Happy New Year…almost…

So many choices. What will I be doing this evening? Well, for one thing, I’ll be staying as far away from Times Square as possible. I did that once. Never again.

We have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, some appealing liquor choices, the makings of homemade pizza, and a Planet of the Apes marathon on AMC. What more does one need to ring in the new year?

Tomorrow I do a tempo run and take down the Christmas decorations in the morning. Then I lie on the couch all afternoon watching hours of English Premier League Football and consuming (for me) vast quantities of beer (three?).

It’s all over on Wednesday.

Training week in review: 4 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Holiday training brings a different sort of “sacrifice” (such as running with indigestion)

Oh, I celebrated this past week. Don’t get me wrong. But I paid for it in the form of much Alka Seltzer consumption and running with discomfort. I have no regrets, though. I did not slack off in my training, and that took a lot of discipline.

The Christmas excesses are definitely winding down, however. We’ve got three bottles of wine left to get us through New Year’s and then it is over. Back to a few drinks a week, daily calorie counting and no more refined sugar, simple carbohydrates and saturated fat.

I’ve now been training for a month with no obvious ill effects. Well, just one. The muscle below my left eye has been twitching for the past few days. I’ve done some “Google diagnoses” and think it’s a combination of fatigue (ya think?), dehydration and possible electrolyte deficiency. The recommended treatment is adequate sleep, lots of water, bananas and Gatorade. I should be getting all those things anyway.

(One side rant. My local Pathmark was carrying Gatorade Endurance. I picked up two bottles to train with a few weeks back and now, mysteriously, they’ve stopped stocking it. The Gatorade site claims they carry it, but that is a lie. Now I have to find another supplier. Grr. On a happier note, I discovered that Yuengling makes a delicious dark beer (Original Black & Tan), which for some strange reason Pathmark does carry. So, in a way, the universe maintains its equilibrium, at least as far as Pathmark’s beverages inventory is concerned.)

I’ve noticed two distinct patterns in terms of my physical state during the week.

First, Thursday seems to be my roughest day in terms of fatigue. So I’ve decided to not care about pace at all on Thursdays, but instead just go by heart rate (and a very low one at that). The result is usually a slow run at 10:30+ pace. It’s weird to think that that used to be the fastest I could run.

Second, I have delayed onset muscle soreness that I could set my clock by. For the past few weeks I’ve woken up at around 1AM on Tuesday and Friday nights with a terrible ache in my legs. This week I took ibuprofen both evenings before going to bed, which seems to have nipped that problem in the bud.

A look back at the week:

Nothing earthshattering happened this week, save for the start of recovery “doubles” days. But I did manage to run over 77 miles. And I’m pretty darned proud of that. Also, all of my runs were outside. Some patches of ground are still quite treacherous, but it was a welcome break from staring at the wall.

I also had planned to do five miles of hills at the tail end of Friday’s 12 miler. But I didn’t feel up to it, so I decided to compromise and do a fast finish run instead, over flat ground. I’m figuring that with one half marathon and at least four harder, longer runs scheduled to be done in Central Park, I’ll get some good hill work in that way.

  • Monday: 6.1 miles (AM) and 4.2 miles (PM), recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 10 miles, easy pace, too icy for strideouts
  • Wednesday, 14.3 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 5.8 miles, recovery pace (slow — again, quite tired!)
  • Friday, 12 miles, long run (progressive), last two at 10 seconds faster than marathon pace
  • Saturday, 6.1 miles, recovery pace
  • Sunday, 18.8 miles, long run (progressive) pace

Total mileage: 77.3 miles

Paces this week:

  • Easy: 8:30
  • Long: 7:50 – 9:30
  • Recovery: 10:15-10:45

This week’s quote (which I post tongue-in-cheek, as this week my body told me I wanted to eat everything):

If you feel like eating, eat. Let your body tell you what it wants.

— Joan Benoit Samuelson

Coming up in training week five: The return of the dreaded Tuesday tempo run, and some “fueling” practice on Sunday’s fast finish long run! Plus three more miles piled onto the apple cart.

Julie the Hut

Blorg. I am bloated with Christmas spirit.

I can’t believe how much I’ve had to eat and drink in the past 48 hours.

Christmas Eve featured:

  • a large vodka martini
  • goose pate (“no liver” — I’m not quite sure how to interpret that, since I thought pate was liver)
  • a pound+ sirloin steak
  • an enormous pile of french fries
  • a large piece of chocolate raspberry cake
  • too many glasses of wine to count

Christmas Day wasn’t much better — although since I was still digesting the Eve’s excesses I really didn’t eat much until the “turkey and fixings” extravaganza started around 6 o’clock yesterday. I was sufficiently inebriated and stuffed to fall into bed, semi-conscious, at around 9:15. I won’t enumerate what I consumed yesterday since it’s shameful. But it was delicious. And it only took five hours to prepare.

But, to my credit, I’ve been running a lot despite the bricks in my stomach. I did 10 miles of recovery running on Christmas Eve, a 10 mile easy run (last two at marathon pace) Christmas Day, and a 14 miler today. If I’m lucky, I’ll break even on the calories, although judging by the size of my stomach, I’m not so sure.

Santa, in collusion with Jonathan, brought some good running stuff in this year. This top — in red — from UnderArmour (which I love, although it’s currently embarrassingly form-fitting), and this hat. And this thermos for post-run tea or hot chocolate (when I “park and run” up in Scarsdale for my Sunday long runs). And…and…and…nice, thoughtful gifts from my generous family.

It’s a very quiet week at work, so I’m getting things done like archiving project files and emails, listening to pre-recorded “2008 strategy” calls and trying to decipher their encrypted messages…and generally catching up on other administrata that I haven’t had time to do lately.

Tomorrow morning is the annual “drug the cat” event, in which I administer Kitty Kwaludes to our half-feral cat in order to get her in to the vet for annual shots. It takes her about a day and half to get back to normal, during which time she’s stumbling around like Robert Mitchum at the Oscars, and we’re just focusing on not letting her fall down the stairs. In our household, the excitement truly never stops.

And the doping dominoes continue to fall…

I’m late to the news party, but it seems that back in May, last year’s winner in the More Magazine Half Marathon, Lyubov Denisova, was disqualified. Argentinian Claudia Camargo moves up to first. Here’s an article about the Russian runner’s predicament.

Praise the warmth of the sun. Long live the sun.

At last, the Bronx River pathway is runnable! Did six recovery miles this morning and will do another four this afternoon. Then we’ll walk it into Bronxville for Christmas Eve cocktails and dinner at Sammy’s Downtown, a new bistro and bar on Pondfield Road.

I drank far too much last night, but surprisingly I have no hangover. I’m wondering if there was something magical about the enormous amounts of chocolate I chased the martini and wine with. Hmm…

This is my fiftieth day of running without a break. I guess that’s a milestone of sorts. Or should I say millstone?

Happy Christmas! Ten miles tomorrow…

Two marathon movies

Movie number 1, “Spirit of the Marathon” has been in the works for awhile. Like televised coverage of marathons, a movie about marathoning is probably not expected to be a crowd-gatherer…but I do see that they’ve hooked up with a distribution company to show it around the country on January 24. More info here.

Movie number 2, “3:15” is something I stumbled across on the Motley Fool “Running Fools” message board. I don’t know what the fate of this one will be in terms of distribution, although I’ve sent a note of inquiry to the original poster (who is a friend of someone on the crew). More info here.

Training week in review: 3 of 18

This week’s training theme contains a paradox:

The only thing worse than running on a treadmill is not having a treadmill to run on

It’s not like we live in some frozen hinterland like Yellowknife. But winters in New York can be hell. Or, rather, the opposite of hell. We’re covered in a massive sheet of filthy, frozen snow (otherwise known as ice). The running path is unplowed, the sidewalks unshovelled, and the roads narrowed due to meter-high piles of the stuff. Crazed drivers with phones clamped to their ears careen their hermetically sealed, high-center of gravity deathmobiles through the streets at high speeds, apparently blind to the delicate, vulnerable runners among them.

Needless to say, I spent six of seven days this week inside on the treadmill. Hating the treadmill. Yet appreciating the treadmill. Compulsively checking weather.com to see if we’ll ever get above freezing again. Feeling grateful for the Fox Soccer Channel, and cable marathons of “Law and Order: SVU” and “Dogfights” (don’t worry; it’s a show about aerial combat).

Week number three of my program introduced the first tempo run. I prefer to do these on the treadmill anyway, since I’m forced to maintain a certain pace — and, no walkers, cars or stoplights to slow me down! It went pretty well, although I couldn’t quite hold the pace I wanted and had to settle for about 10 seconds per mile slower for part of the run.

On a side note, I always feel as though I’m working harder on the treadmill. Since I have less “push off” (because the belt is pulling me back), I suspect that my strides are shorter and more frequent, which feels unnatural. But that’s probably a good thing since I don’t run with enough strides per minute. So this week, among other things, I used the treadmill to work on maintaining a stride rate of 180 steps per minute.

Here’s a handy chart I found recently that shows pace conversions for the treadmill vs. road.

In another screw-tightening move, Coach Pfitzinger scheduled a 14 miler the day after the tempo run. After hard days on Tuesday and Wednesday, I was dragging my ass on Thursday. But I felt surprisingly better after a recovery run (despite the fact that I was too feeble to go the whole six miles) and sailed through a 12 miler on Friday morning. Saturday was another little recovery run through the streets of Crestwood. Today’s run was 16 miles on the dreaded treadmill, with the final five at marathon pace (8:00) or quicker. I decided to do it inside because it’s rainy and very windy outside, and I really needed today’s run to be productive, not one where I’m battling the elements.

This morning’s session actually went very well. I’ve been doing so many long runs lately that 16 miles isn’t a big deal at all anymore. The final five certainly felt like an effort, but I had no problem holding the pace and ran the last half of mile 16 closer to half marathon pace. My heart rate drifted up from 82% to 89% during those five miles. The top end is too high to sustain for an entire marathon, so I have my work cut out for me.

I also thought I’d take the opportunity to experiment with fueling on today’s run. I tried my first gel ever (Hammer “Tropical” flavor with caffeine) at mile 10.5 to see if my stomach would rebel. No problems, and I definitely felt a lift in energy starting around mile 12. I have two half marathon races coming up (one in late January and one in late February). I think I’ll try gels on one and Gatorade on the other and see which method works better for me.

Both have their advantages: with Gatorade, you don’t have to carry anything. But with gels, you can use exactly what you know works for you and as long as there’s water you’ve got what you need. I’m also completely uncoordinated with the paper cups and I’d much rather spill plain water down my front than florescent liquid.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6 miles, recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 10 tempo run, miles 5-6 and 8-9 at 7:35-7:45 pace, easy pace for the rest
  • Wednesday, 14 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 5.6 miles, recovery pace (dog tired!)
  • Friday, 12 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Saturday, 6.7 miles, recovery pace
  • Sunday, 16.2 miles, long run: first 11 at long run (steady) pace, last 5 at race pace or faster

Total mileage: 70.5 miles

Paces this week:

  • Tempo: 7:35-7:45
  • Long: 7:50 – 9:00
  • Easy: 8:35
  • Recovery: 9:45 – 10:00
  • Marathon: 8:00

This week’s quote:

I’m sick of the treadmill.

— Andrea Martin

Coming up in training week four: A 10% mileage increase plus my first “doubles” day. Oh, and Christmas too.

Training week in review: 2 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Every wee bit helps

This week looked a lot like last week, with two differences: no hills and the mileage was bumped up by five miles.

Five miles doesn’t sound like much, but four of them were tacked onto the long runs on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I did notice that extra mile or so on each of those runs, just a slight tightening of the screws.

Also noticeable is the over-so-slightly increased time commitment on weekday mornings. In just a few weeks I’ll be doing 15 miles on Wednesday and 13 on Friday. It’s odd to get on the phone with people who have likely just rolled out of bed — and I’ve already run two towns over and back!

But I noticed that the 10 x 100 meter “strideouts” were a bit easier this week than last week. And no marathon pace finish on yesterday’s long run made for an easier time out there, although by mile 16 I was feeling quite fatigued on account of having run 11 the day before.

The bad weather has moved in, bringing snow, ice and what I like to call “punishing winds.” Since Westchester’s parks maintenance dept. never sees fit to plow our paths, I was forced inside and onto the treadmill on Friday, then into the streets of Scarsdale and White Plains on Saturday. I moved my long run from Sunday to Saturday since the weather today was horrendous (rain and “punishing” winds), and couldn’t stand the thought of running 18 miles inside on the treadmill.

So instead I ran a 6.3 mile loop north of us three times through residential streets yesterday. I even picked up a friendly running partner for the second loop, a local ex-marathoner who regailed me with tales of early NY marathons and his current addictions to competitive bicycling and snowshoe racing. And that extra mile allowed me some hot chocolate when I got home.

A look back at the week:

Wednesday was the only day that had some surprises. I felt good that morning (plus it was warm enough to wear shorts) and discovered when I got home that I’d run three of the last four miles at well under marathon pace. I only look at my heart rate when I do most of these runs, hiding the pace so I’m not tempted to run outside my heart rate targets. I never got above 78%, although it did seem at times that I was going pretty fast. I’ll see if that happens again. If so, it may soon be time to adjust my paces (and marathon goal time) downward a bit.

  • Monday: 6.1 miles, recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 8.1 miles, easy pace with 10 x 100 meter “strideouts”
  • Wednesday, 13.2 miles, long run, mix of long and race pace
  • Thursday, 6.4 miles, recovery pace
  • Friday, 11 miles, long run (steady) pace, on the treadmill
  • Saturday, 19 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Sunday, 6.2 miles, recovery pace, on the treadmill

Total mileage: 70 miles

Paces this week:

  • Easy: 8:25
  • Long: 7:50 – 9:00
  • Recovery: 9:45

This week’s quote:

I definitely want to show how beautiful the marathon can be. I am the opponent of all those who find the marathon bad: the psychologists, the physiologists, the doubters. I make the marathon beatiful for myself and for others. That’s why I’m here.

— Uta Pippig

Coming up in training week three: A tempo session plus another “marathon pace finish” long run.

Ted Corbitt RIP

A pioneer, an innovator and, by all accounts, a true gentleman. Learn more here. And here. And here.

Training week in review: 1 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Hard days hard, easy days easy

I’ve been reading various articles about the training patterns of some of the world’s best marathoners (Ethopians, Kenyans and Japanese). And one of the common threads that emerges is: run hard days hard, run easy days easy. I’ve taken that to heart, especially the part about running easy days easy. Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays are my recovery days, and I am making an effort (as it were) to run them very easy — low-to-mid 60%’s heart rate. It feels like I’m crawling, but I’m getting used to it. So that’s this week’s training theme.

On Thursday morning I did what I do every winter on the first extremely cold day of the year: I fell on my ass in our driveway. We had a windchill of 8 degrees. I was all bundled up and ready to go at 7:30 in the morning. I started down the driveway and instantly I felt my feet go out from under me and had the same mid-air thought I do every year when it happens, “I always forget about the black ice!”

Fortunately, I had two thick layers on and heavy gloves to help break my fall. I have colorful bruises on my right hand and elbow as a reminder. Otherwise, no injuries other than the ones to my ego. It’s too bad those bruises don’t last a year, because I know I’ll do the same thing next year.

So week 1 of my marathon training has concluded. And a successful week it was. I’m glad I spent the past couple of months building in certain kinds of runs around a weekly schedule that resembled what I’d be doing in training, as week 1 has felt like a natural extension of what I’ve been doing already, albeit slightly harder.

I am following Pete Pfitzinger’s 18 week, “70 miles and above” program from his book (with Scott Douglas), Advanced Marathoning. I plan to follow the schedule as laid out, although I’ve made a few modifications:

  1. Hills. Nowhere do “Pfitz” and Douglas schedule hill runs, although they concede that they are important. So I’ve made some of the longer easy runs (or shorter long runs) into hill runs. I’ll do these no more frequently than two or three times a month. I’ll also be doing a fair number of my long and marathon pace runs in Central Park, where I’ll be running up and down hills. Yonkers has some fantastic, lung-busting hills, including the one I live on.

  2. Long runs. The training schedules aren’t specific when it comes to long runs. There are different kinds of long runs (steady distance vs. progressive vs. “fast finish”). I’ll be running most of them as progressive runs, meaning I start out at a very easy pace and work my way up to marathon pace for the last miles.

    Here’s the biggest potential flaw I see in the book’s training schedule: The authors only have two dedicated marathon pace runs in the plan, and they’re quite long at 12 and 15 miles. The first one isn’t until halfway through the training program; the second one is a full month later. It’s a big leap to go from no marathon pace running to a 12 mile run at that speed. In my humble opinion, this is a recipe for failure, as well as a potential blow to confidence. What happens when you get to week 9 and realize you can’t hack running the pace you’ve been supposedly training for over less than half the marathon distance?

    So I’ll tack progressively more and more marathon pace miles onto my Sunday long runs (ending up at a long run with 9 miles at marathon pace), so I can work up to that first session dedicated to holding race pace over 12 miles knowing I have a fair shot at completing it comfortably. (I’m sure there was a much better way to write those last few sentences. But I’m totally exhausted!) More on long runs from Kevin Beck in Running Times and Greg Mcmillan.

  3. Races as tempo runs. I’ll be substituting half marathon races for a few of the longer (12 mile) tempo runs. I’m doing this not only because I enjoy racing, but also so I can gauge my fitness under real-world racing conditions throughout my training. The half marathon pace is also just about perfect for a tempo run.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5.1 miles, recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 8.1 miles, easy pace with 10 x 100 meter “strideouts”
  • Wednesday, 12 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 6 miles, recovery pace (+ very fast trip down the driveway)
  • Friday, 10.5 mile hill run
  • Saturday, 6.2 miles, recovery pace
  • Sunday, 17.1 miles, progressive long run with last 3 miles at marathon pace

Total mileage: 65.0 miles

Paces this week:

  • Easy: 8:20 – 8:40
  • Long: 7:50 – 8:40
  • Hills: 9:00
  • Recovery: 9:45 – 10:00

This week’s quote:

Hills are speedwork in disguise.

— Frank Shorter

Coming up in training week two: More of the same!