Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Pig Won't's Big Decision


If you have kids, or if you were a kid, you probably remember the Richard Scarry story about Pig Will and Pig Won't. Whenever Pig Won't is asked to do something he doesn't want to do, he says "I won't". Bad boy!! Stop that Pig Won't!

Anyway, there's a choice to be made...and soon. Do I focus on speedwork for the next few months and train like a 10K runner to get my times down for the 3K to 10K, or do I keep chasing the marathon? I like marathon training; pounding out the miles, marathon pace runs, easy runs, tempo runs, lots of runs. What I don't really like is a ton of speedwork, which I would be doing more of if I focused on shorter races this spring.

I believed that primarily endurance would get me to 2:40, and that endurance and speed would be necessary to get below that. Nobby has suggested that I might focus on speed into the summer, and that this would benefit me greatly if I decide to do a fall or winter marathon. But Pig Won't isn't quite ready for more of the short, fast, intense stuff. He is a stubborn fellow, not at all like his brother Pig Will. Pig Won't still has a score to settle with the marathon, and the Rock and Roll marathon on June 3 would allow several shorter build-up races to test the speed in the legs. Here's a short list-
April 15, Sabino Canyon Sunset run (7 miles I think)
April 22, Spring Cross Country Classic 5K
May 7, Cinco de Mayo 10K
May 21, Tucson 5000 5K State Championship

These races would act as great time-trials during a shorter Lydiard build-up, and would give me a great impetus to improve my speed during Lydiard's anaerobic/track phase instead of worrying so much about maintaining my endurance.

So it's decision time for Pig Won't. What's it going to be, the marthon in June or hold out until late fall/winter and focus on running faster?

Training: today, 8 miles, 58:24, 7:18 pace, lower trails in Sabino Canyon and some neighborhoods, a little sluggish
yesterday, 8 miles, 57:14, 7:09 pace, got dragged around by Lucas for an hour

P.S. Results for the Sun Run are here, I guess I ran 34:11 for 7th. I have a big, blue smiling ceramic sun to prove it (hand-painted to boot)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

HOLD-TO-RESET

During the warm-up for today's 10K I cleared out the splits from the marathon on my stopwatch. I pushed the little button on the right, the screen read "hold-to-reset" for an instant, and the marathon was gone. It's a symbolic moment, a rolling back of the trip odometer that occurs with a new tank of gas. For two weeks now I've zipped through those splits, on occasion remembering certain things about particular miles as I read the lap times on the LCD. It's over now, but there was one more race to be run before the real recuperation from the marathon and the next phase of my Lydard training begins.

The Sun Run is a flat, certified, and fairly fast 10K that begins the racing season here in Tucson, and it is also the first of ten events of the Desert Grand Prix, a competitive series of ten events where our club members compete for the lowest placings. I somehow won this last year, and it would be very cool to do it again. Unfortunately, there are some faster runners who are healthy this year, and my dogged consistency ( I'm the turtle to their fast and somewhat injury-prone hare) might not be enough for me to see it through. Also, I have to miss the second race of the series for work obligations, which will score me a fat zero next month.

After an easy 2 mile warm-up with Lucas the race began with 5 and 10K runners starting at the same time. This is somewhat confusing, as I'm looking at nearly double the usual amount of runners in front of me almost immediately. I told myself before the race to go out smart, so of course I go through mile 1 at 5:19, which is 11 seconds faster than my plan. I stay on pace and Lucas comes up alongside, and soon the 5K guys split off and we see 4 runers left in front of us. Mile 2 passes in 5:37 (later we figure out 1 was short and 2 was long), and I don't worry because the effort is brisk but even. So far the legs aren't reminding me of what I did to them two weeks ago. Mile 3 comes along at 5:27, and I'm starting to suffer. To aggravate things, the same runner who came by us towards the end of the half marathon (I admire this guy greatly but it sucks to get passed) goes by us about a half mile later. Lucas tries to go with him and gets a few steps on me, I'm stuck in 3rd gear and I just keep plodding. Mile 4 is 5:34 and I take a quick hit of water, though it's just to divert my attention from the suffering. It's just too soon, thoughts of the pain of the marathon start to creep in. Lucas gets a few more steps, as one of the runners in front of us starts to drop back. Mile 5 in 5:36 and Lucas has passed the runner, and I manage to get by him too. We can't shake him though, and he immediately starts to gain on us. He passes both of us somewhere around here, and I reach the 6th mile marker in 5:28. A long, long straight stretch separates us from the finish, and my legs just will not turn over. I can keep pace, but I cannot gain on Lucas or the other guy. 34:07 (my watch), 7th place, 1st in my age group. It's more than 2 minutes faster than I ran last year, and it's my fastest certified 10K by about 1:40.

While I was struggling down the final stretch, I was thinking not about beating the two runners in front of me, but of being done. No killer instinct today, this was not the same guy who would not say "die" in the marathon two weeks ago or the half marathon two months ago. This guy is tired.

Six months of Lydiard training, which resulted in PR's in the 5K, 10K, 10 mile, 1/2 marathon and marathon. It's been fun, but it's time to rebuild and begin again. One easy, non-structured week begins tomorrow, and if I feel I need it, another week of the same will follow. After that I'll begin the next chapter of Lydiard training, starting from the beginning. I'm hoping for even more fun the second time around.

Racing: 10K, 34:07 (unofficial), 7th overall, 1st age group, time to pull the plug and start over.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

These Important Years

Finn, waiting to grow up

Heard a very moving interview on NPR this morning on the way to work, here's a link to it on their website. Scott Simon interviews Roseanne Cash upon the completion of her first album since the death of her father, Johnny Cash, and her mother, June Carter Cash.

She talks about the wall that separates us from death in terms of family. When her parents were alive, she felt they were this "wall", and she was comforted by it. With both of them gone, her mortality is hitting her in the face. She is the wall between her own children and death. As she talks about her relationship with her parents, it made me really wish my parents were living here in Tucson instead of 120 miles away. I know it's not far, but I would like them to have a closer relationship with our daughter Haiden and son Finn, as well as with Kiera and myself.

What had me in tears was the last part of the interview, where an old tape was played with father Johnny Cash singing with daughter Roseanne. From her high voice and tentative speech she couln't have been more than 2 years old.

I was glad I took Haiden with me on a muffin run this morning, or this story would have me missing her so much at work today that I wouldn't be able to stand it. She sang "Really Rosie" and we saw a hot air balloon, which according to Haiden was carrying Curious George but I can't say for certain.

Race tomorrow, so it was just four easy and back in time for Kiera to go for a run by herself. The race is at 9am, so I'm hoping we can make it a family affair. I have no real expectations for a time, I just hope to find a good group to go out with and to not blow up. How's that for a race plan? There should be a deep field so there is a chance I could get dragged to a good time if I run smart, which is something I haven't done well with lately.

Either way the race will spell the end of my competitive "season", and with 120 hours or so of work planned during the following two weeks I will try to spend what little time I have off with the kids. Looks like early, short runs in the dark. Could be worse. Have a good weekend, and best of luck to Duncan, who is in Miami battling to break 2:30:00 this weekend.

Training: 4 miles, 29:24, 7:21 pace, easy with Haiden in the jog-stroller

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cleaning House

With work as insane as it is, blogging has been difficult. I do have a little time today, so I'm trying to tie up the loose ends. Update the training log, organize the running literature, and start thinking about what's next.

I'm actually under-doing things this week with my training. I already changed one run from 90 minutes to 60, and today I changed a 1 hour easy fartlek session into 45 minutes of VERY easy fartlek. The reason; I'm getting a little tired, and I want to minimize any fatigue going into the 10K I'm racing this weekend. I've managed to turn the legs over three times this week, though today's 4 bursts of speed hardly count.

Yesterday was a two mile time-trial, which turned into two one mile time trials separated by a shoe-tying break (still working on the lacing with the Asics "fast" shoes). I wanted to simulate the first two miles of the 10K by running 5:20-5:30 pace, but I blew it by running the first mile in 5:15. After stopping for 30 seconds to tie a shoe, I ran the second mile in 5:22. I was hoping to speed up along the way and the opposite happened. I went out too fast again, which is turning into a little bit of a problem.

Tomorrow will be 30 minutes easy, very easy. I might even take Haiden on a muffin run if it's warm enough. If I'm really feeling adventurous, I could take both Haiden and Finn.

I have the feeling I will only have a one day weekend, as the gallery will need me 6 days next week, followed by one day off, followed by working 13 days straight for our next show. This will be as good a time as any for a general regrouping and a little less structure in my running. Dare I say...recovery. That is the sort of thing people normally do after a marathon, right?

Training: Today, 6 miles, 41:44, 6:57 pace, with easy fartleks
Yesterday: 6 miles, 38:56, 6:29 pace, with two miles at 5:15 and 5:22

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Limbo

I think I'm tasting the fumes of my peak as it speeds off into the distance, yet I'm not quite ready to start rebuilding. So what's to be done? The schedule said 1.5 hours, though Kiera had a late hair appointment and Haiden had trouble after going down, then Finn got up, then Haiden got up, then Haiden got up again in the early 5's...

You know the drill, I just couldn't get going fast enough to get the whole 90 minutes in, and since I've decided this 10K is my last race before starting over, I figure running just over an hour would be fine for the task at hand. The 5K I was considering towards the end of February was taken out of the "grand prix" series I'm competing in, so I'm just skipping it and heading back into base or conditioning training.

The legs were tired after a very restless night, and I spent some of the run wondering whether or not I will run well on Sunday for the race. I figure I have the conditioning, and I have the guts to tough it out, so I'll go for it.

Work is still nuts so a few more of these short posts before I start the next plan.

Training: 9 miles, 1:02:56, 6:59 pace

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Da Agony of Da'Feet

While Kiera fed Finn at 2am I worked on removing several partial layers of what should be one toenail, blackened and cracked from the race. This is one of several toenails that keep me from wearing sandles in public. It has been bugging me for days, especially when it rubs on the sheets while I'm trying to sleep. It was a gross endeavor, and it left the toe too sore to put into the new "fast" Asics DS trainers, which are a little more snug than the usual Brooks Adrenalines.

So it was another day on the rock-hard track, running 10 x 100 sprints every 200. It's a fast workout, and it was over almost as quickly as it began. It's been quite windy in Tucson lately, and it worked out that one 100 was right into the wind while the other had the wind at my back. Seven minutes of fast stuff was about it, and then it was a short run home.

Work is still insane so short posts these days. Boston is out, I'm still figuring out what's next. Perhaps Rock'n'Roll San Diego, though I'm getting tired of these bigger races. It will leave me 18-19 weeks of training, I'm just trying to figure out if I can do a genuine Lydiard build-up in that time. More on this later for sure.

Training: 6 miles, 41:12, 6:52 pace, w/10 x 100 sprints every 200.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Am I Recovered?

Ours is on the far left

Tough to say. I'm able to run without pain, the G.I. problems are gone, and I think I can even run fast for awhile if I want to. Still, I'm not pushing it. There's still a lingering cloud above me, telling me to take it relatively easy. Joints, tendons, muscles and psyche are still rebuilding at this point after the marathon, so I'll continue to be cautious.

That being said, I did a nice trail run on Phoneline in Sabino Canyon on Sunday with Scott and Lucas, running 11.5 miles at a fairly leisurely gait. I did notice that my knee would hit funny once in awhile on the rocky descents and give me a little jolt, but it's nothing I can reproduce on the roads so I'm not worried about it. Kiera surprised us with her famous banana,nut, chocolate chip muffins afterwards to help undo any good the run had done for us. All in all a nice weekend, save for yet another flat tire last evening.

Today I could feel the trail run in my legs so instead of jumping into the track workout of 100 sprints every 200 I just ran eight miles easy. Afterwards I was able to catch daughter Haiden's first "interpretive dance" class with Mr. Walter. This was truly hysterical, and it will be Haiden's first class "unaccompanied" by her parents (after the first week parents have to wait outside the dance hall).

Ended up with just over 50 miles for the week after the race, and with the 10K this week the mileage will probably be about the same. Still thinking of what to do next, and while I couldn't possibly reach a similar peak by April, circumstances are suggesting an interesting race.

Boston, anyone?

Training: Today, 8 miles, 54:51, 6:51 pace
Yesterday, 11.5 miles, 1:35:28, 8:19 pace, Phoneline trail from the house, took the road back
Total miles for the week: 50.5 in 7 sessions

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Who are you Calling Fartlek?

Fight to the finish

Cool, crisp morning in Tucson, though I was in a bit of a daze after getting up at 2am to feed 7-month-old Finn and then again at 5 to get 3-year-old daughter Haiden some water. It's never just water. This time it was another semi-coherent story of the three bears and a muttered "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star". Drink and a show, dad-and make it good!

As I grumpily poured the coffee at 7 I realized it's work that's primarily responsible for the fatigue I'm feeling. Down to the basement and up again 40 times a day or so to take photos of paintings, plus the concentration it takes to keep all the paintings straight in my mind. Selling paintings also requires a great deal of focus on my part, so by the end of the day (and into the next day) I'm just feeling wiped.

Once I got out on the road in my new Asics DS trainer 11's (or whatever the new number is) I felt light and fresh. This was my first run in these shoes, which are much lighter than my usual Brooks Adrenalines. I did cram my spenco insoles into them though, which have the metatarsal pads glued to them that keep my neuromas at bay. This adds some weight, but adds a little cushioning. I'm toying with racing in these shoes next weekend, provided they still feel good after breaking them in. Arthur Lydiard used to make his own shoes, and he was always a fan of light, flexible shoes that didn't steer or change a runner's gait. These still have a touch of stability, but I feel they are closer to what Arthur would approve of.

I decided to run an easy fartlek session today, alternating fast and slow, from the mailbox to the street sign, etcetera etcetera. Changing gears frequently like this feels much better now than it did when I attempted it a bit during my conditioning phase at the start of my last Lydiard program. The legs are much finer-tuned now I suppose, and they aren't weighed down by 100 mile weeks at present.

I was surprised at the overall speed of the run at the end of six miles, and now that I'm at work the legs are feeling good. They would no doubt feel even better with a nap, but that's not going to happen. Have a good weekend.

Training: 6 miles, 38:47, 6:27 pace. Nice fartlek run

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Negative Split

Kiera is out scrapbooking and the kids are down, so with some time on my hands I went to the computer to check on a statement I made to the guys at The Running Shop about my difficulties in the last six miles and my thoughts that half of those ahead of me probably went out smart and ran a negative split for the second half of my marathon last weekend. Luckily these guys know I'm full of crap, so when I saw how wrong I was when I analyzed the results I knew I didn't have to call them to correct myself.

These are rounded up or down by a few seconds for the sake of clarity.

4,4,7,5,4,0,2,3,4,5,4,4*,4*,4,23,11,0,4,0,5,1*,5,4,2,15,4.

The numbers above indicate how many minutes longer each of the 26 finishers ahead of me took to run the second half of their race compared to their first half. A zero indicates an even split and a * represents a negative split of that amount. The two 4 minute negative splits were the first two women in the race; In fact only two of the six even or negative split runners were men. And yes, some poor bastard ran a 23 minute positive split and still beat me or his results were screwed up.

To add insult to injury, the two Arizonans who beat me (and thus won $1000 and $500 respectively) ran a 4 minute and 15 minute positive split respectively (I promised Kiera I wouldn't grind my teeth anymore). I ran the second half 4 minutes slower.

Was the second half of the course that much more difficult? Tough question. Geb didn't seem to mind, since this "slower" half is where he cruised to his half-marathon world record. I'm sure the elevation chart can be trusted, and I do not doubt the accuracy of the course (overall).

Looking at thes results at Run Race Results, which show the 20 mile split, I see that I passed five people in the last six miles (see, I TOLD you I didn't imagine it), and I was clearly slowing down by this point. Is it simply a case of the "siren song" of the marathon, which causes all of us to go out too fast and run aground on the jagged reef that is mile 20, or is it merely the body saying "I've had enough" as the glycogen supply exhausts itself and our bodies shift to cannibalizing themselves, feeding on our own fat and muscle? Coach Pete Pfitzinger says to plan to run a one minute positive split, as even if you run the entire marathon at the same effort, the cardiac drift (heart rate elevation due to increased heat, internal and external) and deterioration in form and reduction in overall running efficiency will slow you down a little.

The multiple long runs Arthur Lydiard prescribes are designed to increase both the time and the speed at which you can run before you exhaust your glycogen supplies by increasing your efficiency. The anaerobic training that follows is designed to take you the rest of the way, when you finally do start to accumulate more lactic acid than you can clear. But my "quick-burn" of valuable fuel during my 5:44, 5:55, 5:49 starting miles helped hasten the shift from aerobic to anaerobic, and no doubt contributed to me ending up on the wrong side of the statistics.

This is just one of many lessons from my race, and while I'm not beating myself up or taking the fact that I reached my first goal for granted, this is a necessary step to reaching higher next time.

Where's the peak?

When I decided to do P.F. Chang's Phoenix marathon, it was for three reasons.
1. It was about seven months after my previous marathon, which gave me time to do a full Lydiard cycle of marathon training.
2. I had a score to settle with the race, as I bonked horribly and was forced to walk sections en route to a 3 minute PR (went out way too fast with too little training).
3. Late January through late February is the busiest month of the year at work, so it would be a good time for a block of reduced training after the race.

I unpacked, consigned and photographed more than 30 paintings for a show our gallery is doing on February 11 yesterday, thus no blog entry. This is a show of small, or "miniature" paintings, which will have close to 400 pieces total. There's the boss, one full-time co-worker, and me, plus a sporadic part-timer to do all of this. It's simply crazy but we get it done.

A client surprised me yesterday by mentioning he saw me in the newspaper yesterday. I like that they used my chip time instead of the gun time, but for some reason they have me as 21st place. I guess they're not counting the six women who beat me, which is a shame.

In training news, I got my legs back today, which means I will be running the Sun Run 10K next Sunday. I'm not sure how I'll do, but it kicks off our club's Grand Prix series, which I was lucky enough to win last year. One unexpected bonus prize was comped entries to all ten races, which is really appreciated.

It seems that folks are arguing over whether or not I should be racing after the marathon. I mentioned once before that Arthur Lydiard has a schedule for continued racing after your first "goal" race (the marathon in my case) which looks like this-

Monday: 100m sprints every 200m x 10
Tuesday: 1.5 hours of long aerobic running
Wednesday: 3000m time trial
Thursday: 1 hour of easy fartlek running
Friday: 1/2 hour of jogging
Saturday: Race 5 or 10K
Sunday: 1.5 hours or more of long aerobic running

My plan was to start this schedule once the legs were feeling better, which coincidentally happened today. It should be possible to hold a peak for 6 weeks or so, which would have me racing through the end of February before rebuilding. There's only one problem with this. I'm starting to question when exactly I started peaking.

Nobby cautioned me towards the end of my track/anaerobic phase that it was important not to peak too early, and that when I started feeling too good to slow down and ease off with 90 minutes of very slow running. I've mentioned (more than once and now again) his thoughts about coming into the race 90% and coming up rather than 90% and coming down. The "Running with Lydiard" schedule Mark Coughlin sent me and that I favor has 25K time trials 7 and 6 weeks out, followed by a 20K trial 5 weeks out, followed by a full marathon trial 4 weeks out. This last time trial is the final push to really bring you up to the level where you begin to peak, and the "sharpener" (shorter speedwork) workouts and shorter (2 mile to 10K) time trials that follow this act to "put the icing on the cake" of your anaerobic system while not bringing your overall aerobic conditioning down.

Where I think I made a big mistake was 6 weeks out, where I raced a half-marathon full-bore. This was a fantastic race for me, with a great negative split and a very quick finish. It was everything I wanted my marathon to be. The race was so good, in fact, that I'm worried it brought about the beginning of my peak prematurely. The following weekend I did 15 miles of a 16 mile run at 6:01-6:02 pace, then the next weekend (four weeks out) ran 18 of 22 miles at 6:01 pace.

I'll continue to think about this, but when I remember how I felt after that last pace run I really believe I was feeling better than I was at the same point in the marathon four weeks later. I'm wondering if I should have skipped the half altogether and just kept training instead, which might have helped me run a better last six miles of the marathon. I'll never know, but it's worth thinking about. After six months of training, I owe myself a few weeks of nit-picking and overanalyzing what I did and didn't do. I'll be sure to bore you with all of it.

Training: Today, 8 miles, 53:03, 6:38 pace, got my wheels back
Yesterday, 8 miles, 57:18, 7:09 pace

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Getting Back

I felt a bit more like myself today, and I made it eight whole miles this morning. I'm able to bring my legs up a bit more (higher knees and higher kick-back), and at times (especially on dirt downhills) I momentarily forgot the soreness and opened up the tiniest bit.

Somewhere inside, underneath the sore muscles is what should be a fairly fit individual. Arthur Lydiard writes that when the legs are sore, it's better just jog slowly, regardless of what the schedule says, and to keep doing so until the legs feel fresh. This is easy advice to take this week.

If all goes well, I'm shooting for 90 minutes or so on Sunday, then on to Lydiard's "race" schedule for a few weeks if the body is willing. I'm still hoping to do a 10K January 29 and a 5K on February 26 if I can hang on to my fitness for that long. We'll see.

Training: 8 miles, 59:32, 7:26 pace

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Back on Planet Earth

Feels like gravity is working overtime. Hard to sit down, harder to get up. Something in the G.I. tract is amiss, but I'm still running. It hurts to start and it hurts when I stop, but as I'm shuffling along it actually feels pretty good. The scenery is going by slower, but that's to be expected. I did my version of a short fartlek workout with Haiden yesterday at the elementary school field nearby as we tried in vain to keep a kite aloft.

Six months, gone in a flash. Time to start thinking about the next phase, and to figure out how long I can hold my fitness before rebuilding. Arthur Lydiard has a schedule for racing every other week or so once an athlete starts to peak, so I'm hoping I can run a 10K on January 29 and a 5K a few weeks later, if I can hang on that long. It seems that most Lydiardites feel you can hold a peak for up to six weeks, but looking at my half-marathon in December makes me think I started peaking a little eary. For now it's just shuffling along for a few more days, a little longer and a little faster each day.

Thanks again for all the kind comments, I look forward to catching up on the blogs I've been missing and returning the favor.

Training: Today, 5 miles, 39:28, 7:53 pace. Ouch
Yesterday, 4 miles, 33:53, 8:23 pace. Double-ouch

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

First I want to express my thanks to all of you who were kind enough to send me good wishes before and cheers after the race, I've been overwhelmed that people (other than me) really care about my progress and read this blog. My best goes out to all of you, and here's to a great year of running.

It's so great to have the race behind me, and to have put another stepping-stone down in front of me on the path of what I hope leads to me reaching my ultimate potential as a runner (or as near as I can get to it). There's still a long ways to go, but I think after struggling with different training regimens I've finally found a way that works for me in the Lydiard method.

The race was surreal. Knowing that Haille Gebrselassie was on the second half of the course, en route to a new half-marathon world record heightened the electricity, and while I'm not a fan of mega-marathons, the parking, buses, porta-john and start line facilities were above reproach. I drove up the evening before with my friend Lucas, who was running the half, and we stayed with my parents in Mesa where we had a nice, low-key dinner. As I sat with Lucas on a bench a short distance from the start I stared at a hand-writtten pace chart, with times from 5:58 per mile up to 6:06. After my long marathon pace runs, I thought I would be towards the lower times, but time would tell.

I hopped the gate into corral 1 at the close of the National Anthem, and the siren went off not a minute later. Prior results indicated I would be around the top 30, so I was immediately taken aback to see 60+ runners sprinting away from me. Needless to say, I got caught up in it and doubted my own pacing. I was rewarded with a 5:44 first mile, which was a bad move. Mile 2 and three went by in 5:55 and 5:49, and by now I was ten steps off the women's lead group. After mile 4 passed in 5:56 I realized they were settling into my goal pace so I edged up to a few steps behind them. While I have no problem pacing off the women's leaders, I feel that running within their pack, drafting and affecting their movements by being too close compromises their race. Miles 5-7 went by quickly in 6:03, 5:59 and 6:03, and I was feeling very good about my placement. We were beginning to pass runners now, and my lungs and legs felt fine. Miles 8-10 followed suit in 6:00, 5:58, and 5:58, but about halfway through mile 10 the women's lead pack started to get edgy, as a group of 4-5 Ethiopians started to toy with three women running alone with them. As one woman missed her bottle, the pack surged to try to rid themselves of her. I trailed off a little to give them more room, and soon after mile 10 found myself on their heels. They were racing now, using tactics to bring the weaker runners to the front by slowing down. I knew an even pace was my only chance, as that was how I had rehearsed these runs, so I forged ahead alone. When mile 11 passed in 6:11 and I had put about 5 seconds on the women, I knew I had made the right call as they must have dropped 15 seconds in one mile. I also had a feeling I would see them later, knowing their finishing times from last year. Miles 12-14 passed in 5:54, 5:59 and 5:55, and as I closed in on the next marker I started to feel a little under pressure. I knew I was at 6 minute pace at this point and I had some time to lose, so I started to back off just a little to hopefully regain my composure. 6:09 and 6:11 for 15 and 16 followed. Here the elite women suddenly zoomed past, running about 5:40 pace and looking great. "There's a lesson to be learned here", I thought to myself.

The stampede past me broke me out of my stupor, and 17-19 passed in 6:05, 6:08 and 6:04. If I could just hold on to this pace I would finish somewhere between 2:37 and 2:39. This sounded good, but the legs were starting to give. Both adductors were getting incredibly sore from bringing my legs up, and my calves, which have never given me any trouble, were tightening fast. 6:14 for mile 20. I've run 20 miles at precisely 6:01 pace, two more than my longest pace run and I'm done. Shit! Shit! Shit! It was slipping away, fast. All the favorable conditions of the first half of the race were exacting equal payment back. I'm not blaming the wind, we got as much as we gave, the timing of it just really sucked.

We were on a interminably long stretch of wide road now, battling McClintock Avenue for almost 4 miles straight. I could see the overpass in the distance that marked about the 24.5 mile mark. Seven lanes of desolation, punctuated by water-stops and horrible country bands. "So this is how it ends, with me grinding to a halt and giving back 10 minutes in six miles." It's not pretty, I'm feeling sorry for myself, and I'm biting down on my lip until the inside of my mouth bleeds to give me something other than my legs to focus on. Mile 21-22 in 6:12 and 6:15. I'm back to 10 seconds over per mile but it costs me. Mile 23 in 6:24 and I've given two miles of gains right back. The sad cliche, go out too hard, feel great and tempt fate, pay the price and crumple. But I'm still passing people. I've gone by three during my suffering, and I see three more. I remember hearing echoes of the announcer at the halfway point annoncing an Arizona runner going through about a minute or so before me. Was he still ahead? There's $1,000 for first Arizonan, $500 for second, plus the same amounts for Maricopa county residents.

It's not for money, it's not because I was dumb enough to write a concrete goal into my blog, it's not pride. Mile 24 in 5:34 and I don't know what the hell is going on. It can't be right, but I'm going through the underpass now and I can see the corner where we turn right onto University and directly into the headwind. I cut the turn so tight I almost knock two kids over, I can't run straight and I can't think straight. Mile 25 in 7:20, it begins to make sense as surely the last marker was off (I later average the two for 6:20 apiece). Singlet flapping, head forward, a look at the clock shows just over 7 minutes for the last 1.2 miles. There are tears, and for a second I just wish it was already too late so I could slow down.

Then I approach the metal band. Twice as loud as the rest, probably twice as bad. I push on, the form is gone, it's all guts. I see the turn that leads to the sidestreets that lead eventually to the finish. I'm still at least 400 meters from the mile mark but I make a stand. The legs are shaking as I stomp forward, sprinting now (if you can call it that). I see the clock at mile 26, I have 1:14 to make it. When I ran that short 10K that was really 6 miles someone said, "Just add a minute". For some reason I think of this and still believe I have a chance, though .2 miles after 26 is certainly different. I round the final turn and I see 2:39:50 above the line and I'm still down the road. Tunnel vision as I stomp ahead, then it's finally over.

I wasn't even sure I'd made it, but "Mike in Boston", a commenter here and on letsrun.com found me and introduced himself afterwards. He'd watched Geb get the record by riding his bike to different places on the course and had seen my finish and told me I'd made it. It was nice to meet him, and it was also nice to see my parents after the race. My dad had endured plenty of poor cross-country showings by me as well as an imfamous state-championship two mile race where I was lapped and pulled from the race.

But that was me before Arthur Lydiard.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Only Something You Love Can Hurt You This Much


My hair hurts, my skin hurts, my eyeballs hurt. I dug as deeply as I could, and I ran two seconds to the good. 2:39:58 chip time, 27th overall, second in my age group, third Arizonan. I'm sure anyone who reads marathoner blogs is sick of the tale of how difficult the last 6 miles were, but prepare yourself for another installment of the same tomorrow.

I am utterly spent after driving back from Phoenix to Tucson (120 miles) and having to stop to get yet another flat tire fixed, and I want to spend some more time with the kids before bed, so that's it for now. Suffice it to say that while I don't think I executed the race as well as I might have, this was the hardest I've worked for something in my life, especially in the closing moments. And while my goal was an arbitrary time, the thoughts of it slipping away over the last six miles and my efforts to see it through take rank with the greatest disappointments and greatest joys of any personal journey I have embarked upon.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Running is the greatest sport in the world.

Racing: 26.2 miles, 2:39:58, 6:06 pace. I'm a sub-2:40 marathoner.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Add it Up

Day after day
I will walk and I will play
but the day after today
I will stop
and I will start
-Violent Femmes, "Add it Up"

Tomorrow the training stops, and Sunday the race starts. Saturday will probably be busy at work, so this is my last real chance to publicly reflect on the training I've done for the race ahead.

-2,246 miles in 25 weeks and 5 days
During this time:
-24 mile runs: 1
-22 mile runs: 16
-20 mile runs: 3
-18 mile runs: 9
-17 mile runs: 2
-16 mile runs: 19

18 miles at 6:01 pace (12/18)
15 miles at 6:02 pace (12/11)
11 miles at 6:02 pace (11/27)

I've been trying to faithfully follow master coach Arthur Lydiard's 26 week marathon program, and I've dedicated half a year to chasing a marathon best of sub 2:40. My best marathon to date is 2:47:51.

Along the way I've run new personal bests at 5K, 10K (unofficial), 10 miles, and the half marathon. I managed to win one race outright (the 10K), and I placed 4th overall at the Tucson half-marathon where I improved my previous best by more than 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I'm typically not one to blow my own horn, but I am encouraged by my progress thus far so I'm posting it.

More importantly, I've discovered the limits I've previously set for myself with regard to mileage and times were nothing more than artificial constructs I'd imagined through comparing myself to the runners around me and interpreting my previous race times. Through reading Arthur Lydiard's "Running to the Top" and Running the Lydiard Way", as well as Ron Daws' "Running Your Best" I'm learning that most runners, including myself, never get close to realizing their ultimate potential. As cliche as it sounds, THERE IS SO MUCH MORE WE CAN DO AND SO MUCH FASTER WE CAN RUN.

Along the way I have met numerous supportive athletes and coaches who have been kind enough to share their wisdom and encouragement, including Nobby Hashizume, Glenn McCarthy, Mark Coughlin and many others, and my wonderful wife Kiera has been exceedingly patient, accommodating, and supportive of my endeavors.

Now it's time to add it up. I've done the work, I've tried to be smart, and I have six months of effort in the bank that indicate I can achieve my goal if I give everything I have while racing intelligently. With this in mind, whatever happens Sunday will only spell the end of the first chapter. As much pressure as I'm putting on myself, regardless of the outcome I am only 1/6 of the way there. The ultimate goal is three years of Lydiard training to try to get as close to my ultimate potential as possible. At that point I will be 37, and hopefully by that time this race will be just a fond memory, much like the first date with your future spouse. A beginning.

Training: 5 miles, 35:08, 7:09 pace

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Minor Annoyances

The running seems to be going well. I looked at my log for May of 2004, when I was in my last week before running 2:47 at the Vermont City Marathon (nearly a 10 minute P.R.) and there are similarities. Back then I was feeling strong and light on my feet, and it was hard to run the last few days at over a 7 minute pace. The same thing goes this week, and while I do feel lazy for not running much my legs are quite fresh at the moment.

This morning's easy six miler, which I meant to run at 7:20+ turned out to be 7:05 pace, even though I was concentrating on trying to just trudge along slowly. I'll work harder to go even slower the next two days and I'll only be running 5 and 4 miles respectively.

While the running is going well, other forces are gathering against me. Yesterday I thought one of my car tires had a slow leak so I filled it up on the way to work, only to see it low again this morning. I almost didn't notice it since the other front tire was now completely flat! With only one spare I took the bicycle pump to the low tire, changed the flat one, and dropped the car off to get both taken care of. It's nowhere near the car troubles Zeke has been facing, but annoying nonetheless since this will be my vehicle for getting to the race.

Some marathoners start to carbohydrate load three days before the race, while others choose two or just one day before. Arthur Lydiard doesn't advocate increasing your carbohydrate portions, but rather to take honey with every meal in the few days before the race. Honey in your coffee, your tea, cereal, oatmeal, whatever you're eating. I'll experiment with some tonight and see how my digestive tract takes it, and I will up my carbohydrates in the two days before the race. Since today's breakfast mirrored yesterday's sad excuse for nutrition I will try to even out the day with good food choices. To anyone else running a race this weekend, especially "tb1", a frequent commenter here who will make their marathon debut in Phoenix, best of luck.

Training: 6 miles, 42:30, 7:05 pace

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

One was Johnny...

"One was Johnny who lived by himSELF!
Two was the rat who jumped on a SHELF!
Three was the cat who chased the rat...
Four was the dog who came in and sat."

This was the soundtrack to my run this morning, courtesey of daughter Haiden's crooning from the jogging stroller. It's from Maurice Sendak's "Really Rosie-Nutshell Kids" books, which were put to music by Carol King. It's very different from Duncan's recent playlist of 80's faves. I remember the Sendak songs distinctly from my childhood, and hearing Haiden shout/sing them on our muffin run is always bittersweet.

They are only young once, just like we all were. I want to give Finn (our 6-month-old boy) and Haiden (3 and a half) the best of me, and at times like these it's easy. Not so last night.

Kiera was at her class last night, so getting the gang off to bed was my job. Finn cried from the second I got home at 5:15 until he was in bed asleep at 7:15. Then, just for good measure he awoke crying again at 8. I fed him more and finally got him back down. Haiden somehow tracked chocolate pudding onto our comforter but went to bed without complaint. Of course, she awoke at 8:45 screaming because she had lost her Angelina Ballerina stuffed mouse. Midnight had Finn up again for two hours or so, I took the first shift and Kiera the second and third. He awoke again sometime in the 5's, and we were all up not too long after.

I was exhausted this morning, but for some reason we decided to re-arrange all the furniture in the house before my run with the extra time we had. This is what happens during a taper if you don't have any other productive hobbies. By the time I was able to get out the door I was cutting things desperately close for getting to work on time. What does this mean? Of course it means Haiden demands to come along and make it a muffin run with dad, two miles of marathon pace be damned. We compromise, I take her out two miles, get the muffin to go, and bring it back home for her to eat, all at sub-7 pace. I let her inside, then head back out for 2 miles at marathon pace alone, which turned out to be 5:59 today (I should be so lucky).

Fastest shower ever, a handful of cereal and two spoons of yogurt at the counter, a thermos of coffee and a Trader Joe's pop-tart in the car and I'm at work 5 minutes late. Thus begins another restful race-week taper day.

Arthur Lydiard's athletes were so successful in part because of the extreme attention he paid to the "small things". In Peter Snell's case in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Lydiard knew how all of the runners competing against his athlete were training, and where their weaknesses were. In my case the "small things" I'm paying attention to are usually our small children. Still, I'm doing my best to keep the attention I can spare on the race this Sunday, and I will be ready.

Training: Today, 6 miles, 40:20, 6:41 pace. 4 miles with Haiden in the jog-stroller, 2 miles at 5:59 (marathon pace)
Yesterday, 8 miles, 54:32, 6:49 pace

Monday, January 09, 2006

What a Slacker!

First off, I respect anyone who laces them up and heads out the door. Whether it's one mile a day or 26, as Lydiard says, "As long as you get out there you're still winning." When I say 58 miles a week is slacking, it's only because for the past 25 weeks I've averaged over 90. Most people cutting back a third of their average mileage in a week would probably be a bit stir-crazy too.

That being said, I do feel like a real slacker after logging 58 miles last week, down from 80 the week before. Still, this is the taper for the marathon this weekend, and a year ago I would have been happy with this total as my peak mileage. All the energy saved by not running as much has unfortunately been channeled into nervous thoughts of all the fitness I'm losing. I know this isn't how it works, I know the taper is designed to soak up all the work I've done to this point, to rid myself of any lingering aches and pains, and to maximize my glycogen stores. But I feel like I'm wasting away. I know I'm not the only runner who has felt this way during a taper.

Sunday's long run was a nice jaunt through Sabino Canyon and the surrounding hilly areas courtesey of my tourguide Lucas. He showed me a new route that traced southeast out of the National Forest property and through some rural horse properties. Finally we cut into Canyon Ranch, an elite spa and a "drying-out" spot for celebrities. The run ended with a few mean hills before circling back to my house, and we ended up with 13 quality miles.

Today was the usual 6 mile jaunt, with 6x100 of "fast, relaxed running". The legs were a little thick at first, but by four miles in I wanted to stay out another hour. Don't worry, I didn't.

Training: Sunday, 13 miles, 1:35:51, 7:23 pace
Today, 6 miles, 41:39, 6:56 pace w/6x100 "fast, relaxed running"
Total miles for the week: 58 in 7 sessions

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Right Turn!


Started out too fast today, and just as I turned left to follow my usual 6 mile route I decided to pull a wide u-turn and head into Sabino Canyon to run some trails. Some days when I feel like really cruising along quickly (and I should be taking it easy), a sure way to slow down is to take some off-camber trails through the lower sections of Sabino Canyon. Lots of fist-sized to encyclopedia-sized rocks and such to slow you down, as well as a plethora of quick ups and downs. Ended up with 6 easy miles at a very leisurely pace, and the beautiful cool morning and wonderful scenery made the time fly by. Speaking of Sabino Canyon, there's a nice married couple that runs here often, Angie and Johnny. Like our family, they also have a three-year-old, and Johnny trains upwards of 50 miles a week with Ash (their son) in a jogging-stroller or pack. This makes my occasional "muffin run" with Haiden seem like pretty weak parenting by comparison! Anyway, Johnny's post today was very inspiring, and I hope you get a chance to read it.

One of the reasons I decided to try Arthur Lydiard's training was to explore the possibilities of running, which is my primary hobby. Lets face it, you only get what you give. I wanted to learn to give more to my running to see what I would get in return. Selfish? You bet. But there's more to it than that, and I love running so much more than I did six months ago for the extra effort I've put into it. I have found more beauty and joy in this sport than I ever thought existed. It sounds like Johnny already knows this, and he's urging us to take the next step to bring this importance and purpose out into the open and beyond the miles ahead of us. We can love more, reach out more, and simply mean more to one another if we simply make the effort. The lessons we learn on the roads and trails can be amplified to make our lives and the lives of those around us more meaningful.

Take a cue from Johnny and have a great weekend.

Training: 6 miles, 46:53, 7:49 pace, great easy run in lower Sabino Canyon

Friday, January 06, 2006

More on the Taper

In Arthur Lydiard's 1978 book "Running the Lydiard Way" he writes of the final training period-
"During the last one and a half weeks before (the first importatnt competition), you should try to freshen up by lightening the training to build your mental and physical rserves. Some have called this 'super compensation.' It is important, however, and the period of time you need for this should be decided through trial and error methods in less important competitions. Individuals differ in the time they need, although about ten days suits most athletes. You should train every day during this period, but well within your capabilities. If you use fast running, it should be short and intense, not prolonged. The longer runs should be made at an easy pace. Watch your food intake during this time. There can be a tendency to ease up in training and overeat. It is not desirable to put on any weight. So if you are susceptible to weight gain, take particular care."

I typed that last part while eating a scone Kiera made that I took to work. Some have mentioned (and I might have written before) that Lydiard trained his marathoners more as "glorified 10K runners". This would explain the sudden and short taper (when compared to modern standards). In the past I have tapered for three weeks, which always seemed a little long. The trial and error part is scary for someone in his first go-around, which tends to be where you make the "error" in your trial. Still, I'm trying to be good, and today's incredibly windy weather made it easy. This was my last 5K time trial, and I did it at the end of an 8 miler. Instead of going too hard into the wind (which was unfortunately the way the route worked out), I did it as a marathon pace-judgement run. I ran the 3.1 miles in 18:25, or 5:56 pace, which is a little faster than goal pace but I felt good doing it.

Tomorrow is going to be a very easy day, since I missed the 50 sprint/50 floats earlier in the week I was tempted to squeeze them in, but doing so between today's pace workout and Sunday's long run seems like a little much. I may just take Haiden out for a muffin run instead to be fresh for Sunday's last (shorter) long run.

Overall I'm feeling good, no aches or pains to speak of, and Finn only got up once last night so I really caught up on sleep. My only hope now is for winter to descend once again on Arizona, as I'm wishing for a cold morning January 15 for the race.

Training: 8 miles, 52:12, 6:31 pace, w/5K pace judgement time trial in 18:25, 5:56 pace

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Enforced Taper

From beyond the grave I fear Arthur Lydiard has sent two messengers to make sure I take it easy during the taper, and each of them measure less than 38 inches tall. Yes, the beloved children are at it again, with another two wake-up calls, the first for two hours at midnight (deja-vu), with Finn vocally complaining about the sniffles. Then, just at 5am, when I was starting to get up to go to the track for my sharpening workout of 50 sprint-50 floats, he was up again. In good conscience I couldn't ditch out and make Kiera handle it, so I stayed, fed him, put him down, fed him more, put him down again...no luck. He was up, and Haiden was stirring too.

Unfortunately, Finn had two early appointments today to check on his head shape, including an hour of physical therapy that I needed to keep Haiden occupied during. In the end, a track workout somehow turned into a muffin run, a fast shower, and a meeting with Kiera and Finn at Hanger, the people who make Finn's helmet. Haiden enjoyed the ride and the muffin, Kiera enjoyed a little more rest, and I ended up with an easy day. Finn's "head asymmetry" is down to 5 millimeters or less, so he's essentially cured, though he'll still wear the helmet a little longer at night. This is great news, and his rapid improvement was a surprise even to the people who manufacture the helmet.

If I feel the need, I can always do the track work tomorrow when things are less crazy, then make my last 5K time trial into more of a marathon pace run (which I'm leaning towards anyway). One way or another it gets done, and taking care of the kids is always the first priority. The only thing I have to say to my two little "Lydiard enforcers" is that any kind of taper requires at least some sleep!

Training: 6 miles, 45:04, 7:29 pace, muffin run with Haiden in the jog-stroller

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Getting Better all the Time

Nice run after two wake-up calls from Mr. Finn, who at 6 months of age is starting to assert his will. Truth is he has a bit of a cold, so if he wakes up at 12:30am, stays up for almost 2 hours, then wakes up again at 4 I guess I can't blame him (though in the middle-of-the-night fogginess I sometimes do). Mercifully, Haiden (3 years old) let me sleep until almost 7 after this, and I got her breakfast and hung out with her until Kiera made it out of the bedroom. If you're not a morning person by age 33 it's probably never going to happen, so I feel sorry for Kiera sometimes with our two little noisemakers. If I really need to get out the door I can send Haiden into our room to wake her mom up, but if I can avoid it I do. This means no lollygagging on the run for me, and usually a five-minute hunch-and-munch breakfast standing at the counter so I can get to work (almost) on time.

I ran 11 at a mellow pace, though by the end I was cruising around 6:50 so it wasn't exactly a recovery run after yesterday's effort. Still, it was a very nice morning for running, and I spent a few minutes watching seven deer in the brush just off the road in Sabino Canyon. This meant even less time for breakfast/shower, but it was worth it. Upon my return Haiden was clamoring for a "special milkshake" and Finn wasn't down yet, so I obliged and made the world's fastest smoothie with her help.

My original plan was to wake at 4:30 and do my whole run in the dark with the headlamp, then take the family out for a leisurely breakfast with all my extra time. Finn's night-time antics blew this plan, but hopefully I'll have some more time with the kids tonight.

Training: 11 miles, 1:16:26, 6:57 pace

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Shutting it Down

It's time to back off, the work is done. I have to write this so it's easier for me to do. After 12 weeks of conditioning, 4 weeks of hill training, four weeks of anaerobic/track work, and four weeks of coordination training, my six months of Lydiard-based training comes down to these last two weeks of sharpening and tapering. Note to self: don't screw it up.

I did my last two mile time trial today, and the effort started to get away from me. My competitive nature and my need to see progress can work against me, and I started to find myself racing instead of just doing the workout. The result was 10:29 for two miles, or about a 5:15 pace, but I think I worked a little too hard to get there. My 5:18 pace the week before under more stressed conditions was in my mind, and I wanted to prove I was still improving. Proving it by running myself into the ground wasn't what I had in mind. I started to tie up a little in the last half mile, and I could feel the lactic acid building up in the quads. It started to feel like the last half mile of a 5K, so I eased up just a touch and tried to remember that by going all-out at this stage would probably be more to my detriment than to my benefit.

Nobby said it before after my last marathon time trial two weeks ago but it bears repeating, "The hard work is done". The legs feel good now that I'm at work, and I think I'm still on the way up. However, now is the time to hold the reins tightly and to keep the short, sharpening work under more control. More of the old sayings come to mind, like "Better to be 90% coming up than 90% coming down". I still have a 50 sprint/50 float workout and another 5K trial this week, but I'll be taking more care to ease the effort on these.

After working so hard for 24 weeks, these last two weeks are probably the hardest for me. I will hopefully prove my condition on the 15th, so I'll do my best to save it until then.

The greatest obstacle I overcame in my running today? No, it wasn't the time trial. Try putting together two sets of shelves from IKEA before a morning run and still getting to work on time. If I never see another allen wrench it will be fine with me.

Training: 7 miles, 46:30, with a 2 mile time trial in 10:29, 5:15 pace

Monday, January 02, 2006

In Good Company

I got a call from my brother yesterday suggesting I read this article in our newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star (Rob the Runner, an ultra runner who writes one of my favorite blogs caught it too). It's not often a lowly, plodding marathon runner like me gets mentioned in the same article as David Krummenacker, who was number 2 in the U.S. championships for the 800 this year (as well as 2003 world champ), brothers Robert Cheseret (10,000 meters NCAA champ) and Bernard Lagat (fastest 1500 this year), Abdi Abdirahman (USA 10,000 meter and 10 mile champ) and homegrown ultra-marathoner Pam Reed. It's a list of the top 100 Southern Arizona sports figures of 2005, and somehow somebody slipped up and put me in there at number 90.

That was nice news after a late-morning 18 miler, where my mind wandered as I thought about what the new year would bring. I'm not big on resolutions or marking these occasions, but time inevitably marches on and the yearly calendar seems as good a way as any to keep track of this. Finn was born, Kiera and I celebrated five years of marriage and we moved into a different house, one with enough bedrooms for each of the kids to have their own. Also, I feel I grew a bit as a runner. I took on more of a training load than I previously thought possible, trusting the words of Arthur Lydiard to guide me.

No time to dwell right now, dinner is almost ready and the kids have put up with me at the computer long enough. See you tomorrow.

Training: Yesterday, 18 miles, 2:06:09, 7:00 pace
Today: 6 miles, 44:36, 7:25 pace
Total miles for the week: 80 in 7 sessions