Training week in review: 12 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Listening to your body is more important than slavishly holding to a generic schedule.

With the exception of the speed intervals on Tuesday — a first! — there was no one run during this week that was anything new or different than I’d done many times before. But, collectively, and perhaps because of the speed session, week twelve was quite tiring. Especially coming off of week eleven, which was also challenging.

The speed session was the highlight of the week. I did it just two days after the big 25 miler in Central Park. It consisted of a six mile warmup run, which took me to the Bronxville High School track. This is a brand new track, and Bronxville has one of the highest per student spending budgets in the country. So it’s a nice track.

The speed session consisted of 5 x 600 meters at 5K pace. Since I’m training at paces for a 3:24 marathon at this point, that equated to covering 600m in 2:30. While that’s not going to break any records, for me it was very fast. As usual, conditions were less than optimal, with a 15 mph wind from the south. Still, I kept to (in fact exceeded) the pace despite the brisk wind. And I suppose it’s normal to be breathing like a panicky water buffalo, running at the nose and heaving at the end of each interval. No, it wasn’t that bad. But it definitely wore me out and I was glad when the last repeat was over.

And yet, oddly disappointed. There’s something gratifying about running ridiculously fast around a track. I can’t fathom actually racing other people on a track. It seems so much more intimate and unforgiving an environment as compared to the open road. But I can handle the heavy breathing on a solo basis at least.

The training schedule called for a long run the day after the speed session. After all these months, I have a good sense of what’s going to be too much. I was completely knackered the morning after, so made it a recovery day and tackled the long run/recovery run combo a day later.

I did a single recovery run on Friday, which seemed like a real luxury given all the doubles I’m doing. Then a 10 mile easy run on Saturday, which went splendidly; my legs were very fresh and I was going at quite a clip. Which, of course, drained me for Sunday’s long run, an 18+ series of loops through Scarsdale and White Plains, since the running path was (and is still) covered in ice and snow from Friday’s storm.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 9.9 mile easy pace, including 5 x 600 repeats
  • Wednesday: 6.3 miles recovery pace (AM), 3.5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 14.9 mile long run (steady) pace (PM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.3 miles recovery pace
  • Saturday: 10 miles easy pace
  • Sunday: 18.6 mile long run (steady pace)

Total mileage: 82.5 miles

Paces this week:

  • Speed intervals: 2:25 – 2:29 (600m)
  • Recovery: 10:00 – 10:30
  • Easy: 8:15 – 9:00
  • Long: 8:25 – 9:30

All in all, a tough week. I’m going to consider it a lesson in being flexible: moving days around to allow for more recovery, reducing mileage if necessary, running slower if I’m still tired from the previous day, etc. The goal is to get to the actual race healthy and ready mentally and physically. If I need to adjust things here and there to accomplish that, so be it.

This week’s quote:

It is true that speed kills. In distance running it kills anyone who doesn’t have it.

–Brooks Johnston

Coming up in training week thirteen: The suffering continues, with speedwork, long runs, easy runs and on Sunday a 25K race in Connecticut, which I’ll use as a 15 mile marathon pace training run.

But, the race is in sight — it’s only six weeks away. I’ve only got three more weeks of real training, and then I’m into my taper. What on Earth will I do with all that free time?

When the dog bites, when the bee stings…

When the dog bites, and you can’t find the dog, it’s apparently a big deal.

Earlier in the month I was merrily running along and I passed one of the many people walking a dog along the Bronx River Reservation pathway. Unfortunately for me, the dog — a large German shepherd — went nuts as I passed and bit me in several places on my forearm and wrist.

Needless to say, it was an alarming experience, one which rattled me. After a free and frank exchange with the owner, who expressed about as much concern as I would expect from a telephone pole, I ran on. As I ran, I thought, hmm, this is bad. I’ve just been bitten by a dog. Will that dog bite other people? Has it already? Has the dog had shots?

By the time I’d run through all this in my mind, the owner and dog were long gone.

So. If this happens to you: Get contact info from the owner because if you don’t, you may be in for a world of hassle. Like me!

First, report the bite to the police. Although it’s not highest on their list of priorities, dogs that bite people are of interest to them. Also, assuming it’s not bad enough to have gone to the emergency room already, go to your doctor, who will probably give you a prescription for an industrial strength antibiotic (such as Augmentin) as well as make sure you’re up to date on your tetanus booster. And who, if he or she practices in Westchester, will be required to inform the health dept. That’s where the fun really begins.

Yesterday was the first of a series of rabies prophylaxis shots. The dark ages of giant needles getting shoved into your abdomen are long gone, but it’s still not pleasant. I needed to go to the health department (with a cooler, no less) to pick up my own vaccine. Then I had to truck it over (quickly!) to my doctor, so I could get six shots yesterday. I have four more shot sessions in the coming weeks. Then I’m free to frolic with rabid animals with aplomb.

So far, I’ve had no side effects to speak of (save for soreness around the shot locations, and a weird ache behind my eyes, like I’m getting a cold). Oh, and a palpable sense of annoyance and resentment that won’t go away. Is that a side effect?

M’kay. So. If you’re running along the pathway and you meet up with an irresponsible dog owner and a large German shepherd named Virginia, steer clear. And let me know. Because if Virginia the dog is still lunging at people, it means she isn’t rabid (just garden-variety vicious) and I can stop going in for these damned shots.

So tired. So very tired.

It’s official. Running over 90 miles will make a person very, very tired. I ran well enough this morning (and need to do another in an hour), which is bizarre. No leg pain or fatigue whatsoever.

But I do feel like slightly fluish and crapola. I wonder if that’s from all the miles.

Or maybe it’s the martini and three glasses of wine I had last night.


Training weeks in review: 10 and 11 of 18

This week’s training theme:

High mileage is only as intimidating as you make it.

This week’s report is a twofer: weeks 10 and 11. It’s two…two…two reports in one. Running 12 times a week takes up a lot of time, plus other life and work commitments have beckoned.

Week 10

week 10 was notable for the fact that over 50% of the mileage was recovery running. And not a moment too soon. I came into the week still feeling somewhat beaten up by the Manhattan Half Marathon, and I needed to be conservative in order to have enough energy to do the Bronx Half as a productive training run.

The right leg pain and various and sundry other complaints went away this week, which was helpful. It was basically another week where I felt like I was constantly running. Because I was. I ran 11 sessions during week 10, including two shorter recovery runs on the same day as the two mid-week long runs. After doing a long run, it’s difficult to do another one — even a very short, very easy one — a few hours later. But I figure those recovery runs are in there for a good reason, so run them I did.

The week was capped by the Bronx Half, which I’ve already reviewed in another post.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM), 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 4 miles recovery pace (AM), 15 mile long run (steady) pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM)
  • Thursday: 13.2 mile long run (steady) pace (AM), 3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.5 miles recovery pace
  • Sunday: 16 miles with 13.1 at marathon pace

Total mileage: 84.8 miles

Paces this week:

  • Long: 7:55 – 9:45
  • Recovery: 10:15 – 11:00
  • Marathon: 7:57

This week’s quote:

I ran and ran every day, and I acquired a sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.

–Wilma Rudolph

Week 11

Well, this week was, as my father once remarked upon seeing a very excited bull, an “intimidating” week. The whole enchilada. The big kahuna. Well over 90 miles. 90 miles comprised of two mid-week long runs, lots of recovery running, and my longest training run ever, in Central Park, no less.

In actual fact, this week didn’t feel that hard (but I’ll see how I feel tomorrow before I get too confident about coming through it completely unscathed). It was a lot of easy running and I didn’t go nuts on the long runs since I knew today’s run in the park was going to be a real bastard.

For weather and work scheduling reasons, I did the majority of my runs (including the 13 miler…ugh) inside on the treadmill. But I got out for two recovery runs with Jonathan yesterday and, of course, hit the Central Park loop this morning, bright, early and chipper at 8:15 AM.

The park run, despite its placement at the end of the week, was the centerpiece of this week’s training. As it was my last chance to do a training run in the park, I made the most of it. I ran clockwise (which I’m sure drove a lot of the people running counter-clockwise a little mad; they can blame New York Road Runners for their race course design), covering the full, outer loop four times. I ran with my dorky hydration pack, although I didn’t end up taking much water in the end.

Going four times around the park was less tedious than it sounds. The miles went by quickly, probably because I was actively trying to memorize the course, establishing easily recognizable landmarks to help me during the race (and to come up with a realistic pacing strategy beforehand).

It was a very good run. I only started to feel low a bit past mile 19 and a gel perked me right up. I even ended up running too far: 24.75 miles (target was 24). Average pace for the first 18 miles was 8:40. Last six and a bit were at 8:13. I tried sprinting the last couple of hundred yards to Tavern on the Green (where the marathon ends), although I skipped the raised Ryan Hall monkey arms.

It was a tiring run, but not totally draining, and running faster during the final miles wasn’t that much of a struggle. As far as endurance goes, and the consistency in running later miles faster, I’m feeling very confident in my fitness. I’ll see after a few weeks of speedwork if I can improve on things in the final few weeks of this endeavor.

Some things I learned this morning:

  • The bathrooms at the Boathouse are very fancy schmancy. And they don’t mind if you’re a grubby runner. The Boathouse has what looks like an excellent bar too.
  • Pedestrians are often quite surprised when you won’t stop for them when they step directly into your path.
  • A flock of blackbirds lifting and arcing over your head is a beautiful thing to behold.
  • An Irish wolfhound is big. I mean BIG.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM), 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 15 mile long run (steady) pace
  • Wednesday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 13 mile long run (steady) pace (PM), 3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 5.5 miles recovery pace (AM), 4.5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM), 4.1 miles recovery page (PM)
  • Sunday: 24.8 mile long run (progressive pace)

Total mileage: 94.1 miles

Paces this week:

  • Long: 7:48 – 9:30
  • Recovery: 9:35 – 10:15

This week’s quote:

The long run is what puts the tiger in the cat.

–Bill Squires

Coming up in training week twelve: Next week offers some respite (and, I hope, recovery) from this past week’s high mileage. Of note is my very first ever speed intervals session on Tuesday. With the exception of some compulsory (and humiliating) time spent on my high school track during physical education class way back when Donna Summer was puttin’ on the hits, I’ve never done any running on a track. So we shall see. The rest is same old, same old: recovery running, a couple of long runs and one easy 10 miler. At this point there’s no discernible difference in my pace between easy and long runs, so I may push the pace a bit on that one.

When you run out of running magazines to read…

…you can move on to the running message boards.

It truly is possible to spend too much time reading running-related message boards. One of my favorites is Lets Run (“Where your dreams become reality” — uh, okay). It’s more editorially schizophrenic than the Wall Street Journal.

On the one hand, you have threads with titles like “Who are the 10 hottest female steeplechasers?” On the other, you have incredibly wonky threads that give way to posts like this one (excerpted):

For the record I don’t agree with the model proposed by “Balance” either–several inaccuracies are present.

1) Pyruvate is initially a precursor to lactate during glycolysis. The equilibrium between pyruvate and lactate is such that cytosolic lactate concentrations are about 10 times cytosolic pyruvate concentrations. Pyruvate first though.

2) The formation of lactate from lactate which is catalyzed by lactate dehydrogenase *consumes* a proton rather than donates one. Pyruvic acid has a Pka of 2.49 while lactic acid has Pka of 3.86, therefore pyruvic acid is actually a stronger acid than lactic acid!

Do you actually want more? Here’s the whole thread.

When I find myself reading something like the above, I know it’s time to shut off the computer, go downstairs and do something more worthwhile with my dwindling time on Earth.

Race Report: NYRR Half Marathon – Bronx

This morning was the second of five half marathons in NYRR’s 2008 “Grand Prix” series — and the last of the series we’ll run this year, probably.

And what a logistical disaster it was! We woefully misjudged the parking prospects in the Bronx and spent 45 minutes driving farther and farther from the race start, searching for a legal parking spot. At last, 10 minutes before race start, we found one — two miles from the start! We’re both usually semi-hysterical before race starts anyway. But this tactical error only magnified the anxiety and testiness. We managed to cover a lot of ground — dogshit-covered and garbage-strewn sidewalks, in most cases — and made it to the start…eight minutes late. Let me tell you, it’s a disheartening feeling to hear the race air horn blow and you’re still three quarters of a mile away from where that air horn is.

A quick trip to the portapotty made our starts even later. But that’s what timing chips are for, right? Fortunately for me, I’d defined the race as not a race, but a marathon pace training run, so I wasn’t overly concerned by the late start. Jonathan, however, was racing this one. Although he was, as usual, a ways ahead of me, we both had the odd experience of running several minutes per mile faster than everyone around us, passing a few thousand people over 13 miles. I felt like Wonder Woman. Now I’m thinking this is an interesting strategy for racing — start 10 minutes late and feel like an olympian.


Pre-race jitters were enhanced by weather reports of 25+ MPH winds. Although winds were an easy 4 MPH at 5AM when we got up this morning, the high winds were on the way, oh, yes they were. The only question was when they’d go full blast. As it turns out, someone turned on the fan at around 9:00AM. The worst winds were along a two mile stretch of Grand Concourse heading west — full on, in-your-face winds with frequent gusts of 40+ MPH. At one point, a major gust gave me what I thought of as my “Nightmare at 20,000 feet” moment — the inability to breath, despite the firehose blast of air. Much like standing on the wing of a jet airplane.

On the plus side, that wind turned into a tailwind on the way back, heading east — and I can see how helpful it was because my splits show that, not only was I running faster but my heart rate dropped by a few percentage points too. If only it had rained; I might have found a way to hydroplane my way through the miles. So, two bad miles, followed by two good ones, then another incredible headwind for mile 13.

The verdict? Despite the high winds I met my goal of holding an average pace of 7:50 – 8:00. Average pace was 7:56 (or slightly under a 3:28 marathon pace). Hoorah! Jonathan did even better, besting his Manhattan Half Marathon time by 50 seconds (and garnering fourth place in his age group). Hoorah!

Other highlights: I did lots of water stop practice and managed to avoid dousing myself, for the most part. Also got the timing right on ingesting a gel right before the stop. I dealt with weaving through hundreds of people well, a skill I’ll need in April as I lap thousands of half marathoners. And I was able to deal with the extremely high winds pretty well, not letting them get to me too much mentally.

For many reasons, I’m glad I decided to use this as a training run rather than racing it all out. I feel fairly confident both about my marathon pacing and about my ability to run in windy conditions. And I’ve saved my energies for next week’s training, which peaks at 93 miles. Zoinks!

Hugs for Huckabee

Props and a big shoutout to my homies in Alameda, California rapping for Huckabee. Somebody’s gotta give that man some attention in that state.

Okay, it’s my darling (and highly enlightened) niece and nephew.

This is your brain. This is your brain on home video. Any questions?

Training week in review: 9 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Train to race. Not the other way around.

Before I begin, a moment of silence to commemorate…the halfway point. I’m halfway through this program and I’ve not died, quit, nor been rendered blind, crippled or insane.

Well, I ran a great half marathon a week ago. And I paid for it all week. The result? I needed to recast this week as a recovery week and take my first day off from running in since November 4.

I probably ran the hardest race I’ve done so far last weekend and I was unprepared for how much time I’d need to recover from it. I managed to stick to the original training schedule from Monday through Thursday, although things were rapidly cratering by Thursday evening. I even ended up taking most of Monday off from work since I felt so exhausted.

I also had a new pain in my right leg, in the back of the knee, which I suspect was some sort of mild tendon or hamstring strain. I felt it twinge a few times during the race, right after the uphill portions, and had wondered at the time if it would linger as a problem. Plus my left lower leg and foot were complaining for four days post-race. I hobbled through two long runs on Tuesday and Thursday, but had to cut short an evening run on Thursday due to acute pain in several spots on both legs.

I hated to do it, but I decided not to run at all on Friday — then see how I felt on Saturday. Instead, I rode the stationary bike (which had been gathering some dust). It doesn’t get used much, but when one of us is slightly injured, I’m really glad it’s there. I did 40 miles on the bike on Friday, then another 32 Saturday morning. By Saturday evening I felt good enough to attempt a recovery run on the treadmill. By this morning I was all better and able to go out and do a decent long run.

So, hurrah! for rest and recovery. And a real lesson learned about racing during training. Longer races are probably not such a great idea. I will reverse what I said last week about not being able to hold back from really racing in a race. Instead, I’ll use a few local races for training. In particular, I’m going to use next weekend’s NYRR Bronx Half Marathon as my 12 mile marathon pace run. Then I’ll use a 25K “Boston Buildup” run in CT three weeks later for my 15 mile marathon pace run. It should be nice to be able to focus on pace in these races, practice fueling (and drinking on the run), and not worry about finishing time. I’ll also take this experience as an indication of how long I need to recover from a hard half — at least four days, preferably five.

This was another week spent inside on the treadmill, with the exception of today, my first run outdoors in a week. Not much else in the way of running news. We’re getting our 80-year-old slate roof replaced. It’s been removed and hauled away in a giant dumpster. Now the roof is naked (save for the waterproofing layer) as we await the arrival of its replacement material, supposedly happening Monday. All I know is next week is going to be LOUD.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM), 3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 4 miles recovery pace (AM), 15 mile long run (steady) pace (PM) — I really soldiered through this miserable run
  • Thursday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM), 3 miles recovery pace (PM) — a 5 miler I cut short
  • Friday: No running; 40 miles on the bike at 16MPH
  • Saturday: 32 miles on the bike at 16MPH (AM), 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 17.7 miles long run (progressive) pace

Total mileage: 68.7 miles

Paces this week:

  • Long: 8:30 – 9:45
  • Recovery: 10:15 – 11:10
  • Bike: Blech. Screw the bike.

This week’s quote:

“No marathon gets easier later. The half way point only marks the end of the beginning.

— Joe Henderson

Coming up in training week ten: I bagged the planned marathon pace run that was originally scheduled for today in Central Park, since next weekend’s Bronx half marathon offers an opportunity to do it complete with volunteer support and post-race food! As for the rest of the week, it’s all recovery pace doubles or mid-length long runs. Back up to 85 miles, but nothing crazy in terms of the actual workouts. With this weird leg issue, I want to be cautious. This is especially true since week 11 features a 93 mile schedule. One thing I will try next Sunday is a slightly more aggressive definition of “marathon pace” — probably 7:50 or 7:55. Just to see.