“Insane hunger”

That’s what part of my training diary entry read this morning. At 3AM, I awoke with two urgent needs: first, do something about the ache in my thighs and calves, the dreaded DOMS*; second, eat something right now.

Random waves of ravenous hunger appear to be one side effect of combining high mileage with high intensity. And the hunger is of a particularly urgent, single-minded sort. It’s not, “Oh, I’m ready for dinner” hunger. It’s “I’m so hungry I’m going to eat that smashed Twinkie in the middle of the road” hunger. I was aware of this kind of “I’ll eat anything as long as it resembles food” hunger from reading about people in ultrarunning races. I had yet to experience it for myself until pretty recently.

But here it’s hitting me at odd times — typically either in the dead of night, or (more strangely) an hour or so after I’ve already eaten something substantial. There also is a delayed aspect to the hunger. Recently, I had two back-to-back days of extreme hunger in the early days of a recovery week. It started after a speed session and continued well into the next day, which featured a mere 7 miles of recovery running. The point being, I’d expect this sort of thing in a high mileage week itself, not in the days following one. I can only speculate that as my body consolidates the previous week’s training-induced stress and recovers from it, it’s demanding help in that consolidation and recovery from food.

I’m building muscle like it’s going out of style, and losing fat. So I’m guessing the demand for food (and craving for protein in some cases) is also to support that repair and expansion work at the muscular level. I have no idea what I’m talking about, by the way — this is pure conjecture.

In any event, I go with the hunger, getting up in the dead of night to shovel whatever appeals into my face, illuminated only by the 40 watt refrigerator bulb and with an audience of one bleary-eyed cat, confused by my sudden presence, yet hopeful that I’ll feed her too. Last night it was roasted sweet potatoes (carbs), spelt (more carbs) and prosciutto (protein, fat and salt). I wonder what I’ll need next.

*A problem easily solved with my favorite regularly smuggled controlled substance from overseas, the wonder drug from the UK, Solpadeine. It’s chock full of codeine goodness, and the effervescent variety works in about five minutes.

Spring Race Training: Week 7


Following the pattern of two weeks on and one week off, this was an off week, with just seven sessions and 66.6 miles (Satan’s mileage?).

Despite having run the previous week’s hard weekend run on Saturday rather than Sunday, I was in zombie mode on Monday. For the second time during this training cycle, I was so tired that I felt slightly fluish. I did a very slow recovery run on the treadmill (since we had a late-season blizzard on Monday) in an attempt to get myself ready for hard work on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s tempo run was short (just two miles at the end of faster running), and theoretically went better. I say theoretically because I’m never really sure of what I’m actually running on the treadmill. But it felt hard enough and my HR seemed in line with where it should be for a sub-7:00 pace.

The snow kept me inside again on Wednesday and Thursday, which had a modified speed session to allow for a little more recovery for Sunday’s 25K race/training run. This speed session went very well, although the fact that I’m not a Mathlete led to a quarter mile of extra effort.

I bumped up the mileage for Friday’s recovery run, then did a short session on the track on Saturday — five recovery miles with eight strides. I ran the strides fairly fast — in solid 5:30-5:40 territory for most of them. So now I can almost run as fast as Paula Radcliffe’s Mpace, for about 100m. Or, to draw a real world comparison, while Paula can rocket to the the moon, I can take a bus to Philadelphia.

This little track session gave me a chance to try out my first pair of spikes in a non-workout context (in case for whatever reason I’m not a spike-friendly runner). They were quite comfortable (and light at about 5.5 oz. each)*, and I’m looking forward to doing more speedwork with them in the coming weeks.

I skipped the planned PM four mile recovery run on Saturday due to a social commitment. Of all the runs I could have thrown away last week, that was the most logical one to jettison. I’m glad I did, as it probably left me a little fresher for Sunday’s race.

My resting HR was high all week. This may have reflected the usual consolidation of the previous two weeks’ work, or it may have been because I slept badly for several nights. Or it may have been too much wine. Regardless of the causes of a faster beating, I basically felt okay all week, but not great.

The race on Sunday took a lot out of me, forcing a post-prandial collapse on the couch for a two hour nap. I’m still feeling the effort today, although with each hour, the fatigue lifts just a little more.

Week 8 is a big one, with a 10 mile run including an 8 x 600m speed session on Wednesday, a 15 miler with the final 5 at tempo pace on Friday (boy, am I dreading this one), and a 20 miler on Sunday — along with the other four days featuring doubles adding up to 13-14 miles each. All totalled, a nice, round 100 miles.

*Or, as my favorite bad track commentator Larry Rawson would say, “Running in shoes that each weigh about the same as two slices of bread, is Julie.”

Race Report: Boston Buildup 25K

This was technically a training run, but considering how useful this race series is for anyone in the tri-state area who’s training for Boston or another spring race, I’ll treat it as a race report.

I ran this race last year, also as a training run. It was my big 15 mile Mpace training run at the time, so I ran harder last year than I did this. I’m earlier in my training cycle than I was at this time last year, so I’ve not quite worked my way up to such lengthy Mpace efforts yet. The event takes place in Norwalk, CT and typically attracts around 150-200 runners. Whereas last year was quite cold, we had great (if a little warm) weather this year: low 50s at the start and overcast, although the clouds burned off for the second half.

For better or worse, I tend to have a selective memory about extreme changes in course elevations and physical pain. This race offers both in abundance! In fact, last year when I ran this race, I distinctly remember feeling something give in my calf on the worst of the early hills (Bald Hill Rd). That turned out to be the only time I’ve had anything resembling a real injury. Considering how bomb-proof my legs are, that’s saying something about this course.

Anyway, the race goes a little something like this:

First, you start on a nice downhill. This gives you plenty of opportunity to remain blissfully ignorant of the horrors to come, or obsess about said horrors, depending on your personality type.

Less than a half mile later, you have the first of the hills, a climb of around 120 feet over a third of a mile. Miles 2 to a little past the 5 mile mark are rolling. Then you hit the first of several big climbs that will take you up (or, rather, up and down) another 300 odd feet in elevation over the next 4 miles. I stupidly thought the worst of it was over just past the 7.5 mile mark, and proceeded to fly along on the extreme downhill, only to be met with an additional 70 foot climb for the first three quarters of mile 9. Then, at last (or so I thought), the climbing was over.

For the most part, it was. For the most part. There was ample opportunity to motor the downhills using what was left of my legs. But there are two nasty uphills later in the race: The first is a 85 ft climb over .25 miles at mile 12; the second a 100 ft climb, also very short and steep, at 12.5. Only then are you more or less home free.


Since this was a training run I didn’t race it all out. It was windy on the way out, which also forced me to take a conservative approach. On a course like this, trying to lay out a mile-by-mile pacing plan is pretty silly. I had no specific time goal, although I did want to maintain around a 7:20 average pace if possible, and beat last year’s time of 2:01. I managed a 7:22 pace, which was close enough. I wish I’d had more oomph in my legs for the last 5-8K, but I worked with what I had and did manage to pass about eight people (including three women) for that stretch. So I guess this course beats everyone up.

My watch read 16.2 miles, evidence of the piss poor job I did of hitting the tangents. The roads were not closed to traffic, so I figured since it wasn’t a real race for me, it wasn’t worth risking my life to shave some time off by veering back and forth across the roadway. Normally, I’m willing to risk maiming or death for a good time (and I do mean that in both senses of the phrase).

I made a token attempt at some cooldown running, giving up after a mile. Then scarfed down a high-quality bagel, which was documented by blogger Frank of rundangerously. It was a big photo opp day, as Jonathan and I posed with some of the other age group winners in the series in our free (bling) shirts before the race.

Me: Front row, far right. Jonathan: Back row, third from right.

Me: Front row, far right. Jonathan: Back row, third from right.

No official results yet, although my watch time was 1:58:48. Since the official results haven’t yet been posted I don’t know how I placed, but I think it was probably decent.

Update: Official time was 1:58:47, netting me 3rd in the 40-49F group and 13th Girl overall.

Going mental

Yesterday’s run was some weird hybrid of a speed session and a tempo run: 10 miles general aerobic including 2 x 2400m in 10:00 (that’s 1.5 miles at 6:42 pace) with a three minute jog inbetween. Since we’re still buried under snow, I did this one on the treadmill.

Heading into the run, I was already doing battle with myself. I’d gotten a lousy night’s sleep, my resting heart rate was high to begin with, and my ever-present groin issue was again bothering me. My plan was to run roughly 3 miles as a warmup (with the first 1.5 very easy, recovery pace). Then do the two intervals, and then finish the run at whatever pace yielded a HR in the low 80%s.

Oh, one other requirement: Don’t stop during the fast interval sections no matter what.

That last requirement is one that I’ve introduced very recently. I’ve had a couple of experiences lately in which the voices in my head successfully cajoled me into stopping, after which I felt terrible about the run and myself. In thinking about those times when I’ve quit (even for 30 seconds to “catch my breath”), it’s become more and more apparent that the danger in stopping isn’t that I’ll compromise my physical development as a runner (although that’s certainly one side effect).

The real danger is in the mental realm. After all, you can’t stop during a race to catch your breath. Those voices are bad enough when you’re training. In a race, when someone’s on your heels for several miles, or that headwind is worse than you’d expected, or you put your sock on slightly wrong and now have a blister, your mind is the thing that either breaks your spirit or pulls you through. Every time you let your mind be your adversary, you get that much farther away from making your mind your ally.

With each speed or tempo session, I realize that these assignments are there to build physical and mental strength in equal measure. So I’m committed to doing them properly from here on out.

As it turns out, my mind and I got along very well yesterday. In fact, due to my mind’s inability to do remedial math I ended up running the first repeat a quarter mile long (1.75 miles). Such are the dangers of leaving “autolap” on during a run when you’re manually recording laps too. During the last minute or two of the repeat I was thinking, “Jesus Christ, this really hard. But I’m not going to stop.” Had I only known I could and should have stopped already. Or maybe it’s better that I didn’t know, as it was a discovery that made me laugh (and had me more than a little tickled) after I downloaded the run data and noticed my mistake.

Boston Blowout 30K: Registration now open

Sign up here.

No biggie

I realized the other day that I’ve run nine half marathons. It is the distance I’ve raced the most too, by a factor of at least 2:1 in most cases.

I can recall when the half was my Big Goal, the frightening distance I had to train for over a period of months, and worry over being able to complete without falling apart. I also recall a time when racing one would completely obliterate me, meaning I’d have to go back to a hotel room and nap for two or three hours before I could function again.

Now, a half marathon is still a substantial effort, but it’s just another race. In fact, it’s a shorter race these days, what with a 25K on Sunday (a training run) and a 30K (all out race) at the end of the month. Racing 13.1 miles becomes a relatively low key proposition when you’re about to race 18.6.

Very soon, I hope to be able to put away a half in under 1:30, then hop in the car, drive 1.5 hours home, and still be able to carry on a semi-coherent conversation that very same afternoon. Or at least I’ll be attempting this feat in early May.

Spring Race Training: Week 6


God damn it, what is wrong with WordPress? This is the second time I’ve spent a half an hour writing a post, only to have it disappear when I try to publish it.

Here we go again…


I ran 95 miles this week for the first time since September. It didn’t feel that hard, although I realized while I was out on recovery run #2 today that in the past three days I’d run just over 47 miles. That was something of an eye opener.

I enjoyed all the workouts this week. It was a good week, meaning the pattern was one of success and heightened comfort levels. I got the shot of confidence I needed after a few spotty workouts in the past few weeks. Whatever this groin issue is has also dissipated, which has helped. I feel it mostly walking around first thing in the morning, but it fades as the day progresses.

I enjoyed Tuesday’s general aerobic run (perhaps because it featured no tempo miles?). I ran it on the quicker side at 8:15, although I was only at 75% MHR, so it wasn’t a difficult pace to sustain.

Wednesday was incredibly busy, with a long day in the city, so for the first time since following a prescribed plan I skipped a workout, but vowed to make up the miles. This may have helped me on Thursday, when I went to a relatively windless track and more or less nailed the 300m intervals session. I ran half too fast, half too slow. I’ll shoot for better consistency next time around.

Friday afternoon was the only day I felt completely fried, but by Saturday morning I was raring to go again. My planned 25K race/training run got pushed back a week due to the impending winter storm (which is, as of this moment, 14 hours behind schedule). So I did some rearranging (with Coach Kevin’s blessing), and moved next weekend’s fast finish long run to Saturday. I did the early miles very easy to preserve energy for the faster 2.5 at the end. Those went well, with a much higher level of comfort (and lower MHR) as compared to a similar effort two weeks ago. Hills and headwind slowed the last .5 mile, but I was pretty much dead on pace before losing 11 seconds at the end.

I tacked on 5 recovery miles today to compensate for Wednesday’s shortage. So I ended the week with the planned 95 miles. Don’t ask me where I got my work ethic, as I have no idea.

Week 7 is a 70 mile recovery week, with Tuesday tempo, Thursday speed and the rescheduled 25K race on Sunday. Then it’s right back up to triple digits again.

No comment

The weather people have been threatening us with a winter storm since Friday. My 25K race was moved to next weekend, which necessitated some rearrangement of my running schedule for a good two weeks as a result. I did a hard 17 miler yesterday since the shit weather was predicted to start early this morning.

As of 2:34PM, no snow. So I’m hitting the road for the my second recovery run of the day, given that I’ll likely be spending most of my running time inside this week.

Forecast is still for 6-12″. The question is “When?”

I thought we were out of the woods in terms of snow and ice storms, it being March and all. But, sadly, it seems we’re in for one of the biggest wallops of the season. No wonder NYC was just voted the third worst place to train in America.


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