Sunday, April 15, 2012

Running Two Weeks Straight

It has been a long time since I wrote here. The truth is that after the Tiberias Marathon in January I got into a rut and hardly ran for a while. i just felt like my body needed a break. At the same time I could literally feel myself getting more and more lethargic by the day, and gaining more and more weight by the day.

I did not plan to run the Jerusalem or Tel Aviv marathons, and I did not run them. Interestingly, as the dates for these marathons approached I began to feel bad that I was not running in them, and that urged me to decide it was time to get myself back into running. Sure enough, starting off slow and with short distances, i went into an intensive running streak for nearly three weeks. The first week I ran just a couple of times, but then I went two weeks running every single day. There were days in which I could feel my legs were tired, and on those days I kept it short - 5 or 6km, and slow, but most days were in the 8-9km range, and some days were in the 12-13km range.

By the end of the 2 weeks, I was feeling strong again. I am looking forward to a strong summer of off-season running, and then getting back to the marathon training.

One thing I really enjoyed about the running these past few weeks is at no time did I put on my GPS watch. i ran a very natural pace, completely based on how I felt. It is really a joy running without looking at the watch constantly to make sure you are not running too fast or too slow.. I am considering that next marathon season I will run with no watch and run the marathon naturally paced and not watch or expectation paced, and see what happens.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say (video)

Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say

This is pretty funny..

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Tiberias Marathon 2012: Running On A Pulled Hamstring Can be Enjoyable

I did not set any personal records at this years Tiberias Marathon, but I think I enjoyed this one the most of any of the marathons I have run to date. Running on a pulled hamstring can do that to you.

While I can honestly say I never before pressured myself to run with any specific time goal in mind, I always did have certain expectations based on my training. There were runs where I did better than those expectations, and runs where I did not perform as well as I had expected. Either way, going into a run with either goals or expectations leaves one spending way too much time and energy in the marathon focused on the watch, paying attention to pace, trying to meet a goal.

Running with no expectations, on the other hand, lets one just enjoy the run.

I ran this Tiberias Marathon without any real expectations, let alone goals. I did not train efficiently or seriously. Most weeks in training I ran only two runs, and only a couple times did I run 3 times in a week. I only ran 3 times 30km+, and only 3 times in the mid-20s. I fell far short of the training schedule output expected by our running club.

As well,, the past 3 weeks or so I have been nursing a sore hamstring. I do not know when I hurt it, but it has been hurting me. I even considered dropping out of the marathon, considering it would be stupid to injure myself even worse. I decided not to considering that I had recently run the Eilat half-marathon on the pulled hamstring, and was mostly fine. I knew that if i could limit myself and only run as fast as the hamstring would allow me to, and not try to push it too much, I would be ok. Slow, but ok.

So, I went to Tiberias planning to run just fast enough that I would feel my hamstring would not allow me to run any harder than that. And when I would need to slow down more, I would do that. And hopefully I would not need to turn back after 4 or 5 km.

Running with no expectations meant I was not concentrating on my pace. I made a last minute decision to wear my GPS watch, but I don't think i looked at my pace even once during the entire race. I mostly used it to track my distance, and the time of day.

I was running a slow but steady run, with my hamstring letting me know how I was doing. At a certain point, somewhere at about 13km or so, a friend caught up with me and we ran together, as we were running a similar pace. We chatted, something I never really did in previous marathons, not wanting to waste energy, and I chatted with other runners as well.

The most interesting thing was proudly wearing my Bet Shemesh Running Club t-shirt prompted numerous quips and comments from other runners and bystanders, considering Bet Shemesh being prominent in the news the past few weeks for negative reasons.

So, I ran together with Meir. We came up to the halfway mark, and I saw that if i could keep it up I might even break the 4 hour mark for the finish. It was something I had not expected - I had been assuming I would finish closer to 4:30. I knew it still was not realistic, as the end is where I slow down a bit, and in Tiberias especially the last 7km is much more difficult than the previous 35 - and not just because it is the final 7km, but also because it goes through some ups and downs and there can be a strong wind off the lake. But seeing the time at 21km, made me wonder, curiously, if I could possibly still beat 4 - not make a PR mind you, but beat 4.

I also went into this marathon with a different gel strategy than used in previous marathons. Previously I was not a fan of the energy gels - they are difficult to consume, and I was skeptical how much they really help. In my first marathon I think I used two gels. The next marathon i used no gels and set a PR. After that I used 2 gels in Jerusalem marathon and no gels in the Tel Aviv marathon. I decided that i would max out on gels this time. I figured because of my hamstring and low-level training I would need the energy boost. Over the course of the marathon I took 5 gels. Did it help? I have no idea.

I continued running with Meir until 27km. At that point I badly needed a short bathroom break. Meir kept going, and I took a brief break in a porti-can. Continuing on my own, I kept wondering if I could catch up to Meir. he really wanted to break 4, and I did not think I would be able to. But I kept thinking he could not be too far ahead, as my break was very short.

Coming up to 29, 30 and 31 km markers I saw I was still on pace to break 4. The hard part of the marathon was still ahead. At 33km there is a short but steep uphill, and from there the course goes through ups and downs. That is also where it begins to dog you down, where the voices in your head need to be fought off.

At 33km I slowed down considerably. What had turned into an absolutely beautiful day for running, despite early storms, was starting to get cold and windy. I was starting to feel tired, and my hamstring area was cramping up at times forcing me to adjust. Somehow I found it in me to continue running. I did not stop for any breaks - not even those times where you do not really need to urinate but use it as an excuse to stop for a few moments - and pushed myself to trudge on. I kept going, reveling in the encouraging cheers of the onlookers. At about 39km I saw Meir a bit ahead of me struggling himself. I set him as my goal - I would catch up to Meir. I felt bad for him, as Meir really wanted to break 4. By this point it was clear 4 was not going to happen. After I passed Meir, and tried to encourage him a bit, I kept going. At some point I started to feel light-headed. i started telling myself that since I did not break 4 I might as well just walk the last 2 or 1 kilometers. That's when the crowds of onlookers starts to get larger, and I just kept pushing myself to continue. The old thoughts came back to me - only one run out to the satellites and back, 3 circuits around Dolev, 1 around Dolev, etc. I kept finding ways to tell myself that this was doable.

And then I passed the 42 km marker. At that point there is a slight rise in the course, and the finish line is on a slight decline, allowing for a nice string finish. I do not think I worked up the energy for a strong finish - I just trudged right through the finish line.

I must say that besides for a couple difficult points and the voices in my head late in the race, i really enjoyed this run. I chatted with people, I slapped and gave 5 to kids on the side cheering us on, and I really enjoyed the experience of running this race.

Running the marathon is always overcoming a challenge. Each person has their own challenges, and overcoming them in such a magnificent way is a life-changing experience, letting you know, reminding you, that you are inc trol, that you do not have to be limited.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tiberias Marathon

One more week to the Israel Marathon in Tiberias!

Ready or not, here I come!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eilat Desert Half Marathon

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here about my running experiences and thoughts. I assure you that in the interim I have been running a lot. At the same time I have not been running nearly enough. It seems I have been running close to the minimum necessary to make it through the marathon sort of respectably. My running has been at an average of about twice a week - including usually a medium run of about 12-14km and a long run. The past couple of weeks, as we finished the bulk of the training regimen and began to move into taper mode, I actually ramped it up a bit to 3 times a week.

In the interim I also ran the Bet Shean half marathon. I came in with better results than I expected at 1:52. I was 11 seconds off my half marathon record. I give credit to an army trainer who I discovered in the middle of a marathon leading a running group form the army. I tagged along with them at the same pace and pushed hard. At about 19km they lost me and pulled ahead. i think I finished about 1 minute behind them, but it was this trainers solid running and encouragement to those in hsi group that kept me running at a hard enough pace to finish that well.

Most of the running has been pretty boring. While I enjoy the running, I get the feeling of "been there done that" for a lot of the training. I was out looking for some new experiences. I found one in the First International Eilat Desert Half Marathon. I signed up for it with another friend and made plans to go down.

The trip would be daunting - a drive down to Eilat in the middle of the night, running a half marathon on nearly no sleep, running a half marathon on a trail with a difficult course, in my Vibrams (trails are always more difficult in Vibrams) and then getting back home in time for the Shabbat. Now this was definitely going to be a challenge!

So, here is what happened. We left at 1 AM, giving ourselves ample time in case we would meet unexpected problems on the road, if we would need to look for the meeting point, and this would allow us to possibly catch a few winks before the race.

Josh drove us down and did a great job of getting us there in one piece in exactly the amount of time the GPS had said it would take and that we had planned on in the best scenario. After settling down upon arrival, we stretched out for a short nap. After we got up at about 6 we got our race kits and davened. The forecast had been for warm and sunny weather, but at this point it was still pretty cold. We warmed up and stretched and got ready to run.

The race began at 7 am. We began at the edge of Eilat in the parking lot of the BIG shopping center. From there we ran out, crossing the street and entering the trails through the canyons. The trail led us mostly uphill, though not steep, through the first 9 kilometers of the race. For some reason I kept thinking to myself that these seemed like the longest kilometers I had ever run.

The race was fun, but difficult. the trails were an unusual surface - very soft rock mixed with some sort of sandy surface. A lot of the trails were very soft and good for my feet. The bigger problem was that often the soft sand was deep and gave little resistance. sinking in to that made the running slower. As well, there were some rockier sections, though none were so big or long that they were too difficult to deal with.

The canyons were amazingly beautiful to run through, and it was definitely a change of pace and scenery from the regular running and training.

I was running it pretty slow, probably for a variety of reasons. The trails are always slower for me because of the Vibrams, the lack of sleep, the amount of uphill in this course, and more. During the run I felt my hamstring start to hurt a bit and I took it easy because of that as well.

As we were coming close to the finish, I started to speed up. I ran the last kilometer pretty fast, spotting targets along the way - runners ahead of me - and deciding I was going to pass him or her. As I passed, i would eye the next runner as my target. I was really zipping along, and my hamstring was starting to hurt more. I had to keep remembering to shorten my strides, each time I would feel the sharp flare of my hamstring.

I kept passing runners on my way to the finish lines, and in the last 300 meters I really poured it on, going full speed ahead, and ignored the hamstring. i passed everyone along the way and powered through the finish line. the final time was my worst half marathon ever, finishing at 2:29, but I was there just looking for a different experience, not really trying to run a specific time, so it was a great experience.



And then Josh drove us back, after we rested up a bit, cooled down, and had a bite to eat, and we made great time getting home for Shabbos!