Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tapering into Football

ORN #1: 11.7 miles, 2:01:40, R6/W1, 10:24/mile
ORN #2: 0.25 miles, no time, all run, lots of chatter

The beautiful fall weather continues. My first long run of the taper was useful and thought provoking on Saturday (but that's not unusual). During the taper, I'm trying to follow the concept of shortening the mileage but keeping the intensity. With temps in the upper 50s, that was not hard to do. I used a 6/1 and kept the HR up...I was pleased with a sub 10:30pace. The legs were stiff-ish throughout, probably from 23 last Saturday. Interestingly, around mile 8, the legs were neither more nor less stiff than in the early miles, so I pushed the pace with no ill effect. After one day off last week, I go back to the usual schedule this week. I may well run a local 10K race next Saturday as a final "tune up" before Chicago on Oct 10.

My second run of the day was a treat and perhaps the first of many. We had our grandkids over all day. When I returned from my outing, I asked the three of them "Who wants to go for a run?" Young Nathan jumped up and so out we went. I said "Let's see if we can run all the way around the block without walking!" He was game. And off we went...a steady jog and we made it. What a treat! Hope we get to do that more.

On the beautiful fall afternoon, I then took both boys on an outing I often took my own sons on when they were little. With Purdue playing at home, we went down to see the fourth quarter. It's a great value with little traffic, park for free, walk in for free, find an empty seat (plenty of those available, sadly, for Purdue football this season) and enjoy the sun, the crowd and a box of popcorn, if not the game (yeah, Toledo beat the Boilers; a win for the MAC, Darrell!).

Drew, Joe, Nathan

A good day, all the way around. I'm blessed and thankful.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Three is wiser than two

ORN:  23.0 miles, 4:19:50, R/W 4/1, 11:18/mile

Today was the day Indiana runners dream about all year...a fall day with sunshine, clear skies and comfortable temperatures.   Shoot we get 4, maybe 5 days like this each year...and if it falls on a weekend, it's even better...and if it falls on a day when you have a long run scheduled, well, that's just amazing.  

A bonus was a home football game for Purdue with a noon kickoff.  My loop through campus allowed me to share a bit in the fun, pregame atmosphere.  There is something fun about the drum cadence from a big marching band.  It's a hoot to jump into a touch football game with some college kids as you run by.  It's fascinating to watch the people trooping to a game.  

Three weeks until the Chicago Marathon, so today is the last long run.  I had 22 on the calendar and it went well.  I ran today the way I plan to run in Chicago, a 4/1 run/walk ratio, using heart rate to indicate effort.  During the first 16 miles of the run, the pace was steady and it all worked fine.  Over the last 7 miles, the temperature had risen to the upper 70s and my HR was up, more and more.  I found it worked well to simply slow down to get to a proper zone.  That got me home fine.  Due to a slight route change, I had 22.7 miles as I neared home...I went a bit farther to round it off to an "even" 23.  

One perplexing thing during the run...the legs seemed "tired", more so than I anticipated they should be.  Why??  Later in the day, I realized the likely reason.  All my reading on training and all the training I've done in the last four years counsel to separate long runs by three weeks.  And I have not.  I did 22 on August 21, then did the 30K race two weeks later and now 23 in two more weeks.  Yep, the legs were tired and the two-week separations explain why.  Particularly at age 56 (nearly 57!), that timing is key.  

So, I'm glad to have three weeks before John and I line up with 40,000 of our closest friends in Grant Park and begin a tour of the Windy City.  An intelligent taper should leave the legs fresh and ready to run early and run often that day.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heart Rate Approach Summary

ORN:  6 miles total; 4x1 mile intervals @ 8:18/mile average

Boy, the fall weather sure helps the enjoyment of running.   It's been a long, hot summer and I'm grateful for the cool down!

I mentioned in last week's race report I was fleshing out a new-to-me method of incorporating heart rate training to my running, using the Labor Day 30K as a shakedown for the method ahead of the Chicago Marathon on October 10.  As promised, here's my method as it has evolved over the past 6 weeks.

The Background:  The whole concept of HR training has had appeal to me for some time now.  Yet, to read about it, it seems so very complex and many who write about is seem combative.  Battles over this method and that method of zone calculation.  How to plan training.  Expensive devices.  All of this was off-putting to me, even though the concept of using one's own heart rate as a simple and reliable method of bio-feedback made abundant sense.  My effort here, therefore, has been to simplify the thing enough to the point I could use it.  

Further, I've been so pleased in using Galloway's run/walk approach ever since my injury in the 2006 Portland Marathon I was not going to reject that.  It has saved a number of injuries for me and all I really want to do is to continue to run long distances pleasantly.  

Yet, in the two marathons I did this spring, they were less than pleasant at the end.  Thus, I was open to change. But how?  Here's what I did.  

The Actions:  First , I bought a simple HR Monitor.  For $60, I had myself a simple Polar FS2c monitor.  All it does is measure HR and tell you, at the end, what your average and peak HR was.  Simple.  

Second, I had to calculate my Zone 2 (Z2), the seemingly magical zone where one burns mostly fat, not glycogen and keeps you going for a long time.  This was more annoying than I anticipated; but using 5 different methods of calculation, I found none of them differed by more than 3 beats per minute.  Shoot, I won't be fine tuning it that much.  So, by fiat,  I declared the reasonable Z2 for me of 113-128 beats per minute (bpm).  (Yes, Wes, a larger range than I first published here). 

Third, I set a plan combining Run/Walk and HR training that is simple.  I plan to run a 4/1 run/walk ratio (run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute) at Chicago.  And, when I run, I will not use a Garmin to check the pace; rather I will simply hold my pace to stay in Z2.  

Fourth, I changed my mind about finishing time.  I chose to accept whatever time this plan gives me for the marathon.  Finishing well now trumps hitting a particular time goal.  

The Implications:   It means I no longer try to predict what time I will run on a particular day or course.  Instead, I simply take whatever the weather and the course and my conditioning allow.  It means my pace per mile might change.  If the HR gets over 128, I slow down.  If I can't get it up into Z2, I speed up.  If I tire towards the end of the race, my HR will tell me and I will slow down.  I will record the times at each mile but will not be a slave to it.  It means my HR should come back to Z1 during each one minute walk break.  If it stays up, I need to back off more.  It also means I'll probably run longer (no more 1/1 or 2/1 ratios) and probably run slower.  I hope it means I'll be stronger at the end and enjoy it all more.  Indeed, if it works, it will better allow me to achieve my general goal to "Run the Best Race Conditions Allow." 

The Prototyping Test:  So, I took this plan and executed it at the Labor Day 30K last Saturday.  I did not run the race to see how quick I could run 18.6 miles.  I ran it to test the method for Chicago.  Success would mean feeling strong at mile 18, feeling like another 6.2 would be no big deal. 

And it worked.  The course for the 30K was a set of rolling hills.  I could see the HR go up on the uphills and be unchallenged on the downhills.  I saw the HR drop off during the walk breaks.  I felt it stay low through the first five miles, then go level for the next ten or so.  Around mile 15, it felt a big odd, staying up during the walk breaks.  I walked a little longer once, ran a little slower the next run segment, focused on breathing; and it all came back to normal by mile 16.  I passed a lot of folks the last three miles and at the mile 18 marker, said "this is good" and opened it up the last partial mile.  And, according to my new and improved laminated pace chart (that's another blog post sometime), this effort would have netted me a 4:42-4:45 marathon.  And I'd be thrilled with that.  

So, that's the plan.  Yeah, I'm a systems geek, so such efforts fascinate me.  It worked well in the race last week.  It worked wonderfully in my 22 mile training run on Aug 21.  I'm set for another 22 miler next Saturday...we'll test it again.  

Hope this makes's the first time I've tried to explain it all in one place.  Feel free to comment or make further suggestions.



Sunday, September 05, 2010

Race Report: Labor Day 30K

ORN: 18.7 miles, R/W 4/1, 3:19:53, 10:42/mile

Quick summary:

What a fun, unusual, well-run event, just west of Detroit. On hard-packed dirt roads under a full canopy of leaves, the cool weather allowed for a visually and physically pleasant shakedown of my fall marathon plans.

The Gory Details

The Labor Day 30K bills itself as an excellent training event for fall marathons and that it is. Most of the runners I talked with were using it as such.

My own objective for the day was a) to simply have a race and b) to shakedown a new approach to long races, following less-than-satisfying performances in two marathons last spring. Both objectives happened, in spades.

A bonus for the event was some extended time with my Mother-in-law! No, she didn't run but logistics worked out for me to drive her to spend the night with my sister-in-law and family who live in Michigan, on the way to the race site. With all the jokes and chuckles about MIL's, I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with Sue. I truly enjoyed the 9 hours in the car with her up and back. We covered the waterfront several times and even enjoyed a complete Cub-Mets broadcast on the drive home Saturday.

The race was in and around the little down of Milford, Michigan. Easily 3/4 of the miles looked just like this; it was a very satisfying and enjoyable visual surrounding. The other miles were through the village. All in all, the course was well done and accurately measured. It was steadily rolling as well...lots of ups and downs. This is helpful for me, the flatlander, as hills are so hard to come by here in north-central Indiana farm country.

The race started right on time, a fact I always appreciate. About 600 of us trundled off on the unusual 30K distance. The weather turned unusually cool the night before the race, with temps in the low 50s at the start and never getting much beyond 60. The wind added quite a chill, being 20-30mph all day. Fortunately, the heavy tree cover tended to break up the breeze, so it wasn't a huge factor. Clothing-wise, I found this to be the perfect day for cut-off tube socks on the arms.

My main objective for the race was to test the new strategy, combining the Run/Walk pattern of Galloway with the effort-control provided by using a heart rate monitor. I'll write about the plan in a separate post. I was pleased with how it went.

The really great part of this race was there is nothing remarkable to report! The run was, simply, a most enjoyable jaunt through wooded lanes of Michigan. I had some very nice conversations with folks along the way. Mostly though, I simply marveled at the scenery, so very, very different than what I run in all the time and a far cry from the urban setting I'll run in Chicago in five weeks.

After the eight-mile mark, the miles really started to seem to click by. That's a day when you know it is going well. I kept the 4/1 run/walk sequence and it held up well. I even skipped several of the walk breaks around mile 7-9, as I was in a fascinating discussion with a fellow runner. The legs barked at me a bit around mile 15 on one of the hills but that didn't last long. As I passed the 17 mile marker, I felt strong and picked up the pace. We turned back to the finish line just after the 18 mile mark and I opened it up and ran the last 0.7 at an 8:15 pace. I felt strong at the end, satisfied with a good run.

I had forgotten just how much I enjoy "Race Day". The atmosphere, the energy, the challenge, the need to think on your feet to changing circumstances, the ebbs and flows; all so enjoyable. This race had all of them and ended well.

Five weeks remain till Chicago. I'll do another 22 mile training run in two weeks, then a 10K race the week after that; those two runs should finish off the training. And, if Chicago goes well, some other plans for the rest of the fall may unfold nicely.

A good run, a good trip, a good long weekend. I'm grateful.