When running in circles is a joyous act

Today I ran outside on the actual running path. Not in the street. Not in a race. Just a normal, everday recovery run on a running path. And it was good.

The path is still dotted with some extended stretches of solid ice, so I had to stop and slide robotically over those sections every half mile or so. But with temps forecasted in the mid-50s tomorrow, that should be gone by Thursday.

I ran down to the Bronxville track, which was also more or less clear. I went there to do my assigned six strides, but it was such a relief to run unobstructed that I ended up not only tacking on an extra couple of strides but also doing five miles on the track. Round and round. Didn’t matter. I just enjoyed the air, the wind, the freedom of really running, meaning propelling myself forward rather than  having my feet pulled backward and out from under me endlessly, endlessly.

I’ve got a fast finish 12 mile aerobic run tomorrow, which I’m almost certain I’ll do inside since the path is still fairly treacherous. That’s okay, though. I got my fix today and I’m sure I’ll get to do the rest of my runs outside this week.

Spring Race Training: Week 3

09spr-training-03Week three was marked by two things: a continuation of my nagging right groin issue and a really good 20K race/training run on Sunday. I also unexpectedly reached, after five long weeks, my treadmill tolerance saturation point in dramatic fashion, stopping a 14 mile aerobic run at 13.3 miles, simply unable to take another minute in that room, on that contraption.

I hesitate to even call this a high mileage week since in just a matter of weeks my recovery week mileage will resemble what I ran and I’ll be hitting triple digit weeks again for the first time since the summer. But last week I ran a lot of miles, with all except the race run inside on the treadmill again.

Since my leg was still bothering me, I did almost all of my recovery runs at a ridiculously leisurely pace, skipping the strides as usual. I also skipped the 400m intervals in favor of giving my leg further opportunity to heal. I did feel quite good on Thursday, something that’s reflected in the pace at which I did my easy run.

I’m guessing that the extra helping of R&R offered by skipping the speedwork contributed to my good effort on Sunday, which I would characterize as something falling in between a training and a race effort. I raced about 75% of the course.

The good news is that we’re finally getting a spell of warmer weather. I can see our lawn for the first time since December. I’ve got a set of 1200m intervals scheduled for Friday and, unless we get colder temps plus precip again, it’s looking like I may actually be able to run them outside, on a snow- and ice-free track.

The next Mpace training run is in three weeks — the Boston Buildup 25K. I ran that one last year and, unlike the roller coaster course for the 20K, the 25K course is easy to get your head around, if not run: go uphill for sevenish miles, then go downhill for eightish miles. Total climb: +2,456; total descent: -2,600.

Week 4 is a recovery week, with just a little tempo running on Tuesday, one doubles session on Thursday, the aforementioned intervals on Friday and a fast finish 17 miler on Sunday.

Race Report: Boston Buildup 20K

Just a quickie report, since this was a training run and not really an all-out race effort.

This race starts at the Southport, CT railroad station and goes inland. And, let me tell you, it is hilly! With the exception of the Boston Blowout 30K (not technically part of the Buildup series), all of these Boston-prep races are very hilly. As I was struggling up my fourth extreme hill today, I found myself wondering if I really do want to ever run Boston. It never looks that bad on television, but, then again, neither does eating worms or climbing Mt. Everest.

It was actually a perfect day for racing in terms of temperature. I did a two mile warmup in tights, long sleeve, hat and gloves and was hot within half a mile. So I changed into shorts and a tech tee and that turned out to be perfect. Unfortunately, it was very windy, with a wind coming primarily from the west/northwest, although it was a swirling wind and would sometimes blast from the south too, usually at the most inopportune time.

I had a pacing plan of 7:05 or so for the first 3 miles, then 7:15 for the next 3, then try to run around 7:00 or better for the rest. That all went to hell pretty quickly given the hills and wind. I don’t know my exact time, since I again forgot to turn off my watch, but it was somewhere in the area of 1:31:15, or around 7:22 pace average. I don’t know the details of my run beyond mile 9.26 since my watch lost contact with the satellites for the remainder of the race. That coincided with a 10 minute downpour from miles 9.0-10+. So that certainly slowed everyone down, although I must say I’m getting better at ignoring horrendous weather conditions, at least from a mental standpoint.

I was running with guys for all of the way. I didn’t spot one other woman, so the ones who beat me must have been quite a ways ahead, and I didn’t look back to see who was behind me. I was told at the 10K water stop that I was woman #7, and no one passed me, so I guess I was seventh overall. I managed to pass a few guys in the last three miles, though, improving my overall field placement.

I’m fairly certain I could have run this faster without the wind, hills and 70 miles on my legs already for the week. But it’s hard to know how much faster as it truly is a difficult course, with a few monster hills that go on for a good half mile or so. At least I had the experience of passing a few people on those uphills, and I flew on the downhills. My time was good for first in my age group, which was a pleasant surprise. My reward was a hot pink Asics long sleeve technical shirt. Good base layer, or shirt for wearing hiking so I can be easily spotted at the foot of a deep ravine.

I like these races because they are small, congenial and you can just turn up, find parking and race hassle free. Yet, they’re pretty competitive, too, I suspect because not only are lots of the participants actually using them to train for spring marathons (Boston or otherwise), but the pickings are slim for winter racing outside of the NYRR offerings, so serious runners take advantage of what’s there.

The letdown was that “the bagel guy didn’t come through” (RD Jim Gerweck’s words). The 25K Buildup race I ran (and will run in about a month) had the best salt bagels last year. We’ve been promised two bagels each next time around. Fortunately we brought bananas and PowerBars, which turned out to be especially lucky since we got caught in a horrible traffic jam on 95 on the way home, turning a 45 minute drive into a 2 hour slog home.

I napped for an hour and a half on the couch. Now I’m, uh, “rehydrating” with Yeungling and watching DVR’d English Premier Football, to be followed by semi-drunken viewings of the Reebok track meet (I’ve already had a few spoilers, unfortunately…but no matter) and Tropic Thunder. Thank goodness next week is a recovery week and I only have to run 3 miles tomorrow…

Referrals I have garnered. Part of an ongoing series.

Yesterday this blog got a web hit from this search string:

fuck girl in jangl

What does it all mean?

Good news, bad news

The good news is that the weather forecast for Sunday’s 20K race in Connecticut is 50 degrees, and above freezing at the 9AM start. I don’t think I can even remember what 50 degrees feels like. The bad news is that a steady 25mph wind, with gusts up to 40mph, is also forecast. Should be an interesting race.

This is practically a documentary of my running over the last month

The other side of the groin

I’ve learned a little about groin pulls this week. For one, I have a mild case. I trace it back to the half marathon in Central Park 11 days ago. A day or two after the race, I noticed a sharp pain in my inner right thigh whenever I lifted my leg, stepped sideways or went up or down stairs. (There go my hopes for a fabulous career in country step dancing.) Interestingly, it didn’t hurt while running. So I kept running.

It would get a little better after a recovery day, then I’d do a hard session (either a long run or faster intervals or tempo work) and the pain would be back the next day. On Kevin’s advice*, I skipped the 400m intervals I was scheduled to do today (and just did a 10 mile aerobic run), even though it was a lot better this morning. But the idea was not to irritate it again. And it is better still this evening.

In my web trawlings, I learned that exercising in extreme cold can cause it, which might explain why it’s never cropped up before despite lots of racing in Central Park in the past year or two. It was five degrees (windchill) that day, so it was bloody cold out there. I also learned that ice is recommended, although people find success with heat just before exercising. Before my 10 miler, I squeezed a hot water bottle between my thighs like an aggressive convention hooker this morning — and darned if that didn’t help quite a bit! Much more pleasant than ice too.

I’ll be doing a fast 20K run over a hilly course in Connecticut this weekend. I hope it’s better by then. At least I know it won’t be worse.

*Or, rather, upon my cajoling him into granting me a “get out of intervals free” card.

Spring Race Training: Week 2

09spr-training-02January is over, finally. I don’t normally mind January all that much, but this year’s version has been so awful weatherwise that I’ve had to do the majority of my runs indoors. This has been not only a tedious proposition, but also quite challenging as my weeks feature more and more faster running. February is typically even worse, so it’s not as if we’ve turned a corner or anything. But at least we’re that much closer to spring.

I felt sub-par for most of the week. The half marathon last Sunday took a lot out of me and then I spent the early part of the week fending off a cold that Jonathan picked up. He was well for a day and then either suffered a relapse or has managed to pick up a totally new cold. Either way, I’m now trying to avoid catching that one as well. Anyway, this manifested itself in an elevated heart rate, swollen glands and general feeling of malaise.

On Wednesday I modified the planned workout (13 easy with last four at just under 28:00). I was again on the treadmill and had attached my little footpod to a new pair of shoes. Our treadmill is way off — typically reporting that you’re running 15-20 seconds per mile slower than you actually are. As you can imagine, this makes quite a difference when doing faster work.

For speed and mileage information I look at what the footpod is telling the watch, which I’ve calibrated on GPS measured runs outside, and ignore the treadmill’s lying display. Well, the footpod matched the treadmill on this particular pair of shoes — something I didn’t notice until mile 11 when I was thinking, why am I so exhausted and why is running these faster last miles so freaking hard? I moved the pod to an older shoe and all was right with the world. So, that session sucked.

On Friday, now wise to my capricious foodpod’s ways, I did 5 x 1K intervals — still not feeling great — and did pretty well. The plan was to run each in 4:00 (a 6:26 mpm pace). I only managed one, but the others were pretty close. This run was notable because I have never run that fast on the treadmill. It was cranked up to 8.9 mph for that 4:00 interval. I recalled the days when I had trouble running with it at 7 mph.

I learned on Friday that it’s dangerous to listen to comedy albums when running intervals. You laugh, then lose control of your already highly challenged breathing, then you forget to move your legs and then laugh harder at what a moron you are for deciding that it would be a good idea to listen to comedy while running at almost 9 mph. For curious readers the album was Judith’s Roommate Had a Baby by Judy Gold. Needless to say, it was so funny that it nearly got me seriously injured.

Saturday I woke up feeling like a brand new woman. For the first time in five days, I didn’t feel like shit. The 9 mile recovery run, done after several hours of enthusiastic housecleaning, was a breeze and almost a pleasure.

Yesterday’s 20 miler turned into a 20.7 miler due to needing to extend my outside loop as well as a short bout of getting lost. The Scarsdale/White Plains loop is a hilly course plus it was, as always happens, on the windy side. While I would have liked to have run faster than 8:30, it’s really not a bad pace for that particular course.

Week 3 is another 85 miler with more faster running and, on Sunday, a 20K Mpace run in hilly Connecticut.

Taking in the sights in White Plains

I’ll post my usual training week recap eventually, but I had to post about my run through a section of White Plains, NY this morning. WP is hard to describe — it’s a center of commerce in Westchester County and has undergone tremendous commercial development over the past 10-15 years. It consists of a fairly concentrated collection of towering office buildings and shopping malls, wrapped up in a series of wide-lane roadways. The sidewalks aren’t quite as empty as Stamford, CT (which always reminds of the post-apocalyptic Charlton Heston movie from the early 70s, Omega Man), but they aren’t exactly bustling with human activity.

What’s interesting about WP is the residential areas that surround the commercial core. WP abuts Scarsdale, one of the richest communities in the country, yet you know instantly when you’ve crossed the line from Scarsdale into WP. Within a block or two, you go from stately mansions to rundown  multifamily dwellings. I took one of the roads I run on, Fisher Avenue, a bit farther north today to extend my run. Once past the train and bus stations, the neighborhood deteriorated quite quickly.

Just half a mile to the north of moneyed Scarsdale were streets filled with stray cats (a family of 12, all brown tabbies), transplanted Central and South Americans on their way to work on Sunday morning and — my favorite — people dressed to the nines and headed into the “French Speaking Baptist Church” (Haitians, maybe?) for Sunday services. Jonathan ran the same way this morning and spotted a restaurant I managed to miss, a (Peruvian-run?) pizza parlor called Machu Pizzu.

I never saw this sort of thing on my runs in Iowa.

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