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.