Fall Training: Weeks 5 and 6

The past two weeks featured lower mileage. Week 5 ended with a half marathon (for which lowering the mileage didn’t help; it was a dreadful race despite having been somewhat “rested” for it). Week 6 was a full recovery week.

We’re back into another heat wave, so I’ve spent lots of quality time with the treadmill for the past few days. I felt quite sluggish this past week, probably leftover fatigue from said race, but also the usual wacky hormonal ups and downs.

A look back at week 5:

  • Monday: 5.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 5.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.9 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 11 miles easy pace with 4x1000m at 5K race pace on the track
  • Thursday: 5.5 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.4 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.9 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.9 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: half marathon race (13.3 miles total)

Total mileage: 76.9 miles

And week 6:

  • Monday: Rest day
  • Tuesday: Rest day
  • Wednesday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.3 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 15 mile long run (steady pace)

Total mileage: 63.5 miles

Paces over both weeks:

  • Recovery: 9:32 – 10:38
  • Race: 7:51
  • Speed: 6:34-6:44
  • Long: 8:32

These aging muscles really felt the lingering effects of the half marathon effort this week. I walked quite a bit on Tuesday, having spent most of the day with my friend Hillary and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Sophia, strolling around Central Park (including taking a load off for two go-rounds on the carousel).* It was interesting to experience the park from a perspective that doesn’t involve running fast and being in pain. Aside from the fact that it was fun to play hookey in a beautiful place with a friend on a work day, I think all the walking also helped recovery. Overall, I was grateful for the lower mileage (relatively speaking) and slower paces this week.

The party’s over for awhile starting tomorrow. The mileage goes right back up to 90 again. I had thought I’d do a Thursday evening 5K race in Van Cortlandt Park, but I’m going to reevaluate that idea based on what the weather does. No more hot weather races. If it’s still miserable then, I’ll take it inside and do a tempo run instead.

Next week caps the “base” phase. That’s followed by 6-7 weeks of “build,” during which I reintroduce the regular midweek long run and start adding in more marathon-pace running every week, along with the usual training runs (hills, intervals, etc.). And, of course, more miles. That phase leads up to a 4-5 week “peak” phase, followed by the taper, to bring me into mid-October as “race ready” as possible. It’s still over three months away, but I’m starting to feel excited about this next race. Let’s hope I can sustain that interest over the coming weeks, when I will surely need the occasional boost to my motivation.

Coming up in Fall Training Week 7: The mileage pops back up to 90. In there is another set of hill repeats, either a tempo run or a 5K race, a midweek and weekend long run, and lots and lots and lots of recovery miles.

*The trip to the carousel yielded one of those wonderful “only in New York City” exchanges. We noticed that there was no brass ring and asked a ticket taker about it. His response was, “Brass Ring? Oh. They just moved it to Brooklyn.”

Total news blackout

Between the Euro 2008 and Olympic Track and Field Trials, I have had to avoid all news sources lately. That’s because I can’t watch any of this stuff while it’s actually on.

The football’s been on in the middle of the afternoon, which has necessitated waiting a few hours to make it the evening’s entertainment. The T&F coverage started last night at midnight, fer cryin’ out loud.

Little treasures await me in our Tivo box, but in the meantime I can’t go to LetsRun.com, or open my NYTimes “track and field” article alert emails, or turn on the news until my other, sleepier half rises to greet the morning and its pre-recorded sports coverage. I am dying to know what happened in the women’s 10,000m, for example. But I must be a patient grasshopper.

So, for now, I’ll content myself this morning with planning a trip to Oregon next year. I want to race the Newport Marathon* in 2009, but use that as a centerpiece to a giant loop tour of the state.

I am happiest while planning something elaborate. Since I’ve planned my marathon training for Steamtown down to the last detail, I’ve been bereft in the planning department lately. At last…something new to plan.

*How can you not want to run a race that provides fresh raw oysters at the aid stations?

Central Park: Heaven or Hell for runners?

Two wildly divergent views on what Central Park has to offer runners.

First, the good from the New York Times. Includes a very handy interactive map.

Next, the bad from New York Magazine, regarding the tensions between walkers, dog owners, runners and cyclists. Can’t we all just get along?

Race Report: Fairfield Half Marathon

Hills, humidity and horror.

This race was a disaster. I went in hoping to run somewhere around 1:33:00 and ended up with a time of 1:44:43. That’s 10 minutes slower than my half marathon time in May (and I’m in better shape then I was then.) I managed a pace of between 7:00-7:10 for the first couple of miles, then hit the first of several horrendous hills, over the course of which my performance steadily but surely cratered.

I wouldn’t call the last few miles a death march, but suffice it to say that I went from an average pace of 7:35 for the first 9 miles to around 8:35 for the last 4.1. My goal had been to run an average of 7:05 or so.

Between this and the Mini 10K a couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided that summer races are not for me. I race shorter races primarily for one of three reasons: a) to stand in for a marathon training run (tempo or marathon pace, usually); b) to assess my current fitness; c) to have fun.

Running in heat and high humidity accomplishes none of those things. The primary training effect is learning to run in high heat and humidity, which isn’t a goal; it’s a waste as a training run because I can’t get anywhere near the paces I need to in order for it to be productive; it’s only fun if you’re a masochist.

I will mention that it’s a good event, if you’re looking for a challenging summer half and can cope with the possibility of the weather being against you. The course is beautiful, winding through neighborhoods full of beautiful homes and gardens. It’s well-supported, with enthusiastic volunteers and decent post-race food (although I didn’t dare try the pizza, since my stomach was doing flipflops).

I wouldn’t call this race a total loss, since it has confirmed that I should take my hard training indoors when it’s very hot and humid. And save the racing for the other three seasons.

"Mr. Ski Gloves" and other mysteries…solved!

I posted about a person I see just about every day, walking in the hottest of weather wearing Michelin Man ski gloves*: At random points in his perambulations, he drops to the pavement and does pushups. I guess the gloves are to protect his hands. Still seems like overkill, though.

The forecast for tomorrow’s half marathon in Connecticut is for 70 degrees and around 80% humidity. I suppose it could be worse (and it has been in past years, or so I’ve read). Fortunately, much of the course is reported to be shaded, so I’ll just focus on getting the water down my throat rather than the front of my shirt and taking it easy on the hills.

I will be one of 274 women in the 40-49 age group running (perhaps more, if there are race day registrations) tomorrow. I recognize one name from the NYRR races — someone who always beats me by just a minute or two. I want to try to reverse that trend tomorrow (although by her recent race times, it looks like she’s impervious to heat).

We’re promised a post-race “beach party,” which I hope means ice cream and beer (don’t ask me why I make that association). Way before noon! Sometimes, when you get over the whole taxes, home repairs, needing to hold down a job thing, being an adult is a lot of fun. Anyway, I’m hoping this “party” will make up for the fact that I need to get up at 4:30AM tomorrow morning to drive an hour and engage in strenuous exercise in high humidity.

Before I go, I want to praise Tivo. Because of Tivo we’ve been able to watch every single match in the Euro 2008 Football cup, at our leisure, in the evening. And we have about 30 “track and field” broadcasts scheduled to record in the coming weeks, Olympic trials from Eugene and otherwise. Heaven. Sheer heaven.

Also, since I’ve been making very little progress with weight (or, rather, butt) loss lately, despite running 90 miles a week and dropping my caloric intake to around 1500 a day, I decided to give the whole “your body will go into starvation mode and hold onto fat like it’s going out of style” theory some credence. For the past week or so, I’ve been experimenting with eating more (and more frequently). And rapidly losing fat. Who knew?

*Originally reported as “mittens.” I see now that they are in fact gloves.

Fall Training: Week 4

I’m currently in a post-prandial stupor, probably headed off for a short nap soon. What better time to recap the week’s running?

This was my highest mileage week since February: 90 miles. Hard to believe. Still, just 1.5 miles more than two weeks ago. But some of them were tough miles indeed.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.9 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM); 5.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 11 miles with 5 x 1 mile hill repeats (AM); 4 miles easy pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 7.9 miles easy(!) pace; 4.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.4 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 3.4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 20 mile long run with 2 miles at marathon pace

Total mileage: 90 miles

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 9:22 – 11:13
  • Hills: 8:49
  • Easy: 7:59 – 8:49
  • Long: 8:30 with 2 x 1 miles at 7:35 pace

We had a real heat wave for the early part of the week. Then the weather eased up a bit and it was both cooler and drier. But still pretty hot.

Wednesday’s hill run went well, considering that it’s been months since I’ve done any hill-specific running. We found a great half-mile long hill in Scarsdale along Grand Boulevard. It starts with a big uphill, then a little dip, then a shorter uphill. On a mile round-trip you get to work the legs (and lungs!) on both types of hills, extreme up and extreme down. I did five repeats sandwiched inbetween three miles there and three miles back — and was wiped by the end.

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Oddly, though, my legs felt very fresh later in the day, so my planned recovery run turned into a fairly quick easy run. I have days where I decide to just run faster if I feel good, just as I make a day that doesn’t feel good into a slower day.

Wednesday’s effort definitely lingered, though. My legs were sore and tired (very tired) Thursday, making for glacial paces on that day’s runs. Then I did a very fast easy run on Friday morning, because the weather was so lovely — cool, dry and in the 60s. Paid for it yesterday, when my legs were again complaining.

Yesterday also brought the worst thunderstorms we’ve had since moving up here roughly 14 years ago. Heavy rain started a little after 6PM and I waited for it to move on. It went on and on. I did my little recovery run inside on the treadmill, but Jonathan had gone out to do his on the path. I finished up at 6:40 or so and was in the kitchen, looking out the window, when the sky went black in the space of about 10 seconds. I thought, “Hmm, this doesn’t look good.” Then the skies opened up and buckets of rain came down, punctuated by lightning strikes.

Since I am the panicky sort, I got in the car to go look for Jonathan. Driving along the Bronx River Parkway, it was impossible to see more than five feet in front of the car. The roadway was a giant puddle, so I got off at Crestwood train station, hoping he’d taken shelter there. Ran up the stairs to see if he was inside, but no luck. Since the parkway was rapidly flooding, I decided to take local streets home to wait for him. But the streets were flooding too. I had a moment, right before driving into about two feet of water, where I thought, “I’m doing what stupid people do right now. I may need to abandon the car if it stalls out.”

Made it through the puddle and continued to stupidly think, “Well, I’m going uphill to our house. Higher ground should be safer.” Made the turn onto Underhill and it was a waterfall. I gunned the engine and hoped I’d make it up the hill. At our street, the situation was even worse: about a foot of water was rushing down the hill, carrying branches and boulders with it. The source was a drainage sluice that runs alongside our driveway, which didn’t look passable, let along driveable.

At that point, I pull up onto a neighbor’s raised driveway, turned on AM radio and waited. Flash flood warnings! Big shocker there. After about five minutes, the rain let up and the floodwaters started to ebb. Just as I was deciding what to do next, I saw Jonathan trudging up the street, looking like a drowned rat. It turns out he took shelter about a hundred feet north of the train station in a stand of trees. So I just missed him.

It was an exciting evening, to say the least. I had no plans to drink, but a shot of vodka was in order for its calming properties. Then a big bowl of mac and cheese and early bed for…

…the big run of the week: a 20 miler with some late miles at current marathon fitness pace (~7:35). Did this one on the treadmill due to dreadful humidity this morning. Luckily, I’ve got a 3+ hour mix of music on my MP3 player and for visual entertainment I watched “Waterworld” without the sound. “Waterworld” is sort of like “The Road Warrior” but with lots of water and none of the suspense or excitement.

I’d planned to do the last three miles at marathon pace, but my legs were complaining, so I cut it to doing miles 18 and 19, then a cooldown mile for 20. Yet another case of reminding myself that this is just basebuilding time, not real training yet. But soon. Soon.

Coming up in Fall Training Week 5: The mileage gets cut by 12 miles in order to be somewhat fresh for the Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half on Sunday. But not before a serious speed session on Wednesday.

Sightings

On recent local runs I’ve seen:

  • An enormous tortoise. About a foot long. Or maybe more than one, since between Jonathan and myself we’ve spotted three in radically different locations. They can’t swim, and it’s hard to believe they could move that fast on land. Now we’re thinking that someone’s introduced a set of them into the environment recently.
  • Our own local African elite. We’ve both spotted a rail thin, fast guy who looks to be possibly Kenyan or Ethiopian cruising along the path. I wonder who he is. He is much faster than the tortoise. Or me, for that matter.
  • A man inexplicably wearing heavy ski mittens. We’re talking thick space shuttle jobbies. He was wearing them this morning when it was 90 degrees outside. Shorts, tee shirt — and 10 lb. plastic mittens. Mental illness, medical condition or just garden variety eccentricity? You decide.
  • A small bag of pot on the ground. Really! Just south of the White Plains train station. Needless to say, I now keep my eyes peeled while in that area now.

The last few days have been crazy hot. But not too humid, which has helped. The heat wave is supposed to break overnight. I sure hope so, because tomorrow morning I have to go run up and down a half mile hill five times.

Fall Training: Week 3

I took a recovery week this week, having increased mileage significantly over the past few weeks, up from the ~45 miles per week I did during post-marathon recovery. I took Monday off and spent most of my sessions running at around 66% max heart rate. Very easy paces. I enjoyed all that slow running, actually. It gave me lots of time to think about all the not-so-slow running I’ll be doing in short order.

I had a good race yesterday, all things considered (weather, mostly). Then got my aching legs out of bed at 5:30AM this morning so I could be out doing my long run at 6:30 to beat the heat. Good strategy; I had a much better run as compared to last week’s Sunday death march.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: Rest day
  • Tuesday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM); 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 7 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.1 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 7.3 miles recovery pace
  • Friday: 6.3 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.2 mile race
  • Sunday: 14.3 mile long run (steady pace)

Total mileage: 61 miles

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 9:18 – 10:46
  • Race: 7:07*
  • Long: 8:42

Despite the fact that the heat index was around 85 degrees this morning, I felt surprisingly good on my long run. Well, at least for the first seven miles. Once the sun came up over the trees, I had to slow down a bit. I did a repeat of a 7+ mile loop so I could stash a big bottle of water at the halfway point. That seemed to help a lot, as I always felt much better following the three stops for water over the course of two hours.

My legs are quite tired today, though. I know it’s from yesterday’s race, because the fatigue is in the muscles I’m only aware of after running fast up and down hills: adductors, glutes, hamstrings, quads. (Seems like there’s not much left, doesn’t it?)

Still, running in the heat this morning wasn’t that bad. The humidity was actually pretty low (around 60%), so that helped, despite the high temperatures. It was nice to be done with my long run by 9AM (shower included). It typically monopolizes my entire Sunday morning.

During the workweek I’ve been getting up earlier either to do some work in peace (before the rest of the world wakes up and starts bombarding me with email, phone calls and instant messages), or to go running. The flipside, of course, is that I’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier (because I fall asleep in my chair) as a result of getting up at 5:30 AM these days. At least my hours are reasonably flexible, so what I’ve often done is do the bulk of my work starting very early in the day, go out for a run from 11:00-12:00, then knock off work at 3:30 or so to relax or get errands done until I have to go running again at 6:00. Now that summer’s here, however, I suspect I’ll be trying to run as early as possible to beat the heat. In any case, I am so grateful that I don’t have to commute.

Another flipside, though, if you can have three of them, is that since I freelance in addition to my M-F contracting gig, I often have to work weekends to get all the work done to meet deadlines. This weekend was the first one in nearly two months during which I had no freelance work to do! So I’ve enjoyed the hours of nothingness. I’ve watched television, websurfed on the couch, napped and generally avoided anything resembling productivity, such as housework, bill-paying or errands. Even with the oppressive heat, it’s been a great weekend. And now, since it’s Sunday (my “free day” to eat and drink what I want), I think I’ll go crack open that bottle of sauvignon blanc…

Coming up in Fall Training Week 4: The mileage ramps back up to 88. Plus I do my first hill repeat session and cap the week with another 20 miler with the last few at marathon pace. Whee!

*Garmin says I ran 6.45 miles. I believe it; it was very crowded in spots.

The Avis of Olympians

Nice piece in the NY Times on Blake Russell. She tries harder.

Also, a good interview with Magdalena Lewy-Boulet in Runner’s World.

Race Report: New York Mini 10K

A hot race full of hot women. And I’m not talking about Playboy Bunnies.*

I knew it was going to be hot today. It’s funny — I didn’t consider not running it, even as each day’s weather forecast predicted mercury soaring ever higher. I was curious to see how I’d do in the heat, since, aside from last weekend’s hot and humid Sunday long run (debacle), I haven’t done any training or racing in the heat since last summer.

I did about as well as I thought I would. Under normal circumstances, I’d expect to be able to run a 10K in Central Park around 43:30 at my current level of fitness. Today I ran it in 45:54.

I console myself with something Deena Kastor said at a pre-race press conference:

Although I am not peaked or peaked for this race, I’m actually just beginning to launch into my marathon‑specific training, it was a weekend I could not pass up as being past competitors of Magdalena Lewy‑Boulet and Blake Russell, to now being teammates has a really different feel. I really wanted to come together this weekend to celebrate women’s distance running here in New York City, a race that is really truly incredible for 5,000 women to take on the streets of New York and Central Park itself. It’s an incredible celebration of distance running.”

Yes. What Deena said. About not having trained for a 10K and just being at the beginning of marathon training. That. What she said.

Incidentally, rundangerously has some nice photos of Deena and others. And there’s a good story on the race in The Final Sprint: Jonathan was among those high-fived by Hilda Kibet and Madai Perez.

I picked up my number and, once I got to the start, was delighted to discover that I was seeded in the first corral, right behind the elites. What a treat!

We spent a few minutes listening to opening remarks from Mary Wittenberg, got a very brief oral history of the race from co-founders Kathrine Switzer and Nina Kuscsik, and were introduced to some of the elites running. One of them, Hilda Kibet, won with a time of 32:49. Not bad in hot, humid weather, and over a hilly course. Did I mention that Kibet is Lornah Kiplagat’s cousin?

The horn honked and 4,104 of us were off.

The race was a challenge, as all races in the park are. We started just above Columbus Circle, heading up Central Park West to 90th Street, at which point we turned into the park. My first three miles went very well. In fact, I ran a 6:30 pace for mile 1, which shocked me to no end. I didn’t even know I could run that fast. But I knew it wasn’t sustainable. For miles 2 and 3 I ran 6:59 and 6:57 respectively.

Then came the big hills. The first one wasn’t too bad, but the second one that rounds the north end over to the East side was very difficult. It seemed much steeper and longer than last time I’d run it. I wonder why.

By the 4 mile mark, my legs felt like jelly and everyone was running noticeably slower. The time for that split was 7:38; ouch. Still, I managed to pick the pace up again on Cat Hill, running mile 5 in 7:10. Mile 6 was very slow, even with the 100 foot elevation drop: 7:25. That one surprised me. I must have done something earlier that I couldn’t recover from, because although my lungs were fine, I couldn’t make my legs go faster, even on the downgrades. Might that first 6:30 mile have had something to do with that?

Rounding the bottom of the park for the last .2 miles, a woman ran with me and said cheerfully, “Come on, don’t slow down now.” We ran together for most of the rest of the race. Nice person, whoever she was. She pulled me along and I managed a 7:13 pace for the last bit.

Stats:

  • Finishing time: 45:54
  • 169th place overall
  • 28th place in women 40-44
  • Age graded ranking: 70.0%
  • Top 4% of all finishers
  • Top 6% of women 40-44

The race was well organized. There were well-stocked water tables approximately every mile or so (although they really should have had a table right after the big hills; having to run all the way to the boat house before getting a drink seemed way too far). People with misting hoses were stationed along the course, which most of the runners took advantage of. Volunteers were enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable. They ran out of small shirts, unfortunately, which was too bad, but no biggie.

The prize (besides being able to stop running) was a lovely, understated medal and a single pink carnation. Classy race. I’ll probably run it again next year.

Next up: The Stratton Faxon Fairfield half in two weeks…

*Follow the oral history link for further explanation of this wisecrack.

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