Training week in review: 8 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Timing is everything

I’m a little late getting in my review post since I was too busy posting about my half marathon race on Sunday. So here it is Tuesday already and I’m finally feeling back to normal.

Last week was tough, let me tell you. Since deciding to replace a tempo run with a race, I needed to do a bit of rearranging last week. But with so many miles, and long runs, it was basically impossible to come up with the ideal schedule. So I punted and front-loaded all the hard stuff early in the week so I could be as rested and recovered as possible on Sunday.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday were all recovery days, with anywhere from 7 to 10 miles spread over double sessions. All on the treadmill. The hard work was on Tuesday (a 22+ miler) and Thursday (15 miles). Followed by sitting around hoping my legs would recover from that over Friday and Saturday sufficiently enough to race well.

Since this was coming off of a hard 20 miler the previous Sunday, by the time Thursday rolled around I was basically a zombie. One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m sleeping an average half to full hour more a night now, and I’m dreaming a lot. Or at least remembering more dreams than I ever have in the past. Epic dreams that seem to go on for hours, consisting of several distinct narratives. This is some serious, deep sleep. (I also slept the sleep of the dead for a full three hours after the race on Sunday.)

Despite all the mileage, I think running 40% of my miles at recovery pace allowed me to go to Central Park on Sunday feeling fresh and reasonably rested. So I guess it is possible to incorporate some quality racing into training if you schedule things right. This is good to know since I’m going to be doing the Bronx edition of the Grand Prix series on February 10th.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 22.4 miles, long run (steady) pace*
  • Wednesday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 15 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Friday: 4 miles recovery pace (AM), 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 4 miles recovery pace (AM), 3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 13.1 mile race

Total mileage: 86.5 miles

Paces this week:

  • Long: 8:50 – 9:10
  • Recovery: 9:30 – 10:20
  • Race: 7:35

This week’s quote:

“You’re all crazy”

— Sign held by a spectator at 2006 Chicago Marathon

Coming up in training week nine: About the same number of miles, plus an extra session. I’m running doubles five days this week. Recovery miles make up close to 50% of the total, which is good because I’m doing a 16 mile marathon pace run (probably in Central Park) on Sunday. I’ve got two shorter long runs (15 miles and 13 miles, respectively). All the rest are short recovery runs. Which reminds me — I’m late for this evening’s 5 miler…

* Longest run I’ve done in about a year — and much easier this year than last.

On track for a 3:30:00 marathon

In my race report for the Manhattan Half Marathon, I reported a finishing time of 1:39:32. There is a significance to this that I felt warranted a separate post. Here’s why this finishing time is notable: using Greg McMillan’s equivalent performance calculator, 1:39:32 translates to an equivalent marathon time of 3:29:55.

I know it’s a squeaker. But, dang, it’s under 3:30!

My goal for April is sub-3:30. I’ve just comfortably run an “equivalent” half marathon time along the same course and I’ve still got seven weeks of training to go until I start my taper! So I’m feeling really confident about coming in under three and a half hours on April 6.

Race Report: NYRR Half Marathon – Manhattan

Yesterday we ran the first of five half marathons in NYRR’s 2008 “Grand Prix” series. This was another opportunity for me to race in Central Park as part of my preparation for the More race in April.

This race replaced a scheduled five mile tempo run. I originally thought I’d run eight miles of it at easy pace, then do five at tempo pace. But as race day approached, I realized I couldn’t accept the idea of entering a race and not racing it. Since I seem to be handling the mileage and intensity of training with no issues, and a lot of my miles this week are recovery miles, I decided to race this one all out.

We drove in and managed to find parking up on 104th Street, which turned out to be perfect, since the start was at 84th. So jogging the mile to the start was a good warm-up. It was freezing, though. Wind chill was about 20F, but fortunately the wind was fairly calm.

NYRR imposed an 8:00AM deadline for baggage check, one half hour before race start. Since we figured we’d just have to stand around freezing for half an hour anyway, we elected not to check a bag with some warmer clothes. Big mistake! Post-race we were freezing, and by the time we got back to the car we both had difficulty unlocking it due to our frozen, claw-like hands. (It didn’t help that my gloves were wet since I’m still spastic when it comes to dealing with cups at the water stations.)

Pre-race ceremonies and announcements were mercifully short, highlighted with a quick hello and good luck from Meb Keflezighi. And then the horn sounded and we were off.

Each time I race in Central Park, I gain more appreciation for it as a race course. I’m now becoming familiar enough with it that I can mentally break it up into about five distinct “sections” and plan a pacing strategy for handling each. What’s tricky about this is that every race so far has run counter clockwise. The More, however, runs clockwise. This is why I have two tough training runs scheduled in the park, so I can run them clockwise and figure out how to reverse everything I’ve internalized about these race sections come race day.

Anyway, the overall race course consisted of two full loops around the park, followed by a partial third loop with the finish on the east side of the 102nd Street Transverse. My pacing plan consisted of doing miles 1-10 at 7:30, then evaluating the state of things at the conclusion of mile 10 to see if I could pick up the pace to 7:20. The uphill stretches along the northern and eastern sides of the park threw off the paces a bit. But I was able to maintain an average of 7:35 and I really picked it up in the last few miles, which was a goal. I want to work on being able to run very fast in the last miles of long races.

As for the actual race experience, it was positive. I focused on trying to stay on pace on a mile-by-mile basis, never thinking about the number of miles left — just getting to the next one in good form and still feeling in control of things. At mile 10 — the “turning point” mile — I felt good and going faster wasn’t too much of a struggle. The section from mile 11-12 is one of the tougher ones, with a long, gradual uphill. But I rallied at mile 12 and started blowing past people, running at a pace of 7:04 for mile 13 and 6:39 for the last few hundred yards.

As usual, I had three goals going in: dream, realistic, and bare minimum:

Dream: 1:38:00
Realistic: 1:40:00
Minimum: 1:44:00

Finish time: 1:39:32

This time, by the way, is nearly 11 minutes faster than my previous best half marathon time. To put things into further perspective, two years ago I was training for my first half marathon with a goal of finishing under 2:00:00. If I can just chop another 10 minutes off, that puts me in age/gender group award territory.

Here are the mile splits. My watch was way off in terms of race distance (it recorded 13.45 miles), so things are a bit wacky:

Mile 1          7:22
Mile 2          7:42
Mile 3          7:27
Mile 4          7:21
Mile 5          7:26
Mile 6          7:36
Mile 7          7:23
Mile 8          7:37
Mile 9          7:36
Mile 10         7:20
Mile 11         7:21
Mile 12         7:23
Mile 13         7:04
Mile 13.45      3:00

Finish time  1:39:32

Average pace    7:35

And the stats:

  • 795th overall, out of 4989 runners: top 16% of all finishers
  • 112th woman out of 1874 total: top 6% of all female finishers
  • Among 40 to 44 year olds, I was 21st: top 10% in my age/gender group
  • Age-graded time: 1:33:50

Jonathan had a good day too, with a finishing time (and new PR) of 1:23:57. He was 101st overall, the 98th man in (yes, there was a handful of very fast women out there yesterday) and fifth in his age/gender group. He also finally bested a local age-group rival he’s been trying to beat for the past two years.

Training week in review: 7 of 18

This week’s training theme:

If you want to get better at something, do it a lot.

Oh, my god. This training business is hard.

I ran nine times this week, covering just under 86 miles. The schedule wasn’t that different than two weeks ago, but I feel as if I’ve been run over by a truck today.

The highlights this week included a slightly longer tempo run, with a block of three miles at 7:24 – 7:30 and, a mile later in the run, another block of two miles at (surprise!) 7:18. Dang. This training business may be hard, but it seems to actually work. The next day I did a 15 miler at 8:39 avg pace (!), a 12 miler on Friday at about the same pace and…drum roll, please…this morning I did just under 20 miles, last nine “around” marathon pace (more on that in a moment).

So, yeah, I’m dog tired. But I am also very happy with the way things are going. And excited about the Manhattan Half Marathon next Sunday in Central Park, which I’m using as a replacement to the training schedule’s tempo run. My dream time for this race is 1:40. It would be a real kick to take 10 minutes off my last half marathon time. But I’m not exactly going to be rested, so I’ll be happy with anything under 1:44.

About this morning’s run — I feel good about it because it went well despite being very windy for pretty much the whole way. Steady wind of 12-15 MPH with gusts of 25 MPH or so, although it was constantly shifting direction. During a few of the more sheltered stretches, it wasn’t too bad. But along the exposed parts of the route (pretty much all along the Bronx River Parkway) it was unrelenting. Going out this morning, I decided to have a positive attitude and just do my best.

So that’s what I did. I was aiming for a pace of between 7:40 – 8:00. I made it on some miles, not on others. What’s funny is you can tell the bits in which I was battling the wind, because the pace slows way down and the heart rate shoots way up. Some of the faster miles were probably due to a tailwind (although I’d love to believe that they were due to my supremely competent legs). But the time averages out to around 8:00 per mile, so I’m happy with what I was able to do.

Here are my splits after mile 11 of the run: 8:06, 7:49, 7:49, 8:09, 8:03, 7:52, 8:12, 7:42, 7:50

Today’s run was also notable in that I tried out an alternate fueling source: Gatorade Endurance (which seems to be de rigueur on most marathon courses these days). I planted two small bottles of the “lemon” (cough cough) flavor along the course and kept a third in the car at the midway point. I have to say, the stuff tastes like window cleaner (or at least how I imagine window cleaner might taste). I am cursed with a delicate stomach but, aside from a twinge after downing 8 oz. at once, I didn’t have any problems with it. (Plus my teeth are so shiny now!) Nonetheless, I think I’m leaning toward the Hammer Gels for fueling. They’re a pain in the ass to carry, but they definitely provided a more noticeable “lift” on a couple of recent runs. And they don’t taste like industrial-strength cleaning products.

Once again, the couch is mine today. The pattern lately is that I come home after these Sunday runs, take a bath, eat something very large, have a beer and promptly pass out for at least 45 minutes. After that, I’m still in a semi-zombie state, but at least I can muster the energy to make dinner and engage in light conversation.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 11 mile tempo run with five miles at very speedy pace
  • Wednesday, 15.1 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM), 3.8 miles recover pace (PM)
  • Friday, 12.4 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Saturday, 7.6 miles recovery pace*
  • Sunday, 19.8 miles, long run with 9 miles at or below marathon pace

Total mileage: 85.9 miles

Paces this week:

  • Tempo: 7:19 – 7:24
  • Long: 7:38 – 9:35
  • Recovery: 9:15 – 10:00

This week’s quote:

The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

— Robert Frost

Coming up in training week eight: My doubles double, bringing me to four two-a-days of recovery runs. One 15 miler and one 22 miler (longest one yet) during the week. Then the half marathon on Sunday. Also, for some culture, we head up to White Plains (I’m tempted to run there, since we run more often than drive to White Plains lately) for a one-night-only showing of Spirit of the Marathon on Thursday evening. Review to come.

* This was supposed to have been an “easy” run with strideouts. But I ran way too fast on Friday and paid the price the next day.

Training week in review: 6 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Everything is relative

You really can get used to anything. This past week I ran just over 67 miles. Coming off of an 80 mile week, 67 felt like a “light” week, as it was meant to be. It was all recovery and long runs, save for one “easy” day of less than eight miles. Eight miles — feh! That is easy! Even a 14 mile run now feels like a pleasantly relaxing start to the day rather than the day-destroying slog it used to be.

I split my runs between inside and outside, electing to do all the recovery runs on the treadmill to make my legs happy. I probably ran too hard this morning (four sub-marathon pace miles toward the end of my 16 miler), which I didn’t intend to do. But I felt good, which I suppose is the recovery effect.

I’m sure I’ll be exhausted again soon enough, as next week I throw myself into an 86 mile week, including a tempo run and another 20 miler next Sunday.

I am noticing that my heart rate is definitely getting lower during the marathon pace miles week by week. I will experiment with slightly faster pacing next weekend to see if I can reset my training paces based on what my heart rate does.

For now, it’s an afternoon of hot chocolate, English football and Web surfing. My needs are simple. I hope that doesn’t mean I am.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5.7 miles, recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 7.8 miles, easy pace with 7 x 100 meter “strideouts”
  • Wednesday, 11.8 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 6 miles, recovery pace
  • Friday, 10 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Saturday, 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday, 16 miles, long run with miles 8-11 at or below marathon pace

Total mileage: 67.3 miles

Paces this week:

  • Easy: 8:20
  • Long: 7:45 – 9:20
  • Recovery: 9:45 – 10:20

This week’s quote:

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.”

— Priscilla Welch

Coming up in training week seven: More miles and more sessions, including two days of doubles. Plus one more mile of suffering on the tempo run (five instead of four). And a 20 mile run with the last nine at or below marathon pace, with the possibility of resetting the pace tables downward if my heart tells me so.

Training week in review: 5 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Stress. Recover. Adapt. Repeat.

And that is the essence of training.

When I looked at this 18 week training plan originally, I remember thinking that the recovery weeks were too few and far between. Maybe I’ll still feel that way in a few weeks, but for now I think going five weeks full tilt has been just right. The sixth week starts tomorrow, and it’s a full recovery week, meaning both the mileage and the intensity of the workouts are cut back to allow some rest — presumably to facilitate further adaptation.

I am a true believer so far. I was quite tired this week — more than in previous weeks, which suggests a cumulative fatigue — so it seems right that a recovery week follows this one. What makes me believe? The results: I’m very comfortable running at race pace (8:00 minutes per mile) — which I was not a month ago — and that’s evidenced by the fact that I’m doing it at a lower and lower heart rate, even over longer and longer distances.

I also did my second tempo run (inside), and that went very well. Not exactly easy, but not as difficult as the one two weeks ago; plus, I ran it quite a bit faster this time around. And, finally, today I did a 20 miler with the last 7 at race or sub-race pace in 2:51. I felt very good and could have kept running, which is always a good sign.

According to MarathonGuide’s 2007 annual report on US marathoning, 4,845 women finished in under 3:30:00 last year. I want to be in that crowd this year, and I’m feeling more and more confident that this training plan will get me there.

A look back at the week:

I did a few of my runs inside on the treadmill this week, either because of bitter cold (and icy paths) or to save my legs on recovery days.

  • Monday: 6 miles (AM) and 4 miles (PM), both inside, recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 10 mile tempo run (inside) with four miles at 15K pace
  • Wednesday, 15 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 6 miles (inside), recovery pace
  • Friday, 13.1 miles, long run (progressive), last two at 10 seconds below race pace
  • Saturday, 5.9 miles (inside), recovery pace
  • Sunday, 20.3 miles, long run (progressive) pace, last seven at or below race pace

Total mileage: 80.3 miles

Paces this week:

  • Tempo: 7:25
  • Long: 7:50 – 9:45
  • Recovery: 9:30-10:35

This week’s quote:

Any idiot can train himself into the ground; the trick is working in training to get gradually stronger.
— Keith Brantly, U.S. Olympic Marathoner

Coming up in training week six: A much needed week of recovery. One eight mile easy run, lots of recovery runs and shorter long runs.

Unfortunately, that means fewer calories available for eating, but most things in life involve some sort of tradeoff, don’t they?