Sunday, 30 May 2010

Recovering from the marathon

After the marathon on Sunday, I didn't run on Monday. I was sore, but not incredibly so, but also tired from going to the pub with a friend who also did the race.

On Tuesday I did 2 easy miles on the track. It was sunny out, and felt good to stretch the legs.

The light run on Tuesday seemed to be beneficial, and on Wednesday I had no soreness.

Thursday: 3.5 miles on the track.

Friday: no running.

Saturday: 5.5 miles on my training loop through the town in which I live. I wanted to get it done, and ran quick. I was a little tired at the end.

Today, Sunday, I ran with two friends from the informal running club in town. We started easy, and as we hit the country roads outside the town, picked up the pace slightly. It was a cool, clear morning. It was probably 10 degrees cooler than the same time last weekend at the marathon.

One of the guys, G., started picking up the pace again. I didn't want to kill myself, but was feeling ok at the time, and was able to keep him witin a few meters.

About 45 mins into the run there were a few hills, and the latent fatigue in my muscles was starting to emerge. I also felt a bit of soreness in my right calf - I was slightly worried that I was straining my achilles, but the soreness was a little higher than that.

I hung on. We began heading back towards town on a canal tow path, and this was easier. The pace picked up again, but now my pain had dissipated somewhat. I was feeling good, and matched the pace.

At about 1:25 we stopped. It was a tougher, longer run than anticipated. Although I'd initially felt like I was fully recovered from the marathon, the run had revealed that there was still some deep tiredness in the legs. G. and I jogged back into town (where my car was parked), so it was about 1:45 for the whole run. I'm calling it 11 miles.


I think the tiredness hasn't all been physical. Things have seemed a bit blah this week, for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Thoughts on my Edinburgh Marathon performance

My goal in running the Edinburgh Marathon was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. To do so, at my age, I needed to run a 3:30:59 or better. With a finishing time of 3:46:55, I exceeded this time by 14:56.

I think there were two reasons why the wheels came off late in the race:

1) the heat
2) the distance

My pace for each segment of the race was as folllows:

6.2 miles: 7:55/mile
13.1 miles: 7:44
18.6 miles: 8:01
26.2 miles 10:27

So, obviously, I faded pretty badly during the last miles. My pace might have been slowing a bit before this, although there was a climb in mile 18.

At another level, the results are encouraging. I was on pace through 18 miles. Indeed, if my hazy recollection is correct, I think I hit the 23 mile mark right around 3 hours - leaving 30 mins to run the last 3.2 miles.

The heat could have exacerbated my significant fade. I was taking on water and sports drink when I could, but after 16 it really felt hot in the sun. I was unaccustomed to running in hot weather, and this was the warmest weekend of the year thusfar. Indeed, on a TV show the next day about the race, the men's leader pulled up short in the finishing straight with cramps, and was passed. So, it wasn't just me.

But I think the distance was a factor too. In my first half-marathon last March, I'd felt good throuh 10 miles, and then struggled from 11 on to the finish. I developed significant knee pain at the point, and could not keep running well in the last two miles. I was in shape enough to run a 10-mile race, but not a 13.1-mile race. With more training, I was able to run the full distance.

I think a bit of this is true for this past marathon. I was ok-ish for 20 miles, but not 26.2. I need to do more distance training to be able to finish stronger.

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Edinburgh Marathon

Over the P.A. system we heard the announcement that the race had started, but no one in my pen - I believe it was comprised runners who'd estimated 3:30 - 4:00 finishing times - moved forward. There were probably 2000-3000 runners in front of us, and until they got across the start line we had to wait. After a minute or two we shuffled forward a bit, and then stopped again. Eventually we moved forward again, and began to break into a slow jog. I crossed the start line about 3 mins into the race, and started my watch.

The human traffic was dense, and I was content to run at an easy pace through the streets of Edinburgh. We descended under a train overpass, and a woman in front of me was breathing hard and walking. She had no obvious muscle tone in her (ok, I'll say it, plump) legs, and seemed to be struggling. The sun came out, and you could feel its warmth We then entered the Holyrood park, and my first mile was 8:48.

Bloody hell.

To qualify for Boston I needed to run sub-8 minute miles for the whole race.

I wasn't too worried, however, because I wanted to start slow - although, perhaps, not quite this slow - and run an even race.

Mile two was 6:50. Back on pace.

In mile three I started chatting with a guy who made scientific instruments in Glasgow. 7:14. Too fast.

Four came in at 7:30. This was more like the pace I wanted to run. The sun was out in earnest, and I was sweating. I wanted water, but accepted a sports drink at the water stop. It tasted very sweet.

At mile five we reached the promenade along the sea-shore, and I was surprised to find that I'd run an 8:11. Perhaps I'd chatted a little too much with the instrument maker in the last mile. He'd peeled off to say hi to a friend, so I was on my own now.

I tried to stay in the shade of building when I could, but there wasn't much. Also, if was difficult to run an even pace, as I'd find myself stuck behind 2 or 3 runners in a horizontal line.

My 10K time was 49:05. So far, I was on pace, and feeling ok. It was clear, however, that it was going to be a very hot day.

I was able to hold the pace below 8 mins. per mile. Crossing the bridge into Musselburgh near mile 8 I felt like I needed water.

At mile 9 I received a bottle of water at the water station. I drank some, and poured some over my head. The water felt cool and good as it made its way down the back of my shirt.

I started to feel the need for a pee, and looked for a place to peel off. I came to a porta-potty, however, and popped in. Even with this stop, my mile time was under 8 mins.

I reached the half-way point at 1:42. Just half to go.

I ate one of the brownie squares I'd been carrying in a plastic bag with me. I did the same at mile 15.

At 16 the course made a detour away from the coast, up a bit of a road and back down, I assume to make the distance correct. Here I really felt the heat of the sun and the road. It was baking now.

At 17 the course left the road and took a slightly broken road up around Gosford House (which I didn't even notice). I didn't realise this at the time, but it was a slight climb. I was alarmed by my split for this mile - 9:14.

I picked up the pace, but also benefited from a slight downhill. 18 was 6:44. Again, on average, I was back on pace.

My time through 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) was 2:26:31. I didn't quite realise it at the time, but I'd just slipped over the 8 minute-per-mile average for the race thusfar.


Can one identify, in the moment, when things switch from one path to another? One moment is so much determined by its predecessor. How can you know, in the moment, that by slight degrees, one's course has been shifted from one trajectory to another?


20 was 8:11. This, now, wasn't a mile that was confined by the crowd, or inflated by a climb. It was an honest mile, in the blazing sun, at the only pace I could now run.

I was starting to switch to survival mode. I clutched a water bottle from the last water stop, but felt like I needed some sugar. I picked up a discarded sports drink bottle - still partially full - and mixed it with my water. As I was doing this, a friend called out to me from the runners still out the outbound path. I waved, and then drank. The sports drink was hot from being in the sun.

21 was 9:14. I couldn't do anything about it. The mile markers seemed farther and farther apart.

I reached mile 23 at just over 3 hours. 3.2 miles in 30 minutes? Under normal circumstanes I would have little difficulty doing this. At this point in the race, I knew it was impossible.

I just kept moving forward. I tried to focus on just completing each mile.

The muscles above my knee began to be quite sore. My left knee - the iliotibial band -started to hurt. I focussed on the hazy tarmac and front of me, and just shuffled my feet.

24 was 11 something. The crowd was growing, but I had nothing to respond with. Now, I was starting to get cramps in my upper calves. At the water station I drank water and then some sports drink.

Many, many people passed me as I shuffled along. In turn, I shuffled past people who were now walking.

I started to think if I could finish this, I'd have a beer in the beer tent.

25 was 14 something.

I made the turn into the final straight-away. I saw my wife and children, and really appreciated their being there.

Ordinarily, I would have sprinted to the finish line, but I could not at this point. The cramps in my left calf felt like electric shocks. I hobbled across the finish line.


My time was 3:45:55. I'd failed to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Marathon tapering

8 more days until my qualifying marathon.


I've been reading about tapering on various web-sites, but haven't found a scheme I can fully embrace.

I buy the idea of not going into the marathon with tired legs. I want to be fresh, rested, and ready to go.

But much of my workday, realistically, is spent sitting down. After doing little physical activity all day, I crave physical work. I want to do some running. However, I should be tapering - I should be running less.

Yesterday, after sitting through a whole day of presentations (of which mine was one), I went out to the track and did three easy miles.

It was a sunny early evening, and it felt great to be running laps on the track in shorts and a t-shirt.

It was also interesting to see what pace felt easy. At what felt like an easy pace, I ran miles of 7:28, 7:33, and 7:44. The fade isn't as bad as it looks, because the last mile I had to stop for a bit to get a bug out of my eye.

So for the marathon, I want to go out slow for the first 10K (as mentioned in my last post). From experience I know that the first mile of a road race goes much faster than planned, so I'll have to plan to take it easy there. Hopefully, I can then settle into a comfortable, steady pace. If I have lots left in the tank at 20, perhaps I can switch gears.


I will do a 10 mile or so run tomorrow, and this will be my last long-ish run before the race.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Marathon strategy

11 days until my qualifying marathon.


Here's my latest thinking on race strategy: I'm going to approach the race as four 10k chunks. Yes, I know a marathon is actually 42ish kilometers, but thinking about the race in 10k chunks makes sense to me.

In part, this occurred to me this past weekend as I attempted my last long run. I was running a slightly abreviated version of the 10k race loop in my town. My intial goal was to run this loop, 5.43 miles in length (shortened from 6.2 miles because I wanted to avoid a busy stretch of road), four times. I did the loop three times, but cut the fourth loop short as I was getting pretty sore. I put the soreness down to effort I'd exerted on the Dumyat hill race I'd run three days earlier, and thought that being a little short of my goal was better than killing my legs two weeks out from the marathon. So, I call it 18 miles on my last long run.

Four 10ks. The first I'm going to take slow. I know, I know, once you see everyone in their racing kit you start thinking - this is a race - I've got to keep up.

But I'm not going to do that for the first 10K. I'm going to try to stay in my head, and use the first 10k as a warm-up. If I'm feeling good after I can start picking it up a little bit.

The bottom line is that if I run 8 minute miles, I qualify for Boston.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Dumyat Hill Race

17 days until my qualifying marathon.


The Dumyat Hill Race is a 5-mile, up-and-down race not far from where I work. It's about a 1,300 ft climb, starting on a road, winding through some woods, and then ascending over an open hill top - where sheep graze.

It was a bit warm at the start, and I didn't want to go out too hard. I run the hill often, and knew what was coming. I stayed with the crowd, and didn't worry about the odd runner sprinting past.

My strategy is to not kill myself on the steep climbs. I run where practicable, but on the very steep portions, walking fast is as good as running, in my view. I also think of these walk portions as a break of sorts, although I'm still breathing hard as I ascend.

I hit the first climb and immediately slowed down. Several people passed me. I'm just not that fast running uphill. However, I tried to keep my legs moving quickly with short strides.

One up through the woods we emerged onto the open hill. After a short climb, the trail levelled out a bit, and I tried to pick up the pace.

I was sweating a lot now, and droplets sometimes trickled off of my eyebrows.

The thing in a hill race is to keep moving. There are times when you think you have nothing left, but you have to just keep moving. A woman with a tatoo on her back passed me on the climbs, and I'd pass her on the flatter stretches.

As the trail steepened near the Dumyat summit, the leaders starting emerging on their descent.

A local runner I know passed me handily near the top, but I couldn't do anything about it. I had my eyes on the path below, and was just concentrating on moving.

I reached the summit cairn not far behind the local runner. As we turned to descend, I took a step outside his path, and accelerated.

I love to descend. Without the constraints of my lung capacity, I can go as hard as I wish - and do so.

I started picking off people one by one. I know the trail well, and know exactly my preferred line when descending.

I reached the fence to the wood and stepped over it without breaking stride.

In the woods I ended up behind a strong runner from a Glasgow running club. I decided to stick on his heels and let him carry me through my increasing fatigue. We rushed through the woods, and I passed him on a steep descent to the road.

On the road there's a small climb, and he passed me once more.

The road once again descends, this time to the finish line.

The club runner was ahead of me rounding a curve on the road. However, he stayed on the grass, and I ran on the tarmac - in my experience it's just a touch faster.

In the picture above, you can see me passing him.

My finishing time was 44:42, 67th out of a field of 289. This was my best time on this hill in the last 5 years.


The race effort has had a cost. I want to do a 20-miler this weekend to make-up for the lack of a long run last weekend. However, my legs are really sore today, Thursday, the day after the Dumyat race. It was only a 5-mile race, but I ran hard, and an all-out descent takes its toll on the legs.

We'll see if I feel better by the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Back in the U.S....

18 days until my qualifying marathon.


I was supposed to do my final 20-mile run this past weekend, but a work trip to the U.S. got in the way.

I was pleased to fly to St. Louis, and through the fog of jet-lag, enjoyed my 2-day science meeting.

On the morning of the 2nd day I joined a colleague on a morning run through a park near the medical school at Washington University. It was a pleasant, conversational run, although even at 6:30 in the morning the temperatures were warm.


After St. Louis I spend the weekend in Cleveland, visiting my family. My sister asked whether I'd be interested in doing a 5-K race with her on Sunday morning, before my flight.

My flight was at 11:20, and the race was at 9. I therefore ran my first 5-K, through the streets of Lakewood, Ohio, in 20:25. With my race clothes still on, my mom took me to the airport where I rinsed off in the bathroom, and then checked my bag. I made my flight.

So, no 20-miler, but a race nonetheless. I want to make up this 20 miler on the upcoming weekend, but I'm also wary of not tapering sufficiently. My plan at the moment is a 20-miler on Saturday, and then 2 weeks of tapering.