Archive for February, 2015

February 24, 2015

Freeze, Thaw, Cycle

 

Ice on the water cups at the Al Gordon 4-Miler

Ice on the water cups at the Al Gordon 4-Miler

The good news about this weekend is that it was super productive.  The bad news is that I was completely exhausted by Monday.  I ended up with the schedule stacked against me last week, when I realized that I needed to squeeze in a strength training session with Kali the Destroyer.  I ended up fitting that in on Thursday morning, which moved my tempo run to Friday.  The strength training was great (doing the Jillian Michael sessions twice a week really are making me stronger), and I happy to wake up on Friday without much soreness.  My scheduled tempo was 1 easy, 5 at 7:49, and 1 easy, which I got through without much drama. I had the Al Gordon 4-Miler in Prospect Park on Saturday, and I tried my best to channel the successful tempo to garner some enthusiasm for the race.

 Al Gordon 4-Miler

I had signed up for the 4-miler when I came back from my stress fracture, mainly as an attempt to save myself from jumping right into training for the NYC Half.  That (somewhat) worked, and I really had no goal in mind for the race other than to improve my corral for the half next month.  I should probably explain for those uninitiated in the efficient machine that is New York Road Runners, that all of their races have starting corrals which are seeded by pace.  The catch is that your pace group is based on the fastest average mile split logged in any race you’ve run with them, regardless of distance.  I rarely race anything shorter than a 10K, and when I do, they’re usually social runs with friends when I’m not focused on time.  I was currently in the 8:00 corral based on my last 10K, and was hoping to improve my start position a bit given the crowded field in the NYC Half.  With that in mind, I dragged myself out of bed at 6 AM on Saturday morning and bundled up.  It was 6 degrees out and, not wanting to spend too much time freezing in the corral, I got to the start only a few minutes before the gun.  We were off, and I went into Bill Belichik Do-Your-Job mode—no drama, no whining, just hit my pace and get the job done.  I still had a 14-mile long run to do on Sunday, so the idea was to run hard, but not plumb new depths of pain.  I held 7:30’s on the flats, 8:00’s on the uphills, and tried to take it sub-7 on the downs when I could.   I held off a side stitch with some very focused belly breathing for the last mile and finished in 30:23.  It would have been nice to break 30 minutes, but I was happy with the effort, and it should move me up at least one or two corrals.   After I finished, the Caveboy met me with a warm jacket and asked if the lake was completely frozen, at which point I realized that I had not taken in my surroundings in the least.  How’s that for focus?

From Prospect I jumped on the train to Union Square and grabbed a cup of coffee while I waited for Jack Rabbit Sports to open.  They were having their spring clearance sale and I was hoping to snag a tri race kit cheap.  Long Run Buddy was meeting me there, and we both scored major deals.  I was able to pick up two race kits, and I also found a pair of my favorite running shorts and a book on bike maintenance, all for $55.  Win.  While I was waiting for LRB to check out I checked my race results and discovered that I had finished 4th in my age group.  Double win.  We had a celebratory brunch and then Caveboy and I headed home to catch up on laundry and other life essentials.  I had a bike session on the calendar as well, so after throwing in a load of running clothes I set up the bike and queued up an episode of Gilmore Girls.  This was the first session of my base-building training plan on TrainerRoad, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be too brutal given the 14 mile long run the next day. “8-Minute Power Test” initially sounded pretty innocuous, but it turned out to be a pretty intense hour-long workout.

Trainer Road

TrainerRoad basically syncs your phone, iPad, or computer with your (Bluetooth-enabled) bike computer to give you a customized spin workout.  It estimates virtual power based on your trainer model and gives you real time stats on your power output, showing you a green, yellow, or red zone depending on how well you’re keeping up with the designed workout.  They also provide real-time on-screen instructions for each session, as well as additional background info on the website and even free webinars on training topics.  I’ve heard really good things about it and given that I have zero experience with bike training, I am basically putting all my faith in their approach.  The workout started with an easy spin warm-up, and then progressed to two very short, hard intervals.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep my power up in the green zone where it was supposed to be, and I was starting to get very worried about my biking abilities and questioning why I had taken on this whole triathlon endeavor.  Thankfully there was another easy spin period at that point and the on-screen instructions started describing the two 8-minute power trials that were coming up.  It was then that I realized that point of this ride was to calibrate my functional threshold power, and that the green zone for power that the app was currently showing me was completely arbitrary (i.e. probably calibrated for a large dude who is a much better cyclist than me.)  This is why I probably should not consider reading the instructions to be a sign of weakness…  Anyway, I was at least somewhat relieved, and I got through the power tests within tolerable pain levels.  TrainerRoad spit out a new FTP at the end, and my next workout should be calibrated for my current fitness level.

Slushy Central Park

Slushy Central Park

Long Run

Sunday the temperature shot up 30 degrees into the mid-40’s, and it seemed all of New York was covered in 2 inches of accumulated slush, dirt, and formerly-frozen dog pee.  I had originally planned to run as much as I could of the NYC Half course for my long run, but it was clear that traversing the sidewalks was not a desirable option.  I figured Central Park was probably my best shot at clear roads, so I met up with LRB after his morning spin session and set off.  He had a 1:45 run in HR Zone 1-2 on the menu, so it was much the same drill as last week.  We ran a bit slower than my target 8:30’s, but my legs were feeling pretty dead after the strength/tempo/race/bike whammy anyway.  We were both not wearing headphones for once, so we chatted on and off and the miles ticked by quickly.  The encouraging part about this run was really how undramatic it was given how tired I felt.  Undoubtedly it would have hurt a lot more had I been running 8:30’s instead of 8:45’s, but I did pick it up for the last few miles after LRB clocked out and my endurance felt solid.

Monday morning I had an hour of strength training scheduled, but on Sunday night I decided that I would benefit more from an additional hour of sleep.  I had vague notions of still getting it in after work, but by mid-afternoon it was clear that what I really needed was rest and a massage.  After some aggressive tiger tailing and an hour on the couch after dinner I was off to bed, and felt much more alive this morning.  The intervals du jour were 2×1200  at 6:53 pace followed by 4×800 at 6:49 pace with 2 minute recovery intervals.  After my poor showing last week, I was determined to bang these out without walking a recovery or stopping for a rest, and I. DID. IT.  I downed half a power bar while waiting for the train after, which is part of my initiative to be nicer to myself about post-workout nutrition.  (More on that in a later post.)  Tonight is swim class, and the rest of the week is the usual combo of swimming, Trainer Road bike workouts, hard runs, and beet juice.

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February 17, 2015

Keeping Track

Last week was probably my most solid training week since my stress fracture, and I’m feeling pretty good about where I am.  I ran 30.8 miles, biked 19.4, swam 1200 yds (that’s an estimate since I’m still struggling with lap count, but more on that later…), and I also got in two strength training sessions.  Running-wise, I had my mile-repeats on Tuesday, an easy 6 on Thursday, and a 12-mile long run Sunday.  Saturday I bricked my swim workout with another easy 6-mile run, which, happily, did actually feel easy.  I’m still working to build my swim endurance, but my efficiency is improving and I’m definitely wasting less energy on my kick now.

Central Park

Central Park, with not another person in sight…

 

For Sunday’s long run I met Long Run Buddy in Central Park, which we had nearly to ourselves, thanks to the 14 degree temperature and frigid wind gusts.  We bundled up and decided a legitimate warm-up was in order.  After a shuffley mile we picked up the pace for our park loops.  LRB had a 90-minute easy run in HR Zone 1-2 on his schedule, so we ended up pulling back a bit on the 8:30 pace I was targeting and settled in around 8:40.  At mile 10 LRB peeled off at 92nd street to wrap up his workout, and it was at that point that sucked on my water bottle in vain and discovered that the nozzle had completely frozen.  I do love winter running and generally don’t really mind the cold, but that seemed a bit much.  Consoling myself that I could always eat snow if necessary, I got ready to push up the Harlem Hills the second time.   I was nervous curious about how I’d do on the hills, especially on loop two, but I felt pretty strong throughout.  I was definitely not able to push the pace as much as I was in the fall, but I’m confident that I’ll get the uphill speed back with a some focused time and effort.  In any case, I still felt good endurance-wise, and I was able to pick up the pace for the last two miles.  I finished my 12 in the park and still had about mile back to LRB’s apartment, and in an effort to stay warm I opted to just jog it back.  All-in, I ran 13.8, which makes me feel much better about my 14-er coming up this weekend.  After a hot shower the feeling returned to my fingers and nose, and LRB and I hit up a beer hall for some post-run sustenance.

LRB's liter o'beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

LRB’s liter o’beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

Monday I was off work for the holiday and logged a 45-minute strength training session, 8 miles of HIIT interval biking, 3 loads of laundry, and some marathon cooking.  My running bras are clean and my freezer is well stocked, so that made me a happy girl.  We had our wine critic friend over for dinner last night which resulted in more imbibing than was perhaps prudent, especially given this morning’s intervals.  I hit the treadmill feeling a bit sluggish and fought my way through 10×400’s at 6:40 pace.  It was not my most stellar performance and I had to take a couple of my recovery intervals at a walk, but I gritted my teeth and made it through the full set.  In fact, I know that I made it through because I used my snazzy new counting bracelet, which I made yesterday to keep track of my pool laps.

10 beads on the left.  Count 'em.

10 beads on the left. Count ’em.

I got some great suggestions last week on how to keep count in the pool, but apparently I’m hopeless.  I think the real problem is that I’m still concentrating so much on technique that I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for anything else.  Right now, my thoughts during swimming go something like this: “1, 2, 3, breathe!  Lead with the crown of your head!  3, breathe!  Don’t push the water down! 2, 3, breathe!   1, 2, head down! Breathe!  Straight legs!  Relax! 3, breathe!  Turn!  Breathe!  Crap, is this lap 11 or 13?  Breathe!

I was racking my brains all week trying to think of a low-tech solution, and I remembered that in my knitting travels I’d seen instructions for making row-counting bracelets.  I dug around in my crafty bins and found some stainless steel beads, jump rings, and black cord and I was all set.  I think the result looks moderately adult enough that I can wear it all day, and it worked beautifully for ticking off my intervals this morning.  I’ll be trying it out in the pool tonight.

The general idea is that the cords are a bit longer than the beaded area, leaving a short gap.  The beads will slide along the cord, leaving a space between the counted beads and the ones ‘on deck,’ but there’s enough friction that they don’t slide around on their own.  I’ll put up a separate post this week with the materials I used for my bracelet, along with instructions and photos.  It’s a fast project and these would make a useful gift for your favorite runner or swimmer.  (Or knitter.)  These could range from masculine to feminine, simple and elegant to colorful and fun depending on your choice of beads and hardware.  The only real constraints are selecting beads and cord of compatible size, and making sure your materials will survive the water if you plan to swim with it.  I tend to gravitate towards minimalism, but you could easily incorporate number and letter beads for a personal touch, too—names, inspiration, a mantra, or PR’s.

February 10, 2015

The Trials of Miles

 

Norm!

So I realized this morning that I really do have a place where everybody knows my name, and that place is Starbucks.  I may need to consider taking a week off caffeine again soon.

It seems like everyone from Running Boston and Beyond to The Athletarian was writing about their mile repeats last week, and I had my first set in ages today.  It was 3×1600 @ 6:59 (and that counts as sub-7, baby!), and it was brutal.  Since my foot *seems* to be all-systems go, I switched my focus  this week from the 4-miler on the 21st to the NYC Half in March.  I’m still trying to gauge where my fitness is now, but it feels like the time off as cost me more endurance than speed.  I need to come up with a training strategy and set some realistic goals for my spring races, so this weekend’s 10-miler was a big test.  It was my first run longer than 7 miles since Thanksgiving, and I was targeting an 8:30 pace.  I ran my usual to-, from-, and two laps of Prospect route and clocked in at 8:31’s, which was a HUGE confidence boost.
Before the stress fracture in the fall I was aiming for a 1:45 spring half, and based on the 10-miler and my miscalculated tempo the other day, I decided to proceed as planned.  That’s ambitious for mid-March, as I only have four training weeks to get ready, but if the foot holds, I have my eye on the NYRR women’s half in April.  I am ready to put in a lot of hard work, but I’ll be on high alert for any indications of overtraining or that my stress fracture acting up.  Right now my plan is to continue with running only on my structured workout days and substitute biking and swimming on what would be easy days.

On the subject of Tri, I’ve christened my bike Tzippi and spent some quality trainer time with her this week, though  I still haven’t gotten her calibrated with the pseudo power meter. I’m definitely lacking in bike training experience and I’ve been worried that I’m inadvertently spending a lot of time in the training black hole, so it will be good to get some real(ish) data soon.  I am, however, loving my new Cat Eye Strada Smart.  It’s fully Bluetooth, which means there are no wires to clip to the frame, and the workouts automatically sync with my phone.  Now if only I could find a good method for counting swim laps I’d be all set.  I generally count strokes/breaths and I find it impossible to maintain an accurate lap count in my head as well.  I could try the old Garmin-in-ziploc-in-swimcap trick, which is probably what I’ll do for racing, but I’m not convinced of its accuracy over 25 yards.  Does anyone have any good tips for keeping track?  The best I’ve come up with so far is a poolside abacus, which seems less than ideal…