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The Burrard Bridge wins by TKO: 2022 Vancouver Marathon DNF at 30K.

I rolled my left ankle at the end of the Burrard Bridge at 19 miles, and though I could run on it I turned the corner and decided to drop out of the Vancouver Marathon there.

It had already been a struggle. I did not sleep well at all that night, woke up at 1:30 after maybe 4 hours sleep and simply could not return to sleep before having to get up. I dressed for the race tired, (ironically) wanting to go back to bed, with various aches and pains around my body.

This was similar to 2018, where a lot of bad shit was happening with work (I left the job shortly after returning) and dealing with the fallout followed me to Vancouver. This time though, I had no such issue, and just have been struggling in general with sleep. I hadn’t slept particularly well the previous night, or any night since getting to Vancouver. The first two nights were okay, but the last three nights hadn’t been great (less than 6 hours each).

I enjoyed the trip to that point. The lack of heavy sleep hadn’t really bothered me, but not getting enough sleep prevented me from shedding the little aches and other issues that taper-rest should have eliminated. Going on my annual 7 mile exploratory run around Stanley Park on Thursday after I arrived probably didn’t help with recovery either.

I decided to make a point not to complain about it, that it could go better than expected, and many people have to deal with far worse. I was in a better place than 2018, and better equipped to handle it than I was then.

I would grind it out as far as I could. I wasn’t totally confident I could finish the marathon in my condition, but after everything to get to this point I felt I at least had to make the good faith effort to run it. At the very least, I wanted to get as far as Kitsilano, if for no other reason than I at least didn’t face a long walk back to base (like I did in 2018 when I pulled out at 5K and had to walk several miles through neighborhoods).

I also decided to bring my hydration pack, sans hydration. The bag could hold my Xact bars, a couple protein bars I decided to include, a shirt to change into. It allowed me to not forget anything without cramming or weighting down my fanny pack or pockets.

We had a lengthy delay to the start due to police activity on the route, and the marathon started about 9:15am (45 minutes late). That at least gave a good buffer of time to power nap a bit, use the port-a-potty without pressure, drink some extra fluid at the start line. I felt back and forth between being amped for the run, and exhausted wondering how the hell I was going to do this.

Once we were going, I was calm and steady. After a brief inexplicable heart rate spike into zone 5, my HR settled back into 147 bpm, and to my pleasant surprise stayed right there most of the way, through more than 3 hours of running. I did a really good job of adjusting and moderating my effort to the situation, even up the dreaded Camosun Hill and the long descent down the Marine Drive hill out of UBC.

I only stopped to walk at aid stations, and I took fluid at every one along the way. Turned out that after the 3rd aid station or so none of them were sering Nuun electrolyte fluid, only water. Whether they ran out, or mixing it was too much of a problem (I noticed the stations that did offer it were struggling badly to keep up with Nuun cups), they stopped offering it from the 3rd or 4th station all the way up. This created a big problem for a lot of runners, whether they knew it or not.

While fortunately the cloudy overcast had returned for the often sun-baked portion in Point Grey and Kitsilano, I was now struggling badly, and that 147bpm heart rate began climbing to 150. My stomach was also struggling to take on any more fuel (I had brought several Xact bars and took some offered on-course, having put down about 6 of them at this point plus one of the protein bars), the electrolyte deficiency from the course’s lack of Nuun making it harder to tolerate any more glucose. I got around this in 2019 by having 2 liters of electrolyte-rich Gatorade on my back, but no such luck here.

Sure enough, my energy levels collapsed hard around 25K, on top of the cumulative fatigue of grinding out a slow marathon effort on extended short sleep. It didn’t help that, to everyone’s surprise, the sun came out early in the race (at least for a while), which heated things up a bit more than expected and emptied everyone’s tanks a bit more quickly.

To my pleasant surprise I found open port-a-potties at 26K, earlier than expected (in 2019 I did not hit an open one until 28K in Kitsilano, right before the Burrard Bridge). I used it quickly and popped out with very little spring in my step. My Stryd readings showed throughout the race that I was holding 180’s, 190’s, low but easy, but now I was struggling to get out of the 160’s.

I had come-and-go nagging pains that had followed me for months showing up throughout the race. At one point my left hamstring felt like it was going to pull, but that went quickly away and didn’t recur. My right hamstring, that proximal tendon (opposite of the one that derailed me last year), both achilles tendons, parts of the soles of both my feet, were randomly squawking here and there throughout the run, and in some ways it felt like I was holding everything together by a few carefully managed threads.

This whole marathon I soldiered with the sense that it would be something to go in with all this working against me and still someone find it in me to finish. But even the motivation of that had faded like the earlier sunshine well before the Bridge.

Onlookers here in Vancouver are great about cheering you on, and you get the sense of not wanting to let them down. That was probably the biggest reason I never slowed to a walk before 28K (even then it was to sit down and get a rock out of one of my shoes).

I decided I would get across the Burrard Bridge and head towards Stanley Park before re-assessing on finishing. The Bridge made the decision for me.

I decided to charge up the bridge at speed, passing dozens of bonked runners walking up the bridge. I actually did a solid job with effort and pace. The effort however could not undo how tapped I was feeling. The potty stop did bring my heart rate back down, but the fatigue was a growing monster I had already been carrying for a couple hours.

I crossed the 30K timing mat, wondering exactly how much I had left for the final 7 miles and whether I had enough to finish, when I stepped on what’s called a Botts’ Dot.

Those dots on lane markers in the road are called Botts’ Dots. Canadian roads don’t have many of them (it snows in Canada a lot, and plowing over them is impractical), but on the Burrard Bridge a few reflective dots are interspersed on lane markings along the road. I stepped on one near the north end of the southbound lanes and rolled my left ankle (supinated).

I quickly recovered and kept running. It felt weird for a couple steps, but I was able to keep going with no other distress and turn the corner onto Pacific. However, everything else I mentioned above, multiple doubts about being able to make it, now were combined with knowing I had just rolled my ankle and though I could run on it adrenaline may be masking any issue with it. I said enough.

I found an empty space on the south sidewalk of Pacific, stepped off the roadway and stopped my watch just a bit over 19 miles. I sat down and pulled off my bag and singlet. It was not a hard decision. Maybe the ankle felt okay now, maybe I could hold up as it was. But for another 7.3 miles? In my condition? And if I had to drop out in Stanley Park, there was no way out of there other than the miles of seawall in either direction? It didn’t seem worth the risk, and again by this point finishing the race felt more like an afterthought than a goal.

So there you go. The Burrard Bridge delivered the knockout punch at mile 19. I felt good about going 19 miles in the condition I was in. A lot of runners wouldn’t have even started in the shape I was in. I didn’t just run out 19 but stayed consistent in effort throughout, even as fatigue hit me hard coming out of UBC and going through Point Grey. To get that far was in itself an accomplishment, even if the record will show a DNF after 30K.

The ankle didn’t feel bad at all, but I took it slow walking under the bridge and back up Burrard Street to my hotel, which was fortunately only a few blocks away. I didn’t have to do much to stay slow and easy: Everything hurt. I was tapped out. What had been passing pain in my achilles now became clear, stiff soreness in both tendons. My right hamstring ached. Other things probably hurt too, but it was hard to notice. If anything, my ankle ironically was one of the things that didn’t seem to hurt much at all. But even after 19 miles, I was as totally beaten as if I had run the whole thing. I may recover a bit more quickly than if I had run it all, but I still need some downtime.

Overall, it wasn’t the best training cycle. Turned out there was a lot I hadn’t done as well as I should have, challenges came up that made it hard to stay on track, the run-up to the race in itself had a variety of issues (I didn’t even get into the complications with the Canadian COVID travel restrictions and what I did or didn’t need to do to enter the country, never minding the airport test), and then back-end insomnia screwed up my fitness for the race itself. In-race complications didn’t help, but I was already battling leading into the race itself.

So, in a way, this was just the cherry on top of a weird cake that fell apart. I think about how it would have gone had I stuck to the original Higdon-style training plan, but my complications with the long runs as it warmed up probably would have derailed those more than they did with the training I had done. And I wouldn’t have had as much volume, plus the scheduling might have overtrained or burned me out before race-day. I probably salvaged quite a bit changing things the way i did, even though the end result was still far from perfect.

That said, the classic post-marathon “never again” feeling only lasted about 18 hours. I feel like Vancouver Revenge Tour in 2023 is necessary, to even the series at 2 wins apiece. Vancouver beat me in 2018. I beat Vancouver in 2019, and Vancouver beat me again this year. I now have improved training knowledge (which came far too late this time around), which should make a 2023 effort go far better.

Still, I wonder if there’s a tug of war on these Vancouver visits between the marathon itself, and actually enjoying a vacation in Vancouver. I did try to take it easy in the days before, but the city and where I’m staying just requires so much walking everywhere. I couldn’t log less than 5-6 miles walking a day without spending too much on taxi rides or being a hermit in general (plus I had to go to the Expo to get my bib, of course). In Vegas, even with work break and lunch walks, I only log about 2-4 miles walking on weekdays. I had forgotten how much more walking I did in Chicago. While walking in Vancouver was normal compared to life in Chicago, it was a lot more stressful on my body than everyday life in Vegas, where people drive everywhere.

As much as I like staying at The Burrard, turns out it’s a bit out of the way from places I’ve visited more often in Vancouver. I’m often walking a mile each way or more. Again, living in Chicago the long walks weren’t so different from the usual, but now it actually kind of added to the stress (and yes, it’s probably part of why I couldn’t recover before race day). It’s not like I’m getting a discount staying at The Burrard either (plus while the hotel itself is nice, the surrounding area admittedly is a bit sketchy). So maybe next time I need to bite the bullet and get a room at a nice Downtown hotel closer to where I’m going.

Though I had considered running another marathon this fall, I think I have enough other things I want to improve fitness-wise that I’ll shove that idea aside. And of course, I’m in no hurry to go through the training and the pain of running a marathon again this year, in a potentially warmer and less vacation friendly environment. I’d also have to burn off the rest of my work vacation time, which could create a problem if something came up where I’d want/need to use it.

I want to get back to strength training, and rebuild my base run fitness from scratch, which is real hard to work on when marathon training. I also need to clean up my diet, and not having to pound calories to fuel training will help a lot with slimming down. I also have Vegas races in the fall I like running too, so not coming off a marathon training cycle will help those go a lot better.

So, I’ve got a couple more days in Vancouver before heading back to the Vegas oven. I have enjoyed the cooler, cloudy and sometimes rainy weather. Summer’s not really fun no matter where I am, so can’t exactly rue the imminent arrival of another summer in Vegas when it’s probably also uncomfortably hot elsewhere. I’ve got some errands and similar to attend to when I get back, not to mention needing to rest and heal up overall. So we’ll see after that what’s driving me next.

Checking In From Vancouver (4/29/2022). Vancouver 2022 Looms

Good morning from Vancouver BC Canada.

Arrival at Vancouver Airport on Wednesday began with a relatively harrowing experience. First, I get off the jet and noticed I couldn’t find my keys in any of my bags. I even went back to the aircraft to verify I hadn’t dropped them at my seat (which I hadn’t). I usually keep the keys chained on my belt with a watch lanyard, but though I remembered transferring them to my duffel bag for safekeeping I didn’t see them in the bag. Had I dropped them at security in Vegas or elsewhere?

I left that behind for the moment and walked down to Customs at YVR. The kiosk ticket spit out an ominously vague number 00 ticket, and when I got to the border agent (fortunately that wasn’t a hassle as it was in prior trips) he handed me a colorful placard with my ticket and told me to take it to the exit. I was among the (un)lucky few to be selected for a random mandatory COVID test.

I figure, no big deal, we’ll knock this out, I’ll get the results and be out of here soon. Uh, no. Lest I forget, I’m in Canada. And any government functions don’t move particularly efficiently in Canada.

I’m directed to the Covid test aisle and walk through the double doors… into the back of a long line remininscent of the airport security checkpoints during holiday season. Except that line moved like NASCAR compared to how this line was moving. It was more like a Chicago expressway in mid-afternoon. Ten minutes passed and I did not move.

I curse my fate wondering… did going back to check for my keys lead to being randomly selected, whereas if I just walked straight down it wouldn’t have happened? Did stopping to let that couple of young girls pass ahead of me out of the kiosk section, that if I walked ahead of them one of them would have been picked instead? Had I been randomly selected by my kiosk number, and I was going to be “randomly” selected by the kiosk no matter what?

After that ten minutes (and some choice grumbling from the other visitors ahead of me), the line began to move a bit faster. After about 30ish minutes of waiting I get to a counter, where a nice lady had to manually enter my information into the Canadian federal health system (so I have that going for me, I guess).

I was given a slip and sent down another aisle to another line (fortunately nowhere near as long) where I waited another 10 minutes or so before a nice Chinese attendant led me to a much less nice, rather surly Slavic doctor who asked me some basic questions with the hospitality of an FBI interrogation opener, swabbed my mouth and then right inside of my nostrils (way better experience than prior Covid tests), told me I’d have results in 1-3 days and sent me on my way.

I walked out about 45 minutes after I expected to, with the following knowledge:

  • Instead of a comfortable amount of time, I now had less than an hour to get to my currency exchange spot in Downtown before they closed today.
  • Unless they were in my duffel and I missed them, my key ring was likely completely gone. Unless airport lost and founds got substantially better in the last 10 years, I’d have to get several new keys and a couple of new tags, including my gym membership tag.
  • Most of all, if for some reason my Covid test came back positive in the next couple days, this trip was basically over and I would not be running Vancouver 2022 after all.

So, whatever excitement I had that morning heading to the airport was understandably dampened. Oh, and I still had to get to the hotel and check in, still get Canadian currency, still go and get something to eat, still get some basic groceries for tonight before turning in, and maybe get some sort of a run in before the last one. I was hoping to do my traditional Stanley Park seawall scouting run after arriving, but with all this it was going to have to wait for tomorrow.

I was exhausted. I still got out and ran about 1.4mi before getting dinner and groceries. Running at sea level in cooler climes definitely felt much easier, even though the trails and park were super busy because (if you didn’t know) it had been raining for the last month straight in Vancouver and the weather had finally cleared today. People were definitely happy to be outside, at least.

Yesterday I did some more bag searching first thing, and fortunately found that my keys were hiding in a compartment I had checked earlier. So that crisis was averted.

Siwash Rock along the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver

I got out for morning coffee and breakfast, waited out some abundant sunshine before some clouds returned, then headed out in mid-afternoon for the seawall run. A sizable portion of the seawall had been closed for months due to storm damage in January, and it had JUST re-opened fully the day I arrived. So, lucky me.

I stopped along the way and took a ton of pictures (by request back home) on a very easy 7mi+ run, and am actually a bit sore. I had managed to keep my run streak going up until my flight (it’s now at 59 days), but it may be time to end it today so I get some extra rest.

This morning I finally got the news that the Covid test was negative, clearing the final hurdle for this race… well, aside from weary legs. I’ve mostly rested this last couple weeks, but true to form, Vancouver has required quite a bit of walking.

Garmin’s a lot better at tracking my Vancouver walking than my old Fitbit was the last time I was here, and yesterday alone I walked over 7 miles, not including my easy run around the seawall. Over 14 miles total! Much of the walking was out of necessity: To get to the store for necessities or to key eating spots I had to walk over a mile one way. I’m taking it easy however much I can on these walks, but it’s still time on my feet.

I’m fortunate this morning to have found a good coffee spot open early only 4 blocks from my hotel, plus there is a coffee place right next to my hotel (which is alright) for tomorrow morning. I can venture about 20-30 feet in steady rain much better than a mile or so.

Good thing too (and this may help with compelling me to rest) that tomorrow morning it’s supposed to rain somewhat heavy, so I won’t want to be outside at all until that’s done. There are a couple of okay dining spots near the hotel, so once I finish business at the expo I’ll probably stay close to base until Sunday morning’s marathon.

Runalyze’s numbers on my training and fitness have settled the last couple weeks, and now I’m thinking I’ll just run this marathon out and not worry so much about goal times. Training went okay at best, with some clear base training gaps I want to work on filling in this summer (whether I run another marathon in the fall or not). Though I did a good portion of what I wanted to do in training, I left a lot on the table, as my body just couldn’t do much more than I ended up doing. But I also learned a lot in the process, and have a much stronger idea of how to get it done sustainably next time.

If I have one actual regret, it’s that I wish I thought to bring more Tissue Rejuvenator than I ended up bringing.

Last long run of Vancouver 2022 training complete

I’m now tapering for Vancouver 2022.

I got this weekend’s long run to 3 hours, and stopped shortly thereafter at a bit over 17 miles. I had hoped to stretch it to 4 hours and maybe top 21 miles. But, even though aside from expected laboring I was running just fine with no serious pain, I saw a sign that I had to stop the run early.

I wore and salt-stain sweated through my singlet during last weekend’s treadmill 20 miler. I had done the same on the treadmill with this weekend’s long run singlet.

However, along with feeling uncomfortably warm, I noticed about 2.5 hours in that the sweat coating my singlet had began to dry up. This was a sign that I was overtly dehydrated, and that continuing much longer would be a bad idea. My singlet last time was soaked pretty much throughout the entire run, and I didn’t certainly feel cool or relaxed through hour 3 of this run.

I was certainly hydrating throughout the run. For both long runs I infused Nuun tabs with a liter bottle of Smart Water, which itself has added electrolytes. I had been drinking from both this and an additional 17oz bottle of water, the latter of which I mainly used to wash down the Xact Nutrition bars I was practicing with during the run (as they’re the fuel for the 2022 Vancouver Marathon). That said, could my hydration before the run have been better? Maybe, but I certainly didn’t feel dry going into the run.

In any case, that was the last long run before Vancouver 2022, and now all taper running will be short-medium runs at marathon effort/pace or harder. I used this approach before Chicago 2018 and was in great shape for that race (before the hiccups derailed it). So the plan is to use it again.

Runalyze has my current Marathon Shape at a relatively disappointing 62%. And the taper will unfortunately take that number lower, though (in no small part because) the shorter pace running will conversely buoy my EVO2max somewhat higher.

I had been hoping for 70% shape, and if I had acquired a Runalyze account months before I started training for this marathon I would have understood how to effectively get it to 100%. But that’s a lesson learned for next time, and water under the bridge.

At my current VO2max fitness, I’d have the fitness to run sub-4 hour at sea level if in 100% marathon shape. But with only 62% shape my prognosis is more like 4:25, and presuming it drops the upside will be more like 4:30-4:40, a bit slower than my original goal. That I can live with: When I started with Runalyze my shape at the time allowed me to run a 5:30-6:00, so where I’m at now is much better. Plus, associated issues throughout the months limited my training, and there was only so much I could do this time around.

I also learned quite a bit through training about training, and have a much better idea of what I can feasibly, consistently handle (I’ll discuss it all down the line). I had to deal with sleep issues, earlier than expected rising temps in Vegas, having to figure out treadmill training. Speaking of which, I finally got a handle on effective treadmill training, what adjustments to make to get equivalent workouts, and could actually train through summer without overexerting myself or causing other problems.

Weather in Vancouver is expected right now to be at least overcast in the 50’s, possibly some light rain. The forecast for rain on race day has receded a bit, so it’s possible there may be none on race day. It has been raining in Vancouver almost literally for the last month straight, so I’m sure they’re getting tired of it and wouldn’t mind it going away. Even if the sun does come out after all, temps should hopefully stay a bit lower than they were when I ran in 2019.

My first 20+ miler in three years

It took a good deal of patient, steady effort, but I knocked out 20 miles on the treadmill this Sunday afternoon over 3 hours 45 minutes. Along with being the single longest treadmill workout I’ve ever run, it’s the first 20 I’ve done since the last time I trained for Vancouver in 2019.

One big help was ironically a pair of shoes I had bought but left mostly unused. On some recommendation I bought a pair of New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2’s this January. Like my Altras, they feel unsteady unless your form is sound, though unlike the Altras they’re lighter, and they have a very spongy cushion. They were a bit weird to walk in, and they’re actually a bit more of a pain to slip and tie on than my Topos/Altras, so I didn’t use them much.

But last weekend I wore them on both my runs, feeling really tired, and discovered that the cushion and ride was actually quite a bit more supportive than my typical minimal Topos. realizing the 20 was going to be brutally long and challenging I decided to wear the NB’s on the treadmill, and they made a huge difference in how the last couple hours of the run went once I began to tire. I underestimated the importance of the cushioning and support once I began to wear down.

So I not only plan to wear the NB’s on future long runs, but I decided I’m going to wear them as my race shoe at Vancouver, mildly ironic given my devout loyalty to Topo over the years (in fact I ran Vancouver 2019 in Topo ST-2 flats).

I have one more critical long run this next weekend. Runalyze’s marathon shape metric (which through some research I’ve somewhat cracked) indicates that going 21+ is critical to getting my overall shape above the minimum 70% threshold I need this time around to make my Vancouver time goal feasible. The metric logarithmically weighs the long run, so going 10-17 miles isn’t a huge deal, but getting the long run to 20-22 is much more of a big deal. And no, doing two 10 mile runs back to back (instead of one 20 miler) is almost worthless to the metric’s long run cofactor. You need your long run to go very long to have an impact.

I could just surrender, do a shorter long run and begin the taper now. This would set me around 59% (I’m at 57% now) and make my B goal my absolute ceiling. If I’m in condition to go 4 hours on the treadmill this weekend (which itself would be the prime objective), then I could go 21-22 and that would get me above 70%.

In fact, though I won’t currently get into how the marathon shape metric does this, it turns out it’s more valuable to add a mile onto a 20 mile run than it would be to run an additional 25 miles elsewhere during the week!

(Obvious caveats: If that extra 25 is mostly part of another single long run, that’s a different story; my premise above is the 25 are spread between multiple non-long runs and recovery days)

In any case, having a shot at my A-goal depends on this next weekend’s long run, just as much as it depended on yesterday’s 20 miler. That’s partially my fault: Had my previous training included more, consistent mileage, perhaps these runs aren’t as critical ahead of the taper. Maybe I’d need only one 20 in April. But here we are, and next time around the final month should be a bit easier (though not by much).

As I mentioned earlier, my midweek workouts while still 90 minutes shouldn’t be as long as last week’s. In fact, if indeed the Vegas weather cools off as expected this week, then I can even do those runs in the park. Then I’ll aim for a 4 hour long run this weekend, and then taper from there.

That’s all for now.

Finally Figuring Out Treadmill Training

March was a tough marathon training grind. I finished with about 134 miles, barely more training miles than January. I only stretched my long run out to 17 miles, and each of my longest runs was a slow, very tough effort.

The key issue wasn’t a surprise: Las Vegas got warm. Winter’s over, and Vegas wasn’t going to stay cool forever. It’s not desert-hot yet, and we should avoid the worst heat before I shove off to Vancouver 2022. But temperatures got hot during stretches the law few weeks and the last weekend of March they topped 90°F. I also had trouble sleeping over the last few weeks (though I’m hoping to have nipped that). Even in the evenings, running was hot enough (temperatures in the high 70’s F) that I had to slow down and cut down the length of runs some.

I experimented with changing locations on my weekend runs, but ultimately my best options has once again become the gym treadmill. However, in the interim my research discovered some new hope for a previously hopeless training apparatus:

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Checking In 2/14/2022 and making some marathon plan adjustments

After 7 weeks on my current training plan, it’s now clear to me that while the mileage and general approach is generally working, I need to change the timing and the frequency of the weekly workouts (which I went ahead and planned out) because some things just aren’t working the way they need to.

I woke up Sunday morning after Saturday’s 8 mile pace run feeling unusually exhausted. I had a 16mi long run planned. Even factoring in the previous day’s workout, I expected to have suitable energy for the planned long run and perhaps some soreness and fatigue.

Instead, I felt far more tired than expected. No cup of coffee or breakfast could get me out of the unusual funk, and combined with some mild squawking from the hamstring (which has largely felt better but made a bit of noise the previous day) this led me to at least postpone the run until the late afternoon and evening.

I went home, had lunch later in the day and relaxed. Just to be sure, even though I had no illness symptoms, I took an at-home Covid test, and that came back clean and negative.

But even at 3pm, when I planned to head out for that postponed run, I still did not feel great, my hamstring felt just slightly sore enough that I didn’t want to unduly risk anything, and I decided to just axe the run entirely. Fatigue was clearly telling me I needed a break.

The thing with the Higdon Intermediate plan I was following is that, as Jonathan Savage had warned, the back to back long weekend workouts were rather tough on the body, and I ultimately realized they aren’t totally necessary to get the needed training stimulus.

More so, I was spending both days of every weekend being rather tired after a long or otherwise tough run, and I honestly wasn’t doing much with my weekends other than training as a result. I was getting tired of every weekend feeling like that. I wanted to get at least one day back, even if the other would be spent laid out and recovering from a long run.

So I went ahead and adjusted the plan as follows, which will provide roughly the same amount of mileage, the same intensity overall, and more recovery.

  • The pace run and the long run are now separated, and the long run will stand alone, with easy days before the day before and after.
  • The long run now moves to Saturday. When I run Saturday morning, I often have pretty good energy, plus the church crowds along my route aren’t there like on Sunday, so the parking traffic is clear.
  • Instead of two shorter and one longer midweek runs, I now have two longer runs plus the moderate/pace run that was moved off the weekend, all during midweek. The pace run being midweek also allows me to do it on a more closed course where traffic can’t interfere as much (which has been a problem in prior pace workouts).
  • The other two weekdays may be easy, shorter runs, or can be days off, depending on feel. If I run these runs won’t be longer than 45 minutes and more like 20-30. I typically will look to work out these days because the 5pm commute sucks and I like having a workout kill that time until the traffic cools off.
  • I haven’t been strength training lately, but I can also go to the gym and do that in lieu of a weekday workout on the non-long days. I’ll try that the next couple weeks and see how that feels.
  • Friday will err more towards the side of totally resting or strength training than running, since the following Saturday will be a long run.
  • Sunday will not be a total rest day, but will either be a shorter easy run, or cross and strength training, maybe all of the above if it all feels very easy and I’m in the mood. This is far easier on me energy-wise than a long run or pace run.

The general schedule:

M: Moderate run or pace run, 1-2hrs
T: Easy, rest or 20-45min run, or strength training
W: Moderate run or pace run, 1-2hrs
R: Moderate run, 1-2hrs
F: Easy, rest or 20-45min run, or strength training
S: Long run, 10-22 miles
X: Easy 20-45min run, and/or strength training, and/or aerobic cross training

The midweek workouts were perfectly do-able, and the short workouts just felt too short. I didn’t feel like I was getting enough longer aerobic workouts, but then also felt like the weekends were too backloaded with volume. The midweek felt too easy, the weekend felt too hard. This change addresses that problem.

I want the moderate workouts to be done by 7pm, and some of the previous schedule’s long runs may have taken longer. Aerobic benefit peaks at 60-90 minutes, and one 105-120 minute run surrounded by shorter runs isn’t as beneficial for me right now as three spread out 60-90 minute workouts. The two moderate runs clumped together can provide some useful cumulative fatigue without hitting me hard with it multiple times every week.

The pace run can fall on Monday, two days after the long run, or after the easy Tuesday on Wednesday. The other moderate runs are just easy, probably 8 miles right now (which takes around 80-90 minutes for me). I’ll play by feel each week where that pace run should go. If I felt bold I could do two 8mi pace runs each week, but I’m not thinking of crossing that bridge right now.

I could also, once stretched out to 20 miles on the long run (ETA early March), consider adding some speed segments to some long runs. If you can do it, that really helps with marathon training. For now though, I’m keeping the long runs easy until I get stretched out. Once I can run at pace in long runs, I can even consider omitting midweek pace workouts if needed. But again, not at that bridge yet.

So, after the mild bummer of cancelling a long run due to unusual fatigue (more so it felt like the best decision), I’ve made some adjustments that should avoid future occurrences of some issues I’ve been running into.

Checking In 2/1/2022

Happy Chinese New Year (of the Tiger).

This Sunday’s 14 miler went straight to hell, and it was the first long workout of the plan that I did not get done.

After morning coffee, I discovered I forgot my water bottle. Going back home for it would mean a 9:45 or 10:00am start, too late in the morning to avoid excess overhead sun exposure. I had been timing weekend runs to start around 8-9am for various reasons (matching the Vancouver Marathon start time, giving time for pre-run fueling and coffee, plus admittedly the early mornings are rather cold). The time will come for 6am long runs, but that time is not now.

I decided to take it easy and try doing the run on the treadmill later than morning, which of course hadn’t gone well in the past due to the underratedly warm conditions of indoor treadmill running. The 73-78’F and 30+% humidity with no passing breeze combined with no natural pace adjustments can get the perceived heat index into the 90’s in a hurry. Plus, being indoors in a public gym, I can’t remove my shirt to cool off, which often helps a lot.

Still, I do eventually need to re-acclimate to warmer running, and while April will provide ample opportunity for that, I decided trying it now was worth a shot.

Long story short, it ended up not working out. Running-wise, I didn’t feel too bad. But I got hot in a hurry, and my heart rate (which I’m now trying to closely monitor on aerobic runs) quickly jumped to the 140’s (76-82% max). The laborious indoor heat took its tool and once my HR hit 150 about 35-40 minutes in, despite ample fluids, I stopped it there and decided trying to find a shaded route and take the rest of the run outside would be worth the trouble.

I had remembered that my Paseo Verde route in Green Valley had ample shade, and I hurried there. Alas, I was only half right. The north and east portions of the route are tree-lined and very shaded. But the west and south portions have no shade and full exposure to the mid-day sun. Add in that it got unusually warm for the time of year, and I had to stop about 2.9 miles into that to cool off under whatever shade I could find before continuing.

I got 5.3 miles into that Paseo Verde run and realized that was all I should do that afternoon. I had considered running out the 5.2 miles I hadn’t covered later towards the evening, but when I returned home I found I was quite tired from it all, and decided to call it that day after 8.8 miles between both runs.

Yesterday I took my first work break runs in weeks, making up about 3.6mi of the lost mileage from the weekend on what would have otherwise been a rest day. My Chops metrics indicate I didn’t lose much fitness thanks to that mileage plus what I did Sunday.

I’ve been reviewing and referring to Runalyze‘s Marathon Shape metric to not just gauge the shape I was in during prior training cycles, but also get a general guide for what I need to do to get in full shape to run the marathon to my best ability.

Marathon Shape is a percentage score, 100% obviously meaning you’re in needed condition to run your goal race, and lower percentages meaning you aren’t quite ready to run your VO2max-projected time, and you’re probably going to run slower if you did run today. VO2max indicates I’ve got a 4:10 marathon in me right now, but in my current shape of 28% the end result would be more like 5:35 or so. That seems about right.

Runalyze will take your projected VO2max and spit out a running volume in miles per week plus a desired long run length that per them is needed at minimum for you to get in 100% marathon shape. I’m still not totally sure how this is calculated, but for me right now they say I need 36 miles per week (mpw) and a long run of at least 16 miles. I’m close to the former, and still haven’t yet run the latter.

Based on those benchmarks, Runalyze calculates your marathon shape. Their metric compares your average weekly mileage over the preceding 182 days against (in this case) 36 mpw, and your long runs over the last 70 days against the 16 mile benchmark, counting every long run mile over 8 miles.

Given these parameters, it in theory doesn’t matter nearly as much now how long my long runs go as it will within the final 10 weeks before Vancouver 2022. Right now, I’m still about 13 weeks away. Yes, I need to run long and build the conditioning to go 16+ on my long runs in the present. But if a long run goes to hell now, it’s not a killer as long as I nail the next long run, and it’s not nearly as bad as it would be if I botched a long run, say, 6 weeks before the marathon.

It’s probably not ideal that the previous weekend’s long run was shorter (because I ran a 10K the day before), so I’ll have gone 3 weeks between long runs and will be running a good deal longer (16mi this weekend, in fact) than the last longest run (13mi). But I’ll take it easy and, just like prior training cycles, my top priority on stretching out will be to just cover the distance.

Also, outside of 70 days, it’s more important that I accumulate volume than how long the long runs go. So, even though this weekend’s long run went to hell, making up any of the lost mileage would be a good idea. Hence, I ran out a couple of work breaks yesterday and after all was said and done I got somewhat close (within 1.5mi) to the total expected mileage from this weekend. I would have liked to get it all back, but by yesterday afternoon I was once again a bit weary plus had to run an errand for the office, so I called it good there.

This is not to say that ditching all my long runs and just doing short runs in their place is ideal (I still need to build the endurance to go 16+ once those runs count against the metrics). But this is a situation where, if a long run doesn’t work, ending them early and doing some easy short runs in the interim to get the volume in is probably not a bad idea.

I feel okay right now, if not a bit generally weary. Because Wednesday (my moderate run day) is forecast to be very windy, I have pivoted the midweek workouts a bit. Usually I’d run a shortish run Tuesday and Thursday, with the longer run on Wednesday.

Instead, I’ll take the longish run on Tuesday, take Wednesday off, then repeat the longish run Thursday before the scheduled Friday off. Even though tonight should start to get a bit windy ahead of Wednesday’s gale force conditions, it won’t be as bad as Wednesday and I should be able to handle a longer run in those conditions tonight.

I’ll discuss the Marathon Shape metric more later, my prior training cycles, as well as my ceiling for this one and what i need to do going forward to be in the best condition possible for future training cycles.