Sunday, October 18, 2009


It's done! The KC Marathon was yesterday morning at 7:00 AM. It was cold and rainy at the start... and just cold at the finish. It's good to be done.

I met Kris and Steve, both friends from college, before the start. Steve and I lined up with the 1:35 pace group, and Kris lined up with 1:40. Steve and I stayed with the 1:35 pacers until close to mile nine when we realized their pace was a bit too slow. We ended up speeding up slightly, and we finished with times of 1:33:11 (Steve) and 1:33:21 (me). Kris finished just behind the 1:40 pacers with a time of 1:41:36. The times were PRs by multiple minutes for each of us, and I think we're all pretty happy about that.

Before the run, I was afraid my goal time was too fast and I wouldn't be able to hold the pace for 13.1 miles. In preparing for previous "big" runs, I've followed training plans very closely. That's given me a pretty good idea of how fast I could go, and it's made me confident that I could hit my goal times. In this case, however, I substituted cycling for many of the harder training runs and I didn't know what the result would ultimately be. I knew I was faster than I'd been before, but I didn't know how much.

When I started preparing for this run in July, I set a goal of 1:30. During training, I realized that I'd likely have problems holding the 6:52 per mile average pace. I ended up shooting for a 1:35 instead, and I'm glad I did. It's nice to know how fast I can go and that I had a reasonably accurate idea of my fitness.

So, what's next? Less blogging, probably. I'll post updates, but I still don't think this is very interesting for anyone else. As for running, I plan to do the Gobbler Grind half marathon on November 22 mostly as motivation to stay in half marathon shape. I like the idea of not trying for a PR and running at a slightly more relaxed pace. I also plan to do the Olathe half or possibly full marathon next spring, and I'll probably train more seriously for that.

It's been interesting thinking and writing about this stuff. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sniffles, and pacing, and tapering! Oh, my!

Taper week continues, and so does my cold. At this point, I have pretty good energy, but I'm still congested and sniffly. I'm not concerned about completing the half, but I am a bit concerned about being able to run at my target pace for 13.1 miles and about needing to blow my nose a lot. I'll probably pack Kleenex along with packets of Gu in my belt for the run.

I did a four-mile easy treadmill run on Monday and a shorter 2.75-mile "almost tempo" run yesterday. That leaves one more short run before the big day, and that one will be mostly for staying loose and maintaining sanity.

As I've done in the past, I've made this week a very-little-caffeine and no-alcohol week. I've been drinking tea instead of coffee and no evening beer or wine. I don't like the elevated heart rate caffeine causes, and it seems to have a bigger effect on my endurance than it does for some people. Also, I've noticed that alcohol makes me feel sluggish the next day. Some of the feeling is probably just a placebo effect... but everything helps, right?

For pacing, I plan to start with the 1:35 pace group and see how it goes. While my original goal was to run the half under 1:30, I'll be pretty happy with a 1:35 if I can do it. The 1-mile splits for a 1:30 on this course look really fast. I think I'd rather try for a 1:35 and be somewhat confident than try for a 1:30 and blow up spectacularly.

So... all that remains is getting rest, running a little, and eating good stuff. Come on, Saturday!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Taper week is not off to a particularly great start. I have a cold that started yesterday with scratchy throat, droopy-feeling eyes, and general achiness and lack of energy. On Thursday, I stayed home with Will because he had an eye infection and possibly a cold. Despite his not feeling well, it was a pretty good day... but I think I know where I got the cold.

Anne, Will, and I originally planned to visit my parents this weekend, but we ended up staying home. Anne seems to have the same cold, and we didn't think traveling would be much fun when no one feels well. Instead, we're spending the day painting the dining room and trying to get some rest.

I plan to do a moderately long run this afternoon and a cyclocross race tomorrow morning. We'll see how the run goes today and if I have energy for the race tomorrow. My main goal at this point is to not have the cold by next Saturday.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Speed, rest, and tapering...

Over the last few weeks, I've tried to be more careful with fatigue and recovery. Following hard workouts or races, I've either rested for a day or two and focused on stretching and core strength or I've done a really easy recover run at most. I've noticed that my pace during training runs has been faster. I'm hoping my legs are recovering and I'm allowing the earlier speed work to have some effect.

It's time to start thinking about tapering for the big day. As I've mentioned recently, I've deviated from Uncle Hal's half marathon training plan over the last few weeks mostly as a result of cycling. Somewhat surprisingly, Uncle Hal doesn't really include any taper in his half plan until the week just before the event. I plan to taper for a longer period because I'll continue to do some cycling and my goal time is a stretch for me. I plan to do a long run of 10 or 12 miles this weekend followed by a slightly easier week next week. I'll do a shorter "long" run next weekend of around 8 miles followed by a few short runs during the week before the event. The short runs will be more about staying loose and maintaining my sanity than any sort of improvement.

I'll also make every reasonable effort to eat well and get lots of rest during the week before the half. It's all really pretty basic stuff, but it should help. It's great to get that "I'm surprised I feel this good" feeling during the actual event, and it really helps motivation during the run.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Like a criterium. On grass. With beer.

I did the Diamond Blackfan Cyclocross Challenge in Lenexa today which was my first-ever cyclocross race. Like a criterium, a cyclocross race is a circuit race on a relatively short course for a preset amount of time. Unlike a criterium, however, cyclocross races happen on grass and dirt.

New cyclocross racers start at category 4, so I entered the "cat4/beginner" race at 10:00 this morning. The field was fairly large at around 60 people. I started mid-pack and tried to hang on, get a feel for the pace, and move up when possible. Near the end of the first lap, things seemed to be going well when I lost a contact! I realized it stuck to the inside of my sunglasses, so I stopped, reinserted the contact, and got back to riding. I tried to remember to blink more for the rest of the race. The remainder of the race went well, and late in the race I found myself making up most of the places I lost to the contact earlier. I think my overall fitness level was good compared with many of the riders in a beginner's group. I finished 35th out of 55 total finishers. Three other entrants dropped out sometime during the race. That happens fairly often in a cyclocross race because crashes and mechanical problems are more common than in road races. I was really happy to finish mid-pack in my first race!

Because the first race went well and I seemed to be recovering quickly, I decided to do the cat3/cat4 race in the afternoon. That race was for more advanced category 3s and non-beginner 4s. The field was slightly smaller, and the start was much faster than my first race. I hung on for part of the first lap, but I eventually lost most of the group. My technical abilities in mud, sand, and while carrying the bike just weren't on the same level as most of those guys. I ended up finishing next to last at 30th out of 31 finishers. Seven guys dropped out of this race. At least I beat one guy!

The day was fun and not nearly as serious as crit racing. Lots of guys changed clothes and sat around drinking beer which watching other races later in the day. I'm glad I stuck around for more laps and more practice with a faster field even if I got my butt kicked. I'm looking forward to the next race!

My leg after the day's races. Blood, dirt, and sweat are all part of the deal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The training bagel

I talked with a coworker yesterday who's training for the KC half as her first ever half marathon. She mentioned that she's felt very tired lately and has even been tested for diabetes by her doctor. She's done long runs of 10 and 12 miles during the last two weekends, and she's doing some sort of aerobic training, usually either running or elliptical, every day of the week. She commented that she doesn't enjoy running lately and just wants to survive the training and get through the KC half.

I don't have much experience with building training plans, but even to me this sounds like too much training. I suggested building a couple of rest days into her schedule each week and also backing off the training every third or fourth week. Given the recent long runs on the last two weekends, I also suggested taking an immediate rest week with a shorter run this weekend.

The conversation made me think about my own training again. While I don't think I'm overtraining at this point, I do occasionally feel like I'm "grinding out" the training runs just because they're part of the schedule. I've also noticed more joint aches in my legs and a general feeling that the training is beating me up lately.

So, this morning I elected to enjoy a bagel and coffee instead of doing a hard run or speed work, and I really enjoyed that bagel! I know I've deviated from Uncle Hal's training plan more than I'd like to recently, but I'm increasingly convinced that Hal is correct when he says that undertraining is better than overtraining. That doesn't mean frequently skipping training runs will make anyone a better runner, but I think it does mean that there's not much value in running "beat up" or "toughing it out" just to get more miles. Those runs quickly become junk miles that don't do anything other than increasing fatigue. Also,
the combination of biking and running seems to have a bigger effect than I'd have guessed before I started. There's just no way to avoid compromising the running schedule if I'm also biking relatively hard a few times each week.

I'll still probably run over lunch today, but it will be more of a maintenance run with some hills rather than a speed workout because I plan to do the cyclocross clinic this evening. The basic idea here is high value workouts with ample rest and recovery. Getting myself (and coworkers) to stick to that seems to be one of the more difficult parts of training.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I made JV!

Anne and I went to Manhattan for the weekend because our wood floor install reached the staining phase, and we wanted to be out of the house while it happened. I'd planned to stick around KC a bit longer than Anne and Will to do this year's first Series 60 cyclocross race. As the event got closer, however, I became less confident that I was ready to compete. I ended up leaving for Manhattan earlier than I'd planned, and I did the Manhattan Cross Country Festival 5K on Saturday morning instead.

The run was my first experience with cross country, trail running, or pretty much any non-pavement running. I did most of the run just behind a group of three guys who looked like high school or early college cross country runners. They gapped me near the end because they knew the course and how to pace it (and they were probably just faster), but it was really helpful to have a group to follow for most of the run. I finished a few seconds faster than 19:58 (forgot to stop the watch for a few seconds again). I was really happy to break 20 minutes for a non-paved run. I also finished first in my age group and fifth overall.

Later in the day, I looked up typical times for Manhattan High cross country team members on this course
. My 19:55-ish would put me squarely mid-pack in JV on Manhattan High's team! I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but I think I'll call it good. For a 31-year-old dude, I'm pretty happy with my first ever cross country run.