Fall Training: Week 9

Well, I’m in the thick of training now. This week was designed to be a little easier than last, although when you factor in the heat wave’s effects, I probably worked about as hard as last week. I just felt much worse doing it!

We’ve had temps in the 90s and dewpoints above 70, which means heat indices in the 100F range. Yoiks, that makes for some lame paces.

I did just over 96 miles with three hard workouts: hills on Wednesday, an easy run on Friday and a 22 miler today. The muscle soreness reported last week has eased off, although I did wake up at 3AM last night with it again, but not as severe as last week. I’m hoping this means it’s going to repeat last season’s pattern as something that shows up early in the training cycle, then disappears as my legs get used to the load.

No Billat surges on the Friday run since I wanted to preserve my legs for today. I still had trouble, mostly owing to the weather.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.1 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 11.8 mile easy run with 6×1 hill repeats
  • Thursday: 6.4 miles recovery pace (AM); 5.6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 9.9 miles easy pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 5.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 22 mile long run with 3 miles at 105% of marathon pace

Total mileage: 96.1 miles

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 10:00 – 11:03
  • Easy: 8:31
  • Long: 7:45 – 10:00

I managed to get in the hill run before the worst of the heat wave took hold. I did them a bit slower this time around, with the net effect being that not only did I not have to walk during any of them, but my rest periods were slower and the repeat times completely consistent. In other words, my performance didn’t dramatically crater for the fifth and sixth repeat. That has to be good for something.

The long run today was a real bitch. I’d originally wanted to do 12 miles at easy pace followed by 10 at 105% x marathon pace. That plan quickly fell apart after mile 15. Oddly enough, my heart rate was in a very reasonable range, but my legs felt dead and I was out of breath (might have something to do with the heat, humidity and bad air quality). And this was inside on the treadmill. I can’t fathom how Jonathan managed to run 22 miles outside this morning.

I eased back on most of the remaining miles, running around 8:30 pace with the final two at a 9:40 crawl. At least I ran the whole 22, despite several attempts to talk myself out of it.

In other news, I registered for the first of two NYRR training runs in Central Park. I’ll be doing some marathon pace running on this one (if I go; at $7, I won’t feel too bad if I decide to bag the idea for one reason or another come August 2). It’s a good deal: race-like support and a crowd to pull me along. I do wonder how I’ll hack getting into town by the 7:00AM start. If I get DOMS again, maybe I’ll be up anyway!

Coming up in Fall Training Week 10: A much appreciated recovery week. Ahhh.

Something to make summer training even more unpleasant

High levels of lactic acid, carbon dioxide emissions and body heat are mosquito magnets, apparently. Enjoy that evening run!

Fall Training: Week 8

Week one of my “build” period of basebuilding went off with a bang — and ended with a milestone: I ran just under 97 miles this week, which is the most I’ve run in a week. Ever.

There was a lot of variety this week, with no less than four quality sessions* including an experiment with a relatively unsung method for improving VO2 max (more below). I also did two harder workouts back to back on Tue/Wed, just to see how I’d feel later in the week.

I know this week’s cumulative mileage, combined with some harder workouts (and the back-to-back sessions), was enough to facilitate some adaptation because I had two incidences of the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) late in the week, back to back (surprise, surprise). This happened in the early days of hard training for my spring race, but it eventually went away, so I’m not worried about it. Unfortunately, it always seems to strike in the dead of the night, which totally disrupts my sleep cycle. It’s annoying, but I’m not annoyed enough to shift my harder runs to late in the day.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 11.8 miles easy pace with speed intervals on the track
  • Wednesday: 15.2 mile long run (steady pace)
  • Thursday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 10.1 miles easy pace with Billat surges (AM); 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.1 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 20 mile long run with 4 miles at marathon pace

Total mileage: 96.8 miles

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 9:10 – 10:33
  • Intervals: 6:46 – 7:02
  • Easy: 8:02 – 8:58
  • Long: 8:32
  • Marathon pace: 7:25

Although I’m much better acclimated to the heat and humidity (and it was bad early in the week), my reaction to it seems very inconsistent. For example, on Tuesday I really struggled with doing intervals (1200m), when the temp was 75 and the humidity 85%. I’d planned to do 4-5 at 4:55-5:10 each, but ended up doing 3, dropping the workout when I had legs of lead midway through the 4th. It was quite uncomfortable running in the heat, and a brisk wind of around 10mph on the backstretch was also a factor.

The combined heat and humidity was even worse on Wednesday (same temp, but 87% humidity), yet I managed to run an 8:32 pace over 15 miles (less than 24 hours after speedwork, no less), with no water stops. I’ve always been better at long running, but I was very surprised by how easy the run was, and even pleasant at times. It was so bad out that I could actually wring sweat out of my shirt when I got home.

On Friday I did an easy run over 10 miles and threw in something I’d like to experiment with: I call them “Billat surges” (maybe other people do too, but if they do I’m not aware of it). What are Billat surges? They are a series of surges of faster running at V02 max, broken up with recoveries of equal time length at 50% of V02 max. They are based on several studies by French researcher (and 1:18 half marathoner) Veronique Billat. Information here and here.

In my case, this worked out to running for 30 seconds at around 6:20 per mile pace, followed by 30 seconds at 9:30 pace. It’s a great idea, but unfortunately my execution was lousy. I attempted to do this along Pipeline Road, a long, unsidewalked stretch of road that runs between Scarsdale and Hartsdale train stations (and the only way to get from the south to the north paved pedestrian path). It was rush hour (which means lots of crazed SUV drivers who can’t be bothered to slow down and move over 12 inches to keep from killing me) plus there was construction going on, so it was pretty chaotic.

Also, I’ve discovered that the Garmin takes just about 30 seconds to figure out what pace you’re running, so it’s very difficult to know if you’re going too slow, too fast or just right. The result was a series of 12 on/offs at anywhere from 5:55 to 6:45 pace for the “on”s. Not exactly on target. I want to incorporate these workouts into fall race training, so I’ll probably end up going to the track and doing them there, where I can put down some sort of markers for distance and just use the watch as stopwatch.

The muscle soreness appeared at 3:00AM on Friday night and then again, like clockwork, at 3:00 AM again last night. So I’ve gotten around 11 hours of sleep between those two nights. And yet, despite that, I felt pretty good this morning. Good enough to do a 20 miler inside on the treadmill with miles 16 through 19 at a pace equivalent to a 3:15 marathon (7:27ish — nothing’s exact on the treadmill).

I started this training cycle two months ago at 3:18 paces and guessed that I could move down to 3:15 at this point. Now I’m thinking I should move down further, since my heart rate for the marathon pace miles was between 81-84%. Pretty low effort. So I’ll start training (at least inside, where it’s not insanely hot) at 3:12-3:13 paces for the next few weeks as I attempt to work my way down to 3:08 training paces for October.

My, how the mind wanders while running 20 miles inside. Over the years, when trapped in a tedious environment, I’ve made up a little mental game of thinking up names for nonexistent rock bands (here are three: Girl in Trouble, Shudder To Think and Gay Baby). I thought up a good one for a band consisting of runners today: Cardiac Creep.

To further fill the three hours of tedium in my little room of torture, I listened to a newish mix of mp3s while watching parts of various movies. If you’ve never combined random music as background to popular movies, it’s time you tried. You could probably skip the next Whitney Biennial because you will hit on something approaching art, since wildly incongruous pairings of musical and cinematic artistic expression can result. Some of the odd (and, I suppose, ironic) pairings this morning included:

  • “Let The Good Times Roll” (The Cars) playing behind a scene from “Cape Fear” (the remake) in which Robert DeNiro takes a chunk out of poor Ileana Douglas‘ cheek with his bare teeth.
  • “More Human Than Human” (White Zombie) playing behind a scene of Edward Norton getting the crap beaten out of him in “Fight Club”.
  • “Highway To Hell” (AC/DC) playing behind a scene of Molly Ringwald sewing what looks like a pink potato sack prom frock in “Pretty In Pink”.

What else is there to say? I’m a strange person.

Coming up in Fall Training Week 9: I hold the pace at 97 miles, but with a little less intensity. I’ll do another attempt at the Billat surges, another set of hill repeats, and a little more marathon pace running. All capped by the first 22 miler in about four months. This is assuming my legs don’t explode in the middle of the night first.

*Probably too many. But, hey, I’m excited.

Omens in the road

A squashed Boston Red Sox cap appeared at the foot of our street the other day. Each time I’ve passed by it, I’ve thought of Joan Benoit finishing the 1979 Boston Marathon wearing that cap (and again at the trials in April).

[minor chord crescendo]

An omen of some sort, perhaps?

There’s also a squashed possum about 20 feet further down the hill.

[minor chord crescendo]


Probably not. Just a squashed cap and some roadkill.

Now, if the possum were actually wearing the baseball cap — well, I’d have to spend some time pondering the possible omens there.

Fall Training: Week 7

In this, the final week of my “base” period, I ran 90.6 miles — just a hair more than three weeks ago. That mileage is starting to feel comfortable, which is a good thing since it’s still going to go up in the coming weeks.

This coming week starts the “build” period, during which I reintroduce the midweek long run and bring the number of quality workouts up to three per week on a consistent basis (with the exception of recovery weeks).

I did three good workouts this week anyway, plus some weight work for the first time in about a year. Coming off of a recovery week, my legs felt good, so I thought I may as well take advantage of that fact with the runs.

As for the weight work, I put together a routine of exercises to focus on back, shoulder, arm and core strength, which I’ll do at least once per week during training. My form tends to fall apart late in races and I don’t want it to anymore.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 5 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 10.5 miles with 5 x 1 mile hill repeats (AM); 4.3 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 5 miles with 3 x 1 at tempo pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 20.7 mile long run (steady pace)

Total mileage: 90.6 miles

60% of the miles were at recovery pace. Next week, that goes down to 40%. I’ll see how that feels.

Paces this week:

  • Recovery: 9:14 – 10:29
  • Hills: 7:43 – 8:12
  • Tempo: 7:00 – 7:04
  • Long: 8:42

The tempo run, which I did on the treadmill, felt somewhat easy. To be fair, though, I only did a mile at tempo pace at a time. Next time, I’ll try two. There’s always the chance that the treadmill is off, which is why I prefer to do them outside on a track, weather permitting.

I bit the bullet and did my other two quality runs outside in very high humidity. The hill run surprised me, as I managed to do the repeats 10-20 seconds faster than last time around. And yesterday’s long run was done in 75 degree weather and 80+% humidity, and it didn’t feel that bad. I guess I’m getting acclimated. I was sweating like a pig, which is a good sign. There was not a dry spot on my shirt when I got home.

I ran with my Camelbak, filled with close to 70 oz. of water, which I’ll continue to do in these conditions despite the fact that it’s an added 4 lbs. to haul around. I managed to get through most of the water (and shared some with Jonathan when we crossed each others’ paths in White Plains). I also took an Endurolyte during and after the run — something new I’m experimenting with.

After those monster runs on Sunday I’ve learned not to fight the impulse to nap. If I allow myself an hour or so of napping (or even just dozing), I feel good enough to do things like go food shopping amongst the madding crowd at Trader Joe’s on a Sunday afternoon. Naps are good. I just wish I could take them mid-week during the peak phase of training.

I feel good today, too, having slept like a rock for 9 hours. I dreamed of being stuck with two grape-colored hand grenades that I couldn’t get rid of. I don’t know what that means — what am I afraid of accidentally blowing up, I wonder? Maybe the hand grenades represent my legs. Or maybe dreams really are the expression of meaningless mental noise.

As far as the weight work goes, here’s the strength workout I put together (a set is 12 reps). For the first few weeks, I’ll do one set each of these. Then I’ll add in extra sets over time. We have free weights and a Bowflex*, which I’ll mix and match for these.

  • Squats
  • Calf Raises
  • Standing lateral raises
  • Military presses
  • Lower back extension
  • Seated biceps curl
  • Seated abs crunch
  • Trunk rotation

Coming up in Fall Training Week 8: Five more miles. A speed session in high humidity, which should be very uncomfortable (although, looking on the bright side, maybe the track will be less crowded). The return of the regular Wednesday long(ish) run. And another 20 miler, with the last few at marathon pace.

*Yep. We fell for the ads.

Heat. It’s what’s for dinner.

Nice little article about the effects of heat and humidity from Gina Kolata in the New York Times yesterday. It mentions the Mini 10K I ran in last month, specifically how the conditions conspired to bring the finishing times to their lowest in 10 years. I feel somewhat vindicated now.

The forecast for this weekend is typical July in New York: oppressive steamroom with thunderstorms. I’m off to do a tempo run on the treadmill this morning, the first of many runs I’ll do inside in the coming days.