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Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

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

_______________________________________________________

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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

Defining “Boston Strong”

 

What is Boston Strong?  What does it mean?  Who qualifies as being Boston Strong?

Boston Strong is the slogan created to describe the heroic mindset of the people affected by the bombings at the 2013 marathon.

Boston Strong represents the families and friends of the fallen.  They still feel the pain every day.  Their loss is immeasurable.  Their strength is challenged every day that they live without a loved one. Going on with life makes them worthy of the title Boston Strong.

Boston Strong includes everyone who was injured in the bombings and have fought back by living and eventually.  Some will physical pain to deal with for the rest of their lives.  Most will have mental pain to deal with for the rest of their lives.  It was/is traumatic.  These people are Boston Strong.

Boston Strong includes all of the runners who were not injured in last year’s race, but were scarred in other ways.  They have had to face their fears. Many of them came back to finish what they had started.  Some may never return.  They are all Boston Strong.

Boston Strong also represents the city of Boston and all of its citizens.  They were weak for only a moment of shock, but quickly rallied to the rescue of the victims.  They have lived an entire year with a dark shadow of terrorism.  The city government, the people, and their neighboring communities have risen above the shadow by working tirelessly to not only recover, but to thrive.  They stood up straight and tall and said, “Fear will not win the day.”  On Patriot’s Day, 2014, the citizens of Boston and all of the communities along the route and showed the world the energy, the commitment, and the resolve of a strong community.  The people of these communities define the Boston part of Boston Strong.

Boston Strong also encompasses the world-wide community of caring people that took it so personally that they  dedicated themselves to raising money for the One Fund Boston to support the victims of the bombings.  They see themselves as a part of it whether they were there or not.  They feel the need to reach out and help.  When other could not make it on their own, they stepped in.  They are Boston Strong.

Boston Strong describes the fans at this year’s race.  About one million fans lined the streets along the 26.2 mile route.  They knew that another bomber might be there.  They would not be denied.  The crowd was almost twice as big as usual because many people wanted to step up in the face of the terrorists.  People came from around. the country and around the world, some with no connection to any runner.  They just didn’t want terrorists to win.  The fans lined the streets from Hopkinton to Boston and cheered at the top of their lungs for hours.  Every one of those fans are Boston Strong.

carrying runner boston 2014

The spirit of Boston Strong is captured in this photo of runners carrying a collapsed runner to the finish line. The running community rallied to support the victims. We carried each other across the finish line.

Boston Strong is a term that also describes the runners of the 2014 Boston Marathon.  They faced the same knowledge that there might be attacks again this year.  There were runners who had returned to finish last year’s race.  There was the typical crowd of qualified runners and fundraisers.  Then there were the additional runners, the ones that only signed up because of the bombings.  I am one of those runners.  I had qualified more than once, but had no intention of registering until the bombings happened.  Then you couldn’t stop me.  “They can’t do that to us.” Testing the courage and resolve of people that run 26.2 miles as fast as they can…  that was a very bad idea.  We runners are Boston Strong.

This was my first time to run the Boston Marathon.  It was an awesome event.  It was incredibly well managed by the Boston Athletic Association, the law enforcement professionals, the medical professionals, the sponsors, and the thousands of volunteers.  The fans were amazing.  Their encouragement pulled me through the toughest times.  I owe all of these people a lot.  I thank you all.

As a competitive runner, it wasn’t my day.  I was ill early and struggled to finish 2 hours slower than my goal.  As a human being and as a member of the running community, however, it was a glorious day of triumph.

Collectively we stood up to say,

“We are Boston Strong.  You did not win.”

The runners, the Boston Athletic Association, Boston and the local communities,  and the human race, they were the winners.   They all stood up, Boston Strong.

___________________

Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run.

 

What Is a Custom Training Program and Why Do I Need One?

What is a Custom Training Program?

A custom training program is a schedule of training runs in preparation for a specific race with a specific time goal.  My next major goal, for instance, is to finish the Indianapolis Marathon in under 3 hours.  In order to accomplish this, I know that I will need to average a pace of 6:49 per mile.  That is a tall order,since my last marathon was completed at a 7:24 pace.  How in the world do I expect to accomplish this goal?

1)  I have a plan.

I have an 18-week plan laid out.  I know what to run each day and how fast to run it.  Every day has a specific purpose.  There are days designed for speed & days designed for rest.  Some days, all I have to do is relax and run a few miles.  Weekends runs are more ambitious than weekdays because I have more time and energy to spend on the weekend.  On most Saturdays, I run mile repeats.  On every Sunday, I have the long run of the week.

The weekly mileage gradually increases from 30 to 50 miles per week.  Every third week, miles are reduced so as to not overwhelm my body with the new work load.  In the last few weeks of the schedule, there is a decrease in miles on the schedule.  This is designed to rest, heal, and store up energy for the actual race.

The intensity and speed of the daily runs also increases over time.  Just before the taper period, near the end of my training schedule, I intend to do 16 mile repeats at 5:45 minutes each.  This is a full minute faster than my intended race average.  If I can accomplish this, then racing at a 5:50 pace will seem somewhat relaxed. 🙂

2)  I will follow the plan.

Will I follow the plan exactly on every day of the schedule?  No, but it does guide my daily decisions and keeps me on track.  The only variations I make will be because of soreness & life issues.  Some soreness is a good sign of hard work.  I have planned for that kind of soreness.  I alternate fast/intense days with relaxed or rest days.  The other kind of pain, however, is a warning that something is not right.  It means that either you trained a little too hard or that your body may soon be injured.  In either case, I may choose to ease up on the speed and/or distance.  In a worst-case scenario I may take an extra day or two off.  In my last marathon training program, I had to take it easy for two weeks.  Once I felt better, I resumed the training program.  No extra miles to make up, just resumed the program the way it was written.  I still managed to PR by 28 minutes, so resting worked!

3)  I realize that I may not make it this time

Sometimes we just set our goals too high.  Sometimes we meet our goal, but sometimes we don’t.  In that fall of 2011, I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  In order to BQ at my age, I needed to run it in 3:25 or less.  Even though I PRed by a full 28 minutes, I fell short of the ideal goal by finishing in 3:27:27, just two and a half minutes from glory.  Was this a failure?  No!  I PRed by 28 minutes.  That is a huge win.  I had set my “Lofty Goal” at 3:25, but I had a “Happy Goal” of 3:35.  I knew that it was more reasonable.  The fact that I exceeded my happy goal and just missed my lofty goal means that my training program was a big success!

Why do you need a training program?

You need both a goal and a plan to meet that goal in order to achieve.  It is that simple.  Runners training without a plan are likely to take more days off.   Runners without a training program are likely to increase mileage either too quickly, which leads to injury, or to slowly, which leads to disappointing results.

A Running Coach can help you set goals and develop a custom training plan to meet those goals.  What do you want to accomplish?

Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor
pmark67@gmail.com

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