Friday, December 12, 2008

Putting The Marathon to Bed

I thought I'd be ready to give the marathon a rest once I set a new PR. The plan was to do that in 2008 and then move to Ultra-marathon distances for 2009. Getting the PR at CIM was step one. Now on to the Ultras.

I was thinking that I'd start with Hagg lake 50k in February, but I promised Mac the next time I got a chance to go to Vegas for free (ie. on the company tab), we'd go. Wouldn't you know it - it came up the same weekend? So I am still searching for races, mostly local, for next year. I'd like to do a 50 mile trail race (Pacific Crest 50 mile??) before the year is out.

Just one little snag. After the 3:10:36, I am not quite ready to give up on the marathon. Now I have my sights set on being a sub-3:10 marathoner, a runner who could say my best is three-OH-something or other, with a big emphasis on the 'OH.' So I am not putting the marathon to bed for good, maybe just for a little nap.

CIM 2009??

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sore, Sore, Sore

In the last couple of days since CIM, I am realizing that running one's fastest cames with a price. Specifically, I am more sore than I have ever been after a race. Yes, the marathon always leaves me feeling stiff and not so fond of our two story house with stairs, but this time my legs were inflexible boards after the race. I have been walking like a stiff-legged robot for the past two days. And our stairs aren't just a mere nuisance; they are an obstacle to be avoided whenever possible.

Part of me frets about this hurt. If I am this sore, then maybe I am not in as good shape as I thought? Or maybe my training plan wasn't good enough to get my legs used to running that fast. But part of me is optomistic about the pain: If I could do a 3:10 with sub-optimal training, then what could I do if optimally prepared?? And if I did push myself that hard at CIM, doesn't that speak well of my mental toughness?

I was training with most of my tempo runs around 7:30 pace. I think I was doing these much too easy and should have been aiming for closer to 7:00 pace to get my legs used to that kind of cadence. Also, I did a number of 16-18 milers since the Portland Marathon, but I haven't done a training 20+ miler since early August when I was getting ready for the Mackenzie River 50k. That seems a bit of a training flaw as well. Things to correct for next time I guess.

Besides the stiffness, it looks as if my sacrifices will include my right big toe nail as well. I have lost lesser toenails many times before, but never my big toe nail. It is still in place, but I am sure it is a goner! My newest pair of shoes is a half size bigger, so hopefully this big toenail loss is a one time deal! I am just lucky sandal season is a long way off here in Oregon!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Monkey Off My Back

It was nearly a decade ago that I ran my first marathon (Washington's Birthday Marathon, Feb 1999), during my 4th year of medical school. I like to tell people that I was woefully under-trained for that race and too naive to even know it. I ran a couple of ten milers as my long runs and thought I was ready since I knew one way or another, I could make it to the finish. My time of 3:13:53 has haunted me as my marathon PR for the last ten years, despite several attempts when I had followed more traditional training plans.

This year when I got back into running, I knew that I be doing a marathon before the year was out. By April I had already signed up for the October Portland Marathon and in May, I did the Capitol City Marathon (Olympia, WA) for "training." Leading up to Portland, I was doing more mileage than I have done since college and I was certain I'd be setting a new PR at that race. But I was stupid, I didn't stick to my plan, and it cost me. I missed by three and a half minutes.

I wasn't planning to do anymore big races this year, but I couldn't let the marathon go. I just kept thinking I should have been faster in Portland. A few weeks later, I signed up for The California International Marathon. I needed one more shot.

Last Sunday, though, I wasn't feeling so good. I spent much of the night hugging the toilet and woke up Monday feeling like my stomach had been turned inside out. I was weak the rest of the week, didn't feel like eating much, and couldn't even manage easy taper workouts a couple of the days. It didn't instill a lot of confidence for a record breaking performance!

Thursday before the race, my mom called. It's 34 degrees and totally fogged in. It is supposed to be like that all weekend. "I hope you like running in cold." Saturday, when my mom picked me up at the airport, it was just as she said: wet fog and dreadful cold. Sunday morning was more of the same, but somehow, I just wasn't that cold. I had my long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves off by mile three and just ran in shorts and a T-shirt.

I ran steady the whole way, had nearly dead even halves, and managed not to lose it too badly in the end even though my thigh were burning. It's funny because my strategy for running my fastest marathon had three key points, all of which were geared at running SLOWER! The plan was 1) start slow to not be over-exerted by the end of the race. 2)Don't push the uphills. The hills are pretty small so I figured I wouldn't lose much time slowing down a bit on them. 3)Don't get carried away on the downhills - stay in control.

My first two miles were 8:05 and 7:46, so I'd say I did a great job on #1! And during the little rollers in the first milers, I just stayed relaxed. Not too fast up, not too fast down. I came through the half in 1:35:26. By mile 18 I was almost up to the 3:10 pace group and for a minute, I had thoughts of going sub 3:10, but I never did actually catch them and I didn't want to ruin anything by trying. Still, I ran the last half in 1:35:10, with a new PR of 3:10:36 - nearly three and a half minutes better than my old time!

Afterward, I was so excited. All day I kept thinking,"I qualified for Boston on the men's standard!" I wanted to walk up to strangers and tell them what I had done, or maybe get my time tattooed on my body, but I refrained from such foolishness. So instead, I went with something much more socially acceptable: I proudly posted my time on Facebook!