Johnny’s Running of the Green is the St. Patrick’s Day road race here in Rochester. There is on-course Guinness and lots of costumes. It’s a laid-back prelude to the standard carousing and shenanigans. It’s also the first big race of the year that attracts more than just the hardcore winter runners.
For the first time, I had serious goals. Well, a goal: to go fast. I wanted to road test my speed training efforts. A month ago, I used the McMillan Running website to calculate the analogous paces for a 5K and 5-mile race that I would need to run to be on pace for a 1:45 half marathon. For a 5 mile race that pace would be 7:31 miles.
As you can see above, I didn’t hit that until the 4th mile, and ended up with a 7:51 overall average. But I’m still taking this as a success because I ran hard and was in control the whole time. I actually said that to myself when my quads started to tighten in the second mile, when I started to hurt in the third mile and when the headwinds hit hard in the last stretch: “I’m in control”. I’ve got three more months of training to go.
Along with the physical training I’ve been reading a bit more about the interaction between the mind and the body. I listened to a couple of interviews with Alex Hutchinson on the Running Rogue podcast and thought, “Well, I love a good homework assignment!”
The book details the efforts of quite a few exercise physiologists and psychologists to determine how the body and mind interact during endurance sports and other dangerous, stupid events. One point that played out for me at Johnny’s is Hutchinson’s discussion of the “final kick”: runners are often capable of a final spurt of speed to cross the finish line. Maybe this isn’t surprising in a 5K, but the same phenomenon plays out in ultramarathons as well, where observers would expect the athletes to be completely spent.
Does this mean runners consciously or unconsciously hold back, or does our mind push us harder at the end of a race, knowing it will be oner sooner. I haven’t finished the book, but I suspect the answer is “…not sure.” But looking at my paces for Johnny’s. the data is pretty stark: I sped up as I ran through the race. Could I have run the whole race at my fastest pace? I don’t know. But it’s interesting to play with our own expectations for ourselves.
Monday run: icy trails
With winter break this week, I had my own little “running camp” and decided to get to 50 miles. During a normal work week I lack the motivation and ability to nap daily that this feat would require, but with school out and my students someone else’s problem for 9 days, this seemed the ideal time.
Monday was icy trails in Mendon Park. I had to pick my feet up and penguin-scamper across a few particularly terrifying sections. However, I stayed upright and on track.
Tuesday was speed training on the University track. We ran fartleks and I was happy I could keep my pace under 8:00 per mile. Also track running feels like running on air. Who knew?
On Wednesday morning I ran slow and easy along the river, letting my legs loosen up. My hear rate did spike when a raccoon and I crossed paths. We were equally surprised, I think.
He gave me this look that clearly said, “What the hell, dude?”
Thursday and Friday were easy run days as well. I think all that kept me moving was the daily naps and a strict schedule of yoga, swimming and Netflix in the afternoons. Saturday was long run day as usual: 15 miles. My motivation was scant but luckily I had a good group to run with. Easygoing 10:16 pace, with a kick at the end, no less.
By Sunday morning I had 45 miles done. I wasn’t too sore…in fact I was eager to get to 50. So I headed up into Mt. Hope Cemetery, which is weird and creepy and a great place to run.
This looks like a place someone was walled in to die.
The cemetery is full of these little glens haphazardly planted with graves from all different time periods.
Happy to be done.
I’ve been listening to more running podcasts for motivation this winter. One of my favorites thus far is Running Rogue, a conversation between two Austin-based running coaches. I’m enjoying it for the motivation, the conversations about what is happening in the running world, and for the hardcore attitude of the hosts. These are guys who use phrases like “command performance” and “be a warrior”. I am not someone who aspires to “be a warrior” that doesn’t involve an xBox.
Or do I? I’ve posted before about my flirtation with with getting faster. The Running Rogue guys spent two podcasts talking about “racing with purpose”: the need for runners to have a goal statement that will sustain them in the later miles of a race. A mantra, essentially, for when the pain seeps in and we just want the run to be done. Usually around the point when a spectator yells “You’re almost there!” and I want to kick them because “almost” is the filthiest word in the English language at that moment.
I want to do a fast half marathon. I want to get into better shape, because I want to prove I am strong and in control. That last part is really where my purpose lives. I suppose that’s a whole other conversation for the therapist’s couch, but that’s my purpose.
So, how will I define a fast half marathon? My PR at that distance is 1:47 and some change, so…faster than that. I’ll set my sights on 1:45.
That said, see my tempo workout from this week above (from Strava). To run a 1:45 half, I’ll need to average 8:00 miles over the whole course. This is a lofty goal for me, but my goal race (Ithaca Gorges Half) isn’t until mid-June and the course is quite kind: mostly downhill and flat. So, that’s going for me.
This workout was encouraging for a number of reasons. I got my best 1 mile and 5K times ever (on Strava) but more importantly I held that tempo pace for 3 miles and didn’t feel exhausted after.
Also, it is still fucking frigid here in western NY. So just getting out there is an accomplishment, in my opinion.
Okaaay…now it’s winter. It’s dark and cold all the time, and getting out to run is questionable. Winter running is all about maintaining some kind of consistency and not freezing to death. The treadmill isn’t an option, I’m not a monster.
One little step I’ve taken is downloading the WTForecast app. It is not suitable for all ages, but it does take the edge off that first morning weather check.
Another motivation-enhancer is the Running Rogue podcast, out of Austin. The hosts are tough, motivating runners who run down recent races, training and other things running-related. I’ve listened to a few episodes and the hosts are engaging and energetic. Most importantly, they. will make you feel quite guilty for ever contemplating staying on the couch.
There’s a few more weeks left in 2017 but I’ve no more races on the calendar, so I’m calling it. From here on in it’s just maintenance until winter training kicks in. So lets have some hot toddies and reflect.
What I’m Proud Of:
I wanted to run different races this year, and I did. I kept a few favorites in the schedule, but the majority of my races this year were new to me. I ran new distances (a 25K and a 15K) and travelled with friends down into the Finger Lakes to run in places a little farther afield. Also, that’s, like, 10 course records for me!
Also, my running streak continues! 55 days and counting.
What I Want to Improve On…
Speed. I want to run a fast half marathon. Five years ago I ran one in 1:48 and I’d like to get a faster time than that. I remember that hurt, so I’ll have to make my peace with suffering. But I will be 40 this year. I’m either gonna get faster or slower, and I’d rather get faster. Going along with this, I need to be a little more selfish in my training. I can’t be hanging back with my buddies. Speed gets me to the beer faster.
Normally I do Saturday morning group runs with a bunch of folks at a local running store, but this week I had to take my significant other to work. So, I ran back along the canal path into Rochester.
The run did not start off well: my phone died and my ankle cramped. But I pushed through these little setbacks…and it was lovely. The canal path was mostly flat so I pushed the pace up…and I felt okay pretty much the whole way.
I’d like to do a fast half marathon next year and this was a good start.
Okay, here it is: I don’t hate hills. Sure, your heart rate rises and and your legs burn, but hill training is speed training in disguise. Running up hills is actually better for your knees (less impact) and at the top it’s totally okay to take a breather.
Also, early morning hills let me look out over the city for views like this one.
Upper Monroe: 2.5 miles from my house.
Running gets you out in the world, lets you see more of where you live. For me, that means the opportunity to check out how our cities are decorated by street artists. I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on this, I just enjoy finding these paintings. They make convenient way posts, distance markers and checkpoints.
Back of the hardware store
Earlier this month I ran what is usually my final trail race of the year. It’s a three day event called the Dirt Cheap Stage Race.A lot of my running friends do this race so it’s a long weekend of racing, lunches and surreptitious beers in the park. A good time is always had by all.
This must be early in the race. I’m smiling.
I enjoyed this race for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the chance to get my new Brooks Pure Grit deeply, deeply muddy. There is no greater joy (besides finishing) on a trail race than plowing through a mucky bog in new shoes.
Provided you don’t fall over. That’s the racing gods saying, “Oh you wanted mud? Well, here you go my friend.”
The joy is compounded if there’s some snobby road runner trying to pick their way around the mud pit in a some bright new road shoes. I suppose this may come across as snobby or judgmental…but it’s a great feeling to flaunt how few fucks you give as you spray trail muck on their new Nikes.
The obligatory shoe shot.
In an earlier post I ran down a few of the running shirts lurking in the bottom drawer. Here’s another one.
Gyakusou is running gear put out by Nike but put together by a Japanese fashion designer who is a runner as well, of course. It’s stylish gear and maddeningly hard to get your hands on – it always seems to be sold out five minutes before I get online, Catch-Me-If-You-Can style.
I have this shirt (and one other, gifts from my wife) and they are comfy to run in, of course. But it’s the design and message that I get a kick out of. I know part of the reason many of us run is the “zone-out”: the mental reprieve that running gives us. Running is meditative: it has gotten me through tough times, and I’m sure it’s done the same for others.
Also this shirt is fuckin’ cool. Look, there’s a wolf on it!