Today was was the Val Nolasco half marathon, the only race I scheduled during my marathon prep. This was somewhere between a B an C race for me. Only a little taper, mostly just this week's long run.
My goals for today's race were to look for a reasonable marathon race pace and to practice my nutrition plan. It is also a good idea to go through the mental game -- planning and the associated stressing over how I'll do, the idea here being to lower the stress level of the target A race. I also did some equipment checking: new shoes, what clothes to wear, a new visor, and my Garmin Fenix 2.
Allow me to point out here that I am an advanced age, late starting runner. Specifically I am 65 and have been seriously running for only three years. At my age, there is very little margin for error in anything related to physical activity. Every athlete knows the underlying dilemma; go too easy and no improvement takes place, but go too hard and the wheels fall off. As we age the margin of error gets smaller. The good news is that I have avoided much of the accumulation of injuries that plague so my senior athletes. The bad news is I lack the years of experience many senior athletes have. I am not only talking about knowledge, but something far more significant. Many people call it muscle memory. I like to point out that the nervous system in very much in play here. I visualize this as musician: a third year piano student should be able to toss off an A-Major scale, but a seasoned pro can do so with ease, grace and precision the beginner cannot match no matter how careful they are. I am that third year student, and often -- including today -- I find myself mixing it up with seasoned pros.
I ran my first marathon in 2012, after a year and a half of preparation. I had to pull out in 2013 due to a hernia just before the race. I logged my first swim workout in December 2012, two weeks after the marathon. I did my first triathlons in 2014, in spite of the fact that I could barley swim.
I did run the marathon last year, but the conditions were miserable -- wet and windy, cold by Hawaii standards -- and my training plan fell a little short on long runs. By this I mean I pushed a lot of my endurance training onto the bike. What I learned from that is that you can develop cardiovascular endurance by substituting long bike rides for long runs, but not muscular endurance. For this season my marathon training plan for this year included more long runs, and so far it has worked fairly well.
For this year, in the months leading up to the Honolulu Century Ride I did a blended training, alternating long bike weekends with long runs. After the century ride I only did long runs on the weekend. Ironically we skipped the century ride due to miserable weather, but I did a make-up with a training partner a couple weeks later. It rained that Sunday, too, but he had to get in the miles.
7/26 - Tinman Triathlon
8/2 - Bike 13 miles
8/9 - Run LTHR test 3.44
8/16 - Bike 45
8/23 - Run 8.6
8/30 - Run LTHR test 3.25
9/6 - Bike 43.9
9/12 - Run 6.9 rain
9/20 - Run strides 2.72
9/27 - (Century Ride, skipped due to rain)
10/4 - Brick, Bike 25, Run 1.25 with Steve Davidson
10/10 - Run 11
10/11 - Bike 100 with Steve, IM Florida training, make-up century ride
10/18 - Run 16
10/25 - Run 18
11/1 - Run 8 (R&R week)
11/8 - Run 11.6. Plan was 20, Garmin died, then I blew up just after half way
11/15 - Run, 13.4 (half marathon)
11/22 - Run 22
11/29 - Run 17 at goal pace
12/6 - Run 12 at goal pace
12/13 - Honolulu Marathon
My best half marathon was the 2014 Hapalua, at 3:05:56. The Hapalua is easier than today's race because there are less hills. The Hapalua runs along the coast from Waikiki to downtown Honolulu, then back to Waikiki, up the west side of Diamond Head and around clockwise to finish at Kapiolani Park. The Val Nolasco starts with a climb over the much steeper east side of Diamond Head, up the back side, down into Kahala, up to the highway, down a little where is finally stays flat for a bit, then unwinds back pretty much the same route. The worst part for me is hitting that first hill before I have fully warmed up. Today I walked the steep section to avoid burning too many matches too early; I had last week's failure firmly in mind.
My primary goal was to practice running at marathon race pace, something I have not done enough. I have been doing my long runs right at aerobic threshold, high 1Z, low 2Z. For today I wanted to keep my cadence and pace a bit higher, pushing HR into 3Z like I did for the Hapalua. I felt a bit conflicted here, because on one side this was just another long run on the way to the marathon, but on the other hand I wanted to keep the effort high. I set myself the lofty goal of finishing under 3 hours, but was prepared to miss that.
Plan: Time: 3:00:00. Pace: 13:43.
Actual: Time: 3:39:11. Pace: 16:18.
Looking over my GPS data there were many times I was running a 14:30 pace, just slightly below my goal marathon pace. It felt good, and I probably could have pushed myself a little harder.
One thing I am doing differently this season is walk/run pacing. There is a lot of advice out there that this is a good method for age groupers like me, and after giving it a try I will confirm that it does work well. I used to just walk through the aid stations, but towards the end of long races I would slow down considerably. That one minute recovery ever five minutes really helps to clear out the lactic acid, plus it gives me time to work my fuel plan.
I used to train with Cytomax and just drink whatever sports drink was offered at the race. Last year I followed Matt Fitzgerald's advice to carry your own fuel and just take on water at the aid stations. That way you race with exactly the same fuel you train with. For this, again following Fitzgerald, I would put three GU gels in a Fuelbelt 7oz. flask and dilute roughly 50/50 with water.
The GU gel flask did the lob, but towards the end of a long day I would begin to revolt against the sweet taste. I experimented with flavors -- GU does offer a lot of choices -- and the one I tolerated best was Mandarin Orange. But best was not good enough. I would start to feel nauseous if I consumed even a little too much.
This Fall I took advantage of the lull after my last triathlon and the marathon to experiment with fuel. After reading up on the Hammer line of products I gave Perpetuem a try, and I find that it works very well for me. So well that I have started using some of their other products: Recoverite, Tissue Rejuvenator, Premium Insurance Caps, and Endurolytes. Oh yes, and their nose spray Nasol. Snuff in a spray bottle.
Perpetuem is remarkable in that it can treated as a standard sports drink or in a more concentrated form for long events. Today I used a four scoops to 4oz. water mix in a 7oz. Fuelbelt flask. This is taken a small sip at a time and must include plain water intake at the same time to avoid stomach upset. My Fuelbelt takes two flasks, so I keep plain water in the other. My basic rhythm, which I vary as needed, is to take a hit of fuel every other run/walk break, which works out to once every twelve minutes, almost once per mile. It is a small sip, a fraction of an ounce. At the same time I take in 1-2 oz. of water. I refill the water flask as necessary at the aid stations. Last week I used a 5 scoop concentration and it worked -- amazing how well Perpetuem mixes at high concentrations and it still tastes good. For my next long run I am going to try what I plan for the marathon, start with normal concentration in the water flask and drink that straight until gone, then refill with water. The idea is to make the concentrated flask last a little longer. If I run out before the finish I will just switch off to the provided sports drink.
On the first half of today's race my limiter was pain in my left knee and where the medial glute connects to the hip bone. These are old familiar friends, aggravated by an aggressive but much needed yoga session on Thursday. I knew these were not real injuries and sure enough they eventually loosened up, but the pain kept me from letting go and running free. That and I was worried about blowing up again. On the return through Kahala my calves started to cramp a little. Nothing bad, just a little twitch. I have tried running through this condition before and ended up on the side of the road. Today I alternated between starting my scheduled walk a little early and just slowing down a bit. Made it through without any disasters, but it did slow me down.
Last week I forgot to take any salt with me. This fall my blood pressure has been rising, so I doubled my meds dosage. The trouble with these meds is that they make me pee a lot, which is supposed to flush out salt and lower BP. Fluid and salt loss are not the best things for endurance athletes. To counter this I did carry Hammer Endurolytes with me today and took one with my pre-race meal to avoid starting in a salt deficient state. I took three more during the race, and another three just after. Hammer recommends two per hour but that would depend on conditions and today was neither hot or humid, so I cut that in half. For next week I might increase the amount to see how it goes. Tomorrow is my annual physical and BP meds will be a major topic.
Finally, looking forward to the marathon, I hope to be a little faster than today. My goal is a 14min/mile average. A real taper should help with that. We'll see. No matter how it turns out, just being out there is satisfaction enough. The real goal, least we forget, is next year's Honu Ironman 70.3, what this blog is all about.