Sunday, August 31, 2014

11 weeks to the Big Sur Half-Marathon : Out the Door

The sidewalk outside my front door.
"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome."
-Arthur Ashe

Returning from a short weekend vacation in Kansas Monday afternoon, it was time to begin the twelve weeks of training leading up to the Monterey Half-Marathon.  I unpacked and did a short, ceremonial 3.5 mile run around the loop of the Los Gatos Creek Trail on the east side of my home town of Campbell, CA.

The next day was my first hard day of the week, an eight mile fartlek run.  Fartleks are one of my favorite old school workouts.  Fartlek is a Swedish word for "speed play" and the idea is to run at varying speeds over the course of the run.  I'm not as playful as the Swedes so my version of fartlek is to simply run for 90 seconds at 1500 meter pace and then return to easy distance pace for another 90 seconds and repeating that over and over nine times.  As I get within six weeks of the half-marathon, the fartlek runs will morph into track intervals.

Wednesday was an easy run south along the Los Gatos Creek Trail to Vasona Dam and back.  Vasona Dam holds the waters of Vasona Lake in Los Gatos.  On the way back, I encountered a runner I often see on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Let's call her "Fast Grandma".  I don't know her name, how old she is, or even if she's actually a grandma.  Her straight, dark gray shoulder length hair and granny glasses make her look like grandma as she whizzes along the trail.  She could be anywhere between 40-60 years old and if she races, she would have to dominate her age group given how fast she glides along the trail every time she goes by. After two years of passing each other on the trail once or twice each week, we've developed such a familiarity that a slight acknowledgement with a turn our fingers has evolved to a brief verbal "Morning" greeting.

Thursday and Friday were easy six and four runs respectively.  They felt pretty effortless but I held back for the big 12 mile tempo run Saturday.

Saturday morning, I'm standing in front of my apartment complex waiting for my Garmin watch trying to find its distant satellites orbiting the earth.  I must have faked it out starting the search indoors because it kept restarting some sort of sequence over and over again, failing to communicate.  After five or ten minutes of this, I get impatient and just head out in regular stop watch mode.  I prefer the nearly real time pace feedback of the Garmin watch, but since I know roughly were each mile is along the 12 mile out and back run along the Los Gatos Creek trail, I can roughly figure out my pace along the way.

I come through the first mile around 7:00, get a little carried away and come through the second mile at 6:30. Yikes!  Too fast.  Pulling back on the throttle a little, I come through the approximate 4 mile mark in 27:00. Still too fast.

All things considered, it's better to be too fast than too slow, but running long distance tempo run is bascially playing with fire because they are very stressful workouts.  If you have a nagging injury or feel a little sick, a hard 12 miler is a great way to knock yourself out of action for two weeks.  And trust me, I've done just that.  The worst thing I can do is turn this into a 12 mile time trial and the idea is to run this at a pace I call "Can't hold a conversation for more than 30 seconds pace".  Since I have trouble running a mile at 6:30-6:45 while talking continuously for 30 seconds, I need to slow down.

I settle into a more reasonable pace by the time I get to the turn-around point on the gravel road just south of downtown Los Gatos.  Heading back north to Campbell, I pass a couple packs of the San Jose Fit training group, all wearing matching bright orange shirts and following each other in single file as they wind through the narrow woods along Los Gatos Creek.  I finish back home in 1:23:05, a 6:55 minute per mile pace, about what I was shooting for.

Sunday caps things off with a easy six mile recovery run.   I was slightly beat up from yesterday, my right hamstring feeling tight, but otherwise felt OK.   The first week had a couple challenges, and by design, none of those challenges were supposed to be difficult.  The good news is that they weren't.  Early on, it's just about finding limits.  Testing those limits will come later.

Week 1:
Miles completed:  45.5
Current weight:  176
Currently Prefered carbo replenishment drink:  Bison Brewing Hop Cuvee

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