Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 Maui Marathon Review

2015 Maui Marathon
Sunday, September, 2015
Lahaina, Hawaii
29th State Completed
Runners: 537 (281 men, 256 women)
Start Time: 5:00 a.m. HAST (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time)
Course: Rolling, climbing hills the first half ... flat second half ... about 550 ft of elevation, but it feels like quite a bit more than that
Weather: 85 degrees & 88% humidity at times during the race, nearing 90 degrees at the end ... incredibly hot and humid
SWAG: Short sleeve dry-fit shirt
Race Organization: Very good
Crowd Support: None until the finishing chute
Volunteer Support: Exceptionally good, very kind & helpful
Water Stops: Really well organized and often
Food: Bananas, oranges, and gels along the course, with typical post race food
Age: 46
Finishing Time: 3:47:55
Average Pace: 8:41
Place: 40th/537 Overall, 5th/45 45-49 AG
Total Experience ... 1  2  3  4  5

I was dumping cups of water on my head to cool my body down at Mile 4 of the 45th Annual Maui Marathon.  It was raining, and completely dark like the middle of the night, and the narrow shoulder of Honoapiilani Highway, which served as as our race course for most of the race, was lit only by the headlights of oncoming cars.  I'd planned on pacing much slower than normal because of the brutal 80 degree & 88% humidity conditions at the starting line that would only intensify, but I quickly found myself out of control and running way too fast for this early in the race.  I knew before too long I would crash ... and probably crash hard, but I was going to push it as long as possible.  And after 31 previous marathons, this would prove to be though toughest, but most beautiful race, I had ever finished.
Full marathon participants received an orange t-shirt
with the race logo on the front and sponsors on the back,
I also bought this shirt that had the race logo on the front,
but also the names of all the runners of both races
encrypted on the back as part of the design ... cool!

I probably won't have as many race details with this marathon review as normal.  Also, I'll try not to bore everyone with every experience and all of the fascinating history we learned about Hawaii during our visit.  Instead, I'll mostly share some of the photos of the amazing Maui landscape that captured during our visit.

As far as the marathon,  I obviously didn't run the race I'd planned, but still finished with a respectable time considering the conditions ... and walking most of the last three miles. I also was "forced" into making my first ever Aid-Station Tent visit after crossing the finish line.  I just needed a little time to sit there and recover, but apparently I looked like I was going to die so overly cautious heads prevailed.

But our 10-Year Anniversary trip to Maui was way more than either Michael or I could have dreamed, and accordingly, the race took it's proper place as simply one of many activities we enjoyed while in the island paradise.  The race actually took place on the second full day we were in Maui, so we both had plenty of time to recover while enjoying an amazing vacation.  Honestly, I'm not much of a "vacation guy", but I could've stayed in Hawaii much longer, and can't wait until our next trip back. It was our second trip to Maui, but this time I definitely fell in love with the beauty of the island.
One of about a thousand absolutely perfect sunset pictures we took at the end of almost every day.
I love this woman more than anything and words can't adequately describe the amazing time we shared in Maui

(yes ... I'm well aware that my lovely wife is waaaaay out of my league ... but I'm obviously charming!!!)
The convenience of this race couldn't have been any better.  Our hotel location at the Sheraton was only about three hotels down the beach, and about a ten minute walk, from the race expo and finish line at the Marriott at Ka'anapali Beach in Lahaina.  To be honest, we'd booked our hotel months before we knew the location of the race festivities, so this was a mere stroke of luck.
Black Sand Beach, maybe the most beautiful place we visited on the island, it was simply breath taking
There aren't enough photos to adequately show the beauty of Black Sand Beach located just outside of 
the town of Hana at Waianapanapa State Park
The black sand, rocks, and cliffs are actually cooled lava.  The dark gray and black color set against the lush
green vegetation makes for seemingly unending picturesque views
A view from one of the many cliffs at Black Sand Beach
There were only about 500 runners in the Maui Marathon, so the Race Expo was appropriately small, and held in one of the meeting rooms of the Marriott.  The start and finish line for the half-marathon were located immediately outside the hotel on Ka'anapali Parkway at the base of the West Maui Forest Reserve and mountain range.  The full marathon also finished here, but started 26.2 miles away in Kahului at the shopping center.
Resort life ... we stayed at the beautiful Maui Sheraton at Black Rock on Ka'anapali Beach
Early morning walk with Michael on the beach at Black Rock
(not entirely sure if I had authorization to post this pic ... forgiveness is easier than permission)
Ka'anapali Beach is one of the busier destinations on Maui, 
but it's not too crowded for every to enjoy the warm sun and powerful surf
My friend, Bobby, and me at the Maui Marathon

Since the race started at 5:00 a.m., we had to be at the shuttle bus location at the finish line by 3:00 a.m.  I'm not joking.  This meant waking up at about 1:30 a.m.  I met my friend Bobby at the bus, who was also vacationing with his wife in Maui.  I met Bobby several years ago at the Myrtle Beach Marathon, where we instantly became friends.  He's a great guy who I always enjoy hanging out with, but unfortunately since he lives in North Carolina, I don't get to see very often.  He's a great runner who is also running a marathon in every State, but is going to finish way before me.

On the way to the starting line, we chatted and caught up a little, but also noted the hot and humid conditions outside.  It was the middle of the night and literally over 80 degrees, with a sweltering 88% humidity.  All of the locals kept commenting on how it was the hottest stretch they could ever remember.

While we were waiting at the staring line, we noticed what seemed to be an inordinately high number of Japanese runners compared to most races.  But the race was sponsored by the Japanese Travel Bureau (JTB), and judging by the perfectly synchronized warm up aerobics they were all doing, it was obviously a large group traveling together.  Shortly after their techno-music fueled dance with words neither of us could understand, it started raining.  Typically rain will break intense humidity a little, but I remember thinking to myself that the conditions weren't getting better, and now my shoes were soaking wet.  Plus the rain apparently cancelled the fire dancer ... bummer!
Hundreds of Japanese runners warming up with synchronized dancing before the Maui Marathon
After the national anthems of both the United States and Japan, we walked about a quarter mile in the intensifying rain to the starting line.  It was pitch black.  And after the starter counted us down from ten, we were off into the darkness.  We quickly ran out of the cover of street lights and took our place along the side of the highway where we would spend most of the race.  Separating us from traffic were orange cones, whose reflective bands would occasionally be illuminated by the headlights of oncoming speeding cars ... but other than that, you could barely see the hand in front of your face.  We ran like this for about an hour.  In the dark.  In the rain.
Probably the thing Michael was most excited about was seeing real-life wild sea turtles sunning themselves at Ho'okipa State Beach Park.  They were simply amazing ... and HUGE!!!  Green sea turtles are a symbol of good luck on the island, and are thought to live between 80-100 years.  A fact I found fascinating is that when they are first born, they feed on small fish, but as they age, their diet turns to strictly seaweed.  They convert from carnivores to herbivores.  
We watched as three turtles slowly made their was from water to the shore.  Apparently Pacific Ocean sea turtles are the only ones that come out of the water to sun themselves.  
The North side of the island is really known more for surfing, but we found a few surfers near our hotel, especially with active surf almost every day we were there.  A few folks asked me if I tried surfing.
My response is an emphatic %*&# NO ... I'd break my neck!!!
The oft cloud covered West Maui Forest Reserve mountain range, on the non-ocean side of our resort
Summers in Kansas City are incredibly hot and humid.  If you ask folks from the Southeast portion of the United States who visit, or have moved there, they'll tell you it's almost like being in Florida, Georgia, or Louisiana during the Summer.  For some odd meteorological reason, it just gets warmer in KC than a lot of places.  And while I knew that the Maui Marathon would offer it's own sultry challenge, I had no idea just how bad it would be.  After Mile 4, I was dumping cold water on my head at every water stop ... which bye the way, featured incredibly helpful and supportive volunteers.  The course was also a little hillier than I had anticipated.  To be honest, the course and conditions flat out kicked my butt!
We had the opportunity go to the Old Lahaina Luau, the oldest and most authentic Luau in Hawaii.  We watched and listen as the entertainers shared stories about their rich Polynesian heritage.  It was simply beautiful!
One thing that was kind of funny was when missionaries first visited the islands, they set up sugar cane manufacturing, but also banned the Hula Dance and made the island natives cover up with more clothing ...ha!
Apparently fire knife dancers and twirlers are not part of traditional Luaus, but have become a custom over the years.  The Old Lahaina Luau did not feature fire dancers, but the smaller Luau at our resort a few nights later did
Included in the price of admission were all the drinks, including Mai Tai Cocktails, that you could handle ... we had to cut Michael off after seven!
Since it was much hotter than most marathons I've ran, I planned on starting around 8:30/mile for first few miles.  I also planned on taking it easy until I got out of the worst of the hills, that ended sometime around Mile 14.  I didn't think a Boston Qualification was most likely possible, but I was going to go for it.  And until Mile 21, I was right on pace.  But like many marathons in the past, this Dummy started way too fast.  I averaged a 7:55/mile over the first six, which in those conditions was probably more like a 7:30 on a normal day.  Way too fast for that early.
Twin Falls on the Road To Hana.  This pair of water falls is normally much smaller, but the unseasonable recent rains made it a rushing river
Michael and me in front of the banyan tree at Lahaina Banyan Court Park.  This single tree was planted in 1873, and has grown so large that it's branches have actually grown down through the ground and sprouted back up, giving the appearance of several trees - but they're all connected as one ... really cool!
One of the beautiful mountains in Iao Valley State Park in Wailuki
As the clouded morning sun began to finally brighten the sky, the rain gradually ceased as well, and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean seemed to appear out of nowhere.  It was amazing!  There were lush, green mountains on our right... and powerful white waves crashing against the rocks on our left.  I'd never experienced such a beautiful view in a race before.  The incredible surroundings helped to somewhat take my mind off of the concern that was building from the amount of fluids I was losing.  At about Mile 7, we began to climb rolling hills that frankly were a little tougher than I thought they'd be.  I managed to keep good energy through the ups and downs, but I was burning a lot of calories and fuel.  I could feel my pace inexplicably quickening a little and averaged a 7:37/mile from Miles 8-16 ... with a pair of 7:19's along the way.  I was way below my goal pace of 7:50/mile during the toughest race I've ever ran ... what in the world was I doing?
The Keanae Peninsula is one of iconic views on the Road To Hana
We both took a little detour from our diets while in Maui.  After losing almost 20 pounds for our trip, Michael enjoyed some gelato for the first time in a while ... her eyes looked like a crack-addict during her first relapse after rehab!
Michael and me at our favorite hangout on Ka'anapali Beach ... Hula Grill
What would a trip to Maui be without plenty of island-grown pineapple
At Mile 17 I knew it probably wasn't going to be my day, and my pace began to grind to a halt over the next few miles.  The splits were 7:36, 7:36, 8:00, 8:09, 9:26, 9:56, 10:15, 11:42, 13:55, 14:23.   I actually was still under my BQ pace until the middle of Mile 22, until I finally had to mix in walking and running, which finally gave way to mostly walking.  I was spent.  I'd crashed in marathons before, but never like this.  I actually bent over to adjust my shoe in Mile 25, and when I stood up, literally just about passed out.  It was so hot ... probably close to 90 degrees with no shade at that point. I literally kept chanting under my breath "Don't pass out!  Don't pass out!",  as tunnel vision narrowed like I was going backwards down a long tube.  I literally thought it was going to happen.
Receiving my finisher medal at the 2015 Maui Marathon ... not a great time,
but I was really pleased that I didn't pass out or give up ... and even more happy that it was over!
And that's when the authorities showed up ... I felt like I just needed a little time to sit and recover, but after unending prodding from the medical staff and my loving wife, I made my first ever trip to the post-race infirmary.  It was embarrassing.  Not because I was there, but because Michael kept laughing and taking pictures of me while I was on death's door!
Runners were passing me at a rapid rate during those last few miles, but I managed to finish with a 3:47, which placed me 40th overall, and 5th in my age group.  But as I sat, trying to recover after the race, I couldn't seem to slow my heart rate.  I never felt nauseated, I just couldn't get my body to cool down.  I don't ever remember being that over-heated.  A girl from the medical staff kept asking me if I was okay, and I kept brushing her well-intended but annoying questions aside.  But when my wife and in-laws, who were also traveling with us, joined in on her badgering, I finally gave up and went to the medical tent.  While I rested on a cot, they took vital signs and even a blood sample to measure my electrolytes or blood sugar or something ... all which checked out perfectly fine ... DUH!  And as quickly as I could move without cramping, we made our way back to the hotel to get some rest.
Michael and me, with our traveling companions, Kyle & Tracee ... GREAT PEOPLE!!!
We had a really fun time with them.   (Tracee is Michael's oldest sister)
Beautiful cobalt blue Maui sky under swaying palms
Another "post-card" location at Makena Beach State Park on the South side of  Maui
The end of another perfect day, with another perfect sunset with my wife on best friend at our favorite place in the world ... I've been truly blessed in my life and couldn't ask for more!
After the race I wasn't necessarily that disappointed with my time, but more the was I managed my race.  I'd once again, after 31 previous marathons, went out way too fast and crashed at the end.  Who knows, maybe with marathon 33 I'll learn my lesson ... but I doubt it.  But the disappointment of the race quickly faded as we melted into perfect sunset after perfect sunset, and enjoyed every second of our time in Maui.  It was truly an amazing trip, and on top of everything else ... I got to check one more State off the map in my quest for 50 after 40.
... Be Great Today!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015 Plaza 10K ... Unexpected PR!!!

Sunday morning run in front of the J.C. Nichols Fountain
5th Annual Plaza 10K
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Country Club Plaza - Kansas City, MO

Runners: 3,017
Start Time: 7:30am
Course: Mostly Flat, w/only 71ft elevation gain
Weather: 55 degrees, 73% humidity, 8 mph S wind
SWAG: Short sleeve dri-fit t-Shirt
Race Organization: Good
Crowd Support: Fair, good finish area
Volunteer Support: Great
Water Stops: Two, very well supported
Food: Typical post race ... bagels, bananas, water, etc
Age: 46
Weight: 174
Health: Hip flexors tight & a little sore, but overall good
Conditioning: Very Good
10K Time: 38:20 NEW PR!!!
Avg Pace: 6:10
Place: 60th/3,017 Overall & 1st/126 in 45-49AG
Comments: One of the best races I've ran, in total control

As I considered my race schedule for 2015, I targeted the Plaza 10K in Kansas City as a potential PR, and definitely one of my "A" races for the year.  I love running and racing in my beloved hometown of KC, and the Plaza 10K is one of my favorites.  But while my Summer marathon training has gone fairly well, I seemed to be a little deficient in foot speed and leg turnover as evidenced by my recent disappointing 5K results.  So standing at the starting line on Sunday morning, I really didn't know what to expect.

2015 Plaza 10K Finisher Medal, and Trophy for 1st Place in 45-49 Age Group
I usually get a "feeling" the night before, or the morning of running well at a big race.  And I told Michael on Saturday night, and again on Sunday morning that I was "feelin' it".  Something just felt right and I was in a really good mental place for the run.  My weight was good at 174.  I was almost 100% healthy with the exception of two slightly nagging hip flexors.  And I had made up my mind to be happy with the results no matter what, because frankly ... we were going to be in Maui before the end of the week!!! (we have a house sitter, an alarm system, active neighbors, and cops everywhere ... so don't bother trying to rob me)

Beautiful sunrise over the Plaza in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri
We arrived at the Country Club Plaza - a historic upscale shopping & entertainment area in the heart of KC - as the sun was coming up, and there were already people everywhere.  The race is the largest stand alone 10K in the Midwest, capped at 3,000 runners, so we expected a little trouble parking.  But we found a great spot about 200 yards from the starting line up the street from Cheesecake Factory, which made everything convenient.

Michael was running with our friend Joceyn, who she exchanged texts with and met up later.  I headed out to my two mile warm up, followed by a few short sprints.  During my warm up, I found my friend Isaac, who I've trained a little with this Summer.  Isaac is a 20 something elite level triathlete who has won events, and really pushed me in our last speed workout.  It was great to see him, but I didn't run with him.  After the National Anthem, and a few short announcements, the gun sounded and we were off.  The race started exactly at 7:30 a.m., and my typical pre-race nerves seemed to firmly in check.

I'd planned on taking the first mile slow, probably around 6:30, just to get loose and find out if my pre-race "feelin' it" prediction felt doable.  As we wound down Ward Parkway, westward out of the Plaza, I felt pretty good.  The weather was certainly helping.  After a summer of suffocating hot and humid runs, we were blessed with a beautiful 55 degree, 73% humidity morning for the race!  We couldn't have asked for better running conditions.  And as we approached the marker at Mile 1, my Garmin chirped and vibrated with a 6:32 result ... almost exactly where I planned on being.

As we rounded the mile marker and headed back East to make another pass through the Plaza, I noticed my fiend Isaac, and another friend from my hometown of El Dorado, Springs - Tim, about a quarter mile ahead of me.  As a rule, I NEVER race other runners.  Race times are simply a personal thing, and who really cares who is faster than whom ... this is just for run, right?  But knowing they are both very good runners helped me gauge my tempo, and basically ... I was feeling GREAT!  So I decided to pick it up a little in the second mile.  Mile 2 of the Plaza 10K has a couple of very short hills.  One is on 47th Street as you make the turn toward the J.C. Nichols Fountain, a Kansas City landmark.  The second is directly in front of the Nelson Atkins Art Museum.  I handled both with ease and don't remember ever changing my stride with the inclines.  Somewhere during the second mile, I passed Tim, and we exchanged "good lucks".  By the end of the second mile, I'd picked up the pace significantly and checked in with a 6:16 that felt completely free and easy.

It was somewhere during Mile 3 that I started really mulling over the thought, "Today might be my day!"  From running this race in 2013, and also training on the course from time to time, I knew there was a long, straight, slight descending down hill stretch over the next two miles.  In 2013, I'd ran them in a matching pair of 6:10's, and as I briefly tested that exact pace on Sunday ... it felt completely reasonable.  In fact, with the incredible 55 degree weather, just a tick faster felt absolutely in range.  I can't begin to explain just how in complete control I felt over this stretch. I was gliding with strong and powerful strides.  My form felt perfect.  And I was bubbling with confidence.  As a result, I passed the Mile 3 line with a 6:04, and a 6:08 at Mile 4.  I'd passed a ton of runners and I was moving at a pretty good clip for me.

Free Finish Line photo from KC Running Company - they do such a great job with local races
Just before you begin the fifth mile, you make a turn back West again, as you're about two miles from the heart of the Plaza at the Highway 71 ramp.  And during Mile 5, it begins to get a little real.  If you've gone out too fast in the 10K, this mile hurts!  You get most of the climb back from the two miles you just enjoyed floating down.  And if you're not ready for it, it can take you by surprise and be a real challenge.  In 2013 this was a real stumbling block for me, but on Sunday, I felt like an absolute "BEAST" (as my son would say).  I climbed the rolling hills adjacent to the University of Missouri Kansas City campus along Brush Creek, with little or no problem.  It was in this mile that I finally caught up to Isaac, and told him to keep climbing, focus, and finish strong.  I grabbed a quick mouthwash of Gatorade, and soon after tripped the Mile 5 wire with a 6:07 ... 13 seconds faster than I'd ran the mile in 2013!!!

When I saw my Mile 5 time, the thoughts of a new PR definitely began to dance in my head.  I was afraid to think about it too much because at 6:32, the first mile was a little slow, but I knew with a strong finish, I might be close.  So I locked in, and tried to maintain the current pace.  There's another little hill that runs by the UMKC Soccer Stadium headed South on Oak Street, that on any other run would be no trouble - but in the final mile of a 10K, it gets your attention. But it's very short, and as you round the corner, and head back North toward the Plaza on Brookside Boulevard, it's almost all downhill to the finish.  I couldn't help but glance at my Garmin as I made the turn and headed downhill.  It was reading 5:45-5:50 - which is a blistering 10K pace for me - but I'd slowed a little on the short hill and knew the final average pace for that mile would be a little slower than that.  And as I made the final turn back onto Ward Parkway where the race began, Mile 6 resulted in a 6:04.

Michael and me enjoying the post race Plaza experience
I had a quite a bit left in the tank, and at that point I could see the finish line clock which had just clicked 38 minutes.  With a strong push, I was definitely going to PR.  So I started sprinting and averaged a 5:40 pace over the last .2 mile for a personal best finishing time of 38:20 ... and a 6:10 average pace!!!  And as you can imagine ... I was elated!!!  I think I pumped my fist or something dumb as I crossed the line ... and even though I was out of breath, I was bursting with excitement!!!

After meeting up with my friend Isaac, and chatting with Tim for a few minutes - who both PR'd on Sunday as well - I checked out my finishing time at the results tent.  I knew this was a large race with about 3,000 runners, that always draws a lot of elite runners, and elite older runners, so I didn't even expect to place in my Age Group.  But when the volunteer handed me the grocery store receipt type of print out, she said "Congratulations, you were first in your Age Group!"  Bonus!!!  I was really surprised and really happy again!!!  After that I tracked down Michael and we exchanged stories from the race, and then pointed the car toward a big breakfast back in Lee's Summit.

Running's kind of weird sometimes, in that PR's sometimes come when you least expect them.  In no way, did I expect to run this well on Sunday.  I mean, I've been training really hard for the Maui Marathon, which is only seven days away - but I just didn't think I had this kind of race in me.  But sometimes everything falls into place, and you run really well.  Sunday was one of those days.  At 46 years old, I've never ran 6.2 miles faster ... and even though it was completely unexpected, it felt really really good!
... Be Great Today!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Passed 20,000 Miles This Week

I passed 20,000 miles this week.  At least miles I've tracked anyway.  I didn't start actively tracking miles until 2002 when I was training for a 5K, but since then, I'm at about 20,050 miles ran.  And I feel great!
Left, running my first half-marathon in 2008 ... about 205 lbs and wearing really baggy clothes.
Right, running today at about 173 ... stronger and healthier than ever, but the shorts are getting a little short there pal!

Usually, when someone finds out I'm a runner, the first thing they'll say is they used to run.  The second things they'll say is they "can't" run now because it bothers their knees.  And while it's true that running can create quite a bit of wear and tear on the body ... it's completely possible to do it without getting injured.  At least it has been for me anyway.  I'll be 47 years old and I've never felt stronger or in better shape.

The key for me over all the miles is supplemental workouts, stretching, and really really really listening to my body.  Have I had any injuries.  Sure, a couple.  I had an IT Band flare up in 2010 that forced me to walk the last 6 miles of a marathon.  My right groin was chronically tight and cranky for about 3 years.  Last Spring, a bout with hip bursitis was probably the most painful thing I've dealt with.  But for the most part, I've been extremely healthy!

So after getting married, graduating and marrying off two kids, experiencing the birth of three grand kids with another on the way, two jobs, two dogs, countless shoes, the Kansas City Royals actually playing in - and almost winning the World Series, a whole lot of early morning workouts, 31 marathons and a ton of other races ... I'm retiring.  Psych ... actually I'm just getting started, Here's to the next 20,000!!!
... Be Great Today!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Higher Mileage = Boston Qualification

When I began chasing my 50 after 40 goal in 2009, I quickly discovered that the stronger I became, and the more healthy I stayed, the better I performed on race day.  "Strong" for me meant not only adding in quite a bit of cross-training and weights on off days, but also lots and lots of mileage.  And as a result, I've found that typically 300 mile months during marathon training result in Boston Marathon qualifying races.

Mile after mile in the brutal Kansas City summer humidity
94% humidity on Saturday ... 96% humidity on Sunday ... can make the summer marathon training a grind!!!
Some people can run a Boston Marathon qualifying time by simply lacing up their shoes and entering the local race.  I can't!  Even though I'm probably a little speedier than most, I still have to work my butt off to BQ.  Out of 31 marathon's, I've only qualified for the Boston Marathon seven times.  But as I wrapped up my eighth ever 300 mile month on Sunday with 303 miles in August, I looked back at some previous monthly totals to find out if the higher mileage totals equated to better race results.  Here's what I found ...
In six of my seven Boston Qualifying marathons, I had one or more training months where I logged 290 miles or greater.  And in the seventh - Top of Utah, not listed above - I ran 270 miles a few months before the race.  The data would appear to indicate that high mileage totals equate to Boston Qualifying times ... for me at least.

Now, does 300 miles in a month automatically mean a BQ ... not at all.  There were a few months when my mileage totals were huge, nearing 400, and I simply ran poor races.  So it's definitely not a given.  But usually 300 miles of running in a month builds a certain toughness, both mentally and physically for me.  And it's been my experience more often than not, it helps get me over the hump in those final miles of 26.2 when I want to dial it back or quit.

The high mileage is not for everyone.  And it's not easy.  I incorporate a ton of supplemental workouts to strengthen support muscles to keep me healthy as my body absorbs all of the pounding.  And certain training plans, like the Hanson Method, operate counter to this idea by greatly reducing mileage during training.  But what works for me, is bulking up on the miles so that on race day, there is no doubt in my mind that I'll finish, but rather how fast.  And hopefully with all the miles I've ran during training this Summer, fast races are awaiting this Fall too.
... Be Great Today! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

So Here We Are Again, And Again, And ...

Race photo from last Saturday's KC Royals 5K ... not sure what I was looking at???
After training for 31 marathons, and seemingly countless other races over the past years, I've learned when my body is reaching it's maximum fitness level for each training cycle.  That time for this Fall's set of events is right now, my friends.  I'm pretty fit as I sit here and write this post.  But if you've read my blog for a while (and I know there's like four of you that have) you probably know what's coming next ... I probably peaked a little too soon!!!

Even though I'm only running five days per week, I'm putting in 72-75 miles every seven days.  Actually, this week, I'll probably finish with 80.  And even with all the double runs, three days per week, I'm still holding up okay, which is usually an indicator that I'm getting near my apex.

This morning's 12 mile Tempo Run was also a decent barometer of where I'm at right now.  After a two mile warm up I averaged a 6:37/pace over the next 9 miles with the following splits ...

7:19, 7:11, 6:35, 6:22, 6:27
6:30, 6:25, 6:25, 6:18

That's not my fastest 9 mile stretch ever by any means, but it's pretty fast for me right now.  Combine that with an Age Group win and 10th Overall at last Saturday's 5K ... and it all leads to my tank being almost full on the "race mode" gauge.

But the problem is that my Fall races don't get kicked off for another three weeks with the Plaza 10K in Kansas City.  Maintaining fitness until then won't be an issue, but I always seem to struggle to keep it topped off for several weeks after that.

So this year, I'm really going to back off on high intensity workouts and primarily use my races to keep me sharp. I plan on mixing in a fair amount of speed and tempo work, mind you, but I'm really going to try to be more conscious than ever before of over-training.  You can't keep the fruit ripe forever, but hopefully if I manage it a little better this year, I won't spend the winter recovering from self-inflicted bouts of tendinitis.

So here goes ... I'm fit and ready to race!  The trick will be keeping the engine primed.  Hope your training is going well too!
... Be Great Today!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

2015 KC Royals 5K Review

2015 Kansas City Royals 5K
August 22, 2015
Kansas City, MO

Runners: 2,231 (1,308 women, 923 men)
Fairly flat: Light hills, 118 FT of climb
Weather: 73 degrees, 83% humidity
Start Time: 8 a.m.
SWAG: Cotton t-shirt & ticket voucher to future Royals game
Race Organization: Good
Volunteer Support: Good
Crowd Support: Fair
Food: Typical post race fare
Weight: 179
Age: 46
Health: Good, no issues
Conditioning: Strong, but a little fatigued from marathon training
Time: 19:11
Pace: 6:12/mile
Place: 10th/2,231 Overall, 1st/92 45-49 AG

The Kansas City Royals 5K provided a mixed bag of emotions for me on Saturday.  Of course Michael and I had a great time combining two of the things we love most in this world ... running and the Royals!  And while I was really confused and disappointed with my finishing time, it was one of my highest overall finishes ever in a race ... so good job ... I think???

Certificate and medal for 1st Place in 45-49 Age Group at the 2015 Royals 5K
I'm in the bulk of marathon training right now at about 75 miles/week.  Plus, I'm trying to carry a little more upper body muscle than normal, which has added about five pounds of weight.  So I knew my time in Saturday's 5K wouldn't a be a record breaker, but I estimated that I would be around 18:45-18:50 for the race.  I ran 19:00 on the fourth of July, and really wasn't in as good of shape as I am now, so I was hoping for a good day.

The Royals 5K is one of our favorites, because even as season ticket holders, the closest view we ever get of the field is from our seats.  But during the last mile of the race, runners get to run on the field of Kauffman Stadium ... yeah, the actual field where the 2014 World Series was played ... AWESOME!!!  It's like an all-access pass to one of our favorite places.

The run didn't start until 8:00 a.m. CST, which seemed a little late for a late August race in Kansas City.  Fortunately, we caught a little break on the weather as the clouds kept the temperature at 73F, but the humidity was high as always at 83%.  Pretty muggy!  But when you live in the Midwest, you know that any race from April-September has the potential to be hot and humid, so you just adapt.

Me and my skinny wife at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday.  This girl has been killing her
workouts this summer and has lost 15 pounds!!!  There is nothing this woman could do
to make me love her more, but I know it's something she felt like she needed to do
and I'm so proud of her for all of the hard work it's taken to reach her goals!!!
Frankly, I hate 5K's.  It seems like nothing more than a controlled sprint for 3 miles that leaves me feeling like crud the rest of the day.  So like the last race on Independence Day, I decided to back off the gas a little, especially at the start, and actually try to enjoy the run a little.  And during the first mile, as we circle the adjacent professional sports complex on the other side of the parking lot, Arrowhead Stadium - home of the Kansas City Chiefs, I felt like I was cruising at a manageable speed.  I checked in at the end of Mile 1 at an acceptable 6:12 ... pretty much right where I wanted to be.

The second mile is where I started to become confused.  I had intentionally picked up the pace a little since the first mile felt so good.  In the early stages of Mile 2, I kept checking my Garmin and my pace was consistently below 6:00 at around 5:53.  But then we started a slow mild incline for about 3/4 mile.  The climb was only about 50 feet, but apparently it slowed me down more than I realized.  I passed two or three runners during this stretch, and could still see the leader, but when I hit the marker at Mile 2, my watch read 6:13!  What the heck???  I was certain, even with the light hill, that I would be close to 6:00.  I was literally dumbfounded and thought to myself there was no way it could be right.  It was quite a distraction, but I kept on.

I knew I needed to pick it up a little and began to grind during the final mile.  I passed a few more runners, and was creeping up on one of Michael's co-workers, Pat, who is an elite Masters Runner.  I was literally only about 30 yards from him.  Up until that point, I really felt like I was running a pretty strong race.  I was in about 9th or 10th place out of a fairly large field of 2,200 runners (and a lot of walkers), and I was gaining on an elite athlete who usually runs in the low 17's for 5K's ... but my time was nowhere near where I thought it should be.

Receiving my Age Group Award at the 2015 Royals 5K
As you enter Kauffman Stadium toward the end of the last mile, you run down a ramp that's sloped at about a 20 degree angle ... it was really steep.  I've ran this race several times before and was ready for it, as the decline can really throw your pace off.  It's about 100 yards long or so under the stadium seats, and then you enter the field through the opposing team's bullpen in right field.  After that, you run counterclockwise around the outfield warning track, take a left at the foul line and run toward home plate, then take another left and run toward first base and back to the visiting team's bullpen to complete a giant loop on the stadium floor ... where they actually play the games.   I'm the world's biggest baseball and Kansas City Royals fan, so I really geek-out during this stretch of the race.  The only downside is that it's over too soon.

The other downside is that this year, unlike previous races, the finish line was outside the stadium where the race began.  Which meant we had to climb the hill under the stadium that we'd just ran down.  Right before I hit the incline, my Garmin vibrated for Mile 3.  I looked down and it read 6:09.  I'd picked up my pace a little and thought that with a strong finish I could still come in under 19:00.  But as I started climbing the slope that lead out of the stadium, my legs just really slowed. It was like someone had put several flights of stairs immediately before the finish line.  When I reached the top, I was huffing and puffing and almost bent over, but I tried to create a little turnover for the final .1 mile.  But as I crossed the finish line, only about 50 yards from Pat, my Garmin read 19:11 ... and I was pretty pissed!

After I caught my breath, I caught up with Pat and two other elite Master's Runners and asked them how their races went.  They all said they were really slow on Saturday, about a minute or more off their normal times, which made me feel better.  Plus, when I started looking at my splits 6:12, 6:13, and 6:09 ... I noticed that it took me 47 seconds to run the final .1 miles.  Typically this final home stretch takes me about 25-30 seconds.  The climb out of the stadium had really slowed me down.  If not for the little "staircase" out of Kauffman, I would have probably come in around 18:50-18:55, which I could have lived with, but I was really unhappy with my time on Saturday.

But after that, I went and checked out the results and found out that I'd finished 10th overall, and won my Age Group category.  I felt much better about the slow time after seeing the placing.  My conclusion was that the conditions must have slowed me more than I realized.  Plus, I know the final climb probably added 20 seconds or so to the total.  I don't think I'm in PR shape right now, but I was certainly hoping for better than 19:11.

Michael listened to me whine and complain about my time all the way home, but honestly, I probably ran better than the time indicated on Saturday. In cooler conditions, without the obstacle at the end, I think I could have managed an 18:30 ... but who knows, maybe this old man just isn't as fast as he used to be.
... Be Great Today!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fun New Long Run

Let's face it, with the same long runs ... over and over and over ... marathon training can become a little monotonous and  repetitive.  So to change it up, I'll often incorporate little games into my workouts like targeting specific paces for various mile segments, or "fast finish" long runs, where the last few miles are ran much faster than the rest.  Changing the pace and progression of the run helps maintain mental focus, and also trains the body to perform when it's fatigued.

After last week's run, I received a comment from a reader, jdsnipes, suggesting a different type of long run that I hadn't tried before.  It sounded like a challenge, so I decided to give it a go this week.  Here is what he wrote ...

A go to Long Run Workout for me done usually 2-3 weeks before a race that has done well in predicted my fitness is as follows: 

2.5 hours total run as follows: 
30 minutes easy/aerobic, 
60 min Goal Marathon Pace, 
20 minutes easy/aerobic, 
20 minutes Goal Marathon Pace
20 minutes easy/aerobic

The easy/aerobic 20 minutes in between the marathon pace segments really does a number on your legs and if you can run the second marathon pace segment equal or better to the first, that's a good ball park for your race pace. In the past I've been a few seconds per mile faster on race day than this predicts.

I stayed with the suggested general time guidelines, and as it equated to mileage for me, meant 3 miles@8:00/pace, 8 miles@6:50/pace, 3 miles@8:00/pace, and then 4 miles@6:50/pace. I then cooled down with 2 very slow miles for a total of 20 miles.

I was able to get through the workout, but it was tough.  It was cooler on Saturday, at about 70 degrees, but the humidity was 88%, which didn't help.  The 6:50/pace is actually quite a bit faster than I could run in a marathon right now, but it's my target 3:00 time, hopefully later in the Fall.   It took a while for me to "get comfortable" with the 6:50/pace, but once I did, I didn't have any trouble holding it.  I felt like I could have gone for a while at that tempo.  But then came the break at the end of the fast 8 miles.  I found it really difficult to slow my pace for 3 miles since I'd been pushing it for 8.  But even more difficult than that was ramping back up to 6:50 again toward the end of the run.  My legs felt heavy, it was more challenging to keep the pace, and I really struggled the last mile, but I ended up hitting the targets I was shooting for, and ended up with an average pace of about 7:15/mile for the run - which is great for me at this point.

My assessment is I LOVE THIS WORKOUT!!!  It's very challenging and really reveals your conditioning.  I'll have to do a little research on what the slowing down after the first segment actually does to your body metaphysically, but I can tell you it played a number on me mentally.  I really appreciate the suggestion from jdsnipes and will be back to this workout from time to time!
... Be Great Today!