Sunday, April 4, 2010

On my race plans for this spring, and why they suck..

Back in January, I was feeling ridiculously optimistic about this training year. This is the first winter that I kept my mileage up throughout the cold months, and I even did the Phoenix Rock n Roll half marathon in January (it was warm there for the race, but training for it here in Ohio was pretty hairy). I finished that race with my best time yet, which is still a slow time by most peoples' standards (2:15) but I was 9 minutes faster than my previous personal best. I should've been poised to take on the world this spring...I was considering a spring full marathon and maybe even a fall triathlon, if my swimming was progressing ok.

Then the days after that race set in. I ran it hard, probably harder than I should've (my heart rate was in the max zone the entire time, ranging from about 193-205--I have a weirdly high max hr). I think I had trained well for improved speed with my interval training but not so well because I didn't do any tempo runs really... so maybe my body wasn't used to sustaining a hard pace for that long, or maybe my form fell apart as I got tired, I don't know. But in any case I really hurt my right lower leg. This weird kind of stabbing pain that extended from the inside side of my knee, down my shin, and around the inner arch of my foot. I took a week off and then tried to run gently, decreasing my weekly mileage, but it didn't help. I took more time off, but pretty soon it was to the point where I couldn't even make it a mile. The pain only happens when I run, not any other time. Finally i went to see a trainer (and if you know me, you know my feelings about medical people of all varieties, so you know this was bad). She thinks it might be a stress fracture from a defective shoe, and she showed me my Sauconys side by side on the floor, and sure enough, the padding on one shoe stuck out a little more than the other shoe. She says that now and then a shoe is manufactured just a few degrees off and it's enough to really screw up your leg.

This is a bummer obviously since these shoes only have 200 miles on them and I'm a poor grad student who paid $100 for them and planned for them to last 400-500. Another doctor tells me it's not a stress fracture and I should try getting new shoes and see if the problem goes away, so I do. These sweet-looking Pearl Izumi SynchroPace III's enter my life:

...and the problem goes away. Meanwhile, it takes a little time to adjust to this new shoe. I start rebuilding mileage. And then I start tweaking around with my running form, trying to switch from being a heel-striker to a midfoot-striker, and it's already mid-March.

This past week was kind of weak as far as training goes, because I let life interfere too much with my training runs... I wasn't sleeping enough and it's hard to keep up with training when I'm not getting enough rest. But I'm headed out for 9-10 miles today and hoping it goes well, even though this was a low-mileage week.

So, about this year's races. I decided at the start of March that a full was basically not going to happen this spring for me. I want my first full to be after a few months of high weekly mileage (like in the 35+ miles/wk range rather than in the 25+ where I'm usually lingering comfortably). I know a marathon will be tough pretty much no matter what I do, but I would like to make it suck as little as possible by at least having a solid training foundation. So I decided against the full for this spring.

I wanted to do the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, even if it was going to be a half and not a full. I watched Sam run it last year and it looked like a blast....people in costume, the whole bit. And I have some friends from high school who will be there running it. But that race is pretty expensive to enter, and because it's in Cincinnati, there would probably also be a hotel involved. I was still considering it anyway when I found out that the Capital City Half Marathon right here in Columbus will allegedly give you a free race registration if you volunteer to do packet pickup. So I sign up for packet pickup, and I get no info about that in the confirmation email. I sign up for a second session of packet pickup, thinking you may have to do a more than just one session, and still no confirmation. My friend contacts the race director to ask and he/she never replies. Rumor has it that you just tell them at packet pickup that you're running it and they will give you a free registration, but how is that going to work exactly? A refund to my credit card somehow? So I haven't signed up for this race yet. I realized last night that if I don't sign up for it, I won't have a packet/bib to pick up and thus it will basically be too late to run it, so maybe they are assuming that you will already be a registered runner at the point you're requesting a free registration.

So this sucks for a variety of reasons: 1) If I was going to be paying for a race, I'd be paying for the Pig--the only reason I'm not running Pig is because I thought this other race would be free the same weekend. 2) My training has been pretty craptastic, so I don't know if it's worth it to pay for a race when I know I may not have a shot at beating my January PR. I have been doing lots of tempo-ish short runs but no speed intervals at the track in quite some time. I mean, I feel like after 4 halfs I'm kind of past the whole "just running this to run it" thing and now I want to be improving or not bothering to spend money. I'd run it for free just to see where I am right now...but do I really wanna drop the cash on this?

And that's where I am right now. I probably should decide today.
Another option is doing the Sunburst half in South Bend, Indiana, which I really enjoyed last year and it's June 5. That was such a fun race. I feel like I would pay for Sunburst OR Cap City, but not both--and I would far rather run Sunburst than Cap City... I'd have another month to train, and a more fun race experience.

So I guess a lot of my indecisiveness is just riding on whether or not Cap City is going to end up being free or not... if it's not, I don't really want to pay for it and I don't really want to run it because there are better options. But clearly since they aren't going to let me know in advance of paying whether or not that is going to happen, I need to start making decisions.

Fall full marathon options are the Akron Marathon on Sept 25 or the Columbus Marathon on October 18. Tentatively planning on the Columbus one, since I wouldn't have to travel for it...but Akron sounds more fun.


  1. I used to be a heel striker and switched to a mid-foot is possible! :) Have you read Chi Running? I recommend it highly. It is a great book on changing your form, running with less effort, etc. I don't follow it exactly, but many of his tips have helped me tremendously with my form(which used to be horrid, btw lol)

    I like free races :) In ultra running, they are called fat ass's ;)

  2. Cool, thanks! I haven't read it before, though I've heard people talking about it a lot; I didn't realize it was so focused on form. I've been looking at it on Google books this morning and I watched a few youtube vids of people using the form, and it looks pretty neat. I might pick up the book today!