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Tag Archives: running

Other Places, Other Days

So, it’s been a while. About a year and a half to be exact. I’ve dabbled in the various forms of social media, and it now seems the time to get back to where it all started, blogging. I tend to get wordy, so it will be nice to stretch out beyond the restrictions of 140 characters. So what have I been up to?

– Music has always been an important part of my life, so I decided to start up a Tumblr for the main purpose of trying to post a song-a-day for an entire year. Today is day 132 and counting. (I also have a Spotify playlist I try to keep in sync)

– Working. Writing code from time to time. Exciting stuff.

– Beer. Budgetary restrictions put a damper on my pursuit of every buzzworthy craft beer release, so I have gotten slightly more serious about my homebrewing. I finally ditched the Mr. Beer kit and stepped up to a pretty nice five gallon setup, though I’m still doing primarily extract brewing. But I’ve been very happy with the results so far.

– Running. Something has to balance out the beer and the not-so-healthy foods that tend to go with it. Unfortunately, this was the first year since 2005 (when I ran my first marathon) that I did not run a marathon. So I’m stuck on 9. Need to at least get one more under my belt to reach a nice round number of 10. I did manage to get in a half though, the River Run back in September, and can proudly say I set a PR. It might have only been a 22 second improvement, but I’ll take what I can get these days.

So those are some of the things I’ve had going on. Obviously lots of other stuff has happened in the interim, such as my brother getting married, becoming an uncle (twice over), all the Cleveland sports teams continuing to lose, that sort of thing. Going to try to write these things more often going forward. If I forget, feel free to yell at me.

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2011 Cleveland Marathon recap

This past Sunday, I finally got a monkey off my back. After failing to best my marathon PR from the 2007 Akron Marathon in my last 3 attempts, I was finally able to break through and set a new PR at the 2011 Cleveland Marathon, my 9th full marathon. And I didn’t just squeak past it by a few seconds. I shaved 5 minutes and 37 seconds off of it. Finishing around 3:40 had been my goal when I started training, but I’ll be honest that I was feeling very negative all week between knee pain I was feeling and the forecast for cold and storms.

My strategy for the race was pretty simple. Start with the 3:40 pace group and try to hang with them as long as possible. This proved to be quite a challenge, particularly at the beginning of the race since the starting area and first mile were very cramped and about a half mile in, the pace group found a seam and surged forward and I was stuck behind slower runners and struggling the get through. Happens with almost every race, yet I still get frustrated every time. I really wish every race would institute starting corrals based on pace, which helps (but doesn’t eliminate) this problem. Anyways, I was able to catch up by the one mile mark, but we had logged over a 9:30 mile, which was well off our needed pace of 8:23. My knee was aching the first few miles, but it finally calmed down and I fell into a nice rhythm.

This was my first time sticking with a pace group, and now I have no idea why I don’t do this every race. While I’m not one for interacting with other runners during a race, it was nice to be around a consistent group and eavesdrop on various conversations. And the 3:40 pace group leaders (there ended up being 3 of them), were awesome. They offered a lot of advice and encouragement during the race, and would often take turns dropping back to help pickup some of the group that was falling behind. They focused on the girls in the group, as 3:40 is a Boston Marathon qualifying time for them, but that was fine by me. I hit the halfway point at 1:50:23 (a little off since I had to stop and grab my own water cup off the table at the stop right before the mark), so I was right on pace, though I have always run the 2nd half of my marathons slower than the first half. Every single time.

I got nervous a few times after getting held up at water stops and then starting back up and seeing the pacers way ahead, but each time I was able to kick in a little bit and catch up. Also, after the halfway point when we were heading out east on Euclid and then Chester, there were a number of times when I really started to slip and fell maybe 50 yards back of the group, but I surprised myself by being able to claw my way back even each time. The pacers were hitting their marks perfectly. I think after the first mile, we were no further off the overall pace by more than 15-20 seconds. Heading towards the lake along MLK, we were approaching the dreaded 20 mile mark, which is usually when things start to fall apart. But I was pounding the energy gels, and I honestly wasn’t feeling too bad. I was starting to have some chaffing issues, but luckily I found the lone medical tent and got some Vaseline (really, just one medical tent along the whole course? Other races have them almost every water stop). Once we hit the lake, the long trek back downtown began. The last time I ran Cleveland, this was the worst part of the race as we were fighting a nasty headwind. But surprisingly it was not bad this year, at least when I was out there.

When we hit mile 24, our group was starting to disperse. I imagine a few people had already gone ahead, but it seemed like quite a few were starting to fall behind. The pace leaders were taking turns falling back to encourage people to keep up, and I decided that now was my time to kick it in. Usually I “hit the wall” well before this point, but I was still feeling relatively good, besides my knee which was starting to bug me. I pulled ahead of the pace leaders, and that was the last time I saw them (though I wasn’t going that much faster, so I could still hear them for some time, pushing the others). It seemed to take forever to get back downtown, and the last mile felt like a maze, dodging down side streets. Once I hit E.9th, and the crowds, and the downhill, it was on. I went as fast as my legs would allow me, knowing I had a good chance of coming in under 3:40. I hit 26, turned the corner and stared down that finish line. Apparently my wife was right there with her friends, screaming for me, but I was so zoned in that I didn’t notice. I hit the finish and stopped my watch, which read 3:39:20. Mission accomplished. Finally.

My Garmin watch was a little off on it’s distance, but it shows the last 3 miles of the race were my 3 fastest miles, and I was running almost a 7:00 pace that last .2 of the race. So the 2nd half of the race I finished in 1:48:57, which is 1 minute and 26 seconds faster than my first half. I had finally achieved the coveted “negative splits” in a race. I thought it was only a myth (at least for me).

Not sure what to credit for my breakthrough. There are a number of things that probably helped to contribute:
– New training plan with heart-rate monitoring
– Sticking with pace group from the beginning of race
– Lots of energy gels (six!) during the race
– Lots of carbs in the days before the race

Whatever it was, it worked. So I’ll probably incorporate all of these in the training for my next marathon (which is TBD). Usually after marathons I claim they are my last. And after running my best one, it’s very tempting to say it was my last. But it was marathon #9. Being able to say I’ve run 10, a nice round number, sounds a lot better. So I’ll probably be back at it at some point. Looking forward to some down time and some shorter summer races.

Here are my stats from the race:

Chip Time: 3:39:20
Division Place (M, 30-34): 80th of 249
Gender Place: 469th of 1632
Overall Place: 568th of 2636
Pace: 8:22.0
Split10K: 0:52:13
Half: 1:50:23
Split30K: 2:36:19

Cleveland Marathon countdown

The 2011 Cleveland Marathon is just two days away, and it is hard to avoid being preoccupied with that knowledge. This will be my 9th marathon, but I still get as anxious as I did for #1. As is typical, I am dealing with some injury concerns which always seem to pop up during these last couple weeks of training. This time it’s a new one for me, a rather sharp pain at the back of my left knee. It just started a few weeks ago, but seems to be getting worse. Yesterday I lasted one minute on the treadmill before having to stop, though I was able to go outside (before the storms) and get in 30 minutes of running with bearable amounts of pain. Here’s to hoping it holds up for 26.2 miles on Sunday.

Hoping for a PR, as always. But those have been hard to come by the last few years for me. I did manage to set a new PR in the 5K last year, but my marathon PR is now nearing 4 years back. Here is a recap of my marathon history, with it’s progressions (and regressions):

– 2005 Akron Marathon- 4:07:49
– 2006 Flying Pig Marathon- 3:52:13
– 2006 Detroit Marathon- 3:49:18
– 2006 Philadelphia Marathon- 3:52:55
– 2007 Akron Marathon- 3:44:57 (PR)
– 2008 Cleveland Marathon- 3:54:30
– 2009 Akron Marathon- 4:14:03
– 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon- 3:50:32

Looks like I should have quit while I was ahead, after Akron in 2007.

Sunday’s strategy is to try to stick with the 3:40 pace group as long as possible and hang on to get in under 3:45 (or more specifically, 3:44:56). I have a tendency to go out too hard and flame out later in the race. Part of me thinks that I am going to flame out late in the race anyways, so why not bank some faster miles early on? But I am always told that is a bad idea, and my experience has pretty much proven that, though it’s still hard to resist the urge. The weather is looking pretty iffy, upper 50s/low 60s, but rain/storms? Would prefer to avoid the rain as I’ve already had one waterlogged Cleveland Marathon experience (2008).

Heading out to the expo in Euclid tomorrow morning, and then home to rest, deal with my anxiety, and eat a big bowl of spaghetti. Good luck to the other runners (particularly my wife Kristy who is running the half)!

Oh, and for those interested, here is a cool 4 minute time-lapse video from Cleveland.com of the marathon course.

Race Report: Shamrock 15k

A little late in putting this together since the race was last Sunday. But I spent the past week in Colorado Springs for work and did not get around to writing it, or doing much else. I ended up just logging one run during the week, and then a long run of 16 miles today, which did not go very well. My legs feel like mush, painful mush, at the moment. Hoping I am able to walk tomorrow. Thinking my spinning class is out of the question.

Anyways, last Sunday, March 5th, was the Shamrock 15k in Cuyahoga Falls. It is run by the Summit Athletic Running Club and this was the 3rd time I was running it. I am always hesitant to sign up for it because the weather this time of year is very unpredictable. Last year, it was sunny but cold. This year, no sun, still cold, and 4+ inches of snow the night before. Luckily the course was well cleared by the noon start time. The course is also the toughest race course I have ever run. You start off on a mostly downhill trend, going down into the valley, run flat for a mile or so, and then climb back out before flattening out for the last few miles. Looking at my mile split times, can you guess which mile has the worst hill I’ve ever encountered in a race?

Mile 1 – 7:32
Mile 2 – 7:38
Mile 3 – 7:29
Mile 4 – 7:36
Mile 5 – 8:55
Mile 6 – 7:53
Mile 7 – 8:04
Mile 8 – 7:32
Mile 9 – 7:26
Last .3 mi – 2:11

So, if you guessed mile 5, you’re a winner. No, it’s not a typo. I went from 7:36 to 8:55. That hill is so nasty. I ran the whole thing, but I might as well have been walking given how short my stride was. I feel sorry for anyone running the race for the first time and turning the corner and encountering this hill. It’s enough to make any runner’s jaw drop. Anyways, I made it over the hill and climbed up the next 2 miles after that and then logged my fastest mile in mile 9, which is always a good sign. In fact, after the first two miles, no one passed me except for a couple of guys running together, who I then overtook again (much to their surprise) in mile 8, and then I picked off a few more runners in the last mile. So I felt great, but when I crossed the finish line in 1:12:10, I couldn’t help but be disappointed as I missed my time from last year by 5 seconds.

Here’s how my results stacked up to the other runners:

– Men, 30-34: 6th of 16
– Overall: 55th of 231

Not sure if I will squeeze in any more spring races before the Cleveland Marathon on May 15th. Might look to do a 5k or 10k on one of my lighter long run weekends. I don’t really know of any other local 15k races, so it looks like I’ll have to wait another year to take a shot at my 15k PR.

Cleveland Marathon: January training update

This month I began my training routine for the Cleveland Marathon, which is on May 15th, 2011. It will be my ninth marathon and my first since last May’s Pittsburgh Marathon. My running seems to have plateaued a few years back (my marathon PR was Akron in 2007), so I continue to try new things to finally get over that hump, if it’s even possible at this point. In addition to running, I have started to mix in some spinning and yoga. I am also changing up my training plan and going with one of the Coach Jenny plans on the Cleveland Marathon website. The big change is to run based on effort (mainly with the help of a heart rate monitor), which has led to me running a lot slower so far than I usually do on my easy and long runs. Also, other than the long run, the other runs are based on time and not distance, which is a change from what I’m used to.

At the beginning of the month, I purchased a new electronic training partner, a Garmin FR60. It is not a GPS device, since I do a lot of indoor running, but rather it is a foot pod that tracks distance, a heart rate monitor, and the watch to capture & display all of the data. After going through a number of Nike+ iPod kits over the past few years, I wanted to try something else, and something that included a HR monitor. I am pretty happy with it so far. It’s simple to wirelessly transfer my run data from my watch to my computer and automatically upload it. And I can manually add in runs to Garmin’s website for when I forget my watch (which has already happened once). The Garmin site with all the data is a lot better than the Nike+ website.

So for January, I logged a disappointing 80.62 miles. I say disappointing because I did not keep up with all of the scheduled runs on my plan, including one week (when I was off attending a software developers conference) when I ran just once. My longest run was 10 miles, which I just did yesterday. No problems with anything so far, besides getting in all of my runs and trying to be consistent with my cross training (spinning & yoga). It’s just been a little tough to stick with my slower pace. But hopefully I will start seeing some improvements, and I am looking forward to getting into some tempo runs which start in a couple weeks.