As usual, the 2016 Pittsburgh marathon was a great race, with a great atmosphere, great crowd support, tough hills, and lots of awesome runners. I am happy with the outcome, though it is not exactly everything I wanted.
Thanks to a bit of rain, the temperature could not have been any better. The race started in the high 40s and never got past the low 60s.
My hotel was only a couple of blocks from my corral entry, which means I got to use a fancy bathroom instead of standing in the porta-potty line.
Most of the race I was close to some runners sporting Penn State gear, which means we got some “We are”s from the crowd.
I love the super-heavy Runner of Steel finisher medal.
More importantly, I felt strong most of the race. I made it to mile 22 at my target BQ pace, and I got a 20 min (!) PR.
What about the hundreds of miles logged since you first signed up? How about all the miles you’ve run since you put on a pair of sneakers and went around the block for your first run? How about those times you managed to complete your long run instead of calling a taxi to get you back home? How about that last set of squats you got in after you were already beat? How about those laps at the track when you beat OR after PR with no one watching? How about all those times you ran under the scorching sun, or against merciless wind, or endured brutal cold? How about those times you set your alarm at ungodly times because that was the only way to make your workout fit in? How about those times you hit the gym after a hard day’s work when all you wanted to do is sit on the couch? How about those times you told your friends you couldn’t go out because you had a long run next day? Or you went out but drank water most of the night? Or actually had a few beers but still managed to wake up and pull through a tough workout totally hungover?
It would be an awful injustice to say that these are not part of the marathon. Sure, only the last workout, the last 26.2 miles get timed, but all the rest of the workouts and miles are just as important for the final outcome.
Today, I did 26.2 miles at Pittsburgh to complete another training cycle. I didn’t manage to get my BQ, but I did get a 20 min PR and got close enough to my BQ standard to know that it is possible. Qualifying to Boston is no longer a dream, now it is a goal. My first marathon in the fall will be a flat and fast course, and I will run the whole thing, not just the last 26.2, with Boston in mind.
I’ll post a detailed race recap later on as soon as my legs stop throbbing
This is it!! Just one week before the big day! Instead of describing my super boring taper-week workouts, I decided to write about my plan for race day. One of my 5 planned steps to try to improve my marathon time drastically was to run a smarter race. Last year I decided to improvise, I started too fast, and I ended up hitting the wall before mile 16. This tim I know the course, I have my experience, and I have a plan.
First, I divided the course into 8 sections: the pack, the bridges, south side, the awful climb, rolling hills, the grind, back down, and the last stretch. From my experience doing the full marathon last year and the half marathon two years ago, I sort of know what to expect from each section. So, I have several plans with target paces for each section. I made several plans so that I can make adjustments on race day. The most ambitious plan has me crossing the finish line in 3:01:33 and qualifying to Boston, the most conservative one in 3:33:27, two minutes slower than last year (I hope it doesn’t come down to that).
Before describing the plan, I’m happy to report that my new hat arrived in the mail today. Now, my marathon outfit is complete, and I am very happy with it. I am concerned it is a bit too matchy-matchy, but my wife likes how it looks and that is good enough for me. What I really love about it is how light it is (except for my Fenix 3). I was more worried about overheating than about muscle fatigue. So, I decided to ditch the compression gear. Instead, I went with super-light breathable fabrics, short socks and short shorts, and a white tank and hat to protect me from the sunlight as much as possible.
I usually train with Newton Gravity shoes or Newton Distance IIIS. For race day, I like to run with Newton Distance III (without the S) which are much lighter than the gravities, and a bit lighter than the IIIS. My hat had to be from Ciele, I just love how well they fit, and how they manage to stay dry much better than other brands. For the socks I knew I wanted Nike elites. I love these socks but I usually find it hard to justify spending $18 on a pair of socks, a marathon seems like a good excuse. For the shorts and singlet I went with Nike, just because they are the only brand I could find that sold 2″ shorts that were not black or grey.
This is it folks. Only two taper weeks remaining before the Pittsburgh Marathon. Other than a week I got the flu, and a week I had a lot of business related travel, I was very faithful to my planned schedule. I hope it was enough. Two things I know for sure: (1) it has been fun, but (2) I am so ready to take a little marathon-training break and switch to not having to do a super long run every weekend, at least for a little while.
I feel proud of my effort, but I don’t think it will be enough to qualify to Boston. I would have to run at a 7:00 pace, and I think 7:10 is a much more realistic expectation. We’ll see. I will wait until next week when my legs aren’t this sore to make a pace plan for race day.
Originally, it was supposed to be peak week. But, as usual, I had to make some adjustments along the way. With longer runs and bike rides, I haven’t had time to do as much strength work and swimming as before, which I guess it is ok at this point. Instead, I totalled close to 40 running miles, which is a lot for me. Also, I’m riding my bike everywhere now that the weather allows it.
I planned a half marathon for Tuesday and a 20+ miler for Sunday. In the end, I cut the half marathon short, and I dropped the + of my twenty miler stopping exactly when my Garmin read 20.00. As a result, I was half a mile short from doing my first ever 40 mile week. Still, I had some seriously good runs, and I am satisfied with my performance and proud of my effort.
Week 13 was as busy as it can be. But, at this point, cancelling my long run would have amounted to giving up a lot of my expectations and ruining a lot of my effort. So, I scheduled the run for the only time I could fit in in my schedule. I set up my alarm for 3:00, put on a reflective vest my wife got in Ikea, and I managed to finish my 19 miles before dawn. To be honest, I really enjoyed the last part of the run. As the sun was coming out and I was pushing the last two miles I felt like a breathing walking (running?) inspirational quote 🙂
1 year of progress
This is it, the longest run and the last really tough workout of the cycle. I’m happy I started early, because Spring suddenly arrived and the temperature was already in the high 70s by the end of my run. I felt strong for most of the run and I almost met my target time of 2 hours 30 minutes (I was short by less than 2 minutes).
The last two miles were extremely hard. So hard that I almost want to wonder whether I am ready to do 26 miles in two weeks. But I know I am, because this is not my first time around. Last year, two weeks before Pittsburgh, I did a 20 miler, almost like this one but with a couple of differences. Last year, my pace was 8:52 min/mile and not 7:32, and it was the last 4 miles that I struggled and not just the last 2. So, I know I’m ready ad excited to run Pittsburgh once again!!
The focus this week was more on strength and speed and less on distance. I ran my first race of the season: a 10 miler with a tough climb right at the beginning to prepare me for the tough climb up Mt Washington at the middle of the Pittsburgh Marathon (only one month left to go!). I’ll post the race recap later this week, for now let me just say that I managed to win my division and bring a trophy home 🙂
Monday — Mile-long swimming workout with tons of 100s
My mileage was very low this week considering that it is week 12, just 23 miles. This is partly because I did a 10 mile race instead of a longer run, partly because I wanted to rest my legs before the race so I could perform well, and partly because I am doing a lot of cross training. I hope this works out, because I have my first triathlon scheduled for June, which means that I have to start spending more time cycling and swimming 🙂
The bike ride on Thursday was particularly special. My wife had foot surgery last November, and this is the first time she is able to ride since then!! It was a bit unfortunate that it was a ridiculously windy day, which made the ride really hard, but I think she still enjoyed it. I will let her tell you the details.
I’ve been cold many times, but this is my first time getting the flu. It knocked me out for 5 days, but I think I’ve been able to make up for it and I am right back on track. Here is the summary of my last three weeks of training.
I can’t believe more than half of my training is done and there are only 6 weeks left! I am feeling mostly strong with my runs. I was very surprised my legs aren’t sore at all after an 18 mile run on Sunday. But I am not being as fast as I would like to. So, it is not clear whether I will be able to meet my BQ standard. There is still some time to try to get stronger and faster. The next three weeks are going to be tough, with 20 mile long runs, and an extremely hilly local race.
As the training intensifies, my legs are starting to feel fatigued. So, I’ve been reading a lot about heavy legs and I decided that my legs needed some rest, and some long easy-pace runs. That was my focus for this week. I cancelled one of my scheduled runs, and I slowed down my pace. Also, I did my first brick workout of the season looking forward to my first (!) sprint triathlon in June.
With my first ride of the season, a very intense long run, and two HIIT workouts, last weekend was a killer. And I could feel my legs (rightfully) complaining. So, I decided to do a little flushing, with long low-intensity intervals to freshen up my muscles. First thing I did is schedule a rest day for Tuesday, and cancel an easy run I had scheduled for Friday. Also, I replaced a scheduled tempo run with an easy pace five miler. Finally, I slowed down my pace for my long run on Sunday to 7:49 mins per mile instead of my 6:50-7:05 pace from previous weeks. I hope this flushing pays off. Next week I plan to bring the focus back to speed.
A so-called “brick” consists of a full bike workout followed immediately by a full run workout; in other words, it’s a session in which each part could stand alone as a complete workout
I’ve only attempted to do two brick workouts before this season, and I haven’t been very successful. The first time, my legs felt completely exhausted after I started running and had to walk half the way (some people say that this feeling is the reason why they are called “brick workouts”). The second time it didn’t really count because I did a stationary bike workout instead of an actual ride. So, I guess this week I did my first successful brick workout ever!
I chose to do an approximate sprint-distance brick with a 12.6 mile ride followed by a 3.0 mile run. I managed to keep my transition in under 4 minutes. Which is not bad considering I had to walk up to my apartment to change my shoes, leave my bike, get out of my thermal clothes (winter wind on the bike is no joke), and kiss my wife. In fact, I did much better than I expected. It looks like I will definitely be able to finish my first triathlon (scheduled for June) in under 1:30, and maybe even under 1:15.
Menu of the week
Mexican-style steaks and lentils
Baked pork chops with mashed sweet potatoes and arugula salad