Training: Aug 21-27

Just a quickie post, and one without a visual of the week’s training. My training log is on Jonathan’s computer, which is two states to the east in a house that has no power, thanks to Hurricane Irene.

It was a nothing week for training anyway. I probably ran in the neighborhood of 20 miles if I was lucky. Since I tweaked my left hamstring last week and had a 5K race planned for this Saturday, it seemed stupid to do anything to aggravate said hamstring. I also had to travel out of town for work on Thursday and Friday and there was no time to run during those two days.That was fine since my hamstring was still bugging me. So I slathered on Voltaren and hoped for the best.

On late day Friday the Percy Sutton 5K got canceled due to all city permitted events getting thrown out due to the impending hurricane, making the decision not to race it very easy (since it was made for me!). Instead, I snuck in 4 easy miles in withering humidity before meeting up with fellow bloggers Amy and TK for a sojourn in the Poconos, a much-anticipated trip.

Today I’m slightly hung over (big surprise there) but sporting very fresh legs. Assuming I’m less hung over tomorrow, I’ll attempt a longer run. Or not. I have a slight case of the fuck its this week. That’s not such a terrible thing.

Training: Aug 14-20

Lots of variety this week. The highlights included a speed session Tuesday that went eerily well. Like “10-15 seconds per mile faster than the previous try at this workout” well. Then on Thursday I ripped through a 7 mile recovery run at 8:30 pace. Hey, Lady. Watch it!

The next day, I screwed up my second speed session of the week by running too fast. I was supposed to be doing 1200 repeats at tempo effort (around 7:10-7:15 these days), then shorter stuff at faster speeds. I got to the track and promptly ran 1200 at 6:40 pace. Oops. Then, 600m into the next one I was going at 5:58 (!). WTF.

Perhaps the slight twisting motion I used to look at my watch in that moment with a mixture of pride and alarm is what caused me to then pull my left hamstring. I slowed for the last 200, then tried a slower 400 and 200, but the run was over.

I spent the next 24 hours icing and anti-inflaming. It was okay enough to run on the next day. Since I’m getting sick of the running path I asked Jonathan if he wanted to go do an 8 mile run with me along the upper Old Croton Aqueduct (OCA) trail. He was up for it, so off we went.

I have not done a run with Jonathan since I don’t know when. He usually runs too fast for me (at all speeds), so it’s impractical. Today we were in sync, though. My recovery pace has picked up from 10:00+ to between 8:50-9:20 lately. We trundled along at an average 9:00 (with frequent stops for me to pick the tiny stones out of my Trail Minimi — don’t wear these on a gravel trail, kids).

It. Was. Fun.

I took yesterday off from running (although I did weights and core work), then did another quick 7 mile recovery effort this morning. The hamstring issue is still there, so I’ll baby it this week and skip speedwork rather than tempting fate. I want it ready for Harlem on Saturday.

Training: July 31-Aug 13

After the past year I am so gun shy with regard to injury that I shouldn’t even say this. But I will: I am finally training consistently, and having consistently good workouts. Keys to this are, I believe:

  • Taking days off fairly frequently — and by that I mean completely off; no cross-training, no nothing.
  • Maxing out at two hard workouts per week, with rare exception.
  • Skipping strides if my legs are too tired.
  • Cutting down a workout (but not abandoning it completely) if I’m tired, the weather’s bad, etc.
  • Adding volume slowly and with great caution.


Here’s something else I shouldn’t say: I think I’m getting faster. First I had a ridiculously (for me) fast 10 miler on a miserably hot and humid day on July 31. Then I had an okay race, also on a miserably hot day. I’ve also had some very good speed sessions. Especially Friday’s. That was a good one. It was fairly low humidity, although windy. I tempted fate by going to the track, the scene of a horrible calf strain in early June that created a pause in training for a month.

But all was well on Friday. Better than well. I ripped through the workout at paces that were around 10-15 seconds faster per mile than previous editions. Did I run them too hard? I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

I am trying to get weight work in at least once per week. Next week I’ll add in some pylometrics (leaping up onto platforms, mostly) in anticipation that this will help with mile racing. Speaking of mile racing, there’s a series of track miles being run up at the stadium in Van Cortlandt Park this month and next. They are being organized by the Metropolitan Milers. I will probably run the one on September 9th as a time trial for the Fifth Avenue Mile.

But before that I have the Percy Sutton 5K, which runs through the streets of Harlem, in about two weeks. I have no idea what to expect from myself in a 5K given the focus on mile training right now. But, you know, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’s not a marathon.

Review: New Balance Minimus 10 Road; Pearl Izumi Streak 2

Aside from my recent purchase of the New Balance Minimus 10 Trail, it’s been quite awhile since I bought some new running shoes for daily training — probably around a year and a half. Since my running was either non-existent or spotty in the post-injury months last summer, I didn’t need new shoes. So I’ve been coasting along on a bunch of models from 2008/2009, primarily the Pearl Izumi Streak 1 and the Saucony Fastwitch 3. I’ve been racing in the Asics Gel Hyperspeed 3s and still like those a lot.

Now that we’ve gotten that preamble out of the way, let’s talk about some new shoes. Since I am (knock wood) once again ramping up my running to a consistent 40-50 mpw, I felt it was time to purchase some new kicks. As noted in a previous race report, I really like the Minimus 10 Trails, both for racing and walking around in (they look great with jeans). Since those have worked out so well, I thought I’d pick up a pair of the Road models, since you can never have enough racing shoes.

I’ll say what’s most important first: the Minimus Trail and the Minimus Road share a model number and not much else. Whereas I was instantly in love with the feel of the Trails, I suspect that the Roads are shoes that I will grow to love. Some of that may have to do with the fact that I was expecting them to feel like the Trails. They do not. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Trails are extremely light and thin, meaning there’s hardly any material on the upper and you’re meant to wear them without socks. The sole is flexible as hell and you will feel every pebble and root you step on. They are fantastic shoes. So imagine my surprise when I strapped on the Road model in preparation to do a track workout, only to discover a shoe that is more rigid than Dick Cheney. The Roads feel like a track spike without the spikes. They’re stiff and there’s not a lot of sole hitting the ground. Like the Trails, they are almost truly a “flat” — there’s almost no heel-to-toe drop. If you have achilles tendon issues, or you are not a true “neutral” (meaning your foot tends to roll either inward or outward) runner, then I would stay away from this shoe.

I have to say that I didn’t like them over the 15 minutes of warmup running on the track. The Bronxville track is a hard surface anyway and the shoes just made it feel harder. I also noticed that they’re a little larger than the Trails. I had to tighten the laces a bit. But overall, these two models are made for my feet: wide toebox, medium width midfoot and extremely narrow heel.

Where these shoes really shined was during some longer repeats. I was running 1200s (and a fast mile) today and once I got going they felt really good. The stiffness didn’t seem like such an issue at faster speeds and I felt like my feet had a lot of support. Given the “hardness” of the ride, I probably wouldn’t wear these for anything longer than a road 10K (if even that). I’ll probably wear them in the Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem in a few weeks.

The other model I upgraded was the Pearl Izumi Streak. I went through about five pairs of these during marathon training in 2008/2009 and they were great shoes for long runs especially. Mile 22 felt as comfortable as mile 2 in those shoes. But on a scale of 1-10, they were always about an 8. They had a few minor, but annoying, problems: the first was the sizing, which always felt about a quarter size too big. You have to size up in these anyway (to 8.5 for me, a half size up from my usual 8 in a runner), but that was too big. An 8 was too small. So I’d end up wearing thicker running socks to compensate (or two pairs). They felt like clown shoes because of this.

Also, the toe box was slightly too wide, so I’d end up with blisters and, eventually, callouses on the first and second toes. Finally, I didn’t like how the sole flared out in front and back, and the heel had odd, round plastic inserts that always looked to me like they’d been stolen from a disassembled sex toy.

For once…for once…a shoe company has improved rather than destroyed a shoe model over time. In the Streak 2, Pearl Izumi has fixed those three problems. These shoes are the bomb. My measure of a regular trainer is how aware of it I am when I’m running. I am not aware of wearing shoes when I run in these. They fit perfectly, are light, and seem made for my feet and running form. Running 9:00 pace was comfortable as well doing some strides. The longest I’ve gone is 7 miles, but I can’t see them having an issue at longer distances. I’ll try them out on some longer runs, which these days top out at about 10 miles for me. While the Streaks are not the most attractive shoes in the world, they are keepers.

…and Lauren Fleshman just got even more interesting

Today I had the pleasure of sitting in on a NYRR press (tele)conference with Lauren Fleshman and another 5000 champion, Bobby Curtis (whom I met at last year’s Healthy Kidney 10K). Both runners were there to announce that they’ll be making their marathon debuts at the New York Marathon in November. I only got to ask two questions, but some of the other interviewers hit on the ones I’d wanted to ask, so I lucked out.

Here’s what’s interesting about Fleshman’s marathon approach: at least in the near term, she’s not going to be trying to become a great marathoner per se; instead, she’s using marathon training to try to build strength in order to avoid the cycle of injury that has plagued her over 11 years of racing 5Ks — and (she hopes) help her improve at that distance for the 2012 Olympics.

“The marathon was never on my radar,” she said today. “But I remember when the 5K used to feel so long. I’ve gotten stronger over the last couple of years, dealing with injuries. That’s opened my mind to things that I thought weren’t possible…changing things up and focusing on pure strength for the 5K. For me, [the marathon] is kind of a means to an end, but an exciting one.”

Perhaps most intriguing about this move is the fact that Fleshman’s running history includes a lot of bouts with injury, and she tends to break down at higher volumes. Embracing marathon training, which typically involves lots of mileage, is always risky for injury-prone runners. But there’s more than one way to skin the marathon training cat, and Fleshman will be relying heavily on something called the Elliptigo, a cross-training contraption that she used quite a bit during her most recent post-injury buildup.

Fleshman will continue to use this quasi-bike while preparing for New York. “I plan to use the Elliptigo to make up for volume,” she said. “This isn’t the time to take a huge risk and add 20% volume. Now that I’m doing 70 miles per week I’ll use that as my main form of complementary running. I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried it.”

When asked if the Olympic Trials in January might be a secondary goal, she dismissed them. “That’s not on my radar right now, to be honest. I want to give the marathon a chance to help my 5K. I will try to run as fast as I can [in the marathon], but the marathon fits into the goal of the 2012 [Olympic] 5K. In a way, I feel like I’ll have two debuts: NYC this year and a post-2012 marathon. For now, it’s more of an experiment and we’ll just have to see how that goes. You’ll see more of me in the marathon, I’m sure.”

As noted previously, Fleshman’s running blog is outstanding. It provides practical information as well as an intimate view into what it’s really like to be a professional distance runner. Apparently her inspiration for starting it was Paula Radcliffe, who began chronicling her experiences online way back in 2004 (unfortunately, she hasn’t kept it up). We learned today that even runners of Fleshman’s calibre are not immune to being starstruck. “When I met Paula last year, I was so dumbstruck. I walked away. Next time, we had a great conversation, went out to dinner. I’d rather go to dinner with Paula Radcliffe than any movie star. We still chat and email and I’m lucky that she’s shared some of her knowledge with me.”

In the days since Fleshman’s impressive run in London over the weekend, in which she easily met the A Standard that eluded her at the US championships earlier this year (she came in 8th there), there’s been speculation about whether she’d get a spot on Team USA for the World Championships in Daegu later this month. I asked her what the status of that was, but she didn’t know yet. Fortunately, there was someone from USATF on the call and he confirmed that they’d just released the team start list. Yep, Fleshman’s in for the 5K, which means my Fleshman Fangirl Train will keep rolling through the summer and fall.

It’s Lauren Fleshman Appreciation Day!

When I think of the Japanese proverb “Fall down seven times, get up eight” I picture Lauren Fleshman. She gets injured, she slogs through injury recovery, she trains again, she runs fantastic races. Then she gets reinjured and the cycle begins anew. But she never gives up. And she always comes back.

Fleshman has one of the few outstanding elite blogs that I’ve found. Not only is she remarkably candid about her own running, but she generously doles out helpful advice to anyone who asks for it. She’s opinionated and well informed too, and you’ll find interesting, useful posts that run the gamut, from the rabbiting debate, to eating disorders, to building mileage and more.

Fleshman’s self-possessed manner extends to live interviews, as shown in this famous post-race encounter after the 2010 US nationals:

And here’s edited footage of her win over the weekend at Crystal Palace:

Google Search Oddities

Oh, man. I hope I made someone happy today:

“weight reduction at 46 years of age”

Race Report: NYRR Club Championships

Yesterday I was reminded of several things:

  • How daunting a prospect it is to excel in the NYRR club series when so many of the points races seem to fall in the summer
  • What a thrill it is to watch the faster local runners coming over the finish line
  • How many new people I’ve met in the past year since joining the New York Harriers, and how many new people I continue to meet
  • When it’s very hot and humid, it pays to be conservative in the early miles

Using my dad’s pied-à-terre on the west side as a home base, it was easy to get to the start area on 102nd Street, a 10 minute jog at most. Which makes the fact that I woke up at 4:15am even more irritating. But I can’t say I was surprised by this, since after three months of waking up at 5am to run before my commute (this fact amazed a coworker on Friday), I can’t sleep in no matter how late I go to bed.

But anyway. So we had a leisurely (very leisurely) breakfast and hopped over for number pickup with plenty of time for Jonathan to warm up for the men’s start at 8am. I bade him adieu, went to the start and shot video showing almost every single starter. I say almost because then I went to bag dropoff, used a portapotty and as I was heading over toward the ball fields to do a warmup two guys were frantically running toward the start. “It’s our first race!” they screamed (which didn’t make sense to me because you have to have run in at least two club points races previously this year in order to compete in the championships, but whatever). Even though they were 10 minutes after the start (the usual cutoff), they were allowed to go. All I can say is that I’m glad they weren’t Harriers. So embarrassing! (Just kidding; I once started the Bronx Half 10 minutes late).

Here’s the men’s start.

Speaking of Harriers, I saw shitloads of them. They were everywhere. I was saying “Hi!” right and left before the race, during the race and after the race. Harriers in the corrals, Harriers running on the course, Harriers screaming from the sidelines, exhausted Harriers wandering over to Harrier Rock in search of post-race alcohol and corn dogs, or whatever it is that Harriers eat when they socialize. It was a Harrier frenzy.

Unfortunately, we missed both the Harrier post-race gathering (the annual picnic, in fact) as well as the Warren Street post-race fete because we’d scheduled a Saturday afternoon soiree at our place (one runner, two non-runners, if you must know) since it was the only date available for everyone. We had to dash back home, as there was wine to be chilled and food to be prepared. But I’ll check out the picnic(s) next summer.

Hokay. So, Julie, how was the race?

It was pretty good, for such a hot and humid day. My time of 36:54 was nothing to write home about for a 5 miler normally, but I was happy with the way I ran yesterday. Jonathan’s advice was, “Keep some energy in reserve to get through mile 4 and you’ll be passing people like crazy in mile 5.” This turned out to be wise advice, although not always easy to follow. It took much patience, grasshopper.

I started at the front of the second corral, but the race was so small (around 500 women) that I was only about 8 rows back anyway. We started running and immediately there was a problem in front of me: a near pile up, with no apparent source, starring one of my favorite local bloggers, Washington Ran Here. Women were stopping, swerving, gasping in surprise. I was looking for a runner on the ground, but didn’t see anyone down when I ran by. Fortunately, everyone was okay.

We cleared that mess and then I spotted Emmy Stocker — outstanding Taconic Road Runners masters queen (she’s in the 50+ group) and sometime guest on the New York Running Show — just in front of me. Emmy always beats me. I caught up with her and said as much to her as we made our way west along the transverse toward West Side Drive.

“Hi, Emmy. You’re going to beat me again today.”

“Well, I don’t know. I ran an ultra last weekend.”

“You’ll beat me anyway. But if you don’t for some reason, you’ll have a great excuse.”

“Yeah. It’s called ‘old age.’”

I was going to reply that age seems to have no effect on her performances, but it took me a few seconds to formulate that thought into a coherent sentence. By then she’d taken off and was quickly headed out of earshot. That was last I saw of her.

Heeding Jonathan’s advice, I decided to run the first two miles like a hard tempo effort. No racing yet. The first mile is a rough one with lots of rolling hills, mostly up. I got passed sometimes, but was basically running with the same people for that mile. During mile 2 people really started to pass me. That was difficult to accept, but I was thinking a fair number of them would regret taking off so early on. The heat was rapidly becoming oppressive, especially in sunny spots. First two splits were 7:21 and 7:14. Breathing was one breath for every three footfalls. Not very high effort yet.

As we rounded the bottom of the park, people were still passing me and I was beginning to question this strategy. It was dispiriting, to say the least. But I kept at the same effort, passing mile 3 in 7:21. Now we were headed back uphill in that steady slog up the east side, culminating in Cat Hill. This is where the strategy started to pay off. I passed a few people on Cat Hill. Mile 4 was a not-terrible 7:53, meaning I lost about 30 seconds on the hills.

By this point I was breathing once every two footfalls. That was okay. It was time to race. We made the turn onto the straightaway that parallels Fifth Avenue. I love this part because I can recover a little from the hills and get ready to motor to the finish. There was a phalanx of people cheering on both sides near Engineer’s Gate. That was a boost. Then, beyond that, pockets of Harriers. One of them yelled, “Go, Jules!” which made me giggle, and a little sad, since my only friend who calls me that has moved away and I miss hearing that from her.

The last half mile was where the earlier miles’ discipline paid off. I overtook a few people as we made our way up toward the transverse, and nipped a few as we came around the turn toward the finish. Mile 5 was a solid 7:05.

Average pace was 7:23, which I’m pleased with considering that it was 73 degrees, 81% humidity and sunny.

Like an idiot, I wore black.

Training: July 10-30

Yes, I am training for a speed(y) mile. Here's what it looks like.

It’s a Super Deluxe Three Week Edition. I wish I could give you a funny fold-in picture like they used to do in the back of MAD Magazine, but I do not have such a thing, nor time to make one.

Let’s get cracking.

Now I am training for a mile race. Someone at work the other day said, “What are you training for, a half or a full marathon?” To which I replied, “I’m training for the mile.” He paused, then asked, “You mean a speed mile?” I knew what he meant.

It’s been dreadfully hot over the past few weeks. We had a few days in which the heat index was over 110. That’s with humidity. Not good days for training. So it’s been the rare day I’ve run outside. But I have done a few faster runs outside so I can stay reasonably acclimated, since I have at least two more races this summer.

As you can see by the pink days, the mile training varies wildly between shorter speedy stuff and longer speedy stuff, but not that long. In Daniels’ parlance, “T” stands for Tempo pace and “I” stands for Interval pace. My Tempo pace these days seems to be around 7:05-7:15. Interval pace is obviously faster, but I don’t really pay attention to it. I’m running everything by effort.

Mid-July featured a decent 4 mile race, which is good because I have a 5 mile race on Saturday and am happier going in knowing that I can still run reasonably fast for farther than a couple of miles.

The following week included two speed sessions. I am beginning to think that two workouts most weeks is the way to go for me. I feel completely ready for the next hard session and I’m running them well. No shitty workouts so far, knock wood.

On Thursday of last week I did an interesting workout outside: 1200s followed by 400s followed by a mile. I did not go to the track for this but decided to just use my Garmin and run on the running path. I like doing my workouts on normal terrain since it’s closer to road racing than running around a track is. Plus, the last time I ran anything fast on a track I pulled a calf muscle and was then sidelined for a month. So I am a little track shy these days.

Splits showed a little jump in fitness, since it was hot: 7:05-7:15 for the 1200s, 91-99 for the 400s and the last mile at 7:14. I was extremely happy with these times. And extremely tired later on.

The most surprising workout came this past Sunday, on the 31st (the day after this set concludes). I’d scheduled a 10 miler and thought I’d either do it at recovery pace or as a long run. But for some reason I was just flying. I started the first couple of miles at 9:20 and kept picking it up. I was not wearing a Garmin, so I don’t have the mile splits. But I averaged 8:03 a mile for the entire run, so I must have been running a few miles well under 8:00. Again, I was really happy with this  — so much so that I wondered if shelving the marathon is the right idea; I perished that thought quickly — my eye is on the mile and 5K for the rest of this year. Gotta stay focused.

Saturday is the 5 mile Club Championships race in Central Park. Last year I got badly injured during this race, but up until that happened I liked it a lot. It’s tiny compared to your average NYRR race, so you have some room. But it’s very competitive. Best of both worlds.

Mileage has been low but since my commute-requiring freelance engagement is winding down I should be able to run a bit more. I will probably top out at around 50 MPW.

In late August I’ll run a 5K through the streets of Harlem. Then it’s just a month until the goal mile race down Fifth Avenue. The work gets faster and harder between now and then. I’m still enjoying it. The speed mile.

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