Monday, May 26, 2008

Italian Taper

I found out in early May that I would have to go to Italy on business and stay for 2-3 weeks…I wasn’t sure, until the middle of the month, exactly when in May it would be or how long I would have to stay. This was an important business trip…by no means did I want to say I couldn’t go, but I had a conflict in the back of my mind. In February, I had signed up to run the Newport Marathon. The race is on May 31st, and initially, it was looking like I was going to miss it. But when everything was said and done, my trip had me leaving for Italy on May 17th and returning home on May 30th. I’m just glad I’ll be back to see my sister finish her first marathon.

So I’ve been in Italy now for a little over a week…unfortunately, things have not been very conducive to running. The hotel is basically surrounded on all sides by busy highways, and even if it wasn’t, I’ve been driving on these Italian roads quite a bit and I know I wouldn’t want to be a runner out there. My only saving grace has been the hotel fitness room which does have a couple treadmills. Interestingly, running on a treadmill in Italy is just as boring as back home. The only added excitement is figuring out distances and pace in km and km/hour…it’s funny that running on the treadmill seems to take even longer when I have to run 8 kilometers to get 5 miles. I’ve actually been a lot busier in the evenings then I thought I’d be too…so I haven’t exactly been keeping up with the running schedule I had planned. The Italian taper includes several days of zeroes.

Right now it looks like things are still on track for me to return home the day before the race. I leave Italy on Friday at about 7:00 AM and get back to Corvallis around 2:00 PM…pretty weird since it seemed like it took a whole day to get here. I was pretty wiped out after the trip over here…my only hope is it will be easier traveling back the other direction. My plan for the race is really just wait and see how I feel…if things are good early on I’ll push, but if things aren’t good early on…actually…I’ll probably still push and completely crash and burn! We’ll see…it should be interesting. Who knows, maybe this Italian taper will do me good…I was definitely feeling rundown after McDonald Forest. Taking this time to recover might help me.

This past weekend I drove over to Mount Blanc to check out the area where the toughest foot race in Europe is run…The North Face Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont-Blanc…more on this topic later…I need to get back on the treadmill.

McDonald Forest 50K

As I mentioned in my previous post, the week prior to this race was pretty crazy for me…I was very busy at work and I got very little sleep because I was still trying to squeeze a run in every day. With this race on Saturday, my total for the week would be over 83 miles.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting a great performance. Not only was it a tough week leading up to the race, but I didn’t think I was very well prepared physically, either. For the first 3 and a half months of the year I was concentrating on training for the Boston Marathon…this involved a lot more road running than trail running…I didn’t think I would be ready for all the ups and downs of McDonald Forest. And at one point during the race, I thought to myself, “You haven’t done any long runs of more than about 3 and a half hours in a couple months! And today you’ll be lucky to finish in about 5 hours.” Hills and endurance were definite question marks.

But what a great morning for a race it was…overcast, not too cold…and the course was dry. Last year was the first year I ran the 50K and I didn’t know quite what to expect…this year I was much better prepared in the sense that I knew every inch of the course. My plan for the race was to run the hills effortlessly early on…if I felt like I was pushing on the hills early, I figured I’d be really hurting later on. So from the start I ran comfortably…I just tried not to push it, and I felt good.

Heading up Powder House Trail, I was doing my best to not push too hard…so I was a little concerned when I caught up to Matt Nahorniak on this section. I asked him how he was doing…he said, in so many words, that he wasn’t feeling real good. Penny McDermott was also close behind, and she passed me on the last short section up to the top of Powder House Trail. She had just run the Womens Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston a few weeks ago in 2:49:32, so I figured trying to run her pace would be good for me. But Matt caught back up and passed us after we got to the end of Powder House Trail…I decided to try to keep him in sight since I knew he was shooting for a sub 5 hour finish. For a guy who wasn’t feeling real good, he was really hammering the downhills…even on a tough day, he still finished strong, several minutes under 5 hours.

After the first aid station, I ran with Sander Nelson for a while, trying to pick up some tips. In all his previous races here, he told me he felt like he hadn’t ever run a really great race…well, he can’t say that anymore…he ran a great race this year and ended up finishing fifth. We hit the first part of the maze together, but he dropped me pretty quickly going up that steep stuff…I really need to work on the hiking. I tried to take it easy in the maze, but of course, coming out of it, I still felt spent. From last year’s race, I remembered several places where I had trouble, and I was determined to do better on those sections this year. One of those sections is the seemingly never-ending climb up the road to Dimple Hill Aid Station. I was happy that I was able to run this entire section this year.

I was feeling really good when I got to the top of Dimple Hill. But interestingly, when I started down Dan’s Trail, my stomach started to bother me. I definitely didn’t run Dan’s Trail like I hoped to, but once I got to the bottom of it, the uphills actually made me feel better…and then Scott Jurek passed me going the other direction and said, “Good job!” That made me feel better too. I had been taking a gel at every aid station, but decided to stop doing this…thankfully my stomach started to feel better. I seem to have some sort of a fueling issue.

After Chip Ross Aid Station, I knew I only had two tough climbs to go…the Horse Trails and the road section after the last aid station. I walked a lot of the Horse Trails last year and was determined to run as much of them as I could this year…I ended up running, very slowly of course, almost the entire way. And once I got to the saddle, I knew it was only about 1.5 miles to the top of that last tough climb…this one definitely was tough…my legs were screaming at me to stop and walk…I gave in and did for a brief bit. Once I hit the downhill I just let gravity do the work…I pushed as best I could and was able to run somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30 a mile for this stretch. When I got to Powder House Trail I felt completely exhausted and ended up walking up the hill…I thought about 4:45, but it was just a thought…not worth hurting myself before the Newport Marathon. I ran the last downhill stretch as best I could and finished in 4:46:37.

From the time I got to Dimple Hill Aid Station, all the way until about 1 mile to go, I was thinking, when will he catch me? He may not know it, but William the Pain Train Swint really pushed me in this race. The usual scenario for ultras we run is me starting off fast, probably too fast sometimes, and him catching me at some point in the second half of the race. So when I made it to Dimple Hill Aid Station I thought, I’ll try and make it to Chip Ross Aid Station before he catches me…then when I made it to Chip Ross Aid Station I thought, I’ll try and make to the top of the Horse Trails before he catches me, and so on…it really helped push me. Unfortunately, the Pain Train lived up to his name and had another painful race…for the second race in a row his stomach was bothering him…it’s tough to run that way. He still ran a great time, 4:53:49, but I know how it feels to run a race and afterwards feel like you could have done better…I think we’re both suffering from the same affliction to some degree…let’s get this figured out.

I was surprised at how well the race went for me…I had such a tough week and still had a good race…maybe I have gotten a little tougher over the past year. I may have also been fueled by revenge since I didn’t have a great race at Boston. Well, now I start my taper for the Newport Marathon. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t taper at all.

Friday, May 9, 2008

ORRC Hagg Lake Run

Last Saturday I ran the ORRC Hagg Lake Run which is a 10.4 mile run on the road that circles Hagg Lake. As of last year, this race has become my post-Boston Marathon recovery test. It is a challenging is described as having a few hills, but it's basically nothing but ups and downs. I ran it in 1:07:07 last year and this year I hoped to break 1:05:00.

My sister Kristin, my brother-in-law Carlos, and their friend Kevin were at the race too. Kristin and Carlos are both training for the Newport Marathon at the end of May...unfortunately Carlos has been nursing a knee injury since the Peterson Ridge Rumble he was a race day decision. He jumped out of the car, ran a few hundred yards up and down the road and declared himself ready to run. In the week leading up to the race, I encouraged Kristin to run the race hard...I figured it would be a good test of her fitness 4 weeks out from the marathon. I suggested a goal of breaking 1:40:00. Kevin ran the Big Sur International Marathon last weekend in 3:18:24, a great time on a tough course, so I wasn't sure how much he would push it during this race.

As the race started, two guys took off in front of me and I could see they were going much too fast for me to keep up. We ran across the dam, made a left turn, and headed up a huge hill. I felt good early on and according to my Garmin, I was running the uphill miles in the 6:20's and the downhill miles under 6:10. I remember really starting to feel the uphills somewhere around the 5 or 6 mile mark. However, I also noticed that I ran about a 38:30 10K, which is only 20 seconds off my PR. By mile 8, I was just hanging on going uphill, but was still able to put the hammer down going downhill. As I approached the finish, I could see I was going to be close to 1:05:00. I was able to hold on and came in third at 1:04:55. Perfect...I was very happy with the race.

After I finished, I went back to my truck to get my camera to take a picture of Kristin, Carlos, and Kevin finishing. I got back over by the finish line around 1:30:00, and figured I had plenty of time before they would be finishing. Then all of the sudden I looked down the road and Kristin was finishing! I was totally unprepared with the camera...this is the best shot I got of the Future Cougar Star.

She finished in 1:33:47, well over six minutes under 1:40:00...I was very impressed. It's really satisfying to see good training paying off. She is going to do great at Newport because she is well prepared. Kristin wasn't too sure how Carlos and Kevin were doing...she last saw them only a couple miles into the race. To make a long story short, Carlos and Kevin still hadn't finished over 2:30:00 since the start of the race. I had to leave because I had to go into work that afternoon, and Kristin was going to drive down the road to try and find them. I found out later that Carlos had to walk most of the course because of the knee injury and I believe Kevin decided to walk with him. I was glad to hear they were OK.

As is tradition, after the race I stopped at the Hagg Lake convenience store for a pickled egg or two and was very distraught to find that they were out of them! It just didn't feel right leaving Hagg Lake without one.

Tomorrow is the McDonald Forest 50K...I've had a tough week...high mileage, very busy at work, and definitely not enough we'll see what I'm made of.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

2008 Boston Marathon

OK, it's been over a week...I've had plenty of time to think about this race. For the fourth year in a row, I went back to Massachusetts to run the Boston Marathon. This would be what I consider my second legitimate shot at running sub 3:00:00.
  • 2005 - I was training with William the Pain Train Swint to run a 3:10:00 qualifying time at the Newport Marathon, when I was offered unqualified entry through work. I took the offer and ran my most enjoyable marathon in 3:30:44.
  • 2006 - I qualified for the 2006 race at the Newport Marathon with a time of 3:10:55 (talk about cutting it close). The Pain Train and I trained to run sub 3:00:00...I knew by the half marathon mark that I wasn't going to make it, so I slowed down quite a bit and finished in 3:09:18.
  • 2007 - This time we trained even harder, with the goal again being to run sub 3:00:00. However, this year we ran different marathons. The weather prior to the Boston Marathon was terrible...strong wind and heavy rain...the race was nearly cancelled. Amazingly, it wasn't that bad during the race...wet roads and some head wind. I ended up running 3:05:10, and the only thing I can think, is the weather got in my head...I don't think I truly believed I could run sub 3:00:00 in those conditions. The Pain Train ran 2:59:38 at the Eugene was great being there to watch...that guy is tough.
  • 2008 - Time to take it up a notch...I used a 2:50:00 training plan this year. Here's the story...
My Aunt and Uncle have a condo in downtown Boston and they have been nice enough to let me stay there the night before the marathon for the past two years. So I had some time to myself to think and get my plan together...I was going to hit every other aid station starting at mile 4...I was going to take a gel every 4 miles. I watched the Celtics beat the Hawks, then the news, went to bed and got a good 6 hours of sleep.

I felt good when I got up in the morning...I ended up eating two bagels and a banana for breakfast...this is pretty typical for me before a race...forgot to eat my grapefruit though (this has been a marathon tradition since 2003). And instead of drinking water, I had Gatorade.

At 9:30 I walked down to the corrals. Like every year previously, I stopped for one last bathroom break before heading up the street to get in my corral. For some reason this year the lines were extra long or people were taking their time, because I was getting worried that I wasn't going to make it to my corral before the race started. With chip timing I knew this wasn't a big deal, and I was trying to not let it bother me. But it still did and I ended up running a bit up the street to make it into the corral seconds before the race started.
From the beginning, I would say I didn't have a spring in my step, but I had no problem running about a 6:45 pace. At the mile 4 aid station I reached down to grab a gel I had pinned to my shorts and realized I had lost two of them (the rest were in my pockets). I remember laughing rather than getting upset. OK, I'll just take a gel every 6 miles now. Speaking of fueling, this year I made a conscious effort to get all the Gatorade or water down I took at each aid station. I had some problems with cramping at the end of the marathon last year I think because I was having a hard time getting all the liquids down at the aid stations while on the run.

I felt like I was doing a good job running a consistent pace. I ran the first 5K in about 21 minutes, so I tried to keep doing that. The half marathon mark was hit at 1:28:27...a little faster than I had planned, but I felt good about it. I continued to keep the pace up to the Newton overall pace declined a bit in the hills, but I expected that. There was only one thing that was bothering me...

I don't remember when it started, I think it got progressively worse, but my stomach started to really bother me. It felt like I needed to throw up...I did a few wasn't a full fledged hurl, but I had stuff coming up in my mouth that I'd spit out. It looked like yellow foam...could it have been the Gatorade I drank before the race? Other than the upset stomach everything else seemed to be alright...up until Heartbreak Hill. I had a little trouble going up that one, but then I was encouraged when I followed that up with a sub 6:40 mile.

I thought I might be able to overcome the stomach problem, but everything seemed to fall apart around mile 24. When I went to take my last gel, I put it up to my mouth and gagged. I was pissed and just threw it on the stomach was really hurting at this point and I feel like I pretty much threw in the towel. The last two miles were a struggle. I hit the 1 mile to go sign at about 2:55:30...I thought to myself, all I have to do is run a sub 4:30 didn't happen. I finished in 3:04:17...a PR, but I could have cared less. Needless to say, when I crossed the finish line my stomach still felt really bad. The volunteers came over to me and were concerned that I was dehydrated because there was some salt on my face and apparently I wasn't looking too good (my cousin would tell me later I looked f'd up). To make a long story short, they ended up taking me into the medical tent and giving me an IV. I'm not so sure I needed it, but I felt much better after lying down for a few minutes.

After I got out of the medical tent, I met my crew at the Park Plaza Hotel. Tonya made Boston Marathon T-shirts again this year for herself, Will, and my sister to wear on race's just a simple thing, but it really means a lot to's just one example of how much support I get from my friends and family. Below is a picture of me with Will and Tonya after the race and a picture of some of my family that came out to support me on race day. Thank-you all!

Obviously I was pretty disappointed with the race results...everyone says, be happy, running a marathon that fast is a great achievement, but I won't be satisfied until I break 3:00:00 at Boston. See you in 2009.