Sunday, August 24, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 6

The amount of running, hiking and biking I did this week may very well have been negated by the amount of delicious dinners, beers and ice cream I consumed.  Over  the past six days, I definitely took advantage of every aspect of being on vacation in one of the most beautiful, serene and rugged areas of the country.  My mind is completely refreshed from shutting off my work phone, leaving the TV off (with the exception of watching "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" which is surprisingly VERY good) and limiting political conversations to one in which virtually all of us agreed with each other in principle.  My body on the other hand has been through the ringer.   By the end of today's long run, a much needed massage was the only thing separating the final mile and a horrible injury. So, here's the week.

Monday: AM: 8 miles easy in the Targhee National Forest in Alta, Wyoming. Afternoon: Easy 6 mile hike to top of Grand Targhee Ski Resort.  PM: 5 miles easy into Driggs and back with Lauren on the bike.  30 minutes of core.  This was obviously a solid day of exercise.  The two hour time difference is allowing me to keep the same hours as I do at home, but instead of waking up at 9am, it's 7am and my favorite time to run.  It's also about 50 degrees in the morning.  I'm not feeling the 6400 feet of elevation at all.

Tuesday: AM: 8 miles easy from Driggs, ID to Alta, WY.  Afternoon: 12 mile hike to Devils Staircase in Targhee National Forest. As everyone got ready for a long day of hiking, I ran to the trailhead to get some miles in for the day.  That warmed me up well for a five hour hike to approximately 9800 feet and back down.  My right foot was a little sore from the uneven terrain, but the pain had subsided by dinner.

Just before setting out for 11 miles in Grand Teton National Park
Wednesday: AM: 5 mile easy hike around Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park.  Afternoon: 11 miles with 10x30 seconds at 5k effort in Grand Teton National Park, Moose, Wyoming.  This was a rave run. I started at Jenny Lake and ran the bike trail 5.5 miles out and back with pickups on the way back.  The entire run is alongside Grand Teton and it's two bordering mountains which are nothing less than majestic.

Thursday: AM: 14 miles up Ski Hill Road starting in Driggs, ID and ending in Alta, Wyoming.  Afternoon: 20 mile easy bike ride from Driggs, ID to Victor, ID and back with Lauren.  PM: 4 miles in Driggs, ID with Jamie.  This was a big day.  It was cold and raining when I set out.  My intention was to run into town then head back up the mountain throwing in 25-40 minutes of steady state effort along the way.  Unfortunately, my legs didn't agree with my plan and it was obvious after one mile of "steady state" that today was not my day.  It's also possible that I grossly underestimated how tough of a climb I was facing.  After about seven miles of gradual uphill, the road gets very steep and I was working hard to hit 8:15 pace.  At mile 11, I turned around and started running downhill, being careful to hold back for the benefit of my quads and IT band.  Looking back down at what I had just climbed made me wish I had a camera. Lauren and the car waiting to pick me up were a welcome site.  Despite ditching the tempo, I was feeling like a badass about this run.  That is until about 20 minutes later when I picked up the local paper at the coffee shop to see a front page article about two mountain runners who run up nine 12,000+ ft mountains in well under a day and a half.  After a leisurely bike ride to check out the next town over during which a mulberry thorn popped Lauren's tire, I did an easy shakeout with Jamie which drained every last bit of energy I had left.

Friday: AM: 4 miles easy in Driggs, ID.  Afternoon: 7 mile hike to Wind Cave in Darby Canyon. PM: 5 miles easy in Driggs, ID, 30 minutes of core. Neither run today was notable.  I felt sluggish and sore during both and I may have had a pint before the second one which made things interesting. 

In dowtown Jackson, WY.  There is elk and bison jerky in the bag
Saturday: Goose Egg. I intended to get up and run, but it was pouring rain and 45 degrees when I woke up and my sore legs told me it was better to stay in bed and get some extra rest before a long trip back to NYC.

Sunday: 16 miles easy in Prospect Park.  This started off as a nice run over the Manhattan Bridge, into Brooklyn and up to Prospect Park.  By halfway through, I was counting down the miles.  My left leg was sore the entire run and I could not get enough water.  Fortunately, the run ended at my miracle-worker massage therapist's house and an hour of digging seems to have gotten out some of the kinks.

Total Weekly Mileage: 75.9 (24 miles of hiking, 20 miles of biking)
Next week: A tough one. 

Beer of the Week:

Beer Flight at Grand Teton Brewing
To make sure I chose the very best beer available in the wild west, I tried a lot of beers this week.  Most of the beers I tried were from Idaho and Wyoming.  Grand Teton Brewing Company, which we visited, has an excellent lineup.  Favorites included Sheep Eater, a Scotch Ale and Ale 208, a session ale, but I only tried them in a flight (750ml bottles are being shipped to the house as we speak) so I can't name either the beer of the week.  Plus, Grand Teton's Amber got the nod last week.  I tried a lager from Snake River Brewing which gets good ratings on the internet, but I thought it tasted cheap.  Two beers from Victor, ID based Wildlife, a Double Red and an IPA were very refreshing and Harvest Moon's Pigs Ass Porter was really smooth, if not just a bit too bubbly.  But it was Pig War, a White IPA from further west -- Portland's Hopworks Urban Brewing that I liked the best.  I had never had a white IPA before and if they all taste like this, it's a new favorite style for me.  It combines the crispness of an IPA, but replaces the bitter aftertaste with that of a citrus wheat beer.  If I weren't driving home from dinner, I would have had several.  Unfortunately, none of the beers I just listed are distributed anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, so it will likely be a while before I get to taste them again.

Until we meet again, Pig War (Portland friends, feel free to ship this to me)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 5

This week's update comes to you from Driggs, Idaho where we are vacationing with some of our best friends from Charlotte in the shadow of the Grand Tetons.

Week 5 started off on the wrong foot but ended on a high note. Sunday night as we walked to Lauren's birthday dinner, I was hit with a sudden wave of nausea. Over the next 48 hours whatever illness I had left me completely dehydrated and drained of energy. Fortunately, it went away as quickly as it came and with adjustments to my training plan, lots of sleep and constant water and electrolytes, I was able to pick up exactly where I left off.

Monday: 6 easy miles in Central Park. Easy is really not appropriate for this run. I was feeling quite sick and just wanted this to be over. I did 30 minutes of core when I got home then collapsed in bed until work.

Tuesday: Run fail. As soon as I started this run I knew I shouldn't have. I stopped and restarted three times in eight minutes before finally listening to my body and walking home to sleep for three more hours until work.

Wednesday: 14 miles with eight miles at 5:55 pace on the West Side Highway. This was originally supposed to be the day I did my primary workout for the week, but given the past two days, Terry and I agreed that it might be too aggressive coming off an illness. I did my secondary workout instead which was a medium long run with the eight middle miles at somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:00 pace. As soon as I started running I was surprised by how much energy I had. Apparently two days of rest not only helped beat the illness, they also rejuvenated tired legs. 5:55 pace came easy and on the cool down I still had plenty left in the tank.

Thursday: 9 miles along the Hudson River north. I've been experiencing a bit of Central Park fatigue. Today, I decided to head North along the Hudson for the first time in a long time. It's a beautiful run with views of the George Washington Bridge, the Little Red Lighthouse and the New Jersey Palisades. 30 minutes of core.

Friday: 9.5 miles in Central Park. The best way to beat Central Park fatigue is to go off the beaten path. Allie was searching for some places to do intervals so we went to some of my favorite spots. Before I knew it, the run was over and it was time for six 20 second strides.

Saturday: 3x3 miles at 17:01, 17:00 and 16:19 with a half-mile at 6:30 pace in between each set. This was the workout that gave me butterflies from the first time I saw it on my calendar.  I did not want it to be hanging over my head all week, but because I had to delay until Saturday it was. Fortunately, my Urban Athletics teammate Tom was willing to join me as this is not an easy workout to do solo. We did the first two intervals in exactly 5:40 pace as planned. The entire time I was worried about being able to go significantly quicker on the last set. Yet, somehow both Thomas and I found the extra gear to put a solid finish on a successful workout. The total mileage for the day was 19, my highest since the winter.  After the run, I ate a donut and sat in a tub full of ice.

Sunday: 5 mile death march in Driggs, Idaho. The combination of no sleep, eight hours of traveling across the country, yesterday's workout and 6,400 feet of elevation made this a pretty terrible run. But, it's beautiful out here and I'm excited to get in some solid runs in the mountains and on the trails.

Total mileage: 63.7 with the unplanned day off.

Beer of the Week:  Grand Teton Brewing Amber

When in Rome. This brewery is less than 10 miles from where we are staying, but their beers are distributed throughout the region. The Amber is probably the most basic of the beers they make. I've tried an American Pale Ale, a Brown Ale and a Weiss that are pretty awesome. But after a long day of travel and a tough run, this was the most refreshing drink in the fridge. And since I am typing this on my ipad, here is a ginormous picture of the bottle.

Next week: Mountain miles, hikes and lots of beer!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 4

I'm a little late on this recap mostly because Sunday night while walking to Lauren's birthday dinner, I was suddenly hit with a wave of nausea.  I was able to fight through yesterday by sleeping nine hours, running, then laying back in bed until work.  Today, the run just wasn't happening.  I made it seven minutes before completely running out of gas.  Instead, I'm back in bed with a juice blend full of so many juices one of them has to cure me and writing this update.

Monday -- 30 minutes core.   After a race weekend and with a high intensity week ahead, this rest day was much needed.

Tuesday -- 8.2 easy miles in Central Park.  I had good company from Allie and my original NYC running partner Heidi on this warm, but casual run around the park. 

Wednesday -- 4x3200 with 400 jog rest at Riverbanks Track.  I had originally planned on turning this into a straight 4x2miles on the West Side Highway, but Jerry convinced me to take it to the track where he would keep me company.  My goals were 11:30, 11:00, 11:00 and sub-11:00.  Jerry said he was going to run his around his marathon pace, so as we set off on the first interval, I tried to make sure he had 10-15 meters on me.  We finished the first 3200 in 10:53 and I knew I was going to have to go big if I wanted to salvage the original intent of this workout and not go backwards.  It was a lot of work, but the subsequent 3200s were 10:49, 10:43 and 10:44.  I don't think I could have pushed myself that hard without Jerry.   This workout was a big step forward in restoring confidence.  I ended up running 14 miles total for the day with warmup and cool down to and from the track.

Thursday -- 7 easy miles in Central Park. Missed connection with Allie today.  She was running late and I was on a pretty tight schedule, so I ended up running solo.  30 minutes of core.

Friday -- 9.2 miles solo in Central Park, mostly on the Bridle Path.  12.4 miles on the ElliptiGO.

Saturday -- 14 miles with 10x1 minute at 5K effort.  I have lived in New York for more than three years, but had never ventured to Summer Streets.  Summer Streets happens the first three Saturdays in August.  The city shuts down Park Avenue to traffic from 72nd Street to the bottom of the island and opens it to bikers, runners, walkers, rollerbladers, etc. I think my hesitation was that it wouldn't be conducive to quality running, but as Jerry, John and I ran down a wide-open four-lane street, I was proven mostly wrong.  We were able to click off a solid 6:30 pace without anyone getting in our way or us getting in theirs.  However, we did have one confrontation with a tourist on a bike who loudly complained about runners then called us a derogatory name for the male anatomy.  Three years ago, I would have ignored something like that, but after dealing with rude people since 2011, I fight back.  I stopped to see if she would mind repeating herself, which she did.  Words were exchanged and then her gentleman companion rode up to Jerry and started picking a fight with him. It ended with Jerry shoving the man's bike away.  He didn't fall, but he didn't come back.  Runners are scrappy.

Sunday -- 15 miles in Central Park.  We had a huge group for this run.  That almost made up for the stifling heat and humidity.

Total Weekly Mileage:

Beer of the Week:
Brooklyn Wild Streak

I really like the Brooklyn Brewery.  I know it's the cool thing to do, but I like everything I try there and I've tried almost everything.  In fact, over the past few years, Brooklyn Summer Ale has become my default, easy-to-find summer beer (it had been Sam Adams for years).  I had never heard of and knew nothing about Wild Streak when I came across it hidden in a cooler at Broadway Dive Saturday afternoon.  Wild Streak was a "ghost" beer, only poured at tastings and special Brooklyn Brewery events.  It's recently graduated to a season release.  It's aged in bourbon barrels and with a 10% ABV, it's not for the faint of heart.  It only comes in 25.9 ounce bottles, so I split mine with a friend.  Yet, for the high alcohol content of a Strong Belgian Ale, it's incredibly drinkable.  Try it if you can find it.

Oh, and download this:
Foxygen: How Can You Really?
Spoon: They Want My Soul (the whole album. Just awesome.  But, start with "New York Kiss" and "Rent I Pay" if you want to test some tracks first.)

Next week: Illness adjustments and preparing for a vacation.  At this point the thought of beer or any kind of liquid that is not water or juice makes me feel ill.  That will go away.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lessons Learned as a 30-Year-Old Runner

30 is not old.  Not even close.  But 30 is also not 20.  It’s not 25 either.  Just like different things being socially acceptable at 25, but not so much at 30 (black out drunk at 25?  Young and fun!  Black out drunk at 30?  Get your shit together), there are things you can do as a runner at 25 that you can’t do at 30.  It doesn’t happen in an instant.  I didn’t wake up on September 26, 2013 and realize I had aged overnight. But in the course of my 30th year, I have noticed a few hitches in my giddy up.  And there’s some good things too.  So as I approach my final month of being 30, I thought I’d pass along some wisdom to those of you who aren’t quite there yet.

You can’t just roll out of bed and run 6:30s – Ya know what guys, I’m just going to start this run at a nice 8:00 pace.  You go on ahead.  I’ll catch up.

In fact, you can’t just roll out of bed and run anything – I used to roll out of my bed and into my running shoes.  Sometimes I was still asleep a good three miles into the run.  Now a 9am run means an 8am wakeup at the latest. I can’t run until I have eaten at least an energy bar and drank a small cup of coffee and both have been successfully digested.  Then, I have to do at least 15 minutes of foam rolling, sticking, pacing and stretching which leads me to…

Stretching is not optional – Like every other distance runner on the planet, I hate to stretch.  I don’t need to recite the lecture you've already heard from your chiropractor, physical therapist and/or massage therapist.  I’ll just say, turns out stretching serves a purpose.  You might be able to get by without stretching for most of your youth, but I promise you it will catch up to you.

The candle only has one end – Just keeping a regular exercise routine while working full-time is a challenge.  Training for a marathon with a demanding job is a whole other level and I don’t even have kids.  For most non-super-humans, there is a shelf-life on 12-hour work days and 100 mile weeks.  I’ve surpassed my expiration date.  I know runners well into their 30s who have not.  The key is knowing when it’s time to back off.  Backing off doesn’t involve waving any white flags, or training any less-hard (I googled the crap out of a better way to say “less-hard”).  It just means training different.  Maybe it’s fewer miles. Maybe it’s easier easy days.  Maybe it’s more prehab.  Maybe it’s an extra day off.  You’ll find what works for you after you find what doesn’t.

Your age group gets way easier – Here’s a good thing.  Nine out of ten times, the 30-34 age group is way easier than the 25-29 age group.  Speaking from New York City running experience, all the Kenyans and Ethiopians are in the 25-29 age group here.  Not that I get too many jollies out of placing in my age group, but  it can be demoralizing to not even crack the top 10 with a time that would have easily placed in the adjacent categories.  Since turning 30?  Top 10 every time.

Just because you can afford every specialist now, doesn’t mean you should go to every specialist – Here’s a rule I wish I had known when I had no money to spend.  If it feels like a stress fracture, it’s a stress fracture.  I just saved you $500 on an MRI.  Ok, so you have a stress fracture.  Stop running.  When it stops hurting, start running again.  Gradually.  I just saved you $100 on a doctor’s office visit.  I still see a lot of specialists, but you’ll spend a lot less if you see them to avoid getting injured as opposed to after getting injured.

You don’t have to keep all your gear – Yeah that race in 2005 was awesome, but I’m pretty sure the stink from nine years of running in the tech shirt is not going to come out with a sandblaster. So maybe it’s time to toss it?

As I said, every runner is different.  At NYRR Team Championships last weekend I got out-kicked by a man who was much older than me.  I looked him up in the results and saw he is 48.  If the race had been decided by age grade, he would have been first overall.  One thing I think is applicable across the board is that no matter what the date is on your drivers license, running keeps you young.  May you all run many more miles for many more years.  We’ll chat again in 10 years when I’m telling you 40 is not 30.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 3

At dinner last night I told Lauren how nice it felt to be “in a good place” for the first time in a long time.  I am not sure what exactly triggered the change; the move, weather that is neither oppressively hot or dangerously cold, finally finding a routine...who knows?  And who cares?  I’ll stop beating this drum, but hope it reverberates.  With three solid weeks of training for Philly in the books, the doubts I had about being able to run a respectable time are starting to fade, and I am even targeting a four-mile PR in early September.  More on that later.  For now, week 3.

Monday – 6 miles easy in Central Park before a 12 mile ElliptiGO ride.  The legs were definitely feeling the high-mileage of the weekend and yesterday’s massage.

Tuesday – 90 minute run with 6400 meters of alternating 200s (37/47).  I had never done anything like this before and while the times looked simple on paper, the thought of four miles alone and continuous on the track was a bit daunting.  I had trouble dialing in the paces for the first mile and ran the “off” 200s too quickly, but once I was able to find the right speed this workout flew by.  Unfortunately, every child in Harlem was playing in the infield of the track this morning so a couple of the laps included unexpected obstacles in the form of soccer balls and small clusters of kids wandering out into lane one (adult supervisors paying no attention).  The entire 90 minutes ended up being 13.2 miles with the 6400 meters in 22:08 (5:32/mile).

Wednesday – 8 miles easy on the Central Park Bridle Path.  This was a slow recovery run.  I tried to avoid turning left as much as I could since I hit my left turn quota yesterday.  30 minutes of core.

Thursday – 7 miles easy in Central Park.  Allie and I kept our weekly Thursday run at a very easy 8:00 pace as she had a cold and I had the two-day workout hangover. 

Friday – 7 miles easy on the Central Park Bridle Path.  In the middle of the run, I did 7x20 second pre-race strides.

Saturday NYRR Team Championship 5 Mile Race in Central Park. For the first time in more than a year, I was actually pretty excited about lining up for a race.  I was feeling relatively fit and rested, but mostly was curious to see what I was capable of running.  My goal going into the race was 26:30 which is not my PR, but is faster than I had run since late 2012.  In fact, I hadn’t cracked 27:00 since this same race last year.  Yeah, things have been rough.  I never get much sleep the night before a Saturday race.  I woke up at 7:45 and had two chia waffles with peanut butter and grabbed a small cup of coffee before hopping in a cab to the east side of the park.  There was a light rain when the women’s race went off, but by the time we started warming up it was just plain soupy.  I felt terrible during the two mile warm-up, which is a good thing (I’m always suspect of feeling loose and springy during a warm-up jog.  It usually means the race will be the opposite).  When the horn sounded, I tucked into a pretty big group of guys that I knew to be around my goal speed and let them set the early pace.  I realized early on that I had forgotten to turn on the GPS function on my watch which after a brief moment of panic, wound up being a blessing in disguise.  The first mile of the course consists of all three of the West Side Hills. There is really no better place for them because it gets my least favorite stretch of the park out of the way early. I was feeling very good the first two miles and split much faster on the hills than I have in the past.  The second mile of the race was my fastest.  By mile three our group had dwindled to two or three familiar faces and I decided to take the lead. I held on until the base of Cat Hill where a guy from NYAC passed me and opened a pretty big gap.  I never caught back up to him.  Cat Hill was my slowest mile, but I recovered decently and pulled away from two of the others guys in my group, beating them to the finish line and finishing in 26:21 (5:17/mile).  Splits: 5:11 (West Side Hills), 5:07, 5:15, 5:29 (Cat Hill -- Yikes!), 5:18.  With seven combined miles before and after the race and a 2.5 mile shakeout in the evening, total mileage for the day was 14.5

Sunday – 16 miles in Central Park with a big group.  Despite two or three too many glasses of sangria last night, I felt fine until mile 14 of this run. The last two miles were a death march.  I would have cut it short but I had to get home.  20 minutes of core in the evening.

Total Weekly Mileage: 72.7

Next Week: A rest day, long intervals and a classic go-to workout.

Beer of the Week:

Dogfish Head Namaste

The internet is full of odes to Dogfish Head and rightfully so.  Still, when Lauren brought this beer home, I wanted to like it not love it so I could chose a more unknown brewery.  I loved it.  This year, Namaste made the leap from seasonal champagne-size bottles to year-round six packs. I had a bottle with Lauren's homemade banana, peanut butter ice cream before bed Friday night (pre-race carbs).  It’s a really refreshing, easy-to-drink beer without sacrificing too much flavor.  I actually had trouble not downing it in one swig.  It’s made with orange slices and coriander (I’m not actually sure what coriander is, but I like it in beer.)