So it’s roughly 24 hours until game time … if this were a boxing match, we’d hear “Let’s Get Ready to RUMBLLLEEEEE” …. I had a good taper week. I feel ready to put it on the line.
The last coupe of days, I’ve really tried to envision what it’s going to be like on the course. Finishing a marathon, while difficult, is a reasonable thing to do. Racing a marathon … well, that just makes me an idiot. You know it’s incredibly hard to race a marathon. And there will be difficult moments during the race — to say the least.
Which leads to the question, when you get punched in the mouth (at least metaphorically), what are you gonna do? Because at some point in a half-marathon or marathon, you hit dark points. It starts to hurt, a lot; you start to doubt yourself and what you came to do. You have to figure out how to react. As Omar would say, “Man’s gotta have a code.” Well, here’s a bit on how I formulate my code.
First off, when the tough miles come, and they will, don’t panic. I feel like in Vegas, I panicked because the head wind slammed into me at mile 10 and it was a HUGE surprise. Remember, if you have a tough mile on one of the Napa hills, that there is time to get it back — don’t have to recapture in 1 mile.
Next, I’m gonna think about all the training for the past 6-8 months between Las Vegas and Napa Marathons. I’ve had some great sessions between long tempos (5.5 - 7.5 miles) and Marathon Pace workouts (6 - 11 at MP). During those sessions, there were rough patches, you just have to work trough it. Remember, you can do this. You went 1:25:46 in the Kaiser Half, which according to the McMillan Pace Calculator gets me to 3:00:28 … wouldn’t that be brutal?
Beyond training, there are good races and bad races in this stretch. San Diego Half & Vegas Full, I didn’t react well. SD: I wasn’t strong enough mentally; Vegas: Went out too fast combined with running after sunset became too much to overcome.
New Orleans (1/2), Clarksburg (20 Miler) and Kaiser (1/2) were all flawlessly executed races. I just need to keep enough in the tank that I can attack in the last 3-4 miles. “Last is Fast” is the mantra - I want that last 5k to be magical. During those races, there are mental frames that I want to channel. Running down St. Charles in N’Awlins, the last 2 miles at Clarksburg (6:16 & 6:09) and the closing 3 miles at Kaiser on the Great Highway.
Matt Fitzgerald has a great chapter in his Brain Training book about running form. He outlines 12 form correcting exercises. I have focused on a couple and based on these techniques, created the mantra “Zip, Lean & Drive” out of it.
Zip: involves my core - navel to spine & anything else you can compress in the core (Think a zipper from below your navel up to your lungs). Lean: Lean a bit forward. Drive: This involves both knees & feet. Knees drive up a bit and then you get “Floppy Feet’ (Fitzgerald’s term), where you push off with your toes and the feet almost flick. He has another technique that is around “Walking on Water,” where you get really light on your feet and think about running over a puddle … When you are physically spent, these devices help hold your form. Focus on these and turnover when you get in a tight spot. When I come off these hills, if I’m by myself, these will be critical to staying on pace.
The next thing is finding someone or a pack running at the right pace. You try to hold on to them. In 2009 CIM, I drew my training partner Lorna in from mile 10-15, stayed with her until 20, but realized it would be a strain beyond that. This time, I need to turn myself inside out to stay with that group. At New Orleans, I did this to perfection. Leading from mile 6-9, someone tried to pass me coming out of the Audobon. I just hit the “Turnover” button and got the wheels spinning. Once I flipped that switch, I ended up dropping that guy and having a great last 4 miles (6:22, 6:21, 6:16 & 6:22). You have to find that willingness to suffer, to hurt to literally exhaust yourself & hold pace. Finding that rabid focus is a difficult place to reach, but I believe the training & racing over the last 6 months have me as ready as I’m going to be. The visual is a dog finding a bone and just not letting go. Find that elbow ahead of you, and the (imaginary) magic piece of string that you can use to close the gap and hang with them. Then of course, the magical Garmin & it’s ability to say “At the current pace, your mile will be ___”
- Easy openers: 7:15, 7:00 & 7:00
- You get 10 miles to close that :39 seconds - 6:48 does the trick, so I’ll be shooting for 6:45 - 6:48 (“You’re on point Tip?” “All the time Phife (https://www.google.com/search?q=Tribe+called+quest+members&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a))
- Should get me to the half RIGHT at 1:29:45
- Hang to mile 20 between 6:45 - 6:50. Want to hit mile 20 @ 2:17:__
- Then you get a 10k to go 42:00 or better
When you get punched in the mouth tomorrow, how bad do you want it? What are you willing to do to reach the goal? How much can you suffer? Well, dear reader, we shall find out the answer to these questions tomorrow in Napa … If you are reading this on March 2 (or early on March 3), you can track me here: http://www.napavalleymarathon.org/race-information/track.asp
Now it’s time to Destroy Fear, Destroy Doubt, Destroy Pain …
I’ve got 2 weeks to go until I race the Napa Marathon. It’s leading me to think more and more about the race and race day.
Most pointedly, leading me to think about my goals for the day. Yes, I want a time that qualifies me for Boston, but March 3 is about more than that objective. Not to be arrogant, because I know I shouldn’t take this fitness for granted, but my Vegas race qualified me for Boston 2014 (at least at the “entry-level” / minimum qualy time).
Napa is about pushing the envelope. I believe I can PR at 41. I believe I can break 3 hours and thus break through “180” minutes. I’ve had 2 races where arguably, I had a realistic shot at breaking 3 hours. CIM 2009, my PR, and Vegas 2012. Those yielded 3:04 and 3:12.
So the question I’m faced with is “What’s different this time?”
Let’s take a step back.
I’ve been training hard for the past 7 weeks. When you are training, you are focused on the next week of training (how many miles this week?), or the hard days for that week (Tempo? Track? Long?), or the next mile of a tempo run or the next repeat on the track. Focus, focus … focus. It’s easy to get lost in it. When things are going well, you feed off the results of great workouts and positive feedback. It can be so intoxicating that you forgot where you are trying to go — the Target Race.
I had a great run of training last fall. It culminated in 2 amazing races: New Orleans Half-Marathon and Clarksburg 20 miler. Yet in Vegas, I didn’t deliver. The gnawing sensation is that “Sure, you can do it in training, but can you deliver when the goods are on the line?” I had a great half-marathon 2 weeks ago at Kaiser, followed by a great long run the following Sunday. And yet in my head ….
"What’s different this time?"
Leading up to Vegas, I was enamored with my prep race results. I achieved 2 age group wins and that success was intoxicating - combined with the actual race times (2+ minute PR in 1/2 marathon). Part of me also worried that “Okay, you had these great races, but that was not the target race?” What happens if you fail in the target race?
When I ran a 1:25 at Kaiser, I was pleased, but not ecstatic. Mentally, I didn’t “sell out” in a Radke-fashion, the same way I did in the 2012 races where I just flat out went for it in the last 2-3 miles.
I didn’t get to the race line in Vegas at 100%. After Clarksburg, I had a really hard workout with a training partner the following weekend. There was some tightness in my right hip; nothing major, but I knew it was there. Mentally or otherwise, I started to feel it in my left hip / abductor / psoas as well. I didn’t know how to address it. I’ve felt a little bit this time on my right side, but nothing as severe. I’m focused on stretching it out nearly everyday. I’ve got some massage scheduled; it will be ready.
The course will be different. Vegas was a total disaster for trying to PR. Running the second half of a marathon in the dark is a BAD idea. Full Stop. I know that Napa has some rolling hills and “is not CIM” according to one training partner, it can’t be as bad as Vegas. Biggest worry is that there is a late NorCal Winter storm with tons of rain (knock on wood!). Barring that, I’m confident I can roll with this course.
The race tactics will be different. At CIM 2009, I don’t know how sound my plan was, but the splits were aggressive & early. At Vegas, I was thinking 1:27 or 1:28 on the front-half and then roll the dice. I genuinely believed I could have an outrageous breakthrough (2:55? 2:56?) due to the fantastic fall I had experienced. Both times I had miles below 6:45 in the first 3-4 miles; even below 6:40.
This time, I’m going out conservative for 3 miles to get my arms around the race: 7:15, 7:00 & 7:00. That results in :39 deficit to run 2:59:59. Over 23 miles, I believe I can get that back.
The goal: Get to mile 20 and still have fight in the legs. If I have fight in the legs, the brain can take over. This is less of a “Hero” strategy and more of a “Get it Done” strategy. I swung big in Vegas and it faltered resulting in a big miss of 3:12 (still my 3rd fastest time ever, so an awesome accomplishment, just not reflective of my fitness during that period).
"What’s different this time?"
Lastly, I’m different. Every race you run, changes you. If you are smart, you learn from each experience. I can argue that I failed at Vegas in December and that failure didn’t cripple me.
I bounced back and have had an awesome 7-8 weeks of training with some real fire-breathing studs. I think the benefits of being battle tested matter. Your brain knows what pain feels like and does not “flee.” It has a chance to make a conscious decision about how much you want to suffer.
I wrote in the fall about the mental breakthrough I had experienced. My ability to push through when challenged has been altered. At America’s Finest last year, I did not rise to the challenge. The hill to Balboa Park was better than I was. Since that race, I’ve been stronger; tougher and more ready to fight. I’m ready to #DestroyFear #DestroyPain #DestroyDoubt and Run Reckless.
On March 3, 2013, I’m prepared to suffer. I really, really want this. I feel like I’ve been close before, but for whatever reason was not ready. I’ve been chasing 180 for 17+ years. For most of that time, I had no prayer. For awhile in the early 2000s, I never thought I’d make Boston. I achieved that goal. Now the bar has been raised. I’ve worked my ass off and I’m ready to break through. I ask Brad Radke for a blessing on March 3.
In 2 weeks we will find out, what’s different this time …
As I get ready for #StripAtNight in 3 days, I can’t believe I’m here. A year ago, I was out of shape and seemingly had hit “middle age” - whatever the hell that is. I weighed in at 195 and couldn’t seem to drop any weight; could not get in a running routine and thought after 29 marathons, that I was done.
Back in Jan 2011, I thought I had my “harajuku moment” (Tim Ferris 4-Hour Body reference) that would shake me out of my doldrums. I couldn’t run the Carlsbad Half Marathon because my knee was hurt. We went shopping at outlets and NO pants (at least not “my size”) fit me … it was a brutal day.
Unfortunately, it was my brother Brian’s passing away to brain cancer that was the forcing function. Made me really think that you never know how long you are going to be here and you can’t take anything for granted. After not running a marathon in 2011, I decided to get back in shape in 2012.
That “come back” has been chronicled here - although not as much as I hoped. I credit Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Body for helping me get the diet right; in addition, I leveraged some of the core body work he outlines there and started using kettle balls for the first time. Combined with ramping up running, I was able to drop 20 - 25 lbs pretty quickly in the first few months of 2012.
I’ve done some work that’s for damn sure. According to Strava, I’ve logged 1,790 miles (through Saturday, so I’m over 1,800 now). Many thanks to John Roberts and Jeff Bray for helping me slog some killer workouts over the past 3 months. I ran 239 miles in October - Holy Sh__ … And there was a LOT of quality in there.
After never ever thinking of placing in a race, I won my age group not once, but twice. First in New Orleans at a half-marathon and then in Clarksburg (South of Sacramento) in a 20 mile race. Along the way, there were lots of long tempo runs (5.5, 6.5 + 7.5 to be specific) at “modified” tempo pace, which intended to be half-marathon pace. Those were inspired by Matt Fitzgerald and "Brain Training for Runners"
Somewhere, between those hellish workouts (yes, I know I’m to blame Jeff & John) and the races, a switch got flipped … and it did so in a big way.
Mentally, I progressed and grew during this cycle in a way that I haven’t done before. I got physically strong before; I got fast in the fast, but this time it’s different. In reading "Power of Habits," they talk about how Michael Phelps built a “video tape” of successful workouts. I started to do that - combined with looking at the (nice) data visualization on Strava to validate the progress and lock in that feeling of success.
The first 8 months of 2012 felt similar to prior training cycles. I trained; I lost weight; I did pretty well, but when the chips were down, I couldn’t respond.
In June, I ran the Seattle Marathon in 3:30 - about 5 minutes slower than target. In August, I ran the America’s Finest Half Marathon in San Diego in 1:31 - 90 seconds slower than 2009. Granted it was a hotter day, but I know that course. When the pain came, I froze. I didn’t embrace it, let alone destroy it … I thought I might be able to challenge a PR (3:04) - maybe - if I was lucky, but not really chasing 180 … that was a bridge to far, if I was realistic with myself.
Then I had a great long run with Jeff where we did 9 miles at race pace. Then the long tempos started paying off. I went to NOLA at the end of October, planning to have a good day and believing I could PR (it was 1:27:59). In that race, I had been hitting 6:35 - 6:40 consistently and other than a scare at mile 5, where my heart spiked in a major way and I had a moment of panic, I was really consistent.
Then coming out of the Audobon park, a guy came up on me and got my turnover cranking. The last 4 miles were ridiculous: 6:25, 6:22, 6:16 + 6;22 (Strava says 6;48, but it includes me walking post finish line for ~30 seconds).
Really didn’t think I could run that fast, that late in a race. But clearly I can. Need to trust my brain; let the legs turn over and see what happens. At the end of Clarksburg, 20 miler, I did this; 6:29, 6:15 + 6:11 … this gives me confidence for the last 5-10k in Vegas on Sunday. Matt Fitzgerald wrote about this in a later book, "Run by Feel" He advises athletes to define workouts where they get confidence. It’s a bit circular, but he says “a confident athlete runs well; an athlete runs well because he’s confident.” Nothing says I can hang at X pace, like doing it amidst a long run - whether a 20 mile race or 6-10 mile warm-up followed by 6-10 miles at MP …
I have to reiterate. I never thought I’d be back here: in great shape with a shot at a PR. But I’m here and I’m proud as hell.
I don’t know what Sunday will hold, but it would have been hard to prepare more completely than I did. As Chris Lear wrote "Trust the work.” The work and racing results give me immense confidence that I am capable of PR’ing on Sunday. I remember in 2009, it hurt so much in the last 10k. In fact, my hamstring started to bark at the half-way point in 2009. I ran it in 1:28:20 - 2nd fastest half I had ever run behind the 1:27:59 at Philly. I believe I’m ready to embrace that moment and keep the turnover going, but that’s what makes the the marathon beautiful and evil … we just won’t know until Sunday. It’s a cruel distance to race, but I’m battle tested by the Radke Institute
Now is the time to Destroy Pain, Destroy Fear and Destroy Doubt (Thanks Fam!) it’s time to Run Reckless!
Let’s review the fact pattern.
- So, did a monster run on Saturday, leg felt tight.
- Took Sun, Mon & Tues off.
- Went out this AM for an easy ~5 miler
- Got home and lower right leg tight again
- Enter the Trigger Point (see below); I met these guys 8-10 years ago in DC. Great products.
- Rolled leg with trigger point - immediately loosened up; still a bit tight from my sentence as a Desk Jockey, but will roll in the AM before I hit GG Park tomorrow.
- Always listen to your body and remember your target race
- Ice is a good thing to apply when in doubt
- Always get on a roller (or go for a massage); I don’t do enough of either right now
For those that are new to the site and have never heard of Brad Radke, he won 148 games for the Minnesota Twins. I love Minneapolis, but I am not a Twins fan.
Here’s why I love Radke. He pitched in the major leagues for 2 years with a torn labrum … think about that? Every time he chucked a pitch, 80-90 times in a game - every 5 days.
Here are excerpts from two ESPN stories on Radke:
For two years, he has been winging it with a torn labrum, and he recently discovered there was a stress fracture in there, too. And all he did was keep pitching, keep working it, keep — as he told Jim Caple earlier this month — “hump[ing] it up.” As my friend Dave likes to say, "That’s some man work right there." That’s the sort of man work that says to everyone in the clubhouse, without Radke ever speaking a word: “What about you? How hard are you willing to work to make this happen? What you got in the tank? I gave up being able to lift my kids up off the ground, what are you willing to give up to get us where we want to go?” More than mojo, this is a prime directive. Every player in a Twins uni is measuring himself by Radke right now, trying to be more like Brad.
Every time I look to see how the Twins are doing, I expect to see this headline:
"Radke Loses Right Arm In Farm Accident, Vows To Keep Pitching With Left"
I mean, is there any player who has sucked it up for his team this year more than Radke? He already has been pitching for the past couple years with a torn labrum, the sort of injury that normally makes pitchers weep uncontrollably and seek second, third and fourth opinions and hug their kids and ask their agents to reassure them again that “one day, they’ll call it Tommy Armas Jr. Surgery.”
Radke shrugged it off, told the doctors to inject him with cortisone for the pain, and just kept pitching. Hell, he didn’t even tell anyone about it until the end of July. In fact, he not only kept pitching as the pain worsened, he pitched even better than before. “I humped it up and really kept concentrating on keeping the ball down,” he says. He went 8-3 with a 1.43 ERA from late May to late August, even though, he says, “Every pitch hurt.”
Somehow if Radke got into running, I imagine he’d be a bad ass. Mindset-wise, it sounds like he has the willingness to suffer, which is critical for any endurance athlete to truly excel. Jim Caple compares Radke in the 2nd story to Monty Python’s the “black knight” … great stuff.
Hoping this lower leg (I said tibia early, but it’s actually fibula) heals up in the next 48 hours and we can get back to prep for Seattle without any Radke-time … that will be reserved for Q4 and the Road to Vegas.
Had a great run on Saturday, nearly 21 miles. This was my last long run before the Seattle Marathon on June 23. I have great friends in Seattle and it’s a beautiful city — though honestly the course looks questionable (doesn’t touch Lake Union at all?).
Anyway, on Saturday afternoon, my right tibia started barking. I could feel it happening, but was out with the kids and didn’t have a lot of recourse. By Sunday AM, it was definitely full on pain. Panic feeling: stress fracture! Damn those overuse injuries … Hopeful thought: Just some random shin splint like deal from too many miles in too short a window.
Took Sunday off, which prevented me from breaking 60 miles in a week (I finished at 55); did some Icy/Hot on Saturday night and then some actual ICE on Sunday. (When it doubt, it’s inflammation and runners should ice, right?) Felt better this AM. Then I had to jog to catch the train. Jog mind you, not run … and barking again. Had dreams of crushing 400s at Kezar on Tuesday morning; those are getting kicked to the curb as you have to listen to your body right?
Key is to get healthy because the ultimate goal is not Kezar on Tuesday; it’s not running 60 miles in a week or 200 miles in a month. Those are all stops on the Brad Radke World Tour most likely, I grant you (the patron saint of this site after all is Saint Brad); heck, it’s not even June 23 in Seattle … the real dance date is December 2, 2012
Alright, I’m overdue for a post here - apologies.
So the last post was from the Thursday before Memorial Day. I ended up taking Friday, Sat and Sunday off to let the groin rest. I tried to schedule a massage, but with family responsibilities, it was not to happen.
I got up to Marin for the race about 45 minutes before the start. I actually forgot my bib - whoops! because I almost always do race day reg for a “local” race. I went to the “solutions desk” and got it sorted out.
I did a 2.2 mile warm-up first mile with my pal Joe and the rest by myself. Everything felt good and I was targeting a 42 minute race (~6:45). My 10k PR, also at this race, is a 40:54 (~6:35/mile) Thought in a dream race I might approach that, but mostly I just wanted the groin to hold up.
If you looked at the times in 2009 or 2012, you realize that the times are crazy fast. Neither year did I crack the top 200. There are only 550 - 650 people who do the 10k each year - crazy fast field! I was really pleased the way I managed the race: 1st mile slowest (6:50) and last 2 the fastest (6:21 + 6:26), I accelerated for the last .2, which is on the College of Marin track (fun finish!) - though my Strava time shows it as 41:47, the race time was 41:25 (I hit lap and not STOP at the end - Strava does not provide affordances that I have found to tweak a posted race time). The HR showed nicely as well; first mile in 160, 2&3 in 170s, then in the 180.
84% of the race spent in Zone 4 (172 - 188HRM), which I can handle - though I apparently didn’t have a whole lot left as I slipped to 6;26 in mile 6). I deliberately held back in mile 1 to go 6:50. The fast field pulled away and it was okay. There’s a little climb in the first 2 miles that you just have to roll with. I survived it and felt a small bark from the groin in mile 2 during the climb (near a seminary in Ross). Once we got going downhill (mile 2.5?), it was all good.
I prefer Mile 5; it’s a bike trail and mostly straight. Little bit narrow, but provides opportunity to pass some people. Speaking of passing or actually, being passed … There were two (ex?) college runners who passed me during mile 5; I stayed with them for 30 seconds or so, but they were hammering (sub 6?) and I couldn’t hang. Little hill to get over a bridge on mile 6. FWIW, the Garmin showed me cooking at 6:35 pace and I thought I might be ble to break 41:00, but the Garmin was not 100% aligned with race mile markers (.05 off?) and it was a “bridge too far.”
All in all, I ran a 41:25. For me, that’s awesome; particularly, when A) I’m not a 10k guy; B) I wasn’t targeting this race at all; and C) I stayed healthy.
Picture shows the track where the finish happens - plus beautiful Mt Tam in the background!
Now I’m getting ready for the Seattle Marathon.
Today, I had to bail out of my tempo run. I was 3.5 miles into the 2 x 2 workout. 2 x 2 basically means you do 2 miles of tempo 2 times. I stopped because my groin / hip felt like it was going to explode - not good.
When you get into a training groove, you want to run. You are desperate to test out the new limits that you are hitting - or at least “new to you” in this cycle. More specifically, I’m so pumped to race on Monday in Marin and now it’s up in the air because I’ve crossed that thin, fine line.
When you are training, you are pushing your body to limits. I mentioned earlier that you have to be careful to make sure you don’t ramp too fast. I did 55 miles last week and was on pace for a step back week this week (about ~40 miles). But, woops! I did the trailing 7 day math and I did 63 miles between last Wed and this Tuesday. It appears that halfway through my long Sunday run, I tweaked my groin. I was out at Lake Merced and had to run home with a barking groin - about 8 miles. The thing is, that thin line was crossed.
I should have taken Monday AND Tuesday off but I was away from the family and it seemed a good time to run. I was south of Phoenix in the desert at a resort and it was beautiful and different. Ran 6.75 on Monday and 8.8 on Tuesday; groin barking lightly both times. How do you spell “S-T-U-P-I-D” AGAIN? If I had walked it back on Monday, maybe I’d be healthy now. I took Wednesday off and felt okay during the warm-up, but at some point in the first 2 miles, I knew it wasn’t “right.” Why did I press on? Because you hate to admit weakness and you get SO excited about the progress you’ve made … I was cruising along at 6;45 miles AND not 100% …
Trying to get in to see a massage therapist in the next 36 hours so I can get this healed and ready to rock on Monday. I have comp times from 2009 that I want to push against, but to do that you GOTTA be 100% …
Remember: the goal is breaking 180 in December. This race on Monday is just a weigh station. If I can’t get massage, I likely shouldn’t race, but will see if I can heed my own advice and get on the RIGHT side of that thin, fine line.