Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Exclusive "Interview" with last American Boston Champ: Greg Meyer

When Greg Meyer's son was in elementary school he once told a friend that his father had won the Boston Marathon. "Your dad's Kenyan?!" came the response. No, Greg Meyer isn't Kenyan - he's from that other great hotspot of distance running - the American Midwest. Specifically from Grand Rapids, MI - the same area as the current star Dathan Ritzenhein. From Grand Rapids he went to the University of Michigan in my hometown of Ann Arbor. After several All-American seasons at Michigan he moved to Boston to work and train with the likes of Bill Rodgers and Bob Hodge.

Greg worked his way into the distance ranks - when he first moved to Boston he was a clerk for Bill Rodgers' running store - before finally being sponsored by Brooks. Greg had many strong performances through the years - but, it can be argued that no American runner has had a better 8 months as Greg did between the end of August 1982 and the end of April 1983. I suggest everyone read his training log during that period. He broke the American 20k record, won the Chicago marathon, the American 15k record, won the 30k OHME race in Tokyo, won Cherry Blossom 10 miler, won Boston in 2:09:00 - only six seconds off the record, and apparently went to good enough Willie Nelson concert that he included it in his log.

I met Greg when he worked with my mother in development at the University of Michigan. I recently told him about my blog and asked if he might grant me an "interview". Luckily he said yes. I sent him some questions and he responded.

BI: When did you first set your sights on winning Boston? Was it something you thought about as a kid? Or was it not really on your radar until after college?

GM: First set my sites on Boston only after moving there in '78. What pissed me off enough to run a marathon was my friend Tommy Leonard...of Elliot Lounge fame...telling me someday I could be as good as Vinny Flemming (Vinny..also a friend and teammate on the Greater Boston Track Club was a 2:14 guy at Boston). Getting my ass kicked by Seko and others in '81 was motivation for '83.

Note: For some more details around his motivation and how he won Boston read his first person account he wrote for Runners World a few years ago.

BI: What do you think was/were the most important aspect(s) of your training for the marathon?

GM: Most important aspect of my training was running on the course multiple times a week. Coach Squires' fartlek 20 miles on the course were great as well. That and 7 years of averaging over 100 MPW.

BI: What was your training group like in Boston? Were the guys loose with each other? Competitive? And how did that group help/hinder your development?

GM: Training group was amazing...Bill Rogers (2:09), Randy Thomas (2:11), Bob Hodge (2:10), Tim Donovan (2:16)..who thankfully was my whipping boy on some runs...but a great partner...those and others!

BI: What was your strategy going into the 1983 Boston race?

GM: Strategy was only to win...don't charge the up hill or down hill...but throw little surges to keep the pace fast. Benji changed that...took the pace...I only had to do one real surge before Heartbreak.

BI: What is the coolest thing that's happened to you as a result of winning Boston?

GM: Coolest thing since Boston...people still ask me about running...and it gives me instant credibility with the kids I coach...oh, and throwing out a first pitch at Fenway was VERY COOL. Even my grown kids thought so!

Thanks Greg! He even gave me some details on that 20 mile fartlek - whadya say guys? Time for a road trip?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moving up to premium

For most of the time I've been a runner my nutrition has been an after thought. I knew it could make a difference - but, for whatever reason I just haven't made it a priority. Given that I have a friend in our running group who is a nutritionist (Melissa Bosslet) and that I'll need every trick in the bag to get under 2:30 at Boston - I decided to set up an appointment to get myself a plan.

Melissa works for EB Nutrition in Rockville, MD and she happens to be a great runner - which was important to me, because I wanted someone who knows what I'd need given my marathon training.

I filled in a food diary for three days before we met - and then we talked about what I thought I needed improvement on as well as my goals and amount of exercise. She determined that I would need at least 3,000 calories per day, that I needed to cut sugar, combine carbs with protein, eat smaller portions more often throughout the day, add variety, add more fish etc . . .

She gave me a list of suggested foods to eat as well as avoid - and sample meals for my week. In my first grocery visit I spent an insane amount of money - but, there were a lot of staples that I won't need to buy every week. Other than a few days in Miami, I've remained true to the diet and it's already showing results. This morning I had my best tempo workout in a very long time (4X2 mi; ~11 min per) only two days after running a decent effort at the Miami Half-marathon. So, if you want to see what you can really accomplish I suggest you find someone like Melissa to help you out.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Phase 3: week 3 of 5

Witness the dedication of your intrepid blogger as he posts from ATL airport. Dedication and the fact that I want to spend time with my understanding wife when I finally get home this evening. I've been in Miami this weekend - partly for the sun and the beach and partly for the Miami half-marathon. The start was at 6:15am this morning - which means that other than for a short nap on the first leg of my plane ride - I've been up since 4am.

The plan was to run at marathon pace - I didn't want to go all out because I have a hundred mile week coming up and it's still too early to push my body like that. The trick is to slowly stress my body so it can best perform on 4/20 - not to kill myself with three months to go. I even backed off from using 2:30 as my "marathon pace." So, I shot for a 1:16 - luckily another of the Falls Road team member (there were seven of us who made the trip), Brennan, had the same goal pace - so, we ran together for most of the race, which made it much easier.

I ended up running 1:16:18 - just above my goal pace. Which, all things considered (we stayed in South Beach), was fine. Even with the early start, it was a fun race and I'd consider doing it again. The challenge is going to be the workout on Tuesday. I'm running my longest tempo workout (4X2 miles) with only one day rest from the half - I'll probably not run quite as fast I've done my other tempo workouts - given it will be twice the tempo mileage. Other than running 100 miles in a week for the first time since the fall of 2007 - the rest of the week shouldn't be too bad.

Last Week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 9 miles
Tuesday: 16 miles
Wednesday morning: 4 miles
Wednesday evening: 11.5 mi fartlek with hills and 2X800 @ 2:31
Thursday: 10 miles
Friday: 11 miles 8X100
Saturday: 9 miles
Sunday: 17 miles - 13.1 at 1:16:18 (Miami half-marathon)
Total: 91.5 miles

This Week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 6 miles
Tuesday morning: 12 miles 4X2 mi at tempo
Tuesday evening: 4 miles
Wednesday: 15 miles
Thursday: 10.5 miles 10X100
Friday morning: 12 miles hills
Friday evening: 4 miles
Saturday: 10.5 miles
Sunday: 22 miles
Total: 100 miles

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The unique perspective of the distance runner

For me running is not only about working out - it's about discovery and freedom. I sometimes imagine a map, only existing in my head, that has lines showing everywhere I've run. Of course the lines would be most heavily drawn in the places I've lived. The countless times that I ran through the Arboretum in Ann Arbor, on the Lakefront in Chicago, beside Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, along the Rhine in Mannheim, and on the magic path in Baltimore. Travel favorites would include a trail in Hawaii that ended at a waterfall, a run in the Smokies where I saw a bear, a sunny day in San Francisco running up to Coit Tower, and on the philosopher's weg across from Heidelberg.

Well, today I drew another line on that map that had as much to do with the day as the place. I had been debating whether I would go to the inauguration for a while now. I was supposed to do a hard run this morning - but, the roads were still too slick. I started watching the coverage and suddenly felt like I needed to be there. The major reason that I had decided to not go was that it was going to be almost impossible to get down there. But, if I were to find a place to park in Rock Creek park just south of Silver Spring - I decided I could run the ~6 miles down to the mall.

Believe it or not, 95 was pretty clear down to DC - I made it to Silver Spring by 10:30 or so. I drove down 16th street and entered Rock Creek Park - finding a parking spot near a picnic area. There was nobody around - it was odd that just a few miles away there was one of the largest crowds this nation has ever seen. I started down the path - running along the half frozen Northwest branch of Rock Creek. After a few miles I followed a few other runners over to 16th street. I headed downhill - the people multiplying as the blocks went by - finally at "R" street they blocked off traffic to vehicles. Eventually I passed St. Johns Church where the prayer service was held this morning. Then traffic was forced west at H street - I eventually made it to the mall just west of the Washington Monument.

The crowds were most thick around the giant TV screens. Since I was a child, the mall has always seemed incredible to me - today it was simply magical. I thought that I probably couldn't get much closer and I wanted to see everything from a different perspective. So, I made what might seem like an odd choice. With only 15 minutes until the swearing in I decided to run over to Arlington Cemetery. I remembered the last time I was there that it was a great view of the mall and I figured that I could listen to the inaugural speech later. So, I made my way past the Lincoln Memorial and over the Arlington Bridge - I obeyed the policeman who said there was no "jogging" in the Cemetery - and briskly walked up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

When I arrived they were just starting the changing of the guard. I hadn't really even thought about the fact that they would still be doing the changing of the guard at the tomb at the same moment that a different changing of the guard would be occurring across the Potomac. There were about 6 or 7 people at the Tomb - mostly family members of the servicemen I guessed. As they went through their motions I could actually hear Obama's voice from the huge speakers on the mall as he took the oath of office. After he finished there was a huge roar of the crowd - just as the sentinels walked off the mat. It was pretty cool.

Maybe it would have been more exciting to be down on the mall with the crowd at that moment. But, over a million people did that - only half a dozen saw the same thing that I did. Today running wasn't about the miles (although I ran about 16) it was about allowing me to experience something that I couldn't have done any other way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Phase 3: week 2 of 5

I could feel disappointed last week from an intensity standpoint - I had some GI issues during the workout on Tuesday and Saturday I decided that 10 degrees was too cold for a time trial. But, I ran 42 miles in three days at the beginning of the week without taking too much of a toll on my legs. Plus, I felt pretty good on my 20 miler today. My legs used to feel weak after running for 2 hours - but, I felt strong through 2 hrs 20 min today on a hilly run in Patapsco.

This week will be my first week over 90 miles and in a nice treat I'll get to run my marathon pace run in Miami on Sunday. We seemed to have hit our worst cold snap of the year - not that we're going to see blooming flowers any time soon - but, I doubt we'll have many more days under 15 degrees.

Last week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 7.5 miles
Tuesday: 11.5 miles 3.5 mi warmup 2X2 mi (11:16; 11:06) with 2 min recovery 4 mi warmdown
Tuesday evening: 4 miles
Wednesday: 15 miles
Thursday: 8.5 miles
Friday: 6 miles
Saturday: 8.5 miles
Sunday: 20 miles
Total: 85 miles

This week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 10 miles
Tuesday: 11.5 miles 3 mi warmup 4X1 mi at I pace with 800 meter recovery 3 mi warmdown
Tuesday evening: 4 miles
Wednesday: 15 miles
Thursday: 10 miles
Friday: 12 miles 10X100
Saturday: 8.5 miles
Sunday: 17 miles - 13 at 5:45-5:50 per mile (Miami half-marathon)
Total: 92 miles

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The perils of winter running near water & Dubai

Compared to where I did most of my running growing up - I can't really complain about training in Baltimore in the winter. In the midwest it isn't just the cold that's miserable - it's the footing. The the constant concentration of where you are going to place your foot - is that bump of snow so frozen hard that you're going to turn your ankle? is that dusting of snow hiding a patch of ice? And then, despite this level of concentration, you inevitably fall.

After several months of surviving this kind of thing you tend to start tempting fate. In high school we used to go down to the Huron River, where large swaths of ice would form by the banks. The middle of the river was ice free - we would kick through the ice nearest to land - attempting to "free" the ice into the river. If the ice was especially thick - then one of us might go out onto the ice - trying to use our body weight to start a crack, without falling through. I fell through at least once that I remember. Once you've survived running home soaked to the waist, in sub-freezing temps, it seems like there isn't anything you can't do.

In college we ran a lot along Lake Michigan. In the winter the waves can get surprisingly high - on one such day we ran out on a kind of cement breaker that separated a marina from the lake. Just as we were out at the very end of the breaker a three foot wave came over it. Most of the other guys had their legs taken out from under them but stayed on the breaker - it must have been a little higher where I was - because I got taken into the water. So, that time I got to run home pretty much soaked from head-to-toe. I can't remember exactly how cold the air temp was - but, it was at least in the 20's.

Well, today I had a kind of deja vu. I was running through Loyola Maryland's campus towards the "magic path". To get to the magic path I had to cross a stream. There was actually a dusting of snow up there - so, I was being very careful going from rock to rock. Well, my last rock wasn't sturdy - it started moving and before I knew it I was in the stream. Luckily, only my left side along with my hands got wet - but, I landed hard on my hip & forearm on some rocks. There was that momentary "I want my momma" feeling - but, then I knew that the best thing would be to get moving to keep hypothermia at bay. The hip is a little sore - but, it didn't hurt while I was running. I even got to have a tough guy moment, when I had my wife feel how the outside of my left sleeve and left pant leg had frozen solid on the way home.

On a different note - the Dubai marathon is tonight (well, actually tomorrow, but tonight our time). It is the richest marathon in the world with a $250k first prize and a $1 million dollar bonus for a world record. Geb is in it - and he sounds confident that he can break his own record. Even if he doesn't there are a lot of talented guys - so, it should be interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

VO2 Max

VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that can be processed by the body in a certain time period - it is expressed as litres of oxygen per minute. In other words it is the capacity of the cardiovascular system and peripheral systems (muscle groups) to take in oxygen, deliver to muscle systems, process oxygen, and deal with the by-products. VO2 max can be tested by increasing pace every minute until the runner is going all out. Expired air is collected in a bag during the test - heart rate is taken at the end and lactate levels are measured two minutes after the end of the test when lactate is highest.

Along with lactate threshold and running economy it is an important determinant to distance running. It is most important for distances up to 10k.

So, how do you improve VO2 max? Interval training is the most efficient way to improve VO2 max. Usually this is done by running at 3k-5k pace (usually95-100% VO2 max) for 3-5 minute intervals with recovery times that are equal to, or a little less, than the time of the interval. The amount of total weekly interval-paced training should be up to 8 percent of total mileage according to Jack Daniels.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Phase 3: Week 1 of 5

The lower mileage this week certainly helped bring a little zip back to my legs. We went out to the site of the national USATF XC meet in Derwood, MD yesterday. We ran 2k and 1k repeats with 1k rest for a total of 12k. I ran the 2k's in approximately 5:30 pace per mile and the 1k's in just under 5:10 pace. Given the rolling course I felt pretty good about that. I hadn't run an XC course with spikes for over 10 years - it felt good.

Over the next four weeks I'm planning on averaging just under 90 miles per week. I'll have 3 threshold runs, 2 V02 workouts, a marathon pace run, 2 runs over 20 miles, and a 12k race. The key will be being able to recover from my workouts without sacrificing mileage. I've still got 14 weeks before Boston - so, I can't burn myself out either - it's all about walking the tightrope. Hopefully better nutrition and more active recovery will help me out.

Last week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday Morning: 13 miles 4 mi warmup 5X1 mi (5:39; 5:36; 5:25; 5:40; 5:28) with 1 min recovery 4 mi warmdown
Tuesday Evening: 4 miles
Wednesday: 13.5 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 6.5 miles 8X100
Saturday: 13.5 miles total 3 mi warmup 2k ? (went wrong way) 1k 3:15 2k 6:45 1k 3:12 2k 6:50 1k rest 3 mi warmdown
Sunday: 8.5 miles
Total: 66 miles

This week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 6 miles
Tuesday: 12 miles 3.5 mi warmup 2X2 mi at T pace with 2 min recovery 4.5 mi warmdown
Tuesday evening: 4 miles
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 8 miles 10X100
Saturday: 10 miles 5X1200 at I pace 3.5 min rest or 5k/4 mile race
Sunday: 20 miles
Total: 86 miles

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 goals

Writing a running blog I guess I'm contractually obligated to put down my goals for the upcoming year, so that I can either laugh at them next year, or feel proud of myself.

In order of priority:

1) Run 3,650 miles for the year - basically average 10 miles per day. I think this is most important because it will help determine if I make my other goals. Plus it seems like the goal most under my control.

2) Sub 2:30 at Boston. The major reason for this blog is to keep myself focused through training for Boston so that I give myself a shot at a sub-2:30. I know this isn't going to be easy - but, I should be able to run it - and now is as good a time as any to do it.

3) Run 52:30 for 10 miles. My goal race for the fall will probably be the Army 10 miler. This might even be tougher than the sub 2:30 - the major factor will be how well I recover from Boston.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Phase Two: Week 5 of 5 - poolside

Yes - that's right, I'm writing this poolside in Key West. Blogging may have been light this week, but I got in some good running. Today I did two "laps" of Key West for a 21 mile run. Thankfully it was cloudy and even raining a little - so, I was able to run pretty quick for the last half. I probably averaged somewhere near 6:15 pace for the last 10 miles. This week my mileage comes down a bit - but, I have two quality runs - a threshold workout and a VO2 max workout.

It's been nice to not need to cover every inch of my body down here. On Wednesday Kendra and I bundled-up to run the Fairfax Four Miler back in Virginia. I was planning to run it as a threshold workout - but, either the course was short or I got a little excited running in a race with 1800 people. I ended up running sub 21:30 pretty comfortably. They had to change the course because a powerline went down on the original course - so, it very well have been short.

Next week I need to start focuing on nutrition. The holidays and Key West have led to me gaining a little weight - even with all the miles I've been running.

Last week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 10 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles
Wednesday morning: 4 miles
Wednesday evening: 8.5 miles with 4 mi in 21:26 (Fairfax Four Miler)
Thursday: 10.5 miles
Friday: 14 miles
Saturday: 7.5 miles 8X100m
Sunday: 21 miles
Total: 87.5 miles

This week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday: 14 miles 3 mi warmup 5X1 mi at T pace with 1 min recovery 6 mi warmdown
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday morning: 4 miles 10X100
Friday evening: 11 miles
Saturday: 9 miles 5X1200 at I pace 3.5 min rest
Sunday: 7 miles
Total: 66 miles