Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter Racing Schedule

I just signed up for my winter races! They are:

1/1/13:    Needham New Year's Day 5K
1/27/13:  Derry 16 Miler
2/17/13:  Old Fashioned 10 Miler

I haven't ruled out running the Hyannis Half Marathon (2/24), but I haven't put down money on it yet. Sadly, no Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler this year--the same weekend as the OFTM. I know some people who routinely double-header (Don!) but that's too hard core for me.

I raced in the GNRC club race last weekend and finished in 17:27 or so, a pretty slow time compared to last year. I lost to an HFC fellow who happens to be the landlord of one my coworkers. Not to take anything away from his race, which was excellent, but man! I was feeling the rather casual approach I had been taking to training following my marathon.

This is why I love the Club Grand Prix, though. Without it, I would hardly ever go and run a race without being really prepared. But since the prix put it on my schedule, I went and ran it, ran subpar, and felt inspired to pick up quality training again and get as fit as possible for the Needham 5K.

During my 9 miler this morning I realized that summer of 2015 will mark 20 more or less continuous years of running, and that I should totally commemorate that on my blog when it happens (a little early, but I like to plan ahead). Then I thought: why wait?

So here's to 17.5 years of running! I am very grateful to have made it so far without any major problems. Hips, knees, feet, all in order. Knock on wood, I'll have still more years ahead of me then have already gone behind.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baystate Marathon Race Report

Thanks everyone who asked me how my marathon went! It means a lot that people are curious how things are going in my little corner of the running universe. I was too busy to do a blog post immediately afterwards, then the week got in the way, then I lost power for 3.5 days, and by the end of that I had almost forgotten about it. But it would be lame to go on without any mention of the race, so here it is: the Baystate Marathon race report!

This story is told with the aid of capstone proofs. I actually don't know how "fair use-y" that is--but, well, it's my likeness and I ought to have some say in how it's used. Sorry, Capstone--please reconsider your pricing model! If digital copies were $5 instead of $15 I'd buy four!

I drove up to the race with my friend Andy from pb-runner. It was great to have some company for a trip up to a race for a change! You should definitely read Andy's race report if you're at all interested in how much difference living and training at altitude makes for a non-elite runner when racing at sea-level (answer, it turns out, is quite a lot).

Nothing to report about the start. Conditions were a little chilly before we got under way, but all signs pointed to a gorgeous day. The race set off on time, and we all jogged off to find out what the morning had in store for us.

I soon settled into a groove, running along in a line of other runners as we wended our way through downtown Lowell, and then out westbound along the southern bank of the Merrimack. I wasn't wearing my Garmin--a conscious decision to focus on my body's perception of effort, rather than numbers on my watch. Nonetheless my regular chrono indicated I was clipping along at around 7 minute pace. Perfect. 

I hit the bridge that crosses to the north side of the river still feeling fine (around 12k?). On the other side, as I began the eastward return of the first loop, I exchanged a little conversation with a slightly older fellow wearing a hydration backpack. I mentioned that I was hoping to go under 3:10, which at the time seemed pretty reasonable. He smiled knowingly. "There's still a lot of miles left in this race." Which there were.

Midrace. All systems nominal.

Things continued. I'm a little hazy about what was going through my head at the time. I think I was pretty zoned out. The eastward return has a long rather pretty tree-lined stretch with a few nice views of the river. I remember one of the timing staff was posted out by a clock under the trees, reading a book. I assume he was mainly just there to guard the expensive chrono. I remember thinking that it looked like a pretty sweet gig.

Apropos of nothing, that reminds me: nutrition! I was eating odwalla bars and gumdrops, a combination which use-testing has convinced me is a good compromise between energy and ease-of-digestion. The energy bar might seem like an odd choice, but it's actually kind of a nice distraction--you eat it really slowly over a mile or so and it gives you something to do. I ate two: at 60 and 120 minutes. The gumdrops were just quick glucose in between. It's not super-scientific, but I honestly feel like this works pretty well for me; my energy levels stayed fine throughout the race. 

Oh right, the race. As I said, things continued. I crossed the eastern bridge back to the southern side of the river and began the second loop. Soon I hit half-way, with a split of 1:31:32. Things were fine--my body definitely knew it was in a marathon, but it wasn't complaining. But I and it understood the interesting bit was still to come. Around this time, I saw the guy in the hydration pack again; he gave me a nod as he zoomed past me (the first time during the race I remember being passed, actually). Well, he clearly had a plan!

Passing half-way point. Amusing to compare this pic with the last one--form is almost exactly the same, even to the angle of the thumbs. As it should be!

I made it to the western bridge for the second time, and appropriately enough ate my second energy bar. Glad to be done with that. Just the eastern return--just another 15K or so. 

These last 15K are in fact the remaining 80% of the race.

I felt the first twinge rippling up on and down my calves around mile 18. By mile 19 they were shouting in earnest. "Ah, my old friends," I thought. "Found me again." 

"Of course!" came the cheerful reply. "We found you at Hyannis, in Burlington, in Derry and on Martha's Vinyard. We cut you off on your last 21-mile road run, just a few weeks ago. What did you expect?"

"I expected you," I thought. "But I'm making it to mile 20, anyway. I made it that far at Hyannis; I'm making it further today."

And I did. I knew at this point, however, that the way to maximize my time was not to ignore this problem, but to manage it as best as possible. This meant a deliberate alternation of jogging with timed 30-60s intervals of walking. So, at around mile 20.5 I walked for the first time. My legs wouldn't spring, anymore, but after a minute or so of walking, my calves would support a jog for a few minutes. 

Things continued, as they do. A parade of people I had seen earlier in the race streamed by me. I just concentrated on my plan. 

Somewhere around mile 23, I ran into someone who was in similar shape. "You look like you're on the same schedule as me," I ventured, seeing him stutter into a walk just ahead of me. He nodded, and we introduced ourselves (his name was Benjamin, and you can see him in the results right behind me. Turns out he ran a BQ! Awesome job, Ben!) We ran together in a kind of odd alternation; we were in almost exactly the same state, but a little off phase, so he would break into a jog, get a little ahead, and then fall back into a walk just as I was stepping into a jog again. 

"Let's make it to the bridge," he said.

I think Ben is a little ahead of me at this point.

Why is this bridge so terribly long?

We were now less than 2 miles from the finish, still alternating positions. It was immensely comforting having him around. You always wonder if maybe it's all in your head--maybe if you were a little tougher you would still be running 8 minute miles. But there was somebody else, clearly trying super-hard, clearly also fighting with the same limits I was grappling with. 

When we got to within 1/2 mile of the finish, I resolved that I had walked my last. I was going to run to the finish line, and it wasn't going to be pretty.

No, this is definitely not pretty.

ARRRRRGHHHH! (also, check out sweat beads).

The Boston Marathon has a neat youtube video up of people doing various antics at the finish--cartwheels, push-ups mugging for the camera, that sort of thing. Yeah--none of that for me. I limped off, glad to be done, glad to have PR'd, mostly just glad to be done. Unlike the last two marathons, I was not thinking: "there is no way in hell I am ever doing another marathon." So, by that low standard, I was comparatively up-beat. 

But it certainly wasn't all sunshine and roses, either. I felt like I ended in 95% perfect shape, but that didn't matter at all--not in the face of the missing 5%, the crucial weak link. I had done my homework for this race. It just turns out that I turned in a paper on the history of the Spanish civil war when what was due was a problem set on electromagnetism. The teachers were not impressed. 

This weakness in my legs, I've got to solve it. It's all in my calves, my soleus and gastrocnemius. If I can do 10 hill sprints, I need to be able to do 20. If I can jump rope for 10 minutes, then I need to be able to do it for 20. If I can do 100 toe-ups, then I need to be able to do 200--actually, make that 400. I need to be a lot stronger. I also may need to experiment with cushier shoes. I love my Frees, and I have made it through three marathon training cycles without any injury, running in them. But they may not be what I need for an actual marathon race.

That is all for this race report. I'll try to write something soon outlining my next running goals!

Final results:

 199  68/217  MM3039     DAVID WOODRUFF       Needham MA           31 M   801   59:44 1:31:32 2:10:13 3:18:29.2  7:35 3:18:39.4           

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dixville Notch Half Marathon Race Report

The Dixville Notch Half Marathon is a small race far enough North in New Hampshire to have a "Canadian" division. Traditionally it starts in Dixville Notch (fancy that), but this year it started at a camp-ground in Coleman State Park, north of Rt. 26 along a small and very scenic road that also incidentally gains lots of elevation as it climbs up to the start. The route is fairly straightforward: run the long, 6 mile descent down to Rt. 26, then run along Rt. 26 to the town of Colebrook; a few more turns in Colebrook to finish at the rec center. 

The temps were in the low 50s, with occasional misting rain during the race. I walked around the camp a bit to loosen up while waiting for my friends Tim and Giuliana to show up (they were running the relay with two more of Giuliana's friends). Once they arrived, we said our hellos, and I was able to hand off my sweatshirt to make its way to the finish via Tim's folks' car. 

There were about a hundred people on the start line, with the majority being single runners, and the rest the opening-leg relay runners for their respective two and four person teams. The RD gave us the signal to start, and the field plunged forward--and almost immediately messed up, by missing the left turn that was supposed to take us on a quick loop around the campground. Fortunately the frantic shouts of some of the volunteers corrected us, and amid calls of "I was just following you!" "But I was following you!" we bombed down a grassy embankment XC style to get back on course. 

At around the 1/2 mile mark, I had started the descent in earnest and substantially gapped the field. I thought briefly that I might just run away with the whole thing, but then footsteps behind me disabused me of that notion. I was soon pulled in by a wiry guy in a T-Shirt and baseball cap, with a beard that had a few patches of grey in it. 

We ran shoulder-to-shoulder for most of the descent down to Rt. 26, occasionally trading the lead, but never opening any significant distance between each other. The first mile was ~5:28, mile 4 passed in 21:50-something. The downhill pace was pounding hell out of my calves, and I was nervous about how they'd hold up late in the race. But I figured, this is a little test leading up to the big test of my marathon, so I might as well go for it and see what I learn. 

Some nice cheers from Tim and G at the mile 4.1 relay transition; from cheers directed at my opponent, I was able to learn his name was Jeff. 

We reached the comparatively flat terrain on Rt. 26, and I finally started to pull away a bit from my competition. We were right around the half-way point--was he done?

All along the highway a cruiser from the sheriff's office drove ahead of us with its flashers going, directing oncoming traffic to slow down. It was sort of like being in the lead of a major race, chasing down the pace car, and great fun the whole time.

By mile 8 I could feel the burning in my calves starting to hamper me. I started alternating running on the dirt shoulder with running on the road. I didn't slow down a lot, but it was enough that around mile 9, I heard footsteps again. Damn. He passed my decisively, and there was no holding on to the pace he was setting. I thought he still might falter, though, so I gamely stuck to my best pace, trying to keep contact with him as long as possible. 

Mile 10 passed in 56:54. One of my running goals, which ought to be a pretty doable goal if the right circumstances ever come up, is to run a 10-mile race in under an hour; this doesn't count, obviously, because it's a super-cheaty downhill race, but it will do until the real thing comes along. 

My calves were hurting pretty bad at that point, but I had come psychologically prepared to hurt a bit at the end, and I found that keeping going wasn't as hard as I had feared. I reached the mile 12 sign heading into Colebrook with great relief. At last I reached Main St; the police officer directing traffic at the intersection said "cross over", and I darted across to Bridge St for the final kick.

Lots of pedestrians were making their way back up Bridge St, probably relay runners from earlier legs who had gotten dropped off by the shuttle and were making their way back up the course to watch their teammates come in. I knew I must be close; I leaned on the gas, pushing hard. 

Where's the damn finish? I thought This final 0.2 is taking forever!

At some point a pedestrian called out to me: "Hey, uh, where are you running to?"

"The finish!" I answered brilliantly.

"The finish is back up Main St," he answered, pointing back the way I had come.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I am rather proud of the fact that I did not stop, just orbited around and started running back the way I had come, though my "finishing kick" had been reduced to more of a shuffle. I couldn't quite process what I had just done, but I knew I'd be happiest if I still finished the best I could. I got back to Main  St, calling out plaintively a few times "hey, does anyone know where the finish is?" Fortunately a spectator on Main St reassured me I was heading in the right direction (because, I realized, I had no idea which way on Main St I was supposed to go). Not far after that, I saw the actual left turn to the actual finish, with an actual race volunteer pointing home. I turned in and tried to muster a little spurt at the finish, though there was no one close to me.

Tim's mom was waiting at the finish with my sweatshirt (which was awesome, by the way! Thank you!) Once I passed through the chute I went up to stand in the trees and process what had just happened. Mainly I was thinking, thank goodness I wasn't actually in the lead when that happened. I've been racing for 17 years, and never made such a simple, preventable blunder like that. If I had only reviewed the race map online and walked it over in my head ahead of time, I would have known exactly what to do. How could I have messed it up that bad? Damn damn damnity damn.

When I walked back out to Main St to watch Giuliana finish, the race volunteer told me he had had his money on me--I told him "sorry, hope you didn't lose too much." He assured me it wasn't a bet. 

My final result was 84:36, good for 3rd place (and good enough to still beat all the relay teams, hehe).  Based on google maps, I estimate I ran about an extra 0.8 miles. I think I would have run 77:30 or so without my huge blunder. (The course, as you might have gathered, is substantial net-drop). 

Thanks to the Galluses for making their car available to me to warm up when I started turning blue after the finish, and for driving me back to Coleman (and for buying us all lunch!) That was awesome. I am all kinds of sore today, but my spirits are recovered, and I'm happy to take Dixville as just another learning experience on my way to Baystate (lesson #1: don't take random detours!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Long Run, 9-22-12

This Saturday marked my 4th, and probably 2nd-to-last, long run for this marathon training cycle. I was running by time, with a goal of 2 hours, 40 minutes. My last long run, if all goes well, will last 3 hours. 

It went well. Conditions were nearly ideal: overcast, cool and damp. The food I brought (two energy bars--one for 60 minutes, one for 120 minutes--and a bag of gumdrops) went down pretty easily, and at no point did I have an upset stomach. 

I ran steadily through six towns: Wellesley, S. Natick, Sherborn, Medfield, Dover, and Needham, and ultimately hit my goal: 2 hours, 40 minutes; a total distance of 21 miles, averaging 7:36 pace. The nutrition must have worked as I didn't bonk, but things got difficult around 2:30, all the same. This time it was my calves that ultimately slowed me down. It seems once I solve one problem I'm on to the next one. 

Been wrestling with some annoying cross-talk between the ears as I progress through this training cycle. Part of me looks at the difficulties I've had coming to grips with longer runs and wants to conclude that I'm not suited--that at 170lbs I'm just too big, or my muscle type is incompatible, or some other reason. Another part of me thinks that those words taste like excuses, that it's hard for everyone, not just me.

I'm thinking these thoughts now because I couldn't have run another 5 miles today, not in the "oh, that would be really hard," sense, but in the "I thought I could do 10 pullups--I've done 12--I really can't do a 13th" sense. My calves were just cooked. This was familiar--it was a substantial part of the reason why I had to stop at Keybank. Now I'm thinking about the last two marathons, and the 3rd one rapidly approaching, and the doubts are piling on. 

Nothing new there. Faith vs Doubt, just like the song says. So it seems I have to do something which I am temperamentally unsuited to do: believe, in the face of some fairly compelling contrary evidence, that this time it's going to be different, that this time I'm going to put all the pieces together.

Believe, and buy a jump-rope. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

training update

I just counted up the weeks on the little training calendar I wrote and stuck on the refrigerator door, and found that I just finished week 6 (out of 12). So I'm half way there! Progress is going; not perfectly, but it is going. To recap the last week: I ran 17M on Saturday in ~2:10, bonked, rallied to run the Walpole 10K on Monday, then did mostly low-key mid-week runs T-F. I was excited to try another long run on Saturday, despite the general feeling of flatness and depletion that hadn't quite gone away since Walpole. In my previous marathon training cycles, I discovered that I needed to allow two weeks between long (2+ hour) training runs in order to absorb them successfully. I'm not quite sure why I ignored that wisdom; sometimes I need to relearn these things, it seems..! In any case, I set out Saturday morning for another crack at 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Conditions were sunny, with an occasionally stiff breeze from the South. In the spirit of Science I brought enough runner candy (gels and shot blocks) to support about 300 cal/hour. With no particular plan in mind, I loped down into Dedham, then took a left on 109 and ran up into West Roxbury, where I picked up the VFW. My legs still felt pretty flat, but I held out hope they would loosen up as the run continued.

Physically speaking, the stretch along the VFW (mile 8-10) may have been the high point. I turned around and wended my way into Millenium Park, planning to make my way home on the Blue Heron. To pick up the Blue Heron you have to run circumferentially around the big hill that sits in the middle of the park; to my left, the hill's flank rose up steeply, covered in clover, wildflowers, and long-tailed grasses. Brilliantly illuminated by the sun, the sweet-smelling greenery made a sharp contrast to the march of forest on the right, overhanging the brook that parallels the path; and, sitting above them both, a blue sky streaked with fast-moving clouds. 

I mention this scene because, as I passed through it, I experienced one of those almost-painful moments of euphoria that sometimes happen on long runs, when the mind has been jogged loose from ordinary concerns and the radiant beauty of the world is laid momentarily bare. I turned with some regret to cross the footbridge over the stream and head into the shadows of the forest. 

Things started to get rocky around 1hr, 40 minutes. I even indulged in a brief, unsuccessful rummage for wild grapes around mile 13, seeing some crushed specimens on the trail. I had been keeping up with my nutrition plan for the first 90 minutes, but tapered that off at this point, my stomach growing queasy. I ended up looping the reservoir in Cutler Park twice, pace slowing to a crawl. I didn't exactly bonk, but I puttered to a stop around 2:20, having finished the alphabet in the game of What has Johnny got in his Pocket that I had been playing against myself. 

So, the lesson here is: I need two weeks before doing another long run. I was very, very flat on today's easy 8 miler. I'm going to make this week a "down" mileage week (keeping it around 45m, compared to 60+ for an "up" week). Then next week (week 8), I'll try, try again. The nutrition helped, but I think I'm going to go back to the candy+energy bar scheme I was using on my 1st marathon; that seemed to work a little better for me, and it was an excuse to eat gum-drops. 

Since I know you like data (a safe bet for anyone reading this blog), here are pacing graphs for my 1st three long runs. Note how, in terms of finishing pace, I've basically gotten consistently worse. That's me alright--training myself into a hole in the ground.

(click for better view)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Walpole 10K Race Report

Short and sweet, as there's not a lot to say. I felt a bit heavy-legged on my warmup, which, accompanied by a few garlicky burps from the ciabatta bread I ate this morning, didn't necessarily augur for a fast day. My goal anyway was to go out in a pretty-conservative ~6 minute pace and practice what I hope to do at Baystate: slow start, steady progression, strong finish.

I usually use the Lap Pace setting on my garmin because the reading is more stable, but today, since I was using it as an upper-bound limiter I set it to show instantaneous pace. Shortly after the start I remembered why that setting is annoying (7:26! 5:18! 6:29! omg!), but it did more or less serve its purpose. After reeling in a few enthusiasts over the first 1/2 mile, I settled in behind Bob Ruel of HFC and ran with him for the first two miles (though I didn't recognize him as he was out of singlet).

I started to split from Bob around the rolling hills that go by the golf course, and from then on I was on my own. I'd see the blue singlet of the eventual 3rd-place finisher bobbing ahead of me on some of the long straights, but he was well out of my reach. I did succeed in accelerating in the back half, and felt consistently strong throughout. I was laboring a bit on the last hill, but not really suffering--honestly, I flogged myself harder on last week's track workout (which, perhaps not coincidentally, was 5x2K at 6min pace).

I feel like if I had been 100% in racing head-space and not two days of a failed 20 miler I might have contended for 3rd place (or at least given him a scare), but as it was I glided to an uncontested 4th, in 38:06.

Served its purpose as an early tune-up for Baystate, but otherwise unremarkable performance.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Well, on the heels of Thursday's great tempo, I had a rather disappointing failure of a long run today. The goal was 2:40, but bonked pretty hard around 2 hours and made it only as long as 2:10. This made it almost identical in distance and time to the long run I did on August 18th, except for the end: on the earlier run I never bonked; in fact I felt strong at the end and was pretty sure I could have done another 15-20 minutes without too much difficulty.

Here's a summary of the two runs:

August 18th, successful long run

Distance:         16.78 mi
Time: 2:15:02
Avg Pace:         8:03 min/mi
Elevation Gain: 1,367 ft

split       time                     dist.      pace
1      35:27.1 4.33      8:11
2      57:32.7 7.02      8:12
3      27:01.9 3.44      7:51
4      15:00.0 1.99      7:33

Weather: Cool, cloudy, intermittent rain, probably in the 60s.
Terrain: Varied, but substantial flat sections along the Charles River. Roughly 2/3rds trail.
Nutrition: 3x shot blocks (i.e. 1/2 package) and water, my usual.

September 1st, unsuccessful long run

Distance:         16.88 mi
Time: 2:10:01
Avg Pace:         7:42 min/mi
Elevation Gain: 690 ft

split     time               dist.     pace

1    1:00:07.8 7.77    7:44
2    59:53.6 7.89    7:35
3    9:59.4 1.21    8:14  *bonk*

Weather: felt like 70s, sunny, with a cool breeze.
Terrain: 100% road; mostly rolling hills (I'm shocked this route had less elevation gain than the other)
Nutrition: 3x shot blocks and water, +1 salt tab.

So why the big difference? Let's see...
Nutrition: pretty much identical. I know some would suggest eating more, but I honestly don't think that's it.
Terrain: The lengthy trail sections probably helped save my legs, but I'm unsure how much.
Weather: Today's weather felt gorgeous. But I think it might have been easy to underestimate the affect of the sun, which is still quite potent. Likely contributing factor.
Pace: yeah...I'm dreading that this is the main factor. The 30s /mile difference, stacked over 12-13 miles, is perhaps wearing me down?

I have two more long runs scheduled. I have been running with my Garmin showing only chrono, because I didn't want to get distracted by pace, but I think next time I'm going to reverse that and forceably limit myself to 8 minute miles. Discouraging--it almost feels like the long tempos are pointless, since they don't seem to make a whit of difference in when I crack--but for now I guess I'm just going to try to keep the optimism that somehow endurance and speed are going to come together in time for the race.

(Feeling pretty sore now, but I'm signed up for Walpole 10K on Monday. We'll see how it goes).

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Great run this morning: 2 miles warmup, 2 miles @ 6:45 pace, 5 miles @ 6:40 pace, 2 miles @ 6:30 pace, feeling easier and easier the whole way. On uphills I just increased my cadence and hardly felt them. It helped that it was practically ideal running weather (unlike my track intervals last Tuesday, which were done in pouring rain, with tractors reseeding the infield that kept backing up and turning in Lane 1). In early August, it felt like a good job just to finish a 14 mile run in the muggy heat, and even the concept of running a full marathon seemed like a mean-spirited joke. Now I'm back to nearly the fitness I had in April, the weather is better, and I'm starting to anticipate my long runs with some proper enthusiasm.

Days like today make me think that I really might be able to hold up to a 6:45 marathon pace (though I'm not relenting on my determination to start at a "walk", i.e. ~7:20 pace).

2hr, 45min run this Saturday. I'm thinking of driving out of my normal zone so I can see some new roads.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

pacing for baystate

Back in January of this year I ran the Derry 16 miler for the second time--a beautiful hilly winter run up in New Hampshire. And, if I don't mind saying so, I was killing it. I went through the half marathon in around 9th place, and a little under 85 minutes. And then I totally died, like someone popped open a plug and all the energy drained out of me. You would think (as I would have thought), that with under 5k to go, in a strong position in the field, I would be able to "just gut it out"--but seemingly not. After a dismal 2.9 miles of walk-jogging, I crossed the line and pretty much vowed I'd never do another marathon (strangely, even in the middle of the suck, I was thinking I'd do Derry again--but marathons seemed out of the question). 

I've replicated that sad performance in pretty much all of my other races above 1/2 marathon distance. My record has not been bad. It has been absolutely dismal. I blew up in the MV 20 miler, both my marathons, one of my two Derry 16M races (the other was merely OK), and Highland Sky (but that one gets a pass, since the point was just to finish). 

The point is that I don't seem to handle bonk well. Maybe it's physiological, maybe it's a character flaw. Earlier in my experiments with endurance racing, I was really fixated on the idea of somehow "training up" the toughness. I still want to get mentally stronger! But my thinking has changed, or at least broadened. Now I'm keen on avoiding the bonk altogether. 

Marathon pacing feels like a game of over-under to me. When you start the race, you make a bet: "I think I can run this race in 6:55 pace," say. You want to pick the fastest speed possible, without going over your fitness. If you go over, at some point in the race, the wheels are going to come off. If this happens 2 miles from the finish, maybe you limp in OK--but if it happens at mile 20--or mile 18 (see Keybank VCM)--then it's going to get ugly.

This is all just background for my thoughts about how I want to try to pace Baystate. In my first marathon (Hyannis, winter 2010), I thought I was in 7:15 fitness and went out around 7:00 min/mi. In my second marathon, I trained targeting 7:00 minute pace, and started the race at 6:45 pace (and then it got hot). You may be noticing a problem here. 

So, for marathon #3: I am training targeting 6:40 pace. This is a little fast for me for long tempos (admittedly not according to the hilariously awesome McMillan Running Calculator, which seems to be under the impression I should be able to bust out a 2:45 marathon). I expect I may struggle to finish the gold-standard 15 mile tempo at that pace, but I'm planning on being flexible--breaking it into three chunks with breathers at 7:30 pace, for instance.

And then, once I have that under my belt, I'm going to start at 7:20 pace. I'm going to slowly to drop to around 7:05 pace, and go through the half at around 7:00 pace. And then I'm going to hold that pace, and hold it. And if things go according to plan, I'm hoping to finish in that pace, with no bonk. But I won't lie--making it down to 6:40 pace for the final mile would be grand, and I'm very much hoping for it.

Because, you see, for a runner that's been doing this 17 years, I'm dumb as rocks at the start of long races. I need to tie an anchor around my waist, put my feet in concrete--anything to keep the pace reasonable. In fact, I've given up on playing the under-over game, finding the right even pace. I want to pick a pace I'm sure is too slow for me, and then ease in. I want to negative split. That's the big goal. Negative split and no bonk.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Mental state required to sign up for a marathon:

1. Manic Optimism. I ran 7 miles today, and my Achilles only hurt a little! It'll be fine..!
2. Amnesia. It's been over a year. I really don't remember what those last 6 miles felt like. 
3. Determination. Forget the last two marathons. This time I'm going to run to my potential. 

And so, after much dilly-dallying and internal debate whether to run a marathon this fall and if so which one, I have put my marbles on the table and signed up. I'll be running the Baystate Marathon on Sunday, October 21st. And I'll be chasing that 3 hour time. It's not a hard pace. The game is just to run that pace without exploding. 

I have some new theories about marathon preparation I want to experiment with over the next three months. I'll attempt to keep this blog updated with my progress as I explore them. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gilio 5K

A quick post from me, since I haven't been blogginating for a while. I ran the local club race this past Saturday. The day started cool and overcast, but by the time the 9am start rolled around it had transitioned to hut, muggy, and overcast. My 3 mile warm-up had left me drenched in sweat, and I was feeling intensely glad not to be running a half marathon today. My left Achilles was hurting (as it is wont to do). I had tweaked it a bit a week ago when I did what I thought was to be my penultimate specific-endurance workout for my upcoming half-marathon (11 miles with 42 minutes at 6 min "effort"). I finished the long AT section of the run, but my ankle was throbbing, and I reluctantly cut it two miles short. Since then I've been mostly resting it, and was up in the air about racing Saturday.

But I did, rightly or wrongly. The race kicked off on time, and I shot out along with John Sullivan from HFC, and a local Norwood runner. They stayed with me up the first hill, and then I started to pull away. First mile in 5:09.

I hit the rotary and tried to get a glimpse of my pursuers, but they must have been less than the rotary-circumference behind me, because I couldn't see them. I kept grinding on to mile 2, which was way slower.

The last mile up Albemarle ground on. I will cop to slacking off a bit. The humidity and the heat pressed down on me, but I guess it must have been affecting everyone else too because I didn't hear any footsteps or breathing. I reached the crest of the final hill and bombed down it, managing a little kick for the win, in 17:16.

I had two 2nd-place finishes at the Gilio 5K, so it felt good to finally win the thing. The downside? My achilles was really sore at the finish--even though the volunteer PTs there were nice enough to roll it out for me (thanks!). I had a pretty good limp going on. At present I am thinking I'm going to have to bow out of the Simsbury Iron Horse half marathon. I was really excited to run a flat 13.1 in my home-town, but I'm not going to if it just means digging more of a hole for myself. Time to lay off and wait for my body to give me the green-light signal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Half Marathon Training

Half Marathon Training
Track Intervals, 7 x 2 km

A perfect spring morning at the track. The air is cool, but the warmth of the sun suggests the heat of the day to come. This is a long workout--no time to meditate on the beauty of nature. I started with four of these intervals, then six, and now seven. Some day soon I'll arrive at the track preparing to do 10. 50 laps. I still can't quite wrap my head around that. 

The first interval. 88s quarters click by easily. Somebody else is doing 800s, and his coach is running back and forth along the infield diagonal to call out the 200 splits. When the rest 400m comes, he jogs it with his athlete. What would it be like to subsume your morning workout into someone else's, as this coach is clearly doing? Will I ever do that? Something else I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Too selfish right now, just preoccupied with my own bit. 7:22. 

The second interval. Each lap is like a day. When I round the corner onto the home straight, the sun blinds me, a radiant dawn. When I turn away onto the back stretch, the light fades, and I feel as though the world has sunk into a cool dusky shadow. The laps feel too effortful, each day wearing me down a little too much. 7:25, slow.

Third interval. The 800m runner and his coach depart, transient wayfellows who are now following a different road. In the no-time that always accompanies track work, it feels like our paths have been crossing for years. I think about breathing, about the delicate homeostasis of my body as it rides along the edge of the anaerobic threshold. The 5th lap, the crowning of the year. 7:19. 

Fourth interval. How long have I been doing this? It seems like forever. The days pass interminably, the sun spinning overhead, alternately blinding me and setting over my shoulder, my shadow making a gnomon of me as it counts out the time. The homeostat quivers, breath burns, legs burn. 7:25.

Fifth interval. Other travelers have appeared, slow perambulators. My days rush by them quickly, but we share a little time together. The year passes. Geese wait in the infield like well-mannered spectators, and then step across the home straight after I've passed. My breathing steadies. Homeostasis. 7:19.

Sixth interval. I've been doing this for years. As the strangers pass by me on their own journeys, I think of the 800 meter runner I knew in the beginning, in those long gone days. Whatever became of him? A little strength has trickled back into me, and I meet each day gladly. The sunrises turn the beads of sweat in my brow into shimmering crystal. I fight to keep my breath flowing smoothly, my strides flowing smoothly, an ageless current that lives forever in one place, with the days passing over it forever. 7:21. 

Seventh interval. A septuagenarian now, I can barely remember my own beginnings, or the spry thoughtless strength of my youth. But it doesn't matter--after all these years I've found the trick of borrowing power from the world around me. The geese, the walkers, the dandelions blazing yellow on the infield. Nearby, the commuter rail trundles through, an epochal comet, muscled along by the diesel locomotive's burly power. I feel that power in my toes. I do not accelerate. Homeostasis. Breath like a river's flow. The last day dawns and sets, much like any other. 7:17.

Back in regular time, now. Already the little lifetime I spent on the track is fading in my memory, but I remember how endless it felt. Seven 2 kilometer intervals. What will ten be like? I chew on that thought as I turn off the track and begin the 4 klick jog home. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Derry/OFTM recaps

Haven't written in a while--sorry about that. I needed some time to not be hard-core about running (or at least as hard-core as I ever am). I did Derry again (a month ago already!), boldly leaving my garmin behind and setting out to "run the race by feel". I ran a solid half marathon (<85), and was at that point probably in the top 10--but then it all came apart. One of my faster and more dramatic bonks--going from strong and confident to stumbling jog in under 2 minutes. This got me in the mindset of writing up a post on bonking made up of my lamentably sizable sample set, but...I'm still dilly-dallying about that. Anyway, here's a pic from early in Derry, when things were still going well:

So, on to today's race. I started feeling the motivation again about two weeks ago, and came into the race with at least one solid track day to my name (4x 2k intervals @ 6 minute pace). Also, with the taste of humble pie in my mouth, I brought along my garmin. This time the plan was to keep it between 6:04-6:08 in the first 8 miles, then actually accelerate and run the last 2 flat miles < 6. And hey! It worked. I even passed somebody in the last mile, dropping my pace to 5:51 for the last segment with the aid of my finishing kick. Funny how I can't remember any long race where I regret going out too slowly.

Old Fashioned 10M
place: 15/576
distance: 10M
time: 1:00:55
pace: 6:06

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Year In Review

2011 marks the first year I've kept a training log consistently through the whole annum, so--I actually have something to review! It's been a really strong year for me, with several PRs at shorter distances and one win to my credit. Longer distances continued to be problematic, with the Vermont City Marathon being--at least relative to the sky-high expectations I had for it--a bit of a low point.

2011 In Numbers
Races:        11
PRs:            4 (13.1M, 4 Mile, 5K, 10K)
Miles Run:   2110
Shoe Pairs:  4?
Prize Money+Gift Certificates: $125

2011 in Races

Derry 16M. First race of the year. What I remember most vividly is how cold it was when I walked down to my car at 6am that morning--right around 0F. Bonked hard at mile 14 and somehow toughed out the last 2 miles, which is about the only time I've ever beaten the bonk over any distance.

At the time I was thinking "never again", but the memory must have faded because here I am, all signed up with Derry just three weeks away!

Derry Boston Prep            1-23-11        43/657            16M        1:49:30        6:51

Old Fashioned 10M A mediocre effort. Training had been very challenging (my logs including such entries as (*** treacherous w/ snowmelt!) (imagine black diamonds in place of asterisks), and (more snow, sheesh!) --after two consecutive missed days.

Foxboro Old Fashioned 10M        2-20-11        47/521            10M        1:03:22        6:20

Hyannis Half Marathon. Conditions were...interesting. Rain alternating with snow alternating with more rain. Frigid puddles  on the streets. I had almost forgotten this was a PR. It surprised me because I hadn't had good training (quality or volume) over the winter. My old record was pretty soft though (set on the hilly Applefest course). A good day to not be doing a full marathon, as one of my teammates did.

Hyannis Half Marathon                   2-27-11        47/2683                 13.1            1:23:20         6:22    

Blue Hills Foxtrot 10M Man, I love this race. It was a beautiful spring day in the woods, the way it always is that time of year. I led the 1st 3 miles, but then somebody slipped by on the Breakneck Ledge trail descent. Complacently settled in for 2nd. Where's the competitive fire, Woodruff?

Blue Hills Fox Trot 10M            4-10-11        2/139            10M        1:07:27        6:45

Keybank Vermont City Marathon It started off so well (don't they all!). But then the clouds cleared off, the cursed daystar leered down at us, and the temps shot up into the 80s. by mile 18 I was cooked, wobbly-legged and sick. It was a long hike to the finish. I had plenty of time to reflect on how I suck at marathons. I'm pretty sure that lady in the picture kicked my ass.

KBVCM (keybank marathon)        5-29-11        287/2668        26.2        3:29:51        8:00

Highland Sky 40M. My first Ultra! A race I am proud simply to have finished. This run had so many good things going for it--beautiful scenery, views, blooming mountain laurel, falls, and highland meadows; awesome, incredibly helpful volunteers, and a similarly great field (you have a chance to do some chattin' in an ultra marathon). What a great 7 hours. The last 2+ hours...well, that got a little rough. But I'm over it! Looking forward to doing this race again in 2012!

Highland Sky 40M            6-18-11        62/178            41M        9:18:16        really slow

Bridgton 4 on the 4th My traditional 4th of July race. Also my first race as a 30-year-old. Existential shock! Calamity! Wait, no, I'm still here--all good.

Bridgton 4 on the 4th            7-4-11        19/1850            4M        23:24        5:51

Summer Slump. Tired with racing for a bit. Motivation to log heavy miles plummeting. Achilles hurting. Summer slump, err...break! Hiked with friends. Did a two day solo on the Monadnock-Sunapee trail. Still doing routine maintenance runs, but otherwise nothing to report.

Houghton's Pond Trail Race My first race back after Achilles pain made me take 10 solid days off running. That sucked. This was mainly just a reference-point. I lacked the endurance to effectively race at 10K distance, especially over hills.

Houghton's Pond 10K (trail)        10-2-11        9/228            10K        39:18        6:20

Canton Fall Classic 10K  The freak snowstorm that cancelled the Bills Pizzeria 5K also postponed the CFC, so I decided to hop in. At first I was exhilarated about winning it, but on reflection, it's hard to take it seriously. Let's just refer to the Race Highlights, shall we? 
"Woodruff's winning time was the slowest for men in the race's history. The men's field was greatly affected by the reschedule. The new date conflicted with a New England Championship meet where several expected competitors ran for their clubs"
Consider me deflated.

Canton Fall Classic 10K            11-6-11        1/188            10K        36:06        5:48

Norwood Turkey Trot 4M: A great race and PR day for me. Last year I had a dream of breaking up HFC's top 5, and this year I did! A warm day for November--everyone was in shorts and singlets.

Norwood Turkey Trot            11-20-11    9/612            4M        21:56        5:29

GNRCYO 5K: This was the last race of what I think of as my Fall Season. I really wanted to cap it strongly with a PR--and I did! There's really nothing with quite the same short-lived savor as setting a PR. It's sublimely delicious--for about 5 seconds. Then you start thinking, "hmm, maybe I can do 16:30".

GNRCYO 5K                12-3-11        3/144            5K        16:49        5:24