Posts Tagged ‘pace’

2013 ING Miami Half Marathon

Travel & Lodge

IMG_20130125_093053My wife and I flew into Miami, Florida on the Friday before the race at approximately mid-day.  We were greeted by a beautiful blue sky filled with popcorn-like, white puffy clouds, and a $40 cab fare from the airport to the hotel.  I booked our hotel several months ago based basically on a single criteria, its proximity to the start-finish line.  Luckily for us, the Holiday Inn Port of Miami was 3 blocks from the start line and 2 blocks from the finish.

My stomach had started feeling a little uneasy the day before our trip but I wasn’t too concerned since I wasn’t suffering from any other symptoms such as headache, fever or sinus issues.  I already had enough on my plate stressing over the recent shin splint appearance, not to mention the normal first-time big race paranoia over training, fitness, and whatever else could theoretically throw a wrench in my plans.

IMG_20130125_134858We arrived too early to check in to our room so we headed across the street to the Bayside Market Place where we decided to have a single, large splurge meal before I had to go on pre-race lock down.  We settled on the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory and while I didn’t necessarily care for the over the top Forrest Gump theme or the lack-luster service, the shrimp scampi was filling and tasty.  We also each enjoyed a Corona-Rita, which is a bottle of Corona beer suspended upside down over a glass partially filled with margarita mixer. If I wasn’t registered to run a half marathon two days later I could have sat right in that chair for the duration of the weekend.

Unfortunately, my stomach’s previous rumblings were not a false alarm and for the next 3 days, no matter what I ate or drank, I would have to make a direct path for the bathroom within 30 minutes or risk public humiliation.

The Expo

I had planned on just relaxing after lunch on Friday and heading over to the Expo on Saturday afternoon so I could catch a talk by Matt Fitzgerald, co-author of one of my favorite books on running.  But as it turned out, the hotel employee who was checking us in was also running the half marathon and we struck up quite the conversation, during which he constantly recommended that we go to the Expo immediately so we could register my wife for the Tropical 5k, scheduled to be run at 7:30 am on Saturday morning.

We took the free shuttle over to the Expo and it was a nicely laid out event with all of the typical and expected vendors hawking their goods and offering free samples of their products. I was adamant about not trying any of the energy gels, shots, gummies, etc so as to avoid any bad reactions, and instead we focused on purchasing a few items of clothing and other memorabilia.

And then it happened! While I was collecting my registration packet my wife told me she was walking over to sign up for the 5k event.  I was excited for her but honestly also slightly concerned about the logistical issues since the race did not start or finish near our hotel.  We wrapped things up fairly quickly at the Expo and headed back to the hotel turn in early after starting the travel day at 3 am.

Tropical 5k & Expo Day 2

We woke up at 5 am on Saturday, choked down some coffee and a PowerBar headed out on our adventure hunt to find the 5k race. We ran into another couple about 15 minutes into our trip, and then a runner visiting from Germany, and then another couple, from Brazil. No one knew how to find or get to the Miami Children’s Museum on foot from where we were. I knew we were in deep trouble when a BMW pulled up beside us and the occupants rolled down the windows and asked us if we knew how to get to the race because they were official event media personnel and were lost.

IMG_20130126_165115We walked about 5k through less than ideal neighborhoods and highways overpasses before running into a shuttle service at Parrot Jungle that took us to the race.  I stayed on the bus and rode it to the finish line of the point to point race so I could wait for my wife. She cruised through in a personal best for her, all smiles, and looking great. Congrats baby! Great atmosphere at both the finish line and the after-party which took place at Nikki Beach.

We left pretty early to get back to the hotel, clean up and shop a little for the kids and extended family before heading back out to the Expo so I could catch Matt’s speech about the “art and science of pacing.”  He gave a great talk, took questions after and I even managed to pin him in a corner for some last minute strategy advice as well as an autograph for my copy of Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon.

Rookie Mistakes

I did the best I could avoiding common pitfalls that sabotage unsuspecting or undisciplined racers.  I didn’t drink any alcohol other than my single beer on Friday. I stayed away from sampling new and exciting products from highly energetic Expo vendors, and then I let my goofy, dumb-ass pride kick in.

There was a beautiful blue, race-themed tech shirt for sale. And I started rationalizing how it might be easier for my wife to spot me in the race if I wasn’t wearing the official orange shirt like 25,000 other runners.  Plus I could then puff my chest out and wear the orange shirt during our flight home on Monday, bragging to the world about my exploits.

IMG_20130127_051338Well, what do you know?  By about mile 7 my nipples were raw. So raw that I was occasionally grabbing at my shirt to pull the fabric away from my chest rather than let it drag across my chest again.

Since I was feeling flat from all of my digestive issues I made a last minute to decision to abandon my strategy of running with a pace group targeting a 2:20 finish.  Instead I decided to program a 13.1 mile workout into my Garmin, and assign various pace ranges to several segments so I could be reminded of an overall strategy without feeling the pressure of running with a group or constantly glancing at my watch.

Unfortunately, I did not realize or forgot that this would cause the Garmin to not give me 1 mile split times but instead provide only 3 splits referencing the 6 mile, 4 mile and 5k segments I had programmed.  A real bummer not to be able to waste a few hours staring at my first ever half marathon split times from start to finish.

The Race

Finally! We get to what you came here for.

The corrals opened at 5 am and I walked outside the hotel with my wife at about 5:15.  It was literally 10° hotter than it had been the past 2 days and I immediately shed my jacket and took a few last sips of water.

We walked around a bit together as I jogged and performed some dynamic stretches. She snapped photos and did a great job of capturing the atmosphere.  I decided to search out my corral and she climbed the stairs of the American Airlines Arena to stake out an observation post for the start.

IMG_20130127_054044After the requisite opening ceremonies, we were off and walking…..shuffling….walking…….the wait wasn’t too bad however and by the time that I made my way to the timing mat I was actually running.

Maybe the best decision I made the entire weekend was to abandon the pace group idea and just let the race come to me.  I didn’t feel great and the adrenalin wasn’t jacking me up either.  I felt ok, but guarded and cautious, and I was happy that I had programmed a somewhat more conservative approach into my Garmin, as opposed to hitting my goal pace right out of the chute with a group of strangers.

It literally took me until mile 3 before I felt somewhat relaxed. I also made a promise to drink at every aid station, thinking that my constant bathroom issues plus the higher temperatures would drain me faster than I had prepared for.  At the first aid station I grabbed a cup of Gatorade on the run and promptly spilled the majority of it down my shirt on over my face. From that point forward I would walk whatever distance was necessary to drink the actual contents of whatever cup I decided to grab.

As a big race rookie, navigating the aid station mayhem was a bit disconcerting. Large groups of people mobbed the first table at each aid station creating human blockades that obstructed runners who were caught on the inside lane.  Timing my dash into the later tables at each station became a fairly technical game of guess-timating angles, speeds and distances in order to successfully hydrate while avoiding crashing into other runners.

There were a couple of aid stations throughout the course that were not prepared or re-stocked by the time I came rambling by, but for the most part I’d have to say the volunteers, aid and effort were great and I can’t really complain that anything they did or didn’t do had any effect on my results. They had a hard job all day and performed it well. Thanks!

My only other critical observation during the race is in regards to the Galloway, run-walk interval participants. They were strong, disciplined and plentiful.  But they also seemed to insist on running shoulder to shoulder, spanning a large width of the available course at any given time.  And of course, just like clockwork, they became a walking roadblock.  If you’re in a group of 6 plus people who know that you’re going to walk every 4 minutes or whatever your schedule is, can you please be aware of the fact that a long narrow rectangle of people is easier for other racers to navigate than is a wide, unyielding mass of elbows and backsides?  Please?

ING Miami is a beautiful course!

ING Miami is a beautiful course!

I was determined to follow the advice of going out slow and running the first half of the race conservatively.  I ran the first 6 miles without even considering an increase in pace.  And interestingly enough I felt better physically at mile 6 than I did at mile 2.  Over the next 4 miles I knew that I wanted to make a slight effort at increasing my pace but each time I tried to hold a new pace I’d find myself zigging and zagging among the crowd and feeling like I was wasting a lot of energy.  So instead I decided to start surging between every second or third stoplight.  I was feeling great and noticed that I was seeing mostly 10:xx + on my watch instead of 11:xx.

It was during this 3 to 4 mile stretch that I began fantasizing about what it would take to still hit a 2:20 or better finish.  Could I turn a fartlek style second half into a respectable finish?  Or if I found an opening in the course could I sustain a smooth transition to another gear and cruise through the final 5k at a 30 minute or better split?

I’d never find out.  Somewhere between mile 10 and 11 my right hip began to tighten significantly.  It was becoming harder and harder to drive my knee through, and I felt like I was leaving my right leg behind me at times.  I’m proud that I didn’t panic or just give up but it would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t frustrated knowing that my chance to turn an average effort into a respectable PR was disappearing quickly.

Garmin 610 Run Data

The final 2.5 miles or thereabouts were really just about not slipping into crash and burn territory.  I kept trying to remember a quote I read somewhere along the lines of, “the runner who can run the longest, and the fastest, while in the most discomfort, while staying the most relaxed will be the winner.”

My idea of winning at that point was digging in for a final, sub 10:00 mile or squeezing through the 2:20 window somehow but it wasn’t to be.  I just lacked the extra gear that more focused training wold have provided and I lacked the mental fortitude to ignore my hip for the final 5k.

IMG_20130127_095205I’m not necessarily disappointed. I beat my realistic goal of 2:30 and I did so knowing that there’s a lot more potential waiting to be exposed. But it won’t happen magically or just because I want it.  I have to make it happen.

Running may very well be the most honest game on earth. It won’t give you anything that you haven’t earned but it will give you exactly what you deserve.

The After-Party

Bottled water. Bananas. Bagels. Fruit cups. Medals. Pictures. Some band playing. Rice and beans. A beer tent that was too far away. A bright sun and green grass. Stretching against a tree. Finally finding my wife. A shower and change of clothes. Three cheese ravioli x 2. A 3 hour nap.

Gear

Brooks PureConnect

CEP Progressive Compression Socks

Garmin Forerunner 610 w/ HR monitor

Splits

Split 1, 1:07:07, 6 miles, avg pace 11:11, avg HR 156, max HR 171
Split 2, 42:09, 4 miles, avg pace 10:38, avg HR 170, max HR 177
Split 3, 32:07, 3.1 miles, avg pace 10:27, avg HR 178, max HR 182

ingmiami2013

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Now that 2012 is a little over a week in the bag it’s time to get serious about planning for 2013.  About three months ago I started mentally preparing for 2013, especially since my first half marathon is right around the corner. But before we get any farther into the New Year why not go ahead and throw down a preliminary look on paper, if you will, of what the entire year might look like.

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  1. January 27, 2013 – ING Miami Half Marathon – This race basically represents the culmination of my 2012 training, as haphazard as it was. Originally I had hoped to pursue roughly a 2:10 finish time based on McMillan’s calculator analyzing my 54 minute finish in a 6 mile race. Unfortunately my training, as well as my injury downtime, held me back from properly preparing for the distance in a manner that would allow me to attack and sustain that goal pace for the duration.  Being flexible and realistic, I look forward to now using the ING Miami as a training race, an experience that will give me valuable practice at properly pacing and understanding my body’s feedback during a 13.1 mile effort. I will consider any sub 2:30:00 finish a victory.basilica de los angeles
  2. February 10, 2013 – La Candelaria 10k – A classic race in Costa Rica that everyone here should run at least once. 2013 will be the 32nd running of the fast course with a major downhill bias, dropping approximately 300 feet from beginning to end, after a mild 65 feet of elevation gain during the first 2 miles. La Candelaria passes through downtown Cartago, which was the original capital of Costa Rica until 1823. Cartago sits at an elevation of roughly 4700 feet above sea level. How I approach this race will completely depend on my recuperation from the ING Miami Half Marathon. If I feel energetic and full of bounce then I will attack the course early and hold on for dear life.  If still feeling a bit tight, brittle or fatigued from Miami then I will enjoy the 10k simply as a fun training run through an area of Costa Rica that I have not explored on foot before.
  3. March 2, 2013 – Chattahoochee Road Runners Club 10k – The CRR 10k will prove to be a challenge; I’m sure of it. Although the course is primarily flat, with a modest elevation gain during miles 4 and 5, and finishing with an aggressive downhill surge, this trip back to the United States will also be somewhat of an emotional event as well as a physical test.  Two of my older brothers and my sister in law will also be racing. I haven’t seen one brother in over 5 years, and the other in close to 10 years. All three of my competitors have raced this course on multiple occasions, and as runners have years of experience more than I. This event is potentially a trap for any specific goal, other perhaps than the challenge of reigning in my pride and running my race.rock clev
  4. October 5, 2013 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Cleveland Half MarathonThis is my 2013 A race!  The October race date provides plenty of time for me to focus on expanding my aerobic base as well as fine tuning my strength program before diving into one of Jason Fitzgerald’s custom, half marathon training plans. There is no course map yet, however Rock ‘n’ Roll describes the course as flat and fast. Cleveland has an average temperature of 52.8 ° F, with an average maximum temperature of 62.1 ° F, and an average minimum temperature of 43.5 ° F. In Cleveland I will aim to apply all the lessons learned from the ING Miami Half Marathon, as well as taking advantage of the course, climate and a much better chassis and engine combo to blow through a 2:15:00 finish and target the original McMillan goal of approximately 2:07:00 or thereabouts.

So there you have it. A quick, preliminary view of what’s facing me in 2013. Keeping these dates and races in mind will give me a broader context within which I can plan my training and analyze my progress and or challenges, as they might arise.

Let’s see how much better 2013 can be!

The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.

Well, it’s official. 2012 has come to an end. Maybe not quite as dramatically as the Maya had allegedly predicted, but it’s over nonetheless.

As best as I can tell from my records I began my running experiment in late July, completing 5 runs between 1 and 1.5 miles each. Things started picking up quickly come August, and despite numerous injuries and setbacks early on, I’ve maintained a fairly respectable schedule (by my fairly lax standards as a former couch potato.)

August: 57 miles

September: 81 miles

October: 57 miles

November: 56 miles

December: 74 miles

561884_367390530006994_782436028_nSeptember’s significantly higher volume came as the result of never taking more than a single day off between runs, as well as running on quite a few consecutive days.  In addition, 13.2 miles of the 81 came on a run-walk effort on 9/11. It’s ironic that since my A goal is the ING Miami Half Marathon in January, that the 9/11 run is the only time I’ve ever covered the full distance.

September’s miles came with a high price however as I was constantly plagued by plantar fasciitis, bone spurs and Achilles tendonitis.  Eventually I was forced to receive a series of corticosteroid injections in my ankle and the sole of my foot. Fortunately I discovered that via aggressive stretching, primarily the heel-drop protocol, as well as daily rolling of a tennis ball under my arches, I could eliminate a majority of the issues.

2012 monthly totals

I participated in two official races: the ECO RUN 10k and the City Tour Race.  The Eco Run surprised me by taking us off road for a stint over the sand of the Pacific coast beach at Playa Herradura. Combined with some major late race elevation climbs and the heat and humidity, I was happy to survive and struggled through in roughly 68 minutes.  The City Tour Race was a 10k that wasn’t. The day before the race some logistical issues shortened the race to 6 miles, but along with an obstacle free and mostly flat course, the shortened route provided a great confidence boost as I felt like I was finally ‘running,’ crossing the finish line in 54 minutes.

I experimented with quite a few different training ideas and theories, everything from low heart rate training, run-by-feel, to more aggressive pace based plans. They all provided some benefit and unsurprisingly also had their distinct shortcomings (all as a result of my execution, not their design.) As I continue to grow in both practical experience, knowledge and theory I’m sure I will find or create the recipe that respects my limitations while still challenging me to progress.

2012-11-11 city tour race 10kMy strength training was more consistent but not necessarily any more effective because I mostly remained focused on the same, basic strength exercises that I’ve performed for general fitness. They certainly did not hurt or inhibit my progress in any way. But from the perspective of becoming a better runner, in 2013 I will fine tune my efforts to more closely match my specific running goals.

Diet and nutrition improved but were not consistent; a recurring theme in my year in review analysis. I made a concerted effort to implement a Paleo inspired diet, and lost about 20 lbs.  When asked, I describe my approach as 80% paleo, 80% of the time. I am carrying 170 lbs on a 5’10” frame, but am still a bit soft and know that my body fat percentage is higher than it should be or needs to be.

As far as shoes, apparel, gear and accessories are concerned I spent way too much money.  But on the other hand, the monetary commitment is a motivating factor in my desire to now reap dividends from properly utilizing my tools, toys and indulgences.

I have a high-end GPS watch with heart rate monitor, and enough shoes, shirts, shorts and tights to last until this time next year before considering any additions or replacements. The priority now (as it should have been all along) is on making it happen!

I will save my 2013 goals, plans and aspirations for another post. But I would be remiss if i failed to mention and thank some of the people who have made my running a positive and life enriching experience.

Let me conclude by offering my sincere wishes that everyone can look back on 2012 and if not necessarily happy with every race, result or effort, can at least recognize what happened, why and how to make adjustments that will improve your chances for continued and greater success in 2013!

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Sometimes an unexpected event can provide you with a beat down, or in this case, a fortuitous boost in motivation and focus.  I was under strict orders from one of my unofficial running coaches, Camille Herron, to lower my average heart rate.  As a beginning runner, my fitness level doesn’t allow a tremendous range in paces or heart rate zones compared with a much fitter person.  And as a result, I’ve been running almost all of my training runs at close to my actual race pace.

My longest run prior to yesterday was 7.35 miles.  When I headed out the door I made the decision to run as slowly as necessary to keep my heart rate from reaching previous levels.  If it did, I would make a single attempt to slow may pace, or alter my cadence or breathing in order to lower it.  If that wasn’t successful then I would just walk until my heart rate had recovered sufficiently.

To my surprise, focusing on running much slower and maintaining a more relaxed heart rate gave me a tremendous boost in energy and enjoyment. I didn’t feel like I was running myself into the ground.  I decided to take it one step further, and after each mile I walked for 2 minutes in order to get my heart rate back to approximately 100 – 115 beats per minute.

2 hours and 55 minutes later I had covered 13.16 miles.  What the hell?  How did that happen?  The consequences of this revelation are not insignificant for me.  I now have 4.5 months to become a smarter, stronger and fitter runner without having to stress over the uncertainty of my capacity to cover the half marathon distance before my race in January.

If I can maintain that pace until I am 90 years old, I will take over the title as world record holder for the half marathon!  😉

Lower HR equals higher mileage

Small Changes Keep You Healthy

A detailed training log for the week is here.

Running seems so simple, and I guess it can be. Just lace up your shoes, or not, if you’re the barefoot type, and head out the door.

One danger we face, however, is running the same mileage and pace over the same surfaces while wearing the same shoes. Just so we can cross the workout off of the ‘must-do’ list.

Pretty. But not what I want to face everyday.

I live in suburban San Jose, Costa Rica and there isn’t a single road in my immediate neighborhood that stretches more than about three quarters of a mile before turning into a giant hill or series of hills, that don’t necessarily lend themselves to fulfilling every day’s training plan.

While I appreciate the benefits of running rolling hills, it’s not something I want to do on every run. So I run only the (relatively) flat sections of my local neighborhood, basically making a turn anytime I come to the foot of a hill that’s large enough to represent a significant change in the training stimulus.

The risk I run (no pun intended) with this technique is traveling over the exact same portion of road and running surface on every run, every week.  The body needs different stimulus in order to adapt, recover and grow stronger. Running over different surfaces and in different shoes causes slight changes in which muscles, tendons and ligaments are stressed and by how much. All of these tiny variables contribute to fitness.  Never change the input variables and your body will likely respond via fatigue at one end of the spectrum and overuse injuries at the other end.

To keep my legs fresh and confused I like to mix things up ever so slightly.  I rotate among three to four different pairs of shoes, ranging from a fairly neutral trainer to an extreme minimalist flat. Each day that I run I alternate the direction from which I leave my home, allowing me to cover the same local loop but covering the crests, ridges, potholes and crowns from a different angle. During any single run I will also move to the center of the road, whenever safe to do so, so I have a flatter surface beneath my feet, and I also move off into the grass for about 1/8 of a mile each time I pass a local park.

As far as pace and strength are concerned, once a week I run a series of hill sprints after an easy paced run, and on other days I add fartleks into the mix. Each fartlek I run is on a different section of the road or grass: some on flat stretches, and others may be either ascending or descending ever so slightly.

While seemingly insignificant during the actual run, over time these small variables can make a big difference in our fitness, performance and injury prevention.  Not to mention, if you’re limited by your local geography in regards to running terrain these small changes can keep you feeling mentally fresh as well.

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photo credit

Detailed training log for the week is here.

Below is a collection of bits and pieces from around the web that may help your running efforts.

I follow a primal/paleo nutrition structure, so I’m a meat lover.  But I never let that get in the way of taking good information from a great resource.  50 Lessons Learned from 50 Days of Running by Matt Frazier over at http://www.nomeatathlete.com is full of humorous and instructive insights.  One of my favorites:

16. You can get by with three pairs of running shorts if you do laundry once a week, by washing them in shower with you after your run. After one shower wash, though, the funk becomes impervious to anything but the heavy artillery.

Joe Friel has a great post regarding mental toughness.  He cites an article from the Harvard Business Review that summarizes the results of interviews with Olympic medalists. Common characteristics of the mentally tough:

  • have the ability to psychologically manage pressure
  • pay meticulous attention to goals
  • have a strong inner drive to stay ahead of the competition
  • be internally rather than externally focused
  • be self-directed
  • concentrate on excellence
  • not be distracted by others
  • shrug off their own failures
  • be masters of compartmentalization in their lives
  • rebound from defeat easily
  • never self-flagellate
  • have a relentless focus on the long term attainment of goals
  • carefully plan short-term goals
  • never stop striving for success
  • reinvent themselves following a success
  • celebrate their wins
  • analyze the reasons for their success
  • be very confident of their abilities

Many beginning runners receive the advice to focus on gradually increasing the distance of their long, slow run each week, with little to no focus on improving speed or tempo.  Brian Martin, running coach, competitor and author challenges this conventional wisdom in a recent post over at runningtechniquetips.com.

The key for beginners is to not max out on lots of long, very slow running training. Remember working on your strength, coordination and technique is just as important as building fitness. If you’re worried you can’t do enough volume to stay fit and not get injured, then cross training in the pool, on a bike or rowing machine is a great supplement.

 

I hope all of you had a great training week and look forward to hearing about your links, websites and resources for improving your running, fitness and life!

 

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