Marathon simulator run, 17 miles, 2:02:44

Marathon simulator run, 17 miles, 2:02:44. Usually I’d do this five weeks out, but since I had to compress my training plan to 12 weeks this time around here it is, two weeks and a day from Boston.

Now to taper hard from here until race day and try and heal up this aching Achilles.

The workout was two miles warmup and 15 miles at about 7:10 pace, which may be doable, perhaps, give or take five seconds, as race pace two weeks from Monday. I averaged 7:14 for the whole 17, including the slower warmup miles. So in this range, I don’t expect – nor am I trying for – a repeat of last year’s sub-3-hour marathon (heck I didn’t even crack 54 miles in a single week during this training cycle), but maybe I can run a better time than I expected given the short training cycle. This pace felt very manageable aerobically. I had a few weird little moments where my legs felt drained, but they passed and I was able to run many more miles at pace with no problem.

Beautiful, sunshiny 50F evening. First 8 miles uphill grade, into a stiff wind. Grade and wind assisted coming back! Ultimate assist? Broke my usual low-carb lifestyle for my little Isobel’s birthday cake and ice cream this afternoon!

12 workouts until Boston, a brief assessment of the season’s training

Here we are, fewer than three weeks until Boston 2014. I haven’t had much time to write, but I have been logging runs assiduously and will be able to share any useful details after the fact. In the meantime, here’s a quick update on the two primary experiments/tests of this training cycle.

Challenge One: Get back to strong marathon fitness after a two-month injury rehab and with only 12 weeks for a training plan.

Result: Strong, maybe. Same sub-three hour fitness as last year? Nope. I can feel things coming together now well, and if I had another nine weeks instead of three weeks, in other words, a standard 18-week training window, the story would be very different. But on 12 weeks I think I’m just getting to the point where aiming at a 7:10 race pace isn’t crazy. Hitting that isn’t a foregone conclusion, but it doesn’t feel outlandish either.

Challenge Two: Go through a training cycle on a ketogenic diet.

Result: Yes and no. I feel great on a very low carb, high fat diet, but was not able to hit performance goals in the second half of the week without adjustments. I’ve found that I must consume strategic sugar/carbohydrate just before and/or after intense workouts, and once a week dedicate a 24-hour period to carbohydrate-reloading (oh, potatoes!) to hit the workouts as hard as I want to. However I’m still remaining fully in ketosis 6 days a week. I have started using Hammer gels during long runs again, and plan to fully carbo load before Boston.

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Heading Back to Boston

Here, on March 21, 2014, just exactly one month from the Boston Marathon, I can’t help but think about a few things. One is what any runner thinks before a marathon – what, this soon? I wish I’d trained more. The other is, it’s been a year since… that?  I don’t have anything new to say about that that won’t sound…off. So I thought I’d post a link to the piece I wrote directly following the 2013 Boston Marathon and all the things that happened there. And maybe just take note of the picture, which our son David took. He and my wife Kris watched the race from Boylston Street. See the sign in the background, Family Meeting Area B? That’s where David and Kris came to meet me after I finished the race. Why didn’t I find my way to meet them, at the finish line on Boylston Street, so I could my friends finish? Anyway. We were so happy at that moment, as he snapped that picture. Race run, goal met, sun shining. One month to go and I’ll run the race again. I’m not in anywhere near the shape I was in this time last year. That doesn’t matter so much to me. I’ll admit, despite the brave words in the post I’ve linked to, and despite the fact I’m going back to run, I have mixed feelings about having David and Kristen there watching the race.

WHAT I TOLD MY SON THE NIGHT AFTER THE 2013 BOSTON MARATHON

Dropping the kids off at school, a bitter sweet recurring thought

There is a little moment when I drop the kids off at school each morning that simultaneously makes me smile and breaks my heart a little. The two older kids pile out of the, anxious to be gone, tolerating only the briefest goodbye peck on their foreheads, not even turning to look back as they head down the sidewalk and toward the schoolyard. God love them and their independence. They will need it. But our six-year-old lingers, take an extra minute getting out of the car, accepts her goodbye kiss on the forehead and admonition to make the day a great one with the sense of portentous ceremony they are intended. Then she gets out and takes a few steps and turns and smiles, that great, charming and sweet missing-tooth smile of a six-year-old, in a puffy winter coat, a hat down over her forehead, backpack-bigger-than-her, and I smile back and then she turns, skinny legs driving her forward determinedly down the sidewalk. Toward school. Toward a future when those determined little legs are tall strong legs, carrying a grown woman into a full, rich life that I will hear about from the periphery, by Skype, by FaceTime, a Google Hangout, text message… Ah, there I’ve gone again, gotten something in my eye.

New Balance 880 V3 Review – Smooth Ride and Finally Wide Enough!

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I’d had folks suggest New Balance shoes to me for a while as a way to deal with the Morton’s neuroma in my right foot. That condition (you can read my post here for details on treatment) provided nearly a year of pretty significant pain. It’s finally clearing up with the sclerosing treatments (alcohol injections directly into the nerve), and buying larger and larger shoe sizes seemed to be helping, but at the end of the day my feet are just… wide.

So as my last pair of Brooks Ghosts came onto to its last legs, I finally got myself over to the New Balance factory store in Merrimack. I walked in and gave my criteria, neutral runner, 12 mm heel drop (I have been wrestling with some calf soreness), lightweight for performance but well-cushioned enough for distance running, and WIDE IN THE TOE!

So here’s the thing about New Balance that I didn’t know – they have a lot of width options for each model of shoe, ranging from 2A (extra narrow), to 6E (XX-wide). I got myself into a pair of 4Es ( extra wide), and it was like scales falling from my eyes; an awakening. My forefoot doesn’t have to feel like I’m wearing a climbing shoe! Or at least I don’t need to go up a few sizes to have my foot feel good – no more having to size up so much it feels like I’m running in clown shoes. Night and day. Wow.

So if the forefoot fit was my big discovery, the performance of the 880 V3s has also been solid. I’ve done an 8 mile tempo and a 12 mile easy pace run in them so far, and they feel really good. They are not overly cushioned or squishy, they feel light, the toe box is extremely roomy, they cup my heel nicely and my foot doesn’t slide around at all.

Overall, these shoes know their role, they are a supporting player, and they are light and unobtrusive enough to disappear into the run; I don’t feel them or think about them pressing my foot here or squishing there, which is exactly what I want.

STATS

  • Weight: 11.3 oz
  • Heel drop: 12 mm
  • Neutral
  •  ACTEVA® LITE midsole
  • T-Beam  support and torsional stability in sole

These go for $115 retail, but I got them for $79 at the New Balance factory outlets store in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

SIMILAR SHOES

If I had to relate them to another shoe I’ve worn extensively, I’d say they have a similar feel to the Mizuno Wave Riders, which I ran several marathon training cycles and marathons in and loved. I ended up abandoning them after the Morton’s really got bad. (I now know that these are also available in two widths, standard and wide, but wide was never offered at any running shoe store I shopped at. I may someday have to go back and try on the wides – if I can ever find them in a store.)

You can find both of these shoes on Amazon, too. Prices vary.




Other reviews of New Balance 880 V3:

Unexpected Result of Carb Refeed – Real Running Finally?

Enjoyed the 180-degree alter-ego of Saturday’s long run debacle. You know, the one that prompted my, “I’m tired of this; I’m quitting running marathons,” post.  (Not to say I’m not eventually quitting marathons, but dang it, I’m going to run this one, and stay upbeat about it. It’s Boston, and there’s a reason I registered to do it again!)

Tonight we finished dinner, I read extra long to the kids from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, put them to bed, and finally jumped on the treadmill.

I’d planned 8 miles with 4 @ 6:40 pace. And that’s what I ran! Felt lovely, brisk, plenty of energy, hard work by the end, but I could have done more. My calf was still sore though, so I called it finished at the four I’d planned, cooled down and hit the foam roller.

I have to acknowledge that carb refeed Saturday afternoon and evening, and this run a few days later, doesn’t seem like coincidence. I dropped back into keto Sunday morning and stayed there until now, but presumably that big carb feast finally got my glycogen properly topped up?

I am eating a post-run, Fat Tuesday, sweet potato mashed with butter, olive oil, cinnamon, almonds and pumpkin seeds as I type this. I am not abandoning my low-carb training experiment, but I am learning that at least after hard efforts, I need to reload more than I have been (even after I realized this same thing a few weeks ago).

I am going to do a reload again on Saturday evening, prior to my next long run, and use Vinnie’s Lifesaver sugar drip idea on the long run.  Will let you know how it goes. In the meantime, this was encouraging as a tempo run, though a little late in the training cycle to be getting this sort of encouragement. Last season my tempo runs were at 6:25 pace and my marathon pace runs were at 6:47s give or take, so this 6:40 isn’t too much of a bummer and a nice pick-me-up after Saturday’s ugliness.

Arriba, Arriba, Carbs! (For A Day)

So I have been rigorously keeping off the sugar and grains, and staying low-carb, in ketosis, for four months solid; and for the most part loving the results, especially the body composition changes and enhanced brain-power and energy levels. That said, it’s not perfect, and I’ve also been doing some experimenting, including strategic pre- and post-workout carbs on quality run days. And on Saturday, I decided to try a carb refeed day.

Partly because some high mileage running has me feeling run down (see my last Forrest Gump post, where I left the low-carb elephant-in-the-room un-addressed), partly because it’s supposed to jump start fat burning again, which might take care of a last few pesky pounds I’d care to shed. So starting at lunch Saturday, after a long run in the morning, and culminating in a late dinner, I ate three fish tacos, tons of tortilla chips and salsa, Mexican rice, refried beans, split a huge piece of chocolate mousse cake with my wife Kristen, snacked on a few slices of flatbread pizza late afternoon, and then finished the evening with a big plate of fries and two sliders on white buns. Oh yeah, and two IPAs. (I wanted to make sure I had soooo many high glycemic carbs in there I’d force the insulin spike, not simply raise my blood sugar.)

Result? Ahhhhhh, delicious!

I didn’t feel any worse for the wear Saturday, and I felt really great Sunday morning! Rejuvenated even. And after breakfast and lunch back at super low carb levels, I tested and found I was back (or still?) in ketosis as well.

The other near-term result was a post-reload, four-pound weight gain, which from everything I’ve read is normal. Water weight. What’s supposed to follow is a drop of that water weight, then a reboot of fat burning at an even higher level and some more leaning up. I am thinking if a little weight loss follows as the week goes on, I may make a carb refeed a regular thing. Either way, it sure was fun, and I’m very curious to see what effect a carb refeed next Saturday has on Sunday’s long run.

My Forrest Gump Moment

Remember that scene where Forrest reevaluates his relationship with running?

I am not having *fun* with marathon training this time around; the comeback period to get race-ready for April, following this injury, is too accelerated.

But more than that, as I’ve been grinding out the miles this time around, I’m simply not enjoying them, or growing, or thinking deeply, or clearing my head or refining my spirit, as long miles used to help me do in the past. This time it’s just grinding.

I’ve got a lot of goals, in family, in business, in faith, in the community, in writing and music – and this time around, these miles don’t feel like they are moving me toward any of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I still dig and recommend running for fun and fitness, but I think I’m done with marathons for a while. I may, probably, keep on and run Boston for the experience of it this year (since I already paid  :)) but I’m not going to push the mileage up to the 60+ a week I was planning; I’m going to ease off instead and aim for a nice easy pace. I’ve hit my Forrest point.

Maybe getting under three hours in a marathon last spring and running a fifty miler last fall was enough; goal met and I don’t really see what’s next on that path. I’m glad I did it, the discipline of marathon training kept me mentally and physically fit for five years. But I think I’m good; have learned what I can here. What’s next?

All of this had been weighing on my mind ever since I resumed training four weeks ago, after that two months of being off due to injury. And it crystallized itself as I was about 11 miles into a 16 mile run yesterday.

I was enjoying the socializing with the guys in the group, but even that was sort of underscoring for me how little I was enjoying the actual running. I wasn’t feeling great anyway, and my calf, which had been complaining for a week, lit up in a full-blown strain. I broke off from the group, watched them vanish into the distance, and then limped the mile and half home through the 6F morning on icy sidewalks, feeling the cold settle in and thinking. And what I’ve just written, I guess, is what I thought. 

Now who’s up for learning how to run a really, really fast mile? Or finally getting around to my long time desire to get the whole family in on bagging all 48 4,000-foot-plus mountains in New Hampshire?

Decision Point Run 1: Survived Elimination Round

Well, I have four weeks of official “training” under my belt for Boston after three weeks light jogging, following two months no-running injury rehab. And six weeks left to train, two to taper. Not a lot of runway to get this flight into the air.

As the weeks have gone by, I’ve wondered, how fast am I getting my fitness back, especially the speed, and how likely is it I can get back into the kind of marathon shape I was in last spring? And when will I know when to say when if I’m not getting there, and maybe back off, focus on a later race and run Boston as an easy run; an experience run?

So I made tonight decision point one. Last Tuesday I ran 9 miles with 6×800 @ 10K pace. Tonight I put 8 miles with 4×800 @5k pace – 3:00 per 800 – on the calendar. You may recognize that as the first of a series of Yasso 800s that should culminate in 10×800 @ 3:00 each and indicate fitness for a three-hour marathon, sometime a few weeks before the race. I figured, if I can’t manage four of these this week, with a 400 meter jog in between each, discretion may be the better part of valor. Or at the very least I can take training a bit easier, because a fast run isn’t happening, because I’m just not coming back that fast.

Did I manage four? Yep. The first three weren’t too bad. The first 400 of the last one was hard. The last 400 of the last one was absolute misery. Every fiber of me wanted to reach out and dial that freaking treadmill down. I did not. After I finished the last 800 I added another 1.75 miles onto the planned mileage for a total of 9.75. There, weakness, take that.

Two thoughts spurred me on. The first was the utter certainty that if I quit this workout, I would not run a time I’d be happy with this spring at Boston. Am I certain that I’ll run a good time just because I finished that last ugly 400 meters? Nope. I may still end up shuffling through this, if injury doesn’t recur and keep me from the start line entirely. But at least after tonight I’m *not* certain yet that I *won’t* run well. If that makes any sense.

The second thought was really a memory. It was the memory of flying around the track with my pals from the Athletic Alliance Banilla group, breath already straining going into the second half of an another interminable 800, hugging the inside lane tight in that first turn. Would I have reached out and dialed back the speed just because it was hard? Nope. Coming out of that turn into the last stretch, someone would have kicked, and everybody would have stepped on the gas, as much as they had left. And it would hurt, but it would be that good kind of hurt that leaves you shuddering, gasping and high-fiving at the end of it. Running like that is fun, for all the pain, and I finally got some of that bliss back tonight. Thanks, guys. I guess I’ll give it another week and see what happens.

Running, diet & fitness, productivity, faith, and other survival tips for 21st century humans