PP5M Training: Week 4

I need to add another item to my summer gear wish list: insect repellent. Heat + humidity + sweat + trails = bites. I was making myself dizzy whipping my head around every time I even thought I was being bit by a mosquito. I don’t want to cover myself in the hard-core, eye-searing insect repellents that I use when I’m camping or at a bonfire or something. Those repellents have their place, and I’m certainly not crunchy enough to forgo them entirely, but I don’t want them on my arms/neck/face when I’m running, since I’m always wiping my sweat off my face with my arms and hands.

Here’s this week’s training update. I skipped a week in the Higdon program, as it called for a 5K. I will do that week as Week 6, when my next 5K is scheduled.

Monday: 4.9 mi, road
Tuesday: 6.1 mi, trails (Hartley)
Wednesday: 4.7 mi, road, tempo
Thursday: rest
Friday: 4.7 mi, trails (Bagley)
Saturday: 5 mi, trails (SHT)
Sunday: 7.5 mi, road
Total: 32.8 mi

I changed the planned rest day from Friday to Thursday. It makes more sense. It also ensures that I am not doing my long run right after a rest day, as it sometimes works out better to do my long run on Saturday rather than Sunday, and I always want to make sure it’s done on “tired” legs.

Overall it was a fairly decent week for training, and I finally got above 30 miles, so that was good. I felt kind of sick on Friday night, but I was fine and it didn’t affect Saturday’s workout. Just as I was planning on heading out on Sunday, I got a charlie horse in my calf simply from trying to stand up. So, that set me back a few hours. It ended up being a blessing in disguise as it was still fairly warm when I headed out just before 4, and it was sunny most of the way. I would have liked to have a couple shorter runs in warmer temps to acclimate a little better, but that’s the way it goes. Since my goal race is going to be in warmer temps, I’m going to have to trudge along until I get used to it.

Unhappy Trails

Yesterday, for my cross-training workout for the week, I did a trail hike/run. The Higdon Intermediate 10K Plan calls for a 60 minute cross-training workout every Saturday, but I’ve been making that a trail day and trying to choose more technical trails so that it doesn’t end up being a real run.

I picked a new trail this week, a section of the Superior Hiking Trail starting at the Martin Rd parking lot and heading out north along the North Shore State Trail, which is mainly a snowmobiling trail. (I would never run it in winter for fear of getting plowed over.) This isn’t a trail review per se, since I didn’t stop/turn around at a traditional spot along the trail. I think I turned around at Prindle Rd.

This portion of the trail was not fun. It was grassy, but not tamped down at all, so at times I was crashing through a barely-forged trail with grass up past my knees on the sides. I sorely wished I’d worn long pants. I also need to invest in some kind of bug repellent post-haste.

I suffered through most of this run, not because it was hard, but because I couldn’t stand the feeling of grass brushing against my legs. I know that’s silly, grass isn’t poisonous, but it made me itch and I kept thinking ticks were going to jump all over me. It was a bit wet and muddy in some spots, though not terribly so, and there were piles of horse crap along the way to dodge.

If the grass was tamped down enough to forge a nice trail, the run would have been pleasant. It was very run-able once I got past my annoyance with the grass. I passed UMD’s new wind turbine and Sustainable Agriculture Project Farm. After I got past the farm, the more open area turned into deciduous forest, with private lands on either side of the trail and many houses visible through the trees.

Despite a few cars in the Martin Rd. parking lot, I didn’t see anyone on the trail, and I suppose I am not surprised. In the opposite direction, the trail is a lot more traversable and more scenic. However, the Martin Rd. lot is the first spot where thru-hikers can jump on the trail and find campsites (though I’m not sure how one would need a campsite just a few miles in), so I would have expected to find evidence of someone else on the trail. (Someone not equine, I mean. I found plenty of evidence of those folks.) The trail would be a heck of a lot better if more people braved the grass and made more of a true path. Right now it’s not even single-track, more like one-third-of-a-track wide through most of the grass.

Maybe I’ll try it again in a month or so and see if it’s improved a bit, when I’m in need of a long run and can travel the whole distance and back or something.

Uneven Intervals

Wednesday was the hottest day of the week, so naturally that was the day I had speed work on the schedule. I was supposed to do 8×400.

I don’t do intervals at the track, because I am self-conscious about track workouts. I’m not fast, so I would feel a little silly about running repeats around a track at an 11:00 pace. I would probably do my speedwork on a track if it wasn’t for the other reason I’m self-conscious about track workouts. Even though I know people all over the place use local high school tracks for their workouts, I’m always afraid I’d be kicked off for trespassing or something. I don’t like to be places where it’s not explicitly clear I am allowed to be, specifically when I’m working out and already a little self-conscious.

My other choices are to do speedwork on the treadmill or to keep an eye on my watch and do it on the road. I don’t think speed work on the treadmill is helpful to me at this point, as I need to regulate my pace myself. So I did it on the road. I actually drove to school and parked in the parking lot there, since it’s much flatter than the area around my home. I felt dumb driving 2 miles to run on sidewalks, but I did it anyway. I warmed up for 0.85 miles. I know this because I used the lap button on my watch! Eureka!

I’m glad I used the lap button because now I know how fast I really run these intervals. I ran each 400m (well, a quarter mile actually, although I am sure my watch could be switched to metric) and then slowed way way down to recover for 0.1 mile. The plan called for a 5K pace for the repeats, and my plan was to run a little bit faster than that, because I want a faster 5K pace and I want my current 5K pace to be my 5 mile pace. That may be wishful thinking but the plan I had was to run at around an 11:00 pace.

The results were: 10:48, 10:51, 10:46, 10:11, 10:19, 11:02, 11:26, 10:32, 10:44. Yes, I realize that I did 9 400s instead of 8. My counting skills need improvement.

The first 3 intervals were very consistent, but too fast. I knew they were too fast and tried to slow them down, so the pace graph has these big spikes and then a ski-jump shaped drop-off where I tried to slow down. I am really not doing myself any favors by running these intervals too quickly, and I have got to figure out how to back off the pace slowly. A few times I looked like I slowed down a little too much and was down in the lower 11s/high 12s, but that didn’t occur often. I need to find a flatter spot, too, because while the hills were fairly gentle, the intervals were unintentionally spaced so that many of them were downhill, which inflated my speed and hindered my braking. I also need to find a route that doesn’t have a dead raccoon decomposing along the side. The smell was not pleasant.

I have improved with these repeats somewhat, because I am no longer going out too hard and then running out of gas, as I was before. At least the slowdown is intentional now. I just need to work on consistency and evenness of pace for the next set, in two weeks. Oh, and accurately counting.

I Got Rhythm

I used to play the violin (and probably will in the future), and the second biggest struggle I had with performing was keeping a consistent tempo. (The biggest problem I had was playing in tune.) I was always rushing, or lagging, or both in the same piece.

I had the same issue during my tempo run. My “coach” (aka Hal Higdon) says that in a tempo run, “the pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout and only for a few minutes.” He also says peak speed should be near, not at or above, race pace.

I failed at basically every part of what he prescribes for a tempo run. Sigh.

I am getting better at warming up. With shorter runs, adding a mile or so to my distance hasn’t been a big deal, and I’m getting more relaxed about my training times. For example, I warmed up for about half a mile on Thursday, and then stopped to do a little bit of stretching without pausing my watch. So it looks like I ran half a mile in 12 minutes when I download my stats, but I didn’t. (The only problem with not pausing my watch is it messes with my average heart rate stats, since my heart rate obviously decreases when I’m stopping to stretch.) Instead of worrying about what my “real” pace was during that half mile, I’m just shrugging it off.

After my warm-up, I did about 10 minutes of “easy” running at a 16:55 pace. I know this because I used the “lap” feature on my watch, which is something I need to do more. I’ve been letting it do auto-laps and just looked at the mile splits, but for speedwork I should be using it to gauge my real paces during pickups or hills or whatever. My average heart rate for the “easy” running section was 133 bpm, which was lower than I wanted it to be, but my legs felt like sandbags. I couldn’t get them to move faster. I suppose spending hours on my feet during my “rest day” Wednesday might be to blame.

I reached the 20 minute “tempo” portion, but I could seem to speed up at first. I was going uphill, which I realize was dumb, but I kept slowing down, then going too fast, then slowing down. There was no gradual increase in tempo. Whoops. I also went too fast toward the end, and ended up running sub-5k pace for about 0.2 miles, which won’t kill me or anything, but is yet another sign that I don’t have any idea how to regulate my pace.

I did another mile of “easy” running, which doubled as my cooldown, I guess. I don’t see much of a difference between easy running and cooling down. Since I am using my heart rate to dictate what an easy pace is (below my aerobic threshold), there might not be much difference.

I have to figure out a couple things before next week’s attempt at a tempo run. I need to find a flatter spot to run these things (I have an idea on that), and I need to plan out what kind of paces I’m thinking of striving for along the way. Do I want to start at 14:30, then progress to 14:00 over a few minutes, then 13:30, etc? I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to top out at 12:00 since right now I’m thinking my goal pace for this race will be 11:30 (I don’t know if that’s realistic or not, but I think since that’s right around my 5K pace right now, and I’ll have 2 months more training under my belt, it’s doable), but then I couldn’t stay there as I would either overshoot it or back off too far. With a better idea of the paces I want to progress through, more even terrain, and legs that aren’t dead, I think I can have a better tempo run next week.

5 Mile Training Kick-Off

The next race I have on the docket for the year is the Park Point 5 Miler, which is on July 17th. It still feels a long way off, and I might need to find another race in the meantime to try to destroy that 36:00 benchmark, but I won’t be training for anything sooner.

I kicked off my 8-week training cycle for this race on Monday. I am using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 10K training program to prepare for the race.

I chose the intermediate program, even though I’m still a fairly novice racer, for a few reasons.

First, here’s how he describes the intermediate runner: “What defines an Intermediate runner? You should be running five to six times a week, averaging 15-25 miles weekly training. You probably also should have run a half dozen or more races at distances between the 5-K and the Half-Marathon. With that as background, you now need a somewhat more sophisticated schedule to improve. If that doesn’t sound like you, you might be more comfortable using one of my programs designed for novice or advanced runners.”

I’m running 5-6 times per week, and I’m coming off of a failed marathon training cycle, so I’m hitting 2 for 2 right away. I haven’t run a half dozen or more races at all kinds of distances, but I have run a couple now. Most importantly, I am looking to improve.

Contrast that with the novice program. “To participate in this 10-K program, you should have no major health problems, should be in reasonably good shape, and should have done at least some jogging or walking. If running 2.5 miles for your first workout on Tuesday of the first week seems too difficult, you might want to begin by walking, rather than running. Or, if you have more than eight to ten weeks before your 10-K, switch to my 5-K schedule to build an endurance base before continuing.”

See, that’s too nice. The novice training is too gentle. It also has more cross training and less running (although I could just use those days as running days, too), and it tops out at 5.5 miles, whereas the intermediate program tops out at 8 miles. The intermediate program has 5 running days a week and one cross training day, which is what I prefer, and it has some specific speed workouts, which I need. So, intermediate it is!

Hal also has an 8k training program, which I just calculated is equivalent to a 5 mile training program, and the plans look very similar. I am going to stick with the 10k program as it has slightly higher mileage.

This week’s training got off to an inauspicious start. On Monday I covered the prescribed distance, but most of that was on a walk with a friend. On Tuesday I had a nice run and actually covered the distance PLUS I did a warm up and cool down (which felt mostly the same since I was running by heart rate). Wednesday I was out in a field all day launching rockets (legally) and then finished driving home to Duluth, and was wiped out by the time I got back. I decided I’d make it a rest day and move the schedule back a day. That means no rest day on Friday, but that’s fine. I was too tired to function. I am writing this Thursday evening, procrastinating on heading out on my scheduled tempo run, so I will report back on that another day. It is a gorgeous evening, I only have to run for 35 minutes (plus warm up and cool down), and I’m feeling pretty good, so I need to hit “schedule” and get off the couch.