March 26, 2009

Marathon Analysis and NEW New Schedule

Thanks to the guys who made comments on my Napa Valley and new training posts.
Good advice and I will take it into account.

After looking at many of the Namban Rengo runners' splits from the Tokyo Marathon, I decided to figure out my Napa splits per 5k rather than just miles. (By the way, the constant pattern was slower from 25k, even slower from 30k and much slower from 35k. Well, this is hardly news, but it shows that all of us suffer from a combination of not enough long/hard training and setting our sights (pace) too high. It just shows that one or both of those factors HAS to be addressed in order to run a good (and enjoyable) marathon. Maybe setting reasonable goals is the approach more likely to I should have targeted 3:05 instead of 3:00.)

Anyway, my 5k splits were:
21:16 / 21:23 / 21:41 / 22:12 / 21:56 / 22:20 / 23:09 / 24:21 / 11:28 — 3:09:58

Now here's what's interesting. Here are my splits from Tokyo one year ago:

21:18 / 21:19 / 21:58 / 22:15 / 22:26 / 22:32 / 23:03 / 24:00 / 10:58 — 3:09:53

And Tokyo two years ago:

23:12 / 21:31 / 22:06 / 22:56 / 22:48 / 23:01 / 23:43 / 23:54 / 10:20 — 3:13:35

So I did not improve this year, and compared to two years ago, my last 7k is much worse!
Which I guess means there is something to be said for starting out slowly.

One year ago, my goal was 3:06 (22:05/5k). I started too fast, but was on pace through 35k.
This year, my goal was 3:00 (21:15/5k) and I was on pace for 5k — obviously an unreasonable goal. However, I was again on pace for a 3:06 through 35k. Maybe if I had started more slowly I could have finished better (or maybe not - my legs were really in bad shape).

But how about pre-race training volume?
In the 7.5 months before Napa Valley (from start of training to start of final 2-week taper) I ran 2,644km (average 352km/month).
In the 7.5 months before the other two, I ran 2,034 and 2,035 (271km/month).
So the extra 600km did nothing for me. Also, in the 7.5 months before Napa, while I of course did more long runs, I did fewer "hard" runs (don't have time to work out the exact numbers, but looking at the log that seems to be the case).
(Another factor is that a lot of the distance was in July, August and Sept., after which I fell off a lot, which is far from the ideal pattern.)

So what does that mean? I think it means that first, an extra 80k a month (from 67 to 88k a week / 41 to 54 miles) is not enough to make a difference. I don't think even 100k a week would make a difference. I would have to get up to, as Joachim and others have said, at least 120k/73miles a week. However, I cannot run that much without injury. The three months I did averaging 115k/week resulted in my knees starting to shred (sharp pains followed by constant soreness). Even though ALL of that was at an easy pace.

The second conclusion is that 67k a week (as in the previous 2 years) even with hard runs, is also not enough.
So that leaves me with finding a mean at 90k/55 miles a week, and doing as much of that as possible at a hard pace. Which is what I came up with in the last post!
And I agree with Steve that I will have to work into that, not just start banging out hard 90k weeks.

I also had a brainstorm and modified the previous training schedule. The problem is that having to do intervals every Wednesday night makes a 7-day cycle very difficult. My previous ideas were 2 days off a week or 3 days off a week. 3 off would make the other 4 days too tough, but I would like to get an occasional 2 days in a row of rest. So the answer is: a 14-day cycle! To wit:
Wed - am 12k, pm 8k   Easy   Hard
T - 15  H
F - Off
S - 15 H
S - 25 H
M - Off
T - 15 E
W - 12, 8  E  H
T - Off
F - 15 H
S - 15 E
S - 30 H
M - Off
 T - Off

This results in 7 hard runs, 4 easy runs and 5 rest days. Also no more 30+k runs, which I used to do a lot of. The hard components have to be worked out, but "hard" does not mean blasting 15k from beginning to end. Workouts like 5 moderate, 5 x 1000m, 5 moderate.
The first week is 90k, the second week is 80k. And every 4th week I will cut back the last two runs to 10 and 15k, so that week will be 60k. That gives me 320k per 28 days, or about 340k per month, which is good but not excessive, I think.
This won't start until mid-May, but I love to plan ahead. 
Sounds good?

March 15, 2009

New Training Program

Having taken two weeks off after Napa, I feel ready to think about, if not implement, a new training program. I said I would post one and not wanting to disappoint my thousands of readers, will do so. In fact, the implementation will not start for quite a while, since I will be running with the track team at ASIJ (American School In Japan) until mid-May, which makes any reasonable training program impossible. The week (with ASIJ kids) will be something like:
Mon: 12k run (6k moderate pace, 6k very fast pace, if running, or trying to run, with the top boys); Tues: short intervals on track; Wed: intervals on track with club (not running hard); Thurs: short intervals on track; Fri: rest; Sat: rest (watching track meets); Sun: 24k easy. Some days will be adjusted due to work demands. 
Definitely not a marathon training program, or even a half or 10k program. But I like running with the kids so I'll just do it for fun and as preparation for real training to begin on May 17.

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, the reason for a new program is that my legs were dead the last 10k of the marathon. Hence I need stronger legs (or a slower pace, but we won't go there). My feeling is that my legs cannot handle the stress of a fast pace for long distances (half as well as full marathon). So I need to stress them more, and that means more hard runs, not more long, slow runs.
   This theory is backed by two pieces of "evidence." The first is Hosaka-san, the Japanese guy who broke the world record for 60 year olds last February with an astounding 2:36:30. Brett Larner of japanrunningnews.blogspot interviewed him for Running Times (be sure to read it in the June or July issue). Hosaka's training is quite amazing. He does not do long runs. He does 10k in the morning and 20k in the afternoon, each of which includes 5 x 1k of fast intervals. He does this every single day. This is a "hard runs" program taken to the extreme. Of course, normal human beings can't do this, but the theory is valid, and he is the proof. You could say he is doing long distance, since he runs 210k (126 miles) per week, but the point is, he doesn't do any long runs, or easy runs.
   The second is an article in the latest issue of Peak Running Performance, a newsletter I highly recommend (google it), which talks about the two theories of marathon training: LIM (Less Is More) and MIB (More Is Better). LIM is followed by the Hanson-Brooks team, among others (actually I think most Kenyans favor quality over quantity). The Hanson guys don't do any runs over 16 miles (25k). The point is, LIM is an accepted marathon training method, which I have now embraced. With the understanding that you do most runs hard.
   As for weekly distance, I have settled on 90k (55 miles). I don't think you can run a decent marathon on less than 90k a week, and I don't want to run more than that, so 90k it is (with occasional easy weeks, depending on how I feel).
   The program looks like this:

Tues:  15k. Average pace, including very short hill sprints (5, working up to 10). Got this from a Brad Hudson article in the March Running Times. Napa runner Sky also mentioned doing these.
Wed:  AM - 12k average pace. Evening - intervals on the track, typically 6 x 1000m, run at 5k race pace (VO2 max).
Thurs: 15k hard. Could be 3k-5k intervals, or progression (each 3k or 5k faster), or 5 hard 1Ks in the middle, or LT (half marathon) pace for 10k.
Fri:  Rest (cross training).
Sat:  15k - same as Thursday.
Sun: 25k at a good pace. Or 18k hill workout (Trail thru the woods at Ome - continual up/down with many steep sections - want to do this about every 3 weeks).
Mon: Rest
So that is 90k and for me, it is a pretty tough week. But if it feels tough, I just have to think of Hosaka.

Alternatively, it could be:
Wed:  AM 10k, PM 8k
Thurs: 18k (16 hard)
Fri:     Off
Sat:     24 (16 hard)
Sun:    AM 10k, PM 20K
Mon & Tues: Off
Probably not as good, because I lose the hills on Tuesday and Sunday would be kind of brutal.

Any comments welcomed.

March 9, 2009

Running and Wining — The Napa Valley Marathon and Post Race Tasting

We arrived in Napa on Saturday afternoon. My support team consisted of my wife Eiko, daughter Jennifer and friends Dennis and Linda from Mt. Vernon, north of Seattle, who came to cheer me on and go wine tasting with us. We first went to the race expo in Napa so I could check in. Had my Namban shirt on and the guy in back of me in line said he was going to Tokyo in 3 weeks, so he may show up on a Wednesday night. Walked around to check out the booths and at one Dean Karnazes was selling books and signing autographs. Got him to sign my number.
   He's not as big as he looks in photos, but is even more muscular. An impressively fit guy.
   Then caught sight of an Austin marathon t-shirt, so said, Are you Michael? And it was—blogger friend Michael who had run Austin just two weeks before (12 months 12 races). It was great to meet and talk to him.
   Then drove 9 miles north to Yountville to the Railway Inn. The rooms, which were very nice, were formerly boxcars. In bed at 9:00 since had to be back down in Napa at 5:00 to take the bus 26 miles north to the start in Calistoga (home of Calistoga water). Set the alarm for 3:00 but woke up at 2:30. Weather had been ok on Saturday, but the forecast for Sunday was rain. No rain when I woke up so I thought I might luck out, but it started raining a little after 3:00 and was raining steadily, although not really hard, by 5:00. Decided to wear half tights over my shorts to prevent chaffing. That was painful 2 years ago in Tokyo in the rain. Need the shorts because they have a large pocket in the back to hold five gels. Also put in some rock salt to suck on to prevent cramps (which is what slowed Ritzenheim in the Olympic marathon, after which he said he needed more salt/electrolytes). I did suck on it twice, don't know if it helped, but it's not too pleasant because your mouth gets, well, very salty.
   Back to the weather, it was also chilly, about 10° (50°F) or less, but the rain and a slight wind made it feel colder. Stayed on the warm bus for a while, then jogged a bit from 6:30. Went to the start and immediately met blogger friend Sky (Annadelrunner), whose long hair made him easy to spot. He was with two friends, Ron and Ted. Sky and Ron were aiming for sub-3, Ted for about 3:00, so was happy to have someone to run with. As it happened, I only stayed with them for 3-4 miles. Ron went on to run 2:54, Sky 2:56 and Ted 3:06.
   As for the race itself, my goals were: 1) win my age group (60-64), 2) break the age group record (3:04:55 I think), 3) run about 3:00. Ended up doing only the first. 
   The course runs down the Silverado Trail from Calistoga to Napa. Vineyards on both sides most of the way, although in winter they are just brown sticks. The hillsides on both sides were green though...a pleasant place to run. The road had some ups and downs, but no killer hills. There were a lot of curves, though, and they were annoying because the road slants on the curve. You can run in the middle, but naturally you want to cut the curve so you are running on an angle frequently, then have to make your way back to the middle. I don't like that, I like a flat road. American roads are annoying like that.
   No kilometer markers, just miles, but as it turned out, I liked that. Why? There are less of them! You only have to get through 26 markers, as opposed to 42. Believe it or not, that helps psychologically, because after halfway in a marathon, even a kilo is long, so a mile is not that much different mentally. I kept aiming for 20 miles, after which I knew I had only "6" to go. Better than aiming for 30k, after which you still have "12" to go.
   Here's my race, mile by mile. (A 3-hour marathon is 6:51/mile)

1   7:06  Did not want to go out too fast.
2   6:35  First mile was a bit slow, so caught up to Sky and Ron.
3   6:55  Now on pace.
4   6:41  About here, I think, started running with a guy named Alvin who wanted to run as close to 3:00 as possible. We ran side by side and chatted, which was relaxing.
5   6:53
6   7:06  Slowed a bit to take gel and drink.
7   6:54
8   7:01  A bit slow, but figured I could live with this pace.
9   7:02
10  7:05
11  7:08
12  7:24  Slowed for gel and drink. Alvin stopped for a toilet break...too bad. He finished in 3:13.
13  6:48  To make up time. Halfway (13.1) about 1:31:27.
14  7:16   Running alone.
15  6:57
16  7:15
17  7:30  Stopped to take gel and drink.
18  6:50  Picked up pace, got in a "zone."
19  7:18  Out of zone.
20  7:34  Stopped to take gel and drink. Following a guy for next two miles.
21  7:29  Legs hurting (upper thighs and calves).
22  7:26
23  7:50  Slowed to take gel and drink. Legs hurting more. Running alone.
24  7:58  Legs really hurting.
25  7:52  Trying to pick up pace (without much success).
26  8:08  Trying to finish.
For a 3:09:58. (Second half: 1:38:21)
First in 60-64 age group. 5th fastest all time (31 years) in age group. 
78th overall out of 1,865. 73rd male.

Post-race analysis.
The rain did not bother me at all, although I suppose my shoes got heavier so might have slowed me down some. It was colder than I would have liked, hands were cold, but not really a factor. (The arm warmers were great. These are very popular in Japan, don't know why they have not yet caught on in America.) There was a slight headwind (Ted even commented on it while passing me at about 14 miles after a toilet break...too bad I could not stay with him). It didn't really bother me, but might have slowed me down some.
   So why did my legs give out, again, as they did a year ago in Tokyo, causing me to run almost exactly the same time? From July to September I  put in 3 months of long distance to strengthen my legs, and in fact my quads were stronger...they did not hurt at all. (My hamstrings and knees  were also ok, feet were ok too, the Brooks Ghost were good.) This time it was my upper thighs and calves, especially the left calf. I just could not pick up my legs properly the last 6 miles.
   I think there were two causes. The first is that the 3:00 goal was unreasonable. I should have been aiming for 3:05 and maybe could have held that pace. Interestingly, the March Running Times has a piece on race predictors. 2:24 marathoner Kevin Beck says you should be able to run 2/3 to 3/4 of your race distance at goal pace in a non-race (no tapering) situation. I think this is true, and before Napa, I could not do that. I could not even do it for 22k, much less 28 or 32.
   The second cause was that my legs were not "tough" enough. I didn't stress them enough in training with repeated hard runs. Really hard runs. Long, slow distance training is not enough to hold a "fast" pace for an entire marathon, even with quite a few race-pace runs. (Unless, possibly, you really do a LOT of distance, which I cannot do because my body can't handle it.) Actually, runners in their 20s, 30s and 40s may well have strong enough legs to hold a good pace, but after 50 you lose musculature, so you can't get away without really working the legs, I think. So the new training program (wait for it!) will have less distance but lots of hard runs and some 10k races.
And now for the post-race festivities.
After a hot shower, I was ready for wine, so we picked St. Supery, on a friend's recommendation. Nice place, although they only have a do-it-yourself tour. The wine was good but not outstanding, although surprisingly, we all liked their dessert wine, Moscati, a lot.
   We then decided to try champagne, so went to Mumm Napa. Good choice. The tour is very good, fun and interesting. You really understand champagne when you are finished. You then do your tasting at tables in a room with a nice view. Much nicer than standing at a typical tasting bar, and your tour guide turns into a waiter/waitress, explaining each bottle. You order in groups of three, so doing comparisons is easy. Very nice experience.
   That evening we drove to Petaluma and joined my friend Maggie, who used to live in Japan, and her husband Brad for dinner at a good restaurant called Grafitti.
   Monday: Yountville is the home of what is generally considered to be the best restaurant in America, the French Laundry, run by Thomas Keller, generally considered to be the best chef in America. You need 6 months to get a reservation there, but he has two other restaurants in Yountville, Ad Hoc and Bouchon. The latter was two minutes from the Railway Inn, so we went for lunch and got in before the crowd, securing a table for five. The food was...excellent. As was the service. A wonderful dining experience.
   We then went to Frog's Leap winery, which had been closed on Sunday, but which was very highly recommended by a knowledgeable friend of Jennifer's. He was right...the place is great. The tour, by reservation and limited to small groups, had a nice personal touch—you get to know your tour guide and the other people. It begins in a nice house, where you drink your first wine at a table and hear about the winery's history and winemaker. You then go out and tour the grounds, drinking the other wines as you go. Unlike most other places, you can go right down into the cellar, touch the barrels, move out of the way of the workers (That's Julio. Hi, Julio!) and generally have a good time. It even ends on a fun note, which I will not reveal. And the wine is VERY good. Be sure to put Frog's Leap on your next Napa itinerary.

So...if you're thinking about a marathon in the U.S., I highly recommend Napa Valley. Usually, the weather is good. And the wine is always good. I may even go back and try to get that age group record.