In it for a long run

Every time I think about this blog, I feel guilty that I don’t post more often, even though time is fairly tight. I keep feeling that I need to post something pithy and meaningful every time. The problem is that writing pithy and meaningful stuff isn’t usually a quick proposal, unless the idea comes to me mostly fully-formed. Today I had another idea.

The idea came to me in the place where many ideas usually hit—in the bathroom. Unlike other ideas, I actually kept it in my head after I departed the fount of ideas. While not normally pithy—or even very long—there’s one thing that I do write a narrative of on a regular basis: I post about my workouts on the dailies thread in The Starting Line forum at the Runner’s World website.

So in the spirit of writing more about my fitness journey, what I’m going to do—at least in the near term—is to take my workout wrap-up from the forum and post it here, removing the comments to other forum posters and perhaps tacking on some background or additional perspective.

To get started, I’ll backtrack to the beginning of the year so I can have the full year’s workouts here. So with no further ado, let’s flash back to New Year’s Day (actually posted on Thursday, 1/2):

I’ve been gone a couple of weeks or so (and off the training track for the same time) due to some health problems that my son is having. Now that he’s out of the hospital and we have both a diagnosis and a surgery date, I’m hoping that things will start getting back to normal.

Yesterday, I got out for my first run since my treadmill outing on 12/16. I got in 3.4 miles in 22 degree weather on slushy local roads, but managed a 13:18 pace, which I consider not bad considering the layoff. Today was a common form of cross-training in the Northeast known as “shoveling snow in the cold.” 40 minutes shoveling 6 inches of snow with the temperature at 7 degrees (wind chill at -13). Tomorrow, I’m hoping to escape the house for a little while to go to the Y to do some traditional XT. If I’m lucky, the roads will be in decent enough shape to get outside and run on Saturday or Sunday.

From Saturday, 1/4:

Well, yesterday ended up being about 75 minutes of XT disguised as shoveling snow. I’m hoping to get to the Y later today for traditional XT, but family scheduling may dictate the dreadmill tonight because the roads aren’t quite clear yet. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to get up into the upper 30s, so I’m hoping to get in some road work late tomorrow morning before the rain starts.

Sunday, 1/5:

Well, I didn’t get anything in last night by the time that we got finished with all of the family stuff. However, I did manage to get out for 4.3 miles this morning. It was a distance PB  [Personal Best] by .02 miles and 7 seconds below the previous PB, which was from before I went on the DL with an strained soleus back in November, so I count that as a big plus. Going to try to do some cross-training at the Y tomorrow night after work if all goes well.

In other news from yesterday, I did manage to stop by Fleet Feet to sign up for the Fleet Feet Distance Program Faster/Farther group for winter/spring. We start training on February 19 with a 10K goal race on Mother’s Day.

Looks like it’s going to be a busy couple of weeks after I turn 50 at the end of April. Disney Expedition Everest Challenge on 5/3, 10K goal race on 5/11, CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge on 5/15, and maybe SPAC Rock + Run 10K on 5/18. I’m once again wondering who I am and what I did with my former self. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.

There’s no turning back now….

Monday, 1/6:

I didn’t get to the gym today due to more family stuff. I’m hoping that things can finally get back to normal fairly quickly after my son’s surgery later this week. We’ll have to see. I won’t be trying to run outside tomorrow with the temps around 10 degrees (with wind chill at -7) by the time I get home. I’m hoping that I can work it out tomorrow to either get to the Y for XT plus possibly dreadmill or indoor track, or at least get free of things to do at home long enough to run on the mill in the basement. It’ll all depend on how well everyone else in the family feels by evening.

Tuesday, 1/7:

Got to the Y and did some strength training for the first time in almost a month. I’ve definitely lost a bit and will need to do some work get my mojo back. It felt good to get back into it, though. I expected bigger crowds from the New Year’s resolution folks, but maybe they were there in the morning.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do something tomorrow, whether the Y or the dreadmill in the basement (it’s still going to be too cold to run outside tomorrow). I definitely won’t be doing anything on Thursday because after my son’s surgery he’ll be staying in the hospital overnight for observation, which means that my wife and I will be staying at the hospital as well. Any workout Friday would depend on my son coming home and my wife having everything under control enough to be able to leave her without worrying.

I was expecting “May you live in interesting times” in my fortune cookie tonight….

Wednesday, 1/8:

Since my son’s surgery is tomorrow morning at 11:30, I had to get in a workout tonight to last me until he’s home. I felt crappy throughout, but managed a hair over three miles on the dreadmill at a pace of just over 13:00. Not great but I got it in there. Next on the agenda: Family Medical Stuff.

Sunday, 1/12:

First off, my son’s surgery on Thursday went very well. He’s recovering and we’ll just have to wait a couple of weeks or so before we can tell how many of his issues it cleared up. He’ll have a nice scar, but we’re hopeful that it will eventually fade away.

After a couple of days of exhaustion after we got him home from the hospital, I finally managed to drag myself out the door this afternoon in the “heat” of the day. It was around 37 degrees out. Somehow, I managed to set PBs in distance (5.0 vs. 4.3), duration (1:03:22 vs. 57:13), and outdoor pace (12:40 vs. 12:49) after a three-day layoff! My first time running over an hour non-stop, and my first time running 5 miles! If I can keep extending like this, the 10K on 5/11 will be a piece of cake, I hope.

Tuesday, 1/14:

After Sunday’s run, I was excited to get back out there. I waited until after the rain finished and went out around 8:30 tonight. It was actually still 40 degrees out! I decided to try a speed workout. Just run two miles, but try to pick up the pace by a minute per mile or more. There were a few huge puddles in the first tenth of a mile that soaked my shoes, but I didn’t let it slow me down. I made the mistake of trying to increase my cadence by 15 at the outset, from 160 to 175. Nope. Dialed it back to 172 after one song. Still a bit too much. Went to 165, which I usually hit around 20-25 minutes into a normal workout, and that worked OK. (My run playlists generally have a standard range of BPM, and they increase throughout the playlist.)

I actually finished 2.05 miles at an 11:24 pace! That’s 1:16 per mile faster than I’ve ever done outside!

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t increase cadence too much in one shot
  • Longer strides > faster cadence
  • Starting the playlist at 165 BPM is just fine for a speed workout (for now)
  • I CAN DO THIS!

Meanwhile on the scale, I’m now down 46.25 pounds, and weigh the least I have been in at least 20-25 years. I think I may finally be breaking through the plateau that has plagued me since mid-December, with yoyoing weight varying as much as 5 pounds up and down during that period.

I keep surprising myself with the goals that pop into my head. I guess I haven’t adjusted my conscious thinking to match the leaps that my subconscious has already made. Not that I’m complaining.

In response to feedback on that post:

I’ve actually been very careful about overstriding since my early days, when Jennifer [Van Allen, Runner’s World editor and “leader” on the forum] admonished me to “keep my toes beneath my nose.” I took that to heart and have used it as a mantra when I find myself heelstriking.

My normal run playlists start at 160 BPM and gradually increase to 168 BPM over the course of an hour or so. I picked a faster playlist yesterday with the intent of increasing speed by increasing cadence. I increased it too much, ending up feeling winded nearly immediately. When I eased it back to my middle-of-standard-playlist cadence around 165 BPM, and lengthened my stride a bit, it was much easier than the huge cadence increase and I was able to complete two miles at that pace. I wouldn’t have lasted one mile at 175 BPM.

And in response to other feedback:

Exactly. I was able to sustain a slightly faster cadence than normal at that point in my run (165 vs. 160), but with a longer stride to cover more distance per stride. Even with normal long-run strides, my legs didn’t like the 175 cadence. Maybe as I lose more weight, I’ll be better equipped for the faster cadence, but for now I seem to top out around 168-170 after I’ve been out for a while.

Wednesday, 1/15:

URD [Unscheduled Rest Day] here. Was originally going to run out to the gym for some XT, but I needed to take care of some extra family business because my wife was exhausted. I think we’ll all be in much better shape when the doctors clear my son to return to school. The follow-up appointments with the surgeon and the specialists are next Wednesday. I’m hoping that he can return to school the following week if all is well, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Thursday, 1/16:

I wanted to get out and run outside tonight, but my wife needed me to be closer to home so I took to the dreadmill in the basement. I decided to play around with varying paces. I started out a little too fast and ended up having to slow near a walk later on. I took the pace up and down based on how I felt and how long my playlist had me feel like striding. When I found myself bumping up against the bar, I sped up the mill. When I started huffing and puffing to struggle to keep from going backward, I slowed it down. I had it up to about a 10:31 pace, and down to almost 15:00 pace. In the end, I did 5K in 36:37, for an effective 11:49 pace.

I’m getting those short runs done faster. Now I’ll have to wait to see what I can do on a long run this weekend.

This morning:

Going to see if I can get in a few miles before the snow starts coming down. I’m going to try a new route that will give me no recourse but to do 5 miles because there’s no bail point after the first mile. We’ll see how it goes and whether or not I beat the snow. Catch up with you later!

This evening:

I got about two miles out before the snow started coming down. It was only light flurries for about a quarter-mile, then it started coming down harder. It didn’t start sticking until after I got home, but it still was floating enough that it stayed airborne long enough to get under the bill of my hat and stick on my glasses.

Did a new PB of 5.15 miles at a 12:57 pace, which I’ll take with the combination of snow and a nice uphill almost the whole way back in. With a fairly steep crest on these roads and no cars on the road for much of the run, I ran down the middle of the oncoming lane for much of the route, heading over to the shoulder whenever a car appeared on the horizon.

The increased distance, the “no turning back” nature of the new route, and the persevering through the snow actually felt really empowering. It was a real “holy crap I *AM* a runner” feeling. It was also great to feel that I could’ve gone a bit further if I needed to when I got back home. I now have no fear of the coming 10K in May, but am rather trying to figure out what my pace goal should be. Today was a very self-affirming run.

Dedicating the run to Meg Cross Menzies. #megsmiles [Meg was a runner and mother of three who was killed by a drunk driver while out for her run on Monday morning. The driver crossed the white line to hit her while she was running facing traffic on a two-foot wide shoulder. There was a movement to memorialize her and raise awareness of drunk and distracted driving, and safety for runners and cyclists, and asking everyone to dedicate their runs to her today.]

And now we’re up to date. I’ll post new workouts as they happen, which should increase the number of blog posts tremendously.

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