January Summary

Good month for running. The weather has been unseasonably warm so far this winter. It's 57F as I write this! I can't think of more than two or three rough weather runs I've had since the club nationals race, which is very unusual for NE Ohio. This has been a good month of mainly easy/steady mileage at my aerobic heart rate zone, plus two tempo workouts. On Saturday, I'll actually be jumping in the Chase Your Shadow 5K race in Akron as the temps should be upper 30s and dry. The course is supposed to be hilly in the first mile, downhill in the second, and flat with one small hill in the final mile.


Strong tempo

Had a strong workout at Lakewood Park today. After a three mile warm up, I ran a 3 mile tempo in 18:16 (6:05 pace), staying comfortably at 85-90% of my maximum heart rate reserve for the last 2.5 miles (it took about a half mile to build up to 85% which is pretty standard for this type of session). A week and a half ago I ran 18:36 for this same workout, so this was a significant improvement, especially since my average HR for both workouts was identical. My splits were actually slightly positive today, hitting 6:03, 6:05, and 6:08. That said, the effort in the last half almost felt too easy, but the point of this workout is to stay in the heart rate zone and not go over 90% even if this means slowing down a tad, unlike in a race where you redline, especially in the second half. I could have easily run the last mile ten seconds faster, but that isn't the point. Very happy with where I'm at now as January winds down and getting antsy to race again.


Healthcare PSA

Everything went really well with my colonsocopy yesterday -- no inflammation whatsoever. I never look forward to these (I get them every 4-5 years due to past history with ulcerative colitis), but it's way better than the alternative (if caught early enough, colon cancer can be stopped easily). I'm especially relieved because of the issues I was having last fall. Switching to a near non-gluten diet (I cheat with microbrews now and then) seems to have made a huge difference. Anyway, I'm usually not big with PSA's on this blog, but if you're 40 or over and haven't had a colonoscopy before, get one. I believe it's recommended that you get one every ten years if you have no issues (more often than that if you have family history etc.)  I'll give a plug to the Cleveland Clinic as well. They were lifesavers (literally) when my wife was diagnosed with cancer nearly two years ago and the team that worked with me was equally stellar, way better than Fairview Hospital where I had my last colonoscopy in 2008.


Winter miles

Nothing too eventful since getting back from San Francisco, just putting in some solid 8-9 milers 4-5 days a week at 60-70% of my maximum heart rate reserve. I've come to really love the HRM as a training tool. Sometimes it tells me I can go quicker, other times it forces me to slow down when I feel like dropping the hammer. The latter is good because as we get older you only have so many good efforts per year and it's much better to save that for races. I will continue to do my 3 mile threshold runs every few weeks this winter to get in some turnover before racing season commences. Next weekend is looking like a possibility as warmer than usual weather today and tomorrow with no snow planned for the week should make for some nice clear paths at Lakewood Park. Tuesday I'm getting a colonoscopy so tomorrow I have to fast, which means two days off of running. I used to really freak out about days off but now I see how much difference it's making for me. Younger runners (and some lucky older guys) can get away with pounding the miles day after day, but not me. I'm starting to look forward to racing again because much as I do like running, training does not come close to the adrenaline rush of race day, especially when the stars all align and you run a great race.


Working the threshold

Today I tested my heart rate monitor for the first time on a tempo run. The goal was to get up to 85% of my maximum heart rate reserve (160) as fast as possible and not let myself get over 90% (167) for the remainder of the workout. The weather conditions were decent for January -- about 40F when I started but the winds were pretty strong, pushing 20mph give or take in some spots. Of course that allowed me to get some nice tailwinds in other sections, but made it difficult to get my pace down. The paths were mostly clear but there were still some slick spots with packed snow and ice. That said, I ended up nailing the workout quite well.  I started out a little more aggressively than I normally do in these types of workouts and it took about a mile to get my HR to 85%, splitting 6:12. I maintained pace in the second mile, staying comfortably at 165/167, and splitting 12:24 (another 6:12). I stayed in the same HR in the third mile and the effort actually felt easier -- I had to keep slowing down a notch to stay at 167 or under (the old me would have gunned the last mile). I ended up finishing at 18:36 for 3 miles. Really happy with that. During the warm up I was expecting more like 19:00 based on the conditions. What this tells me is that pre-heart rate training I was probably going over threshold in the final mile of tempos, while also, starting the workouts  too slowly. Today the first mile felt quick, the second just about right, and the third slow, yet the splits were exactly the same: 6:12 x 3. I'm guessing I could have run 6:00 pace in better weather at the same HR, but for Jan. 16, I'll definitely take this. My overall average HR was 160 (factoring in the time it took to build up to there), but I'd say for the last 2 miles, I was easily 165, so pretty much exactly what I was hoping for.


Rolling along

I've had two good runs since getting back from SF. 9 miles on Wednesday and 8 more today. Weather has been shockingly warm for January in the Rust Belt -- low 40s both days -- certainly not complaining. Not sure how much longer this can possibly last, but I'll take it. Before I know it, it will be March and I'll be racing again. Right now I'm just trying to knock out a bunch of 8-10 milers in my target 60-70% HR zone with the occasional tempo run. If weather permits I'll try one next week, maybe even on the track just to get a really good gauge of where I'm at right now.


San Francisco

Had a great visit to San Francisco for my wife Bella's art opening. Our hosts Kathleen and George were awesome and the weather couldn't have been better for trips to wine country, Half Moon Bay, and general exploring in the city. The running here is incredible. My favorite spot was Crystal Springs near San Mateo (see photo above as I head out for a run). The park has 6 miles of paved trails going over rolling hills with some amazing scenery. Every half-mile is clearly marked too, which is perfect for intervals/tempo workouts. I also did some running in Golden Gate Park, which was a 5 minute jog from the motel we stayed at while in the city for the opening. It's San Francisco's equivalent of Central Park, but 20% bigger. I could definitely get used to living in the Bay Area. Fitness wise, I'm feeling good. The two 9 milers I did at Crystal Springs were in the 7:10-7:20 range while keeping my heart rate easily in the 60-70% of heart rate reserve target range. I'm hoping I can catch a break here with the weather and get in a good 3 mile tempo to see where I'm at for a 90% HR test.


New Year's V02 Max Blast

Ran a really tough 5K course yesterday at the Stow Great New Year's Race. The course was a very hilly out and back on country roads with 4 or 5 legit climbs. The last hill at 2.5 miles give or take was brutal. Pretty happy with the way I ran considering I haven't done anything fast since Seattle. With this in mind I decided to be conservative in the early stages. After a controlled 5:49 opening mile I maintained my effort and hit 11:37 for 2 miles. Even though I was running the same pace, I felt like I was picking it up because so many people who went out too hard. The third mile was pretty tough with the aforementioned hill but I managed to hit 17:30 at that marker so not too much slow down. The finish, however, was further away than it should have been if the 3 mile mark was accurate as I hit the line in 18:19. Normally I do the last .1 a good 16-17 seconds faster than I did yesterday. In any case, a good effort. I was 20th overall and 1st in 45-49 by default as the winner of my age group was the overall masters winner clocking an impressive 17:39.

I wore my heart rate monitor in the race and actually got up to 178 so 5 bpm higher than I did on those hill repeats. This leads me to believe my max might be low 180s. The 208- .5 x age formula has me at 182, which might be pretty close. My overall average for the race was 166 but that takes into account the fact that I built up from the start. I didn't hit 160 until about 5 minutes into the race but once I got a bit past the mile mark, I got into the red zone pretty fast staying above 170 for the whole second half of the race.


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