Monday, October 26, 2009

A Fast Track to FAST

The FAST era begins. I am excited to have this unexpected opportunity to work with FAST (Fairbanks Alaska Ski Team) for the 2009-10 ski season.

For a refresher here is a link to a post I made last November about all the different options for young skiers in this Nordic mad community.

I was expecting to send one kid off to high school while coaching the other with the club's Competition Group (Comp Group). After rounds of negotiations with the club about the future of the "Comp Group" that extended through the summer I was feeling burnt out on coaching.

Keep it simple. Focus on the kids and skiing, not so much about organizational structure, mission, and vision.

Meanwhile late last month, FAST coach and founder Bill McDonnell casually asked if I'd be interested in working with the team this year. A few days later we talked a little more and here we are!

I'll mostly be working with the "betas," young skiers at the J2 (14-15 year olds). A small group but loaded with talent. FAST's philosophy is very simple. The program is mostly athlete driven. Bill provides the training schedule and much of the rest is up to the skiers.

With just a few highly focused skiers, FAST has had huge success in recent years at local, regional, and national events (including numerous medals at Junior Olympics and some high placings at Senior Nationals and SuperTour races).

In the few dryland workouts that I've attended it's been quite impressive to see not only with the work ethic and skill of these youngsters, but also to witness their energy and ability to take on the rigorous training with resolve and a smile.

I'll be stretched, with allegiance to my own kids and their respective programs and of course as an assitant with FAST--not to mention to preparing for March marathon madness. But I can tell it's going to be a good season.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Countdown to New York City Marathon

Set as I’m going to be for the New York City Marathon, which I’ve dreamed about doing for more than 30 years, probably since Bill Rodgers’ 1976 victory—a race that brought this marathon (and marathoning) to the forefront. Shorter’s Olympic races and Rodgers’ Boston win in 1975 notwithstanding.

I have few regrets in my 33 year running career (well, counting injuries more like 30years), but not running this event while living just a couple hundred miles away in upstate New York the late 1980s and early 90s might be one. Back then I was working hard on establishing a career track and doing relatively low mileage (mostly 40s and 50s/week), and a marathon was always six months to a year away. Those were probably my best years as a runner, but I didn’t commit to a marathon for the 16 years between ages 25 and 41.

Oh well, at 51 I’m thrilled to be going. But I’m not heading there to set a huge PR and will not be disappointed if I don’t run faster than a 50-54 best of 2:54. This one is about just getting out there for the experience and to enjoy the run. So I’m not planning to go blazing out at 6:10 pace. More like 7:10 and then working into a pace that feels right for the day. I’ve already run my best races of the year, and those were months ago, so this one is for kicks. I do want to break 3 hours.

After feeling surprisingly good in May and June, and cutting back a bit for July, the past 2.5 months of marathon training have been very consistent, with just a few small glitches along the way, but the days of feeling amazingly fit off of a string of 70+ miles weeks are way past long gone. I averaged just below 70 miles for the past 10 weeks, plus some roller skiing to break things up.

Felt okay through most of the training, but never great (except for Santa Claus Half back in early August). The initial three or four long runs (>2 hr) were pretty miserable, and I felt awful most of the time for the first three weeks of September—downhill running for the Equinox relay was tough on the legs.

I wish we had more true cross country (regular races at 8-12K) in this town.

Crashed on my roller skis a couple weeks ago and bashed my wrist which is still pretty sore. Don’t think it’s broken or cracked. Also smacked my knee but pain receeded within a day or two.

Like all good things, however, a 3 year streak of winning my age group is about to end, because it will take a low 2:40s to be on the age group podium at NYC and I’m not there mentally, let alone physically. Still it’s been a good run, and I’ve managed to set or be near a whole slew of Alaska bests for 50-54 age group, from the mile to the marathon.

Likely, others have run faster. But it would be nice to have a statewide age group database and records list for certified courses.

Anyway, NYC here we come! This is going to be a fun one.

Monday, October 05, 2009

4 weeks to go

New York City Marathon is just 4 weeks away.

Solid but unspectacular best describes my base phase this fall. Going back to late July, the 10 week average is 66 miles/week. Very consistent, but no great weeks or breakthroughs. And other than the surprise at Santa Claus Half, no great finishes.

That's one thing that is very different about training now compared to 20 or 25 years ago--maybe even 10 years. Back then, I might be moseying along at 50 to 60 miles a week, and then I'd "get serious" about upping the miles and bing! within a few weeks would find great things happening--PRs, high placings, fast times.

Now I train almost as much--sometimes more--and all that I can hope for is not to be worse than three or six months ago. This past six weeks or so has not been especially taxing, but at the same time it seems I've been in perennial recovery mode. Hit it hard for a long run, or mid-week tempo, and then just slog through for another week or ten days hoping that nothing pops.

Or falls off.

Gotta think about these things once you hit late 40s and 50s.

The long runs were excrutiationg in August. I hadn't done much of anything longer than 1:50 from March until August. So getting above 2:00 has been a challenge. I bonked on several of my runs, just 1:30 into them, and hobbled home in 2:10 or 2:20 closing with 8 and 9 minute miles.

Finally, last week I put in my first 20 miler (including 6 at pace). And this week it was 18.5, with 9 at marathon pace. My only complaint about these runs is that it was cold (33) and I had to dress warmer than I'd like to keep warm enough to finish the workouts.

The best news, however, is that after this weekend's 5 mile race effort on Saturday and the 18.5 on Sunday, I feel good. Already recovered.

So maybe. Just maybe. Things are coming around.