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Training for the 35th Grandma’s Marathon has been going well for me. This is the first time in 33 years that I have trained through the winter following a marathon season. In the past, it was busy-ness that was my excuse as the training miles disappeared during harvest.
This winter went well for me. I had tapered off in November and December, running about 10-15 miles/week. I resumed marathon training miles the last week in December, a week ahead of schedule.
Having kept a decent log of my miles and times last year, I am able to compare and contrast. So far in 2011, I am running a few more miles, but more importantly, my workout times are usually running about 30 seconds/mile faster than last year. So with this in mind, I was looking for a challenge.
I got that challenge with Team Ortho’s Get Lucky Triple 7k (half marathon). This race was held on Shepard Road in St Paul just above the Mississippi River last Saturday. A chilly day, it was 27 degrees at the start, with a slight head wind. My goal was to not get psyched out by the pace I was running, but to run hard and see what I could do.
This was an out and back race, and I was within a mile of the leader at the turn around. Even more impressive, he had about a 2 minute gap on the rest of the field, and there were less than 20 ahead of me. While it was mostly uphill on the way back, I just kept chugging away. I finished with a PR 1:25:56 time, about a 6:34 mile pace, that was good enough for 15th overall, 3rd masters and 1st in my age group. Even more satisfying was looking at my mile split times and seeing the consistency in times, only 16 seconds spread over the race (except first and last miles).
5 days later, I feel mostly recovered. I will try a tempo run tomorrow, and should be back on the training schedule, now that I have used that extra week I had started with. Keep running!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

As I turn the calendar to 2011, I close the books on 2010. Some of  the financial stuff has yet to be done, mostly because I have spent a lot of time watching basketball games. Adam & Beth have a combined schedule of 10 basketball events over the first 2 weeks of 2011, some with multiple games.

There are a few things that I learned while running those 1500.5 miles last year.

First, there are some really neat clothes for runners on the market now. I am not a real clothes horse, but winter running requires protection. I am constantly amazed at the protection from cold that some of these newer materials offer. Thanks Goretex for the Windstop technology. I also picked up some YakTrax to eliminate the poor road condition excuse I used this last December.

Second, a middle-aged guy can learn how to run with a new stride technique. Last January and February I surfed the internet enough to pick up on the barefoot / minimalist running trend and eventually read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. A very good story to read. With the new stride technique came the chance to try new shoe styles. While I still have fewer shoes than Monica, I know I closed the gap considerably in 2010

Third, a middle-aged guy can learn to run fast again. I followed a race training plan by Matt Fitzgerald and found speed again. Even though I was disappointed with my 3:30:29 Grandma’s Marathon finish based on training results, I was pleased with it from a perspective of a low mileage base leading up to last January. I also clocked 2 sub-1:32:00 half marathons last year, finishing 4th in my age group both times.

Fourth, due to those half-marathon finishes, I learned that I should start closer to the starting line to fully capitalize on my chances to bring hardware home:) After the Big Woods run, the race director told me that chip timing was used for finish times and placings, not for net times.

Fifth, running is a great way for me to relax. A couple stressful moments happened in the past year that long runs, and the ensuing endorphin rush, helped me get through. I am thankful that I am now in good enough shape to be active that long.

2010, and the miles I put in, transformed me into a runner again. I enjoy training, I enjoy racing, and I enjoy reading about the feats of fellow runners. For my part, I will try to best last year’s mileage and put more of my thoughts on this site.

Well, the past couple weeks have been a test of my will – and not at all about running. I have had to deal with an outbreak of PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) that has rolled through my herd. It has had a devastating affect on my farrowing production, as it causes sows to abort their litters. Losing about 75% of the litters due in the next month has meant some pretty demoralizing mornings while doing chores.

It has been difficult to remain on an even keel as I navigate this disease, but that is where my running has picked me up. I am now grateful that I logged the miles I did in Jan – mid April. I don’t count the last couple weeks in April because of planting and the required tractor time. Now, though, I can put in 40 and 50 mile weeks to satisfy the marathon training plan. These runs, which range from 6.5 miles (hard intervals) to 10 miles (today’s tempo run) to Saturday’s 20 miler all have given me an avenue to let out my frustrations and a chance to think without too many distractions. Now, I haven’t come up with too many solutions, but my attitude improves when the endorphins kick in.

I have also taken time to watch Brett and Adam compete in their track meets. Watching Adam double the 1600 and 800, with PR’s in each, was quite motivating. I am also pumped to watch Brett compete for USC/AC in today’s 3200m contest at the True Team Sections. He has earned his spot on this team, and will have to use different tactics tonight to improve on his time to boost the team score. There is a lot of focus when your event is second to last.

There are three kinds of people: those that MAKE it happen, those that LET it happen, and those that say “what happened?”  Vies

I have been wanting to write about the neat gear and gadgets I have employed while training, but had to wait for the final pieces to arrive.

Last summer, as encouragement to keep running through cold weather, I was given an Under Armour Cold Gear shirt and tights set. I used the set a lot as a base layer from December through February. I always felt warm wearing it and stayed dry, which is important in cold weather running. The only oddity is that it pulled the hair off the back of my calves and around my thighs.

I purchased a Brooks Nightlife jacket and matching pants as an incentive to run outside. The “construction worker” yellow of the jacket stands out, plus the retro-reflective accents made me visible in poor light and against the white landscape of our winter. I was amazed that material that felt like a cotton T-shirt could block so much wind, yet breathe and not give the parachute effect when in a windy situation. With those 2 layers, plus a third polypro when needed, I ran outside everyday in January and February except for scheduled days off and one stormy day where low visibility made it unsafe to run.

That same day, while at Run ‘N Fun in Burnsville, I purchased a Craft balaclava, also a Windstop product. Very nice. I remember that during my first run with it I couldn’t breathe until I adjusted mask down far enough. It protected my face from frostbite on those below zero runs.

I also purchased a Garmin 205 watch when I started my training back in early January. This watch lets me load in custom workouts, then runs through the intervals and keeps track of my performance. Combining time, distance and also pace has sharpened my training a lot. Hill workouts were run on a time basis, but I knew the total distance covered and if I was at the right pace. It is also nice to hit distances right, which makes the elapsed time mean something. Even though I live in a very squared – up area, I wasn’t able to estimate 1 km distances that well.

The final pieces arrived yesterday, with my Newton Sir Isaac S shoes delivered from Road Runner Sports. (These shoes are so new the company didn’t know they were on the way yet.) Newton shoes have 4 external lugs under the balls of your feet. These lugs encourage the runner to land on the midfoot, which is a stride that is closest to barefoot running, and considered more energy efficient than heel striking. Since January I have concentrated on changing my running form, and I wanted these shoes to help maintain my form as I grew tired, both while training and during the race. As of now, I have completed a .8 mile run (I was too excited to wait a day), and now a 3 mile easy run (in a 30 mph crosswind). I feel none of the soreness some associate with the transition to the Newtons, so I may be able to ramp up their usage quickly.

Other than the Pork Power shirts that will be proudly worn during Grandma’s Marathon, I think that covers the fun gear and gadgets that have kept me running the past 5 months. I am amazed that there are only 45 days to race day.

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” ~ Roger Bannister

The ability to cross the finish line in any race is dependent on the person’s tenacity. However, being able to race a certain distance, performing at the peak of your ability and accomplishing your goal is dependent on the training before the race, along with balanced nutrition and some luck.

Even though the most recent of my 6 marathons was Twin Cities in 1995, I have quite a bit of experience in training for distance races. For me, finding a training plan really helps me focus and become a better, faster runner. When following a plan, I don’t cut corners or talk myself out of doing a scheduled workout. Instead I know there is a purpose for a certain workout, and I usually feel better than expected afterword.

For the 2010 Grandma’s Marathon, I am following the training plan outlined in Matt Fitzgerald’s book “Brain training for Runners.” This is a 22 week plan that started in early January. Now as I look back at my training log and see the entries for hill workouts when the windchill was -5 F, it brings back the shivers. I do have a treadmill, but I wanted to run outdoors( and use some of the neat gear that I will write about later.) Those cold, early workouts have paid off, though, as I am stronger and faster now than Jan 1.

This week’s plan calls for:

Monday off,

Tuesday 7 miles (did it in 1:00:56),

Wednesday 12 x 1/4 mile repeats with 1.5 mile warmup and warmdown

Thursday 4 miles recovery

Friday 4 x 1 mile at 10k speed (<7:08 pace) with 1.5 mile warmup and warmdown

Saturday 4 miles recovery

Sunday 14 mile run

I am traveling with the USC High School Band and Choir to St Louis and Memphis this week, so running time will have to be scheduled around events. The 15 hour bus ride back from Memphis will preclude a long run that day, so I may push it back to Monday.

If movement is a sign of life & stillness is death, running is an example of life most fully lived. It’s beautiful. -Martin Creed