Tag Archives: marathon

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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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.

 ______________________________

“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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2014 Progress Report on My Own Training & Performance

In the midst of watching my run coaching clients make progress and set personal records, I have forgotten to reflect on my own progress as a runner.

A lot has happened in the last year or so.

  • I injured my knees in late November of 2013 and did not run for 4 weeks in December.
  • I was clipped by a car while riding my bike in February 2014, suffering a concussion.
  • I ran my first Boston Marathon in April, which turned out to be my second slowest marathon time.
  • I focused my summer training on the 800 meters and 1 mile distances.
  • I competed in my first “USA Track and Field” sanctioned track meet.
  • I became a RRCA certified running coach.
  • I ran two mile races on the road and 5 track meets in the summer.
  • In between track and mile events I also completed my very first triathlon, the “Storm the Fort” Half-Iron Distance.
  • I did a total of three triathlons in 2014, two half-iron distance triathlons and one sprint triathlon.

Townsend 15KSetbacks

Due to the time off from the knee injury and concussion, my fitness level suffered.  I lost a lot of progress.  I have been pushing hard all year just to get back to level of fitness that I had a year ago.  I have loved the training.  I enjoy pushing myself.  On the other hand, it has been extremely frustrating to work that hard and not achieve any personal records.  Very discouraging.

Progress

Yesterday was a big victory.  No, I did not win a race.  I was even a full minute behind the winner in my age group.  Still, it was a big victory.  I set a personal record (PR) in the 15K distance (about 9.3 miles).  That feels pretty good.

I still have a ways to go.  I am still a bit behind where I was in February of last year.  That is when my fitness last fully peaked.  I ran a 1:27:42 on a hilly half marathon course.  This is 9 seconds per mile faster than the 15K I ran yesterday.  Hence, I am close, but not quite all the way there.

When will I get there?  Well, I have 2.5 weeks left before I taper (ease up and heal) for the Savannah Marathon, which is on November 8.  I will have 5 key workouts in that 2.5 weeks.  I may not reach a PR at Savannah, but I should be very close at that point.

Conclusion

Whether I peak at Savannah or not, I know the time is very soon when I will be able to earn a few more personal records.

  • My training is balanced, pushing just the right amount.
  • I am eating healthier than ever.
  • And, most importantly, I am enjoying my training.

When I am not enjoying it, I change it up.

Remember This:

Enjoying the run comes first!
It is more important than progress and personal records.

 ______________________________

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

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

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

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

Boston 2014: My Race Report

I was aiming to finish the 2014 Boston Marathon in about 3 hours.  It took me almost 2 hours longer than expected.  My nerves got the best of me.  It was my first Boston.  I was so excited and nervous that I made a few rookie mistakes.  Most of them revolve around my usual routine.  If your routine gets you to Boston, keep following it!

The Mistakes

The mistakes have nothing to do with training or my race plan.  I was well-trained and had a solid plan.  I boston 2014 runningfollowed the plan almost exactly for the first 5 miles.  a 6:40 pace almost exactly.  This is what I had trained for.  It was the right strategy.

Then the bottom fell out.  I was gradually getting weaker and my top pace was slowing.  I tried to slow things down for a bit and then level out to a 7:00 pace, but that quickly fell by the wayside.  I was getting weaker.  This is how the last 6 miles of a marathon feels when I am doing well, but this struggle was not at mile 20 or 21.  No, this was mile 6.  And I was getting weaker at a much more quickly than I would at the end of a good marathon.  Something was very wrong and I knew it.

By mile 8, I had gone from Goal A (3 hours), to Goal B (3:05), to Goal C (3:25), but I had to give that up too.  No, the rest of the race would be about survival.  It was time to move to Goal D: finish the race without an injury.  By the last mile, I was struggling hard to get a 15 minute pace.

My mistakes were made before I ever left the hotel room to go to the starting line.  First, I didn’t eat carefully enough for the month before the race.  I have a gluten intolerance and I was “glutened” at a restaurant about 3 weeks before Boston.  I had mostly recovered but I was not 100% going in to race day.  Second, I drank Gatorade for a couple of days before the race.  Good for electrolyte loading, bad for carb loading.  The sugar spikes your metabolism and causes you to deplete your carb supplies.  Rookie mistake.  Got nervous and forgot my own rule: stick with the routine that is working.  The third mistake probably had the biggest effect.  I forgot to take my electrolyte supplements with me to the start line.  Everyone has their own level of need for electrolytes.  My need is much higher than the average person.  I did not even think about this until I was struggling in mile 6.  I am a coach.  I blog about these things.  I teach these lessons.  I am more embarrassed than disappointed.  I knew better on all three counts, but my nerves got the best of me.  Not going to happen next year!

The Positives

Even though I struggled hard for over 20 miles, there are a lot of positives in this experience too.  First, the race is extremely well-organized and extremely secure.  The Boston Marathon is a class act and the runners are all class acts as well.  The whole environment was uplifting.

Cheering fans lined every step of the course, all 26.2 miles of it.  There was no break.  The support was overwhelming and I was thankful for it.  Whenever I got too down on myself for my errors, I just looked over at the side, waved my hands a little, and the crowd went wild.  Awesome support.

This is the year after the bombings.  At every moment in the entire experience, we were safe.  A guardian angel from law enforcement and/or our armed services was there watching like hawks.  It wasn’t just the course.  There was a wide perimeter of security around the entire towns of Hopkinton, Boston, and every town between.

Did the terrorists scare the crowd away?  No.  The crowd was double the usual number.
Did the terrorists scare the runners away?  No.  The crowd of runners was MUCH larger than last year.
Were the crowd and runners focused on a possible bombing?  No.  We thought about it, but the security blanket offered by the law enforcement agencies was enough to let us focus on excellence and fun.

Boston 2014 with MunaLast but not least among the positives was the presence of my wife, Muna.  Muna is a running coach, too.  She hasn’t run Boston yet, but she is really close to qualifying.  It will happen.  Even though she ran a 19-miler on Sunday, she was not there as a coach or a runner.  She came to support me.  She stood by me and tried to calm me down before.  She was there encouraging me after.  Muna knew what my expected time was and she saw the reports of my progress throughout.  She knew I was struggling.  She knew I was getting worse as I went.  I had two extra hours of struggle during the race.  Muna had 2 extra hours of worrying about what might be wrong.  Then she had to wait as the medical support got my electrolytes back to a stable range.  She took care of me.  Despite the enormously positive experience with the people of Boston and their marathon, Muna was my biggest positive of the race.  Thank you, Muna.

How Do I Feel About My Race?

boston and Knoxville

My first marathon was the Knoxville Marathon in 2010. My first Boston Marathon was in 2014. Both were slow and painful. These are the ones that mean the most.

If this had been a goal race, my bad day would have been much more devastating.  To be sure, I am disappointed.   I am embarrassed by my rookie mistakes.  But it was not a goal race.  Even though I trained for the distance, the focus of my training is presently on shorter races: the 800 meters and mile.  No, it was not a goal race.  It was a victory lap.  It was a victory lap for the 4.5 years it took to go from novice to Boston.  Hence, it was not as devastating as it could have been, because I still have that progress.  I have still qualified for Boston 3 times over the last two years.

Looking ahead, I am determined to come back next year and get a sub-3 hour marathon at Boston.  I have been inching closer to sub-3 for a couple of years now.  I will take another shot at it in Savannah in November, but most of my training will still be focussing on the short races.  After Savannah, I will turn my attention to Boston without being distracted by the short races.  I will follow my safe routine.  I will bring my electrolytes.  I will conquer the Boston Marathon.  I always return to the site of a bad run to conquer it as soon as I can.

The Boston Marathon is a great race with awesome runners, and super fans.

I just had a bad day.

I shall return.

_____________

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

— P. Mark Taylor

_____________

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

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

_____________

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

Race Report: Indianapolis Marathon 2013

I ran the Indianapolis Marathon on October 19.

I completed it in 3:12:45, which was a personal record by 37 seconds.   :)

There are a few things that made this marathon different for me.Indy 2013 running

#1  This was not a “Goal Race” for me.

I have several goal races each year.  I plan all of my training and racing around these events.  This was the first marathon I have run that I did not consider to be a goal race.  I just decided to run a fall marathon to get a little more experience.  It was my 6th marathon.  It was also the 3rd time that I have run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

#2  Since this was not a goal race for me, I did not train to run a marathon.

I only ran four training runs over 10 miles since my previous marathon in March.  I ran one 12 miler in July.  The other three longer than 10 where all in September, when I ran 14 miles, 15 miles, and 17 miles on consecutive weekends.

What have I been training for since March?  To run faster.  I ran shorter races.  I particularly enjoyed the summer track series. I raced 800 meters, 1 mile, 2 miles, and ran various distances for relays.  Good times.

#3  I was pestered by  a couple of minor issues.

While I was doing some intense speedwork this summer, I irritated my heal.  I was not careful enough with my form and I paid the price.  In addition, I developed a sinus infection a couple of weeks before this marathon.  I was on day 8 of antibiotics on race day.  Antibiotics can dehydrate you, so you have to pay close attention.  I experienced a few minor gluten issues, but thankfully they seemed to be cleared up by race day.

#4  I did not do the usual careful travel plan.

I usually arrive in town two days before a marathon so that I can rest on the day before the race.  I like to keep it low-key.  I will zip in and out of the EXPO quickly, just long enough to get my number bib and my race shirt.  I spend the day hanging out in the hotel room except for slipping out for an easy 3 mile jog to loosen up.  Not this time, however.

This time, I traveled the day before with my fiancé, her 4.9 year old daughter, and our little dog Lucy.   I actually almost got sick in the car just after we left Knoxville.  Not a good sign!  Next, we got stuck in a traffic jam in Cincinnati. We didn’t even make it to the Expo.  We arrived at the hotel around 9 pm. I had been hungry for a while.  I brought food for the trip, but left it in the trunk when I needed it most.  When we reached the hotel, I had my smoothie for dinner and got ready for bed.

So, … on race day…

My alarm went off 3 hours before the race.  I had another smoothie for breakfast and proceeded to get ready.  We arrived extra early at the race site so I could pick up my race bib and shirt.  Most races do not allow this.  Score one brownie point for the good people of Indianapolis!  They scored a second big point because they had ample port-a-potties at the start line.  Routine IS everything after all.

When we arrived at the parking lot, it had already been raining for a while.  I was hoping it would quit, but the clouds did not agree.  The start was a little odd.  We lined up a few feet back o the starting line, which is normal.  After the national anthem and other pleasantries, they had us walk towards the start line, gave instructions, and got us started.  The odd part was that none of us had actually reached the starting line when the gun went off. We were still walking as they said “Runners to your mark!”  I did not count this as a big deal because this was not a goal race for me.  That extra second or two of “Gun time” would not hurt me any.  No big.

Even though my sinus infection had me feeling a little queasy on race morning just like the day before, I seemed to put that behind me when the race started.  I was going to treat this like a 26.2 mile training run.  I would keep the pace under 7 minutes as long as I could and just see if I could beat my personal record.  I kept the pace of each mile between 6:48 and 7:20 for most of the race.  The rain finally stopped after I had finished about 14 miles.  My average pace at mile 19.72 was 7:02.  I had felt my first twinge of a cramp at around 19 miles and had managed to keep going without having a full-fledged cramp.  Then I felt a GI issue coming on.  I stopped at the port-a-potty at 19.72.  I was in there for a little over 3 minutes.

When I stepped out, I tried to regain my composure and get into the rhythm I had been enjoying earlier.  My legs were tight and gradually all of my muscles took turns threatening to cramp.  Miles 21 to 25 were all in the 7:30s and 7:40s in terms of pace.  I reminded myself that I had not properly trained for a marathon.  Beating my personal record by any amount of time would be pretty darn good.  With a positive attitude, I kept the pace as fast as I could.  Mile 26 had a long steady climb.  It wasn’t steep, but enough to slow my pace another 30 seconds.

The first female passed me just before mile marker 26.  A nice woman that was volunteering shouted, “Hey, don’t let that girl beat you!”  I shouted back, “If she is fast, I will gladly let her win.”  She had more gas than I did for those last two-tenths of a mile.  I was just happy to see the finish line getting closer.

Official Results of Indianapolis Marathon:

Time – 3:12:45   15th place out of 615 finishers

My Conclusions

Managing to best my personal record without training specifically for a marathon was a pretty good confidence boost.  Yes, it was only by 37 seconds, but I had trained like crazy for the previous one.  This time, I ran about 300 fewer miles.  My conclusion is that I maintained most of my endurance fitness while enhancing my raw speed through the summer and early fall training.

Will I train harder for the next one?  It will be my first Boston Marathon, so what do you think I will do?!?

As for this race, however, it felt rather routine.  I was just out for a good run.

The final conclusion:  I have now completed 6 marathons.  All were personal records.  The last three were all Boston Qualifying times for my age group.  Not bad for a guy who returned to competitive running in late 2009 after a 25 year break. Nope, not bad at all.

A word about the event:  The course of the Indianapolis Marathon was mostly flat and fast.  It was nice in terms of natural scenery.  There were some suburbs, but most of the scenery was trees, which helped me relax.  The race was very well organized and the support was excellent.

For now, I am trying to vary my courses, but this would be on my list of courses to repeat in the future.  Thank you, Indianapolis!

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

_____________

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

 

My Unreasonable Running Goals for the Next 5 Years (don’t judge me)

These are running goals I would like to accomplish within 5 years.

No, they are not reasonable for my current level of fitness.

This is my dream.

Encourage me or keep it to yourself.

Thanks,

P. Mark Taylor

Distance  

Goal Time

   Why

400 meters

0:54

   Training for the 800

800 meters

1:58

   US record for 50-54 age group

Mile

4:29

   Because it is faster than 4:30  😉

5K

15:12

   Training for 1/2

10K

31:35

   Training for 1/2

½ Marathon   

1:10:25

   This is my main goal.

Marathon

Sub 3

   At Boston.  Pride mostly.  :)