Tag Archives: PR

Richmond 13.1: The Other 60 Percent

One week before the Nov. 14 American Family Fitness half marathon in Richmond, I went out for my regular Saturday group run. Since I was tapering, I kept it to ten miles at a moderate pace.

On Sunday I knew I was in trouble.

The run had taken more out of me than usual. I felt drained and weary, and did not bounce back the next day like I normally do. And this was after a week of cutting back. Since I was going to attempt a PR (new best time) in Richmond, this was not good. So – what to do?

Against every instinct, I decided to rest the entire week,  cancelling my Monday gym workout and Aikido class, and skipping the Tuesday night run. A short bike ride on Wednesday was all I allowed myself.

Resting? What a crazy idea!

Resting? What a crazy idea!

Finally, arriving in Richmond on Friday, I felt my energy returning. But was it enough to run 13.1 miles hard and fast? When I got tired, would I have the physical and mental fortitude to keep going and set that PR?

Then I came across an article about Jesse Itzler, an ultrarunner and entrepreneur who’d be considered an overachiever by 99.9 percent of the planet. Not Jesse; he decided he needed to “shake things up,” as he put it. So he hired a Navy SEAL to kick his butt for a month. In the winter.

You can read about that crazy month in his book, Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planetor go here for the CNBC interview. Along with ice water soaks and night runs, the SEAL gave him lots of advice, including this: “When your brain tells you you’re done, you’re only 40 percent done.”

Well, when a Navy SEAL says that, I believe him. Anyone who survives a year of that training, including the infamous Hell Week, ought to know. Could I use this little gem of wisdom to get me through the tough part of the race, when my brain would be strongly suggesting it wasn’t my day and how about we slow the hell down? I hoped so. Even tapping a little of that other 60 percent would be a plus.

Sure, *you* go ahead and tell this guy he's full of it. I dare you.

Sure, go ahead and tell this guy he’s full of it. I dare you. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Race morning was sunny and about 38 degrees, good conditions for a fast race. I warmed up with a jog of a mile or so, with some short sprints at the end. I felt ready to go and lined up near the front of the first wave to ensure I could get out of the gate and into stride quickly.

Anything under 1:33:49 would be a new personal best.

I’d decided on an unorthodox race strategy. Instead of trying to hold my target pace of 7:00 per mile for as long as possible, I would run sets of two miles at 7:10 and two at 6:50. I hoped the varied pace would keep my mind engaged and provide some recovery time at the slower pace.

The first four miles went exactly to plan – two at around 7:08, then two at 6:50. I didn’t recover as much as I hoped on miles 5 and 6, but I hit the 10K timing mat at 44:00, right on schedule.

Then we entered a park and began about two miles of gently rolling hills. I struggled to hold my pace and was breathing hard. With over six miles left, I felt fatigue set in, and the mental chatter changed accordingly:

Well, looks like a week off wasn’t quite long enough. What did you expect? You ran a 100K not long ago and it takes time to recover. How about we ease off a bit? Just not your day. No big deal, right?

Fortunately, I was prepared for it. I played the trump card.

Hah! We’ve only reached the 40 percent mark. Let’s press on and see what we have left, shall we?

With that, I relaxed, took some deep cleansing breaths, and pushed through the final inclines and out of the park.

Digging into the other 60 percent.

Digging into the other 60 percent.

The remaining five miles were by no means easy, but the worst was behind me. At mile 11, I surged to catch up to a couple of other runners and stuck with them, trying to match their stride and cadence. Together we hit the final half mile, a wide, sprint-inducing downhill packed with loud spectators on both sides. Richmond bills this event as “America’s Friendliest Marathon” and based on what I saw, I can’t disagree.

As we passed the cameras at mile 13, I looked at the finish line clock. 1:32! With a downhill-assisted 6:40 final mile, I finished in 1:32:43, a new personal best by over a minute!

Also taking part - daughter Tori (center) and Jess, her SO, finishing the 8K..

Family fitness! My daughter Tori (center) ran the 8K despite a bum foot. her SO Jess (right) also finished the 8K. Great job, ladies!

And even better, I’m feeling good again. Yesterday I ran ten snowy miles without any trouble, then went home and shoveled my driveway clear – twice. Guess what I was telling myself out there?

Mr. SEAL, wherever you are, thank you very much.

Yesterday's snowfall in Ann Arbor.

Yesterday’s snowfall in Ann Arbor. Thank goodness I have my energy back!

Improving by “Halves”: Lessons Learned from Dexter-Ann Arbor 2013

ASK ME TO DESCRIBE MY OUTLOOK ON LIFE IN ONE WORD, and I would answer, “Improvement”. New and/or better stuff is fascinating to me, and helping improve things is what I do for a living. Improving myself is certainly part of that. Something didn’t go well? Sure, I get bummed out. But next time will be better.

With that spirit in mind, I had a chat with coach Marie about my performance at the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon on June 2. My time of 1:35:48 was over a minute faster than last year’s time, but it was two minutes slower than April’s Martian half marathon time, which I’d hoped to beat. In particular I was worried about my falloff of energy in the second half of the race, making the final few miles a real struggle that included stopping at the water stations to catch my breath.

DXA2 2013 finish lineWe began with a review of the things I did well. My form is good, I’d put in the mileage needed, and my other races this year have been great. But things hadn’t gone according to plan. So was I just not up to the plan for this race, or was the plan itself not the best? We went over everything to find out. Here’s what I learned.

1. Get More Sleep, Get up Earlier

Looks like someone else needed more sleep, too.

Kudos to Team RWB, who raise money to support veterans returning from combat. (But it looks like someone else needed more sleep, too.)

I’d actually planned to go bed around 10 p.m. the night before. But for various reasons I don’t remember now (in other words: avoidable) I didn’t actually get to bed until after 11, and as always before a race, it took a while to wind down enough to sleep. Then I didn’t get out of bed until after 7 a.m. for an 8:30 race. This isn’t necessarily bad, unless it interferes with getting a good breakfast (see below). But why risk it? At Martian I was up at 6:00 so I had enough time to drive to Dearborn. I could have done it here, too.

2. Don’t Skimp on Fuel

It’s not easy for me to eat breakfast until I’ve been awake awhile, and even then I’m not usually hungry. So I often hold off. Not good on race day. By getting up only 90 minutes before the race, I shortened my breakfast window, which I reduced further by deciding to do my warmup run before I ate breakfast. And after all that, I had only a Cliff Bar. By contrast, I was up over two hours before Martian, and had more to eat beforehand. Small wonder I had more sustained energy for that race.

Run's over - back to the important stuff.

Run’s over – back to the important stuff.

I compounded the problem by not fueling enough during the run. The standard rule for race fueling is, “45 and 15” – consume something 45 minutes in, and every 15 minutes after that. This is adjustable to each particular runner, of course, but the basic idea is to keep blood sugar up. This meant I should have fueled with a Gu at about the halfway mark (which I did), then every two miles after that (which I didn’t). Combined with so little to eat before the start, plus a very ambitious pace (see below), a late-race crash was pretty inevitable.

3. Pace: Too Ambitious?

Michael (left) has just come off an injury and was happy to finish. There's another lesson learned.

Michael (left) has just come off an injury and was happy to finish. There’s another lesson learned.

Based on my Martian pace (7:09 average), and that for the past two years I’ve run faster at Dexter-Ann Arbor than at Martian, it seemed reasonable for me to try for a faster cruising pace (around 7:00) and another personal record (PR). This may have been expecting too much. Perhaps with more rest and better fueling I would have done better, but unless things went absolutely perfectly, I was setting myself up for disappointment. It may have been better to start with the Martian plan, then run harder at the end if I had the energy.

So there we have it – three areas to improve on for next time, which looks like the Crim 10 mile race in August. It’s close enough to a half marathon that the strategy will be basically the same. You can be sure I will improve my preparation. We’ll see how it translates into performance.

If I improve enough, maybe someday *I* can be up there next to the aardvark!

If I improve enough, maybe someday *I* can be up there next to the aardvark!

Doing the Hustle! A Hollywood Ending After All

The Holiday Hustle in Dexter each December is my favorite race because it has marked several milestones for me:

  • First race (2008)
  • First race under a 7:00 per mile pace (2010)
  • First age group award (2011), on my 50th birthday
Santa paces the way.

Santa paces the way.

So it seemed only natural that if I was going to make my goal of a 5K finish in under 20:00 before I turned 51, the Holiday Hustle would be that race.  And as fate (and the calendar) would have it, I’d been given a second chance, as the HH was just before my birthday this year. Only I wasn’t sure I was up to it. After a 20:28 in the 2011 race with an untied shoe (“No Hollywood Ending, but a Good Show”) I’d gotten as close as a 20:10 in my 2012 5K races, but my result on Thanksgiving Day was a discouraging 21:05 (a half-mile hill at the end didn’t help). So I made sure I had extra rest before the HH. No fast running that week, and plenty of sleep the night before.

See those perfectly placed flag lines? That was MY work, baby!

See those perfectly placed flag lines? That was MY work, baby!

I also volunteered to help set up; it took my mind off the race itself for a while. There was plenty of work to do even for a first-time volunteer like me, and while the process may have appeared somewhat chaotic, everyone was laid back, stuff was put where it needed to be, and everything was up and ready before the crowds arrived. I had plenty of time left to grab a light lunch and get warmed up; some light exercises and dynamic stretches, followed by an easy one-mile jog. Then just before the start, a few short sprints (“strides” in racing jargon) to get my heart rate up and prepare for a fast start, and a Gu energy gel to give me a little extra fuel.

Holiday Hustle Starting Line 2012

They’re off! Yours truly, front and center.

I got off to a good start; too good, in fact. Here my Garmin saved me. At the quarter-mile mark it showed me running at a 5:41 pace; thrilling, but not sustainable. I backed off a bit and hit the one-mile mark bang on target at 6:20. Then the real fun began.

The second mile of any 5K is challenging, with the energy of the first mile past and too soon to feel the adrenaline surge of the final stretch. This particular second mile threw in some uphill stretches for added effect. With my body going all out and breathing painful, my brain made some helpful suggestions: How good it would feel to slow down. You’ll never keep up this pace going uphill. Remember Thanksgiving? Nope, we ain’t got it today, let’s try for the goal next time. Two things kept me going; there was no “next time” in this case, and I knew that around the 2.25  mile mark, it would be mostly flat or downhill to the finish. So when the uphill part ended, I hit it for all I had and held on.

For over two years I’d fantasized about approaching the finish line of a 5K and seeing “19:xx” on the clock. I’d always pictured it as charging toward the line while the seconds ticked steadily away – 55, 56, 57,… – then lunging desperately across while the crowd lustily yelled at me to “beat that 20.” Checking my watch at the 3-mile mark, I knew there’d be no such drama – it was in the bag! – but that didn’t make seeing the “19” on the race clock any less sweet. I surged across the line and hit the stop button on my watch. It agreed with my official chip time of 19:48.

The proof! (19:51 is the gun time - I was a couple rows back, so my chip time is 19:48.)

The proof! The clock (left) says 19:51, which is is the gun time – I started a few rows back, so my actual start-to-finish (chip) time is 19:48.

After a recovery consisting of a short cooldown and a large peppermint mocha, I returned to the race area to confirm my time and collect my award. I was announced as the 50-54 age group winner at the ceremony, but the online results next day showed that another 50-year-old had run an 18:31. Kudos to whoever you are, Jeff Rothstein. You’re an inspiration to me to keep improving. Hope you enjoyed your time as much as I enjoyed mine.

Two "over 50" runners celebrating their award-winning races.

Me and a fellow PR Fitness runner, celebrating our award-winning race. (Michael won the 55-59 age group.)