Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Saturday, November 19, 2011

3:54:52 for 50K! Huge PR. Won the Race!

Previous 50K PR: 4:41:00
Today's time (half mile longer than 50K): 3:54:52- 47 minutes faster than old PR
Pace: 7:24/mile
Winning margin: 23 minutes

First, let me say I know there are tons of faster people out there. I know I'm nowhere near them. The Mad Marsh 50K with 68 competitors wasn't the largest, most competitive race out there. BUT, I am really happy with my accomplishments lately & was proud to say I won a race for the first time since 1988. People have asked what the secret to my improvement is...

* Significant weight loss.
* Experience & putting things into perspective during a race.
* Pushing myself in training (though my long runs could be more frequent).

I have raced way more than ever before this year and I think all but one race was a PR. After Kiawah, I will have raced 552 miles this year. There's simply no doubt in my mind that I'll PR in every race I run. The question is by how much. Maybe that sounds cocky, but it works. I used to worry a ton and doom myself to a bad race before I even started. 6 years ago, I started doing ultras & trail races because I didn't like the pressure I put on myself in road races & didn't like the disappointment that went with it. Things went downhill when I turned 30 & I thought I had not hope of getting better or returning to where I was.

Switching to trail running & ultras helped relieve some pressure but I still had a bad attitude. I made up excuses but could hide it with "Oh, but it was an insane mountain trail. How was I supposed to do well?" My return to more road running and trying to run fast has been way more enjoyable than I ever thought it could be though I do still enjoy the rocks, roots & especially the scenery of trail running.

I set some goals in July & one of them was to break 4:00 for 50K. I honestly thought it was the hardest goal on my list and wasn't sure I'd get it. Frosty 50K in January was going to be my big attempt. I found out about the Mad Marsh 50K a couple of weeks ago & just decided Wednesday to come down to Beaufort, SC and run it. I told some people on my team I was going to win it & run under 4 hours. Most believed me, I think, but some asked, "How do you know? You don't even know who's going to be there?" I told them I didn't care. I was going to do what it took to win. If that meant I had to run 3:40 to win, I would just have to do that. If it meant I could run 3:59 and win, then so be it. Wait, did I mention 4:41 was my PR before?? :)

The race was 7x4.5 mile loops around an abandoned golf course. I guess it was on what was once unpaved cart paths. The surface was sandy and a little loose, but better than I expected. There was one short section where the grass was pretty tall and rough, but other than that, it was a great surface though calling it a trail is a bit misleading. More like grassy/dirt/sand path. I enjoyed the course and always like loop courses.

I have to talk a little junk. There were some "cool guys" decked out in fancy gear who yelled at me a minute after the start to slow down, that I didn't know what I was doing, that they were the ones setting the pace & for me to fall back. I turned around & said, "I think I want to run a little faster if that's OK." They indicated they'd see me in the last half of the race- implying I'd die & they'd catch me. I must say it brought me a little joy to lap them on my 5th lap. I felt like I was pretty encouraging to the people I lapped, but not to the guys who yelled at me. Maybe that's mean.

I went out with another guy for the first lap. I ran right on his shoulder for 4 miles and then beside him for the last half mile of that lap and we talked a little. He was just running 3 laps- a little over half marathon & I left him shortly after the end of the first lap. There was one other guy in sight behind me for the first 2 laps but that's all. I led the whole way but wasn't sure how much of a lead I had. 

Things went perfectly other than frequent bathroom breaks (what's new??) & I was able to run very consistently. I hit the marathon in exactly the same time as I ran last week at Thunder Road! 3:08. After that, knowing I'd be under 4:00 & would win, I backed off the last 5 miles. I kept looking back, seeing if I needed to pick it up in case someone caught up, but I didn't realize how much I was leading by. I won by 23 minutes and had a 47 minute PR! Actually, the course was a little long, at 31.7, so it would've been a few minutes under 3:54. I usually like to finish races strong, but I'm OK with easing up at the end here. I think the best I could've done would've been 3:51. 3:51, 3:54... not a big difference. Had I been able to get under 3:50, I would've gone for it.

Below is the breakdown, not by 4.5 mile lap, but by 5 mile increments. Each lap included a bathroom break &/or aid station break & the last 2 laps included a minute of stretching each. I kept it pretty even and cruised after the marathon.

First 5 Miles- 35:19  (7:04/mile)
Second 5 Miles- 35:15 (7:03/mile)
Third 5 Miles- 36:12  (7:14/mile)
Fourth 5 Miles- 36:11 (7:14/mile)
Sixth 5 Miles- 37:50 (7:34/mile)
Seventh 5 Miles- 40:41 (8:08/mile)
Last 1.7 Miles- 7:52/mile

This race gives me a lot of confidence for Kiawah & Frosty 50K, both in the next 6-7 weeks. I know both will be PRs & I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

3:08:34 Thunder Road Marathon- 9 Minute PR

Q: Why would a 9 minute marathon PR be kind of ho hum? 
A: When you know you could've done better.

I decided to run this race less than 48 hours before the gun went off because Wren's soccer tournament times were different than expected & I could make the Saturday game and still run. So my training wasn't exactly what I'd want for an "A Priority" race. I am focused on the Kiawah Island Marathon Dec. 10 & Frosty 50K in January, with a big push after that for a couple of spring marathons. Thunder Road was just thrown in there because it was close to home, I knew I could PR & wanted to test some strategy.

I was confident for the 2 days before the race until I tried to go to sleep. Sitting in bed, I started letting my mind get to me. A friend texted me, "You will have a great race. Your training has been great. I will be thinking about you while you're running." That did the trick & I fell asleep by midnight.

I've really been on a roll this year of running well with confidence & focus I've never had before. In this race, though, I just never was that into it. Didn't seem... I don't know... important for some reason. I still gave my best effort but things didn't exactly click. My running's been different the past 3-4 weeks. I'm going as fast or faster than ever, but it seems to be more of a struggle. My legs feel heavy and not really sluggish but like every step, the muscles are flexed. Feels like I'm pushing- like running uphill, instead of the light, quick (for me at least) feeling I had before this. ...just muscling through. Every step seems like an individual effort that has to be thought about rather than just moving along with fluid motion.

The first 8 miles were uneventful except for a bathroom break that cost me a minute. It was my only one of the day, so not a killer. My sciatic nerve gave me problems starting around mile 8 & I remembered I hadn't taken ibuprofen. I was surprised by the number of spectators I knew who yelled.

Around mile 12, when the half marathoners went one way and the marathoners went the other way, there was a big letdown. There always is, but this time was different. I HATE running a marathon alongside a half. I certainly have nothing against people running a half marathon, but it just messes with my head. I guess I was in about 35th place in the combined race, but I was told I was 12th after the split. For about 4-5 miles, I didn't see a single person in front of me. 11th place must've been pretty far ahead. Then a group of 3 passed me around mile 17. At mile 18, my sciatic nerve was hurting more and I stopped for a second to stretch my hip. It was one of those moments where I thought, "I just gave up. I am still on pace to break 3:00, but in this one instant, I've told myself I can't."

I started back up after 20 seconds of stretching and was fine for a half mile before noticing an unusual pain in my chest. Never felt anything like that. Got worse as I went along. By mile 20, I had decided there was a decent chance I was having a heart attack. I backed off by about a minute/mile and really took uphills easy. I knew even if I managed 9:30 miles, I'd set a PR but hopes for sub-3:00 were over and breaking 3:05 didn't look likely. I focused on 3:10... but more than that, just surviving! That's all I could think about and I kept going back & forth in my head, "Should I drop out & go to the hospital? No. You're going to set a  PR & it's probably nothing." If I saw anyone looking remotely like an EMT or something I probably would've stopped.

I ended up in 3:08:34, breaking my PR (set in June in Seattle) by 9 minutes. That's a major accomplishment but I'm disappointed because I knew I could do a lot better. I went to the medical tent afterwards & they said I had a tight diaphragm and worked on it for 20 minutes. No heart problems.

So, I'll push hard to Kiawah, have better luck there & expect another big PR.