Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Soggy Saturday

The trouble with having only two runs scheduled per week is that when a run day comes along you have to get out there despite the weather. This morning I rolled out of bed to the sound of raindrops hitting the window A/C and I would have gladly curled right back up under the covers, but it wasn't an option. I swam Thursday and Friday this week and I'm swimming again Sunday, so instead of diving back into bed I got up, had a waffle and hit the road. I was afraid that I'd be alone, but when I got up to Inwood, there were 6 of us out there in the cool rain. I can't believe I thought the crew would bail because of the rain, ha! These are the same people that ran by my side all winter long, so I don't know what I was thinking. We squished along the Greenway down to Riverbank State Park before turning back towards home. If it had been a bit warmer, it would have been really great running weather. As we got close to 145th St I started to feel a familiar tightness in my calves. A week and a half ago I ran in my Saucony flats and my calves were sore for a few days afterwards, and I blamed the tired old shoes, but I was wearing my soggy Asics today so now I'm stumped. I have to look elsewhere for the culprit now. In the meantime, back to my foam roller. Ow.
8 miles in about 1:15, some slow puddle-jumping miles in there and some tough uphill miles at the end. The aftermath of the SOAKING WET run can be found in the living room...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Race Pace Running

Coogan's 5K 2009
Folks trying to stay on pace up the hill

I was reading the "Pace Yourself" article in Runner's World magazine a few weeks ago when I came across some "secrets to pacing" that made me raise an eyebrow and say "reaaaally?" Now don't get me wrong, I believe in race pace training as something that creates muscle memory and physiological changes, but Dathan Ritzenhein wants to bullshit me and say that running race pace workouts "helped him get used to that pace so that it wouldn't feel so hard in the race." Cue eyebrow raise here. On what planet does any workout keep things from feeling hard in a race? Even Deena Kastor, a hero of mine, says that race pace runs make her "feel more comfortable on race day." Comfortable? At a 5:15 pace, is that the word we'd use, Deena?

I'm more willing to believe what Matt Tegencamp has to say on the matter which is this: "It's never one workout that tells me I'm ready to run at a certain pace. It is a consistent amount of work that takes months to teach the body." See what he said there? Teach THE BODY. That includes physiological changes that occur, but he says nothing about making it FEEL any different.

I'd been mulling these thoughts around in my head for a few weeks, occasionally making mental notes for a possible blog post on the subject. I don't want to seem like I'm doubting what these amazing, elite runners are doing to prepare for their races, but I can't come to terms with the way they describe the effects of a race pace run. I've come across plenty of articles in my years of reading Repeats World, I mean Runners World about race pace and "getting a feel for your pace" etc, etc. but I just don't buy the idea that it makes race day "feel" any different.

Here's what I mean: even if you train for a 10K in Central Park by running only the loop of the park for each of your training runs, on race day various factors will be different and ultimately you will FEEL different. I'm not talking about the crowds or the wind, I'm talking about your body and your perceptions of how you feel while you're moving. Never have I thought to myself during a run, "ooh this feels just like last week when I did those mile repeats here." My muscle fibers may be thinking that, but my brain isn't able to convey messages like that to my conscious self. I've certainly never thought to myself during a race "ooh I feel so comfortable at this pace after that training run I did last week." If words like "comfortable" come to mind while you're racing then you are going too slow. *smirk*

After thinking about this idea way too much for a few weeks, I experienced an example this week of just how different paces can feel on different days. Monday morning I went out for a little unscheduled run before the Boston coverage started because I knew watching the race would fire me up, and I ran 3 well-tread miles around my neighborhood that felt like absolute shit. I was pushing myself north on the greenway with so much effort that it felt like a 7:oo mile, but oh no, it was a 9:00 mile and that pace continued for the rest of the run, despite my efforts to improve it. If I hadn't worn my Garmin that day I'd have sworn I was moving much, much faster. I was practically shuffling. Luckily I had a much better swim that afternoon.

Tuesday evening rolled around and I laced up to meet the Inwood Hill Runners for some speedwork in the park and I found myself leaving extra time to get there because I was afraid of a repeat of Sludgelegs. As I hit the pavement and pushed north, I hit what felt like a similar effort level and resisted the urge to check my watch. I maintained that pace uphill for a bit and then started down the back hill of Fort Tryon Park when I heard the 1 mile beep. I glanced down, bracing for another disappointing split and saw 7:53! Ahh my legs were back*, but it confirmed what I'd been thinking all along on this subject- you cannot predict what a certain pace will feel like, you can only hope to put in enough miles at that target pace that your Actin and Myosin fibers will remember it and get you there on time.

*for the record, we hit some sweet intervals that night in the 7:20/7:30 range. It felt so great to move so quickly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Grete Waitz, NY's Leading Lady

Grete chats with the NYRR Young Runners before the Run with Champions 2008

Nine times she won the NYC Marathon, setting the world record for women 4 times, Grete Waitz really is New York's leading lady. The running world lost a marathon great yesterday and news about her death spread through the running community quickly, everyone expressing real sadness at the loss of such an inspiring woman. As a child born in the 80's, I was too young to remember the way Grete changed the sport for women, showing us that we could really do ANYTHING, but I know that I have her to thank for the running world we live in today.

The two articles in today's New York Times about Grete are really beautiful and capture her spirit well. Not only did Grete win the race 9 times on her own, but she always claimed that her run with Fred Lebow in 1992, when he was dying of brain cancer, was her 10th victory. I can't say it nearly as well as Lix Robbins, Bruce Weber and George Vecsey can, so please check out the articles here: Scandinavian Cool That Warmed New York and In Marathon and Beyond, a Graceful Champion I recommend having tissues nearby.

I had the great pleasure to meet Grete twice in my time here in NYC, and I can still remember the way my palms got sweaty and I became speechless at the thought of meeting a hero of mine. I consider myself lucky just to have been in her presence, not to mention seeing her interact with the kids I coached at an elementary school in the city. The first time I saw Grete in person was at the NYRR Run with Champions which happens every year a few days before the marathon. It is a big day in Central Park where all of the Young Runners teams gather and have a few races, eat lunch and then get to hear some marathon greats give their running advice. In 2008, the first year I ran NYCM, Grete was part of the panel of speakers along with some other amazing current marathoners. In her cool Norwegian accent, she told the kids to follow their dreams and work hard for what they wanted in life. I'm sure she told them other things too, but I was too starstruck to remember. The photos in this post are from that event. I remember explaining to some of the young girls on the team exactly who Grete Waitz was, and hopefully some of the awe in my voice conveyed just how important she was to opening up the world of running to them. I know they were impressed when they heard how many times she'd won the marathon, but then again who isn't?

I cannot for the life of me remember the details of where my second encounter with Grete took place, but I distinctly remember her wearing a rose colored fleece jacket and me standing behind her going "oh my god, it's Grete Waitz!!" I am almost certain that someone took a photo of the two of us, but I can't find it anywhere. It may have been at the marathon expo in 2008, it may have been at an end of year event for the coaches and staff of the NYRR Youth Programs, I simply cannot remember anything but her serene presence and the grace with which she greeted all of her many fans, myself included. I know I babbled something about running the marathon and running and her being an inspiration. It was truly an honor just to be in the same room with her.

What a woman. As Fred Lebow used to call her, she was "The Queen of the Road" and she will truly be missed. Thank you Grete for all you did for us girls.

For other great blog posts abour Grete, check out Races Like a Girl's post.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making the runs count

Fort Tryon Park, late April 2010

As I mentioned in my 15K race recap, I have made the transition to running only twice a week and swimming 4x a week in order to train for the Great Bay 4.4mi Swim in June. I needed to find a way to get in a long swim on Sunday which meant my day off would now be Tuesday. I have been doing speedwork with the Inwood Hill Runners on Tuesday nights through the winter, so it's been a hard habit to break. This Tuesday I couldn't quite take a day off because I'd been sick the previous week and missed 3 days of training, so I did some P90X workouts and called it a night. I was sore from those plyometrics until Friday morning.

I did manage to make my two runs this past week really count as good training runs which makes me happy and confident that I can maintain my running while swim training. Thursday night our group run takes us on a hilly loop through Inwood, Washington Heights and Fort Tryon park and this week was no exception. We had a special guest this week though, Steve from NYCRUNS.COM joined us at the top of Manhattan for a run. The group was in good spirits as we caught up with a friend we hadn't seen in weeks and we introduced ourselves to a new member. It turns out the new girl has the exact same name as one of our current members, first and last! Bizarro. We ran a solid 4 mile loop on top of the 1.5 miles it takes for LW and I to get to the meeting spot. In honor of our guest, we had some post run food and drinks at an Inwood favorite cafe. That was a lot of fun.

The other run I'm keeping in my schedule is the Saturday morning long run with the Inwood crew. This Saturday I ran to meet the group (go to to find out where/when we meet!) and we decided on an adventure run to and over the George Washington Bridge.
It was a beautiful day yesterday with very little breeze and nice, warm sunshine. The air felt cool and crisp, but there was a haze around the city so white and thick that we could only make out the outline of the downtown skyline as we ran across the bridge. As we reached the bridge one of our members who also cycles gave everyone a little refresher course on bridge etiquitte because there were many more cyclists out than we anticipated. We lined up single file and started across the bridge, I was somewhere in the middle of the 7 person line until Charlie started moving away at the front. I felt like we were moving a little slowly for how flat the bridge is, so I looked to make sure there were no bikes coming and I charged up to catch Charlie. We kept a solid pace up and chatted briefly between flying bikes as we made our way over to NJ. After touching the rocks on the mainland and gathering all of our troops we ran back to NJ at the same quick pace, Charlie and I laughed at all of the cyclists waving their hands behind them to signal that we were oncoming, it sure looked a lot like they'd farted and were waving the smell away. Haha. I guess you had to be there. As we reached Manhattan again we headed back up towards Inwood via Fort Tryon Park and I turned around at the top of the big hill to head back home. The park is on the verge of lots of spring blossoms and there were bagpipers leading a small procession through the park for the annual Shearing of the Heather. (Fort Tryon park has one of the largest heather gardens on the East Coast.) It is a tradition I always sort of "bump into" every year, but never actually participate in. It's almost become the official start of Spring for me, so I smiled to myself as I ran past the folks with their giant garden shears. Bring on the blossoms!!! I finished up the run just shy of 10 miles and felt a bit tight in my left ITB, but satisfied with another perfect Saturday morning run. I can't believe that everyone doesn't start out their weekends this way.