Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fifty Days Running

As I type this, I have run 50 days in a row. I did not specifically set out to run any given number of days, but instead did a bit self-experimentation. Since I am in a more modest mileage mode than I was (and will be) during marathon training, I figured I could spread the joy of running around and try 7 days a week. I'd say that on balance, the experiment has been a success, in that I've generally gotten in 8 runs per week (with doubles on Thursday's) while averaging about 54 weekly miles. Now, when I start training for Boston on January 1, 2010, my body will know how to handle running every day, though the current plan is to work on a 13-day cycle, with a non-running day every other week.

Last week, I hit 60 miles for the first time since before Sugarloaf. It went like this:
  • Monday - 5 miles easy
  • Tuesday - 8 miles
  • Wednesday - 9 miles, with an adjusted-on-the-fly workout (due to a twinge in my right groin and imminent thunderstorms) of 2+-mile warm-up 2x2K at 10K pace, 400 meters, 2x800 meters at 5K pace and a 2-mile cool-down
  • Thursday - 6 easy trail miles in the morning; 4 easy miles with the lunchtime training group
  • Friday - 8 miles, including 2x1.5-miles at tempo pace (just under 7:00/mile)
  • Saturday - 8 miles on the trails
  • Sunday - 12 miles easy, on a very hilly route
Many of last week's runs were in very muggy conditions, so at least I'll be acclimated if that's what we get on Saturday on the coast of Maine. So far, I've run Beach to Beacon twice, and have yet to see the Portland Head Light thanks to the fog. Frankly, I care much more about seeing the number "3" as the first digit on the clock when I'm nearing the finish line than anything else.

I plan to get in one last track workout today in advance of Saturday's race. I'm looking at something along the lines of doing a 2-mile warm-up, drills and strides, 1 mile at 5K race pace (6:00/mile), 3-4-minute recovery, 4x400 meters at 3K pace (about 5:50/mile) with a 1-minute recovery, then 4x200 with 200-meter recovery and a 2-mile cool-down. Then, I will kill the streak by taking a non-running day on Wednesday, looking at some time on the elliptical trainer, light weights, stretching and core work. With the streak monkey off my back, I will taper for Saturday with three runs of 4 miles, two on Thursday (early AM and lunchtime) and a slow 4-miler with 3-4 100-meter strides on Friday.

With the work done, I'll try to run a 6:20 pace for Beach to Beacon. I hope to line up closer to the front, since people rarely seem to honor the self-seeding pace signs, requiring one to waste a lot of early race energy weaving around people who are either extremely inconsiderate, or completely oblivious about their own abilities (not to mention road racing decorum). I'm also trying to decide between the Mizuno Wave Ronin 2 (7.5 ounces) and the Nike LunaRacers (5.5 ounces). I prefer the feel of the Ronins, but the LunaRacers are just so friggin' light. It may be a last-minute decision.

If I average 6:20 (on relatively even pacing) for the first 5 miles, I hope the race splits look like this:
  1. 6:20
  2. 12:40
  3. 19:00
  4. 25:20 (which would be a new 4-mile PR, incidentally)
  5. 31:40
  6. 37:50 (6:10 for this mile), plus a tad under 70 seconds for the final 0.2-mile

That would get me not only my goal of sub-40:00, but would put me in position to attain the more pie-in-the-sky time of sub-39:00. Of course, race-day plans rarely go exactly how we hope they will, but I think I should be in shape to put myself in position to do this, assuming good weather conditions and smart execution on my part.

Stay tuned . . . . -ESG

Monday, July 20, 2009

I thought I'd go for a little Blog . . .

I am keenly aware the recent silence in this space has likely gone unnoticed, but just because I haven't blogged, doesn't mean that I have somehow gotten away from running. In fact, the main reason I haven't posted in over a month is that there's been so much going on, that "blogging time" has been one of the sacrifices I have made in order to fit everything in. So, while I don't know if this post marks an "official" return to at least once-weekly updates, I have been missing blogging, the way one might miss a friend who goes away on a long trip.

So, this will be an entry about some of the many things that have happened since our intrepid "hero" last checked in.


Today is Day 42 of my first-ever running streak. After recovering from Sugarloaf, I decided that I would focus on training for a new 10K PR of sub-40 minutes. That meant two main things: emphasizing shorter, faster workouts, and eliminating the marathon-oriented Sunday long run (or LR). With the LR temporarily scaled back, my reason for not running on Monday's (favoring the elliptical machine instead) was gone. So, on the same day when my Mizuno Wave Ronin 2's arrived, I went out for a 4-mile run. 42 days later, I'm still going, and what a "run" it's been. I've run between 50-55 miles per week, with two "hard" days, involving track and lactate threshold work. I have not done enough hill sprints, as I've been a bit lazy about those, but otherwise my training has been pretty well-balanced.

"The streak" has survived despite two overnight flights (to and back from South America). I ran at the base of the Andes mountains. I've d"doubled" several times because I'm leading a training group at my office in preparation for the big corporate 5K in mid-August (which, ironically, I'll have to skip because of vacation).

There's no doubt that "streaking" brings a new dimension to running, but I'm also clear that I need to kill it sooner rather than later, or it will take on a life of its own and end up working against me as far as optimal training goes. One reason I decided to do this now, was to introduce my body to running 7 days a week, since my Boston buildup will necessarily require that in order to get up to 80 miles per week, as I hope to do. Right now, I'm thinking about a 13-days-on/1-day-off cycle, subject to modification if my body suggests (or insists) that that would be a good idea.

When people ask how often I run, I will say that right now it's every day. Non-runners generally react by commenting how disciplined I must be. It's challenging to make people understand that once a person internalizes a habit such as exercise, the tougher, more demanding decision is NOT to run. Running to me now is like brushing my teeth; I don't think about whether I'm going to do it. I only need to figure out when (and unlike teeth-brushing, for how long) I'm going to do it.

With my 10K goal race 13 days away, I may kill the streak after I hit 50 days, just to make it a nice round number and avoid getting too caught up in it.


As those few of you who read my prior posts know, I had in all sincerity decided to skip a fall marathon in order to concentrate on shorter distances, and to avoid disappearing every Sunday for 3 or so hours. However, a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a professional acquaintance, asking whether I'd take part in the Manchester Marathon in order to raise money for an organization that provides legal services to the poor. Since I used to be a public defender (and my wife used to work to raise money for that very organization), it was tough to say no.

However, I still do not want to "race" a fall marathon, and therefore I made what I thought to be a smart (for a change) running decision. Rather than train to run a fast fall marathon (on a not very fast course), I volunteered to be the 3:50 Pace Group leader. Of course, with a fundraising component, I realized that running a marathon simply does not grab people's attention these days, so to differentiate my endeavor, I'm going to pace the marathon and then do an additional 11.8 miles. The 38-mile total corresponds to the age of the legal service organization.

I've decided that since I have spent all of this time building up my endurance, I should do at least one charity event a year, where I get put myself out there on behalf of worthy people and causes. I'll discuss the 2010 event in a later post.

One of these days I may learn to say no, but I went from no fall long distance plan, to committing myself to a 38-mile run. If I can raise some money to help the dedicated legal assistance staff who does so much to protect a vulnerable population who'd otherwise be deprived any fair shot in court, it'll be worth the extra effort.


As noted above, my running has been geared towards the 10K. That's meant lots of repeats around a track at a 6:20-6:24/mile pace, or 1:35-1:36 per 400-meters. I've gotten pretty good at nailing that pace, and I have tried hard to avoid the early pacing errors that cost me in each of my last three shorter-distance races. I will do one more killer track workout this week, likely modifying coach Brad Hudson's workout to the following:

  • 2 miles easy

  • 3x2K at 10K pace, with 2:30-3:00 active recovery

  • 1K at all-out effort

  • 2 miles easy
Coach Hudson's workout calls for 4x2K plus the all-out finish, but that seems overly aggressive for a runner of my ability, and I do not want to risk hurting myself with 10 days to go before the race. I'll get up close to 60 miles this week, then taper next week for the race on August 1st.

Not long ago, I thought that a sub-40-minute 10K would be a lifetime goal, and never thought I'd be within striking distance this soon in my running "career". The question is thus whether I am in realistic sub-40 shape. On Saturday, I got the answer, but not exactly the one I was looking for, having run one of the more competitive local races in our area. The race is a 5-mile course, honoring a longtime high school track/XC coach. I had hoped to come close to 32:00. Instead, I ran a time of 32:46 (per my watch; 32:50 officially), for a disappointing PR.

I'd had a tough night on Friday, having been up with a sick child from about 2-4 am, only to get up again at 6:00 to eat and head out to the race to volunteer (since my club is essentially the "host". The race starts out flat, with a substantial climb towards the end of Mile 1 before flattening out again. The end of the 4th mile includes a dastardly uphill that still confounds me, despite the fact that I've lived at three different houses along the race course. In other words, it is the loop which I know better than any other.

Saturday morning was extremely muggy and humid. It was not too hot (mid-70's maybe), but the air was extremely thick, and sweat poured off of the runners within seconds of getting going. The real treat of the morning was to meet up with my RWOL friend Walter, who is visiting New England from Chicago. He and his spouse were great to meet and hang with, though I knew Walter's 100+-mile weeks would result in him leaving me in the dust. Turned out that he raced like a mere mortal, which meant that he was disappointed in his own performance.

Here's how the race played out for me:

  1. 6:33 (goal = 6:30) - decent start; avoided getting sucked in to a too-fast pace; let people go by who should not have been going out that fast
  2. 6:48 (goal = 6:50) - smooth and steady up the hill; passed 8-10 people
  3. 6:21 (goal = 6:20) - passed my house and was feeling pretty good, but my mouth was extremely dry
  4. 7:04 (goal = 6:20) - started feeling lousy on a long gradual uphill and lost mental focus; stopped for water at the aid station at around mile 3.5; sort of hit the mental "reset" button and was on my way for a respectable finish
  5. 6:00 (goal = 6:10) - felt fast, but relaxed; was pushing the pace, passing lots of people, including maybe 10 or so in the last 1/2 mile; one guy passed me with about 0.25-mile to go

So, I ran 80% of the race according to plan, but blew it over the course of one bad mile. I'm hoping that a bit of a taper, along with extra rest and more mental focus, will take me to that sub-40:00 in Maine on August 1st. Of course, we'll see . . . and I'll share the results, whether it's a triumph or a tragedy.

Thanks for reading. -ESG