Graupel and snow, the track and the treadmill

Waiting for the skies to clear

Today’s run (track & treadmill): 1.5 miles – track, 2.5 miles progressive speed run

My goal was clear this morning. Go out before the rain and do speed work at the high school track. Before I did that, I decided to finish up a small business project so I wouldn’t have to think about it over the weekend. While I was pleased with the progress I’d made, the time had slipped and I was scrambling to get out of the house.

I noticed a few scattered drops on my windshield during my short drive to the track. I’d left under sunny skies, but five minutes later conditions had changed to cloudy and gray. Even so, I felt that the slight drizzle would pass and I set out on my first warm-up lap. There were a few walkers on the track and a guy I recognized running in the opposite direction. He seemed to recognize me as well and we exchanged hellos the first time he came around. I felt really good and ready for the intervals I had planned for later in the workout.

During the New Year’s Hangover run, Runsketeer teammate TPP had showed me a technique for lengthening my stride while keeping a proper center. She demonstrated that form with an impressive burst of speed and I’ve tried to duplicate it for short periods during every outdoor run since then. I used the technique today and marveled at the effect. It is a far more potent method for rapid acceleration than what I’ve previously relied upon. I looked forward to using that on my repeats.

I’d planned to run six laps at around a 9:00 pace and then run a series of 100’s and 200’s followed by some cool down laps.  Once I was into my fifth lap, I started hearing what sounded like BB’s hitting the ground. Later I heard on News 12 that this is called graupel, or small hail. I figured that if this was happening, I didn’t need to worry much about rain. Wrong.

By my sixth lap the graupel had given way to wetter stuff and, when I ended the lap, I headed to my car to wait out the rain. My late start had put some time pressure on me and I knew I couldn’t wait too long. Once I could see that this rain was not letting up, I decided to cut my losses and head home.

I changed out of my wet shoes and put on short sleeves to continue my workout on the treadmill. My new speed plan was to start fast and go faster. Since the treadmill’s idea of speed is different than mine, I focused on perceived effort (PE). I’d just run my track warm up at a low 9:00 pace, so I was familiar with how that felt. The initial setting of 6.5 MPH felt much more challenging than the 6.6 MPH that I’d just run at the track.

I incremented my speed every quarter mile until I was running an 8:20 pace that felt like sub-8:00. I really should calibrate my foot pod and measure my true speed on the treadmill. Once my heart rate went over 90% Max, I held that speed for a quarter mile. I then began incrementally backing down my speed until I completed my run.

Second workout: view from the treadmill

The second workout of the day was pretty intense and I was pleased that I could maintain a high PE over a couple of miles. That was my goal today, as I prepare for February’s trail relay. My wife had walked into the room during my treadmill run and opened up the shade to reveal heavy snowfall. I guess I made the right decision to come home. Tomorrow might be a good day to try some speed on the trails, though with this rain and snow it could get muddy. It was nice to be outside today but, surprisingly, my best running happened indoors.

Speed in the morning, lost in the afternoon

Quiet at the track this morning

Today’s run (track workout): 3.3 miles – 1 mile warm-up, 8 x 200m repeats, 1.3 mile cool down 

With its forgiving and flat surface, I should love the track. But, believe me, I don’t. Running around a big oval is boring. It’s not as tedious as the treadmill, but the repetitive scenery undercuts a sense progress in a similar way. My difficulty with the track also relates to the type of workouts I do there. If I’m at the track, I know I’ll be feeling some pain.

If I do have to run at the track, I prefer to do it with as few other people around as possible. I try to get there early, before the crowds, but it’s rare that I get the place to myself. This morning was very quiet, with a lone woman walking around the outside lane and a couple walking together. A little while later another man joined us, walking at an impressively fast pace. Even with that, it seemed peaceful, with the low sun illuminating the track and field like a scene from Field of Dreams.

I started with a mile warm-up at an easy, mid-9:00 pace before shifting to my speed workout of 8 x 200m intervals. I usually go for 10-12 repeats at 100m, but I thought it would be useful to stretch out the distance this time. I averaged 54 seconds for each repeat and covered that mile in 7:18. Not exactly burning up the track, but good performance for me over a series of 200m segments. The two workouts this weekend represent the last real race training I’ll do prior to the 5K.

One of Muttontown Preserve’s descending trails

Later in the afternoon my son and I paid a visit to the Muttontown Preserve to see if we could find the ruins of the old mansions from the 1930’s. We didn’t locate them, but we managed to get very lost, something I do every time I go there. It took us about 20 minutes longer to get through our hike than planned, because we got turned around a few times. No matter, hiking places like the MP are fun, even when you’re not exactly sure where you are.

Tracking well through the taper

4 minutes of intensity

Today’s run (track): 3.1 miles – 1 mile warm up, 10 x 100m, 1.6 mile recovery

Nothing like 52° weather to make speed work bearable. I went to the track early this morning to run intervals, but I didn’t decide on my workout until I got there. I started with a mile warm up and followed that with 10 x 100 meter repeats. I finished with six more laps around the track, three at an easy pace and the last three somewhat faster.

Overall, it was a decent workout and I managed to run my 100 meter splits at 6:50 while maintaining a heart rate around 80% of max. I would have like to see better paces after the repeats, since my leg muscles were theoretically “activated.” Residual fatigue was the likely culprit and my overall pace for the full distance run was 8:58.

Tomorrow will be a busy day in the city for me and I’ll forgo my workout, since Mondays are my usual rest day. I’m thinking I’ll do one more easy base run, one more short fast run and then rest. I had two good race-oriented workouts this weekend with acceptable results. I’m not sure I pushed as hard as I could either day but I didn’t want to invite injury less than a week before the race.

Fast track to performance gains

Flow of the workout

Today’s workout (track): 1 mile tempo, 12 x 100M, 1.25 mile cool-down = 3.1 miles

This morning I headed out early to the local track to run intervals and tempos. I took the Virratas out for their first run, and thought they responded well to fast pacing. My plan was to run one mile at 5K race pace, which I’d follow with intervals and a cool-down run.

The track had a few walkers and a couple of runners when I arrived. I got started quickly on my tempo warm up and found a pace that felt hard, but sustainable. I locked into that pace for four laps, guided by perceived effort. Along the way, I passed everyone including the other two runners on track. After last Sunday’s low point of the race, when I was being passed left and right around mile five, it felt good to be the one who was doing the passing. I averaged 8:18 for the mile.

Next, I ran a set of 100 meter repeats, averaging 6:40 per mile. I was surprised when I later looked at heart rate data and saw that I’d averaged between 74-80% of MAX. Knowing that, I can probably get my pace down to 6:25, while still staying under 90% MAX. However, I’ll probably keep it to 8 x 100’s for that session.

I finished the workout with a 1.25 mile cool down, run at a moderate (9:21) pace. In total, it wasn’t a lot of distance, but the intensity made up for that. I’m planning a long run tomorrow, either on the Bethpage path, or another route that will facilitate a 6+ mile distance better than my neighborhood roads. My performance has improved greatly for runs between 3-3.5 miles. It will be interesting to see how my pacing holds up, when I double that length tomorrow.

Speed work, if you can call it that

Running in circles makes me lose my tempo

Today’s run (track): 3.1 mile tempo, plus 5 x 100m – total: 3.4 miles

This morning I headed to the local track to run intervals. I was not looking forward to the workout, but if I wanted to improve my speed, I needed to do my homework. Conditions were good, 66° with indirect sun, so I had little excuse to take it easy. I decided to start with a few warm up laps before taking on intervals. I ended up doing a three mile tempo run, followed by 5 x 100 meter strides, run two minutes/mile faster than 10K race pace.

I was concerned that I’d be dealing with some leg fatigue after yesterday’s run. Once I got going, I became confident that I’d be okay, although I was frustrated with my limited ability to hit my targeted pace. By the second mile, I was running faster. There were others on the track during the time I was there, but it never got crowded. I appreciated having the first lane to myself, with no need to shift around any walkers or slower runners.

Observations: 

1. I’m still running pretty slow these days. My goal was to break 27 minutes, but I didn’t succeed. However, I did run negative splits, with a 9% improvement between miles 1 and 3.

2. I was able to meet my speed target on the intervals. While these runs felt faster than the 6:54 average I recorded, the last time that I did speed work, I averaged under 6:30. Like I said, I’m still slow.

Overall, I’m pleased with this weekend’s training. With a couple of tough workouts coming up this week, I feel like I’m setting up well for the competition on the 18th.

Machine made speed run

 

Today’s run (treadmill speed run): 3.2 miles

The weather report this morning confirmed my decision to keep my workout indoors. The wind chill would bring temperatures down to the low 20’s and the local track has plenty of wind. While I got ready to run I debated the level of intensity that I’d put to the task. I had looked up treadmill intervals online and considered doing that, but I settled on a more moderate speed session.

The online workout specified a brief warmup followed by five minutes at 7.1 MPH, the next five at 7.3 and then a .2 MPH step up every three minutes until you reached the 20 minute mark. Though short in duration, it was a bit more than I was willing to take on today. I decided to start at 6.1 and blip up my speed every few minutes until I was running in the low 7’s. If the treadmill’s display was accurate, I ended up averaging under a nine minute pace, despite starting out at 9:50.

I find treadmill running harder than street running, yet I tend to push myself harder on the treadmill. I suspect it has to do with the shorter stride that probably increases my cadence. A treadmill speed workout is a good start towards re-honing my performance edge, but I really do need to get back to the track. Still, with temperatures heading toward zero, you won’t see me there this week.

Ready to fight the slowdown

Command performance tomorrow?

Today’s run (street). 5.3 miles

Today’s workout was typical for a Sunday run, although I did follow an untypical route. In an effort to break out of the neighborhood, I crossed Rt. 25 and did my run along Jericho Turnpike. I turned north up Jackson Ave. and then headed east, past the train station. Once I reached a natural endpoint, I retraced my route with an additional segment going west on Jericho. This allowed me to reach my targeted distance.

It was a perfectly pleasant run and the weather seemed milder than yesterday. The route provided some hill challenges but the wind was less intense. Despite the nice weather and what felt like an efficient stride, I was shocked to see that I’d clocked a pace over ten minutes a mile. Usually I can blame the terrain, the weather, or simply fatigue for a slow run. Yes, there were some hills, but my net elevation gain was only 250 feet over five miles.

Sometimes I worry that I’m slowing down. Four years ago, I could count on at least a couple of runs in the 8:00 range every week. Nowadays, except for races, I rarely break 9:20. I know that some of this is due to a lapse in competition since October. I can’t remember the last time I did speed work, although I often run the last five minutes of my treadmill runs in the eight-minute range.

I’m thinking about returning to the track to run some intervals. It will be a nice change from the local roads. While I don’t love the work, I usually feel great after a hard workout. It’s supposed to be extremely cold on Monday so I may rethink this decision in the morning. Our treadmill can go 12 MPH so I could always do my intervals in the comfort of my own home.

Wackos and backward walkers at the track

Round and round (and round) we go

Today’s run (track): 1 mile warm up, 8 x 220 M, 2 mile run = 4.15 miles

I finished my training for this week’s 5K with some speed work on the local high school track. I’m always ambivalent about track running because I find the experience excruciatingly boring. At the same time, with its precise measurement and flat surface, the track is a great place to run intervals. Plus, there’s always an interesting cast of characters to help distract me from the tedium.

The temperature was in the 70’s and the humidity was moderate when I started my workout, with a warm up mile that I completed in 8:19. I wore my Hattori’s that I’ve kept in the closet over the last few months while I ran with the Spira’s, Kinvara 3’s and my Brooks test shoes. The Hattori’s felt fantastic and I’m tempted to go back to them as my regular trainers.

My track-mates included a guy who had about a decade on me, running shirtless. He was covered in sweat and moving at an impressive pace. I wondered how long he could keep that up. Pretty long, it turned out. I suspect he’d been at it for a while when I arrived, and he continued for the first 20 minutes of my workout.

Also on the track was an older Asian woman whom I’d seen before. She circles the track walking backwards. I’m not sure why, but that’s her thing. There was a stocky guy with long hair and a beard walking the whole time I was there. I noticed that he’d switched to a trot around the time I was leaving. I also saw two or three other fitness walkers, some fast and some slow, whose orbits coincided with my laps at various points on the track.

One of the walkers was a guy in his 40’s who I first noticed when he ran the steps in the grandstand. I expected to see him run when he got to the track, but he walked. He did a couple of sprints and, oddly, it was only when our paths crossed (I’d reversed direction on the track). Was he trying to prove he could run as well? He looked angry the whole time he was there and I noticed that he sped out of the parking lot in his big BMW, with gravel flying, after he’d finished his workout. What a wacko.

I felt good running the 220 splits and averaged 7:01 for that mile. I know I could have done better than that, but my goal was to generate some speed without injuring myself. It had been a while since I did any speed work. I did the last two miles closer to a 9:00 minute pace and I was satisfied with what will be my last training run before Wednesday.

While I’m ambivalent about the track, I can almost guarantee my runner’s high after a workout like that. I count on that to help me through the less-than-stimulating experience of running in circles.

Track challenges, real and virtual

Today’s run (track intervals): 1 mile warm up, 8x 200’s, 1 mile cool down

Since it’s a long weekend, I thought I’d forgo my usual Saturday distance run in favor of intervals. I’m running the New Hyde Park 8K next weekend and felt that I needed to put in some speed work before winding down my training. It’s been months since I’ve been to the track, so I was looking forward to a change of scenery.

I started my workout at around 8:00 AM with a mile warm up that I completed in 8:53. The humidity was high and the sun was already hot by the time I’d started. I followed my warm up with 8 x 200’s, averaging 6:26/mile and I finished with a mile cool down that I ran at around 8:50. About halfway through that last mile I realized my Garmin wasn’t recording properly, so my time so the cool down is an estimate.

The toughest run on the web

As tough as that workout was, I found an even bigger challenge on a different track with QWOP – a video game that you can play online. In this game, the user is challenged to move a track runner 100 meters by controlling only his thighs and calves. It’s deceptively difficult, so far the best I’ve done is 17.4 meters. Before you judge that as lacking, try it yourself!

Upping my game to reach an elusive PR

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Tabata training and intervals have got me thinking about my current racing performance. The good news is that, since last June, I’ve been on a streak where I’ve set new PR’s for 4 miles, 8K and 10K. In addition, I’ve achieved best ever times on five races that I do every year. The bad news is that I’m about to come around again to those races and the challenge of meeting or beating my best times will be much harder.

I believe that my improved performance is attributable to three things: more racing experience, smarter preparation methods and better weather conditions. I can’t count on the weather and there’s not much more I can do in terms of race day prep. The key for continued achievement in 2012 will be better training. I have a few ideas about that.

My next race is six weeks away. It’s a 5K and I generally run those races as a controlled sprint. 5K is the only distance where I didn’t PR in 2011, even though I ran three of them. My 5K PR is 25:50 (8:19 pace) from a race I ran in 2009. I came within 16 seconds of that time last December, but almost doesn’t count.

The key to my training for the Marcie Mazzola 5K will be a much greater focus on intensity. This, coupled with increased core and strength workouts, may help me move the time needle from 25:50 towards 24:52 (8:00 pace). I have no expectation that I’ll get there in April, but I may yet beat my 8:19 PR.