Strategic standing and overheated running

The scene of the summit but we had less chairs.

Today’s run (street): 3.7 miles

Work took over all aspects of my life this week. I hadn’t done a single run since last Sunday, but I spent a couple of days on my feet at a leadership summit. We did a lot of strategic exercises, so at least I got a mental workout. The summit was held in the ballroom of a beautiful mansion called the Tarrytown House. The days were a grind, but the food was awesome.

My schedule prevented me from getting in a weekday run, so this morning I knew it was time to pay the piper. Unfortunately, I was exhausted when I got up at 6:00 AM and did a rare return to bed after having coffee with my daughter. I didn’t get my butt out the door until almost 11:00 and wondered at that point if I’d have the energy to get around the neighborhood.

The temperature was 45° with a “real feel” of 41, but it felt much colder. Due to that, I overdressed. I felt fine through the first mile, but then the heat started to build. I managed to get through the run, but I wasn’t ready to do a lot of distance. Next time I’ll leave off the extra layers.

It’s a three day weekend so there’s time for me to get in a couple more runs before I go back to work. I hope I’m feeling more energetic tomorrow. If so, I’ll probably head to Stillwell or back to Bethpage. So far no snow in January and I need to take advantage of that as much as I can.

Workout pending…

Today started early and was spent in the city. Last night I’d considered pulling out my headlamp and reflective vest and doing a 4:00 AM run, just like old times. But reality prevailed when I got up and I decided to forgo my workout. While nostalgia has its place, so does sleep.

By the time I got home, it was a sunny 86 degrees (according to my car’s display). That discouraged me from going outside for an afternoon run. I’m still considering a climate controlled workout on the treadmill later, but then again, it may be better to wait and resume tomorrow. With my friend Chris coming by for a Stillwell run tomorrow, I’m going to need to conserve some energy. His idea of an easy run differs greatly from mine.

Will what I do today affect how I’ll do tomorrow?

Aspiration or underestimation?

I’ve only run once since last Sunday and this will go down as the lowest mileage week I’ve had in over a year. There’s no one reason for this lapse, it’s mostly circumstantial. Monday was my rest day, Tuesday was taken up with family activities, Wednesday I ran, and Thursday and Friday were days in the city that started very early and ended late. Tomorrow I’m running a 5K so I need to decide whether I should do any running or maintain my hiatus/taper.

I’m tempted to run some intervals to activate my fast twitch muscles (assuming I still have any after a week of sloth) or play out my extended rest and see if that produces a better than expected time at the race. There’s an argument for both, although one involves  a lot more sweat and effort. I usually rest two days before a race, although I sometimes cut that to one day for 5K’s. If I stay on the rest vector and do well, it might result in a new taper strategy for future races.

Given my utter lack of focused training for this race, my goal for tomorrow is to finish below 27:50. If I met that goal it would be the slowest 5K I’ve ever competitively run, but I’d still be okay with it.

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.

Reflections on the 2012 Long Beach Snowflake Run

Today’s run (street): 3.3 miles

Ran the race, got the t-shirt

Yesterday’s 4 mile PR was a nice surprise. I’m hoping it had more to do with my training than the fact that the race is run over a fairly flat course. As always, there are lessons learned after a race. Besides the obvious (don’t wear threadbare Hattori’s in freezing cold, wet weather) there may be deeper discoveries.

For one thing, I learned that my ideal pacing for a four mile race should be more similar to running a 5K than an 8K. Going all out on the first mile yesterday didn’t hurt me and I was able to maintain a credible pace for the remaining three. On 8K’s and 5 mile runs, a start like that would put me into bonk territory before the end (and it has).

Second, although I’ve run about 25 races since 2009, I had never taken advantage of following a “pacer.” This is a fellow racer who runs a little faster than I would normally go. The pros use them and now I understand why. Locking in on a stronger runner, and blocking out everything else, helped me maintain a competitive pace through the last mile of the race.

On the same theme, I continue to exploit a lesson that Dave taught me a couple of years ago regarding start position. Even though I tend to finish in the 30-50% percentile, starting closer to the front (especially on races that don’t provide a starting line sensor) is a great way to achieve a fast first mile. It’s like the pacer concept, except everyone around you is helping. A high tide lifts all boats.

Despite everything I’ve read about essential rest after a race or a hard run, I continue to go out for easy recovery runs the next day. I did that today, in the 7 degree weather (with wind chill) because I was still a little wired from Saturday. I purposely maintained a pace that was minutes slower than yesterday’s and it felt good for the first half hour. At that point the strain of the race (and poor rest overnight) caught up to me.

I toughed out the last half mile and was happy to have put in a couple of good efforts this weekend. Next weekend I will start my half marathon training where I’ll need to complete at least one seven mile base run. The training never ends, and neither does the learning.

Will there be snow at the Snowflake race?

They are now predicting that we’ll see snowflakes at the Snowflake race in Long Beach this Saturday. I have no issues running with a little snow, my biggest concern is that they’ll yank us off the boardwalk again because of slippery conditions.

I’m enjoying day one of my two-day rest period prior to Saturday’s event. Not counting the New Year Hangover 5 mile (fun) run, this will be my first race of 2012. I’m hoping that I’ve trained correctly for this race.

Four mile races are similar to 5K’s, except that they require a little more strategy in terms of parceling out speed. Where 5K’s are basically fast runs that get faster at the end, a 4 mile race requires a little more pacing.. I’m looking to make my first mile my slowest, and pick up speed as I go. The condition of the course will factor in as well. I’m still hoping for the boardwalk, but you never know.

Running with the fast crowd

Today’s run: (treadmill) 25 minutes

During Sunday’s race I was passed quickly by a group of high school-aged boys near the one mile point of the course. This group turned left soon after they passed me and followed the signs for the 5K route. It didn’t occur to me until today that those boys had probably started five minutes after me (the 5K start followed the 10K start) and had covered the same distance in almost half the time.

I’ll never be a 5:00 miler so it is rare that I would have an experience racing with them. I usually start mid-pack and end up there at the finish. Last year in Long Beach I started near the front and was puzzled by the frenzy of runners who overtook me so quickly. I wondered why I was running so slow. It wasn’t until I passed the first mile clock at 8:05 that I realized I was comparing my performance to runners who might end up winning the race or their age division.

There really are multiple races within any race. The people up front are locked into an almost constant sprint, all hoping to finish first. The middle packers, like me, are hoping to do better than last time and considering it a victory when we pass more people than we are passed ourselves. Those in the back of the pack are often working the hardest. Completing a 10K, or even a 5K is no trivial thing. To many of them, the race is to finish, perhaps within a goal time.

I’m on the fence whether I’ll start near the front of the line at Sunday’s Turkey Trot like I did last year. They didn’t have a chip sensor at the start so those closest to the front had the smallest gap between gun and net time. I don’t want to get in anyone’s way, but I do like the idea of being swept along by the speediest runners. A high tide lifts all boats. And I could certainly use the lift.

Post-doctoral run

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

A check of the weather last night showed the possibility of early morning rain. I decided to think positively and prepared my gear for an outdoor run. I figured that I could always defer to the treadmill if necessary.
I was pleased to step out to dry, cool conditions and a full moon. The low cloud cover defused the moonlight but it was still plenty bright. Satellites acquired, I bounded down the driveway feeling like I’d have a good run.

After Monday’s “holiday” spent doing medical exams and tests, I was ready to come off my rest day and run hard. The first road along my route is slightly uphill. I normally wish to get past that section quickly, but today I wished that it was a longer road. This wasn’t because I was enjoying the run (although I was), but because I feel like I need every hill I can get to prepare for Saturday’s 5K.

I finished up with a credible overall pace but I hope to beat that time by 40 seconds per/mile during the race. It will all come down to whether the slowness going uphill will be offset by the speed that I can generate going down. I won’t really know until I see the hill. Could it be as bad as Cow Harbor’s James Street? I truly hope not.

Getting strategic

This is my fourth consecutive day without a run. It’s probably the longest I’ve gone without running since recovering from pneumonia over a year ago. My knee has responded well to the icing and compression and is much improved today. If it wasn’t so close to race day I would have tried an easy run this morning. I felt like I needed to do some type of workout when I got up so I did a series of core exercises that included push ups and sit-ups. I’m not sure how much benefit I got from all that but I did work up a sweat.

I’m thinking a lot right now about my strategy for hydration and nutrition during the race. I’ll carry electrolyte drink in a hand bottle and also rely on the water stations to supplement my supply. I’ve used GU Espresso Love and Roctane gels and I like them both. Per discussions with friend FS, I’ll plan to take one 30 minutes prior to the start, another at around 4 or 5 miles and the last one at the 10 mile mark. My friend and accomplished marathoner CMc stressed that I should start slow and work up my pace as I go. Sound advice on all counts.

Race taper: winding down before winding up

Yesterday’s run (Central Park): 3.15 miles
Today’s run (Street): 2.5 miles

My experiment with more moderate paces on a taper week continued this morning with a run that toggled between an easy and a mildly challenging pace. My intention was to do the whole run slow to allow for continued muscle recovery but a little voice kept prompting me to pick up the pace for short distances. It ultimately turned out to be a tempo run but my tempo that was closer to andantino than allegro.

Yesterday I ran with JQ at lunchtime in Central Park. Conditions were ideal, sunny and cool with occasional breezes. We did our usual loop and covered a range of topics as we made our way around. We came by the location of the NYC Marathon finish and I saw that they still hadn’t broken down the spectator stands or cleared out a lot of the signage. Both today’s and yesterday’s runs felt good and I’m hoping that this strategy won’t soften me up too much to be competitive on Sunday. It’s been a while since I’ve done a run with any intensity. I’ll know this weekend how well this method works.