Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wannabe Wednesday: The Main Reason I Wanted to Run a Marathon

You may have read my interview with my Uncle John, who is not only incredibly humble, but also an insanely talented runner.  Today's edition of Wannabe Wednesday features yet another person whose genetic pool I should have inherited, which means I should be a really fast, awesome runner.  But, you already know that part didn't happen.

What you might not know is that one of the main reasons I got in to running, and certainly one of the big reasons why I trained for and ran the New York City Marathon, is: MY DAD.  Below, I share an interveiw with him about his glory days on the roads.  Enjoy!

Dad's on the left - I would have cropped the photo, but how could I mess with it when all 3 are rocking such awesome the late 70s/early 80s attire?

Can you share some PRs of yours for various race differences
The following on some times that I think I remember properly from my second running career (starting after age 31 until age 36 and not when I ran in high school or college which were a good bit better and I younger).  5 mile 27:55; 10K 36:45; 10 mile 58:40; 1/2 marathon 1:19:10, marathon 2:54. Interestingly, I was probably a better runner in high school than my younger brother but in later years he became far better than me in any distance. He is a good example that you do not need to have been a high school track star to become a very good runner in later years if you make an effort and stay with it. I essentially stopped racing after age 36 and became a recreational runner three to five times a week for many years thereafter. 

Tell us about your best marathon ever - your finish time, which race it was, etc.
Although not my fastest, the Philadelphia marathon in I think 1980 was my favorite.  It was the first time it became a point to point run instead of three laps plus around the Schukyll River in Fairmount Park.  The weather was great, I knew many runners in it and I ran the second 1/2 faster than the first, including running the last mile in under 6 minutes to finish about 10 seconds under 3 hours.  The last mile passed within a block of our house in center city Philly at the time so many of the spectators were my neighbors.  A friend of my brothers ran the first 10 miles with me to keep me from going to fast after a slow 8:05 the first mile (there were no chips to record time only after one crossed the finish line then) and my brother waited for me around mile 18 with some Coca Cola that had been shaken to rid it of the fix). Serious runners would say I did not run hard enough to have so much left in the second half of the race but it made for an enjoyable experience and run which I can not say about most of the races I ever ran in with better finishing times at any distance.

How did you first get into running?  Were you a speed demon right off the bat, or did you start out like the rest of us mere mortals and then work your way up?  If the latter, can you describe your progression and what types of workouts or strategies you felt particularly began making the difference? 
I started running high school cross country as a junior because one of my friends who wanted to try out for the team talked me into it and offered a ride in his car home to practices.  I did it more to be a good friend and figured it would not hurt for me to get in somekind of shape.  I can never thank my friend enough for having gotten me started in something I have enjoyed doing the rest of my life until last year when an injury has prevented me from further running.  I was  far from being a speed demon when I started and never became one.  My strength was being able to maintain a decent speed for longer stretches than many except the elite runners.  In fact I think it took me at least two if not three weeks of training before I could run the entire cross country course without stopping. The course was only about 2.3 miles but had a tough hill in the first half mile and a longer gradual run that ended just before the 2 mile mark.  It was a great course and included a short run in the woods and at least one spot that required a short jump over a stream. It was a big advantage for us when we were the host team. I also could hardly walk the first couple of days after practice, developed shin splints that ached after running.  Not sure why I persevered but by the next year I was the number 3 runner on a very strong varsity team.  I remember one meet senior year where the coach of the host team made a snide remark that just in case any of us visiting runners were interested, the course record was X. I ran my worst race of the year that day and finished a painful 5th on my team but also 5th in the race and broke the course record.  That coach was not too happy with us. The best training for me in that first year was longer runs than I was racing at good but relaxed speeds.  Intervals and step running became more important after the first year when I was attempting to increase my speed, although I loathed the interval work. In high school we were allowed to walk between intervals but I latter learned and utilized intervals with jogging in between as the better way to build speed/endurance. 

Did you do much cross training or did you just run, run, run?
We did not know what cross training was.  So it was run, run, run.  Once a week our high school track coach (who was a great coach and person) would make all of the non sprinters go out for a one hour run any where we wanted as long as we did not stop. 

How did you learn to pace yourself throughout races and your workouts?  So many running articles recommend that you add sprints or tempo runs to your workout, but it can be very difficult to figure out how much is pushing yourself the right amount to (1) make it through the rest of the workout, (2) not be so sore that you can't workout in the coming days, (3) not get sick after, and (4) not get injured.  With so much to keep you guessing, what do you recommend for people trying to start incorporating more "efforts" into their "workouts"?
Use common sense and do not try to do too much sprint and tempo stuff too soon.  However, one should have a goal of how fast and how many intervals (with jogging in between to recover) one would like to eventually get to.  For example, if your goal is 6 minute miles for 5 miles then you clearly need to build to where you can run several quarters (10) in under 90 seconds (preferably in the 80 to 85 second range) without an all out effort. This can take a while to get there.  Once there you should aim for 5 to 6 one half mile runs with a quarter mile recovery jog in between at say a 2:45 to 2:50 pace.  And you still need to maintain one or two longer runs each week, with one or both more than the racing distance you are training for.  Another good technique that an elite runner friend once get me to do with considerable success is to run several races as training runs but at say 75% to 90% effort as part of your training regime with no rest days before or after the race. For example, running two or three 10K races at least 85% of all out raceeffort when training for a 1/2 or full marathon are great pace builders. These practice races are not to be a substitute for the necessary long training runs for a 1/2 or full marathon. and the hardest thing about a practice race is when people you can beat are passing you and you feel like yelling "I can go faster" but you need to eat your pride and let them go on these events. 

Did you typically create your own training schedules for races (and if so - what were some of your staples that you would always like to include, or could you provide a sample idea of what one might look like, etc.) or did you usually follow a published one/hire a coach/etc (and if so which one did you use)?
Did my own schedules and included things discussed above. 

What's your favorite type of training run?
Moderate speed middle distance run (4 to 7 miles)

What's your favorite distance to race?
10 miles as it helped separate the naturally swift from those of us with moderate speed but who had put in more miles to train for the race.  Longer races were often too punishing and often required more training to achieve peak performances than I had the time or desire to undertake.

Most embarrassing moment that ever happened to you on a run?
I accidentally became part of a small 5 mile race while finishing a 23 mile run and ending up beating the leaders to the finish line. It was a race for a small charity and none of the good local runners were in it.  I had no idea I had passed all of the racers until I was within 200 yards of the finish which was also the finish of my long run that day.  I veered off the course in the last couple of yards and people at the tape were yelling at me that I was off course not realizing I was not part of the race.  I felt stupid and worried that some thought I was being a hot dog or cheater, having not started with the group of racers.  So I quickly got to my car and drove away.  

Are there any conventional "rules of running" that you threw out the window and in retrospect wish you'd obeyed? 
Yes, I often overtrained and did not taper off the last week, especially before longer races like the 1/2 and full marathon in my early years.  One time I had a minor injury about two or three weeks before a 1/2 marathon and could not train except a couple of short runs the last week before the race.  I fretted that it had ruined my chance for a good time and that all of my hard work would be for naught.  I was able to run the race and ran like the wind for the first 10 to 11 miles.  I lost a little gas the last mile (I had been unable to do my last long run two weeks before the race due to the injury) but I still ran my best time at that time. Thereafter I learned to taper but I still often ran longer and faster than I should have many times.  Taking a day off now and then and sticking to planned distances, even when you feel great during a run, is the better approach as common wisdom suggests.  When I was running in my 30's, a bunch of my running friends would take pride being part of "Team Excess" by often running that extra mile or second or two faster during intervals than was part of the planned training regime.  Unfortunately the belief that if it does not kill you it will makeyou better was the mantra of many a training run.  That was clearly foolish and I wish I had been smarter about it.  

Many years later - Dad cheering me on in the Naples Half Marathon!
You definitely wouldn't know we were related from comparing our race times!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Naples Half Marathon Recap

Fiasco? Disaster? Disappointment?  Failure?  All of the Above?
Technically I finished - here's the medal I "earned"... 
Yup, that just about sums up the Naples Half for me.  But, hey, you win some you lose some, right?  This race's training was pretty much as up and down as you could get.  I fluctuated from having great training runs [my fastest 10 miles yet!] to angrily wondering why I couldn't finish a simple 6 mile run.  I also fluctuated weight - 9 pounds in 3 weeks, to be exact - presumably a result of following the low Fodmap diet to help with my um...trottasticness?  So, I wasn't entirely sure what would happen at this race - I tried to be optimistic, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be great.

Let's start this recap by saying that I thought I was going to get lucky with some cool weather when the 80-something degree forecasts started dropping to the 60's.  Little meteorology (?) lesson here: don't forget about humidity.  When I looked up the weather the night before the race, there it was, lurking in a small font below the seemingly reasonable 60ish degree forecast: 100% humidity.  Yeah, so, safe to say I felt like I was running while wrapped in saran wrap.

As I walked from my parents house to the start line, though, I was trying to focus on other things.  Like, how freaking cool it was that some world class runners were warming up jogging right by me on 5th Avenue.  One of the benefits of running a race with good prize money, but less than 2,000 entrants?  Getting to exchange "Good Lucks" with some pretty awesome runners like Hellen Jemutai and Ernest Kebenei.

Another plus was that though the lines weren't short, per say, you could definitely get in a nervous trip to a porta-potty or two pre-race.

By the time the National Anthem was sung [with the help of the runners when the speakers gave out], the sun was beginning to rise and the sticky air was hugging us hello.  I started out happy enough, thinking that the heat would be no problem, just as long as I made sure to hydrate.  Water stations were about every 2 miles so I made sure to get water or Gatorade at each.  The first few miles I was trying to just enjoy running in my first race in a while, how cheery everyone around me was, and the fact that the several out-and-backs meant that I would get to wave hello to my faster friends who were running the race.

Around mile 4 I even made a friend.  An older gentleman who asked me if I knew how to dance several different types of dances - all of which I did not.  "Then how are you going to dance at your wedding?" he asked me.  "Ha, I've got to work on getting a ring first," I replied.  At that point he told me that if my boyfriend was in town for the race I should put them in touch so that he could guarantee me a ring soon, "and I'll make sure to let him know it should be 6 months worth of salary," he assured me.  The company and laughs were welcome, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep up with the pace for much longer, so I pardoned myself.

The pace the first half was clearly part of my problem.  I crossed the half way point around 1:07, which would have taken 3-4 minutes off my PR if I could have continued on at that pace.  Big IF, people.  By the halfway point I was already annoyed about the out-back nature of the course and feeling the humidity get to me.  Not long after I decided to entice myself with a Power Gel.  It may have been too late.  A few miles later, around mile 9.5, I decided I'd walk the water stop - no harm in that.  In fact, I think I even walked a water stop or two during my best half.  Sadly, this was the beginning of the end for me.  By mile 10 my tummy troubles started flaring up [how is this possible?! I hydrated! I've been diligently following a Low Fodmap diet! I drank about 1/3 of a bottle of Pepto before the race!], and the next thing I knew I was coming out of a porta potty around mile 10, reading a sidewalk chalking that said "The Universe Has Got Your Back," - yeah right, I thought.

I had been run/walking for a few miles when I caught up with a nice guy from Indiana who was doing the same - apparently following me the last few miles, as he said.  I told him we should try to jog it home when we hit the 12 mile marker, but that lasted about 2 minutes at best.  He told me he'd walk with me for a bit, which was very sweet.  So naturally, I felt really bad when we turned the corner to where my parents house was coming up and I took off - I thought we'd run together but I had a little more juice than him at that point and knew my parents and their friends would be cheering - I had to at least put in whatever I had left to not look too pathetic for them!

When all else fails, smile and be thankful you have a cheering section :)

My mom & dad and some of their wonderful friends cheered me on and held a sign saying there was a 1/2 mile to go.  I decided that if they could hang around outside for hours cheering I could put on a good face and run to the finish.  The extra support definitely helped - if nothing else than to remind me that they could probably still see me on the straight away if I walked!

Wishing the finish line closer - unsuccessfully
A few minutes later I crossed the finish line with my dismal, worst finish time ever - just under 2:28.  Yeah, Paula would have lapped me if she had been running the course twice.  But, you do what you can, you know?  I absolutely wish I hadn't stopped to walk, but I honestly didn't feel like I had anything left to keep going - even super slow.  And sure enough, when I got home, my body let me know that I had certainly not left anything in the tank - by giving me a traditional post-run nausea and vomit fest.  Seriously - how's that for capping off a bad race?

Fortunately, I had my mama to take care of me while I was sick and my dad to cheer lead me through the tumultuous training, and to rally up a team of cheerleaders for me on the course, and an overall great weekend with my parents.  So all in, maybe the race itself wasn't the best experience, but I'm glad for the good that came with the bad!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Naples Half Marathon Goal: Beat Paula Radcliffe's World Record?

A few people have asked me what my goal is for the Naples Half Marathon, and it's something I had put off deciding because there were so many data points to consider and I wanted to first see how my training was going.

A few of the facts I've been considering:

Favorite Fact Contemplated:
  • Paula Radcliffe's World Record for the full marathon is 2:15:25.  It would be great to beat that time just to say that for now, anyway, no woman could run TWO consecutive half marathons faster than I could complete one.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Is Naples Bad Luck? Hopefully not for my Half's Sake!

Did I mention that I used to be an ice skater and prefer to work out in the cold?

If I wore no sleeves on the ice, just think how hot I must be in a tank top and 70* weather!
And that if you don't get up VERY EARLY in Naples it gets hot?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tummy Troubles & a Tempo Tuesday

The original plan for this post was to write about the tempo run that the boyfriend nudged me through, resulting in a successfully quick 4 miles @ 9:30 pace, including a big hill and lots of snow.

Remember the Michigan snow? It was particularly deep on the trail we brilliantly followed around a lake.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Two Crummy Runs and a Redemption

If you've been following along lately, you'll know that training has been going well for the Naples Half Marathon on Martin Luther King Day weekend, and I was starting to feel really optimistic about the race.  [My awesome Uncle John even shot me an e-mail suggesting I might be able to race it in under 2 hours, although unfortunately I think that might still be out of reach for this race].  But if you've been following along more than just lately, you might also know that I vote for cold in terms of favorite temperature to run in.  So I guess it shouldn't have come as a shock that running in Florida wouldn't be as swell as my last two long runs were in NYC's cool December weather, but somehow it still was.

How could you complain about spending Christmas here, right?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Unconventional Advice that Actually Worked!

At the start of this weekend I planned to try to build some strength and endurance by running my long run through the hills of Central Park.  I was hoping to get to 10 miles, but as long as I surpassed my 8 from last week that was going to be enough.  But then a funny thing happened that changed my plans.  I texted my friend Cam, to see if I could have a phone date with her later in the week to go over some ideas I had for continuing my race training.  Cam went from about a 2:15 half to sub 2 hrs in just 3 halfs, so I was interested in her opinion.  Our text convo altered my plan for the weekend.