Monday, July 6, 2009

Breaking 2-Minutes

Here's an excerpt from this article that talks about training for the 800m.  

PREDICTABILITY
Best 800m = (400m + 6seconds) x 2
This seems to apply to the distance type runner quite well. The high school sprinter-type appears to lack the necessary strength to fufill this predictability equation.


This essentially breaks down the race into two components:  the all out 400m time (speed component) and the 'added factor' or (strength component).  Obviously, the more of an endurance trained runner you are, (800m/1500m type) the better you'll do w/ the strength component compared to the guy who is more speed oriented (400m/800m type)

While it's probably better to view this 'added factor' more in terms of percentage of 400m time (as opposed to an absolute number), 6-seconds is a good target for a time around 2-minutes (54 + 6) x 2 as this would correspond to about an 11% slow down vs 400m time.

Looking at many of the Masters 800m runners - this 'factor' varies from +9%, which would be excellent to +25%, which is obviously very poor and indicates that those guys are really 400m runners who just decided to do an 800m for the hell of it.  

Being that I don't have an exact 400m race time at this point, I can't say for sure where I'm at, but all indications are that I've got some work to do to get down to 6-seconds.  On the bright side, I believe my 400m speed is pretty close to the 54 target.  

While I'll never be an 'endurance' or 'strength' type of runner, I believe if I continue to work aggressively on this side that I can eventually get this 'factor' down into the +10-12% range.  And of course, if I can get my 400m time under 54, it will make things that much easier on the strength side of the equation.  

Consequently, to give myself the best chance to get to 2-minutes, I'm going to need to work hard on both speed and strength - so this training plan will have several components that work on each.  Although there is obviously some crossover benefit to certain components, this roughly divides the training into the separate compartments:


Speed:  plyometrics, box jumps, hill repeats, Rep/short interval training (mile race pace work down to 600m race pace work), power-lifting, sprint work (400m race pace work on down), lactate tolerance training 

Strength:  weekly mileage, long runs, steady runs, tempo runs, cruise intervals (5k pace work), long intervals (3k pace work), lactate tolerance training  (this training helps everything)


Each of these components will have their time and place where they'll be a point of focus, and the overall mix will follow a progression throughout the year.  The bottom line is that if I'm going to hit the target, I'm going to need to have the speed to run an all out 400m in the 53.5 - 53.8 range, and the endurance/strength to be able to hold close to 90% of that speed for the full half mile.  

This sure as hell isn't going to be easy - I'm going to need to make improvements in all areas, and I'm also going to have to work more on things like core strength, flexibility, etc in order to be able to train at the required intensities when that time comes to bring it all together.  At the very least, the journey should be interesting, and if (knock on wood) I can avoid any major set backs I should be able to make a pretty good run at this thing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Update

Enjoying my time off - birthday #41 came yesterday.  I've been re-reading Peter Coe's 'Winning Running' which goes through Seb Coe's typical training year - really good stuff for middle distance runners.  Coe's first phase of training every year was to take a month completely off.  (some guys took off more time than that)  I won't be taking off that much time (2-3 weeks for me) but the legs are feeling very refreshed w/ the 10-days I've taken thus far.

I've got a good idea as to how my training is going to be structured.  Some new things will be added that I haven't done before.  First off, I'll be adding swiss ball and BOSU exercises (stability half sphere that you stand on) into my core routine as well as assorted plank exercises.  Hopefully this will strengthen my core even more to reduce the chances of injury.  I've also added a stretching routine for the hip flexors to keep the hips loose.  

Additionally, I've gathered up several box jump and plyometric exercises that I'll be starting soon.  These routines along w/ the power-lifting exercises (squats, dead lifts, and power cleans) will add strength and power which should increase my speed.   

As I mentioned previously, there will be more of an emphasis on increasing my speed through plyos, box jumps, power-lifting, and sprint work (much later in the training).  Being that most of this additional work doesn't actually involve running (until the sprint work later), I'll be able to do much of this work while in the base phase where the focus will be increasing my weekly mileage from the 35-40 mpw up into the 50s or 60s.  (using De Castella's weekly training as a model w/ some influences from Coe and El Guerrouj)  So while the mileage won't consist of the very intense peak training - not all of those 50+ miles will be easy.  A lot of steady runs, hills, tempo, etc.  

My experience thus far has been that the paces from 5k pace and slower don't really wear on my body so much (I've run at a 'steady' pace of 6:40 or so every day - even on the longer 12-13 mile runs w/o it bothering me)  So the idea here will be to seriously work on both my speed (at the gym) and my endurance (on the trails) at the same time while strengthening my core w/ the swiss ball, BOSU, plank exercises, etc.  

Using Coe's yearly training as a model, I'll be able to break down the training into stages which will dictate mileage, intensities, etc for each time period.  I won't be putting together a detailed long term plan as this thing will be very flexible depending on how I'm feeling.  The important thing for me is that I have a good idea of how I want the overall training to go and I'll just operate w/ that framework in mind.

In the next post I'll break down what I believe it will take for me to hit a 2-flat 800m, and how each part of the training will hopefully do its part to get me there.  

Have a safe and happy 4th!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Difficult Decision

It felt great to get in a workout last Saturday.  A combo of controlled speed (2 x 600m @ 1:44) and some decent repeats in spikes (2 x 300m @ 45.5) after a warm up and a solid 2 x 200m @ about 28 per.  No issues w/ the back/hip, but unfortunately the left calf and adductor that have been very tight since the back flare up felt tight the next day.  Sure enough, during the session w/ the CMT on Monday those areas weren't the greatest.  

At that point, it became pretty clear what I had ahead of me this summer.  I could scale back my workouts and up my treatments for a few weeks and then try to get in a few weeks of sharpening (albeit after some fitness loss) in an attempt to perhaps get in one or two races at the end of the summer - OR - I could make the decision to simply pull the plug here, get some rest for a couple of weeks, enjoy the summer w/ the family a bit more and then get a head start on what will be a very elaborate build for next year.

Clearly I was disappointed that it was coming to this.  But to be perfectly honest, during those few hours when the back/hip thing came out of nowhere and I was wondering when I'd even be able to walk let alone run - the thought did enter my mind that this season at best would be compromised, and at worst could be in serious jeopardy.  

After examining my goals the decision became pretty clear cut.  The original goal for this season was to gain some experience, run about six 800m races and finish up running at Nationals in early August.  No shot at placing this year, just gain the experience of running in a big meet and be as competitive as possible.  I say 'August' because Nationals have been run the first weekend in August every year for a while - however I discovered in May that this year, the Nationals meet was moved up to July 9th.  Immediately I knew I would not be in good enough shape to feel comfortable running in that meet in early July, so the goals shifted to simply gaining some racing experience and have fun running locally w/ my 'big meet' actually being the first one on May 24th.  

Longer term, the goal was unchanged - get to 2-flat or better and look to be competitive enough for a top-5 finish at Nationals.  (I never posted these goals because I wanted to get one solid race under my belt first to confirm that it was at least quasi-realistic)

Being that Nationals were already out for this year, and w/ the limited training I'd be able to do the rest of the way, the chances of going 2-flat this season dropped from slim to none.  So what it really came down to was - would I rather enjoy running a few races towards the end of the season w/o the times being what I'd like or would I rather let the body rest up a bit, continue w/ the massage treatments to finish flushing everything out, and get about a 6-week head start on my training for next season.  (the last part obviously giving me a better chance of hitting my longer term goals)

So like I said, with the longer term goals taking priority, the decision became quite clear.  

I can't say it's the greatest feeling in the world to be pulling the plug on this season already, especially after the freak fall that screwed up my hand killed the winter season - but to be honest, I'm very thankful to have been able to run what was going to be my biggest meet anyway in May.  The experience I gained in that one race will help me tremendously next time out.

In the next post I'll go over the training plan.  There will be several additions to the weekly routine . . . 



Sunday, June 21, 2009

800m Race Photos (May 24th)


I look a lot more relaxed coming through that first lap than I do on the 2nd!  Actually very relaxed on lap-1 considering it was about a 58.3 . . . . . . gotta gain the fitness required to run the 2nd lap better.


video

Unfortunately, the photos don't show well on this thing.  I've posted a few of them below so that they're more visible:


Opening 200m


First Lap
(My wife's first comment after the race, "you need a tan!")


Feeling relaxed finishing up the first 400m . . . 


 . . . Not so much on the last last 50m
(obviously Brendan and I attended the same class on "Displaying your Race Day Face"!!)


The most important part of race day . . . . the post race beer!


Figured I'd throw one in w/ my wife (I even shaved for this one!)


Also, I was messing around w/ Flickr but was unable to have Blogspot communicate w/ the Flickr account.  So I just added a link on the sidebar under "Slideshows" that has my first one.  It's a show of our Garden/Koi pond in the yard - the photos were taken this week.  Let me know if you have any issues viewing it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Finally . . . . A Workout!

Exactly 3 weeks to the day since my last workout (and 3 weeks to the day since my hip/back got zapped) I was on the track for a quasi-legit session.  

I've been feeling much better these past few days.  However the calf/adductor combo that caused some issues going around the turns on the track is still present, albeit to a lesser degree.  

I had 3 goals for this session:

1.  Determine how far the calf/adductor have come along over the past 10 days.
2.  Get in some controlled speed work .
3.  If possible, get into the spikes for a few quick repeats.

I wasn't exactly sure where my fitness would be w/ about a week off and two very down weeks, but I penciled in the following wo as a target:

2 x 200m (at whatever the calf/adductor would allow - hopefully under 30)
5-minutes to re-stretch the trouble spots
2 x 600m @ sub-1:45 (3-min rest between)
8-minute set break
3 x 300m (in spikes) w/ about 90-second rests.  Pace TBD depending on how I was feeling.

I could feel the calf on the turns of the 200s, but I was able to get to a slightly quicker pace before they flared up, and the discomfort wasn't nearly as bad.  The 200s came in at 28.8 and 28.0.

The first 600 felt really good.  Relaxed, controlled effort and pretty even pace the whole way - 1:43.  On #2 I did what I usually do and let the pace come naturally.  Typically this means that #2 is faster than #1 and this was the case early on.  At 300m I was 2-seconds ahead of the rep-1 pace and I was looking for a 1:41-1:42 . . . but at this point, my fitness drop became apparent.  I struggled a bit through the 2nd half and finished w/ a 1:45.  Not that big a deal, it's probably going to take a couple of weeks to get that fitness back up - at least I now know where I stand.

During the set break I changed into my spikes and got ready for my 300s.  I figured I'd need to be careful as the calf issue was definitely going to be there to some degree.  On the first 300 I could feel the calf a little during the opening straightaway - this was new - I assumed it was due to being in spikes, but it wasn't too bad.  Thankfully, it didn't get any worse on the turn and I came through the finish in 45.1  After a 100m jog back to the start followed by an additional 1-minute rest I was off on #2.  I backed off on the pace just a hair to keep from flaring up the calf and surprisingly this worked perfectly.  No calf issues at all on #2 and I was still able to come in at 45.9  

At this point I decided not to press my luck w/ a 3rd rep - I had gotten everything I wanted out of this session and I felt it was important for me to leave the track on a high note w/ some precious confidence restored.

Overall things went very well considering I haven't done much these past 3-weeks.  My fitness is off obviously, but probably not by too much.  Clearly I did not feel like myself during the 2nd half of the 2nd 600 - but I guess that should have been expected.  The calf/adductor are getting better, but not all the way back.  This kept my speed from being back near 100%, but that was only because the tightness kept a lid on how hard I can push it.  The massage is helping tremendously here, but they were so locked up that it's going to take a few sessions to get these guys back to normal.  Hopefully I continue to make progress here in the coming weeks.

Finally - the hip/back gave me ZERO issues today.  Again, I'll need to be hopeful that this remains the case going forward, but so far so good.  

Easy day tomorrow - massage on Monday, and if all's clear, the next workout should be Wednesday.  

Training:  

Fri, 6/19:  31-minutes @ 6:51 pace

Sat, 6/20:  2 x 200m (28.8, 28.0), 2 x 600m (1:43, 1:45), 2 x 300m (45.1, 45.9)

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Week That Was

Who knows what next week will bring, but as of right now things are improving.  I was back at the massage therapist on Monday where she worked through the trouble spots.  For the most part, everything was much improved - only one muscle in the left calf is still tight.

In an attempt to determine whether or not I've got any imbalance issues, I saw a PT/trainer on Wednesday.  He put me through several tests and determined the following:

1.  Flexibility was good.
2.  No obvious mechanical issues
3.  Strength was good in all areas (adductors, glutes, abs, obliques, etc)
4.  Balance not as good on single leg squats as it should be (knees tended to move inwards) 

This 4th point was essentially the only negative mark I had.  What came out of that was that I was given a few exercises to do at home that should hopefully improve this area.  In addition, I'm going to start doing several stability exercises at home. I figure I should do everything I can to minimize the chances of injury going forward.

On the running front, due to work and other things I wound up going every other day for most of the week.  I can tell I'm feeling better because the paces in the trails are picking up.  

I only had time for a short run on Tuesday, and I wound up hitting the last mile in 5:38 just to see how it felt and I was fine.  On Thursday it became obvious the body was itching for a workout when I hit the first mile in 6:47 and continued to pick the pace up from there.

The plan is to do an easy run on Friday followed by a workout on Saturday.  (I really need to get a workout in)

Training:

Sun, 6/14:  31-minutes @ 6:47

Mon, 6/15:  Appt w/ CMT

Tues, 6/16:  3-miles @ 6:34  (last mile - 5:38)

Wed, 6/17:  Appt w/ PT/Trainer

Thurs, 6/18:  28-minutes @ 6:37

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Progress?

The good news is that the back/hip is continuing to improve - so much so that I don't even remember that it's not 100% except for a couple time per day when I stretch or loosen up.  I don't feel any discomfort during normal activities or running.

After an easy run in the trails on Sunday, I headed over to the track on Monday for a light workout:  in and out 200s at a moderate pace just to get the legs used to moving quickly again.  I did take the watch, but didn't look at the times until the session was over so as not to influence the wo at all.  The first couple of 200s went fine, but on #3 the top part of the calf and bottom of the hamstring on the inside of the left leg didn't feel that great around the turn - the straightaway was fine, but the act of turning at a halfway decent speed was not comfortable.  Same thing on #4.  I was reduced to running the turns easy and hitting the straights a little harder.  

Clearly I had some tightness in the hamstring and calf, essentially along one consistent line (starting mid hamstring down to mid calf)  I could run as hard as I wanted as long as I wasn't in the act of turning - but the curve caused discomfort.

Checking the watch later I found that the first two 200s were at 32, and the next two were at 29.  I then just ran some curves starting at a slow pace, and ramping up the pace on each one until I started to feel the discomfort just to see where the tripping point was.  

Later that evening I poked around and determined that I had some serious tightness along one line on the hamstring and the top of the calf.  This was confirmed on Tuesday by the massage therapist.  The tightness was way beyond the standard tightness I get normally from training, so I had her really dig into it to get the muscles to release.  

What caused it, I don't know.  I obviously don't feel any discomfort on my normal runs, and I haven't tried to run a decent curve since the hip flare up - and being that it's on the same leg - perhaps when the hip went, these muscles locked up to protect themselves.  I just don't know.  

The good news is that this can be worked out in a couple of massage sessions - it's already feeling better.  However, the bad news is that the clock is ticking and I'm still not able to run actual workouts.  

I took a couple days off after the massage as the soreness that followed was pretty intense.  (I hobbled around for 2 days - but when the tightness is that bad, it's the only way to get those guys to release)  

Yesterday I hit the trails for a short run.  Physically everything was good, but my HR was up some.  I'll have to keep a close eye on that over the next few days.

Training:

Sun, 6/7:  30-minutes @ 6:44 pace

Mon, 6/8:  lifting (upper-B, abs) rolling
PM - short track session, 4 x 200 (32, 32, 29, 29)  tightness in left calf/hamstring

Tues, 6/9:  appt w/ CMT

Wed/Thurs, 6/10 - 6/11:  Off (massage soreness)

Fri, 6/12:  25-minutes @ 6:48 pace

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Injury Update

By Monday I was pretty convinced the problem was not actually w/ my back.  From all the research I did, it seemed what I had was more a problem w/ the SI joint between the sacrum and the hip.  The main issue was simply that the joint was unstable (not good for a weight bearing joint), however it was improving every day.

I x-trained on Monday and Tuesday, but I also did some stretching on Tuesday which inadvertently irritated the issue and set me back.  On Wednesday I did see a Chiropractor, who suggested that the problem may have been caused by a tight adductor muscle on the right side that may have had a spasm while sitting in the ice water - this spasm tugged at the sacrum which got it out of alignment and caused the issue in the SI joint.  (he stated that my spine was in good shape and he was actually surprised it was aligned so well w/ all the pounding my body has been taking w/ all the training)  

Long story short - the stability of this joint is improving every day.  On Thursday I x-trained again only this time I was good enough to do a great spinner bike session after my 40-minutes on the elliptical.

On Friday I hit the elliptical again, and then got onto the treadmill for 3-miles.  I started about 7:30 pace and ramped down to 5:56 - no issues.  

Today I went to the track to run 4-miles (I want to avoid the trails right now as I don't feel an uneven surface is best) However, I can only run so slow on a track and after a 6:20 opening mile and a 5:54 second mile I decided to take a 3-minute break before continuing.  (coach said I should not put myself into a position where my body experienced any fatigue at all - didn't want to compromise form at all until we were sure the SI joint would hold)  After the 3-min break I did 2 x 400m at 78 and then 72 w/ a 1-min break.  

Everything went OK, however I believe the joint is currently robbing me of some power.  I don't feel I'm covering as much ground per stride as before.  But as long as I'm improving every day, if a slight loss of power is my only issue right now considering I could barely walk a week ago - well, I'll just have to accept that.  

The plan is another easy day tomorrow and if everything is good, some in and out 200s (w/o the watch!) on Monday just to get up on the toes a bit and see how that goes.  I have a CMT appt on Tuesday where the focus will be the adductors and hips - just loosen the whole area up.

If all's good there then it will be time to hopefully start back up again.  However, I obviously have several dots to connect between now and then, so nothing is guaranteed. 

Training:

Mon, 6/1:  x-train - elliptical and spinner bike

Tues, 6/2:  x-train - elliptical (did some stretching which aggravated the area)

Wed, 6/3:  x-train - elliptical

Thurs, 6/4:  x-train - elliptical, tough spinner bike session

Fri, 6/5:  x-train - elliptical, 3-miles on treadmill

Sat, 6/6:  2-miles (6:20, 5:54), 2 x 400m (78, 72) 

Monday, June 1, 2009

That was Scary

Strength-speed workout on Saturday.  I didn't nail the session as I'd have liked, but to some degree I think it was because it was a bit too aggressive (target - three 800s and a 600 all under 2:20 half pace in the span of about 25-minutes)  However, I did run hard so at least I got in some quality work.

The big story was later that evening. I was icing my calves (which surprisingly are feeling much better now).  Just sitting down w/ the lower legs in some ice water.  After about 15-minutes it was time to step out and dry off.  As I stood up, my lower back felt odd.  I toweled off, walked into the bedroom and a severe pain shot through me like a lightning bolt.  I went to the bed to lie down for a few minutes - maybe I was in the ice water a few minutes too long?  About 5-minutes later I stood up again and my lower back didn't feel right.  I tried walking - definitely some pain - about 10-seconds later a violent pain shot through me again and I hit the deck - couldn't even stand.  Something was seriously wrong.

I've never had lower back pain before (aside from muscle soreness from lifting or working in the yard, etc)  This was definitely nerve related - not muscular.  I was thinking, "did I slip a disk?", "do I have a pinched nerve?"  In either case, I knew one thing for certain - I couldn't walk w/o fear of falling to the ground at any moment.  This was scary.

At this point I certainly had bigger problems than "how/when was I going to be able to run again?", but from the running perspective, yeah - it looked it was all but over for a while.  How can you run workouts and races when you can't even stand up much less walk??

For the next hour I tried to figure out what had gone wrong w/o much luck.  I kept "testing" it by moving into different positions and occasionally trying to walk (I dropped to the ground at least 5 more times)  Then while standing I did some kind of movement w/ the spine and I heard a "pop".  The area was still sore, but all of a sudden I could walk.  I walked around for a while and I thought the problem was essentially solved - whatever popped out popped back in and I was OK.

Not so much.  A short while later it was back "out".  It soon became apparent that this wasn't a disk popping in and out, but in a certain position it was much better.

I went to bed very early and had a miserable night's sleep.  When I could get the back into the "good position" by laying on one side I was OK, but if I moved to the other side it shifted to the "bad position".  I wound up doing some self-physio on the hip and glute muscles around 2:45 am as the whole hip joint didn't feel right.  (this combo of tennis ball and foam roller that does wonders on this area)  This actually helped some and I was able to then get some sleep.

By the next day I was "experienced" enough w/ this thing to get back into the "good position" more quickly which kept me from hitting the floor, and I was able to keep it in this position longer.  When it got into the bad position I could position myself in a certain way where I'd hear the slight pop (almost like cracking a knuckle) and I'd be OK.  Of course the overall area was still sore.  

By mid-day I went outside and started doing some minor things in the yard.  Later in the day I was able to do more and although the back was still a problem, for the first time I started thinking that it was actually improving. 

Here comes the part where you'll think I'm nuts - of course I couldn't run, but I figured, "hey if I can do some stuff in the yard I should be able to x-train".  So I was off to the gym only 20-hours after being unable to stand.  (maybe I am a little crazy)  

Twenty-five minutes on the elliptical actually made it feel better!  Then 20-minutes on the spinner bike where I did 3 solid intervals.  I finished up w/ 20-minutes on another stationary bike as a cool down.  All in all not bad - nothing got worse and honestly I was feeling a little better.

Last night it still went in and out, but the feeling when it was out was improving and it was now very easy to get it back in.  Today it's still sore and I can get some pains in it, but there is no longer an in and out at all, just general soreness.  

When it comes to nerve/disk issues w/ the back, I can't say I know too much about it, but I know enough to know that there is no such thing as "out of the woods".  So although things are improving quickly, there are no guarantees what will happen even 3-minutes from now.  I don't know what caused it - all I know is that I had both legs in ice water up to the knees for 15-minutes and was sitting when it happened, and my left hip joint (same side the pain was on) had felt tight for a day or two beforehand.  Maybe my CMT can shed some light on the subject.

I don't know when I'll feel healthy enough to try a run, maybe Wednesday, maybe not until the weekend, maybe later than that - I just don't know.

At this point, I'm just thankful to be able to walk and do most day-to-day things.  Every 8-12 hours there is noticeable improvement so I'll just hang my hat on that for now.  Hopefully the worst is over and I'll be back in action soon.

Training:

Sat, 5/30:  800m-2:21, 550m-1:35, 800m-2:23, 600m-1:45  (550 was supposed to be 800, just didn't feel like I could get it done.  Re-grouped and got in the 2nd half of the w/o)  the 600 was supposed to be 600 - didn't cut that one short.

Sun, 5/31:  X-train  (elliptical, spinner bike)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Post Race Thoughts

In terms of analyzing the race on Sunday, I don't think there's too much more to be said - essentially I believe my immediate synopsis of the race was accurate:

1.  I went out too fast and probably lost some time slowing up too abruptly to allow the best runner to get to the lead around the 2nd turn.  

2.  The 2nd 200m was good.  Overall my first lap of about 58.4 was a second or so faster than ideal, but all of this was from the opening 200m

3.  I didn't run 70-80% of both turns aggressively enough on lap #2

4.  My 2nd lap time of about 66.8 was WAY too slow.  (however I estimate that at least 1-second of this was due to being unprotected against the wind coming down the home stretch in lane-2)  I was 1:31 at 600m, and I know damn well that my last 100 was pretty decent.  Yes the turn wasn't run as aggressively as it should have been, but there's no way that final 200m was 34-seconds w/o the wind playing a factor.  

The slow 2nd lap was therefore due to a combination of factors:  going out too fast on lap #1, not being aggressive enough, and the strong winds.  

I'm not going to fault myself too much for any of this as you have to assume some errors will be made in the first race.  Overall I'm very happy w/ the performance , I'm just looking at how I'd like to make some adjustments for next time.  I believe that at my present fitness level I should try to run the race w/ 400m splits of 59.5/64.5 which would give me a 2:04.  (obviously any improvements on that would certainly be welcome!) 

Why not shoot for even splits?  A couple of reasons - first, most if not all of the PRs of the top guys were set w/ the first lap being faster than the second.  Typically the first lap is about 3-seconds faster than the second lap in these cases.  Secondly, the more of a "speed" runner you are (i.e. the less of an endurance based or "strength" runner) the more important it is to run the first lap faster.  I've seen this written in several texts/articles discussing 800m race strategy.  Clearly at this point, I am much more a speed runner than a strength runner.  I've seen it written that you don't want to have lap #2 be more than 5-seconds slower than lap #1, so I'll do my best to make the adjustments each race until I am under this limit.

The speed/strength discussion brings me to the final piece of information I got from this race - my speed may be slightly ahead of where I thought it was.  I purposely slowed down at about 185m to allow the top runner to get to the lead prior to the turn, and I was still at or under 27-flat for the first 200m.  Yes this was wind aided to some degree, but I wasn't going that hard here - had I been running a 400m instead of an 800m, that first 200 would have been in the 25.8-26.0 range.  Assuming my 200 splits would be similar to those of yesteryear (meaning somewhere around 2.5 seconds slower for the 2nd 200m) that would give me a 400m time of low 54's.  Certainly not a great time by any stretch, but w/o the benefit of any sprint work, plyometrics, heavy power exercises for legs, etc - this wouldn't be a bad time.  

I told myself a while ago that if it were possible for me to run a 53.x 400m, I'd start dedicating a portion of my training for this event.  I plan on adding plyos and power exercises to my training anyway after this season is over to help my 800m speed.  If it seems like I can get under 54 for the 400m, I may adjust next year's focus from 800m/1500m training to 400m/800m.  

I'm definitely enjoying my 800m training - I find the combination of distance work, threshold work, speed training, lifting, hills, lactate tolerance training etc to be a great way to improve overall fitness, and this diversified training always keeps things fresh and interesting . . . . . but for my money there is no race distance in the world more enjoyable than the 400m.  It has always been far and away my favorite distance to race (even though I was a better 100m runner than 400m runner back in HS)  I'd consider a good time for a 40-44yo to be in the 52.5-52.8 range, and I'd be a far cry from that - but if I can get under 54-flat, I'll start racing this event simply because I enjoy it so much.  

Training:

Thurs, 5/28:  Core work, abs, stretching rolling.  35-minutes x-train on the bike.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Easy Workout

I woke up Monday w/ a little tightness in my hamstrings, but other than that I felt OK.  Coach decided to give me a very light session for Wednesday to aid in the post race recovery.  The plan is to hit it very hard for a 10-day period starting on Saturday, then ease back some in preparation for the next race on June 18th.  

Monday's shake out run in the trails went fine, but my calf/shin issues started to resurface during Tuesday's run.  Today (Wednesday) I had an appointment w/ the CMT after the workout and she was able to loosen up the area once again.  I've got an off day tomorrow, and an easy run on Friday ahead of what will probably be a killer session, so I hope the calf/shin is good to go by then.

As far as the wo was concerned - a few moderate paced 1000s w/ 2.5-min breaks after my mile w/u and 2x200m.  The plan was to hit 3 x 1000m at about 3:25, but the calf started bothering me so I cut it to two reps (3:26, 3:22)  No sense in taking the chance of making it worse - this wasn't a real workout anyway, really more of a recovery day than an actual workout.  

At this point, I'm just hoping that the massage plus the ice, rolling, stretching, etc for a couple days allows me to hit these next few sessions as hard as they're drawn up.  This next period of the training should be the most intense before we get into July where it will be more resting and racing, and I'd like to be able to put in my best effort to maximize the gains.  

Tomorrow I'll put up a race analysis now that I've had a couple of days to assess what went well and what didn't.  I'll also draw up the analysis of what it will take to get down to that 2-flat level.  (although this is more of a 2010 goal)

Training:

Mon, 5/25:  30-minutes @ 6:54 pace

Tues, 5/26:  AM  Core, abs, stretching, rolling
PM  28-minutes @ 6:39 pace (picked it up a little due to the Wed session being so light)  **right calf/shin started to flare up again

Wed, 5/27:  2 x 1000m (supposed to be 3, cut it short due to calf)  3:26, 3:22
PM:  Appointment w/ CMT - a lot of time on calf/shin.  

Monday, May 25, 2009

Back to the Track . . 23yrs later (800m Race Report)

Twenty three years after my last track race - (the NJHS State Section Championships 400m Final -  where I got 6th out of 8 and top 5 went to the State Finals) - I was headed back to the track to race against young men who were not yet born the last time I raced.  The other little wrinkle was that my event, the 800m was a distance I had never raced in my life.  Well, at the very least it should be interesting, I figured.

Things didn't look great leading up to the race in that I started to get a bit of a head cold on Thursday.  By Saturday I felt pretty bad.  I was taking Advil, Clariton (in case it was some form of allergies) and a lot of Vitamin-C.  The cold did not come w/o benefits mind you - I did lose 3 pounds in the 4 days leading up to the race, and because I was pretty out of it Saturday night, I passed right out and got a good night's sleep pre-race which is unusual.  I had decided Saturday that I was racing no matter what.  I needed to get a race in - period.  I was a little better Sunday morning so it was definitely a go.  I took a few menthol cough drops w/ me in case I needed to clear the airways pre-race, but thankfully the adrenaline took care of that.

The race was close to San Francisco, and anyone who's familiar w/ the area knows that although it was 68 degrees and sunny at my house in Silicon Valley - conditions could be drastically different just 25-miles away.  As we headed up the freeway we saw the typical "wall of clouds and fog" as we approached.  Soon we were engulfed in thick dark cloud cover and I watched the car's outside temp reading drop from 68 to 48 in the span of 12-miles.  Making things more "interesting", the track was laid out beautifully . . . on the edge of a cliff.  Great if you were sitting in the stands (because of the setting, there were only stands on the one side of the track) as across the field you got a wonderful panoramic view of the valley below.  However for he runners - what we got was a huge wind tunnel that was quite a force on the final 200m.  How bad was the wind?  Well, the top 3 seed times in the 100m were 10.39, 10.41, 10.43 . . . . and the winner came in in 10.85!  My buddy Juan who ran 11.59 2-weeks ago could only clock a 12.24 yesterday due to the conditions.  Running the 800m, I was going to have to contend w/ this wind twice.  

None of this bothered me though - I was just happy to be there.  My first piece of good news came when I checked in.  There were in fact going to be 2 heats.  Thankfully I was not going to have to race the Olympic Trials guys!  There were just 4 guys in my heat, the #1 guy had a seed time of 1:57, #2 was 2:01, #3 was 2:10  (this was a BS time BTW, this guy was good - he just wanted to avoid the first heat!)  and then there was me w/ NT (no time).  We were to start off in lanes (nice) and cut in after the first turn.  The four of us were using lanes 4-7, and unfortunately I was in 7.  (unfortunately because I wouldn't be able to see anyone until after the first 100m so it would be very difficult for me to judge the pace early on)

I wasn't able to take in the first heat as much as I'd have liked.  Due to the temps, the four of us in heat #2 kept our sweats on as long as humanly possible - which meant as the big boys were entering their 2nd lap, we were all frantically shedding layers trying to time it such that we wouldn't be down to shorts and singlets until they hit the finish.  Of the six (count 'em SIX) guys in this race that have gone sub-1:50 before, Tetlo Emmen was the winner in I believe 1:48.8  

I headed out to lane-7 and lined up right below the big #7 on the track.  The USATF Official (a little old guy about 70yo) called me back and said "hey, we're not running a 400 - your stagger for lane-7 is back here".  Oops!  I said to him, "look I'm running against college kids, I'm going to need all the help I can get."  He laughed, took a look at the field, looked back at me and wished me luck.  This got me laughing and just like that, the pre-race tension was gone.  As I looked over the field it wasn't difficult to pick out the 1:57 guy - about 6'1" thin, strong and he just looked like an athlete.  The gun hadn't gone off yet, but this race was over.

When the gun sounded I took off in what I believed to be a quick, but under control pace.  I was shooting for a 60-61 second first lap, but mentally I was prepared for anything.  (anything meaning me running way too fast early and having to deal w/ it later)  As I approached the 100m mark I could hear the official yell out "you have to get to me before you cut in".  At 100m I was in front (probably not good), but being in lane-7 I just couldn't see anyone so it was difficult to judge the pace.  Rather than cut in all at once, I targeted a line where I'd get to the inside just as I got to the far turn.  (shortest distance)  At about 125m I looked to my left to see Mr. 1:57 - he was still behind me.  I figured, "OK, good - he'll pass me before I get to 200m and I'll tuck in behind him".  50m later I looked over again and came to the realization, "maybe not - I'm still pulling away".  No way I was going into the 2nd turn in the lead - not in front of a 1:57 guy - I was going way too fast.  I almost put on the breaks at 185m to let him go to the front.  Sure I lost some time here, but it was better than the alternative.  

There was someone yelling out 200m times, and that's when I fully understood why I was in this situation.  "26-27".  Damn, I had just put on the breaks the last 15m and I still came across the 200 in 27-flat.  Had I kept going, I was looking at a 26.x first 200 easily.  Well, I had just run the fastest 200m I've run since HS . . . . and I had 600m to go.  

For whatever reason (and I hope this doesn't change) when I'm racing I have not had a single negative thought enter my head.  There was no panic, no "oh I'm blowing the race", or "damn I better slow down a lot".  I just tucked in behind Mr. 1:57 and kept going.  I just remember telling myself to settle in.  Into the teeth of the wind, but had a guy about 7" taller than me out in front so this helped tremendously.  They had a clock at the start line, but the display was very small and for some reason, rather than put the clock on the INSIDE of the track (where we were running) - it was way over on the outside.  The end result was that you couldn't see the time until you were right on top of it.  

I crossed the 400m mark right as the clock switched from 57 to 58.  Based on how this corresponded to the official times, I'd estimate my 400m split at 58.2 - 58.5.  About a 31.5 200m into a stiff wind.  

Yeah I was too fast overall, but the 2nd 200 was just what I wanted.  I was now in uncharted waters - the 2nd lap.  The plan was to pick up the effort on lap #2 because if you don't you simply slow too much.  I don't believe I did a great job of that for the first 70m of the turn as I think I was waiting to hit a wall.  It didn't happen and as I was finishing the turn I was able to pick up the pace and go faster.  A little time lost there, but nothing I could do about that now.  

I tried to power down the back straight as best I could.  Mr. 1:57 had a good lead now, but I was still in 2nd place.  As I approached the 600m mark I could hear the guy yelling out, "1:29-1:30-1:31".  Not sure exactly when I crossed the mark, but I believe it was between 1:30 and 1:31.  (this was a handheld time obviously, so let's call it 1:31)  Maybe 32.5 for that 200m - not bad considering I took my foot off the gas too much on the curve.  

1:31 was damn fast for 600m I was thinking.  I made the same mistake I made on the previous curve - foot off the gas waiting to hit the wall.  This time however, it cost me more than some time - not one, but BOTH guys behind me passed me early on the turn!  All of a sudden I dropped from 2nd to last.  This got me out of sorts for a few seconds, but again I quickly re-focused and as I took an instantaneous assessment of my condition I came to what I thought was a remarkable conclusion - I felt fine!  

I picked up the pace and passed one of the kids that passed me before the curve was finished.  I had to swing out to lane-2 to do this, but hey I put myself in this position.  There would be no more "waiting to hit the wall".  At this point (and for the first time) I had complete confidence in my fitness level and I would increase the effort the rest of the way.

The unfortunate thing coming down the final 100 was that I was in lane-2, meaning I was not getting any protection against that hellacious wind.  I was so focused on just finishing strong that I forgot about the wind and making sure to stay shielded if I could.  With about 70m to go Juan was on the infield yelling at me to use my arms more.  I increased my effort one final time and headed towards the finish.  As I approached the line I could finally see the clock:  2:03-2:04 - I came in just as it hit 2:05.

The next 3-minutes were a blur.  As I gasped for air I recall the announcer calling out the official times.  I heard my name - 3rd place, 2:05.27.  Two seconds later my feet were off the ground . . . Juan had me in a bear hug - lifted me clear off the track and yelled, "2:05 in these #&%@ conditions!?"  A few seconds later, the little old race official came up to me and congratulated me on a great race.  Clearly he had expected me to be on the track a good 30 seconds after the kids were finished.  As I walked off the track, my head pounding, Timothy Bayley (one of the pros who ran in the Olympic Trials for England last year) offered his congrats on the race, which was very cool.  

The pain in my head just got worse.  It felt like my head was in a vice and someone was turning it tighter and tighter.  Oxygen debt being repaid I guess!  I was so dizzy I had to sit down.  I was prepared for pain DURING the race, but damn the pain is much much worse AFTER the race.  

A minute or two later, my son came onto the infield and we sat there and talked about the race for a while.  First thing he said was, "gee dad - you don't look like any of those guys"  (i.e. tall, young, etc etc)  Thanks!  Usually, I'm talking to him after one of his HS races - quite a change of pace to have the roles reversed yesterday.

Five minutes after the finish and the pain was still getting worse.  The last bit of a 5k race might be more draining than the last 200m of the 800, but post race there is no comparison.  The post 800m pain is infinitely worse than anything I felt during or after the 5k - I couldn't even drive home!  

I'll probably post up an analysis of the race later - but as usual for me, this post is way beyond "long enough".  I was very pleased w/ the race overall.  Yes I could have done some things better, but you can't run a perfect tactical race on your first go-round.  And I have to believe the wind cost me a good second or so as well (I'll find out later this season)  I competed hard - I came back and passed a guy late in the race even though I went out too fast - and I gave it everything I had.  

It was also nice to have my family there, my neighbor Tim was nice enough to show up, and it was also a plus to have an experienced Masters racer like Juan there to help me out.  The race was well run, and the it was a great atmosphere to be around all of those great athletes.  How often am I going to be running in a meet w/ Olympians??  Exactly!  I'll enjoy this one for a day or two and then it's back to work . . . . June 18th ain't that far away!