Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Boar's Head Inn Turkey Trot Race Report

Due to the weather and other scheduling conflicts I officially achieved my first Did Not Start (DNS) by not getting to the line for this years Boar's Head Inn Turkey Trot.    The threat of cold and wet weather reduced the my co-participants eagerness to run the race.   As such we decided on Weds to bow out.   Not running the race was hard for me as I enjoy the race tradition on Holidays.    I decided to head out for a run on my own early Thanksgiving morning before the winter weather arrived.   The morning turned out to be perfect with no wind and in the high 30's when I started my run.  I did a routine route around the neighborhood and covered 10K or so.   I found a good mix of flat sections, hills and scenery to keep the run interesting.  As I finished up my run I saw a number of my neighbors departing for the race.   We exchanged smiles and waves, and I wished them well as they prepared to toe the line at the race.  I did take a small bit of pleasure in being back in the house and drinking coffee before the even got to the starting line. 

I hope that you enjoyed your holiday and were also able to get out for a nice run.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Welcome to Fall Running in Central Virginia

I am always happy to see the weather change from the heat of summer to the crisp cool temperatures of fall.   I find running conditions are best during the fall in central Virginia.  When running in the mornings you get great temperatures to go with the colorful autumn leaves.     I enjoy my weekend runs with morning daylight so that I can take in the views of the countryside.    The week day runs are dark and cool but still very enjoyable.

I hope to get the opportunity to enjoy a number of great running locations this fall including:

  • Green Springs National Park Historic Landmark which provides long crushed gravel roads throughout the grounds of a plantation from late 18th century.
  • Trail at Monticello provides a nice set of crushed gravel and boardwalk trails that provide a good challenging climb with great scenery. 
  • White Hall Vineyards provides an easy starting place for a run up to the Sugar Hollow Reservoir
The Charlottesville Track Club provides a number of other good long run destinations if you are looking for some new places to run in the Charlottesville area.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

2014 Boar's Head Inn Turkey Trot

To continue our family tradition, we registered to run to run the 2014 Boar's Head Inn Turkey Trot.   This is always a well attended 5k Race on a difficult hilly course.   We plan to run with a couple other families and enjoy a good workout before an awesome thanksgiving meal at home with family.

I look forward to a fun race and hope to see a lot of friends on the course!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

I successfully completed my 5th marathon with the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon and I continue to be amazed by the challenge this distance provides.  The Marines hosted and executed a flawless marathon weekend.   The following race report provides insight into my race weekend and a short retrospective on how I can improve for my next race.

Pre Race Activities - Friday and Saturday
We traveled to the DC area Friday night and enjoyed a relaxing Saturday morning shopping and spending time with family.   In the afternoon, I meet up with some running friends at the GE Health and Fitness Expo to pickup our race packets and hang out a bit.   Although I heard reports of long lines to get into the expo, when we arrived we were able to get right into the DC Armory.    Overall the expo experience was much improved over last year because the bib pickup and merchandise displays were co-located.   The expo displays were pretty standard gear and swag.  After a spending some time at the expo,  I headed back to the hotel on the Metro.  We stayed at the Marriott Metro center which was central to just about everything we did for the race and seeing the city.    

Race Day - Sunday
I was up early and ready for the race sunday morning.   I quickly got through my morning routine and was out the door to the metro by 6:15.   After a little bit of struggle with my Metro card, see race fails for details, I waited with other runners headed to the Pentagon on the metro platform headed. After a short metro ride,  I met up with my running friends around 7am at the Pentagon Metro stop before making the long walk to the runners village.   We timed our arrival to the runners village at the perfect time to drop our post race gear at the UPS trucks and head to the starting line.

On the way to the starting line I heard a voice I recognized from the RunRunLive podcast.  I was happy to make an in person introduction Chris the host.  I recommend the podcast to runners of all capabilities as Chris shares great information about many aspects of endurance running.

The race day weather was perfect for runners and spectators with clear skies providing temperatures in the high 30's and highs in the mid 60's.   The Marines put on a great pre-race show with multiple sky-divers displaying large American flags, Osprey flyover and the howitzer firing to start the race.   The nice weather brought out significant crowds to support runners.

Race Execution
I started the race slow and in line with my plan to run the first 13 miles at a 9:30-9:45/mile pace.  The first 10 miles are a bit hilly as the course heads away from Rosslyn towards Arlington and then back into Georgetown.   I found this part of the race the most enjoyable with the larger crowds in the city and rural scenery.   After leaving Georgetown the course runs along the Potomac River which is nice and flat, but is more exposed to the elements.    This section of the race is quiet and lonely with limited spectators.  After hitting the 13.1 Mile mark, I was ready to get back into the city and the spectators around the Tidal Basin and National Mall.   I stopped a bit to talk with my family when I saw them in the crowd around mile 17.  I was hopeful that they had a Banana or something I could snack on, but no such luck.  It is always nice to see family and friends during the race.  It provides a lot of motivation to get to an agreed upon meeting place.   I started to hit the wall around mile 18 despite eating GUs and drinking at regular intervals during the race.   I found that the windy conditions quickly dried my sweat which left me warm and thirsty.   I was happy to have my fuel belt and refilled each bottle at the water stops in the later miles.   I found myself  battling the wall as I completed the section of the National Mall and started the 14th Street Bridge.   The isolation from spectators, winds and sunny conditions provided a significant challenge for the 14th Street Bridge crossing.  I was happy to complete the bridge and head into Crystal City and rejoin the crowds.   I worked my way through Crystal City and back to the Pentagon.   Once around the Pentagon, I started to get my legs and wits back as I knew the finish was close.   I put in a strong effort in the last mile and half which enabled me to pass a number of runners and finish at faster pace.

Post Race Retrospective
I finished the race in 4:48:16.   I did not meet my race goals, but I am happy that my training enabled me to improve on my time from last year.  Looking back at my training and race, I don't see a single issue that prevented me from achieving my goal.  I did have a number of pre-race and on-course failures that I will need to address in future races.  For example:
  • I walked too much on Saturday with family and expo activities.  Total mileage on Saturday was over 6miles.
  • I had many Metro card issues.  I forgot to pack my metro cards at home and needed to purchase new ones.  When headed out race day morning, my paper metro card got jammed in shorts zipper and when I was able to remove it, the metro gate ate it. :(
  • I forgot to apply nipple guards pre-race.   The bandaids acquired from Red Cross tent did not adhere to sweaty chest. :( 
  • I forget how exposed the race course is for the second half of the race.  Running into the wind made the last part of the race hard.  I need to find a larger group of people to run with.
  • My iPhone battery died at finish line and I did not bring my battery charger pack.   This left me with no way to communicate with family when trying to reunite.
From this race experience I will improve and expand my next training campaign to include:
  • Do more speed work to ensure that I can run at a faster race pace.
  • Find a runner partner to tackle the course and pace together.   Look to utilize the pace groups.
  • Have a better pre-race routine to ensure that I have all the things I need after the race.
  • Pre-race and during fueling needs to be better. 
This was not my best performance at the marathon distance, but I feel that my training increased my strength during the race and enabled a quick recovery.   I enjoyed this race and plan to do another training campaign to continue to improve.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MCM 2014 Prep and Taper Madness

After months of training,  I find it hard to believe that I am 3 days away from the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon.     I am happy to say that I head into race day healthy and confident in my training campaign.   I am well into the taper process and I find myself worried about the craziest things as I think about race day.

My main taper fixation is equipment failure.   Specifically, I worry that I switched to new shoes to close to race day.   I primarily trained in Adidas adiZero Tempo 5 and recently, like last week, switched to Adidas adiZero Tempo 6's.   These shoes are very similar, so my main worry is that I don't have them broken-in appropriately for the race.  Along with the shoes, I am stressing about what to wear.  I know that sounds like a 15 year old girl, but it is a major issue.  Historically I over dress for races, my goal for this race is be dressed on the cool side.  The weather forecast should be perfect for shorts and short sleeve shirts.   My last equipment worry is about hydration and a decision to carry a camelbak or not.  I am confident that all these worries will go away once the race starts. 

My race day pace plan is pretty simple:   Start out with a 9:45 pace and move towards a 9:00min pace.   Overall goal is to finish ~4:15hrs.   I am feeling strong and well trained, just not fast enough to break 4:00hrs on this race.

I have one more shake-out run planned and then the marathon weekend will be here.  My marathon weekend plan is coming together.    The coordination of Marathon weekends are exciting and fun,  but stressful because of all the details of the race and travel logistics.  We will travel to Washington, DC on Friday night.  We plan to spend time as a family and hit the Race Expo on Saturday.   Sunday race morning will be exciting and I plan to connect with other runners before the start.   I am always excited to see friends and family in the crowd supporting me during the race.  Post race will be busy getting food and traveling home.  

I am excited to Run With the Marines again, and complete my 5th Marathon.    I wish a good race to all the runners this weekend, I will see you out there. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Officially Grinding my way through

The intensity of marathon training comes to a peak with increased fatigue and limited patience for life pressures.   The training novelty wears off and you find yourself in the hardest part of the training cycle, I call this period The Grind.   This is a period when you are committed and so deep into the training process that you have no option but grind out workouts and deal with life.

The Grind sneaks up on you even though you can forecast it like clock work in your training plan 6 weeks from race day.   Your friends are tired of hearing about the long runs, fueling preferences and new running gear.  Your family is struggling with the need for training runs to consume family time.  Although you are excited about the upcoming event, you have less patience for small things, frustrated when things just don't line up right, and for some reason always hungry.

I am no expert at effectively managing The Grind, but I do have a strategy that I am working on:

  • Accept it - You know that this is the part of the training plan that this tests your commitment, dedication and support system.  The long runs and speed work are pushing your physically which then makes everything else harder.    Ideally your family, friends and co-workers understand the situation and provide you a little bit of grace and space.  You also need to be aware and accept that things may take more effort or seem a bit more rough than usual.  Try to be flexible and aware of your mood.
  • Get sleep - The best thing to help recovery is sleep.  This helps the body and the mind prepare for the next workout and next day at the office.   Get as much sleep while in the Grind as possible to help the recovery and coping process.
  • This too will end -  The Grind wont last forever and is the precursor to the Taper. The Taper enables your body to recover for the final event with reduced training volume.   Use the Taper as a prize at the end of the Grind and look forward to the rest and free time.

I am in the second week of The Grind for this training cycle.  I am relieved to say that things seem to be headed in the right direction.   I have one more long run remaining before I start the Taper.   I feel strong and confident in my training and looking forward to race day.