Thursday, November 6, 2014

Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon Race Report

Race Weekend: I worked a half-day and then took Megabus to Indianapolis. My fantasy of being able to run in shorts and a t-shirt was dashed by all the snow I saw out the bus windows, and the wind that was making the bus sway a bit too much for my comfort level.  I was trying to carb up all day, oatmeal with banana and peanut butter for breakfast, quinoa chili for lunch, and of course, that handful of candy corn was totally intentional.  I got in to Indy at 5:30pm.  I met my friends I was racing with at the hotel (Omni Severin) and we went to dinner at PF Changs.  Had some fried rice for the carbs, realizing that everything there was going to be somewhat greasy regardless of if it had "fried" in the name.  We went to the expo and picked up the packets.  Walking outside was another eye opener to how cold it was going to feel in the morning.  I went to bed worried about the weather as well as a sore throat I'd had all day, but was still able to get a decent night's sleep.

Race Morning: Woke up at 6:30.  I was worried, as I didn't feel that usual race day energy.  I felt groggy but didn't want to have coffee.  My sore throat was definitely becoming a cold, and I felt pretty stuffed up.  I started to have those thoughts of "just do it like a training run" but kept telling myself that I owed it to my training self to see how hard I could go, regardless of the circumstances.  I ate a cliff bar and downed a bottle of water.  I ended up wearing my warm tights, Underarmour mock turtleneck, gloves, and a jacket I planned to toss along the route.  My friend also gave me handwarmers.  We were just a few blocks from the race start, which was convenient.  Let the hotel at 7:25 for an 8am start.  We checked our bags, had a gu, and lined up.

The Race:  We moved pretty quickly once the gun went off, crossing just 2 minutes after.  There was a lot of zig-zagging around folks to start, tough to find my stride.  The first few turns were very tight.  I was not focused on pace at all because of this.  I ended up being near the 3:30 (marathon) pace group, and hung near them for a bit.  Despite a somewhat detailed pace plan, I was running mostly on feel.  My first mile was spent mostly frustrated at the crowd, but I was shocked at how quick the mile marker came.  My Garmin was about 0.07 miles ahead, but seemed to be accurate after this point.  Around 1.5 miles the course got less crowded and I was able to find my stride.  My left quad had felt off since we started, I think just stiff from the cold.  A longer warm-up could probably help this.  I skipped the first couple of aid stations, didn't feel the need to drink in the cool weather.  I was ahead of the pace group by mile 2.  My pace was faster than I planned but comfortably hard.  I was having doubts about keeping the pace by mile 3, but also didn't feel like I was crashing and burning.  Based on the later miles, I probably should've gone out more conservatively as I had planned.  I ditched my jacket after a couple miles, and one of my gloves came off with it.  I tossed the other one a few miles later.  Towards the end I was wishing I had kept them on. 

The cold was significant.  It took until mile 6ish to really feel warmed up. The miles to this point weren't easy, but I was hanging in there.  I took a gu right before mile 5.  It had been suggested to just do one gu, but I had trained with 2 without a problem and based on how groggy I felt that morning, I figured the caffeine could help.  At the aid station I walked just about 15-20 steps and was running again.  That mile was slower but since I wasn't stopping at every aid station I wasn't too concerned. 

Around mile 6.5 I started to have a bad stomach cramp.  I focused on my breathing but it didn't seem to help.  I kept telling myself it would go away, which was true, just not until mile 10 or 11.  I did take a few water stations and walk a few steps for some temporary relief (more psychological) and it was definitely getting tougher mentally.  I kept telling myself that this is where I build mental toughness.  Looking at my splits I significantly slowed from miles 7-10 but kept going.  I focused on a mile at a time, and made even smaller goals of something in the distance to focus on.  It didn't help that we had a headwind for much of this either. 

I took my second gu around mile 10 and focused on how soon it would be done.  I had had to pee for the second half of the race, but the feeling was intensifying.  Even with just a few miles to go I considered stopping at a porta-potty I was so uncomfortable, but made myself keep running.  Looking forward to peeing became the big motivator to get to the finish- whatever works, right? 

My plan had been to empty the tank in the last mile.  I didn't seem to have any kick, though my splits show a slight acceleration.  The last mile seemed to go on forever.  I was sure a quarter of a mile had passed, only to see less than a tenth.  I was ready to be done.  Once the finish line was (finally) in view, I tried to kick it up a notch, but didn't have much left.  I guess that is a sign of a good race?

The end result was a 1:42:44.  Unfortunately I didn't accurately remember my prior PR so I missed a PR by 22 seconds.  However, I am very pleased with this result.  I've had a rough past two years and am working back to the runner I use to be, so this is a big step in the right direction.  That PR had been set in 2012, when I was 15 lbs lighter, a whole lot less stressed, and running 40ish miles/week.  In comparison, last February I ran a disappointing 1:55 half marathon, so the improvement this year is very satisfying.

Here are the splits.  * indicates I was slow moving through aid station to get in a gu:

Mile 1
Mile 2
Mile 3
Mile 4
Mile 5
7:56 *
Mile 6
Mile 7
Mile 8
Mile 9
Mile 10
Mile 11
8:16 *
Mile 12
Mile 13
Mile 13.1

Post Race: Besides really having to pee, I felt pretty decent after the run.  I got my post-race food, met up with my friends, and we went back to the hotel.  Then my stomach began revolting.  The rest of the day was spent largely in the bathroom.  It was reminiscent of some of my worst Crohn's days, but I was pretty certain it was all race related.  I have had issues in the past after high intensity longer runs, but never to this extent.  Were the gu's to blame?  The PF Changs?  Just a cost of running hard?  By the time I went to bed I was feeling much better, and woke up Sunday starving.  Time to replace calories! 

Thoughts: Overall, quite please with the result.  Indy is a nice city, and the race is well organized.  It doesn't have the big crowd support of the Chicago Marathon but besides the crowds at the start, no complaints.  I think if the weather had been 10 degrees warmer it would've gone even better.  Some things I learned and want to improve on:

1)    I've made gains in mental toughness but need to keep working on this with tough training runs.

2)    Nutrition- try to not be so freaking sick in the future.  I'll play around with pre-race nutrition and nutrition on the run. 

3)    Pacing- need to be conservative at the start.  I don't like to be a slave to the Garmin but need to train myself what a slower pace feels like even when I have race day adrenaline. 

4)    Heart Rate- I need to start consistently wearing my HR monitor (which means finding out how to not be chafed to death by it) and learn to utilize that data.

I'll be doing another half-marathon at the end of the Outseason and want to break 1:40.  I think it is doable, though this is the Winter Half Marathon in Chicago so bad weather could complicate things, but I'm ready to give it my best shot. 

This race got me a Vdot of 43, my highest, and the zones look scary.  But scary makes you fast, right?  I’m starting to feel like a runner again, and that makes me happy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Indy Half Marathon Training Summary

I'll post my half marathon race report shortly, but first I wanted to summarize the twelve weeks of training leading up to the race.  After looking at a range of plans, I decided to take the DIY route.  I spent a couple hours mapping out my detailed plan- a mix of long runs, tempo runs, intervals and track workouts, as well as some core work, yoga, biking, and swimming.  Then I spent the last 12 weeks largely ignoring the plan.  No no, this isn't another "I didn't do my training" post, just the training went differently than planned.  Perfectly?  Of course not!  But I ran a race I was proud of and remained healthy, so that is a win!

Week 1 started on a high note of getting on the podium at the Naperville Tri.  I had that "anything is possible" feeling on Monday, ready to kick off training.  I had a pretty sluggish swim that turned into drills.  I did my first track workout in a LONG time (years?) on the new track at Montrose.  I was amazed at how beat up I could feel after 4x400.  I got in two bike rides- one with shortish FTP intervals, and then a long ride with disappointingly low power, but enjoyable none-the-less.  I topped off the first week with a 12 mile long run at an 8:52 pace before leaving on vacation.  Solid first week!

Week 2 was mostly spent on family vacation in Cape Cod.  I got in four runs but they were far from stellar.  I ended up dropping an planned speed work as my legs felt fatigued and my hip felt not quite right.  The week was capped off by a miserable 10 mile run, where I had absolutely no energy and just squeaked out a sub-9 minute race.  Some R hip/thigh pain had me worried as well.  The enthusiasm/"can do anything" attitude of week 1 was over.

Week 3 was a pity party.  Monday through Saturday saw no workouts.  Yep, that's right, I did nothing.  I justified it to myself as saying I was doing the Magnificent Mile Half Marathon on Sunday, which would re-boot my training.  You can read about that DNF at mile 4 here. 

Week 4 I started to get my butt back in gear but was discouraged.  I got 4 runs in during the week, though all under 5 miles and pace around 9 minute miles, with legs that didn't feel great. Then I went up to Madison for the Ironman on Saturday.  I rode a loop of the course on Saturday and fell back in love with the sport.  My planned run for Sunday went out the window.  I was exhausted from lack of sleep and spectating (harder than the race, I swear!).  Eating was also a disaster.  I was motivated to train, but discouraged at where I was at.

Week 5 ended up not being much better, though I have the excuse of being in San Diego for a conference.  I did get a nice 10 mile run on Monday night, that while it was just an 8:51 pace, it felt much better than recent runs.  I got two slowish 5 mile runs in while at the conference, and was reminded of how much hot weather sucks to run in. 

Week 6 was the turn around point in my training- things started to come together.  I ran over 28 miles and started adding in a few miles at more of a threshold pace.  I got in an 11 mile run at an 8:43 pace (improvement!) including 1.5 miles at a sub-8 pace.  I also got in a swim this week.  I'm sure swimming every few weeks is great for swim fitness!  My nutrition was also on track this week!

Week 7 might be my favorite week.  27 glorious miles of running!  My easy pace was starting to be faster and faster (4 mile easy-ish run in 34:13), and I nailed some fast mile repeats (7:37-7:46 pace).  I also did two swims, one of which was my 1000 yd time trial, and was amazed at the result (18:39!!).  I did a bike test as well and was shocked with an FTP of 150!  I finished off the week with the Apple Cider Century 60 mile ride, which was pure enjoyment. This week was week 2 (and last) of good eating habits!

Week 8 was an intentional cut-back week after killing the legs.  My shins flared up big time, where walking was excruciating.  While I swam on Tuesday, no running happened until Thursday.  My runs Thursday and Friday felt sluggish, probably due to tired legs and then several days of nothing.  I was overjoyed with a 10 mile run that progressively (and seemingly magically) sped up with each mile, netting me an 8:08 pace.  I was feeling like a real runner and started getting more excited for the race.

Week 9 didn't quite go as planned, and ended up being another low eek.  I had two decent runs of 5 and 7 miles during the week and a bike workout, but then my weekend came up with nothing.  On Saturday I tried to run and got a block away- my legs were totally dead.  Sunday I was on my feet all day volunteering at the Chicago Marathon and had no energy to run home. 

Week 10 was my last real week of training before I tapered.  I started my week with a 5 mile easy run and bike VO2 workout.  Followed it up on Tuesday with a 7 mile run at a decent (8:27) pace, though my legs were dead tired.  I had a fun speed workout on the track Thursday- 400 hard/400 easy; 800 hard/800 easy; 1200 hard/1200 easy; 1600 hard/1600 easy.  With running to and from the track, I got in almost 7.5 miles.  I ended the week with my longest run- 14 miles, with 3 at a "hard" pace.  The run was overall an 8:20 pace, and my confidence was high. 

Week 11 started the taper.  I originally had hopes of a harder week, but it was clear my legs needed rest.  A planned track workout didn't pan out with cement legs.  I did an 8 mile run on Sunday as my "long" taper run. This week brought the usual taper worries, though you never remember that they are normal and freak out.  My legs felt dead.  I wasn't eating/sleeping/doing core work like I ideally wanted to.  I couldn't do any speed work.  I had aches and pains.  Disaster, obviously. 

Week 12- the final week!  I had planned on three short runs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  The reality- one 3.5 mile run on Wednesday, then nada until the race on Saturday.  I also got a massage on Tuesday night.  My eating sucked, and sleeping was sub-par as well.  I felt a little less discouraged than the previous week, but had a lot of pre-race doubts. 

Week 1- 25.0
Week 2- 29.1
Week 3- 4.04
Week 4- 15.3
Week 5- 20.2
Week 6- 28.2
Week 7- 27.0
Week 8- 20.3
Week 9- 11.7
Week 10- 33.6
Week 11- 17.3
Week 12- 16.7 (race included)

The race went well (see race report coming soon), but I have to admit that I had thought training went much better before I actually wrote it out in this post.  My mileage was quite minimal now that I look at it- only 5 weeks at 25 miles or higher.  Who know's what would have happened if I had tried higher mileage though- I am coming off an injury plagued year, and I may have just self-destructed.  It was quite apparent that my legs had trouble handling the work- the fatigue I'd feel after a hard week or two, and that I felt during taper, was significant.  I think part of this is that I didn't have a good run base coming in.  In the future, I hope to keep up a base so my legs can handle this work and recover more efficiently.  I also clearly failed at keeping up swim or bike workouts.  I'm ok with this.  I am doing 2 Ironman races this year, so there will be a time and place when all my spare time and energy goes into training.  This was a half-marathon, and not that time.  It is important to stay balanced for as long as possible. 

The training has me itching to run more.  As much as I love triathlon, stand-alone running is also wonderful, mostly for it's simplicity.  I really enjoyed the tough workouts, pushing myself and seeing what I could do.  I am pumped up for the OutSeason, after another day of rest!