Monday, June 28, 2010

MT: Week Three -- Head Games

Last week's training started out as strong as Week2 but faded a bit at the end.  For one thing, the summer weather arrived bringing Heat and Humidity, the problem children of Summertime. My easy run Monday evening wasn't bad, though I cannot say the same for my running mate Hugh. Hugh had his knee scoped in early April and while he has been cleared to run, he is experiencing the same post-injury issue I am going through: re-establishing his running endurance.

When you run as many marathons as we have, you get use to logging a high amount of miles per month. While we always Respect the Distance, we also expect an easy 5 mile run to involve more effort putting on our running clothes than actually pounding out the mileage.  So when you miss a significant amount of time through injury or other inactivity, you are back to square one with regard to your running capabilities. It's frustrating enough re-teaching your body to run the mileage you once ran without thinking about it. But humidity doesn't help and in fact zaps your energy reserves at twice the rate of a normal run.


On Thursday I got a couple of running friends together for hill work. Hills are generally hard to come by in Chicago and the marathon course doesn't really have any, unless you could a couple of overpasses on the last two miles of the course, including the PR-killing Roosevelt Rd at the course's end. However Hill Work is a tried and true part of speed conditioning, one that I've avoided for the last few years. So I decided to incorporate a hill workout every third week, to coincide with the standard marathon training cutback week.

We met at the sledding hill behind Soldier Field to do two sets of hill repeats. As typical, before we started the mindset was "two sets aren't worth my time coming out here...I'm gonna have to do 3 or 4 sets." A set is running up the hill at 5K pace, with a return job back down the hill (pseudo-recovery) and then right back up the hill again. This is repeated four times to make one set (about half a mile of total distance). Two and a half minute rest and then another set. After running the first set, everyone was like "one more set is plenty."

And keep in mind we skipped our two mile warm up because my runners showed up with bikes and backpacks and no way to safely secure them. We counted their bike ride over as their warm up but I was essentially cheating myself out of some mileage since I only got in a quick half mile warm up. My two runners want to do something every week so we decided we'll alternate between hill work and track work every Thursday. We'll see how this goes.


On Saturday my LR was supposed to be 10 miles but because of the muggy conditions and my co-group leader having some stomach issues, we cut it to 8 miles. I could have done the extra two on my own, but I had some things to do later in the day so the sooner we got home, the better.

And this is where the mental games begins. Intuitively, I know those missing miles from Thursday and Saturday won't really mean much as long I don't continue cutting runs short. But it is too easy to fall into a routine of cutting some miles here, missing a run there and not doing my cross training. Add in the summer cookouts, street fests and other events with temptations to eat bad and stay out late and before you know it, Autumn arrives and the marathon is just around the corner.  You feel unprepared and you tell yourself that you won't finish the marathon/set a new PR/qualify for Boston because you slept in one Saturday in June!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just a little bit more to go

This week I finally reached my target weight of 200 lbs.  When I got injured last year, I gained some weight because I was still eating like someone who ran 100 miles a month even though it was more like 30 miles a month.  If you look at the calendar I use to log my miles, in Febraury I have entries showing my weight to be 211 lbs.  What it doesn't show is January when I was as high as 218 lbs, but didn't log it because I was embarrassed.  Naturally some of it was water weight, but it is safe to say I was at least 215 lbs. 

It took signing up at the gym, eating better, consistently averaging 7+ hours of sleep and increasing my weekly running mileage to get those 15 lbs off.  I wanted to get them off before marathon training began because contrary to popular belief, you don't really lose weight training for a marathon.  In fact, your appetite increases because your body needs so much more fuel to handle those weekend LRs.

Could I have got the weight off sooner?  Probably.  But keep in mind that during the winter, your body is designed to store fat, not shed it.  And while I did scale back on the comfort food, I didn't go crazy on the diet changes.  Soup and Salad for lunch was a stable, but I would still grab an Italian Beef & Fries with co-workers to conduct Social Maintenance at the office.  So I believe that I made the best compromise between losing some weight and also still enjoying life.

Optimally, I would like to get down to 190 lbs.  I believe 195 is realistic over the course of the summer if I can keep up with the eating habits I invoked this year.  The summer cookouts, street fests and trips to Ravina will compete with that, but the increase LR should also help.  It's really gonna come down to having one or two solid weeks of pure discipline followed by relaxed but vigilant adhereance to my diet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

MT: Week Two

This week was a lot better in terms of training because of two significant changes.  First, my work schedule lightened up enough for me to go back to my regular schedule most of the week.  This afforded me the second significant change: getting a run in before work first thing Monday morning.  SigOther and I got up early and went for a run which benefitted us both.

For her, it made Saturday's LR much easier.  For me, getting the extra easy run in gave me peace of mind, since I knew I would do speed work on Tuesday.  This meant that if I didn't have time to get the second Key run in during the week, all I had to do was try to get another easy run in and I'd be okay.  Fortunately, I was able to get the second Key Run in on Thursday evening -- in the heat -- so Monday's run was just bonus mileage.  I also made it to three of five exercise classes during the week, also on run days so I basically did three Two-a-Days.

That might have to change once the mileage gets higher because this old body cannot take as much abuse as it once did.  It's easy enough to do the exercise classes after the runs, but doing them beforehand takes some of the energy I have available for the Key Runs.

This week's LR was better too in an unexpected way.  Both my group leader partner and I were feeling sluggish when we started, probably because we are two fortysomethings who train intensely during the week.  So on the way out, we struggled to keep our 8:30 pace.  Our group didn't mind and as a reward, on the way back, everyone had more energy so they also didn't notice that we picked up the pace on the way back once our legs finally loosened up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MT: Week One

Stands for Marathon Training and this post is a few days late.  Our training week is from Monday to Sunday, though most do the Long Run (LR) on Saturday and use Sunday to either rest or cross train (or recouporate from Saturday night.)

For a variety of reasons, I've opted to do the FIRST training program, where you essentially have three key runs during the week and the other days are either Rest, Cross Training or Easy Runs.  I decided to do this program because my work schedule is busy and my body is old.  It's easier to get three Key runs in per week with everything else being extra than to try and do one of those run 4-6 times a week programs.

The Key Runs are not easy.  You basically have a Tempo Run, a Speed Workout and a LR and since you should have a rest day in between, your schedule is kinda set based on when you get the first run in each week.  Last week was bad because I did my Tempo Run Tuesday evening and because of work, didn't get to do another run until the LR on Saturday.  I also didn't get to go to any exercise classes at the gym until Friday, again because of work.

Since it was only Week One, I didn't beat myself up about it.  Instead, I just worked on correcting the problem.  This week SigOther and I did an easy run yesterday morning before work.  Tonight I also did my Tempo Run.  I also made it to both exercise classes yesterday and today.  So I'm off to a good start running wise.

Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of marathon training is the increased appetite.  While I did manage to lose a pound this week, I also gave in to anxiety and had chicken fingers and french fries for lunch.  And though I had a healthy grilled trout for dinner, I also had some potato chips with it, which are so not the vegetable I should be eating.