Running hard after running hard is hard

I had the rare horrible workout on Tuesday, a revisiting of the rite of passage “on/off” tempo run: 12 miles with the last 8 switching between 7:15 and 8:30 pace.

Eek. It was awful. I felt iffy going in but I’ve learned that how I feel often has no bearing on how well I run or race. So I gave it my all. Which wasn’t very much. After 3.5 very slow miles I gradually picked up the pace  to the low 8:00s to get ready to run faster. Then when the watch vibrated (yes, I have a vibrating watch; no giggling) at 4 miles I launched into my first “fast” mile. I struggled to run this in 7:56. A mere 41 seconds per mile off pace.

With a rapidly blackening mood, I took it down to 8:30 for a mile, as assigned. Even that was difficult to maintain, though, and I ended up with an 8:45. Things continued in this vein for the next few miles, although the faster ones got a bit better, more like 7:35. But I was working too hard and I knew it. The fourth fast mile was 7:20 at 93%. It was so awful that I abondoned mile 12 and called it a day at 11.1.

Jesus fucking Christ. That was a bad feeling heading into a race on Sunday in which that’s 5 seconds slower than my intended half marathon pace. Ain’t now way I’m running 13+ miles at 93%. Uh, no. Just no.

I came home, banged things around in the kitchen and then moped all morning.

Then Jonathan went out for a run and, for the heck of it, decided to try running a fast mile or two. He came back and confirmed that it had been extremely difficult to do so. I can only think that my legs were still tired from the 5K race on Saturday. I wouldn’t have thought that a 5K can take that much out of you, but I guess it’s like doing a speed session or something.

Days like that make me think of the 19 year olds who regularly post on LetsRun with questions like, “Should I hammer my workout a day after racing?” It must be nice to be young. Beyond a certain age, “hammering” a workout doesn’t even seem to be a possibility three days after racing.

I just end up feeling so fucking old when this sort of thing happens.

I took yesterday off because I was very busy with work and then had to go shopping and after all that couldn’t cope with putting on my stupid shorts and going out and running in 25 mph winds for another dose of failure. Today was better, with a pleasant little recovery run this morning, not even 5 miles, at a reasonable effort vs. pace.

It’s Thursday. I’ve got a couple of days to get ready to race. The forecast isn’t looking too favorable — warm, humid and windy — but never mind. I don’t care about anything this season, remember?

Training: April 12 – April 18, 2010

Since I’m in a somewhat manic “oh I’ll just change everything” period, I may as well also change how I label these training posts. I realize that since I’m not training for any particular race, saying I’m in “week n” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I’m going to do what the pros do and just tell you what dates I’m talking about.

First things first — and I’m skipping ahead into this week, so if you’re confused, it’s not you, it’s me — I did not run the Boston Marathon, which everyone else in the world seemed to be doing. (And I should add that I never will run the Boston Marathon, despite its caché, for a host of reasons). But I did have a grand old time watching it on Monday evening.

Since I had so much to do workwise (don’t people know not to schedule meetings on Patriot’s Day? Sheesh.) I had to sit on our Tivo recording until about 8:00PM. Staying away from all news was challenging (although, let’s face it, Facebook was harder to go cold turkey on for an entire day — I slipped once, but only to post something, not to read).

It was a thrilling race, especially on the women’s side, which is becoming a happy pattern in recent years. There are great summaries of the race elsewhere, so I won’t bore you here. Except to say that I wish Larry Rawson would truly retire. He’s like the Rolling Stones (only older) — constantly announcing his retirement only be exhumed yet again, our sport’s own version of Grandpa Simpson, rambling on about how much everyone is earning and how far that money goes in Kenya, reading leg turnover rates like so many tea leaves and getting nearly everyone’s name wrong. At one point he was laboring to compare running the mile (he was a miler in the Mesozoic Age) to running the marathon. Seriously. It was funny.

Okay. Onto the good stuff. I was a bit dumb about training last week, getting carried away and running a bit too hard. But I felt so good after the Scarsdale 15K that I couldn’t stop my legs, which wanted to go. On Wednesday I gave in and let them do a general aerobic run. I was surprised at how slow that was considering the relative effort, although I shouldn’t have been.

I was obviously still tired from Sunday — and probably also from racing over hills for three straight weekends — but that didn’t stop me from doing another speed session two days later. I went back to the “cutdown” workout that I’d done just once before, about three weeks prior. It was a strange session. The first repeat (a mile) was a minor disaster. It was quite windy and between that and running about 15 seconds per mile too fast I just died toward the end. I ended up cutting it short to 1400m. I figured the rest of the session would suck, but that first repeat turned out to be my warmup. The other three legs went extremely well, considering the wind.

I took Saturday off both to rest my legs and to clean our house from top to bottom so my sister and niece would never know what slobs we are. No one must ever know. Niece has decided she’s going to UC San Diego, although since Rutgers’ Honor College apparently offered her a metric fucktonne of financial aid she thought she’d better at least check the place out before deciding to remain a California girl.

While I’m sorry that I won’t have her around on this coast, as she’s really quite charming and the complete opposite — outgoing, cheerful and enthusiastic — of everything I am, I had trouble seeing her living here, especially sequestered away in East Brunswick, New Jersey rather than among the bright lights of New York City that drew her here (insert gratuitous “moth to flame” analogy here) in the first place. But she has her entire life left to move to New York and in the process ruin said life. Like I did! (Just kidding. Sort of.)

On Sunday they headed off into the city for theatre and lunch with more eagerly awaiting family and I dashed up to White Plains and back. Again, it was ridiculously windy and my paces were all over the place, anywhere from 9:30 to 7:50 per mile. But it was a satisfying run and allowed me to eat this monstrosity later on.

This week is considerably lighter: just one speed workout and then my first 5K race in several years on Saturday. I’ll go ahead and say my goal is to break 21:00. Unless it’s windy, I think this might be doable. But you’ll be able to read all about that … next week.

Mulling over the marathon

I make it a habit of worrying about things far in advance. Unfortunately, this often has the effect of obscuring my view of what’s happening right now. Or, rather, what’s going well.

While I’m not yet collecting any PRs at shorter distances this season, I am having a great time running all these races. I still am not yet back to where I was roughly 20 months ago, at least as far as race times are concerned. That is a depressing reality that I try not to dwell on.

I do know that things are looking up in that I do seem to be improving and, perhaps most important, I’m not feeling anywhere close to entering the danger zone of overtraining that I spent so much of last year wallowing in. I was flat out exhausted so much of the time last year that it started to feel normal. After a break I’m realizing that it’s not normal. There’s the regular fatigue that comes with stepping up training, but that you can recover from during a pre-race taper. Then there’s the other kind — a kind of tiredness that settles in and becomes a part of you, then takes months to shake.

It’s only April. Yet I feel at a crossroads as far as the marathon is concerned. I’ve been burned by that lady five times out of my six tries. I really don’t know that I want to sit down and roast marshmallows with her again. Yeah, it’s only April, but if I want to do a fall race during the normal window of fall marathons (Oct/Nov) then that means I have to start getting my training ass in gear around July. That’s 10-12 weeks from now. Not so much time to consider the implications anymore.

From day to day, I swing wildly between wanting to give the long race another go, then realizing that the thought of bombing out again makes me feel physically and spiritually ill. I also can’t get my head around going back to running 90 mile weeks. I just don’t want to. It’s too much running. The more miles I run, the slower I have to run the bulk of them and the harder it is to do my faster workouts. What’s the point? Especially if all roads lead to a crap goal race as the reward.

The fatigue of training, it seems, is not the only thing that lingers. I seem to still be carrying the fatigue of failure and disappointment in my bones. I do know that every time I read someone’s post about the spring marathon they’ve got coming up, I am just so incredibly glad to not be them. That’s got to be telling me something.

These days, as I think about what to do in the fall, I find myself gravitating more and more toward the idea of making the fall a transition back to the full marathon distance in 2011 (assuming I ever go back). This is about all my brain can handle.

Once I’ve concluded my spring fling spent whoring around among various distances and dipping my toe (as I intend to) into crazy ultra relays, track racing and cross-country racing, I could then turn my attention to becoming a very good half marathon racer. It’s a distance that I love — long enough that you’ve accomplished something of significance, but short enough that you can do one every month if you want to.

What if I could run a 1:30 by the new year? Or a 1:26? What if.

Spring Training: Week Eleven

One nice thing about having only two hard workouts per week (or one plus a race) is that I’m typically feeling recovered and ready when the hard day arrives. For so much of last year I would arrive at a hard day and feel just ready enough to tackle the workout, but I rarely felt fresh going in. The lower mileage also contributes to this, I’m certain.

Either way, this has been such a big — and welcome — change that I’m wondering if I should go on a 10 day schedule, putting more recovery days between workouts, rather than shoving three into a 7 day period. Since I’m wary of piling on mileage again after this racing season, I’m thinking one way to combine big miles with big workouts again is to go back to high mileage, but with more recovery. Perhaps that would give me the benefits of high mileage without risking the kind of cumulative fatigue that plagued me last year.

So many ways to train.

On Monday, rather than run I took a one hour walk around our hilly neighborhood, primarily to stretch out my legs, but also to photograph the devastation from the storm that moved through over the weekend. Those photos are on Facebook, resembling photo sets from friends in NJ that look eerily similar. This was quite the storm.

In my last report I alluded to what Kevin called a “rite of passage” workout — something not only brand new, but newly challenging. On Wednesday, I did the first of these. Based on how difficult it was, I suspect I’ll be able to recognize such workouts in the future pretty easily.

I called this an “on/off tempo” run. I don’t know what other people call them, but that seemed to fit. After a five mile warmup I launched into the first of four sets of two mile combinations: the first at 7:15 (tempo pace for me right now), the second at 8:30 (mid-aerobic range). Rinse and repeat.

It’s been windy this week (more on this in a moment), and it was pretty windy on Wednesday. I tried to plan the run so I was avoiding giant mud puddles and other obstructions, but there was no avoiding the wind unless I ran inside. This was a rough, but doable, run. I never hit 7:15, mostly owing to either hills or wind. But I was happy with the times I did hit.

To be honest, it was not that difficult a run to do from a mental standpoint. In a weird way, I think my debacle in Sacramento in December, during which I was really suffering from mile 18 on, has created a permanent mental callous of sorts. I can suffer a lot for a long time now and accept it. It’s acceptable because it’s not as bad and never will be, at least not in any workout. If it is, I shouldn’t be doing that workout.

This doesn’t stop me from worrying about suffering like that again in a marathon. But, again, more on this subject in a sec.

I felt great after this workout, very invigorated. But I crashed later in the day and had to go to bed at around 8:30. I felt okay, but not stellar, the next day. I’m getting used to doing long recovery runs again, and I still think I recover better from them than I do from shorter, but more frequent, doubles sessions. On Friday I felt great and probably ran the recovery a little too hard. On the other hand, I had plenty of energy for doing the strides, which in the past I have often skipped due to tired legs or overall fatigue.

Saturday I felt like warmed over dog shit, primarily owing to having had too much to drink on Friday and then only getting six hours of sleep. So the morning run was terrible in all respects. The evening run wasn’t much better, so I cut it short, trimming two miles off for the week.

This morning I got up and felt good and ready for 15 miles at reasonably high effort. I drove up to Hartsdale and parked there so I could hit the car (and some Gatorade) at the halfway point. One thing I immediately noticed was the strength of the wind. I think I was in denial about it because I’d checked both major weather sites and they’d reported from 5-9 mph. It felt a lot windier than that, but I kept fighting it.

I felt good for the first six miles, most of which were into the wind. Then my stomach started to feel bad. Note to self: No cheddar cheese before a run. After a slow warmup mile my paces were anywhere from 7:45-8:15. I was trying for 8:00-8:15, so this was fine. But I just felt cruddier and cruddier as the run wore on. By mile 12 I was done and wanted to stop, but I had to turn around and run the last three into what was now at least 15-20 mph steady headwind. My effort went up into the low 80%s and paces cratered to 8:25-8:40.

As I was running along Pipeline, literally cursing the wind aloud, I realized that the last time I’d felt like this was around mile 10 of the Sacramento race. I’d done the same thing today: denied the reality of how much steady wind can sap your energy. I must remember to never do that again, not in a workout and especially not in a race. If I do that again in a marathon I should be shot for my obtuseness. Wind is real. You’ve got to adjust effort from the very start — or pay the price.

You know, it’s always something. If it’s not heat, it’s snow. If it’s not snow, it’s rain. If it’s not rain, it’s wind. If it’s not wind, it’s attack geese. It’s never a dull moment training here. There were some glorious moments this week when I was out in shorts, enjoying a mix of cool air and warm sun. I hope we get a little more of that before summer takes hold.

Random crap

I’m looking for an excuse to stave off my evening run. Today is my sole day of doubles for the week. But I’ve managed to run outside for the last few days. This evening I need to take my 4.4 inside, after which we’re scheduled to get 4-8″ of snow. So the brief window of happy running outside has once again closed. On my fingers.

Since I ostensibly work in new media, I thought it was time to replace my 7-year-old piece of shit Palm device (the lowest end unit I could get at the time: the Zire) with something more up to date. Something that runs “apps.” I went for a 32G iPod Touch. Well, this thing is like crack! I can surf the web in the tub. I can go shopping with my list on something other than a post-it. I can sit in bed and play a game. I can listen to any episide of This American Life while cooking dinner. Whee!

Among the many apps I’ve downloaded and frittered money away on, two are relevant to runners: iPace and Race Pace. The second one covers the first’s functionality, but I didn’t realize that until later.

iPace ($0.99) is a simple conversion calculator. Plug in a distance and time and it will tell you the pace you need to run per mile and kilometer (and 400m for some reason). Or you can flip things around: plug in a distance and a per mile or per kilometer pace, and it will give you your finish time.

Race Pace ($1.99) is a little fancier. It’s basically a performance equivalent calc, much like the industry standard online version from Greg McMillan. Plug in a recent race time and you’ll get predictions for what that might translate into at various other race distances. You also get training paces for basic types of runs: tempos, long runs, easy runs and recovery runs. The paces are, for the most part, more aggressive (or optimistic; take your pick) than McMillan’s. But they offer a pretty good place to start when goal setting for your next race. You can also modify them to your liking in your iPod’s Settings area (something I only recently stumbled upon).

Speaking of paces, I’ve been tearing up the streets of Scarsdale the past few days, just as a nascent cold has started to take hold. I ran just shy of 10 miles yesterday in dreadful conditions (wind, sleet/hail/rain, slippery roads) at 8:21 pace at 80% effort. At lunchtime today I followed up with a recovery run at 9:27, or around a minute faster than those runs have been lately). I should get sick more often.

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.

The quiet, obscure toiling resumes…

Since December 7th I’ve taken things very easy, having vowed to enjoy the holidays and recover properly from my debacle in California.

This weekend marked the end of this extended hibernation period. I’d meant to run on New Year’s Day but I was fried and decided to nap instead. On Saturday I ran 10 very easy miles on the treadmill, tootling along at 64% MHR.

Yesterday I threw down the gauntlet. I felt good in the morning so I decided to do a “data gathering” run. This meant a longish run on the treadmill, with several sections at varying speed (getting progressively faster) so I could record some data showing speed vs. effort.

The run was a 12 mile progression run, with 3 miles at 64%, 3 miles at 70%,  2 miles at 75%, 2 miles at 80%, 1 mile at 85% and 1 at 89%. I won’t post the paces here because, well, they’re pretty embarrasing. But I’m hoping that when I do this same workout three months from now, I won’t be cringing at the numbers.

One oddity that I did note was that my HR% shot up from 70% to 75% with a mere difference of 6 seconds per mile. That tells me that my treadmill is lying about its speed. My next little project is to spend some quality time coming up with a calibration factor table (Jack Daniels explains how to do this in detail on various threads on LetsRun.com) so I’ve got a better idea of how fast (or slow) I’m actually running on my particular torture device.

I was zonked after yesterday’s run. But not as zonked as I’d expected to be.

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