Training: Aug 21-27

Just a quickie post, and one without a visual of the week’s training. My training log is on Jonathan’s computer, which is two states to the east in a house that has no power, thanks to Hurricane Irene.

It was a nothing week for training anyway. I probably ran in the neighborhood of 20 miles if I was lucky. Since I tweaked my left hamstring last week and had a 5K race planned for this Saturday, it seemed stupid to do anything to aggravate said hamstring. I also had to travel out of town for work on Thursday and Friday and there was no time to run during those two days.That was fine since my hamstring was still bugging me. So I slathered on Voltaren and hoped for the best.

On late day Friday the Percy Sutton 5K got canceled due to all city permitted events getting thrown out due to the impending hurricane, making the decision not to race it very easy (since it was made for me!). Instead, I snuck in 4 easy miles in withering humidity before meeting up with fellow bloggers Amy and TK for a sojourn in the Poconos, a much-anticipated trip.

Today I’m slightly hung over (big surprise there) but sporting very fresh legs. Assuming I’m less hung over tomorrow, I’ll attempt a longer run. Or not. I have a slight case of the fuck its this week. That’s not such a terrible thing.

Training: Aug 14-20

Lots of variety this week. The highlights included a speed session Tuesday that went eerily well. Like “10-15 seconds per mile faster than the previous try at this workout” well. Then on Thursday I ripped through a 7 mile recovery run at 8:30 pace. Hey, Lady. Watch it!

The next day, I screwed up my second speed session of the week by running too fast. I was supposed to be doing 1200 repeats at tempo effort (around 7:10-7:15 these days), then shorter stuff at faster speeds. I got to the track and promptly ran 1200 at 6:40 pace. Oops. Then, 600m into the next one I was going at 5:58 (!). WTF.

Perhaps the slight twisting motion I used to look at my watch in that moment with a mixture of pride and alarm is what caused me to then pull my left hamstring. I slowed for the last 200, then tried a slower 400 and 200, but the run was over.

I spent the next 24 hours icing and anti-inflaming. It was okay enough to run on the next day. Since I’m getting sick of the running path I asked Jonathan if he wanted to go do an 8 mile run with me along the upper Old Croton Aqueduct (OCA) trail. He was up for it, so off we went.

I have not done a run with Jonathan since I don’t know when. He usually runs too fast for me (at all speeds), so it’s impractical. Today we were in sync, though. My recovery pace has picked up from 10:00+ to between 8:50-9:20 lately. We trundled along at an average 9:00 (with frequent stops for me to pick the tiny stones out of my Trail Minimi — don’t wear these on a gravel trail, kids).

It. Was. Fun.

I took yesterday off from running (although I did weights and core work), then did another quick 7 mile recovery effort this morning. The hamstring issue is still there, so I’ll baby it this week and skip speedwork rather than tempting fate. I want it ready for Harlem on Saturday.

Training: July 31-Aug 13

After the past year I am so gun shy with regard to injury that I shouldn’t even say this. But I will: I am finally training consistently, and having consistently good workouts. Keys to this are, I believe:

  • Taking days off fairly frequently — and by that I mean completely off; no cross-training, no nothing.
  • Maxing out at two hard workouts per week, with rare exception.
  • Skipping strides if my legs are too tired.
  • Cutting down a workout (but not abandoning it completely) if I’m tired, the weather’s bad, etc.
  • Adding volume slowly and with great caution.

Here’s something else I shouldn’t say: I think I’m getting faster. First I had a ridiculously (for me) fast 10 miler on a miserably hot and humid day on July 31. Then I had an okay race, also on a miserably hot day. I’ve also had some very good speed sessions. Especially Friday’s. That was a good one. It was fairly low humidity, although windy. I tempted fate by going to the track, the scene of a horrible calf strain in early June that created a pause in training for a month.

But all was well on Friday. Better than well. I ripped through the workout at paces that were around 10-15 seconds faster per mile than previous editions. Did I run them too hard? I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

I am trying to get weight work in at least once per week. Next week I’ll add in some pylometrics (leaping up onto platforms, mostly) in anticipation that this will help with mile racing. Speaking of mile racing, there’s a series of track miles being run up at the stadium in Van Cortlandt Park this month and next. They are being organized by the Metropolitan Milers. I will probably run the one on September 9th as a time trial for the Fifth Avenue Mile.

But before that I have the Percy Sutton 5K, which runs through the streets of Harlem, in about two weeks. I have no idea what to expect from myself in a 5K given the focus on mile training right now. But, you know, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’s not a marathon.

Review: New Balance Minimus 10 Road; Pearl Izumi Streak 2

Aside from my recent purchase of the New Balance Minimus 10 Trail, it’s been quite awhile since I bought some new running shoes for daily training — probably around a year and a half. Since my running was either non-existent or spotty in the post-injury months last summer, I didn’t need new shoes. So I’ve been coasting along on a bunch of models from 2008/2009, primarily the Pearl Izumi Streak 1 and the Saucony Fastwitch 3. I’ve been racing in the Asics Gel Hyperspeed 3s and still like those a lot.

Now that we’ve gotten that preamble out of the way, let’s talk about some new shoes. Since I am (knock wood) once again ramping up my running to a consistent 40-50 mpw, I felt it was time to purchase some new kicks. As noted in a previous race report, I really like the Minimus 10 Trails, both for racing and walking around in (they look great with jeans). Since those have worked out so well, I thought I’d pick up a pair of the Road models, since you can never have enough racing shoes.

I’ll say what’s most important first: the Minimus Trail and the Minimus Road share a model number and not much else. Whereas I was instantly in love with the feel of the Trails, I suspect that the Roads are shoes that I will grow to love. Some of that may have to do with the fact that I was expecting them to feel like the Trails. They do not. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Trails are extremely light and thin, meaning there’s hardly any material on the upper and you’re meant to wear them without socks. The sole is flexible as hell and you will feel every pebble and root you step on. They are fantastic shoes. So imagine my surprise when I strapped on the Road model in preparation to do a track workout, only to discover a shoe that is more rigid than Dick Cheney. The Roads feel like a track spike without the spikes. They’re stiff and there’s not a lot of sole hitting the ground. Like the Trails, they are almost truly a “flat” — there’s almost no heel-to-toe drop. If you have achilles tendon issues, or you are not a true “neutral” (meaning your foot tends to roll either inward or outward) runner, then I would stay away from this shoe.

I have to say that I didn’t like them over the 15 minutes of warmup running on the track. The Bronxville track is a hard surface anyway and the shoes just made it feel harder. I also noticed that they’re a little larger than the Trails. I had to tighten the laces a bit. But overall, these two models are made for my feet: wide toebox, medium width midfoot and extremely narrow heel.

Where these shoes really shined was during some longer repeats. I was running 1200s (and a fast mile) today and once I got going they felt really good. The stiffness didn’t seem like such an issue at faster speeds and I felt like my feet had a lot of support. Given the “hardness” of the ride, I probably wouldn’t wear these for anything longer than a road 10K (if even that). I’ll probably wear them in the Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem in a few weeks.

The other model I upgraded was the Pearl Izumi Streak. I went through about five pairs of these during marathon training in 2008/2009 and they were great shoes for long runs especially. Mile 22 felt as comfortable as mile 2 in those shoes. But on a scale of 1-10, they were always about an 8. They had a few minor, but annoying, problems: the first was the sizing, which always felt about a quarter size too big. You have to size up in these anyway (to 8.5 for me, a half size up from my usual 8 in a runner), but that was too big. An 8 was too small. So I’d end up wearing thicker running socks to compensate (or two pairs). They felt like clown shoes because of this.

Also, the toe box was slightly too wide, so I’d end up with blisters and, eventually, callouses on the first and second toes. Finally, I didn’t like how the sole flared out in front and back, and the heel had odd, round plastic inserts that always looked to me like they’d been stolen from a disassembled sex toy.

For once…for once…a shoe company has improved rather than destroyed a shoe model over time. In the Streak 2, Pearl Izumi has fixed those three problems. These shoes are the bomb. My measure of a regular trainer is how aware of it I am when I’m running. I am not aware of wearing shoes when I run in these. They fit perfectly, are light, and seem made for my feet and running form. Running 9:00 pace was comfortable as well doing some strides. The longest I’ve gone is 7 miles, but I can’t see them having an issue at longer distances. I’ll try them out on some longer runs, which these days top out at about 10 miles for me. While the Streaks are not the most attractive shoes in the world, they are keepers.

…and Lauren Fleshman just got even more interesting

Today I had the pleasure of sitting in on a NYRR press (tele)conference with Lauren Fleshman and another 5000 champion, Bobby Curtis (whom I met at last year’s Healthy Kidney 10K). Both runners were there to announce that they’ll be making their marathon debuts at the New York Marathon in November. I only got to ask two questions, but some of the other interviewers hit on the ones I’d wanted to ask, so I lucked out.

Here’s what’s interesting about Fleshman’s marathon approach: at least in the near term, she’s not going to be trying to become a great marathoner per se; instead, she’s using marathon training to try to build strength in order to avoid the cycle of injury that has plagued her over 11 years of racing 5Ks — and (she hopes) help her improve at that distance for the 2012 Olympics.

“The marathon was never on my radar,” she said today. “But I remember when the 5K used to feel so long. I’ve gotten stronger over the last couple of years, dealing with injuries. That’s opened my mind to things that I thought weren’t possible…changing things up and focusing on pure strength for the 5K. For me, [the marathon] is kind of a means to an end, but an exciting one.”

Perhaps most intriguing about this move is the fact that Fleshman’s running history includes a lot of bouts with injury, and she tends to break down at higher volumes. Embracing marathon training, which typically involves lots of mileage, is always risky for injury-prone runners. But there’s more than one way to skin the marathon training cat, and Fleshman will be relying heavily on something called the Elliptigo, a cross-training contraption that she used quite a bit during her most recent post-injury buildup.

Fleshman will continue to use this quasi-bike while preparing for New York. “I plan to use the Elliptigo to make up for volume,” she said. “This isn’t the time to take a huge risk and add 20% volume. Now that I’m doing 70 miles per week I’ll use that as my main form of complementary running. I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried it.”

When asked if the Olympic Trials in January might be a secondary goal, she dismissed them. “That’s not on my radar right now, to be honest. I want to give the marathon a chance to help my 5K. I will try to run as fast as I can [in the marathon], but the marathon fits into the goal of the 2012 [Olympic] 5K. In a way, I feel like I’ll have two debuts: NYC this year and a post-2012 marathon. For now, it’s more of an experiment and we’ll just have to see how that goes. You’ll see more of me in the marathon, I’m sure.”

As noted previously, Fleshman’s running blog is outstanding. It provides practical information as well as an intimate view into what it’s really like to be a professional distance runner. Apparently her inspiration for starting it was Paula Radcliffe, who began chronicling her experiences online way back in 2004 (unfortunately, she hasn’t kept it up). We learned today that even runners of Fleshman’s calibre are not immune to being starstruck. “When I met Paula last year, I was so dumbstruck. I walked away. Next time, we had a great conversation, went out to dinner. I’d rather go to dinner with Paula Radcliffe than any movie star. We still chat and email and I’m lucky that she’s shared some of her knowledge with me.”

In the days since Fleshman’s impressive run in London over the weekend, in which she easily met the A Standard that eluded her at the US championships earlier this year (she came in 8th there), there’s been speculation about whether she’d get a spot on Team USA for the World Championships in Daegu later this month. I asked her what the status of that was, but she didn’t know yet. Fortunately, there was someone from USATF on the call and he confirmed that they’d just released the team start list. Yep, Fleshman’s in for the 5K, which means my Fleshman Fangirl Train will keep rolling through the summer and fall.

It’s Lauren Fleshman Appreciation Day!

When I think of the Japanese proverb “Fall down seven times, get up eight” I picture Lauren Fleshman. She gets injured, she slogs through injury recovery, she trains again, she runs fantastic races. Then she gets reinjured and the cycle begins anew. But she never gives up. And she always comes back.

Fleshman has one of the few outstanding elite blogs that I’ve found. Not only is she remarkably candid about her own running, but she generously doles out helpful advice to anyone who asks for it. She’s opinionated and well informed too, and you’ll find interesting, useful posts that run the gamut, from the rabbiting debate, to eating disorders, to building mileage and more.

Fleshman’s self-possessed manner extends to live interviews, as shown in this famous post-race encounter after the 2010 US nationals:

And here’s edited footage of her win over the weekend at Crystal Palace:

Google Search Oddities

Oh, man. I hope I made someone happy today:

“weight reduction at 46 years of age”