Returning to Blogging!

Hard to believe I last posted on December 8! I don’t have a good reason for the delay between posts. Essentially, after the NYRR NYC 60k, I began to reflect on what I want to accomplish with this blog. When I started it in August, I knew that I wanted to write about my running, but had not developed the idea much beyond that. I started by posting about particular training runs I was doing, workouts I attended, and then branched out into race previews and recaps. After a few months, though, I hit a writing wall: What to do next?

Jim NP Cold Running

Getting in some stair running with November Project NYC in December!

That wall, unsurprisingly, coincided with the end of the fall racing season, a season during which I pushed myself and ran my first 10-miler (1:00:20), set PRs in the half marathon (1:20:51) and marathon (2:57:56), and ran my first ultra, the 60k, in under 5 hours (4:55:55), all within less than two months. I knew that my body needed a break; I did not realize my brain did, too. Hence, only a handful of posts since the 60k and now.

All this to say, I’m back! Expect updates concerning my training, but with a more global twist. Expect some posts about nutrition and other fun things I’m up to, such as the Road Runners Club of America coaching certification course that I’m taking in May. And get excited for race previews and recaps for the races I’m planning to run this winter and spring. I might also write more about some of the running books I’ve read lately (more on those below). My goal is to make this blog a spot for people to pick up tips and tricks to achieve their own running goals.

Jim NYRR Virtual Trainer Run

Crushing 10+ miles with NYRR’s virtual training crew!

Thankfully, the time away from hard running and the blog has reenergized me. Regarding training, I began the base building phase of spring marathon training in earnest at the beginning of December, and will likely run the Inaugural Queens Marathon on April 30, 2016. I spent approximately two months running long runs at an aerobic pace, throwing in some strides at the end of the runs, as well as tempo runs (for example, a 5k at 6:00/mile) and progression runs below lactate threshold. I pushed my weekly mileage up from 30 miles to 50-55, and am hoping to increase to 60-65. I’ve also been riding my bike indoors on my bike rollers at least once a week, and hitting the pool (though not as frequently as I would like). In the middle of all that, I ran an unofficial 5k in 17:45 (5:43/mile), and PR’d on the tricky November Project NYC 3.4 mile PR course with a time of 20:36 (6:03/mile). As of yesterday, I ended the aerobic base training phase of my marathon training and began the hill/leg speed phase as per Arthur Lydiard’s basic training scheme. Not bad for two months.

As for the blog and writing about running, I’ve read a bunch of running-related books these past two months. My friend Katherine loaned me “A Race Like No Other” by Liz Robbins (about the 2007 NYC Marathon) and The Oatmeal’s “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” I also read “2 Hours” by Ed Caesar, a book chronicling professional marathoners’ journey to break the elusive 120-minute marathon barrier (current world record is 2:02:57 run by Dennis Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon). I also read “Running Ransom Road” by Caleb Daniloff, a powerful story about a recovering alcoholic who sought closure on his past by running marathons and other road races in locations where he was active in his alcoholism.

Jim Liysa Laura Ann Raul

Getting in a solid 11.5 miles with Liysa, Laura Ann, and Raul during the blizzard this past weekend!

And finally, I’m almost done with “First You Run, Then You Walk” by Tom Hart, my friend Patrick’s father. “First You Run” is a collection of essays written by Hart, a former high school English teacher, who picked up running at age 31 after he quit smoking. He ran into his 60s, at which time he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had one of his lungs removed, rendering him unable to run continuously for more than a few minutes. His essays discuss a range of topics: running a sub-5 mile, running 37 miles on his 37th birthday, chasing age-group awards as a 60-year-old veteran, and eventually breaking 12 minutes for one mile while running with one lung. What makes the book so amazing, though, is Hart’s meditative writing style and honesty. Every other page I find myself thinking, “Yep, that’s exactly how I think about running.” He gets it.

And in other news, I had a nice Christmas with my family and my girlfriend’s family, was able to travel to Vermont for a few days over the holidays, and have been working and preparing for the spring racing season. Life is good.

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!

Race Preview: The Staten Island Half Marathon, October 11, 2015

Staten Island Half Marathon

Staten Island Half Marathon Banner (repost from nyrr.org)

In two days I’ll run the Staten Island Half Marathon for the second time. Last year’s Half was my first half marathon, and I finished in 1:44:42 (8:00/mile pace). I then ran the Fred Lebow Half Marathon in Central Park in January at a 7:22/mile pace, finishing in 1:36. Due to my injury, I was unable to run the Brooklyn Half this spring, but ran a 1:29:36 while training (6:50/mile pace).

After my strong finish at the Bronx 10-Mile two weeks ago (1:00:20, 6:02/mile pace), I am confident that I can PR. While I am targeting a 1:20 time (6:06/mile pace), I’ll be happy to finish the race with a strong effort. This race is just a chance to gauge my estimated finish time for the NYC Marathon.

How can we put forth a strong effort on the windy, deceptively hilly course? Let’s go through our race prep analysis:

Know Your Race: As discussed above, I’m going to attempt to average a 6:06/mile pace if I’m feeling strong out there. I will likely start off around a 6:15/mile pace, run harder than usual in the middle flat section of the course, relax around mile 10 (see the Know Your Course section), and then run hard the last 5k.

Know Your Course: The course is an out-and-back finishing at home plate of the Staten Island Yankees’ stadium. Last year’s course (this year’s is slightly different) consisted of 3-4 opening miles flowing through a series of small hills, similar to the first three miles of this year’s Bronx 10-Mile. I’ll take a lot of deep breaths and let other runners charge past me on the uphills, and smile as I surge past them on the downhills. I want to save my quads for the later half of the race.

Miles 4-9 include a long downhill and then 4.5ish miles of out-and-back flat running. As indicated above, I want to push the pace through this section to make up any time I might have lost on the initial hilly section, and any time I might lose on the following hilly section. Other runners recall a strong headwind on the return section of this run (miles 7-9), but I don’t remember the wind. The goal here is to average 6:00/mile or faster.

Mile 10: This mile killed last year’s dreams of finishing under 1:40. Mile 10 starts with .7 miles of uphill at an average 3.3% gradient, the same gradient as Cat Hill in Central Park but twice as long. Last year I completely underestimated the toll this hill would take on my quads, running hard up the hill to maintain my 7:40/mile pace and being unable to maintain anything close to that after the hill. This year I plan to give the hill a moderate push, preserving my legs for the final 5k. Even if I run mile 10 at a 7:00/mile pace, as long as I can push hard the last 5k, I’ll be happy with my effort.

The last 5k: As hard as I can go. This part of the course is different from last year, and seems to have some hills. At this point in the race, hills become opportunities to accelerate, not hold back. The final half mile is mostly downhill, which culminates in a steep descent into the stadium. That will be a good feeling.

Be Willing to Adjust: The course might be windier than I remember. If so, I might have to adjust my overall pace expectations. My legs have recovered from the Bronx 10-Mile, but I still have the remnants of a cold. If I’m still slightly sick during the race, I might have to adjust expectations. If I’m not careful and run the hill at mile 10 too hard, I cannot get mad at myself for “ruining” the race. I have to maintain positive thoughts and fight through any physical pain that arises.

Nutrition: The positive eating has already begun! Breakfast today included two slices of sourdough bread with some peanut butter, and a protein shake made with 2% milk. Snacks will include cashews, and lunch will be ramen with egg and baked chicken. Not sure about dinner yet, but tomorrow will feature Greek yogurt, more eggs, more salad, and probably some rice with chicken and vegetables for dinner.

During the race, I plan to have a gel right before the start, one around mile 5, and one around mile 10, with water right after each gel. I’ll use this as an opportunity to practice marathon fueling without the fear of bonking.

Woot! I’m excited, although for reasons unclear to me I feel less confident about this race than I did for the Bronx. It might have to do with putting forth another hard effort; it might just be the slight cold talking. It’s just a feeling, though, so I am going to work on replacing it with a feeling of confidence. That’s one of the great revelations of my adult life: feelings are not facts! Relentless forward motion.

Good luck to everyone running the Chicago Marathon this weekend!

A special shout out and good luck to my cousin, Kristen, who is running her first marathon in Hartford this weekend!

And to everyone, happy running!