Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hood to Coast - 6 weeks to go

Well, this was Hood to Coast weekend. 197 miles, 1200 teams, 12 runners per team. Mileage per person varies dependent on which leg they choose. 2 years ago I ran this and did well on the first 2 of 3 legs. The third leg I blew up on. The last 4 miles were sheer hell...

This year was going to be different. I wanted to not only go back and do those same legs again, but I wanted to take that third leg and not let it get the better of me.

Leg one is a 7.2 mile run along the Springwater Trail at the very eastern side. The first 2-3 miles are on gravel, but the terrain is ideal for setting a solid tempo. My splits were almost even pace, averaging 6:40's for a 47:20 overall time. Everything felt great there, no worries, it's all good...

Leg two is a 5.1 mile run in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere... It's all gravel, in the dark, with the team vans (support vehicles) kicking up a lot of dust. You're running off 2-3 hours sleep if you're lucky, and it's about 4:30 am. Fortunately this is also another mostly flat leg (unlike the runner before me, which was 5 miles of a slow grind uphill on gravel). I eased up on the last mile because I wanted to get a good cool-down before getting into the car. This leg also went real well (as it had the previous time for me), 34:10 for a 6:34 average pace.

By the third leg, you've now had maybe 4-5 hours of sleep if you're lucky. You've been living off GU, bagels, sports drink, and anything else you could get your hands on, and you've been living out of a van with 6 other runners for close to 24 hours now. Getting in and out of the van can be a challenge. Fortunately, before you went to catch some sleep around 8 am you got to eat pancakes at a Grange along the way (it's an exchange point and they do this every year).

Leg 3 is in the afternoon, you're closer to the coast, and you will most likely have a good head wind. There is little to no shade along this route, so if it's sunny, it can be real brutal. This is also an 8 mile leg and the terrain is rolling hills. The finish is an uphill 1/2 mile (or so) to a school. It's easy to see why so many will crack on this leg. Mentally and physically you are drained. You are starting out with sore, tired legs. Blisters on your feet from the first 2 legs can make each stride even more fun. Because of the terrain, keeping an even pace is more challenging. You have to give and take because of the hills, and work for the average speed. This year I was not going to POP, I would not lose focus, and I would not let this leg get the better of me.

I had the team go out about 4 miles to give me a morale boost. Gotta have more cowbell. At 4 miles I had battled the mental part, and it did have it's ups and downs, but I was still strong. The morale boost helped me kick it back into a rhythm again. With 2 miles left, it wasn't too hot, but the heat was starting to wear me down. Then it started to mist lightly... it was what I needed for another boost. I picked the pace back up slightly, and kept it going up to the base of the last hill. I thought of the last time I did this leg, and how Beth, who was already done and exhausted, met me at the bottom because I was so dead and led me up that hill (in sandals, and I could barely keep up). That gave me another burst as I reached the school. Once I hit the grass and the flat surface I gave it everything that I had left. I knew that I won this time. This leg had NOT defeated me as it had before, and I would reach my goal. 8 miles, 55:42, 6:58 pace.

My Portland goal is to break 3:20. That's a 7:38 average pace. My targeted pace is 7:10, which would be a 3:07:46. I just finished 20.3 miles (granted not in a row) with roughly a 6:43 average speed. This was the boost in confidence that I wanted...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

I never thought that I'd need to have a vacation this bad...granted my work can be very stressful, but I really needed this one. My plan was to get in some runs, do some kayaking, read some books, and most importantly, relax and unwind. So I succeeded in all but one area... the running. My achilles was a bit tender from the LSD run over the previous weekend, and after one run around the area where we were located. I decided that hills in all directions would not be a good idea. I figured that since we were going to do a ton of walking, that would suffice.

Monday we drove up to the Olympic Peninsula and got settled in. Tuesday I ran and we did a 3+ hour kayak in the bay (that's Mt. Baker in the distance). Wednesday we returned to the site of our honeymoon in Victoria, BC. Thursday we relaxed, got a late start, and did a 2+ hour kayak with a dozen or so harbor seals. Friday was more sight seeing in Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island. Saturday we did a 3+ hour kayak and watched eagles build a nest. Sunday a quick trip out on the kayaks to see the seals again, and then back home.

If you're ever in Port Townsend, eat at the Wild Coho... simply amazing!

We came back relaxed and fresh. Next weekend is the Hood to Coast, so I'll get in my mileage and prepare myself for the hell of the Hood to Coast, sleeping in a van, in a field, running at 3 am, and then a third leg in the heat of the day late Saturday afternoon into a headwind over rolling hills.

In my next life I think I'll be a harbor seal...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

8 weeks to go - upping the mileage

Each week, the mileage increases. The LSD (long slow distance) runs get longer. Today was an experiment with testing out a section of the Portland Marathon course. 17.6 miles of it to be exact. I wanted to see how the back half of the course felt. Specifically the run up to the St. Johns Bridge. Everything went great through 14 miles, although I seem to have an issue with the concept of slow... LSD runs should be about 30-45 seconds slower than race pace. The last 3.6 were at what I'm considering to be 30 seconds slower than race pace. The first 14 were in the 7:10 average pace. It was tiring towards the end, but it felt good overall. I still need to work out a few bugs, but there's plenty of time for that.

Running isn't too painful, but lately that first 1/2 mile and when I stop are a bit hard on the old body. I can't complain though, things are progressing nicely...

Off to vacation now for the next week! woohoo!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Records are made to be broken

I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of Barry's, but I did grow up in the Bay Area. One of my most cherished posessions is a baseball that my father got from a San Francisco game back when Willy Mays and McCovey were playing. Whether he juiced or not, he got the fans attention and gave them something too look forward to. That he did it on his home turf makes it special to his devout fans.
What made this hard on me was that for the first time in a long while, I missed Bob. It hit me the morning after that I couldn't call him to talk about it. That made me sad. My father and I rarely saw things eye to eye, but when it came to sports, it was the one thing that we shared similar views. We liked the old school approach. You play for the love of the game, you play for the fans, you play because you can.
In his own way, my father was proud of the things that I did. Rarely did he tell me that he was proud of the accomplishments, but he used to boast about it to his freinds at the pub. What can you expect from an old, stubborn Irishman. When I run the Portland Marathon this fall, I'm running not just for me, I'm running for him. For the love of a father who was proud in his own way. For the man who taught me about sportsmanship, about doing what was right, even if I didn't agree with it.
Running isn't about the victory. It's about giving it your best shot, putting your best foot forward. At the end of the day, I can look back and know that I did my best, regardless of the final time.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

9 weeks to go...

So, the real reason why I started this blog was mainly so that I'd start to track the last 9 weeks of training to go before the Portland Marathon. I had a slight derailing of my training and race schedule due to an illness (the first week of my marathon training) in July, but I'd rather have it then than in 8 weeks. I've run 2 road races, 2 duathlons, and a few bike races for training. On the road I did an 8k (6:33 pace) and a 12k (tough, hilly course, still kept my pace under 7 min - with a mild injury to my calf). My duathons were a sprint (5k, 25k, 5k) and Olympic (5k, 40k, 10k) distance. In both I ran sub-7 mile pace (the 10k was 6:50 after a horrible 40k bike with lower back spasms).

On the track, I run repeat 800's weekly (or when I'm not traveling for work or sick). The last set I ran was 5 x 3 min pace with 1/4 recovery. The last 800 was in 2:46. They say that a 3 hour marathoner can run repeat 800's @ 3 min pace (it's not a guarantee that if you can run repeat 800's in 3 min that you can run a 3 hour marathon). 3 hours is a magical number in the marathon world. I'd love to make that, but my true goal is 3:20:59 - qualifying time for Boston.

To be successful in running you need realistic goals, and you need to stick to the training to hit those goals. Keep the focus on the main event, not the training races or the workouts. They are important, but it's OK to have a bad day in training (and I've had a few).

Where I'm at today. I'm hurting a little, but I have a massage appoinment this week to take the knots out of my back (the result of 12 hours of flying and 6 hours stuck in flooding last week). My long runs are getting longer and I'm almost finished with experimenting with shoes, socks, shorts, etc. I wish I could stop those damn blisters from forming every LSD run, but haven't found the right combination (including foot powder, body glide, and a variety of socks).

Overall, the outlook is positive. I have 9 weeks to build up to the event and I'm confident I will meet my goals.

Why run a marathon?

My wonderful wife decided she wanted to do a triathlon (or 2) to get into shape before we got married. So I coached her on running and started back doing some races myself. I wasn't too bad for someone that hadn't run much in almost 20 years. A year after we were married, we dicided to run the Hood to Coast relay together. It was fun, but painful. 22+ miles in less than 24 hours with little to no sleep (and poor nutrition) led to a 7.9 mile leg in the heat, through rolling hills, and a headwind. It was hell, but I did it.

Two months later I started having a problem with my left foot. It was swollen badly between the 4th and 5th innerspace. Shoes were painful to wear. We tried several things including lancing the area, MRI, x-ray, antibiotics, and cortisone. Nothing changed. Exploritory surgery was the only option. So in we go for my first ever surgery at the age of 38. It was not successful. The swelling and infections came back with a vengance. I was referred to another specialist for another round of stump the doctor. This time he went deeper, much deeper and removed a large (benign) growth. To this day we don't know what it was (although it was named Ringo in honor of the Beatles room at the doctor's office). I have a scar as well as almost daily discomfort as a permanent reminder. Sometimes it's just numbness, some times it actually does hurt a little. But it never bothers me when I am running. Today, that's all I care about.

A little over three months (and several agruments with the doctor) after the second surgery, I was finally cleared to run again. I started working with the same coach my wife worked with (Julie Browning) so that someone would keep me in check and help me build back up slowly. While I was waiting (and waiting) for the clearance to run again, I was trying to decide what my goal for the year would be. I had several options to go on, but nothing very clear at the time. After a month or so of training, I got this notion into me that I should run a marathon. Actually, it wasn't a notion, it became more of an obsession. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do this. The more I became confident that I could do this.

Not only should I run my first marathon, but I should try and qualify for Boston (3:20:59). My first race back from surgery was not an easy one, but I averaged 6:33 pace over an 8K (just short of 5 miles).

I have the speed, but the question is, can my legs hold up the pace I need over 26.2 miles...

Where it all Began...

It all started about 25 or so years ago. I ran. I ran because I was pretty good at it. I ran so I could escape. I ran because if I failed, I could only let myself down. In retrospect, I have to say that I was a very lucky person back then. Most kids (and adults) don't run "correctly". Their form is too forward, they heel strike, their arms are all over the place. I was lucky.... I had Mike Manley (one of Bowerman's elite runners) coach me as he was a teacher at my school. He worked with all of us on our form so that we at least had that going for us. The rest was up to us to put in the work.

I grew up in Track Town USA. Don't let Indianapolis or any other city fool you. Mike coached me for 2 years, then I had the fortune of beig coached by Steve McChesney (the McChesney family is the first family of track). I lived only 1/4 mile up the road from Alberto Salazar. I used to see him run all the time. Mary Decker (Tabb) Slaney did her workouts right near the SEHS track on the Amazon trail. Brad Hudson (coaching out of Boulder) was a teamate of mine. Eric Peterson (UCLA XC and distance coach) ran with me when we took second place at the AAU Junior Olympics in San Antonio. I met Steve Scott when he was in his prime at a Prefontaine Classic meet. Athletics West had all the elite runners in the US. Oh, and there was this guy Phil and his partner Bill that came up with this idea that became Nike. Eugene knows running.

I lettered every year in HS (South Eugene, 1986) in cross country and in track. I went to state twice in XC, but never in track. Looking back now knowing what I know today, I was a fool. I loved running the 800, but I just did not have the speed to be great at it. When I ran road races, I was always top 3-5 in my age group for the three years I was running XC. I should have been in the longer races (3000 meters), but my coach let me do what I wanted to do. I wish he would have sat me down and told me "look, your talent is in the longer distance. Give it a try at least." Sorry Steve... but as I said, I only let myself down. I have no regrets, just that morbid curiosity of "what if..."

After HS, it was off to the military (USN) for a while. I never ran much for a very long time. Even when I was coaching high school track in Washington for a few years, I didn't run much. And of course, I had 3 runners go to state in the 800 over 2 years... I may not have been fast, but I knew how to run the race. I knew how to coach it. I owe a lot of what I learned to all those that were a part of my life growing up.

To all of you who coached me and formed this obsession with running, I thank you.