A terrible workout

My speed session was ugly today. This came as a surprise, as I went into it feeling ready mentally and physically. The day called for 11 miles with 5 x 1K at 6:34 pace (that’s 4:05 for each 1K repeat) and jog rests of 2:45.

I did my little two mile warmup and things seemed to be going well. My HR was impressively low and I didn’t feel bad when I picked it up to 85% in the last little bit before launching into 6:30 pace on the treadmill. Since my treadmill doesn’t have a 6:35 pace, I went for 6:30 with a plan to slow to 6:40 if I needed to. Quite honestly, I have no idea what pace that thing is really going at. I swear it feels more like 6:15 or 6:20 than 6:30. Maybe it is.

I handled the first 1K repeat okay. The second one was harder, but still alright. The third one felt like an entirely different pace. I felt in control for the first minute and then things rapidly went downhill. It was just hard. Too hard. Way too hard.

I have stupid things I say to myself when this is happening. Things like:

“It’s supposed to be very uncomfortable.”

“You’ll never have to run this hard in a race.”

“This is how you get faster.”

I wasn’t buying it today. I bumped the pace to 6:40 about three quarters of the way through that third try, but even that didn’t help. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and bailed 30 seconds early.

Then I spent the next five minutes berating myself. I can globalize a bad workout — even just a bad interval — so everything I’m doing is called into question. I wonder if I’ll ever get faster or if my best days, however modestly successful those were, are behind me. I wonder if I’ll always be carrying an extra 10 pounds around. I wonder why I’m pouring so much energy into something that is, on the face of it, completely meaningless. Something that will only get harder as I get older.

Then I went into the next room to talk to Jonathan. He suggested I either slow down the remaining intervals or just call it day. I went for the second option, since I knew I’d end up just feeling worse if I kept trying to bludgeon my way through what was obviously a workout gone bad. I ended up running 5.5 miles easy to bring the total up to 10. That at least gives me some permission to have a beer this evening.

While it’s possible to overanalyze why something like this happens, it can’t hurt to look at the big picture.  First, the physical: This is my second big mileage week, still fairly early on in my buildup. I ran three days of doubles this week (including nine miles last night, after which I was tired) plus a fairly hard 12 mile aerobic run on Tuesday. Next, the mental: I haven’t run outside in nine days. Because my flat path and track are covered in snow, if I want to run outside then I have to run hills in the street. This isn’t exactly conducive to recovery between harder runs — because all of the runs end up being hard.

So all of my runs have been inside on the treadmill. By last night, I was beginning to feel the mental effects of doing two runs a day in that tiny room, like two oppressive bookends to — another mental stress — work days that were not exactly carefree. Get up and run. Work for 8-9 hours. Run again. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Day after day. A mental fatigue, or even dread, sets in eventually.

I was reminded of Jaymee’s post this week, in which she related some obvious reasons for why she underperformed in her most recent race. That woman works harder than I ever will at this ridiculous hobby. You’d think that with her Calvinist training regimen, combined with having a real job and a life, the reasons behind a bad race wouldn’t be gleaned only in hindsight. But I suppose we all get used to being able to “handle” the work, perhaps not seeing how close to the edge we are at times. For many of us, that edge only reveals itself suddenly, in the form of a bad race, or an injury, or a crappy workout.

So maybe all those mental and physical apples were legitimate reasons for the upsetting of the apple cart this evening. Or maybe I was just having an off day. Either way, I’ll write it off and move on. What else can I do?

I need to get out of that room this weekend. Tomorrow I’ll drive north and do my recovery miles on a flat street in Scarsdale. It’s just four stupid miles, but I think I’ll go insane if I have to run inside again. Sunday I’ll also run in the street and do my two fast miles on Pipeline again. Fuck it. I’m running a five mile race tomorrow. Why not?

Spring Training: Week Six

This was a good week. although also a tiring one.

My legs were somewhat tired after the previous Sunday’s race, but they didn’t overrule my brain when it told them to run an extra mile on Monday. I spaced out and ran nearly 10, only realizing the error of my ways at just short of the five mile mark.

I did Tuesday’s tempo run as a ping-ponged series of four miles back and forth along a long stretch of lonely road we have up here (Pipeline Road — or, on the maps, Aqueduct Road). Unfortunately, it’s the one extended section of concrete my runs take me on, but considering that it’s straight, fairly flat and devoid of cars after the morning rush hour, that’s a compromise I was willing to make.

Sometimes I think that running a race can have the effect of speeding me up in subsequent days. I ran my miles at 7:15 (a little faster than planned), despite a swirling wind.

On Wednesday I did the only dumb thing of the week — a run in a foot of fresh snow, on tired legs. That two mile slog did me in for the remainer of the week. But it was enjoyable to be outside, as I would spend the remaining days (and will continue to) inside on the treadmill. And I didn’t bash my head this time.

On Thursday I dialed down the pace on the speed intervals, although in hindsight I probably didn’t need to. But I was really tired on Saturday and then delayed doing the long run on Sunday for as long as possible, finally climbing onto the treadmill at around 4:00, when I could procrastinate no longer.

That run was okay. Given the past week’s workload (more intensity than I wanted plus more miles than I’ve run in quite awhile), I didnt’ want to push myself too hard. So I did three miles at around 70% effort and then did the remaining ones at 75% avg.

DOMS last night at 3 a.m. rounded out the week. I didn’t hit the 80 mile mark as originally planned, but it was close enough and another 1.8 may very well have killed me.

A treadmill easter egg

Since my local environment is still Hoth, I’m running on the treadmill for the foreseeable future. My last run outside was my snowshoe experiment on Wednesday. That run took a lot out of me and by Friday morning I was still feeling the effort in my legs. So I did my shorter recovery run in the morning and moved the speedwork to the afternoon.

A few more hours of recovery helped, but I climbed onto the treadmill feeling that I wasn’t really ready for mile repeats at 6:45. But rather than bailing on the workout altogether, I figured I’d just do it a little slower than originally planned. I ended up with three repeats in the 6:55 range, so my compromise was not that great. I got that number be adjusting the speed from 6:50 to 7:00 during the repeats (it breaks things up a bit).

Anyway. Long preamble to my point, which is: I probably could have run 6:45 had I had a better understanding of how our treadmill works. The machine has a toggled display for Pace and MPH. In both cases, you get three digits:

MPH: ##.# (example: 10.5 MPH — ha ha, as if!)

Pace: ##:# (example 06:4 — or what would appear to be 6:40 pace)

When is “06:4” not 6:40 pace? When you’ve only hit the “increase the pace” button (or “+”) once. Apparently, at high speeds, our treadmill offers five second pace variations. You just can’t see it. So if you’re running at “06:5” and you hit “+” then you’ll go down to 6:45 pace (with an “06:4” readout). Hit “+” again and you’re at 6:40. Who knew? (Jonathan did.)

All this time I just thought I was being wimpy when I pressed “+” and the treadmill display wasn’t responding. Since I knew I wasn’t in any shape to run 6:40 repeats yesterday, I shied away from plugging in that pace. Had I realized that the treadmill will give me 6:45, I would have at least made an attempt to run the original workout. The difference between 6:40 and 6:45 (or 6:45 and 6:55, if you like) was probably minimal enough that I wouldn’t experience enough physical distress for it to have mattered. The issue was a mental one (“I can’t run 6:40 today.”).

Since I don’t like doing faster workouts indoors if I can avoid it, I rarely run below 8:00 on the treadmill. The fastest I’ve ever managed is 6:00 pace. Once you’re getting close to your maximum effort, 10 seconds per mile is a huge difference. Plus I don’t like being forced by a moving belt to move my legs that fast; it always feels a little scary.

I had no idea that I had less than a 10 second spread available to me for some paces. Knowing this, I’ll be a little more enthusiastic about (and willing to try) doing my speed workouts indoors. Hooray!

Google search oddities

Today I got one hit from this search string: “korean women are crazy bitches.”

Super. Awesome.

Snow bunny

I just did my first run in my new Redwing snow shoes, down around the Bronxville pond. What we’re experiencing is not technically a blizzard, apparently. But the wind was around 20 mph. Not that I noticed the wind today.

Good God, running in snow is hard! Notice I said in rather than on. In the untrodden sections, I sank down a good 4-6 inches with every step. I ran just under two miles, much of it in a foot of fresh, powdery snow. Running in that stuff was laughingly slow. Once I got onto some packed snow, the going was much better and I could achieve something resembling a natural running form. Average pace: 12:55. Average HR%: 74.

I was supposed to do a four mile recovery run this evening, but the only way to stay below 70% was to walk. So I figure two miles at 74% is roughly equal to four at 65% (Uh…). But why do my calves, quads and ass hurt so much? Oh, I’m gonna pay for this folly, I know it.

For fun (and, as it turns out, demoralization) I tried two all-out sprints of .05 miles, one on the packed stuff and one on powder. The first one yielded a blazing pace of 8:32. The second one was paced a minute slower. My attempt to dash up a hill was equally unimpressive.

How do you people race in this stuff?

Spring Training: Week Five

(In which, to mix things up a little, I compose my weekly review in iambic pentameter quatrains.)

Last year I felt a failure, so, this year
I have high hopes. Redemption comes out of
The blue, to my delight. A race can be
Like poetry. It flows, it whips, it reels.

The week went well for me at last. I ran
Ten times last week, with three hard days. My speeds
Increased again as well, and down my heart
Rate went. It seems I’ve got some decent wheels.

A run I skipped begat fast legs, I think.
Or was the wine the trick? Whichever way,
The drink or rest, it worked for me, oh yes.
In short, I rocked that race in sev’ral ways.

Blue bib? Not yet. Fell short this time. Next month
I’ll try again. But confidence is what
I sought and got me some in spades. So now
I sport a spritely step and cheerful gaze.

This week the miles go up again, but not
Absurdly so. I’ll run nine times with three
Hard days, to top out at eight-o. The tread-
Mill’s oiled and working well. That’s swell. That’s swell!

The snow will hit us overnight, but I’m
Prepared for that. My snowshoes beckon me
Take flight. And I’ve a toasty hat. Enjoy
Your runs, my runner friends. Run hard! Run well!

Race Report: NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler

Just a quickie report.

Fuckin-A! I finally had a good race.

I managed a 28:11 (7:02 pace). This brings my best pace in NYRR’s books down a hefty 12 seconds per mile. Perhaps more important, I know I could have broken 28:00 had I not gotten caught in the 2nd corral logjam for the first half mile, during which I was trapped at 7:27 pace. After that, things opened and I was averaging 6:58.

Other good news:

  • I clocked 4.02 in distance, which means I did a better job hitting the tangents than usual (either that or the course was short).
  • I maintained effort throughout and only really started to hurt the last quarter mile; this tells me I did a decent job of pacing myself. Perhaps I should have been hurting a little earlier, now that I look back.
  • I got 5th in my AG, and hit just under 73%, which is very good historically for me, especially at the start of a season. I’m also scraping the top end (I turn 45 in less than two months), so I’m “old” for this AG group as it is.
  • It was windy, especially heading up to and over the 102nd Street Transverse, which I figure I can also credit for taking a few seconds away from me.

So I’m within spitting distance of my sub-7:00 blue bib. I’ve registered for the NYRR 8000 in five weeks, so I can take another crack at it.

Some things of note: I did speedwork on Thursday morning, then ran just two slow runs under 5 miles on Friday and Saturday. I wonder if that (and two glasses of wine last night) helped me today.

As I wrote to Coach Kevin, it is so nice to not be in a completely foul mood after a race.

Now to go for another run and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening ignoring the Super Bowl.