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.

 

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Daytona 50 Recap

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I spent most of March and April working on heart rate training, designed to help me keep my heart rate down as I ran at comfortable speeds for longer distances. In effect, this was the beginning of my training cycle for a December race, the Daytona 50. I had previously run 6 marathons and 15 half marathons but had no idea what to expect in nearly doubling my longest run ever.

Fast forward past several months of training, back-to-back long runs, 3am alarms, on-course training, and over 1400 miles run since May 1st. On December 10th I drove to Ponce Inlet to meet up with my friend (and crew for the race) Denny Krahe. We left my car at the race finish line and drove to the start in Marineland, FL for the 11am runners meeting with race organizer and ultra-runner Dave Krupski. Besides the meeting, the final hour gave me the chance to get my final preparations ready and familiarize Denny with my plan. I was ready. At least I thought I was. Just before noon we heard the National Anthem (with an impromptu flyover from about 15 geese in a perfect V-formation) and then counted down to the start, exactly 6 hours after the 100-mile runners started their race 50 miles away in Jacksonville Beach.

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The 2016 Daytona 50 is under way!

About 0.02 miles into the race I realized that I had everything I needed EXCEPT my nutrition items for the first 11 miles. I had left those items in the cooler in Denny’s van. Lucky for me the very start of the race circled the parking lot so when I got close I dropped out of line and ran to the van to get my food. We’re off to a smashing start! I settled in and headed into the wind for a little less than a mile to the turnaround point, gave Dave a high-five and headed south for the next 47 miles. It didn’t take long to shake the crazy start, and I just stayed at a pace that felt comfortable. I did vary from my training pattern in the first 11 miles because I skipped my every-other mile walk breaks for 1 minute. I was running at a good heart rate (130-135) but my pace was slightly faster than I planned.

After about 3 miles I saw Denny next to the sidewalk trying to get my attention. I didn’t expect to see him until the first aid station around mile 11. While driving by he had noticed that I put my sunglasses on top of my head and was there to swap out the glasses for my hat that I had kept in the van. Awesome idea! Wait, if he could pick up on simple clues like this I think I’m in good hands for the rest of the race. I stayed pretty steady with my pace, liquid and food intake through the first aid station, hitting ten miles in 1:40:03, right at 10 minutes per mile and about 5 minutes ahead of expectation. I gave the credit to the tailwind. Denny was waiting for me with a fresh Gatorade bottle and a fresh Propel water bottle for my hydration belt, as well as a quarter of a PBJ sandwich. I told him I was good and was quickly on my way, hardly even breaking stride.

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From the aid station we had to cross A1A as the Flagler Beach to Marineland Trail (pronounced sidewalk) continued from this point on the inland side of A1A. The next aid station was about 9 miles away and I had everything I needed with me so I had told Denny to meet me at that aid station. Here I returned to my tried and true run/walk plan of walking for a minute to start each mile. At around mile 17 I saw my dad standing next to where we were running and stopped to say hi for a few seconds. From the start through the second aid station that was my slowest mile because of the stop, but still under 11 minutes. I was feeling strong and running ahead of expectations. That can’t be good.

The second aid station had a timing mat and was somewhere around mile 19.5-20. I crossed the mat at 3:15:12 and quickly caught up with Denny. I swapped bottles, grabbed a sandwich and fresh bags of jelly beans and Combos, plus a small cup of Coke from Dave’s wife Alex who was (wo)manning the aid station. I told Denny that my back had started to tighten up a little and that I needed to catch up with him at some point before the next aid station because I would need my nighttime gear. We agreed on meeting 5 miles down the road and I was off once again. My legs felt good but I knew my back would present an issue before long. Still, I kept to my plan of walking for a minute of each mile and kept a pace of just under 11:00 per mile until I crossed mile 25 in 4:20 and met up with Denny soon after. It wasn’t time for the night gear yet so he gave me fresh bottles and a sandwich and we agreed to meet around 5pm. During mile 27 I started adding additional walk breaks as I was having more back problems and some unsettled stomach concerns just to add to the drama. At some point during mile 28 I saw Denny again and he helped me put on my reflective vest equipped with blinky lights and handed me my headlamp. I went on my way, planning to meet him again at the third aid station, still 3 miles away.

Not long after leaving Denny I found a gas station and headed for their bathroom hoping to fix my uneasy stomach. Mission unsuccessful. I decided to cut back on the liquids and stop eating sugar for a while, thinking I might give my stomach a chance to settle itself. I pulled into the next aid station in Ormond Beach just before mile 31 and took off my hydration belt and tossed my headphones into the van. Perhaps losing the belt would ease the pressure on my back. I wouldn’t be needing the headphones in a few miles because Denny was getting ready to park the van and pace me to the finish. I had a mini orange from the aid station selections and headed back out on the course after crossing A1A for the final time, now carrying my belt bottles. The plan was to make it to mile 35, resupply with Denny and then have him join me running. My pace was now in the 14:00-14:20 range so he had plenty of time to get ready.

The mile 35 meetup went as planned and he dropped off the bottles I had, handed me a sandwich, and we were off. We had about 3.5 miles to go on A1A before we started the first beach segment. It was good to have conversation, but these first couple of miles with my pacer is where I dipped into the dark area of uncertainty. I’ve never run 32 miles before and now I’m past 35, so how far can I actually go? Maybe I can make it to 50, but maybe I can’t. I even had a thought of “maybe I don’t want to,” but I knew that there were a handful of people tracking my progress and cheering me on and I really hate the thought of letting other people down so I pushed through.

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We stayed around 15:00 miles from mile 35 through the final aid station at mile 43 where we left the beach and returned to the roads. All that we had left was about 3.5 miles south, a mile around the lighthouse, and then 2 miles on the beach heading north to the finish line. I was feeling more comfortable about finishing, but not yet convinced it would happen. We stayed at the aid station for about 3 minutes. I didn’t get any food, but they had Mountain Dew! A shot of that and we were off. It was now about 8:40 and I was gaining on 9 hours running. I’d never done 6 hours before so I was testing myself pretty well. We came across a couple of people in front of their homes offering us water bottles, which was quite nice to see. One asked us, “How many more of you are there?” I told him that there might be another 150-200 (including the 100-milers), but that some might not be around until tomorrow morning. By his reaction I knew he wasn’t expecting that answer!

Around 9:30 we first saw the lighthouse up close. At this point I knew that I could finish, I just didn’t know if I could continue to hold the blazing 15:20 pace that we were putting down. Denny stopped at one point to top off my bottles (he was carrying extra liquids in his back pack) and he quickly caught up to me. He also mentioned from time to time that he had extra Combos and I should be eating. I didn’t feel like eating but knew I needed the calories. Mile 48 brought us back onto the beach for the home stretch.

Since it was just after 10pm we could only see lights here and there along the beach but couldn’t tell where the finish was. We knew it was in front of us somewhere. After a half mile I saw a red light and announced that the red light might be the clock at the finish. When Denny agreed that it could be I got an energy boost and our running segments got a little longer and a little faster. I started getting butterflies in my stomach because I was nearly done with a 50 freaking mile race! Denny looked at his watch and realized that 10:30 was a possibility for my finish time if we picked it up a little. He said, “Stay with me and you’ll make it” and was I just out of it enough to go along with whatever he said. The 50th mile was faster than any mile I had run in the past 5 hours! I crossed the finish line in 10:30:15 and was greeted and given my finisher’s medal by Alex Krupski. I was slightly disappointed that I failed to meet my best-case scenario goal of 10 hours, mostly because I didn’t follow my own plan, but I was overall thrilled that I finished and overcame my obstacles.

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Without the help of Denny Krahe I can’t say for sure that I would have finished this race. I can say that I would not have finished it in the same time or condition that I did. Thank you Denny for giving up your day with your family, driving my supplies around, making the stops quick and easy, and, of course, pacing me when I needed it most. Thanks also to Dave and Alex for putting the race and training runs together. Also, a big thank you to the volunteers and others that helped make this race a reality, and the amazing experience that it was. I’m no world-class ultra runner but I finished what I started – I am an Ultra Runner!

 

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The morning after, sunrise at Ponce Inlet, FL

 

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 sameĀ  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!

 

Racing season is coming to a close

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As much of the northern half of the country is looking forward to the warmer weather and the beginning of racing season, highlighted with next Monday’s Boston Marathon, those of us in the sunshine state are saying goodbye to racing season. Yes, there are a few races available May through September, but not many comparatively, especially if you’re looking for distances from half marathon through ultra. Overnight lows of 70 degrees-plus for 3-4 months straight pretty much eliminate the possibility of long, competitive runs.

As I look back on the past six months I see a number of highlights, and overall a season that I am happy with. My first race of the season was the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jacksonville, FL where I posted my current PR for the 13.1 distance. I had set a goal time of 1:45 but finished in 1:48:19, beating my previous PR by just 38 seconds. Still, it’s a PR and a great start to the season.

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Marine Corps Half finish line

October’s other race was my second running of the Lighthouse Loop Half in Port Orange, FL. Severe anxiety and stress joined me at the starting line that morning, and after three miles at a pace that would have given me that 1:45 time my heart rate was over 185. I backed it down, took some walk breaks, and finished in 1:59:00.

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Lighthouse Loop Half bling!

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Space Shuttle medal #2 from Space Coast marathon

Thanksgiving weekend I ran my fourth marathon and grabbed my second PR on the Space Coast Marathon course (first was my first ever marathon, but still). I bettered my 2014 time by 16 minutes, but still did not have a good handle on the 26.2 distance. Even with 20 and 22 mile training runs, getting past 17 miles in the race is something I struggle with, and have always gone to walk/run by that point, if not before. Goal number one for the remainder of 2016 is to become better at the 20 to 26 mile distance. I will run a marathon without stopping to walk. If I can’t then that 50-mile race will be a long December day.

 

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Finishing marathon #5 in Cape Coral

2 weeks later I drove to Cape Coral, FL for another marathon, hoping for the nice cool weather we had race morning the previous year. At the start of the race it was 66 degrees, but by the finish we were in the low 80s. This definitely did not feel like December! The paramedics were treating runners just past the finish line by the time I got there. Again my first 17 miles went pretty well, but at that point I switched to a 1/1 walk/run and finished in 4:50.

 

 

 

 

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Disney bling! Everyone needs some of this.

January brought me two races, both at Disney World and both in the same weekend. I elected to “only” do the Goofy Challenge this year, where last year I finished the Dopey Challenge. My plan was to run a steady half between 9:30 and 10:00 per mile in order to save something for the full the next day. Mission accomplished on the half (2:07:14) with very even splits. The full, however was the most difficult of the six marathons that I’ve done. On that race day the run/walk intervals started as we were leaving Animal Kingdom, or around mile 13.5 for those of you not lucky enough to have run this course. Goal time: 4:30, actual time: 4:57. Still, it’s six marathons attempted and six completed.

KIMG0763February brought me a couple of races, starting with Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, FL. Beautiful morning for a race and I finished about 66 seconds behind my 13.1 PR. Happy day! The next day I ran a virtual 10k with a couple of friends. We completed our 6.2 miles at Disney’s Boardwalk area (hotel area between Hollywood Studios and Epcot). The pace was nice and easy which was fine with me!

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Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

Two more races during March: First was Best Damn Race Orlando half marathon which I ran with a friend. She was recovering from strep throat so the goal was to finish. Mission accomplished. Later in March I ran my first relay event – the Sarasota Half with another friend. I was somewhat disappointed with my time for the 6.9 miles that I completed, but I achieved two PR’s that day. My first relay half (automatic PR) was done in 1:57:08. I also achieved a heart rate PR – when we sprinted for the finish I hit 196 bpm, breaking my assumed max HR of 192.

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Sarasota Half Relay with my teammate Krissy

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UCF Storm the Campus AG award plus U, C, and F medals

April will finish with 3 races, although only one is complete. The third annual Storm the Campus 10 miler was my 50th race since my first race on November 1, 2013. I was trying to break 1:20 for ten miles, but finished in 1:22:20, good enough for second place in my AG. Races 2 and 3 for the month will be this weekend as RunDisney heads back to the parks in Orlando for the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side weekend. I’ll be running the 10k on Saturday and the half on Sunday. Can’t wait to run in the parks again!

After the Star Wars races this weekend I’ll be doing 6 weeks of heart rate training, where none of my runs will take me above 140 bpm. I’ll also be increasing my weekly mileage slightly from about 33 to around 40. After that I’ll continue to increase my weekly mileage and my long runs throughout the summer, peaking at 58 miles per week in 4 runs per week by mid-November. After a 3 week taper I’m running my first ultra, a 50-mile oceanside run from St. Augustine to Ponce Inlet on the east coast of Florida. Yes, I have a goal time already for this and no, I’m not ready to share it yet, but you can bet it’s not what you’d expect for a first time ultramarathoner.

Best of luck to all of you as you enter your racing or training season. There are plenty of PR’s still to be had out there – grab yours!

 

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!

Race recap: Space Coast Marathon

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Ten months ago I was set on the idea of qualifying for Boston with this race. A week before the race I was in the ER to try to find a reason for my recent spikes in heart rate while running. I wasn’t sure that this marathon was even going to happen, let alone what pace I could maintain. Add to it the fact that summer really hasn’t gone away yet in central Florida and I was seriously entertaining the idea of running at a snail’s pace.

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Once I figured out that either the Zyrtec or the Albuterol (or both) were at least partially responsible for the heart rate spikes, I stopped using both and saw my heart rate drop, but still not to where it was two months ago. Race time (6am) temperature was forecast at 70 degrees, but weren’t we pleasantly surprised when it was only 68 at the start of the race! Even with the cold front I was still using a conservative race plan (BQ was definitely out of the question) and expected that I’d have to adjust my plan along the way based on how I felt and my heart rate, something that I failed to do 5 weeks ago at the Lighthouse Loop half. I decided to start the race with the four-hour pace group and even managed a few miles just in front of the pacer. Due to the congestion near the start our first mile was a little slower than it should have been (9:22) but not bad. After the second mile (9:06) I decided to jump in front of the pacer in order to grab some room to move.

I am able to know that I’m comfortable with a run when I can run splits that are pretty even without the use of a pacer. The next three miles were done in 8:57, 8:55, and 8:56. I like it! What I didn’t like was that the sun was up and so was my heart rate. For the fifth mile I averaged 165. Miles 6 through 14 were good as far as pacing goes, averaging 9:05, and I crossed the halfway point in 1:59:31. Mission accomplished for the first half, except for that pesky heart rate. Mile 14 averaged 180bpm. At this rate of increase I would have 3-4 miles left before I maxed out. I started working in some walk breaks which worked well for about 4 miles. The problem with walk breaks for me is that my legs don’t want to start running again once they have tasted the glorious feeling of walking. Miles 15-18: pace 10:23, HR 175.

 

By the 19th mile the bottoms of my feet started hurting and I could feel the burning start in my calves. I was not used to either of these sensations coming from long runs, but I knew that I didn’t like either one. I forced myself to run more than I wanted to and tried to keep the walk breaks relatively short. Miles 19-26 varied from 11:16 to 13:04, with an average heart rate of only 165. I could have pushed harder from a heart rate standpoint, but I just didn’t have any more in me. For the last half mile I used the support of the crowd to keep me running and sent my heart rate to its highest point for the entire race (183), but I finished the race running. I also finished it with a PR at 4:31:37, 16:02 faster than I finished the same race last year.

Medal 1 SC

There were several similarities between this year’s race and last year’s version, and one major difference. I felt aching in my back both years so I need more gym time! I went out faster last year, reaching 13.1 in about 1:54 and I started slowing down about a mile sooner than this year. This year I had only 1 mile over 12:45, where last year I had six in a row over 13:45. This tells me that I have made improvements and I have better self-control, but I still need long-run work, especially at or near race pace. In shorter races the finishing time might tell a large part of the story, but in a marathon what happens along the way tells so much.

And for the race highlights that weren’t about me: My friend Christin drove to Cocoa from Orlando on race morning to see me finish, which I appreciate so much! I got to see some other friends set PR’s. Because of this race I have a new favorite spectator sign: Is that a gel in your pocket or are you following a hottie? Very nice. And if you missed it, consider yourself lucky because the guy who likes to run this race in just a speedo (shirtless too) was back again this year. And thankfully so were the people who live along the race route who take pleasure in spraying runners with a garden hose if they want it. I thoroughly enjoyed being sprayed! I will be back for this race again next year, better prepared and ready to collect my 3-year Milky Way Challenge finisher medal.

Medal 2 SC

Adios from Cocoa Beach!

Race recap: Marine Corps Half Marathon Jacksonville

Standard

The long dry spell with no races has finally ended. It seemed like a year since my last race, but it’s only been 3 months. I purposely gaveĀ  myself extra training time with no races in order to focus on my goals for this fall, and actually just added this race a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to improve on my half marathon PR in order to get a better starting corral in January for Disney Marathon weekend.

Marine Corps Howitzer

Howitzers at the finish line!

The day before the Marine Corps Half, my daughter and I jumped in the car for the three hour drive up to Jacksonville. I spent a little time in town picking up my race packet and finding the area where the race was to be held. Then another hour drive back to my dad’s house where we were spending the night. At 4:30am race morning I was up and was out the door before 5:00, heading back up I-95 to Jax. Parking was set up at the stadium where the Jacksonville Jaguars play and the start line was right across the street. I was parked and geared up by 6:15, leaving plenty of time for a bathroom stop and a short warm-up run. At 6:30 I took my Generation U-CAN and reviewed my plan for the day – it’s so nice to have a little extra time before the start! Race day was also just a tad cooler than it has been around here. Only 67 degrees!

Marine Corps start

Just before 7am we got the announcements, the presentation of the Colors, and National Anthem. We were also introduced to one of the runners in the half marathon who, two years ago suffered a heart attack in this same race. He was back to finish what he had started. The wheelchair participants started off and about a minute later the sound of heavy artillery had the rest of us on our way. The first mile of the race included 1181 5k runners as well as 1743 half marathoners! Near the end of the first mile the 5k group continued straight and the half marathoners turned left over the John T. Alsop Jr bridge, took a couple of side streets, then crossed the Acosta bridge. These bridges cross the St. John’s River and each one had more elevation change than I am used to seeing in a full marathon. My time after two miles was 16:03, right on the pace that I wanted, but perhaps a little too quick considering those bridges.

Now that we’ve completed two miles, the course took us parallel to the river for about 4.5 miles where we made a mile-long turnaround through a quiet neighborhood. When I reached 5.3 miles into the race I was passed (in the opposite direction) by the leader, Fredison Costa. The same Fredison Costa that is making a habit of winning the Disney Marathon and has won several races that I have been in. He was at 8.3 miles when I passed him, already 3 miles ahead of me! By the time I returned to that spot, 8.3 miles into the race, I was still holding an 8:06 pace, within striking distance of the 1:45 finish time that was my secondary goal (primary goal was a PR). Mile 9 completed in 8:10. Mile 10 was done in 8:18. Only 5k to go but I was feeling like my best miles were behind me.

Marine Corps Done

Over the last 5k I used every trick I could think of to keep myself as close to my goal pace as I could. I was slowly catching people in front of me. I couldn’t let the spectators see me struggle. That quarter mile was 2:00, right on target, one more quarter mile, keep going. In the 11th mile we were running on the waterfront path and climbed a section that went over the water and a set of railroad tracks. I would guess we were about 40-50 feet up, but my Garmin registered zero elevation change. 11th mile complete in 8:39. Now my heart rate was up over 180 and my quads were screaming. I finished the 12th mile in 8:57. At this point I knew I had to pick up the pace some or I would miss my PR. I had just under 10 minutes left to finish if I was going to see that PR.

Marine Corps finish

Definitely a cool sight!

Mile 13 was a little better at 8:36 and then I took the final turn and used everything that I had left. The “finish” line sign was held up by two Howitzers with their guns pointed to the sky, a nice touch and great reminder of the strength of the Marines. My official time was 1:48:19, beating my 11-month-old PR by 38 seconds. Most likely this isn’t enough of an improvement to change my starting corral for Disney, but it felt good to get a PR, especially since the temperature was only about 5 degrees cooler than most of my summer outdoor runs. When it cools off and I get on a flatter course…. look out!

Marine Corps Bling

Officially, I placed 211th out of 1743 finishers, 167th of 846 men, and 22nd of 94 in my age group with an 8:16 pace. Not quite what I was hoping for but a PR serves as motivation to keep improving. Oh, and Fredison Costa? Yeah, he finished the half first in 1:08:30, an average of 5:14 per mile. Dude’s got wheels! A big thank you to the organizers and volunteers for this race. As far as I could tell everything went off without a hitch. I’m sure I’ll be back someday, but I’ll get some hill training in first!

Marine Corps