Archive for June, 2014

June 30, 2014

Week 3 Recap

A few months ago I decided that I really wanted to get serious about incorporating some lifting into my training.  I’ve never done any formal strength training and I wanted to make sure I did it right and learned the proper form, so I signed up for monthly personal training sessions at my gym.  I’ve dubbed my trainer Kali the Destroyer for her brutally intense workouts, but she’s really helped me to pinpoint my weaknesses and target the muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries. I usually schedule my sessions with her with as much recovery time before my long run as possible, but thanks to my travel and work schedule, I ended up meeting her at 7AM Friday morning.  I am generally intensely sore for a couple days after a strength session, so I knew going in that I would not be fully recovered before my long run on Sunday.  I asked KtD that we go easy on the legs, and she took me through a few inclined squats for some hip-strengthening and then cooked up an unholy combination of upper body and core work for the rest of the hour.

Saturday morning dawned painfully, but thankfully I had already booked a 9AM massage. As painful as it was, I think it really did accelerate the recovery process a bit.  My core and arms were completely shot, though, and I was glad I had planned to take Saturday as a rest day.  We did a lot of walking around the city, but otherwise I just tried to hydrate well and stretch periodically.  Sunday morning I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:40.  It was already 70 degrees and sunny, but thankfully the humidity was pretty low.  I had 17 miles at 9:32 pace on the schedule, and I decided to start with a flat out-and-back in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  It would have been nice to finish on the flat instead, but the shade there is minimal and I knew that by running it early I would also avoid most of the crowds.  As I got warmed up it became apparent that I was, as expected, still pretty sore from Friday.  My arms were less of a concern, but I was definitely feeling my core on every grade change.

From Brooklyn Bridge Park I headed up Union to Prospect Park.  I texted the Caveboy my progress at that point, which turned out to be a useful benchmark since my Garmin filled up with data a few miles later and started autopausing intermittantly for the remainder of the run.  I guessed it was about 6.5 miles to the top of Prospect, and each lap of the park is about 3 1/3 miles.  I planned to do 3 full laps (which I promised myself would include 3 solid climbs of the Mt. Prospect hill at the end), and then would have about half a mile of downhill to finish, with another mile or so walk home to cool down.  The park laps actually went by fairly quickly, and, although I was definitely working harder in the heat, my cardio effort felt good throughout.  I was stopping for water breaks at the start of each lap, and it seemed that every time I started running again my core would tighten up and then gradually relax as I ran.  My watch was missing what I guessed to be almost two miles by the time I finished the last lap of the park, and I tried to do some conservative mental math about where I should finish.  I thought I had about .75 miles left, and after a quick walk for water I started down Union toward home, feeling pretty good and still holding my form together.  I don’t know if it was the downhill or just fatigue setting in, but after about a third of a mile my lower abs went into some kind of tired spasm.  Every inhale and every step hurt.  I slowed to a walk for 30 seconds and then started up again, determined to finish out the last half mile.  It seemed bearable for a minute or so, but then the spasm returned.  I continued to run-walk, grinding out the last bit slowly and painfully.

As it turned out when I checked MapMyRun later, I had actually finished the 17 miles near the top of the park, and ended up running about 17.6 all told, so technically the complete ab fail happened after the scheduled run was over.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like that level of muscle fatigue on a run before, and it was a good reminder of what could potentially happen in 26.2 miles.  That said, I’m pretty sure this was due to the complete shredding of my core on Friday, so I’m not overly concerned about a repeat performance right now.  Today I feel shockingly better than I did even before the run yesterday, so it does seem that I’m bouncing back quickly.  I have intervals tomorrow, but if I don’t feel 100%, I may cross train instead and push the runs out a day.  This week I have my first 20-miler of the training cycle, so the name of the game is recover, recover, recover.


June 24, 2014

Week 2.1 Recap and Queens 10K Race Report

I made it back from Florida on Thursday night, having gotten in two 5-ish mile runs while I was there.  Friday after work I went out for another easy 5, primarily to celebrate being reunited with my running bra collection.  (It was glorious.)  We had the Queens 10K for the Five-Borough Series on Sunday, so I planned to get in a cross-training session on Saturday to wrap up the cut-back week.  As it turned out, the Caveboy decided he needed to shake his legs out a bit on Saturday morning, though, so instead I joined him for another easy 4 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.



On to the good stuff:

Race Stats:

Location: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Finishers: 8,410
Weather: 67F / Overcast
My Course Rating: 6.5/Perfect Day in Central Park

The Pros:

+ Flat, fastish course
+ Proximity to Queens’ amazing ethnic food
+ Baggage check was conveniently located between Registration and the starting line
+ Plenty of parking

The Cons:

– Course itself is not particularly scenic
– Tight turns on crowded paths slowed the pack down a bit
– Despite abundance of parking, getting in and out of lots was incredibly slow

Sunday morning, after a sitting in a 15-minute traffic jam to enter the parking lot, we arrived none too early at the start.  The Caveboy and I were in different corrals, and we had decided to run this one separately.  I really had no plan for this race going in, but when I don’t have a particular time goal in mind, I usually just make a bargain with myself about how much I’m willing to suffer. That gives me some threshold for what counts as a cop-out without being too results-driven.  This time I decided that I was willing to practice dealing with a bit of pain during the race, but nothing that might linger and hamper my training schedule this week.  I had forgotten to check what my 10K PR was before the race, so to kill time in the corral I looked back in my Garmin history and determined that it was 51:11.  That was an 8:15 split, so I figured I would try to hold an 8ish pace for the first few miles and see how that felt.

I loves me an Olmstead park, and Flushing Meadows seemed lovely, but unfortunately the race course stayed mostly on the perimeter.   There really wasn’t much to see, so I mostly just focused on slowly picking off runners ahead of me.  I seemed to be able to hold about an 8:05 pace pretty comfortably, so I tried to hang there and push it to 7:55 when the field opened up a bit.  The weather was about as perfect as one could hope for this time of year–high 60’s with a light breeze and overcast for most of the race.  I felt good throughout, and really only had a bit of discomfort maintaining the pace for the last mile or so, which was an out-and-back with a pretty tight lollipop turn.  I still gave some guy who tried to pass me in the chute a good sprint to the line, and finished feeling tired but not wrung out.  My official time was 49:45, which is on pace with my last half and the predicted marathon finish I’m aiming for.

This week is pretty jam-packed if I do everything on the schedule:

Monday: cross-train
Tuesday: Intervals –
1200m @ 7:13 pace
1000m @ 7:09 pace
800m @ 7:04 pace
600m @ 6:58 pace
400m @ 6:53 pace
Wednesday: 8 miles with Caveboy’s office crew
Thursday: Tempo – 1 mi easy, 5 @ 8:24, 1 easy
Friday: Strength training with Kali the Destroyer
Sunday: 17 mi @ 9:32
June 18, 2014



I went to work on Monday thinking I had a fairly quiet week in the office ahead of me. A few hours later I was going back home to pack a bag for Florida. We were testing an exterior wall mock-up at a lab in West Palm this week, and due to a shift in the schedule, I needed to be there at 8:00 the next morning.

Luckily, this week of training is one of my flex weeks, since we have a 10K race on Sunday. I had planned to do a repeat of last week’s workouts with a few adjustments, but given the travel I would content myself with whatever I could fit in. I spent all day at the mock-up yesterday and finally had time for a run around 5:30. I pulled my running clothes out of my suitcase, but couldn’t immediately find find the jog bra I’d packed. I knew I had put it in, so I ended up unpacking everything, checking and rechecking the pile of clothes, and even feeling around under the lining of the suitcase in case it had slipped through a loose edge, all to no avail. I have no idea what happened to the bra. I distinctly remember debating which one to take, folding it up, and laying it on the stack of clothes. After that it’s a complete mystery.

I debated my various options. If I went out to buy a bra, I’d miss my window to run. I could scrap the run altogether and go for a swim instead, but not knowing the schedule for the rest of the week, I really wanted to get one in while I had the opportunity. My only other option was to improvise something. I hiked up the straps on the two bras I had brought, but both on, and jumped up and down experimentally. Not too bad. I was undoubtedly going to sweat through all of the undergarments I had packed, but I had a workable solution. Off I went.

I was concerned how I would do in the heat and humidity, but it really wasn’t as bad as it might have been. I managed 5 1/2 miles at 9-minute pace, which felt more like a tempo HR in the heat. Today I’ll try to get in either an easy run or a swim if time allows. Until then, I shall hydrate.

June 13, 2014

Week 2


The theme of this week has been all about second-guessing.  It started on Monday when I decided to reread the cross-training section of RLRF in the hopes of figuring out how hard I was supposed to be doing those sessions.  I soon realized that I own the first edition of the book, and the app is apparently based on a more recent edition.  The book advocates mostly hour-long, lower-intensity aerobic workouts.  The app, on the other hand, has me doing 20 or 30-minute workouts with frequent, short bursts of high intensity.  I’ve read the studies on the effectiveness of this type of training, so I’m fine with the theory behind the change.  My concern, however, was that at the intensity I was doing the cross-training, my poor undertrained non-running muscles were going to end up chronically sore or injured.  Since the book was no help, I then searched for “Run Less Run Faster cross train intensity,” thinking that Google would surely know what to do.  What I found was a number of articles and blog posts dissecting the ways in which the RLRF cross-training approach is flawed, and advising runners to use the program as I had been all year–substituting easy runs for the XT days.

That, of course, had me at hello.  The only thing keeping me from swearing off the spin bike in perpetuity is that my SI joint had started to ache after last week’s long run, and I’m worried that I could be starting down the path to another IT band injury.  In any case, I now had competing theories that 1) Cross-training prevents injury caused by excessive running mileage and allows greater aerobic training volume overall, or 2) Cross-training causes injury by replacing necessary ‘time on the legs’ with sessions that overwork under-developed muscles.  I ran my best season ever this year by going with door #2, but I do need to seriously consider the risk of injury if I increase my mileage.  It was quite the quandary.  Luckily, I didn’t have to figure it out until Wednesday.

Tuesday I did the 4×800 intervals at pace and was happy that they were way less difficult than the 16’s last week.  My SI joint continued to ache a bit after the speedwork, though, which was how it had all started last time as well.  I’ve been doing a strength training routine that’s supposed to prevent IT-band injuries every day since the Brooklyn Half, but since the problem seems to be rooted in my SI joint, I decided to research exercises for SI-joint stability as well.  I found what seems to be a solid routine here, which I’ll now be alternating with the IT-band days.  My hope is that strengthening the area will take care of the problem altogether, but I don’t want to exacerbate things before I’m able to build strength. On Wednesday morning I was still unsure whether to run or cross train when I left for the gym.  In the end I decided to run easy until I felt any sort of twinge, which took about 3 miles.  At that point I switched to the bike and did the 20 post-warm-up minutes of the XT workout.  (Either best or worst of both worlds, depending on how you look at it.)

Thursday’s tempo went well, particularly since the paces are much slower than I was used to in the half marathon training.  After 7 miles, though, my SI joint was definitely aching and a few hours later my glute on that side felt sore and a bit tender.  I decided that this morning’s session would definitely be on the rowing machine, which would hopefully give me fresher legs for Sunday’s long run and also give the SI a break.  (Oddly, as sore as it was yesterday, it felt 100% fine today, which is strange, but somewhat encouraging.)

I’m still not completely sure what to do about the cross-training.  I’m leaning toward eliminating one day of it in favor of an easy run, or I may just keep it flexible, and just decide based on how I’m feeling.  I’m also thinking that since it seems to be the speedwork intervals that particularly set off the SI, I may rework the schedule a bit to compensate.  I’ll need to really look at the tables to judge, but the marathon plan seems to preference faster interval sessions and slower tempos that run closer to race pace.  I’ve always found faster tempos to be hugely beneficial, so I may change it up so that those are more in line with half marathon paces, and then take the intervals down to a less punishing level.  On the up side, next week the Caveboy and I are running the Queens 10K, so I’ve made the weekday training essentially a repeat of this week, with the race instead of a long run.  That gives me the option for a break after the 15 miler this weekend if I need it, and I’m going to book a massage right now.


June 8, 2014

Week 1

Week 1 of marathon training is in the books, and any concerns I had about losing fitness on the cross training have been thoroughly dispelled.  In fact, this week pretty thoroughly kicked my ass.  Tuesday was intervals, which is usually my favorite workout.  After years of running track, I still think of myself as a sprinter, and banging out 400 repeats and ladders is really the only venue in which I can hang with the big kids.  This week I had 3×1600’s on the schedule, though, which I’ve always felt are just an exercise in pain.  The gym was pretty warm, which didn’t help, and I had to work really hard to get through the repeats at pace.  It was a little intimidating to start the training cycle fighting that hard for a workout, but it was a good opportunity to practice staying focused and pushing through.

Wednesday was my first day of cross-training, and I opted for the rowing workout.  I read this article about the benefits of rowing for runners, so at 6:30 AM I ventured into the corner time forgot in the cardio rooom at the gym and dusted off the erg.  I’m still trying to figure out the appropriate level of effort for the cross-train workouts, but in the 25-minute session I felt like my arms and core got a decent session, through cardio-wise it felt pretty easy.

Thursday was a 2/2/2 tempo with 2 miles easy, 2 at 7:54’s and the last 2 easy.  That run was surprisingly comfortable and I had to admit that my legs felt much fresher than they usually did at that point in the week.  I had an early meeting at work on Friday, so I punted the second XT session to Saturday, which may have been ill-advised.  I did 30 minutes on a spin bike, with the middle 10 at a “tempo” effort.  I should probably take a spin class to understand the theory a little better, because again, I was unsure exactly what the resistance to speed relationship was really supposed to be.  I ended up overdoing it a bit and really hammered my legs, so I’m chalking that one up to experience.

Today I had a 13-mile long run on the schedule, and I knew I was in trouble when I got up at 6:15 and it was already 70 degrees.  By the time we got out and moving, it was close 80 and bright sun.  I’ve never been a great heat runner, but I felt good starting out and took the climb up to Prospect Park at a quick pace.  My legs felt a bit heavy from the bike on some of the hills, but overall the first lap of the park went quickly and I held about an 8:45 pace, well ahead of the 9:17’s on the schedule.  On the second lap I really started noticing the temperature coming up and tried to stay in the shade where possible.  When I made it to the top of the hill at the end of the second lap, I decided to reverse direction for the third, which would give my legs a bit of a break with a long stretch of downhill and a longer and more gradual climb at the end.  By this point it was clear that I had gone out way too fast and probably pushed my heart rate too high trying to hold onto the pace on the second lap.  Despite how much it was sucking, I was still having trouble keeping the pace down, so I started taking 30-second walk breaks every mile or so to even it out and push fluids.  I finally made it back to the park entrance and was grateful that the last mile and half home would be mostly downhill. It was still largely an act of willpower getting through them, though, and I felt completely wrung out when I finished.  In the end, I averaged exactly the 9:17’s I was supposed to, but it was not a fun way to get there.  This was far and away the hardest long run I’ve done in recent memory, including the 15-miler I did a few months ago while jet-lagged and in the throes of a terrible head cold.

As tough as it was, I think this week was exactly what I needed.  Coming off the Brooklyn Half I was feeling 100% ready for what was coming.  This week I was reminded that ready or not, this is still going to be hard.

June 2, 2014

A Race and a Plan

On Sunday morning the Caveboy once again dislodged ourselves from a warm bed at 5:15 and headed to Central Park.  As part of the New York Israel Day festivities, NYRR was hosting a four-miler, which at that time of the morning hardly seemed worth putting on shoes for.  The race actually turned out to be a really lovely run though, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The field was relatively small (5,000ish), which meant it was much less crowded than the other Central Park races I’ve done this year.  As an added bonus, after days of rain and wind, Sunday morning was sunny and breezy.  We actually arrived at the start with plenty of time to spare, which was a distinct improvement over our previous warm-up sprints to the start.

Since neither of us was gunning for time, we decided to run together as much as possible.  Even with the smaller field the paths were still crowded, and we did a lot of bobbing and weaving in the first few miles.  We were holding about an 8:40 pace, and I was encouraged that even after two weeks of lazy recovery runs the pace still felt easy and I was barely noticing the rolling hills.  We got separated at the water station at the 3-mile mark and the Caveboy waved me on from the midst of the Gatorade scrum.  I was warmed up and feeling good and decided not to look at the Garmin and just crank it up to what felt like a good tempo pace for the last mile.  (When I checked my splits later, it turned out to be about a 7:30.)  After a fun final sprint I ducked out of the chute to watch the Caveboy finish, and we grabbed our baggage and headed back to Brooklyn.  The weather was too pretty to miss, though, so when we got home I filled up a water bottle and headed down to Brooklyn Bridge Park for another 5 miles before calling it a day.

My other activity this weekend was really dialing the marathon training plan for Baltimore.  My biggest dilemma has been adding some extra time (and flexibility) to the schedule without dragging it out so long that I get overtrained or injured.  RLRF is a 16-week plan, which would put the start of training on June 30th.  The plan as written does have periodic recovery weeks with lower mileage, but does not include any tune-up races or really allow any slack in the system.

I’m not planning any A races this summer, but we do have two more 5-Boroughs races on the calendar, along with a tune-up half in Charleston in August.  While I probably won’t taper for any of those, I definitely will not be getting scheduled long runs in on those weeks, and will probably want a few recovery days after the halves.  So after laying all of that out and re-jiggering a few things around a bit, I ended up with a schedule that starts tomorrow.  That’s a full month early, but I am happy with the flexibility it will allow.  After looking at the RLRF plan, I realized that my running mileage even on the longest weeks is still short of what I’ve been  averaging this season, so I think I should be able to tolerate the longer schedule.  I am planning to do the cross training per the plan right now, with the idea that if I truly hate it, I can swap out one of the sessions for an easy run now and then.

This week, here’s what’s on the menu:

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Intervals — 3×1600 @ 7:21 pace

Wednesday – Cross-train

Thursday – Tempo — 2 mi easy, 2 mi @ 8:20, 2 mi easy

Friday – Cross-train

Saturday – Rest

Sunday –  Long Run — 13 @ 9:47 pace