Tim Smashes his PR Amidst The Giant Redwoods
Monday, October 26, 2009
Submitted by F4 athlete Tim Burcham
Race Report - Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon
About 3 weeks out from the race, I was feeling good, but had 2 issues: I hadn't done a time trial earlier in the season to get a dialed pace plan, and I had some mid-back tightness from running and work that just wouldn't quit. I also know that I typically have trouble with our longer taper plans, as I don't ever taper well.
So, at 3 weeks out, I went and ran a 5k - ran a good race, a few seconds off PR, but didn't really race all out. Took the finish, plugged it into McMillan, and then did some estimates based on if I had run it all-out. This got me to somewhere around a 7:25 pace, which I used as a target pace during our pacing workouts. I noticed during the pacing workouts that I had some drift down to 7:15 or so, that didn't feel completely sustainable, unless I was very, very warmed up.
For the back tightness, I waited until after the 5k, and started with both massage and some acupuncture courtesy of Tyler Stroebel
. I worked 2 massages and 2 acupuncture sessions in ahead of the race, and by the last few days, the back tightness was gone. However, the taper 'phantom pains' really picked up the last few days before the race, and I had a fair amount of low back tightness even coming in to Eureka.
On top of all of this, I decided going to see the Rockies in 29 degree weather would be part of my pre-race strategy
I have a hunch that this may have triggered the low back tightness.
Lots of hydration, deep breathing, eating well leading up to race day. Shifted from 2:1 protein:carb to 1:2 in the last 2 weeks, as well.
Stephen, John and I all travelled together, and went out on the race course on Saturday. Driving out on the course, it felt downhill for huge stretches on the way out. I was worried about a sustained uphill on the way back. We drove out, hit the visitor center, where we ran into some 'sister' fast-forward marathoners, who didn't train with the group, but are well known. We kept coming back on the course, and I kept checking the odometer for the 'start' of the hill, to get a sense for where it was - and it never happened. In fact, it felt downhill on the way back, too. We later learned from Scott that the trees create an optical illusion, and that, it indeed felt downhill both ways when he ran this race.
More rest, and a good time at 'Peppers' with the group - we had a waitress wondering if the group were marines, as we had Scott, Wayne L and Ron all sitting next to one another with shaved heads or short cuts, and a 'Marine Corps' shirt on Wayne.
Generally good sleep the night before the race - all gear setup ahead of time, and the timezone difference and late start helped get the right amount of sleep, rather than having to cut it short.
Morning comes, a quick getting dressed and a Starbucks, and we're on our way. I found Dr. Mark at the hotel breakfast, and made sure he could get a ride to the start. We head out to the course, hoping to beat some traffic, and it works - we're able to park about 1/4 mile from the start. It's also quite nice out, in the upper 40s, so a jacket and sweats suffice as we warm up. Warmups, dynamics, and some strategically timed porta potty stops, and we're all on the line for the race.
At the start, we're under highway 101, and literally can hear nothing from the bullhorn. We notice a huge amount of runners who look like they'll be darn fast. Indeed, we've learned that this race is the Northern California championships for the half marathon, and it shows in the field.
Gun goes off, and we start in with our run. Stephen, John and I all plan to run around 7:30, with John running NYC in a few weeks, and Stephen running marathon pace. However, at mile 1, we're at 7:15. No big deal, just early mile jitters. Mile 2, 7:15. Mile 3, same thing. Somewhere in there we get a good downhill, I get my form right, and cruise quick down the hill. Now I'm worried - my Denver full marathon last year was too fast in the early miles, and I imploded later - I don't want another race like that. However, even at 7:15, breathing and effort feel relaxed. We're having conversations, breathing is fine, no effort in the legs. We keep running.
An endurolyte at 20 in, a gel at about 45 - I stop for a moment to eat the gel and toss it. Keep running, and the 7:15s keep coming. The trees are amazing as we run through them, and it's humid and not to warm or cold in the trees. John and I talk to a local for a minute, who's worried we're marathoners passing him. He points out 'Joe' up ahead - a 67 year old who can turn in a 1:30 half marathon, the local favorite for his age group. We keep running. A woman catchs up and asks about John's Moab shirt, and we all chat through the turnaround.
Another endurolyte after the turnaround. We keep running, but as we close on 9 miles, the pace is heating up. I start to pull away, as John doesn't want to lay it all out on today's course. I eat another gel somewhere around 9 or 10, stopping again for long enough to eat it. Pick the pace back up, quick feet, quick feet. The pain in the legs is starting to come, but my lungs are completely clear. When the pain builds, I check my pace, and see that I'm well on track to blow a PR away. I remind myself of grueling hill workouts, that this is nothing compared to those. When my brain says it's time to stop, I remind myself that I didn't train all summer to walk on a half marathon - and I have the opportunity to crush my PR.
I take a lap at mile 12, and notice I've just dropped a 6:45 from 11-12. That's my 5k pace. Wow. I keep moving. I have exactly one person pass me from 6.5 on, and he looks fantastic - beyond that, it's me catching people, and passing them. Short strides on the hills, recover on the top, pick it up on the bottom.
I come in to the finish, and pick up on the last stretch - nothing crazy, but nice and strong. I cross the line, and I've just mowed my 1:39:15PR from Moab in the spring down, with a 1:35:15, a 4 minute improvement.
20 seconds later, 'Joe' the 67 year old crosses the line, too. I congratulate him as well. It turns out that a 1:35 in this race gets you 94th out of 450 or so - 1:09s have been turned in, there are 60 year olds running 1:28s, 82 year olds running sub-2 hours. Just when you think Boulder is uber-competitive, you find another pocket of humbling, elite runners.
All in all, a well-executed race. I feel that the training items that specifically helped were:
- 'Overage' miles - I felt like I was doing a 'marathon-lite' training for the half, and was bumping 15, 16 miles during the training. This makes a huge difference for me for endurance.
- Tempo miles - Matt gave us some freedom on the longer runs to mix in faster miles, and I feel this also made a difference.
- Hills - I always appreciate the hills, and though i don't appreciate it in the moment, any time we can do low-recovery, high-intensity hills, it helps me out. We've had some sessions where we take our time in the recovery part of the interval - I'd like to see less of this, as the 'drill sergeant' approach hills makes a huge difference, IMO.
- Taking extra care in the 2 weeks prior to the race, and deliberately shortening my taper by ~ 1 week. This made a huge difference for me.
- High altitude running - back at Labor Day, when I probably should've been using our recovery week, I instead went and ran about 26 miles in 3 days at 8000+ ft. I followed it up a week later with an 8000 ft. 10k at half-marathon pace. I feel like this made a huge difference, as well. Perhaps we could find ways to mix higher altitude training in from time to time (meet at Magnolia, for example, on a Saturday)?
Thanks to all for another great season with FF! I'll see you again in the spring.
I learned today that it’s not about the time, it is about the accomplishment.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Kirsten's Denver Marathon Race Report 10/18/09
I learned today that it's not about the time, it is about the accomplishment.
What a great day to run my first marathon. The weather was perfect, I slept well the night before and my body felt fresh and ready thanks to the taper. My goal was a 4 hour marathon, which I knew was a stretch but I wanted to try. This was after all, the only marathon I will ever run due to my old basketball knees. I felt great and I was right on track through mile 19. It was great to see co-workers at mile 12 and my family at mile 13 & 15. I got to run with fellow F4 group runner, Michael Long for miles 13 & 14 which was uplifting to have someone familiar around me. At mile 16 I went past the F4 aid station and yelled to Jen who was very busy handing out water/Gatorade. At mile 18 I had a friend waiting to run with me. I knew I would need someone to get me through Washington Park miles since I was basically running alone by then. She just kept me company and I would look at her feet to remind me that my cadence was getting too slow. During this time my pace slowed down by 1 minute every mile. I knew I was not going to meet my goal time, so I took a minute to use the port-o-let and I felt so much better. My family was waiting for me at mile 22, coming out of Wash. Park and by that time I started slowing by another minute p/mile. I told them to meet me at the finish because I needed to focus on getting to the finish line. The next couple of miles were really hard and I just told myself to just keep running, do not walk. At mile 25 I started feeling weird and Liz, who had done the 1/2 marathon, was on the course at mile 25.5. I was barely running at this point and told her that I was starting to feel light-headed so she stayed with me. (Thank you Liz!) I started walking and weaving all over the road. Liz had to catch me a couple of times. When I was 200 meters from the 26 mile marker, I told Liz that I was going to pass-out. I have bonked once before and knew what was coming. I told myself in 2002 that I would never do that to my body again because it was a scary experience and can turn into a serious medical issue. I struggled with the decision to just walk the final 1/2 mile or stop and take care of myself. I would have finished sometime before 4:30. Instead I spent 25 minutes on the sidewalk laying down and getting water, gels and electrolytes in me. I still wanted to finish and my husband had to adamantly tell the EMT's that I was not going with them. Liz and Gwen took care of me and walked by my sides until the last 200 meters to the finish. I held my girls hands for those last steps and finished with them at my side.
As my sore body sits down and reflects on the race I think about the words I used to describe myself on the first day of training with Coach Scott Gurst and our running group. (What a great group and coach!) I said that I was "goal oriented". Without the goal of doing a race, I tend not to work out. Without an aggressive goal, I tend not to train hard enough. As I passed through mile 19 and realized my time goal was out of reach, I just thought about finishing. It?s funny how you train towards something for 4 months and then realize that getting to that finish line is just as important. When I sat down on the sidewalk, it was probably the clearest decision I had made in the last 4 miles. I chose my health over my time goal. My finishing time was 4:51:29, but as you know, it doesn't tell the whole story. My friends and co-workers reminded me today that yesterday was all about the accomplishment.
Final Race Weekend Tips
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Thanks to Coach Scott G for these very helpful final tips for those F4 athletes racing this weekend in Denver, Moab, or Humboldt:
We have traveled a long distance together, my friends. In fact, if you've done most of the workouts, I estimate you've probably run between 200 and 250 miles since we first met back in June. And a good portion of those miles were uphill. J
As you know, however, having done all that training does not guarantee success on race day. All the training does is stack the odds in your favor, and increase your potential for success on race day. But now that you have the potential, can you turn that potential into concrete success? Put another way, you've painstakingly worked to plant the seeds, foster the growth of the trees, and harvest the lemons. Now, can you make lemonade?
Bobby McGee often says that on race day, 90% of athletes race below their potential, 9% race at their potential, and 1% actually race above their potential. The difference between your potential and where you actually perform is what sport psychologists refer to as "performance loss". The factors that can contribute to performance loss are, among others:
Leading up to the race
- Poor nutrition
- Poor hydration
- Too much stress
- Not being fully rested
On race morning
- Not eating proper breakfast
- Not eating far enough in advance of start time
- Stress of getting prepared and getting to start on time
- Improper warm-up
- Going out too fast
- Not sticking to race plan (or not having one)
- Poor nutrition
- Poor hydration
- Being overdressed, underdressed
- Negative attitude
- Unnecessary stress
- Lack of belief in oneself
- Lack of toughness
Obviously, there are others. The challenge is to do everything you can to eliminate as many of these as you can, if not all of them. If you eliminate all of them, you should be able to run to your full potential, which is a great feeling. There's nothing better than finishing a race and knowing that you couldn't have done it any better. In fact, success on race day is more about removing obstacles to the great race that's already inside you, waiting to be released. Your main concern over the next few days should not be whether you are capable of running well. Your main concern should be eliminating anything that might stand in the way of that happening. So, with that in mind, here are some thoughts on things you might want to consider over the next few days to help you be in the top 10%, those that perform to, or even above their potential on race day.
The Next Few Days
Really pay attention to what you put into your body. You've tuned it up really well, and it's like a race car waiting for the green flag to drop. But it won't be able to perform if you put low grade fuel (food) into it over the next few days, and don't keep it lubricated (fluids). Even one bad meal in the next few days could cost you. So really be diligent. If everyone is going out tomorrow from the office to have Twinkies and deep-fried lard, you might want to politely excuse yourself. Everything you eat and drink for the next few days is fuel for your race. Choose the high-octane stuff.
Likewise, hydrate well over the next few days. Keep a bottle nearby, and continue to sip throughout the day. By race morning, you should be peeing clear and copiously.
Try to do everything you can to go into the race well rested. The purpose of the tapering period is to allow you to be completely healed and recovered from all the workouts. Resist the temptation to do anything that will jeopardize that. Now is not a good time to be pulling weeds, going to the rock gym, moving your barbells up to the attic, pulling the transmission on your pick-up, painting the house, hiking Sanitas, going for long bike rides, etc. Make smart choices, and certainly avoid the temptation to get in one last hard workout. It definitely won't help, and will probably hurt. Save your energy. You'll need it.
The Night Before
Do as much of your race preparation as possible the night before your race. Set out everything you'll need so you won't have to go on a frantic scavenger hunt in the morning. Put on your race clothes to make sure you have everything. Pin on your number. Set out your bottles and food. Clear the memory on your watch. Make sure you have your Body Glide, sun block, and anything else you'll need. The idea is that you should be able to wake up the next day and have everything prepared. Have a good healthy dinner on the early side, which will help you get to bed early. Set two alarms, and leave yourself 15 minutes more than you think you'll need to get to the start. As you go to sleep, visualize success on race day.
When you wake up, smile. It's race day! Take a moment, and a deep breath before you get out of bed.
Your morning meal should be completed at least two hours before start time. This will give your body the proper amount of time to digest and process the food. If you eat less than two hours before start time, you run the risk that there will still be blood in your stomach processing your food. If you start running before this process is complete, you force your body to choose between sending blood to your stomach to process your food, or to you legs to help you run. Either way, you lose. Note that it's OK to have a very light snack about 10-15 minutes before the start to top off the tank.
Before you leave your room, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that you've done enough.
At The Start
In the time leading up to the start, stay relaxed and focused. Immediately terminate any negative thoughts that might pop up. Stay away from anyone who is spewing negative, self-doubting BS, or complaining about one thing or another to excuse themselves in advance for not having a good day. Decide that regardless of what comes up, there is nothing that can knock you off center. Be the person that everyone looks at and thinks to themselves, "There's someone who is really relaxed and confident ..."
After The Gun
Settle into your pace as soon as possible. Ignore the madness that is going on around you. As people run by you, remind yourself that you there's a pretty good chance that they don't know what they're doing. More importantly, remind yourself that is doesn't matter. You have a plan, and nothing is going to sway you from doing what you need to do.
Pay attention to the things that matter and are under your control, and ignore the things that don't matter, or are out of your control. Stick religiously to your nutrition and hydration plan. Continue to check in with yourself with respect to your form. Are you relaxed? Are you holding tension? Is your cadence good? By running with good form, you make the whole task easier, and increase the chances that you'll have a lot left for the push at the end.
Each mile marker, check your splits, and remind yourself that it's all "excellent"! J
Look forward to the more challenging parts of the race. You've probably trained more than anyone on the hills, and they are to your advantage. Remember to push through the crests of the hills, continuing your effort for a few more strides as you go over the top.
At The Finish
If you've run a good race in an attempt at a challenging goal, you might experience a bit of discomfort as you near the end of the race. This is natural, and not a sign that something is wrong. Know that you can handle it, as you've had plenty of practice. Think of the discomfort as an old friend. Continue to ask yourself, "After all I have been through over the past 17 weeks, after all the work I have done, am I willing to do just a little more? Am I willing to push for just a few more minutes?"
As you approach the finish line, regardless of whether or not it has been a good race for you, allow the last 100 yards to be a celebration. Resolve to cross the finish line with a big smile on your face, and your arms in the air, because every finish line is cause for celebration. There most likely come a time in the future when you will not have the ability to do things like this any more. Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is not a trivial accomplishment, and one that most people that walk this earth will never experience. Whether or not you think you did it well, it is still cause for celebration, because one day, you will look back on that moment as one of the times when you were at your very best. If you want to pick apart your race, wait a few minutes until after it's over. But during those last few yards, focus only on what you have accomplished, not what you have not. Remember, it's not just the end of a race, it's a milestone on a much bigger journey.
Hope that helps. Have a great race!