Monday, April 24, 2017

SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME

After last weeks poor performance, I decided to abandon the six-mile course that I love.
After two successful runs on the 10k path, my third try failed to meet the criteria for a good run.
I had to stop and walk four times in the last three miles.

Fail.
Even though I backed off on the amount of leg work in my weight workouts, it was not enough to allow my body to rebuild between long runs.

Apparently.
So I am giving up on the 10k distance.
Reluctantly.

So, this past Saturday, I was present and accounted for for the old, tried and true 3.6 mile hill course.
The weather was cool and pleasant.

As was the case the week before, I did not get a nap on Friday, which put more pressure on me to get a bit more good sleep Friday night.
Which did not happen.

So I woke up at 4 AM.
I forced myself to go back to sleep, and dozed for the next hour or so, until my alarm ever so gently mumbled its quiet announcement.
I was ready to get to the task at hand.
This, in spite of the feeling a bit tired.

I started out gently, hoping all joints and connective tissue were ready for the ball.
Right ankle requested special treatment as it resisted change in angle of Tibia and Fibia with each step.
And left knee attachments were not ready to play with the team for the first hundred yards or so.
It even tried to play dead, with an important nerve trying to shut down the whole party by going numb.

Fortunately, this mis-fire only happened once and was gone.
Had it persisted to its maximum potential, this posting would a good bit more morose.

Everything got sorted out in the first couple of minutes of the trot, and there were no more physical problems the rest of the ho-down.
Except for respiration.
As I climbed the first incline, Level 3 breathing wanted to supplant my more comfortable Level 2 breathing rate.
And midway into mile one, Level 3 breathing took over.

Experience has taught me that if this happens, I am not as strong as I need to be.
It was an unwelcome guest, and he overstayed his welcome.

Even when I got up on the relatively flat plain of Toll Gate Road, the accelerated breathing stayed with me.
The good news is I was not struggling, but I was not comfortable.
Midway through the final mile, I was working hard enough that I entertained the thought of stopping to walk for a minute or two.
All Runner got from Running Central was a silent glare for even allowing the thought to coalesce.
So we ran on.


By the end of the course, Runner was looking forward to stopping.
And as he rounded the last corner, a Ledecky finish seemed unlikely.
But, as has happened so many times before, even when there seemed to be no more Wheaties left in the bucket, a sprint was attempted.
It was feeble and, no doubt, pathetic to watch, but it was attempted.
And so another run is in the log.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

EDUCATIONAL FAILURE

The answer to my question has been answered.

Depending on one's mood, you could summarize this mornings six-mile run as a disaster or just informative.
I call it a Murphy run.
Almost anything that could go wrong - did.

The only thing that did not go wrong was that there were no physical breakdowns.
All tendons, ligaments, muscles, lungs, feet, etc. performed well.
Everything else?
Eh...

Although I got about five hours of sleep prior to the endeavor, apparently, it was not enough.
My Wheaties ran out at the beginning of Mile Three.
Not good.
Not sure I can blame the outcome on lack of rest.
Murphy's Law camped for an extended visit.

I could have turned around at that point and gone back to the car and saved myself a few minutes.
But time was not really a factor.
I just wanted to run (as in, RUN) the whole course without having to walk because of some  physical weakness on my part.
Fail.
I had to walk in Mile Three (as mentioned), Mile Four, Mile Five, and Mile Six.

These walks were each about two minutes in duration.
They were because of a lack of strength, which manifested itself in Level Three breathing early in the party and inability to recover to Level Two breathing even on downhill sections.

This was disappointing because as a result of last weeks difficult - though more successful -  performance, I purposely cut back on my weight workouts this week.
My leg work was reduced by half, and I cut my workouts from four to three.
Apparently, that still took too much of me to share with my running.

It seems that the amount of strength/effort to run six miles is so close to my maximum overall capability that the slightest deviation from my ideal effort margin prior to a run is fatal to my running capacity.
This makes me seem a bit fragile. (but I AM rather old....)
Humph.

In addition to my general weakness today, a biological imperative interjected itself midway into Mile three.  (more Murphy...)
Fortunately, there was a construction site on the course, from which I borrowed a handy portable plastic booth for a minute or two, to correct the situation.
This problem was successfully eliminated, in spite of adding another unplanned stop.


So, today's jaunt has provided answers to two questions:  
1  Can I run the six-mile Cotton Row Race course?
       Yes, sort of, sometimes, under ideal circumstances.
2  Can I run the Cotton Row 10k race, in four weeks or so.
     No.
Thus, next week I will return to my previous 3.6 mile uphill course.

In one sense, my gambit to run the long course was a success three times.
I did it as planned.
But today proved that I just need to dial back my running a bit.
I would rather run a little than not at all.
And it still is a delightful privilege to be able to run at all at my age.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

WEEK 3 - SIX-MILE COURSE

The Saturday morning six-mile jaunt was a qualified success.
The temperature was not ideal - 35 or so degrees, clear, with virtually no wind.
Not my favorite temperature for a run (or anything else, really).
This atmospheric environment required judicious layers to keep the body temperature in an optimal range.
All that remained was a nice, steady rain to throw me into a total snert.

But that did not happen.

The other qualifier on the project was lack of sleep.
I stayed up too late Friday night -until about 11 or so, and I did not get a nap that afternoon - to which I am accustomed (read: spoiled).
So I hit the bed with a deficit of a hour or two (depending on how one wants to score it)
And I woke up at 2:30 AM for no discernible reason.
I tried to go back to sleep, but succeeded only in imitating a rotisserie for an hour or two.
Somewhere around 4 AM I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew, my alarm was ever so gently mumbling that it was time to rise.

Which I did. 

I felt only slightly tired as I walked to the starting line, but I was wary.
This six-mile course has a way of finding your weaknesses and rubbing your face in them.

The first serious little hill shows up at the 2 mile mark.
It was there that I felt my lack of strength.
There were no specific parts complaining, just a general overall feeling of "I really kinda sorta don't want to do this."
This is NOT the sort of thing I want to hear before the half-way point in this race course.
So I fastened my seatbelt for a difficult slog for the rest of the hike.
And it was so.

I walked The Hill, as planned, and forced myself to resume running the last 200 feet or so of it, as I usually do.
But at this point I was wondering if I was going to be able to run the rest of the course (even though it is virtually all down hill from that point).
I had to stop for traffic at California Street for a few seconds, much to my dislike.
The last mile felt like two miles, and that I was dragging a 45 pound barbell plate along the pavement behind me by a rope.  

But I made it.
No unplanned stopping because of my physical failure.

As I walked back to my car, I was pondering how to alter my weight workouts to reduce my leg work.
Perhaps changing the work balance between weights and running would make the Saturday morning picnic a bit easier.


As I have found in my 20+ years of weight lifting and 17 years of running, is that it is easier to fine-tune the weight workouts than it is the running.
Weight workouts can be micro-tuned by changing exercise order, exercises, number of sets, number of reps, and number of workouts per week.
The only thing one can do with running is modify your pace, change the distance, or change the course for more or less elevation.
Over the years I have found and used a three-mile flat course (nearly so), a six-mile flat course, a three point six-mile hilly course, and a six-mile hilly course.

Once you are on a course, you are pretty much stuck with what you have chosen to run.

I love to run.
And I have learned to live with the rules of the game.
At my age, it is a distinct privilege to be able to run ANY distance at any speed.
I am blessed.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Round 2 - The Six-Mile Course

The saying goes, "if you play, you pay".
And it is true.
I feel "weak", sort of tired, stiff, and .... happy.
The happiness is drug-induced from the big shot of endorphins this morning.
All the other stuff is run-induced physical issues.

I did the six mile course again today.
It was cold - 48 degrees or so - so I had to fiddle with layers and whatnot.
I hate cold weather.
But I chose my layers carefully and they proved to be exactly appropriate to the task at hand.
The cold air was calm, so the wind chill was minimal.

As usual for this distance, I was scared and cautious.
I know I am pushing my limits.
I started out slowly, carefully, intent on getting all participants warmed up and happy for the extended journey.
And ten minutes into the party, I was daydreaming and enjoying the familiar scenery.
I felt a bit tired, for reasons I do not know.
And for this reason, my breathing - which is the element I use to pace myself - wanted to go from my comfortable rate of Level 2 to more intense Level 3, on each of the steeper portions of the course in the first three miles.
But it always settled back down.
I did not have to strain to keep my pace.

I walked The Hill at mile three, as planned.
The sky was clear and a million shades of blue as I topped The Hill at 5:50 AM or so, and bopped to the high point of the course a quarter mile away.
Then it was all down hill (well, mostly).

I crossed California Street and did not have to dodge a firetruck as I did last week.
In fact, there was very little traffic today.
This, on top of there being very little traffic at this time of day in downtown Huntsville.
Although I did not feel strong, all participants in the effort seemed reasonably happy to be part of the team.
The connective elements around my left knee, that began whining halfway through mile six last week, seemed to be content with the platter presented to them today.

As I approached the finish line (actually it is a three-inch dash of paint next to the curb with "5k" next to it), I wondered if I would have any Wheaties left to give for a final effort.
Consciously, I thought, "maybe not today".
But then I felt my tired self digging in and going marginally faster.
And for the last 100 yards or so, another Ledecky finish was in progress.
I still do not know where that comes from, but it is in me somewhere.

I was disappointed in myself that I let up my pace one full step before I passed the finish mark.
That was lazy.
And I am sure I could have given one more max step to the cause.
Next week.....

But, it was another wonderful experience.
Another privilege to do at my age.
The proof of the rarity of this event?
I was alone the entire way.
No one else, of any age, was out running on this course, at this time of day.