Training: Dec 4 – 10

This was actually kind of a tough week. It started out with a race that went very well. Then a zippy recovery run on Monday (my pace is averaging right around 8:30 on most recovery runs these days). Then a very late night owing to going to see Sleep No More, a piece of immersive theatre in Manhattan. I enjoyed it, for the most part, but it’s long — about 3 hours — and requires a lot of mental energy. We got home and to sleep at around 1am.

The weather was horrible for the first part of the week — pouring rain, for the most part. So I was relegated to the treadmill for a couple of runs. I have no idea how I used to do 22 mile runs on that thing, since now I can barely handle 6 mile runs without losing my mind. Fortunately the weather cleared up overnight on Thursday and I could move back outside again, although it was muddy or flooded in spots.

On Friday I headed back to Edgemont High School’s track for another session of 1K repeats. It went extremely well. Even dodging people and running gingerly around the slippery turn for home I was able to easily hit 4:00 (6:25 pace) for every single one. When I was done I chatted with a gentleman who’d been jogging around. I’ve seen him a few times there. He is 80 years old and was the captain of his collegiate track team in India, where he ran the 100m and 200m sprints. He jog-walks 2 miles a day there. I asked him if he missed sprinting and he said, “No! I don’t want to run that fast. This is good for me now.”

On Saturday I felt that I needed a break from the muddy path so I headed to Van Cortlandt Park for 8 miles of recovery running. I spent about 5 of those miles on the flats (and discovered that the dirt path there is a mudbog after it rains). But the cinder path was good to run on and I measured it at a smidgen over 1.25 miles. So it’s a good place for doing tempo runs or mile repeats.

I got bored with that too, though, so I headed into the hills, running 1.5 miles out and back on their legendarily brutal cross-country course, which is marked with signs featuring a tortoise and a hare. I took it easy, but still worked harder than I should have. But I was having fun, which is what I went there for. 24 hours later those hills would be full of racers running the Pete McArdle Cross-Country Classic, a 15K effort. Among them were friends Hilary (who took first place in our age group) and Amy, with a 7th place AG finish, although more important than that was her return to successful racing after a period of injury and rehab. I like knowing all these fasties.

And speaking of good times, the week concluded with a trip in to the annual New York Harriers holiday party. I got to drink Newcastle and eat cake and talk to nice people and I also won something. Hoorah!

Up next: a bizarre workout from Jack Daniels and a 5K race on Long Island, where I hope to put all those 1K track repeats to use.

 

Training: Nov 27 – Dec 3

Blah blah blah.

Another week of 5K training. But a light week, owing to a 5 mile race today. My legs felt trashed after the previous week’s 5K race. But they were snappy again for Monday and Tuesday.

On Wednesday I headed to Edgemont High School for what would be yet another aborted attempt to train there. This time around, it was the wind (and cold) that stopped me. The weather websites were delusional, claiming it was around 48 windchill. It was actually somewhere in the 30s. So I was under dressed. But, mostly, the issue was wind. A steady 15-20 mph number.

I drove there, arriving at prime high school arrival hour (which meant a clogged road and parking lot), ran 100m on the track and knew I’d have a terrible workout. I’d run too hard. I’d freeze. I’d be demoralized. I knew this. So I left.

Drove home and put away all the crap that’s been sitting on the treadmill over the summer. And I cranked that machine up to 6:30-6:35 for some 1K repeats. I have long suspected that our treadmill is slightly fast. I went by effort. If the effort was a little low, that’s okay. Better slightly too low than slightly too high. Plus I knew I’d be racing today, so the workout I’d get on the hills of Central Park would make up for any unintended slackery earlier in the week.

On Thursday I did a slow run, again inside (because it was a long work day and after dark by the time I was free to run), around 9:50 on the treadmill. Then a day off, which I’m going to make a habit of two days before races now. Then another zippy 3 miles 24 hours pre-race, with 3 strides yesterday, Saturday. 8:22 pace for that one.

I’ve got two more test races before Houston. That’s all I could find. But it’s also all I have room for. I’m hoping it’s all I’ll need.

One another note, in case it hasn’t been obvious, the Houston Hopefuls project has been shelved (or, a kinder word would be “concluded”). I just don’t have time for it. And Houston’s just a few weeks away. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still keeping an eye on the women I didn’t get a chance to interview. Two of them ran California International this morning in search of an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. Neither one made it. One dropped out with stomach issues halfway through; this after missing a qualifying time by 10 seconds in the spring. The other missed it by 10 minutes after having run a sub 2:48 at Grandma’s in June. In addition, this morning I had a fairly long conversation with a Harrier teammate about his meltdown in the last 10K of the New York Marathon, despite having done everything right.

I really hate the marathon sometimes. It’s just such a bastard.

Training: Nov 13 – 19

This week featured two workouts (planned) and two days off (one of them unplanned). I had to cut back on the first workout since my back was still iffy. I had planned to do 4×10 mins at tempo pace on Sunday, but it took me about 5 miles to feel good on the run. But by that time it was too late to start doing that much tempo work. So I slashed it in half. Doing some work is always better than doing no work.

I should note that last week’s back issues put the kibosh on doing any major weight work. Then an out of town guest (nephew Joe!) put paid to any plans to do gym visits while here’s here. So, with Thanksgiving and a race, I probably won’t get back to weights until after 11/26. But I will get back to it.

The next day, on Monday, I still had speed in my legs and ran a very zippy recovery run. Then I took Tuesday off, my planned rest day for the week. On Wednesday I was zippier still, ripping through a 7 mile recovery effort in 8:18 — a pace that was moderate effort run pace a mere 9 months ago or so. That felt great.

On Thursday I headed back up to Edgemont track, which I had mostly to myself for the first half of the workout, then just a few walkers who stayed out of my way. It was a tough day for a workout. Cold and quite windy. I had a bracing 20 mph wind that was a total to near-total headwind for about 150m of each 400m lap. The workout was a “ladder” session, with lots of 200s, some 400s, a single 800, then back down to the 400s and 200s. All repeats were at mile race pace (or, as was the case today, mile race effort).

I love running 200s, and this time around I arranged those so I had either a side- or tailwind. I had to adjust target times give the wind, but I didn’t do too badly. And things were very consistent. Splits:
40, 45, 42, 44, 90, 94, 3:15, 92, 91, 42, 44, 45, 41

Then I got a 90 minute massage, which revealed major problems in my neck, shoulders, calves and — no surprise here — lower back. I need to go back, but not until after a race on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Naturally, I have Thanksgiving and, possibly, day after Thanksgiving social plans. It will take a steely discipline and extreme fortitude not to eat and drink myself silly. I do want to perform well on Saturday since it’s a flat 5K course. I have no clue how much speed endurance I have right now, but I’d be delighted if I could hold anything around a 6:40 pace, conditions permitting.

On Friday I was back doing slower recovery miles, 5 miles at a 9:45 crawl. Very tired.

Then on Friday evening I had my second experience with post-French cuisine gastrointestinal distress. Got home at 1 am, having felt not quite right driving home. By 2 am my bowels were rebelling. By 3 am the puking had begun. And so the tag teaming continued early into Saturday morning, finally easing off around 5:30, when I fell into a dead sleep for 3 hours. There was to be no running that day.

I suspect I’m allergic (or “food intolerant”) to either duck or escargot (“snails”). Both of these foods figured into my last expulsionfest in March as well as Friday’s technicolor extravaganza. I will, with some sadness, probably never eat either of these two foods again.

With the post-foodpocalypse day of rest, the week was a light one in terms of mileage. That’s fine. Despite a stomach feeling like it had been spindled, I went out and ran a fastish 9 miler, followed by an outstanding tempo session this morning. I’m feeling very good about my training these days. But we’ll truly see its value (or not) on Saturday, when I go out and run a race of the distance for which I’m training. If it doesn’t work where the rubber hits the road, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Just one gear note: I needed a new mid-layer, since my old Mountain Hardware zip-ups (which I love) are getting so faded and frayed. On a lark I bought this one, a wool/synthetic mix from Nike for $80. This shirt is fantastic. So many nice details. For one, it has a little zip pocket, which is useful. It also has robust hand warmers — little concealed finger-covering flaps that are hidden in the sleeves. Very effective for keeping hands warm a the start of a run. The neck closes and is comfortable. Plus the cut is just right; it’s formfitting without feeling tight or binding. You just feel snug. It also means it’s a great shirt to wear walking about, under a coat. You do have to hand wash it because it’s wool. And hand dry it. Totally worth it. I like the blue. May need to try one of the other colors…

Training: Oct 30 – Nov 5

Welcome to winter! I wish I had a short memory because if I did:

  • I would forget that we had temperatures around 80 earlier in October
  • I would also forget that it snowed for 5 months last winter

We got about 6 inches of snow the day before Halloween. Much damage, to my training schedule and to my trees, resulted. I’m moving on. I need to be more flexible than my trees were.

Maybe the cancellation of my planned Sunday race was a blessing in disguise, though. I took it easy in terms of mileage early in the week. Then I had a monster day of driving and sitting around in conference rooms. I spent no less than 4 hours in the car. It was a 16 hour day. I was tired on Wednesday.

And yet. My legs were strangely peppy. My recovery runs are now consistently under 9:00 pace, often more like 8:30. This just shocks me. Also, with the exception of the day after a very hard run, I have plenty of energy for strides. While I’m sorry that it took me several years to realize that I do best on two workouts a week, not three, I’m happy to finally be flourishing by following this guideline.

Because of the cancelled race, this was a light week. But. Maybe also a good thing. Because I went to the track on Thursday. And. Sweet Jesus. I’m improving.

But first. About false starts…

We first went to the Edgemont High School track, but discovered something very important. There is a reason a Mondo surface track is better than rubber. When water freezes on rubber it turns into a sheet of ice. A good 50m of Edgemont, the part that gets no sun, was totally unrunnable due to ice. So this track will be largely useless in winter. That is a shame.

But at least we do have a Mondo track up here, and that’s at Bronxville. So we got back into the car and drove there, hoping we would not encounter another Circus of the Absurd. We did not.

My targets for the 1200s were 4:50. I flew through the first one in 4:40. Second one in 4:41. Wind picked up for the third one, yielding a 4:46. Hot damn. I’ve gotten faster. On the fourth one I got totally thrown off by crowds of children, so I cut it short at 800 (3:13). I decided to run a final 400 fast, just to see what my legs could do after this effort. I did an 84. That’s 5:38 pace for those of you following along at home.

Training: Oct 23 – 29

This week of training featured my first tempo run at Rockefeller State Park (aka “the Rockies”), and it was enjoyable. It’s a good park to run in once you figure out how not to get unspeakably lost. The last time we ran there one area in particular caught my eye: Swan Lake. This small lake has a trail (or, rather, several trails that connect) running around it. With the exception of a short little hill, it’s basically flat and it’s almost exactly a mile around. But since I’m running my tempos by time, that doesn’t matter. But it’s still worth noting.

The warmup to running includes a vigorous 3 miles that are mostly uphill. A long, steady grade on packed dirt or fine gravel. I like the uphill because it forces me to control my warmup pace but also feels like I’m getting a good little bit of hill work in. By the time I get to Swan Lake I’m ready to rumble.

This week’s tempo tacked on around another mile over last week’s. I wear my heart rate monitor for these so I’m running at the right effort. Paces have been right in line with what I’m guessing is my current VDOT of around 49: 6:55 per mile, give or take. Going to a newish place helps make tempo running, if not enjoyable, then at least a little more interesting. The lake is very pretty and there aren’t that many people walking around it if you get there early enough.

I had hoped to do weight work on Sunday but something took me away from it so I ended up moving it to Monday. I did a fairly big session, with the usual upper body work plus lots of leg stuff and plyometrics. I’m also back to doing core work consistently. But there was a price to pay for moving it to Monday. I went to Edgemont 36 hours later to do a speed workout and was just unbelievably slow, heavy-legged and tired. I struggled to hit 5:16 for the first 1200. Then, with a might effort, got down to 5:02 for the second one. My target was around 4:50. Clearly, I was wiped out from the tempo run plus weight work. So I threw in a couple of 400s just to see what I could do there and it was difficult to even hit 90 for those.

As (my former) Coach Sandra would say, I was “running like shit.”

So I went home. I took the next couple of days off, both because of work commitments and also because I had been scheduled to race a 5 miler in Central Park. But that was cancelled. Due. To. SNOW! Yes. We got a fucking snow storm in late October. But not just any snow storm. A snow storm that created massive damage to trees (the snow was heavy). So now our yard is full of giant downed branches that need to be professionally removed. The damage to trees in local parks is also impressive. Central and Prospect Parks were closed because it was so unsafe to walk around. New York is now down to two seasons. Thanks, Climate Change!

In anticipation of racing I did my little wimpy 2-3 miler with strides. Boy, was I ready to race. But it was not to be. But that was okay. Because my next week of training, which I will post about momentarily, featured a track workout that was nothing short of fantabulous.

Training: Oct 16 – 22

My foray into the virgin territory of dedicated training for the 5K continues. It was kind of a strange week.

I will eventually be doing tempo runs that are solid blocks of 30-45 minutes, but after months of no tempo work I need to ease into them. Fortunately, Jack Daniels agrees, so I’m following his workouts, which break up the tempo runs into segments with a few minutes of easy running (or strolling) between them. I did this week’s tempo run in Central Park. I have a 5 mile race there coming up and since I haven’t raced there since August thought I’d better do some harder running over its hills so racing there doesn’t come as a total shock.

That actually went very well, despite the strong winds that day. Average paces were 6:45-7:30. My tempo pace on flatland is around 7:05-7:10 these days, so I guess those ranges were reasonable. I wore a heart rate monitor, as I’m doing with all tempo runs — at least early in training as I reacquaint myself with how that effort should feel — and was running right around 89% of max most of the time.

I’ve gotten back to doing weight work a minimum of once per week, and core work has gotten re-prioritized as well. I hope to get back to doing that twice per week. The pictures of me in the Fifth Avenue Mile are proof that this was worth doing — I’m running upright, with my hips, shoulders and head in a straight line, even at the very end. The other thing I’ve added is some light plyometrics — mostly rapidly stepping up onto a platform while carrying a barbell, one-legged leaps up onto said platform. Plus balance work. It takes forever.

I’ve slacked off on doing strides, but my recovery run paces are decent these days (usually either around 9:00 or well under), so I’m not too worried about it.

The speed session this week was a disaster, through no fault of my own. This is the last trip I’ll make to the Bronxville High School track for awhile now that I’ve discovered the oasis that is the Edgemont High School track. Jonathan and I went together and, from the moment we arrived, we could tell that there would be distractions aplenty. The first thing we noticed were two men swerving around the lanes with leaf blowers. Those were both going at about 120 decibels. It was earsplitting. The men formed piles of leaves, twigs and other debris, which we had to run through, and always seemed to be in the lanes we were in as we rounded the track into the area in which they were lackadaisically working.

There was also a 30 mph wind. Flags were horizontal.

Then arrived the children. About 100 of them, tearing around the track in all lanes, stopping suddenly without warning. At least two repeats were fucked up by that issue. But they cleared out and assembled on the field finally.

Meanwhile, walkers were arriving and wandering in phalanxes of 3-4 across with no awareness of lanes.

To top things off with a nightmarish absurdism that only Italian directors can recreate, the tractors arrived. Yes, there were tractors. On the track. They drove around the track hauling floodlights. Sometimes they’d stop. We were trying to run around a track while tractors also drove around the track. Had a group of monster trucks, elephants and a dirigible arrived, I would not have been surprised.

I finally gave up and went home. Jonathan battled on. After all, I’m just training for a 5K. He’s training for a marathon.

Training: Sept 4 – Oct 15

An extravaganza of catching up (or neglect, depending on how you look at it). I’ll skip the commentary. I’m mostly putting this up to satisfy any unlikely curiosity about what exactly I was doing training-wise leading up to the Fifth Avenue Mile, about which I was chuffed. Then things went all unstructured right after that with travel and just wanting to unwind a little from that training/racing experience.

I will note that I did not do 34 strides the day before that race. That is a typo that’s too labor intensive to fix. What do you think I am, crazy or something?

This week marked the start of 5K training, which will include more consistent mileage in the 40-50 mpw range, longer stuff on the track and the reintroduction of weekly tempo runs. Unlike many runners, I really don’t mind tempo runs and in fact enjoy them if I’m in the right mood. I’ve never been afraid of them. I don’t get that at all.

I have 13 weeks to prepare for the El Paso Corporation 5K in Houston over Olympic Marathon Trials weekend. My little running calculator says that based on my mile time of 5:57 I could conceivably race a 5K around 19:30 today. Yeah, right. I don’t think so. Not without a shit tonne of work. But I’ll be doing that work over the next three months.

Sub-20 is something I could not have conceived of for myself before. Now it doesn’t seem too crazy a goal to shoot for. I am now officially pumped, stoked and psyched to try. I’m also pretty excited.

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