Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cleveland Marathon 2008 - Race Report

Today was the Cleveland Marathon and I had only one goal in mind: 3:30 (my Boston qualifying time)

Mission Accomplished!

For the past 4 years I have been running one marathon a year, the Towpath marathon in October. My previous times: 2004-3:55, 2005-3:45, 2006-3:36. Last year I thought I was ready for a 3:30, but I collapsed, starting at mile 16.

This year I decided to try a spring Marathon, the Cleveland Marathon. Training was OK, with more miles than last year (40-50 mi/week) but only one 20 mile long run. I lost a bit of weight and felt prepared for the marathon.

The day did not look good, weather-wise. It was raining hard since 3 am in the morning... It was pouring while waiting in line for the start. The temperature was 50F. I was standing with shorts and short sleeves, wondering if I was under-dressed, but, I was actually fine.

The race started at 7:07 am. For the first 3 miles I followed the 3:30 pace group. The field was crowded and the roads wet with puddles. I then moved ahead, running on my own, and managed to build a 2-3 minute buffer from the desired 8 min/mile pace. I was afraid I'd hit the wall by mile 16, like last year, but it never happened. The miles were rolling rather comfortably. I was running strong, and kept running through the water stops. I did not need any gels or any food, just water and the occasional Gatorade. I did not need bathroom breaks. I actually enjoyed the route. Last year I did the half and was familiar with the west side. This year I saw the East side and it was beautiful (park, lake shore, etc).

My Garmin was lagging behind the official mile markers, by as much as 0.2 miles in the end, but it was giving me a good idea of my average pace. My mile splits (according to the Garmin):

Mile -- Time
1 8:10
2 7:32
3 7:56
4 7:26
5 7:23
6 7:55
7 7:44
8 7:44
9 7:49
10 7:41
11 7:41
12 7:30
13 7:40
14 7:56
15 7:51
16 7:48
17 7:44
18 7:27
19 7:38
20 7:54
21 8:01
22 8:07
23 8:28
24 8:16
25 8:12
26 7:55
+0.4 7:18 (0.4 mi according to my Garmin)

With some variations, due to the topography (slight up/down hills), my splits were remarkably even, averaging 7:45 from mile 2 to mile 20.

In the last miles we had a head wind that might contributed to the slower pace. I looked at my watch after mile 23 and got scared when I saw 8:28. I knew I had built a 2 minute time buffer but this could evaporate if my pace slowed to 9 min/mile. So I made an effort to pick up the pace in the last miles. I passed quite a few runners. I had the strength to finish with an under 8 min mile 26 and sprint to the end.

The clock was reading 3:27:11 and my chip time was 3:26:22. I was 26/179 in my age group, 232 overal and 217 among males.

So, I made my 3:30 goal and qualified for Boston!!! Now, with this out of the way, I can relax and enjoy a Fall marathon or two. (I am actually thinking of running both Akron and Towpath this year).

My wife, Liz, ran her first 10K in the same race. Her goal was to finish under 1 hour, She is rather conservative/pessimistic - last weekend she managed to run 7 miles and her time at 6.2 miles (10K) was one hour, so I told her she should aim for 57 minutes instead. And right I was! :) Her chip time was 56:49.

Her race started 30 minutes after the marathon. By the time she was done, she had to wait for me for 2 hours. The sun came out for the last hour so it was not too bad. Her job was to take a 3d picture of me at the finish. I was carrying a cell phone (in my hands actually, I like to hold something while running) so I kept her informed of my projected arrival time. But as I was sprinting at the finish line, someone was blocking the view so the picture would not come our very good. Oh well... we both had good races.

And talking about pictures, in the expo yesterday I managed to have my picture taken with; 1) John "The Penguin" Bingham, 2) Bart Yasso (I bought his new book and he autographed it for me), 3) Bill Rodgers. They were all nice, and Bill was perhaps the nicest of all. Some fun memories... These pictures are in slides, so when I get the roll developed, I will scan and post the pictures here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Marathon History

I have run the Marathon, 4 times so far, once a year, the Towpath Marathon. You can see my times in the table here.

2004: This was my first Marathon and my aim was 1) to finish, 2) to finish under 4 hours. I ran with worn/inferior shoes and inadequate training (19 miles longest run) but finished with a respectable 3:55. However, I developed ITBS which took several months to clear up.

2005: With good shoes, and without worrying about time, I improved my time to 3:45. No problems, but it did feel exceptionally hard and recovery was harder. Again, I did not have sufficient long runs.

2006: This was the surprise year. I was prepared for the worse since a trip to Greece had disrupted my long runs, plus my racing times (5K, 19K, 1/2M) this year were slower than the previous year. But I ran a strong race and finished at 3:36. That included at 2 ½ minutes delay to change shoes.

2007: All indicators were pointing to a terrific marathon: I had lost weight and had PRed in all distances. I was a leaner and faster runner, plus for the first time the 20 mile training runs (at 8:30 pace) felt very easy. Seemed like the 3:30 goal was easily within reach. However, minor injuries prevented me from running the last two weeks before the marathon. The first 12 miles were fast (7:30 to 7:40) – possibly a mistake - but my legs got tired and by mile 19 I was walking and was considering dropping off the race. The hot weather contributed to slower times and many runners were walking in the last miles (The marathon was the same day with the Chicago marathon that ended in a distaster). I finally finished at 3:47 and gained new respect for the distance (never underestimate the Marathon). I tried an ice bath and that helped a lot initially but recovery was rather slow. This race took a lot out of me.

2008: This is my first Spring Marathon and first all-roads marathon. I have trained OK (I could have done more long runs – 3d weekend prevented me from running a long 20+ mile run 3 weeks before the marathon). I have lost a bit of weight and my running times are better than last year’s (so far). If the weather cooperates, I think I have a shot at 3:30 but it is going to be difficult.

Detox Diet – Works for me!

<--- Since 2001 I have kept data like this one. I weigh myself every morning and then average the numbers every week. I plot this weekly weight in a graph as you see here (for 2005 in this case).

Back in 2001 I had ballooned to 225 lbs. I then started running, to lose weight. In one year I was down to 175 lbs and fell in love with running. I never really dieted. Weight got off as I was running. Since then, I have tried to lose weight (so I can run better) without any success… I tried different things: Calorie counting, fasting, not eating after 5 pm. Each method worked for a while, but I was soon back to where I started.

Things changed about this time last year my wife introduced me to the Detox diet. Here is what I wrote about this diet last year (4/07):

----- My wife put me in this 11 day (Detox) diet, 11 days ago. She told me what to eat (and what not to eat) and she even prepared the food for me. All I had to do was eat what I was served (that's easy) and resist the temptation to snack (I cheated, of course, but only a little bit and mostly with healthy foods, and none of the forbidden sugar-loaded snacks!)
At 175 lbs 5'10" I do not really need to lose weight for health reasons but I WANT to lose weight so I can run faster. My running friends are 132 and 140 lbs. So I started with a 7 day diet, followed a fast (last Tuesday - did not eat anything, that was tough, but I made it), followed by 3 more days of diet. The last day was yesterday.
I started at 174 lbs and ended up at 168 lbs. That might not sound too much, but I was not overweight to start (I have heavy bones :)) and I have never been steadily under 170 for as long as I can remember. So it feels great!
I don't think there are any great secrets in this diet (even though the author of the book/plan puts a lot of emphasis in the "detox" part and avoiding gluten (I don't know what it is but I know I could not eat bread.)) I ate (and will continue to eat) two (organic :)) eggs for breakfast, salads & lean meat for lunch & dinner and I did not snack in-between (just drinking lots of water). We did switch to organic fruits & vegetables and filtered water. I stopped drinking the whole milk cocoa that I love (as a matter of fact, I stopped chocolate completely and I don't miss it) and sugar-loaded products. And I ate smaller portions. I think this is a change for life. In this diet I was eating something like 2,000 calories a day instead of the standard 3,500-4,000 calories I would normally eat. ------

<--- 2007 weight graph. The first drop is the first Detox Diet that help me permanently lose 6 lbs. I started at 174 lbs and ended up at 168 and managed to keep the weight off. This is the first time I was under 170 lbs. My running improved and was able to PR in every distance I raced. I tried the diet again in September but did not manage to keep off the weight.

While I was in this diet, I was of course losing weight, and was not feeling particularly hungry, but my running was definitely affected. I could not run long runs, or run fast, due to lack of energy. In the end, I lost 6 lbs (from 174 to 168 lbs) and I emerged a stronger runner, going on to improve my PR in every distance I raced, except for the Marathon.

I tried the same diet in September of last year (after my marathon) and even though I lost weight while on the diet, I gradually gained all the weight back, maybe because I returned to my old eating habits (chocolate, etc) right when the diet ended.

Spring forward one year. I decided to do the diet again... Some people might question the wisdom of dieting and losing weight 3 weeks before a marathon. I figured, a diet (aimed to lose weight, including a fasting day) is like a long training run. It would be a mistake to diet the week before the marathon. But if I do it 3 weeks ahead of time (just like the last long run), I still have time to "recover" (from the diet, meaning to regain strength and restore my glycogen supplies, not necessarily regain weight - OK, maybe a pound or two)

<--- Recent round of Detox diet has helped me lose 5 lbs. Hopefully, this loss will stick.

So I started Monday two weeks ago. My weight was 169 lbs (I had reached a peak of over 171 lbs just a week or two before). I did a fast 10 mile training run last Wednesday and I felt surprisingly strong. I was busy in a conference last weekend so I could not do a very long run and did not eat much. Tuesday was my fast day, and I went for a 10 mile run without problems. The morning after the fast I was 161 lbs!

Like last year, the thing I like about this diet is that I am not hungry. Yes, when I go to bed at night I feel a bit hungry (since I am not snacking in the evening) but overall I am fine during the day. This year, I am seeing something new: My running has not been affected, while on the diet. Of course, I have not run over 10 miles, but I feel fine running 10 miles relatively fast.

Bottom line: I lost 5 lbs (from 169 to 164) and I hope to keep it off by eating sensibly. I also hope that this weight loss will help me get closer to my goal of a 3:30 marathon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Week 19 – Training Report

Last week I started the Detox diet. I fasted on Tuesday and I had lost 5 lbs by Saturday. I will continue to eat sensibly, but now I have to focus on my Marathon next Week.

S: 8.5 mi in the morning, then Monster House 3D Movie (part of the 3D Weekend), then 6.5 mi. Columbia road loop w/Liz (slower pace)
M: 5 mi, around EH
T: Fast today. 10 good miles and fitness! OSPS meeting at night.
W. Woke up 161 lbs! 2 mi w/Lea at noon, 4 mi w/Liz in the evening.
T: Nice strong run, loop: Snowville down to towpath, Boston, Riverview, Columbia and back home. Total 9.5 mi.
F: 1 mi w/Liz
S: Last long run before my marathon next week. I did 12.7 miles in 1:41. My mile splits: 8:30 8:00 8:38 8:10 7:58 8:03 8:07 7:35 7:44 7:32 7:27 7:46 7:58. Average pace was 7:57, which should be my marathon pace if I am going to do 3:30.

Totals for the week: 58 miles, 164 lbs

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weeks 17 & 18 – Training Report

<---- The 8 mile route around my neighborhood. By mistake I did one loop twice, so the total for this run was 8.5 miles.

This is a report for the last two weeks.

S: 6.2 mi w/Dan at Towpath
M: Eating a lot, tired, only 2 mi.
T: Today I reached the peak of my weight… Ran to the RC and came back via the Buckeye Trail. See posting “What a day”. I did not eat anything after I came back and my weight decline is starting here.
W: 10 mi w/Dan in Bike & Hike trail (BHT), tired and thirsty
T, F: Rest
S: Hermes 10 miler (see report)

Totals for the week: 33 miles, 167 lbs

S: W/Liz & Lea in Towpath, then home alone up Snowville, 8.5 mi.
M: Start Detox Diet, run around EH, 4.3 mi
T: Around EH, 7.1 mi.
W: W/Dan, BHT, nice 8.7 mi at 8:11 average pace
T: Around EH, 4 mi
F: Rest (busy!)
S: 3D Weekend!

Totals for the week: 53 miles, 169 lbs