Scotland Run 10K

It’s more than a little ironic that my inexplicable improvement in running speed coincides with my plummeting interest in writing about it.

I got injured about a month ago after racing Coogan’s and the McCarren Park Track Classic back to back (and was already slightly injured going into both). Three days after that track race I did a track workout (15 x 300m at 67-71 per) and then the two days after that say “Injured.” For a few weeks I puttered along at around 9:15-9:45 pace on a hurting Achilles and hamstring (opposite legs). Then, last weekend, I got up on Sunday morning and felt pretty good, so I headed into Central Park thinking I’d run a 6 mile loop at around 8:30. Instead, I ran 10 miles at 7:46. No real pain to speak of. Well, alrighty then.

This morning I raced Scotland for the third year in a row. My 10K PRs are all on the roads and since I haven’t focused on that distance those are soft PRs. Still, I was happy to break 45:00 by one second last year. This year I ran 44:44, a 15 second PR. I didn’t look at my watch, save for the fourth mile, which is the one that hits the two huge hills at the top of the park. That was an abysmal 7:40. Between that and the very crowded and slow first mile, I figured I’d come in somewhere around 45:30. Needless to say, I was surprised and happy when I looked at my watch at the finish.

I have no idea what’s going on. I ran easy for three weeks at 31 mpw average. Then I did a hard 10 miler in the park, followed by a couple of moderate progression runs this week: a 6 miler ending with 2 miles at 8:10 on Tuesday followed by a 4 miler with one mile at 8:00 yesterday. I took Friday off. So some faster miles coupled with a mini taper of sorts. That seemed to work.

I will get back into “training” (whatever that means) after a week of recovery. I learned my lesson a month ago. The next race is the Mini 10K, which I’m not even sure I’m running since doing so means I will have to go to a three hour class immediately afterwards and inflict my rank self on a roomful of other humans. Baby Wipes will only get you so far.

Change of plan

I’m not following Jack Daniels’ training anymore. I need a breakthrough and 20:50 was not a breakthrough.

So now I’m doing something totally different.

Over the next three months I will be doing a combination of weekly speed workouts consisting of track repeats at various distances, all at a goal 5K pace of 6:25; and one hard, lung-busting hill running session in either Central or Van Cortlandt Park each week, of gradually increasing distance and speed.

Let’s see if this works.

 

Race Report: NYRR Join the Voices 5M

This race, a 5 miler (this is known as stating the bleeding obvious), was NYRR’s final race in its 2011 club points series. They swapped it with the Joe Kleinerman 10K, which was moved to January. Good thing, too, because I’m a 5K runner now. I can barely race for 3 miles as it is. Racing for 5 miles taxed all of my systems today.

But. I PRed by 47 seconds (my 5 mile best being admittedly soft, an excuse I figure I can milk for at least another year). My previous 5M PR was also set on a hilly course, although not Central Park’s.

I learned some things today. One of the biggest things I learned is that I don’t necessarily need to do a “proper” warmup to race well, at least not for this distance. I was rushed after picking up my bib and checking my bag. I did a grand total of 90 seconds warmup jogging before heading over to the start corrals. No race pace running, no strides, no dynamic stretching. Just a stupid, barely-qualifies-as-a-warmup warmup. It didn’t matter.

This may have been partly the case because, as is the case with many NYRR races, the course was crowded and I was hemmed in and running slower than I wanted to for the first three-quarters of a mile. But this means that I got to have a nice chat with Hilary, who sidled up to me in the first minute of the race with a hale and hearty, “Excuse me, sir!” This, a reference to a thread we had on Facebook last night about the gender misidentification that having an extremely short haircut can cause, made me laugh. We chatted for a bit, but I said I’d stop being able to talk in about 30 seconds and she politely sent me on my wheezing way earlier than that.

Along the way I saw some Harriers, both on and off the course, and met a few new (to me) ones at the finish line, and reconnected with others whom I know already. But I probably missed others. I had a strange kind of tunnel vision this morning. It took a lot of mental and physical effort to race 5 miles hard. Now, after several months of mile/5K training, 5 miles seems like a very long way. I wore my no frills Timex and didn’t bother hitting the lap splits or even looking at it. I could tell from the course clocks that I was doing okay.

It was a good day. Temperature was 44 degrees (still a little warm for me), it was overcast and there was virtually no wind. I took advantage of the good conditions since I had no excuse for doing badly.

My chip time was 34:39, or about 6:56 per mile. That’s almost down to my best 4 mile pace on this course (6:53). I believe it was also a slightly stronger performance (relatively speaking) than was my 5K in Flushing Meadows a week ago. I took a day off on Friday and ran just 3 miles yesterday, after a week that featured just one hard workout. I’m becoming convinced that doing a mini taper (and no warmup?) is the way to go.

Aside from the warmup and mini tapering lessons, I also learned that I should ignore weird phantom injuries that crop up a day before the race. Yesterday, there was a weakness in my left leg. The quad felt like it was going to fail a few times, just while walking around. This morning, as I made my way down the stairs at 5:45 am, the left knee felt shaky. I was relying on the handrail to get downstairs. WTF. Well, you know what? Nothing TF. It’s just weirdness. It means nothing. Usually. Sometimes it means you’re about to get a catastrophic stress fracture. But most of the time, it doesn’t mean anything.

I remain grateful to have remained uninjured since July. Knock wood. It has been such a shit few years in this regard. I think that remaining uninjured, more than anything I’ve been doing training-wise, has been the key to my “sudden” improvement. If you can’t run, then you can’t train consistently, and you can’t get faster. But I also think doing a lot of different kinds of speed work (and a weekly tempo run) has been a crucial element in this training cycle. Jack Daniels’ training comprises about 80% of what I’m doing, but I’m substituting other workouts, like 1K repeats, that I have felt would help me more, given my training history. These are turning out to have been good instincts, I think.

Next up: a 5K in Bethpage on Long Island in two weeks. I hope that one doesn’t have hills or 23 right-angle turns. But if it does, I’ll be ready.

Training: Nov 20-26

This was kind of an odd week. The previous week ended with a night of barfing up duck and escargots, followed by a day off to recover from that ordeal. I got up on Sunday still feeling iffy, but managed to run 9 miles at a fairly quick clip. Recovery runs are now solidly under 9:00 most days, closer to 8:30 on many. This increase in speeds on easy days continues to blow my mind.

Since I had a race on Saturday I just did one workout, a 45 minute tempo effort with one minute rests between five minute high effort segments. That was hard. But not that hard until toward the end. I nearly bagged the ninth one but these workouts are as much about mental toughening as they are about physical conditioning, so I threw myself into number nine.

The week featured slackery in the form of eating junk (my teenaged nephew, Joe, was visiting, and that meant things like pizza tours and Chinese takeout). Then came Thanksgiving. This was one reason I kept the mileage up — to burn off the extra fuel. It worked. I finished up the week at 128. Now the party’s over and I’m back to cutting back in an attempt to lighten up for January. Lots of apples and water. It sucks, but it works.

I’ve also neglected weights and core work. If I have to drop something, it’ll be weights. I’m crazy busy these days with work and creative projects. But there’s no excuse for not doing core work at least 1-2x per week. I’m back to it tomorrow.

I had an okay race, won a big ass trophy. But was not as fast as I’d like to have been.

Houston’s fast approaching. Six weeks until liftoff.

The current week is light, with one speed session and lighter mileage. Sunday’s another race, a 5 miler over Central Park’s hills. I’ll see how that goes.

Training: Oct 23 – 29

This week of training featured my first tempo run at Rockefeller State Park (aka “the Rockies”), and it was enjoyable. It’s a good park to run in once you figure out how not to get unspeakably lost. The last time we ran there one area in particular caught my eye: Swan Lake. This small lake has a trail (or, rather, several trails that connect) running around it. With the exception of a short little hill, it’s basically flat and it’s almost exactly a mile around. But since I’m running my tempos by time, that doesn’t matter. But it’s still worth noting.

The warmup to running includes a vigorous 3 miles that are mostly uphill. A long, steady grade on packed dirt or fine gravel. I like the uphill because it forces me to control my warmup pace but also feels like I’m getting a good little bit of hill work in. By the time I get to Swan Lake I’m ready to rumble.

This week’s tempo tacked on around another mile over last week’s. I wear my heart rate monitor for these so I’m running at the right effort. Paces have been right in line with what I’m guessing is my current VDOT of around 49: 6:55 per mile, give or take. Going to a newish place helps make tempo running, if not enjoyable, then at least a little more interesting. The lake is very pretty and there aren’t that many people walking around it if you get there early enough.

I had hoped to do weight work on Sunday but something took me away from it so I ended up moving it to Monday. I did a fairly big session, with the usual upper body work plus lots of leg stuff and plyometrics. I’m also back to doing core work consistently. But there was a price to pay for moving it to Monday. I went to Edgemont 36 hours later to do a speed workout and was just unbelievably slow, heavy-legged and tired. I struggled to hit 5:16 for the first 1200. Then, with a might effort, got down to 5:02 for the second one. My target was around 4:50. Clearly, I was wiped out from the tempo run plus weight work. So I threw in a couple of 400s just to see what I could do there and it was difficult to even hit 90 for those.

As (my former) Coach Sandra would say, I was “running like shit.”

So I went home. I took the next couple of days off, both because of work commitments and also because I had been scheduled to race a 5 miler in Central Park. But that was cancelled. Due. To. SNOW! Yes. We got a fucking snow storm in late October. But not just any snow storm. A snow storm that created massive damage to trees (the snow was heavy). So now our yard is full of giant downed branches that need to be professionally removed. The damage to trees in local parks is also impressive. Central and Prospect Parks were closed because it was so unsafe to walk around. New York is now down to two seasons. Thanks, Climate Change!

In anticipation of racing I did my little wimpy 2-3 miler with strides. Boy, was I ready to race. But it was not to be. But that was okay. Because my next week of training, which I will post about momentarily, featured a track workout that was nothing short of fantabulous.

Training: Oct 16 – 22

My foray into the virgin territory of dedicated training for the 5K continues. It was kind of a strange week.

I will eventually be doing tempo runs that are solid blocks of 30-45 minutes, but after months of no tempo work I need to ease into them. Fortunately, Jack Daniels agrees, so I’m following his workouts, which break up the tempo runs into segments with a few minutes of easy running (or strolling) between them. I did this week’s tempo run in Central Park. I have a 5 mile race there coming up and since I haven’t raced there since August thought I’d better do some harder running over its hills so racing there doesn’t come as a total shock.

That actually went very well, despite the strong winds that day. Average paces were 6:45-7:30. My tempo pace on flatland is around 7:05-7:10 these days, so I guess those ranges were reasonable. I wore a heart rate monitor, as I’m doing with all tempo runs — at least early in training as I reacquaint myself with how that effort should feel — and was running right around 89% of max most of the time.

I’ve gotten back to doing weight work a minimum of once per week, and core work has gotten re-prioritized as well. I hope to get back to doing that twice per week. The pictures of me in the Fifth Avenue Mile are proof that this was worth doing — I’m running upright, with my hips, shoulders and head in a straight line, even at the very end. The other thing I’ve added is some light plyometrics — mostly rapidly stepping up onto a platform while carrying a barbell, one-legged leaps up onto said platform. Plus balance work. It takes forever.

I’ve slacked off on doing strides, but my recovery run paces are decent these days (usually either around 9:00 or well under), so I’m not too worried about it.

The speed session this week was a disaster, through no fault of my own. This is the last trip I’ll make to the Bronxville High School track for awhile now that I’ve discovered the oasis that is the Edgemont High School track. Jonathan and I went together and, from the moment we arrived, we could tell that there would be distractions aplenty. The first thing we noticed were two men swerving around the lanes with leaf blowers. Those were both going at about 120 decibels. It was earsplitting. The men formed piles of leaves, twigs and other debris, which we had to run through, and always seemed to be in the lanes we were in as we rounded the track into the area in which they were lackadaisically working.

There was also a 30 mph wind. Flags were horizontal.

Then arrived the children. About 100 of them, tearing around the track in all lanes, stopping suddenly without warning. At least two repeats were fucked up by that issue. But they cleared out and assembled on the field finally.

Meanwhile, walkers were arriving and wandering in phalanxes of 3-4 across with no awareness of lanes.

To top things off with a nightmarish absurdism that only Italian directors can recreate, the tractors arrived. Yes, there were tractors. On the track. They drove around the track hauling floodlights. Sometimes they’d stop. We were trying to run around a track while tractors also drove around the track. Had a group of monster trucks, elephants and a dirigible arrived, I would not have been surprised.

I finally gave up and went home. Jonathan battled on. After all, I’m just training for a 5K. He’s training for a marathon.

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.

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