Hello, my name is…

My shiny new Garmin 310xt arrived yesterday evening. I’ve taken it out for a spin and, dang, I’m in love. This is my third training watch (previous models include a Polar RS300 and a Garmin 305, both of which bit the dust).

It seems a tradition among runners to name their watches. So I’ll jump on the bandwagon, but with your help.

Weight work

Rinus asked recently what I mean by “Weights” in my training logs.

I’ve had an on again/off again relationship with weight training for several years. It’s come down to a question of time and energy. When I have both, I do weight work in addition to running. When I lack one, the other or both, I drop the weights (so to speak).

Since I’ve been on the road to recovery over the past month or so (and trying to lose some, uh, weight — to further confuse this post and its readers), I’ve certainly had an abundance of time and, at least in the past couple of weeks, energy as well. So I’ve dusted off the weights until such time as the running takes over everything once again.

I should come clean right now and say that I rarely lift actual weights. I’m one of those hapless souls who fell for the 3AM Bowflex ad. Yes, I bought a Bowflex. But I’m sure I’m in the extremely small minority of Bowflex owners who actually uses the thing for something other than a temporary resting place for laundry or mail. (I also didn’t opt for the 80 year financing plan where you pay $0.90 a month for the rest of your natural days.) I also have a set of free weights (and a basic bench that a neighbor threw away). Jonathan uses those, but I don’t bother.

Purists will chirp that the Bowflex is not the same as weights. With weights you are working throughout the entire motion and using lots of other muscles to assist and stabilize the target muscles. I know all this. I don’t care. If I was serious about weight training I wouldn’t be a runner.

So here’s what I do with the Bowflex. Two to three times per week (at least for the moment), I perform the following exercises:

That’s it! I used to do something called the “seated ab crunch” but it’s incredibly awkward and I found that I was ending up with an iffy neck the next day. So if I do ab work these days (which is rare, since it’s tedious and painful), I hit the floor mat.

I do these exercises because in any race over about 15 miles I find that I start to have “upper body fatigue” issues. There is enough misery to deal with below the waist in a marathon. I figure if I can make my upper body a non-issue then that’s one less source of angst on race day. I only do seven exercises because that’s manageable. It’s enough that I hit the major areas of my upper body, but not so many that it’s easy for me to bail on the workout because there’s too much to do. If I’m tired or don’t have a lot of time, I’ll do two sets instead of three.

Before I got above 60mpw last week I was doing some leg exercises in addition to the upper body sets. These were all free standing exercises, meaning I didn’t use free weights or the Bowflex. Just me fighting gravity. These included:

  • Single leg squat
  • King deadlift (I can’t go as low as this freak of nature amazing woman can)
  • Hamstring dip [No video -- raise one foot slightly off the ground, then bend forward at the waist and touch your toes]
  • Balancing on one foot with eyes closed (this is a lot harder than it sounds)

I’ve dropped the leg work for the time being because it’s very hard work and I feel it for several days afterwards. So much so that I believe it has a deleterious effect on my running. Were I running lower mileage, I’d keep these as a regular thing. But now that I’m heading back up into 90mpw territory, it makes no sense to do anything other than running for my legs.

Summer Basebuilding: Week 4

sum09-base-03This week was yet another improvement over the last. Whether it’s the iron kicking in, recovery at work, or some combination, I was feeling good last week. The mileage got bumped up by a little over a third, going from 40 to 55.

The running was all time-based again (distances shown are estimates based on past runs), and with rare exception I didn’t wear the Garmin and HRM. The one day that I did wear gadgetry for good reason, my HRM stopped functioning normally. This was unfortunate since I’d wanted to run another fast mile or two to get some pace vs. HR% data. But, alas, it was not to be. My new 310xt is backordered, with an estimated ship date of 7/31 (Friday).

This has been the week for device failure. The HRM died on Friday. Our scale has started giving wildly erratic readings, so we made the decision to replace that as well. Then, this morning, our treadmill ceased to work after 5 minutes. That’s going to be a big one to fix.

So, for the time being I’m somewhat rudderless when it comes to the data measurement aspect of training. The heat and humidity are at full blast here in NY now and I’d hoped to do some running inside on the worst days. That’s not going to happen now. Nor will a new pace/HR% test until I can get a new watch. I suppose I could borrow Jonathan’s, but I’m beginning to believe that this sudden breakdown of most of my running and fitness-related devices is some sort of cosmic message: Stop worrying so much about numbers; pay attention to how you feel and take all your cues from that.

Last week had another couple of “wow, I feel great” runs. Despite horrible humidity on Thursday morning I felt great on my run. Friday morning was a bit drier and that was the day I wanted to motor. It was so frustrating when the watch didn’t want to go along with my plans. But I ran faster for a bit anyway just to feel the pleasure of running fast again.

I worked up to a two hour run yesterday and despite dreadful weather nevertheless managed an (estimated) 10:30 pace. This morning under similar conditions it was sub-10:00. So I’m definitely feeling better, and running faster, on these recovery runs than I was a few weeks ago.

The other activity I added back in was some weight work twice a week. I have a routine that takes an hour to an hour+20 depending on how many sets I do. The focus is on the upper body (arms, shoulders, back, abdomen), but with some squats and balance-related work for the quads, hamstrings and stabilizing muscles in the hips, ankles and feet. I may drop this work once I move into training in the fall, but for now I’m enjoying doing it again.

Aside from a one hour nap yesterday, my chronic need to nap seems to be behind me. The insomnia that replaced the excessive sleepiness was a bit less pronounced this past week too. I’m hoping it ebbs away completely soon.

I have no plan yet for this week, aside from doing more of the same and continuing to let the iron and rest do their stuff.

The only good Garmin 305…

…is a dead Garmin 305!

My watch didn’t exactly die this morning, but it was acting oddly and rendered all data useless. First it took 15 minutes to find satellites (this is an ongoing problem). Then, midway through the run, the HRM started telling me I was running at 25% max heart rate. Just for fun, I ran really fast to see what it would do. At 6:15 pace, it said I was running at 50% effort. I wish.

This watch has given me trouble from the get go. Its worst sin was dropping GPS signals during two of my five marathons, but it often gives me grief during races and training runs, but rarely on the days when I’m just running easy. Unforgivable!

So it’s getting kicked to the curb. I have a new 310xt shipping out to me on Monday. Despite my particular watch’s issues, I like the Garmin products. So I’m hoping the new model will not only be a better watch product, but a better individual watch too.

Review to come.

More anxiety-ridden overanalysis

Sometimes my legs feel pretty good. Other times, they feel like crap. What does that mean? Does it mean anything? Surely it must.

My resting heart rate in the morning is all over the place. But that may be due to hitting the booze some nights and not others. Or is it?

My chosen racing shorts made me look thin the other day. Today they made me look fat. But why?

The weather forecast for Saturday in Newport says “low 53, high 62.” How is that even possible?

Should I eat pizza on the drive from Portland to Newport or is that overdoing it on the carbohydrate loading? Speaking of which, should I do the full deplete phase? That will just make me really bitchy. Probably. (I think.)

Will I be able to buy Swedish Fish in Newport? What happens if I can’t? Maybe I should buy it here and travel with it. In my carryon. In case my luggage is lost.

Does Airborne really work? Or is it a load of crap? I should take it anyway. Or should I?

Should I kill myself now? Or wait for a few more days on the off chance that my suffering will abate? What if it gets worse? Then I’ll really regret not having killed myself now…

It’s a fat, fat, fat, fat world

Jonathan ordered some new clothes from an outfit called Back Country. Nothing elaborate: a couple of tee shirts, some corduroy trousers and a fleece top. He ordered everything in size Small.

Now, while this isn’t Holland, where the people are large (and I don’t mean fat — just large), this is still America, where our milk fed population tends to run pretty big. On the male end, I think the average height is around 5’10” (although I’m too lazy to look it up; besides, I’m a blogger, so this doesn’t have to be accurate). Jonathan is 5’6″ and around 120 lbs. So when clothes are labelled Small, he expects (and hopes) that they really are.

But let’s set aside fuzzier terms like “small” for a moment and discuss hard numbers. What’s always driven me crazy about women’s clothes (aside from the fact that they are poorly made and rarely have enough pockets) is that sizes have never meant anything. One brand’s 12 is another brand’s 10. I’ve envied men because they can buy a 30 x 30 pair of pants, and they know they will get pants with a 30 inch waist and 30 inch inseam. As we’ll see, even that only goes so far these days.

His clothes arrived yesterday and we eagerly unpacked the box. The tee shirts were a little big, but basically fit okay. The shoulders were in the right place and they fit close enough to his chest and midsection that they looked normal. The fleece, however, was another story. I can only imagine that this this thing was designed for Burt Young. The sleeves were the right length, but everything else was blown out to size Fat. He had enough room in there for triplets and the sleeves were diaphanous enough for shoplifting canned goods.

But the best part were the pants. Who were these pants made for? Yes, the waist and legs were indeed 30 inches, but the rest of the proportions were Incredible Bulk. The crotch and ass area bulged outward, perhaps meant for a particularly well-endowed customer (or one with a glandular disorder) with a huge ass. The legs had enough material for a family-sized tent.

What gives?

For the past 10 or so years, I’ve noted the artificial inflation of women’s clothes. When I was at my pre-running trimmest at age 22, I wore a 10. Now, at roughly the same dimensions over 20 years on, I wear a 6 and I’m verging on a 4. This is just wrong, but it’s taken hold everywhere, so now an overweight woman can go shopping, happily deluded into thinking she hasn’t actually gained 40 pounds in the last 10-15 years after all. Because, lookie right here at the tag, she’s still a size 10!

I guess makers of clothing for men have it tougher. You can’t sell pants with a 36 waist as size 30 (although I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they start trying). So maybe fat men buy these pants and just lift their stomachs over the waistband (driving the crotch even further down toward their knees). Either that, or they have them “taken out” at the tailor, or get an elastic waistband inserted.

Either way, Jonathan still needs trousers for his lithe runner’s frame, and we’re stumped as to where to find any.

Race Report: Boston Buildup 20K

Just a quickie report, since this was a training run and not really an all-out race effort.

This race starts at the Southport, CT railroad station and goes inland. And, let me tell you, it is hilly! With the exception of the Boston Blowout 30K (not technically part of the Buildup series), all of these Boston-prep races are very hilly. As I was struggling up my fourth extreme hill today, I found myself wondering if I really do want to ever run Boston. It never looks that bad on television, but, then again, neither does eating worms or climbing Mt. Everest.

It was actually a perfect day for racing in terms of temperature. I did a two mile warmup in tights, long sleeve, hat and gloves and was hot within half a mile. So I changed into shorts and a tech tee and that turned out to be perfect. Unfortunately, it was very windy, with a wind coming primarily from the west/northwest, although it was a swirling wind and would sometimes blast from the south too, usually at the most inopportune time.

I had a pacing plan of 7:05 or so for the first 3 miles, then 7:15 for the next 3, then try to run around 7:00 or better for the rest. That all went to hell pretty quickly given the hills and wind. I don’t know my exact time, since I again forgot to turn off my watch, but it was somewhere in the area of 1:31:15, or around 7:22 pace average. I don’t know the details of my run beyond mile 9.26 since my watch lost contact with the satellites for the remainder of the race. That coincided with a 10 minute downpour from miles 9.0-10+. So that certainly slowed everyone down, although I must say I’m getting better at ignoring horrendous weather conditions, at least from a mental standpoint.

I was running with guys for all of the way. I didn’t spot one other woman, so the ones who beat me must have been quite a ways ahead, and I didn’t look back to see who was behind me. I was told at the 10K water stop that I was woman #7, and no one passed me, so I guess I was seventh overall. I managed to pass a few guys in the last three miles, though, improving my overall field placement.

I’m fairly certain I could have run this faster without the wind, hills and 70 miles on my legs already for the week. But it’s hard to know how much faster as it truly is a difficult course, with a few monster hills that go on for a good half mile or so. At least I had the experience of passing a few people on those uphills, and I flew on the downhills. My time was good for first in my age group, which was a pleasant surprise. My reward was a hot pink Asics long sleeve technical shirt. Good base layer, or shirt for wearing hiking so I can be easily spotted at the foot of a deep ravine.

I like these races because they are small, congenial and you can just turn up, find parking and race hassle free. Yet, they’re pretty competitive, too, I suspect because not only are lots of the participants actually using them to train for spring marathons (Boston or otherwise), but the pickings are slim for winter racing outside of the NYRR offerings, so serious runners take advantage of what’s there.

The letdown was that “the bagel guy didn’t come through” (RD Jim Gerweck’s words). The 25K Buildup race I ran (and will run in about a month) had the best salt bagels last year. We’ve been promised two bagels each next time around. Fortunately we brought bananas and PowerBars, which turned out to be especially lucky since we got caught in a horrible traffic jam on 95 on the way home, turning a 45 minute drive into a 2 hour slog home.

I napped for an hour and a half on the couch. Now I’m, uh, “rehydrating” with Yeungling and watching DVR’d English Premier Football, to be followed by semi-drunken viewings of the Reebok track meet (I’ve already had a few spoilers, unfortunately…but no matter) and Tropic Thunder. Thank goodness next week is a recovery week and I only have to run 3 miles tomorrow…

I will not catch this cold. I will not catch this cold. I will not…

Jonathan has come down with a wickedly awful cold. We think he must have touched the wrong door handle at NYRR’s offices when he dashed in to get our bibs and chips on Saturday.

I’ve done more vigorous washing and disinfecting than Meryl Streep in “Silkwood,” but I nevertheless have that vaguely crappy “uh oh” feeling. Fortunately, I have several bottles of the mysterious Gan Mao Ling tablets my sister turned me on to.

Did I mention our entire neighborhood is now covered in a thick sheet of ice? I bought these, which get me down the steps to our ice mobile car without breaking my neck. But I don’t dare attempt to run outside.

This has been the Worst Winter Ever.

Whooee, it’s cold!

But I don’t care. I got to run outside for the first time in a week and I hope to do it again tomorrow. Seven degrees with the windchill? No problem! I’ve got thermal running pants and all manner of layering from Patagonia, Craft, Smartwool and UnderArmour, plus Little Hotties for my hands. I am a moving billboard of adverts for foul weather clothiers.

I did 11 miles on a slightly altered version of my six mile loop that winds through Scarsdale and White Plains. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll do 20 there again. We’re slated to get some days above freezing next week. Let’s hope that between that and some sun the layer(s) of ice that cover my usual running path will go away.

I got my training schedule for the next 12 weeks and it’s impressive. To cope with it, I think of it in the abstract, as though someone else will be following it, although that’s going to have to stop starting on Monday. As I’d anticipated, I’ll be back up to 100 mile weeks, and doing longer intervals, plus lots more longer running at or near marathon pace. I registered for the series of races in Connecticut and Central Park that will, with little exception, serve as Mpace training runs. I’ll race a couple of them, though.

Overall, my trepidation is outweighed by my excitement and eagerness to get rolling. I just hope my body plays nice with my brain.

In praise of rain gear

I’ll post my week’s basebuilding report shortly. But for now I wanted to extol the virtues of having proper rain gear. Today I did a 17 miler in foul weather. Freezing rain was coating the ground when I started. That quickly shifted to plain old rain, hitting me at a 45 degree angle due to high winds.

I’ve got full body armor, but I didn’t wear all of it today. I needed to run the last two miles fast and my Goretex shoes are real clodhoppers. I also couldn’t deal with the Goretex pants. Not only do they flap around, but I sweat like crazy in them (they are not really as breathable as the marketing would have you believe).

But I did wear two key pieces of clothing for wet weather: my waterproof Asics baseball cap and a bicycling jacket that I picked up last year from, of all places, L.L. Bean. The cap is great. The jacket is okay, but not great for very long runs. That’s because it doesn’t breathe that well. I end up drenched in sweat, which soaks through the base- and mid-layers, which then leads to feeling like I’m on the verge of hypothermia. That’s actually not a bad thing, since it forces me to run faster in order to keep from freezing to death!

The whole run was an ongoing experiment in flexibility and improvisation. I knew that a few of the roads I normally run on would be too dangerous, so I drove to the halfway point and ran north (fewer cars) to the Valhalla Dam. But the footing was really treacherous. So I just did a 10 mile out and back, then took to the streets of Scarsdale, where the layer of sleet and slush had melted somewhat. I also figured that if I did have any sort of problem (slipping and breaking something, getting too cold), I always had the option of knocking on someone’s door for help, whereas I’d be in the middle of nowhere had I headed north again.

I guess it’s time to set up the treadmill again.

I didn’t realize how soaked I was until I got back to the car: waterlogged shoes and socks, soaking tights and nearly-saturated gloves. I wish someone would invent tights and shoes that can cope with wet weather without weighing down the wearer. On the other hand, when I think about what people had to train in just a few decades ago — cotton and leather — I’m grateful that technical fabrics have come as far as they have.

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