July 17 Run Ajax hosted a 5k Warmup Race to promote their Half Marathon and 5k race along the Ajax Waterfront in September. The course was an out and back along the waterfront. The first (and last) 1.5km or so had some hills, but nothing too mean. The event was clock timed and likely had about 30 runners.
This was going to be my first ever 5k. I had run 10k in the morning to ensure I would still meet my milage goal for the day (15k) and ran another mile before the race to warm up. I was stiff, but I didn’t have any pain. My goal for the race was to run under 19:00 (3:48/km or better) but I wasn’t going to do anything that would risk injury. If I hurt I would back off or stop.
At the start line I had a rough idea in my head of the course, but wasn’t sure where every hill was. I also didn’t know how hard to push. The previous weekend when I had run the Boilermaker 15k it was my shortest race to date, so running 5k was a whole new experience.
At the gun I found myself leading the group (it was just a fun run so the much faster runners I knew in the race let me have my moment of glory). I took off quickly, running the first km in 3:27. This was a little too quick as I had trouble keeping up with my breathing. I eased off the gas a bit and I was passed by a young (high school-ish) runner. My moment of glory was over, but that was okay, I could now focus on my stride and listening to my body to ensure I wasn’t hurting myself. My second km came in at 3:38. My lungs still told me I was pushing it but it seemed to be sustainable. When I reached the turnaround I knew I just had to hold on back to the start/finish. Running out to the turnaround was slightly downhill, so it was going to be slightly uphill coming back. As I ran I tried to keep my mind off my burning lungs and aching legs by making it to the next distance milestone; 2k to go, 1 mile, 1k, 800m, 400m. My final 3km splits were 3:46, 3:42 and 3:42, giving me a time of 18:15 (approximately, as it was clock timed).
I was happy with my run and managed to run a lot faster than if I had gone out to run 5k hard on my own, competition does that for me. I’m happy I now have a 5k under my belt, I now know what it feels like to have your foot on the throttle for about 18mins and just hang on. It was a great speed workout as I move forward with my training for Chicago.
The Boilermaker 15k was on July 13 in Utica, NY. I’d heard good things about this race (or maybe it was just the post race party) and when I heard a group was going from Durham I decided I would too. The race brings in 14,000 runners and sells out in a couple of hours so they must do something right. I didn’t have a specific goal, this race fell at the end of my second week of focused run training. I was going to give breaking 60:00 a shot, but would have been happy with 61:30 or better.
The night before the race the group got together at an Italian place for dinner. For some the party started early, but it was just water for me until the finish line tomorrow. I had spaghetti and meatballs (it worked pre-Syracuse). The portions were huge and I regretted eating it all. We were back at the hotel around 10:00PM and in bed by 10:30PM.
The morning of the race I was up before 6:00AM, I had an english muffin with almond butter and honey, and half a bottle of water. I didn’t drink any water after we left the hotel because I didn’t want to have to pee during the race. Martin and I made our way over to the hotel where everyone else was staying and we got a cab to the start from there (honourable mention to Dan and Ross for running to the start line!).
Where we arrived at the race site I realized what 14,000 runners looks like, it’s a lot of people! I split up from the group and made my way to the start line, my coral was near the front. When I got into the coral it seemed like everyone around me that was my age or younger was wearing a singlet representing a College. I don’t recall entering an expected finish time (how they determine your bib number/coral, but apparently I put down a fast time). I had a gel about 10mins before the start and then waited to go.
First 5k – 20:01
I was pretty close to the front so when the gun went off it wasn’t long before I was across the start line. Unlike most races I have done the pace right out of the blocks wasn’t very quick. I’ve found that most people sprint out the first 200m and then settle into a pace. If I wanted to go under 60:00 I had to average better than a 4:00/km pace. I looked down at my watch about 200m in and I noticed a 4:30/km pace. There must have been some slower runners towards the front that the pack had to filter around because by the 400-ish m mark we were down into the 3:50’s.
I knew the first 5k was a gradual uphill. From the previous night’s dinner I also knew that the only hill I really had to be concerned about was around the 6k mark near a golf course. As we began clicking off km’s I didn’t really notice the uphill. There was some good crowd support, and we passed by a section where it seemed like they had flags for all the different countries represented in the race, but at this point my concern was keeping my cadence up with good form, and didn’t really take in all the sights and sounds of Utica. As I was nearing the 5k mark I lost my focus for a few hundred meters. My cadence slipping, combined with a slight increase in the grade produced my slowest km of the race, a 4:14. I didn’t panic, but I knew if I had a change at breaking 60:00 I couldn’t let that happen again.
There were plenty of aid stations along the course serving water and ice. At the aid station before the 5k mark I took a small sip of water. This was more to wet my mouth than for hydration.
According to my Garmin my first 5 1k splits were:
Second 5k – 19:44 (39:45 through 10k)
The second 5k begins running parallel to the golf course. As I ran I could see the elites ahead of my finishing their ascent through the golf course. The hill wasn’t too intimidation, but it was going to be difficult to keep my pace while running up. I managed about a 4:10/km pace up to the top of the hill, and then from the 6.5k mark until the 10k mark I knew I had a big downhill to make it up. By the 7.5k mark I was back on pace to break 60:00 and still flying down the hill. About every other aid station I would take a small sip of water and a cup of ice. I’d pour the ice into my hands and hold it until it melted. It wasn’t a scorching hot day, but I felt like this helped me keep my temperature down. As I was running down the hill a couple of the athletes in the wheelchair division came flying by! I couldn’t guess their speed but they were really moving.
I crossed the 10k mark in 39:45, with a 19:44 second 5k. My 1k splits were:
Third 5k – 19:24 (59:09 overall)
The third 5k had a couple of gentle hills, but nothing of note. By this point my Garmin was slightly off so I didn’t know my exact pace but knew a 4:00/km average would get me in under 60:00. By this point my legs were really hurting and I needed to keep my focus to keep my foot speed up. The race had really thinned out and the crowds picked up again. I kept a close eye on my watch and managed to continue to click off sub 4:00km. At the 8mile marker (just under 13k) my quads were on fire and my lungs weren’t doing too much better. The final 1.3miles of the race felt like they took ages. My Garmin was out of sync by about 100m and I couldn’t do the math to calculate my current pace in my head (something I regularly do when I run to pass the time).
As I reached the final 400m the course was lined with spectators 4 and 5 deep. I usually try to look around and take in all the energy from the crowd in the finish chute, but not today. I was transfixed on the finish line and getting there so my legs could stop moving.
My third 5k was my fastest, at 19:24. Here are my splits:
I picked up an extra 100m somewhere
I didn’t have the sense of jubilation you often hear about when people cross the finish line, my immediate feeling was one of relief that it was over. My calfs were a little tight, but I kept moving around so they didn’t seize up. I got some water for a little re-hydration before I searched around for everyone else to undo all our hard work at the post race party.
It wasn’t until I moved passed the finish area and began to feel something other than fire in my legs that I smile crept onto my face. I was really proud of my time. I’ve never run a 5k, 10k or 15k race, so technically I PB’ed all 3 of these distances.
Post Race Party
The real reason people show up in Utica on the second Sunday in July is the post race party. The race finishes at the Saranac brewery where there is free beer. Usually this lasts until noon, but because of severe weather that was approaching it was going to be cut off at 11AM. We opted to skip the post race food because of long lines and headed straight to one of the many beer trucks. Some of the more battle tested among us took on the km challenge, 1 beer per km of the race (15). I wanted to be alive to watch the World Cup final that afternoon so I opted for the mile challenge, a mere 9 beers. A lot of good times were had, you have to be there to experience it. Our 3km walk back to our hotel took almost 2.5 hours (approximately 50:00/km for those of you counting) and was one of the best parts of the weekend.
The Boilermaker is a great event that everybody should do at least once.
The Chicago Marathon is October 12, 2014. That put’s it just under 15 weeks away from this past Tuesday July 1, when I began to shift the bulk of my focus away from triathlon and towards running. This means that mentally the countdown to Chicago is on.
At this time I still do not have a solidified goal time (though I do have a BHAG in mind to keep me on point in my training), nor do I have a training schedule, or intermediate goals to hit on the road to Chicago. What I do have is a solid 6 days of running this past week under my belt, a pretty good base of training from what I did for the Syracuse 70.3, and a hunger to once again surprise myself with my results.
The Training Plan
This is currently in the works. I was under the false assumption that a marathon training plan would be set up very similar to a triathlon training plan; 12 weeks, three 4 week blocks, each block consisting of 3 build/1 recover. From a quick Google search, as well as speaking to a few runners, I’ve discovered this is wrong. It seems as though most internet plans are 16-18 weeks. Also they don’t seem to work on the same 3 week build, 1 week recover framework. There is time for recovery, but not like that.
I created a plan for Hamilton last year that allowed me to achieve my goal. I’m not going to follow the same style plan this time for a few reasons. First, I was very time crunched with only 6 weeks to train for Hamilton. At the time of writing I have 14 weeks to train for Chicago. Next, my Hamilton plan was very risky. I was constantly running on the edge. I crammed a lot of hard runs in. My milage wasn’t that high, but most of my kilometers were hard. I was fortunate not to get injured last time, I’m not going to make that same gamble this time. Finally, leading up to Hamilton I had complete flexibility over my time. My work was 100% flexible. This allowed me to bury myself in workouts, come home, eat, nap, then do whatever else I needed to do that day. This time I do not have the same level of flexibility.
Sunday July 13 I’m running the Boilermaker (15k). My formal training plan will commence in the days following this race. So this week I will create my training plan. Much like any plan I’ve created, there will be a lot of flexibility for me to change things around as I go, depending on how I’m able to handle certain workouts, or what’s working for me and what’s not. But I still think it’s very important to have a plan so I have some structure in my workouts and I don’t end up just doing whatever.
Running June 30 – July 6 (94km)
This past week I shifted all of my quality workouts to a run focus (I will still swim and bike through the rest of the summer, but running will be my priority). I may have gotten a little overzealous with the running and I was lucky not to get burned…..yet (knock on wood). I didn’t run on Monday (June 30) and then from the 6 days July 1 – July 6 I totalled 94km. Up to this point I had barely done a week over 60km all year (albeit because I was swimming and cycling more), and I’ve only ever done a week with more milage once in my life. But I felt good so I kept on running.
I wont bother going into the specifics of each workout, but my focus was on light running as opposed to quality. And the quality work I did do was mostly focused on a 4:05/km pace, which I find I can sustain substantially longer than sub 4:00/km pace.
I did have a mini breakthrough in my stride this week. I have always known that my stride wasn’t great (I land too far back on my foot, and I have a lot of up and down motion) but I never actually knew how to correct it. Then I purchased a pair of super light New Balance Minimum shoes. When I ran in the shoes I noticed I had a much better road feel, and as I was clicking off km’s early in the week I began playing around with how my foot landed. I found if I focused on wiping the ground with my forefoot I had a much smoother stride (almost as though I’m trying to scrape something off the bottom of my shoe under the pads of my feet). Also, when I looked down at my watch I noticed that for the same perceived level of exertion my pace sped up about 0:15/km! Time will tell if I can make this adjustment stick. The only problem it has caused is my calves are tighter post run, which I’m sure is due to the fact that I’m not used to mid-foot/fore-foot running.
My new (fast) NB shoes!
June 22 I competed in my 4th half iron race, the Syracuse 70.3. My training had gone fairly well. I was out of shape when I got back into it in January after spending 7 weeks in SE Asia, but I was injury free through my preparation for the race and felt ready for it. Heading into Syracuse I hadn’t heard the best things about the race or the course from people who had raced there last year, but they had uncharastically hot conditions to deal with that would make just about any race no fun.
Here is the condensed version of my race report, there’s also a more detailed version below:
Pre Race: Felt good and ready leading into the race, training was injury free and I was looking forward to getting to the start line.
Swim: Chaotic start, had to put on my big-boy pants because it was a lot more aggressive in my new age group (25-29) than my previous one. Was a little slower than I hoped. 33:44
Bike: Felt really good. Kept my power in check over the first 20km of climbing. Dropped my chain once going up. Made a fueling mistake at the end of my ride (took in too much near the end) that would negatively effect my run. Happy to beat my goal time of 2:30:00. 2:28:38
Run: Stomach didn’t feel so good leaving transition. After the first aid station I threw up a lot of fluid. I walked the last part of the turnaround hill each lap. Stomach was still unsettled by the end of the race. Missed my goal time of 1:33:00. 1:38:51
Overall: Please with my day on the whole, it was a 12:00 PB. My fueling mistake on the bike cost me on the run, but it wouldn’t not have made a big difference in my final placing. 4:45:25
Woke up early Saturday morning and was out the door to pick up Lisa and then continue onto Syracuse by 6AM. We got to the race site around 11AM, picked up our race kits, checked out transition, did a quick 20min spin around the area, and got our bikes racked. I love the vibe around a race site and was getting excited for the race. After we finished up in transition we drove the bike course (which was easy to do because of the bright orange arrows painted on the road). I knew from the course profile that the first 20k were a significant uphill, then the remaining 70k were net down back to transition. I really liked how the bike course looked from the car, but I knew my feelings could be very different tomorrow when we did it on a bike. After that we headed to an Italian restaurant for an early dinner at about 5:00PM and were back at the hotel by 7:00PM.
Race morning we were up just after 4:00AM. I had a bagel with almond butter and honey for breakfast. We left for the race at 5:00AM, and as it turned out it was good we did so because there was a long line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. I got transition set up and tires pumped and decided to walk some of my extra gear back to the car because I still had about an hour before my 7:50AM start. At this time I still didn’t have a concrete goal for the race in the morning (I knew I’d give it all my effort, but I didn’t have a specific goal time and I have a hard time predicting my finish times based on my training because I race much better than I train). As I was walking I decided I would be disappointed with my race if I didn’t go under 4:50, I’d like to go sub 4:45, and if I had a great race I could do sub 4:40. There wasn’t a lot of science behind this, but I went 4:57 at Tremblant 70.3 last year and knew I wanted to improve upon this time. With this in mind I made my way to the water, did a short warm-up, found Lisa on the beach (she had a 8:05 AM start) to wish her luck, and made my way into my start corral.
In my head my sub 4:40 time would have been made up of a 32:00 swim, 3:00 T1, 2:29:59 bike, 1:30 T2, and 1:33:00 run.
Swim (33:44, 1:44/100m)
Moving up to the 25-29 AG meant I started with a much larger group, 155 athletes to be exact. I had done a quick warmup and made sure my goggle weren’t leaking before getting to the start line. We started in the water, I positioned myself towards the inside about 3 people back from the front. One thing that was immediately apparent is that there were a lot more serious people in the 25-29 AG than 20-24. I asked around about expected swim times to figure out where I should seed myself, but not too many people were willing to share information. I decided to stay where I was and waited for the gun.
When the race started there was a lot of jostling for position. A big part of this was because there were some very slow swimmers up at the front. A swimmers hand came down on the back of my head on two consecutive strokes, and there was a lot of bumping as people tried to find fast feet. I just focused on staying calm and moving forward. After a couple minutes the chaos had passed and I began focusing on my stroke; pulling hard water, rotating my body, keeping toes pointed. I used a light flutter kick and did my best to follow a pair or feet, but that was made difficult by all the slower people in previous waves. I by the turnaround I gave up on trying to draft and instead emphasized my stroke and swimming straight. When I got within about 200m of shore I began repeating in my head what I needed to do in transition (helmet, glasses, shoes, nutrition, bike). I also began kicking a little harder to wake up my legs. I exited the water with a swim that I figured was alright, but I didn’t know my actual time (I don’t start my watch until I’m on my bike). I found a wetsuit stripper and was off towards T2 happy to be heading towards my bike.
I made my way into T1 and found my bike easily. A lot of people in the rack around me and behind me were also in transition so it was a little congested, but I was able to get in and get out without much excitement. I did grab a handful of jujubes to stuff in my mouth as I ran through transition to the mount line.
Bike (2:28:38, 36.39km/h average, 76th overall bike split, Chick’d on the bike = No!)
I knew I wanted to go sub-2:30 on the bike, which is a 36km/h average. I also knew that I would be well behind this pace at the 20k mark because from about 4k to 20k the course climbs. I had a goal power of about 220W, which is just over 80% of FTP. I wanted to take it really easy through the climbing in the first 20k (closer to 205-210W) and then pick it up from there.
As I begin riding I immediately began passing slower riders, a trend that would continue for the entire 90k (that’s what happens when you start 50min later than some waves). Just over 1k in I passed a guy in an orange jersey that immediately pulled in behind me and sucked onto my wheel. At first I figured it was just a coincidence and he would either pass me or drop back, but he stayed there. When we reached the start of the first climb I began snaking side to side a bit and sure enough he did the exact same thing. I had never experienced such blatant drafting. I turned my head and asked him if his race plan was just to draft faster riders all race and hope he wouldn’t get a penalty, but he didn’t even acknowledge me. I was slightly frustrated, but I decided I wouldn’t let what he was doing ruin my mindset. I tried to block him from my mind, but many of the other athletes I was passing were making comments to Mr. Drafter. At approximately 8k the climb I was on flattened out a bit and as I was shifting into the big ring I dropped my chain. Mr. Drafter was so close to me that his foot hit my rear wheel as he swerved to avoid me. I pulled to the side and was able to quickly get my chain back on, this likely only set me back 30-40sec, but I began to worry if that would put my sub 2:30 bike split out of reach.
I crested the climb at the 20k mark in about 41:00 and at that point I was ready to go fast. Up to that point my AP was in the low 200W range, so I knew I had it in me to push a little harder and I immediately began to accelerate. On my watch I had set a virtual training partner to ride at 36km/h average (what I needed to ride 2:30:00) so I could track how far behind I was. Most of my focus through the final 70k of the ride alternated between how far behind the 36km/h average I was, and my watts. I tried to keep my watts above 220W without exceeding 240W, except on a couple short, steep climbs. I averaged 39.75km/h over the final 70k.
Throughout the ride my plan was to each 1 waffle every 30-35 mins and to drink at least 1 bottle of fluid every hour. Between keeping an eye on my power, where I was vs. a 36km/h average, and ensuring I was passing other riders in a safe, legal manor I didn’t have the focus on nutrition that I should have. By the 1:30:00 mark of the ride I wasn’t quite through 1 bottle of liquid and was only just finishing my second waffle. I was feeling great on the bike, but knew this could spell trouble for the run. I made a mental note to speed up my rate of consumption, but by the 2:00:00 mark I had barely put a dent into my second bottle of fluid and wasn’t done 3 waffles. I wasn’t hungry of thirsty, but knew I should have been consuming more.
The final 4k of the ride was a no pass zone. This was frustrating because I was still passing slower riders from earlier waves and ended up behind someone who was significantly slower. Everyone was dealt the same circumstances, but I still wasn’t happy about it (mostly because I had a great bike split [for me] going). And at this point I had a costly lapse in judgement. I sat up from my aerobars, the first time in quite a while, and began drinking from a bottle. Before I had realized it I had drank over half the bottle and knew all that liquid sloshing around in my stomach could spell trouble on the run. This was a mental mistake that I wont make next time.
As I neared the mount line I began to worry about how I would run, but I was very happy with the 2:28:38 bike split I had managed.
T2 was uneventful. I found my spot, racked my bike, took off my helmet, pulled on my shoes, and was on my way.
Run (1:38:50, 4:41/km pace)
Right when I left T2 I realized I had made a nutrition mistake on the bike. The bottle of water I drank over the last 6 or 7k was not sitting well. I felt uncomfortable and bloated. I was able to keep my pace around 4:20/km through the first mile, but right after the first aid station I threw up most of the liquid I had just consumed near the end of the bike. I was able to keep moving forward but my pace slowed and my stomach was really sore. I continued to run until I approach the turnaround hill at the 5k mark. I threw up again and the pain in my stomach had increased. I was reduced to walking up this hill. Mentally this became difficult to overcome. At that point my hope of breaking 4:40 overall was lost and I began to get down about how much time I was losing. (All race I had 4 kilometers that I ran above 4:45 pace, that was my slowest one at 6:03/km) After the turnaround I had a couple kilometers downhill where I tried to compose myself and just focus on running 1km at a time. I saw Lisa running out towards the turnaround as I crossed the 7.5k mark, she looked strong and this gave me a little energy boost.
I reached the turnaround near the start-finish to head out for my second lap in about 49:15 (4:41/km pace). At this point my stomach was still sore. I hadn’t taken in any nutrition through the first lap of the run. As I ran through aid stations I had poured water over my head to cool down but I hadn’t eaten or drank anything. I didn’t have an appetite to consuming anything, but I knew I’d become a struggle just to finish if I didn’t force down some calories. I picked up some coke at a couple of the aid stations to help fuel me through the final lap. As I approached the turnaround hill for a second time I was once again reduced to walking. I had taken coke at the bottom of the hill and it wasn’t sitting well. I walked to the top of the turnaround hill, hit the turnaround and then just focused on getting to the finish. I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on running as well as I could. After the turnaround I saw Lisa again, and she still looked really strong. I was doing my best to keep myself together but I could feel my energy levels reaching critical lows. I managed to keep ticking off the kilometers and was very happy to reach the finish chute. At that point I realized I wouldn’t meet my secondary goal of going sub 4:45, but there was great crowd support lining the chute and I tried to soak in as much of that excitement as I could while I crossed the finish line.
I finished the run in a disappointing 1:38:50, almost 6min behind my goal of 1:33.
Overall (4:45:25, 18th in 25-29 AG, 111th Overall)
I am pleased with my overall performance. I managed a PB by 12:10 on what most would agree is a harder course than where I previously had my personal best (Tremblant). A poor decision at the end of my bike cost me a couple minutes on the run, and that will hang over me until the next one, but on the whole it was a great day.
After the race I picked up a big plate of food, but didn’t have much interest in eating anything. My stomach was still sore and I didn’t have much of an appetite. I headed to the finish line and waited for Lisa to come in. I didn’t have to wait long as she smashed her old PB with a 4:52:11, good for 2nd in her AG and 5th female amateur!