Monday, December 28, 2009

The Days Are Getting Longer

Thirty-two more seconds of daylight today than yesterday. Tomorrow, another 37 seconds, and on Wednesday we get 42 more. Baby steps, but I like the trend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

CIM 2009

I didn’t mind the cold. It didn’t feel as biting as in 2005 and the prerace wait in the predawn chill went by quickly. The temperature was about the same as four years ago, just below freezing, but I was better prepared this time. I had my layer of throwaways, the key piece the Northwest Nazarene University hoodie obtained in exchange for $2 cash at the Salvation Army outpost, cotton, yes, but a ridiculously thick slab of the stuff. I was comfortable, and away from the buses and the start line there were porta-potties galore without lines, just walk right up, step right in. A rare and wonderful thing before a big race. And as for the bag drop, I must have hit it at just the right time because while I encountered a hectic scene, I did not find it to be the chaotic, race-derailing experience it apparently was for some runner-bloggers.

Maybe you've heard about the wind. That's been a focus of many of the CIM reports I've seen. The wind got me down for a little while on the southbound stretches. At one of the mile markers, in the mid-teens, I became so frustrated running into the cold wind that I asked the guy (not) calling out splits how long would it be before the road would turn and we’d be out of the wind. He thought I was asking for directions and told me to just follow the people in front of me! Definitely a failure to communicate there. I wanted to but did not stop, turn around, and explain the point of my inquiry. I ran on.

I guess if there’s got to be a theme to this race that’s a good one: I ran on. Things unfolded pretty much as I anticipated. Or planned? Maybe there’s no difference. I don’t think there was in this race. I wanted to run the first half in 90 minutes to see what it felt like to run the second half of a marathon after running a first half in 90 minutes. This, I figured, would give me valuable insight into what it might take to complete a marathon under three hours. And bang, that’s the way it unfolded. I hit 13.1 miles at 1:29:56, a fraction under the magic 6:52 pace. I'd kept the three-hour pacer guy in view until then, but the wind got to me not long after the halfway point. The blustery miles 15 through 19 went 7:07, 7:13, 7:07, 7:18 and 7:19. After that we were mostly not fighting the wind; it was coming from the south or southeast and we were running west or southwest. But my legs had grown tired. I had eaten gels around 5 and 13 (and then took another at 20). And there had been a piece of a banana along the way somewhere, as well as water—sips—grabbed on the fly at most of the aid stations. I think I was reasonably fueled. I just couldn’t go faster. Mile 20 was a 7:09, 21 a 7:10. At that point I was thinking a 3:05 might be possible, but 22-26 went like this: 7:25, 7:30, 7:31, 7:38 and 7:34, and even 3:05 slipped away.

As I suggested, this wasn’t surprising. With a half-marathon PR of 1:28:53 coming into CIM and no big workout breakthroughs, I couldn’t very well expect to run back-to-back 1:30s, adding up to a three-hour marathon. One of the things I've learned in running intently the past few years is that magic, craziness, doesn't often happen. Recent races and honest contemplation of your training will tell the story.

My second half of the race came in at 1:36:20, considerably slower than the first. No problem; I didn't come completely apart. I ran with composure throughout in what were hardly superb conditions (the consensus view was that the race was a 7 or 8 on a 1-10 toughness scale; I'd call it a 6, maybe 6.5). There was also the fact that I was running less than three months after going hard at Berlin. There was a sense, throughout my training leading up to CIM and on race day, that I had never quite completely recovered from that race.

So I suppose you could say the conditions cost me a minute or two, and lingering fatigue from Berlin maybe grabbed another minute. Or maybe not. Either way, I'm a few minutes shy of three hours. Of course those are the hardest minutes, those bare handful that stand in the way of the big goal, the goal of an athletic lifetime.

The plan is to do some resting, cycling on the trainer and easy running over the next few weeks then, in mid-January, embark on a 16-week program culminating with the Eugene Marathon on May 2, 2010. I'll tell the story here.

  • Time: 3:06:16
  • Overall: 372 out of 5848
  • 45-49M Age group: 25 out of 543
  • On my Garmin.
  • My CIM time in 2005: 3:35:32

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't Look Back, Spiro; He Might Be Gaining on You

OK, got a long way to go. But I drew three minutes and 38 seconds closer to the legendary Greek with a 3:06:16 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento yesterday. The full story soon.

Garmin data

Friday, December 4, 2009

Some Quick Pre-CIM Thoughts

Why am I so uptight about this marathon? I think it’s because I’m not feeling the energy bubbling in me the way I did before Berlin in September. There have been a lot of races this year—maybe too many. The aforementioned Berlin was only two and a half months ago and since then I’ve run five cross-country races, a half-marathon PR, a 10K PR and there was another one or two other races in there somewhere. I brought a ton of enthusiasm into all those races; every one of them was great fun. I’m feeling right now a little tapped out.

Maybe it’s just typical pre-marathon nerves. Maybe it’s the fact that this is a marathon and marathons, even if you’ve done the distance or greater many times, are always challenging. Maybe—no, I know this is definitely a part of it—I’m weary of getting PRs. Wait, what I mean is, I’m wearing of needing a PR in order to have a successful race. And I’m rather afraid that this time a PR could be really, really difficult.

I’m fortunate, in a way, in that I came to running late, in my 40s. With increased and better training it only took avoiding injury to accumulate PRs. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked. I knew going into Berlin that even if I didn’t have a great race I could better my PR of 3:18:52. I was obviously much better prepared than when I ran that time 17 months before. Now, it’s different. I believe that sometime in the next year I’ll run a marathon faster than 3:09:54, my time at Berlin, but it’ll take a very strong race to do that on Sunday. It will hurt. It’s not going to happen automatically. I’m not any fitter. Probably, I’m a little more tired. That doesn’t bode well, does it?

And yet. And yet come Race Morning, well, things happen. All those crazy, scared-shitless-happy people gathered in the freezing semi-dark out in Folsom, wondering what the 26.2 have in store for them (and what they have in store for the 26.2). It’s a pretty special place to be. It can fire a guy up.

Monday, November 30, 2009

CIM Weather?

There's only one place to go if you want to know.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K

Probably 10 million guys have run 10 kilometers in less than 40 minutes. Who knows? Maybe it's 20 million if you count the barefooted tribesmen who chased down udus and gerenuks in millennia of yore. My point being this is not considered exceptional beyond the bounds of my own ego. Alas, this blog represents the (indecent) public exposure of said ego. Those given to easy blushing are invited to click away.

You can find a 10K result for me on the Internet from 1999. The time: 46:21. I was a hard-core mountain biker then. I didn't run much, but I was very fit and also was 36 years old. On Thanksgiving Day this year I was five days shy of 47. I've been running a lot lately. If there were close observers—and on this count, at least, I suppose I'll be thankful there are not—they might say it's practically all I do. And so I found myself lining up with 11,000 other people in a bright sun—at its low angle managing to warm the morning chill—for the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose. Mostly the multitudes were there to run the 5K. Actually, mostly they were there to make a preemptive strike against Thanksgiving-gorging guilt. Some 3,000 were doing the 10K.

One could argue I should not have been among them. The California International Marathon was just 10 days off. A 10K might fit into the taper as a tempo run, I suppose. Or maybe (though not likely) a VO2 workout, depending on how one approaches it. But my approach, inevitably, wouldn't fit either category of workout. I'd be racing it. I never for a second imagined anything else. Most coaches would have advised against it, but I did a hard 10K two weeks before Berlin and that worked out OK. More importantly, I was in San Jose, there was an attractive race there, so.... It's like 2+2=4.

Great sleep the night before, easy 15-minute drive downtown from my parents', where everyone was still asleep when I left at 6:45. Parking 200 yards from the start/finish. No lines at the porta-potties. This was looking good. When it came time to race, feeling bold and no longer a sucker, I positioned myself near the front. So often I've spent the first several hundred yards of races fighting past much slower runners. Finally I was going to avoid that. To the fore! There were some skinny dudes around me who were clearly ready to run 15s or 16s in the 5K, along with a few scattered tubbies who either didn't hear or didn't care about the frequent admonishments from the race announcer (bless him) to seed yourself according to your ability, but mostly I seemed to be among my people.

And we were off.

Well it wasn't really that exciting, this little 10 kilometer circle around San Jose's downtown, starting and ending in front of the HP Pavilion, aka The Shark Tank. Noteworthy, I suppose, is that as I hit the Mile 1 sign my Garmin showed 6:06, which is actually faster than what I ran my first mile in when I got my 5K PR. Unsustainable but not ludicrous, I thought. Maybe time in the bank? Time in the bank doesn't work. You'll die later. But maybe not. Who knows?

No more mile splits from there. My Garmin was marking laps at kilometers, and I looked down as each beep sounded to see which side of four minutes I had landed on. Here's how it all went:


There was a little drama just past the halfway point, when I was working really hard to relax—if that makes sense—and slow down while maintaining my speed (if that makes sense). We were on a wide boulevard and the runners were scattered about, no clusters at all, and some fellow masters runner couldn't find his way past me without brushing me and then getting right in front of me, forcing me to move to my left. I said something like, "Dude, it's a wide street." He didn't say anything or even look back, but when I passed him with a half mile to go he said, "Good job," and when he passed me with a tenth of a mile to go I said, "Strong."

I was pretty strong down the stretch, too. Relatively speaking, of course. I made that clear at the beginning of this entry, right? That running 10K under 40 minutes isn't a big deal? I ran 39:13, 1:04 better than my previous best at the distance, 7:08 faster than in 1999. From here I suspect any further improvements will be measured in much smaller increments, if they happen at all, but I'm sure I'll keep trying.

Finish: 39:13
Pace: 6:19
Overall: 43/3,238
Men: 42/1,679
M45-49: 6/197

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Through the Rough Patch

I hit a rough patch about three weeks before Berlin. "The run was f'd up," I wrote in my log regarding a 14-miler that was supposed to be 15. "Little energy. Cut it short." That was 19 days before the race. Two days later I ran 10 and wrote, "Still not good. Very heavy legs. Tired. Very tired. Tough run. Slept afterward, conking out."

I began to come out of this slump within a few days—with short runs, nothing long, just stuff that was fun and reawakened the pep in my step—and the rest of my taper was fine. I never felt super-energized, but the aches and pains receded and I knew my muscles were getting the deep rest they had missed for several months, and on race day I was ready.

Am I seeing a repeat in the run-up to CIM? Last Monday, 20 days before the race, I did 18 and wanted at least part of the run to be near marathon pace. That happened, but it was hard. I really had to work for it. Now maybe this was because I was running on wet and squishy wood-chip trail that, while it didn't have any real climbs, was loaded with ripples and turns. Very different than running on the roads, where you can practically flick on the cruise control and conserve physical and mental fuel. I ran eight miles on each of the next two days, recovery runs, and I still felt sluggish. On Thursday, I finally got around to getting the Computrainer set up, for the first time since before IMCDA in June, and had tons of fun spinning against the silver digital guy for 90 minutes.

After that break from running, I was a new man yesterday, warming up with a couple of miles at well over 8:00/mile, then taking it down gradually and finishing under 6:50/mile on a 10-miler. That last mile was pure fun; I could have continued at that pace for three or four more miles, easily.

My thought going into the weekend was to take it easy on Saturday and then do something pretty long—say, 12-14 miles—on Sunday. That, coming two weeks before CIM, would be my last run over 10 miles. Today I was just going to muddle through 6-8 miles, but then saw that the Clark County Running Club would be holding its Turkey Trot 5K at the reasonable hour of 10 a.m. and at the even more reasonable cost of $2. Plus there was the lure of the turkey raffle—frozen birds going out to 20 lucky runners. I wanted some of that action.

Cold (low 40s), wet, breezy morning—late November in the Northwest. This was a small race, entirely day-of registration, out at Marine Park, along the Columbia. Neither of the two bathrooms at park was open. There was a sign on one of them that blamed the closure on budget cuts. Clark County—kind of like the more famous Clark County in Nevada— boomed with construction during most of the decade, then went bust in a big, ugly way. Its unemployment rate of 13.7 percent is the highest in the state of Washington. Pity, no stimulus money for cleaning bathrooms.

Desperate to take care of some serious business, I grabbed a handful of tissues and headed for the wooded gully on the edge of the park. Enough said about that.

The run was an out-and-back on a concrete pathway, wider than your normal bike path by a few feet. There were maybe 150 runners, a dozen or so who appeared capable of cracking 20 minutes. Finally I was confident enough to station myself up front at the start. Without slower runners to wend my way past, I ran 5:59 for the first mile and although that was at least 10 seconds faster than my usual 5K first mile, it didn't feel completely stupid. I had no idea where this circuitous path was taking us, but during the second mile we emerged right along the Columbia, providing a nice view and some intermittent strong headwinds. The pavement was wet with plenty of leaves littered about, but it wasn't raining. I was wearing just shorts and a short-sleeve technical shirt, while most others were in tights and jackets or long-sleeved shirts, but the cold felt good, invigorating. The turnaround was a tight 180, which of course requires virtually a complete stop, not exactly what you're looking to do in the middle of a 5K. That might have been the hardest part of the race for me, gearing back up after the turnaround slowdown.

I chased a young kid for a lot of the second half of the race, caught him and just tried to stay strong from there. Running marathons, I think, helps makes 5Ks easier from a mental perspective. It hurts, but so what? You only need to endure for nine or five or whatever small number of minutes more. I endured, not heroically, but reasonably, running the second mile in 6:16 and the third one in 6:08 and crossing the line in 18:23, according to my Garmin 305.

Now 18:23, for me, is freaking fast. My best 5K coming in was a 19:19. But there's a hitch in running this time up the PR pole: the course might have been short. I'm going to check in with the race director and see how certain they are of the distance before I count it as official. That said, even if the course was a tenth short, adding 25-30 seconds to my time, I still would have busted my old PR by a goodly margin. Officially, my time was 18:26. And despite the fact it was advertised as a 5K, the race was measured and run as 3 miles—precisely the distance my Garmin had it at.

Afterword they hauled out the turkeys. I didn't get one. Eh, if I had to make a choice, I'd rather have a PR and the exciting sense that with two weeks to go until CIM, my legs are in fine fettle.

One more race before CIM: The Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving. Hell, yeah, I'll be going for it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's that Time of the Year

We've had measurable precipitation (aka, rain) seven days in a row. And the forecast?

So there's a lot of running in the rain going on, although if you're lucky you can find a gap in the gray and pounce. I did yesterday. Here's a picture I took of the sky just before embarking on my run:

For more on that run—far from epic, but beautiful nonetheless—check out the little photo album I posted publicly on Facebook.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Racing the Storm

On our marks.

The Red Lizard cross-country series ended last weekend, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a race to be found today. The USATF put on the first of two Saturdays of racing out at Sandy High School. I didn't exactly set myself up well for today's 5K (next week it'll be 8K). Yesterday's planned 10-miler morphed into an 18.5-mile, pavement-and-asphalt slugfest that took me downtown, a half-dozen times around the Hawthorne-Steele bridges loop, then back home. This was the pre-CIM long run I was planning on doing tomorrow, but when it occurred to me, as I embarked on the run, that CIM is only four weeks away, I got a notion to do two long runs, Friday and Sunday. So tomorrow will be another big day, assuming a wheel hasn't fallen off.

The men's race came last, at noon, after the juniors and women, so I had time for a morning walk to the farmers' market. Rain was in the forecast, but fortunately it was holding off. Unfortunately, I arrived at the market at 8:30, and although many of the vendors were there and set up, the pasture-grazed meat guy told me if he sold me anything before 9 he'd be bounced from the venue by the organizers. Could I hang on for 30 minutes? Right. I walked home empty-handed, wondering what kind of bogus farmers' market doesn't get going until 9. Nine, that's lunchtime on the farms my parents grew up on.

Once home, I jumped online to check the radar. The Doppler showed an impressive yellow and red wave onto the coast, headed right for the Portland area. When would it hit Sandy, 20 miles east of the city: before, during or after the race? Hard to tell. Not that I cared that much. Running in howling wind at 50 degrees with torrential rain wouldn't be my first choice, but 5K of it I could survive.

Still no rain by the time I arrived in Sandy, around 11:30, though skies were heavy and that wind was ripping. The women were finishing up their race. There were, like, three guys there then, but nine were at the line when the starter called us to our marks. We went first across a big grass field, then into the woods, where we wound around every which way until I had no idea what direction I was going. I just tried to stay upright while making the dozens of turns on the squishy track under the canopy, and to keep an eye on the guy 10 or 15 yards in front of me. I knew there were two guys behind me and after a while I couldn't hear them anymore. I was surprised that my legs felt reasonably spry. If I'd rested instead of running long yesterday I might have had enough juice to nab the guy in front of me, maybe even the guy in front of him, but just running decently on the dirt and grass was good enough for me. It was good stuff.

We finished on the Sandy High track just as the skies began to spit. The hardy USATF-Oregon people were already beginning to pack up after several hours out there. A look to the west showed a wall of rain moving toward us. This wasn't your typical Portland dripper; it had Midwestern ferocity written all over it. I hurried to the car, not even bothering to change. By the time I got on U.S. 26 for the drive through Sandy and Gresham, the skies had opened and the rain was whipped sideways by the wind. A huge bolt of lightning cracked just to the north. It was a little harrowing. Water began to pool at some intersections and in low spots along the right side of the road. It was good to make it home safely, have a nice hot shower, and then get some beans and rice going on the stove.

My Garmin data.

Photo courtesy Red Lizard BrianH.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Pace

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” — Emerson

“To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.” — Shakespeare

“When the race gets hard to run, it means you just can't take the pace.” — Bob Marley

"i have no idea what my #marathon pace is--or should be? how do you figure it out?" — Woman on Twitter

I’m so predictable. I didn’t used to be. But the more I run, the better those online calculators—you know, the ones where you plug in a 10K or half-marathon time and it spits out a marathon prediction—the better they are at pegging my pace. This is a good thing, since how fast to go in a 26.2 mile race can be terrifyingly difficult to determine. The dire scenarios if you get it wrong are obvious: go out too fast and you risk blowing up and staggering to the finish; go out too slow and you finish strong but with the soul-devouring sense that you failed to leave it all on the course. The former possibility is universally applicable. The latter assumes that racing to your potential is important to you, which may not always be the case. The woman who does the New York Times’ Well blog was pleased as punch after training for months and then turning in a six-hour, 58-minute marathon. That’s 16 minutes per mile, a brisk walk for most people. Then again, it was her first marathon, and the standard-issue advice for newbies is not to concern yourself with pace, have fun, get through it, worry about how long it takes in your next race. Clearly Ms. 6:58 took that advice to heart.

In my first marathon, the Bizz Johnson, I desperately wanted to run under four hours. This was in 2004. I was 41 and had been doing triathlons for a while, but moreover still saw myself as the athlete I was as a kid, with unlimited, unknowable potential, and a fierce need to be well above average. You could say I’ve always been a bit of a fasthole, even if the person I most frequently looked down upon for being slow was me. In any case, then as now, simply finishing the race could not be the goal.

The Bizz hardly unfolded as planned. In my training, I had done a 15-mile run around two hours — eight minutes per mile. Mindful that 15 miles isn’t 26.2, it made sense to me to go a little slower than that in the marathon, so I decided to aim for an 8:30 pace, then see if I could hang on to the finish. On race day, a frightfully cold October morning at 5,000 feet elevation, on a course that rose gradually for the first 12 miles (a fact I, weirdly, hadn’t taken into consideration in my “planning”), I found myself running nine-minute miles. It was all I could manage. I hit the halfway mark at just under 1:57. Having never run farther than 17 miles, I was scared shitless that I’d slow down even more as the race wore on and then I’d have to live forever with having run a marathon in more than four hours. Could I just never talk about it and pretend it hadn’t happened? No, too many people knew I was doing the race. The results would be posted online. Fucking Internet.

A few things happened on my way to plus-four-marathon infamy, however: the course elevation declined by a steady 80 feet per mile over the last 14 miles; the sun shone bright and the temperature climbed from the mid-20s into the 40s, perfect for running; and I kept running. All this added up to a negative split and a finishing time of 3:49.

It was an unorthodox first-marathon success story, attributable as much to the nature of the course as anything else. It wasn’t great reserves of energy that allowed me to go faster late in the race. It was gravity. I was like a ball rolling down the hill. If the course had been flat, I’m sure I would have faded badly—which is what happened in all my subsequent marathons. Until Berlin, earlier this fall.

Going into Berlin, I knew, based on my workouts, that my fitness had improved since I’d run 3:18:54 in Boston in 2008. I had done a 20-miler in 2:28, a 7:24/mile pace, 12 seconds faster than at Boston. So immediately I was thinking of shooting for a 7:30/mile or faster at Berlin, for a total time under 3:17. Also, I had done more long running than ever in my Berlin training, which gave me confidence that my fitness late in the race—in that scary 20- to 26-mile zone—would likely be better.

You’d think that would have been enough to settle on a pace, but it wasn’t. I didn’t want to mess things up. I wanted to run the perfect race. I read my books and scoured the Internet for more insight. I ran Yasso 800s, which served to inspire and confuse me. Ripping off those 10 halves in under three minutes apiece suggested my goal of bettering my PR was well within reach, but left me confused as to how bold I should be on race day. Could I really run a marathon in close to three hours? I wasn’t buying that, and indeed most analysis of the Yasso formula says it tends to yield and an overly optimistic forecast.

The online predictors were less optimistic about my chances, but they still held out the prospect of a substantial PR reduction. I had done a half-marathon in 1:30:19 in April. Using an age-grading formula, that translated to a 3:07:54 marathon. An estimated-VO2 max formula said 3:08:12. Riegel (Runner’s World) was at 3:08:17. And Cameron 3:11:23.

All these formulas came with a caveat: “the assumption that you've done appropriate training for the distance,” as one of them put it. That makes sense. If you’ve never run more than 13.1 miles, a half-marathon time probably won’t say much about your capabilities at 26.2. I wasn’t sure if I’d met the criteria for “appropriate training,” but I knew that in the lead-up to Berlin I’d done more running, more focused running and more long runs than ever before. Based on that, I began to warm to the idea that I could make a go at 3:10. I had based my FIRST training on 3:10, but the idea there was simply to push myself. I didn’t know if I’d actually get to the point where I could confidently start a race aiming for that time.

Sometimes in the days before the race I would think about what had happened at Boston, how my 1:35:27 first half had devolved into a 1:43:25 second half, and I’d wonder if I really did have what it takes to maintain a 3:10 pace — 7:15/mile — for the duration. I’d think: Maybe I should aim for 3:15 (7:26/mile)? That would be safer. That would be prudent. But on race morning, at the starting line, with Ravel’s Bolero thumping over the PA system as welcome messages in a dozen or more languages were delivered to the 40,000 runners massed on the Strasse des 17 Juni, I felt absolutely calm. I had shifted my thinking to kilometers, since that’s how the course would be marked, and I was sure that 4:30/kilometer, 7:15/mile, was the way to go. I didn't know for sure if I would succeed. That's something you never know before a race. Hell, you race to find out. But I was sure that my pacing approach was solid, come what may.

My worst 5K split was only 49 seconds slower than my best. As I wrote in my race report, I began to fade a bit around 35 kilometers, but just a bit. Mostly I stayed steady from start to finish. This was a challenging pace, but a pace I could handle. It was a joyous, exhilarating run. I set out to run 3:10. I ran 3:09:54. I nailed the pace sweet spot. And my ability to do so was a function of my training. It all comes down to the training. If you are well-trained for the marathon — and by well-trained I don’t mean that you’ve followed an 18-week run-a-marathon program, but that you’ve been at it for years, built a base, raced a variety of distances and put in the long runs and the deep thought and, if this doesn't sound too weird, the love for the sport — that’s when you’ll become predictable. Wonderfully predictable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Farewell, TRL XC '09!

Off we go: I started at the back and moved up. A little.

The variety of terrain at Klock was really cool.

Footing was treacherous. Spikes might have been a good idea.

Klock Blueberry Farm kicked my rear today. A couple inches of rain during the week and more during the race turned much of the course spongy and mucky. No standing water, but lots of slick, gooey mud on the steep pitches and divot-strewn grass on the flats. I can't believe how spent I was by the last loop. It was far more taxing than my half-marathon PR last Sunday. I had run shy of two and a half miles and for a flicker of a moment considered walking it in. Meanwhile, the fast dudes were, like, eight minutes in front of me. I don't know how they negotiated the downhills as quickly as they must have. Of course, I'm a wus on downhills, and was passed several times. That's how it went for me: give up ground on the descents, gain a little back on the climbs. Anyway, it was a blast, the last of the four-race Team Red Lizard XC Series. Heaps of thanks to Jacob Buckmaster and everyone else who made it happen. I'm looking forward to next year. Special thanks as well, this day, to Beverly Klock (I think I have the name right) for being so sweet to Niko, inviting him into her house to pick out a book to bring home!

My Garmin.
Official Results.
Joe Dudman's race report.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The DKSVM: A Quick Review

I don't want to criticize the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon, because it was a fun run and, geez, I PR'd. The course — I did the half, the out part of an out-and-back — was an interesting mix of urban (downtown), neighborhood (Willow Glen) and semi-natural (the paved Los Gatos Creek Trail). It was also 13.1 miles, just like it was supposed to be, and the weather was beautiful, clear and crisp as the race got under way at sunrise, and sunny for the post-race goings-on. And those goings-on weren't bad, with a free fish taco, a nice change of pace.

What the hell more do I really need than all that?

Still, there were a few issues with the race that others might find helpful to know about as they ponder which events deserve their hard-earned entry fee. Some things that didn't bother me too much but might be a concern to you:

1) Weak Web site with "coming soon" pages (for course elevation, for instance) that never came and confusing or non-existent instructions on race logistics.
2) Almost non-existent crowd support. The marathoners probably had it better as they neared the finish line downtown, but for the halfies it was a pretty lonely affair.
3) I enjoyed the several miles on the paved path but from time to time was almost frustrated having to deal with non-racers out for their Sunday more run, walk, ride or blade. Hey, I'm glad they were out there gettin' it done, but in a race it's nice not to have to zig and zag to avoid baby strollers.
4) The volunteers were enthusiastic and polite, but they didn't always have answers to questions and didn't appear to have strong leadership guiding them. At the finish they ran out of water (which was handed out in paper cups). And none of the volunteers knew where bathrooms were or where we were supposed to pick up the bus to get back to the start. And when we did figure out where to get the bus, we had to stand in line for well over a half-hour.
5) As mentioned, back downtown at the marathon finish, they had some Mexican food, fish or chicken tacos, rice, beans, good stuff. But again there was no water to be found. In fact, to get anything to drink we had to reach inside the ropes to where the marathoners were finishing and grab a Gatorade.
6) The on-course sport drink was Ultima, which is OK for a 5K but for a half marathon or marathon? The drink has no carbs. You need carbs to do a marathon, and could certainly benefit from some in a half marathon.
7) There was no effort made to seed the runners at the start. So I'm starting out intending to run 6:35 miles having to dodge people who are running 9-minute miles. Not a big deal, but kind of irritating and, moreover, quite avoidable.
8) There were no results posted until the next day, and the results included no split times. This is another thing that's not a huge deal but you'd think the SILICON VALLEY MARATHON would be as technologically with-it as other marathons, many of which now offer 5K splits, real-time tracking and results immediately upon completion. The DKSVM had none of this.

To wrap things up I'd say that overall, the race had a kind of sleepy, relaxed feel. Which makes sense. It's a bit of a forgotten race in Northern California in October, following fast on the heels of the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose 1/2, a typically flashy Competitor Group Inc. franchised event with big-name pros - Meb Keflezighi among them this year - and a field nudging five-figures, as well as the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, which is actually much more a half-marathon (12,730 finishers) than a marathon (4,351), but is any case large. So there's a virtual guarantee, coming amid that glittery clutter, that the DKSVM is going to be small (around 2,000 racers total). And perhaps the organizers know that, and it leads them to be too unambitious in their staging of the event.

In sum: A good race that I quite enjoyed, but one that could be better.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sacto Here I Come

I'm registered.
The plane tickets are purchased.
The car is reserved.
The room is secured.
I'm running CIM.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Half-Marathon PR

Ran the half at the Dan Karzanes Silicon Valley Marathon yesterday in San Jose. My Garmin showed a 1:28:57, but officially I clocked a 1:29:00. Hey, that's still a PR by well over a minute, so I'll take it!

Time: 1:28:53*
Overall finish: 28/927
M45-49 finish: 3/71

*I originally thought I'd run 1:28:57, the time on my Garmin. Then I saw 1:29:00 on the results, so I thought that was my official time. Now, looking again, I see that 1:29:00 was my gun time; my chip time was 1:28:53.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Yesterday’s post about the inevitability of running shoes being remade each year, whether they need to be or not, overlooked an obvious consequence of this dastardly marketing strategy: the disappearance of a favorite shoe. In a bitterly ironic turn of events, I came face-to-face with this issue just a few hours after making the post.

I had done my run on the grass at Normandale Park. This, with some variation, is one of a handful of my regular runs: a half-mile on pavement over to the park, then several miles running its perimeter of primarily grass and a bit of dirt. Usually I throw in a dozen or so 100-yard sprints on the football field, along with some dexterity drills (running along a line, switching from side to side every few steps, that kind of thing). It’s a bumpy, twisty-turny sort of running, great for building foot and lower-leg strength and flexibility. I run Normandale wearing my New Balance 790s, which to my thinking are the perfect off-road shoes: flat, low, light and incredibly flexible. Cushioning? Fuggedaboutit. You couldn’t feel more rocks if you ran barefoot.

So after yesterday’s run I was cleaning the mud off my 790s when it occurred to me that they were beginning to wear down and although they probably had a solid month of life in them, it might be wise to get a new pair lined up. I jumped online to Zappos, but they had none in stock. Weird. Then I tried Holabird; they had just a few super-small sizes. WTF? A little more Googling landed me on a blog entry from April this year announcing, to my horror, that New Balance was abandoning the 790 and that a replacement model, the 100, would be released in October.

Bastards! Here they had a loyal customer, a guy willing to buy several pairs of their shoes every year, and they were leaving me out in the cold. Why? Because that’s what shoe companies do.

As promised, the 100s are now available. But I didn’t want the 100s. Or maybe I did. Unsure, I read a few reviews and a lot of comments, many from similarly jilted 790s lovers. Several people said the 100s weren’t as flexible as the 790s, were narrower in the toe and featured a hard top of the heel that was liable to dig into your ankle/Achilles. Other said the 100s were great, with many of the same wonderful attributes of the 790s but with more apparent durability.

While I mulled over the 100s, I did find some 790s available in my size. They were the brown ones, not the all-black models that I loved so much, but at least they were 790s. What to do? I felt like Elaine in the drug store, faced with the prospect of her favorite birth-control aid disappearing from the market.
ELAINE (with little hope): Yeah, do you have any Today sponges? I know they're off the market, but...
PHARMACIST: Actually, we have a case left.
ELAINE (excited): A case! A case of sponges? I mean, uh...a case. Huh. many come in a case?
ELAINE: Sixty?! Uh...well, I'll take three.
ELAINE: Make it ten.
ELAINE: Twenty sponges should be plenty.
PHARMACIST: Did you say twenty?
ELAINE: Yeah, twenty-five sponges is just fine.
PHARMACIST: Right. So, you're set with twenty-five.
ELAINE: Yeah. Just give me the whole case and I'll be on my way.
I bought three pairs of 790s.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Year's Model

That famous bike snob says, “Cycling simply doesn't need new product lines every year.” Duh! If Snob thinks cycling is unique in this regard, he’s never gone through a running phase. Every year my hard-road training shoe, the Asics Gel Cumulus, gets a new number stuck at the end of its name. I started on this shoe when it was hardly even a kindergartner, at 4. (Actually, it was IV then; they made the switch from Roman to Arabic numerals with X, aka 10.) Now it’s 11, a certified tween, all into V Factory (or w/e).

Remarkably, the company doesn’t claim there’s anything new about the Gel Cumulus 11. Last year they boasted of improving the Gel Cumulus 10 by adding something called Impact Guidance System (I.G.S.®), which the Iranians promptly ripped off and are using in their nuke program, thanks a lot, Asics. This year, nada. Did the Marketing Department take a big whack in a cost-cutting move? Or were they just unable to conjure another registered feature? The list already included — in addition to I.G.S.® — SpEVA®, “Twist” GEL® Cushioning and the Space Trusstic System®. Remember, too: Plenty of stuff had been quietly abandoned over the years. My Gel Cumulus IVs, which Zappos tells me were purchased on December 28, 2002, came with GEL® Cushioning (no “Twist” then), in addition to the late but not lamented DuraSponger® forefoot and AHAR® heel plug.

Actually, now that I think about it, the lack of advancements to the Gel Cumulus 11 has an obvious explanation: It’s a a nod to the minimal-shoe trend. When the Gel Cumulus 12 rolls around, I suspect you’ll see Asics boast that it’s discarded at least one of the shoe's trademarked features. And by the time we get to Gel Cumulus 15, it’ll be an utterly featureless shoe, perfect for the multitude of born-again forefoot strikers.


BMJ. 2007 Dec 22;335(7633):1275-7.
Competing risks of mortality with marathons: retrospective analysis

Redelmeier DA, Greenwald JA.
Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5.
OBJECTIVE: To determine from a societal perspective the risk of sudden cardiac death associated with running in an organised marathon compared with the risk of dying from a motor vehicle crash that might otherwise have taken place if the roads had not been closed. DESIGN: Population based retrospective analysis with linked ecological comparisons of sudden death. SETTING: Marathons with at least 1000 participants that had two decades of history and were on public roads in the United States, 1975-2004. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sudden death attributed to cardiac causes or to motor vehicle trauma. RESULTS: The marathons provided results for 3,292,268 runners on 750 separate days encompassing about 14 million hours of exercise. There were 26 sudden cardiac deaths observed, equivalent to a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 participants (95% confidence interval 0.5 to 1.1). Because of road closure, an estimated 46 motor vehicle fatalities were prevented, equivalent to a relative risk reduction of 35% (95% confidence interval 17% to 49%). The net reduction in sudden death during marathons amounted to a ratio of about 1.8 crash deaths saved for each case of sudden cardiac death observed (95% confidence interval: 0.7 to 3.8). The net reduction in total deaths could not be explained by re-routing traffic to other regions or days and was consistent across different parts of the country, decades of the century, seasons of the year, days of the week, degree of competition, and course difficulty. CONCLUSION: Organised marathons are not associated with an increase in sudden deaths from a societal perspective, contrary to anecdotal impressions fostered by news media.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009


So where am I in this epic quest to topple Spiridon and twist a dagger into the heart of Greek pride? (If I, an aging American writer-not-being-published—from the soft West Coast, no less—can best the time of that ancient land's lone marathon gold-medal winner, surely Greece will be forced to disavow its history of achievement. At least the part involving Spiridon. Maybe they can keep the really big stuff ... like the invention of columns and sororities.)

Well, it's kind of a weird place, where I am. I know what I want to do—run better than Spiridon's 2:58:50, which, I hasten to add, was accomplished on a short course, said by historians to be around 40 kilometers, not the modern 42.2. (Then again, Spiridon didn't have the aid of Powerbar Gel Carbohydrate Electrolyte Blend, so we'll not quibble.)

The question is, when? When do I slay Spiridon? The wise—perhaps not insane would be a better way to put it—approach would be to give myself several more weeks to recover from Berlin, then begin a long, careful build toward a marathon in the spring. Eugene. That's May 2, with a finish on the track at Hayward Field. Damn. Hayward Field! That's almost as cool as the white-marbled Panathinaiko, where, I hardly need point out, Spiridon took the crown in '96.

The only problem is I don't know if I can wait that long. I'm already contemplating running CIM—that's California International Marathon, in Sacramento, on December 6—which has earned the reputation as fast. I ran that race in 2005. A really hot girl that I knew then talked up the race, that's why I did it. She was deep in a relationship, actually ended up marrying the guy, but still, if a hot girl is talking up a race then of course I'm running it. That's how stupid I am.

This was my third marathon, I think, and I went into it with a three-forty-something PR. As usual I did no real marathon training. I did do a lot of half-ironman triathlon training—that was the thing I was into then—so I was fit, but being "fit" and being ready to run a fast marathon, ha! Not the same thing. It was a frigid freaking morning, clear and calm but right around freezing. The buses dumped us out at the start, in the darkness, at, like, 6 a.m., with a 7 a.m. start. I shivered for an hour. Then the gun sounded and off I went with the 3:30 pace group, which I knew was a reach but what the hell? Give it a go.

As you might expect, I fell apart in the last four or five miles and finished in 3:35 and change. It was a great race, but I feel a bit like I owe CIM another go, a better one. I know the course now; know how to deal with running downhill. I think I could pull off a good race there. But can I run faster than 2:58:50? I would say the chances are very slim. Very slim. Like, 2 percent. No, make it 5 percent. No, make it 0.4 percent; I just remembered that I've never even run under 1:30 for a half marathon. Beating 1:30 in the half twice, back-to-back, in six weeks seems highly unlikely. To put it kindly.

Still, I'd learn something by running stupidly and unsustainably toward Joan Didion's and Herb Caen's hometown, which is really how I view Sacramento. (Didion nor Herb, I'm sure, never got near a marathon, in Sacramento or anywhere else. When it came to fitness, Herb often mocked but also marveled. An item: "A moment's heartfelt silence: Walt 'Iron Man' Stack finally wore out. The great marathon runner who did 17 miles daily plus a swim in the bay as a matter of course died at 87 last Wed. at Sheffield Convalescent Home here. He was never the same after his beloved wife died four years ago ... Walt was a founding member of the Dolphin Club, where, one day in '88, Peter Rudolfi asked him, 'How do you keep your teeth from chattering out there in that icy water?' Walt: 'I leave 'em in the locker' ... ")

So, running CIM, I'd get a better idea of what I'm up against. And that could come in handy on May 2. Hmm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Spirit of Spiridon Lives in Centenarian Shot-Put Champ

Sure that shot looks kinda like a BB. But C'mon, Ruth Frith, of Brisbane, Australia, is 100. She was just 13 years from being born when Spiridon reigned! And she also throws the hammer and javelin. From the news video: "She believes other pensioners should follow her example."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Daring Dathan

I didn't plan on watching the World Half-Marathon Championships this morning. The online broadcast began at 1 a.m., for crying out loud, and I'm not that hardcore. Then again, maybe I am. I'd fallen asleep around 11:15 p.m., and noise from the street outside my bedroom window woke me up at 1:45 a.m. Next thing you know, I'm on watching the action from Birmingham, England. Let me tell you, it was worth it, thanks to Dathan Ritzenhein. Of course Zersenay Tadese was the best runner; he won the title for the fourth time. But to see an American, and one who lives and trains in the Portland area, no less, fearlessly take on Tadese and all the great Africans was brilliant stuff. Dick Patrick of USA Today wrote a pretty good story on the race, which you can watch at your leisure on Universal.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Veggie BQ

Huge congratulations to Matt, the No Meat Athlete. He not only got his Boston qualifier yesterday, but did it in style. Being a young fella, he needed a 3:10, which for Boston actually means 3:10:59. But No Meat obviously didn't want anything to do with those extra seconds. He aimed for 3:10, and he got it: 3:09:59. Classy!

Matt's quest was a great benefit to me during my training for Berlin. He was following the same FIRST program I was and his experiences and insights, always well-told on his blog, provided me much to think about when it came to my own running. Plus, I picked up several excellent recipes! Great job, Matt.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Berlin: An Elaboration

The weird thing was, I was neither nervous nor anxious in the days and hours leading up to the Berlin Marathon. I slept poorly the night before the race, but not because I was worried about whether I’d do well, or about the conditions I might face. It was excitement that kept my mind churning until 2 a.m. Finally, I’d run ready and rested. Finally, I'd discover what I was capable of doing.

There was also the fact of what this marathon wasn’t: an Ironman triathlon. I can’t emphasize enough how daunting the details of Ironman are for me. This past June at my second go-round at Coeur d’Alene, experience and checklists together couldn’t keep me from spiraling into exhaustion as I pondered clothing, equipment, nutrition and hydration possibilities, fretted about forgetting things and wondered how weather might derail me. Logistics are not my strong suit and maybe Ironman doesn’t actually punish every miscue, but its complexity and length make it less forgiving than marathon.

Sweet, simple marathon: a run from here to there.

Plus, there was my buddy Steve, running his first marathon on brave but short training. Sure I provided him insight and reassurance, but let’s be honest: When fear and uncertainty, that blood-sucking duo, entered the room they knew they had an easier mark than me. And there was this about Steve: As a longtime Berlin resident, he bestowed upon me advantages not common at a faraway marathon. I had a comfortable apartment to stay in instead of a hotel room, and keen local knowledge at the ready. I told him what time I thought we ought to arrive at the race site and he knew the train to get on and when.

* * *

I often wonder how much detail to include in these race reports. Do readers really want to know about the bowel movements? And indeed, I believe I just heard somebody mutter, “Dude, don’t go there.” Fair enough, but this is a real concern if you plan on running hard and don’t wish to spend time seeking refuge on the course. You want to make sure your business is completed. And the way things went for me on race morning in Berlin says a lot about the kind of day it would turn out to be.

A typical scenario for me is two visits to the toilet before leaving home, then a couple more to the porta-potties at the race site. These appointments might not always be productive, but they always feel—literally—necessary. Race morning in Berlin? There was one visit before leaving the apartment. That was it. Never even thought about needing to squat after that. As for the less grave but still potentially troublesome matter of finding a place to pee, that too was a non-issue. In Berlin, the procedure was: amble up to a bank of bushes or into a grove of trees in the sprawling greenery that is the Tiergarten, where the race began and finished, and let loose.

The race was set for 9 a.m. Around 8:30, I jogged a little and did a few striders, hit the bushes one last time, then lined up in the Group D block, for runners whose previous marathon times made a 3:00-3:15 effort within the realm of possibility. The starting line was a few hundred yards in front of me and the vast crowd behind me—more than 40,000 people were registered for the race—stretched down the Strasse des 17 Juni, toward the Branderburg Gate, for what could have been a kilometer. (Yes, a kilometer; for this marathon, in the heart of Europe, I adopted a metric mindset.) Somewhere back there was Steve, with a lot on the line—for himself, and for me.

* * *

The pretense of this blog was a head-to-head matchup with the great Haile Gebrselassie. At Berlin, I asked, could I beat my previous best marathon time by more than Geb could beat his? Geb’s best was the world record of 2:03:59, set in 2008 at Berlin; my best was 3:18:52, set at Boston in 2008. You could say my time presented me a tad more downside potential than Geb’s did him. If Geb could take even a minute off his world mark it would be an amazing achievement. Me, a minute would maybe put me in the front of the front of the middle of pack, instead of the middle of the front of the middle of the pack.

Really, though, my goal wasn’t even to run a minute, or three minutes or eight minutes faster. There wasn’t a number. Believe me, this claim sounds more ridiculous to me than it does to you, because there’s always been a number, or set of numbers. But as strange as my calm was before the race, equally odd was how slippery a numerical goal was proving to be. I wanted to beat my Boston time but that didn’t seem like enough. I thought I might wiggle below 3:10, but that would be a huge drop—hell, I’d gone from 3:49 in my first marathon to 3:41, then to 3:35, then to 3:24 before that Boston effort, then to 3:18. Meanwhile, I was not getting younger. At nearly 47 years old could I reasonably ask myself to run considerably faster than I did at 45?

A couple of factors said yes. First, there was the “10-year rule.” This is often attributed to Joe Henderson, but Henderson himself credits fellow runner and writer Joan Ullyot with saying, “No matter what your age when you start racing, you can expect about 10 years of improvement. That's how long it takes to learn the game.” (Ullyot got her own marathon PR at age 48, in her 12th year running the distance.) The other thing was, I actually trained to run this marathon. My earlier marathons had all come as by-products of triathlon training. True, that training was weighted toward running because running was what I liked and was good at, and I am not immune to the human tendency to favor that which I like and am good at. Still, that translated to just 30 miles of running a week, on average, with no thought given to tempo runs and long runs and track work, and how a good mix all of these types of training could push me toward my potential.

So this time around, in the two solid months of training post-Coeur d'Alene, I ran more miles than ever, hitting a three-week plateau of 60 per week. More importantly, my training was built around the FIRST program's aggressive pacing on three weekly core runs: tempo, track and long. As Berlin approached, I knew I was in the best running shape of my life. I'd done three 20-mile runs, the last at under 7:30 per mile. I rocked the Yasso 800s under 3:00. I was sure that with a good taper I could have gone out and smashed my PR by at least a couple of minutes.

My half-marathon PR, that is.

Lingering, still, was a sense that what had happened in most of my marathons could happen in Berlin: a dramatic fall-off in pace over the final few miles.

* * *

With 40,000 runners, you'd think the first few miles would be an obstacle course filled with skipping, swerving, jostling and leaping to get past slower runners and let faster ones by. Not so at Berlin. We had both sides of the Strasse des 17 Juni, plus the center median. Plenty of room as we headed toward the Siegassaule, the Victory Column. I was to the starting line just a little over two minutes after the gun sounded and hit the 1K sign 4:36 after crossing the starting line. It was then that I firmed up my squishy goal pace. I would aim for 4:30 kilometers. That would translate to a three-hour, 10-minute finishing time—but that really wasn't what I was thinking. Rather, my thought was that 4:30/kilometer was the right spot between manageable and ambitious, between going too easy and falling short of my potential and going too hard and blowing up. Between, you could say, fear and ambition.

I ran. I ran comfortably and with great pleasure. Berlin unfolded around me, a bit blurry in hindsight, but glorious, unique, historic, grand. I know there were gaps here and there, but it felt as though deep crowds lined the streets the entire way. The sound, it was like being on the coast at Mendocino, with voices punctuating the undulating roar, voices often shouting "Danmark," for I was among a clutch of Danes wearing their colors. At two spots, first down in Shoneberg, passing through the platz where Kennedy declared his allegiance to Berlin nearly a half-century ago, and later, damn, I can't remember where, before we got to the Kurfurstendamm, I know that, I remember hearing church bells folding into the crowd noise, and it all made me tingle and feel inspired and strong.

I had my Garmin 305 set to record a lap every kilometer. It got ahead of the course early on—to be expected, since the course was measured to be 42.195 kilometers at its absolute possible shortest route, and even my best efforts at running good tangents would take me away from that minimal path. So my kilometer splits came a few meters before each sign, at first, then several dozen meters, then a hundred meters … the gap gradually growing. But it didn't matter. I was getting a good read on my pace, and it was remaining consistently at or below 4:30/kilometer. I sped up to work my way around a group of runners, and slowed a little when I hit the aid stations—and, in a big change from my normal practice, I did hit nearly all of them.

In all my marathons before Berlin, I operated, I think, under the assumption that I needn't worry about fuel or hydration; after all, a marathon was so much shorter than a half-iron triathlon (let alone an Ironman). A few sips and nibbles here and there, I had always figured, would be enough to get me through. More careful study, however—of expert opinion and my own experience—inspired me to make a change at Berlin. I became convinced that, as with the rest of humanity, I had the glycogen stores to get me through 20 or so miles, but not 26.2; and that significant dehydration could and would slow me. Whether it was by 1 percent or 3 percent, I didn't want it to happen. So I would eat and I would drink. With the forecast for warm, sunny conditions—60F to start, and well into the 70s by noon—the task would be doubly important, and more difficult, but I was 100 percent behind the plan.

So nearing 5K—my first opportunity for water—I tore open one of the two gels I was carrying and began sucking it down. It was the usual chaos approaching the aid station but I did my best to check my blind spot and drift to the right side—barely slowing down, but avoiding cutting anyone off—to get a cup of water. A lot of it splashed away as I grabbed it from the table, but I pounded the two or three ounces that remained. That was another part of my fueling/hydration scheme: gulping instead of sipping. One of the worst things that can happen in a race is to be thirsty and to be drinking but to have liquid sloshing around in your stomach. Gulping, studies show, enhances absorption. It took me another kilometer or two to finish off the gel, by which time I was at the next aid station, which offered a Euro version of Gatorade called Basica. I grabbed a cup—and gulped.

I ran. It was never a problem maintaining the 4:30 pace over the first half of the course. If anything, I had to fight the urge to speed up. There was a 4:19 kilometer in there in the early going, and several under 4:30, particularly from 10k to 15k, which I ran at a 4:24 pace. I briefly, very briefly, flirted with the idea of rethinking my goal pace to 4:25, but sanity prevailed. I told myself that if I was really in such great shape, if I was really meant to run faster, well, I'd get my chance to prove it in the final 10k. For now, steady she goes.

I hit the half-marathon mark in 1:34:24—that's 4:28.5 per kilometer, just slightly faster than what I was aiming for. I was continuing to hit nearly every aid station, and had eaten my second gel after the 15k mark. Just before or after the half mark, I can't remember, I saw a Team Red Lizard singlet up ahead. I'm a member, though up until recently I hadn't acted like one. I surged ahead to chat with the guy, who I knew had run Boston in 3:13 and was hoping for something better in Berlin. I also knew, however, that he'd arrived from the West Coast on Friday, just two days before the race, which seemed ludicrous to me. I had arrived on Monday, and it took a good three days for the nine-time-zone dislocation to be neutralized. I don't know if it was jet leg that did him in or something else, but my Red Lizard compatriot didn't look or sound good, and after a brief chat I left him behind.

* * *

Here's what I thought about after the halfway point (when I thought about anything): If I run the final X number of kilometers at a five-minute pace, I'll still beat my PR—and every kilometer under five minutes means more time under my PR. This was wily thinking, a deft combination of optimism and pessimism: optimism in that it allowed for slowing but not blowing up (I just didn't think that was going to happen); pessimism in that it was mostly about avoiding disaster, instead of reaching beyond my grasp.

I kept up with the 4:30s through about 30k. Around there, the running, for the first time, began to feel like work. I wasn't suffering, but my legs began to gain some weight; it took more concentration, more effort to keep things humming along. And, in fact, I began to slow. Below are my splits for each 5k segment of the race, plus the final 2.2k (they couldn't make the marathon a nice, even 40k?). I'm quite proud of the consistency of the splits, but you can see that they do begin to fall off a bit:

5k: 22:36 (4:31/k)
10k: 22:37 (4:32/k)
15k: 22:03 (4:24/k)
20k: 22:18 (4:28/k)
25k: 22:32 (4:30/k)
30k: 22:45 (4:33/k)
35k: 22:48 (4:43/k)
40k: 22:52 (4:34/k)
End: 9:21 (4:15/k)

But I didn't panic. This was still good. Remember, ever kilometer under five minutes was now taking me even further under my PR. So I stayed cool, worked a little harder, and got closer to the end.

* * *

Late in the race, I never did any hard math on getting sub-3:10. I don't even remember when it occurred to me that I might have a shot. In fact, it may not have. I recall thinking it took a long time to get from 37k to 39k; I'd become confused somehow and thought the 37k sign was going to be 38k. When it wasn't, I felt like I was being asked to do an extra kilometer. I sagged ever so slightly, the only time all day. Finally, though, we made the turn off the Leipziger Strasse—there was the 40k aid station!—and were heading north, soon to meet Unter den Linden for the climatic straight through the Brandenburger Tor.

Forty kilometers. Shit, I said to myself: this thing is nearly over. There's no falling apart to fear now; there's no time to fall apart, not enough distance to go. There's no reason not to go hard. That's really what the final 2.2k was about. I wasn't chasing 3:10. No, I went hard because I'd trained my ass off for this race, thought about it endlessly, been knocked for a glorious, giddy loop by its grandeur and utter coolness, and now I had fuel in the tank and nothing to lose.

There was a patch of cobblestone along that final stretch that I didn't like, but I got through it. For a good while down along the way it was hard to tell where the damn finish line was, what with the Morgenpost banner and the Gate and then it was beyond there somewhere, somewhere. So I just kept going, running the final 2.2 at a 4:15/k pace, which is 6:50/mile, which is faster than half-marathon race pace for me and may not impress you or Geb but makes me feel really, really good. I didn't know that's what it would take to get 3:10, but it did, and I did it.

My time of 3:09:54 placed me 1,992nd out of 35,031 finishers, and 316st out of 4,992 finishers in the men 45-49 age group.

* * *

What's next? Well, being 40+ and sneaking in under 3:10 gets me into New York, and now that I've got check marks next to Boston and Berlin, I'm thinking I'd like to do the five marathon majors (London and Chicago are the other two). There'll be more races along the way, mostly running, probably some shorter-distance triathlons, too. But there will also be a lot of swim training, a hell of a lot of swim training. You see, my buddy Steve, well, the deal was that if he ran the marathon under five hours, I'd join him in attempting to swim the Strait of Gibraltar. Kooky, eh?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Berlin Is Done

What a city, what a race. There's much to say about the Berlin Marathon, but no time (or energy!) to do it justice now. I'll just note that on a very warm day I nailed my nutrition and hydration, got in a good groove and the kilometers seemed to sail by, well, not effortlessly, but in good order.


That's a PR by 8 minutes and 58 seconds.

And check this out: I ran nearly even splits on the front and back half of the race!

1st half: 1:34:24
2nd half: 1:35:30

More in a couple of days. Now, a Budweiser awaits (the real one, imported from Czech Republic).

My results are here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Marathon Eve

We walked around the neighborhood a bit, picking up some bread and cheese and a few other items at the Saturday Friedrichshain market, and hit a little T-shirt and tchotchkes joints to load up for folks back home. Now just hanging out and waiting. Let's get this race going! That's my attitude. It's going to be sunny and on the warm side, but with a 9 a.m. start I should be done before the temperature nudges too far into the 70s. Still don't know what the drink is they'll be offering at the aid stations. I'm going to carry two gels, even though I hate carrying anything in a race. I need to make sure I get some calories in me during the race. Here's one thing I'm incredibly excited about: running the streets of Berlin. It's an amazing city and the marathon will take me through, like, a dozen neighborhoods. We'll start near where Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down that wall, travel down Karl-Marx-Allee and pass the spot where Kennedy declared himself a Berliner, or a jelly donut, or something. Anyway, I'll run it hard and it will, I'm sure, be an experience I'll never forget.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Like This

Open the graphic in another window and you'll see that the Berlin Marathon richly deserves its reputation as flat. The one sustained climb is from the 12.2 mile mark to 16.9 miles—and that's from 121 feet elevation to 171 feet, an elevation gain of 50 feet over 4.7 miles. There may be heartbreak in Berlin, but it won't be a hill.

Just a Picture

Crossing the Broadway Bridge at Run Portland Run, Sept. 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

10K Fun

There was no good training reason to be getting up stupid-early this morning for a 10K. With Berlin two weeks away shouldn’t I be, I don’t know, not racing? But racing is what makes all this fun, so there I was, asking myself, “Already?” when the radio came on at 5:15, Liane Hansen talking to union guy Richard Trumka.

Run Portland Run was set for 7; I needed to be on Max at 6:09 for the ride downtown; thus, my out-the-door goal was 6. Coffee, some white rice I'd cooked the night before (sweetened with a little maple syrup), a couple of visits to the bathroom, a last check through my stuff and off I went, into the dark, into the rain and wind.

* * *

The skies were only spitting as I waited for the train but by the time I got off, a block from the race start/finish, it was a steady shower. First year for this race so the crowd was not huge, maybe 500 people divided among half marathon, 10k and 5k. (Turned out there were 456 finishers: 240 HM, 123 10K and 93 5K.) Most everyone was huddled under tents. I huddled, too, then when the rain let up a little decided I'd better warm up. It was about 25 ‘til 7. I took off my extra clothes and checked them and donned the trash bag that I had punched holes in the night before and brought along just in case.

I ran up closed-off Naito Parkway along the Willamette River. Under the Morrison Bridge on-ramp there was a good 25 yards under cover, perfect for some back-and-forth surges and other undefined loosening activities. Most excellent. Decently warmed up I made my way back to the start/finish area about 6:50, not sure exactly when the 10K would launch. It was really raining now. While I was making the second of what would be four, I think, visits to the toilet in the 45 minutes before the race they said the half marathon would go at 7 and the 10K 10 minutes later. So by 7 I was back under the tents with the 10K and 5K runners while the half marathon people gathered at the start, on the street. It pretty much stopped raining then, which was a good thing for the half marathoners, as the start was delayed 10 minutes "so the volunteers could get into place." I warmed up a little more, the half marathon people took off, we 10K types congregated, it was showering again, and then we were off.

Of course there were slow people who had placed themselves at the very front. Why, my fine running compatriots, why? I quickly made my way past those folks as two guys went way out front, followed several yards back by a group of three or four people, then a lone woman, then me. Nothing was hurting, legs felt fresh. The only thing bothering me was that my socks were soaked and I was running squishy. It made me feel awkward, almost slow, but I grew accustomed to it. Oh, I was wearing my Asics racing shoes. They provide a lot less cushion than the Gel-Cumulus but feel light and fast. I'll probably wear them for Berlin.

* * *

It was just some good comfortable hard running over the first flat, straight mile. When I'd looked at my Garmin about a half-mile into the race it said I was running a pace around 6:11, and I hit the Mile 1 sign at 6:13. My Garmin and the official signs were precisely aligned, too (at that point and at every mile marker, it turned out). We then made a small loop back around to begin heading onto the Broadway Bridge to cross the Willamette. A little climb into the strong, spitting wind. I realized then that most of the first mile, northbound, was run with a big southerly breeze at our backs and I started to worry about the wind we'd face on the return portion of this out-and-back. Of course, it's a strange sort of thing to worry about something like that in a race. It pops into your head and really doesn't stay for long, but it makes an impression; you sort of feel like it's ready to come back into full consciousness at any moment.

Onward over the bridge. I'd passed a bunch of laggard half marathoners and the 10K chick who had been in front of me, a shapely, somewhat short girl in black tights with a very compact, consistent stride. She then passed me as we hit the most substantial incline on the bridge and I was going to say something to her, something small and not too clever but not stupid about the bridge, or the wind, or the rain, but she was doing the iPod thing so I didn't. I passed her once more on the decline and that was that, never saw her again.

The Mile 2 marker seemed to come quickly, but it was a 6:46 split (putting me at 12:59 overall). A litle slow but the bridge climb and some other ups and downs ... that's OK, still good, I thought. I just kept cruising, feeling like I maybe could have been pushing just a little more but thinking—there it was, coming back to mind—about the return-direction wind and how I'd want to make sure I was strong for that. But it turned out I ran a solid third mile, 6:35 (19:33 overall), and just after rounding the turnaround I looked at my Garmin and saw 20:19. Well, I won't break 40 minutes, I thought, but maybe if I stay strong I can beat 41.

One thing that was really weird at this point was that I was running alone. There were some slow folks and walkers still coming from the other direction, but the two really fast 10K runners were way out in front, out of sight, and the other small group (two or three) of 10K runners in front of me was barely in view. I took a brief moment to consider the scenery as I passed the Mile 4 marker (6:36; 26:09 overall): industrial, lots of on-ramps and off-ramps to the nearby I-5 and 405 and the gigantic Fremont Bridge and smaller Broadway.

* * *

The Broadway was the one we came over and the one we'd go back over. It was a gentler climb up this eastern side and a steeper decline back down onto the west side of the river, which I tried to take advantage of with some longer and faster striding.

Not soon after coming off the bridge came the Mile 5 marker: 6:35 (32:43 overall), which seemed to be my midrace sweetspot, with miles 3, 4 and 5 in 6:35, 6:36 and 6:35.

OK, only 1.2 to go. I told myself: Push a bit. I wish there had been someone to chase, or someone bearing down on me. Still, I was able to crank up the effort a little. I didn't take it to the absolute red line, but brought it close, I think. It felt good. The effort was stressing the whole system, that whole crazy mysterious human machine, but everything was holding together.

We were going mostly into the wind, which gusted at times and made the barely spritzing rain seem more intense, but there was a stretch between some buildings during the sixth mile where the wind got turned around. Ah, yes, I said: I remember going into the wind on this short stretch as we headed out. But that didn't last long and the course emerged back onto Naito Parkway along the river fully exposed to the southerly gale. Pushing, I hit Mile 6 with a 6:18 split and a total time of 39:01. I was wishing the course wasn't so accurately marked and that the finish might come in one-tenth rather than two and I'd slip in under 40 minutes. No such luck. I gave it almost everything I had in that final straight. Almost, I say, since to give it all would mean, I don't know, that I'd be dead right now, or hospitalized, or at least resting comfortably on the couch with a little piece of tape covering the spot where the post-race IV had piped magic stuff into my veins.

There were timing mats in front of the start/finish archway itself, and behind it. I stopped my clock at that archway, looked down at the time, felt a nice wave of satisfaction, then, quite spent just then, walked carefully to the three volunteers sitting and clipping timing chips off finished racers. By the time I walked another 20 or 30 yards to the staging area to pick up my clothes bag I felt pretty well recovered. That surprised me, how quickly I stopped breathing hard. I grabbed a half of a bagel and a cup of water and strolled the block to the Max station. The train arrived a few minutes later and once on, I changed out of my wet shirt into a dry one, then relaxed and reviewed my splits on the Garmin during the 15 minute ride to the NE 60th Ave Station.

* * *

My official time was 40:17, a second faster than what I had myself at on the Garmin, which measured the course to be 6.22 miles. That’s a PR by 44 seconds, a nice drop of seven seconds per mile. What I liked even better—and I didn’t realize this until just now—was that I actually ran the second half of the race (19:59) faster than the first (20:18 I'm calling it, since I looked down at the time just after the turnaround). And to think: My first sub-20 5K was in August 2008—and now I ran the second half of a 10K under 20. That tells me my fitness is very much improved.

So whether it helped or hurt for Berlin—and given that I feel great right now, I can't see how it hurt—I had a blast running a good 10K course pretty damn hard. Even in the rain. I'd really like to point to one of these 10Ks, make it a focus race, train specifically for it physically and get in a mindset to try to kill it. If I did that, I have no doubt I'd get under 40 minutes.

Want data?
Official results.
My Garmin.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oaktown Runs

Oakland will put on a marathon next spring, which is very cool. A quick look at the rudimentary map revealed this week suggests it will be a course with some challenges, which got me thinking about the marketing considerations that go into drawing up a city marathon route. Obviously, organizers want to show off their community's best assets and the hills are certainly a large and beautiful part of Oakland. So it makes perfect sense that the course feature some significant ups and downs. At the same time, it has to be acknowledged that this will make the race less attractive to those runners (and there are many) in search of "flat and fast" for PR/PB and BQ purposes. The California International Marathon in Sacramento each December, for instance, has always leaned heavily on its runner-friendly elevation profile in promoting itself. And though I can't say definitively that it was a consideration when the Portland course was drawn up, I notice that my home-town race is pretty darn flat, despite the city's bumpy topography.

(And speaking of marketing, it would sure be nice if the Oakland Marathon made its map clickable to enlarge and put it on MapMyRun, GoogleEarth, etc. I mean, how hard could that be?)

UPDATE: Working with that lousy map, I drew the Oakland course on MapMyRun. It isn't perfect, as the fact that I was at 25.8 miles when I got to the apparent finish line attests. But it's very, very close, and captures the elevation profile damn well. Here's that profile (click to enlarge):

As you can see, that's a hefty bit of climbing in the first eight miles, from about 50 feet elevation at the start to some 600 feet around Mile 8. Especially noteworthy is the half-mile or so stretch just after Mile 5, where you climb maybe a couple hundred feet. Then comes the quad busting descent from Miles 9-13. Oh, yeah: Gonna be some fried quads on the second half of this marathon. All that said, the course looks like a blast. I bet I do it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lost: One Runner's Mojo

After Tuesday's awful 14, I walked a bit and then jogged very slowly for three miles on Wednesday. Today I headed out with very modest ambitions, intending to do 10 miles in 90 minutes or thereabouts. It turned out to be 10 in 1:25, and it was pretty bad. Leaden legs, no energy ... and I was totaled afterward. Showered, fell asleep, woke with a start, barely in time to go get The Lad from his OMSI class. Lydiard warns about too much intensity, especially without a massive base. Should have read Lydiard a long time ago. Shoulda.

Strange thing, though: As afternoon turned to evening, the fog in my head began to burn off. I noticed, heading down to the basement to fetch some laundry, that my legs didn't feel quite so whipped. Mojo returning? We'll see. Tomorrow another very light effort, a slow jog. Saturday, a walk to the farmers' market. Sunday, a 10K.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Geb Tweets

Obviously his recent embrace of Twitter is in response to this blog and the rising profile of his hated rival.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Embrace the Taper

A guy on Slowtwitch referenced the workout function on his Garmin 305 the other day. This got stuck somewhere in my brain and today, just before I took off on what was intended to be my last long hard run before Berlin, it resurfaced. In four years of owning a GPS I never had tried the workout function—why not test it out on a key run less than three weeks before the race you've been pointing to for months? Surely nothing bad could come of that. (Obviously I was channeling Homer Simpson.)

I entered "15 miles" for the distance and "7:30" for the pace. And off I went.

With no warm-up at all.

Having entered this workout into the Garmin, I had no choice—one does not defy the Garmin—but to adhere to it. Right from the start. So from my first step—did I mention there was no warm-up?—I was revving up to that 7:30 pace. Now, 7:30 pace is not super-crazy-stupid fast in my book. Hell, I just ran a one-hour time trail at 6:41 a few days ago.

But if there's one thing I've learned while training for Berlin—and isn't this ironic—it's the value of warming up. Why, just yesterday while snacking after my bike ride I was patting myself on the back for being such a good warmer-upper. "Kudos to you, Pete, for your most excellent training-run preparations!" I said, cracking open a pistachio and popping it into my mouth (this is foreshadowing; yes, indeed, more on those pistachios later!).

Today, no preparations! Why? Don't know. Off I went.

I hit it hard, going from cold to one mile in 7:22. Didn't feel great but figured I'd settle in. Next mile: Another 7:22. Felt tight. Felt like I was working way too hard.

Well, shit, I'm not going to detail the whole grisly, grim, gruesome (what is it about these words starting with gr?) death march. It was a bad run. I didn't warm up, went out way too fast (especially given that I hadn't warmed up) and every step of the way the run felt like it was unraveling, becoming less and less tenable, unsustainable. Not only did I fall off the prescribed pace—forgive me, Garmin—I didn't even do the full 15.

After zigging and looping and zagging around the wider neighborhood—going up and down a lot of small, brutal hills, apparently in some fit of masochism—I was near my house for the final two miles. And they became a final one mile. I hit 14, a block from home, and said enough. Enough of this.

Fourteen miles at 7:36. I asked myself, walking that last block home: "Could this happen at Berlin? Could I completely suck?" It could; you could. It's always possible. Usually, though, the Race Day effort is good. There's a warm-up.

Later, too, this occurred to me: A hard 20-miler 10 days ago. Yasso 800s under three minutes a couple days after that. And the aforementioned one-hour TT on top of that. A little heavy on the intensity of late? I'd say so. My new mantra: Embrace the taper.

And lastly, as promised, a word on pistachios: The 1 lb. bag at Trader's Joes, the "50% Less Salt" one? Don't eat the whole thing in 24 hours. Just don't.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

There's Always Next Year

It won't make a bit of difference for Berlin, but I'm absorbing the Arthur Lydiard principles these days, courtesy Keith Livingstone's Healthy Intelligent Training. What I'm learning makes me want to rewind the clock to late-June 2008 when I decided to re-up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. If only I'd spent the year leading up to IMCDA '09 building a huge aerobic running foundation instead of dicking around in swimming pools and in that blasted, neck-pain inducing aero position! Oh, well. The year after Berlin, I guess I can run my ass off then, Lydiard style, and get ready for … something.

Meanwhile, in the week just ended—the fourth-to-last week before the race—I took it really easy, except for that one-hour flight of fancy on Wednesday. This is my custom. Instead of a steady three-week taper, I like to do an easy fourth-to-last week to let the training sink in, then have a somewhat bigger week in order not to lose my edge, then taper full-on the final two weeks before the race.

Monday… 7.1 flat terrain, easy
Tuesday… 1 hour bike trainer
Wednesday… 12.3 (1-hour TT, 8.97 miles)
Thursday… 8.3 flat terrain, easy
Friday… 7.6 hills, easy
Saturday… 1 hour bike trainer
Sunday… 7 easy w/ hard last mile (5:50)
Total: 42.2 miles
Last four weeks: 208.3 miles

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Recovery

The name “recovery run” is misleading. It implies the run aids in repairing physical damage. As the kids say, I call bullshit on that. Recovery runs don’t clear lactic acid, nor do they help mend muscle tissue. Massage will do that. Maybe a swim. Maybe. But if you’re beat up from an intense run, more running is not the ticket to recovery.

A recovery run will, however, enhance fitness, according to Matt Fitzgerald. And in a very clever way:
[R]esearch has shown that when athletes begin a workout with energy-depleted muscle fibers and lingering muscle damage from previous training, the brain alters the muscle recruitment patterns used to produce movement. Essentially, the brain tries to avoid using the worn-out muscle fibers and instead involves fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions.

When your brain is forced out of its normal muscle recruitment patterns in this manner, it finds neuromuscular "shortcuts" that enable you to run more efficiently (using less energy at any given speed) in the future. [This] "pre-fatigued" running is sort of like a flash flood that forces you to alter your normal morning commute route. The detour seems a setback at first, but in searching for an alternative way to reach the office, you might find a faster way—or at least a way that's faster under conditions that negatively affect your normal route.
With FIRST there are no recovery runs, and I missed them—not for the physiological benefits (though when I did begin to add them back into the program I could tell they were making me fitter). No, what I missed about recovery runs was what they are not: not driven, not focused, not fast.

Yes, I love driven and focused and fast—but not all the time! Every five or six runs, I want to stumble out the door, study the cloud formations, talk to the neighbor’s cat, pull a weed from our stupid lawn and then slowly take off, doing nothing more mindful than picking my feet up and putting them down at a rate faster than a walk.

Today I wore the Garmin on my recovery run but didn’t look at it until I got home. Turned out an hour and 10 minutes had passed and I’d traveled 8.3 miles. What’s that, just a little under 8:30 pace? Whatever. Meanwhile, during this run I came up with a great idea for some new writing to do, didn’t curse at any drivers, by smiling induced a passing pedestrian to respond to my “hello” and marveled that the shorts worn by the young soccer players on the pitch in the middle of the Grant track are even bigger and baggier than ever. I thought to myself while doing a couple of laps: wear them on a backpacking trip and you don’t have to carry a tent.

But I digress (which is what happens on a recovery run).

* *

What I was recovering from: A tempo run. I think. Reading No Meat the other day I remembered that I had never done the longest of the prescribed FIRST tempo runs, a 10-miler at 7:15/mile. Since I was due for a tempo run, I thought I’d do that. But then I started thinking and wondered how a run at 7:15 is a tempo run for me.

Stay with me here: The definition pretty much everyone gives for a tempo run is "at or just a little faster than lactate threshold pace." OK. And lactate threshold pace is defined as that pace you can steadily maintain for one hour. That's generally said to be somewhere between your 10K and half-marathon race pace—or, better yet, around your 15K race pace (a distance rarely done, though I have in fact raced it). My 15K pace—from a race in October 2007, I'm surely faster now—was 6:58. So 7:15? I see why FIRST tells me to do a five-mile tempo run at 6:49. That's in the LT-pace ballpark. But just because the run is longer why would you do it slower? You’d still want to do it near LT, right? Or are they making it slower so you don’t kill yourself for your next workout?

Anyway, after pondering all this I got it in my head to run pretty much as hard as I could (sustainably) for an hour. Seemed to me that met the very definition of a tempo run.

I went out to the bike path along the Columbia River. It was a beautiful morning, heading into the 80s after a chilly, 51-degree dawn; beginning to feel just a little bit like fall here. Warmed up with a mile of jogging and two or three short sprints mixed. Then I was off.

Lord, I went out way too fast! My first half mile was in 3:02. Dialed it down slightly, but I think the damage was done. Splits:

1 - 6:11
2 - 6:29
3 - 6:34
4 - 6:48
5 - 6:49
6 - 6:54
7 - 6:57
8 - 6:49
9 - 6:25 (actual distance 0.97 miles; 6:37/mile pace)
Total: 8.97 miles in 1:00:00; average pace: 6:41

I didn't realize I was that close to nine miles in the hour. If I had, I'd have pushed and gotten it, though, I gotta say, I was already working hard.

It was nice to see that I could pull myself together over the last nearly two miles and turn the pace trend away from 7:00/mile.

One thing that would be very interesting would be to try this workout aiming to nail every mile at, say, 6:35. Could I maintain that for an hour? I bet I could—which would verify the efficacy of steady-pace running.

Anyway, it was fun. Hard. Which I why I did a recovery run the next day.