Running moment to moment in lane 4

[Warning: A bout of confessional bloggorhea follows. There is a running pay off, though. And maybe other useful things.]

This past fall and winter were rough. When I think of 2010, I see a year that began with disappointment and frustration (following hot on the heels of a less-than-stellar 2009), then had a fabulous high point — a couple of extremely good and gratifying months in early summer — and then began a nosedive in August followed by a flap-rattling death roll through the rest of the year and into this one. The ups and downs (mostly downs) weren’t limited to running — there were work/career goings on, social stuff, financial stuff. You name it. It was a year of extremes in many ways.

While I’d hoped that 2011 would bring instant relief — I don’t know why, since it’s just a calendar page, or dropped Times Square ball, or new crow’s foot, or however you keep score — the hideous blob of sheer misery and distress that was laying waste to my psychic backyard was rapidly advancing toward my mental domicile’s shaky foundation in the new year in a most horrific way.

On this blog I have not made a secret of my history of anxiety, a problem that I still struggle with now. I’ve also got a long history of depression — a constant kind (called dysthymia) which sometimes erupts into major depression (a delightful sequence known as “double depression”). This glowing tinder of seemingly innate unhappiness has become a full on conflagration on several occasions in my life, lasting anywhere from weeks to more than a year. I’d gotten a reprieve for most of the 2000s and thought I was out of the woods. But it was back late last year.

Why did I get depressed this time around? In some ways, it’s an impossible question. Why does anyone get depressed? Normal people — meaning people who are not otherwise vulnerable to depressive states — will get depressed in reaction to some catalyzing event: extreme loss, for example. Again, this is normal. Others, like me, will get knocked slightly off balance by some event that is not on its face disastrous — in my case, it was a couple of things that don’t need detailing here, but [here's the tie-in] included my stress fracture and subsequent total layoff from running for about 4 months. It’s not an event in particular that’s causing the quick slide down off the mountain. The event may be disappointing, but it’s not the problem. The problem is the reaction to the event — or, really, the chain reaction of mental machinations, all of them harmful in their extremity and breadth, and based on ingrained patterns from previous death spirals, that cranks into motion after that single event.

And what’s feeding that engine of awfulness? For me, it’s anxiety. And feeling bad about the anxiety. Then the anxiety about the anxiety feeds the depression and then the depression, in turn, feeds back into the anxiety in a crescendoing feedback loop. Pretty soon the top flies off your Waring blender of distress (“Hey, what’s that burning smell?”) and before you know it your kitchen walls are covered in the worst parts of yourself.

Holy crap. I finally get this. For some reason, this was the year that I was able to step back and observe what happens. I couldn’t stop it from happening, mind you. But, once things lifted enough for me to think straight, I could somewhat recognize cause-and-effect/effect-and-cause. That small shard of perspective produced a glimmer of hope. That hope got me thinking. The thinking got me reading. The reading got me working.

It’s not fun to be me much of the time. I think I’ve established that. But I will always be me, so I’d better learn how to live with myself. What I suspect needs to happen is that, going forward, I need to focus less on fixing and more on just being aware of the pattern and movement of my own thoughts and feelings, with an aim to get out of my own way. Floating, not flailing. I don’t write all this because I feel sorry for myself. I write it because I’m a slow learner and I hope that someone else can learn from it a little quicker than I have. It’s also nice to share news about things that are working well.

I am now trying some things that are wacky, or at least they are to me. I gave up on psychoanalysis several years ago. I will not take meds for these problems, as that presents a host of other potential problems in the form of side effects and — let’s face it — masking rather than actually addressing what’s going wrong. I am taking a bunch of vitamins and supplements that supposedly help with moods. We’ll see what those do or don’t do. I don’t put a lot of stock in them, but I figure they can’t hurt. I’m off synthetic hormones. I stop at one drink now.

But the heart of everything else I’m doing is a twosome of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and “mindfulness,” areas I only just became aware of quite recently. I so wish my former analyst had looked at me in 1991 and said, “Julie, your habitual thought patterns are toxic and your perceptions are totally distorted. You need CBT for your anxiety and the depression it fosters, not years of analysis from me.” But Freudian analysis is at best a quaintly blinkered belief system and at worst a cult perpetuated by adherents who I believe only have the best of intentions, so I bear them no ill will. But given what I know now, I’m not surprised that our exchange never took a more practical turn.

Okay. So what does any of this have to do with running? Fair question.

Running.

Running.

Running has given me so much when it’s gone well, but has hurt me so deeply when it hasn’t. Or, rather, it has set me up perfectly to hurt myself deeply. This time around, it lit a fire of depression. When I was limping around with my stress fracture in the fall, my dad, himself a former obsessed marathoner asked, “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” By that I think he meant: “Why do you keep making this so important and setting yourself up for a fall in the process?”

The answer to that is because I thought in running I had found a source of pleasure and achievement that I could control. Boy, was I wrong about that! A sane person would have stopped caring so much about it after it went so wrong for so long. But I reacted by stubbornly caring about it even more. I devised new goals, goals that may or may not have been realistic. It doesn’t matter if they were or are. The problem is that I had goals.

Getting better. Changing myself. Fixing what’s wrong. Whether we’re talking about running or about my state of mind, these are all bad goals. They are all about forcing something to happen, denying what’s actually happening, giving potency to something that’s nothing, missing what’s real, and often good.

Edited: One book I’m reading quotes from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races — the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”

One of the wackier things I’m trying — the “mindfulness” part — is meditation. I would like to say that I suck at it. But that would involve a judgment and I’m gathering that the whole point of meditation is to be, not to do. If you’re sitting there meditating and thinking, “I’m not meditating the right way,” you’re lost. You need to just sit there and be. If in one moment you realize that you’re thinking about what to make for dinner, then you’re doing it right; the work lies in the realizing and the accepting, not the thinking or the not thinking. Gaining an awareness of whatever’s going on in your head means you’re on the right track. Awareness of “mistakes” — and refusal to label them as such — is the success, not the failure.

Supposedly meditation can actually change your brain chemistry, affecting key areas like the amygdala, which is our brain’s bus driver for fear reactions (“fight or flight” — the core of all externally expressed anxiety)  and so-called “emotional memory” formation, and which comes into play in conditions like social phobia, depression and other problems that are near and dear to my heart and history. Working with the hypothalamus, the amygdala also regulates some aspects of our nervous system. Read up if you’re interested, since I’m sure I’ll screw something up if I continue here. I found it intriguing enough to pursue in addition to the more directed methods offered by CBT. This book, which was created by some of the authors of this study, in particular has been quite the mind- and eye-opener. Its approach works as well as happy pills, but doesn’t make you fat, dizzy or dullwitted in the process.

But back to running. All this other stuff I’m doing is having an effect on running, which is a welcome, and quite unexpected, side effect. I am starting to naturally run without goals, without expectations and without judgment. This is making running easier in ways I did not expect. For example, I had a very tough track session today. Since it’s unusual, I think Coach Sandra would consider it “proprietary,” so I won’t give details. But there was short stuff (a lot!) followed by semi-short stuff, followed by a long interval that was to be run “all out.”

I had never done this workout before. It frightened me a little, but I went in with an open mind. Stuff that normally would have bothered me didn’t today.

People were wandering chaotically around the track. I like running in lane 4 because it’s closest to 400m (the track in Bronxville is screwy because they shoved it into too-small a space, but the installers chose aesthetics over accuracy for the markers — so no lane is exactly 400m — inner lanes are shorter, outer lanes are longer). I did not let the dawdling interlopers get to me. I ran around them. I did not have to run in lane 4 at all times. Accuracy didn’t matter. The effort is what mattered.

I did not think of the many repeats/rests that lay ahead. I thought only of the one I was doing. I didn’t think of how far I was from finishing it. I didn’t think, with dread, “Oh, god, 300m to go…” or, with resentment, “This fucking wind is slowing me down” or any of the usual stuff I do when I’m doing track work. I just ran at what I thought was the appropriate effort at that point in time and kept the rest of the workout out of my mind. I would get there when I got there.

At one point I was running fast and realized that I was totally relaxed, watching my hands swing up, my right arm swing and wrist angle completely different from my left, something I now accept rather than try to correct, my flats eating up the curve. I enjoyed running in that moment. Thinking about it right now makes me happy. My splits were remarkably even — for 18 intervals (I did an extra by accident). Like within a second or two of each other. No watch required.

The last, killer interval was awful. It was slow, something I knew without looking at my watch. Then I realized that it probably wasn’t supposed to be fast. It couldn’t be. I had exhausted myself with the previous few miles of faster running; my legs were burning and aching. I realized midway through that I was now doing “get comfortable with suffering” training, something I’ve come to recognize in some of Sanda’s workouts. I made a mental note to ask her what the purpose of that horrible last big push was — mental, physical or both — and then I gently returned my attention to my hands, my feet and the metres unfolding in front of me.

What’s been going on, as presented in Warren Zevon song titles

I’ve been rediscovering Warren Zevon lately. If you have no idea who he is, then look him up and discover for yourself his uniquely sardonic yet humane — and always highly literate — musical take on things. He’s dead, by the way. Before succumbing to lung cancer in 2003, he produced one of my favorite quotes: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

So here’s a Zevonesque take on what’s happening in my life, running and otherwise.

Although we’ve had bits of snow and sleet lately, it is officially spring, even if the weather hasn’t gotten with the program yet. We’ve been able to run Backs Turned Looking Down the Path now that it’s clear of snow, although on many days we’ve also had to Hasten Down the Wind. For the most part I’ve been running in Splendid Isolation because, as I’ve said to Jonathan, “I’ll Slow You Down.”

We traded one lost hour for longer days last weekend. And one night last week They Moved the Moon. Or at least they claimed it was bigger than it would be in another 18 years. Does that mean it was closer? I’ve seen “bigger” harvest moons in the summer, so I was not impressed.

My workouts have spanned the spectrum from lousy to great. Maybe it’s Bad Karma, or just the usual training Turbulence, but I don’t quite feel like I’m training with the consistency I’d like. On the other hand, I can usually come up with reasons for why a workout Ain’t That Pretty At All. For example, I had a scheduled 13 miler in Central Park on Sunday that was, in hindsight, Trouble Waiting to Happen. After a ridiculously hard speed session Thursday, followed by ridiculous weight work and spinning the following day, my legs were dead. I was also at my hormonal low point, and always run like shit on that day. Not surprisingly, my planned 8:00s were rapidly turning into 9:00s. Then my right hamstring and adductor had tandem hissy fits. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. I cut the run short at 11 and told myself, “You’re a Whole Different Person When You’re Scared. So stop it. You no longer need to let one workout define things. It doesn’t mean you’re headed for a Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. Don’t worry about it.”

So sure, My Shit’s Fucked Up on some days, but not always. On Wednesday, two days ago, I had a mysteriously great track session. We got up to find it sleeting. I packed my spikes. The Bronxville track was devoid of people and the sleet/drizzle/shizzle stopped. It was cold, but not too. And there was almost no wind to speak of. All I needed for a good session was the right attitude, because everything else was in place.

Attitude was important because I was assigned 1K repeats. Seven of them. How was I going to do seven when I couldn’t even do four of them two weeks ago? One thing I like about working with Coach Sandra is that she doesn’t assign paces. She trusts that I know the right effort to run and that my splits will just reflect where I am on that day. I may be “slower” or “faster” than expected. I may be running supernaturally well or running like dog shit. What matters isn’t the splits in one workout; what matters is doing the work every week and getting faster relative to effort over the course of an entire training cycle. And if that isn’t happening, figure out why and make immediate adjustments. Maybe that’s obvious already, but I think it’s pure Genius.

I ran the first conservatively, as I always do, to see how I was feeling. 4:15. But I knew I could do a little harder. The next six were: 4:11, 4:10, 4:12, 4:11, 4:11, 4:10. Rests were 1:28-1:50. I attacked those repeats like Boom Boom Mancini. This gives me some confidence that I’ll be able to fly over the Central Park hills like An Angel Dressed in Black in a couple of weeks at the Scotland 10K. If I can’t do that, I’ll be Looking for the Next Best Thing, which is just to put in an effort that I can be proud of.

Jonathan did the workout with me (although his splits were more in 3:30 territory) and had an equally good set. This made him into an Excitable Boy indeed.

It’s hard to know if my perceived gains in speed and endurance are Real or Not, but I’m trying to Roll with the Punches (like I did after my night spent hugging the Porcelain Monkey) and not be too much of a Basket Case about adhering perfectly to the schedule.

Later that evening we attended a A Certain Girl‘s birthday celebration in Manhattan and neither of us was too tired out to enjoy ourselves. It was a late night, but I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. My own birthday is in a couple of weeks. Will 46 be a Wild Age for me, or will I evolve into a Model Citizen? I think I’d like to remain a Renegade and work on turning Jonathan into more of a Mr. Bad Example and less of a Worrier King. We’ll be celebrating at home because MacGillicuddy’s Reeks.

Our home has become something of a Detox Mansion (“I’ve been raking leaves with Liza! Me and Liz clean up the yard!”). We’ve finished up all of our wine and booze, which I’m not planning to replace, and when the beer dwindles I restock with only a sixpack or two, which takes us forever to get through. This means I’m a total lightweight, something I shall have to be careful about when we head off to search for the Werewolves of London in May, shortly after we run the Long Island Half (please, Don’t Let Us Get Sick). I won’t be bringing Lord Byron’s Luggage; the fees are too outrageous. My Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded to visit us in April, so they’ll be here in June. That means we have to do something about the Disorder in the House before then.

Whoops. Laissez-Moi Tranquille. I Have to Leave. My Ride’s Here.

Training: Mar 6-12

I realized just now that I did three hard workouts, plus a race, this week. That probably wasn’t the smartest way to schedule things — and I take responsibility for this schedule. In reintroducting Coach Sandra’s original schedule for the summer, I wanted to get back to doing long runs on Saturday. This seemed as good a week to shove that run up a day as any.

As usual, the workouts this week were a mix of gratifying and disappointing. But I won’t label anything as a “bad workout” for reasons previously stated.

So. Coogan’s went pretty well. Then, with only a day’s recovery — which featured 10 miles of running — I headed up to the streets of Scarsdale (since our running path was flooded) for a progression run. My legs felt dead that day and I nearly abandoned the run. Or, well, kind of. My thought process moved from “I’m going to cut this short at 5 miles” to “Maybe I’ll make this a recovery run” to “I’ll run a decent pace, but drop the 2 fast miles” to…”Well, goddammit, I’m gonna run those last 2 miles hard.”

Why did I make this decision? For one, my legs began to feel better after about 4 miles and I was naturally picking up the pace anyway. For another, Coach’s rule is: if I can’t do the workouts in a given week, I have to go back and repeat that week until I can. I hate repeating weeks.

It worked out and I did better than expected: Mile 7 was 7:36, run into a stiff headwind; Mile 8 (wind assisted) was 6:50.

Thursday’s speed session was nothing to write home about, but I’m calling it close enough to count. Coach said I should have either deferred the workout to Friday or substituted a fartlek run (as she instructed me to do, but I ignored, because I’m a weirdo and I happen to like 1K repeats, at least when they’re going well).

I took yesterday completely off. No running. No cross-training. Nothing. And I’m glad I did because today’s 12 miler in Central Park was a satisfying run indeed. After a 9:20 warmup mile I was solidly in 8:15-8:20 territory. There were several miles run well under 8:00.

The last mile was ridiculous: 6:59. I did not intend to run it that fast, but as I was coming off the north section of Museum Mile, ready to hit the downhill before the 102nd St. Transverse, I passed a guy. He did not like being passed. So he caught me. I did not want him to pass me. So we both kept running faster and faster. Soon we were racing. At one point my watch said I was on pace for a 6:20 mile. This was getting silly (and I was getting out of breath). So I let him “win.”

But the funny thing was, once he got a few feet ahead of me, he slowed to around 7:10 pace and I was still about a meter behind him. When we hit the downhill around the top of the park, I decided to open up. I felt good and I was half a mile from the 12 mile mark, so why not. I passed him again, tearing past him down the hill. He looked a little annoyed. Or maybe I surprised him. But he didn’t race me this time. Average pace for the run was 8:07. I want to get that below 8:00 by the end of the month.

Today featured yet another new mix. But I ran so fast that I didn’t get through it. The Keane and Nick Drake were good for the drive home.

Long Run Too

Consequence – The Notwist
Handson Us – The Notwist
Lover’s Spit – Broken Social Scene
Texico Bitches – Broken Social Scene
Kids (Soulwax Mix) – MGMT
Flash Delirium – MGMT
Our Time Has Passed – Pernice Brothers
She Heightened Everything – Pernice Brothers
Barely Legal – The Strokes
Alone, Together – The Strokes
Human – Pretenders
Popstar – Pretenders
Untitled – Social Distortion
Far Side Of Nowhere – Social Distortion
Finer Feelings – Spoon
My Little Japanese Cigarette Case – Spoon
Breaking Into Cars – The Raveonettes
Heart Of Stone – The Raveonettes
Some Might Say – Oasis
The Shock Of The Lightning – Oasis
60 Miles An Hour – New Order
Regret – New Order
Hold It – Marshall Crenshaw
Right On Time – Marshall Crenshaw
Perfect Symmetry – Keane
The Lovers Are Losing – Keane
Which Will – Nick Drake
Pink Moon – Nick Drake

Listen on Rhapsody

Training: Feb 20-26

This was a week of “firsts in a long time”: first tempo run outside, first speedwork session, first run over 10 miles, first week over 50 miles.

I spent a fair amount of time this week experimenting in order to answer some basic questions here, at the start of a new training cycle. How fast should I run 1K intervals? How much running should I do the day after a tempo run? Is it a good idea to do some spinning the evening before a long run?

I am also trying to reintroduce some regular core strengthening work, since I am aware of how weak I am after I hit about the 8 mile mark on a run. My back is not happy the next day, so I need to work on the muscles that keep me upright. Have I mentioned how dreary and uncomfortable core work is? I hate doing it. But it sure beats pool running. Everything’s relative, I guess.

I managed three hard workouts again this week, from your staples of training run types: tempo, speed, long. The tempo run was difficult, the speed session not so difficult — and today’s long run was just meh on account of being scaled down from the original plan, which was to run 11, but do the last 2 at 7:30.

Although the rest of me had plenty of energy, my legs were not into it today. So I turned the run into what Sandra likes to call a “listen to your body” run — just run whatever effort/pace you feel like running. The result was wildly varying paces — from 7:45-8:30. But it was fine and I didn’t beat myself up about bailing on the original plan. A few miles at 7:45 is close enough. I will not do a moderate spin effort beforehand next time. Too much.

The Coogan’s 5K is a week from tomorrow, so I’ve only got two hard workouts this coming week — another speed session and a run with a few miles at race effort. The rest is easy with mileage around 40. The adductor was only an issue today, for part of the run. I have no clue what triggers it, since you’d think 1Ks on the treadmill would piss it off. But it was not too bad.

This post was boring. Sorry.

And the flowers are still standing!

Coach Sandra indicated recently that I should just go back to the plan she originally drew up for me before I got injured, whenever I felt I was ready to train again.That plan was constructed to get me up to a half marathon (5 weeks before a full), with one or two shorter races along the way.

Okay, I’m ready. After a couple of hours with Excel this morning, I now have a 10 week training plan to take me to the Long Island Half, starting two days ago. Working backward from the May 1 race date was easy enough. The stuff I’ve been doing over the past few weeks were a good lead in to the revisited training plan.

Mileage tops out at 54 mpw and the longest run is 14 miles. There’s a lot of speedwork and progression runs incorporating race effort/pace. The Scotland 10K falls in a good place in training too. I hate to say I’m excited, but I guess I am a little. It seems like a manageable schedule and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I have 10 weeks to prepare rather than the more measly 8 I’d been thinking I had.

The plusses: My body has held up well under some genuine training demands over the past month+ — the physical ones as well as the mental ones required by doing almost everything on the stupid treadmill. I can look forward to competing in one “important” race per month from now through June. And winter has to end eventually.

The minuses: Not many. I am afraid of getting reinjured, but that worry should manifest itself as a conservative approach to hard training and a prioritizing of recovery, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. After a few years of overtraining, injury and race-time stagnation, I am happy to trade arriving at start lines slightly undertrained for not arriving there at all.

This post title is referenced at 4:30. I have always loved how this line is shouted off camera.

Training: Feb 13-19

In which I worriedly, hurriedly prepare for a short race

I am quite aware of the fact that I have a 5K race looming on the horizon. I don’t like 5K races but, to be fair, I haven’t raced that many of them, and only a handful have been since I started running competitively. In two weeks I’ll cover the Coogan’s course in Washington Heights. I have been doing what I can to prepare for a short, fast race while also trying to not do anything that’s going to irritate the adductor injury that continues to hang on for dear life. But I feel I’ve turned a corner in that if I’m careful and do a shit-tonne of stretching and strengthening, it’s under control and on its way out, however slowly.

That said, this was another okay week, featuring two decent workouts and one half-assed workout. I did not hit the 52 miles I’d originally planned, but that’s life. I do, however, now feel pretty confident that I can handle real training. With that I will get back in touch with Coach Sandra (whom I’ve not wanted to bug during this period of testing the waters) this week to talk half marathon training.

I’m at the point where running 10 miles at any pace doesn’t feel like a 20 miler. But endurance at faster paces continues to be an issue and time’s a-wastin’. So I am trying to add in some substantial efforts at speedier paces. This campaign to not embarrass myself in two weeks began with Sunday’s trip into Central Park. This time I dragged Jonathan with me, who managed 12 miles with some discomfort in his foot. But, heck, he ran 12 miles, some of them on the faster side. So that’s progress.

We ran 6 miles together to warm up, then split up to do our little workouts. I did an inner loop, he did an outer loop. I managed three miles at sub-7:30 and a last one at 8:00 (me so tired). That was pretty good for that course, in wind, coming off a “big” week. Having learned last week that a longer recovery run on Monday is a no no, I split things up into two runs.

Tuesday was a big social day as was Wednesday evening. On Wednesday morning I decided to try a fartlek run again. There has been some slight improvement over last week’s fartlek in that I could do two sets and the speeds were slightly faster. I also shortened the between-sets recovery time from 5 to 4 minutes.

On Thursday I didn’t feel like doing anything, least of all running. I spent pretty much the entire day finding ways to avoid running. Then I forced myself to go to the gym to do some circuit stuff and figured I’d just try getting on the treadmill and if it sucked I’d climb off and call it a day. Mostly, I wanted to go there so I could use the sauna. After the first couple of miles I felt okay so decided to at least do something a little more productive than a 9:50 plod: a couple of miles at faster paces, if not stellar ones. At least the 20 minutes in the sauna seemed well-deserved.

Friday I was flat out exhausted, so I skipped exercise entirely. Saturday featured an evening run at home on the treadmill. For some reason I felt compelled to tack on a half mile to the planned 6. I think I felt bad about bailing on Friday’s run entirely. A half mile here, a half mile there. Pretty soon you’re talking, like, a whole extra mile.

Next week I may attempt some actual speed work if I can find a clear outdoor track or uninterrupted flat pathway to run on. That depends entirely on snow meltage. We are scheduled to get more snow this evening, so yeah, ha ha. It’s February, bitches. Have another cup of snow. I suspect I’ll being doing more fartleks on the treadmill. They’re close enough.

My training weeks begin on Sunday (or, put another way, end on Saturday). But I got in the habit of posting these training tomes on Sundays. So I’ll cheat and mention that I did my first outdoors tempo run since the summer today in Central Park. I basically tried to simulate a 5K more or less, but split up into three bits separated by 4 minutes. I managed to run my 7 minute segments at around 6:50 pace, which I’m pretty damned proud of because it was hellaciously windy today. I was running at harder than tempo effort much of the time, but whatever. I’m not going to be a purist about anything at this point. Waste of time. I need to get used to being really, really uncomfortable for around 21 minutes.

Groovy new Tempo Run playlist appears below.

In which I am uncharacteristically social

I spent all day Tuesday with a friend (and part of the afternoon with her five-year-old, who is smarter and more articulate than many adults I know) in Manhattan. She’s one of the few people I’m still in touch with from graduate school from way back in the (gulp) mid- ’90s, and by far the friend from that milieu to whom I’m closest. She’s moving out of the country indefinitely in July, so we’re trying to spend some time with each other fairly regularly before that happens. I’m happy for her, but it’s still a bummer to have to say goodbye. There’s virtually no chance I’ll visit her where she’s headed. That sounds ominous; it’s not meant to. She’s not going to prison or anything. She’ll just be very, very far away in a place I have no desire to visit.

On Wednesday evening I drove up to Rye Brook for dinner and conversation with my heretofore virtual friend, Cris/Darkwave of Well, I’m TRYING to Run fame. I have been trading training notes and amusing quips online with Cris for several years, primarily on this weekly thread on LetsRun (although I have been absent for many months during my injury odyssey). Cris was just as intelligent, interesting and warm in person as I’d expected her to be. It was a fun evening, although I worried I kept her up too late on a school night, since she was up here on a business trip and had to get up at 5:30AM the next morning and be a responsible adult. I, on the other hand, being an irresponsible adult, was free to sleep in late and then spend the day farting around the house.

In which I somewhat reluctantly show some team spirit

I bought a long-sleeved Harriers tech shirt this week, since it was easy enough to swing by Urban Athletics on my way to see my East Side friend. It’s a little weird to anticipate wearing it in a couple of weeks, not only because I don’t want to put further pressure on myself in a race at a distance that is not my forte. I’m not generally a joiner and uniforms of any sort always give me pause. But wearing a shirt in the points races seems to be what people do.

I will say that it looks pretty fetching on me (I look good in black — and somewhat menacing, I hope) and it was comfortable enough on today’s test run, for which I wore it as a base layer so I could continue to stealth train.

In which I go back to my artistic roots

I have more websites than is reasonable for one person. Especially since none of them are making me any money. But I can always launch another one, even as the current ones sit neglected. I expect to launch this newest creative venture pretty soon — probably next month or in April. Those who have known me for a long time know that I have a long history of drawing cartoons. I have had a dry spell of this activity for, oh, about 20 years, although I will sometimes make a painting when under stress.

Anyway, I have been besieged by funny ideas lately. That has led to sketching and frequent giggling. I should do something with these ideas and with the good domain I own but have not known what to do with (people have offered to buy it from me, but I had faith that a use for it would eventually emerge). Yes, I want to express myself. At least I’m not writing erotic poetry or making wallets out of duct tape.

So look for that soon.

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Mix: Tempo Run

Nobody’s In Love This Year – Warren Zevon
Change4Me – Bettie Serveert
No Matter What – Badfinger
1994 – Amberhaze
When I Wonder – Charlatans U.K.
Souls Travel – Bettie Serveert
Meet Me In The Basement – Broken Social Scene
Elephant Woman – Blonde Redhead
The Well And The Lighthouse – Arcade Fire
Sincerity – Charlatans U.K.
Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds
Changes Are No Good – The Stills
Bled White – Elliott Smith
Pop In G – Heatmiser
Gimme Animosity – Superdrag
Godspell – The Cardigans
Better Things – The Kinks
American Girl – Tom Petty
Something’s Out There – Freedy Johnston
Don’t Look Down – Lindsey Buckingham
Billoddity – Mojave 3
Swimming Song – Kate and Anna McGarrigle
My Favorite Mistake – Sheryl Crow
Finding You – The Go-Betweens
Cellophane – Creeper Lagoon
Dirty Secret – Grant-Lee Phillips
I Need Your Love – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Listen on Rhapsody

Training: Jan 30-Feb 12

Astute readers will notice that I’ve skipped a week, Jan 23-29. That was just an awful, awful week, runningwise and in all other respects. Let’s move on.

What I like most about the above image is that it’s starting to look like the log of someone who is actually training. I’m not training for anything just yet, but I will be soon. For now, I’m just focusing on getting the mileage consistently in the 50mpw range and getting in at least two (preferably three) quality workouts a week. If I can do this for a few more weeks and stay uninjured, I will be a very happy woman indeed.

Then I will start worrying about training for my only real “goal” race on the near-term horizon, the Long Island Half on May 1. I’ll only have about two months to train, which probably isn’t enough for running my best. But I just want to run a decent half marathon. On the way, I’ll run two NYRR club points races: the Coogan’s 5K in early March and the Scotland 10K five weeks after that. To prepare for those I will be doing a fair amount of fartlek and tempo running over the coming few weeks. I hate 5Ks, but it’s a points race, so what the hell. I’m looking forward to the 10K.

After Coogan’s I’ll start focusing on training for the Long Island Half on May 1. I am hoping that by then I’ll have a good mix of speed and endurance in place. The Scotland Run should be a good “thermometer” race midway through that training cycle. It’s true that eight weeks is probably not enough to produce a great half performance, but I don’t have a lot invested in a May race. I just want to not implode during training, run a good race, and feel like I’m set up for starting marathon training in the summer (and perhaps I’ll run a good Mini 10K in June).

But I must stay uninjured.

To help preserve this state of affairs, I am stretching and rolling fairly regularly these days — maybe 4-5 evenings a week. This is a harder habit to establish than was daily flossing (which I am doing, by the way), probably because flossing takes 30 seconds and rolling/stretching takes 30-60 minutes. I would like to be getting more massages than I am, but money’s tight so I need to do that judiciously. I also started breaking up some recovery runs into doubles to try to further give the graint a rest. I did an eight mile run after Sunday’s race and that was a mistake. Mr. Leg was not happy.

Sandra has a standard pre-race-week schedule — for shorter distances, meaning half marathon on down — and I notice that she crams in two hard workouts back to back. This week I followed that schedule, piling on the work on Wednesday and Thursday: two hard runs plus a big weight session (I added that one — don’t try this at home before a race). The little recovery run on Wednesday evening helped enormously, I think. My legs felt ready for the progression run. Paces are no longer embarrassing: 6:20-6:40 for the fartlek segments and 7:00-7:20 for the fast finish run. My graint was bugging me during the fartleks (so I cut out the two minute segments on the second set), but it was not terrible.

I was tired on Thursday and Friday evenings, and hungry, so I know I worked hard. But I am okay today and plan to do 10 miler in Central Park tomorrow with at least the last two miles at what I suspect is probably my current marathon pace, maybe around 7:40-7:50 on those hills. I was going to do 12, but that’s too far still. Especially after this, what I think of as my first significant (running) training week since the summer.

One word about the metabolic testing that happened last week. There was no metabolic testing, as it turns out. It was actually just a V02 max test. That’s because there was no C02 sensor in the machine. Which explains why, when Jonathan was asking them about “fat vs. carbohydrate usage,” they looked at him somewhat blankly and didn’t give a straight answer. Now I’m really glad I didn’t pay for it.

But all is not lost. The Nutritionist is consulting nutritionist to the Columbia University sports department, where she is also an adjunct, and Columbia is outfitted with metabolic testing equipment (and, presumably, people who know what they’re doing). But it’s on the fritz! What is it with sports testing equipment?! As soon as it’s fixed, I’ll probably go run on a treadmill with a mask attached to my face again, as well as get the resting metabolic test done (which the other place also neglected to do, although they could have with another machine they have).

I’m down a couple of pounds, finally. But it’s too soon to declare victory. When I’m down five pounds I’ll feel more encouraged. The Nutritionist is working with a basketball player who has the same issue with fat loss, except she’s 6’4″ and weighs around 225 pounds. We are the hard cases.

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