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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Half Marathon

I don't post much about my own running. There are plenty of training blogs out there, somw quite good, but I really don't like writing about myself all the time. Still, I find being a competitor part and parcel of being a superfan, so from time to time I put something up about what I do.

A long struggle with achilles tendonitis took out four months of training last summer, and I've only been myself since about Christmas or so. If I had the time, I'd try to get a qualifier for New York (1:25 half or 2:55 full marathon gets you guaranteed entry) so I could go see the men's Olympic Trials. But that just isn't going to happen by the cutoff date, so instead I'm shooting for Boston and the women's OT. I'm going to make an attempt at sub-3:15 in Cleveland's late-May race.

Today was a major checkpoint on progress. One of the annual rites of spring for the decently serious road racers in northwest Ohio is Churchill's half marathon. Sponsored by a local grocery store chain, this was its 40th annual running. The location has changed quite a bit over the years, and now it's held on rural roads and a rail-trail literally just outside the encroachment of suburbia. Considering its date and location, this race has a reputation of being a tremendously windy affair. But today we had only 15 mph winds with temperatures in the high 30s and some actual sunshine (a rarity in these parts for half the year).

I figured if I couldn't run under 1:35 today, I wasn't far enough along to have any real chance at a 3:15 in Cleveland, but if I could do sub-1:32 I'd be set. So my goal was trying for 7:00 miles and then see what happened. My training has been based around trying to rebuild some endurance, shooting for a total of 10 hours of running per week, and the fastest running I've done is a weekly 45 minute high-end aerobic run, what Arthur Lydiard would have called "3/4 effort". In December this was barely 8:30 mile pace; last Monday it was down to 7:30 pace. So this was tricky; I really had no idea what 7-minute miles felt like, and I was fairly apprehensive about being able to pull it off.

I made my usual mistake. I went out much too fast. I hit the first mile in 6:26, and knew I had to back off. The next mile, partly into the wind, was 6:50. I started talking to another runner, and we worked together for a while. The next miles were 6:51, 6:52, 6:47 and 6:41. Even though I was running pretty well, I could feel that I was pushing it just a bit beyond what I'd be able to keep up. So I let off, and dropped back to 7:25.

That was way too slow. I tried to pick it up, but things just weren't working too well. And then someone tried to pass me. I responded in a way I've almost never done before--I got mad and tried to physically punish the guy. I wanted to make him hurt for having the audacity to even try. I worked the next two miles pretty hard, dropped him, and punched it back up to 7:05 and 7:06.

At this point we turned a corner and most of the remaining 4.1 miles were directly into the wind. Since I live and train in an area so windy it's sometimes called "Blowing Green", the wind is my time to make hay. Its effect on me is slight compared to most other runners. When another runner tried to pull into my slipstream, I surged hard for a hundred yards in order to drop him, and the tenth mile went by in 7:04.

Shortly after that, reality set in, and I paid dearly for the early fast miles. It seemed like half of Brooklyn went streaming past me (actually only about 8 runners) and the final 5k took 24:12, or just over 7:45 per mile. I picked another fight with another passing runner a half-mile from the finish with the exact same result as all the others--defeat. After the finish I was sure I had a blister the size of a silver dollar on my left foot, but it turned out to be smaller than a dime.

Final result: 1:33:21. The Portugese tables say this is worth 3:17:11. And I know I could have run faster than this, I just ran stupid. So I think I'm going to be able to pull it off in May.

Furthermore, I know what I need to do. The race showed me I still need more endurance, and I need to work on pacing and sustained fast running. This fits in nicely with a basic idea put forth by the oft-discussed internet coach Tinman: marathon-specific training should be based around two "big workouts" per week. Mine will be a) long repeats, totaling 8 to 12 miles, at marathon pace or a bit faster; and b) long runs of about 3 hours at a pace that becomes fairly challenging over the last few miles. I've got about 6 weeks left where I can push the training before I have to back off and rest up.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I think (who I assume is) Kevin Beck summed up the Daniels' thread on Tinman's message board perfectly when he said to Tinman-

"I think you'd gain a measure of relief by maintaining your passion for disseminating valuable training wisdom but shedding the genuinely paranoid ideas you have about some of distance running's most respected coaches."

I'll play devil's advocate here and turn the "optimum training" Tinman espouses on its head (hmmm, come to think of it I think he might have stole that from the "optimum vs. maximum" I heard somewhere else. Three hour runs will build endurance, but alternating with some shorter long runs at quicker paces might help too. As for the repeats, you probably know what I'm going to say before I say it: Working on your steady state by doing these as continuous runs, instead of taking breaks, might help build your aerobic system more, which makes running at race pace more comfortable (less anaerobic). Plenty of ways to skin a cat. I guess instead of two big workouts a week and lots of slow recovery (to make the big workouts possible), I like progressively working on the steady state all week long during conditioning.