Sep 26, 2010

Watch and learn

Sometimes you can just learn by watching something over and over.

Sep 24, 2010

Back in the game!

Today's 8 mile run in the morning was more than that. It was to test if I still had it in me to meet my expectations. The run was an exercise that I call "Speed Game" for lack of ideas. (Speed Play is already taken -- aka Fartlek.) I broke the run into several components including a progression and a tempo run with sprints added in between. At the end of the tempo run were couple of surge exercises to simulate the race finish line conditions. I met all planned goals and my legs feel great. Irrespective of my original race goal for Chicago and my recent setbacks, I now feel very confident to put a decent show. The days following will be mellow but calculated.

In more Chicago news, my corral assignment got messed up and I recently found out that I will be running in the "OPEN" category. Apparently, their "system" will not allow changes now. WTF! To give a perspective, Chicago is not like your ordinary city marathon -- with tens of thousands of runners, a bad corral assignment or the worst case ("OPEN") like mine, would mean slow milling for the first few miles from start. Also, all the dodging slow runners etc will take energy that could have been well spent racing. Bad race strategy but can't do much about it other than trying to be there early and have a wider negative split.

Sep 21, 2010

Running a marathon as a training run

This might sound crazy but at some point you feel comfortable with the marathon distance and start running that distance  (or even longer) during training runs. So, why not run a marathon as a training run and get a t-shirt for your already overflowing closet? This is certainly not a new idea and many seasoned runners do it regularly.

Caveat: As with everything in running, attempt it only if you feel comfortable with idea and if your current level of fitness will permit. Level of fitness includes your current training volume and the recovery time needed for long distances. Ideally, you should be a high mileage runner (>> 50mpw).

With that out the way, here are a few tips to run a training marathon:

1. Plan well: Schedule this well in advance so you'll have sufficient time to recover for your goal race. 'Sufficient' depends on your fitness levels. A minimum of 3-5 weeks should be reasonable.

2. Keep the goal in mind: In the training marathon, the goal is not the finish line of that marathon but your goal race. So, avoid exerting too much when you don't have to and run it according your training goals. For instance if you're trying to achieve a certain pace or split try to replicate it as faithfully as possible but over a shorter distance.

3. Dress rehearsal: Run with the same running gear as you plan to use in your goal marathon. This would also be a good time to test something new and see if it agrees with you.

4. Start slow: This should hold for your goal race too but it's very important to not run too hard in the first few miles. Keep in mind that every mile you run hard requires a certain period of recovery. Typical long distance runs for marathons are lesser than 26 miles. So, plan to go very easy for the excess miles or even walk it off.

5. Ignore everyone: Remember a training run is not competitive. This is your training run. Don't get carried away in the marathon atmosphere and let someone else set the pace for you.

6. No taper: There should not be any taper period for the training marathon. Treat this as a regular long run except take a day off before and after to compensate for the extra distance, if required.

7. Recovery: Practice good recovery routines. This goes for any run you do but especially important for training marathons. Running 26.2 has its toll on the body irrespective of the pace you set. Eat well before and after and sleep well.

8. Be prepared to DNF: Listen to your body. If you don't feel good stop! This is just a training run. While doing a DNF before a goal race might sound bad it's really a confidence booster. When you ask yourself "What if .." and imagine the worst case and be prepared for it, all nervousness should go away.

9. Enjoy your run: Take advantage of the social setting, talk to people while running and have a good time. Otherwise you might as well run alone and save some money.

Of course, this applies to all distances and not just marathons except longer the distance more the recovery time needed.

Sep 18, 2010

Wisconsin: An Unlikely Marathon

Quick summary: 
Chip Time: 4:27:02
Overall Place: 13/100  Category Place: 3/14  Gender Place: 10/62
Total Registered: 531

Sometime back I decided to run Wisconsin as a training run for Chicago. After injuries and several hurdles in my marathon training I had self doubts about doing that distance again soon and Wisconsin was supposed to put that to test. But recently, after a personal academic tragedy, I decided to not run Wisconsin. I booked a last minute SouthWest flight (cancelable) just in case. Yesterday evening, I finished attending Fred's funeral service and rushed to the airport to just make it to my hotel in Delafield, WI by midnight. My carbo-load dinner was an oatmeal from the airport Starbucks and a banana that I ate on the shuttle to the hotel. So, this marathon went from impossible to unlikely -- the Unlikely Marathon.

This is my third trail race and I knew what to expect but I was doing the whole show up and run thing without doing packet pickup for the first time. I think now I will never spend time at an expo if that option exists. I'm still running trails in my road running shoes. The Asics took a beating with all the slush, rain, and mud. There were places where I had no choice but to sink in a puddle to keep going. I guess that's a part of the fun in trail running. But a decent pair of Gore-Tex shoes is in order.

The race itself was pretty. The trails are the most beautiful I've seen. Since this was a training run, I kept it easy and did not exert when I didn't need to but did a progression run as I planned. The first 15 miles @ 11 min/mile, 5 miles @ 8 min/mile, and the rest at 7+ min/mile. My goal was to walk away from the race feeling worked out and not tired. Which I did. Despite of this, the heavy downpour, and the slippery conditions I did not do badly when graded on the curve.

Milwaukee is an interesting place. The houses are big, sparse, with large yards but you cannot survive here without a car. I mean even to get basic things done. Oh and this is Bible country -- on the plane I heard someone citing Proverbs excitedly. After landing, I went to the information desk and there was a cheerful blonde lady with an open Bible -- Deuteronomy as I recall. I still have a day to explore more but dinner tonight at "The Emperor's Kitchen" was awesome. The curry almond shrimp tasted as good as it looked.

On the trail I met many interesting people as usual and made instant friends with cheering and camaraderie that goes with trail running. I also met some old friends from my previous Ultra. Talking of Ultras, the highlight of today's race was meeting Diane Van Deren. Ultramarathon celebrities like Dean Karnazes seem to be popular in mass media but Diane is my Ultra hero. She's a survivor. She grew up to be a world-class athlete and a Wimbledon player but for a decade in her life, she suffered from seizures which was cured only with right temporal lobectomy. If you think that stopped her, she went on to become the top woman ultrarunner and better than many of her male counterparts, if I may add. Oh, she also did the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 430 mile race at -30 degrees, becoming the first woman to ever do it. She did it despite of not having anything to drink for the first 100 miles and falling once through cracked ice and getting soaked in freezing water shoulder down. And she climbed out and kept going!

Sharing a moment with Diane Van Deren

Sep 16, 2010

Not running Wisconsin

I am scheduled to run the Wisconsin North Face marathon as my training run this Saturday. That's not going to happen due to a personal tragedy. The director of our research group and my academic father-figure passed away on 14th evening. He was a holocaust survivor, a giant in my field, and a personal hero. With the funeral service on Friday afternoon, there is no way I can make it on time. This would be my first DNS. Here's to you, Fred.

Sep 10, 2010

Fun Run

Just a quick update to spread the word (hat tip TTWSS):

A fun race in Delaware - run 2 miles and eat a whole pizza half way through -- pizza size depends on the category you enroll in. [Registration and other details]

I'm not running it (I wish) but anyone in the neighborhood shouldn't miss this! This reminds me of another race Duran told me where you chomp donuts on your way.

I've never done a fun run, not intentionally just never happened. One run I will be doing sometime is the Santa Speedo Run.

Sep 6, 2010

A marathon to train for a marathon?

Yes, that's what I will be doing on the 18th. I signed up for a trail marathon in Wisconsin as my last long run before the Chicago marathon.

Yesterday, I discovered Hull St. Blues Cafe on my run. I had run 16 miles and was getting low on juices. So I thought let me go in and get some Gatorade or something and I was wrong. It's not your ordinary cafe with a pastry cabinet, coffee tables and a cooler with drinks. Every Sunday morning, the place is decked with a long buffet table with all sorts of goodies for brunch. As soon as I entered the cafe, I knew I had to stay and that would be the end of today's run. The remaining 5 miles can wait. As far as I can tell, it's the best brunch I've had for 20 bucks (tips extra) -- Fresh warm biscuits, eggs, hash browns, veggies, best Cajun beans and rice, pasta, and fruits. If you wanted to go meat heavy there were sausage links and roast ham. Hot buttermilk pancakes and French toasts were served individually at the tables. With the food tasting heavenly, the staff so friendly and a homey ambiance this place gets a 5 thumbs up from me.

16.6 miles ending at Hull St Blues Cafe
I stuffed myself and took a nice 2 mile walk from the cafe to the harbor before running another 2 miles back home. That was Sunday, today I'm taking off to get some work done for school.

Sep 4, 2010

Double whammy and bouncing back

I think everything that can go wrong went wrong during this Chicago training period, hopefully. First there was a ligament injury that took several weeks from my training. Then there was a travel to China -- although this was expected, I managed to get some runs in during the crazy travel week. But most recently, I picked up mumps virus on my trip and all of last week I spent in isolation. Luckily, running isn't a contact sport but you don't want to overwhelm the immune system by throwing in a lot of miles and raise the cortisol levels. So I had a subdued first half of the week. I've been symptom free for the last 24 hours and the doc said I'm fine. Take that virus! So, today I did sort of a celebratory 11 mile run before my long run tomorrow.

11.6 miles @ 7:42 min/mile