Thursday, December 1, 2016

Two Races in Hawaii in Two Weekends

Many of you might have seen images or video of me finishing up the Disneyland Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon a couple weeks ago, but in case you missed it, here is a shot of me coming through the finish line. I ran 1:09:28 that morning to break the record for fastest half marathon in a super hero costume. Some elites might look at that and think its is a bit soft, but for a little perspective I ran that at the end of a 130 mile week while in training for two other races, where I hope to break some more records.
Trying to Leap as High as I can. In a World Record Time!!

This weekend I'll be traveling to Hawaii to compete in my first trail race on a big stage. The race is the Paul Mitchell Xterra Trail World Championship in Kaneohe, HI. I have dabbled in a few trail races in Flagstaff over the past couple years, finishing 1st or 2nd in each race I ran, losing only to my Team Run Flagstaff teammates. But, again, this is the first big trail race of my career. A debut, if you want to call it that. I am very excited to see how I stack up against some of the other Top US Trail runners that have run this race in years past. The course record is 1:16:36, set by Max King. That is not an easy time considering the terrain, elevation profile, and the humidity, but I will strive to break that.

Course Map and Elevation Profile for Xterra

Looking at results and knowing how tough trail racing can be, I know I should finish anywhere in the top 3. Humidity, technical trails, and steep climbs are all elements of this race that I have trained for over the past 16 years of XC, track and road race training. I have done a couple intense climbs both in Flagstaff and in California, where I came to get a couple more days of warmer weather before flying to Hawaii, and I feeling that I am as ready as I can be for this race. And I have been wearing lots of extra clothing to get my body to adapt to running at an uncomfortable temperature. My preparations going to this race have gone well, so we should all expect a great result this weekend.

For those of you who are worried that I am making a full transition to the trails (Jim Walmsley), don't be too concerned. There will be many trail races in my foreseeable future, but immediately after I tackle the Xterra Half Marathon, I will bounce back to race the Honolulu Marathon a week later. I have a couple friends who have done this double before, and they have told me about how hard it has been for the to race well at both. However, I have no worries that my legs will be able to handle the quick turnaround, as I have done with many other races.

At The End of a Run With Stephan Shay and Epoch Restorations

This will also be my 4th marathon for this year, which is the most I have ever done in a single year. So far I am averaging 2:17:18 for my previous 3 marathons, and despite the humid conditions and coming off of the Xterra race, I am aiming to improve that average dramatically. Because this race rarely ever has good conditions for a marathon, the race is usually won between 2:14 and 2:18. Generally 1st and 5th places are pretty close together, so tactically I know that I will have to be with the leaders the whole race if I want to give myself a chance to win.

Early Morning, And Still Heat Training in CA

And that is what I have coming up for the next couple weeks. I'll update you when I can either here or on my social media pages if you are interested in tracking how things are going. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Recovered from Berlin

It is now a week after I got back from Germany and the Berlin Marathon. Today, after taking 7 days off to recover, I ran with my wife for an easy 5 miles on the trails here in Flagstaff. The run was good, we averaged 8:09/mile and my legs are feeling fatigued, but responsive. There wasn't anything that feels like it needs special attention, so I am looking forward to easing back into training over the next couple of weeks and getting my next season started.

I spent quite a bit of time after the race, on my return flights, and over this past week to reflect on my run in Berlin. I finished the marathon in 23rd place in 2:18:18. This was my 4th marathon in the past 11 months, and despite being 8 minutes slower than my main goal, this was another successful marathon attempt. The race started out very aggressive; I had a pair of pacers that were supposed to lead my group through 25k and 30k on pace for a 2:10 marathon, which is about 3:05 per kilometer. My first K was a 3:02, and I was running 7 seconds behind the pacers, with a Swedish competitor, Mikael Ekvall. 
View of my Haircut                                          Bekele Getting Ready to Crush It!
and the Start Line Stretch                                                                                              

Over the next 5k Mikael and I traded leads attempting to conservatively catch up to our pacers. During that time we were consistently hitting 3:08-3:10 per kilometer, and not making up ground on the pacers. This was fine with me as I preferred to be as relaxed as possible and let my legs warm up to a little bit quicker of a pace. Finally during the 7th kilometer I decided to pick up the pace slightly to finally reel in the pacers so Mikael and I could get pulled along as we were supposed to. We ran 3:04 to catch up and then I settled in behind them to try to let my mind shut off and just get dragged to a quick time.

If you were able to watch my 5k splits you would have seen that our pace was gradually increasing through 20k (15:44, 15:32, 15:32, 15:26). On paper that would have been perfect, however, the pace per kilometer is not accurately reflected by those splits. Unfortunately, our pacers were having trouble finding 3:05, and our pace was bouncing back and forth from 3:00 to 3:15 every other kilometer. Note: that is bouncing between 4:48 and 5:20 pace per mile. 

Mid-Race When I'm still in Contact With the Pacers

Because of this I ended up letting myself get dropped by the pacers around 20k in hopes that I would be able to set a more consistent pace on my own. Again, unfortunately, my legs were already worn down from the constant change of pace from 7k to 20k, and I started fading more and more ever few kilometers. I faded this way, got passed by quite a few runners and ended up positive splitting by about 7 minutes, going 1:05:43 for the first half and 1:12:35 for the second half. It was a bit depressing in the moment having come so far around the world to not be able to run the time that I wanted.

After the race my body was a wreck. I could hardly walk, hardly drink anything, and hardly eat. I realized that despite missing my goal, that I had pushed my body to the limit once again, and despite being in so my pain, my spirits were high knowing that I gave it my all. I was happy for Mikael to have finished in 2:13, and for Malcolm Richards who ran a PB in 2:15:10 to earn the first American spot. But, I needed to get back to my hotel so I could hide away in my room and wait for my body to heal itself enough so I could get some food. And that is what I did.

On the Floor Ready to Die

It took about 2 hours on my floor of my hotel room for me to finally get up and shower. Then a little bit later I was back to life and ready for a small tour of Berlin. I met up with my buddy, Adam, and we got some food and drinks and checked out a few sights that were walkable from our hotels. I decided to call it a night around 7:30pm, but then went out again to meet up with Malcolm, and our other friends from CA, Michelle and Kevin. We got a coupe drinks, relived our races; the good, the bad, and the painful. Then after a couple hours I went to bed and got up at 5am to catch my flights back to the US. 
Adam Needed Coffee and Beer                                Revisiting Tiergarten After the Race

This Church had Bombs Crush 
Through the Steeple During WWII

The past week has been pretty laid back for me as I only did one gym session and went for one hike during my week off. I took my dog out for a walk everyday as well, but I didn't do anything too strenuous and really had an enjoyable, easy week off. Now, its time to get back to training and I look forward to my next marathon attempt. I’ll let you know which one it will be soon. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On My Way to Berlin

This is it! I’m on my way to Berlin to race the marathon. Finally! I have been wanting to do this race for a long time now, and I am excited to get out on the roads to see if I have another pr in me in my 21st marathon. I have been racing marathons now for 10 years, and each race brought its own challenges. Even though Berlin is known to be the fastest course in the world, I do expect the race this weekend to be extremely hard. 

I plan to once again be pretty ambitious with my pace, and get towed along to a sub 2:10. I have made this same attempt many times now, and each time I have failed. Sometimes my failures resulted in pr’s; I’ve run 2:11 4 times after going out on 2:08-2:10 pace. Other times I have suffered over the 2nd half and fade to 2:17s, 2:18s, and once a DNF. I am proud of all the races I have finished regardless of whether I met my goals or not. But knowing that I have come so close is what keeps driving me to try again, and hope that one of these race will result in a spectacular result.

My pace group with have 2 other athletes attempting to crack the sub 2:10 barrier, with 2 rabbits taking us through 20k and 30k as best as they can. Over the past 7 weeks I have changed my GPS watch to track my kilometer splits rather than miles to get myself to learn better pacing over those intervals. I have also been doing many of my workouts on a flat route down in Camp Verde 50 miles south of Flagstaff and almost 4000ft lower. This has resulted in many great workouts, much better than I’ve had in a while, which have indicated to me that I am prepared to run a sub 2:10 marathon.

Mentally I am ready to go and I am confident that my legs will cooperate. I have trained them well for this. Now, all the work leading into the race is done and all I have left to do is wait for my flight to board. I am sitting and writing this in Phoenix awaiting my delayed flight to London where I’ll connect to Berlin. Just a 9 1/2 hour flight, followed by 2 hours of waiting, then another 2 hour flight, and I’ll arrive at 8pm local time in Berlin. By then I’ll be eager to get my race bib, get a quick run on the treadmill, and then get to bed. I am very excited to get this started.

Below is a list of the top competitors in Berlin. A lot of guys at 2:06 and under. Its going to be fast! See you in Berlin!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Highs and Lows of Marathon Training

As I am entering my final 3 weeks of marathon prep for the BMW Berlin Marathon, I am excited that the day is almost here. Soon I will be racing my first International World Marathon Major. I will be departing from Flagstaff on Sept. 21st and arrive in Berlin 20 hours later on the 22nd. The race will be on the 25th, and I will return on the 26th. So, this will be quite a short business trip with my intent only being on running fast. I will be shooting for a personal best (under 2:11:30), and given the history of this course, that should be attainable.

The biggest difficulty I find in any marathon build-up is the inconsistency in my workouts. I generally always have great long runs, which is what helps to build my confidence being a marathon specialist. However, my interval and tempo workouts and even my races leading up to marathon are very inconsistent and often lackluster. I did have some good workouts here and there over the past 8 weeks; 2 x 6 miles in 5:12/mile, 8 x 2k in 5:00/mile. However, with the combination of running up to 140 miles while trying to hit quality workouts each week, my performances at the races I have done over the last 2 weeks really suffered.

Two weeks ago I ran the AFC Half Marathon in San Diego, where my goal was to run about a 1:04:00 half, which would have contended for the win. Unfortunately, my legs and my body said 'No F*#@ing Way, Man!' and instead I struggled through a tough tempo run, finishing up in 1:08:27. Then, after two weeks of trying to get my legs to feel good again, I raced the US 20k Champs this weekend and again performed a lot worse than my expectations. There were definitely a few more positive aspects that I am able to take away from the 20k compared to AFC, but overall the race was not one to write home about.

Finishing up at the US 20k

Anyway that is marathon training for me in a nutshell. High mileage and low quality performances. All of which is part of a well calculated equation to run well for the marathon. Berlin is going to be my 21st marathon, so even with these poor results over the past couple of weeks my confidence is unwavering. All of my previous marathon experience has shown me that as long as I put in the work, the big race at the end of the training cycle will be great. And for me that is all that matters. Trusting that the process will yield great results is the key to my marathon training.