Thursday, February 8, 2018

2018 Goals

I'm a little late to the goal setting party in 2018. I've also written posts like this years ago and have come nowhere close to those goals. I'm putting that behind me now. I'm a 1:16 half marathoner and 2:44 marathoner, having run both of those times after having a blood clot in my lung. In 2017, I grabbed a PR at every distance from 1500m up to the marathon. I want to have a similar 2018. A lot of those PR races gave me hope that there was more time left out there. After a really solid fall mileage base training for NYC & CIM, I am refreshed and entering back into some serious training. I'm ready to roll and have some big races ahead of me: Lisbon Half Marathon, Boston Marathon. Those are the goal races but I'm also going to be hitting a track 5k & 10k over the next couple of months. Time to fly!

PRs: 16:36, 35:18, 1:16:40, 2:44:01
2018 Goals: sub-16:00 5k, 33:30 or better 10k, (sub) 1:15 half marathon, sub-2:40 marathon

Those are the big goals but I have mini goals built into those goals. I'll be happy with PRs. My 10k goal is 1:30 faster than I've ever gone at that distance. I would be plenty happy running 34:xx. I, however, haven't really taken a real crack at a 10k. I usually just run 1 or 2 of them a year. Last year I ran a track 10k where I went out way too fast and the crawled home in the second half of the race. My other 10k was a summer race where it was warm at the start and a week before a half marathon so I was not quite tapering. My 10k best actually comes from a fartlek workout that included some easy jogging rests. In 2018, I'm going to be more cognizant about tapering for races. I'm sick of training hard, training through races, and then running mediocre races. Races, not workouts, are where I need to see all of my hard work pay off. Workouts I've done over the last couple years have indicated the time goals I have laid out are within reach. I have shown the fitness to come close to those times but I have wasted a lot of race efforts in workouts. 2018 is about showing up on race day fresh and ready to go.

That's all I really have on this. I'm okay being open about my goals. I want to keep improving and make big fitness gains. 2017 was a great year but I want to be able to cite good race results instead of good workouts. That's going to be the theme in 2018.

Monday, December 4, 2017

California International Marathon 2017 - 2:44:01 (6:15/mile) - nearly a 3 minute PR, bouncing back after a sub par NYC just 4 weeks ago

I went all in on the NYC Marathon this fall. I knocked out a 1:16 half marathon and a 2:46 marathon (off of that half training in a weirdly run race) in the spring and felt like I was ready to knock off a huge chunk of time. Training went really well and I thought 2:38-2:42 would be feasible on a good course on a good day. In the build up to NYC I ran 6 weeks over 100 miles, 12 weeks averaging 90, several solid long runs and tempos. I was ready. The problem: NYC is a difficult course and the weather was not optimum for marathon-ing (60 degrees + 90% humidity). What I did not do: adjust for the course and run what I was capable of on the day. I knew I was fit at NYC and did not fly across the country to not go for a fast time. NYC marked 1 year of being blood clot free and to add to the emotions I raised some money for the National Blood Clot Alliance and wore a Team Stop the Clot singlet. I wanted to run a big PR and went out hot in NYC through halfway- 1:20:17- and this was after a very slow 6:50 opening mile, unable to move on the Verranzano Bridge. I basically ran 6:00-flat until halfway (2:37 marathon pace). I then really struggled home. The weather didn't help. I cramped up and was forced to walk/run in the last couple of miles. It was horrible. I wanted to run. I was trying to run. I ended up crawling home in 2:47 but wanted so much more. I was still on 2:42 pace at 20 miles but lost nearly a minute a mile from there to the finish. It wasn't fun to positive split by 7 minutes and to see 2:42, 43, 44, 45, go out the window. I went for it at NYC but paid the price. The price was maybe even running 2:42-43 had I just went out at that pace. I made a gut reaction choice to run the California International Marathon in the post race emotion of not running well. I wanted to shut it down after NYC but I also wanted to see a marathon PR that represented the work I've put in over the last year. I got a blood clot and didn't know if I would be able to run again. I then set PRs across every distance from 1500m to the Marathon in the spring/summer. I had to defer CIM last year because of the blood clot so I already had an entry, if I did not want to defer it again. I knew NYC took a lot out of me but I wanted to give CIM a shot, with more realistic expectations knowing it would be a difficult task to bounce back after just four short weeks.

I started my marathon recovery with some off days and then some easy running later in the first week after NYC. The first Sunday after I did a hilly, trail, long run with the group I train with that went 1 hr. 45 minutes. This is probably a bit much 1 week after 26.2 but I wanted to keep some distance on the legs in between NYC and CIM. The following Tuesday I hit an amazing workout just 9 days after NYC- 1 mile 5:26, 4x400m 79.3 avg., 1 mile 5:23, 4x400m 79.9 avg., 1 mile 5:16. It was all done on a bark loop in town which is a slower running surface than, say, a track or the road. This got me excited but little did I know I was just digging myself into a deeper hole not letting my body recover and trying to get ready for another marathon. One of my running buddies that did this workout with me said to me after I passed him in the last mile of the workout, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." He was right. I did another small workout on Thursday and then 'raced' a 10k cross country race on Saturday. The race went poorly, for obvious reasons that I can see now. If I wanted to run well at that 10k I would not have run it two weeks after a marathon and not after a high quality workout a few days before it. This is something I'm going to keep an eye on for future racing- my goal races (versus what I'm training through) & how close I'm timing workouts before those key races. I ran 17 miles the day after the 10k, probably a bit too fast and then my feet started bugging me. I ended up with plantar on both feet and crammed in some PT appointments. I also left on vacation to Hawaii 1.5 weeks before CIM. This was a blessing in disguise for running. I relaxed, drank, hiked a ton, tried to surf. In the warm and humid Hawaii weather I was forced to run slow and cut my mileage, mimicking a taper from a full build up. I realized I had dug myself into a hole after that 10k so did not workout in the final two weeks before CIM except for a light taper workout on the Tuesday before the race. The foot pain was still there up until race day. I was contemplating not running but I kept working on my feet furiously and put KT tape on them on Saturday and I felt pretty okay running easy the day before the race. I had no idea what to expect at CIM. I knew I was fit but was still recovering from NYC. I decided to go out with the women's 2:45 pace group which was set up to help them go for Olympic Trials Qualifying Standard. Any woman that runs a marathon under 2:45:00 earns a spot at the US Olympic Marathon Trials for 2020. The top-3 from that race then go on to represent the US in the Olympic Marathon. It is no joke to qualify for the Trials.

Race Day: Logistically very easy compared to NYC. I caught a bus from downtown Sacramento and in 30 minutes I was standing by the start line. At NYC I took a bus that took more than 2 hours before I had to go through further security. This was much easier. There was plenty of space to warm up + do drills which I was unable to do in New York. Gear check was seamless. Corrals in NYC closed 1 hour before the race started. Here, I was able to give my bag to a volunteer 30 minutes before the race went off. CIM doesn't have corrals, which is maybe my only complaint. I was a little farther off the start line than I would have liked but moved up a lot. It took me about 10 seconds to cross over the start line. I could see a sign for the 2:45 Trials group right on the start line. I clicked off a conservative 6:15 on the first downhill mile of the race. Over the next two miles I worked my way up to that group, which I could see a little further ahead. I split 6:13 on a uphill mile 2 and then used a downhill mile 3 to catch up to the pack by hitting a 6:03. These two miles were probably a little quick but it would be ridiculous to run 10-15 seconds behind the group the whole race. I had such a unique racing experience. There was a pacer keeping the group right at 6:15/mile and there was a pack of maybe 20-25 women mixed with a similar number of guys. Everyone was super encouraging to one another. The pacer kept things light by telling stories and joking with all of us. He was also great in calling out the aid stations and where hills/turns were on the course. It was inspiring running with these women shooting for an Olympic Trials Qualifier. There was a communal attitude and buzz in the air in this pack. The energy was great. Everyone was motivated on the same time goal. Some of the women who had elite fluid bottles on the course offered to share with me which helped me make sure I was taking in liquids. That was awesome.
(you can just see me coming into the picture on the right side)

The race: After the first 3 miles I settled into the pace group and we ticked off 6:15s. Every mile for me from 3 to 20 was between 6:10 and 6:20. We were metronomes. Virtually every mile was 6:14, 6:15, or 6:16. I haven't run such an even marathon or maybe even race in forever. We went through halfway in 1:22:00 (I was 1:21:49) and were right on pace for 2:44:00 which would be a minute under the standard. I think it was good to have a little bit of a cushion. We maintained that pace through 20 miles and things began to spread out a bit at that point. Some fell back, some maintained (hoping not to lose that minute over the final 10k), and some sped up. After a 6:12 mile 21 for me, I was now running much more spread out and a little ahead of the group. I had definitely never felt this good running fast after 20 miles in a marathon before. I was almost a minute slower at CIM at 20 miles versus NYC 4 weeks ago but I was much more in control. My left hamstring had been cramping as early as mile 10 but it had held up to this point. Both calves were starting to cramp but I never got the sharp/stabbing pain that came on in New York that forced me to stop and start a couple times in the last 2 miles. Mile 22 was a 6:14 and 23 was a 6:17. Where was the wall? Just 5k to go? I can do that. I run 5k all the time. Much more than 5k. This is what I was telling myself. I was tiring. It was becoming harder to maintain pace but I know I could get to the line in one piece. 24 and 25 were a mental test. My calves were threatening to spasm with each step. I forced a gel down at 23.5. I split 6:25 and 6:28 here. Still under 6:30 and holding on. One more mile. You got this. The pep talk helped. The crowd started to pick up in the last mile. I could run one more mile. I shortened my stride a ton trying to balance out the leg cramps and finding where it felt better for my foot to land. I know at mile 25 I needed to average 6:0x to try to get under 2:44. I knew I would be well under 2:45 barring a total breakdown but I wanted to give 2:43 a chance. I dug deep and ran 6:15 for mile 26. 6:15 for the last mile of the race! 6:15 in the last mile of a marathon which is also what I ran mile 1 in! Whoa. I tried to kick in the last .22. As I came around a left turn to face the Capitol, I saw the finish line I saw 2:43:50 on the clock. I must have been just over 100m or so away. I knew I started 10 seconds after the gun so would get some time back. I officially ended up at 2:44:01- two seconds faster and I could be a 2:43 marathoner. Next time!

Reflection: This is the best paced marathon I've run in a while. It was nice to sit in a pack, zone out, and just click off the miles. To be honest, I never felt great in this one. My legs cramped early and often but they never completely let me down. I never felt that fresh feeling you can have early on in a marathon after executing a proper taper. This is definitely due to running the back to back marathons. I credit everything to running with the 2:45 group. The energy was there from the opening miles and did not go anywhere. It was smart coming in with tapered expectations. I set a goal of breaking 2:45:00 and I ran 2:44:00. Mission accomplished. My half splits- 1:21:49/1:22:12. 20 miles in 2:04:58- 2:43:49 projected finish. My last 10k- 39:03- only lost 12 seconds. I'm very happy with this race! A year after I had to defer it because I got a blood clot I executed my race plan to a t. I ran steady and within myself. It is nice to run a marathon so consistently. I haven't come this close to a negative split since one of my first marathons where I ran 3:24 in 2011...6 years later and now I'm 40 minutes faster. It's interesting to look back on that as well. In high school, I couldn't run 5k in under 20:00. I broke 20:00 for the first time in the summer 2011 (that 3:24 came that fall) when I was a year out of high school. Now I average 19:26 per 5k for almost 9 of them in a row. That's pretty cool.
You define your own path.

Regret: Not running this race in top shape. I wish I had my day of NYC fitness at CIM or any fast marathon course for that matter. I would have felt much better on a perfect weather day and could have taken a shot at something closer to 2:40. My opening half at NYC had to have been worth something like 1:19 here. Mix in the cooler weather, the lower humidity, and I might have been able to sustain that and run something really fast. I'm super happy with this race but I'm nowhere near finished with the marathon. I'm running Boston in the spring and really want to put my newly minted 2:44:01 on blast.

Let's be smart: After two marathons in the last month I'm going to take all of December to recover and slowly build back some mileage. In January, I can launch into full training mode but I want to enter into my spring cycle feeling fresh. CIM was exactly what I needed to keep me hungry for the spring. #Boston2018...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

NYC Marathon 2017 2:47:39

The NYC Marathon rolled up almost exactly one year after I had a blood clot in my lung. I chose NYC because of an opportunity that presented itself to run with the National Blood Clot Alliance ( This organization does a ton of great work and has helped me out a great deal over the past year. The National Blood Clot Alliance had a charity team already setup for NYC. I had an auto qualifier for the race so did not need to do any fundraising but still set a goal of trying to chip in $1,000, which I barely met. The other team members were rockstars, raising a lot more than that. I thought that it would be fitting to tackle NYC a year after having a blood clot with a team full of runners that I have this shared experience with of either having a clot or knowing someone who did. I know that NYC is a tough marathon but I really wanted to go here to run my fall marathon. Training went really well and I was confident that I was due for a breakthrough. A breakthrough to me would mean a marathon run in the low-2:40s or seeing 2:39 on the finish clock. I ran 2:47 four years ago in Chicago and ran 2:46 at the Newport (OR) Marathon this past spring. Since Chicago, I have run massive personal bests all the way from the mile to the half marathon distances. I have not attempted a ton of marathons since 2013 due to some health issues and ran a couple of sub par marathons later to find out that I had a blood clot. I came back from the clot to run 2:46 but I know that there is more in the tank. I was stronger than ever coming into NYC and wanted to give myself a chance to run a fast time. I logged 100 mile weeks, doubled a few times a week, and put in a number of marathon specific workouts. I was ready.

Getting to the Race (possibly tougher than the marathon itself):

I could not sleep at all the night before the marathon, rolling over at 2am, 3 am, and by 4am, I just got myself out of bed. Once up, I took a cab at 5:30am from my hotel to the midtown public library to catch a bus to the start line out in Staten Island. Unbeknownst to me, NYC is a logistical nightmare. The line to get on the bus wrapped around several blocks and took about 45 minutes to navigate. All before 6:00 in the morning. I finally got on a bus and it then took 2 hours to get from midtown to the start area. The buses had to stall several times because they only let runners off the buses in small batches because there was another security line runners had to walk through after getting off the bus before we could enter the start villages. The security lines were similar to something like an airport and took another half hour. It was now 8:30am and I had a 9:50am start. I got to my corral (blue, wave 1, corral a) at 8:45am or so and then they shut the corrals promptly at 9:00am. Nobody in or out of the corrals 50 minutes before the race. We had maybe a half dozen restrooms in the corral to share among ourselves. At 9:15am I was in one of these said restrooms when our corral was released to the next staging area. When I got out of the restroom, they had already let corral b runners through so I was essentially bumped to the next corral down. From this staging area we were released twice more to get closer to the start line. A few minutes before the race, some NYPD and NYFD charity runners were placed in between us and the elite men. I did not understand this move at all. These are amazing groups and I am sure amazing people but why not have them lead out wave 3 or wave 4 so wave 1 corral a runners do not have to weave around them so early on? I was not able to get in any warmup for the race, was back from wave 1 corral a into corral b, and had a wall of charity runners directly in front of me at the start. Logistically, NYC was a nightmare.

The race:

(pack running in Brooklyn- I'm in the middle)
As one can imagine, I could not move when I crossed the start line. Mile 1 is on the Verranzano Bridge and is uphill but it was very difficult to get going. I was only running 8:00 pace (maybe a little under) through the first half mile. I hit mile 1 in 6:50, moving around charity runners and corral b folks, and things finally were spread out enough for me to run. My goal was to run 6:06/mile. I know the marathon is a difficult distance and starting slow is generally a good strategy but I wanted to be around 6:30 on the first, uphill, mile. It would have been good to run evenly instead of panicking and feeling like I needed to move past a ton of people seconds into the race. Mile 2 is completely downhill and I made up for some time on the bridge clocking a 5:40 that felt about right effort wise. Mile 3 flattened out and now I would be in Brooklyn until mile 15. I clicked off miles from 3 to 14 all in the 6:00-6:10 (or faster) range depending on the way the course rolled. There is a decent climb at mile 8 and then a bridge to climb right at the 13 mile mark. My legs were not feeling great from the start (lack of warmup? humidity?) but I didn't fly across the country to run a conservative race. I was passing a lot of folks in the first half and was probably sitting in the top-150 or 200 by the halfway point. I split 1:20:17 through 13.1 miles, on pace for a 2:40 finish time. I wanted to be feeling better at this point but was still hopeful that I could clock a 2:42 or 2:43 result even if I faded just a bit. 1:20:17 with a 6:50 mile 1 means I was averaging 6:00-flat aside from that mile which is 2:37 marathon pace. 2:37 marathon pace would be a reach time if I were time trialing on a faster course on a better weather day (NYC was 60 degrees with 90% humidity at the start, and is a course not known for fast times). That 1:20 through halfway would be like going through halfway in 1:19 or even 1:18 on another course. And I'm guessing I would have been feeling better on another course too! From 14-16 I went up and over the Queensboro Bridge. I made a conscious choice to slow down on the uphill and to recharge for the rest of the race. I let some people pass me on the uphill but then caught them on the downhill. The bridge was eerily silent. There were no aid stations and no people other than those running. I was left alone with my thoughts and the sound of my footsteps. I was excited for what was to come on the other side.

(flying in the polka dots)
Coming off a nice downhill, runners hit mile 16 and plunge into Manhattan. Coming off of the downhill on the Queensboro Bridge, there are hay bales so that runners don't go crashing off the road. There is a four mile stretch along first avenue at mile 16 where you get a little downhill love and some flatter miles. The crowds are YUGE at this point in the race. The volume is comparable to the Wellesley Scream Tunnel at Boston. I was hurting but could not hear myself think so I just carried forward. I clipped off a couple of decent miles on this stretch. I passed a couple runners and a couple passed me who had done a better job conserving energy in the opening half. All in all, I was still holding my own. At mile 19 or 20 you climb yet another bridge into the Bronx. You do a little out and back section, climb another bridge back into Manhattan, and then are on your way to the finish line in Central Park. I reached 20 miles in 2:04-flat which is 2:42:30 marathon pace. For NYC, this would be a great result for me. With 10k to go, I was hurting but still moving forward. I figured if I could tough out some miles in the 6:30 range that I could still run an okay time given the day and the course. This would still get me to the finish in the 2:43-2:44 range, which would have been a good effort. At 35k (21.7 miles) I was still on 2:43:37 pace. I then lost 4 minutes over the last 4.5 miles. Mile 23 to 24 is all uphill. The crowds were getting big again but it was miserable. I clicked off a 7:00 mile, my first of the day. My legs cramped awful over the last 3 miles. At 24.5 or so I actually pulled up because I basically got a Charlie horse in my right leg that I simply couldn't run through. I was in so much pain that I was forced to stop. It was a stabbing pain and by leg locked up entirely. I tried to fight it and keep going but this would happen two or three times more on my way to the finish. I watched 2:44 (23- 2:44:25), 2:45 (24- 2:45:28), and my 2:46:43 (still on 2:46:30 pace at 25) PR frustratingly slip by as I couldn't run in the last stretch. I walked. I shuffled. I ran. My heart was full but my legs had nothing. I wanted more than anything to get to the finish line in at least 2:45 when I was at mile 24. I wanted to pick up the pace but the pain would not relent every time that I tried. I saw my family with about a half mile to go. I threw my arms up, smiled, and waved back at them. I knew that I wasn't going to get my PR at this point and I also knew that they didn't care. They were proud of me and stood out there for hours just to see me for a few seconds. I couldn't do any of this without their support. The last quarter mile is a cruel uphill grind to the finish. I was running 7:00 pace with no semblance of a kick. I waved to the crowds which were deafening in that last stretch. I crossed the finish line in 2:47:39 (6:24 pace)- less than a minute off my PR. It is my third fastest marathon. I ran 2:47:18 (6:23 pace) in Chicago in 2013 and ran 2:46:43 (6:21 pace) in this past June. After crossing (falling over) the finish line I had to walk about 20 blocks to get out of the park. I struggled with my thoughts and my emotions, trying to figure out what had happened.
(What's up fam?)

What had caused the cramping? No proper warmup? The humidity? Time change? I knew I was fit and had not come to New York to run slow but then I ran slower than what I think is a soft marathon PR. If I can go through halfway here in 1:20-low, that's 1:19 or better on a flat/faster course. If the second half were flat, sure I could've faded but still probably would have been looking at something in the low-2:40s. I should've opened in 1:21-mid or even 1:22-mid on this particular course, and knowing that the weather was less than ideal. I spent six weeks over 100 miles and put in a ton of big workouts, practicing running at 6:00 pace. I chose a difficult course but still went after it like I was time trialing Chicago on a perfect weather day. I could have run a few minutes faster but I gave myself a chance at 2:40. You live and you learn.

In running, we are often defined by our times. It is frustrating that I am still "just" a 2:46 marathoner. When you plug in my NYC time it comes out to a 2:45 or 2:46-flat on other courses. And this is with terrible pacing. I could have paced better and run 2:43. Then the calculators would have told me I can go 2:41 somewhere else. NYC is probably my best effort in a marathon but it still leaves me a little disappointed. I wanted a PR on the difficult course and think that my PR is a bit soft considering my 1:16 half marathon and all the work I put into this cycle. I got passed by a ton of folks in the last few miles to finish in 327th out of 50k+. Yes, this is good but I should have been in the 150-200 range. I want so much more out of running and you don't get a lot of good chances to race the marathon. It could be 90 degrees when I run Boston in April. It could be 75 degrees at whatever marathon I pick next fall. I'm going to recover from this race but am going to see if I can bounce back on December 3rd at the California International Marathon. I was signed up last fall but couldn't run after having the blood clot. I'm going to run it, knowing that New York took a toll on my body, but also knowing that the fitness is there to run well. If CIM was my only marathon this fall, I might consider opening up in 1:18 or 1:19 and really giving sub-2:40 a go. I'm thinking of targeting a 1:21 opening half which should feel a lot easier than the 1:20:17 I ran in NY. I think I could run low-2:40s or better given CIM's favorable course. It's a net downhill course but loses just 300 feet over the course of the race so it is not as downhill as some of the other Boston Qualifiers out there where you might lose thousands of feet- plus you can still qualify for the Olympic Trials at CIM. USATF sets tight standards for what courses runners can get an Olympic Trials standard on so if I run well I wouldn't have any problem considering this to be a legitimate run. I still think that 2:39 is possible at CIM but I want to make sure I run a PR and something that will give me some confidence heading towards Boston. It will be easier mentally to chase 2:39 at Boston if my PR is 2:42 versus the 2:46 that it is now. So there it is. As I try to make sense out of what happened in NYC, I am just going to circle CIM a month out from now and shoot for a PR. My training went great for NYC and I ran a solid time on an okay day for running. I should be a little happier about this performance but I also do not have to let one race define me or tell me what I am capable of. I'm looking forward to the next one and am still optimistic that I can breakthrough at the marathon.