Fall Training: Week 7 (Special tragicomic edition)

09fall-training-07New highs, new lows. I’d planned (or, rather, Coach Kevin had planned) 95 miles for me this week. While that certainly wasn’t a new high, I was looking forward to hitting that number. It makes me feel like a superhero when I can emerge from two 90+ weeks with energy to spare.

The highs this week were a 14+ mile recovereasy run that was a lot faster than I’d planned. But it was fast despite a very low effort. I cruised along at sub-9:00 at avg 72% MHR. This after a fairly challenging 22 miler on Sunday. I was feeling very up after that on Tuesday.

I had enough energy for strides on Wednesday morning, although I didn’t run them crazily fast. Wednesday was a big mileage day, and the effects showed on Thursday. That was one of the week’s lows. I didn’t feel that great going into the run and I was struggling to run an 11:30 mile at 67%. Even though I lowered my expectations accordingly I was still shocked at how slow I was running at 89-90% effort.

Shocked and depressed, actually. I started questioning everything and finding fault everywhere. I was running too many miles. I was too fat. I was too old. I simply lacked talent. This went on for most of the afternoon, but then I pulled myself out of my funk by looking over training logs and realizing that sometimes you just have a shitty day.

I took it very easy for the next few days in order to rest up for Sunday’s sandwich run and race in Central Park, which provided the most extreme highs and lows of the week: what started out as a great race ended up an instantaneous DNF.

Now it’s Monday and I didn’t run at all today. Instead I continued to ice, compress and massage my hamstring. Then I went out for a 3.5 walk with a few experimental little jogs. The hamstring is still twingey, and it does not like going uphill. But it’s only been about 36 hours. I’ll see how it is tomorrow and go from there.

Another DNF. So why am I smiling?

This morning I experienced the second DNF of my brief competitive racing career. Loyal readers will recall the first, earlier this year, as the debacle known as the Newport Marathon. That experience made me want to stick pins in my eyes in true tragic fashion. Today’s DNF, while a bummer, was a whole different story. And, as the title of this post implies, not without its bright spots.

The site of my latest incomplete was the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff Five Miler in Central Park this morning. It was to be the centerpiece of a total run of 15 miles: 10 easy around a 5 mile race. I’d been advised by Coach Kevin to not plan to run it all out, but that if I felt good to go ahead and feel free to turn on the turbochargers. Well, dang, but I felt good today. I did a 3 mile warmup, mostly easy running but with a couple 45 second repeats at 6:30-7:00 to get my legs ready to go fast, along with my little dynamic stretching routine

Then I lined up in the second corral of runners who’ve managed a previous NYRR race over 1 mile of between 7:00-7:59 average pace. I mention this seemingly unnecessary and wonky detail because I had one goal and one desire for this race today. The goal was to simply run it as hard as I could, with the constant reminder to myself that I need to keep running hard. I don’t race shorter distances because they are so difficult for me to run, as I’m all slowtwitch muscle fibers. The desire was to finally run a NYRR race under 7:00 pace so I can start races in the first corral.

The race started and I was again reminded of why I need to get out of that stupid second corral. Despite starting nearly at the front of my corral this time, I was still stuck in a mob running 7:20 at the start. Midway through the first mile I managed to latch myself onto a guy who I only knew in my own mind as “Lurch.” He was enormous and running fast. So I hung right behind him as he muscled his way through the throngs. We picked it up and I managed a 7:01 for mile 1. Happy with that progress, I vowed not to look at the watch again. Just run fast.

Mile 2 was faster. I could feel that it was a lot faster. That turned out to have been a 6:40. Then mile 3 had some hills and I knew I’d give back some of the time gained in the previous mile, but not all of it. The remaining hills ended at the 3.5 mile mark and then things flattened out as we approached the start of Cat Hill. I was picking up the pace, passing women, and looking forward to the last 1.5 miles, most of which would be either downhill or flat. I’d saved some energy and was getting ready to take flight.

Then, coming down Cat Hill, someone shot me in the back of my right leg. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Hamstring pull. Just like that, my race was over. One loud utterance of “Fuck!” Two hops to get off the course. Three minutes massaging my hamstring and wondering if I would be kissing my fall marathon goodbye and writing off the entire year. To distract myself, I looked at my watch, which I’d turned off the moment I stopped running, since I knew I wouldn’t be running anymore today.

The watch was stopped at mile 3.71. My average pace at that point was 6:54. Hey, wait! This was good news! Had my hamstring not turned into a shrieking diva today, I was certain I could have brought that average down to the high 6:40s and just broken 34:00. Once I managed to skip awkwardly across the wall of runners, I was able to do some walking across the park to Baggage and then another quarter mile or so to the car. While the hamstring certainly hurt, my limp was slight and it became less pronounced the farther I walked.

I’ve spent the last few hours babying it with rest, ice, compression, elevation (otherwise known as the acronym RICE), some industrial strength anti-inflammatories — and it feels better. I’m fairly certain this was a freakish event tied to coming off of two big weeks (and a hard half) as well as the fact that I never run downhills fast. I’d been vaguely aware of some tightness in the right hamstring somewhere during mile 2. But it’s a rare race when something isn’t complaining, so I didn’t worry about it. I guess today’s faster running was one straw too many on the camel’s back and something quite literally had to give.

I get to try again for the coveted blue bib in about a month, when I’ll run a 4 miler in the park. If I could run this well for 5 miles, I’ve no doubt I’ll get that bib before the year is out. But for now, I’m focused on getting my right leg back online.

NYC Half + Fresh Air Fund = Doing Good

Sure, the insanely popular* NYC Half Marathon is sold out, but you can still run in the footsteps of Catherine the Great and other fast ladies (and gentlemen) by signing up to run with the Fresh Air Fund. FAF is just one of a boatload of charities you can run for. Just think how good it will feel to run through the streets of NYC…in order to help a kid get a little break from the streets of NYC.

*And I do mean insanely popular. A race of over 10,000 run in the high heat and humidity of NYC in August? That fills up in a couple of hours? Along the West Side Highway? Yeah. Um. Insane.

Okay, that’s enough recovery

I’m going to consider this week as my last week of post-marathon (as it were) recovery. Which means basebuilding begins anew tomorrow.

I know I’m recovered because I have been determined to run a race. Not because I expect to PR in anything (especially in the summer heat and humidity of NY), but mostly because I’ve missed running fast in a crowd. I tried to race in a brand new 10K up in Rockefeller State Park yesterday, but had to skip it after getting horribly lost. So I tried again today, with greater success, and ran the Achilles Track Club 5 miler in Central Park.

I’m not even going to bother putting together a race report, because this wasn’t really a “race” race. I just wanted an atmosphere in which I could run fast for more than a mile or two. I went in with no expectations and a liberating “I don’t give a shit about this race” attitude.

As a result, nothing bothered me. The lady at registration gets annoyed because I only have $25 (that’s what the NYRR web site said it cost) and they suddenly wanted $35? I don’t give a shit. I get stuck behind a bunch of 8:00 pace people for the first half mile? I don’t give a shit. Four women pass me in the last two miles? I don’t give a shit.

Yes, it was fun to race and not really care much about it. Although I did find one thing to motivate me: a woman with 12% body fat passed me in the first mile and said, “Nice job” and instead of appreciating her innocently offered good tidings, my inward competitive bitch muttered, “Lady, you’re dead meat.”

We spent the next 3.5 miles passing each other. She’d pass me on the uphills, I’d pass her on the downhills. At mile 4.5, a downhill, I passed her for the last time and kept up the effort all the way through the uphill finish. I did not hear “Nice job” again.

Final time was 37:17, good for 45th Female overall and 4th in my AG. I realized somewhere after mile 3 that I could have run harder. I guess it’s been over half a year since my last short race (a 10K), so I’ve forgotten how to run them. I knew I hadn’t raced all out because I still had plenty of energy afterward. So I came home and then went out and ran another 8 miles. Now I’m tired.

All in all, this was a good transitional week between the relative slothdom of the weeks immediately after the Newport race and next week, in which I hope to keep running some faster miles and get the mileage up around 70. I may even try to race again next week. I covered 58 miles this week, which is close to the 60 I wanted to hit.

I’ve not yet built the new spreadsheet for this season, so here’s the low-tech, unflashy breakdown:

  • Monday: 5 miles, recovery
  • Tuesday: 9.6 miles general aerobic with last 15 mins at harder effort (~91-93% MHR)
  • Wednesday: 7.1 miles, recovery
  • Thursday: 8.2 miles, recovery
  • Friday: 4.9 miles, recovery
  • Saturday: 10.1 miles, recovery
  • Sunday: 5 mile race, 7.8 miles general aerobic

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to get the results from last week’s bloodwork. I’ve held off on posting a post-Newport post-mortem until those come in. I have lots of theories about what could have been done better in the training (opinions that are shared by Coach Kevin), but if the bloodwork comes back with neon numbers pointing to an obvious problem at the cellular level then I’m apt to revise some (but not all) of those opinions. I still think there’s room for improvement in the next cycle, but the extent to which (and how) I think the training should be tweaked will rest in no small part on what the lab numbers say tomorrow.


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