Friday, November 30, 2007

Viva Las Vegas

I'm in Vegas. I have my number. My next post will be after the marathon. Mandalay Bay is large. Slot machines are stupid.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

T-3: This Is It!!!

Oh man I have the friggin' jitters!!! The marathon is Sunday... this Sunday. I'm going to wake up tomorrow, pack my stuff, and go to Vegas for the marathon.

I did my last long run on Sunday... a measly 10 miles. I maintained a 7:58 pace with ease, even though I felt absolutely exhausted and more than a few pounds heavier. I stretched like crazy afterwards.

Yesterday, before flying back to Boston, I did my last speed workout. I think the point of this speed workout was just to keep the muscle memory active in my legs. I was supposed to do this:

10 minute warmup
5 x 400m @ 1:35
10 minute cooldown

I felt like I was possibly coming down with a cold, so after the 3rd lap I decided that I'd do one more and cut the workout one lap short. The damage I could do with one lap too many is far worse than the lack of fitness one lap too few will cause.

I decided that since this would be my last speed lap for a while, and I really wanted to know what I was made of, I'd just sprint the whole lap. The last time I did that I hit a 1:20 400m. This time, I pushed myself even harder, and was panting for air and doubled over at the end.

My time was a 1:13. That's by FAR the fastest I've ever run a lap... It's the pace I'd have to maintain to run a 4:52 mile, something I probably won't ever do, but at least I know what it feels like to run that fast.

So that was cool, and this morning I did a nice little bike cross-train. My legs feel pretty strong, even though there's a little residual tiredness from the 10K and the 10 miles. I know that by Friday my legs will be back to 90%, and by Sunday they should be damn near 100%. For the next few days my goal is to do everything possible to make Sunday the best possible scenario for a good time.

I've worked my ASS off for this. I'm not sure I've ever applied myself so diligently to anything before. I know that, no matter what happens on Sunday, I've definitely caught the running bug in a bad way, and this marathon is merely one of many more that I'll be running. I will definitely be aiming for that 3:10 as soon as I can get my legs to move a little quicker, and who knows? Maybe this time next year I'll be 10 pounds lighter, running 19 minute 5K's, and heading to Vegas to try and qualify for Boston. I no longer doubt that I have the capacity to do it, it's just a matter of kicking my ass a little more.

I'll probably post one more time before the big day. Thanks to everyone who has kept up with me thus far.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

T-9: Thanksgiving Update

So. Full. Of. Food.

I ran the 10K in 46:40, which ends up being a 7:46 pace. My first two miles were 8:30 and 8:00, so that means the last 4.2 miles were run at a 7:11 pace. It was a little bit more than the program called for, but it was definitely a nice way of reassuring myself that my legs work. My little bro ran an 8:00 pace, which is fantastic.

My friend Jason made me lift weights with him today, which was awful, but at least I burned off some of the estimated 3800 calories I ate last night. The problem is that after working out, we binged on Mexican food, so I probably still have about 3000 extra calories to burn off from this week. Tomorrow I'll do something to sweat a little, and then Sunday will be a nice 10 miler.

This is it, the home stretch.

Happy Thanksgiving all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

T-11: Strangest run of my life.

I really wish I'd written this post as soon as I got home from my run. The memory would have been a little clearer, and already I'm started to wonder if I'm remembering this correctly.

I woke up at 6:00 am to do my speed workout, the last one I'll do in Boston before the marathon. It was just bitterly cold outside, so I bundled up and headed out the door. As I jogged down to the track, I said to myself, "I'm insane... the sun is barely out, it's 33 degrees, and I'm running outside in shorts."

I got to the track, and started my workout. Here was the plan:

10 minute warmup
5 x 1000m @ 4:03 pace
10 minute cooldown

That's a pretty easy workout for me these days, but the cold made it a little tricky. My legs took a while to warm up, and my lungs were burning from the cold, but my first repeat only took 3:53 to complete. My pace was essentially a 6:00 minute/mile.

The second repeat took 4:01... I got really tired at the end of this one for some reason.

The third repeat was 3:56. The fourth was 3:54.

I was consistently running a little slower than a 6:00 min/mile pace. This is pretty fast considering where I started with my speed workouts, but lately I've begun to have these crazy thoughts like, "I wonder if I could run a 19 minute 5K. I wonder if I could train to run a 5 minute mile."

These thoughts are dangerous, because I tend to be impatient when it comes to my running goals, and both of those goals would require some serious training, but I've started to get the speed bug, so my next conquest might be speed, not distance.

Anyway, I started my last 1000m, and after one and a half laps I suddenly realized that I was about to run my last lap on the MIT track for a while.

I know this is stupid, but for some reason that really resonated with me. That track has been the site of some epic training runs that have put me in the shape I'm in today. I knew I'd miss it out there over the next couple of months, so I decided to go out with a bang and sprint the last lap.

Up until the sprint, I was on pace to hit another 3:53 or so. I began to imagine what it'd be like at the end of the marathon to see that clock ticking down to 3:30 and me needing to sprint the final 400m. I hit the gas and started to fly around the track... and then something WEIRD happened.

This is where it's going to be tough to explain...

After about 20m of sprinting, I felt my body go almost completely numb, and I got tunnel vision. It freaked me out because I had a similar sensation a couple years ago when I almost passed out from heat stroke. This sensation, however, was a little different in that my vision didn't go dark around the edges, I just stopped paying attention to my periphery.

I became aware that I was in a dead sprint... probably running as fast as I've ever run in my life, and yet my legs didn't ache, my lungs didn't burn, and I really felt as though I could keep up the pace all day long. The sound of the wind kind of died down, though I still felt it blowing on me so I knew that my hearing had changed. About a quarter of the way around the track, I had the distinct impression that I was watching somebody run really fast... I can't really explain why it felt that way, but I definitely thought that I had stopped running, and someone else had taken over and was just watching now.

The last half-lap was just a movie for me. I couldn't hear anything, and I was just watching the interesting scene unfold before me... the ground just FLYING by. I had a little moment of panic like, "This is not normal... what's happening... am I in danger here?" The thing was I just felt so peaceful, and this was so easy so I just let who ever was doing the running at this point finish the lap.

When I got to the end of my run, the world started to fade back into existence, and my body came back under my control. I didn't feel tired, I felt AMAZING. My breathing was slow, as if I'd been walking, and my legs felt as fresh as when I'd started.

I didn't need to look at my watch to know I'd done something nuts... and when I looked....


I'd have to guess I ran that last lap at a 5:20 min/mile pace... that's insanity. The nuttiest part was how easy it felt, although I still feel like I wasn't the one that ran it.

This probably sounds ridiculous, and I swear that I'm not making anything up. Maybe I just had a HUGE surge of adrenaline on the last lap and it made me feel funny. Maybe I had an out-of-the-body experience... maybe I had some spiritual revelation...

So that was the weirdest run of my life... I have never had anything even remotely like this happen to me, and I don't know if it was actually just a brain aneurysm or something equally sinister.

Oh well... I'm off to Texas tomorrow. Tapering is going well, I've been trying to keep up my carb intake, and I'm still pumped as hell for December 2.

Monday, November 19, 2007

T-12: All Downhill From Here...

I ran 13 miles yesterday, marking the last time I'll run more than 10 miles until December 2nd. I just tried to run smoothly and easily, and at the end of the run my legs felt great and my GPS said 7:54 pace. The goal was an 8:00 pace, so I'm good to go.

I only have to work two more days and then it's time to relax and focus on the race. I'm starting to get those nervous pangs that make me think, "Have I built this up too high? Am I too cocky? What if it's windy again? What if I have a bad run?"

Tomorrow is a speed workout, 5 x 1000m. It'll be tough because it's freezing outside, but other than that it'll be no biggie. It's my last run that I'll be doing in Boston for a while, so I'll try to make it a good one. It's warmer in Texas, so I'll be a little more comfortable doing my LT run on Thursday at the annual Turkey Trot.

I've done all I can do training-wise. My fingers are now crossed!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

T-14: I need SLEEEEP!!!

I ran my LT run last night. I would have run it in the morning, but I didn't get to sleep until midnight the night before, so I slept in. I've had a pretty wacky week in terms of work, so I haven't been getting enough sleep, which worries me. I really need my legs to be 100% on the 2nd, and right now I'd say they're only 50%.

My LT run was fine, I ran 6 miles like this:

1 mile @ 8:20
4 miles @ 7:24
1 mile @ 7:14

The pace felt easy. My lungs were having no problem keeping up, my breathing was 3 in / 3 out the entire run, but my legs were protesting. They are certainly not over the beating they took last Sunday when I ran my last 20 miler. I think that I need to be very careful about pushing myself over the next 2 weeks. I need to sleep... alot. Luckily, I'm headed home to Texas for Thanksgiving, and then I pretty much go straight to Vegas for the race. I'll have plenty of time to relax, stretch, and sleep in the days leading up to the marathon.

13 miles tomorrow, and then my legs can really start to rest up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

T-17: Exploding Chest Part Deux

Wow... this morning's speed workout was DEVASTATING. I was caught totally off guard.

Basically, after Sunday's performance I figured the next two weeks would be a breeze. When I checked my workout schedule last night, I was in for a little surprise:

10 minute warmup
8 x 800 @ 3:13
10 minute cooldown

Uhm... WHAT!? I just ran 20 miles, and now I'm supposed to run 6400m at my speed pace? AAAARRGGHH!! My legs were certainly not 100%, and I woke up an extra 20 minutes early at 5:40am to get this awfulness out of the way.

First of all, it was in the 30's when I got outside. There was ice on the ground. I was wearing shorts.

Second of all, my legs felt like they'd been shot up with Novocaine. They weren't really sore anymore from the long run, but they definitely hadn't recovered fully. It really takes about a week for me to feel 100% after a 20 miler.

Third, I decided to eat cheese ravioli last night... you know what that means.

So I jog down to the track, and usually by the time I get there I've warmed up and I'm ready to go. Not today. The cold air made my whole body stiff, and I had to jog a few laps around the track to get going. Finally I figured I was good to start the speed workout.

My first couple of 800's were fine, I ran them in 3:05 and 3:11. I didn't feel fast at all.

In the middle of the third 800, I found it REALLY hard to keep up the pace. My legs just wouldn't obey my brain's orders to RUN. I finished the third 800 in 3:12.

It's been quite some time since I've had trouble maintaining the pace in my speed workouts, so this was a little demoralizing. After four 800's, I felt the call of the ravioli.

Once that was taken care of, I had to face four more 800's. My legs were cold and shaky, and I really thought I might not finish the workout.

Somehow, I just zoned out and did the rest of the runs, making it just under 3:13 each time. I jogged home and just about collapsed.

I think that this workout will end up being one of the most important workouts of this whole training plan. I just ran 20 miles a few days ago, and I was still able to push myself to pretty insane levels of hurting and survive. I think that when I'm at mile 22 or 23 in a couple of weeks, and every cell in my body is screaming at me to STOP, I'll be able to dig down a little bit and keep my legs moving through it.

Friday will be an LT run of 6 miles... no biggie. Sunday will be a 13 mile long run at my marathon pace, but I'm not even a little worried about that. I'm already thinking ahead a few months, trying to figure out what I need to do next to reach my ultimate goal of qualifying for Boston. Training for a 3:30 has given me a pretty good idea of what it takes to get faster, and how much more potential I have than I ever thought possible.

My marathon pace for a 3:30 is 8:00 minutes per mile.
To qualify for Boston I need to run 7:15 minutes per mile.

What's 45 seconds?

Monday, November 12, 2007

T-19: I'm Tapering.

The hard part is over. I've pushed myself harder than I ever have before, I've sacrificed a lot, I've given up partying and constant burrito-eating for this one goal, and now I've arrived at the end of my training. The next two weeks for me will involve some decent speedwork, some easier LT runs, and two long runs of 13 and 10 miles. I'll be going home for Thanksgiving the week before the race, which should be a perfect opportunity to relax and mentally prepare for December 2.

Saying that my final 20 miler went well would be a huge understatement.

I was actually looking forward to this run all week. That, by itself, is very strange. I normally DREAD the 20 miler, as I know that it is just a big mental and physical drain that will end in leg cramps and limping. However, lately I've been able to kind of zone out during these runs. I feel like I can basically set my legs on autopilot, start running, and then "check in" from time to time and make adjustments if I need to.

I have started thinking of my running in terms of driving. I can be running, and mentally checking different things about my body during the run. How do my legs feel? How is my breathing? How's my pace? Am I hydrated? Do I need carbs? Should I increase my stride length or turnover? It's similar to driving a car on the highway. You are constantly making little adjustments to the steering wheel, hitting the gas, braking a little, keeping an eye on the speedometer, checking the gas levels, etc... You do it almost unconsciously.

Yesterday my goal was simply to run 20 miles at a constant pace and feel good afterwards. The program called for an 8:15 pace, and I really did try to run at that speed, but after the first 6 miles I found that I had to work much harder to run that slow than I did to just run my "natural" pace, which seemed to be around 7:59.

I felt incredible up until mile 19, when the fast pace started to take its toll, but even at that point I was so focused that I maintained my crazy pace right up until the end. My average pace was 7:58.

I'm ready, I'd run this race tomorrow if I could. For now, I'm going to focus on eating right for the next 2 weeks (except Thanksgiving, that day is a free-for-all) and resting my legs up. In 19 days, I'll be on fire to run a marathon.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

T-20: Short Update

I'll post more on this in a bit, but I ran my last 20 miles at a 7:58 pace. That pretty much sums it up.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

T-23: Lactic Shmactic

This morning I was up at 5:30 in the morning to do 8 miles. I woke up, looked at the thermometer, saw a reading of 34 degrees, and decided that a treadmill seemed like the smart move. Off to the gym I went, trying to decide if I was at all worried about running this workout:

1 mile @ 8:30
7 miles @ 8:00

Clearly, the answer was no. This workout seemed like a breeze to me. So, in true Joey fashion, I decided to up it a little. I figured that since I was running on a treadmill I should go a little faster anyway. Here's what I ended up doing:

1 mile @ 8:20
6 miles @ 7:40
1 mile @ 7:30

I've been using the mantra, "Smooth and Steady," lately to keep my breathing under control. I ran the first 2 miles before I had even broken a sweat. The entire run felt like a nice, easy jog. I honestly have never had such an easy time maintaining this pace. Afterwards I stretched, and my legs feel just fine now.

I have to confess, that my performance lately has had me wondering if I should maybe think about adjusting my marathon pace to something a little faster. Maybe a 7:50 or so. I know that I shouldn't do this, and I won't... I'll stick to my plan, but I'm already looking forward to January when I can start building up the speed necessary to make a run at qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

23 days from now, I should be standing at the finish line in Vegas wearing a solar blanket... I can't friggin wait.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

T-25: Still Gettin' Faster

I wish the marathon was this weekend. After hearing about all the excitement of the NY Marathon, I'm just really fired up to do it. Every training run I do boosts my confidence a little more, and at this point the only things that worry me are the things I can't control, like the weather conditions on race day.

This morning was speed day. The program called for:

10 minute warmup
10 x 400m @ 1:35 (400m RI in between laps)
10 minute cooldown

I ran this workout pretty much perfectly. I jogged in between laps as opposed to stopping, except for three 1 minute water breaks after a few laps. My lap times were generally between 1:28 and 1:32. For the 10th lap I decided to go hard and ran a 1:20 lap. I think that once this marathon is over, I'd like to try and run a mile as fast as I can to see how well I do. I know I can easily bust 6:00, but I wonder if I could get close to 5:30 territory... I also think I might be able to run a sub-20 minute 5K (3.2 miles @ 6:26 min/mile).

Soooo... at this point, I'm really going to focus on running a perfect 20 miler this Sunday, and then start storing up my energy during the taper. The taper is always tough, because I want to keep pushing myself all the way up until the marathon, but I know that the proper thing to do is rest my legs. I will probably start to go crazy with pent up energy, but that's the idea. On race day, I'll take out my aggression on the clock.

Thursday is an LT run that, honestly, doesn't worry me in the slightest. My legs are just too damn fast now.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

T-27: I See the Light at the End of the Tunnel

First off, I'd like to give a shout out to my buddy Dara who is, at this very moment, running her first marathon. She's in New York about 3/4 of the way done, and she's kicking ass so far. I can't wait to talk to her afterwards to see how she feels.

Anyway, I'm going to run my own marathon in 27 days. WOW!!! It really snuck up on me. All of the sudden I'm 4 weeks out. The good news is that I'm as confident as ever that I'm going to destroy my PR of 3:57. Here's my training update:

After my 11 mile LT run Thursday, I went to work as usual. Around noon, I started to feel sick, like I was getting a cold. By the end of the day my nose was running like crazy and I was dizzy and clammy. I felt like shit. I thought that maybe I'd over trained, which worried the hell out of me. I decided to take Friday off from cross-training, and just rest. I took it very easy yesterday (except for last night when I played a rock show), and I drank lots of water and made sure I ate plenty. This morning I woke up with an extra hour of sleep in me, thanks to daylight savings, and I was ready for 15 miles.

The plan was to run an 8:10 pace. I felt good about this since it's pretty close to my marathon pace. I really wanted to make a conscious effort to keep my pace down today so I could run the 15 miles without burning out, and feel good for my last week of hard training before the taper.

Me and the girlfriend started off nice an slow, the first mile was 8:18. The second was 8:04.

Now, normally at this point I would have said, "8:04... that's great, let's stick with that." But, today I was smart, and we slowed down. We managed to run a pretty consistent pace, with a few 8:00's and a few 8:20's thrown in. I just tried to keep my legs moving at a pace that felt pretty easy for me. I wanted to feel like I was holding back on the throttle, and that I could just burst out at any moment.

The run was pretty easy, to be honest, and at the end I checked my GPS.

My overall pace was 8:08... almost exactly where it needed to be. I felt like I could have easily kept that pace up for a while.

This week is really it as far as the really tough training goes. Next Sunday is my last 20 miler, and then it's time to taper. Tapering isn't about relaxing and taking it easy, but it's more about maintaining the level of fitness I've built up over the past few months, and maybe losing another pound or two to make December 2nd as easy as it can be (which isn't all that easy.)

I can see the end of this thing now, and I'm running stronger than I've ever thought possible, so I'm REALLY curious to see what happens in 27 days.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

T-30: 30 Days Left!!!

30 days until I run another damn marathon! I'm really excited, I am definitely in the best running shape of my life, and I've still got a month to prepare physically and mentally for Vegas.

I got a comment the other day about my tendency to run my workouts way too fast, and it got me thinking. I understand the logic behind training at slower paces during long runs, and I've experienced first-hand what happens when I go out too fast. However, I also feel that this running thing is definitely a part of my life for the foreseeable future, and pushing myself a little hard this time will make my next marathon a little easier. I've also gotten caught up in the fact that I'm running faster and easier now than I ever have, and it's just plain FUN to run faster. I know it's stupid, and it might be hurting my training a little bit in the short run, but I really believe that to run fast, you have to train fast. My body will never adapt to run a 7:10 mile unless I'm kicking my ass pretty good. I'm planning on making a run at a Boston Qualifying time in the next couple of years, and I'll need to be in pretty ridiculous shape to do it, so why not start now?

So... with that said. Tuesday I ran 2 miles, back to back, in 12:20. That's a ridiculous number. I have never even come CLOSE to anything like that. I then ran another mile in 6:00. My speed workouts have definitely paid off, and I look back at my first speed workouts and laugh at how slow I used to be. I know damn well that I ran the workout way too fast, but I felt amazing and I was having a good time, so I just booked it.

This morning was an 11 mile LT run. The last time I tried this workout it was a disaster. This time... I killed it.

I was supposed to run a warmup mile, and then average an 8:00 mile for 10 miles. I started the run at 5:45 am, so it was dark for the first hour of the run. I couldn't see my GPS, so I didn't look at it until about 5 miles in. At that point I realized I had been running 7:45's.

Whoops. I know. No, seriously... I KNOW!!!

So I did slow it down a bit, but I kept creeping back into the 7:50's. The last couple of miles were tough, but not the devastating kind that I experienced 2 weeks ago on this same run. I finished the run with an 8:00 mile pace overall, including the warmup mile which was 8:20... so I averaged faster than an 8:00 mile for 10 miles.

I feel awesome. I can't believe the paces I'm able to keep up. My weight keeps dropping too, so I know that in a month I might be 2-3 pounds lighter and in even better shape. This is nice. I can't wait until 2009, when I should be running 6:40 LT miles and 3:10 marathons.