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Obligatory ‘see you on the other side’ post.

11/14/2012

Yes, I’ve entirely given up on crafting interesting post titles.

My hamstring is not perfect, but I feel fine about it. In my past two marathons, I’ve had some kind of nagging worrisome ache crop up in the months leading up to the race, and all was okay once I locked into an honest pace on race day. For the sake of my sanity, I have to assume the same will be the case here.

Sometimes I read about how much people hate tapering, and I just don’t get it.  Am I the only one who thinks it’s a great fun to wake up knowing all the work is behind you? I mean, I love running long, but I’ve never felt any kind of itchy burning desire to “do more” during the taper. Bring on the short runs!

Of course, I am looking back at the past few months wishing that I could have… well, not gotten injured. This will be my fourth marathon, and it’s the first time I’ve had a notable training roadblock crop up beforehand. I do feel as if I’ve lost fitness, and I’m certainly not going into this marathon with the race sharpness I’d originally envisioned. It’s not ideal, but it’s okay because the pressure’s off and my expectations are lower. In fact, I really don’t know what to expect. Sub-3:10? Yes, I should be there. If nothing goes horribly awry, I will be under 3:10. The question then becomes, how close to 3:05 can I squeeze?

But crap! Everything can go wrong! What if the ham-hitch comes back in full force and I’m dragging my leg behind me the whole way? Or what if I just wake up feeling sluggish and have one of those every-once-in-a-while bad days? What if I get intimidated by the thousands of other people in my CORRAL at the start and let it mess with my head? What if my 3:11 at Louisiana was an enormous fluke and that course was incomparably easy and I’ve been deluding myself about my ability all along?

Standard pre-race doubts.

Dread and doubt, however, are not my dominant emotions right now. My mind keeps pinging back to something a teammate said to me as we headed down to rowing practice for a time trial a few years ago. I was so nervous about the erg test, and I expected my teammate to respond with a commiserative, “I’m scared, too.” Instead, she said something like, “I’m not nervous. I’m excited to see what I can do.”

That’s how I feel about this race. I’ve built this, I’ve laid the foundation, I’ve done the work, and now I’m intrigued to see if it will land me anywhere special. From November of last year to October of this year, I logged 4217 miles and averaged over 81 mpw. I’ve put in 11 triple-digit weeks since the end of July. I’ve had multiple 7:2x-paced long runs. Maybe I didn’t do enough speed work and maybe my injury derailed some of the big runs I was planning to put in closer to the race, but the miles I ran haven’t disappeared. Maybe I’m not the kind of runner who can peak at 60mpw and still bust out a 3:0x, but I’ve relished the process of getting here, so when I think about what’s going to happen on Sunday, I’m really just… excited.

I’m going to be in a GIANT CROWD. I’m not gonna know wtf to do about throwaway clothes, there will be tons of people and not enough portopotties, and I’ll probably have some last-minute peeing emergency and my heart will be pounding even though it’s just a race, even though it’s just running. So the first few miles will be crowded. I’ll stay cool and settle in, I won’t get carried away, I won’t be stupid. There will be cheering and a few hills and lots and lots of people but I’m going to be relaxed, patient, latent, thanking volunteers while I’ve still got the breath for it. At mile 13, we’ll pull back around the Art Museum and lose the halfers and here come the long and lonely stretches so I’ll stay in my head, lock into this minute, mile by mile, reel ’em in pick ’em off, here’s Girard Ave Bridge, keep rolling, here’s Strawberry Mansion Bridge, this is my turf, this is my river, this is my town now, up to Green Lane in Manayunk turn around and here it is, the last 10K, the bridges again, they’ll be slower to come by so I’ll work, press, stay loose, rolling, rolling, rolling, Mile 25 and Boathouse Row and here it is, the last sweet, dreadful mile and no matter what happens I hope I’m thinking to myself, how damn lucky am I to be out here feeling alive today?

Obligatory taper post

11/06/2012

Somehow, it’s already time to taper for the Philadelphia Marathon.

Somehow, I managed to cobble together 110 nearly pain-free miles last week, and somehow, I’m not feeling so terrible about my chances anymore.

The past thirty days have been strange. I went from being in the best (marathon) shape of my life, to thinking I might not be able to run, to completely not caring about the marathon because I was suddenly consumed with fretting over upsetting things I can’t control, to wondering if maybe I can pull off a PR on November 18th after all.

This month I saw the ugly side of nature. The side where you discover cancer has licked out into the internal organs of one of the most important people in your life, and how can this be happening and nothing about it makes sense and neither of you even knows what to say so your eyes brim over and that says it all.

I saw the beautiful side too. I watched the silent fluttering of a saw-whet owl in a mist net and then I held the creature in my hands, looked close enough to see the stealthy fringe on the wings.

Racing seems to exist at this nexus in nature between anguish and joy. There are awful moments and great ones, and you’re always balancing the incredible discomfort of pushing your body as far as it will go with the dreadful primal bliss of finding out just how alive you can be today.

In racing, you can control so much. You can control your preparation, your fueling, your footwear, the comfort of your outfit…

And yet, then there are a whole multitude of factors you don’t necessarily get to have a say in, so you’re there simply to bear witness to the experiment and adapt around setbacks and surprises however you can. You are forced, by virtue of how very uncomfortable you are, to exist in the now, to focus on the moment and work through the distance quarter mile by quarter mile in a manner that’s as honest as you can muster, even though you’re leaving footprints nobody’s going to see.

I… I don’t know.

I know that, in the end, running doesn’t matter at all. It just doesn’t. But it sure is one hell of an escape, one hell of a way to process my thoughts and experience some tiny microcosm of the world. That’s all I want from it, and I’m lucky to get out there every day.

Anyway, enough of this sentimental noise. I just looked up my registration confirmation and discovered there appear to be 33,000 people registered for this race (if you include the halfers). WHAAAAAAT. I mean, I know it’s a big race and all, but that is greater than the population of Juneau. Maybe I’ll be like a horse and construct some blinders for my hat in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

PS. Blogger platform blogs, I don’t know what it is, but my computer will not let me comment on your posts anymore. I have tried many ways around this but must finally conclude that I am too techno-deficient to figure it out.

PS again, if I had any sense of timing, I would probably comment on the election or hurricane Sandy, but I have nothing insightful or intelligent to contribute to either of those discussions, so here is a mountain:

 

Hamstring-hitch Reprise.

10/17/2012

The term “slow-motion trainwreck” might be a solid characterization of how my training is progressing right now. I have a vague idea of where this might be going, but I’m not sure how to stop it.

I’ll have days completely free of pain, and then days when that nagging hitch in my hamstring come back and precludes me from running anything under a certain pace without altering my gait significantly. Speed work of any kind appears to be the catalyst.

I was pain-free after falling out of the kayak and cracking my back, until about two weeks later when the ache returned on the very last rep of a 400m workout. I took a day off, whined, complained, did a bunch of physical therapy exercises, and set out on Sunday for what I’d originally foreseen as a 22-mile run but decided would probably be closer to 5-10. Well, I made it through the entire 22 miles, painlessly, at 7:25 pace.

All good?

Sure. Next couple days were fine, just some recovery jogs.

Then I set out this morning for a bit of marathon pace work. I warmed up for three miles, did a set of three miles at ~6:58, jogged a mile, and then midway through the second set, the stupid pain popped up again. I backed off immediately and shuffled home.

Biiiig sigh.

Where does this leave me?

I can slog through easy miles with no problem, but any time I try to touch sub-7:00 pace, it starts to feel like someone is strumming my lateral hamstring tendon with a glass plectrum.

I’ve got 32 days until I’m supposed to be lining up at the bottom of the Art Museum steps, legs charged with adrenaline, eyes searching the other nervous-happy faces, heart thrumming a bit too fast as I try to get my head around what I’m about to attempt…

Now I just don’t know. I’m not at a point where I can conclusively throw in the towel, and again, I do tend toward the melodramatic where even the teensiest of injuries is concerned, but I’m not so sure how this is going to go anymore.

Maybe I overdid it. Maybe I just asked too much volume of my legs this summer and now it’s catching up. Or maybe this is a quick fix I can remedy with some physical therapy, or more appropriate shoes, or better attention to my stride and footfalls. Who knows. This could either devolve into a nightmare overuse injury, or it might just… go away. (Hey, it’s happened to me before.)

Today, the uncertainty of how to proceed is the tricky part. Once you know how bad things are and have an accurate picture of exactly what you’re dealing with, you can commit to the long period of grinding it out and plowing through it. You can launch the uphill one-day-at-a-time battle of whatever you have to do to navigate it in a way that will prevent you from feeling miserable and hopeless. But right now? In the early stages, you just keep hoping you’ll wake up to discover that whatever was challenging you is either completely manageable or — even better — has miraculously evaporated overnight.

Kayak Chiropractic.

10/03/2012
For a period of about five days, I was convinced I would not be able to run the Philly marathon at all.
After last Tuesday’s failed run, I committed to taking it easy. I rested on Wednesday and Thursday and ran — timidly — on Friday and Saturday. I shuffled through both runs without a disconcerting degree of pain, but everything still felt tight, jacked up, and discombobulated in a way that promised to become problematic at a faster pace.
Sunday was another rest day, which happened to coincide with a field trip for one of my classes. We were kayaking around some wetlands, and at one point we stopped to investigate a savanna next to the river. The banks were slippery and mucky. I exited my kayak, began hauling it up the slick shore, and subsequently found my feet skidding out from underneath me down the bank. Windmilling to stay upright, I performed a complicated series of breakdance moves in order to prevent a full wipeout.
In the process of saving myself from a muddy butt, I wrenched my entire lower back along with the offending leg, and was treated to a sacroiliac symphony of crackles and pops.
I woke up on Monday morning feeling normal and have been enjoying pain-free runs ever since. Perhaps all I needed in the first place was a good chiropractor.
Would that such serendipitous quick fixes existed for everything.

A classic case of “It was all going so well, until it wasn’t.”

09/25/2012

I was invincible this summer. Sailed effortlessly through triple digit weeks. Watched wide-eyed as my long runs got faster and faster… and faster. No injuries, no pains, nary an ache to speak of.

And then.

This Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed early to cram in an 18-miler before a class field trip. After shaking the limpness of sleep out of my limbs, I cruised comfortably through the familiar dark until about 40 minutes into the run, when I gradually became aware that something was off.

There was no pop, no twinge, no acute episode, just an abrupt consciousness of tightness at the hamstring attachment point behind my knee. I was already seven miles from home, so I ran through it, easing off the gas for preventive good measure.

I ran again the next day – easy, short, an assessment of the ache. I still had an awareness of the tightness, but felt fine.

I ran again on Monday – easy, longer. Started getting some of the same odd tightness in my other hamstring in addition to the first, and took this as a good sign in that it might mean there were merely some kinks to be worked out.

Today was the turning point. I met a running buddy for 10 miles at what was to be somewhere around our goal marathon pace. We set out at ~7:00 pace and I felt great for the first 40-45 minutes, but then there it was again: the tightness, the not rightness, the sickening hitch in my leg mid-stride that felt insidious enough to launch me into a horrifying premonition of spending November 18 bundled up on the sidelines cheering for my friends instead of being out there myself with the miles melting away before my feet.

I had to stop and stretch multiple times, and my running partner was gracious enough to slow the pace in order to accommodate the sad reality that I couldn’t hold 7s without altering my gait.  We finished the piece, and instead of jogging the two miles home, I walked.

Now I’m here on my bed staring agog at the backside of my leg and wondering how this all came on so quickly, wondering how the crook behind my knee can look so normal and unchanged from the outside even though something is indubitably amiss in the mystifying mess of fibers and blood and strings alleged to exist beneath the skin.

I have a fairly simple personal rule of thumb about aches and pains: if I can’t run without altering my gait, and if this persists for more than a few runs, it’s time to manage for an injury.

Eight weeks out from the marathon is not when I want to be taking a week completely off from running, but my base is ferocious, so I’m not concerned about it yet. I’m hoping a solid block of days off will afford me with sufficient protection from something more sinister and chronic. I’ll have to settle for (hopefully) holding steady instead of making gains in my fitness, but part of me suspects a little time off after such a long string of high mileage weeks will end up being a fantastic thing for my musculo-skeletal and cardio-respiratory systems.

I don’t mess around with this soft tissue stuff anymore. One awful experience with my psoas in high school woke me up to how bad things can get if you’re not proactive, and I think this mentality is part of the reason I’ve gone so long without an injury in spite of my high volume: as soon as I get even a whisper of an ache, I turn into a theatrical drama queen about it and declare that I must take time off, self-administer trigger point therapy, perform modern voodoo on myself, and fall asleep at night visualizing muscle fibers in the offending area miraculously healing themselves. Usually I worry like hell over my “injury” for a week or two and then it turns out to be nothing at all.

In the end, it’s just running. I have so many other things going on right now that if I were to sustain a long-term injury, I’d be able to distract myself with school, job searching, and social life (…can anyone speak to the benefits of excess hops consumption for soft tissue injuries?).

And hey, if I do become for-real injured, my first order of business will be getting my butt back into a rowing shell and refitting these grown-soft palms with a few blisters and callouses. I think I could deal with that.

So… I moved.

09/09/2012

The life stuff.

I moved to Philly. If you’ve ever moved anywhere new, you know how this goes: spend the first two weeks perfecting your Life Story Elevator speech, try desperately not to forget the zillion names, feel constantly disorganized and sweaty from moving your crap around, spend seven hours on hold with various utilities companies, eat gelato for dinner three nights in a row because you’re too lazy to figure out how to cook without pans, run high on adrenaline over being in a new place… then pass through the honeymoon period and start realizing a few things suck about your new place/job/school/situation, learn to deal with them, settle into the rhythm of your new life.

I obviously haven’t reached all those stages yet, but I know they’re coming. Moving to a new place or starting a new big life “thing” is not a cure-all for anybody’s deep-seated personal challenges, but in the meantime, Philly is a blast and I’m digging everything about my east coast city life.

 

The running stuff.

Running  is an important processing time for me, and this always becomes apparent when I’m going through a life transition.

Running serves as my brain balancer and buffer of my anxieties and insecurities. Really, it’s a management system that helps me function in regular life. I don’t think this is a bad thing or a good thing, but it’s definitely a thing. It’s a “thing” because someday the nature of my running is going to change (due to age, injury, job, general life phases), and hopefully my ability to escape/self-medicate will adapt around that. For now, though, I can’t get enough of losing myself in runs on the river path — I even met Flo on one of my runs!

 

The life stuff + the running stuff. 

Day one in class and I remember already what I’d managed to forget while living in Juneau:

That the world belongs to the loud people. The talkers. The pushy people. The people who throw elbows in order to get to the professor first after class to schmooze. The discussion dominators. The self-promoters. The ones who show all their cards right away. The obvious people.

(Yes, I sound like a jealous, shy wallflower.)

I don’t wish to repeat the way I navigated my undergraduate courses, which was… quietly and meekly. Professors would read my papers and then tell me it’s great stuff and that I should speak up more in class.  They’d make an example of my good work and invite me to participate, and then I’d never rise to the occasion because of my paralyzing general life confidence issues.

I’m a different person than I was then. I know a little more, I’ve seen a little more, and I’ve come to realize that most of the time, those types – the self-promoters, the loudmouths – they portray themselves to be far more passionate, intelligent, hardworking, and generally more of a big deal than they actually are (and they don’t do this to be sneaky or malicious – it’s simply how they move through life).

I’m FINALLY, FINALLY realizing this.

So instead of continuing to beat myself up over my reserved nature in large groups, I need to focus on what I’m good at and find ways to emphasize that. My strength as an athlete and as a runner has always been my willingness to prepare. I know that I will not arrive at a starting line ready to succeed unless I have put the work in. I’ve NEVER been the type who shows up after a long layoff or lazy period and magically grits my teeth to produce a “fire-and-brimstone” fantastic time trial or race.

Same thing in academic settings. I’ve always been good at going home, digesting the information, studying it, analyzing it, and then pulling it all together on paper in a way you could never get me to do out loud on the spot when I’m surrounded by a bunch of mouthy seem-to-know-it-all extroverts. I just need time by myself to put in the work first.

I’ve gone to a few group runs here in Philly and at the last one we took off at or under 7:00 pace. In the first few minutes, I found myself kind of panicking and wondering if I could even hold that pace. But I got ahold of myself. I settled in. Took a breath. Focused on my stride, my footfalls, the familiar things I know how to do. And as I fell into step behind the other runners still wondering whether or not this was too much for me, the answer popped into my head: You can hang with these guys. You belong. 

Feedback revisited

08/22/2012

That post I wrote a few weeks ago about hating too much feedback? I still stand by those sentiments. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like a little bit of feedback every so often, especially when it’s positive. (You know when the feedback is negative I just want to delete it or stick my fingers in my ears and pretend it doesn’t exist. Yes, we’re still talking about running.)

In any case, the feedback was good today (…and since I’m trying to post more than once a month, I’m going to share).

This afternoon, I wanted to get in one more go-round of my favorite 9-mile loop before moving on to new running turf in a few days, and I wanted it to be at some sort of tempo effort. Since an even-paced tempo sounded too ambitious and I sometimes have to trick myself into speedwork, I alternated between 12 minutes of “press” with 3 minutes “cruise” (not redlining the hard part, but not phoning it in on the easy segment) and repeated this until the loop was finished. What a win; I felt like a puppy tearing through fields of daisies on my way to harass an enormous flock of migratory birds. Pure jubilance. I was just… rolling. Never laboring. I came through the just-under-halfway point in 29:30 and knew that I could close the workout down in under an hour.

Usually, I get a little bit anxious at the end of races or distance-based runs. I’ll disconnect from what I’m doing and get caught up in the finishing time. On top of this, I’ve noticed that I’ll back off the throttle if I’m already confident that I’ve got it in the bag, which is not, I suspect, a toughness-forming habit.

Anyway, today, I just wanted to stay in stride and stay focused. I wanted to avoid spending the last fourth of the run in a state of unease about the time outcome. Sometimes outcome pressure is a helpful thing, but I’m realizing more and more that it often isn’t productive for me because it means I’m overthinking useless crap and not staying fully engaged in what I’m doing that moment. I need to worry about the “after”… after. Not during. (The degree to which this running stuff parallels other areas in life is delightful, really.)

The loop finishes on a formidable ~350 meter hill that always makes me feel like I will perish instantly, even when I’m running at an easy pace. I knew I was going to get my sub-60 minutes, so I had a mild fight with myself over whether to back off going up the hill. The angel on my shoulder won when I remembered that this hill taxes my system even if I’m walking it — it’s always going to hurt, so I might as well keep my effort up and get it over with. Accordingly, I went kind of hard — not breaking any effort records, but hard enough — which is an improvement over my typical quittiness on this segment of the route.

I finished my nine miles in 58:53 for an average of 6:32.5 pace. It makes me get to wondering… if I can do nine at this pace in a tempo workout today, could I do a half-marathon at this pace in a race? And if I could do a half-marathon at this pace in a race, could I be ready in a few months to do a marathon in… well, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

No workout is a crystal ball, but the confidence boost sure is nice.

2:59 on my mind.

08/18/2012

At what point is it no longer delusional to actively train for a 2:59:xx marathon?

I don’t mean having the goal hanging there as some vague aspiration for the distant future. I mean acting upon the statement, “I want to prepare myself to string together twenty-six 6:51 miles in my next marathon.”

Look, hold the cricket symphony, because I know. On paper, I don’t have the street cred to be seriously thinking about sub-3 yet. Not even close. Consider:

  • Using my strongest PR (10K) on the run-down calculator, only one of the five magical math methods has me squeaking under 3:00. Everything else projects me more into the 3:03 range… and we all know how kind those calculators can be. The 3:03 only happens if I have a really good day.
  • I recently ran an 11.6 mile road race at a 6:49 pace. It was hot, humid, hilly, and hopefully nothing like how the Philadelphia marathon will be, but the cold hard truth is that I’d need to hold that pace for more than twice that distance in order to see 2: at the beginning of my finish time.

I can’t get 6:51 out of my head, even though it seems dangerous to reach that far given how wholly unprepared I am. And yet… I have three months to work with. What could I do to make it happen?

What I’d like to develop is more thoughtful use of my long runs. More race-paced running over longer distances. More 20+ runs in general. Looking back at what I did for the Louisiana marathon, it’s clear that I was more interested in chasing overall mileage than doing quality work. In the 18 weeks leading up to that marathon, I had many runs in the 15-18 range but only two at or above 20 miles. A 18-mile steady run is nice, but what is it accomplishing if I’m running it at 8:15 pace? Or even 7:45 pace? Have I been reading too much Canova?

The approach I used for Louisiana was fine for where I was then, because all those miles were building blocks for where I am now. To earn any significant improvement, however, will mean going beyond mindless mileage-hogging.

Still, I’m a bit confused about picking a goal pace around which to base my more meaningful runs and workouts. 7:05 or 7:10 are reasonable figures, but I can’t stop thinking about those 6:51s.

It’s scary to admit you want to go under 3 hours. The blow-up potential is enormous, so there’s a giant part of me that just wants to settle back and focus on chipping away at more manageable barriers first. 3:05 will be a tall enough order to fill, after all.

Still, what is there to lose? What’s the worst that could happen — I try for the 2:59 and have an awful blowup and stagger across the line an hour later than I thought I would? I’m sure that for my three readers, the Schadenfreude potential here is tantalizing.  At least such a failure would make for an interesting story.

Guess I’ll revisit this idea after a few months when I have a better idea of where my fitness will actually be for the marathon.

LIFE CHANGEZ

It could be that I completely lose the motivation to train intelligently once I start school. I wasn’t a slacker as an undergrad, but I was decidedly more concerned with rowing than with academics. Athletic hobbies can’t be the priority this time around. (And there’s no real possibility of that, but there is a danger of me not putting enough effort into having a social life in this new city if I prioritize the running too highly. Then again, it makes me happy, so maybe I can find like-minded boring-ass grumpy introverted runners with whom to be social.)

Speaking of that move to Philly, it’s strange how content I am right now during this little transition period between my last workplace and the grad program. (Real talk, my “transition period” has more or less been a long vacation living like a parasite off my parents and being useless. No wonder life feels so easy. Go ahead and tell me to GOMI.) Right now everything is really good, I’m excited about school and excited about my professional (lol) goals. Except you know in two weeks I’m going to get to school and suddenly be surrounded by people who are smarter and more experienced and more confident than me and I’ll consequently revisit these same crises of life direction/self-esteem and then on top of that I might cripple myself with student loan debt.  (Which reminds me, has anyone else experienced the phenomenon where all the people telling you not to go to graduate school seem to have both a graduate degree and a roof over their heads? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to conclude from that.)

Maybe by the time I need to start paying off my debts, the economy will have crashed, we’ll have burned through all our fossil fuels, and someone will have shot the satellites out of the sky, which at the very least means there will be no dopes swerving around at 20 MPH above the speed limit in neighborhoods as they text on their mensaphones while I’m trying to run. I wouldn’t mind that.

Avoiding Technology Overload with Effort-Based Summer Running

07/26/2012

I don’t own a smartphone. I don’t have twitter, instagram, or pinterest. I bought myself a camera three years ago and have taken approximately ten pictures per year. The more I use Facebook, the less I like it. I struggle at watching television or movies unless there are other people in the room with me with whom to share the experience.

My techno-media shortcomings leave me with a host of burning questions: How come so many instagram photos present with disconcerting cases of jaundice?  Why don’t more people admit that Modern Family is kind of annoying? And most importantly, what is life like with “apps”?

None of this makes me some kind of Luddite or morally superior Heidi of the mountains (more likely, it underscores the simple fact that I’m socially obtuse). Truthfully, I LOVE the internet, I love my little Timex watch, I love microwaves and stoves and cars and Excel and electricity and airplanes and satellites and warm comfy beds and hot showers on cold days.

Nevertheless, I’m becoming increasingly aware that my individual technology saturation point seems to be on the lower end of the spectrum. I get easily overwhelmed by too much interaction, too much feedback, too much everything, and it often feels as if all certain technologies do is suck up my time, complicate simple stuff, and cause me to overthink things.

Case in point: the Garmin/GPS watch.

Garmins are a lot like Facebook. There are days when I just can’t get enough of all the interesting nitty-gritty details, but most of the time I just want to kick it in the screen and yell WHY ARE YOU OVERSHARING. STOP. YOU ARE CHOKING ME IN A DELUGE OF NAUSEATING INFORMATION I DON’T NEED OR CARE ABOUT BUT MY EYES ARE SHACKLED TO THE SCREEN IN ABJECT HORROR AND I CAN’T LOOK AWAY.

But let’s back up a bit. I was very generously gifted a Garmin a few years ago. I’ve used it a solid number of times — about once a week in my marathon prep and 10K prep speed workouts, and even for my goal 10K race this past spring. It gave me great confidence to be able to hit goal paces in workouts, I’m thankful for the freedom to get speed feedback on a road instead of a track, and I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll use it again for workouts once I approach racing shape.

Now that it’s summer, however, the mere thought of strapping on the Garmin makes me blanch. I know there are people who use a GPS watch for every single run, and I suspect it must take a certain type of mindset to be able to wear one all the time without overreaching. If I had to wear one every day, I know that even on runs when my system is clearly requesting a recovery jog, I’d feel that tiny bit of pressure on my wrist and in my head from knowing  the effort is being recorded. I anticipate that I’d either be dancing around burn out or managing an injury of some kind, and I definitely wouldn’t look forward to my runs as much as I do now.

I want to put in a solid chunk of miles this summer. That’s my only real goal right now. Maybe I’ll start building in some more objective speed in the fall, but for now, I am completely enamored with effort-based workouts. Here are two of my favorites:

3-5 x 10′ hard/5′ easy. I used to do this workout a lot a few summers ago, finally brought it back this week, and was pleased to remember how satisfying it is. I run each 10-minute segment at what feels like 10-15K pace. Is it really 10-15K pace, or is it a lot slower? I’ll never know the truth and I don’t care! Lalalala! All I know is that my lungs are laboring and I’m focused on keeping my turnover light and fast. That’s quality stuff, and I don’t need a GPS watch to corroborate what my queasy stomach and gulping breaths are already telling me.

Hill presses. I pick the hilliest route I can think of, run steady on the flats and downs, and really push, press, work the uphills. It seems to turn the run into a hybrid strength-speed effort and I love that sense of efficiency. (This is not how conventional racing strategy tells you to race hills, but I’m just putzing around in the woods, so who cares?)

So “effort-based” has been the theme of my summer training. I want a monstrous base, a slow, patient build-up, and a few runs that are harder without being taxing enough to add significant stress on top of the mileage.  A Garmin won’t help me accomplish this. These effort-based runs, on the other hand, are what will help me get honest, acclimated, and in tune with being uncomfortable. There’s no data to get bogged down in. There’s no pressure. There’s no information overload. All I have to do is go out, run hard, and forget about the details. It’s exactly the sort of primitive, intrinsic running I need to be doing… for now.

Back in the northeast, 4 on the 4th race, training thoughts, and new shoes.

07/11/2012

Well, I’ve said all my teary-eyed goodbyes to Juneau.

Day #1 in the lower 48, and I realized that the musings in my last post were not the product of wanting a break from running. What I actually wanted was a break from running in Juneau’s miserable weather. The mist, the fog, the rain, the drizzle, the low-hanging clouds every day… if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’re sick of hearing about it by now, and honestly, I was sick of living it. That weather gets downright Dementor-ish and starts sucking out your soul after awhile. Throw in a record cold and wet summer and I started having anxious recurring dreams about waking up to clear skies. Man, I was so ready to GTFO  and see some sun on a regular basis by the end. There are a lot of things I’m going to miss fiercely after I’ve had a few weeks to process the move, but right now, all I feel is ecstatic to be experiencing New England’s daily summer sunshine.

 

A race.

Once back down south, I ran my first back-in-the-crowded-continental-USA race in a while — a local 4th of July four-miler. I’ve run this one a few times, and the course is pleasantly hilly, particularly in the second mile. My splits were 6:08, 6:41, 6:19, and 6:07, for a finish time of 25:12. I seem to remember the second mile being a hell of a lot longer and nastier the last time I ran this, but maybe I simply did a better job managing my expectations this time around.

I finished feeling as though I could’ve run another two miles around the same ballpark average pace, which makes sense because it is my 10k pace.

Which brings me to my current training thoughts: I’ve noticed in all the 5K-ish distances I ran this spring that I can’t seem to find the next speed gear I’d need for a quicker 5K or four-miler. 10K pace is about as fast as I go right now, regardless of the race distance. Accordingly, one of my thoughts for the summer is to introduce some shorter speed sessions. I’m decent at the 2×3-mile tempo-y grind brand of workout, but I haven’t touched anything like 200s or 400s in…years?… and it might be a satisfying project to chip away at what is obviously a weakness. On the other hand, I do not like the track, so I’m hoping to build some speed simply by adding in more fartleks, strides, and hill sprints.

I’ve already been throwing in strides and drills after some of my runs, in addition to the myrtl routine and the pushups/planks I do a few times a week. I still have no desire to engage in any kind of formal strength training program though — maybe that will happen someday in another life when my focus and interests shift again. It’s interesting to look at my old training logs and see how my approach to running has morphed over time, and I’m sure it will change again, but for now I’m getting a lot of satisfaction out of being locally competitive, training to beat time barriers, adding in different combinations of ancillary stuff to see how they affect recovery and performance, and just plain old heading out the door and getting lost in a run.

 

New shoes.

Placing second in the race hooked me up with a generous running store gift certificate, which is fantastic because I’ve been running in the same two pairs (Ghosts and Lunarfly trails) since November and therefore have about 1000-1200 miles on each pair. It’s funny, because they don’t even look or feel that beat up, which either means a. I’m pretty efficient, b. they’re good shoes, or c., I don’t really know what I’m looking at. Or all three of those things.

I was tempted to try something from the slick new Brooks Pure line,  but I decided that I really need something a little more substantial. The reality is, I put in a lot of miles, and many of those are on trail or rough dirt roads. I couldn’t see that flimsy PureFlow bottom holding up for an adequate amount of mileage. I also thought about picking up some kind of skimpy, sexy road racing flat, but let’s be honest, I don’t know the first thing about shoes anyway, and I’m not sure I’d get my money’s worth with those.

What I really need for this summer are neutral workhorse trainers that will stand up to high mileage, so I ended up picking up a pair of Saucony ProGrid Rides and have been extremely pleased so far. Additionally, I ordered another pair of Lunarflys along with a pair of Kinvaras, so I’ll be able to work something tried and true into the rotation (the Lunarflys) along with something newer and a bit more spare (Kinvaras).

And… that’s probably the most I’ll ever have to say about shoes.