Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Quiet Before the Storm

February is perhaps the quietest running month in the Twin Cities.  The lead up to the Frozen Half is in the rearview mirror and the St. Patrick's Day races are well beyond the horizon.  What a great time to gear and train hard.

I met my End-of-January goals and to be honest, the mileage goals were much tougher than the race goals.  The weather should continue to cooperate from here on out.  So I mapped out my goals for February and was at first surprised to see just how similar they were to Chad Austin's.  But then I thought about it a bit more and it shouldn't be that surprising.  Our plans are common sense.  And we've both been doing this for a long time and have reached a point in their racing life that prioritizes staying healthy over running fast.  So a Jack Danielsien approach to base training and hills over fartleks and the track makes sense.

So here are my February goals.

Post Frozen Half Week: A Randy Moss Week.  I run when I want to run.  
This was done by design.  After my mileage build-up, the Frozen Half, and ongoing flirtation with sciatica, I needed a week where a I ran only when I felt like it.  For me, that meant running three days, good for about 20 miles.

Week One: Sixty miles with one hill workout (four dam hills) and 20+ miles on Saturday and Sunday.

Week Two: Sixty-five miles with one hill work out (six dam hills) and 20+ miles on Saturday and Sunday.

Week Three: Seventy miles with one hill workout (eight dam hills) and 25+ miles on Saturday and Sunday.

Week Four: Sixty miles with a little workout I call Hills 1-2-3 midweek.

Better get to bed so I can get up early for tomorrow morning's hill workout.  Boo.

Until then, check out Steve's latest post.  That's a lot of ink I'm getting there.  This will be a fun year.  I haven't a rivalry this friendly since these guys were blogging.  Of course, Steve is running out of my league and my win over him at the Frozen Half was a fluke of his underestimating his fitness more than I underestimated mine.  But I do believe I can train my way back to his level.  But I know he too is training for the level beyond that.  We'll see where this year takes us.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thawing Out in the Frozen Half

Like Han Solo thawing out after being frozen in carbonite and slowly coming back to his normal self, today's Frozen Half represented the start of that process for me.

Today's race was another good step in the right direction and a clear indication it is time to race more aggressively, raise the bar, and add a quality workout (hills) to weekly training.  I was able to run through my leg pain and I am pretty convinced I am dealing with sciatica/piriformus.  But if I add some core work I should be able to train through it.

On to the race.

Last night, Chad Austin devoted a good portion of running blog's post to me and Steve Stenzel.  Chad was calling us out for having weak goals.

Well Chad, neither one of us broke 1:25 today.  We showed you!  But we both came close.  Sandbaggers indeed.  In my defense, my last two races were a 5:14 indoor mile (not all that fast; let's be honest) and a 18:34 5k (so very not fast).  I really had NO CLUE what I could run today.

Bottom line: I ran a 1:25:13.  Still not all that fast, but good for second place among masters, and a huge improvement from last year.

I'm still building my mileage up.  I haven't touched a quality workout in years.  And I still weigh over 180 pounds (181 to be exact).  And I'm not 25 anymore.  So I'll take today's time and be happy with it under one condition: I continue to improve.

So that is the forest.  If you want more trees, here are the self-absorbed details of race day.

Last night I got home around midnight, after hanging out with Cait and Zach.  I am hoping Zach can help design a cool retro old school logo for MDRA's racing singlets for the USATF Team Circuit.  Because you know what MDRA is?  A cool, retro old school organization.  So yeah I didn't get a ton of sleep but figured it really didn't matter.  I got good sleep all week and had been eating a good light diet.  We were always told in college that it was the night before the night before race day that really matter race-wise, and I believe that to be true.

I woke up feeling good and ready to go.  I carpooled over with a couple friends, including the former blogger still known as Nasty Nate (don't bother clicking through.  He hasn't updated the blog in two years).  Nathan had 1:23 on the brain but also had White Castle sliders and chili in his stomach from the night before.  So it was amusing to listen to him go back and forth between predicting "I think I'll puke at mile two" and "I'm going to run 6:20s like clockwork,"  depending on how his stomach and its attachments felt at the time of his predictions.

I bumped into the usual suspects before the race, including Chad, Steve S, and a slew of MDRAers.  Half marathons are, I think, the most laid-back races at the start.  You need to start out relaxed like a marathon, so the pre-race pressure, dread, and intensity of a 5k or 10k is absent.  But the stakes aren't as high as a marathon.  The gravity and uncertainty of a marathon is absent in the half.  It's rarely a goal race and you don't have to worry about hitting the wall.

And I made sure to make my start as relaxed as possible.  Since I didn't have a watch and ran on feel, here is how I can best break down the race.

Miles 1-2: I started out as if I was going for my typical workday run and happened to be right behind the 1:30 pace group.  So I sat there.  I ran perceived effort up the hills until the turnaround point at mile 7+.  It's really an interesting way to run.  People charge up the hill and get a pretty big lead on me, but without fail when I reach the hill's crest, it only takes 10 to 15 seconds on an average hill, to catch up the pack I was with.  Way less work and it pays off in the end.

Miles 2-3: You go down the steep Jackson Street hill that takes you out of downtown to the Mississippi River.  If that damn hill is going to kick my ass at mile 12, I am going to kick its ass at mile two.  I opened up my stride and without changing much effort passed about 10 people who were hitting the breaks and adjusting their stride.  Why more people don't this is beyond me.  Perceived effort is the only way to efficiently run hills until you are running aggressively at the end.  Sure I look like a crazy man going down the hills but it pays off.

Miles 3-7: We are running along Shepard Road which takes you out of downtown St. Paul, along the Mississippi River up the bluff to the western neighborhoods of St. Paul.  The hills roll but it is a net uphill climb.  We are running against the wind.

I see Nathan a good minute ahead of me, in a huge pack.  Good for him.  He's running a smart race and can sit in the back of the pack and let the other ten guys do the work.  I'm not so lucky.  I'm around a lot of folks who went out too fast or want to draft off me.  I don't allow that.  I'll draft off anyone fool enough to let me, but if you want to draft off me, you'll work for it.  But I found two guys to bounce off of.  I'm running perceived effort up the hills so I let them go for the hills and then tuck back behind them on the flats and downhill.  I can tell by their breathing that I will soon be running alone.

Mile 7: I see Nathan's big group is breaking up.  He is with maybe five guys when he hits the turnaround and goes by me as I am still reaching the turnaround.  And what is this?  Steve English is running in front of him?   Pushing the pace?  Crap.  There goes my first ever chance at a master's title.

The two guys I was with for miles 3-7 are trying to go with me as I pick up the pace, but by mile seven I am alone.  Time to get aggressive... but the next people to get is Nathan's pack.  They are still a minute away.  But I am motivated by the pack behind me.

Miles 8-10:  I have no idea what my pace is here, but I pass two guys who REALLY fell off Nathan's pack.  They don't even put up a fight.  Damn.  Come on guys; let's push each other.  But it doesn't go that way.  I am still alone.  I know I can get close to Nathan but will not be able to catch him.

Miles 10-12:  This is where the Frozen Half becomes a very tough race mentally.  You are done descending the bluff and are in the river flats.  You feel like you are so close to heading back up into downtown, but you are not.  Instead you have two miles of flats to run with condos on your right and a gigantic Science Museum on your right.  Then a jail that suddenly doubled in size. And you STILL have half a mile to go.  And all the while you have to measure how aggressive you want to be vs. how much to leave in the tank for the last uphill 3/4 mile.

Not fun.  But I stayed in the game.  Never prayed for a broken ankle to get me out of the race.  Never rationalized not giving my all.  I just worked.  I haven't run a race like this in a long time.  The few races I ran the last two year, I let my frustration and doubt get the best of me.  Not today.

Miles 12-finish.  Nathan's pack of three is now strung out.  He broke them.  And I realize I can catch one of the guys unless he attacks the hills that take us up to downtown.  I use him to drive me because I know I have Steve S, 4:50 miler somewhere behind me.  I balance going up the hills easily and recovering vs. being aggressive as best I can.   It is clear to me my mind is ahead of my conditioning.  I just can't go any faster and can't recover as quickly as I'd like.

Finish:  You make a 90 degree right turn and the finish is right there.  I catch the guy from Nathan's pack meaning I am only two places behind him.  Nathan is a good runner and in pretty good shape.  I am happy to be within 30 seconds of him and that I had him in my sights.

Steve S. finished only nine seconds behind me.


  • I hit my high goal time.
  • Mentally I was in the race and making good decisions the entire time.
  • I finished strong.
  • I had fun.
  • My leg was a non-factor.
  • Even as I age, a 1:25 half marathon should not be a high goal time for another decade, health-willing.
  • The endurance is there.  Speed is not.  I need to balance quality workouts with staying healthy.
  • The next race I need to work getting away from such a cautious game plan.  I needed to be this reserved to get my confidence.  That was the easy part.  Now it's time to put my butt on the line and really challenge myself.  I am going to use the next week to recover from my mileage and racing and come up with the next 12 week plan.  Hopefully it will be as successful in terms of progress.
Goals for the End of January
1. Ten days of 45+ minutes of running.
2. Ten days of 60+ minutes of running.
3. 70 mpw by mid January
4. Sub 5:30 at Meet of Miles
5. Sub 1:30 at the Frozen Half

Kirk was right.  These goals were too soft.  I think this speaks to how much the last two years hurt my running confidence.  Hopefully the next race will speak to my newfound confidence.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Decisions decisions...

It has taken some time, but I have finally come up with a plan for the Frozen Half this weekend that I can live with.  Now I need to decide about what to do about my aching right leg besides "stop running."  If it comes to that I will.

Well the good news is I hit my mileage goal and my frequency goals.  It took awhile, but I finally finished off a streak of ten straight days of at least an hour a day of running.  In fact, I am now up to day 11 because I am finally in good enough shape where I can do back-to-back long runs on the weekend.  I just wrapped a second 70 mile week for January and over the last 11 days averaged 10.5 miles.  Arthur Lydiard's principles are just as valid today as they were 30 years ago, so this low-intensity, consistent running should hopefully pay off in a few months.

The key now is to stay healthy.  Like I said, my right leg is bothering me a little.  Nothing big, but I do need to cut back my mileage this week anyway.  It's needed because of the steady diet of miles my legs have absorbed over the past three weeks and also because the Frozen Half Marathon is this Saturday.  Hopefully cutting back on the mileage will keep this under control.  We'll see.

And of course the other issue is I have no idea what I can run this Saturday.  My low goal remains to get under 1:30 and  erase the summer half marathon times from my recent running resume.  My hunch is I am in sub 1:25 shape, but really I won't know until I try.  The problem is two of my last last three half marathons have been ruined by too aggressive of a start.  So I will be bringing those bad memories with me to the race and really want to finish strong and confident, even if it means having to sacrifice a minute of time because of a slow start.  Yes, my running ego is presently that fragile.

My plan for Saturday is to open with a 7:00 minute mile and then see how I feel.  If it feels like I'm crawling, I'll bump it to 6:45 for mile two and run on feel from there.  I will be relying on a HUGE negative split to get under 1:25 but I have been able to so that in the past.  And like I said, more than anything I want a strong finish.  And then these would be my goals:

Low goal: sub 1:30
Medium goal: Sub 1:28
High goal: Sub 1:25

The weather shouldn't be a huge factor Saturday so that is good.  Hopefully I will be able to take advantage of the all the great running this winter has given us.

Goals for the End of January
1. Ten days of 45+ minutes of running.
2. Ten days of 60+ minutes of running.
3. 70 mpw by mid January
4. Sub 5:30 at Meet of Miles
5. Sub 1:30 at the Frozen Half

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Well, I have no clue what kind of shape I am in.  Monday night brought the Meet of Miles.  Bottom line, I ran a 5:14, alone after lap three of eight.  I was 7th for master's.  And at the end of my heat an old-timer I'd never met came up to me and said he couldn't believe someone my size and age could run under 5:15.  Somewhere in there is a compliment.

A month ago all I wanted to do was break 5:30.  I was pretty sure that was attainable going into the meet and lowered my time goal to sub 5:20 and had it in my head I could run a 5:17.  So I was happily surprised to run a 5:14.  A good starting point, especially since I had just wrapped up my first 70 miles week the day before.  I still have a hard time accepting these are now my time goals, so I just focus on where I was this summer or, even worse, a year ago.

As far as goals go, I hit my Meet of Miles goal and my mileage goal, but still haven't reached 10 straight days of 60 minutes of running.  I've come close but real life and Meets of Miles get in the way.

When I have more time I'll post some Meet of Miles pictures.

1. Ten days of 45+ minutes of running.
2. Ten days of 60+ minutes of running.
3. 70 mpw by mid January
4. Sub 5:30 at Meet of Miles
5. Sub 1:30 at the Frozen Half

Monday, November 28, 2011

Progress Report

Ten days straight of at least 45 minutes of running.  I had 13 miler, a seven miler, and an eight miler thrown in there.  Consequently my last week of running brought me 54 miles of running.  A good start.

Starting tomorrow: ten straight days of at least 60 minutes of running.  It all starts tomorrow at 5 a.m. with the blogger formerly known as Nasty Nate.

After those ten days I have a mileage build-up plan that will get me to 70 mpw by mid-January.  This assumes of course that all days between now and then will be free of ice, dangerous windchills, and unplowed snow.

Highlights of the last ten days:
1. I didn't bust my knee open after falling, like I did over two weeks ago, when I was on day eight of my pursuit of ten days of 45 minutes.

2. Running consistently through the Thanksgiving holidays even with family in town.

3.  Most of my runs were solo, but I did get two good runs with Nasty Nate and two runs in with a friend from work whom Nasty Nate is jealous of.

4. I still prefer running alone in the dark than alone in the daylight.  It really is nice to be out in the dark alone.  It is very tranquil at 5 a.m. and River Road is actually very pretty with it's lights reflecting off the river.

5. The problem is nothing funny happens this early.  No one is out but boring runners and cyclists.

Where I've been and where I'm headed this winter:
1. Ten days of 45+ minutes of running.
2. Ten days of 60+ minutes of running.
3. 70 mpw by mid January
4. Sub 5:30 at Meet of Miles
5. Sub 1:30 at the Frozen Half

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lordy I'm 40

My challenge is simple.  On the last day of my 30s (October 8, 2011), I ran a 5k.  I ran that dreaded 18:34 I mentioned earlier and was running all out.  Beforehand I bet my friend our usual wager (a carrot), that no matter how fast my time was, I would beat that time for my next 40 5ks.

So there it is.  The goal is out there.   A tough goal in that I have to stay injury free as well as in shape. It's achievable thanks to my crappy time.  I really did go all out.  Those of you who know me, know I don't like to give my best effort in training but will always go all out in  race.

When is my next 5k, you may be wondering.   I am wondering the same thing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Running Back to Blogging

I know I have let this blog twist in the wind, but I am going to revive it for the sake of my own running.  The last good race I ran was the Victory 5k in 2009.  I ran a 16:29 5k off a steady diet of 60 mile weeks and weekly hill repeats.  I felt maybe if I pushed up to 70 mpw and added a second quality weekly workout, one final sub 16 was there for me to have in my lifetime.

Since then, life happened.  Emily got pregnant, was on bedrest, then was in the hospital with bedrest, Charlotte came early, we had a newborn in the NICU and then at home, and then just as things were settling down, Emily's mom's health began to deteriorate and we lost her this June and miss her everyday.  So here I am, 20 pounds later with an 18:34 5k from October being a satisfactory race for me.  Unacceptable.

This has to change.  And change has been slow so far.  This morning after running with a couple of friends I got to thinking about how nice it is to have goal races, and to race often.  But then I had itchy skin for 30 minutes, post-run, and I remembered how I need that extra motivation to run in the winter to tolerate crap like itchy skin.  If I want to return to the racing scene at a level I can accept, I HAVE to train through the winter so I need to make running more a part of my life.  I miss blogging about running.  Hell, I miss blogging in general.  I miss reading running blogs.  I miss racing.  I miss being around people who love races as much as I do.

I was up to 60 mpw in early October, but not anymore.  I maybe got 35 miles in a week, once, since then.   So I am hitting reset and going back to the basics: 45 minutes a day for ten days.  And when I get there, I will write about the next step.

The end game right now is simple: to get to 70-75 mpw before the Frozen Half Marathon.  But first I have to get through the winter and come out on the other side of the December's first major cold snap and/or snow storm at 50-60 mpw.

And the big picture is also simple.   I know the sub 15 5ks for me are a thing of the past, but I still think I have a puncher's chance of getting under 16.  Yes I have a lot miles and quality workouts to add and pounds to lose, but I do want to give it one more shot.

I hope that by writing about it, I will hold myself accountable.  So my path to 70 mpw does not start with tomorrow's run.  It starts with this blog entry.