Monday, February 25, 2013

long run...getting LONG!

Saturday's long run was 11 miles long.  Whew!  My first thought when I think of running that long is..."I am going to get SO bored!"  Pleasantly, that has not yet happened when I've run long distances.

Theoretically I am supposed to be running my long runs at about a 12:30 min/mile pace.  I tend to go a bit faster than that, but nevertheless, once I'm over 10 miles that's at least 2 hours of doing nothing but...running!  What do I do to keep myself from getting bored?

1. I listen to opera.  Ha - I suppose that would increase boredom for some!  One of the reasons I typically do my long runs on Saturday afternoons in the winter is that starting at 1pm the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast begins!  Whee, 2 to 3 solid hours of riveting, interesting music and/or interviews and information about the opera.  I find that I can run at my own pace even if the music is at a different tempo; I have a really hard time not running "with the music" for other genres of music that I enjoy, and that leads to too-fast or too-slow speeds.  Another bonus is that, while I enjoy listening to the opera broadcast, if I were at home I would probably not carve out 2 hours of my time to listen to it.  If I run with it, I get to take care of 2 things at one time!  Listening to the opera prevents boredom because I am subjected to a lot of emotions coming from the music.  And...since I really don't know what is happening (I can't see it, and it's in a foreign language), I am constantly wondering "Is this the part where Jose returns?  Or...not yet?"  Another thing I value about listening to opera instead of other music is that I can still hear what's going on around me.  Sometimes, especially if I'm running on roads or on trails that seem creepy, I will NOT listen to anything - because I want to be SAFE!  In training for my first half-marathon, I did most of my 10+ mile long runs without music because the race organizers for that one prohibited MP3 players, radios, etc., which I thought was a very wise idea on their part.  Having been startled drastically by people running up behind me as I've jogged around town, I believe running without distraction can be as important as driving without texting!

2.  I count my steps.  I do this for a couple different reasons.  One is to get a relative idea of how fast I'm going...if my cadence is too fast, I'm running too fast!  Another is because sometimes the only way I'll get through the next 5 minutes of the run is if I break it into smaller parts - so I run 100 steps...then 100 more...then I'm nearly halfway through that 5 minutes!...another 100 steps -- and hey, I can run 200 more, if I have to!  It's a mental thing.

3.  I do math.  Knowing my cadence and approximately how far I've gone and how far I have yet to go gives me all kinds of things to calculate.  "If I need to slow down to 12:30 per mile, how many steps is that each minute?"  "Given that, how many steps do I have left to go in this run?"  When I was in middle school I took a career-placement assessment, and I distinctly remember one of the questions being "Do you enjoy adding large columns of numbers?" and I answered an emphatic "YES!!!"  I also enjoy doing long division.  ...In my head.

3.  I think of where I'm going to go.  Usually I have a pretty good concept of what route I'm going to take to reach my mileage for that day.  But, I don't always know exactly where I'll go.  On Saturday's run I started out walking and thinking, "Do I want to go up the Blue Course hill, or run down it?"...that set me off on my first leg (I went up).  And since the uphill loop intersects with another loop I know the approximate mileage for, I had that option -- to veer off onto a new loop and finish the first one later.  And if I'm not quite sure how far a loop is exactly (i.e. this week I doubted my concept of the second loop thanks to the 2-mile-off-calculating from February X's run!), I brainstorm some "outs" where I can add in some extra distance or take a shortcut once I get a better idea of what mileage the planned loop is going to give me.  And...sometimes I just run off course because it seems enjoyable - on Saturday after the second loop I still had 5 miles to go, and I happened to be by a very beautiful path, so I turned and ran through the golf course and some trails for the next 3 miles, which was much more exciting than simply pavement if I'd stuck with my original plan.  (Sometimes I plan-on-the-go because I really want to avoid running a particular part at a particular, I really hate finishing my runs on this bike trail by my house.  This Saturday I gladly accepted the golf-course distraction because it meant I wouldn't need to go to the bike path!)

4.  I observe - especially when I am running by something lovely.  I started running because I thought it would be enjoyable to experience the woods and outdoors by jogging past, so I am reminded to take a look around and enjoy what I see and hear and smell and feel.  On Saturday I heard birds singing, I saw lots of dogs on walks with owners, I felt it get warm enough to take off a layer of clothing and then get cooler forcing me to re-dress.  Saturday was also the so-called State Patty's Day "holiday," and I briefly ran past downtown State College, so I saw and heard some reveling.  ...Plus, when I'm running and I don't exactly have a plan, I need to pay attention to where in the world I am so I can get back if I need to turn around!

5.  I pray.  I sometimes feel like I ought to do this as my primary activity while I am running.  What better time?  Instead of wasting 2 hours listening to opera, why not spend it with valuable prayer?  I try, but so far I haven't excessively successful at staying focused on this.  I suppose it's in part because I'm doing all those other things -- observing, thinking of where to go, doing what needs to be done mentally to get through -- and I don't currently have the ability to pray and do something else at the same time.  (Case in point:  today I was praying while filling up some jugs at work...I finished and went to do my next task, still praying, and arrived at my new location with the realization that I had brought the jugs WITH me, although they were supposed to stay at my original location.  Um...)  On Saturday when I heard and saw the State Patty-ers, I did pray for a while for them, for the city, for everyone else who was praying.

So, before I knew it...I was done!  Eleven miles past me, and I'd hear pretty much all of Carmen, counted to 80 about 50 times, recalculated my plan until the very last second, saw plenty of things including the sign for Saratoga Drive where I need to remember to turn or risk getting lost in a tangle of subdivision streets, and prayed.  No wonder it's not just my legs that are tired afterwards -- it's also my BRAIN!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Another speedwork session was had on Saturday.  It was a very busy day, so instead of heading to the track (driving there...driving back...) I just went outside and ran back and forth on a mildly flat portion of the bike trail that goes behind my home.  Not sure what the folks who live along there thought about me running past their house 5 times in one hour, but no matter.

Alas, I am still running these TOO FAST.  I'm learning, slowly but surely.  At least this time I could complete my repeats of 1/2-mile.  But the pace is well over 1 mile/minute faster than what I'm aiming for.  It seems good to go faster, right?  Perhaps, but I am reminded over and over by articles I read that training TOO HARD (which includes too fast) is asking for a) injury and b) exhaustion.

Between now and the next repeats-session in a fortnight, I aim to get an better feel for how my target speed-pace FEELS.  I'm thinking that tomorrow's run might involve some of this, assuming it's warm enough for me to go outside and not feel frozen.  Or...looking at the weather forecast, which is calling for freezing rain about that time tomorrow...maybe not tomorrow's run!

Anyhow, the report on my actually running on Saturday:  after a 5 minute walk, I jogged for a while (7ish minutes), did some acceleration drills, then turned around and ran a half-mile back from where I'd come from.  Back and forth I went, 5 times; afterwards, jogging and walking to cool down.  Here are the times of my 5 half-miles (a short walk-break of approx 20-30 seconds was included in each one):

Lap Time Speed (min/mile)
1 04:13.2 08:26.4
2 04:19.2 08:38.4
3 04:32.0 09:04.0
4 04:23.5 08:47.0
5 04:34.0 09:08.0

Average 04:24.4 08:48.8

I should be going 10:00.0 min/mile.  And if I remove the time for the walk-break, it tells me I'm running at just about as fast as I am able without puking, 8:08.8 for a mile.  BOOOOO!!!!  Thankfully I did not feel like I was going to puke when I was running these, but the message is clear to me nevertheless.

Despite these issues, it was a really good run.  I like accomplishing a good workout first thing in the morning.  Now, I just need to remember that tomorrow when it's freezing-raining outside!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

how it's going

Whew, it's been a few weeks.  The overview is that the week of February 1 I ran...and then I was forced to take about a week off due to some medical testing.  I'm fine (more or less), and I was frustrated that I couldn't run.  Fortunately, I consoled myself with the fact that my long run on February 2 was quite good.  By "good" I mean...I finished it well, without being exhausted at the end - AND I even managed to not feel like my legs were tired until about mile 9 of the 9.5 mile run.  That's pretty amazing -- I usually start feeling it around mile 6.

That long run ended a bit strangely.  I had planned out my route - making a 4.5 mile loop and then a separate 5 mile loop using a different route.  I was supposed to end up back at my home, but I managed to be about 1.5 miles away!  Due to it being quite cold, me being quite sweaty, and realizing it was not a super idea to walk in that state despite the fact that I was physically able to do so, I called my husband and he kindly picked me up.  I still haven't investigated why my calculation was so off!

The week off was frustrating, but it was probably good.  I hadn't felt the pains in my chest at all until they recurred the day before yesterday.  This morning I did a 45-minute non-challenging run, and I felt great.  Time to get back on track!  And speaking of the track, I'm scheduled to spend some time on the actual TRACK again on Saturday to do some repeats of 800 meters.  Hooray!