The Connection Runners + training

Reach the Beach, Fartleks, and The Jericho Mile

Nine marathons into my twelve month challenge I am feeling good. Strong. Healthy. Still a bit frustrated that Quebec City was cancelled, and that I need to run Hartford on Oct 15th instead of finishing up on October 2nd at Smuttynose like I planned - but it's just how things worked out. It does not diminish in any way the ambitious nature of the goal, or the effort and dedication put into it. Just need to keep the champagne chilled that much longer. Maybe I'll put an asterisk at the end of it like when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 homers in a season, because it took him more games to do it?

One positive thing about having the full marathon cancelled at Quebec City is that I had a fairly easy recovery from the half. There is an enormous difference between running a full and a half. Something happens to the body from mile 20+ and beyond that can only be repaired by a good dose of rest and recovery.

From here on out, however, things are going to get VERY interesting. On September 16-17th I am participating in the Reach the Beach Relay which will be a 36 hour endurance extravaganza. A friend ran in Reach the Beach last year, and unable to participate in it again this year, her team asked me to join. I jumped at the chance. I've always wanted to run a relay race, and this is essentially the New England version of Hood to Coast. Check out this clip for an idea of what a 200 mile, 12 person team relay is all about:

This is going to be epic, in every sense of the word. I am running in Van #1, legs 5, 17, and 29 for a grand total of 18.4 miles. Leg #1 is 5.1 miles downhill, and I anticipate a very fast time. Leg #2 is my most difficult, 9 miles with two steep mountain climbs with a sharp drop in between that reminds me of 'The Dip" from the Mad Marathon - except it will be in the middle of the night somewhere near Lake Winnepesaukee and I will have a Petzl head torch to light the way. Leg #3 looks to have some rolling hills, rated 'moderate' and when I finish that up the party will begin - but can't get too crazy since the following week I have the Clarence DeMar Marathon, the first of three 26.2's in four weeks. That's right.

I've been doing some more speed work to gear up for the RTB, and it is very encouraging to see my training times improve. Several things have helped to this end - first, I am down about eight pounds from my last full marathon. I have been very diligent about my nutrition, eating more veggies and have cut back on red meat dramatically - basically I have a steak once a month, and that is after a race to aid in protein recovery. But my breakfasts are usually a combination of the following: steel cut oats with raisins and walnuts, Greek yogurt with sliced peaches and granola; whole grain toast with almond or peanut butter and banana; egg white frittata with zucchini and summer squash. Delicious and filling.

Lunches have been grilled or sauteed veggies in a pita, and a hummus and tomato sandwiches are a go-to staple as well. Dinners are substantial yet healthy - a favorite is grilled salmon with cannellini and grilled zucchini, and I always make a nice big salad to accompany them. I save my beer/wine for the weekend, and drink Perrier/San Pelligrino with lemon to save on calories.

I have found that approaching my food as fuel has been a highly effective way to dropping those last few stubborn pounds that have been "marathon resistant" shall we say. Before I eat something I ask myself a simple question: Does this help me get closer to my goals or will it set me back? Bottom line is that leaner equals lighter equals faster, and tipping the scales around 168lbs will benefit me in my running, martial arts, and especially as I gear up for the 2012 triathlon season.

What has also helped me become faster has been my mental approach. I have been integrating "fartleks" into my training runs. Fartlek is a Swedish word, and not what you think it means - it means "speedplay."

Basically it means running very fast intervals during training runs. I might run a comfortable 8:30 minute mile and then push as hard as I can for the next 1/4 mile, then slow my pace a bit to recover, and then run as hard as I can for the next 1/8 for a mile, etc. I also play my version of the movie Speed - keep every mile under a certain time, say 7:30, or the bus will explode. I have found that incorporating these bursts of speed, as demanding as they might be, throughout my runs do make a difference.

I got the idea for adding fartleks into my training after recently watching the movie Prefontaine with Mrs. 12 Marathons. I've referenced Steve Prefontaine in other posts, because he is such a compelling figure in the sport of running. It was a decent film, with Jared Leto as Pre - but there is another movie called Without Limits made around the same time with Billy Crudup as Pre and Donald Sutherland as legendary coach Bill Bowerman - I think that is supposed to be the better of the two. What was cool about Prefontaine is how they incorporated the real life footage of his races into the film, I wonder if the other one does the same. I will have to watch it and compare.

That got me thinking - what was the best running movie ever made? Interesting question. The obvious answer for many is Chariots of Fire, and yes I did watch it earlier this year and it is undoubtedly a tremendous picture.

An absolutely remarkable documentary film is called Il Corridore, or The Runner, about Italian ultramarathon legend Marco Olmo. Before there was Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka or Kilan Jornet, there was Marco Olmo.

He won the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 2006 and 2007, with 9,000 meters of elevation gain and 2300 competitors, AT AGE 60! That defies the laws of... .well, everything.

My vote, however, might have to go for The Jericho Mile. O.K. maybe not the best, but I can remember at age 8 watching it with my parents, wearing my Happy Days thumbs-up Fonzie "Ayyyyyyyy" t-shirt, lying with my elbows on the floor, my head resting on my hands - a very vivid memory, so my opinion of it might be skewed because of the positive recollection of the moment more than the movie.

It was an ABC made for TV movie, so kind of a big deal back in 1979 before we had cable. Serving time for killing his father, "Rain" Murphy finds solace in running as fast as he can in the prison yard of Folsom and the warden realizes he is running Olympic-caliber times. Trained by his only friend, a Morgan Freemanesque character, the warden hopes to exploit his talent by having him compete in the 1980 games. Sort of a Shawshank Redemption meets Rocky, it was Michael Mann's directorial debut (Heat with DeNiro and Pacino is one of my favorite films, all-time.) What is incredible is that Peter Strauss, working with the UCLA track coach, actually got his mile time down to 4:30. Amazing.

Here is the final scene:

So lately when I have been out for runs I think about that time as a little kid in my living room, my parents close by, and I can still see Peter Strauss ripping around the makeshift Folsom Prison track, hair whipping in the wind, running from his past, for redemption, and to beat the time set by a man he will never get to face.

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Reach the Beach, Fartleks, and The Jericho Mile + training