Running quote of the week

“We run because it makes us feel like winners, no matter how slow or how fast we go.” – Florence Griffith Joyner and John Hanc, Running for Dummies

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Long run, short route

Dark blue: primary loop, light blue: last mile
Today's run (street): 6.75 miles

I thought I had eight more weeks to train for the Brooklyn Half, but I discovered this morning that I'd mistakenly added an extra week into the schedule. I'm glad that I noticed this before it created a disruption with my plan. I had originally built in two 11 mile Sunday runs prior to my final 12 miles the weekend before the race. I needed to eliminate one of them to make the schedule work. I have two consecutive 10's before that and could have reduced that to one. However, I think I'm better off going 10, 10, 11 and 12, especially with the extra long runs midweek.

Corrected Sunday schedule
I had early plans today, but was still able to get today's base run done by mid-morning. Rain was threatening, so I decided to forgo Bethpage in favor of my local streets. I really dislike running in the rain and was concerned about getting caught in a downpour. I came up with the idea of running a set lap of roads that are close by my house. I figured, no matter how hard it might rain, I'd never be more than half a mile away. The thought of running the same one-mile loop 6-plus times wasn't appealing, but it was a practical approach.

Coming into this weekend, my batting average for good Sunday training runs was .000. The last two week's efforts resulted in difficult and demoralizing performances. I suspected the very cold temperatures on those days were the reason, and anecdotal evidence supported that. I had a miserable five mile run on Wednesday, but much of that can be blamed on the freezing winds. Today's temperature was over 40°, even with wind chill. I felt more comfortable as a result.

I was prepared for a tedious experience running the same loop over and over, but it turned out to be fine. The route I designed began with a moderate uphill section that lasted for the first half mile. The only negative about that part was the noticeable wind that made progress somewhat more challenging. Once I got past the incline, I had a reciprocal downhill almost back to my starting point.

It never rained, but a constant mist coated my glasses and required me to occasionally clear the lenses while I ran. Not a big problem. I started slowly and that really helped. I tend to start too quickly on long runs and it sometimes accelerates fatigue. Today I maintained a steady stride all throughout the run. I was happily surprised to find my energy level increasing midway through my fifth mile (ketosis?).

I was on the fence about whether I'd complete a full seven or cap the run at six. The lap I had charted was actually 1.05 miles, so I knew I'd get to 6.3 by default. I decided to go off route halfway through what would have been my sixth mile and added some distance. That ended up increasing my total by almost half a mile, not quite bringing me to 7. With the addition of an extra two miles on Wednesday's run (compared to the Higdon plan), I was fine with that.

Next Tuesday I'll attempt 6 x 400's outdoors and aim for 5.4 miles on Wednesday. Next Sunday the long run total jumps to eight. With a trouble free, almost-seven run under my belt today, I'm feeling much better about my training.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Forced ageism on the treadmill

Demographically insulted
Today's run (treadmill): 3.6 miles

I knew it was going to rain this morning but I thought I might be able to fit in a run before the weather changed. As often happens on Saturday mornings, I got a little too comfortable settling in with a big cup of Green Mountain Double Black Diamond Extra Bold (thanks again Bill!) and watching the news. Time passed until I finally managed to tear myself from a hard hitting news story about dog racism and headed upstairs to change.

My wife is extremely disciplined about getting things done and that includes her daily workout. When I got upstairs, she was already halfway through her treadmill run. Knowing that I'd planned to run outside, she looked at me sympathetically and said, "You're probably better off using the treadmill rather than running outside that this point." A look outside supported that view. I got caught in the rain about halfway through yesterday's run. Although it only lasted a couple of minutes, I found it extremely unpleasant.

My run went fine. No heroics on the treadmill. I set a moderate pace and stayed with it throughout my targeted time. I got tired of switching the channel between the local news station, MSNBC, CNN and HLN every time they went to a commercial. I changed over to the Music Channels and was amused to see how the display ads differed depending on the type of music selected. The Classic Rock and Soft Rock stations kept showing an ad with an older guy holding a cane, with the headline "Having Difficulty with your Knees?"

Each time they showed that, I felt like yelling, "How dare you infer that I need your services just because I choose to listen to the Steve Miller Band! I'm running!" (actually I may have yelled it once). In the end, today's workout was exactly what I needed. I'd planned to throw in some fartleks, but SIOR made the point that I should not be focusing that much on speed at this point. Unlike some recent runs, today's felt energizing and I had no breathing issues or fatigue. Perhaps the warmer weather is helping. And not a moment too soon.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Barely okay, but better than the last one

Ready for some speed play
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

My definition of an okay run has changed a lot in the last couple of weeks. If not for the intervals I ran on Tuesday, I'd be convinced that I've lost my ability to run at any speed but tepid. Wednesday was a difficult experience, made worse by the wind. I did manage to get through my five miles that day, but it was rough. I hoped today's three miles would be easier, and they were. It was...okay.

The warmer temperature this morning seemed to help, and I improved my pace by over a minute compared to Wednesday's. I was supposed to do today's workout at half marathon race pace, but I fell short by about 35 seconds per mile. In truth, I wasn't going for speed as prescribed, I really just hoped to have a decent experience.

I think about my friends who frequently run long distances at paces that I cannot match (except when I'm running 400's and, in some cases, 200's). Are they working that much harder than me? Probably, but I suspect it also has to do with being better disciplined about their workouts and putting in the necessary miles. I understand that running 18 to 20 miles a week is not going to build enough endurance get me to a competitive state, but I don't think I can fit many more into my schedule.

I knew I wasn't pushing as hard as I could today, but it wasn't a leisurely effort. There's a certain amount of energy that I'm willing to expend during a race that I seldom bring to my daily workouts. I'm always concerned about running out of energy on a training run and I tend to hold back to conserve what I have. Tomorrow I plan to add some fartleks (Swedish for "speed play") to introduce interval level running into a continuous run. If I run out of energy, I can always take down the pace. Or take a recovery rest on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wind induced Turkey Trot flashback

Wind chilly
Today's run (neighborhood): 5 miles

This morning I saw that the temperature was 33°, but the wind was making it feel like it was 19° outside. I weighed the pros and cons of going out or staying inside. I decided that I'd rather endure challenging winds than five mind-numbing miles on the treadmill. In retrospect, I'm not sure that was the smartest way to go

One of the reasons I chose to run outside was to confront this cold weather breathing issue straight on. By coincidence, the first three base runs I've done since starting my half marathon training have happened on the three coldest days. The theory I'm exploring is that cold air is affecting my ability to breathe efficiently and causing me to struggle far below normal lactate threshold. Interestingly, I found something online that said facial cooling triggers the vagus nerve (grow up, it's located in your face) which can slow up heartbeat.

I've had trouble getting my heart rate above 80% of max on these cold runs, so the answer may be in there somewhere. My plan this morning was to run fairly easy, since I did intervals yesterday. I started out feeling okay, but not speedy (which was fine). I was also wearing more layers than a pâte feuilletée and that was probably slowing me down. The wind was brutal and running directly into it practically stopped my forward progress. It was like a flashback to the Long Beach Turkey Trot last November, but happily without the sandstorm.

Race fitness: It's just a matter of Venn
The two main objectives to my training are to increase my endurance well enough to cover 13.1 miles and improve my stamina to allow me to maintain a targeted pace over that distance. I'll be honest and say that today's run did not provide any sign of improved speed, but I was able to handle the mileage better than on Sunday.

Tomorrow's weather is supposed to be much like today's. If that's the case I'm going to stay inside and run my three miles at "pace" on the treadmill. I'll plan to run longer distances outside and keep the speedier workouts indoors until the weather gets warmer. If that's what it takes to bridge stamina and speed, I'm willing to spend a little time on the treadmill.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Daft repeats: longer faster better stronger

Today's workout (treadmill repeats): 2 miles 
6 x 400m plus .5 mile warm/cool

Week 3 of half marathon training started better than week 2 finished off. After my second consecutive Sunday long run fail (only in the sense of performance, personally I had a great time) the evidence is pointing to cold induced breathing issues. Every run that I've done, either at temperatures above 40° or indoors, since my Brooklyn half training kickoff, has resulted in a decent performance. The two times I ran in high 20's/low 30's weather, I struggled mightily. Cold weather, J'accuse!

Or it could be the hills. Either way, the fact that I'm running decently more often than not is keeping me hopeful. Spring is here so chances are that one of these upcoming Sundays will provide better weather. That may help me turn the corner on my weekend base runs.

Today was speed day. It was 22° outside this morning, so I opted to do my workout indoors. Hal Higdon's program prescribed a 3.5 mile run, but I decided that I know a little more about this stuff than he does. But seriously, I've modified the Higdon training program to start my week with speed on Tuesdays and a base run on Wednesdays. Hal puts speed work into the Wednesday slot and allocates only Sundays to long runs. I felt I needed a little more base than that, an opinion echoed by some knowledgeable runners.

Hal's speed workout is 6 x 400's at 5K pace (8:24) and that's what I did this morning. In between repeats, I did 240 meter recovery jogs (.15 miles), which I may cut down to .12 miles next time. I also did a half mile warm up and cool down. I normally would have run another mile at my usual training pace to make a full three, but today I decided that 1.5 miles of speed stood on its own.

Tomorrow should be a 4.8 mile base/recovery run. The "feels like" temperature is predicted to be 19° when I plan to go out in the morning, so I'll have to decide whether to endure this cold and its effects, or suffer the tedium of a longish treadmill run. We're getting snow overnight, so that may help the decision.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Runsketeer training run at Bethpage

Why am I smiling? I'm done.
Photo and artistic effect by The Petite Pacer 
Today's run (Bethpage State Page): 6 miles

Today's run with my Runsketeer buddies had its ups and downs, and I'm not referring to the hills at Bethpage. The ups came from spending time with two of my favorite people, SIOR and TPP, who joined me on the trail this morning. The downs related to the struggles I had trying to cover 6 six miles today. It was the second Sunday in a row where I went out for a long run with great hopes, but ended up with a disappointing performance.

SIOR was running 17 miles today. She covered all but six of them before rendezvousing with me and TPP on the north trail at Bethpage. TPP and I took off in SIOR's direction and we both noted that the pace felt challenging. This was not a good sign for me because we were running slower than our normal training paces and I feared that today would be a repeat of last Sunday's performance. It turns out that it was.

We met SIOR at the one mile marker on the north trail. She had done an out and back from the parking lot and we all decided to head north from there. Both of my group-mates are speedy, although TPP has been hurting a bit and is still dealing with respiratory issues. She took a few moments for recovery (as did I) throughout the run, but when she was in "running mode" she did an impressive job of keeping up with our speediest run-mate.

Much of today's run was spent watching my buddies progress from a distance. At first my gap was about 30 feet as they tried to keep me included. They both slowed or stopped so I could catch up and participate in the conversation. Unfortunately, I struggled to both talk and run and eventually encouraged them to open up and run their faster pace. They are great people and they followed a "No Runsketeer left behind" policy, so periodically I would spot them waiting for me to catch up.

I am still puzzled by my difficulties today. They started early and remained, just like last week. I had really good runs on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday where I maintained my targeted training paces. Wednesday's run was 4.4 miles where I ran strong from start to finish. Yesterday I did a hard three miles near targeted half marathon race pace. The only variable that could explain it is the weather. Last Sunday's run and today's were both around 30° with wind-chill and I wonder if I've developed a cold induced breathing issue.

I managed to cover six miles per my training schedule, although there were a few stops for rest and to let traffic pass on Old Country, Old Bethpage and Haypath roads. It was a strange experience to be running with such a high perceived effort, yet not being able to keep up with the continually shrinking silhouettes of my friends as they disappeared over the many hills along our route.

Reunited in the parking lot
Photo by The Petite Pacer 
SIOR made it to our end point first, followed by TPP who threw in surges at the end. I rolled in a couple of minutes behind her. One of the "ups" from today was when the three of us took a few minutes to chat at the three mile point of our run. We didn't get a chance to go for our traditional Starbucks after-run coffee, so this was a nice substitute. We also took a few minutes once we finished, but the combination of cold, sweat and scheduled obligations caused us to cut that short.

I'm trying to look on the bright side. I got to spend time with my buddies and ran my planned distance. After last Sunday's tough run, I did far better throughout the week. Hopefully that will repeat this week. Eventually I'll get past whatever it is that's making my Sunday runs so difficult. It may be something as simple as warmer weather. It's spring, so theoretically that should come soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Running at "pace", as Hal Higdon puts it

Can my training get me here in 2014? 
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

Today's workout, per my training program, was 3 miles at "pace." I like Hal Higdon's site because he leaves nothing to interpretation. He explains it clearly on the training schedule page: "What do you mean by 'pace?'" I mean "race pace," the pace at which you expect to run the half marathon. That of course prompted me to ask myself, what I am targeting for race pace?

I ran my last Half in 2:08:47 which is approximately a 9:49 pace. In order to break 2:00 I would need to pace 40 seconds per mile faster. That's a stretch for me, but crazier things have happened. My 2:08 finish in 2012 was a full minute per mile improvement over my 2011 time. Still, I have little expectation that I'll break two hours this year. As a practical point, I have slipped in my race performance and didn't break 9:00 on any of my 2013 10K's. It will be interesting to see if my recent rebound, coupled with a focused half marathon training regime, will make a difference in May.

This morning was busy and that forced me to wait until 10:00 AM to start my run. My wife said that rain was expected mid-morning, so I decided to do my 3 miles @ "pace" on the treadmill. I chose 6.3 MPH which, if sustained for 13.1 miles, would yield a 2:03 finish time. I am feeling much stronger since last weekend, but I still have far to go before I can manage goal pace throughout a long run. The race pace training plus the weekend base runs will theoretically bridge my stamina and endurance enough to at least break my 2:08 PR.

Tomorrow is my second Sunday base run and I plan to meet the Runsketeers for 6 miles of fun. SIOC will be running Boston in April and needs to cover 17 miles tomorrow. We plan to meet at her 11 mile point and do the rest of the distance as a group run. TPP is still battling a respiratory issue and is forgoing a five mile race tomorrow in favor of our easier paced run. It's supposed to be cold on Sunday, so I need to figure out the right combination of gear. I'm dreading the hills on the Bethpage trail, but I know there's no easy path if I want to reach my goal time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The fashion-challenged runner

Sorry girls, but I'm married
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

The only thing that travels faster than light is communication between women. I know this sounds sexist, but hear me out. This morning I went out for my 3 miler and this is what I wore (see above). I know, I know, but my daughter wasn't there to give me a her look that combines horror, shame and pity, followed by a polite suggestion that I change into something less embarrassing. I dressed for the weather - the temperature was 45 degrees (39° with wind chill) and didn't give a thought about how I looked.

I felt good, even better than yesterday, so I felt I could push my pace a little harder. I ended up running a half a minute per mile faster than on Wednesday. A scan of my Garmin data showed I ran the same cadence, but my stride length today was .2 meters longer. Doesn't sound like much, but it's almost eight inches. Multiply that by 4,000 or so steps and you cover a lot more ground. Apparently it's 27 seconds per mile more.

I loved the run and being outside, except for when I ran directly into the wind. That was unpleasant, but at least it wasn't freezing like yesterday. I planned for only three miles, but my route took me beyond that. About two miles into my run I took a right and spotted a car that turned in after me on the same street. The car continued and parked in a driveway a few houses north. When I passed the house the driver was just getting out of her car and I saw that it was one of my wife's good friends. I said hello and continued on.

When I got home my wife told me that she heard I was spotted running in the neighborhood. It was then that I saw myself in the hallway mirror and realized that I was dressed like a complete dork. My wife's friend didn't mention my fashion choice, but she happens to be very polite. Oh well. It used to be a lot easier when I'd run at 4:00 AM. The only person who ever saw me was the the guy who drove around tossing the NY Times on driveways. You should see how he dresses.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Winter winds down and training ramps up

Safety first!
Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

Spring starts tomorrow at 12:57 PM but you wouldn't know it by this morning's chilly temperatures. I was excited to get back to my neighborhood roads after so many (many, many) treadmill workouts. It's inevitable that I'll be writing a lament about the tedium of neighborhood running in the coming months. Right now, access to the roads is a treat.

I was anxious to get out today to validate that my recent sub-par running experiences were an aberration and not a trend. I was going on two day's rest and despite the cold, I felt like I was in for a good run. I wore my day-glo orange long sleeve jersey over a short sleeved bamboo-cotton running shirt. I was tempted to add another layer (the temperature was 33°) but I didn't want to feel restricted. I wore my medium weight track pants, a warm hat and gloves.

One new piece of gear I brought along was a clip-on blinking red LED light that I attached to the back of my shirt at the top. This light was a giveaway from one of my 2013 races and I came across it while looking for my HRM in my gear drawer. It's a really nice gadget and it barely weighs an ounce. Even with a bright orange shirt, I felt it couldn't hurt to also have a flashing beacon to get the attention of drivers.

Ten seconds into my run I knew I was in for a better experience than Sunday's. My target distance was 4.2 miles and I ended up covering almost 4.5 today. I didn't worry about my speed at all. Before I can sustain race pace over 13 miles, I need to increase endurance. My plan is to run increasingly longer Sunday runs and then run 80% of that distance on Wednesdays. Next Sunday I'll move up to six miles and the following Wednesday, my target moves up to 4.8. And so on, until the penultimate training week, where I'll run eleven miles on Sunday and 8.8 the next Wednesday.

Getting through today's distance was not a big challenge and I enjoyed the parts when the cold wind wasn't hitting head on and freezing my face. My pace wasn't impressive, but I ran a minute a mile faster than on Sunday. I'm buying into the idea that more miles and weekly speed work will eventually lead to better performances.

Tomorrow I'll get a break and will only need to cover three miles plus "strength" whatever that means. I know what it means. I just have to do it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why bad runs don't really matter

The long unwinding road
Both Saturday's relay and Sunday's half marathon "Week 1" training runs were disappointing for me. The good news is that it really doesn't matter. Running is one of those things in life that can lift your spirits or temporarily disappoint you. But as long as you aren't suffering a running injury as a result, there's really no excuse for feeling badly about one or two bad experiences.

That's why I'm looking forward to getting out tomorrow. I rested yesterday and took an additional recovery day today. It's still winter-y cold outside, but at least it's sunny and the snow is gone. The Hal Higdon Intermediate Half plan says that I should run 3 miles, plus strength training, on Wednesday. However, the Emerging Runner Training Plan says that I should run 80% of the prior weekend's longest run on Wednesdays. So that's what I'm doing. I do appreciate Hal's attempt to add more diversity to the training schedule, so I may add in a small amount weight or core training.

I gave myself a break on speed training today, but I will resume that next Tuesday. Without weekday access to the track, I can either do treadmill intervals inside, or run 400's along a road that's adjacent to my street. That long road has a slight grade when running south to north, but SIOR says that shouldn't matter. I'll need to figure out how to manage recovery periods if I choose the street route because I'll need to start each repeat at either the beginning or end of the road.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Steep road to the Brooklyn Half

Scene of the crime
Today's run (Bethpage Bike Trail): 5.25 miles

Have you ever had one of those long runs that felt so effortless that it seemed you could run all day? If that's the case, I am extremely envious, because today's kick-off to my Brooklyn half marathon training was the opposite of that. The one positive that came out of today's workout was that I planned to run five and I did it. However, the experience itself was not good and it raised some questions about my fitness.

I had every reason to think today's run would go well. Yesterday's race was only a two mile leg. Although it was a tough two, it wasn't an endurance challenge. I wasn't pleased with my lack of stamina that caused me to slow considerably a couple of times, but my Garmin showed I'd averaged under 9:00 for a good part of the time. I figured an easy run on the paved Bethpage trail would be a nice recovery.

It was much colder this morning compared to yesterday's race conditions. The temperature display in my car showed 28° and it was breezy outside. I had dressed for the cold, but the wind made it feel far more uncomfortable. But that was an irritant, not an obstacle. I felt fine for the first few minutes and it helped that my route went downhill for much of the first mile. By the time I reached the wooded section, just east of the park drive, I started feeling an energy debt. I made my way up some short but somewhat steep sections and realized this was not going to go well.

I often hit a wall around 30 minutes into a run, but I can usually manage through that. Today that wall came at the 10 minute mark and it never went away. Even at a 10+ minute pace, I felt weighted down. I think I'm starting to react to tree pollen that was released with the spring-like weather we had earlier this week. It may just be that all the indoor training on the treadmill at easy paces has softened me up for cold weather endurance running.

The tough running continued and I considered truncating today's distance to 4 miles. I decided to stick to the script and adjusted my speed to maintain forward motion. I wasn't happy to be running so slow, but I reminded myself that this was supposed to be a recovery run and I'd committed to this schedule. All the indoor training and the lack of real elevation on my neighborhood roads were working against me. The hills really took a toll on me today.

One down, nine to go
But this is why we train, right? I remember going from middle distance to double digit mileage the last time I did half marathon training. In a way it was tougher to get through a hilly six miles those first weeks than to double that distance after many weeks of base runs.  Next weekend I go for six. I'm thinking about resting Monday and Tuesday and then going for another four or five miles on Wednesday. Perhaps I'll run 80% of my previous weekend's distance on each mid-week run. I may use Tuesdays for weekly speed work. But not this week. At this point I need a couple of days of rest.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Race Report: 2014 GLIRC Runner's Edge Trail Relay

First leg off and running (TPP is third from left)
Today's run (GLIRC Bethpage 2x3 Trail Relay) 2 mile leg (Team finish time 56:05)

The weather finally cooperated enough to allow GLIRC to run the Runner's Edge Relay this morning. This race was originally scheduled for February, but the unrelenting snow had made the trails at Bethpage State Park unrunnable. A little rain and a few days of 40 degree temperatures cleared out most of the snow, although there were still a number of icy and muddy sections along the path.

As the name implies, this race is a team effort with each member running one 2 mile leg. I haven't been running well this year, but I did a few speed oriented treadmill runs earlier in the week and figured two miles wouldn't be much to worry about. I was wrong about that. Today's two miles didn't feel endless, but I had much more difficulty that I'd expected. It was too late to help my teammates, but I discovered a large gap in my conditioning that I hope to address as I begin my half marathon training.

Runsketeers pre-race
Our team was called the Runsketeers, consisting of me and friends the Petite Pacer (TPP) and She Is Out Running (SIOR). SIOR had little prior trail experience, but she's lightning on the road. She qualified for Boston this year and almost always wins or places in her age group. TPP is also very fast (she has racked up her share of podium spots) and takes performance training very seriously. Then there's me. I used to be competitive in my age group and I've done a lot of trail running. These days I struggle to break 28 minutes in a 5K.

With that lineup, we decided to have TPP run the first leg, me the second and have SIOR bring it home. The idea was that TPP would put us in a competitive position, I would do my best to hold that and SIOR's speed would help gain back minutes and position. We didn't really discuss it, but that was my reasoning.

TPP has been feeling under the weather this week and is still fighting a fever. She's a tough competitor but decided to run despite feeling sub-optimal. Our backup plan was either to have Mrs. ER run TPP's leg or have me or SIOR run two legs. We ended up with the original lineup intact. SIOR's marathon schedule had her running 10 miles this morning prior to the race. She anchored our team after doing that long run on the hilly Bethpage bike trail. These women are amazing.

Me and Mrs. ER after number pickup
Team ER arrived at Bethpage around 9:00 AM and I collected our bibs and t-shirts. SIOR and TPP arrived about 20 minutes later. It was nice bringing together my running friends and my family. Our talking kept our minds off the fact that it was very cold and we didn't have any place to keep warm. There didn't seem to be that many participants, but the crowd grew as we got closer to start time.

We headed over to the starting area a little before 10:00 AM and the race began on time. Each leg started on the open field and led to a path into the woods that eventually connected to the main trail. TPP and the others disappeared into the distance and I was still thinking this would be relatively easy as races go.
First hand-off, from TPP
It wasn't that long before we spotted TPP exiting out of the woods from the opposite side and soon enough we slapped hands and I took off for the second leg. I made the mistake of starting too fast and I paid for that later in the run. The trail conditions were (at best) wet and stable, and (at worse) muddy, icy, snowy, sandy and slippery. There were plenty of race volunteers along the course to keep us on track and warn us of trail dangers. I was disappointed to feel overtaxed midway through the leg and I slowed considerably when running in areas of deep mud and sand. Bethpage doesn't have hills like Stillwell, but this course did have its uphill challenges.
SIOR ready to fly
Seconds after the hand-off
I was not in great shape by the time I reached the field. My family described my "sprint" to the relay hand-off as "slow motion." SIOR took off quickly and gained back some minutes. We all gathered near the finish line chute and saw her come through after covering her leg in about 16 minutes. There are no results posted, but her effort undoubtedly helped our race position.

SIOR brings it in
PHOTOS COURTESY OF EMERGING RUNNER JR.
The reward for our hard work was found at the food table where they served muffins and cupcakes as big as softballs. They also offered hot chocolate and noodle soup that was described by my wife and kids as "fantastic." I had a great time although I am disappointed with the way I ran. I'm determined to get back to my prior level and I have a training plan that I think will help. My Runsketeer teammates both put in impressive runs and I'm honored to be part of that group.

I may return to Bethpage tomorrow to do my first Half training run. It's just five miles, but today was only two and that was no picnic.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wisdom of the (running) crowd

 
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

I found it interesting that three knowledgeable runners (Carla, Karl and SIOR) have all recommended a mid-week long run as part of a half marathon training plan. I generally run shorter distances in the middle of the week. My excuse has always been a lack of time. But people with schedules busier than mine seem to get them done. Here are strategies I heard this week that I will take to heart for my training:

Carla: "The key for me ended up being doing at least two 15+ milers. and another 7-10 mile run during the week. Plus a 10k, 15k, and 10 mile race, and progression runs in the buildup phase. In effect, more overall mileage. And more of it at hoped-for race pace."

Karl: "It's all about stamina and endurance. Speed is largely innate. The stamina (tempo and progression runs) and endurance (long and easy runs) workouts allow us to maintain whatever speed that we have over longer period of times."

SIOR: "I would run speed work on Tuesdays, a longish run on Wednesday (7-9 miles), and easy runs on Thursdays and Saturdays. Then when all is said and done, I would sign up for a fall marathon." [Editor's note: SIOR is a troublemaker who knows I will never run a full marathon.]

Right now, seven mile mid-week runs are a challenge, but once I get my base closer to double digits it could be managed. If I'm going to go out for four miles anyway, what's another half hour? And now that I'm comfortable with using the treadmill for speed work, I won't have the excuse that I can't run weekday intervals due to restricted access to the track.

Today's workout was another treadmill run. I had planned to run slowly in deference to yesterday's speed session, but I ended up doing a more intense workout. I hope that by resting on Friday, I'll be properly recovered for Saturday's relay. I keep telling myself that it's only a two mile leg, but going all-out for 17 minutes (if I'm lucky) will seem like a very long time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Again with the treadmill repeats

Today's run (treadmill repeats): 3.1 miles 
(10 x 340m plus 1 mile warm up/cool down)

I'd like to thank everyone who commented on my post and sent me emails regarding my Brooklyn Half training plan. The consensus is that my weekly long run schedule is fairly solid and that speed work should integrated throughout the training cycle. I'm anxious to return to Bethpage and excited to be able to begin this training, with the additional six miles of paved bike trail that was completed last year. If I chose to do it, I could run an entire half marathon distance from my house to the Massapequa Preserve along that trail. But somebody would need to pick me up at the end! 13 miles is one thing, 26 is quite another.

My friends FS and SIOR both pointed out the Hal Higdon training plan and I found it realistic, accessible and very close to mine in terms of weekly long run schedule. Following months of complacency, I'm getting excited about performance again. After Monday's speed session, I opted for a moderate elliptical session on Tuesday. This morning it was back to speed work with another set of repeats done with a little less intensity.

Like Monday, I started with a half mile warm up before moving to intervals. I wanted to go a little longer on each repeat, so I bumped up the distance from 220 to 340 meters and set the speed about 3% lower than on Monday. I also capped  it at 10 repeats, although it worked out to almost the same distance. I finished again with a half mile cool down.

I'm not sure if this late stage speed work is going to translate into better performance on Saturday, but I hoping for the best. It's supposed to be very cold on Thursday, so I may have to do tomorrow's run on the treadmill. I would prefer to run outdoors, ideally on trail, so I could simulate trail race conditions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Half Marathon training, your opinion is requested!

 
Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

According to Athlinks, I've run thirteen 10K's, eleven 5K's, four 4 milers, four 8K's, two half marathons and a 5 mile race. There are a couple of other races that Athlinks doesn't list, but for the most part, that's my racing history. 10K is my favorite race distance because it requires both speed and stamina. Unlike 5K's that allow me to go all-out because I know that it will be over inside of 30 minutes, 10K's require a much more strategic approach.

10K, or 6.2 miles is also a friendly distance. Even if I've slacked off on my base training runs (likely), I can generally get through a 10K without much race specific training. In those cases, I don't come close to PR'ing, but I can manage through the distance. Half marathons are a different story. There's something about double digit distance running that requires me to really focus on my training. The toughest run I ever had was my first half marathon. It was so bad, a race volunteer offered to call a doctor as I crossed the line.

That experience taught me a lesson about being prepared. I'd thought I'd be okay running my usual 6 miles or so on Sundays, then upping that distance to eight and nine miles the two weekends before the half. It didn't help that I'd also acquired a knee problem at that time, but I blame my poor race performance on my failure to plan.

My Plan
I fared much better the next time. I realized that building a proper base was the key, so I dutifully headed to Bethpage every weekend and ran increasingly longer distances. I ended up improving my time by 15 minutes the second time I ran a half. The chart above shows the Sunday long run distance plan I created and followed. I updated the schedule to coincide with this year's dates leading up to the Brooklyn Half.

NYRR "Moderate" Plan
NYRR's does a good job sending updates about the Brooklyn Half to people who are registered for the race. The last email redirected me to their site where they'd posted three free half marathon training plans. The categories are Conservative, Moderate and Advanced. I'm not apt to follow a plan that prescribes training through the week, but I was interested in the weekly long run distances. I created a second schedule around the Moderate guide to compare it with my current plan (see above).

I did well the last time by increasing my long run distance about a mile a week, topping out at 12 miles the weekend before the race. The NYRR plan steps up and down, with a decided taper near the end. I assume NYRR knows a lot more than I do about this stuff, so there must be a reason for reducing the long run distances near the end. I'm reluctant to change from what worked for me last time, but maybe I should consider following the Moderate plan.

I will take advice on this, so please share your opinion.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Treadmill 220's, surprisingly fun

220m intervals with 70 second recovery jog
Today's run (treadmill intervals): 3.2 miles (16 x 220m, 1 mile warm up/cool down)

Although you wouldn't know it by looking at my Garmin data from my weekend runs, I have turned my attention back to performance running. It isn't without irony that, despite my now-clear neighborhood streets, I did my first speed workout this year on the treadmill. My preference would have been to do this on the track, but I was reluctant to risk being hauled off by security for trespassing at the high school.

I normally take Mondays as my rest days but I really needed to focus on my readiness. If the weather holds, I'll be racing on Saturday with the Runsketeers. I didn't intend to take as much time as I ended up needing for today's workout, but it was good that I did. My plan was to start with a half mile warm up at about 9:30 a mile and then run 12 x 100m before finishing with a mile cool down. I discovered that running intervals on a treadmill can be difficult. This is because the machine lacks the hard start/stop precision of the track. I had to account for the time it took the treadmill to get up to full speed each time.

As a result, I decided to run 220m repeats instead of 100's. I'm not confident of the accuracy of the speed displayed on the treadmill, but I set it 25% faster than what I usually run on the machine. I averaged 67 seconds for the 220's (about an 8:10 pace), after factoring in the starting lag.

I started and ended today's session with regular running. I bumped up the speed on the cool down to take advantage of the fact that 6.5 MPH feels a lot easier after pushing close to 8 MPH for twenty minutes. I was surprised that my heart rate averaged only 81% of max overall. Perhaps 67 seconds isn't enough time to go up from 64% (heart rate during recovery cycle). I'm sure that if I was doing 400's at that pace I'd be in the red zone by the end of each repeat.

Treadmill intervals were more fun than I expected and I hope this was a good way of reactivating my speed. I may do another speed session on Wednesday before my mini taper. Running fast is fun. I wish I could remember that more often.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Retroactive run

Old faithful - Brooks Adrenalin 10's
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

This morning I was looking at the the spring shoe guide in the March issue of Runners World. I've always liked running shoes because they are technically designed and they look cool. Most runners view a new pair of trainers as a reason to get excited about a run, which is why so many new pairs are sold every year.

As I looked at the 2014 models, two trends occurred to me. One was that most manufacturers have moved away from minimal models but are still maintaining the concept of "low drop." This means that the height difference between the heel and forefoot is typically less than 10." The other trend is toward super-cushioned running shoes. Models like the Hoka One One have huge out-soles that resemble the old running shoes from the '80's and '90's.

 
I was an early adopter of minimal running shoes, beginning with the first Kinvaras, followed by the Grid Tangents, Hattoris,  and the Brooks Pure Drifts. Before that, I used to run in conventional shoes, my favorite being the Brooks Adrenalins. The Adrenalins are built to last. I got over 700 running miles out of my GTS-9's before I switched them to being weekend casual shoes. I had a similar experience with the 10's. In fact I still wear those every weekend.

After looking at the shoe guide, I wondered what it would be like to take the 10's out for a run after treating them as sneakers for the last three years. I love my Saucony Virratas, but I felt like a change today and figured the nicely cushioned Brooks would provide a good break. I laced up the 10's and they felt as good as ever. From the first steps off the driveway, I knew that they'd be fine, despite having over 1,000 miles on them.

I haven't run outdoors too often this year, so I'm re-acclimating to pavement. The purpose of today's run was to nudge my comfort beyond the 3 mile base that I'd defaulted to over the past two months. The shoes felt fine, but there is a difference between the 11.1 ounce Adrenalins and the 6.5 ounce Virratas. I don't know if that extra weight slowed me down compared to yesterday, but something did.

Forgetting that for the moment, I did appreciate the well cushioned feel of the classic Adrenalins. I wondered if there is a happy medium between the two types of shoes. Apparently some of the 2014 models are leaning in that direction. New materials that perform better than EVA are being used, resulting in softer cushioning and lighter weight.

I'm not sure if I'll include the Adrenalins in my primary shoe rotation, although I see no harm in using them for long easy runs. I'm remembering the foot issues I had when training for the half marathon in 2012, when I'd do 9-12 mile runs on the Bethpage bike trail every weekend. That might be a good way to build up my long base without going through that painful stage again. I also wonder if training in those heavy shoes would give me a performance boost when I return to the lighter Virratas.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Road running reunion

On the road again
Today's run (street!): 4.2 miles

Spring must finally be coming. I looked in the backyard and could actually see parts of our deck that weren't completely covered in snow. It was 41° this morning when I prepared to run in my neighborhood for the first time since January 12. This winter's snowfall has not been good for outdoor running. In the nine and a half weeks since New Year's, I've only run outside seven times, including today.

Spring is on deck
Running indoors is mostly about fitness while outside running widens the experience to include far more stimuli. The smell of a backyard barbecue in summer or new construction on a house a few blocks over can positively distract from the rigors of the run. Not to mention the great sensory overload you can get from trail running. I was excited to be able to run outside today, but I'll admit to being a little nervous about breaking from the comfort of my normal routine.

It was an easy transition to my neighborhood streets and I felt stronger than I expected as I came up on my first mile. Unlike many who perceive the treadmill as an easier workout than running on the road, I have the opposite view. I suspect my treadmill speed is actually faster than what is shown on the display. I fell into a comfortable pace today and every once in a while it would occur to me to add a little speed. At one point I was overtaken by another neighborhood runner, but that didn't bother me too much.

I ended up averaging a little under ten minutes per mile. Not good compared to my normal outdoor pace, but far better than the speed I struggled to maintain when I ran with my friends at Eisenhower Park a couple of weeks ago. My cold is gone, but some chest and sinus congestion still remains.

I want to go out and do another easy run tomorrow and try to push the distance a little more. I may put that off until Monday and take advantage of having access to the high school track on Sunday. Last time I tried the track it was covered with snow. I hope today's thaw helped to clear it. If it looks like my backyard deck I'll head back to my local streets.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feeling the run, but not the runner

Thursday's city walking
Today's run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

My schedule on Wednesday and Thursday prevented me from running, although I did cover close to seven miles on foot yesterday. I've managed to get free of my cold, but I still feel like I need to build back some fitness. I've read that taking a week off from running (as I just did) should not affect your your level of conditioning. That's probably true, although I'm finding it harder going when I push to my anaerobic threshold. I really need to do some speed work.

This was a busy morning and I was down to business by 6:30 AM. Around 10:00 AM I took a break and got on the treadmill for my first run since Tuesday. Knowing that I'm not back to 100% in terms of fitness, I opted for just a slightly faster speed than the last treadmill session. I managed to hold that pace without difficulty and, after a time, began to increase speed every quarter mile. By the end I was fairly tired, but not exhausted.

My activity record over the first two months of 2014 looks very similar to prior years. The big difference is where I did my workouts. All the treadmill running that I've done this year has created a level of detachment that I never get when I'm running primarily on the road or on trails. Yes, I'm maintaining (more or less) the same weekly mileage, but I don't feel much like a runner these days.

Unless we get some unexpected snowfall overnight, I plan to return to the road tomorrow. This will be my first neighborhood run in over a month. I really feel the need to reconnect to running. My interest in racing is at an all time low. With the Bethpage relay, Marcie Mazzola 5K and the Brooklyn Marathon on the schedule, it's important that I get back on track. And back to the track.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Return to a real workout

 
Today's run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Colds are funny. No matter their severity, they all seem to follow the adage, "Three days coming, three days staying, three days leaving." An impending cold signals the start of an uncomfortable week. Bad decisions are often made (certainly by me) about how far to push myself after the first symptoms appear. I questioned whether it was wise to run 6.7 miles two Sundays ago, when it was clear that I had started a cold. But if that had an effect on this cold's duration, it was a minor one.

Aside from some residual stuffiness, this cold has pretty much passed. I decided to ease back into running during the "leaving" phase, with extremely easy workouts. This morning I felt close to full strength and went back to my usual routine. I'll admit that I picked a program on the lower end of the performance scale, but it was a legitimate workout.

My concern was that resuming a normal training pace too soon would tire me out before I could finish the run. I had a moment around the first quarter mile when I wondered whether I'd taken on too much too soon. Happily, that didn't last long. Although the rest of the run felt long, it was completely manageable. My other concession to recovery was forgoing the anaerobic sprint I usually do for the last quarter or eighth of a mile.

The best thing about today's workout was knowing that I'm ready to train again. I'll take it fairly easy over the next week and hopefully see some pavement this weekend.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Missing an experience that I used to call mundane

Miss you
Today's run (treadmill): 35 minutes

After so many days away from running, it was hard to justify taking my usual rest day today. This hiatus was necessary to get me through the past week. One thing I've learned is that running while ill is a zero sum game. Benefits gained through a hard workout may be canceled out by the strain put on a weakened body.

Before I could consider a run this morning, I needed to consider the driveway. A foot or more of snow had been predicted over the weekend, but that number was lowered to 2"-4" for our area. We ended up with barely an inch. I didn't want to leave it to freeze into a sheet of ice (supposed to get into the single digits tonight), so I went out early and shoveled. My level of required effort compared to Saturday's ice-moving exercise was fairly low.

I had a number of items on today's schedule, so I carved out 35 minutes for a treadmill workout that was similar to yesterday's, except I set the incline to 2% today. This was not intended to be a difficult workout (see first paragraph). It was more about moving, getting my heart rate going and preparing for what I hope will be a higher performance run tomorrow.

After I'd completed my workout, I drove to the bank to deposit a check. I inspected my local roads and thought about how I'd often complain about the mundanities of neighborhood running. I looked up and down these long strips of open pavement and wished I could return to them. There's still too much ice and snow to do that now, but soon it will all melt away. At least that's how it's supposed to work.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Back to the run, six days later

 
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I had high hopes for my 2014 running the morning of January 1st. I'd finished out 2013's racing season with a credible performance in the Hot Chocolate 5K and (unlike recent years) I'd come through the holidays with neither a cold nor the flu. Me and my running buddies met at Eisenhower Park on New Year's morning to do our first running event of the year, The LIRR Hangover Run. We had fun that day and I felt great afterward. I looked forward to winter running and a return to my old form.

Although my running year got off to a great start, it quickly stalled. The snow rarely stopped and the temperatures rarely rose high enough to melt it off. My choices were to compromise safety and run on narrow icy roads, or stay indoors and use the treadmill. Safety prevailed and, as of today, I've only run outdoors four times in the past two months.

This morning I did my first run in a week. It was a treadmill workout done at a very moderate pace. I believe that this was the first full week (since recovering from pneumonia in early 2010) where I didn't record a single mile of running. What I had wasn't the flu, but it sapped my strength and I knew that pushing myself would not be healthy.

I made the mistake of chipping down the icebergs at the end of my driveway on Saturday so I'd have some room to put the new snow we're supposed to get this week. That 40 minute exercise would have normally counted as a bonus cross training session, but yesterday it felt like I'd logged a long hard run.

I had a great night's sleep and this morning I felt closer to full strength. I exercised caution on the treadmill and dismissed any thoughts about performance. Today's goal was to start the process of recovering any fitness that I may have lost during my downtime. Even at my easy pace, I felt a burn in my throat that I used to get in my early days of running.

I further reduced my speed after each mile. It seemed like the right move since my goal was simply to get through a moderate aerobic workout, not to maintain a challenging heart rate. I'm clearly still recovering, so I'm not sure of my true level of fitness. What I do know is that I'm nowhere near the level of race readiness that I'd expected on New Year's morning. I'll forgo my Monday rest day and, perhaps, take another step forward tomorrow.
 

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