Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Do I Run At Race Pace?

As summer draws to a close, many runners are in the heat of their fall marathon race training. Cooler temps and decreasing humidity are being celebrated. The tempo runs, intervals, and hill workouts are in full swing, and the really long runs have begun.

Many training plans have runners running short-n-easy, long-n-slow, and hard-n-fast. The shorter easy runs keep the weekly mileage base strong. The slow long runs build endurance as you acclimate to longer and longer distances. The speed work builds power, increases VO2Max and pushes out that lactate threshold. 
So begs the question, “When do I get to run at race pace?”  There are some great opportunities to let you body experience race pace running throughout your training.  Here are a couple of options: 

Weekly Tempo Run: I have my runners run a weekly tempo run. They begin at 4 miles and every three weeks increase the distance by one mile. For the three weeks at a particular distance, they do three different types of tempo runs—traditional tempo, tempo intervals, and a race-pace tempo. Each type begins and ends with a 1-mile easy warm-up/cool-down. The miles in between are run at the specified tempo pace. A traditional tempo pace is run 30seconds slower than 5K race pace. Tempo intervals rotate between 5-minutes fast (20 secs slower than 5K race pace) and 5-minutes slow (about 30 seconds slower than marathon race pace). The race-pace tempo is run at marathon race pace. So, during their 18-week training, they experience three different types tempo runs at 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 miles before they begin to taper down the last three weeks. These longer race-pace tempo runs are great for helping you guage your race-pace speed. 

The Long Run: Traditionally the long run is run about 1-minute slower than marathon race pace. The long run slow pace..... 
To read the rest of my race-pace running tips go to

Friday, September 9, 2011

My First Marathon: Vanessa

Below is the first of a series of upcoming posts on "My First Marathon." It's such an awesome experience, I thought it would be great for readers to share what their first marathon was like and why it meant so much to them. The first in the series is from Vanessa Taylor. Read on to find out more about Vanessa and her first marathon: SunTrust Marathon, Washington DC, 2009

I had started running for real in Fall 2008, when I started a graduate program in Washington DC.  I had always wanted to do a marathon, and that seemed like a good time to do it.  I went through a rookie program training plan that I found online, trained all winter, was hoped for the best.  It was my goal to break 4 hours, although I had started to wonder of the likelihood of that.

It was about 30 out when the gun went off at 7AM, but I warmed up within a few miles. I was able to see my parents at the starting line, which was great. The first few miles went by quickly, although when I ran my first mile in 9:30 (21 seconds off my pace), I picked things up, nervous that I wouldn't meet my goal. My ideal goal was to break 4 hours (and I had secondary goals of 4:10 and 4:15). For the first 6-7 miles, I ran alongside of a nice guy named Rich, who was also trying to break 4 hours. However, at mile 7, my right sock rolled under my ankle, and I had to pull over to fix it. I was so concerned about the time I lost fixing my sock, that I picked up the pace again.

The majority of the hills were between miles 3 and 9, and it felt great to knock them out. The crowds were great; everyone was cheering, playing music (including the Rocky theme), and just being very supportive. I saw my parents at mile 11, and I was so happy to see them. Around that point, I think I misread my pace band, and thought I was 4 minutes off of my pace. However, when I got to the halfway point (13.1) in under 2 hours, I then realized, not only had I made a mistake in reading my pace band, but that I could truly break 4 hours with some room to spare. Also, I knew I was halfway done, which was good. Then I was also able to see my mom and dad again at mile 15, which was great.

The next few miles flew by, especially mile 17, which went downhill (weee!). At mile 18, I realized I only had 8 miles to go, which did not seem that bad. I knew that my friends from grad school (Wes, Seth, and Mary - the 3 I talk about the most) were going to be standing at mile 20. I told them to come around 10AM, but thankfully they got there early, since I was running at a pace faster than I imagined. I saw them first, and yelled out, and they were so surprised to see me, it was hilarious. I was so happy to see them. Then at mile 21, things started to seem a bit ugly. 5 miles left, but I just started to feel icky. It's not even that my legs were hurting, it was that I had been drinking Powerade and eating GU, and just had a sickening sweet taste in my mouth. Mile 22 was an "out and back" mile, which meant I ran half a mile, then turned and ran back on the other side of the road. It felt like I was going nowhere. Then I had 4, then 3.

At 3 (23), I told myself there was only a 5k left, and that I would be done with it soon. Then 2 miles left, but 2 hills to climb. Those 2 hills wouldn't have been so bad had they been earlier, but they seemed terrible then. Then the mile sign said 25, so just 1.2 to go. That felt long. Finally, I passed the sign that said 26, so all I had was a 200 yard dash. I dug in, found the last bit of energy I had stored, and sprinted to the finish. They announced my name as I went through the finish line, which was pretty cool, and I saw my friends and parents as I was finishing. The time that showed up as I crossed the finish line was 3:55:47, but I knew it was actually less than that, since it took me a few minutes to even cross the starting line. I then got my medal, and was immediately surrounded by Mom, Dad, Mary, Seth, and Wes. It was amazing, lots of hugging, etc.. I was insanely happy (I'm sure the adrenaline played a role in that). Once I slowed down, I started to feel sore, so I walked around, stretched, and even got a free massage on location, which was great.

Later in the day (following a good shower and nap), I went out for a steak dinner with my parents and friends - so good. It was just great for my parents to meet my new friends, and everyone just had a great time.

When I got back from my celebration dinner, they finally posted the official results of the race.
743 overall (out of 2094)
29/120 in my age division (F 18-24)
Overall Pace: 8:52
Finish: 3:52:18

I did not expect to finish in that time - I was shocked. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was filled with a lot of doubt about my goal, and in the end, I beat myself.

Vanessa Taylor

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My First Marathon

Fall is approaching and runners all over the world are in high gear training for upcoming marathons. For some it will be their first and for others it may be their 51st, or 101st. No matter the number, completing a marathon is a uniquely wonderful experience that only fellow marathon alumni can understand and appreciate. But nothing, I mean nothing can top that feeling you experience after crossing your very first marathon finish line.

Mine was NYC '97. I had been running since 1984, but had never done anything longer than a 15K. I'm not sure what sparked my interest to delve into the world of endurance running, but 1997 was the start of my love of the long run. Fourteen years ago, doesn't sound that long ago (my 20-year-old son just reminded me that he was only 6 at the time...guess "long time" is relative, huh?), but back then the Internet or the World Wide Web (as it was then called) really wasn't the first venue for knowledge. Believe it or not (you young whipper-snappers), I actually drove to the local books store (yep back then Barnes & Nobles weren't on ever street corner nor Starbucks....I heathen!) and found a book on race training. I think there were a total of 4 running books in the store. One happened to be Hal Hidgon's How to Train: The Best Programs, Workouts, and Schedules for Runners of All Ages. It was early '97 so I had a few months before I'd actually start training, so I purchased the other three books at the book store too--Jogging by Bill Bowerman, The Complete Book of Running by James Fixx, and This Running Life by George Sheehan....quite the classic collection.

With really no clue on what I was doing, I began on this new journey into the world of long-distance running. Not sure how I survived the cotton shirts and scrunchy socks during the summer training. I did discover the WrightSock about this time and luckily avoided major blister issues. that was another story (I'll spare you the details). Hydration? LOL! Yep, I think I got some water in before, during and after...maybe. There wasn't anything like GU back then. Somehow I made it. Somehow I prevailed and actually completed that training. 

Now keep in mind that the biggest race I'd ever run, probably had a couple hundred people in it. My mind could not even comprehend the fact that I'd be running with close to 30,000 other runners. I made the trek to NYC with no major complications and before I knew it I was hopping on a bus in Manhattan headed to Staten Island for the start of the race. As we got closer to the military base where we'd be camping out until the start, I was amazed at the sea of buses pulling into the area. Thousands of runners spilling out each with a look of awe, amazement, bewilderment, and fright! There were people from all walks of life, all parts of the world, all ages, and shapes and sizes. Many were donning trash bags which I thought to be extremely odd until I realized it was for warmth, not because they were homeless.

I was entering this compound of characters by myself and I was a bit overwhelmed. I had traveled so far by myself, the family back at home not quite understanding what had gotten into Dad, waiting for the call that I had finished. Surveying the grounds, it kind of looked like a refugee camp for wayward runners. There were  groups huddled trying to keep warm, others were down by a big stage doing aerobics led by a group of ultra perky ladies in leotards, some runners were even wearing costumes from superheros to cartoon characters.  There was even an Elvis or two.

This was oddly reassuring. Hmm, if these characters can do this, I certainly can. Then I heard someone clearing his throat at a mike saying, "Testing. 1-2-3. Testing." I turned around to another stage and saw an MC type person getting ready to introduce a group a people. Turned out he was introducing the oldest runner running in the race that day. He was 95 and he was running with his son (in his 70s) and his grandson (in his 40s). Yet another reassurance....If this 95-year-old can run this, surely I can too.

For what seemed like an eternity I milled around absorbing all the sights until it was time to get in the appropriate starting corral. At the corrals, I noticed these huge construction dumpsters and wondered what they were for. Soon the answer was revealed. That MC guy got on the mike again and announced that the race would start in 5-minutes. As soon as he finished, clothes began to fly off. Runners were hurling their extra "keep-me-warm-till-the-start-clothes" into the air toward the huge dumpsters. Evidently the clothes were later given out to local shelters. Caught up in the flying clothing, I almost missed the starting gun. But didn't really matter. Took us 6-minutes just to cross the starting line. (No timing chips back then. Only a gun time. So you had to keep track yourself at how long it took you to actually get to the starting line after the gun sounded.)

All was going well until about mile 21 or 22 in Harlem when the bottom fell out. Nowhere else in the entire glorious state of New York did it ran that day, but in Manhattan. And boy did it rain. About 1-inch fell in about 15 minutes. It rained so hard that I couldn't see the runners around me. But I plodded forward, each foot now about 5lbs heavier soaked with rain water. I kept telling myself that that 95-year-old was out there doing the same thing, so I could do it too. Adding insult to injury, once the rain stopped, I was faced with the winding hills of Central Park. Something happened though. I actually picked up the pace and flew across the finish line (probably more like a speedy trot, but I remember it as blistering speed). Speaking of blistering, all that rain water caused major blisters on the ole tootsies and even one blackened toenail which even today ain't quite right....a nice memento of that first marathon. 

Sometime after crossing that finish line, having that first marathon finisher's medal placed over my head, and someone wrapping that warm silver finisher's blanket around me I realized I was crying. Actually it was more like balling. I'm man enough to admit it. All that adrenaline in your system, all those hormones raging in your body, and then all the emotion of crossing that first finish line is enough to overwhelm even the toughest Navy seal. There I was, wrapped in sliver, caked in salt, sore as hell, dehydrated, and balling like a baby and the happiest man alive. 

I've run 10 more marathons since that chilly November day in 1997 and each has been memorable for various reasons, but none will ever top that first marathon. I learned that day that I'm a strong individual...mentally and physically. I also learned that anything is possible if you have enough determination.

Tell me about your first marathon experience. 
Share what your first marathon experience meant to you. What did it teach you? What did you learn about yourself? How has it affected your life since? Send your story to Include your full name and if possible include a picture of yourself (doesn't have to be from the race). Be sure to put "First Marathon" in the subject line of the email. Each story will be featured on the blog and each submitter will receive a RunnerDude's Fitness sports water bottle. I can't wait to read about your experiences!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ugliest Runner's Feet Contest!

You know you're a real runner when your first toenail turns black or better yet falls off. LOL! I have one toenail that's a permanent honorarium to my first Marathon (NYC '97) Still an odd looking little booger, but each time I clip it, I have fond memories of that first exhilarating day. (Okay, I know...I need to get out more.) 

To celebrate the beauty that only a runner can love, RunnerDude's Blog is sponsoring The Ugliest Runner's Feet Contest! To enter, send RunnerDude a jpeg photo of your feet in all their glory to Be sure to put "Ugly Feet" in the subject line and then put your full name, location, and a little blurb about you and your "ugly feet" in the body of the email. You'll have until Friday, September 30th to submit your photo/entry. Then the first full week of October, all the entries will be posted for readers to view and vote on. Details on how to vote will be posted along with the photos. So, what are you waiting for, make a Kodak moment with your tootsies and send it in!

Oh yea! The winner gets a $75 gift card to! Hopefully he/she will buy better fitting shoes with the prize money. ;-)

To read more about Black Toe a common foot ailment for runners click here.