10/7/2015: Morning Run: November Project PR DAY YAYAYAYAY!

Yesterday’s Training

I hit the gym and did my leg day routine, which consists of: 1) leg press; 2) abduction machine; 3) adduction machine; 4) glute press; 5) hamstring curls; and 6) squats, usually with a kettle bell pressed to my chest. I also stretched a bunch, and then I ran 6.2 miles after work. Leg day always falls on a running day, but as I’ve been doing it this way for a couple months, my body is used to it.

November Project NYC PR Day

Of course, PR day doesn’t always fall on the day after leg day plus run day, but no matter! When it comes to NP_NYC, you #justshowup and hit the workout hard. I knew that this would be my second to last high intensity run before the NYC Marathon (the other being the Staten Island Half coming up on Sunday!), so I planned to give it my best effort. My first run on the course on last month’s PR day netted me a 22:34. I was hoping to break 21:00 this time.

A quick explainer: The first Wednesday of each month is NP_NYC’s PR day. We run eight loops of a course in Carl Schurz Park on the east side, which makes for a 3.5ish mile run. The goal is to improve every month and earn a PR. Very straightforward. The course itself is mostly flat except for two sets of stairs at the end of each loop. As I’ve discovered both times I’ve run the course, the stairs really slow the run down.

NP_NYC had a surprise for us this PR day: Strava had helped the group create a race within their app, so we could track our individual and team results by logging the run with the Strava app. I dislike running with my phone strapped to my arm, but went for it anyway. I thought it would be cool to see everyone’s results.

After Lew got us going with the bounce, we lined up and John started the timer. Boom! We were off.

I ran the first two loops with Myles, a strong runner who unofficially manages NP_NYC’s NYRR running team efforts. Myles and I tried to make small talk, but I was in the zone pushing hard and not exactly capable of continuing a conversation. Myles pushed the pace after the second loop, and I ran the rest of the way by myself.

I view this run as a great example of my mindset during most races. First, I charge out of the gate, ready to conquer everything and everyone. After a couple of laps, I settle into a groove, and usually slow my pace down. Once I sense the end is near (in this case, the last two laps) I pick up the pace again and fight hard to the finish. This mirrored my efforts from this morning, except that I pushed so hard during the first three or four laps that I had trouble finding that extra push in the last two laps. My legs screamed and I had to fight through some negative thoughts to keep on moving.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 21:07 (John said 21:02 when I crossed, but Strava tells me 21:07, so I’ll go with that). Not quite my goal, but damn close and a solid effort overall. At the end of the day, whether I meet the goal or not isn’t the most important part. I felt great because I gave the run a strong effort, and remembered that no matter how much I’ve improved over the past few months, I can still get better.

November Project NYC

We keep improving one step at a time. Woohoo!

I hung out and cheered on the rest of the Tribe, all of whom were crushing the course. My sister ran what I think were her fastest mile splits ever, which was great. I ran with her for her final lap and was pleasantly surprised when she picked up the pace toward the end and pushed me to run faster. Good work, Katie!

As always, I love NP_NYC and fully support any and all friends coming out. You just have to show up and give it your best effort. No judgment!

Tomorrow’s Workout

Tomorrow I’ll run 10 miles at an easy maximum aerobic heart rate pace. Friday is a day off, and Saturday I’ll run two miles in anticipation of the Staten Island Half on Sunday! We’re so close to the marathon now. So pumped.

Happy running, everyone!

9/24/2015: Morning Run, 5.2 Miles: Pacing Yourself in Training and Races

After hitting the gym on Tuesday for the first time in two weeks and completing my leg circuit, and then completing an intense 8.5 mile November Project NYC workout yesterday, I woke up sore. I usually recover quickly, but Tuesday’s gym workout really zonked my muscles.

So, what happens when we’re scheduled to run but we’re sore? We run! But we modify the run. I foam-rolled for a couple extra minutes before and after the run, cut my usual 6.2 mile route short by a mile, and ran at an easy pace. While most of my training happens in an aerobic heart rate zone between 134-144/145 beats per minute, this morning’s run barely cracked 135 beats per minute.

I ran instead of resting because I’m running the Bronx 10 Miler on Sunday, and wanted  two solid rest days instead of a rest day today followed by a Friday run followed by rest on Saturday. I believe two days with Time OFF My Feet will have me ready for the 10 Miler.

Unsurprisingly, this morning’s run highlighted my competitive nature. While I try to live by the statement, “You don’t win at training, but you can lose by overtraining,” I can still try to outrun other runners during training runs. This morning, therefore, while running at a reduced pace, I found myself pushing harder when runners passed me. I had to remind myself to run my own pace, and to keep my stride easy and effortless.

Keeping the focus on my pace has helped me during races as well. For example, when I ran the NYRR 10k Spring Meltdown in March, I followed a very specific race plan: Run miles 1-2 about 10 seconds slower than goal pace; run miles 3-4 at goal pace; and run miles 5-6.2 at  about 10 seconds faster than goal pace, focusing on passing runners only during these final 2.2 miles. I remember three or four guys barreling past me around miles 1.5-3, at which time I had to remind myself to focus only on my race. When I finally increased my pace at mile 5, I passed all of these runners. I finished in 39:47, my first sub-40 minute 10k, good enough for 33rd place out of 1,878 finishers.

I employed a similar strategy when I ran the Percy Sutton 5k in August, although I abbreviated the pacing strategy: Run the first mile about 5 seconds slower than goal pace, the second mile at goal pace, and go crazy on the final 1.1 miles. Again, I remember numerous runners skipping past me during miles 1-2. When I turned up the heat during mile 3, I cruised past most of these runners, and never saw them again. As I’ve posted about before, this performance snagged a 75th place finish out of 4,727 runners.

While these examples demonstrate good race strategy, I would be lying if I said that I’ve always paced well. For example, when I ran my second marathon, the 2004 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, I completely hosed the pacing. I was undertrained and overconfident, having completed my first marathon earlier that year with a negative split. I cruised through the first half at a pace much faster than I could ever sustain at that point in my running career. By mile 14 I had to walk because my quads felt like wooden blocks under my skin. I “completed” (I can’t say that I ran) the second half about 40 minutes slower than the first. I also spent days afterward recovering. Poor training, terrible execution.

To a lesser extent I had a difficult time with the last four miles of last year’s Staten Island Half. I trained well for this event, although I ran an impromptu 13.1 miles while out in San Francisco a few weeks before the event. I was cruising along for the first eight miles until the course hit a large hill around mile nine. Unprepared for the hill, I ran it way too hard in an effort to maintain my race pace. The result: my pace dropped from 7:40/mil to 8:15/mile for the final four miles because I trashed my quads and could not recover.

The lessons from these episodes? I take away three things:

  1. Know your race pace. Before you begin a race, have a sense of what your race pace will be, and develop a strategy on how to run the race so that your average pace will equal that predicted race pace.
  2. Know your course. When I ran the 2014 Staten Island Half, I did not look at the course map or elevation chart. I suffered as a result because I didn’t plan for the hill at mile 9. When I ran the NYRR 10k Spring Melt Down, however, I knew the course inside and out (it’s the Central Park Loop). Similarly, when I ran the Percy Sutton 5k, I researched and knew that the first mile was mostly uphill and that the first half of mile three was entirely downhill. I developed a race strategy to take these elevation changes into account.
  3. Be willing to adjust. Had I taken a deep breath at mile nine of the 2014 Staten Island Half and said, “Don’t worry about charging up this hill,” I might not have lost so much pace for the rest of the race. Unexpected things happen during races. The course might be tougher than anticipated, or maybe you have a tight quad that won’t release. Adjust. And don’t be too hard on yourself if you run slower than anticipated. Reflect, learn, and remember that we run because we enjoy the sport.

As always, happy running, everyone!

Maffetone at Work! Also 9/22/15: Morning Run, 5:30 a.m., 6.2 Miles, Central Park Loop

I’ve written a lot of training run recaps. This morning’s will be short: I ran this morning, and it was lovely. Check out my Training Plan for updates on what I’m up to on a daily basis. I’ll be expanding that page to include the exercises I do at the gym, and welcome any and all feedback on my plan.

Now, for something far more interesting!

I have posted relentlessly about Dr. Phil Maffetone’s 180 Formula for heart rate training, and written about my experience training almost exclusively using this method for almost five months. I have discussed how I PR’d at the Percy Sutton 5k—running a 5:56 per mile pace and besting my previous 5k PR by over a minute—by performing training runs at my maximum aerobic heart rate, and doing (at most) three anaerobic workouts prior to the race. In short, Dr. Maffetone’s method has worked for me. But what about for other people?

Larisa Dannis

Larisa Dannis (reposted from Runner’s World)

Here is a great example from Runner’s World of the Maffetone Method at work. Larisa Dannis, a former recreational runner, ran the USA 50-Mile Road Championship in 5:59:11 in October of 2014, becoming only the third American woman to run 50 miles in under six hours. She will represent the United States in the IAU World 100K Championships in Doha, Qatar in November. She also came in second in the women’s race at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, and was the first female finisher from the mass start at the 2014 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:44:14, only 74 seconds shy of qualifying for the Olympic trials.

How does she train? You can probably guess! From the Runner’s World article: “Dannis trains via the Maffetone Method, doing all of her training runs and races in very specific heart rate zones. It’s an unconventional approach, but one that’s helped her transform herself from a relatively average runner to one of the best American ultrarunners in just a few years.”

The article also discusses her specific heart rate training: “Dannis wears a heart rate monitor to make sure that she’s doing all of her training runs and races in the proper heart rate zone. Over time, she’s learned what heart rate she can sustain for various distances, and uses those numbers to guide her in all of her training and racing. For example, she averaged 134 beats per minute during the Western States this year, and she knows that she needs to be in the 163-165 range during a marathon.”

Finally, “Dannis spent nearly two years building her aerobic base, aiming to not exceed a set heart rate in training. She estimates that she still does more than 90 percent of her training at an easy, aerobic pace.” She has incorporated more speedwork into her routines over time, she says, which also contributed to her excellent finishing time at the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Dannis also employs the piece of the Maffetone puzzle that I am just starting to put together: the nutrition plan. From Runner’s World: “Dannis credits the transformation in her running to three things: training via the Maffetone Method, focusing on whole-body strength (she particularly likes kettlebells), and eating a whole-foods diet high in healthy fats and high-quality protein” (emphasis added).

Such a diet contradicts the common wisdom that runners need to consume a diet high in carbohydrates before, during, and after a race. Anyone who runs road races knows what I’m talking about: carbo-loading for two-three days before a race, sucking down multiple sugar-happy gels during the race, and pounding all sorts of pancakes and other starchy treats after the race as a reward for a job well done. The idea behind the carb-heavy diet is that the body burns lots of sugars while running, so the runner needs to consume lots of sugars to stay properly fueled.

A diet high in healthy fats and protein, however, combined with the maximum aerobic heart rate training advocated by Dr. Maffetone and others, leads the body to burn more fat for fuel. Fat is a more efficient energy source than sugar, and the body creates fewer harmful byproducts at a cellular level when training aerobically and burning fat. This allows faster recovery times, more efficient training, and overall improved health.

At least, that’s the theory. As I do more research, I will expand on this topic. For now, because Dr. Maffetone’s heart rate method has worked for me, I’m willing to explore his guidance on the dietary component of endurance sports. As one running buddy once said after declaring his love for tuna melts, “I sometimes wonder just how good I could be at this sport if I nailed the nutrition component.” Some “food” for thought. Get it?! I’m such a dork.

Finally, I like Dannis’ attitude about racing. She says, “‘Running has always been a very personal endeavor for me. I find satisfaction and excitement through challenging myself rather than competing with others.”

Love it. Focus on improving and running each race better than the last. Results come in many forms.

Happy running, everyone!