Tag Archives: marathon

Reflection on my 2015 Racing Year and Planning for 2016

2015 represents the second half of a comeback. I had a stellar year in 2013. I ran many excellent races and scored several personal records (PRs). At the end of 2013, however I had a knee issue that caused me to take a month off. In February of 2014, I suffered a concussion after being hit by a car as I rode my bike. My head healed, but I had a long way to go to regain my fitness. I finished the year by qualifying for Boston (BQ) one more time, this time in Savannah. It was 10 minutes slower than my marathon PR, but I was back in BQ shape.

That sets the stage for 2015. I had 4 goal races this year. As always, I had a few surprises along the way, but the year turned out to be very productive.

Goal Race 1: Boston MarathonBoston 2015

I ran my first Boston in 2014 and it was a disaster. With this in mind, my “A Goal” was to run fast enough to qualify for Boston 2016. All I really wanted out of the 2015 race, however, was to have a solid run of which I could be proud. Both of those goals were met! I felt strong early. I struggled with Heartbreak Hill, but I knew I was strong enough to meet my A goal. That made the pain of the hills much easier to take. I finished strong and qualified for 2016 with a 3:23:39. That is 1 minute and 21 seconds faster than the qualifying time for my age group.

Goal Race 2: USA Track & Field Master Outdoor Championship

One of my long-term goals is to move towards a 2:00 performance in the 800 meter run. I had run a 2:23 in 2014 and I was hoping to take 10 seconds off at this track meet. I did not succeed. In fact, I started exactly on target pace but I ran out of steam in the second lap. Looking back, I know I did not do enough training specifically for this race. Lesson learned. The experience was worth it. I’ll be back.

Goal race 3: Challenge Cedar Point Full Iron Distance Triathlon

This was my first full Ironman-distance event. That is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles on the bike, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. Inspired by my wife’s Ironman performance in 2014, my goal was to finish with 26.2 miles of smiles. I survived the swim even though Lake Erie was getting pretty choppy towards the end. The bike is my biggest weakness. I am still new to cycling and it showed. Still, my goal was to end with a smile. So I took it easy and stopped a lot. By the time I finally got to the run, I was tired, but happy. I met my goal by smiling, talking, laughing, and showing my gratitude to volunteers along the way. 13:59:43. I will do it again, but not in 2016.

Goal Race 4: Savannah Marathon (and Sequoyah Marathon)

I believed that I had done the right training to be prepared to set a new personal record in the marathon in Savannah if the weather was just right. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. It was extremely humid and very warm. I had shed my shirt at the second mile marker. I had given up on a PR before mile 5. I pushed hard and was beginning to fade when the race was cut short. They did not allow me or anyone left on the course to complete the full race. It was hot. Two runners eventually died from the effects of heat.

So… my wife, Muna, and I decide that we would take advantage of our training by running the Seqouyah Marathon at Pinson Mounds three weeks later. The Sequoyah is a 9-loop course and that loop has very little elevation. More importantly, the weather was perfect during my run. It was cool and there was only a very light mist of rain during my race. I was right about being in PR shape. Finishing in 3:08:32, I had beaten my previous PR by over 4 minutes. A great end to a productive year.

Tentative Plans for 2016

I will run many races in 2016, but I will have only 4 key events around which my year is planned:

  • Knoxville Marathon (April)
  • USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championship (July)
  • Richmond Olympic Triathlon (October)
  • Savannah Half Marathon (November)

My training plan for the year will have 8 distinct phases, each with a slightly different purpose and training focus:

  • Light Triathlon Cycle 1
  • Run Cycle 1 (ends with Knoxville Marathon)
  • Light Triathlon Cycle 2
  • Medium Triathlon Cycle1 (Ends with USATF Masters Outdoor Championship)
  • Medium Triathon Cycle 2
  • Peak Triathlon Cycle (Ends with Richmond Olympic Triathlon)
  • Peak Run Cycle (Ends with Savannah Half Marathon)
  • Off-season Recover and Rebuild

The plan has balance. Yes, I am running during every phase. What is changing is the number of miles I will run, the number of days I run each week, and the specific purpose and intensity of the running. The plan includes strategically timed strength training and cross-training. It includes periodic tapering and recovery to stay healthy. It gradually builds my fitness level over the entire year before easing up in the off season.

Enjoy the run!
P. Mark

 

Reflection on Winning a Marathon

I won a marathon last week: The Sequoyah Marathon at Pinson Mounds 2015.  http://runitfast.com/sequoyah-marathon-half-marathon-5k-10k/Sequoyah Marathon 2015 with plaque and medal

On one hand, I want to say it is no big deal. After all, it is a very small marathon (20 finishers) and the course is not certified. On the other hand, the course was still 26.2 miles long and I was first across the finish line.

On one hand, my finishing time of 3:08:32 would not even put me in the top 100 in my age group at a huge marathon like New York or Chicago. On the other hand, it was a big PR (personal record) for me by over 4 minutes.

Does this make the victory smaller? On the one hand, it is a very small win because I could have jogged it in and still won. I had no top-end competition. On the other hand, however, that might be taken as an insult by the other marathon finishers. Each gave what they had on that day. They certainly deserve my respect.

How do I celebrate this? Believe it or not, I have wrestled with this question quite a bit.

The final decision: I won a marathon. Everyone out there was competing with themselves. Blood, sweat, and tears. We gave it our all and I finished first. No dilemma. Congratulations to all who toed the start line. You rock!

In the end, I chose to officially make the claim on Facebook and Twitter: “I won a marathon.” Then I posted the results to let people see that the number of runners was small. Let them wrestle with it. We all gave are all. We deserve what we earned.

Special shout-out to two runners near and dear to my heart:

  • My wife Muna was third overall female!  Woohoo!
  • My friend Jennifer ran over 23 miles that day, her farthest run by a long shot. Great progress!

I will write another post about how I made such a big PR. For now, here are the final results of The Sequoyah Marathon:

1 P Mark Taylor 48 M 1 3:08:32
2 Francesca Muccini 48 F 1 3:49:42
3 Mike Samuelson 50 M 2 3:52:17
4 Nathan Wilson 42 M 3 3:53:00
5 Amy Frederick 30 F 2 3:54:13
6 Muna Rodriguez-Taylor 38 F 3 3:57:05
7 Kevin Gerteisen 47 M 4 4:06:46
8 Marylou Corino 37 F 4 4:30:44
9 David Nichols 54 M 5 4:30:44
10 Halbert Walston 41 M 6 4:53:02
11 Marjorie Mitchell 54 F 5 4:56:07
12 Leanne Goodwin 35 F 6 4:59:48
13 Erin Goetz 28 F 7 5:09:40
14 Joseph Montgomery 56 M 7 5:10:17
15 Kendra Schoffstall 52 F 8 5:15:52
16 David Essary 34 M 8 5:25:18
17 John Leighton 55 M 9 5:31:31
18 Amanda Staggs 30 F 9 5:39:11
19 Wesley Hardacre 35 M 10 5:53:17
20 Mark Parrotte 58 M 11 5:59:15

 

 

Boston Marathon 2015, My race report

Boston 2015In 2014, I ran my first Boston Marathon.  I had a bad day, taking nearly 5 hours to finish.  It wasn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that slowed me down.  Nerves, time off for a knee injury, getting hit by a car, …  I set out to run as close to 3 hours as possible, but went into survival mode at mile 6.

As I lined up for the 2015 Boston Marathon, I was much more confident.  I had gone injury-free for a year.  My training was going well.  I had created a “NEXT-LEVEL” training program that helped many runners achieve their goals in the last 9 months.  I used a variation of that program.  I was healthy, calm, and ready to get this done.  The weather forecast was cold and wet.  That forecast was showing itself to be correct, so I knew that I should go with my B-Goal.  My A-Goal would be a personal record of around 3:11.  In the cold, wet weather I expected to struggle a bit more, so I set my sites on just BQing (qualifying for a future Boston) by finishing faster than 3:25.

I aimed to start the first mile at 7:30 and then gradually whittle that down to a 7:10 pace by the halfway point.  I did average about 7:20 for the first 3 miles, which fit the plan fairly well.  At mile 12, I was on course with a 7:10 average pace.  That, however, was when I first felt a cramp coming on.  My left hamstring twitched during one stride and I slowed just a bit.  I made a quick stop at a port-a-potty during mile 13, but I was still very close to the goal pace for the first half.

I spent the second half of the race managing the cramps.  I never went into a full cramp.  I know what it feels like when I am about to cramp.  I know how to ride that line, going as fast as I can without going into a full cramp.  I discovered a relationship between the timing of these “pre-cramp twitches” and when I took in calories.  I stopped fueling at that point and drank only water.  I took in as much water as I could without stopping.  I soon found out how much was too much.

From that point on, I used pace and water to manage my conditions to avoid cramping.  I knew that I would not get a personal record, but I was still as a good overall average.  If I allowed myself to slow down just a little each mile, I would still keep the average under the time I needed to come in under 3:25.  With each uphill, I reminded myself that it was okay to slow down.  With each downhill and flat, I reminded myself that it was safe to press the pace just a tiny bit.

By the time I reached the 25 mile marker, I knew that I could run a 9 minute mile the last 1.2 miles and still be under my goal time.  Still, I pushed as hard as I could without cramping.  Then I saw that beautiful sign: “Hereford Street.”  I was still on pace and had two turns to go.  Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and on to the finish!

I can’t tell you that I passed anyone on that last stretch.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I didn’t.  I didn’t care.  I had just spent the last 26 miles with thousands of others runners, but I was only racing one the entire time.  The race was against my limitations.  I had pressed my limits and managed my resources to get the most out of my body.  In the race against my limitations, I won.  I finished in 3:23:39.

The Real Story

This race was not won on emotions.  This race was won by suppressing the emotions and staying focused.  In particular, I won the race against my limitations because I had stayed in tune with my body.  I ignored the crowd.  I kept a laser-sharp focus on the road 20-30 feet ahead of me.  I felt every muscle and mentally went through a checklist of every body part in an ongoing scan.  When I did get emotional, I talked myself down and re-focused on doing my best in that moment.  I did what I needed to do to get the best possible performance.

 

My story is one of overcoming obstacles, overcoming past performance, and overcoming my own fear of failure.  I did this by staying focused over the last year and staying focused during the race.  After the race, I shivered wildly.  I realized just how cold and wet I had been for the last 3 hours.  I shivered and shook all the way to Boston Common, when I could finally stand in a heated place long enough to regain control of my hands.

That is when it hit me.  I did it.  I beat Boston.  I had come back to the course that defeated me last year and I was triumphant.  I BQed at Boston.  In fact, there was now only one marathon course which I have run, but not had at least one Boston qualifying time.

As with most races, the first thing I did is set my sites on the next big goal.  I had run my first 2 marathons at Knoxville.  I have BQed on every course after that. [not always on the first try, but eventually].  I think it is time to return to the Knoxville Marathon next spring so I can reach 6 out of 6.  If I can run under 3:25, I will have qualified for Boston at least once on every marathon course I have ever run.  That sounds pretty good.  Challenge accepted.

What Did I Learn Between 2014 and 2015?

A)  As an introvert, I need a plan to deal with the noise and distractions.

Many runners are encouraged by all of the fans, signs, and noise.  I, on the other hand, am an introvert.  I had to learn to drown it all out.  If you look at my photos, I am always looking slightly down at the ground about 20-30 feet ahead of me.  I was busy tuning out of the crowd and tuning into how I was feeling.

B)  I need to run my own race.

I was well aware that the people in my corral all had about the same qualifying time as I did.  That does not, however, mean that we can expect to run the race together.  Some will go out too fast for me.  Some will be going too slow.  I take the uphills slower than most of that same group of runners.  I make up for it on the flats and downhills.  If I had tried to stay with the equally capable runners that I started with, I would have charged the hills too fast and faded early.  In fact, there were only a few instances when I stayed with a group of specific runners for more than 20 seconds.

C)  I belong here.  I can do this.  I need to remind myself of that.

You have to qualify for Boston.  Most marathon runners don’t.  Despite the fact that I had already qualified for Boston on four different marathon courses, I still had my doubts.  Last year’s struggle did a lot of damage to my self-image.  Throughout this year’s race, I had to give myself positive affirmations:

“Just because they start out fast, doesn’t mean they are faster than me.”
“This pre-cramp feeling is just a sign.  I will deal with it and keep moving at a strong pace.”
“I am still on pace for a BQ.  I have this.  Keep pressing the limit.”
“I can average a 9 minute pace this last stretch and still get a solid BQ.”
“Yes, this is a slight uphill, but the finish is just around this corner.  You can keep pressing the pace.”

D)  I can still get faster and stronger while only running 3 days per week.

I had been doing my NEXT-LEVEL” training program and it had prepared me for the challenge.  I typically run 3 days a week, ride my bike 2 or 3 days per week, swim once every other week, and do a lot of strength training.  In the year between the 2014 and 2015 Boston Marathons, I gained 10 pounds and became a stronger runner.

I praise The Lord for helping me learn these lessons and getting me through this race.

Now on to the next challenge.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

Every Finisher’s Medal Has a Story

IMG_0734medals 2I have earned many finisher’s medals since my return to running in November of 2009.  On the right is a small photo of most of them.  Each medal has a story, a context, a tale of triumph, defeat, friends, and laughs.

Why would I only display 9 of them on my medal rack?  Because some memories/achievements are bigger than others.  These are the stories I want to remember.  These are the stories I want to tell.

From left to right…

Knoxville Marathon 2010:  The first medal represents my first marathon.  In March of 2010, I was less than well-informed about the needs of an endurance athlete.  My training was sparse.  I had no nutrition plan.  I had taken one drink of water on one training run.  That was it.  Nothing else had passed through my lips on a training run.  No calories.  One drink of water on one long run.  If you know anything about endurance nutrition and hydration, you know where this led.  I ran reasonably well until mile 17 and the bottom fell out.  My legs locked up and I could barely walk.  The skies grew dark and a cold, windy rain set in.  I walked the rest of the way.  I shivered.  I must have looked pitiful, because the medics checked on me frequently for the rest of the marathon.  I was determined that I did not need help and I would finish.  I did.  5:34:38.  Then I could barely move for a week.  Good times.  I am not a quitter.

Knoxville Marathon 2011:   The second medal happened 1 year later.  One year of studying running.  One year of reading and studying.  One year of training.  One year of learning about hydration and nutrition.  I only ran two races between my first and second marathon, but I trained.  I didn’t train every day, but I trained all year.  This time when I got to mile 17, I could feel that my body was being challenged, but I knew how to pace myself.  I paid close attention and ran as fast as I could without cramping.  I gradually slowed down, but never stopped.  3:55:59.  More than 1.5 hours faster than the first try.  Consistent studying and training pays off.

7 Bridges Marathon 2012:   In the fall of 2011, I ran my third marathon, the Seven Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga, TN.  I had done more studying and a lot more training.  I managed to shave another big chunk of time, finishing in 3:27:27.  This was great progress and I was very happy, but it was also painful.  I cramped hard in mile 26.  I was on pace to qualify for Boston until that moment.  I could see the finish line, but I could not get to it.  I had to stand and wait for my legs to calm down.  My time was 2 minutes and 27 above the Boston mark for my age group.  But this medal is from the 2012 Seven Bridges Marathon.  Why this one?  It marks my victory over two things: cramping and gluten.  I had started the 2012 Knoxville Marathon in April, but had to stop.  I had been getting weaker during my taper instead of stronger.  I tried to ignore it, but I could not.  I spent more than half of 2012 trying to figure out why I was sick.  Finally in September, I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant.  I stopped eating wheat for 6 weeks.  Then I ran the 7 Bridges Marathon.  Even though I had been weak for 6 months, I had trained anyway.  I was hoping that the slow paces would pay off because of the big efforts that it took to fight through my weakened state.  That gamble paid off at 7 Bridges.  My slower, weaker, but valiant attempts at training during my illness led to a finish time of 3:22:44.  I had beaten gluten.  I had beaten the cramps.  I had qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time.  This medal will always have a place on my medal rack.

Shamrock Marathon 2013:  After that, I was healthy and ready to score another big PR.  I had now studied three very different marathon training strategies.  I had even written a book about running.  I was laser-focused.  I had very consistent training with a very consistent strategy.  It paid off again.  Even though I still gradually slowed down, I did my best job of pacing ever.  I did cramp just a bit, but I was 100 yards from the finish.  I jogged it in for a 3:13:22.  My second BQ (Boston-Qualifying time).  Not only that, but I had BQed by more than 9 minutes.

Indianapolis Marathon 2013:  This one was only a PR by 37 seconds, but this is amazing in and of itself.  Why?  Because my training strategies varied greatly.  I was starting to play with speed.  I ran shorter distances and did a lot more speed-work.  I was reading and studying like always, but I was testing out my own theories about training.  I was also racing A LOT.  It was a couple of months from the marathon before I started getting a bit more focused.  I was gambling that my endurance base was maintained through out all of the different training strategies.  That gamble paid off.  Even though I did not make significant progress, I did show that I could maintain my fitness level.  This is remarkable because I was 45 years old.  At this age, we are expected to gradually become slower.  I had not slowed down.  I was 15th place overall.  Not bad.

Boston Marathon 2014:  This was one of my worst races ever.  I knew by mile 6 that I was not feeling well enough to run a good race.  I gradually slowed from under 7 minute pace down to trying to maintain a 12 minute pace. It was physically and emotionally painful.  As painful as this was, I understood that this was just a bad day.  I tried to smile and wave to the crowds a lot.  I knew my wife was waiting for me.  I knew she was worried as my splits kept showing slower times.  Every time I crossed a timing mat, I was telling her “I’m okay.  I’m still moving.”  I spent some moments of anguish in the medical tent until I recovered.  I vowed to return.  Just over one week from now, I shall.

Savannah Marathon 2013 & 2014:  I didn’t really set out to race Savannah in 2013.  It was about a month after the Indianapolis Marathon and I would not expect to PR.  I was, however, excited to run with my new wife, Muna.  We “eloped” on the way to Savannah.  We were newlyweds running together.  I paced Muna to 3:52:25, her first sub-4.  In 2014, I raced.  Even though I was doing my first triathlons that summer, I made sure to include enough specific training to prove that the performance at Boston was a fluke.  I would at least qualify for Boston again.  That is where I aimed and that is what I earned.  3:22:43.  BQ by just over a minute.  I walked away with the confidence of knowing that I know just how much effort it takes to earn the result I want.

Shrimp and Grits 5K 2015:  This is the 5K associated with the Charleston Marathon.  I ran a 19:28.  Nowhere near a PR, but that was not the goal.  I just wanted a fun run.  I usually check my pace regularly while aiming for some very specific time. Instead of aiming for a PR, I decided to race. I simply sized up the competition over the first mile and decided who I could catch by the end.  I met Tony at the start line.  He was 57 years old and in great shape.  He started out ahead of me, so I spent more than half of the race chasing after Tony.  I eventually got him in the last mile and then just held my position.  After the race I jogged down to the 14 mile marker of the marathon so I could run the rest of that race with Muna.  She was having a rough time, so my support was more important than ever.  She toughed it out and still finished with a great time considering the illness with which she was battling.  After we finished the marathon, I found out my friend Ethan had won the marathon and I had won the masters division in the 5K.  That’ll do.

These are not all my best races.  They are not all personal records.  They are, however, all significant.  Each one has a story that means something to me.  I could leave all of my medals up, but it would be very crowded.  I want to see these particular medals when I walk by… and to remember.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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“You have earned my respect, Runner.”

Which runners do I respect?  The ones that have earned it.

To the one that is running regularly for the very first time:  your kind of crazy

There may be a lot of walking, but you are out there doing what you can to improve your health and fitness.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that is just jogging to lose weight:

It is great that you want to be lighter, but you are making efforts towards running that puts you waaay ahead of the folks still on the couch.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that only runs for the social aspect:

Yes, you always run at “conversational pace” and you seem to be more happy at the beer garden after the run, but you are still out there.  You are there two or three times a week.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that runs EVERY 5K because races are fun:

Yes, you, … you 5K freak!  Even if you only run once a week, you are out there consistently.  You participate, you run, you help raise funds for charity, and you are a part of the running community.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the Half-Maniacs:

You know who you are.  You are the one that does as many half marathons each year as you can afford to do.  You supplement your appetite for half marathons by running more half marathons.  At whatever pace you choose, you are out there doing it.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the Marathoner and the Ultra-Marathoners:

People think you are nuts.  I think they are right.  I love you just the way you are.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the speed-demon, driven by the quest for age-group glory or more:

I get it.  You push long and hard.  Sometimes you overdo it.  So what.  You rock the world and sometimes the world rocks back.  To me it matters less that you win; it matters more that you try to improve.  You try with all of your might.   You have earned my respect, Runner.

To everyone that tries to run, for the ones in wheelchairs, the ones with guides, the ones with knee problems,… people of all shapes and size, people of all ages, genders, … anyone that runs in any way, shape or form:

 You have earned my respect, Runner.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Getting to the Next Level: The Role of Patience in Your Training Plan

I am guilty as charged.  The crime?  Lack of patience.  The evidence?  My training plans from the past.  They are riddled with inconsistency.  Why?  Because I am a tinker.  I like to tinker with plans and try to perfect them.  Why is this a problem?  Because it takes months for a plan to fully unfold.  A balanced plan will have stages.  It will allow for the development of new speed as well as moving your lactate threshold, running economy, and much more.  You can’t do all of that at the same time.  Bottom line: It takes months to improve the variables that impact running performance enough to see a measurable difference.

What have I done wrong?  I have continuously tweaked programs based on how I was feeling rather than sticking to the original design of the training program.

Remember This!

You should stick to your training plan without major changes for at least 3 months.

It takes ten days to get the full extent of adaptations from a workout.  If your plan is ideal, then four weeks of work could possibly show a measurable difference.  That means that it takes about 1.3 months to see a perfect plan work.  Now throw in the idea that we have good and bad days.  If you have a bad day in the race where you expect to see the results of 1.3 months of work, you might reach the wrong conclusion that it did not work.  It is only after about 3 months of steady progress that you will see a significant change even if you have a bad day.  That is why I say 3 months is the standard.  Follow a plan with multiple stages and complete 3 months as it was designed before you draw a conclusion on whether it worked or not.

Looking back at my own running over the past 5 years, it becomes clear that the times I made the most progress were the times that I stayed with a program most consistently.  That is true regardless of the program I was following.  When I first started, I followed programs from Hal Higdon.  When I wanted to get faster, I followed the plan of Dr. Jack Daniels.  Then I heard about the innovative work of the Hanson Brothers.  I followed their program and got another big improvement.

Since that time, I have been tinkering with different types of workouts.  I have found several workouts that work well on changing some of the variables of running performance.  I have gone through several and been frustrated by my lack of overall improvement.  I just keep changing things.  When I was on a coordinated program for at least 3 months, I made progress.

training program picWhile I was tinkering with my own programs, I have developed training programs for many athletes during the same time.  When they have stayed true to the program I developed for at least 3 months, they have seen the improvements they sought.  Now I need to practice what I preach.  I have developed my Next-Level Training Program and personalized it for many runners, including myself.  I know that if we stick to the program, we will get the results and move on to the next level.  I just have to stop tinkering.  I have to wait for the program to develop.  I have to wait for all of the changes that come with all three stages of the program.  I have to stop evaluating the program in the moment and wait until for my next training schedule to make any changes.

I know that my Next-Level Training Program is a balanced approach that will get me where I want to go.  The components and stages are all first-class, trustworthy workouts.  The stages are in the right order.  I just have enough trust and patience to stick to the program.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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 UPDATE: 9_24_2015

The training plan worked for me as well as it did for many others.  I ran the 2015 Boston Marathon fast enough to qualify again.  Boston is a tough course, so I was thrilled to BQ there!

10 Days Before the Marathon

wise running logo 7_25_12The hay is in the barn.  It is October 28 and I just ran the last key workout for the Savannah Marathon.  That leaves 10 days between today and race day.  It takes a full 10 days to see the full benefit of any particular workout, so this is a logical stopping point.  I will not get any faster.  Through rest and easy running, however, I will keep my speed and increase my health.  The little bumps and bruises, the sore parts, the cramps, strains and all of that, those things need time to heal.  They need to be gone by race day.  Fresh legs with no soreness but all of the speed I have earned through a thoughtful and hard-fought process of training.  Yes, 10 days ought to do the trick.

Getting to This Point

Much of my summer was focused on track meets and developing raw speed.  It was in mid-July that I first started sprinkling in some marathon-specific workouts.  I still had a few track meets left as well as a half-iron distance triathlon, so I was not fully devoted to marathon until later.  My long runs began to get longer and I sprinkled in some tempo runs here and there.

In August, my monthly mileage gradually went from somewhere in the twenties to somewhere in the thirties.  Throughout September, I averaged 41 miles per week.  Through experience, I have learned this is the sweet spot for my marathon training.  I make the most progress at about 40-44 miles per week.  Some people can handle a lot more.  This is me.  I have stayed right around there through the first 3 weeks of October, too.

My longest runs are every other week.  At first I was measuring by miles, but after 16 miles I start measuring by time.  My long runs went from two hours and twenty minutes, to two hours and forty minutes.  I completed two 3-hour long runs.  The Sundays between these very long runs were in the 10 to 12 mile range.

My training paces have changed over the months as well.  In July and part of August, I was doing a lot of short (200 meters to 800 meters) intervals at 5:40 pace or faster.  I gradually decreased time at those ridiculously fast paces while increasing time and distances at paces ranging from 6:30 15257355495_c5aa8f7266_oto 6:50.  These are the paces that I want to run during the marathon, so I have run a lot of mile repeats and tempo runs in this pace range.  No, I do not plan to average 6:30 miles in the marathon.  I would like to average in the 6:50 range.  I have to plan for time to walk through water stations and take a potty break.  Hence, I practiced 6:30’s and 6:40’s to aim for an average in the 6:50’s.  :)

I have done races along the way, but I considered them all to be training runs for the marathon.  I wanted to maintain two to three key workouts per week.  That meant that I could not afford to rest up to really kill any races along the way.  So, they were just training at a good pace.

The 10 Days of Taper

So here we are, 3.5 months after the first marathon-specific workout.  The hay is in the barn.  I will take it easy.  All runs will be at 8:00 pace or slower except for a few strides now and then.  This is enough effort to maintain my speed but easy enough to heal completely in 10 days. My scheduled miles for this week add up to 26.  Next week, I will run 9 to 12 miles before race day on Saturday.

Not only am I going for a personal record (PR) at the Savannah Marathon, but it also the one year anniversary of our wedding.  Muna and I got married on the way to the race last year.  It will be a great day no matter how the race turns out.  Gotta keep things in perspective.

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

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Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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Seeking Greatness as a Masters Runner: A Non-traditional Approach

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

― Mark Twain

 In four years of training, I have managed to move myself from a sometimes runner to a locally competitive status.  I have gradually learned the advice doled out to all typical runners and some of the newer info from research.  Those things have helped me make this progress and I appreciate that.  Furthermore, I have shared those details as a running coach as well as sharing them with you through this web site and my books.

So a few months ago, however, I turned a started a new phase in my running career.  I set some unreasonable running goals for myself.  Among those goals is to run 800 meters is 1:58 or less.

Phase 1 was moving from a occasion runner to becoming competitive in my age group regionally.  It took me four years of consistent training to reach this goal.

Phase 2 is to move from solid age group competitor regionally to becoming a great masters level runner.  I fully expect it to take another four years to reach the goal of Phase 2.
To achieve my goal, I am doing some crazy stuff.  After 4 years of running 6 days a week, I am now running only 3 days each week.  No, I am not resting on the other days.  I am swimming, biking, and lifting weights.  Different folks seem to think I have gone crazy, each with their own reason.

  • Dedicated competitive runners lift weights some, but not usually for power.  I am lifting to add muscle.  That sounds crazy to some people.
  • Most people my age think that getting down to 12.7% body fat is  a crazy goal.  They think I should be satisfied.  My new goal is to get down and stay between 8% and 9% body fat all of the time.  That sounds crazy to nearly everyone.
  • Most competitive runners looking for big gains in running ability avoid other sports.  My goal is running, but I am using swimming and cycling to get to my goal.
  • I have been talking about marathons and training for them for several years and my main goal is now only 800 meters.  That takes a completely different kind of training.  Why the big switch?  It doesn’t seem to make sense.

My logic and sanity has been questioned several times lately.  My allegiance to running has also been questioned. These people have good intentions, but are not looking at the big picture.  Put the pieces together and you might be able to make sense of my strategy.

What is the big idea that underlies all of these changes and makes this strategy make sense?  Physics.  Simple physics.

  • To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
  • Force = Mass x Acceleration
  • Inertia – An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon

I am a guy with a relatively big frame for a runner.  That means that even if I drop weight, I am still going to be moving more weight that elite athletes.  That means the amount of force that it takes to move me is greater than those of those elite athletes.  The result is this:  compared to elite runners of my age, I need a bigger push to get my larger frame moving up to the same speed if I am to catch them.  In short, I need more power than I have.

This is why I am training for power right now.  I am building a more powerful set of muscles.  That does not mean that I am “bulking up” but it does mean that I am gaining some muscle weight.  That brings in the body fat issue.  I have to have more muscle, but more weight means more to carry in those long distance races that I love.  The result:  I must drop body fat in order to trim my weight.  I am not starving myself.  I have to feed my body carefully to support muscle growth and speed development.  I have to lose fat only.  That is a tough trick.  I am refining my nutrition and training for this purpose.  More High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) helps to lower body fat.  It is also great for building power.  I do four workouts each week that have some form of HIIT, two in running, one in cycling, and one in swimming.

I am adding muscle power, but lowering my overall weight.  All of that is great, but why am I swimming and cycling?  That’s easy.  Because I am getting older.  No, I am nowhere near retirement, but I am 46 years old.  A ton of mileage might work for some, but it just wears me down.  Cycling and swimming both offer opportunities to train my cardiovascular system for long periods of time.  They also give me additional HIIT workouts.

The biggest difference in my new system is the wear and tear of training.  I do not believe that running wears you down more or less than cycling or swimming.  When I only did one sport, however I had a few spots that seem to always feel the wear and tear of the constant activity.  raining in all three sports distributes that wear and tear out throughout my body.  There is no one spot that is getting more sore than any other spot.

That explains everything except for the change in focus.  I was focused on marathons and half marathons, but now my focus is on training for 800 meters.  Isn’t that going to hurt my long races.  The answer is a yes and no.  Yes, in the short term the fewer miles might have a negative effect on my long races.  Before and after I achieve my 800 meter goal, however, I am going to capitalize on on of my favorite facts of fitness.

Remember This:

It is much easier to maintain your level of fitness than it is to gain it in the first place.

As I work towards breaking 1:58 in the 800 meters, I will also rotate longer runs and rides into the scheme.  I am racing in the Boston Marathon in April.  I will still have long runs that build over time.  My endurance level will be at least maintained if not improved.

After I have achieved this goal, I will maintain the speed and turn my attention towards stretching my new speed to longer distances.  I am reasonably sure that I will not run a sub-four mile, but if I run 1:58 for 800 meters that makes a 4:30 mile look very reasonable.  If I can run a 4:30 mile, then I could probably manage a 15:00 5K.  How cool would that be??

And it goes on from there all the way back to the marathon.  I will still be doing marathons throughout it all.  How fast will I run a marathon?  Who knows?  Here is what I do know: it will be faster because my power base will be stronger.  As I maintain my new power and refocus on endurance, I will become a much faster marathon runner.

A Final Word

Who am I to aspire to be great?  I believe we all have the potential for greatness. It is not specific to me. Most of us just do not believe it.   I do not believe that I have anything more special about me than you do.  What makes me different is that I have begun to believe.

Remember This:

When you believe there is greatness in you, you are right. 
You must find a way to allow that greatness to shine so bright
that it become a light for others.

To my nay-sayers, just know this.  I have a plan.  There is a solid reason for everything in my plan.  It is not traditional because I am not in a traditional spot.  I am not starting in my youth and gradually building to peak performance in my twenties or thirties.  I started this training at age 42.  I am half way through and I expect to peak at around age 50.  I have seen no other plan for becoming a great runner at a late age.  I had to create my own plan.

As the plan unfolds, I will keep you posted about my progress.

If you want to see my daily workouts, I always post them on Facebook and Twitter.

I will also write a book based on my findings of what worked and what did not for taking a good masters level runner to becoming even better.

Until we meet again…

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?

Cesar

Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013

 

running form 7_25_2013