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It’s been a while. I’ve been frustrated. Just as I was getting places — getting regular solid runs on week-ends — I hit upon a stretch of little issues. Each would go away after a day or two but each would then be replaced by another. Right-quad spasm, left-hip pain, right-foot pain, left-calf pain. Oy.

Yet I continue pushing that rock up the hill, being thrilled about this morning’s easy 6. Because it’s not one thing I can’t, say, do exercises to address it.  So for the umpteenth time it’s back to square one.

Still, the fact is that  each time I step out the door it’s with the optimism of a newbie and when I am actually running I’m enjoying it as much as I ever have.

I’ve worked long and hard and, I think, successfully at establishin4g myself as a curmudgeon, and an elitist one at that. Every once in a while, though, something pops up that emphasizes the broad, communal nature of the sport.

On RunnersRoundTable last week (I was not involved) , a number of folks told their Boston stories, stories that exposed how important the Boston Marathon is to many people generally and how this Boston had particular meaning to three people.

RunnersRoundTable: Boston 2014

Running-wise, things have been moving along. I spent a couple of days out at Sag Harbor, and got in one very-nice run and yesterday in the humidity I made it to one of my landmarks, Hearney Road on the BRP. Week-by-week I work my way up. Scarsdale Road, Crestwood Station, Leewood. When I get to (and from) Hearney Road I feel I’ve gotten to a solid place. As noted in the following video, it was a run I needed to finish for my confidence. It wasn’t that fast, but I felt it late. So I followed it with a nice 47 minutes at Twin Lakes/Nature Study. 8 X 400 last Sunday afternoon with a 40-second rest between. Next up: Bronxville 2.5 miler on the Saturday before Memorial Day.

Well, I did head down to the Bronxville track yesterday morning and got in my Repeats. 200, 200, 400, full-length jog between.

  • 38.8, 42.3, 82.2
  • 39.6, 40.0, 81.4
  • 40.5, 39.8, 82.2
  • 40.2, 40.6, 81.7

The running was pretty relaxed, although it takes some getting used to the 400s.

But more, I wanted to post separately CG’s comment to that post and respond because I think she makes good points (I admit some typos.) She writes,

“i had to read your intro ¶ a few times to comprehend- i’m sure it’s just that i’m slow (mentally, too), and it wasn’t the grammatical errors, as i’m a neophyte there.

“i’ve wondered if it’s your ego that’s kept you out of much speed training and racing in the past few years. you’ve said you’ve had this-that-and-the-other issues, but i wonder if it’s just the fear of not running the times you used to that’s kept you away. when i was out on the track earlier today, i thought that someone like you, who (to your credit) has had very consistent race performances in the past might be intimidated when he shows up to a track workout and can no longer perform (even alone).

“it makes someone like you more like “one of us”. there a number of guys (and women) in your age group who run around your current race times out here on the island. but one thing i’ve noticed is that they deal with frequent ‘sub-par’ performances and ‘glorified training runs’ as part of a larger goal.

“the one thing that came to me as i putzed around the track this evening was that if you stop racing, you will hasten your decline even further (this is actually not a new “epiphany” for me- just something i re-acknowledge, as married folks re-acknowledge why they love their spouses). age is not working in your favor. that goes for the dilettantes such as myself, as well as the “racers” such as you.

“i would put to you, “what are your racing goals?” if it’s to run longer races, then adopt that sort of plan. if shorter (and that’s what i would pursue in your position), then adopt a more speed-focused one. running daniels’ paces for track workouts may cut it for longer stuff. even if that’s your goal, i’d say run your track workouts with other guys b/c i’ve noticed over the past few years that you have a tough time completing your projected workouts. i’m not sure there’s a one where you got through the whole thing. that said, maybe you should meet up w/guys like mark t who are around your pace now and could push you to complete the sets.

“but if your goal is to set some westchester 50+ records, you’d best work a bit harder. focus on the mile or another middle distance event. do the speed training for that. it’s another level than daniels and may help you at longer stuff eventually. find some guys to push you on the track. keep up a weekly, but slow, longerish run.

“my two. slow. cents.”

Ego plays a role. But I don’t know that it’s kept me from training. In fact ego may be preventing me from racing as much as I might for fear of falling short of my expectations. So I may make excuses for not doing the work and then justify not racing on the ground that I haven’t done the work. She’s right that the more I think along those lines and the more comfortable I am with just sleeping in the faster the decline.

In my defense, my work situation is such that I don’t often get the chance to run afterward. But cutting against that is that there’s no reason I can’t get up earlier than I do and run before. In the latter stages of winter, I got better at that, often heading down to the treadmill for 30 or 40 minutes.

She’s surely right that I need to decide what racing goals I have as that demands decisions on what need to be done to reach them. She’s probably right on the substance that I might do better focusing on shorter stuff, 5Ks and 10Ks and the like. As a practical matter, that makes sense since there are more of them than HMs around (and I expect to do the Loucks 5K in a couple of weeks).

When I spoke of Sound Shore, I noted that coaching was an excuse for structuring my own training, a win/win. (And I know there are those who took exception to my approach.) The Repeats yesterday were part of doing that, i.e., looking at where things stood and trying to specifically address them.

She’s right that it would be good to join with others for speed work, but that’s just not practical. I disagree about Daniels if only because his approach is useful for any racing distance. It’s just the types of workouts and the frequency of various types that vary. But, yes, if my goal is 5Ks and 10Ks and the like, a greater dosage of the faster types of training (Repeats and Intervals) over the slower types (Tempos) is in order.

 All-in-all, quite helpful. I’m feeling more comfortable about finding my Goldilocks LR pace and can mix that up with the harder (for me) runs I do with Warren Street or at the Rockies. mix in some serious speed work. To be clear, I don’t view speed work as a miracle cure in isolation. I view it in the context of the disconnect between the speed I can maintain in a long run and the speed I can achieve in a race (albeit using only the single data-point of the recent 15K). It may be for naught. And injuries may lay me low. We shall see.

It is April 21 and I am on the porch. The annual ritual of mopping and schlepping furniture and cushions is over.

And it is Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts which means it is the day of the Boston Marathon. A strange men’s race in which the supposed big-guns allowed Meb to go off the front and realized way to late that, you know, he has a silver medal and a NYC Marathon win and just might not be coming back to us and he  didn’t and he won. I thought he was toast but he actually ran the final 2+K 3 seconds than his main chaser, Wilson Chebet. It was, per Ross Tucker of Sports Scientists, also  seconds faster than Rita Jeptoo ran that same stretch. She got the winner over Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia and the Bronx, who clocked 2:19:59.

CAM00580I’m not doing another marathon but watching a race like that seems an impetus for putting the effort to race again. I see the hundreds and thousands of runners streaming through the start and they all look so much faster than I feel. That’s silly, I know, but it also motivates.

I’ve been trying to connect some of the dots. We start from the fact that I ran a 15K at a pace only 15 secs/mile faster than I’ve been able to go during a work-out — solo or with others — for 10 miles, runs that were not easy but in which I had a good deal of pop over the final stretch. This tells us that the ability to go quick (speaking relatively) is still there, and the question is how to get there. We also have that it’s the legs and not the lungs that are hurting. Sure, I’m breathing heavily at times but am not getting  cooked in that regard. No, it’s the legs.

My thought is that I need to get the legs moving. I’ve done a number of tempo runs, at sub-6:30, but those too are slowed by leg-heaviness. All of which seems to suggest to me that I should return to the process that worked back in the Sound Shore days of including a fair number of repeats — as Daniels uses the term — at this point in the cycle. This means fast (relatively speaking) 200s and 400s and (maybe 600s to get the legs working efficiently. This is at least my theory.

So tomorrow, down to the track.

Racing-wise, I’m still undecided. I think I will do the NYRR Portugal Run, a scored-race in June. Before then, there are a few 5Ks in Westchester and environs that I might do. I realize that to get myself where I want to be, I need to focus and get serious. Watching all those swift folks in Boston may help get me there.

Last Sunday’s Scarsdale 15K recalled for me one of the highlights of my involvement with the Sound Shore Running and Multi-Sport Club, or SSRMC. It was a club created by Lisa Hamm-Greenwalt in Mamaroneck. Its membership consisted chiefly of runners (and triathletes) along the Sound, largely from New Rochelle to Rye with a splattering of folks from nearby.

Southern Westchester has long had a dominant club, the Westchester Track Club, and I’ve known and liked many of its members. But while I was running with the CPTC track group, I became involved as a “non-member” with SSRMC, becoming its newsletter editor/creator. When my track-running emphasis was gone — due largely to a series of bad injuries I attributed to my track/speed focus — I decided to join SSRMC and become involved. This meant heading to the weekly 5+ mile run in Larchmont Saturdays at 8 and then my volunteering to be the coach for Tuesday-night sessions at Mamaroneck High School. (An aside: the M’neck track was unusual in that it consisted of 4 equal segments. It had four short straights and a tree on the infield. As with the space-limits of the B’ville and New Rochelle HS (it’s 350 meters), M’neck had a baseball diamond in the infield. It had two goal-posts. They were at right angles to one another. We were forever having difficulty with people watching baseball games, sometimes putting lawn chairs in Lane 1. I would, politely (I thought) ask them to move. I was sometimes compelled to be, um, less than polite.)

I used my volunteering as a coach as an excuse to develop my own training plan, using Daniels’s Running Formula. But I designed the workouts for all, with the paces varying by people’s speed. We had a good solid core of regulars, of varying abilities but of (so I thought at the time) similar perspectives, i.e., to be the best runner I can be. I put the workout up every week on the (since-departed) club message board.

larchrunl04

The Larchmont 5K, 2006, with Gregg Rubin on my right

I enjoyed it. The highlight was the Scarsdale 15K in 2007. The club had new adidas singlets in a dark blue. It had a high turn-out at the race, or I should say races, since many ran the 4-miler that began 15 minutes before the 15K. We cleaned up on the awards, and I think R received the first award she had ever gotten.

That was one of the two highlights for me at SSRMC. We appeared at a race as a club and performed well and I felt personal satisfaction in thinking that the performances were due in part to the training program I had pursued with them.

The other highlight? 2006’s and 2007’s Reach-the-Beaches in September of those years. A bunch of mostly old (two of our number, G and E, were just kids) suburban folks selected because they wanted to do it and captained by T. We finished 29th and 21st, respectively.

I left the Club when tensions among various schools-of-thought on just how seriously we should take this stuff came to the fore. Indeed, that 2007 RTB was the beginning of the end as those tensions began percolating to the service on the long drive home. In the end SSRMC disappeared when it was taken over by NewRo Runners in 2012. A number of my friends are with that club now. (The SSRMC website is long gone.)

It was sad not to see many Westchester-club jerseys in Scarsdale, including from NewRo Runners. I don’t recall a one.

It’s been six months since the (albeit explicable) disaster that was Paine-to-Pain. I didn’t want that to be my final race, but with age that thought must always be in the back of the mind. As noted earlier, I decided to run the Scarsdale 15K. I’m pretty happy with my training except for missing too many mid-week runs. More than that, I needed to pin a number on and go. 15K struck me as a good distance since I could feel my way into it.

It was chilly when I woke up but i knew it was not a long-sleeve day. The only decision was whether to go singlet or t-shirt. I hadn’t worn a Warren Street shirt in a race in a long while. I was looking forward to at least wear it with some respectability. I chose the t-shirt — it’s red and black — and compression shorts. It was sunny thus lots of sunscreen, my cap, and sunglasses.

It was, though, quite chilly as I checked in. Race time of 9:30. A bit of  jog. When I was ready for the race I knew I’d be fine in what I wore. And saw that lots of folks would overheat.

The course was far tougher than I recalled. I remembered the two big if short hills. But time had deadened the memory of the rolling nature of the roads. Ups and downs. Ups and downs.

Time: 1:03:57. Splits: 6:31, 6:53, 6:48, 6:49, 6:52, 7:02*, 7:02*, 6:48*, 6:41. (* includes stoppage-time).My plan was to go out relaxed and, as I say, roll into it. My first glance at the Garmin, though, had me at under 6:10. Very bad. I went through mile 1 in about 6:30. Too fast. Mile 2 was a major struggle and thoughts of stopping raced through my brain. But I kept at it. By this point everyone who would be ahead of me was ahead of me and everyone who would finished behind me was behind me. I only had a bit of a back-and-forth with one guy who had uphill issues and who I believe DNFed.

One strange thing at the start. It’s a little local race (there’s a 4-miler that is essentially the first loop of the 15K with a 9:15 start. I stood at the front and after the horn a young guy came from the left and just cut me off. Like 5 steps into the race. I was able to push his back. As seems inevitable when I’m cut off, it was a CPTCer. What are they teaching those people?

I got that off my chest. Ah, back to the race. There’s a very steep but, as I say, short hill near 2 shortly followed by a steeper downhill (which is the second tough uphill between 6 and 7). Once I got through that stretch, I started to feel better. I wasn’t straining in my breathing. It was that my legs were heavy. I fell into a rhythm and was able to run consistently for the next few miles. I realized that a toe was bleeding. I sometimes discover a nail has cut a neighboring toe after a run. Now, perhaps for the first time, I realized that it was happening, felt mostly because my right sock was sticking to my toe. It turned out not to be a problem but it was annoying.

I was tiring, but I wanted to get at least to 10K before stopping. Alas, in precisely the spot where I first stopped when I last ran this race, when I crested a hill and saw that there a another one about to come, I stopped. Only for a few seconds. and then I was good. The guy I mentioned shouted encouragement and I felt far better as i went. that was the last I heard of him. I was alone for the duration. I crested the short monster hill, and stopped as I did. Another 10 seconds and I again felt far better. I was struggling, but I was trying to keep the pace right, avoiding the wrong side of that wall. I took encouragement from the slight downhills which seemed to follow on the ups. One more stop with 1.5 to go, and then I was committed. But it was tough. I was tired.

The race finishes with about 300 meters on the Scarsdale HS track. It was a very long 300 meters. Very long. I measured it out as I crossed each lane marking. Somehow I made it and was overjoyed. The time is not great — it clocks a 77.72 AG — but that doesn’t matter. (As to distance, my Garmin clocked it at just over 9.4)

As I say, a good building block/reality check event. I need to get a bit of speed work in such as the tempo I did a few weeks back. I was a little bloodied in the endeavor, but am not unbowed.

It was a fine Sunday run.

Things did not look good early Friday evening. Running on the B’ville track I felt a sharp pain in my left ankle. I immediately stopped and walked home. But I feared that the Sunday Rockies Run — it’s the last Sunday of the month — would be undoable. So no run on Saturday.

I decided not to test it before driving up, figuring that would tempt fate. I also thought that if it turned out to be a problem, I could still go to breakfast.

This despite the forecast of rain, rain, and more rain.

But the rain had stopped by the time I had gotten up. But the radar was ominous as it showed a new  bit of rain scurrying across Philly and headed our way. It looked like even if we could start in the dry we’d end in the wet.

I arrived and we had a group of 5, with Paul, Bobby, Chris (from the Greenwich RC), and Mike (from the B’ville RC). Off we went. I struggled from the get-go although it wasn’t that fast. First mile was very tough for me. After that, though, I relaxed. No signs of ankle pain. There were muddy spots, but not like the mud on, say, Twin Lakes where there are pools of the stuff through which you have to run. No, just some narrowing of the running surface. Paul, Bobby, and I fell into a nice rhythm behind Chris and Mike. Paul has done 19 yesterday so having sown his wild oats he was restrained. Bobby was his typical loping self.

In the end we hit only one major hill — 13-Bridges (going clockwise) — and while it was a bit of a struggle up I was aided by the knowledge of the nice, gradual descent on the way down. There are a couple of other hills on the course, which took us up around Swan Lake via the Red Farm, where we saw two calves, but not the lung-wrenching sort. And it stayed dry for the duration, and has remained so. Shorts and a long-sleeve NYCRuns shirt was perfect. I learned my lesson from last Saturday, when I overheated in tights with a temp in the 40s. F.

We finished easily, just over 10 at 1:15 or so. That’s the longest timewise I’ve run in a while. It was worth it as we meandered down to the Horseman’s Diner, where we were joined by Sham, who had done her own 10-miler with a friend.

And so it was, a fine, fine adventure. Over three months since running at the Rockies. It was a long winter.

Saturday

Here’s how I put in on Facebook:

So, an Italian, two Frenchmen, two Brits, and two Americans run in the Park. They were all chatting amiably except for one of the Americans who was tired and unable to speak a coherent statement without having to pause after every third syllable. The others feared for him, as he was old and might fall easy prey to someone from a lesser club, and came back to collect him.

Alas. It was but temporary and after the passage of but one more mile he fell permanently off the back, never to be seen again.

Our ancient American, though, was not so easily daunted. He was determined to do a complete loop of the Reservoir on the bridle path before heading out of the Park at 110th, and so it was that alone and fearful he soldiered on, covering the final four miles in 27:52 and feeling stronger and stronger and younger and younger with each stride until he crossed 120th Street and his Garmin crossed 10.00. He could not have done so well without his smörgåsbord of mates.

(Paul Thompson identifies them all; in addition to him and me, we had master-pacer Sebastien Baret, Fabio Casadio, Pascal Lauffer (with whom I’ve had my share of Facebook battles but who I was quite happy to see, with him coming off a 2:51 last week-end), Charlie Baily, and Sam Lynch (the other Yank, who I had not met earlier but who was too fast for me to speak to much).)

I’ve noted before the strangeness of finding it more difficult to run with people than to run alone in that going at about the same pace alone seems easier. But as I’ve also noted I wanted to take advantage of the Warren Street run to get some quality work in. And I did. We run on the bridle path, except for getting to and from the Park. This eliminates the hills.

As an aside, last year I ran a number of times with VCTC with the objective of keeping things under-control and I was pleased with the way things went. But in the end I didn’t think it had quite my type of running DNA. I was miffed at WSSAC because I hadn’t been deemed  worthy of sponsor-shoes. And I may not have been given my limited-to-non-existent racing in the last few years. Another issue, though, was the betwixt-and-between one in which, as evidenced by yesterday, I am no longer as fast as I was only a few years ago. Then I could stick with the group, albeit for distances less than Paul and others did. And I would feel the runs. But Warren Street — which is really just the people — is more to my liking so I’m back.

I found out yesterday that I’m not strong enough now to do it either because I’m not yet in decent shape or because I’ll never be able to. It’s a sobering thought. Yet one deserving thought.

It’s not that yesterday was a disaster. To the contrary, I’m incredibly pumped by it. My splits were pretty even except for the one that killed me: 7:05 (not much of a warm-up there), 7:03, 7:07, 6:46 (that’s what did it, heading down the westside), 7:04, 7:15 (heading back up the westside so I’m thinking that was hillier than I thought), 7:00 (this is where I fell off and headed my own way but decided that while I was dead I had to do a loop of the Reservoir or that all would be for naught), 7:02, 7:01, 6:49 (this is heading down the hill by the Lasker Rink and out onto Lenox Avenue and then Fifth to Marcus Garvey Park, where I had parked).

Two weeks ago in the Park I did a solo (entirely on the roads) 8.5 miles at 1:00:06, a 7:04 pace. Last Saturday it was 1:10:51 up the BRP, for 9.57 miles (7:24). I had hopes to increase that to 1:20 yesterday, but it was a tad too quick early for that. At times, I thought I’d have to stop. But I held on by my fingernails and once I took the decision to do that loop of the Reservoir, legs screaming (I was overdressed in tights and a long-sleeve shirt, hat, sunglasses, and gloves), I took advantage of the slight downhill on the bridle path heading south above 90th Street to recover and from that point on I felt stronger and stronger so that when I hit the road again I was sold.

Sunday

Not having done any speedwork in a while, I headed to the Bronxville track this morning. A 1.25 jog down. A little chilly, but compression shorts and long-sleeve were the order of the day. (I wore my WSSAC outers there and back.) Not sure what pace to aim for. Was thinking 6:30ish. But just let it flow. Lap 1 was typically fast but then fell into a consistent 97-99 pace so that I got in a solid 20:25 for 5000 (6:35 pace). Importantly (and the same is true of yesterday) although there were times when I felt the strain, I was able to push through, hold it together, and recover. This has long been an issue for me, especially at races, where I’ve too frequently taken breaks. I think breaks can be useful, but they can also become a bad habit.

I have the Scarsdale 15K in two weeks and the last time I ran it I stopped a number of times. I need to avoid that. These workouts are a good sign.

This is a lazy post. Video.

Note the contrast with the picture at the top of the page. A change of seasons. You see the vehicles at the start of the video. Because there was a horse show going on, the lots were full so some people parked there.

For the record, today was the first time on this trail (or any trail) for months. Yesterday I got in 1:10 along the Bronx River Parkway path, which has been off-limits for a while, again with the snow. It looks like we’ve turned the corner. And I did see my first robin yesterday morning.

Hoping for a run in a closed space, unimpeded by traffic and snow, I decided to head south. I don’t think I ran in Central Park once in 2013, but the same can’t be said for 2014.

It’s about a 20-minute drive. I tried to be creative in parking, but that didn’t work out so I parked on the east side of Marcus Garvey Park. It’s a straight-shot 1/2 mile down 5th Avenue (the Marathon course) to the Park. Headed in and a counterclockwise loop.

Since I’d last been in the Park, there have been some adjustments. In particular, the recreational lane has been widened in most spots and marked for runners only, with cycling markings to the right. This means far fewer runners venturing into the bike lane, although I did have two guys pass me on the downhill curve at the north end who thought it ok to meander in the middle of the bike lane; they ignored my “aren’t you supposed to be on this side?” query. In all my years of running in the Park, I’ve never run like that.

Which reminds me that I did miss being able to yell at people. The runners themselves were fine. It was the runners-with-big-dogs-and-long-leashes who were the problem. Many of them. Oblivious. Rude or Stupid? You decide. Plus the group of runners simply standing at 90th Street and Fifth blocking half the Rec Lane.

I mentioned a bit ago that one of my objectives is to be able to join Warren Street again for its Saturday morning jaunt (as well as actually racing with them). I’m not there yet so I decided not to try to hook up with Paul Thompson — who dropped me a note that he finished third (not second) in 45-49 at USATF’s Cross Champs — and do it alone. I find it easier to run alone by which I mean it seems harder to run at a particular pace when I’m with a group than when I’m alone.

Still, I did come upon Paul and some other WSSACers who were waiting to pick up folks fo their group and said hello. I hope to be in the group eventually.

The run itself was a mixed bag. I didn’t want to go hard, but the enthusiasm of being in the Park had me doing a 7:01 and a 7:02 for miles 3 and 4 along the west side, which left me pretty dead as I hit the bottom of the Park and fearful that I might blow up. But a slight ratcheting back as I turned north allowed for recovery and after getting up Cat Hill (with a wave) I took advantage of the slight downhill that takes one all the way to the top of the Park to relax and felt like a new runner for the last few miles.

This was the best sign. The last mile-and-a-half was on the streets and while tired — I hadn’t gone over 50 minutes for a long while — I felt solid and had the fastest splits of the run. It was the fastest pace overall in a long while and I got to 8.5 miles in 1:00:06.

I’m a bit tired now. The prospect of Scarsdale, though, has proved a great incentive. I managed three 30-minute sessions on the treadmill this week. It’s as though a switch has been flipped and enthusiasm that I feared had gone is seeping back in. This is a strange business.

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