BAA Half Marathon

Cruising the Streets of Boston!
PC: Harry Mattison

This past weekend I headed up to Boston for the BAA Half Marathon. I came in with some high expectations. Workouts had been going well and I was starting to feel less tired on a day to day basis. Basically all the prior training was starting to soak in. The main goal going in was to run fast enough to make the World Half Marathon Team in 2018. There are three spots open from the time order lists starting September 1st. Before the race the third time on the list was around 64 minutes, but with some fast halves yet to be run, I figured that it would most likely take around 62 minutes. I think that I am in roughly PR shape, so that seemed like a reasonable goal under ideal conditions. Unfortunately the weather for the day was in the low 70’s for the race, 85% humidity, and winds between 15 and 20 mph. Otherwise, not ideal for running fast.

What did not change was my race plan. Unless someone was going to take it out at a suicidal pace, I was going to run with the leaders and run from my racing instinct. With better weather, I figured that by doing this I could get pulled to a fast time, much like I did in 2014 when I ran my PR. Instead I just ran to place the highest I could.

For the first half of the race I just hung with the front pack, focusing on relaxing and running the tangents the best I could (the course had lots of wide turns where you could run extra meters). I remained tucked into the middle letting others break the wind for me, responding to surges slowly and methodically. It seemed to me that no one really wanted to push the pace, so the pace stayed right around 5 minute miles. Around 7 miles, we were headed back towards Franklin Park, we began an ascent up a hill and I found myself in the lead. Even though it was windy, I felt comfortable running that pace, so I did not bother to tuck back in. Things stayed pretty much the same for the next two miles, until someone made the first major surge, which splintered the pack. I found myself hanging on to the leaders, but slowly everyone was drifting farther apart. I gradually lost ground on the leaders until we entered the Franklin Park Zoo and I lost sight of 5th place. From there, I was just pushing to the finish.

– – –

PC: Matt Sonnenfeldt

After a few days of reflection I am happy with my performance. It has been over three years since I last raced a half marathon “all out.” The last time was in Copenhagen when I made the world half team (it took under 62:00 to make the team, FYI). Every half I have run since then, I have been prescribed to run marathon pace for 10 miles then progress the last three. It was liberating to be able to run from my instincts and enjoy racing. For me the essence of racing is pitting yourself against not only the best you have to offer, but also the best of other have to offer. I feel that often, especially in marathons, this aspect is absent. Do not get me wrong; there are plenty of good reasons why you often have to run your own pace, especially in marathons. The most obvious being going out too far over your head ends up in disaster. I have been there, and am a much wiser runner because of it, but having only raced marathons the last couple of years made me realize how much I missed that part of racing.

As I stated above, I was really looking forward to running a fast time, but the weather and course were not ideal for that. That means I can only compare myself to others around me. In that regard, I can’t be disappointed. All the guys in front of me are phenomenal runners most boasting a half marathon PR of 61 minutes or faster. Hopefully that means I am in good shape, I just was not able to prove it on paper, and while I would have liked to make another US Team, the goal race is in December where I have some lofty goals set.

In a few weeks I will toe the line for the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler, and while I will be in the heart of marathon training, I will be in better shape and looking to win once again in the Steel City.

Individual Results (Search my name or bib 14)
Overall Results
Press Release

End of Summer Update

Some 220’s with Johnny in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.
PC: Ryan Warrenburg

It has been a while since my last update. Then I was just on the cusp of running after a second sacral stress fracture in as many years. Since then I have been in tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with one foray to the Rockies, slowly building my mileage back to my normal range. This last week was in the 90’s and with in the next few weeks I should be back in the triple digits, and a bit closer to marathon miles.

I have also semi-finalized a racing schedule for this fall. I am going to start the season at the Genworth Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg on September 23. Then I will head up north to Boston for the BAA Half Marathon on October 8. In November I am looking for one more race, hence the “semi-finalized” moniker, before I run my fourth marathon. Which will be the Fukuoka International Open Marathon Championship in Japan! I was in Japan three years ago for the International Chiba Ekiden, which was a fantastic trip, but I did not get to see much outside of the mountainous retreat where we were housed. This time I should be able to see more of the urban side of the country as Fukuoka has a population of over 1.5 million.

One more thing before signing off, I have not been updating my blog but every few months and I would like to that to change. So I have set a goal of at least one, and ideally two, a month until the end of the year. I have been struggling with finding the motivation and ideas to write about. At the very least I will give a short update on training and where I will be racing next.

Mid NYC Marathon Update

Workout this morning with the young guns!

Workout this morning with the young guns!

Since it has been a while since my last update, I figured it was a good time to give one! There is just over six weeks until NYC on November 6th, so that means I am in the heart of marathon training. For this marathon, Pete thought it would be best to go with an 11 week marathon cycle, but still stick with the 10 day cycles. So the first week was just a typical 7 day week, with a long run on Sunday and a Fartlek with some climbing on Wednesday. The next 10 day cycle started with a long run, finishing the last few miles quickly. Wednesday was a workout with tempo pieces bookending 10 x km. The following Tuesday, I had my first marathon specific long run out at Todd Railroad Grade Road. It was a session that I had not done in my previous two marathon build ups: 2 miles, 1 mile float, 1 mile, 1 mile float, all repeated three times. This was a tough session, as it was nonstop with lots of pace changing. I ended up running each five mile segment faster: 26:40, 26:23, 26:10 (1:19:13 total for the 15 miles). I was happy with the session, as I did not feel great during, but was still able to run the prescribed pace.
I nearly finished off the week near 120 miles, but leading up to my workout on Saturday, my hip began to get sore. I was noticeably limping while running, so Pete and I decided to scrap the workout and not risk aggravating my hip more. I immediately took the next three days off and scheduled an MRI for the following week. I was able to get an MRI (which showed nothing out of the ordinary) and was able to start training again on the Alter G. After three days on the Alter G, We felt confident enough to try a run outside. Then this past Sunday, I did a longer run with some moderate surging. While my hip was not 100%, it was able to pass the test, so we are going to start back into marathon training.
When an injury initially rears its head, I tend (and feel like it is a pretty universal runner’s response) to first not accept there is any injury. It is so easy to just train through it. I have been guilty in the past. But one thing I have learned in over a decade of running is that it is often better to take a little break now, and not let a little niggle blow up into something much larger. Following that rule would have saved me combined years of injury. So swallowing my pride, I accepted that time off was the best course of action. In total I only ended up taking off only a few days with some shorter days on the Alter G. I missed going to Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half Marathon for a race simulation workout, but both are a small price to pay for getting to the starting line healthy in November.
Other hidden “benefits” from this injury is that I was forced to take some days off. Pete had planned a few down days for right after Philly, but the break was just pushed up a week. Another is that this break helped pull my fitness back. When you are healthy and getting fit, it is easy to get a little overzealous are run too hard in workouts. While this is a good way to find yourself really fit, it is also a good way to be fit too early. I am still over 6 weeks away from NYC and I may not be able to do a killer steady state at marathon pace right now, but I know that I will be toeing the line on race day oiled, greased, and ready to roll.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and with my injury in the review mirror, knock on wood, it is easy to look at the benefits. But taken in a whole, I have an 11 week build up to NYC, so that means I had 3 weeks of good training at the start, along with 7 weeks leading up to the race. By a strict percentage(10/11), that is over 90%, an A! Basically in a long winded way I am saying, shit happens, but that does not mean the far off goal lost. You just have to find a different way to get there. Fortunately I only had to take a little detour before getting back on track, and I hope to keep it that way! Until next time, which will hopefully be much sooner and hopefully be something a little different from most of anything I have done in the past.

Training Log 1/24-1/30

Week of Training January 24 – 30

2 WEEKS TO GO!!!

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 10   Treadmill
Monday 10 6 Core, Drills and Strides
Tuesday 12   Workout
Wednesday 10 8 Core
Thursday 13   Drills and Strides, Core
Friday 21   Long Run
Saturday 8 5 Core
  Week Total 103  
Last long run in the books!

Last long run in the books!

After ending last week with a small niggle, I was able to quickly get back into full training. Since it was my quad that was hurt, Pete wanted me to run on the treadmill on Sunday so that I could run uphill the whole time. While any running engages the quads, running uphill limits quad engagement and the glutes are used more.

After Sunday’s run, I was officially back to normal training, and had a workout on Tuesday. It was not a long marathon workout, but it was a good confidence booster to do it after this little set back. My workout was a simple 2:30 downcycle session, split into two sets of 5 and 4. At the Miccosukee Greenway there is about a 4 minute loop, so it worked perfect to run there.

Workout:
5/4 2:30 downcycles, 90 sec float, 3 min between sets

Scheduled for Friday was the last Long Run and hard workout before the Trials. I always love a good long run (ask anyone on the team), and it is one of the reasons that I love marathon training. So I had specific instructions from Pete to keep this one in control, as this is the last big workout before the trials. At this point there is only so much I can do to get more fit, and it is more important to get to the line healthy and fresh.

Workout:
5 miles warm up/easy, 4 miles down to 5:20’s, 4 miles at 5:05-5:00, Mile float;
6 x 1200m, 400m float, Mile cool down
Splits: 35:30, 21:30, 5:50, 20:08; 3:37, 3:37, 3:35, 3:34, 3:32, 3:32

With the last hard effort in the books, I am now just biding my time until the Trials. Basically the mantra for the next two weeks is, “stay healthy and refresh.” There is not much more I can do to increase my fitness. Most of the science shows it takes 10-14 days for any benefit from an aerobic workout to be seen. From here it is all downhill, lowering the miles, but not too much that I feel stale.

Ups and Downs of Marathon Training

3 Weeks to go!

January 17 – 23

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 8 Core
Monday 10 6 10 x 35 sec, Core
Tuesday 21 Long Run
Wednesday 8 6 Core
Thursday 8
Friday Off
Saturday 6
Week Total 73
Cruising along at St Marks! Feeling good for in a few weeks time!

Cruising along at St Marks! Feeling good for in a few weeks time!

For the last five years I have been relatively healthy. Other than four weeks last winter, I have not taken off more than a few days due to injury. All of this is part of the process, and when injury rears its ugly head, how you deal with it is often the most important . A quick and smart reaction can keep a minor leg crap from developing into something much worse. My week started out with a fantastic long run on Tuesday, one that I gained lots of confidence headed into the Trials. Then a little hiccup at the end of the week put a damper on everything, but a quick allowed me to only miss a few days of training.

The Ups

Tuesday’s long run was a standard marathon long run from the Pete Rea playbook. In the build up to Twin Cites, I did this workout on the course, during Cole and my course preview. After a warm up I had a workout of 5, 4, 3, and 1 miles, with a mile float in between each, so 16 miles total. Each segment was supposed to be a tad faster than the previous. We headed to the St. Marks bike path, as that is the closest we can get to what the LA course will be like. We even did the whole workout within the first three miles of the path, to replicate a complete 180-degree turn while running fast.

Workout:
5-4-3-1, mile float between

Overall it was a good workout. I was just a tad faster than what Pete had prescribed, especially on the float, but it all felt relaxed, like I could run that pace in the middle of a marathon. Since this is one of the first workouts that I can compare to my previous build up, that is what I will do!

Splits:
5:01, 5:03, 5:04, 5:07, 5:00 (25:15), 5:36; 
4:59, 4:57, 4:58, 4:57 (19:53), 5:26; 
4:53, 4:51, 4:50 (14:35), 5:38; 4:42 
16 miles in 1:21:10, 5:04 avg.
TC Splits:
5:04, 5:13, 5:00, 4:57, 5:00 (25:14); 5:45;
4:53, 5:00, 4:55, 4:50 (19:38); 5:40;
4:59, 4:53, 4:57 (14:49, Up the hills!); 5:38; 4:50
16 miles in 1:21:34, 5:06 avg.

Looking at the workout as a whole, there is not much difference between the two. I ran only 24 seconds slower over the 16 miles at the TC build up, which most of that time was from having slower floats, like I was prescribed. But the fast floats showed I was able to recover while running fairly fast, and was able to gain some confidence. After each interval was not “dying” to slow down. I was very much in control and trying to slow down. For example the first 400m of my first float was at 5:20 pace and made a conscious effort to slow down even more!

Another thing that really stands out to me is how much more even of a pace I was running this time. On the relatively flat St. Marks bike path, I was able to find a good rhythm and cruise. This was probably another reason why I was able to recover while being so relaxed on the floats. I must also mention that the Twin Cites course is much hillier than the bike path, which changed how I ran the workout. I specifically remember gaining great deal of confidence from being able to run sub 5 minute miles up those late hills on the TC course, knowing that if I could do that in the race, I would put myself in a good position to win. With that confidence, I made my move on those hills and broke open the race, running 4:55, 5:01, and 5:02 for miles 20-23.

The biggest difference that is not shown in the times is how I felt. During the workout, I kept it much more in control. This build up, I am not trying to hit the workouts “out of the park.” And sticking with the baseball analogy, it is much better to be a Joe DiMaggio and have a 56 game hitting streak and a .325 career batting average, than Barry Bonds, all drugs aside, and hit 762 home runs, but strikeout over 80 times a season (Joe only struck out 34 times a season). Now, I am a much more accomplished runner. I am the 2014 USA Marathon Champion, broke 4 for the mile, and just finished my most successful season in the fall. And this has led me to not have to prove anything in workouts, like I did last time (running sub 5 up those hills). In these last 18 months, my entire view of training has changed. I am more focused on keeping everything a bit more restrained, knowing that getting quality workouts in is more important than running hard, and placing my trust in Pete and the process.

While on the topic, some great advice from LetsRun founder Weldon Johnson is “there are no bonus points for running ‘hard.’ The point is to run fast. There is a difference.” (Also the whole article is a good read). This idea is something that one often has to learn the hard way, which was the way I learned it.

The last mile was supposed to be fastest of the day. In the TC workout, it was the fastest, but tied for the fastest, and I was exhausted when I finished. There was not much faster I could have run. On Tuesday, I elected to finish the workout on the slight uphill of the first mile of the bike path, again replicating the finish of LA. Also I snowballed it on the quarters. While I was working hard to run pace, every quarter would approach and I could easily find another gear, so by the end I was running around 4:30 pace! From this I was able to gain confidence that I will be able to run fast the last few miles at the trials.

The Downs

The afternoon of the workout, my right quad was a little sore. But with a harder effort, that can be expected, so I ignored it. The next day, the soreness was gone and I had completely forgotten about it. Then on Thursday, two days after the workout, I was 3 miles or so into the run and my quad was starting to feel really sore and tight. Now I was fully aware of it, but since the pain was not sharp or changing my stride, I just dealt with it. A few miles later it began to spasm and I had to stop for a couple of minutes. I started running slowly and for a few minutes the pain receded back to the previous level. Then it struck again and I was stopped in my tracks. After that I had trouble starting again, and when I did, I could tell my stride was off and it hurt placing weight on my leg. With so much on the line in LA, I took the hard route and began to walk and hitched a right the few miles back to the starting area.

While the hard choice to make is to cut the run short and not muscle through the pain, it is usually the correct choice. I had to tell myself, that I am very fit right now and a few days easy will not change that fact. I ended up taking Friday completely off and pushed an easy, tester run on Saturday to the afternoon to maximize the amount of recovery time between runs. With no pain during the run, only some soreness after, I ran a bit more on Sunday, and yesterday I was back to a pretty standard day. So rather than a small cramp turning into something else, I took a few easy days to remain healthy.

Our annual team dinner at Decent Pizza.

Our annual team dinner at Decent Pizza.

Out of this episode, I can take a few positives. One is how much I have matured and grown. College Tyler would have tried to push through the pain, probably leading to either a more serious quad injury or a compensation injury. I was able to look at the bigger picture and make the better choice in the long term.

Another positive is that it was a reminder to keep up on the little things, like hydration, stretching, and nutrition. My first year at Western, Coach Vandenbusche (and more on him later) would say that it takes 10 things to make a good runner. I often forget the first nine. There were things like eating well, taking vitamins, stretching, etc., but the tenth was most important. I can still hear his booming voice, “And all of those I just listed, don’t mean anything if you can’t do the tenth. Stay healthy.” If I am not healthy and running, then doing all the other things is futile. The way to get better is run, it is just all the little things that allow you to stay healthy.

– – –

Before I sign off for the week, I have to share a great website. Coach Vandenbusche built a program at Western that I was fortunate to get to be apart of. I was only under his tutelage for one year, but his legacy has lived on. For over 35 years he was at the helm of a program he built to become one of the best in the NCAA, and I was able to be apart of it. With that said I would like to share one memory I have of Coach.

I when I was looking at colleges to go to, I every other school told me that I could “walk on”. On the other hand, Coach Vandenbusche made a personal visit to my parents’ house and offered me a scholarship. He must have seen some potential in me and took a chance. This was all an awkward kid from Golden needed. Without the confidence that Coach Vandenbusche had in me, I would not have spent six fantastic years in the Gunnison Country, nor would I be where I am now.

In under three weeks time, I will line up on the streets of LA, hoping that I can add to his legacy and the legacy he built at Western State and be the third Olympian from Western.

Here is a video of Coach’s speech, after being inducted into the USA Track and Field Coach’s Association Hall of Fame.

 

 

Training Log 1/10-16

Week of Training January 10-16

4 weeks to go!!!

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 8 6  
Monday 12 8 Drills and Strides
Tuesday 19   Workout
Wednesday 8 6 Core
Thursday 12 8 Core
Friday 12 8 8 x 20 sec, Drills, Core
Saturday 10 5 10 x 35 sec
  Week Total 122  

This week was my highest week ever! But with that said, it is only 4 miles more than my previous highest week, which just so happened to coincide with the same week in my build up to Twin Cities in 2014. Actually my two build ups have been very similar in terms of miles run and even workouts, but there has been some key differences. Pete has been more aggressive in my workouts building up to the Trials. With one successful marathon training cycle under my belt, Pete wanted to push the envelope. The changes are not much, but over the course of a marathon, even a fraction of a percent can make a huge difference.

It was nice to have some company for part of my workout!

It was nice to have some company for part of my workout!

The lone workout for the week was a long one: nearly 80 minutes of running! It started with three miles of in’n’outs on the 200m, followed by a 9 mile progression run, then two miles of 200m in’n’outs. The 200m in’n’outs are inspired by the famous 30-40 workout of Bill Dellinger at the University of Oregon. The goal of the 30-40 is to run 200m alternating 30 seconds and 40 seconds for as long as you can. Looking at the overall pace of this workout, 4:40 or 29:10 for 10,000m, one would expect it to not be too hard, but the changing of pace wears on you. American legend Steve Prefontaine is rumored to have made it around five miles, and current American 10,000m record holder, Galen Rupp, is rumored to have made it around six miles.

Workout:
3 miles of 200m in'n'outs, 5 min rest; 
9 mile progression, 5 min rest;
2 miles of 200m in'n'outs

Since I am in the middle of a marathon cycle, my paces were not going to be the classic 30-40, but a tad slower. Pete wanted me to run around 33-41, which ends up averaging marathon pace. The key to running this workout properly is having the will power to slow down for the float segments, especially early in the workout. Even though I went out a bit fast (37 sec) and the next float was really slow (44), I did a good job of running a consistent pace the rest of the time. I was continually splitting 33 and 41. I reached three miles down the St. Marks bike path, where Andrew and Joe were waiting for me. They had a progression run, so they jumped in for my nine mile progression run. It was nice to have some company along, as much of marathon training is alone, especially the last few weeks as Griff has been on a slightly different schedule.

For the progression run we did the three mile segment on the bike path, with two turn arounds to simulate some of the sharp turns on the Trials course. Since progression runs are a standard workout at ZAP, we have a good gauge on how to run them. The first mile was 5:24 and we cut down and finished with 4:44. I did not want to run anything too aggressive because I had another two miles of 200m in’n’outs, which went well.

Overall it was a good workout. I liked that it touched on all sorts of paces. I had a good portion at 4:30 pace, some at marathon pace, and some at tempo pace. Having segments at different paces helps racing in general. Races, especially championships, are rarely run at an even pace, with competitors throwing in surges to test the field.

Training Log 1/3-9

Week of Training January 3 – 9

One Month!

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 21 Race, Long Run/Workout
Monday 6
Tuesday Day off!
Wednesday 8
Thursday 9
Friday 11 8 Drills and Strides
Saturday 16 Workout
Week Total 79
Governor's Park at dusk. This was one of the parks we explored.

Governor’s Park at dusk. This was one of the parks we explored.

This week started out with a rainy and cold race in Jacksonville. I had a great experience helping so many guys qualify for the trials, which you can read about it here. Fortunately after this race, I had a few easy days. When in the middle of training, it is easy to fall into a fixed schedule, especially when training for a marathon. Each day is nearly identical: run, eat, sleep, eat, most likely run again, and eat. It even becomes hard to remember what day it is as long runs are not necessarily on Sunday and nor workouts on Wednesday.

Pete scheduled this break to be around 6 weeks out from the Trials. After 5 weeks of hard training, this break is needed to recharge both mentally and physically and prepare for four more hard weeks.

Pete even encourages us to “embrace” the time off, because for training to be effective, it needs time to set in. Most of us are highly motivated and have been taught that taking a break is terrible for training. While you are taking time off, your competitors are gaining an advantage. Countering this mentality is one thing that many runners need work on, and I have been much better at accepting that rest is an important part of training. Taking time to let the body recover is “part of training, not the absence of it,” as Pete often says.

Fortunately Nicole was visiting after her fantastic race in Jacksonville, and we embraced the time off. Everyday we tried to get out of the hotel and visit someplace in Tallahassee. Having been here the last three years, I had known that there were some cool areas around Tallahassee and certain areas are being gentrified, but we found some real unknown gems. There are plenty of parks like Lake Ella or Cascades Park, a few local breweries, and some cool coffee shops. We also headed to Wakulla Springs in hopes of seeing some manatees, but they were not out. I enjoyed having her here for the week, and was sad to have her head back to Greenville, but she has some training to do before her debut at the Trials!

Pete’s scheduled break came to an abrupt end on Friday, and I was right back into the grind, and on Saturday I had a workout. We headed to St. Marks bike path, which has been the place for workouts this year. The training in Tallahassee is great in part that there are so many places where you can run on soft surfaces. It is actually harder to find a good paved place where you can run workouts. St. Marks is about it! The path starts at the very southern edge of Tallahassee and goes 16 miles to St. Marks. The path is flat and there are no crossings of major roads in the first few miles, so it is a great place to do workouts.

The workout for the week was an opening piece of 1.5 miles, followed by five sets of 3 min, 90 sec, 45 sec. This is a pretty standard Pete Fartlek, where the first few sets are more tempo based with less disparity between the ons and offs, and in the final sets, the rest becomes much more pronounced. Also this workout can be described as “sneaky long”, as on paper five sets do not seem that much, but each set is over 10 minutes. That makes for over 50 minutes of constant running, not including the opening piece! I ended up having a good workout, running faster each rep and faster each set. I must have recharged during the break.

Workout:
1.5 mile, 4:30 min rest;
5 x 3 min, 90, 45 sec, rest what comes next

Video from my Fartlek