Right now my brain is stressed which is not the stress you want for running performance. I can physically feel the negative implications during my powerless jogs I manage to squeeze in daily.
The good kind of stress is mostly physical. I say mostly because pain threshold training is of mental kind and one of the key factors in endurance fitness.
In the final 8 weeks before a race I believe in specificity. But before that an experienced athlete will only improve by applying new stress to the body. Successful fall marathon campaigns for me have always been based on summers spent on the extreme ends of training. Think about doing an easy 50k run followed by a track 5k race three days later. The 50k gets you comfortable for the distance while the track 5k moves your pain threshold.
Marathons are hard to find during the summer for obvious reasons which is a bummer because they are the best catered long runs - as long as you don't race them. Check your local calendar. Here in New York we have the Self Transcendence Marathon at the end of August that does loops around Rockland Lake. I did it back in 2011 and put it in my calendar to go back. I jogged a 2:44 back then. Would be an all out effort now!
(Picture: Fukuoka Marathon starts and end on a track.)
It already was a competition before the actual race. The negligible race website
just showed a vague map of the route. No majormunicipality or key
landmark close by. It might be my inexistent skills in French language,
but it reminded me a bit of my Irish fell running times as I felt a lost
along those blustery and petite country boulevards. Despite all the
technical treats, it was good to check that I’m still skilled to read a
map and, like back in Ireland, can recognise fellow racers and track
their car down to the venue. Finally I arrived on site with enough time
Like most of the years I was in the French
region of Alsace to hang out at a friends house and celebrate the bank
holiday. Discovering a race in the Vosges is not too tough. As the trail
running explosion is not new to France, the scene is energetic and
delivers enough chances to roll the feet around these picturesque part
of the “Grande Nation”.
The sun hasn’t been seen o'er
here for a good few days. Drizzle or rains were the key ingredients of
the weather report - a well-preserved outfit for some proper trail
dashing. Just as an additional cloud transported more water, the mob got
ready on a soaked grass turf on top of the “Col du Wettstein”. The
lively horde turned soundless as the marshal counted down. Then the
contest was off towards the woodlands that were partially hidden in
scenic, deep floppy smokes. After a couple of meters the track curved
towards the primary single trail. Hectic all around as the fight for
positions got underway. A long stretch towards the top of the mount
separated the competition and after excited encounters the first
clusters were formed.
The deep woods in the rural
Vosges region are just made for that kind of running action. An
extensive system of single footpaths and tight forest alleyways make up
for a scenery that can undoubtedly host so many suitable trail contests.
Despite other “Trail” competitions this race was run on actual, proper
trails. Looking back, a total of 300 meters were run on paved roads. The
rest was pure bliss as the path was winding past technical, rocky,
slippy and narrow natural trail. The spectacular weather and the
magnificent surrounding added a lot towards the technical side, which
was great distraction. Surfing around the puddles on the steep
downhill’s and rolling sections was cool. Again my LaSportiva Helios
served to be the best partner for this kind of races. Its good to know
that there is grip when you go downhill with top speed.
that I’m missing the longer training runs recently, the race got
tougher and tougher the further I ran. Accumulating to the fatigue I got
confronted with long, steep uphill’s in the second portion of the
route. I had to dig deep and lost a good few places on the grinds
upwards. As I trolled down the last hill after a mere of 25 kilometres
and 800 meters of climbing, I felt pretty worn-out but pleased getting
to experience a course like this. This is what I would call trail
running. Very well marked route, humble but efficient organization and a
very friendly but competitive field.
Today I actually had to leave my Saturday morning jogging group because they were going too fast: flying at 7min pace. Yup, I'm fried from work. Three more weeks.
I've been an avid podcast listener for over 10 years during my runs (and even now have my own podcast but it's about GFNY, not running). Two of my club mates have a nice running podcast called "Cloud 259". "259" because their goal was to break 3h in the marathon. One of them, Brenn, achieved that last year by running a 2:56. Ever since, he says he's been lacking motivation to train hard again for a marathon. In their most recent episode, he said he would use me as a target for NYC Marathon.
A few years ago I would have laughed at that. Hey, I'm a 2:33 guy! Who are you kidding?
But he mentioned that I have a kid now and am busy with organizing GFNY's around the globe. And looking at my recent results, he is right to use me as a target. I'm no longer a 2:33 guy. Two years ago I ran 2:48 in NYC (and that was the last time I trained three months for a marathon). I firmly believe that I can still run 2:45 and I think I have a shot at getting under 2:40 again if all goes perfect.
But as Brenn rightfully stated: believing something and actually doing the necessary work for it are two very different things.
If you read this blog, you probably know Nate Jenkins. Nate is what I would call an unexpected elite runner which is what makes him interesting for us slower folks. His size and weight are not those of a typical elite runner (neither is his gait). After a decade of struggling with a debilitating nerve issue, he's finally back training almost healthy and even toed the line in Boston, his first marathon in many years.
His day didn't go well which makes it for an even more interesting read. I'm looking forward to see him race this fall in NYC. Right Nate?
Hope is not a good strategy they say. They are right. I was hoping to get a few shorter road races in but reality served me more of the same. Last weekend I was signed up for a 4 miler in Central Park but was out of commission due to yet another cold for three days. By Sunday I was in no shape or form to race.
It's just running but I was really angry for a while. With four weeks to go to our little race, I lack sleep and am generally stressed out. Next weekend I'm off to Bogota, Colombia for one of our World Tour bike races. You guessed it right: all that doesn't bode well for my running. I get two 60-90 mile bike rides in each week but the long ones result in two days of poor running. The general fitness is good right now but man am I slow.
So the next five weeks will be spent with exercising whenever I get a chance and being happy about just getting in a run or ride. June/July we'll be surrounded by hills and mountains so I bought a new toy: light trail running shoes. I'm considering to run a 54k mountain trail run in June because it's in the neighbor village of my "home town". The course hits the hills and mountains that I used to climb as a kid with my dad. It's a run that I had planned to do by myself for a few years now. Now that they run a race on this obvious course, it's hard to resist. Just like back in 2003, when I jumped into the MTB Marathon World Championships that were run on parts of that route.
If you have been reading this blog closely in the last few weeks, you know that the title is not merely a race time. It's THE race time because now Markus has no further excuses to stay away from this place. When I started out, I asked him to re-join our Mzungo blog to write on his training and racing. We both plan to race NYC Marathon this fall and the Mzungo blog is supposed to serve as motivation. Just like back in 2009 when we got ready for our Iten, Kenya trip.
"Run a sub 37 10k and I'm in."
Funny that it seemed such an easy thing to do at the time. He clearly gauged my fitness better than I did though (unless he was certain that I can't even run that).
Was I happy with my race? No, of course not. In 2010 I ran this race in 33:10. You are right when you say that I was five years younger and actually trained at the time. Enough already.
I did, however, try a new pre race warmup: I played PacMan in Central Park p/b Google Maps. Worked like a charm.
If you want to read more from middle aged guys trying to defy nature (read: run a reasonable marathon), jump over to my buddy Sean's new blog. He's training for the Chicago Marathon and actually provides some data on his running "regime". He's also the founder of Central Park Coaching so you might learn a thing or two. You can find him here.
I was certain that I already wrote about my NYC Half "race" here. Turns out I didn't. Let's start with the facts for those of you who don't want to skim through the whole thing in search for the result:
Yes, I didn't even break 1:20 and that depressed me. As I said earlier, it will take a great day to go sub 1:20 but - alas - hope dies last. Truth is that 1:21 is very much in line with my training. The good - and bad - about running is still that WYSIWYG (who remembers this from back in the 90s? Google it, youngster.).
Conditions were near perfect apart from a headwind on the second half but as a cyclist, I know how to draft off a meaty dude. It is, however, a new experience for me to run with so many women. While I generally enjoy their company, having them in my group isn't great. Women who run that pace are at elite amateur level and their race is more important than any dudes' race at the same speed. Consequently, I do my best to stay out of their way. While I mostly succeed in that, a hilly course can be tough because my weight and height favor me on the downhill and are detrimental uphill. You can see the yo-yo effect there because we all have to even effort our race.
So between trying to not piss off a lady and crying along the way because what used to feel like 5:45s now was 6:10s, I finished a fairly even paced race. Only on the last mile I ran a bit out of energy which isn't a surprise because I usually only run 6-8 miles per run and 40 miles per week.
I followed up the race with almost a week off thanks to racing GFNY Barcelona. Now I'm heading into the Scotland 10k (one loop in Central Park) having done - again - barely any proper training. I did one tempo run to be precise. Not sure where I'm going from here. I hope I can do another 4 miler before summer and European cycling hits me. "You're never going to break 2:40 again," Lidia said yesterday and - damn - she's right. Not because I can't but because I'm half assing this running thing. I'm still bullish about August to October but it's the level I arrive there which will ultimately determine my marathon fate.
Update on Markus: he remains steadfast about that sub37 10k. I think he really is only scared to put his name on something that doesn't have many readers. I OTOH value each of you 23 readers.
Put anyone on this picture in the position to actually have a shot at winning a race and all that "doing my best to grow" crap is going out the window. We say things like that because we don't have choice - or chance. We say it to stay motivated and look for bigger reasons. Competitions are created to satiate our instincts to beat someone (if you ever won a race, you know that it feels fucking awesome).
I'm running the NYC Half this Sunday. Based on my current fitness, I'll have to be happy with breaking 1:20 which would put me exactly at my desired marathon pace for this year in November at the NYC Marathon. Frightening.
But that's when everything goes right because even sub 1:20 seems a bit of a stretch right now. I haven't been running much and only a couple of runs were uptempo. One excuse is the cold weather. The other is work but that doesn't really count. The result is not mainly lack of fitness but rather excess of weight that crept back on once I left the tropics. This frigid BS called winter makes my body ramp up fat reserves faster than I can eat. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
I'll give it everything I got.
I'm just not sure yet if that is quite something at all.