2010 Eugene Marathon: Goals and plan

April 30, 2010

I guess I usually end up posting something about what my goals are before a big race. Here they are for Sunday’s 2010 Eugene Marathon.

Goal “A+”: 3:18:00. That would be a 7:33/mile average pace, but I’d get there by running 7:38 for miles 1-22 and finding the power to pick up the pace for the last four miles. I’d have to pick it up to (hang on while I run off and do some math… ok, got it) 7:07/mile over those last four miles to pull this off.

Goal “A”: 3:20:00. A steady 7:38/mile pace the whole way.

Goal “B”: 3:20:59. “B” stands for “Boston.” 3:20:59 is what I need to run to qualify for the 2011 Boston Marathon. (That’s the time you need if you’ll be 40-45 years old on Boston Marathon day.) This has been my big goal for this race for a long time now. The extra 59 seconds let me slip down to a  7:39.94/mile average pace. Can you imagine the kind of heart attack I’ll be having on Sunday if it comes down to the difference between 7:39.94 and 7:40/mile?

Goal “C”: 3:28:55, my current marathon PR. Look, the truth is, I’ll be pretty crushed if I can’t beat that. I set that record seven months ago, on a harder course, with my training completely interrupted by runner’s knee. I had to skip my last long run and my knee hurt from mile nine to the finish line.

Goal “D”: Finish the race. It’s 26 miles. Respect the distance. A finish is a finish.

My race plan is pretty simple. I’m going to be a slave to my Garmin Forerunner and crank out mile after mile of 7:38s. I use the Garmin’s “autolap” feature to measure my miles and the number I pay the most attention to is my “lap pace”, which is the average pace I’ve run during the course of the current mile. It’s much more useful than the wildly varying “instantaneous” pace display, for this sort of pacing. Note that I use autolap and not the course mile markers, for a couple of reasons. Reason one: I’d never remember to hit the lap button every time I need to. Reason two: the pace the Garmin shows me is going to be based on its idea of the mileage anyway. That does mean there will be some slop;  the Garmin nearly always shows that you’ve run longer than 26.21 miles after a marathon.

I’ll break the race down into three phases. During miles 1-10, I’ll eat a lot and conserve energy. For miles 10-20, I’ll focus on consistency. For the last six miles I’ll give it everything I’ve got.

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A few hard miles

April 29, 2010

For this taper cycle, I’m finally embracing the notion that you should run less, but not run easier. Maybe I’ve been embracing it a little too eagerly, in fact.

Saturday’s 12 miler was on the hilliest section of Wildwood, and even if I didn’t push the pace, it still wasn’t a stroll in the woods. Monday I ran four miles with two of them at “tempo” pace, about 7:00 per mile in this case. So far, so sane.

Wednesday, though, may be another story. I’d planned four miles, and I’d imagined I’d just do them at a typical moderate 8:00 to 8:30 effort. But then events conspired to leave me just a half hour to squeeze in the run. At first I told myself I’d run 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back, and be satisfied with however far that took me. As soon as I started running, though, the little devil on my left shoulder convinced me that I should simply make sure I fit the four miles I had originally planned on into the 30 minutes. After all, 7:30 per mile would only be a few seconds faster than marathon pace (7:38). Never mind that the first two miles of the route I was on were uphill. And never mind that I actually ended up running 7:16, 7:28, 6:54, 6:58. A little crazy, maybe. Still, I don’t regret it — it was a great confidence builder.

The other bad news – every run this week has made my left knee a little sore afterwards, and every time I think about my knee, I start feeling some right-side sciatica. I think my training has left me just on the edge of what my body can handle for the moment, but I don’t think I’m over the cliff. I’m a little concerned that I might require extended recovery after the marathon, compromising my virgin 50-miler in July, but for this week, I’m making the marathon my one and only priority.


Eugene Marathon finish area maps

April 26, 2010

They’ve finally revealed exactly how the finish on the Hayward Field track is going to work.

(Full-sized PDF)

So we go in through the main gate and run the final turn and straightaway, in the correct direction, to the track’s normal finish line. Well done! Seeing ourselves on the Jumbo-Tron should be surreal. The checked-bag pick-up is in the food area, and it seems like it might be a big hassle if you forget to get your bag before you leave that area — but we’re all highly mentally alert after a marathon, so no problem, right? Hmm. The traffic flow under, behind, or through the west grandstand on the way out may be a little bit of an issue too, but hopefully it won’t be a big deal.


Eugene Marathon Race Day Weather

April 23, 2010

Some kook has a blog dedicated to keeping you up-to-date with the very latest news about what the weather in Eugene on the morning of May 2 will be like.

“A 10-day forecast is as meaningful as your kid’s promise that he’ll clean his room “later.” Very little confidence is in order. However, in as much as anxiety-cum-irrationality undergirds this itinerant blog, shouldn’t the 10-day forecast be right up our alley? Our cup of tea? Our thang? Yep, I say we peer into the narrow, dark tunnel that is the long-term forecast and attach real meaning to it. Accuweather is our co-conspirator in this crime against sober analysis.”

Awesome. Race Day Outlook


Eugene Marathon previews

April 22, 2010

The RunOregon blog is doing a mile-by-mile preview of the Eugene Marathon course this year. So far they’ve posted miles 1-6. In 2009, I wrote something similar for last year’s course, and more recently I discussed the changes for 2010.

More roads, fewer bikepaths in Springfield

I have a couple issues with RunOregon’s preview so far. The change to the start is nothing but a good thing; the old course had too many turns and hills in the first mile. And the hill up Center Way near mile five? OK, it’s no killer, but neither is it “very mild.” It’s a hill.


Last Long Run

April 17, 2010

Ah yes, the last long run before the marathon. I suppose this is my fourth one of these beasts — which may seem a little odd, since it’s my fifth marathon. But I was injured before Portland this year, and so made do without a real last long run. (My attempt turned into a 14-miler before I had to stop.)

Two things make the last long run hard: the distance and the pressure. Distance-wise, I finally settled on 23 miles. Choosing a distance a balancing act between getting the most training you can and not needing more time to recover than is left until the race. My 23 miles was an unscientific choice, just an arbitrary halfway point between the arbitrary “22 to 24 miles” I had penciled in months ago when sketching out my training plan. The pressure is a self-imposed thing. I have a hard time not viewing the last long run as some sort of omen. I want it to go well. It would be distressing if it didn’t. That creates some pressure.

Anyway. I wanted to run the first five or six miles at around an 9:00/mile pace, then do the bulk of it at 8:30, and finish up with 8:00s. The loop I was running was about 10.4 miles, so at the end of two loops, that would leave 2.2 miles to get to the full 23. With my car-based aid station at the end of the loop, I knew it might be asking too much to run all out for another 2.2 after stopping briefly at 20.8, so I decided to run the fast miles just to that point, and do the last couple as a cool-down.

I was running the flat Sellwood-to-Steel loop along the Willamette, in my usual clockwise direction. The weather, forecast for clouds and a chance of rain, turned out to be partly sunny instead. I was very glad that I had decided to put on some sunscreen at the last moment before leaving the house.

I was focused on the running itself and on hitting my goal times, as I knew I would need to be during the marathon itself. About the only distractions all day were dropping a candy bar (I stopped to pick it up), seeing a bald eagle fight another hawk in Oaks Bottom (cool), and losing my radio down my shorts (I stopped to retrieve it, and my dignity). It was also nice to see the amazing river of Portland Fit people out running once again.

I hit my goal times more or less on the nose and didn’t have any serious problems. My lungs felt good, my legs and overall energy lagged a little behind them. But keeping up any kind of goal pace for more than 20 miles is always going to be a bit of a struggle, so that’s OK. I finished the run in 3:14:39, with an 8:28 average pace, pretty much right on the money. My left knee felt odd now and again, but nothing major and nothing that grew worse. All in all, a good run. Bring it on, Eugene. I’m ready.


“McKenzie River Tail Run”, or, “I’m a Winner!”

April 15, 2010

I got through my first race lottery! This year, the McKenzie River Trail Run switched from a first-come-first-served mail-in application system to a lottery. They gave people a week to sign up on-line, then randomly weeded out enough people to get down to their entry limit. On their Facebook page, they said they had to eliminate about 1/3 of their applicants. You can see who else made it in at this page.

McKenzie River is September 11th. It’s a 50K trail run; I’ve had one person tell me it’s a bit easier than Hagg Lake, but I’m not sure. If anyone else has an opinion on that, leave me a comment, OK? I do know it’s a lot more scenic. I was signed up for McKenzie in 2008 but dropped out thanks to plantar fasciitis.

Between the PCT 50 miler in July and McKenzie in September, my summer is shaping up as I hoped — I’ll spend it putting in a lot of miles on hills and trails. After the Eugene Marathon on May 2, I plan to stop focusing as much on speed and start ramping up the miles instead, hopefully to 50 per week before the PCT and maybe 60 by September.