January 31, 2008

I am so freakin' stressed

I am so stressed right now. It's one of those "when it rains, it pours" weeks. You haven't heard from me since my long run last weekend because I've been out of town painting my scenic design for Guys and Dolls. Unfortuantely, I didn't get far enough that the scenic painter can finish it up by herself. So I need to go back out to New Jersey and finish. When will I have time to do this? Oh, next week! Or the week after! It doesn't matter, because I've had two teaching gigs canceled out from under me and my time is all freed up. Not only am I out approximately $2000, but had I known I'd NOT be teaching at this point in time, I'd have done the lighting design for Guys and Dolls instead and I wouldn't be faced with going through the hell of hand-painting 432 square feet of faux brick walls. And not vertical walls, either, but curving-overhead walls. You see how my problems are dove-tailing here?

Add in the fact that while painting, I slipped off a rung of a ladder and strained my right achilles and my stress level is deepening. The strain is bad enough I didn't run at all Wednesday and didn't make it up today, so that's my first dropped run since I began this training cycle. I will do my core exercises tonight and my TKEs, so hopefully that will relieve some of my stress and hopefully my ankle will feel good enough to run on for a three-miler tomorrow evening.

THAT run may have to be done at the gym on the treadmill. It's supposed to be raining and I'm NOT running in the rain. Today would have been a perfect day to do the run...except for the ankle.

Part of my career is building course content for some training seminars I teach. This is all good, except that it really is drudge work and getting my word documents transformed into completed, formatted PDFs for the workbooks is in another person's hands - and she screwed up, melding two sets of instructions from two generations of a tutorial, so that the instructions don't make sense now. I've sent her some corrected info, but I may just have to sit down and retype the entire thing from scratch and tell her not to use ANY materials from older generations. I don't mind doing the work - I get paid well for it - but I hate having to do it twice, or that her mistake somehow constitutes MY emergency!

And it's almost tax season. I feel like I just GOT my taxes done, since I had to sit down and do a Schedule D I forgot for 2006. Turbotax seems to think that won't affect my overall taxes one way or another for 2006, so I guess that's good, but now the documents for 2007 are rolling in and I just hate this season.

So whatever happens tomororw, I look forward to Saturday, where I am doing eight miles in Central Park - 2 of the 4-mile middle loops. That means 2x Cat Hill. I'll probably jog to the meeting point as a warmup so I can tackle Cat Hill with some gusto. I have arranged with some new prospective running partners to meet and run with them and I really do need the help with pacing that that will provide. A little conversation wouldn't hurt either. I hope it isn't raining. Currently, the weather calls for partly-sunny and around 50 degrees. Sounds like Saturday could be the PERFECT day for a run.

Well, stay tuned.

January 26, 2008

I am a weak-minded Stormtrooper

This was a hard run. Seven miles. Seven miles of feeling unable to go another hundred yards and seven miles of coughing, walk breaks, and sometimes shin splints.

Actually, I believe the true distance was less. I did the route from my house to Prospect Park, around the park, and back to my house, a distance I've always counted as 6.7 miles. But I'm not going to quibble over the less than 5% difference right now.

I felt like I had no energy for this run, despite a good meal last night and sleeping well. Perhaps I shouldn't have done weights yesterday.

The graph tells the story pretty well. Notice the significant number of walk breaks in the first three miles. I had a hard time going more than a quarter-mile before breaking down. But there was a good stretch just after getting to the park (I did stop to stretch for a few minutes there - about 1.7 miles). Of course, the good stretch was the big downhill! You can see a real dip just afer mile 3. It was at this point that shin pain started to come on and I was feeling tight, so I stopped to stretch again. The bulk of the heartrate graph between the third and fourth mile marks represents the big uphill in Prospect Park. I did a lot better here than I predicted. I had to walk a short portion of it, but I actually did jog 90% of it. It was at this point that I started convincing myself I was strong, that I'm a runner, that this hill means nothing, that I don't want to walk, that I will go to the next lamppost/rock/tree/whatever before walking, etc. It was very much like Obi Wan Kenobi convincing the Stormtrooper patrol to let him and Luke pass.

"You don't need so see our credentials."

"We don't need to see their credentials."
"These are not the droids you're looking for."
"These aren't the droids we're looking for."

So in a similar vein...

"You're running well."
"I'm running well."
"You'll make it to that marker stone."
"I'll make it to that marker stone."
"You don't need to walk."
"I don't need to walk."

The upshot is that the last three miles were much better than the first three. I readily admit most of that was downhill or flat, but I didn't get as exhausted as easily. But from Pritchard Square (which is a circle, by the way) on, there was no walking. Dips in the pace are due to having to wait for traffic and those were mere pauses. This is the first time I've done even that downhill 1.7 miles continuously in a long, long time.

I got home and my watch said I had another tenth of a mile to go. I had no heart to finish this, but I nevertheless passed my house, ran to Third Ave, and came back, which rounded out my seven miles.

Look at the heart rate graph carefully. What I see there is that it's clear that when my heart rate goes over a certain rate (about 156), that I become unable to sustain my pace. Cutting back in pace to a slow jog doesn't seem to help, so I end up walking. I think what will help is if I can train myself to to go down to a slow jog and then give myself a minimum of 45 seconds or so to see if I've recovered enough to keep going without walking. If I can get my heart rate back to 150, then continuing on is no problem.

The catch is: it's related to how much oxygen I'm getting. If I can't slow down enough to catch my breath, my heart rate isn't going to slow down into the top of zone 3. And breath is, after all, my unique struggle. Headed up the Prospect Park hill, I caught myself thinking how much I'd like to trade somebody for their lungs. If I had my sister's lungs, I could be more consistent and faster. *sigh* I can't think like that; it's self-defeating. As my dad used to say, "Wish in one hand, shit in the other; see which gets full faster."

The good things about this training cycle are that my determination is back on track, like it hasn't been since I first trained for the Cincinnati Torture-Fest...um, I mean Flying Pig Marathon. Four four solid weeks, I've managed to get every single run done - and most of them on the scheduled day. Others got made up. I've been extremely attentive to my stretching, my foam rolling, and now my core exercises. And that brings me to silver lining #2: I am getting stronger; a lot stronger. I'm not, perhaps, getting strong at the rate the core exercise program thinks I should (I still can't side-plank for more than 75 seconds), but I am getting more fit all over the place. My legs - for most of today's run at least - felt sturdy, solid, and strong. They feel less like sticks and more like trunks - though I know they haven't grown any, it feels like it.

Next week, my core routine is supposed to change to dumbbell walkouts, turkish getups, erect lateral bends, body curls, and double leg hops. I'll go ahead and follow my core training schedule, even though I haven't achieved my goals on the core I currently do. But I'll be coming back to those soon enough.

January 25, 2008

I am behind on blog posts

There's so much to say, but...I'm not sure it's worth writing it all out. I've had three runs since I posted last.


This run was done at the gym on a treadmill. I really wasn't motivated and it shows in the graph with the walk breaks and the uneven pace. I was extremely tight from not doing anything for two days. Still, at least I made up the run, if not the whole mileage. I did half an hour on the exercise bike first, then did the run - perhaps not the wisest thing to do. I thought the bike would be a good warmup. But I ran out of time and had a meeting to get to, so I had to cut the run short by half a mile. I also discovered I'm on the wrong treadmills. I'll try the other treadmills where the other runners are next time.


OK. Two running days in a row. Unusual, but I did it. This one was four miles on the Hudson River greenway. I enjoy that path, for the most part, and it was nice to run in the sunshine and see what's going on on the West Side. There's a hideously ugly monstrosity of a building going up near 17th street. I pity whoever ends up living there. It's obviously designed with the newer "safer" more terrorism-resistant theory that if you put all the HVAC equipment on the lower floors and residences above them that you'll be more immune from truck bombs. Whatever.

I was completely unmotivated to run and the entire run sucked. Lots of walking. It is disheartening that I'm not yet back to where I can do a few miles continuously without walking. Perhaps I just don't have the willpower I used to have. Once I got back to the gym, I did core exercises and some weights. I like the weights. I hate the core exercises, but I do them.


Back to the gym, only for crosstraining. 45 minutes on the exercise bike at 80-90 rpms and keeing my heartrate around 130. It is harder to get my heartrate up on the bike than when running. I wonder why.


This run went better. Again, started at the gym and did the Hudson greenway. Really managed to make it quite far before coughing forced me to stop for a moment. My only real walk break was at the turnaround point and I made that a conscious decision. Took another walkbreak or two on the way back. I really must get my endurance in order.

Worked out for another hour doing core, weights, and stretches and foam roller. Easy to eat time up doing all of that. The weights feel good. Going to continue to do them. I think - I suspect - I BELIEVE that the leg exercises and foam rolling and stretching are doing what they should. I have had zero leg pains when running for the last couple of weeks. My biggest problem is lungs. Not nearly as bad as before the IVs, but still...enough that I can't support a lot of speed right now. I'm hoping that when the weather starts getting warmer, things will improve for me.

I have 7 miles to do tomorrow. I'm not as terrified by that as I would have been a month ago.


Holy shit, what a crowd. And I don't mean that in a good way. Sure, there are you regular gym rats and a lot of people in good shape there. Saw a guy working with 110 lb. dumbbells today. 100 lbs EACH. And the trainers are nice. But there's a huge portion of the clientele who are fairly old and whose "workouts" are kind of a laugh. I don't mean to be cruel, but....seriously. Getting on a stationery bike for 20 minutes does NOTHING for you if you pedal so extremely slowly the bike keeps shutting off or if you spend long periods of the time motionless! Your workout with any of the equipment does NOTHING if you do a mere two reps! I strongly suspect many of the patrons are members just to enjoy the hottubs upstairs and the steamrooms in the locker rooms. Most disturbing are the ones who are told old and privileged to be bothered with putting on any clothes in the locker room - or even a towel! The last thing I need to see is some guys junk pressed up against the sinks we all have to use, or - and this is where selective amnesia would be useful - spying an older gentlemen in diapers. Now, I'm not saying they aren't nice people or that there isn't a place for them at a gym. But NAKED in the lockerroom, no. And I hope to God the guy in diapers doesn't use the pool or hottubs. Of course, I can't figure out what else he'd be there for, either.

- Why do you never see a woman/girl with a PSP? Only boys.
- Why do you never see a woman/girl with an iPhone. Again, only men/boys.
- Why no letter jackets in NY? I saw one today and realized it's highly unusual outerwear here.
- Why do fewer people read books on the subway in the winter than in the summer?
- Why do Asian immigrants stop immediately inside the subway doors, rather than continuing to move into the car? Do they not realize what an obstacle they are, or do they just not care?
- Why do people feel the need to vocalize strenuously like they're giving birth when doing weights?
- Why can you use address labels on an envelope and send it via Certified mail, but must type or write directly on the envelope if you want to send it via Registered mail?
- Why do some of my tech tees retain an acceptable level of freshness through two or even three workouts, while others stink like a rat's rotting corpse if I so much as do foam rolling while wearing it?
- Where are the cops when you need them?
- Why are there six cops searching bags "randomly" in the subway entrances instead of just two?
- What are those little yellow levers on the subway tracks that go up and down by themselves? What would happen if a train hit one?
- Why isn't there a hard-and-fast time limit for ADA-compliant renovations of public works? It's been ten years since the act was passed, but the majority of our subway stations aren't at all wheelchair accessible and of those that ARE, the word "accessible" must be put in quotation marks because the elevators are out of order most of the time. THIS REALLY ISN'T AN OPTION ANYMORE, NEW YORK CITY! GET THE FUCK ON IT!
- Why are there public assistance programs for drug addicts and alcoholics, whereby they can get free counseling, shelter, and allowances, but for people with chronic illness who are actually TRYING to maintain independency, there are no public assistance programs available?
- At newsstands, why is porn cheaper than anything with even a little literary merit?
- Why does my pee smell like Timentin or Vancomycin? I'm not ON Timentin or Vancomycin!
- Where did Sonny Payne go?

January 21, 2008

I am taking today off

Yesterday was a full rest day. Good thing, too, since I woke up with a hell of a head cold and spent most of the day tired and miserable, finding it very hard to concentrate enough to get any work done.

Today is an improvement, but I'm not completely over my cold. Schedule calls for 3 miles. If it were twenty degrees warmer, I might do it, but I'm not going to go out and run in a level of cold (24 degrees) that I'm not seasoned to just yet while still nursing a cold.

And somehow, I don't think it's wise to go to the gym and do the three on a treadmill, either. Something about not exposing dozens of other people to my cold germs.

So I will take a long, slow walk today, soak up some sunshine, and maybe, MAYBE do some core exercises and my ankle weight exercises before I go to bed tonight. Instead, I will take this Martin Luther King, Jr. day and try to get more work done.

I'll try to make up the mileage tomorrow, but I won't sweat it if this turns out to be the one and only dropped run in the schedule so far.

January 19, 2008

I am let down again

Well, another potential running partner has failed to meet me - and he contacted me! Shit.

Cold, grey day. I felt like shit getting up this morning - like I had the beginnings of a cold. I didn't sleep well last night and I had knee pain in the middle of the night. A lot of knee pain. What kind of stresses can I put on knees while PRONE??

I didn't want to do this run. Still, I drank some tea, took some 8-hour Tylenol, waited for both to kick in, then left for Central Park. I didn't really think about this run, much, only that I had to finish six miles, for better or for worse.

This was a cold, unhappy, lumpy run, full of walking and coughing. You can see from the graph how many walk breaks I took. I admit that some of them were NOT because I winded but that I just wanted to walk for a little bit. I had zero motivation today. Fortunately, the run itself was not a complete waste - it was clearly a workout for my legs and body, judging by how I've felt the rest of the day - and you can see in the chart that I only walked twice in the last two miles. Easy enough since those are mostly downhill. I also am pleased with my watch recalibration. It seems that the accepted distance from some 2003 survey is that the park loop is 6.1 miles - and my watch measured 6.097. Beeps announcing the mile splits were coming just about where I expected them. So I feel a lot more confidence that my watch is measuring my distances accurately.

Tomorrow is a rest day - and it has to be because I have a lot of work to do - and then Monday will be a 3-mile tempo run combined with some work in the gym with core exercises and weights and maybe that adult beginners swim class.

January 18, 2008

I am a SAINT

Won't explain why, not yet. But I am, trust me.

Here's my 3-mile run; it went pretty good. Some walking and coughing; not much:

January 17, 2008

I am whipped by crosstraining

God, this is really such an exciting time in my life right now, health-wise. My lungs feel good, my legs feel pretty good, and I've actually got the time to do it all CORRECTLY.

This includes the crosstraining. I went back to the gym today for the express purpose of putting in half an hour on the stationary bike. I got out of the house later than I'd have liked, due to having problems emailing a document to a colleague, but who needed it right away, and got there about the time the rest of the after-work crowd arrived.

I started with foam rolling and light stretching, then got on the stationary bike. For some reason, they have five of them downstairs in the weight gym. Those and the exercise ball area make up a mini workout-room within the weight room. The other dozen or so bikes are upstairs on the cardio mezzanine, along with the eliptical machines, treadmills, rowers, recumbent bike machines, and stair climbers.

The nice thing about having a video-capable iPod is that you can catch up on bad movies while sweating it out on the stationary. And I did sweat. I had the heart rate monitor going and it regulated resistance to try to keep me at my target heart level. I put mine at a paltry 123 bpm for this first workout - and found that fairly difficult to do. It took about fifteen minutes to get into the groove. I'll eke the heartrate target up by increments until I'm in a real cardio range of 155.

When I was done with the 30 minutes on the bike - coincidentally also wrapping up a viewing of Team America: World Police - all I could think was, "America! Fuck yeah!" as my legs almost collapsed from under me. This was very strange. I was stiff outside the bike range of motion. But I was feeling no pain - or much of anything at all - and walking felt very strange. I assume that feeling will not be as pronounced as my legs get used to this kind of workout.

I stretched mildly and headed up to cardio, where I commandered a treadmill. My timing was good - my bike was immediately claimed by someone coming in and they were all in use (remember, this is about 6:15 now, a very busy time) and by the time I got going on the treadmill for a brief jog, most of the other treadmills were already in use. (4 walkers, 2 runners, hm.)

My purpose on the treadmill was to attempt to recalibrate my footpod for running. I spent a few minutes jogging, walking, stopping, trying to figure out the bewildering array of buttons on the machine, then trying to get my watch ready for a calibration run. Finally had it all together, set the treadmill at 5.8 miles per hour and went for a half-mile jog. This was easy on the legs - the treadmill bed is really nice and it was on a flat grade - but stunningly boring and without air rushing by, there was no convection cooling. By the end of the half mile, I was thankful to get off the treadmill, as I was burning up.

I will reserve treadmill runs for days when it's otherwise impossible to run outside. I hope the new calibration proves more accurate.

Next up: tomorrow a 3-miler after a new client meeting + Core. Saturday: six miles in the park with potential running partner. Sunday: shovel sidewalk and cower indoors nursing frostbite. Monday: 3 miles + possibly Adult beginner swimming class. Tuesday: stretching class + Core + weights.

January 16, 2008

I am going climbing

Today's workout was quite long and quite intense. Not sure if I can do a day like this every week.

Started with a 4.2 mile interval run. I programmed my watch for cutdowns. After a manual warmup period (jog up to the park) and some stretching, there were to be five repeats: .1, .2, .3, .2, and .1 miles. Unfortunately, I'm teh stoopid and don't know how to operate my watch. So it was giving my auto-laps, still, at 1 mile periods, instead of beeping to begin and end the repeats. I pretty quickly had to make up my intervals. Which is fine, because the two-minutes rest between wasn't enough.

If you look at the graph, you'll see way to many lap markers. Here's what happened: marker 1: one mile point.
marker 2: this is where I began my first repeat. You can see where my heartbeat dropped a lot while stretching at the park entrance and the pace drops off to nothing.
marker 3: second mile - I'd already figured out that the proper watch indicators weren't happening, so you see a dip in pace and heartrate as I try to figure out what the hell is going on. Also the start of my second repeat
marker 4: after a rest, this is the start of my third repeat; difficult to keep up and I'm not sure I made 3/10s of a mile
marker 5: end of 3rd repeat - during this interval, my heartrate recovers a little bit but pace varies between walking and jogging - stride length dips, of course - I felt really wiped out here
marker 6: beginning of fourth repeat
marker 7: third mile mark
marker 8: end of fourth repeat. Recovery was difficult.
marker 9: start of last repeat. This one was a real 1/10 mile hard run, up an incline. I was amazed at this point how much power I could pour on. Felt better than the other repeats, but I was wiped at the end of that couple hundred yards.
marker 10: end of repeats, beginning of recovery. WALKING, coughing, gasping for air; praying that all this speedwork will actually pay off
marker 11: start of recovery jog home. to the end of the run, notice the average pace is about a 9:30 mile, compared to 12:19 during my warmup. Easy to maintain, could have gone a couple of miles.
marker 12: fourth mile mark

Very hard run, but good. Too lumpy for what was supposed to be a structured interval workout - will have to figure out the watch a little better.

Got home, ate a very quick lunch, and left or the gym. Having done no crosstraining or core exercises yesterday, I had to make it up today. Very nice having a place to go. I started with foam rolling. A trainer came over and talked with me; told me to roll slower and showed me a couple of other ways to use the foam roller for calves and hamstrings. He seemed to know just what a runner needs. I did a lot of weights work today, including all the kind of work I'd be doing at a sports therapist's office. I also included some upper-body weights work, which served only to teach what a weakling I actually am. On the other hand, some of the guys there with rather large muscles were benching what looked to be these huge barbells - that turned out to be less than 100 pounds. Rubber-encased weights are much lighter than they look. I'm not knocking the ability to bench 90 pounds, but for the size of these guys muscles, they should have been able to pump out a few more reps at that weight... Hm. I'll have to see what I can bench...probably not much.

Anyway, having the gym's equipment to hand was really nice. It made the situps, back extensions, Swiss hip extensions, single-foot balance, and pullups a whole lot more pleasant. Not easier, mind you, but not as hard on my hands or spine.

My plan is to get some work done tomorrow, then go back to the gym for actual crosstraining - 30 minutes on stationary bike. I will have to do the core exercises again, to get back on track, but will not do any weights. I may go climbing upstairs in their climbing gym, though. To do that, I have to break into my storage shed - I can't find the key anywhere - and get my climbing shoes out.

I asked about swim classes. Turns out they have a free class for beginners. I think I'll start there. They also have a stretching and strengthening class targeted towards runners. If there's a real weak point in my whole running thing right now, it's flexibility.

January 14, 2008

I am renewing old ties

Today was interesting. In addition to the kinda crappy 3-miler this morning, I spent the afternoon renewing old ties.

The first tie is to my old gym, the Manhattan Plaza Health Club. Though they have done away with union rates, they graciously accepted me at the renewal rate, even though I wasn't even in their database anymore. I want to publicly thank my Mom for picking up that tab as a late Christmas gift. I have always appreciated my mother's fervent support of my health-oriented activities - I know not everyone is as lucky.

Walking around the facilities and seeing what's changed and what hasn't was very interesting. The weights room is about twice as crowded as it used to be - with a lot of people doing work with exercise balls and weights in low-weight, high-rep modes. Evidently, modern thought on what is better exercise long-term is taking hold. So I'll be in good company. (I do plan on doing some bulk/strength weight training, esp. in the upper body, but not too much; not good for a runner.) The pool has been resurfaced and the climbing gym has between 75 and 100 marked routes. Pre-marked routes provide new challenges all the time and prevent boredom. I look forward to getting back to climbing. The cardio mezzanine has a LOT more elliptical machines than it used to - and only four treadmills - clearly another sea change in modern exercise thought.

The second re-connection was with the New York Public Library. I needed to renew my library card so I could check some research out of the Picture Collection. Like many other institutions, including my grocery and my gym, they've gone to the keychain-size scannable ID card. I have five of these now. Ugh. Better than full-size cards, I guess.

All in all, it feels like I've stepped back in time about seven years.

I am (still) an angry runner.

Well, it's a year to the day since I had one of the best runs of my life, the Houston Half Marathon, which I wrote about in this post.

Today was a very different kind of run. The weather was similar - cloudy, threatening to rain, perhaps a little cooler than Houston was - but the run itself was short and terribly awkward with lots of walk breaks. This just wasn't my day. I feel like I've just done a recovery run after a major race - I hurt even more than after half-marathons and this is very unusual.

I didn't wake up with sore legs - that appears to be a problem that evaporated overnight - but I sure felt the run, especially in my ankles. And though my PRE (perceived rate of exertion) was higher than for most of Sunday's run, my heartrate read 10 bpm lower. It wasn't until I had a shot of adrenaline on the route back in my last mile that my heartrate really jumped.

Steve at Phedippidations often rails against the careless and seemingly murder-intent drivers of Cambridge, MA, where he runs. The same can be said of a portion of the drivers here. I have to give credit - most of our drivers are actually quite good; courteous, attentive, and watchful, they drive at a reasonable rate and have good reflexes. They also give a wide berth when approaching runners on the street. (Where I live, the street is sometimes safer than the sidewalk along some routes...or it is the only path, as the sidewalks are often blocked by delivery vehicles and such.)

But a handful of the cage commanders are real assholes who are either unattentive, distracted, just plain lacking basic driving skills or knowledge of the rules of the road, or - the worse kind - actually intent on being jerks. Thees are the drivers most easily spotted and so it seems like there are more of them than there actually are - they're the ones doing U-turns at any point, who don't yield to pedestrians, and who will shout at runners from their cars, swerve near them, or throw cigarettes at people on the sidewalks. Almost universally, these drivers operate shitty machinery; their rides are in poor shape.

As I jogged my route home, a guy in a white car shouted at me as he passed by from behind me. Keep in mind this was a block that is one-way, but with a very wide street - plenty of room for both of us. But he insisted on cutting it close and hurling some invective at me as he went by. I was startled, and then pissed off. Without having to increase my speed, I caught up to him just after the next light. He'd made a left onto 5th ave near Greenwood Cemetary and was now caught in traffic. I got his attention from the sidewalk and then stalked over to his car, asking him (in a gruff and unpolite way) if he had a problem with me running the street? Did he yell at me as he went by? Well, he put on his innocent face and said no. I muttered "you better not have" and returned to the sidewalk and my jogging. In hindsight, this was not very smart. He was bigger than me and not alone - he had a friend in the car. Had this turned into something bigger, I would have come out the worse, I'm pretty sure, but I really wasn't thinking about that at the time. One of these days, I'm not even going to ask "if", I'm just going to take whatever offender it was, haul them out of their car, and start wailing on them. It won't be premeditated; I'm just going to snap. At those times, it doesn't matter what the odds are or what the outcome will actually be, I'm just not in complete control of myself.

This isn't the first time this has happened, either, but I think it's the first time I've written about it. I could avoid all this by running in the parks and along greenways, but I still have to cross a lot of ground to get there. As an urban runner, I will always be exposed to the cars - and they will always be exposed to me.

January 13, 2008

I am Frankenstein's monster

This morning, I feel like Frankenstein - i.e. returned from the dead, walking stiffly, and generally communicating only through grunts, moans of pain, a wild thrashing of my arms in response to fire. OK, so the tea was merely blisteringly hot, not actually on fire. But my arms sure thought it would help cool my mouth by waving frantically while I tried to decide whether to try to swallow or just spit the tea out. A very comical way to begin a rest day.

The walking stiffly is easily explained, and I'll get to it; but first, we need to do a Wayne's World wipe and travel back in time to four days ago, a terrifically rainy Wednesday.

---dodoloo doodoloo doodoolooo *fingers waving*---

Wednesday. It is bright and warm-ish. A good day for a run. But for some reason, I can't seem to make it happen. I forget to actually look at my training plan and so clump my way through a very rough three miles of "speed training". Somehow, I got out of sync with my watch. I mistook an autolap beep for a 1-mile mark or something and the first repeat was all off. And these were very hard repeats, even though my speed was actually slower than it was last week. One lesson from today's run is: turn off auto-lap when doing a speed workout. The other lesson is: more warmup. These speed workouts are going to work better if I'm not doing them along third avenue under the BQE. I think the warmup period is going to involve jogging up to Prospect Park, then I can commence speedwork relatively unfettered. So this run sucked. Next week will be better, I'm sure.

Absolutely nothing got done Thursday, training-wise. Not even the core exercises scheduled. I was too busy making this logo for the national Sportster rally happening in June. One of the riders I went to Alaska with is producing it now and many of us donate our time or talents to helping. This is all I could manage to offer. It's not the best logo the rally has ever had (this is its fifth year), but it is intentionally a throwback to some of the cheesier logos of the 70's and pays particular homage to a venerated Sportster rider who passed from our ranks this year. Can you guess who?

(This is for the pin, which will have a gold background. the shirt will be on black background and the logo looks even better. But the pinmaker needed artwork NOW.)

Friday morning comes. I have an appointment in town at 9:30 and so get my ass out of bed at about 6:00. I have to move my bike for alternate side, so I decide to get that done before my shower. It is raining. Hard. Ugh. This is going to be a shitty-ass day, I can tell. I move my bike, come inside, make a cup of tea, and seriously consider moving to the Philippines. It may rain there, but at least it stays warm and the cost of living is dirt cheap. Two hours later, I'm headed out the door. Miraculously, the rain lets up enough for me to walk to the subway without getting wet. I have an umbrella with me, but do not need it. And again, the rain lets up briefly while I walk to 9 West 57th street. My appointment's on the 46th floor. I am suitably impressed by the location; it is across from my sports doctor's office and is a building I've contemplated many times from that vantage point. It is the tallest building on the block and is rather well-known in architectural circles. Up on the 46th floor, I can't see dick. I can barely make out the groundplan of Central Park's southern environs through the mist (we are actually up in the clouds at that height) on one side of the building. On the other side, vague intimations of other skyscrapers.

Well, appointment over with, I head home. I no sooner get in the door than the skies open up again. I decide it may rain all day, and it's cold enough I'm not going to run in the rain. I go back to bed. I wake up about 3 and find the rain has just stopped and, in fact, it's getting brighter out. I groan and put on my running clothes, cinch up the heart rate monitor's chest strap, and get going. Since I failed to do 4 miles on Wednesday, I'd have to make it up today. But damned if I'm going for speed. I'm going to take this slow and easy.

Though I set my watch for an OwnZone workout (the watch beeps if my heartrate goes too high or too low for good training), it somehow ends up on the speed workout program again. So my watch continues to beep the entire run at strange intervals. Walking, I am proud to say, was kept to an absolute bare minimum. None, in fact. All of the pauses on the graph are explained by traffic or by the two short periods of stretching I did, one just prior to the mile mark and one at the turnaround point.

As I get to about 1.5 miles, the clouds move aside enough for the setting sun to break through and all of a sudden, I'm enveloped in a warm, shiny, orange world. Everything is wet - still dripping even - and yet bathed in this surreal low-Kelvin light. Coming back, I see my shadow stretch out in front of me, urging me on faster. But I resist. I have a real race the next day and don't want to do anything stupid the day before.

I am very proud of myself when I get home. A run that started out on a crappy-weather day ended up in good weather and was itself a pretty good performance. I'm still not fast, but my consistency is improving. That is very valuable to me. I top off the day by doing all of my core exercises. I am up to 12 pullups, 40 situps, and 25 pushups. I extend my planks to 60 seconds, no mean feat, I assure you. I am getting stronger!

Saturday morning. I have to get up brutally early for this race. No, this fuckin' race, as I thought of it at 5:30 a.m. Who the hell gets up this early in the winter to go run five miles with 4,000 other idiots?


Okay. I have arranged with two other runners to meet them for warmup jogging before the race, so I have to do this. On the train across the Manhattan Bridge, the sun is beginning to peak above the horizon, and I'm leaving messages saying I'm running a few minutes late. Ultimately, I was the early one and I didn't even drive. Packet pickup was a madhouse. I really think nobody picked up their bibs Thursday or Friday. A nice walk up to 102nd street, then about a half-hour of waiting for my compatriots.

This morning I met up with Beast, a highly experienced runner and Ironman whom I've written about before, and with Kingsley, a brand-new runner who's been doing five miles several times a week for a while and is today notching his very first road race. He wants to "go all out" and set a benchmark.

We do a slow warmup of about a mile. They leave me behind as we head up hill back toward the starting line, because they need to find a john or take some extra clothes off. I just head for the starting line. I have a few minutes of walking and stretching and then the race began. I mentally wish both my friends the best of luck and get going myself.

The warmup paid off. I was able to maintain and ten minute/mile pace and keep my heart rate right around 155 almost the whole time. I walked very briefly three times, but only at places I'd previously planned and none of them up hills. I ran every single hill that day!

Now, I had forgotten my bottle of HEED when we took off for the warmup and only remembered this when I was well past the first water tables and was getting thirsty. The second water table either wasn't there or I missed it, so I was in real need when I finally hit the last water table about a third of a mile before Cat Hill. I took my time drinking the whole cup of water and then got going again. The break really helped and I was able to conquer Cat Hill, even though I so wanted to slow to a walk at every step. I flipped off the cat, as I've been counseled to do, and continued my run.

I really LIKE this race route. It isn't one NYRR uses too often, but but having the start and finish lines where they do for this five-miler is fantastic. It means the start is a downhill start - always nice, you know. And it means the end is a long, flat straightaway topped off by a curving slight downhill - just the thing to help a tired runner finish strong.

And finish strong I did. I had no intention of doing so (I wasn't really racing this one anyway), but that competitive instinct kicked in when the first runner passed me from behind at a sprint. I ratcheted up my speed by notches, setting my sights on two ladies in front of me who were also working for it and determined to pass them before the finish line, and finished very well. It felt good, and I think the two weeks of (lousy) speedwork might have paid off there. It was easier to get that speed up than I expected and my recovery after the finish was much faster than in previous races. The graph really tells the tale. It wasn't a fast run, but it was solid, nearly continuous running. I'll get faster as training progresses.

The bagels were of above-average quality and they had hot chocolate, too. Sweet. NYRR put on a really nice race this time. It's the Fred Lebow Classic - and what better course than one where you pass his statue about a half-mile before the finish?

I didn't nap when I got home. I showered and went back in to town to meet a friend for lunch and do some scouting for birthday gifts. It was a nice lunch with a social worker friend who just got her license and is looking for placement in a CF clinic somewhere. Good luck to you, Melissa.

--doduloo doodlelooo doodaloo *wavy fingers*---

And we're back. Sunday morning, the sun is out and we're in a happy lull before the snowstorm. They're expecting about 4" of snow. Yeah, right.

My legs are sore as hell. They were after the run all day yesterday, too. I'm about to go out and walk for awhile. I have to go back into town for a prescription anyhow. The soreness in my legs bothers me, not because of the simple fact of being sore (My overall workout yesterday was a shade over six miles - and, yes, my footpod needs recalibrating - and that's quite a go for legs at the beginning of training, epecially with no walking on hills.) More worrisome is that it indicates damage and that I didn't take care of my legs correctly yesterday. An ice bath would have been advisable. And the sodium naproxen I took right after the race? Well, I might as well have stuck the Aleve to the outside of my legs with tape, for all the good they did. I also didn't sleep well last night, like I supposed I would. Lots of tossing and turning.

I said last year at this time I was going to join a gym and I didn't. Money is a problem. The YMCA is not as cheap as I'd thought, as it turns out, and it makes it near-equitable with re-joining MPHC (Manhattan Plaza Health Club). The advantage to MPHC is the climbing wall, which I should get back to as part of keeping up some upper-body strength. It's also in close proximity to Spaeth, where I work for most of the year, meaning I can go there after work on crappy weather days and jog, spin, swim, lift, or climb. And it's gotta be better than cluttering up my own place with exercise equipment that won't get enough use. I better do it now, though, as they (like the YMCA) are waving the joining fees during January.

January 7, 2008

I am not acclimated to these warm temps

It hit 63 degrees here today. 20 degrees three days ago and now 63 degrees. I'm not ready for temperature swings like that.

I guess the long run yesterday hit me harder than I'd thought. I woke up this morning after sleeping fitfully. I'd been coughing in the night and had had to take some Chloriseptic to calm that down. I didn't sleep well. I got up and felt like shit. Some kind of groin pull, no energy, etc. I nearly skipped all exercise and called it a rest day. After all, rest days are built in to the schedule my sister gave me, but I had filled them in with more core exercises. I am reconsidering my schedule. I may take one core exercise day a week and combine it with a running day, so as to free up a day for real rest.

Still, after a cup of coffee and some breakfast I felt a lot better and managed to get up enough energy to go outside. I didn't do the full three miles, though in retrospect, I can't figure out why not. 'Tis true, I was wasted at first and I took the whole thing in at a slow, slow jog. I made this one a trip to the post office and bank. I felt pretty good in the last mile - nicely steady and all that. Very brief halts for traffic, but no walking.

When the run is short, the graph looks more dramatic than it is. I am definitely shutting off the altimeter function for the next few runs.

January 6, 2008

I am not yet "in shape"

I was all ready to run Saturday when I got a call from a possible running partner, C. She wanted to run Sunday, so I put off the run and did core exercises instead, which once again made me feel pretty weak. But I'm slowly progressing and it's only the first week of training, after all.

So Sunday morning rolled around and I got up early, instead of sleeping in, to meet a guy who was supposed to buy a spare hard drive from me. Turns out he never showed: I could have gotten two more hours sleep. What a dick.

I went ahead and took a shower, even though I'd be running within a few hours, figuring I should make a good impression with a new running partner. I even shaved. Well, guess what? C called about noon and sounded terrible. Said she was congested and didn't want to run and risk getting sick. OK, no sweat.

I was split between going to Central Park anyway or just doing my five-miler on the flat five-mile route here at home. But, truth be told, I don't want to get too bored with my five-mile out-and-back, and it's good training to deal with the pedestrians in Central Park - keeps your attention focused.

Once at Central Park, I debated with myself about running with Phedippidations playing in my ears or not. On one hand, good training means doing the long runs without music. On the other hand - I'd been left high and dry and deserved some kind of running partner, even if a virtual one. So I took my iPod with me.

The run was about middle of the road. I didn't think I'd be able to do five miles without some walking, but I didn't count on the hills kicking my ass like that, nor how overheated I'd get. It was cool today, but overcast and with high humidity. So that fed into things. I am happy with the route and distance and even the overall time - less than an hour - and that includes two stops for stretching. I just couldn't get warmed up below the waist, it seems. I couldn't get loose. I'm going to have to get MUCH better about stretching before my runs and a little more after, too. It's my weak point right now.

I'm also having to train myself how to run with a bottle of water, again. Time was, I wouldn't leave home without it and would always have fluid when I ran. But in the last few months of 3 milers, I've done without. It was good to have a small bottle of water today, but I will have to take Heed and gel on the long runs from now on.

Anyway, the charts are interesting. I started near the bottom of the park near 6th ave. You can clearly see where Cat Hill begins about a mile into the run. I'm surprised how much elevation one loses running across the 102nd street crossover, but not surprised about the elevation gain soon after. The long series of downhills to the bottom of the park, the flat around the bottom, and the final uphill in the last .4 miles of my run are also evident. There's not much more overall elevation change on this route than my route to Prospect Park.

The fact that it takes me 3 miles to warm up is evident here. See how after the third mile marker, my pace evens out somewhat, walk breaks are shorter, pace is more even, despite the hills, and my heart rate is constrained to a more narrow range.

To cap this post off, I want to point out three weird things. One was that I must have passed twenty people or more who were wearing the same long-sleeve tech T as me, the one from NY Marathon two years ago. Unlike them I didn't earn mine, so I had mine covered in a second shirt. The second weird thing was that a full 80% of the other runners were wearing tights. These things have really caught on. Bizarre. Finally, everybody in the park was well behaved! It's as if everyone's New Year's resolution was to not be a jackhole. No crying babies, no mindless pedestrians, no jerk bikers. Everybody was polite and making room for each other. Very, very Twilight-Zone-like. Stepford Park People.

January 4, 2008

I am improving

Not a very clever title, I know, but the fact is, today's run was good evidence that I am improving. My walk breaks were very few. Two, if I recall correctly. Any other dips in my pace chart are due to waitng for traffic to clear. The Polar system is not fooled by jogging in place.

I want you should notice two things: One, that the Polar measured the up-to-Prospect-Park route as 174 feet of elevation. Even I'm surprised by that much, but it makes sense. Two, this run was extremely smooth. It sure felt like it and the graphs bear that out: My heart rate stays in the hard intensity zone far more than half the time, but doesn't go too high - I'd kept an eye on my heart rate and tried to keep it right at 150-155 bpm. This is a good training range, I think. I was able to get up the hills pretty good and didn't want to collapse at the top. Coming back, things were actually pleasant, with my stride slightly lengthening, but trying to keep my speed constant. I would up doing about a 9 minute mile pace for most of the run, with the result that - with the 2 walk breaks and waiting for traffic - my overall pace was about 11 m/m.

Of supreme importance: I felt GOOD. I felt powerful. I didn't stop for any coughing, just ran through the coughing fits. My torso is already feeling the effects of the core workouts (I realize most of that's in my head, of course) and I felt like I had better posture and balance throughout the run. Honestly, this was my best run in months and it gives me belief that this training cycle is going to be a good one. Given a couple more weeks of running and core exercises and get up to some six mile long runs and I'll feel like a real runner again.

I need to improve my habit of not warming up, or not stopping to stretch. I've been denying myself that lately and that's a problem. From now on, my runs will begin with a slow 1/2-mile warmup and several minutes of stretching. Also, I need to start tracking my weight through this cycle. Maybe not every day, maybe just once a week. Well, I've got a coupon that becomes good on Monday for a scale at Costco, bringing the price down to $18. Can't pass that up.

January 2, 2008

I am attempting speed work

Core workout #1 postscript: my obliques were a little sore today - a result of the planks and maybe the fact I do situps with a twist - elbow to opposite knee - which is how I remember my dad doing them when I was young.
Figuring that Friday would be a bad day for speed work, since it comes immediately before long run days in the calender, I'll have to opt for Mondays or Wednesdays for that kind of punishment, so today, Wednesday the 2nd, was my first attempt at real speedwork. Not just a tempo run or fartlek, neither of which really needs a watch, but a timed interval workout. I programmed the workout in the Polar software and managed to upload it to my watch on the first try. Things are looking up.

The workout was slated to be a mile warmup, 3 x .2 mi repeats with .1 mile recoveries, then a mile cooldown. Yeah.

This was a tough one. I didn't have a lot of walking, but there were a few blocks worth. Frankly, it was rather cold and very windy out there and that took a lot out of me just in the warmup. I didn't actually start to FEEL warm until the intervals. I tried to pay attention to the heart rate monitor and go by that. I realized that pace doesn't actually matter, as long as the heart rate is in the desired zone. But I wasn't able to keep up a hard pace during the 400 yard intervals and generally had to slow down a lot during the last 100 yards. The mile of cooldown just sucked generally, not specifically.

As you can see from the chart, I generally managed the goal of putting my heart rate in the correct zones at the correct times. Still, this was a very lump speed workout - I presume I'll get better at this with time. I'll probably repeat this one next week and then try for a build-up/cut-down style the week after.

I agree the graphs are confusing, though I'm learning how to see them. I am going to shut off the altitude function, though, to help clean up the graphs. The neat thing is that the pre-programmed splits are shown. Oddly enough, they aren't at the perfect distances I'd programmed, but are off by as much as 100 yards. Close enough for speedwork, though.

I did have one high point, though, and that's that I managed to get the Polar software working and my watch syncing to it via Parallels software. Now I don't have to boot into Vista to sync my watch; I can just boot into my XP install in Parallels. I'll leave the Vista partition for work-related matters.

January 1, 2008

I am welcoming the new year with open arms...weak, girly open arms

First things first! Please note the new Team Boomer ChipIn widget to the right. Just makes you want to donate, yes? I've also added some different background to the page. Every blog out there is white...and while I do like the Minima template, something had to change for this training cycle.

As part of my new training program, I am implementing a core-training component. The excel file my sister sent me for the running schedule...WITH the running schedule... (for? with? Me fail English? Unpossible!) ...anyway, the running schedule calls for cross-training. I intend to actually DO some crosstraining, namely bicycling to work on nice days, but getting core exercises done is easier - can happen in any weather at any time, with almost zero equipment.

Not that the core exercises are in fact easy - they're not. The article I pulled them from, in Runner's World magazine, warns that the beginner will not be good at this at first and that there will actually be pain. Having done one workout, I can say the article is right - I'm no good at these. And I will be sore tomorrow. But I can tell right away these core exercises are going to work and will really pay off.

While the article describes nine different exercises, they are split into two different kinds of workouts and two different phases. For the next four weeks, I'm in the Basic workout, phase 1 - static holds, going for endurance and strength, rather than a great deal of coordination.

These first two exercises kicked my ass. The three plank positions, especially, had me quivering and (after a mere 30 seconds) curled up on the floor gasping for breath. The birddog isn't so bad, actually, but higher reps will make these tougher.

The Swiss Hip Extension is confusing and hard to perform. This will take practice - and it requires a non-slip surface, so I ended up using my bed. My yoga mat I use for situps and foam rolling isn't actually nonslip; a poor choice in hindsight. I think once I get a real bed ordered and put in place, I'll get a coordinating rug, too, and that will give me a nonskid surface. In the meantime, I just did this one on top of my matress.

The back extension is the one that clearly showed me to be a girlie-man. Hans or Frans I am not. While I could meet the beginner levels of the other exercises, I only made it 25 seconds on the back extension.

Besides these four exercises, I am going to be more firm with myself about my other necessary exercises and just turn it all into a 3x/week workout.

You'll notice the standard physical rehab exercises for runner's knee. I can do these; I have ankle weights. I have a foam roller. I know which stretches I need to concentrate on. Also notice the time-honored big 3: pushups, pullups, situps. I know Derek Rose is grunting towards meeting the Marine Grade A standard in these exercises and I, too, will see how far I can push it. I have to admit I'm not too proud of those numbers right now.

Finally, there remains the question: will I stick with the program? Work gets in the way; something I've complained about before. Fortunately, the core exercises can be broken up throughout the day and I can even do a few at work.