Thursday, December 31, 2020

Year End Stats

Given the unexpected turn of events that affected literally everyone's plans this year, I am really surprised I managed to log more miles in 2020 than in any year other than my peak.  I recorded my longest year in 2012 by running a total of 1400 miles...the year after I set my personal best time in the marathon.  In 2012, I felt nearly invincible.  I ran three races which included my half marathon PR, another full marathon, and a 27 miler for charity only a month later.  

This year I ran just one race...the Los Angeles Marathon.  This was pretty much the last major running event held before we all entered lockdown due to COVID19.  I wasn't even sure it was going to happen because event organizers had just canceled the Tokyo Marathon.  For the remainder of the year I elected to follow a between marathon maintenance schedule, some of which was interrupted due to wildfire induced air quality I was really shocked to see that I still managed to total 1322 miles in 2020.

What may be even more shocking is that in 2018 I recorded the second least number of running miles over a single calendar year (the fewest miles since 2008, the first full year I wore a GPS watch...and the first year I ran a marathon).  When I had my annual physical in early 2018, I recorded my heaviest weight.  That's when I knew I needed to commit to a race...and I signed up for the 2020 LA Marathon on the first day I could do so.

I have my weight under control once again thanks to my running and my running alone...shedding 24 pounds since that physical.  I cannot recall my lowest post-college weight (partly because my physicals often happened after I had gained weight over the holidays), but I am surely near it now.  This comes even though my wife has been cooking and baking like crazy during the pandemic.  I feel like I have been eating better than ever and I certainly have not made any effort to control the quantities I consume, but somehow have found the motivation to keep up my running routine even without any races planned for the foreseeable future.

According to my Strava stats, I achieved this total mileage in 209 runs over 213 hours and 16m minutes...which happens to be 4 fewer runs than my peak year, but an hour and 16 minutes longer.  So I officially spent more time running during 2020 than in any previous year.  I might have expected this in a year where I did not work, but I was one of the fortunate ones who could immediately work from home when "Safer at home" became a thing.  I am still considerably off my peak pace, but I am glad to see that my average is now around 9:43 per mile...I had been averaging considerably slower than 10 minutes per mile over the latter half of the decade.

I gained more feet in elevation in 2020 as well...128,064 vs 126,867 in 2012.  I am guessing this is the result of me limiting my running options to those close to home (one of the *advantages* of living on a hill I suppose).

So my goal for 2021 is to not run more miles, but to work on speed.  It hasn't helped that the local high school's track has been closed for months while the field gets renovated, but there are obviously other ways I can work on speed.  I just have to remember that every time I have focused on speed to watch for warning signs.  Unlike 2019, I managed to survive 2020 without any injuries even though I have upped my mileage and average pace considerably.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Running During the Pandemic

It was a beautiful morning for a run...hopefully we will continue to practice social distancing so we won't need to follow Italy's lead and ban all outdoor activity. It is times like these where I appreciate that, as an introvert, social distancing is a natural inclination and not something that will require me to change my lifestyle significantly.

For me, California's safer at home rule is more like business as usual (I continue to spend long hours seated at a computer)...except that this marks the first time that I have been a full-time employee of a game developer that I have worked from home. At my current employer, I have always had this option, but never bothered to set up my home PC to do so before last Monday (my boss voluntarily imposed a work from home policy ahead of the County and State mandate).  For this past week, running has been the only time I have stepped away from my property. I have a feeling I will value it more the longer we are encouraged to stay home and miss it if a more thorough lockdown goes into effect to slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus.

I have always preferred to run alone. Even when I'm outside for hours pushing the distances and struggling up the final hills, I like the solitude...though I definitely need music to accompany my journey. Sure I have seen benefits of running with friends, work colleagues, and clubs, but, in general, I like not being bound by another's schedule, free to chase my own goals based on how I am feeling at any given moment. Yes, this requires a great deal of self-discipline and self-motivation (being able to eat what I want is powerful motivation), especially in the latter weeks of a marathon training schedule, but, again, this is how I tend to approach everything I do in life. I have never shied away from putting in the really hard effort, but it helps to have goals (hence why I sign up for endurance races) and to understand that putting in the effort directly corresponds to whether or not such goals can be achieved.

Today has some significance since it marks two weeks since I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. As I have not developed any symptoms (other than a cough that could easily be dismissed as seasonal allergies), I can now say I likely did not get exposed to COVID-19 while running from the Stadium to the Sea. I was never really concerned I would contract it from fellow marathoners, especially those who qualified to start from a seeded corral alongside of me. Anyone who has run one of these before and has enough incentive to start from the corrals probably has invested a similar amount of time and effort in their training...and likely spent the month before the marathon consciously avoiding situations that would increase exposure to any illness (I was a little worried about traveling to Oahu during what is normally my peak week of training, but had more reasons to be concerned about a couple of coworkers who came to work sick in the weeks surrounding my trip). No one wants to run a marathon while sick.

That said, I ran Los Angeles in 2015 without realizing I had a fever (just before the race, I had developed a slight headache, my throat was dry, and I had a queasiness in my stomach). I had no reason to believe I was sick because I had no symptoms at any point before then, but was finding it hard to keep running 17 miles into the race. I managed to complete the marathon, but didn't truly understand my compromised physical state until we headed to the car (thankfully, I wasn't driving). We stopped for lunch and I couldn't stomach eating a burger. I got home and continued to feel uncomfortable in the shower. I decided to take my temperature...102...which quickly became 104 by the time I hit the bed. My head was throbbing, so I had a hard time getting comfortable. When I finally fell asleep, I didn't wake up until the next morning...and then I pretty much slept through that day as well. I felt so bad that I nearly swore off running another marathon.

In other words, I probably should have been more concerned when I ran this year's Los Angeles Marathon...considering that most people will not have any reason to believe they have been infected by the Novel Coronavirus until they have already spread it to others. While I am sure everyone who even slightly felt sick stayed home, a marathon is supported by many volunteers who come into close contact with the runners. The official ones wore gloves while handing out water, electrolytes, and Clif shots, but there were others on the course holding bowls with cut fruit, licorice, gummy bears, and other various treats. Had they taken precautions while preparing their handouts? In those cases, a runner would have to reach into their bowls with their bare hands...which had likely been used to consume items or rub sweat from their faces. And what about those handing out the medals after the race?

Two weeks after 2020, I still have my health, so I can safely reflect upon this year's race as nothing but a positive experience. I continue to believe the city made the right choice by letting the event continue, but a lot changed over the week that followed the race. The race would have likely been canceled had it been scheduled on the 15th, definitely so had it been scheduled for today. It is clear the only way to stop it is to take unprecedented measures to keep people from spreading the virus. And if that eventually means no more running outside I may have to rethink my opinion of treadmills.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Recovery Short Orbit

Even though I usually give myself a longer break after a marathon, my body was telling me I was I ran a short orbit to see how my legs actually felt.  And surprisingly, they felt pretty normal.  If I hadn't started as late as I had, I probably would have attempted a full 6 to 8 mile run.

Sure my right ankle is still bugging me when I walk (as it often does after long runs) and is especially noticeable first thing in the morning, but otherwise I feel surprisingly good and probably could resume my normal maintenance routine tomorrow or Friday.  I'll likely just pick the morning without rain since there's quite a bit of the wet stuff in our forecast.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Los Angeles Marathon 2020

As I suspected, I got a little ahead of myself with the predictions I made in my last blog entry.  While I thought there was a chance I could better times I set back in 2010 and 2013 at this year's LA Marathon, even ideal conditions proved to not be enough for me to even come close to equaling those earlier feats.  I am still very happy with how I ran my race and the experience of running from the Stadium to the Sea has not gotten old, but I was a little surprised that I didn't finish faster.

I would describe the weather as not only ideal, but also unexpectedly postcard perfect.  I made mental photographs as I watched the early morning sun pass behind the fountains of Echo Park, first spotted a practically glowing Hollywood sign (followed soon after by the Griffith Park Observatory) from Sunset Blvd, noticed clouds that looked like Starship Enterprise flying behind buildings in Hollywood, and when I finally saw the finish line framed by palm trees and the rich blue sky.  The crisp morning air was likely as clean as it ever gets in LA (due to overnight rain), clouds were never overhead (the only rain I experienced this morning was brief, during my drive to catch the shuttle from Santa Monica), the breeze was light (though I was very aware of a slight headwind during my San Vicente descent).  The only thing that disturbed this idyllic atmosphere was the presence of numerous homeless encampments...I cannot recall seeing any tents along the course in past years, but there were many throughout and west of downtown.

Normally I would have been upset that the marine layer / morning fog was completely non-existent, but, due to the early start, much of the course remained in shadow and heat was never a factor even when running in direct sunlight (I am pretty sure I finished the race before the temperature hit 60).    The temperature range nearly matched what I enjoyed under overcast skies in 2013.

 And I was feeling as good as ever from the moment I woke up and through most of the race.  So why did I not finish faster?

I only started to really feel the miles as the course stayed on Sepulveda a bit longer than on previous races, turning on Wilshire to get around the VA Hospital rather than cutting directly through it on Dowden Drive and through the Veterans Park.  Either way the 21st and 22nd miles continue to be the wall of the LA Marathon...the last significant incline in the race...and its effect lingers until I reach the downhill section after the mile 23 marker (around the intersection of San Vicente and 26th Street).  I was affected a bit more this year by it, but I probably would have slowed down just as much even if the course had not changed.  As is often the case on longer runs, my right ankle started to feel raw...and my right nipple was screaming for vaseline, partly because the right pin from my bib would make contact from time to time.

Perhaps my Garmin Fenix 5 led me to believe I was running faster than I actually was...because my watch displayed a faster pace based on distances I was hitting well ahead of each mile marker.  According to my GPS data, I traversed 26.2 miles in 3:42:00...which would have made this my 3rd fastest marathon...but I still had nearly a half mile to go.  When I crossed the finish line, my watch data suggests I ran 26.6 miles at an average of 8:29 per mile.  At that pace, I would have finished 26.2 miles in 3:42:16...which would still been my 3rd fastest marathon.  Note that my Garmin data from 2013 indicated I traversed 26.4 miles from start to finish, but my training analysis of the race was based on the official average of 8:31 per mile and not my Garmin data from that race (which would have implied I needed to beat 8:28 per mile).  In other words, I may have better prepared myself if I just looked at my Garmin data (though 2013's would have been based on a different watch).

Comparing my official 10K splits shows just how close my 2013 and 2020 races actually were, but I was never once ahead of my splits from that earlier race:

Splits: 2020 2013 2010

00:24:37 (7:55/mi)
00:50:11 (8:05/mi)
01:15:23 (8:05/mi)
01:40:57 (8:07/mi)
02:07:15 (8:11/mi)
02:35:48 (8:21/mi)
03:05:50 (8:33/mi)
03:35:12 (8:39/mi)
03:46:23 (8:19/mi)

00:49:00 (7:53/mi)

01:39:40 (8:09/mi)

02:35:11 (8:56/mi)

03:32:27 (9:13/mi)
03:43:30 (8:13/mi)


Avg race pace: 8:38/mi 8:31/mi 8:22.5/mi

1,979 / 21,879 overall finishers
1,690 / 12,871 male finishers
154 / 1257 male finishers age 45-49

Garmin Data

Strava Data

My Photos

Even though I thought my push from the 40K timing mat to the finish was faster than 2013, I ended up being 8 seconds slower.  That said, I did set a PR for the final 0.7 mile stretch.  A strong finish is always something to be proud of, and, at the very end, this was the strongest of the four times I have completed this marathon.

I may have finished nearly 3 minutes later than I did in 2013 and only recorded my 6th best marathon result (out of 10 if I include the 27 Miles for 27 Victims charity run I did in 2012), but I'm still quite happy.  I still improved 7 minutes from last year's Long Beach Marathon (my average pace never fell below 10 minutes per mile).   If I directly compare GPS data from all of my previous LA Marathons, I recorded 2nd bests over several segments and actually set two PRs.  By data, I only fell short of my 2013 time by one second per mile.

An amusing footnote:  I spent a good amount of time running behind a guy dressed like a bright orange traffic cone.  I passed him before I finished, but found a pic of him courtesy of the Daily Breeze.  I looked up his bib (#2633) to see his result.  He actually crossed the start line 5 minutes after me, but his chip time indicates he was nearly a minute faster!  You can see how close we were by comparing our clock times using the searchable results at each split.  I was a minute ahead of him at 20K, he passed me before 25K and increased his lead to over 30 seconds by 35K, but then I passed him for good before crossing the mat at 40K.

One more thing...I really want to thank the people of Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica for not letting the current health scare deter them from volunteering or otherwise coming out in large numbers to support those of us crazy enough to run these long races. Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world especially during the tough latter miles. I would like to give an extra shout out to Ryan VanMeter who rode his bike to intercept me multiple times while I climbed toward the peak on San Vicente.  This definitely motivated me to pick up the pace just when I needed encouragement most.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Marathon Training #10 Complete

That's right, nearly ten years after my first Los Angeles Marathon, I have completed my tenth marathon training schedule...and despite concerns of the Coronavirus outbreak and a slight chance of rain in the morning, all signs are looking positive for race day.

This is one of the few training schedules I actually exceeded my scheduled total mileage (104%), partly because I intentionally started my whole schedule one week early.  I did so because I wanted to insert a light week while I vacationed on the island of Oahu...a week which just happened to coincide with my usually scheduled peak distance week (and I didn't want to spend the bulk of my stay in paradise running and sleeping).  That's not to say I didn't miss an occasional run or two or swap days due to weather or a race...I just managed to make up for skipped mileage on other days.   More importantly, I stayed healthy and injury-free throughout this 16 week schedule, 19 weeks counting from when I completed the Long Beach Marathon.

While I would usually look to the data I have gathered over the last four weeks of training to help me determine my marathon pace, I realize I probably should swap the runs I did five weeks ago (which, due to the aforementioned trip, was my peak week) with my week in Hawaii as my pace from my time on the islands shows I may have spent a little too much time playing tourist (I did take a lot of photos while running since I started those runs before sunrise).  That said, my average pace over the past four weeks was 9:03/mile...considerably faster than the 9:50/mile I logged before Long Beach and still better than the 9:11/mile I logged before running Los Angeles in 2013.  I completed these races averaging 8:58/mile and 8:31/mile respectively...which suggests I should be able to achieve my targeted goal of finishing within the 3:40s.

Things get more interesting when I swap the peak week with runs I did on island time.  Initially I would have assumed that the peak distance (in this case, 24.33 miles) and the additional mid-week run (an 8 miler) would have slowed my average pace...but they did not.  While I ran at sea-level on Oahu, I did not shy away from hills during my peak week...and even that did not slow my pace.  My four week average after the swap is 9:00.8/mile.  Completing my next marathon sub 4 is practically guaranteed.

Additionally, Sunday's forecast is cool and partly cloudy (low 50's at the start with a slight chance of rain, a daytime high not expected to exceed the low 60's in Santa Monica).  These optimal conditions suggest I should really go for it...a time in the low 3:40s is not unrealistic.  As I have proven a few times before, I can easily shave 40 seconds per mile from the pace I set during my final four weeks of training.  If I can manage 8:20/mile, I may even have a shot at my Stadium to the Sea PR.

Ok...perhaps I'm getting a bit too optimistic.  I am concerned I may have peaked a week early.  Additionally, I set my Stadium to the Sea PR ten years ago...a time when my average training pace was significantly faster and practically the same as my race pace.  And above all of that, I still have to wake up by 3:30am on race day...the day we change our clocks for Daylight Savings Time!

I spent this week successfully shifting my metabolism to East Coast time so that on Sunday I will only need to wake up an hour earlier than my current norm...which shouldn't be too hard, right?  I want to give a shout out to playing GT Sport first thing when I wake up.  Usually I would log my daily "driving marathon" (yes, the game offers a daily reward for those who drive at least 26.2 miles) as the last thing I do before going to sleep, but doing it first thing in the morning has the benefit of increasing my focus and pumping me full of adrenaline.  When combined with coffee, I am up up up...

Final five weeks of this cycle:
02/01-02/07: 47 @ 09:34/mi
02/08-02/14: 28 @ 09:55/mi (reduced mileage while on Oahu)
02/15-02/21: 38 @ 09:04/mi
02/22-02/28: 31 @ 08:45/mi
02/29-03/06: 25 @ 08:32/mi
Average pace over last 12 months: 9:47/mi
Average pace over last 6 months: 9:23/mi
Average pace for last four weeks: 9:03/mi
Last four on mainland (include peak week): 9:00/mi

Reposting for reference:

Final four weeks before Long Beach Marathon in 2019:
09/15-09/21: 23.16 @ 10:11/mi (does not include cycling on 09/15)
09/22-09/28: 53.72 @ 10:04/mi
09/29-10/05: 19.22 @ 09:28/mi (with 5K @ 08:54)
10/06-10/12: 20.28 @ 09:02/mi
Annual average pace over previous 12 months: 10:19/mi
Average pace for month: 9:50/mi
Average race pace: 8:58/mi

Month before the Los Angeles Marathon in 2013:
02/17-02/23: 37.74 @ 9:29/mi
02/24-03/02: 37.17 @ 8:58/mi
03/03-03/09: 30.19 @ 9:17/mi
03/10-03/16: 20.41 @ 8:53/mi
Annual average pace for 2013 YTD: 9:14/mi
Average training pace for month: 9:11/mi
Average race pace: 8:31/mi

Month before the Los Angeles Marathon in 2010:
02/21-02/27: 45.41 @ 8:47/mi
02/28-03/06: 36.16 @ 8:23/mi
03/07-03/13: 30.11 @ 8:08/mi
03/14-03/20: 20.17 @ 7:59/mi
Annual average pace for 2010: 8:29/mi
Average pace for month: 8:24/mi
Average race pace: 8:22/mi (Stadium to the Sea PR)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Two Weeks To Go

Two weeks before the LA Marathon, I would love to say I am feeling confident about my upcoming race. As this will be my fifth time starting the Stadium to the Sea course, I know what to expect more than any other marathon.  I have already put in all of the hard work while remaining healthy and, unlike my training for Long Beach, have somehow managed to stay injury free.  I will even end up exceeding my mileage total because I started my training schedule a week early to shift my peak distance one week ahead of a week-long trip to Oahu (I still ran, just not nearly as much).

So why am I not confident?  Because I'm terrified I won't be able to wake up!

This is the first time race day coincides with the change to Daylight Savings Time.  In other words, I will lose an hour on the a morning where I will have to wake up earlier than normal.  If you've read my previous race reports, you may have noticed I often mention being anxious the night before a race, challenges falling to sleep, and concerns about being able to wake up early.  By my nature, I am not a morning person even though running has forced me to become more so (I prefer running in the morning before it gets hot).  I hate waking up when it is still dark.  

In order to give myself enough time to sip coffee and enjoy a light breakfast before driving to catch a 5am shuttle bus from Santa Monica, I will need to wake up around 3:30am (2:30am under Standard Time).  Since I just got back from Hawaii, I have two additional hours to make up (which is not as bad as it sounds as I managed to mostly wake up on West Coast time for most of the days we were there).  So I have already begun to shift my hours towards East Coast time.  It hasn't been easy. My wife just got back from a week long trip to New York and even she hasn't been able to wake up at the same time as me.  I experience time shifts like being on a pendulum.  One morning I wake up early, but then can't fall asleep I wake up later on the next.   To smooth the transition, I cannot simply shift my sleep schedule, but my eating schedule as well.

By next week I hope to be regularly waking up at 3:30am on DST, so I only have to wake up an hour early on race day.  Crossing fingers I can get there.

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