Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Base Building

When did I become so slow?  I ran well in April at the Hoosier Half and kept right on training.  I know after a hard race effort I should run easy for a few days.  Three days later I did a hilly long run with some marathon pace miles but I never really ran that pace again in the weeks to come.

At the end of April I felt tired, but had a week of free time in Las Vegas visiting Katie’s parents that I wanted to capitalize on.  I ran 20 miles a day in the desert and mountains that week, culminating in a fun 25 miler in Zion National Park up and down the canyon and hitting all the best high points like Observation Point and Angel’s Landing.  It was easy to just keep knocking out 7:30 miles, but it felt much harder than it should have.

Zion Observation Point

Unsurprisingly, I came back dead tired.  I knocked out a 40 mile bike ride at the end of the week with my good friend Ryan and then that was it.  I kept training, but struggled to run under seven minute miles.  My old stone bruise on my left foot 4th metatarsal started to hurt again.  This was no good, I wanted to feel good again and put in steady training for fall races.  After a dismal performance at our team relay at Dances With Dirt Gnawbone (in May) I felt the fatigue was unbearable.

My usual coffee intake was even higher in the morning to get myself energized for lunchtime runs.  Coffee stopped working.  I decided that perhaps my regular and possibly excessive coffee consumption was masking a great fatigue.  So I quit drinking coffee.  I was now running slower than ever.  I struggled to run eight minute miles.

Overreaching, sympathetic overtraining, parasympathetic overtraining, dead legs, whatever you want to call it, I think I had it.   I have a continuous running streak of almost 200 days so I didn’t want to quit.  I resolved to run one mile a day, easy on the grass for two weeks.  I stayed away from caffeine.  I felt terrible for a while, but then I started to feel better.  An easy mile one day on the road turned into a 6:30 mile.  This was even in the morning.

I ended my mile-a-day two week break two weeks ago.  My energy is back.  I started a new training plan.  I am gradually increasing mileage (50 one week, 60 the next, 70 this week) and rebuilding a cardio base.  I have always scoffed at the idea of regularly wearing a heart rate monitor but decided that I have been ignoring a valuable training tool I already have.  Why not use it?

So here I am two weeks later, running every mile with a self imposed limit of 140bpm and keeping my average HR at around 136bpm.  The heart rate training fad I have loved to hate is now my training plan until I stop seeing improvement at these easy heart rates.  My theory at the moment (still not drinking any coffee) is that my caffeine induced ease of running higher heart rates did me in at the expense of fundamental cardiovascular base building.

My first run with a heart rate cap was miserably slow.  I ran a 10 mile out and back on the rail trail at near 9 minutes per mile culminating in a 10 minute last mile.  I battled back and forth with a girl alternating walking and running on the Rail Trail.  I cursed the heart rate monitor.  People I know saw me running slowly on Kirkwood.  Embarrassing!  I ran the same route the next day.  I ran it again the day after that.  The pace started to drop.  Last week I managed a run at 136bpm and two miles at 7:08 and 7:01.  Either I am recovering with all these easy runs or improving cardio fitness quickly.  I don’t think it matters which, I am thrilled to be feeling fresh every day and running a little faster each time out!

I have been convinced that easy flat runs would eventually bore me.  But instead the game of relaxing and trying to run faster and more efficiently at the exact same effort is becoming an enjoyable challenge.  I’m getting a heart rate monitor tan-line.

My friend Ben swears by this training philosophy.  If it works for Bartley maybe it will work for me as well!

So there it is, let the summer of base building commence.  

Hoosier Half Marathon - April 5th, 2014

2014 Hoosier Half

Here it is, a much overdue race report from April.  This was my first half marathon in 5 years.  It was time for me to run one again as last time was during triathlon training and I knew I should easily be able to best my old PR (1:26) on this same course.  It's a hilly course, but I'm used to the terrain as it runs all over my hometown streets and roads here in Bloomington.

I knew this would be a great race to run fast.  The early April temperatures in Bloomington are idea.  This race is also the NIRCA (collegiate club running) championships so lots of fast young guys are typically racing it.  In addition, numerous guys from our Quaff On team were running so I would have plenty of guys looking to run about the same pace as me to go with.

Looking back at my training, I pretty much ran a lot of hilly tempo-ish runs of around 10 miles so probably had been doing more specific half marathon training than I realized. 

Often in small town races I end up with a gap from the very front and off on my own having to push myself with sparse competition.  This wouldn't be the case here.

From the start I went out exactly on goal pace with the other Quaff On guys.  My friend Ted also ran with us so it was great to have a group to push with.  As we ran around the square and down Kirkwood everything felt great.  We all easily clicked through 6:10 miles and made our way through the campus up Fee Lane.  As our pace stayed even climbing up Fee Lane I started to redline a little.  I warned the other guys that the big climb of the Jordan Extension was coming and we all held back a little.  We still split 6:05 for the mile including the Jordan climb so perhaps pacing was a little aggressive here.

After we climbed the extension and hit the downhill mile 5 at around 5:55 pace I was suffering a little more than expected.  Finally, at the 6th mile I let the other guys go and backed off to a 6:20 pace with Ted.  We held on though and kept the group within ten seconds but ran our own pace up and down the rolling hills.

I gradually lost sight of the other Quaff On guys.  In the meantime, Ted and I kept picking off college runners from various school club teams so this was good fun.  At the big "Winslow Hill" I gave it all I had and sprinted up the hill to hopefully make up some time since I was feeling quite good.  I caught more college guys getting beat down by the hills.  I saw the Quaff On guys ahead and started to give chase.  Ted was suffering and I unfortunately lost him at this point.

As we cut through the suburban neighborhoods we reached Indiana Avenue / Henderson and I started to cut into the Quaff On guys lead some more.  I saw Katie at the corner yelling for me to catch the next guys.  I resolved to keep trying.  Over the next few miles I stayed steady at a pace of 6:13 and was ready to make the catch.  Alas at the end of Indiana, when we turned right they still had a few seconds on me and we all started kicking.  Danny and Joe had no idea I was there and I wanted to surprise them with a pass.  I kicked to a 5:30 pace through the finish but could never quite catch them.

Regardless, I don't think I would have broken 1:22 without them there to inspire my strong finish!  It was good to run with a team even when they didn't know it in this case.

1:21:55 / 55th Overall / 5th Age Group

This was a good time for me on a tough course.  My low overall placing is a definite indicator of the high quality and caliber of runners at this event.  In a smaller race this effort could have landed me on the podium, so even at 55th it was a solid finish for me.

That being said, just steady consistent training and running plenty of hills seems to be leaving me with good fitness this spring.  Maybe I will run another half marathon at some point, with some good speed work leading up to it and a faster (flatter) course.  I'm not sure if I can break the elusive 1:20 barrier but I would sure like to try!