A bevy of updates

It’s official. I am now as addicted to Twitter as I am to Facebook. This is not good. At least I can automatically send tweets to Facebook, so that saves a little time.

I have not been a heavy Twitter user until now, primarily just exploiting it as a mechanism for automatically alerting any followers to new blog posts. But in the last week or so that I’ve gotten more active, I’ve picked up more followers and a lot more blog traffic, primarily as a result of the Davila race analysis post. For anyone who’s interested, I also started a Twitter list of New York Harriers. Plus it’s another outlet for posting useless funny shit. Like I need that. But it’s something to do during commercials since I never seem to have posession of the Tivo controls. Funny, that.

The Davila post has gotten around 1,000 hits so far and momentum is picking up. I have sent a note to my media contact at NYRR to see if she’ll be running the Mini 10K. I am afraid that, based on some post-race interviews, the answer to that will be “no.” But if it’s yes, then I will plan to interview her about the Boston race. I’ll probably keep the Mini interviews to just two or three people. It’s a lot of work to prepare for them and I think I can do a better job if I focus on just a few runners rather than trying to interview, say, five to seven of them. It’s always a crapshoot, guessing who will be most interesting and forthcoming. But I’ve gotten pretty lucky so far.

I had a fantastic workout on Tuesday morning. Between uncooperative weather, hitting hormonal low points and a fucked up back, I’ve had to rearrange my training a fair amount this week. I had three workouts scheduled for this week: a garden variety 14 mile long run, a session of 1K repeats on the track, and a 10 mile progression run (last mile at HM effort).

Since I knew I had to drop one of them, I opted to dump the track work. Doing 1K repeats will not help me in a half marathon in 11 days as much as doing a 14 miler will, especially if it’s a hard one. So I made the long run a long progression run, running low 9:00s for the first half and 8:30 down to 7:30 for the second half. I am guessing I’ll be running 7:30s next Sunday if I’m lucky. It was hard work, but it was the right effort. Most of all, it was a big confidence booster. I had doubted my ability to run 14 miles at all, so shaky has my endurance seemed lately. Now I know I can easily cover 13.1, and I’m pretty sure I can run hard for that distance if properly rested.

As for the 10 mile progression run still scheduled…well, actually, I have two of them scheduled. One was for today and the other (10 miles with the last 3 at HM effort) is scheduled for Sunday. I am still fatigued today, so I think what I am going to do is drop today’s 10 miler and just run easy, then do the 10 w/3 fast on tomorrow or Saturday and move the final speed session up a day to Tuesday, after which I can get a massage that afternoon. That will give me four days of easy running and rest before the half.

In other news, I decided not to register us for New York. Chances are good that I wouldn’t have gotten in, and, honestly, one reason I’m skipping Chicago is that I can’t deal with megarace crowds. So I’m now 95% certain we’ll be running Syracuse in mid-October. Assuming I start training after the Mini 10K, that gives me 18 weeks to prepare.

Training: April 3-16

The adventure continues: low mileage, lots of recovery and not a little hard work. Any misgivings I’ve had about taking days off and losing easy miles were put to rest during last weekend’s race. I remain concerned about my fitness for a 13.1 mile race in two weeks. But I have to keep reminding myself of three things:

  1. I am on the comeback trail. I’m not trained for a half, so I can’t expect to pull some amazing performance out of my, um, hat under these circumstances.
  2. I have raced enough half marathons to know what the effort should feel like. It’s not like I can’t run 13.1 miles. I may just need to run them a little slower than I’d like.
  3. Everything is going to be okay.

I’m feeling so nonchalant about Long Island that I may even run with music. It’s not a crowded course and I enjoyed having tunes along the course last year (I had an interesting soundrack to all the overweight guys in their 20s who were dropping like flies around me), and I don’t think they ban headphones.

Anyway. The workouts leading up to the Scotland 10K on Sunday went exceptionally well. Freakishly well. First, I did a progression run that had me running the last two miles at 6:45 and 6:30. Color me shocked. Then I did my special pre-race session on a windy track (~15mph steady, ~25mph gusts) and the splits were around what I got a few weeks ago on a windless track. Yay, me. Coach Sandra sees me as a poster child for cross-training these days.

One thing I did during that pre-race week was to take Sunday off and then move the progression run up a day so I could have a day recovery between that and the track session. Sandra had originally scheduled them back to back on Tue/Wed, but I felt that would be too much to handle. This arrangement worked well. I may try it again before my next shorter race (the Mini 10K in June).

This past week, post-race, I took it easy. Sunday’s race took a lot out of me, although I did a quicker recovery pace on Tuesday (around 9:00 — I’m usually running 9:30-9:45 for those). Then I was fried for the second run. The weather on Wednesday was horrible, so I moved the speedwork to Thursday. It was windy, so I decided that rather than go to the track and be frustrated, I’d turn the planned 1K track repeats into a bunch of time-based segments on the road. Same work, different perspective. That worked out — I just ran hard for 3-5 minutes at a stretch until I’d reached around 20 minutes of hard running. I have no idea how far any of them were, but IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Yesterday I got a massage — the first one in about three months, and she spent the entire time trying to get the knots out of my back and shoulders — then decided not to run since I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking that evening. Last night featured drinks and something resembling food at a sports bar on Theater Row with 2010 Green Mountain Relay teammates Amy, TK, identical twins Mike and Matt (aka “Steak”) Tartar, along with honorary guest Bridges Runner (whom I was happy to get a chance to talk to for quite awhile, having previously only met her for about five seconds) — and some other dude whose name I’ve forgotten but who was very excited about the new iPad. Even though it was in a sports bar on Theater Row, it was fun!

As for the coming week, I have a lot of hard stuff and 54 miles. I will, as I’ve been doing, cut back on recovery miles if my legs are trashed. I have a 14 miler, my first in a long time, tomorrow. I will run up to White Plains and back, a run I’ve missed doing. Then more 1K repeats on the track and another progression run. And a trip back to the massage therapist so she can attack my legs.

In other news, I will be running the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 21. I’d thought we’d be away that weekend, but we will be here. Since it’s three weeks after the Long Island Half, and three weeks before the Mini 10K — and it’s a NYRR club points race — there is no reason not to run it. So run it I shall. Since I won’t get a chance to wave to the cat on Cat Hill, I will wave to the Giant Killer Rat on the boardwalk in Coney Island.

Longer term, I’m still wrestling with what to do about a fall marathon. In an unfortunate combination of bad timing and lack of foresight, I’ve managed to end up with no automatic qualifier for the New York Marathon. My meltdown at the California International Marathon, while a Boston qualifier, did not give me the 3:38 I needed for New York. Then a freak heatwave at last year’s Long Island Half turned that race into a slow training run. Since then, I’ve only been racing shorter stuff.

So now my only option is to enter the lottery if I want a shot. I think. I’m so on the fence that I can’t even deal with figuring out the details. I think the deadline’s in two days or something. I should really look. I will do that right after I hit “Publish.”

Jonathan has an autoqualifier for New York. I suppose we could both enter (he on auto, me in the lottery) and see what happens. I am not excited about flying all the way to Chicago for a race that has been hot three out of the last four years. There’s Syracuse, but it’s a brand new event and I still don’t trust the weather in October. I would like the New York option, especially if it looks like I need more training time. Decisions, decisions.

Training: Mar 27-Apr 2

What a weird week. I was sick all week with a cold that kept flaring up and then ebbing. On Tuesday I went out for a progression run that went okay (I was running 7:30 at around 86% effort — I wore my heart rate monitor for the first time since the summer), but my hamstring went nuts toward the end. That was annoying. And worrisome. I wish this thing would just work itself out, but I think it’s going to take awhile.

I rolled, stretched and massaged the living daylights out of it that evening. I’ve learned that this is what I must do now: tend to it. Usually, all is forgiven within the next 24-48 hours.

Wednesday was Zen on the Track Day. That was a good session.

I was supposed to do two 6 mile recovery runs on Thursday, but I questioned the wisdom of that plan. The first run went okay, but the second one was just painful. Since I could not see how running 6 miles on exhausted, aching legs was going to help, I cut the run short at 4 miles.

On Friday my cold peaked and I felt very low energy. I had a 9 mile recovery run scheduled but couldn’t imagine running a mile. So I took the day off. I do this now and I think it’s a good thing. I don’t worry about getting overtrained anymore and, in fact, I see some evidence that my training is actually going pretty well.

I was still dragging on Saturday, but I forced myself out to run anyway. I had 14 x 1 minute surges scheduled. I saved those for the last possible point in the run, doing them over the final 2.5 miles. It was windy. I was not into it at all. But I did all 14 of them and was pretty darned proud of that.

This week’s workouts have been surprisingly good. So much so that I am now worried about Sunday’s 10K. Things seem to be going so well — I expect some sort of cosmic payback this weekend. I am trying to push those worries aside. I will be trying for Zen in Central Park.

Finally, let me offer my apologies to the reader who submitted a comment on my March 30 post with some thoughtful observations about running without goals and, often, without a watch, and the potential for personal liberation in these decisions. It got flagged as spam and then in a spastic move I managed to trash it. Thanks anyway. It was nice of you to comment. If you want to try again, I’ll try not to screw it up this time.

Oh, also, yesterday I had a really good birthday, which included several phone calls from family and friends; a few really sweet cards; some snazzy new earrings; free money; and…flowers! And we had some leftover cake and wine from our weekend celebration. I got to make another wish. I don’t feel any older. Just happier.

Bump

I ran 8 miles in 1:04 today. The last two were 6:45 and 6:30. I have no idea where that came from.

The best part was when two people actually jumped out of the way when they saw me coming.

Running moment to moment in lane 4

[Warning: A bout of confessional bloggorhea follows. There is a running pay off, though. And maybe other useful things.]

This past fall and winter were rough. When I think of 2010, I see a year that began with disappointment and frustration (following hot on the heels of a less-than-stellar 2009), then had a fabulous high point — a couple of extremely good and gratifying months in early summer — and then began a nosedive in August followed by a flap-rattling death roll through the rest of the year and into this one. The ups and downs (mostly downs) weren’t limited to running — there were work/career goings on, social stuff, financial stuff. You name it. It was a year of extremes in many ways.

While I’d hoped that 2011 would bring instant relief — I don’t know why, since it’s just a calendar page, or dropped Times Square ball, or new crow’s foot, or however you keep score — the hideous blob of sheer misery and distress that was laying waste to my psychic backyard was rapidly advancing toward my mental domicile’s shaky foundation in the new year in a most horrific way.

On this blog I have not made a secret of my history of anxiety, a problem that I still struggle with now. I’ve also got a long history of depression — a constant kind (called dysthymia) which sometimes erupts into major depression (a delightful sequence known as “double depression”). This glowing tinder of seemingly innate unhappiness has become a full on conflagration on several occasions in my life, lasting anywhere from weeks to more than a year. I’d gotten a reprieve for most of the 2000s and thought I was out of the woods. But it was back late last year.

Why did I get depressed this time around? In some ways, it’s an impossible question. Why does anyone get depressed? Normal people — meaning people who are not otherwise vulnerable to depressive states — will get depressed in reaction to some catalyzing event: extreme loss, for example. Again, this is normal. Others, like me, will get knocked slightly off balance by some event that is not on its face disastrous — in my case, it was a couple of things that don’t need detailing here, but [here's the tie-in] included my stress fracture and subsequent total layoff from running for about 4 months. It’s not an event in particular that’s causing the quick slide down off the mountain. The event may be disappointing, but it’s not the problem. The problem is the reaction to the event — or, really, the chain reaction of mental machinations, all of them harmful in their extremity and breadth, and based on ingrained patterns from previous death spirals, that cranks into motion after that single event.

And what’s feeding that engine of awfulness? For me, it’s anxiety. And feeling bad about the anxiety. Then the anxiety about the anxiety feeds the depression and then the depression, in turn, feeds back into the anxiety in a crescendoing feedback loop. Pretty soon the top flies off your Waring blender of distress (“Hey, what’s that burning smell?”) and before you know it your kitchen walls are covered in the worst parts of yourself.

Holy crap. I finally get this. For some reason, this was the year that I was able to step back and observe what happens. I couldn’t stop it from happening, mind you. But, once things lifted enough for me to think straight, I could somewhat recognize cause-and-effect/effect-and-cause. That small shard of perspective produced a glimmer of hope. That hope got me thinking. The thinking got me reading. The reading got me working.

It’s not fun to be me much of the time. I think I’ve established that. But I will always be me, so I’d better learn how to live with myself. What I suspect needs to happen is that, going forward, I need to focus less on fixing and more on just being aware of the pattern and movement of my own thoughts and feelings, with an aim to get out of my own way. Floating, not flailing. I don’t write all this because I feel sorry for myself. I write it because I’m a slow learner and I hope that someone else can learn from it a little quicker than I have. It’s also nice to share news about things that are working well.

I am now trying some things that are wacky, or at least they are to me. I gave up on psychoanalysis several years ago. I will not take meds for these problems, as that presents a host of other potential problems in the form of side effects and — let’s face it — masking rather than actually addressing what’s going wrong. I am taking a bunch of vitamins and supplements that supposedly help with moods. We’ll see what those do or don’t do. I don’t put a lot of stock in them, but I figure they can’t hurt. I’m off synthetic hormones. I stop at one drink now.

But the heart of everything else I’m doing is a twosome of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and “mindfulness,” areas I only just became aware of quite recently. I so wish my former analyst had looked at me in 1991 and said, “Julie, your habitual thought patterns are toxic and your perceptions are totally distorted. You need CBT for your anxiety and the depression it fosters, not years of analysis from me.” But Freudian analysis is at best a quaintly blinkered belief system and at worst a cult perpetuated by adherents who I believe only have the best of intentions, so I bear them no ill will. But given what I know now, I’m not surprised that our exchange never took a more practical turn.

Okay. So what does any of this have to do with running? Fair question.

Running.

Running.

Running has given me so much when it’s gone well, but has hurt me so deeply when it hasn’t. Or, rather, it has set me up perfectly to hurt myself deeply. This time around, it lit a fire of depression. When I was limping around with my stress fracture in the fall, my dad, himself a former obsessed marathoner asked, “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” By that I think he meant: “Why do you keep making this so important and setting yourself up for a fall in the process?”

The answer to that is because I thought in running I had found a source of pleasure and achievement that I could control. Boy, was I wrong about that! A sane person would have stopped caring so much about it after it went so wrong for so long. But I reacted by stubbornly caring about it even more. I devised new goals, goals that may or may not have been realistic. It doesn’t matter if they were or are. The problem is that I had goals.

Getting better. Changing myself. Fixing what’s wrong. Whether we’re talking about running or about my state of mind, these are all bad goals. They are all about forcing something to happen, denying what’s actually happening, giving potency to something that’s nothing, missing what’s real, and often good.

Edited: One book I’m reading quotes from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races — the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”

One of the wackier things I’m trying — the “mindfulness” part — is meditation. I would like to say that I suck at it. But that would involve a judgment and I’m gathering that the whole point of meditation is to be, not to do. If you’re sitting there meditating and thinking, “I’m not meditating the right way,” you’re lost. You need to just sit there and be. If in one moment you realize that you’re thinking about what to make for dinner, then you’re doing it right; the work lies in the realizing and the accepting, not the thinking or the not thinking. Gaining an awareness of whatever’s going on in your head means you’re on the right track. Awareness of “mistakes” — and refusal to label them as such — is the success, not the failure.

Supposedly meditation can actually change your brain chemistry, affecting key areas like the amygdala, which is our brain’s bus driver for fear reactions (“fight or flight” — the core of all externally expressed anxiety)  and so-called “emotional memory” formation, and which comes into play in conditions like social phobia, depression and other problems that are near and dear to my heart and history. Working with the hypothalamus, the amygdala also regulates some aspects of our nervous system. Read up if you’re interested, since I’m sure I’ll screw something up if I continue here. I found it intriguing enough to pursue in addition to the more directed methods offered by CBT. This book, which was created by some of the authors of this study, in particular has been quite the mind- and eye-opener. Its approach works as well as happy pills, but doesn’t make you fat, dizzy or dullwitted in the process.

But back to running. All this other stuff I’m doing is having an effect on running, which is a welcome, and quite unexpected, side effect. I am starting to naturally run without goals, without expectations and without judgment. This is making running easier in ways I did not expect. For example, I had a very tough track session today. Since it’s unusual, I think Coach Sandra would consider it “proprietary,” so I won’t give details. But there was short stuff (a lot!) followed by semi-short stuff, followed by a long interval that was to be run “all out.”

I had never done this workout before. It frightened me a little, but I went in with an open mind. Stuff that normally would have bothered me didn’t today.

People were wandering chaotically around the track. I like running in lane 4 because it’s closest to 400m (the track in Bronxville is screwy because they shoved it into too-small a space, but the installers chose aesthetics over accuracy for the markers — so no lane is exactly 400m — inner lanes are shorter, outer lanes are longer). I did not let the dawdling interlopers get to me. I ran around them. I did not have to run in lane 4 at all times. Accuracy didn’t matter. The effort is what mattered.

I did not think of the many repeats/rests that lay ahead. I thought only of the one I was doing. I didn’t think of how far I was from finishing it. I didn’t think, with dread, “Oh, god, 300m to go…” or, with resentment, “This fucking wind is slowing me down” or any of the usual stuff I do when I’m doing track work. I just ran at what I thought was the appropriate effort at that point in time and kept the rest of the workout out of my mind. I would get there when I got there.

At one point I was running fast and realized that I was totally relaxed, watching my hands swing up, my right arm swing and wrist angle completely different from my left, something I now accept rather than try to correct, my flats eating up the curve. I enjoyed running in that moment. Thinking about it right now makes me happy. My splits were remarkably even — for 18 intervals (I did an extra by accident). Like within a second or two of each other. No watch required.

The last, killer interval was awful. It was slow, something I knew without looking at my watch. Then I realized that it probably wasn’t supposed to be fast. It couldn’t be. I had exhausted myself with the previous few miles of faster running; my legs were burning and aching. I realized midway through that I was now doing “get comfortable with suffering” training, something I’ve come to recognize in some of Sanda’s workouts. I made a mental note to ask her what the purpose of that horrible last big push was — mental, physical or both — and then I gently returned my attention to my hands, my feet and the metres unfolding in front of me.

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.

Training: Mar 6-12

I realized just now that I did three hard workouts, plus a race, this week. That probably wasn’t the smartest way to schedule things — and I take responsibility for this schedule. In reintroducting Coach Sandra’s original schedule for the summer, I wanted to get back to doing long runs on Saturday. This seemed as good a week to shove that run up a day as any.

As usual, the workouts this week were a mix of gratifying and disappointing. But I won’t label anything as a “bad workout” for reasons previously stated.

So. Coogan’s went pretty well. Then, with only a day’s recovery — which featured 10 miles of running — I headed up to the streets of Scarsdale (since our running path was flooded) for a progression run. My legs felt dead that day and I nearly abandoned the run. Or, well, kind of. My thought process moved from “I’m going to cut this short at 5 miles” to “Maybe I’ll make this a recovery run” to “I’ll run a decent pace, but drop the 2 fast miles” to…”Well, goddammit, I’m gonna run those last 2 miles hard.”

Why did I make this decision? For one, my legs began to feel better after about 4 miles and I was naturally picking up the pace anyway. For another, Coach’s rule is: if I can’t do the workouts in a given week, I have to go back and repeat that week until I can. I hate repeating weeks.

It worked out and I did better than expected: Mile 7 was 7:36, run into a stiff headwind; Mile 8 (wind assisted) was 6:50.

Thursday’s speed session was nothing to write home about, but I’m calling it close enough to count. Coach said I should have either deferred the workout to Friday or substituted a fartlek run (as she instructed me to do, but I ignored, because I’m a weirdo and I happen to like 1K repeats, at least when they’re going well).

I took yesterday completely off. No running. No cross-training. Nothing. And I’m glad I did because today’s 12 miler in Central Park was a satisfying run indeed. After a 9:20 warmup mile I was solidly in 8:15-8:20 territory. There were several miles run well under 8:00.

The last mile was ridiculous: 6:59. I did not intend to run it that fast, but as I was coming off the north section of Museum Mile, ready to hit the downhill before the 102nd St. Transverse, I passed a guy. He did not like being passed. So he caught me. I did not want him to pass me. So we both kept running faster and faster. Soon we were racing. At one point my watch said I was on pace for a 6:20 mile. This was getting silly (and I was getting out of breath). So I let him “win.”

But the funny thing was, once he got a few feet ahead of me, he slowed to around 7:10 pace and I was still about a meter behind him. When we hit the downhill around the top of the park, I decided to open up. I felt good and I was half a mile from the 12 mile mark, so why not. I passed him again, tearing past him down the hill. He looked a little annoyed. Or maybe I surprised him. But he didn’t race me this time. Average pace for the run was 8:07. I want to get that below 8:00 by the end of the month.

Today featured yet another new mix. But I ran so fast that I didn’t get through it. The Keane and Nick Drake were good for the drive home.

Long Run Too

Consequence – The Notwist
Handson Us – The Notwist
Lover’s Spit – Broken Social Scene
Texico Bitches – Broken Social Scene
Kids (Soulwax Mix) – MGMT
Flash Delirium – MGMT
Our Time Has Passed – Pernice Brothers
She Heightened Everything – Pernice Brothers
Barely Legal – The Strokes
Alone, Together – The Strokes
Human – Pretenders
Popstar – Pretenders
Untitled – Social Distortion
Far Side Of Nowhere – Social Distortion
Finer Feelings – Spoon
My Little Japanese Cigarette Case – Spoon
Breaking Into Cars – The Raveonettes
Heart Of Stone – The Raveonettes
Some Might Say – Oasis
The Shock Of The Lightning – Oasis
60 Miles An Hour – New Order
Regret – New Order
Hold It – Marshall Crenshaw
Right On Time – Marshall Crenshaw
Perfect Symmetry – Keane
The Lovers Are Losing – Keane
Which Will – Nick Drake
Pink Moon – Nick Drake

Listen on Rhapsody

“Remember: you are a strong, powerful black woman.”

This is something I like to say to Jonathan right before races. There are enough gaps between races that it continues to be funny. I like to think it takes him out of his nervousness for just a few nanoseconds and gets the happy chemicals flowing in his brain right before the horn blows.

So here we have a joke with pretty good staying power. I’ve been dragging it out to the start line for a few years now. The joke is like the accordion that travels the U.S. continent, witnessing (or perhaps causing, through some kind of curse) death and mayhem, in E. Annie Proulx’s novel Accordian Crimes. Except instead of passing through the hands of hapless owners, it passes through years of hapless training and racing.

Lest I get too tangled up in this comparison and paint myself into a corner (to mix metaphors… Ack! Escape! Escape!), here’s where I’m going with this: while I may be using the same musty pre-race jokes, the pre-race training is getting some new material. Or at least a new mental approach. I hate to tarnish it with something as touchy-feely as “mindfulness,” but the way I approach workouts today is quite different than it was even a year ago.

In essence, here’s the Great Truth: I am where I am on any given day, and sometimes it’s not where I want to be. But that’s almost always because I’m not fully recovered, which means that I’m tired. Being tired is real. It’s not a weakness, nor is it something to ignore and “push through.” That’s how you get overtrained and, possibly, also injured.

Here’s an illustration: I was scheduled to do a bunch of 1K repeats yesterday on the track. It was pouring buckets of rain all day, so I moved them to the treadmill. My legs were still aching and fatigued from Sunday’s race followed by a windy 8 mile progression run on Tuesday.

So I was tired yesterday. I knew this to be true. But I decided to try the workout. That’s what you do. You try it. You don’t drop it altogether because you’re tired. But you don’t bludgeon your way through it either, for the same reason. You can get some work done, but it needs to be the appropriate amount of work, done at the appropriate effort.

The first couple of repeats went okay, although I was deliberately running them slightly slower than last time. The next two featured a rapid cratering in performance. On both, my legs died at the 800m mark and I knew I was running way too hard for the last 200m. Done! Doing more 1K repeats at too high an effort would be counterproductive: I would be doing the workout at too high an effort to gain the intended benefits, plus I’d feel like a shitty runner for the rest of the day. Who needs that?

Did I have to stop working though? Could I still do something productive? Sure. My legs were dying at 800m. So why not try a couple of 400m repeats and see how they go? I did those and they were fine. But two were obviously enough, if my labored breathing was anything to go by. I was done for the day, having logged 3 miles at high effort. I jogged my recovery miles and came away feeling okay about the workout. And about me, the runner.

To review: Sometimes the best thing to do is just run to your capability on that day and, rather than viewing the experience as a compromised workout, instead declare it a major attitudinal victory, and a minor physical one. You can also just defer the workout to a later day, although for practical reasons I opted not to shuffle workouts this week and next. But a few smart runners I know, especially those with some grey in their pelts, do this on a regular basis.

So there’s your training widsom tidbit.

I am getting a media credential for the NYC Half, although now it’s looking iffy if I’ll have time to use it. Some new freelance work has landed, two projects that start next week. But I am hoping to at least get over to the press conferences on Friday and do a few interviews. As usual, I am most interested in talking to the Media “B list”: Jo Pavey, Serena Burla, Jessica Augusto, Madai Perez (although language might be an issue with those two).

I also learned from my NYRR contact that there are no planned press events for the More Half next month. This is specifically because of Sally Meyerhoff’s death, as she was the headliner. So that’s a disappointment. If I’m free I may go loiter at the expo anyway to see if anyone interesting is there.

Training: Feb 27-Mar 5

Here ya go.

I was really keyed up after the previous week’s long run in Central Park. I ran what was supposed to be a 5 mile recovery run way too hard, in wind and on hills, around my local streets in the Crestwood neighborhood. My adductor started hurting, so I cut it short and took the next day off.

Determined to stay off the treadmill,  on Tuesday I headed up to Scarsdale for what was supposed to be a progression run with 2 fast miles at the end. But I was really beat, plus it was incredibly windy again. So I made do with a run at decent effort, dropping the faster stuff. I knew I had a speed session and a race coming up, so there was no point in pushing things.

Wednesday featured a horrible track workout. That was unhelpful.

I spent the next few days focusing on getting mentally ready to race a 5K, since my body was not doing its fair share. One of the Harriers’ coaches sent round a “Racing Coogan’s for Dummies” document and I studied up. Then I did some race visualization. I know it sounds hokey, but I’ll try anything at this point.

That race went pretty well, although I was a minute off my PR. But I was not expecting miracles. Nor did I get them.

And there you have it. I ran a measly 31 miles, but given my performance on Sunday, that is okay. I’m becoming convinced that less is more when it comes to pre-race mileage, provided you keep the quality up.

This week I’m back up to 50 mpw, with the staples: progression, speed, long. With the exception of one fartlek session featuring Billat surges, all of my speedier stuff between now and April 10th’s Scotland 10K race is track torture. While it’s not 10K training per se, the variety of shorter track stuff mixed with progression work over hills is bound to help when I line up for that race five weeks from now. Or at least I hope so.

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