Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robot pace, Commitment to a Race, and Squat About-Face

I had a nice week working out, with some consistent miles and distances. In fact, it was sort of weird in that way. Not only were all the distances within 5/100ths of a mile, but the durations were all within a 9 second window, with the overall pace within a 4 second window. Funny, I didn't "feel" like a robot while doing them (and the individual mile splits were not that close), but it sure looks that way on paper. My first mile is typically my slowest mile, as I just ease into the run most of the time. From there, it just seems to pick up as I get in the groove. I usually don't push the pace until the last half mile, and many times I don't even do that.

Another thing that was different about this week (or at least not typical for me) is that all my aerobic workouts were running...no walking, swimming, or cycling this week. There was really no conscious effort to avoid those things, I suppose it just fell out that way. I can say that on the two days I took off from running, I didn't do anything at all, where in weeks past I would cycle on those "off" days. It was only the third week in more than 14 months that I've had a "one discipline" week.

I've also decided to stop using my heart rate monitor for a while...at least for every single run. I had found that I stayed within a fairly narrow range anyway, and it wasn't really adding value to my training. It was just something else to track, so I've set that aside for now. I also don't really use the foot pod for every run either. I found with that as well, that I tend to operate within a fairly narrow range (between 192 and 198 steps per minute) regardless of the effort, hills, or distance, so that wasn't providing any real value to the training either. I'll no doubt use each of them sporadically, but not all the time.

On the commitment front, I finally signed up "officially" for my next marathon, which is scheduled for Sunday, October 14th. I've had the Mother Road Marathon in mind for quite a few months, and was sort of on-again / off-again about it for some reason....probably because it could be a bit intimidating due to the time of year. In that part of the country, it is likely that this will be a warm one, starting in the low to mid 70's and progressing up into the 80's (at least that is what happened last year). That being said though, I've been running in that temperature range all summer, and there is still a couple of months of summer here in Texas before the event, so I should be as acclimated as I'm going to get.

Part of the charm of the event is that it allows one to run in three different states in one marathon. Starting in NE Oklahoma, it winds its way up into Kansas, then heads east out of Kansas and into Missouri, ending in Joplin.

Of course, part of the challenge (other than the normal weather at that time of year) is the elevation profile. It isn't horrendous my any means, but you can see that it is "relatively" flat until about mile 18, and then it is pretty much rolling hills and a net uphill the rest of the way. This area begins about a mile after we turn east towards Missouri. From there, it is about 4.5 miles to the Missouri line, leaving just shy of 4 miles from the Missouri line to the finish line in Joplin. This will be its third year running, so at least some of the "kinks" should have been worked out.

I've only done one long run (20 miles) this summer, back at the beginning of June. It started out about 77 degrees, and ended up about 73 degrees. So my plan is to try to fit in two more prior to the race itself. I'll be doing one of those 20 milers (or at least that is the plan) on either the 11th or the 12th of August. I'd like to say that distance no longer intimidates me, but I'd be lying. It isn't as bad as it once was, but I've only run 20 miles or more 4 times in the last 14 months (since I started running again), so it isn't second nature yet. Wish me luck !

On my personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge, I've completed 44 days as of this writing. It seems that I'm pretty much on auto-pilot with the challenge at this point, with no real desire for a soda. I drink low-calorie Gatorade on my runs (about 10 ounces while getting dressed, and 10 ounces with me), and a mix of water and Crystal Lite the rest of the time (more Crystal Lite than water though). I may actually make this. :-)

In my running this last week:

  • (073012 - 0411)(85 degrees, S@3(G17), H53, clear) Even though the temperature was a bit higher than it has been, the humidity was correspondingly lower so it all felt about the same. After yesterday's day off (except for the weight workout), this felt nice and easy.
  • (073112 - 0409)(80 degrees, S@6(G18), H64, clear) Nice flowing run along a slightly different path, adding a jaunt into a neighborhood I hadn't explored previously. Even though it really wasn't, it felt a bit cooler this morning, at least at first. This run puts me at a new high mileage mark for a month as well ! :-)
  • (080212 - 0403)(82 degrees, S@9(G23), H58, clear) For some reason I just felt energized and good for this run. The overall pace isn't really that different than "normal", but it was just really a pleasant outing. These are the runs that make up for the ho-hum and the OMG-Not-Again / Why-Me runs !
  • (080312 - 0410)(80 degrees, S@9(G20), H66, clear) Just a nice, quiet run this morning. For most of the run I turned off the 1/2 mile time / distance / pace feedback from RunKeeper and just let things be quiet. I turned it back on towards the end to see where my pace had been, then sped up just a bit in the last half mile.
  • (080412 - 0559)(79 degrees, S@10(G23), H70, clear) What a pleasant morning run today. I waited till a lot closer to dawn, so that I got to do my run as the sun came up. Nice seeing the world wake up, and easing into the day with a flowing run.

This is what last week looked like...

Day   Activity   Distance (in miles) Pace
Sunday Rest Day --- ---
Monday Running 8.20 8:54
Tuesday Running 8.21 8:53
Wednesday Rest Day --- ---
Thursday Running 8.21 8:54
Friday Running 8.21 8:53
Saturday Running 8.26 8:50

 These are my time and distance totals for last week:

Activity   Time Total   Distance Total (in miles)
Running 6:04:55 41.09
-------------- -------------- --------------
Overall Total 6:04:55 41.09

Day   Activity   Sets Reps Recovery Interval Weight
Sunday BB Squats 6 15-15-10-12-15-15 3:00 50-70-100-90-80-70
Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Monday Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Tuesday Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Wednesday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Thursday Pushups 5 10 --- BW
BB Squats 4 15-15-7-6 4:00 60-80-100-60
Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---
Friday Pushups 5 10 --- BW
Leg Extensions 4 10 3:00 50
Saturday Pushups 5 10 --- BW
Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---

I had to switch up some of my leg-centric cross training this week. Sunday's squat session was just fine...in fact, it went better than any previous to it. However, when I did the Thursday session things didn't go so well. The first two sets were fine, but the sixth repetition of the third set I had a significant (but not sharp or crippling) pain just below my right knee. The next repetition felt the same, so I stopped that set and dropped the weight from 100 back to 60. It felt fine for the first 5 repetitions, but the sixth one hurt in a similar manner, so I stopped the workout completely at that point.

I don't really know what was different about what I had been doing, but I decided to actually USE the gym membership I pay for and use their leg extension machine instead for a while. This didn't produce any pain, yet worked the muscle group that I'm trying to hit for cross-training / muscle balance reasons just as well if not better. I'll do this for a while, then go back to the squats and see if it was just a fluke, or if there is something I'm doing incorrectly from a form perspective. Squats (at least for me in the past) have been a challenge in achieving and maintaining proper form, and it just isn't worth getting hurt doing it, especially for the reasons I'm doing it.

I also started the pushup challenge for the month of August, so I've thrown these into the mix. I'm finding that 5 sets of 10 (with no strict timing between sets) is working well for me, and appears to be something I can do nearly every day. We'll see where that leads me, and go from there.

Happy Running Everyone !!!