Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sometimes you just stop, turn around, and walk home.

And that's what I did today.

Yesterday there were signs of trouble brewing. I ran and ran but could not get the heart rate to go above 140 for very long. By the end I had to push to get the right zone. I ended up with 10.22 miles at a 7:20 pace. I had heard that a low heart rate was a sign of running without enough recovery. Proof positive hit today.

It all started badly. First, I was too tired to set the automatic timer on the coffee maker the night before. Second, I couldn't get out of bed when the alarm went off. Third, I forgot to charge the Garmin and when I turned it on it beeped and said "low battery. Press enter."

Then as I sipped my coffee (that I had to wait for) I watched a track meet Chad linked to. Instead of firing me up, I oddly felt depressed. Then I put my heart rate monitor on and jogged out the door.

Nothing hurt but the legs were tight. I felt like a board. Today was supposed to be 90 minutes w/70 @ 150 HR. I was going to do 20 minutes then run the bulk of the time on the flat airport. But this was not to be. I jogged and jogged but felt tired, slow, and blue. The heart rate didn't break 120. That's right, 120. No oxygen for my legs. Nothing. After 2.5 miles all the air was out of the balloon. I slowed to a crawl and then just stopped. I turned around and walked home.

Tonight, Mike talked about some fatigue issues of his own and posts the Mystery Coach's comments on low heart rates as an indicator of fatigue. I will be sleeping in tomorrow.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nothing To See Here

I think Mike is trying to kill me.

In what appeared to be an innocent comment on my last post, Mike asked if I was up for a 3 hour jog (no 'funny business' he says). Always thinking the best of people, I agreed to the lazy loop around Boyden Lake.

But no.

The slow pace was deceiving. The old "ow, my hamstring" ploy to put my guard down. And the "let's add this short little road to our loop" to throw off my inner clock. A little later his Garmin beeps and then the big lie:

"There's the two hour mark. Just one hour to go!"

Wow, was I feeling good. This easy pace on a rather humid day wasn't too bad. Two hours, still strong, couldn't be better. We were jogging along at 8:00 per mile next to the shores of the calm Passamaquoddy Bay. One of the few times there wasn't a pleasant sea breeze. The sun was baking and even the presence of a slight wind was dissatisfying as it was intermittent and had a slightly warm tinge.

With the extra road Mike had us take, my water bottle was empty a earlier than usual. The sun was growing hotter, the air more close. The breeze had stopped. Then...

"Oh, I'm sorry... We've only been running for only an hour and a half."

The vultures circled as the temperatures rose. The sun cast laughing shadows off the trees. The road rose and never fell.

The run dragged on.

My full water bottle appeared. I drank it down.

The run dragged on.

Four miles later another water bottle. I drank it down.

The run dragged on.

The lake looked so inviting. My feet hurt. My legs hurt. My shoulders hurt. And the run dragged on.

No ticking except the beating of the heart. No talking except Mike's slurring out the minutes left to go. My thoughts were jumbled. Splits turned my stomach.

At three hours, we hit our watches and Mike muttered, "Not another step." So we didn't. Hands on knees, the spit drooling into the roadside sand. Cars slowing as they gazed at the spectacle. We waved them on like drunken hobos. More water. A Fig Newton.

I don't remember the drive home.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Simulation Saturday

It always amazes me that running is much more easily done than anticipated. Even though I ran a super easy please-let's-just-rest 60 minutes yesterday, I was still worried about this morning, this morning. I wasn't sore or anything, I just thought that these 90 minutes (w/70 @ 150 HR) days come in quick succession and I wondered at how I was going to get it done.

I felt the same way last Saturday but I had an excuse. I had ridden the motorcycle up into the wilds of Aroostook County and then awoke at 4am in order to get my run in. Rolling out of the bed that morning, I was operating on very little sleep and a some time pressure. This morning, even though I had a full night's rest in my own bed and a full hour of leisurely coffee and toast prior to the run, I still had the how-can-I-make-this-easier? attitude about the upcoming run.

Normally, I run my 70 minutes up-tempo on the airport because it is flat and I won't stress the legs. I can get into a rhythm at 150 HR and see how it goes from there. Occasionally, I will switch out to the highway but this really works only for the 2 hour run since there's not enough time to do the whole 70 minute faster portion on flat road necessitating some up-tempo running on rough road. But I'm tired of that. At least today. So I decided to try the hamburger mill again and run the entire run on my normal 5 mile loop - which is an amazing simulation of MDI's first 16 miles: rolling hills that are short, abrupt, with twists and turns, and has the happy knack of taking out the rhythm and leaving just the blues.

How I came to think this was a good idea is rather the result of my dissatisfaction with every alternative I could think of in my morning cloud. So in an attempt to avoid duplicating how I felt last time, I decided to do two things differently:

1. Run 20 minutes (instead of 10) easily prior to the 70 minute up-tempo segment
2. Run according to "comfort" without looking at the heart rate monitor

Running an additional 10 minutes prior to increasing the pace helps me warm up more and stops what feels like "cold start" symptoms - tight legs, heavy breathing, tense form...

Running according to comfort solves the problem of the hills but adds the issue of running at a heart rate above the designated level and not adjusting for drift. So in some respects, it turned out to be a 'test' of what comfortable feels like on hilly terrain and what effect it has on my heart rate and pace. The goal was to run naturally with pace reduction on the up's and striding out on the down's - and not worry about where the heart rate went to just as long as I was running comfortably.

This plan was worked out in it's final details during the 20 minute warmup. The first mile (all uphill) in 8:47 gives one an idea that I was a little tired this morning. But I smoothed out for mile 2 (7:27 -downhill), and picked up the pace at the 20 minute mark.

And would you know? I felt so much better once I picked up the pace. While the warmup pace seemed to drag, once I let the legs turn over I felt much better. And once I hit the first hill after increasing the pace, I knew that 150 wasn't happening - I would be over it for sure. But oh well. This was a slight test of the equipment to see how things were going.

The first full mile split since the 20 minute mark was 6:55. This told me that I wasn't "pressing"the pace and thus making this workout into a performance session. That's the danger running without the guide. You can start wanting and then purposely start trying to hit a particular time and thus change the purpose (and effect) of the workout. But I was running very comfortably and very pleased with how I felt - both up the hills and down.

I can't say I was overly pleased with the splits, but they're just numbers and I can't doing anything about them except continue with the consistent training:

6:42 (pace - 5:06 for .76 mile)

Except for the long uphill at mile 1 (and the down at mile 2) and the subsequent repeating of this every 5th mile, the course rolls up and down in quick succession each mile.

In the end, the up-tempo portion averaged a 6:49 pace with an average HR of 157-158. The total run was 12.76 miles, 152 HR, 7:03 pace.

At least I felt good.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Running Lights

Today I was struggling with the last workout of week #6. It is the dreaded Thursday 2 hour run w/60 minutes @ 150 HR. I was on the airport about 50 minutes into the 60 minutes up-tempo portion when the runway lights lit up around me. It gave me a little adrenaline boost at the thought of a plane about land on me. Needless to say, the last 10 minutes flew by.

No plane by the way - plus it was too foggy for landing planes so I'm at a loss...

Week #6 really took the training up into the 'difficult zone'. Level three with a Sunday long run netted 91 miles for the week. I will be staying right here until things quiet down. Eventually, I'd like to add some mileage to Wednesday and Friday (both easy pace days) but I want a few weeks of a steady program and good feedback. As you can see from the graph below, my "quality index" (a relative trending of time, HR, and pace) took off with the introduction of level three. I will try to get this graph trending level again before I add more miles.

Ignore the numbers as they are meaningless to everyone but me. Treated as a relative trend line, you can see the work load increased significantly with the introduction of level three and the standard Sunday long run. Seeing this graphically does not make me wish to shoot for 100 miles per week yet. I need to level out and get a good handle on the program.

On the injury / potential injury front I'm still clean. My bi-weekly massage therapy and keeping to the program with no 'fast' running seems to be keeping me above board. My toes hurt today though...

Here is what week 6 looked like:

Friday: 7.65 miles @ 7:50 pace. 135 HR

Sat: 12.77 miles @ 7:03 pace. 144 HR

Sun: 21 miles @ 8:17 pace. 137 HR

Mon: 10.39 miles @ 7:13 pace. 142 HR

Tues: 12.73 miles @ 7:04 pace. 148 HR

Wed: 9.65 miles @ 7:46 pace. 137 HR

Thurs: 16.96 miles @ 7:05 pace. 145 HR

Overall: 91.15 miles, averaging 7:30 pace @ 141 HR.

I am looking forward to tomorrow's 60 minute easy run.

The 150 HR is still too much work to consider moving to 155 for the Saturday and Tuesday workouts. Seeing how I am not even halfway through this training cycle, it is easy to be patient. I wonder how I ran at 164 HR for the Wineglass marathon? Seems incredible to me now. Hopefully, by October, I'll be up a couple of notches in the HR department. The program limits the HR increases until I can run 10 miles with "extreme ease" at 150bpm. I can run the 10 miles, and easily finish, but I wouldn't say it's actually easy. Now 142 HR, that's easy!

I will be very glad when I can run at 150 as well as I feel at 140 or even 145. I think 145 must be my "sweet spot" right now. Just about any time I run around this HR, I feel really relaxed. Just a few beats faster, and I need to focus on what I'm doing otherwise the HR drops back down to 145.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Zany Zones Belay Blind Moose Madness at Boyden

From the start we knew this run was going to be different.

Where was the cunning creep of pace inflation? The hills from hell? The sleight of foot and the accidental split? -- GONE.

Have a heart. I mean a heart rate. The Sunday long run just got longer.

Imagine practicing patience for 21 miles. Slowing instead of accelerating. Keeping everything in check. Talking up the hills. Yes, that's what a heart rate run will do. Mike was loving it. He called it:

"A civilized run."

"A run to make Marc proud."

My program say I'm allowed as many miles as I want as long as I run them between 130 - 140 HR. Since I run the plan's "long run" on Thursdays, the Sunday run actually qualifies as additional mileage. After yesterday's good up-tempo, I had to be sure that I ran at the correct effort. This meant controlling the drift so my run didn't turn into a back to back hard effort.

This worked out for Mike too. His plan called for 20+ miles at a low HR under 130 with allowance to 135. That matched my zone as well accounting for our different heart rates. So for the whole run we easily padded along keeping things under control.

But I admit, over the last 5 - 6 miles, I wish I could have let that HR go and get the old tired body back to the car. This feeling was even more acute on the final 2.25 mile stretch. The HR was now at the tip top of my range running a pace similar to the bottom of the range in the early miles. This made the run seem longer since we used to let the heart rate climb up pretty high into those final miles as we picked up the pace and pushed the final hills.

But the run is finished and I'm glad we stuck to the plan. I recovered fairly quickly and feel confident about running my next up-tempo on Tuesday with no lingering effect from today. It was an odd scene to see the two of us running stride for stride and both of us glance at the watch and slow down!

A new form of crazy.

21 miles @ 8:17 pace. 137 HR.

Presque Isle Surprise

As I sit here waiting to meet up with Mike for the Sunday long run (or whatever he has planned) I thought I'd share my run I had yesterday.

Last weekend was my daughter's motorcycle trip. This weekend, my father & I cruised our bikes up into Aroostook County to look at the potato blossoms. Friday night we rode to Presque Isle. At 4am Saturday morning I was on the empty streets of that fine town getting the workout in before the day's ride.

The plan called for 90 minutes w/70 @ 150bpm. I wasn't feeling too much like an up-tempo run so I decided to run as I felt - increasing my pace as I could. This was a good policy since coming into town we came down a long hill (which meant my run would be going up that hill). I decided to run 15 minutes south and back for water, 15 minutes north and back, and finally 15 minutes west (and back).

I started out and was surprised to see my heart rate so low. After a mile I started the long climb out of town. Again, the heart rate just climbed to 138. I didn't press it however, I was just enjoying the scenery and the thrill of running someplace new. Coming down the hill back to the hotel I stretched it out a little.


Grabbed my water, jogged around the parking lot sipping, and then off to the south. The body was warming up and now the HR was hovering around 140 on the down and about 147 on the up.


I hit 150 on the way back as was surprised at how it good it felt to be running at this HR. There must be something to warming up! More water, another jog around the parking lot, and then west.

To my surprise, it turned out that to the west it was flat for 2+ miles leading out of town.

6:46 (pace for .77 miles to finish out 90 min)

12.77 miles @ avg 7:03 pace - 144 HR.

I'll take it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

End of Week 5

Today's 'long' run was a tough run. Only two hours but all at pretty much an up-tempo. The plan called for 30 minutes @ 135 - 145 HR, 60 minutes @ 150 HR, then 30 minutes @ 135 - 145 HR.

For the most part it was a good run. But by the end I was feeling pretty tired. During the first 30 minutes I gradually increased the HR to about 140 - 145. Splits of: 8:17, 7:10, 7:25, 7:05. Then I increased the pace up to 150 HR: 6:45, 6:46, 6:54, 6:54, 6:46, 6:53, 7:01, 7:06. You can see that I started to fade there at the end. Same heart rate, just slower.

The final 30 minutes was a bear. I had to really concentrate and slow down to keep the HR under 145: 7:24 (1/2 @ up tempo HR finishing off hour), 7:36 (down long hill), 8:25 (up long hill), 7:53 (flat). Compare these times with my 145 HR pace at mile 4. What a difference. I ended up with 16.4 miles for an average pace of 7:18 @ 145HR.

In order to avoid running fast up hills, I ran out the highway to the causeways leading off the islands. This gave me about 1.75(+ -) miles one way before I hit a hill. I would then turn around and run back to where I left my water bottle on the other side. This plan seemed to work out ok. Traffic wasn't too bad but still it's more than it is in town.

Also, I should mention that my 90 minute (70 @ 150 HR) run on Tuesday went much better than the same workout on Saturday. This is because I ran exclusively on the airport for my up-tempo. No hamburger this time. The paces during Tuesday's 150 HR session were similar to today's: 6:49, 6:44, 6:36, 6:41, 6:48, 6:32, 6:47, 6:48, 6:37, 6:53. Well, I take that back. A little faster. I think I was fresher going into this run not to mention the slow 10 minute jog to the airport instead of 30 minutes of brisk running. I also think I let the HR drift up a little on those 6:30's splits. Too fast for a true 150 HR. I think the 6:47 is representative of my flat terrain pace at 150 HR right now.

Here's the week rundown:

Week 5 Minutes HR Pace

7.61 60 136 7.88

12.18 90 149 7.39

4.96 41.33 139 8.33

10.22 75 143 7.34

12.9 90 148 6.98

9.41 75 135 7.97

16.46 120 145 7.29

Totals 73.74 551.33 142 7.48

73 miles for the week. Proud of myself for climbing slowly this time and pretty much staying injury free while getting some good work done. Level 3 is definitely much harder than the two previous levels. There seems to be some sort of line crossed but I can't place my finger on it yet. This Sunday I get to run with Mike again. That will be fun. I was talking to Marc (the other blind moose) and he warned me to watch out for wily Mike and the final 3 mile push to the finish. Good advice.

And to wrap up the week, I had another installment of massage therapy. He worked on my back tonight since it has been sore. And he got the pain out of the legs. Amazing. Ready to go another two weeks.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Run, Travel the Solar System, Run.

Right after yesterday's run, I hopped on the motorcycle for the 1st annual father / daughter overnight motorcycle trip. My father used to take me every year on a weekend motorcycle trip, and I am continuing the tradition now that my eldest is 9. We had such a good time!

This year, I thought we'd kick things off with a trip across the solar system. Well, at least the world's largest scale model of one. About 3 hours north of here, beginning in Houlton, Maine, we arrived at Pluto. We are happy to begin our journey to the sun!

You can see Pluto and its moon, Charon, on the plaque. Rather tiny, and safely ensconced in the Maine Visitor's Center. The rest of the planets as we travel toward the Sun are larger and visible from the road.

Neptune was found in Littleton.

Uranus at the Bridgewater Town Hall.

Rather hard to miss Saturn. The ringed wonder alone in a field.

The largest planet, Jupiter, was visible from quite away down the road as we approached.

After Jupiter, Mars was so tiny, we felt we needed to point to it. It was located at the entrance to Presque Isle.

Earth! Home at last! (Found at a car dealership).

Venus was tucked away in the parking lot of a motel.

And finally, Mercury!

We were so tired after our solar sojourn, we went straight to a late lunch and some used book shopping.

What else is up there in Northern Maine? Well,

trees and...

potatoes. (Notice the windmills too on the far hill).

Today, we rode a different route home which was longer and had much less stopping. Home in the afternoon, I lazed about and finally went out for a run in the afternoon heat. The plan called for 75 minutes in the easy zone (130 - 140 HR). No problem hitting those numbers today. The heart rate was high from the start. I think it was due mostly to the fatigue of riding for the past two days. I was feeling really sluggish.

Today: 4.96 miles in 41:20 (8:20 pace) avg HR 139. Slug.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Level 3 - I'll be here awhile

Only day 2 into level 3 and I know it will be awhile before I move. Today I was supposed to run 90 minutes w/70 @ 150 HR. Unfortunately, I chose to run my standard hilly circuit route (short, abrupt hills). This ground me into hamburger so by the end of the run, even averaging in the 10 minutes of slow running on either side of the core 70, I averaged an HR of 149.

At a 7:23 pace.

I run this route everyday so I didn't think much about running it at a faster tempo. At 140 HR, the heart rate rises on the up's and falls on the down's and it all averages out. But not today. Today, she soared on the up's and barely had time to drop before I was climbing another hill. There's the rub... no time for the heart rate to fall! So my average HR was too high for this workout and it turned into a bust.

A good lesson though. The MDI marathon is very hilly and not too different from this route. So eventually I am going to need to be able to keep a steadier HR up and down this course. But right now, it makes me work too hard and I'm not doing the workout I intended.

12.18 miles today - 90 minutes. 149 HR. 7:23 pace.

Yesterday: 7.61 miles - 60 minutes. 136 HR. 7:53 pace.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

End of Week 4

End of week 4 and end of level 2. This week had a race embedded so I only ran one up-tempo day (the race) with the rest all below 140. After the race the legs were sore for about 3 days and my back decided to hurt for those 3 days as well. In fact, two mornings after the race the back hurt very much. It is subsiding now. I must have done something to it.

This morning's rainy run ended week #4. All the other runs were in bright sunshine so I won't complain. My paces at similar heart rates seem to be getting a little better. Next week begins level 3 which is another increase in mileage and the introduction of the 2 hour long run.

Friday 9.43 miles 7:57 pace / 136 HR

Saturday 7.47 miles 8:02 pace / 139 HR

Sunday 7.1 miles 5:56 pace / 178 HR

Monday 9.59 miles 7:49 pace / 139 HR

Tuesday 9.26 miles 8:06 pace / 134 HR

Wednesday 7.76 miles 7:44 pace / 136 HR

Thursday 11.6 miles 7:46 pace / 138 HR

Total: 62.21 miles avg 7:37 pace / 143 HR

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Charles Davis Memorial 7.1 Mile Race Report

I've run this race a dozen times and this time I finally got to win. I have a few 2nd place & 3rd place trophies from this race and now the coveted blue ribbon will hang on my wall.

The day was perfect for running. Sunny, cool, and only a slight easterly breeze off the ocean. My plan for this race was to, again, push the envelope in the beginning miles to see how well or how poorly I could hold the up tempo. The result?

The biggest, fattest positive split of the field. Ha ha! Luckily this was the plan... why would I plan pain? Oh well.

The splits:

Mile 1: 5:28. From the start I took the lead and tried to pace out an up-tempo that I knew would put some distance between me and the pack. I felt really good but already knew I had crossed the line. There would be no period of steady pace. I was anxious to see just what would happen. Lots of risk.

Mile 2: 5:39. An up and downhill make up this mile so it should even out - especially this early in the race. Approaching causeway #1 into Eastport.

Mile 3: 5:56. Ack! A completely flat stretch across a causeway and across Carlow island and I'm slowing. Too far into oxygen debt to keep the pace of the last two miles and the subconscious was doing the math.

Mile 4: 6:09. Pretty much the same pace until the hill at mile 4 showed itself. Another problem was this: I wasn't taking the tangents. Firmly planted in the right hand travel lane right behind the cruiser, I was losing some time on the sweeping curves to the left. I feared losing the protection of the cruiser because one of the issues with this race is the traffic.

Mile 5: 6:15. Someone's getting tired. This is a big downhill where if you had guts you could power down. My guts were in my mouth now and I had to put up with a nauseous feeling from running too hard. During this mile I was catching the walkers who had started at the 3 mile mark. I listened for the cheers for second place to gauge how much he was gaining. When I heard it I thought it seemed a little too close.

Mile 6: 6:22. All uphill. The funny thing is the legs felt great the entire way. Those first two miles built up way too much lactate for me to handle in the lungs. But the legs seemed to handle the hills without complaints. This was good as I've run these hills other years much slower as the legs got wobbly during this mile. During this mile, the road gets narrow and torn up. The only good spot to run is in the middle of the road - which is what I did. This put a line of cars right behind me as I tucked in behind the cruiser. As I approached mile 6 I knew I had the race. I was ready to slam in the final mile - the legs were ready and what's one mile of pain?

Mile 7: 5:50. Downhill and through town. Lots of people yelling my name from their doorways and the local gas station.

The race finished downtown this year due to security on the pier for the Navy vessel coming in for the July 4th celebrations. I liked this finish better as they had blocked off the road and it had one less turn.

Finish: 42:05. Average HR 178. Average pace 5:56.

1st half: 20:26 (5:45 pace)
2nd half: 21:44 (6:07 pace)

Once I finished I felt great as the lactate cleared. It goes to show what happens when you run into the anaerobic zone early in the race. You can slow down but it just won't clear until you stop.

A good test - but with results that are telling. I think 7 miles is the longest race I'll do with this type of race strategy! Man that was tough. A lot work and a pretty high heart rate to net a 5:56 pace. But if we don't try how will we know?

Win in 42:05

Race report to follow...