Saturday, April 26, 2008

kayry vs irunforbeer vs sparky heartrate data

I just learned something important - I'm different :-) (many have been telling me this for years - now I think I believe them). I was comparing heartrate data vs mileage for myself vs a couple other runners at Boston. Irunforbeer (John) ran Boston at 2:46 and Sparky ran Boston at 2:40 while I ran it at 2:42. Below is a comparison of our heartrate data normalized to try to take out the hill variables and also normalized to the average heartrate of the miles represented. The normalizing didn't work too well for the very hilly miles 16 thru 21 so I took that data out as well as a couple other outliers. (click on graph to make it bigger).

I find this to reveal a very important flaw in my marathon pace strategy for the last 4 marathons. Unlike irunforbeer and sparky - I speed up as the race goes on as I try to maintain the same heartrate while they in contrast would slow down if maintaining constant HR. I have end up failing at some point and dropping off the HR target for the last 4 marathons. At NYC I had to pull back my effort around 18, at Houston around 16, at Seabrook at 14 (a training run so I didn't push it that hard) and at Boston around 16. This now helps me understand why - I'm speeding up as the race goes on and eventually I get to a speed I can't handle. Next race I think I will try to ratchet down the heartrate target every 4 miles or so based on the slope of the data and see if I can keep the pace more constant to the end and avoid the dropping off target.

I thought I would look at this historical for my past marathons - all seem to give me the same indication - HR slows down with distance - I sure wish I'd connected this together before Boston.

I knew this before but I had always discounted it thinking a large carb load pre-race was causing it but both Boston and Seabrook I didn't do the large carb load yet same results. Live and learn - but now that I see this - it makes my race day strategy much different - no longer constant heartrate beginning to end - start at a target and notch the heartrate target down every 4 miles or so appears the more even paced strategy for me.

This also convinces me I'm not as fast as I thought - I thought I might be good for a 6mpm pace - if I had followed this declining HR target at Boston starting 165 and down 1 bpm per 4 miles I would have gone 2:27 faster (exactly 2:40:00 as it happens) - fueling/hydration may still have been a factor at Boston but now I'm thinking my race strategy had me pour to much effort into the race in the middle miles which cost me in the latter miles. At Houston using same target - I would have been 1:25 faster (2:39:21) I don't think I am quite 6 mpm ready for a marathon......yet.

Summary / Bottom Line Racing by heartrate is not as straightforward as I thought - can't just pick one heartrate and stick to it from beginning to end - can't even learn from others it would appear as there appears wide variation in how the ticker works between different runners. With constant effort being the objective (ie for a flat course - same pace every mile) - my heartrate goes down over the miles - for others - it goes up over the miles. I don't know why there is a difference and in the end I figure it doesn't really matter all that much - I just need to know how mine works if I'm going to use it as a tool in racing/training - which I am.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

112th Boston Marathon - 2008

Lots of good Pre-Race Stuff to report including great visits with the relatives:

The expo was great - I traded my Medium for a Large Jacket - much better fit, got a hat and coffee mug. Tried to pick up a wistle at the RT booth but there wasn't any there.

The Woman’s Olympic Trials race on Sunday was fun to watch but I couldn't find anyone from the RT Forum - I kept looking for people with wistles - but found no one. Happenned to have irunforbeer's (John) cell number so I gave him a call and visited with him a bit. This is the first marathon I've ever been to as a spectator - it was fun to watch especially at the T where you saw the runners coming and going 3 times each loop.

Race Morning - as I head to the Bus I pass the finishline and find this guy (sorry for picture quality) getting ready to RUN to the Start and then back with the race.

A brief pre-race visit with the Gang from Running Times - wish I had more time but I was running off to the start line right after the picture.

Minimal touring around Boston - wish there was more time to do that but it just wasn't a priority, weekend running around Wellesley’s college campus - much bigger than it appears from the road - I stayed with my cousin at Wellesley for Friday/Saturday nights - great time visiting.

PreRace I had a couple injury concerns - my knee started hurting out of the blue on a run on Saturday and I was a little worried about that with the hills - also in walking around Sat/Sunday I had some pain in my plantar fascittis - but once the gun went off - neither one of these sparked up even a little - typical taper phantom injuries.


Lined up in Corral 1 near the front watching the elites roam around. I find Lance – bright yellow shirt and keep an eye on him roaming around just behind the elites ahead of Corral 1. The gun goes off with Lance tucked just behind the elites with a camera man capturing him take his first steps. That camera man had apparently not been to the start of a marathon before as he stands there in the way with 14,000 people rushing at him after the elites and Lance take-off. I can still feel the pain on my left eyebrow as his camera strikes me while I’m trying to get around him. Next day it left a pretty good black eye - 1/2 inch different that camera would have hit my eyeball - that would been quite a way to finish Boston - to get a DNS just 5 feet from the startline - but it didn't happen. I imagine that camera man was probably trampled behind me. My interpretation of the event is Lance was worried about me and had the camera man take me out pre-race :o).

On the first downhill I roll past Lance and I never see him again although it seemed the whole race he was RIGHT behind me as I heard many many spectators yell out “Lance” so I figured he was within sight (or maybe I was just hearing things) – I started to wonder a little if he snuck by me as there were a couple bright yellow shirts off in the distance.

Race conditions overall were pretty good – a little on the warm side and a pretty constant headwind which probably cost a little time but overall probably 1-2 minutes lost from totally ideal conditions I would guess which is pretty close to ideal.

k; Split per BAA; Pace since Prior Split;Comment

5 0:17:47 5:43 A mostly downhill first 5k and ended about where I wanted to be. I ran down the first hill steep 5% grade hill ~5:20 pace which felt pretty comfortable, and rolled thru the hills after that maintaining my HR target ~163-164 which felt like a comfortable pace.

10 0:36:39 6:04 Crowds along the little towns from Hopkinton inbound are lined with screaming/encouraging people – MUCH more so than last year – the decent weather really brought them out today. Pace is still right about where I was expecting – running comfortable still maintaining my HR target.

15 0:55:34 6:05 More of the same – still feeling pretty relaxed.

20 1:14:22 6:03 Approaching Wellesley – screams are even louder this year and I could not resist all the hands sticking out for high fives…..I hit about every hand out there for a good several hundred yards – must have been a couple hundred high fives delivered….Wow can they scream.

21.1 1:18:20 5:49 Midway point – things still seem ok – I notice I am 9 seconds off my ½ marathon PR here – but there was significant elevation loss to this point from the beginning. Just after the half – my cousin Doug (lives 2 blocks off the marathon route in Wellesley) jumped in the race to run with me a while – last year he made it ~1/4 mile or so before jumping out – this year he got about ½ that as I’ve gotten a little faster. Appreciated the company and the poweraid we had pre-arranged for him to give me.

25 1:33:05 6:05 Still feeling OK although something seemed a little off – I seemed to be feeling a bit weaker than I would have expected at this point in the race – legs feel fine but towards the end of this 5k I’m just starting to feel low energy and find it a bit of a push to maintain my HR target.

30 1:53:08 6:27 This split has the first 2 of the 4 Newton Hills – it starts out with a big downhill which I cannot run down fast enough to maintain my Heartrate – so it ended up being a bit of a cardiovascular rest even though the body was flying down the hill. Before rising up the first hill I started taking down my 3rd Gel and I found my mouth so dry I couldn’t generate the saliva to get it out of my mouth – fortunately there was a water station pretty close but on a relatively cool race I don’t think I should have been dehydrated – something seemed off – I couldn’t maintain HR. I slowed the uphills and pushed the downhills as I’d been doing on all the rolling hills up to now – but up or down or flat – I couldn’t get the HR above 160.

35 2:13:55 6:41 This split has the final 2 of the 4 Newton Hills including Heartbreak Hill as well as the pass by Boston College and a bit of downhill at the end. I started looking at the mile splits and calculating what was needed to make 2:40….with each mile the pace needed to the end kept getting faster and faster to the point it was abundantly clear it was just not going to happen. I kept my focus one mile at a time and gave what I could muster to the next milemarker but I was feeling very weak and was struggling even to just maintain low 150 heartrate. Coming past Boston college I had a side stitch that stuck with me for a couple miles - I hardly ever get those - a sign to me of poor fueling/hydration.

40 2:34:09 6:31 At this point my mental words were a continual – come on – get to mile 22, come on – get to 23, etc… Pushing but without gas in the tank to get speed – but still pushing…..crowds were very loud – kinda annoying actually in my state of suffering – not really. Like last year I seemed to enjoy a little shut-eye as I ran some of these miles – the eyes just felt good closed.

42.2 2:42:27 6:05 (Finish) I get a boost from a couple cheering squads – my sister by the Citgo Sign around 1 mile to go and my wife and niece found a prime time spot about 50 yards from the finishline. They jumped and waved and made quite the excited commotion as only my wife can :-). I kept hearing the name Lance from the sideline and there was this Yellow Shirt just a few ahead of me so I thought maybe somehow he snuck by me – or he was right behind me ready to barrel past me – so I pushed this last mile trying to hold him off – and tried to chase down the Yellow Shirt – didn’t quite get him but if it was him I think I may have just beat him chip time as he started first ---- but it wasn’t him --- and I looked around to see if he was coming right behind me ---- no Lance……I think I beat him!!

Last Mile Cheering Squad:

Finishing photo with my wife:

Tons of great racing out there today….. A local lady in my running club got 2nd fastest Houstonian and 6th fastest Texan (way to go Shannon!!). I ran into irunforbeer after getting my bag and he had a GREAT race smashing his PR from 25+ years ago almost got the beer mug prize as he calls it (actually a Crystal Bowl awarded to the top 5 50-59 year olds) – turns out he got 6th in his age group missing it by 8 seconds :-(. Corina had a GREAT race scoring 4th place Masters for a cool $1500 – WOW!! Many got Sub-Lance as he surprisingly slowed a few minutes from his New York performance and turned in a respectable 2:50:xx (respectible now that I hear he ran only ONE long run in prep for this race).


Time: 2:42:27 (6:12 pace)
Course Record for me by 18 ½ minutes over last years Boston Race.
Overall 210 out of 21963 finishers
Gender 201 out of 13028 (Seeded ~250th so improved ~50)
Division (M 40-49) 33 out of 4644 (Seeded 45th so improved 12 places)
Texas – 1st place Master (>40 yrs old) and 2nd Overall of 766.
Texas Historical - Fastest Master time back as far as data is online (2001)
Houston Area – 1st Overall
vs Lance 1 win, 1 loss (he beat me by a mile in New York - I beat him by a mile in Boston)

Post Race Analysis - Opportunities for Improvement: Rewriten - 4/28 after a little more time to reflect.

Boston was a great race and this is not to deminish that - just things to improve on next time - not trying to berate my performance with these or flog myself or anything. I've got very positive feelings about the race as a whole and I don't believe in beating myself up over things after a race - in any 2-3 hour race there are always things that could have gone better - good to learn from - but they certainly don't make the race.

- Comparing Houston to Boston - I ran the first 16 miles harder at Boston - about 1-1.5 minutes I estimated off heartrate data - I think this cost me in the last 10 at Boston where I think I lost 2 minutes. Overall with better pacing I think I could have knocked 1-2 minutes faster - Sub2:40 was likely not available to me for the course conditions - cooler and no headwind maybe.
- Race strategy was flawed - for both Houston and Boston but at Boston I was a bit more stubborn sticking to it. Although I was trying for constant heartrate at both races (that was the flaw) - at Houston I seemed to gradually drop off that target from beginning to end (the correct strategy for me I now realize) - at Boston I was a bit more horseheaded in sticking to it - thus the 1 minute ahead of my Houston effort at mile 16.
- Fueling and Hydration probably was a factor too - I did feel pretty drained last 10 miles and side stitches and dry mouth make me think a little dehydrated from that life sucking orb the whole race. Might increase the pre-race fueling a bit more next time and focus on more hydrating during the race.
- PreRace Running in Sweats - heat treating got me I think about 1/2 the benefits I was looking for - I think it gave me about a 10 sec/mile boost which I think I had a 20 sec/mile boost at Seabrook and Houston - somewhat outside my control as I was limitted by Houston Weather and also Boston was not as cool as it could have been. Need more experimenting to really maximize this benefit and may consider getting a treadmill again to enable more controlled running temperatures during the taper (and the heat is back in Houston so might be useful for this too).
- Deplete/load - not sure I'll do this again - Still do the Load of course - but not sure I really believe much benefits from the deplete - don't plan it for my next race.

Path Forward: No forward plans at this point – I plan to do Anchorage Marathon in June as a “fun run” – not planning to really race at this point – and of course Houston ’09. But I’m not real fired up about training hard through the heat of Houston Summer so unless some must do challenge gets my radar locked to brave the summer heat I’ll probably cool it for a while and base build and maybe run a few local shorter races. I do not want to train like last summer with half the runs on the treadmill. Some relatives are trying to get me to sign up for Marine Corp but right now it just doesn’t seem to give me a thrill feeling .. but I’ll look up the entry info on it just in case – as I recall the window of opportunity to get into that race opens and closes real quick and may even already be past.

Thanks for Reading.

Race Photos

Thursday, April 17, 2008


The calm before the storm......

Fly out to Boston tomorrow to join the party - thought I'd just capture a few pre-race thoughts and look-backs over this last training cycle.

- I'm feeling a calm excitement - a little bit of nervousness mostly because I've got some really high expectations and have told so many that now I actually have to go deliver them or look the fool - but that is quenched a bit as my mind stays busy with all the final trip preparations I have to do today.

Training - all went as planned - no injury missed workouts - ran my fastest and highest mileage month in March. Have run 6 tune-up races setting 4 new PRs since Houston including a full marathon, half, 10k, 8k and 2 5k's. Racking up a bunch of Age Grade awards at races getting one in every race I've run this year (7) compared to 1 total last year out of 13 races (turkey trot) - I don't expect to get top 10 masters at Boston so that streak of awards is about to be broken. Put a little focus on speed last few weeks running a couple VO2max workouts, a 5k race and a 8k race - but otherwise most of the training focus has been on Tempo, Marathon Pace or Long Run type running. Only managed one hill workout - 14 miles up by Lake Conroe rolling hills - otherwise all my running was flat - I don't think that will cause me much problem on the hilly Boston course - I saw the hills last year and they weren't that big a deal.

Taper Strategy:
- 2 weeks and 1 day (because Boston Marathon is on a Monday).
- Cut weekly mileage by thirds - from ~70ish to 45-50ish to 25-30ish than race.
- increase intensity and run mostly MP mileage last week.
- Deplete Carbs for 12 of the days, Carb load for the last 3.

I don't really know if the depleting was necessary - I'm not really positively sure the long depleting didn't give me the extra boost at Houston - I think it was the heat thing - but just in case it was this deplete/load thing - I want to do everything EXACTLY the same as I did it for Houston - just in case - I don't see a downside so - why not.....and a couple pounds lost couldn't hurt either..

- Run in Sweats for days -5 thru -2 (started yesterday).

In trying to figure out why I ran so fast in Houston (faster by 5+ minutes than any shorter race would predict before although I've closed the gap to a couple minutes sinse that race) I experimented with a bunch of factors that were there at Houston to see if I could figure out what happen - I tried to repeat the deplete/load (shorter 4 days deplete/3load) and found I didn't run any faster. I stumbled by accident on running cold-hot-cold - in Houston the weather is quite variable as the seasons change so there happened to be cool weather followed by a warm/humid few days followed by a cold spell - and I found I ran same workout before and after the warm spell faster after the warm spell (15-20 seconds/mile faster) for the same heartrate. As it happens the weekend before Houston Marathon had one of these warms spells too. I experimented running in sweats for a few days before a training marathon run I did about a month ago and I was again able to create this extra speed boost for the same heartrate. So I'm trying it again for Boston ... if it works I should be sub2:40, maybe even sub6mpm - if not the race predictors don't give me better than 2:42 and change....but I think it's going to work.

Physically - I feel exactly as I would expect to feel. I've been depleting Carbs now for 12 days - tomorrow I switch to Carb loading - a little weakness is to be expected. No injuries but the expected minor typical taper twinges (phantom injuries that people freak out about during taper). Feeling physically in best condition ever. I think I'm maybe 4-5 minutes faster than I was in Houston.

Race Plan - I've got my paces planned for the first couple miles based on equal effort race to make 2:40 (5:15 pace down the first 0.6 mile 5% downhill grade, 6:30 pace up the little hill to 0.75 than a 5:50 pace down the gentle decline until mile 2) - after this I run by whatever my heartrate says I can hold - target 163 bpm with alarms at 161 and 165. My biggest challenge for any marathon comes between 16 and 20 miles on a marathon - a place I've consistantly suffered a mental lull of sorts that I back-off a bit - as it would happen for Boston - this lines right up with the Newton Hills to further tempt me to slow. That is where the race starts and the rubber meets the road. I plan to run the hills the opposite of last year. Last year I charged up the hills and lost time between them kinda recovering - this year I plan to go by constant heartrate which will slow me substantially going up the hills but leave me the energy to push the longer stretches between the hills. Once the hills are done - it's pour it on to the finish which whatever I've got left.

This is going to be a great race!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting Fired Up!!!! Boston 11 days away.

Some Exerpts from Race Reports and Other Posts from the Past - for a little mood setting.

Boston Marathon 2007:

First hill of 4 – for some reason it seemed all the hills had a pretty strong headwind - I attacked it much faster than pace I planed for hills. HR monitor started chirping at me for exceeding 165 bpm which was music to my ears - race plan had been to go to whatever felt ok after 16 miles and no longer be restrained by HR and the chirping meant I was pushing it to next level.

2nd hill was attacked much as the first - I passed A LOT of people on the hills (This Houston boy CAN run hills).

Attacked hill 3 then on to heartbreak hill.

Again attacked the hill passed a bunch of people with a big headwind.

From the top going down. The mental battles were intense. Finally what won out mostly was "this is the BOSTON MARATHON!!" with that no half efforts for any stretch allowed.

I stopped looking at the watch - and pushed with all I had.

My legs burned but all felt healthy. I kept plowing on.

Most all around me are slowing and I am passing people like crazy here. By the time I got to Citgo sign I had found the practice of closing my eyes very tempting - they felt so comfortable closed.

This was a tough mile but I didn't let up and kept on passing people enjoying my watch chirping at me, and enjoying the brief shuteyes.

There is the finish line less than a quarter mile away. I couldn't muster the all out sprint this time but pushed in with a very fast run still passing a few more. I managed to do the last ½ mile at 6 minute mile pace.


There was so much emotion at this point I nearly had to stop and cry in happiness.

Boston for me lived up to all anticipations and way more!!!!

Pre-Houston-08 Marathon

This will be a no stress race - local so logistics are easy. Staying the night at the host hotel about 100 yards from the start/finish. At this point I've never felt better going into a race which in itself kinda makes me nervous.

Race plan - I'm debating between a heartrate pacing strategy or a mile split pacing strategy. I'm leaning toward the heartrate strategy (Set the Garmin alarms at 162 low 166 high and stay between) but I'm a bit nervous about it because last couple weeks the pace at my typical MP target has been scary fast and I'm debating whether to trust it from the start and go for broke to get whatever time it will deliver or whether to ratchet it back for the first part.

I've resolved to not run a conservative race - this is a balls to the walls, controlled-all out, give it all I got, pass out at the finishline race - anything short just feels wrong

Go for lots of pain and suffering.

For the most part I want to squeeze every ounce of potential out and see what time that produces - but I do have a couple race time milestones I think would be neat to beat.

A) SubLance (A stretch goal 2:46:43 - 6:21.8 pace)
B) Sub2:50 (6:29.3 pace) - seems this should be do-able.

Houston Marathon

Wow - I am sitting in shock looking at 2:40:46 finish time.

I looked up to the finish - I saw the clock - it was ticking with a 2:40:xx - I was floored - I charged to the finish and took too steps past the finish and just had to yell out my excitement - I was in total shock.

And to top it all off - I'm pretty sure I WON the race for 40+ runners

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bellaire Trolley Run 5K

Call it insanity, maybe stupidity, maybe gutsy - I ran a 5k race yesterday - just 16 days before my goal race of the Boston Marathon. Why did I do this:

- Make-up for a bailed VO2max workout I attempted Wednesday but only made it 1/2 way thru.
- Get my 3rd race in the HARRA Spring Series so I can get ranked in the Runner of the Season competition (Were talking serious money - $60-$70 bucks for my likely 5th or 6th place in my age group :-) ).
- Knock out a sub17 5k - not sure when I'll be back to current fitness post Boston so I figured it would be months before I'd get another opportunity.
- Fine tune my mental toughness a little thru the pain of a 5k (extreme torture for a marathoner).

So I ran the race - got 16:55 (33 second PR!). Splits were 5:15, 5:24, 5:37 and a 4:56 pace for the final .13 per my Garmin. Got me 2nd place for my age group 12th overall and a cool little trolley music box that winds up and plays "I left my heart in San Fransisco".

So I got my sub-17, a good VO2max workout spending about 1.5 miles >93% maxHR - but most important - I did not get hurt - that was my biggest worry. I had some visions of at least matching my Houston Marathon VDOT - maybe even beating it by a bit - but I fell short of that as you can see from the PRs on the right - but quite frankly I'm glad I didn't push it harder as I really do need to save my legs for Boston. I have been convinced yet again the 5k race IS a torture session for a marathoner - but at least it's over with quick.

Thanks for Reading.