Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The retired life

Yeah, I run my shoes down into the ground. They were probably due to be replaced, say, 150 miles ago. I know, stupid, I should know better.

Just back from my NYC trip with R. It was a blast. You can fit so much into five days. A sampling. Eating at Spotted Pig (Mario Batali anyone?), Magnolia's cupcakes several times, Chinese noodle shop, mac and cheese store in the East Village and of course, dim sum. Shopping in SoHo, Greenwich, Park and Madison, Midtown and Macy's. Walking a good 10K a day if not more. Visiting the Guggenheim, watching a  Il Trovatore with the rich and the riff raf (us) for amazing upper tier tickets for $28. And hanging out with R. through it.

Of course, I didn't mention the running. I ran four out of five days. A 25.5K run on Sunday, an 8K on Monday, a 5K on Tuesday and 13K today. All the runs included Central Park, which is a runner's paradise. We walked by Central Park on the way to the opera last night and were shocked by what must have been a good hundred or so runners in the short time we were there. There were fast ones going at a good tempo clip. Plenty of pairs of women running and chatting. More than a few solo runners getting in their miles.

I brought my Asics down to NYC so they could have that victory lap. I didn't intend to bring them back with me. A trip to DSW and a snazzy Cole Haan took its place in my bag. So I brought good ole GT 2130s for their final spin. They had lost their bounce a long time ago, but today, I gave them a run for the money. We ran down to Central Park and I turned up the tempo for the first time in a very long time. We banged out 4:15s and 4:28s, up and down hills and even up that monster of one at the north end of Central Park. Four miles of lactate threshold were difficult to get by. My legs were doing all the work and the old shoes had given it all. It was tonnes of fun. We ran through the streets of Midtown back to our hotel at Lexington and 51 St. where I retired them in my hotel room. Where are they now? Unfortunately, maybe in a trash bin but fingers crossed someone will find use for them. It was one good last ride.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eating well, walking lots and price to pay later

Um, yeah, that's what we had for lunch yesterday. Mac and cheese -- we shared a classic American and a Garden one with veggies. Still feeling it. On the bright side, we're doing tonnes of walking,maybe more than 10K yesterday along with a 9K run in the morning. So sorta justified but not really. Packed in shopping, sight seeing and a comedy club last night.

Gonna head out for another run this morning. Shortened. Going to try my LT run tomorrow morning. Off to museums, Rockefeller Center, lunch and a night at the opera!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Strength in hills

As a test of my fitness, today's two laps of Central Park was just fantastic. I did 13 miler, with a first two kilometre warmup, in 1:45 and finished the run in 2:02 (24.5 kilometres or 15.2 miles). Most kilometres were done at a pretty good clip of sub 5 minute kilometres and even with the hills, I felt amazing. Spent a lot of time focusing on breathing and form.

The hills of the park are definately hard running but I love such challenges. Also enjoyed running twice by the statue of Fred Labow, founder of the New York City Marathon.

Now, for dim sum, shopping, more shopping and a little shop called S'MAC.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Running in New York City

Well, a year ago on the same weekend, R. and I did a three day weekend in New York. We shopped, dined and generally entertained ourselves to the max. It was so much fun. A huge highlight was running in Central Park.

This time, we're going for 5 days and we said we'd try to run Sunday through Wednesday in the park. My marathon training is giving me more rest days than I'm used to, so my schedule is looking pretty light

The required runs are a 13 miler on Sunday and a 8 miler with 4 miles at LT pace on Tuesday. That will be an interesting run to do in Central Park.

The park is perfectly suited for running, with hills and lots of company (other runners). It's also perfectly matches a 10K distance about 6 miles to do the big loop. See the map here. For this Sunday, I may actually try to throw down a decent run. Who knows, it all depends on how we treat ourselves on Saturday night.

Still packing, leave in 10 hours.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Running as jazz

Splash, hop, zig, leap, squish (stride stride), was the only constant under my feet tonight on the roads. Snow had given away to a sheet of slush that was held together by a melting top layer, no more than a centimetre thick.

Of the thousands of strides I hit tonight, only but a few hundred were done without the hint of slippage. My calves burned from the sensation of trying to keep upright while maintaining a proper running cadence.

About an hour and 10 minutes into the run, on the unlit portion, on came Miles Davis and Seven Steps to Heaven, one of those masterpieces that I never thought would go so well with a run, but it did.

Ever try to dance to jazz? Not very sucessful. But try leaping in and out of puddles on a snowy night, the water squishing inside your soles, and you may find yourself in perpetual motion, stopping starting, improvising a sidestep a moment before a leap. When you're moving at 5:20 kilometres with unsure footing, there's no other feeling, no single beat you can lay on to. But jazz, Miles Davis jazz, yeah, that seemed to work tonight.

9 miles in 1:17:01

Monday, February 16, 2009

Runner's shout out

The web is now exploding with runner blogs and I'm very happy that there are more of us out there. We talk daily or maybe weekly about what it is like to run. Non runners may be bemused about how could runners talk day in, day out, about such a simple act, putting one foot forward.

Of course, us in this inclusive club (taking new members every day) know there is much more than strapping on shoes and an iPod for a jog. Runner blogs are usually written by those who've taken a step farther, maybe those who are losing weight or are training for goals.

Today, running my 5 miler, as I was increasing my stride rate to catch a green light, and as I waved at a bunch of kids who move aside so I could run by, I felt what I've always known. That there aren't many times that we get to the true human state. Not the metaphysical or spiritual or intellectual state of being, but reconnecting with the physical sphere. Striding at your fastest, wearing not much on a cold day, you may be recreating the form we lost a long time ago. We bound now after goals and time and stop signs, but back then we ran for life or to hunt or just to live. I felt that today, and it felt great.

The subject of this post is a 'shout out' and I wanted to congratulate an amazing runner, Ryan, who I've been following since 2006 when I first started run blogging. He was one of the half dozen or so runners who were blogging about their training for the 2006 Chicago Marathon, which was my first. Over the years, I've followed his progress as he qualified for Boston, ran Boston, had a child, got promoted, gunned for personal bests after personal bests or licking his wounds after a sub-par performance.

Yesterday, he hit another target, the vaunted sub-3 hour marathon. Ryan makes me believe that I can BQ one day. I subscribe to his philosophy, that not just with pure talent, but with smart and hard training, one can follow their dreams. In my mind, I'd love to carry the confidence and training he brings to every race day. Congrats Ryan!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mississauga Marathon: 12 weeks to go

Today finish my last pre-training run before the 12 week program begins tomorrow. My target race for this marathon cycle is the Mississauga Marathon on May 10, 2009. I'm following the same program I did last year, the Pfitzinger 55 mile program. It's a compact little program jammed with quality work, lactate threshold runs, pace long runs and track work. I'm looking forward to the gains that will come quickly as I ramp up the mileage and get back into marathon shape.

I've been using the last few weeks to get back into shape.

Monday: 6.2 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 3.1 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 13.6 miles

Weekly total: 43 miles

I did my long run today, 13.6 miles in DC through the Mall, around East Potomac Park, on Mt. Vernon Trail and on to Rock Creek Park. Long runs like these let you take in a lot of scenery while you fine tune your body. My first few kilometres were as usual a little blah but by the end, I was really going and I picked up the pace. I've now thrown down a 13 miler, a 15 miler and another 13+ in the last three weekends. I'm eating better these days, and aim to drop five to 8 pounds during the next 12 weeks so I'm in top racing form.

My goals for this program is pretty open. In six weeks, I have the Around the Bay 30K race, which I want to go sub 2:15. If I can do that, then I believe I'll be in shape for 3:15 to 3:20.  So I'm going to take things in strides, build my pace runs and LT runs and regain some speed. I have a 5K in one month and that gives me 28 days to get into sub 20 minute shape. That's not going to be easy but I've learned to be confident in the Pftizinger program. I pay the price and take the pain, and it'll translate on the roads.

Here's the upcoming week:

Monday: 8 miles 10x100
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 13 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: 9 miles
Saturday: Rest (In New York)
Sunday: 6 miles (A lap around Central Park).

That's right, I'm going to NYC next weekend for 5 days with R. Our hotel intentionally is close to the park so I hope to get good running in. I'm going to try my 13 miler on Wednesday if I don't get it in Monday so I don't have to pressure myself to do long runs over the weekend in New York.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Start me up, why don't you?

Just wanted to run a few kilometres by myself, no pressure after yesterday's long run. Of course, at the 4K mark, a speedy runner goes by me. No problem, I kept my pace up, no need to run any faster cause he's gained on me.

Later, just before I was turning around at the halfway mark, another runner comes up past me and up the hill.

I finish the first 5K, then head up a steep grade and I gradually catch up to this guy about 300 metres after the top of the hill. I wave, and pass but seconds after I pass him, he ups the pace, literally bounding away from me with this pseudo sprint.

Geez, why does this happen to me all the time? Is this some sort of male dueling I've not heard of? I mean, I catch the guy over the course of a kilometre yet he decides to run away from me to 'show' me that he's fast? Whatever, I up the pace and within 30 seconds, he's run out of gas and I pass him strongly with a 4:34 kilometre. A little miffed that I had to
duel with him, I throw down a 4:36 and keep up my pace for the rest of the run. If he's going to eat my dust, he might as well watch me run far away from him.

A very dark and slippery 10K in 47:24

Sunday, February 08, 2009

This is what bliss feels like

I've been reading Huruki Murakami's 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,' his memoir about being a novelist and a long time runner. It's a good time for me to read stuff like this because it's helping me refocus as I'm finally coming back to life.

He writes about how running is much like writing and how it balances his life. For me, running has been a little bit of a struggle lately. I can not reconcile what I know to be my potential and what I'm actually doing lately on the roads. I've felt sluggish even though I've been upping the frequency of my running.

That has changed over the past few days and week. The past few sessions, seemingly out of nowhere, I'm getting my groove back.

It's true that there are different sorts of running and I think that in the past 800 or so posts that I've written on this blog, it's likely that I've skewed towards the longer distances. I remember the first time I tried a 20K run, years ago on a summer day. I had everything wrong, no hat to sop up the sweat, not enough water to rehydrate and not enough shade to protect me from the rays. But after the run, I felt happy, exhausted and exhilarated.

We write, us long distance runners, about the runner's high. There's widespread debate and there seems to be enough of a divide of those who think it exists and others who get the high when they stop running (my favourite quote from the Spirit of the Marathon documentary). Me, I every time I embark on a long run, the first 6 kilometres feel bad. I can never get into it and my lungs and heart just seem out of synch. My body needs that half hour or so to realize that I'm about to ask a hell of a lot more of it.

Today's run was a return to those days. It was sunny, bright, cold but the type of chill that a runner relishes. We build up plenty of heats with each successive kilometre.

My first five ranged from from 5:11 to 5:30 kilometres. I felt ugh. I turned a corner and into city streets. By the time I reached the 10th kilometre, I had upped my pace to 5:06. I stopped about 11 kilometres in to admire the view of the lake, the sun glistening off its surface, I had come 10 kilometres to get this view, then I was on my way again.

Then something happened. I started running on streets to give the pedestrians the sidewalk, and I started flying. 4:53s, 4:36s, I started to find my running pace. During those last 8 kilometres, I was running on the same course that I ran the Scotiabank Marathon last year, and I remembered how I imploded in those last few miles and I got a lump in my throat, almost on the verge of tears of the memory of how well that day began and how horrible it ended. Today's run was just another long run, I've done countless of these 13+ plus milers, but it was something more. I was shaking off the winter on this spring-like day. I was refinding my stride and feeling the more powerful with every surge that I threw in. I was getting the heart back up there, I was breathing hard and for that last blissful hour, I was refinding my pace and I felt like a giddy kid doing so.

This is the longest run of this year and in those miles, I rediscovered the long distance runner in myself emerge. He threw down a 4:33 22nd kilometre and for good measure, another one. My pace is back, and although the winter will come back, I'm ready for the season. At the very end, I felt happy, exhausted and exhilarated.

14.92 miles in 2:00:38.

So I've run 40 miles for the week, and I'm just getting started. To get things rolling, I've signed up for four races in the coming months, the calendar is being set.

Weekly mileage: 40 miles
Year to date mileage: 171 miles

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Spring arrives for a short time

Eight degrees, wow, it's like the winter of 2006 all over again (it was the warmest running winter I recall in the last five). I was down to a few layers and traded the touque for a Marine Corps Marathon hat. Nothing like a race hat to make you feel a little speedier.

My shoes need to replaced quickly. I've been trying to hold on to them but they've lost that bounce. I have one ready but I'll need another one -- last marathon training cycle, I broke in my brand new shoes a little too early that by the time marathon day came by, they had been worn down.

Anyhow, I'm saving my long run for tomorrow as I was out till 3 a.m. at a pub. Tried to sleep it off and hydrate so by noon, I was out there to do six kilometres. Figured I start it off strong and see if I could increase pace.

1. 4:57
2. 5:01
3. 4:57
4. 4:40
5. 4:20
6. 4:32

Not bad, started about at a 8 minute mile then finished at 7:15 mile pace with the fifth kilometre a little faster. I think adding speed, tempo and pace work will go a long way toward getting me back in fighting shape. These days, I think to attain those speeds, it's a matter of toughening up my head.

6 kilometres with 4:45K pace in 28:38:21

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A snowy run

I woke up to snow and I wasn't that fazed. In fact, I was quite happy to put on the Yak-Trax for my run. I was planning to do 8 miles today in my attempt to build up my mileage in a more aggressive manner.

I wrote recently about how it's been hard to get my aerobic fitness back on track. Today may have been the answer I've been looking for. When you keep up your running, it's easy to fall out of optimal shape, but consistent running will get you back. I didn't run the 8 miles in the fastest of paces, in fact, I did it in 1:09, which is quite a bit slower than the 1 hour runs I've done in the summer.

Fact is, speed aside, my heart and lungs felt they could take the hour plus of running without stops, and that's the building block of an endurance run. In about 8 weeks, i'm going to be running the Around the Bay 30K road race, and my heart is set on running it faster than 2:15, which equals a 4:30 kilometres or 7:15 miles. That's quite a bit faster than the 5:20 pace I kept up today, but then again, I won't be wearing Yak-Trax on race day.

During my next run, I'm going to start throwing in some farklets. Time to play with speed.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Finally hit my target

Finally think I hit a good running week, topped off 34 miles with a 13 miler today. The weather was just perfect, sunny and warm for a February day. I now have two weeks to get my mileage just a tad higher cause I have to start ramping up for the Pfitzinger program, which peaks at 55 miles. In a 12-week program, I'm going to have to quickly build fitness.

My 13 miler didn't feel that great, I had to take plenty of walking breaks. Maybe I was a bit dehydrated or just lacked energy. Whatever it was, I'm sure I'll shake out of it in a few weeks.

The plan for the upcoming week is to again hit 35. I think now I want to aim at quality, which means an 8 miler or more on a weekday, maybe a pace run as part of a 5 miler and try to hit 20 miles for the weekday runs. For the weekend, I'll try my hand at a 14 miler.

At one point, the long runs are going to feel easier. Can't wait for that