Solving the run-rest equation

When you think about it, a lot of running involves math. The standard measure of performance (pace) is supported by explanatory metrics such as cadence, stride length and heart rate. That data allows us to analyze trends and calculate indicators like V0² max. I’ll admit to loving statistics, but I know many people don’t.

Besides my increasing skepticism of my heart rate monitor and my frustration with a stagnant pace, I’m not going to write much about any of that stuff today. Right now I’m looking at statistical frequency. Now don’t stop reading, this isn’t really about math. It’s more about finding an optimum balance between running and resting.

When I stopped my daily commute at the beginning of May, I committed to increasing the number of miles I’d run a month. Seven years ago, I was averaging close to 20 miles a week. I typically took one rest day and totaled more than 80 miles a month. I did shorter runs during the work week and longer distances on weekends. When I was training for a 10K or a half marathon, I would cover as much as 12 miles.

Last April I ran a pathetically low 27 miles. Since then, I’ve steadily climbed from 57 in May to 82 in September. Just like I was doing doing in 2012, I’m again running six days a week and reaching 80 miles a month. However, that’s where the similarity ends. My pace has declined measurably and I’ve only run more than four miles twice this year.

I’ve decided to make a change in my run schedule to give me more recovery time and allow for longer runs. My average distance per run is about 3.1 miles and getting back to the 5+ range will hopefully boost my stamina. If that happens, I may be able to nudge my pace back into respectable territory.

So here’s the math problem:

1. There are seven calendar days in a week. I am currently running six days each week and taking a rest day every Wednesday.
2. The ratio of run days to rest days is 6:1.
3. Running six days in a row is fatiguing and it invites repetitive injuries, especially to the feet.
4. The cumulative fatigue discourages longer runs.

Here (I think) is the solution. See chart at top:

1. Instead of keeping a specific rest day every calendar week, I will run six days out of every seven, but will insert a rest day after every third run.
2. The ratio of running to resting drops from 6:1 to 3:1.
3. Rest days happen based on the sequence, not on a fixed day, so some calendar weeks can have two recovery days.

This change has many positives but it could have an effect on my monthly mileage. The fixed rest day method typically resulted in 26 run days a month while the 3-on, 1-off method will be closer to 24. It will be harder to reach 80 miles a month at my present distance-per-run average, but I’m hoping that more frequent rest days will encourage me to add more miles per run. Knowing I’m never more than three days to a recovery day (or cross-training on the rower) should be a motivator.

Shifting back to miles per run

Labor Day greetings. I’m glad to report that I logged 80 running miles in August. It was actually 80.46 but who’s counting? And don’t get me started with Garmin GPS variance that generally under-counts run distance by 2.4%. So I ran 80.46 but I may have run 83.4. My August goal was 75 miles so any way you slice it, I’m happy. SIOR, who is not delusional even though she considers her upcoming trek to Everest base camp an easy hike, thinks I should go for 100 miles in September. I think I’m going to repeat the 75 mile goal for September and see what happens.

Now that I’m averaging 18+ miles a week, I’m ready to shift focus to running distances. My 80 miles in August and 71 in July were built around a lot of runs. With very few exceptions, I’ve run six days a week since mid June. I ran 27 days last month to get to 80 miles and I’m wondering if it would be more beneficial to aim for 75 miles a month, running 5 days a week. That would give me the flexibility to add another rest day to recover from long runs that aren’t happening right now.

Back when I was commuting by train, I would usually run 2.5 miles at 4 AM from Tuesday through Friday and do 8-10 miles over the weekend. When I switched to commuting by car, my run schedule got disrupted and my weekly mileage and run frequency plummeted. Now that I’m commute-free, I have more options.

One thought is to do three days running with one day resting. It works out to six runs a week, but I’d never be more than three days from a rest day. My current schedule has me running five days straight for every rest day.  I could also go back to short runs (less than 3 miles) 66% of the time and longer runs (4 or more miles) 33% of the time. I could do that running either 5 or 6 times a week.

Since September has already begun and I’ve already logged 3.4 miles today, I think I’ll aim for at least one run a week over 3.5 miles and edge up that target as I go. It’s been a long time since I’d consider it no big deal to run six or seven miles on a weekend day. Right now, I just want to get back to doing four or more.

Cool weather returns but so does traffic

 Today’s route

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles
Sunday’s run (street): 4.4 miles

The weekend is here and I’m very glad about that. Since the school year started, my commute has gone from easy and breezy to not easy and not at all breezy. It takes me approximately twice as long to get to and from my office now than it did the last week in August. Working from home on Fridays makes the prior four day’s driving more tolerable. No commuting means I can get in a run before my workday begins.

It was 54° when I got outside at 7:30 AM. The air felt cool but not uncomfortable. I wore the runner’s mullet: a long sleeve shirt with shorts, that were perfect for the conditions. I’m getting used to feeling good from the start of my run after a year or so of struggling during the first few minutes. I ascribe this change to weight loss that has come mostly from consuming less sugar. My weight loss hasn’t been dramatic, but it’s been enough to make a difference in my running experience.

I ran my usual Friday morning loop. Due to the hour, I spent a lot of time running on the sidewalk to avoid maniac parents dropping off their children at the elementary and middle schools. The aggressive driving, speeding and ignorance of stop signs kept me off the road. Running on sidewalks is not my preference, but it’s the place to be on mornings like this.

I felt I was running well and my numbers showed it. I paced 8.7% quicker than my current average and I felt like I got around my slightly modified course sooner than I expected. That said, I wasn’t particularly fast compared to how I ran a couple of years ago. I’m loving this cooler weather and I’m looking forward to my weekend runs. Tomorrow morning’s schedule is tight and I’m hoping to get out early enough to get in some miles before 8:00 AM. Otherwise I’ll need to do a rare afternoon run.

CaptionBot sums up my run experience

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles

I used to be very disciplined about my running and would usually get out before the sun came up. In recent years I’ve slipped from typical 6:00-ish start times to a more indulgent 8:00 AM. Later starts led to later finishes that cut deeply into my weekend mornings. I’ve been thinking it would be good to return to earlier runs, starting today.

Although earlier starts were already part of the plan, I needed to be back in time for an 8:00 AM video call today. Having my running done by 7:00 AM gave me more time to get things done this morning. And I can always use extra time.

Being out at 6:30 AM was a different Friday experience for me. No recycling trucks or parents speeding down the road on their way to dropping their kids off at school. It was a chilly 38° and the glare from the rising sun was blinding, but I enjoyed being out there. I ran okay and covered my usual 5K Friday route. When I got home I took a selfie on my driveway to memorialize my multi-colored outfit.

After I downloaded the picture I stumbled upon Microsoft’s CaptionBot site where you can upload a picture and it captions it for you using artificial intelligence. The results are above. For the record I wasn’t exactly feeling “grinning emoji.”

More work could mean less workouts

A couple of years ago I left a long term job with thoughts of working only when I felt like it. I started consulting and found myself just as busy. Still, without a daily commute into the city, I had far more flexibility for running. After one of my consulting engagements turned into a permanent role, I found myself spending more time working and less time running. This week I accepted a promotion at my new company that greatly expands my responsibilities. The downside is that it will further restrict my workout opportunities during the week

As a result, I missed working from home this Friday. Worse, I skipped my usual Friday run that kicks off my weekend activity. Besides dealing with another long drive to and from the office, I’m feeling the guilt of going from four workouts per week to only two this week. I intend to resume my working from home on Fridays, but my new role involves a lot of interaction with people. As I transition to this position, those discussions are best done face to face.

At least I’m home on Saturdays and it was good to run regardless of what else was happening. “What else” turned out to be driving rain and I found myself on the treadmill for the first time in at least a month. I have no love for the treadmill, but it met the need. The outside temperature was 53° and the guest room felt cool and comfortable. I locked into a pace and set my mind on a time to finish.

The treadmill has a great fan and it made a big difference when set to high. The miles went by surprisingly fast. I turned off the TV after the first ten minutes because the noise was beginning to bug me. That was an improvement and before I knew it I was ready to stop. I won’t have a high number of miles this week, but after five days off from any type of exercise, I felt good about today.

While my 3-something mile treadmill run was a decent workout on a rainy day, my fellow Runsketeer SIOR managed to run 26.2 miles high in the sky in St. George, UT this morning. Not only that, she did the marathon in around 3:30 on a course that required running up and down a volcano.

Running against the clock

 Home with time to spare

Today’s run (street): 3.7 miles

Fall is a busy season, especially on weekends. All summer I could usually count on having enough time on Saturday mornings to get out for a five or six mile run without having to start at the crack of dawn. Lately, that’s not been the case, and I did the best I could with the short time I had to run this morning.

I usually run against a distance target, but today I needed to get my run done by a certain time and live with the mileage. Instead of setting the display on my Garmin to show elapsed time, distance and mileage, I kept it on the clock. I knew that no matter where I was in the run, I needed to be back before 7:15. I was fine with this because it was nice not having my average pace flashing at me every time I looked at my watch.

I was cruising through the neighborhood, feeling liberated from the Garmin’s judgement, when the watched chirped, indicating that I’d reached my first mile. I realized then that even though I didn’t have the distance display up, the Garmin was keeping track. I looked at the time and saw what was left and felt pressure to accumulate some mileage before I had to be home.

I can’t say that I significantly increased my speed once the Garmin announced my progress, but I did gain about ten seconds on each mile that followed. I managed to get home a minute sooner than my deadline. If I was late, Mrs. ER would not have been pleased.

Tomorrow I’ll try and take advantage of having more time and get out for at least 5 miles. Fall may be busy and disruptive to my running schedule, but the weather is far more running friendly.

Uncooperative Garmins can’t spoil a good run

 And taking its sweet time doing it

Today’s run (street): 4.25

Despite Wednesday being National Running Day and finally getting access to my company’s fitness center, I haven’t been running. Work is the culprit and I haven’t figured out how to get in my weekday workouts without reverting back to 3:30 AM runs. Ironically, I can be extremely flexible in terms of my morning timing, but I prefer to be on the road very early to beat the heavy traffic.

I did attempt to use the fitness center yesterday but traffic was terrible and I got in a little late. The result was a fairly crowded locker room, along with the realization that I lacked both a combination lock and soap for my après-run shower. My wife has since packed both items in my gym bag, so I’ll be better prepared next time. I still don’t like sharing a locker room with co-workers, but I’ll have to get over that.

I worked from home today and that provided an opportunity to do a run around the neighborhood. Once again, it took an annoyingly long time to get a signal on my GPS. I was concerned because I had some calls in the morning and every minute I waited (it actually took ten) was a minute less that I could run. The progress bar finally made it all the way across and I was on my way.

In the past, my first run after so many days away would almost guarantee a great experience. I wouldn’t define today’s run as great, but it met my need. It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect. I haven’t looked at the Garmin data yet, so I don’t know my splits. Overall, I did better than I expected.

Tomorrow is a Runsketeer group run and I’m looking forward to seeing my Runska-buddies for the first time since we ran the Brooklyn Half. I’m not happy to be cramming all my week’s running into three weekend days, but it’s the only option I have right now.

Run interrupted, for a very good reason

 You just can’t escape it

Today’s run (street): 6.25 total

This morning I planned to go out for six miles, but circumstances caused me to break the run into two parts. I’ve been trying to run at least 6 miles mid-week to reinforce my base. The news was reporting 40 MPH winds so I went with running pants and two top layers, including a heavier weight half-zip. It turned out that the winds weren’t anywhere as bad as reported.

I started off well and I was looking forward to covering my distance at a comfortable pace. I was almost at my first mile when my cell phone rang. I always check to see who’s calling, in case it’s an emergency. I recognized the number as a big client, but I couldn’t answer the phone in time. I listened to the voicemail and headed home to call them back.

Although my run was interrupted, it was worth it. I’m keeping my consulting practice, but now I’ll also be taking on a full time position. This will be the first time I’ll be commuting to an outside office since I left my old company in 2013. I’m very excited about this new opportunity, but I am concerned about how it will affect my training over the next few weeks. In order to be ready for the Brooklyn Half, I’ll need to maintain my current mix of speed and base running.

Once all the paperwork was signed, I went out to complete the balance of my run. In between the first and second part of today’s run I had lunch and I wondered how I’d do running on full stomach. The weather had turned cloudy and it looked like it might rain. I was grateful that my distance dropped to five miles, since I’d already done a mile earlier in the day.

There was more wind the second time I went out, but I appreciated it because I thought it might help simulate the effort needed to take on the first big hill at the Marcie Mazzola 5K on Sunday. I moved along fairly well, but the Garmin was showing paces that were at least 30 seconds slower than perceived effort. After calculating true distance, it turned out that I was running about 15 seconds per mile faster than what the display said.

Overall, I met my distance target, although not all at once. I recently read that two-a-days are actually a good training strategy, but I can’t remember why. I’m supposed to taper at some point for Sunday’s race although I’m not sure I can afford to reduce volume at this point. Maybe I’ll rest tomorrow and go long again on Friday.

Long run, short route

 Dark blue: primary loop, light blue: last mile

Today’s run (street): 6.75 miles

I thought I had eight more weeks to train for the Brooklyn Half, but I discovered this morning that I’d mistakenly added an extra week into the schedule. I’m glad that I noticed this before it created a disruption with my plan. I had originally built in two 11 mile Sunday runs prior to my final 12 miles the weekend before the race. I needed to eliminate one of them to make the schedule work. I have two consecutive 10’s before that and could have reduced that to one. However, I think I’m better off going 10, 10, 11 and 12, especially with the extra long runs midweek.

 Corrected Sunday schedule

I had early plans today, but was still able to get today’s base run done by mid-morning. Rain was threatening, so I decided to forgo Bethpage in favor of my local streets. I really dislike running in the rain and was concerned about getting caught in a downpour. I came up with the idea of running a set lap of roads that are close by my house. I figured, no matter how hard it might rain, I’d never be more than half a mile away. The thought of running the same one-mile loop 6-plus times wasn’t appealing, but it was a practical approach.

Coming into this weekend, my batting average for good Sunday training runs was .000. The last two week’s efforts resulted in difficult and demoralizing performances. I suspected the very cold temperatures on those days were the reason, and anecdotal evidence supported that. I had a miserable five mile run on Wednesday, but much of that can be blamed on the freezing winds. Today’s temperature was over 40°, even with wind chill. I felt more comfortable as a result.

I was prepared for a tedious experience running the same loop over and over, but it turned out to be fine. The route I designed began with a moderate uphill section that lasted for the first half mile. The only negative about that part was the noticeable wind that made progress somewhat more challenging. Once I got past the incline, I had a reciprocal downhill almost back to my starting point.

It never rained, but a constant mist coated my glasses and required me to occasionally clear the lenses while I ran. Not a big problem. I started slowly and that really helped. I tend to start too quickly on long runs and it sometimes accelerates fatigue. Today I maintained a steady stride all throughout the run. I was happily surprised to find my energy level increasing midway through my fifth mile (ketosis?).

I was on the fence about whether I’d complete a full seven or cap the run at six. The lap I had charted was actually 1.05 miles, so I knew I’d get to 6.3 by default. I decided to go off route halfway through what would have been my sixth mile and added some distance. That ended up increasing my total by almost half a mile, not quite bringing me to 7. With the addition of an extra two miles on Wednesday’s run (compared to the Higdon plan), I was fine with that.

Next Tuesday I’ll attempt 6 x 400’s outdoors and aim for 5.4 miles on Wednesday. Next Sunday the long run total jumps to eight. With a trouble free, almost-seven run under my belt today, I’m feeling much better about my training.

Ten hours late for my run

 I would have preferred AM to PM

Today’s run (street): 3.3 miles

As I made my way up the road to start today’s workout, I thought about how much I prefer to run in the morning. Too bad it was 5:00 PM and the sun was high in the sky. I had a lot going on today and missed my morning window for running. I had a schedule change right after lunch that opened up some time. I thought about going out for a few miles, but I was concerned about being back home in time for a meeting. I was almost at the point when I’d write off today as a rest day and resume my schedule tomorrow.

Once I finished up at 4:30, I needed to decide whether to run or start work on a new project. I stepped out to the deck and saw that the humidity had dropped since morning. I figured that I could pound out three miles fairly quickly and still make the rest of the afternoon productive. It took a long time to acquire a signal on the Garmin, surprising on such a clear day.

It may have been due to running later in the day, but I was experiencing some soreness in my right quad. I was concerned that if I pushed too hard I could pull a muscle, so I didn’t. Not that I have that much horsepower late in the day. Holding back a little helped get me through the route and the time went by quickly. Tomorrow’s schedule is more manageable than today’s, but I plan to get on the road as early as possible.