NY Running Bloggers Happy Hour

On May 14, we’re making another attempt at a face to face for NY area runners who blog. Or bloggers who run, if you prefer. Learn more here!

More Marathon, Half Marathon course changes

[Edited 4/22]

The More Marathon, site of my first and third full marathons, takes place this Sunday in Central Park.

The good news is: NYRR seems to have taken some steps to reduce the crowd clog issue, at least for the first lap — I predict the usual chaos once the full marathoners hit the half marathon crowd on their second loop. They’ve also tried to simplify what was a complicated course: two outside loops, then three inside loops, then a fourth that rounds the bottom of the park. Just try to keep that straight when you’re already “loopy” from a lack of glycogen.

The bad news is: Marathoners now have to run four full outside loops of the park — hitting the hills at the north and south end four times. Killer course. I know because I did one training run there that featured four times around and it was quite an effort. Moreover (*cough*), even faster runners in future events can probably kiss their chances of breaking the course record (2:45:35) goodbye now too. [Or maybe not, as becomes clear in this press release.]

I’m somewhat tempted to do my 20 miler in the park on Sunday, to soak up the racing vibe and relive some pleasant memories. But that would probably be insane. What’s worse: Doing battle with vicious geese and idiots on bikes up here, or running alongside [7,000] 9,600 runners and walkers down there? [The following is a poor attempt at humor] At least I could score some free water, probably. Hmm.

Another “magical” run, powered by inspiration

In early January I had what I described as a “magical” run — a mid-length run that felt effortless, yet featured faster and faster running. I had another one today, just over three months later. I went out with the intention of doing a progression run, and to try to average 8:00 over the whole run by starting off at 20% slower than Mpace (8:20ish) and finishing up at 10% slower (7:40ish).

I was mostly going by heart rate today. I figured I’d keep it around 73% in the beginning and then max out at 84% at the end. As it turns out, I did end up running quite a bit faster than 7:40 for the final miles. This would explain the average pace of 7:47 — that was a surprise when I got home and looked at the splits.

I am pleased.

I spent the first few miles thinking through a work problem. Once I came up with enough ideas to mollify my various bosses, I let my mind drift. What did I think about? I thought about Colleen De Reuck and Elva Dryer. While I know the women’s race in Boston this year was ridiculously slow, verging on offensively slow, I still felt such a thrill seeing those two (De Reuck at 45 and Dryer at a “no spring chicken either” 37) leading the pack for about two thirds of the race.

We all need heroes to inspire us, and De Reuck especially, one year my senior, yet running at a level that I can only dream of,* was very much in my thoughts this morning.

*De Reuck came in 8th overall, Dryer 12th.

Cold data vs. real people

This morning I used the Boston Marathon’s “athlete tracker” feature to follow two runners. I don’t know either of these people personally, but I’ve come to know them in the virtual world of blogging and message board posting. I was pretty familiar with their training and, even given that our relationship consists of the most tenuous of connections, I had a stake in their races. I really wanted them both to do well today.

One runner had a great race. The other had a terrible one. I don’t know what happened to the second runner, but I’ll find out soon enough.

The tracker provided 5K split times, average pace and projected finish time. With each split update, I’d do the mental math to compare it to the others (and to the time goal each runner had) to evaluate what was happening. I also have a little knowledge of the course from reading reports (and, of course, watching it on television), so I had a good idea of which 5Ks could be “forgiven” for being a little slow.

Watching the dry data — 5K splits appearing every 18-24 minutes — produced the oddest sensation, a cognitive clash between cold numbers and the raw, human experience tied to those numbers. Watching the first runner, I could tell she was having a good day, perhaps even one of those rare “on” days when everything goes right and you run to your full physical and mental potential. For the second one, I watched in horror as he imploded late in the race, dropping from a 6:30 pace in the early miles to close to 14:00 per mile at the end.

Technology is an amazing gift. With RFID chips and Internet-based media, we have an eye in the sky, looking down on our runners of choice. Yet there is also an intensely sad quality to the remoteness in tracking athletes from afar. Their triumphs and struggles are, at best, telegraphed, not shared or felt. We can’t cheer, help or hug. Only watch. And wait for the race reports.

Spring Race Training: Week 13


I’m fast approaching the sixth month mark of being on a “2 weeks on, 1 week off” training schedule. This arrangement has worked out remarkably well for me. I’m fresh and peppy for the two hard weeks, but by the time I get to the recovery week I really, really need it.

I had another great week. It’s starting to feel a little creepy. Or foreboding. Or something. Unnatural. I keep waiting for the giant 16 ton Monty Python weight to come crashing down, but it never does.

This week was, like the previous few recovery weeks, marked by insane hunger and terrible insomnia. I have no clue why these issues feature so prominently in what should be a “down” week, but they do. I’d be interested to know if others out in blogland experience these two things during recovery weeks too.

Despite last Sunday’s semi-epic fast finish 22 miler, I felt full of energy on Monday, and my fairly fast recovery pace reflects that.

Tuesday was basically a shortened version of what I did on Sunday — a mid-length general aerobic run with three miles at 6:50 tacked on at the end. This version of the run went a bit better than Sunday’s, as there was less wind to contend with (and seven fewer miles) and I was able to work harder during the last miles. On Sunday, I was just too fatigued to run 6:50 at the end and couldn’t get my legs moving (nor my HR above about 86%). In contrast, on Tuesday I had no trouble meeting (and, in fact, slightly exceeding) the required paces, and the run overall was on the quicker side, averaging 8:14.

Wednesday and Thursday each had two short recovery runs. Unfortunately, the right groin issue (that dates all the way back to late January) has returned, probably as a result of whaling on it Sunday and Tuesday. It’s not bad, though. Just annoying, especially on downhills.

Thursday’s PM run was, as it so often is, the low point of the week. I just felt like shit, especially after attempting strides in the morning. The pace is only as quick as it is (“quick” being a relative term when referring to 10:16 pace) because I wanted to get the run over with.

As usually happens, I recovered overnight and awoke a new woman on Friday morning. Since I seem to run at my best at about 7AM, I hit the track early and pulled another fabulous speed session out of my hat. Despite a steadily increasing wind, I managed to average 3:08s (right on target) for my half mile repeats, doing the second three faster than the first three. I even royally fucked up repeat #3 by pressing the wrong watch buttons. That repeat was somewhat comical, with my hitting “stop” instead of “lap,” then hitting “lap” instead of “start,” then running 200m with the watch off, then stopping and cursing…

Saturday was another down day, with a very high RHR of 56(!) and an exhausted run featuring lots of walking, sitting on benches and stopping to look at ducks.

Today’s run was supposed to be “very easy.” I was instructed to run this in the “low 9:00s,” which I did. Technically. I guess 9:01 average pace is about as low as you can go without running 9:00. I just couldn’t run any slower than this. But since I averaged 71% MHR, I figure that was okay.

This weekend felt like spring for the first time. While I’ve loved the warmer temperatures, the spring flowers and enthusiastic songbirds, the flipside is that everyone comes out on the weekend and clogs the path. I don’t know why morons are so attracted to bike ownership, but the combination of obliviousness and wheeled conveyance makes for some, uh, challenging encounters on the path. That and the dog walkers with 30 ft long leashes (with black cording, no less, so you can’t see them), ready to clothesline the unsuspecting runner.

And today I had my first bonafide smackdown with a male goose. He came charging at me, hissing and tongue-wagging. I couldn’t find a stick in time (my usual defensive move, stick waving). So I threw my arms akimbo, ran straight at the goose and screamed, “Fuck off!” Goose reversed course and scurried away. Unfortunately, there were no witnesses to capture the moment for YouTube posterity.

Coming up in week 14: Another plain vanilla 16 miler on Tuesday, 3 x 1 mile intervals on Friday (whee!) and a reasonably paced 20 miler (8:20ish) on Sunday.

Kibet, Kwambai and Claudio Berardelli

Anyone watching the Rotterdam Marathon this year saw one of the closest finishes in marathon history, with Duncan Kibet nipping James Kwambai in a finish so close that they were both credited with a time of 2:04:27. But, perhaps more important, we witnessed two of the fastest times in history — just third behind Haile Gebrselassie’s two world records at the distance.

With this race a new era has dawned, at least in men’s marathoning. The bar has been raised and, as so often happens, it’s a good bet that runners will rise to the challenge in the coming months and years.

What’s also notable about the two performances in this race is that both men are coached by the same man, Claudio Berardelli. His fellow Italian coach, Renato Canova, is a frequent (and eagerly received) contributor to LetsRun.com. In this recent thread he provides insight into the training that Kibet and Kwambai are doing. Unfortunately, English is not Canova’s strong point, so understanding his posts takes some effort and reading between the lines. But it’s mental work worth doing.

Jonathan was so curious about how these training concepts translated into his own race goals that he created this basic spreadsheet [updated 4/19/09]. Using the examples that Canova provided as a source for calculations and ratios, the spreadsheet can be used to calculate workout paces for any marathon goal. I refined it to make it a little more user friendly.

I had to rename the extension from “xls” to “doc” in order to upload to WordPress. So you may need to change it back to “xls” in order for it to open in Excel. To use, enter your goal time in the blue box at top left — you actually update it in Excel’s formula bar, with (x, y, z) being hours (x), minutes (y), seconds (z). Your paces will be calculated automatically. In order to understand the sets of workouts (Fundamental, Special, Specific), you should read through the thread linked above. You should read through it anyway, actually, as it’s full of interesting ideas and, unfortunately, lots of unanswered questions.

The usual caveats apply: This was created by a couple of amateur schlubs using information off a message board. So you get what you pay for.

It is amazing to think that these guys are doing workouts like these (4 x 7K intervals?). But they apparently work.

Have fun!

The Joanie and Billy Show

Joan Benoit Samuelson and Billy Rodgers chat pre-Boston. God, I love these two.