Monday, January 14, 2008

Houston Marathon Part 2 of 4 - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (some from others - some from myself).

What was the indication that you COULD run this fast?

I had no indication whatsoever from any race or any training that I could run as fast as I ran yesterday. The fastest any race calculator predicted was 2:47ish and near all my race times aligned to that - 5k, 10k and 30k race performances all predicted 2:47ish. I had programmed into my thinking 164 bpm was my marathon heartrate no mater what the pace. At New York I ran to 164 bpm for about 18 miles and averaged 6:30ish then gave into weakness to give up 5+ minutes in the rest of the race. I went out thinking I'm going to do the same as NYC and push thru that mile 18 weakness - but yesterday the 164 bpm was 6:0X pace - I figured from training I had got maybe 10-15 seconds faster since NYC but I didn't think 20-25 seconds was in the cards - that was not available in ANY of my training runs - it was ONLY there on race day. Only thing I can think of was the taper delivered - I did a 2 week taper - not huge reduction in mileage - still several quality runs - and I went on a 10 day crash diet (minimal carbs - Atkins style) followed by a 3 day carb loading. Netted about 4-5 lbs reduction in weight by the time I raced and I think that gave me the extra speed - I think the rule of thumb is 1 lb = 2 seconds/mile so that seems to be the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

What was my training strategy leading up to this?

I stole shamelessly from what fast runners have done. Several 2:4x marathoners shared minimal emphasis on Speed Work - especially near the race which was counter to what I had been doing following Pfitz who puts the Speed training in the last 6 weeks before the race - I had over emphasized it leading up to New York in November so I figured I'd cut it out completely in training to Houston. All my race performance showed I had better performance at the shorter distances so I figured speed was good - I needed to work on strength and endurance - meaning Tempo/MP and Long runs. Most longruns or medium longruns were ended with ~5 miles at Marathon Pace. Someone asked me what training program I was using between New York and Houston and this was my response:

------------ Training plan 11/25
Training plan to Houston - I am mixing and matching everything and making quite the mishmash of training. Started with the Pfitz multi-marathon training plan - 10 wks between marathons - ramped thru the 3 week recovery period MUCH faster than it advised - as my legs felt I could add mileage. Gave up the day off - typically - making Monday's "Optional" and will probably do mostly as an easy lunch time run. Tailored to add some races I really want to do - two 30k's on 12/1 & 12/9 (first mostly MP pace, second racing). Added a couple miles to the long runs to max at 22. Then adding some fine-tuning type things - no HR Monitor - learning to run by "feel", perceptive queue's from Matt Fitzgerald's book (I get a message/theme per week to focus on to help improve running form - next week is "pounding ground" which is supposed to help me spring off the ground into the next step). Then changing some of the Strides to 400 Repeats - also to help running form - and adding a couple MP miles at the end of every LR/MLR. Also adding "Power Triad" strength training a couple/few times per week. Get all that .

That was the "plan" but than a little later I learned that many of the faster runners didn't do speed work - or so it seemed - so decided to cut out all the track workouts and whenever I got to a day with one of those workouts in the plan - I replaced it with a Tempo Workout or a Progressive Workout or a Marathon Pace workout instead. I did work on my form a bit although not as diligent as I planned - I got to the point where I looked for a certain feeling in my feet from the impact on the ground - if I could feel any impact in the heal area than I knew I was over striding and I would tilt forward a little to get the impact feeling back to the front of the foot. I did not do the "Power Triad" except once or twice - just never developed the habit. So in summary - dropped the Speed Work completely and focused on Marathon Pace and Tempo Pace and fast long runs.

What was my nutrition/fueling strategy?

For Nutrition during the Taper - I followed what I perceived to be the fat-pumpkin plan posted in a Sub3 thread on tapering. Two week taper with 10 days of minimal Carbs followed by 3 days of minimal Fat/Protien. Night before I had Italian Dinner at 6ish and no solid foods from there to the race. I also took multi-vitamin almost daily and airborne for the last couple days and race morning to avoid the after race sickness I sometimes get.

For the Morning I followed what I'll call the jwd1113(Wally) plan which I learned from him before Boston last year and have been doing for most every race. Morning I woke at 3am (T-4hours) and started downing UltraFuel - I made it thru about 250 g of carbs in that by about 5:00(T-2hours) and I could take no more - the plan was for 300 g + 2 power bars but I just could do no more so stopped at what I got. I also had a cup of coffee about T-45 minutes.

For the race I decided to "live off the course" a line from Waterdog66 - all prior races I had carried fluid with me but none on this race. I had Gatorade or Water at every station which seemed like every couple miles - I think the first couple I took Gatorade then all the remaining were water to help with the Gu. I took a Gu shots at 5,10,15 and double espresso Gu at 20 - someone mentioned the caffeine impact late in the race is better if you don't have in too regular before so I for the last couple days of carb loading I avoided Caffeine except my morning coffee on race day. I planned to do an Electrolyte S-Caps every 5 miles but only ended up taking one just before the race and none during. I also took a couple ibuprofen before the race to help with whatever pain would be coming.

How did the Taper go?

I did a 2 week taper - Mileage dropped from mid 70s typical prior month to mid-50s first week to mid 20s pre-race week. For the whole taper up until last few days I was "depleting" i.e. minimal carbs - I really think of it as dieting Atkin's style (I allowed post run chocolate milk after the hard runs) - all my runs were single digits except one 10 miler which I felt pretty weak by the end. I did two progressive workouts the first week and planned a Marathon Paced run but I bailed on the MP run when I was struggling to maintain 7 mpm pace. I did 3 more short MP runs the last week - first two were at the end of the depleting and were 7 mpm pace - than one after a days carb loading and the pace dropped to where I was used to seeing marathon pace - 6:15ish. Overall I netted about 4-5 lbs reduction from this ending the depletion ~147 - by race time I think I was up to ~150 with the carb loading/hydrating.

How do you feel after the race?

Other than shocked/amazed/in awe and all that. I actually feel surprisingly fresh. I ran 5 miles this morning and it was the easiest post marathon run I've ever had. After every previous marathon - if I ran the next day - it was more of a 2-3 mile shuffle - hardly could be called running - but today - I worked out a few sore spots on the Foam Roller then went for a run - went 5.4 miles at about 7:30 pace.

Do you feel like you gave it your all?

Actually I do not feel like I gave it my all. Around mile 16 I justified to myself a bit of a "settling" compromise. I had run the first 16 scary fast and even though I was looking at my heartrate and KNEW I had run at that EFFORT for at least that long at New York marathon - the pace I was flying scared me a little - although I resisted the temptation to think of a bombing at the end - it was still in the back of my mind. I had what felt like a slow mile (looking back it was 6:20) and after that "recovery" mile - a certain amount of strength returned. It helped a little that a couple people were bouncing ahead/behind/ahead/behind me as I was going thru the internal confusion of how fast to run (a lady going for her olympic qualify time and a guy pacing/helping her). Felling a little refreshed from the recovery mile - I started to push in a measured way - I didn't push it up to where I believed I could run (164 bpm) but settled for a Strong pace - if not Strongest - that mode pretty much continued for the last 10 miles - strong - but not strongest. So post race I look back on the last 10 miles a bit mixed - like I could have done better - a slight amount of regret at that - but combined with increased shock that I could do that well and still feel I had gas left in the tank. When I look at the data - in Boston my heartrate average was 162 and in Houston it was only 160 - I think I pushed harder for my 3:01:01 in Boston in April than I did for the 2:40:46 in Houston.

I've heard mixed reviews about using a heartrate monitor in a race - why did you?

I have not developed a good "feel" for the right pace to run. I still consider myself pretty new to the sport having only run my first marathon 2 years ago and basically got off the couch 30 lbs overweight just a few months prior to that. Every time I try to run by "feel" I find my tendency is to run slower - not believe I can run faster. The heartrate monitor reading gives me factual unbiased data that tells me - "yes you can run this fast". Without it - for me - when I try to "feel" - I seem to convince myself that a slower pace is the right pace for whatever reason.

That's all for now - Not sure what Part 3 will be but there will be one....


Joe Garland said...

Congrats. Very nice run, particularly so soon after NY. Welcome to the world of becoming obsessed with where you stand in your age-group.

You make a big point about having dropped "Speedwork." What speedwork are you talking about. Intervals? Repeats?

kayry said...

In training for NYCM - I started with Pfitzinger's 18 week 70 miles plan but early on found I wanted more challenging quality workouts so I started swapping the quality workouts for workouts I found is similar weeks away from the Daniels Elite plan. I didn't realize it at the time but Daniels workouts have more Speed work earlier than Pfitz (intervals at varying distances typically at 5k pace). In mixing the plans I ended up actually doing speed work both early per Daniels and then after a while I decided the Daniels workouts were too hard so switched back to just using Pfitz and so did the speed work the Pfitz crams into the last 6 weeks too. Overall I had around 35 miles at 5k pace during the cycle vs Pfitz I think has 6 workouts * 3 miles each so ~18 miles at 5k pace - so I did double the speed work vs the plan.

Result of this overfocus on speed I think was I peaked too early both physically and mentally.

For Houston - somewhere I recognized my error in focussing too much and figured endurance and strength were my key areas of focus anyway - so I cut out the intervals from the workout program.

So with the success of Houston I am left wondering if:

1) Speedwork should be before the strength/endurance work - as it happened to work out with my NYCM cycle getting the speed work than 10 weeks focused on MP/Tempo, OR

2) Speedwork is unnecessary.

I tend to think toward #1 but some lean toward #2.

Joe Garland said...

I tend to view Tempos as speedwork. My last time out, I pretty much followed Daniels and did many Tempos and Repeats, and not so many intervals. But you're finding what works for you, and I leave the training that led to the poor times of the past, including at the shorter distances, behind.

Your Houston time suggests that you've moved up into, say, AAA, and people at that level don't do 3 or 4 marathons a year if they want to do those marathons as well as they can. Plus doing lots of marathons will break you down over time. My suggestion is that in light of that you cut down on the number of marathons you do, to two a year. Give yourself the chance to train properly, 6 weeks of building a solid base and then 18 weeks of increasing the intensity (and as you've learned, sticking to one approach).

I am 51 and am limiting myself to one a year. I've only finished 2 so far, one at 27, one at 50, so I'm no expert, but that second one did get me an age-group award (3rd) in NY in 2006. For the Spring I'm focusing on shorter stuff with an eye towards getting a good base of miles before beginning my training for NY 2008.

Good luck.

kayry said...

Thanks for your comments - I do this for fun and of course getting faster is a big part of the fun.

I don't know what it means to move up to AAA.

I had considered running a couple/few more marathons before the heat comes to Houston but I think your advise to limit the number is good advise - don't think I'll limit to 2/year - but I do think 4 in a year may have been 1 too many. I do have my radar locked on a next race - put I'll put that into a new post.

Joe Garland said...

What I mean by AAA is that your not in the majors, but your performance has put you at a high level. So decide whether you want to do it for fun or whether you want to see how fast you can be if you focus. Nothing wrong with doing it for fun. I don't think one can run at a consistently high level when one runs too many marathons. 3 may be OK, see, Geb, but I tend to think 2 preferable, particularly now that you're 40. Up here in New York, the serious runners tend to do 2 at most, often Boston and New York.

Recover and then do some shorter races. Try to get your other times comparable to your marathon on a age-graded basis. Try to get the A-G up over 80% consistently across distances.