For years, my marathon training plan seemed to have no real purpose except to make sure I ran a certain amount of miles each week. So this year I bought a plan from Runner’s World with a little bit of skepticism. I could not understand how it could be dramatically different than what I have been doing, which was running, but to my surprise, it was different.
Every day over the 16 weeks had a purpose. The plan had easy runs, tempo runs, long slow runs, Yasso’s, strides, fast finishes, hills and more. It also had set paces during these runs. Many of the runs were slower than I would have expected, especially when the goal was to get faster, but I decided to trust the training plan. I found out later that I would have plenty of speed workouts to make up the difference.
One of my new techniques that the plan taught me was the negative split. This method of running is where you run the first half of the race slower than the second half. I have been using it in many of my training runs. I also have tested this technique during the Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler and Hyannis ½ marathon with good results.
I plan to run Boston using a negative split. It seems a little overwhelming based on previous marathons. The second half of the marathon has been where I traditionally get tired, and a couple of times have hit the wall. I will have to trust my training and listen to what my body is telling me throughout the run.
It looks like many of you who have been supporting me in my efforts to raise money for Dana-Farber and the Claudia Adams Barr Cancer Research program has also embraced the negative split. This year’s fundraising started slow. I was getting a little concerned around the half-way point that I might not even reach my minimum required amount. Well, we have had a monstrous negative split and during the past 7 days, you have donated almost $2,000. This has pushed me over my goal of $6,000 and looks like I may have over $7,000 if the Company Matching Gifts come in by the marathon.
I finished a busy running week by running the Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler. A little bit of an effort for a training run, but well worth it. The weather could not have been better for a Saturday in February. The views by the ocean were picturesque. Who knows, It may become an annual tradition?
Good thing I like to be early because it paid off Saturday morning. I planned to take the 8:15 a.m. ferry out of Woods Hole. As I crossed over the Bourne Bridge, I realized I left my running watch attached the its charger at home. Running for 20 miles and wanting to stick to my training pace would not be easy without it. I realized I left it as I dashed out the door after taking too long to get ready. I was tried from little sleep the night before and the onset of a cold (which is full-blown cold now as a write this). Just as I was about to reach the Palmer parking lot, I remember the one thing I knew I would forget, my runner’s bib, # 284. Why I did not put it my bag the night before, I do not know. Why they mail it to us, instead of getting it the day of the race, I do not know either.
I looked at the clock on my radio and thought, If everything goes smoothly, I can turn around, drive back home, get my watch and bib, turn around and catch the 9:30 ferry. Nothing like a race before the race! If this was August instead of February, it was never going to happen. With some help of the family meeting me off the highway with my missing items it saved me 10 minutes, and I was able to get back to the parking lot in time to catch the bus, buy my roundtrip ticket, and get on the ferry before it left. Because I was on the later ferry, I was able to meet up with some friends that were going over for the weekend. We made plans I getting together after the race for some food.
After all the excitement of the morning, everything calmed down and I got to focus on my run. The plan was to run the first 13.1 miles at my training pace (8:40) and see how I feel. If things were good, I would speed up a bit (8:20). It’s called negative splits. You run the second half of a run faster than the first. If I really felt good and had plenty in the tank, I would pick it up some more for the last 5K (8:00).
The race started around 11 a.m. and there were just around 400 runners. I started closer to the back, because it is easy to start too fast. We were a big pack for the first mile or so. I kept looking at my watch to slow myself down. I was surprised how many people were running at a fast pace. I wondered how many would pay the price later.
Most of the first 10 miles of the run is along the water, with beautiful beach houses looking out at the ocean. On a typical winter’s day, this would have been cold with the wind blowing off the ocean, but because today was around 45F, the breeze was bearable.
Like any long run, you have your good moments and your bad. At mile 4, I was thinking how great I feel, but at mile 8, I was questioning if my amount of miles over the weeks have caught up with me. It is a head game, and even though it happens most times, you fall for it again and again. By the time I reached mile 10, I was in a comfort zone again. I chatted with a local runner for a bit as we headed back for the second half of the run. I knew I was feeling good and decided to go with my plan of picking up my pace at mile 13 water stop.
Before I got there, I decided to have a GU (it’s an energy gel). I like to wash it down with some water because it’s thick in the cold weather and there is too much sugar in it for an empty stomach. Well, I miss judged the water stop by a mile and I had to carry the opened sticky, gooey package in my hand. By the time I got to toss it, I was able to get a decent amount of gel on my hand. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but during long events like marathons and triathlons, I get hyper-focus on things like “sticky fingers” and it drives me crazy the whole time. So, I knew I would have to wash it off. When I arrive at the water stop all I see are cups of Gatorade. I said thanks to the volunteers as I finish my shot of energy drink and headed off. Out of the corner of my eye, I see two cups of water. I ran the next 50 yards debating with myself if I should go back. With that, I turned around. I think one of the volunteers thought I was in dire straits, because I came back for more. I let him know I was ok, but I am too embarrassed to tell him the real reason I need the water. I moved over close to the trash so I could clean my sticky hands with the water without him seeing. I may be crazy, but at least I was crazy with clean hands!
For the next 4 miles, I was able to pick up my pace without any problems. As I approached mile 17, I felt strong and knew I had a lot left in the tank. With only a 5k left, there wasn’t much to lose going all out. I sped up my pace over minute faster (7:00) and tried to maintain it for the complete distance. I was even able to sprint the last ¼ mile to the finish.
Last year, I would have just started running without a plan. I would have been caught up in the “fast start”. I would have ran the first half faster than the second. I would have been tired heading into the last 5k. The MV 20 Miler was a good run. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. Jack Fultz continually preaches to us the importance of negative split before every long run. It seemed to work well for this run. Even as I replay my run, I still wonder if I can average an 8:00 pace for 26.2 miles. This course is incredibly flat compared to Boston. I guess I just have to trust the plan.
One of the great things by running with the DFMC team is you meet great people because of it. While waiting for the ferry home, I over head a man talking about his coach Jack. I decided to ask him if he was running for Dana-Farber and he said yes. His name is Mike and this is his second year with the team. In 2009 he was diagnosed Chondrosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. He was lucky. He was having dull aches in his arm, and after a number of unsuccessful treatments, his doctor ran more test. They found it a lot early than most people with chondrosarcoma get dagnosed. It probably saved his life.
I’m proud to be running on a team with people like you and Mike.