Je suis fatigué

When I mapped out my training schedule for the fall, I knew I’d be tired this week. For the past 12 weeks I’ve run an average of just under 90 miles per week; for the seven weeks prior to that I averaged 78 mpw. The majority of days I’ve run twice a day. I’ve had just four full recovery weeks since mid May. During nearly all of the non-recovery weeks I’ve done a long run and two other hard workouts.

Here’s where all this leads — the apex of exhaustion (or nadir of energy, if you like): I slept nine hours last night but woke up feeling drained and sleep-deprived anyway. I sat in a near coma for an hour or two, attempting to motivate myself to go out and do a 10 mile run with hills. Then I went to lie down for an hour. I finally managed to drag myself out the door for a five mile recovery run. Five hours later I feel like I ran a race this morning.

I remember being very tired at the peak of training last season, so I was expecting this. But it’s amazing how pervasive and all-consuming the fatigue is today. And, naturally, I beat myself up for missing a key workout (even though I’d noted in the schedule to “drop this run if too tired” — prescient, no?).

I’m also famished basically all the time. I crave very specific foods, like sunflower seeds, honey and pineapple. I am shoveling food in like coal into a roaring furnace.

Whether to try another run later on today is something I’m still mulling over. I’m hoping that, as so often happens, I’ll awake tomorrow a new woman, full of vim and vigor and aching to get my 6.6 oz. racing flats out on the road tomorrow morning. If that’s the case, I’ll do my 14 miler as planned and maybe even throw in some hill repeats to boot. If I still wake up feeling like warmed over dog food, I’ll take it easy again tomorrow.

This is my 18th week of training and I feel as if I’ve been dropped from a high building. I’ve seen marathon training plans that go for 24 or 26 weeks. I think I’d be dead right now if I tried to follow one of those.

What’s funny — and this is why experience is such a good thing — is that I know in two weeks I’ll feel like a million bucks. And in three weeks I’ll feel like a billion. Then I’ll be on the starting line, with my legs feeling like two lit rockets, and I’ll actually have to hold myself back. I can’t imagine a more foreign sensation right now, yet I know it’s coming.

Nice legs

I needed to do a six miler last evening. I usually construct this run with a four mile loop up to Scarsdale followed by a two mile loop down to Bronxville. But the weather was so horrible yesterday that I couldn’t handle the idea of having to run beyond my starting point down to Bronxville. So I ran a bit farther north and turned right on Harney Road, figuring if I ran up to White Plains Road, I’d probably go around 3 miles (to turn around and make it a six miler).

Running through a commercial area had its benefits, as it turns out. I ran by lots of store windows, some positioned at clever angles. And, damn, my legs are starting to look really good. They are no longer shapeless blobs of bouncing flesh. There’s still a fair amount of bouncing activity in the inner thigh region. But I have real muscles now, and I can actually see how my knees are put together.

Running 90-100 miles per week seems to be the ticket for fat loss. It’s going to be a shame to cover these puppies up with tights soon.

Fall Training: Weeks 16 and 17

And…yet another twofer report. It’s just been easier to bunch these up into fortnightly reports, especially since in my current haze of exhaustion the weeks are a total blur anyway.

The first week of September provided somewhat drier, yet still warm, temperatures — up until the end of the week. It’s hurricane season — I know: so what? — well, we get the hurricanes after they flatten villages and kill people in the Gulf. They don’t kill us, but they irritate the hell out of us.

I started extending the length of my recovery runs by a mile or two to bump up the mileage. Other than that, things looked the same as in previous weeks: Lots of recovery running plus two or three hard sessions per week.

Week 16 consisted of 13 sessions, most of them (as per usual) recovery runs. Highlights included another sorry attempt at one of Frank’s Killer Tempo Runs. Given the weather and the fact that I seem to be incapable of running fast on the track, I approached this run loosely, doing 25 laps on and off heart rate in the high 80s/low 80s. Good enough. On Thursday I attempted another marathon pace run. I made adjustments due to the conditions (high dew point and windy). I hit 7:15 for a couple of the miles, but was slower for most others. Then the week was capped with a 10 mile race in South Nyack, a normally sticky race made even stickier by Hurricane Gustav. Again, slower than I wanted to go, but it was okay.

In week 17, this past week, also featured 13 sessions. I did another, longish tempo run, but this time on the roads. Instead of doing mile repeats as originally planned, I decided to do quarter mile surges at a pace anywhere from tempo to slightly faster than marathon pace, followed by quarter-to-half-mile easy pace recoveries. With temps in the 60s and a dew point of 55, this run went extremely well. Since the weather was really bad for the first part of the week, I moved the tempo run to Wednesday. Which meant I had to skip the midweek long run if I wanted to be in decent shape for the weekend. So I spent the next few days focusing on recovery so I could get ready for another big weekend effort in Central Park: 20+ miles with 12 miles at marathon pace effort.

A look back at training week 16:

  • Monday: 7 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 7.4 miles tempo pace (AM); 6.8 miles recovery pace (pm)
  • Wednesday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 14 miles marathon pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 10 mile race (AM)

Total mileage: 91.2 miles

And training week 17:

  • Monday: 7.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 9.8 miles tempo pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.8 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 20.4 mile long run with 12 miles at marathon effort (AM); lots of eating and sleeping (PM)
  • Sunday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.1 miles recovery pace (PM)

Total mileage: 99 miles

Paces these past two weeks:

  • Recovery: 9:30 – 10:45
  • Tempo: 6:32 – 7:21
  • Marathon pace: 7:15 – 7:30
  • Long: 8:04

Right now we’re in the grip of Ike’s heat and humidity. This morning was another run in Hades, followed by a run in a slightly higher circle of Hell in the evening. It was only after catching up on my blog reading that I realized that the Queens Half Marathon was held this morning. Bravo to the hardy souls, including Pigtails Flying (who PR’ed! Yay!), who braved 87% humidity to run that race this morning. I’m glad I wasn’t there…

Coming up in Training Week 18: This is the last big week of training before my three week taper begins. I have 100 miles planned, with hill work, a midweek long run, and another very long run on the weekend with lots of fast miles.

Change is good.

I’ve managed to successfully move this blog over from Blogger to WordPress. Blogger was good to me, don’t get me wrong. But WordPress is just, well, more elegant. Plus I really wanted a dedicated domain.

I’m behind on posting. But I’ll catch up again on Sunday with another fascinating “twofer” training week recap.

Back soon.

Runs Like a Girl just got faster

I’ve changed the name of this blog to Races Like a Girl. Now featuring its own shiny new domain:

Links to the old name will redirect to this one, but you may as well update your bookmarks.

Race Report: 2008 South Nyack 10 Miler

Hurricane Hanna blew through overnight (I know, because I was up listening to her around midnight), and by 5AM our little world outside had changed. It was cool and not too humid. No cloud cover, unfortunately, but I wasn’t going to quibble.

So off we went over the Tappan Zee at 7AM to join around 400 other people to run 10 miles through South Nyack and Piermont in Rockland County. This is the third time I’ve run this annual race and I’m happy to say that I get faster every year. This year I knocked over nine minutes off last year’s time, which was enough to finally put me over the edge into award territory.

Here’s a map of the course. It’s an oddly difficult course: the first mile is flat or fairly steep downhill, the next two and a half miles feature a slight downhill grade. Then you run a mile out and back along a very windy pier. Then back up the now slight uphill grade for two and a half miles. Mile nine is a short, steep hill, followed by a long, steep hill. And the last mile is a flat sprint along a gravel and cinder trail, where I always get outkicked by one woman or another.

As usual, my time goal was overly aggressive given both the conditions and the fact that I already had over 80 miles and two hard sessions in my legs this week (and 92 miles last week). By mile three I could tell that I was going to be running slower than I’d wanted to. My legs were just plain tired and I couldn’t make them go faster, especially for the uphill (and headwindy) second half.

All of that was okay. The purpose of the race was really to get some sense of what my fitness level is and serve as a very long tempo run and training stimulus for the marathon in a few weeks.

Still, I averaged a 7:23 pace, despite hills, wind and a lot of running in direct sunlight. That was fast enough to get me an unofficial time of 1:14:29 (results not yet posted), compared to last year’s time of 1:23:33. I didn’t run as hard as I did last year (I averaged an 88% max heart rate; last year the average was 90%). So, of course, I regret not having run harder. But my legs didn’t have it in them, and I can see why. Last year, they’d run a mere 25 miles in the week leading up to the race, as compared to 82 this year.

Today’s 10 mile time was not my best by a long shot. In fact, the fastest 10 miles I’ve run thus far were during the Long Branch New Jersey Half Marathon in early May, with a time of around 1:11. That’s no surprise: I’d had a full month of post-marathon rest and the course was nearly pancake flat. But I’m happy with my time today, all things considered.

I had some minor hysteria prior to the race when my watch went into its usual pre-race prima donna fit, refusing to find any satellites. It has a bad habit of malfunctioning only during races (the worst example being when it ceased to function properly after mile 15 of the More Marathon this year). Attention whore. Eventually, after multiple restarts and idle threats, it sorted itself out a few minutes before race time.

I ran and ran. And then I ran some more. And before I knew it, 10 miles had gone by. I got passed by two women, one with about three miles to go (she was young) and then, as usual, got outkicked by someone else in the last half mile (she was in the 50+ age group, sporting significantly less body fat than I).

Checking the results, it looked like I’d won second in my age group. But then it was revealed that they do overall awards (first, second, third), and then the age group placements start. Since the third overall was 42-year-old Carol Guzinski (a familiar competitor who always beats me by a fairly wide margin), I was in for first in the 40-44 age group. Hoorah! This may be the first time I’ve been happy to see someone beat me, as it meant the difference between coming home with a big ugly trophy vs. a small ugly medal.


  • Finishing time: 1:14:29
  • 50th place overall
  • 8th woman
  • 1st place women 40-44 (but 2nd place finisher in that age group)

If I look tired in this photo it’s because:

  • I got five hours of sleep the night before
  • I’d just gotten up from a two+ hour nap
  • I ran 10 miles as fast as I could this morning

I should also add that Jonathan ran a good race too. His goal was to come in under an hour, which he missed by a mere nine seconds. He came in fifth overall and first in his age group, so we’ve got matching ugly trophies.

That’s the only tune-up race between now and Steamtown on October 12. We’ve got another NYRR long training run in Central Park next weekend, for which I’m hoping we’ll get even better weather.

You are. Like. A hurricane.

Hurricane Hanna is blowing through at the moment. Packing (don’t you love how they always say “packing”? Like she’s going to shoot someone?)…packing 50mph winds, thunderstorms and heavy rain.

Once again, I have managed to schedule a key race on a day when the weather will be uncooperative, to say the least. The forecast at race time (8:30AM) is for 72 degrees, 61 degree dew point (okay, not that bad when compared to this morning’s 74 degree dew point, when the whole world felt like the inside of an EasyBake oven) and 10mph winds. The good news? No rain. The bad news? The wind direction will mean an unfortunate headwind during a long uphill stretch.

But I’m used to running uphill and straight into stiff headwinds! And everyone else will have the same stupid wind blowing in their faces. So, dagnabbit, I’m determined to run my best and have a good time.

Race report to come.


Thursday temperatures could meet or exceed the 91 degree record from 1961. Realfeel temps expected to be 94.

So here I am, having dutifully gotten up at 5AM in order to do my 14 miler with 8-10 at Mpace+20 seconds per mile. And it’s already hot and humid. The sun’s not even up yet.

The forecast for Sunday’s race in South Nyack is even better: Pouring rain, high humidity (obviously) and possible high winds.

All things considered, at least I don’t live in Haiti, the Dominican Republic or along the Gulf Coast (for a variety of reasons, not limited to bad weather, I am thankful for this). I’ve chosen not to live in the path of hurricanes. So why must I — and my training — still suffer? Why? Why?

Which also begs the question: Should I bother going running this morning? Or should I just go back to bed and shoot myself?

What is it about the track?

I did a tempo run on the Bronxville track this morning. Sort of. Due to residual tiredness from Sunday’s hard run plus the usual (and by now quite tiresome) factors of heat, humidity and wind, it ended up turning into another marathon pace run, since I couldn’t run fast enough to hit the tempo paces.

I realized today that I hate running on the track. I hate it. Yes, “hate” is a strong word. It’s the word I want: Hate. I hate the track.

Why is it that I can run +/- 7:00 minutes per mile in a race or during a longer run on the road, with hills even, but I have so much trouble managing that pace on a nice, flat track? I think it must be mental. Going round and round, knowing exactly how fast (or, in my case, how slow) you’re going, orange and white, orange and white, orange and white. Gack.

I wonder if it’s possible to become a very fast marathon runner without ever setting foot on a track.

Fall Training: Weeks 14 and 15

Another twofer report. I’ve been astonishingly busy lately with work and other things. I promised I’d get caught up on the training reports today, so here I am.

Week 14 was a recovery week in which I’d planned to run about 55 miles, most of them recovery miles. Things were going well until the weekend. The week’s mileage got cut down to just under 40 due to (as Alka Seltzer puts it in quaint nineteenth century parlance) “overindulgence in food and drink.”

We had friends over on Saturday evening, and they brought not only hours of good conversation with them but also a huge box of delicious treats from Billy’s Bakery consisting of highly concentrated amounts of sugar and fat. Yum. They left at midnight, but we were so wired that we stayed up until around 3AM watching the Tivo’d mens Olympic marathon and pouring ourselves more buckets of wine. Needless to say, that 14 miler I’d planned for Sunday morning was conveniently forgotten about.

So that week was a lot easier than originally planned. Not surprisingly, I felt very recovered going into week 15. I think I may experiment with radical mileage cut downs during some recovery weeks (to a third rather than half) during the next training cycle, since my workouts this past week went very well. Could being adequately rested have had something to do with that?

Last week was crazy busy with work (both my full-time contracting gig and extra freelance). Long hours punctuated by lots of running. I also slept horribly during the early part of the week for mysterious reasons. I had a good general aerobic (easy) run on Tuesday, and threw in some strides. Then did a longer recovery run on Wednesday, and then felt horrible that evening: Heavy legs, no energy, crappy attitude. I went to bed that night believing that I’d feel better the next day, and, lo, I did. So much better that I knocked out a 21 mile progressive long run, which averaged an 8:03 pace and even featured the last two-thirds of a mile at 6:35 pace!*

Was I satisfied with that? Of course not. 72 hours later I proceeded to go out and run a smokin‘ hot marathon pace run on Sunday morning: 12+ miles with 4 marathon pace miles thrown in at various points in the run. I met or exceeded my target pace of 7:10 too, with my heart rate right about where it should be during each Mpace mile interval. Go, me.

A look back at training week 14 (recovery week):

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: 5.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 9.9 miles recovery pace (AM)
  • Friday: 5.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 10.4 miles recovery pace (AM); Bacchanalian merriment and self abuse (PM)
  • Sunday: Off

Total mileage: 39.6 miles

And training week 15:

  • Monday: 7.4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 7.2 easy run + strides (AM); 4.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 9.7 miles recovery pace (AM); 2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 21 mile long run (progressive) (AM); what, are you kidding? (PM)
  • Friday: 7.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 5.1 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.8 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 12.2 miles marathon pace (AM); 4.3 miles recovery pace (PM)

Total mileage: 91.7 miles

Paces these past two weeks:

  • Recovery: 8:48 – 10:58
  • Easy: 7:45 – 8:15
  • Marathon pace: 7:05 – 7:08
  • Long: 6:35 – 8:55

In other news, I made the rather radical decision to cut off huge amounts of my hair. I now have a haircut that makes me look pretty much like a slightly taller Cindy Lou Who. Now that I’m used to it, I’m now thinking it’s not short enough. I may go for a Mia Farrow During the Sinatra Years cut next time…

Also, since drinking and TV constitute two of the remaining joys (and vices) in my life, I will share the recent discovery that a vodka martini with two olives contains a mere 220 calories! Also, there’s a new series on Sundance starting next weekend, written by and starring Jennifer Saunders, The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle. Between this and the new season of Dexter, I am beside myself.

Coming up in Fall Training Week 16: Another one of Frank’s Killer Tempo runs on Tuesday, a 14 miler run at 105% marathon pace on Thursday and an exciting 10 mile race on Sunday.

* Why did I run this fast? Because there was a guy on my heels for the last 3-4 miles who was driving me a little nuts. Since my run was a progressive/fast finish effort, I was running those miles faster and faster. I’d speed up. Then he’d speed up. Finally, toward the end, I could hear him closing in on me.

I decided that I may as well use the opportunity to work on “mental toughness.” So I pretended we were in a race (which I suppose we sort of were) and that there was no way I was going to let him beat me to the finish. Since he kept speeding up, I guess 6:35 was what I had to run in order to “win”. I had no clue I could even run that fast over that distance, let alone at the end of a hard 20 miler. I suppose it’s a good illustration of how racing environments can introduce motivational factors that are very difficult to duplicate in a solo training run.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers