Training: April 12 – April 18, 2010

Since I’m in a somewhat manic “oh I’ll just change everything” period, I may as well also change how I label these training posts. I realize that since I’m not training for any particular race, saying I’m in “week n” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I’m going to do what the pros do and just tell you what dates I’m talking about.

First things first — and I’m skipping ahead into this week, so if you’re confused, it’s not you, it’s me — I did not run the Boston Marathon, which everyone else in the world seemed to be doing. (And I should add that I never will run the Boston Marathon, despite its caché, for a host of reasons). But I did have a grand old time watching it on Monday evening.

Since I had so much to do workwise (don’t people know not to schedule meetings on Patriot’s Day? Sheesh.) I had to sit on our Tivo recording until about 8:00PM. Staying away from all news was challenging (although, let’s face it, Facebook was harder to go cold turkey on for an entire day — I slipped once, but only to post something, not to read).

It was a thrilling race, especially on the women’s side, which is becoming a happy pattern in recent years. There are great summaries of the race elsewhere, so I won’t bore you here. Except to say that I wish Larry Rawson would truly retire. He’s like the Rolling Stones (only older) — constantly announcing his retirement only be exhumed yet again, our sport’s own version of Grandpa Simpson, rambling on about how much everyone is earning and how far that money goes in Kenya, reading leg turnover rates like so many tea leaves and getting nearly everyone’s name wrong. At one point he was laboring to compare running the mile (he was a miler in the Mesozoic Age) to running the marathon. Seriously. It was funny.

Okay. Onto the good stuff. I was a bit dumb about training last week, getting carried away and running a bit too hard. But I felt so good after the Scarsdale 15K that I couldn’t stop my legs, which wanted to go. On Wednesday I gave in and let them do a general aerobic run. I was surprised at how slow that was considering the relative effort, although I shouldn’t have been.

I was obviously still tired from Sunday — and probably also from racing over hills for three straight weekends — but that didn’t stop me from doing another speed session two days later. I went back to the “cutdown” workout that I’d done just once before, about three weeks prior. It was a strange session. The first repeat (a mile) was a minor disaster. It was quite windy and between that and running about 15 seconds per mile too fast I just died toward the end. I ended up cutting it short to 1400m. I figured the rest of the session would suck, but that first repeat turned out to be my warmup. The other three legs went extremely well, considering the wind.

I took Saturday off both to rest my legs and to clean our house from top to bottom so my sister and niece would never know what slobs we are. No one must ever know. Niece has decided she’s going to UC San Diego, although since Rutgers’ Honor College apparently offered her a metric fucktonne of financial aid she thought she’d better at least check the place out before deciding to remain a California girl.

While I’m sorry that I won’t have her around on this coast, as she’s really quite charming and the complete opposite — outgoing, cheerful and enthusiastic — of everything I am, I had trouble seeing her living here, especially sequestered away in East Brunswick, New Jersey rather than among the bright lights of New York City that drew her here (insert gratuitous “moth to flame” analogy here) in the first place. But she has her entire life left to move to New York and in the process ruin said life. Like I did! (Just kidding. Sort of.)

On Sunday they headed off into the city for theatre and lunch with more eagerly awaiting family and I dashed up to White Plains and back. Again, it was ridiculously windy and my paces were all over the place, anywhere from 9:30 to 7:50 per mile. But it was a satisfying run and allowed me to eat this monstrosity later on.

This week is considerably lighter: just one speed workout and then my first 5K race in several years on Saturday. I’ll go ahead and say my goal is to break 21:00. Unless it’s windy, I think this might be doable. But you’ll be able to read all about that … next week.

Google search oddities

“photo of girl crap on marathon”

Sigh. I wonder what the Googler was going for there. Probably Paula Radcliffe having her famous mid-race squeeze in London, but that’s just a guess.

And this one, which for some reason makes me think of Ultraman:

“power in my finger”

I honestly can’t remember what I did for entertainment before the Internet came along.

Spring Training: Week Fourteen

This week I was training myself as my coach continues to struggle with access and computer issues. I didn’t mind. The combination of having worked with him for well over a year and not really training for any goal in particular means it’s been pretty easy for me just to look at old workout schedules and approximate what I should be doing.

I celebrated my birthday with a fun general aerobic run. Then decided to throw in some speedwork later in the week to try to rev up my legs for Sunday’s race. I just did a little — not even two miles. I’d planned to do four 1K repeats, but was beat after the third one and I’ve learned that this is the time to stop.

I took Saturday off, I think because I had a shitload of work to do in order to free up Sunday. There is a great myth that those of us who “work for ourselves” (another concept that really isn’t true; we actually have numerous bosses) have loads of free time. I, at least, don’t. I average around 45-55 hours of work most weeks, between my corporate day gig and my freelance projects. When the freelance is really flowing in it can be as high as 65+, but fortunately those weeks are rare.

Thank goodness I have no commute (it’s five steps from my bedroom to my office), or I’d never be as disciplined a runner as I am. (Either that or I’d have to take a page from Ted Corbitt’s book and run back and forth to work in Manhattan.) It’s for this reason that running in the neighborhood of 50 mpw has been refreshing.

Anyway. Still coasting.

Mulling over the marathon

I make it a habit of worrying about things far in advance. Unfortunately, this often has the effect of obscuring my view of what’s happening right now. Or, rather, what’s going well.

While I’m not yet collecting any PRs at shorter distances this season, I am having a great time running all these races. I still am not yet back to where I was roughly 20 months ago, at least as far as race times are concerned. That is a depressing reality that I try not to dwell on.

I do know that things are looking up in that I do seem to be improving and, perhaps most important, I’m not feeling anywhere close to entering the danger zone of overtraining that I spent so much of last year wallowing in. I was flat out exhausted so much of the time last year that it started to feel normal. After a break I’m realizing that it’s not normal. There’s the regular fatigue that comes with stepping up training, but that you can recover from during a pre-race taper. Then there’s the other kind — a kind of tiredness that settles in and becomes a part of you, then takes months to shake.

It’s only April. Yet I feel at a crossroads as far as the marathon is concerned. I’ve been burned by that lady five times out of my six tries. I really don’t know that I want to sit down and roast marshmallows with her again. Yeah, it’s only April, but if I want to do a fall race during the normal window of fall marathons (Oct/Nov) then that means I have to start getting my training ass in gear around July. That’s 10-12 weeks from now. Not so much time to consider the implications anymore.

From day to day, I swing wildly between wanting to give the long race another go, then realizing that the thought of bombing out again makes me feel physically and spiritually ill. I also can’t get my head around going back to running 90 mile weeks. I just don’t want to. It’s too much running. The more miles I run, the slower I have to run the bulk of them and the harder it is to do my faster workouts. What’s the point? Especially if all roads lead to a crap goal race as the reward.

The fatigue of training, it seems, is not the only thing that lingers. I seem to still be carrying the fatigue of failure and disappointment in my bones. I do know that every time I read someone’s post about the spring marathon they’ve got coming up, I am just so incredibly glad to not be them. That’s got to be telling me something.

These days, as I think about what to do in the fall, I find myself gravitating more and more toward the idea of making the fall a transition back to the full marathon distance in 2011 (assuming I ever go back). This is about all my brain can handle.

Once I’ve concluded my spring fling spent whoring around among various distances and dipping my toe (as I intend to) into crazy ultra relays, track racing and cross-country racing, I could then turn my attention to becoming a very good half marathon racer. It’s a distance that I love — long enough that you’ve accomplished something of significance, but short enough that you can do one every month if you want to.

What if I could run a 1:30 by the new year? Or a 1:26? What if.

If I knew you were runnin’ I’d’ve baked a cake

For everyone running the Loucks Games in White Plains next month. Now you’ve got your own cake! Sort of.


Here’s the original song. (Warning: Play at your own risk. The incidence of brain stickage is high with this song. I can’t be held responsible for any acts of homicide, puppy kickings or property damage that may result from your having listened to it.)

Race Report: Scarsdale 15K

Who will survive the coming zombie invasion?

I’ll tell you who: masters runners.

The finish of the Scarsdale 15K today was a testament to two things: the value of running small local races if your goal is load up on cheap hardware from China; the dedication of racers who are on the wrong side of 40.

The top 10 finishers included the entire 50+ masters men’s team (positions 1, 3, 4, 6 and 8). The winner (Jonathan) is 53. The female winner (Emmy Stocker, who regularly beats me) is 51. Emmy’s racing pal, Frank Colella, also placed in the top 10, at age 47. He was second in his AG, which means another 40+ guy (I don’t know who) was also in the top 10. So, uh, let’s see…that means that at least 8 of the top 10 finishers today were well over 40 years of age.

Yes, it’s the youngsters who will make delicious, easily attainable zombie food while the rest of us dash off to the local gun shops and gardening centers to prepare.

Before the race I spotted Emmy and knew she’d beat me. Because she always does! I didn’t recognize any other women. This wasn’t a big race for me, meaning I wasn’t going in with any particular goals or concern for how I’d do relative to other people. I had a rough goal of wanting to at least break 1:09. I’d end up with a 1:09:37. While I wasn’t thrilled with that time, I was happy to place 2nd female and 16th overall.

The Scarsdale course is really tough. It trends toward uphill, most of it gradual, but there are a few short, steep ones thrown in. I ran the first 4 miles slightly too fast: between 7:00 and 7:10. I probably should have run 7:15 instead. My pace started to fall off after mile 5 and I’d end up with an average 7:22 pace. But given the course and the headwind in the last two miles, I’m pretty happy with that. I didn’t hit the tangents as well this time around, but that was primarily because the roads weren’t closed to traffic and I didn’t think weaving back and forth constantly was a good idea. My total distance was 9.44.

My effort was quite high, averaging 93%. It was a bit warm too, so I’m sure that pushed the HR up a bit. But I was able to run the last quarter (through a parking lot and about 300m of a track) at 6:17 (97%). So I’ve got something resembling a kick, at least when I’m finishing up on a flat section.

Emmy came in around 1:08, so the margin wasn’t that wide. I was in 6th place (F) for the first few miles, then managed to pass three women in pretty quick succession midway through the race. So I ran most of it figuring I’d get 3rd, since I’d seen Emmy and another woman ahead during the first mile or two. But apparently Emmy’s companion dropped out at some point, so I was surprised to get 2nd.

Jonathan won in 55:30, beating a youngster by about a minute. I saw him at the out and back toward the end of the race, when he had a little over a mile to go, running behind the lead vehicle and no one with him. That was a little thrill for both of us and he managed something approximating a smile when we passed each other.

Jonathan had teamed up with four other 50+ guys, including Joe, for the team competition. Apparently, decades ago, this race was larger and much more competitive. Team competition meant something. This year, they were told that they could just pick the fastest guys at the end of the race to define their team. What? But they entered their names beforehand and ended up taking half of the top 10 spots anyway.

I haven’t run this race since 2006, when I was at the very start of my racing “career” (cough cough). My time then was 1:25:something. I remember seeing the little, crappy silver-plated bowls AG winners got and feeling envious. Now I have my peanut bowl.

Suitable for serving nuts, olives or beer.

To be honest, I was nervous about racing 9+ miles. I’ve been racing distances half that length or shorter, for the most part. I did go out too fast and I need to not make that a habit. But I feel good about my endurance, and a lot more confident heading into the Long Island Half in three weeks than I would have had I not raced this one all out today.

I’ve saved the best for last. After I picked up my AG award, a woman came up to me and said, “I’m so glad you beat [name withheld]. She’s the biggest snob in Scarsdale!”

I didn’t press for details. Meaning I’m not sure if this person is the biggest running snob or the biggest snob overall. If it’s the latter, that’s quite an accomplishment, although the former is not too shabby either. Now I’m wondering what exactly you have to do to inspire such schadenfreude among your neighbors.

From Serial Mom, John Waters’ study of a June Cleaveresque serial killer on the loose in leafy suburbia:
Sloppy: Will you believe that god damn litter bugger?
Beverly: I have told her and told her. It takes ninety to a hundred years for a tin can to decompose, and she still won’t recycle.
Gus: Cost the tax payers millions of dollars last year. But she don’t care nothing about the national budget!
Beverly: I hate Mrs. Ackerman.
Gus: I hate her too.
Sloppy: I hate her guts. You know, somebody ought to kill her.
Gus: Yeah, give her a happy face, and then recycle her.
Beverly: For the sake of this planet, someone just might.

Also, Scarsdale High School has a picture gallery of distinguished alumni/alumnae, which I took the time to review since the awards ceremony took forever to start. Luminaries include: Richard Holbrooke, Tovah Feldshuh, Linda McCartney and an NPR contingent: Mara Liasson and Nina Totenberg.

Random crap

TK calls these posts “Ellipses…”

I call them a great way to unwind on Friday afternoon, after the steam whistle has blown. Toot!

The Green Mountain Relay, and my commitment to it, is becoming more of a reality every day. I had to register and input my most recent (terrible) 10K time. Then I had to pick a shirt style (because that is the most important part of all of this — how I look).

Now I’m scrutinizing the various “race leg” sets and, like some clueless roundeye who’s wandered into a Dim Sum palace, I’m pointing helplessly at a few and saying, “Yes, I’d like to run these! I have no concept of exactly how running extreme changes in elevation, for around 18 miles over a 24 hour period — some of those miles in the dead of night — will affect me. But, dammit, I’m choosing with confidence and authority!”

Oh, right. It's the Green MOUNTAIN Relay.

The way it works is, the race is 200 miles long, divided up in to 36 “legs.” They are numbered (surprise!) 1-36. On a 12 person team, each runner will run three legs, evenly distributed. So, for example, runner 1 will run legs 1, 13 and 25. Some legs are harder than others, and a couple of them are fucking brutal. I’ll let some 25-year-old studs claim those.

But I am nevertheless among the masochistic majority, clamboring for the three-leg sets that are on the “hard” side of the spectrum. And I may not get one of the harder sets, since it seems I may be one of the slower team members. I still don’t yet know how I feel about this piece of information.

Also, on a related and disturbing note, the phrase “baby wipes” is beginning to appear frequently among team member communications. What have I gotten myself into?

So far, at least in email, the team is a fun crowd. (I’ve met two of them exactly once, although we’ve been members of the Running Blog Mutual Appreciation Society for quite some time.) Someone shared this photo snapped during last year’s race (this man was not on their team, by the way).

According to co-captain TK, "It was some freak running down the highway we saw while we were all in the van. It was the funniest thing ever and we all mocked him from the confines of our vehicle."

Edited: When I saw this photo, I knew this man reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of whom. This morning, it hit me. He looks quite a lot like a running Ron Jeremy. (That Wikipedia entry is worth a read, not the least of which because it reveals the existence of something call the Adult Star Path of Fame, located in Edison, NJ.)

On a totally different topic, I am cleaning up on the 2009 shoe closeouts. I’ve picked up Saucony Fastwitch 3s for $40 and Asics Hyperspeed 3s for $55 (Holabird Sports). Holabird doesn’t like grabby people, so they only let you buy one pair of the Hyperspeeds. I’m going to put Jonathan up to buying another pair (or maybe I can drop the cloak and dagger and just place a separate order). At this point, I’m doing almost all of my training in “racing” shoes (7.5 oz or lighter). I can’t imagine how I used to train in 12 oz. tugboats.

My shorts (or, rather, the elastic) have all decided to expire at once too. My mesh “comfort liners” have taken to flapping about like sails. I’m already showing way to much flesh when I go out as it is. I draw the line at sunkissed butt cheeks. I’ve got four pairs of new shorts on the way from Running Whorehouse.

I managed to destroy the watch face of my 301XT last week. I knocked it off the counter and broke the glass face right up the center. The watch still functions, but I’m sure it’s not waterproof anymore. I’m quite annoyed that Garmin thought it was a good idea to not only make the front of a sports watch out of glass, but actually raise the glass so it’s guaranteed to shatter if it gets hit. Great job!

On the running front, I’ve had nothing but good workouts this week (two of them, rather than just one; playing with fire), despite the freak heat wave, and I was zippy on my 7 mile recovery run this morning. So I don’t know what to think about Sunday’s 15K race. Maybe I’ll do well, despite my doubts.

Joe has posted about the upcoming Masters Mile at the Louck Games in White Plains early next month. I’m skipping it since it’s just a few days after the Long Island Half Marathon. I know my limits. But I mention it here because, like a lot of outdoor track stuff, not many people are aware that it’s there for the running. The more the merrier. I’m screwing up my courage these days to perhaps try a track race at Icahn.

We shall see. But, again, people, it’s out there, and that’s why I mention it. These are open races, no invitation or qualifying time required. Take advantage or this stuff will go away. And then you’ll have a bunch of sad people noisily clacking around in spikes.