Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So close… and yet so far (about 10 miles) away.

Finally getting to my recap of my experience at Grandma's Marathon. I have no excuses. I thought my training was there. The weather was perfect - - okay, some don't like to run in 49 degree weather but I have run Grandma's in 70 plus temps and 90% Humidity, I'll take the 49 degrees, overcast and a 9 MPH tailwind.

As I shared earlier, I had run the Stillwater Marathon 20 days before. Now looking back, that was probably not a great idea. But finding the right mix of miles, speed, and rest for the marathon is not like any other distance. You can make a mistake on shorter distances when you have the wrong combination of the three, but in the marathon, you are going to pay, in time, distance, or by just dropping out. After all that training, I wasn't about to drop out.

My plan was to run a 10:30 MPM using the Galloway method for the entire distance of the marathon. Run 1 mile at a 10:08 pace, walk a minute, run to the next mile marker and do it again. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Galloway, he argues for walking breaks each mile so that the body can recover from the pounding that it takes while attempting the marathon. In my long run training, I had used his formula of running 5 minutes, walk 30 seconds, and keep alternating. This helps the body recover faster from the long runs and gets you ready for the marathon attempt. His method also has you do a 26-29 mile long run, 3 weeks before the marathon using this same 5 min/30 second run/walk system. Again, because it has the walking breaks built in, the rationale is that you should recover in time for taking on the marathon at a faster pace. Hence, the reason for my running the Stillwater Marathon 3 weeks before.

Anyway, back to attempt at Grandma's. I picked a 10:30 MPM pace because I wanted to go conservative to see if this method worked. That's right, conservative. My speed workouts (800s) were done at a 4:07 – 4:14 pace. This translates to a 4:07 – 4:14 marathon total time. My Stillwater Marathon was 5 hours, about an 11:30 MPM pace. Galloway says that you should run the long runs at a pace two minutes slower than you plan to run at the marathon. This I did (a 4:10 marathon total time equates to a 9:30 MPM pace – two minutes faster than the Stillwater pace). So instead of going for a 9:30 MPM pace, I went for a 10:30 MPM pace – this should be easy following the formula.

Well, it wasn't. I have to admit, for the first half of the marathon, I was right on pace 10:30s all the way. But at the 14 mile mark, there was tiredness in my legs that I just couldn't shake. My heart rate was a mirror image of the Stillwater Marathon, nothing change there, but I couldn't get into the heart rate range to make up for the drop in pace, no matter how hard I tried. I wasn't out of breath or anything like that, I just couldn't shake that my legs had to be 're-started' after each one minute walk. At 16 I knew I was in trouble, by 18, I knew I wasn't going to keep the 10:30 pace. But I switched to the mind games that we all use in marathons - - telling the body to do something it doesn't want to. The last 10K was all mental. I would make a deal with my legs "Just start running and keep running until the heart rate gets up to what we did in training for the long runs. You can stop after you hold that heart rate for two minutes." Believe it or not, this would get me to within view of the next mile marker, and then I could say "Okay, just keep running until you get to that mile marker and then you can take the one minute walking break." This worked to get the marathon done. But I ended up with the same total time I ran at Stillwater.

So live and learn. I am now convinced of two things. The first is that you can't run a marathon competitively, within 3 weeks of another marathon. The second is that you can run marathons every week, as long as you don't run them competitively. I believe I could probably run another marathon this weekend… but my overall total time wouldn't be that good or any better than the marathon the week before, give or take a few percent.

I have thought about doing an Ultra Marathon in my future, and I will probably use the Galloway method to complete that. As I expressed in an earlier post, I am also looking at running a marathon in all 50 states. But as for running marathons competitively, I am tossing this training method out. It's great for finishing a marathon, not so much for achieving a personal best.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chomping At the Bit

Down to the last 48 hours before running Grandma's Marathon up in Duluth, and keeping the water bottle close. The past two days, it has difficult keeping my pace and heart rate below the easy pace/rate zones. The legs want to take off.

I'm taking this as a good sign because it shows that I am ready. The speed workout that I did on Tuesday satisfied the need to test myself, but I controlled it too such a short distance, it didn't really satisfy me for the rest of the week. Yesterday and this morning, I kept drifting off in thoughts of what I needed to get ready before the trip and found myself cruising.

I am glad to see my old body responding this way. When I ran the Stillwater Marathon on Memorial Weekend, I worried that I may have done too much. I ran it smart as I could, but sometimes your body tells you something that your mind didn't want you to know. But every distance and speed workout since then have told me that I am prime to have a great race. 'Race'. Can't believe I'm talking about a marathon using that term. I must be ready…

Monday, June 13, 2011

Marathon Week

Finally into the last week before the Marathon. There are many different schools of thought of how to handle that last week but here is what I've found from my experience with the marathon:

  • To run or not to run? You really can't gain anything of value – aerobically that is, in the last week. You can screw up a great marathon (I have) by doing too much running though. Mileage should be about 1/3 to ¼ of what you have averaged in your high mileage weeks OR LESS. For example, my highest mileage week was 57 miles. Now that was the most, if I used the average that I had the last two months, we're talking in the 35-45 range. So that comes to 14-15 miles before the marathon this week. So starting Sunday (for a Saturday marathon), I try to do my best to keep my total mileage down to 15 miles. I will do no more than a 3.5 mile run if I do a bunch of 2 milers or 5 mile run if I'm skipping a bunch of days. I plan to do a 2, 2, 3, 3.5, 2, and 2 (Sunday to Friday).
  • Speed. Again, you won't get anything out of running fast except to tire yourself if you overdo it. But I also don't want to lose any speed that I've already acquired. Since I have had at least one speed workout each week (800s on Wednesdays), I will do 3 x 800 at my predicted marathon time on Tuesday. Since this is a total of 1.5 miles of speed, I've found that it's safe and I keep my edge. I also can do this easily by not going over 3 miles in total. 1 mile warm up, 800/400 rest/800/400 rest/800/400 walk~cooldown. Again, it's not necessary to do, only if you feel like you need to 'stretch the legs'.
  • Diet. I'm not a carbo loading nut. But I will make sure I'm having carbos for dinner every night. Stay away from high fat meals during this week. They won't necessarily blow your marathon, but they won't help it. Remember, you have enough body fat to run 10 marathons stored in your body even if you have a 5% body fat composition (the lowest I've ever seen on another runner).
  • Lots of water. You can't have too much this week. Okay, you could, but few of us really make an effort to make sure we do drink enough. I carry a water bottle with me all week – in the car, watching TV, to meetings. They say 64 ounces a day is the goal, but it won't hurt to get a couple extra bottles in each day during this week. I want to make sure my body is completely hydrated before I go to the line. I'll make sure I don't overdo it on marathon morning but during the week, your urine should be clear every day.
  • Cross Training activities. I'd suggest not doing them. But if you feel they've helped you in your training and you just have to do them, cut back on the reps, sets, distance or time (in half) if you do cross train. Sore muscles will all come out during an endurance test of 26.2 miles.
  • Lastly, get as much sleep as you can. Don't panic if the night before you are too wound up to get the 8 hours. I've slept with less in many marathons. But make sure you are perpendicular for 8 hours. Even if you are just lying on the bed with your eyes closed, your body is still getting the rest, even if your mind isn't. If you need a dream to help you sleep, use mine. You are standing at the Boston Marathon start line with the world's elite. The gun goes off, and you start to visualize each of the 35,000 steps that you need to take to finish the marathon.. One, two, three,….. z-z-z-z-

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Running a Marathon in all 50 States

I'm starting to get back my love of the long run back this year. It must be the cooler than normal spring that we've had, but my long runs have been timed mostly in the 50-65 degree weather, which has made the training more enjoyable than I can remember in about ten years.

I ran the Stillwater Marathon 13 days ago and have Grandma's Marathon only 7 days away, yet I'm already planning what marathons to run between Grandma's and Steamtown in October. So I think this qualifies as being bitten by the long run bug.

So it got me to thinking, I've completed 25 of these, mostly in Minnesota but also in 6 other states. Since Steamtown would make it 8 states so far, what would it take to run a marathon in all 50 states?

I ran to and it's been great doing what-if scenarios. I've never done more than 4 in any given year, but again, the long runs have never been so fun.

There is actually a "50 State + DC Marathon Club". You need to complete marathons in 10 states before they will admit you, but at $5, it's a pretty reasonable fee to join. I am a little late getting started, but maybe I can sync my 100th marathon with the 51st state/DC finish?

If any of you can let me know what your favorite marathon in your state, please let me know for my planning. For Minnesota I can tell you, it's either Grandma's in June or Twin Cities in October. Both are in the Top 25 Marathons in most lists and even Top 10 in a few. I love them both, but if you gave me a choice of only one, it would be Grandma's. The whole city (Duluth, MN) rallies around this marathon like it's the Superbowl. And for their location and time of the year - - it is.

My Dad used to say "I thought about running a marathon, but then I sat down, and waited for the feeling to pass." Maybe that will happen with Grandma's next Saturday. But if it doesn't, this could be a summer to remember for me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Care of De Feet

After pounding out the mileage over the past spring getting ready for Grandma's Marathon next Saturday, I needed to do some doctoring of my feet the past week. One item I get (Don't know if it's age, bad shoes, or my slight pronation) each year as soon as the mileage goes up is corns.

I'm interested to see what others have tried, but there is one thing that seems to work for me. It's the small double round band aids that you can buy at any Walgreen's or CVS. No, it's doesn't matter if it says Dr. Scholl's, Johnson & Johnson or Billy Bob's corn-be-gone's. They all use the same medicine as far as I can tell on the package, but it's the delivery of the double band aid that does it (I think). I've tried Dr. Scholl's one-treatment, creams, ointments, etc. But only the double band aids seem to work.

Does anyone else have a home remedy that works?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 Grandma’s Marathon Weekend Registration Update

June 8, 2011



2011 Grandma's Marathon Weekend Registration Update


The entry numbers for the 2011 Grandma's Marathon weekend races are official.


Grandma's Marathon has 8,319 registrants signed up for the race's 35th anniversary. The 2011 total is nearly 1,000 more than a year ago when 7,387 registered. The nation's 17th largest marathon is Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 a.m.


The weekend's other two races, the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon and the William A. Irvin 5K, both have a record number of entrants. The half marathon has 7,223 registered and the 5K has 1,770. In all, 17,312 are signed up to participate in the three-race weekend.


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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Stillwater Marathon

Ran the Stillwater Marathon last weekend and I couldn't have run it any smarted. Kept my pace slow, my heart rate low (Well, lower than my other long runs) and made sure to stop at all the water stops. Came in at a net time of 4:59:57 (how's that for a sub 5 hour marathon plan). The weather was perfect - 54 at start, low 60s at finish, overcast with slight sprinkle 4 hours into the run.

I'm truly onto something here. I looked back at my marathon times and this is the fastest marathon I've run in the past 5 years. As you know from my previous post, this wasn't supposed to be my fast marathon, that's in less than three weeks at Grandma's in Duluth. This was my last long training run before the marathon that I plan to pin my ears back and go.

This past week I've been crunching the heart rate numbers, the distances that I ran with those numbers, and the weather for each of the runs. I've also checked the speed workouts, the 400s, the 800s, see if I can glean anything of value of why this years training is going so good. If I'm successful at Grandma's, I'll share it all with you, but for now, here's the main insight that I've come across....

I've been running my long runs way too fast. Its shown up in my early long runs. In March and April, I took them very slow.... Like recovery run type of speed. I've never bought into running long runs that slow because you end up out there running all day. But if I am able to shave a minute a mile between two marathons run 20 days apart, you can bet I will be jumping on the slow long run train for future events.

My reluctance to run that slow has always been in Half Marathons and shorter distance race training. I've always found that if you can run 10 miles at 1.5 hours two-three weeks before, you surely can do it for 13.1 miles in under 2 hours.

But as I've said before the marathon is a different animal for distance training. This past 5 months has been a big leap in acquired knowledge in training for it, and I can't wait to test it out on June 18th.

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