Saturday, December 20, 2014

7 Weeks to the USA Cross Country Championships: Last Week's Training

I'm a little behind in posting my training, so the week posted below corresponds to 12/8-12/14. I am finishing up my time in the Czech Republic, still alternating between Prague and the village of Rodinov. I'll be returning to Portland on the 27th. The mild winter in Czech has allowed me to do some great base work heading into January, when I will begin more specific interval work. My workouts thus far have focused on Fartleks and hill repeats. The Fartleks have all been done in my wife's village in the Vyso─Źina region (highlands) which offers unrelenting terrain, perfect for grueling Fartlek sessions. I have really put an emphasis on hammering the hills during these Fartleks, putting myself into debt at random points in the reps, forcing myself to aerobically recover on the flat or downhill sections while still trying to maintain a decent pace. I don't measure my pace for these workouts, and the speed would not be impressive with the terrain. I focus completely on effort, which is very high and uneven. This is not an approach I will take in my interval training, so this early base period offers an excellent opportunity practice this style of running. I don't think there can be a better type of preparation for cross country than varied terrain and tough, uneven efforts.

The hill repeats have been used for strength training. While I have done some lifting in the past, I prefer hill repeats. You can still get a great aerobic workout while building strength using normal running form, reducing the risk of injury from various lifting positions. The hills are in addition to my usual running drills and core sessions. While I certainly won't be polished heading into January, I will be very strong.

Training is progressing well for Boulder in February, but the altitude presents an additional challenge. I plan on traveling to Albuquerque with the Brooks Beasts for some time before the race in order to adjust to altitude. I have not decided exactly how long I will spend there before the race, but it will likely be a couple of weeks. This will not be enough time to maximize any boost in hemoglobin, but it should be enough to get through the most challenging segment of adaptation. I would prefer to get higher quality workouts in at sea level than spending a month in Albuquerque before the championships. There is a fair argument for either option.

Feel free to check out last week's training below. Thanks again for reading, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 4 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 11.5 5.5 40 minutes 17





Tuesday 30 minutes, drills, 15 x 200 meter hills, 30 minutes 6
18





Wednesday 14 off 40 minutes 14





Thursday 11.5 + drills and grass strides 5.5
17





Friday 11.5 5.5 40 minutes 17





Saturday 5 Fartlek (5 min, 4, 3)(4, 3, 2)(3, 2, 1) w/half rest
18





Sunday 20 Off
20





TOTAL


121


Friday, December 12, 2014

NYC follow-up, vacation, and 2015 plans

It's time for a long over-due follow-up to the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. After every marathon I have had the desire to separate myself from running for some time, but the difficulty with internet connections in South Africa exacerbated it this time around.

First, a huge thanks to Mary Wittenberg, David Monti, and the rest of the New York Road Runners for another tremendous experience. They have an extremely challenging jog organizing the elite athletes right in the middle of the world's biggest marathon in one of the world's biggest cities, and the entire process was flawless. I feel that I have more to prove on this course, so I hope to be back many times in the future.

My goals heading into the race were to defend my title as top-American, top-10 overall on a good day, and top-5 on a great day. I accomplished the goal of top-10 but fell short of the others, although it's no shame to be beaten by Meb Keflezighi with the year that he is having. The man does not age. The weather wasn't ideal, but of course, this is something every runner has to deal with, and it can end up being an equalizer for someone like myself in a race full of so much international talent. Wilson Kipsang was about 8 minutes off of his PR while I was less than 5. The wind kept the lead pack together for longer than it would have under ideal conditions. I was still with the leaders at 30km before they made their final strong move to the finish. The entire race up to the 30km mark was run as a Fartlek. Leads would change and someone would push the pace for a few minutes, and then it would slow right back down. I'm proud that I had the confidence to go with these moves as long as I did. This was a step forward for me in my racing tactics. Immediately after the race, I was disappointed that I did not try to continue with the pack for longer, but as I look back now and recall how badly I was suffering the final 2 miles in the park, I know I made the right decision. I would have liked to place higher, but it just wasn't happening on that day. I fought and gave it everything I had over the last 10km. Nick Arciniaga was a huge part of that. We took turns with the lead once the lead group dispersed until the final few miles where it was every man for himself. I was fortunate enough to come out ahead this time around, but I will certainly not make the mistake of underestimating him at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles.

After the race I took 2 full weeks off from running, although this down time did include a great deal of hiking in South Africa. I didn't take much time off after the London Marathon or my track season this year, so the break was appreciated. My wife and I met my in-laws in Prague, and then headed for Johannesburg. From Johannesburg we headed straight for the Drakensberg Mountains where my wife and I had planned a 5-night trek. This was the most challenging trek we had attempted to date as there were no trails, high altitude, and little cover. Unfortunately the weather got the best of us and we had to turn around on the 3rd day. The first day included incredibly dense fog which rendered our map and compass useless and put us behind immediately. On the second day we were pounded by rain and wind which found it's way into every crevass and soaked even our water-proof gear, tent, and sleeping bags with temperatures only just above freezing. The rain and wind continued through the night, and we became worried about the possibility of hypothermia and decided to make one hard 12 hour push back to the start. While the weather ended up clearing up, I'm still sure we made the right decision given the situation. The views that we did get were unbelievable and unforgettable.

From Drakensberg we traveled to Durban where my training began again slowly. Next stop was beautiful Cape Town and wine country, where we surprisingly ran in Luke Puskedra and his wife Trudie on their own post-NYC Marathon vacation. After thoroughly enjoying the southwest region, we headed back to Johannesburg and spent our remaining days exploring the wild animals of Kruger National Park. This included an overnight stay at a game lodge where my morning run was alongside gazelle, baboons, and giraffe. Near this same lodge I was given a ride home at the end of my second run as the manager was concerned about the sun going down and the inevitable hippos that would be leaving the water to feed on grass.

South Africa is an extremely diverse country geographically and culturally. I felt like we were only able to explore a sliver of what the nation has to offer, and I hope to return in the future. It is definitely on my radar for a future winter altitude training camp, potentially as soon as 2015/2016 before the Olympic Marathon Trials.

From South Africa, we returned to the Czech Republic where I was stay until just after Christmas (the 27th). As long as the weather holds out, and so far it has, the Czech Republic is a fantastic place to train as I have mentioned before. While Prague is incredibly beautiful and full of excellent running
though it's parks, the villages are a truly unique experience, and one that I was able to share with my old Oklahoma State teammate, Dan Watts and his wife Ceci. Last Saturday we ran a local cross country race which my wife's family helps to put on for it's 15th consecutive year. The small race features only about 100 people, but it is a supportive, encouraging, and fun atmosphere. My prize for 1st place included a bottle of Czech wine, champagne, and a coupon for a free Christmas tree at a nearby lot. While my wife's parents usually prefer to cut-down a tree from their own forest, they are considering the easier route this year. It's refreshing to get back to the basics at a small community race and remember why I love doing what I do.

Next up are the USATF Cross Country National Championships in Boulder, CO on February 7th. I am looking to focus on shorter distances through the spring before returning to the marathon in the early fall in preparation for the Olympic Trials in February of 2016. We are a little over 8 weeks out from the US champs, and I already feel my fitness coming back very quickly. My first two weeks back training consisted of nothing but easy jogging and strides at weeks of 60 miles and 85 miles. My 3rd week is posted below. I realize week 4 is almost over, and I will post it early next week. I'm happy to be back into my normal groove and look forward to posting my weekly training for the rest of 2015. Thanks again for reading and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 3 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 14.5 travel from South Africa to Prague
14.5





Tuesday off 11.5 30 minutes 11.5





Wednesday 11.5 5.5 + drill and strides
17





Thursday Fartlek (3min, 2, 1) x 3 w/equal recovery 4.5
17.5





Friday 11 5.5 30 minutes 16.5





Saturday Local XC race run as a tempo (7.5 km) – 11

11





Sunday 16

16





TOTAL


104

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Less than a week to the TCS New York City Marathon: Last week's training.



We are 5 days from the TCS NYC Marathon, and there is really nothing left to do but get to the starting line. Last week was the last of the harder workouts with two threshold type efforts on Sunday and Thursday. Overall, the 12 week build-up has been another step forward. After my first 4 week stretch at altitude in Flagstaff, my threshold efforts, long tempos, and long runs were all slightly faster. I also put more time in on pavement to prep my legs for the extreme pounding of 26.2 miles on November 2nd. These are only small differences in an otherwise consistent block of marathon training. It is very difficult to predict one's exact fitness in the marathon, as opposed to the 10km for example. What I can say for sure is that my fitness and preparation are better than when I ran 2:10:57 in London this year, and that puts me in a position to do big things in NYC this weekend.

Over my short marathon career I have so far proven to be a consistent racer at the distance. Much of that has to do with maintaining a certain comfort level during the first half of the race, this may have to be tossed out the window come Sunday depending on how the rest of the elite field decides to race. In New York, the second half of the course is quite a bit more challenging than the first, so it is very difficult to make up a lot of ground if you've lost contact with the front pack. I would like to be a little more aggressive this year, and put myself in that top 10 group early on and attempt to fight and hang hold on over the second half. With that said, I am not suicidal, and I will make judgement calls on the spot depending on how severe a particular move or push is. I attempted to race intelligently last year by letting the front group go and running with a second pack that ended up dissipating and leaving me on an island on a cold and windy New York morning. I will try to avoid that this year. I do not care what my overall time will be, and I will not try to predict one; I want to compete. The anticipation is building as I imagine the NYC startline, the massive crowds lining the entire course, and the atmosphere of the city. Check out the NYC promo video put together by Startling Line Designs and get excited for 6:45 AM EST Sunday on ESPN2!

While I'll be spending most of the week resting and focusing on the race, you can find me on Friday  at Paragon Sports at 1:00 PM as well as the NYC Expo with Brooks at 3:00 PM, so come by and say hello. I will also be at the opening ceremonies at the finish line at 5:30 on Friday. Thanks again for reading, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.


Week 11 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Sunday 3 mi warmup, 3 miles (4:43), 2 miles (4:38), 1 mile (4:37) on road + 10 mile run @ 5:48 pace off
19





Monday 11 5 30 minutes 16.5





Tuesday 12 + drills and strides off
12.5





Wednesday 10 5 30 minutes 15





Thursday 4 x 2 miles @ 9:24-9:26 off
14





Friday 8 7 30 minutes 15





Saturday Planned day off

0





TOTAL


92

Monday, October 20, 2014

2 Weeks to the TCS New York City Marathon: Last week's training.

It seems like the taper stage of a marathon training segment should be something to look forward to, but it brings its own challenges. As the volume decreases in terms of weekly mileage and workout length, the training tends to get faster, bringing on a different type of fatigue than the earlier stages. This is planned, but that doesn't make it any easier. The real rest will come the final 10 days when volume and intensity drop significantly. While the rest is certainly welcomed, it also means the start of a little anxiety and restlessness as the race approaches. I'd love to say that as soon as the marathon is over you can finally relax, but the truth is that I spend the next day or two analyzing every detail of the race in my head trying to figure out where mistakes are made. That is why I have made it a habit to travel ASAP following the marathon. It's important for me to completely remove myself from the environment for a few weeks. This year I'll be heading to South Africa 3 days after the NYC Marathon. Our first week will be spent backpacking in the Drakensberg Mountains, and we will then take a more relaxing approach by hitting Cape Town and Kruger National Park. After the backpacking trip, I'll slowly easy myself back into running and take advantage of the summer weather and beautiful terrain. In all, I plan on about a full two weeks away from running. After only taking a week off after London, and a few days off after the track season, I think the break will be overdue.

I'm already getting ahead of myself here. Another great week of training is in the books, and I'm confident that I'm ready for the best marathon of my career come November 2nd. After a successful 4 weeks in Flagstaff at the beginning of the block, my tempos, intervals, and long runs have all been faster, and I've put more time in on hilly roads than before any of my previous marathons. I feel that I am significantly more prepared for the tough New York course than I was last year. I'll discuss more specific goals and race strategy in my blog next week.

I recovered well from the tough 16-mile tempo in Victoria and had a solid workout on the track on Thursday hitting a fairly even pace for all 8 miles of work. The next Thursday will be my last challenging workout (4 x 2 miles) before I enter full rest-mode. Feel free to check out last week's training below, and thanks again for reading. Follow me here on Twitter for more updates.


Week 10 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Sunday 3 mi warmup, 16 mi tempo (4:56 avg) on Victoria Marathon course, 1 mi cooldown off
20





Monday 10 Off – drive from Victoria
10





Tuesday 13.5 + drills and strides 4.5
18





Wednesday 5 10 30 minutes 15





Thursday 4 miles @ 18:53, 2 x 2 miles @ 9:23, rest = 4 min, 2 min, on the track off
15





Friday 12 5 40 minutes 17





Saturday 5 10 + drills and strides
15





TOTAL


110

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Less than 3 Weeks to the TCS New York City Marathon: Last week's training.

I'm getting this post out a bit late due to the travel surrounding the Victoria Marathon this past weekend. I made the short trip up north to play the athlete-support role for my wife's first marathon. Based off her training, we both thought a sub-2:50 was possible, even in her debut, but her 2:45 finish was quite a surprise to both of us! Those kinds of surprises are quite rare in the marathon, especially in a debut. It was also good enough to place her as the 2nd female in a competitive and established field. Most importantly, it was a positive experience, and Eva is already looking forward to her second marathon. While I did put together a training calendar for her, she was independent and took most of the training into her own hands. It is a dangerous game to coach your wife, but fortunately for my sake, training went without a hitch and the race exceeded both our expectations! The experiment can continue.

The trip to Victoria was also a great experience on my end as the elite athlete coordinator allowed me to do my final long tempo for NYC during the marathon. I started the first few miles with my wife as a warmup in order to give the leaders plenty of space, and I then started the 16 mile tempo in which I averaged 4:56. The course was more challenging than I expected. It has rolling hills the entire way. There aren't any long sustained hills like the bridges in New York, but it is definitely enough to mess with your rhythm each mile. I actually thought it was a great simulator for the NYC course, so I'm very pleased with my average for the tempo. I was also allowed to place my fluids on the course which made for an excellent race-day simulation. Since I ended up stopping my workout a little after 20 miles, I was left quite a ways from the finish, so I carried my credit card in my gel pocket and grabbed a taxi in order to make it back in time for Eva's finish.

There was one small snag the evening before the race. I was placed in charge of packing the PowerGels which my wife and I would mix into our bottles for our race-day fluids. Somehow, I left them by the door on our way out, and I did not realize this until Saturday evening as I began to prepare our bottles. What an amateur mistake! All the local running shops were closed, and I didn't know anyone there with extra gels. Since my wife had been practicing with these fluids for her entire build-up, I obviously did not want her to experiment with something new on race day. I got up very early on Sunday morning hoping that there would be a booth setup near the start line selling nutrition products, but there was none. I then looked up the 3 running stores in town and starting running towards them in the hope that one of them may open early for race day. The first shop, about 2km from our hotel, was shut, but my second attempt was successful. Not only were they open, but they carried the Tangerine, caffeine enhanced, Powergel that we had been practicing with! A big thank you to the Running Room in Victoria for saving the day and potentially my marriage.

November 2nd and the TCS NYC Marathon is closing in, and the volume is consistently dropping. Last week marked the end of my longer marathon workouts, and I will now finish the training block with threshold workouts of approximately 6-8 miles in length. Feel free to check out last week's training below. Thanks again for reading, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 9 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Sunday 22 miles in 2:02:42 w/ 3 mile push from 17-20 (4:57, 4:54, 4:55) off
22





Monday 14.5 5 30 minutes 19.5





Tuesday 12.5 + drills and strides 6
18.5





Wednesday 12 5 30 minutes 17





Thursday 3 mi warmup, 4 miles @ 4:46, 4 miles @ 5:50, 4 miles @ 4:46, 4 miles @ 5:40 continuous on road off
19





Friday 12.5 Off – drive to Victoria 30 minutes 12.5





Saturday 12 4.5 + drills and strides
16.5





TOTAL


125

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Less than 4 weeks to the TCS New York City Marathon: Last week's training

We're down to just under four weeks to the TCS NYC Marathon, and I've completed my last big week of volume for this marathon build-up. With last week being at 140 miles, each week from now on will drop by 15-20 miles per week heading into the race on November 2nd. I still have several hard workouts in front of me, but they will ideally be getting progressively faster as I drop the volume and start to freshen up.

Sunday's long run consisted of my pace job in Berlin, which I discussed in last week's blog. The other workout for the week was a 6 x 2km repeat workout followed by an hour of moderate running (averaging around 5:40 pace) with a 200 meter jog recovery. While the 2km repeats were slightly faster than I have run before, the hour run preceding the workout was significantly faster than my last attempt at this workout in the spring and the recovery shorter. It's fair to say that I recovered from the pace job and travel from Berlin very quickly.

The last long run workout will be coming up next weekend in Victoria, BC. My wife will be running her first marathon at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, and after writing her training for the last three months, I will have to be there to see how it turns out! The course will be flat and scenic, it will be very well organized, and the weather will be exactly what we're used to; it's the perfect place for Eva to debut in the marathon. I have a 15-16 mile tempo planned for that weekend, and Jonathan Foweraker, the Elite Athlete Coordinator, has generously allowed me to enter the marathon in order to practice my fluids during my long tempo. He has been extremely accommodating, and I'm looking forward making the short trip north and being part of the race weekend.

As the mileage slowly starts to wind down, I have more time and energy to think about the TCS NYC Marathon. My coach, Dave Smith, and I are chiseling away at a race plan based on the various scenarios that my be presented. My travel is sorted, promotional material is being put together, and I'm beginning to slightly feel the reach of the pre-race jitters. These next few weeks will fly by, and I'll be jogging around in Central Park before I know it. I've got to make the next couple of weeks of training count in order to take another big step forward in my marathon career. Feel free to check out last week's training below, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates. Thanks again for reading. Big shout-out to Starting Line Designs for the new Blog, Twitter, and Facebook artwork!

Week 8 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Sunday Warmup + pacemaking Berlin @ 5:19 pace off
27





Monday Off – travel from Berlin to Portland 14
14





Tuesday 15 6 + drills and grass strides
20





Wednesday 14 5 40 minutes 19





Thursday 1 hour moderate run, 6 x 2km (5:54, 5:52, 5:52, 5:52, 5:52, 5:52) w/200 meter jog recovery 4 mile shakeout
23





Friday 12.5 6 40 minutes 18.5





Saturday 10 5 + drills and strides
18.5





TOTAL


140

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Less than 5 weeks to the TCS New York City Marathon: Last week's training

Last week was a planned down week in terms of volume and workouts. The down week was originally planned for a week earlier, but after committing to pace Shalane Flanagan at the Berlin Marathon, we decided to swap weeks for obvious reasons. We had a 2 x 4 mile workout planned for Wednesday, but I could tell during the warmup that my body was not ready for the prescribed pace of 4:40-4:42, so I opted for a fartlek instead. The previous week was probably the toughest week of marathon training I've ever had (see previous post), and I felt it for a few days. I backed off the intensity and volume for the second half of the week, and I bounced right back. I generally have one or two brief points during my marathon training blocks when I push a little too hard and am forced to recover for 2-3 days. I have learned not to become frustrated when these come up. I simply give myself the required recovery, and then I am ready to continue where I left off.

While Shalane did not meet her goal of setting the American marathon record, she did achieve a huge personal best as well as a top-3 finish at another Marathon Major. She requested an aggressive pace through the half-marathon (69:36), and she gave it everything she had the last 10km to try to hold on. She was hurting so bad at 20 miles, I am astounded at the mental toughness she showed to power herself to the finish line. I was thankful to have Rob Watson by my side for the pacing. While I was confident in my ability to hit the pace, having a partner really helped take some of the pressure off.

My original workout planned for Sunday was a 3 mile warmup, 4 x 2km @ 4:40-4:42 w/200 meter jog recovery, 10 mile moderate effort run, 4 x 2km, 3 mile cooldown. Even though pacing for 41km was a tough day, the planned workout would likely have been more challenging and added up to almost the exact same volume. I handled the travel very well in both directions, so overall I think it fit right in with my NYC training. I do hope to run the Berlin Marathon at some point in my career, so it was beneficial to get a feel for the course and meet the organizers.

On a side note, I hope you will all take the time to check out this video from Matt Llano and NAZ Elite. Matt came out as an openly gay athlete in December, and he has now given a touching and in-depth interview regarding his experience. I was able to spend some time with him in Flagstaff during my altitude training last month and he is a phenomenal runner and a fantastic person. Matt is looking to help other athletes in the LGBT community with his story. You can help by watching the video and sharing it with others.

Thanks again for reading. Feel free to check out last week's training below, and follow me here on twitter for more updates.

Week 7 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Sunday 24 off
24





Monday 14 + drills and strides 6.5
21





Tuesday 14 6 40 minutes 20





Wednesday Fartlek 4 x 10 minutes hard travel to Berlin
15





Thursday travel to Berlin 7 miles easy post flight
7





Friday 12.5 6
18.5





Saturday 10 5 + drills and strides
15.5





TOTAL


121