Friday, November 4, 2011

2 Months in Review - September and October by the Numbers

September 2011
Swim: 14,950 yards
Bike: 343.3 miles
Run:  93 miles
Other: 14 miles walking, 3 mobility/stretching sessions, no weights
Total Time: 41 hours 28 minutes

October 2011
Swim: 0 yards
Bike: 295 miles (all on trainer)
Run: 141.5
Walk: 29 miles
Weights/Core: 10 sessions
Total Time:  49 hours 39 minutes

September marked the peak and the end of my triathlon season. I tapered for the first 10 days of the month heading into FirmMan on 9/11/11. After some early season aspirations of big swim yardage my swimming fell flat in late August and by the start of September I had little interest in the pool. Thankfully I stumbled upon this small local lake (that I knew about but had never been to) and did basically all of my swimming there leading into my race. The decreased yardage didn't seem to matter much, with my swim leg holding relatively steady (30 seconds slower than last year but with tougher - colder and choppier - conditions). My riding this summer and leading into the fall also shifted in a strange direction. After the accident I witnessed it was hard to get myself motivated to go out on the roads. I forced myself out once leading into FirmMan but mostly just pounded out awesome trainer miles. Riding on the trainer certainly improved my strength and fitness, but not my handling or confidence. I took a good chunk of time off my bike split from last year and was oh-so-close to breaking the 3 hour barrier (next year!). It was only in the few weeks before FirmMan that it really dawned on me how much harder it is possible to be working on the bike. I tend to settle into a comfortably hard zone but don't think I spent nearly enough time pushing my limits. My running leading into FirmMan was solid enough until I started having some weird knee pain that freaked me out enough to cut things back quite a bit during taper.

Looking back on FirmMan itself I feel kind of neutral (is that weird?). I PR'd. Pretty significantly actually (9 minutes). I held strong on the swim. I made real gains on the bike - which was quite clear by the difference in the company I had out on the roads this year compared to last - I was actually with guys who could ride, not all by myself at the back. I fell apart on the run. Same as last year. I barely held on. I was hungry for a strong run but wasn't able to execute it. 6 weeks later I am feeling okay about that but it took a while. I ran a strong first ever half marathon 2 years ago. I way over-achieved relative to my expectations. Since then I have raced only one open HM and I completely blew up. I'm not sure that I even posted about this race, back in May, because it was so bad. I didn't realize at the time but I was in the midst of a cluster of migraines and basically was in an altered state trying to push through (with little success). That race and the slow difficult plodding along of run legs of 70.3s is in my head. I'm not a strong runner, or so I tell myself. Without any solid performances this year to point to it can get me discouraged. With a little time I have also realized that the big (very big for me) volume I was putting in on the bike this summer (600+ miles a month) may have taken away from potential gains I might have made on the run. Looking back at my training log its pretty clear that I was doing little legit speed work and of that work it probably wasn't at the training targets/paces I should have been shooting for.

Okay, back to September though. After the race I took 10 days to recover. Swam (doggy-paddle) at the lake. Spun in a low gear on the trainer. Ran at whatever speed I felt like. I also wallowed in some post season blues and tolerated wild swings in mood and appetite. After about two weeks I started to feel a little more like myself. I noticed that unlike last fall when my legs came back to me on the bike but not on the run, this year I was all about the run and had no interest whatsoever in the bike.

I signed up for a half marathon. I had been sort of fantasizing about jumping in with James at the Hartford Marathon on October 15, 2011 but was able to be reasonable with myself that a marathon (premiere) on 4 weeks training post 70.3 would be a bad idea for me.

I wrote a training plan for the 6 weeks starting after my 2 week recovery period up until the race (this weekend!). For the first time since before I got bitten by the triathlon bug I have really invested in my running. Hello, October! To be completely honest --- it has been AWESOME! I gave myself permission to not worry about swimming. In fact, I didn't swim once in October. I thought about it. I even brought my suit and goggles when I headed to the Y. Never once did I feel inspired to swim. For the most part I haven't had much interest in my bike either. Part of that may be that as soon as its cool enough to run comfortably it's almost too cold to ride my bike (on the trainer, in the outdoor garage) without my feet going numb. I did finally bring my bike inside a few days ago so hopefully will find some mojo again. So this month I lifted religiously 2-3 times per week and I ran.

I ran a lot! I ran 141.5 quality miles! In July, I ran nearly 119 miles with 4 long runs and some 10k oriented speed work at the track. This had been my biggest running month to date for me. October I ran only 3 long runs (14, 12 and 13.5 miles) but I steadily build the distance of my fourth weekly run and added a very short 2ish mile run on my weights/xtrain day. I was super diligent with the training plan I wrote. On Tuesdays I did a short trainer ride (40-50 minutes) mostly to loosen up and because I don't have to be in to work until 11 followed by a true speedwork session at the local track. I did mile repeats. I did 800's, 400's, 200's. I checked paces with McMillan before workouts and went after those paces at the track. On Thursdays I did tempo work. If you'd asked me over the summer whether I was doing my tempo runs I would have said yes. Looking back on it, maybe not exactly. I have a tendency to run my endurance runs and long runs a little too fast. I then run my tempo pace a little too slow. I think in my mind running is hard, even endurance zone running so its hard to think about running harder. This month has totally busted that thinking wide open. I can run faster than I thought I could. It is hard. But it feels good (on rested legs)! Throughout the month I have watched my paces improve and my effort at given paces come down. I have had more than my fair share of confidence building runs. In the second half of the month I started playing a game with McMillan where I would try to out-do him (or rather, beat myself). Its a pretty fun game when you're winning!

What I think started coming into focus for me is that this thing I thought was impossible for me - to build effort and speed over the course of a run - is possible. During a track workout that was planned as 800's at 10k pace with 400 recovery intervals, I found myself getting faster on successive intervals. As I hit my last planned 800 I did some math in my head and realized that if I added a bit of a push and an extra 600 meters or so that I could take down my old 10k PR. I couldn't resist. I pounded out that last 3/4mile at faster than 5k pace and bested my official 10k PR by 1:02 and my unofficial PR by over :30. I felt damn good about this.

Then I realized something about this McMillan game. When I "win" it tends to be in one direction - given a particular time I have run before, I can out-do his predictions for distances shorter than the benchmark. When I look at playing this game in the other direction it gets pretty daunting. I can't imagine running a 10k in the time he predicts based on my 5k. Or a half marathon based on my 10k time. I ran a strong (untrained for) 5k in June and have been using that as my benchmark. Here's the thing; I have also been telling myself all along that I can't really run that time. That it was a fluke. Turns out - not a fluke. This past weekend I didn't have a long run on the schedule, instead two short 6 mile runs. James had a run Halloween race. We got dressed up in costumes and drove early on Saturday morning to Salem, MA. I was planning to run my 6 miles while he raced. When we got there though it seemed like the only reasonable place to run (without risking getting seriously lost) was on the course. So I jumped into the race. It was 6.66 miles (Devil's Chase). I was not going to race. This is one week out from my half marathon. Just going for a run. James and I started together because he always starts slow (for him) and I tend to start not slow (for me), which evens out. We ran the first mile at an 8:15 pace which felt comfortable, then I let him go. I have been having some angry calves (from the increased mileage and switch over the mostly running in kinvaras) so was in my heavy trainers and just running along. I'm not sure what happened but I spotted a woman who was running strong. In my head I mostly thought I would watch her run away from me because I was not going to push it (and I'm not really a runner). But I kept plugging. And she didn't pull away. After a mile or so I finally acknowledged that I wanted to stick with her. I was running faster than I had planned but it felt like controlled chaos. I latched on. She would pull ahead on the downhills but then I'd catch back up on the flats and inclines. By mile 5 it was clear that I was pushing much harder than planned. And I was still with her. I stuck with her until the last half mile then I let her go. I stopped my watch at the 10k mark and checked the time. 50 seconds faster than that track workout from 10 days before. The time is exactly what McMillan predicts based on my 5k. I am faster than I think! In fact, that impossible 5k time from June, I ran the last 5k of this 10k+ race at exactly that pace!

Wow, I'm rambling! Guess I should post more often...

So October has been a really good running month. It has really crystallized in my mind the importance of true dedicated speed work for me. Working at my edge makes me feel strong. While it is easy for me to get into the whole narrative that I'm not fast and will never be fast (and I do believe this to be true in some objective absolute sense), this isn't really about being the fastest kid on the block. Its about the feeling of killing a workout, of raising the bar, of outdoing myself. When I can stick with that it feels pretty good.

And now, with November upon us, its time to race. T-minus 2 days!


  1. Ha ha ha!! You should post more, that was long. LOL. Good luck on your race. :)