Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Der Scott's Marathon Training Plan

For those of you wondering how I manage to pull off such marvelous and astounding feats of marathon mediocrity, I thought I would publish my 13 week training plan. Follow this plan and you too can run your next marathon while sick, broken down, and totally out of shape.

13 Week Marathon Training Plan

  1. Runs: 4 miles, 5 miles, 9 miles. Start slow. Procrastinate and skip your training runs. Drink extra beer to carb load for next week's training.
  2. Runs: 5 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles. Run really, really hard during the first 5 miler. Pull a calf muscle and bail on the remaining runs. Soak your sore calf (from the inside) with quality beer for recovery.
  3. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 11 miles. Limp along slowly for the 5 miler, trying not to aggravate your sore calf. Run half of the 7 miler and then stop because your calf feels like it has a knife lodged in it. Totally skip the 11 miler. Drink an entire 6 pack of beer just so you can handle the pain of using the foam roller on your cranky calf.
  4. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 12 miles. Your calf should be feeling better by now. Be sure to run extra hard during the 12 miler to make up for all the training you have skipped during the past few weeks.
  5. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 13.1 miles. Skip the 5 miler and 7 miler because you are so sore from running the 12 miler with barely any ramp in mileage that you can hardly walk. Run the half marathon race that you were smart enough to schedule as part of your training plan. Try to beat your previous best time by at least 5 minutes. Puke if you have to during the run, but just don't slow down! You are chasing a PR!
  6. Runs: 4 miles, 5 miles, 9 miles. You are basking in the glory of last week's Personal Record in the half marathon, so you skip all the runs this week. Your legs aren't working anyway, so it's a moot point. Celebrate all week by having ribs and beer for dinner every night.
  7. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 14 miles. The 5 miler feels like 10 miles, so you rationalize the 7 miler down to a 2 miler. Try out a totally new pair of shoes for the 14 miler. 
  8. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 15 miles. Skip the 5 miler because the entire sole of your left foot is one giant blister. Throw those new shoes in the trashcan. Instead of wearing socks, cover both of your blistered feet entirely in KT tape and slide them into your old reliable shoes. Limp through the 7 miler. You actually finish the 14 miler, but feel like you have been mauled by a bear. Your running form breaks down entirely during the 14 mile run because you continually try to land on the single square inch of unblistered toe skin that remains on both feet.
  9. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 16 miles. During the 5 miler, all the skin peels off the bottoms of your feet due to the blister leprosy. The 7 miler feels like you are running on hot coals. Curse loudly and colorfully during the entire 2 hours of the 7 miler. Skip the 16 miler because running just sucks!
  10. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 17 miles. Running on your toes has given you a flaming case of achilles tendonosis. Your achilles tendons feel like they may snap after each step, but you finish both the 5 miler and the 7 miler. Skip the 17 miler and do eccentric heel drops for 4 days straight in an attempt to fix your decrepit tendons. Drink beer and take lots of ibuprofen in an attempt to blast the tendon inflammation (and your colon) into submission.
  11. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 19 miles. Skip the 5 miler and the 7 miler. Only the long run is important. Call one of your fast friends to run with you during the 19 miler. Run your fastest 19 miler ever.
  12. Runs: 5 miles, 7 miles, 21 miles. Bail out of the 5 mile run after only 2 miles. Your entire body is inflamed and exhausted. Consider skipping the marathon altogether. Definitely skip the 7 miler and the 21 miler. Catch a nasty cold on the day that you would have run 21 miles.
  13. Runs: 4 miles, TAPER! Skip the 4 miler because your are still sick. Deathly ill in fact. The only runs you experience are while sitting on the toilet. Attempts at carb loading are utterly futile. Weep in sorrow because your raw throat makes your beer taste and feel like sulfuric acid.
Now, go out there and conquer that marathon!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pro Rata - The Scream Half Marathon

"You can't keep this up!" That's what I was thinking around mile 9 of The Scream Half Marathon as I hammered around yet another of the countless switchbacks snaking down the mountain. It was that time of the race. You know the one. When pain amplifies self doubt beyond reason. When doubts grow in your mind from small clouds to raging thunderheads. Like a tornado ripping through the tender, green fields of confidence in your brain, nothing is left but tattered hopes and damaged dreams.

Usually, I make some half-assed compromise with myself at this stage of a race. "Slow down just a bit, it won't make that much difference in the end," I promise myself. Or even worse, "You can't do it, just cruise in to the finish." Not today. Not after coming all the way back to The Scream just to see how fast I could run. I pushed on.

Performance Ratings
Recently I've been updating my performance ratings. Not because I'm some gifted runner (Ha! Sorry, that makes me truly laugh out loud.), but more because I'm finally coming to grips with the line between capability and self abuse. Everyone has their own line. It's the line that separates physical injury from maximum capability on the spectrum of exertion. The tricky thing about this line is that it moves from race to race, even from day to day. So, pushing to the edge of the line is always a tricky proposition. There's an element of luck involved with getting it just right. Or totally wrong. I've been on both sides.

Going into The Scream this year, I thought pushing to the edge of the line would yield a personal record in the half marathon. My best performance guess was a time somewhere in the 1:40 to 1:45 range. Of course, guesses have a way of setting expectations, so you have to be careful with this sort of thinking.

Perfect Races
If you came here for a description of The Scream itself, my apologies for the delay. The Scream is awesome! It's also hellish. After a quick couple miles of rolling paved road along the ridge line, the course dives down the mountain on a forest service gravel "road" for the next 9.5 miles. It's fun at first. The grades aren't that steep, and you have fresh legs so you can hold some pretty impressive paces without too much trouble. But the hill is just relentless. Slowly but surely it pounds your quads, glutes, and hips into so much useless hamburger. By mile 9, the hill has become Hell. And that's when the toughest section begins. My god, it's an awesome race!

Last year's profile, stolen from AC, but pretty
much the same as this year.
Like this, only it's really steeper than it looks.

Pro Rata

The definition of pro rata is "according to the calculation." I had calculated the paces I needed to maintain to achieve a personal record, but there was one small problem. The mile markers in the race were totally off. The race organizers had even warned us just prior to the start that the mile markers had been placed according to GPS and were therefore not "precise". But when I passed the first mile marker in 10:35 at what seemed like a full sprint, I knew I was in for trouble. Every mile marker that I passed resulted in an equally crazy mental pace calculation. Mile 3 calculations resulted in a 6:50 pace. Mile 8 calculations resulted in 9:00 pace. Eventually, I gave up on the calculations and just ran as hard as I could without a total physical crash.

After battling my mental demons to a stale mate around mile 9, I tried to turn off my brain and just run. For the most part, this worked, although it was difficult to know if I was keeping the same pace. Seeing the last small hill before the finish, I busted into a sprint, knowing I had less than 100 yards to the line. However, cresting the hill, I couldn't see the finish. It had been moved! I passed the spot where last year's finish had been, and saw the real finish line another 100 yards down the road. Now the guy I had just passed was breathing down my neck. And to make matters worse, he had lots of friends cheering him on to the finish. "Wooo! Go Paul!" one guy shouted. "Yeah Paul! Pass that guy in front of you! You got it!" shouted another. Crap. Time to push into the puke zone to keep "Paul" from passing me back.

It was really close, but I managed to hold off Paul and I even managed not to puke (well, maybe just a little in my mouth). But it was totally worth it. Personal Record: 1:42:09

I'll take it. And I'll see you again next year, The Scream.

The best part about the finish near the Mortimer campground,
is the ice cold stream where you can soak your feet,

because this crap hurts!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Long, Slow Road To Short And Fast

Something has happened to me since last Winter. Well, really since I started running again over 3 years ago. I've found another gear and can now run at a moderately quick pace for several miles. I'm not fast, but I'm no longer just slow either. I'm in the strange land of mediocre speed. Still totally impressed by the truly fast guys, and still completely at home with my back of the pack friends, but somehow able to jump into the nether regions between.

All of my new found middling speed suddenly appeared this Spring. I took a good chunk of time off after finishing my 50K ultra (following 2 trail marathons and a 40 mile ultra in the Fall and Winter). I felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. That seems to be my pattern every Spring after I totally overdo the Fall and Winter racing, but this year the tiredness went deep. My bones felt tired.

After a few weeks of beer, biking, and some really slow running (like 13 minutes per mile sort of slow), I started feeling better. I struggled to acclimate to the Summer heat for a few weeks, but once I adjusted, I noticed that my normal training run pace had fallen into the 8:30 pace range, 30 seconds per mile faster than my normal training pace. I started seeing some personal records fall on routes I had been running at the same pace for years. I got within 30 seconds of my 5K PR on an indoor track while running barefoot (actually was a barefoot 5K PR).

And then, parkrun happened.

Two weeks ago, I ran my first parkrun event (go here to read all about the coolness that is parkrun!) and totally destroyed my 5K PR, knocking 30 seconds off and finally recording a time below 22 minutes. I thought it had to be my awesome new Merrell Vapor Gloves that allowed me to put such a vicious beat down on my old PR (I won't be reviewing the Vapor Gloves, because Josh and Ash have already written everything you would ever need to know about them), but then I ran my hilly 10K training route the following week at 8:14 pace without the Vapors and knew something about me had definitely changed.

Today, for my second parkrun, I again chopped off 30 seconds from last week's PR, finishing in 21:22. I'm stunned. Gobsmacked. Flabbergasted.

My best and only guess as to how this has happened is that all the long, slow, distance running (low heart rate, MAF style running) I've been doing over the past few years, and especially the past Winter, have finally paid off. I've gotten faster without speed work. Which is great, because I hate speed work. Speed work hurts and I'm lazy, so screw speed work. Viva la long, slow, distance!