Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A (Heavily) Modified Approach to 26.2

My last taper run is complete. I've got nothing but rest and sleep on the schedule for the next six days. I’m as prepared as I can be. The waiting…the long, agonizing, frustrating waiting is almost over.

This is a journey that started out with the best of intentions. In late December and early January I had begun ramping up my total mileage even hitting a high of 17 one very cold day in early January. While not where I wanted to be yet, I felt like I was on the right track.

Then, one of the worst injuries I’ve encountered hit me. This was unlike any nagging, chronic pain I’ve experienced in the past. Even the foot problems that required me to have surgery three years ago were not so pronounced.

Reading various online sources I tried to determine if I had a really bad case of IT Band Syndrome, ligament damage or tear to one of my calf muscles. Lacking an MRI, I guess no one can say for sure, but I think my doctor got it right when he said it was probably and injury to my soleus muscle. He noted this one is slow to heal.

So since early March, on his advice, I’ve been seeking treatment at the Lone Tree office of Cherry Creek Wellness Centers. Nick, my therapist, has done various things to help me heal more quickly than I might have on my own. Most if involves dry needling which is uncomfortable at best and very painful at worst. He also has been working me through various stretches, balance exercises and a taping regimen.

While this has helped, it was no magic bullet either. As March wore on, I became increasingly pessimistic about doing this race. Maybe I could switch to the half or perhaps just eat my entry fee and drop out.

I managed to start running again with less pain, but it was still there and it was clear that recovery from this injury would (and will) be measured in months rather than weeks. As I finished a short run one afternoon, I noticed that my walking pace was under 15:00 per mile. That’s not blistering, but that combined with some running would actually allow me to finish the race while there were still people at the finish line.

Hence, my decision back in early April to try a long run/walk with a big emphasis on the walk part. Figuring it made the most sense to mimic the actual Colorado Marathon course as much as possible, I set out on a point-to-point from home to the far side of the Cherry Creek Reservoir Dam:

It was not easy and a few hills near the end had me walking far more than I had planned to. But I did it. At the end of that run, I had covered 20.75 miles in about 4:06. Not exactly a blistering pace. In fact, slower than my pace from 7 years ago in the Rock-N-Roll San Diego, but not a DNF either.

A week later I fell a little short but still managed to run 17.25 and then a week later, I did 13.1 including a 300 foot climb in the second half.

All of this hurt quite a bit, but it has restored my confidence. So now I have an idea of what I’d like to try and accomplish this Sunday. This is an ideal, not necessarily what I think will happen, but it’s good to set a stretch goal so that even when falling short, you’ve still accomplished a lot.

Miles 1 - 5: Run four at 10:00 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace for a total time of 0:55:00
Miles 6 - 10: Run four at 10:00 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace for a total time of 1:50:00

I actually more or less did this on my 13.1 mile run a week ago.

Miles 11 – 15: Run four at 10:30 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace. Total time elapsed: 2:47:00

Miles 16 – 19: Run three at 10:30 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace. Time: 3:38:00

Miles 20 – 22: Run two at 10:45 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace. Time 4:14:30

Miles 23 – 24: Run 1 at 10:45 pace, walk the other at 15:00 pace. Elapsed: 4:40:15

Miles 26 – 26.2: If at all possible, run at 10:45 pace. Final time: 5:03:54.

I’m likely to be very tired and sore starting around 16 to 17 miles in. What’s more the steepest hill on the course is at about mile 19.

Yet there is also reason for optimism. Heat, as it has always been, is my enemy. It did me in at HITS last year and has made havoc of multiple training runs. Fortunately, the current forecast is a high of only 62 and that is likely to be later on in the afternoon, long after the race is over. Gravity is also an enemy. I know there are people out there who actually like running up hills, but I don’t understand them. Granted, I don’t like steep descents such as those found in the early part of the Horsetooth Half Marathon but this race averages an easy 0.8%. Indeed, the steepest hill I found on the course profile is 2.2% which is on the down side of the big hill at mile 19.  Finally, I’m resting all week. My sore legs will be given a break this week with nothing more than walking a few blocks in San Francisco when I’m out there for work for couple of days.

This will be a challenge. Next week at this time, I’ll be incredibly sore and tired. But in the end, I’d rather go out and do a full 26.2 at a slower-than-hoped-for pace than have an even more disappointing 13.1 or a downright demoralizing DNS.

Regardless of the outcome, look for a complete race report here next week.

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Running for Boston, Too.

Normally around this time of year I would be posting about my registration for the BolderBoulder.  I would express my excitement about being back in the race for another year like this one I did just over a year ago.

But given Monday’s events in Boston, this year’s registration felt particularly poignant to me. This year, sure, I’ll still be out there for my own selfish reasons. But I’ll also be out there, as will many others, in a show of support for everyone who was affected by the bombings.

While one is a full 26.2 mile marathon and the other just a 6.2 mile 10K, they share a lot in common:

  • Both races draw thousands of participants from all over the world.
  • Spectators line the length of each course.
  • Boston and Boulder are as much an event for the local communities as they are for the participants.
  • Both draw large participant fields: 25,000 + in Boston, over 50,000 in Boulder.
  • Each race is steeped in tradition (granted Boston’s is about 85 year older than Boulder’s).
  • Sadly, both make good targets for would-be terrorists.

I don’t especially appreciate false bravado so I won’t talk about how I’m going to muster my courage and face down those who would seek to intimidate me and my fellow citizens into altering our lifestyles out of fear. No doubt, the threat will be reduced by the efforts organizers of this and several other large races. No doubt, I would not willingly put myself in the way of obvious and imminent harm. But no doubt, not much else would keep me from doing what I love on Memorial Day morning: running this race. Is this one for me? Yeah, it always is. But this year it’s also for my fellow runners in Boston, their friends and family and most especially for the victims.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Last I posted, completing the Colorado Marathon was all but a distant hope. I figured I’d be contacting them this week to change my distance down the half and then just hope I could complete it.

But a funny thing happened after my short run on Thursday.

I started that run the way I've been starting all of them lately—with a walk. Given my injured leg, walking for the first quarter mile or so gives me a chance to further loosen up the muscles. I definitely stretch before hand, but this is just a little more time to get ready for the run.

As I moved along, I noticed that my walking pace was in the low 13 minute range. It even dipped into the high 12 minute range a few times. As I ran, I started doing the math. Me doing math in my head is a dubious proposition at best, all the more so when running. However, I estimated about out about how long it would take to do a full 26.2 at an average pace of 13:00 per mile: 5:40. That’s pretty slow but still within the six hours permitted for the race. However, who said I would walk the whole thing.

I continued to crunch the numbers (this time on a spreadsheet instead of in my head) and determined I could reduce the time to under 5:15 if I could reduce the average pace to 12:00. So I could mostly walk, do some running, and still finish not much slower than my only other full Mary, the 2006 Rock-n-Roll San Diego. The time there was 5:01.

But figuring this out in my head and actually doing it are two different things. It had to be put to the test and with the race four weeks away, I decided to do just that on Sunday.

It was a pretty good day for a run. Low 60* range with a breeze to make it feel just a little cooler. I donned my triathlon shorts (they seem to be the best for longer distances) along with a long sleeve technical fleece which might have been a bit warm, but weather in Colorado changes rapidly. It would turn out to be a pretty good choice.

Since my home sits at over 6000 feet, nearly any out and back run involves climbing on the return. The longer the run, the more the climb. If I had been healthy, I would have done just that. However, my soleus muscle complains mostly when I’m going up hill. What’s more the Colorado Marathon is a mostly downhill affair since it starts in the mountains of the Poudre Canyon and finishes on the plains of Fort Collins. Being the supportive person she is, my wife gladly agreed to pick me up just outside of Cherry Creek State Park which would be the finish of my point-to-point trek.

From the mid-point of my drive way, I headed out, at a walk until reaching the Sulfur Gulch trail which is the main bike path through my neighborhood. It’s a slow descent from east to west until it intersects with the Cherry Creek Trail which would take me north toward the park.

The first four miles (save for that opening walk) were done at a moderate pace of a little over 9:30. My leg was complaining a fair amount as I reached mile four even though I felt okay from a cardio standpoint. I decided I would walk for the next two miles. However, I felt better as I reached the 6 mile mark so I decided I would run some more. Things were actually feeling okay until I hit something of a steep decline around 6.5 miles. It’s usually the uphill portion that hurt but this time, my leg felt really sore. I went a little further then stopped to stretch a little at 6.5. I started walking again and felt good enough to run until a little past 7 miles.

As I walked, I focused on trying to stay under a 13:00 pace. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You really do still but a lot of effort into it. In fact, I noticed my glutes becoming sore as I proceeded, but I still felt okay and kept going. At the nine mile mark I started up again for two miles of running. Things hurt but soon the pain became duller and I was aided by a mostly flat course. By now, I had crossed into Arapahoe County and was approaching the point where I would no longer be on the bike path. This was where the run became more exploratory.

I was pleased to still feel like I had plenty left as I reached mile 11. I walked off the path and across Arapahoe road and then on the unpaved side. It was a planned walk, but if it had been a run, I would have stopped and walked this section. The area was uneven and I even stumbled once. Fortunately, the whole rough section was only about a half mile long or so and then I was back on the sidewalk.

With a right turn on to Jordan road, I was on my way to the park. Several times I’ve ridden my bike out to Cherry Creek State Park and back. With a loop around the park, it’s a good way to get a forty miler in, even though the road in the park is particularly rough. Today, it was the same scenery, only slower. My next running section began at 13 miles and I went through the next two at a sub ten pace. My leg was not bothering me so much, but I started to feel winded. Somewhere around 14 and change, the rain started. It was really just a shower, but I knew it was also enough to get me pretty wet. Had it continued, I could see it sapping my energy and threatening my ability to finish. I put the thought out of my head. Shortly after starting my next walk break at 15 miles, the rain stopped and the sun started to come out again--typical Colorado weather.

By now, I was well into the park and was actually on the run section of the Creek Streak triathlon. I had, in fact, stopped to walk this very section during that hot run. Today was much cooler and I was walking through miles 16 and 17 rather than mile 5. I knew I was doing better!

Mile 17 was where I started running again and it started on a fairly flat stretch. However, it’s also here that the path starts a climb on the lake side of the dam that forms Cherry Creek reservoir. I’ve experienced all of this before because it is the outbound portion of the run for the Aqauman event. Coming back, you get to enjoy a nice downhill, but not today. I slowed back to a walk as I hit 17.5. There’s no question I was tired. But I was also concerned about pushing to hard and injuring something else. I continued until 18 when I was past the dam and looking at steady flat to down section that runs on the north (outside) face. I was only planning on going to 18.5, but I felt good enough to keep going to 18.75. It was there that I stopped running. The last section was back up hill again. It was not as steep as I expected, but at this point, even walking it was becoming a chore.

From then on, it was just a question of getting to the 20 mile mark before four hours had passed. I did that with time to spare. Ultimately, I hit about 20.35 before four hours. Again, I did the math in my head. Even if I could not run any more, but managed to walk at a 15:00 pace, that would mean in another hour, I would have covered 24.35 leaving 1.85 left. Doing so would result in an overall time of 5:27:45 which is not bad considering I’ve been running almost not at all.

There was a little more walking to get to the parking lot where my wife was meeting me. When I was done, the total distance covered was 20.75 with a total time of 4:05:56.

Today, I am sore as hell. My legs are aching and I’m moving slowly. But I also think I’ll be feeling better by the end of the week. I have no runs planned for the rest of the week, just riding and swimming.

I think I may just be able to shave a little more time of the run by the time May 5 rolls around. For starters, here’s the elevation profile for my race and below, the profile for the marathon:

No, those are not drawings from the same source, but you will notice the lack of steep hills at the end of the lower drawing. I know this is an accurate rendering because those last four miles are the same course as the Horsetooth Half Marathon which I ran almost a year ago. On that day, my biggest enemies were a steady breeze in my face and legs that were especially sore from climbing huge hills around Horsetooth Reservoir.  I may not be feeling any fresher, but I think I can walk at 15:00 and possible faster.

A stretch goal would be to average 11:27 which would bring me in right at the 5 hour mark. That would be great, but considering that a week ago I was thinking about pulling out altogether. So if that’s the stretch, the more likely would be around 12:00 which would result in a finish time of 5:14:24. And if I can’t pull that off and slow to a slow walk for the last four, I could still finish in under 5:30. Not what I hoped for when I started out, but better than not running at all or cutting the distance down to a mere 13.1

We’re forecast for some fairly severe weather in the next day or two, but by the weekend, spring is supposed to return. That means that this Sunday, I’m going to try and do this all over again. I’m also going to try and increase the distance to 23.

Beyond that, I still think a taper is in order so while I may do some run/walking at longer distances; they’ll be much shorter than this. Most of this will also depend on how quickly my body recovers during the week ahead.

More to come.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Catching Up

So it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted. There are a few things to catch up on and no clear place to start. I’ll just dive in:

I've been running.
I've managed to do all of two runs totaling about 7 miles. The injury is not as bas as it was, but it is probably also less than 50% healed. I’m signed up for physical therapy sessions for the entire month of April and I think I’m going to need all of them.

The Colorado Marathon will probably become a half.
That sucks, but short of me being miraculously better, I don’t see how I can do 26.2. I might be able to pull it off from a cardio stand point, but the pain in my leg would just about guarantee a DNF. I’m going to wait about one more week and then officially notify the race organizers of my desire to change.

I am indeed running the SOST
Though I only registered late last week, I am pleased to say that I will be among the field at this year’s Summer Open Sprint Triathlon. I thought about skipping it, but that would mean no race until the 5430 Sprint in June. I may be taking some chances with the weather, but I’m really hoping for another nice day like they had two years ago:

More Outdoor Rides
I was up in Northern Colorado for Easter weekend and managed to get a ride on the Poudre River Trail heading west. I must admit to being fairly impressed. Though I normally don’t like bike trails, this one was free of the normal obstacles and I got a good 30 mile ride in. Riding along, I noticed the landscape seemed kind of desolate. It looked a little bit like the pictures coming back from the Curiosity Rover:

West of Windsor                                  Mars

Really, just take away the grass and the clouds and I think it could work.

Physical Therapy Continues. As I mentioned before, I am continuing physical therapy. That mostly consists of having small needles poked into my muscles while I try not to cry like a little girl. I’m so anxious to have my leg healed that I’d be willing to try just about anything. Not getting to run very much really sucks. Never thought I’d say that, but it’s true.

I am going back to TriRock
I have registered for the TriRock Oly distance in San Diego. That will be on September 22. Their updated run and ride courses look good and the swim is still in San Diego Bay. This will be a good bridge between the Rattle Snake Tri and IM Austin 70.3.

I’m renting a bike in Ibiza
I found a rental shop on the Spanish island of Ibiza that is going to deliver a bike to the place I am staying for a two-day rental. My research on Garmin Connect shows that there are others who have done rides around the island. I am really looking forward to it. The GoPro will be with me so I can capture all of the fun.

Okay. All caught up.

For now it’s just focus on getting over this injury in as little time as possible. Right now, my worst case is completely withdrawing from the Colorado Marathon but I’m hoping the next month will give me a chance to get better and at least crank out the half. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!