Faster and faster, little by little

I’ve gotten faster in the last month or so. This is a fact that cannot be denied.

For one thing, my recovery runs are now anywhere from 8:30-9:30 pace. Usually right around 9:00. I was heretofore running these at 10:00 or slower.

For another, my trips around the track are taking me less time. Two weeks ago I did a workout that consisted of 800s and 200s at high/higher effort. High being a little above tempo. Higher being something a bit short of all out. Splits for that were around 3:25-3:30 for the 800s and 48ish for the 200s. I did one two weeks ago, a 3:13 (I was hopped up on lots of caffeine), that was obviously way too hard. Yesterday I ran all three 800s in 3:13-3:15 at lower effort than last time. The 200s were 39-43. Hmm.

I run better when the humidity’s lower, as has always been the case, but low humidity is no longer a requirement for running fast. At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about my prospects at the Fifth Avenue Mile even if the weather’s hot and/or humid. But if it’s cool/dry weather, I’m feeling more than pretty good.

Next up, a mile road race in Tuckahoe on September 11th. We shall see. We shall see. Wish I knew if the course was accurate.

On another note: Jenny Simpson (nee Barringer) won gold at Worlds today in the 1500 final, in an inspiring sprint from about 120 metres out. She’s the first American woman to win gold in that event since Mary Decker Slaney did way back in 1983. And Morgan Uceny fell down about three minutes into the race, which was upsetting to see.

Training: Aug 14-20

Lots of variety this week. The highlights included a speed session Tuesday that went eerily well. Like “10-15 seconds per mile faster than the previous try at this workout” well. Then on Thursday I ripped through a 7 mile recovery run at 8:30 pace. Hey, Lady. Watch it!

The next day, I screwed up my second speed session of the week by running too fast. I was supposed to be doing 1200 repeats at tempo effort (around 7:10-7:15 these days), then shorter stuff at faster speeds. I got to the track and promptly ran 1200 at 6:40 pace. Oops. Then, 600m into the next one I was going at 5:58 (!). WTF.

Perhaps the slight twisting motion I used to look at my watch in that moment with a mixture of pride and alarm is what caused me to then pull my left hamstring. I slowed for the last 200, then tried a slower 400 and 200, but the run was over.

I spent the next 24 hours icing and anti-inflaming. It was okay enough to run on the next day. Since I’m getting sick of the running path I asked Jonathan if he wanted to go do an 8 mile run with me along the upper Old Croton Aqueduct (OCA) trail. He was up for it, so off we went.

I have not done a run with Jonathan since I don’t know when. He usually runs too fast for me (at all speeds), so it’s impractical. Today we were in sync, though. My recovery pace has picked up from 10:00+ to between 8:50-9:20 lately. We trundled along at an average 9:00 (with frequent stops for me to pick the tiny stones out of my Trail Minimi — don’t wear these on a gravel trail, kids).

It. Was. Fun.

I took yesterday off from running (although I did weights and core work), then did another quick 7 mile recovery effort this morning. The hamstring issue is still there, so I’ll baby it this week and skip speedwork rather than tempting fate. I want it ready for Harlem on Saturday.

Training: July 31-Aug 13

After the past year I am so gun shy with regard to injury that I shouldn’t even say this. But I will: I am finally training consistently, and having consistently good workouts. Keys to this are, I believe:

  • Taking days off fairly frequently — and by that I mean completely off; no cross-training, no nothing.
  • Maxing out at two hard workouts per week, with rare exception.
  • Skipping strides if my legs are too tired.
  • Cutting down a workout (but not abandoning it completely) if I’m tired, the weather’s bad, etc.
  • Adding volume slowly and with great caution.


Here’s something else I shouldn’t say: I think I’m getting faster. First I had a ridiculously (for me) fast 10 miler on a miserably hot and humid day on July 31. Then I had an okay race, also on a miserably hot day. I’ve also had some very good speed sessions. Especially Friday’s. That was a good one. It was fairly low humidity, although windy. I tempted fate by going to the track, the scene of a horrible calf strain in early June that created a pause in training for a month.

But all was well on Friday. Better than well. I ripped through the workout at paces that were around 10-15 seconds faster per mile than previous editions. Did I run them too hard? I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

I am trying to get weight work in at least once per week. Next week I’ll add in some pylometrics (leaping up onto platforms, mostly) in anticipation that this will help with mile racing. Speaking of mile racing, there’s a series of track miles being run up at the stadium in Van Cortlandt Park this month and next. They are being organized by the Metropolitan Milers. I will probably run the one on September 9th as a time trial for the Fifth Avenue Mile.

But before that I have the Percy Sutton 5K, which runs through the streets of Harlem, in about two weeks. I have no idea what to expect from myself in a 5K given the focus on mile training right now. But, you know, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’s not a marathon.

Training: July 10-30

Yes, I am training for a speed(y) mile. Here's what it looks like.

It’s a Super Deluxe Three Week Edition. I wish I could give you a funny fold-in picture like they used to do in the back of MAD Magazine, but I do not have such a thing, nor time to make one.

Let’s get cracking.

Now I am training for a mile race. Someone at work the other day said, “What are you training for, a half or a full marathon?” To which I replied, “I’m training for the mile.” He paused, then asked, “You mean a speed mile?” I knew what he meant.

It’s been dreadfully hot over the past few weeks. We had a few days in which the heat index was over 110. That’s with humidity. Not good days for training. So it’s been the rare day I’ve run outside. But I have done a few faster runs outside so I can stay reasonably acclimated, since I have at least two more races this summer.

As you can see by the pink days, the mile training varies wildly between shorter speedy stuff and longer speedy stuff, but not that long. In Daniels’ parlance, “T” stands for Tempo pace and “I” stands for Interval pace. My Tempo pace these days seems to be around 7:05-7:15. Interval pace is obviously faster, but I don’t really pay attention to it. I’m running everything by effort.

Mid-July featured a decent 4 mile race, which is good because I have a 5 mile race on Saturday and am happier going in knowing that I can still run reasonably fast for farther than a couple of miles.

The following week included two speed sessions. I am beginning to think that two workouts most weeks is the way to go for me. I feel completely ready for the next hard session and I’m running them well. No shitty workouts so far, knock wood.

On Thursday of last week I did an interesting workout outside: 1200s followed by 400s followed by a mile. I did not go to the track for this but decided to just use my Garmin and run on the running path. I like doing my workouts on normal terrain since it’s closer to road racing than running around a track is. Plus, the last time I ran anything fast on a track I pulled a calf muscle and was then sidelined for a month. So I am a little track shy these days.

Splits showed a little jump in fitness, since it was hot: 7:05-7:15 for the 1200s, 91-99 for the 400s and the last mile at 7:14. I was extremely happy with these times. And extremely tired later on.

The most surprising workout came this past Sunday, on the 31st (the day after this set concludes). I’d scheduled a 10 miler and thought I’d either do it at recovery pace or as a long run. But for some reason I was just flying. I started the first couple of miles at 9:20 and kept picking it up. I was not wearing a Garmin, so I don’t have the mile splits. But I averaged 8:03 a mile for the entire run, so I must have been running a few miles well under 8:00. Again, I was really happy with this  — so much so that I wondered if shelving the marathon is the right idea; I perished that thought quickly — my eye is on the mile and 5K for the rest of this year. Gotta stay focused.

Saturday is the 5 mile Club Championships race in Central Park. Last year I got badly injured during this race, but up until that happened I liked it a lot. It’s tiny compared to your average NYRR race, so you have some room. But it’s very competitive. Best of both worlds.

Mileage has been low but since my commute-requiring freelance engagement is winding down I should be able to run a bit more. I will probably top out at around 50 MPW.

In late August I’ll run a 5K through the streets of Harlem. Then it’s just a month until the goal mile race down Fifth Avenue. The work gets faster and harder between now and then. I’m still enjoying it. The speed mile.

Training: July 3-9

It may look like I’m still injured. But I’m not.

That’s more than I can say for my training log, however. Google Docs inexplicably barfed all over it and upon exporting it out to my Mac to try to save the file, I couldn’t open it. So now I have to work with it on Jonathan’s Windows machine, which creates the hideousness you see at right. Damn you, Google. You’re not worth $528.94 a share.

I ran every day last week. And, more important, I ran pain free every day. It was good.

But.

It was also hot.

So I did lots of running inside on the treadmill.

Which was fine.

Not ideal.

But fine.

Highlights of the week included my first Jack Daniels-assigned speed session. That went well. I did not run too hard. I did my strides on a few outside runs and realized that unlike in training cycles past, I was not too tired to do the strides. Good sign.

Then I tore up Suicide Hill in Van Cordlandt and won a muffin. With help from Jonathan.

On Saturday I got some culture and some miles in Prospect Park.

And that was that.

This week’s gone well too. I ran faster than previously on some treadmill speedy stuff. On Saturday I have a 4 mile race in Central Park. I love the bizarre 4 mile distance.

On Sunday I’ll meet some long-admired kindred spirits for the first time (and reconnect with a few regulars) for lunch, one from Philadelphia and one all the way from Australia. That should be fun. I hope he doesn’t make fun of our accents.

I ordered some flamboyantly awful-looking new racing flats.

But you’ll have to wait until the weekend to hear all about those things.

How happy am I not to be injured?

Do you really have to ask?

New plan. New rules.

Back in May, after my debacle in the Long Island Half, I put together a plan that consisted of 10K-specific training to get me to the NYRR Club Championships in early August, prepared to race my best 5 miler. Then both life and injury got in the way and I ended up with severely compromised training until about a week ago. So here I am, back at square one again, sort of.

Over the weekend I looked at that original well-laid plan, and at the races scheduled over the coming few months, and decided that if I was going to try something new (again), now was the time. I have a few races scheduled between now and the championships. But there’s one beyond that — the Fifth Avenue Mile — that intrigues me more than any other. Ever since I ran a decent 1500 last summer (~5:46) on no short-distance training to speak of, I’ve wondered if I could improve at distances in the mile range. I originally thought I’d skip the Fifth Avenue race, since I’m guessing NYRR will screw up the start and I didn’t want to get stuck in a crowd clog. But now I’m thinking that if I train properly then I have a perfect right to start up front. So I will. Train. And start up front.

I’ve thrown out the 10K plan. Between now and the Club Champs, I’ve got three races: a 2 miler, a 4 miler and a 5K, respectively. I could continue to do 10K training, but I’m going to go ahead and start training for that mile race. I believe I have enough endurance that those races will take care of themselves, if not be stellar ones. That’s okay. I want to focus on the mile race in late September. I have 12 weeks. (I was originally going to give myself 6 weeks.) I want to be as ready as I can be.

I’ve owned Jack Daniels’ training book, Daniels’ Running Formula, for a few years, but have never looked to it for training guidance. For one thing, his plans looked really hard and complex. Upon closer inspection, while they are still hard, they are not as complicated as they seem. Perhaps more importantly, they are quite flexible. Right now, flexibility is the name of the game for me. So I’m going to use Daniels’ 1500-3000 training plan (shortened a bit) to get me to my goal mile race.

Here are some of the characteristics I like about Daniels’ plan:

  • He provides either two or three quality workouts a week, but they are prioritized so that if you need to cut back, you can. You just make sure you do the first workout that week at least and preferably the second one as well. Since I plan to just do two quality workouts most weeks (or one plus a race), it’s pretty easy for me to spot which one to drop from week to week.
  • Speaking of races, there are lots of opportunities to fit races in as part of training. Almost every week features an option to use a race as quality workout.
  • He offers two plans: the A plan is more structured in terms of distances to run; the B plan is a little looser and gives you time-based goals rather than distance- or paced-based ones. I like this because it allows me to do workouts on the roads if the track won’t work out for some reason, plus it allows me to train purely by effort rather than obsessing about distance/pace. I’ve struggled with this tendency in the past (and have trained too hard as a result), plus it’s tempting to discount the effect of training in heat and humidity when you have set times to run. I can throw those out and just focus on effort now.
  • Within the workouts themselves there is latitude to make adjustments based on energy level, what distances are working best, etc. For example, today I had a bunch of varying repeats to do. I could do anywhere from 1000-1600 repeats. Since I was tired, I chose to do 1200s.
  • Maybe this is true of most 1-2 mile programs, but there are lots of shorter, faster intervals and fartlek segments. I love running 200s and 400s, and mixing those up with longer repeats. I’ll get to do a lot of ladder-type workouts.
  • The rest of the week is not regimented at all. The mileage I run from day to day, and how I distribute it, is up to me. As long as I take my easy days easy, do strides 4x a week and keep my weekly long run to under 25% of total mileage, I can do whatever I like.
  • Finally, there’s a ton of variety in terms of workout types and how they are structured: fartleks, tempos, track sessions…it’s all there and there’s lots of variation. This will keep me from getting bored and, I hope, be a good stimulus for improvement.

My rules are pretty simple:

  • As stated above, maximum of two hard runs a week, with little exception.
  • I will take a day off when I need to, and will do so anyway every two weeks at least.
  • If I feel injury coming on, I won’t run through it.
  • I won’t run my workouts too hard. I may even hold back a little in races.
  • If I’m unsure about how to adjust a workout, I’ll err on the side of caution and cut things down more so than less so.

So that’s my plan from here until September 24. After that I’ll probably take a week off, or just to do easy running. Then, if Daniels worked for me for the mile, I’ll go into his 5K-15K training plan for the El Paso 5K in Houston over Olympic Marathon Trials weekend. That will be a 15 week plan. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself…

Training: June 5-18

The patient slog through injury continues.

Nothing happened June 5-11. My log that week is a wall of yellow that says “INJURED.” I do credit myself for sticking to my plan to do core work twice a week, and I managed to keep that up this week as well. Guess what I’m doing this evening? That’s right: core work!

I have a set of exercises I do (around 12) for my core. The current print issue of Running Times has a few other good ones, so I’ve added in another 4-5. I also do some arm/shoulder work with dumbbells, since I have the weakest biceps known to man. I know I don’t need bulging biceps to run well, but I would like to one day do at least one pull-up. A girl can dream.

All of this takes me about an hour. I watch “Locked Up Abroad” or “My Strange Addiction” while doing my routine. Both of these shows always make me feel a lot better about my life than I did before I watched them.

There’s some light on the horizon, at least compared to earlier in the month. I was able to at least start jogging again this week, although my right calf does not like to go faster than 9:00 pace. It doesn’t like uphill either. Nor does it like flat bits. It loves downhill sections, which comprise around 3% of the terrain I run on.

But, you know, I ran 18 miles. That’s a start. See? Positive attitude. The new me. I can run. That’s more than I could do the previous week. The pain is now just a dull ache, and I’m encouraged by the fact that it doesn’t get worse over the course of a run. If I stop every mile or so and stretch my calf, it seems better by the end of the run. I’ll keep doing that.

I’m throwing out the 10K plan for now. It’s still there in my log, but I don’t look at it. What’s the point? I don’t dare do any faster running until the pain is totally gone. When I get back to the training, I may experiment with a 9 or 10 day training cycle, since I don’t think my body tolerates doing three hard workouts a week.

I have rough plans to do the 2-Person Relay (with Jonathan) in Van Cortlandt Park, a 4 mile XC race (it would be my first XC effort) on Thursday July 7, assuming there isn’t a fire drill on my current freelance project that requires I stay late; if there is, I might swap that for the Women’s Distance Festival 5K two days after that on Saturday the 9th. But this is assuming I can even run fast and free of pain soon. That’s a big question mark.

I still hope to compete in the Run for Central Park 4 miler in a month. If I’m not running fast by then…well, let’s not go there.

Here are some good things that are happening:

The summer has been pretty nice so far. Or maybe it just seems that way because I’m not out running much, or when I am it’s about 5:30 in the morning. Aside from a few scorchers, it’s been in the upper-70s to mid-80s most days. So I’m appreciating the season.

I’m able to get home at a reasonable hour most days and have been throwing food on an outdoor Weber I got for my birthday. I find the process of preparing the grill extremely relaxing and gratifying. I sit outside while the bricquets heat up, staring at the fire. I clean the grill later on. I research new grill recipes. I think I might actually be a guy.

My stepmother is on the road to recovery after her near-death, then near-permanently-fucked-up experience over the past two months. She sounds completely back to herself on the phone and she’s been told not to worry about doing any physical therapy, just walk a lot, lift things, etc. I’m still awestruck by her luck and resilience.

Jonathan ran his second race in a year today, and ran fairly well considering the lack of conditioning. He’s not happy with his time, of course, but that will improve. His foot is still stiff and he suspects that will always be the case. But he’s racing without foot pain for the first time in about 16 months. This is a good thing.

Finally, I’m losing poundage in the form of fat. I’ve been holding off on posting about it because the effort is ongoing and has involved quite a bit of experimentation (and deprivation). But I’ll have a full accounting of the good, the bad and the ugly once I reach my target weight of 125.

Here’s some video of the Portugal/Father’s Day run this morning. Jonathan flits through at the 7:35 mark (small, full head of grey hair, glasses, plain blue singlet, stopping watch). That’s NYRR head honcho Mary Wittenberg off to the left. There was some noise about her leaving NYRR to head up USATF awhile back, but, honestly, I can’t see her ever leaving this job. She so obviously enjoys interacting with the runners — all of them, not just the elites — as they come over the line. Much of that action is off camera, but I thought it worth noting since I was so struck by it this morning.

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