Sunday, July 29, 2012

(Down) Week in Review

81-82 miles
10 runs
14-mile long run
0 Frappuccinos (saddest stat of the week)
5 pieces of new furniture (happiest stat of the week) 

Q: How do you make 80 miles feel like a walk in the park?
A: Do 100 first.

Seriously, I've done plenty of 80-mile weeks in my life, but none of them have felt as relaxed or, well, easy as this one. Maintaining a high-mileage mindset for a month involves seeking out every opportunity to tack on an extra warm-up mile here or a stride there; in contrast, every day this week I found myself forcing self-control. "How far do I think I should run today?" I'd ask myself as I stepped outside. "Now, do less." As I was enjoying a relaxed long run today at Battle Road with Terry Shea and another BAA guy, Alex, I commented that it really is quite amazing how quickly one's body can adapt to a routine. In my case, that routine has been running (or at least striving to run) triple digits every week. In his case, the recent birth of his new son (who, much to my relief and his, is legit adorable and does not in any way resemble an alien), has made 30-40 miles feel pretty darn respectable. For obviously different reasons, both of us have found breaking out of that newfound mold to be a bit of a challenge.

In my case, however, I was determined to make the most of the decreased mileage and actually take some time to do all the things I simply can't squeeze in when trying to run a ton and work a full-time job. I stretched, did core, got a massage and even took a yoga class. (To be fair, the latter took very little initiative on my part as an instructor from a local studio came and taught a class in our office one day. But still, I attended and I downward dogged my little heart out.) I made sure to get plenty of sleep and even took a nap (on our new couch!) on Saturday. As far as down weeks go, I'd say this was one of the most successful and purposeful ones I've ever undertaken.

That said, it's time to get back to business. With my parents visiting next weekend and plenty of Olympic viewing on tap, I'll need to frontload this week in a serious way. I hope to get a good start on this by kicking things off with a two-hour run tomorrow morning before work. (Because if I type it on this blog and hit "publish," the statistical chances of this goal coming to fruition instantly increase by a good 50%. True story.) If I can double Monday through Thursday I'll definitely be on track to hit my goal--though not necessarily setting myself up for a noteworthy 5k performance on Thursday night--and will then be able to approach the weekend with a significantly decreased sense of urgency. So Dad, if you're reading this, no worries--I don't plan on ambushing you with a 20+ miler on Saturday! (But bring a few gels just in case.)

Time to rest up and get ready for another busy week ahead!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Rest For the Wicked: Outkicked

AM: 60 mins. easy (8 miles)
PM: 1.5 mile w/u
Target: 5k@ goal MP (18:30-18:45)
Actual: 4.99k @17:17
1/2 mile c/d
Daily total: 13 miles

I was really planning on running marathon pace tonight, pinkie swear. Jordan didn't attend and I didn't think anyone else would be there to drag me along--but, alas, I was wrong. A new (to me) runner named Mike was among the crowd that met in the Salem Common for tonight's run, and just before takeoff a few of the other guys mentioned that he was pretty quick. This was confirmed when he shot to the front of the pack less than 100 meters into the race. "How fast are you running tonight?" he asked good-naturedly as he glided by me. I sighed internally, acknowledging that keeping pace with him would involve tossing self-restraint out the window for the second week in a row. "As fast as you make me," I replied.

I never feel great on the first mile of this run due to the slight uphill grade, but tonight that was especially true thanks to the oppressive humidity pervading my every breath. The sky was on the cusp of a thunderstorm but wouldn't quite break, and as a result I felt for a minute that I was transported back to a swampy North Carolina summer evening. Yuck. Apparently Mike felt no such hindrance, and by the approximate area of the imaginary one-mile marker he'd put at least 10 meters on me. At halfway that distance had doubled, and I found myself struggling to stay motivated. If my breathing was shot and he was outdistancing me by a comfortable margin, what was the point of pushing? Why not just settle in and cruise to the finish? Instead, I urged myself to refocus. As silly at it sounds, I think even "races" like this one--as relaxed and insignificant as it is--can serve as a great opportunity to practice strategy and, more importantly, mental tenacity. I locked my gaze on Mike's back, and with each stride I could feel him coming back to me ever so slightly. With only a few minutes to go I'd cut the lead to less than 10 meters and was pretty sure that Mike was none the wiser. If I timed my kick just right, I might be able to sneak past him. That is, if he couldn't hear me huffing and puffing like a 60-year-old chain smoker, a conditional that was becoming less and less likely the harder I pushed. Sure enough, just as we rounded the final turn and began descending the 30-meter downhill section to the finish, he stole a glance over his shoulder and saw me approaching. In one seemingly effortless motion he found another gear and charged away, finishing at least a full decisive second in front of me. To my pleasant surprise, despite the weather I'd actually managed to chip a few seconds off last week's time--but then again, I didn't have last week's, um, adversarial digestive conditions to slow me down, so it basically all evens out. I'll take it.

Unfortunately, it looks like after tonight I'll be taking a few weeks' hiatus from No Rest For the Wicked. Next Thursday I'm actually racing a local 5k in Beverly near our office, and then the following week I'll be traveling for work. Perhaps when I return I'll be ready to give Mike a proper challenge.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week in Review

100 miles
11 runs
15-mile long run
3 Frappuccinos
4 AFDs

For the third time in four weeks, I've cracked the 100-mile barrier. Actually, taken together, this four-week stretch represents my highest mileage month ever at 390. The best part is, I can honestly say that this week I've felt fresh and strong while also managing to incorporate a good amount of quality work, from an uptempo 13-miler with Jordan to start the week to Tuesday night's strides at the Triangle to the two tempo efforts I detailed in earlier posts. Of course I've had mornings where I felt tired and sluggish and had to fight every instinct in my body to force myself out the door, but I can't think of a run all week where I haven't finished feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I feel as though I've finally turned a corner and my body is really adapting to this summer volume.

All of that said, I'm going to listen to my coach's advice and take a proactive down week next week. It's been on my schedule all along, and given my injury history it makes complete sense for me to throttle back a bit and allow my body to recuperate even though nothing feels amiss. Philly is still many moons away, so I should take advantage of these rest weeks while I can. If anything, this break will only fuel my fire to ramp things up again and set an even higher mileage goal for the month of August!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Battle Road Long Run/Uptempo

Target: 15-16 miles w/60 mins. easy, then 5-6 miles uptempo cutting down to 6:10
Actual: 15 miles incl. 8.5-14 @6:25, 6:18, 5:56, 6:05, 6:02, 3:00 for 1/2
(1:32 for 14 + 10 mins. easy)

When I got the invite for this run from Jenn Donovan earlier this week, it sounded right up my alley. I love the shaded soft-surface trails at Battle Road and was eager to test my mileage-laden legs with some forced uptempo running. Even better, the morning dawned with the coolest and least humid weather we'd seen in weeks. Despite some residual fatigue from Thursday night's quicker-than-expected 5k, I was overly confident from the outset that this run would be great--and, surprisingly enough, that prediction actually came true! By 40 minutes in, our group was already clipping along at sub-7:00 pace, but once we crossed the one-hour threshold Jenn instantly kicked things into a different gear. I should've known that her conservative "working down to around 6:10 pace" prediction was too good to be true; after all, the weather was perfect and she just ran 34:30 for 10k on the roads. My legs were handling the pace shift just fine until the third mile, when things felt palpably more difficult. I was quickly getting discouraged until my new friend Kevin's Garmin beeped and he simply laughed instead of reading off a split. Clearly we were rolling. The mostly uphill fourth mile found me steadily slipping farther behind the group, my legs sinking and spinning into several especially loose sections of dirt, but I was proud of myself for staying mentally tough and focused on their backs long enough to regain contact at the top of the hill. As our parking lot came into view, Jenn and I realized that we'd be finishing up in between miles, but we were tired and satisfied enough at that point to be okay with it. Jordan, Kevin and Jenn's fiance Justin continued on for another hard mile, while she and I paused to catch our breath before finishing out with an easy 10 minutes.

Overall, I was quite pleased with today's run. Finishing hard on tired legs is exactly the organic sort of workout I need to begin gradually incorporating into my high mileage summer training. And if I can do it with good company on fantastic trails, then all the better!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Rest For the Wicked, Round 2

AM: 70 mins. easy (9+ miles)
PM: 2.5 mile w/u
Target: 5k tempo @goal MP (18:30-18:45)
Actual: 4.99k @17:20
1/2 mile c/d
Daily total: 15 miles

A few weeks after my first appearance at the No Rest For the Wicked Weekly 5k, I was excited to return with Jordan in tow. As I decided after that initial outing, my goal for the workout tonight and going forward was/is to run at or slightly faster than my goal marathon pace, or somewhere in the 5:55-6:00 range. It's never too early to start getting comfortable at a clip I'm allegedly going to maintain for 26 miles.

For some reason, however, Jordan failed to get this pacing memo (or simply didn't care), because less than five minutes into the run I could tell (or at least hoped!) we were running quite a bit ahead of schedule. My legs felt fine, but my breathing was already noticeably quicker than the previous time when I'd been able to engage in some light banter with the  lead guys. This time, Jordan and I were well off the front but trailed closely by a bespectacled young gentleman whose name I would later learn was Billy. With no reliable distance markers (I glanced at my watch when passing a prominently spray-painted "1 mile" scrawl to see 5:05, which was clearly wrong), I had nothing to rely on but effort and Jordan's lead. But so far, despite the quick pace, all was going well. 

About halfway through the run, however, I became suddenly aware of what can delicately be referred to as alarming gastrointestinal discomfort. For the remainder of the run, as the minutes ticked agonizingly by, this situation became increasingly dire. Perversely, this could be described in some ways as beneficial, as I was so laser focused on keeping my dignity intact that any fatiguing of my legs or lungs barely registered. I suspected I was slowing considerably--a reality compounded by the fact that we had to come to a screeching halt at one busy intersection, costing us at least five seconds with the clock still running--but that was quite honestly the least of my concerns. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw the decidedly not-slow numbers flashing on my watch as I crossed the imaginary finish line. (And, for the record, I was able to hold things together without resorting to an Allen Strickland-like x-rated maneuver--which, I must add in fairness to Allen, is not to say that I haven't done so before.)

I'm not going to lie; I'm pretty pumped about the implications of this run. Namely, that despite not doing a real "workout" for almost two months, I'm actually in pretty decent shape. Jordan's Garmin measured the course a hair short, 3.09 miles as opposed to a true 3.1, but that was largely offset by the aforementioned unplanned intersection stop. To run ~15 seconds off my road PR at a summer fun run in the middle of another 100-mile week indicates that my Summer of Malmo training regimen is working splendidly. For now, time to keep on keepin' on!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Week in Review

90 miles
11 runs
13 mile medium-long run
1 Frappuccino
5 AFDs

Well, as you can see, my triple-digit streak has come to an abrupt halt. Ironically, while Caitlin wrote an entry praising my high mileage endeavors, she actually ended up outpacing me for a change this week. Things started off strong, and as hoped/predicted my level of fatigue finally normalized by mid-week. I coasted comfortably through a medium-long run on Thursday and by Friday's double had amassed a respectable 72 miles. But alas, what started with a bang ended with a whimper. Saturday was a planned easy 10-miler before spending the rest of the day buying/transporting/unloading/assembling furniture with Jordan and his dad, who'd graciously flown over from sunny San Diego to spend the weekend helping us make our new loft habitable. At that point, I was all set to bang out a 2+ hour long run on Sunday, thus solidifying my third consecutive week at 100+. Instead, it was not meant to be. We ended up dealing with an unexpected minor emergency on Sunday morning--not to worry, all is fine now--which effectively wiped out the entire morning and, thus, the anticipated long run. Fortunately, this summer's training is nothing if not flexible, so Jordan and I just made do with a quick easy jog on Sunday afternoon and resolved to push the longer effort to Monday morning. With that, next week's scheduled "down" week of 70-80 miles will simply be pushed out one week farther, allowing me to (hopefully) join the triple digit club once again. I've got to do something to keep justifying my insatiable Frappuccino habit!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

(Second Triple Digit) Week in Review

100-101 miles
12 runs
17-mile long run
2 days in PVD
3 Frappuccinos

If my first 100-mile week was all midgets and sunshine, this second one felt more like ogres and a wicked sunburn. Yes, that might officially be the most abysmally crafted metaphor of all time, but it's only fitting for a week when my daily slogs felt anything but eloquent. It seems I sailed blissfully through the first high-mileage week with my body being none the wiser. I was, to belabor my figurative point, like the proverbial frog brought slowly to a boil completely unawares. This week, however, I was decidedly awares. From the first few steps out the door on Monday morning, my triumph turned to the sober realization that this week would not be quite the same frolicky fun as the week prior. Monday and Tuesday weren't too terrible, but the real low point came on the 4th of July. Enjoying our day off just as the founding fathers envisioned, we slept in until well past 8am, not heading out for our medium long 14-miler until at least 10. It was hot, it was humid, and I was hurting. There are some days when I am supremely grateful to not own a Garmin, and this was certainly one of them.

Fortunately, the tides slowly began to turn toward the end of the week. I enjoyed an unexpectedly chipper uptempo run with the Wicked group on Thursday night, then treated myself (in the masochistic sense of the word) to a deep-tissue massage on Friday before heading down to Providence for the weekend to spend time with our favorite Olympian, Kim, and her betrothed, Pat. Having been recently gifted a fryolator by our other favorite newly-minted Olympian, Molly, the plan for dinner was simple: fry everything in the house. Turns out this is the diet secret kept under wraps by the world's best runners. After a delightfully battered evening during which I ate various and sundry flour-masked vegetables including, but certainly not limited to, a stalk of "tempura" broccoli the approximate size and shape of a sequoia tree, one would think I might feel a bit sluggish on my Saturday run--not ideal when trying to keep pace with Kim and Molly. Fortunately the former had dragged Jordan through a 22-miler the day before and the latter had also worked out on Friday, so the pace for their easy recovery jaunt was "quite slow" (Kim's words). The relaxing weekend continued while Kim and I alternated between shopping, eating, trolling the twitterfeeds and lolling about in a state of general laziness for the remainder of Saturday. Up and early Sunday morning, Jordan and I hit the road back to Salem--but not without a quick stop in Natick to run long with Brett and her husband Matt. As an added bonus, we somehow walked out of their house the recipients of a good half dozen bottles of wine which they collected over the past three years and we will probably consume within the next three weeks. Gotta stay hydrated, right?

And so, my second 100-mile week is in the books, albeit wearily. I'm hoping week three will find my body somewhat normalized and, dare I say, accustomed to this daily toil I'm forcing upon it. If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to indulge in a Frappuccino (with whip!) almost daily.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Rest For the Wicked

AM: 8 miles
PM: 2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5k uptempo
Actual: 5k in 18:57
1 mile c/d
Daily total: 14 miles

Since moving to Salem a few weeks ago, Jordan and I have settled on a couple running routes through town that we repeat most days. As much as I like these routes (and Jordan, for that matter), I've definitely been looking forward to meeting new people and exploring some new roads. Last week I did a quick search online to learn more about a local running group I'd heard about previously, and discovered that every Thursday night the "No Rest For the Wicked Weekly 5k" is held starting just a few minutes' jog away from our house. This "race" is actually just an informal gathering of local runners who tempo, jog, walk or otherwise traverse a 5k road loop through town. Today, despite having slogged miserably through my morning run--suffice it to say the second 100-mile week has been much less of a treat than the first--I reasoned I had nothing to lose by lacing 'em up, meeting the group and trying to loosen up the legs with some uptempo running.

A half hour before the appointed start time, I jogged over to Washington Square--which is actually a triangle--and shuffled through a few warmup laps. I saw a group of fit-looking people forming near the main entrance and assumed they were my new running buddies. Almost 20 people had assembled by the appointed 6:45 start time, and after a round table of introductions and pace goals (conducted, I suspect, mostly for my benefit, which I appreciated) we were off. Based on the aforementioned introductions I deduced I'd likely be sticking with a few of the front-running guys, and less than two minutes in I could tell I was correct. Having not done much uptempo work in recent weeks (hell, months) I had a difficult time gauging pace but guessed we were running in the low 6-minute range. Much to my surprise given how weary my legs have been the past few days, the pace came quite naturally. I didn't want to break from the guys and get totally lost (even though, as it turned out, our course retraced Jordan's and my morning run almost exactly but in reverse), so I opted to stick close by instead of pressing on the gas. The final half mile or so was a bit of an obstacle course as we ran back into the congested downtown area and bobbed and weaved around some traffic, but I finished the course feeling no more winded or fatigued than when I'd started. Inexplicably, running close to marathon pace actually felt better than the 7:00-8:00 "easy" runs of the previous few days.

In the context of my high-mileage summer training, I definitely think this will be a worthwhile run to attend when possible. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming--and they go out for pizza and beers afterward, which is guaranteed to entice Jordan to join--and it's ridiculously easy to jog four minutes over from our new place to meet them. Now that I know the course, I think I'll aim to lock into goal marathon pace (5:55-6:00) every time I run this loop. Being able to manage that comfortably in the summer months after running 8-10 miles in the morning will be a great way to segue into fall marathon training.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

(Triple Digit) Week in Review

100 (!!) miles
4 doubles
20 mile long run
18 boxes unpacked

Wow, what a difference a week makes! Last Friday I was coughing and staggering through a brutal 50-minute run on the Mall, convinced my odds of collapsing prostrate next to Mr. Washington's monument were as good as not. This week, my ailing leg magically repaired and the remaining vestiges of illness slowly leaving my body, I felt like a completely new runner. I haven't finished up morning runs feeling this crisp and strong since before the Trials. There's no logical explanation for it, but I'm certainly not complaining!

Sipping a glass of vino at Jordan's favorite spot in our new hood on Friday night (which, incidentally, is also where I'm typing this blog--clearly we're well on our way to becoming regulars), I approached the weekend with 66 miles under my belt but still planning to top out in the upper 80s or low 90s as indicated in my most recent post. We planned to meet Brett, Teresa and a few other BAA girls at Battle Road on Saturday morning for a long run, during which Brett planned to log 20 miles. Buoyed by my weekday success but with memories of countless recent labored runs still fresh in my mind, I was cautiously optimistic that I could hang on for two hours. For where I'm at right now, that would be big. But once we settled into a comfortable clip on the fantastic shaded dirt trails, I watched in amazement as an hour ticked by on my watch, then two, with no ill effects. My body felt just as fresh and strong at the end of our two-and-a-half hour jaunt as it had at the beginning, despite temperatures rising into the mid-80s with the sun beating down. Yet again, I found myself at once utterly baffled and supremely grateful.

You know where this is headed. 86 miles down, one day remaining...of course I had to reach for the triple digits. Jordan and I slept in, not stepping outside until well after 9am. Just like Saturday, it was already 85 degrees and blindingly bright. (Allow me to clarify that I am not complaining. The objective here isn't to incite comments about how it is "xx degrees hotter in Charlotte/Dallas/DC/Atlanta right now." I'm well aware. My point is not to illustrate how super badass tough I am for running in 85-degree weather, but rather to note how surprisingly easily I find my body adapting to it. I guess all those summers I spent wilting in the South did yield some benefits!) By halfway through the run around the familiar terrain of the Marblehead Neck (which, thankfully, is still running distance away from our new place in Salem--albeit long running distance) I could feel the week's accumulated mileage, neatly punctuated by yesterday's longest effort since February, descending full force upon my legs. The final 30 minutes weren't my most impressive, but I hung in and successfully finished the run--and the 100-mile week. I can't describe to you what an exhilarating, relieving feeling it is to have my old familiar legs back under me after struggling for almost a month and a half.

One week down, eight to go in the Summer of Malmo!