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.

Race Report: Central Park Conservancy Run for Central Park

Well, I had a better race here than I did last year when it was, apparently, hot. Last year it was 82 degrees and 53% humidity. This year it was 72 degrees and 68% humidity. I don’t know what’s worse. Last year? Although I was verging on injury at this time last year. I ran this race three weeks before I’d suffer a pelvic stress fracture in the club championships that would sideline me totally for 3+ months, then take another 4 after that to run normally again. I was also fatter then. Fat is a great insulator, which is not so great in the summer in New York City.

So. Let’s move on.

At this point, I’m happy just to be racing, so I don’t go in with any goals other than to emerge at the finish without a new and exotic injury. A decent time is a cherry on top. But I’m not trained yet, so I’m not expecting PRs at this point. I came in at 29:16, which is better than last year’s 30:05 but well off my best on this course of 27:34. I am a winter racer, that much is clear.

Jonathan and I stayed at my dad’s place on 92nd, which was a good call. We could have a fairly relaxed breakfast (especially since I woke up 45 minutes early), then jog the 1.5 miles to the start. After that we parted ways and went to do our little warmups. To be honest, I felt like crap. My freelance gig has been exhausting and a daily three hour commute through heat has taken its toll. I also wondered if my legs were still beaten up from the Van Cortlandt race nine days ago. My strides sucked. So I stopped doing them and just figured I’d run within whatever the conditions (the weather and my own) would dictate.

On the way to the corral I ran into teammate Joni, whom I’d met just once before, way back in December at the Harriers’ holiday bash and had since picked his brain via email for an article I did about cross-training (he generously shared his yoga knowledge). It turns out he’s been injured since then. I empathized with his tale of woe. We chatted in the corral for a while and then fell silent to listen to what was one of the most honest renditions of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve heard in a while. The singer was having some throat problems and, midway through the song, she audibly cleared her throat. I thought that was great. You do what you need to do, sister. Then she finished up in full form, no longer held back by the frog in her throat.

The race started and, since we were toward the back of corral 2, it was a walk-stop-jog-stop affair as we made our way up to the start mats. As always, it was pretty crowded, but I was able to weave through people.

Going out too fast. Dammit.

I pride myself on being a runner who does not normally go out too fast. But when you race after a layoff, it’s impossible to know how fast to run. You never want to run too slow. Oh, no. Never. Not that. So this happens sometimes. What I don’t like is how long it takes to realize I’ve made the mistake and then the sense of trepidation that accompanies the realization. Oh, I’m gonna pay for this.

I felt great during the first mile. Of course. I even felt pretty good through most of mile 2. But as we rounded the turn on to the 102nd St. Transverse, my legs were not happy. So they went on strike. I must have lost about 15 seconds on that mile, plodding along. Joni passed me. “Good for him,” I thought. “At least he’s having a good comeback race.” Then, into mile 3 (which is always a bad mile, what with the rolling hills), teammate Becky appeared beside me and said “Hi.” That was nice. But she passed me, which wasn’t. Lots of people were passing me. Now I was getting mad at myself.

It was fucking hot, especially in the sun. Here is where I regretted joining a team whose colors are black and black. I made a mental note to keep bugging the management to give us a white option.

At a crest of a hill, four Harriers were out cheering. I’d seen them earlier, when I was running my folly pace. Now I just felt ashamed. But it was good to see them anyway. Being cheered at always helps, even as it brings up complicated emotions.

Toward the end of mile 3 I rallied. I enjoy the last mile of this course. It’s either downhill or flat and I always pick off shitloads of people in this stretch. It’s usually my fastest mile of the race. I picked out a bunch of Ponytail Girls and gradually ran them all down. Go, me.

Make the turn on to the 72nd St. Transverse. I like this stretch too, because I can make a wide turn (“Slingshot the turn!” in Larry Rawson parlance), pick it up and feel like a rock star. The finish is pretty close. The clock’s approaching 30:00, but I know I lost time in the start mat clog. It’s lying to me.

Cross the mat in 29:16.

Considering the crap pacing, I’ll take it.

Training: July 3-9

It may look like I’m still injured. But I’m not.

That’s more than I can say for my training log, however. Google Docs inexplicably barfed all over it and upon exporting it out to my Mac to try to save the file, I couldn’t open it. So now I have to work with it on Jonathan’s Windows machine, which creates the hideousness you see at right. Damn you, Google. You’re not worth $528.94 a share.

I ran every day last week. And, more important, I ran pain free every day. It was good.

But.

It was also hot.

So I did lots of running inside on the treadmill.

Which was fine.

Not ideal.

But fine.

Highlights of the week included my first Jack Daniels-assigned speed session. That went well. I did not run too hard. I did my strides on a few outside runs and realized that unlike in training cycles past, I was not too tired to do the strides. Good sign.

Then I tore up Suicide Hill in Van Cordlandt and won a muffin. With help from Jonathan.

On Saturday I got some culture and some miles in Prospect Park.

And that was that.

This week’s gone well too. I ran faster than previously on some treadmill speedy stuff. On Saturday I have a 4 mile race in Central Park. I love the bizarre 4 mile distance.

On Sunday I’ll meet some long-admired kindred spirits for the first time (and reconnect with a few regulars) for lunch, one from Philadelphia and one all the way from Australia. That should be fun. I hope he doesn’t make fun of our accents.

I ordered some flamboyantly awful-looking new racing flats.

But you’ll have to wait until the weekend to hear all about those things.

How happy am I not to be injured?

Do you really have to ask?

Training: June 5-18

The patient slog through injury continues.

Nothing happened June 5-11. My log that week is a wall of yellow that says “INJURED.” I do credit myself for sticking to my plan to do core work twice a week, and I managed to keep that up this week as well. Guess what I’m doing this evening? That’s right: core work!

I have a set of exercises I do (around 12) for my core. The current print issue of Running Times has a few other good ones, so I’ve added in another 4-5. I also do some arm/shoulder work with dumbbells, since I have the weakest biceps known to man. I know I don’t need bulging biceps to run well, but I would like to one day do at least one pull-up. A girl can dream.

All of this takes me about an hour. I watch “Locked Up Abroad” or “My Strange Addiction” while doing my routine. Both of these shows always make me feel a lot better about my life than I did before I watched them.

There’s some light on the horizon, at least compared to earlier in the month. I was able to at least start jogging again this week, although my right calf does not like to go faster than 9:00 pace. It doesn’t like uphill either. Nor does it like flat bits. It loves downhill sections, which comprise around 3% of the terrain I run on.

But, you know, I ran 18 miles. That’s a start. See? Positive attitude. The new me. I can run. That’s more than I could do the previous week. The pain is now just a dull ache, and I’m encouraged by the fact that it doesn’t get worse over the course of a run. If I stop every mile or so and stretch my calf, it seems better by the end of the run. I’ll keep doing that.

I’m throwing out the 10K plan for now. It’s still there in my log, but I don’t look at it. What’s the point? I don’t dare do any faster running until the pain is totally gone. When I get back to the training, I may experiment with a 9 or 10 day training cycle, since I don’t think my body tolerates doing three hard workouts a week.

I have rough plans to do the 2-Person Relay (with Jonathan) in Van Cortlandt Park, a 4 mile XC race (it would be my first XC effort) on Thursday July 7, assuming there isn’t a fire drill on my current freelance project that requires I stay late; if there is, I might swap that for the Women’s Distance Festival 5K two days after that on Saturday the 9th. But this is assuming I can even run fast and free of pain soon. That’s a big question mark.

I still hope to compete in the Run for Central Park 4 miler in a month. If I’m not running fast by then…well, let’s not go there.

Here are some good things that are happening:

The summer has been pretty nice so far. Or maybe it just seems that way because I’m not out running much, or when I am it’s about 5:30 in the morning. Aside from a few scorchers, it’s been in the upper-70s to mid-80s most days. So I’m appreciating the season.

I’m able to get home at a reasonable hour most days and have been throwing food on an outdoor Weber I got for my birthday. I find the process of preparing the grill extremely relaxing and gratifying. I sit outside while the bricquets heat up, staring at the fire. I clean the grill later on. I research new grill recipes. I think I might actually be a guy.

My stepmother is on the road to recovery after her near-death, then near-permanently-fucked-up experience over the past two months. She sounds completely back to herself on the phone and she’s been told not to worry about doing any physical therapy, just walk a lot, lift things, etc. I’m still awestruck by her luck and resilience.

Jonathan ran his second race in a year today, and ran fairly well considering the lack of conditioning. He’s not happy with his time, of course, but that will improve. His foot is still stiff and he suspects that will always be the case. But he’s racing without foot pain for the first time in about 16 months. This is a good thing.

Finally, I’m losing poundage in the form of fat. I’ve been holding off on posting about it because the effort is ongoing and has involved quite a bit of experimentation (and deprivation). But I’ll have a full accounting of the good, the bad and the ugly once I reach my target weight of 125.

Here’s some video of the Portugal/Father’s Day run this morning. Jonathan flits through at the 7:35 mark (small, full head of grey hair, glasses, plain blue singlet, stopping watch). That’s NYRR head honcho Mary Wittenberg off to the left. There was some noise about her leaving NYRR to head up USATF awhile back, but, honestly, I can’t see her ever leaving this job. She so obviously enjoys interacting with the runners — all of them, not just the elites — as they come over the line. Much of that action is off camera, but I thought it worth noting since I was so struck by it this morning.

Training: May 22-28

Yeah, so I’m back to into it, officially doing 10K-specific training now. I am also back to self-coaching at the moment, not owing to any displeasure with what Coach Sandra had me doing, but because we’ve not been in much contact lately and I couldn’t really afford to wait around for guidance.

I looked around for a 10K plan and settled on this one from RunningPlanet.com. A few others I looked at didn’t seem to have a lot of variation in the track work. I like all the different workouts here — short repeats, mile repeats, ladder workouts, plus lots of tempo running and a smidgen of hill work — as well as the fact that I could easily slot in several races as logical replacements for certain workouts. Clearly, it was meant to be. So this is my plan.

Since I started my new gig in Manhattan on Friday, I had to do my first Ungodly Hour workout. I was at the Bronxville track at 5:00 am sharp. Amazingly, there was a guy (he looked bulky, like a sprinter) just leaving as I was arriving. Then I had the place to myself until about 5:45, at which point I was finishing up. It was nice to be there alone, save for one rabbit who raced me for about 20 metres along the backstretch.

I was able to function well for the rest of the day. I think the key to getting runs in early is going to be getting to bed early. Easier said than done. Or, rather, I can go to bed as early as I like; it’s getting to sleep that’s the challenge.

The workout went pretty well considering the extremely high humidity and that fact that I had no idea what kind of shape I’m in. 800s were in the 3:30 range and 200s in the 00:42 range. That’s about where I was in cooler weather a couple of months ago, so I have not lost any appreciable level of fitness, at least at the shorter distances. I think doing some faster stuff every week has helped maintain speed.

But I’m gonna get faster. I have some very aggressive goals for the year, although I will not share them.

The schedule’s pretty easy for the first month — just two workouts a week. After the Mink 10K on June 11, things start to heat up and I’ll be moving to three hard runs a week. I’ve modified the schedule for race weeks, usually, putting in a mini taper. I’ll be able to run the Mini, a Central Park 4 miler, a Van Cortlandt Park 2 miler (or a 5K up in Rockland, depending on work shedule) and, to cap off this cycle, the Team Championship 5 miler in August. Then I go into around 6 weeks of training for the mile.

Mileage will average in the high-30s to mid-40s, increasing just as my current project commitment (and need to commute) should end. I suspect I’ll have a lot of treadmill running in my future, but that’s fine. I’m doing core work at home, on the living room floor, twice a week. I will work in at least one weight session at the gym on weekends (another mid-week if time permits).

I think this is doable.

Race Report: Scotland 10K Run (squeak!)

My Low Expectations World Tour 2011 continues. And it’s going well.

I ran just under 45:00 (44:59), a 19 second PR for the 10K (my previous one being on the same course at the Mini 10K in June). I had no expectations for today, and no goals other than to race hard. While I wore my simple Timex and took splits, aside from mile split 3 (which I saw by accident when trying to locate the button), I did not look at the watch until crossing the finish mat.

Today was a near-perfect day for racing: wind chills in the upper 40s, overcast, not humid, and almost no discernible wind. I even had all my usual pre-race events that are indicative of racing success: a plumbing crisis yesterday, nightmares about our house being flooded, terrible insomnia and a messed up GI system in the morning. Seeing those bags under my eyes in the mirror, I thought, “Damn. You’ll run well today.”

I’ll cut to the chase. Since NYRR was doing a much better job of enforcing corral placement today, I was able to get up toward the front of the second corral, and crowding was not an issue after the half mile mark. I guess it wasn’t an issue at all, since it was my fastest mile.

The splits: 6:58, 7:11, 7:10, 7:37, 7:10, 7:17; 1:32. Mile 4, which comes around the top of the park, the second of two big hills, always kills people. I passed a lot of people in mile 5, which I was surprised to see the split for, since it felt like I was crawling through that mile. There was a lot going on in my head at that point in the race. I was getting very tired, but telling myself, “The weather is perfect and no one’s in your way; you have no excuse not to apply yourself.” But I was also aware of how spent I was between mile 5 and 6, so much so that I am now seriously doubting my ability to race a half marathon in three weeks. I’ll have to see how things go.

Nevertheless, I was happy with the effort and a PR is always a good thing, although I have run a faster 10K segment in a half marathon (the 43:00 range) way back in 2008. But I am coming back and it’s early days yet. Not looking at the watch helped, although at times I was dying to see how I was doing. I will keep racing blind in this way, since I’m finding that doing so removes a whole dimension of stress, especially in the final miles.

Stats: I was 7th in my AG (there’s a guy from Australia mixed in with us in the results), 132nd (or maybe 131st, given the guy) out of close to 4,000 chicks. Second New York Harriers masters woman (there were only two of us out there today). The big news is that Jonathan raced today too, his first race in 10 months. Given that he’s just started running hard again and his mileage is quite  low, he did not have great expectations either. But he ran without foot trouble and I consider that a major victory.

I saw lots of Harriers both on the course and out spectating. It does help to get acknowledged, even if I’m in danger of keeling over if I try to say anything in response. I also saw many kilts. Was there anything under them? I’m not sure, but thinking about that was a fun distraction while nearly puking my way to the finish. Two Front Runners guys effectively served as my pacers today. I thanked them afterward.

After the race we headed over to Ditch Plains on 82nd and Columbus for brunch with fellow New York Running Show co-hosts TK, Joe, Brenn (and his lovely wife and cute baby) and Steve. There, I eagerly shoveled eggs Benedict into my face, followed by s’mores. The shoveling has continued through the afternoon.

Training: Mar 27-Apr 2

What a weird week. I was sick all week with a cold that kept flaring up and then ebbing. On Tuesday I went out for a progression run that went okay (I was running 7:30 at around 86% effort — I wore my heart rate monitor for the first time since the summer), but my hamstring went nuts toward the end. That was annoying. And worrisome. I wish this thing would just work itself out, but I think it’s going to take awhile.

I rolled, stretched and massaged the living daylights out of it that evening. I’ve learned that this is what I must do now: tend to it. Usually, all is forgiven within the next 24-48 hours.

Wednesday was Zen on the Track Day. That was a good session.

I was supposed to do two 6 mile recovery runs on Thursday, but I questioned the wisdom of that plan. The first run went okay, but the second one was just painful. Since I could not see how running 6 miles on exhausted, aching legs was going to help, I cut the run short at 4 miles.

On Friday my cold peaked and I felt very low energy. I had a 9 mile recovery run scheduled but couldn’t imagine running a mile. So I took the day off. I do this now and I think it’s a good thing. I don’t worry about getting overtrained anymore and, in fact, I see some evidence that my training is actually going pretty well.

I was still dragging on Saturday, but I forced myself out to run anyway. I had 14 x 1 minute surges scheduled. I saved those for the last possible point in the run, doing them over the final 2.5 miles. It was windy. I was not into it at all. But I did all 14 of them and was pretty darned proud of that.

This week’s workouts have been surprisingly good. So much so that I am now worried about Sunday’s 10K. Things seem to be going so well — I expect some sort of cosmic payback this weekend. I am trying to push those worries aside. I will be trying for Zen in Central Park.

Finally, let me offer my apologies to the reader who submitted a comment on my March 30 post with some thoughtful observations about running without goals and, often, without a watch, and the potential for personal liberation in these decisions. It got flagged as spam and then in a spastic move I managed to trash it. Thanks anyway. It was nice of you to comment. If you want to try again, I’ll try not to screw it up this time.

Oh, also, yesterday I had a really good birthday, which included several phone calls from family and friends; a few really sweet cards; some snazzy new earrings; free money; and…flowers! And we had some leftover cake and wine from our weekend celebration. I got to make another wish. I don’t feel any older. Just happier.

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