Friday, February 24, 2012

Ahead by nearly a century

As Boston gets closer, the mileage gets higher, the workouts get harder and I get hungrier. Nearing the end of a February that includes three consecutive weeks of 85, 98 and 95 miles. I am struggling to remember a time when I was thoroughly stuffed. This week, the seminary at which we live hosted a free pancake breakfast. They probably didn't bank on my appetite as they prepared the feast. Two plates piled high with hot cakes, fruit and fresh whipped cream and I still had room for M&Ms when I got home. (Side anecdote: Lauren and I took Julie and Brian to the M & M store and could not resist the allure of the wall of milk chocolate in a candy shell. We now have enough M & M's to sustain us through Christmas...or maybe next week. Who knows?)

Since my last post, which was about movies and not running, things have progressed quite nicely on the fitness front. Minus a disastrous attempt at racing the mile at the Armory, I've finished every run at workout satisfied. The day after the track disaster, I put in a hard 7 mile tempo in the park , solo at 5:38 pace. I can thank the frustration hangover for some of that speed. That run was followed up by a moderately paced 20 miler with Josh and JR over the George Washington Bridge and onto the steep hills and switchbacks of the Palisades Greenway before heading back into Central Park.

The next week was a grind from start to finish. At Tuesday’s UA workout, we hammered 400s around the Great Lawn. Although, I should point out that hammering is relative. My 12 repeats ranged from 65-70 seconds and the rest was generous. During the faster ones, my face contorted in a twisted grimace and my arms flailed wildly. People with actual speed can go much faster and look much more graceful. I have always lacked both grace and speed. It took me two days, three runs and 30 miles to recover. I also am learning that the high mileage requires me to run in the morning and with my current work schedule that means 4:30am. If I ever go months without updating this blog, assume that I was kidnapped by a wandering drifter somewhere along the Hudson river during one of those runs.

Once recovered, I hit the Central Park 4 mile course last Friday to attempt a solo effort at 3X2 miles. The course is moderately hilly, but so are all the races there, so workouts like these provide a good simulation of race day conditions. The times were 10:50, 10:37 and 10:43 with a three minute jogging rest. I would have liked to run the last one a bit quicker, but even with a 5:17 closing mile I had gone out too slow to dip below 10:40 again.

Because Julie and Brian were coming into town Saturday afternoon and I didn’t want them to waste part of their trip here waiting for me to run 22 miles, I planned to do another quick turnaround. I was out the door by 7am Saturday morning, ipod loaded with some of my favorite recent records and headed South down the Hudson. I covered 14 miles with only rare glimpses at the Garmin before meeting up with Meagan, also visiting, at Paragon Sports in Union Square so she could keep me company for the last 8 miles. By the end of the run, I had traveled nearly 23 miles at an unintentional, yet very comfortable speed of 6:45/mile. Getting the long run out of the way allowed for a worry-free Thai feast later in the evening with Meagan, Jordan (who is nursing an injury) and Julie and Brian. The next day, which was supposed to be an easy run with Meagan and Heidi, turned into me running with about 9 women and feeling like the creeper of the group. We kept the first 9 miles easy, but then Meagan and I picked it up heading down the Hudson River so she could make engagement. My legs were toast when I got back home.

I believe if you are going to run high mileage, run it consistently. One week at 90-100 miles is wasting your time. I train on a three weeks hard, one week easy schedule. I could not be more excited to be coming to the end of this current three week block. Last night’s team workout again focused on speed and turnover, and I don’t have either. I was able to hang on with the front pack from the duration of the ladder which started at 400 and climbed to 1200 before descending at a faster pace, but I wasn’t turning any heads. By the final 400, my legs felt like they were going to come out from under me. It’s easy to get disappointed when you are pushing harder than your times reflect, but I am trying to remember that you sometimes sacrifice that gear you need to hammer a 400 for stamina in the marathon.

One more long run tomorrow. 20 miles with the last 6 at marathon pace or faster, then a week to take it relatively easy for a 5K race. I hope 5000 meters is long enough for me to stick my nose in the competition.

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