I wish my run training worked like the movies

Another day, another 3.64 miles

There’s a common trope in film, where the lead character goes all out training for a major challenge. There is usually one scene, played out in a series of quick cuts, showing the overwhelmed hero progressing beyond his or her physical limits. Typically, this is all done to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.” Two minutes later, the protagonist is ripped and ready to make something big happen.

I thought about that on my run this morning. Since I’m the hero of my own personal movie, I’ve set my sights on returning to performance levels I haven’t seen for a few years. I’m not completely delusional. At my age, I know I’m not going to match my best times and that’s okay. My issue is that I’m not where I feel I should be for my age range. In competition, I would usually finish between the 25th and 50th percentile (I placed best in 5Ks and worst in halfs). I’m not sure I’d even show up on the bell right now.

So my equivalent of this cinematic convention is the work I’m doing to build up my monthly mileage. In my movie, you would see a series of shots of me taking off on my daily runs, with a calender showing the day of the week superimposed transparently over my disappearing silhouette. In one shot, I’d pull up at the finish, look at my Garmin, and gasp at the evidence of improvement. My legs would bulge with muscle tone and I’d resemble one of those ectomorphs who start races in the front row and finish before most runners reach the halfway mark.

Well, in the 50 days since I rebooted my running approach, I’ve made some gains, but it’s nothing dramatic. I’ve doubled my monthly distance in that time and my average run is a half a mile longer than it was in April. Despite all this running, my average pace has improved zilch. However, in the same period, my average heart rate during runs has dropped 8 bpm. That’s telling me my fitness is improving, but I’m not taking advantage of it. I’m going to try to focus on that tomorrow to see if it’s that simple. In the movies, the hero turns their hard work into victory. I’d settle for a mid-pack pace.

When your pace is slow, focus on the statistics

Saw this on a car in the REI parking lot today

Happy Father’s Day. My goal of more frequent postings has been stymied (only six this year including today) but I’m definitely on track for running frequency. Over the 44 days since I finished up work on May 3rd, I’ve run 36 times (82% of days). Just to compare, I only did 33 runs from January 1st through April 30th (28% of days). So run frequency is good. End of statistical report.

June so far – 14 runs in 16 days

It’s not all good news in the running department however. The three measures of progress I’m using are frequency, distance and speed. My plan is to meet a target for each point, hold that target and start focusing on the next point. I’m tracking just about 6 runs a week and have started to focus on increasing average distance per run. I’m going in the right direction, but the increase is small, up about 8% from May’s average.

The third measure, speed, is my biggest challenge and I have done very little to address it. My pace is abysmal, but I’m hoping that by maintaining high run frequency and increasing distance, my fitness will unlock some of my old speed. I don’t like being slow, but forcing my pace turns happy running into a dreaded chore. I guess I could go back to doing intervals which compartmentalize the discomfort. Once I reach my average distance goal, I’ll start putting weekly track visits into my schedule.

I’ve been planning to buy a new hybrid bike to cross train. I’d like to ride some of the great bike trails on Long Island. Two of the other Runsketeers (TPP and KLM) are serious cyclists and I’m pretty sure Professor Mike knows his way around a bike. SIOR has a bike so she has one leg up on me. KLM has been giving me expert advice and will be helping me make a purchase in July. When that happens I’m I’ll be looking to do the inaugural Runsketeer ride.

Falling short of daily goals

I’d been thinking about taking another rest day this week because I ran Monday through Thursday. This morning I needed to get into the city for some meetings and I figured today would be as good a day to skip a run. I’m tempted to get on the treadmill and do a quick three miles this afternoon, but I’m sticking to my plan.

I only covered 10,000 steps yesterday and fell short of both my daily distance and flight (staircase) goals. I’d hoped that walking in the city would get me close to today’s step goal, but I’ve still got a ways to go. Even though I rested both Sunday and today, I’m still slightly ahead on weekly mileage. I’ll target a couple of longer distance runs this weekend and get my Fitbit stats back in line.

At long last: 2013 running goals

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I realized last night that I never posted last year’s running goals. In prior years I had done that on the blog, but I guess I just forgot to do it for 2012. I’m not sure what goals I would have set last year, beyond hoping to improve my half marathon time and participating in a race I’d never run before. I did both of those things last year, so I guess I achieved something. This year I’m thinking about the following as my 2013 running goals:

1. More weekday running diversity.
For practical reasons, my running routine has become less and less adventurous. My weekday 4:00 AM runs were once daily adventures where I’d run on different streets each day and then scramble to get home in time to stay on schedule. This devolved into running the exact same route, every day, to stay within a rigid time frame. Worse, some time last year I stopped doing outdoor runs on weekdays in favor of the treadmill to minimize prep time and maximize recovery time

Goal: Run outdoors at least once a week before work. Establish at least one alternate route to take every other week.

2. More NYC running.
Way back when, I’d frequently run in Central Park, on the West Side bike path or even over bridges to New Jersey or Brooklyn. Regular running partners Adventure Girl and JQ have left the east coast and I’ve had trouble finding running buddies who are willing to commit to workday runs.

Goal: Monthly runs in Central Park, with or without a partner.

3. Break the neighborhood running habit on weekends.
Just like my slide to predictable routes and then to the treadmill on weekday mornings, my weekend runs have become fairly mundane workouts that take place mostly around my neighborhood. My excuse has been that local runs save time (which is in short supply on weekends) but boring running really undercuts the experience.

Goal: One run outside of my neighborhood every weekend (weather permitting).

4. Return to racing.
Event date changes and race cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy disrupted my running momentum. I am completely out of the racing habit and don’t have a race on the schedule until Marcie Mazzola in April.

Goal: Run at least one race prior to April’s event. Bonus: Run a different half marathon than the RXR LI.

5. Participate in a group run (club organized or otherwise).

Goal: find a an open meet-up, local club run or organize one myself. 

Unlike years past, I’ve decided not to put in any performance or distance goals this year. If I meet my race goals, performance will take care of itself. I have run enough distance at this point to know I can run more. Besides that, I’m not sure running more than 13 or 14 miles is really that beneficial to my health.

Now that I’ve posted these goals, I guess I need to start working on them. This weekend will present my first opportunity to do that. Bethpage, here I come.

Are male runners more competitive than female runners?

The 4 hour cliff 

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes – 2% grade

If you are a member of Athlinks you may have received an email that shows a graph of 2012 marathon times (above). The graph shows 2012 finish time distribution frequency, and it clearly illustrates that marathon times peak right before the four hour mark (I inserted a blue arrow to highlight that point). Not shown here was another graph that compared times by gender. That graph showed that 58% of men (vs. 42% of women) finished faster that 4:00. One might conclude that men approach these races more competitively than women. The sharp spike between 3:50 and 3:59 times indicates some very tactical planning.

I can’t speak to how women view racing, except through anecdotal conversations with female friends who race. I wouldn’t say that women are any less competitive, but they may carry a different perspective on their performance goals. Many men (including myself ) simply pick a targeted time and  focus on beating it. Women (more often it seems) will view their finish times as secondary to the experience of running their best. They are no less competitive than men, but they don’t seem to be as discouraged if they miss a specific time target.

It would be wrong to say that women don’t care about hitting performance targets. That spike on the graph at 4:00 represents a lot of female finishers. But I would say, generally, that woman view and value performance differently than men. One approach is more quantitative and the other is more qualitative. In the end, I wonder who’s more satisfied with their results?

A look ahead in 2012

It was great to wake up and realize I had a scheduled rest day this morning. Coming off a three day weekend, it’s always nice to ease into the work week by sipping coffee and watching the news. Somehow, going from a deep sleep into the cold wet weather to run lacked appeal today.

I’m thinking about my running goals for 2012 but I haven’t yet set them in stone. I would like to do more running outside of Long Island than I did last year. As a subset to that, I would like to explore more off-road venues. I’m hoping to participate in as many races as I did in 2011 and to improve my half marathon time by at least ten minutes. I did five personal bests in my ten 2011 races, so it will be hard to repeat that this year. But I promise to try.

I’ll be listing my full set of goals soon. The most important, as always, is to finish the year as excited about running as when I started it.

Scoring my 2011 running goals

Fairly on target

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It’s getting toward the end of the year, when thoughts turn to the holidays and we reflect on things that have happened over the past year. In business, this means accounting for performance against objectives.  In running, it means taking a look at my 2011 goals to see how I did.

Goal 1. Run a half marathon.
 Done! LI Half Marathon.

Goal 2. Score settling: Run my best times ever on the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K’s and beat my time in the New Hyde Park 8K.
Exceeded this goal. Best times ever this year on NHP 8K, Dirty Sock 10K and Cow harbor 10K, plus new best times on Run for the Warriors 10K and Long Beach 10K (10K PR there as well).

3. Running tourism: Run outside of Long Island at least six times. Bonus for competing in a race outside of LI.
Not quite. Ran in Florida in January, Cambridge/Boston in spring, New Hampshire and Maine in summer and Cape Cod in fall. Lots of racing, but nothing outside of Long Island.

4. Hit those trails: Add Caleb Smith, Sunken Meadow and one more state park to my trail running experience.
Still haven’t run Caleb Smith but the Nissequoge Turkey Trot that I ran for fun on Thanksgiving is in the general area of Sunken Meadow. I did run in Acadia National Park this summer and that has to count for something!

5. Performance: Run 1 mile under 7:50/mile or 2 miles under 8:00/mile.
Hit the 7:50 mile goal but my best two consecutive miles were a nudge over 8:00.

I’m probably not going meet goals #3 and #4 this year but that’s okay because I’ve had other great running experiences that weren’t on the list. I’m starting to think about my goals for next year. The only one I’m certain about is achieving a half marathon PR in 2012.

Update on Emerging Runner’s 2011 goals

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This has been a big week for nature, first with the earthquake and now hurricane Irene is threatening to disrupt my weekend running. When you’re a runner, it’s all about the weather. Since there’s not much I can do about that, I thought I’d focus on things where I have some control.

2011 Goal review

It’s almost September and we’re through 75% of the year. Let’s see how I’ve done.

1. Run a half marathon.
Did it! I ran the LI (Half) Marathon in May and I’m still tired.

 2. Score settling: Run my best times ever on the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K’s. Beat my time in the New Hyde Park 8K (44:42 two years in a row!).
So far I’m on track. Achieved best ever times in both the NHP 8K and Dirty Sock 10K. Cow Harbor 10K happens in three weeks.

3. Running tourism: Run outside of Long Island at least six times. Bonus for competing in a race outside of LI.
I ran in Florida in January and Massachusetts more than once this year. Lots of running in New Hampshire and Maine. Still no races out of Long Island.

4. Hit those trails: Add Caleb Smith, Sunken Meadow and one more state park to my trail running experience.
Still no runs at Caleb Smith or Sunken Meadow but that could change by year’s end.

5. Performance: Run 1 mile under 7:50/mile or 2 miles under 8:00/mile.
My last serious speed workout in July did the trick. First mile at 7:50 and did 8 x 200’s at 6:50. I also ran two continuous miles at 8:20 which doesn’t meet the goal, but it’s not too far off.

With four months left in the year I’m hoping to fully meet every goal. Right now I’m pleased with my progress.

2011 Running Goals

Here it is, January 17th, and though I’ve already identified my business goals I still haven’t published this year’s running goals.  The following items represent my hopes for this year:

1. Run a half marathon

This challenge would have seemed completely out of reach when I restarted running in 2008 but now it feels like a logical and viable step. I don’t have a half marathon identified but I’m likely to run the one during the RXR LI Festival of Races because the timing works and it’s conveniently located.

2. Score settling

Run my best times ever on the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K’s. Beat my time in the New Hyde Park 8K (44:42 two years in a row!).

3. Running tourism

Run outside of Long Island at least six times. Bonus for competing in a race outside of LI. 

4. Hit those trails

Add Caleb Smith, Sunken Meadow and one more state park to my trail running experience.

5. Performance

Run 1 mile under 7:50/mile or 2 miles under 8:00/mile.


Today’s run (street): 5.3 miles

Today is Martin Luther King Day that caps off a very nice long weekend of running. I was again constrained to my neighborhood so I tried to minimize the boredom by changing my route a little. My plan was to run an out-and-back course where I’d go for 25 minutes and then turn around and follow the route back home. Once again I had good energy and was cruising along when I felt a slight pain in my knee at almost the same moment that I was thinking how I never get knee pain. The pain increased and I worried something happened. I was starting to hobble and realized that I was at least two miles from home.

Since I’d done nothing to cause this sudden problem (except to think about knee pain!) I decided that it was likely that it would disappear just as quickly as it came. Every once in while I’ll feel a sharp pain in my ankle when I walk and I just work it out with a few steps. This knee pain seemed to be the same sort of thing and after slowing down a little, the pain passed and didn’t return.

Once the phantom injury was over I re-focused on my route but had gone a little off my planned course that made the out-and-back distances asymmetrical. I ended up adding some extra loops to ensure I surpassed 5 miles and I ended up with another third of a mile as a bonus. I’m hoping to get a chance to run while I’m traveling this week but my schedule is tight. I did cover almost 15 miles over the long weekend and I like the way I’m running right now. Maybe I’ll have a chance to return to the trails next weekend. Hope so.

2010 goals scored

It’s time to start thinking about the year ahead in terms of running goals. A quick review of my 2010 goals shows that I hit most but not all. Here’s my take in terms of percentage achieved:

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style.
Score: 85% – Mostly successful but not complete. I do much better when I run in the Kinvaras

2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating $5 per race mile.
Score: 100% – Running donations were close to $300

3. PR in a race – preferably in a longer distance than 5K.
Score: 100% – Two 10K PR’s in consecutive weeks!

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.
Score: 66% – Muttontown Preserve and Eisenhower Park. This should have been an easy one but I never got around to running at Caleb Smith as planned.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.
Score: 75% – Exceeded the distance (10.2 miles) but not the pace.

6. Participate in at least 5 races.
Score: 100% – Ran eight (7 competitively).

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.
Score: 100% – If anything I’m more engaged than when this goal was set.

I’ll be posting 2011 goals soon!