Playing things fast and loose

Today I did my first tempo run since late July. I was nervous.

Since be reasonable is my new mantra, I decided to do a reasonable tempo run as my first trip back into that territory: 7 miles with 2 x 1 mile at tempo pace, with 5 minutes rest between them. Since I am doing most of my runs at the gym these days, it’s anyone’s guess how fast or slow a particular treadmill is.

But you know what? I don’t give a shit about pace anymore. That’s my other new mantra: I don’t give a shit about pace anymore. Effort’s where it’s at, baby. After two years of doing lots of standard training runs, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to lock into “tempo effort”: 89-90% of MHR.

One advantage of going to the gym is that the treadmills there can tell you your heart rate via little metal sensor grip thingies. My treadmill at home doesn’t have that feature (and the HR strap never worked). I trust those readouts. But when it came to paces, today’s treadmill was a liar, and a lousy one at that.

The plan was to do a 2.5 mile warmup at <75% MHR, then a half mile cut down in pace from whatever that was to “tempo pace” (whatever that was). I started out at “9:50″ pace, which should feel like a stroll, but my MHR was already in the mid-to-upper 70%s. I slowed things down to “10:20″ and held at around 75% for 2.5 miles.

The old, stubborn, data-obsessed Julie would have ignored this obvious evidence of calibration craziness. She would have said, “Dammit, tempo pace should be around 7:00 for me, so that’s what I’m going to set the treadmill to.” Sure, I would have been able to write “7:00 pace” in my training log, but at what cost? Running that “pace” on that machine would have me at too high an effort. And not getting the benefit of the workout. And feeling bad about myself.

And what’s the point of that? Have I not learned anything over the past few years?

I have! I have!

I guessed that what the treadmill said was 7:19 would be a good place to start. I ran a mile at that speed. It started to feel like real work about 5 minutes in. I finished up the first mile and took my HR: 89%. Good stuff; even after six months away from it, I still know how tempo effort should feel. I did my five minute jog back at “10:20.” Then launched into the second mile. After a third of a mile, I was getting that old, “Oh, fuck, I hate this. I want to stop” feeling. That was too early to be feeling that. HR says? 91%. It was hot in that room. The effort was too high. I dialed down to “7:24″ — and spent the rest of the mile reminding myself that this is supposed to be hard, not to bail on it, it’s mental training, blah blah blah — and finished up at 90%.

I know I was running faster than ~7:20. How much faster? I don’t care. I ran the right effort for the workout. That’s all that matters. The paces will take care of themselves.

Race plug: Sleepy Hollow Half on March 26

I don’t usually plug races, but I’ll make an exception in the case of the Sleepy Hollow Half, debuting this year. This is a race I’d like to see succeed, since late March/early April is a handy time of year to schedule a half marathon and we don’t have that many appealing choices around here at present.

Learn more about the Sleepy Hollow Half at the Rivertown Runners site > Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon

Patience. Endurance. And more patience.

It’s been surprisingly difficult to get back into a regular running routine, considering how much I missed running from August through October. I had a rough goal of achieving 40 mpw over the past few weeks. But then I found myself skipping planned runs. Or, rather, I had no plans. So not running was easy to do on many days.

Coach Sandra is still traveling and that’s fine. I told her a few weeks back that I was dropping plans for a spring marathon and that I just needed to get injury-free before I could think about making any significant training or racing plans. Building mileage and getting rid of my remaining adductor problems have been the only goals on the horizon.

Still, one needs a plan. In my case, a specific one. “Run 40 mpw” isn’t enough structure for me. So I’ve mapped out runs for the next five weeks. Two of those weeks consist of the “pre-race” schedule Sandra had put into my original plan over the summer. The others include one tempo or fartlek session midweek and a long run on Sunday. Mileage is 35-45 mpw. I have one doubles day. This at least resembles real training, and it’s reasonable to think I can stick to it. I’m giving myself a day off from running about every 7-10 days.

I have races penciled in, despite my better judgment. First, the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler in early February. That’s completely dependent on how the tempo/fartlek efforts go. If I still have adductor pain, forget it. But if not, I’ll probably go for it. Then, in very soft, highly erasable pencil, the Cherry Tree 10 Miler a couple of weeks later.

That one is probably not practical, based on my run today. I did 11.2 miles in Central Park, although I’d planned to do 12. I ran a bit faster than the previous run two weeks ago (and it was very windy today), and four of them were well under 8:00 at a not ridiculous effort. But I don’t have real endurance yet. I was cooked at 10 miles and made my way out of the park via a shortcut.  I’ll try for 12 next Sunday, down from my original planned 14.

It drives me crazy not to have something to work toward. So I’m going to loosely train for the NYRR Colon Cancer Challenge 15K. That’s 10 weeks away. My best time in that race is 1:07:18 in 2009, and that was doing it as a tempo effort training run with 6 miles tacked onto either side of it. Incidentally, I have no fucking clue how I was doing runs like that two years ago. It seems impossible now.

Running a decent 15K would give me opportunity train for endurance and speed, which training for these 4 milers won’t give me. But I figure I can punt if I’m still struggling with longer distances and just do the Colon Cancer 4 miler instead as a measuring stick against whatever I do next month.

I’m not ready to jump into marathon training yet, physically or otherwise. I need to feel like I can run 50 mpw consistently without getting reinjured. But, looking a bit farther ahead this season, I’m thinking a run at the half distance in Long Island in May (and hoping we don’t have another freak heat wave) is not a terrible idea.

In totally unrelated news, we had a good New York Running Show episode this evening, in which we (Joe, Amy, Brenn and I) covered all things related to training in Central Park (and some racing tips), as well as a discussion of whether men should wear shorts over their tights. We had 83 downloads of the show last week. That’s up from around 50 a few weeks ago. Explosive growth!

Testing. Testing. One. Two. Three.

The metabolic testing has been delayed yet again. It seems the facility’s carbon dioxide sensor isn’t working so they’ve had to mail off for a new one. While this is a bit annoying, there are advantages. For one, it’s allowed me a little more time to get my adductor muscle in order so that I can do the test on a treadmill rather than on a bike. But, even better, the facility’s going to do it for free because of all the delays. I didn’t ask for this. But I didn’t turn it down either.

Today I went up to White Plains for an appointment with The Endocrinologist. As far as doctors go, she was okay. She asked lots and lots of questions and is sending me for lots and lots of tests. But she doesn’t deal with athletic types. This was clear from the get go. I could see some of the things I was saying going over her head or being attenuated by Couch Potato Bias.

Me: “I got a serious stress fracture on 50mpw, running on soft ground, after averaging 75mpw on pavement in the previous 18 months. I’m concerned about a bone density issue.”

Dr.: “But stress fractures are common among runners, aren’t they? Also we don’t usually do bone density testing on pre-menopausal women.”

Okay, whatever. The bone density question wasn’t the primary reason I was there. It was the fact that there’s either something wrong with me or I am a medical miracle when it comes to fat storage. Seriously, the military should study me because they could produce troops that don’t require MREs in the field. But still, it was a little irritating. As was being told that “women typically gain a little weight after age 40.” As was being told my BMI is 23, which is “healthy.” Yes. I know. I’m healthy. I’m a healthy fat runner. Grr.

I’m glad that The Nutritionist at least does not think I’m insane to want to lose 8-10 lbs of fat for performance reasons.

Back on track

After taking four full days off from running, not because there was anything wrong but because I was so frigging busy with window/masonry guys and then giving or throwing away about 75% of our possessions, I ran today. At the gym. This was a first. Jonathan had his inaugural post-foot procedure elliptical session. He has not done a spot of exercise since right before Christmas. For JS followers, he reports that his foot is stiff and a little painful, but not around the treatment area. I think it’s just not used to doing anything, even walking, let alone running, but I’m not a medical expert, much as I enjoy pretending to be.

He hates going to the gym even more than I do (although that monthly membership fee on our MasterCard is a great motivator), so I will go with him while he’s in his non-running phase of coming back. We’ll also have to go up there at least a few days a week anyway for cross-training even after he’s running again, but never mind about that.

I somehow managed to pick the crappiest treadmill in the place. It was noisy (bang! bang! bang!), something I discovered happens only when that particular machine goes faster than 9:00 pace. By that time I was a mile in, so I jammed the headphones in deeper, cranked up the volume, and vowed to avoid this machine next time. It also resets to 0.0 MPH every time you pause, then takes forever to get back up to speed. After awhile, I didn’t bother stopping for water, preferring dehydration to frustration.

The quote is from past Boston Marathon race director Jock Semple, of Kathrine Switzer shoving fame.

After several days off from running, and only 22 miles last week, you can bet my legs were fresh. I am scheduled for my metabolic testing on Wednesday (although that’s now in extreme doubt given that we’re scheduled to have another blizzard; learning how piss poor I am at burning calories is not worth risking life and limb for), and as such I am not supposed to do any hard exercise the day before in order to have as low a resting heart rate as possible. So today was the day to try something harder if I was going to.

Since I was feeling so perky I decided to do a progression run today. I started out at 9:15 and steadily worked my way down 20 seconds or so per mile to 7:15 for the last one; 7.5 miles total. I was tempted to go to 7:00 pace, but I still have slight adductor pain, and I’ve learned enough horrible lessons about pushing things already. The good news is that there was considerably less pain than a week ago at the same pace in Central Park. Meaning almost none. I call that progress.

I am avoiding the heart rate monitor completely, perhaps permanently save for marathon pace training (and marathon racing). The rest of the time, it’s such a mind fuck. I’m just running at what’s a comfortable (or comfortably hard) pace for the time being. I’ll try to work down to 7:00. Then do some faster intervals when my adductor tells me it’s okay to do so. What I am going to be ready for very soon is some tempo running. I’m looking forward to that.

Tomorrow’s a little recovery run and back to doing some upper body weights. I have a feeling I’ll be running at home on Wednesday afternoon given the Snowpocalypse II forecast. Fortunately, I now have my treadmill room back. The guest bed’s been disassembled and the sound system’s hooked up to the TV so I can hear it over the din. All I need is a Grete Waitz poster.

2011: So far, so good

I ran 7.5 miles on the treadmill this morning and it was no big deal. This is major. I remember how running used to feel now. Or, at least, how it should not feel: namely, like a burdensome experience in which every step feels hard and every mile feels like three miles.

I haven’t bothered to post training, and I don’t dare tally up my miles for 2010. I’m sure it’s about half what I ran in both 2008 and 2009. Maybe that’s a good thing. But I’ll start tracking things soon.

Over the past few weeks I’ve run between around 25 and 35 miles a week. This week I’m trying for 40. On Sunday I had the first good run since August, an 11 miler in Central Park at around 8:20 pace. Considering that I’ve been plodding along at 9:20-9:50 on a flat treadmill, running that pace over hills is huge. I was in a great mood after that run. Weather permitting, I’ll probably go for a 12-14 miler in the park again on Sunday.

The stress fracture is totally healed up. The adductor pain is so subtle that I don’t even feel it much of the time when I’m running. It comes and goes, but mostly goes. I ran the last mile on Sunday in 7:15. I could feel it then, but it wasn’t bad. I will continue to test it with bits of faster running on Sundays.

In other news, I had my three week progress check-in with The Nutritionist. She is baffled by the fact that between being ill with a cold (and barely eating anything), then running just about every day (and eating what she has told me to eat, and when), that I’ve lost a grand total of .5 lbs. I reminded her of what I said when we met last month: “I told you I’m a hard case.” She assures me we’ll crack this case.

As part of the detective work, next week I visit an endocrinologist and also go for a VO2 max test. I would have gone for the VO2 max test earlier but I was sick with a head-and-then-chest cold for two weeks, and it seemed stupid to do anything that relied on good breathing, and then Christmas was upon us. So I called today to make the appointment. It was a funny conversation, with the person on the phone telling me what to expect, in a tone that was somewhat ominous: “It’s going to be a very hard workout.” She paused and then said, “Wait a minute. You’re a marathoner?” I said, “Yes.” She laughed, “Oh, good!” I guess she knows I like to suffer. 20 minutes pedaling hard on a bike? Pfft. Bring it on, lady. I’ve done Joan Benoit’s bike workout and that takes 1:20.

It’s a new year. I have lots of resolutions and goals, as usual. This year, however, they have a gravity to them that they have not in the past. I’m on a self-improvement tear. I have a long list of things to accomplish. I am not going to slack off or give up.

We started off the year with a massive clean out of our office. I’d spent about three days last month cleaning up the piles of paper surrounding my desk. Jonathan was infected by this bug and we just spent two days cleaning up the rest of the office. We’re recycling no less than four computers (and lots of peripherals). We threw out or recycled about eight large garbage bags’ worth of crap. It will not be our last trip to the Yonkers dump. Next up: the guest room closets.

Jonathan has been more attached to the things we own than I have traditionally. I would describe myself as ruthlessly unsentimental. I have no idea what’s changed in him — maybe it was my insisting that we get rid of the pool table (and actually disposing of it less than 24 hours later) and replace it with dining room furniture so we could live like civilized people. Now we have interesting conversations over dinner. We can have people over to eat. These are no small matters.

More shit is going out the door this year. The Bowflex. The rugs we don’t like. All of the semi-disposable IKEA furniture (with a nod to Douglas Coupland) that we bought with the idea that it would be temporary, yet which has insidiously become permanent. The mountains of I don’t know what in our basement. All this detritus is oppressive, both physically and mentally. I want a house that’s positively Japanese when we’re done.

2010 was blogtastic

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 52,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 205 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 713 posts. There were 184 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 27mb. That’s about 4 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 17th with 2,238 views. The most popular post that day was The American Master: Khalid Khannouchi’s Second Last Chance.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were letsrun.com, networkedblogs.com, trackandfieldnews.com, runawayfastjaymee.blogspot.com, and Google Reader.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for baby chipmunks, races like a girl, saucony kinvara review, raceslikeagirl, and girl chipmunks.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010. The fascination with baby chipmunks continued.

1

The American Master: Khalid Khannouchi’s Second Last Chance December 2010
14 comments and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

2

Khannouchis to split as couple, remain intact as coach and athlete December 2010
5 comments

3

A few minutes with Leo Manzano October 2010
11 comments

4

Chipmunks galore May 2008
3 comments

5

About October 2008

As of this morning I’m less than 1,500 page views away from hitting 100,000.

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