New Longest Run Ever: 11.5(i) Miles

11.5(i).

(i) = indoors. 

Did the whole thing on the treadmill, which kinda sucked.

My weather app said “Feels like 4 degrees” so spending almost two hours running alone in the cold was not in the cards. 

Starting off easily at over 10min/mile pace, I gradually increased the pace so that I averaged about 9:25/mile over the 11.5 miles. 

The worst part about running 11.5 on a treadmill: most treadmills at gyms are programmed to max out at a one hour time limit. That meant that after six miles I had to stop and restart the treadmill. As Jessie reminded me, it was not much different than waiting at a stoplight while running outside, but it was annoying. 

While last week’s 10 miler left me with a nice runner’s high, I was completely wasted after this run. Legs aching, IT band pulsing, head pounding. Thank goodness tomorrow is a rest day.

Recovering post run:

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Workout Recap: TreadHill Intervals

I had a plan.

My plan was to dress warmly, get a good sweat going, and blitz the steepest hill in the area for this brutal workout. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I was ready for it.

Then I checked my weather app: “Feels like 2 degrees.”

Nope.

That meant that my dreaded hill sprints would have to be done indoors.

Doing this workout on the treadmill had two advantages:
1) It’s indoors.
2) You can adjust your stride cadence and be sure you’re not changing speeds.

But the treadmill is confining, visually boring, and changing speeds is difficult and unnatural. Sprinting uphill is particularly hard as the moving belt makes comfortably running on your toes a challenge.

Workout:
15min easy
8 x (1min hard, 2 min easy)
15min easy

Ooof, not fun.

On Coach Matt’s instructions, I set the treadmill to a 6% incline and did the one minute hard intervals at 9.8mph (6:07/mile pace). The easy sections were a slow uphill walk at the same incline.

This workout isn’t fun, but its necessary. No more speed work for a few days. The next big workout: 11.5 miles on Sunday.

New Longest Run Ever: 10 Miles

Whew!

That was…. long. 

Sunday’s long, easy run was my longest ever run. It was also one of the most gorgeous. The soft trails at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge required just over four laps of the 2.4 mile loop trail. Despite the mid-30s temperature and strong winds, the trail was absolutely stunning.

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Jessie paced me for the first five miles and made sure that I maintained a slow pace at the beginning. Under strict instruction from Coach Matt to take the first few miles easy, I began at just under a 10min/mile pace and gradually increased my speed over the next eight miles. My average pace for the entire run finished at just over 9min/mile. 

I stayed in Zone Two, though, for most the run until I pounded some Run Gum and kicked in a stronger finish at the end. 

My legs were certainly tired by the end, but they were in decent shape all things considered. While I disapprove of selfies in 97% of circumstances, with nobody else around to take a photo, Jess and I snapped one before heading home.

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Following the run, I grabbed a delicious Oreo donut (yes, you read that correctly) and jumped into the hot tub and my GOODNESS did it feel nice.

Tomorrow (Monday) is an off day, followed by a strenuous double-workout Tuesday and hill running later in the week. Oy. 

Merry Christmas to all those celebrating!

Workout Recap: Critical Threshold on the Dreadmill

Indoor intervals today. 

About 6 miles in 55 minutes broken down as follows:

5:00 in Zone 1
10:00 in Zone 2
5 x (3:00 @ 6:40/mile/2:00 in Zone 1)
5:00 in Zone 1
10:00 in Zone 2 

I’ve noticed a pattern… when taking on a hard interval workout I tend to feel and perform better during the latter half of the intervals. How do we account for this nonintuitive phenomenon?

My completely uninformed hypothesis is that this is about 85% psychological, 5% cognitive, and 10% physical. 

Mostly, I’m relieved to have gotten past the midway point. Early in a tough workout, I am worried that I don’t have enough stamina to execute. Once I get going and can see the end in sight, my confidence grows tremendously. 

A small part might be that I’ve gotten more comfortable with the technical elements of the run itself. A slightly larger chunk might be attributable to feeling slightly better and shaking off some rust, but generally, I would expect to feel worse as the workout progresses.

So yeah. Fear of failure. 

These workouts are as much about building efficacy and belief that I can endure pain as they are about improving my current physical fitness level. 

Next week’s Thursday workout is even more intense: 4×1-mile at just over 5K race pace with minimal rest. Yikes. 

The First 15 in Stats and Photos

Halfway there! (Cue Bon Jovi). 

15/30 complete and I am starting to feel like a runner again.

Before I share some photos and recap some statistics, there are a few thank yous in order:

– Coach Matt Fitzgerald – his planning, structure, and accountability are top notch and have already began to pay off. 
Potomac River Running – their support has made it financially possible for me to pull this off, and I get all my sweet gear there too!
– All of you who have run with me, pledged your support, and Liked my updates along the way. Thank you!
– My amazing fiancé, Jessie, who is so supportive and patient and owns more stretching equipment than your average gym. 

Here are a few of the major statistics since the start of the campaign: 
– Total miles: 400+
– Slowest 5K: 23:33
– Fastest 5K: 20:41
– Slowest 10K: 48:16
– Fastest 10K: 45:32
– Total Races Won: 0
– Meaningful Injuries: 2
– Milligrams of ibuprofen taken: Tens of Thousands
– Friends Raced Alongside: 60+
– Race Rabbits: 2
– Lbs. lost: 15+

– Best Friends Who Are Doctors That I’ve Convinced to Help Me Blood Dope: 0 
– Money Pledged for Camperships: About $20K

A Few Goals for the Final 15 Races:
– Don’t get injured!
– Run at least three races of new lengths (non-5/10K races)
– Set a lifetime best at 10K (currently a measly 44:21)
– Break 20min for the 5K
– Win a race (relays count!)

Slideshow of Some Pictures from the First 15:

 

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Halfway There! New Season’s Best at Race #15

15 races in the books!

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More on that later.

Today’s race was the Dobbs Ferry Holiday Hustle 5K in Westchester, NY. After a night of snowfall, the roads were slick but clear and the temperature a lovely high-20s/low-30s for the 9:30am (errr…9:39am… more on that soon) start time.
Jess and my dad joined me for the run while Russell and his grandmother cheered by the finish line.

This 5K was unquestionably the most challenging course to date. Couple that with the challenging race conditions, an atypical warmup routine, pre-race nerves, and today’s great results don’t make much sense.

Race Goals:
1) Don’t get injured. ()
2) Run a season’s best (SB) time. ()

Let’s walk through this one bit by bit.

Pre-Race
On Thursday night in New York, my dad and I had a few free minutes and decided to drive the race course to see how hilly it was. Bad idea. Sort of.

My desire to run my fastest race quickly diminished as we drove through Dobbs Ferry and discovered that the course was very, very hilly. At first, I was bummed. But this gave me an opportunity to plan out my racing strategy which wound up being absolutely critical given my want for a top time of the year.

The majority of the first mile was uphill, so I decided I would try to cruise the hills at a pace as close to 7min/mile as possible. I expected to be tired, but figured I could recuperate during the second mile, which had a lot of downhills to make up some time. After that, I would aggressively run the short uphill bursts just after mile-marker 2 and hope to hang on for the last half-mile of the race (which was mostly flat).

Great plan. But:

The morning of the race didn’t go as planned. I didn’t get to do my full stretching routine, my stomach was bothering me (85% nerves), and I forgot my Run Gum at home.

We did a bit of a longer warmup run than usual – 1.5 miles on part of the course – to get used to the road conditions. We finished just a few minutes before the race would start.

Or so we thought.

The weirdest quirk of the event was the lack of a starting line. That’s right. No line.

The event was chip-timed, which usually means there are timing mats at the start and finish that track the RFID tag (“chip”) on your racing bib. With a typical “chip-to-chip” race, your time is based on whenever you cross the start line and finish line. This ensures that nobody is penalized for starting in the back of the pack. 

Some races are “gun-to-chip”, which means that everyone’s race clock starts when the gun is fired – regardless of where you are in the pack – and your final time recorded when you cross the finish line. In these races, it’s imperative to start as close to the starting line as possible, as starting in the back of the pack simply adds seconds to your finishing time.

In every race, there’s a very clear start line.

Here, the race started in the middle of the Mercy College parking lot. Roughly at an intersection of two “roads”. There wasn’t even a line drawn in chalk on the ground.

So the lack of an actual start line was odd. At 9:30am, the race officials weren’t ready. Then, one of the race marshals took a several minutes to speak inaudibly into a megaphone while everyone stood around in the cold. Eventually, about 10 minutes after the designated start time, the giant blob of people in the middle of the parking lot got going.

The Race
Despite the untraditional start to the race, it couldn’t have gone much better.

I felt pretty comfortable over the first mile of hills and reached the 1 mile mark in 7:12 feeling pretty encouraged. Knowing that the hardest part of the race was over and second mile was net downhill, I wanted to pick up the pace and put myself in decent position for the final third of the race.

The downward slopes and well-timed playlist helped (let’s just say that while I can’t say that I “like” the song… Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ is an excellent song to run to…). The second mile felt pretty good at 6:36.

Now, it was time to attack the few short hills still remaining and try and hold on for the last half mile.

My training has really started to pay off. I was able to push my way up the hills and use them to pass a few competitors. The last half mile didn’t feel great – my core strength needs a ton of work – but I maintained pace and used the (finally!) flat terrain to negative-split once more and run the last mile in 6:30!

The Results
A last second sprint led me to a finish of 23rd overall out of 489 (21st among men, 6th in age group) with a season’s best time of 20:41*.

*So, my official time listed was 20:30, but the lack of a real start meant the clock was a few seconds behind/the course may have been about 50 meters too short. My GPS said 20:41 (6:40 pace), so that’s what I’m going with.

Jess and my dad ran great races as well!

Fighting off injury and only running a maximum of 2x/week, Jess impressively managed a 21:34 on the tough course (35th overall/5th woman).

Meanwhile, my dad, despite a lack of training and spending hours running up and down the basketball court the day before, won his age group and cruised a strong 26:07!

Needless to say, everyone was pretty pleased with the results.

Moving Forward
I’m pretty baffled, however.
Does my best result yet mean that my pre-race routine has been largely meaningless? Exactly what did I do that yielded success? Was it the extra-long warmup run? Have I been over-stretching? Was it yesterday’s day off without even a short jog? Is this an outlier, relatively meaningless data point? Not sure.

Whatever. I’ll take it! With some luck and lots of training, this result means that I can expect to finally get back to running some respectable times this spring.

Aside from a haircut, next up on the schedule is a half-marathon in Naples, Florida, in mid-January. I may sneak in another 5K later this month, but my priority will be a few weeks of hard training. Let me know if you want to go for a jog!

Importantly, I’ve reached a major milestone. The halfway point. More on that soon.

 

Race Recap: Unintentional SB in Boston

It was reasonably chilly in Boston for race number 14.

But a sunny, wind-free morning, terrifically flat course, and the promise of beers at the finish line made Winter Classic 5K a great time with a great crowd. 

After straining my hamstring in a sprint workout just eight days prior, this race was a good test. Coach Matt instructed me to stay in Zone 3 (155-162 BPM) and not to push it (no finish line sprinting!)… and I (mostly) did just that. I also needed to get in a few miles before and after the race to make the event a useful workout. 

Race Goals:
1) Beat Nick by a lot. (✓✓✓)
2) Don’t aggravate hamstring injury. ()
3) Don’t injure anything else. ()
4) Maintain a Zone 3 tempo. (/X)
5) Run before/after the race. ()

My race went pretty well… even though it didn’t feel great.

I had to spend some energy darting around runners at the congested start and then settled in to a pace just over 7min/mile. Two things happened about a quarter of the way through the race:

First, my stomach reminded me that I am still a long way from near-optimal running fitness. I’ve still got about 10-13 lbs. to drop before I’m near a reasonable racing weight and I felt every one of them.

Second, Jessie, who has not been able to run very much and was planning to cruise the race and see how she felt, jogged up alongside me and showed up in the race photos looking like a running model:

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The second and third miles felt pretty sluggish, but I was able to maintain my speed despite not feeling great. My heart rate strayed a bit above Zone 3 during the last half mile, but resisting a final surge, I was able to cruise in at about a 6:55/mile average for a total time of 21:30 (155/1766 overall, 123/832 men) – an unintentional season’s best by just a few seconds!

Much more impressively were the times of many of my fellow running friends. Notably, Chris, Natalie, and Nick Swerdlow each ran lifetime 5K-race personal records. Swerds also ran a lifetime worst 5K-race record. Pam, Wyatt, and Nick Downing all finished strong. A few others (MARISA JULIA LOGAN WILL) didn’t make it out of bed in time.

Big shoutout to Caroline who played the role of Team Mom and cheered us on in the cold!

After a cool-down run with Jess, it was time for some beers. The event had a solid selection of brews which quickly improved our temperature tolerance.

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It was great to see so many friends (even the ones who came late just for the beer) and I was pleased that I could crank out a respectable time despite feeling sore and overweight.

Next Sunday is another 5K in Westchester, NY, where I’ll go for another season’s best time to try and close out the year on a good note. These next few weeks will feature some hard training before mid-January’s half-marathon!