Monday, April 28, 2008

Itching to get out

It's been a whole week since the marathon and everything is good to go so far. A few aches and pains and some soreness in the legs but nothing a little RICE and stretching can't fix. I usually do a post race evaluation or analysis and try to figure out what went right or wrong and what I could do better next time. This time around I can't really figure out what the heck happened but will give it a go.

The good:
  • consistent training with plenty of long runs since Christmas
  • perfect weather on race day and good taper and rest the week before
  • good downhill training which helped my quads survive the journey
The bad:
  • lack of enough tempo runs for me, though I did follow Pfitz's plan more or less to the letter
  • no races leading up. A few good 10k's or a 1/2 would have helped tune things up
  • more pace on long runs with at least some fast finishes would have helped too but my sore hams all winter prevented that
The ugly:
  • obviously the fast start didn't help but the 1st 5k was within a minute of where I wanted to be. Looking back I should have monitored my HR which shot up right from the start and I paid the price later in the race.
  • not getting treatment for my sore butt/hams came back to bite me. I waited too long to get it sorted out and just barely got healthy enough in time for the race. This problem interfered with getting my quality training in and ended limping along for most of the winter instead of doing the right paces.
The future plan:
  • stick with the ice and stretching routine that I'm now back into; stretching especially after a short warmup mile and after all runs
  • this spring and early summer will be aimed at my shorter distances and then going for a goal race marathon in the late fall.
The present:
  • 2 easy runs in over the last 7 days since Boston with a 5 miler on Sat and long run 6 miles on Sunday! No issues but my legs still felt sore and didn't push the pace at all.
  • Boston race pictures are now up and it appears that my uniform attracted the cameras more than usual. I especially liked the ones with the camera! You need to select Boston 2008 and enter my name 'Power' and race #6812 to see them all.
  • off to Ottawa in the morning to collect one son and to help the older son move to his new place. The running gear and camera is packed and ready!
Have a nice week!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boston: the blow by blow

This could be a long post.

OK, it's been a few days and I've had time to come down out of the clouds. I didn't set any smoking hot PR despite the almost perfect weather, but I did make the best out of a near blow up and salvaged a decent race and had a great time doing it. I'll try to put a few details around my race and some initial analysis of my results though there's sometimes no explanation for why we sometimes have good and sometimes not-so-good race days.Here's our arrival at the Athlete's village after a 1 hour+ bus ride! We didn't get lost but the traffic was heavy and there were some bottlenecks getting into Hopkinton. I might try getting on the buses a bit earlier next year to avoid the rush. We arrived here at 9am and they were already starting to call the 1st wave runners (lower numbers) to the corrals.

The long lines of yellow school buses at the Boston Common (remember to 'go' before you get on).
There are huge rows of port-o-potties at the village but the lines were 30-50 people long (you don't see the waiting customers to the right in this picture here). I did a quick walk around the village and then headed for my corral hoping to find shorter lines nearer the start. After ditching my extra warm gear and stripping down to the basic Canada outfit with one throw-away long sleeve pullover on top I was lucky to find short lines just before the corrals. At least I didn't have to go for Plan C which is the pee in the spare bottle trick. I was in my corral by 9:30 and got quite near the front and then started doing my regimen of stretches (despite not being able to warm up properly).

About this point the skies started to clear and I realized that I'd forgotten my sunscreen (damn) but it sure looked like we were going to have a perfect weather day. Little or no wind at the start 45-50F, couldn't ask for better. Soon enough the ropes are dropped and we squeeze together like cattle heading for the exit chute. Crowds cheering, cameras clicking, like a big party and we're off!
This is in the 1st mile looking down the road at the sea of people. With my #6812 I was close to dead center of the 1st wave which went to #13999. There were lots of different costumes around me and I focused on putting in a steady hard pace while keeping my breathing under control. The 1st mile went by in a surprising 7:18, followed by 7:08, 7:21, 7:16 and finally a 7:30 (target pace) in the 5th mile. These overly fast miles felt really out of my control, despite trying to hold back and take it easy. It didn't seem like my breathing was hard but it didn't seem easy either as I continued rolling along (to my doom ;-).
Seeing this guy made me think of Thomas but I know it is the wrong flag. The next five miles were in the 7:20-739 range and I was feeling better about these numbers but already the effort was starting to seem harder than I'd like so early in the race. When you're running a good marathon I like to feel like the 1st 13 miles is just a warmup with the real work beginning after that. By now I knew today was not going to be the day and the going was going to get tough sooner than later.

At least my hamstring (right leg mainly) behaved during today's race. It's been a big worry over the past few weeks and has bothered me during all my long runs since before Christmas. But maybe the icing, massage and physio did the trick and it stayed at bay for the entire run. My worry was that it was going to seize up and I'd not be able to even finish the race but my luck held. In fact my hams were as good as they've been all year and it was the rest of my leg (muscles) that didn't measure up .

The next five were more of a struggle with 7:40's and then 7:50's as the crowds were in full cheer mode especially near mile 13. With my pace now slowing and the effort increasing with each mile it now became a mental game for me. Mile 16 in 7:46 which would be the last sub 8 as the hills began with mile 17 in 8:24.

At this point I hooked up with Mike from Fredericton and we talked our way through the Newton Hills (including my stop for photo's with friends on Heartbreak. Splits now dropped more into 8's including a 9:05 and 9:22 on miles 19 and 21 (the hills). After that it was more or less downhill to the finish and I managed 8:20-8:35 to the finish by feeding off the energy from the crowds. My legs were hurting but not as badly as some years.
The CITGO sign and 1 mile to go is a welcome relief after all the hard miles and effort required to keep one on moving down the road. It's funny how you forget the hurt (already thinking of the next one) but what I remember in the last mile is the cheering roar and following a medical 4-wheeler with a runner on a stretcher. It was going just a bit faster than me and I couldn't catch it. I was also scanning the crowds faces looking for Andrew (but stuck on the left side while he turned out to be on the right) and missed him.
I snapped this one of the crowds and by accident got a sign cheering for Bruce (who drove me down and was the #2 New Brunswick runner).
I finished right behind the Hoyts who have been doing this marathon for years and years.
The scene at the end was one of shining rustling space blankets. The temperature was now in the 60's but we felt cool when in the shade or in the wind.
Some interesting analysis of my 5k split times in recent marathons compared with Lance's (yellow), the top woman Tune (pink) and top man Cheriyot (blue). Red line is the heat wave in 2004, black line is this year. Notice how my 5k splits get slower and slower as the race goes on while the elites tended to get faster as they go along. The top women's increase in pace is just mind boggling to me. I still have alot to learn about how to run this course.
Finally a plot of my average heartrate and the elevation profile of the course. I didn't really monitor heartrate during the race except when going up some of the hills and was surprised at maintaining such a high level for me for most of the race (over 150). The dips down here and there are slowdowns at water stops and I'm afraid the spike took place at the Wellesley scream tunnel (wonder why?). There is some decrease in heartrate near the end of the race but not much and I'm happy with the overall effort.

It's getting late now and it's time to do my stretches and get to bed. Maybe I'll have more thoughts on this race later on but I'm already thinking of looking ahead for what's next. Eager to get that 1st run in a day or so too! Have a great week!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Baaaston is AWESOME!!!

You'd think I'd get used to this race as old hat, 'been there, done that' but it simply gets better and better. What a great day, what unbelievable crowds, what an awesome good time I had! My finish time was only 3:28:59 after a too fast 1st 1/2 in 1:38 but it was sooo much fun (I'm still in post run high mode).

I'm just going to post a few fun pics for now. Full race report later when I have more time.

pre-race in the subwayIn my corral waiting

The people you meet while running. Pink dress and pink shoes too!

Friends from St. Andrews on Heartbreak Hill and I took a moment to rest! Ha!
Ahhh, now my clothes get a little rest and cleanup too. That coffee, doughnut, chocolate chip cookies and beer were soooo goood!

That's it for now. Time for more beer, steak, brownies and ice cream (nothing is off limits after a marathon)! See you later ;-)

Oh, yeah, I did a little video of the insane Wellesley Girls Scream zone!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Going through the motions

A pre-race picture from 2003.

There's not alot to report this week except for the waiting. And the sitting and icing and waiting. The weather has been absolutely perfect for being outdoors and running all this week. Clear skies, light winds, warm temperatures, no rain or sleet or snow, perfect! The only problem is that my right hamstrings are still sore. The icing and stretching is helping but I don't find it's doing that much to make it go away like I'd prefer.

After Sunday's 13 miler the legs were quite sore requiring several applications of my handy ice bags.

Tues - physio in the morning and easy 6 mile run. As usual the legs were very stiff for the 1st mile but then loosened up nicely after some stretches. Unfortunately this won't be an option on Monday unless I want to get passed by 2000 runners.

Weds - 7 mi with 2 at MP run went nicely. Another great shorts & t-shirt days. I found myself running too fast with the 1st mile in 7:15 before dialing it back to a 7:26 for the 2nd mile almost on target. I don't have 'spring' in my legs that I'd like but at least they are freshening up a bit.

Thurs & Friday - just 5 mile easy runs where I debated not running but decided that I'd stiffen up less if I put in a short run. Sitting at a desk all day is not the best way to get ready for a marathon or to ease sore hamstrings. Total of 37 miles for the week and now 920 YTD.

So, I'm just sitting here waiting, writing this watching more hockey while sitting on my ice pack. The plan is to head out in the morning around noon with fellow Boston bound NB runner Bruce Rosval. It's a 6-7hr drive down and then we'll drive the course, get a meal and drop in our wonderful Boston hosts. On Sunday we'll take in the women's Olympic trials and pick up our race numbers.

Followed by more waiting...I can't wait! My bib #is 6812 and you can follow me at the Boston website on Monday. It will be all good no matter how things play out. Boston is the best! Have a great weekend, I know I will!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sweet 13

Mmmm, sweet! These were our tasty treats at the end of our medium and/or long runs today. I've had cravings for chocolate in recent days and Jo was kind enough to whip up an old recipe from my Bathurst cookbook. She was reluctant to make it 'It's all sugar!' but in the end I got my hearts desire ;-)

The easy recipe for my treats which are named 'Dogfood' (or 'Moose Droppings' by Jon):
1c coconut, 2.5c oatmeal, 1/2c cocoa - mix in a bowl
1/2c milk, 2c sugar, 1/4c margarine/butter, 1/2tsp salt - mix in pot and bring to boil for 2 minutes. Combine mixtures, add droppings to pan, place to cool in fridge,

Today's run was an easy short loop of Boyden Lake where I met Andrew and Jon at our standard start spot but Andrew had already put in 7 miles by parking down the loop earlier and running to the start. It was a very easy paced fun run with various stops along the way, for stretching, for water and nature breaks and of course picture stops. We've seen these horses and dog all winter and this was the 1st time that I took a second to preserve the memory. The barn is just at the edge of the road and the dog only wagged his tail at me and tried to get closer.

A very quick feeling run that seemed to be over before it even got started. We just rolled along easily at about 8:30 pace in constant conversation and laughter. Plans were made for next weekends activities as I'll be meeting Andrew and Marc in Boston. Perhaps a nice pasta meal at La Cantina and then the Womens Olympic Trials on Sunday and of course the main event on Monday. And all along the way I kept teasing the boys about my promised 'treats', the only hint I gave was that all food groups were included. I think the pace picked up a bit as we neared the cars and the stomachs started to grumble.
The 'treats' went over very well but I couldn't wait to inhale mine. Also missing in the picture are some cans of sardines that I brought along to provide a protein supplement for my runners which are also very high in omega 3 fats!

And the final week of taper continues.

My cousin Garry has now finished his 2.4mi swim and is into the 112 mile bike ride at Ironman Arizona (bib#1635). Wish him well!

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Final preparations

I'm just going to make a few notes on my last few runs of substance before I get to go completely stir crazy on a diet of rest days and easy runs. Despite being called a taper there is still running involved which is either faster or longer than normal. What is a normal no-stress run for me? That would be typically anything less than an hour in length and usually slower than marathon pace. You might think that marathon pace might be a little fast but my usual easy pace tends to be only 30-45 sec/mile slower than MP and seems to be where I'll settle in on auto-pilot.

I've been following the Pfitzinger Advanced Marathon 70 mile/week or less, 18 week schedule and all his schedules has you doing the following workout at 10 days out from race day: VO2max, 8mi w/3x1600m @5k race pace, jog 2 min between. I've done this workout over many marathon buildups and it's never been much of a problem but you do wonder why you're running this fast so close to the end. Even Pfitz says in his book 'VO2 max sessions have their place in marathon preparation but they should be included sparingly'. My pet theory is that this is just a not so gentle reminder to my limited (lazy) fast twitch muscles to wake up and start producing mitochondria and glycogen or something like that'.

So... on Friday I tentatively headed out for my 8 miles with 3x1600. It was a lovely sunny day but there was a cool northerly wind so I dressed in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. After the 1st easy mile I stopped for about 5-10 minutes of stretching before continuing along. I used to do this warmup and stretch routine in the past but it gradually got lost in the shuffle mostly due to time constraints and not wanting to stop. However, the recent benefits have shown me the routine is well worth the extra time. I've found that my legs feel much better on restarting the run and there appears to be some improvement in range of motion and stride length.

After another mile of easy running I then eased into the heart of the workout as I did the 1 mile repeats back and forth on a fairly level stretch of road on the town Point. The only issue with this route was having the wind either at my back or in my face for about 1/2 of each interval. I imagine this must even out but it's never fun running hard into a tough headwind.
The first mile went by in 6:44 (avg hr 150) and felt like a controlled hard but not all out effort as I carefully monitored the hamstrings and breathing throughout. There were a few minor twinges but no pain or feeling of restriction from overly tight legs.

After a 2 minute walk/jog rest the second mile started out exceptionally well as I floated along (slightly downhill with the wind at my back) at under 6:30 pace for the 1st 1/2 but then reality set in as I slowed in the headwind with a 6:39 final split (avg hr 151).

Another easy 2 minutes and I was off on the final effort. This time it felt like more work and took concentration to not daydream and fall off the pace. The legs were still feeling fine and only slight twinges if anything as I struggled in with a 6:45 (avg hr 150). The rest of the run was just easy running to fill out the 8 miles and I've had no soreness or after effects since then.

Today, Saturday was just a 5 mile easy run around town. It started out in a light rain with a cold temperature of 3C. As usual I stopped and stretched under some convenient cover after the 1st mile before hurrying along to keep warm. No planned strides today as I wanted to get out of the cold in my light garb of shorts, shirt and rain jacket but still a nice finish to the week. Weekly total of 49 miles in 6hr 30min on the roads.

And that's all he wrote. Take care and have a nice weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Taper madness

There is nothing quite like the Great Canadian Winter and we had our share these past few months. However, I'm thankful that we don't live in northern New Brunswick where this picture was taken this past weekend. It's hard to believe and we're seeing this after a significant melt! BTW it's still snowing.

A few hundred miles south and the crocuses are blooming in our backyard and I've been running in shorts all week. Awww, so nice and my pace has picked up on the easy runs as a result. I think the lack of extra clothing and layers can produce a 20-30 second per mile improvement with no training involved at all! At least that's what my watch has been telling me lately.

The leg is also getting better after over a week of treatments and multiple icings and stretching. It doesn't hurt to sit at my desk so much and there is less tightness and reduction in my stride but I'm still reluctant to push the pace. Actually, at this point the work is done and all I can do is hold back and try not to do any harm.

I had a nice visit up to Bathurst but it was a long drive over winding bumpy roads. We stayed for a couple of days and there was time for one easy 5 mile run in the snow and rain. The return drive on Sunday was a little better using some alternate roads but my ice packs were of limited help for the sore hamstrings. Immediately on arrival back home it was out the door for my last long run of the program. Despite starting out stiff and sore, things loosened up nicely after the 1st mile and it was hard to go slower than 8:00 pace during most of this run. I've found that the stretching after the 1st mile of running is helping more and more. It seems to lengthen the muscles and I feel alot smoother after a quick 5 minute session mid-run. The rest of the run went well, mostly in cruise mode trying to hold back the horses but towards the end things began to tighten up as the legs got sore again. 17 miles in 2:18 (8:06 pace).

Monday - very sore hams all day as I paid the price for the long car ride followed by a long run. Icing every hour or so helped but it was not the best way to be feeling so close to the end.

Tues - physiotherapy appointment thankfully was scheduled 1st thing today but the leg was feeling much better today. My easy 5 miler came back at 8:03 pace as the sunny 14C temperature made running a real joy today.

Weds - 8 miles with some so-called stride pickups but held back on the speed so as to not strain those hammies any more than necessary. Another shorts and t-shirt day made for a great run. Time to whip out some sunscreen!

Thurs - easy 5 miles today in 40:30. These short easy runs hardly seem worth doing but I guess we have to remind the body that there are no days off yet. I've got a harder 3x1600 workout scheduled this week but have been putting it off because of, well you know. Might try it on Friday but as I've said the work is done and there is no point in pushing it unless things feel right. We'll see.

Meanwhile, this weekend has the London marathon taking place and you can get it live at 5am eastern on WCSN. Even more exciting, my cousin Garry from Alberta is doing Ironman Arizona and you can track his number #1635 at the Ironman website starting at 7am on Sunday. Give him a shout out and wish him well. He'll need it, the bike course looks sick and the marathon route is hilly too. The things we athletes do for fun, eh?

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's all downhill isn't it?

It's taper time and I'm just putting my feet up and drinking beer and eating ice cream because all the training is done and it's all downhill from here right? ''Oh no! What about the downhills?".

Remember what the Boston course profile looks like?
The detailed profiles are here as well. There is a net elevation drop of about 450ft but those hills between mile 17 and 21 can do you in when you are tired. Experience has shown me that the downhills are murder on my quads, so much so, that by the time I reach mile 21 I'm usually hobbling in pain and can't take advantage despite the final easy downhills.

Thus Wednesday's 12 mile run looked something like this. The green line is elevation and the blue line is speed. The basic story was an easy warmup with some stretching after 1.5 miles, then easy running until about mile 6, followed by 4 miles of hill repeats where I ran hard 'down' the hills at close to 7:00 minute pace, easy up the 1/2 mile hill and repeat, easy run back to finish. I was beat after this workout but my quads will thank me in a few weeks time.
The rest of the week has been rather uneventful.

Monday - rest day but still very tired from Sunday and so I took the afternoon off work to rest. My legs were quite sore and finally made an appointment for physiotherapy.

Tues - got my physio today and after a complete workup she agreed I had a hamstring problem. The solution was to continue with my stretching program but to add to it and hold each stretch longer (15-30sec), repeating 3x. I'm also on a regimen of icing 10 minutes at a time 3-4x per day. I'm also stopping after a 1 mile warmup and stretching as well as after the run. Believe it or not but it's working! I can almost touch my toes again and can feel some improvement after only 3 days of self therapy! Tuesdays run was just an easy 8 miles with some pickups (not worthy of being called strides)

Weds - hill session above

Thurs - easy 6 miles in hurricane winds but mild temps

Friday - easy 5 planned then off to Bathurst to visit my Mom who is not doing too well.

Have a good weekend. A special good luck with to our Irish friend, Thomas, running the Connemara 39.3 mile ultramarathon. He will do awesome and have the stories to match!

Take care out there.