Against that backdrop, I'll summarize the last few weeks of training before providing a report from yesterday's Half at the Hamptons. The drama of the 2010 Winter Olympics notwithstanding, I know my readers have been waiting for this news with bated breath. ;-)
WEEK #5 - FEB 1-7, 2010 (CUTBACK WEEK)
- Mon - 5M easy
- Tues - 7.9M progression
- Wed - 6.7M easy - travel day
- Thurs -10.1M moderate effort
- Fri - 8.5M with strides
- Sat - 13.1M, with 3M @ goal MP
- Sun -5M easy (last mile+ barefoot) - travel day
WEEK #6 - FEB 8-14, 2010
- Mon - 10M, with hill sprints
- Tues - 10M, with 5x800m @ 5K pace (in a parking lot)
- Wed - 11.25 (AM: 6.25M; PM: 5M)
- Thurs -8M a little harder than easy
- Fri - 10M, with total of 4.5M (2.5M, then 2M) at HMP (not a great run)
- Sat - 6.7M easy
- Sun - 20.2M, with 5.5M at goal MP - great run!
WEEK #7 - FEB 15-21, 2010
- Mon - 8M easy (skipped hill sprints)
- Tues - 12M, with 3M at goal HMP (tough run)
- Wed - 8M easy (blew off doubles)
- Thurs - 8M easy (blew off doubles again, because too tired for early AM run)
- Fri - 7M easy
- Sat - 5+M, including 4x100m strides
- Sun - 2.5M warm-up; 13.1M RACE (see Race Report below); 2.5M cool-down
The title of this week's post plays on the "GI" in America's first toy action hero's name. Previously standing for "Government Issue", runners far and wide know "GI" as the abbreviation for all ills digestive-related. It's never pleasant to suffer GI troubles, much less so during a "marker" race when one is training for the biggest race of one's running life.
This was my third year running the Half at the Hamptons. In 2008, as a still-novice runner, I "trained through" while preparing for the Keybank Vermont City Marathon, set an ambitious goal (at the time) and followed a pacer who banked time by taking us out too fast. I had one of my worst long-distance racing experiences and simply hung on to run over 1:40, my first distance non-PR to that point in my running career. Last year, I had strained my groin in early January, barely reached 40 miles per week, and went out with no expectations to run a surprise PR of 1:34+.
Having set a new HM PR last October, I wished to build on that, with the Hamptons being my only significant tune-up race of the Boston cycle. It's a nice mid-winter race, with well over 1000 participants, good energy and on a nice, largely coastal route. It's billed as flat, but has some rolling elevation changes in the middle section. It's also always windy as a you-know-what.
I went into the race with more of an "idea" of what I might be able to do, as opposed to specific goals. Breaking 1:26 would have been my dream/stretch goal. A new PR by any margin would have been my "acceptable" goal. And, simply running the best race I could considering the conditions and my cumulative training fatigue would have to be the fallback goal.
I suppose that if I now list the reasons why I ran a disappointing 1:31:25, it will sound like a litany of excuses. I view it as more along the lines of assessing and analyzing the reasons for a sub-par performance, but that may be a distinction without a difference. Once the afterglow of last Sunday's excellent 20+-mile run wore off, I found myself dragging most of the week. I dialed back the mileage a bit, dropping two planned double days (Wednesday and Thursday). I awoke on Saturday with the beginnings of a chest cold, though it seemed pretty manageable, and Saturday's mid-day easy run plus strides felt pretty good.
With an 11:00 am start time, I did not have to get up too early yesterday. I awoke a little before 7:00 and had my usual breakfast. I brought different clothing options, since I knew the blustery conditions would make the mid-30-degree temps seem much colder. I had singlets and arm-warmers ready to go, along with different headband/hat and glove options. I also had a form-fitting long-sleeve thermal shirt, just in case.
When I got to the race HQ hotel at around 10:00 am, it was bustling. I found a good parking spot, checked in and agonized about what to wear. I was cold just walking from my car, so I wore heavy clothes during a two-mile warm-up. I felt better once the blood was pumping, though I didn't feel like my legs would have much "pop". Still, I was optimistic and got into the "this-is-what-I-log-all-those-miles-for-so-bring-it-already!" state of mind. I guess you had to be there to understand. ;-)
So, without further adieu (thankfully!) here's a mile-by-mile breakdown of how it all played out (the course seems to have been marked rather erratically, so the numbers in parentheses are extra time after the auto-lap recorded a full mile; the first 3 mile markers, along those at miles 7 and 12 were spot on with the Garmin distance):
- 6:37 - After lining up a couple of rows from the front, I settled into a briskly comfortable pace. Wind was already raging, but I was thinking that everything seemed to be going just fine.
- 6:40 - Negotiated a couple of turns. Tried to find someone from whom to draft, but I have not really perfected that skill.
- 6:35 - Holding pace, but working a bit too hard into the wind. Was running with the 3rd and 4th place women, and offered to let them draft off of me to save their energy for an assault on the leaders later.
- 6:52 (+:14) - Here is where it started to get tough, between the wind and the course's most challenging terrain. Not sure if I was losing focus, or the conditions were in fact that rough in that mile, but my effort level did not seem to wane as much as much as my pace seems to have dropped. The Garmin had my HR at 173 at this point, and I had averaged 171 bpm during my HM PR in October.
- 6:33 (+:13) - The wind let up a bit in a protected residential area, so I tried to take advantage. Felt the first rumblings of GI distress which would be my eventual undoing. One of the women and another guy with whom I'd been running start to inch away.
- 6:41 (+:10) - Came up on the aid station where I'd planned to take a Gu Roctane. Longingly looked at the port-a-potty, but decided to pass it by. Critical mistake #1. Critical mistake #2? I took only one smallish cup water, 4 oz. or less, with the gel. That's nowhere near enough to absorb it properly and especially poor decision-making where my stomach was already bothering me.
- 6:20 - It would be VERY safe to say that this mile was short, with the Garmin registering 0.95. I was fighting off the stomach woes, assuming/hoping that it would pass. Mostly, I was trying to keep a rhythm and stay with the runners around me, including a 50-something guy from my area who usually goes out too fast and the peters out late (kudos to him for a sub-1:29 finish).
- 6:39 (+:30) - I see a construction site with a port-a-potty, but the optimist (aka, obsessive runner) in me prevails and I pass on by. I realize from the course description that the next port-a-potty is at around Mile 11, and I have no idea how I'll make it. The physical discomfort is taking its toll, as is the headwind which has picked up again.
- 6:51 (+:11) - Now wondering whether any of the spectators on the course would let me use their bathroom. Thinking I may have to drop out if something doesn't change, and I start to focus on getting to the rest area at Mile 11, telling myself that the "A" goal doesn't matter, and that any ol' PR, or even just sub-1:30, will do.
- 8:25 (+:30) - As we approach the 10-mile mark, I spot another construction site, and see the blue plastic pod which could be my salvation. I debate as I keep running, pass it by maybe 150-200 yards and then double-back. Checking the data afterwards, I lost 2:40 to the stop (plus the time to run back and forth). I came out like a flash, passing maybe a dozen people in the next half-mile, but the headwinds sapped me of the ability to sustain a fast pace and thus make up any significant time.
- 6:57 (+:02) - At this point, my racing mojo is officially gone. I've written off all time goals (even sub-1:30) and am just trying to put forth the hardest effort I can sustain. Residual fatigue from recent training volume is also wearing me down, as evidenced by the fact that my HR had dropped into the low 160's, far below my HM race pace. I can feel that dastardly familiar tightness in my hips, like my someone added resistance bands to my hip sinews.
- 7:02 - The wind sucks, I'm tired and I'm ready to be done. Trying to reel in the folks ahead of me, but just cannot find another gear.
- 6:26 - I tried to push it for a strong finish. I passed a couple of people, but I suspect more than a couple passed me. This mile may have been short, too.
Final 0.1 (measured as 0.13) - 0:47 (6:10 pace) - very glad to see the finishing arch and to be able to put this racing debacle behind me.
I jogged back to my car, put on a dry shirt, pants and a jacket, and did 2.5 slow, tedious cool-down miles so that I would get my 18+ miles for the day. When I completed the cool-down, I went inside for a bowl of hot vegetable soup, talked to friends and other runners, and made my way home.
Well, the combination of accumulated racing experience and consistent training has given me better perspective on a disappointing performance, or - better stated - a disappointing time despite a decent running performance. I am not freaking out, questioning my training, doubting my fitness or otherwise going to any of the dark caverns of insecurity of days past. If someone had told me a year ago that I'd run a "disappointing" 1:31 half-marathon, I would have whipped out the tape measure and fitted them for a straight-jacket. It wasn't my day for things to come together, and - frankly - that's simply part of the reality of the racing experience. One thing to which I will pay closer attention for a while is my nutrition/diet, as I have had GI troubles for a long time, and distance running does not help in that department.
So, with Boston a mere (or eternal, depends on when you ask me) 8 weeks from today, I'll continue to do what I've been doing, emphasizing volume (I should peak at 82 or so miles per week and average about 70 miles for the pre-taper portion of the training cycle), but ramping up the quality miles, as well. I may do one or two short races between now and Boston, but the focus will be on staying healthy, pushing the mileage envelope and showing up ready to run the best race I can run on that day. Oh yeah, and to be able to recover quickly enough to run another marathon six days later.
Thanks for tuning in. Happy running.