Monday, April 22, 2013

Tracy's Training, Boston, & Pikes Peek

Boston Marathon
April 15, 2013

I woke up on Monday morning, April 15, to set out for my run, but was more excited than usual.  It was the day of the Boston Marathon.  Thankfully, I have Mondays off, and my geeky runner self was eager to watch the race live through the website on my computer.  There is no excuse for this race not to be broadcast live on national television.  Perhaps it will be next year though.  One of my athletes, Tracy Heichelbech, was racing her first Boston(and only her 2nd marathon), and I was excited for some friends I knew running, so it was cool to track their progress.

Tracy hasn't been running that long.  She completed her first half marathon in 1:55 in the Spring of 2011.  Less than 2 months later, she did another half in 1:50.  She then had the desire to train for a full marathon that fall, and aim to qualify for the Boston Marathon(3:55 for her age group).  The target race for her was the Marine Corps Marathon in October of 2011.  As she ran more, she got fitter and fitter.  I knew she was capable of achieving this goal.  Sure enough, she qualified with a 3:49.  Since 2012 registration was already completed, she would register for the Boston 2013 race.  The following Spring, instead of doing another marathon, she worked on getting her 10 Mile-13.1 times down.  She ran a solid 1:46 for the half marathon, followed by 80:00 at Cherry Blossom.  I knew this would also help her, instead of wearing her out by doing another marathon.

However, the fall of 2012 was tough.  Originally aiming at another half marathon, she was unable to race and got a few injuries, and really had to stop running for a while.  I was keeping my fingers crossed for her because I knew how hard she had worked to run Boston in 2013, and she had already registered for that race when registration opened in September.  She was determined to run it, and deserved to.  It took her weeks of strengthening and foam rolling and working with a physical therapist to get everything on the same page.  Our goal was to have her start training for the race in December.  However, I knew that she needed to go into December with a moderate level of fitness.  Thankfully, she was able to get some running in, and worked up to 4 mile runs by the time she was ready to begin in December.  But we had to be careful not to overdo things.  It was tricky to build appropriately so she could avoid injury, but at the same time get the mileage up again.  The marathon does not lie.  You need to run mileage.  And this wasn't just any marathon.  It wasn't a tough mudder.  This wasn't just any race.

This was, the Boston Marathon.

Slowly, but surely, Tracy worked back up her distances.  In January I remember her asking me, "Do you think I can run close to the same time I ran in 2011, or even PR?"  I told her it was too early to tell, and that Boston was a much more difficult course.  My goal was to get her to finish this race healthy, and train her uninjured, because she had worked so hard just to get there.  I'd rather undertrain her instead of overtrain her.  I was very conservative with this.  I also needed to get her ready to run downhills hard, and maybe I could've done better with this.  I didn't want her to run too hard on downhills, because I didn't want to risk injury.  But at the same time, she needed to get ready for that.  It was a delicate balance.  Certainly, the hard uphill efforts were great.  She thrived off those workouts and it really payed off.

Then, her first 20 Miler was on March 3.  I had her do the Duel Ferries(Whites Ferry to Edwards Ferry) Loop twice, which is exactly 10 mile loops.  They are rolling hills and all soft surface.  I got in one loop myself, then got back in my car and drove on the course to see how she was doing.  She looked much different now than when she began.  She looked stronger, her form was solid, and she was just clicking off the miles.  She completed the run in 3:03.  At this point, I think she was starting to find a new gear in her, and had gotten into her zone.  3 weeks after that, on March 24, she completed a 22 miler in 3:14.  This is when I knew she was not only ready to crush the race, but that she had a shot to run a personal best, even on a tougher course like Boston.  Adjusting for the course, I thought she would be capable of anywhere between 3:43-3:48.

The WAY she ran this race is something else.  I had hoped she would start out easier, but she hammered through the first 5K in a blistering 8:23 pace.  "Shit!", I yelled at my computer.  But a friend of mine, a strong masters runner, Brandon Hirsch(who I also coach), told me the first 5K always starts fast, and he remembers how downhill it really is.  That calmed me down, but I was still worried.  Ideally, I would rather have her go out in 8:45 pace no faster.  The next 5K she slowed a bit to 8:30 pace, which made me a little more relaxed, thought she was still running quite fast.  She came through halfway in 1:51, a blistering, and strong pace.  Once she hit the Newton Hills, I knew naturally the pace would slow.  I just hoped she saved enough for the hills.  She maintained 9:00 pace throughout the hills, which was strong enough to tell me she was doing fine.  At mile 21, the hills were over, and now it was all downhill.  Still though, I'm sure the legs are shot at this point, and it's hard to change gears like that.  Well, Tracy certainly impressively dropped her pace down to 8:50, and then 8:30!!   After all those ups and downs, and starting off really strong, she finished in 3:48:24, an average of 8:42 per mile.

Of course, after the race was a different story.  My immediate happiness for Tracy turned into immediate fear and worry.  Deep down, I had a feeling she was alright, because she finished well ahead of the bombings, but I needed to know she was ok.  Finally, I found out she was, and other friends I knew(many who ran under 3 hours) were thankfully ok.

After I found out she was fine, I told her,

"Despite the horrific events that happened, you must not forget what truly remarkable race you ran.  I could not be prouder for the way you ran today."


Pikes Peek 10K
April 21, 2013

After such a rough week, I needed to shake things off with a strong race, so Pikes Peek was the perfect opportunity to do so.  My PR was 30:56.  I wanted to go out hard in this race.  I wanted to hammer my legs to get them tougher.  My plan was to go out in 15:10 for the first 5K.  We started off strong and I tucked in behind the pack of lead Africans(I never seen so many fast runners in a pack-there were strong numbers this year).  Shortly though, they began to surge a little bit ahead, and I knew if I went with them I would be running 14:30 5K pace, which would not have been a good idea.  I stayed back and ran my own race.  I went through the first mile in 4:45.  WOW.  That was fast.  This was my PR 5K(14:58) pace.  But I actually didn't feel too bad, which is a great sign.  My aerobic capacity is improving, and this race was tapping into that a bit more.  I remember going through 3 miles in 14:30-14:33 or so, so I imagine I was 15:05 give or take at the 5K mark. A bit faster than I wanted, but it really didn't feel too fast either.  I think one day I will be able to just do this back to back and go sub 30.  I reeled in a few Africans, and went through mile 4 in 19:30-something.  So, now I had slowed a bit, but was still eyeing to pass more runners.  Then the mighty Joe Wiegner (GRC's #1 man) pulled up next to me, and we ran stride for stride.  It helped that someone was running with me now.  I looked over my shoulder.  He looked good, and fast.  Joe is one talented runner.  It then dawned on me how I had never been this close to him in a race before.  The last time we raced this 10K together was in 2011 when he ran 30:40 and I went 31:26.  We hammered together past the place where we used to live, right near the Pancake House.  I knew he and I were thinking the same thing, but neither one of us said anything due to being in oxygen debt.  I groaned at mile 5 (just under 24:40).  I pressed the pace.  I felt him working hard.  He certainly would have to work hard to beat me.  I don't make it easy.  The last mile he began to gain a bit of ground on me, and I was grinding at this point, trying to keep the turnover.  He definitely looked strong, and it was great to see him back out here.  He earned the victory of PR-ing himself in 30:31, as I crossed the line in a new PR as well in 30:43.          

I feel stronger after this race.  I needed a PR, and just some pure, fast running.  The other thing is, this tells me that I am capable of really tearing up an all out fast 5K in May.  I did really want to go out hard, because my goal at this point is to really maximize my speed and aerobic threshold.  Basically, I ran 4:50 pace for the first 5K, and then 5:00 pace for the 2nd, averaging 4:56 per mile.

I am now ready to make an all out assault on the 5K at the Swarthmore College Last Chance Meet on May 13.  I feel like sub 14:40 is possible.  I have 3 weeks.  I will do some solid VO-2 Max workouts and see where I'm at.  The faster I can get my 5K time down now, the better.  Here we go.

Quick Edit: Joe and I cooled down and talked after the race, and indeed we found out we were thinking the same thing:  That we both wanted to stop by the Pancake House and have a good meal!  But we figured we would be finishing at White Flint anyway where there was more food..


  1. so what were you thinking when you passed your old place? did you ask Wiggy what he was thinking? were you right that you were thinking the same things?

  2. Indeed, yes Charlie, we were thinking the same thing: Possibly stopping by the Pancake House to get a bite to eat.

  3. I seriously would have turned right en route to the pancake house... but Sloane had to be running directly to the right of me, and thus this move would have ended his race... so i decided to run hard to the food court instead... Its cheaper which makes it more affordable and the crowd there is the icing on the cake.

    1. Ending his race... meaning I would have knocked him over in a frantic diverge towards the Pancake house... I did not notice the fine establishment until we were directly in front of it. Such a tangent would have taken sloane down and possibly others... If the heavens were not shining down on the pot of gold at the finish (El White Flint food court- short for "The White Flint food court"), it could have been an ugly sight.

  4. I'm always surprised by how strong your quads and calves look. Most runners as fast as you their legs look like pencils. Do you weight train. You look like you'd have some serious power on a bike...

  5. ConArtist,

    My legs have always been that way. I actually tried biking, I wasn't really all that great, although I could climb mountains well. By the way, I've been reading your blog-sorry about the bike accident, but it seems like you've rebounded well!

  6. I'm humbled dude. I learn a lot reading your stuff. AWESOME info. for triathletes in here too. Keep crushing it! So jacked to see how your 5k goes. Keep inspiring!