Category Archives: Marathon Training

What A Difference!

Chic Start SmallWhat a difference a year makes!  About this time a year ago I had a job that kept me busy, was reasonably secure, but not exactly professionally fulfilling or challenging.  I was counting the days and sometimes even the hours to my retirement.  I also believed my participation in the upcoming Chicago Marathon would prove to be my last marathon. In fact I was coming out of a 4 year retirement from running marathons. I had won my Age Group at the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh NC in 2011 and I had decided that was a perfect time to retire from marathons.  Little did I know what the future had in mind for me!

In the spring of 2014  I entered the lottery to run Chicago only because my daughter Alexis was planning to run Chicago as her first ever marathon.  We each were selected via the lottery to run the Chicago Marathon. Alexis joined my training group and was making excellent progress towards her first marathon when a freak injury prevented her from participating. So I continued without her and ended up running  a decent race in the windy city, well at least for the first 18-20 miles. I knew I had started too fast (7:45 avg pace) for the first 13 miles. I had fantasies of running my fastest marathon in over 20 yrs! Alas, it did not happen. Let’s just say it was not a pretty sight to see. Nonetheless I did manage a 3:45 finish, good enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon with over 8 minutes to spare. Not a major concern to me because I already ran the Boston Marathon back in 2006 and I have never had any overwhelming desire to return. I did not have a good experience in Boston in 06 and I never had a very strong motivation return. One must first be highly motivated to train and compete in any marathon, otherwise do not even begin to attempt.

"Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon competitors run along East Grand Traverse Bay during Saturday's race in Traverse City."
“Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump
Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon competitors run along East Grand Traverse Bay during Saturday’s race in Traverse City.”

What I did have a strong desire to do was to attempt one more marathon and prove to myself that my Chicago experience was a fluke and I wanted to avenge my finishing performance. Thus, The Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City MI in May of 2015.  I’ll spare you the full report of that experience and let me just say that while I thoroughly enjoyed most everything Bayshore, my marathon performance was a very similar experience  to Chicago!  My Bayshore time was less than a minute different and thus I once again had another Boston Marathon qualifying time, my 8th of 10 marathons. No big deal as I still had no desire to return to Boston,

My official days of competitively running marathons were now over at last!  I did however have at least one more marathon in my aging legs and that would be to run along side of my daughters Bridgett and Alexis during their first attempts to complete a marathon. So it came that Bridgett had decided to return from North Carolina back to her hometown and make the Detroit Marathon her first experience. Meanwhile Alexis was recovering from her injury and aiming to once again compete in the Detroit Half Marathon in October 2015.  I had decided to run with Bridgett and help her achieve her goal. Her marathon time would likely be slower than I am accustomed to running thus a new experience for me to look forward to enjoying.

Bridgett did very well with her training plan for Detroit but in mid September the combination of a busy workload, graduate school, daughter Katie, a very hot and humid training environment in NC, all combined to not quite attain the level of training she needed to achieve to be able to successfully complete her first marathon. She made the wise decision to back off of any further intense training and plan instead for another race.

All of this is a very long way of saying that two weeks from this morning I will once again be running another marathon!  This will be my 5th Detroit Marathon and my 12 marathon. I will run it as a competitive runner in the 60-64 Age Group and despite not being focused over much of the summer, I do intend to race a smarter race than my previous marathons in Chicago and at Bayshore. It will also be my 3rd marathon in 53 weeks!  Now that is something I never would have imagine achieving! (Most runners run one marathon a year).

BostonmarathonlogoOh and what about that marathon in Boston?  Well, it has only been a few weeks now, but I did decide to return to compete once again in the Boston Marathon April 18 2016!  I truly never ever thought I would return for the Boston Marathon!  My motivation is to join the 16 other runners from our training group to train this winter and enjoy the sights from Hopkinton to Boston and to once again avenge my disastrous Boston experience from 2006 (that is a separate story post). The Boston Marathon will be my last competitive marathon!

ohmalogo2=2So much for the running part, back to the career part.  A year ago I was not happy at my employers firm. While I thoroughly enjoyed working with the people it was clear that the firm’s owners had a different view of not only architecture but also of how a firm should be managed.  As a result of various simultaneous events within the firm at that time I emailed the President of my previous firm OHM Advisors, several years prior to ask if there might be a position available and how I might be able to help them with the architectural efforts.  Within moments I received a very welcoming response and the rest as they say is history.  It took a short bit of time to complete the transition but by early December in 2014, I was back at OHM Advisors as a leader within the architectural group and very happy to be there.

I have gone from my unnatural thinking of counting the days and even hours to retirement to looking forward to many years of contributing to the success of OHM and I rarely ever think of my retirement.  I am proud to be associated with a strong, growing, and innovative, interdisciplinary group of design professionals who value my contributions. http://www.ohm-advisors.com

isAs a part of my return to OHM, I have also been able to rejoin another previous passion of mine over the years.  Following a ten year or more absence I have also rejoined the Novi Rotary Club. http://www.novirotary.org The club membership has changed since my previous years as a member between 1986 to 2004. There are new members, new leaders, new service projects, but the same high level of integrity and commitment to service remains.  I am very proud and thankful to be a part of this group and look forward to years of service.

I never would have guessed that any of these main events would ever likely happen, let alone in a short period of time. So the moral of this story may be to plan ahead, but always be aware of potential opportunities that may exist. You just never know what lays ahead in your future. It’s been a great year and I am excited about the year ahead too.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and continue to Run Happy.

Lee

PS:  I also have a very significant announcement I will disclose in early November too, check back often.

 

When In Doubt

Finally!  Here it is my next post.  It’s been months since my last post and the reason has a lot to do with why I write this post. The two are related.  My last several posts were about my participation in the Chicago Marathon last October.  This post is about my participation in the Bayshore MaratTCBAYhon next week in Traverse City Michigan.

The marathon route is one of the most scenic routes of any as it travels 13 mile up the easterly side of Grand Traverse Bay then returns and finishes on the track at Traverse City HS. This is a flat and fast route, a favorite marathon of many runners.  It will be my first Bayshore.

Despite my diligent training last season preparing to take on Chicago I did not finish the marathon very strong.  That finish was my inspiration to enter the Bayshore Marathon.  My initial goal was to train diligently and finish the marathon in 3 hrs and 20 some minutes (3:28 would be sufficiently awesome).  Then reality hit.

Instead of starting my first month of training, I sat out most of November due to a small stress fracture in my foot.  There was also the tragic loss of my baby sister’s husband in late November.  In December I took advantage of a career opportunity and returned to a firm where I had previously worked several years ago.  This move was a very positive move in many ways including being training friendly, nonetheless, the new job keeps me very busy but all in a good way.  Before I knew  it two months of training opportunities were lost along with my waistline.

Then thereMinus14 was Mother Nature and our frigid winter (yes I did run outdoors at -14F).  It seemed like all winter I was never able to get into a training rhythm during the week and my long runs on the weekends were more like medium runs.  Then just as I was able to string together a reasonable training week or two, I stumbled on a patch of ice and needed to give my injured foot a week of rest. Following a week of decent running, I caught some form of a nasty bug that was going around.  So, you can start to see the picture of my training?

I was down to the bare minimum amount of training time required to finish a marathon. I can report that much of this time has been fruitful. I raced two half marathons and actually finished well but they were difficult efforts.  My week day efforts improved.  Still,  my weekly mileage of only 30-35 miles per week less than recommended minimums of 40 plus miles per week.

MartianHM
Racing towards the finish of the Martian Half Marathon

All of this adds up to the title of this post.  I do have many lingering doubts about running a marathon 6 days from now!  So why post this?  Because earlier this morning I read an article about overcoming negative thoughts during a marathon.   Among a number of methods was a suggestion to make your goal public. Tell as many people as you can about your marathon, your goals, your thoughts, your experiences. So I am putting this out to the entire world!

I may not run a 3:20 something marathon, I may not win my age group, but I will run a marathon, I will run a SMART marathon, I will enjoy the experience, I will celebrate afterwards, and I will anticipate the next marathon!

Stay tuned world and take a peek at this marathon: http://www.bayshoremarathon.org

See you back here sometime next week?  Be sure to sign-up to follow my blog posts for updates. In the meantime,  thanks for visiting and continue to RUN HAPPY!

Lee

The Chicago Experience

Chicago race day morning
Chicago race day morning

Architects and runners spend a considerable amount of effort and energy planning for the future.  Architects need to have an overall understand of a project’s goals, schedule with intermediate milestone dates, and a game plan on how to reach the overall objective.  The same is so with runners. Runners, especially runners training to compete in a very significant event such as a marathon, need to know the target date, desired outcome, and have a plan on how to achieve their marathon goal.  The plan will likely entail at least 6 months of effort and include items such as long runs, speed work, yoga, diet, and intermediate races intended to check the progress.

While such planning often is the key to overall success, it is also crucial from time to time for both architects and runners to look backwards and carefully assess what worked and what didn’t work. Was the goal achieved? If not, why not? What can be done to improve the outcome next time?

So it is that I look back on my recent experience with competing in the Chicago Marathon last month.  My overall finish time was 3 hrs. 46 min. A very respectable and perhaps even an enviable finish time as I qualified to run the Boston Marathon in April 2016. Yet I had hopes for much better.  When asked by friends how I did in Chicago I tell them I had a fantastic first 20 miles or so, then the wheels fell off my buggy and for the remaining 6.2 miles or so it was not a pretty site.  This experience is referred to has “hitting the wall”.  While I have had this experience on occasion in other races of all distances it came very unexpectedly for me in Chicago.

So why? why went wrong? How did this happen and how to prevent it from happening again?  As usual there is no one simple answer, rather there are several reasons. I won’t bore you with the tedious details but will highlight a few so in case you are planning to run a marathon you can benefit from my experience.

One of many reasons is “Corral Envy”.  My marathon race application indicated that I was planning to finish in 3 hr’s 28. min. This was a very realistic expectation based upon my 3:29 finish in the NY City Marathon several years ago and a somewhat recent 3:33 finish in the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon that included at least 600 ft of climb during the final miles.   Yet I failed to provide documented proof to the race officials, thus instead of being placed far ahead of the mass of runners in corral A or B, was assigned to corral D!  OK, my mistake, but at least I could get to the very start of that corral and besides, I knew I needed to be held back and start very slow, so starting with slower runners may be a blessing in disguise.

Speaking of disguises, I also found myself lining up next to a guy wearing a Big Bird costume!  Surely he was not planning to run 26.2+ miles on this sunny, yet cool Sunday morning in Chicago was he?  Stay tuned.

The start of the Chicago Marathon 2014. I am somewhere in the crowd of 45,000 runners.
The start of the Chicago Marathon 2014. I am somewhere in the crowd of 45,000 runners.

About 10 minutes after the official start of the marathon I was at the official start line. My timing chip (worn on the backside of the race bib) had officially been started and within the next stride I was starting my 9th marathon with 45,000 other runners.  If you have never participated in a mega marathon, or any marathon for that matter, the excitement at the start is difficult to express.  My emotions were very quickly reeled into reality with the first several yards of the race as my running shorts began to fall off!  Yes, once again, I made the mistake of packing too many energy gel packs in my race belt.  The only solution was to release them from the belt and carry in my hands. Past this near disaster I kept to my race plan and started very slow. So what if Big Bird was ahead of me already?

I hit my first 5k split time pretty close to my target of 24+ minutes. By close I mean I was faster than I had wanted to be. This is not a good place to be early in a marathon.  I decided right then that all I had to do was to hold this pace. Not a problem I told myself as I felt very relaxed, strong, and this pace felt very easy to maintain.  So it when, mile after mile, 5k mark after 5k mark. Each time when I looked at my watch expecting to see a slower than targeted pace, I was shocked to see that I was actually running much faster (7:37 +/-) then I had any business to run.

I tried to slow down each time!  I just never did.  I am not sure if this was due to the flat course, the ever present “Go Lee” from the throng of supporters that crowd the route, or what, I just kept going. Then as I approached the half way point I thought that perhaps I was on to running my fastest marathon in over 20 years!  Well, I was in fact on pace to do just that.  But as you seasoned marathoners know, this is not the way one should attempt to run a marathon.

Chic Trees SmallBetween the half way point (13.1 miles) and the 20 mile mark, my inner thighs began to give way. They were “spent”.  A runner friend from my hometown who started ahead of me in corral B passed me. Good for her, she was running a very smart race.  Shortly thereafter I was passed by, yes none other than “Big Bird” himself.  Now I knew I was in trouble!  The final few miles weave through areas of the South side of Chicago where it is difficult for crowds to gather thus, the crowd support dwindled.  Until the final mile when some of the crowd support returned.  I was constantly given encouragement by those along the side of the road. They could obviously see I was struggling. I did my best to smile at them, by a wave of my hand I let them know I was fine.

Finally, I hit the last “hill” (all of a 10-20 ft climb) at about the 26 mile mark and then made the final turn towards the finish line.  The announcer called out my name as I finished and I was thankful this long race was finally over.  The finish area consist of a very long, very slow walk back to pick up your gear. The first volunteer wrapped me in a silver mylar blanket to keep me warm during a still chilly morning. There were many other volunteers offering everything from beer, protein shakes, and ice bags.  What I really wanted was a seat to sit down and rest.  I knew if I sat on the ground I would never get up! So I shuffled onto get my gear, then eventually the mile long walk back to the hotel.

Chic Fin Line Small
I finally made it to the finish line, yippie!

Overall I had a very enjoyable experience the entire time I was in Chicago-Land.  From the huge but extremely well organized expo at McCormick Place, to the Pumpkin Fest in the suburbs on Saturday with family and grand kids, and the post race meal at a small but elegant restaurant next to our hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned even more.

Next time I will practice what I preach and train, plan, and run smarter.  Thanks for taking the time to view my post today.

Run Happy out there.

Lee

 

 

Welcome to Taperville

My finisher's medal, NYC Marathon 2008. I
My finisher’s medal, NYC Marathon 2008. 

Welcome to Taperville. Taperville is both an imaginary and real place. It’s the place marathon runners visit any where between 3-2 weeks prior to running their targeted marathon. For the non-runners out there you  need to understand that to compete in a marathon (for the non-non-runners that is 26.2 miles) a runner requires at least six months of grueling training. This entails building up ones weekly mileage numbers incrementally until the final 4-6 weeks prior to beginning to “taper” for the marathon.

As an example, since the end of August I logged weekly total miles from 45 miles per week to a high of 60 miles one week. It’s also not only simply running miles. A well trained runner will also include faster paced efforts referred to as speed or tempo runs each week. An even better trained runner will include runs over hilly routes or hill repeats. Most runners also include a series of other conditioning efforts such as weights, yoga, or biking.  Then there comes a point in the training process where there is little to be gained. The body needs to rest and recuperate. Muscles need to begin to store energy to enable the runner to run the entire 26.2 miles. This is the period known as the taper, or what I refer to as “Taperville”.

Many runners refer to this period in their training to “taper madness”.  I have yet to fully attain a true madness level when I enter my taper periods but I suspect there are several reasons for the term madness. First, the runner is not used to running less each week. They do not know what to do with that extra time on their hands (advice: do not over eat). There is also a sense of becoming out of shape. The runner begins to no longer experience a nonstop sense of fatigue that they have become accustomed to experiencing. They do also eat a bit more and if not careful will gain unwanted pounds. Then they begin to have serious doubts about their running ability. Not running as much, not feeling like a runner, and gaining weight too! Yikes!  No reason they call it a madness!

There is a specific approach to tapering. The misconception is that the runner should drastically cut back on the miles they have been running on a regular basis. This is perhaps the worse thing a runner can do during this time frame. While there are many formulas for proper tapering methods the successful ones all have a common element or basis. To taper properly the runner needs to continue to run their regular workouts but do cut back on the long runs. The runner also needs to continue to perform speed, tempo, and maybe even a hill run or two during the taper period. The key is to do what the name implies, taper! Gently, slowly until the final total rest days prior to the marathon.

When I ran the New York Marathon in 2008, I remember touring NYC and feeling like a total tourist, I did not feel like I could run at all! Yes, I was very worried about that feeling too. Turns out that I had my best marathon experience ever in that marathon!  I hit my targeted goal (sub 3:30) and actually enjoyed passing other runners during the final miles in Central Park.

This year as my next marathon approaches on October 12th in Chicago, I am beginning to feel the same way as I did in NYC. I feel fat and bloated, yet my morning scale says otherwise.  I have begun to enjoy extra time around the house to take the dog for a walk, complete a chore, or simply sit outside and enjoy this great Michigan weather instead of lacing up my shoes for another run.  I do plan to do a speed workout on the track tonight with the Running Fit 501 group however, as I sit here wrapping up this post, I do not feel like a runner.

Run Happy out there.

Lee

 

Marathon Training – Mid June

Friend and business associate, MJ, demonstrating a yoga pose I can only hope to do.
Friend and business associate, MJ, demonstrating a yoga pose I can only hope to do.

I believe the key to success with any plan is to remain flexible.  A week ago my marathon training plan was interrupted for a few days. Not by injury rather more due to life in general.  After my Monday night run on June 9th my legs were dead.  No wonder as I had completed 56 miles and 10 runs during the previous 8 days!  My old body was not use to that. So rather than get out to run the next morning, I took a day off.  The following day weather and our running group’s after glow party took priority. Then Mother Nature was not in a good mood again. So I lost a total of 4 days and only completed 25 of the intended 40+ mile week.  This is where the flexibility comes into play.

Rather than sit idle, I viewed these days as opportunities to do another form of training, yoga. I have been practicing yoga on and off for the past several years since MJ first introduced yoga to our training group more than 5 years ago.

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Like running, yoga can be done everyday, but like a new runner, new yogis (especially runner yogis) seldom do these important routines nearly enough.  Back to that first Tuesday of rest, I started that morning with mediation and relaxing stretches.  Before I knew it my time was up and I needed to return to reality.  Over the next several mornings I did other stretches, generally attempting to loosen up my hips and stretch the upper body.

This past week I have returned to a more normal, on-schedule running routine. Unfortunately a few less stretches, but I do feel a difference in my stride and upper body during my runs. So I need to continue to find time for my yoga, not let it slip out of practice and remain flexible.

For more information about MJ, her yoga practice, other challenging poses, and lessons from her please visit her website:  www.bhaktiwellness.com

Thanks for taking the time to visit and remember to Run Happy and Namaste

Lee