Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon Recap

It was a beautiful morning for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville.

Even though I missed my goal (3:10) and a Boston qualifier (3:15), I ran 26.2 miles in 3:19:09, and that's a minute faster than I've ever run a marathon before.

I was 94th of 2,080 finishers and 11th of 204 men aged 40-44.

I went out with the 3:10 pace group and I was right on pace until about mile 18, then the wheels came off.  I suspect fueling was a factor and I hit the infamous wall.  I ate Shot Bloks along the way, but I guess it wasn't enough for the pace I was running.

Here is a link to the activity as recorded by my Garmin.  The course included a loop around the beautiful but hilly Iroquois Park.

This was my fifth marathon.  My previous best was the PF Chang's Rock & Roll Arizona Marathon in 2010 where I ran a 3:20:10.  That result was good enough to qualify me for Boston at the time (qualifying standards got tougher the following year).

As miserable as the last 8 miles were, I'm already thinking about my next marathon and about how much I need to eat along the way.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Buying Running Shoes

People who are new to running often ask me for tips.  It begins with the right footwear.  Here are some suggestions for getting the right shoes:

GO TO A RUNNING STORE - Not Foot Locker, Sport Chalet or REI.  Go to a specialy running store like Fleet Feet.  Here are some shops in the Sacramento area:

Fleet Feet Sacramento   Fleet Feet Fair Oaks & Roseville   The Running Zone (Elk Grove)

GET FITTED - Have them measure your foot.  Often running shoes are a different size than you what you wear to work - usually larger, sometimes even a full size.  Width is also important.

Also, they will look at your gait.  Our feet land a little differently and running shoes are made to deal with that.  For example, I overpronate (my foot rolls inward).  My shoes have a harder material on the inside of the sole to arrest the movement and help prevent inury.

CHOOSE YOUR CUSHION - The amount of cushioning is a matter of taste.  Most beginning runners like lots of nice, soft cushion under their feet.  Some more advanced runners eschew this luxury in favor of a lighter shoe.

LOOKS AREN'T ANYTHING - The absolute least important thing about a running shoe is what it looks like.  Get a shoe that's appropriate for your gait and fits your perfectly.  If they happen to make that in your favorite color, great.  Just don't buy a shoe based on looks.

TRY 'EM OUT - While you're at the store, go outside and jog up and down the sidewalk a little.  This is totally acceptable when buying running shoes.  Once you pick a pair, come home and take them for a test run.  If they're not perfect, bring them back.  Runners do this all the time, and running stores enourage it.  They want you to have shoes that fit perfectly.

DON'T WEAR 'EM OUT - Running shoes typically have a lifespan of 350 to 450 miles.  As comfortable as they'll be, you'll want to wear them all the time.  Don't waste those miles at the grocery store.  Only wear your running shoes for running.

PICK UP SOME SOCKS - While you're there, get a couple pair of good running socks.  These are made of a synthetic "wicking" material.  They keep the moisture away from your feet to prevent blisters.  They're more expensive than regular socks, but you'll only need a couple of pair.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Midnight Run

Sticking to a training schedule can be tough when you have an unusual (and occasionally unpredictable) work and travel schedule.  This often leads to less-than-ideal runs, like pre-dawn or before (or after) a long flight.

Recently, though, it lead to one of the most interesting runs of my short running career.  Because of some travel issues, I got into Miami late and had to be at work at 7:30 the next morning for an ESPN NBA game.  16 hours later when I got off work, I still had 10 miles to get in.

Dreading the next 80 minutes, I headed out the door at midnight local time.  I've run at night before and I run before sunrise frequently, but midnight is a different story.  Little did I know my hotel was in a perfect place for such an adventure.  Just a block from my hotel was the Venetian Causeway, which crosses Biscayne Bay and the Venetian Islands before hitting Miami Beach.

My route took me on an beautiful, scenic tour.  The weather was nice, too, 70 degrees with a breeze off the Atlantic.

Marathon Training Update

I've reached the magical part of marathon training known as the "taper".  That's the last two weeks before the race where you scale back your mileage and rest your legs for the big day.  I thought it would be an appropriate time to share how my training has been going.

A Different Approach

Last year, I trained for the Boston Marathon.  I felt like I got into excellent shape, but I ended up injured about two weeks out from the race.  I still did the marathon, but slowly and with a lot of pain.  So the objective this year was to get to the same fitness level, but stay healthy.  My coach adjusted my schedule, and I've tried to get the most out of every run.  Here's what changed:
  • Less mileage: Last year, I topped out at 70 miles/week.  This year, only 60.
  • A rest day every week: Last year, I ran 7 days a week.  This year, only 6.
  • Focus on quality: I've tried to avoid "garbage miles".  Last year, I was often just trying to get the miles in.  This year, I've tried to keep them productive.  I've done most of my runs at 8:00/mile or faster.
  • I'm sticking to my schedule as precisely as possible.  With my unusual work and travel schedule, this can get tricky.  I always have to make adjustments but this year, I've stayed as true as possible to what my coach planned.  This ended up leading to one of my most enjoyable runs ever.

Fitness Level Indicators

Based on the work of Jack Daniels, you can use a race performance to estimate the equivalent performance at a different distance.  Here are some recent races and the marathon equivalent:
  • 11 Febrary: Valentine 4 Mile - 26:08 - VDOT: 49.7, marathon equivalent: 3:11:34
  • 11 March: Shamrock'n Half Marathon - 1:29:46 - VDOT: 51.1, marathon equivalent: 3:07:13
  • 1 April: Sactown 10 Mile - 1:06:44 - VDOT 51.5, marathon equivalent: 3:05:47
I think the predicted marathon times are a little optimistic for me personally, but I figure I'm in about 3:07 shape which should make my goal of sub-3:10 realistic, assuming everything goes right and the weather cooperates.

Race Date: April 28

I'll be running the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville, KY.  I'll have a day to recover before I start setting up for the horse race for NBC on Monday the 30th.

I'm feeling good at this point in my training, and I'm starting to get excited for race day!