Race Report: Coogan’s 5K

I still hate 5Ks. But I hate them a little less after this race. Maybe the Gridiron 4 Miler a month ago helped to prepare me for this. Or maybe it’s the fact that I still have no real race endurance (meaning I know that trying to race, say, a 15K would be infinitely more painful and embarrassing than any 5K at this point). But this was okay.

Fun stuff: This was my first race wearing a New York Harriers shirt. There were unexpected benefits. Well, at least one, which was getting acknowledgments (running the gamut from staid nods to frenetic thumbs up) from fellow Harriers. It also meant I could tap a fellow Harrier (as I did today) and say, “Good luck!” without the action being confusing.

Also, I started the race a few feet away from Gary Muhrcke, known by marathon history nerds as the winner of the inaugural New York City Marathon, and by watchers of the YES! Network as the enthusiastic man on the commercials for Super Runners Shop, which Muhrcke founded.

Minor annoyances: NYRR was not enforcing its corral system today. I started the race surrounded by people in bibs with numbers 5,000 and above. They should have been two or three corrals back. I spent the first third of a mile fighting my way through slower runners. Boo. Also, they started the race three minutes early. Bizarre. Finally, the finish line was not marked with a banner. So what I thought was the finish mat was actually the final start mat. I hit Stop and started jogging after hitting it. Later, my results would reflect this: I lost about 6 seconds due to not knowing where the finish actually was. Grr.

The deets: Allowing for the initial crowding problem (and my theory that the course is slightly harder than the 4 miler course in Central Park), I think I’ve improved slightly since last month. I was careful not to kill myself in the first mile, and I was good about motoring on the downhills, as I passed a lot of people.

The big hill from 1.9-2.6 was not that terrible. Once I crested it, I recovered pretty quickly and was able to roll pretty well through the last half mile. Although that was a treacherous stretch, as it was Pothole City, especially under the bridge. Although I am told by Amy, who calls Washington Heights home, that they did a lot of work to fill those holes before the race, so I should be grateful.

I have no memory whatsoever of the bands or the actual scenery on the course.

Also, it was raining steadily and there were numerous puddles. My favorite racing shoes — the Asics Hyperspeeds — are equipped with drainage holes in the bottom. These are great when it’s pouring rain because it’s like wearing colanders on your feet — the water drains right out. On a day like today it just means your socks get wet during the warmup. But it’s a 5K. It’s not a marathon. Wet feet: not an issue.

The stats: 22:13 (to my watch’s 22:06, dammit), 11th in my AG, 2nd F40+ Harrier. Yay.

The whole point: I know why you join a club now. For the post-race drinks! Think about it. Go drinking at 11AM alone and you’re a sad lush. Go drinking with other people at 11AM and you’re being sociable and festive. I met up with around 30 of my black-clad teammates at Amsterdam Ale House (they wisely avoided the clusterfuck at Coogan’s; I knew there was a reason I joined this club) for Newcastle and chitchat. Urp.

Random bloviations

Here’s my version of a Larry King column. Heavy on personal pronouns, inanity and randomness.

I use my Exogen 4000 bone stimulator daily. Sometimes twice a day. Is it working? I have no idea. Did you know these expensive devices only have about 170 uses? Then their internal battery goes dead. The maker claims you can’t replace or recharge the battery. Yeah. Right. Another four thousand dollars, please. I know we’re a capitalist country. But, honestly, we do take it too far sometimes.

I am also taking a product called Bone Up, a calcium supplement that’s full of Australian bovine something or other. It’s in the kitchen and I’m too comfortable at the moment to get up and go look at the bottle. It was recommended to me by a woman who has had many stress fractures. She says it works. I believe her.

I actually like this season’s Dexter. I didn’t like the last season, which felt like the writers were treading water with the character. This time around Dexter gets a quasi-girlfriend who may also have serial killer leanings (at the very least she is a victim turned vigilante), causing him to get sloppy with his protocol. That’s a plot development that rocks. I would not have thought of that. Also, Peter Weller is great in his role as scummy, bottom feeding private investigator.

I am also enjoying The Walking Dead, our first-ever zombie television series. I just call it The Zombie Show. I am still on the premiere episode, because not only am I too tired or too busy (or too asleep) to watch television most evenings, but also because Jonathan is not a big fan of the zombie genre. It’s a little hackneyed, but the cinematography is notably good and I appreciate the acting performance by the semi-aware-but-nonetheless-completely-zombified wife of one of the characters. That’s an acting challenge. The makeup and special effects are excellent too.

So my evenings are full of enjoyable violence.

I did the first of my two planned Big Name Runner interviews over the weekend. I know the article I want to write and how I will write it. I am determined to get this finished this week, although as usual my “pays the bills” work takes precedence and is heating up lately.

The nice thing about having a blog is that even if I can’t interest any of the usual outlets in paying me for it, I can just publish it here and I’ll be almost as happy with that. I’ll be surprised if no one wants it, but stranger things have happened. In general, I have quickly learned that it’s difficult to impossible to make a living just doing freelance running journalism. The fact that I’m not trying to means I can do the work I do in this area on my own terms. I’m still having fun with it.

I may get a chance to try out an Alter-G treadmill somewhere in Harlem soon. That should be interesting and educational.

I’m planning a trip to Switzerland at some point next year. It will probably be sometime later in the summer. We went there in 2007 and I’ve missed it ever since. The exchange rate is terrible, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Life is short. I want to go back to Zermatt, where a strained medialis prevented me from hiking up to the base of the Matterhorn. I also enjoyed Pontresina, the lower-key (and cheaper) sister town to St. Moritz. And, of course, the Jungfrau region, although I think this time we’ll stay on the Grindelwald/Wengen side, whereas last time we were in Murren.

Longer term, I’m figuring out where to go for my 50th birthday. Much as I would love to go somewhere weird and totally new to me, like Japan, or exotically third-world, like Indonesia, I think it’s going to be Norway. I guess I’m getting old, but I want a reliably civilized experience featuring a Western culture that I can somewhat relate to. There needs to be good beer and cheese involved too. I know it’s a few years off. But I like to plan.

Also, is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed by Haile’s petulant retirement announcement, followed by cooler headed reversal — which in the process eclipsed every other New York Marathon story? Everyone knew he didn’t mean it. Now. Do you remember who won the men’s and women’s races? You had to think about it for a moment, didn’t you?

Why I’ve truly stopped tracking my weight

Longtime readers know that I have had an extended battle with the scale, my pants and race photographers over the issue of my weight. Or, more specifically, how much fat I carry and how it affects my ability to run fast. Here, for example, is a post from nearly two years ago in which, after a couple of years of calorie counting and restriction, and obsessive-compulsive tracking of my weight (Tanita) and body fat (Omron) readings, I had made no progress and decided it was pointless to keep caring. A check of my thyroid showed nothing unusual there, so my failure to lose (as it were) was obviously my fault somehow; or that of my ancestors. But according to at least one nutritionist runner, I shouldn’t concern myself with it.

That message stuck for awhile, but in the spring of this year, aware of my lack of progress in pushing my paces and race times downward, I looked for answers in the gravitational realm once again. Out came the evil twins, Tanita and her moronic brother, Omron, as well as my demented spreadsheets (which included colorful charts of my total lack of progress). Also, over the summer I acquired an Apple iTouch and among the universe of “apps” found something called Tap and Track, which would enable me to record every moment of energy expenditure and every morsel that passed my lips.

I dutifully tracked everything. I made adjustments over weeks, increasing calories slightly, or decreasing them slightly to drastically. I teetotaled for weeks. Or drank with wild abandon. Nothing happened. I began wondering if I might be the first person in the history of eating disorders to experience no change in weight.

During this time I’d started training with Sandra and, while the workouts were hard, the mileage was about what I’d been doing since January, or around 50 mpw, with very little cross-training. Then I got injured in August and could do nothing but limp and complain for about three weeks. I was not exercising at all, so I lightened up on what I was eating to compensate. I ate lots of cabbage and non-fat yogurt. I gained just over three pounds in those three weeks.

In early September I started cross-training and over a few weeks built up to what is now a steady weekly helping of hard work, with a day off about every 8-10 days or so. I kept up my compulsive taking and recording of readings. My weight did not change. My pants even got tighter for the first few weeks, which was quite discouraging indeed. In disgust, I sent Omron back to his dungeon under the bathroom sink and stopped stepping on Tanita every morning. I ate when I was hungry (about every 2 hours), stuck with reasonable foods (I haven’t eaten junk in years) and kept alcohol intake to a minimum most nights. But I stopped keeping score on the iTouch.

Then I started to notice things. Glimpses of shoulder muscles rippling beneath the fat. My arms had a nice, inward curve where triceps meet lats. I could see the adductor muscle that is giving me so much trouble. And veins. I had veins. My blouses were getting tighter, yet, paradoxically, I had obviously lost back fat. One day, getting dressed, I flexed my back and shoulder muscles for Jonathan and asked if he noticed a difference that would explain the shirt problem. “Do that again,” he said, a little stunned. Yeah, I had muscles alright. I think the weight training and spinning have helped my lower body, while I mostly credit the pool running for my upper body development.

Finally, my pants are loosening up, despite my emerging Incredible Bulk physique. But I think I will need new shirts. I still won’t weigh myself. But for shits and giggles I did some Omron readings over the past few days and they were consistently about 2% below the ones I got earlier in the summer.

I will probably always carry considerably more fat than your typical skinny bitch marathoner. But at least I’m learning it’s possible for me to lose some of it. Best of all, I’m saving so much time now that I’ve deinstalled Tap and Track.

Race Report: Run for Central Park 4 Miler

Hot.

So hot.

It was hot.

I was hot.

It’s a good thing I went watchless today because I would have been discouraged indeed by my splits. Although I have to say I’m getting better at guesstimating my capabilities in hot weather. I figured I’d be lucky to run 7:30s today and that’s about what I ran, coming in at 30:05.

I barely did a warmup today. What was the point? Some dynamic stretches, three minutes of jogging and there you go. I was in Corral 2 today (red bib), which was disappointing, but it was a big race so I wasn’t surprised. I decided to run mile 1 like a hard tempo and see how I felt by mile 2. I picked it up a little, but, wary of the effect that mile 3 typically has on me, not too much.

Mile 3 would kill me anyway. I know this because I spent most of the mile trying to catch up with Harriers teammate Addy (whom I would meet, along with my other Harriers AG cohort, Susan, at a post-race Harriers shindig about an hour later). I caught her at mile 3, passing her at the water stop. And then promptly cratered at the crest of the hill heading into mile 4. She passed me and went on to open up a 1 minute gap. Either she was picking things up to a furious pace or I died in that mile. I suspect it was the latter.

Nevertheless, I scored again (third) for the 40+ women’s team category, helping to place us in 8th today. I don’t think the under-45s came out today or we would have placed higher (although I wouldn’t have placed at all). Again I’ll say that running for team points is a motivator that I like having. And now I regret the fact that I’ll probably be doing a lot less racing as I start marathon training. Oh, well. Can’t have everything.

I was good for 9th in my AG, which out of 145 is not terrible, especially considering how bad I am at racing in hot weather.

I met about 30 or so of my teammates afterward, all of them pleasant individuals. 47 glasses of water later I still feel dehydrated. So I’ve moved on to beer. I expect to pass out soon.

Tomorrow is the first day in a long while in which I have no responsibilities. Anything I do tomorrow is optional. This includes getting out of bed. But I’ll probably do at least that. Moreover, on Monday morning at 9 AM I don’t have to join my IBM team status call. Because I don’t work there anymore. Not that the call itself was so terrible. It’s the fact that on that call every week, the coming five days of Sisyphean to do’s would be writ large, filling me with dread, resentment, despair — and a shitload of tension would further compound in my shoulders, neck and back.

My freelance writing schedule is very light next week, something I have deliberately arranged so that I at last have time to get back to my running-specific writing projects. These have been the neglected middle child of my work life lately and it’s bothered me to feel that I’ve lost the momentum I had about a month ago. But there are only so many hours in the day and I frequently ran out of them over the past few weeks.

Next week I have maybe 10-15 hours of freelance work to worry about — the workload the past month has averaged 50-60. Hallefuckinglujah.  I’ve got a massage scheduled for Thursday morning. A Houston Hopefuls update and work on a Running Times piece, plus finally getting to the Mini 10K gems. I may go see the new Predator movie…in the middle of a weekday! And running all week.

Oh, I’ll be busy. But it’s going to be fun busy. I don’t remember the last time I felt this happy about the arrival of Monday.

Training: May 3-9, 2010

50 mpw seems to be my training “set point” these days. I hope it’s not too much of a shock when I start up higher mileage in the summer. But I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

This was an eventful week for two reasons. First of all, this week featured the first race in which I was sporting a blue bib. The other big event this week was that both Jonathan and I joined the ranks of running clubdom. But two different clubs.

Joe has been working on Jonathan for awhile to join Warren Street and finally broke him this week. Then I was plied with iced tea and delicious nibbly things by a New York Harrier on Saturday and in a moment of weakness said I’d join up to bolster the 40+ womens scoring.

I don’t know how competitive these two clubs are against each other, but I suspect that once we start racing for points in earnest, the crockery will be flying. I’ve already warned Joe that I plan to sabotage Jonathan’s training at every opportunity.*

I also have to admit that I don’t really understand the points scoring system, which seems arcane, at least at first glance. But this isn’t the first time I’ve committed to something with only a vague understanding of the requirements or consequences.

Below is a picture of me with said troublemaker. We are admiring our magical blue bibs (her first as well).

Bibstruck.

The week was capped with Yet Another Race, a Mother’s Day themed 4 miler. This is getting old, I know. So old that I’m not even going to write a dedicated race report this time. Since I’m on the subject anyway, here’s my quasi race report:

On the surface, it looks like I made zero progress between this 4 miler and the 4 miler on the exact same course in March. March was a 27:34. Today was a 27:35. But one must look at the splits, grasshopper. The splits. Very important. The splits, they hold the knowledge.

March: 6:47, 6:48, 7:06, 6:42

Today: 6:47, 6:43, 7:18, 6:34

It was hellaciously windy this morning, a very strong wind mostly going from west to east, although at times it felt southwesterly. My goal was to try to run 6:45s for at least three of the four miles. Mile three on this course is always awful for me — the transverse is often windy (as it was today) and the hills on mile three, while rolling, are exhausting.

I established a 6:45ish pace pretty much immediately and was feeling really good until the transverse when the wall of wind hit us. I was really working during mile three but trying to not work so hard that I’d wreck myself for the last mile. I was more successful with that today than I typically am, as evidenced by my 6:34 final mile. This is why looking at splits is important; they tell a more informative story than the finish line clock does. I’ve got a higher level of speed endurance than I had six weeks ago. I credit all the racing for that.

I also started up with the weight training again and have been experimenting with eating loads of protein and a bit more fat throughout the day. I lost three pounds, although I know quite a bit of it was water weight. But at least the scale’s moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, as part of this effort I’m tee-totaling, which is always a drag. But I find it’s easier to just not drink than to try to drink in moderation. Not because I have a problem. I just love to drink.

I briefly flirted with the idea of doing next Saturday’s Healthy Kidney 10K race. But I need to keep my eye on the immediate prize: running a halfway decent 1500 on the 18th. Racing a hilly 10K three days before that is not going to help. So next week will feature two speed sessions: another cutdown workout on Tuesday followed by some 300s (this is new) on Friday.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 400m repeats I did this week, hitting most of them at 90, although I cut the session short at the tail end of the ninth one when my pace fell off and my left hamstring started complaining. It’s taken so many hard lessons to learn to cut a workout short when there’s an issue, or not do it at all if it’s the wrong day to try.

In other news, my Olympic Trials interview project has started off well. I’ve got at least six women who are very interested in taking part, and I’m hoping to add at least a couple more to my roster. But I haven’t stopped looking. All the women have quite different running/racing backgrounds, which I’m very happy about. They are all interesting in one way or another.

*Since I am the nutritional director of the household this should be very easy for me to do. I’ll plan to feed him copious amounts of goose liver paté, slightly spoiled Stilton cheese and Baconnaise. I’m also going to start keeping an airhorn next to the bed for very early morning wakeups.

Spring Training: Week Ten

I’m starting to feel like a real runner again.

Now that I’m plunging into a few months of frequent racing, my training has taken on a different structure and quality. The most noticeable change has been in the number of workouts per week. They have generally dropped from three (tempo + speed + easy long) to two (tempo or speed + hard long or race). The mileage is, by comparison to last year, also a lot lower most weeks, with last week in the mid-30s.

I was very tired on Monday, so I just took it off. At this point, I’m seeing lots of evidence that the training is resulting in steady improvements. So recovering from those workouts has become equally important. I don’t want to either fizzle in the workouts or races, or drive myself back into a ditch of overtraining. Not when things are going so well. So I won’t hesitate to take a day off if my ass is dragging.

We’re trying to put a minimum of two rest days between a hard session and a race. This week, since I skipped the Saturday “Manhattan Monsoon” race (the NYRR 8000), I got three recovery days. That extra day didn’t seem to make me stale.

The nature of the workouts is also changing. This week my speed session featured 800m repeats, but with a twist: I was to run the first 600m in 2:30 (6:40 pace), then drop the hammer for the last 200 and run that in 45 (6:00 pace). This was a tough workout, not the least of which was because I was sharing the track with the entire Bronxville High track team (and it was, as usual, windy). But it would have been tough on an empty, windless track. Running uncomfortably fast for a few minutes and then running even faster proved a challenge both physically and mentally. This was also the first workout that I can remember in awhile that I felt slightly pukeworthy at times. However, I managed the paces, more or less. But I was fried afterwards.

The next few days were very easy because I thought I was going to be racing on Saturday. When I realized I wasn’t, I nevertheless cut back the planned mileage for Saturday from 10 to 6. I reasoned that if I was going to make the 2 miler my focus now, I might as well be as fresh as possible for it.

My legs felt great for the 2 miler, and I ended up with a few extra miles around it for warmup and jog cooldowns.

This week the mileage is back up into the 60s and I did a very challenging workout on Wednesday — a new sort which Kevin referred to as a “rite of passage” workout. More on that coming up in this week’s training recap. Next week features another surprise: my first “cutdown” workout on the track (1600, 1200, 800, 400 — all getting progressively faster). Then the Colon Cancer 4 miler next Sunday, where I hope to break 7:00 over that distance at last.

I’m also once again attempting to shed some of the extra baggage I’ve acquired in the past few months. My scale tops 134 now. Twenty months ago I weighed 126 and I felt a lot more comfortable at that weight, especially when running fast. It was very difficult to lose weight while running high mileage last year. I don’t know what the hell happens metabolically when you’re doing 90 mile weeks, but losing weight was all but impossible for me. Now I’m figuring that with relatively low mileage demands at the moment, my need for fuel should be on more of an even keel and perhaps my metabolism won’t be so inclined to demand calories every 90 minutes and then store them so enthusiastically.

Unfortunately, a concerted effort to lose the flab means scaling back on my usual gluttonous birthday plans in a few weeks and teetotalling most evenings. Moreover, my day gig’s team status call has been moved from Monday afternoon to the cruel hour of 8AM on Monday morning. This means I can’t get moderately inebriated on Sunday nights anymore and count on having half the day Monday to let a mild hangover seep out of my system. This is probably a good development, although I wish I’d had some say in the matter.

Race Report: TRRC Freezer Five Miler

This race was one of the many B or C list races I had on my calendar for the winter and spring. Unlike the four mile race I ran a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t planned on racing this one. So why did I race it? Because it was there.

I was feeling discouraged by my debacle of a speed session on Friday, aside from suffering from a bad case of cabin fever. I did a five mile recovery run along Fox Meadow Road and Walworth Avenue in Scarsdale yesterday (reasonably flat) and was surprised to find that I felt good and wanted to run fast.

Jonathan had planned to do the five mile race and I’d thought I’d go as his driver and support. But I reasoned that I hadn’t raced in a few weeks, and the next important race isn’t until mid March. I might as well race this one for the experience and practice. Naturally, I got a terrible night’s sleep and woke up two pounds heavier than the previous day, with stiff, sore legs. I figured I’d go in with low expectations and if I felt crummy I’d turn it into a tempo run.

I should note that this race (or at least the course it’s on) has some history for me. I ran my third race ever, a cold 10K in March 2006, on this course and haven’t been back since. My average pace per mile that day was 9:04. Today it was two minutes faster per mile and the hills didn’t seem nearly as bad as I remember them.

The race was held in FDR State Park, about a half an hour north of us. It’s just north of the Donald Trump State Park, which we’ve never been to, although I always like to say that it’s probably very classy.

The course is hilly, with fairly steep ups and downs, but they are short. In some ways, it reminds me of Central Park’s terrain and I’m thinking I should race and train there more often. The races there are on the small side, probably well under 200 people, so you can hit all the tangents and easily find individual runners to work on reeling in.

Today I had an experience that was eerily similar to my last Westchester Half Marathon in October. At the one mile turnaround (an out-and-back they tack on to come up with five miles) I noted that I was ninth woman again. So I worked on passing women over the next couple of miles. I managed to get into sixth place by mile three, at which point I could only see two women I had any hope of catching.

One of them turned out to be Yukiko Nishide, a prolific local masters runner who was running my exact pace, even the up- and downhill variations the whole way, but seven seconds ahead of me. Try as I might, I couldn’t close the 20 yard gap she had on me. I did manage to catch one woman, though — last year’s winner — about .2 miles from the finish, ultimately gaining four seconds on her, which was fun. My breathing as I passed her was something straight out of a porno soundtrack; thank goodness she was wearing headphones!

My first mile was the fastest at 6:50, with the rest varying between just under 7:00 up to 7:20 for one bad hilly mile. My legs were tired going in and there was a stiff headwind in some of the tougher uphill sections, so I would have been surprised to have broken 35:00. Official time was 35:26. In any event, I got fifth overall, second in the 40-49F AG. I suspect Ms. Nishide and I would have placed higher (as would have Jonathan, 13th overall and first in 50-59M) had a vanload of 20-year-olds from West Point not turned up.

Afterwards we ran into a friendly AG rival of Jonathan’s, Takashi Ogawa, and his wife, Katsura, who races on and off but always comes to his races. We last saw Takashi nearly a year ago as the three of us were deciding not to run a 30K race in torrential rain. He was preparing for the Green Bay Marathon at the time. Neither of us had seen him since and we wondered if they’d moved out of the area. It turns out Takashi pulled out of that race at the two mile mark with a hamstring injury, which he’s been working to come back from this entire time. While I was sorry to hear that news, it was comforting to know that we weren’t the only ones who’d had a disappointing 2009, at least for marathon racing.

The race was organized by the Taconic Road Runners Club. What they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. They only have around a dozen races a year, but I’d forgotten about the great post-race food they provide: homemade cookies and banana bread, coffee cake and excellent coffee, along with beer if you wanted that at 10:30 in the morning in sub-freezing temps. There was even a roaring fire going in the outdoors clubhouse. No water stops, which was a little weird. But they had race results up in hours rather than days.

Today I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I raced 36 hours after doing speedwork. I tried new tights and shoes (Asics Hyperspeed 3′s — men’s models, no less — which were outstanding to race in). I was groggy from a Lunesta I’d taken at 2am. I had wine last night. No taper whatsoever. I ate candy (Yes, candy. I know! I’m insane!) five minutes before the start. You name it, I did it wrong. Things went okay despite all that. I’m starting to think that I need to start caring less about doing everything correctly.

Spring Training: Week 4

The further along I get into training, or whatever it is I’m presently doing, the more relieved I am that I decided to skip doing a spring marathon. This past week shaped up to be a disappointing one, with low mileage, horrible weather and a severe bang to the head. All adding up to less than 45 miles, though not for lack of trying and regret for coming up short again.

If I was looking out to a race in 12 weeks, I’d be feeling pretty distressed. Maybe meandering slackerdom is the source of liberation I’ve been looking for all my life. No goal = no pressure + no disappointment. It also = no achievement, I realize. But everything in life’s a tradeoff…

Monday and Tuesday actually went pretty well. My recovery run pace continued to hold steady around 10:00 and my tempo pace picked up a smidgen. I felt horrible on Tuesday, the fallout of four days of celebratory eating and drinking. Which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed immensely. But I was certainly hauling the celebration along with me on Tuesday and forcing myself to run fast, and not particularly enjoying it. It’s times like this when I look back to the years during which I subsisted on vodka, Doritos and generic frozen pizza and realize I must have felt horrible pretty much all of the time.

My legs were dead on Wednesday, no huge surprise there.

Snow, ice and plunging temperatures resumed on Thursday, which featured a morning run I won’t soon forget. Or maybe I will, if I suffered any permanent brain damage. Still, determined to get those miles in, I went out again on Thursday afternoon and struggled through another few, although I had to stop and walk often due to residual ice.

On Friday I woke up and the right side of my neck was swollen and in a fair amount of pain. My back wasn’t happy either. It was a long, stressful workday as well, a 9 on the Stress-o-Meter. So I said fuck it and skipped the workout. If ever there was a day to take off, this was it.

Or maybe Saturday was. I took that off too. A mild headache (probably from that huge martini on Friday), continued neck pain, a persistent malaise and slight fever sent me to bed for the most the day.

And everything had been going so well.

Even though I’ve curbed my hypochondriacal impulses, I Googled “concussion symptoms” anyway. Headache, malaise, upset stomach: check, check, check. But no memory loss or single pupil dilations. Increased irritability? With me, who can tell? Did I really want to go in for an x-ray of my head or whatever they do? Bah. The treatment for a mild concussion is the same as what I was doing anyway: rest.

Even though the latter part of the week fell apart, I did manage to finally sleep well last night and wake up this morning feeling halfway decent. The headache was finally gone, my neck was in reasonable shape and I had some energy (or maybe it was just cabin fever gnawing at me). Sure, it was 5F outside with the windchill, but ain’t no way I was going to go into that stupid treadmill room. I would run outside if it killed me.

As so often happens, the runs I have the lowest expectations of often turn out to be surprisingly good ones. I’d originally planned to run a meandering hilly route through local streets, but at the last minute decided I’d check out the running path to see if it was still covered in murderous ice. It looked okay, so I decided to do a loop down to Bronxville and then see how far north I could get before the path became unrunable again. The Bronx River was partly frozen and I was half expecting to see hapless ducks and geese trapped in the ice like miniature versions of Shackleton’s Endurance.*

My legs felt great after two days of rest, so I decided to just run as fast as I wanted to for whatever distance seemed good. Sounds like a solid plan! I ended up doing a progression run, starting out at 9:10 or so and ending up around 7:25. Not great, but better than I expected for the effort I was expending. The path is still a giant jigsaw puzzle of black ice in spots, but it’s not too bad. We’re supposed to get temps above freezing this week, so I’m hoping those will go away.

I’m scheduled to do 70 this coming week, with 3-4 days of doubles. Yep, well, we’ll see. Between work and the weather, I’ve no clue what I’ll be able to do. But this week I demonstrated to myself that even now, after a year of disappointment, currently feeling slow and fat, and much of the time wondering why I’m bothering to pursue running seriously at all, I still care enough to go out and try.

My first race of the year is next Sunday and I have no idea how I feel about it. Or, rather, I do. I feel worried. And bad in advance. I’m certain I’ll race like shit, all things considered. So should I just race and accept where I am right now? Or skip racing until I feel “ready,” whatever that means? I’ll decide on Sunday morning.

*There. This is the cleverest witticism I could come up with today. I thought that one up while running. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Spring Training: Week 3

I was a happy runner this week. All my paces dropped and recovery time is also getting back on track after two weeks of very delayed recovery.

It was overall a speedier week, with the exception of Wednesday, which featured some wicked menstrual cramps in the first two miles — so bad that for a few minutes I thought I might lose my oatmeal. That passed, but not after strolling for a third of a mile; hence, the slow overall pace. But by and large my recovery runs are in the 10:00 range, a good minute faster than even a few weeks ago.

Tuesday’s midlength run was an odd one. I started out running inexplicably slow relative to effort. Then something kicked into gear and I was running faster at the same effort. The middle three miles were slowed by a muddy, slippery trail. But I was pleased to break 9:00 pace for a run in the high 70%s for effort.

I returned to the track on Friday morning for what turned out to be surprisingly good session. I say “surprisingly” because I again was running like crap for the warmup miles and had resigned myself to probably having an equally ho-hum speed session. But I started in on the faster quarter miles and found that running 1:34-1:38 felt just right (assigned pace was slower, but it felt way too slow). HR’s were in the right range, so I’m glad I went with the impulse to run them faster. I wore my spikes, which I’m sure helped speed me along.

Saturday’s recovery run (around 10:00, even though I left it off the chart) was also fine. I’m so used to running recoveries at 11:00 pace that it makes me nervous to go faster. But my HR says it’s fine, so I go.

This morning’s 14+ miler was great fun. I started with three miles below 73% then picked things up to 74-78%, throwing in a couple of 81% miles at the end. Ran those at 8:23, a pace that required considerably more effort a month ago.

Next week goes back down to 60 miles, but with three quality workouts again. All my workout paces are getting adjusted downward in light of this week’s data.

I’m feeling confident enough that I’ll be running as consistently as planned this season to go ahead and buy some new shoes to rotate into my colorful menagerie of blown rubber. It’s early in the year, which means the new models are coming out and you know what that means: the “old” models are on sale! I picked up two pairs of Pearl Izumi Streaks for around $70 with tax and shipping each. That’s at least $15-20 off what I’ve paid for those in the past. I’ve got several newer pairs of racing flats of various makes and two pairs of my recovery run stalwarts (the Saucony Grid Tangent 3) early in their mileage lives. So I’m set for the next few months.

The racing calendars are starting to take shape as well. I’m going to do as much racing as I can in Central Park this season (in pursuit of my coveted bib, plus there are a few races I enjoy, such as the Colon Cancer 15K). I’ll take it month by month, but it looks likely that I’ll be racing at least every 2-3 weeks. Some weeks will be back to back. I’ve even got one weekend where I might do back to back races on Saturday and Sunday (short ones).

But I’ll play it by ear. The first goal — enjoying training again and seeing improvement — is starting to take shape. Having fun racing again is the next goal on the horizon.

The Law and Order SVU Drinking Game

It’s been cold beyond description in NY lately, so I’ve been forced to do most of my runs inside on the treadmill. This means lots of hours in front of the tube in my tricked out workout crib.

When I get sick of Alpine Skiing on Universal Sporks (“Next up: the Women’s Super G Spot!”), I turn to “Law and Order SVU,” which, like me, always seems to be running a bad marathon. There are about 4,000 episodes, so this doesn’t surprise me. While I can’t drink and run (much as I’ve tried), I can make up drinking games while running. Here’s one I made up for Law and Order SVU.

Take one drink when:

  • Mariska Hargitay says “Oh, my God.”
  • Tamara Tunie (aside: that woman has the most beautiful skin) describes any victim as having “bled out.”
  • Christopher Meloni roughs up a suspect.
  • Ice-T calls someone “bro.”
  • Police tech cracks into a network or comes up with a password in less than 10 seconds.
  • Anyone mentions “Hudson University.”

Take two drinks when:

  • Richard Belzer brings up a conspiracy theory. Three drinks it if involves the CIA.
  • Mariska Hargitay opens up a mildly creepy “comfort the victim” session with, “Hi. I’m Olivia. What’s your name?”
  • Any judge screams, “Get him/her out of my courtroom!”
  • Christopher Meloni mentions his divorce or one of his kids.
  • Mariska Hargitay “goes undercover.”
  • Dan Florek says the brass is going to be “coming down hard” on him soon.

Finish the bottle when:

  • Stephanie March screws up her case (this happens more often than you’d think).
  • Someone attempts to murder one of the major members of the cast.
  • Any detective leaves the Tri-State Area to investigate a case.

Have fun!

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