Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Roads will be closed....

Only one week to go!

I just spent a few days up north on vacation. Unfortunately, I did not get to run while I was there. Every time I prepared to rain, and had the opportunity (such as waking up at 5:15am), it was pouring rain.

I did drive the route of the marathon (not intentionally as preparation, but because I had to use that road to get where I was going, so I got to see the route in advance. It looks pretty flat, and I am very optimistic.

On my way back from the Golan, as I was heading towards Tiberias (starting point of the marathon), I saw road signs that the regional police have already placed out announcing the road closure on the day of the marathon...

Almost there

The following is an email I just received from the coach of our running group. It is the final preparation for the marathon. It is a great article, and perhaps someone out there can benefit from it, so I am posting it here....

Dear Marathoners:

Below is a reprint of an article I wrote last year about marathon race day strategy. I hope you find it helpful

.All the diligent and consistent training that you have done over the past eighteen weeks has brought you to the starting line of the 31st Tiberias Marathon in fantastic shape. However, without an intelligent, well-thought out strategy for the race itself, you will not perform optimally. Because of its formidable distance, the marathon is a race that has to be run with your head as well as your heart and legs. Therefore, I suggest you read this article carefully to help you formulate your plan.

Warming Up: Although warming up is generally very important for most races, particularly those of shorter distances where you plan to run fast from the outset, it is far less important for the marathon. Warming up prepares your body to run at race pace by increasing your body temperature, your metabolic rate and the circulation of blood to your muscles. The problem with warming up for the marathon is that it also uses up valuable glycogen stores and one of the most critical elements of your race is to preserve your glycogen stores as much as possible so that you are not forced to burn fat earlier than necessary. Therefore, you need to do the minimum warm-up necessary to prepare your body to handle race pace as soon as the starter's gun is fired so that you save as much of your precious carbohydrate reserves as possible for the 42.2 km ahead. A 4-5 minute warm-up should do the trick since your marathon pace should be a pace that feels relatively easy. Begin your warmup by jogging slowly and picking up the pace slightly every 30 seconds until you are at race pace for the final 30 seconds. Then stretch gently including loosening up your shoulders and neck. That's it. Find your way to a good spot on the starting line and make sure that you meet up with whomever you are planning to run with.

Pacing strategy: There are huge debates among running experts about virtually every aspect of the Marathon. But there is one thing that absolutely EVERYBODY agrees with. You cannot bank time in the first half for an inevitable slowdown in the second half. In other words, if you think that you should run faster than your goal pace during the first half while you are still feeling strong because it will give you some breathing room in the second half, think again. You will pay very dearly for making this mistake. If your goal is 3:30, don't run a 1:38 first half on the theory that you can run 1:52 in the second half and still reach your goal. Chances are that if you do this, you will crash in the second half and be reduced to a shuffle or worse. The reason for this is that your optimal marathon race pace is just below your lactate threshold pace. If you run faster than that (as in the above example), lactate accumulates in your muscles and blood which deactivates the enzymes for energy production and forces you to slow down big time. You also use more glycogen which means you will have your joyful encounter with "The Wall" earlier than necessary. Therefore, the best strategy is to run relatively even pacing. The Tiberias course is conducive to this as the course is relatively flat throughout. Start out by running the first kilometer (or first 2 kilometers if you want to play it conservatively) at 10 seconds slower than goal pace. Ignore the many fools who tear off like bats out of hell. Believe me, you will catch them later. Drop your pace by 5 seconds in kilometer 2 or 3 and by kilometer 4, you should be running at goal race pace. Maintain this until the halfway mark. At the halfway mark, do a body check. Ask yourself how you are feeling? If you are feeling good, you can quicken your pace by a few seconds per kilometer but nothing drastic. At kilometer 32, if you are still feeling strong, pick up the pace by a few more seconds per kilometer but still run in control until kilometer 39. At that point, there is no reason to hold back. Give it whatever you have left. That doesn't mean you should start sprinting. It means you can begin running at tempo pace. Your sprint should begin when you see the 42 kilometer sign just ahead. Use that last 300 meters to show yourself that you have mastered the marathon and finish strong with arms upright in victory like the champion that you are. The huge advantage of running a negative or even split is that you will be passing many runners in the late stages of the race who did not run as intelligently as you did and that is a fantastic feeling.

General Race Observations: I cannot overstate the value of running the marathon with a group of runners of similar ability. The marathon is a long grind and it will be immeasurably more difficult if you have to go it alone. If your goal pace is close to that of one of the pacers, stick to that group for as long as you can. Aside from the
significant motivational aspects of running with a group, you will be able to take turns drafting and thereby conserve energy. This is a major factor on a windy day as is usually the case in Tiberias. If you are running near someone who strikes you as unfriendly, don't take it personally. Don't try to race against him when he moves ahead of you. Run with your head, not your ego. Your only race today is against the clock.

The first half is the time to cruise mentally. Try to save your mental and emotional energy for the second half. Just get the first half out of the way at the correct pace without using any more mental energy than necessary.

From the halfway mark to 32 km is the no-man's land of the marathon. You are already a bit tired and there is a long way to go. If you feel strong, follow the pacing strategy outlined above and pick up the pace a bit. Otherwise, try and hang with a group as long as possible. You have to expect moments of crisis (a.k.a. "rough patches") during the marathon. When it happens (and it will), don't panic. Often, these patches last a few kilometers and then mysteriously disappear. The important thing is not to allow yourself to think negatively. Have the confidence to know that you can tough it out and overcome this challenge. It is precisely this kind of challenge which makes the marathon such a rewarding experience. Ask yourself how badly you want it.

From 32 km to the finish is the character part of the marathon. This is what we have prepared for in our long runs. Here's where all that hard work will really pay off. It's the stretch that poorly prepared marathoners fear and well-prepared marathoners such as yourselves relish.

Drinking and Eating: The secret to a successful marathon (aside from proper pacing) is staying properly hydrated and avoiding glycogen depletion. You should aim to consume at least 600 carbohydrate calories during the first 36 kilometers of the race. Gels have 90 calories each and three of them will therefore supply 270 calories. Sports Drink and iced tea each have about 28 calories per 100 ml. Thus if you drink 1.5 liters (and this should be an absolute minimum), that will supply an additional 420 calories. The question is when and how to consume these all-important commodities? The answer is a lot earlier than you think. Personally, I plan to take the gels at 10 kilometer intervals (10, 20 and 30 km marks). I also plan to place (the night before) 1/2 liter bottles of iced tea at these points to help me wash them down. However, this is not all. I will also have an additional 1/2 liter of iced tea at kilometer 36. This is the latest time in the race that you can take in carbohydrate and still have it be absorbed in your system in time to be useful. They do distribute Sports Drink at some of the aid stations in Tiberias but it did not have a Hechsher in previous years and the late stages of the marathon are an especially inopportune time to antagonize the Almighty. Don't wait until 10k to drink though. At every water station, drink something (at least a few gulps) but make sure that you are getting a substantial amount of liquid (300-500 ml) on at least four separate occasions. I strongly recommend walking through those four stations to make sure that you get the liquid down. The few seconds you will lose will pay huge dividends as you stay properly hydrated through the late stages of the race. An additional benefit is that the few seconds of walking will relieve some of the eccentric stress on your running muscles and this can also make a difference near the end when your quads are begging for mercy.

Expectations and Results: Don't ruin your marathon experience by making success dependent on a goal set in stone. It's a long race and anything can happen and it often does, even to the professional runners who do nothing but prepare for two marathons per year. It is important to have a goal but it is ludicrous to judge yourself a failure if, on a particular day, you were not at the top of your game and ran a few minutes slower. You are running a marathon, a supreme physical challenge at an age when the vast majority of your contemporaries are sedentary couch-potatoes. Furthermore, this is the only full marathon in the Land of Israel. If every four cubits (Arbah Amot) traveled by foot in Eretz Yisroel is a Mitzva, by my calculation, you will earn roughly 20,000 of them on that fine Thursday morning. Don't lose sight of the big picture. You have accomplished the incredible regardless of your finishing time.

And finally, as arbitrary as it sounds, your expectations will sometimes have to be modified by the weather. If it pours or is hot or very windy, you are unlikely to reach a goal which assumes optimal conditions. Be flexible enough to adjust if necessary. Above all, savor every moment of this amazing experience. That's it, my friends. Now go and conquer.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New shoes for recovery

I ran the Recovery Run this morning. 10km at an average pace of 6:10 /km.

What was interesting about today's run is that I tried out a new pair of shoes. A relative who heard I am training for a marathon sent me a pair of Spira shoes and said I have to try them.

The Spira shoe is unique in the technology they developed - there are springs, literally, in the heels and soles of the shoes. They are supposed to return energy to the runner during the run, and allow the runner to run faster. This is the shoe the Kenyan marathon runners generally wear, and they are the fastest guys running.

The Spira shoe has a unique look, with the bright yellow shoe and black trim contrast.When I took them out of the box the other day after I received them, my five year old daughter said "Now you are a bumblebee!"

So, I decided to try running in them today. Test them out and see if they are comfortable for using in the marathon. While they are confortable, they are not stability protection shoes. That means my pronation is more pronounced, and I was able to feel it in my knees. Over a long run, it would probably mean a lot of knee pain.

Also, being that I am not a fast runner, I probably would gain nothing by the extra speed the shoes supposedly give. The benefit is really for runners running near the front. Someone running at those speeds, the extra few seconds could make a big difference to him.

Maybe I will try to use them at the next race, if I run it, which is the Jerusalem Half-Marathon. But I will not use these shoes in the Tiberias Marathon. I will use the shoes I have been training in until now. I know how my feet and knees react in long runs to these shoes, and I think it is safer to stick with the known.

The definitely look real cool though.

Friday, December 26, 2008

24km after nothing

We are in the final stretch of training with less than 2 weeks to the marathon. This week we began tapering our training. We are meant to be running as little as possible with keeping out level of fitness.

This week was a very lazy week for me, and due to my laziness, being a bit burned out I think as well, some bad weather, and some bad scheduling, I did not run at all. Since last Friday's disaster of a run. Until today.

Today was a 24km run. We ran from HaShoshan up and down to Road 10, right across to the 375, out to Tzomet Ha'Ela, back across via the killer Zachariya hill on the Highway 38 to Bet Shemesh Darom, up and back to HaShoshan. 24km.

We ran this one later than we generally have run throughout the training. We started a bit after 8am for the purpose of getting our bodies used to running at the same time of day as the marathon will be.

The run was a good one, and I felt good. It was meant to be an easy paced run, with an 8-10km tempo at marathon pace in the middle. I took it easy and averaged 6:06/km for the whole 24km. My tempo pace was an average of about 5:30/km, which is pretty close to what I expect to run in the marathon. Even by the tempo I did not run as fast as I could have - I was more worried about the wet roads from the recent rains, and also concerned about pulling a muscle or twisting an ankle or something so close to the marathon after not having run for a full week. So I took it nice and easy.

Also, I used this run to breakke in a new pair of sneakers for the marathon. The old pair are officially "used up". I logged about 600km in them, and that is the limit for real running. You want to have shoes that still have the padding and cushioning, and all the technology in the heels and soles still fresh when running the marathon. 500-700 km is about the limit for that. So I got new shoes for the marathon, and broke them in today to make sure there would be no problems with them.

It is funny we call them "used up". They are really still in good shape. I can use them for running in general, I think, but for the marathon they are considered dead.

This coming week is our final full training week (still in taper mode). We conclude it with the traditional Long Run to Dir Rafat on Friday morning, concluding with a breakfast in the coach's house.

Friday, December 19, 2008

gotta know when to fold 'em

Today was horrible. We had a 17km medium-long run scheduled. I couldn't do it.

I slept horribly last night, a late dinner left the food heavy in my stomach, I was still sore in my joints and some muscles from the Wednesday long run (38km), my ankle was tender, and it was a recipe for disaster.

I was going to just not go, but my supportive wife kicked me out of bed and reminded me that Coach had said this run is very important. It is the conclusion of an intense week of running, the final one really as we begin tapering, and I should not skip it. So I went.

I had zero energy. We were running the beautiful Yishi trails. I could not move my legs. They were like bricks. I knew I would not make it to 17km like that. I flipped the switch in my head and decided I would make it an 11km recovery run instead, and that is what I did. I ran 11.3km at an average pace of 6:27 /km

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last of the Long Runs

Today was the last of our [really] long runs. We ran to Rehovot, with no stops. We simulated the actual marathon by not having stops, but by having small water bottles placed in certain points. As you get there, you pick up a bottle, continue running, drink as much as you want, and toss the bottle aside.

Today I decided to test a run using Granola bars and Hammer Gels for energy boosts during the run. I was told it is important and highly recommended to use the gels during the marathon, so i figured I would test it on todays run. They taste repulsive. Actually the taste is not bad (I brought along raspberry and chocolate gels today), but the texture is repulsive.

They might very well have helped though. I had a good strong run, with no real depletion of energy, even though I drank much less water than usual (I did not bring my fuel belt). The water put out was hard to find in some of its locations, and we skipped them in some spots because we could not find them. Either they had been taken, as sometimes happens, or they were just too well hidden.

It was so cold when we first went out to run this morning, that we could not feel our hands after a few minutes. It took some time, but eventually warmed up.

I ran 38km at an average pace of 5:56/km. I have been declared "marathon ready".

From here on out we go into "taper mode". Our long runs will only be at distances in the high teens to mid 20s. I dont know why, but for the last 3 weeks of training we do this, and only run what is considred the minimum to keep our fitness level...

Monday, December 15, 2008

fartlek workout

Tonight was a "fartlek" workout in RBS.

We ran a 2km warmup run, and then started our fartlek, or speedplay, workout.

the fartlek is a 48 minute run, broken into 4 segments of 12 minutes. Each of the 12 minutes is broken int 3 segments of 4 minutes. Each of the 4 minutes is run at alternating speeds, starting with 4 minutes of a slow pace at 20 seconds slower than marathon pace, then 4 minutes of medium speed, at about marathon pace or 5 seconds slower, then 4 minutes of a fast pace at 10-15 seconds fast than marathon pace.

That is repeated for each of the 12 minute segments.

I ran pretty evenly, with the slow 4 minutes more or less at about 5:50/km, the medium at about 5:20/km and the fast at about 5/km.

Overall the 48 minute workout I averaged at a 5:20/km pace.

I keep having trouble with my watch on these workouts. I can't seem to get the settings right. Last time I messed it up with not setting it properly to alert at 4 minutes. This time I figured that out, but it did nto count my laps - it counted 1 long lap of 9.13 km, so I cannot see the breakdown of each set of 4 minutes.

This weeks long run is going to be on Wednesday instead of Friday, due to a scheduling conflict for many for the advanced guys. This is goign to be the final very long run of the season, and it is going to be my longest at 38km. It is sort of going to be a simulation of the marathon, as we ar eplanning no stops and the water will be out along the route similar to the way it is in the marathon, rather than stopping at gas stations. I don't think it is such a big deal, as my last three Rehovot runs anyway I did not stop at the gas stations anyway. But this is the big one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I won!

Here I am as I cross the finish line, winning my first ever half-marathon...


Friday, December 12, 2008

No rest for the weary

After running the half-marathon yesterday, I thought we would get the day off today. Not because of over-running, as we have run more than 21km many times.
but I thought we would have the day off as kind of a reward for running the race, along with the fact that we pretty much never run 2 days in a row (officially) anyway.

Last night Coach sent us an email that half marathoners have the day off (I guess they have the rest of the season off, as they completed their goal and any running now is purely for fun/health), full marathoners have to run today.

The run was scheduled for 15km, but in the end we did 12km. That was the trail - 6 out and 6 back.

I was sore and tired after a long day yesterday, and I ran slow, but I ran.

The trail was beautiful. Coach found this trail that had all the benefits of a trail - running through beautiful views through the fields, but it was not a dirt trail. It was a paved asphalt trail. So it was also better on the joints.

I don't even know where it was. We drove about 4km north of Park Brittania, and then we turned off the road to the left on some little trail. We parked and ran the trail. The views were amazing. The air was great. And it is just a great time of day to run (6:30am). This time of year, earlier than that is a little too cold, but at 6:30 it is already starting to warm up enough...

So I ran 12km at an average pace of 5:35 /km.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A cornucopia of inspiration

Another thing that I forgot to write in my previous post about the half-marathon is the first impression.

You walk into the grounds, to go sign in and it is like a festival, with sponsors booths, drinks, snacks, people milling about, people stretching, warmign up, etc.

But you see people there in all sizes and shapes. Men, women, old, young, very old, skinny, fat, athletic builds, non-athletic builds, pretty much everything. You see all that and it is very motivating. I can do this. If that guy in the 70-99 age group category can be running 21km, I can as well. If that guy who looks like he is in much worse shape than me can do this, so can I.

Seeing the cornucopia of people who do this, despite the odds stacked against them, is very inspiring.

Rabbi ran a half marathon

What an experience. The atmosphere was electric. The excitement was almost tangible.

Today we ran our Bet She'an half-marathon. 21km. Our group was something like 30 runners from Bet Shemesh.

We got there and signed in, getting our pre-run packages including our numbers with tracking chips.

We got ready and then went out for a warm-up run. There were tons of people. I think they said 1300 had registered for this, but the results website (so far) only shows 1083.

I started near the front, because I did not want to be stuck in the back.

They give some instructions, letting us know where the water stands will be and some more details, and then he shoots the gun to start the race!

There was one section by the start where we turn left and run for a kilometer or so and then turn around and run the other direction. That is really the only opportunity to see the really fast runners, as they run by on the other side of the road.

The people in the front of the pack were a group of 5 or 6 Kenyans (or Nigerians - I really don't know), and they were already pretty decently ahead of everyone else... Those Kenyans ended up winning by a nice gap over the first "white guy"...

The race was pretty good. The track was pretty flat except for one section of uphill in the middle going through Bet She'an. The flat track was good because it meant you could really get a good rhythm going.

The weather was beautiful. That was good for us runners, but bad for Israel because we need rain. It was even a bit hot. There was one long open stretch where the wind was a bit strong and everyone was complaining afterwords that that had slowed them down.

About every 4 kilometers there were tables on the side with people handing out bottles of water. Runners would drink a few "shloogs" from the bottle and toss the rest of it into the grass on the side of the road. The grass and trees got watered pretty nicely I guess, but it seemed like a waste of a lot of water. Maybe they should have used smaller bottles (but maybe some people need that much water...).

There were people along the course cheering on their friends and relatives, and some just cheering in general for all the runners. Also, some school teachers took out their little kids to cheer on the runners.

All that, along with running with so many people, really give the runner a boost of motivation and help keep you going.

I finished the race at 1:51:07 at an average pace of 5:15/km. According to the marathon website, I placed #687.
People asked me before the race what goal time I was shooting for. I responded I am shooting to finish, and not for any specific time. I am expecting however to finish at between 1:50 and 1:55 based on my training and previous runs. So it turned otu I was right on the mark, as I finished at 1:51:07.

It was a great experience, and now I have to finish getting ready for the full marathon in another month.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Last Rehovot run of the season

Rehovot. The mother of all runs.

This Friday we ran Rehovot again. The great thing about Rehovot is that you can start from different places, depending on the distance you want to run.

Though my initial assessment of the Rehovot run was incomplete, as I now have the fuller picture after having run it 4 times now. Initially I said how much I liked the Rehovot run because it is such a flat run, so you can really get into a good rhythm, with only a couple of hilly sections.

Now that I have run this run a few times, I know that statement was wrong, if not just incomplete. There are plenty of hills. It just depends where you start from. My first two Rehovot runs, I started the runs after the main hills, with only a couple of small ones in my route. This Friday I did the full run, and now I know my initial assessment was wrong.

Friday I ran to Rehovot, startiong from the beginning of the full route, totalling 34km. The schedule really called for 36km. The group was starting at Aviv, with a loop around Narkiss for 2km, making the run 36km. My high until now was 31km, so I was worried 36 minght be too much. Being that I did not want to take the chance of collapsing in the middle of Rehovot and not being able to continue, I decided to start from Aviv without the extra loop. I figured if I was feeling good at the end of the run, I could add some extra kilometrage in Rehovot at the end of the run.

The only problem with that is once you get to the end, you never want to keep going. It is a mental thing. By the end I felt like I could probably do a couple more km, I just had no motivation to. By then 34 was enough.

The run started off tough. It was extremely windy on Highway 38, which was the first 6 km. For some reason, the wind always seems to be against the runner rather than to his back! Then was 2km of uphill from Tzomet Shimshon to the top of President's Forest. After that the run got smoother. But because we started the run later than the previous times, we ended up doing much of the run in the sun and heat.
It was an unseasonably warm and sunny day. That made it very dry. One runner even slightly dehydrated (he is ok and was able to complete the run). That made the run very tough.
We were told not to run full out, but to take it slow, and run 10-15 seconds slower than the last time we ran Rehovot. Just because this week is the half-marathon, and the full is only less than 5 weeks away.

So I ran slow, but because of th eheat I don't think we needed those instructions anyway. By the time I got to Mazkeret Batya, I was feeling like a sun-dried tomato. I wore my fuel belt, despite last time saying I would not. i decided to give it another try. I still don't like it, but it gives me the ability to run without stopping for liquids. So I am torn. Anyways, it was so hot and dry, I probably did not drink enough. I was feeling parched and dried out.

I kept going and the Rehovot part was tougher this time than last time. Because it was later, there were more cars on the road (in Rehovot), and more people on the streets out doing their Friday shopping.

I finished 34km and collapsed on the front lawn of the Weizzman Institute, enjoying the grass to stretch out my legs. Final numbers were 34km at an average pace of 6:01/km. That was only 3 seconds slower (per km) than the last time, but 3km farther.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

dried out 13km

I just got back from a13km run. Somehow my calculations were off, because I planned it to be a 14-16km run...

My running partner came late, and I thought something had come up and he was not going to show, so after waiting a bit for him, I started the run on my own. He drove up and found me, then parked and we met at a certain point.

We ran down the Road 10 towards RBS B, then turned around and ran back. It was a good run, but at a certain point I felt like I had not hydrated myself enough pre-run, and I felt like I had dried up.

Being that we have a 36km run on Friday, I felt like the run tonight was already long enough.

So I pulled in at 13.18km at an average pace of 6:18/km. The wind was very strong tonight against us, along with the slight uphill of Road 10 back to RBS, making half the run pretty slow...

Monday, December 1, 2008

pre-half-marathon tempo

It is getting serious. The marathon is getting closer, and my first competition is just 10 days away, in the form of the half-marathon in Bet She'an..

Tonight was deemed a practice run for the half-marathon, and a warm-up for the marathon. It was a tempo run at 10km (plus a 2km warm-up run). We had to calculate our expected pace for the half-marathon, and run the same pace for the tempo.

I calculated my run to be at a pace of 5:30/km, considering it realistic for me to run the half-marathon in ~1:50/1:55. When I asked Chaim, he recalculated for me to run at about 5:15.

So, I ran the 2km warm-up run at 5:39/km and then the tempo was a good run of 10km at 5:12/km. My average pace for each km was pretty even, fluctuating, on average, by only a couple of seconds per km.. So the pace was good.