Posts Tagged ‘training’

Getting committed

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve gone and registered for a full marathon. I have 139 days and a few hours till the race begins, which I’m hoping is plenty of time to build up my mileage and get in position to finish (of paramount importance!) and post a respectable time.

What’s a “respectable time”? Many months ago, when the idea of running a full marathon, someday, first crossed my mind, I thought that if I ever found myself attempting such a thing that I’d like to break four hours. Why four hours? Mostly it’s because I remember being impressed by one of my classmates, who ran cross country, finishing the L.A. Marathon in just under four hours our senior year. It seemed impossibly fast to me, back then, to know someone who could run so far in such a time.

Actually, my goal is just a little more ambitious than breaking four hours. What I’d really like to do is to finish with an average pace of sub-nine minutes. Nine minutes a mile for 26.2 miles translates to 3:55:48, or not much faster than four hours. Based on the Runner’s World calculator, my time in the half-marathon suggests I should be able to run a full marathon in 3:36:58. That seems a bit ambitious to me, but I’d be ecstatic if I essentially split the difference and posted a time around 3:45:00.

I’ve done a fair job of maintaining my mileage in the two weeks since the half-marathon. I considered various marathon training programs, but I think I’m going to have to adapt one to my needs, since I’m starting from a baseline roughly halfway into most of the programs I’ve found. I have the wiggle room to increase my mileage gradually, throwing in the occasional week where my mileage remains the same. I also have the flexibility to add even longer runs (most programs seem to make the longest pre-race run twenty miles), or to not feel like I’m going to suffer if something comes up again to keep me from running for a few days.

So, we’ll see how it goes. At the very least, I now have a specific objective around which to plan my runs, which provides some nice structure.

I can’t promise that I’ll post daily updates on my run like I did during my half-marathon training. I don’t know that it’s that interesting, but also it feels like I’ve taken to blogging only about running (maybe I’ve just run out of things to say). But, presumably there will be progress reports and updates.

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What’s next?

I’m faring well physically after the half-marathon. My calves are still a little sore, but I was able to do twenty minutes on the elliptical machine yesterday, and today I ran four miles on the treadmill after wimping out on running outside. (In my defense: it was 37° and I felt underdressed for the cold.)

But with the race now behind me, I’m finding it a bit challenging to try to put together a new running schedule. I want to keep running the same days of the week, and I’d like to maintain my fitness. But I’m also not sure what kind of mileage I should be doing, and whether I should do the same set of runs each week, or if I should vary the distance on my long runs, or how I should approach running for the next few weeks.

Of course, the simple solution is probably to target another race so I have a specific distance and program to prepare. I could easily do another half-marathon; assuming I keep up my running, I’d have no problems doing that distance again in the next month or two. But while I can always run that distance on my own, I’m not sure if the half-marathon is the distance I should target for my next race.

In fact, I’ve been giving some thought even before the half-marathon of trying to do a full marathon in the next six months or so. I’d have the advantage of already being in pretty good condition, since most of the marathon training programs I’ve seen start with much shorter runs in the early weeks than I’ve been doing lately. And I also feel like I might have an easier time training for that distance while I’m still a graduate student, since my schedule has enough flexibility to be able to run pretty much any morning. Plus, there are a few races in the region coming up in the spring, which leaves me more than enough time to get on a four-month training program.

I’m not really sure why, at the moment, I’m waffling on this issue. I know that if I do another half-marathon, I can train for a new personal record (especially since I now have an accomplished time to try to beat), and I feel like I have plenty of room to improve on my performance from Sunday, even though I was pleased with my time.

But, there’s still a strong pull to do a full marathon. For one thing, training to run that distance would probably help me shed the remaining few pounds I’d like to lose, and running considerably more miles than I’ve already been doing would also allow me to pay even less attention to my caloric intake and eat more or less what I want (it’s a nice perk of doing so much running). I’ve never really run much further than the half-marathon distance (I think I managed close to fifteen miles on a run in the summer), but then I had never run more than about four miles before mid-August, and it only took me three months to get into condition to do 13.1 miles at a healthy pace.

I guess part of my desire to pick another race is the knowledge that it’s a lot easier to run and maintain a routine when I have a specific goal. It’s not even that I think I’m going to stop running all of a sudden. It’s just that it’s so much easier for me to look at a training program that tells me exactly what distance to run on which days so I don’t have to think about it and can eliminate the guesswork on my part.

But mostly it’s just a little crazy when I think about how, at the beginning of the year, I labored to complete fifteen minutes on a treadmill, and now I’m giving serious consideration to running a marathon that will probably require me to run for close to four hours.

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Half-marathon eve

It’s now about eleven and a half hours until the race. I picked up my bib and timing chip this afternoon, got my free long-sleeved technical shirt (it’s a nice shade of green) and bought a nifty pair of gloves to wear (my hands have started to chap, I think from standing outside frying a turkey on Thursday).

At the moment the forecast says it shouldn’t rain and should be about 47 degrees throughout the race. And there isn’t supposed to be much wind. Those conditions should be pretty comfortable. I wouldn’t mind it being five to ten degrees warmer, especially for the half-hour or so when we’ll be standing at the start waiting for the race to begin. But considering the forecast just a couple of days ago was calling for rain during the race, I’ll settle for cool and dry.

Physically, I feel pretty good. I resisted the temptation to stray from my program and only walked two miles on the treadmill yesterday (part of me wanted to run). I also resisted the temptation to do any walking or running today. Instead, I did some strength training (no leg work) and very gently peddled an exercise bike for twenty minutes.

I’d still feel better and more confident if I hadn’t gotten the flu and missed a week of training, but I can’t really control that. I also wish this race wasn’t at the end of the holiday weekend, since it’s hard to avoid eating indulgently over the holidays. I’m really understanding the appeal of a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning, even though it can be a bit of a pain having to sacrifice a couple of hours of time that could be better spent prepping for dinner.

In any event, I think I’ll be OK tomorrow. I took a couple of pills after dinner to help drowse me in the hope of falling asleep fairly early so I get plenty of rest before getting up before dawn tomorrow.

I still think I have a good chance of achieving my goal of beating eight minutes a mile, which would mean 1:44:48. If I finish somewhere in the 1:40-1:44 range, I’ll be satisfied. I thought I had a shot at breaking 1:40 right before I got ill, but I think that might be out of reach, no thanks to the flu. Regardless, it’ll be good to get out there and start running tomorrow morning.

Here goes something.

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Week 10, Run 2

I was a bit of a wimp today. Even though it was only raining lightly, I decided to stay indoors and run on the treadmill. I justified it by telling myself it’d be slightly faster, but also because I want to keep my shoes dry in advance of Sunday, and even if it hadn’t been raining during my run, there’s a good chance I’d step in a puddle or do something to get my shoes damp.

Of course, I also wimped out a little on my distance. I ran three miles, which was my scheduled distance. But I was feeling like I should perhaps do an extra mile or two, since I ate a large, rich dinner last night and knew I’d be overindulging today. I set the treadmill for thirty minutes, knowing I should be able to run four miles in that time. But once I started, my legs disagreed. I’ve been reversing my motion on the elliptical trainer the past couple of days, which seems to work my legs more intensely, especially the muscles I use on hills. And evidently my legs could feel that when I started running today.

So, I ran relatively hard, but decided to stop after three miles. It wasn’t bad, but a little boring. I’ll have to force myself not to run tomorrow, since I’m scheduled to walk two miles, instead of a usual Friday short run. I do need to let my legs rest and recover so I feel fresh bright and early Sunday morning.

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.00 miles
  • Time: 22:29
  • Average speed: 8.0 mi/h
  • Average pace: 7:29/mi
  • Calories burned: 549

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Week 10, Run 1

That went much better. Granted, it was a short run, since I only did three miles. But I felt faster and ran quicker than I did on Sunday, even if my pace was still well short of where I had gotten right before getting sick.

My legs felt a bit sore, but at least the weather was drier and warmer than it was on Sunday, so I was able to shed all the extra gear (except the iPod and Nike plus) while still feeling quite comfortable. My splits were more on par with pre-illness runs. I was at 5:15 for about three-quarters of a mile, 12:03 at a mile and a half and 16:28 for roughly 2.1 miles.

I also picked a more apposite playlist, a little punk rock with plenty of uptempo songs, which definitely made me go faster without thinking about it. That came in hand on the hills.

Overall, I was pleased with my progress. There’s still a discrepancy in the mileage between what I’ve mapped online and what the Nike plus recorded. But I’m fairly confident I just need to calibrate the Nike plus. Maybe it’s shorting my mileage on the hills?

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 3.06 miles
  • Time: 23:25
  • Average speed: 7.8 mi/h
  • Average pace: 7:42/mi
  • Calories burned: 442

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Week 9, Run 2

As scheduled, I managed to get in my last pre-race long run today, completing eight miles on my regular route. It was the first time I had run outside in about a week and a half, which also made it the first time I had gotten in any real hill work in the past week.

And, since it was raining and I’m still recovering from the flu, I was also bundled up in more gear than normal. Along with gloves, I wore ear muffs and a waterproof zip-up top and pants. If nothing else, I managed to stay warm and immune to the rain. Except for my feet, which got wet when I failed to duck a puddle early in my run.

Additionally, I was also sporting my new iPod nano with the Nike plus kit, all strapped into an armband. It’s the first time I’ve tried running with music, mostly because the battery in my six-year-old iPod finally died in the summer, before I started running outside. But it was one more piece of equipment to test out.

In terms of health, I’m feeling a lot better, and have been since about Wednesday or Thursday. But my legs seem to be feeling the effects of a sudden layoff in training. I definitely didn’t feel so fast as I did before I got the flu, and my times suffered. Some of that might be a product of being less than 100 percent overall, and some of it is certainly a product of getting my legs back after the layoff and getting the rust off. Plus, I’m not sure how the extra clothing and fussing with the iPod affected my performance, but I imagine it didn’t help my pace.

Of course, it probably didn’t help either that when choosing musical accompaniment, I selected a Moby album, thinking the electronica genre would be appropriately uptempo. Naturally, I picked first and thought about it later, not giving much consideration to the fact that the album, “I Like to Score,” had a lot of mellow tracks that wouldn’t be that conducive to pumping myself up and going faster.

But, in general, I was just a little slow as I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things. My body and legs felt pretty fresh physically, which is what I would expect having not managed much running for a week. But I was still a bit sluggish, and I could feel my hamstrings straining, and I was really slow on the hills.

At the same time, I kept fumbling with the Nike plus. Mostly I think it was the combination of trying to press the controls through a plastic sleeve with a finger in a thick glove. But I had a hard time getting the control to activate the spoken feedback for my usual splits.

Then there was the matter of using the Nike plus out of the box without trying to calibrate it. The documentation led me to think it’d probably work fine. But by about my second lap, it became clear that there’s a significant discrepancy between the mileage according to what I mapped online and the mileage the Nike plus was recording. By the time I finished my route, which was 8.09 miles according to the online map, the Nike plus said I had only run 7.61 miles. I figured there might be some variance between the two, but I didn’t think it’d be nearly half a mile. That’s a 6 percent discrepancy.

I wound up running laps around my building until the Nike plus said I had logged something close to my intended mileage, but obviously I need to solve the mystery of the missing mileage. I figure I’ll try recalibrating the Nike plus to see if it harmonizes more. I suppose it’s possible the Nike plus is fairly accurate, and that I’m just losing that much mileage to running on the sidewalk as opposed to the road itself. But I also know the time I ran in a 10K, which was in line with my times for other runs at distances estimated by mapping them online. So, I’ll just hope that the Nike plus is askew, because I prefer not to think I’ve been shorting myself significantly on my workouts these past two months.

Anyway, here are the stats. The first is logged using MapMyRun, the second via Nike plus (and includes the extra laps of my apartment tacked on to the end of my run).

Today’s stats (MapMyRun computation):

  • Distance run: 8.09 miles
  • Time: 1:05:47
  • Average speed: 7.4 mi/h
  • Average pace: 8:05/mi
  • Calories burned: 1145

Today’s stats (Nike plus computation):

  • Distance run: 8.08 miles
  • Time: 1:10:04
  • Average speed: 6.92 mi/h
  • Average pace: 8:40/mi
  • Calories burned: 1158

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Week 9, Run 1

Yeah, that’s right. It’s Friday and I’m only now managing my first run of the week. Of course, I was more or less bed ridden from last Saturday through Tuesday, and Wednesday was the first time I managed to leave the apartment all week. Even then, I wound up fainting in the middle of the night early Thursday. So exercise wasn’t really a good idea for most of the week.

I felt better today, though, and also fairly well rested. I’ve been pleased that my weight has held steady despite forgoing daily workouts for nearly a week. But, skipping my workouts, and especially my running, isn’t the best way to maintain my fitness for the half-marathon.

Since I was still a little concerned about exerting myself, and also about exerting myself in chilly weather, owing to my ongoing recovery, I decided once more to run on the treadmill. At this point I’ve pretty well screwed up my training program, since I’ve been off it for the past week, so I guess running the treadmill isn’t going to foul me up much more than I’ve already been messed up by falling ill.

Anyway, according to my training program I should’ve run three miles today … but this also should’ve been my third run of the week. Since I had to cut my long run well short on Sunday, and skipped my runs on Tuesday and Thursday, I decided I’d do four miles today to try to get back in the swing of things in the hope that it’d be a good distance to regain my bearings before I attempt my last long run on Sunday.

Of course, since it was the treadmill, I was able to make certain dispensations. For one I kept mostly to the regular “track” program, and had a minimal incline. I did set the speed fairly high — probably close to a 7:00/mi pace for much of it. And I did try to recreate the experience of running my usual route by ramping up the incline quite a bit for about four-tenths of a mile or so at roughly the same point in my run. However, I’m not sure if I managed to recreate the real hill and my usual ascent with much fidelity, mostly because it’s hard to make sense of the treadmill incline to get to correlate to the actual grade of the hill, and because it’s quite artificial to have the treadmill set to a much faster pace than I’d probably actually run if it were the real hill.

In any event, it was pretty grueling running the incline at that speed, and I leveled off the treadmill for most of the rest of the run, mainly because I didn’t want to overdo it.

There’s not much else to describe about running the treadmill. It’s kind of dull, since the scenery doesn’t change and I didn’t both flipping on the TV or bringing anything to occupy myself. I managed to endure the entire four miles. It was a bit laborious, but I think that was largely due to the week’s layoff. I didn’t feel like I was badly out of shape, but I didn’t feel like I was quite in top form either. Mostly I’m just hoping I can get in my long run in full on Sunday, preferably on my usual route, rather than inside on the treadmill. If I manage that, I only have a couple of three-mile runs scheduled for next week, but I think that should get me back on form in time for the race.

Generally it’s just a bit frustrating to feel like I’ve been working hard for two months, making tremendous strides in my training, getting into great shape, only to go and have the flu strike me down right before the race and undermine at least some of the hard work and the couple of hundred miles I’ve logged in training. Maybe I’ll be fine, and I’ll manage to get in all my remaining runs as scheduled, with no real problems. But it’s just unnerving, especially since I was starting to post dramatic improvement in my speed up to the day I first start to exhibit flu symptoms.

I suppose it could be worse. I could have some sort of foot or leg injury hobbling me, so that I couldn’t run at all, or only very slowly and painfully. But, still, if you added up all the days since the beginning of this year when I didn’t exercise (in every case due to traveling), I think I still missed fewer days in ten-plus months than I have in the past seven days. So, on some level it feels like almost a year’s worth of commitment has been temporarily derailed.

Though I suppose I should look on the bright side and consider what a fitness junkie I’ve clearly become that I can’t bear the thought of missing a day of exercise, much less several days when I got laid up with arguably the worst illness of my life. It’s either this week’s flu, or the chicken pox I had when I was five (coincidentally or not, the only other time in my life I’ve fainted was shortly after having the chicken pox).

Today’s stats:

  • Distance run: 4.00 miles
  • Time: 28:28
  • Average speed: 8.4 mi/h
  • Average pace: 7:07
  • Calories burned: 718

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