Monday, November 30, 2009

Step away from the fork...

I stepped on the scale this morning.  Needless to say, after a long Thanksgiving weekend of good food and drink I was greeted with a number that I have not seen in many, many moons.  Yikes.  Time to buckle down and get back to work.  A nice rambling ten miler on Sunday was just what I needed to get back out there.

Not to say that I haven't continued to find new and inventive ways to further cause myself pain and injuries.  Not by a long shot.  Inspired by Dave's foray into the world of minimalism,

 No, not that kind of Minimalism

I have been working on my stride and focusing on landing on my mid, and fore-foot instead of on my heels.  I'm not bad but there is always room for improvement.  With this change of stride there naturally comes an adjustment  period, aka, pain.  I expected the shin pain (when don't they hurt?) and even the calf pain but I admit that I am surprised at how much it is affecting my achilles.  Hopefully this is just a transition period and everything will sort itself out before it runs into achilles tendenosis.  That would suck.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This Turkey Trotted

Great race at the Norwood Turkey Trot on Sunday. Not just for me but for the whole club. A slew of PRs were had; the ladies not only swept the 40-49 age group, placed in several other age groups, but also managed to capture the top team prize. Don and Dave also went home with age group awards and I was content at having run a great race.

Going into the race I was not at all confident about my abilities. Since before BayState I haven't really done any speedwork (a few tempos and hills but nothing demanding) and my performance in my last 5K left me wondering what I could do. Part of the problem was the psychological factor. As I have mentioned, I had a nefarious plot going into the race. Well it really wasn't much of a plot and it certainly wasn't nefarious. I just like to use that word whenever possible.

With the Norwood Hospital 4 miler being officially short and disqualified for any PRs that meant that my only other 4 mile race was the standard I had to beat. Luckily I had run that over a year ago and I was confident I could beat that time of 26:07. All I had to do was run a 6:30 pace or better and I would pick up 3 extra points for the Grand Prix. If I could do that there was a good chance that Don would either not gain any points on me or there was even a possibility that I could pick up a point. That would pretty much seal my win. So naturally this was all going through my head before the race and getting me all sorts of messed up. I kept coming back to the idea that my fate was entirely in my hands. Run fast and I win. Screw it up like the Canton Fall Classic and there is no one to blame but myself. Too much pressure!

Of course it turns out that my fate was not entirely in my hands. After managing to maneuver myself from behind the two 14 year-olds who seemed more interested in their iPods than racing (one wasn't even wearing running shoes!) I got a decent spot at the start. The cowbell clanged and I put the pedal down. No more time to think, I was going to get that PR if it killed me. I hit the first mile at 6:07 and I was smoking. The long uphill sucked but I was feeling good. Hit mile 2 around 12:26 which means I was still more than ten seconds faster than my minimum mile pace. I kept pushing it and started to pass more people.

I have no clue what I hit mile 3 at but I still wasn't hitting the wall so I focused on keeping that pace fast. Turned onto the long gentle uphill stretch to the finish and began to hear a heavy breather behind me. No big deal, I was sure that I was going to PR so they can pass me if they really want to. But they didn't. All the way up the hill I continued to feel good. Tired, naturally, but none of the pains and tightness that sometimes flare up. The crest of the hill arrived so I figured I might as well pick it up and fight off this person; mostly because their heavy breathing was annoying me. Turns out that person was Joann Mathews, who is quite a good runner I am told. Lit the afterburners and cruised in to the finish with a time of 24:55. A new PR by over a minute.

That means that since Don finished one place ahead of me I picked up two points on him! The Grand Prix win was in the bag!

No it wasn't. Remember when I said that my fate was not entirely in my hands? Turns out Don PR'd as well. Which means that he picked up a point. Damn. What does a guy have to do to get a break around here? So we head into to the final race of the series only a few points apart. Oh, the drama.

One quick question: for a course that is billed as "challenging" how come so many of us managed to PR on it? I guess we all came out to play that race.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bullets over BlackBerry

The day started like those kinds of days usually do; dark and wet.  Not unlike the seedy bars I keep finding myself spending time in these days.  The kind of place you go to forget, or be forgotten.  The dull ache in the back of my skull kept reminding me of how much time I spent in just such a place the night before.  That, or someone had been using my head as a drum.  I couldn't remember which it was and either way, the results were the same.

But none of that mattered now, I had work to do.  My name's Putt, for short.  I'm a runner.

I should have known there was going to be trouble from the start.  The crew met up in the parking lot of an upscale diner.  A trendy menu kept the saps coming back to unload their wallets for hash and eggs with fancy names on tiny plates.  I'd never seen the inside of the joint and I got the feeling that my invitation to dine there wasn't in the mail.  I wasn't holding my breath.

Right away the self-appointed crew "leader" and the muscle declared that they were out.  I'd never much liked working with others and they weren't helping to change my mind.  Maybe it was that I thought I could watch out for myself.  Maybe I don't play nice with others.  Or maybe I just don't care.  That left me with the two dames.  The Brit was a  bit too awake for the hour but her demeanor was all business.  A quick glance over her and you could tell that she wore trouble like a wet blanket.  I was surprised by the Mick's appearance.  She didn't look like the clientele I would mix with at Finegan's.  I figured she was hiding something.  I didn't ask.

"All right?"

"Let's get started", I replied.  Nothing left but to get on with it.  Those miles weren't going to run themselves.  It was up to us to sort it out.  Just another job.  Easy to say, but I hadn't been seeing too many of them lately.  Yet here I was, part of a trio.  Best not to think too much and to just get it done.

The puddles reflected the weak streetlights.  Our shoes sloshed through them turning the glowing orbs into waves of yellow.  There was little chatter.  We knew why we were here and discussing our inner feelings wasn't part of the plan.  The rain alternated between a drizzle and full-on.  The cold pulled at my legs and urged them to slow but the psycho Brit dragged us along in her wake.  Her friend stuck to me like stale smoke.  So much for easy.  This was shaping up to be a bad day out.

Finally we arrived at the end.  The end for my companions.  This is where I planned on parting company and finishing on my own.  Just how I liked it.  So far the morning had been uneventful; there's a first time for everything.  I began to pull away from the two and head back out.

"Oy, guvenor.  How 'bout the dough you owe me?"

The dame was pushy but she had me dead to rights.  We both knew I had the cash on me and it looks like it was pay-up time.  Only reason I took this job was because my bank account was trying to crawl under a duck.  Looks like I was out of luck and about to end up a dollar short.

I turned my back to her and reached into my car for the cash.  And then I heard it.  I'd been played for a sucker.  It was all a set-up and I was the dominoes.  The distinctive sound a BlackBerry makes as rings the ping of death is unmistakable.  The only other sound that gets my heart racing like that is last call at the after-hours bar.  But even then I can crawl back into a bottle at home.  There was no escaping this.

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country.  What I had was a wet coat, a Clif Bar, and a BlackBerry that just wouldn't quit.

A black pool opened up at my feet.  I dived in.  It had no bottom.  I felt pretty good - like an amputated leg.  With the message count scrolling faster than a Crazy 8 slot machine I realized my day had just begun.  Time to get back to the office.  Somebody had it out for me.  I intended to find out who.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tempo for the Turkey Trot

I have done pretty much zero amount of tempo or speedwork in the past way-too-long so I decided to get out there and do a tempo run.  Nothing fancy, just 6 miles in total with 3 around 7min per mile.  Nice and conservative but enough to get the heart running a bit faster.  It actually went like that for a a whole two miles too!  And then I ran straight into the Wall Of Windtm.  There was a ferocious wind whipping down the Charles that hit me like a truck and just wouldn't let up.  So my pleasant little tempo run had devolved into a battle to keep my pace and struggle forward.  Needless to say, it left me quite knackered and I could use a nap right around now.

For those of you who have been paying attention you are probably saying to yourselves right now, "Yeah, you haven't done any fast runs recently have you?!"  You are correct, I have been concentrating on taking it easy and just building up a base.  But unfortunately I have two races left this year so I can't let myself go totally to pot just yet. The Norwood Turkey Trot is only 10 days away and it could be a pivotal race in the chase for the top spot of the GNRC Grand Prix.  Currently I lead the board by a mere one point over El Presidente, but Don is knocking on the door and is only six points back.  With 5 Grand Prix race wins this season and a strategy that involves stacking the race, Don is a force to be wary of.  It looks like the winner won't be decided until we all cross the finish line at the Ho-Ho-Ho 5K in December.

Unless my strategy pays off, that is.  I will not give away the intimate details of my nefarious plot but I will say that it centers around this year's Norwood Hospital 4 miler.  I was rather irate at that race after I put in a great run but now  I'm quite happy at how it all turned out.  That race could prove to be the key to my snagging the top spot in the Grand Prix.  Only time, and two more races, will tell.  If all goes according to plan (and it rarely does) the whole thing could be decided at the Turkey Trot.  All I need is a good run.  oooh, so much mystery and drama...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Trail Running

Or: Workouts To Help You Escape Prison

Taking some advice I decided to do some trail running this weekend.  Since I live right next to the power lines I figured it would be the perfect place to run, long stretches of dirt paths that the support vehicles use follow it for miles.  I kitted up and set forth on my first trail run in a very long time.  The first thing I should mention is that I do not own a pair of trail shoes so I had to deal with some loose traction and the occasional sharp stone but they really didn't slow me down as much as I thought they would.

The run quickly became a cat-and-mouse game of avoiding the multiple puddles and pools of water along the route and the inevitable mud that surrounded it.  Luckily I managed to avoid any serious water time although I came inches from stepping into a huge puddle that was covered in leaves.  If it hadn't just caught my attention I would have run right through it.  The myriad of puddles and the scores of loose stones kept me on my toes and forced me to focus on what lay directly ahead of me, not exactly the most relaxing run as I needed to keep alert.

As I crested one hill I was presented with a deep valley with a steep and rocky incline on the other end that looked like it was going to be interesting to ascend.  And then I noticed the river at the base of the valley.  Not good.  I spied a fallen tree about 50 yards away so I made my way through the underbrush, climbed up onto the log spanning the river and proceeded to shimmy my way across.  Once on the other side I had to gingerly make my way through a maze of brambles back onto the trail.  Then I finally got to tackle that huge incline with the terrible and shifting footing.

Finally back in a rhythm it wasn't long until I came smack-dab up against a chain-link fence.  Great, no way around.  There to one side the fence was a bit pushed down, obviously by others like myself, so I climbed it and manged to get over it with only a few minor snags.  Protip: running shorts are not the best clothing to wear when scaling fences.

Back up to speed, I crossed over a road, followed some train tracks, and made my way up a hill to where I thought the path continued.  It did not.  I was presented with a vista in front of me that included a nearly half-mile of boggy lowlands crisscrossed by multiple streams and wetlands.

"Ah, f this" I muttered and turned for home.  Back over the fence, ford the river, avoid the puddles, and fight the underbrush all the way home.  For a grand total of 3.5 miles.  We shall chalk that run up to experience.

Sunday I went for a longer run and on the way back I actually ran along the stretch of trail that I knew to be obstacle free so it wasn't a total loss.  Saturday's run was more of a reconnaissance mission and now that I know which parts to stick to I can use them whenever I am feeling adventurous.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finally, a good week

I guess BayState rebooted my system because I had a great week of running.  Except for one day where I did some sprints I took all of my runs nice and easy, consciously making myself slow down.  I took to just getting out and letting the run go where it would go.  Some times I wasn't even sure how long I was going to go, I just figured it out on the road.  It was a nice change of pace to just get out and enjoy, it's been awhile since I've done that.

Throughout my training I have become obsessed with pace.  I always had to check what my pace was and where I felt I should be if it was too slow.  Every day I would start a run wondering if it would be faster than the day before.  Faster, faster, faster; but with no real goal behind it.  It didn't matter if I was doing it for a purpose, the pace was all that mattered.  After all, to get a 3:15 marathon I have to run a 7:26 pace; a 90 minute half is a 6:51; a 18:30 5K is 5:57 and so on.  Pace dictates the race and in turn dictates the training.

Or so I believed.

But I have realized that I have been doing it all wrong.  My training programs have been fatally flawed from the very beginning but I never even realized it.  Even when I would come down with an injury I always blamed the increase in distance as the culprit.  So I would cut back on the mileage in the hopes of recovering but when I continued to get injured after the decrease I had no explanation.  Because I never took what the pace I was running at into consideration.  I would barely cut back on the speed.

I have finally come to realize that I was wholly focused on mileage as the only benchmark for my training instead of basing it on workload.  Simply put, workload=(volume x intensity).  While this is rather intuitive I had failed to take this simple concept and apply it.  As my training progressed and I added mileage to my weekly workouts I was also adding an increase in speed at the same time.  While in my head I was progressing in a linear fashion my workload was actually increasing exponentially.  My training progress should have looked like this:

 But instead it has actually looked like this:

Which explains a lot. Too much, too soon.  In the future I am definitely going to take this into consideration and use what I have learned.  If the mileage goes up the speed needs to stay the same, and vice-versa.  Run smarter.

For now I am going to take some advice many people have given me; stop over-thinking, relax, enjoy, and run what I feel, not what I feel like I must.