Training: Feb 20-26

This was a week of “firsts in a long time”: first tempo run outside, first speedwork session, first run over 10 miles, first week over 50 miles.

I spent a fair amount of time this week experimenting in order to answer some basic questions here, at the start of a new training cycle. How fast should I run 1K intervals? How much running should I do the day after a tempo run? Is it a good idea to do some spinning the evening before a long run?

I am also trying to reintroduce some regular core strengthening work, since I am aware of how weak I am after I hit about the 8 mile mark on a run. My back is not happy the next day, so I need to work on the muscles that keep me upright. Have I mentioned how dreary and uncomfortable core work is? I hate doing it. But it sure beats pool running. Everything’s relative, I guess.

I managed three hard workouts again this week, from your staples of training run types: tempo, speed, long. The tempo run was difficult, the speed session not so difficult — and today’s long run was just meh on account of being scaled down from the original plan, which was to run 11, but do the last 2 at 7:30.

Although the rest of me had plenty of energy, my legs were not into it today. So I turned the run into what Sandra likes to call a “listen to your body” run — just run whatever effort/pace you feel like running. The result was wildly varying paces — from 7:45-8:30. But it was fine and I didn’t beat myself up about bailing on the original plan. A few miles at 7:45 is close enough. I will not do a moderate spin effort beforehand next time. Too much.

The Coogan’s 5K is a week from tomorrow, so I’ve only got two hard workouts this coming week — another speed session and a run with a few miles at race effort. The rest is easy with mileage around 40. The adductor was only an issue today, for part of the run. I have no clue what triggers it, since you’d think 1Ks on the treadmill would piss it off. But it was not too bad.

This post was boring. Sorry.

Runner’s remorse

Today I did a set of 1K repeats on the treadmill. I had planned to do four of them but I felt so darned good (and not tired after the fourth one) that I decided to tack on a fifth. I know that you are supposed to end such a session feeling as though you could do another — and stop there — but I felt like I could do three more. I don’t have another hard day until Saturday so it seemed like not a terrible idea to expand the workout.

Since I am an overachiever (at least in running, although in few other areas) I also decided to do the last one faster, which is something Coach Sandra encourages, if not requires. Want to run faster at the end of races? Then run faster at the end of training runs. Brimming with confidence and energy, I launched into the fifth repeat, punching the “go faster” button on the machine with gusto.

Everything was going well until about 300m into the repeat and I suddenly thought, “Well, this is kind of hard to do.” I had runner’s remorse. I had to decide if I was going to bail on that fifth repeat or stick it out. It would have been easy to bail — I was doing extra credit, after all. No one was looking. No one would care. But there I was (now at about 400m) — I’d chosen to do this repeat. I had to commit to it or spend the rest of the day feeling like a slouch.

I should mention that I have a better attitude about doing “track work” on the treadmill these days since I no longer have to do complex distance calculations beforehand (since repeats are in kilometers and our treadmill only displays miles), then suffer mental agony if I fuck things up during the run by punching the wrong buttons or otherwise spacing out, which I often do. It turns out that we have a little graphical representation of a 400m track on our machine, made up of lights. A blinking light moves around the track as you run, showing your approximate location.

Just to demonstrate how dense both of us are, we’ve had this treadmill for about six years and Jonathan just noticed this feature the other day. I just thought it was a meaningless blinking light going around a circle. Anyway, now it’s easy to do weird distances. You just look at the blinking light and figure out where you stand based on its location. So, for example, when the light makes 2.5 trips around, you’ve run 1K. It’s so easy, even a moron can do it. It’s too bad even two morons couldn’t notice it for six years.

I committed to the impromptu repeat, watching the little light go round the track 1.5 more times, and ran it 12 seconds faster than the previous one.

The technology is the easy part. The running is the hard part.

And the flowers are still standing!

Coach Sandra indicated recently that I should just go back to the plan she originally drew up for me before I got injured, whenever I felt I was ready to train again.That plan was constructed to get me up to a half marathon (5 weeks before a full), with one or two shorter races along the way.

Okay, I’m ready. After a couple of hours with Excel this morning, I now have a 10 week training plan to take me to the Long Island Half, starting two days ago. Working backward from the May 1 race date was easy enough. The stuff I’ve been doing over the past few weeks were a good lead in to the revisited training plan.

Mileage tops out at 54 mpw and the longest run is 14 miles. There’s a lot of speedwork and progression runs incorporating race effort/pace. The Scotland 10K falls in a good place in training too. I hate to say I’m excited, but I guess I am a little. It seems like a manageable schedule and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I have 10 weeks to prepare rather than the more measly 8 I’d been thinking I had.

The plusses: My body has held up well under some genuine training demands over the past month+ — the physical ones as well as the mental ones required by doing almost everything on the stupid treadmill. I can look forward to competing in one “important” race per month from now through June. And winter has to end eventually.

The minuses: Not many. I am afraid of getting reinjured, but that worry should manifest itself as a conservative approach to hard training and a prioritizing of recovery, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. After a few years of overtraining, injury and race-time stagnation, I am happy to trade arriving at start lines slightly undertrained for not arriving there at all.

This post title is referenced at 4:30. I have always loved how this line is shouted off camera.

Training: Feb 13-19

In which I worriedly, hurriedly prepare for a short race

I am quite aware of the fact that I have a 5K race looming on the horizon. I don’t like 5K races but, to be fair, I haven’t raced that many of them, and only a handful have been since I started running competitively. In two weeks I’ll cover the Coogan’s course in Washington Heights. I have been doing what I can to prepare for a short, fast race while also trying to not do anything that’s going to irritate the adductor injury that continues to hang on for dear life. But I feel I’ve turned a corner in that if I’m careful and do a shit-tonne of stretching and strengthening, it’s under control and on its way out, however slowly.

That said, this was another okay week, featuring two decent workouts and one half-assed workout. I did not hit the 52 miles I’d originally planned, but that’s life. I do, however, now feel pretty confident that I can handle real training. With that I will get back in touch with Coach Sandra (whom I’ve not wanted to bug during this period of testing the waters) this week to talk half marathon training.

I’m at the point where running 10 miles at any pace doesn’t feel like a 20 miler. But endurance at faster paces continues to be an issue and time’s a-wastin’. So I am trying to add in some substantial efforts at speedier paces. This campaign to not embarrass myself in two weeks began with Sunday’s trip into Central Park. This time I dragged Jonathan with me, who managed 12 miles with some discomfort in his foot. But, heck, he ran 12 miles, some of them on the faster side. So that’s progress.

We ran 6 miles together to warm up, then split up to do our little workouts. I did an inner loop, he did an outer loop. I managed three miles at sub-7:30 and a last one at 8:00 (me so tired). That was pretty good for that course, in wind, coming off a “big” week. Having learned last week that a longer recovery run on Monday is a no no, I split things up into two runs.

Tuesday was a big social day as was Wednesday evening. On Wednesday morning I decided to try a fartlek run again. There has been some slight improvement over last week’s fartlek in that I could do two sets and the speeds were slightly faster. I also shortened the between-sets recovery time from 5 to 4 minutes.

On Thursday I didn’t feel like doing anything, least of all running. I spent pretty much the entire day finding ways to avoid running. Then I forced myself to go to the gym to do some circuit stuff and figured I’d just try getting on the treadmill and if it sucked I’d climb off and call it a day. Mostly, I wanted to go there so I could use the sauna. After the first couple of miles I felt okay so decided to at least do something a little more productive than a 9:50 plod: a couple of miles at faster paces, if not stellar ones. At least the 20 minutes in the sauna seemed well-deserved.

Friday I was flat out exhausted, so I skipped exercise entirely. Saturday featured an evening run at home on the treadmill. For some reason I felt compelled to tack on a half mile to the planned 6. I think I felt bad about bailing on Friday’s run entirely. A half mile here, a half mile there. Pretty soon you’re talking, like, a whole extra mile.

Next week I may attempt some actual speed work if I can find a clear outdoor track or uninterrupted flat pathway to run on. That depends entirely on snow meltage. We are scheduled to get more snow this evening, so yeah, ha ha. It’s February, bitches. Have another cup of snow. I suspect I’ll being doing more fartleks on the treadmill. They’re close enough.

My training weeks begin on Sunday (or, put another way, end on Saturday). But I got in the habit of posting these training tomes on Sundays. So I’ll cheat and mention that I did my first outdoors tempo run since the summer today in Central Park. I basically tried to simulate a 5K more or less, but split up into three bits separated by 4 minutes. I managed to run my 7 minute segments at around 6:50 pace, which I’m pretty damned proud of because it was hellaciously windy today. I was running at harder than tempo effort much of the time, but whatever. I’m not going to be a purist about anything at this point. Waste of time. I need to get used to being really, really uncomfortable for around 21 minutes.

Groovy new Tempo Run playlist appears below.

In which I am uncharacteristically social

I spent all day Tuesday with a friend (and part of the afternoon with her five-year-old, who is smarter and more articulate than many adults I know) in Manhattan. She’s one of the few people I’m still in touch with from graduate school from way back in the (gulp) mid- ’90s, and by far the friend from that milieu to whom I’m closest. She’s moving out of the country indefinitely in July, so we’re trying to spend some time with each other fairly regularly before that happens. I’m happy for her, but it’s still a bummer to have to say goodbye. There’s virtually no chance I’ll visit her where she’s headed. That sounds ominous; it’s not meant to. She’s not going to prison or anything. She’ll just be very, very far away in a place I have no desire to visit.

On Wednesday evening I drove up to Rye Brook for dinner and conversation with my heretofore virtual friend, Cris/Darkwave of Well, I’m TRYING to Run fame. I have been trading training notes and amusing quips online with Cris for several years, primarily on this weekly thread on LetsRun (although I have been absent for many months during my injury odyssey). Cris was just as intelligent, interesting and warm in person as I’d expected her to be. It was a fun evening, although I worried I kept her up too late on a school night, since she was up here on a business trip and had to get up at 5:30AM the next morning and be a responsible adult. I, on the other hand, being an irresponsible adult, was free to sleep in late and then spend the day farting around the house.

In which I somewhat reluctantly show some team spirit

I bought a long-sleeved Harriers tech shirt this week, since it was easy enough to swing by Urban Athletics on my way to see my East Side friend. It’s a little weird to anticipate wearing it in a couple of weeks, not only because I don’t want to put further pressure on myself in a race at a distance that is not my forte. I’m not generally a joiner and uniforms of any sort always give me pause. But wearing a shirt in the points races seems to be what people do.

I will say that it looks pretty fetching on me (I look good in black — and somewhat menacing, I hope) and it was comfortable enough on today’s test run, for which I wore it as a base layer so I could continue to stealth train.

In which I go back to my artistic roots

I have more websites than is reasonable for one person. Especially since none of them are making me any money. But I can always launch another one, even as the current ones sit neglected. I expect to launch this newest creative venture pretty soon — probably next month or in April. Those who have known me for a long time know that I have a long history of drawing cartoons. I have had a dry spell of this activity for, oh, about 20 years, although I will sometimes make a painting when under stress.

Anyway, I have been besieged by funny ideas lately. That has led to sketching and frequent giggling. I should do something with these ideas and with the good domain I own but have not known what to do with (people have offered to buy it from me, but I had faith that a use for it would eventually emerge). Yes, I want to express myself. At least I’m not writing erotic poetry or making wallets out of duct tape.

So look for that soon.

———————————————————–

Mix: Tempo Run

Nobody’s In Love This Year – Warren Zevon
Change4Me – Bettie Serveert
No Matter What – Badfinger
1994 – Amberhaze
When I Wonder – Charlatans U.K.
Souls Travel – Bettie Serveert
Meet Me In The Basement – Broken Social Scene
Elephant Woman – Blonde Redhead
The Well And The Lighthouse – Arcade Fire
Sincerity – Charlatans U.K.
Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds
Changes Are No Good – The Stills
Bled White – Elliott Smith
Pop In G – Heatmiser
Gimme Animosity – Superdrag
Godspell – The Cardigans
Better Things – The Kinks
American Girl – Tom Petty
Something’s Out There – Freedy Johnston
Don’t Look Down – Lindsey Buckingham
Billoddity – Mojave 3
Swimming Song – Kate and Anna McGarrigle
My Favorite Mistake – Sheryl Crow
Finding You – The Go-Betweens
Cellophane – Creeper Lagoon
Dirty Secret – Grant-Lee Phillips
I Need Your Love – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Listen on Rhapsody

Training: Jan 30-Feb 12

Astute readers will notice that I’ve skipped a week, Jan 23-29. That was just an awful, awful week, runningwise and in all other respects. Let’s move on.

What I like most about the above image is that it’s starting to look like the log of someone who is actually training. I’m not training for anything just yet, but I will be soon. For now, I’m just focusing on getting the mileage consistently in the 50mpw range and getting in at least two (preferably three) quality workouts a week. If I can do this for a few more weeks and stay uninjured, I will be a very happy woman indeed.

Then I will start worrying about training for my only real “goal” race on the near-term horizon, the Long Island Half on May 1. I’ll only have about two months to train, which probably isn’t enough for running my best. But I just want to run a decent half marathon. On the way, I’ll run two NYRR club points races: the Coogan’s 5K in early March and the Scotland 10K five weeks after that. To prepare for those I will be doing a fair amount of fartlek and tempo running over the coming few weeks. I hate 5Ks, but it’s a points race, so what the hell. I’m looking forward to the 10K.

After Coogan’s I’ll start focusing on training for the Long Island Half on May 1. I am hoping that by then I’ll have a good mix of speed and endurance in place. The Scotland Run should be a good “thermometer” race midway through that training cycle. It’s true that eight weeks is probably not enough to produce a great half performance, but I don’t have a lot invested in a May race. I just want to not implode during training, run a good race, and feel like I’m set up for starting marathon training in the summer (and perhaps I’ll run a good Mini 10K in June).

But I must stay uninjured.

To help preserve this state of affairs, I am stretching and rolling fairly regularly these days — maybe 4-5 evenings a week. This is a harder habit to establish than was daily flossing (which I am doing, by the way), probably because flossing takes 30 seconds and rolling/stretching takes 30-60 minutes. I would like to be getting more massages than I am, but money’s tight so I need to do that judiciously. I also started breaking up some recovery runs into doubles to try to further give the graint a rest. I did an eight mile run after Sunday’s race and that was a mistake. Mr. Leg was not happy.

Sandra has a standard pre-race-week schedule — for shorter distances, meaning half marathon on down — and I notice that she crams in two hard workouts back to back. This week I followed that schedule, piling on the work on Wednesday and Thursday: two hard runs plus a big weight session (I added that one — don’t try this at home before a race). The little recovery run on Wednesday evening helped enormously, I think. My legs felt ready for the progression run. Paces are no longer embarrassing: 6:20-6:40 for the fartlek segments and 7:00-7:20 for the fast finish run. My graint was bugging me during the fartleks (so I cut out the two minute segments on the second set), but it was not terrible.

I was tired on Thursday and Friday evenings, and hungry, so I know I worked hard. But I am okay today and plan to do 10 miler in Central Park tomorrow with at least the last two miles at what I suspect is probably my current marathon pace, maybe around 7:40-7:50 on those hills. I was going to do 12, but that’s too far still. Especially after this, what I think of as my first significant (running) training week since the summer.

One word about the metabolic testing that happened last week. There was no metabolic testing, as it turns out. It was actually just a V02 max test. That’s because there was no C02 sensor in the machine. Which explains why, when Jonathan was asking them about “fat vs. carbohydrate usage,” they looked at him somewhat blankly and didn’t give a straight answer. Now I’m really glad I didn’t pay for it.

But all is not lost. The Nutritionist is consulting nutritionist to the Columbia University sports department, where she is also an adjunct, and Columbia is outfitted with metabolic testing equipment (and, presumably, people who know what they’re doing). But it’s on the fritz! What is it with sports testing equipment?! As soon as it’s fixed, I’ll probably go run on a treadmill with a mask attached to my face again, as well as get the resting metabolic test done (which the other place also neglected to do, although they could have with another machine they have).

I’m down a couple of pounds, finally. But it’s too soon to declare victory. When I’m down five pounds I’ll feel more encouraged. The Nutritionist is working with a basketball player who has the same issue with fat loss, except she’s 6’4″ and weighs around 225 pounds. We are the hard cases.

Running Times: Winter Cross-Training Alternatives

Did I plug this already? Sorry. I’m plugging all over town.

I wrote this.

(Please don’t tell me about the mistake in the yoga section. I’ve been alerted to the fact that my pig ignorance is showing and will be trying to get that corrected this week.)

Podcasts I like

During my six months of cross-training purgatory, I got sick of my music mixes and turned to podcasts for distraction. In that time, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. Since I’m doing nine out of ten runs on the treadmill these days (and still hitting the other machines and pool sometimes), I’m still listening to them often. Most of them have some comedic element. I like funny stuff and it helps to counter my foul mood when I am pool running.

Here are some favorites, with top picks first. All are available on iTunes.

RISK!
This podcast features either live or studio-recorded stories from people who have tales to tell that fit into the week’s chosen theme. These are usually writers, comedians or actors who have something interesting to say and know how to say it well, meaning they are good storytellers and monologuists. Sounds easy. But it’s not. Most of the time, it works. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, sometimes shocking. Always a good listen.
Starter episode: The Chase. Highlight: “The Freak Magnet,” Kerri Heidecker’s story of being stalked, scrapbooked and rendered in wax fetish form by a school acquaintance.

What The Fuck
Stand-Up Comedian Marc Maron has been a fixture on the comedy scene for a long time. But who knew he was such a skilled interviewer? With a mixture of empathy, wit and intellectual curiosity, Maron is able to establish a rapport and intimacy with his subjects that I can only envy and aspire to.
Starter episode: Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall and Talkradio fame describes his harrowingly awful first marriage, struggles with dyslexia and current status as child-support-poor, reluctant stand-up comedian. Sounds like a depressing drag, right? Well, it’s actually sidesplitting in spots.

Savage Lovecast
Dan Savage has been giving advice about sex (and both garden-variety and not-so-garden-variety romance) for…well, a long time. I used to read his stuff in the Village Voice way back when I was a commuting wage slave. He recently got some well-deserved press for his It Gets Better project, whose genesis was a call from a 15-year-old, stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere gay kid who could not see through his current sense of isolation to a happy future for himself. Anyway, the podcast covers everything under the sexual sun and more often than not I learn something new. I usually agree with Dan’s advice too.
Starter episode: In Episode 218, Dan gives good answers to questions like these: Her new boyfriend sometimes wets the bed; dealbreaker? Why does this straight man keep finding himself being mysteriously fellated by his gay neighbor? Is a mom who busts her daughter for sending photos to middle-aged men on the Internetwebs being nosey or heroic?

LetsRun.com’s Training Talk
Weldon Johnson, co-founder of LetsRun.com, interviews coaches and runners. The interviews are few and far between, but I always find gems among them, and he has gotten more confident as an interviewer over time. This is really for hardcore runners or fans of the sport.
Starter episode: Stephanie Rothstein talks about how she went from being a mediocre high school runner to breaking 2:30 at Houston about a week ago. She has a lot to say about injury, confidence and perserverence. A great listen for anyone who cares about their own running.

Judge John Hodgman
Viewers of the The Daily Show will know John Hodgman as the show’s “expert” on all matters, as demonstrated in the segment called “You’re Welcome.” Hodgman extends this persona out, acting as a Judge Judy of sorts (but much funnier), to help couples, friends and others who are in disagreement over something resolve their conflict. The show is uneven, but when the right combination of subject and guests is present, it’s a good listen.
Starter episode: Are Machine Guns Robots?

I won’t get out of here alive without also plugging the two I’m sometimes on: the New York Running Show and The Runners Round Table. Those are good too.

Well, that was alright

Today marked my tentative return to racing, hot on the heels of my tentative return to training. Tomorrow it will be six months to the day that I suffered a catastrophic fracture to my right sacrum on the hills of Central Park in the Club Championships. I have kept the racing shoes I was wearing at the time, with that race’s D-Tag still attached, within view of our bed. Every morning I wake up, see the shoes, and remind myself that I’ll race sometime again.

This morning I finally got to cut the D-Tag off and put a new one on. It was a meaningful moment. I’ll admit that I was a little reluctant to wear the same shoes, lest they jinx me. But I’m not superstitious in the least, and I love racing in them (they are men’s — unisex, whatever — Asics Gel Hyperspeeds that I inherited from Jonathan, for whom they were slightly too small).

I almost didn’t run this race, the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler. Twice. Yesterday I ran two very easy 3 milers on the treadmill, as Coach Sandra’s pre-race schedule instructs. I couldn’t do the 100m strides (’cause I was on the stupid treadmill). After the AM run, my right leg didn’t feel good. Specifically, it’s an area in my groin that I place somewhere between the innermost adductor and the hamstring insertion point. I will call it my “graint.” My graint hurt during and after that run. I stretched and rolled the hell out of the area for an hour afterwards. Then I did the second run in the evening. Same issue. More stretching, rolling and cursing under my breath. The issue abated for a few hours but reemerged while I was, of all things, lying on the couch watching Spartacus. I went to bed, figuring that if it was still complaining in the morning I’d bag the race rather than risk a repeat performance of August.

This morning arrived, way too early, because I was nervous, at 5AM. All was well with the graint. In fact, everything was going really well. No traffic. Conveniently located snowdrift to park in. Baggage wasn’t too crowded. Then I went for my warmup just north of the start line. The course on East Drive was a mess. Slush and black ice abounded. It was especially treacherous in spots immediately south and north of the 72nd St Transverse. I probably ran under a mile to warm up, primarily as an investigative sortee to scope out where the worst spots were on the road. Was the entire course going to be like this? 15 minutes before start, I nearly headed home. One overextension of my graint and I could be screwed for months to come.

Things looked a little better on Cat Hill where, not coincidentally, there was some sun. I figured I should run at least the first half mile conservatively (and note where other runners ahead might be falling on their asses) and be careful in the shady sections. I lined up toward the back of the blue corral, where it was Sardine City.

I didn’t feel well. I haven’t slept well all week and the cumulative deficit showed in the mirror this morning. My stomach was screwed up before the race, no doubt due to nerves. I have not run at a sustained high effort for more than two miles since the summer. And, atop all this worry, I remain worried about getting reinjured. I have learned that it can happen easily and without warning.

So, yes, “conservative start” were the watch words today. I was glad to be in the back of the corral. Let others fly out and find the ice patches. I didn’t want to feel pushed to run faster than I was comfortable running. My “fast” running has been around 7:10 lately. Not surprisingly, that’s the pace I ran today.

I left the Garmin at home, but I wore my basic Timex so I could at least get my finish time and, if I remembered, the mile splits. I didn’t look at my watch while I was racing, as I’ve learned that this is A Bad Thing To Do. Mile 1 was on the slow side: 7:20. I somehow missed the 2 mile marker, but at 3 those two together were 14:24. I made up time on the last mile, a 6:59. I did not race all out today, although I was close. To be honest, I was worried about my graint exploding with rage should I push the pace below 7:00. But it was fine throughout and I only felt slight complaints at the end. Within a few minutes, those were gone. It’s fine now.

The purpose of this race was threefold:

  1. Simply have the experience of racing again. I have missed this unbelievably so.
  2. See if I can run fast without retriggering my chronic injury.
  3. Get some sense of my current fitness level.

As for 1, I got it. It was fun. I wished I’d raced a little harder, but item 2 took priority. That was also good. I feel confident about going back into hard training again. I will add some fartlek work (on the treadmill, not in the pool, yay) this coming week. Item 3 was about where I expected it to be: I’ve been doing tempo work at around 7:15 on a flat treadmill. It makes sense that I’d get about that pace racing on hills.

I missed out on an AG award by 1 second. That’s okay. One lucite paperweight is enough for me. Official time: 28:42, 55th F overall. Well off my best on that course of 27:34, but that’s no big surprise.

I am so fucking happy to have run a significant distance on the faster side with (seemingly) no ill effects. You have no idea.

The fat mystery widens

I went to The Nutritionist today. It’s been about a month since I last saw her. Since then I’ve been declared healthy by The Endocrinologist and I have had a VO2 max test at a local gym/personal training place in Hartsdale. But apparently the testers did not do a resting metabolic rate test, which they were supposed to. My data readouts also did not include calorie usage at the various heart rates, another requirement. The Nutritionist thinks the data for the latter is probably still in their machine, so she’s going to go try to get it from them. If it looks wacky, I will need to go back for a resting metabolic rate test. And if it’s not available, I’ll have to go for the VO2 max test again.

It’s been around 7 weeks since I first met with The Nutritionist and in this time, following what normal people follow to lose fat, I should have lost about 4 lbs. I have lost nothing. I have tracked every morsel of food and in fact, when asked if I’ve failed to account for the errant cookie, had to point out the cake I had for breakfast one day as well as double or triple vodka shots some evenings. I’ve been honest, even about things I’m not proud of.

It seems that on some days I am cutting too few calories, too many on others. I also am failing to take in enough carbohydrates after hard workouts. And I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. So I’m going to be given a menu of what to eat and when. We’re cutting calorie intake slightly. Then after we chase down the missing data, perhaps make more adjustments.

I would by lying if I said I wasn’t losing both faith and patience.

Here’s what the VO2 max test was like, if you’re curious. I was told that the place preferred to do it on a bike, and now I know why (wait for it). I requested a treadmill test nevertheless. I’m a runner, so I figured the calorie vs. heart rate/pace data would be more useful to me as a runner. Too bad it’s missing!

Okay, here’s what happens: They attach a big mask to your face with straps around your head. You look just like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. The mask is equipped with a flexible membrane that contains a sensor that measures your intake of oxygen vs. your expulsion of carbon dioxide. From that they determine things like aerobic threshold, lactate threshold and VO2 max. I have a tiny head (no derisive comments, please), so the straps were at their tightest. Yet still the mask was loose, which means oxygen was escaping out the top, over the bridge of my nose. This was not a good thing. So one of the trainers had to stand next to the treadmill and hold the mask in place. Awkward.

The test lasted 12 minutes. The heart rate monitor was wonky at first (which is why I rarely use them anymore), plus I was nervous, so my heart rate was a soaring 104. This is double my usual resting rate. It would not come down. So we just went ahead and started the test.

After a very short warmup at 9:30 pace we launched into things, gradually picking up the pace over the next couple of minutes. Soon I was running flat at 7:30 pace. That was a pace I could run very comfortably at, which was a pleasant discovery. I think my marathon pace must be slightly slower than that at this point. After gathering some data at that pace they started to increase the incline. Little by little, the hill got steeper and steeper and my heart rate went up and up. At the 10:45 mark it was starting to feel very hard.

Throughout this process, I could only stare straight ahead and use hand motions (thumbs up) to communicate. That’s because there was someone standing six inches away holding a mask to my face while someone else’s hands fiddled with the treadmill settings. I could not see anything below the bridge of my own nose. It was disorienting and worrying. I realized at one point that the reason they’d had me sign a waiver wasn’t that they were worried I’d drop dead of a heart attack — it was that I’d pitch backward off the treadmill and crack my skull on the belt. Tremendous concentration was required to stay upright and relaxed.

At 11:30 I was struggling. The incline was up to 4%, at 8mph about the equivalent of 6:45 (although who knows how fast the treadmill was actually going). At 12:10, with my heart rate at 202, I was gasping and we stopped the test. It was close enough to max, which I have clocked at 208 at the end of an “I’m about to puke” 5K race.

My VO2 max is 45.5 at the moment, a little lower than when I’ve been at my fittest (it’s more like 47 then). That was good to see, because it tells me that the months of mind-numbingly tedious cross-training were worthwhile and even the little bit of faster running I’ve been doing lately has helped.

The guys who did the test were really nice, and we chatted for quite awhile afterward. They don’t do many of them (which is why they did mine for free — to practice). They only work with about five runners, and I got the distinct impression that I’m the oldest one. So I sort of felt like someone’s science project. They offered to let me come back to do the test on the bike to compare the results (and, now I realize, so they could practice some more), for free. I may take them up on it.

In other news, I am registered for Sunday’s Gridiron 4 Miler in Central Park. I picked up my bib and for a moment thought, with a frisson of delight, that it was number 666. The last digit was obscured by the attached D-Tag. I am, in fact, number 661. If just five people had registered before me I could have run as The Antichrist.

The bib is blue. At least my pre-injury speedster paces have not expired as far as corral assignment goes. I was on the fence about doing this race, but getting a blue bib (it’s the color of the first corral, for those of you not in the NYRR know) makes me feel obligated in a some weird way.

I have no time goal for the race. I just want to race as best I can. It’s been six months. I miss racing. My biggest worry is that my problematic adductor will rebel, as it’s wont to do lately if I try to run too fast. I have promised myself that if it really starts to hurt then I will drop.

More random bloviations

Chicago was still open this morning at 8:00. Although I may as well have stayed up to register last night because I had insomnia. Because I was worried about not getting in. Damn you, Chicago Marathon. Anyway, we’re registered. I never thought I’d sign up for a big city race, but I’m doing what Coach Sandra says. Since it’s in October, and so far away, it feels completely abstract. That’s probably a good thing at this point. I’ll probably still hedge my bets with a New York registration as well.

It is now Snowing® (with Freezing Rain™!) for the ninth time this winter. My metabolic test, which has been cancelled twice already due to snow and once due to faulty equipment, is scheduled for noon today. At this point it is beginning to feel as abstract to me as the Chicago Marathon. The test was scheduled for 3 pm, but I rescheduled yesterday when I saw the latest weather warnings. I’m still not sure I’ll be able to negotiate the route given the dire warnings of impending death and destruction on the roadways.

But I will try. We live on a big hill and sometimes, if the crud is slippery enough, I can’t get my car up it. My wheels spin and spin, where I am usually trapped on a blind curve. Other drivers, who have four- (or front-) wheel drive, look askance and honk their horns. I can only reverse. Then I have to abandon our little jalopy in the church parking lot at the bottom of the hill. This is an experience I try to avoid if at all possible.

Also, about that test: I am not allowed to have any caffeine beforehand. That part’s probably harder than the actual test. I can already feel the headache coming on.

I skipped the Millrose Games on Friday. I have never been able to take that event seriously and it was just easier to sit on my couch and watch live coverage than it was to trek in on foot, then get home after midnight. I also knew I’d be spending all of Sunday in town and I can only take so much of Manhattan before I have to flee.

On Sunday I went to see this play, which my friend Michael’s wife wrote and has won a bunch of awards for. I confess that I don’t really like plays, which is odd because I love books, movies, and live music and comedy. But not plays. I don’t like opera or dance either. Notice a common theme? I am theatre challenged. I used to think it was due to a problem I have with the artifice of theatre, in that I can never suspend my disbelief. The weird, unnatural lighting; the sets that say “I’m a set!”; even the footsteps of the actors. I suspect that’s part of it, but it’s not all of it. I think I put my finger on why I can’t appreciate live theatre this weekend: I cannot help but empathize with the actors (the actors, not their characters) — meaning I feel embarrassed and worried for them, up there on stage, basically from the moment the lights come up.

Part of it has to do with my own mortification at being the center of attention in any way. I would not want to be up there (yet I know that’s precisely where they want to be). The real issue is that I find myself sitting there and obsessively speculating about their lives. Is he having trouble paying his student loans? What will she do after this play closes? Does he have health insurance? If she flubs her lines, will she get fired? So of course I’m totally distracted from what’s actually going on in the play. I have to continually guide my attention back to the characters and story, and away from the actors. I probably shouldn’t go to plays for this reason alone. I will say that I liked this one, to the extent that I am capable of liking a play, and admired the skill with which it was written, along with clever uses of various set devices, sounds and cultural ephemera. Coming from a theatre retard like me, I think that’s probably high praise.

For dinner I went out with my theatre companion and friend of 20+ years, Lisa, to this place (I like the genericism of its name). There, I learned that Turkish food is a lot like Greek food, except that it’s actually appealing. I had the lamb kebab.

Earlier in the day I had lunch with Pigtails Flying at this restaurant. I learned some things that I did not know about her. Here’s one: she’s a good lunch date.

Earlier in the week I made this:

And that was my week, plus 24 miles of running that are not worth going into detail about. This week I hope to run 40.

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