Spring Training: Weeks Twelve and Thirteen

With the crazy weather, insane workload and race-heavy weekends, I’ve neglected posting training.

A planet yawns.

Mileage has been very low the past couple of weeks, owing to all the racing. My pattern of one just one workout a week + race has continued. I had one very good race, one just so-so. Let’s review:

The last week of March featured just 50 miles (okay, 49.9, but who’s counting?) and was punctuated with a very good speed session on the track and then another good race on Sunday. Aside from feeling like crap that Saturday, primarily due to overindulgence the night before, I felt like a running god all week.

The following (last) week was a measly 35 miles. I took Monday off because my legs were totally shot from the race and I think it was a very busy work day too. Or maybe the weather sucked. I honestly can’t remember and I’ve been bad about filling in my training diary.

Since I was racing on Saturday, I did my speedwork on Wednesday evening. It went okay, but wasn’t anything to write home about like the previous week’s session. I probably should have seen it as a harbinger of things to come, but I figured I was just having a down day.

Saturday came and I struggled to break 45:30 in Central Park for a 10K. I’m somewhat inclined to blame it on hormones, since I tend to be very slow during the end of my cycle. Yeah, it’s the female troubles. This sort of thing has happened before (paragraphs 4-6).

Whatever. I’m glad it wasn’t a goal race. I took the day after off primarily because I had a monster work project to complete and after 10 hours of staring at a screen, then an abortive attempt to go shopping afterwards (stuff is closed on Easter; who knew?), I decided that I didn’t need the extra pressure of trying to get a run in before the sun went down.

Coach Kevin has been having major computer and connectivity issues lately so I’m winging it for the time being and just running however I feel like running from day to day.

I’ve got yet another race, a hilly 15K in Scarsdale, coming up on Sunday. Normally I’d be worried about not having a plan for the week. But like last week’s race, this isn’t one I care about particularly, so I’m not that concerned about what I do this coming week to prepare. It feels a bit like I’m coasting from week to week as it is.

Spring Training: Week Eleven

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

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

So many ways to train.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Report: TRRC St. Patrick’s 2 Miler

I won the women’s race in 13:17 and was 8th overall. Sure, it was a tiny race (under 100 people). But I’ll take a win wherever I can get it.

My original plans for the weekend were to run the NYRR 8000 in Central Park on Saturday as my priority race, then run the 2 miler as a “see how I do” effort. But the violent Nor’easter that came in overnight on Friday (and peaked overnight on Saturday) quickly put paid to those plans. I got up at 4:30 on Saturday morning and discovered heavy rain falling at a 45 degree angle, coupled with gusting winds. I knew I’d get soaked on the way into the city. Once there, steady winds of 20+ mph would almost certainly prevent me from either running below 7:00 pace or enjoying myself, my only two (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) goals for that race. So I skipped the race, crawled back into my toasty bed, and hoped for better weather on Sunday.

Overnight we had gale force winds (and we also lost power Saturday evening before the worst of it). The weather had calmed down somewhat by early Sunday, so we made our way to Yorktown Heights, site of my recent impromptu 5 miler, and hoped the decent weather would hold. By sheer chance, there was a bicycle race scheduled in the park this year, requiring the TRCC 2M and 10K races to be moved about two hours earlier than normal. Fortunately for us, that gave us a window of between 8:00 and 10:00 when there was either no or very light precipitation. The wind was still bad, but I figured I could deal with anything for two miles — besides, it would be at my back for the last half mile.

I lined up in front and ran the first two tenths of a mile, a downhill stretch, at what is for me insanely fast. I wasn’t trying to stay with the men, but I was fending off a young woman who was running right alongside me. I knew I was going too fast but I didn’t want to lose my lead position that early on, so I figured I’d keep going until it was too much for one of us.

That first quarter mile was run at 5:30 pace. This is much faster than I run my 20 second strides! I’m surprised I didn’t pull something. Fortunately, my speedy companion’s lungs gave out before mine did and when we hit the first hill at the quarter mile mark, she gave up. I was in the lead! I could slow the fuck down!

I was also running alone. The men were gradually getting farther and farther ahead of me. I didn’t dare look back.  I continued to run alone for a full mile more, then passed a guy who was dying at the 1.4 mile mark. All I had to do was make it up a really steep hill without either going into oxygen debt or getting passed and emerge on the quarter mile straightaway with energy to spare.

I dropped to 7:28 on the hill but regained speed after the crest, finishing up at 6:30 pace (a tailwind helped). No one passed me. HR% topped out at 95% at the end. Average pace was 6:39. Kevin’s prediction was a 6:45 pace. I figured that on that course, with wind, I’d be lucky to run 6:50 pace. I am more pleased about the overall pace (and discovering that I can run at 5:30 for much more than 20 metres) than I am about winning.

Jonathan did the 10K and took third place overall in 37:16. He’d wanted to break 6:00 pace, but just missed it. When the announcer handed him his award he noted, “This guy’s 53 years old, folks.” Astonished gasps were heard behind me. I guess when you’re in your twenties, 53 sounds like Methuselah.

The 10K was very competitive in terms of the women’s race this year. The winner was in the high-30s, a time I’d be lucky to touch with another year or two of training. So I guess I picked the right race.

We chatted with another runner in Jonathan’s AG, Bill Carter, and Bill’s wife, Dianne, who also ran the 2 miler. Bill is forming a four man 50+ team for the Scarsdale 15K in a few weeks in pursuit of nice trophies. Paging Joe Garland: They’re looking for a fourth man.

They look just like us.

Spring Training: Week Nine

Although the workouts went well this week, this was the first week since I started up training again where recovering properly felt like a struggle. Although I was able to rally for the harder days, I felt the previous days’ effort accumulating on the easy days, as if I had a slow leak in recovery during the week. Yesterday I was exhausted and forced myself to go out and run, nevertheless cutting the planned nine mile recovery run short at 7.1, as the slog got harder and harder rather than easier. Then I fell asleep for two hours.

But my hard days went well. I was only trapped on the treadmill for three evening runs, all of them mercifully short. Everything else was done outside, mostly along my new route in Scarsdale. It’s also finally starting to warm up, and the snow is melting. The running path is still snowy, but I think it should be clear by end of day tomorrow or early Tuesday at the latest. As should be the track in Bronxville. It’s not quite warm enough for shorts, but I think it will be next week.

I’ve covered the tempo and speed sessions in a previous post. The other highlight was my tour of the Scarsdale 15K course this morning. I had a 15 mile run scheduled, the first 9 of which followed the race course. I haven’t run that particular race since 2006, when I ran a time of 1:25:30. I expect to do much better this year.

But, boy, is that a hilly course! I’d forgotten how cruel its design is, as well as how much it varies between two extremes: several miles of it consist of sneakily slight, but very long uphill grades, punctuated with the occasional short, very steep climb up. There are lots of downhills as well, of course, but they didn’t seem to offer much relief. The worst of it is mostly over by the 6.5 mile mark, but there is a very steep uphill just before the finish. I will have to remember to pace myself so I don’t die in the last mile.

Since after the nine mile mark I was winging it in terms of the course for today’s run, I guessed at distances. I got back to my car a bit short of 15 miles, but I was done for the day, ready for some water, a sandwich and the foam roller. Along with my more casual attitude toward paces, I’m also dropping the obsession with hitting nice, round numbers every week.

Next weekend the calvacade of races continues, with the NYRR 8000 in Central Park on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, if my legs aren’t fried I’ll do a 2 mile road race in Yorktown Heights, as Jonathan’s doing a 10K up there that day. Or I’ll just go be his cheering section if my legs aren’t willing. See Races for all the dirt.

One kudos to a fellow runner: Andrea broke 3:22 today at Napa. It was good for fifth in her AG. I don’t know what her goals were, but I’m hoping she was happy with that time, because she sure was nervous yesterday!

Good

My coach, Kevin Beck, has an uncanny ability to assign the appropriate paces for workouts and predict race times based on current fitness. I am not the only runner who works with him who has noticed this talent. He’s usually within a second or two per mile. There have been a few times when I’ve not been able to hit a pace assigned, primarily when I first started working with him a little over a year ago, and then a bit later when I had an issue with overtraining, iron deficiency or both. And, obviously, when conditions have made hitting a reasonable time impossible. But, in absence of those factors, he is usually spot on.

This week I’ve done both my hard workouts (and most of my other runs) along my new 4.8 mile route in Scarsdale. On Tuesday I did a 14 mile run with the last 5 at tempo pace. Goal pace was 7:15. But it was very windy for 3 of the 5 miles. I came out with 7:18 avg. I was happy with this, considering the day.

This morning I headed back up there to do speedwork. The wind was up again today. I adjusted my expectations and effort accordingly, but nevertheless used the tailwind to compensate for the headwind when I could. Goal: two 1.5 miles repeats at 10:20 each. Average pace I got: 10:20.

It’s been a major pain to run in the streets. And this winter has felt endless — with the exception of a few balmy days in the 40s, bone chilling temperatures have been the norm since Christmas. I’ve lost track of how many times it’s snowed. But I’ve adjusted. I miss doing the faster work on the track. A session with 400m repeats (one of my faves) has been on perpetual hold until the track clears.

But I do have a point: Running these workouts in the street, where I’m dealing with hills and rutted pavement and garbage trucks and all manner of other obstacles, has actually been good for me. Unlike last year, I find that I’m no longer obsessing over every problem, be it wind or cold or rain or snow or hills. You can’t control this stuff. I go into these runs just figuring I’ll do the best I can under the circumstances. I’ve carried the same attitude into my races. The less I care about paces, it seems, the better I run.

Spring Training: Week Eight

This week I dealt with a head cold and foul weather, but the training went well despite those things. The cold took hold on Tuesday afternoon, hours after a very good run along my new favorite 5 mile back-and-forth in Scarsdale. I ran along that stretch three or four times this week and it’s likely I’ll be up there quite a bit again this week as we had yet another of our “paralyzing blizzards” mid-week and now have another foot of filthy snow on the ground.

Fortunately, the cold was mild and the temps have been above freezing, so even if I have to run in the streets, they are at least clear of black ice. It’s the little things.

So I had some kind of pre-illness pop in fitness on Tuesday, rumbling along in 15mph winds and a mixture of sleet, hail and rain that turned the road to the consistency of semi-frozen bird shit for much of the run. But I still managed a decent pace.

Even the recovery runs later in the week were okay, consistently below my usual slugtastic 10+ minute mile pace both inside and out.

Then I put on my big girl pants and made a second attempt at doing last Friday’s spectacularly failed speed session again. But this time I did it by effort rather than trusting the treadmill’s pace readout (I also knocked the total down by two miles and removed one 1K repeat, it being a recovery week and all). HR topped out at 93% for the last one, right where it should be — and I felt able to do a fifth, but didn’t so I could save my legs for today’s trip to Scarsdale.

With my cold now over and a fairly windless/slushless day, I was able to cruise along at just under 8:00 for 13 miles in the 81% range. This felt like real progress.

I like my new loop, but it’s a little weird having to run it back and forth several times on longer run days. Today I had to run one two mile section twice and a three mile section three times. I’d run up the road, nod my head to someone shoveling snow, then, half an hour later, I’d come by again and the snow shoveler would still be there. It was very Twighlight Zone.

The disadvantage to running in the street, of course, is that you take your life into your hands. Or, rather, you involuntarily place your life into the hands of insane drivers. The worst offenders are typically SUV-wielding Robomoms with a cellphone clamped to one ear.* These ladies are out for blood. Today’s adventure was with the woman who rolled right through a stop sign at 15mph.

She was close enough to me that I could give her Canyonero a good whack. I have for the most part managed to cure myself of the habit of hitting people’s cars when they offend, but this was so egregious a transgression that I couldn’t stop myself. I don’t think she even saw me at the stop sign, since it was not without some twisted pleasure that I noted her well coiffed head swinging wildly around behind tinted windows, trying to figure out what just hit her car. My hand hurt and my HR skyrocketed because I was so angry at the cluelessness of surburban drivers. But it was worth the pain!

My next race (actually, races: I’ve got two back to back) is in two weeks. I’m feeling pretty good about things. Which is always worrisome.

* Driving while talking into a handheld cellphone is illegal in New York. But — like the laws forbidding riding a zebra in public while naked, or allowing a drunken monkey to play a theremin — it’s rarely enforced.

Random crap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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