Monday, September 27, 2010

Thirteen Days: 21 Day Countdown to Portland

This is the third installment in my (21 Days) countdown to my next marathon in Portland on October 10, 2010.

I am now in full on taper. As Austin Powers would say, "Yeah Baby!" This last Saturday was the last (short) long run of any significance--a sixteen miler. Given my last few marathons, I definitely wanted to have a longer taper and wound up with what I'd call a modified three week taper. Two weeks prior to last April's Boston Marathon, I ran the same training route I was planning to run this last Saturday. Only difference with the Boston training run was that one was 20 miles, but they both were on a tough route. Given that I felt a bit over-trained and tired at Boston, I was not having any part of a 20 miler on a tough course two weeks away from my race.

My running plan called for 16 on one of the toughest routes our running group, Runner's Edge of the Rockies, takes on--in Parker, Colorado. We met up for the 6:30 AM start at Runner's Roost in Aurora and headed northeast and then south into the hilly Parker area. The final tally was over 1400' in elevation (gain and loss) so this wasn't exactly a pancake route. As coach Dave put it, races aren't run on crusher paths, so not only was this one hilly, but almost all of it was asphalt and concrete. Bring it on! Intending to "take it easy," I accomplished that on the way out, but probably ran it a bit too fast on the way back with a negative split. This training session, I have stuck to the heart rate training regiment, and also observed the long run rule of running roughly 45 seconds to a minute slower than marathon goal pace. Knowing that over-training can hurt you more than under-training and having over-training sickness in the past, I took the Parker run at a fairly modest pace averaging 8:34 overall with a modest heart rate average of 129 (six beats below my Zone 2 heart rate.) I've been called heartless before, but in this case, I'll take it (insert Rodney Dangerfield quip here.)

Others in my group probably thought something was a bit off with me as I headed in the last few miles because I couldn't help but have a smile on my face--I am officially in taper mode. While the taper drives others crazy, I LOVE the taper and view it as an accomplishment in and of itself. For Portland alone, I've logged over 586 training miles. While they don't hand out medals for that, I always take pride in getting through a training session. That's a lot of early alarm clocks, running in wicked heat. and running on many days when I really didn't have enough "battery squares" to pull it off.

What's up for me over the next thirteen days? Taking care of myself and getting rest is at the top of the list. After my latest "Tuesday before the race flu bug" at the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon, I am not taking any chances. Do I have some kind of psychosomatic race week issue (or is it race weak?) Am I a hypochondriac, or some self-inflicted munchausen mess? Whatever it is, it's "bit me in the butt" the last three out of four big races, so I'm taking my vitamins, avoiding alcohol (we'll see how that works,) drinking tea instead of coffee, getting rest, and going to shoot for some massage prior to next week's countdown. That and rubbing my lucky charm.

Tommorow is a tempo run leading up to a Saturday eight mile run. I can't remember the last time I only ran eight miles on a Saturday. Ahhh....savor the taper!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

21 Day Countdown: 19 Days Remaining

19 Day Update: (Follow-up to my Blog "21 Days" chronicling the 21 days winding down to my next race; the Portland Marathon on October 10, 2010.

Sunday was supposed to be
a light cross training day, but I took a rare day off. I was still recuperating from last Thursday's tough tempo run and knew that I had one more tough run to get through; Tuesday's track work. The training plan called for ten (yes, count them ten) Yasso 800's.* My option was to do track work with a group on Wednesday or go it alone on Tuesday. Wanting to "get it over with" and have a recovery day Wednesday before another tempo on Thursday, I did the "o dark thirty" track work this morning. You know it's early when the other runner on the track has his headlamp on.

Last night's "night before track work" meal was a combination of carbs and proteins with rosemary chicken, red potatoes and salad (with my wife's signature rice vinegar and olive oil dressing topped with roasted pine nuts)--YUM! That was the good part, the bad part (seemed like a good idea at the time) was opening the Wente Chardonnay. I can handle a couple beers the night before a training run (they're carbs after all aren't they?) but wine is not a runner's friend the morning after.

My stomach was off (and has been too much this training period) before the Yasso's and without the greatest night of sleep--this was a
tough one to muscle through. I managed a 3:08 average over the ten 800's (see detail on my DailyMile.) The picture at the left is after the eight miles of track work at our local high school with the Colorado sunrise coming up.

From what I understand Yassos are an indicator of what your marathon finish time should be although I think the half marathon formula is a bit more realistic. (See the Runner's World article on this topic.) Your 800 times simply translate to your marathon times in hours minutes. In my case this would mean I'm due to run a 3:08 marathon...yeah...right, and I'm "The most interesting man in the world!"

The prescription for the next 18 days is to get plenty of rest and avoid Mr. Wente.

*For those non-runners or beginners, an 800 is 800 meters or two full laps around a conventional track which is roughly 1/2 mile. For a 3:08 800, my mile pace would be 6:16.

Monday, September 20, 2010

21 Days

Twenty one is a beautiful number. The perfect hand in Vegas and the countdown number of days until my next race. I'll update the "21 Days" blog over the next three weeks as I prepare to run the Portland Marathon on October 10th.

I've tried the two week taper and the three week taper and I'm a fan of the three week taper. This topic alone generates quite a bit of debate over two vs. three weeks. The "taper" for those that aren't familiar with the marathon running term is that blissful period where most of the miles are "in the bank" from your roughly sixteen week training program and you wind down the miles to give your body a rest prior to the big race. While some aren't fond of the taper, I'm a big fan and view it as a reward that comes after approximately 500 training miles (kind of like ColdStone without the calories.)

I have what I'd call a "modified" three week taper since my last 20+ miler was last weekend. Yesterday's long run dropped down to a goal pace run of ten miles, and next Saturday will be sixteen. Sixteen is what I'd call a short long run or Army Intelligence (or pick your oxymoron.)

Yesterday's ten was in picturesque Golden, Colorado. Golden is the home of Coors Brewing Company which literally dominates yet blends in the foothills town of the small town of Golden. Our route was an out and back from Lion's Park and mirrored Clear Creek for the opening miles before running parallel to the Brewing company. Labeled as a goal pace run, it was actually a 5/4/1; five miles at a relaxed pace (Zone 1 Heart Rate,) four miles at goal pace, with a one mile cool-down. Given that I was running in the foothills area of Golden, it wasn't exactly flat and had 400+ of elevation gain and loss over the route. The middle four miles was what I was most focused on and finished with a 7:19 average pace, but better yet, maintained my heart rate in Zone's 2-3 (below 152.) The best part of the Golden run is dipping your legs in Clear Creek at the end of the run which is like nature's cold jacuzzi. Ahhh! 'Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.

This coming week has the bulk of my remaining 74 training miles with one last track training day (Yasso 800's) and the short long run on Saturday.

Prescription for the next three weeks. Rest the body, relax, and mentally prepare for Portland.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

By the Numbers

Sometimes I feel a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman—obsessed with numbers, frantically counting toothpicks on the floor and reciting stats about the number of plane accidents by various airlines with Qantas apparently being the safest among the bunch. Or put another way, how many miles I need to run this week, how many miles I’ve run in my current marathon training plan, and what my heart rate is at various paces, mph, hills vs. flats, etc. etc.

So here it is, “by the numbers.”


The number of training miles I’ve run since July of 2009 after my stress fracture injury. I had a five month layoff after a stress fracture I ran on in the Chicago Marathon in 2008.


The number of miles trained for a given marathon.


The approximate number of Shot Bloks or Goo shots I’ve done to get me through those 1956 miles.


Days, hours, minutes and seconds until the 115th running of the Boston Marathon in April 2011.


My “lactate threshold” heart rate limit as determined back in May. This is the “shit hits the fan” and “the wheels come off” heart rate I need to avoid in my next race. I’m due to get my VO2max study done again since I’ve been doing the heart rate training for the last four months, and I think my zones have improved. My daily runs are based on various heart rate zones depending on what the script is for the day/week as prescribed by my running coach.


The number of near misses by housewives driving urban assault vehicles and texting at the same time while not looking both ways for pedestrians on the sidewalk. The last one was last week and she clipped a car instead thanks to my "squirrel like" instincts and defensive running skills.


A sweet number at this stage of my training. The last 20+ mile run this last weekend. One of four 20+ runs this last training session. The last one is always the sweetest since you know that you’re in the proverbial “home stretch” in the training program.


The average number of weeks I put into a training plan for a given marathon. The exception this year was a modified five week plan to squeeze in the Steamboat Marathon training plan.


The number of weeks remaining in my current training program. It looks a lot better than the sixteen looked like twelve weeks ago. Also the number of marathons I will run in the last 12 month span (CIM, Boston, Steamboat and Portland.)


The number of toenails lost in the last twelve months. The first one was a goner before I ran the race (Sacramento.) My right big toenail was a tad too long and I meant to get clippers the night before, but forgot. Right big toenail—history. The second was in last month’s Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon. GTIS is a fast mountain downhill course combined with a PR time meant toes jamming into my shoes. My right second toe is longer than my big toe which I think means I’m supposed to be intelligant or I need to clip my nails before a long run or race.


My current PR in a marathon. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I want to break that number.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Garmin 110: A lighter Alternative

Was it divine intervention or intentional sabotage on my part that my old Garmin 205 finally died on me? Since I have begun my heart rate training, I have been "double fisting it" with a Garmin GPS on my left wrist and a Polar heart rate monitor on the right.

Just like the balloon pilot, when getting ready for a marathon or long run, the less ballast the better so wearing two watches didn’t seem very wise.

I have been polling twitterland and DailyMile peeps for advice on what’s the best combination GPS and heart rate monitor. I even spent time with the local Polar sales rep after a long run with my running club who had me close to breaking away from Garmin and the GPS world and going to a Polar foot pod.

I narrowed it down to the Garmin 405 and Garmin’s newest (and lightest) 110. While the 405 isn’t like wearing a laptop on your wrist (like my old 205,) it wasn’t quite as svelte as the new 110 and had “knocks” for departure from buttons and it’s flaky wireless connectivity. In addition to my electronic poll, I took at least two trips to the local running store (Boulder Running Company) to ask the experts. Considering the 110 was so new, I seemed to know as much as they did from my internet research, and knew more than the teenager who tried to read the box for me on my second trip (ahem…I coulda done that.)

The death of my 205 and an upcoming race (Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon) meant I had to act and went with the 110. With a month and over 100 miles on the new unit, here’s my conclusions;

1) They have trimmed out many of the 110’s predecessor’s features in terms of what you can view on the dial and what you can recall on the unit without going to GarminConnect. I knew this before buying and there is a fair amount of negative and mis-information about what Mr. 110 can and cannot do.
2) The top and bottom readings are not user settable. The top shows total mileage run (gotta have that,) and the bottom shows pace. Enter the controversy. The default setting calculates/estimates what your pace will be over one mile. The variable that most of us care about is how fast am I running right now. That’s what this is supposed to provide. Critics say it isn’t a “snapshot” of how fast you’re running but that calculation of where you will finish the lap. A GPS merely calculates speed by measuring how fast it takes you to get between two waypoints, so if you want a more accurate “snapshot” setting, you can go into the lap settings and lower to a 1/4 mile which was good enough for me although for a more accurate snapshot, I’d prefer if it could go down to 1/8 mile.
3) The main setting in the center of the dial toggles between heart rate (HR,) elapsed time, and clock via the page/menu button. During training, I have typically had it set in the HR mode.
4) Synching with the satellites. This is the biggest improvement I’ve seen in that once you turn the unit on, you’re locked in a matter of seconds. In the past with my 205, (especially if I’d traveled to another State) it could take minutes to find where I was at and found myself awkwardly tilting my Garmin arm towards where I thought the satellite was—kind of like trying to adjust an old television antenna.
5) Lap button. As mentioned above, you can set the autolap feature from a mile in ¼ mile increments down to .25 miles. You can also have it off and manually hit your lap buttons between intervals. You’d typically use this with speed or track work and it works like a charm. One of the other “knocks” is that you can’t view lap detail on the watch itself. You have to upload to GarminConnect. Not a big deal for me as I can wait to see the detail on the PC.
6) Uploading Data. While I’d signed up for GarminConnect (GC) before, I never used it with my 205. I used the PC version, “Training Center.” The older 205 uses a mini-USB port to upload data while the 110 has a funky clip that cloaks onto four contacts on the back of the unit—kinda like a dog bite. It works, but it doesn’t stand up like it does in the brochure so you just have to be a bit gentle with it as it wants to tip over.
7) GarminConnect. Having used “Training Center” for three years and being a creature of habit, I was reticent to learn new software, but have to say I’m pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use and how useful the data is. Before I’d have to somewhat manually correlate HR and pace, but GarminConnect does a great job of mapping out summary, timing, elevation, heart rate, map and laps. For those that bitch about the lack of detail you can pull right off the watch, there’s plenty here.
8) It’s a watch. While you would never wear a 205 for a watch, nor would the battery last, I’ve found myself wearing the 110 as a sports watch.
9) Heart rate strap. It’s similar to the Polar strap I’d been wearing before, but it’s a tad heavier. I have got used to it and even wore it in my last race (Georgetown Half.)
10) Cost? Considering the trimmed down features, you would expect it to be much cheaper than the $249 price tag (including HR strap,) but still $100 less than the 405.

Final verdict? If you understand what you’re getting and what you’re not, I’d have to give it four out of five medals and I've been happy with the purchase.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine