And Now For Something Completely Different

I have gotten really sick of slogging up and down the ski hill at Chester Bowl, and decided my speed work for this week would be… actual speed work. The last time I did something like that was 2 months ago, on the treadmill.

Naturally a good way to start doing speed work again is to do something really hard. Like 8 x 0.5 mile with 0.1 mi recovery. I probably need a coach or I’m going to hurt myself at some point. It was a bit reckless to do something very different from the slow trail runs I’ve been doing.

I drove to the Munger Trail in west Duluth for this workout, which is my new favorite spot for flat (well, flat-ish) running. There are of course slight uphills and downhills, and some gravel spots, but it’s no Superior Hiking Trail.

My warm-up was about 1.2 miles (it was going to be 1 mile, but I’d have had to start my first interval right before a street crossing), and I could tell that my legs weren’t interested in running fast. I warmed up slowly, in fact I walked the first tenth of a mile or so, but I couldn’t ramp up. My legs were heavy and slow, like stumps. I dove in anyway.

Rep 1: 9:38 pace, 170 bpm
Uhhh. No. The first 4 reps were at a slight incline, but I felt like I was wearing weights on my legs. They would not turn over.

Rep 2: 9:20 pace, 150 bpm
I had a HRM issue, not a miraculous improvement in aerobic function.

Rep 3: 9:06 pace, 110 bpm
Obviously another HRM problem.

Rep 4: 9:16 pace, 177 bpm
Rep 5: 8:50 pace, 169 bpm
I turned around after rep 4, so this one was slightly downhill

Rep 6: 9:01 pace, 174 bpm
Rep 7: 8:53 pace, 172 bpm
Rep 8: 8:59 pace, 174 bpm

This was tough. My recovery between each interval was about 2 minutes, which was about how long it took to get my heart rate under my aerobic threshold of 142 bpm. My legs didn’t feel recovered in that time, but my cardiovascular system kind of did. Not entirely, but enough that I didn’t extend a single rest period. I did find that I needed to really slow down, since I was basing my recovery on distance rather than time (just to make it easy to start/stop intervals based on my watch display).

I looked at my watch A LOT during this workout. I tried not to look at the distance, only the pace, to make sure I was really keeping up the speed I wanted to (low 9:00s or high 8:00s) and wasn’t going TOO fast. During my 6th interval, for a few seconds, I was in the 11:00s! And during my 7th interval, at the beginning, I hit 6:53 for an instant. All over the map.

My hamstrings felt pretty taut after I completed the intervals, and I made sure to walk my 0.1 mi recovery before doing my slow cooldown run. I ended up walking again even after starting my cooldown, because I felt like I was on the verge of a muscle cramp. I was glad for the long cooldown, because by the end I felt almost normal. Today I have some soreness on the backs of my legs, but nothing major.

Now I want to race a 5K and see how that goes. Next week I may do some mile repeats (4×1 maybe) with one really going all out to see if I can set a Strava PR. Overall, the paces were faster than I expected and maybe faster than I should have run them, given that my current PB in a 5K is a 9:37 pace. However, my HR in that race was 183 bpm, whereas my average HR (for the intervals that didn’t have a glaring error) was around 10 bpm lower. I was exceeding 5K pace, but staying below 5K heart rate. Since my PRs are all still “soft” I think going off HR is going to be more informative.

I’ll see how Superior goes and then snoop around for a 5K in the area a few weeks later, to see if I can get that sub-30.

Running Just To Be On The Run

I really love this song.

This past Saturday, I ran a “practice” 10K. It was both part of my training plan (actually it has a 5K, 10K, and 15K scheduled, but I switched around the order to accommodate a 5K in September) and a Strava challenge I registered for (Run a 10K in August). I also took it as a chance to see how my speed is holding up. The answer was not well.

I used both the app and my watch to record the workout, because I wanted to be able to see my pace at any time and see my splits, like I would do in a real race. I parked at Brighton Beach and warmed up with a short run underneath London Road, starting from the other side of that tunnel.

My speed was not holding up. It didn’t go well. Once again, the heat got to me. I also planned to run this workout like a race, but didn’t prepare like it was a race. Note to self: a Frappuccino 3 hours beforehand is only going to hinder my running abilities. I also should have soaked myself before running to stay cool. My plan went from trying to average a 12:00 pace (lasted 1 mile) to trying to negative split the run in order to salvage it. I wanted to negative split the run by both Strava’s and my watch’s measurements, since I had to stop for a car a couple times on the way out, which Strava doesn’t count in my splits. Here’s how it all went down:

Mile 1: 12:01 (Strava) 12:06
Mile 2: 13:25 (Strava) 13:31
Mile 3: 14:07 (Strava) 14:35
Mile 4: 13:44 (Strava) 14:00
Mile 5: 13:25 (Strava) 13:30
Mile 6: 12:51 (Strava) 12:59
+0.36: 11:07 pace (Strava) ??? (watch)
Overall: 13:07 (Strava) 13:20 (watch)

Yuck. But this kind of intrigued me and now I really want to improve at the 10K distance. It’s a hard distance, because the pace is still fast, similar to a 5K pace, but it’s twice as long (duh), so it’s more taxing on the body. I kind of like the challenge. Now I need to look at a list of races to see what might be available late late late in the year or in the spring…

Strange Days

Yesterday I had a 30 minute tempo run on the plan. I took Tuesday off because I was tired, and figured I’d come roaring back on Wednesday. No.

I’ve never experienced dead legs before, but I did from the get-go. I thought my sluggishness would work itself out, but it really did feel like I was running without feeling my legs. I had planned on running a mile warm-up, running 1.25 miles at tempo, turning around and continuing at tempo for another 1.25 miles back, and then cooling down the remaining distance, which would be slightly less than a mile as I was planning to run my tempo at incrementally faster paces.

Even though my legs were dead, I managed my first tempo mile at 12:37, my second at 12:00 (via my watch, Strava says 11:50, weird), and then who knows for that last quarter mile or so at tempo, maybe 11:15. It wasn’t hard to run fast, but I felt like I was running with someone else’s legs and like I was looking through someone else’s eyes, almost. Or maybe like I was sleep-running. I ended up walking my cooldown because I felt so strange, and of course I was scaring myself into thinking something else was wrong and drove home petrified I’d throw up all over myself (even though I wasn’t nauseated) and get into an accident.

I ate some Nerds when I got home so maybe I was just bonking, but that would be humiliating. Who bonks on a run of less than an hour? I don’t usually eat before runs during the week, as I eat plenty for lunch. I suppose maybe my lunch was less calorie-rich than normal, but I doubt it. I really don’t know.

I felt sort of tired and weird this morning, too, even after I went to bed a bit earlier than normal last night, and it took me awhile to shake that funny feeling. Again, it felt like I was sleep walking. So I shut myself down from running today (it’s raining anyway) and will just do a little yoga, and I don’t plan on running again until I can shake this funny feeling. It’s annoying, but something’s clearly off with me, so I am not going to push until I’m sick or injured and sidelined for weeks or months.

On Speed

Yesterday I enjoyed a well-deserved rest day after a long streak of running, ending with back to back speed days, a big mistake that I got away with, at least so far.

I ran 8 days in a row again, in order to get back on track with my usual Thursday rest day. 8 days in a row isn’t that big of a deal, especially since most of my runs are easy, but because of my weird schedule last week and a mistake on Tuesday, I ended up doing three speed workouts in the span of 5 days. Oops.

I guess I can’t say Tuesday’s hard workout was a mistake. I just let myself get caught up in the moment. I had a terrible start. I was out on the Hartley Nature Center trails, without any bug spray on, and I spent the first mile obsessing over every last hint of a possible mosquito proboscis piercing my skin, stopping and slapping at my legs, arms, and back as though I was Nancy at the end of The Craft. I didn’t stop obsessing over bugs until I was like 3 miles in. I wanted to quit several times because I was so frustrated by the mosquitoes, the bites I’d already gotten that were itching like mad, and the energy I’d expended flailing my limbs. I kept thinking “Ok, that mile was faster than the last one” and they kept getting slower and slower. I wanted to finish under 2 hours, so I started to speed up once I passed the biggest climbs, and I ended up doing a “fast finish” workout, with the last 2/3 of a mile ramped up to a 12:46 pace, which is fast for me for any non-speed workout but is especially fast for a trail workout.

I felt fine on Wednesday and did my tempo run on the “northern” Lakewalk. I did a 3.5 mile tempo (well, basically progression) run, starting at 14:00 (or thereabouts) and ending at 11:00, for an overall pace of 12:30. Pacing-wise, I did ok, with a gradual upward progression in pace (on the graph, I mean, obviously in time it was a downward progression) and occasional spikes or dips. I still end up overcompensating one way or another when I’m trying to hit a certain pace. I’ll speed up, my watch won’t have caught up, and I’ll suddenly be :30 to 1:00 above the pace I want to hit, then I’ll back off and end up backing off way too much. It’s annoying.

I can’t do that again, though, or I’ll wear myself out. My sleep schedule has been off lately, and I’m hoping to get it back on track this weekend. I’m 8 days out from my goal race, and I’d like to be fresh and well-rested when it comes around.

I read a blog post about speed today from Jim at 50 After 40, a straightforward site written by a pretty fast guy. He wrote about the “speed ceiling,” and how we don’t all have the potential to run elite level times, no matter how much we train and how hard we try. I really hope my “speed ceiling” is a lot higher than my current level. I realize certain achievements are unobtainable, both because I just don’t have the natural talent and because I don’t have the drive and ambition to really dig deep, but I’d like to think I can graduate from the back of the pack in a few years. With patience, luck, and hard work, I think it’s possible!

PP5M Training: Week 5

Last week’s training was a bit messed up. Here’s the log:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 6.2 mi (trail)
Thursday: 5.5 mi (10×400 intervals)
Friday: 4.4 mi, road
Saturday: 1.6 mi trail + 3.5 road
Sunday: 1.6 mi trail + 7.9 road
Total: 30.7 mi

I started the week with 2 unscheduled rest days in a row. Not the best way to start a week, but necessary. Both Sunday night and Monday night I slept horribly (Sunday because I wasn’t feeling well, Monday I don’t know what the problem was), and I even went home from work early on Tuesday and took a 2 hour nap, which I never do. Generally when I nap I feel really sick and horrible, so I avoid them unless I just can’t function. I did yoga both days (after the nap on Tuesday, which helped me feel better) and I walked a couple of miles on Monday, so I wasn’t a complete deadbeat.

I don’t feel guilty about “unscheduled rest days,” to use the parlance of our time, because if they’re needed, they’re needed. Knowing when to give my body or my mind a break from running is important, and not listening to that impulse is going to be detrimental to my training. I just moved everything up by a day and skipped the rest day, and tried to make up the mileage. I made it to 30!

Wednesday I tried out my handheld on a trail run. Thursday I gave intervals another try and kind of sucked at them. I did that run on Park Point (a stupid idea, because while the flat surface was nice, dodging tourists who don’t look when they cross the street and who ride tandem bikes as if the whole street is theirs was unpleasant, and then I got bridged) and I think I’ll do that for the next set of intervals (fewer tourists). My splits were unknown, 10:50, 10:39, 10:49, unknown, 10:45, 10:46, 10:53, 10:34, 10:20. I forgot to hit the lap button for the two unknowns. While those are fairly consistent (with the last one an outlier), they are too fast. Either that or I’m going to slaughter my race on Friday.

Saturday and Sunday I did “doubles” as I did a short hike each day (a dry run and then the solstice hike) and a run. My long run on Sunday went ok. I brought along my handheld and started at 6 PM, trying to avoid the heat. Instead I got full-on sun in my face for a few miles and ended up salty as hell. I used my fantastic water bottle to douse my head and get the salt off my face. I felt really gross after the run, despite sipping water the whole way and despite feeling strong during the run. It was really stuffy in my house and was making me nauseated. I’m not sure if it was the heat, or if it was because I hadn’t eaten enough before my run. I think it was the latter, because after I laid down for a little while (in the grass outside, because I was feeling a little panicky) and ate a granola bar, I was fine and ate my dinner. I also didn’t show any other signs of dehydration or heat illness. Still, that handheld is coming with on all long runs or runs where I’m exposed to a lot of sun, just to be safe.

This coming week, I’m hoping to get back on the training schedule, with a few minor, but planned tweaks. With the race on Friday/Saturday (it starts at 11:59 PM on Friday) rather than Sunday as the schedule says (why do these stupid plans always have the races on Sundays? Saturday’s probably more common!), I’ll have Sunday as an open day and do a long run, and I probably will still only have one rest day (Thursday) even though the plan calls for two rest days in a row leading up to the race. It’s a 5K, I’ll survive on just one rest day.

Even though the training plan went pear-shaped for the week, I still got the important workouts in (long run and speedwork), got the mileage I wanted, and had some fun along the way. I’ll just be over here self-congratulating for this accomplishment.

Another Tempo Attempt

Well, I tried another tempo run.

I thought overall it went more smoothly. During my warm-up jog, I mentally calculated the paces I wanted to hit and the distances I’d cover at each pace. I know the tempo run is supposed to be this smooth progression, but I’m not quite there yet. I figured I’d just plot a best-fit line between those paces and see what happened.

I started my run on UMD’s campus, and it was misting out, but as I got to the bottom of the hill on St. Marie and Woodland, the mist became dense and difficult to see through, and I had to change my route. I didn’t feel comfortable crossing Woodland or Arrowhead Road in the mist, even with traffic lights. One right turner not paying attention could take me out. I ended up turning around on Woodland once I reached Arrowhead and heading back to campus, and I finished the tempo run on the paths and sidewalks around campus.

I felt pretty terrible during the run. The moisture content of the air was a factor, certainly, but the big problem was my legs. They just didn’t want to run faster. I assume this is my own fault for not taking it easier on Tuesday’s trail run. A longer warmup might have helped, but my calves felt like they were going to either stop working or start cramping for almost the entire run, including the warm-up and cool-down.

I can’t decide if I’ve actually improved or not.

Here’s my first attempt at a tempo run:

And here’s this week’s attempt:

I definitely made a more gradual progression this week, but I also started at a faster pace. (There’s a weird spike where I was speeding up but my watch hadn’t caught up yet, so I overshot on the pace.) I figured it would take me about 1.5 miles to do a 20 minute progression, and I figured I’d shoot for five 0.3 mile intervals at 13:00, 12:40, 12:20, 12:00, and 11:40 paces, or thereabouts. I tried and I did a so-so job, overshooting and then undershooting the pace. (I also forgot to use the lap feature on my watch to separate the warm-up and cool-down from the tempo portion of the run, so I didn’t get the split information I wanted.)

I really don’t think I’m going to get very good at this unless I do these runs on completely flat ground, and I see little value in that when I look at my long-term goals. I don’t plan on running solely on flat ground. I think there’s still value in this form of speedwork (though I prefer intervals and hill repeats) and I’ll stick to the program, but it’s going to take me a long time to be able to settle into an exact pace that I want.

Back At It

I ran yesterday, so that was nice. I stopped the streak of days off at 4.

I ran pickups. On the treadmill. That was less nice, although in some ways it was good. I ran on the treadmill because it was drizzly and cooler, but so humid I could see my own breath, and since I have my first and most difficult final tomorrow, I didn’t want to wear myself out or get so chilled I couldn’t function.

In order to keep from dying of boredom, I had the Montreal-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup playoff game on, but muted, and then I had a “butt rock” (aka 80s hair metal) station playing on Pandora. I did similar intervals to last week, except I did the correct 8×0.25 instead of miscounting and doing 9. I did the first 4 at a 5.5 mph pace and the last 4 and a 5 mph pace, and then I slowly jogged/walked (3.5 mph pace) in between to recover.

Running the pickups on the treadmill was beneficial for a few reasons. First, it kept my speed under control. When I did the pickups last week on the road, my pace was all over the place and it always died off at the end because I went out too fast (or because I hit a hill AND went out too fast.) My paces were more conservative (10:55 and 12:00) and I was more in control. Second, I was able to keep the pace consistent, not just because I was running a more achievable pace, but because the treadmill was making me. I am not very good at keeping a consistent pace, and I need to train my legs to do it.

I did core exercises too, and I need to be more consistent about doing them. I need a strong core and strong arms to keep me going, but for some reason I’m either too lazy to do them when I’m done running, or I’ve got a zillion other things to do once I’m done running and don’t take the time. Now that I’m not running all these crazy long runs, I have no excuse to skip the push-ups and sit-ups. Washboard abs, here I come. Or at least reduced batwings.