Monday, 16 August 2010

Runing the good race

There are 45 days until my next attempt to qualify for Boston.


This past Sunday I ran the Sheriffmuir Challenge Road Race. It starts from at isolated pub in the hills, climbs for 1\2 mile, and then descends for the next 5 miles. The route is on an isolated road, with great views of the surrounding mountains. Along the route there are isolated farms, fields of sheep, grasslands, and the occasional patch of woods. Runners turn around at the end of this road and run back to the pub. This is largely uphill, and give a total distance of 11 miles.

I was tired at the start. I'd done my scheduled 20-miler the day before, using, for the first time, walk breaks. I started with a 4 minute run: 35 second walk ratio, but after my first 5.4 mile loop through town, I switched to an 8 min run: 1 min walk ratio.

I tried the run-walk-run approach for a few reasons. First, I'd suffered on my past 16-mile runs in this training period, but with the marathon quickly approaching, I needed to increase my endurance by running farther. Second, I wanted to run the Sheriffmuir race the next day, so I didn't want to be utterly exhausted from my 20-miler. Third, I've been listening to a podcast entitled The Extra Mile Experiment, where the podcaster is following the Galloway run-walk-run strategy in preparation for his fall marathon.

The run-walk went well. I was tired after the 20 miles, but not shattered. Although I thought the walk breaks would be disruptive, in fact they passed quite quickly. It seemed like I'd just take a handful of steps, and then it would be time to run again.


My first mile was 7:15. I could see C., a woman I'd met at previous races who runs about the same speed as me, about a 1/4 mile ahead. I wanted to try and catch up to her, but she was going out fast. I didn't know how my legs were going to hold out after the previous day's long run, so I held back.

Mile 2 was largely downhill, and I ran it in 6:52. It was a warm, sunny day, and I gratefully took water at the first water table near mile 3.

Mile 3 was flatter, and came in at 7:20. 4 had a lot of descent, and came in at 6:36. I commented to a guy I'd drawn even with that we were doing a good pace. He agreed, but said we'd pay for it on the way back.

By mile 5 I hadn't made much progress catching C. At the turn around point, at 5.5 miles, I again took water. I drank a few mouthfulls, and then poured some down my back to keep cool.

Mile 6 had a sustained climb, and I ran it in 8:15. The sun was hot now, and the occasional short stretches of road in the shade of trees were welcome.

Slowly, I closed the distance to C. My soreness was gone, and I felt strong. I ran a sub-8 minute pace for the next few miles, fixating on the runner ahead of me, catching them, and then moving on to the next runner.

Soon there were only two runners between me and C. Then one. Then, with just under 3 miles to go, I drew even.

We chatted for a bit, and then she pulled ahead briefly. On a steeper section, she slowed and I eased past.

As I neared the top of the last hill I picked up the pace slightly. There was an older guy ahead of me, and as soon as we started the descent to the pub, his pace accelerated dramatically. However, I stayed behind him, and then picked up my pace once again and passed.

I was now striding out, but worried that I'd begun my kick too early. I kept going, and as the finish line neared I put in a final sprint.


I didn't win, of course, nor will I ever do so. I'd finished 23rd out of 91 runners. However, I'd had that rare experience of performing to my absolute capacity, and feeling strong while doing so.

I'd run a good race.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Trying to fit it all in...

53 days until my next attempt to qualify for Boston.


After a good week of training while on vacation, I had an o.k. week of training last week. After a mid-week, 10-mile hilly run, my calf was a bit sore. Two days later, after some mile intervals on the track, it was even worse. I read a bit about calf strains on the internet, and was alarmed that they might require several weeks of non-running for recovery.

However, I tried a 16.2 mile long-run (4 times around my town 5.4 mile town loop), and was o.k., calf-wise. I was tired at the end of the last loop, but perhaps not quite as exhausted as I'd been when I last tried this loop. Earlier in the week I thought I might go for a 20-miler for this long run, but with the sore calf I thought I'd just see what I could do. On the day, I only had the energy and endurance to do 16 miles.

My schedule calls for a 20-miler this weekend, but there's also an 11-mile road race that I'm planning to do. I might try the 20-miler next week.

This isn't optimal. One problem with this is that I don't have a lot of open weekends after this for more 20-milers. I really want to get comfortable at this distance, as I think my lack of distance work really hurt me in the Edinburgh marathon.

For now I'm going to focus on getting in a good week's training. I didn't run on Monday after my 16-miler the day before. Yesterday I played full-court basketball for nearly 2 hours, and I count this as cross-training. Today I did my town loop in the morning. If I can run each day for the next three days, and run a good race on Sunday, it should be a reasonable week.


During the past week I finished re-reading Haruki Marakami's What I talk about when I talk about running. Marakmi is a novelist, but the book is an account of his running career and his preparations for the New York Marathon. I really enjoyed his calm style of writing, his awareness of aging, and his descriptions of running by the Charles river in Boston.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Running in the morning

Yikes! Only 60 days remain before my next attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.


For the past week and a half I've been with my family on a beach holiday. In Scotland, in the summer, it's often cool, overcast, and rainy, so the prospect of some time in the sun was appealing for our family vacation.

I quickly discovered, however, that running in the Sunny Hot Country was a challenge during the day. There's a reason everything shuts down after lunch for a siesta - it's too hot to do anything.

After a few runs in which I drained my water bottle, I shifted to running in the mornings. The advantages of this were two-fold. First, I could run before the sun was really up. Second, I could get my run with little impact on my family's activities for the day. Indeed, on one day, I finished my run before anyone was awake.

I'd wake at 6, make a cup of instant coffee (black), and eat a small bowl of corn flakes without milk. Then I'd hit the bathroom, dress in shorts and a synthetic t-shirt, and head out the door.

Running in the morning was a revelation. It was cool and comfortable out. Once my legs warmed up, I felt fine. There wasn't much, if any, car traffic on the roads. Occasionally I'd pass resort workers on their way in to the resort where our rented apartment was located. Off of the resort, the road wound through a sandy pine forest. Occassionally, there was the fresh scent of eucalyptus trees (I think).

I had a good week of running, perhaps my best so far. I took Monday off (after a 13-miler the day before in the heat), and then ran for 6 consecutive days (6 or so miles most days, with one 8.5 mile run), culminating in an 18.5 long run on Sunday.


Now, back in Scotland, I want to get in good weeks of training. I'm away for a week at the end of the month, so I have three full weeks to train before then, and three after. Then there's one week for tapering.