Running Monolog

Winter 2005-2006

Explaining ourselves seems to be a disease we all suffer from, and people training for a marathon seem to have it worse than most. After all, why would anyone want to hear about running 18 miles as a training run? There is no glamor, no excitement in that, yet newspapers are full of people describing their training efforts. The disease does not seem to affect those running 5K races, but train to go eight and a bit times as far and we want to explain why.

I suppose running 26.2 miles seems a little (or a lot) daft, and may need more explanation… Running 3 and an eighth seems normal in comparison.

I think there is some similarity to the homeless who mutter at street corners, no one else wants to hear them, but they are talking anyway. There is one poor woman I see who simply howls in agony as she walks down the street. Well I hope I shan’t come to that. But perhaps I shall attain the level of those who swear.

April 2005
I qualify for Boston by running the Big Sur International Marathon. A beautiful run which I heartily recommend.
I take the month off from running and go biking in France with my parents.
I ease back into running. I also get a bigger lift in my shoe to help the hip pain I’ve been feeling. I start to get tendinitis in my achilles. My physical therapist (Mike) and my massage therapist (Rusty) encourage me to run through the tendinitis as long as it doesn’t get worse.
It gets worse. I stop running.
I am fed up with not running. I’ve missed one race I care about, and it looks like I’ll miss another. I’ve tried rest, ice, acupuncture, two different massage therapists — nothing works. My friend Dan sends me a very uplifting article from a medical journal on tendinitis which essentially says that no treatment method works. On the happy side my hip pain has finally vanished. I go back to Mike and he starts doing ultrasound on the achilles. He tells me not to do yoga or run (I’m not) or bike (which I gave up a few weeks before just in case). But I can swim. I hate swimming.
After two weeks Mike tells me to run again. Slowly. On a treadmill. Not for long. Every other day. The only way for the achilles to heal he says is to get blood to it, and the best way to do that is to run. I still can’t bike or do yoga. After a week of running slowly I’m allowed to do some yoga, and after another week to bike.And the achilles does start to improve. Slowly.I’m allowed to run for longer. And then run outside on flat ground.Mark & Alice, my friends who live in Boston, invite me to come stay with them for the marathon. I have to admit that I don’t know if I’ll be able to run.
Mike said “Well, we should start building a base if you’re going to run Boston.” I start running faster. Move from every other day to 4 days a week. I also sign up for Boston. I happen to bump into a friend that evening who has also just signed up. Yeah! Exciting to think that it may actually happen. I write Alice and tell her I’ll be there! My friend Dan (a high school friend from NC) has felt for a while that he’d like to run a marathon before he turns 50, and was all fired up by my running Big Sur. So he now signs up to run a marathon in Umstead Park (between Durham and Raleigh NC) in March. He tries to convince me to run with him, but it is too late now, I can’t do both. Not that I’m much tempted. A bunch of my friends are running Boston this year. says that there are 16 Barbarians (Les Invasions Barbares?) going to Boston and I know 7 of them. There’s an interesting 20K race in early December. I presume that I shouldn’t run it, but it would be nice if I could. I ask Mike and to my surprise he says “Maybe. Let’s see how you feel the week before.” Wow.When I visit my parents at Thanksgiving, my mother warns me not to overdo it. Tells me my yoga practice is “violent” and finds my penchant for practicing handstands unnerving.

You are old sonny Williams, the mother said
And your pate has become almost bald,

And yet you incessantly stand on your head
Don’t you think, at your age, you’ll be mauled?

Mike tells me I can run the race. Suggests that I not run faster than 7minute miles. The first 6 miles are uphill and all of them are around 7min. As the hill gets steeper I slow down to 7:25. But then it’s all down hill for 6 miles. That first downhill mile is really steep and I run it in 6 minutes (which is fast for me). I end up being first in my age group, averaging 6:50 (not too far off) And the achilles did not bother me at all during the race. At this point Rusty, whom I’ve asked to train me for the marathon, suggests that I come out with the group he’s training. Wally warns me that training with Rusty will not be easy. Come to think of it Mike said something similar. Mike, of course, has trained with Rusty so he knows. I don’t require easy, I do require possible.They meet out at San Marcos High School. So at 6:30am that Saturday I’m at the San Marcos track. I hadn’t realized however that we weren’t doing a track work-out, and everyone else was at the main entrance (which I bypassed on my bike). I wait until 7, in the early morning darkness (we’re almost at the winter solstice now, it doesn’t get much darker) and the cold. And then bike back home, grumbling to myself.We get that confusion sorted out, and Rusty sends me my first weekly schedule. Rusty generally starts 12 weeks before the race, but he’s taking me on a little early because a) he wants to make sure I don’t break again and b) he’s got a guy starting who runs at a similar pace.

Dan seems to view me as a expert on marathoning, which I find rather ironic (I’ve run two) and has been asking me questions about training. I’ve sent him a copy of Advanced Marathoning, a book with far more information I can provide. Dan runs a 5k a little faster than I ever have, but he’s only just started longer distances and his half marathon is a bit slower. I expect he’ll be pretty similar to me in a year or two. Dan has just discovered that one needs to drink (and maybe eat) during a marathon. Is that really necessary?

Well, in once sense, no. People didn’t drink or eat 100 years ago, and they
were about an hour slower than they are today. In 1908 the world record was 2:55, in 2005 the world record is 2:04. In 1908 the first runner collapsed yards from the finish line, had to be carried over and was disqualified. There are other factors, of course, but drinking water during the race is definitely called far. It may (just) be possible to do a marathon without consuming calories, but most people need some carbohydrates to run that far that fast.

My father tells me I should be proud of Big Sur as the high point of my running career. This surprises me since I will be rather disappointed if I can’t improve my time by about 15 minutes or so. He sees his comment disturbs me, so he changes it “the piece I wrote about it is the culmination of my writing career.”, so much for this monologue then.

Week 19/12/05
Mon Elliptical trainer 45min, level 4-7 keeping HR around 135-145
Tue SBCC track, 3mile warm-up, 5x 100m strides, 8x 550m hill repeats, 3mile
Wed Same as monday
Thu Easy run 60min at ~8min/mile
Fri Off. Do yoga
Sat San Marcos, 3mile w/up, 3 mile tempo (~6:40 pace, to be adjusted) 5mile
Sun Easy run 90min at ~8min/mile

The Santa Barbara City College track has lights, so it isn’t dark at 6am when we meet. And meet we do, thank goodness. I had only known that Rusty was training one other guy, Jim, whom I’ve run with before, and with whom I’m pretty well matched, but he (Rusty) turns out to be training three people (four with me).

There’s Jim, of course, who is training for Napa in early March, Rusty thinks he should do about 2:55 (which is a pace of 6:40 minute/mile).

Laura is someone I’ve seen before though I don’t know her. She is also training for Napa and wants to get under 3:30 (8min/mile), though Rusty thinks she should be able to go faster.

And there is Jeff. Jeff has just started running. He did the local half-marathon a few seconds faster than I have, but he wasn’t training for it properly — only ran about 20 miles per week (I normally do 40~45). He should be really fast after he gets his mileage and endurance up. At the moment he is hoping for a 3:10 marathon (~7:15 pace). He is training for the LA marathon in late March.

Jim & Laura have already been training for a few weeks, while Jeff has just started (though he actually met up with everyone last Saturday).

Although we met at the SBCC track, that’s just a gathering spot, we jog down along by the harbor and out along the beach, and then turn back and jog on up onto Shoreline Park. Continuing away from SBCC is a slight incline up. It doesn’t seem like much — until you run it at 95% effort level. Then it suddenly becomes very steep.

Before we do our hill work we do strides, a short fast run for about 100m. This helps us switch from the gentle warm-up pace to the real work-out. And then we start. Jim, Jeff & I all are running together and about the same pace. I’m currently the slowest of the three, but only by a second. Not too surprising considering that I wasn’t running for most of the summer. Poor Laura has no-one at her pace. And it makes a real difference to have others there, we push each other to run faster than we would alone. Rusty runs with Laura, and that helps a bit.

It’s an exhausting work-out. When we finish we run 3 slow miles as a cool down and then go our separate ways. I’m proud that I did it. Haven’t done any real speed work in ages.

On Saturday we meet at San Marcos at 6:30am again. Out front this time, and I find everyone. I get there first, and worry for about 5 minutes until the others drive up. Then we trot down to the bike path and along that out toward UCSB. The bike path is handy, as it has been very precisely marked every 1/4 mile (also 2.5k and 5k marks). We again to a 3 mile warm up. Well, Jeff & I do. Jim and Laura, being further along, run for an hour at this easy pace. Jeff, Rusty & I stop at the 1mile mark and do our strides.Then we start our tempo run. This is a lactate threshold effort (supposedly), the pace at which lactic acid starts to build up in the legs, but the body still does a good job of flushing it out. Rusty doesn’t really know what a true tempo pace is for us, so we experiment. We run the first mile at 6:40, and that’s easy enough (well, it’s a definite effort, but talking is still
possible), then next at 6:35, and the last at 6:30. The last mile is hard
for me, eminently doable, but definitely harder than the 6:40 pace. I can
still talk, but I’m not doing so voluntarily. Jeff seems to have no trouble and I’m a little jealous. We jog back to get in our 3 mile cool-down, and Rusty goes off to find the other two and run with them. A much easier day than Tuesday, but I’m still elated to have done it, I thought it would be far harder.Oh, it’s Christmas Eve, that probably matters to some people.

Talking to my parents on Christmas, my mother warns me not to overdo it. My normal Sunday running group is down to one person, Amy, and we are each very grateful to have someone else to run with. Amy is also training for a marathon: LA. I try to convince her to come join us (Laura needs someone to run with, Amy is a bit faster than she, but would be good company none the less). However Amy is happy with her own training schedule.
Week 26/12/05
Mon Easy run 40min ~8min/mile
Tue SBCC track, 3mile warm-up, 5x 100m strides, 8x 550m hill repeats, 3mile
Wed Elliptical trainer 45min, level 4-7 keeping HR around 135-145
Thu Easy run 60min at ~8min/mile
Fri Off. Do yoga
Sat Mountain Dr, 3mile w/up, 3 mile tempo (6:35~6:40 pace) 5mile cool-down
Sun Easy run 90min at ~8min/mile

Our hill repeats are similar to last week, except this time we do the first four on the very steep stretch up to Shoreline that only lasts for a 1/4mile (last week was 1/3). Jeff runs his first at a 5:00min mile pace. Too fast for Jim and me. Rusty tells him to slow down a bit. After that we run pretty much together.

Then Jeff goes off home to pack up his family and drive to Mammoth to go skiing for the rest of the week. He’ll get in his runs on a treadmill up there.

I have read that over a long enough course that humans are faster than just about anything. That we can just run prey down on the savannas, rather as jackals can. And I started thinking of horses, now they might be a special case as they’ve been artificially bred for speed, still it would be interesting to know if a human can run faster than a horse over a long enough distance.Or over a marathon. How long does it take for a horse to run a marathon?

Horses don’t seem to race marathons. How about 25 mile runs then? Well I can’t find any numbers on that either. But I do find a rather amusing 22 mile man/horse race in Wales. It’s been won by a human once in its twenty-five year history. Oh well. I guess I’m unlikely to be beating any horses in Boston.

Saturday it is raining. When I get on the bike at 5:45 it is pitch black, chilly, wet and miserable as I head up to Mountain Dr. Generally there are good views of the ocean and the city. Not today. It’s still quite dark when I lock my bike to a tree. The others drive up. Somehow I have lost my glasses. This is stupid, I had them a minute ago. I get everyone looking for them. We can’t find them. Eventually I give up and we start. I can’t see very well, but it’s rainy and misty and there are no views anyway. Oh and it’s dark. And wet. Chilly too. Quite unpleasant.

Mountain Dr. has also been marked, not quite as well as the bike path. It used to be better marked, but they repaved the road. Some of the marks have been replaced (perhaps by Rusty, I’m not sure) but they are only every half mile, not every quarter. This makes something of a difference, when you try to find a pace it’s easier if you can correct yourself every quarter mile. At the 3 mile mark Jim & Laura turn back (they have a longer warm up again), and I do my strides.

Then Rusty and I set off. Rusty tells me he thinks I’m running too fast so we slow down a bit, but we finish that first mile at about 6:20 or so. Then the pocket on my shorts breaks and my keys fall all over the road — it’s not my day. I would not even have realized this if Rusty had not been behind me. So we stop and find my keys. Rusty carries them for me. When we start up again I zoom off and do the next half mile at 3:05 or so in a vain and foolish effort to get back on track. Rusty checks every now and then to make sure I can still talk (If I can’t talk, I’m running far too fast). Then he leaves me to do the last mile by myself. I have trouble with my watch but I think it was again about 6:20. Too fast.

Now we’re back at the 0 mark, and Jim an Laura are there too. Rusty asks me if I’ll run with Laura as a cool down (she’s doing a 7:45 tempo pace, which is a little faster than an 8min cool down, but not bad). I feel kind of badly for her, there she’ll be working hard, and I’ll be cooling down? Rusty asks how that’s different from what he’s just done with me. Er. I guess
it’s no different.

I put my keys in my back pack by the bike (kind of stupid, I know to leave the keys right beside the lock, but what else can I do?). I make another futile effort to look for the glasses (it’s light now).

I look up and I see Laura zooming off. I give up on the glasses and sprint to catch up, but before I do so she slows and stops. Oh. She was doing her strides.

Then we are off. The first mile was a 7:30, a bit too fast. And we slow down, 7:40. Then another 7:30 I think and we turn round and come back. Laura is running even faster on the return and finishes with about a 7:20. That’s not really a cool down pace for me, a bit fast. But it was fun to have the company.

Rusty asks me how I feel. He has asked me this after every workout. At first I thought he was being polite, but I’m coming to realize this is something he really needs to know. If I’m feeling exhausted, I’m doing too much and he needs to have me do less.

I’m done now. Laura and Jim still have to cool down. Rusty offers me a lift home. I make a final futile search for my glasses and let him drive me home (I don’t want to bike without glasses in a misty drizzle). At home I find an old pair of glasses and prepare to drive back to search the hillside once more… But before I do that I make a thorough search of my back pack. I searched it earlier, of course, but in the dark and the rain, now at home I find my glasses bundled up in a sweater. Oh. Whew. But how stupid.

This same storm hit Mammoth. I think Jeff said they got 3 feet of snow. Luckily he managed to get out before the storm hit.

It’s New Years Day. I sent out email asking if anyone else would be running today and no one responded (or rather, no one said yes. David and Liz said they’d be misbehaving in San Diego instead). So I start running from my house, and run towards the beach where we normally start, timing my run to get me there when other people will show up, if any do.

To my surprise Chris drives in just as I run up. Chris doesn’t run with us often, but he runs faster than my group normally does. He and I wait a bit and no one else shows (not surprising) and we go off, around a 7 minute pace. Faster than I should be running, but so what, better to have company.Chris has just returned from visiting home, his first visit since he graduated from high school thirty years ago. All his high school buddies seem to be in terrible health. This one has had a heart attach, another back surgery, another knee surgery. Most are over weight. We comment on how great it is to exercise. I mention that the only high school friend I’ve kept up with (Dan) is also training for a marathon. My mother warns me not to overdo it. Forty year old men (Jim & me) still think they can run as if they were 20. Well the world record for the marathon was set by a 34 year old. 40 year old men may be able to run as well as the 20 year olds, but probably not as well as the 30 year olds… Endurance improves with age far longer than sprinting speed does.

Week of 2/1/06
Mon Elliptical trainer 45min, level 4-7 keeping HR around 135-145
Tue San Marcos track, 3mile warm-up, 5x 100m strides, 5x 1k (88sec/400) with
3min jog between, 3mile cool-down
Wed Easy run 75min at ~8min mile
Thu Easy run 65min at ~8min/mile
Fri Off. Do yoga
Sat San Marcos, 3mile w/up, 5 mile tempo (6:35~6:40 pace) 3mile cool-down
Sun Easy run 90min at ~8min/mile

When I was in high school tracks were 440yards around, which was 1/4 mile (still is a quarter mile, of course). Now-a-days tracks are usually 400meters around which is about 6feet shy of a quarter mile. Essentially they are the same size, they’ve just gone metric. And it’s slightly easier to talk about doing “400”s than “440”s.

I’m worried about this run, an 88sec quarter mile is easy. Doing a kilometer at that pace (2.5 laps) isn’t bad either. Doing 5 of the damn things with only a 3 minute breather between is … well worrying.

About half way through my watch suddenly has conniptions and resets itself to midnight, looses the stopwatch mode (which I’ve been using to find how fast I’m going). I have to rely on other people to set the pace after that.

But we do it. I’m really glad to have the other two there. Then I find that Jeff and Jim have to do 3 more (because their marathons are closer, Rusty doesn’t want me to get too fit too early, people tend to break if that happens).

So I cool down alone. That’s easy.

The first Saturday of the month I go down to Ventura to do water quality testing, so I shan’t join the others on Sat. instead I do my tempo run on Friday. Alone. Have I any chance of doing this without someone else to spur me on? Have I any chance of finding the pace without help?I’m out on the bike path at 6:30 and do my warm up in the dark as usual.

It’s light enough when I finish and I start to do my strides. A biker sees me and he actually leaves the bike path to come over and congratulate me. “That’s the way to be fast, says he, do 5 short sprints and you’re all set.” Well that’s exactly what I’m doing!

Then the tempo run. I get ready at the 1mile mark (the 0mark is in the middle of the Goleta beach parking lot, and we tend to avoid that).

I’ve got a different watch today, it’s my heart rate monitor. I’ve never used it’s stopwatch mode before, but it seemed easy enough from the directions. I’m off. Terrified that I’ll go too slowly I run the first quarter mile in 78 seconds. That’s a 5:12 mile pace. Way, way, way too fast. I slow down. I can’t understand what my watch is reading at the next quarter, or the next (is it telling me I ran the quarter mile in 30 seconds? Impossible). At the mile mark I’m ready to give up. I slow down stop, and look at the watch, and suddenly I understand how to read its display. There’s an extra digit tagged on to the front of the elapsed time, oh and the display shows time since the last lap, rather than total time.

I start up again. My first mile was 6:21. Far too fast. My next mile was 6:19 even with the time I slowed down and checked my watch. The next half mile was exactly right (3:20), but then I sped up again and the whole thing was 6:33, then 6:24 and finally

Well I had no trouble running as fast as I needed to, but I had great difficulty finding and keeping the right pace. In a five mile run I can easily maintain a 6:20 pace (obviously), but if I run a marathon with the first 5 miles that fast I will have blown it. I’ll have to slow down, way down, to make up for that initial sprint. I need to learn to find 6:40 or so.

Still I’m glad that I ran too fast, at least I’ll have no trouble running
6:40s if I ever learn how…

The goal seems to be to run at a consistent pace. More efficient or something. So you have to figure out beforehand what pace can be maintained for 26 miles. To knock off 5minutes from your marathon time you need to run 10 seconds faster per mile (about). Which is easy. For a mile or two. Marathon pace feels slow because it must be maintained so long.

Hmm. I wonder if my inability to find a running pace is related to my inability to hear rhythm in music.

Saturday I bike 32 miles to Ventura and 32 back.

Sunday we finally have a good group together in my normal run. But most of them are going to run an out-of-town half marathon next weekend. They warn me that Rusty has overtrained some people. I’ve heard this before. My mother tells me that Peter (brother-in-law, who is a better athlete than I) thinks I am overdoing it. This surprises me. I’d think Peter would have better sense than that. He doesn’t know what I’m doing. Probably Peter said something like “He might be overdoing it.” And, indeed, for all Peter knows I might. And then my mother latched on to that and fleshed it out with her worries. My guess anyway. I get annoyed however and point out that a) Peter doesn’t know what I’m doing, b) Peter doesn’t know what shape I’m in c) Peter doesn’t know what precautions I’m taking. Nor does my mother, of course. I continue to check in with Mike (physical terrorist) once a week, he looks at the achilles mostly (which continues to improve). And Rusty (coach and massage terrorist) goes over my body once a week. They really are prepared to notice and deal with sports injuries.

Dan has run his first 20mile training run. The foolish boy didn’t eat lunch beforehand and felt beat after 15 miles and could barely finish the run. Is it possible, he now asks to eat enough during a marathon? I tell him I don’t think he has hit the wall, he just didn’t have enough food in him for a twenty mile run. Running without fuel doesn’t work. We talk some more about replacement fluids and sugar gels. I point out that a few weeks ago he wondered if it was necessary to eat at all. He admits to the irony.

Week of 9/1/06
Mon Elliptical trainer 45min, level 4-7 keeping HR around 135-145 or take
it off
Tue San Marcos track, 3mile warm-up, strides, 2400 (87/400) then 3×800
(2:44-2:46) 3min between, 3mile cool-down
Wed Easy run 65min at ~8min mile
Thu Easy run 90min at ~8min/mile
Fri Off. Do yoga
Sat San Marcos, 3mile w/up, 5 mile tempo (6:33~6:35 pace) 3mile cool-down
Sun Easy run 40min at ~8min/mile

On our warm up I mention how much my mother worries and complains about my running. Oh yes, says everyone. Ours too.

Rusty tells me he thinks I should plan on running the marathon in 2:52~2:53. A 6:35 pace, or thereabouts. My first thought is “Wow, he really thinks I can go that fast?”, my second thought is “Oh my god, he’s going to expect me to go that fast.”

This work-out scares me enough that I ask Rusty, didn’t he mistype? A mile and a half at under 6min/mile? No, he assures me I really can.

He’s right of course.

And Jim and Jeff have to run a 2mile interval in 12:00min after that. But I don’t because my race is too far off.

This time Jeff has a longer warm up that I, so I’m doing my tempo run by myself again. Rusty runs the first mile with me 6:36. One second slow with him setting the pace. Then he goes back to start Jeff off. My next mile is 6:26 then 6:36, 6:28 and 6:15. I really need to work on my pacing… but each time I slow a bit I think: this is too easy, I can’t be going fast enough, and speed back up.As we ran the first mile, Rusty started talking about having me run the marathon at a 6:48 pace for the first 18 miles and then picking it up if I had energy later. That’s a little under 3hours for the marathon, rather different from 2:52 just a few days ago. Did I run badly in the speed work on Tuesday? My right calf tightened up during the warm up and never loosened. Ug.

A 40minute run on Sunday? With most of my group gone? No real point in joining people, I’ll just run from home. Calf still hurts.
Week of 16/1/06
Mon Elliptical trainer 45min, level 4-7 keeping HR around 135-145 or take
it off
Tue Easy run 65min
Wed Easy run 90min at ~8min mile
Thu Easy run 45min at ~8min/mile with 8x strides afterwards
Fri Off. Do yoga
Sat San Marcos, 3mile w/up, 6 mile progressive run (pace: 7:00 first mile,
6:50, 6:40, 6:30, 6:20, 6:10) 3mile cool-down
Sun Easy run 40min at ~8min/mile

No speed work this week. Yeah. But a rather frightening run on Saturday. Perhaps it’s to help me find a pace?

When Rusty is working on me, I mention that I think I’m fast and anyone who runs faster than I is really fast (we were talking of such a person). Rusty laughs and says he thinks he runs slowly. Rusty runs slowly because he compares himself to the 40 (or so) people in the US who are faster than he. Rusty really wants to win, and be able to win the Olympics. He’s not quite that good. I think I’m fast because I compare myself to the thousands of people who ran slower than I did at Big Sur, not to the 69 who ran faster. I don’t expect to win. It’s all a question of perspective.

Rusty has marked off a 4.3 mile loop around his house (which is 1/2 a mile from San Marcos). He’s marked it every 1/4 mile too. We run round this loop once as a warm up.

Today we are joined by Larry (who is a little slower than Jeff, Jim &
I, but not much), Lee and Garret who are much faster. After doing the warm up a guy with a baby stroller runs up to us and Rusty invites him to join us (I don’t catch his name, I’m doing my strides, but he knows everyone else). He runs with Garret & Lee & Rusty. It’s a bit demoralizing to see someone pushing a baby stroller overtake you…

Jeff and Larry are running 6:50 pace (Jim & Laura have a longer warm-up and start later) so we three start together and I let them slowly creep ahead of me. That feels kind of odd. I’m not used to running deliberately slow with people in front… With someone in front I can do a fair job of judging my time, 6:58 for the first mile. The next mile I just have to stay the same distance back, 6:46 for the second. I should catch them up right at the 3 mile mark, but they’ve inexplicably slowed and I catch them at 2.75 and am still too slow at the 3 mile mark (6:44). So the next mile I run too fast 6:22, and then to make up for that, too slow (6:35), and the final one is again too fast (5:56). Oh well, I was never more than 15 seconds off. Better than the tempo runs.

During cool-down I ask Larry what he’s training for. “Oh, I’m not, I’m just training.” That sounds very existential. “I find that after training with Rusty I have no desire to race.” The rest of us smile, yes we understand that viewpoint.

Rusty is now talking about my running Boston with a 6:40 pace, a 2:55 marathon… That sounds to me like what I should be doing. I think he’s just not sure how fast I should run yet. Somewhere between 6:30 and 6:50. It’s not that I’m running faster or slower than expected, it’s just he’s trying out various ideas of my speed. That’s a bit of a relief.

I run with my group for all of 20 minutes, and then I turn back. Feels silly.In that time I learn that Amy was in a bike crash. Some idiot teenager was riding in the wrong lane of the bike path around a blind corner and crashed into her. Now she is in pain if she rides or runs. She didn’t run the half-marathon with the others, but she went and cheered them on. I think I’d be too depressed to do that. Good for her. Dan has run his second 20 mile training run. And this one went much better. He ate before and took fuel with him. He’s feeling much better about the idea of running 26 miles now. Good.
12 weeks before Boston (23/1/06)
This is the official start of training. Rusty works on a 12 week schedule.

So now my marathon training begins in earnest. My mileage is up, my speed-work mileage is up, and my tempo run (which has now turned into a marathon pace effort) is down, but my warm-up is up. The marathon pace run will increase by one mile a week over the next few weeks…

Mon easy 40 min run
Tue San Marcos, 3 mile w/up, 5×1600 (5:52-5:55) 4:30 min jog between, 3 mile
Wed Elliptical 60min resistance 7-8, crossramp 5-6 rpms 180-200
Thu Easy run 90min at ~8min/mile (11miles)
Fri Off. Do yoga
Sat San Marcos, 5mile w/up, 3mile marathon pace (6:40) 3mile cool-down
Sun Easy run 14 miles

Rusty warns me not to get excited about the race, or the idea of the race until I’ve reached the top of heartbreak hill. Then I can speed up (that’s about 20 miles into the race 12 weeks from now).

It’s freezing cold on the track at 6 in the morning.. And I mean that literally. There’s ice. And frost. Rare for SB. And annoying to run across a slick bit of track. Luckily it’s just one place.

I can’t read my watch for the first mile. It’s too dark.

As usual, I’m intimidated by 5 miles (1610m is about a mile) at a 5:52 pace, but I now believe Rusty knows what he’s doing, or rather knows what I’m doing. It’s hard, of course. But we manage them. The first 4 are at the high end of the time range so Rusty asks us to do the last one faster. And we finish with a 5:48. Jeff didn’t hear him, and wonders why Jim and I are going so fast (we don’t have much breath for talking at this pace — he doesn’t ask till after, we don’t explain till then either).

Garret has joined us again. He turns out to be one of the track coaches for San Marcos. (we only had one track coach at my high school, but San Marcos has 10 times as many students so there are more coaches). Garret ran the first mile with us, setting our pace. He runs really smoothly, it looks effortless for him. Then he did his miles progressively faster, and he only got 2 minutes between them.

And Laura is running by herself slower than we.

I wonder what things will be like in March, when everyone else has run their races and I have a month more of training alone. Or with Garret zooming ahead of me?

As we cool down, Jeff is worried about his aches and pains. He, too, has been told that Rusty overtrains people. Marathon training will involve some aches and pains, there’s no avoiding it. But Jeff isn’t used to this much running, overtraining is probably more of an issue for him, but then he’s also less used to the expected aches.

It is worrying to keep hearing that Rusty overtrains. On the other hand Jim has trained with him at least twice (the other time he knocked 20 minutes off his PR and ran a sub-3 hour marathon ). Jill also knocked 5 minutes off her marathon PR. Annie got a PR at the half marathon because of Rusty (and he had her run less). What I hear is that the people who know how to run and run well do well with Rusty.

Or that’s what I want to hear.

(I think I run well — oh, and fast)

I do my elliptical work, and I wear my HR monitor. Heart rate has crept up to 170 by the end. When I tell this to Rusty he says “WHAT? That’s way too high, why’d you let that happen.” I point out that I just did what he told me. Oops, he says, crank the resistance down and keep the legs moving fast. You should still have a HR around 140~145.

Perhaps this is how some people get overtrained? I didn’t know what the goal was, but I did know enough to check my heart and to report back. If I hadn’t I’d probably have continued doing too much. If I made that mistake often enough… As my yoga teachers are so fond of saying, I must take responsibility for my body, no one else knows what’s going on, not even the best coach. Especially not a coach who is trying to push me up to, but not beyond, my limit. Only I can know that. He can tell a lot from external signs, but I need to give him the internal information…

I now have the same warm up was everyone else. We go once around Rusty’s loop, do our strides. Laura sets out. Then Jim & me (at 6:40), and Jeff and Larry (6:50 interesting, Rusty is training Jeff for a 3:00 marathon, not the 3:10 Jeff originally expected. I think 3hours is more appropriate — Jeff is fast). I’m not sure what happened to Garret. Jim and I run our first quarter at 89, a 5:56 pace. My legs thought they were going too fast, but I wasn’t sure, I might be just tired (I did work too hard on the elliptical after all), and I assume Jim has a better sense of pace than I. A little consoling to know that he doesn’t always. But after that we find the right pace. And finish the mile at 6:29, essentially dead on except for that first quarter (which was 11 seconds too fast. It’s amazing how much difference those 11 seconds made. That quarter was uncomfortable, not really sustainable.

Slowed down — well it’s still fast, but it’s maintainable). But when I try to set the lap counter on my watch, it squeals and resets itself to midnight and loses the stopwatch. I think I need a new battery. It means I have to depend on Jim for timing now. Next mile is 6:37 or so. Then we catch up with Laura. I’m not sure what she’s running but we aren’t passing her very quickly.

At three miles I let Jim go, and turn back an join Laura. She looks at me oddly, “What are you doing?” “I thought I’d cool down with you.” Shortly thereafter Jeff and Larry pass us. She’s doing 7:35 I think. A bit fast for a cool down but nice to have company. We don’t talk much, this is a fast pace for her, and although she can, talking is an effort and I shouldn’t force her to — she’s got another 6 miles to go at this pace. I run 2 and a bit miles with her and then turn round, slow down and make directly for my bike as my final cool down mile.

Carrie, from my sunday group, is saying that next year she’d like to run an ultra (she’s done 39 marathons already). She wants to know if I’ll do Badwater with her (the insane 135 mile race across Death Valley). No. But I might do a 50miler or a 100k sometime. That’s ok, says Carrie, we need to do a couple of those first in order to qualify for Badwater anyway. But how does one train for such a thing? The only ultra any of us have done (and I’ve not even done that) is the local nine-trails, and as Carrie puts it she just ran on the road for three hours “like a normal person” to train for it. I suggest that perhaps this is stretching the definition of “normal” a bit.

I ask Carrie if her mother tries to dissuade her from running. “Oh yes, I can’t talk to her about it at all. I never bring the subject up.” Today when I talk to my parents they seem quite supportive of my running and excited for me. I wonder what happened? It’s amazing how this marathon has taken over my life. When I talk to people I want to talk about training. I was thinking of doing a yoga teacher-training class this spring, but I realize I just won’t have the energy (or time) for that. Next year.

11 weeks before Boston (1/30/06)
Mon easy 40 min run
Tue 75min easy run w/ 6 20sec strides
Wed Elliptical 60min resistance 4-5, crossramp 5-6 rpms 180-200HR 135-144: this is the important thing
Thu Easy run 50min 5-6strides, 4 mile MP (6:35-6:40), 4 miles cool-down
Fri Easy 65min
Sat Bike to Ventura
Sun Easy run 14 miles

Marathon training is a fourier series of efforts. There are easy days and hard days. Long and short, fast and slow. The body needs stress placed on it to improve, but it also needs rest. There are bigger cycles too, hard weeks and easy weeks. This is an easy week, it’s two miles shorter than the last, and there’s no speed work. There’s a general build in effort until about 3 weeks before, and then things ease off so as to allow me to be nice and rested for the race.

In my case there’s a bit more going on. Rusty keeps saying he doesn’t want me too fit too soon. Injuries happen when one is really fit, and given my recent history of injury… So I’m not doing speed work this week, nor a couple of weeks ago. No one else gets off from speed work, and it is a little galling to be thus singled out. Yet I admit it is wise.

Silly me. I’m comparing myself against the people who are better than I. Most are far worse off. I was teasing Rusty for this very behavior. And yoga would suggest that I not compare at all. Do my best and enjoy the process.

My schedule is also complicated because this is my week to check the Ventura River. So I will do my marathon pace effort on Thursday by myself. I don’t get to run with my group at all.

Dan has pulled his hip-flexors (or something like that) and is having trouble doing long runs. I suggest a deep-tissue massage, warning that work on the psoas is not pleasant.

My mother called to ask me what her password was, and when I couldn’t answer asked me how my running was going. To get her mind off me I told her about Dan’s problem. Not a good idea. “Does that mean you’re having problems too?” she asks. NO. Wherever did she get that from? She apologizes. Doesn’t know why she always thinks the worst of my running. Well, it’s very annoying.

After I used the elliptical Wally asked me what pace I was training for. “6:40.” “Do you really think you can do that?” I can understand his surprise, I’ve never run even a half marathon at that pace, much less a marathon. And can I do it? I haven’t the faintest idea. Rusty thinks so. But I say “Well if everything is perfect, maybe. But I’m really hoping to break 3hours.”

Rusty is annoyed, “Wally has never seen you run what you’re capable of, he doesn’t know. If the weather’s right and you don’t get injured, of course you can.” Well, we’ll see.

Suddenly it doesn’t feel like winter any more. It is light and almost warm when I bike out to the bikepath for my long run. How pleasant! When I’m warming up I run beside the little creek that goes parallel to the path (I don’t need exact mile marks in the warm up). The creek is a good place for birds and there are a lot of mallards about this morning, plus a some snowy egrets.

A few miles further along the creek enters the slough and opens out, here we have a flotilla of coots, two great blue herons (side by side) and a white heron. Often I’ll see cormorants, night herons and bitterns here, but not today. I finish my six mile warm up. I’m wearing my heart monitor today because I still haven’t fixed the watch.

I press a button and it goes blank. I can’t make it work. Damn. I can’t do the work-out without a watch of some kind. I let it sit by itself for a bit while I do my strides. I come back. It’s still blank, but when I press a button it comes back to life. It thinks it’s midnight of 1-Jan-2000, but that’s ok. I go to the mile mark, start the stopwatch (and it starts, yeah!) and go. I think I’m going too fast, so I slow, but in spite of slowing the first quarter was at a 5:56 pace. I slow further, but my first mile is still fast 6:25, the next is 6:32 — better, the third is 6:36 — which is in the range I’m looking for — except: I’m not pressing any buttons on the monitor (just in case) and it isn’t calculating my lap times, so I’m doing subtractions in my head while running, and I get the difference (from time at end of mile 2 to current time) wrong. I think I just ran a 6:56 — far too slow, and I speed back up. Final mile 6:24. Oh well.And now it really seems hot, there is sweat in my eyes. I wish we had that lovely cold winter weather back:-).

On the cool-down run I see lots of monarch butterflies fluttering about, it’s a lovely warm day and they’ve popped out of their winter hideaway down the road. Amusing: I don’t notice nature when I’m running hard.

There’s a kite (black-shouldered I think) hovering high overhead as I finish.

(I get new batteries put in my watches)

There is an old woman whom I sometimes see walking down on the beachway in front of town. To every runner who passes her she chirps “Run, run ’till you’re a hundred.” We wave and smile. If you stop and chat she will explain that she is 95 and attributes her great age to her habit of walking on the beach every day. And she tells you to keep exercising, it’s the only way to live long.

I lead a yoga practice with a couple of friends. Their four year old son has become addicted to a video game, he is dull and out of sorts until someone asks him a question about the game, then he brightens up and becomes voluble. I fear this is the way I react toward this marathon — my friends nod in sad agreement. I think I have become generally more cheerful in the last two months — even when I’m not thinking about my marathoning addiction. Chock full of endorphins

I talk to my brother on the phone, complaining about my mother’s assumption that I’m “overdoing it”. Well, she might be right, says he. Yes, I suppose she might. I tend to think that I probably have a much better perspective on these matters than a mother 3000 miles away who has no idea what I’m doing, how I’m responding to it or anything. But I can’t deny that she might be right.

Jody is also running Boston, and her birthday happens to be the day of the race. Jody also switches age-groups at that birthday. But suppose the Boston officials are picky? Jody thinks she was born in the afternoon (after the race) — they might claim she was still in the old age-group. Luckily she qualified for the faster age-group, so the point is moot.
10 weeks before Boston (2/6/06)
Mon easy 40 min run (6-8 x 20 sec strides after run)
Tue 3mi w/up, 3×800 (2:52), 2:30 jog between each, 3:30 before 1600, 1600
(5:57), 4:30 jog, 2×800 (2:52), 2:30 between, 3:30 before 1600, 1600 (5:57),
2:30 jog, 2×400 (85) 90sec between, 3mi cool-down (~13miles total)
Wed Elliptical 60min resistance 4-5, crossramp 5-6 rpms 180-200HR 135-144: this is the important thing
Thu easy 90min (10-11miles)
Fri Easy 65min
Sat 65min easy, 5miles ~6:35-6:42/mi, 6miles after easy (~19miles)
Sun Off

I approached my Tuesday run with some dread. I’m no longer worried that it will be impossible, just unpleasant. I don’t like these short fast intervals (though I remind myself that in high school I had faster, shorter intervals and those were much worse, these are mild in comparison. I really should not dread them).

I said last Thursday that it was light and warm. Well, not today. It’s half an hour earlier and the sun isn’t up yet. There’s frost on the roof of my car when I set out at 5:30.

During our warm-up we discuss various recovery drinks. Is it good to have some protein in them? Does the lemon-lime flavor taste better than the mandarin?

This time we were joined by Bill (I learn later that Bill is the guy with the baby stroller — it’s hard to recognize people in the dark!) who ran with Jim, Jeff and me. He’s a faster runner than we, but he’s been off for a while and is starting slowly (for him). During our first half mile, Bill comments on the sunrise. I can’t look, but after we’ve finished I do. It is beautiful. Little mottled clouds painted orange and yellow.

After we’d finished our first 3 half miles Jim had to leave. Then after the first mile Bill left. Then Garret vanished. Then Laura. When we finished there were just Jeff and me on the track. Rather lonely…

Rusty tells me my breathing is better than it was in December. I presume this means I’m running more efficiently.

Jeff and I have different complaints about interval work. I like the miles because the pace is a little slower. I don’t mind that they are longer (much). So I push Jeff on the miles and he tells me to slow. Jeff likes the quarters, the pace is faster, but they are over sooner. Jeff was running 80second quarters at the end (we were supposed to do 85), I didn’t keep up, but did end up running faster than required too (82). And my watch worked:-)

Jeff tells me that I run at an erratic pace during these intervals. Unfortunately that sounds likely.

These intervals would be far harder without company, and I’m really glad they are over for this week.

Last week when I did my work on the elliptical I noticed how my heart rate crept up over time until after 45 minutes or so it was above 150 (actually I’ve noticed this each time I’ve used it). I just assumed this was part of exercising. You get tired and have to work harder to maintain the same level of output. I mentioned this to Rusty and he said it was probably because I was dehydrating. But I’m only doing it for an hour and I drink, how can I be dehydrating?

Anyway today I tested the idea. I went in with two full water bottles and I forced myself to drink a mouthful of water every 2 minutes. And my heart rate stayed pretty constant around 136. Wow. Maybe Rusty knows what he’s talking about:-) I’m amazed at how easily this effect can be seen. I assumed it would be far more subtle.

My mother ran into Dan back home and worried to him I was “overdoing it”. I wonder what she thinks that phrase means? She has no idea what I’m doing, so how can she know if I’m overdoing? I get so frustrated about this, as far as I can tell she has no specific worries so any specific reassurance I give will fail to address them, and will be ignored. Dan did his best to reassure her too. It would be nice if he had succeeded where I have continually failed… Perhaps I’m just not credible. I had hoped that not collapsing after two months of training might carry some weight with her, but I guess not.

Or perhaps I am frustrated because I fear she is correct. I’m 46. Is that too old for this sort of thing? I haven’t done this kind of speed work since high school. I think I have recovered from my injuries (not just recovered but healed the ultimate cause), but I and my PT and my doctor might be wrong.

My Pilates teacher prefers me to run after my Pilates class, so I didn’t start my medium run until 9 or so. It was hot. The sky a cloudless blue, the ocean, calm, a darker blue, the islands sharp and clear. A beautiful day. But hot. The old woman was out feeding the sea gulls and told me to run. But hot, sweat stinging my eyes. I won’t be able to run very fast if Boston is that hot.

My longest run so far, 19 miles with 5 at pace. Jeff is off skiing, Garret is running a race, it’s just Jim and Laura and me. Their run is slightly longer, but with 13 miles at pace. I do an 8 mile warm up before my 5, and I find it hard to hold the pace on my final fast mile. When we’re all done with our fast work we pause and refuel and then start up for our cool down. Just at first we’re stiff and tired. We joke about how decrepit we must look.

Rusty tells me it’s best if I don’t run on Sundays now, I need that day to recover from my long runs. Rats. I’ll miss my group.When I call my parents this week I notice that it is my father who is all enthusiastic for me, while my mother is now silent.
9 weeks before Boston (2/13/06)
Mon easy 40 min run (6-8 x 20 sec strides after run)
Tue 3mi w/up, strides*5, 3200 (12:00), 5:30 jog, 1600 (5:48), 2×800 (85/400),
3mi cool-down
Wed Elliptical 60min resistance 4-5, crossramp 5-6 rpms 180-200HR 135-144: this is the important thing
Thu easy 95min (11-12miles)
Fri Easy 40min
Sat 45min easy, 5miles tempo ~6:18-6:22/mi, 65min easy after (~18miles)
Sun Off

It’s a beautiful moonlit night as I set out at 5:30. The full moon is directly in front of me and the streets are deserted. I get to San Marcos and find only Jim and Rusty. It’s just beginning to be twilight when we set out on our warm up, but it’s light enough to read watches by the time we finish.

We start with a 2 mile run trying for 6min/mile pace. We run round the track in a little pack, one guy leading (and in theory setting the pace) the others drafting off him a bit. We alternate leads every half mile and Rusty begins. He does the first half in 2:55, which is 5 seconds faster than it should be (and 5 seconds is hard at this pace). I’m already breathing hard, I can’t hear anyone’s breath else. Then Jim takes over and he’s even faster. I’m wondering if I’ll have to drop out. Jim ran a far harder work-out on Saturday than I, how can he be doing this to me? After Jim’s first quarter Rusty warns him that he expects the second mile to be just as fast. Ogg. Rusty says he’s not asking Jim to slow, just warning. I ask Jim to slow though. Finally I hear Jim start to breath hard.

Then I take over just before the mile mark. 5:45 for the first mile, so Jim led a 2:50 half. And Rusty expects me to keep up that pace. As we cross the mile mark he tells me not to look at my watch, just to run. And then …

I hear Jim’s footsteps dropping back. And then Rusty’s. I’ve not been checking my watch but I don’t think I’m going any faster than they did… And it’s harder now to keep the pace, there’s no one pressing me on. Rusty is talking to Jim, encouraging him I guess, but I can’t really hear, it’s all I can
do to keep running. But I do. My face grits into a rictus, and yoga says that’s bad so I unclench. This is really hard. I have no support. I’m not sure I can keep going, I could stop. I could slow and run with the others.

I keep going. I cross the third half mile, no one takes over from me in the lead. I look at my watch but I can’t figure out what it says. My face grits up again and again I unclench. One more quarter to go. I can’t do this. Rusty shouts something encouraging at me but I can’t really hear. The final stretch, I really will finish. 11:32. I almost was able to keep the pace of the first mile (5:45 then 5:47), I’m really proud of myself, I managed that with no support. I’m a mess though, drooling spittle from the side of my mouth, mucus from the nose, gasping and bent over.

That’s the fastest 2 mile I’ve run since high school when I did 10:47 in a state-wide meet. I’ve tried to put two 6 minute miles back to back several times in recent years but have not succeeded. I realize though that if I wanted to run 2 miles well, I’d have to train my lungs more. My legs feel OK, but I’m in oxygen debt.

There’s a reason I prefer long races — these short runs are far too painful.

Jim isn’t really far behind. By the time I unbend he’s there beside me. Rusty tells us that he should now make us run the next mile 12 seconds faster than the mile pace for the two miles we’ve just done — but that he won’t. We’re supposed to have a 5:30 jog now, but Rusty is again kind and gives us another minute or two before our mile interval.

I lead on the first half of this. For the first 100 meters I’m too fast, and Jim reins me back. After that I’m too slow, barely under a 6 minute pace for the first quarter, little better on the second. Then Jim takes the lead. And once again I contemplate slowing, it’s less than half a mile, but I’m exhausted. When the wind is against us I think of slowing, but we make the turn and it’s behind us now, and we fly down the track footstrikes in perfect sync. 5:47. Jim made up the time I lost on the first half.

As we wander around head down gasping for breath Rusty asks “How are you doing?” I answer “Terrible”, Rusty laughs “I’m not talking to you, George; Jim’s got a marathon to run in 2 weeks, while you’ve got time to recover.” Of course I’m really fine, just exhausted. Still he decides we don’t need to do the final 2 half-mile intervals.

Jim needs to go off to work (as does Rusty), so I’m left to do my cool-down by myself. I’m barely moving as I head down to the bike path. But elated. The sun is shining now, I get a really close view of a cormorant in the slough standing on a rock close to shore, towering over a bunch of mallards and coots. Then it sees me and takes off, wingtips hitting the water on each downstroke before it eventually gains airspeed and gets aloft.

When I get back to my bike fog has rolled in. It’s cold and grey, an amazing change in just a few minutes.

At the farmers’ market this evening I am chatting to one of the vendors (about — good heavens, how surprising — about running) and I mention how a friend of mine “is a fast runner for a woman”. How dreadfully condescending that sounds. It is true though. She qualified for Boston with a time 22 minutes slower than mine, and yet she is about 15 minutes faster than the time for her age group (as I am 17 minutes faster than the time for mine). So she is fast. There must be a better way to say it though.

I continue my experiments with drinking water and find that I can up the resistance on the elliptical if I drink a lot.

Rusty tells me that Jim and Jeff are more efficient, smoother runners than I, but that I have greater endurance and so can keep up in spite of that. Then Rusty suggested that I train to run a 10k at a 5:45 mile pace. Yikes! bad enough to do 2 miles at that pace, 6 sounds inconceivable.

Rusty has been warning me for weeks that we’ll be doing a three mile time trial next week. I’m dreading it. Yesterday after the two mile fiasco he jogged beside me and pointed out that for the 3-miler I’d still be at 17:30 even if I died on the third mile and ran it in 6 minutes (Um Rusty, a 6 minute mile is not dying. A 10 minute mile is dying). Today he is telling me that I just have to hang with Jim and Jeff. They are faster than I, but I have the endurance to keep up with them. I guess that means it’ll hurt me more but I can do it. Um… great.

Rusty complains about people he trains who do the fast part of their long work-outs without doing the warm-up/cool-down. This may be a polite way of telling me not to do this. The work-out is a unit and the warm-up is to get you tired, and the cool-down is to force you to keep running when you are tired, if you skip either the work-out isn’t as effective.

Dan tells me it looks as though his injury will keep him from running Umstead in March. Now he is thinking of Richmond in the fall. Richmond has the advantage that it is Boston certified.

In these days of global warming Boston is likely to be hot (where “hot” means hot for running, even quite pleasant balmy days can be “hot” in this context). So Rusty wants me to run my 90minute run either indoors (in a warm stuffy room) or outside during the heat of the day. After Tuesday’s fog, the days have not been hot, so that suggests I should run on a treadmill inside.Boston is mostly downhill. The first four miles quite steeply so, ten miles of rolling hills, another steep decline for two miles, then five miles of uphill culminating in heartbreak and the final 5.2 are downhill. I think of running downhill as easy. It is and isn’t. It’s easy on the heart and lungs, but it tears up the muscles of the legs. So Rusty wants me to train for running downhill for a long time followed by a little up. Again this means treadmill (the only 8 mile downhill stretch I know locally is far too steep to train on).I do 15 minutes normally, then an hour downhill, then 15 minutes uphill.

I stop in to the local running store to buy some expensive sugar&salt, and I end up chatting with Joe for a while. Joe trained with Rusty for Boston last year. Rusty had him running 90 miles a week on his longest week (more than Joe had done before) — my guess is that I’ll probably get above 60, probably below 70 (63 in a week is my max to date). Rusty also tried to talk Joe into training for a 10k at a ferociously fast pace (3~4 minutes faster than the time Rusty wants me to run one in — Joe’s a lot faster than I am) and he commisserated with me about that.

When I wake at 5 before my long run I find the power is out on my street. Then it starts to rain. Why go outside? The cat is curled up contentedly on the beanbag chair — I envy her, could I curl up beside her?

It’s cold as I bike out to the high school, and in spite of the rain the waning gibbous moon shines brilliantly. As we set off on our warm-up the rain lets up, and I see the mountains are snow covered, then there is a beautiful sunrise through the clouds on the horizon. Then it starts to drizzle again.

As usual I have no sense of pace. Jim & I are supposed to be doing a 5 mile tempo run at 6:20 pace or 95 second quarters. We set out, and it feels fast, but it should, we get to the quarter mile mark and my watch says 1:29, I misinterpret that as 4 seconds too slow instead of 6 seconds too fast, so I speed up. Jim, sensible man, slows down. At the half mile mark, under 3 minutes, I realize my mistake and slow to let Jim catch up. Then Rusty drives past and asks how we came to separate. I mumble something incoherent. Jim sets a good pace and after 3 miles we are at 19:07, one second too slow (our pace range is 6:18-6:22). This worries me and I speed up way too much. I do the next mile in 6:05. I slow down for the last, but even so it’s 6:15.

As we cool-down Laura warns that this monologue will provide a biased view — most marathon training isn’t like this. It had never occurred to me that it was. I don’t want to run an average marathon. According to Hal Higdon, the average time to run a marathon is about 4 hours. I can run 27 miles in 4 hours with no training, no support, no competition (I did this one day last year, just went out the front door and ran — all my friends were running the LA marathon and I was feeling left out). I don’t need to train to run an average marathon.

Of course that’s misinterpreting Laura. Most people don’t train as hard as we do. But most people aren’t as good as we are, we’re all better than average, and the better you are the harder you have to train to get each little dribble of improvement. Joe, for instance, had to work a lot harder than we are. And we are all pushing ourselves to go beyond what we could do by ourselves — that’s why we’ve got a coach, after all.

When we are done Rusty asks how we feel. I’m really hungry and a little light-headed, signs that I’ve run through all my blood sugar. This is unpleasant, but it is also something I should do from time to time. It trains the body to metabolize fat more efficiently. Back at my bike are some biscuits andsome recovery drink (that expensive sugar&salt I bought the other day), I gobble them down, go home, have a large breakfast, and take an hour nap.

I feel a little more human.

It’s a beautiful sunny day now (though still chilly) and all the snow has melted away.

When I got home yesterday my left leg felt — unstable. Weird tingles down the exterior posterior side of the leg, sometimes in the calf, sometimes the hip, sometimes the thigh or ankle. My guess some sort of nerve constriction. Sciatica? then I should stretch the periformus I think. So I go into pigeon for about 15 minutes before yoga class. This yoga teacher is going in for surgery on Wednesday and she begins class by asking “Is anyone not in pain?” Which gets a chuckle.
8 weeks before Boston (2/20/06)
Mon easy 40 min run (6-8 x 20 sec strides after run)
Tue 3mi w/up, strides*5, 5k time trial (~5:45-5:50/mile), 3mi cool-down*believe in yourself!
Wed Elliptical 60min resistance 4-5, crossramp 5-6 rpms 180-200HR 135-144: this is the important thing
Thu easy 95min (11-12miles)Run either mid-day in sun or on treadmill in heat drinking water (6-8oz every
15 min)
Fri Easy 40min
Sat 45min easy, 7miles PMP ~6:35-6:40/mi, 65min easy after (~19miles)
Sun easy 85min (~10 miles)

At 6am monday morning the sky is light enough that I can’t see any stars. The waning quarter moon shines brightly overhead and two planets are visible, but down on the road it’s barely twilight. And it’s cold. A heavy frost blankets the grass. If it’s hard for me to get up and run outside — what must it be like for the people who actually live in Boston?

The sciatica (or whatever it was) finally seems to have left me. Whew, that worried me. Instead my right calf tightens up to the point of pins and needles in the foot. But that’s an old familiar problem, I’m used to it. It goes away on a downhill stretch.

I finish my 40 minute run at the Wilcox, near my house, where I do my strides. The sun is up now, the planets have vanished, but the moon shines on (running early has made me much more aware of the moon than I usually am). I can hear the surf crashing at the base of the bluffs below the park. It’s really lovely out this morning (but cold) — there are some recompenses for being up at quarter of seven.

There’s a very well kempt little dog sitting in the middle of the trail down which I intend to run, nicely wrapped up in a dog-sweater. He appears to be waiting for something. In the distance some more dogs and their human appear and I assume they go together, but no, he just ignores them all. I sprint past the little dog, and he just watches me (most will try to play or chase, this one is well mannered). He stays there as I run past him eight times, turning his head to watch as I go past. As I prepare to leave I go up and pet him. I notice he has an airline baggage tag around his neck with a label: “My owners are out running and will return.”

He watches me trot off home to breakfast.

I’m dreading tomorrow, it’s not going to be pleasant at all at all. Two weeks ago I was assuming a 6 minute pace, which would be hard but not too bad and better than I’d done before. Now I’m fearing a 5:45 pace, which will be punishing. And yet I’m excited. How fast can I run a 5k? I’ve never really raced one before (in the sense of pushing myself to my limits). Rusty tells me that I’m better than I think I am and I should just believe in myself 🙂 I think I have that problem with most aspects of life.

I’ve been annoyed with my HR monitor. It purports to have a mode where it will remember lap times as I run, and then display them later. But whenever I try to play them back nothing happens. I tried reading the French instructions in case the English was wrong, but they are the same. Today I tried reading the German. I don’t speak German, but there are enough cognates that for a simple thing like this I can work it out. The German says something completely different — and it works!

For Rusty expects — I forbare to proceed,
‘Tis a maxim tremendous, but trite,
And I’d best be unpacking the things that I’ll need
For the run that begins at first light

It’s just Jeff and me for the time trial. Garret and Bill join us but our
pace is no trial for them. Rusty has Garret lead the first mile, Bill the
next (and then peel off and do his own thing) and then Jeff and I will each lead one of the remaining halves. Or that’s the plan. Rusty tells me that even if it hurts I can still keep the pace. Rusty tells Jeff that if it looks like I’m running too fast it’s just because I’m keeping the pace. Jeff tells Rusty that I can only keep a pace on average, erratically speeding up and slowing. Garret leads out and for the first 100m I’m thinking this is too easy, but then it feels about right. First mile 5:51. A second slower than our goal pace, but that’s all to the good — best to speed up as we go. Then Bill takes over and I move up to his shoulder. His first quarter is 85 — a little fast and then I hear Jeff’s footsteps start to drop back. Not again, I don’t want to run the final mile alone again. Garret drops back to run with Jeff, I run with Bill. At the end of the 8th lap I don’t feel that I can lead and I beg Bill to keep going. It’s hard to beg when you don’t have any breath for talking and at first Bill misunderstands what I’m saying, thinks I’m telling him I’ll lead now. But after croaking another request he understands and keeps going. Second mile 5:47. After the ninth quarter I start to lose it, and begin to fall back. But as Rusty said last week — and I didn’t believe — I still run the third mile at a six minute pace (exactly). And now there’s only a 200m half lap left, and suddenly I have a little more energy and speed up a tiny bit. Total time 18:22, “mile” pace 5:53 (real mile pace about 5:55 — as opposed to 1600m pace). So I ran the last 1/8mile at 0:44 or a 5:52 “mile” pace.

That’s the fastest 5k I’ve ever run (I’ve not run many, they are too short to be much fun) 1:19 faster than my previous best. Jeff is ten seconds behind me and it’s the fastest he’s done too (I think he said by 45 seconds). As we start our cool-down I can barely move while Jeff seems fresh as a daisy. I have no stamina and Jeff keeps having to slow down for me. I think he could have run faster, but then I suspect Rusty thinks the same of me.

🙂 I want to turn right when we hit the bike path to look at birds in the slough, but Jeff turns left and we go through a residential neighborhood while he talks about real estate instead.

Hubris: I was thinking before: I’ll run the first two miles at a conservative 5:50 pace and then I’ll speed up on the last mile and see what I can do. Didn’t quite work that way.

I’m still pleased though.

And I’m grateful for Garret and Bill. They really helped.

We also had a wind. The common sense thought is that on a track wind will not be a problem, it helps you in one direction, it hinders in the other, obviously the two will balance out.But they don’t. Let’s assume that I’m running at 10mph (6 minute mile pace), and the wind blows at 20mph. The power the wind applies to me is proportional to the cube of the relative velocity. When the wind is behind me the relative velocity is -10mph and the wind helps me by -1000 units of power. When the wind is against me the relative velocity is 30mph and the wind hinders me by 27000. On a windless day my own running generates a “wind” of 10mph which hinders me by 1000. So when the wind is behind me I get an improvement of 2000 units, and when it’s in front of me I get a loss of 26000 units. The two are not symmetric.

It sounds as though Jim and Laura won’t be joining us any more. They are now far enough into their taper that they’ll just work on their own. I shall miss them. Jeff only has 4 weeks before his marathon, so he’ll not be around much longer either.

A few hours after the time trial I notice some pain in my right knee…

Rusty keeps encouraging me to start slow in Boston. Even 7:30, or 8minutes for the first mile. It’s so hard to believe that I’ll actually be able to run fast at the end. Last year at Big Sur I was running half a minute slower at the end. Rusty assures me that with the training I’m doing I’ll be able to, and that running fast at the start is a big mistake. He suggests running with the 3:10 pace group for the first 4 miles and then slowly catching up with the 3:00 hour pace group and running with them to heartbreak, and then racing.

Thursday morning the knee pain seems finally to have started to dissipate.

Every little twinge makes me worry “Is this the injury that will stop me?” So far they’ve all faded. My legs are still dead tired though. Even the easy treadmill run feels exhausting.

The “Orchard to Ocean” 10k is coming up, a course that goes along the Carpenteria bluffs with stunning views down the cliff side into the ocean. The first time I ran it I fell in love with it. I’ve been looking forward to it and finally sign up. Rusty suggests trying to run at a 6minute/mile pace. Sounds a possible pace, not sure how well I’ll do at finding it though. I register for it. But I’m starting to understand Larry’s comment about not needing to race when training with Rusty.

Luke at the bike store says “Running a marathon? Why would you want to do that?” And I don’t really know. At 5:30 on a cold frosty morning it is hard to get on the bike and ride 5 miles in order to run 19. And yet I do. It seems so pointless sometimes. And then I reflect that everything seems pointless if you look at it wrong. At a leisurely pace running is quite pleasant. But I’m not running at a leisurely pace. Even running fast for a while is pleasant. Running that 5k was decidedly unpleasant. Sometimes I run to get places, but I’m not really that anxious to get to Boston, there are far easier ways to do that than detouring out to Hopkinton and then running 26.2 miles. I’m not going to set a world record, nor win the race, nor even win my age-group. If I look hard enough I could find something I’d win at: being the only entrant from the 93109 zip-code I shall probably be the fastest runner in my zip — but so what?

I guess I’d doing it partly because running a fast marathon is a challenge. Odi et Amo. I hate and I love. It is my passion. A word meaning both suffering and strong attachment. Running that 5k was unpleasant, yes, but I’m really proud of the result. Training for the marathon has not been precisely fun, but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. In a very strange way I enjoy it.

My marathon will make no mark on the world, but it will make a mark on me.

For once we have a pleasant morning for our long run. No rain, no frost, cool. My knee feels fine, my legs seem to have recovered. Rusty tells me he’s not disappointed with the 5k, that the 5:45-5:50 pace was something to strive for, not what he expected us to attain.

To my surprise Jim is there, he’s just running our warm-up, but it’s good to see him and to have a chance to wish him well. As I look at the sunrise coloring the clouds Jeff comments that “George only runs for the scenery.” 🙂 I guess there’s some truth in that.I’m running 6:35~6:40 pace, Jeff 6:50 pace. This is Jeff’s longest day with a 13 mile marathon pace effort. Rusty gives Jeff a 45 second head start and tells me not to catch up with him for at least 3 miles. My first mile is 6:39, pretty close to pace for me, but Rusty has also said to start slow, so I slow, 6:45 second mile. Then Rusty zooms by me (he’s running a tempo run with a new guy called Henry at a 5:20 pace or something) and tells me that 6:45 is too slow. So I pick it up and quickly catch up and pass Jeff: 6:33. Next mile is uphill and I slow 6:43. Now downhill 6:33 and Rusty joins me. He starts talking to me asking how things went during the week (in part to know, in part to see how well I can talk at this pace). I assume that Rusty is going to hold me to a 6:40 pace, but no, I see this mile is also 6:33. Then about a quarter into the final mile my knee goes snap and I’m in pain. Rusty asks if I can continue. “Yes… ow No.” I slow and walk, the pain eases a bit and I start up again. The final half mile is 3:21.

Oh god, maybe this injury will keep me from Boston after all.

Rusty tells me to stop if it gets any worse, otherwise do my hour cooldown. It continues to improve — slowly, slightly, but I remain aware of it. I go running by the UCSB lagoon which is full of grebes, and then on out to the open ocean and see a bunch of brown pelicans. On the way back I see my first bufflehead of the year. And of course mallards, great egrets and a great blue heron.

The pain is worse than it was on Tuesday, and yet it’s not really that bad. In fact when running it doesn’t hurt much at all, but when driving a car it is extreme. I guess the way the knee is held bent yet supporting weight — or perhaps just being still? Rusty has me ice it, and asks me to use a foam roller to stretch the hamstrings (semitendinosus particularly). I really hope it gets better.


I tried my ten mile run, but quickly decided that was not a good idea. I then tried using the elliptical trainer, but that didn’t seem a good idea either. My yoga class went well, but even there I needed to modify a few poses.Damn.
Monday. I still can’t use the elliptical. I manage to make an appointment with my doctor and she suspects ligaments or a torn meniscus. She sets me up for an MRI which I eventually schedule for Wednesday morning. She also tells me to take anti-inflammatories. Her comments make me think that a) I won’t be running Boston and b) I may not be running again.

By Tuesday the pain has dropped so that I can use the elliptical, which I do for an hour. I’m feeling all sorts of self-pitying thoughts which I try to pretend to myself are really self-sacrificing thoughts.

Wednesday I ellipt for another hour, get my MRI taken (but they won’t tell me the results), and go see Rusty. He’s much more cheerful and isn’t ready to give up on Boston yet. He hopes it’s a muscle injury which he can heal with massage. So I’m more cheerful.

Later I go see Mike, my PT, and he tests my knee and concludes that I do have a torn meniscus, but says this isn’t necessarily appalling. It may be possible to run through it and have it heal, or I may need surgery. In any event I will almost certainly be able to keep running in the long term. He’s had this surgery and he runs far better than I. But a torn meniscus isn’t a common running injury and there must be something wrong with my form. I wonder if it is because my legs are of different lengths and if I need to use a bigger lift in my shoe. Mike tells me not to put more stress on my knee by switching lifts.

I had the MRI results sent to him, and they arrive just as I’m leaving. They say I have a “complex” tear, which means I’ll probably need surgery. Mike tells me to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon — which I do, but not till Monday. Mike says I can continue to ellipt and to aquajog (ug) and swim between now and then.

Thursday. I had to stop ellipting after 10 minutes because it was too painful. The calm acceptance I thought I’d acquired seems to have changed to despair. I’ve heard everything from: “You should get both knees cleaned out,” to “The surgery is no big deal,” to “It’ll never be the same again,” to “Once they get inside the joint capsule they are liable to make matters worse.”

Marty tells me that he thinks that 5 years of running after knee surgery has given him more knee problems (but he still runs).

While recovering from my last injury I told myself that now I’d be OK, that I’d worked through all my body’s problems. I believed that all my previous injuries stemmed from a common root cause, which had been fixed. But that if I did get another major injury I should accept that I should no longer run competitively. I didn’t believe it would happen, of course, but it did.
I still don’t want to accept it.

Friday. The friends I talk to today encourage me not to give up running (even one who has counselled giving it up in the past). Rusty called to commiserate; it never occurs to him that I would give up, and how can I disappoint him?

If I do continue running I’ll need to have some explanation for why my knee went bad. And a fix. This is not a common running injury and indicates that my biomechanics are bad. Presumably they’ll still be bad after surgery and my knee will be even less capable of withstanding the bad torques I place on it.

I realize I no longer have any desire to do Boston. I wanted to run Boston because: a) qualifying is a challenge b) to redeem a mis-spent youth (I ran it as a bandit when I didn’t know any better) c) because I have friends there. Well I qualified, and don’t need to do that again. Being officially accepted has salved my conscious, so I don’t need to do that again. And I’ll still visit my friends even though I don’t run.

Jim and Laura had miserable weather in Napa today. Neither ran as fast as they had hoped, but Jim came fifth in his age-group and Laura fourth which means that they did well compared to other people — all you can hope for when the weather is against you.
The End
I talk more with Mike, this time about how to correct the imbalance which caused the tear. He seems to think that it is the leg length imbalance and that it can be fixed by a different size lift. Which is encouraging to me.

It tells me that it isn’t a new problem. And it’s a problem with a solution. Now increasing the size of the lift gave me achilles problems last year, but perhaps I can manage the transition better this year. Spend more time walking before I start running. Or something.

He also explains more about what the menisci do, and the whole injury begins to seem less threatening.I go to my orthopedic surgeon who is very careful not to tell me to have surgery. But who does say that he would have surgery if it were his knee. He also tells me that the good news is that running did not cause the injury. A statement I find hard to believe…

Did I “overdo it”? With hind-sight, maybe. My bad biomechanics might have torn the meniscus eventually anyway (my first knee injury came out of the blue).

Did I do anything that foresight would have cautioned against? I don’t think so.

Do I feel I was overtrained? Good heavens no.

But most important of all: I enjoyed it. I had a blast. And I don’t regret the process even if it did lead to injury.


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