Sunday, September 28, 2008


It's about that time in my training schedule where I'm supposed to be in "Phase 3," known as the phase where you're doing nothing but running and recovering from running. I spent the tail end of last week doing the latter. I did an easy five on Thursday (inner loop--46 minutes) before heading to Shea Stadium to cheer for the "other" team. Sitting in the rain for five innings while guzzling countless oversize vats of beer is probably not good in-training behavior. But despite the loss, I still had a blast at the game!

Friday and Saturday were complete rest days; preparation for today's Tune Up. I've been focusing somewhat on nutrition lately (note: beer, wine, and cake are gently excluded from this focus...), and it occurred to me that what you do eat is equally important as what you do not eat. To properly fuel today's run, we (the Captain and I) cooked a healthy dinner last night with the last of summer's veggies over some whole wheat pasta. And truth be told, it did make a difference.


The alarm went off in the fives. It was still totally dark, but once I'm up, I'm up. I had plenty of time to putz around before heading to Central Park. My mile long commute doubled as the completion of the first of nineteen miles (9:45). It's kind of amusing how many people were jogging around the park in the pre-dawn hours. Most of them were race participants, but others were just out there that early! I joined the herds and ambled over to the corrals, where I easily spotted nyflygirl. She had requested my company for today's run, but what she forgot was how much faster she runs than I! But I appreciated the suggestion ;)

We ran together for the first four miles or so. A funny thing happened to me during mile one. See, the Tune-Up takes participants on a hamster-wheel-like journey around Central Park which includes THREE (count 'em: t-h-r-e-e!) trips up and down Harlem Hill. I was happily running beside (or rather slightly behind) flygirl when all of a sudden I wondered where we were. I mean, I know the CP loop as well as my own apartment. But all of a sudden there was confusion. I asked fly for our whereabouts (she has a Garmin afterall) and she pointed out that we were on the west side (she did not need her Garmin to answer my inquiry). I looked at the lamp post reading, "W107." Uh huh. So what happened to Harlem Hill?!? Apparently, we had completed it without my knowing it. Must've still been asleep!

1. 9:41
2. 9:46
3. 9:47
4. 10:06

Around this point, we were joined by Flyer DG, my pacing partner from the LTR. Fly pulled ahead and I spent the rest of the time with DG. At one point, he made the mistake of bringing up vacations, which somehow led to a discussion about sailing, which meant I was dreamily talking his ear off about being anchored in a bay after a long day of sailing, sipping local rum and/or a Carib, and watching the sunset with the boat swinging lazily back and forth in the calm water. Nothing beats it!
The miles went on.

5. 9:55
6. 9:52 (Loop One Complete!)
7: 9:53 (force-fed myself a gel--ick!)
8. 9:51
9. 9:37
10. 9:46
11. 9:39
12. 9:40 (Loop Two Complete!)
13. 9:40 (force-fed myself another gel--ick!)
14. 9:50
15. 9:25
16: 9:36

At this point, the 93% humidity was getting to me. Though I had avoided cramps to date, fatigue was setting in. I also felt my knee pinch a bit. Being the conservative that I am (some might say neurotic..), I pulled over to stretch it out. It seemed okay, so I continued.

17. 10:42

I stretched once again, this time giving the hamstrings and calves some attention. I saw no point in rushing to the finish. I knew I'd come in under three hours, my arbitrary goal for this race.

18. 11:05 (Loop Three Complete!)

Total for the 18: 2:58.01 (9:53 pace)
Total for the 19: 3:07.46

Post race, my attire gave the impression that there'd been some sort of rain storm. Drenched from head to foot, my shorts stuck to my legs and my hair was irrepressible. Good thing there were no photogs today ;) At home, I refueled with some homemade soup while icing the knee.

I've iced several times today, rolled twice, and eaten enough chips and guac to land myself a category two stomach ache. Tomorrow, aside from "Running 101," will be a rest day. Tonight, I'll be on the couch watching the Bears battle the Eagles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rest Day

I had a bit of a streak going. Every day since Friday, I did some sort of marathon training workout, even if it wasn't exactly running. Here's a look:

Friday: I went for an unexpected short run with two colleagues. Apparently, I am the person to ask when one is looking for a running partner. It was a nice, relaxed jaunt in the park. It totaled 3 miles.

Saturday: This was the long run. All 14.25 miles of it, documented in my last post.

Sunday: I speed walked to yoga (about 3 miles). The hour and a half class more or less kicked my ass. When given the choice of skipping a chutarunga, I happily obliged. After the three mile walk home, I crashed.

Monday: After running with the kids after school, I completed my own six mile run (still very sore from yoga).

Tuesday: Physical Therapy session number five. This sounds easy, but two hours of leg exercises and serious stretching does take its toll. I was dreading today's seven on the schedule, but fortunately, my PT stepped in and told me to take a few days off. He's well aware of this weekend's planned 18 miler, and wants me to have "fresh legs" for this undertaking.

It might be somewhat mental, but I feel so exhausted lately! I realize I kicked up the training since the beginning of September, but why is it so hard all of a sudden? Instead of dwelling on my weak spots, I'm going to take this badly needed rest day and try to get a decent night of sleep. Even if tomorrow brings more of the same, I won't mind. Sometimes the best decision one can make during training is taking a rest day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not so fast

Things I like about Long Runs
* the coffee buzz that typically precedes them
* zoning out to the playlist entitled "Long Runs" on my 'pod
* sporting the "good" shorts and some sort of technical top
* hours of "me time"
* finishing them...

Friday night was supposed to be a chill night. After Thursday's "Curriculum Night" and the outing that followed it--not to mention the giant milkshake consumed before it--I was pretty much spent. But, since Friday was our first real taste of fall weather, it was only natural to crack open a few fall brews. Though I nursed only one Troegs "Rugged Trail" Ale, it made my head fuzzy and sleepy.

Saturday morning the plan was to get going early. But, I did not wake up until nine! In my world, that is a travesty. Nine o'clock is far too late to start the pre-run festivities (ie. lazy coffee consumption, leisurely breakfast, a TV show or two, etc). Plus it meant cancelling a one o'clock lunch rezzie. So I rushed through all of the above--obviously, there was no catching up on last week's "Gossip Girl"--and headed out around ten.

The route offered me a tour of the outer edges of Manhattan. It started with the Hudson River--all the way down to Battery Park. Then along the East River. Somewhere underneath the Brooklyn Bridge things started going downhill (not literally). A cramp appeared. The thirst factor intensified. My legs wanted to stop. I pushed on, stopping for drinks at every working fountain.

The tail end of my run took me on the streets. Somehow the people milling about didn't bother me as much as usual. I was grateful for stoplights (though at one light I felt a bit faint). Finally my run ended at Columbus Circle (near the finish of the nyc marathon). Fully spent after 14.25 miles (2hr21), I chugged twenty ounces of Dasani and started thinking about what happened. Here are some thoughts:

1. As was pointed out to me by an intelligent source: I've only started doing long runs again. Three weeks ago, I was more or less in purgatory.

2. Dehydration is not to be underestimated. Despite falling temps, long runs still require sufficient H20.

3. A power gel might've helped. Though I carried one, I didn't eat it. My anti-gel attitude might need some adjustment...

4. Was there a protein deficiency? Some people think I am a "closeted vegetarian." I am not--closeted or otherwise. But, admittedly, there's not much evidence to support my case. Perhaps my entire diet needs a bit of an overhaul. Not just in the protein department.

5. Bad runs happen. Was this just a bad run?

It worries me that I bonked somewhere around ten/eleven miles. In a marathon, the first ten are a mere warm-up. (Some say the first twenty are the warm up miles.) And this time it wasn't the weather's fault. So I'm back to my "one run at a time" strategy. But on the positive side, my knee--at least for now--is not contributing to my worries.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Season Three

"Running 101" kicked off its third season yesterday. Our first workout included lots of anaerobic sprinting, which was both energizing and energy zapping. Here's a bit of background about this wonderful program.

Founded by yours truly in the fall of 2006, Running 101 is part of a larger "After School" program at my school. Faculty, as well as outside specialists, offer various classes for the kids, which are held right after school. Most teachers choose something they are passionate about and don't mind spending extra time after school doing with kids. Obviously, for me, this was running.

It's hard to put on paper just how adorable and thrilling it is to watch first through fifth graders take to the sport of running. They have seemingly endless energy; though they tend to sprint like crazy and crash just as hard (aka the "go out too fast" phenomenon). But they also wear perpetual smiles and offer charming comic relief.

Yesterday we discussed safety and key vocabulary words (ie mile, marathon, 26.2. etc). They checked out their running logs and set some goals. I also previewed the route with them, drawing on the satellite image from google maps using the smartboard. Uber cool. We ran our warm-up to the park and played a sprinting game. {Heard shortly after the game, "Can we do that again?!?"} After a brief cool down, we were back at school for dismissal.

Since I have resumed my training regime, I had to complete some sort of real run after the above shenanigans. But for some reason, the kids had pumped me up. Their laughter, excitement, and energy helped propel me through six miles of solo running. Not bad for a Monday.

Today was PT session number four. Lots of killer exercises that I'll definitely be feeling tomorrow. Hopefully an early run will be part of the agenda; a short one to help ease the soreness. But if I find that sleep wins out, then maybe tomorrow afternoon. I'm flexible.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Back in early August, the NYRR held the first of two Long Training Runs (LTR) for this fall's marathon season. Unfortunately, I was out of town for that one, but the second one was this morning. And the best part about these LTRs is that the Flyers get to be pace leaders. This job makes me feel important and somewhat special, since I get to provide direction, advice, and words of encouragement to a group of runners--and I get to be in front.

So this time I signed up for 11 miles but was secretly shooting for 16. My first mile was from my apt to the meeting point (9:45). When I got there, my stomach was in knots. Mostly because I was nervous, but also because I don't think the miniature banana I had for breakfast was quite enough. Despite all this, I was eager to get started. I paced with DG, a former Flyer Pres and good friend of mine. Our group was extremely complimentary of our efforts to stick to our goal of holding a 10:00/mile pace. We landed the first 6 in exactly one hour. Mile splits were pretty good, considering NYRR's penchant for faulty mile marker placement (not saying that was the case today, but not saying it wasn't either).

One: 9:53
Two: 9:58
Four: 10:08
Five: 9:45
Six: 10:17
Split: 1:00.00

Loop two, the lower five, went by without any scandal.

Seven: 9:52
Eight: 9:43
Nine: 9:51
Ten: 9:54
Eleven: 9:40

(okay, maybe this section was sub-par pacing. We were a little quick at times.)

Slurping down a caramel power gel and chugging some HFCS (gatorade) along with a full cup of water while regrouping was probably not a good idea. Thirst (and hunger) was an everpresent annoyance for me today, which is why I was trying to remedy it. But then, my whole core section revolted with a cramp that kept coming and going, and my abdominals did not bother to pick up the slack. But there was another loop for me. This time, the inner four.

Twelve: 10:24 (includes some of the transverse)
Thirteen-fifteen: 28:48 (no mile markers because I did the inner loop and was all out of order)

Total time for all sixteen miles: 2:30

So how do I feel? Sore. Tuckered. Beat. Exhausted. Roughed up. Chewed. Spit out. Rolled over. Tossed around. Sucker-punched. and Hungry. But, these are all NORMAL (noninjury-related) TRAINING COMPLAINTS! The biggest nuisances I dealt with today were the cramp and (extremely) tired legs. So currently, the real issue is my out-of-shape factor. And that is something I can deal with.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Early One

Simply put:

I ran five miles this morning. The sun began to rise around mile three.
Total time: 47 minutes.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Brick Walls

"Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."
--Randy Pausch

If you don't know who Randy Pausch is, I'd suggest you watch this. In short, "The Last Lecture" is truly inspirational. And the above quote really registered with me while dealing with my latest knee drama. To me, it was a brick wall; one of many in the quest for the completion of 26.2 miles. This type of wall is not to be confused with the one runners typically encounter around mile twenty. This type of wall is one you don't expect; one you aren't prepared for; one you haven't trained for. Which makes it worse.

And proving how badly we want something is easier said than done. Anyone can say, "I really wanna run the marathon." But it takes some serious climbing skills to surmount the brick walls that often appear out of nowhere.

This morning I carried out "orders" from my PT to try out a long run. Truth be told, I was hella excited! Instead of giving myself a mileage goal, I gave myself a completion goal. All I had to do was run long enough to feel accomplished, keeping in mind the fact that I hadn't run "long" since August 10.

So I set out at 8:15am, pleased to see the humidity had been "taken care of" by the rain last night. The route started along the West Side Highway--a path known for its flat ground. The turn-around was about five and a half miles in. So far so good. (I think I spotted Uptown Girl on the path??) The latter part of this route took me into Central Park where I continued on the flat and dirt-covered bridle path (seeing Flyers CM, LO, and PD). Thirteen point five miles later (2hr15) , I arrived back at my apartment feeling good (though tired and sore). I stretched, rolled, and iced. The rest of today I've felt optimistic. Aside from the expected fatigue, my problem-joint held up well during the run. And with Friday's sixer, my weekly mileage comes to 33.5.

This particular brick wall might have been a small one. But I'm on the other side!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Twas the night before 4th Grade

Cannot believe school starts tomorrow! Well, I can, actually. It's all the rage right now, first days of school and all. And the proper way to kick off the school year is to head out on a mind-numbing run. Luckily, I was able to do that this afternoon (the first part with Flyer NC!). Seven miles later and I am pretty beat.

The thing about teaching is that occasionally (ie. the month of August) we find ourselves out of practice with the whole ability to think. Actually applying ourselves is theoretical in late summer. But my school forces us to endure long days of in-service meetings in the weeks before the kids arrive in an effort to get our brains working again. Though painful and grueling, this has worked wonders for me! I am practically ready to function as a professional again!

Last night during PT session number three, we discussed my return to training. My assignment, should I chose to accept it, is to try out a long run this weekend. (yay!) Though I could chose a distance to shoot for (ie. 12 miles), I prefer to just start running and see where it leads me. I'm hoping to cover 10-12 miles or so, but I'll take anything at this point. I don't do the "out of the fire and into the frying pan" thing; I take more of a "dip in one toe" type approach. Whatever the case, the knee is top priority.

Monday, September 01, 2008


* PT session two on Friday went very well. I learned a pretty intense way to strengthen the hamstrings using a foam roller. I was also informed that I could start bumping up the mileage. Sweet!

* Saturday morning I gladly followed these instructions. My route was pretty haphazard. A counter-clockwise tour of the inner loop plus the outer rez loop (or lower rez?) and some random add-ons took me to 7.1 miles of pure fun! I was pretty slow (1hr7) but mostly out there to reintroduce my legs to the sport of running.

* Yesterday was a gorgeous day for cycling. I deduced that my quads cannot be that weak; the uphills I encountered were surprisingly easy to surmount. Or perhaps I had too large a dosage of java beforehand? Either way, I felt great on the bike.

* And today was another seven miler including the full loop at a slow 1hr7. But none of this slow stuff matters considering the good feelings in my knee.

The big question I need to address is how to best proceed with my training now that I feel less injured. Hastiness cannot be a virtue if patience is. This is obviously a topic I will discuss with my PT. But for now, I am thrilled to be running again!