Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Houston Marathon - BACKPACK

Look what I found in the mail today! It's so cool. I was really thinking all I was getting from the Houston Marathon was the Prize Money but really I was hoping to have something more - some sort of momento of the seemingly miraculous event. Hopes realized - I just love this cool backpack - it's just like the one I carry to work every day with the laptop pocket and wheels but with the cool stuff written on it. I just LOVE IT!!! Thankyou Houston Marathon!

Kingwood resident keeps his running shoes on

Just after winning the Masters Crown in the Houston Marathon I sent a note to a sports editor at a newspaper who interviewed me once before after a Boston Marathon who at the time expressed interest in a follow-up down the road some time. This seemed like a great milestone for that follow-up. Turns out he has moved on so the email went to the general inbox of the newspaper and I didn’t hear anything back and I had about forgot about it when I get a call last week by a reporter at the local paper that they would like to do an article on me running Houston. A bit flattered I thought it would be nice and for that little paper having a Kingwood resident win the Master’s title seemed to be newsworthy.

Ok – so my wife and I met with Jennifer at a starbucks last Friday and I tell her about my marathon background and she goes and writes up a story. I was kinda expecting a "local guy wins master at houston marathon". The story is still nice and flattering but not quite what I was expecting with not even a mention of winning Houston Masters Crown. Well – the story is out now and I feel the need to add a few editorial corrections to set the record straight – not that hardly anyone would ever read this….the major lesson learned for me – ask/require to read a story BEFORE it is published just to at least get the facts right.

Kingwood resident keeps his running shoes on

No matter what the weather may be like - it could be torrential rain storms, fog, sleet or snow - Kingwood resident John Hill enjoys running in it.

Wow – I’m really something here - No – we in fact do not get sleet or snow in Kingwood – but I do enjoy running in the rain – as long as it’s warmer than about 60. I’ll do it colder but I don’t enjoy it.

Hill only started running about two years ago and has already completed two Chevron Houston Marathons, a Boston Marathon and the list goes on.

Who is this “Hill” guy – I’m John – and actually it's been about 2 1/2 yrs and it was 3 Houston’s – ’06,’07,'08.

“I first signed up for the Chevron Houston Marathon because I had it on my list of things to accomplish in life. I thought that once I completed the marathon, I would be done running marathons but I enjoyed it so much, I have not stopped yet,” said Hill.

Hill runs and blogs under the name “Kayry,” which stands for his daughter, Kaylee, and his son, Ryan, with his wife, Susan.

I’m sure this is not meant to be worded to mean that my wife runs (and blogs) with me – in fact she does not run with me – working out at the Y with weights and some treadmill is her thing - but not running - except to be my biggest cheerleader.

The father of two admitted he only trained for two weeks for the marathon but still finished the race with an impressive time of four and a half hours.

I think I said 2.5 months not 2 weeks but thinking back even that was a mistake – it was from beginning of October to mid-January so 3.5 months – but it was ~4 ½ hours.

Hill’s second marathon adventure took him to San Diego to compete, but unfortunately he came down with a sickness which did not allow him to finish the race.
“All of my family encouraged me to do another marathon and they were all there cheering me on, so it was a disappointment not to finish. That is when I decided I was not going to let this be the end of my marathon career and started to train even harder and finally qualified for the Boston Marathon,” Hill said.

Finally qualified – makes it sound like a long journey – actually it was the next Houston Marathon – with I started training for in September this year instead of October although now I would call what I did for that month of September basebuilding – but I did train harder – and got down to 3:10 – good enough by 5 minutes to go to Boston.

The next time around for the Chevron Houston Marathon, Hill trained properly, ate the right foods and increased his speed and endurance, which boosted his time up an hour, thus making the 2007- 2008 year a marathon year.

Hmmmm – not even sure what this paragraph means - right food – does that double quarter pounder and fries I just finished qualify :-). 2007 was definitely a marathon year – I think of the year as Houston ’07 to Houston ’08 – and it would be nice if I knocked off an hour (that would be just a minute behind Ryan Hall at the Olympic trials) – but it was only ½ an hour (3:10 to 2:40).

“Running marathons, at first I thought it was a phase, but it has become a lifestyle for me. I wanted to get faster and improve my time with each marathon and I plan of beating Lance Armstrong this year in the Boston Marathon,” Hill said.

The Boston Marathon will be held April 21 and the hilly course is 26 miles, 385 yards. The next Chevron Houston Marathon will not wind through the city until January 2009.

In addition to competing in marathons, Hill enjoys running with Kingwood Fit, a training program for walkers and runners designed with the goal of completing the Houston half or full marathon in mind.

“I have really surprised myself with how much speed I have gained with all of my training, but I still plan on improving my time and getting better and better,” Hill said.

What’s next? Hill plans to compete in a marathon in Alaska and compete in a half marathon at Texas A&M to prepare for the fast-approaching Boston Marathon.

Alaska will not be “compete” – if I even do it (I did sign up and most likely will) – it will be a very scenic 26.2 mile run through a very pretty part of the country which just so happens to line up exactly with a fishing trip I have up there the following week with a group including my Dad and brother.

“I do not know what is planned for the future after the Boston Marathon; I take it one race at a time. I hope I can encourage and inspire others to get involved with marathons because they are fun and will help keep you in shape,” Hill said.

It’s a bit of a stretch to put that within quotation marks as something I said verbatim – but I guess it’s all essentially true but not in a way I would say it.

Anyway – thank-you Jennifer for writing the article – not quite what I was expecting but still a nice article - Thanks again.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Armadillo Dash Race Report

The race – a closed loop course in College Station home of Texas A&M (Aggies). This is the 2nd annual running of this race and my first time there. The morning started driving out of my house around 4:15 and getting to the race around 6:30. Picked up my packet and went for a couple mile warm-up jog than hung around the start for the last 15 minutes until the 7:30 starting horn. Field size about 400 runners (mostly college students 1/2 my age).

Mile Split HR Comment
1 5:55 158 Target 5:50-6:00 – felt very easy – ended mile in 6th with front group of 4 and one straggler behind and then me. Started foggy (100% humid) but the sun was nearly done with burning it off.
2 5:46 170 Switched to HR here on out targeting 169 – no checking or watching splits – just HR. After first mile felt so easy I was kinda looking forward to the switch because I had a feeling there would be room to speed up – there was a little room – but not much – I knocked out the straggler but the group of 4 stayed together with me ~100 yards behind. Turned into the sun – sunglasses would have been nice.
3 5:50 170 One of the 4 dropped off the leader group and I ended up knocking him out – 4th place
4 5:49 171 One more of the front 3 dropped off the leader group and I knocked him out – 3rd place.
5 5:47 172 1st broke loose of 2nd and I started catching up to 2nd with 4th sticking close behind me. There was a goofy waterstop on a left turn on the right side of the street – I skipped the watershop and cut the tangent on the left side of the street and ended up passing 2nd going the long way around the turn and getting water. I think 4th got water too because he seemed to slip farther back – 2nd place with the leader still about 100 yards away.
6 5:51 170 1st place is slowly slipping ahead – keeping the miles in the HR zones. Doesn’t feel easy anymore – it’s definitely a push.
7 5:51 169 1st is slipping farther ahead – catching him seems pretty unlikely.
8 6:04 170 I wasn’t expecting any hills – I thought this was a pancake flat course – great – some practice for Boston on racing rolling hills. I ease up on the ups and push hard on the downs. I think this slowing on the uphills ended up giving 3rd place behind me some hope.
9 6:00 170 A few more rolling hills – 3rd place and I exchange positions a couple times – I’d go up hill and slow and he would pass me – than I’d speed down a hill and pass him back – eventually he passed me on a straight away and my HR was alarming high so I backed off a little and let him go. I’m 3rd.
10 6:08 168 Stayed pretty close to 2nd but slowly he was separating from me – rolling hills and the wind starting impacting the pace in places.
11 6:15 168 The wind picked up strong - running straight into it most of the mile. 2nd is looking harder and harder to get.
12 6:26 167 This whole mile was strong wind. I’m settled into a solid 3rd place.
13 5:53 168 Most of this mile the wind was crosswise.
13.1 0:29 170 Here’s my first glimps of my time – as I approach the finish I have no idea what to expect – for a moment I thought I saw 1:14:xx … then I got closer and saw the 1:17 click to 1:18…..ran it in for a finish time 1:18:11.

Race goal was to maintain 169 HR for the race – except a couple windy miles I was able to do this and taking first miles out the average was 169.5 so overall accomplished my goal for effort for the race. I think maybe at 60F I could have added a bpm or two to this goal - at 45F it would have been a more challenging goal.

3rd place got me a cool $50 which happens to equal the entry fee so except for a ½ tank of gas – I broke even on the race. At the awards ceremony they kept trying to give me more money. The called me up for 2nd ($100) but when I got up there I explained I got 3rd and told the who got 2nd – called him up on the stage and fixed the entry in the computer (chip didn’t register or something). So then they gave me 3rd and after I was getting ready to leave and they called me up again for 1st place Master ($50) – but when I got up there I told them I didn’t think I could win both – they agreed and fixed their computer rating and gave the Master prize to someone else – anyway I got a lot of stage time for my 3rd place.

This is a 4.5 minute PR for me. Except for Houston Marathon – this is my fastest equivalent race with a vdot of 59.9. Allowing adjustment figuring the wind/hills/humidity slowed me ~1.5 minutes – this race would be exactly in line with Houston – maybe slightly faster.

Deplete/Load Experiment – I don’t see a measurable improvement between my speed vs HR before the Deplete/Load and race day. So whatever happen at Houston to give a 10-15 second improvement vs pre-taper – I did not repeat today.

Graph below showing results of experiment compared to Houston - (I took out the windy and hilly miles). Armadillo points were right in line with my progressive run pre-deplete/load where Houston was still way faster - still wondering why. I may try the 10 day deplete instead of the 4 day in my next tune-up to see if that can replicate Houston's step change.

Thanks for reading – great race overall – only one Aggie beat me – 2nd place turned out to be a grad student on the schools tri-athlete team. 1st place was a drive up from Houston like me (it turns out I beat 4 minutes in Houston Marathon but he got me today). Next Race -- TBD - probably a 10k either Saturday if I feel recovered or the following Saturday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Armadillo Dash Half Marathon is Next

Armadillo Dash is coming up next Sunday. Based on last years results - depending on who shows up of course - I may have a shot at the Master's title and maybe even place in the race. This race is a tune-up race on the road to Boston.

Feeling fully recovered from Houston now and had a great run today. This was the first run I've had where it makes a 6 mpm Boston (if good weather - a big if) look within reach. 21 1/2 miles averageing 6:33 pace at a fairly low heartrate akin to a long run pace. It was very encouraging to see especially knowing there is still 9 weeks to go to get faster. I had planned to up the pace at the end to marathon pace but each time I tried I bonked and walked a little - that extra push just wasn't there today - so I settled down to the long run pace and finished up the run.

I plan to experiment a little with the carb deplete/load thing so after todays 20+ miler I started a minimum carb diet which I plan to keep until Thursday then switch to carbs. I'm currious to see if benefits for a 1/2 marathon - clearly it is meant to give endurance - but for Houston it seemed to give speed a well so we'll see Sunday whether it delivers. Race plan is to run by heartrate after a couple miles maintaining ~90-91% max HR.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Taper & Recovery Trends

The way I track my marathon potential time is by adjusting actual runs where I use a heartrate monitor by the slope of the typical progressive runs heartrate vs pace curve – to my target marathon pace heartrate of 164 bpm – the slope typically is about 3 seconds per bpm – so for example a 6:30 average pace at a 162 average heartrate would indicate marathon pace potential of 6:24 (2 bpm x 3 seconds/bpm = 6 seconds faster).

1. Pre-Taper/End Training – the three datapoints shown all came from progressive runs within a month prior to the marathon. Basically I draw a line thru the HR vs Pace data in the progressive run and where the line crosses 164 – I call that the marathon pace potential point. The last couple were done actually during the depletion part of my taper but at that point there did not seem to be any speed degradation from this depletion. 6:13 pace was the fastest data point. Weight prior to depletion was ~153ish.

2. End of Depletion - Towards the tail end of the depletion part (10 days of minimal Carbs in my diet) – my speed was suffering. I did a few short MP paced runs 7, 5 and 4 days out from the marathon and struggled to maintain a 7 minute per mile pace at MP heartrate. Lowest morning weight I saw toward the end of depletion was 147ish.

3. Start of Loading - Three days pre-race (Thursday) I switched to a minimum protein/fat diet and after a day of carbs went running in the evening – a very short workout with a 6:10 potential measured off just a few Marathon Paced miles. I did this run about 2 hours after a big dinner and think it would have been a bit faster later as digesting food has a way of adding a couple bpm to the heartrate.

4. Race –
First miles were run pretty much exactly at the heartrate target however started slower around 6:20 pace and gradually got faster to around 5:55 pace. I’ve seen this speeding up for first 10k or so in about every marathon I’ve run but I do NOT typically see this in training runs. I think what is going on here is pre-marathons I have always done a very large carb-loading in the final hours before the race and the body is still in digesting mode for the first 30 minutes or so of the race. I have been wondering if I can eliminate this morning loading and eliminate this slower first part of the race – but I’d hate to find the regret of running out of gas at the end of the race. I’m thinking about 20 seconds per mile is lost first 6 miles so ~2 minutes of opportunity if I can cut out the digesting energy expended. Right now I’m thinking I’ll take a measured step here and cut my pre-race load in half for Boston and see how that goes. Unfortunately I can think of no real way to experiment with this except in a race since the question is will I run out of gas at the end.

Middle Miles since I did run these miles way off the 164 – especially after mile 16 – I was able to compare a pretty good amount of data around 158 bpm to the 164 bpm and it looked like 3 bpm/second was a little high – so I only adjusted the theoretical pace about 2.5 seconds/bpm off 164 bpm. I have some doubts I could have maintained 164 the whole race had I pushed for it as the heartrate vs pace correlation really fell apart at the end – the last mile really has me scratching my head.

Last mile (actually ~1.5 miles) I had in my mind to push the heartrate up over 160 vs the high 150s I’d been running since mile 16ish. I ended up averaging about 161 bpm and from that somehow plowing out a monster 5:32 pace average over the last 1.5 miles. It was like the heart just wouldn’t beat any faster no matter how fast I wanted to run. I originally figured the buildings at the end were just screwing up the pace data that is based on GPS data so I went back and verified the distance from where the GPS data was good and measuring the distance off the map and the 5:32 pace is off my measurements – not the watch – although they happen to be pretty close – and the heartrate data looks steady – not bouncing around like it’s bad data – so I’m thinking the data quality is good. So corrected to the 164 bpm with 2.5 seconds/mile is where it is plotted at 5:26 mpm on the graph.

So this all leaves me thinking I cannot run at 164 bpm to the end because I would apparently be speeding up to 5:30 minutes per mile if I did basis that last mile – I’d like to believe I can do that – in fact thinking back on that last 1.5 miles – I didn’t know how fast I was running - it seemed to feel like I was running at a marathon pace – not Tempo or faster - while the miles prior where I was running in the high 150s had the feel akin to a long run pace which makes me wonder if I really can hold that increasing mile by mile pace to the end – but realistically – I just have trouble believing I can run that fast. Very interesting last data point on that race and it really has me scratching my head and wondering if maybe I can go that fast.

Btw – weight at the race was around 150ish as I’d added a few in the carb/hydrating 3 days up to the race.

Deplete/Load Benefit It is always hard to correlate individual variables but I can come up with nothing else that explains the ~6-7 minute drop in marathon time from the pre-taper data points and the race day capability. I've heard this deplete/load thing now called the Sultin Diet apprently created by a Cross Country Skiing Team back in the 70s although I haven't been able to locate any literature on it. I'm really currious why it works - I was thinking weight loss or maximizing the glycogin loading into the body's storage locations (muscles/liver) - but it still seems there is a missing piece as loading shouldn't in my mind give extra speed - just endurance - and I'm lighter now yet slower. I'm thinking it must somehow cause improved oxygen delivery - I wonder if red-bloodcell count somehow goes up during this depletion phase - I have read that some (illegal) drugs can do this and have similar impact in endurance sports to what I saw so I'm wondering if the deplete/load somehow does something similar. If anyone has any pointers to studies on this stuff I'm real interested in reading.

Letsrun response to this question

5. Recovery - I have been tracking recovery since the race. Up until yesterday (somewhat at the 5k) I have not really been pushing my workouts letting recovery happen but I still had a few workouts with the heartrate monitor hard enough that I could project my marathon pace. I was a bit surprised how slow it was at first but it is nice to see it coming back down to near where it was pre-taper. And should you think I got slower because I’ve been adding back the pounds – this morning I weighed in at 147ish – so even lighter than race day – but not near as fast.

Last nights run was a progressive run and it felt fantastic to push it to the end. I plan to really start ramping up the quality/quantity here on out getting ready for a faster Boston.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Bridgefest 5k Race Report

17:29.1 - that would be 1 second slower than my PR.

Pre-Race - Definately could not be described as in the "Zone". I had been fighting a bug all week - still running - but unable to put in anything but easy running. Even though I had set this race as a goal race in my 2008 goals - specifically - I wanted to win my age group - as it is THE local race of the year in my little suburb and I thought originally it would be neat to have a good performance on my home turf - but I really was not very psych'd up about the race with the bug and curriously it just seems like whatever the outcome - the recent marathon overshadowed the race so much - it just became not very important.

Ok - enough of the excuses/justifications etc.

During the warm-up before the race - I happened to notice a local competitor in my age group. Neat guy with story much like mine - ex high school runner who recently got back into running in his 40s and now is at or near the front in most races - focuses on shorter races up to 1/2 marathon and runs them faster than me - at about the predicted times I should run based on my recent Marathon - however I have yet to demonstrate that in a shorter race. He is not really so local - maybe 20 miles across town in another suburb. I finished 2nd to him in several races the prior year over in his neighborhood and I was a bit surprised to see him venture into mine - it seemed clear the master's title was not to be mine before the race even began - maybe I'd get lucky.

So I ran the race - I thought I'd start out with the lead group and see how their pace felt and let the race develop from there. When I glanced at my Garmin after about 1/2 mile and noticed sub5 minute pace - I knew I was a bit outclassed by this group - the local high school cross-country team, in its entirety, decided to run the race - and there are at least 1/2 dozen runner on the team that are pretty good. Anyway - the other guy I mentioned tried to stick with them and I decided to hit the breaks a little and try a more realistic pace.

Ended up running 5:26/5:45/5:49 miles - I could tell in the 2nd/3rd miles I wasn't running "hungry" - just to get it done - not passing or getting passed - just sorta cruzing. I had someone in front of me for the last 1/2 mile or so tempting me to take him down - but I just couldn't find the desire to do it. One guy did try to challenge me from behind and I ended up sprinting in to keep him back or he would have caught me.

Looking at the Garmin data - I'm not even sure I can call it a good VO2 max workout. Other 5k's I've run I've spent a solid 2 miles at >95% max heartrate - for this race - I didn't even get that high the whole race - indicator I didn't put down the hammer on this race. What I find particularly amazing was my final 1.5 miles of the marathon was a 5:30 pace - FASTER than this 5k performance.

Anyway - I did pull down the 2nd place master from the race. The other guy had a great race sticking within about 30 seconds of the lead at the finish - a 10 second PR for him (16:28 I think - faster than even my marathon time predicts I should do a 5k) which he clearly put everything into to get as he had to immediately get oxygen at the ambulance parked by the finish - even with the best performance I could dream of pulling out I couldn't have beat him - so the day was meant to be 2nd no matter my motivation. And I just cannot see pushing a 5k hard enough to end up need oxygen - maybe a marathon - but a 5k just doesn't mean that much to me (he was fine after a few minutes btw).

The race a good workout to kickstart the training cycle going to Boston. Time to start running hard again. 11 weeks to go!!