Like potpourri, but about fitness.

Chicago Marathon Pace Team

This past weekend I had the pleasure of helping pace the 3:20 group at the Chicago Marathon.  This was my first pacing experience, and it turned out to be quite a good one.  My group of four pacers was eclectic and fun, and we hit our pace pretty well.  We rolled through the half just a bit ahead of pace (1:39:39), maintaining for a 3:19:45 finish.  It was a real treat conversing with people from around the U.S. and world, especially in the early miles, about their goals and racing experiences.  Unfortunately, the heat took its toll on many competitors in the final 6 miles or so, as it has done in most, recent Chicago Marathons.  But we were able to help a number of people to significant PRs and Boston Qualifying times, and a few tough runners even pulled away from our group in the final, hot miles to run 3:18 or so! 

Pacing Chicago is something I had thought about in the past, but the timing just worked really well this year.  It's kind of a fun and unique way to give back (though to be fair, we did get a couple hundred bucks of free gear).  I should also volunteer more at races, manning aid stations, etc., but pacing a marathon is something that not a ton of people can do well.  So it was nice to use my abilities in such a way.  That said, I'd be hesitant to pace anything slower than a 3 hour marathon in the future.  I'm sore in weird places today (my hips, particularly) from running for so long at a pace so much slower than I usually run.  Eventually, I would love to pace faster races.  Pacing for a women's Trials standard (full race) or even a men's Trials standard (partial race) would be great.  These could also, perhaps, be a nice supplementary payday in time! :)  Jeff Eggleston paced at Pittsburgh earlier this year, and I know one of the Hansons guys paced the elite women through 18 or so at Chicago last year.  So the opportunities are out there...

Trail Running in the City

Prompted by some recent success on the trails, my upcoming trail races, and some questions from Trail Runner Magazine's Ashley Arnold, I've been doing most of my easy runs the last week or two on "trails" in the city.  And by this, I mean random, circuitous "off-road" routes in Lincoln Park and on the Lakefront.  I decided I needed more running in grass and on odd surfaces to help strengthen my ankles and lower legs, and to engage my mind more with my footing.  This has really made my easy runs a lot more enjoyable.  I basically seek out any uneven surface I can find, from rocks, drainage grates, and torn up pavement, to rutted grass, tree roots, and mud.  I run up and down the steep side hills of overpasses and just generally try to recreate the "trail experience" in the city.  I'm reminded of Peter Snell and Lydiard's other athletes running over hill and dale for all of their base training.  The rougher the ground, the better.  (You can see what I mean here, in this great little documentary on Peter Snell.)  Trying to leave no stone unturned as the TNF 50 Champs approach.

Still Trying To Be Fast

The transition to a bit of speedwork has been going OK so far.  I had a quicker aerobic power session last week of 10 x 1k in 3:00 with 1:1 rest.  I haven't done a sustained amount of running this fast in a long time.  Probably too long.  As such, I was a little worried that I wasn't going to be able to hit the times in this workout.  But it went pretty well for the first time doing it, and I hit all my splits within a second or two.  I probably only have room on the Big Sur schedule to do this one more time, where I'll shoot for more like 12-15 reps.  The purposes are multiple.  There's a muscular endurance component which will translate to a half marathon fairly well, as well as an anaerobic threshold component (even with the longer recovery, due to the relatively high volume) and the simple benefit of getting some decent volume in at faster than HMP.

I was supposed to have my first 400 repeats session last week as well, but a short bout of food poisoning prevented that and forced me to take Friday and Saturday off.  I was just happy to be nearly back to normal by Chicago Marathon day.  I hate to have missed that session, especially with my being so short on time to sharpen up for Big Sur (already down to less than 6 weeks!), but so it goes.  The Dude abides.

Early Plans

In the last week or two, I've started to map out my 2012 schedule in a little more detail.  This far out, most things are subject to change, but there are a few events in particular that I'm already getting excited for.  Whether or not I qualify for the Trials, I will be running a marathon the first weekend of March, because I am taking off for Botswana with family the week after.  I don't anticipate being able to run much on that trip, so I will necessarily take a break.

When I get back from Botswana, I plan on hitting a pretty long base/fundamental phase (5 months or so) during which I will run a number of races without ever really peaking.  First of these will be the American River 50 Mile in Sacramento, CA.  I just signed up last week and am pretty excited for this.  It's a course where a guy with some road speed can do some damage.  I'll just be getting started back up, but I hope to run a pretty solid time there, maybe even crack the race's top 10 all-time list if things go well.

Another race I'm getting excited about is the USATF Mountain Running Championships which will be taking place at the Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire in mid-June.  This race is a little crazy and has some nice history, with guys like Bob Hodge tearing up the course in the 70s.  Matt Carpenter is one of only four guys under an hour on the 7.6 mile, 12% average grade, all-uphill course.  Rickey Gates is another, and a guy who will probably be there in 2012.  What a great place to test my climbing chops!  Looks like I'll be continuing to hit some boring treadmill hill runs into next year.  This race is also the qualifier for the World Mountain Running Championships, taking place on September 2, location TBD (but maybe in northern Italy?).

In August, I hope to take part in the TransRockies Stage Run.  I first heard about this race a year ago, and followed it a little more closely this year, watching Mike Smith's and Max King's teams battle it out in the six day stage race, with the former prevailing.  I talked to Mark Thompson (third place at TNF Wisconsin) a bit about this race, which he ran this year.  It sounds like a great time, just camping, hanging out, and running all day with like-minded people in the mountains.  Does it get much better than this?

Finally, I think my peak marathon for the fall of 2012 is going to be the New York City Marathon.  The timing is right, and I'm hoping to jump another level at this race.  I've never been to NYC, and this should make for a great first trip.  Plus, I've done Berlin and Chicago now, so I'll check another Major off the list.  I'm not really in any rush to race all five of these, but it will be nice to have done so.