Archivo de la etiqueta: training

No Regrets Rotterdam

It’s almost been a week since I ran my eighth marathon. It was a race I looked forward to for five months and expected it to be the best one of my life. I started by dreaming of running a three-hour marathon and as the day got closer I could visualize it as a reality. April 10 was the due date to be ready and that I felt like I was hours before the gun went off.

Some of you already know how it all ended and unfortunately for me it did not go well. I dreamed of the perfect race, prepared for the perfect race and in the end it was far away from it. The anticipation I created for myself and for those around me was incredible. I only dreamed I would not let anyone down with my performance.

Almost one week since April 10th, 2016, I look back at the race and have nothing to regret. For me, when you give it your all and it does not work out, there is nothing to be worried about. Yes, I would have loved to wrap up a great training plan with a Boston-Qualifier performance but as much as I wanted it, April 10 was not my day.

Those around me saw how hard I trained every day to get closer to my goal. Not only was I looking for a B.Q., I was trying to get back in shape and still aim for a sub three hour marathon. I did everything I could to get stronger, faster and in the right mindset. I would train for 3-5 hours a day doing multiple exercises while taking good care of my body. Long runs, speed workouts, tempo runs, weights, yoga, massages, biking, swimming and other activities were part of my training routine for over 15 weeks.

I never saw myself stronger and more mentally prepared than how I felt before what would be my first marathon in Europe. The idea of running thousands of miles away from home was part of the motivation and in one of the races that offers one of the three fastest courses in the world, where world records have been broken. The Rotterdam Marathon provided me with an immense amount of motivation.

As the day got closer I trusted my training more and more. Having run a perfect half-marathon one month before and an excellent 21 miler just two weeks after was part of what I felt was necessary to have enough confidence for the next challenge. I was my own coach during the entire process and very proud of the progress from day one to the last one before the race. I lost over ten pounds during training but felt very strong. I felt like I was in the best shape  of my life.

Running a marathon in a place where you don’t even understand the language is an interesting experience. There were less than ten mexicans in a starting line of over 40,000 participants. Rotterdam is a nice city to look at, with the largest port in Europe and some nice modern architecture. The small population does not allow it for people to flood the streets but those that stand along the course make plenty of noise. The streets are very narrow and overpassing was definitely the biggest challenge.

I can’t point to the moment or thing that made it impossible for me to qualify. I had done everything within me to be ready for that day and I felt I was. I had strategized for many scenarios and it just was not enough. I started from the very back of my wave and found it really hard to run at an even pace with so many people in front of me. I do not blame that because that is an excuse. I ran some solid first ten kilometers, held on for the next five and tried to see where I was by the time I reached 20.

At the time where I did not see it possible to run a faster second half having put a lot of effort into overpassing, I decided it was time to step aside from my dream for that day. I walked for a few meters, tried to take all the negative thoughts out of my mind, even cried for a bit and continued my way. I still had 16 kilometers to go.

I decided to enjoy the rest of the course. Give high-fives to those on the side of the road, encourage runners that were having a difficult time and take in the experience of running a European marathon. It was a dream by itself and I was not going to quit. I did not care about the medal, but I did not travel halfway across the world to step out and not finish.

Before I knew it, I was in the last two kilometers of the race. Those were two fun kilometers for me despite the physical and mental pain of not running a good race. I was happy to be where I was. The music was loud, but the cheers were even louder as I approached the finish line. I looked at the sky quite a few times and enjoyed what I had worked for (in some way) during the past five months.

I went past the finish line, happy to be done but sad it was not my day to qualify. I thought about all the effort I had put to do better, all the hours I spent pushing my body to the limit and this was not even in my top five marathon times. 3:52:20 in the fastest course I have ran.

On the other side, I can’t thank enough those that supported me. It was truly special to see the support coming from old and new friends from across the world. A continuous pouring of support on social media and other outlets. You all made this race even more special than what it already was.

This has been a huge blow in my athletic career but the story won’t end here. Now I will take some time off to think straight of what could be an even better approach for my next marathon. I am not giving up on my Boston dream, a lesson like the one I learned in Rotterdam only makes me want it more. I know I have it in me based on my training results. I know it was not enough and it was not meant to be on April 10.

Thank Rotterdam for the experience of a lifetime even though it did not end how I wanted it, but how it was supposed to based on destiny. I can now say I have ran eight marathons including one in Europe, that is pretty cool in my book. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am still alive!

 

 

It’s Starting to Feel Real

It has been a long journey but now I am only five weeks out of what could be the best day of my life. No, I am not getting married, but I am hoping that five weeks from today I can call myself a Boston Marathon Qualifier.

What has changed since the day I started training? Everything has changed since I got back into running by the end of october. If you asked me back then if the goal of running a sub-three hour marathon was possible, the answer may have been, no.

The Planning Process

November was my first month of formal training. I was still working long hours but managed to get three-four runs during the week. I managed to train for a half marathon but sometimes even running five miles was a struggle. Knowing that I wanted to run a marathon in April and do the best one ever was still a pretty crazy idea.

When I ran my seventh marathon, back in March 2015, I promised myself not to do another one for at least a year. Give my body some rest, recover from a serious injury and then think about another one. That was the first smart decision of this whole training process. That is really when the preparation for this next race began.

I avoided getting back into formal running during the summer. I waited for the weather to cool down a bit and it worked out. As I said, November was good, but December was even better. I was able to log 100 kilometers that month by the last day of the year. It was nothing compared to what was coming but it was a milestone in the process.

Training for this next marathon has been a unique experience by itself. I looked for training programs but was not convinced about following one. I then took another smart decision. Listen to your body, most coaches tell you that but barely any of them let you work based on that. I knew that if I wanted to feel comfortable with the process, I could not go by what a sheet of paper told me to do.

I did some research about techniques used by athletes that want to run in the same timeframe I want. I combined that with what I know I can do and the rest is history. These last two months have been amazing. I am  hitting my goals in distance, pace and strength like never before. I rest when I feel it is needed, I push the pace when needed and take it easy when needed. I overtrain once a week but just to the point I know I can recover quickly.

The Woodlands Checkpoint

To make sure everything was working out, I needed to have some sort of checkpoint. After some analysis, I decided that the Woodlands Half Marathon was the place to do it. A flat course with similar characteristics to the one in Rotterdam. My goal was to run a 90 minute half-marathon without pushing myself to the limit. I wanted to feel like I could go further once the race ended.

The week leading up to this race was also unique. I was coming off my highest mileage month in the program. Six days before the race I was out going for 19 miles at a solid pace in a very humid place. I had to recover, travel and be ready for The Woodlands shortly after. In the next five days, I really reduced my mileage and felt that a sub-1:30 half-marathon was really possible.

The day before the race I heard an elite athlete say. If you feel good in the beginning “don’t go”, if you feel good halfway through “don’t go”, if you feel good 10 miles in, “don’t go”. It was a tip that stuck well with me when I planned the race.

Go easy in the first mile, stick with someone in the next two-three miles and keep the pace for the next nine. Try not to run by yourself and within yourself. By that I mean, running within what you feel comfortable and don’t push it even if you itch for it. Easier said than done but I knew I was prepared to do well.

I looked at the time I had to do in every mile. I looked at what I had to be doing every three miles. I took a closer look to the course mile markers and told myself I can do it. The day of the race I was confident I was going to have a great race. I had not taken a race so seriously since 2014 so it was a special day. After jogging, stretching, hydrating and getting into my corral, I was ready.

The gun went off and so did I. My biggest fear was to feel I went out too fast, but I held myself back and ran easy in the first mile. Before I knew it, I was on target after the first 1600 meters. I started running with a pacer and a group that was aiming for the same goal. I knew I just had to stick with them. The second mile felt easy as well. It was the next two that felt a bit rough. After skipping the first water stop, I took water in the second one. I skipped the next one but felt that was a mistake. By mile five I saw I was slightly ahead of my goal so I held back even more.

I kept running within myself. By mile six I was supposed to see a friend. That is the toughest part of the course with a bit of rolling hills. I saw him and that gave me the boost I needed to keep going. Shortly after, I saw a group of spectators with a mexican flag, there came another boost of energy. By mile eight, everything was going well. At that point I only told myself “don’t mess up”.

I’ve done some races where I mess up in the last few miles. That day was not the day to take chances. I knew that if I kept it together until mile 11 I was going to make it. At mile 10 some people within the group started making moves but I still told myself to stay back and relaxed.

At mile 11, I felt I could go faster but decided to hold on at least another half a mile. That’s exactly what I did and halfway through mile 11 I pushed away from the pacer slightly. I kept hearing their steps. At mile 12 I wanted to see if I could go even faster without burning out. I was averaging 6:40 per mile and ran the last one in 6:15. My finishing time was 1:28:53 with some energy left in the tank.

The Aftermath

I still can’t get over what a great race that was. I wanted it so bad I did everything to get it right. I tried some new things during the race and everything worked out. It was not my personal best but it felt like one. It was my confidence booster for the next 35 days of training.

Now, heading into the last month of marathon training, I know I’m on the right path. Today, I am really starting to believe that running a marathon in under three hours is possible. I am doing the work, putting in the hours and effort but most importantly, being smart about it. Coaching myself and getting the results I want is a great feeling. I can’t wait for the final test, the Rotterdam Marathon.

On Pace for Greatness

Once again my goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I believe it can be done, but it is only up to me making it happen.

Today I am 40 days away from my seventh marathon and what I would consider my fourth realistic shot at running under the qualifying standard. The ones that don’t count are my marathon debut in Monterrey, running a marathon with the flu in Houston and coming out of a torn groin and hamstring injury when I recently ran the California International Marathon not even two months ago.

My fourth attempt at making it to the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts will be in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico at the “Maratón Internacional LALA.” I’ve learned a thing or two about preparing to this kind of races on my previous marathons, but nothing can really prepare you for one, you just have to live in that moment. 40 days away, here are some of the things I’ve been working on.

Between the C.I.M. and the LALA Marathon I have less than 100 days in between. That means almost no time off after the first one. I usually take two-three weeks off, but this time I cut it down to 10 days. I was sort of dissapointed on my performance at Sacramento, I felt I played it too safe and could have done a better job. At the same time I wanted to take advantage of my conditioning to get in track for the next one. I looked at the possible options based on my criteria and found LALA to be the best bet.

This marathon is one of the most popular 26.2 mile races in Mexico. Most winners run it under 2:10:00 and many others punch their ticket to Boston in that same course. It is flat and in a time of the year where heat is still not a factor. I may have not fully recovered from the injury that slowed me down on the way to Sacramento, but the drive to make great things happen is there.

For Sacramento, 90% of my training runs were in altitude, for Torreón 95% of my training has been done at sea-level. This has allowed me to do faster runs without getting completely exhausted. Working on building up endurance in Mexico City was a challenge by itself. The same energy required to run a 5K in altitude is almost the same as a 12K where I am now.

Now I am more confident on my pace and my endurance that I was heading into Sacramento. Most of my runs are between 4:30 and 4:45/km, just a few under that pace. With this I am trying to work on my turnover agility while not putting to much pressure on the injury I am trying to come out of. At the same I am not burning myself out before the race, something I have done in the past a few times. Adding gym workouts has also made me stronger this time around.

With 40 days to go and six marathons under my belt I somewhat know what to do from here on out. I just have to try and stay calm, the 20+ mile runs are coming up. Just a couple of time trials between now and March 1st, but it’s mostly endurance I have to focus on. If I don’t have it where it needs to be, being fast will barely get me past the 13 mile mark.

Finishing a 26.2 mile race is something I have experienced, but doing it under 3 hours and four minutes is something I haven’t. It is a long race and it is a long time out there. I am preparing to show up at the starting line with my best physical and mental game. Because once the legs give up, the mind takes over for good or for bad.

The next 39 days might fly by, but it is day 40 that counts. I want to be there knowing I have a shot at a dream that has been denied to me for the past six times. If I get to “fly” on day 40 this guy has a real shot of making that dream come true. I believe I am on pace for greatness, that means, Boston, I’m going for you!

Remember the Feeling

Once again it took guts, once again it took pain, but once again I reached for glory. It definitely never gets easier, you just start to believe in yourself a bit more every time you do it. I am now a six time marathoner and even though it was my slowest one, I can end the year having done something I had forgotten about in 2013, cross a marathon finish line.

When I ran my first 26.2 mile race back in 2009 I had no idea what I was gettig myself into. Exactly five years later I am fully aware of what it takes to do something like this. Different to the past five experiences, due to my long hours at work and school I had stayed away from running for a long time (on my standards). Running two-three times a week was a miracle and going over five miles was not that easy. With that being said, I had a lot to work on when I got back to running back in July aiming to run a marathon by the end of the year and dreaming of a Boston Qualifier performance.

I don’t choose race for their prestige, I come up with the decisions based on the weather, the altitude, the size of the field, if there are pacers and the type of course, hoping it is as least boring as possible. The California International Marathon met most of my requirements but what made it shine among other options was that is was considered one of the top B.Q. races in the country.

Little did I know about Sacramento except for it being the capital of California. When I watched the video of the course I saw rolling hills and a flat end. It would be my first point-to-point marathon so that would make it interesting. I tried to keep some element of surprise alive by the time I got there so I kept my research on the place once the decision was done to a bare minimum.

Training started well but it had an abrupt pause at the beginning of October when I tore my left hamstring and groin at the same time. That really put into question if I would be able to participate in what I considered my last big goal of 2014. Fortunately I was able to push through and declare myself ready but I did have to give up on my idea of going for Boston.

Once race weekend approached and I arrived to Sacramento I was happy I was there but really nervous of how my body would react to a big race after a very irregular training. I was not nervous about finishing, I was nervous about how I was going to finish. I liked the scenery, so I tried to feed off that and I also liked it that it felt like a small marathon. Going to San Francisco for a short visit two days before the race trying to make the most of my trip to the heart of California.

Race day came and for me it started at 4:20 am. At that moment I woke up, changed into my running gear and my extra layers to stay warm and headed out the door towards the bus stop that would take me to Folsom, where the race would start. I tried to sleep during the 30 minute ride but ended up just daydreaming about what was ahead. Once we got there you could feel the beginning of the end. This journey started even before I signed up, it began the same day training did.

The race started just a few seconds after it was scheduled but the distance ahead stayed the same. The first mile went by quickly and that was good news, the worst thing is to have the first mile feel like three or more. I clocked the first 13 miles within five seconds of each other. I was feeling good and enjoying the rolling hills. My injury did not bug me for the first third of the race. Once I reached the middle miles I was extremely confident I would finish and that I had a chance to run my fourth fastest time. I just had to keep pushing.

I believe it was around mile 18 when it sank in that I was running in a fast marathon. I had not seen many people walk or cramp as I had seen past the halfway mark in other races. It was just a matter of about an hour to get done. I passed mile 20 and halfway through I thought it would be a good idea to walk and recharge energy for the last five. Huge mistake!

It was impossible to regain a solid pace for the rest of the race, it took me forever to run again and when I did I cramped twice in the same leg. I now think I should have kept running even though I was already over the 8:00/mile mark. That would have saved me at least ten minutes and probably a sub 3:40 finish. 3:52 was my finish time. A race I was proud just like any other marathon to finish but upset I did not try my very best. I was glad my injury did not come into play as bad as I thought it would.

Just like any other race there are many lessons learned from this one that will help me for the next one. I now remember what it feels to run a marathon, to get to the halfway mark feeling good and to get to the wall still with some energy. Yes, the next one will be much harder. My halfway split needs to be ten minutes faster and my marathon time almost an hour faster. For now, enjoy the accomplishment, let my legs rest and get ready because in 81 days I will do it all over again. Maratón LALA 2015, you are next!

Just 26.2 to Go!

After miles and miles of training this (the title) seems to be an encouraging statement. It is and isn’t all at the same time. I have ran five marathons (Monterrey, Dallas, Lincoln, Houston, Chicago) and I kind of know what to expect of the distance. While that gives me some confidence that I can finish, each one has been different and tomorrow at the California International Marathon won’t be the exception.

I’ve ran a marathon without training, one with the flu, another one with really sore legs and only two where I can say I felt “good” most of the way. In all of them I had the goal to qualify to Boston and for one reason or another I have not achieved that. Here in Sacramento, that was the goal when I signed up back in August, in October an injury almost made me quit, during recovery I regained hope to accomplish the feat but to be honest the injury has not healed 100%.

You can dominate long runs, but I never run a marathon during training, so it is those miles that you don’t run during training which make this distance special. Your body is only meant to run 20, the last six are a huge mental test and an dangerous territory for the human body. I have not ran a marathon since October 2012 in Chicago.

With the injury (torn hamstring and groin) back in late september, my only focus is on finishing the next 26.2 miles here at the CIM.

Not having the pressure of Boston is letting me relax a bit, while it is also a bit frustrating since all I’ve heard about it is how fast it is, making it one of the top 5 marathons in the U.S. that get you to Boston.

I’ve never been to Sacramento before and so far I like it, tomorrow I might hate it or love it even more. The marathon does not seem to be such a big deal around here, even though you have people from all over the world coming in. It has that small town feel marathon to it that does not translate into an over hyped event, the opposite to what I felt in Chicago. Such high energy can really affect your own energy levels for race day.

Here in Sacramento, with barely over 10,000 runners expected you feel part of a tighter runners community. People are here to run an race, not too much about bragging of what they have done. I feel the same nerves I’ve felt in the previous five, but this time my goal is to feel good and not get hurt. A good finish time will come along by itself. Training in Mexico City has made preparations quite hard. Running 4 miles was hard for a long time and the last 19 mile run was a nightmare.

Lately I’ve been working and traveling a lot, which has made it harder to have energy to train and stick to some type of program. Since the end of september I have not been in the same place for more that five days with the exception of F1 week in Austin. But the finish line does not care about excuses. My main goal is to finish.

Here, it will be barely over sea-level and mostly downhill. My goal is to start at a conservative pace. Much slower than the 7:00/mile I was aiming when I signed-up. I will stick to the 3:25 pace group for as long as I can and if I feel good after mile 22-23 I might attempt to push the pace and get as close to 3:20 as possible. That would make it my third fastest marathon, not bad for what I have gone through during training. For marathon seven, hopefully in march it will really be “Boston or Burst” while looking for a sub three hour performance.

For now I will enjoy the ability to walk since tomorrow that might not be possible. The race starts at 7:00 am, I hope to be done before 11, and then hopefully share good news with all of you. A good way to close 2014, after all my troubles, I’m doing what I love the most.