Monday, February 15, 2016

The 2016 US Olympic Team Trials Marathon: the inspiration is cyclical

My Sunday run was a success. It wasn't perfect, I had a couple of unplanned stops to relieve myself. Those always frustrate me, but it happens, right? The surprise upside to the 2nd stop was then deciding, stay at a controlled slow pace or chase after the 3 guys I was out there with who are now almost a minute ahead of me. I didn't want to end the run solo, I gave chase...hard.
 I have probably done about 20 runs of 2hrs 30mins or more in the past ten years of marathon training. Few of them have I walked away from feeling "okay" and feeling "not beat up" the next day. But this Sunday, despite the absurd low temperatures, I ended the last 5miles of my run like a dog off the leash. Today, I felt no worse for it.
 If I told you I wasn't inspired by watching the Olympic Trials marathon race the day before, I would be a liar. Will, Jeremy, Brandon, and I were discussing the Us Olympic Trials Marathon race somewhere along the way. Then as I knew I had ground to make up, I imagined myself the 6th man in the OT race. Running a calculated faster pace to reel in my competition and get a spot on the team. After about 1.5miles I passed Jeremy and Brandon (who were left by Will who had decided to pick it up), exchanged some words of thanks and encouragement and I kept at it. Another 1.5miles later I caught Will, he was surprised and glad I had reeled him back in. 
He asked "Do you have another 3 left in you?" 
I said "Hell yea!" 
And we stuck the fast pace until we hit 22 miles. We congratulated each other on a great effort and quickly parted ways, it was still only12 degrees by that time. It was a lot of fun to finish a run that way. Most often I have been just grinding to get the last 10-15mins finished and hating it. Not today, today was like a 17mile warmup and great 5mile tempo!
In running, I can appreciate that there are a couple of levels above my head. That greatness is an inspiration that has always been in front of me, simultaneously pulling and pushing me to new achievements. I have always looked at being "far from the best" as a built in bonus, keeps the pressure of being the one who most others expect big things from.
So, what is the inspiration for those who are the champions? The best of the best? I think the ones who keep striving to win and stay at the top level are the ones who know that Victory or any achievement becomes a memory as soon as the next newspaper is printed. As soon as the next race comes, or the talk of the next championship upcoming. So, they recognize this, enjoy the day and get ready to do it again because it is a great challenge to have repeated success or just to have the chance to compete with a field of the best.
I think they can also be inspired by those that are chasing them, competitors, training partners, or just other athletes that have the common bond of making the effort to be a great as you can be. 
You need your rivals as much as you need your teammates, because without them; what would any win or medal be worth? Who would you beat to get it? Who would it matter for?
On Saturday I was amazed to see Meb Keflezighi run with all the younger challengers and beat all but one, simply inspired to see Tyler McCandless push to the front, Tyler Pennel making his surge and leading for several miles. Jared Ward's patience and strength that ultimately led him to the 3rd spot on the team. On the Women's side, Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan working together the whole way until Flanagan began to struggle. Seeing Desiree Linden's push into 3rd and then 2nd as the race wore on in its' later miles had me on the edge of my seat. I am continually impressed by Kara Goucher's drive, running hard stuck in 4th is a mental kick in the gut. She never backed down and I think we'll see her do amazing things still!
Seeing the emotion of these Athletes in triumph or failure reminds me: They are just like me, the numbers are different but we go through it just the same. Like they say, the struggle is real.  Training for years to hopefully have a shot to run with your country's best for one of three slots into the Olympic Marathon race is a dream. I can only imagine how a runner may handle it when the outcome is sour. Many vow to come back again no matter what happens out there.
All of it is an inspiration, and makes me think "one more mile today", "three seconds faster today", "run more hills you sissy". Yeah, I say Inspiration is reflexive and cyclical, it is NOT a pyramid scheme.
Hey, I was thinkin' about it, it's 1:35am now, having sufficiently emptied my brain, I bid you a good night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

12k essential to success in long distance running

Today was my first workout of the year that I walked away feeling solidly accomplished from. Recent running has been consistent and I'm gradually putting the pieces where I want them to be. I have had a hard time plotting when I wanted "big workouts" to start for my build up for the Boston Marathon (to be my 6th, and overall my 13th). Recently losing my job has put my mind in a spin, and running often has felt like a stress break, but I haven't really drafted "a plan" other than run a little bit longer each Sunday if I feel up to it.
A lot of times, you get out there and do workouts that just feel too fast or mundane as you have run them more times than you could guess. I look at training like eating, sometimes you are hungry and want to take huge bites and devour something like a glutton. But even in those instances, if one bite is too big, it can get ugly. Going too fast on long intervals is a similar concept.
The whole workout could be going very well up to a point, and then you just get greedy. You start pushing a pace that is a little bit too fast and then you are over your Threshold. Some of us are foolish enough to stretch down from Half Marathon pace to10k pace or quicker. It's easy to let it happen, and I am pretty sure I have been guilty of this at least once. But not today! Today was brilliant, I covered 2k, 6 times, jogging 2:00-2:30 between reps (partly due to Middle Distance Runners needing to start their 200m reps without crashing into us). The slowest interval was 7:04, the fastest was 6:53.
Threshold pace shouldn't hurt that much if you are running the correct pace and taking ample recovery. Look at it like this, To run at your Threshold isn't easy running, but it has a much bigger margin for comfort and error. Small miscalculations in pace can be corrected throughout a long interval, and don't amplify as harshly when you go too fast. You may ask "Why 2k, why not 1600m, it seems long to keep going for such a while?" Because I like getting a mile split and then continuing on at the same pace, it has the hidden benefit of race day preparation. If I check my watch for "my mile", I want to imprint in my mind "good mile, keep going", over and over and over again. That is one reason, and having your head in the right place about your pacing is a damn good reason to do something.
Many inexperienced runners might be reading and asking "Wait, we run Half Marathons kinda slowly, that doesn't sound like a speed workout!" Well, don't ignore the fatigue factor kids! by the 5th and 6th interval I started to feel the pressure. For you, a similar effort might be just 2 or 3 times 2k, but try them, see what it feels like to keep on your pace for 400m longer after getting that mile split, then take your recovery of 1/3 the interval time. Total volume for these types of workouts are well explained in Daniels' Running Formula.
I had originally considered running a 7th interval, but the track had some icy spots on it, and the 6th went very well! I decided, that's it, I did work, I don't hurt right now. It's done. This workout is over. I'm a happy guy tonight.
And for your viewing pleasure: Anis runs on a relay team!
Anchoring the 4x800m B team at the Frank Colden Invitational on 2/6/16. Absolutely a rust buster, I am not a Mid-D guy! Earlier in the day I raced 3000m in 9:17, yea that was a rust buster too, working on it!