Sunday, February 20, 2011


This was one windy race and since the course winds around most of the island, we got it from all directions. Gusts were 20-30 mph. It's hard to evaluate the cumulative effect but I'm guessing it helped a little. There were more moments of feeling that I was being nicely pushed along than there were of consciously fighting against it. But when it was a headwind? Yeah that sucked. Right before the start I went outside and the chill convinced me to make a last minute change and wear my plain cotton long sleeve tee. Other than that it was shorts, lightweight gloves, no hat, Adidas Rockets.

I give the race four stars for these reasons: It started on time, turns are clearly marked, the course is accurate, and hills aren't a major factor. That is all I ask for in a road race. Everything else is window dressing. The start was a refreshing change because there was no anthem and zero chit-chat. I like it that way, I'm just not used to it because virtually every other race is preceded by dopey speeches and "thank yous to so-and-so!" and blah blah blah. All business here.

Mile one, 6:04. Way too fast but I cut myself some slack because the wind made it impossible to judge the pace. I dropped out of the lead pack, watched them spread out, and settled in for a long haul. Miles two through ten was essentially a lonely, extended tempo run and I hit the half at 1:01:48. Still faster than planned but, as most runners know, races tend to assert their own identity.

Soon after the halfway mark I notice two things. First, my sore left knee wasn't bothering me at all, which is a good sign. It hurt afterwards but apparently a hard twenty didn't exacerbate the problem. Second, around mile 12 or so, I formed painful blisters on both feet... I have no idea what the fuck that's all about. My mileage for a full month has been low fifties, including an 18 and a 20. I shouldn't be getting blisters but there they were. And it was a problem.

I slowed to the point where I got some company during mile 13, and this guy clearly knew his shit. Nice even rhythm, giant quads, Whirlaway singlet. Why did I wear that dumb long sleeve again? I thought maybe if I could focus on staying with him it would distract me from the blisters. This actually sort of worked. We ran together through three plus miles of variable headwind and I was even able to slide ahead and draft for him a couple of times. I figured he would probably pull away eventually but I was determined to share the work and not just suck along behind.

Near the end of mile 17 we take the sharp right and a younger guy floats past. Decision time. I move up with this new companion and we absolutely crush it for 2/3 of mile, running in eighth and ninth. This was easily the most enjoyable part of the race. I don't know what the pace was but it felt fantastic. Mile 19 arrives and I come crashing back to earth. That was too fast. Then another guy cruises by, also young looking, and my new buddy goes with him. Now I'm wallowing in tenth place aka self pity land. I checked their ages afterwards and those two combined (45) are still younger than the Whirlaway dude (51) who is looming somewhere behind. I was suffering again but that was the idea going in -- run the first 18 fast enough so that I could practice stride deterioration over the last two.

Finally, one mile to go, and I'm all sorts of bad: Blisters are screaming, I have a side cramp and, worst of all, I feel those scary jittering calf spasms that usually only come during marathons. Now I'm desperate for this shit to end. When the finish line appears I steal one glance back and mercy mercy mercy he isn't close enough to force a sprint finish. Overall time 2:05:56.

I spent the night dreaming about 1500m track races.

# Div/Tot Div  Time       Pace Name      Age
1  1/34 M3539 1:54:52  5:45 Chad Carr 35
2  1/22 M3034 1:57:20  5:52 Ryan Aschbrenner 33
3  1/18 M2529 1:59:15  5:58 Timothy Catoggio 25
4  2/22 M3034 1:59:42  6:00 Kevin Gravina 32
5  1/43 M4044 2:01:02  6:04 Jonathan May 42
6  1/5  M2024 2:02:33  6:08 Thomas Fagin 22
7  2/34 M3539 2:04:08  6:13 Jon Chesto 39
8  2/5  M2024 2:05:02  6:16 Jake Marcus 21
9  3/5  M2024 2:05:32  6:17 Evan Williams 24
10 3/34 M3539 2:05:56  6:18 Zachary Laidley 38
11 1/23 M5054 2:06:16  6:19 Chris Spinney 51
12 4/34 M3539 2:07:44  6:24 Chris Schulten 38

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

stride deterioration

During my morning run I was thinking about how to approach this weekend's 20 mile race, and I recalled the moment in Again to Carthage when Denton says this to Cassidy: "I just don't think it's possible to practice for an event like the marathon. In fact, we don't practice when we train for the middle distances either. We do exactly what athletes do in almost every type of sport: we isolate certain functions and do overloading kind of work on each, one at a time. Then at some point we do a limited amount of integration work, blending everything back together."

In addition to the more obvious difficulties, one function (or disfunction) that marathoners need to prepare for is stride deterioration. In one sense we do this on every run because pure volume will help delay the onset of stride deterioration. But I'm interested in training not only to (1) delay stride deterioration for as long as possible, but to (2) maintain a decent pace when it happens.

It might be a big mistake but #2 is something I want to isolate during the race. My idea is to run at the slowest possible pace that will induce noticeable stride deterioration after eighteen miles. If I can do that, I'll have two more miles to practice the 'running with less-than-ideal mechanics' function.

The trick of course will be judging my fitness level accurately enough to select the appropriate pace. If I go out too fast and deteriorate early, it will create an unacceptable risk for injury. If I do the first eighteen too slow, my mechanics won't suffer enough during the final two.

Okay some specifics: I don't think a 6:30 pace will do it. Running eighteen miles at 6:30 is a serious workout but, assuming the race conditions aren't horrible, I don't think it's hard enough to cause much stride deterioration. At that pace I would have to go beyond twenty. On the other hand, doing 6:00 per mile is too fast. In my current condition and at that pace my stride would probably start to fall apart after twelve miles or so, and eight miles of bad mechanics is just too dangerous. Besides, it would result in an awful finish time -- reason enough not to do it.

I'll probably aim for 6:20 which would put me at 1:54 for eighteen. If I'm totally smoked at that point, well, fine. That's the point. I can focus on mechanics, coast in, and be happy in the fact that I've practiced stride deterioration. If it isn't quite hard enough and I have something left in the tank? That's fine too. I'd just try to finish hard and be satisfied with my first sub-2:07 twenty mile run.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

so was it fast?

This is an abridged version of the McMillan race equivalency calculator using my best college 1500m:
I'm well aware that aging athletes sniveling over faded ability are terribly pathetic so I'll try not to be one. To that end, I think this little table may prove useful. For example, although I never ran a 5K in 15 flat, the table says I recorded an "equivalent" performance, i.e., 4:01 for 1500m. And last fall -- 15 years later -- I ran a 16:57. In other words, I was 13% slower than my lifetime best (16:57 / 15:00 = 1.13).

So was it fast? Is that 13% slow down acceptable? No and no. Going back to the calculator, 16:57 for 5K is equivalent to a 4:53.6 mile, and that is not fast. I just can't call a 4:53.6 mile "fast" even now, in the deep autumn of my running career. Must do better.

Monday, February 7, 2011


It was just barely warm enough to run in shorts yesterday so I did 20mi @ 7:05. Other than a slight twinge in my left knee (minor tendonitis maybe?) I was happy because it never felt like I was working that hard. Looking forward to the MV20 in two weeks.

Today is also exactly ten weeks from Boston which means it's the start of my eight week peak training phase. This will include four 20-22 mile training runs (including yesterday and the MV20), four 15 milers, a timed half-marathon, and then just plenty of tempo, hills, and striders.

I'm leaning towards the 3/20 Quincy half because the timing is right, it isn't too far, and the course is flat (allegedly, according to the website). New Bedford is the same day but it's a much longer drive, the course isn't flat, and -- let's face it -- I'm not going to be prepared for that level of competition. Plus the NB post-race food sucks ass.