Wednesday, September 22, 2010

20 Mile Run: A New Hope

Two weeks ago I set out to do an 18 mile run with the option of adding two at the end. Unfortunately circumstances didn't work out that way. Luckily, I had the official 20 mile run to try again.

Circumstances beyond my control prevented me from participating in the official Ready to Run 20 Miler with CARA on Sunday and my group because of a wedding in Michigan.

Tangent: Before I signed up for the marathon, I asked the SigOther if we were making another trip to Michigan anytime in the fall. She wasn't sure and I counted back from the marathon and said "well this weekend is bad because it's our 20 mile run and I really need to be in town for that." 

Lo and behold one of her relatives was having her wedding that same weekend and we need to be there.

Fortunately, when you run for as long as I have, you meet so many runners and running groups that you can usually find someone to help you out. The ClockTower runners were meeting on Saturday and they have enough people atall pace groups tat I was able to find an 830 group. I wasn't sure how that would work out since I struggled running 18 miles with the 9s two weeks ago.

I was doing some of my speed work with the ClockTower Runners on Tuesday evenings but once the heat picked up, I found it easier to either run in the morning with Hugh or do it in my hood so that I still got home a little earlier.

We started off with about 10 people includeing Karl and his wife who were the group leaders. Karl was pushing a stroller with their 2 year old. Monica and Veronica -- the Hispanic sisters -- wanted to do 8:20s and Ms Karl talked about doing 22 miles. I wasn't sure what I was in for but If figured if this group could at least get me to the half way point, I could make it back on my own.

They only stop at the official water stations that Fleet Feet has set up. I had brought along a bottle of gatorade that i had picked up on the way to the meeting point because I didnt' know what the gatorade situation would be.

It wasn't long before our group spread out and apart with some who run faster than 830s takingoff. Ms Karl stayed with us so it was myself and a guy who works for Gatorade running with three ladies. I didn't catch names but one of them was a firsttime marathoner.

One of the amazing pheonomials of MT is a runner will have a terrible run one weekend. Then, a couple weeks later, they'll have another LR that is even longer than the terrible run yet have a great experience. So it was today.

Usually around mile 14, my calfs start to cramp up. That didn't happen this time. Not only that, but I actually had some juice in the tank. Not enough to do more mileage but on the last two miles I thought about kicking it up a bit to get it over with, but then I decided itwould be rude to leave the group that got me through 18 miles. Instead we stayed together and I successfully completed the most mileage I've run since the marathon of 2008.

Two weeks ago it took me 2:43:49 to complete 18 miles (9:06 average pace).  We finished the 20 miler in 2:52:17 which breaks down to a 8:37 average pace.  And while that doesn't guarantee anything on Race Day, it does give me some hope that I will do well on 10-10-10 if I stick to an 830 pace instead of trying to BQ.

I would say that is the lesson I've learned this season, from both my training and the last half marathon I ran. This isn't going to be the year I BQ or set a new PR and I have to accept that.

18 Mile Fiasco

Two weeks ago I set out to do an 18 mile run with the option of adding two extra miles at the end if I was feeling good. At least that was the plan. Unfortunately an alarm clock malfunction caused me to wake up late and not meet my group at the start of the run.
Evil Forces 1, Icarus 0.

I woke up at 6am, threw on my running clothes, and left from SigOther's place. Since we start at 6am and there are a few announcements, I figured I could meet them at the sleding hill at Soldier Field where we always stop for water. Unfortunately, my co-group leader decided to take the group north for the first time all season to Northerly Island in order to spread out the 20 mile distance.
Evil Forces 2, Icarus 0.

Not know this, I got to the water stop at about the time my group should have been there so I figured either our Site Leader had a lot of announcements or I just missed them. About 30 seconds later I saw a group coming. It was the 9s lead by my friend SHB. Someone in her group mentinoed that my group had gone north so i asked if i could run with them. Maybe going at a slower pace would allow me to complete 20 today.
Evil Forces 2, Icarus 1.

We ran south and it was uneventful for a while.  The weather was good for a LR and it seemed like I would be able to get 20 miles in after all.  Then I realized that SHB leading the novice group through 18 miles and would add 2 miles at the end.  However, her group had already run two miles before I met up with them, so that meant when we got back to basecamp, I would have only run 16 miles.  I could run two more with SHB and her intermediates, but I would have to do another two miles on my own.

Alas, I did not run those two extra miles on my own. By the end of the 16 I was already dragging.  I managed to do 2 more miles to make it an even 18 (technically 18.5 since I did run the half mile from SigOther's place to Soldier Field Sledding Hill) but couldn't do much more.  When I threw up gatorade, I figured it was time to call it quits.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Marathon Training

This part of the season is a mixed blessing. The Good is that with only four weeks left until the marathon, the end is in sight. For me it's easier to map out my running/workout schedule and make plans with friends after work.  The weather has also cooled enough so that running midday isn't very different from running in the morning or evening. 

The Bad is that  there isn't a wide latitude of room for improvement. Sure if I slack off now, I'll pay for it in October. And the upcoming 20 mile LR will solidify my endurance and running ability. But I'm not gonna suddenly move up a pace.  My 18 miler demonstrated that while it humbled me.  In the back of my mind, I always keep the idea of attempting a BQ (Boston Qualifying), but it doesn't look like this is going to be the year.

The Ugly is that this is the part of the season known as the Post-Labor Day Blues. That's because around this time you start to feel the urge to rebel. Giving up all your Friday nights so you can get up at the buttcrack of dawn in order to run your LR starts to get old. It's a little harder to get out of a comfortable bed, especially if Autumn Sleeping Weather has arrived.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Group Leader Confidential

Every summer thousands of people train for the Chicago Marathon and many of them join running clubs like CARA. I've been a group leader since 2003 and have trained for both fall and spring marathons, so I've led a lot of different groups of runners over the years.

Two of the biggest scandals we group leaders encounter are pushing the pace and too many water stops.  The pace groups are split in 30 second increments, e.g. 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, etc. and the goal is to run the LR (Long Run) distance no more than 5 seconds off pace per mile.

As we go deeper into the season and the LRs increase, stopping for water becomes an issue. We're encouraged (or is it required) to stop approximately every two miles or so for a water break. CARA and Fleet Feet have set up gatorade stations along the lakefront as well. The issue is that stopping and waiting for everyone to get water takes time if your group is large and it's sometimes hard to start back up again, especially once the LRs get into double digits.

For years these two scandals were things I'd hear other group leaders talk about but really didn't experience first hand. I was leading an 8 minute per mile (8mm) group at the newly established downtown site and usually only had 2-3 runners at that pace. Between our egos and low numbers, it was pretty easy to get along. Water stops didn't take very long and pushing the pace was rarely an issue as we were already running as fast as we could.  Now that I'm a bit slower, I'm leading an 8:30 mm group and the griping has increased a bit.

One runner in particular was a problem child and let us know about it. She was complaining about pushing the pace, and running extra miles, and water being wet. Wanting to do my due diligence as a group leader, I dropped back and ran with her the following LR, listening to her gripes. Apparently we were guilty of pushing the pace for the first mile of our LRs over 30 seconds too fast. This winded her for the rest of the distance and "it wasn't enjoyable."

I seriously doubted we snuck in an 8 mm but even if we did, it shouldn't wind a person for the rest of the afternoon. I apologized that our pace might not always be on target but pointed out that our average pace was coming out to be around 8:35 each week, which meant we were actually running some of those miles slower. She didn't want to hear it. After talking with her for a while, I could tell we were not having a meeting of the minds. I spoke in English, she spoke in Total Disgust, a cacophonous dialect of F-You.

Problem Child opted to train at a different site for the rest of the season.  I hope that she found a group she can run with and a group leader who can hold pace better.  But something tells me she'd just find something else to complain about.