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!

Oh, right. I remember now.

I remember 2007. Or at least I remember my paces from 2007. ‘Cause that’s what I’m running these days!

This week was the first one during which I attempted anything resembling training, after four weeks’ rest and recovery from my blowup in Sacramento. I’ll post a detailed report after tomorrow, but I thought I’d do a post of early observations and random news.

Lots and lots of runners I follow are mourning their downtime-induced loss of speed. I know exactly what they’re talking about. My tempo pace is probably 30-40 seconds per mile slower than it was two months ago. 8-10K pace is about what my tempo pace used to be. Recovery runs are only a little slower than they used to be (although I always ran them on the slow side once the mileage got above 70 mpw).  I haven’t attempted much in the general aerobic range, but I’ll be dipping my toes back into that world tomorrow.

Along with speed, it seems I’ve also lost endurance. Whereas doing a 10 mile recovery run used to be easy, I’m getting tired right in the 6-7 mile range.

So I’ve got some work to do.

The weather has not exactly been conducive to good training. We’ve had the coldest winter in NY that I recall, save for my first year here (1985), in which this transplanted Californian simply couldn’t fathom sub-zero windchills. I also had not familiarized myself with wool and spent that winter freezing my ass off (because I was 20 years old and broke all the time) in $5 cotton layers purchased from the tables of Senegalese purveyors along 14th Street in Manhattan.

Anyway, it’s been cold. Plus it’s snowed, which partially melted, then refroze, leaving my beloved 11 mile running path an unrunnable sheet of pockmarked ice. Yesterday I had my first real intervals session in months scheduled. But my local rich high school’s million dollar Mondo track was covered in the morning’s fall of snow, so it was back to the treadmill again.

My first race of the season, a four miler, is in a month. After yesterday’s foray into running at 93% effort, my expectations are low. Still, since it’s in Central Park I’ll be able to use it as a good gauge of fitness. I honestly don’t expect to run sub-7:00 (the time that would gain me the coveted first corral bib qualification). Maybe I’ll surprise myself, though. How much fitness can I regain in four weeks? We shall see. Given the bad running conditions and how slow-as-shit I feel lately, I am glad not to be under pressure to train for a marathon in early May anymore.

In other News About Me…

Since I find it easier to lose fat when I’m not running 80-95 mpw, and I’m sporting more of it than I’d like, I’m once again on the wagon and keeping my chubby little mitts away from Nutella, roasted cashews and my various other calorie-dense weaknesses. This plan will partially go to hell at the end of the month, when we celebrate Jonathan’s birthday. But since we’re both sporting tight pants these days, it should be a fairly restrained celebration.

I committed (as it were) to be an alternate on PigtailsFlying‘s team for June’s Green Mountain Relay in Vermont. Like most other things running-related this year, I’m taking a “fuck it, I’ll try that” attitude. The introvert who needs six hours of alone time each day screams “Nooooo!” at the idea of spending three solid days with a bunch of strangers, much of it in a confined (very confined) space (and mobile too, which is sure to bring out my motion sickness), during which sleep and personal hygiene are considered non-essentials.

But the same introvert who misses the moments of pleasure and surprise in spending time with strangers is bellowing from the other shoulder that this could actually be fun – if I only reoriented my perspective from one of discomfort and deprivation to one of adventure and discovery. As my sister pointed out, it’s only a few days. And good blog fodder. But, then, so is the stomach flu. Don’t I sound like a great teammate already? No wonder I’m an alternate; Pigtails has met me exactly once, but I guess that was enough!

I’ve got no signs of injury. Anywhere. Even after my faster (cough cough) running on the treadmill yesterday. Nary a niggle. Nothing. I’m wondering how long this will last. All season, if I’m careful. I hope.

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