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.

———————————————————–

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.

Well, that was alright

Today marked my tentative return to racing, hot on the heels of my tentative return to training. Tomorrow it will be six months to the day that I suffered a catastrophic fracture to my right sacrum on the hills of Central Park in the Club Championships. I have kept the racing shoes I was wearing at the time, with that race’s D-Tag still attached, within view of our bed. Every morning I wake up, see the shoes, and remind myself that I’ll race sometime again.

This morning I finally got to cut the D-Tag off and put a new one on. It was a meaningful moment. I’ll admit that I was a little reluctant to wear the same shoes, lest they jinx me. But I’m not superstitious in the least, and I love racing in them (they are men’s — unisex, whatever — Asics Gel Hyperspeeds that I inherited from Jonathan, for whom they were slightly too small).

I almost didn’t run this race, the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler. Twice. Yesterday I ran two very easy 3 milers on the treadmill, as Coach Sandra’s pre-race schedule instructs. I couldn’t do the 100m strides (’cause I was on the stupid treadmill). After the AM run, my right leg didn’t feel good. Specifically, it’s an area in my groin that I place somewhere between the innermost adductor and the hamstring insertion point. I will call it my “graint.” My graint hurt during and after that run. I stretched and rolled the hell out of the area for an hour afterwards. Then I did the second run in the evening. Same issue. More stretching, rolling and cursing under my breath. The issue abated for a few hours but reemerged while I was, of all things, lying on the couch watching Spartacus. I went to bed, figuring that if it was still complaining in the morning I’d bag the race rather than risk a repeat performance of August.

This morning arrived, way too early, because I was nervous, at 5AM. All was well with the graint. In fact, everything was going really well. No traffic. Conveniently located snowdrift to park in. Baggage wasn’t too crowded. Then I went for my warmup just north of the start line. The course on East Drive was a mess. Slush and black ice abounded. It was especially treacherous in spots immediately south and north of the 72nd St Transverse. I probably ran under a mile to warm up, primarily as an investigative sortee to scope out where the worst spots were on the road. Was the entire course going to be like this? 15 minutes before start, I nearly headed home. One overextension of my graint and I could be screwed for months to come.

Things looked a little better on Cat Hill where, not coincidentally, there was some sun. I figured I should run at least the first half mile conservatively (and note where other runners ahead might be falling on their asses) and be careful in the shady sections. I lined up toward the back of the blue corral, where it was Sardine City.

I didn’t feel well. I haven’t slept well all week and the cumulative deficit showed in the mirror this morning. My stomach was screwed up before the race, no doubt due to nerves. I have not run at a sustained high effort for more than two miles since the summer. And, atop all this worry, I remain worried about getting reinjured. I have learned that it can happen easily and without warning.

So, yes, “conservative start” were the watch words today. I was glad to be in the back of the corral. Let others fly out and find the ice patches. I didn’t want to feel pushed to run faster than I was comfortable running. My “fast” running has been around 7:10 lately. Not surprisingly, that’s the pace I ran today.

I left the Garmin at home, but I wore my basic Timex so I could at least get my finish time and, if I remembered, the mile splits. I didn’t look at my watch while I was racing, as I’ve learned that this is A Bad Thing To Do. Mile 1 was on the slow side: 7:20. I somehow missed the 2 mile marker, but at 3 those two together were 14:24. I made up time on the last mile, a 6:59. I did not race all out today, although I was close. To be honest, I was worried about my graint exploding with rage should I push the pace below 7:00. But it was fine throughout and I only felt slight complaints at the end. Within a few minutes, those were gone. It’s fine now.

The purpose of this race was threefold:

  1. Simply have the experience of racing again. I have missed this unbelievably so.
  2. See if I can run fast without retriggering my chronic injury.
  3. Get some sense of my current fitness level.

As for 1, I got it. It was fun. I wished I’d raced a little harder, but item 2 took priority. That was also good. I feel confident about going back into hard training again. I will add some fartlek work (on the treadmill, not in the pool, yay) this coming week. Item 3 was about where I expected it to be: I’ve been doing tempo work at around 7:15 on a flat treadmill. It makes sense that I’d get about that pace racing on hills.

I missed out on an AG award by 1 second. That’s okay. One lucite paperweight is enough for me. Official time: 28:42, 55th F overall. Well off my best on that course of 27:34, but that’s no big surprise.

I am so fucking happy to have run a significant distance on the faster side with (seemingly) no ill effects. You have no idea.

The fat mystery widens

I went to The Nutritionist today. It’s been about a month since I last saw her. Since then I’ve been declared healthy by The Endocrinologist and I have had a VO2 max test at a local gym/personal training place in Hartsdale. But apparently the testers did not do a resting metabolic rate test, which they were supposed to. My data readouts also did not include calorie usage at the various heart rates, another requirement. The Nutritionist thinks the data for the latter is probably still in their machine, so she’s going to go try to get it from them. If it looks wacky, I will need to go back for a resting metabolic rate test. And if it’s not available, I’ll have to go for the VO2 max test again.

It’s been around 7 weeks since I first met with The Nutritionist and in this time, following what normal people follow to lose fat, I should have lost about 4 lbs. I have lost nothing. I have tracked every morsel of food and in fact, when asked if I’ve failed to account for the errant cookie, had to point out the cake I had for breakfast one day as well as double or triple vodka shots some evenings. I’ve been honest, even about things I’m not proud of.

It seems that on some days I am cutting too few calories, too many on others. I also am failing to take in enough carbohydrates after hard workouts. And I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. So I’m going to be given a menu of what to eat and when. We’re cutting calorie intake slightly. Then after we chase down the missing data, perhaps make more adjustments.

I would by lying if I said I wasn’t losing both faith and patience.

Here’s what the VO2 max test was like, if you’re curious. I was told that the place preferred to do it on a bike, and now I know why (wait for it). I requested a treadmill test nevertheless. I’m a runner, so I figured the calorie vs. heart rate/pace data would be more useful to me as a runner. Too bad it’s missing!

Okay, here’s what happens: They attach a big mask to your face with straps around your head. You look just like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. The mask is equipped with a flexible membrane that contains a sensor that measures your intake of oxygen vs. your expulsion of carbon dioxide. From that they determine things like aerobic threshold, lactate threshold and VO2 max. I have a tiny head (no derisive comments, please), so the straps were at their tightest. Yet still the mask was loose, which means oxygen was escaping out the top, over the bridge of my nose. This was not a good thing. So one of the trainers had to stand next to the treadmill and hold the mask in place. Awkward.

The test lasted 12 minutes. The heart rate monitor was wonky at first (which is why I rarely use them anymore), plus I was nervous, so my heart rate was a soaring 104. This is double my usual resting rate. It would not come down. So we just went ahead and started the test.

After a very short warmup at 9:30 pace we launched into things, gradually picking up the pace over the next couple of minutes. Soon I was running flat at 7:30 pace. That was a pace I could run very comfortably at, which was a pleasant discovery. I think my marathon pace must be slightly slower than that at this point. After gathering some data at that pace they started to increase the incline. Little by little, the hill got steeper and steeper and my heart rate went up and up. At the 10:45 mark it was starting to feel very hard.

Throughout this process, I could only stare straight ahead and use hand motions (thumbs up) to communicate. That’s because there was someone standing six inches away holding a mask to my face while someone else’s hands fiddled with the treadmill settings. I could not see anything below the bridge of my own nose. It was disorienting and worrying. I realized at one point that the reason they’d had me sign a waiver wasn’t that they were worried I’d drop dead of a heart attack — it was that I’d pitch backward off the treadmill and crack my skull on the belt. Tremendous concentration was required to stay upright and relaxed.

At 11:30 I was struggling. The incline was up to 4%, at 8mph about the equivalent of 6:45 (although who knows how fast the treadmill was actually going). At 12:10, with my heart rate at 202, I was gasping and we stopped the test. It was close enough to max, which I have clocked at 208 at the end of an “I’m about to puke” 5K race.

My VO2 max is 45.5 at the moment, a little lower than when I’ve been at my fittest (it’s more like 47 then). That was good to see, because it tells me that the months of mind-numbingly tedious cross-training were worthwhile and even the little bit of faster running I’ve been doing lately has helped.

The guys who did the test were really nice, and we chatted for quite awhile afterward. They don’t do many of them (which is why they did mine for free — to practice). They only work with about five runners, and I got the distinct impression that I’m the oldest one. So I sort of felt like someone’s science project. They offered to let me come back to do the test on the bike to compare the results (and, now I realize, so they could practice some more), for free. I may take them up on it.

In other news, I am registered for Sunday’s Gridiron 4 Miler in Central Park. I picked up my bib and for a moment thought, with a frisson of delight, that it was number 666. The last digit was obscured by the attached D-Tag. I am, in fact, number 661. If just five people had registered before me I could have run as The Antichrist.

The bib is blue. At least my pre-injury speedster paces have not expired as far as corral assignment goes. I was on the fence about doing this race, but getting a blue bib (it’s the color of the first corral, for those of you not in the NYRR know) makes me feel obligated in a some weird way.

I have no time goal for the race. I just want to race as best I can. It’s been six months. I miss racing. My biggest worry is that my problematic adductor will rebel, as it’s wont to do lately if I try to run too fast. I have promised myself that if it really starts to hurt then I will drop.

“Everything looks great!”

The Endocrinologist has spoken in her three-word addendum at the bottom of my test results: there’s nothing obviously wrong with me, at least in any of the areas she tested for. While I’m glad there’s nothing wrong, I was kind of hoping whatever she tested for would yield some clues.

The Nutritionist remains puzzled by my total lack of progress: “I wonder what your metabolic rate is.” Uh, I’m thinking it’s in the basement, or being warmed by magma. To get an answer to that question, I am still trying to get an appointment set up at the fitness facility with the dodgy carbon dioxide detector. No one was there today when I called — another snow day?

Yeah, so here’s the part where I whine and wallow in a most unattractive fashion.

My damned adductor is acting up again, for no apparent reason, asserting itself during a two hour driveway-clearing session this morning. It’s been snowing non-stop, making getting the 25 minutes north to the gym impossible on many days. I often don’t feel like running on our treadmill, so I blow it off; it just seems completely pointless. I’m chronically injured (as is Jonathan). I’m getting fatter, for reasons no one understands. I cannot run outside because of the snow and ice. What the fuck am I even training for? I can’t even set any goals in this current state. I will part with $290 for two Chicago Marathon registrations next week, but I don’t even know why. I don’t know if I can even handle a 4 mile race in 10 days, physically or psychologically.

Why did I love running? What did it feel like, to believe I could improve? I’m having trouble remembering.

Random bloviations

I enjoyed hosting this podcast earlier in the evening. I am always a total fucking wreck in the hours before doing interviews and tonight was no exception. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. I am always nervous beforehand. I do it anyway. But having good interviewees helps a lot and tonight I scored an 11 (see previous Spinal Tap reference). I am grateful for the participation and insights of my three excellent guests, Lize Brittin, Dave Dunham and Diane Israel.

We had another good podcast yesterday on the New York Running Show, primarily about NYRR’s new Club Points Race lineup for 2011. We’re trying not to make every week’s show about NYRR, but it’s a little hard to avoid them as subject matter. Overall, we were all pleased with the changes, although there was trepidation in particular about how NYRR will handle the Fifth Avenue Mile, now that it’s a club scoring event.

I got a media pass for Friday’s Millrose Games. That was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I suspect they gave it to me because I said, “I don’t want anything from you — Media Center space, press table seat, etc. — I’m just a humble journeywoman blogger/podcaster…I won’t make much noise or eat hardly anything…” I have no clue where I’m sitting, but I’ll take whatever they’re offering. The track is a paperclip anyway, so I’m thinking that even bad seats probably aren’t that bad.

Jonathan’s running again. Around 50 minutes at a time. He zips round and round and round on our gym’s own paperclip track, an open-air number with 90 degree turns on the second floor. I watch him overhead as I toil on the treadmill. It’s a pleasing sight indeed. Also, his birthday is tomorrow, although with the exception of French toast we’re holding off on celebrating properly (meaning there will be cake and wine) until the weekend. He’ll be at the top end of his AG now. I think he’ll be back racing within three months. Just a guess.

I have no clue what to do about a fall marathon. I’ll probably register us for Chicago since it’s sure to close out. The fact that it’s been a hot weather race for three out of four years isn’t encouraging. But I’ve been told by the little bird I live with to give up control. Still, I’m tempted to register for New York too (especially if I can qualify with a half, which I’m pretty sure I can). I should be happy just to be training again. But I am looking ahead already, probably ungrateful. Sorry, running Gods. Deal with it.

I sent in article #3 for Running Times this morning (for web, not print) — “Cross-Training Alternatives for Winter.” Lots of runners I don’t even know helped with information to help me fill in the spots I’m ignorant about: namely, yoga, Pilates and snowshoe running. I winged it pretty convincingly on cross-country skiing. Conversely, I can now write about spinning, pool running and the elliptical with utter and complete authority. Has it all been said already? Probably. But I did include some clever witticisms.

I think I have some more substantial freelance writing work coming in. Possibly. I’ll know more next week. It’s typical of this time of year. Nothing ever happens in January, an extended holiday hangover combined with corporate spending and decision-making paralysis. I hope it comes through, as I like the client and would get a chance to work with a team of capable writers with whom I enjoyed collaborating last year. Plus, it’s always good to have money coming in to pay for things like new windows, masonry work and expensive birthday steaks.

Tomorrow I’m heads down, working on publishing my Houston Hopefuls interview with Lori Kingsley. The delay seems ridiculous — the last one was published in October. It’s been a rough winter. But it will go up this week. It’s a fun interview — the audio features a lot of laughing. I enjoyed interviewing Lori immensely, something that shows not just in the quality of our exchange but also the fact that it went on for well over an hour and a half. I hope I get a chance to meet her eventually, but that’s the case with all the Hopefuls.

Finally, it’s colder than Pluto in New York right now. Seriously. The cat went outside, then came back in a minute later with a “What the…?” look on her face. Highly unusual, since she usually loves the cold if it means a chance to kill things.

Patience. Endurance. And more patience.

It’s been surprisingly difficult to get back into a regular running routine, considering how much I missed running from August through October. I had a rough goal of achieving 40 mpw over the past few weeks. But then I found myself skipping planned runs. Or, rather, I had no plans. So not running was easy to do on many days.

Coach Sandra is still traveling and that’s fine. I told her a few weeks back that I was dropping plans for a spring marathon and that I just needed to get injury-free before I could think about making any significant training or racing plans. Building mileage and getting rid of my remaining adductor problems have been the only goals on the horizon.

Still, one needs a plan. In my case, a specific one. “Run 40 mpw” isn’t enough structure for me. So I’ve mapped out runs for the next five weeks. Two of those weeks consist of the “pre-race” schedule Sandra had put into my original plan over the summer. The others include one tempo or fartlek session midweek and a long run on Sunday. Mileage is 35-45 mpw. I have one doubles day. This at least resembles real training, and it’s reasonable to think I can stick to it. I’m giving myself a day off from running about every 7-10 days.

I have races penciled in, despite my better judgment. First, the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler in early February. That’s completely dependent on how the tempo/fartlek efforts go. If I still have adductor pain, forget it. But if not, I’ll probably go for it. Then, in very soft, highly erasable pencil, the Cherry Tree 10 Miler a couple of weeks later.

That one is probably not practical, based on my run today. I did 11.2 miles in Central Park, although I’d planned to do 12. I ran a bit faster than the previous run two weeks ago (and it was very windy today), and four of them were well under 8:00 at a not ridiculous effort. But I don’t have real endurance yet. I was cooked at 10 miles and made my way out of the park via a shortcut.  I’ll try for 12 next Sunday, down from my original planned 14.

It drives me crazy not to have something to work toward. So I’m going to loosely train for the NYRR Colon Cancer Challenge 15K. That’s 10 weeks away. My best time in that race is 1:07:18 in 2009, and that was doing it as a tempo effort training run with 6 miles tacked onto either side of it. Incidentally, I have no fucking clue how I was doing runs like that two years ago. It seems impossible now.

Running a decent 15K would give me opportunity train for endurance and speed, which training for these 4 milers won’t give me. But I figure I can punt if I’m still struggling with longer distances and just do the Colon Cancer 4 miler instead as a measuring stick against whatever I do next month.

I’m not ready to jump into marathon training yet, physically or otherwise. I need to feel like I can run 50 mpw consistently without getting reinjured. But, looking a bit farther ahead this season, I’m thinking a run at the half distance in Long Island in May (and hoping we don’t have another freak heat wave) is not a terrible idea.

In totally unrelated news, we had a good New York Running Show episode this evening, in which we (Joe, Amy, Brenn and I) covered all things related to training in Central Park (and some racing tips), as well as a discussion of whether men should wear shorts over their tights. We had 83 downloads of the show last week. That’s up from around 50 a few weeks ago. Explosive growth!

Testing. Testing. One. Two. Three.

The metabolic testing has been delayed yet again. It seems the facility’s carbon dioxide sensor isn’t working so they’ve had to mail off for a new one. While this is a bit annoying, there are advantages. For one, it’s allowed me a little more time to get my adductor muscle in order so that I can do the test on a treadmill rather than on a bike. But, even better, the facility’s going to do it for free because of all the delays. I didn’t ask for this. But I didn’t turn it down either.

Today I went up to White Plains for an appointment with The Endocrinologist. As far as doctors go, she was okay. She asked lots and lots of questions and is sending me for lots and lots of tests. But she doesn’t deal with athletic types. This was clear from the get go. I could see some of the things I was saying going over her head or being attenuated by Couch Potato Bias.

Me: “I got a serious stress fracture on 50mpw, running on soft ground, after averaging 75mpw on pavement in the previous 18 months. I’m concerned about a bone density issue.”

Dr.: “But stress fractures are common among runners, aren’t they? Also we don’t usually do bone density testing on pre-menopausal women.”

Okay, whatever. The bone density question wasn’t the primary reason I was there. It was the fact that there’s either something wrong with me or I am a medical miracle when it comes to fat storage. Seriously, the military should study me because they could produce troops that don’t require MREs in the field. But still, it was a little irritating. As was being told that “women typically gain a little weight after age 40.” As was being told my BMI is 23, which is “healthy.” Yes. I know. I’m healthy. I’m a healthy fat runner. Grr.

I’m glad that The Nutritionist at least does not think I’m insane to want to lose 8-10 lbs of fat for performance reasons.

Back on track

After taking four full days off from running, not because there was anything wrong but because I was so frigging busy with window/masonry guys and then giving or throwing away about 75% of our possessions, I ran today. At the gym. This was a first. Jonathan had his inaugural post-foot procedure elliptical session. He has not done a spot of exercise since right before Christmas. For JS followers, he reports that his foot is stiff and a little painful, but not around the treatment area. I think it’s just not used to doing anything, even walking, let alone running, but I’m not a medical expert, much as I enjoy pretending to be.

He hates going to the gym even more than I do (although that monthly membership fee on our MasterCard is a great motivator), so I will go with him while he’s in his non-running phase of coming back. We’ll also have to go up there at least a few days a week anyway for cross-training even after he’s running again, but never mind about that.

I somehow managed to pick the crappiest treadmill in the place. It was noisy (bang! bang! bang!), something I discovered happens only when that particular machine goes faster than 9:00 pace. By that time I was a mile in, so I jammed the headphones in deeper, cranked up the volume, and vowed to avoid this machine next time. It also resets to 0.0 MPH every time you pause, then takes forever to get back up to speed. After awhile, I didn’t bother stopping for water, preferring dehydration to frustration.

The quote is from past Boston Marathon race director Jock Semple, of Kathrine Switzer shoving fame.

After several days off from running, and only 22 miles last week, you can bet my legs were fresh. I am scheduled for my metabolic testing on Wednesday (although that’s now in extreme doubt given that we’re scheduled to have another blizzard; learning how piss poor I am at burning calories is not worth risking life and limb for), and as such I am not supposed to do any hard exercise the day before in order to have as low a resting heart rate as possible. So today was the day to try something harder if I was going to.

Since I was feeling so perky I decided to do a progression run today. I started out at 9:15 and steadily worked my way down 20 seconds or so per mile to 7:15 for the last one; 7.5 miles total. I was tempted to go to 7:00 pace, but I still have slight adductor pain, and I’ve learned enough horrible lessons about pushing things already. The good news is that there was considerably less pain than a week ago at the same pace in Central Park. Meaning almost none. I call that progress.

I am avoiding the heart rate monitor completely, perhaps permanently save for marathon pace training (and marathon racing). The rest of the time, it’s such a mind fuck. I’m just running at what’s a comfortable (or comfortably hard) pace for the time being. I’ll try to work down to 7:00. Then do some faster intervals when my adductor tells me it’s okay to do so. What I am going to be ready for very soon is some tempo running. I’m looking forward to that.

Tomorrow’s a little recovery run and back to doing some upper body weights. I have a feeling I’ll be running at home on Wednesday afternoon given the Snowpocalypse II forecast. Fortunately, I now have my treadmill room back. The guest bed’s been disassembled and the sound system’s hooked up to the TV so I can hear it over the din. All I need is a Grete Waitz poster.

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