Friday, April 20, 2018

Sub-2:45 at the 2018 Boston Marathon in some less than stellar conditions...

I started off 2018 by doing 10k specific training in January & February. My thought was that I would still be running good mileage (70-80 range) and then be able to transition into some marathon specific work in March & April. I was starting to feel really good in workouts and was looking to hit a track 10k the first weekend in March. I thought a time under 34:00 was in the cards after nailing some good workouts (a selected few):

1/9- 5 x mile (5:30 avg.) on bark loop w./ 2:00 jogging rests- 5:35, 5:31, 5:31, 5:27, 5:26, then 400-300-2x200 on bark loop w./ 200m jogs in 75, 56, 35, 34
1/31- roads- 2 miles 11:28 (5:50, 5:38)- 4x800m- 2:42, 2:43, 2:42, 2:37 (2:41 avg.)- 2 miles 11:21 (5:46, 5:35)-2x400m 72, 71
2/3- track- 3 x 1600m w./ 400m jog in 5:17, 5:15, 5:14, 600m in 1:52, 400m in 72.0, 300m in 50.1, 2x200m in 33.2, 30.9
2/13- bark loop- 2 miles 11:07 (5:34, 5:33), 4x4 (78), 1 mile 5:21-flat, 4x4 (75- last two were 74s), 3x2 (35)
2/16- track- 3200m 10:51 (5:25, 5:26), 500m+ jog, 8 x 300m w./ SLOW 100m shuffle 56 >>> 52, slow 400 jog, 2:31 800m

Based on these workouts, I felt confident to try to run 5:25-5:30 pace on the track. Even if I fell off, I know that I would run around 34:30, if not better. On 2/24, the week before the 10k, I planned to do an 8 mile tempo at marathon pace to balance out the shorter workouts and make sure that I could transition after the 10k. I surprised myself in rainy/windy conditions with 8 miles @ 5:51 pace with the last 2 miles in 5:42 & 5:44. It felt easy. I felt ready to go in the 10k and then was excited to start to build the tempos to 10, 12, 14 miles, to get ready for Boston. The next day, however, I got the flu. It knocked me out for five days. My body and legs felt like garbage. I was finally able to run the day before the 10k and I felt awful running just a few miles. I scrapped the 10k and it took me a couple of weeks to feel normal again. My training hit such a high point at the end of February but I had nothing to show for it and then it took me until mid-March to feel like I could actually put together a good marathon at Boston. I kept with training, got through some rough patches, and hit some workouts that told me I might be in decent shape. Here's what the marathon workouts looked like (selected few):

(lowest bib I've had at Boston)
3/23- 20 total: 4.35 up, 13.1 in 1:19:20 (6:03/mile), 2.55 c/d
3/27- 14 total w./ 4 x 2 miles (8.6 miles 52:50- 6:08/mile on bark w./ .2 mile jogs): 11:50 (5:55, 5:55) (1:45 jog), 11:45 (5:54, 5:51) (1:57 jog), 11:43 (5:52, 5:51) (1:59 jog), 11:43 (5:57, 5:46)
3/30- 8 x (300m uphill @ half marathon effort, :30 jog, 300m downhill @ marathon effort, 1:00 jog)
3/31- 22.3 miles 2:40:15- easy pace until the last 2 miles- 6:00, 5:59
4/6- 12+ total miles with a 6 mile tempo in 35:08 (5:51 pace): 1st 3 17:48 (5:51, 5:57, 6:00), 2nd 3 17:17 (5:51, 5:52, 5:34)

Because of the time off, I was never really able to get my mileage up to where it had been for NYC last fall. Before NYC, I hit a stretch where I averaged 100+ miles/week for 6 weeks. In this build-up, I averaged 70 miles/week for 15 weeks which is consistent and 8 of those weeks at 80+. I peaked at 92 but I had some really low mileage weeks when I got sick. I feel like I left a lot on the table by blowing up at New York and then racing another marathon just a few weeks later. I ran 2:44:01 at CIM but I definitely thought there was more to gain. Before NYC, I hit a 13.1 mile tempo in 1:19:12. I knew that I was in similar shape after hitting a similar tempo before Boston. The fitness came around late in the build-up. I was ready to take a crack at sub-2:40 until I saw the forecast...

40 degrees. 25 real feel. 25+ mpw headwind. downpour.

Original Goal: 2:38-2:39, go out through halfway in 1:20:00.
Forecast Adjusted Goal: 2:50, run for place- try to be in the top-500.

I tried to be very reasonable before the race. I read from some running experts that times in the elite field might be 7-8 minutes slower than usual. I'm fast, but not as fast as the elite runners so I figured the wind might affect me just a little more. I thought running 2:50 would be a huge success and, honestly, I just wanted to be able to get across the finish line in one piece. 

I am very fortunate to have family on the east coast and my dad dropped me right off in Hopkinton at 8am on Marathon Monday. It was already downpouring and the wind was howling. I did not want to be outside more than I had to before the race started. I had to take a bus from the drop-off point to the athlete village. I got to the athlete village and had to wait for 45 minutes until they let runners in wave 1 head towards the start corrals. I was in wave 1, corral 1, and could not get near the corral until 9:15. The 45 minute wait was the worst part of my day. It was cold, wet, and the fields where runners were to wait were muddy. At 9:15 I started the 3/4 of a mile walk to the start line. I figured I would be able to warmup on Ash Street like I had 5 years back. There was another stop point on the walk and at 9:30 we were finally released. I got to Ash Street and a cop was there and said if I left then I would not be allowed to reenter and get to my corral. I needed a restroom and to warmup. I saw other runners leaving the area. That didn't sound right to me so I followed suit. At 9:45 I did a quick 5:00 jog with some strides and then thankfully was able to reenter the corral. I was in the first corral but towards the back of it since I entered so close to the start. I knew this would be fine because the start is so narrow in Hopkinton I would not be able to run a fast first mile if I had wanted to. Before I knew it, the gun went off and the 122nd Boston Marathon began.

I tried to run super easy in the first, downhill, mile. I wanted to run 6:30. Mile 1 was 6:18. Okay, this weather is awful, you need to back off. Mile 2: 6:12. Mile 3: 6:10. Mile 4: 6:05. 6:05?!?! That's 2:39 marathon pace. The first four miles of Boston are very downhill. I was running by effort and those miles did not feel hard. As the course flattened out, I started to click off 6:15s. I had told family and friends my goal was to run 6:30. What was I doing? The wind came at me harder and by mile 8 the rain was coming down harder than it had all morning. I was soaked and still had 18 miles left. I began to doubt but just kept plugging away. By 10, my hamstrings started to feel tight. That can't be a good sign. This race is going to be a very long one if I'm cramping before halfway. I just tried to zone out. Just get to Wellesley and that scream tunnel. The scream tunnel was amazing. It carried me through halfway, which I hit in 1:21:46. I was on pace for a PR in the worst running conditions I had ever faced. The only problem was that my hamstrings were feeling more and more tight. I tried to change my stride. I kept hydrating and forcing down gels. I ran mile 16 in 6:17. The only problem with that is that mile 16 loses more than 100 feet. 6:15 effort should get you a sub-6:00 mile there. I had essentially dropped a mile in the 6:30s with the hills approaching. I climbed the 128 overpass which is the first of the four Newton Hills. You are totally exposed to the elements there and I was certainly feeling the wind and rain more than I had up to this point. Right before mile 17, I came up on my dad, aunt, and uncle cheering for me. Pre-race I had asked my dad to hold a bottle of Hot Shot and a gel for me to grab. I went to grab those items but he tossed them to me at the last second. Hot route. I thankfully made the catch in stride and kept going. Hot shot is an anti-cramp drink. I took one before the start and then downed that one before 17. Whether it actually worked or if it was just a placebo effect, I could care less. I told myself your hamstring is now fine. Let's attack the hills. And I did just that. Miles 16-21 make up the Newton Hills. It's a series of four climbs. Alone, they're not so bad. Together, from mile 16-21 in a marathon, they're your worst nightmare. In my case, they were a blast. For whatever reason, I started to feel good again. I've been told you should be 20-30 seconds/mile slow those five miles. I ran them at 6:25 pace and knew the effort was right for 6:10-6:15 pace. I know the course really well. I knew that mile 18-19 is actually downhill and I split a 6:10 there. Heartbreak Hill comes in mile 21. I split 6:29 there which is solid and then 22 is called the Graveyard Mile. You have a similar net loss that mile to what you gained going up Heartbreak. While I wasn't able to take advantage at mile 16, I was a new runner at 22. I split 6:00-flat. At mile 22 of a marathon. The race was on.
"I finished Boston."

I had lost some time in the hills but ran the right effort. I had energy left and was running 6:05-6:15 through the next 3 miles. I was having a ton of fun. I saw more people I know on the course. The crowds were getting bigger. And I was catching people. It was almost like people were standing still. I've been there before. I don't mean that as an insult. At NYC, I cramped in Central Park and stopped 3 times. I was out halfway in 1:20 and came back in 1:27. But during the Boston Marathon, the wall never came. From mile 25.2 to the finish, I ran 5:43 pace!!! My half marathon best is 5:50 pace for 13.1. I was hammering the last mile and was in sprint mode down Boylston. It was incredible. I was caught up in the moment. I pumped up the crowd on that last stretch. I kept passing people, and let out some sort of yell at the finish line when I crossed it. Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. It was something out of a dream.

I finished in 2:44:51 and 291st overall of 30k. Top-300 at Boston and just 50 seconds off of my personal best in the worst conditions the day had to offer. I'm pumped and still on cloud 9 as I type this. A whole lot of people are talking about what their times convert to. I'm hearing anywhere from a couple minutes to people claiming up to 10. The men's winner was eight minutes off his best, while the woman's winner was seventeen. All I know is that I'm in better shape than 2:44:51 and than my 2:44:01 PR. I'm going to take some time to seriously recover. I'm beat up after leaving everything out there in Boston. It's now 6 months until the 2018 Chicago Marathon. My goal is simple: run as far under 2:40 as you can. I want to be a 2:30s marathoner. I think this race showed I was capable of 2:38-2:39. With 6 more months of training, I want to see that on a finish line clock, or something even lower...

(I do it for the bling)
Final thing: Thank you to everyone. The volunteers. The spectators. My family. My friends. Everyone helped me be the strongest version of myself on Marathon Monday. This is the best race on the planet. It's a challenging course with a ton of history on it. Crowds line the whole thing. There's nothing like it. And I was able to put together a race I'll remember forever. This is the race I'm most proud of out of everything that I've run. I'm looking forward to what comes next. This race is definitely going to help launch me to bigger and better results.

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...