Napa Valley Marathon is a week away!

We are just a week away from Napa Valley Marathon. The marathon starts 7am next Sunday, so technically it’s less than 7 days away.

In a way, I feel that I’ve done a reasonable preparation for it. With a couple of 20-mile runs and average weekly mileage of 28 in the past 9 weeks, I have improved my easy pace since I started training for the marathon. My easy pace is now at 8:15 minute/mile pace, and I feel as though I can sustain it comfortably. The big question is for how long I can sustain that easy pace. We’ll have to find out next Sunday. 😉

I decided to drive to Napa Valley on Sunday. That means I’ll have to wake up by 3:00am, do my morning routine, get my breakfast, and get out by 3:45am. Google says that it will take a little more than 1 hour to get to Vintage High School, the finish line, so that means I can be there by 5am to catch the bus ride to the starting line (the bus leaves 5:15am).

After talking to a couple of marathon-veteran co-workers, I don’t plan to carry anything during my run. No water bottle, no camera, no phone, no gel, nothing. I think the best thing is to run as light as possible including clothes. Weather has been pleasant 50’s and 60’s recently, and I’m hoping that it would be nice enough to wear sleeveless running shirt.

This week, I plan to take it easy. I’ve looked at a few marathon training charts, and most of them recommend doing no more than 3 runs prior to the marathon day, so I will stick to easy runs, maybe 3 or 4 miles.

There I have it. My goal is to cross the finish line under 3:45. But I am not going to kill myself for it. Instead I plan to enjoy the community running experience. Hope the weather is nice next Sunday.


Marathon Logistics

Napa Valley Marathon is now 3 weeks away. It’s time to start thinking about logistics. Napa Valley Marathon starts from Calistoga 7am Sunday March 6th, 2016.

The website says that they provide bus ride from the finish line to the starting line at 5:15am. That means I should plan to be there by 5am, and if I were to start from home, I should leave around 3:45am. (It’s about 62-mile drive.)

But I should use bathroom and eat something before I head out. That means I need to be up by 3am at the latest. Wow, that’s early.

Should I get a room? I like the idea of shorter drive and one more hour of sleep, but not sure if I can get a good night rest and a hot breakfast 4:30am in the morning.

When I checked for the availability, I found out that all close-by and reasonably priced lodgings were all booked on the marathon weekend.

Oh, another thing. I need to show up the day before and pick up my bib and welcome packet. That means I have to make the drive twice, if I don’t stay near by.

I don’t know which would work out better. Sleep at home and drive, or stay somewhere near and sleep a bit more?

Newbie questions don’t end there.

What kind of clothes should I wear? Do I need a layer when starting out? What do I do with jacket when I take it off? What about water? I’ve been practicing with hydration belt, but not sure if I want to carry my own water when there are aid stations every 2 miles. I need all the weight saving that I can get…

What about photos? Should I run with my iPhone, just to snap a few photos along the way? Do I need to get a belt for iPhone 6 Plus?

What about deodorant? Do I need it, or it is inconsequential after 26.2 miles of sweating outdoor?

Full of questions.

I wonder what other runners are doing.


Easy Run Does It?

After my failed 20-miler past weekend, I started to take a new look at what I’ve been doing wrong.

A few pieces of advice that I have picked up over the weeks, but yet to put in practice were

  • Negative split: Start slow, and finish faster.
  • Slow runs: 80% of runs should be slow runs at about 60% of your maximum estimated heart rate.
  • Run more miles: Weekly average mileage is a good indicator of how well trained.

When I thought about these, the common thread is to do more easy runs. Start with easy run and finish strong. Do more easy runs during the week, thereby increasing the weekly mileage.

So I started doing more easy runs. This week, I filled up my training with easy 9 min/mile pace runs, and tried to run more miles overall.

Here’s what I found:

  • Doing easy run is definitely less stressful to my legs than interval or tempo runs.
  • Starting slow at 9 min/mile forced me to practice negative splits, and finish strong.
  • Although I did not run high miles (only had 4 days of run), I could see how I could run every day about 5-6 miles, and get to 35-40 mile week. It would take some creative running schedule, but physical readiness-wise, I think I can pull it off.

Not sure whether these easy runs will help me improve my endurance. I think what I need to test is to do a long slow run and see whether I can conserve energy until 15-20 miles to finish strong.

4 weeks until Napa Valley Marathon. I may end up trying the slow run technique at my first marathon.


20 Mile Long Run: FAIL

Yesterday I did my 20 mile long run. Well, it was supposed to be 20 mile long run. But what I ended up doing was more like 15 mile run plus 5 mile recovery walk.

TLDR version: I ended up running the first 15 miles at the slower pace than December 20-miler, and started walking from Mile 16. My legs were not ready to move. Need to rest more, and do more slow runs.

I’ve been watching many training videos recently. Some talking about the need for hill running, some talking about the need for interval training, and yet others touting the need for tempo runs. I watched them all. And more I watched, more I felt that I needed to go out there and do more runs.

So this week, I did about 34.8 miles total. Tuesday was treadmill run, Wednesday was tempo run, Thursday was interval training, and Friday was hill running. And I went out Sunday morning to do my 20 miler.

It was okay until 13 miles. I held my pace at 8:34 mins/mile. A little slower than usual, but still within range. But after 15 mile, I just had no willpower to continue running. I just did not feel like running any more. So I walked.

Once I started walking, my legs were getting used to the walking pace, and there was no more motivation to finish the run. My legs were sending distress signals, and I had no mental fortitude to override the fatigue.

I ended up finishing 20 miles in 9:11 mins/mile pace. It took 3:04:15

Just as a comparison, it took 2:59:25 to do 20 miles back in December 19, 2015. And it was not done in a good condition either. It rained quite heavy at times during the run. Yet yesterday was total failure.

After the run, I felt totally dejected. I trained harder, but my records were getting worse.

Could I have been overtraining?

Now that I look back, I think it’s combination of a few things.

  1. Yes, I think I overtrained. All the training videos that I watched was made by professional runners in their early to mid 20’s. Just about 20 years younger than I am. Let’s see: I’m not professional runner, I am in my 40’s, and I have been doing long runs for about 4 months now. No wonder I cannot keep up with those pros who finish marathon under 3 hrs.
  2. I should have run more easy runs. I’m now starting to see other running coaches talking about the benefits of doing lots of easy runs. In fact there are lots of coaches who advocate 80:20 rules. 80% of all runs should be easy runs, where heart rate is no more than 60% of max heart rate. Only about 20% of the runs should be tempo, interval or hill training. I haven’t done nearly enough easy runs.
  3. I should have eaten way better. When I did my long run in the morning, I didn’t have a gel to start out. Now that I think back to my December 20 miler, I remember taking a gel before heading out. I should remember to eat a gel before starting, and even better, I should take time to eat something before the long run.

So the verdict is to eat better, rest more, and do more easy runs.

Will that be enough to do my 3:40-or-under marathon goal? Not sure.

Soon, we’ll find out. 🙂