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!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hitting On All Cylinders

Nice easy recovery run on Sunday after really good long run on Saturday
What a great weekend of running!  After recovering from a nagging hip for most of the Spring, I'm in full fall marathon training mode ... and really beginning to hit my stride, at full strength and healthy!

The weekend started with a great long run on Saturday morning.  It was a 24 miler with 76F degrees & 91% humidity in the rain.  It actually didn't start raining until about mile 10, and I can tell you those first miles without rain were flat-out brutal.  But the showers really seamed to cool things down a bit, and helped, if nothing more than psychologically.

The 24 spot was the 6th run of 18 miles or more during this cycle.  I won't get in depth with why I run so many 18+ runs, including a 24 miler on this post, as I know many people think it's too much and too far.  But suffice to say, the longer my long runs, the better I do on race day.  It just works for me, we'll leave it at that.

The plan was to go out easy and comfortable, and if I had anything left in the tank, work in a "fast finish" with the last 6-7 miles at race pace.  The primary focus would be on my running form and fueling.  For some reason, I've been struggling a little with fueling this summer and I needed to get it figured out before the Maui Marathon in six weeks.  And speaking of the Maui Marathon, the conditions and course that I charted were the perfect simulation for what is sure to be a beautiful, but gruelingly hot and humid race.

Rain run photo I took for my Instagram page
Per my schedule, the first 17 miles were ran at about an 8:13/average pace.  The pace felt smooth and natural, and I walked through all my water stops.  So with the walking, I was probably closer to 8:05'ish.  I also ran the 3rd Street Hills ... or the 3rd Street "Kills" as I call them.  It's a series of 4 fairly short, but steep climbs over a two mile out and back stretch near Longview Community College.  The only minor distraction during the first 17 was a pain on the top of my left foot, probably from having my shoes too tight - and also the irritation of my shoes being soaked and sloshing by mile 10.

At mile 18 I decided to speed up a little and actually was able to run the last 7 miles miles at an average pace of 7:22 with the following splits ... 7:50, 7:22, 7:22, 7:21, 7:11, 7:11, 7:20.  I finished the 24 miles with an overall average pace of 7:59.  Pretty good considering the conditions.

My fueling went really well also.  I moved my big pre-race meal of chicken & rice & spinach to lunch instead of dinner, and then had a chicken breast sandwich and some more bread for dinner.  Also, I took 4 gels at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20.  They were GU Salted Watermelon with caffeine.  I took two salt capsules at miles 9 and 17.

Even though I basically ran a marathon on Saturday morning, I couldn't believe how  much energy and how great I felt for the rest of the day.  There was 0% stomach issues like I sometimes have after marathons, and my energy level was still incredible.  On Sunday morning, I was a little "hung over" from the long run, but didn't have any pain or tightness at all.  So I got in a core workout and an 8 mile recovery run.

I've been hitting my training pretty hard this summer, including more upper body work than normal.  The results so far have been very positive.  I feel really strong and in great shape with 6 weeks to go until Maui.  Maui isn't my "A marathon" this fall, as I'm sure I can't PR on that one.  The goal will be to qualify for Boston there, but that will be a task considering the course and conditions.  But I've got a 10K in September I want to run strong, and then I'll find a fast marathon, probably in October, to test myself with.  Hopefully I can strong and injury free.  Everything's going well so far!  Hopefully your training is going well too.  Have a great week!
... Be Great Today!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tempo Thursday: 8mi@6:33

Pretty good Tempo Run this morning considering the conditions, my weight, and energy level.

Conditions: 70 degrees, 90% humidity
Weight: 180
Energy Level: Low

Maintaining any pace at all in this humidity is sooo difficult right now.  It just saps your energy, but maybe more importantly ... your focus.  All I can think about is how hard it is to breath and how much I'm sweating.  The pace is definitely secondary.  Plus, my weight is not optimal right now, but I'm carrying a little more muscle than I typically do, so I'm not too worried about that at this point.

This morning's run was 11 miles total with 9 miles@6:40/pace, and the last 8 were actually at 6:33/pace.  So considering the conditions, the workout was pretty decent.  Plus, it actually accidentally turned into a Progressive Run since each mile got faster.  I killed the last two miles at tempo pace and honestly felt like I could have gone a couple more if necessary.  When I started, I felt pretty crappy, but seemed to get stronger the longer I ran.  Here are the splits ...

Warm up 8:56 ... 7:40   6:57   6:47   6:38   6:31   6:28   6:25   6:20   6:17 ... Cool down 8:37

I keep expecting the miles at this pace to feel easier, but it's just not coming.  I know I'm in pretty good shape right now, but I still feel like I've got a long way to go before I reach peak condition.  But that's okay, because the Maui Marathon is still about six weeks way.  Hope your week is going well!
... Be Great Today!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Track Tuesday: Killed It

Somebody call the cops ... because I murdered this workout!  And, as I sit writing about it 12 hours later, I'm still amped up ... but it might just be my elevated heart rate.  We caught a break with the temperature, as it was only about 73 degrees for the run, but we still had 86% humidity, which made it impossible to breath and kept my times a little slower than I was targeting.  But I was able to get in two miles near 5K pace, then 12 x 400 meter repeats.  Here's how the workout went ...

Tuesday morning at Bernard Campbell Jr. High in Lee's Summit, MO ... the scoreboard should read ME...1, TRACK...Zero!!!
2 Miles slow warm up
     1 Mile ... 6:17/pace
     12 x 400 meter repeats with 90 seconds jogging recovery
     (1:20, 1:17, 1:20, 1:19, 1:22, 1:19, 1:20, 1:19, 1:19, 1:18, 1:20, 1:20) 5:16/mile avg pace
     1 Mile ... 6:08/pace
1 Mile cool down

I actually wanted to be 1:15 on the 400's, but I felt like the humidity really sapped my energy.  But I was proud of the way I fought through it, and when I wrapped up with the 6:08/mile, I still felt like I had pretty good energy.  Enough energy that in the evening, I ran a 5 mile recovery trail run ... but after that I was pretty spent.

So in spite of the humid conditions, I kicked that track's a--!  Go me!  And hopefully I can keep building on the training, it's going well so far this summer.
... Be Great Today!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Liberty Memorial Stair Workout

If I'm not completely dead the day after a long run, which is Sunday for me, I like to mix in a workout that's a little different than normal.  And usually, I try to make it some sort of plyometric activity.  I'll throw in some box jumps and burpees here or there, but today, I had a rare opportunity to do a stair workout at the Liberty Memorial National WWI Museum.

In something that I rarely do, I drove 20 minutes to workout on the downtown streets of Kansas City.  I love the city, and I'd planned for a while to do my recovery work there on a Sunday morning.  So I started the day with a light 8 mile recovery run through the streets of the KC metro.  And then I ran 20 repeats of 50 stairs up and down the East side of the Memorial.  Stairs are such a good workout for the hips, glutes, and quads, and frankly I don't get to do them as often as I'd like.  I've got a few small sets of stairs here and there in Lee's Summit, but nothing like the ones at the Liberty Memorial.

Plus, you can't beat the view I had this morning during my workout. The Liberty Memorial is a local landmark featuring a beautiful view of downtown Kansas City.  It's also the only World War I National Museum in the United States.  It's an absolute Kansas City treasure.

All in all it was a good weekend of working out.  And hopefully I can incorporate more stairs into upcoming marathon training.
... Be Great Today!