The hay is in the barn.

Today was my last big training run: a 22 miler with 9(ish) miles in the middle run not quite at (desired) marathon pace; more like as fast as I could muster. Which means 15-25 seconds slower than (desired) marathon pace. I am now questioning my fitness to run my (desired) marathon pace in three weeks, considering I’ve barely run more than a few miles in any given training run at it.

Was it the dreadful summer heat and humidity? Not enough recovery? Failure to adapt to training enough to reach my desired level of fitness? All of the above? What speed I can reliably hold over 26.2 miles is anyone’s guess right now. And I don’t like that.

Perhaps I will undergo a miraculous regeneration in the coming few weeks and, with (I hope) cooler temperatures, I’ll pull a rabbit out of my hat (or shorts) on race day. But a part of me is thinking I need to readjust my plans and expectations. What I do know is that the first 10 miles of a marathon should feel ridiculously easy and slow. So I think my entire strategy is going to be built around that maxim: Find a pace in the first few miles that seems absurdly easy and stick with it through the halfway point. Then start turning up the heat and engaging in my favorite marathon game of chance: “Guess When Julie Will Blow Up!”

The weather was astonishing this morning. Perfect. It was in the low sixties and dry. It was, as always, very windy (both coming and going). But I felt good until around mile 18 when I started to bonk. But, with only four miles to go (and a Powerbar in the car), I was fine.

I parked the car at Hartsdale Station and ran down to Bronxville with an 8 mile warmup at easy pace. Then I turned on the jets (cough cough) on the way back and ran all the way up to the Kensico Dam in Valhalla. Availed myself of the Ladies Room, sat on a bench inwardly whining for awhile, and then hit the road again for the last 5.5 miles.

There was not one but two huge training groups out there. I think one was a Team in Training group, since about a quarter of them had their distinctive purple TNT singlets on. There must have been 30 people, judging by the collection of bags they left in the park in Hartsdale. The other group was operating out of a van in the North White Plains train station parking lot. They were all so young, fresh and enthusiastic. Not at all like me! I wonder if they’re training for the New York marathon. It was nice to share the path with so many friendly runners today.

I did my big run today because tomorrow we drive up to Connecticut for what my uncle’s wife, Diane, is calling The World’s Smallest Family Reunion, and I’d like to be able to display something resembling a lively personality (which is out of the question after a hard 22 miler). I’m meeting one of my two second cousins, (father’s side), Ann (and her husband, Greg) for the first time in probably around 35 years. My dad and his wife, and my uncle and his are also coming. Except for going to Iowa in the spring for my grandmother’s demise, followed by her funeral, I’ve not traveled at all this year. And I don’t exactly count those two trips as “vacations.” So, even though it’s just two nights away, I booked us a tony suite in a B&B. I have extensive family history, good food and wine, and the possibility of getting to help cook in a real restaurant kitchen on Monday evening to look forward to. And, I’m certain, a lot of great conversation and company.


I felt better yesterday morning, so I went out and did the planned 14 miler at easy/general aerobic (Pfitz’s term) pace of 8:15 average. I didn’t throw in any hills, as my calves and achilles’ were quite sore and I didn’t want to irritate them further. Then I did a four mile recovery run in the evening and was quite tired (not surprisingly; that second run of the day after a hard run in the morning is usually pretty difficult).

I slept 9+ hours last night and, although I feel pretty good this morning, I’m skipping the planned morning run. I’ll see how I feel later in the day. I may take the whole day off if I still feel tired.

It’s supposed to get very cool starting tomorrow. So I’m hoping to be fully recovered for a big run on Saturday morning. If I’m not, I’ll push it into next week. Or skip it.

Steamtown strategizing

Once my pre-race taper begins next week, I’ll have lots of free time to work on a pacing strategy. Although Steamtown has nearly a net 1000′ elevation drop, it’s peppered with smaller hills in the first half, followed by three big hills at the very end. So I’ll spend a few hours with Google Earth and a calculator to put together my pace band.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting review of last year’s race.

Je suis fatigué

When I mapped out my training schedule for the fall, I knew I’d be tired this week. For the past 12 weeks I’ve run an average of just under 90 miles per week; for the seven weeks prior to that I averaged 78 mpw. The majority of days I’ve run twice a day. I’ve had just four full recovery weeks since mid May. During nearly all of the non-recovery weeks I’ve done a long run and two other hard workouts.

Here’s where all this leads — the apex of exhaustion (or nadir of energy, if you like): I slept nine hours last night but woke up feeling drained and sleep-deprived anyway. I sat in a near coma for an hour or two, attempting to motivate myself to go out and do a 10 mile run with hills. Then I went to lie down for an hour. I finally managed to drag myself out the door for a five mile recovery run. Five hours later I feel like I ran a race this morning.

I remember being very tired at the peak of training last season, so I was expecting this. But it’s amazing how pervasive and all-consuming the fatigue is today. And, naturally, I beat myself up for missing a key workout (even though I’d noted in the schedule to “drop this run if too tired” — prescient, no?).

I’m also famished basically all the time. I crave very specific foods, like sunflower seeds, honey and pineapple. I am shoveling food in like coal into a roaring furnace.

Whether to try another run later on today is something I’m still mulling over. I’m hoping that, as so often happens, I’ll awake tomorrow a new woman, full of vim and vigor and aching to get my 6.6 oz. racing flats out on the road tomorrow morning. If that’s the case, I’ll do my 14 miler as planned and maybe even throw in some hill repeats to boot. If I still wake up feeling like warmed over dog food, I’ll take it easy again tomorrow.

This is my 18th week of training and I feel as if I’ve been dropped from a high building. I’ve seen marathon training plans that go for 24 or 26 weeks. I think I’d be dead right now if I tried to follow one of those.

What’s funny — and this is why experience is such a good thing — is that I know in two weeks I’ll feel like a million bucks. And in three weeks I’ll feel like a billion. Then I’ll be on the starting line, with my legs feeling like two lit rockets, and I’ll actually have to hold myself back. I can’t imagine a more foreign sensation right now, yet I know it’s coming.

Nice legs

I needed to do a six miler last evening. I usually construct this run with a four mile loop up to Scarsdale followed by a two mile loop down to Bronxville. But the weather was so horrible yesterday that I couldn’t handle the idea of having to run beyond my starting point down to Bronxville. So I ran a bit farther north and turned right on Harney Road, figuring if I ran up to White Plains Road, I’d probably go around 3 miles (to turn around and make it a six miler).

Running through a commercial area had its benefits, as it turns out. I ran by lots of store windows, some positioned at clever angles. And, damn, my legs are starting to look really good. They are no longer shapeless blobs of bouncing flesh. There’s still a fair amount of bouncing activity in the inner thigh region. But I have real muscles now, and I can actually see how my knees are put together.

Running 90-100 miles per week seems to be the ticket for fat loss. It’s going to be a shame to cover these puppies up with tights soon.

Fall Training: Weeks 16 and 17

And…yet another twofer report. It’s just been easier to bunch these up into fortnightly reports, especially since in my current haze of exhaustion the weeks are a total blur anyway.

The first week of September provided somewhat drier, yet still warm, temperatures — up until the end of the week. It’s hurricane season — I know: so what? — well, we get the hurricanes after they flatten villages and kill people in the Gulf. They don’t kill us, but they irritate the hell out of us.

I started extending the length of my recovery runs by a mile or two to bump up the mileage. Other than that, things looked the same as in previous weeks: Lots of recovery running plus two or three hard sessions per week.

Week 16 consisted of 13 sessions, most of them (as per usual) recovery runs. Highlights included another sorry attempt at one of Frank’s Killer Tempo Runs. Given the weather and the fact that I seem to be incapable of running fast on the track, I approached this run loosely, doing 25 laps on and off heart rate in the high 80s/low 80s. Good enough. On Thursday I attempted another marathon pace run. I made adjustments due to the conditions (high dew point and windy). I hit 7:15 for a couple of the miles, but was slower for most others. Then the week was capped with a 10 mile race in South Nyack, a normally sticky race made even stickier by Hurricane Gustav. Again, slower than I wanted to go, but it was okay.

In week 17, this past week, also featured 13 sessions. I did another, longish tempo run, but this time on the roads. Instead of doing mile repeats as originally planned, I decided to do quarter mile surges at a pace anywhere from tempo to slightly faster than marathon pace, followed by quarter-to-half-mile easy pace recoveries. With temps in the 60s and a dew point of 55, this run went extremely well. Since the weather was really bad for the first part of the week, I moved the tempo run to Wednesday. Which meant I had to skip the midweek long run if I wanted to be in decent shape for the weekend. So I spent the next few days focusing on recovery so I could get ready for another big weekend effort in Central Park: 20+ miles with 12 miles at marathon pace effort.

A look back at training week 16:

  • Monday: 7 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 7.4 miles tempo pace (AM); 6.8 miles recovery pace (pm)
  • Wednesday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 14 miles marathon pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 4.6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Sunday: 10 mile race (AM)

Total mileage: 91.2 miles

And training week 17:

  • Monday: 7.1 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.2 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Wednesday: 9.8 miles tempo pace (AM); 4.8 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Thursday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Friday: 6.8 miles recovery pace (AM); 5 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Saturday: 20.4 mile long run with 12 miles at marathon effort (AM); lots of eating and sleeping (PM)
  • Sunday: 6.9 miles recovery pace (AM); 6.1 miles recovery pace (PM)

Total mileage: 99 miles

Paces these past two weeks:

  • Recovery: 9:30 – 10:45
  • Tempo: 6:32 – 7:21
  • Marathon pace: 7:15 – 7:30
  • Long: 8:04

Right now we’re in the grip of Ike’s heat and humidity. This morning was another run in Hades, followed by a run in a slightly higher circle of Hell in the evening. It was only after catching up on my blog reading that I realized that the Queens Half Marathon was held this morning. Bravo to the hardy souls, including Pigtails Flying (who PR’ed! Yay!), who braved 87% humidity to run that race this morning. I’m glad I wasn’t there…

Coming up in Training Week 18: This is the last big week of training before my three week taper begins. I have 100 miles planned, with hill work, a midweek long run, and another very long run on the weekend with lots of fast miles.

Change is good.

I’ve managed to successfully move this blog over from Blogger to WordPress. Blogger was good to me, don’t get me wrong. But WordPress is just, well, more elegant. Plus I really wanted a dedicated domain.

I’m behind on posting. But I’ll catch up again on Sunday with another fascinating “twofer” training week recap.

Back soon.