Thursday, January 26, 2006

If I'm Lucky, I Just Might Hit 60

Perhaps the build up has begun again? I sit here with two training days left in the week at 40 miles. This is a good sign. The January battle is on between the good guys of rest and injury prevention, and the evil doers of high mileage and promises of performance. The good guys have won the day these past 3 weeks, but it looks like the devilish lure of miles and miles will hook the unsuspecting runner very soon.

60 miles isn't much. Or isn't supposed to be. But when you squeak out 42, 32, & 38, bumping back up to 60 is info in the letter back to home. And the nice thing is, it's unintentional (meaning I didn't struggle to get here).

I had a nice run up since the Cape Cod Marathon culminating in 114 miles one week after 11 weeks of training. Unfortunately, accompanying the 114 miles was pain, misery, fatigue, and good dose of overtraining. I could barely get below 9:00 min/mile I was so tired and out of focus. It was a good experiment and worth doing in the sense that I learned a lot. After all, avoiding mistakes comes from experience and experience from making mistakes. Happy to be of service to my long term prospects, I gladly blunder into all sorts of mischief in order to gain experience or so it would seem. Coincidentally, I crashed at the exact time of year that I normally crash. Last year I claimed a quad injury. This year, overtraining. I'll have to check my long range planner, but I think I'm scheduled to have the flu next year.

So to overcome all of my malarky, I purchased a heart rate monitor. I was supposed to purchase new running shoes with the gift card but I was hoodwinked into buying the monitor instead. The typical case of bait & switch. Innocently, I clicked on shoes and I wound up buying an HRM instead. Being all alone in the vast expanse of the online store, I succumbed to lure of measuring my heart rate when I run instead of the taking the practical approach and re-equipping myself with new sneakers. Alas, buying sneakers with a gift card is sort of a letdown. I would have had to purchase new ones anyway. I wanted something I wouldn't have bought otherwise. (I've been working on this excuse, I hope you like it.) Not to worry though, a few more weeks of spaghetti dinners, and I'll have those new shoes in the bag.

Ok, back to the HRM. During a period of self diagnosis, I proclaimed my problem was not fully understanding the Lydiard plan. In the plan, he spells out mileage guidelines and with a sense of subtlety suggests the approximate time associated with the each workout. Well, after doing some simple math, I discovered just who dear Arthur was thinking about when he jotted down his suggestions. And it was not me.

Mr. Lydiard assumed his reader could easily pad out 10 miles in an hour and still smile at the end. I can run 9 miles in an hour on a good day. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that I had skipped a step in the Lydiard plan. I wasn't as fit as I should be to build up to his level of mileage. The reason? By running his mileage, I was on the course for almost 1.5 times the suggested times in his book and this led to my case of overtraining. And it was getting worse by the week as I my pace kept slowing due to fatigue. One other comment kept coming back to me: Lydiard's boys always ran at "strong aerobic efforts". This assured great aerobic development. Here was my problem. I was running in a manner that over-fatigued me personally at paces that were not accomplishing the goals I had set out to do.

Enter the HRM.

After some research into max heart rates, resting rates, and ranges etc. I have figured out at what level of effort I should be training given the day's goals. (My long range goal has not changed: namely build up my aerobic capacity for 2+ years.) Since my long range goal has not changed, the variable is the day to day workouts which are divided simply into easy / hard / easy / hard. Most work being done below the lactate threshold. So on any given day, I know what range (heart rate) I should be targeting in order to avoid running too fast or perhaps too slow. Because this effort is stronger than my last build up, which consisted mainly of shuffling and silent weeping, I am building up my "time in zone" in a methodical manner to avoid overtraining and injury. So far I am ok, but remember I decided to start this new project in January - not the best of months. Therefore, my last 3 weeks of mileage are not truly representative of the mileage I should be logging since there are several additional rest days embedded. However, I believe that is coming to an end.

And there lies my title for this post. I just might hit 60 this week. This week is a 50% of Lydiard's recommended time (in zone). When I hit 100%, I believe my mileage will be hovering around 80 - 90 miles per week. Perhaps more if I can sneak some easy supplemental in here & there. Over time, my mileage should increase as my pace per mile improves.

One final note on the heart rate monitor. It is fun! I had always thought is wasn't necessary - and it is not necessary. It doesn't tell you any more about how you're doing than someone slightly more intelligent than I could tell just by feel. (In fact, it's uncanny.) It doesn't make you faster and when you're slacking, it shows right there in numerical form. Oh, and busting up the hill? Waste of energy according to the monitor - but you knew that. But besides that, it's a lot of fun to match heart rates to particular efforts, and basically keep you company on a dark, lonely, freezing, slippery, windy, icy, (did I say dark?) morning.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Feelin' Good -n- Guilty

Before I address the title, let's see who those mysterious runners were as showcased by my northern neighbor. Ahem, a more traditional view:

Ah yes, Jonathan, me, Steph & Mike. We are about to embark on an easy 16 miler with the first 2.3 miles dead into a biting wind blowing off a frozen lake. But hey, it got better after we made the first turn. The wind found us again at mile 9 but by then we were running in formation like a flock of geese. We flapped past two barking Rotweillers, a hound dog, and we dove into the ditch to avoid a racing car driven by a teenager who was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him (if that makes it any better). Other than that, besides trying to keep up with Mike's downhill "Boston surges" we ambled along nicely. Next week: 20.

But, to my title. The trouble is.... I'm feeling good. A spring in my step, getting enough sleep, feeling energized. That's a problem because the reason is.... low mileage! As no good deed goes unpunished, so shall no good feeling be of worthy origin. I have inadvertently extended my sympathy taper to anonymously support anyone running anywhere any distance. Such is my January story. You can check my archives, I'm not much of a January runner.

But... there is silver in these linings. Generally, I usually contract a bad case of the January blues. Running ceases and I attempt to hibernate my life away as I imagine myself getting slow and fat. I snap out of it once the weather breaks and pour on the training in time for a Spring marathon whose time closely resembles the previous Autumn marathon time. Now things are different. First, the weather hasn't been bad. Secondly, I have been concentrating on putting more quality into my workouts (warmup, cooldown, running at correct paces etc.). And finally, I'm not dealing with a major injury. (I had a bugger of a quad injury the end of '04).

So.... after building up some very high mileage in December, I have cut back and am starting a more conservative buildup process that includes better quality workouts than mere shuffling. My HR monitor is coming in handy with this goal. Running at target heart rate ranges is keeping me motivated, honest, and on track. The low miles (42, 32, 38 for the past 3 weeks) aren't quite what I wanted but it's what I got. They were, however, run at the proper pace and all miles run with a specific purpose in mind.

Now to merge quality with quantity and I'll be on my way.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sympathy Taper

What else can I call this low mileage week of 32 miles if not some sort of 'sympathy taper' for Mike in AZ? I ran 3 days then somehow skipped 4. I know what it is but that doesn't make it feel any better. After a nice run with Mike & Steph for 19 miles last Sunday, I ran into math problems of my own. Monday's workout called for a nice recovery run of 45 minutes "in the zone", a warmup / cooldown and some gentle strides. The night before, in calculating how much time I would need to complete the entire workout, I somehow cheated myself out of 45 minutes - the exact time of the core workout. Isn't that suspicious? Another case of complete computational failure and again without any sign the error occurred. So, imagine my surprise when I awoke for my run and found I only had time to warmup and cooldown? I live life in a continual state of bafflement.

On Tuesday I hardwired the alarm clock to my body after several computer-assisted time calculations to assure that 1) I'd be up on time and 2) I'd have enough time to run. Success on both accounts as I enjoyed 30 minutes TIZ (time in zone) at high aerobic pace. Add the warmup and cooldown and I logged a pleasant 8.5 miles in the early morning. The workout called for a step progression using the HRM but I couldn't see the HRM in the darkness. Therefore, the workout turned out to be a "continuous fast run" which was fine. I even got another 3.1 miles in at lunch at a slow recovery pace. I was feeling great.

Wednesday needed a "low aerobic" run - following the hard/easy rule. Unfortunately, my eldest daughter was up sick and I was up all night tending her. So, no run Wednesday. No problem, these things happen. But what was waiting for me was a 3 day bout of 'tiredness' that seems to have stemmed from that one night. I suspect a low grade, behind the scenes, malaise that my body so far has denied center stage. I've been sleeping quite a bit and this seems to be the best medicine. Tomorrow, Mike & Steph are unavailable for a long run but I think Jon might be around for an easy 17. That would start the week off right.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Snippets From The Past

Like New Year Resolutions, there is a sense of the obligatory "look back" onto the previous year and the posting of its summary. So, not to be left out, I hereby post a summary of 2005.

Year 2005 / 2004

Mileage 2,582 / 1684

Wkly Avg 49 / 32

Wks>100 4 / 0

Wks>70 14 / 6

Wks<40 21 / 35

So it looks like some improvement was made. A 53% increase in mileage, a two-fold increase in over 70 mile weeks and a 14 week reduction of under 40 mile weeks. Unfortunately, the increase in mileage didn't produce any amazing PR's but I did squeak a 2 minute PR at Holyoke last April over my '04 MDI BQ. The Cape Cod Marathon experience was memorable with my 7 mile blast to the finish cutting 8 minutes in those last miles to finish in 3:14:55. That was a function of running a smart race with Marc. Except for Holyoke, 2005 just wasn't my year for racing. I tanked at Boston and by summertime, I was too tired, overtrained, and suffering low motivation. Therefore I didn't race with any frequency. The one race I did run I was disappointed at how limited I felt. By the time I was back on the wagon, I didn't have much time (relatively) as Cape Cod was coming up fast. After that, I started to build the mileage again and ran no races through the end of the year. But if Joshua is right, I should be able to run 2006 using the mileage base of 2005. This bodes well.

One of the enjoyable things about going back through the log is re-reading the short comments written after some of the workouts. Here are a few that brought back the memory of the day:

January 7 "snowy run w/slippery footing. Ran w/eric who fell several times but wasn’t hurt. Leg feeling good."

January 17 "wx high wind, snow, cold. Very tough 3 loops of 5k. Pace at snails pace due to wind. Dog adopted me on last lap and ran with me"

January 20 "run with marc in blizzard. Lots of snow - good experience"

May 21 "aborted long run @ 6.7 due to severe pain in left leg"

June 4 "beautiful run. saw moose. ran w/eric. felt good."

June 20 "River Trail. warm run. annoying lawn mowing."

August 27 "Attempted long run. hit wall. harsh recovery."

October 1 "Great run! Felt good all the way through. minimal fatigue. 4 Powergels. Met w/Eric on 5th lap."

October 15 "Hard on legs. Needed to push pace a little to get cobwebs out."

November 30 "Felt sleepy until last 5 miles. Tried out new energy drink - upset stomach. Will need to dilute. Soreness abated from tough last two days."

Up and down. Feeling good then feeling bad. Let's hope 2006 is slightly more consistent. If it is, it'll be quite accidental.

One thing about 2005, it was the first year I trained straight through the winter. Boston was urging me on, but now that the deed is done, I can't imagine not getting out there in the cold, dark morning and attempting something that looks like a workout. I remember Eric & I doing hill repeats in the wee hours. I'd leave the car running at the bottom of the hill so we could get warm during the 5 minute recovery period. We'd also have to alternate the side of the street we would run up depending on the location of the snowplow. And then the lunchtime blizzard runs with Marc. More than once, our "short" 4.8 mile lunchtime run would take a very long time as we battled nature's elements. I particularly remember turning off Academy Street onto North Street and falling. The snow was so deep that I disappeared - emerging from the depths like a wild snow runner surprising unsuspecting motorists.

So from a good start to both good & bad marathons, through a tough summer (what with Marc moving and all) to meeting new friends like Mike & Steph and deciding on a more concentrated approach to training, the year passed by. I'd like 2006 be less haphazard, more consistent, but still full of the fine memories that make running special. If the first 8 days are any indicator, I'm off to a good start.

Friday, January 06, 2006

HRM to Runner: No Slacking!

It figures I'd be different. Having seized upon the idea of using a Heart Rate Monitor to better fine tune my training, I looked forward to experiencing the common new HRM user's surprise that they must slow down to stay at the correct heart rate. Well instead, the bio-feedback only confirmed what I already knew - I was slacking. Just a shufflin' along, logging the miles, blog-boasting about capillary density and mitochondria build-up. Now the jig is up. Sure, improvements were on the way - in 2025. Doesn't that take all.

Now I've got to run like I'm training for something.

Today I did my first "real" HRM training run. After a 20 minute warmup I ran for 45 minute at low aerobic (70% -75% of maxHR). Then I ran a cooldown for 20 minutes. It took me awhile to get up into the zone. The beeper was beeping at me to speed up. After I got going into the zone the pace felt fine. It wasn't overly fast (7:46 by the end) so certainly doable. It just showcased that I hadn't run a decent pace since the Cape Cod Marathon - what with the recovery period and then the build up to 100 miles per week. Of course, partly to blame is the Maine weather. While it has been unseasonably mild here (20 - 30's) it is still hard to get motivated to run faster than a rather comfortable jog all snug in sub-zero gear. So it was fun trying to stay in the targeted heart rate zone and it felt good to know that I optimized today's workout. Tomorrow I'll try some LT work - a short stint at 90%.

Now that I think about it, this was the 2nd real HRM workout. I did a max heart rate test the other day to determine my maximum heart rate (182). I did this by running 2.25 miles as fast as I could one morning on the airport. It was 18 degrees out so I don't know if that had an effect but 182 fits the "formula" fairly closely (220-age).

So I feel good about getting back on track now that my self imposed recovery is over (it worked by the way) but I was troubled with the lack of balance I had between my desire to run high miles and train with the proper effect. So I fell back on the old standby - I did some more reading. This time I think I have a better grasp on what paces I should be running to get the optimal results and the long build up to the high miles that "make champions".

The new year has rolled over and now my week begins on Sunday.  I was forced to resort back to an old program from the Dead Runners Society that is really neat. It is an excel sheet with lots of calculations and graphs and whatnot. Well, somehow, in the setup screen my week got started on a Sunday instead of a Monday so now I start the week off with a long run. Which means this week looks like this:

Sunday: 17 miles with Mike

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Maximum Heart Rate Test. 2 mile warmup, .75 run-up, 2.25 test, 2 mile cooldown for a total of 7 miles.

Wednesday: Recovery jog of 3 miles - slowly staying under or at 60%.

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Low Aerobic Run at 70% - 75% ~ 5.92 miles plus 2 mile warmup & 2 mile cooldown for total of 9.9 miles.

The mileage is still down but things are looking up. My setback was at first physical and then psychological as I lost some of the good momentum I had going.

17 weeks until the Holyoke Marathon.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Two Week Recovery Over

A 17 mile run with good company is a great way to start off the new year. 17 miles in 2:23:27, we ran around Boyden's Lake with a little extra mileage to make up the difference. This capped the end of two weeks I had assigned myself to recover from hitting my limit two weekends ago.

Week 1 of recovery consisted of 3 miles per day for 21 miles. Week 2 consisted of 2 x 5 miles, a 3, today's 17. Embedded was 3 rest days that served to wind the year down.

The good news: all the soreness, knee issue, leg issues etc. have disappeared. Like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer, if felt good to stop.

The bad news: Running shouldn't feel good to stop. Therefore, a reassessment is underway.

The good news: I bought a heart rate monitor to help with achieve my goals.

The bad news: I still haven't figured out what I am going to do. Hmmm.

Sorry for the gap in posting to the blog. As I mentioned before, no blogging is usually a sign of no running. While not completely true, it is hard to get excited about commenting on 3 miles. In fact, it takes longer to put on the running gear than it does to actually complete the run.

I will think on my re-assessment and report back tomorrow.