The Zero-Thought Weekly Workout Schedule

Between my standard post-marathon daze and caring for a new baby that doesn’t adequately understand training needs, the month of October and early November floated

Imageby uninspired. I got my mileage in, worked in mini long-runs and a few intervals, but for the most part, I could feel my leg speed slowly trickling away.

And that’s absolutely OK. All athletes need to recharge. While I tend to keep my mileage relatively steady throughout the year, I will eliminate hard workouts for a few weeks following big fall and winter races. More than anything, it’s a necessary mental break.

But once a race is on the calendar, it’s tune-up time, and I think I’ve found the perfect workout schedule.

Transition Workouts

As of yesterday, my dad and I are officially signed up for the 5 mile Festival Foods Turkey Trot in Fond du Lac. We ran the Green Bay Continue reading

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5 Lessons Learning from the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

I’d like to think I learn something from every race I run. The big ones in particular. When you’ve spent three plus months with your eyes on a specific goal, it’s nice to feel like you have a few takeaways.

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I ran the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon about a month ago – my fifth marathon if you count the Glacial Trail 50k – and maybe more than any race that I’ve run or training cycle that I’ve gone through, I walked away with a few long-held running beliefs tested.

En route to hitting a long sought-after PR and goal of sub 2:40 (I ran a 2:38:57 for 9th place), here are a few lessons learned:

  1. Mileage Isn’t Everything: If you read LetsRun.com, you’re led to believe that running under 70 miles a week during marathon training is pure “hobby jogger” stuff, definitely not enough distance to post serious times. I followed this logic for several years, churning out 100-mile weeks and averaging 80-85 miles a week during the 12+ weeks of marathon training. Sometimes it worked, other times I was fried, miserable and over trained. This cycle, I just didn’t have that sort of time. I averaged about 68 miles a week, not too far off my standard weekly mileage, and I’ve set PR’s at almost every distance this year. Having a base of big miles no doubt contributed to my current fitness, but I’m more convinced than ever that quality and legs with less wear and tear can trump quantity.
  2. If You Have to Go, Just Go: I have a weak stomach. Always have. That being said, in the many, many races I’ve run, I have yet to make a pit stop. At mile 4 in the Lakefront Marathon, I noticed a problem was brewing. I was running well, churning out 6:00/min miles, but growing GI unease was becoming an issue. It was uncomfortable and all I could think about. Do I sacrifice time and hop into a port a potty? Do I run through it? About mile 13, I chose comfort over time. I ran a fast mile into the rest stop, gave up maybe 30 seconds, and hit the half marathon point like a 100 pound weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My next mile was quick, and I was completely reenergized. The marathon is long enough for you to recoup time you’ve lost. If something is bothering you: an untied shoelace, your stomach, chafing, etc…addressing it early will save you discomfort and time in the end.
  3. Tempo all the Time: What do you need to do well in a marathon? Tempo and marathon paced runs. My training this cycle typically consisted of 2 workouts a week and a long run. I did 10-mile stretches of marathon pace during long runs, 7 mile marathon pace runs at lunch, and long cruise intervals ranging from marathon to half marathon pace. I actually bombed a few mile repeat sessions that I had nailed in previous marathon training cycles, and decided to double down on longer, kinda-sorta fast stuff. And you know? It worked. I doubt I’ll set a 5k PR right now, but my body won’t freak out when confronted with long stretches of mild discomfort.
  4. Don’t Stress The Taper: With my current mileage, I’ve found a two-week taper is plenty. Unless you’re running 100 mile weeks, I think most bodies can recover well by cutting mileage to 70% that first taper week, and 30% the week of the race. However! That doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically feel great the Wednesday before the marathon. My daughter was born five weeks early and VERY unexpectedly the week of the race. My plan for seven days of relaxation and pleasant pasta dinners was replaced with five nights of limited sleep, high levels of stress and general exhaustion. As she slept Wednesday, I snuck away for a quick 5 miles with 3 at marathon pace. It’s a standard pre-marathon confidence builder workout for me. I came back drenched with sweat and pretty certain that I was in for a rude awakening Sunday morning. Luckily, one bad mini-workout – even the week of the race – cannot discredit three months of 20-mile runs and 8-mile tempos. I shook it off, got some decent rest the two nights prior to the race, and focused my energy on what I had already seen my body do: crank out marathon pace runs
  5. Workouts by Yourself are Hard and Boring. Race Sometimes: It’s difficult to muster the energy for a 10 mile marathon pace run by yourself on a hot August day. But we know it’s really what makes us better runners. Most training will probably be you alone on a road, but incorporating a few smart races during your build up can be an amazing fitness and confidence booster. I firmly believe that long (8-13 mile), marathon paced runs are the key to hitting your time goals. These runs are also taxing to do solo. Jumping into an organized half marathon makes actually doing the workout much, much easier. I ran four races to test and bolster my fitness this cycle, the most productive being the Strider Half Marathon, which I ran AT marathon pace, no faster. Getting 13 miles at marathon pace will make you a stronger runner, and it’s a heck of a lot more fun than running by yourself.

This is really the first marathon I’ve run where things went pretty much as I had hoped. I came through the first half in 1:19:11, and ran the second half in 1:19:46. I was in 15th at mile seven, 14th at the half, and wasn’t passed the final 13 miles to finish 9th overall. I finished feeling truly happy, and really, what more can you ask for?

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April Fools Prep

Course Map. Dig the Point to Point.

I take on my second race of the season at tomorrow’s April Fools 5k in Appleton. It’s kind of a great little run for at least five reasons:

  1. It’s at 6 p.m. on a Friday, so I can run it right after work – no ruining my Friday/Saturday night.
  2. It’s a point to point course, which I find great for getting into an effortless groove (as long as the wind is at my back…)
  3. They give you an amazing Brooks long sleeve running shirt in the schwag bag
  4. The post race party features nice prizes for winners and they had women’s roller derby going on next to us in the sports complex
  5. Last but not least, this year, I got in free for winning it last year

I ran my 5k PR in this race last year (16:18), engaging in an excellent dual with a nice guy from Menominee. I was undoubtedly in better shape compared to this year, but based on another week of solid workouts, I’m curious what my body can handle. Some of it will depend on the the wind, competition and my hip, but I’m crossing my fingers for a time in the high 16’s.

Race Week Workouts

Considering nearly every one of my meager workouts for the last few months has been a tempo, this week I tried to kickstart my 5k speed with a few miles of short intervals. I’ve done a few of the workouts from a Running Times article on 5k race-week prep over the years, and the 400 meter intervals seem to offer the right intenstity without the exhaustion that can follow. My basic workout went like this:

  1. 3×400 at 5k pace (5:20/mile) w/ a 100-150 meter jog in between….Jog 200 meters after the last one
  2. 3×400 at 5k pace minus 2-3 seconds per 400 (about 5:05/mile) w/ a 200 meter jog….200 meter jog
  3. 3×400 meters at 5k minus 3-4 seconds per 400 (about 4:59/mile) w/ 200 meter jog in between…2 min. jog after the last one
  4. 4×200 meters with all i had left, with a 200 meter jog in between….Good for 2.5 miles of speed on the day.

The times were better than i expected them to be, and considering i was not hit by a car as i ran circles in a Green Bay subdivision, the afternoon should be considered a success. We’ll see if my legs agree tomorrow.

Other Notable Running News:

  • I ran a controlled, even 9 mile tempo averaging 5:53/mile this Saturday on the roads of Door County as part of a 16 mile long run. I keep on feeling better than i probably should on these tempo runs considering how much harder I seemed to be working last season. One caveat is to this supposed success is that I could be training a bit too far above threshold pace (I should probably be doing more 5-6 mile tempos closer to half marathon pace – 5:38 – 5:45 or so).
  • I invented a new unpleasant hill workout near my work that I’ll try to incorporate from time to time. I blast a 200 meter hill for 10 repeats with a jog down, before transitioning into four longer repeats in this valley featuring two steep 200 meter hills at either end and a .33 mile straightaway. I jog down one of the hills and race the straightaway and hill. Anyway, i did it last week and wanted to puke.
  •  My hip started screaming last Sunday once again on an 11 miler in Door Co. A trip to the PT kind of helped, but i feel like it’s my new normal. All i can do is stretch it and hope it doesn’t flair up at bad times.
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St. Pats Day 17k

Overhead view of Kimberly, WI. Pretty sweet.

In March of 2012, I was running shirtless through the Arboretum in Madison, blasting mile repeats on the snowless UW track and transitioning to my new running home in the Fox Cities. Between a job search that lasted from December through mid-March to a new gig in Neenah that left me desperately trying to evade my smoke-infused $300 a month sad apartment, I was running A LOT.

Fast forward one year. A nagging 10-month hip injury appears to be slowly fading away. My weekly mileage has gone from 80 to the 60’s, but it’s what time permits. My miles are now mostly logged through the hilly, traffic-y subdivisions of Green Bay’s west side. Workouts? Not as consistent as last year, but I’m trying to get them in. Last weekend’s St. Pat’s Day 17k, run in 10 degree temperatures through the streets of Kimberly and the much loathed CE Trail, was my first chance this season to see just where my fitness was (or wasn’t). As my first race in four months, I wasn’t expecting much.

Despite 4 inches of snow falling early Saturday morning, race organizers did an admirable

CE Trail. The highway is on your left. NOT from this weekend

job of clearing the course. Both 5k and 17k runners took off at the gun, and I ran it easy, just hoping to clock marathon-pace splits for a solid workout and to not blow up. A few of the 5k guys surged ahead through the subdivisions.

At the 5k mark, as two runners finished their 3.1 mile race ahead of me, I followed the lead biker and forged ahead to cover the next 12k. Unfortunately, as we broke off from the 5k finish, there was some sort of mix-up and the biker didn’t know where to go. And yes, this has happened like 3 times in the last year or so. Not wanting to stop, and having a vague idea of where the course should go, I just turned, yelled, “I think it’s this way!” and started running toward the CE trail. I realized after, this probably resulted in me cutting the course by a smidgeon (my Garmin read 10.4 and it should have been 10.5), but at the time, I thought it was the right way. Regardless, the race outcome wasn’t affected.

I clicked off almost identical splits over the flat, occasionally windy next 10 miles. The sun was out, the running was easy, and I finished with a great workout for first place. My goal races this spring are the Door County Half Marathon in May and the Oshkosh Half two weeks prior. With a few more long tempos like this, hopefully the season won’t be mediocre as I’d imagined it would be during the cold, injury-addled days of winter.

St. Pat’s Day 17k: (1 mile warmup): 1:01:09 (5:53 avg on my watch for 10.4 miles)…Splits range from 5:50-5:59.

Last Month of Workouts: (Weekly mileage ranged from mid 50’s to 7o+…averaging 63 maybe)

  • 8.5 miles w/ 10 x short (30 sec.) hill repeats in Appleton
  • 16 miles long run w/ 3×2 miles at half marathon pace (5:40ish is fine) – proposed this weekend
  • Race workout 17k at marathon pace (5:53 avg for 10.5)
  • 5-3-2-1 x 3 w/ 3 min. jog Fartlek in Chicago (5 minutes at marathon pace/3 at half pace/2 10k pace/5k pace) Times were a little slow, but it was a good workout.
  • 1 min/2 min Fartlek (1 min fast, 1 min. job, 2 min. fast, 1 min. off, 1 fast, 2 min. fast..etc..) 15 minutes of hard running
  • 8 miles w/ 4 at tempo (avg. about 5:55 on hilly route)
  • 11 miles w/ 12x 1 min. fast/1 min. off
  • Treadmill: 6 mile progressive tempo (start at 6/mile down to 5:25)
  • Treadmill: 56 minutes. 15 min. warmup at 7:04, increase .1 mph per minute for 20 minutes (ends at like 5:25/pace), then go back down .1 mph per minute back to 7:04/pace…kind of tough/weird. Less boring that normal mill running.

 

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Finding the Time

I’ve spent the last five months immersed in the morose certainty of my  inevitable decline as a runner.  And as much as I’d love to complain about the utter lack of adequate running routes in Appleton or near my work in Green Bay, or how I’m nearly hit all the time because pedestrian rights seem to be after thought up here, or how my mileage is down because I just can’t do 5 a.m. runs everyday, or that my hip/knee/achilles/fill intheblank hurt…there really isn’t that much to moan about.

I’m still blessed to able to churn out a daily eight miler at lunch. Despite the brutality of this summer’s heat, I managed to string together a series of confusingly effective workouts that despite limited volume and speed at least maintained some level of my fitness. And although my times have not seen improvement since a high point last spring, i’ve at least found myself in a series of races where I happened to be the one finishing near the top. It’s a position that’s often out of my hands, but nice nonetheless.

So while this is the first time I’ve written in months and while I will complain to no end about Appleton running and bombing workouts and not finding enough time to do the thing that brings me immense joy, tonight I won’t.

I’ll think about a series of summer races in my favorite place to run – Door County – that ended better than they probably should have. I’ll think of a big Milwaukee Brewer half where I posted a time I didn’t know i could still post, and I’ll think about a month of running adventures still to come: A Potowatami State Park 10k in Sturgeon Bay this weekend, a 50k Glacial Trail Race that will test my endurance October 14, the much-loved Fall 50 Relay Race in Door County and the culmination of the season – the Tyranena Half Barrel – one of my favorite races for beer-related reasons.

Here’s to finding time to do the things we love. Cheers.

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Door County Half Thoughts

It’s hard to be disappointed with a race where I finished just seconds off my PR, but Saturday’s 5th annual running of the Door County Half Marathon left me feeling like there was work left unfinished.

I ran 1:14:35 through the hills of the park, twenty seconds faster than last year’s painful performance, good for my third 4th place finish in as many Door County half marathon races.  Unlike last year, I finished feeling strong.  I only entered THE DARK PLACE on one desperately lonely, rolling stretch of Middle Road, for me the course’s equivalent of some beautifully haunting David Lynchian dreamscape that goes on forever, and from which you can never escape. Continue reading

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Another Self-Indulgent Crazylegs 8k Report (2012)

Madison’s Crazylegs 8k attracts a quality collection of some of the state’s better runners.   Running against faster runners not only gives the race the excitement of real competition (a competition I’ll never win but which is fun regardless), it pushes your performance to levels nearly impossible to achieve if running solo.  I came in 20th last year running what felt like a fast 27:19 (slower than my 10k PR pace but whatever), and was fairly certain I could go faster this year.

With 20,000 runners behind us on wet, cold Saturday morning, I launched at the start with a tight pack around the Capitol square, down Wisconsin and over to Langdon.  Despite nearly tripping several times due to congestion and slick roads, the wind was at our backs, the first mile was predominantly downhill, and I could tell the pace was hot.

With the leaders already creating significant separation, I slipped into a small third pack as we split 5:07 for mile one –maybe my fastest mile ever–and charged up the Observatory Drive hill.  It’s a brutal hill, but it gives after it takes, with an extended gradual decline towards the hospital and turnaround point.  Despite a mid-mile split nearing 6 minute pace, I split the mile in 5:25 after gassing the decline.

Despite feeling fairly awful from mile one onward, I dug in and tried to stay connected to the small pack, which was thinning.  I pressed the long, gradual downhill, focused on a kid I beat in a half last year who had me by 25 meters, and ran solo through the turnaround and mile three in 5:24.

The light wind we had at our back the entire race was now a slight headwind as I found myself a few yards back from two runners I’d trailed for the majority of the race.  For the last two years, mile four has easily been the worst of the five.  With a bit of wind in our faces and a smidgen of uphill towards Old University Avenue, I focused on getting the damn thing over with.  I slowly moved past one of the fading two runners, splitting mile four in 5:33.  I was fairly shocked it was that fast in all honesty.  My legs were dead and I felt sick at this point, and I wouldn’t have been surprised at something significantly slower.

With the prospect of the pain nearly over, I started picking it up with a little less than a half mile to go, inching by a very fit masters runner on Breese Terrace.  I turned the corner and took it across the 50 yard-line of Camp Randall for a final mile of 5:24.

Final finish time was 26:55, good for 15th place and 3rd in the age-group.  I actually felt worse this year than last, but cut 25 seconds from my time.  Hopefully this bodes well for this weekend’s Door County Half Marathon.

For a cool down, I ran back to run the final mile with my dad, who’d made a special trip to Madison for his first ever Crazylegs.  V finished shortly after, and we all hovered in the corridors of Camp Randall, drinking our two free beers in 40 degree temperatures, avoiding the inevitable run home in the cold and damp.

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Wisconsin Beer Runner Endorsement: Mug Clubs

How jealous I was every time I walked into a brewpub to see the happy locals drinking from their local mugs and sitting on their local stools.  They were the regulars.  The dedicated bar patrons.  And as a demonstration of their commitment and loyalty, they drank from special glasses that were bigger and cooler than mine and held high above the bar, taunting me as the interloper, Johnny-come-lately that I was.

I had never joined a mug club primarily out of geographic inconvenience.  There just was never a bar close enough for it to make financial sense.  Also, especially for the last several years, I just haven’t spent that much time drinking in bars.  Let alone the same bar over and over.

But with my solo move to Neenah, that’s all changed!  Kind of… Continue reading

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Tales from the Trails: Summer, 2009

Rock Creek Park, Photo courtesy my old roomie at http://www.rockcreekrunner.com

The summer of 2009 damn near broke me.

Having moved to Washington, D.C. in early 2005, I’d become well acquainted, if not even remotely acclimated, to its boiling, humidity-clogged, unbearable summers.  I found no pleasure in June through August during my time there, but prior to 2008, I’d largely avoided the worst of summer’s blazing wrath by blasting air conditioning at home, avoiding excessive (or really any) outdoor exercise, and spending my time firmly entrenched in the cool, dark, smoky havens of DC’s pubs.

That all changed when running began to creep in to my life.  I dipped my toes into the sport throughout 2007 before finally taking an aggressive dive in during 2008.  A half marathon in May of 2008 left me pleasantly surprised and ready to increase my training.  I began to pick up my mileage slightly, averaging 50 to 60 miles a week on six days of running through the summer and fall.

By spring of 2009, I’d run my first marathon—a personally exciting 2:46 at the Washington D.C. National Marathon—and was now running seven days a week averaging 70 miles with two solid workouts.

Which leads us to the brutality of the summer. Continue reading

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Parkinson’s Half Marathon Race Recap

Glacial-Drumlin State Trail

The weekend in racing and life went pretty much exactly as I had hoped.

I ran the first of a three race-series this past Saturday at the Parkinson’s Half Marathon in Cottage Grove, WI.  While the upcoming race schedule is part of a financially questionable, borderline obsessive pattern, I’m looking forward to running these races for one exceedingly simple reason:  I think they’re fun.

I understand that working till midnight Friday, then waking up at 6 a.m. and then running a hard 13 miles may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for me, it’s part of a routine cycle of physical and mental massage that keeps my body tested, adrenaline engaged, and my head at least somewhat less chaotic than it’s otherwise wont to be.  Also, absent any distance running career prior to 2008, I feel like I’m making up for lost time.

This is the first year of the Parkinson’s Half Marathon and 5k, Continue reading

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