Running?

For months last year one of the primary uses of my blog was to document my running. What happened to that, you might ask? The last entry, entitled 2 + 2 Tempo Run was dated August 5th, 2008.

At the time I was training for the Boston Half Marathon, which was held October 12th, 2008. My plan was that this would be a stepping stone to taking on a full-length marathon (I had the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December in mind) over the winter. My big shining goal at the time was to try and work towards the 3:10 cutoff for my age group at the Boston Marathon. After my brother ran his first marathon years ago I remember asking him if he’d run Boston. He said only if he could qualify.

So what happened? Well, to make a long story short, I got a bit overeager, then a lot of time passed, I got soft and out-of-shape, and now I’m at the bottom of the mountain again looking up.

Fact is, in the run-in to the Boston Half I was in great shape, better than at any other moment in my life. My training runs were going great. The final large effort scheduled according to the race preparation guide was a 10K (around half of a half-marathon) at race pace. On a cold, blustery Thursday in Boston I fought the wind all the way down the Esplanade and ran 10K at around 7:02 min/mile. Given that my original goal was to run the half at Boston qualifying pace (7:15 min/mile), I had moved the goalposts a bit by then. At the time, I remember feeling a bit of twinge in my knee, but nothing terribly serious. Or so I thought.

That run was about 10 days before the event. After a short, easy run Friday and a rest Saturday Sunday was scheduled as a long run, 10-14 miles if I recall correctly. Might as well go out and run the course, I thought? So I rode my bike to the start line downtown and began jogging the 13.2 mile out-and-back course.

Almost immediately my left knee starting giving me trouble. Unfortunately, being stubborn I kept at it for far too long, actually made it to about the turnaround point (half-way) before finally realizing that this was a serious problem, about the time that I was so seriously hobbled that I couldn’t run for more than 200 meters or so without having to stop and walk. The weather was brooding and so was I. I had this horrible feeling that I wouldn’t be able to survive the half.

And I turned out to be right. Whatever I had done to my knee was serious enough that a lot of rest, a lot of Vitamin I and a lot of icing the next week couldn’t heal it. Thursday was my drop-dead run and I couldn’t make it 4 miles. The half was over, and I didn’t even bother to show up.

Continuing the montage forward: I fell into a bit of a funk not being able to run, then I got engaged, then we got married, then I wrote a paper. During this time I gained enough weight (not a huge amount, thank God) that people noticed. I noticed. I started to get sick of it. My dog gained some weight over the winter as well.

Anyway, now Chuchu (the dog) and I are out running the river again. We’re setting our sights pretty low for now, just jogging the 1.5 miles back and forth from Eliot House to the Eliot Bridge. That’s starting to feel comfortable, for me at least, although Chuchu sometimes still lags during the second half. I get at least a few breaks on the out-and-back as he stops to do various sorts of doggy business along the shores. Then I hop on an ergometer in the Eliot basement and finish the workout. I’m feeling better, slowly getting back into shape.

I still don’t know, however, whether my knees have another hard training season or their first marathon in them. I’m cautiously optimistic though, so we’ll see. If I ever get serious about it again, to the point that wearing the GPS unit thrills rather than depresses me, they’ll be more post-run reports appearing here.

2 + 2 Tempo Run

Back to the river, and since I’m dialing the mileage back up to 30 miles this week I decided not to tack on anything extra to this short tempo run, keep it short (2 miles) and fast (< 7 mi/mile). Turned out to be harder than I expected... legs are still getting back from vacation, I guess. To be fair, it was also a very long day, a late run and I hadn't eaten for a while beforehand, so it was a good effort given the circumstances.

Start Time: 8PM (!).
Distance: 4 miles.
Time: 7:45, 7 (2), 8, so just under 30 minutes.
Route: Out and around the Arsenal bridge and back to the JFK bridge on the Cambridge side (the part that runs along next to the stadiums and Harvard athletic fields is ugly and I’m starting to avoid it habitually).
Workout Structure: Easy mile to start, then 2 hard tempo miles with breathing and pulse at the top of my tempo zone, to distinguish it from Thursdays runs where I try and keep the tempo pace more comfortable, at least relatively.
Pre-Run: Had a Odwalla Bar with the intention of going home at around 5PM but then got stuck at work and ended up not getting home for a while, then stretched and watered quickly. So I think that I was a bit underfed and under-watered.
Notes: Tempo pace was comfortable for the first mile or so and then got hard and the pulse started creeping up until it was past zone by the finish, although I was able to keep the breathing under control. I like this workout though, feel like it really gets the job done.
Post-Run: Careful stretching, shower, dinner and a movie ;-) .

Back to Spring Hill

A week ago my hill workout was done in the (relatively) comfortable confines of the “Hills of Rochester.” Yes, we have hills; probably, in fact, a better place to do hill workouts than around Cambridge where it is pretty flat. However, the hills are rolling, less steep than Spring Hill where I do my hill workouts around here. So today was a return to the old haunts of Somerville, up and down an old friend. The cool weather contributed to some decent splits, at least for me moving vertically.

Start Time: Around 5PM, early so that Suz and I could get to the Coldplay Concert later than night than was part of her birthday present ;-) .
Distance: 5 miles.
Time: First and last mile were around 8 mi/mile, the inner three at 8:30 splits. This is pretty good for me for these sorts of hills. Or maybe I can’t remember. I think that part of being good at this training stuff is having a short memory!
Workout Structure: Same as prior weeks.
Pre-Run: Bit of a snack, water, stretching.
Notes: Felt pretty good, and was able to stay cool, which was critical. Beautiful day for a run.
Post-Run: Forgot to stretch (argh), but hit the shower and had a quick meal at Spice before the concert.

We’ll see how the rest of the week goes… tomorrow’s run in particular makes me nervous, for no good reason…

Weekend 10-Miler

With Jacy out of town, Mark Breeze on a plane to London, that left Thaddeus and I to tackle the typical route last night for our weekend long run. Turned out to be a beautiful evening for it, although starting at 7PM is leaving us finishing at dusk now that the year is getting perceptively shorter. Maybe time for a night run?

Start Time: 7PM.
Distance: 10 miles.
Time: Around 1 hour 27 minutes. Held 8:30 pace for the first 8.5 miles or so and then slowed up quite a bit over the last mile and a half.
Route: Same as last time we did this, which wasn’t last week.
Pre-Run: Ate a large lunch with Suz around 3pm or so, not sure what a great idea that was. Had a bit of Nuun water (took the rest with me) and a bagel about 1 hour beforehand.
Notes: Had to break for a pit stop at around mile 4, which could have been because of lunch but was more likely just general stomach malaise that effected me on and off all day.
Post-Run: Bite to eat, stretching icing and bed.

Tomorrow morning is Thaddeus’s defense, which makes it all the more impressive that he ran today!

5 Mile Fartlek

Typical Friday run, a bit trickier than usual due to the week off, heat and aching muscles, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Start Time: 5:30PM.
Distance: 5 miles total.
Time: 7:45 for the opening mile, never let the splits get above 7:30 for the 6 halves, and then 7:30 for the finishing mile.
Workout Structure: Usual Fartlek, with relatively fast (5:00 – 5:30) 30 second sprints every half mile, then try to keep the total split (including recovery) below around 7:30.
Pre-Run: Light stretching, snack about 1 hour out.
Notes: Felt pretty good, if very warm.
Post-Run: Plenty of water, stretching, dinner.

6 Hot Miles

Getting my tempo miles in in the heat today was a chore… welcome back to Boston, hot nasty humid weather. Yuck.

Start Time: 6PM.
Distance: 6 miles.
Time: Splits were 7:45, 7:14 x 4 miles, 8:30 or so.
Workout Structure: Same as last time, although I think that the mile splits went up as opposed to down during the interior miles.
Route: Variation on the route from two weeks ago, into Boston instead of out.
Pre-Run: Had a Odwalla bar at -2 hours or so. Water and stretching as usual.
Notes: Felt pretty tough today! Probably a combination of the heat, humidity, and last week as a rest week.
Post-Run: The usual stretching, etc.

My friend Mark suggested that my GPS-enabled running gadgetry could, by using the time and location information, usefully grab weather data as well… I think that that’s a cool idea, since I’m definitely convinced that I’m fairly heavily effected by the heat and relative humidity when I run in the afternoon.

Week Off and Return

So last week, really from Saturday 7/19 to yesterday (7/29) Suz and I were in Michigan, touring around the state. While I had envisioned maintaining some form of training schedule running in some of the more beautiful parts of the state, once we got out there I figured what with the Boston Half Marathon around 11 weeks away this was just about the perfect time for a mid-summer break. So a week full of not-running. About the only athletic thing I did was run down and then crawl up the 450-foot sand cliff along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. That said, that was hard!

I was curious to see how my body would react to the week of sudden inactivity. In general, pretty well I think. Obviously being on vacation helped, since I was sleeping a good amount and having a great time and in good spirits, so probably not in as acute need of the mood boost that you get from a good hard run. I also noticed that my metabolism kept kicking along even without any activity to spur it, in other words, I was hungry the entire week and ate everything I could get my hands on. I probably gained a pound or two (haven’t checked).

On Monday, the day before we left, I decided that enough was enough, and went out for a hilly five-miler through the streets surrounding my house. Did 5 miles in pretty oppressive heat without the aid of my water belt (which I had forgotten), at a decent easy pace (7:45ish) and then added a few hill sprints on the “big hill” behind my house. We used to call it that when we were kids and it would add an impressive amount of speed to an already-manically-pedaled bike; now it doesn’t seem quite so large but it was still large enough to give my legs and lungs another bit of a kick.

Yesterday I was pretty sore, but my friend Mark Breeze helped drag me out for a welcome back run about 4 hours after we stepped off of the plane. It’s normally the day I do 2 or 2.5 hard tempo miles, but in the spirit of easing back into things we did 1 easy, 1 tempo (7:15), 1 easy, 1 tempo and then called it a day. A good run though in the lingering 7PM Cambridge mid-summer heat.

Today I am very sore and laid in bed rather than get out early and make up the 10-miler that I skipped on Sunday. I figure this week I can bring in 20 miles and then get back to 30 next week with the intention of pushing up the mileage again through August before tapering in mid-September for the half. We’ll see if recently-rested muscles and tendons sign on to this plan or not…

5 Mile Tempo Run

Well, to be honest, it was half tempo, and not meaning half-tempo, mind you, since that’s slow, but half tempo!

Start Time: 6PM.
Distance: 5 miles.
Time: Mile paces of 7:45, 7 (2.5), 8 (1.5).
Route: JFK to Arsenal St. Bridge loop, with some extra tacked on at the beginning. Was supposed to be an out-and-back to the Arsenal Bridge but felt some, ahem, “trots” coming on nearing the bridge and decided to loop over to the park on the other side where there are facilities. Turned out to be a good move…
Pre-Run: A bit hurried, with snack at 30 minutes out, some brief stretching.
Notes: Knees felt a bit nervous heading out but never bothered me again.
Post-Run: Good stretching, shower, icing, going to hit up the foam roller later.

Tomorrow is mercifully a day off. I’ve been feeling a bit run-down this week but today’s miles were comfortably hard so perhaps that’s a good sign? Thursday will tell…

5 Hill Miles

These Monday hill workouts are getting to be tough. For the first few weeks of this program they were relatively easy, a bright spot between the Sunday long run and the Tuesday tempo miles. I think that was also back when my definition of “hill” was a bit looser, like approach to the B.U. bridge loose. Alas, now that I have found Spring Hill these runs have gotten more difficult.

Start Time: 6PM.
Distance: 5 miles.
Time: 42 minutes, or about 8:24 mi/mile pace. Ugh.
Workout Structure: Same as two weeks ago.
Route: Also the same as two weeks ago.
Pre-Run: Water, a bit of stretching.
Notes: Damned right knee again felt a bit loose but never got to hurting, and the stupid strap kept falling off so that was annoying. Other than that just another hot nastly Spring Hill three ways workout.
Post-Run: Stretching, icing, left knee felt sore coming in so iced it as well. The usual celebratory shower.

Tomorrow’s tempo run, now we’ll see how that goes!

10 Mile Sunday Run

Today I headed out for the second run with the little running group I’ve been trying to pull together. After Thaddeus accompanied me on last week’s effort, both he and Jacy headed out with me today at 6PM to do the Science Museum loop. It turned out to be quite a pleasant run.

Start Time: 6PM. At which point it was hovering in the low 80s but with the humidity in the 50s which made for a pleasant 90 minutes.
Time: Around 85 minutes I think give or take a few, so in the 8:30-8:45 mi/mile pace range. Very comfortable for me as my heart rate was hovering around 155 or so for the majority.
Route: Science Museum to Eliot St. Bridge loop, listed as 10.2 miles but worked into an even 10 with an opening walk.
Pre-Run: Didn’t eat much today which was perhaps a mistake, muffin for breakfast followed by a bagel with some peanut butter and two Powerbar-type things sprinkled throughout the day. This has been my strategy on Sundays but it may need some updating. Usual light stretching, etc.
Notes: Stopped for water a few times but in general felt quite comfortable. Was drinking water at a much slower clip, probably due to the reduced humidity. Downed a GU at about 6 miles in, yummy. Right knee felt a bit unstable between 4 and 6 miles but that whole area firmed up again and didn’t bother me after that point. Pace was very manageable.
Post-Run: Stretching, energy drink and bars, pizza about an hour later and some time with the foam roller later in the evening.

This week was my first putting in 30+ miles (just over, really, at 30.5) and it felt good, although it is funny how things creep up on you. I definitely have been feeling sore at times which I think is good since it means that my body hasn’t quite yet really gotten used to this level of training and I’m still making progress. Next week I’m going to hold here and probably the week after (since I’ll be traveling), just to let it sink in before creeping up the mileage again a bit.