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Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: marathon

How I Improved from 5:35 to 3:27 in the Marathon in 18 months

[This post is an excerpt from the updated essay included in my upcoming book Unwrapping the Gift of Running.]

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”   – Frank Shorter

Even though Frank was a world-class marathoner, I respectfully disagree.  I do remember my last marathon.  I remember all three of them.  If I didn’t remember, then I would not have learned from them.  If I had not learned from them, then I would not have returned for a second or third.  The name of my blog is Wise Running.  That is not a claim that everything I do is wise.  In fact, it is the opposite.  I am gradually becoming wise through the school of hard knocks.  The more mistakes I make while running, the wiser & faster I become

I am now in training for my fourth marathon.  I have my training plan and I am sticking to it as much as I can.  It is, to say the very least, vastly different from the training for my first marathon.  Looking back, I no longer consider that training.  What I did before my first marathon was haphazard and probably a little dangerous.

  • I was only running a few days a week, because my knees were always sore after a run.
  • I didn’t have a plan, I was just making it up as I went.
  • I only ran one 17 miler and one 20 mile run, everything else was 13 miles or less.
  • I took a total of three drinks of water during training runs in the entire “training” program.
  • There was only 1 run where I tried to consume any calories

Yes, that’s right.  I didn’t feel comfortable drinking while running, so I took a grand total of 3 drinks during the entire “training” program.  If you know anything about running long distances, you can probably guess what kind of experience I had in my first marathon.  Not good.

In April of 2010, I glided through the first half of the Knoxville Marathon in just over 2 hours and felt strong.  By mile mile 16, I knew I didn’t feel right.  By mile 18, I started cramping a little.  By mile marker 19, every muscle in my body was taking turns cramping.  I walked the last 7.2 miles.  It began to rain hard.  By the time I crossed the first bridge over the river, it was raining sideways because of the huge cross-breeze.  I was wet, cold, shivering, and generally miserable.  Thank God for nice people!  A volunteer under the bridge in the 20th mile gave me poncho.  It kept me warm enough to stave off the medics and gradually walk to the finish.  It was a humbling experience watching all of the pacers pass me one by one.  I refused to quit.  I completed my first marathon in 5 hours and 35 minutes.  I was in pain & suffering for the next week.

What did I learn from marathon number 1?  Plenty!

  • You had better have a training plan or you will suffer!
  • You had better have calories, electrolytes, and drinks or you will suffer!
  • I am not a quitter. 🙂

That is the beginning of the story.  What happened in the next 18 months? 

The first thing that I always do after a bad run is to plan my return.  You can’t let a course beat you.  The second thing I did was to start reading.  I had half-heartedly looked at training plans before, but now I was seriously shopping for one.  I read up on hydration, energy gels, shoes, & everything else I could find.

I did not start the marathon training right away.   In fact, I started where I should have started the first time.  I began to train for shorter distances first.  A couple of months later, I ran the Expo 5K in 21:55, a 7:03 mile pace & almost a full minute faster than my previous 5K time.  Next I set my sites on improving my half-marathon time.  I had managed to survive a 1:59:27 at the Oak Ridge half the previous year.  I began to build a mileage base running 4 days a week fairly consistently, which was not easy because my knees were still ailing.  In October of 2010, I ran the Secret City Half Marathon in 1:48:59.

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I gradually built up my weekly mileage.
  • I did a speed workout at the track about once a week, running 400m or 800m repeats.
  • On my runs over 10 miles, I was experimenting with sports drinks and energy gels.

One more critical thing happened in late December of 2010.  I purchased a pair of Vibram Fivefingers KSOs.  These are extreme minimalist shoes.  They are not for everyone, so don’t take this as a suggestion.  The KSOs were important for me because they have no cushioning.  The lack of cushioning caused me to alter my running form to a much better and safer form.  The result was happy knees!  When I run in Vibrams or other shoes with no cushioning, my knees do not get any more sore than any other part of my body.  What a blessing!

Training for the 2011 Knoxville Marathon

Despite my best intentions of implementing the full Hal Higdon marathon training schedule, I found myself starting late.  I did, however, accomplish most of his Advanced 1 training schedule.  I started on the Advanced 1 rather than intermediate plans because of the mileage base that I had built.  I found that I could adjust this particular schedule just a bit and it pushed me just a little harder.  Just right.

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I was following an expert’s marathon training plan that challenged me just enough.
  • I focused my track work on 800 meter repeats exclusively, running every 800 at 3:30.
  • I was taking electrolyte capsules to supplement the sports drinks & energy gels.
  • I ran three 20 mile runs in preparation for the marathon.

1 Year After My First Marathon

I returned to the scene of the crime a year later.  I was not going to allow a course to defeat me and get away with it.  I was here for revenge.  I had specialized training, energy gel, a fuel belt with my own Gatorade, electrolyte tablets, and cool shoes.  Yes, folks, I was back to kick some butt!

Did it all go as planned?  Of course not.  I had rumblings in my tummy before I had reached mile marker 5.  Thankfully, the Knoxville Track Club and the race director know what runners need.  There were plenty of porta-potties along the route.  I made prolonged visits to these facilities no less than four times.  That was glitch number one.  Glitch number two came when I dropped the electrolyte capsules somewhere in the first 6 miles.  Thankfully, I had taken several before the start so I wasn’t completely out of luck.

Despite these issues, I still finished the first half of the marathon at around 1:48.  The first part of the course has more hills than the second half, so I knew that I could cruise to a decent time even if I got tired and crampy.  This time the second half of the marathon did go much better.  I took the time to drink more, but kept a respectable pace.  I felt my body running low on fuel, but I had energy gel.  I felt sort of a pre-cramp feeling, so I chose to slow down my pace and try to relax my muscles.  I did gradually slow down more than I wanted to, but I managed to complete the course in 3:55:59 – about an hour and 40 minutes faster than in 2010.

I still felt as if I had been run over by a truck and my feet had a lot of blisters, but I had taken that course to school!  It had beaten me in 2010 and I beat it in 2011.

The Next 6 Months

It only took a couple of days to recuperate from the extreme soreness.  In that time, I was already beginning to plan my next race.  I knew that I would return to run the Knoxville Marathon in 2012, but I wanted to run a marathon before that.  I eventually found the 7 Bridges Marathon scheduled for mid-October of 2011.  It was just a short drive south to Chattanooga and the course looked to be flatter than Knoxville.  I did not wait for the 18 week marathon training schedule to kick in.  After resting and some gentle, short runs for the first two weeks, I began the process of cranking up my mileage and speed work.

  • IMPORTANT:  At this time, I learned that the most important way to handle running in extreme heat is to be running long runs as the heat increases from spring to summer.

In other words, in addition to precautions of extra water and electrolytes, you also have to gradually get your body used to running in increasingly hot temperatures.  If you begin to increase your mileage a lot when it is already hot, you may suffer a heat stroke!!!

Thankfully, that did fit my plan.  The official training plan that I used to prepare for the 7 Bridges Marathon was Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 plan.  It represented another increase in mileage and intensity.  By this time, I had shifted to running in Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS shoes.  I ran six days a week and felt pretty good.

I followed Higdon’s advice and used my marathon training to get some faster times in shorter races.  I ran the 2011 Expo 10K in May in 43:09 [6:56 mile pace] and the Fireball 5K in July in 20:41 [6:39 pace].

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I ran 6 days per week & rested every Friday regardless of how good I felt.
  • I was following a new marathon training plan that challenged me just enough.
  • I was now doing my 800 meter repeats at 3:00, 30 seconds faster than before
  • I continued testing out new sports drinks & energy gels.
  • I ran more 20 mile runs in preparation for the marathon and even went 22.5 once.

18 Months After the First Marathon

I was beginning to fantasize about qualifying for Boston.  At my age, it would have taken a time of 3:25.  That would have been 30 minutes and 59 seconds faster than my marathon just 6 months prior.  At this level, it is not considered realistic or even smart to try to improve that much in such a short time.  On the other hand, I knew that I was getting faster and smarter.  I thought I had an outside chance if everything came together just right and the wind was at my back the whole way.

Rather than expect a miracle, however, I decided to say that 3:25 was my fantasy goal but that I would be happy to finish anywhere in the 3:30s. After all, 3:35 would be a big improvement over 3:55.  For the pace of my training, this seemed reasonable.

sprintingAt the start line, I was nervous!  I couldn’t decide between my two strategy choices.  Should I run at an 8 minute pace and then speed up on the back half to see what I could do?  Should I start out a little faster than “Boston pace” and hope to get close to that mark?  When the starting gun went off, I was thinking plan B.  I had to take a shot at Boston.  If I failed, I would still finish with a good time.

That is exactly what happened.  I finished the first half at a 7:24 pace that felt comfortable.  It did not feel like pushing it.  I drank and ate more than I had ever attempted in previous marathons in the effort to avoid the dehydration and nutrition issues that had slowed me down.  I was gradually slowing down throughout the second half, but with three miles to go, I could still run the last miles at a 9 minute pace and qualify for Boston.  Unfortunately, that is when I really started to slow down.  Despite my best training and my best drinking strategy, I was still dehydrated.

When I crossed bridge number 7 I had no gas left and that is when the cramps set in.  I gave up Boston and slowed down.  I was disappointed, but I knew that I had made a tremendous improvement and run the right race.  Looking back, the only change I would have made would be to drink 5-8 more cups of Powerade along the way.  It is just an educated guess, but I believe I would have finished 5 to 10 minutes faster if I had slowed down to drink.

As it was, I dragged myself across the finish line in a time of 3:27:27.  I had improved my time by a little less than half an hour.  Nice!

And From There?

Since I first wrote about this huge improvement, I have managed to whittle my marathon time down to 3:08:22.   I was 42 years old when I started this journey and 48 years old at the time of my current personal record for the marathon.   I continue to run marathons for fun and sometimes to compete.  The faster you are, the more difficult it is to make significant gains.  The good news is that gains do can continue as you:

  • Training consistently and wisely
  • Eat Well
  • And enjoy the run.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

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Maybe you knew all of these lessons already, but they were new to me.  If you have learned just one new idea from reading this, then I will be happy.  We runners have to stick together.  Its more fun and safe that way.

You can find me on the web:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wise-Running/223617527674175

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/Wise_Running     @Wise_Running

Daily Mile:  http://www.dailymile.com/people/PMarkT

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pmarktaylor/     @pmarktaylor

“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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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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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:

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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

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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

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.  🙂

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life (2nd book)

Wise Running Book 2 is now available via in paperback and e-book. 

Wise Running Book COVER mockup

Wise Running is the follow-up to P. Mark Taylor’s first book on running: The Gift of Running.  While the first book focused more on getting started as a runner, this second book is more about how to move to the next level. P. Mark Taylor tells us how to think about running in ways that will help you be more consistent and improve.

Running is a great metaphor for life. It takes effort. It takes motivation. You have to stay healthy. If you stick with it long
enough and smart enough, you live a more rewarding life. So it is with running.

In Wise Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

The ebook includes:

  • goals, fitness, & health
  • how to think about training
  • designing a race and training schedule
  • aligning your efforts with reality
  • eating for health and fitness
  • a runner’s view on special diets
  • running-specific nutrition, including marathon nutrition
  • the effects of heat and humidity
  • the social aspect of running
  • motivation and encouragement

________________

The Gift of Running, the first book in the Wise Running series by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

 

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

wise running logo 7_25_12

My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013

 

running form 7_25_2013

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