Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Good Weekend? 2 PRs?

I guess I set 2 PRs this weekend, but have mixed feelings about both.

Winter Flight 8K in Salisbury on Saturday. I used to run this race with my dad in the mid-80s. Haven't run an 8K in over 20 years. I didn't remember this race being so hilly! I did a lot of thinking before the race and felt pretty confident I could run 6:20 miles for a 31:40. First mile was 6:18. After that, there was hill after hill. Long fairly steep ones. Each was about 2:00. The whole last 4 miles I was either going up a hill or recovering from one with the next one in sight. I ended up with a 34:13- 2:33 slower than I expected. 1:30-2:00 of that could be attributed to the hills and :30-1:00 of it could be because I backed off a little (not much) when I knew I'd be slower than I thought. I feel like I kept it steady and hard, but the time is not a very good gauge of fitness due to the course. Results say I was 43rd overall out of 260- top 16%. 4th in my age group. I guess this was a PR. I haven't run an 8K since I was about 13, so... I feel OK about the race. Tried hard but I'm so bad in the hills that it's hard for me to recover before I get to the next one. I ran within myself but it was a hard effort. Here are some pictures.

Sunday, I went to McAlpine with the GPS and ran 50K. I didn't set out to run a PR time, but I did feel bad about how Frosty 50 turned out and an hour into it, I felt good and the average pace was 7:50, so I decided to break my PR of 4:41. I felt good for the first half and averaged 7:55/mile through 15 miles. Then two miles around 8:20 and then crashed. Last half, I averaged 9:09/mile. I guess the good thing is I never dipped to 10:00/mile or below. I was able to keep my running pace to about 8:40/mile with some breaks for water and bathroom. I really felt terrible the last 15. Just felt like sleeping. So tired. I think the weather had something to do with it. All of my long runs in the past 3 months have been at 45 degrees or below. Most in the 30s. I started at 11 AM and it got up to 73 today! Tomorrow's high is back down to 45. Sheesh! Very sweaty & salty. All out in the open at McAlpine. I think it really zapped me.

I ran a 4:27:40, bettering my PR by 14 minutes, but I don't feel great about it. First of all, it doesn't really count since it was by myself, but the main thing is just that I'm worried b/c I felt so bad so early in the run. If I die at mile 15 of the marathon in March, I'm in trouble. Obviously, if I was running a 50K race and expecting to do well, I wouldn't run an 8K race the day before, but I don't think that had a major impact on today's run. My energy level for last weekend's 20 miler wasn't great either. Sleep hasn't been good at all lately. I didn't get more than 4 hours of sleep any weeknight this week. I usually crash Sunday and don't do anything except lay around and run. Both of these long runs were on Sundays. I'll make an effort to sleep better this week and hopefully perk up a bit next weekend. If next weekend's 25 mile training run goes bad, I'll adjust the training plan.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marathon Plans- Hard Training

The thing I've loved about trail running and ultra running for the past few years has been the relaxed nature of it, but I guess that doesn't have to go hand-in-hand with the distance or terrain I choose to run on necessarily. I was so burned out on stressing over pace and setting PRs in road races. Looking back on it though, I wonder how hard I really pushed though. I can recall some mile interval sessions on the Asheboro golf course in 2002 and can say I'll probably never run that hard again, nor do I want to. A hard run always meant vomiting. There are things I didn't know then and things that I'm capable of now that will make my training better I think. Now that I'm running a bit faster I've regained interest in seeing what times I'm capable of.

Ready to push like I haven't since... really ever. I signed up for a road marathon March 20. Wrightsville Beach Marathon will be the first road marathon I've done since 2007 (I did casually run the Wild Hare training marathon in 2009, but that doesn't count) and I'm coming at it with a completely different approach.

For the first time in 6 years, I sat down and made a training schedule. What? I have been running what I feel like running, with the idea that I should get a long run in here and there and some hard efforts with the kids when it fits. But I felt like to have a good performance in March, I really need to focus on what I'm doing. Imagine that. I've developed a completely different philosophy too. I'm not sure it's that radical, but it's a lot different from what I used to do training for marathons. Here's what I used to do: An average day was 5-6 miles. I ran one tempo, fartlek or interval session each week, and I had a pattern for my "long" runs each week: 10, 12, 10, 14, 10, 16, 10, 18, 10, 20, 10, 20, 10, marathon race. Two days off each week. Weekly mileage was somewhere around 40-45 usually. I think this is fairly typical for a lot of beginner marathoners, but looking back on it, is there any wonder why nearly every marathon I fell apart between 16-20 miles??

I have always been one to experiment against sound training philosophy on purpose just to prove the validity to myself. Used to be, "What happens if I try to run 2 hours at tempo pace?" or "What does bonking feel like?" Most sound training philosophy says you can't increase volume and intensity at the same time. I think increasing each a little will be OK though. I have been running workouts harder than I ever have before. Started that at the end of November. Mileage is high for me at this time of year but not what I would consider truly high mileage. I often get in 75-100 mile weeks in the summer, but as a teacher, coach and dad, it's hard to do it during the school year. I know I couldn't handle 80 miles/week and hard, but I think 55-65 and hard will push me but not over the edge.

I used to do hard workouts that made me puke, like I said, but I think I can do even harder ones now, and do them smarter. These will be geared more for marathon+ than 5K racing. Last week, I did 8x400, which sounds easy, but I did them in 1:20 with a :30 rest, which is tough for me. Today I did 2 x 2 mile with a 4:00 break in between. I did today's run at what I consider tempo or 10K pace. It's hard to gauge that sort of pace since it's not all out. 2 miles at tempo on the track + warmup & cooldown has been my favorite rainy workout since about 2003. I've always been right at 13:20 and felt like it was comfortably hard. Today, I did two of them and was at 12:50 and 12:38 and felt like it was no harder than usual. So the hard workouts are going along nicely.

It stands to reason that a person who perpetually dies at mile 16-20 of a marathon and never runs over 20 in marathon training should consider bumping that up right? Eh, when I was training for marathons everything I read cautioned about going over 20-22 miles and 20 really was a struggle most of the time in training. So if you're putting in training runs of 26, 30, 40... you should fare much better shouldn't you?? Of course, not the best advice for someone looking to run their first marathon, but coming from ultras and moving down to marathon distance, this makes sense to me- work hard during the week and keep the long runs coming on the weekends. I'll also bump up my average weekday run to 7-8 miles and still get in 1-2 days of rest a week. In my schedule, I have stopped short of planning each day, but instead, have planned out the runs I need to do each week and then pick the days I want to do them on as I go along. My weekly long runs in the 9 weeks leading up to the marathon are: 20, 30, 26, 26, 18, 40 (Mt. Mitchell Challenge), 20 & 14.

On occasion, my long runs get pretty pedestrian... not really the running so much- I run at a decent pace, but sometimes I walk hills, appreciate the scenery, take a longer than needed break at the car to refuel, etc. Sometimes, that has to do with climbing thousands of feet on rough trails, but some of it's in my head. In the next 2 months, I'll move away from trails to an extent and plan the long runs where I can get better leg turnover and focus on running at a better clip with fewer distractions. Read "boring." :) But it's just temporary.

So I'm looking forward to the adventure of Mt. Mitchell in a month, and Hinson Lake in the fall is always high on my list of things to look forward to, but the marathon in 2 months has been the motivating spark the last couple of weeks. I'm excited. I'll know what time goal to go after closer to the race when I've figured a few things out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Half Marathon PR and a Great Rebound

1:33:57 and felt good at the Charleston Half Marathon!

After a great November and December of training I felt so good. So confident. Then I had to drop out of Freedom Park 24 Hour Run after 74 miles due to injury. Thought I'd be OK to run 50K the next week and was still hurt and had to drop out of it. Those two things combined with the simple fact that I was hurt had me really down. When I signed up for these 3 races, I knew I could run a 24 Hour/100 mile PR, 50K PR and Half Marathon PR, but wasn't sure if I could do them all back to back to back. I couldn't, but did get the Half.

I hadn't run a half marathon since 2002. I had no idea how to pace myself. 7:00/mile seemed fast. 7:30 seemed slow. This race was such a low priority, I gave it no thought until the drive down to Charleston. "I know I can go under 1:45. I don't think I can go under 1:30. Under 1:40? 1:37? Who knows?" My wife asked me the name of the race as we drove down. "I dunno... Charleston Half Marathon, Riverfront Half Marathon... I'm not sure." Yeah, I didn't put a lot of mental prep work into this one, but I did know if I ended up dropping out of another race or hurting so bad I had a bad race, I was going to lose it! So, I did no training at half marathon pace, whatever that is. Haven't run thinking, "OK, this is the right pace." Nothing like that. Seriously, 30 minutes before the race, I ran a total of about 2 miles figuring out with my GPS what seemed right. 7:12/mile seemed good I decided. Ha!

It was 31 degrees an hour before the start and quickly warmed to around 42-45 by the finish. Felt good. Course went through historic Charleston for the first 6 miles or so and was a great venue. Then went along a divided highway that was less scenic and finished up along the water. Point to point course, which poses some logistical problems. Again, I didn't bother to look at the map and realize it was point to point until the day before the race. Of course, being in Charleston, it was flat & fast, which was good for keeping an even pace. I had forgotten how important pace is to me in a shorter race. This is the only race I've ever worn GPS in and I must say I looked at it every 1/4 mile or so. Helpful little tool.

I went out just a little faster than planned but it felt very comfortable- just under 7:00 pace. Held that pace pretty evenly for the first half and then made a noticeable drop off but never slid much from the second pace. Mile 10* was a little off because of a short fairly steep hill (the only one on the course) and an aid station I walked a few steps to drink at. Picked it up a bit at the end with a nice kick. Splits:

Mile 1- 6:53, Mile 2- 6:59, Mile 3- 6:56, Mile 4- 6:54, Mile 5- 6:52, Mile 6- 6:58, Mile 7- 7:13, Mile 8- 7:16, Mile 9- 7:18, Mile 10- 7:40*, Mile 11- 7:29, Mile 12- 7:25, Mile 13- 7:11

Ended up at 1:33:57. My previous PR was 1:34:37. Honestly, I didn't know that until I looked it up after my finish. I couldn't remember if it was 1:33 something or 1:31 something. Neither one. I'm telling you, I didn't put much (OK, zero) emphasis on this race. Finished 74th overall out of 1504 people. That puts me in the top 5%, which is very high, but I don't think it says much about me, but rather the changing face of running. It's been a long time since I've run a big road race like this and it was a good experience, but things have really changed.

While I did no prep work for this race, doing poorly would've been pretty crushing and doing well was a nice ego boost that I desperately needed. 1:33 isn't blazing fast or anything- I know that. Considering I'm not 100%, my training the past 2 weeks has been almost non-existent, and I haven't run a half marathon in 8.5 years, I'll gladly take it. I think I could go just under 1:30 with effort and planning- and I do like that distance, but I probably won't race another half for a long time.

My next race is even more foreign to me- an 8K that I used to do in the mid 1980s with my dad. It's been over 20 years since I've raced an 8K! :) After that, Mt. Mitchell 40 miler and then Wrightsville Beach Marathon. I signed up for it to run with a girl I used to coach but she decided not to run so I'm solo and looking for a solid marathon performance after the half!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Think I'll Make It

I've gone to Carolina Sports Clinic a few times, ice, compressed, rested, and really tried to take care of myself the past two weeks. Tired of being hurt. After dropping out of last week's 50K, I promised myself I wouldn't run again until Wednesday, but then 5" of snow fell Monday! I looked out the window all day and wished I could be out there running in it, but resisted the urge. On Tuesday, I thought about putting on running shorts just because I missed them. Again, I resisted! Yesterday was my first day running and I'd told myself I'd run 10 miles to test the knee out and stop earlier if I needed to. If I could do that and have a decent Thursday run, I thought I'd be OK to run the Charleston Half Marathon this weekend.

Yesterday went OK. I ran at McMullen Creek Greenway for only the 2nd time ever. It was icy. The knee hurt from the first mile, but not nearly as bad and didn't effect my running- just pain. No hobbling, stopping or anything. It lessened as I went further and when I hit 10 miles, it hurt considerably less.

Today, I went out to ASC trails in Fort Mill and had a fantastic hour run in the ice and snow. I felt like a pioneer on some of the trails because I was the first person to use them since the snow. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. After no school for 4 days because of the snow, it was great to get out and run trails I love in conditions I love. MUCH less pain today. Didn't notice it for most of the run and from time to time, the knee would be a little achy but nothing bad at all. I will end up doing the half marathon Saturday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

DNFs- A Reflection

Did Not Finish. Words a runner never wants to speak, but if you do enough long events, it's bound to happen... or you do finish and die doing so... In all of the races I've done over the years, I don't think I have what would be considered a lot of DNFs- 5 including 3 times going home after 17 hours in 24 hour races. They weigh heavily on me though. I wrote them down this week and thought about each one of them. Some I'm OK with dropping out of. Others, I regret. I should've known better than to even try Frosty 50 last weekend after severe problems the week before.

Someone told me recently that they think my injuries motivate me as a runner. I'm not certain what that means. I don't even feel like I have many injuries, but I do have this thing & that thing pop up in races... stomach, chafe, knee, ankle, dehydration, etc. etc. It would be easy to see these things as excuses. Maybe they are. It is getting more and more apparent that for every 2 bad races I have, it seems there's only 1 good one. Funny part is almost every single one of my long training runs is good. Most fun I've had, and the strongest I've felt in the past 3 months were two 40 mile solo runs in the mountains.

I've spent the past 2 weeks just kind of busted up. Left ankle. Right achilles. Right knee. Left foot... The 74 miles on New Year's really took their toll a lot more than I expected them to. I blame the asphalt, but of course, knew and accepted the challenge coming into it. Anyway, several people (mostly non-runners) have told me in the past 2 weeks, "You're not 18 (or 22, or...) anymore. You can't run like this. You have to back off, rest, and scale back the miles." They didn't mean now because I'm hurt, but in the future. I disagree. When I was 18 I had given up on running. Retired after 10 years and maybe 150 races. Burned out. By the time I was in my early 20s, I had gained a lot of weight, was cycling a good deal, but was no runner, for sure. So when people say "You're not 24 anymore." I think, "Thank goodness." I've been getting a lot of, "You can't keep doing this to your body" comments lately. Makes me feel like I'm headed to the old folks home.

In my recent frustration because of the last 2 races, I realized I am a better runner at 37 than I was at 7 (when I started training for my first 10K), 17 (high school XC/track runner), or 27 (running marathons and doing triathlons). A recent 5K time trial and intervals have proven that I'm as fast as I ever have been as an adult and I certainly couldn't run the miles I do now back then. So I'm very happy with where my running is right now, just very unhappy with the way the last two races went.

I took a 3 year break from road races (going to mix things up this year a little though) because I put too much pressure on myself. I felt like uncertain trail miles have a built in excuse in some ways, "Dude, it was really hard. Of course I was slow." Your time at a trail 50K which may not even be accurately measured matters a whole lot less than it does at the Myrtle Beach Marathon. The goal in ultras for me was always to have fun and finish feeling good, but really push myself. Lately, I've found myself putting more pressure on myself in ultras. And with ultras, the mind really has to be right. If I have a bad attitude running a 5K, so be it. I don't mean to belittle the mental aspect of shorter distances, and as a coach, I certainly understand how important the mind is. But if you're running 24 hours, 100 miles, 50K... there is so much room for real physical problems to arise, but also mental weakness. If you run all day and all night, you (at least I do) hear a million times, "UGH! This is so painful and so draining. Why don't you just quit so I can curl up somewhere and sleep?"

This sounds like a letter of resignation, but it isn't. I think it's important to address the physical and mental hurdles I've had lately in order to move past them. ...and I'm ready to move on. I have been doing a lot to try to heal up physically the last 2 weeks and have done a lot of thinking about how I can improve mentally.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Complete Idiot

Dropped out of last week's 24 hour race at 74 miles with a messed up foot. Really messed up. Got treatment at Carolina Sports Clinic twice this week. Thursday was the last day and Brad was rough on me. I hobbled for 4 miles later that day. He killed me. The next day, though, COMPLETELY FINE!!! I jumped up & down, ran on it. Perfect!!! I decided I was in for Frosty 50K. GREAT! I had really wanted to run this because I'm running faster than I ever have before and long training runs have been so easy. Fresh, I knew I could go under 4:30 and 4:41 is my PR. Salem Lake, the race venue is an easy, non-technical course.

Ran the first 6 miles with Konrad Gannon and felt really strong. Great to have someone to talk to. If I'm alone, I start questioning myself. Honestly, the first 6 were effortless. Often, it's the first hour that's the worst for me- trying to settle in physically & mentally, but today, I felt great. We hit the first 2 miles in 8:00 pace and then picked it up a bit. We were at 6 miles at 46:00, which means we were running 7:30/mile from 2-6. Felt fantastic all over. Stomach great. Legs & feet great. It was going to be the perfect day for me. Felt fresh, not at all like I came off a 74 mile race last week (even though getting my feet into my shoes was a little difficult b/c they're STILL swollen).

Then all of the sudden, it hit me. My knee kind of locked up. Came from nowhere. I didn't say anything but 1/2 mile later, I had to stop. Made it to around 9 miles, but had to stretch it every 400m. I knew even if it got better a couple of miles down the road, I wasn't going to have the time I was looking for. I dropped out at 9 miles. With my foot hurting so bad, I forgot that I struggled with knee pain for 30-40 miles last week. I'm pretty sure it's my IT Band, as it was hurting up the outside of my upper leg too towards the end.

So embarrassing and disappointing. Seems like I always have an excuse and though I feel like I'm running great right now, I've had back to back disappointments. No doubt in my mind I was running 100 miles last week. I knew when I signed up that the Frosty 50K might not happen after Freedom Park 24 Hour, but thought I'd give it a go. Once I started, there was no way I wasn't going to break 4:30. My PR is 4:41 and I felt so good and so confident that I would do well.

This was supposed to be a prolific 3 week stretch where I'd prove to myself how much this great training was paying off. 24 Hour race, 50K, half marathon. Supposed to do a half marathon in Charleston next weekend. Again, I feel like if my body holds up I can PR, but I don't know if I can take another disappointment if my body doesn't hold up. UGH!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Freedom Park 24 Hour Run- Ouch!

74 miles in 17:50 with a busted foot at the Freedom Park 24 Hour Run. Disappointed with the results, as I was dead set on 100 miles, but given the situation, there was nothing I could've done.

Round & around a 1 mile paved loop all day & all night in Morganton, NC. I was so prepared. So confident. Never felt like that for anything over a 50K. Just knew I was going to get in 100 miles and figured I'd get it in well before 24 hours. "100 miles or 24 hours- which ever comes first," I kept thinking. No way I was quitting before one of those occurred but I really though 100 wouldn't be a problem. Training's been so good.

Had some stomach issues for the first 15 miles, but ran well when I wasn't in the bathroom. 10 miles in 1:35. 20 miles in 3:15. Marathon in 4:17. 30 miles in 5:07. 50 miles in 9:57, which I think it was my fastest 50. Then I slowed and took some extra breaks. 60 in 12:35.
Knee was hurting me a lot from 30 on. Legs hurt all over, but managable. Around 60, I had done math & figured I could do 12:00/mile and still have over an hour of rest time & still get in 100. Easy.
Then everything came to a screeching halt. At 68, I was running along and something in my heel just popped. One step I was fine- no heel pain all day- the next step, I was yelling. Didn't twist it or anything. Couldn't run a step after that. Finished walking that lap and stayed off it for 30 minutes. After that I could run with a good deal of pain for a lap, then with less pain for a lap. I stopped to text Jennifer I was OK. When I started back up, again, I couldn't run a step. Walked to what I thought was 75 miles, but turned out to be 74 and called it a night at 1:50 AM.
I'm good with my decision. I didn't have much choice. COULD NOT run. Once I'm done running, I'm done. I'm wasn't interested in walking for 6 hours. I ran with a podiatrist, Bill Johncock for a couple of laps here & there throughout the day. He caught up to me after I got hurt & thought it might be a microtear in a tendon in my heel.
Today, it's much worse. Can barely walk. Has me worried. I'm signed up for Frosty 50K next weekend, but doesn't look like that'll happen. You never know. I have much more general soreness that usual too. Last year, I was mad at the asphalt. This year, I fooled myself into thinking, "Oh this isn't so bad." Better attitude but didn't make the legs feel any better. I wore some pink (yes) Zensah calf sleeves I just got because my calves have been sore a lot lately. I can't say for sure that they helped but I think they did. Swelling is less than expected and pain in calves during the run was less than expected.

Weather was as good as you can expect for this time of year. I think it was forecasted to be a little warmer, but it got up to 48-50 & never dropped to freezing. Much better than last year (or the year before, but I wasn't there then). I say I like the cold but for a race that long... It wasn't COLD, but I was just a little chilly at times. Teeth were chattering when I had to walk late. Nothing at all to complain about.
Great race organization! Many thanks to David, Rhonda & the BMRC volunteers. Lots of frills for an ultra yet the personal connection of a small race. Met some interesting folks. Had a good time, I just wish it had ended up differently. It's been since 2006 that I've had a serious injury (yeah, OK, cracked rib, surgery... but I mean one bad enough to keep me from running with no end in sight). I hate not knowing. Could be fine Monday. Could hurt for a month. Frustrating.

Scary moment of the night was around 8 PM, a guy I had run a little with early on had to get hauled off in an ambulance with what they thought was hypothermia but ended up being kidney failure. He came back for the ringing in of the New Year, having just been released from the hospital! I talked with him a little and he said it was the worst pain he's ever felt. Sounded like it hit him suddenly. Scary to think what can happen.

Most amazing moment of the day was Jerry Johncock, an 82 year old setting the 50K American record for the 80-84 age group- 5:55 I think- under 6 hours, I know. Broke the old record by over an hour!

I have now run five 24 hour races and only finished two of them! I am always reminded how mentally tough it is to keep going. The I've had:
90 miles & a finish on a hot day.
70 miles & a long day of cold rain & asphalt that ended in 17 hours.
67 miles & a long hot day with many heat issues & hallucination that ended in 17 hours.
92 miles & a finish on a very hot day.
74 miles that had to end at 17 hours because of injury.
What is it about 17 hours?? Of my 3 DNFs, I had no choice this time. Last time in the heat, I also think I made the best decision possible. Last year at Freedom Park, was the only one I maybe should have kept going but I was in a lot of pain and frankly not having much fun. I don't regret my decision in any of them.

So yeah, Salem Lake a week from today. Could be a PR... I feel like I'm in shape to go under 4:41, my best time, but I also could be unable to run at all this week. We'll just see. Honestly, if it's worse than today, I don't see how I won't be on crutches.

I recently got these Recover Gear tights. They have pockets for ice/heat packs. Can ice both quads, hamstrings & calves at once without having to get in an ice bath. I like 'em. Can't figure out... I think the company changed it's name to 110%.