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Week of 02/20 - 02/26

Feb. 20 (Monday): off. Two off days in a row is a rarity! But the legs are liking the rest.

Feb. 21 (Tuesday): AM 8 miles, 0hr:59, 7:20/mile, out-and-back on Cap City Trail. It felt good to be back on my feet after running only once in four days. I took it nice and easy on a nice morning with mild temperatures (low 30s) and little wind.

Feb. 22 (Wednesday): AM 8 miles, 0hr:59, 7:18/mile, out-and-back on Lakefront Trail. It took awhile for me to start feeling good this morning, but I was feeling great by the end. I was a little dazed during the first two miles and it wasn't until the way back that my legs felt loose. I think the lack of running might actually be shocking my legs; it is not common that my legs are rested and it feels a bit odd!

Feb. 23 (Thursday): AM 6 miles, 0hr:40, 6:37/mile, Monona Bay Loop. I was able to maintain roughly 6:40s throughout the run, although I was still a little on the fast side. It felt really smooth.

Feb. 24 (Friday): off

Feb. 25 (Saturday): AM 3.5 miles, 0hr:28, 8:00/mile, Campus Loop (Fort Worth, Tx). Holden and I did the old Tu/Th afternoon route from our cross country days. We took it really easy and my legs were feeling really loose. We did some stretching, drills, etc. afterward. Temps in the 50s and sunshine; a really nice day.

Feb. 26 (Sunday): AM Cowtown Marathon, 2:51:30, 6:33/mile. The weather was all but perfect. Starting temp in the low 40s and finishing temp in the 50s, not a cloud in the sky, a bit of wind. See the post entitled 'Race Report: Cowtown Marathon' for analysis. It's safe to say that I was VERY happy with the results today.

Totals: 55 miles,  6hr:25min.

It is time to rest for a few days before I begin preparing for the Mad City 50k.

Race Report: Cowtown Marathon

The first race of my season is now behind me and it's time to analyze the result. The result was this: total time 2hr:51:30; pace 6:33/mile; 6th place overall; 1st place in age group (18-24yrs).

The weather

The weather conditions were nearly perfect for running. Low 40s at the start and low 50s by the finish. There was wind of moderate strength out of the north that gradually increased in speed as the marathon progressed. It was particularly windy during the last 5k when the route took us along the Trinity River, but I finished early enough that it wasn't too bad (the wind picked up even more later in the day). There was nothing but sunshine, without a cloud in the sky, which made for a pleasant morning.

The pace

Holden and I went out conservatively, going through mile one in seven minutes flat. Holden is a good friend of mine who I ran cross country and track with at TCU. Our goal was to average 6:40 - 6:41 per mile in order to finish in the high 2hr:54mins to the low 2hr:55mins range. So on the next five or six miles we averaged between 6:36 and 6:37 per mile. Once we were back on pace, we did a nice job of maintaining roughly 6:40 per mile through the half way point. We ran mid-6:40s on miles 14 & 15 before Holden began to struggle. From mile 16 to mile 19, we averaged around 7:15 per mile, at the end of which Holden began to realize that he was in trouble. Holden dropped out at 20 and I continued alone. I finished the last 10k in a remarkable 36:46, averaging under 6mins per mile. The race was paced beautifully (and conservatively): 10k in 41:36, 13.1m in 1hr:27:31, 20m in 2hrs:14:44; which means that I ran the second half of the race in 1hr:23:59 -- a negative split of three minutes and thirty-two seconds.

The race

The race began at 7am with both marathoners and half-marathoners toeing the start line together. There were roughly 300 ultra-marathoners (running a 50k), 1,600 marathoners and 7,000 half-marathoners. Given that all 8,900 people (roughly) were starting together, and that a large number of those people were running half the distance, there was a hoard of runners that went out at a relatively quick pace. It wasn't until mile 11 that the half-marathoners split off from the marathon and ultra-marathon participants; thus, it wasn't until mile 11 that we knew what place we were occupying. As it turned out, we came through mile 12 in 11th and 12th place. To our surprise, however, there were seven people within eyesight, which meant (assuming none were ultra-marathoners) that we were within striking distance of 4th and 5th place. However, it was a mile later that Holden began laboring, and so the two of us were never able to significantly improve our position. By mile 15, we had managed to pass two runners, putting us in 9th and 10th place. But a few miles later we were passed by three or four runners and so we were again out of the top-ten. When Holden finally faded around mile 19.5 and gave me the green light to move along (it was his first marathon and I was trying to pace him to a 2hr:55:00), my legs were ready to respond (Holden also asked me for my watch. He later told me that he was totally incoherent and that he didn't know why he had asked me for the watch. This explains my reaction in the first picture below--I was unaware of my final time until I approached the finish line.). I moved from 13th or 14th place to 6th place in three miles. Unfortunately, I was never able to catch the eventual 4th and 5th place finishers, both of whom finished less than two minutes ahead of me.

The feel

I was viewing this race more as a high intensity training run than a race. My training over the past three months had been superb: I was running 60 to 80+ miles a week, 30+ miles on the weekend, multiple 20 mile long runs, weekly workouts at fast speeds (mostly two-mile repeats and mile repeats; occasionally some 200m repeats), and bi-weekly hill workouts or tempo runs (anywhere from 4 miles to 7 miles). I figured that I was in shape to run in the high 2hr:40min range. That might have been a conservative figuring. As we clipped off high 6:30s during early miles, I was gliding. My breathing was VERY calm and even up some of the small, seep hills and longer, gradual climbs I was not breathing hard. At halfway, I was ready to start passing people. But I stuck with Holden and the pace slowed, allowing me to feel even more relaxed and rested. By the time I was on my own, I was ready to let loose. As mentioned, I was able to average under six minutes a mile for the last 10k. And that last 10k didn't hurt too much (although I was working hard). My updated guess is that I was in shape to run in the mid-2hr:40min range.

The aftereffect

26.2 miles on the pavement does not go without some muscle fatigue. After the race, my legs (and quads especially) were a bit sore; my hips were a little tight as well. I walked around for a while, which wasn't too painful, before sitting down to stretch out for a few minutes. I then walked around for a while more before jogging a little over a mile back to the hotel. At the hotel, I stretched some more and foam rolled. At that point, walking was no longer painful and only going up and down stairs was troublesome. The morning after the race I was a bit stiff, but after foam rolling and walking a mile and a half to my office, my legs were again in good walking condition. I think that I will be able to begin putting in miles again by Wednesday or Thursday.

In sum

I did, after all, work harder than expected. Even so, I still view the Cowtown has a training run for my races to come. In particular, I think the Cowtown served as an excellent indicator of what I can expect at the Mad City 50k at the end of next month. I had hoped to be in shape to run 3hrs 20mins, on the fast end, to 2hrs 25mins, on the slow end. I think now that I am certainly capable of running under 3hrs 20mins. So long as the next month of training goes well, and that I toe the start line with rested legs, I think I will again surprise myself with my level of fitness.

My reaction as I saw the clock on the final stretch.

Approaching the finish, still feeling strong.


Week of 02/13 - 02/19

Feb. 13 (Monday): off

Feb. 14 (Tuesday): AM 10 miles, 1hr:13, 7:16/mile, Out-and-back along the Cap City Trail. There was about an inch or two of snow on the ground this morning; really a beautiful morning. The train came by a few miles in and scared a buck out of the woods. Watching the buck scatter through the blanket of snow was magnificent. Legs felt very fresh--promising after two back-to-back eighty mile weeks.

Feb. 15 (Wednesday): AM 6 x 800m repeats, 200m jog in between, 8+ miles. Times were all within the window of 2:30 to 2:40: 2:36, 2:34, 2:39, 2:37, 2:32, 2:35. Legs felt a bit heavy at the end, but with little rest in between I was happy with how I was feeling. PM 5+ miles, :37, Lake Monona Loop.

Feb. 16 (Thursday): AM 10 miles, 1hr:13, 7:15/mile, Out-and-back to the Arb. Some wind and cooler temps this morning. My legs made it known that yesterday's effort was more than leisurely.

Feb. 17 (Friday): off. Trying to take it easy and rest up the legs.

Feb. 18 (Saturday): AM 11 miles, 1hr:15, 6:50/mile, Out-and-back on Lakefront Trail (Chicago). I was in Chicago for the weekend and the trail along Lake Michigan was a nice change of pace. There was a stout headwind the first five miles, which made for an extremely easy five on the way back. Tried to run miles 5 & 6 at race pace; I did well on the first (6:41) but unknowingly picked up the pace for the second (6:28). One more race-pace run next week should do the trick.

Feb. 19 (Sunday): off. I had planned to run after returning to Madison but I was pretty wiped after a fun weekend. It's probably best to stay rested at this point.

Totals: 44+ miles, 5hr:15. Did a great job of taking it easy. I do, however, feel more fatigued than I would like, so I'll have to get some extra sleep this week. I might do a few less miles just to be sure that I'm rested. 1 week until the race!


Week of 02/06 - 02/12

02/06 (Monday): off

02/07 (Tuesday): AM 12.5 miles, 1hr:30, 7:20/mile. Out-and-back along Capitol City trail to the Arb. A nice morning, but really windy around Lake Monona.

02/08 (Wednesday): AM 9.5 miles, 4 x 1mile repeats with 400m jog in between, at the Shell with Fran. Awesome workout: 5:24, 5:23, 5:19, 5:16. We did in reality what we had planned in theory: start in the low 5:20s and speed up each mile. It's not always easy to execute a mile repeat workout with consistently faster miles. Well done. PM 5 miles, :35mins, 7min/mile. Easy miles around part of Lake Monona.

02/09 (Thursday): AM 13+miles, 1hr:34, 7:10/mile. Out-and-back on the Cap City trail. Beautiful blue skies, a bit of wind, and plenty of sunshine.

02/10 (Friday): AM 8+ miles, :52, 6:31/mile. Went for a race-pace run but the tempo was a bit too quick. It dawned on me this week that I have not yet done any runs at race-pace. Hopefully, after I get another two or three of these in, I'll have the pace down. PM 5 miles, :37, 7:30/mile. Easy miles in nice, cool temperatures just as it was getting dark.

02/11 (Saturday): PM 16 miles, 2hrs, 7:30/mile, out-and-back to the Arb. I had planned to run at 6am but when I woke up at 5am it was 6 degrees (Fahrenheit) and -12 with the wind chill. Held off on the run until the afternoon when it was a balmy 14 degrees. Lots of wind, which made it tough, but also lots of sun. Felt good.

02/12 (Sunday): AM 12 miles, 1hr:17, 6:30/mile. SMR loop + 1 mile. Did a 2 x 4mile with an easy mile in between. First 4 in 6:19, 6:20, 6:22, 6:07 (25:08); second 4 in 6:12, 6:06, 6:02, 5:54 (24:14). After two easy miles to start, my legs were feeling tight but they felt much better half way into the first set. However, my legs were struggling to keep up the tempo on some of the inclines and into some nasty headwinds. The first half of the run was into a strong headwind while I ran the second half with a nice tailwind. The times reflect as much, since the effort was approximately equal on both 4 mile segments.

Totals: 81 miles, 9hrs:40. Another excellent week. I really need to hold back this upcoming week and let my legs get some rest, since the marathon is just two weeks out.


Week of 01/30 - 02/05

My training log will be posted each week; the dates of the week will be noted in the title of each post. I usually won't go into too much detail, but I will provide (at the very least): mileage, route, and time. If I'm ever really psyched about a workout, I might write at greater length. I'll save the bulk of my writing for posts on my races (race reports) and for posts on running related topics (running reports). Well, here goes.

01/30 (Monday): off (I generally take each Monday off).

01/31 (Tuesday): PM 11.2miles, 1hr:20, 7:10/mile. SMR (Sunday Morning Run) Loop. A nice, flat route through the University campus, the near West side, the Capitol, and a bit South of the city (which includes views of lake Monona, lake Mendota, lake Vilas). 

02/01 (Wednesday): AM 9+ mile, Workout with Josh & Fran: 2 x 2mile repeats, 600m jog in between, 800m. Shell (University indoor track). First two mile repeat in 10:53 (5:27, 5:26); second two mile in 10:36 (5:20, 5:16); 800m in 2:29. Felt good!

02/02 (Thursday): AM 12 miles, 1hr:27, 7:10/mile. Out-and-back from my place to the UW Arboretum. Great morning with lots of sun. PM 5 miles, :35, 7:00/mile. Out-and-back from Berkeley Running Company along the University trail by lake Mendota. 

02/03 (Friday): AM 8+ miles, 10k tempo in 36:05, 5:49/mile. Loop around Monona Bay. Kept a good pace, felt mostly at ease in the first half but needed to work harder during the second half to keep up the pace. 

02/04 (Saturday): AM 20 miles with Hank, 2hr:43, 8:09/mile. I couldn't tell you where we ran. Met at Hanks, did some neighborhood roads, spent some time on the bike trails, went through Middleton at some point. Easy, relaxed pace that felt very refreshing. 

02/05 (Sunday): AM 14 miles with Josh, Fran, & Hank, 1hr:35 mins, 6:49/mile. SMR Loop plus a three mile add-on at the end. The legs felt surprisingly good after a long week.

Totals: 80 miles, 9hr:15. An ideal week of training with just three weeks until the first race of the year!

An introduction

I figure that an introduction is in order. For those who do stumble upon this blog (whether by accident or not), what I say might mean more (but maybe less) if I first explain my running background.

But I'll first start with a brief non-running introduction. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri before going to college at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. I studied philosophy. I continue to study philosophy in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I'm presently in my first year of a 5 to 6 year program, so I'll be in Madison for the foreseeable future. Ok, onto the important stuff.

I didn't start running until I was 18 years old. I read Dean Karnazes' book, Ultramarathon Man, and decided that if "anyone can fake a marathon," then I must be able to (since I assumed that I was anyone). During my second semester at TCU, I began to train for the St. Louis Marathon, which I ran, after a few months of training, on April 6, 2008 in 3hr:37. I had quite the fan club and I was happy just to finish. Not bad, I thought. But I'm not the type of person that likes "not bad." I heard about the "big" marathon: Boston. I decided that I would try to qualify for it. I did in November 2008 at the Rock n' Roll San Antonio Marathon when I ran 3hr:09. Then I ran Boston, but saw no progress, finishing in 3hr:18 (I had hoped to break 3hrs). I did, however, manage to convince the TCU cross country coach to allow me to walk on at the beginning of my junior year in August 2009. I improved dramatically in the next year and a half while training with the cross country and track teams (and occasionally competing). I ran a 4:14 in the 1500m, broke 22mins in the 4 mile, ran a 27:30 8k, and gained a huge amount of experience. None of my times, of course, were noteworthy for Division I collegiate running. But the speed work has paid dividends in my short career as an ultrarunner.

I moved to Boulder, CO in January 2011 after completing college. That's when I first began real trail running. After breaking three hours in the marathon at the Rock n' Roll Arizona in January 2011, finishing in 2:59:50, I began training exclusively for trails. I ran my first trail race in April 2011, finishing 2nd in the Muir Woods Marathon in 2hr:47 (truthfully, the course was well short of a full marathon). I was hooked. I began looking for races in the Midwest, as I had been accepted at UW-Madison for graduate school and would be moving there in July 2011. I ran my first real ultramarathon (I had, of course, run 30+ miles on training runs) in July at the Minnesota Voyageur 50 mile race. I placed 7th, finishing in 8hr:21. I was prepared neither for the distance nor the terrain. I was quite disappointed--I thought that I would at least place in the top five. I found another race, the North Face Endurance Challenge (TNF) 50k just outside of Madison, WI. I ran the 50k in September 2011, placing 1st in 3hr:44. I hadn't trained overly hard between the Voyageur and TNF, so I was quite pleased with my time.

TNF Madison was my last race to date. I am scheduled to run 7 races in 2012. The first four are merely for training purposes. Since competing in the Voyageur and TNF-Madison, I have read extensively about ultramarathon training. I also gained an immense amount of experience in those two races. I have adopted a training approach that centers on my strength: speed work. After six plus months of intense speed work to start the year, I'll take my strength and speed to the trails and try to perform well in three 50 mile races.

So, that's my story. I'm still young and rather inexperienced compared to ultrarunners who have been competing for years. But I'm a student of the sport. I approach ultrarunning as I approach graduate school: I study hard and try to learn as much as possible. This blog is a place for me to discuss what I've learned.

Now you know a bit about me. And hopefully that will keep you reading!


An explanation

Why start a running blog? There are a plethora of reasons. Some use a blog to log their training, other might start a blog to promote fitness, still others write on the web as a way of promoting their sponsors or educating people about the sport. But all these reasons share one thing in common: to talk (or in this case write) about running. That is certainly the reason I decided to start a running blog. It might be asked: why do talk about running on the web? In other words, it might be thought that one can write about running in a journal, or on a word document, or some other place that is *private* and not public. I have always assumed that "bloggers" are pretentious, or self-righteous, or in need of attention, or something like this. So I have often asked a more fundamental question: why talk about *anything* in a public forum. I guess I finally recognized that (secretly) I wanted to start a blog too -- that I wanted people to read what I write -- but I was reluctant to do so in order to remain consistent. If bloggers are pretentious, and I don't want to be pretentious, then, even if I want to blog, I can't blog or else I'll be inconsistent *and* pretentious.

There are obvious reasons, I have found upon further reflection, to blog: to inform people, to get feedback from people, to assure yourself that what you're doing is not meaningless (and logging dozens and dozens of miles can indeed feel meaningless). Bloggers aren't inherently pretentious, at least no more so than non-bloggers. I'll try not to be a pretentious blogger, just as I try not to be a pretentious non-blogger. I'll use this blog, then, to write about running. I'll give my own advice on running and related issues, provide links to more informed opinions about running and related issues, and post my own training logs on a regular basis. Maybe some people will read it, but maybe not. Either way, I can assume that at least some people will read this blog and, I hope, benefit from doing so.

Lastly, what's with the title? Well, it's what I take running to be: a struggle against distance and time. I am indebted, in part, to a good friend and former college teammate for the title. It was during one of our more challenging runs that he and I referred to running as "the GREAT struggle against distance and time." I dropped the adjective and made the remainder the title of this blog. Take this blog to be a forum about struggling!