Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Training Plan Highlights

I resolve ...

I guess you could call this my 2016 New Year's resolution. The title suggests a full year plan, but I have not gotten much past the main event for this year, the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii ("Honu") triathlon. I do plan to ride an aggressive Century Ride in September, but I am undecided about the Honolulu Marathon. Best thing to do there is sign up at the kama'aina rate and decide later. Here is what I have so far:

Feb 15 Great Aloha Run (C)
Apr 10 Hapalua Half Marathon (B) (practice run segment of HIM)
Apr 24 Haleiwa Metric Century Ride (C) (practice pacing, bike nutrition)
May 15 Honolulu Triathlon (B) (focus on swim and transitions)
Jun  4 Honu (A)
Jul 24 Tinman (A)

My first and only real A race is Honu. I have made the Tinman Triathlon an A race only because I will already be in good form from Honu and might as well sustain that level of fitness through Tinman. The other races are B and C events done just for fun or to practice for Honu.

The Performance Management Chart as a planning tool

(Click to enlarge)
The Performance Management Chart (PMC) is sometimes referred to as the bread and butter chart of Training Peaks. Anyone who has used Training Peaks should recognize the PMC as a historical tool, in that it applies complex mathematical formulas to workout data uploaded from whatever source is available (typically a GPS-enabled heart rate monitor) and displays three line charts superimposed upon each other, labeled Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL), and Training Stress Balance (TSB). The ATL line is fuchisa. The more demanding a workout, the higher the value. Think of it as fatigue, in that the harder you work the more fatigue you end up with. The TSB line is yellow and represents something sort of, but not exactly, the opposite of ATL. Let's call it freshness. The harder you work the more negative the TSB. When training eases off, ATL falls and TSB rises. You end up feeling rested and ready for more activity. The blue CTL line represents the interaction between ATL and TSB; it represents the improvement in fitness brought about by training. The body responds to an increase in ATL by building more muscle, bone, and connective tissue, and it does this mostly during times of rest (high TSB). The result of all this cell growth is greater fitness, represented on the PMC by the blue CTS line.

The most significant data point the Training Peaks site computes from an athlete's workout data is Training Stress Score (TSS). Simply put, a maximum effort sustained for one hour generates a TSS of 100. The source data used varies for each sport, with emphasis given to power meter data and heart rate data when available. The goal is to have a metric that represents how hard a workout felt regardless of which activity it was. TSS values above 100 are not uncommon because duration is one of the terms. A three hour bike ride at moderate intensity could produce a TSS of 150. A two hour easy run might also produce a TSS of 150. The point is that both workouts, the bike and the run, should feel equally hard and leave you feeling equally exhausted.

The left third of my PMC above is historic, starting when I began to ramp up my training for the marathon. As useful as the PMC is at describing what happened in the past, it can also be used to predict the future. This is a powerful planning tool. Just keep in mind that it will always be an estimate until the actual data is uploaded. Not only that, any plan is subject to the specifics of what actually happens, day by day. What I have here is a fairly detailed plan out to June, but it will need adjustment as I go along.

The key to using the PMC to predict the future is to manually assign a TSS vaue to each planned workout. On my PMC the lines that represent future data are dashed, beginning on December 30.

Where do the TSS estimates come from? Primarily by looking back at past workouts.

Here is the workout I have scheduled for January 5th, the weekly Tantalus Ride. As you can see I have assigned this workout a TSS value of 80. The actual TSS values for the past four times I have done this ride are 88.7, 87.9, 100.1, and 107.9. (The increase in TSS here could be taken as a sign of improved fitness. I'll go with that.).

Creating a training plan at this level of detail does take time, but without such a plan there is a good possibility that important training elements will be missed. Here is a look at the week the example workout is from, the start of my spring training base period.

To produce the PMC shown here required that I fill in every week through Honu with this level of detail. Bear in mind that no two weeks are exactly the same!

A good training plan incorporates periodization, the alternation of hard days and easy days, hard weeks with easy weeks, and on the macro level, long builds to peak performance for the A races and adequate recovery time. On the PMC, the blue line represents the result of training and should show a steady rise to an A race. That progress in turn will be a series of ups and downs due to periodization.

Training volume should be reduced just before a race. This is often referred to as tapering and shows up on the PMC as a drop in ATL and a corresponding rise in TSB. This increase in TSB is called "coming into form." The blue CTL line also go down. This loss of fitness could be taken as a bad thing, but it has been shown beyond any doubt that an elevated TSB is critical for a good endurance race. I have identified the races I plan on doing between now and Honu. Notice how the TSB goes up before each, but not always the same amount. The difference is how significant the race is to me.

In a recent blog Joe Friel presented another way to look at the PMC by dividing it into zones and tracking how the TSB line falls into these zones. I have added his zones manually to my example here -- you will not see this on the Training Peaks PMC. Remember, when training is hard the TSB goes increasingly negative. Going from the bottom up, the lowest (most negative) zone is "High Risk." You can see where my long run workouts leading to the marathon often went into this zone. Such workouts will leave you too fatigued to do much for a day or two, and they increase the risk of a training injury, but in my case they were necessary to build muscular endurance needed to run the marathon. Next up is the "Optimal Training" zone. You want many of your workouts to result in putting your TSB is this zone. The "Grey" zone is what the name implies, a level of effort too low to produce much increase in fitness, yet too high to be truly restful. The blue zone is labeled "Freshness" because this is where you will recover well. With periodization the goal is to alternate between the green and blue zone. The transition zone is where you have seriously backed off training. A good example can be seen here following my marathon -- it actually takes several days for my TSB line to get up into the Transition zone, and that is exactly what it felt like.

In the same blog entry Friel addresses "coming into form" and the Freshness zone:

Freshness is fully realized when in this zone, but how high an athlete may want to be here on race day varies. Some athletes race better when high in the zone around +20 to +25, and others when low in the zone at about +5 to +10. That’s one of thing you can only determine from trial and error. 
I am following Friel's Half Ironman training plan (for athletes over 50) and I end up with a TSB of about 25. For Honu that is a good thing, because the wind and heat can take a lot out of you.

Focus: Swim

Now that the marathon is over I will shift more time to the swim, by far my weakest event. Tuesday and Thursday mornings are taken by other commitments -- group bike hill climb on Tuesday, strength training on Thursday -- so I will follow my old routine of a morning swim at the Oahu Club on Monday and Wednesday. I will do one more weekday swim in open water, where the focus is on long, continuous swimming, sighting, and feeling and adjusting to currents. For that I need a partner, and if hooking up with someone is easier on Wednesday I can swap the pool and OW swims. I will do the swim portion of weekend workouts at the beach, at whatever location makes sense, most likely Kaimana.

Joe Friel's training plan is an excellent piece of work, worth every penny, but he specifies swim workouts the traditional way whereas I am a follower of the Total Immersion method. Friel does give you the option of doing a masters class, which suggests that he is more interested in putting in adequate time and distance. Here is a typical swim workout:

WU: 100 drill, 100 kick, 100 drill, 100 kick.
400 at T-pace. (T-pace is your olympic-distance swim pace per 100).
50 kick easy.
350 at T-pace.
50 kick easy.
300 at T-pace.
50 kick east.
250 at T-pace.
50 kick easy.
200 at T-pace.
50 kick easy.
150 at T-pace.
50 kick easy.
100 drill.
50 kick easy.
500 swim good form.
You may substitute a similar masters swim session for this workout.

I have chosen to follow the same swim training plan I used last season, while increasing the yardage as much as time allows. This is the "Fast Forward" plan developed by TI coach Susan Atkinson.

There will be a week-long TI swim camp in Kona this March. I would like to do this and turn the week into a training vacation, to include a few rides on the road to Hawi. Still holding back due to the cost, but for someone already in Hawaii it is actually a bargain.

Focus: Bike

Now that I have my new Cervelo P3 I need to invest plenty of time getting comfortable in the aero position. In addition to the usual long rides I will need to take advantage of every opportunity to get out o the oad, even for thirty minutes. In support of this goal I purchasd a nifty set of lights specifically designed for tri bikes -- ever try to mount a standard bike tail light on an aero seat post? Not happening! I am still in the process of buying and installing all the little extras, and will cover that in future blogs.

Last year I finally purchased a set of Garmin Vector pedals, so I will be training and racing with power. Friel's plan includes directions for those with power meters, and I can apply what I learned from his book, "The Power Meter Handbook."

Focus: Run

My primary goal for running is to at least maintain my current run fitness while reducing the weekly mileage to make time for more swimming and biking. I will use the GAR to keep me on track, and the Hapalua to practice my pacing for Honu. During the marathon build I was running so long on Sunday that I could not manage much during the week, which resulted in my body becoming acclimated to running slow. I caught this only a couple weeks away from the race and struggled to keep my cadence above 80.  With this in mind I have increased the emphasis on tempo and interval runs during the week.

Strength training, massage, and yoga

I cannot emphasize enough how important strength training is to staying fit, especially for old geezers like me. My trainer Dorian Cuccia understands the importance of weekly gym sessions and is a genius at adapting traditional weight lifting exercises to complement the specific demands of triathlon. Our plan is to use the base period, January through mid-March, to do some especially aggressive strength training aimed at increasing power output and therefore efficiency and at the same time increasing range of motion.

When I began seeing my massage therapist Sonya Weiser Souza our goal was to fix a really bad left leg. About a year ago the leg had improved so much that we decided to drop down to a once every three weeks schedule. Our plan for this year is to stay with tht schedule through the base period while taking a more aggressive approach to mobility, with emphasis on the upper body. (I see much pain in my future!) During the build phase we will meet every two weeks to ward off injury due to increasing training stress.

I know that some in the sport consider a waste of time, and possibly detrimental to good performance. I disagree. Yoga -- or Pilates -- has a definite place in endurance training. Muscles need regular signals that they need to function over a wide range of motion. If all we do is the sport we target our muscles will be confined to a limited range of motion. At the very least this limit will act as a barrier to good performance, but it can even lead to injury, particularly when unforeseen events cause us to move in a way we have not practiced. Pattie and I will continue to attend a weekly yoga session with Elaine Chung at the East Honolulu Yoga Center.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Marathon 2015, more insights

During the my last month of training leading up the last Sunday's race I realized that I had been doing the bulk of my running at a very low pace, so much so that when I tried to do a fast finish run my legs felt very ungainly and my arms seemed to loose connection to me legs. Doing those long runs at such a slow pace is the right thing to do. Had I done say a twenty mile run at marathon pace I would be exhausted for the next couple of days and incapable of doing any useful training for a week or two. A typical marathon pace falls somewhere in the mid to high zone 2. Zone 3 should be avoided, as that is getting up into tempo range, where breathing becomes hard and the effort cannot be sustained for so long an event. I spent most of my long run training at the top of zone 1, literally 1.9, bumping over into the low zone 2 only occasionally.

I have been working on running at low effort levels while maintaining a high cadence -- 80 one foot strikes per minute or better -- but in spite of much improvement still cannot manage to stay in zone 1 without dropping down to the 70 - 72 range. I ran several long runs in the 18 - 20 mile range that I ran this way and felt reasonably good afterwards. Good old fashioned base training.

During those final weeks when I tried to run faster I finally hit a sweet spot where my feet seemed to float with little effort. This happened right around 80 BPM. I found that at this cadence I could increase my pace considerably with only a small increase in HR. Looking back on my training plan I realize now that I should have scheduled one medium distance run mid-week to be done at or just above race pace. Call it tempo if you like, perhaps "below tempo" would be more accurate. Whatever you call it, the problem was my fixed training schedule did not present a useful time slot for such a workout.

My race plan called for a reasonable warm-up period of about two miles, a long mid section done at a higher effort than my long run practice pace, and the last five miles as fast as my tired legs would go. I expected to be running at a HR in the high zone 2, just dropping into zone 1 during the one minute walk periods. I was also prepared for my HR to be evevated as compared to a workout, due to the stress of racing. What I found was that to hit my desired pace I frequently ran my HR up into zone 3. Not high enough to be a genuine tempo run, but almost. Again, those one minute breaks allowed me to keep this up for several hours. I am sure I could have done the entire race this way were it not for the heat that hit hard around mile 20.

Below is my Time in Heart RAte Zone chart from Training Peaks. I am not surprised at how much time I spent in zone 3 based on what I saw while running. I am surprised that I spent that much time in zone 3. To be sure, it was low zone 3, but my plan was to not go above high zone 2.

Below is my Performance Management Chart for the period I was doing marathon specific training. From 8/3 to 9/27 I was doing a blended marathon + century ride training. Poor weather made some workouts impossible, and the weather was so bad that I skipped the century ride. I did do the hundred miles later, on 10/11, with my friend Steve Davidson who was training for Ironman Florida. Looking at this period I would say that my overall intensity was too low. My Training Stress Balance (TSB) (the yellow line) is much too high, meaning I was not working very hard, and the Chronic Training Load (CTL) (the blue line) just meanders up and down. I was not getting any more fit. The make-up century ride, closely followed by a hard Tantalus Ride the following Tuesday, finally brought my PMC data into the proper proportions for a gain in fitness.

The first big spike in Acute Training Load (ATL) comes the following weekend, my first truly long run at 16 miles. From there through to the marathon you can see a regular progression of long runs on Sunday mornings. The bobble in early November was caused by a failed long run on 11/8 followed by the Val Nolasco Half Marathon on 11/15, which I did not run as hard as I might have because I was practicing my marathon pace. Even so you can see a nice steady improvement in CTL as the ATL peaks every Sunday in a steady progression up until the start of my taper. From there my TSB shots up high, just what it wanted for a race like this.

I would consider this a textbook case of what a PMC should look like, except the pattern visible in the last three months should be present from the start. On balance, had I worked that hard that long I might of burned out mid-November. This is why training plans are part science, part art.

One thing I learned during those long Sunday morning runs was the need to maintain better posture. By the end of a long run I had serious pain where my glutes attach to my hip bone. The other hot spot was just below my scapula. I discovered that I was running with my head tilted down. On shorter runs, like what I had been doing during triathlon season, the effort of holding up my sagging head went unnoticed, but after several hours the effort revealed itself. I learned to balance my head on to of my shoulders and to lift my mid-section up out of my hips by engageing my abs, and like magic the pains went away. No pain at all during or after the race.

Even more exciting was the complete lack of drama in my left leg. Despite being right handed it is my left leg that gets pushed into doing most of the work. For several years I have been struggling to lefty to articulate as smoothly as righty. I often find myself running with a clip-clop so pronounced you might think I was wearing two different makes of running shoes. All the hard work paid off. On Sunday, both legs started off extremely well. Around mile 21 it was righty who started to complain -- the quads (rectus femoris) and adductors started to hurt as if they wanted to cramp. I have been disabled by severe calf cramps on training runs and did not want to become part of the carnage I was running past, so I slowed down a bit and extended my walk periods enough to take in a little more water. After the race it was my right quad that hurt the most, not the left. Interesting.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Race Report - Honolulu Marathon 2015

If I had to sum up this race in one word, it would be "hot." To expand a little, hot, humid, and no wind. Last year I battled the wind and rain and managed a 7:25. This year, in spite of near perfect conditions for the first couple hours, the best I could manage was 7:37. But, seeing all the carnage I passed on my way back from the turn-around in Hawaii-Kai, I will take that as a good result for me.

I knew heat would be an issue from the weather reports going into the weekend. My good friend and physical therapist Sonya Weiser-Souza ran the Xterra half marathon last weekend and had to drop out with heat stroke. We are talking about someone with way more experience than me. Her experience inspired me to make two changes to my original plan. I increased the number of salt tabs I would carry and consume, and planned on taking in more water from my flask. It is a six ounce flask, so a full one every aid station (about two miles, roughly thirty minutes at my pace), seemed like a good target. Gut unhappiness would have the last word. I do a 5/1 run/walk and drink every time I walk, so one ounce at every walk would do it. This was probably close to what I had been doing in training, it is just that I needed to be more attentive this time. I also made sure to take one salt tab about thirty minutes before the start.

My concern for heat was confirmed waiting for the start. By 5:45AM it was 82F on course at 86% humidity. I was sweating just standing still.

All year I have been experimenting with blood pressure medication and finally came up with a mix that does a good job without flushing out salts and "excess" water. I started my new mix about a month ago, watching for signs of the most likely side effect, feeling dizzy during rigorous activity. This did happen to me several years ago. During yoga I would stand up and almost fall over. Had to change meds back then. This time, with something different, no problems so far.

I saw dozens of runners on the side of the road, shoes off, rubbing their feet. Sure signs they bought their shoes at the bargain store, cheaply made or the wrong size. You cannot run a marathon with junk shoes. I got myself a new pair of Newton Gravity IVs, wore them just enough in training to scuff the soles a bit, then saved them for the race. They were perfect. Not foot issues whatsoever.

I know there is no evidence that supports the benefits of wearing compression socks or sleeves during a race, and only tangential evidence that supports recovery. Still, I feel better doing long runs in CEP compression sleeves. This time I wore my blue pair, not because they matched my kit but because they are not as tight as my white pair. I wore the white ones for the Val Nolasco Half Marathon in November. They felt too tight, and I suffered from calf cramps at an effort level that should not have been a problem. No calf cramps at all this time, not so much as a tingle. But then this time I tapered.

I have come to prefer spandex running shorts for long runs. My Newton tri-suit is my favorite. I have a black Pearl-Izumi tri-short (basically bike shorts with thinner padding) but they are too thick and hot -- would have died in those. Pattie pointed out that since my over-all look is blue I could wear my Zoot tri-suit shorts with my Newton running singlet. A perfect combination.

Why not the matching Zoot top? Like many other people I have had problems with my Garmin heart rate monitor strap interacting with the fabric. Some people report HR spikes. My typical failure is low or zero HR. I have had it happen on several long runs and know how to correct it, but it takes times and becomes a source of stress. For a triathlon the advantages of a proper tri-suit outweigh the risk of equipment failure -- we can run by feel. But in a marathon, why bother? Eliminate the problem at the source. Besides, on a day like this I believe the loose fitting singlet is cooler.

I was torn between my trusty old Head Sweats running hat (IT&B logo) or my new Head Sweats headband (Newton branded). Due to the lack of wind and anticipated sun I went with the white hat, and I think I made the right choice.

My one last minute change to my fuel plan was to carray two packs of Scratch Labs chews instead of one. On a couple recent long runs I consumed a whole bag, but mostly during a break around the halfway point. I knew there would be no such break this time, but with the increased heat I wanted more options. As it turned out I only ate six chews.

I started the race with one six ounce flask filled with a mixture of five scoops of Perpetuem in about four ounces of water. Five scoops is enough for two an a half standard water bottles. Taking this in undiluted would result in certain gastrointestinal mutiny. The trick is to take a sip, then wash it down with water from the other flask. That water flask gets refilled at every aid station. I have practiced this for months and it works really well. I do like to dilute the mix a little when roughly a third is gone. Doing so reduces the risk of taking in too much.

My plan was to extend the life of the Perpetuem with the chews. If I did run out of Perpetuem I could finish the run on the Gatorade provided on course. Why not just drink the provided sports drink? Experience has taught me that taking on several ounces of fluids at once -- water or sports drink -- makes my gut unhappy. Taking in less at that interval means certain dehydration on long runs. My solution is to drink smaller amounts more often. For this race I drank water at the start of every walk period, and water plus a sip of Perpetuem -- or a chew -- at every other. That means taking in fuel every twelve minutes.

About halfway through the race my stomach began to complain a little. I am reasonably certain this was due to my pushing water intake. To compensate I took in extra salt. I have not done this in practice and was not sure how my gut would react to getting salt and fuel in the same period, so I held bak on the fuel. This seemed to work, as I never felt bonked. I ended up taking eight Endurolyte tabs during the race, about double my training consumption. I started taking Gatorade from the Aloha gas station in Kahala just to be sure my Perpetuem held out. As it turned out I had maybe a half hour's worth left at the end of the race. So that went as planned.

That Aloha gas station around mile 21 is my nemesis. This year my plan was to know that the long stretch leading to it is uphill, and not to freak out when my pace dropped off. From there the course is gently downhill to just before Triangle Park, and I intended to make the most of it. I walked the last bit of the hill, and as I started running on Kealaolu my right adductor said no. Then my quads joined in, the right more so than the left. This is significant, because it has always been my left leg that gave me grief. I finally decided that this was not so much the onset of cramping as good old fashioned fatigue, but I did not want to test my theory to the limit so every time my legs start shouting I cut my walk period short. A few time I walked clear through a run period -- a whole five minutes -- just to quiet them down.

The funny thing is, from the back of Hawaii-Kai all the way to the finish I was surrounded by and running past walkers. Actually they looked more like zombies. My guess is that the Japanese tours deliver their changes really early and they all line up at the front, regardless of how fast they run. This year I violated my runners creed by lining up at the fifteen minute mark, knowing full well I was closer to sixteen, in hopes of avoiding some of that. It seemed to be working well for the first few miles, then the passing started and never ended. Let me assure you, when you are surrounded by walkers and your Garmin buzzes you to start running, it takes enormous willpower to obey.

I am well aware of the advice not to bank time at the start of a marathon. Go out easy, save yourself for the end. This time, though, I had to consider the fact that heat would become a major factor in the second half, so a little banking in the first half would pay off. Who can say for sure? I say it did, because I was still running at the finish and the only reason I slowed down was the heat.

Usually I pace myself my heart rate zone, but I have noticed that in a race my HR numbers are often higher than my RPE, including respiration. This time I decided to go primarily by pace, with a nod to gradient, based upon my recent runs. For the first couple miles I would not worry about any of that, just take it easy as I worked through the mass of runners as efficiently as possible while my legs warmed up, knowing that they would feel lousy. After that I wanted to stay as close to 15 min/mile as possible, closer to 14 if I was running well, walk the hills, and go as fast as my tired legs would carry me after the Aloha gas station. The goal being a run/walk average of 16 or better. I knew that if I ran at 15:30 my overall would be much slower. Those hill take a huge toll on your average pace, but to run them is to burn off way too much precious glycogen.

It turned out I was running really well. For the first two hours my overall average was spot-on 16 min/mile. I was getting up into zone three at times, more like a tempo or half marathon pace, but I felt great and the one minute break provided just the recovery I needed. After Kahala, out on the highway, the full force of the heat started to take its toll and my overall average fell to 17. I was hoping for a little respite; some clouds, a little rain, a bit of a tailwind, anything to gain back that lost time. No such luck. My Garmin logged a steadily rising temperature (blue line on the chart below), up to 93F for the last two hours, which happens to coincide with the Aloha gas station. No wonder the run from there to end looked and felt like a death march! I did feel good enough to run halfway up Diamond Head on the return, which surprised even me.

Thank goodness for the many water showers out on course. Mostly improvised, several supplied by folks who live along the course. This was the first marathon I ran with sponges still available at aid stations and I never skipped an opportunity to use one. At many in-between aid stations I took a cup of water and poured it over my head. To have passed by those opportunities would have meant certain disaster.

Post-race I have little to show. No drama. No lost toenails, no blisters, no sunburn (thanks, Planet Sun!). My quads are sore (yes, walking down stairs hurts), but that is it. Pattie greeted me with a bountiful supply of recovery fluids and I did not even try to eat solid food until late in the afternoon. For dinner she made pesto pasta, tossed salad, and a lean steak, thin sliced and marinated in balsamic vinegar dressing. Delicious, and none of the stomach upset I experienced last year.

Here is my data, click through to get the entire Training Peaks reports.

I cannot finish without saying mahalo to my dear friend Ric Trimillos who graciously allowed us to stay in his Waikiki condo. An easy walk to the start line and from the finish. And a million dollar view. Ric used to be quite the runner. Maybe next year he could join me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Marathon race plan

This coming Sunday is the Honolulu Marathon, so it is time to write out my race plan. Bottom line up front, I plan to come in just under seven hours.

A good friend who lives in Waikiki near the Hilton Hawaiian Village will be out of town and has graciously offered to allow Pattie and me to stay at his condo. About a twenty minute walk to the start area. I am going to leave earlier than last year so that I start closer to the front.

I have come to enjoy a pre-race dinner of sushi and will probably do that again. The key is to keep it light. The race starts at 5:00AM and for my pre-race breakfast I like to eat two slices of whole wheat bread with Nutella, along with some strong coffee, so I should get up by 3:00. Pattie is on the timing team and has to report in right across the street by 3:30, so I will probably get up with her.


The weather report calls for fairly warm weather and a slight chance of rain -- complete opposite of last year's race. I won't even bother with a trash bag raincoat unless things turn really nasty on Saturday. I will be extra careful with hydration. The really big question for me is which hat to wear. In the past I always wore a white runners hat, but when the wind is up, like last year, it becomes a distraction. Recently I bought a Newton branded Head Sweats visor that fits really snug. No way that thing will be blown off my head short of a hurricane. Because it fits so tight it hurts after awhile. I did wear it on at last one long run and I must say the pain kind of fades into the background. Then there is the heat debate. The visor lets heat escape from your scalp, a hat holds it in. But on hot, sunny days a white hat reflects heat, and my runners hat is well ventilated. I am not bald, so sunburn is not an issue. Maybe I'll just flip a coin that morning.

I bought new running shoes for this race. The latest iteration of Newton Gravity, the show I have been wearing for several years. I wanted to save them for the race but have been wearing them on enough runs to be sure they present no issues. I am going to use the traditional style laces that came with the shoes rather than triathlon style Yanks laces as they make the shoe feel more stable.

After some experimenting this fall I settled on snug, triathlon-style bike shorts paired with a loose fitting running singlet. I do like the matching spandex tri top, but I have had too many issues with my Garmin chest strap dropping out due to interaction with the fabic, so I decided to go traditional. The shorts I like are from Zoot. I also like my Newton kit. I do have a Pearl Izumi tri short but for some reason -- thicker padding? -- they feel uncomfortably hot in anything above 80F. I'll be wearing the Zoot shorts, same as for Honu.

I am a firm believer in compressing socks. Actually I wear calf sleeves and regular socks. Mine are from CEP. I have three pair, black, white, and blue. Not sure why but I bought the white smaller. Wore them for my last half marathon and they felt too tight and my calves were getting that twitchy almost-a-cramp feeling at much too low an effort level. I think those are just too tight, so I will wear the blue to match the rest of my kit.

I am going to carry my phone and unless there is a tropical storm I promise to take some pictures. Last year I did not get any due to rain and fatigue. I promise to do better this year. Sometimes I get too serious. Besides, watching for photo ops is a good way to distract you from your pain. Maybe a movie across the start line would be cool, for people who have never done it.


I have done a lot of experimenting during my recent long runs the result of which is a tested nutrition plan that is as reliable as any could be. Which means no guarantees.

In the past I used diluted GU gels in Fuelbelt flasks, three gels per bottle with about the same amount of water. I would sip some gel every ten minutes along with a little water from the aid station.

As much as I liked the flavor of GU tangerine gel, after a couple hours I began to dread having to take any more. I think it was too sweet. On a couple races, or long runs, I ended up on the verge of puking and what was coming up tasted like tangerine gel. Bleh.

This summer I switched to Hammer Perpetuem, mostly because of their claims of avoiding sugar. I found the dull, vaguely creamy taste much more tolerable than the GU gels. Much to my surprise I learned that Perpetuem does not have to be diluted to sports drink level, it does fine in a concentrated form. For my medium-long runs I used four scoops of Perpetuem (enough for two 20oz. bottles of sports drink) in 4oz. of water and for my twenty mile runs I used 5 scoops. At first I used a smoothie maker to mix it, but as it turns out a blender bottle works fine. What comes out is about the thickness of a milk shake. I carry this mixture in one flask and plain water in another, refilling the water flask as required at the aid stations.

More on pacing in a bit, but I will say hear that I will use a 5/1 run/walk and hit the fuel bottle roughly every other walk. There is just enough time to take in a small dribble of fuel washed down with an ounce or so of water before the minute is up. Sometimes I feel the the intake not quite settled in my stomach and wait a few seconds until it is before I start running again.

Since I will start with a five scoop flask I plan to dilute it a bit as I go, with water from the aid stations. Makes it much easier to get out. Did this on some long runs and it works fine. If I run out of fuel early I will switch to using the event sports drink -- in this case, Gatorade.

Twice I have carried a bag of Scratch Labs chews and will again this Sunday. I will eat 3-5 around the halfway point, and the rest along the return depending on how I feel.

I am not a big believer in taking salt to avoid cramps. Neither am I sure I do not need to. So, I will carry a half dozen Hammer Endurolytes caps and take one every hour. That is less than what Hammer recommends, but I think it should come out right given the conditions. I have been doing that on my long runs without any bad results.


This is the hard one. For me at least. My overall goal is to go easy for the first two miles to let my legs get fully warmed up, moderate after that until the Aloha gas station on the turn (mile 22) and from there as fast as my tired legs will go. I will use a 5/1 run/walk and not try to set any records during the walk -- that is recovery time. I anticipate crowded conditions until after Kahala, so maintaining a steady gait will be a challenge.I will be looking for runners going the same pace and hang with them rather than accelerate and slow down a lot, a mistake I have made in the past.

I ran my long runs at well below goal pace. This was to avoid beating up the legs so much that I could not do anything until the next long run. The problem is, my legs got so used to this slower pace that when I did try to finish at goal pace it felt really uncomfortable. Because of that I scheduled some goal pace or better runs during the last two weeks and made last Sunday's shorter long run a pace practice.

I think the real challenge for me will be to keep my cadence up at 80 or better after that first warm-up period. As I go from 75 to 80 my pace increases a lot more than my HR. I can cruise for a long time running at my aerobic threshold, between 1.9Z and 2.4Z. What I do not know is how well I can endure running at the higher end of that scale, because I did my long runs at the lower end. I want to feel really exhausted at the finish, but I do not want the wheels to fall off in Kahala, either. As I get fatigued my pace drops; I lose that floating sensation, that flow that makes running feel so easy. The more I drop below 80 the harder it feels to run. For this reason I will be monitoring pace and cadence more than heart rate. Focus on good form and quick, light feet.

Estimated time

Putting it all together my goal is to come in under 7:00. Last year I did 7:25, and in 2012 I did 7:50. At the start of my marathon training I was hoping to run at 14min/mile for a finish closer to 6:00, but that is still beyond my reach.