Friday, August 21, 2009

Third 20 in the Berlin Lead-Up

I was on the road at 8:30 a.m., with temps in the mid-60s and a thick marine layer overhead. (It's a different sort of marine layer than you get in Northern California, chunky instead of smooth; splotchy, not so monochrome. Also, it's not so regular. Growing up in San Jose and living later in Berkeley, San Francisco and Napa, from spring until fall there would be never-ending stretches of "low clouds and fog along the coast, extending inland nights and mornings," as the forecasters put it. Here in Portland, you get the stuff for a day or two, or maybe four or five, but then it's gone for a month or six weeks or maybe the entire season. It happens, but it's not like back home, where sometimes anything other than the morning gray coming in and then burning off begins to feel unnatural, as though the Bay has forgotten to breathe.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, my run. So no sun to start and it never came out (still hasn't, quite, and it's nearly 3 in the afternoon). Lovely running weather. The plan called for a pace of 7:30/mile. I wanted to do that for the first 15 miles, then try to push it a little harder on the final five. And it worked out just like that, with the last five miles coming in around 36:15, or 7:15/mile. Total was 20 in 2:28:20 (7:25/mile).

Congratulations to me are in order because I vowed to do a better job with hydration and nutrition during this run and I did. On my front porch I left a 24 oz. cycling bottle of ice-cold Perpetuem; a 12-ounce bottle of ice water; and a Mojo Dipped bar. I stopped by the house at six, 12 and 18 miles. Before the run was over I had consumed probably around 24 oz. of fluid and 350 calories. OK, I can do better—maybe 36 oz. and 500 calories. But for me, not bad. And maybe even that minimal sustenance helped keep me strong late in the run?

Onward to some key learnings: The tempo runs have clearly improved my lactate threshold. I was aerobic the whole way, pretty much just cruising. Even at the harder pace over the last five miles I was still in a comfortable zone. Also, the calves are much, much better. A little tight here and there—the left one (huh?) at a few points, the perennially troubled right at a few other points, never both at once—but all very minor, not even a distraction. Massage and stretching rule! (And compression socks after workouts might not hurt, either.) Oh, and the Achilles that was bothering me through much of my Ironman training and even afterward? A thing of the past.

The only tough aspect to the run—beyond the fact that running 20 hard is always demanding—was the general feeling of my body being beat up. My hips and back were aching and it felt as though my leg muscles were working extra hard to compensate for those stresses. This might be a product of running more on hard surfaces lately. Even wearing the Gel-Cumulus, my well-traveled, much-abused, 168-pound and 46.7-year-old self takes a pounding on the streets. Of course, what one hopes is that with the taper—beginning a little over a week from today—a lot of that bone, joint and muscles weariness will fade away and on race day I will toe the line fresh and frisky.

The big question to begin thinking hard about: What pace, what pace, what pace for the race? Next post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Four Days Running

Sorry, FIRST. I know I'm only supposed to do three runs a week, but as I explained yesterday, I'm hungry to run more frequently and my body is feeling good, so why not? Today: 15.01 in 1:54:55.

With the temperature headed well above 90F today in Portland, I was out the door around 8 a.m., when it was still < 70. Even at that I wanted to avoid the sun, so jogged 1.5 miles over to Laurelhurst Park. At .83 miles, the loop there is a little repetitive for longer runs, but in the morning the big-tree canopy allows for an almost completely shaded run. That's what I wanted. I clicked off lap after lap in 6:21 (7:50/mile) until I got to 13 miles. Then I cranked up the effort, covering the final two miles of the run in 13:30. That's a Pfitzinger thing, working toward (or, in my case, getting under) marathon pace for the last few miles of your long run. I felt strong, though of course there was some hurt involved, especially since I'd drunk and eaten nothing for the entire run. Two hours is about as long as I can go without replacing some of the lost fluid and energy.

Pre-run weight: 169 lbs.
Post-run weight: 162.4 lbs.

I ate and drank a lot immediately after getting home and felt well-recovered within 90 minutes.

The really good news? Very little calf trouble on this run. The extensive massage and stretching I'm doing is proving to be very beneficial. Woo-hoo!

Monday, August 17, 2009


“The biggest mistake is to stick to a formula, or a schedule,” says the running coach Brad Hudson. These have been comforting words over the past few weeks. It’s a little scary not to follow the FIRST dictates day by day. There’s a sense that by letting go, anything might happen—including the whole enterprise falling apart. But things have hung together well, I think, even as I go my own way more and more. Mostly I’ve remained confident that I understand (1) how FIRST is trying to make me faster and (2) that my own input can only improve the formula.

Take this past Thursday: I had missed the two previous tempo runs because of races, and was trying to decide between getting back into the program with the 10-miler at 7:15 from the previous week, or the subsequent five-miler at 6:49. The long run felt a little slow and the short one too much like the races I'd just done, so I kind of split the difference, doing seven miles at 7:00/mile. My race log notes: “Marine Drive w/ Niko riding alongside. Nice cloudy day. Wore Gel-Cumulus. Hard run. Still recovering from Sunday’s tough 20. But a solid workout. Five would have been too short, 10 too long.”

Saturday called for a track workout: 1000m @ 3:37, 2000m @ 7:36 and 1000m at 3:37, with 400m rest intervals. As always, I warmed up by jogging the 2.2 miles to the track. My right calf was really tight and this worried me. But while you’d think hard running would exacerbate an injury—I would think that—it hasn’t worked out that way. Again, the track workout loosened up the calf, and I did the first 1000 in 3:31, the 2000 in 7:28 and the final 1000 in 3:37. These track workouts are always challenging, but I seem to be able to swallow a thick dose of short-term pain easier than a thin dose spread out over three-plus hours.

So that was two hard workouts in three days but the weird thing was, I didn’t feel like resting on Sunday, or doing an hour on the trainer. I felt like running easy. As it happened, Southeast Portland was host to the last of the summer’s Sunday Parkways, in which a circuit running through several parks is closed off to traffic, allowing bikers, runners and all manner of people movers and people moving to own the streets. Niko and I chugged along at a comfy 9:00/mile pace, covering 8.5 miles and rather enjoying the Portland-style parade. I felt refreshed and invigorated afterward—the very definition of a recovery run. And the run made me hungry to run more. So I did, today. I went for 10 miles, mostly at 7:50/mile, but in the middle of the run, for three miles I alternated moderately hard 400s (6:45/mile pace) with easier 400s (8:00). This was a total freelance effort, no planning beforehand, just winging it and going with the flow. It was good.

What’s next? My gut tells me that the half-dozen tempo runs and half-dozen track workouts I’ve done with FIRST have largely done their job. I’m not saying I’m going to abandon those runs entirely. I understand their value, and I’ll turn to them again, if less often than the schedule tells me to. But my highest priority in the next two weeks is to get in two great long, hard runs, per FIRST. To do that, I’ll need to protect myself from damaging workouts and have great recoveries. Weirdly, I think that means frequent mid-distance, mid-effort runs.