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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon Race Plan

So, let's not pretend that I'm not worried about the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow.

I've been out of my rhythm for the last few weeks, and my mileage has, well, plummeted. Add to that the extremely low temperatures of tomorrow morning, and we've got ourselves a recipe for disaster.

Or do we? We do not. I run much more quickly in cold weather, and I'm going to call my mileage drop a super-taper. Yeah, that's the half-full version of it. I like that, let's go with it.

With that in mind, I've been studying the course map rather intently, and I'm feeling pretty good about my chances at a PR. Sure, there are a few issues involved, but I'm going through them now, hoping to avoid any issues by anticipating them.

1) Terrain - The course isn't too bad as far as hills or other terrain issues. Whereas both Austin and Seattle had rather challenging hills throughout the course, this time around, the ugly stuff is done early. The first two and a half miles are pretty much all uphill, but they're followed by a merciful drop to mile four. After that, there's a little up and down, with one more gentle climb from six and a half to seven and a half. Then, the hills are done (except of course for that .2 at the end). What this means to me is that if I can maintain my pace through mile seven, I'm good to cruise for the rest of the race.

2) Weather - I'm not going to say that the cold isn't a concern, but I think I can manage pretty well. I've gotten some gloves for the first few miles that I can drop without too much worry. Other than that, I don't plan to change things too much. I know what is comfortable for me, and there's no point in changing things now. I just have to make sure that I'm not bared to the elements too early on. Thank goodness for gear checking.

3) Refueling - There are surprisingly few water stops along this course, which simply means that I'm going to have to take water at every stop. I also have to manage my energy gel intake to go along with these stops. Put simply, I'm going to take a gel at every third water stop. I've figured out what time I should be getting to those stops based on the pace I'd like to run, and that way, I can have everything ready to go when the water comes into view.

4) Equipment - This will be the first race in the Brooks shoes, and I'm very excited about it. I chose not to go for my two mile tune-up today, because I didn't want wet shoes for tomorrow. The one other change that I'll be making is my new belt from iFitness. Not only is it wider than a Spibelt (meaning my narrow phone won't twist around), but also it has loops on the outside for gels, giving the whole thing a Batman Utility Belt look. While I'm a little worried about running with it for the first time in a race, it'll be better than any of the other possibilities I had for carrying the things I need.

In the final hours, there are only a few things left to be done. I'll have my last big meal in an hour or two, so that there's plenty of time for digestion. I'll lay everything out tonight and memorize my desired split times. If all goes well, I'll be sound asleep early, and ready to roll in the morning.

And at this time tomorrow, one way or the other, it'll be my first real off-season, and I'll be one marathon closer to 50.

Game on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hatless Wonder

What a difference a haircut makes.

That, and a 20 degree drop in temperature.

As my attempt to get back into my running rhythm continues, I was thrilled to get a chance to get out for an easy four this afternoon. Choosing to go by time rather than distance, I ran out for roughly 15 minutes, and then back the same way. What made this interesting were the 30 mph winds that were whipping down the hill as I made my way back home. But I powered on.

And boy, was I powering. I recently got a rather drastic haircut, so I didn't even wear my hat that I usually have. The difference of feeling the wind on my head made me feel like I was flying, but I didn't have the same experience with my legs, which felt steady and paced, not fast. I got winded a couple times and took a few short breaks to catch it. This return to running cannot be done all in one day, so I know enough to take the process carefully.

The fact that I was tired had me a little concerned, since I didn't feel like I was pushing the pace that hard. My legs, particularly my recently troubling knee, did not hurt at all, which had to mean that I wasn't running that fast. And yet, returning home in under 32 minutes, I found that I'd run over 4.8 miles. This is easily a sub-7 pace, and I hadn't even realized it.


With the race less than two weeks away, I'm driven by a quote I saw on Coach Higdon's Twitter feed the other day, essentially saying that going into any marathon (except the first one), you should never be scared to fail. Go for that PR. If you don't get it, you can try for it the next time, but if you go in expecting failure, that is exactly what you'll find.

In less than two weeks, I'll go for my Boston Qualifier, and if I don't get it, I'll try it next April when I do the Eisenhower Marathon in Kansas (my current plan). In the meantime, I'll run for the enjoyment of it, and not for "training" purposes. I hear that's nice.

But the most important thing for the next two weeks is to stay focused and on track for the marathon. I'm already figuring out a work schedule for the next two weeks that will allow me some time to relax and get all my thoughts on staying with whomever might be carrying that little 3:05 sign on October 30th. There are hundreds of distractions in my life right now, and the people who should be making them better are making them worse. Such is life. And banking.

So I'll take my frustrations out on the pavement, one mile at a time.

Tuesday's Run:
71 Degrees, Windy
4.81 Miles
31 Minutes, 50 Seconds

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Auto Pilot

I worry that the weather has it in for me.

When I finally got around to doing my run yesterday, it was with one reason in mind: It's cloudy, so at least it won't be hot outside. Four minutes into the run, the sun came out, and would remain so until I had three minutes left. So, north Austin had 53 minutes of sunshine yesterday morning. Go team.

Aside from the obvious attempt by the weather gods to beat me down one last time, I was actually quite pleased with the run. Technically, I was scheduled to run 8 miles, but as this was my first run back after two weeks of essentially no activity, I knew that I had to take it carefully, so instead, I decided to run for an hour, which would be 8 miles at a 7.5 minute pace if I could run it. If not, at least I wouldn't be out running all afternoon.

For being as rusty as I was, I felt that everything went fairly well. Sure, I had to swear at one guy who honked at me for running three feet off the road. And yes, I got myself fairly turned around and worked into this odd little corkscrew of a neighborhood. But overall, I felt happy just to have gotten myself out the door and onto the road again. I've still got more to do today, but I feel like I'm back on track.

I think the key over the next few weeks is simply to keep moving. This applies to both my running and my personal life. The faster that I try to move, the more obstacles and challenges I seem to encounter, so I'm just going into cruise mode until the next marathon is over. I'm still going to try for my BQ, as I'm sure that I'm fit enough to make it happen. I've just got to take better care of myself for the next few weeks.

As for everything else, I have very little control over the things that are making me crazy, so the best thing I can do is sit back and let the people who are supposed to be doing the work get it done. The only catch here is that it requires other people to, you know, do their jobs, and I hate to ask too much of others. Still, everything seems to be on the right track, and I worry that if I try and push anything too hard, I'm just going to knock it all off the rails. My best bet is to focus, breathe, and slow down my pace.

The finish line is in sight - don't bonk now.

Wednesday's Run:
85 Degrees / Mostly Sunny
7.55 Miles
1 Hour, 0 Minutes, 37 Seconds

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ob La Di

Somehow, it's appropriate that this comes on a monumentally-numbered post.

For the 200th entry into this blog, I once again recommit myself to running, but in a slightly different way.

The last few weeks have been, to put it simply, stressful. Trying to buy a house and having the bank be completely incompetent is enough of an issue to send anyone into a sleepless spiral of doom. Add to that two jobs, hours of marathon training, and working on a show that takes the remainder of your time and energy, and you've got a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what I've been the last few weeks.

It has affected virtually every aspect of my life negatively, and the problem is that I've let it. I've gone on a total of two runs in the last two weeks, which is just awful. I had a hiccup in my training before Seattle, but nothing like this. My work has been unfocused, and while I think the show is going well, it's not without some reluctance that I leave the house at showtime. I've been waking up later and eating poorly, and just simply not taking care of myself. And today, we got more bad news about the house.

Oddly enough, we reacted completely differently. This time, we simply accepted it as what was to be expected from a group of people who obviously don't care about the emotional toll of their ineffectual processing. And just as strangely, this gave us a newfound sense of resolution. We finally realized that we can't allow this nonsense to control our lives. It is unfortunate that we have to deal with it at all, but we can face it with more strength if everything else is in line.

So with three weeks left to go before the Marine Corps Marathon, I'm on to my taper. The official taper, not the "I don't want to get out of bed" slacking that I've been doing the last couple weeks. I'm done with that.

Also, I haven't signed up for any more marathons at this point, not because I'm not going to do them, but because I want to run freely for a little while. I'll spend a few weeks (at least) after the marathon running basic, everyday, "just because" runs. I'm going to have an offseason where every run isn't a part of something bigger. I want to run simply for the joy of running, going as fast or as slow as I like. I'll do a few road races (including a Susan G. Koman race and a Turkey Trot in November), but nothing of substantial distance. I may train for the Austin Half Marathon to see what kind of time I can do, but it's looking like my next actual marathon won't be until April.

Many people talk about the simple joy of running, and when I'm constantly timing myself and following someone else's recommendations, it becomes more about the chore than about the joy. I'm taking the joy back.

So tomorrow, I'm going to get up early, and I'm going to run, and then I'm going to write a blog post.

And life goes on.