Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Back then I was running barely above 1000 miles per year. I dreamed of one day being able to accumulate running miles to match the year. Much more so when several runners made their pledge to run 2000 miles in 2000. Well folks, that day has finally come. Today I ran eight, giving me 2007 miles for the current year. It is not an achievement in itself, but rather it is one running milestone that I can say I have reached.

The interesting thing about today's workout is that I have been plagued with strained abductors (probably strained them in the CIM) and have been hesitant to start speed work knowing how tender those suckers are. In fact, last week I attempted to run six 400s on, six 400 off. The "on" sections were ran at barely half-mary pace... and I was struggling. At the time, I chalked it off to having lost some fitness since the 'thon. AND to the sore hip-flexors.

Obviously, that work out did not bode well for my already published intent of running sub 3:10 in Boston. The thought of just maintaining fitness, and thereby scratching Boston as a GOAL marathon, started sounding as the plan to follow. As luck would have it, today was another BEAUTIFUL day in southern Cal and my three-mile warm up was rather enjoyable. Somehow I knew my legs were ready to be tested... and to break the already committed Boston training cycle... or not. Eight repeats of 1/4-mile with 90-seconds rest seemed reasonable. I aimed for anything under 90 secs, hoping for 88s. I run these repeats on a marked paved bike trail. This trail is fairly flat and rather straight; and it is relatively fast.

The first four would have me running into a ~10 mph wind. I motored on for my first repeat. Boom. 82.1 secs!!! WTF? Too fast. I am NOT going to be able to complete the work out. Second repeat: 84.3, much better but still too fast. Next one: Boom. 82.1, AGAIN - WTF? Have I lost sense of pace? Now, you have to consider that I am running against the wind so taking the wind out, I am 'running' them around 81, or so I think. I force myself to slow down on the next one. 86.7. Wow, this one felt slow. I rest for the 90 secs and change directions. I will be having a tailwind this time. Boom. 80.8!!! Either I am in much better shape than I thought or my watch is playing tricks on me (It's the wind stupid!). This one, incidentally, felt tough the last one hundred meters or so. Sixth repeat, 84.7 and I feel much, much better. Seventh one, and consciously trying to control the pace, comes in in 82.9. Damn. I am dumbfounded. Or just dumb. Last one is clocked in exactly 82.9 secs, just like the previous repeat. Wow. The runner's high is HIGH! I averaged 83.3 s/quarter, which translates to 82.8 s/400... I cooled down with three easy.

Interestingly, before this calendar year, the most I had ever ran was 1537 miles... and that was last year :-). My most successful marathon (before CIM) was Boston last year with an average mileage of 42.1 (I had ran faster 'thons but they were gravity aided). For CIM, I averaged 49.3. It is clear that volume makes one faster... but to what extent? It is also clear not everyone "responds" the same. My question is: what can 60 miles per week do for me?

I think one of the things I did wrong prior to 2005 was that any running I did was HARD. If I did an easy run, I would always try to speed up as I went along; IOW, I would race against myself. And I would often find myself injured. Now I do NOT run more than three quality runs per week. The other runs would be considered "junk" runs. But those junk miles have been proven to aid the aerobic process in the cellular level. What's more, they have helped me avoid injury... and that my friends makes "junk" miles be worth GOLD.

Finally some interesting numbers from my last 'thon.

Splitsville: 7:31, 7:29, 7:17, 7:08, 7:20, 7:22, 7:22, 7:30, 7:28, 7:08, 7:09, 7:23, 7:14, 7:14, 7:32, 7:21, 7:17, 7:24, 7:10, 7:19, 7:23, 7:18, 7:15, 7:13, 7:13, 7:07, 1:25

I don't remember where I read it, but this guy liked to 'analyze' the race in chunks of five-miles because he claimed 'true' even efforts should not spit out even splits; on the contrary, they should have some variance; he was a statistician and I am sure could explain it better than me. Here they are: 36:45, 36:50, 36:32, 36:31, 36:22... One word comes to mind: Amazing. Amazing how close they are.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, Hannukka, festivus, or whatever holiday you celebrate. And may you have a happy and successful new year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Right after the CIM, I went to Napa and Sonoma Counties. The drive, albeit short, was tiring. Got to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of Sunday's evening.

Next morning woke up quite sore and decided on three very, very easy.

After that I went wine tasting to three different wineries in Napa and one in Sonoma. Now, I am basically a beer kinda guy, but I do enjoy a glass of wine here and there. Surprisingly, my taste buds are leaning towards wine more and more.

A few years back I tried a rather inexpensive pinot noir by Castle Rock and really enjoyed it. I had forgotten all about it until I went to Florida early November. While there I saw it and bought a bottle. The flavors, even though from a different vintage, were all there, berries, prunes, caramel... AND I knew I had to get more of it, but how to get it back to Cal-ee-fornia... I figured I could find it here. BUT I was wrong, I could not find it anywhere.

So, being that Castle Rock is in Sonoma, I headed - with the help of my GPS - to the Castle Winery (as it was the only one that popped up on the system). But it was not the one I was looking for; it was a so-called boutique winery, meaning that they produced less than a 1000 cases, or so the guy said. I chatted with the fellow there and he stroke my ego by telling me that I seemed to know about wines, to what I responded: the only knowledge I have about wines, I learned in sideways - with a smile.

I then added how Miles hated Pinot Noir, and this fellow corrects me saying that it was Merlot. He then tells me that he read the book and that the movie left out a lot (as is often the case). He went on to explain that the reason Miles hated Merlot was that his ex-wife LOVED it. And I just went, AHHHH, that explains it (duh!). I enjoyed the conversation so much, I ended up buying a bottle of their syrah (which did not really taste like a syrah - it was too oaky)

And there it is... if you liked sideways and you wondered why Miles hated Merlot :-)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

2008 Agenda and Running Goals

I don't like to state goals too far in advance for fear of 'jinxing' them. In this case I will break with my protocol.

January 27 - Austin 3M Half - To break 1:30 and qualify for NYCM

February 3 - Superbowl 5K, Redondo Beach, CA - sub-19:15

March 16 - Rome Marathon - Training run, sub-3:30

** I found a terrific fare to Madrid (one week in Spain) and coming back from (one week in Italy) Rome in Lufthansa... $550!!!

April 21 - Boston Marathon - Sub-3:10

May 18 - Greenbay Marathon - Training Run, 3:30-3:35

September 6 - Marathon du Medoc - Fun run, sub 5:00 (two weeks in France, of which five days will be in paree`)

October 4 - St. George Marathon, Utah - Sub- 3:21 (subject to lottery acceptance)

November 2 - NYCM - sub-3:20 (having ran five NYCMs and not being able to break 3:40 makes this the GOAL!)

And... drum roll, I intend to ramp up mileage into the 60s.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Where is the Champagne?

I arrived at my hotel just before midnight on Friday. Slept for about six hours, showered and drove to the Expo where I was to fix a couple of discrepancies; mainly my name was misspelled and to register my own chip.

I collect my bib number and although I am not superstitious, I have a tendency to believe I will have a good race if the number rings true – I know, I am a running nerd. The number printed was 3443, a nice number as it is almost symmetrical and it has two fours (four is my ‘lucky’ number).

Coming into the expo I knew that the weather was going to be almost perfect, with the exception of a SSE wind of 13mph, with gusts up to 25mph…. Ouch! Knowing that the course ran SSW, it meant that we were going to have crosswinds, that –as some of you know- is not nearly as bad a headwind, but it would slow us down nonetheless. Being the insecure runner that I am, I wanted to back off my A goal – once again- and try to stay with the 3:15 pacer for the whole race rather than pick it up at ten as previously planned.

After we picked our bib numbers, Andres, his girlfriend (they had started their journey on Tuesday… from Madison, y’all, over 2000 miles of driving… Ouch!) and I headed to the Spaghetti Factory where we had a delicious lunch, which included – of course- a cold Sierra Nevada. There happens to be a Noah’s NY Bagels across the street from the restaurant and I bought a bagel for further carbo-loading. I am not sure if they have these bagels in your area, but they are GOOD; so good, I recommend you go out and buy a dozen as it will probably increase the price of the stock, which I happen to own thank you (just kidding).

The young lovebirds and I bid farewell right after lunch. Andres and I agreed to meet at the host hotel at 5:45 so that we could ride to the race together.

I drove back to my hotel and just kicked it for much of the afternoon. But I was antsy. I wanted to take a nap, but just couldn’t. So I decided to drive over to a local market and buy a gallon of spring water, two bananas, another bagel (and a muffin) from Noah’s and called it a day.

I drank half a gallon of water during the evening, as I wanted to be well hydrated in spite of the cooler weather expecting me. Water and Gatorade were alternated and I felt I was good to go. I was so well hydrated I ended up getting up THREE times… argh!

Having taken a couple of benadryls, I slept pretty well. The alarm went off at 4:30 and I quickly got up took care of John, and showered. My clothes were all lined up; I decided with a short sleeve neon lime Asics tech shirt (this shirt feels so smooth against the skin that you almost don’t feel it), black Adidas shorts, socks and shoes (supernova classic), black NB fleece gloves, and a black Nike cap.

I drove to downtown and parked close to the host hotel. I waited and waited for Andres and did not connect. It was close to 6:00 when John called me yet gain. Now, being a veteran marathoner sure helps, as I knew this was a good opportunity to take care of business rather than wait ‘till I got to the start.

The bus ride was inconsequential. When we got there, only with about 15 minutes to spare, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was unprepared for the distance; that I had not run long enough; that I had not run enough longish runs; that I pushed the faster workouts too much; man, do I have respect for the distance?

Enough nonsense. Lets get into the race details.

I line up close to the 3:15 pacer. We are packed; so packed that I felt I was inside a crowded elevator. And we are off. I just hope that my decision to use my own chip will not backfire on me as when I went to register it, the volunteer did not seem to have much of a clue as to what she was doing. If my chip was not registered correctly, it would mean I would not have an official chip time.

As the crowd was rather large I could not tell if my chip beeped. The pace feels right and I am just behind the 3:15… but he is ahead of the 3:10 guy, WTF? Soon after the 3:10 pacer passes us with his herd, but our guy stays right behind him… for close to FOUR miles! These four miles went by so quick I almost did not feel them, but I felt this guy was a bit aggressive with his pace. He was ahead a good 30 seconds at this time. The course was rolling, but was full of mild rolling hills. In fact, they were so mild it felt as though we were descending. At this point I knew it was going to be a good race. The opposite is true when you’re running a flat course and it feels as though you’re constantly climbing.

The advantage of running in a pack, particularly during windy conditions, is that the pack blocks the wind quite nicely.

I stayed about 15 meters behind the pack and the forecasted wind was not present or it was well blocked by the 3:15 group. In miles 7 and 8 I felt the pace slow down a bit, and next thing you know, I found myself close to the front of this pack. It was here that I decided to make my move. We had been averaging 7:21s, and I wanted to drop to 7:15s. I try passing them through the right but the pack is too tight. Then I see a curve coming up and start making my way to the left, trying to cut the tangent. But the pace leader had the same idea and before I could exit the pack, they had boxed me in gain. Bummer. I then started running on a heavily cambered portion of the road as runners tended to avoid it.

I finally exited right after mile marker (MM) 9, and the course has open space for the first time. I run the next two miles in just under 7:10. Now, winds don’t behave linearly; they shift direction from time to time, and sometimes they stop. During those two miles father wind (or is it mother wind) was kind to me that I can almost bet I had a mild tail wind. But then I started feeling a not too strong wind – this in itself would be enough to slow me down about 10 seconds per mile, but coupled with a couple of challenging rolling hills saw my pace drop into the 7:30s. I am okay with that though. It was either that, or sit back and relax behind the 3:15. I crossed the halfway point in 1:36:08. All I need to do to accomplish my A-goal is to run even splits. Easier said than done.

The second half is purported to be faster as it drops most of the course’s 300 feet in this half. I am feeling sporadic crosswinds and I’d like to draft off of someone, but that would mean running at his pace, or constantly shift positions, neither one appealed to me.

Right around 14 I notice a female runner who’s running strong and about my pace so I ask her if she wants to work together, shielding the wind one mile and tucking in for the next. She is not sure she can sustain the pace though. I insist and she gets behind me. Half a mile later the winds subside and I drop back right next to her. She innocently asks me if it is her turn to block the wind. I say no, there is no wind to block. We chat for while and find out she want to run sub-3:20. I tell her we’re on pace for 3:13, to which she responds with: ‘I better back off then; it’s too fast for me.’ I tell her that her body can do more than it thinks it can. I keep on blabbering and it must have gotten on her nerves as she pulled ahead at the next water station and I decided to skip it, so I ended up dropping her.

The course is pretty wide open now. I notice more yellow (relay) bibs than white ones.

I feel the wind from time to time and wish, again, I could draft off of someone, but the field is so sparse it not worth pursuing. I reach mile 20 in ___, and I am feeling tired but in control. My hip flexors have been tight for the last couple for miles and I hope they will loosen up. They don’t. I have a painful blister in my right small toe; I try to ignore it. 10K to go.

At this point it is more psychological, at least for me, than physical. I tell myself I can run 7:30 miles and I will be happy with the result. I pass MM 21 and it is now just over five miles. I am passing thousands, hundreds, okay – dozens of runners per mile and the adrenaline stays put. I reach 23 and the hip flexors are not protesting anymore. The pace now feels closer to half-mary pace. I am working; but this is what it’s all about, no? Hard work.

Mile 24 comes and goes. About 16 more minutes to go. I can keep this pace for that much longer. Mile 25, and contrary to those times when I struggle at the end, I am not looking at my watch every minute or so. One more mile and change. I can see the Capitol and I know I am close. The 26-mile banner is on my sight. I concentrate on form. I run this mile in 7:07!!! This almost makes me tear; I feel choked up with emotion. It looks as if I will meet my A goal. I run the last stretch passing a few more runners. As I make a couple of more turns I encourage the crowds to cheer louder. Damn it, I am going to get a PR! I hear my name; the choked-up feeling comes back with a vengeance. Whoever said macho-men can’t cry? :-)

I cross the finish in 3:11:32 by my watch; a one-minute PR. I hung out a couple of minutes and see Allyson come in 3:14 and change. She was full of emotion and I go over to congratulate her. I give her a hug. She takes it and returns it with sincerity; because we runners have that connection, we understand what it means to breaks PRs --- even if we’re total strangers.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

CIM - Update

A quick cliff-notes result for all my loyal readers (and I mean A.L.L. of you... well you know there are at least two or three :-)

My watch time: 3:11:32, negative splits (44 seconds), qualified for B*ston... :-D

This is definitely a FAST course... details to come later on.