Fall Training: Week 9

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This was by far one of my most enjoyable weeks of running in recent memory. I may not be as speedy as I’d like at this point, but I am becoming a stronger runner by the day, or so it seems. Even training with a dodgy hamstring, which was more a slightly worrying nuisance than a hindrance, I felt great this week.

By “stronger” I mean that I am evolving into even more of an endurance machine than I usually am. I can run seemingly forever at a moderate effort, and tacking on high effort miles has been almost easy. I’m also not exhausted after any particular workout or at the end of the week.

I’m not sure how you quantify training progress outside of racing times, but this week of training has me feeling that after two+ years of consistently running high mileage, I’ve finally adjusted to its demands. Almost as if I really do now have a “base” upon which to build further, as opposed to a base that I am working to build.

The highlights for the week, aside from running 95 miles without issue, were Wednesday’s tempo run, Friday’s speedwork, and a monster run in Central Park this morning. Tuesday was no slouch either, with 15 miles at a decent pace for 70% effort.

The tempo run was an experiment in hamstring healing. My ailing leg felt okay, so I decided to try running as far on the track going counterclockwise as I could. That turned out to be 3.5 of the 5 faster miles before the hamstring started to tighten up. So I finished up going the “wrong way” and, aside from the slower, cautious first mile, chalked the run up as a success, given the decent paces.

Another thing about that run: I realized while running my warmup miles on the way to the track that I no longer dread tempo runs beforehand or suffer through them. If anything, they’ve become too easy and I have felt in the past few weeks that the faster blocks are too short. I have said as much to Coach Kevin and he concurs that they are becoming easy for me. So we may schedule longer tempo blocks for the spring cycle.

Friday’s speedwork was worrisome insofar as I didn’t want to screw up my leg and compromise the Sunday run. Still, I was feeling brave, so I decided to once again run in the proper direction on the track and see what the leg would do. It held up well, possibly owing to the fact that I had trouble working up to 92% effort due to fatigue. Still, I’m happy with the splits, considering most of them were run at 91% effort.

I should also note that I only had two days of doubles this week, which is not bad for a 95 mile week. I have observed that I am overall less fatigued in the weeks that I only have one or two days of doubles compared to those in which I have three or four. I don’t know whether it’s a function of age or just my own particular physiology, but I suspect I need 24 hours between runs to recover properly. Fortunately for me, I like running long.

Friday evening and yesterday morning, my legs were completely trashed. Not just my legs, but ankles and feet as well. My confidence in being recovered in time for this morning was shaky, but I’ve learned that miracles can happen overnight.

As it turned out, today’s run was, again, no big deal. I’ve decided to do my final long runs in Central Park so I can get the benefit of the hills there. The California International Marathon course is by no means as hilly as Central Park is, but it does feature a net downhill drop. I’d like to avoid another thigh shredding exercise if I can.

I ran three full loops of the park starting at 72nd St on the west side, along with a 1.5 out and back north, turning around at the 102nd St transverse. Holding effort between 76-79% was easy and I felt energetic enough to run the last mile at 86% just for the hell of it. That got me a 7:26 mile over hills on extremely tired legs. I’ll take it.

Fall Training: Week 8

09fall-training-08This week was a planned recovery week, although it featured exceptionally low mileage due to lingering issues with my hamstring. Interestingly, after watching Paula Radcliffe drop off to fourth place due to a hamstring problem in today’s New York Marathon, I can understand how that happens. It’s possible to run with a problem hamstring, but not as fast as you’d like to. I learned all about this on Friday.

I took Monday off because the hamstring bothered me running. Instead, I took a walk to get the blood flowing to it, then spent some time massaging it to try to head off any scar tissue buildup. On Tuesday I did a little test run in the morning, in which the leg showed improvement, although things were still iffy, so I did another walk in the evening rather than a run.

Wednesday was a turning point, as the leg no longer hurt while walking and I had a lot of range of motion back. It could also tolerate being rolled along the foam roller and massaged fairly aggressively.

I pushed things a bit further on Thursday, with a slightly faster run and an experimental stride at 7:15 pace. There was still some stiffness present, but no pain at that speed. Again, to give it 24 hours rest for the big test on Friday, I cross-trained, this time on the stationary bike.

Friday was the day of reckoning: Could I run fast on the bum leg? The answer turned out to be: well, sort of. But only in a certain direction. I ran to the track and all was well on the way there. Then I started into the tempo work and within half a mile of trying to run fast the leg stiffness evolved into pain. And, like Paula, I couldn’t run fast. The first mile was a disappointing 7:47, owing to my inability to extend my stride with my right leg.

I have no idea why this occured to me, but I thought about the fact that I couldn’t extend my right leg properly and realized that every time I hit a curve on the track I was forcing my right leg to extend further out than my left leg was extending. So, much to the confusion and annoyance of others on the track, I reversed direction for the next three miles and got much better results. At least I was considerate enough to take the extreme outside lane (there’s one guy there sometimes who runs “the wrong way” in the middle lanes and it’s confusing — and probably dangerous — on a track crowded with people).

So I’m not sure whether to call Friday a success or not. I could run fast, but only clockwise on a track. Is that good? Or just necessary for the time being?

For obvious reasons I skipped strides and any speedwork this week. Yesterday was very easy, with another experimental 30 second surge down to 6:40 pace. That speed had my hamstring not so much hurting as tapping me insistently on the shoulder, as if to say, “Uh, what are you doing?”

Fortunately, I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere near 6:40 pace on today’s run (boy was I right about that, as my speed sucked today). But the run today was about endurance and, without making too many excuses, I could still feel Friday’s effort in my legs in addition to having to fight a steady headwind for most of the miles.

I still consider it a successful workout, though. I easily maintained 77-78% effort for 12 miles and then had no problem stepping it up to 88-89% for the last five. I also wasn’t trashed by the workout — no need for naps or other forms of collapse. I credit that more to the lower mileage this week than I do to some leap in fitness.

Toward the end of the run I had matching fatigue and complaints in both hamstrings, which offered some comfort. Although now, six hours later, the right one is definitely complaining slightly more than the left. I have trained injured before, the latest example being the 10 weeks I trained with a mild groin pull, which I suffered on a cold and slippery half marathon in Central Park in January. That was probably worse than what I’m experiencing now (can you hear me rationalizing this away?). But it’s always unnerving to have in the back of my mind, every time I put on my running shoes, the knowledge that something’s not quite right. Kind of like living with faulty wiring and wondering if your house is going to go up in flames at any moment.

Of hamstrings and advanced planning

Just an update as I try to unwind for a few minutes from the latest work-related debacle.

My hamstring is better after several days of self restraint. I’ve done almost as much walking as I have running in the few days since it went “Oh, snap! You dih’in’t!” on Sunday. This morning had me running a slightly zippier 9:30 pace, including an experimental zoom at 7:15 pace for about 45 seconds at the end of the run. All systems seem go.

Tomorrow I’ll further test Hammy’s tolerance with a tempo run on the track. I’ll do a two mile warmup to get there, then another good mile or so of speeding up to see if it starts to rattle. If it’s okay, I’ll try two at tempo pace and see if there are any complaints. Then I’ll try another two, then do some recovery miles afterward to head home for a bath, a bagel and some gratitude for my body’s ability to heal itself. And if it doesn’t go well, I’ll cut things short and continue to rest.

In other news, I appreciated all the feedback on where to go for spring 2010. I’m traveled out after this year and upon reviewing the various options realized that any race I would travel (meaning “fly”) to would present the same relative chances of good or bad weather than anything I’d find closer to home. Since I need to fix about 3,000 issues with my house next year, I’ve decided I’m going local for 2010 at least for the spring, to save money and cut down on time off from work, for which I do not get paid, lucky freelancer that I am.

I’ll target the 2010 NJ Marathon (May 2) for my goal race in terms of training and taper timing. I’ve run the half marathon there twice and it was the site of my two fastest half marathons (and many PRs at shorter distances in the process) to date. What amazes me (and I should have absorbed this lesson by now) is how fast the hotels there fill up for a race that’s half a year off.

The host hotel, right on the start/finish line, is full up, as is the fancy schmancy boutique hotel ($400+ a night) two blocks from the start. Everything else is miles away. Fortunately, there are still rooms available at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in West Long Branch on Rt. 36. This place is not on the hotels listed on the marathon’s web site, by the way. But it’s less than a mile from Monmouth Racetrack (where the parking and shuttles are) and the rooms have a fridge and microwave. Perfect!

Since Jonathan wants more training time after the Sacramento race in December, he won’t run New Jersey with me. Instead, it looks likely that he’ll do the Buffalo Marathon a month later. That’s a mere 6.5 hours away by car, no airplanes required. We know someone who’s run it three times and liked it (and his times were remarkably consistent with performances elsewhere from year to year, so the course and conditions don’t appear to be a killer). Plus, I can register too and keep it as a backup if something goes awry in New Jersey. Even if it doesn’t, I can always run it as a fun run. Or, if I’m feeling like a fully recovered bad ass, do my best Mary Akor impersonation and race that one too.

So that’s the plan so far. I’m keeping your suggestions in a list for future reference, and I see others researching spring races have hit this site in web searches. So it’s all valuable stuff.

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