Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's flats time

The stomach virus is in check so today was my first attempt at a track workout. No pictures so I dug out this oldie from Iten, Kenya because it has some communality with the track I ran on today.

Fajardo, Puerto Rico's track is much more modern than Iten's. It's blue and soft. It's actually too soft and melts to your shoes in the heat which provides funky blue soles. But like Iten, the track is surrounded by animals. Cows that is. And certainly lots of iguanas (very big ones).

Hot it wasn't though when I started the workout just before sunrise. You have to be up early in the tropics to merely complete a workout. Once the sun is up - boom! Forget it. But before that, we had a cooler than usual 70F and 90% humidity. It almost felt oddly cold.

Have you ever done a track workout after laying off for several months? If so, are you 40 or older? Yes, it's not pretty. Wobble, wobble. Thankfully I forgot my watch so there was no chance I could see the misery in numbers.

As far as track workouts go, I like it simple: bang out some 400s with 200 jog in between. Deek and I think alike here. The goal was to get at least five done (yeah, I know but you have to start somewhere) and more than eight seemed unrealistic.

After four reps, my injured leg (the left one because I'm right handed) started tightening up. After number six it was clear that I better step off.

So that's what we're at: a whopping 6x400 track workout.

I have to start somewhere.

It will get better.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lots of good news (sort of)

I woke up this morning feeling like a 24-ton truck has casually rolled over me - and then doubled back for good measurement. 

A few moments later my stomach told me where the issue was: I must have caught a virus. My son Max was suffering from something last week so it’s probably just that. If you have kids in daycare, you know how it is. If not: it’s true what people say. There is no escape. I’ve been sick with one thing or the other for months now. It’s quite pathetic, actually. Let's see if he's going to push me around in a stroller at dawn tomorrow. 

Well, the good news is that I’m just completely flat and don’t feel like eating. For now this means that we can refrain from emergency slaughtering. I’ll take it like a man: whining a lot. Seriously though, I can handle the pain and suffering from all non-life threatening sicknesses unlike apparently many men. I can not handle, however, not training. Like you probably. The result for people around us is ultimately the same so don’t be too proud. 

Also good news is that I now know why I felt so absolutely horrible during my run last night (see pic above of my wife. Yes, amidst feeling absolutely flat it was still so awesome). I really thought I’m just that out of shape. Now I hear you say that I should have more experience than judging my fitness by one run. Of course you’re right. But: the previous runs after my 3 weeks off were all but glorious (not surprisingly I guess). So the very first race I had planned to do, an “XTerra 10k” (fancy word for offroad),  is not going to happen for me. With the injury, chances were slim already but now there’s no way I’m racing this Sunday.

But there are more good news: three days ago I survived a 10 mile run in 85F on concrete without pain. That means I can most likely participate at the San Blas Half Marathon on February 8. I expressively say “participate” and not “race” because I would be fooling myself. This is going to be about getting round in one piece. Could take as long as 1:3Xh on a very hill and hot course (4.30pm start in likely 85F).

All this is of course far from what I imagined it to be a month ago. My start into the new season was a small disaster. Maybe this virus at least works a little on my biopren. 

Today I signed up for the race fka Coogan's 5k on March 1st because the NYRR threatened me that it is almost sold out. Probably just another $31 down the drain courtesy of some mishap. But I take my chances for races I really like. If I can run, this is going to be a well needed effort before the NYC Half.

Lastly: how do you know you are in Puerto Rico? Your kid is coming home from day care with garlic breath.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Where to run?

I’m running again. Yes, running, not just jogging. I still start out jogging very slowly but I managed a 50 min. progression run yesterday. On a soft track in Lunar Racers, mind you.

This morning I did my first road run and felt no pain from the injury. What I did feel is fat and out of shape. Oh my. Lots of Biopren (don't google it, it's wrong) to get rid of. I’m notoriously bad at losing weight. I’m eating fairly healthy but likely too much, especially at night. Now, mind you, don’t picture a fat blob and most “normal” people would call me “skinny”. But you are runners so you know what I mean.

Running in Fajardo, Puerto Rico is a good reminder of what a great place Central Park is to run in. Listen up everyone in NYC: Central Park is awesome, even if you run there all the time. Yes, there are better places to run. I’ve run in various places in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, France among others. 

The worst place was likely Panama City Beach, Florida. One main road to run along.

In Cairo, Egypt I felt completely out of place. After three small loops around the hotel at 6am, I bagged it. Could have been just me but I don’t hold me own when stared at.

Italy is a country for cyclists. Tons of small roads to ride on. Most areas, however, lack running trails or dirt roads to (safely, no dogs) run on. So you end up running on roads which surprises drivers who are not use to that. Don’t expect to be given much or any space. I’d put Spain in the same bracket.

Ireland’s biggest - you might argue only - downside is the miserable weather. Always cool, often rainy. But that’s its strength when it comes to running because the temperatures are ideal for running year round.

Nothing has ever come close to running in Germany and Switzerland. The reason: no matter where you run, you will always find a dirt road or agriculture traffic only road to run on. And not just one, a net of hundreds of them. Running there is so good, I only started to understand when I started traveling as a runner in my early 20s.

So, Fajardo? The roads are “American style” which means they are made for cars. Not fun to run with traffic. And it’s dangerous. Sideways are scarce because walking is not high on anyone’s agenda (why walk if you can drive?). Two days ago we drove to a restaurant half a mile away because it’s too dangerous to walk along the road with a stroller.

Thankfully there is a beautiful track. And it’s used plenty by the locals. Each morning you get about 100 people. 95% of them walk on the track. Reminds me of Riverbank track in Harlem.

But then again, it’s 24C at sunrise so how bad can it be?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fucking Marathon Pace (FMP)

Most runners are geeks and talk about training "zones", "threshold" runs, interval "sets" and so forth.

But really, if you want to run a good marathon you mainly should train at Fucking Marathon Pace (FMP). I wish this term was my creation but it isn't. Duncan Larkin, author of "Run Simple" used it a few years ago in his "Magna Carta to break 2:30 - The Summer of the Caveman" (well worth a read).

The idea is simple: if you plan to run 42.2k at a certain pace, you better be used to that. For me, FMP workouts start with 2x5k or something like that and I aim to run 25k straight at FMP two weeks before the race.

Why "Fucking"? Do the 25k FMP and report back to me.

Update on Markus: he says he'll be here once I run a sub36 10k. Makes me want to go to the track right now and just hammer out a 33 high - or not run a 10k at all. Still undecided.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jogging on the track

See, I knew you would understand that it is so hard for me not to run. I mean, look at this track!

Look I did and now I also jogged on it. Twice for 30 mins. spread apart by a day on the bike in between. I think I might be good to run for real soon.

But look at that track! The colors! The palm trees!

[location: Fajardo/Puerto Rico]

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Let's get to the here and now: I'm injured. How does that sound for a start of a new blog? I guess it can only get better (unless I get an even worse injury that is).

September to December was filled with easy miles. I was just trying to get a resemblance of run fitness back. I did a handful of progression runs but that's about it for any faster pace. My goal marathon pace (6 - 0something min/mile) feels like an all out 5k. Good times.

At the end of December, we flew to Germany and back. The general recommendation to fight jet lag and tiredness is to go for a jog immediately upon arrival. My approach is different: do nothing. When flying, my legs tighten up, I'm dehydrated and bloated like a balloon. Jogging feels plain awful so I don't.

The day after the return flight, I went for a run with the usual guys on Saturdays. I was stiff so it took me a long time to get going. Unfortunately, I bumped into the group already after 15 minutes, just when I hit BPN (Bridle Path including the North loop in Central Park). Two of the guys were nearing the end of their run so they ran a little too quick: me right hamstring and calf tightened up ever so slightly. 15 minutes later I had to call it a day and walked home.

It's been 8 days since and I once tried running but the tightness returned after only 15 minutes. Instead of laying off completely, I lift some weights and do core exercises almost every day. Plus, I go riding which doesn't really help the healing but I don't feel any pain when I ride so I do it. I'd rather lay off running a few more days because of that than doing nothing at all.

For good measurement I also picked up a cold now. Looks like I will have to continue easing into that running thing. Clearly that's not how I envisioned it but is it ever? I tend to be impatient and ungrateful when it comes to my running so I better use this as yet another lesson to lighten up a little.

It's just running. (Ah, dammit!)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Race lots

Racing lots is a no-brainer for competitive cyclists because it is the only way to get truly fit. Yes, some of the modern pros prefer solitary training stints and sessions behind a moto to simulate racing speeds. But the lack of in-competition testing might be the true motivator.

In running, things are bit more complicated because it's a weight bearing sport which means that each race takes a bigger toll on the body mechanics.

At 20 years old, I decided to try an Ironman. Coming from a cycling background, I jump started my running by racing each weekend. In one month, four weeks after having started running (EVER), I ran a road marathon, a 45k ultra, a 25k race and a half marathon. You can imagine the outcome of that "stunt".

Hence, when I say "race lots" I'm thinking of shorter distances, mostly anything up to 10k. I keep the number of 10 milers and half marathons low. Races provide a training stimulus that is hard to train. It's easier to push boundaries in a race than on a track in a solo workout. Plus, forced pace changes give you that little bit of an extra challenge that can't be simulated.

As for me, I really hope to get a grip on my racing this year. I just know that I won't be nearly as fast in my A race if I don't do tons of "C" races. I say "hope" because my schedule this year is very, very different from what it was only five years ago. I'll be all over the place. But I look at it as a great opportunity to jump into local races around the world.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Run long

The long run is the no brainer among marathoners. It's never a question of if but always of how.

Keep in mind that miles and kilometers are arbitrary numbers for your body. They do, however, dictate your brain which rules your body. Make sure the conscious part of your brain is not cluttered with arbitrary items.

Most training programs advise against long runs that are longer than 35k/22miles. They warn of overtraining and say that it's not necessary. If you do want to run your best, you may want to look beyond standard approaches and take some calculated risks.

I'm a big proponent of the over distance long run. Whenever I was in my best shape, I ran up to 50k in training. Granted, running beyond marathon distance was a rarity but I sure wish I would have done more of it. I often use a marathon as a catered training run. Depending on your fitness, this should take you 15 to 45 min. longer than goal race time. I've had the best results when pacing a friend to a certain time goal. It's important to keep your ego in check when doing marathons as training runs. They can easily ruin your key race if you go too hard.

The long run is a staple for my training year round. I try to get in 1:45h-2h once a week. I never run by distance, always by time. And unless I am in marathon specific training, I run easy which means 2:30-1:30min/mile slower than goal race pace.

With NYC Marathon this coming fall in mind, I aim to set up my training like this:

Winter/Spring: very traditional run training to regain a certain fitness level after long time off running
Summer: focus on short races (max. 10k) and short hard session. Mix in very long long runs. Cut out the medium long, tempo style runs.
Late Summer/Fall: focus on FMP

FMP? More on that later.