Archive for September, 2009

Week 2, Run 2

Today was a four-mile run, as my program has me starting to slowly stretch out my distances along from the long run on the weekend. At the start I felt pretty good, aside from wishing, as always, that I had gone to bed earlier last night (and many nights previous to that). I did a pretty good job from the start of trying to maintain good posture.

Though I wasn’t trying to push myself at the start, I still hit my first split intersection (.74 miles) in roughly 5:45, which is about what I normally run, and a good time in general since it translates to about a 7:45 mile. I consider that a nice pace, particularly for the start (over the summer I had a tendency to go really fast — under 7:30 — for the first mile, but then I’d often tack on an extra 30 seconds or so for each of the next few miles, which pushed my overall average above eight minutes on distances around six or seven miles). That initial portion is also quite forgiving, since if anything it slopes every so gently downhill. But I’ve done a good job through the first week and a half of running hills of not starting too fast, expending too much energy and ruining my overall time when I couldn’t maintain such a brisk pace.

After I hit the first corner, I resolved to try to reach my next marker faster than normal. That next stretch of course is .81 miles, but it also features a pretty grueling hill. There’s a stretch of almost a half-mile with an incline of about 6 percent, easily the most demanding portion of the route. On my last few runs, I’ve generally run this portion in a little under eight minutes, usually hitting my next split at an overall time around 13:30-13:50. Eight minutes for about eight tenths of a mile probably isn’t terrible, considering the terrain. But it feels so slow when I consider that I can usually run a whole mile (plus a little extra) in the same amount of time on flat ground. Again, this is probably just an issue of me needing to adjust mentally to the differences in running flat trails versus hilly streets.

Nonetheless, after I pushed myself on my final, shorter incline on Monday, I decided I’d attack all my climbs today, just to see how I fared and whether it took too much out of me. I was hoping I might knock about a minute off my usual split, so that I ran this second section in six to seven minutes. It was pretty tough pushing myself up the big hill, but when I got to the top and then to the next marker about a block later, my watch said I was at 12:45, which meant I’d hit the seven-minute goal and had a pretty good time going.

At this point, I had to adjust my mental goals for the rest of the run, since I was doing a four-mile run and had only done this particular route once before, meaning I only had one previous point for comparison. The third segment is 1.01 miles long, and while it runs downhill for most of the first half, it regains that elevation over the second half of the segment. When I ran this portion of my route on Sunday, I think I hit the marker somewhere around twenty-one or twenty-two minutes, which translated to about an eight-minute time for this mile-long stretch. I was hoping to maintain the ground I made up on the second segment and reach the third marker at around the twenty-minute mark. Of course, it didn’t help that one of my shoes came untied early on this segment, and I decided again not to stop to retie it. Ultimately, I hit the marker at about 20:45, which was on the slow side a bit.

The fourth segment of today’s run is just under a mile (.95 miles). On Sunday I did it in about nine minutes, so I was hoping today to make it in around eight and to make up a little more time. This segment features another ascent, though it isn’t nearly so long or steep as the big hill earlier. But the real question was going to be whether I could attack this hill and have something left to finish my run.

I don’t recall my approximate time at the fourth split. I remember hitting it around the thirty-minute mark on Sunday, and I know I came in a minute or two quicker today. But I also remember how, after finishing the last significant descent on the fourth portion, I started trying to push myself a little to finish strong. And when I saw I was making good time at the final split, I kept trying to push my pace the last not quite half a mile.

Ultimately, I shaved a lot of time off my previous mark. Like, almost two minutes. Thanks to being more aggressive on the hills, I managed to get closer to an eight-minute mile, which is my fastest pace of any of the runs I’ve done on my training program so far, and is a pretty good pace for me, in general. Had I run this time on a four-mile course on flatter ground over the summer, I would’ve been fairly pleased with myself.

The real test, I suppose, will come tomorrow, when I do a three-mile run, and I’ll get to see what residual fatigue or soreness I might have.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.98 miles
  • Time: 32:07
  • Average speed: 7.4 mi/hr
  • Average pace: 8:05/mi
  • Calories burned: 571

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Week 2, Run 1

Despite skipping what would normally be a rest day to rejigger my schedule this week, I felt pretty good this morning on my three-mile run. I still feel like I’m going too slow on the second three-quarters of a mile or so (the stretch that features the major ascent). If memory serves (and it might well be faulty on this point), I feel like I’ve been able to run that stretch in something like seven minutes (or a shade under), yet the past couple of runs or so my splits have been around eight minutes.

Still, I didn’t feel tired or fatigued in my legs, or in general, which was nice. And I felt strong enough toward the end that I decided to attack the final climb, which didn’t take too much out of me. Perhaps I’ll have to try attacking the major hill on my next run to see how it goes. I feel confident that I can push myself and go much faster up the hill; it just remains to be seen whether it’ll take too much out of me for the rest of the run.

Overall, I managed to shave about twenty seconds or so off my previous three-mile time, and maintained the same pace as yesterday’s four-mile run, which is good. Hopefully I’ll continue to post small, incremental improvements like these for a while longer before I plateau. If nothing else, I know that my the end of the summer I was able to maintain something like an 8:10 pace over seven miles on flat terrain, so I know I’m at least capable of those kinds of times, now it’s just a matter of continuing to build up the strength and endurance to do it on hillier courses and over longer distances.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.06 miles
  • Time: 26:07
  • Average speed: 7.0 mi/h
  • Average pace: 8:30/mi
  • Calories burned: 470

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Here’s an actual screen shot, captured moments ago, from the New York Times web site’s front page.

NYT headline writers exude the sense of understatement for which their fellow New Yorkers are renowned

NYT headline writers exude the sense of understatement for which their fellow New Yorkers are renowned

I loved loathed that second headline, which so neatly encapsulates everything I hate about New Yorkers, namely their obnoxious sense of superiority and total lack of self-awareness about same.

Moreover, the second headline especially captures the attribute that most compels me to revile the Yankees and their fans, since it suggests, without irony, that the Yankees should not only be in the playoffs every season, but should also win the World Series annually. It’s practically their birthright, can’t you see?

Thus, New York must be elated that the Bronx Bombers have returned to the postseason for the first time in — let’s see, 2009 minus 2007 — two years. Even a humanities scholar like me can do the math and figure out that the Yankees’ postseason drought had reached an onerous, soul-crushing, franchise-deflating, fan base-dejecting one year. And no longer counting.

OK, so the headline wasn’t alluding to that specific postseason drought. Making the playoffs is practically a formality for the Yanquís. (It’s beyond my comprehension how Yankee fans survived last season without a playoff berth.) I was actually surprised on some level to see the picture of the Yankees celebrating their division title with more emotion than they’d muster for burying the Royals in mid-May.

Rather, as the linked story describes, the Yankees are hoping to end their disappointing run of postseason flameouts that stretches back five, six or nine years, depending on what you take as the benchmark of success for the Yankees (hint: it’s not sweeping a mid-summer twin bill against the Orioles).

But the Yankees did not unload close to half a billion dollars to simply win the A.L. East. While the Yankees are pleased with what they have accomplished, their mandate, as always, is to win it all. The Yankees have journeyed to the postseason for 14 of the last 15 seasons, but they have not won a title since 2000 and have not been in the World Series since 2003 [emphasis added].

Gasp! Eek! Pow! Can you imagine that? I’m surprised such celebrated tormentors of the United States as Hugo Chávez, Muammar Qaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn’t take the opportunity of their addresses at the United Nations this week to decry the egregious treatment of Americans living in the UN’s backyard.

I’m not even going to bother listing how many other teams have endured similar postseason “droughts” to the Yankees’. Suffice it to observe that the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had so much as a winning record, much less playoff success of any sort, since before the Yankees began their current run of postseason berths in fourteen of the past fifteen seasons.

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Week 1, Run 4

After a scheduled non-running day yesterday, I wrapped up my first week of runs today with the first “long run,” which meant I ran four miles instead of three.

I started off pretty well, despite feeling tired from not getting quite enough sleep, and had a pretty good split time for the first .7 miles or so. Then I seemed to slow a little for the next three-quarters of a mile, feeling a bit laggard as I tackled the big, long hill. It wasn’t that I felt like I couldn’t run, or that I was exhausted. I simply felt like I lacked the pick-me-up needed to try to attack the hill more vigorously. Consequently, my next split was pretty slow, or at least it felt like that.

As I got to about the back half of the run, I got to explore some new territory, since I branched off from my three-mile route to stretch the run to four miles. I wound up going faster on the second half. I feel like the deviation in route meant I had less elevation to tackle, though the elevation data for this route shows that I ascended just as much as the first beastly hill. It appears that the ascent is a bit more graduated, which is what it felt like running it; it seemed there were some long, leisurely climbing stretches, and only one short part where I had much of a steep climb, but it still wasn’t so steep as the big hill I tackle about a mile or so into the run.

Anyway, the upshot of this was that my pace improved. Before starting, I was hoping to finish in thirty-four minutes or less, since that would put me at an eight-and-a-half-minute mile pace. And, as it turned out, I hit that pace on the button.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.98 miles
  • Time: 33:58
  • Average speed: 7.0 mi/h
  • Average pace: 8:30/mi
  • Calories burned: 608

I felt pretty good by the end of the run. There’s just something about running — and exercise in general, I’ve found — that helps to invigorate me and make me feel better, especially on those days when I feel sluggish when I wake up. And as I’ve discovered this week, when I run these shorter distances (at least compared to what I was running on flat terrain over vacation), I end up feeling like I haven’t gotten quite enough of a workout to feel like I’ve done my full day’s complement of exercise. So, once again, I hit the fitness room afterward, this time just to do about ten minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill, just to burn off a little more energy and cool down a bit.

Still, I have to say that I’ve been encouraged by how my body feels and my performance has been this first week. I’m not running nearly so fast as I was on flat ground. But I’m definitely handling the challenge of hills better than I thought I would, and my times aren’t suffering too much. It’ll be interesting in a couple of weeks or so when I finally work up to some of the distances (6-8 miles) that I was running pretty regularly this summer, just to compare my times. I suspect that being on a running program and working up to those distances gradually will probably help to keep my times respectable.

In any event, that’s one week in the books. Tomorrow starts Week 2, and I’m going to stray from the normal schedule slightly, moving all the runs up a day since I won’t be able to run next Sunday and I don’t want to fall behind on my training. But the week after next (Week 3) I should return to the regularly scheduled set of runs.

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Week 1, Run 3

I didn’t ache today, but I felt a little tired. A little tired in my legs, though not sore, but also tired generally. I’m willing to chalk up some of that to not getting quite enough sleep the past few nights, since I haven’t been very good about going to bed by 11. And, possibly my legs felt a little tired from running yesterday. Or maybe the toll from running hills is catching up to me a bit.

Of course, I was slower than yesterday even before I got into the real ascents. My split to the corner about three-quarters of a mile from the start was probably twenty to thirty seconds slower than yesterday. And I was definitely not feeling excessively energetic for the long, large hill that followed. By the time I finished that hill and reached about the halfway mark, I was about a minute slower than yesterday. And it was shortly thereafter that one of my shoes came untied. I thought about stopping to tie it, but I decided I didn’t want to interrupt my run, even if I stopped my time.

But by the second half of my run, I began to think my feelings of tiredness might have led me to have bad posture, running slightly hunched over instead of keeping my body perpendicular to the ground. I made an effort to keep my posture and form good (standing straight and taking more frequent short steps and fewer long strides).

Still, I was expecting my time to end up quite a bit worse than yesterday, since I had been slower to that point. I was just hoping that I might keep my total time under a nine-minute mile pace, even as I thought it unlikely.

Naturally, when I reached the finish and stopped my watch, I expected to look down and see a disappointing time. And instead discovered that I had somehow managed to shave a whopping four seconds off my time from yesterday.

It wasn’t massive improvement, like I had posted yesterday over the first run. Rather, I knocked maybe a second off my mile pace, not enough to show any real difference in my stats. But it still felt good to know that I hadn’t regressed.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance: 3.06 miles
  • Time: 26:29
  • Average speed: 6.9 mi/hr.
  • Average pace: 8:41/mi
  • Calories burned: 440

How about that? I managed to burn one calorie fewer than yesterday. But, statistically, the totals are fairly indistinguishable from yesterday, even if the splits would tell a different tale. Too bad I have no good way of recording those (the stopwatch on my watch doesn’t even have a lap function), much less logging them.

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Week 1, Run 2

Today’s run went pretty well. It was overcast, which meant I wasn’t staring straight into the sun as I crested the last couple of hills on my eastbound final leg. That was nice.

My legs (mainly my hamstrings and quads) felt a little tired. I’m guessing that’s because I was doing leg lifts yesterday. I read somewhere that you shouldn’t do any weight work with your leg muscles on non-running days, and I’m thinking I might have to cut that portion out of my workouts. When I decided to go with this running program, I figured I’d do weight training the three days a week I don’t run, so perhaps I’ll substitute crunches for the leg work. I probably should be doing crunches regardless.

Anyway, despite my concern that I might be slow due to the slight fatigue in my upper legs, I was actually quite a bit faster than on Tuesday, though still perhaps not quite so fast as I’d like to be. (I keep aspiring to average an eight-minute mile, at least on these shorter runs). Still, knocking a good eighty-four seconds off my last time (and more than twenty seconds per mile) isn’t too shabby.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance: 3.06 miles
  • Time: 26:33
  • Average speed: 6.9 miles per hour
  • Average pace: 8:41 per mile
  • Calories burned: 441

Once again, I followed up the run by heading to the fitness room, where I did twenty minutes on the elliptical machine. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks when most or all of my runs will be more than three miles, so that I can feel like I’ve gotten enough time exercising without having to hit the fitness room.

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Week 1, Run 1

Today I did my first run on my half-marathon training program, and it went pretty well. It was a short run, just three miles, and I was feeling sore at the start after lifting weights yesterday. There were probably three decent hills in the mix, including a fairly lengthy one not quite halfway into my run.

The hills certainly slowed my time a bit — I ran a little slower than a nine-minute mile pace, and ideally I’d like to complete a half-marathon averaging nine minutes or fewer per mile — but they didn’t seem to take too much out of me. In fact, because the run was so much shorter than what I’ve been doing the past month or so, I headed straight to the fitness room after finishing so I could do fifteen minutes on an elliptical trainer, because I felt I hadn’t really gotten a full workout from the run alone.

Anyway, the first run was encouraging. I was actually tempted to run farther, since I felt like I still had plenty in the tank. But, I’m planning to keep on this program of stretching myself incrementally, just because it will probably be more pleasant. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the next three-mile run on Thursday.


  • Distance: 3.06 miles
  • Lowest elevation: 187 ft
  • Highest elevation: 348 ft
  • Time: 27:57
  • Average speed: 6.6 mph
  • Average pace: 9:05/mile
  • Calories burned: 443

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