Thursday, October 29, 2009

A feeling of accomplishment

People sometimes ask me how bad you feel after running a long until you recover?

Right now it's Thursday (the race was Sunday). I'm feeling a lot better..if I had to assign a number I'd say that I'm about 90% recovered when it comes to non-running things like walking and going down stairs.

The day after (actually the worst is the day after the day after) my quads (the big muscles on top of your thighs) were the most sore. Going down stairs you use these muscles to lower your entire body from one step to the next.

When you run, they are used the most when you run downhill: you have to accept your whole weight on each leg in turn and brake using the muscle with so-called 'eccentric' loading.

Eccentric loading is is backwards from normal muscle operation, you know, you tense the muscle and it contracts and that glass of wine finds its way from the table to your thirsty lips 8)

Eccentric loading means the muscle is in tension and gradually has to *lengthen* under that tension.. When your blasting down hill, your quads are doing this, big time!

For some reason I don't understand, this is not a very efficient way for muscles to work, so they get pretty sore compared to the other leg muscles.

If you are sore enough, it's impossible to go down stairs without turning around and going down backwards (which switches the loading to the back muscles which are much bigger). I did not have to resort to that...although I admit I did grab the handrail whenever I went down stairs.

Today, they are feeling pretty good. Up and down stairs no problemo.

I probably could go running now (at a very slow pace) but I prefer to wait a entire week or so before doing any running. When I do start running it will be at a very slow pace, with no hard running for 3-4 weeks (The rule of thumb is one mile of easy running only for each mile races..therefore 26 days of easy running)

What about the heart? Is it tired?

Well, not that I can notice...yesterday I took my HR sitting at my desk at work and it was 48 bpm. That's my sitting resting HR that I often have measured. I've never seen much if any impact to my HR the day after any race or long, hard run.

Recently there's been a lot of press about deaths during marathons (and half-marathons). For the most part the conclusion is that the number of deaths is no higher, per runner out there, thanit was before.

I'll talk more about my views on this in another posting that will probably be titled "Running and the Central Governor"

But right now I'll go back to nursing the last bits of soreness here and there and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with them.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 Silicon Valley Marathon

A good race today!

Update: official time 4:15:26, 340 of 769 finishers, 34th of 59 in my age group

Garmin data here

My goals for this race were do a good job pacing (to avoid the wall), and slightly push for a PR if possible. My training hasn't been consistant enough to expect to improve my time by much, and indeed, I ran almost exactly the same pace as the SF Marathon [ 3 seconds slower]

Went to bed early on Saturday night, I got up at ~3:30am to have a light breakfast (some last carbs) then back to bed and finally got up and put on my kit at 5:45. I got to the race, which starts at the corner of Almaden Blvd and Park Ave in SJ, about 40 min before the start at 7am....the place was already hopping with runners, as usual.

As I walked to the start I noticed that my Garmin 450 GPS watch was stuck saying the time about 1 hour prior! Pushing buttons did nothing. The watch appeared to have crashed. I debated walking back to the car and getting rid of it (and my heart rate monitor chest strap) but dedcided it was too far and I'd just run the race bumming splits off other people.

About 10 minutes later I tried a really long button press and it suddenly started working again. Go figure...anyway, that was a nice repreve.

It was still before sunrise, up in the sky over one of the hotels I could see Venus as the 'morning star'. There was a lot of people, but not as crowded as the SF Marathon! Most of the crew, as usual, was halfers. There was some oldies music blasting (not bad 8) and the race coordinator with his patter. The temp was about 52, just the way we like it.

I'm guess starting to get used to the starts: The MC announced "ONE MINUTE TO START" and I looked at my heart rate monitor and my pulse was a nice relaxed 59 adrenaline (unlike my first marathon). Chugged my water and off we went with a big countdown.

Too dark to see my splits but I could see my heart rate (bigger text for that) and tried to keep it around 125 or so, as I knew that should give me around 9:30-ish pace..but the course was a bit congested for the first mile and I couldn't do it. Finally could see that I'd clocked only a ~10:00 min/mile pace. At about 1.5 miles it was opened up and I could hold my pace (trying for 2:22 splits -> 9:30 pace (not allowing for GPS error though so really about 9:45)). I settled in nicely and felt really good, with an easy, relaxed form. My breathing at this stage was very easy: I could run with my mouth closed and just use my nose.

The SJ police were out in force closing off roads ..of course nobody but us crazies was really up yet 8)

The water stops were extremly plentiful. I seemed like we had one every 2-3 miles. The cups were full-size (not the stupid little ones they used at SFM) and the volunteers were the BEST. Many of them and all on the job.

The course took us through some pleasant tree-lined neighborhoods in SJ (with good quality pavement...never saw any really bad stuff in the whole race) and then at about mile 5 took us onto the Los Gatos Creek trail (also paved). I'd never been on this trail so I was looking forward to learning about it by running it.

Just before the trail I spotted a guy running with a long stick with three balloons on it. "Oh!, a pacing group guy", methinks. As I approach him I look forward to getting some confirmation of my pace. Alas, the balloons said "4:30" on them. I was flummoxed as that is about a 10:12 pace..and he was going a hell of a lot faster than that..probably a 9:50 pace. I was tempted to ask him about it but decided to just keep on truckin' by him.

In this section of the race I passed some but mostly got passed myself. Sometimes you go back and forth with somebody: the trail has some small rolling hills as you go over bridges or under overpasses and some people like downhills (me) and others like the uphills (I slow down to keep my effort level more linear). The trail is mostly wide enough for everybody....I had no problems with people running 4 abreast or any of that rude kind of behavior.

[I also didn't have any problems with 'plugged-in' people hogging the road.]

After 7-8 miles we are still in the groove, but we are seeing the slight uphill that goes to Los the HR to hit our pace has gradually inched up to 131 or so. (It will vary based on the slope a little, but you can account for that mentally). When the watch reported my 1/4 miles splits (about every 2:22) I was right on the money for the most part.

I still felt really good. I was taking a gel pack (for electrolytes and some sugar mostly for keeping the brain happy) every 5 miles.

I had been wondering if I would see my Los Gatos friends, and suddenly at about mile 12 I realized that the two spectators at the trail's right turn about 20 feet ahead were them! I think they were so busy looking around at the runners that had gone by, and the ones coming up the hill that I think they didn't look really close. Also I don't think they are used to seeing me in my running sunglasses (they are new). As I approached I says "Hey--!" and they both got a big shock and suddenly realized it was me. We high fived and I kept on trucking.

As you approach Los Gatos after 13.1 miles the course loops around off the trail and then takes you back and merges you back into the trail. I think at about mile 10 we started to see some marathoners coming back the other way now (i.e. the fast ones!), they were impressive to watch.

Eventually, we ran onto the Los Gatos High School track and I could hear the MC up there announcing the half marathon finishers by name (he looks up their bib number in the database) and encouraging them the last 1/4 mile. Us marathoners split off and suddenly we could see how few of us there became downright sparse.

In fact, for most of the rest of the race I usually only saw 3-6 people ahead of me at any given time! Amazing.

After the half (the ante-up) is where the race really you have to start placing bets... I felt pretty good, but not good enough to do anything stupid, and so I kept to my same pace. At this point I started passing people and not so much getting passed. A lot of people seemed to have gone out too fast.

The miles ticked by, 16, 17, 18 and I noticed I was passing a LOT of people walking. Some of these people I recognized from being passed earlier. We are still holding pace well, in fact we are using the downhills really well.

Mile 20 is a belweather mile...normally in training you don't go further than this (it's too hard on you to do full marathons in training), and so how I feel vs my normal training run gives me a good indication on how I'm set up for the last 6.2 miles. I felpt pretty good, better than my usual long runs, so the last 6 should not throw a wall at me...or so I hoped. So far, my form was still pretty good and I was still holding my pace just fine.

After mile 20 you drop back down onto SJC streets where there was no tree cover. The sun was out and it was hot, probably 70 or so. More and more people were walking and I was passing them all.

As we hit the last 2 miles, I knew that even though I was wanting to stop and I was not quite holding my previous pace, I was in good shape to finish. I thought about speeding up, but the pain to do it just to save a minute or two in the last miles wasn't something that I felt I needed to do.

Eventually we saw the left turn into Discovery Park. I managed to speed up a little bit for the last 1/4 mile and the MC called out my name as I approached. (People were only finishing every 30 seconds or I said it's a sparse race.

After I got my medal (the ugliest I've seen so far, boo) and my free tacos, they had some nice chairs set up for the runners to sit in while they eat (If we sat on the ground we might not get back up too easily 8), and a bunch of us near each other started chatting about our race. I felt pretty good as all of these people were more experenced (5-20 marathons) and younger (30's , 40's) and my time was faster than all of them.

So, all in all, I felt pretty good about this race. I enjoyed the trail a lot and hearing and seeing the rushing river was nice. I was happy to have achieved fairly even pacing and avoiding the wall. I think I probably did pretty well relative to the field. [Update: I'm happy with 340/769]

Ciao for now,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting Ready for the SVM

I registered for the Silicon Valley Marathon, not knowing if I would really be up for it. I've run 2 marathons this year and it's not considered a good idea to do too many per year. So, I thought I'd play it by ear.

Now, 2 weeks out my ear says 'yah, do it'. It seems I have my achillies tendonitis under control: I've run 60 miles in the last 8 days (with 2 rest days) with no big problems. My training hasn't been focused on this race (I just did the 10k a while ago), but given my 10k results I seem to be in pretty good shape.

So, for the next two weeks we're in the taper. Caught a small cold the day of the big rain but able to run again 4 days later, but hey, it's the taper so doesn't really bother me to have a forced layoff.

Pace, pace pace...what pace? Marathons are so interesting to me because pacing choice is so much more important than at shorter distances.

The SVM is almost flat. it has about 330' of rise to the halfway point, then you go back the same way. This is about a .5% grade up, then down. This is tame...the calculators say it's only a 15s/mile slowdown for the same effort level.

My gut tells me to do a 9:45 pace on the way up, and then see how we are doing on the way down, and if possible try for 9:30. This would shave a few minutes from my current PR (4:15), and I'd be happy with that. This is not the race to try for breaking 4 hours. I was hoping it would be but my training has not been consistant enough that I feel that it can be done.

My recent 10k time projects (via the calculators) to a much faster marathon time than my PR...someplace around 3:48 in fact (!). My april half-marathon is also in line with a time like this.

So, all the calculators and rules-of-thumb say I should be well under 4 hrs. But, as you might suspect the calcs aren't always right ;), Everything has to be perfect to achieve these numbers if it's a marathon: long run training, hydration, eating before and during the race, wind, temperature.

There's a downside to going out too fast: The wall.

The wall is not's turns the race into quite a slog (got a taste of it the last mile especially in the SFM). It takes a lot of guts to keep running, never mind running fast. Of course you could always quit the race if you see you're going to get a bad time, but that's not for me, I want to finish, even if I have to walk.

[But let me be clear: quitting is just fine if the temps have gotten too hot, there are massive headwinds or heavy rain, or there is something specific hurting. There's No point in risking your health!]

Right now, I feel like just trying to squeak a bit faster than my previous race, rather than trying for some huge improvement. Of course who knows? Maybe the day of the race I'll feel like going really fast and it will turn out fine 8)

We will see....