Spring Marathon Training Phase 2: Hills and Leg Speed

NOTE: This post is part 3 in a series about my spring marathon training. Click here to see Post 1, and here for Post 2.

Lydiard Hill Springing

These guys look really cool “springing” up that hill, right?

This post will introduce Phase 2 of my Arthur-Lydiard-inspired spring marathon training plan, hill work and leg speed, and describe the first of three critical workouts to be performed during this phase: hill “springing.”

In my previous post, I discussed the first phase of my training plan: aerobic base training. That post condensed tons of information into approximately 2,200 words of dense and somewhat difficult reading. If I could rewrite that post, I would split the information into three separate posts. So, before proceeding, I am going to summarize Phase 1, and why it’s necessary before embarking on the other phases of the training plan.

A Quick Review of Phase 1: Aerobic Base Training

Aerobic base training is the most important part of any training plan because aerobic fitness (the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently to convert fat and glycogen into energy) is the number one factor in determining how well a runner will race on any given day. A runner develops aerobic fitness by training at an “aerobic pace,” loosely defined as running at a pace that leaves the runner “pleasantly tired,” or, in more mathematical terms, at a pace at or below approximately 75% of the runner’s maximum heart rate. During this phase, the runner should also perform strides (hard 100 meter efforts at the end of runs followed by extended recovery jogs), tempo runs below lactate threshold, and some easy fartleks. The runner should do at least three long runs per week (two runs about 1.5 hours, one run of 2+ hours) at an aerobic pace. A plan that incorporates only these types of runs—and leaves the anaerobic training for later—will allow a runner to develop a large aerobic base, which will facilitate anaerobic training later in the training cycle.

Importantly, the aerobic base training phase should last as long as possible. Why? Anaerobic development is limited: that is, a runner can only develop his anaerobic capacity so much. On the other hand, a runner’s capacity for aerobic development is virtually unlimited, and the more developed the aerobic system, the larger the capacity for anaerobic development. So, the longer the aerobic base training phase can last, the better.

Great! So, you’ve completed Phase 1 and built an aerobic base. What next?

Phase 2: Hills and Leg Speed—Preparing the Body for Anaerobic Development

Lydiard suggests a four-week training period focused on developing leg strength and speed. We’ll call this Phase 2: Hills and Leg Speed. The purpose of Phase 2 is twofold: 1) to develop muscle fibers in the legs and to improve leg speed; and 2) to prepare the body for the hard anaerobic workouts that will follow in Phases 3 and 4. Here’s how it shakes out.

This phase contains three critical workouts: 1) the 1-hour hill “springing” workout; 2) the leg speed workout; and 3) the 2+ hour long run performed at an aerobic pace. I’ll start by discussing the hill “springing” workout.

The Hill “Springing” Workout

You should perform the hill “springing” workout on a hill that is between 200-300 meters long and approximately 3-4% grade, with a flat area at the top and approximately 200-400 meters of flat area at the bottom. For you New Yorkers, Cat Hill in Central Park is perfect for this workout.

Here’s the workout in eight easy steps, and the reasoning behind each step:

  • Warm up for about 15 minutes with some easy running (I jog about a mile and a half from my apartment to Cat Hill)
    • Why? You warm up to prevent injury. The warmup loosens the muscles and prepares them for a hard effort.
  • Begin the workout by “springing” up the hill. If you don’t know what “springing” is (I didn’t before developing this training plan), check out the first minute and then 1:30 to the end of this video:

When “springing,” keep the hips forward. Because looking down tends to thrust the hips backward, keep your eyes focused straight ahead. Your upper body should remain relaxed. The slower your forward momentum, the more resistance you create for your legs.

Why “springing?” Because it helps to develop speed. “Springing” builds and stretches the leg’s muscles and tendons similar to how they stretch during racing, which adds flexibility and speed. It also develops strong and flexible ankles, allowing a runner to increase his stride length and leading to greater speed. In addition, by training oneself to run with the hips comfortably forward, a runner can bring his knees higher while running, allowing the feet to follow through higher and, therefore, creating a faster leg action.

It’s possible that you won’t be able to “spring” all the way up the hill. That’s fine. If you can’t get to the top, just jog the rest of the way.

  • Once at the top of the hill, jog easily for 3 minutes.
    • Why? Two main reasons. First, “springing” is an intense exercise, so a short rest between each repetition keeps the body from getting overloaded. Second, too much at once could potentially convert the workout into a hard anaerobic effort, which we distinctly do not want to do. And, as a bonus third reason, easy jogging within the repetitions aids in aerobic development, which, as we’ve discussed, is always a good idea.
  • After jogging at the top of the hill for three minutes, run down the hill with a fast, relaxed striding motion.
    • Why? Two main reasons. First, strides allow us to develop speed and strength. Second, downhill running allows us to practice running with a naturally elongated stride. As mentioned above, a longer stride leads to greater speed.
  • Repeat the hill reps described in steps 2-4 (springing up the hill, jogging at the top, and striding down) for about 15 minutes. For me, this equals about 3 circuits.
    • Why? Think of it like weightlifting with a cardio element: you’re pushing your body to get stronger while simultaneously strengthening your muscles and increasing your leg speed. In other words, you are accomplishing three critical tasks with one workout. Pretty neat!
  • After  about 15 minutes, perform a few wind sprints (running hard followed by jogging) at the base of hill. You choose how many, and for how long (for example, I have been doing 2 x 100m with short recovery jogs)
    • Why? The other point of this exercise is to prepare the body for the anaerobic workouts in phases 3 and 4. By performing wind sprints every 15 minutes, and by only performing a limited number of them, we train our bodies to respond to faster movements, but keep the volume low enough so as not to create a hard anaerobic workout.
  • After completing the wind sprints, repeat the whole circuit described in steps 2-6 (hill reps plus wind sprints) until you have been working out for approximately an hour.
    • NOTE: If you cannot complete an hour-long workout, do however much of the hour that you can.
  • Cool down for 15 minutes.

Ideally, you would perform this workout three days a week, every other day, during Phase 2. On the days in between you would perform a leg speed workout. On the seventh day you would run a 2+ hour run at an aerobic pace.

In my next post, I will discuss the other two workouts critical to Phase 2: the leg speed workout, and the 2+ hour long run at an aerobic pace.

Happy running, everyone!

 

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Spring Marathon Training: A Plan Based on the Lydiard System, Maffetone Method, and Reflections on My Fall Racing Season

As my first effort to post more general training advice, I am going to discuss the training plan I designed for my spring marathon training, which is based on: 1) Arthur Lydiard’s training system; 2) Dr. Phil Maffetone’s “180 Formula;” and 3) input based on the strengths and weaknesses of my fall racing season. This plan targets the Inaugural Queens Marathon. This is the first post in a series of posts about this training plan.

As an initial matter, in order to discuss the plan I need to provide some background about the Lydiard System, Maffetone’s training philosophy, and how I’ve adopted them to my own training. Further, because Lydiard’s overall training plan contains five phases, this post will address why I adopted this plan, and subsequent posts will address each phase of the plan.

Arthur Lydiard Background

Lydiard (July 6, 1917-December 11, 2004, born Auckland, New Zealand), trained Olympic medalists Murray Halberg (Gold, 5000 meters, 1960 Olympics), Peter Snell (Gold, 800 meters, 1960 Olympics, Gold, 800 and 1500 meters, 1964 Olympics), and Barry Magee (Gold, Marathon, 1960 Olympics). He revolutionized endurance training with his phased training plan. This “periodization” has become the basis of most modern training programs. To learn more about his life and his system, check out this link.

Lydiard’s Training System is broken into five phases, identified as follows:

  • Aerobic Base Training, which lasts as long as possible
  • Hill Training and Leg Speed, which last four-six weeks
  • Anaerobic Development, which last four weeks
  • Sharpening, which lasts four weeks
  • Freshening Up (a/k/a Tapering), which lasts approximately two weeks

The goal of the plan (and why I find it so intriguing) is to allow a runner to hit peak fitness and performance at his goal race.

Dr. Phil Maffetone Background

Maffetone, a doctor of chiropractic, was one of the first coaches to employ heart rate monitors in training endurance athletes. He trained, among others, Mark Allen, the six-time Ironman World Championship winner. He champions a training system in which endurance athletes perform most of their training at or below their “maximum aerobic heart rate,” a number determined by Maffetone’s “180 Formula,” by which a runner subtracts his age from 180 and then adjusts for other factors such as injury, illness, and experience. Such running is generally well below one’s fastest speeds. For example, at my maximum heart rate as determined by the 180 Formula (144 beats per minute), I can run at a top speed of 7:00/Mile, but can currently run a 5k at a 5:43/Mile pace.

Ultimately, Maffetone would have an athlete train at or below this maximum aerobic pace until his development plateaus, at which point he would incorporate anaerobic training for a period of no longer than 5 weeks. He would also have any athlete beginning to use his system to train at or below his maximum aerobic heart for at least three months (and preferably up to six months) before incorporating any strength training or anaerobic workouts. He also advocates other adaptations for athletes, including eating a diet high in healthy fats balanced with complex carbohydrates.

Reflections on My Fall Racing Season

As I’ve discussed, I ran well this fall, and PR’d at the half marathon and marathon distances. While I found that my aerobic fitness was solid throughout the season, I felt that my muscle endurance (how long the muscles can tolerate the pounding impact of road racing) was lacking. So, I wanted to incorporate more miles and longer long runs early in the training season to improve my muscle endurance.

Training Plan: Putting Together all the Attributes

Ultimately, because I spent the months between May and September training almost exclusively at my maximum aerobic heart rate (which incorporated swimming and cycling as well), I felt confident that not only could I increase my training volume, but also increase its intensity. As such, the idea of the Lydiard System, which requires a much higher training volume, appealed to me. So, I decided to develop my spring marathon training plan using Lydiard’s system as a skeleton. Here’s how I planned it out, in six easy steps:

  • I found my goal marathon, the Inaugural Queens Marathon, which is set for April 30, 2016.
  • I counted back two weeks to April 17, 2016, and designated this period “Freshening Up”
  • I then counted back four weeks to March 21, 2016 and designed the period between March 21 and April 16 as “Sharpening”
  • I then counted back four weeks to February 22, 2016 and designated the period between February 22 and March 20 as “Anaerobic Development”
  • I then counted back four weeks to January 25, 2016 and designed the period between January 25 and February 21 as “Hills and Leg Speed”
  • I then designated all time before January 25 as “Aerobic Base Training,” during which phase I would do most of my runs at or below my maximum aerobic heart rate as determined by Maffetone’s “180 Formula.”

To see the plan laid out, check out my Training Plan.

In my next post, I’ll discuss Phase 1: Aerobic Base Training, including why it’s important and how it fits into the overall plan.

12/8/15: Morning Run: 5:50 a.m., 7 Miles: Myles and Londoners

Good morning! I’m in week 2 of aerobic base-building for winter and spring races. I logged just over 33 miles during week 1, most done at a moderate, aerobic pace. My aerobic fitness, as determined by the MAF test I performed yesterday, seems strong, but I’m hoping to improve it a bit before I really pick up the pace this spring.

Of course, despite knowing the importance of keeping the pace easy during a base-building period, I sometimes get carried away. I’ve read warnings from some coaches that any anaerobic running during a base phase can jeopardize a runner’s aerobic fitness. I’ve also read plenty of guides that encourage fast running at all stages of training. Ultimately, however, the occasional hard run, performed whenever in my training, has not had a negative effect on my overall fitness and speed. So, while I will perform most of my runs at an aerobic pace for the next two months, I’m fine with occasionally picking up the pace, and can justify it by working on leg speed and negative splits.

This morning, I happened to find myself in some faster-paced circumstances. I hit the Central Park loop about 20 minutes behind schedule. While I was warming up, Myles, leader of the NP_NYC running team, flew past me. I actually recognized his footfalls before seeing him: He runs with an ideal high cadence and lands softly. I called out his name, and we ran about one and a half miles together, talking about our uber-competitive natures and the upcoming Ted Corbitt 15k. If you don’t know who Ted Corbitt is, you need to read this article. In addition to representing the United States at the 1952 Olympics in the marathon, he essentially introduced the ultramarathon to America. He ran well into his 80s, and at his peak he ran approximately 200 miles a week. He was also the first president of New York Road Runners. Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon, called Corbitt “the father of American Distance running.”

Anyway, after Myles peeled off at Engineer’s Gate, I kept on rolling at the same pace, slightly faster than my normal moderate run. Everything felt good as I cruised up Harlem Hill, easing up so as not to spike my heart rate. About halfway up the hill, a guy with grayish hair, blue shirt and black running pants blew past me. I checked my heart rate: 138. Way too slow! I picked up the pace, shortened my stride on the downhill, and kept a steady state over the next two mini hills. The other guy kept a solid pace, but I slowly crept closer to him. As we descended the second mini hill, I came even with him.

“This is quite an effort for six in the morning, ain’t it?” He joked in his British accent.

I agreed, and we ran together for a bit. He was in town for business, and had gotten up to run because, for him, it was basically 11:30 a.m. and he couldn’t sleep anymore. He was getting in a training run for a Boxing Day race, which, in my opinion, isn’t a real holiday (note: I know I know, it totally is . . . no offense, Rest of the World). We picked up the pace down the final mini hill, and cruised along past the Lake near 75th Street.

“How much farther is it to Columbus Circle?” He asked me.

“About three-quarters of a mile,” I replied.

“OK. I’m gonna give it a bit of a sprint the rest of the way, then,” he said, and he picked up his pace enough that I noticed my breathing change. I understood his implicit challenge, and kept stride with him.

I said I’d run with him until we got to my exit at 72nd Street, but quickly decided to push it all the way to Columbus Circle. He smiled and said, “Good!” We pounded the pavement and continuously ran faster. I breathed harder and turned my legs over faster than him (he had a slow cadence). We passed the finish line area of the NYC Marathon, and I pointed it out. He grunted in agreement. We were in the zone.

Just a quarter mile left to the Columbus Circle exit. I pushed the pace. He followed. I pushed a little harder. He pulled slightly in front of me. I got on my toes and dug in, pushing hard but not quite all out. He maintained. I dug in harder. He relented, and I finished up about four seconds before he did.

I never got his name, but we shook hands, and I wished him a good trip and good luck on Boxing Day. He smiled. We each took a moment to catch our breath, and then I jogged home.

Most runs aren’t that exciting, or that random, but I’m glad when they happen. And that impromptu race at the end? I truly believe it’s not about who finishes first, but rather about the spirit of competition, and accepting challenges as they come. I might be shaking my head if he beat me, but I know I would have had just as much fun.

Anyone else have stories of making random friends/competitors during a routine training run?

Happy running, everyone!

Race Recap: New York City Marathon, November 1, 2015, 2:57:56, 6:48/Mile

A prologue: My first NYC Marathon recap exceeded 4,000 words (the equivalent of a 13-page double-spaced college paper), so I decided to do multiple NYC Marathon posts. This post is a straight race recap. Tomorrow’s post will contain more course commentary and reflections on my race.

New York City Marathon New York Times

My medal and name in the New York Times!

And now . . .

The recap before the recap: I ran the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 1, 2015 in a time of 2:57:56 (6:48/Mile pace), good enough for 629th place out of over 50,000 runners. Words cannot describe how amazing this race is, and how excited I was before, during, and after my time on the streets of New York.

And yet, I will now use words to describe my day.

The recap: After my Saturday 2-mile shakeout run, I traveled to Port Jefferson, Long Island to attend my girlfriend’s (Melissa’s) cousin’s annual Halloween party. Melissa and I dressed up as Bert and Ernie, and we enjoyed a few hours of hanging out with her amazing cousins. I left around 5 p.m. to get back to the City, while the party – a Victorian-themed murder mystery incorporating Pictionary, charades, a scavenger hunt, and various twists, turns, and multiple eviscerations – raged on until well past midnight. I really hated to miss the festivities, but I knew that I needed a good night’s sleep before the Big Race.

Bert and Ernie Halloween

We make a great Bert and Ernie. Here I am, closely following pre-marathon wisdom and taking it easy (Photo credit: Ana Santos: http://www.acsantosphotography.com/)

So, instead of charading and scavenging my ass off until the wee hours, I took the LIRR back to the City with hundreds of drunk Long Island Jersey Shore wannabes, many of whom were inexplicably dressed as lumberjacks (not kidding). I hope they all made it home in one, semi-respectable piece (not likely). Anyway, once home I watched “Sleepy Hollow,” checked my race gear one final time, and set my phone and clock alarms for 5 a.m., hitting the pillow at 10:30 p.m., which, because of Daylight Saving’s Time, equated to 9:30 p.m.

Halloween

Now this is how you do Halloween! Look at this group! (Photo credit: Ana Santos: http://www.acsantosphotography.com/)

Despite planning for a solid 7.5 hours of sleep, I woke up exactly at 4 a.m. and never quite fell back to sleep. I tossed and turned until 5, at which point I got up, toasted three pieces of sourdough bread, spread peanut butter on one, wrapped them up in aluminum foil, and put them along with three bananas in my race bag. I ate a bowl of non-fat Greek yogurt with agave, got dressed, loaded up my race bag, and headed out at 5:30 a.m.

TCS NYC Marathon

Barely awake but excited for the NYC Marathon!

Through a connection, I hitched a ride on a charity bus to Staten Island (The Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation – a truly excellent charity). The bus ride took almost an hour and a half, during which I slept. Once we arrived at the start, I was able to spend my pre-corral time in the charity village lying down on a painting tarp and eating my toast and bananas.

One guy in the charity village kept saying, “This is not a PR course.” I focused on the basic plan on which I had settled: Run the first half around a 6:40/mile pace, hit the 21k/13.1 mile mark around 1:27:00, go steady over the Queensborough Bridge, and then let it fly through New York, the Bronx, and push hard through the final 10k, hopefully coming through the second half in 1:23:00 or close to it for a final time of 2:50:00. I took a lot of deep breaths, joked with the other runners, checked my bag, and then headed off to my corral about 10 minutes before it closed at 9 a.m.

Around 9:15 a.m. our corral collapsed and we moved toward the start line, watching the professional women’s race begIn. I pushed my way as far up as I could, ate my first gel at 9:35 a.m., and talked with David, an Englishman from York running his first NYC Marathon.

FINALLY, after all these months of training, obsessing, writing, training, writing, and obsessing more, the race directors introduced the elite runners, the National Anthem was sung, and BOOM! A howitzer reported the race start.

And we were off! I crossed the start 50 seconds after the gun, and ran very slowly for about four minutes, people on both shoulders and right in front and behind me. I could barely make a half stride for almost a third of a mile, at which point the course opened up to the entire Brooklyn-bound side of the Verrazano Bridge. I pushed to the outside lane and ran steadily up the .8 mile incline, hitting the 1-mile mark in 8 minutes exactly, much slower than I wanted to run. I made up for it by running mile 2 in approximately 5:50, putting me onto 4th Avenue in Brooklyn right on pace.

TCS NYC Marathon

Cruising through Brooklyn! (Photo Credit: Ashley Sokol)

The crowds at the beginning of 4th Avenue cheered and bands played as we ran through miles 3 and 4. The Green Wave (the group who started on the lower level of the bridge) joined us on 4th Avenue at some point, and we continued to run next to the Orange Wave (the group which started on the Staten Island-bound side of the Verrazano). Some runners ran by the spectators and threw lots of high-fives; others stayed to the inside of the street. I stayed in the middle and tried to maintain my early race pace between 6:30/mile and 6:40 mile, running some miles much faster than 6:30/mile and others slightly slower. My face wore the largest smile I’ve smiled in a long time, and I soaked in all the cheers.

Miles 5-6 felt great, and all early race jitters or psychosomatic aches disappeared. I enjoyed the various musicians, and threw a lot of thumbs up at them and smiled at all the cowbells and cheers from the crowd. This is more than a race: It’s a citywide block party!

The Mile 7 water station manned by NP_NYC was EPIC. Everyone went nuts when they saw my tagged shirt, and I got a huge high-five from Brogan Graham, one of the co-founders of November Project who had traveled to NYC for the weekend to hang out with the NP_NYC crew and cheer on all the NP marathoners. Totally pumped me up!

I took my second gel, drank some water, and eased back into my pace. I saw Kat, another NP_NYC member, a few blocks farther down the road, ran out of my way to high-five her, and then returned to the center of the road. I felt smooth, confident, and ready for the next 19 miles.

At mile 8, I nearly missed my sister, Kimi, and Ashley, and only saw them as I ran past. This picture demonstrates my near miss:

TCS NYC Marathon

Even though I almost missed my sister and friends, I’m super excited!

Miles 9-13 wound through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, the neighborhoods in which I spent a lot of time when I lived in Bushwick. The crowds owned this section of the course, and I loved seeing some old haunts. I kept a consistent pace here, and hooked up with a fellow runner attempting to hit 2:50 like me. I also saw two law school friends, whose cheers got me super pumped and sent chills through my head and neck.

TCS NYC Marathon

More Brooklyn running! (Photo Credit: Ashley Sokol)

I took my third gel as we exited Brooklyn on the Pulaski Bridge. We passed through the midway point of the race on the Bridge in exactly 1:27:00, right on plan! My race buddy and I wound through Queens, maintaining a 6:30/6:40/mile pace as we approached the Queensborough Bridge. Despite all the rock bands out, we heard our first metal band playing Alice in Chains “Would.” This was a nice change from all the “hippie bands,” as described by an FDNY runner around mile 8.

And then we ascended the Queensborough Bridge. I kept my effort steady but dropped my pace a bit, focusing on a runner moving smoothly and wearing a Union Jack tank top, Union Jack shorts, Union Jack shoes, and sporting a low-cut Mohawk dyed the colors of the Union Jack. I turned around and realized that I had lost my race buddy, and later learned that he finished around 3:25. I focused on my hooligan friend until the Bridge’s apex, after which I picked up the pace and got amped as the First Avenue cheering wafted up to the off ramp.

Woot! 1st Avenue was awesome! The crowds were heavy and people cheered like madmen. I saw lots of NP shirts, screamed lots of “f*ck yeahs!” at people, and grabbed some high-fives. Realizing that all my gels had caffeine, I made sure to grab water at every aid station. I saw my buddy Patrick at mile 17, Melissa and law school friend Lauren at mile 18, and some more NP folks in East Harlem. I took my fourth gel at mile 18, and kept on moving forward.

TCS NYC Marathon

So excited to see Melissa at Mile 18 that I made this silly kiss face!

The crowds thinned at the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, and as we crossed over the Bridge I saw numerous runners doubled over and walking– classic bonking signs. I pulled out my final gel and held it like a talisman through the Bronx. Before long we climbed the Manhattan Bridge and headed back into Manhattan on Fifth Avenue.

When I re-entered Manhattan, I did some quick calculations and realized that 2:50 was out of the question, but 2:55 was doable. I also began to feel the mental fatigue of the race, and I thought about slowing down. I fought those thoughts by visualizing my crossing the finish line with a huge smile. I checked my legs: They felt great! So, I took my final gel, grabbed two cups of water at the mile 21 aid station, put my head down, and plowed ahead. I found a few more pockets of NP folks cheering, drank more water at the mile 22 aid station, and just kept thinking, “You got this. You’re feeling strong. You are NOT going to hit any walls!”

And then we hit the dreaded Fifth Avenue Mile 23 hill. Everyone warned me about this hill. I saw it on the elevation map. I read about it in numerous race recaps. I knew it was coming. Nevertheless, it rose out of nowhere and rose much steeper than I imagined. More runners walked this section of the course. I kept a steady effort, got amped up when I saw Melissa and Lauren again, and counted off the blocks as I ascended: “98th Street, 8 blocks to Engineer’s Gate.” And so forth.

TCS NYC Marathon

Crushing Fifth Avenue as well as I could! At Mile 23.

And then BOOM! I cruised through Engineer’s Gate into Central Park! 2.5 miles left on roads I know better than any others in the City. I came through Mile 24 around 2:43, so I knew that 2:55 was going to be tough, but sub-3 was happening. This felt amazing! My legs were strong, my mind felt sharp, and I pushed hard, getting some NP love along the way. The downhill on Cat Hill felt amazing, and I pushed through the rolling hills near Summer Stage and then cruised downhill to mile 25 and then out of the Park and onto Central Park South. Through this section I passed a ton of runners, and was passed by only one, who I later passed on Central Park South. I simply focused on reeling in whoever was in front of me and, after passing them, reeled in the next guy. I could feel the finish line.

Running up Central Park South I spotted Brogan again, who practically jumped over the barricade to give me another high-five. I let out a primal scream and doubled my efforts. I passed that runner who sped past me earlier. I let the cheers wash over me. I saw Columbus Circle grow larger with every step. I kept moving forward.

And then I turned and entered the Park. An announcer said, “Welcome to Central Park!” and I wooped! So close! So many people lined the barricades. I thought about everything that had happened to me over the past three years, how lucky I was to be running today, and how grateful I was for the people who helped me through the toughest time in my life, at times literally picking me up off the ground. I passed more runners and worked my arms. On the final uphill, I spotted the finish line clock: 2:58:40. 10 seconds to finish sub-2:58 (I started 50 seconds after the gun). I sprinted through the finish line in what I thought was 2:58:50 exactly. Success! Completion! The culmination of so much more than training runs and nutrition plans. Tears welled into my eyes.

TCS NYC Marathon

Smiling post-marathon!

In my next post, I’ll discuss my thoughts about the course, other thoughts about the race, and why finishing this race was such a huge accomplishment for me.

Happy running, everyone!

10/30/2015: Morning Workout, November Project, 6:25 a.m., Bethesda Fountain; NYC Marathon Thoughts

I’m going to break this entry into two parts: This morning’s November Project NYC workout, and my random marathon thoughts.

But first! Bib and newly-tagged NYC Marathon shirt! Soon to have my name and (possibly) blog URL tagged on it:

November Project NYC Marathon

Woot! Neon is the way to go!

NP_NYC Workout at Bethesda Fountain

So . . . Paula RadcliffeBart Yasso, Desi Linden, and Dean Karnazes worked out with us this morning. What?! No big deal. Also, Brogan Graham, one of November Project’s co-founders, pounded out burpees, push-ups, dips, lunges, and bear crawls with us because #justshowup and #whatisthis. We also had lots of people in town from other Tribes for the marathon. Just awesome to see so much NP love this morning!

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain, much brighter than it was this morning.

The workout consisted of two phases: During phase 1, we broke into two large groups. Both groups began by doing 20 burpees. Then Group 1 lunged through the terrace near Bethesda Fountain in Central Park while Group 2 bear-crawled. At the end of the terrace, everyone ran up a flight of stairs and then bunny-hopped up a second flight. Then everyone did 10 push-ups, 10 dips, and then back to the beginning for more burpees. Repeat for 20 minutes.

Bethesda Fountain Terrace

The gorgeous terrace.

Most of us NYC marathoners took it easy, and I got to do push-ups with Brogan and meet some members of the NYC Tribe that go to the 6:28 a.m. Wednesday workouts (I’m generally a 5:28 a.m. guy). There is something wrong with me when I think that 60 burpees is an easy, pleasant way to start the day.

Phase 2 of the workout was a “burnout.” Essentially, everyone not running the NYC Marathon started at the Fountain end of the terrace, did four or five burpees, and then ran through the terrace, up the stairs, down the stairs, and back to the start. The rest of us lined the terrace and cheered them on. It was wild! Each interval was timed, so if you didn’t make it back to the start in a set time, you joined the cheering squad. We went through seven or eight rounds before the final round, which was just crazy. NP_NYC’s Jason “won” the burnout, with Rob a few steps behind. NP co-founder Brogan also put forth a strong showing, demonstrating the meaning of “leading from the front.”

Marathon Thoughts

I’ve written race previews about my other recent races, but the NYC Marathon needs no introduction. I outlined the course in my pace strategy post, and all of my posts about training have essentially been about training for this race. I believe that, considering my injury which kept me from running between April and June 25, I trained as well as I could, and I am ready to run a solid race.

Of course, doubts have crept into my mind. During my 22-mile long run, I felt the burn in my legs at mile 21. I also did not log tons of miles, peaking at about 50 miles in my peak training week. These two facts could lead me to be concerned that I am not ready to run this marathon as fast as I want.

But poo poo to them! I have to remember these things as well:

  1. During those early weeks of marathon training in July and August, I was still returning to running after injury.
  2. During that return period, with the support of my doctor and physical therapist, I was biking upwards of 100+ miles per week as I prepared for the NYC Century Bike Tour.
  3. Also during the pre-return and return period, all the hours I spent in the pool, which, combined with my time on the bike, helped me build a solid aerobic base on which to begin marathon training.
  4. My solid performances in the Bronx 10-Mile (6:02/mile pace) and Staten Island Half (6:10/mile pace, with a strong sense that I could have run slightly faster if not fearing for my life on the boardwalk).
  5. Maybe most importantly, all of the love and support I have received from my family, friends, girlfriend, NP_NYC, coworkers, and what I might call the Spirit of the Universe, or, in a less spiritual sense, the feeling that I’m not in control of the world, and that my lack of total control is OK with me.

More thoughts to come tomorrow. For now, happy Friday and, if you can (I’m having a hard time), think about something other than the NYC Marathon.

Happy running, everyone!

10/21/2015: Morning Workout, November Project, 5:28 a.m.: It’s a Long Fly Ball!

Taper time is slow time. With no workouts on Monday and Tuesday, I almost didn’t know what to do with my life. The next 11 days before the NYC Marathon are going to drag!

Good thing I had November Project NYC to enjoy this morning.

I woke up at 4:30, strapped on my workout and bike gear, and rode over to East End Avenue and 86th Street. I crossed the 72nd Street transverse in Central Park and rode up East Drive to 84th Street, and then across to the East River. I had never visited the Park that early, and it was dead quiet. Eerily quiet, especially after Sunday’s 22-mile run through the crowds of beast cancer walkers. Once I returned to the City streets on the East side, however, cars flew past and I had to wait at stop lights. At 5 a.m. What a contrast.

The workout

In honor of the Mets’ strong postseason run, our workout was baseball-themed. We broke into teams of six or eight, and then split into groups of three. We then played two “innings” of baseball.

Top of the 1st

Group 1 began by running suicides on the basketball/hockey court next to our staging area. Each “player” started on the base line, ran to a line at the top of the key, did a pushup, ran back to the baseline, then to the center line, did two pushups, back to the baseline, then to the far key, three pushups, back to the baseline, all the way to the far baseline, four pushups, then over to the benches next to the court for four dips, and then back to the baseline. That scored one “run.” Repeat for 7.5 minutes.

Group 2 began by running a grotto/stair loop with one burpee to cap it off. That scored one run. To score a second run, each player had to run two stair loops and do two burpees. For a third run, three stair loops and three burpees. Repeat for 7.5 minutes.

Bottom of the 1st

Group 1 and Group 2 switched workouts.

November Project NYC

Scoring runs before the sun.

Top of the 2nd

Group 1 returned and performed suicides, but did squats instead of pushups, and step-ups on the bench instead of dips. This was supposed to last for 7.5 minutes, but we somehow kept going for over ten.

Group 2 returned and performed grotto/stair loops, but did Coopers (a burpee with straight arms and a higher jump) instead of burpees.

Bottom of the 2nd

Groups 1 and 2 performed the opposite workout.

The “winning” group was the group that scored the most “runs.” That happened to be my group, “Go Blue,” with 81 runs, one run ahead of the second place group. We won a pumpkin! I

Overall, it felt great to be outside in the near-60 degree weather. it was also fun (in a sadistic way) to do suicides, something I haven’t done since high school hockey practice. I definitely held back in order to preserve myself for the marathon, but I felt tired and ready for a nap afterward. Riding my bike home after the workout felt good. I ran about 3-3.5 miles throughout the workouts.

At lunch I hit the gym later to stretch and to do some core work. I generally follow this core routine, and threw in a 75 second plank for good measure. My stretching included moves to stretch my piriformis, IT bands, hip flexors, quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Definitely do not want any injuries creeping up before the marathon!

For the rest of the week, I will be running another 15-18 miles (including a longish run of 8 miles on Sunday), and spending the rest of my time reading recaps of past NYC marathons, race strategy guides, and trying not to talk excessively about the marathon. Woot! So pumped.

Happy running, everyone!

So Much To Catch Up On!

Wow. Sometimes you live your life and realize that it’s been DAYS since you last updated your blog. So, let’s do it! Four days of marathon training, condensed into one post.

10/15/2015: Morning Run, 6.2 Miles

After November Project NYC’s intense Wednesday session, Thursday morning’s run felt like a welcome return to form. Straightforward loop of Central Park. Not much to report. I also hit the gym at lunch to do some core and stretching work.

10/16/2015: Morning Run, 8 Miles

As this past week was my final week of high mileage before the marathon, I wanted to get in at least one additional long run before my final 22-miler. I really wanted to run 9, but the extra ten minutes I spent in bed before the run prevented that. No big deal. The weekend mileage more than made up for that one missed mile.

Later on this day, my girlfriend and I hosted a horror movie marathon for some friends. We curated a list of meta horror films, including “Scream,” “Murder Party,” “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil,” and “The Cabin in the Woods.” We scheduled five films in total (the fifth film, “Return of the Living Dead,” is not meta horror but amazing nonetheless) and, while we only made it through three, I applaud our friends for sticking around into the wee hours. In fact, both Melissa and I were shocked that anyone RSVP’d yes at all! We will have to do this again.

Scream the Movie

10/17/2015: Morning Workout: 180 Pushups, 180 Situps, 56 Burpees; Afternoon Run, 5.2 Miles

November Project NYC’s Friday workout involved no running. Instead, the Tribe performed 180 pushups, 180 situps, and 56 burpees. Ouch! When I saw that workout posted on Facebook, I thought, “Damn, I have to do that because #solidarity.”

This was a tough workout. It took me about half an hour to complete all the moves. I started by breaking it down into manageable chunks: sets of 20 pushups, 20 situps, and 6 burpees. After doing five sets like this, I changed the set to 10 pushups, 10 situps, 6 burpees, 10 situps, and 10 pushups. I picked a spot of grass near the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, and people took pictures of me, cheered me on, laughed at me, and stared awkwardly. Sounds about right for NYC!

After depleting most of my glycogen, I ran 5.2 miles through the Park. This was a surprisingly good run on a gorgeous day, although it took me about 20 minutes to find a rhythm.

Later that evening, Melissa and I went to our friends’ CBGB’s-themed murder mystery party. My character was based on Billy Idol, so I spray-dyed my hair platinum blonde, painted my nails black, and wore tight pants and Doc Marten’s. Melissa was a Cyndi Lauper wannabe, so she wore lots of bright colors and turned her hair pink. I got so excited about the evening that I actually wrote the song that my character wrote based on his bio. Such a fun evening! We’re thinking about doing one of these mystery parties at our place. Just need a theme . . .

Murder Mystery Party

Melissa and Jim, a/k/a Anna Filaxis and Byeezus Idolatrus

10/18/2015: Morning Run, 22 Miles: The Hardest Run of the Training Season

So, not surprisingly, I only slept about six hours each night. I also failed to pick up GU packs for my long run. No worries, I thought as I threw on my running shorts on Sunday morning. I’ll replace the GU with a sandwich bag filled with candy corn! I also skimped on pre-run nutrition, eating only Greek yogurt and a spoonful of peanut butter before the run.

Because I’m running the NYRR 60k two weeks after the marathon, I wanted to use this run as both a final long run and a training session for that race.  For the marathon, I wanted to perform a training run that lasted about as long as I anticipate being on the marathon course. Dr. Maffetone talks about the benefits of this in his book The Big Book of Endurance Training, and other anecdotal evidence from friends who have run marathons supported this theory. So, as my goal time for the marathon is 2:55, I thought that 22 miles at my maximum aerobic heart rate pace of 7:45-8 minutes/mile would do the trick.

For the 60k, I wanted to preview the course, which involves a 5.2 mile loop of the Park plus eight 4-mile inner loops of the Park (72nd Street transverse to 102nd Street transverse). So, I figured that I’d run a 5.2 mile loop and four 4-mile loops to get to 21, and then finish it off with another mile. I thought it would be a good idea to get a sense of what it’s like to run Cat Hill five times.

A few things went wrong almost immediately out the door. First, the weather had dropped 10 degrees from the previous day, so I wore gloves for the first time this year. This made it more difficult to check my heart rate monitor during the run. Second, the annual breast cancer awareness walk happened to be that morning, so the Central Park loop was completely mobbed, despite the fact that the walk was supposed to be confined to a lane the size of an NYRR race. This made it difficult to get to water fountains and to maintain a steady pace. I had to duck through groups constantly, and wound up running on the grass every couple of minutes. Third, because of the crowds, I drank much less water than usual (once every four miles as opposed to once every two). And finally, candy corn, a/k/a pure high fructose corn syrup and food dye, provided no energy boost.

So, by mile 21, my legs were screaming. A combination of frustration at the crowds plus poor nutrition and water intake plus OK-but-not-great sleep plus the new angle of not being able to check my heart rate constantly added challenges to the run. It took a lot of willpower to fight through that final mile. I ran slightly harder than I wanted to as well, ending up with a 7:34 minute/mile pace (which included a jogged first mile). Maybe worse was the hardcore sugar craving I had after the run, which lasted most of the day and involved some sodas, Halloween candy, a mocha frappuccino, and a milkshake. That’s how you nail your pre-marathon nutrition plan!

While I was disappointed in how I performed on this run, I am so glad that it happened now and not on November 1. It just reinforces things I already know: 1) sleep properly; 2) relax in the crowds; 3) eat and drink properly; and 4) when you perform poorly, your body gets out of whack, which inspires additional poor nutrition choices. I’m probably being too hard on myself, but hey!  want to rock the marathon.

Here are the route and mile splits from the run. That last mile was a real pain.

Central Park Run22 Mile Run Splits

I finished up Sunday watching the Rangers lose to the Devils with my friend Sam at MSG. We talked all things training and marathon and Rangers hockey as my legs recovered, and my emerging favorite player Oscar Lindberg notched his fifth point in six games as a rookie. As Sam said, no one has told Lindy that he’s not supposed to be this good yet, and that’s a good thing. I then got dinner with my friend Nick, who is back in NYC from San Francisco.

New York Rangers Oscar Lindberg

LGR!

All in all, a good training bloc, and an even better bloc of fun and good times with good people. It’s taper time, so I’m envisioning about 20 miles this week plus lots of time in the gym to stretch and do core work.

NYC Marathon in less than two weeks!

Happy running, everyone!