though. Last weekend, five of us ran from Parkhill to just west of Lucan in -13 degree weather with 45 km/h winds at our backs. I may have got a bit of frostbite on the back of my neck which must have been exposed a bit. It was a 2+ hour run over 16 miles -- including a couple of segments back-tracking into the wind -- and a couple of runs in, basically, white-out conditions on the roads. Lots of fun!

Another weekend (with similar winds) we did 15 miles in McNaughton Park in Exeter, trying to stay within the trails (and trees) within the park. We had company, meeting up with Rita Lewis and Mary Ondrejicka for a few miles, and then later Ian Trotter who wisely decided to battle the trails rather than the wide open roads.

On another windy day, Brian and I did hill work and kept a pretty reasonable pace considering winds that were so strong I had to run on an side-angle -- or at least how it felt.

Anyhow, suffice it to say that there have been some brutally cold and windy runs that we've done over the past several weeks. But, both Brian and I are booked for the Shamrock Marathon in Virgina Beach -- and Jenny, Bridget, Brian and I will be making the trek to Virgina Beach in exactly 1 month!