Thursday, January 05, 2012
I've been blogging a lot lately about the details of my running. That's fine, as long as I need to think about the details and what I'm doing next; but today I'd like to focus on perspective.
First, the condensed version of today's run: I ran 3.5 miles at lunch in 25:08, for a 7:11 pace per mile. It was nice weather, 31° F and just a few flakes in the air with not much wind and mostly good footing. My left quad was bothering me a bit, more walking than running, and more walking when carrying weight than walking without carrying anything. Tomorrow is a non-running day, and I'll have to evaluate on Saturday whether I need two non-running days in a row for adequate recovery. My competitive nature is a little disappointed at having to back off.
After I got done with work, I read my Spark Mail. ON2VICTORY (leader of the half marathon team) pointed me at a great blog by CHRISTINA791 on taking success for granted: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
If you haven't already read that one, it's worth a glance. There are some pretty good comments on it, too.
That blog was very timely for me. It whupped me upside the head with the fact that I've moved the bar on myself. It's not so much moving the bar on what I want to do, as moving the bar on how I expect to do it.
I have a goal of running a half marathon on April 29, 2012. I've paid my entry fee, and I need to train for it. The route has two miles of continual upgrade. ("Uphill" might be too strong a word for the entire stretch, though there are certainly parts that could fairly be called uphill.) I want to be able to run the entire course. That's a formal goal. I haven't set a formal time goal, but my competitive nature notes that if I can maintain a 7:30 pace per mile I should be competitive in the 55 to 59 year old males age group.
If I think about it, that's a pretty high bar to clear. And it's pretty amazing that I can convince myself it's a reasonable goal, considering how far up that bar has moved.
Last August (yes, less than 5 months ago) I was out walking and felt like running a little. I decided to train to run 5K to see if I could do it. My first personal goal was to be able to run for 30 continual minutes. I thought that if I could just keep running that long, I'd be able to run the complete course (3.5 miles) of the Chase Corporate Challenge.
Things proceeded according to plan, with a 9 day delay for a strained calf. I became able to run 30 continual minutes, which covered more than 3.5 miles. So the bar got raised. In order to run 3.5 miles for the Chase Corporate Challenge, I had to be in that kind of shape at the end of May, 2012. The next goal was to keep running through the winter, to try to maintain my fitness level.
That goal got me to schedule runs on my own after completing the SP 5K Your Way running program. I entered a 5K that was promoted through work email, coming in first in my age group. That was satisfying, but not goal-changing.
Then I wanted to run a 5K on Thanksgiving. There wasn't one close enough to home for my taste. There was a 4.4 mile run, which seemed a good distance; but the field was huge and I didn't like the probable pre- and post-event traffic. So I entered a 10K with better parking facilities and a smaller field, never having run a 10K before.
My goal for the 10K was to run the complete course. I did, and once again came in first in my age group. This was a bigger surprise, because my time wouldn't have been good enough for that in last year's field.
December came along, and none of the organized races were scheduled at good times for me. So I just ran on my own, usually 4 times a week. In December, running 10K on a Saturday became routine. Somewhere in there, I thought it would be nice to see if I could run a half marathon. That was kind of a scary distance, so I actually sought medical clearance like I was supposed to do before attempting even the first 5K. Clearance achieved, I paid my entry fee and set out to stretch the weekly long run.
Sometime between receiving clearance to train for a half or full marathon and now, the goal shifted. It's no longer to keep running through the winter and run the entire Chase Corporate Challenge. Now, running through the winter and running the entire Chase Corporate Challenge are assumed. These things will happen on schedule. I'd like to finish the 3.5 mile Corporate Challenge in 24 minutes, and I even believe this is possible.
But the major goal is to run the entire course of a half marathon. For that, I need to be able to run 13.1 miles. If I can run it at the pace I'd like to, that means being able to run for 100 minutes continually. Call it train to run for 2 hours continually, to have a base of fitness that will let me run the first part of the race faster than I should and still keep running for 100 minutes.
That adds up to a significant upward relocation of the bar between early November and early January. The physical aspect isn't such a big deal. The big deal is, I'm assuming that I will be able to train in spite of a) winter weather, b) paid work that is expected to be busy in the first half of 2012, and c) 8 hours per week of volunteer work from mid January to mid April.
Three months ago, if someone had suggested I could run a half marathon by the end of April, I'd have thought they were nuts. Now, I'm planning to do it and I think it's quite possible. Much of the time, I think it's no big deal and I just need to attend to the appropriate details.
But today, I'd like to pause and reflect on how far I've come. The physical ability to run has developed quite a bit, but my attitude toward what is possible and what is normal has changed immensely. Then, running 30 continual minutes covering 3.5 miles was a goal to work toward. Now, running 3.5 miles is a 25 minute run and no big deal. A half marathon is a goal to work toward, and should be achievable in spite of time constraints during tax season.
That's one heck of a success, and a massive improvement from where I was a year ago. I think I'll spend some time appreciating that while I back off a bit to let my left quad recover. I've moved the bar quite a ways upward over the past two months, and I should appreciate that I *could* move it that far rather than being worried that I might not clear it easily.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Life is full of surprises. Sometimes the surprises are good news.
Today started out even colder than yesterday, at 7° F (-14° C). The forecast was for a high near 30° F, but forecasts aren't always dead on. So I packed a variety of running clothes in the gym bag for a lunch run.
Lesson from past forecast inaccuracies: Pack clothes you don't expect to use. It's better to haul unused clothing back home than to not have the item you need.
It turned out to be 24° F and sunny when I got out for the lunch run. I was psychologically geared for it to be colder, because it had been colder in the morning but it turned out to be decent weather. I ran on sidewalks downtown, choosing the route as opportunities to cross streets in stride presented themselves. Fairly early, the stoplights turned me away from the river trail. I didn't mind so much because I expected the river trail to have packed snow, and I was wearing my regular running shoes. I did find a few spots packed snow on the sidewalks from erratic snow removal, but nothing that couldn't be dealt with.
The run turned out to be 3.45 miles in 25:10, for a 7:18 pace per mile. It felt good. My legs actually felt better after the run than before, go figure.
Then after work, I went off to do tax training. There were not as many people signed up for the class as anticipated, so two classes were merged. That left us with more intstructors and assistants than were needed for the class size; I drew a short straw and came home early. Hence, I have time to write this blog. I also get tomorrow evening off.
Better weather and a less tight schedule make it a lot easier to fit the planned runs in. The current plan is another lunch run tomorrow, Friday off from running, a very light run Saturday, and shift the long run to Sunday. After I see how that goes, I'll figure out what the schedule should look like next week.
I'm glad I made the effort to get the run in today. I'd have been upset with myself if I'd skipped it because of the schedule and then the schedule opened up like it did.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
After an unseasonably mild November and December, winter has arrived in upstate New York. I had forgotten what a time suck winter weather can be. This morning reminded me. I was up early, a benefit of being a synthetic morning person; and I spent the entire amount of extra time shoveling my driveway and making sure I got on the road a bit early to beat traffic.
The good news is that the current snow event turned out to be a typical overforecast of lake effect snow. I had a half inch to clear off my driveway this morning, and was blessed with a clear driveway still when I got home from work.
The bad news is that the temperature forecast was right on target. Today hung around the low teens for most of the day. It was 13° F (-11° C) when I went for my lunch walk. That would have been pleasant with sunshine and minimal wind; as it happened, there was a strong enough wind from the west to get me to change my walking route because I didn't have a face cover.
I was walking today because I ran yesterday. I ran yesterday, instead of taking two days off after the long run, in part because of the weather forecast for today. I'm not afraid to run in 13° weather with wind; but that weather means a little more time dressing to walk, then changing to dress to run, then dressing to walk again after cool down and shower. Without actually going through that drill, I'm guessing it could steal 5 minutes of running time from me.
Tomorrow it's supposed to be up near freezing at mid day, perhaps 27° F when I run. That's a more livable temperature for getting between the office and the gym. The open question is what the footing will be like, with minor lake effect snow more likely downtown than where I live. I've got my gym bag packed for running at that temperature, with the standard running shoes rather than the screw shoes. It will be a little bit of an adventure figuring out where to run, as I don't expect enough uncleared areas to justify the screw shoes but I know that my favorite running path will be uncleared.
Tomorrow and Thursday are also very long days with evening tax training, so it's likely I won't be blogging. The open question is whether I end up canceling a planned run due to the intersection of weather, work, and volunteer work.
This will be the first serious test of fitting running into the winter schedule. It was easy to run in bad weather when I had time off from work. It remains to be seen how easy it will be when I have to work the run into a normal schedule and also deal with bad weather.
Hmm. If I wake up early enough, it might be better to run before work at 13° than to try to fit it in at lunch at 27°. I'll have to think about that.
Monday, January 02, 2012
Today is the last day off work before returning to the grind tomorrow. It's a good day for a moderate run, both from a perspective of training schedule and weather forecast. We had snow (apparently after some light freezing rain) overnight, and the temp was just below freezing at 31° F when I got out to run this morning. Wind was from the west, advertised at 20-25 mph. I planned to run the same route I ran last Wednesday and Thursday, and test out my screw shoes. Other than footwear, I dressed mostly like I did last Wednesday, except I wore my older pair of glasses and took the case along for the contingency of taking them off to cover my face.
I stepped very gently to get out of my house, so as not to damage my carpet. I had one insecure step that I had to take on tile in the entryway, between the rug and the front porch. I was reminded of Josephus telling us about the incident of the Roman soldier falling down on the polished marble floor of the temple, because he was wearing hobnailed boots. I filed that away, and made sure during the run that I did not step on any railroad tracks, manhole covers, or sewer grates. Sheet metal screws on steel would certainly slip badly.
The shoulders were indeed slick. There was plenty of black ice, which did not surprise me because I expected it to be everywhere. Some places there was a thin layer of crunch snow on top of the black ice, other places there wasn't. A few places there appeared to be good footing, but it was hard to tell.
I didn't want to run warmup circles in my driveway wearing the screw shoes, so I just set out to run slower at first. That translated into not pushing it anywhere as I got used to how the screw shoes work on slick surfaces. They worked very well indeed where there was crunchy snow. I could still tell that the black ice was slick, but it was much less of an issue than with bare running shoes. It wasn't like running on good footing, but it was closer to that than to the running I did on slick shoulders last week.
About a half mile into the run, the screw shoes started giving me less traction than they did out of the gate. This was not totally unexpected, as some wear on the screws should be normal. Between a half mile and a mile, I thought my right shoe felt different; perhaps I lost a screw or two? Well, I can still push off, so keep running.
As I headed into the west wind, I realized I forgot the lip balm again. But it didn't feel so bad at 31°, even with the wind, so that wasn't a horrible mistake. For two short intervals I had to pull my face cover over my nose, but I didn't need to leave it there long enough to fog the glasses. With my face uncovered, the hills on the southbound stretch were much less intimidating than they had been last week with my face covered. Lesson confirmed.
I am a forefoot strike runner. However, going down hills I found that while my forefoot still struck first, I was putting my heel down with some force behind it. This is where the screw shoes really shone, as I was able to securely run downhill on the slick shoulders. I still didn't push for speed, but speed wasn't the point today. The point was a moderate run and learning how the screw shoes worked.
Got home, and it timed out to 35 minutes even for 4.64 miles, for a 7:33 pace per mile. That's slow for me, but quite acceptable for the conditions and goals of today. Did my walking cooldown along the shoulders of my street, and noticed that walking in the screw shoes on the slick shoulders was identical to walking on a good surface, apart from the "crunch" sound.
Got inside and checked the shoes. I lost 3 screws from my left shoe, which never felt like I was losing traction. Go figure. Some of the forefoot screws were worn down considerably, and all of the forefoot screws had the small ridge on the top of the hex worn off. The heel screws were almost like new on both shoes. No surprise there for a forefoot strike runner.
The left shoe is the one I had done first. Today I'll replace the missing screws, and be sure to tighten them adequately. After the next time I need to run in the screw shoes, I'll re-evaluate the wear pattern. If the second run doesn't produce massive additional wear, I'll consider the screw shoes project a success. Right now, I rate it as being on probation for the three lost screws (possible learning experience for installation) and the wear on the remaining screws (possibly not enough forefoot screws, possible the screws are too soft to be a long term solution.)
Tomorrow is supposed to be the worst weather day of the week, temps around 15° F and lake effect snow. I'll take tomorrow off from running, and try to get a lunch run in on Wednesday when the weather is better. With luck, I'll get a lunch run in on Thursday as well; it remains to be seen whether I'll need to pack the screw shoes to run at lunch on Wednesday and/or Thursday.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
I'm a New Years contrarian this year. I didn't stay up to greet the new year. I got up at a normal time for a Sunday morning, ate a normal breakfast, went to church as I normally do. I also made no New Years Resolutions. It's not that I have anything against resolving to make my life better; it's that my timetable for starting a self-improvement project rarely coincides with January 1.
So if I basically ignore the traditional New Years stuff, what do I do on New Years Day? Well, I would have liked to go for a run. But yesterday was my long run, and today seemed like a good day to take a day off running. To be fair, I don't think I *could* have run before church. I probably could have done a short run, no more than 5K, in the early afternoon when it was 48° F out before the wind and precipitation started up; but I decided not to. "Could" and "should" are two different things. The weather will be worse tomorrow, but my legs will be in better shape for a modest run.
Without running, Sunday is a tough day to get in my 10K steps. I did a slow 15 minute walk before church, and was still under 5K steps in the early afternoon. So I decided to take the brief time of good weather and go visit Mt. Hope Cemetary. No, I don't know anyone buried there; but the route of the Flower City Half Marathon goes through the cemetary.
The runner I know at work tells me that there's a short, steep hill to climb (on cobblestones!) just after the HM route gets into the cemetary. Sure enough, there it was. It took me a while to figure out how to translate the crude route map and the text list of course directions, but I found the route. There's that short steep hill, followed by more uphill at lesser grade and better footing, then a longer downhill, then some distance of modest inclines and declines before the route exits. There's a bit over 2 miles of the HM in the cemetary, and it was the only part of the route than I was totally unfamiliar with.
The hills in the cemetary look runnable; but they come after running over 7 miles outside the cemetary, with most of the two miles before the cemetary being on upgrades. One training idea would be to go and run parts of the actual HM course in advance. The cemetary is certainly one of the more attractive places to accomplish this. I'll think about that, but probably fail to do it because of inertia and unwillingness to add time to training driving somewhere to run.
It also occurs to me that I'm likely going to want to take the day after the long run off from running most or all of the time. Scheduling being what it is in the first quarter, this means having my long run on Sunday should work better than having it on Saturday. Let me think about that. If I run Monday, then do lunch hour runs Wednesday and Thursday, I can maybe do a light run Saturday morning and a long run Sunday afternoon. It's a plan, but it's not written in stone. If nothing comes along to disrupt that schedule, I'll see how it works out this week. Then I can decide whether or how to change it.
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