Monday, December 14, 2009

Fall Classic 2009

Something must be happening around Thanksgiving... I get busy with work and neglect my blog. Last year I stopped blogging at this time for about 6 months. But I am determined not to let this happen this year.

Liz & Lea, heading for the star line

My friend Mark from Brecksville was also running the 1/2

The race took place on Sunday before Thanksgiving. In our family this, and the Spring Classic, is an annual favorite. My wife and daughter run the 5K, I run the ½ Marathon. My wife always has a good race and she claims that she “owns the race”.  She has actually won an award in every 5K race she ran in either Spring or Fall Classic.  I have never won an award.

I had a good race. The weather was nice (cold but sunny) and this made it a very fast race overall. My official time is 1:32:40 (7:04 pace). Even though this is not a ½ Marathon PR, it is my fastest time in this course, out of a total of 10 races. However, I only finished 8/35 in my age group of old guys (50-54) and 66/325 overall.

Lately I have been running all races with my Fuji 3d camera and I take pictures and videos during the race

To give you an idea of how fast the race was overall, there were about 50 runners (out of 325) with a time faster than 1:30!!!

Mile splits: 7:04, 6:57, 7:01, 6:57, 6:52, 7:00, 7:06, 7:06, 7:11, 7:11, 7:06, 6:50, 7:03. Overall I am happy with my consistent and fast pace. I have decided I will never win an award in this race (never have) so I just relax and enjoy the torture of going up and down this rather boring course TWICE!

I was happy, smiling, while I was approaching the finish line, when I noticed this guy sprinting by me.  I tried to outkick him but it was too late.  I did not have enough time to react!

My wife Liz won 1st place in her age group with 26:07. Lea finished at 32:03.

After the race, I read a lot of complains in Apparently, they ran out of water, out of food, and out of medals. There were complains about the parking, restrooms, and the 5K slow runners who were getting in the way of the 1/2 runners (apparently, the 5K started a bit late so the 1/2 runners met them towards the end of the first loop). None of these affected us. We had a nice race and we'll come back to do it in Spring!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Athens Classic Marathon 2009

“I came, I ran, I conquered” the Athens Classic Marathon!

I had a wonderful time in Greece and a very nice race.

I arrived in Athens on Friday, November 6, after an uneventful flight. My brother picked me up from the airport, ran a few errands and then dropped me at the Expo. Everything went well, no problems. I never got adjusted regarding the time difference. On Saturday night I went to bed at 10:30 pm with the alarm at 5:00 am. I woke up feeling fully rested, but it was only 1:30! I forced myself back to bed, but got up at 3:00 am, unable to sleep any more.

Got up, ate, got dressed and left my brother’s house around 6 am. I went to pick up Tony, an American friend I met the previous day. He was staying in a hotel nearby. While waiting for him to eat breakfast, it started raining really hard. We walked to the Stadium to pick up the bus for Marathon. Our feet got wet. The bus left around 6:30 am and we were in Marathon by 7:00 am. We had 2 hours before the race started.

I ate 2 energy bars, drank Gatorade, took pictures, socialized with other runners, and at 9:00 am I was ready to go!

My goal was 3:30. To understand how the race goes, you have to take a look at the topography. I divide the course into 4 sections:

A. First 6 miles (10K): It is flat. I started the first mile conservatively (it was also crowded) at 8:11. Then: 7:37, 7:38, 7:39, 7:45. The pace felt very slow and comfortable. Around the 5K mark we were diverted from the main road to tour the Tumble of the Marathon where the battle of the Marathon took place in 490BC.

B. Next 6 miles: A slight uphill, but I manage to maintain a good pace of 7:45. My splits: 7:47, 7:43, 7:33, 7:58, 7:26, 7:48. I feel great! It was drizzling in the first hour and had my Fuji 3d camera covered in plastic. When it stopped raining I took it out and took pictures and videos of the race.  In the picture below I am crossing the half line at 21km.  You can see me holding the Fuji 3d camera. I was actually recording a 3d video at this point.

C. Next 7 miles (20-32K): This is the hardest part of the course and apparently one of the most difficult stretches of any well-known marathon. There is an elevation gain of about 800 ft. My average pace drops to 8:20. Splits: 8:15, 8:26, 8:19, 8:40, 8:10, 8:09, 8:21.

D. Final 6 miles are downhill. Normally, this would be good news, but my legs are tired and downhill running hurts more than uphill. My average pace is 7:50. Splits: 8:02, 7:34, 7:52, 7:58, 7:49, 7:57, 7:58.

I entered the Stadium for the final 200 meters where I found the strength for a semi-kick. I looked at the official race clock and my time was 3:29:58, only 2 seconds away from my goal time! Chip time: 3:28:41. I finished 37/404 in my age group, and 452/3853 overall.

After the race, my legs were hurting and my stomach was upset.  I managed to smile and my relatives said that I looked great.  In the picture above I am photographed with my sister Alexia and nieces Vasia and Maria.  The picture on the right was taken by a fellow runner, using my Fuji camera.

It is fair to say that I felt worse than other marathons, but I took an ice bath and felt better for the rest of the day. The next day I was happy and ready to do it over again! My legs were hurting a bit for a few days. I walked a lot and did not run. I returned to the USA on Friday and ran on Saturday for the first time.

Right after the race I was interviewed by a young reporter. She wrote down (on a notebook with a pencil) a lot of details and then the photographer took a picture of me. I did not catch the name of the paper but the next day my interview was published in one of the largest newspapers in Athens (TA NEA – The News). That was quite a surprise!  I took a picture of the paper interview below.  It says that I was 100kg (225 lbs) when I started running in 2001 and dropped to 72kg (160 lbs) thanks to running.  My goal was to run the Athens Marathon when I turned 50.  This is what the reporter considered the most important points from the many questions she asked.

Overall, my experience was positive:

1. I made all the arrangements on line ( ) The expo was well organized, the transportation of the runners to the start was without problems. The weather cooperated (low 60s with rain, better than the days immediately before and after, 70F and sunny).

2. The medal is nice (serious look, like a large coin). The T-shirt is plain short sleeve cotton.

3. The course is mildly scenic at first, later goes through industrial areas, and finishes in Athens. Aid stations every few miles, well-stocked, no problem. Crowd support is sparse but enthusiastic (“Bravo, bravo!!!”).

4. The finish in the Panathenaikon Stadion, where the 1896 fist Olympic games took place, is spectacular.

No one is running this marathon for the medal, T-shirt or the beauty of the course. If I want a nice course, I’d stay in Ohio. You are running this marathon for the history. But I was touched by the people who were out in the rain and the fact that all the roads were closed just for us! (I took the bus the next day to visit the city of Marathon, and the route is a lot uglier with cars and traffic, so I consider myself privileged that the roads were open only for us runners).

I went back to the US with very good impressions and I would like to run this marathon again in the future, this time with Liz.  Based on the 10K results, Liz would have done great if she had come to run the 10K.

Overall, I am happy I did it and would recommend this marathon to other runners, interested in history and international marathons.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Towpath 2009

Towpath 2009 - Race Report

Today was the Towpath Marathon, Half-Marathon & 10K, which takes place in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which runs very close to our house. I did not know this, but this race is only one of two races taking place in a National Park.

Perfect weather for running (35F at start!) a bit chilly waiting for the awards.

This was the last test for me before Athens... I was aiming for 7:10 pace, but managed to clock 7 minute miles on the average, finishing 19th overall (out of almost 1000 runners!) with a time of 1:32:16, which is my 2nd fastest half after the "River Run" half last month.

My mile splits: 6:40, 6:54, 6:59, 6:53, 6:54, 7:00, 7:05, 7:03, 7:00, 7:07,7:13, 7:10, 7:07

My wife (waiting at the finish) reported that were a couple "old-looking guys" finishing ahead of me, so she was afraid I'd finish 4th again. But I finished 1st out of 42 in my age group, 5+ minutes ahead of the 2nd. The curse of the 4th place is finally broken!

Liz (wife) ran the 10K and finished 1st in her age group with 52:10.

A good day for both of us. I am especially happy that I can manage to run 7 minute miles in a half. The Towpath course is not a particularly fast one. It is flat (downhill in the first mile) but the crushed limestone has less friction, that leads to slower times.

The goal of 3:30 for the Athens Marathon appears to be within reach.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Day After

The day after the Akron marathon brought a nice surprise: MY LEGS ARE *** NOT *** HURTING!!!

So, now I get it: If you want your legs not to hurt, don’t run fast… That’s what my wife is doing :) Seriously, the person who said “It’s not the distance, it's the speed that kills” is absolutely right! After the Perfect 10 Miler 3 years ago when I set my present PR (6:51 pace), my legs were hurting for a couple of days. And it was only 10 miles. After my half marathon at 6:58 pace 3 weeks ago, my legs were hurting. But, running Akron at 8:20 pace does not produce pain (even though it felt hard).

I am happy for that. For a while I was worried that I pushed too hard in this marathon. The reason you should not run a marathon too close to an important race is that the recovery from the marathon can mess up your preparation for the race. This does not appear to be no problem for me now. I still have 5 weeks for Athens. My goal is 3:30, which is rather conservative but very reasonable considering the difficulty of the course.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Akron Marathon 2009

A Training Run that Went Not So Well:

Since I am running a "serious", one-of-a-lifetime marathon in Athens, Greece, November 8th, I decided to treat the Akron marathon as a training run for the Athens Marathon.

Based on my good Spring Cleveland Marathon (3:22) and the good 20 mile Akron training run, 3 weeks ago (8:08 pace, finishing very strong), I decided to run the Akron marathon at 8:20 pace (3:40 finish).

Sounds easy, right?

WRONG!!! This was the hardest "training run" I've ever run!

I joined Elizabeth's pacing group (3:40 time). Elizabeth has the unique ability to chat during the entire marathon. As expected, she entertained us with her stories, and she also maintained a constant 8:20 min/mile pace, no matter what!

Do you ever have runs where you know from early on that this is not your best day? This rarely happens to me in a race, but it happened in this one. From the very beginning my legs and hips felt tight. The pace did not feel as easy as it should. I was thinking... if I feel like that in mile 10, how am I going to feel in mile 20?

After 11 miles running around the city, we entered the "Towpath" section, for 4 miles. At the exit of the towpath there is a 3 mile stretch of rolling hills at first and then mostly uphill. This is considered the hardest part of the race.

My original plan was to see how I felt at the top of the hill and maybe take off if I felt good. Elizabeth had us climb those hills at 8:20 pace. She warned us that this is a tough section and urged us to stay together and we will feel better when we get to the top. I managed to keep up myself and was surprised by how many did. But by the time I reached the top, my legs were very tired. There goes the "felt good" plan. At this point I realized that I will never feel good, so my best bet was to just keep up with the pace group.

I continued to follow the pace group until around mile 20. At this point, I started struggling and falling behind. Somehow, I managed to keep visual contact with the group. I was also mentally revising my final time... Maybe 3:45? It is a training run after all. If that was a regular training run, I would have stopped and walked at this point. But it is a marathon and my family will be waiting for me at the finish, expecting me at 3:40. So I had to keep going.

Only when we got to West Market Street I felt a bit better, knowing that it is downhill and only 2 miles to go.

My last two miles were at 8 min/mile pace, with 7:30 min/mile down on Main Street. I managed to catch up with Elizabeth at the final stretch before the finish. My official chip time: 3:38:53.

George Themelis #735
Brecksville, OH
Age: 50 Gender: M
Distance MAR
Clock Time 3:39:47
Chip Time 3:38:53
Overall Place 227 / 1331
Gender Place 196 / 930
Division Place 21 / 92
3 5M 00:28:17
9 2M 01:17:24
25K 02:09:52
30K 02:33:43
Pace 8:21

I am happy I finished strong, but I am also worried that this run felt worse than it should have. I cannot see how it would be possible to run this marathon any faster. I am actually surprised I managed 3:30 last year.

I now have to revise my plans for Athens. I was secretly hoping for something like 3:20 or better. Now, I will be happy with 3:30 in what is a difficult course (net elevation gain with long uphill sections).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Legs NOT hurting?

Please help resolve this on-going marital dispute!

What does it mean if your legs are NOT hurting after a hard race?

My legs always hurt after a race. Later the same day. Even more the next day. And the day after that, and so on. Sometimes I am even unable to run for a couple of days. This is especially true for long races, of course, but it also happens with short races, like a 5K. For example, after the Half Marathon on Sunday, my legs (quads, etc) were hurting later on Sunday, also on Monday, even today (Tuesday).

<--- Liz struggling at mile 13 the half. Yet, her legs did not hurt after the race. What gives?

On the other hand, my wife's legs NEVER hurt! I keep asking her after every race: "Do your legs hurt?" Her response: "No". "Not even a bit?", "Not at all".

"Then," I say "you did not try hard enough".

And there is where the argument starts. She insists that she ran as fast and as hard as possible, but still her legs do not hurt. How is this possible?

How is it possible to give 110% and not pay for it (with pain)?

I don't get it.

After I wrote this, and posted in a running email discussion list, most people said that they did not understand it either and offered explanations like "maybe she does not want to admit that she is hurting".

I had a long discussion with her. She says that her hips felt a bit tight and her Achilles tendon slightly tender (she had problems with both Achilles tendons and her hips in the past) but she has absolutely no muscle pain. If you hit my quads right now, I will jump up and screem. She feels nothing.

She also shows another unusual characteristic: Her training runs are even and fast. But her race pace drops and her final time in the race is slower than a training run!

Example: 2 weeks before her first half, she ran a training run at the Towpath, 13.2 miles at 9:32 fairly even pace. The Towpath is flat but slow due to less friction. This good training run led her to believe that she could achieve 2 hours in the race. Her target race pace was 9:20. Sounds possible, based on this training run.

In the actual race her mile splits were: 8:57, 8:55, 8:46, 9:04, 9:13, 9:22, 9:37, 9:33. Up to this point (first 8 miles) things look good. But look what happened next: 9:52, 10:03, 10:39, 10:34, 11:04.

Average pace = 9:45.

Most people (myself included) can race faster than they train. If I could cover the distance at 9:30 pace when training, then for sure I could do a 9:00 average pace in the race, most likely 8:30 (one minute faster in the race vs. training).

Maybe she started too fast and this caused the melt-down at the end (the last 11 min/mile is very uncharacteristic for her... even her slowest training miles are faster than 10:30 min/mile). She swears that the first miles did not feel fast and she has no explanation for the melt-down at the end. She likes to blame the hot weather & sun, but the weather was not hot and the course was well-shaded :)

So, she remains a mystery to me :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

River Run Half - New PR!!

River Run Half Marathon Race Report:

It was a beautiful day for running :) About 60F degrees at the start, rising up to around 70F, and sunny. The River Run course is point-to-point and definitely fast. I would estimate that 80% is downhill. There are only a couple of mild inclines in the start and another one before mile 10. I felt I was running downhill most of the way. It is also well-shaded so I could not have asked for better running conditions.

<--- Happy with a new Half PR

This is the 4th time I am running the race and the 1st half for my wife. My best time in previous years in this course was 1:37:42 and my 1/2 Marathon PR from last year was 1:32:50 (Buckeye Half). My ultimate goal was a new PR.

I started a bit in the back and it took me 15.5 seconds to cross the line. This will prove significant in the end because my friend Jen passed me and finished ahead of me but in the final results I am ahead by 0.25 seconds!!

My Garmin GPS watch was running a bit behind the official mile markers so I did not pay much attention to my mile splits and just ran as I felt. Indications were that I was running 7 min/miles and this was good for me.

The miles rolled quickly and uneventfully. Around mile 10 I was following a group of runners who I was using for pacing. Then at mile 11 I hear someone approaching from the back. I look and it is Jen!!! She looked strong! She passes me for a while, then I pass her back, thinking that's the end of it.

While we are approaching mile 13, the runners in the front turn left and stop! Apparently, they were not registered for the race (darn bandits!) Without my pacers I am losing ground and here comes Jen again, passing me. Despite my usual finish line kick, Jen finishes ahead, but in the final chip time results I am listed ahead by a fraction of a second!

<--- Liz finishes her first Half!

My final official time: 1:31:15 (pace: 6:58) - New PR!!! (by 1 1/2 minutes)

My overall placement is 55/830 and my age group placement is 4/42. I continue to be plagued by the 4th place curse!!!

My mile splits according to my Garmin: 6:48, 6:56, 6:54, 6:50, 6:57, 6:51, 6:53, 6:53, 6:57, 7:01, 7:02, 6:52, 6:53, (last 0.1, 0.24 according to Garmin) 6:18.

If you discard the first mile and the last 0.1 mile (0.25), there are only 11 seconds difference between the fastest and slowest mile. I don't think I have ever run a more even pace in a race!

My wife's training plan was predicting under 2 hours for her first 1/2. I was predicting between 2:05 and 2:10. She started well, but slowed a lot the last 3 miles. Her final time was 2:07:44, a PR of course!!

Overall, I am very pleased that I managed to maintain a 7 min/mile pace for the entire 13.1 miles.

Next race (for me): Akron Marathon! I plan to run it slowly, using it as a training run for Athens/Greece, aiming at 3:40

Monday, September 7, 2009

I am back!!!

For a while it looked like I had lost both speed and endurance! I reached a peak before the Buckeye 50K. While recovering from that race, I injured my lower right leg (which is stronger than the left) by overstretching around the ankle (at the top, not the sides). The main pain went away quickly, but I was left with a lingering irritation and discomfort that got worse with running time. This would slow me down.

Signs that I had lost endurance:

1. Two weeks ago we had a group run with a 15 or 20 mile option. Most people did 20. I barely managed 15 and it felt really hard.

2. Last week we did the “triangle of death”, a total of 15 miles. I only did 10 and felt dead!

Signs that I had lost speed:

1. In my Wednesday speed workouts, my pace for the tempo run is slower than 7 min/mile, while before the Buckeye 50K it was around 6:30.

2. In my daily runs I am going slow. Runs with a pace of 10 min/mile with Liz feel hard (if you can believe that!) My weekly runs to the Rec Center via the Buckeye Trail are very slow.

But, everything changed last week. I decided to put an insert in my shoes and a heel lift in the right foot. That eliminated any irritation and seems to have healed my right foot, so now I am running with two strong legs. My Buckeye trail run last Thursday was the best for a long time. My Wednesday tempo run was at a decent 7 min/mile pace for 6 miles.

Finally, on Saturday I joined about 100 runners for the last long run before the Akron marathon. The run was 20 miles, following the Akron course. I was planning to run it at 9 min/mile. The first 4 miles were: 8:41, 8:32, 8:16, 8:18.

We then got into the towpath (mile 4.5). Instead of slowing down, I actually speeded up a bit: 8:03, 7:59. 8:09, 8:10.

Coming out from the towpath (mile 8.5) we hit the hills of the Metropark, slowing down (as expected) but not bad: 8:29, 8:33, 8:49, 8:51

At the top of the hill, there was Gatorade. I filled my bottle, plus I had the small energy drink that Liz likes. After this point, I ran surprisingly strong: 7:55, 8:02, 7:55, 7:55, 7:46, 7:22, 7:06, 7:15.

These are amazing times, at the end of a really long run! I finished strong, not exhausted or tired.

This good run makes me confident that I can run a decent run next Sunday for the River Run Half Marathon. The Akron Marathon will be a training run. I plan to run it easily with a 3:40 targeted time. The real race this year will be the Athens Marathon. As it turns out, I am going alone. I will try to enjoy the trip, even though the focus is on the Marathon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Perfect 10 Miler 2009

OK 10 Miler & the 4th place curse

After the race my wife said "I see nothing Perfect with this 10 miler... For me, it is just an OK 10 Miler..." I think she is referring to the course, with its twists and turns and long uphill stretch. Organization has been great.

The weather was sunny and rather warm. I started fast, averaging 6:35/mile for the first 3 miles (6:46, 6:37, 6:49) . I slowed down in the uphill, as expected, (7:03, 7:10) but the downhill was not much better (6:56, 6:59), I struggled in the last 2 miles (7:16, 7:11) and got passed by a couple of runners.

My final time: 1:08:51 (6:54 pace)
My 10 mile PR (in this course) remains 1:08:31 from 2007

<---- Empty-handed again!

When they posted the results at the end of the race, I was listed 3rd. So, we stayed for the awards. My wife liked the mugs they were giving and she was happy I was getting one. But the final results list me 4th. The 3 guys ahead of me are all 50 years old. It is going to be a long & tough 5 years for me!

I have been hit by the "4th place curse" lately... I finished 4th in the Independence 5K and 4th today (My wife was 4th too, with 1:36:49 – her first race over 10K -, and so did a couple of our running friends).

Next race: River Run 1/2 Marathon (Sept 13)

I signed up for the Akron Marathon last week (it is September 26).
I plan to run it slower, as a training run for the upcoming ATHENS (as in
Athens, Greece) marathon in November (8th)!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Independence 5K – 2009

<-- Example of my fine photographic work. This is a picture of Liz at the finish (she is the one on the left). Her head is missing! That's because I had the digital camera at the top of my film 3d camera. I was only interested in taking the 3d picture. I then snapped the digital picture, without looking at the display, and here are the results!

What will it take for a 50 year old to win an age award in a small local race with a time of 19:31?

Apparently, it will take a new age group... For some unknown reason, Independence age groups are shifted by one year.... Most races have 45-49 and 50-54 age groups. Independence has 46-50 and 51-55. So both my wife and I were the oldest in our age groups and we did not win any awards (in the next age group we would have both been 2nd). I was happy to turn 50, but for Independence I need to wait one more year!

The results:

- George (me): 19:31, 4/21 AG (46-50), 29/350 Overall
- Liz (wife): 26:35, 8/18 AG (46-50), 192 overall
- Lea (daughter): 31:12, 10/12 AG (15-20), 264 overall

I have run this race in 2003, 2004, 2005 and every year I set a PR. The 2005 time was 20:06 and my goal was to beat this time, so I am happy I achieved this, plus my 19:31 is not too far way from my 5K PR (19:19 from 4 weeks ago). The course (redesigned) was a bit complicated, full of turns, which might have contributed to slower times.

I was worried about a recent injury. 10 days ago I injured my lower foot while stretching after a run! At first I could not run (was hurting even when walking) but it improved quickly. During warmup for the race, I could feel it, but when the race started, any pain or discomfort instantly disappeared! It seems that the adrenaline rush is acting as an analgesic. Only at mile 2.5 I started feeling a slight discomfort but it did not slow me down.

My mile splits according to the Garmin: 6:00 (the time called at this mile split was 6:15), 6:25, 6:33, 5:37 (last 0.1).

Next Race: Perfect 10 miler!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

50K 2009 - Aftermath

<-- At the Buckeye Trail, right after Boston, heading for Pine Lane.

The day after the 50K I went for a 6 mile “recovery” run and all the systems tested OK. The results are out and it appears that this is the fastest 50K BT race ever. Two examples: 1) There are 21 runners with time under 5 hours, vs. only 6 last year. 2) The first female runner (Beth Woodward) finished 12th overall with time 4:42. Last year (with a slightly better time) she was 3rd overall. I finished 25th. If I had maintained my pace (for a 4:55 finish) my placement would have been 19th.

About hitting the wall: I have always been proud of my strong and fast finishes in races, including marathons and previous 50Ks. I have never hit the wall in a race. I did not even think that a wall exists for me (for my body, nutrition routine, and distances that I run). So I was surprised how quickly and unexpectedly this came about.

Some people might say, you've run for 28 miles and there were only 3 miles left. Couldn't you just dig deep inside and find the strength to run them, even slowly? It was impossible. It's like saying, this car has been running for 300 miles and now it is out of gas. Can it just run 10 more miles? There was nothing left in the tank, so to speak.

My new system of eating a large breakfast before the run has served me well for up to 24 miles, but it needs to be fine tuned for longer races. If you are curious, here is what I ate at 6:00 am on race day (just one hour before the 7:00 am start): A large bowl of hot cereal with a sliced banana, raisins, walnuts, two teaspoons of peanut butter and honey at the top. Plus, an orange, and I had a glass of Gatorade. Not many people would think of running after this. A nap sounds more appropriate.

I am still glad that my collapse came from lack of energy and not from an injury (common among other runners).

After having completed 5x 50K runs (3 summer, 2 winter) I would like to try my hands (legs?) into something longer. I think I am ready for a 50 mile race. 100 miles is insane (for me, at this point). I wish the Burning River 100 also had a 50 mile section. I guess I can look for something further but I like to run/support local races.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Buckeye 50K 2009 - Race Report

My time goal for this race was under 5 hours. I ran a strong race and consistently achieved or beat my time goals station after station. For example, my time at the half was 2:21:47 vs. 2:26 aim time. The cool weather and firm ground (it had rained enough to make the soil firm) was helping runners achieve fast times.

<--- 5 hours and 5 minutes later... Sprinting for the finish!

In the last aid station (Snowville Rd), with 6 miles left to go, I met my wife and she handed me a bottle of water. I felt fine so I did not stop to eat or drink anything. In retrospect, that was a big mistake. I should have eaten something. I arrived at this station 5 minutes ahead of time, so my projected finish time was 4:55.

The first miles in this last section went fine. I passed a young kid who was apparently falling apart. A bit later I passed 2nd Female runner Kelly Karen, and Plain Dealer columnist Zachary Lewis. Both of these guys were well ahead of me at the half, and they both appeared to be struggling a bit. I passed them easily.

But, with 3 miles to go, I started to feel tired. My pace slowed. I felt hungry and weak. Clearly, I was hitting the proverbial wall. I was out of water. I started walking. I NEEDED FOOD! I kept walking. I looked back and saw Kelly approaching. I asked if she had anything to give me to EAT. She did not. We are only 2.3 miles from the finish.

I arrived at the pavilion, 2 miles from the finish. I was happy to see Susan and Matt waiting there. I asked for food. They only had water. I gladly took water. Bur right there, two people are setting up a picnic. Their van is full with food: All kinds of snacks, chips, popcorn, and cases of pop. I explain that I am running a race and I desperately need food. They are reluctant. I asked for a single can of pop but they refused! "You are not part of our group" they said.

Disappointed, I continue to walk. Everyone that I passed in the last 10 miles, is now passing me, including the young kid. He is half-running, half-walking, but he appears to have a bit more stength than me. I continue to walk. Finally, I see a young lady, holding a basket. I ask for food. "Sorry, I do not have any food, but I have some Gatorade" she says. "YES, please give me Gatorade". She fills half of my bottle. I drink it at the spot. A rush of energy goes through my body and I am able to run again.

Only1.5 miles left to the end. I am happy to be running again. I pass the kid. But I soon need more water or Gatorade and I have nothing. Last 0.7 miles. I am running, but I also take walking breaks. I hear the Brecksville sirens (always at 12 noon - meaning it is now 5 hours into the race). Kiss 5 hours goodbye.

So, I make it to the final stretch. I see my wife and son ready to take pictures. I smile and try to run fast. As I approach the finish line, I see the clock reading 5:04:50, 51, 52, 53. I sprint. If I cannot beat 5 hours, at least I can beat 5:05!
I cross the finish at 5:04:59.

People are congratulating me (sprinting at the end of a 50K, that must be something) and Vince hands me the medal. I am starving so I go straight for the food. Within a minute I eat 5 slices of pizza, with dripping oil and all that. I then hit the cookies. I have never been able to eat right at the end of a race, so this is new to me.

As I lay in the couch, thinking about the race, I have mixed feelings. Even though I did not meet my time goal, my final time is a PR by 10 minutes. I am pleased that I ran 28 strong miles, beating my time predictions. I learned a good lesson about eating during the race. I should have eaten in the last aid station, carry some energy gels and ask my wife to meet me at the pavilion to make sure I was OK (to cover all bases). I will apply what I learned "next year".

Here are my race time splits for the race historians:

Oak Grove - Snowville: Goal: 55 min. Actual time: 53:06
Snowville - Boston: Goal: 49 minutes. Actual time: 49:30
Boston - Pine Lane: Goal 42 minutes. Actual time: 39:11
Pine Lane - Boston: Goal 42 minutes. Actual time: 39:38
Boston - Snowville: Goal 51 minutes. Actual time: 51:34
Snowville to Oak Grove: Goal 60 minutes. Actual time: 71:41

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Age Group!

Today it's my birthday!

This birthday is important because I am entering a new age bracket (50-54). I am now officially an old guy. Over 50 is also known as "Grandmaster" ("Master" is over 40) and some races have a "Grandmaster" award.

That's one good thing about running. You look forward to getting old... A new group of older guys to beat in races, and even a new award to aim for. Great!

Unfortunately, in our area there are many fast runners in the 50-54 group. As a matter of fact, it is easier to win an award in the 45-49 age group than the 50-54 age group. More pressure for me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buckeye 50K – Under 5 Hours?

They are predicting a nice cool weather for the Buckeye 50K Trail Run this Saturday so fast times are possible.

This year I have trained very well and I have a goal: Under 5 hours.

Is this goal possible? At first I did not think so, but my training runs went so well, that now I think it is possible.

A bit of history: I have run this race for two years now. The first year (2007) on a cool dry course, my time was 5:14. This was a big surprise since it was my 1st Ultra and I had just started running trails. A friend of mine (we bonded during the training runs) who always finished ahead and less tired, finished the race in 6:30, so my 5:14 (without even carrying water!) was a great achievement. Last year (2008) I did not train well, but put a lot of miles in our vacation in California. The weather on race day was hot and I finished at 5:21. My time was slower, but my placement was better than last year. Plus, I passed 7 runners in the 2nd half.

This year I have trained well and I have also timed my splits, so I know what to expect. My time during the run of the half (Oak Grove to Pine Lane) was 2:26. It felt that the pace was too fast at the time, but I have improved a bit since then. So now my goal is to run the first half in 2:26 and the second half in 3:34. That's only 8 minute difference between the two halves. If you look at last year's results (first time the half times are recorded) very few runners had such a small difference. Actually, from those who run the race under 6 hours, only two have a better difference: Kam Lee (8 minutes) and Matt Pazderak (4 minutes). My difference was 15 minutes and it was the 6th best.

Here are the times I aim to run each section (first half, second half, difference in parenthesis)

Oak Grove - Snowville Rd (6 miles): 55, 60 (5)
Snowville Rd - Boston (5.3 miles): 49, 51 (2)
Boston - Pine Lane (4.2 miles): 42, 42 (0)
Total: 2:26 + 2:34 = 5:00 (8)

My specialty is the last leg (Snowville to Oak Grove) which I have now run many times (easy for me, since I live in Brecksville, 1 mile from the entrance to the BT on Snowville Rd and I run through it to go to our fitness class, twice a week). Most runners are too tired by then, and run this leg very slowly. If I arrive at Snowville by 4 hours, I think I can finish under 5 hours.

Last night I happened to read E-Speed's (Elizabeth H.) blog where she recorded her split times from last year's 50K. This is very informative (the only published split times I have seen). Here they are (rounded to the next minute):

Oak Grove - Snowville Rd (6 miles): 53, 65 (12)
Snowville Rd - Boston (5.3 miles): 49, 53 (4)
Boston - Pine Lane (4.2 miles): 41, 41 (0)
Total: 2:22 + 2:39 = 5:02 (17)

Looks like she slowed down quite a bit after Boston in the way back. As a friend said, the race really starts after Boston.... Bodies of exhausted runners are scattered all over the place from Boston to Oak Grove :) Hopefully this will not happen to me. The trick is to try and preserve strength during the first half. I always walk the uphills. Whatever time I lose walking, I make up running them down fast in the return.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Broadview Heights 5K – 19:19 !!!

I had signed up for the Broadview Hts 5K before Muddy Paws, because I want to support local races (my city, Brecksville, and Broadview Hts share schools). But after running Muddy Paws 10 miles yesterday, I was wondering if that was a good idea. Especially since I have my big race, the 50K Buckeye Trail next Saturday.

My dream has always been to break 20 minutes in the 5K. My 5K PR is 20:06 from 2005. But I have shifted to longer races and when there is a choice of 5K and a longer distance, I always run the longer distance. This year I decided to try and break the 20 minute 5K barrier. I selected two races. This was the first try and Independence 5K (in August) is the second.

My wife (Liz) also signed up, and, worried about her 5K time, drove the course and told me there was a huge uphill very close to the start, about 1/2 mile long. So this did not look like a PR course. Plus, we heard from other runners that there is a 2nd hill at the turn-around point. Oh well, it is a nice sunny & cool day (58F in the morning) so, let's go!

The race started at 8:30 am. A short flat distance, then turn left and up the hill for the first 1/2 mile. Surprisingly, I am passing people right and left, going up the hill. Then turn left at Parkway Drive. I kept passing people. My first mile time is 6:08! Wow! This is an amazing time, considering that 1/3 this mile was uphill!!! I have never run a mile that fast in a race.

At the turn around point I am counting the runners in front of me. I am 6th overall! I cross paths with Liz and she is yelling at me "number 6!!!" It seems unbelievable.... [we must have miscounted because the official results show that I am 5th overall]

But, I start to get tired. I know I cannot catch the guy in front... I am only trying to hang into 6th place. I am slowing down but keep pushing. If I make it to the last 1/2 mile, all downhill, I will be fine, I am thinking, because I am a fast downhill runner. It seems it's taking for ever to get to that point. I have my usual recurring nightmares and fears of quitting in the middle of the race (“at least, my time will be good, even if I walk the rest”, I am thinking)

Finally, I make it to the end of the road and turn right for the downhill... I try to run the downhill as fast as I can, but my legs are tired... I am now at the bottom of the hill. The guy behind me is getting closer. We turn right and we are at the final stretch. I can see/hear him, trying to catch up. But, surprisingly, I have enough strength for a sprint! So, I sprint to the finish, maintaining 6th place overall, and finishing at 19:26!!! (Official chip time: 19:19)

Needless to say, I am very happy! My goal of under 20 minutes 5K is fulfilled. Not only that, but, if you look at my Running Goal Times blog, even my “life time goal” of 19:30 is fulfilled! Great! I can now relax and stop running :) Or… maybe I can aim for 19 minutes? Hmmm….

I attribute this success to three factors:
1. My “3 pm diet” (159.5 lbs in the morning)
2. The Buckeye trail training. I have been running a lot of hard miles lately.
3. Speedwork sessions every Wednesday, thanks to Liz who makes me do them!

Back to the race… I stayed around the finish to take a picture of Liz... She finished at 26:17, a new PR for her too, and good for 3rd place Age award (50-54).

The Broadview Hts Mayor finished just a step in front of her. He must be in my age group because when he handed my award (1st age group 45-49) he said something like "I will never be as fast as you". I felt like saying "That's OK, I will never be a mayor either".

This concludes a good race weekend for me... Now rest and relaxation, in preparation for the Buckeye 50K. My goal is to run it under 5 hours. More about this in the blog to come.

Muddy Paws 10 Mile Trail Race

This turned out to be a very good race weekend for me... In preparation for the 50K Buckeye Trail next Saturday, I had the fine idea to run two "tune up" races this weekend, the Muddy Paws 10 miler on Saturday and the Broadview Heights 5K on Sunday (today)

This was the first time running the Muddy Paws 10 mile Trail race and I won first place in my age group with 1:22:28 (16/144 runners).

It was a good race, a bit warm and humid but it did not rain... This was a new course this year and apparently faster than the previous one (comparing the results). My Garmin says it was 10 1/4 mile long and I believe it because it always measures race courses shorter, never longer.

The course consists of two 5 mile loops. The first 3.5 miles are in open grass fields mainly, while the last 1.5 miles of the loop were my favorite because it reminded me of the Buckeye Trail (roots, etc). Vince called this part “Technical”. I wonder whey they call it “Technical” when it is really more “natural”?

Overall, I was pleased with my time and the fact that I finished ahead of the 15 year old "child prodigy", Rachel, winner (F) of last year's winter 50K. But I was way behind the first two female runners, Beth and Shanna. At some point I was entertaining thoughts of stopping after the first 5 miles but decided to go on. Thanks E-Speed for calling my name when I was completing the first loop… It was encouraging.

I stayed for the awards and liked the fact that Vince gave away nice merchandise for awards, even though the 5 milers got first choice. The size 13 sandals left were too large for me, so I got a pair of size 9 for my wife.

I have to train Vince to pronounce my last name correctly. He sounds it like Themelius, but there is no "u". He will have to practice because it looks like he will be saying more often :) (with wife and daughter running too).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jim Klett 2009

Just like last year, we woke up to a rainy day. My weight was down to 162 lbs, the lowest it's ever been before any race, ever! (The 3pm "diet" is paying off!)

It was raining really hard in the morning of the race, but five minutes before the start, it stopped raining. I am glad I procrastinated warming up, so I ran relatively dry :)

The first mile was fast as expected (downhill). I was running along with Jamie and Jen, but I pulled ahead around mile 3. First 4 mile splits: 6:29, 6:39, 6:41, 6:54. The hills start at mile 5. Pace slows as expected: 7:23, 7:06. Last 0.2 split: 6:41.

I am a bit disappointed that my times are creeping up. I want one day to be able to keep up a 6:30 pace in the 10K.

My official time: 42:46. I finished 2nd/14 in my age group and 25/203 overall. This was my 2nd best time in 6 years of running the Jim Klett 10K.

I turn 50 in July so I always look at the next age group results. There some fast runners there. I would have placed 6th! Normally, I would be happy to advance to the next age group... but not this time! :) I have to get faster quickly!

Liz’s time was 27:01 in the 5K (best time this year, but her PR is 26:20 from the Buckeye 5K last year). She won 2nd place in her age group. As a matter of fact, this was the 2nd fastest time in females over 40. Lea finished 5th in her age group with 31:02. She was happy she ran the entire distance.

We stayed for the awards and enjoyed a nice breakfast. The Jim Klett race is becoming a nice family running tradition.

Weight Loss with the 3pm diet

Lately, I have been doing the “3pm diet”. This is not a revolutionary concept. As a matter of fact, it is not a diet at all. It is not a secret either, but someone managed to write a book, titled “The 3:00 PM Secret”. Here is the link to the publisher’s web page.
And here is the book in Amazon.

The principle is very simple: Stop eating at 3 pm. Or, as the author likes to say, eat a nutritious breakfast, a nutritious lunch, a snack at 2:30, and then you are done. It is really amazing that an entire book was written around this concept. So, basically, you are skipping dinner and go without eating from 2:30pm to maybe 7:30am, a total of 17 hours or so.

Two questions come in mind: 1) Why? 2) How?

Regarding the "why", the author goes into great lengths to prove that this kind of eating schedule has many advantages, both in terms of weight loss and in terms of a lifestyle: 1) By eating most of your calories in the morning, you can burn them later in the day, so you end up losing weight. 2) You don’t need to worry about cooking & cleaning dishes in the evening and you have more time and energy to devote to a hobby or other pursuits.

I definitely agree with #2. Most people come home from work, overeat, and then are too tired digesting to do anything productive, so they end up laying on the couch, watching TV (and snacking). Not having to worry about dinner in a sense frees you and gives you more time for productive work.

Point #1 is questionable. They are those who say, it does not matter when you eat. You can eat all your calories in one meal, eat only in the morning, eat only in the evening, or eat many small meals during the day. It is irrelevant. All that matters is how much goes in and how much goes out (via exercise). I am not sure I agree with this mechanistic view of the body, but one thing is certain: It is very difficult to overeat for breakfast and lunch. The majority of the calories are consumed in the evening. So by skipping dinner you can lose (or maintain) weight, depending on how much you eat in the morning.

I have been doing this for a week now and have already lost a couple of pounds, even though I tend to eat a lot. I work at home so after my breakfast at 7am, I usually eat a 2nd breakfast around 9am. So I eat three meals. Someone with an office work will most probably eat less and weight loss is almost certain.

Now, to the “how” My wife cannot believe that I just stop eating after 3pm. But it is very easy for me. My body is now used to this, and does not expect food. I feel fine. I don’t get hungry, and I go to bed for a good night’s sleep with my digestive system taking a break.

I expect that a lot of people have a problem with this concept, especially if they like to entertain or go out to eat, or just enjoy eating and have nothing productive to do in the evening. There are people (my wife is one) who look forward to eating dinner. These are the people who will not even agree to try this. The book says it is OK to have something light, like a soup, and it even gives you two “free days” a week. So, the 3pm is not etched in stone. I personally don’t need the freebies. It would be nice if my wife was also in the same schedule, but I don’t care. When she cooks dinner and asks me if I want to eat, I politely refuse and ask her to save my portion for lunch tomorrow.

There are people (in Greece for example) who routinely do not eat breakfast (I used to do this). So, they are going without eating for long periods, but at a different time of the day. There is even a book called “The Fast-5 Diet” which advocates skipping breakfast and lunch and only eat between 5pm and 10pm (thus a fast minus this 5 hour window). In one sense, this is exactly the opposite of the “3pm diet”, yet there is no question that both methods could work. It is difficult to eat a lot in a short window of time during the day (even though I am sure some people can do it). At the end, it might be a matter of lifestyle, and I definitely prefer eating early than late in the day.

I am also doing something that I have not done before: I eat breakfast before long morning runs (for example the Sunday trail runs for the Buckeye 50K race). I find that this gives me more energy later in the run. I would not do that for short runs or fast races, only for long slow runs.

I am happy that someone wrote a book about this. I have been interested in weight loss since I started running in 2001. It is a long story, but, briefly, I was 225 lbs in 2001 and dropped to 175 after one year, by just running and without any other adjustments in my diet. After the first year, I fell in love with running. I soon realized that I could enjoy running more, and be better at it, if I lost even more weight. But it is not easy now that I work at home and I am close to my “ideal” weight. I have tried different things, including not eating after a certain time (around 5pm). This personal version of the 3pm diet worked, but I did not keep it up. Now that I know that someone else has thought long enough about this and even wrote a book, I feel encouraged to try it again. It is not something I made up. It is now official.

Bottom line: This 3pm concept is helping me lose or maintain weight and I enjoy the lifestyle benefits I get from it. I have more energy in my long morning runs, and more time for productive work in the evening.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Running Time Goals

They say that a runner achieves his/her PRs within 5-10 years from when they start running. It does not matter if they start at 25 or 55, the rule still applies. That’s because it takes a couple of years to build up strength and running endurance. Then “old age” catches up with you. Your times will only go down from there on. I started running in 2001. My first race (5K, 21:27) was in 2002. Eight years later I think I still have room to improve my race times in all distances (especially if I lose weight, as I plan to do).

Here is my wish list:

Distance ------Time Now (Pace) VO2max ------ Goal Time (Pace) VO2max
5K --------------20.06 (6:32) 49.5 ------------------19:30 (6:17) 51.3
10K -------------41:20 (6:37) 49.8 ------------------40 (6:26) 51.9
10mi ------------1:08:31 (6:51) 50.0 ----------------1:06 (6:36) 52.2
½ Marathon ----1:32:50 (7:05) 49.2 ----------------1:30 (6:52) 51.0
Marathon------- 3:22:4 7 (7:44) 46.5 ----------------3:10 (7:15) 50.2

It appears that my current VO2 max is around 49-50. I need to increase it to 51 to 52 and then I will achieve my goal times.


I have been fascinated with running times predictions, i.e., predicting your time in one race, based on times in other races, ever since I read a 1977 book by Manfred Steffny "Marathoning" (see previous blog). From Manfred’s book I first read about the possibility of predicting your marathon time, based on your 10K time. He gives a very simple formula:

Marathon time = 10K time x 4.666 (1)
He later modified to: 10K in 30 minutes -> Marathon in 2:20. For every extra minute in 10K, add 5 minutes to the marathon (2)
A more conservative estimate (recommended for beginners) is even more simple: Marathon Time = 10K time x 5 (3).

Right now my 10K PR is 41:20 (2007). My best marathon time is 3:22 (2009).

(1) 41:20 x 4.666 = 3:13
(2) 2:20 + 5x(41:20 – 30) = 2:20 + 56:30 = 3:16:30
(3) 41:20 x 5 = 3:26:30

Seems like my actual time is between (2) and (3). I think formula (3) is more typical for people without enough marathon experience/training and it is very easy to remember: Formula (1) might be my upper limit and (2) something to aim for.

Here is a table published in Manfred Steffny’s book:

Max. possible Realistic
10Km marathon time marathon time
------ ------------- -------------
27:00 2:05:00 2:08:30
28:00 2:10:00 2:14:00
29:00 2:15:00 2:19:30
30:00 2:20:00 2:25:00
31:00 2:25:00 2:30:30
32:00 2:30:00 2:36:00
33:00 2:35:00 2:43:00
34:00 2:40:00 2:49:00
35:00 2:45:00 2:55:00
36:00 2:50:00 3:00:00
37:00 2:55:00 3:07:00
38:00 3:00:00 3:15:00
39:00 3:05:00 3:20:00
40:00 3:10:00 3:25:00
42:30 3:22:00 3:42:30
45:00 3:35:00 4:00:00
47:30 3:47:30 4:20:00
50:00 4:00:00 4:40:00

The Realist time is more appropriate for someone’s first marathons. The Table stops at 50min. Older runners and women can use the formulas.

I have devised two more simple formulas to predict marathon times from 10mile and ½ Marathon times:

(4) Marathon = (10 mile time) x 3
(5) Marathon = (1/2 Marathon) x 2 + 15 minutes

(4) My 10mile PR is 1:08:31 (2007) x 3 = 3:25:33
(5) My ½ Marathon PR is 1:32:50 (2008) x 2 + 15min = 3:20:40

Both are reasonable.

But the mother of all prediction calculators in the internet is here:

You enter your age, gender, and one race time and it gives you several predictors, plus an average prediction. Cool! But there is more in this web site... It will also calculate how weight loss will affect your running times and more.

Staying on the topic of Marathon time predictions, I tried this web site and here is what I get:

Distance PR ----------- Predicted Marathon
5K – 20:06 -------------------- 3:10:33 - 3:25:57
10K – 41:20 ------------------ 3:10:11 – 3:24:52
10 miles – 1:08:31 ---------- 3:10:35 – 3:23:29
½ Marathon = 1:32:50 ----- 3:13:57 – 3:25:09

The first marathon predicted time is an average of several formulas. The 2nd time is called the “Purdy Formula” and it seems more realistic to me. To read more about these formulas, go to the link above.

Manfred Steffny – Marathoning Book

There is a plethora of books on the Marathon and I have many books in my personal library. But one book that stands out is called “Marathoning” and is written by Manfred Steffny. It was published originally in German in 1977. I bought the English 1979 Edition at a local library sale for around $0.10. You can usually find a used copy in ebay for under $5.

This was one of the first books I read on Marathons and I liked it a lot. It reflects the running mentality of 1970s Europe, which is a bit different than the current US mentality, which is why I like it. I think his ideas are simple and solid, and not much has changed since the 1970s, as far as first principles are concerned.

Here are some ideas from this book (written mostly out of memory):

1. Regarding when to run your first marathon, he advocates a solid year of running, and weight loss. Yes, you can drag your overweight body over 5 hours in the marathon course, but why? I am amazed at the number of people who start running and immediately want to run a marathon. It is better to take time to adjust to running first and lose some weight to get “marathon ready”. When I started running I immediately declared that I was not interested in running a marathon. Of course, I changed my mind but it took 3 years or running before attempting my first one.

2. Predicting your marathon time: I first read about the possibility of predicting your marathon time based on a 10K time from this book. He has an interesting discussion on the topic, and his formulas work for me (more about this in a future blog).

3. Diet and marathon running: He advocates natural diet and losing weight. He says what when your friends say that you look bad (too thin, etc), then you are in the best form for a marathon. This is the first book I encountered the idea of running and fasting (more about this later).

4. Hydration during the race: I think his basic philosophy is like mine “Let thirst be your guide”. For top runners: Would you rather finish 2nd and well-hydrated, or 1st and dehydrated?

5. Running with different shoes (variety is good). He says something like this: My suitcase if filled with different running shoes. Other runner’s suitcases are filled with pain pills. On the subject of injuries, he is against pills, injections, etc. but prefers natural remedies.

6. Ultramarathon Running: He claims that it is easier to run 100K than a marathon and maybe you should train and run a 100K first. When I first read this, I thought it was crazy and I had no plans to run anything longer than a marathon. But since then I have run several 50K trail races, and now I know that 50Ks are actually easier on the body than a marathon, even though the distance is longer.

These and other ideas about training, pacing, etc., are found in this little gem. I recommend it to all runners.

I searched google and found that Manfred Steffny is still around and doing well, still running at the age of 68. His web site is: (use google to translate it in English). He has been the Editor of the Spyridon running magazine, the oldest running publication in German (since 1975).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Amazing Race (800m Final, 1972 Oympics)

There is no question, YouTube is the biggest waster of time for a computer user today… Once you get there, you start watching video after video, non-stop. Eventually you find yourself watching videos that you shouldn’t be watching :) and wonder where the time went….

I don’t remember how, but I found myself watching running-related videos. I ran into this amazing 800m finals in the 1972 Olympics in Munich Germany:

I remember watching the Olympics in Greece as a kid, and I remember Dave Wottle and his famous cap. I also remember the scandal when he kept the cap on during the National Anthem in the Award’s Ceremony.

It is interesting that Dave is a local guy, from Canton OH. I did a bit of digging and found that today he is the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Rhodes College Looks like he has gained a bit of weight :)

I also watched parts of the 5K and 10K races in the ’72 and ’76 Olympics, all 4 won by the “flying Finn”, Lasse Viren.

Finally, I saw the 2004 Olympics 800m race (in Athens, I was there, but I don't remember this one) and it is a carbon copy of the 1972 race! Take a look:

Actually, YouTube is a fantastic resource, if used wisely.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Volunteering at Hudson 15K race

Saturday I worked as a volunteer for the 15K Race for the Parks in Hudson. I would have preferred to run the race, but I had to put my 3 hours of volunteering work, a requirement for running the Buckeye 50K race in July. This was the first time I have worked as a volunteer at a race and it was an interesting experience.

I was assigned at the last water stop, in the entrance of a park, before mile 8 (entrance) and around mile 9 (exit). Working with me were chef Bill and a guy named Zachary. Zachary is a tall guy in his early 30s, very nice fellow. He looked familiar. Only later, when I got home, I realized that he is Zachary Lewis, the guy who writes a fitness column in Plain Dealer’s Health section. My wife is an avid reader of the paper and she often tells me about Zachary’s articles. So, I worked on the table with a celebrity, without knowing it.

Since we were only 3 people, handing two types of drinks (Gatorade or water) in two different directions (entry and exit from the park) we were not sure we could handle the job, but “traffic” was low and the weather cool, so things went well.

With this new experience, I now know what’s the best runner’s behavior from a volunteer’s point of view: 1) If you don’t want a drink, just say “no, thanks”. 2) If you want a specific drink, just say “water” or “Gatorade” and try to make eye contact with the person you will grab the cup from. This really helps reduce the anxiety of the volunteers who are eager to serve the runners.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I have confession to make: I have never done any systematic speedwork or followed any plan in my running. I just run for the fun of it and I understand (I think) the basic principle of running weekly long runs in preparation for a marathon, etc. Also, it helps to run with faster runners because then even standard training runs become tempo runs.

But now my wife is downloading training plans from the Runner's World web page and she follows them to the letter. She did this for the Cleveland Marathon 10K and now for the River Run ½ Marathon (her next goal race). These plans call for speedwork once a week. Most people in our area do speedwork on Tuesdays, but we take a fitness class on Tuesday (that’s why I have not joined any speedwork groups.) So, the obvious choice for us is Wednesday.

The plans call for two types of speedwork, which usually alternate:
- Tempo Runs
- Speedwork of 400, 800 or 1600m repeats (with jogs in-between)

So, I decided to download a training plan too. As a goal race I chose the Broadview Heights 5K, which is on July 12, put my current marathon time, and selected “very hard” plan. What came out generally calls for:

- Tempo runs (2 increasing to 4 miles) at 7 min/mile
- Speedworks of 800m repeats at 3:11 (6:22 pace) or 1600s at 6:41 pace

If I follow the plan, I should be able to do my 5K at 19:49 (6:22) pace. Anything better than 20 minutes is fine with me (my current 5K PR is 2:06 from 2005 but I have not run a 5K for a couple of years now - I am not counting the “New Year’s Eve 5K” because of the nasty hills, which make it unsuitable for a PR)

I cannot possibly follow the entire plan, because I am also training for the Buckeye 50K, but I can do the speedwork. I have already done two weeks of speedwork (on Wednesdays).

- Last week: Tempo run in towpath, 3 miles at 7.03 average page (6:51, 7:07, 7:12)
- This week: Speedwork at Hike & Bike path, 1 mile at 6:34, 2nd mile at 6:27, then 800m at 6:20 and 400m at 6:10.

We wanted to use the Brecksville HS track but had football practice, so we went to the Hike & Bike path. This is asphalt and it is flat so it is very well-suited for speedwork, with the aid of our Garmin gps watches. The towpath is not well-suited because the surface (crashed limestone) has less friction and leads to slower times.

I like these speedwork sessions… We’ll see if they pay off. I have a good feeling for both the Broadview Hts and Independence 5Ks for an under 20 minute time.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Races Until the End of the Year

Here is a list of races that I plan to do until the end of the year (my wife will also run most of these, and my daughter some of them):

June 6 - Race for the Parks 15K
I will volunteer to get my hours for the Buckeye 50K. (I have done previously races when it was 4 miles)

June 20 - Jim Klet 5K, 10K
I have been running the 10Ks for many years. Tough hills make a PR impossible.

~ July 4th - Kent 10K
This is a very small race and nearly everyone (especially women) gets an award. Not sure if it is held this year. I have my 10K PR in this race

July 12: Broadview Hts 5K
I have never done this before but I thought we (our entire family) might enter since it is a local race. This will be my first attempt for an under 20 minute 5K

July 18: Buckeye Trail 50K
I have signed up for this. My first race at 50 years old! (but there are no age group awards in this race) I have run this twice already. Tough but good!

August 8: Independence 5K
A good race for a 5K PR. I have set my 5K PR here (20:08) but have not run this race the couple of years because we were on vacation. I will aim for an under 20 minute time.

August 16: Perfect 10 Miler
This should be a nice race for my wife too. I have run it the last 3 years.

September 13: Buckeye 5K, 1/2M, or River Run 1/2M
Too bad there is a conflict again this year. When the races were one week apart, I was doing both, but the last years I did the Buckeye. This year however, I might try the River Run again, if Liz makes this her first half marathon race. (It is a point-to-point and a downhill course, so it is perfect for a PR or first 1/2 Marathon - it was my first one too)

September 26: Akron Marathon
I ran my first Akron marathon last year. The course is tough but the race is fun. I have not decided what to do this year. I would run a family relay or 1/2 marathon. I'd rather not do a full marathon if I am going to run Athens in November.

October 11: Towpath Marathon
I might run the marathon slowly as a training run for Athens, or just do the half. I must do something since I want to support this race.

November 8: Athens Marathon
Yeah!!! The "Classic" marathon. First marathon ever (1896). Older than Boston... I could go on and on but I stop here.

November 22: Fall Classic 5K, 1/2M
It has become a family tradition.

December 31: Great new Year's Eve 5K
A nice way to finish the year.

Back to Trails!

Now that the Cleveland Marathon is over, Trail running is back in our area. For me it is a welcome break from running roads.

Last week I participated in the first group trail run. About 50 runners showed up in Peninsula (see picture, courtesy of Nick Billock). I only ran 10 miles (up to Pine Lane and from there to Boston and Back).

We repeated the same route yesterday but with only 15 people this time. The group went faster this time and I soon found myself running out of energy (I should remember to eat something before the long Saturday/Trail runs). So I fell behind. In the way back (Boston to Pine Lane) I ran on my own and took my time. Despite running the 2nd half considerably slower (with lots of walking breaks) than the first, the overall time this week was faster than the previous week.

The official training runs for the Buckeye 50K start on Sunday June 7th. In the meanwhile a typical week these days looks as follows:

- Monday: Crosstrain (Yoga?), walk or 1-3 mile slow run
- Tuesday: Run to Brecksville Rec Center, Fitness class (4-8 miles)
- Wednesday: Tempo run or speedwork with Liz (this is new)
- Thursday: Run to Brecksville Rec Center, Fitness class (same as Tuesday)
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Group Run
- Sunday: Slow run with Liz (6-8 miles) or (soon to start) Group Trail Run

Every Tuesday and Thursday Liz and I take a Fitness class at the Brecksville recreational Center. I try to run there and, if possible, take the back way (down on Snowville, to the Buckeye Trail to Brecksville, up through the trail to Brecksville Road, and from there to the Rec Center, a total of 8.2 miles, 6 of which are on the Trail, part of the Buckeye 50K Trail route). I love this route and it is a good practice for the Buckeye 50K run.

Cleveland Marathon – The Aftermath

It’s been 2 weeks since the Cleveland marathon and things are going fine. I recovered really quickly with only minor pain/discomfort for a couple of days. My time has been officially changed to 3:22:47 (pace: 7:44) My placement is 191 out of about 2000 marathon runners, and 16/495 in the 45-49 age group. For the fun of it, I tried some other statistics, and I see that I am 5th out of 20 Brecksville residents, 1st out of 10 named “George” and 1st out of 42 marathon runners who are 49 years old.

Here is a picture of me at the finish... I was well aware that my picture will be taken at the finish, so I made an effort to look happy :). Actually, I felt great. I was not too tired or ready to collapse.

When my wife tells me that her legs do not hurt after a race, I tell her that she did not try hard enough. Applying this to myself, yes, my legs were hurting for the next few days, but they did not hurt bad enough. I did not feel the need take an ice bath as I did in previous marathons. And I felt fine at the finish. So, maybe I could have gone faster too. I feel I could have finished at 3:20, but I had no reason to push myself. Also, I have not done any speed training (not only for this marathon, but in general).

The bottom line is that I feel I can improve this time next year with better training and equally good running weather conditions.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cleveland Marathon 2009 - Great Race + Big PR!

Hi, I am back!

What happened? I was busy with work. After each race I was going to write a report but I was either too busy or did not have pictures, one obstacle after another… but I am now back.
<- With daughter Lea, after all was said and done

My official goal for the Cleveland Marathon was 3:30, but my secret goal was to beat last year's time (3:26:23) for a marathon PR.

Looking at my training and recent race times, I was at about the same fitness level as last year, so I was hoping for a similar performance.

I followed last year's unorthodox plan, which somehow works well for me... Three weeks before the race I started a strict diet. I was 171 lbs 3 weeks ago (the morning of the Hermes 10 mile race). I then started the Detox diet. This includes a fast the 7th day. I have been doing this maybe once or twice a year and it has helped me and my wife lose weight. We have found that we lose weight on the program without feeling hungry. When this was done, I continued the diet on my own. On Friday the 15th I was down to 162 lbs. I then relaxed and ate better for 2 days, and I was 165 lbs the day of the marathon.

Again, this year, I did not taper much. Only the last week mostly. I took two days off before the marathon (Friday & Saturday - absolutely no running, just lots of eating). So, Sunday morning I was lighter than normal, but with full energy/water reserves.... This plan apparently pays off because I ran strong and I only needed water & Gatorade and no gels, or food, and I don't hit the wall. I ate a few bites in the morning and a sip of Gatorade. I do not believe in over-hydrading that makes runners want to pee during the race (a waste of time).

It was a beautiful day, cool, sunny and a bit breezy... (OK, maybe more than a bit) I started with the 3:30 pace group for the first two miles, which were slow and then moved on my own... My Garmin got messed up and was running 1/3 mile off distance (behind), which made it hard for me to know my average pace and expected finish time (I have it set for average, not instantaneous pace), but I knew I was running fast and was a bit worried that maybe I was going too fast. But I trusted my internal pace regulator... I was running comfortably for the distance and my fitness level.

Pace for the first 8 miles: 8:10, 8:00, 7:30, 7:17, 7:15, 7:27, 7:16, 7:21.

The route takes us through Cleveland West side first, maybe the best part of the race.... I had settled in a nice fast pace but I was surprised to see the 8:20 pace group ahead and came very close to it by mile 8, but eventually stayed behind. Miles 9-12: 7:26, 7:20, 7:22, 7:50.

By mile 12+ we are back downtown (wife and daughter were waiting for me to cheer me up), heading East, and running by the Lake. I did not like the course change this year. I prefer to run through city streets going out of the city and then return by the Lake. Seeing the city by the Lake with the sun behind is a beautiful view, despite the possibility of head wind (which was the reason for the change, but it felt like we had headwind either direction)

The stretch along the lakefront was rather boring. We then entered the East side park. Miles 14-21 things are still going well: 7:44, 7:24, 7:34, 7:46, 7:45, 7:46, 7:51, 7:41. By looking at the clock at mile 20 I can see that I have built a solid 5 minute lead so the 3:30 goal is in the bag, so to peak. Now I even think I have shot at a PR!

Miles 22-26, I have slowed a bit, closer to 8 min miles, but I have no pain or any problems, and I still feel strong: 7:56 7:57 8:02 8:04 7:58. I pass other runners who are slower or are walking these last miles. Finally, I see the finish line, which always makes me happy, and finish the last 0.2 miles with a mild sprint at 6:56m/min pace.

My final time: 3:21:48 (7:42 page - 16/477 in age group and 191 overall)
*** correction: The time has officially been changed to 3:22:47 (still good :))

New marathon PR (by almost 5 minutes) & Boston qualifier! I don't know what it is with the Cleveland Marathon, but it brings the best out of me.

My wife finished the 10K at 56:41 (11/238 age group), an improvement from last year. My daughter finished the 10K at 1:04:25. That's good for her, considering that until last week her longest run ever was only 5 miles.

After the race we stayed around for a while and then went home, tired but happy. As I am writing this, I feel unexpectedly pain-free, and I did not even take an ice bath. You think I could have run even faster? :) Next year!
Two days later: Recovery is going fine. Today I ran 4 miles and took my regular fitness class without problems....