Crazy windy

It’s crazy windy outside today. Steady winds of 25mph with gusts up to 50mph.

I am about to attempt an 11 mile easy run with 10 minutes at 5K race effort (6:30 or so — although today, maybe not so much).

I hope I don’t get blown into the next state.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 6

09spr-base-06This week’s watchword was “endurance.”

Five out of eight sessions were done by necessity on the treadmill, and that took a lot of mental endurance, given how long some of those runs were. Doing two runs on Christmas also took no small measure of endurance, especially since my outside world was a frozen hinterland populated by crazed Christmas morning drivers.

I even managed to take a spill and bash my hip and elbow, which had nothing to do with snow, ice or bad drivers. I tripped on an uneven sidewalk panel. That was pretty silly. At least it happened toward the end of the run. I took the second run of Christmas day inside, since I figured I’d already pushed my luck and was fortunate to have come out of that encounter with gravity unscathed.

One unfortunate aspect of running on the treadmill (aside from the boredom, the noise, and having to smell myself) is that I’m still too chicken to attempt very fast running on it. I skipped Wednesday’s planned 20 second strides, since the treadmill takes about 10 seconds to get up to speed anyway, by which time I’m already fiddling with the controls so I can stop the belt lest it propel me through the back wall of our guest room.

It was for this reason that I also went rogue on my training on Friday, when the plan called for 12 repeats of 45 seconds at 2M effort, with 90 second rests. 2M pace is about 6:15 for me now. Since 45 seconds isn’t that much longer than a stride, I decided to again forgo the dangers of fiddling with controls while trying not to get thrown off the back of a high speed conveyor belt. I compromised and instead did six 90 second repeats at 5K effort, with 90 second rests.

I was so sick of the treadmill that I moved the run outside on Saturday, where I was met with a still-frozen over running path. So I did about three miles on the roads, then moved to the path and ran through the slush and ice alongside the iced over path. That was like running in sand, and I felt the effort’s effects on today’s 18 miler: the stabilizing muscles in my inner thighs, hips and ankles all asserted themselves this morning. I won’t run in snow again.

As for the long run today, that was also a tough one, owing to the now-familiar winter winds. In shorts and a tee shirt (62 degrees, in December!) I did two repeats of a six mile loop through Scarsdale and White Plains, during which I was pummeled by a steady 7-10mph headwind (with gusts up to 15mph) for all the north-to-south sections. I’d forgotten how hilly that loop is, so I then decided to move the run onto the running path (since the very warm temps overnight melted most of the snow and ice away). I thought that perhaps being on a tree-lined trail for part of the way would shield me somewhat from the wind, but I must have been delusional.

I met up with Jonathan, who was struggling through a longish run with the last few at half marathon effort (straight into the headwind, of course). We traded complaints for a few minutes and then he ran on. He waited for me after his torture session and we jogged the last mile together back to the car. I made our traditional Long Run Sunday Pancakes, then passed out for an hour and a half on the couch. Thank goodness tomorrow is a rest day.

Coming up in Week 7, a recovery week consisting of a mere 60 miles. I’ll do some tempo running at 5k and 10K effort, capping the week with a 16 miler with the last 75 minutes at marathon effort.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 5

09spr-base-05A notable week for two reasons:

First, three days of doubles were reintroduced after many, many weeks on a luxurious once-a-day schedule; back-to-back doubles, no less. I was a little tired on Wednesday morning after Tuesday’s longish easy run. Fine by Wednesday afternoon. But Thursday’s longer session, complete with intervals, completely wiped me out. That evening I was reminded that this was how I felt all summer long. I was grateful for the little 3 miler on Friday.

The other event of note was running the Ted Corbitt 15K as a training run. I probably ran it a bit too fast, since I didn’t adjust the plan for the conditions. Or not. I’m pushing the paces slightly on all of my quicker runs these days. I can’t help myself. It’s a long way from 3:19 to 3:05 and somehow, with only five months to do it in, I feel very pressed for time.

The weather has been dreadful. We’ve had one big snowstorm, followed by a ministorm the next day. And it’s been wickedly cold. I don’t mind running in sub-zero temps, but the cold is trouble when it means the ice and snow can’t melt.

We’re in for a day or two of warmer temps and rain, so I’m hoping that will wash away a lot of the mess in the streets and on the running path.

Week 6 is another ~85 miler, with some tempo running, intervals and an 18 mile run on Sunday. And Christmas, on which I will run not once but twice.

Race Report: Ted Corbitt 15K


This was toward the end of the race, since I'd been trying to pass that woman in blue for eight miles. Note the efficient heel strike.

It seems fitting that for the inaugural race to honor Ted Corbitt — known as the father of American ultrarunning, among numerous other distinctions — we would have truly treacherous and trying conditions. A race of 9.3 miles is hardly an “ultra.” But today’s race felt a lot longer than it actually was.

Despite yesterday’s surprise storm — which dumped six inches of snow on NYC, followed by sleet and a plunge in temperatures — a few hundred hardy souls convened on Central Park’s 102nd St transverse this morning to honor Ted. The race was declared a “fun run” to discourage people from going nuts and turning it into a speed skating event. Our timing chips were collected and we were on our own to judge our performances against the clock, the conditions and our peers.

I’d been looking forward to this race for weeks, since it was slated to be a true HTFU* effort. Just how HTFU it would be wasn’t clear to me until I actually headed into the city this morning and saw the conditions we’d be running in: Temps in the 20s with wind chills  between 7 and 18; a steady 8-10mph wind from the north; an outer loop coated in a thin layer of semi-frozen slush; transverses consisting of hard-packed snow. I’d say about 15% of the course was totally clear of snow or slush — I can see exactly where those sections were when I look at my GPS route map vs. the speeds I was running at various points.

Not only was I scheduled to run a 15K race, but I also needed to sandwich it in-between 9 miles to make an 18 mile long run. I ended up with a total run of 16.8 miles. The trains and subways were delayed, so I had to cut my pre-race run from 4.5 to 3.5 miles. Then I ran the race. Then — and this was the last thing I wanted to do — I set out to run the third leg. That ended up being 4 miles since the wind chill plunged 10 degrees in the final 15 minutes, my feet were soaked, and I was on the verge of hypothermia.

I do this for fun, remember?

Race time (unofficial): 1:09:10. I’m very pleased with that time considering the crap I ran through, on a course that’s normally pretty difficult anyway. Average pace was 7:24, but I managed a 6:55 for mile 7 (nice downhill) and a 7:07 for mile 9 (flat).

There were so few of us running that the volunteers recognized me as I did multiple loops. Three cute guys, all bundled up and huddled together, saw me approaching prior to the start, with a race number. At first they were confused, thinking the race had started and I was in the lead. Then they figured out that I was just warming up and instead yelled, “You can do it!” For some reason, we all thought that was hilarious. A few others noted that they’d seen me three times rather than two (since I passed by them on my third, extra leg of 4 miles), with one cajoling me, “You can stop running now!”. I thanked a lot of volunteers today.

Despite the conditions (and the considerable effort it took to get there and back on foot from Westchester), I’m glad I did this run today. Central Park was stunning, with a fresh, white coating of snow over everything. People all around us were sledding, cross country skiing and throwing snowballs. A winter wonderland oasis in a city where snow otherwise presents little more than a filthy burden.

After struggling to get out of my wet shoes and socks in a portapotty and endeavoring to get the feeling back in my fingers, I didn’t have the energy to trek the quarter mile to get a half frozen bagel from the boxes on the 102nd St transverse. Unfortunately, the one piece of food I brought with me, a PowerBar, had the appeal (and consistency) of a slate roof shingle; frozen solid! So I found a great little diner on 103rd right across from the subway stop, Jimmy’s, where I got a toasted bagel and hot chocolate.

*Harden The Fuck Up.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 4

09spr-base-04Ahh. A recovery week. And not a week too soon.

With a 25% reduction in volume, I was flying on my feet this past week. I truly needed the day off on Monday, as I was quite tired. Tuesday’s 20 minute effort at 10K was not that difficult physically — the real effort was mental for this run for some reason. I wonder if not running for a day had something to do with that.

I did Friday’s tempo effort on the track, which was a pleasure that day since there was almost no one there. Although at one point I was the entertainment for a PE class of bored eight year olds. I couldn’t help but wonder: did they find me fast or slow?

The centerpiece of the week was Sunday’s run, for which I was lucky to have good weather. Nice and cold and not too much wind. I felt fantastic during this run, managing to crank out eight miles at the end at around 10 seconds per mile faster than my early October marathon pace, all at a lower heart rate.

My resting heart rate is now solidly in the low 40s most days too.

I can hardly believe that I’m nearly halfway through basebuilding already. I’ve enjoyed doing the work and seeing progress, however subtle.

For Basebuilding Week 5 the mileage shoots back up to 85 and I start introducing doubles, on back-to-back days, no less. Then I test out my new and improved wheels and engine in a 15K race in Central Park on Saturday.

Rain, rain on me.

We’re supposedly in for two solid days and nights of rain. After my horrible sleet- and wind-filled long run recently, we reclaimed the guest room as suburban torture chamber and reassembled our treadmill.

But I just can’t bring myself to run on the thing this morning. A nine mile recovery run, inside? I can’t do it. Yesterday I did a seven miler in the rain. I was soaked, but it was still better than running on the treadmill.

Notice how I’m avoiding putting on rain gear and going outside by blogging instead?

Winter Basebuilding: Week 3

09spr-base-03The rosy fingers of dawn gently caress the Westchester valley stretched out before me, as I reflect on the last week of running and prepare myself for the prospect of a 10 miler with 20 minutes at 10K effort this morning.

Sure, it’s a hackneyed, run on sentence. That’s why this blog’s content is absolutely free.

Yesterday I posted about being soundly convinced that hiring a coach was the right move. This last week was a gratifying and, yes, enjoyable running week.

I’m getting up there in mileage, yet I feel great most days (a little tired on recovery days, but not too). I’d never have believed that I could go out and run 10 miles every morning as a matter of course, but it’s become the new normal. And a lot less exhausting than  doing doubles every day.

Tuesday’s faster run was marred by headwinds, but at this point the emphasis is on effort rather than on specific paces, so it didn’t really matter. Of course, I’m obsessed with paces anyway, so I can’t help but pay attention to them. I’m assured by Kevin that I will be able to focus on paces “exquisitely” soon enough.

I confess that I am a “stride slacker.” I did no strides during summer training. Doing them again feels unfamiliar. I realize just how ungainly I feel running very fast (I’m managing 5:40 – 6:10 on most strides). I’m sure that will get better over time. I hope it will.

Friday’s interval session was a blast, actually. I did it on a local track and enjoyed running fast (stop and go) for half an hour. True, it’s easy to run fast for a minute at a time. I’m sure I’ll be back to my historical hatred of intervals once that turns into 3:00 at a time.

Last, but not least, there was Sunday’s long run — the run that said, “Yes, you’re on the right track.”

Basebuilding Week 4 is a recovery week, in which the mileage goes down, but not the intensity. I needed the day off yesterday, as my legs felt the effort of Week 3. In a few minutes, I’ll head out for the first of the usual three hard runs this week. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s run, a sixteen miler with the last hour at marathon effort. A week after that, I get to race a 15K as a training run.

Uh, okay. This is working.

Today marked the end of my third week of coach-assisted basebuilding. I’m officially convinced that working with a coach was the right thing to do.

I’ll post my usual recap of the week’s training tomorrow morning, but I wanted to post about a few things specifically.

I’ll start by saying that I was initially a little worried when I saw the plan Kevin gave me. I knew I could handle the workload, but it seemed a bit intense for just the basebuilding phase. Specifically, it looked more like marathon training, not basebuilding. I no longer feel that way after having spent three weeks easily being able to handle the buildup in mileage and doing three hard runs a week.

Dang. This really works. Witness:

  • My resting heart rate has dropped from 48-50 to 46. You can’t argue with that.
  • My recovery runs are getting faster with no change in effort.
  • I am hitting my paces for all faster sessions. Don’t get me wrong — they are not easy. But they are doable.
  • The dreaded 3:00AM DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) has been minimal.
  • I feel recovered and ready for each hard session.

But today’s run is the one that sold me. It was the last run of an 80 mile week and one that I’d been, well, not dreading, but ruminating about during the latter part of the week: 18 miles “steady” pace, which translates into an 8:15 pace (or about 90% marathon effort). That is a long way to run at that effort.

To prepare, I did a two day mini carbohydrate load (not a ton, but basically making sure I had enough stored away) and made sure I was well hydrated. I also took care to get adequate sleep.

I did a leisurely warmup for the first three miles (9:17, 8:53, 8:27). Then I got down to work. For the next six miles I average 8:11. Then I backed off for two miles (hills and headwind), running around 8:25 each — I also took in some carbohydrates at mile 10, which gave me a lift shortly thereafter. Then I ran the next seven miles at an average 8:07 pace, finishing up with an extra half mile for which I motored along at 7:48.

I felt great during the entire run, despite brisk, shifting winds and a face full of snow in the last two miles, and had no problem picking up the pace. Despite the slow early miles, my average pace for the run was 8:17. Pretty much right on the nose.

Side note: In addition to having a great run, I also was a good Samaritan today. As I was pausing at my car at mile 10 I witnessed a woman take the paint off the side of a Volvo with her Mercedes SUV during a botched parking attempt. She proceeded to park in another space about 30 feet away. I waited to see if she would post anything to the windshield of the car she’d just done significant damage to. Not surprisingly (but no less appallingly), she didn’t, although I did notice her take the time to see what the damage was to her own car (minimal). So I posted her  make, model and license plate number to the damaged car myself. I’ve had damage done to my car by people like this and it really pisses me off.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 2

09spr-base-02This week featured more mileage but fewer miles of hard running as compared to last week. The recovery runs were longer, as was the second easy run of the week on Friday.

Some observations:

My recovery pace is starting to drop slightly on some days, meaning I’m going just a bit faster using the same effort as a week or two ago. I don’t care how fast (or slow) I run on recovery days; just something I’ve noticed.

I had a much better sense this week of what “8K effort” is for me. I no longer race five mile or shorter races, because I don’t like racing that fast. Or, rather, I don’t like the physical sensations that result from racing at 95%+ effort. It sucks. Give me a longer race any day — one in which I don’t feel like I’m either on the verge of puking or hyperventilating — and I am a happy racer.

I now know exactly where my left piriformis muscle is located. It was not happy yesterday, owing to the faster intervals on Friday followed by 17 miles on slippery footing on Sunday.

Running in sleet, rain, and heavy winds affects your time. I know this intellectually, but it’s so hard to accept when you’re actually running in crap weather. On Sunday, I ran in such conditions and was targeting a pace of 6:50-7:00 for the last 15 minutes. Alas, it was not to be.

So far, the hard days and easy days have been structured just right, so I’m pleasantly tired on the recovery days (but not totally exhausted like I was over the summer), yet ready to rumble by the time the next hard day rolls around.

We’re into week three already, and I’m heading out for a 13 miler with 25:00 at 10M effort.

Also coming up in Basebuilding Week 3: More long recovery runs, some very short intervals at 5K effort and an 18 mile run at around 8:20 pace on Sunday. Fingers crossed for good weather, or I’m doing this one inside on the treadmill.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 1


A few days ago I posted about having hired Kevin Beck as my coach. His first order of business was to come up with a plan to help me rebuild my base. This past week marked my initial foray into this new venture.

I plan and track every day of running in Excel. This enables me to not only see what I’m doing at a glance, but I can do other nifty things, like calculate number of sessions, total mileage, miles at recovery pace, etc. I also keep diary-like notes below each week so I can easily see what was going on over the course of a season.

I’ll just post each week’s sessions (sans the diary entries) here. If anyone would like a copy of this Excel workbook, just let me know and I’d be happy to email it (virus free!) to you. It’s offered “as is,” meaning you’re on your own to figure out how to fill it in or make other changes to it (or fix it if you gum up the formulas). If I wanted to work in software support, I’d move to Bangalore.

Some comments about this week:

As compared to my last basebuilding round in the summer, there are marked differences. Most notably, no doubles! Note also that the recovery runs on a few days are very short. That will change as my mileage builds back up from 60 to 85 over the coming month. The inclusion of longer recovery runs runs counter to advice I’ve read in various places (including Pfitzinger), the “common wisdom” being that you shouldn’t do recovery runs that last more than an hour. Such rules were made to be broken, or at least questioned, it seems.

Also note that, unlike traditional, old school basebuilding approaches (think Lydiard), it’s not all “easy” (or, here, “recovery”) running, meaning below 70% maximum heart rate. I have some real workouts in here, and it’s only week 1. On the blue days, I’m running most of the miles around the quicker bits (ex: 8K effort segments) at a reasonably hard effort, meaning “easy” pace (between 75-82% mhr). These are challenging workouts, as evidenced by my need for a half our nap after Thursday’s effort.

I also am doing strides on one of the recovery days, something I never did in the past.

Despite all the fast running, I felt very fresh and ready for yesterday’s race. I also feel fine after a 16 miler this morning. True, I’m coming off of many weeks of recovery, and the mileage was low this week. But I’m pleased with how I feel and my ability to run faster paces without late-week exhaustion resulting.

Just to fill in all the blanks, here’s a rundown of what I did during my five weeks of post-marathon recovery:

Oct 13-19: 5 miles recovery pace
Oct 20-26: 39 miles, 75% recovery / 25% easy
Oct 27-Nov 2: 42 miles, 50% recovery / 50% easy
Nov 3-9: 48 miles, 40% recovery / 60% easy
Nov 10-16: 35 miles, 40% recovery / 60% easy, and a bonus cold!

Coming up in Basebuilding Week 2: Ten more miles, longer recovery runs, and still more running at 8K and 10K effort. Plus some delicious lamb on Thanksgiving.


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