Still Running Long

running until i can't


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Training Update: Week Six

I started week six mostly worried, yet anxious to get going after two consecutive days without running. I had taken those two days after my heart rate had been spiked (well, hovering too high, anyway) during my aborted long run the Saturday before.

It was a tough two days. Just waiting, essentially, to see what would happen when I hit the pavement again. When I reached the end of my street and looked down at my watch, what would I see? Would I see the same elevated number as Saturday? Or something more normal?

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that, as a Zen student, I shouldn’t worry so much about this. My heart rate is my heart rate. Zen isn’t about always being calm, as is the popular conception; it’s about a basic friendliness with whatever arises. It’s about accepting anxiety when it is present, and not looking for it when it isn’t there.

There’s a sign on the wall just outside the zendo in our Temple that says (in Japanese), No Merit. And yet much of my fear about my heart rate last week was connected to achievement. I want to see things unfold in a certain way. And, for a time, they were unfolding in decidedly the opposite direction. Which made the basic friendliness difficult. But that, too, is something I can accept, something I can sit with. Or run with.

Week Six: I’m kind of surprised, in retrospect, that I didn’t begin the week with something easier, but I went out Tuesday for 8 miles of hills, and ramped up to my lactate threshold on repeats of the last one. It was bitterly cold and the streets were icy. But it was good to be out. And, yes, my heart rate was lower than Saturday. Not glance-at-my-watch-and-laugh low, but it felt like it was moving in the right direction.

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Wednesday was my typical recovery run. I wrote in my training log when I finished, Mostly meh. There was nothing wrong with the run, but I still had to stay fairly slow to keep my heart at a recovery rate. I kept thinking to myself, well, it’s better, but it isn’t all the way better.

I decided not to do any speed work on Thursday and just have an easy six. It was incrementally better. But I found myself anxious for my rest day, hopeful that it could move me another step closer to being back.

As the weekend approached, I watched the weather closely. The forecast high for Saturday was 13 degrees, while Sunday was supposed to be 33 and raining. Which would I rather run sixteen miles in?

I went for Saturday, and was so glad I did. The temperature managed to climb to 16, and the sun was bright, the air clear and dry. I left my hydration pack behind (it would just freeze anyway), layered up, and headed out. It was a this-is-why-I-run type of run. I felt like my performance wasn’t quite where I wanted still, but it was quiet on the streets, and the air felt, well, pure.

I wrapped up the week, as usual with a Sunday recovery run. I really had trouble getting going the first few miles, and ended up even slower than my Wednesday run. It was just about as slow as my all-time low-point when I had a dark and horrible morning recovery run in December. I could have been terribly discouraged, based on everything since the aborted long run, but somehow I wasn’t. It’s just the effects of yesterday’s sixteen, I told myself. And a rest day to follow.

Eats & Drinks: As I noted above, this week’s experiment was with not eating and drinking on my sixteen-miler. I made it fine and was well hydrated, but I could feel the lack of energy in my legs for the last couple of miles. It felt like a good learning experience that didn’t do me any harm.

Milestones: 

  • Tied longest post-hip surgery (April 2011) run: 16.2 miles

Next Week’s Targets: Finding out if I really am all the way back. Oh, and a new longest run (post-hip surgery) of eighteen miles, wrapped into what should also be my highest mileage week (p.h.s., and perhaps even post-knee surgery (April 2003).


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Training Update: Week Four

Week four took a lot of discipline. Not because I was taking a step up, or because the weather was horrible (though the weather did have its moments). No, the complicated part was intentionally taking a step back.

I loved the previous three weeks of my training–each week taking a step up in total mileage and distance of the long run, topping out a psychologically important more-than-forty-miles. But week four was a planned pause in that progression, an opportunity for my body to step back and recover. The idea was to cut back about 20% on the total and bring the long run back down to twelve miles.

Did I mention it was difficult? Two things stood out especially. Without a new target, a new milestone, the week felt, well, boring. Sure, I enjoyed some of the runs for their own sake. But I missed the feeling of stepping up, stepping forward. The other was that I actually felt more sluggish on most of my mid-week runs. This could easily mean that the lower-intensity week was perfectly placed in my training calendar. Or it could have all been in my head. But I felt like I was pulling myself around the loop sometimes.

Week Four: There’s not too much to tell about week four specifically. I swapped out my Tuesday hills for a run-of-the-mill five miles. I was pretty quick around the loop, clocking an 8:39 pace in my regular low heart rate zone (about 75% of maximum). That’s a significant improvement even of the last few weeks.

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Wednesday was New Year’s Day and a little more fun. My son again came with me on a brief run after I had finished my own. It was cold and very blustery that day, and I was worried he wouldn’t want to join me. As we were getting his shoes on, he said, “Can we do one that is shorter than last time?” Sure, I told him, whatever you would like. As soon as we hit the pavement, though, his smile grew. “Actually, maybe we can do longer,” he suggested. So we ran just under a mile-and-a-half together.

By Thursday I felt like I was losing a batter with the wind. I ran a decent clip again (8:33 for a 75% heart rate run), but the constant wind simply made it feel like I was running without any rhythm. It was as if, between the feeling of my body, my effort, and the road, everything was garbled. So it felt a little bit like putting in miles.

Saturday’s long run was day one of evidence that you can’t trust hourly weather forecasts. The 18 degrees when I left was supposed to be pushing 28, but I’m not sure it got a single degree warmer over the twelve miles, even as the sun managed to get a little bit higher. The run itself was simply…normal, though it was twelve miles almost nine minutes faster as when I ran the same route on my birthday three months back.

To wrap up the week, Sunday was a slog-fest and day two of why you can’t trust hourly forecasts. I awoke with an afternoon plane to catch (running in Phoenix to feature in next week’s update…) and so a small window for running in my last five miles of the week. While 10 am would have been ideal for our family’s schedule, the forecast said it would be raining hard at that time (after having snowed much of the night). So, I looked outside at about 7:45 and saw no precipitation. I looked inside at the forecast and saw only a 10% chance for that hour. I dashed outside.

I think I made it about an eighth of a mile before the freezing rain started. Then the snow mixed in, than the ice. And, really, it didn’t stop. But I didn’t either, and I think that might just be as miserable as it can get.

(Of course, at 10 am, the skies were clearing…)

Eats & Drinks: With travel coming, I was too busy to make it to the shop and stock up on anything. So let’s say it was a test of running without any fueling.

Milestones: Just one for the low-intensity week:

  • Longest run with my seven-year old boy: 1.41 miles

Next Week’s Targets: I’m excited about week five. One reason is that my total mileage will tick back up; my long run will still be only 14, so this will mean raising the mileage bar on some of the mid-week runs. The other reason, and really a much bigger one, is that my first runs of the week will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and include technical mountain trails. I never get have this experience, to run this way, and am always reading about ultra runners I admire tackling this kind of terrain. I can’t wait to see what I find out about myself.


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Training Update: Week Three

The best run of this week came at the very end. And despite my desire to run long, it was also the shortest run of the week; a mile-and-a-quarter to be exact. I had just returned from my Sunday recovery run when my seven-year old asked me to go for a run with him.

I love watching him run. He has beautiful form, such a still upper body and effortless gait. But perhaps I’m biased to see those things.

Anyway, we headed out in what was a cold drizzle. I asked him if he wanted to go a little bit farther than the nearly one mile loop we sometimes do; he laughed and skipped in response. So we ran to the Common and then halfway down one of the bigger hills leading up to the old town center. Of course, that then meant running back up the hill, which he did just as easily. And just like I wrote about myself last week, he was laughing a lot of the way.

Week Three: Week Three was a fun week. I wasn’t sure it was going to be as I watched the forecast. December has been warmer than usual in New England, but also much wetter and persistently overcast. It has felt like a twilight that lasted for weeks. My usual mid-week stretch was predicted to be wet, wet, wet. And, really, it was. But I’m really trying (borrowing from my Zen practice) to sink in to whatever the weather offers and have that be my run.

I found a few amazing runs in that rain; each day offered something different. On the Tuesday hills, I felt stronger than the week before, despite going just a little bit harder on the final repeats. On my Wednesday recovery run, I matched my fastest pace for a recovery run. I know pace isn’t the object on those runs, but it is exciting to see it rise as I keep my heart rate low–or even move it lower.

And then there was the Christmas Miracle run. I don’t believe in Christmas miracles, per se, but how else can I explain an 8:22 pace on an easy-effort run? Back before I started my low-heart rate (LHR) training, that’s the pace I would run at for a typical run, except then my heart rate then would have been anywhere from ten to fifteen beats higher. When I first started LHR training, my pace when keeping my heart rate under 139 was close to 10:00 minute miles. And now, at least for one run, 8:22. It is still hard to believe; I’m trying to avoid wishing I had discovered it sooner…

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The week ended with a long run of just over 16 miles, a new distance record for me post-hip surgery (April 2011). The best part, really, is that those 16 felt better than some of my 12 mile runs from a few months back, especially in how my knees and hips are dealing with the downhill pounding of the roads. In contrast to the mid-week runs, it was a gorgeous day with early morning sunshine following me for most of those miles.

Eats & Drinks: Nothing truly new and different this week. I did take Gatorade (yup, old school Gatorade) on my long run in case it’s my only option sometime in the future. What I am most anxious to try is Tailwind. I used it in Costa Rica and loved it; I’m hoping my local shop carries the larger sizes and I can get some in the next couple of weeks.

Milestones: A good week for milestones (all of which are post-April 2011, post-hip surgery):

  • Longest run: 16.3 miles
  • Longest time on my feet for a single run: 2:27:11
  • Most miles in a five day week: 41.7
  • And, of course, an all-time milestone, my longest run with my seven-year old boy: 1.24 miles

Next Week’s Targets: This coming week is a down week in my training plan, another milestone in resting. After ramping up each of the last three weeks, I’ll ratchet the mileage down by about 20%, shooting for 33 or 34 miles. This will be done by replacing the middle distance hill run on Tuesday with a vanilla 5 miles, and my bringing the long run on Saturday down to 12 miles. I can’t wait to see how strong I feel after that