Post #300

That’s right, I’ve found enough gibberish to fill 300 posts over the past few years. I have a grand total of five Bloglines subscribers, attesting to the wild popularity of this blog among runners (and my family members) the world over. Won’t you join me in celebrating my bloviations, which are anonymously spewed into the echo chamber that is the blogosphere?

The reaching of milestones often leads to philosophical ponderings and the seeking of perspective. Or it should. So, rather than “waste” this post on a workaday subject (my weekly training log, an interview with someone much faster than me, or a funny story about what I saw a squirrel do today), I’ll make some observations.

When I started writing this blog in 2006…

… I had a 32-33 inch waist. Now it’s around 28 inches in girth.

… A 10 miler was the week’s big workout; a “long” run that would knock me out for the entire day. Now it’s what I run on my recovery days.

… My resting heart rate was around 60 bpm. Now it’s at 42 on a good day, 48 when I’m tired.

… My 5 mile race pace was 8:00. My marathon race pace today is around 30 seconds per mile faster than that and dropping.

… I had shin splints. All of the time.

… I had just run my first half marathon. I was still too intimidated by the full marathon distance to conceive of running it myself.

… I was happy if I placed in the top 40% of all female finishers. My goals have gotten significantly more ambitious since then.

… It was a year in which I would run just over 1,100 miles. For 2008, I will have run over three times that distance.

… I designed my own marathon training plan and, even though I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, still managed to break four hours on a challenging course for my 2007 debut at the distance.

… I couldn’t drink water from cups during races. I still can’t without inhaling it through my nose and/or spilling it down my front.

… I thought coaches were only for the pros.

I could go on, but I won’t. It’s 5:40 PM on the Sunday after Christmas, and I think that’s as good a time as any to raise a glass in honor of Post 300.

Take off that race bib and pick up that drink!

Pigtails Flying and I are trying to organize a meet and chat for NYC area running bloggers. Go vote on the best date in January for our meetup.

Uh, okay. This is working.

Today marked the end of my third week of coach-assisted basebuilding. I’m officially convinced that working with a coach was the right thing to do.

I’ll post my usual recap of the week’s training tomorrow morning, but I wanted to post about a few things specifically.

I’ll start by saying that I was initially a little worried when I saw the plan Kevin gave me. I knew I could handle the workload, but it seemed a bit intense for just the basebuilding phase. Specifically, it looked more like marathon training, not basebuilding. I no longer feel that way after having spent three weeks easily being able to handle the buildup in mileage and doing three hard runs a week.

Dang. This really works. Witness:

  • My resting heart rate has dropped from 48-50 to 46. You can’t argue with that.
  • My recovery runs are getting faster with no change in effort.
  • I am hitting my paces for all faster sessions. Don’t get me wrong — they are not easy. But they are doable.
  • The dreaded 3:00AM DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) has been minimal.
  • I feel recovered and ready for each hard session.

But today’s run is the one that sold me. It was the last run of an 80 mile week and one that I’d been, well, not dreading, but ruminating about during the latter part of the week: 18 miles “steady” pace, which translates into an 8:15 pace (or about 90% marathon effort). That is a long way to run at that effort.

To prepare, I did a two day mini carbohydrate load (not a ton, but basically making sure I had enough stored away) and made sure I was well hydrated. I also took care to get adequate sleep.

I did a leisurely warmup for the first three miles (9:17, 8:53, 8:27). Then I got down to work. For the next six miles I average 8:11. Then I backed off for two miles (hills and headwind), running around 8:25 each — I also took in some carbohydrates at mile 10, which gave me a lift shortly thereafter. Then I ran the next seven miles at an average 8:07 pace, finishing up with an extra half mile for which I motored along at 7:48.

I felt great during the entire run, despite brisk, shifting winds and a face full of snow in the last two miles, and had no problem picking up the pace. Despite the slow early miles, my average pace for the run was 8:17. Pretty much right on the nose.

Side note: In addition to having a great run, I also was a good Samaritan today. As I was pausing at my car at mile 10 I witnessed a woman take the paint off the side of a Volvo with her Mercedes SUV during a botched parking attempt. She proceeded to park in another space about 30 feet away. I waited to see if she would post anything to the windshield of the car she’d just done significant damage to. Not surprisingly (but no less appallingly), she didn’t, although I did notice her take the time to see what the damage was to her own car (minimal). So I posted her  make, model and license plate number to the damaged car myself. I’ve had damage done to my car by people like this and it really pisses me off.

Fookin’ chilly!

As in 2007, winter has arrived a month early in an instantaneous, nostril-freezing blast over the last couple of days. We had one of the longest winters in the quarter-odd century I’ve lived in New York last year, and I’m wondering if this year will be a repeat.

No matter. Except for the problem of ice and the demonic drivers who hurtle over it with aplomb in their two ton deathmobiles (we have precious few sidewalks in our suburban hamlet), I love winter training. The colder the better.

Racing in cold weather is even more delighted squeal inducing, and I’ll have a chance to race in wind chills of around 13 degrees tomorrow morning. I ran my measly five recovery miles this morning at embarrassingly slow pace in anticipation. Race report to come.

For now, it’s almost 4PM on Thanksgiving Week Eve, which means everyone I work with has ceased to care about anything, a situation that I happily embrace. I’m technically working today, but it consists of cleaning out my email inbox and addressing the 14 inch high stack of crap that’s accumulated on my desk over the last 11 months. My manager at Massive Nameless Corporation just dragged me into gifted me with two more months-long projects, so I’m feeling fairly confident that I’ll be able to continue to pay for running shoes, quality beer and interesting cheeses for another year.

The problem of losing fitness

And I’m not talking about running fitness. I’m talking, of course, about drinking fitness.

Since I’ve been watching the calories to keep from becoming even more manatee-like during these weeks of post-race recovery, I had not a drop of alcohol all week. Until last night. I thought I was being restrained: two sets of a beer and a vodka shot (a trashy favorite of mine; Yuengling and Svedka, if you must know). I thought I’d be fine.

Woke up at 4:30 with a raging headache. I managed to get back to sleep until about 8:00, but felt like warmed over Alpo. I was surprised — I’m a complete lightweight after a mere week!

Since I had a 10 mile run scheduled for this morning, I forced myself out the door at 10:30 and, lo, it was good. I managed an 8:29 pace at 80% max heart rate. Over a somewhat hilly course, no less.

I still have a headache, but I feel much better than I did a few hours ago. Honestly, if you can get your head out of the toilet and your ass out on the road, a good run does wonders for a hangover.

I’m planning to go out and watch the NYC marathon from the sidelines tomorrow. I’ve never actually “spectated” a marathon before, so I’m curious. It’s also probably the best assemblage of elite women in the race’s history. How can I sit at home and miss seeing them fly by live? I’m going to hang out in the Bronx near the Willis Avenue Bridge: Mile 20, aka “The Wall”. Since this is the point in the race where a runner’s fate over the remaining miles becomes most evident, I’m hoping it will offer a dramatic vantage point, both for watching the elite men and women as well as the “Joe the Runners” who will follow them. If I get some good snaps, I’ll post them here.

3…2…1…

The start is nigh.

At least for now, the stars are aligning in my favor. The weather report is near-perfect (although I’d prefer overcast to full sun, but whatever): cool, dry and with a 1-3mph wind tops. I had a great night’s sleep last night thanks to Lunesta. I am carboloading and drinking water to beat the band and have gained 2 lbs. — bad for my ego, but an excellent sign of good hydration and glycogen storage. I have no aches, pains or other niggles. And, despite lots of exposure to public places (and, hence, germs) in the past two weeks, I have made it to marathon weekend without having caught a cold or other bug.

I’ll go out for a little 2-3 mile run in a few minutes. Then I pack up my running gear and pre- and post-race food and libations. I was buying post-race treats at Trader Joe’s yesterday and the woman at the register said, “Are you having company this weekend?” I lied: “Yes! How did you ever guess?” It seemed freakish to say, “No, I’m running a marathon on Sunday, after which I plan to lie on a bed in a hotel room Scranton, Pennsylvania, consuming all this food along with lots of wine, ideally while watching a mindless three hour Lifetime movie starring Melissa Gilbert, Cheryl Ladd or Meredith Baxter-Birney.”

I have so much to do. So I’d better get to it.

We’re going to try to drive the course so I can see what I’m in for. If I’m not in a state of catatonic shock as a result, I’ll post again pre-race.

Fall Training: Week 13

A little late in coming, but it was quite a week last week and I’ve been sleeping when I haven’t been working (or propped glassy-eyed in front of the Olympics).

I had big miles again last week and three hard workouts: 99.4 miles with a tempo session on the track, a midweek long run and a big 24 miler in Central Park.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 6.8 tempo run (AM); 4.1 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 14.3 long run (steady pace) (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 6.3 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.4 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 24 mile long run (various paces) (AM)

Total mileage: 99.4 miles

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 9:30 – 10:40
  • Tempo: 6:33 – 7:20
  • Marathon pace: Pffft!
  • Long: 7:40 – 8:30

The weather was somewhat better on a few mornings, but most days it was hot again. Too hot to hold desired paces. Again. If I hadn’t done some successful marathon pace running last week during a rare cool and dry morning, my confidence would be completely shot at this point.

Tuesday’s tempo run was an experiment with something I found called Frank’s Killer Tempo Run: 25 laps around a track, alternating between marathon and 5K race pace. I’m not sure how many runners’ deaths Frank is responsible for, but this workout nearly killed me. In fact, it was impossible to run at my (projected) 5K race pace of 6:30 for most of those quicker intervals. The usual problems: heat, humidity, blazing sun, and 8-10mph winds. *sigh*

Still, it was a good workout and I’m sure it did me some good because it basically wrecked me for the rest of the week. I’ll do it again, but next time I’ll run the faster loops at 10K race pace, which is closer to what I was able to do anyway.

Wednesday’s 14+ miler went very well. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I can sometimes do good back-to-back days, with the fatigue delayed until after that second hard day. I usually feel great (and run well) after the first hard day, in fact.

But I do pay for it during the latter part of the week. I gave myself three days to recover and get ready for the longest run of this training cycle, a 24 miler. Because I hate myself, I decided to do this one in Central Park. I had planned to do 10 at marathon pace, but, alas, the tireness after banging away at close to 100 miles for three weeks — combined with the relentless hills, heat and humidity — meant that marathon pace running was not to be.

I did manage about 6 miles at marathon effort (although not marathon pace), which I was fine with. Hey, doing the other 18 miles at 8:30 pace is nothing to sneeze at, considering. So I made peace with my legs and with myself and looked forward to this week’s recovery period of low mileage and low intensity.

We went out to dinner Sunday evening (for the great caloric blowout a 24 miler calls for) at a newish place in Tuckahoe, The Tap House. Nice place, but unfortunately the food was mediocre. With the exception of Sammy’s Downtown in Bronxville (where we had a very nice dinner on Christmas Eve), the restaurant pickings up here have been slim. I always end up wondering afterwards why I bothered going out when I can cook great stuff myself at home. They do have some interesting beers there, though.

Next week begins the month long “peak” period, otherwise known as Julie’s Odyssey of Pain and Exhaustion. Four weeks of high mileage, high intensity work with lots of marathon-specific running. Including a 10 mile tuneup race* (pray for cool weather). So I want to make damned sure I’m recovered going in. I’ll be running somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 miles this week, perhaps less if I’m still feeling tired as the week progresses.

Coming up in Fall Training Week 14: Two full days off on Monday and Tuesday. Then recovery running all the way through Saturday, topped with a leisurely paced 14 miler on Sunday.

* This is the best race ever, as far as I’m concerned. The post-race party features fresh ravioli, ice cream — plus beer poured from a spigot attached to the side of a van. Now there’s a reason to run 10 miles fast!

An expensive hobby?

Or a cheap passion?

I recently discovered, thanks to Quicken, that we spend around 1.5% of our gross income on running annually. Is that high? Low?

It’s more than what we spend on liquor. That’s saying something, right?

Happy New Year…almost…

So many choices. What will I be doing this evening? Well, for one thing, I’ll be staying as far away from Times Square as possible. I did that once. Never again.

We have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, some appealing liquor choices, the makings of homemade pizza, and a Planet of the Apes marathon on AMC. What more does one need to ring in the new year?

Tomorrow I do a tempo run and take down the Christmas decorations in the morning. Then I lie on the couch all afternoon watching hours of English Premier League Football and consuming (for me) vast quantities of beer (three?).

It’s all over on Wednesday.

Julie the Hut

Blorg. I am bloated with Christmas spirit.

I can’t believe how much I’ve had to eat and drink in the past 48 hours.

Christmas Eve featured:

  • a large vodka martini
  • goose pate (“no liver” — I’m not quite sure how to interpret that, since I thought pate was liver)
  • a pound+ sirloin steak
  • an enormous pile of french fries
  • a large piece of chocolate raspberry cake
  • too many glasses of wine to count

Christmas Day wasn’t much better — although since I was still digesting the Eve’s excesses I really didn’t eat much until the “turkey and fixings” extravaganza started around 6 o’clock yesterday. I was sufficiently inebriated and stuffed to fall into bed, semi-conscious, at around 9:15. I won’t enumerate what I consumed yesterday since it’s shameful. But it was delicious. And it only took five hours to prepare.

But, to my credit, I’ve been running a lot despite the bricks in my stomach. I did 10 miles of recovery running on Christmas Eve, a 10 mile easy run (last two at marathon pace) Christmas Day, and a 14 miler today. If I’m lucky, I’ll break even on the calories, although judging by the size of my stomach, I’m not so sure.

Santa, in collusion with Jonathan, brought some good running stuff in this year. This top — in red — from UnderArmour (which I love, although it’s currently embarrassingly form-fitting), and this hat. And this thermos for post-run tea or hot chocolate (when I “park and run” up in Scarsdale for my Sunday long runs). And…and…and…nice, thoughtful gifts from my generous family.

It’s a very quiet week at work, so I’m getting things done like archiving project files and emails, listening to pre-recorded “2008 strategy” calls and trying to decipher their encrypted messages…and generally catching up on other administrata that I haven’t had time to do lately.

Tomorrow morning is the annual “drug the cat” event, in which I administer Kitty Kwaludes to our half-feral cat in order to get her in to the vet for annual shots. It takes her about a day and half to get back to normal, during which time she’s stumbling around like Robert Mitchum at the Oscars, and we’re just focusing on not letting her fall down the stairs. In our household, the excitement truly never stops.

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