It’s here. Normally I would say “finally,” but training for the Shamrock Half Marathon this winter has been the best training I’ve done in a long time. In a way, it’s sad to be over. In another way, though, this is like training before training with the Richmond Marathon later this year. Or maybe something bigger before then — that’s not a decision I will make right now. My focus in Shamrock.
And go figure that at the end of this “season” that I’m starting it like I did Jan. 1 — with a cold. This one isn’t nearly as bad and I think allergies might be attributing to it. It’s just kind of weird that in the moment I let my mind and body rest, I get a cold. Last week I took my first two-day break in almost two months and it happens. I know the body needs rest and I will always, always, always rest up when I need to. But I’m just mad.
Assuming that this is a normal cold and by week’s end it’s gone, my focus for Shamrock will be like it always is — to do the best I can possibly do. Last year was the most satisfying Shamrock I’ve done. Two years ago was the most disappointing ever. Three years ago was the biggest surprise ever with a sub 1:45 time. My goal since that race has been to beat that time, but my training just hasn’t been there like it should be. Whether I did enough this year or not will be answered on Sunday.
My approach to this race is simple — don’t get caught up with the speeders at the beginning, make my first mile or two the slowest, get in a good pace for the middle miles and then figure out at mile 10 if I can do it or not. If it’s realistic, I’ll go for it. If it’s not, I won’t hurt myself trying to do something crazy.
Eight weeks of double digit runs in a row. EIGHT. I’m pretty sure for the previous half marathons I’ve done, the most I did was two. MAYBE three. Certainly not eight.
Tonight is the unofficial end to training for the Shamrock Half Marathon. Sure I’ll have a few more runs in the next week and a half, but they’ll be more for maintenance and keeping my body feeling normal. No more big hills; no more attempts at running fast; and certainly nothing more than a few miles. It’s time to rest.
Tonight’s run felt tough, but my friend and I hit some bigger hills than we anticipated. Maybe these final hills will help shave a few seconds off our time. Otherwise, it was a nice run to just recap this crazy winter of training. Oddly enough, we were wearing short sleeves and shorts, and were sweating like it was early summer. After battling the cold, wind, snow and rain, it was fitting that we had to battle the “heat” of 50 degrees or so tonight.
Last week at this time, I was pumped for having the longest run in a long time. Tonight, it’s the best-feeling long run in what feels like forever. For the seventh straight week my friend and I put in a solid double digit run. Tonight’s 10-miler included a 5k in 24:57 after already running 4 miles. We were both pretty pumped about having such a solid time on a hilly course.
Overall we were under a 9-minute mile pace. Doing the math of what I’ve done before and what generally works for me with training runs vs. race pace, I’m on target for a PR. I haven’t gotten carried away this winter with those thoughts, but I can’t see a reason not to go for it this year.
We’ll likely get in one more 10-miler next week before the Shamrock Half, which is 17 days away. From this point on, many of my runs will likely be fairly easy. All that’s left is some weight issues that I’m not going to stress about.
In my nearly three years I have been blogging, I end February the same way — I talk about how great it was. But in those two Februarys, there’s been a key element missing: a good January. When preparing for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March, I’ve only put together two good solid months to start the year, and that came before I started blogging. So while a great February is good in words, it hasn’t translated well to race day. Yes, I’ve been satisfied overall with my races, but in the end I’ve been somewhat disappointed too. February is key to having Shamrock go well; two good months though set me up for the rest of the year. And in 2007 — the year of my marathon — things for the most part went well until the very end of the year. That includes the PR in Shamrock.
I know that’s a drawn-out way to explain how I feel at the end of this month, but things are just different these days. Oddly enough, I’m not overly focused on the Shamrock Half — that race is just part of what I hope to be my best running year yet. At the end of 2009 there was a lot of talk from me and others on making 2010 the best year ever from many standpoints, and so far not many people are actually following through. The New Year hype got a lot of people like usual, but not me.
Following running more than 75 miles in January, I followed February up with 92.5 miles. My mileage for the year is more than 30 miles more than this point last year. More importantly though is the quality of these miles. I had four double-digit runs around hilly Bedford, all in a pace around 9 minutes a mile. I’ve had some faster shorter runs than usual too. I’ve kept things mixed up, rather than stale one-pace-only runs, which is the trap I have fallen into in recent years.
Also this month I’ve had to battle the elements — cold, snow. sleet, rain, wind … ice-covered sidewalks have made many runs a battle. This will very likely be one of the top 5 coldest Februarys around here. At least the weather has been consistent, but I’m pretty tired of it. I keep thinking that if I can do this well when it’s this cold, imagine how great it will be once it’s warmer.
As I look ahead, I have some changes coming for March. With my diet, there are some things I need to do to lose more weight. Things have been up and down all year, but I’m now at just a little more than 4 pounds down for the year. At this pace, I would be where I want to be by the summer, but I need to do more in the next few weeks. I’ll save that for another post. I also know I need to get back into cross training. That will happen, but I’m just pumped about where my running is right now. I also plan to do the 100 push-ups challenge sometime. My elbow gave me some trouble earlier this month and I decided then to just hold off on this program until I get over that disappointment. I need to do that when it feels new again. The try, re-try pattern is frustrating, so I just wanted to back away for a while.
While things are going great right now, I know I need to not settle on things. I need to continue to run harder, stronger and longer. There is no such thing as being too focused when it comes to running and my health. January and February have only been a good start to what I think is unlimited potential.
I haven’t met a runner yet who doesn’t love the phrase “longest run ever” or “longest run since.” It’s great to hit distances that are unfamiliar. Tonight I ran 11.2 miles, which will very likely be my peak distance for training for the Shamrock Half Marathon. It’s my longest run since the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in early September, a long five and a half months ago.
Tonight’s run also kept a pretty good double-digit streak going — it was the fifth week in a row of 10 miles or more, six including the Terrapin Mountain adventure. It’s the most consistent I’ve ever been in the winter.
Another great thing about tonight is the fact that it wasn’t raining or snowing and the wind wasn’t blowing. It was wet from rain and snow earlier today, but I was able to run in shorts and I took my gloves off about half way through the run. It was the best weather for a long run since last summer.
* The cold weather snap is over! For a few days anyway. Last night was the first time all month that I’ve run in shorts and temperatures should be in the mid-50s tomorrow, actually above normal. Things aren’t looking so good in about a week though. Even if we don’t get snow again, the cold weather will be back. Rumors are already flying around about next week though being bad. I’ll speculate later and get in the miles when I can if wintry weather does return.
* Last night I had what I think was the best short run so far this year. I ran 4 miles, with 3 of them coming in about 24 minutes. It was a good pace for a training run, but it leaves me wondering how well I can actually do for a flat race next month. Three years ago my best Shamrock Half came after training on hills … but that was three years ago. I know hills make me stronger and I hope it translates into a faster time. Speed work like I want to do is hard around here, especially when every flat area available has been snow covered for so long.
* I’ve been in countdown mode this week. There’s only four weeks to go until the Shamrock Half. That seems like such a long time, but it’s not. Despite the scale not quite doing what I want, training has gone well. I’ve stayed injury free and I’ve been consistent. That sets me up well for the whole year. Speaking of the year, it seems so long away, but the Richmond Marathon is now 266 days away.
* I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m on Daily Mile. At one point I referred to it as “Facebook for runners,” but I’m beginning to think it’s more than that. Facebook is a time waster. On Daily Mile, your real and virtual friends lift you up and help hold you accountable in a respectful way. People are nice there. People don’t complain as much. Our society spends time beating people down so much, but this site is the opposite of that. If you’re a runner or an athlete I highly recommend that you check it out. It’s very easy to use and it’s an excellent place to log your workouts. Best of all, it’s free. Click on the logo above to check out my profile and add me as a friend.
* “I heard it was …” That was the talk around the office since Tuesday afternoon about the weather. The rumor in the Lynchburg area about 30 inches ran rampant, but you know what? It wasn’t too far from the truth. A few hours away it’s still snowing, and some of those areas already have 30 inches. Here we got about a half a foot of snow, a lot of sleet, some freezing rain and then another inch of snow. This afternoon it’s sunny, the roads are in great shape and the snow was pretty easy to just push off the vehicles. It’s actually kind of nice. But the softness of the snow right now will quickly change with temperatures dipping to the mid-teens the next two nights.
* Since my 10-mile struggle the other night, I’ve had two good runs. A watchless 4.1-mile journey with my dog on Thursday and then 7 miles today. Today’s run was in a light snow, through a few very lightly covered back roads. It was kind of peaceful actually.
* Running 20 miles or more a week consistently is very hard to do. Running 20 or more good miles is even harder. But for the third week in a row, I’ve done that. While I did struggle a bit the other day, I had a good week overall. For the five weeks this year I am just under 100 miles, averaging 19.68 miles a week. I might get in a short run tomorrow that would increase that even more. It’s early, but that actually has me on pace for more than 1,000 miles for the year. That’s another thought for another day though.
* I bought new shoes. (A quick shout-out to Holabird Sports for an awesome transaction even though the shoes were out of stock for a day.) I opted to stick with Brooks Ravenna (the color to the right). With this weather, though, I’ve only gotten one run in them. For this pair I vow to do a better job with counting how many miles I get in them. I haven’t been doing that much lately and I need to figure out if I’m getting good enough mileage in my shoes.
I stuck with the Ravenna line because they work well for me. I debated on whether or not to go back to Asics, but I’ve worn my previous Ravenna shoes since early September. That’s five-plus months of somewhat low mileage until recently, but they’ve been through two races, a lot of rain, over mountains, through the snow (including today) and they’re still holding up. They’ll continue to be good shoes for messy trails and bad weather for the next month or so. If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it, right? It’s no offense to Asics, but Brooks just last longer for me.
* There are six weeks and a day until the Shamrock Half Marathon. I sure hope this weather pattern changes by then. That race, by the way, sold out a while ago at 8,000 registered runners. It’s weird to say this so far out, but I’m more ready for this race than I’ve ever been. With six weeks to go, I have time on my side to get faster and stronger and put more effort into it than I ever have. The work remains, but I’m ready, eager and willing to do it. I haven’t been able to say that too confidently before.
You know when you eat something that is so good, you say “This is the best [insert food here] I’ve ever had.” (My wife loves it when I say that.) Well, in the past five weeks I have realized that I’ve made the best training decision ever for the Shamrock Half Marathon — doing my long run in the middle of the week.
With likely bad weather coming again this weekend on the heels of last week’s winter wrath, the best time to run these days has been the middle of the week. The decision in January to do long runs on Wednesday is turning out to make me look like a genius. In addition to doing it on Wednesday and getting it out of the way, I have the bonus of being more flexible with my training. If it’s awful weather on Wednesday or something else comes up, I still have four days left in the week to get my long run in. Best … training decision … ever.
So anyway, while this has been a good decision, tonight’s 10-mile run with my friend Travis was kind of bad. We’re not sure why, but it became obvious when we had a couple of miles to go and neither of us had anything to say for a half mile or so. It was cold; there was a slight breeze; we had to take alternate routes with snow and ice on sidewalks; and I think we were both hungry. That all being said, it felt kind of good to get a bad run out of the way. It’s been a while, so I was due for one.
Last night I continued my new Wednesday tradition of long runs. Earlier this month when I was planning in my head what my long runs would be to get ready for the Shamrock Half Marathon, I had hoped to be at about 8 miles this week and ideally hitting 10 miles in mid-February. But I hit 10 miles last night — my first complete double-digit run in January ever. (For the record, my 12-mile journey this past weekend will count as running miles since it was that much effort and then some, but it wasn’t 12 complete running miles. Make sense?)
It was kind of a rough run with lots of hills — around here there’s no escaping the hills unlike where I was living in Richmond. I had to dig deep the last couple of miles. My legs really didn’t want to do it, but my mind did. And last night my mind won. That usually doesn’t happen.
Then tonight I went out for a planned short and slow run with my dog. That turned into a nice 4-mile run in 35:43. Suddenly my slow pace has gotten faster, all on hills. I already wonder what I could do minus 10 pounds and on flat ground.
With tonight’s run, I passed 70 miles for the month. It’s by far the most January miles in a few years. And these have mostly been good miles on hills, in the cold, through rain, into the wind and over mountains. Quality AND quantity.
Despite this feeling of starting over, the truth is I ran enough in December that I don’t have to begin from scratch. I don’t have to have a long run of only 4 miles to kick off my training for the Shamrock Half. And last week, I set the bar high for me for early in the training process — my long run was 6 miles.
So tonight I did what I would normally do for my long run early in training — I added a mile. So with about 9 weeks to go to that race, I’m at 7 miles for my long run. I’m on pace to hit double digits in early February, rather than the end of the month. It feels great to be at this point. The quicker I can build myself up to 10 miles, the more I can focus on the quality and speed of my runs. And that’s something I haven’t been able to do in a long time.
I’m not going to get caught up in my goal of a PR just yet, but I feel like I’m well on my way to getting to where I want to be.