Fall Training: Week 5

09fall-training-05Having recovered from the difficult previous week, I decided to have another go at running some miles at marathon effort before leaving South Africa. This run went much better than Friday’s semi-disaster, as it was again in the low 60s and the sun was behind the clouds.

Despite a weekend of drinking, staying up late and stuffing myself, I felt pretty good for this run. Although I have to admit that I was looking forward to getting home and swearing off shortbread biscuits, chocolate and buckets of wine and beer. At least until after I run CIM in December.

Tuesday and Wednesday were consumed with getting home and getting ready for my reentry into work and serious training again.

I guess I managed to kill a few brain cells with all that fabulous local wine and beer because on Thursday I went out and hammered a workout that was supposed to be on the easy side. My Thursday speed session should have been run at recovery pace, with the exception of the 8:00 at speedy effort. Instead, I ran the whole thing at moderate-to-hard effort. My legs felt great and I just forgot that I wasn’t supposed to run this hard for these workouts.

Not surprisingly, I was tired on the subsequent recovery runs. I cut the Saturday run short by a mile and ran it at a slow jog pace to try to save my legs for Sunday’s race.

I went into the Westchester Half on Sunday expecting…well, not really expecting anything. I didn’t know if I’d do badly, well, or somewhere inbetween. As it turns out, I did very well under the circumstances. Maybe those lighter mileage weeks gave me the rest I needed to race well. Or maybe it was the wine, chocolate and beer.

Between this and the Whale half, I’m feeling good about my current level of fitness. The next few weeks of training — under what I hope will be healthier, more amenable conditions — should yield more clues as to where I am.

Fall Training: Weeks 3 and 4

09fall-training-03The next couple of training logs are more for the record than for extensive analysis. I knew my training would be compromised  on the trip to South Africa. Doesn’t that make me sound humorless and obsessed? I know!

If anything, I’m amazed that I managed to run as much as I did, considering that I was drinking to excess nearly every night and part of coordinated holiday movements of six people. Although my mileage was roughly half of the planned mileage for these weeks, I did prioritize the harder miles and dumped recovery miles.

The conditions in South Africa were tough. For one, it was windy to extremely windy most days. I did some of my harder runs into a 15-30mph headwind and the paces reflect that invisible resistance.

Also, as they’re between winter and spring at the moment, the temperatures and humidity swung wildly every few days. One day it would be in the 60s and two days later it was in the 80s. And the sun there is hot. I’m sure that sounds silly, but the proximity to the equator really makes you feel like you’re baking, and I tanned three shades darker in just a week.

Finally, the place has huge hills. If you want to train for Boston or Steamtown, this is the place to go. The hills are up to a mile long and, while the grades aren’t extreme, they are steady.

Week 3 was broken up with travel. Prior to flying there on Wednesday, I did a 15 mile progression run. This went very well. As usual, I wasn’t thrilled with the paces, but I realized I had weeks of training to improve.

Later in the week I focused on trying to recover from 36 hours of travel and some upheaval as we had to suddenly change rental cottages, as the first was next to a grocery store with loud refrigeration units running all night; in the second cottage we would be burgled as the next week’s excitement. Anyway, on Friday we drove 45 minutes to Hermanus on the coast and ran the last three-odd miles of the half marathon course, then had an early dinner out among the Whale Festival revelers.

Saturday was the race, the Whale Half Marathon. A joke race, as Jonathan called it. Despite insane wind and huge hills, we both did well.

On Sunday I went for a little recovery run on my own, during which I met the second love of my life, a female dog named Harvey.

09fall-training-04Week 4 featured some harder efforts, the first of which was an 11 mile tempo run, with the harder miles run straight into a stiff headwind. The next day we went on a 9 mile hike, which was tiring not so much because of the distance or terrain but because of the speed at which we were going. We were hiking very slowly, probably at about half the pace that we could have managed on our own, and by the end of the day I had what felt like “museum legs” — that unique sort of fatigue that sets in after hours of strolling around on marble floors.

We took the next day off to deal with the aftermath of having been burgled and getting our car stolen the evening after the hike. We also needed to get ready for the arrival of two friends of Jonathan’s from his days living here 30 years ago who’d be staying with us for two nights.

The morning before their arrival we went out to do one of my more important workouts — a 21 miler with the last 10 at marathon effort. This was one of the few workouts I’ve actually had to abandon. It was a hot day and we had no way of carrying or obtaining drinkable water, plus we got a late start. By midway through the run the sun was at its strongest and it was about 85 degrees. There was no shade. I did okay for most of the hard miles, but by mile 16 my HR was soaring and my paces were dropping off. Then I started exhibiting the early stages of heat illness with just three miles to go.

I ended up lying under a tree while Jonathan ran back to the cottage (he’d been running an easy pace to my very hard pace) for the car and water. It was the smart thing to do, but a little scary. I was mad at myself because my instincts had told me that we should take the extra half hour to drive to the midway point with some water, but I ignored them.

I was totally fried by this workout for the next couple days, so took the weekend off. We still had several days of holiday making left and I wanted to enjoy the time with family and friends. I had one last hard workout planned before leaving the following week.

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