Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Back on (the) Track

So Thursday night, I'm not ashamed to admit it, I woke my spouse up, because I was sleep crying. I was crying in my sleep. I tried to stand up and thought about screaming. Both calves were tight and burning. It felt as though someone had skewered me through my lower legs. Had I smelled onions, I would have known, I am a kebob.

Which brings me to my first bit of running advice. If you've taken a week off for an illness, and you run four miles, then have a chance to drive three hours to visit old dear friends and stay up until five in the morning drinking wine, even though that's just about when you normally get up . . . do it. Every time. Your calves will heal.

That being said, I took Friday and Saturday off for all of those reasons: my calves hurt, and I was recovering from being me but thinking I was me from fifteen years ago.


I ran my Cable Lane 7.75 (1:00.45) -- something about me said I should try to get in under an hour, even though I haven't yet done that. I was close, and that was good, considering my last week and a half.


Ran a new loop about four miles (32:15). I think I'm trying to convince myself that my recovery pace is an 8:00-minute mile. And that might be necessary for our Cleveland Marathon goal (3:30.00).

Tuesday (today):

I ran a twenty minute warm up, then ran 10 X 800 meter repeats with a 200 meter jog between each. My last half-mile repeats are here. Here's my splits:

Lap 1:(1:32).     Lap 2:(1:36).     800: (3:09).
Lap 1:(1:32).     Lap 2:(1:39).     800: (3:12).
Lap 1:(1:38).     Lap 2:(1:36).     800: (3:15).
Lap 1:(1:33).     Lap 2:(1:37).     800: (3:11).
Lap 1:(1:37).     Lap 2:(1:38).     800: (3:16).
Lap 1:(1:39).     Lap 2:(1:34).     800: (3:14).
Lap 1:(1:35).     Lap 2:(1:37).     800: (3:13).
Lap 1:(1:36).     Lap 2:(1:37).     800: (3:14).
Lap 1:(1:37).     Lap 2:(1:34).     800: (3:12).
Lap 1:(1:36).     Lap 2:(1:36).     800: (3:13).

If we don't count the anomalies (3:09 and 3:16), I could say that my mean was 3:13 +/-2: I feel very good about that. Looks like my average is 3:13. I admit it, I'm very pleased about those times. I might run this workout once more before my taper towards May 20. Or I might not, but I think when I pick my training back up in June, I'll have to rethink my goal: it had been 3:15 average.

The good news is my recent injury / illness hasn't necessarily hurt my training terribly. It set my confidence back, and I'm worried, still, about the long run, and my recovery time has increased, but my speed has actually continued to improve slightly.

So, again, never pass up a chance to visit dear old friends.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Uneasy Four Miles

After hardly getting out of bed for the past week -- laid up with some absolutely obnoxious illness that rooted itself in my face and brain; some folks like to call it a cold, I like to call it an utter lack of humanity -- I went for a four-mile run today. It was all I could do to finish in 42:22.

I felt like hell, but I'm certain I could smell all of the awful medicines and laziness I'd accrued from five days of Ny- and DayQuil. It'll take me a few days to get back on track, but I hope to be back on a marathon training schedule by next weekend.

Moral of the story: don't get sick. Sickness is a ridiculous condition.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Half-Mile Repeats

So, yesterday, it was half-mile repeats. The idea behind these, I suppose, is to measure how much exactly one hates oneself. If one likes oneself even a little tiny bit, one will stop at six or seven such repeats. If one has high self-esteem and is comfortable in one's own skin and feels good about oneself and the world, two half-mile repeats is plenty. I did ten.

First, I ran my two mile warm-up to the Pruitt Field track. Can you believe the University track team has priority over my whim? I was shocked, threw an absolute fit, stomped across the entire road to the bike trail and ran there instead. So the bike trail has clearly marked mile, and half mile marks, which is nice, but I had to run slightly uphill into a slight headwind one way and slightly downhill the other way. Scientists who read these posts, can one of you please explain why there's often a headwind, but never a tailwind: that is, why does the wind only blow when I'm running towards it? Is it magic? Did I piss off a wizard years ago?

Long story short, here's my times: up (3:18), down (3:12), up (3:19), down (3:11), up (3:12), down (3:02), up (3:18), down (3:16), up (3:11), down (3:11). First off, as for the 3:02, I can explain that: it's not my fault. I started the interval and passed this young man at a fair clip. Then the jerk passed me back, and, well, what would you expect should happen? I know that repeat did nobody any good, but, other than that, I'm entirely pleased with my results. That's a 3:14 average, which I am pleased with. Down a few seconds from my half-miles on the track which had me at about a 3:19 pace.

I'm feeling pretty worked, even a day later, but that soreness is negligible compared to my on-going upper-body lament from Monday's weight lifting. What an awful invention, weights -- as if the metaphorical world weren't heavy enough already, we had to invent actual weights to increase the burden. Great work, species!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Horizon, Mile Repeats, Other Stuff


Off. I think I tried to get back on the road too soon after the half marathon. Running felt awful. I was tired all the time. I took today off. I talked to Dr. Stick about it -- he'd run a different half the day before I had -- he indicated that I also might be feeling some post-race depression. I shrugged and said, "Meh."


Off. Ditto.


3.4-mile loop at a steady, easy pace (28:12). Today was the first day I felt like a runner since the race. I've always heard to take time off after a race to fully recover, but I thought that was silly, because I signed up for the Cleveland Marathon (20 May), and, though it's still five+ weeks off, it feels right around the bend: I was, therefore, worried about falling off my training wagon.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stick agreed to meet me Saturday morning (20 May) and run the marathon with me. As a seasoned veteran of marathons, it's likely that we'll run together for awhile, then I'll get to admire the soles of his shoes as he becomes a dot on the horizon, and, with a little bit of luck, he will not have finished his post-race massage, meal, and nap before I cross the finish line.

Here's something I read today:
Any effort to envisage a goal . . . generates a spatio-temporal structure. Habit, by dulling the sense of purpose and of anxious striving, weakens it.
The passage comes from Yi-Fu Tuan's 1976 book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. And it holds within it at least one of the central paradoxes of running (as I see it): namely -- I believe entirely in a sustained consistent effort for any runner; but that can be, let's face it, BORING! So . . .

When Tuan speaks of a spatio-temporal structure, I think, clearly, he means goals give a reality to the future, something that we can seemingly touch (or, at least, sense in a very real, physical manner), despite the fact that they do not exist on the same plane of existence temporally.

(Give me just a second here to counter my two sons who are currently rereading Stephen Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell -- I know what you're thinking: "Because we can only exist in one point 'p' in space, even viewing time as an equivalent and tangible fourth dimension (along with length, height, and depth), would not allow for us to exist in multiple points 'p', 'p1', 'p2' . . . in time, unless one means truly to suggest that one can be in multiple places at a single moment." To my boys, I respond, simply, "You're grounded. Go to your rooms."

Phew! I'm glad that's settled. So in a sense, what I am suggesting is that this structure of Tuan's allows for, if not a physical connection with the future, then at least, an emotional or intellectual connection.

The beauty of this goal-setting lifestyle is that it flies in the face of the mundane, day-to-day habit, the sustained, consistent practice of running every day. We visualize our goals, in part to make them a reality, but also to make an emotional connection with the future to drag us through those maintenance runs, as though we are the crapradoodle, and the world is me . . . or would that be the world is I. So there you have it: Dr. Stick and I are setting out to run a 3:30.00 Cleveland Marathon (20 May).

In addition to this shared goal time, we will be able to bring our own personal talents and observations to the race in order to function as a tiny collective unconscious. For instance, he'll bring his experience of having run a half-dozen marathons to help us set a reasonable yet serious clip, and I know how to read a map and can thus locate the starting line (truthfully, I might just ask one of the other 19,000 runners standing around the streets of Cleveland).

See you all in Cle-town.

Meanwhile, my spouse keeps asking me, "Why are you reading that book?" and my answer, "Why aren't you reading this book?" each time receives a sigh, a headshake, and an eye roll. Which I take every time as an indication that I am a deep thinker and impassioned philosopher. Thank you, baby. So are you.

Before all that, though, I ran my 3.4-mile loop (28:12). It felt nice.


Ran two miles on the treadmill at the rec center after lifting weights (shoulders, chest, back, biceps, triceps) for twenty minutes -- first time touching a weight since 2005. Very embarrassing, kind of stupid looking -- I liked it.


Sore from weightlifting. Ridiculous.

Ran my own kind of float workout (Runner's World May 2012 has an issue on such exercises) today. It was too windy to run hills, and too cold to run repeats -- no science behind this, just the way I felt -- so I decided to run mile repeats uphill: if I hadn't mentioned it, I'm sure it would be easy to figure out there's very rarely science when I'm around. I ran a ten-minute warm up.

I wanted to pushed the mile uphill pretty hard in order to work on leg strength and turnover and lungs as I ran -- and it came to pass that those three things were worked on and the working on them was good and those three things were good. (Don't know how the language from Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade scene crept into my language right there, but I'll try no to let it happen again.) As for the downhill, I tried to maintain my speed which would allow me to maintain some intensity, while recovering from the uphill.

My times: up (7:32), down (7:57), up (7:47), down (7:55), up (7:50), and I didn't have it in me to run back down. I ran this run once before, but I didn't check my splits before hand, because, well, it's been months, and I'm transitioning from the race back into training, so I didn't see any need to measure my now self against my previous self -- maybe next time.

It was my first hard workout since the race a week and a half ago. And it was good. Tomorrow: maintenance, I reckon.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My First Half


Dragged the crapradoodle around for 3.4-mile loop (34:56) – I don’t know if she’s really all that interested in running anymore – I think she’d rather sit at home and watch tv. On the other hand, she still does enjoy a good healthy bm.


3.4-mile loop (29:05). Slow and short, mostly just staying loose for tomorrow’s half-marathon, my first.


Pretty scary, running a half marathon . . . I didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand, I have been reading Runner’s World for years, so I made the following list of goals that would hopefully build on each other.

Goal 1: finish the race.
Goal 2: don’t crap pants.
Goal 3: finish in under 2 hours (9-minute pace).
Goal 4: finish in under 1:50.00 (arbitrary number that I thought sounded nice).
Goal 5: finish in under 1:45.00 (8-minute pace) – this was my best-case pace.
Goal 6: finish in under 59:43 (American record for the half marathon, set by Ryan Hall in 2007.

My plan for today’s race went like this: eight-minute miles, no matter what happens, just stick to eight minute miles. If I fell off pace a little, I figured I could still hit my first two or three goals. That would be fine. Eight-minute miles, that’s my motto.

I woke up this morning with an hour and a half to get to the registration. PB & J sandwich and a cup of Kefir – this felt like a smooth, easy, bowel-friendly breakfast – for the duration of the run, I didn’t get hungry at all. I felt strong and energized. For the walk uptown, I poured some coffee into a blue plastic SOLO cup, so I could ditch the cup when finished, and in order to better blend with any college students who might be wandering home from their beer pong games.

The registration was a little over a mile from my house. I started my mantra en route: eight-minute miles, eight minute miles, eight minute miles . . .

The first thing that I noticed when I got close to the registration table for my first marathon / half-marathon was how many people in the world are in much better shape than I’m in. Everybody there had legs you could use to study very particular branches of anatomy. Most of the folks were slim, lithe. I asked one Olympic-looking guy what his goal time was; he said, “Oh, I don’t run; I’m just here to watch my spouse” – even the spectators were fitter than I.

But that’s all fine, I told myself. I’m not here to beat the spectators or their wives. I’m just running for my eight-minute pace. I’m not going to win the race or even my age group, and everybody who finishes gets a little medal.

I got my registration sack and walked to my office on campus, about another mile. I had to walk through the growing crowd of runners, and the closer I got to the starting line, the more fit the people became. We had forty minutes till the race, and already hundreds of folks were running, stretching, plyometricing. The idea that today’s 13.1 was just another run fell away very quickly, and I started thinking, what if someone passes me with a mile to go (or after the first mile) – do I push hard, maybe through in a three-minute half-mile? No, I told myself, that’s not what we’re doing today; today is for eight-minute miles; call me the eight-minute-mile man. But what if I feel really good at the turn, should I add in some kicks, and start picking people off? I had to sit myself down in my office building and have a little chat with me:

“Look,” I said, “just run an eight-minute pace – nobody can fault you for that. 1:45.00 is a respectable time, and if you don’t quite get it, at least finish the race, and we’ll work on strategies next time.” Okay, I thought, I’m right. I just got a little nervous. Eight-minute miles, eight-minute miles.

I continued to run around in little circles, so as to fit in, and saw that some of my ROTC students had brought a cannon to the race. I thought it was very nice of them to show support for the runners, but I also worried about who they were thinking about shooting. It reminded me of the play my Uncle Dewey was in during his fourth-grade year: his first encounter with the stage, though certainly not his last. He was cast as a knight-errant, who, upon hearing a cannon blast, turns to the king and announces, “Hark! I hear a cannon.” For weeks, he practiced his line – at home, in the car, at baseball practice – “Hark! I hear a cannon. Hark! I hear a cannon. Hark! I hear a cannon.” Each afternoon at play practice, the gym coach would haul out the starter’s pistol for Dewey’s scene and fire off a cap: “Hark!” Dewey would announce, “I hear a cannon.” The day of the play, the school brought out the cannon proper – Mr. Effenauer put the capgun away – and, at just the right moment, Dewey took the stage. The cannon fired – KaBOOOM! – Dewey covered his head and yelled out, “What the hell was that?”

His first marathon was a totally different story.

I got bored with warming up – so I made my way to the start and got to listen to all the last minute advice from runners talking to other runners. The more experienced folks spoke of getting to the center of the road, so as not to get tripped and getting to the side of the road, so as not to get boxed in. They spoke of diet and pacing and prs and bowel movements and water stations and how to hold a water cup and what to do for cramping. Eight-minute miles, eight-minute miles. They spoke with great precision, almost obsession about splits and Gatorade and peeing in the woods – I felt a great kinship; these are my people. I turned to talk to one group – an older man and two teenage girls – about a recent bowel movement I’d had, but the loud speaker kicked on and introduced the “Star Spangled Banner.”

After the song, the loud speaker came back on, but it sounded like the Harvey Keitel SNL skit about the NYC subway PA – you know the one: “Mfmfmrrrfmmmrmrmrmr furmmr mhrmmmrm Athens mrmfrhm mmmmmrmh urrmrh rmmrh . . .” so I thought eight-minute miles, eight-minute miles KaBOOOM! What the hell was that?

The crowd started moving; we were off and running; all my best laid plans went to shit. My watch said 6:30 at the mile marker and 13:03 at two, but I was close enough to some folks with GPS watches to quickly learn that each of the first two mile markers were off by a tenth of a mile and that our actual pace had only been 7:15.

Two slim folks were running beside me, talking about bowel movements during some of their best marathons, so I introduced myself, said I was running the half marathon. They were both running the full, but, boy, did they have advice for me. We clipped along at a 7:15 pace for the rest of the first half of my first half-marathon where I made the turn, and they both kept going. During our chat, the more experienced of the pair had said, “The best bit of advice I can give a half marathoner is turn off your brain at about the nine-mile marker.” Little did he know, I had turned mine off when ROTC had fired off the cannon. The rest should be smooth sailing.

The crowd sure did thin out at the turn. I felt pretty good, despite the fact that I had blown my eight-minute mile goal. If I had a single thought it was maintain, at this point, just maintain this pace, but I found myself in a delicate situation. There were three runners about fifty paces ahead of me, and a whole group about twenty paces back. I’m awful at maintaining a race pace – I know this about myself from half a lifetime ago, so I knew I would soon get swallowed up by the group behind me whose pace I trusted more than my own. But then I thought, Why don’t I just catch those three up there and maintain their pace? It was a new kind of running for the middle, where I had to make the decision to fall back or to forge ahead, despite the fact that my plan was to just hang out. So I pushed hard for a few minutes, excited to catch these three runners and maintain their pace – what fun! But when I got to them, they were going slower than the pace I wanted. Luckily, another fifty paces ahead was another group of runners whose pace I thought I would like even better. So that’s how I ran the next six miles: brain off, testing other folks’ paces, like Goldylocks, to see whose I liked best. I got passed by two other people on that home stretch who were both apparently looking for someone else whose pace they liked better, and I hope they found it.

Though the mile markers were not verifiable, I’m gonna guess my body was starting to give out at about the eleven-mile marker. My body encouraged me to fall back a bit, look for that first group I’d seen behind me back at the turn, maybe give their pace a try again. But my mind told my body to stow it, and just maintain. My body said, “Wasn’t somebody supposed to turn you off?” And while my mind and body went back and forth about all that, the rest of me just loped around the final lap at local Pruitt Field. My time was 1:33.52. Met my first five goals. I guess all that’s left is to beat Ryan Hall. There’s always next year.

Monday: off.

Tuesday: off.

Wednesday: Cable Lane Loop – still very sore – 1:12.48.

Thursday: 3.4-mile loop (27.35). It’s no joke recovering from my first half.