Saturday, October 11, 2014

Will not start in Chicago

After a long (very long) hiatus my running blog is back.  I am not really sure why I didn't write anything on it for 20 months.  I started this blog a few years back with two objectives in mind: (i) I wanted to share my running with friends and family, and (ii) I needed to keep a log of my workouts. I will try to keep it alive again. Promise!
 I had an amazing journey from 2009to 2011.  Specificity and consistency in my workouts converted me from a middle of the pack runner to a 3:09 marathon runner.  But I burned out.  Trying to get faster 'all the time', I forgot the body is a machine that needs a tune-up every now and then.  I didn't listen to it.  Slowly (but surely) I started to miss a workout here and another there, and my body just never recovered from all the pounding of the previous years.  Eventually, I lost all the speed and strength we developed in 2009 & 2010.
I never stopped running (and never will), but I took a long break from racing.  I didn't run a marathon in 18 months!!! The itch, however, was always there.  In the summer of 2013, I decided to give it another shot.   I had already registered for Chicago and wanted to come back strong (not fast).  It was a difficult training block but the pateince paid off.  I ran 3:18, very far from my PR but not bad after 18 months away from racing and close to zero speed workouts.  I tried again in Geneva in May 2014 and ran 3:23. Although my time in GVA wasn't great, I finished in good spirits.  The highlight of that race was saying hi to my 13 month old niece at mile 22.  I wanted her to see me running a marathon but she was sleeping !!!
I had the intention of running Chicago again (race is tomorrow 12/10/2014). Instead, I am at home writing this note.  Not starting in Chicago was a very difficult decision.  Chicago (2013) and Geneva allowed me to understand that I needed to get my speed back.  I did plenty of marathon specific workouts, but I ran them slow. I needed to go back to the basics.
 I spent a good portion of the summer trying to get my speed back.  All the data suggests that I am faster (perhaps as fast as I used to be in 2009-2010).  Yet the focus on speed didn't allow me to do any marathon specific workouts leading up to Chicago.  I know I can finish a 26.2 mile race.  But I don't run marathons just to finish them.  I have enough experience to understand that my training so far will not allow me to run a PR.  I will not start tomorrow because my mind is set on going fast (super fast hopefully) in Houston (Jan 18, 2015).  In the next 3 weeks, I am going to transition to my 12 week marathon specific training block.  I am healthy and ready to truly begin marathon training with hundreds of base miles.  I used to peak at 55-60 miles for my marathons.  This time my average weekly base mileage since July has been 54, 54!!!  Let's hope for a smooth ride. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bye Bye 2012

2012 is almost in the books.  A difficult year, plagued with injuries and inconsistent running.  A 1:27.45 (PR) at the Trenton Half Martahon was the highlight of the year.  I am so looking forward to getting my speed and endurance back, but am taking things easy.  Developing strength and balance is still #1 on my list.  2013 will be better, I am sure.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Three months of training in one post... how efficient!

No updates to my running blog in 3 months=unacceptable!  So, here is one... 

Unlike the previous two build-ups, I am having a very good one this time :)))  I took a couple of weeks off after the Vermont City Marathon.  I came back to running with very minor problems.  I started easy, doing four 35-40 miles weeks with short speed and tempo workouts, but no    difficult long runs. In late July, I increased the mileage and intensity of the workouts, including the usual long run in the weekend. Mileage went from 40 to 45-48 miles/week.  I had three major goals during those two months: (i) recover my speed, (ii) get stronger and more balanced, and  (iii) stay healthy. 

As the weeks went by, my running kept getting better.  I started to do longer and better workouts without struggling with the pain I experienced for almost a year.  My strides were healthier, my running form was good and my body (in general) was more flexible and stronger. I also noticed that my mindset was different. I recovered the focus, the motivation, and the discipline necessary to train hard for a marathon. As long as I stay healthy, a good fall racing season will follow. 

I know it because in the past two weeks I've done the fastest and hardest workouts in 16 months... and I am doing it in really bad conditions (high heat and humidity). I am back to my usual three quality workouts per week (speed, tempo, long run). I've done 50 miles per week since the beginning of August.  This will be the third 50+miles week in a row.  I am exactly where I was 11 weeks before running a 3:09 in Eugene (being cautions) and my motivation is great.  

Not sure where my next marathon is going to be.  Toronto, Hartford, Amsterdam and Frankfurt are in the list... call me crazy, but if I find a good deal I am going to run in Frankfurt with Patrick Makau :) I have not committed to any marathon because I need to make sure that I am going to be 100% coming race day.  In the meantime, I am planning to do a 10 mile race this Sunday (Brooklyn) and a half in September (Philly most likely). Wish me luck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vermont marathon and beyond

My training in the weeks that follow Boston was decent.  Although I didn't do speed workouts and/or runs longer than 14 miles, I managed to do 4 consistent weeks of training... . In a way, the decision to DNF in Boston aimed at giving me a chance to complete a decent race before the end of the spring.  Three days before the Vermont City marathon I decided to run the race and see where my body is. 

So I packed my bags and drove to Burlington, VT on Memorial day weekend.  This time I went to a race with only one expectation:  having an enjoyable, decent run.  I had no expectation about my time because my training has been very inconsistent since October. I had some good 10-12 mile workouts in the weeks that followed Boston, but I knew I didn't have the stamina to go at that speed for 26 miles.  Honestly, the only thought that crossed my mind was to erase the disaster of Berlin. I was in much better shape back on September, I just didn't run a smart race.  Anything faster than the 3:33.30 I ran in Berlin was good enough this time. 

The race started slow because I got trapped in the middle of the corral.  I couldn't move at all... not surprisingly I opened with a 7:56 mile.  Extremely slow to open a race.  The next 10-12 miles were much better. As soon as I found space and got into my pace I posted several miles in the 7:20s and 7:30s, but the hilly course and the lack of consistent training got me in the second half of the course.  Specifically in the last 5 miles.  I ran slow, very slow splits in miles 24 and 25. The rebounded to run a decent 26th. mile. My time at the finish was 3:27:49. Much better than Berlin and good for my 4th. fastest marathon ever. I ran a very consistent race until mile 22 or 23...precisely what I expected. 

I knew I was not ready to beat the 3:09 that I ran last year. But finishing the race in good shape, strong is a big step after spending the past 7 months dealing with injuries. I am very optimistic about my prospects of running good races in the late summer and fall. I haven't done any specific speed workouts since September, 2011... not surprisingly, I noticed that I am lacking speed.  I am moving better than three months ago, but my speed is not sharp. I need to go back to the track and build my speed back.  I also need to do more and faster tempo runs.  Speed and tempo runs are key to run another sub 3:10 marathon... 

So my focus this summer is to stay healthy and work on my speed. I have not committed to any race yet. My idea is to run a few 5 and 10 ks.  Also, I am going to run at least one half marathon in September or October.  If I am healthy, I will do another marathon in late October or early November. In the mean time, I am taking things easy.  Running is at a minimum level now... but I am so looking forward to go back to the track and the roads. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Life after my first DNF...

… is not as bad as one may think.  In the business of marathon running being "tough" is usually associated with one’s ability to defeat adversity in a race. What people tend to minimize or forget is that being tough has absolutely nothing to do with being stubborn or not smart.  We often think that a good runner is one that goes for it no matter what, one that defeats adversity by pushing through the “wall” or one that trains and races in pain. I used to be one of those runners. But the past six months have taught me that being tough is much more than those things.

My running has had ups and downs in the past 12 months.  I went from running an almost perfect race (in Eugene) to run a terrible race in Berlin and then to sit down for almost two months with a hip injury. I know what it feels to completely defeat the 26.2 miles, but I now also know what it feels to sit down by my widow to watch people running. I also know that by not listening to my body I not only diminish my chances of running fast, but also increase my chances of injury. I now know that being “tough” implies making difficult decisions even when they go against the popular belief. It implies being careful sometimes.

I know what it feels to run a fast marathon (3:09:01) and leave the stadium without any problem, smiling, feeling invincible and looking forward to run again. But I also know what it feels to run a bad race and feel down for several weeks after it only because I didn’t make smart decisions and ran a bad time. Most importantly, I know what it feels to run in pain and how difficult it is to recover when the itch for running is in you every single day. I decided to DNF in Boston because I can feel that my health is coming back. I DNF because I didn’t want to take risks and trash my legs in a day that is going into the history books as the slowest Boston marathon in history. In short, I DNF because I didn’t want to throw by the window a training cycle that is getting better by the day.  I DNF because I thought, and still think that I can run a strong marathon in 5 or 6 weeks.

In a way, I feel that a DNF in Boston will bring me to a different level as a marathon runner. The level that I hope will allow me to run a sub 3 hr marathon soon.  More on the race (or training run) in a post to follow.  


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Armageddon weather forecast...

Ugh, ugh, ugh!  The weather forecast for Monday is not good.  It will be very hot and sunny. The temperature predicted for Hopkinton, where the race starts, is 70 degrees.  It will be 85+F by the time runners make it to Boylston Av. Basically the worst possible weather for marathon runners :(

Training for a marathon requires a lot of time and effort.  We control (or at least try to control) what we eat, how we hydrate, how we rest, and how we train for 16+ weeks, hoping to have a breakthrough performance on race day.  Yet the marathon and mother nature sometimes have something in store for all of us. They have things that we can't control. We -marathon runners- don't like things that we can't control. One of them is the weather.

There is not much marathon runners can do about a hot day. It's not a matter of being tough or pushing through it. When the body's temperature increases it recruits blood and oxygen to the surface of the skin to help cool you down. It's an internal mechanism to regulate the body's heat. When the blood and oxygen is forced to the skin, it is taken away from the muscles so they cannot work as hard as they would normally and the body slows. That's the fact. Period.

So the question is how much should I slow my pace down to make it in one piece to the finish line? Well, I honestly don't think I can run a 7:20-7:30 pace for 26.2 miles in those conditions.  I am coming back from injuries and my stamina is not peaking yet. So I am going to err on the side of caution this time.  I am going to go slow, very slow.  Maybe 7:50 or even 8:00 per mile.  That will put me in what should be an easy (that's what I hope) 1:45:00 half marathon. By going conservative in the first half not only do I hope to be feeling good coming the toughest part of the course (miles 15-21), but it will also allow me to finish in 3:30:00 or so.  Not my best performance, but not bad at all given the expected conditions.

I already said that I just want to feel good... I don't know if that will be possible given the weather. But at least I want to run a "smart" race.  I need to save my legs, my body, and my mind for other races.  Boston is a goal that I have had for a long time, but it is neither the only nor the last one.  Of course, I want to finish.  But I want to finish in one piece. Running "smart" means using this "log run" as a base for future races.  I have not even made it to Boston but I am liking how I am approaching this marathon.

I know the conditions won't be good and I am going to do something I haven't done in my previous races. I am going to ENJOY.  Rather than complaining and stressing out about the weather, I am going to enjoy every single minute of my trip to Boston and the race.  I am going to run a comfortable pace, chat with fellow runners, give high fives to the spectators, and relax. I will always be able to find other marathons with better weather and easier courses to run a PR. I don't know if I will ever run Boston again...I am going to make the best out of it. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

6 days to Boston

I will run my first Boston marathon in 6 days.   Training for a marathon is not an easy task, it requires lots of discipline and determination.  But it also requires a body that can take the pounding almost everyday.  My body hasn't been 100% since I ran in Berlin.  I have struggled with injuries for more than six months. So my training for Boston hasn't been as consistent as it usually is.  Going into Boston I know that I am coming back, but I am not 100% yet.   The muscles in my hips and core are stronger and I am working on correcting all the imbalances created by the injuries.  One week before running in Berlin I knew (but didn't want to admit) that my body was breaking down. With less that a week to go to Boston I feel that my body and my running are going back to where they were a year or two ago. I am running better and stronger than seven months ago, my legs are bouncing happily again, and I am not experiencing as much pain as two or three months ago.  My workouts are more consistent and I can feel that my running form is more efficient.  Yet I am lacking a bit of speed and most probably stamina for the last 6 or 7 miles of the race

I am going to run in Boston because every serious runner dreams about running in Hopkinton, Heart Break Hill and Boylston Ave. at least once.  I am not the exception.  I have trained really hard in the past three years for this moment.  It is not about the last six months, it's about a goal that I set long time ago.  I am going to run, but I am not going to make the same mistake that I made in Berlin. This time my body and not my mind is going to do the running. I will go as fast or as slow as my legs want to go.  I want to feel good an recover the confidence in my running.  I know that if I run an intelligent race I can run much better than in my last marathon. My body is coming back and that could mean great running in the next months and big PRs.  This time I am not looking at one marathon at a time, I am looking at the big picture... and the big picture is a sub 3 hr marathon in the fall.