Archive for August, 2014

August 27, 2014

Tired Legs

In theory this week was going to be a cut back/mini-taper before the Dirt Dash in South Carolina this Saturday.  Since it was an extra week that I added to the marathon training schedule, I planned just to wing it on workouts based on how I was feeling.  Sunday I decided on a 16-miler, which seemed long enough to be hard, but not completely leg-deadening.  Rather than doing my usual steady pace, even-split approach, I opted for a fast finish run, which I thought might get me primed for the half this week.  I started out running 10 minute miles with the Caveboy, then dropped to around 9’s after about 5 miles, and mid-to-low 8’s for the last 4.

I finished the long run feeling great, and I headed into this week flush with optimism.  I also happened to catch this article on Runners’ World this week on increasing training just before a taper, and I started getting ideas.  Monday would normally have been an off day, but instead I decided to go for broke and scheduled a strength session.  After 45 minutes with Gillian my legs and core were quivering and I was high on endorphins.  I chased that workout with an easy 5 on Tuesday, and then decided this morning to squeeze in an interval workout.  I now have two days of travel and enforced rest, and if you count the rest of today, it’s really almost 3 full days before the half.

I’m generally a worst-case-scenario type of person, but I’m feeling uncharacteristically optimistic about the Dirt Dash.  I hadn’t planned to really race hard on Saturday, but once I got the runner instructions email this week, I realized two things:

1. This race is really small.

2. It is on an access road through the woods and swamp.

The course, on I'on Swamp Road.  Not making that up.

The course, on I’on Swamp Road. Yes, that is the actual name.

For some reason, that got me really excited.  I know I’m completely in denial about the heat, humidity, and pterodactyl-sized mosquitos we will likely encounter.  Still, the idea of just running through the woods sounds like a nice change from stampeding through Central Park with 4,000 other people and being pampered every step of the way by New York Road Runners’ fabulous volunteers.  (Not that I’m knocking it.)  I know I could totally melt down in the heat, and I may have pushed myself too hard this week to recover in time.  Still, I feel like this is going to be fun.

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August 20, 2014

Run for the Hills

Last week’s schedule went like this:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Intervals – 4×1200 @ 7:13 pace
Wednesday: Easy – 3 @ 9:30ish (should have been 10’s)
Thursday: Tempo – 10 @ 8:47
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy – 4 @ 9:30ish (should have been 10’s)
Sunday: Long – 15 @ 8:59 (9:07 was goal)

 

The intervals were good, I had a lovely run to work on Wednesday, and Thursday I had to fit in a 10-miler.  I ended up running in the general direction of work, ditching my backpack along the way at the gym, and then running another 3.5 out and back to get to 10.  Around mile 5 I passed my long-run buddy going the other direction to his office, which is the sort of thing that makes me love the small town that is the New York running community.

 

As of this weekend, I am officially 8 weeks out from the marathon, which still feels like a long time.  Once I factor in the Dirt Dash, the Bronx 10-miler, and the taper, though, there’s really only five long runs left.  I’ve been trying to do a training assessment every few weeks to make adjustments, and my current consideration is whether to add more hill training.  I’ve been reading race reviews for Baltimore on Marathonguide.com, and the word “hilly” keeps coming up.  That in itself wouldn’t really concern me so much, but the fact that one person described it as “worse than San Franciso” does.  I ran the SF first half (i.e. the hilly part) twice, and it was brutal.  That kind of scared me straight and, being a numbers person, I decided to do a comparison with hard data.

 

Comparison.csv

According to Map My Run, the Baltimore course only has 536 feet of accumulated gain.  The SF first half has 1,052 feet, and the 20-miler route I’ve been running in New York has 852.  That seemed generally encouraging, but when I actually overlayed the elevation profiles, Baltimore does look a lot worse than my long run.  I also know that I’m much better at rolling hills than long, slow climbs, and I think it’s time to remedy that.

My general plan at the moment is to start substituting hill workouts for some of my interval days. To be honest, I’m not particularly jazzed about it.  I love the track, and although I feel like I’ve made my peace with hills this season, I am nothing close to a fan.  I do, however, want to be as prepared for this race as I possibly can be, and that means addressing my weaknesses.  Like a grown-up.  There’s also the added bonus that in addition to building climbing strength, reducing the punishment of track repeats should allow me to increase my weekly mileage a bit over the coming weeks, too.  I know it’s win-win, but I’m still kind of grumpy about it.

This morning I headed to my local hill of choice–Columbia Heights, which runs from DUMBO up to Brooklyn Heights.  The stretch I used is about a tenth of a mile long at 3% grade, so nothing crazy, but it was enough to make my quads burn.  I had an easy 2 mile warm up through Brooklyn Bridge Park, then did 6 repeats at what I’m guessing was about a 8:40 pace, and then 2 miles back home.  Ideally, I also need to find a long, slow climb I can run fartleks on as well, but I may have to make do on the treadmill for that.  I’m sure that will be just as much fun as it sounds.

This week goes thusly:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Hill Repeats
Wednesday: Easy – 5? @ 10:00
Thursday: Tempo – 1 mi easy, 5 @ 8:47, 1 mi easy
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy – 5? @ 10:00
Sunday: Long – 16? @ 9:07

Also on the to-do list: Learn to love hills.

August 11, 2014

Relentless Forward Progress

You know those days when you feel light and fast and like you could run forever?  Sunday was not one of those days.  Last weekend I got really lucky with the weather for my long run, but this Sunday was hot, bright, and cloudless.  I prepared for my third 20-miler as well as I could–I hydrated and beet-loaded, filled my water bottle halfway and froze it, and got to bed early on Saturday.

The route was a variation on the usual Brooklyn to Central Park run.  I skipped Prospect this week and ran straight to the Brooklyn Bridge and up to Central Park, picking up my friend along the way.  From the north end of the park we peeled off to Morningside Park, enjoyed* the hills of Morningside Heights, cut across Columbia’s campus, and ran south along Riverside Park.  It was a beautiful day and a lovely route, but I really had to work for this one.  I probably started off a little too fast given the heat, but I think this was mostly just a case of having an off day.  Despite the struggle, I was happy that I was able to pull it together mentally enough to get through it.  I keep reminding myself that having a lackluster 20-miler is still something of an uptown problem, especially compared to a few years back when I was trying to fight through and IT band injury.

Sunday also marked the end of what I’m thinking of as my first major training block for the marathon.  Next week’s long run is only 15, and then I’m debating whether or not to squeeze in another  20 before the half marathon on Labor Day weekend.  From there on, I’m taking advantage of the NYRR fall race calendar to spice up my long runs.  As it stands right now, starting in September I’ll have a race every other weekend until the marathon.  That is not to say that I’ll actually be racing them, but I thought that it might help dispel some of the pre-race anxiety to make the starting line feel a little more routine.  It also gives me the chance to practice race day fueling and decide if I’m going to carry any of my own hydration for the marathon. It’s going to require some creativity to get the distances on my schedule in some cases, but I can always keep running after the finish line.

*By ‘enjoyed’ I mean, tried to convince myself that the burning in my quads was a unique gift from the universe, to be treasured and savored.

August 6, 2014

The Art of the Run Commute

Commute

There is something really empowering about running as transportation.  I love that I can just put on my shoes and get myself to work, sans subway, bike, or car, and I feel more mentally prepared for the day when I get in.  I can make it to the office in about half an hour door to door, which is actually about the same as the subway would take, so it can actually be a great time-saver as well.  Still, commuting on foot does take some logistics, and I’ve found that proper planning is key.

The most important component of my run commute is having a good running backpack.  I like the Gregory Maya, which is a roomy but slim women’s daypack.  I can fit my purse, a change of clothes (and shoes), and even my lunch in there without much trouble.  Fit is really critical for comfort, particularly if you have a longer commute or plan to run both ways.  I had some trouble with the straps chafing my shoulders the first few times out, so I made some fleece pads that slide over the straps and give me a softer cushion.  Also, pack your keys and other pointy items away from any contact points with your body.  (That may sound obvious, but a lot of packs have the smaller, protected pockets on the inside or along the back.  This is not the spot for your keys.)

Backpack

My biggest worry when I started running to work was that I’d forget something critical, get to work, and find that I had no bra or something.  I’m a list-loving kind of person, so I’ve started keeping packing lists for long runs, races, and commutes in my phone.  It’s not fool-proof, but at least I’ve always had underwear.  I always try to keep the clothes I pack as simple, minimally bulky, and wrinkle-proof as possible.   Make sure you have things like office keys and work ID’s, too.

Obviously, the biggest challenge to the run commute is the Superman to Clark Kent change at the office.  If you’re lucky enough to work in a building with showers, good for you.  I have the option of running to a gym location near my office and showering there, but I do occasionally also use the bathroom clean-up technique I developed for lunchtime runs in LA.  The first key item here is to cool down as quickly as possible, and I find downing a glass of ice water upon arrival helps a lot.  For the hygiene element, my weapon of choice is a supply of quality moist towelettes.  I currently keep a stash from Seventh Generation in my desk drawer, though you can also make your own.

IMG_1982

The rest of my desk kit includes a comb, deodorant and some basic makeup supplies.  I have a shimmer stick that does double duty for eye shadow and blush, some face powder, and mascara.  For the guys, post-run hair maintenance is a little easier, but for the ladies I recommend minimal intervention from your run ‘style.’  If you pull it back into a ponytail for the run in, just tidy it up, or go for a bun.  For me at least, trying to up from up to down or vice versa always seems to yield disappointing results.

One final note: If at all possible, after changing clothes, hang up your running clothes to dry.  (Socks too!)  Whether you’re going to run back home or just repack your bag in the evening, you’ll appreciate not having a pile of damp, sweaty clothes sitting in your office.

Happy Commuting!

~ModC

August 4, 2014

Only Happy When it Rains

The Caveboy has been away on business this week, so I’ve made destressing and catching up on some rest my priorities.  To that end, I’ve been meditating at least 10 minutes a day and trying to get as close to eight hours of sleep as I can.  My running schedule this week was:

Tuesday: Intervals – 12×400 @ 6:56 pace

Wednesday: Easy – Brooklyn Bridge run commute

Thursday: Tempo – 2 easy, 3 @ 7:54, 1 easy

Sunday: Long – 18 @ 9:17

I used to run the 400 when I ran track, so I was actually looking forward to the intervals this week.  They were fun, but tiring and Wednesday my legs felt pretty heavy.  I was not overly enthused about the gym and decided to run to work instead. It was a fairly cool morning and the beautiful day and views from the bridge more than made up for my general lethargy.  The tempo on Thursday wasn’t bad, and I skipped the easy run/cross train workout on Saturday and brewed beer instead.  (It’s a black saison, which is now bubbling away happily in the basement.)

Gray Manhattan Bridge View

On Sunday morning, the smell of the malt syrup and hops still lingered in the apartment when I left for my long run.  I was planning to do the Prospect-Central Park run again, but made a few adjustments to the route to avoid the New York Triathlon that was staging in Riverside Park.  Sunday was perfect summer run weather as far as I was concerned–overcast, light rain, and about 65 degrees.  I made good time through the Brooklyn section and started over the bridge around 8:20.  I saw a few police officers wielding orange flags as I passed the halfway point, but no one stopped me and there didn’t seem to be any blockades to pedestrian or bike traffic.  As I came down the slope to the off ramp in Manhattan, though, I saw a wall of runners forming a starting line up ahead.  Two bagpipers were piping away enthusiastically, and I figured the start was imminent.

Brooklyn Bridge 5K

 

I jumped up on a lamp pedestal behind a race photographer just as the gun went off, and waited 4-5 minutes while several hundred runners took off toward Brooklyn.  Once the flow had stemmed to a trickle of walkers, I jumped into the fray and made may way 100 yards upstream and off the bridge.  From City Hall Plaza it was a short jaunt across Chambers to the Hudson River Greenway.  I met a friend just before the turnoff to Columbus Circle and Central Park.

By the time we got there, the the triathlon run was in full swing and going the opposite direction we were, so we got to enjoy lots of cheering spectators and the energy of the triathletes as they entered the home stretch of their race.  I was able to finish strong through the Harlem Hills, and ended up averaging a 9:02 split.  Having someone to act as a pacer with fresh legs at the end of my long runs for the past few weeks has been a huge help, and I hope I’ll be able to maintain the same intensity without one in the race.  Then again, maybe I just need to make a fast friend on the run.