Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Napa Marathon nutrition plan, or, "how I used up a 3 month allotment of plastic bottles"

It's been bugging me for weeks: my original plan was to just go "ultra-style" and carry an amphipod belt with a 10 oz water bottle and a 5 oz Gu holder. I would refill the water whenever it emptied, and in the process do my best to take in 40-50 oz of fluid over the course of the race. But recently I've been waffling on that, not excited at all at the thought of having a belt hanging from my hips. So I've come up with a plan, and I'm really psyched about it. It took me a couple shopping trips to find what I needed, and a special Napa marathon service to help me out. As it turns out, they take bottles out on the course for you, so I plan to prepare a bunch of bottles that I will have them place at the various water stops. That way I have my water waiting for me, can carry it and drink it for a bit, and when I'm done deposit it neatly in a nearby trash can (I hope - it's not easy being green!).

First a little bit about the bottles: my criteria were, should be between 8-12 ounces; needs a drinking nozzle. As it turns out no bottles fit this criteria, so I had to go with a hybrid model: I bought a 6-pack of these (notice the nozzle) :

and an 8-pack of these sweet little 10 oz football shaped bottles:

Next I swapped the caps.

After that I rigged up a duct tape based handle:

Which I'll use like so:

And finally, I attached an orange marker, so I can see it clearly at the water bottle station, and a gel:

I haven't completely decided what to put in them, but most likely the first 4 will be accelerade and the last two will be Coke. I plan to leave them at miles: 4, 19, 14, 18, 21 and 24.

For nutrition I will carry probably 4 gels (hammer and/or accel gels) with the plan of eating half a gel every 15 minutes. I'll also be carrying salt tablets for extra electrolytes, probably one every 30 or so minutes. And finally I'll have a couple advil. Should I need anything additional I'll get ir on the course, either taped to my bottle or from the gel stations.

As a side note, as I mentioned back in December we Americans go through 25,000,000 h20 bottles every day. Since I came across that statistic I've just about stopped using disposable bottles, but if you think about it it only takes one bottle every ten days per person to maintain status quo. I am really cranking up my allotment, using 3 or more months worth of bottles for this marathon, so I have some making up to do...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gettin' my ass handed to me

Here's the truth: I've been running with guys who are faster than me on my long runs - and they've been kicking my ass. I haven't pushed like this for several years. Mark and Alberto are 3 hour guys, and they're in that kind of shape. Ian and Ethan aren't there yet with their P.R.s but I think Ethan at least is primed for a breakthrough run - Ian has been travelling a bunch, interviewing for a job at a university, and so he might not be primed. I met these guys through San Jose Fit, and since I was joining so I could run with faster people, I hung with them as best I could, and it's been rewarding and enjoyable. It will also be really interesting to see how the training translates into race times since we'll all be doing Napa. Mark and Alberto are going to try to duck under 3, and Ethan is going for 3:30. He is quite capable of that, but had a bad blow up in his first race - he has problems drinking on the course and I suspect he dehydrated.

Anyway, I thought I'd mention this, since I don't think I've mentioned it in my previous blog posts.

Here's how the long runs go: if it's flat, we run together for first 5 or so. I remind them of the intended pace. They agree, yup we should slow down. We go faster. After 5 miles I slow back to a reasonable pace, the field scatters. They wait for me at the turn. We go again, and we meet up at the end.

If it's hilly, we run the beginning together, I fall back on the ascents, and I chase and try to catch them on the downhill. Then we repeat.

I start feeling slow, but I'm probably getting faster; if I run with the next group the pace is too slow for what the book tells me to run. So I suck it up. The only run I think this may have back-fired was the 23-miler. I was coming into very good form, but running the half marathon and then running a 23-miler was too much. I may not have maximized the benefit of the 23-miler.

Because of the Furman program, I haven't had a relaxing run in probably 6 weeks. It's been interesting. This race is a bit of an experiment so I'm open-minded and I don't mind running hard. Let's see how it feels.

One week till Napa, all systems go

It's been a long time since I ran a serious marathon, really over 7 years. Big Sur was nice, but if I look back on my training my poor result should come as no surprise. With Napa I feel like I did all the work I needed to do, and though I wasn't monk-like in my approach to diet and so on, I feel like I've done enough to ensure a solid performance. In particular I've done track sessions every week, have three 20+ long runs, and have done a long-distance tempo or MP run every week as well. Basically I've done what I can do, and in doing it I haven't injured myself. This week I will do two short but relatively intense workouts, including 6 x 400 meters tomorrow and 3 miles race pace Thursday.

I am also considering race strategy, and rather than worry about mile splits I'm thinking of a positive split approach, running the first half in 1:43 so I have four extra minutes on the back-end to get to 3:30. If I hit 3:30 that will be a good indicator that my training was right on, and in addition I feel there is some head room to get faster in the future. I'm not thinking "what if I miss", but I am mentally giving myself ten minutes of cushion (3:40) to judge the race a success. And I'll give myself ten minutes of upside as a stretch goal. Basically, the last 6 miles are a mystery to me: I've worked a lot on my mental toughness this time around, and I'm hoping I can use those lessons at the end. Obviously though there is no way to know until we get there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Front Row Seat at the Suffer Fest

Woody Allen once said showing up is 80% of success. So I knew when I showed up at Robert's market on Monday morning in the pouring rain, that we were going up to watch the Tour of California. The fact that neither Chris not Pat had called to cancel meant that they were in too, and I was impressed that we were all too macho or stupid to call it off. Pat pulled up in his car, followed shortly after by Chris, who had ridden an extra ten miles from his house and assured us we'd be just fine (the fact that he'd already been riding made any remaining thoughts of bagging this thing moot).

The route we took was Portola Valley Road to King's Mountain and then up and over Skyline. The first 6 or so miles were enough to test our gear - I don't ride in the rain too often and so was undecided on what jacket to wear. I started with a microfiber jacket but quickly realized that, unlike in running, the wet from the rain was going to chill me to the bone, so I threw on a two-layer (think fleece inside, water "resistant" polyester on the outside)jacket. It soaked in a lot of water but was warm enough to insulate me and my four other layers underneath. We saw no other until we got to King's mountain, and then the die-hards started appearing. Plenty of folks were going up on their bikes, others were making the drive. All-in-all I think riding the bike was less stressful, especially afterwards when traffic was at a standstill.

Nice climb and we were nice and warm by the top. Up there it was pretty serious chaos, with CHP all over trying to control things, random volunteers directing traffic, and cyclists, hikers, etc hanging around in the cold. Down the backside of Tunitas we went, descending into progressively colder environs. We wet up camp about two miles down and waited for the parade.

After all the work it took to get up there, the race was by in a flash. Seeing the pros ride these roads is impressive. Seeing the convoy pass by is, well, frightening. If I wasn't wet already, the Rock Racing driver might have done the job. How more spectators don't get run over is a mystery. the Rock team car is a two-door Cadillac, and the driver was driving like he was on Highway 9 rather than a one-lane back road, built mainly for cyclists and pot farmers. and full of cold, wet, screaming fans.

The descent and ride home were, well, cold, but we got into a good rhythm following each other's rooster tails, and got back in one piece. Round trip was about 26 miles, with a one-hour interruption.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In Case you Missed it...

it sounded like a good idea when he announed it in September, but Lance Armstrong is backing off on his transparent drug-testing program. Read about it here. really that's a shame, because having that kid of tranparency would have been good for the sport. Of course, the reality is that public data doesn't always clarify, apparently reading the data is quite complex and specific to the individual, as we learned last year with the Slipstream testing - basically the layman can't understand it.

Too bad for cycling, too bad for Lance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

races I might medal in

I was always unusually fast at pounding a beer. In my college days there were few faster, large or small. I practiced my freshman year in the cafeteria. I would pound 8 ounce glasses of milk with my dorm-mates and rarely would I lose. I quit the milk circuit after my friend Kevin surreptitiously spiked my milk with about a half cup of salt before the race, leaving me gagging and in second place. But I bumped around the beer pounding minor leagues for a couple more years before hanging it up for good.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that now that I'm back running on the track, I might have a chance to run a respectable "beer mile". The point of the beer mile is as follows:
1) Drink a beer
2) run a lap
3) repeat 3 more times

Now this race is not for big slow beer drinkers. Honestly it probably favors running athletes (ultimate, soccer) more than ascetic distance runners. The local winner last year went a 6:42, obviously no slouch.

If your specialty isn't drinking, maybe you can find a local doughnut run. Basically, this is a 5K with donut stops. The first donut you eat takes 15 seconds from your overall time, the second takes 30, and for each successive donut the time bonus increases 15 seconds. So if you eat, say, 5 donuts, 3:45 comes off your finishing time. Think you could break 15 minutes?

Suffice to say I won't start training seriously for either event before I finish Napa, but we all have dreams.

Monday, February 9, 2009


it's official, the last of the long training runs is in the books. freaking finally! We did 23 on Saturday, Coyote Creek trail. Much nicer than I'd thought it would be, it gets so dang hot in the summer but right now it is lush. For a long flat run it isn't bad...

as for the run itself, well my fears were justified. It's been a heavy week, with 13 on Sunday, 7 Tuesday and 6 at the track Thursday, and my legs were beat up going into this one. I hung onto a brisk pace for about 16 miles, but slowed considerably towards the end, finishing the entire 23 with an 8:30 average. Still and all it was a good week, totalling 49 miles. I'm ready to bring it down a bit, race like hell in a few weeks, and then switch out the shoes for the bike for a little while.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gettin' inside my head

Ack, 23 miles tomorrow and I am freaking NERVOUS. This one is looong, longer than I really feel ready for. It's my 3rd 20 plus, though, I'm ready, right???

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Note on this week's workouts (last big run week)

I worked pretty hard Sunday at the SF Half Marathon and was expecting this week's workouts to be sub-par. Still, mentally I needed to try to hit the schedule, which called for an 8 mile tempo run (7 at 7:30 pace) and 10x400 at 1:35.

Tempo was Tuesday, but I wasn't a stickler for time or distance since Sunday was basically a 7:34 tempo pace for 13.1 miles. I got through 7 of the 8 miles at about 7:45 pace without too much strain. The Intervals also went well, hit 9 out of 10 on pace, with the fastest being 1:31 and repeat #3 being at 1:37. Mentally it was good to get through these workouts, because this is the stage where missing a workout affects my mental as much as my physical condition. Not good to leave excuses on the table, e.g. "I might not run as well as I could since I missed a few workouts last month." I have one last long run this weekend and then we taper. Taper on this program is not that light however:

Week 3:

Heavy Track session: 8 x 800 @3:13 (1:30 rest)
6 mile tempo, 5 @ 7:29
13 miles @8/mile

Week 2:

5 x 1000@ 4:03 (400 Rest)
6 mile temp: 2 easy; 3 @ 7:14; 1 easy
10 miles @ 8/mile

Week 1:

6 x 400 @1:35
3 mile run, 1 easy, 2@8/mile

I'm feeling ready now, but I like the taper in this program. If I include a bit more biking I should feel great.

And now a note on the economy:

This feels like very historic times we're in. As an economics major I've always had a bias that, in general, deregulation and allowing the market to work were most always the right choice - you know, good old-fashioned capitalism. For as long as I can remember those in charge of our country have felt relatively the same way. So what happens when we see a recession this big, caused by what could be called a lack of regulation? Do market principles no longer apply? Did the market fail us or was it something less benign? In my attempts to better understand these questions, and move my focus away from the personal misery so many are feeling and try to think about it at a higher-level, I've been listening to Bloomberg's "on the Economy" podcasts, which i highly recommend. The podcasts are occasionally sobering, but always interesting. This is a time when economists will be scrambling to answer some big questions and this program has some of the best minds I've heard in awhile.

Yesterday's program with James K. Galbraith was focused on the less benign side. He makes a serious argument that conservatives have really abandoned the market and grabbed control of government as a means of generating more wealth for a highly select and protected class. Get a sense for that in this article:. let's just say I love the title: "The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon Report

The tune-up race is in the books and I have to be pleased with the results. My goal for this race was to go under 1:40, and with a 1:39:20 I met that. In terms of what I had hoped to accomplish, I am definitely on track; at the same time, I am am wondering just how predictive this race will be on my Napa marathon. I'm running as well as I'd expected, and hope to really take advantage of my current training base at Napa.

I met up with my friend Kalei in the morning and we got to the line with plenty of time to spare. It was an uneventful morning which is always good: had a good breakfast, slept well enough and felt ready. It took us both about one and a half minutes from race start to cross the line, and from there we ran together for awhile. He went up the road aways and I stayed relaxed, choosing not to spend energy winding around the runners - the course was quite tight in the beginning.

My first mile was my slowest, which is always good sign - I like to stay relaxed in the beginning and not let the adrenaline take over. It took me over 8 minutes to get past mile 1. As we wound through the park I clicked off a series of 7:30 to 7:40 miles, and then tried to pick up some time on the downhills as we headed to Ocean Beach (mile 7). Mile 6 was sub 7:20, and mile 7 was 7:26.

Running along the ocean is a bit of a mental challenge as the course is straight out on Ocean beach for nearly 3 miles, and then back along the same course. I tried to quiet my mind and keep pace. Things went well here as I maintained a 7:25 to 7:35 pace along this stretch and felt really strong. I think the hammer gel and caffeine were working together to overcome the fatigue. At the turn I saw Kalei on his way back, and used that as motivation to keep working. I caught up with him at mile 11, a bit surprising as he had expected to run 1:46 and actually went 1:41. Mile 12 was 7:24, so pace was strong. The last two miles I simply shut my mind off and worked. There is a climb at the end of the course for about 1/3 of a mile, and I was able to push past a bunch of folks on this stretch which was a nice surprise. Then like that it was done, 1:40: 50 on the gun, 1:39:19 start-to-finish.

From now to Napa, on the training side I will keep up the weekly track sessions along with a 23 miler next Saturday. I would like to be lighter than I am, but haven't had any weight-loss success and am still tipping 180.

I have to admit to coming to a conclusion during the first couple of miles of this race: headphones and races DO NO MIX and I am now in favor of banning them, as Napa is doing. In the beginning of this race, too many runners were not able to hear me coming from behind and it made passing quite difficult. In addition, I'm convinced that there is some cocooning effect that the iPod has on the runner. The headsetted runners just didn't run straight, didn't look back to merge, and basically were a nuisance. I felt like a grumpy old man for awhile and though I held my tongue I am now venting...

One more nit I have to pick: my time is not recorded in the official results. Don't worry, I have witnesses, but still a bit of a disappointment.

Other notes:
+ even though I ran with a 10 oz watter bottle I still didn't even drink that whole thing. I will need to do better at the marathon. On a long run I drink at least 40 oz...
+ I loved not having to deal with the water stops. that in itself made the belt worthwhile
+ My favorite piece of the belt is the gel bottle. So much better to take a shot of gel out of a bottle than dealing with the little pouch
+ Per Hawk's advice I didn't wear a hat for the first time in a long while. I think that definitely kept some heat off
+ re-connected with Arbin, my old Intel running partner, at the finish. Will hook up with him at Napa
+ I have to confess to a bit of wistfulness when comparing my times to a few friends: Chloe's former teach Monique Tobbagi continues to tear it up, running a 1:34; Luca Fasoli, a guy who's first marathon was 4:20, went 1:28 and is working towards another sub 3 hour effort this year. He really preaches the track work...
+ this week's track session will be interesting: 10 x 400 at 1:35. Short, intense pain, here it comes!