Archive for April, 2011


ONE WEEK TO GO TO EUGENE MARATHON

04.24.2011

Long Training Run - Marathon Group

Hardly seems possible!  Well, of course it does because I have been planning this almost since last May and training specifically for the Eugene Marathon from before Christmas 2010, but, as with so many such things, after all that anticipation and preparation, it is just about here.  Big question is “am I ready?”.  The true answer to that question will come by this time next Sunday.  Do I feel ready? Different question and perhaps a different answer.  As much as I would like to say YES, I am not so sure.  I suppose that is natural.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been training with a clinic and yesterday was our official last training run.  We have tapered down to a long distance of just 15km, or for those not quite into metric, just under 10 miles.  It is so funny how these things are relative.  When we got back from our extended vacation in mid-December, during which I ran relatively little and certainly didn’t train in the rather hot climes where we found ourelves, 15km seemed like quite a long run.  After a twenty week training schedule where we had five long runs that were 30km or more (up to and including one at 36km), a final long run of 15km takes on a different perspective.  This is hardly news to anyone who has ever trained for a marathon or even longer distance, but I think it useful to comment upon for those readers who may still be contemplating a longer distance than previously tackled, including the half and full marathon distances.  It is easy when first thinking about taking on the challenge of the marathon, to be intimidated by the distance, but when you look at the training program, which is a progression over many weeks you begin to realize the wisdom in the adage that you run a marathon, one step at a time.

In fact, in respect to the foregoing truism, I recall hearing one of Canada’s best runners talking at a marathon Expo regarding how to run a good race.  Without a doubt, visualization is important and seeing yourself crossing the finish with arms raised is an excellent way to approach the generality of the race/challenge ahead.  However, there is quite a bit that has to happen before that vision can’t suddenly jump up to mock you.  Her advice was to run the event in bite-sized pieces – to constantly assess your current situation and urge yourself on, feeling good at the moment, to carry that to the next landmark or goal.  You can really, and effectively see yourself reaching the next distance marker or aid station or perhaps gradually and calmly catching and passing a runner who is clearly a bit slower than you. Ever since hearing this commentary I have tried to remember it in every race I do.  I must run the next increment (and the next, and the next) before I can reach the finish.  I can visualize those increments much more vividly and practically than a finish line that might be 20 miles away.  If you do it that way, surprisingly soon, the next increment you visuale WILL include crossing the finish, arms raised in personal victory.  Who was this wise advisor?  Leah Pells.  Thank you Leah.

I have used the technique in various forms.  One of the best runs I have done in the last few years was a leg of the Haney to Harrison Relay.  It was a not so very nice day, but once I got running at least the pelting rain slowed to a mere drizzle and the wind dropped a bit.  Because there is always a strategy to relays, a team coming into an exchange with a slow runner may leave on the legs of  a fast one and vice versa.  So, when you leave any given exchange and there have been a number of teams doing so at more or less the same time you will soon catch some runners and be caught by others.  I must admit that I took off a bit fast because of two teams that weren’t far ahead of us and because their runners didn’t seem like they were as quick as me.  I wanted to nail them as soon as possible, just to get myself feeling good about the leg.  It didn’t take too long – maybe something between 1 km and 1 mile to achieve my goal.  Mind you, it turns out that a few others saw me in somewhat the same light, but that isn’t nearly as interesting!

Once the sorting was done with, I settled into what seemed a proper pace.  It was at that moment I spotted a runner some distance ahead, but in my mind, going just a bit slower than me.  I told myself that my goal was to catch and pass using an even steady pace.  My first impression was correct and slowly, slowy I reeled my advesary in and in what seemed a surprisingly short period of time, passed him.  I had promised myself that once past, I would settle down and run comfortably to the finish.  However, at about that point I realized I had been pulling in two runners and that another was well within reach.  What the heck!  Worked before, might as well do it again.  OK, so I’m not going to describe each of the five or six runners that I passed that way over the 13.4km distance of that leg.  My real point is that by only passing each one in turn, I had an excellent pace and no stress based on attempting to achieve some time.  As a matter of fact, had someone told me the distance and asked me how long I would expect to take to do it, I probably would have said a slower time.  Taking the race one minor goal at a time resulted in a fine major result. 

If I can keep my head together, I think this is how I will plan to do Eugene.  I think it is a good plan for anyone, but right now it is just about me.  Will I start chasing down other runners?  Probably not, at least until we are nearing the finish.  Will I pass some?  Almost certainly, but that will just be what it will be.  In this case I am going to try to ensure that my running is controlled and that I conciously go from one sub-goal to the next.  The two big questions : “How do I feel right now?” and  “Can I keep this up to….the next mile marker or aid station or bridge, etc?”.  The answer is important.  If it is truly “YES”, then away you go, holding your current pace.  If the realistic and honest answer is “NO” you must adjust modestly to something where the answer shifts to YES.  If you don’t do that and try to maintain pace when you really can’t, it won’t be long before you are in trouble.

I will be reminding myself of this throughout the event.  I am not happy with my total training.  I know I can do 42.2km because I almost did that distance in training.  I don’t know how fast I can do it because I haven’t done it at “race pace”, and if I try to achieve too quick a race pace, my nagging knee might decide to more than nag.  So, my mind is going to have to function like the computer in your car that optimizes performance as you drive, constantly checking for how the pace itself feels and how other things, like how any discomfort in my left knee is doing.

In any case, by this time next week I can pretty well predict that it will be a done deal, one way or another!  As I always do, I have begun to watch weather and assemble my race gear.  The good news is that the race being in Eugene and Rod Waterlow and I driving from Vancouver, we will leave Friday morning.  That will relieve some of our nervous energy, or mine anyway, something that always happens once I start the race preparation process based on heading to the race venue and getting involved in race related action.

Eugene Marathon Cranking Up For Race Week – and so am I.

04.20.2011

All the usual updates are starting to flow out of the Eugene organizers’ messaging systems.  My computer has a regular path worn to the Eugene site and to my favorite weather tracking page (which is currently making me feel all warm and fuzzy).  Well, the weather actually does look warm enough after what has been a cooler than normal few weeks.  Just today, the four day race weekend stretch from Friday to Monday seems to involve a fair bit of sunshine and little or no rain. That said, I learned some time back that a) until a day or two before the actual date you can’t really be sure – unless it is one of those places where the weather never actually changes from day to day, b) worrying about it never does any good and c) there is nothing I can do about it anyway (except bring all the running clothes/gear I own and select appropriately when we see how it is going to be).  Only once or twice have I ever chosen a marathon because of the expected weather.  And, that worked out very badly.  Had it been as expected (it was exactly as advertised, the day before) it would have been a good strategy.  As it turned out, that race remains my absolute worst marathon experience as far as running conditions go.  Last year, Eugene was perfect.  I am just going with that for now!

A sure sign that things are progressing is the recent notices popping up in e-mails and on the web site, that online registration will close at 11:59pm Friday April 22.

Like so many, the training taper is now in full swing and like those same many, I am feeling both relieved that the heavy lifting is done and antsy because there is nothing much I can do to improve my training now.  I have been here often enough that it should be no surprise, but instincts don’t much respect logic. 

I have been training with a clinic and we have one last easy run scheduled.  I have been enjoying running with this group, among which are several first time marathoners – my favorite kind of people.  Most are actually preparing to do the Vancouver International Marathon which is on the same day as Eugene.  As a leader of one of the pace groups I will be doing what I can to catch up on them after we are done our respective events!

Part of the reason for writing this particular piece was being inspired by watching the Boston Marathon on Monday.  What an amazing race and outcome.  It may not be an official world record (technical stuff), but do you suppose anyone isn’t now going to quote the fastest marathon as 2:03:02?  I know I will be quoting it as the fastest.  The big debate will always fall to whether you can actually regularize something as irregular as a 26.2 mile road race.  One of the issues, naturally, is that Boston is a net downhill course.  That is fine, but I have personally run several net downhills that had an unhappy amount of uphill, thus making it much more difficult than you it sounds  on paper.  If we count that “easy” aspect of running “down” why don’t we offset that with the stress of running up?  Let me explain.  There is one specific marathon that I have done, but will not name because I have no desire to make it seem less great than it is, but I want to be clear that I am talking reality, not theory.  In this particular case it is a point to point which is about a 350ft net downhill.  OK, I admit that this was one of the things that attracted me to the race.  However, it turns out that most of the downhills are rather steeper and shorter than the uphill sections which tend to be quite long and grinding.  Now, we aren’t talking cliff-like downhills, but in terms of distance run “down”, it is far less than distance run “up”.  And, lets face it, unless you are on roller-skates, you still have to run, even if it IS downward.  Track rules just don’t apply.  What about courses that have a lot of sharp turns?  Really fast runners are actually slowed by that subtle matter.  Personally, at my pace, I am little bothered!  Another issue for long distance outdoor running is weather.  I have my own personal criteria for what is “perfect” weather.  Others might feel differently.  My personal perfect temperature is 10-15C or about 50-60F.  So let’s just say there is a technically ideal range in which body function is optimal.  Here comes the beef.  What happens when the weather is signifcantly colder?  What about significantly warmer.  What if it is right at freezing and Dick Beardsley (he is from Minnesota) is running against any number of Kenyans?  Same runners, but now it is 30C?  Right, nobody makes any adjustment at all.  Would one runner be favored over another? 

Wind is possibly another matter and one that came up at Boston.  It was a real wind and it was largely a tail-wind in Boston on Monday.  However, when they asked Mutai, he said he didn’t really notice and that it was a cross-wind some of the time in any case.  Nobody credits runners with better times when running into  a head-wind.  Do we even know how much such winds help or hurt?  I mean, come on, how much push can one skinny little Kenyan get??   The best runners all remind me of reeds!

Boston supplied so many amazing stories over and above the record time – at least the course/event record.  Mutai performed amazingly, but what about Mosop who was just steps behind?  Ryan Hall finally showed what he has by going sub-2:05 and can now legitimately be held as a contender anywhere.  His front run for so long was something to see and probably why the others achieved the record.  On the women’s side the American, Davila, served notice of her ability to run and to grind it out at the end.  Kara Goucher, just seven months from giving birth ran well, and although she fell off the pace later in the race, was only about two minutes back of the winners.  American distance running hasn’t been so strong in a long time, with these three individuals leading the way.

I spent a wonderful morning watching all this unfold (on my TV).  I can’t really express how much I would have loved being part of that day as a participant.  Guess it is best not to go there.  With the new rules and my abilities at this point, it seems unlikely that I will be seeing Boston as anything other than a spectator, but then I guess that is what makes it what it is!  Nonetheless, seeing the great times and maybe even better real human performances as people dug for inner strength or failed gloriously as was the case of Kim Smith of New Zealand who looked like she might run away with the women’s race, only to seize up and more or less disappear from the field, I am reminded of why I do this.  That search for inner strength and determination that gets you through the hard work of training and TO the start line, and then over the finish regardless of your pace, is special to all who take the challenge. 

Almost every marathon I have done has had its own special reason for being done.  I haven’t done as many as some people but more than many, most, probably.  Eugene will be number 15.  Not every one of the previous 14 have been as special as each of the others, but it continues to amaze me just how big each one has been for me.  I believe that I could probably describe in some detail, virtually every one of my marathons even though there will soon be 15 of them run over a total of 23 years come May 1.  And, I just realized upon writing this that while the total may be 15, there are a number of repeats in there (I have done two races four times each), so remembering each race as unique is perhaps just that much more impressive.  Also, while I have a PB that is better than a lot, it is far from stellar when you look at the Boston field of runners.  This statement really isn’t about me though, it is a perspective to how I think the many, many everyday runners out there fit into the greater scheme of things.  For our own personal and many reasons, running is special to us.  Our performances are unique to us and of great importance to each of us in ways that nobody else can probably understand.  Well, nobody but another runner.

So, having shared some of my thoughts on why people like me who are only running for our own reasons and satisfactions, I will now go off to once again to review the Eugene course map and elevation profile so I can plan where to squeeze a second or two out my run by being smart, more than fast.  Having run the route last year, I can not only see it all in theory, but will have a real feel for the actual course.  More musings to come soon.  Just eight days until we start our journey south and begin to really prepare for the big day.

Personal Marathon Blog by The Editor

04.17.2011

Eugene Marathon (2010) - 9 Miles

Well, you knew it had to come eventually.  It is my turn to take on the marathon challenge and talk about it.  Not my first by a long stretch, but maybe, just maybe, my last of a serious nature.  What does that mean – “a serious nature”?  All marathons are serious aren’t they?

I will be in Eugene, OR this time, two weeks from the time of writing, in the midst of running the Eugene Marathon.  In fact, if all is going remotely well in exactly two weeks from this very moment, the finish won’t be in sight but it will be a looming reality, at the very least.  I have written about the Boston Marathon (tomorrow!) and my aspirations as related thereto.  As yet, I have not made the standard – not alone there, I guess.  But, with the new standards and registration processes, my chances of running have gone from slim to virtually none.  I don’t have a big problem with that as long as there is some serious control over the number of runners that aren’t required to qualify.  I won’t say I am not personally disappointed, but Boston was always about achieving a standard of excellence.  Some do, some don’t,  some can, some can’t.

Eugene in 2010 was my recent best effort toward achieving the illusive standard, but I was still officially more than 12 minutes shy of the old standard and that will soon move to plus or minus 18 minutes.  Eugene is a relatively new marathon – this being the 5th running.  The 2010 version was well staged and a joy to run, especially relating to the whole “Running in the Footsteps of Legends” thing.  It sure felt like it last year as I headed for the finish!

Recently, Rod Waterlow provided his perspective on preparing to run the California International Marathon (Dec 2010).  Interestingly, Rod will be running Eugene as well.  He won the M70-74 in 2009 but had to give it a miss in 2010 due to injury.  We will actually travel together to this year’s event, so you may hear about him from time to time in my ramblings.  For what it is worth, and to my own surprise, I actually took third place M65-69 at Eugene in 2010.  I guess you could say I am returning to “defend” my third place finish.  You could say that.  It probably isn’t true.  I have suffered minor and annoying injuries during training.  Nothing serious, but I am not going to Eugene at the same level of preparedness as in 2010.  No excuses – just a fact.  I even considered not going, but I have done the necessary training and I am fit to run, so I am going.  I like this event too much to stay home!

It turns out that I  won’t be alone.  There are well over 150 runners from the Vancouver area heading for Eugene.  Some are doing the half, but quite a few are running the full marathon.

Since I am going and since I have decided to write about it, let us get up to speed and up to date.  I promise to keep it brief.  After a very heavy year of running and racing in 2010, including a bit of injury time (hamstring – mid-year), I took a vacation with my wife and old friends.  It was a long trip to SE Asia and Australia.  For the most part I ran very little.  Rest and recovery and all that, you know.  I did run in certain places because I wanted to, but it was far from a steady training program.  I knew I intended to do Eugene again, so when we returned in mid-December I began to get back into running on a regular basis and to bring my long distance run into line with a clinic I wanted to use to prepare for the May marathon.  This particular clinic is offered by Forerunners, a Vancouver running store.  The first goal was for runners doing the “First Half” Half Marathon in mid-February, and then continuing on toward the BMO Vancouver Marathon, run coincidentally and happily on the very same day as Eugene.  Obviously, the clinic program was dead on for my needs.  I have been the leader of pace groups in similar clinics Forerunners has offered, at target marathon finish of 4:15.  What a coincidence that this would be my Boston Qualifying time!

Because the clinic had commenced well before our return, by the time I clicked into it in the first week of January, the long run was already at 17km.  My recent long runs had not much exceeded 10km.  I decided that the better part of valor might be to join the pace group aiming at 4:30 for the marathon and stay there until the half marathon in February was completed and the full marathon training began in earnest.  It seemed like a sound plan and was working very nicely.  It was fun to just participate rather than have to watch the pacing and keep the group on task.  Yes, it was good – for about two weeks.  After that, the pace leader had conflicting demands on Saturday morning and I was called upon to fill in when he was unavailable to lead.  Actually, I was happy to do it and the program continued very nicely with me getting things back on track re distance and speed.  The First Half came and went.  I was previously the Race Director of this event, so still very involved in the volunteering side.

After the First Half, the clinic program took focus on the Vancouver half and full marathons (and for me, on Eugene).  I started planning my attack on that Boston time (the old one, with the old registration processes).  I started poring over various pace prediction models, getting times looking not quite as fast as I would like/need, but within view of my BQ goal.  Close enough anyway, that a bit of hard work and a little luck just might get me where I wanted to go on the day.  The best prediction scenario came within 5 minutes.  I noted above that my official time left me about 12 minutes short.  But, at Eugene in 2010 there had been a porto-john stop of just over a minute (which, of course, gets counted in the race time) that meant my actual run time had been only 11 minutes shy of my goal.  There seemed to be hope.

I think I must be getting protection from something awful that will happen if I actually do qualify, because no sooner than we rounded the symbolic corner of the First Half and started on the serious full marathon program, I tweaked my left knee.  It seemed nothing at the time, but I recalled stepping in what could just barely be called a pot-hole.  I knew I had given the knee a twist – I felt it.  But after the initial sensation – couldn’t even really call it pain – things seemed fine.  That is, they seemed fine until later, when there was some unpleasantness – really just a tenderness.  Whatever, that was the beginning of it and for the remainder of the time, right until this moment, I have been fighting this mild, annoying injury.  It isn’t so bad it stops me from running but bad enough to throw the training off where any sort of strenuous quality workouts are concerned.

My mind is really good at playing tricks on itself, so knowing that I have taken the LSR right up to 36km and at a pace that falls within the range specified by McMillan Running for the LSR related to a 4:15 finish, I still hold out some fantastic hope that I could still do it.  What is going to be interesting is that I will not start nearly as fast as most previous marathons.  Eugene has pace teams and I am pretty certain I will at least start by running with the 4:30 group.  My big problem isn’t early pacing.  It is keeping it up past around 20 miles or so.  Once I crash, I usually do so in a big way, losing several minutes a mile from my taget pace, thus proving that seconds gained at the beginning tend to cost minutes at the end.

This isn’t intended to do any more than get us current.  So, I can report that we have begun our taper process and the long run done yesterday was one that felt good, with my knee really only making itself known afterwards.  Nobody in my pace group was there (many electing to run Vancouver’s huge 1oK Happening – the Vancouver Sun Run on Sunday). I decided that rather than run alone, I would run with the group I had intended to run with after the First Half.  The good news was that I did so without strain, and not that it was a race, even finished at the leading edge of that group.  That surprised me.  I had lost some faith that I could actually run faster than our easy 4:30 LSR pace.  I have never really trained as slowly as many theories tell you that you should with respect to the Long Slow Run.  This time, I have, partly through intent and partly because of circumstances.  With two weeks to go, my primary goal will be to get my knee feeling as strong as possible.  My secondary goal will be to avoid at all cost, the temptation to change my current race plan to something more aggressive.  Should things prove better than I have any right to hope, maybe I will be able to report my very first “negative split” marathon and a time that will doubtlessly amaze me more than anyone.

So, there you have it.  Two weeks to go.  Heavy training done.  Taper ongoing.  Mental preparation of prime importance.

Eugene Marathon Coming Up Soon

04.08.2011

Legends LogoHow does the Eugene Marathon wind up being featured on Running in the Zone?  Well, for its tag line or sub-title: “Running in the Footsteps of Legends” if nothing else.  Some of these legends either wrote for Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, or appear in the pages one way or another.  Joe Henderson is a member of the Eugene Board, wrote for the book and is featured in the speaking program on race weekend.  Any other questions on this matter?  I thought not.

The other reason that it is here is that your intrepid editor ran the full marathon (they have a half and a full) in 2010 and immediately fell in love with the event and the course.  For a race just coming up on its 5th running, they are doing a fabulous job of organization and runner support.  I suppose you shouldn’t expect any less from “Track Town USA”.  For someone as “seasoned” as myself, finishing on the straight-away of the Hayward Field track was a true thrill.  It really did feel like I was running in the footsteps of legends.

Eugene Marathon Start 2010

For anyone looking for a good time, the Eugene course is certainly user friendly.  The biggest hill on the course is more of an upgrade.  There is just enough undulation to keep your legs from getting locked into one position, otherwise it is a fast flat course that is sort of made up of three segments.  First there is a loop heading out of town from just outside Hayward Field, then returning right through the start at about 9 miles.  The next segment goes off to the right, out along the beautiful Willamette River into Springfield, then back along some city streets until it returns to the river parks and pathways almost direclty across the Willamette from the start/finish area (about 16 miles).  The third segment heads down river to the final river crossing (21 miles) and back along the river parkway until it makes the final turn (25.5 miles) back toward Hayward Field and the surge to the finish.  Many marathons have an exciting or inspirational finish stretch.  Let’s face it, the finish of any marathon, no matter what it looks like is a moving sight!!  However, just past 26 miles you see and pass through the gates of Hayward Field near the 200m start area, running the bend and heading down the straight to the finish in front of the main grandstand, where those Legends finished so many great competitions.

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh

The pre-race Expo speaker schedule has just been released.  It will be a great exerience for many and a super way to learn a bit more about this course.  Race Director, Richard Maher. will take you through the virtual course and answer your questions.  First time marathon runners and first timers at Eugene will be inspired and aided by this presentation.  Personally, I expect to be at one of the course presentations even if I did run last year. You can always learn more about the subtleties of a course and its rhythms.  For those who would rather not leave everything to their own skills or instincts, there will be a Clif Bar Pace Team for various key finishing times (generally related to Boston qualifying standards).  There is an opportunity to meet and learn how they will work.  I may also be at one of those sessions, because whether this is my 15th marathon or not (it is), pacing is not my strong point these days.  It is my understanding that the Pace Team will set a steady even running pace, start to finish.

There are several presentations that should interest most runners, even if they may not have direct application within the following 24 hours or so.  Check out the Expo information for yourself, but included are sessions on Running Bio-Mechanics and Endurance Training.  The Eugene Coaches session with tips on race planning may just be the difference between a good race and a great one.  As a running clinic pace leader, I always try to impress on new marathoners, or half marathoners that the race is long, and they only hand out the medals at the end, including finisher medals.  With 13 or 26 miles in front of you, a plan is an important part of the whole thing.  And, if you are like me, it is part of the fun in preparing.  With the race not much more than three weeks away, I will be spending much of my time going over the course, the ups (as modest and few as they are, they still count) and downs (same goes for them) and where they fall.  Pacing needed to achieve my desired outcome is important, but also must be realistic.  So, getting my money’s worth from the race I will enjoy all this preparation and planning .  I will still listen to the pro’s on Saturday though, because they may have just that little bit more that I haven’t considered.

Speaking of Legends, Joe Henderson, author of some 27 books on running and contributor to Running in the Zone, will be speaking at the pasta dinner.  If you still need that last little bit of inspiration before Sunday morning, well this should be it!

I will be traveling down to Eugene with about 100 or so others from this area of Vancouver, Canada, including Rod Waterlow, recent blog contributor under the title “Never too late to be Great”.  Rod won the M70-74 category in 2009 but gave the race a pass in 2010 due to an injury that made training pretty much impossible.  The early part of this winter wasn’t the best for Rod, but he is fit now and training well, looking forward to the challenge ahead.  I would personally like to say that I am heading back to defend my third place in M65-69, but that might be a bit optimistic on my part.  That is the problem with the “seasoned athlete” thing, sometimes you find yourself fighting nagging and niggling injuries, as is my personal situation.  Oh, I will be trained and fit enough to do the marathon, but not so certain about repeating the performance of 2010.  Do I care?  Well, of course, at one level, but this is such a great event that I am just planning to do it and enjoy the whole experience.  And, I don’t think it is going to matter what my time or outcome turns out to be.  When I turn onto the Hayward Field track, I am still going to feel the presence of those Legends in whose footsteps I am running!

See you in Eugene.

LENORE MONTGOMERY SHOWS ‘EM HOW IN CALIFORNIA

04.05.2011

The running community in BC know the name Lenore Montgomery and her capabilities.  Now, the world in general will have to take note. Why?  Because Lenore set a new World record for 5K in the Women 80-84 age bracket: 29:16.  Running at the Carlsbad 5000 she showed what she was made of and likely surprised more than a few while taking seven seconds off the old record.  Canada seems to do pretty well at producing speedy octogenarians – Lenore, BJ McHugh and, oh yes, Ed Whitlock.  Must be the cool weather!

Well done Lenore.  Will you have any other surprises for us back home as the racing season ramps up?  We will be watching.