Sunday, January 27, 2013

Continuing the Grind

Now that my first "official" event is out of the way, it's time to settle back into my normal training routine in preparation for the San Diego Half Marathon coming up in March.  This consists of four days of running, combined with cross-training at the gym.  My long runs will be no more than 16 miles, with my mid-week runs ranging from 5 to 10 miles.  I'm also trying to keep my nutrition under control, emphasizing protein and "good" carbs while limiting sugar and fatty foods (though I did have a "cheat" day on Friday that included an In-N-Out Double Double and fries).

Nothing real exciting or eventful during this week's training.  The weather was warmer than it's been for a while, which was nice.  Lots of other runners were out and about on Saturday, which is when I did the long run of the week (16 miles), and there's always a sense of community among us.  Also a little rivalry . . . no one likes getting passed (especially by the old guy, who is actually pretty spry).

I also signed up for a couple more events.  In May, just two weeks after the Orange County Marathon, I'll be running in a local event -- the Mojave Narrows Half Marathon in Apple Valley, California.  It's a small event, but the course runs literally right through my neighborhood.  About two miles of it are on a street that I regularly run during my training.  Since it's my home field, so to speak, I couldn't NOT sign up.  I'm also registered for the Long Beach Half Marathon in October.  Beyond that, I also plan on running the huge L.A. Marathon in March, 2014.  Long term, we'll probably stick to one marathon per year, with a bunch of half marathons and 10K's sprinkled in.

But first things first.

I'm really looking forward to the San Diego Half Marathon, and not just because it's in one of my favorite cities in the world.  The event has turned into a family affair, with my brother Bobby signing up for the half marathon and my wife Theresa hopping on board for the 5K.  Also, Bobby's girlfriend and my parents will be driving down to be our cheering section.  It will be fun running with my brother, though my greatest fear is that he'll roll out of bed the day of the race, scarf a couple Pop Tarts, throw on a pair of flip-flops, and then go out and whip my butt.  Don't know if I could handle the humiliation.

This week, I'm going to mix in a couple hill runs, since the San Diego course features a stretch of two miles where the elevation increases almost 300 feet.  I certainly don't want to be unprepared for that.

Recent Runs:
1/21/13:  5.1 miles, 51:30
1/22/13:  8.15 miles, 1:23:53
1/24/13:  5.06 miles, 47:45
1/26/13:  16.01 miles, 2:46:14

Countdown to My Next Event = 42 Days
San Diego Half Marathon
San Diego, Ca.
March 10, 2013

Countdown to the Orange County Marathon = 98 Days

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Ontario Mills 10K

Me with Christian Okoye, "The Nigerian Nightmare"
I'm definitely not a "morning person," so getting up at 4:15 to run a race isn't my idea of a great time.  But since the start time for the Ontario Mills 10K was 7:00, and the venue is 45 minutes from my house, and also since I wanted to have time for my breakfast (a banana and some Oikos Raspberry Yogurt) to run its course, I was up and out of bed well before sunrise.  This was a good thing, though, because according to all the advice and articles I've come across so far in my training, you want your body to be up to speed when the starting gun sounds.

Theresa and I arrived at Ontario Mills (a large outlet mall) at about 6:15, giving me time to warm up a little bit, down a mandarin orange GU Energy Gel, and even get my picture taken with the event host, former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye. 

Then it was race time.

I've heard from several experienced runners that race day excitement and adrenaline can potentially help trim as much as 30 seconds to a full minute per mile off of your normal training times.  This can actually be a problem in longer races like marathons because if you burn too much energy too soon, you're likely to "bonk" or "hit the wall" in the final stages.  That's something I'll have to keep an eye on down the road, but for a shorter event like a 10K (6.2 miles), I didn't think it would be a problem.  So my strategy was to run hard (not sprint, but go a little above my training pace) for the first half of the race, and then turn it on in the second half alternating full sprints with a slower pace when I needed to back off a little bit.

It worked.

Crossing the finish line.
Keeping track of my pace with my Garmin Forerunner watch, I saw that I was right around eight minutes per mile for the first two miles.  This was significantly faster than even my "pushing it" training pace, which is usually between 9:20 and 9:40.  Thing is, it didn't feel like I was working much harder than usual.  I think the adrenaline, along with the fact that when there are other runners around you the instinct is to keep up with the flow, helped me maintain a quicker speed for a longer time. 

At the halfway point, my total time was right around 25 minutes, which was well under my previous best for a 5K.  It looked like a PR for the 10K was well within my reach.  During the second half of the race, I kept with my strategy and stepped up the pace periodically.  I passed several runners, and still felt fresh . . . no fatigue in my legs, I wasn't out of breath.  It looked good.

With about half a mile to go, I got passed by a 14-year old kid who didn't even look like he was trying.  I think he was texting someone as he flew by me.  I was tempted to crank it up an pass him in return, but then I thought better of it.  He'd probably catch me again anyway, so I decided to cut my losses.

Wearing the finisher's medal with pride.
I crossed the finish line, and the time clock read "51:10."  I'd set a new personal record by a margin of almost five minutes.  Looks like the "race day adrenaline" theory is alive and well.  That time was good for 58th place overall (in a field of over 200), and 7th place in my age group. 

I am also very grateful to my wife Theresa and to my mom for being there at the finish line.  Having the support of my family makes the training runs easier, and it's great to be able to share in the excitement with them.  Plus, Mom treated us to breakfast after the race and who am I to say no to a free meal.

So now it's back to the training runs to get ready for the next event on my schedule, the San Diego Half Marathon.  At 13.1 miles, this race will be more of an endurance test than a speed test.  I've gone well beyond this distance in my training, so I know I can do it, but strategy, nutrition, and hydration will play a much greater role this time.

Man, this is fun.

Recent Runs:
1/15/13:  3.1 miles (5K), 27:48 PR
1/17/13:  6.2 miles (10K), 55:59 PR
1/19/13:  6.2 miles (Ontario Mills 10K), 51:10 PR

Countdown to My Next Event = 49 Days
San Diego Half Marathon
San Diego, Ca.
March 10, 2013

Countdown to the Orange County Marathon = 104 Days

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Running From a Mouse

With my first "official" event, the Ontario Mills 10K, coming up this weekend, I've backed off my training just a bit so I'm fresh on Saturday.  This process is called "tapering," and although it's not really necessary when preparing for a short race like a 10K, I figured it's better safe than sorry.  This way I'll be more prepared to step things up a little bit and go for a personal record.  My current PR in the 10K is 58:20, and when I did that I was more or less at cruising speed.  If I push the tempo during the second half on Saturday, there's a decent chance I'll lower my mark.

Speaking of PR's, just this past Sunday I set a new best in the half-marathon with a time of 2:16:29.  More importantly, I paced myself well enough so that I was able to turn it on down the stretch and the final mile was my fastest of the run.  Definitely a confidence-builder.  I'm signed up for the San Diego Half Marathon in March, so it feels good to have some success at that distance.

M-I-C . . .See all this cash?  K-E-Y . . . Why?  Because you'll pay it!
I have to vent just a little bit here.  As I mentioned last time, I was considering signing up for the Disneyland Half Marathon, which will take place on September 1st.  It seems fun, and the course goes right down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom (as well as the surrounding area of Anaheim).  Well, as is the case with most things related to Mickey and Minnie Moneybags, the registration fee was well above the norm, a whopping $205 (slightly less if you sign up early).  For that price, you get a t-shirt, a medal (if you finish), and a "goody bag."  No admission to the park for the rest of the day, heck, you probably even have to shell out twenty bucks for parking.  Keep in mind, this is for a half-marathon, not a full.  Just to give you a frame of reference, the entry fee for the Boston Marathon, the highest profile and most prestigious distance event on the planet, is $150.  So Mickey and Goofy can eat my dust.  Instead, I signed up for the Long Beach Half Marathon which takes place a couple weeks later.  The fee?  $79.

That's it for now, next time I'll have the play-by-play of the Ontario Mills 10K.  Can't wait!

Recent Runs:
1/9/13:  8 miles, 1:24:07
1/11/13:  3.1 miles (5K), 28:49
1/13/13:  13.1 miles (Half Marathon), 2:16:29 PR

Countdown to My Next Event = 5 Days
Ontario Mills 10K
Hosted by the Christian Okoye Foundation
Ontario, Ca.
January 19, 2013

Countdown to the Orange County Marathon = 110 Days

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Were There Penguins?

Against the advice of most every marathon training article I've read, and defying the general influence of common sense, I decided to take a shot at running a marathon this past Saturday.  It was not a sanctioned event, not an "official" marathon, just 26.2 miles around my neighborhood (it's a big neighborhood).  And let me tell you, that last 6.2 is a monster.  I thought my Garmin running watch was out of whack.  Not to mention my hamstrings.

Karnazes at the South Pole...
...and in 120-degree Death Valley.

Let me back up real quick and tell you what inspired me to go the distance in the midst of my training program.  I just finished reading a book entitled Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes, a guy who is a running freak by anyone's definition.  Karnazes has made a name for himself by running insane distances under even more insane conditions.  For example, he ran a marathon at the South Pole.  Who was passing out water (ice?) at the aid stations, penguins?  He's also run the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile ultramarathon in Death Valley (temperatures around 120F), several times..  This guy even participated in a 199-mile relay where every team consisted of twelve members who took turns running six-mile shifts.  Well, not every team.  Team Dean only had one member.  That would be Dean.

So after reading his book, I found myself thinking, "Only a 26.2 mile marathon?  Suddenly that doesn't seem like such a big deal."

The good news is that I made it through in one piece, even beating the goal of five hours I've set for myself in the Orange County Marathon coming up in May.  Saturday's time was 4:59:19.

So even though I now know I can do it, I'm not going that distance again until it's official.  Despite the Karnazes-inspired "go for it" moment, it really is pretty strenuous, especially the last stretch.  No need to overdo it at this point.

Another highlight of the week was setting a new personal record (PR) in the 5K, 27 minutes, 58 seconds.

As my scheduled events approach, I've already started looking at others in the future.  The Disneyland Half Marathon in September sounds fun, and if I run the Beach Cities Series (Orange County Marathon, Long Beach Marathon, and Surf City Marathon) I'd get a really cool bonus medal so I'm thinking about going for that.

But not the South Pole.  I'm crazy, but I'm not Karnazes-crazy.

Recent Runs:
1/1/13:  10 miles, 1:47:57
1/3/13:  3.1 miles (5K), 27:58 PR
1/5/13:  26.2 miles (Marathon), 4:59:19
1/8/13:  5.02 miles, 49:21

Countdown to My Next Event = 11 Days
Ontario Mills 10K
Hosted by the Christian Okoye Foundation
Ontario, Ca.
January 19, 2013

Countdown to the Orange County Marathon = 116 Days

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