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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fasting + Training = Slowing

I have to fast for 30 hours for a routine medical test. Nothing but clear liquids from breakfast today until midnight, then nothing at all until lunch tomorrow.

These are the kinds of things that you can't predict when you're making a training plan, so you just have to accommodate them as best you can!

If you're training 6 days a week, fasting isn't the way to go! Your body needs fuel to get the most out of work-outs, and protein to repair itself after.

So this morning I had breakfast number one:
  • Potatoes (hash browns - the chunky kind)
  • Chicken "bacon"
  • Coffee
Then I hit the bike trainer for 45 minutes of Spinervals, during which I got down two big bottles of Gatorade.

Followed it up with breakfast number two:
  • Two pieces of toast with peanut butter and jam
  • A left-over chunk of steak from yesterday
  • Almost 1L of skim milk
  • Cheese
  • ... and another coffee (I know, I know...)
I'm stuffed, but I think I got in enough protein and calcium to help recover from the workouts lately (and I'm still a bit stiff from the 1/2 marathon on the weekend). I'm not as worried about carbs as I'll drink them up all day.

Tomorrow I'll be able to eat again after lunch, but I'll take it as a total rest day and refuel. Then back to training the next day.


I was able to eat again as of Thursday afternoon. I took that day off.

Friday I went for a 7K run - I felt a bit sluggish, but nothing too bad.

Today I went for my 2 hour spin class... I died! I had nothing in the tank, I just couldn't get going. I think the combined recovery from the 1/2 marathon and the fasting just caught up to me... I managed to get through the class (thanks to 2L of Gatorade!) but I'm pooped.

Tomorrow I'll try a short swim and run, see how it goes. In the meantime I'm going to graze on carbs all day, see if I can't get my energy back where it should be!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Race Report: 2009 Peterborough Half Marathon

The following takes place between 9:00am and 10:00am

I woke up this morning, looked out the window and saw snow. Blowing snow. Lots of it.

Now at this point I hadn't even registered for this race... I could easily have just scrubbed it and got on my bike for a few hours instead. That's the way I was leaning, but thankfully my friend talked me into running anyway... something about shoveling and it's not that bad and you have to do something long anyway. I bought it.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

I tend to enjoy the "triumph over adversity" races, and this one was looking very adverse... even as we made our way to the start line the snow was coming down in huge flakes, it was a winter wonderland.

The road was snow-covered and a bit slippery for the first few kilometers, and it wasn't looking really good for a personal best! But from there on it cleared up quite a bit, and at least there was a clear line where the cars had driven where there was asphalt.

The wind was blowing quite hard for the whole race, but it was the head wind on the way out that really stunk... the tail-wind on the way back was great, though!

The strategy

I stuck to what I said I wanted to do in my last blog post: walk breaks (10 and 1's) and negative split. The last times I did this race I didn't take the walk breaks, and I'm quite sure I had positive splits as I totally died by the end.

As usual I went out a bit hot, and by 5k was almost a minute ahead of where I was supposed to be. I dialed it back a lot, and then was able to pretty much hit my pace from there to the half way point. By half-way I was right on my planned negative split 56:05 vs planned 56:15 - now it was time to dial it up.

I might have been a bit too exuberant at that point, but I had a tail-wind and was going a bit downhill... I started picking people off and was loving it. I stuck to the walk breaks, which meant I was really running quite a bit faster than those around me (when I wasn't walking!).

The beginning of the end...

I found myself right near the 1:50 bunny with about three kilometers to go. My goal for this pace was 1:51, but I felt I had the legs to make it stick so I matched his pace and kept going. This worked out great, his pace was right on and he even gave me a pep talk to help kick out those last 500m!

The end!

My final time was roughly 1:49:21 - almost 2 minutes faster than my goal time. I'm delighted, especially in those conditions! Give me a clear day and peak form and I know I still have more left in me.

2007- 2:07:06 (first-ever 1/2 marathon)
2008- 1:53:55
2009- 1:49:21 (roughly)

Analyzing the Strategy

If you've never intentionally negative-split a race, I highly recommend trying it! I'm sold. Pick a "B" race and go for it.

I don't know the physiology behind the negative split, but I know psychologically speaking it's a huge boost to be speeding up as those around you are struggling to keep their pace.

First half: 56:05
Second half: 53:16

A closer split is probably ideal, but consider the way out had a head wind and the conditions were a bit worse than the way back and I think I got it about right.

I think my result is also a big testament to walk breaks - I was easily able to beat last year's time, and last year I ran straight through in far better conditions (although I don't think I got the nutrition right last year...). I certainly felt much much better through-out this race.

The only thing I would have done differently would have been to increase my pace a bit slower after the half... I went pretty quick in kilometers 11-14, then ended up slowing in the last few. I don't know how much difference it really would have made, though, I felt I got almost everything out of my body that it had in it today.

Next up: Around the Bay!

30K run around the bay in Hamilton... stay tuned!

Post-race navel-gazing...

My km splits:
1- 5:05
2- 4:58
3- 5:18 (walk)
4- 4:58
5- 5:24 (walk)
6&7 - 11:29 (5:45 avg, includes a walk)
8- 4:53
9- 5:39 (walk)
10- 5:00
11- 5:32 (walk)
12- 4:48
13- 5:15 (walk)
14 - 4:30
15 - 5:24 (walk)
16 - 4:51
17 - 5:19 (walk)
18 - 5:06
19 - 4:58
20 - 5:11
21 - 5:05
21.1 - 0:28

I was all over the bloody place... started out too fast, slowed down too much, way too fast after the halfway point, then held on to the end. Obviously that's something I need to work on... although my friend said his Garmin showed some of the markers were off by as much as 100m, so maybe it's not as bad as it looks! :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Preview: Peterborough 1/2 Marathon

I did this race in 2007 and 2008. I wasn't planning on doing it this year, but I haven't raced since October and I need a pick-me-up!

2007- 2:07:06
2008- 1:53:55
2009- ???

(You can read my blog entry about the 2008 edition here)

There isn't much to this race, it starts out in Peterborough, ends up out in the country in some fields, then comes back. Mostly flat or flat-ish, surface is mostly asphault (one small bit of gravel road). The wind can be a bit brutal, and obviously being February in Ontario there's always a risk of getting hammered by a snowstorm or a frigid blast of winter... but so far I've managed to avoid that fate!

I'm going to do two things different from previous years:

1) Walk Breaks (10 and 1's)

I started using them last spring when I was recovering from an injury and was able to run the Toronto Marathon in my goal time. I've stuck with them, still training with them, so no need to fix what ain't broken!

2) Negative Split

A negative split means that you run the second half of the race faster than the first.

I tend to go out to fast, resulting in a huge positive split at the Toronto Marathon. I ran out of gas by the end, and that was partly due to that quick start. For this race I want to keep those first 10.55km slower than the next 10.55km.

This article talks about negative splits for marathons, but the same principles apply. My plan is to run the first 6km at about 10s slower per kilometer than my target race pace, then start to build up the pace until I'm at my target race pace by half-way (10.55km).

Based on a 1:51:00 finish and walk breaks, that means starting out around 5:10/km for the first 6k, gradually speeding up to 5:00/km by the half-way point, and holding that until the last 5-6k where I'll start increasing the pace to 4:50/km before hopefully pounding out a very strong and fast finish.

That's the theory, anyway! It's a "B" race for me so I'm not really that concerned if it doesn't work out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Running Shoes

Running shoes don't last forever. In fact for anyone doing long distance running, they won't last even one year

I use the ASICS Kayanos, which last me around 500-700km. Some people get more out of them, and now that I'm lighter they may last me a bit longer.

A good running shoe absorbs the impact of your foot hitting the ground. To do this, it compresses, then before your foot hits the ground again it returns to its original shape.

Take a look at these two shoes:

On the left is an old shoe. It's actually one I haven't run on in a long time, I use them for mowing lawn... so it's a rather extreme example!

On the right is a newer shoe.

In the circled area you can see wrinkles in the foam of the old shoe, where the new shoe is nice and smooth.

Why is it wrinkled? Because it's compressed - it can't return back to its form, to absorb any shock. The new shoe feels springy, it almost bounces of the ground when you push off. The old shoe feels dead, there's no bounce.

Visual inspection is one way to see when your shoes need changing, but far more important is how your shoes feel. They may feel like they're losing their bounce, or minor pains might start up that weren't there before. But it's sometimes hard to tell, as the change can be very gradual and you just get used to the lack of bounce.

I get around this by having two pairs on the go at once. I'll use the older pair for most of my runs, but every so often will use the new pair (my "race-ready" pair) to compare the feel. When the old ones stop feeling roughly as good as the newer ones, they become weekend shoes, or worse - lawn-mowing shoes (where shoes go to die).

And you thought running was cheap...