Stress testing in sixteen steps

Not as fun as it looks

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

Despite my resistance to the idea of taking a stress test, I finally acquiesced and went through it this week. My experience at the end of the Brooklyn Half provided the impetus to do it. Actually, it was strong encouragement from my wife, the Runsketeers and my friend KWL that made me go through with it.

If you’ve never gone through a stress test (this was my third), you should know that it’s not particularly stressful. But it sure takes a long time. I don’t know if the process is universal, but at my doctor, the process goes like this:

1. Arrive at doctor’s office at your scheduled time.
2. Wait an hour to be called in.
3. Wait for the doctor in the exam room. You can pass the time by reading your chart on the computer display (at least that’s what I did).
4. Have a conversation with the doctor about how you ended up in the medical tent after running a half marathon. Hint: his response will always be, “I want you to run a stress test today.”
5. Have an EKG.
6. Have blood taken.
7. Have an heart ECHO sonogram.
8. Go to stress test lab and wait.
9. Get your first injection of thallium, a radioactive isotope that’s used as a trace agent during the imaging process. Very reassuring.
10. Go into the imaging room and get scanned for 12 minutes.
11. Go into another sonogram lab and have carotid arteries checked.
12. Go into the room with the medical treadmill, where the technician attaches electrodes all over your body attached to a belt unit that you wear during the process.
13. Start at walking pace, with the goal of getting heart rate over 140. She ended up putting the incline to 16% and the speed to over 5 MPH to get me there.
14. Get your second injection of thallium and wait.
15. Get your second imaging to compare to the first after exercise.
16. Go home six hours after you arrive.

The good news is that you do get feedback throughout the process. My doctor said my EKG and ECHO were fine, the sonogram tech said the same about the carotid check and the treadmill technician said I didn’t have a single missed beat during my session. I needed my doctor to review the imaging results. If there were concerns, I would have got a call yesterday. All of that, and no issues.

So why am I running so slow?

My doctor’s office should now deliver my clearance form so I can use my company’s fitness center. I can then do workouts in the morning when I get into the office. Without that, my options are either to go back to 4 AM runs, or work out when I get home from work. I worked from home today and got in a few miles before I started what turned out to be a busy day. It’s the weekend now, and I hope to give those Cascadia’s their first experience on the trails either tomorrow or Sunday.

Treadmill repeats, a little faster and a little better

Check this box  if you are tired of seeing my HR charts 

Today’s run (treadmill repeats): 2.5 miles – 6 x 400 plus 1 mile warm up / cool down

My Runsketeer buddy TPP has been focusing on cutting back on her sugar and carbs. Reducing your sugar intake is a good idea (provided there are no underlying issues related to hypoglycemia). Moderating simple carbs is always smart. Most of the time we don’t need that sugar, but our cave-person genetics force us to crave it. The one exception is when you are 40 minutes into a 10K and you need energy right now.

I used to use GU gels frequently on my runs, even when I ran relatively short distances. Now I rarely use energy boosters, or anything like it. I’ve now reached the point in my half marathon training program where I’m approaching double digit base runs. That means I’m running for 80 minutes or more at a time, long enough to (supposedly) deplete my glycogen stores. So far I’ve avoided using supplements during this training. I took a GU gel along on Sunday, but never felt like I needed it. Then again, despite all the hills, I really didn’t push myself that hard.

I’m not Brooklyn race ready yet, but I’ve definitely moved the needle in terms of endurance. Running seven easy miles, as I did over the weekend, would have been a struggle four weeks ago. But I felt great on Sunday. This morning I ran another set of 6 x 400 repeats, this time on the treadmill. I prefer to do this workout on the track or at least on pavement, but it was raining fairly hard outside this morning.

Considering the challenge I had running 220’s a couple of weeks ago on the treadmill (at a slightly slower pace), I can see progress. Today’s quarters were run at 7.2 MPH, book-ended with half mile warm up and and cool down runs. I was very pleased to see my HR reaching 85% of max by the final seconds of each interval. I plan to take the speed up to 7.3 MPH next time I do treadmill repeats.

Tomorrow is my mid-week base run, which by my formula (80% of Sunday’s long run) should total 5.6 miles. I’ll try to run at least two of those miles at Half Marathon target pace, per the advice of SIOR. This will be the first “bridge” workout where I partially combine a speed and distance run. I’ll be interested to see if I’ve restored my fitness well enough by now to manage through it.

Runsketeer Sunday on the mountains of Westbury

The concrete roller coaster

Today’s run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

What goes up must come down. That is an apt description of the loop I ran today at the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. SIOR, who discovered this beautifully torturous running venue, described the course as “hilly.” She certainly wasn’t kidding. With the exception of the short drive that connects the campus to Cedar Swamp Road, I don’t think there was a level section on our route today.

SIOR was unable to join us this morning, so it was left to TPP and I to conquer this undulating beast. She wanted to run 11 miles today and I had had 7 scheduled. Our timing was almost perfect. I arrived a couple of minutes before our designated meet time and I could see TPP heading in my direction. She was probably half a mile away, but her neon yellow running jacket made her easy to spot. TPP had already run 30% of her planned distance and would cover the balance while I did my seven miles.

We headed west toward the loop running against traffic. There were a lot of cars on the route because the college was having an Open House. Fortunately there was plenty of room for the many other runners and cyclists we saw today. I followed TPP who is a very focused runner. I had to constantly occasionally remind her to get over to the left when cars were heading in our direction. Apparently her friends from the Selden Hills running club are frequently called on to do this for her during their group runs.

Elevation chart from today’s run

We encountered the first of many hills soon after we’d started. We were running easy and took it on without much trouble. Every hill was followed by an equivalent drop, making it the least fun roller coaster ever. But the run was fun, because our pace allowed us to carry on a conversation most of the time. I’ve never been able to speak when running at my regular training pace, but I did okay today.

I had been concerned about being able to cover seven miles over what turned out to be 600 feet of elevation. We decided to walk parts of some hills, but I stopped my Garmin during those times because I wanted to make sure I recorded 7 full miles of running.

I’m looking at today’s run from a couple of different perspectives. On the positive side, I had a great time running with a friend, made my targeted distance and ran a lot of hills. On the not so positive side, I probably fell short on effort, as evidenced by my heart rate that averaged only 75% of max. I think this is a signal for me to start pushing my speed a little more on my long runs. SIOR suggested running a couple of miles at targeted half marathon pace on training runs and I plan to do that during next Wednesday’s run.

Raising HR should raise performance

I want to get my heart rate up to at least least 80% of max on long runs and average at least 85% on more speed-focused runs. This is a tough change for me because the harder I push, the less I enjoy the run. But I always feel great afterward.

A harder effort, but an easier run

Today’s afternoon snowfall

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.4 miles

I had some early work that needed attention, so I didn’t get to running until late morning. We saw some snow yesterday and I had little expectation that I could get outside for a run. The roads had improved, but not to the point of safety. It was back to the treadmill, once again.

Instead of music, I decided to put on Meet the Press for distraction. That helped a lot, especially the Rand Paul segment that provided some good energy-producing anger. I’d set the treadmill’s speed 5% faster than yesterday’s pace. It felt about the same and I hoped that would continue. Maintaining the same speed throughout yesterday’s run had caused my heart rate to increase 16% by the end. Even with today’s more challenging effort, I didn’t reach yesterday’s 88% of max.

My late start forced a shorter run than I’d usually do on a Sunday. I was fine with it, although I probably would have gone a little longer if I was running outside. Monday’s temperature is supposed to rise to 37°. That, along with predictions of rain, could get rid of the snow that’s been keeping me off the road for so many days (including today’s mini-snowstorm). Clear roads would be a welcome sight, although a return to 11° temperatures is also part of the deal.

Running to positive distraction

 

Today’s run (treadmill): 5.1 miles

My hardcore running buddy SIOR was planning a long run today along the Bethpage bike trail. After so many treadmill runs over the past couple of weeks, I really wanted to get out and join her (and possibly the Petite Pacer) for a few miles. Once it became clear that the trail conditions were icy and snowy, I became concerned about slipping. Despite suggestions that included putting Slinkys and Brillo pads on my running shoes, I ended up chickening out.

If Bethpage wasn’t going to be an option, I knew my opportunity for an outside run would be low. I finally accepted my fate and prepared for five miles of fun on the treadmill. And when I say fun, I mean horrible boredom. I managed to find a bunch of distractions before I finally acquiesced to the will of the Sole F63.

As it turned out, my run wasn’t as tedious as I’d feared. Early on, I switched to the uppermost cable channels (Music Choice) that play music without commercials. This was great because I could listen without needing to wear headphones. I also liked that I could switch back and forth between genres. The only negative is that the names of the artists and songs are displayed in very small text and it was hard to read that from across the room.

I maintained a pace that provided a challenging but sustainable perceived effort. I noted that my heart rate’s rose from 73% of max to 88% throughout the span of my run. I’m used to stopping my treadmill runs after 3 to 3.5 miles (due mostly to boredom) so going past 5 today was a testament to good distractions. I don’t think conditions will change enough to get outside on Sunday, so I guess I’ll do this again tomorrow.

Oh pavement, how I’ve missed you

Nice to run again on terra firma

Today’s run (street): 4.85 miles

Motivation was low this morning, even though weather conditions had greatly improved since yesterday. With temperatures in the low 40’s and not a cloud in the sky, I should have been excited about the prospect of running outside for the first time in eleven days. My wife was on the treadmill and I thought for a moment how easy it would be to just throw on some shorts and hop on after she’d finished. But I was not going to let myself succumb to Treadmill Stockholm Syndrome, prompted by six straight runs on the machine.

According to weather reports, the relatively mild temperatures we saw this morning were countered by 20-25 MPH winds. That brought the wind chill into the low 30’s. In deference to that, I wore a long sleeved shirt with a short sleeve layer on top and a pair of lightweight track pants. I also wore an over-the-ears hat that provided good protection when the wind hit at certain angles.

I mapped my route in my head, thinking it would get me to at least 4.5 miles, which was my target. Some people have told me they have trouble transitioning from treadmill to road after numerous indoor workouts. I didn’t have any such problems today. In fact, my stride felt far better on the road than it had on the treadmill.

Early on, I saw a guy running towards me on the same side of the street and I was tempted to give him the, “it’s safer to run against traffic” suggestion. I’d seen him running in the neighborhood for years, and figured that he’s probably set in his ways. The last time I suggested the safer choice to a runner, she yelled back that she’s been running that way for many years, that the neighborhood is very safe for runners and basically I should mind my own business. So for the most part, that’s what I do now.

I didn’t burn up the road in terms of speed but I did throw in some surges. TPP had suggested a technique for opening up my stride by launching off my trailing foot while keeping my legs under me. It seemed to translate into a faster pace. I focused on running that way over the last mile and saw a 40 second per mile improvement.

I could have easily gone the additional .15 and made it a full 5 miles but I decided to end the run when I reached my street. I felt good and my heart rate averaged 83% of max overall, finishing up at around 87%. That was almost exactly what I’d been averaging on my prior runs on the treadmill. I have a work-intensive day planned for tomorrow so I doubt I’ll run. Mondays are usually my rest days, so no guilt. It was nice to be back on the road today. I definitely missed it. I will start adding a little more speed this week as I prepare for the GLIRC 2×3 trail relay in Bethpage on February 15th.

Running the hills on Sunnyside Boulevard

The ups and downs of hill training

Today’s run (street): 5.3 miles

There’s a time every day when runners have to face up to their workout. You know you’re going to do it, but until you do, it remains unresolved. My plans for running this weekend were set: hill and speed practice, but I wasn’t sure what I’d do on either day. My wife was already finishing up her treadmill run this morning when I decided to take on the challenge of the last section of the Greenbelt bike trail. A few miles running up and down the hills on Sunnyside Boulevard would be good preparation for James Street and Waterside Ave next week.

After a mile on relatively flat roads, I reached the start of the bike path. Soon enough, the road began to rise. The temperature was 57 degrees and humidity was a moderate 67%, so the level of effort felt manageable. The span of Sunnyside becomes steeper as you go south, and I kept a watch on my Garmin to see how it affected my heart rate. I managed to keep it between 80 and 86% of max for the climbs, even after two cycles.

I would have liked to follow the trail further, to the point where it parallels the LIE access road. It’s there that the path undulates into a series of difficult, but useful hills. I didn’t feel like negotiating the traffic to get across Sunnyside today, and I was concerned that doing too much might wear me out. I think the workout and the distance I covered today were just what I needed.

I’m going to focus on speed tomorrow and I’ll probably head over to the high school track in the morning to run intervals. After that, it’s more about cross training, core and at least two day’s break from running. I may do a final base run on Wednesday, but if I do, it will be at an easy pace. Cow Harbor is less than a week away. I’m hoping for weather as good as today’s.

9/11 weekday run

 

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

I’ve been off the blogging grid for the past two days, and most of today, because I’ve been consumed with a work project. After taking my usual Monday rest day and Tuesday as another recovery day, I was back on the street this morning. I wasn’t psyched to go out at 8:00 AM, as the news was reporting 78 degrees and a dew point of 71.

I tried to set a strong pace but, felt frustrated with my turnover. The good news was, despite the hot and humid conditions, I wasn’t tempted to tone down the effort. At around the one mile mark, I recalled that today was September 11. Except for when it fell on the weekend, this was the first time I didn’t need to commute into the city on that day. It always made me nervous to be in Penn Station on 9/11.

20 minutes into the run, I was looking forward to finishing up. Still, I kept up the effort and wondered if it would translate into a credible time. My heart rate indicated that I was holding about 80% of MAX, so even if I wasn’t moving very fast, I was trying. I ended up averaging 9:14 a mile. Given the weather, that was more than satisfactory. It was good to be back on the road, but I’m really looking forward to the fall weather.

Fast paced run despite a Bethpage lockout

Snowed out again at Bethpage

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

I had a great run today, but it wasn’t the one I had planned. I headed out early to Bethpage to run the bike trail and to take on some hills. When I arrived, I saw that the drive leading into the park was locked and gated. I thought at first to drive to Haypath Road and park where the Greenbelt trail continues north. Along the way I noticed that the bike path had a lot of snow, so I headed back home.

My neighborhood roads had some icy patches this morning. I’d initially dismissed the idea of running in my neighborhood, but when I returned from Bethpage I saw that the streets looked much clearer. I figured that since I was already dressed for an outdoor run, I’d be better off outside than on the treadmill. After minutes of standing out in the cold, my Garmin acquired its signal and I was finally off.

Today’s plan was to run hard, and that’s what I did. There was still residual snow on the far right and left sides of the streets, but I felt that I had enough room to maneuver to maintain safety. Traffic was sparse, so I was able to focus on the effort at hand. For the longest time, I’ve been running at what I call “equilibrium” pace. That’s the speed I go when I just tune out and run, usually between 9:30-9:55 per mile.

The speed and effort curves crossed to the left of normal today and I came through the first mile in the 8:30. I didn’t record a single split above 9:00. Following my 8:30, my timing went 8:59, 8:58 and 8:26 (for the partial). My overall pace was 8:45/mile, making it my fastest training run in ten months. My heart rate stayed exactly where I wanted it, topping out about 5 BPM below max.

The shorter distance prevented today’s harder effort from causing me undue fatigue. In fact I’ve felt more energized than usual since the run. The challenge will be to maintain that level of focus going forward, at least until race day. Not every run needs to be speedy, but that will be my bias between now and the 23rd.

Glittery roads lead to an indoor challenge

From sparkly to sludgy

Today’s workout (treadmill speed and elevation run): 50 minutes

The snow began falling last night when I left the office and it had coated the streets and lawns of my neighborhood by the time I got home. The reflections from the streetlamp revealed ice in the mix, prompting my daughter to compare it to glitter poured all over the road. By morning, that beautiful scene had changed to a dangerous combination of dirt and ice and my only choice would be an indoor workout.

The freezing cold has made outdoor running hard over the past week and I’ve grown tired of the treadmill. I wished we’d already received our new elliptical because it would have been the perfect workout for this cold morning. With no other options, I headed to the treadmill with some new ideas about the run.

Since it was the weekend, I had more time for my workout. I decided to focus the first half of my run on elevation and the second half on speed. I started with 1% elevation and increased that every few minutes until I hit 4%. I maintained the same speed throughout these elevation increases and watched my heart rate climb toward zone 4. At the 15 minute mark I began stepping down the elevation. At 25 minutes I was down to 1% and soon leveled off while blipping up my speed.

It was tough to get through the first 25 minutes with both the elevation and the indoor heat. I began to feel a second wave of energy around the 30 minute mark and wondered if it was induced by ketosis. I took full advantage and increased my speed periodically until my heart rate reached my target. I maintained that pace through the remainder of the run.

It was a really tough workout, far more challenging than my usual treadmill session. I was pleased with today’s effort and glad that the speed and elevation workout had distracted me from the tedium  of the treadmill. Tomorrow I hope to be back on the road or trail. I’d like to cover enough miles to reach my weekly goal.

Even with this freezing weather, my friend KWL is planning to run his first half marathon tomorrow morning in Central Park. I’m wishing him the best, and I know that he’ll do well. I’ll be thinking of him and my friend FS (who will do this Half or a different run) while we all go out in the 18 degree temperatures. Why do we do it? That’s probably a good subject for a future post.