Training: Mar 20-26

Another uneven week. I had a horrible run last Sunday, owing to exhausted legs and a hamstring that seems to now reliably conk out after about 10 miles. I look it easy after that run and was rewarded for my patience and discipline with an extremely good speed session on Wednesday.

More rest and recovery followed, and then I hit Central Park to again try for a 13 miler. I decided to take it easier yesterday, since I think shooting for 8:00s is too ambitious at this point. Maybe that — in combination with the hills — is what’s straining my problem hamstring and adductor.

I parked on 108th and Madison only to discover that I’d not only forgotten my Garmin, I’d forgotten to bring any watch. I wasn’t about to drive all the way home, so I went and did the run, watchless. It was actually very liberating, not knowing how fast or slow I was going. I did take note of the time when I left the car and when I got back and figured (allowing for walking, MP3 player fiddling and other forms of dawdling during the run) that I was probably running around 8:40. That’s not terrible, and it’s reasonable for a long run pace.

But. Ugh. My hamstring/adductor again started giving me trouble right around the 11 mile mark. I had to walk for a bit. This issue is annoying and worrisome. I don’t have a lot of confidence that I can race hard for 13+ miles anyway. Now the spectre of nagging injury has been added into that worry mix.

It’s taking a long time to build up endurance. It amazes me that in 2009 I was regularly running 15 miles mid-week and doing 18-22 on Sunday. I don’t think I could even run 18 miles at this point. The good news is, I don’t have to. Yet.

Over the next two weeks leading up to the Scotland 10K I have no long runs scheduled. The longest one is 10 miles. I’ve got a 14 miler a week after that race and then that’s it for long runs until the Long Island half on May 1.

So how far I can run without issue is going to be something of a mystery come May. Perhaps the avoidance of longer runs will help the problem area calm down. I have no idea.

I picked up a bug this week, some kind of throat crud that doesn’t know if it wants to turn into a real cold or not. So I’m low energy today and taking cold medicine that is just making me feel cruddier. I was supposed to run easy today and take tomorrow off, but I’m switching those around and spending the rest of today on the couch.

This week I have a progression run of 10 miles, a speed session that I can only describe as nightmarish and then a fartlek run on Saturday for a total of 54 miles. Next week is a pre-race week, so the mileage is low, but there’s still some hard work in there.

My love affair with Warren Zevon came into full bloom yesterday in Central Park. Here’s the mix.

Zevon Memorial Mix

Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
Excitable Boy
Veracruz
Tenderness On The Block
I’ll Slow You Down
Back In The High Life Again
Finishing Touches
Suzie Lightning
Angel Dressed in Black
Searching for a Heart
Sacrificial Lambs
Basket Case
Genius
I Have To Leave
My Ride’s Here
Desperados Under The Eaves*
Let Nothing Come Between You
Sentimental Hygiene
Boom Boom Mancini
The Factory
Trouble Waiting to Happen
Reconsider Me
Detox Mansion
Bad Karma
The Heartache
Looking For The Next Best Thing
Splendid Isolation
Nobody’s In Love This Year
Backs Turned Looking Down The Path
Poor Poor Pitiful Me
Mohammed’s Radio
*This track is off the collection Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings. It’s a stark, much more raw-edged approach to the song than what came out of the studio version on his eponymous album (and which featured Carl Wilson on backing vocals, along with strings that are a little over the top, in my humble opinion). I like this version much better.

What’s been going on, as presented in Warren Zevon song titles

I’ve been rediscovering Warren Zevon lately. If you have no idea who he is, then look him up and discover for yourself his uniquely sardonic yet humane — and always highly literate — musical take on things. He’s dead, by the way. Before succumbing to lung cancer in 2003, he produced one of my favorite quotes: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

So here’s a Zevonesque take on what’s happening in my life, running and otherwise.

Although we’ve had bits of snow and sleet lately, it is officially spring, even if the weather hasn’t gotten with the program yet. We’ve been able to run Backs Turned Looking Down the Path now that it’s clear of snow, although on many days we’ve also had to Hasten Down the Wind. For the most part I’ve been running in Splendid Isolation because, as I’ve said to Jonathan, “I’ll Slow You Down.”

We traded one lost hour for longer days last weekend. And one night last week They Moved the Moon. Or at least they claimed it was bigger than it would be in another 18 years. Does that mean it was closer? I’ve seen “bigger” harvest moons in the summer, so I was not impressed.

My workouts have spanned the spectrum from lousy to great. Maybe it’s Bad Karma, or just the usual training Turbulence, but I don’t quite feel like I’m training with the consistency I’d like. On the other hand, I can usually come up with reasons for why a workout Ain’t That Pretty At All. For example, I had a scheduled 13 miler in Central Park on Sunday that was, in hindsight, Trouble Waiting to Happen. After a ridiculously hard speed session Thursday, followed by ridiculous weight work and spinning the following day, my legs were dead. I was also at my hormonal low point, and always run like shit on that day. Not surprisingly, my planned 8:00s were rapidly turning into 9:00s. Then my right hamstring and adductor had tandem hissy fits. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. I cut the run short at 11 and told myself, “You’re a Whole Different Person When You’re Scared. So stop it. You no longer need to let one workout define things. It doesn’t mean you’re headed for a Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. Don’t worry about it.”

So sure, My Shit’s Fucked Up on some days, but not always. On Wednesday, two days ago, I had a mysteriously great track session. We got up to find it sleeting. I packed my spikes. The Bronxville track was devoid of people and the sleet/drizzle/shizzle stopped. It was cold, but not too. And there was almost no wind to speak of. All I needed for a good session was the right attitude, because everything else was in place.

Attitude was important because I was assigned 1K repeats. Seven of them. How was I going to do seven when I couldn’t even do four of them two weeks ago? One thing I like about working with Coach Sandra is that she doesn’t assign paces. She trusts that I know the right effort to run and that my splits will just reflect where I am on that day. I may be “slower” or “faster” than expected. I may be running supernaturally well or running like dog shit. What matters isn’t the splits in one workout; what matters is doing the work every week and getting faster relative to effort over the course of an entire training cycle. And if that isn’t happening, figure out why and make immediate adjustments. Maybe that’s obvious already, but I think it’s pure Genius.

I ran the first conservatively, as I always do, to see how I was feeling. 4:15. But I knew I could do a little harder. The next six were: 4:11, 4:10, 4:12, 4:11, 4:11, 4:10. Rests were 1:28-1:50. I attacked those repeats like Boom Boom Mancini. This gives me some confidence that I’ll be able to fly over the Central Park hills like An Angel Dressed in Black in a couple of weeks at the Scotland 10K. If I can’t do that, I’ll be Looking for the Next Best Thing, which is just to put in an effort that I can be proud of.

Jonathan did the workout with me (although his splits were more in 3:30 territory) and had an equally good set. This made him into an Excitable Boy indeed.

It’s hard to know if my perceived gains in speed and endurance are Real or Not, but I’m trying to Roll with the Punches (like I did after my night spent hugging the Porcelain Monkey) and not be too much of a Basket Case about adhering perfectly to the schedule.

Later that evening we attended a A Certain Girl‘s birthday celebration in Manhattan and neither of us was too tired out to enjoy ourselves. It was a late night, but I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. My own birthday is in a couple of weeks. Will 46 be a Wild Age for me, or will I evolve into a Model Citizen? I think I’d like to remain a Renegade and work on turning Jonathan into more of a Mr. Bad Example and less of a Worrier King. We’ll be celebrating at home because MacGillicuddy’s Reeks.

Our home has become something of a Detox Mansion (“I’ve been raking leaves with Liza! Me and Liz clean up the yard!”). We’ve finished up all of our wine and booze, which I’m not planning to replace, and when the beer dwindles I restock with only a sixpack or two, which takes us forever to get through. This means I’m a total lightweight, something I shall have to be careful about when we head off to search for the Werewolves of London in May, shortly after we run the Long Island Half (please, Don’t Let Us Get Sick). I won’t be bringing Lord Byron’s Luggage; the fees are too outrageous. My Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded to visit us in April, so they’ll be here in June. That means we have to do something about the Disorder in the House before then.

Whoops. Laissez-Moi Tranquille. I Have to Leave. My Ride’s Here.

Thanks, Matt!

Matt T. is the host of the running podcast Dump Runners Club. I had the pleasure of spending two exhaustion- and laughter-filled days with him in Vermont for the Green Mountain Relay back in June. He is a talented runner, as is his twin, Mike. Unfortunately, like me he is also struggling with an injury at the moment, in his case a troublesome achilles.

Matt's considerable endowments go beyond the intellectual.

I don’t know how Matt gets through his cross-training sessions, but his podcast has been a sanity-saver for me these past couple of days. As I mentioned in my last injury-related post, I’m spending a minimum of three hours a day on self-rehab, some days as many as five. Now that I’ve discovered that I’m able to ride the stationary bike and walk on the treadmill, that number’s going to go up.

I was sick of my music playlists before my problems set in three weeks ago. For some reason I haven’t spent the time looking for new music (too busy with other stuff, I guess — and being in pain much of the time, which I now no longer am, takes away from things like enjoying music). This week I rediscovered Matt’s podcasts and now am working my way through the older ones.

The Dump Runners Club is unique: it’s a valuable combination of personal experience, reviews, advice and recaps of the world of elite running. There is something for everyone in these 20-60 minute audio treats. Once again am reminded of how marvelous the web is as a medium for enabling individuals with brains and passions to enrich other people’s lives with self-published content — like Matt’s!

Mixes: Accelerate

I’ve got another 20 miler today. I’ve been listening to the same playlists for months, so it was time to build a new one. Since my run will start off easy for 5 miles and then work up to slightly below marathon effort for 15 (gulp), I wanted a mix that reflected that pattern.

There’s a lot of uptempo stuff in here, but I’ve thrown in a calmer tune every so often to remind myself to relax when I’m running fast. I find that if I listen to too much relaxing music while running fast, my mind drifts and I get complacent (and I slow down). There will be none of that nonsense today.

Here’s what I’ll be serenading myself with this morning.

More Than This – Roxy Music
Dance Away – Roxy Music
Same Old Scene – Roxy Music
You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
Friend – Christine McVie
Shade And Honey – Sparklehorse
Traffic and Weather – Fountains of Wayne
WannaBe in L.A. – Eagles Of Death Metal
The Laws Have Changed – New Pornographers
You Look So Fine – Garbage
Blue Morning, Blue Day – Foreigner
Lust For Life – Girls
Black Albino Bones – F*ck*d Up
Pretend That You’re Alone – Keane
Technicolor Health – The Harlem Shakes
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris – Morrissey
Say You Love Me – Fleetwood Mac
21st Century Breakdown – Green Day
Girlfriend – Phoenix
Sitting Still – R.E.M.
We Started Nothing – The Ting Tings
Let Down – Radiohead
Planet Telex – Radiohead
Freeway – Aimee Mann
The Shock Of The Lightning – Oasis
Her Voice Is Beyond Her Years – Mew
White Riot (Alternate Demo Mix) – The Clash
Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello
Something In The Air – Thunderclap Newman
Little Favours – KT Tunstall
Switch On – Paul Oakenfold
Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend
Wave Of Mutilation – Superdrag
I Thought About You – The Beautiful Girls
Holiday Road (Live) – Lindsey Buckingham
Cannonball (LP Version) – The Breeders
Come On/Let’s Go – Paul Weller
Radiation Vibe (LP Version) – Fountains of Wayne
Day After Day (2009 Remastered) – Pretenders
My Lucky Day – Jason Falkner
F*ck and Run – Liz Phair
Pathfinder – Gay Dad
The Warrior – Scandal
I See You Baby (Fatboy Slim Mix) – Groove Armada
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones
Gimme Animosity – Superdrag
The Nude – Catherine Wheel

Listen here.

Mixes: 33 for 150

I’ve got a training plan for the next few months. Now all I need is music to make the longer runs a little less tedious. Here’s the first new playlist, which I’ll probably use for my midlength (12-15 miles) runs. It’s fairly uptempo but not the crazy, aggressive crap I listen to for the faster aerobic and tempo runs.

1. Paper Birds – The Slip

2. Airplane/Primitive – The Slip

3. Children Of December – The Slip

4. Clear Water – Anniemac

5. The Sun Smells Too Loud – Mogwai

6. Glasgow Mega-Snake – Mogwai

7. Special – Mew

8. Hawaii – Mew

9. Her Voice Is Beyond Her Years – Mew

10. Snow Brigade – Mew

11. Am I Wry? No – Mew

12. Black Hearts (On Fire) – Jet

13. (Drawing) Rings Around The World – Super Furry Animals

14. The Undefeated – Super Furry Animals

15. Slow Life – Super Furry Animals

16. Cath… – Death Cab For Cutie

17. New Killer Star – David Bowie

18. House Of Orion – Lukestar

19. Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire

20. Wrapped Up In Books – Belle and Sebastian

21. Everybody Come Down – The Delgados

22. Senses – La Rocca

23. Eyes While Open – La Rocca

24. Non Believer – La Rocca

25. My Lucky Day – Jason Falkner

26. I Live – Jason Falkner

27. Under the Milkyway – The Church

28. There, There – Radiohead

29. Jigsaw Falling Into Place – Radiohead

30. Pretty In Pink – The Psychedelic Furs

31. Beautiful People – Pet Shop Boys

32. Keys To Your Heart – The 101ers

33. Lola Stars and Stripes – The Stills

Listen on Rhapsody

Fun facts about a few of these:

#4 is by Annie McIntyre, who I grew up with and saw for the first time in a few decades when we went to Oregon in the summer.

#17 is just so Bowie. It’s newer, but evidence that, unlike a lot of his contemporaries, he hasn’t lost his talent.

#27 and #30 are there purely for nostalgia. I love both these tunes, primarily for the vocal.

#32 is Joe Strummer’s pre-Clash band. Their only hit.

Mixes: Roche Infestation

A few years ago I was working with a couple of women about my age and I was surprised to find that they’d never heard of The Roches, a three-sister folk group to whom I’ve been listening since someone played their debut album to me, to my delight and wonder, sometime in the early 80s. Noting my colleagues’ blank expressions as I insisted, “The Roches? Robert Fripp? C’mon…” I realized just how obscure The Roches actually are.

Their music is hard to describe, but its hallmark is soaring harmonies and a distinctly off-kilter sensibility. They are talented songwriters, exceptional singers and wholly original. Who else could write an eight-and-a-half-minute song extolling the virtues of a winter coat and somehow make it work?

I put together a Roches mix for my run this morning consisting entirely of my favorite recordings from their extensive ouvre. Over the years they’ve put out a wildly inconsistent set of albums, which has been frustrating. Some albums are just plain terrible. Others are okay, but marred by unwise production choices. I still think their eponymously titled debut (which Fripp produced and plays otherworldly guitar on) is their best, but I’d credit Can We Go Home Now and Speak as two other high points.

I’ve seen them perform at various points — once in Manhattan in the mid-1980s (I think it was The Bottom Line, but it may have been somewhere else) and then again later that decade on Staten Island at Snug Harbour Cultural Center. Both shows were great. Then, about 10 years ago, I went to see one of them, Suzzy, do a solo show at the church at the bottom of my street to promote her solo album, Holy Smokes. It was, frankly, depressing to see such a talented woman performing for $15 to a room of about 50 people. But perform she did and managed to singlehandedly bring to life songs that on record had required the vocal work of three. My favorite song of that set was “Home Away From Home,” which she managed masterfully with just one guitar and voice. I still think of that song as one of their masterpieces.

Anyway, here’s the playlist. If you’ve never heard of The Roches, start with the bold titles. They represent a pretty good cross-section of their sound. If you don’t like those, you won’t like any of them.

  1. This Feminine Position
  2. Keep on Doing What You Do / Jerks On The Loose
  3. Scorpion Lament
  4. Losing True
  5. Feeling is Mutual
  6. Nocturne
  7. Easy
  8. Person With a Past
  9. Cloud Dancing
  10. Big Nuthin’
  11. Speak
  12. Weeded Out
  13. Face Down At Folk City
  14. Love Radiates Around
  15. My Winter Coat
  16. Holidays
  17. Move
  18. Home Away From Home
  19. Hammond Song
  20. Mr. Sellack
  21. The Train
  22. Quitting Time

Spring Race Training: Week 2

09spr-training-02January is over, finally. I don’t normally mind January all that much, but this year’s version has been so awful weatherwise that I’ve had to do the majority of my runs indoors. This has been not only a tedious proposition, but also quite challenging as my weeks feature more and more faster running. February is typically even worse, so it’s not as if we’ve turned a corner or anything. But at least we’re that much closer to spring.

I felt sub-par for most of the week. The half marathon last Sunday took a lot out of me and then I spent the early part of the week fending off a cold that Jonathan picked up. He was well for a day and then either suffered a relapse or has managed to pick up a totally new cold. Either way, I’m now trying to avoid catching that one as well. Anyway, this manifested itself in an elevated heart rate, swollen glands and general feeling of malaise.

On Wednesday I modified the planned workout (13 easy with last four at just under 28:00). I was again on the treadmill and had attached my little footpod to a new pair of shoes. Our treadmill is way off — typically reporting that you’re running 15-20 seconds per mile slower than you actually are. As you can imagine, this makes quite a difference when doing faster work.

For speed and mileage information I look at what the footpod is telling the watch, which I’ve calibrated on GPS measured runs outside, and ignore the treadmill’s lying display. Well, the footpod matched the treadmill on this particular pair of shoes — something I didn’t notice until mile 11 when I was thinking, why am I so exhausted and why is running these faster last miles so freaking hard? I moved the pod to an older shoe and all was right with the world. So, that session sucked.

On Friday, now wise to my capricious foodpod’s ways, I did 5 x 1K intervals — still not feeling great — and did pretty well. The plan was to run each in 4:00 (a 6:26 mpm pace). I only managed one, but the others were pretty close. This run was notable because I have never run that fast on the treadmill. It was cranked up to 8.9 mph for that 4:00 interval. I recalled the days when I had trouble running with it at 7 mph.

I learned on Friday that it’s dangerous to listen to comedy albums when running intervals. You laugh, then lose control of your already highly challenged breathing, then you forget to move your legs and then laugh harder at what a moron you are for deciding that it would be a good idea to listen to comedy while running at almost 9 mph. For curious readers the album was Judith’s Roommate Had a Baby by Judy Gold. Needless to say, it was so funny that it nearly got me seriously injured.

Saturday I woke up feeling like a brand new woman. For the first time in five days, I didn’t feel like shit. The 9 mile recovery run, done after several hours of enthusiastic housecleaning, was a breeze and almost a pleasure.

Yesterday’s 20 miler turned into a 20.7 miler due to needing to extend my outside loop as well as a short bout of getting lost. The Scarsdale/White Plains loop is a hilly course plus it was, as always happens, on the windy side. While I would have liked to have run faster than 8:30, it’s really not a bad pace for that particular course.

Week 3 is another 85 miler with more faster running and, on Sunday, a 20K Mpace run in hilly Connecticut.

Interview with Stephanie Herbst-Lucke

I stumbled across this fairly recent interview with former collegiate elite (and masters comeback) Stephanie Herbst-Lucke by Scott Douglas. In it she provides some interesting perspectives on running in one’s twenties vs. forties.

Herbst-Lucke was a central figure in The Silence of Great Distance, Frank Murphy’s excellent history of the development of women’s distance running in the US in the pre- and post-Title IX era. The book provides a biographical survey of key runners and NCAA teams during that era, placing them into a coherent timeline of how the sport was shaped by Title IX, feminism and the earlier rise in stature of male US distance runners on the world stage. The book also provides a nuanced, compelling treatment of the unique psychological and social pressures experienced by those early female competitors and how they impacted — or, in some cases, ended — their competitive careers.

Herbst-Lucke apparently started showing up at local road races a few years back, where she was occasionally recognized by knowledgeable (and shocked) fellow racers. Despite not having focused on the marathon in her earlier running life, she was among the entrants in Boston earlier this year for the women’s Olympic marathon trials, in which she finished in a respectable 59th place.

Track Tracks: Maria Bamford

I’d say I run with an MP3 player about half the time these days. Typically on longer runs when I’m not doing anything special that I need to pay attention to (like running faster intervals). I usually listen to music, but sometimes for a change I download a comedy album from Rhapsody To Go.

This week’s comedy album was Maria Bamford’s Burning Bridges Tour. And it is funny. So funny that I was occassionally laughing out loud while trying to appear normal and not lose my form. I hope passersby didn’t think I was laughing at them.

Trying to describe someone’s comedy act is…well, it’s impossible, really. So I won’t try. But, for some context, I first became aware of Bamford while watching a show about one of the Comedians of Comedy tours a few years back, which featured another favorite comedian, Patton Oswalt.

Today I’ll listen to her other album, How to WIN!.

Music for a long, fast run

When I’m faced with the prospect of having to suffer through a fast run that will take me in the neighborhood of three hours to complete, I look to my MP3 player for distraction. Nay, inspiration! And, since I have to run fast, podcasts and audiobooks don’t cut it. No, I need the loudest, most testosterone-fueled sonic bombast that I can get my hands on.

Here is what I listened to on this morning’s run:

1. The Thousand Names Of God – Motorhead
2. Anarchy In The U.K. – The Sex Pistols
3. God Save The Queen – The Sex Pistols
4. Holidays In The Sun – The Sex Pistols
5. Bodies – The Sex Pistols
6. No Feelings – The Sex Pistols
7. Liar! – The Sex Pistols
8. Problems – The Sex Pistols
9. Seventeen – The Sex Pistols
10. Submission – The Sex Pistols
11. Pretty Vacant – The Sex Pistols
12. New York – The Sex Pistols
13. EMI – The Sex Pistols
14. Bonzo Goes To Bitburg – The Ramones
15. Going Underground – The Jam
16. That’s Entertainment – The Jam
17. 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
18. Crown Of Thorns – Social Distortion
19. Cold Feelings – Social Distortion
20. When The Angels Sing – Social Distortion
21. I Was Wrong – Social Distortion
22. Ring Of Fire – Social Distortion
23. Soul Kitchen – X
24. White Girl (Single Mix) – X
25. Los Angeles – X
26. No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
27. The Bell And The Butterfly – Charlatans U.K.
28. Around The World / Harder Better Faster Stronger – Daft Punk
29. Superheroes / Human After All / Rock’n Roll – Daft Punk
30. Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
31. When I Grow Up – Garbage
32. Special – Garbage
33. Vow – Garbage
34. Celebrity Skin – Hole
35. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
36. North American Scum – LCD Soundsystem
37. That’s How People Grow Up – Morrissey
38. The Hand That Feeds – Nine Inch Nails
39. It’s My Life – No Doubt
40. Switch On – Paul Oakenfold
41. Think Tank – Public Image Ltd.
42. Dear Lover – Social Distortion
43. Untitled – Social Distortion
44. More Human Than Human – (Meet Bambi In The King’s Harem mix) – White Zombie
45. Problem Child – AC/DC
46. Get It Hot – AC/DC
47. Touch Too Much – AC/DC
48. Girls Got Rhythm – AC/DC
49. Highway To Hell – AC/DC
50. High Voltage – AC/DC
51. Back in Black – AC/DC
52. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

Lots of odd choices for a post-modern feminist like myself. But I guess that’s what makes me post modern.

I should add that “You Shook Me All Night Long” is my favorite running “power song.” I also hold the sincere opinion that it is one of the greatest musical recordings ever produced.

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