Thursday, September 29, 2005

18... Is Such an Awful Number

Today's workout is the one that is the hardest of all the workouts in the week. It is the dreaded 18 mile mid-week run. It requires a 4am rise and a 4:30am start in order to be back in time to get the eldest daughter on the bus, eat breakfast, and get to work. In addition to the early rise and start times, 18 miles seems to be approaching that never-never land of depletion. It's just past the end of the feel good miles (around 15) and just before the nose-bleed heights of 20+ where we smile the grim smile of pain mixed with might. The pace is always a little harder than the labeled "long run" on the weekend and generally I don't meet up with any other runners at 4:30 in the morning.

In fact, 18 miles is where I experience a drop in motivation during a marathon. I'll cruise up to this mile but I struggle terribly with maintaining pace right at this point. I can't recall a marathon where this hasn't happened. If I can cross the bridge to 20, I can occasionally rally my spirits and drive to the finish with renewed energy. I have begun to recognize this little foible of mine and I recall at last year's MDI Marathon that I was expecting the challenge. Sure enough, the drop occurred and I remember encouraging myself to keep it together. I battled myself to mile 20 where, as I walking through a water stop, I heard a boy ask his Mom, "Mom, why is he not running?" If I had my wits together I would have thrown the cup at him but I could think of only one thing - finish under 3:10. Spirit renewed, I was back in the race. Yep, good ol' 18 miles. The no man's land of marathon training - and it comes to this neighborhood once a week.

18 miles. It's not a long run but it's not a short run either. It takes longer than 2 hours but less than 3. I'm supposed to do it on a weekday but I must really pay attention to the start time. Over-sleep by just a few minutes and the run is shot. In a marathon, at mile 18 you're far from the start but not very close to the finish. 18 miles. Just wicked.

After all that, my 18 miler went well this morning. I left the house at 4:30 in the complete darkness. It remained dark right into my 4th 5k lap. I was able to increase the pace through each lap until 15.5 miles. The final 2.6 miles was done at a slower pace as I was out of steam. Here's the 5k splits (the last being a 2.6 mile split):

5k 24:10 7:48 pace
10k 23:19 7:31 pace
15k 22:35 7:17 pace
20k 22:04 7:10 pace
25k 21:14 6:51 pace
18.1 19:08 7:22 pace

Add to the above about a 1:30 rest stop for bread and water at each 5k point. Total time including breaks was 2:19:48 or about a 7:44 pace. I am a big fan of taking on fluids and snacks during long training runs as it allows me to run faster and more comfortably during the training period. I believe that the purpose of training is to maximize muscle and cardiovascular development and not to deplete glycogen stores or dehydrate oneself. Since I have found that I don't like going out on a course and leaving water bottles around then having to drive and pick them up later, I have resorted to just stopping at the house and grabbing a quick drink, nibble, and stretch at the end of each lap. Occasionally I will simulate a race and take PowerGel and water on the run just for practice. But there's no need to stress over stopping during a training run. A good workout is a better workout when the engine is fueled properly.

Yesterday's workout of 8.1 in 1:01:57 (7:39 pace) was fun. A) I didn't have any math mishaps and B) just knowing I'd be done in an hour put a little spring in my step and I ran a little faster than I thought I would. I guess I am starting to like this easy/hard setup. Or in my case short/long. Something I read in Lydiard's training plan sort of stuck with me. He mentioned that the phases (conditioning / hills / speed / coordination) all had "core" workouts to be done three times per week. The other days were for various drills (leg speed, long runs, strides etc) but were not the focus. The focus being on the core workouts according to the phase you're in. So here I am in the conditioning phase. This means that the core workouts are the three "long" runs per week (Tues - 15, Thu - 18, Sat - 22). The other workouts are additional capacity building runs but are shorter and should be done so the core workouts can be completed consistently and safely. So when I got up this morning I was motivated to get this core workout in. Tomorrow, I'll take it easy and do an easy 1 hour jaunt about town.

And finally, a little comment on shuffling. I, like others, do not stretch prior to running. I do some pushups and crunches but stretching is minimal. Doing stretches cold makes me feel like I am pulling a muscle that should not be pulled. On the other hand, nothing gives immediate pain like taking off on a training run too fast. You can just feel the muscles groan and creak, and possibly injure. So when I, sleepy-eyed, come stumbling out onto my front walk fumbling with my watch I just shuffle down the street and up the first hill. This has worked wonders. By the time I reach 1/2 mile I start feeling pretty good and by mile 1 I am usually running at the pace I want to be on. The first mile split is slow (but it makes it that much easier for a negative split on the second lap). I have also found that when I stop for water and a snack that I am able to get right back into the pace I had prior to the stop without any difficulty. I guess it's muscle memory.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Foiled by a Photon!

Running brings out the nano-technology in me.

Nano-technology, of course, is the newest scientific pursuit of aligning individual atoms side by side in a preconceived design in order to minimize the size of an electronic component. The theory goes that by purifying a substance down to the individual atom of the desired element and purposely aligning the atoms so to maximize conductivity or other useful scientific properties, we can increase the speed and accuracy of the transfer of information in order to do more with less material and energy. If developed cost effectively, the benefits appear to be endless.

But there's a problem. We don't live in a laboratory. Here in the real world we are continuously bombarded with the tiniest sub-microscopic phenomena such as flying photons, zinging radioactive rays, anti-matter, neutrinos - you name it. It pierces our very beings as the particles and little "bundles" of energy slip through the holes of our molecules and even atoms. To these particles and rays, atoms are like large shopping malls sparsely populated with unpredictable shoppers (first here -now there!). There is room to pass through completely uninhibited and unobstructed - zoom right through! Now every once in awhile, a sub-particle (a photon perhaps) will smash into one of these shoppers (electrons) or perhaps even the central information desk (the nucleus) and all heck breaks loose. Disruption!

So here's the rub with nano-technology: Because the components are made with individual atoms, if an atom is accidentally knocked out of whack by an errant photon or sub-particle, the component will not operate as designed. Today's technology does not have this problem because there are so many layers of atoms that while one atom is accidentally shaken up, the other layers or chains of atoms continue to work properly (and so forth). Therefore the components made with nano-technology must be properly shielded against the errant sub-particle otherwise it is useless.

Well today, a stray sub-particle obviously smashed into one of my extremely delicate and thin layer of working brain cells and caused irreparable harm to a simple math calculation. Having thinned the herd down to single layers, I am now susceptible to the errant photon crashing into my head and taking out a link. Here's what happened:

I was simply trying to run my two hour workout this morning when I found myself approaching the house in 1:54:00 - or 6 minutes to go. No problem, I would just run 3 minutes down the road, then 3 minutes back, thus finishing out the 2 hours. Not 50 yards into the first 3 minutes, a serious malfunction occurred and I unknowingly recalculated the remaining time to finish as 3 minutes total and not 6 minutes. The data got corrupted! With absolutely no clue that the malfunction occurred, with no sense of doubt, with no momentary "forgetfulness", I automatically turned around at 1 minute 30 seconds and ran back to the house. When I hit the watch and saw 1:56:32 I was completely baffled!! I stood in my front yard looking back down the road completely bewildered. I could not understand why my watch did not say 2:00:00. I went so far as to suspect a watch error or perhaps a watch operator error (did I hit a wrong button?). I had to go in the house, sit down, and hit "replay" to determine what had occurred.

So that's my theory for today's mysterious occurrence, different than a blockage, information overload, or faulty input. Today, we had unexplainable, instantaneous, undetected, and complete data corruption. I'm glad I'm not a pilot.

Total miles ~14 in 1:56:32. Tomorrow is an easy 1 hour.

Monday, September 26, 2005

What's with All this Motivation???

Typical of the hot & cold personality, I find myself suddenly driven with planning for wonderful feats of miraculous speed and endurance by instituting yet another plan! If others do not trust my new found resolve to continue through the Fall & Winter injury free and and emerge faster and stronger than a comic book hero I don't blame them - because neither do I. Yet, I am not one to temper motivation. No, I am one to embrace it! So, alas, if only this one works!

Well, all my plans would work if I could get through them. I am usually a victim of over-training. Too much, too soon. I can read. And yes, I have read all the warnings of too much too soon. I can warn others away but I, I am drawn to the flame each time and maybe, just maybe, I won't get burned. No bets please.

In order to deflect accountability or perhaps responsibility for my training miscues - I must find someone to blame. And today I blame the inspirational writing skills of Arthur Lydiard. Yes, poor soul, not dead these many weeks, and he is to blame for my new burst of motivation. You see, as posted the other day, I found a new running blog called Running with Lydiard. And of course, I got to clicking & linking and found myself re-reading for the 10th time Lydiard's plan. It just calls to you and says "Come on, you're in your thirties, you can do this, Champions are Everywhere". Since I've always wanted to be a champion, I thought "Why not?" and decided to apply Lydiard's principles to my plan for Holyoke '06. We all know the drill: aerobic capacity (many weeks), hill training (4 weeks), speed training (4 weeks), coordination training (4 weeks) and taper. But can it be done?

I have run now a 3:05 and a 3:03 and as I look back at the data I see some good effort but no consistency in terms of steady weekly high volume running. Injuries, motivational issues, fear of weather, you name it has broken the cycles of good strong running. Then, nearing the end of the training season, I pull it together, do some good long runs, some hill work, speed, tempo, and taper and race away. From 3:42 to 3:03 over 5 marathons. I credit the better times to an increase in my aerobic capacity from 2003 to 2005 from all the running. I have proven Lydiard's point quite accidentally but not willingly - it takes time to build the aerobic capacity. What I have also noticed is that there was a time when one week at 80 miles would put me on the injured list. Now 80 is fine, its the 100 that gets to me. Funny how quickly I forget how it wasn't that long ago when I struggled to maintain what now seems like an incredibly low weekly mileage.

Last week I put in 72.1 miles. I haven't done that since the end of June. For shame! Week upon week of 30 mile efforts. My comments are full of "I'm tired", "It rained", "I need rest". Ugh! Each one of those weeks that logged 30 miles (plus or minus) are not 6 days of 5 miles each. They are made up of 2 days at 15 miles followed by 5 days off. Can it be any clearer? Even after Marc's call to arms and the immediate registration to the Cape Cod Marathon I floundered at 34 miles per week with 2-3 days on, 4-5 days off. My first long run attempt ended at 19.1 miles collapsed on the landing strip (#33) of the Eastport Municipal Airport when I slammed into the wall of depletion 1.5 miles from the house. Why don't I learn??

But today, all is right with the world. This morning I ran an easy 7.8 around town after yesterday's successful 21.7 mile long run. The total time with breaks (what's a long run if you don't take time to have a snack every 5K? Long runs are for relaxing!) was 3:00:16. Actual running time was about 8 minutes faster. I ran 7 x 5k loops around town. Here are the average paces for each loop: 8:12 / 7:45 / 7:30 / 8:32 (ran part of this loop with another runner) / 7:34 / 7:27 / 7:01. I chuckled to myself at mile 18.6 as I began the 7th lap and started to press the pace; these long runs... it takes 2 1/2 hours and 18 miles just to get to the workout! Because that's the truth of these runs. Its the last lap that you came out to do 3 hours ago.

Ok, the new plan is in place. It is based or follows Lydiard as best as possible. It treats Cape Cod like an over-distance long run since I am very impatient and I don't want to "start" my program in November - I want to start it now. Typical. In to autumn and on to winter!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cool Mornings bring Thoughts of Winter

This morning I woke to a crisp cool autumn morning. The wind was blowing and the leaves were rustling, some of them succumbing to the force thus tumbling about around me. I suspect this is a sign of good runs to come. I just love fall. Out come the mittens, hat, and fall running gear. Some folks say they like fall but aren't too anxious about what comes after. Not me. Fall is the prelude to cold - where I may not run my fastest but I run more consistently. At least that is my perception. My log might show a slight bit more consistency in the winter but the difference may not reach the level that I imagine. Nevertheless the fall winter routine has promise. It's a sabattical. Winter up here is long. The temperatures hover around freezing for six weeks before plummeting to 30 degrees below zero for another six weeks. Then it's back to freezing - right into April. I admit, by the end you are ready for sun, warmth, and a new beginning - but only because you've gone through the winter.

Each time Fall arrives I start to plan for winter. Winter is when you do the things you enjoy but never seem to have time for: reading, writing, learning, thinking, planning, and running (believe it or not). It's when the races stop and training begins. You disappear into the cold darkness and emerge at the Spring marathon where the tale of winter's training is open for all to see.

Last year was my first solid winter of steady training. I got injured twice and complained about it here on this blog. And while Boston was a disaster, I did manage a PR at Holyoke in May. After such a rough summer of on again - off again training I am in need of the soothing therapy of winter running. Bundled up against the cold and running in spite of the weather, I will be logging the miles that will be the foundation for the tempo and speed work during the first few weeks of Spring.

First you set the alarm clock for very early (4am) so there is plenty of time for the pre-run ritual. The winter pre-run ritual is a long process for me compared to the summer. Right now I just roll out of bed and onto the road. In the winter, I first splash cold water on my face to wake up. Then I tend the woodstove while the tea is boiling. I take a few sips of tea and a piece of toast as I apply layer upon layer of warm and protective clothing. A quick check on the internet for wind speed / direction and the temperature on at the local NOAA Cobscook Bay bouy (which I run past during all my training runs) and I am out the door. The shock of the cold is frightening at first as you can't imagine going very far, but with a shuffle, I begin yet another winter run. By mile one my hands are frozen but the pace has increased 30 secs per mile and my thoughts are introspective. (It's hard to think of anything external in a Northerly 30 knot wind). The sweat starts, a little discomfort, and that fades away as the soothing feel-good-this-is-why-we-run chemicals surge into the brain and I float into the zone. I can't run fast due to ice, wind, and darkness - but this is winter and there is no need. What I need most is time to do the slow long training of Lydiard. And this winter I will be there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Yield the Floor

On this day of rest I yield the floor to a new blog called Running with Lydiard. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Better than Expected

This morning's dreaded 800 session on County Road went better than expected. By starting a little later, I took advantage of the sunrise for course illumination. These rays of hope also put the nocturnal critters in sleep mode and I was able to run unobstructed down the lonely back road of Eastport for my morning workout.

As a point of clarification, I encounter the "striped one" often in my morning jogs. I generally go to one side of the road and Monsieur Le Pew goes to the other. When traveling at low speeds it is an annoyance (and a reminder just how early in the morning it really is) but nothing more than that. On a few occasions though, the encounters are more than annoying - they are disruptive. To briefly recall: One day Pepe decided to illegally cross the street a few yards ahead of me as I was tearing up said lonely County Road. I downshifted to a crawl to let him complete the crossing when he unaccountably decided to pace me by running in the same direction. Incorporating the traditional skunk weave, he successfully prohibited any approach and pass leaving me walking at the estimated safe distance behind for what seemed like eternity. When I arrived home (10 minutes late) I had to decide if my log was to record a last 15 minute mile or a shortened run.

A second disruptive encounter was a startling one. I was running down a side street near the water when I ran right up behind a skunk foraging in the bushes. I didn't notice him and he didn't notice me until I was right there. That skunk did a jump and turned back-to with the tail ramrod straight in the air faster than a cat leaving a bathtub. My heart stopped as did my feet as I tried to determine in the milliseconds left before disaster if I was in the kill zone. Thankfully, the skunk determined I was at a safe distance and did not take any preemptive action. I ended the run shortly thereafter having expended all my energy in the one adrenaline rush needed to go from "runner" to "statue" in less than 1/2 second.

A third and this time possibly injurious encounter with a skunk was when one ambled out right in front of me while I was doing 440's on Washington Street. Here I was, tearing up the road in my all out sprint when stinky crosses. I came to such a screeching halt, I was sure I pulled something. I think the skunk was deaf because he didn't even flinch or scurry but continued to amble like he didn't almost just get run down by stressed marathoner. I've done speedwork on ice, snow, through rain and wind, dark and cold, but nothing stops a workout faster than tripping over a skunk.

But that's all in the past. Today the only animals I saw were three deer crossing in front of me (about 100 yards). The last and youngest deer stopped in the middle of the road and eyeballed me for about 10 seconds as if to get a better understanding of what I was trying to do. You know, it's hard to concentrate with all this wildlife around. I can deal with cars, potholes, and a stray cat now and again, but this zoo is driving me nuts.

Ok, back to the mundane. I was able to do 4 x 800 today instead of only 3 like last week. However, I had to slow it down on the 4th since I was out of juice: 2:48 / 2:43 / 2:54 / 3:01. Eric came along when I was about to run my last so he went with me. I felt pretty good about the last - since last week I wasn't able to do 4. At lunch, I got in the standard 6 on the River Trail in 45:58. No dead bodies to report today. I tried to eye the lineup of cars to Canada to see if I could pick out a felon in hopes of a floater in few days but to no avail.

As I hit the "publish" button, whoever ordered the rain is having it delivered all at once...

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Nice Day for a Swim (or not)

Today as I ran along the river trail in Calais, I kept scanning for dead bodies. It seems I missed out on spotting a corpse the other day as it was scooped up by some Canadians before I could get there. Poor soul wasn't allowed across the bridge into Canada earlier in the week so he decided to sneak across the border via a nice cold swim. Who would of thought that Canada no longer welcomes convicted felons?

Unlike this weekend where I let my schedule and the weather interrupt my plans for a long run (no will power these days it seems) I got in two nice 6 mile runs today. The first with Eric around Eastport and the 2nd in Calais on the River Trail. I was wondering if I was going to be able to put in the 2nd workout today because as my running time arrived (11am) I was deep into a meeting that didn't get out until 12:15. This threw my schedule out of whack as I had back to back appointments soon after. The good news was I snuck out at 2:30 and put in the run. It was a little warm but I mitigated that by bringing along some water this time.

Tomorrow I'll try some more poor man 800's on a dark & dreary fogged shrouded skunk-infested stretch of pavement 5am. You can tell I'm excited about this.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Leaning on Friends

If it wasn't for Marc, I don't know what I'd do. After having such a tough time getting back "on track" after my summer slump, Marc has pulled for the both of us in terms of motivation, inspiration, and actual training.

Since my last good week of running which happened to be the first week of July (here it is September already!!!) I have put in weekly:

36.4 miles
31 miles
10.2 miles
0 miles
7.3 miles
30.9 miles
34.9 miles
27.2 miles
28.6 miles

I remember when these #'s represented the full training schedule. Now they are evidence of the start and stop mentality of one I-can't-seem-to-wake-up-in-the-morning challenged individual. In order to salvage any semblance of real runnerhood, I have resorted to running on my lunch hour again. (This however, is very motivational for me as it reminds of the good 'ol days with Marc when we put in some mega miles by running the daily double).

However, in the last few weeks, the fire has been stoked and the steam is starting to build. I have to credit Marc for the kick in the pants. He has emailed me constantly with the tiniest details of his super recovery from the ankle injury. Then I get the splits from his track workouts. Then he calls me on the phone to encourage me to run. If that's not enough, he then follows-up to make sure I actually got out there and ran! (One message on my phone was from the "Fairy God-Runner" but I suspect that was his voice too).

Why must he take such an effort to get someone who obviously loves to run to actually go and run? Well, after a short pause of internal critical thinking, I have determined that I am insane. No other explanation. When someone refuses to do what they love to do they are insane.... ah, this just in... according to some running literature, I may also be "overtrained". Well, either way they rhyme.

So back to Marc. I somehow feel like I am the subject of his latest thesis for psychoanalytic running , because now he calls, feigning desperation, that he needs to run a marathon and I am to run with him. Well, how can I let him down? I can't. So, I promise I will run the Cape Cod Marathon with him on October 30. This, as you may be aware, of course gives me a goal. And what does a goal do? Why it motivates. So sneaky Marc has tricked me back into training for an Autumn marathon when he knows darn well I was prepared to forego the pleasure.

Thanks Marc.