Another year over, and what have you done?

Not much, frankly. At least, that’s how it feels.

I haven’t posted nearly as many updates here as I’d wanted to over the course of the year, though I’d say that’s probably because I really didn’t have much of anything to post about until the last few months.

And the past few months have been the most insane months, professionally, of my life. So my running has nonetheless been at a kind of treading-water standstill until I can get things under some modicum of control.

My year-over-year running stats aren’t terribly impressive, though I am glad I crossed the almighty 1000-mile mark. Still, didn’t come close to the monstrous 2014 (I have no idea how I did that; I had a freaking wedding, a dissertation defense, and a relocation that year).

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I’m convinced that Garmin changed how their software computes elevation gain from GPS data somewhere in 2012-2013 and again 2014-2015, because seriously, wtf.

This year has been frustrating. I was really hoping it’d be a comeback year for me after last year’s extremely lackluster and injury-prone antics, but that was derailed early on by an injury that just wouldn’t go away, and then further put on hold by a professional life that rode burnout for a couple months. The month-by-month breakdown throws this into sharp relief:

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Take a look at the last few months of 2015, and the first few months of 2016, in comparison to the rest of 2016 (from May onwards): they’re night and freakin’ day.

(This month has been a little weird with travel, sickness, and general burnout recovery, but I’m hoping I can ramp things up in the next 10 days and still hit 100 miles)

October’s Ath Half was a wake-up call that my body has been responding to the training without my consciously realizing it–that I’m slowly getting stronger even if I don’t really feel that way. So now, I want to see if I can start to capitalize on that.

Obviously that would take the form of more frequent structured workouts (I currently do…ZERO!) in the form of speed work at the track and tempo runs. Additionally, I’d like to maintain the current level of weight-training (sessions with Matt are pretty awesome) and hopefully throw in some more cross-training (yoga, erg, cycling).

Of course, this is all going to depend on what my spring shapes up to be. Right now, I’m slated to teach yet another brand-new course, so at least initially that’s going to take up all my time and energy. But since it’s only one course, as opposed to the two from this past fall, I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be such a time sink.

The Lady will be going for her next BQ attempt–Glass City in April–and I’m toying with the idea of hiring her coach to be mine as well. I really want to get back on the horse, and I think adding some structure and accountability to someone other than myself will be the best way to do it. I’m just not sure what form that should take:

  • Should I go for the sub-1:40 half marathon? I’ve been in that hunt for almost 5 years, and achieving that would feel really freaking good.
  • Should I go for the sub-4 hour marathon? I’m still convinced my current 4:17 is a soft PR, and with the right training it could tumble.

The half obviously is more conducive to someone with a tight work schedule, but in some ways I feel like the full would be less stressful and a good way to get my mental game back on track as well as my physical game.

Feel free to leave any feedback on this 🙂

Happy holidays!

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The magic of tempo runs

Here’s the punchline: tempo runs dictate your race performance.

How my tempo runs usually feel.

How my tempo runs usually feel.

When you’re training for anything over 10k, and you’re past the point of just surviving and want to actually crush it, tempo runs are your best friend. And probably your worst enemy. You may have found that folks are throwing the phrase “tempo run” around quite a bit, but my favorite definition from that article (and the one I’ll use here) is as follows:

One fourth to one third of race distance at race pace.

So to use my own situation, in which I’m training for a half-marathon and want to finish in under 1:40, I need to be semi-regularly running 4-5 miles at 7:38 min/mi pace. Though realistically, my tempo runs need to look like this:

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The whole point of tempo runs is to get your body acclimated to racing. Long runs are great because your body needs to get used to the distance; easy runs are great because you need to rest; speed work is great to push your body’s anaerobic limits and increase your V02 max. But at the end of the day, tempo runs are what carry you through a PR on race day.

Tempo runs are supposed to closely mimic your race environment: you’re pushing a hard pace for a handful of miles (just like a race) without resting in between (just like a race). It gives your body and your mind a taste of how you’ll handle the rigors of a full race. This is why speed work, in my opinion, is less essential to training than tempo runs: you don’t get to rest in between miles during a race! Plus you certainly won’t be pushing as hard as you can for one mile at a time before taking said rest.

One thing (of the many) I learned from my years in team sports: you practice like you play. You have to be put in game-day situations during practice, so when those situations happen during the game, you’ll know what to do and can react without thinking. Whatever your race strategy is, you have to practice that exact strategy while training for the race. Tempo runs are the next best thing to actually racing.

As always, Runner’s World has a great write-up on what tempo runs are, why they’re so beneficial, and how to go about implementing them correctly. There’s a definite reason why these, to me, are more intimidating than long runs or even track workouts, and therefore even more rewarding. If you already have a solid mileage base and are looking to improve your current race times, tempo runs will get you there.

Pittsburgh Half 2013: Week 1

I’ve been thinking of starting a running blog for quite some time now, and with the advent of the latest season of half marathon training, I figured it might the perfect storm for setting up a new blogging haven. At least I can separate the drivel I write between two blogs now, right?

Something like that.

Week 1 was pretty light: 20 miles total in three runs.

I wonder how they "average" the emotes from each run into a weekly emote.

I wonder how they “average” the emotes from each run into a weekly emote.

GC told a similar story, albeit without the calorie calculation for the long run earlier today.

I should probably remove the columns having to do with biking for the duration of the training period.

I should probably remove the columns having to do with biking for the duration of the training period.

Before I get to the discrepancies between the two, I want to mention my tempo run this week, mainly because it was f*#&ing awesome. I haven’t done a proper tempo run since Nov 8 of last year, so I can’t say my expectations were particularly high. I decided I’d start with a 7:30 tempo pace to see if I could find my rhythm again after such a long hiatus.

I guess you could say I found my rhythm: I was constantly pulling myself back, evidenced by how the second half of every mile was done well above tempo pace to average out the way-too-fast first half. None was worse than the very first tempo mile, where the first 0.2 was at a 6:18 pace.

Apparently I’ve not only forgotten how to do tempo runs, but I’m not in nearly as bad of shape as I’d originally thought. Which is confidence-inspiring, to say the least.

Now: regarding today’s long run, an “easy 10”. The Lady and I were fully expecting and prepared for a cold and blustery morning. What we were not expecting:

It’s a tropical paradise.

Yeah. No.

So we swapped out our cold gear and wind jackets in favor of shorts and t-shirts and made for The Lady’s gym, where we proceeded to pound on treadmills for nearly 90 minutes. That run officially marks the longest workout I’ve ever done on a treadmill, and frankly speaking it’s a record I have no intention of ever breaking. Dreadmill running blows. Not even TV or a kickass iPod playlist can ameliorate the caustic doldrums of staring at the same effing scenery and breathing the same stationary pocket of air for a period longer than a couple of seconds. It’s mind-numbing, to put it mildly.

But we finished. We ticked off our 10-mile long run and look ahead eagerly to the [OUTDOOR] runs in our near future.

Not the least of which is an upcoming local race: the Spring Thaw!

NOOOOO! COME BACK FROSTY!

It was at this very event last year when I ran my first 20-miler (which, in retrospect, was kind of not a good decision to run 20 miles when I’d never run more than 13.1). This year I have no grandiose plans to run 20 again; I have not kept the baseline mileage needed to make a run at beating my time from last year. So instead, I’m gunning for 15 in under 2:05. I’m pacing The Lady at her half-marathon pace for the first 10 (~8:45/mile), then I’ll take off for the last 5 somewhere in the 7-7:30 range.

That’s pretty much Week 1. Only 12 more to go! 😛