2017 Goals

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When it comes to running, the crazy things that I do are carefully planned out. No last-minute craziness here! Two years ago I set my running goals in time format: I wanted to be able to run distances that I had already run, just faster. In 2015 I set new PRs at the 5k, 10 mile, half and marathon distances, while running 237 miles further than I did in 2014. In 2016 I set out to focus more on long run training in order to tackle my first ultramarathon. My last long run before the ultra was Space Coast Marathon, where I PR’ed by 12 minutes and was able to do it with a negative split. While a successful 50-miler was the big goal for the year, I believe the marathon PR was a bonus and a direct result of the many 26-mile-plus long runs that I wrote into my training plan.

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What are your goals?

So what could I possibly have planned for 2017? I have three goals for the upcoming year, and for those who have called me crazy in the past, you’ll likely need that word three more times before you’re done reading. Santa didn’t bring much in the line of material gifts this year, but he left me a full dose of lunacy!

First up is a goal that I will start on January 7th and complete on February 5th. I am currently a member of the Half Fanatics (Saturn level) and a member of the Marathon Maniacs (Bronze level), and qualified for both simultaneously, giving me Double Agent status, level one of ten. I accomplished this two years ago by running 3 marathons and 4 half marathons in the same 90-day period. Back to my goal… I am going to be moving up to Double Agent level 3 and moving from Bronze to Gold as a Marathon Maniac by running 4 marathons and 4 half marathons within 30 days. I’ll be running the Disney Half and Full marathons (Goofy Challenge), Best Damn Race Jacksonville half, Shark Bite half, Clearwater Distance Classic marathon, Celebration marathon, Best Damn Race Safety Harbor half, and Tallahassee marathon within those 30 days.

That’s just goal #1 – there are still 11 months left in the year!

Goal #2: The race director for the Daytona 100 and Daytona 50 has announced a sister race in northern Michigan in June and I plan to do two things I have never done before. I will be going to Michigan and I’ll be running the Lighthouse 100 mile race. My goal is to finish the 100 miles of this race within the cutoff time of 30 hours. I’d love to bring that time down, but given the struggles that I faced near the end of the 50-miler earlier this month, and the fact that the Lighthouse 100 has “rolling hills” (where the Daytona 100 had max elevation of about 15 feet above sea level), I’m setting the goal 6 months out as finishing all 100 miles within the 30 hour limit. Also, at this point I have no idea if I will have a crew or will be running solo. Doing it solo will no doubt slow me down a great deal.

Have you called me crazy yet? But wait, there’s more!

Goal #3: Six months to the day after I run my second ultra and first 100-miler I’m going to run another 100-miler. I’m returning to the Daytona 100, this time to run the full 100 miles rather than the 50. Ok, so where’s the goal? In Michigan in June I plan to finish; in Florida in December I plan to finish in under 24 hours. I’m upping my finish time goal by a full six hours in six months. I plan on using the Michigan race as a learning tool to be better prepared and better trained by December.

Goal-setting is a good way for me to get the process started toward improvement. What keeps me on track is the accountability that involves my friends, family, and fellow runners. Even if you don’t know what it takes to prepare for a 100-mile race, I’ll bet you know what an excuse sounds like. If I’m throwing out excuses instead of miles, please feel free to mention it to me, however you see fit! I’m not setting big goals to try to be better than anyone, with the exception of who I am today, and that doesn’t sound crazy at all.

 

Heart rate training update

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on my heart rate training, but I’m still at it and the results are beyond what I ever hoped to get out of this. During this training phase I have been able to fully understand why I have struggled in the past in the last quarter of the six marathons that I’ve run. Put simply, my heart rate was too high for too long and I was completely out of gas. I realize that there are some people who can run faster and longer than me and have never had to do intentional heart rate training. I’m not sure how they trained their system to be as efficient as it is, but I’m not one of those people, probably because I didn’t start running until I was 44 years old.

I started my heart rate training on March 15th and did 9 runs as a trial, then took about 3 weeks away from it to train for a 10k and half on back-to-back days. I needed to work on a little speed which is not allowed using the Maffetone method. I returned to my heart rate training on April 20th and have been averaging about 4 runs per week following the plan, plus a long run each weekend. The guidelines of the Maffetone method call for EVERY run to be in your specific heart rate zone 100%, but with the Florida heat I would end up walking 8-10 miles of my long runs, if not more. The plan also calls for a 2 week specific diet that is beyond clean eating. Though I have greatly improved my diet I’ll admit I did not follow the two-week plan. I’m getting better, but decades of bad habits must be broken piece by piece in order to be successful.

OK, on to the training. My goal heart rate zone is 132-142 beats per minute. I’m pretty good about staying in this range (once I get up to 132) but I do tend to push the top end toward the end of the run. Most of my HR training runs are 5 miles and I keep a spreadsheet for every run, the 5-mile total time, 5-mile average time, and the BPM and time for each individual mile. I’m a data analyzer and I look for patterns and exceptions so I can learn what works and what doesn’t work. In addition, almost all of my runs are early in the morning and are fasting runs in an attempt to teach my body to burn fat for fuel (a main purpose of HR training). I also try to do most of my HR training runs on the treadmill just so I can compare apples to apples as far as the weather is concerned.

Day 1 of my training back in March was only 4.5 miles because the pace was getting slow enough that it was difficult to keep running. If I started walking then my HR would dip too low, so I just went as far as I could and stopped. Please note, I am not calling anyone else slow if he/she runs at these paces. I’m simply stating that the pace is too slow for me to continue “running”. My miles for day 1 were 10:27, 11:12, 11:45, 12:00, and 6:02 for the last half mile. These splits were completed at 138 average BPM, 11:27 average pace, and the total time was 51:27 for 4.5 miles. For comparison, my easy runs have been typically run at a 10:00 pace.

About 7 weeks later for my 22nd run in my HR training zone (including the 3 weeks away from the plan) and broke into new territory: my average pace for 5 miles was 9:59. I had improved by one minute and 28 seconds per mile while staying at the same heart rate, 138, over the course of those miles. The individual miles were 9:43, 9:43, 9:54, 10:12, and 10:21 and I finished in 49:53. I couldn’t believe that I made it so far so fast. However, the next 5 runs that I did were in the 10:04 to 10:24 per mile range. Several factors may have come into play here, such as elevated stress, lack of sleep, not warming up enough, etc., but sticking with it is the key.

Let’s fast forward another 22 runs to yesterday. Five miles completed in 46:47!! Running within the same  HR range I ran miles of 9:12, 9:07, 9:15, 9:33, and 9:40 for an average of 9:21. That’s 2:06 per mile faster than my first attempt in March, and the 8th time that I ran all five miles in less than 10 minutes. Now it’s turning into a “how low can you go” thing.

New day, new times. Today’s run: five miles completed in 46:11, again at 138 BPM average. My mile splits were my best times in 45 runs for each and every mile: 8:57, 9:00, 9:10, 9:29, and 9:35 for a 9:14 average. I finally managed to dip below a 9:00 mile! Today’s run was 7 seconds per mile faster than my record run yesterday, and I’ve been sick for the past 5 days.

In addition to my running I have been helping myself out with some cross training on the spin bike, recumbent bike and outdoor bike, plenty of stretching, and a lot of core work. I do abdominal workouts at the gym 3-4 days per week, just completed a plank-a-day challenge of 30 days, and am now doing a push up challenge. I’ve still got about ten pounds to get rid of, but piece by piece this is coming together. I plan to keep about 3 HR training runs per week through the summer because the progress is incredible!

 

Progress is occuring!

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Happy Star Wars day! It’s been a week since my last update on my Maffetone-style heart rate training and I am happy to report that the results are encouraging. How they will translate to long distance runs and/or races is yet to be seen, but as of today I am happy.

To quickly review, I did about two weeks of heart rate training in March just to try it out, knowing I’d have to give it up for a few weeks because of a couple of races on my calendar. My objective with this training is to adjust my pace as needed in order to keep my heart rate in the target zone, which for me is 131-140 bpm. My first run was 4.50 miles, completed in 51:27 (average 11:27 pace). My fastest mile was 10:27 and I quickly fell to 11:12 and eventually to 12:00. For comparison, I typically do my long runs (15-20 miles) at a 10:00 pace, so this was really slow for me. Walking is only an option for a few seconds at a time unless you’re walking fast enough to keep your heart rate in the target zone; falling below the zone will slow your heart’s adaptation (the point of this training).

I made some decent progress on paper in those two weeks in March, but my last HR training run at that time showed me that it was mostly on paper. My pace was improving rapidly, but the weather was consistently getting cooler at the same time. For my last run it was almost 70 degrees with 93% humidity and my pace slowed way down. At that point I decided to take most of my runs inside on the treadmill in order to gauge progress better by eliminating the weather variable.

You can find more background on my training as well as results from last week here.

Over the past week I ran every day, twice outside and 5 times on the treadmill. As could be expected, my slowest pace (10:56) came on Monday when I ran outside, and my fastest run was yesterday on the treadmill (9:59). Not only did I break the 10:00 average barrier for the first time yesterday, I also recorded my fastest times for every mile except the first (out of 23 runs). Today’s run was even a little faster through 3 miles but I had to slow down more than expected for miles 4 and 5 and finished at a 10:04 pace. I think the slow down was due to pushing hard on the leg presses after yesterday’s run. Either way, my times for this week have been MUCH better than the 11:27 that I started March with, and this week’s average pace was 17 seconds per mile faster than last week’s average.

That’s progress! My schedule has one more month of heart rate training right now, with plenty of room to add another 2-4 weeks if I continue to see this type of progress. I admit that at first I was a bit skeptical and frustrated at the pace that I was running, but since my pace has picked up at the same heart rate I think I’m liking this idea right about now!

Heart Rate Training Seems to Work!

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For the past 8 days now I have been focused on heart rate training, and surprisingly I am seeing positive results already. I expected to see improvement but assumed that it would take some time before I saw the type of results that I’ve seen. I also want to point out the fact that I use words like slow and slower in this post. In no way am I attempting to compare myself to anyone else or label anyone as a slow runner. A 12:00 mile pace may be a goal for some runners and that’s fine because we all work from where we are. Having run a 22:04 5k, backing down to some of the speeds necessary to stay within my target heart range has been quite an adjustment for me. Your mileage may vary 😉 I also want to note that I have been fasting for each of the runs that are discussed here as I’m teaching my body to burn fat more efficiently (also in the Maffetone plan).

What is heart rate training? Basically it’s a system that was put together by Phil Maffetone that helps determine your optimal training heart rate zone; a zone that keeps you in your body’s aerobic system rather than the anaerobic system which stresses your body more. After reading all of the details I was able to determine that my training heart rate should be between 135-140 beats per minute (the formula allows for 130-140, but I have elected to shorten that window). In order to benefit from the heart rate training I will need to keep my heart rate in the 135-140 zone during all runs as well as all cross-training activities. Using running as an example, this means that once I get my heart rate up to 135 I need to stay between 135 and 140 until the workout is finished. The bad news is that this pretty much eliminates the possibility of run/walking for those that typically run using the Galloway Method because walking would lower the heart rate below the bottom end of the range. This also eliminates strides, intervals, repeats, tempo runs, fartleks, ladders, progression runs and any other attempts at working on speed. It’s temporary.

Last Tuesday I set out for my first crack at this different type of training before the sun came up. As it sometimes does, my heart rate jumped way up right off the bat (164 max), but after about three minutes I was back in my target range, finishing the first mile in 10:27 with an average  of 141 bpm. Yeah, this type of training takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re used to running by pace more than feel. As expected the remaining miles were each slower than the previous mile: 11:12, 11:45, and 12:00. The final half mile was on pace to be even slower than 12:00. Overall I averaged 11:27 per mile and a 138 heart rate.

Without knowing exactly what to expect I just accepted these numbers as my starting point and decided to run the same distance each of the next two days to make comparing data from day to day a little easier (#NumbersNerd). On Wednesday my first mile was about the same (10:29/131bpm) but the other miles showed more and more improvement: 10:31, 10:47, 11:07, and the final half at 11:19 pace. The day’s averages were 10:48 and 135bpm. Interesting…. About 40 seconds faster per mile with a lower heart rate. Thursday was a split compared to Wednesday, with some numbers better than Wednesday and some worse. I’ll post the specifics below if you’re interested.

Saturday’s run was different on many levels (non-fasting, run later in the day under hot sun, higher stress, etc.) and the results reflected the differences. I’m going to skip the specifics until I can determine which elements affected me and which ones didn’t, but the entire run was done trying to stay in the 135-140 range.

Sunday was a longer run, so I checked the numbers for 5 miles (to compare to previous runs) and for the full 8.2 miles. More improvements! At five miles I was averaging a 10:44 pace and 135 bpm, and for the full run, an 11:09 pace and 136. Yeah, I averaged a faster pace for 8.2 miles than I did 5 days ago for 4.5 miles and at a lower heart rate. Hmmmm, I’m seeing a trend that I like. My sixth run, a week after my first run: 10:20 average pace for 5 miles at 134 bpm. Last Tuesday was 11:27/138 bpm! That’s 67 seconds per mile faster at a lower heart rate. Today’s first mile was at 9:44 and a 127 heart rate! I’m actually having trouble getting my average heart rate for the first mile high enough without going over the 140 mark because it is increasing so slowly.

I have plans to continue this training for about six weeks and if the improvements keep coming the way that they have so far….. I am getting excited to think of the possibilities! If you have any questions about this training method that I might be able to answer please feel free to contact me. There are more details about the Garmin that I use here. If you are looking for more details about the Maffetone Method, the formula to find your training zone, etc. then please click here. Other useful Maffetone links include the MAF test and The New Aerobic Revolution. Thanks for listening to me ramble and best of luck on your training.

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Heart rate values are average/max for each mile




Distractions

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One of the aspects of training and racing that I consider to be key is keeping focus. Whether the focus needs to be on a specific workout, recovery, tapering, or ensuring that nothing is forgotten on race morning, focus can be the difference between going through the motions and actually accomplishing something. However, life doesn’t always make it easy to keep your focus where it needs to be.

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be running the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World, with the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. I completed the Dopey Challenge a year ago (Goofy plus a 5k Thursday and 10k Friday) so I am familiar with the demands of completing such a challenge. Even so, I feel completely unprepared for this weekend’s races. After finishing Space Coast Marathon six weeks ago and Best Damn Race Cape Coral marathon 4 weeks ago, I have been in the in-between state of recovery and taper at the same time and not really pushing any workouts. And not really pushing the mileage either. At the same time I feel like I’m rested and unprepared because I haven’t been running as much as I’ve wanted to. But this week I have had little opportunity to worry about my preparation level. Life has happened.

Monday I started off the week with a consultation with the dentist and a deep cleaning with the hygienist. It’s been a couple of years and I have sensitive teeth so this wasn’t the highlight of my week. Tuesday I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I finally got a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. After running a few dozen tests trying to determine the cause of my increasing heart rate, the latest possibility is anxiety and a few panic attacks. With this news I was sure that Tuesday was going to be a great day. And it was, until I left work. About 4 miles into my 35 mile trip home I went from smooth sailing on a toll road to parked in the median with a destroyed car in a matter of seconds. Someone changed lanes in front of me and then came to a complete stop just a few seconds later. I couldn’t stop in time and hit that SUV at somewhere around 25-30mph. As an extra bonus I was awarded a ticket for following too closely because the trooper determined that I had enough time to put the necessary space in front of me after the other driver pulled in front of me.

A short time later I was dropped off at a McDonalds where I called my insurance company and was told that Enterprise would come “pick me up” sometime soon. An hour later I called the insurance company back and was told that I wouldn’t hear from Enterprise until the next day because they close at 6 (accident was at 6:15). I just wasted an hour. With few options to get back home I called a friend for a ride and finally made it home around 10:45. The next morning it took about 7 phone calls to get my rental car because I live outside of the 10-mile radius that Enterprise locations use for picking people up. That’s enough for one week, right? Nah, that’s only Wednesday morning!

After making it to the tow yard to sign an insurance release I went to work for the second half of Wednesday. Thursday was work until 3:30 and then back to the dentist. The new experience for the day was installing a temporary crown and being fitted for a permanent one. I had no idea that this process would take close to two hours! So now my face hurts and I have this “thing” in my mouth where there has been a broken molar for about five years.

So today I’ll get in my rental car and go to work, have difficulty eating because of the pain in my jaw, and I’ll make lists of everything I need to remember to do before I go to bed at (hopefully) 8:30-9:00 tonight. I’ll have to drive to Disney and be headed to my corral by 4:30 for the half marathon, so I’ll need to be up by 3am at the latest. I wonder if anything I’ll need for the race is in my car that I no longer have? Isn’t life fun?

2015 is running away

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The end of the year brings a time for reflection and for those of us that set goals, a chance to compare actual events to the goals we have set. Although there was much improvement in my training and running overall, few of my goals were achieved. My racing was nearly cut in half from 2014 as I dropped from 28 races to 15, including the 4 races in 4 days known as Dopey Challenge. Even with this I still feel like 2015 was a strong year for me.

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“C” finisher medal and AG award

A year ago I set several goals for myself and I’m not really sure how I planned to achieve them all, but I did manage to get some of them. My 5k goal for the year was 22:00. On July 4th I ran my only 5k for time and finished in 22:04. Pretty close to goal, but not quite. My 10-mile race goal was 1:20:00 and I finished the Storm the Campus 10 miler at UCF in 1:20:54. Again, really close. Placing 3rd in my AG took the bite out of that one at least. My 10k goal for 2015 was 47:00. The only 10k that I did was part of the Dopey Challenge last January and I was not running for time. I did, however, use the 10k distance for tempo runs on the treadmill several times over the summer, where I beat 47:00 three times with my best being 45:02. My half and full goals were set at 1:40 and 4:00 respectively (and I was really pushing for a BQ time) and it’s safe to say that those goals will stay in tact until I can reach them. I did set new PRs in both distances in 2015 with the Marine Corps Half Marathon completed in 1:48:19 (38 second PR) and the Space Coast Marathon done in 4:31:38 (PR by 16:01) .

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Six medals for completing Dopey!

I also set a goal to run 1600 miles in 2015. I finished the year with 1523 miles, 77 short of my goal. I started the year off with some injuries and exhaustion due to over-training and racing too much, so I was forced to take some time off to heal. Either way, 1523 miles is a number that I’m happy with. It’s almost 20% higher than 2014’s 1285 miles and I ran fewer days in 2015 than the prior year so my mileage per day was up by 25%. I also improved my consistency by staying over 100 miles for 11 months this year, including the past 10. Let’s keep that going!

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Another running venture that deserves mention is the fact that I worked with a coach for a couple of months. Sort of. I hired a coach and occasionally heard from her but the whole thing was a disaster. Eventually I found out that there was a personal issue that started at the same time I hired her, which led to the communication breakdown. In addition, I made improvements in the area of cross-training, but not nearly to the level that I had targeted. I have been going to a gym since April, though the frequency of those visits has dropped off in the past two months since I’ve been in taper and recovery mode almost nonstop.

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I also wanted to mention two highlights from today’s final run of the year. First, after a mile of warm-up I did an all out sprint for a quarter mile. I did this last New Year’s Eve as well, with a time of 88 seconds. Today’s time was 79 seconds with a peak pace of 4:40/mile. If only I could hold that pace! Near the end of my cool down miles I ran past a house that I’ve run past probably close to 200 times. This time there was a 30-ish year-old man at the end of his driveway who started cheering for me like I was in a race. He said, “Right on! Keep going! I’m so proud of you every time I see you run by here! Hi-five! Alright!!” He hi-fived me, I thanked him, and proceeded on with a little extra pep in my step. I have no idea who he is, but he made my day.

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As for 2016 goals, I haven’t decided on much yet, other than continuing to chase the time goals that I have for different race lengths. I have a new strategy for my next marathon training cycle, where I am going to attempt to solve the heart rate issues first and then work on getting faster and better at handling distance. A new training program means I don’t know what to expect for total miles for the year, though I would like to be able to surpass this year’s total.

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Time to get 2016 started!

The wall

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Typically for runners the wall is a bad thing. Dreaded even. In this case, the wall is an actual wall located in a room in my house. This wall has been the home of my race medals and a few dozen thumbtacks used to hold them onto the wall. As of today there is not a thumbtack in the wall.

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The wall before Christmas

My daughter came up with the idea that a proper medal holder would look better and would be more appropriate. She got some help from my dad and stepmother and ordered a medal holder specifically to hold my RunDisney medals since Disney has been a special place to me for about 35 years. When Christmas Day came and I opened the gift from my daughter I was truly surprised and felt that now these medals that I worked so hard for could finally be displayed in a proper manner. I had previously displayed the RunDisney medals across the top row of my wall, but this Disney-themed display unit was going to look much better.

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Disney-themed medal holder ready for some bling!

A few minutes after I opened my daughter’s gift, my dad handed me another package to open. Before I could start removing the wrapping paper he started explaining that there’s an interesting story that goes with this gift. Now I’m scared, especially with my dad. Once the package was open I saw another medal display unit which read “Always earned, never given.” Before I started running I was familiar with this phrase but never paid much attention to it. After the amount of effort I put into learning to run, getting faster, going further, and reaching goals, I have learned the value in this phrase.

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Another medal holder. Is this a hint?

Remember that story that dad had for me? Apparently he had ordered this for me (playing on my daughter’s idea) and it arrived bent (at about a 30 degree angle) due to some mishandling by the delivery folks. Dad called the company and explained what had happened, emailed them a couple of pictures, and they sent a replacement right out. They told him not to worry about the damaged one because they would collect the damages from the carrier. So dad got to work and got the steel holder about 90% of the way back to its original shape. He gave me the damaged piece and told me that if I could finish straightening it then I could have an extra one. I knew someday that having a rubber mallet would come in handy!! Challenge accepted.

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Disney medals

 

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Medals from UCF, Best Damn Races, Space Coast Marathons, and Final Mile events

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The rest of my race and virtual race medals

The wall is now complete and neatly houses almost 50 medals from 5k, 10k, a5k, 10 mile, half marathon, and marathon races, multi-race challenges, virtual races, and an age-group award that was a medal. If I figure out a way to do it I may add my finishers crown and four other age group awards to this wall somehow. I just have to figure out how to do it.

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The wall has been properly decorated