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

London Marathon Training Week #5 Day 1 Attempt to Cure Worn Out Quads

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: Sunny, 74 degrees

Type of Run: Half medium pace/half tempo + two downhill strides

Length: 4.21 miles

Type of route: gradual uphill with one hill climb, two downhill descents and gradual downhill stretch

Time: 27 minutes, 53 seconds

Pace per mile: 6:37

Reason for Run: This run was inspired by this article in Runner’s World about dealing with sore quad muscles and heavy legs. The lower half of my quads, near the knees, have been sore and worn out lately. When I run, I can feel the muscles are taxed and fatigued. It’s been slowing me down. This article suggests for sore quads that I run downhill at tempo race. The goal is for the legs to adapt to the eccentric overload caused by the activity. The author, Pete Magill, who’s an extremely talented Masters runner, explains how his quads felt better a couple days after doing this. I thought I’d try it. I ran over 2.5 miles to get to the top of a hill near the Rose Bowl. I turned around and went down at a tempo pace and continued on the gradual downhill path until I ended up at the front of the stadium. I then did two downhill strides a little faster than tempo pace to help my quads.

How did I feel? Better but not back to normal. This run was done after three days off to rest my quads. I completed the entire run and was pleased my pacing the last mile was 5:54 per mile. Granted this was downhill, but the pace didn’t feel as if I was running a mile under 6:00 which was a good thing. In fact, my pace for at least the final 2k was under 6:00. I was happy with that. It tells me I’m returning to form. That was the good. Now for the bad. After the run, my lower quads felt worked, taxed and fatigued again but not sore or painful. Hopefully, the downhill workout will alleviate this in a couple days. This has me concerned about maintaining a solid pace for the upcoming half marathon in four days because my quads might fatigue on me early which will slow me down. I also don’t feel my breathing is quite back to normal. The effects of the illness are still there. I feel as if I still can’t get a full, deep running breath like normal. I’m close to 100% with the breathing but still not there.  Tomorrow, I’ll go longer and easy.

Running With You,

Donald

London Marathon Week #1 Day 5 A Chilly 8-Miler

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: Sunny, 44 degrees

Type of Run: Easy

Length: 8.02 miles

Type of route: Some flat, some gradual up and downhill, one uphill climb and one downhill descent

Time: 58 minutes, 10 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:15

Reason for Run: This was an easy run meant to be done at a comfortable and controlled pace but a couple miles longer than a recovery run. The main goal of this run is to build mileage and increase the weekly total in a way that is reasonable.

How did I feel? Fine yet again. It was very cold outside in the morning when I ran. 44 degrees! That’s cold for southern California. Don’t judge me..lol! I have run in weather this cold in Oregon. It has its advantages because I don’t have to worry about heat exhaustion. The body can perform better in cooler weather provided it’s not too cold. However, I don’t care for the cold hands when I start running. The temperature isn’t bad at all once my body warms up after a couple of miles. I think today was just fine.

Running With You,

Donald

London Marathon Training Week #1 Day 4 A Comfortable Run

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: Partly cloudy, 59 degrees

Type of Run: Easy

Length: 8.54 miles

Type of route: Gradual uphill, gradual downhill, one uphill climb

Time: 1 hour, 3 minutes, 08 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:24

Reason for Run: This was an easy run a day after a harder workout (tempo run in this case). The goal was to run at a comfortable pace at a medium-level distance, so not too short but not too long either. 8.5 miles fits right into that zone because it boosts the weekly mileage total without me having to strain much.

How did I feel? Fine again. I kept my pace consistent pretty much throughout the run. I didn’t want to push myself nor did I want to relax too much. I wanted to find a sweet spot that was comfortable and manageable. I was able to find that.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #10 Day 3 The 20-Miler

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 86 degrees with 52% humidity (yuck!)

Type of Run: Looooong

Length: 20.08  miles

Type of route: long gradual inclines and declines with two hill climbs and two hill descents

Time: 2 hours, 29 minutes, 8 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:26

Average heart rate: 149

Reason for Run: The long run increases endurance both physical and psychological. It also has benefits of helping the body burn fat for fuel more efficiently. The long run can strengthen the heart and it increases the number and size of mitochondria which help with transporting energy to muscles. It also increases capillary growth into muscle fibers. This, again, helps with transporting energy to muscles. The 20-miler is a traditional staple of marathon training. For me, it helps psychologically as completing the length of the run gives me confidence I’m ready for the big race. It also lets me know I can suffer through the inevitable pain and exhaustion of a run that long. Usually, I’ll do 4 to 5 runs ranging from 20 to 23 miles leading up to a marathon. Most people can do 2 to 3. Unless you’re a pro, you generally don’t want to do training runs longer than 24 miles. Why wouldn’t you want to run the entire length of the marathon or longer during training? It’s too taxing on the body even when you take it easy. Running that long has many benefits but it also strains the body so it’s important you don’t go too far. I chose my first 20-miler this week to see how my endurance is progressing. Plus, I have to space out the 20-milers to some extent so as not to burn out my legs.

How did I feel? Good mostly. I took it easy and, unlike last week, didn’t have any surges of pace increases. Today was about running at a manageable pace and finishing. I was worn out after the run and fatigued but that’s how it always is after a long run. That’s how you know you worked your body. My legs were beat up and achy but, again, normal. They’ll recover. It was warm and quite humid today. When I finished, I was in wet clothes from head to toe and the humidity prevented my sweat from evaporating. This actually heats up the body more. Sweat evaporation has a cooling effect.  If the sweat can’t evaporate then the body heats up more. I consumed more of my hydration drink on the run than I usually do. This was a direct result of the humidity as I felt I was properly hydrated for the most part before the run. To aid in my recovery post-run, I drank a protein shake to help with muscle repair and hydrated more with water and Gatorade (it was on sale this week). Of course, I also tried to stay off my feet after the workout.

Psychologically, long runs can be a challenge. First, they’re time-consuming. It’s tough to know you have to set aside a 3 to 4-hour block of time in a day to complete the run. It’s also a task to start a long run, especially one 20 miles or more, when you know you’re going to be wiped out and fatigued afterward. You know your muscles will ache. How do you get out the door? You have to tell yourself why you’re running a marathon and you have to remember the euphoric feeling of crossing a marathon finish line. Marathons are done because they’re hard, not because they’re easy. You opt in to push yourself, to expand your personal boundaries and fly past limits you thought you could never exceed.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #8 Day 6 A Speedy Speed Workout

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Sunny, 81 degrees

Type of Run: Intervals/speed

Length: 4.47 miles ( 4 x 800m-600m-400m)

Type of route: 400-meter oval track

Time: 24 minutes, 36 seconds (2:47, 2:46, 2:46, 2:46; 2:04, 2:03, 2:04, 2:04; 1:19, 1:19, 1:19, 1:19)

Pace per mile: 5:30

Average heart rate: 154

Reason for Run: This was a shorter interval workout designed more to improve speed endurance and leg turnover. I chose to descend from 800-meter reps down to 600-meter and 400-meter reps to mix it up so my body would have to adjust to different distances and speed. When the body has to adapt, improvement are made in fitness. My previous interval workouts were longer reps at 1-mile and 1,000 meters so I decided shorter reps this time would be beneficial. I also wanted to keep the workout short due to the heat. I ran around 8am and it was already 81 degrees outside! The heat can radiate off the red rubber track to make it seem hotter. Plus, a track has no shady areas to hide from the sun. I rested 1:00 to 1:30 in between each rep so my body wouldn’t get too comfortable. Plus, I wanted to finish the workout to get out of the sun.

20170708_090228
Muir High School is where I do most of my track workouts. This is my view of the hills around the Rose Bowl. 

How did I feel? Good. My legs are still worn out from all the training but overall the workout was good. My times weren’t as fast as they could’ve been but that’s not a big deal. The warm and somewhat humid weather will slow down times. The important thing is effort. Was I pushing myself? I was but in a controlled way so as to avoid heat exhaustion. When it’s hot, you have to be mindful of your own limitations. Drink lots of fluids and dial it down a bit if you need to so you can avoid heat stroke or dehydration. You’re still making gains in your running even if you slow it down in the heat.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #8 Day 4 A Strong Tempo Run At Sunset

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Sunny but with a setting sun, 84 degrees

Type of Run: Tempo

Length: 8.02 miles

Type of route: Some slight gradual inclines and declines with one downhill descent and one uphill descent

Time: 48 minutes, 23 seconds

Pace per mile: 6:02

Average heart rate: 162

Reason for Run: A tempo run is a hard run meant to improve endurance, strength, speed and mental toughness. The goal is to run comfortably hard. That means you should go fast but not race pace fast. After the run you should feel some fatigue but not exhausted. Ideally, you want to feel as if you have a little left in the tank if you had to go longer. If you want to run fast in a race then you have to run fast during training. That’s what a tempo run is for.

Fontana Payday Pic Edit
My first “paycheck” from running has finally arrived. This is from winning the Fontana Days 5k in June. Maybe I should quit my day job now 😉 

How did I feel? Good but you’d think great based on my time. I kicked butt on this tempo run but I didn’t feel like I was kicking butt. I was a little tired overall and my legs were still slightly fatigued from the long run two days prior.  Before this run started, I expected it to be a solid tempo run but one with a slower pace than my tempo runs the past few weeks. I took off to start and kept a hard pace that I felt I could handle. After seeing the first mile split of 6:00 I was surprised but I kept pushing myself. I wanted to slow down but I just told myself to keep the pace. I did mostly.  I slowed down slightly after the second mile but not by much. My pacing was consistent. My slowest mile was mile 7 at 6:13. But that mile was the hardest with most of it being uphill. After the run, I couldn’t figure out why I ran so well despite feeling tired before the run. Sometimes, good days are unexpected. Those days are welcome. I was pleased.

 

 

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #7 Day 4 A Quality Tempo Run at Night

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Clear evening sky, 66 degrees

Type of Run: Tempo

Length: 7.68 miles

Type of route: Gradual inclines and declines with some flat areas, one downhill descent and one uphill climb

Time: 47 minutes, 52 seconds

Pace per mile: 6:14

Average heart rate: 154

Reason for Run: A tempo run is designed to build speed, endurance and strength. It helps the body get used to a hard race effort. The goal is to run comfortably hard. I’ve been slowly increasing the distance of my tempo runs to build endurance and speed at the same time. If you want to race hard, you need to run hard during training. My pace was faster than my goal marathon pace but slower than my half marathon pace. This is good because I want to be able to complete long tempo runs at a pace slightly faster than or around my goal marathon pace of between 6:20 and 6:30. My body can now get used to the pace and distance and make adaptations. If I run too fast, I risk injury because I’d be wearing out my legs.

How did I feel? Good. My mile splits were generally consistent except when I had to hill climb up Rosemont Street from the Rose Bowl 5k loop. Anytime you climb a hill you’ll slow down so this wasn’t worrisome. It was nice running as the sun was setting. The temperature was cool and I felt I had a solid groove throughout the run.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #7 Day 2 A Solid Long Run

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 84 degrees

Type of Run: Long

Length: 17 miles

Type of route: Gradual inclines and declines with some flat areas, two hill climbs and one hill descent

Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:17

Average heart rate: 143

Reason for Run: Long runs are meant to improve endurance and build leg strength. If done correctly, long runs can also help the body burn fat as fuel along with glycogen. This will help prevent “bonking” in marathons which is when a person gets really fatigued in the legs to the point that continuing to run is too exhausting. It happens because there’s no more glycogen for the muscles to burn and they haven’t become efficient at burning fat yet. Long runs can also help increase the amount of energy delivered to muscles. Long runs of 15 miles or more are a staple in marathon training and should be done at least three times a month in the three months leading up to the race.

How did I feel? Good. My goal was to take it easy due to the warm weather and because I didn’t want to exhaust myself for no reason. I purposely started at a comfortable pace. I felt good the first few miles and continued to run comfortably. My pacing was fairly consistent which was good. I wore my camelbak and had plenty of liquid in there to drink throughout the run to avoid dehydration. I’d recommend everyone carry water or some kind of liquid with them on long runs whether it’s in a camelbak, hand-held water bottle or on a water bottle belt. You’ll need to drink to avoid dehydration. I kept  a steady pace and picked it up slightly the last two miles. When I finished, I felt I could’ve gone another mile or two. That’s a great feeling to have after a traditional long run because it means you ran it correctly.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #7 Day 1 A Sunday Run With Some Hills

Location: Pasadena, South Pasadena and Highland Park, CA.

Temperature: Sunny, 85 degrees

Type of Run: Easy but with some hills

Length: 8.41 miles

Type of route: Gradual declines with one long gradual incline and two fairly steep hill climbs with two downhill descents

Time: 1 hour, 13 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:10

Average heart rate: 143

Reason for Run: This was a weekly maintenance run meant to add mileage. The goal is to run long enough to maintain endurance and strength. I picked a challenging route with a long incline and two fairly steep hills climbs to build leg strength and test mental toughness.

How did I feel? Good. This was a run I took easy and at a comfortable pace. It was a day after my 8 x 1-mile interval workout so I didn’t want to push things. My run took me up Avenue 64 from below York Blvd. in the Highland Park/Garvanza area of Los Angeles to La Loma Road in Pasadena. The climb was nearly two miles and more than 250 feet of elevation gain.

Running With You,

Donald