Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Missing workouts

Due to a crazy week. Hope to get on the bike tonight though. Need to, in fact.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Update: Stomach Issue

No training for the last couple of days due to some kind of short-lived but virulent food-borne pathogen. It was not related to Thanksgiving dinner; the likely culprit was a black friday brunch trip to a salad bar.

My plan had been to do a long run while in Ohio on Saturday. Yesterday was a travel day, so there was no daylight for a long run. This means we are either skipping the long run this week or next...(i.e. doing one on this coming Saturday or Sunday)

I feel fine now. Mondays have been off days, so I'm sticking to that and taking today as a rest day. All in all, not too worrisome since I'm ahead of schedule.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Training Log: 3.3

my shoe

Thursday 11/22: Hill Intervals
1 mile warmup, 8 x 300 meter hill repeats @ 90 seconds each w/ 2:30 rest interval, 1 mile cooldown. My first interval was 1:31 and my last was 1:40, not too bad of a fade.

I thought that I'd take advantage of a feature we don't have close by at home while in Ohio for the holiday: hills. Running up miracle mile hill brought back some memories. This workout was tough, but it was nice to change things up a bit. Weather was ok, about 40 degrees with light drizzle on and off.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Training Log: 3.2

my shoe

Tuesday 11/20: Tempo Run
5.3 miles in 40:28 (7:39/mi)

Today's run felt great. It was warmer than it has been the last few days, but with light drizzle. This made the bad visibility even worse since I wear glasses. Dark, foggy, and rainy + oncoming headlights combined to limit my speed somewhat. Still, my pacing was good for a tempo run. The odd distance is due to my point-to-point course today; I ran to Lily's pre-school from our house. Les came and picked us both up!

We're traveling tomorrow for Thanksgiving, so my third run this week will be in Ohio. I'm going to try and run some hill repeats on a familiar course for old times' sake. I may also do next week's long run on Saturday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pacing and Goal Setting

The FIRST training program places a high value on pacing to ensure that workouts are done with the proper intensity to see performance gains. I am a fan of intensity, not least because it is a more efficient way to get results than running lots of miles.

I've been using an estimated 5k time of 22:30 as my pacing benchmark. This is a 7:15/mi pace. Here's a pacing calculator so you can check for yourself.

My planned marathon pace (PMP) according to the FIRST formula is 8:15/mi for an estimated marathon finish time of 3h 36min 18 sec. In truth, I'd be happy to come in under four hours. I ran 6 miles in 47:13 or 7:52/mi on what was supposed to be a slow, easy day. I was going slow and easy too. Not even checking my watch, in fact, because I was trying to concentrate on warming up and going a steady pace. I did the first 3 miles in 21:43 or 7:15/mi, despite this. So now you see my dilemma. On my slow day, I ran roughly the same pace per mile as my 5k race pace time. That's not right.

So, I am thinking I need to adjust my pacing a bit. I still haven't raced a 5k recently, but I feel like I could go at least 30 seconds per mile faster than I did today for 5k. That would be 7:00/mi (the .1 extra makes little difference in pacing, especially for marathon distance). That would make my PMP 8:00/mi for a 3:29:45. I have to say, that seems pretty darn impossible in the abstract. But maybe it's something to shoot for.

In any case, though, I want to keep my goals modest. They are: 1) to finish and 2) to come in under 4:00. Anything else is just icing on the cake!

Training Log: 3.1

my shoe

Sunday 11/18: Long Run, Scale back week
6 miles in 47:13 (7:52/mi)

This is too fast for a long run and a recovery week according to the plan I've been following. But I wasn't pushing hard. So I either have to slow down or adjust my pacing. I'll post about that soon. It involves math.

I ran the first 3 miles at an even faster pace; I was out in 21:43 or (7:15/mi). That's what I had been using, more or less, as my 5k race pace. Obviously, it is not. I took the first mile especially easy too, or so I thought. After seeing the three mile split, I slowed way down for the return trip, but still came in under 8:00/mi. Ok..enough numbers for the moment. I'll do some figuring and post about pacing and goals for the marathon later.

(note new notation for training log; the format is week # (dot) workout # that week)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Training Log: Week 2, more...

my bike

Friday 11/16 Cross Train, Bike: Hard "Eights" on the trainer.
3 x Spin 8, Hard 8 + extra Spin 8 cooldown

The hard intervals in this workout are done at the max sustainable effort over 8 minutes rather than at max effort. The aim is to extend your "long gear," or the ability of the muscles to convert glycogen.

(note little icon at the top...I'm going to put that in now for each training log post so that the type of workout is obvious at a glance).

Oh..and yeah, that's really my bike too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Training: A Rest Day Rumination

After running intervals last night for the first time in two decades, it occurred to me that I had never really paid much attention to "training" when I was running competitively. That was back in high school. So it stands to reason that I wasn't paying much attention - to anything - but it is still a bit unfortunate, upon reflection.

You see, I was never better than a middle-of-the-pack runner. I think my fastest 5k was in the mid-18's, which keeps you in the varsity 7 but means that you won't be winning any races outright or advancing to the state finals. I can also say with some certainty that I had almost no talent, if you want to call it that, or genetic predisposition for running. It was always a struggle. What made me any good at all was training. And if there was any natural talent I brought, it was a capacity to suffer. And even to enjoy the suffering.

So it's all the more unfortunate that I didn't really train smart all those years ago. I didn't know, really, what intervals were supposed to do for example. I called them "speedwork" like many people do. But that's not really very precise.

What intervals do for me today, at age 37, is pretty darn amazing. They have made me faster, but they have done that because they push the lactate threshold up. In short, they increase your ability to sustain a near-max effort and, at the same time, they increase the amount of effort you can sustain.

I wish I would have understood this better back in the day. I won't say my coach(es) didn' try to explain it. They might have. I do wish, though, that we had done interval training for cross country on bikes from time to time.

Today is a rest day. Tomorrow: intervals on the bike!

Go Jim!

Jim Ridolfo has joined in the suffering! You can read all about it on his training blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Had to acquire some new safety gear today.

training requires stuff

The short days make the reflective vest a must. And the long runs are unkind to the pointy bits...thank goodness for body glide.

Don't take my word for it...ask Andy (he's the one in yellow).

Training Log: Week 2 continued again

Wednesday 11/14 Intervals: Warm up 13 minutes, 7 x 1 max effort, 2 recovery, cool down 13 minutes

This is a FIRST key run #1 for weeks and 2, with one extra interval thrown in for good measure. It was cold and windy today, truly unpleasant. This is one of those days of suffering that you put in the bank so that when the big day comes, you don't suffer quite so much.

Pace seemed good, though, and it was a solid workout.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Training log: Week 2, continued

my shoe

Tuesday 11/13 Cross Training: Tempo+ Ride 16.4 miles

I hustled home a bit early today to get on the bike. It was warm enough to ride outside today (about 60F), and I managed to squeeze in around 45 minutes of riding before I ran out of daylight.

There was a steady wind out of the South/Southwest, which was mostly crosswind on this particular route. It made my planned tempo ride just a bit more challenging. I averaged about 19.6 mph for the 16.4 miles with maybe 5 minutes of warmup beforehand.

This time of year, daylight fades fast. The sun was setting by 5:15. There are many reasons to be off the road by that time if you are a cyclist, one of which I was reminded of on today's ride: deer. I had a near miss when a dear crossed a scant few feet in front of me. He was close enough that I felt warmth as he ran by.

The sound of hooves on the pavement was a first too, as usually when I see deer crossing the road I am in a car. I was on my guard because I had heard another deer crashing through the brush a few seconds before, but this one passed so close in front of me that I wouldn't have had a chance to avoid him in any case. Lucky break.

Choosing a Race: Bayshore Currently the Front Runner

I think the Bayshore Marathon is likely to be my choice, at this point. Folks have nice things to say about it. This is Les's favorite choice. It's on a Saturday, so we could make it a nice weekend in a lovely part of Michigan.

One conflicts with Computers and Writing.

It's also close to the Tour de Cure; but I am not too worried about that.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Training log: Week 2 begins

Sunday 11/11 Long Run: 10 miles in 1:25:08 (8:31/mi)

First run with the new shoes, and they were great. Stable and no break-in period needed. Boy, shoes have come a long way.

The 10 mile route is pretty exact. We mapped it out yesterday in the car and it also intersects with my 10k route that I run frequently.

My 10 mile pace is a bit quicker than I had thought, but I am not too worried about it because I stayed below tempo the whole time, according to the "talk test." I felt really good too, and had plenty of reserve in the tank when I finished.

I'm sore again, but mostly in the quads and calves. I figured that I haven't run 10 miles all at once in twenty years, so a bit of soreness is to be expected!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Noo Shooz

the new running shoes
Got them today at our local running specialty store, Playmakers. Tried several others, including the reintroduced Nike Pegasus which used to be my favorite back in the day, but these felt the best. ASICS GT 2130. They seem very stable. I will try them out tomorrow. Today (Saturday, week 1) is a rest day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Training log: Week 1 continues

Thursday 11/8 - Rest Day
Friday 11/9 - Cross Train 60 minutes: Hard Intervals on the Trainer
Spin 10, 2(5 x 2 Max Effort, 2 Tempo) w Spin 5 after each set

To do: get new shoes

Yep, it's time for some new shoes.

the old running shoes

I think these ones may be...gulp...9 years old! They have a lot of miles on them, but they are also outdated. In any case, if I am going to avoid injury, new shoes are a must.

Places I've Run Lately: El Paso, TX


While attending SIGDOC 2007. I ran up the mountain you see in the background. It was about a 5 mile round trip, with the first half up and the last half down. Beautiful views on the aptly named "Scenic View Drive."

Health stats at the beginning

Because there may be some concern about how this whole training for a marathon thing will affect my health/weight, I'll try to update some vital stats every so often as I go along.

My avg. weight this first week of training, measured each morning right after waking up, is 160 lbs (rounded to the nearest lb). That puts my BMI at 23, right in the "normal" range.

I'm due soon for another check of my cardiac risk factors (lipid panel, etc.) + HbA1c. When I get those numbers, I'll post them here too. Should be good.

My daily glucose levels have been very good, as expected. From what I can tell, my insulin response is better than normal as of about 8 months ago. Both the short and longer term data bear this out (e.g. last HbA1c was 4.8). What accounts for this is probably a combination of things: current weight eliminates insulin resistance problems, diet + regular exercise controls glucose levels.

FYI: I don't take any medications on a regular basis. The bike (and to a lesser degree, the running shoes) are my only theraputic interventions! This fact has *not* helped my argument that my health insurance should pay for cool bike gear, however...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Little Vocab

A few terms I will use, defined:

Intervals - a training session organized into periods of intense effort and periods of recovery.

Lactate Threshold - The equilibrium point at which the body can remove lactic acid produced during strenuous activity at a rate equivalent to its production. Also known sometimes as the anerobic threshold, but this term seems to be less precise according to most scientists.

Split - a timed interval in a longer run; e.g. "My last mile split on my long run was 8:45."

Spin - on the bike, pedaling at high revolutions (120 rpm) with relatively low resistance

"Tempo" - a run or bike session designed to be at or slightly below lactate threshold.

The Trainer - a device that makes an ordinary bike stationary so as to facilitate indoor training. Mine is a CycleOps Fluid 2.

Choosing a Race: The Bayshore Marathon

Another contender: The Bayshore Marathon. This one seems like a nice course; scenic. Logistically, it might be tougher than Cincy for me.

But it's a bit later, May 26, (and so not so close to the end of the semester).

Choosing a race: The Flying Pig

One of the leading contenders for my marathon at this point is the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. I've heard good things about this race from other folks who were first timers.

The Pig is on May 4th, which would mean that I am still about 25 weeks away. Plenty of time. And this would let me do my FIRST-lite approach through November and December.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Training log: Week 1 begins!

I officially started training this week. Here's what I've done so far:

Sunday 11/4 Long Run: 9 miles in 75 minutes
Monday 11/5 Rest
Tuesday 11/6 Xtrain: 45 minutes on bike (trainer) resistance workout
Wednesday 11/7 Tempo Run: 2 warmup, 2 Tempo, 2 cooldown

My long run pace was a little faster than FIRST recommends, but I hadn't looked at the plan at that point. In general, I felt fine and didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. I hurt on Monday, but it was muscle pain for the most part and quite appropriate given the distance.

My Tuesday bike workout was a resistance session. This particular one was (in minutes) spin for 5, push a big gear for 15, spin 5, push big gear 15, spin 5.

Wednesday run felt fine; I had some trouble making myself take it easy on the first two miles, but was happy to slow down for the last two. :)

Training plans

I am going to be following what I think is a common philosophy among those coaching folks to run (and finish) a marathon for the first time: train to build your aerobic threshold, build strength, and build mental toughness...all without hurting yourself. This means, for me, running about 3 times per week and biking about the same amount.

I have two guiding plans I'm using for reference. One is the FIRST approach. FIRST is an 18 week training plan that fits my overall training goals and schedule pretty well. In general, you do one day of hard/fast intervals, one day of mid-length running at your lactate threshold, and one long run per week at slightly less than your anticipated marathon pace. The FIRST method is calibrated on a recent 5k or 10k race time. I haven't raced in a while, but I have run for the watch on occasion in the Summer. I don't think it is too far-fetched to use 22:30 as my baseline 5k time. I think I could actually go faster than that, even. But if I use that time as my baseline for a FIRST plan, they say I can run a marathon in less than 4 hours. That would be just fine by me, and a pleasant surprise.

The trouble with FIRST is that it is too much like training to be fast. I did that once upon a time in life, and I don't want to do it anymore. So I will use the FIRST approach and times as benchmarks, but I am not going to be a slave to the watch.

As a tempering influence, the training schedule from the Nova Marathon Challenge is my other guideline. This one is designed to get even inexperienced runners through, and so it is less demanding than the FIRST plan. But the basic premise is the same: run 3 times a week, do one long run on the weekend, cross train a couple of other times a week.

Both plans gradually increase the tempo (lactate threshold) sessions and long runs leading up to the marathon. Both taper off in the last 3-4 weeks prior to the race. I'll try to follow that general pattern.

A couple of other quick points:

  • I haven't picked a race to do yet, so I don't yet know when my marathon date is. It will be in the Spring, most likely, so at this point I am basically just doing the first few FIRST weeks to keep my overall fitness level. When I pick a marathon, I will make a more formal schedule.

  • During the winter, I may actually ride more than run some weeks. I trained really hard last year all through the winter and got my lactate threshold as high as its ever been...all by riding. I know that I'll still need to run, but if it is really cold or snowy out, I may swap one of the runs for a ride during a given week.

So I have decided to run a marathon

And to keep myself honest about the whole thing, I am also going to keep a blog-ish training journal thing. This will serve to record the experience, of course, but also to externalize my intentions to finish a marathon so that they will be all the more difficult to ignore.

What made me decide to do this? Well, I have always imagined that I would do it at some point. I ran cross-country and track in high-school and so it was sort of always something I thought I should and could do. I started biking and getting fit last year, and am now in better shape than I've been since those high school XC days. I set a fitness goal last year of doing a long bike ride event - the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure - which was a metric century. I need a new fitness goal. And the marathon it is.

I'm going to do a seperate post on my approach to training, but I wanted to mention while I am on the subject of motivation that I watched the PBS Nova special called "Marathon Challenge" and the approach to training in that show helped me decide to do this. The training calendar on the Nova site is one of the resources I'll be using to prepare.

What marathon will I run? The jury is out. Look for more on that in a later post too.