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Tokyo Marathon: Concerns and Optimism Together

One thing I’ve learned when writing is to avoid cliches because…well…they’re so cliche. But I’ll do it anyway–The hay is in the barn. I have one week (technically less if you factor in the time change) until the Tokyo Marathon. As long as I can cross the finish line, I’ll finally collect the coveted Six Star Medal handed out to those who complete all six World Marathon Majors. This is a goal I’ve had for the past four years and it’s finally close to happening which is beyond exciting. However, I come into the race with more uncertainty than normal.

It’s now week two of taper time which is the best part of marathon training up until the actual race and crossing the finish line. This is the time when mileage and intensity of workouts are reduced to give the legs rest and allow them to repair themselves leading up to the race. The idea is for the body to recover and lock in fitness and strength gains. The cliche about the hay in the barn rings true in this situation because there are no more fitness gains to be made that will impact marathon performance. All the gains I’ve made that will help me are done. The only thing to do now is to run to at least maintain fitness and keep the body sharp and in tune before the race.

Yet, I feel this uncertainty with how I’ll perform. This is for a few reasons. First, I haven’t gained back all the fitness lost from last year’s nagging injuries. I haven’t been able to train properly over the past few months. I only had two weeks of 60+ miles and one week at 57 miles. The rest were in the 30s, 40s and around 50. Usually, I’d have four to six weeks of 60+ miles and several in the 50s. Plus, my legs seem a little more fatigued than normal since they went so long last year without several consecutive weeks of intense running. Second, I’m about 7 to 10 pounds heavier than I was before the Berlin Marathon in 2017. The extra pounds will slow me down some. Third, after my performance at the London Marathon, I’m unsure if my body will hold up on me. That race certainly didn’t go as planned for several reasons which you can read about in my race recap in the hyperlink above. I feel like there’s part of me that is wondering if I’ll have a repeat performance. Maybe I’ll have extreme exhaustion again. Maybe my current training wasn’t sufficient and it’ll show in the second half. Usually, I’m much more confident heading into a race, especially with my training. But I never experienced what I did in London.

The flip side is that I have reasons to be optimistic. My race at the Pasadena Half Marathon went better than I thought and I held up just fine physically. My last interval/speed workout before the upcoming race was at the end of my first taper week. It’s what I usually do before a marathon which is 6 x 800 meter repeats. I had a good workout and my splits were faster than I had thought and they were consistent, ranging from 2:46 to 2:48. My legs seemed to be healing from the fatigue too. This gives me reason to think I can do better than what I think.

I ran better than I thought here which gives me reason to think I can do the same in Tokyo

So, how do I think I’ll do when it comes to time? This is a good question. Honestly, I don’t know. I would like to run under three hours and feel it’s within reason, especially after my 1:23:50 half marathon in late January. I also think I can do it if I run a smart race and start at a comfortable pace. The temperature is going to be ideal for a marathon as it’ll be in the upper 40s to mid-50s during the race. However, it might rain. That’s no good. But I’ve been running in the rain lately so I’m getting used to it.

Basically, I’m going to take it as I feel on race day but start conservative. After the 10-mile mark, I’ll reassess based on how I feel. If things go well, sub-3 is there for me. I’m not going to worry about specific time range though. If I do that right now, I might make a tactical mistake that could leave me exhausted. The best course of action at this stage is to just take it as it comes and that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m looking forward to another marathon journey and I can’t wait to share my thoughts when it’s all done. This will be my second visit to Japan. I had a great time on my first trip in 2006 which was not related to running. The people are fantastic and the country is beautiful. I’m looking forward to the entire experience and, of course, wearing that amazing Six Star Medal around my neck at the finish line. My Six Star journey is almost complete but my marathon adventures are just beginning.

Running With You,

Donald

Back to Racing at the Rose Bowl

The last year of running has been extremely challenging for me as I’ve dealt with several nagging injuries that have derailed my training. It started with shin splints and some type of hip or groin pain right before the London Marathon. That sent me to the pool for aqua jogging for a couple weeks and got me out of my routine.

After the race, I took some time off to heal and came back but then dealt with a calf strain that hampered me for a couple months. I also gained 5 to 10 pounds which I still haven’t lost and which slow me down a bit. I decided to take it easy with my training in the buildup to the Tokyo Marathon on March 3rd, which will be my sixth World Marathon Major. However, I then got a strain in my piriformis muscle. That sidelined me in December for about two weeks as my training was just starting to pick up. This was very frustrating to say the least. All these nagging soft tissue injuries were all on my right side. I decided to visit a professional and find out what was up and learn how to prevent these injuries. I had been doing a stretching routine before and after runs consistently so I was quite bothered when my piriformis muscle was hurting. I contacted chiropractor Steve Smith based in Pasadena. He’s a runner himself and specializes in treating runners. I figured if anyone can help me it’d be a fellow runner. He’s written a book about healthy running and also founded the well-known and popular Pasadena Pacers running club.

After asking about my running history, training, shoes and other information he told me everything I was generally doing was fine. He did say sometimes after marathons, the body is worn out and may seem fine but isn’t fully recovered which could lead to soft tissue injuries if a runner isn’t careful. He suspects this could’ve been the case after London and even in 2017 after the Berlin Marathon.

Upon physical examination, he quickly found the problem, which was my piriformis muscle. That muscle can put pressure on the sciatic nerve which can cause pain down the leg. He said I could run still but to take it easy until the pain goes away. I got a deep tissue massage and electric stimulation. I did that twice and it helped immensely. After just two visits in three days, the pain started to go away.

I picked up my training toward the end of December but only had four weeks until the Pasadena Half Marathon. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the race as fast as I would like since my training was limited and stalled. I was able to bounce back and decided to treat the race almost as a tempo run leading up to the goal race which is obviously the Tokyo Marathon. My best time on the Pasadena Half course was 1:19:21 set in 2013. I ran 1:20:43 last year but knew both those times were not realistic and chasing them could strain my body ahead of Tokyo which would not be worth it.

I didn’t have a time goal but felt if I could run under 1:25 then that’d show me I have a pretty good chance to run sub-3 in Tokyo. I felt if I could manage a 6:25-6:28 pace that would be sufficient as I’d have about four to five more weeks to improve before Tokyo.

Me after the race in front of the Rose Bowl

Fortunately, muscle memory exists. Your body and mind get trained to do something and doing it again comes back quicker than you think. This race is also my first since London. Since I started running again as an adult in 2009, I had never taken this much time in-between races, which was just about nine months! That’s just too long.

Anyway, race morning arrived. I woke up, drank beet juice and a bit of my hydration drink, some Gu energy gel and a banana. I stretched too and headed down to the Rose Bowl where the start and finish are.

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to drive. It was a nice walk/warm-up jog of about one mile. I arrived and saw thousands of people there getting ready to run and accomplish their personal goals which is always inspiring. Starting outside of and finishing on the field of such an iconic stadium makes this race worth it.

The course isn’t easy nor is it extremely tough. I’d call it challenging. It’s hilly but not terrible. There’s a long hill at the end of mile 2 up California Blvd. and a shorter steep incline up Colorado Blvd. headed to the historic Colorado Street Bridge. There are also period of gradual uphill and downhill. The last mile is all downhill which is a relief. That last mile finishes a loop around the Rose Bowl and adjacent Brookside Golf Course. The toughest part of the course is between miles six and nine because almost all of it is gradual uphill and includes the incline up Colorado Blvd.

The great part about the race is you pass by the city’s hot spots from, obviously, the Rose Bowl to Orange Grove Blvd. (where the Rose Parade begins) to Colorado Blvd. (which used to be part of Route 66) to Lake Ave. (known for shopping and restaurants) to Caltech (one of the best universities in the world) and then back to the Rose Bowl with a finish at the 50-yard-line.

Beer tastes better after a race

Before the start, as I was in the corral, I told myself not to go out too hard. It wasn’t worth exhausting myself. This was to be a marathon training run to show myself I’m in shape enough to run at or a bit faster than my idea goal marathon pace. This was important because my ego can sometimes get in the way and I want to try to best my previous times on the same course. This is where mental discipline comes into play.

The race started and thousands of us were off! My first mile was at 6:14. I wanted it slower at about 6:25 to 6:30 but that was ok since a good portion of it was downhill. My second mile was slower at 6:24 but under 6:30 which was good. My 5k time was under 20 minutes at 19:48. I felt comfortable which was good but I also felt that I couldn’t really run much faster, and if I tried, I’d exhaust myself quickly. As the race progressed, I followed about 10 seconds behind a pack for much of the way. My mile splits were mostly consistent if you factor in the gradual up and down. My lovely wife saw me just before mile 3 and at mile 8.5 (both in the same spots at the top of Colorado Blvd.) and said I looked the same and didn’t look to be in pain. I wasn’t.

As I headed down from the Colorado Street Bridge to the Rose Bowl for the loop around, I saw my 10-mile time and figured I’d have a good chance at sub-1:25 which would be good. My 11th and 12th miles were my slowest of the race (6:36 and 6:33) but almost all of that stretch was gradual uphill. Mile 13 was my fastest (6:10) but that was all downhill.

Of course, because it’s a half marathon, I felt fatigued toward the end like most everyone but not exhausted and worn out. My wife saw me with about a quarter-mile left and said I looked the same as earlier. I felt a bit tired but not weak. I didn’t have much of a kick and cruised to the finish line in 1:23:40–good enough for 29th place and 5th in my 40-44 age group.


Me and the wife. I ran but she got the blister

Even though my time was three minutes slower than last year, I was pleased to make it through without any pain and without my legs feeling like mush. The bottom of my feet toward the end were burning just a bit so I’ll have to find new shoes for the marathon but that wasn’t a big deal. My time, I believe, puts me on track for a sub-3 at Tokyo. But there’s still work to be done in the next few weeks.

My legs feel fine now though I can tell I did run a half. I’ll be back out training this week but on the easier side. My goal in the next few weeks is to run three 20-miler long runs, two to three tempo runs of 10 to 12 miles and at least one 8 x 1-mile interval workout or a 3 x 5k interval or both. That’s ambitious but I’m feeling good physically and this race gave me the added confidence that I can make a sub-3 happen in Tokyo. I don’t expect to run a a personal best but I don’t have to.


I’m a Bruin. He’s a Bruin. We’re at the football home of the Bruins. This picture just made sense

The lesson here is to keep pushing to bounce back and please be patient. You have the time. Races aren’t going anywhere. Gradually build up again and don’t worry if you’re not hitting past times yet. You’ll get there. I’m not hitting those times yet but in four to six months, I might be. Who knows? Trust in your training and trust in yourself to make it back from a setback or two or several.

Running With You,

Donald

Marathon Training Can Be a Pain the Butt….Literally

Today marks 12 weeks until the Tokyo Marathon. My training, for the most part, has been steadily progressing. I’ve been increasing my total mileage every week and can feel my body getting stronger. My stamina is starting to get back to where it was and I’m feeling more confident.  My weekly mileage average the past two weeks is 44. I’m hoping to increase it to 50 to 55 toward the end of the month. Ideally, I’d like to get up to 60 to 70 miles a week as the marathon approaches. 

However, I was dealt a slight setback this week in the form of some kind of strain in my butt. Yes, I have an actual and literal pain in the butt. It appears to be in my right gluteus medius muscle. I’m not sure how I developed the strain. It could’ve been sitting awkwardly at work or it could’ve been caused while running. If it’s the latter, that would mean there’s something off about my form or gait. The nagging injuries I’ve had in the past several months have all been on the right side. It has me thinking about seeing a doctor or physical therapist who can figure out if there’s something off with my form or gait. 

The pain is actually worse when I walk as opposed to run. I think running puts less strain on it. I decided to take the day off today to rest it. I’ve used a foam roller and took NSAIDs.  I think it’s all been working as it feels a little better. I don’t view this as serious but I do need to take precautions which, unfortunately, requires a day or two or three off. This is highly frustrating as my training has been going fairly well and I’ve been committed to a daily stretching routine. 

But this is a valuable lesson for others to learn along with myself. If you feel an unusual pain, especially in weird spot, stop and take some time off. How long? Ideally, until the pain goes away. But sometimes we can’t or won’t do that. You know your body the best and if you’re an experienced runner you know what your body can and can’t tolerate. But don’t abuse it. If you are a runner I’m coaching I would recommend you take time off for at least two to three days then reassess if the pain isn’t too bad and if there’s no swelling or discoloration. If it still bothers you then please see a doctor for an official diagnosis. 

You can miss a few days and not lose fitness. In fact, the rest of your body may appreciate it as your other muscles will have time to recover and heal. Trust me, this is so much easier said than done. But as someone who’s overworked his body, it’s the best thing you can do….even if it’s a pain in the……yeah you know. 

Running With You,

Donald

My Six-Star Journey Ends in Tokyo

As some of you know, I’ve been on a mission to run the six World Marathon Majors. It’s an unexpected adventure than began in 2014 at the Boston Marathon and will now conclude (barring injury) on March 3rd at the Tokyo Marathon.

It fully hasn’t hit me yet that I will be accomplishing this goal and it probably won’t until I cross the finish line and collect my 6-star medal.

I hope to wear this around my neck on March 3rd. I may not ever take if off. 

I was able to enter the Tokyo Marathon through the Run With Heart charity program. I decided to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities Japan. The necessary money has been raised so if you would like to donate to the Ronald McDonald charity or to any other charity connected to the marathon please click on the Run With Heart link above. Your money is going to good causes. 

This is the second marathon in a row I’ve raised for charity. For the London Marathon, I raised money for a charity called Livability. I highly recommend any runner considering the London Marathon contact Livability to raise money. It goes to a great cause, the people are wonderful and the fundraising amount is reasonable. 

So, with the big race close to three months away, what’s my plan? Right now, I’m upping my training back into marathon mode. I had to deal with fatigue, shin splints, a groin/hip strain and a nagging calf strain over the late Spring, Summer and early Fall that limited my running. I’ve been healthier lately. However, I did lose a fair amount of fitness that I’m trying to get back. It’s been a process but so far it’s going well. I had my first full week of official marathon training. I ran 40 miles. The goal in the next few weeks is to increase overall mileage and the length of my long run. Right now, it’s at 11 miles. 

I do plan to run a few races ahead of the Tokyo Marathon. The goal is to run a half marathon, a 10k and one or two 5k races. This will let me get the feel of race intensity once again. My last race was the London Marathon in April. That’s a long time not to race and I’m ready for one again soon. 

How does any of this apply to you? If you run long enough, you’ll have ups and downs. The downs can be frustrating and discouraging. But please–be patient. Races and running are not going anywhere. Rest and slowly get back into it. That’s what I’m doing and, yes, I want it to happen quickly, but it’s a process. Stick to the gradual build up. 

CHANGES COMING!!!

Over the course of the next several months, I’ll be upgrading this blog and posting much more often. It’ll have an official domain name soon–pasadenarunningcoach.com. I’ll still be posting about my training but I will also start to include more tips and tricks to help you. Please check out my COACHING page. I’m officially available for coaching if you want to take your running to the next level or if you want to start and need guidance to reduce injury risk and stay motivated. 

I can say I will be starting my very own podcast soon. It’ll start with my sharing my own experiences in running as a way to motivate, inspire and help you accomplish your running goals. I hope you can listen.

Running With You, 

Donald

You Can Call It A Comeback

As you probably noticed, I have not posted at all for several months now after my London Marathon race in late April that didn’t go as planned. There are a few reasons why that are related.

First, I didn’t run all that much after the race. I wanted to recover and heal from the training and those nagging injuries that plagued me like shin splints, some kind of hip flexor/groin strain and overall wear-and-tear on my body. Training for a marathon is grueling and taxing physically and mentally. I don’t think I was very smart with injury-prevention practices, especially since I’m getting older.

Second, I developed a nagging calf strain–again mostly through my own stubbornness and neglect in taking injury-prevention seriously.  What happened was that I started to run again and took things slowly as far as mileage and pacing. I ran easy but developed a pain in my right calf. I just figured it for run-of-the-mill soreness that usually isn’t a big deal. I was running one day in July when I felt a sensation in my calf that went up to the back of the knee and lower hamstring. I stopped and rested for a couple of days. I tried to run again but the calf was still sore so I stopped and decided to wait until the soreness subsided. I tried to run again about a week later in late July. During a warm up, I heard a little “pop” in my calf. I then felt some discomfort. I immediately stopped. I instantly became worried that I did something serious. Fortunately, the pain was never that bad. There was no swelling and no major pain when walking. However, there was still a sensation that told me the calf wasn’t well. It wasn’t pain. I can only describe it as a signal indicating the muscle is weak and not to be used for strenuous activity.

I rested again for two weeks and ran for three days in mid-August when the sensation decreased some. I ran no more than 1.5 miles. I decided that my calf still wasn’t quite right. I stopped and decided to aqua jog at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center. It was also recommended to me by my mother that I stretch more and learn yoga techniques. I’ve always done some form of stretching before runs and sometimes after but never as seriously as I should have. Since I’m now 40 my body isn’t as sturdy. It needs more maintenance and work to stay healthy.  I think I took my general good health and lack of significant injuries for granted and never thought it would happen to me. But it has. Now is the time to get serious about injury prevention if I want to keep running the way I have been.

Fortunately, I’ve had a tool at my disposal for a few years now that I haven’t used as much as I should have. It’s a book called Healthy Running Step by Step by Santa Monica-based physical therapist Robert Forster. He’s only trained numerous Olympians and high-level athletes like Jackie-Joyner Kersee and Kobe Bryant. I had the pleasure of interviewing him a couple times. Forster is a major proponent of static stretching. That’s when you hold a position to stretch such as reaching down to touch your toes and holding it for 10 to 15 seconds. Forster believes keeping the muscles loose prevents strains and other nagging injuries. In the book, there are roughly 20 stretches to do that work muscles from the calf to the neck. I decided I need to follow this routine daily if I want to continue marathon running. Along with aqua jogging, I would do this routine. It takes anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to complete but I can feel the difference after four weeks. I’ve been stretching muscles I never have before and now my legs feel a bit lighter and even a little stronger!

After four weeks of aqua jogging, walking to and from the pool and no calf sensation anymore, I decided to run again. I’m starting back up slowly. I ran two miles yesterday and two miles today. I felt good…much better than expected. I’ve lost some conditioning which I’ll get back but there’s no calf sensation or pain. My calf feels pretty good though I’m still a little nervous. I’m wearing calf compression sleeves too to try to help reduce the chance of a strain or cramp. I think this time I can get back into it without any setbacks. I’m doing the full body stretches before the run and stretching some after too. Let’s hope it works.

IMG_20180917_150409
First day back running was a success! Day two was too. Let’s hope I can get going again without any calf or other problems. (Fingers crossed but a thumbs up)

It was these setbacks that really discouraged me and got me down which hurt my motivation. This is the final reason for the lack of posts. Being injured and not being able to train or compete is highly frustrating. Bad thoughts go through the head like wondering if I’ll be able to run at the highest level which I can attain and wondering if the thrill of finishing a big race will ever be there again. I think it’s natural to get down and have these thoughts. The important thing is to be patient. I’m learning that it will pass and races will always be there for us. I decided I needed to take some steps to slowly get back to normal through stretching and aqua jogging. We’ll see how this comeback goes. I’m determined to see it through. I hope you are too if you’re also struggling with an injury.

Running With You,

Donald

P.S. Big news coming on the 6-Star front. Stay tuned!

London Marathon Race Recap 5 WMM’s Down 1 To Go

This race recap is finally getting done now that I’m back home from across the pond. I didn’t have too much time to start my London Marathon race recap since my wife and I did a lot of sightseeing on our trip. London is one of the world’s most vibrant cities for a reason and we now have an even better understanding of why. It’s no surprise one of the world’s most important cities would put on one of the world’s best marathons–maybe even THE BEST.

Even though the race itself is a great experience, my performance was my worst ever. My goal was to run under three hours but the warm and somewhat humid weather, along with my minor training injuries, did me in. I finished with the official time of 3 hours, 15 minutes, 59 seconds. That’s roughly 27 minutes slower than my personal best time of 2:48:48 in Berlin just several months earlier. I’ll explain what happened, how I felt and what I can learn from this. Despite my performance, I did finish and I did complete my fifth Abbott World Marathon Major. I now have one more to go (Tokyo) before I complete all six and collect the coveted six-star medal which is given to people who finish all six majors.

I also completed my fundraising goal for Livability. I had a chance to meet some people who work for this outstanding charity and was touched by the work they do and was honored to be able to help.

Here’s how the trip started. We arrived Friday afternoon, ate and slept early to wake up to collect my Livability singlet and bib number at the expo.

me outside london expo
Me outside the expo

The expo was well-organized and it was very easy to collect my bib.

me and my bib
Me posing with my bib

If you notice, I’m wearing my 2016 Los Angeles Marathon shirt. I had to represent Los Angeles while in London 🙂

me and wife again
Me and the wife. It’s hard to run marathons without family support and without hers I simply couldn’t do it.  

After the expo, we toured the Tower of London which was magnificent and full of history, both good and bad. The walking didn’t bother me and my legs felt fine. There was no groin pain nor was my shin splint issue a problem. After touring the tower, we ate and went back to the hotel for an early night.

Like most people, I get a little nervous and anxious before a big race. My sleep wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible either. I woke up in the morning feeling generally fine. My legs felt good thanks to massaging by my wife the night before that included a roller that really works at loosening the muscles. I ate oatmeal and a banana like I do every morning of a race whether it’s a 5k or marathon. I also drank my hydration drink from Osmo. This drink helps my body stay hydrated during long races. Hydration is so important in a marathon. Of course, I was drinking water regularly leading up to the race but this drink helps keep sodium and electrolyte levels more balanced. It’s not a miracle drink and it doesn’t replace the need for water during the race but it certainly helps.

I also knew it was going to be warm. Like all marathon runners, I check the weather forecast to the hour. The forecast called for clear skies and temperatures in the low to mid-70s. Yikes! While sunny and in the 70s seem like perfect weather it is absolutely horrendous for a marathon. The ideal marathon temperature is anywhere from 45 to 55 degrees. When a race is long, cooler weather is preferred because the warmer temperatures slow the body down because the body uses more energy to cool itself rather than to make you run faster. A one-mile run in 85 degree weather can be tolerated as I’ve done it before. That race is only four to six minutes. A race that lasts two to five hours in those conditions means slower times. Plus, it was a little humid and the race started at 10am when the sun is even higher in the sky. Knowing all this, I still felt confident that I could run under three hours but probably not a personal best. I have trained in these conditions but training and racing are much different.

I also decided to wear my usual racing shoes even though they were worn out. I used new inserts to prevent them from slipping out like one did in the Pasadena Half Marathon. I felt the new inserts would help. I did bring another pair of shoes to possibly race in but I felt I would go with what I know. That probably wasn’t a good idea. My racing shoes were done. More on that later.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-9,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
Me just before leaving to the race. I felt hopeful but it wasn’t to be. 

My wife and I got onto a bus and headed to the underground station to go to the start. We left around 7am so that would give us enough time to get there without rushing. The trains were packed with runners so I had to mostly stand. It was ok though.

crowded tuve
Crowded tube. We minded the gap while exiting. 

We arrived at Greenwich Park, where the race begins, a little past 8am. The park is huge and we walked uphill to the start line and runner villages. It was as sunny as it could get. Not a cloud in the sky in a city known for cool, damp and dreary weather. It was also getting warm. I could feel the sun beat on me even while sitting and relaxing. My wife went off to find a spot to see me around the 10k mark while I entered the runner’s village.

IMG_20180422_084637
I was thinking how warm it was already and the race didn’t even start. I had no need for my warm up jacket.

I drank my beet juice, which has nitrates to help expand blood vessels so more energy can get to the muscles. I also did my usual warm up routine. I wore calf compression sleeves for the first time in a race. My calves felt a little tight in the days before the race so I chose to wear the sleeves to help with blood flow and prevent possible cramping. It worked. There were no calf cramps and I didn’t feel the sleeves were a nuisance.

I made my way to the red start line which is where all the charity runners line up. Like the New York City Marathon, there were different start lines that merge about three miles into the race. I was in the pen when Queen Elizabeth appeared on the big screen from Windsor Castle to officially start the race. She pressed the button and we were all off. Us charity runners had to wait a couple minutes for the Good for Age runners to start. This was no bother because I had a timing chip on my shoe so my official time didn’t start until I crossed the start line.

Once I crossed the start line, I began my run. It’s always best to run the first few miles a little slower than goal pace. My first mile was 6:29 which was my ideal goal pace. I wasn’t sure if that’d be sustainable so I slowed down on mile two for a 6:39 then picked it up again for a 6:31 mile three. My first 5k split was 20:36 which is in line with my other marathons. However, the heat started to get to me and my legs started to feel a little heavy. I was already sweating more than usual. Every time I stepped down, it felt like my feet were slipping as if I didn’t have proper traction. It was probably the new inserts combined with the worn out shoes.

My second 5k split was slower at 21:07. It was at the 10k mark that I started to think a sub-3 hour marathon was going to be very difficult. I could feel the sun sitting on top of me like a weight. My shin didn’t bother me nor did my groin so that was good. While I felt myself starting to struggle, the amazing crowds kept me going. They kept shouting my name and cheering me on. How did they know my name? It was on the front of my singlet. I recommend, if you can, putting your name on your singlet for a marathon or any race. People will cheer your name and it does help. Hearing random people in the crowd shout for you really does push you along. I should also add the crowds for London were among the best I’ve ever heard.

My mile splits started to drop in to the 6:50s before bouncing up to a 6:36 mile 8 but they were all slower after that. The course itself wasn’t hard. It’s generally flat but has some small ups and downs in many places unlike Berlin or Chicago, which are basically pancake flat.

By mile 10, I knew anything above 2:55 would be almost impossible for me. I was starting to wither in the heat. I did grab water a few times at the stations. They were small plastic bottles which you can squeeze. I thought that was great because you can carry it with you for a bit without worrying about it spilling like in a cup.

I went up and through the Tower Bridge and crossed the half way mark a little bit later in 1:28:43. That’s still sub-3 pace but I knew at that point it probably wasn’t going to happen. I felt a little disappointed but I quickly just focused on running the best I could and didn’t worry myself about a sub-3 time anymore. It was just too hot. The sun just felt heavier and heavier as it sat on me. My shoes felt as if they had no traction and I started to heel strike on the hot pavement which made my left heel feel as if it was burning. I basically felt awful. I maintained my splits in the 6:50s until mile 16 when I ran a 7:12 mile. I could feel my body losing energy and power in the 75-degree heat which felt more like 95 to 100-degree heat. It turned out to be the hottest London Marathon on record!

I slogged through the next few miles seeing more people than usual pass me. Right before the mile 20 mark, I started to walk. I was just too exhausted. My body couldn’t handle the heat. I’ve only stopped or walked two other times in races. One was for a quick restroom stop in New York at mile 11 and the other was a 51k race (31.7 miles) in which I started out way too fast. I walked/ran for the next four miles in front of the largest crowds. I wasn’t devastated but I wasn’t happy either. I walked briskly with my head down so I could still walk with a purpose. I heard people cheer me on and give me encouragement. It helped tremendously. When I got to mile 24, I ran again..slowly…very slowly. I didn’t stop running until the finish–2.2 miles later. I made it a point to finish as strongly as I could. It wasn’t strong by my normal standards but it was all that I had.

I ran past the Parliament building with Big Ben hiding behind scaffolding for maintenance work. I turned right, saw Buckingham Palace and followed the curved road until it straightened out to the finish a few hundred yards away. I saw a line of British flags on poles leading to the finish and the roaring crowd. I plodded to the finish and put my hands in the air to celebrate. I was done! I collected my medal and my finisher t-shirt and walked slowly to the meet-up area. It was still hot.

Two things that I never experienced with such intensity during a race happened to me during those final 2.2 miles. I got hit with extreme tiredness as if my body wanted me to stop and nap on the side of the road and extreme hunger. My body wanted a large quantity of food. Usually, it takes 20 to 30 minutes after a marathon before my body can handle solid foods.

When I sat down waiting for my wife, I drank whatever liquids were in my post-race goodie bag along with an apple and a couple granola-type bars. I scarfed those down unlike ever after a marathon. It was unusual for me but this was an usual race.

While sitting, I was ok with not reaching my goal. While I strive for consistency, there are going to be some ups and downs. It’s just math. The more you run, the more good and bad races you’ll have. But that being said, you want most of your races to be consistent.  This race was on the bad end. I reflected on what I should’ve done better though. I remembered I went through something similar after the Boston Marathon in 2014. I ran a personal best at the time of 2:49:21. I felt if I could keep training like I did, I’d push my times even lower. What happened was I didn’t give my aging body time to properly recover before I intensified training for the 51k race that August. That race was bad for me as I briefly mentioned above, but I still didn’t learn. I trained for the Las Vegas Marathon that November. My training runs started to get slower (a sign of overtraining) and I felt anxious and pressured internally to perform well. This all added up to running a 3:05:50 just a seven months after my 2:49 in Boston. 3:05 is a fine time but not what I wanted. I didn’t run a marathon again until Chicago in October, 2015. I felt better, more focused and ran 2:54. That was done after not running for six weeks in May/June due to a stress reaction.

I think part of me felt pressured shortly after Berlin to equal or rival that performance in London. I had wanted to run all six majors under three hours. Because of that, I developed a nagging injury like shin splints which caused my groin strain. I lost valuable training time.

I sat down recovering realizing no goals were shattered. I reflected on the race itself and the course, crowds, etc. The whole experience was still amazing even as I struggled in the heat. I thought I could run this again and go under 3 which would still allow me to complete my goal.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-9,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
I may not look it but I was exhausted and sore. 

My wife and I headed to a nearby hotel for a post-race reception hosted by Livability. We met great people there and learned more about Livability’s mission of helping connect disabled people to their communities. They thanked us for raising money but we thanked them for devoting themselves to helping those less fortunate. I made a decision to run this race again in the future (possibly even next year) and when I do, I will once again fundraise for Livability.

me after race
I posed for pictures at the post-race reception. 

post race by parliament
Post-race by Parliament

What’s next for me? I plan to take two to three weeks off completely from running following the race. I want my legs, body and mind to rest and recover. I’ll start again slowly with renewed vigor and excitement and without anymore self-imposed pressure. I did plan to run the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota in October but I may skip that one. I will also find some local 5ks, 10ks and half marathons to run coming up in the summer so that’ll be fun. This summer, I also have to figure out how to enter the Tokyo Marathon in March to complete my six-star journey. I will probably raise money for a charity again. I enjoyed that and think I can do it again. If not Tokyo in March, maybe Boston in April or London again. I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m even more excited about running again feeling fresh both physically and mentally.

Overall, the London Marathon is incredible. The crowds are loud and spirited, the course is fun and the weather won’t always be hot and awful. Raising money for a charity also give you more of a purpose. If you can run this race, do it!

Running With You,

Donald

London Marathon Training Week #18 Training Is Over…Time to Race Prep

Training for this marathon has been the most difficult by far. First, I dealt with a setback in late December when I came down with some kind of nasty virus. It wasn’t the flu but it certainly seemed stronger than a cold. That derailed my training for a bit as I felt weak and awful when running. I had a decent performance in the Pasadena Half Marathon despite the setback. After the race, I was able to resume normal training until the end of March when shin splints and some kind of groin strain (likely caused by me altering my gait due to the shin splints) forced me into the pool for some aqua jogging and also onto a stationary bike. This happened just as I was about to enter my peak training week then taper. Also, as life goes, there were some things outside of my training that took my mind off of running.

I was able to run this week for four consecutive days. My pacing was good. The groin area is still tender but under control, meaning it was no bother as long as I didn’t overextend my leg. The shin splint pain is much less to the point that my gait is not altered anymore and I can run normally. However, the four consecutive days has left my legs a little achy and sore. I’ve been rolling my legs everyday with a foam roller and hand roller to loosen and relax the muscles. Yet, they’re still achy. I think three days off of running before the race should fix that.

Now, race day is approaching. There is nothing more I can do to improve my fitness ahead of the race. Whatever hay is in the barn stays there as the barn is now locked. How do I feel? Honestly, this is the worst physically I’ve ever felt before a race. Achy legs, shin splint, groin issue, etc. I’m optimistic my body will survive but a marathon is a long race and everything needs to be just right to have a solid performance. It’s a long grueling ordeal. Fortunately, my body and mind have experience with said ordeal. While I’m a bit nervous about my body holding up, I’m getting excited ahead of the race. Traveling to London to run a marathon is a huge treat. It’s an even bigger treat to run for charity. I want to thank everyone who donated. (you can still donate here) But I especially want to thank my brother, Matt Morrison. His substantial and generous donation to Livability is helping a lot of disabled people connect with their communities. He also said he wanted to ensure I would reach my fundraising goal so I could concentrate on training as he wants to see me perform well. I’m humbled by his selflessness. I hope I can make him proud with my performance as I’m dedicating my race to both Livability and Matt.

I leave for the airport now with my amazing wife who continues to put up with my running neuroses. To make it up to her, we’re going to have a nice vacation sightseeing in London and nearby areas.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-9,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
I’m ready to go! WMM #5! 

The London Marathon promises to be an amazing experience regardless of my individual performance. The elite men and women fields are arguably the most talented ever so racing fans are in for what could be thrilling races on both sides. I’ll get to connect with people from Livability as millions of dollars/pounds will be raised for numerous charities by thousands of people who get to run on the streets of London. The energy will be electric and the crowds will be loud. I can’t wait! Life is good! Hail Britannia!

Running With You,

Donald

London Marathon Training Week #16 Days 1 and 2 Dealing With a Setback

NOTE: For those of you interested in donating to the charity I’m running for in London please click on this LINK.

 

I’m going to switch up the blog format from the usual. When I last posted, I mentioned taking some time off from running due to my shin splint. I did that, taking nine days off. I spent five of those days doing aqua jogging which is running in the pool. It’s not really running though but rather mimics running. Basically, I put on a flotation belt, hop into the deep end and run as if I was on land. You do move–slowly. There’s no impact since my legs don’t touch the floor. Aqua jogging is a way to get a running workout in when injured because there’s no impact to the muscles. How effective is aqua jogging? Some studies say it’s good at maintaining your current fitness level. I believe for me it works to an extent. I will say my heart rate is naturally lower in the water and because of that it doesn’t feel like I worked out at all. I also find it difficult to elevate my heart rate substantially because I can only pump my legs and arms so fast in the water. Plus, the water resistance fatigues those muscles quickly if one becomes frantic about moving them quickly.

I also discovered a video that calls for using a roller on your calf muscles that will alleviate shin splint pain. I tried this and it works. This gave me confidence to try a run again. I  headed out the door for a 5.5 mile run. My shin, while not 100 percent, didn’t bother me too much. I was able to put the normal amount of weight on it. My pacing was good for this run for the first four miles. After mile four, I started to feel a slight pain in my inner thigh area which was the same location as the pain when I last did an interval workout. My quad and groin muscles did not hurt at all during my time off from running. I figured that was in the past. The feeling wasn’t really painful. It was more like an uncomfortable sensation. I felt it wasn’t bad enough to stop so I finished the remaining 1.5 miles. The entire run was done at 7:07 pace per mile which isn’t bad. My shin was a little tender after the run but nothing that was serious. I used the foam roller again. I also rubbed and rolled my inner thigh area.

The second day was worse, much worse. I rolled my calf muscles again and did the usual warm up routine but my shin started to hurt a little more than the day before. I rolled my calf again and it felt a bit better–enough for me to start the run. The shin was a little more painful to start than the previous day. I started the run and it didn’t bother me as much. Two miles in though, I felt a sensation in my groin area above where the pain/sensation was along the inner thigh. This sensation felt like a cramp or spasm. I stopped. I ran slowly again to see if it was just a cramp/spasm or something more serious. The initial tightness subsided but the sensation was still there. I shut things down. This is very frustrating considering there are now only 18 days until the marathon. I have no clue if my quad and groin muscles in my right leg will hold up. I’m seriously nervous if this race will even happen for me now which is a terrible thought. My plan now is to rest tomorrow. If I don’t feel any pain the next day, it’s the pool for me. I’ll stay in the pool for at least another two to three days after until I’m confident I’m ok. I’ve had some nagging soreness leading up to marathons before. The most recent time being Berlin but this is much more serious. I had nine days off from the road yet this pain still came back. I suppose the only I can do is take it easy so I don’t make it worse.

Not Running With You Again,

Donald

London Marathon Training Week #14 Days 6 and 7 Rain Can’t Stop Me But My Body Can

NOTE: For those of you interested in donating to the charity I’m running for in London please click on this LINK.

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperatures: Day 1–Partly cloudy 64 degrees, Day 2–Partly cloudy 63 degrees

Types of Runs: Day 1–Easy, Day 2–Speed/Intervals

Lengths: Day 1–9.03 miles, Day 2–2 miles (2 x 1mi)

Types of routes: Day 1–three uphill climbs, two downhill descents, gradual uphill and downhill; Day 2-400-meter oval track

Times: Day 1–1 hour, 5 minutes, 40 seconds; Day 2–11 minutes, 42 seconds (5:51, 5:51)

Paces per mile: Day 1–7:16, Day 2–5:51

Reason for Runs: Day 1–This was a longer easy run. The goal is to run at a comfortable pace and build the mileage.

Day 2–An interval workout is meant to improve speed, running efficiency and race-specific performance. This workout was supposed to be 10 x 1-mile done at half-marathon to slightly faster than half-marathon pace. The goal of this workout is to work on pushing myself to handle the intensity and duration of a longer race.

How did I feel? Day 1–Ok. I write ok because it’s the day my lower right leg started to bother me even more. I’ve been dealing with what appears to be shin splits or pain/inflammation along the shin bone. I’ve dealt with shin splints before a long time ago and had to stop running to let the inflammation go down because it’s painful to run, at least to start. The pain ends up decreasing though usually as the run progresses. I also dealt with a stress reaction three years ago on my right shin bone. A stress reaction is a sharp pain in the bone that can lead to a stress fracture. I had to take six weeks off of running on the road. Since I’ve dealt with both issues before, I’m certain I have shin splints because the pain decreases and increases versus being consistent as with a stress reaction. I figure I could just tough it out, especially since there’s only a month until the marathon. The pain bothered me a little more during this run. I did finish it but I felt my leg bothering me a bit more. Why run and not rest? This quote sums it up best:

“Runners are notoriously tenacious and defensive about their fitness.They don’t want to lose what they worked so hard for! It’s this attitude that often gets them into trouble in the first place.” –John Davis, Runners Connect.

 

We’re a stubborn bunch and I’m not different.

Day 2–I shut it down. I planned to run 10 x 1-mile repeats with about two minutes rest between each rep. My right shin was bothersome but I figured after a mile or two the pain would subside. I completed two repeats but my gait/form was altered to compensate for the pain which puts more stress on other muscles. To start my third rep, I felt a pain deep inside my groin area as if it was a pull or cramp. I really didn’t know. But I did know to stop. I tried to start again but the pain came back so I shut the workout down. I couldn’t continue and risk injury. I’m fairly certain the groin pain came from overcompensating due to shin pain.

I went home and took NSAIDs and iced my shin. The icing didn’t really work but the NSAIDs seem to have some effect. This is a huge setback one month away from the big race. To say I’m nervous, concerned and upset is an understatement. The shin pain started a few weeks ago but it was always something I could deal with because I figured it was only shin splints. I really was too stubborn in ignoring this. Why did I get them? Shin splints can be caused by overuse so basically a result of running too much. If I continue to run and tough out the pain which I can do, it could lead to a stress fracture. That would be awful and something I can’t risk before the marathon. So I have to shut things down and change them up. But for how long? Well, I’m taking two days off. The groin feels fine. It’s not a pull so I’m not worried about that. The shin still hurts. The pain is on and off. It only hurts when I walk on it. My plan is for aqua jogging for at least a week or two. Aqua jogging is ok because there’s no strain or resistance for the leg since I’m in water. How will that affect my training? If I aqua jog consistently and for the same length as my running workouts then I should be able to mostly maintain my current fitness. How long will I have to stay in the pool? At least a week, maybe up to everyday until the race. I’ll assess when the pain starts to decrease. This sucks but I can’t risk worse injury ahead of the race. We’ll just have to take it day-by-day.

Not Running With You Today Sadly Enough,

Donald

London Marathon Training Week #14 Day 5 A Wet Run in the Rain One Month Until the Big Race

NOTE: For those of you interested in donating to the charity I’m running for in London please click on this LINK.

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Rain, 60 degrees

Type of Run: Semi-long

Length: 12.65 miles

Type of route: Gradual uphill and downhill around Rose Bowl 5k loop, two uphill climbs, more gradual downhill

Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes, 44 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:06

Reason for Run: The semi-long run helps build endurance and strength. It’s semi-long because it’s longer than a usual run but shorter than the long run. I like to think of the distance as between 10 and 14 miles. The semi-long run should be done at a pace faster than the long run pace unless you’re not feeling it that day in which case a comfortable pace will do. Remember, much of running is about how you feel that day. The semi-long run at this point in training helps the body run long periods of time without wearing it down. If you can finish this run without feeling exhausted then you’re on the right track in training.

How did I feel? Good. This was a brisk run in the rain. Why would I subject myself to running in the rain? Great question and one I’ll answer. First, I usually don’t like running in the rain. I don’t like the idea of getting wet while running. There are two options to avoid this. The first option is not to run. That option at this stage in training won’t work for me unless I’m sick or otherwise tied up with very important life obligations. I need to get the mileage in and prep for the marathon since it’s exactly one month away. Now is not the time to skip a run if it’s not absolutely necessary. The second option is to run on a treadmill at a local gym. While I did utilize treadmills while away for work last year in Oregon when it rained, I wasn’t a big fan. Treadmills work just fine but I can’t stay in the same spot starting at the same things for more than an hour. I simply don’t like it. Some people can deal with it and that’s great but treadmills are not for me.

I then decided to run in the rain. I did last week and it wasn’t that bad but it didn’t rain hard either. It also rained lightly during the Berlin Marathon which also didn’t bother me. I checked the hourly forecast and it showed lighter rain for the time I wanted to run. I figured I’ll just deal with getting wet. I put on a baseball cap and a windbreaker jacket (I live in So. Cal so I don’t really have rain gear). I also sprayed anti-water chemicals on my shoes then opened the door and left. This storm isn’t cold and as I did my warm-up run, I got warm because of the jacket. Since the rain was light at the time, I made the decision to ditch the jacket on my real run. I started the run and the light rain was of no bother. Perhaps, my body heat helps evaporate the rain quickly because I didn’t feel wet. That feeling ended abruptly as I headed down into the Rose Bowl loop. Usually, there are dozens of people walking/running/cycling around the bowl from 5am to 10pm. Not today! I saw one lady tough out the rain. That’s it! It was just the two of us around the bowl. The rain picked up and I started to get soaked. My shirt and shorts were sticking to me. I did use anti-chafing spray so that was of no issue for me, fortunately.

The rain let up and then got heavier before letting up again as I finished. I think the anti-water spray helped my shoes to some degree because my feet weren’t soaked. They were wet but not soaked. After getting soaked above my feet, I just toughed it out. It wasn’t pleasant but it didn’t bother me enough to entertain the idea of stopping the run. I just dealt with it and continued. Now, had the rain been heavier, I would’ve used a treadmill. I’m happy that I could tough out the rain. It gives me confidence that I can deal with adverse conditions which could happen during races. If you’re wondering, it’s a myth that being out in the rain will give you a cold so I wasn’t worried about that.

Did I perform adequately in the rain? Actually, yes. My pacing was much faster than I thought. I did’t set out to run hard but I noticed my pacing was quicker than a usual semi-long run. Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to hurry so we could get out of the rain. My legs felt good and the pace didn’t feel as fast as it was which is always ideal. That all being written, I was happy to finish the run, get out of my wet clothes and into something dry.

Running With You,

Donald