Building up the monthly miles

On the comeback trail

Happy almost Memorial Day. It finally feels like summer and I’ve been doing my best to get out for runs early to beat the heat. I did that today and was rewarded with a cool and comfortable 66° temp. I wore a mid-weight shirt and shorts and wished I went with a lighter top by the end. I recently read that a worn heel is not a good reason to discard a running shoe because, “to patch such a heel prevents proper adaptation of the shoe to the runner’s particular heel strike pattern.” That inspired me to pull out my well worn Kinvara 5s for today’s run.

One of my goals for my post-work life was a return to running 18 miles per week. When I was doing 2.5 mile runs on weekdays and 7-8 miles over the weekend, I averaged about 75 miles per month. Over the past five years, my monthly average has steadily declined. Now that I’m running almost every day, I’m looking to build back to the 70+ mile target. A look back over the last 12 months shows an embarrassing monthly average of 30 miles with some pathetically low totals Jan-March.

The highest monthly total I’ve reached since June 2018 was 45.9. Now that I’m running six days a week, I was expecting to easily exceed that high point. A quick check on Garmin Connect made me think it would come down to the wire for May whether I would hit a new monthly high. When I went out on Saturday morning, my May monthly total was 40.8 miles. I was thinking I’d need to cover 5.1 miles before Monday.

We were invited to brunch yesterday and I was pressed for time, so I finished up after covering 3.2 miles. That left me thinking that I still needed 2.2 miles to reach my highest monthly total in a year. I beat that easily, and when I uploaded my final May runs to Garmin I realized that May doesn’t end on the 26th. I actually have until next Saturday to build on that total. My new goal for May is 60 miles, double my 12 month cumulative average. 60 miles a month is a big improvement, but it’s still less than 14 miles a week.

I will be aiming for 70 miles in June which would get me to almost to 90% of my target (18 miles per week). That means another 2.3 miles per week, either added to my shorter daily runs or as a step toward returning to long weekend runs. In the meantime, my performance is steadily improving. The gains aren’t dramatic but they’re real. Is it more frequent workouts, more miles or getting more sleep? Yes.

Why we spend $100 for running shoes

Run away!

Today’s run (street): 4.4 miles

My new reality is long busy work days. I’m not complaining (well maybe a little) but my work schedule did take a bite out of my running this week. I made it into the city on Thursday for an industry meeting and saw my buddy and fellow Runsketeer, KWL, who ran the NYC marathon last weekend. I probably covered 20K steps that day, so at least I burned some calories.

We had to go out east this morning, which required me to get out early for my first run of the week. Even though it’s early November, the temperature felt more like late September and the cloudy skies helped keep things cool. I had no particular route in mind when I took off and ended up circumnavigating the middle school before heading to the north end of my neighborhood. There was a little humidity, but otherwise conditions were fall-perfect.

We spent much of the day in eastern Long Island and we stopped at Target before we headed home. While my wife and kids looked for stuff on their lists, I ambled over to the men’s section that has the Champion C9 line of athletic clothes. They had some nice, lightweight vests that would be perfect with a long sleeve running shirt on a 30° morning, but the price was higher than I was prepared to pay.

Out of curiosity, I looked in the shoe section, where they sell C9 running shoes for $29.99. Most of the big running shoe brands have entry level models that Dick’s and Sports Authority sell for $50-$60. These shoes may not have the advanced technologies and features of their flagship models, but they generally provide a decent fit and feel. I decided to try on a pair of the C9 Drives to experience the difference between them and the ASICS Kayano 20s I was wearing.

Drive this off a cliff

The C9 shoes did not seem junky and I wondered what they’d feel like on my foot. After realizing they ran a half size bigger than most of the shoes in my collection, I found a smaller pair and tried them on. My first impression of the Drives was that they had almost no cushioning. That isn’t a show stopper for me, because I like a minimal shoe. But when I stood up and took a few steps, I realized why I typically spend $100 or more for Sauconys, ASICS or Brooks.

The lack of cushioning and a poorly constructed mid-sole resulted in a lumpy, uncomfortable foot bed. I suddenly understood the difference between quality brands and cheap $29.99 knockoffs. I’ve been fortunate to either receive shoes for testing from the manufacturers, or find great discounted running shoes at places like SA Elite or Famous Footwear. Believe me, paying $60 for a pair of $100 running shoes is a much better deal than paying $30 for “bargain” trainers.

Great progress, suddenly

Surprising results

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

I think my training program is working. I’ve been encouraged by the improving paces I’m seeing after taking a more performance-oriented approach to my training runs. Overall, my average pace has dropped about 5% since I started training for Cow Harbor. The trend line was getting me closer to 9:00 per mile, but I hadn’t yet reached that goal. That is, until this morning, when I blew right past it.

I wasted no time getting out today, hitting the road about 7:00 AM under very cloudy skies. Going out fast is becoming easier now, although I still suffer through the first few minutes while I hit my aerobic stride. The visual I keep in mind these days is putting my foot on the gas with no letup. Just like in a race, I know that to run faster, I have to think about running fast. Complacency only leads to slow results.

Like yesterday, I used my heart rate as a guide and saw that I was pretty much where I wanted to be. I considered breaking out of my 3 to 3.5 distance range that I typically follow on weekdays. I decided that while I’m developing my speed technique, I’ll take a careful approach to adding weekday distance.

When I reached the last few streets that lead me back home, I decided to step it up even more. No reason to reserve more energy than what was necessary to get me to my driveway. After reviewing the metrics, I saw that I’d covered the last half mile at 5K pace. After mapping the run, I calculated that I’d paced 8:50 overall for the run. That was the fastest training run (excluding speed sessions) I’ve done since early February.

I was both surprised and pleased to have cracked the 9:00 threshold and encouraged that I surpassed my target. Tomorrow may be a good time to start working in a little more mileage while I try to hold the gains. I’m not expecting to repeat today’s performance, but hey, you never know.

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.

Increasing fitness by not running

Building fitness can be relaxing

I believe it’s okay to take an ad hoc rest day every once in a while. I did it today and I feel no guilt whatsoever. While I will probably never get up and say, “Hey, I feel great, I think I’ll skip my run”, I didn’t rest this morning because I was feeling weak or ill. What I felt was under-rested and I concluded that I’d be better off taking it easy, rather pushing hard and inviting a problem.

When you think about it, a day of rest is often better for you than a single day’s run, because recovery periods are when your body actually builds fitness. That’s holds true for a day or even two, but then it starts to go the other way. I’ve been doing workouts six days a week for the past few years. That generally works for me. My average run  (accounting for shorter distances on weekdays and longer ones on weekends) is 3.3 miles. This seems like the right amount of exercise to keep me fit and (knock wood) to prevent me from sustaining injuries.

The reason I don’t feel any guilt for skipping my today’s run is that I know I’ll be back at it tomorrow. However, my decision puts me three miles behind in terms of reaching my weekly target of 20, but I can probably make up some mileage on Saturday or Sunday. In the meantime, I’m happy knowing that taking a rest was the right thing to do this morning.

C9 has me seeing (and saving) green

Are you green with envy over my quarter zip?

Today was a rest day and I was happy to skip my morning workout. I’m always the first person to support others when they take days off, but I sometimes feel guilty when I do it myself. That’s why I like Mondays. About two years ago I decided that resting one day a week would yield a marginal conditioning benefit. So now I’m able to get through my weekly day of rest without feeling like I’m falling down on my training.

My one running related activity happened this morning during a visit to Target. As usual, I stopped by the menswear section where they sell C9, Champion’s line of athletic clothing made exclusively for Target. I’ve bought a fair amount of C9 running clothes over the years because it’s priced well and it performs about as well as the middle tier brands. I have had a few jerseys fall apart after heavy use and multiple washings but the ROI still remains high.

Last year I picked up a long sleeve white quarter zip at the end of the season clearance for $10. It has turned out to be a staple in my cold weather running. Today they had the same shirt on sale and I decided to get one in bright green to help provide some visibility when I run in my neighborhood. This year’s version seems to be a little beefier than the previous shirt. Hopefully that means I’ll get plenty of  use before it starts to show some wear.