Tag Archives: New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon

Smarter training and racing result in satisfying marathon

12 Nov
I'm coming down the homestretch of the famous blue oval at Drake Stadium. Runners in the Des Moines Marathon can even watch themselves on the big screen at the track.

I’m coming down the homestretch of the famous blue oval at Drake Stadium. Runners in the Des Moines Marathon can even watch themselves on the big screen at the track.

Marathon No. 11 is in the books.

And I walked — or hobbled– away from it with two overriding lessons:

  1. Running a smart race can pay big dividends, and
  2. Don’t count your PRs until they are hatched achieved.

The Des Moines Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 20, provided some much-needed redemption from last year’s fiasco and also teased me about what might be possible.

It was a beautiful day for a race: 42 degrees at the start and blue skies. I had a solid year’s worth of racing and training under my belt. Everything was set up for a good run — if I just didn’t screw it up.

 

I had a grimace on my face as I crossed the finish line of the Des Moines Marathon in October 2013. I could have run the last two or three miles stronger, but I was happy that I was able to push as hard as I did.

I had a grimace on my face as I crossed the finish line of the Des Moines Marathon in October 2013. I could have run the last two or three miles stronger, but I was happy that I was able to push as hard as I did.

This year has been a good one for racing and training. I’ve hit my mileage goals, completed a 50-miler and remained relatively injury-free. I’ve done this by being smart with my approach. I’ve built a good base of training miles, and when the usual nagging injuries have flared, I’ve backed off for several days or a week or two.

This year, I tried to set a very realistic goal for Des Moines: finish better than last year.

I made a couple of crucial errors last year. First, I ran too many long runs too close to the race itself, not allowing adequate time for a taper. And during the race itself, I plowed through the early rolling hills at a too-aggressive pace. I paid for those two mistakes by running out of gas in the last 8 miles.

This year, I was determined not to repeat those mistakes.

In this 16-week training cycle, I did 5 runs of 16 to 22 miles, but none were closer than 4 weeks to the marathon date — although I did do one slower, 2-hour trail run the week before the race.

And as the gun sounded for the marathon, I was determined to run the first miles at slower-than-goal pace. The Des Moines Marathon features several rolling hills between miles 3.5 to 8, flattening out in the final 8 miles.

Since my primary goal was simply not to tank this year, I was very comfortable running at a controlled pace. I enjoyed the marathon sights, talked with a runner who ran the Eugene, Oregon, marathon earlier this year, and reveled in the lap around the historic blue oval at Drake Stadium.

As I reached miles 16, 17, 18, I realized I wasn’t going to blow up. So I started thinking about my secondary goals: setting a PR or setting a course PR.

I set my marathon PR in New Orleans — a nearly pancake flat course. For me, setting a PR in Des Moines would be a big accomplishment.

But my fastest splits were coming late in the race. I ran my fastest split at mile 12, but my next fastest splits came at miles 22, 20 and 16. I was still trying to hold back, but at mile 18-20, I thought I could maintain the pace for another 6-8 miles. I almost jumped for joy. I’m going to do it, I thought.

But I got a bit ahead of myself. I let myself go about 2 miles too soon. By mile 23, I realized my error.

My next goal was to set a course PR. This was my third running of the Des Moines Marathon — in addition to the two half marathons I’ve run there. In my opinion, the hills in the early miles don’t make it a great course to shoot for a personal PR.

But I could still set a course PR.

After the race, I pause to get congratulations from daughter Laura. Laura and my wife, Barb, shadowed me throughout the race, supplying me with my endurance drink, a home-made mix of maltodextrin.

After the race, I pause to get congratulations from daughter Laura. Laura and my wife, Barb, shadowed me throughout the race, supplying me with my endurance drink, a home-made mix of maltodextrin.

Aerobically, I was fine. It was my muscles that were rebelling. I took a few walk breaks in the last 3 miles, but I knew the average pace I needed to maintain for a course PR. If I could keep the average pace on my watch below the target, I’d be satisfied.

In the last mile, my IT band, left hamstring and quads were screaming. Several official race photos show the grimace on my face.

But I hated to lose my final goal. And with the finish line in sight, I made one final push — and salvaged my last goal. I finished 6 seconds faster than my fastest Des Moines Marathon. I hadn’t exactly shattered my course best, but, hey, a PR is a PR.

For several reasons, I was pleased with my efforts:

  • I put together a better training schedule — and then stuck to it.
  • I maintained my training through a sultry summer that had me questioning my efforts.
  • I ran a smarter race — and didn’t get caught up in the early euphoria.
  • And I had to gut out the last couple of miles in order to meet one of my key goals for the race.

Checking off four big boxes brings a smile of satisfaction to my face.

Now, one more race to go in 2013: the End of the World Marathon in Placencia, Belize. But this race is more about soaking up the atmosphere and having a good time than it is about setting PRs.

In the end, I’ll judge Placencia by the number of boat drinks consumed — on the course or off, I don’t really care.

Interesting year on the roads

31 Dec

All in all, 2012 was a good year for running.

I logged 1,174 miles in 2012, which was nearly a 40 percent increase from the 845 miles logged in 2011. Since I had set a goal of topping 1,000 miles at the beginning of the year, I was pleased.

As you might expect, my average run distance increased, jumping to nearly 7 miles from 5.3 miles. My overall average pace was a bit slower, which shouldn’t be too surprising since the run distance increased. But on the brighter side, the average pace for a run under 6 miles was a bit faster.

The last few miles were tough, but the feeling was sweet at the finish line of the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon.

The last few miles were tough, but the feeling was sweet at the finish line of the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon.

A nagging hamstring injury had kept me out of marathons for three years, but in 2011 and 2012, I learned how to manage the problem a bit better. This year, I rarely ran more than 4 times a week. And when the hamstring bothered me, I’d take extra time off, backing off for a week or two several different times throughout the year. If you are smart, when you get older, you realize that you can no longer just power through an injury. That’s been a tough lesson for me.

I was able to run three marathons in 2012. New Orleans in March was the highlight, setting a new PR. I ran my first trail marathon in September, although I should have stuck to the plan and made the run just another training day. And I ran the Des Moines marathon in October.

After a high in the spring, the fall was actually a downer. My times in the September and October races stunk, and I really had high hopes heading into Des Moines. But I learned a couple lessons: you can overtrain and you need to leave room for a taper.

I had been toying with the idea of an ultramarathon for my birthday in early 2013 — 50 miles on the 50th birthday had a nice ring to it. But that won’t happen. I needed to take some time off after the October race, and I haven’t ramped it up enough to make 50 miles in just a few weeks. But I may still log the 50 miles in my 50th year.

Despite the highs and lows, it’s been a blast. I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to run. I love being outside, whether it’s 15 degrees or 90 degrees, whether it’s a sunny Sunday morning in May or a dark Tuesday night in December. I can watch the eagles along the Mississippi River and the turkeys in the nearby woods.

It’s fun to travel to races around the country, to see new places and to cut loose with family and friends. But there’s also a special satisfaction in lacing up the trainers, relieving some stress on the roads around Keokuk and simply reveling in the workout.

How were your workouts in 2012 and what do you have planned for 2013?

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