Monthly Archives: August 2017

My Meathead Marathon Misadventure: Week 3

After sixteen miles on Sunday, my longest run in months, I expected to start the week exceedingly sore.  To my surprise and delight, that was not the case.  I can’t say I was daisy fresh, but I felt pretty good.

Since I didn’t do much stretching or foam rolling, I attribute the rapid recovery to my trusty TENS device.  This $20 gizmo provides “non-invasive nerve stimulation intended to reduce both acute and chronic pain” through the application of electric currents.  Or, as I describe it, it electrocutes my legs to make them feel better.  And it works, at least anecdotally. The sight of my muscles twitching really freaks out The Missus, so she’s less of a fan.

Tuesday called for 2-3 sets of alternating 1-mile and half-mile intervals.  Poor planning forced me onto the treadmill again, which was unfortunate as I think the gym was more humid than the outside.  It’s always great when I get done running and my shoes are soaked despite the absence of rain, but I digress.

I went a bit too easy on the first mile, barely clocking in under seven minutes, but the ramp up (down?) from there worked out well, with subsequent miles at 6:42 and 6:36.  There was a time when I could hold that pace for 10 miles, and perhaps there will be again.  But not today.

In addition to improving paces, I’m pleased to see my heart rate dropping a lot faster and lower between intervals.  I’ve always found that to be a decent indicator of fitness, a sign of how hard I really had to push to hit a given pace.  If I can’t get the ticker to slow below 150 BPM while jogging between efforts, it’s probably a sign that I overdid it.  YMMV.

When Thursday rolled around, DC’s usual swamp-like weather had given way to a cool, temperate morning.  Determined not to miss out, I got out the door early enough to join my Dojo of Pain colleagues for some suffering around Hains Point.  It was, if not a fully humbling experience, definitely a reality check.

The prescription was 6 miles working down from marathon to half marathon pace.  I figured I would hang with the “slower” group until the turnaround, then see what happened.

…I got left behind.  It was partially my fault for turning after the group did (Garmin OCD!), but mostly it came down to not having the fitness I expected.

Initially, I put this down to the dreaded treadmill effect.  After all, we were maintaining the same paces I did for seven miles last week, and yet I struggled to last for six.  On the other hand, I ran as fast or faster for the final six miles of Sunday’s sixteen, so maybe it just wasn’t my day?  Eating, drinking, and being on my feet at an event the night before may also have played a role.

With Thursday’s experience fresh in my mind, I approached Sunday’s workout with a bit of trepidation.  On my calendar: the beloved/dreaded Pickups workout: A two-mile warmup followed by sets of 4, 3, 2, and 1 miles at marathon pace with one mile jogs in between.  In total: 17 miles, 10 at marathon pace.  It’s a ballbuster, a real test of fitness and control. I haven’t exhibited either of those lately, hence the trepidation.

To the latter point, I clocked another 60+ miles on the bike Saturday.  As with previous weeks, it was supposed to be an easy ride, just casual cycling to improve my aerobic fitness without stressing my legs.  And it kinda sorta was, but not really.  My heart rate generally stayed where I wanted it to, but I was pushing more power than I realized.  Whether it was newfound fitness or the beautiful weather, the world may never know.  But it was probably more than I needed before a long, hard run.

While any long run goes better with company, the pickups workout practically requires it.  Fortunately, I found myself a partner in David, a friendly Kiwi with whom I’d not run before.  While we warmed up, I learned that he is in the final stages of preparing for the Berlin Marathon, his eighth marathon in four years, with each successive one a PR.  Suffice it to say he’s a much more committed runner than I have been.

I knew from our conversations before the run that David is targeting a 3:10 at Berlin.  My PR, four years and almost 20 pounds ago, is 3:11.  As such, I wasn’t expecting to keep up.  But when we started our first set, I found myself farther behind and working harder than anticipated.  A few minutes later, I realized why: I clocked the first mile at 7 minutes flat, 15 seconds below David’s target and 20-30 faster than I’d hoped to run.  Oops.

You probably don’t want to read about another nine miles of huffing and puffing any more than I want to detail it.  Long story short, I kept up better than expected, despite our generally running as fast or faster than David intended.  It was definitely more encouraging than Thursday’s workout, even if I hated my life for part of it.

And with that, it’s time to recuperate and get ready for Game of Thrones!

My Meathead Marathon Misadventure
Week Three (8/21–8/27)

Run  Bike Gym Crosstrain
Mon Mixed
1:15 | 27,890 lbs
Tue Intervals
3 × 1 mi/0.5 mi alternating
1:15 | 9.08 mi
Wed Easy
1:00 | 6.77 mi
Thu Tempo
6 mi @ PMP→HMP
1:20 | 10.30 mi
1:30 | 46,500 lbs
Fri Aerobic
1:00 | 17.2 mi
221 W
Sat Long
3:21 | 63.3 mi
237 W
Sun Long Progression
2:16 | 17.30 mi
120.9 mi
43.5 mi
80.5 mi
74,390 lbs
?.? mi
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My Meathead Marathon Misadventure: Week 2

My first real week of marathon training went well.  Through forces beyond my control, my two hard workouts were pushed onto the treadmill.  Though they proved quick enough, they didn’t exactly inspire confidence.  Here’s why.

Even with my trusty Garmin Footpod measuring pace, I’m never entirely convinced that a treadmill effort really matches that of an outdoor run.  The usual lack-of-wind-resistance argument is only exaggerated where, as a colleague told me the other week, I “block a lot of wind.”  Oh, and I’m almost 200 pounds, so little things like hills and turns seem to make a bigger difference than they might for the typical running waif.  In short, I’m never sure how well treadmill runs will translate into the real world.  But I digress.

Tuesday’s interval session called for 8 × 0.50 mi at 5k pace on 2:00 rest.  I haven’t raced in over two years, and I haven’t raced a 5k since 2013.  Ergo, I have no idea what my 5k pace is.  So I guessed.  More precisely, I picked a pace that seemed roughly appropriate (6:45/mi), then tried to go a bit faster each with each successive interval.  Mission accomplished—I logged my final rep in 3:05 (6:10/mi pace).

In hindsight, I probably should have referred to Capital Area Runners’ trusty Interval Pace Chart, though that would require knowing my target marathon pace.  When I first/last ran MCM in 2012, I finished in 3:32:19, so I guess my target is anything faster than that?  As you can tell, I really haven’t thought this through…

Thursday’s tempo run called for 7 miles at Proposed Marathon Pace (PMP).  A 3:30 marathon is an 8:00/mi pace, but that’s not sufficiently challenging—I’m pretty sure I could run two hours at that pace right now, without preparation, and not feel like I was going to die.  So I again, without much thought, picked a pace that seemed reasonable and tried to get faster throughout.  End result: from 7:25/mi down to 6:55/mi, averaging 7:20/mi.  Maybe I’m in better shape than I realized?  Or maybe it’s the treadmill effect?  Time will tell.

Saturday I went for a long ride out-and-back on the W&OD Trail.  I’ve found rides like these to be extremely effective at building endurance and developing cardiovascular conditioning without being too punishing, but that requires doing them correctly.  For me, “correctly” means capping the effort such that I’m not burned out the following day.

I did a decent job of keeping myself in check for the first half of my ride, but I may have opened up the throttle a bit more than I needed to after I turned around. A 25-mile stretch at over 20 MPH solo isn’t hard for me, but it’s also not a recovery pace.  I’ll attribute it to the super steep -0.1% grade and not my being undisciplined.

Sunday called for a 16-mile progression run out-and-back into Rock Creek Park, with a planned pit stop at Peirce Mill, seven miles in.  Fortunately, Saturday’s exertions didn’t seem to do much damage to the legs, and I felt reasonably strong from the start.  Unfortunately, something that I ate the previous day wasn’t agreeing with me, and I almost didn’t make it to the pit stop.  Take note: due to construction around the zoo, there are currently NO public restrooms between Georgetown and Peirce Mill

With the crisis averted at my pit stop, it was time to get moving again.  In my rush to get back on the trail, I didn’t take in much (any?) fluids during my stop, a decision I would later regret.  Also regrettable: picking up the pace from the turnaround at eight miles.

The combination of (relatively) quick running and dehydration made the last four or so miles pretty miserable.  I stopped once at the Georgetown Waterfront in a fruitless search for a water fountain, only to be saved a few minutes later by a local running club (thanks, PR!).  The final two miles, slightly uphill on the Capital Crescent trail, were brutal, but I fought it out without stopping again.  In my heyday, the 7:55/mi average pace would have been laughable, but I came away quite pleased.  It’s all relative, right?

My Meathead Marathon Misadventure
Week Two (8/14–8/20)

Run  Bike Gym Crosstrain
Mon Mixed
1:30 | 33,315 lbs
Tue Intervals
8 × 0.50 mi descending
1:10 | 8.55 mi
Wed Easy
1:05 | 7.35 mi
Thu Tempo
7 mi @ PMP
1:15 | 9.56 mi
Fri Aerobic
1:00 | 17.6 mi
1:15 | 26,120 lbs
Sat Long
3:16 | 61.8 mi
Sun Long Progression
2:07 | 16.00 mi
120.9 mi
41.5 mi
79.4 mi
59,435 lbs
0.0 mi

My Meathead Marathon Misadventure

As much as I enjoy running, you wouldn’t know it from looking at me.  By all outward appearances, I am a gym rat, a cardio-fearing meathead.  Not too long ago, I was tipping the scales at 205 lbs, though I have thankfully backed down from that high.

This makes my recent decision to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon all the more ridiculous.  I’ve run eight marathons before, and I always found my weight/size to be an issue over that long distance.  That was 10-15 pounds ago.  All the same, I’ve paid the fees.  It’s happening.  This meathead is running another marathon.

On the plus side, I finally have something to write about.  This blog hasn’t been updated in six months, largely because I find my own life rather mundane, even tedious.  But a near-200 pound oaf trying to run a marathon at a respectable pace?  That’s entertainment!  Well, maybe not, but it’s something for me to discuss.

Over the next 11 weeks, I’ll be cataloguing my workouts and associated feels, both highs and lows.  I hope to put together a few additional posts explaining my training philosophy, why I’m not skipping gym sessions, etc.  If anyone is actually reading this and would like specific questions answered, don’t hesitate to reach out

My Meathead Marathon Misadventure (M3), Week One

Run Bike Strength Crosstrain
Mon Mixed
Steep Treadmill
0:30 | 2 mi
Tue Intervals
5 × o.75 mi @ 10k pace
1:10 | 8.31 miEasy
0:20 | 2.31 mi
Wed Easy
1:01 | 7.05 mi
Thu Tempo
6 mi @ PMP
1:00 | 8.01 mi
Fri Aerobic
1:00 | 17.3 mi
1:00 | 28,045 lbs
Sat Long
3:14 | 61.6 mi
Sun Pickups
4 + 3 + 2 + 1 on 0.5 mi
1:45 | 13.70 mi
120.3 mi
39.4 mi
78.9 mi


2.0 mi