The week so far

Just a little post, since it feels odd not to post something.

Today I am celebrating:

  • The swift, smart policy actions our new President has taken already, less than 48 hours since taking his oath of office.
  • Having finally, and successfully, presented a project proposal to some execs at Large Anonymous Corporation (where I contract as a web editorial content yeoman and quartermaster, and now it seems, web metrics maven as well) — a meeting that has been cancelled multiple times and thus has been hanging over my head (and haunting my dreams) for the past month.
  • It’s Thursday! And that’s so much better than Wednesday!
  • Two days of forecasts above freezing and no precipitation on the near horizon. Perhaps our running path and track will actually be clear next week.
  • A weight loss of 4 lbs. since New Year’s Day including a 0.5%  fat loss. I’ll blow it somewhat this weekend, as it’s Jonathan’s birthday, which includes plans for cake, ice cream, wine, beer and tequila(!). But I’ll be back on the wagon next week.
  • The return to training (and, soon, racing) of Joe Garland. I barely know Joe, but I am looking forward to seeing him again on the roads and at races.

I’ve been stuck inside on the treadmill so far this week. But that’s been fine. It’s a recovery week, so I’ve spent most of those miles zoned out in front of a movie at recovery or easy pace. I did a fast finish easy run on Tuesday that felt a little too easy. This morning I’m doing a longer easy run again with two intervals of 1 mile at 6:40 pace with a 3:00 rest. I’ll see if that feels easy (ha ha).

Sunday is my first real race since the Steamtown Marathon: The Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. I had a good race there last year and, weather permitting, I hope to do well again this year. I don’t have time goals yet, and I may even just run this by heart rate.

Either way, I don’t want to waste the opportunity to race all out. I’ll be running three more races in the coming couple of months, but those will be training runs. The next actual race is in late March, a 30K in Connecticut, nine weeks after Sunday’s half. It should be very interesting to compare relative performances between the two.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 9

09spr-base-09Just nine short weeks ago I was 80 pounds overweight, battling high blood pressure, impotence and halitosis — and look at me now!

Okay — none of that is true. But I was certainly not as fit as I am today. I was also a coaching ingenue, a wee runner wet behind the ears, a doe-eyed street urchin in a poorly state and desperately in need of guidance.

This morning I took my resting heart rate and — get out of town! — it was a mere 42. In most hospitals and doctor’s offices in this country, that would indicate a serious medical issue. Couple that with this morning’s blood pressure reading of 103 over 68 and I’d be declared legally dead in most American medical circles.

The last time I had a checkup, around three years ago, I’d just started racing. But after a few years of running, I already had award-winning cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. I’ve decided that I’ll go for another workup in two or three months, when I’ve got more strenuous training under my belt. Just to see how much more of a superwoman I’ve become.

Anyway, on to the week’s report. Like last week, the target was 90 miles, which I was just a bit shy of owing to a long run today that was a half mile short (I had a mild  brain fart while figuring out the route en route). I was trapped inside on the treadmill Monday through Friday. It was just too treacherous to try to run outside, and there was no way I’d be able to come close to the speedier times I needed to hit. So I suffered inside.

Things went pretty well overall. I managed 25 minutes at tempo-y pace on Tuesday, although it was a bit slower than I wanted. I think I was still tired from last Sunday’s long run opus. I took all the recovery runs nice and slow so I could put out a good effort on Friday. In contrast to Tuesday, Friday’s speedier bits felt too easy. But I suspect that’s because I was comparing the effort of running at a 7:00ish minute mile for 150 seconds to running at the same speed for 25 long minutes. Since the first few felt so easy, I ran the remaining ones 10-15 seconds faster. Because I am an overachiever.

I took Saturday’s recovery run outside and awoke this morning to more Nightmare in New England weather: yet more snow, coming down like gangbusters this morning. After employing every possible delay tactic, I managed to finally drag myself out the door at close to 10AM. Much later than I wanted to start, but I went to bed at midnight (since The Dark Knight was so freaking — and unnecessarily — long).

I had a bad feeling about the running path, so I drove up to Scarsdale, resigned to the prospect of running my 6ish mile residential loop multiple times. The first couple of miles sucked, frankly, because they hadn’t been plowed. This surprised me, since I was running on a major roadway. I had no traction and was putting out quite a bit of effort for a 9:30 pace. I decided I’d run the whole loop at least once. If it was going to be such arduous going for the whole way, I’d bag the remaining loops and finish up the remaining 14 at home on the treadmill.

Fortunately, other roads were salted and plowed. It was still slushy, icy going, but as the weather warmed up and the salters and plowers did their work, conditions improved, as did my pace. I ended up with 19.5 miles at an average pace of around 8:30, which really is not bad considering the crap I was running in.

It was tiring work, but I enjoyed it. My feet were wet and I was hungry enough to eat the steering wheel by the time I got back to the car, but I’m glad I made the effort to run this one outside. A bonus was running into Jonathan in White Plains as he did his own 16 mile penance today. He gave me a great compliment after we got home. He said he spotted me and thought, “Hey, there’s a real runner out here.” By that he meant I didn’t look like a hobby jogger. I had good form, a runner’s body and I was moving fast. Then he recognized me as the nice woman who provides hot tea and pancakes on Sundays and I can only hope that this was also a bonus for him.

My company on the run consisted of The Mamas & The Papas, Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach and Edvard Grieg’s Greatest Hits (really — that was the name of the album!). I forgot how well produced the TM&TP’s stuff is. Plus it was recorded way back before Auto-Tune started making everyone sound like a singing robot. Singers had to actually be able to sing properly; you know, “carry a tune”?

The Yo-Yo Ma Bach recording (it’s his famous 80s album of unaccompanied pieces) was good for about 20 minutes and then everything started to sound exactly the same, always a danger with anything Baroque. I found myself wondering if anyone ever actually listens to the entire 2-disc set. I moved on to the Romantic period and finished up with Grieg and, man, could that guy write a tune. It was perfect music for a wintry run and I knew I’d made the right choice when I ran by a mansion in Scarsdale with a huge Norwegian flag hanging over the entrance; in the hall of the mountain king, indeed.

Tomorrow kicks off the first week of training proper. It’s not terribly different than what I’ve been doing except now there are actual times/paces attached to the faster workouts. Squee!

Oh, for fuck’s sake

It’s snowing again this morning. Serious snow, not just the dusting that was predicted. There’s 1.5 inches on the ground now and it’s coming down heavily.

I am suiting up for a 20 miler through the streets of Scarsdale and White Plains again. I’m not sure if I’ll drive up and run 3+ loops or just run up there along the path, do a couple of shorter loops, and head back. At least the cold snap has, uh, snapped (Oh! Snap!). But the jet stream has been noticeably lost for the past week.

I could always run inside on the treadmill instead. I could also drink Draino.

Whooee, it’s cold!

But I don’t care. I got to run outside for the first time in a week and I hope to do it again tomorrow. Seven degrees with the windchill? No problem! I’ve got thermal running pants and all manner of layering from Patagonia, Craft, Smartwool and UnderArmour, plus Little Hotties for my hands. I am a moving billboard of adverts for foul weather clothiers.

I did 11 miles on a slightly altered version of my six mile loop that winds through Scarsdale and White Plains. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll do 20 there again. We’re slated to get some days above freezing next week. Let’s hope that between that and some sun the layer(s) of ice that cover my usual running path will go away.

I got my training schedule for the next 12 weeks and it’s impressive. To cope with it, I think of it in the abstract, as though someone else will be following it, although that’s going to have to stop starting on Monday. As I’d anticipated, I’ll be back up to 100 mile weeks, and doing longer intervals, plus lots more longer running at or near marathon pace. I registered for the series of races in Connecticut and Central Park that will, with little exception, serve as Mpace training runs. I’ll race a couple of them, though.

Overall, my trepidation is outweighed by my excitement and eagerness to get rolling. I just hope my body plays nice with my brain.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 8

09spr-base-08And so we hit the two month mark. Last week marked my highest mileage week in four months: 90 miles and change. This was fine — in fact, 60 miles a week is beginning to feel a little “light.” The workouts went swimmingly, save for one (more on that in a moment) and the recovery runs were not a burden.

I already posted about my magical run last Tuesday. Friday wasn’t bad either. I did five 5:00 intervals at 5K effort (notice a theme here?). They were slower than I wanted due to high winds. If I have a track workout, you can guarantee it will be a windy day. Kite flying societies should set their schedules by my running calendar.

I dealt with two days of largish doubles inbetween the two speedy sessions. But the chickens came home to roost on Sunday morning, when I attempted 20 miles with 15:00 faster minutes at the end.

Unfortunately, I had to run the whole thing inside on the treadmill (on account of yet another snowstorm overnight). I didn’t feel great to start with and was basically ready to quit by about mile 14. But I soldiered on and attempted 15 minutes at 5K-8K “effort” which on Sunday apparently meant “run 40 seconds per mile slower than you’d planned.”

It was demoralizing, to say the least. On the other hand, it was a big week and I probably wore myself out between Tuesday’s rocket run and Friday’s windy intervals more than I’d thought. At least I tried.

This week, Week 9, is another 90 miler with faster running today and on Thursday (but only one day of doubles, tomorrow). Then another 20 miler on Sunday. I hope I can run that one outside, but it’s not looking good.

And then…and then…I get my real marathon training plan and presumably kick everything up a notch.

I got a call today from the agency through which I have my contract gig. My contact there wants to meet me for lunch (which of course makes me immediately paranoid that I’m about to be let go — isn’t this economy great?). I couldn’t commit to a date later this month because I don’t have my marathon training schedule. That’s how much my life revolves around running. Is that sad? I guess it’s better than having a life that revolves around television programming…or…ugh…work.

“Magical” run days

On Tuesday morning I had one of those magical run days. I was scheduled to do a 14 miler at “easy” pace (Pfitzinger’s “general aerobic” pace). That pace has meant in the range of 8:12-8:20 in recent weeks.

Well, my body decided it was time for an upgrade on Tuesday. I first surprised myself by doing my first mile at 8:50. I typically do a mile or two of warmup in the 9:30 or above range. So I could see that the fires were stoked and my legs wanted to go. I let them do as they wished.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a progression run, but my 14 miler turned into one without any conscious effort. I just kept going faster and faster. I didn’t notice this was happening because, oddly enough, my heart rate was staying pretty much the same — in the mid-70%s.

I motored along in the 8:05-8:20 range for the first few miles, then did one in 7:43. Whoa! Where’d that come from? Then I did a few more of those. Took a little breather for miles 10 and 11 (8:00s) and then turned up the gas again, did a couple more in the 7:50 range and then finished up the last mile at 7:27. Even there, my heart rate was only at 82% for the last mile.

On Tuesday, it was as though someone held up a sign that read, “Hey! You can run faster! You’re fitter now!” I know that it’s the mileage plus faster running over the past eight weeks that led to this bump in fitness. What’s interesting is how such advancements sometimes make themselves known in the form of a “magical” run (or, if you’re lucky, a magical race, which for me was last year’s New Jersey Half Marathon). One day you’re plodding along at your “normal” paces; and the next — blam! — you’re flying on winged heels and aching to go faster still.

And with that, I’m off to the track for some 5K intervals…

Potpourri post 2

Random stuff:

I received my age group award from Steamtown. I’d forgotten all about it, actually. So it was a surprise to receive a large plaque in the mail today. It now graces our “bar table” along with a few other large, ugly race awards. I like to mix the evidence of Calvinist discipline with the accoutrements of Bacchanalian excess.

I got a hit from the best web search string ever today: “hot central park runner girls”

I’m sure the Googler was sorely disappointed with the result.

It’s looking like I have a chance of doing my 14 miler tomorrow outside! The ice on our walk and driveway melted today, so I’m hopeful the running path is similarly ice free. That is, until the next snow/freeze event, which is scheduled for tomorrow night.

I still have a contract job! (Good). But my hours were cut by a little under 20% for 2009 (Not so good). I’m trying to look on the bright side: This makes running 90+ miles a week a bit more manageable. And I can always spend the extra time looking for additional freelance writing/editing work. It sucks, but it’s not as bad as being unemployed.

That is all.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 7

09spr-base-07

Recovery, reshmovery. This was a tough week!

Well, okay, it really wasn’t. My perspective is skewed because today’s run was a hard effort. A very hard effort, done a couple of days after another hard effort — which I did late in the day, so had only about 36 hours between hard efforts rather than the usual 48.

The “recovery” days were also made harder by running snow. Didn’t I say very recently that I wasn’t going to run in snow again? Well, forget I said that. Because I ran in snow again. Twice. My excuse? Besides the fact that treadmill time is the slowest unit of time in the known universe, I don’t feel good about missing my strides. So I went out and did them on a snowy track.

I felt very “Rocky IV” this week, running in the snow. All I lacked was a supporting beam strapped to my shoulders and a kindly old man with a tipped over oxen cart in need of righting by some strong young thing with a curled lip and a Brooklyn accent.

Tuesday’s easy run with 10 minutes of 5K effort tacked on was actually sort of fun, owing to the fact that I felt pretty rested, having taken Monday off. Although I ran the first half of this out and back into a headwind, so I was pretty worn down by the time it came to doing the fast miles.

Wednesday and Thursday were the aforementioned snow runs. Friday was a bit of a bastard; half an hour is a long time to run at 10K effort. It’s practically a 10K race (well, okay, I exaggerate). I wasn’t thrilled with the paces, but I was tired and going by heart rate. 6:59-7:05 gave me 88-91% MHR. I didn’t want to completely kill myself on this run since I knew what was coming up on Sunday.

Which brings us to today, which called for a 16 miler with 75 minutes at marathon effort. In my case, that’s close to 10 miles on the nose at a 7:20-7:34 pace. I played with the treadmill speed to give my leg muscles some variety, and really only did the lower range for a few miles. What’s interesting is that I didn’t find this too difficult to do until the final 10 minutes, when fatigue set in and my heart rate crept up fairly quickly to 87% over the last mile.

The whole run took 2:10 — during which I watched one of my favorite flicks, Mulholland Drive, on our new treadmill room television. This movie is David Lynch’s masterpiece — the movie I like to think that he spent his entire career on a trajectory toward.* Every time I watch that movie, I spot something new (easier to do on a 26″ screen than on a 12″ inch screen, by the way) and ponder the disjointed story from a new perspective, developing a slightly altered theory about what it all means.

Truth be told, I probably could have run more of the miles at 7:20 pace today. But I have two 90 mile weeks coming up — followed by 19 weeks of real marathon training. There will be plenty of work to do soon enough.

Week 8, the penultimate week of basebuilding, features a 14 miler, a 10 mile easy run with a full 25 minutes (in intervals) at 5K effort, two days of longer doubles and…and…a 20 miler with the last 15 minutes at 5K-8K effort. Jeeheezus…

In case this all weren’t real enough, I just registered online for the Newport, OR marathon in late May. That’s where all this madness is leading.

*Interested Lynch fans might also read my review of INLAND EMPIRE from a couple of years back.

Reading: “A Cold Clear Day: The Athletic Biography of Buddy Edelen”

Who was Buddy Edelen? Only one of the greatest American runners that most people have never heard of, but should have for a variety of reasons. That’s author Frank Murphy’s thesis.

Edelen’s story and personality are interesting and engaging enough that it’s tempting to say that this is a book that practically writes itself. But that would be shortchanging Murphy’s skill and creativity as a biographer. Edelen was emerging as a middle-to-long distance runner in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when American distance running was in the toilet in terms of development and competitive standing. So he set off for England, living like a monk in Essex, and training like a fiend under the long-distance direction of his coach, Fred Wilt. There, he charted a steady course toward American- and world-record-breaking times in the 10K and marathon, recognized and respected in Europe (and even loved in his temporarily adopted host country), yet totally unknown in The States.

In telling Edelen’s story, Murphy presents his subject as an immensely appealing man who combined intense focus with geniality and modesty. You can’t help but like — and root for — the guy. Expertly researched, the book doesn’t just present a coherent picture of how Edelen fit into the marathoning scene during this time period, but also presents some real gems, such as this passage. In it, we learn how one clever race promoter got around the AAU’s (Amateur Athletic Union) requirement that in order to retain “amateur” status (and thus eligibility to compete in the Olympics), an athlete must not accept remuneration of any kind (even for assistance with travel and accommodations for participating in races)  in an athletic competition:

“After the greeting, Billy [promoter Billy Morton] got to the point. “Buddy, me lad,” he said, “are ya a betting man?” Buddy said that he was, so Billy explained the way things were.

“Buddy,” he said, “I can’t pay you anything for this race because you’re an amateur. But seein’ as how you’re a betting man,” and he paused for effect before pointing to Buddy’s suitcase on the floor. “I bet you a hundred quid you can’t jump over that suitcase.”

As the meaning of Billy’s wager struck home, Buddy quickly hopped over the suitcase. Morton exclaimed loudly at such a thing, “My God, Tommy, look at that, Buddy just took me for 100 quid!” but being a man of his word, he paid and left. Buddy was 100 quid richer, but he was still an amateur.

Edelen also charmed his host country and managed to get away with behavior that would have labeled others lacking in his personal qualities as “ugly American.” One example is his greeting of Queen Elizabeth before the start of the 1962 Polytechnic Harriers Marathon: “Hi, Queen!”

As in another of his running-related histories, The Silence of Great Distance, Murphy takes considerable creative license when writing about his subject. In this case, he creates pages of speculative internal dialog during Edelen’s bid for a spot on the US men’s Olympic marathon team during a dreadfully hot and humid marathon in Yonkers, NY. This device — peppering non-fiction biography with what is most certainly a fictional stream of consciousness passage — will either work for readers or it won’t. For me, it worked. Murphy either has tremendous insight into and empathy for long distance runners, or he’s run a few awful, long races himself, because the mental crazy quilt that he constructs of what Edelen might have been thinking during that run is spot on: the jokes we tell ourselves, the pep talks, the moments of despair, the internal siren song to stop, the pure intake and recording of all sensory input…it’s all there.

I have no idea if this book would appeal to a non-runner. Probably not. But for students of the sport, it’s a wonderful read.

More about Edelen on Wikipedia.

1

Degrees (windchill). Not Celsius. Fahrenheit.

Fortunately, I’ve spent the last couple of years acquiring running clothing appropriate for Siberian conditions. I’m actually looking forward to bundling up for my nine mile, pre-lunch recovery run, on a rare New Year’s Day on which I am not hung over.

The shopping’s done. The bills are paid. I have four days ahead of me with no responsibilities other than running, and feeding and bathing myself. Maybe I’ll do some housecleaning. Maybe not.

The work mill starts up again on Monday. But I’m doing my best not to think about it right now.

I spent a generous $50 Amazon gift certificate from my Mom on a bunch of used books. They are dribbling in from all over the country. Most of them are running-related, of the historical or biographical bent. I’ve realized that my running library is now significant enough to warrant its own section. I’ve also got some fairly valuable out-of-print volumes, it turns out. At some point, I’ll summarize and review some of the better ones here.

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