Sunday, April 8, 2007

Not farther but, fortunately, faster

[You may want to skip to my Big Bunny Fun Run 5K race report]

When setting this year's race program up, I knew I was chasing many goals. When you switch to ultrarunning and ultramarathon, you run marathons as training runs. Training for a marathon is a very different exercise, and seems like a distraction or detour.

After last week's 50-mile Ruth Anderson race, which I transformed as my last long run before Boston by switching from my initial 100K goal, I wanted to know if I was still capable of running fast miles. I know, everything is relative, it's not that I got slow in ultras, but it's really a different pace. So, by fast for me, I mean sub-6 minutes/mile pace. After RA, I didn't run on Sunday April fool's day (despite Dean's advice that you should actually run the day after such ultras), and ran an easy 8 mn/mile 7-mile loop with Michael, a co-worker, at Shoreline Park, close to ILOG.

As I mentioned in my "Boston, you've got mail" article, I still include in my weekly training regimen 2 sessions of speed work at the track, with my friend Bob.

Tuesday 3

So here we are for one of our last speedwork sessions before Boston. As usual, 2-mile warm-up from 5:45 to 6am. I decide Bob to go for a mile repeat (a series of miles) below 6. It's dark, we can't see our watch at the 200m-mark to check the pace. Bob is leading, he has a great stride, we work really well together. Unfortunately, he drops after the first lap, and I find him after my second lap with an accute pain in his harmstring. He has been complaining about his harmstring for a couple of weeks now, especially after his last business trip to Spain. Fortunately, he got an appointment in the afternoon at SMI (Sports Medicine Institute in Palo Alto, the place I got my Vo2Max test), for a specialized deep tissue massage, so he will just stretch in the meantime.

After this initial 800m, I continue the session with a mile at 5:43, then 5:45, and a 800m in 2:32. Not my fastest 800m, but speed is back, feels good already!

Wednesday 4

Michael was supposed to come with me but cancels as he is working on a nasty bug in his product with Gregory. I decide to do my 6.8-mile loop at Shoreline Park again today. Start at a reasonable 6:30 pace. I didn't even think of pushing much, since I originally planned for an easy run between the two speed works of this week. Yet, after a couple of miles, I increase the pace. Bottom line: my third fastest time on this loop, 42:29. 6:13 mn/mile, I can do better.

Thursday 5

Back to the track. Bob does feel a bit better after the massage, yet not completely healed. Wisely, he doesn't show up and decides to wait until Sunday for a potential tempo run.

After a 2-mile warm-up, I start the mile repeat at 5:45, followed by a 5:35. Between each mile, 1:20-rest (20" per lap). For the last mile, I start with a 1:14 lap, uh! 2 laps in 2:29, I'm holding... 3 laps in 3:54, I don't even remember if I've ran that fast in our 1,200-repeats or pyramids. Anyway, I keep pushing to finish in a blazing 5:07.

5:07, that's a new milestone for me. Can't say it's my mile PR, as I never really ran one mile to check, only repeat miles. But it's the fastest I've ever run in such speedwork sessions. Last time was a couple of years ago, 5:09.

Feels really good, a few days after a 50-miler. And 10 days before Boston, to get back to my marathon marks. Needless to say, after loosing a few pounds at RA, pounds gained inparticular during my injury break of January-February, I'm back to my ideal racing weight (126lbs - 57kg).

Friday 6

I like to rest the day before a road race, and tomorrow is...

Saturday 7

Big Bunny Fun Run, 5K, in my home town, Cupertino, CA! Right around the block from where we live, this is really an event the family likes to participate in when we are in town. More than 400 runners/walkers this year, quite a good turnout. As one of the city's 13 Teen Commission members, Alex is a volunteer and goes on site to setup the post-race food buffet at 7am.

9am, it's so packed that it's even hard to get a good stop on the start line.

Barely kidding, there were some kids which are so competitive that they rushed at the start like we were running a 100m dash. Needless to say, there are off oxygen after the first turn in Cupertino's streets.

At 300m, I'm still behind too "resisting" teens, who I pass. Before the first mile (this year the miles were not marked, but I know the course and can easily say from the clock), I hear a runner breathing in my back and trying to catch up. I decide to hold the pace, which I could feel was fast. After 1.5 miles, I'm on my own, following the race official truck opening the way.

Pushing all the way, to a 16:09 finish for first overall, and... 5:12 mn/mile. OK, I need to measure the course, to see how close to 5K that really was, but I really did run fast this time.

After crossing the line, I go back on the course to meet with the rest of the family.

Alex also ran in the 10-13 age group, not placing with 20+ minutes.

Greg, who entered the same age group this year, did an amazing 22:32, his PR on this distance which he likes. A 13-lap credit for his school exercise program this week.

Max who is acting in his high school amazing Guys And Dolls Sping musical, and had a late representation the night before, missed the start this year.

Enjoyed the post-race buffet with great fruits and muffins from Whole Foods. As top finisher, I got a free coffee at the Cupertino Library Coffee Society store, which our family coach, reporter and photographer, Agnès, appreciated very much. A big thank you to the Coffee Society's cool crew and Whole Foods for their sponsorship of the event.

There are always amazing prizes at the post-race raffle, like a $200 gift certificate for Alexander's Steak House, 2 free passes to Raging Waters, other restaurant coupons and tickets to sport games. Not for us this year, but an age-group winner plaque for me, the 6th year for this fun race.

Sunday 8

Bob is still tapering, to make sure to properly heal before Boston. He followed such a consistent 4-month marathon training program, shape shouldn't be an issue for him next week.

So I decide to go to Homestead track for an ultimate tempo run. Not on my own, actually, the three boys come to the field with me, while Agnès is cooking for our Easter lunch (a delicious lamb --the traditional French gigot d'agneau-- and chocolate tart, yummy). BTW, the boys didn't really come to run with me, or count the 40 laps for me, the bring books and homework with them... Yet, it's nice to have company for the hour.

My supporting crew

So, here we are for 40 laps. No warm-up, I usually use the first laps for that. Although, with the great weather and some excitement from the week, I start off below the 6 mn/mile pace with 2:54 for the first 800m. 5:48 for the first mile, I slow down to 5:55 for the second. 10" to drink at mile 2.5 which I pass at 14:25. Another brief stop (not the clock though) at mile 5, then none from lap 20 to 40. I indicate some of the count downs to the boys while passing.

10 miles in 58:33, 5:51 mn/mile. I was shooting for something close to 6, close enough, and on the right side.

Faster than planned, yet the boys are looking forward to returning home for lunch, must be ready by then! Not to mention the traditional egg hunt which Greg is so excited about.

On the running side, that was quite a good week, and I enjoyed the fast miles. We'll see how it plays for Boston after a tapering week, a dissociated Scandinavian diet (1) (hence some exercise on Monday and Tuesday), and hopefully enough sleep and not too much stress.

Stay tuned. 'Till Patriot's Day!

(1) In French, le régime Scandinave dissocié.

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