Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gasparilla Distance Classic Pace Report - Boston Marathon 2013 training update

Last weekend Lauren and I made our annual "winter getaway" trek to Tampa in an attempt to conquer the winter blues.  This was our fourth trip and fourth time pacing the Gasparilla Distance Classic which consists of a 15K and 5K on Saturday and a Half Marathon and 8K on Sunday.  It's a large event with nearly 40,000 combined entries for the entire weekend.  The race is very well run, add a large expo, free beer and a riverfront hotel with a pool and you've got a running couple's dream getaway!

Our pace team was pacing what is called the Michelob Ultra Challenge, all four events over the two days.  Yup, that's nearly 50K!  It typically spells a great long slow distance weekend of training, although heat, humidity and the concrete surface can put a hurting on those legs. We've got a great group, a mix of "locals" and "snowbirds" who seem to come back year after year which makes it nice to catch up and reconnect.

Here's our crew, bright and early at 5:30am prior to the start of the Half Marathon
It was HOT, even the locals were complaining about it.  Both morning's we woke up to temps in the high 70's and humidity >80%.  Our bodies definitely weren't acclimated, but I must say that heat and the sweat felt good!  This year's pacing duties were simple, 7:30 goal pace for the 15K, 5K and 8K and 1:40 (7:38) pace for the half.

I was a little rusty starting out the 15k, I hadn't paced in a while.  By the 3rd mile we were on track and both Saturday races were consistent, 7:26 average for the 15K and 7:25 for the 5K.  I didn't have much of a "group" or "team" in either event, more of what I would call a "following".  That's fine with me, I'm there to provide a service and hopefully help the runners meet or exceed their goals.

The Half is always tough to pace.  It's dark for the first 5 miles (starts at 6am), there's a sharp turn about 1/3 of a mile into the race and there are plenty of turns in a dimly lit residential area.  I started off with three miles in the 7:44 range, hit the 5th mile about 18 seconds behind goal.  We gradually caught up, averaging 7:33-7:35 for the remainder of the race.  I had one of the best groups I've ever had for a half, a great mix of people who kept the conversation going and the miles flying by.  As we hit mile 11, I "released" those in the group that were looking good and finished off the last two miles with a couple of runners who would eventually sprint ahead in the final stretch.  Crossed the line and congratulated many of my group members who either ran PR's or ran much better than they expected.  The true reward of being a pacer doesn't come until those moments after you cross that finish line, hearing all of the stories and seeing the excited runners who experienced more than just a race. 
Crossing the line....right on time!
The true reward of being a pacer doesn't come until those moments after you cross that finish line, hearing all of the stories and seeing the excited runners who experienced more than just a race. 
Abe run just about every step of the weekend with me, and finished a rewarding 22nd in the Michelob Ultra Challenge! 

A big smile post race!
So how's my Boston training going?  Well, last week was a "down week" where I dropped my mileage to about 50 and didn't do much at all by way of workouts.  It was great to have 30 miles of pacing at LSD to round out the week.  I also focused on trying to be consistent with my core work which seems to be helping my cranky back.

I hit the ground running this week with a great 14 mile run on Tuesday AM where I hit 12 miles at 6:20 pace.  I'll do a threshold workout on Thursday, likely a 3 x 3 mile workout.  I'll do a 20 mile long run over the weekend with 5-8 miles at marathon pace.  I continue to ride on the bike trainer on my "off" running days and hopefully I'll get a longer outdoor ride in this weekend if weather permits.

I'll gradually increase my mileage in March, hitting the mid 60's per week while getting 3-6 hours of cycling in as well.  My next race is the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on March 16.

In other news, I had hoped to make it to Rev3 Knoxville the first weekend in May to open my triathlon season, but now Lauren will be out of town so that is not going to work.  Knoxville is going to be a great race this year, and a great opportunity to get a look at the course before next year's Rev3 Age Group Championships on the same course.  If Knoxville interests you at all, here's a link to last year's female winner's (Kelly Williamson) detailed review of the race:

There are a few athletes that I know of from the Northeast who are driving down, let me know if you're interested and I can get you in contact with them.

Happy Training!

Monday, February 18, 2013

8 weeks until Boston Marathon 2013 - Training update & Frostbite 5 miler race report

 Today marks the 8 week mark, eight short weeks until we toe the line in Hopkinton!  This past Saturday was my first race of the year, actually first race since LAST OCTOBER!  Wow how time flies.  

I joined a sold out field of 1600 runners for the Frostbite 5 miler.  This is a well run race, challenging course and always a stacked field of runners.  It was also my first "test" of the 2013 Boston Marathon training block.  The temps were in the low 30's with 8-10 mile / hour winds.  Last year I ran a phenomenal race here, and looking back peaked WAY too early.  This year I toed the line without running a single speed session, as I talked about in the last post, I'm try to focus on threshold and marathon pace running since that is what you need to run 26.2 miles.
And they're off!
We took off, breezing through a mostly downhill first mile.  I hit it at about 5:10 which is just a few seconds off of last year.  My legs were feeling good, I was sitting in about 12th overall.  As we hit the rolling hills and reached the 3rd mile marker, the legs didn't feel too bad but from a cardio / heart rate standpoint I was pegged.  Two guys pulled up next to me and I tried to hang on, but I was definitely feeling the lack of top end speed I need to hold 5:30 miles.  

Most of the last 1.5 miles was slightly uphill which is where I typically run well, and I did put some ground on the couple of guys in front of me, but to no avail.  We hit the slight decline with about a 1/4 mile to go and my old legs had NO turnover!  
Looking for that finish line....
 I hit the line at 27:40, slightly disappointed.  I finished 14th overall, 1st in the 35-39 age group.  The only comfort I took in that was that I was the first "old guy", the next youngest guy in front of me was 5 years younger!  I was about 30 seconds slower than last year, but reflecting back I'm in a totally different point than I was last year this time.  I'm on my way up to the peak, taking the smarter, safer route this year.  Hopefully a better place when Patriots Day rolls around. 

 And speaking of Patriots Day.  T minus eight weeks and counting.  It always amazes me how fast the last 8 weeks goes.  I had a great week of training last week, a 4 x 2 mile threshold interval workout which I was able to hit sub 5:50 average for each effort, the race on Saturday, then one of those "you'll remember this workout during your marathon" runs yesterday.  A COLD, WINDY run which I started out running the first 8 miles at about 8 minute pace with Lauren, then dropped the pace to 6:55-7:05 for the last 12 miles.  I know 6:55-7:05 isn't marathon pace, but in the wind and on the sloppy trail it sure was marathon pace effort, especially the day after racing!

I'm encouraged that I'm on the right track.  My weekly mileage has been in the mid 50's for the last few weeks, and that's on just 4 runs a week which is allowing me to get good recovery both active (easy spins on the trainer) and passive (some extra sleep).  I plugged my race time into my favorite calculator and it's "confirming" that I'm on track, predicting a 2:42 marathon (my goal is to break 2:50 and hopefully PR, sub 2:47). 

I'll likely only get one quality workout in this week, base it off of marathon pace.  This coming weekend I'll be pacing the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, for a grand total of more than 30 miles over two days of racing!

Friday, February 8, 2013

< 10 Weeks 'til Boston - marathon training update

As the calendars turn to February, Patriots Day in Boston is a growing silhouette on the horizon.  The days are getting ever so slightly longer and hopefully you're starting to feel some fitness gains.  Personally, despite being sick early in the month, I consider January as a "win" for me.  A solid building block.

This year's Boston will mark my 9th time toeing the starting line in Hopkinton.  Each year has seen it's own sets of circumstances, but my journey to the line followed a consistent approach each time.  Every year I enter the "official" start of training on January 1, and typically that training takes off from the gun with hard workouts.  My base is typically solid enough that I can be running at least two 20+ mile training runs in January, and hitting speed and tempo workouts each week, averaging at least 250 miles per month. 

Looking back, that has produced some good results (my marathon PR was at Boston in 2010), but the data seems to show that maybe I was doing too much, too early, peaking in February and March.  So for 2013 I vowed to make some changes and experiment.  I just hit 38 years of age and my methods of 5-10 years ago should be changing with the times.  I also read two pieces that have "molded" my thinking regarding marathon training.  Run Less, Run Faster from Rodale, which was based on the FIRST method from Furman University and Canova 101 which was a Running Times article.  Please bear in mind that both of these methods assume a solid base of running.

Coach Canova has gotten some great results from his "distance doesn't matter, pace does" method, including a marathon world championship.  He believes that the "accepted" training basics (speedwork, tempo runs, LSD) simply aren't preparing you for running 26.2 miles at your goal pace.  He believes in longer rest periods to recover from the stress of longer distance training at goal pace.

Furman's research has shown that running less (3 days per week) and more intense workouts combined with a strict cross training regiment will produce faster times, and the results are undeniable. 

I could talk all day about the above mentioned articles, BUT I'd like to briefly touch base on what I've done to change my "philosophy" on training and how it's working so far.  Luckily, I love to ride and I have a good setup that allows me to get some time on the bike (road or trainer).

For 2013 I've basically thrown my "regimented, calculated plan" out the window.  I'm not saying you don't need a plan and that plans are evil, I'm saying the worrying about hitting goal times, goal number of reps, etc is not my #1 priority this year. 

My basic goals are this:
  • Run 4 days per week with a maximum of two days in a row.
  • Ride on "off" running days, mixing in some intensity and some long endurance rides
  • Refrain from serious "speed work" until later in the schedule to build leg turnover.
  • One mid week run with most miles at marathon pace.
  • Another mid week run with some variation of marathon pace (tempo, etc).
  • An up tempo long run.
I started out on the rebound from some nagging injuries (low back pain, tight piriformis) and I followed all of the "rules" (no more than 10-15% jump in volume per week, no more than a 2 mile increase per week in long runs) and thus far the nagging injuries are healed and I'm feeling pretty good.  My mileage has been in the mid 50's per week with 2-5 hours on the bike on top of that.

My workouts have consisted of 8 x 1000m on the road, 12 miles at MP minus 15 sec, tempo runs at threshold pace (2 x 3 or 4 miles at 5:45-5:50) and long runs at MP plus 45 sec.  I'm able to recover well and I'm noticing declines in my "normal" pace per mile.  I know the leg turnover is not there, but that does not matter right now.

So far I appear to be climbing the fitness curve in a smart, controlled manner.  Still far from the peak, but the goal race is still 10 weeks away.  My first "test" is the Frostbite 5 miler next Saturday.  I set a big PR there last year, but that was WAY too early in training to be running a PR.  It will provide a good check on my current fitness and hopefully keep that motivation level where I need it.

I'd love to get back under that 2:50 barrier in April.  As of now the 6:30 marathon pace goal seems very realistic.

Enjoy the SNOW this weekend if you're in the Northeast!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl 10K Race Director Report

Yesterday marked my 4th year directing the Lehigh Valley Road Runners Superbowl 10K, it's 12th running.  This year's race sold out at 550 runners in record time, less than 3 weeks.  Over the previous three years mother nature dealt her share of Superbowl weekend weather, everything from 8+ inches of snow to paralyzing ice.  But each year we were able to roll with it, and our hearty runners and incredible volunteers found a way to get it done regardless of the conditions.

Yesterday was no different.  A coating of a couple inches of snow overnight left a picturesque setting and snow covered roads.  But, 437 finishers still braved the conditions of this winter race to help make it a success.
And they're off!
I ran the course early in the morning to mark the miles off since the snow had covered the paint I put down the day before.  It was snow covered, but nothing my trail shoes couldn't handle.

A little snow could damper the Superbowl spirit!
A picturesque morning!
The event is put on by our club, the Lehigh Valley Road Runners (LVRR)and they're an incredible group.  They made the day operate like a well oiled machine, from setup and registration to timing and clean up.  And all of the work is for two great causes.  LVRR awards over $70,000 per year to local running through scholarships and grants, this race itself raises approximately $8,000 for LVRR.  The race also raises nearly $2,000 annually for the HCM Foundation, a small local cancer charity which provides services to families dealing with cancer.

The two leaders about 4 1/2 miles into the race.
Overall, a win-win for everyone involved.  The runners get to burn off some pre-Superbowl pary calories and kick off the 2013 race season while the local community benefits from the proceeds the event generates.
Runners warming up by the fire enjoying the post race spread of home made soup, soft pretzels and pizza!

Lauren and the kids were a big help as well.  It's great to come together as a family and teach the kids the value of being active and giving back to the community.

The local newspaper, The Morning Call, was on hand and go some great photos and put together a great video as well.


Photo gallery:,0,6482377.


A special thanks to all of our sponsors as well.  The Finish Line Running Store, Aardvark Running Store, Brooks Running, PowerBar