Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving/Jackalopes at NXR

Hi, everyone- I hope everyone's Thanksgivings were great! Mine was nice and quiet- just the 4 MacPhersons at home, gorging ourselves. In terms of training, the week proved tough- but it was nice to get home and recharge a little.

The log:

Monday- AM- overslept, then skipped class to watch NCAAs.
PM- 13 easy, 86:33, last 3-4 miles about 6:15 pace, just easing along.

Tuesday- AM- overslept again, went to bed late.
PM- 3 up, 2 sets of (1600, 1200, 800, 400) with a 400 sustained jog between everything (about 7min pace) for a total of 7miles on the track in my ventulus 2s. Had a nice big group to run with- Eric, Peter, and I traded laps. Bruce said keep it around 72-73/lap and feel good, so we did that. Splits:

1600- 4:51
1200- 3:33
800- 2:21
400- 68

(extra 400 jog)

1600- 4:52
1200- 3:31
800- 2:23
400- 62 (~28 last 200, decided to close down the last 150 fairly good- didn't press, stayed smooth)

7 miles total in 37:39 (~5:24/mile) (no stops- just right into each interval). 3 down. Felt great in the spikes- did some mobility drills over hurdles after with Peter and Ken, then caught a ride back to New Hampshire in the evening with my friend Owen.

Wednesday- AM- Squeezed in 3 before an early dentist appt. Stayed out til 2am again- really need to cut that out. PM- 14 easy, cold, rainy, windy, miserable out. Felt terrible because I didn't eat all day, then felt like an idiot for not eating all day.

Thursday- Thanksgiving- 12 easy before dinner, felt absolutely awful with allergies/cold. Getting 5-6 hours of sleep about 5 days in a row was idiotic, as was not eating any real food for two days. Also, I'm allergic to the family cats and it takes me about a week to get adjusted to them again. These short trips home are killers to training. Cut the planned 14 and hill sprints short to eat.

Friday- AM- Travel to Wappinger's Falls, NY, for the Nike Regional Meet. My Pinkerton boys ran for the Flying Jackalope track club, so my high school coach, Kevin McGrath, and I chaperoned them. I've gotta say, those Nike guys do a first-class job with stuff- Anna Willard and the author of A Memorable Run spoke at the dinner and they were both fascinating speakers. Plus, it's always a good time to hang out with Kev. Anyway, did a workout at the course- 3 up, then 3min, 5min, 10min, 5min, 3min @ tempo effort with 4min jog rest in between, then a few minutes down. Let me tell you, that Bowdoin Park is not an easy cross country course! Twisted my foot on one of the trail's and it hurt pretty bad.
PM- 4 miles easy from the hotel at night, ran around the lit parking lots doing about 10x10-30sec surges for variety. Left foot KILLED.

Saturday- AM- 3 easy at Nike Regionals, foot hurt too bad to run so I stopped and figured I'd just let it rest. The boys didn't do quite as well as they would have liked- 12th place when their regional ranking was 10th. It was a long season, though, and their coach wasn't necessarily into preserving their conditioning for post-season meets.

Sunday- Off, foot felt a little better, but why rush things?

Tot- 73 (70 miles in the first 5 days). Not an awful training week, but not ideal, of course. I think I'll be back to normal by tomorrow, and if all goes according to plan, I'd like to average about 15-16 miles a day for the next 60 days or so. We'll see, though- if I get in solid quality and am racing well, the volume is of secondary importance. Overall, except for the stupid foot twist, I'm pretty happy with the way my fitness is progressing. I'm sure there was something else I wanted to say, but I forget what it was. Anyway, hope everyone had a nice holiday and is ready to attack the end of the year with renewed vigor.

Have a nice week!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Back on the Track!!

Well, the big news this week is that I had my heart MRI'd (is that a word? it is now) and it was found to have no congenital defects, major structural abnormalities, or permanent damage. This means (cue the fireworks, marching band, and appropriately decorated cake) that I am allowed to run again! I still have to go through the formality of going to the cardiologist's office and getting officially cleared, but the MRI technician assured me that if there was anything worrisome, he wasn't allowed to let me leave the hospital. The whole process actually wasn't too awful- they piped in some Beatles music and I feel asleep for a fair bit of it. Keeping your eyes closed in the MRI machine keeps the claustrophobia away and it can be quite relaxing. The "worst part" was the slight bruising my arm endured as a result of the contrast injection. Not bad at all!


Monday- AM- River Loop solo, 30:37, felt good. PM- 13 easy, first 53 min with James, Mike B, and Balint, then turned around on Comm Ave when we saw Ellie and ran for about a half hour with her. My strides afterward went pretty good for a 17 mile day, ha.

Tuesday- ~4miles to Heartbreak Hill, 6xHydrant to Hydrant with jog down at a fairly good intensity (untimed) then ~5mi back to BU, changed into spikes, 4x200 easy with 200 jog (31, 30, 30, 29), hurdle mobility with Rob and Billy, short c/d jog. Felt pretty good out there, but it'll be nice to rejoin the group. I also learned something I already knew- I have TERRIBLE hip flexibility. Rob was shooting over those babies like he was born to do it, and Billy has the approximately build of the Jolly Green Giant. In comparison, I could barely do hurdle walkovers. I have a looong way to go if I want to steeple in the spring.

Wednesday- AM- River Loop solo, 30:32, felt pretty good again. PM- Fresh Pond 12, felt unnecessarily good and did the ~5mi section around Fresh Pond at a little steadier an effort (just under 31min), 79min tot.

Thursday- AM- off for MRI appt. PM- Decided to celebrate my freedom by jumping into Elliot's workout with him! 3 up, 8x800 avg 2:19 with 400 jog, felt great, didn't bother spiking up. 2 miles down. It was awesome to work out with a teammate!

Friday- AM- River Loop with Eric- 28:30, got downpoured on.
PM- River West 9 in 59:38 with a big group + the famous Kevin Gilmore, felt good but held back from running steady or doing a progression run. Too hungry to add on and do 12. :(

Saturday- 2pm- Res to Res via Beacon + a lap around JP, ~12mi- run was 86 min. Left quad really sore- woke up in the middle of the night with an awful charlie horse.
7pm- 4 miles easy with Colin, Billy, Dave K, and James indoors, 30min + light strength after. Left quad pretty bad.

Sunday- AM- 5 miles slow/easy by myself. Bruce had originally planned for me to do a 5-6mi steady section during my run today, but my left quad is still sore and tight. I think it feels a little better than last night, so hopefully a very light day will leave me ready to go for the workout on Tuesday. I have a loooong way to go til my first race, which means I have enough time to get scary fit!

Tot- 92mi in 11 runs, one day basically off.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Secret Miles

Hi, everyone. Veteran's Day this week proved the perfect break from school and allowed me to get a jump start on getting back into shape. I'm almost up to my preferred level of volume and intensity. As I already mentioned, the Jackalopes are official now. Helping out at Regionals and cleaning up today took more time than I would have thought, so I don't have the Jackalope information up yet. It's coming, though!

This Thursday I have the MRI of my heart. I'm a little apprehensive about the procedure, but if I get cleared, at least I can stop the secret miles sham of the last few weeks. Anyway, here's the log:

Monday- River Loop, 32:20- hit the mile in 8:26! Ha, I felt good so I don't care. PM- Fresh Pond 9+ in 63:42, strides after in my spikes including a relaxed 200 in 28.2. Core/strength circuit after. I gained weight on that layoff! Got like 6 lbs to lose.

Tuesday- 12PM- 3 miles up to the BC Res, 10k tempo: (8:42, 17:28 (8:46), 26:08 (8:40), 34:44 (8:36). Felt good, didn't feel the need to press. Breathing was fine but my quads/ass were rocked from the strength circuit yesterday. ~3 down. 7PM- Slow 30min shakeout with James indoors, felt good but tired.

Wednesday- Big River Loop with Eric, 68min, felt a little sluggish but not dreadful.

Thursday- 13 miles easy, 90min, first 38 min with Eric, then 5x15 second hill sprints afterward. Felt much better than last Sunday's 12 miler.

Friday- 3 miles up to the Brookline Res, then 2x3laps+ a little to make it 2x3mi instead of 4500. Averaged about 4:58/lap (just under 5:20/mile) and ran for 16min each. Took a 3:30 rest jog after each- covered about 7mi in 38:50. Very good workout- it was real windy at the Res and it got dark out near the end of the second 3mile. 3miles down, almost got hit twice.

Saturday- AM- 45min slow indoors before Regionals- I knew I was going to be out in the cold/rain all day, so I wussed out and ran indoors. PM- 45 minutes slow indoors with Billy after Regionals. Cold, miserable, muddy day. Did a bunch of strides in my spikes afterward.

Sunday- 14 easy, 1:37.43, first half with Ken. Felt tired, hungry, and thirsty the whole way. Body still isn't used to being on its feet for more than an hour or so. The same thing happened to me at the beginning of the summer, I'll come around.

Tot- 91- not a bad week for bootleg training.

There was other stuff I wanted to say. . . if I remember it, I'll do a new entry. Hope everyone had a good week!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Welcome the Jackalopes!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

(ok, ok. . . Fellow Track Nerds,)

Today was a momentous occasion. At approximately 12:00pm, local time, the Flying Jackalope Track Club became an official USATF-recognized Competitive Club! We are registered with the USATF New England Association, but the Club remains open to all who can agree to the Jackalope Tenets. I would like to transition this blog to a forum for the Jackalopes as well as my own personal thoughts, and part of that would be a roster, some news about current members, etc.

If you'd like to be included in our membership, please email me (see the previous post on Jackalopes for the "qualifications") and I'll get you up on the roster! I hope to have the new content ready by Sunday night, when I post the week's entry. I'm excited to have made things official!

Happy Running, Everyone!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Warning: This is a Bitch Session

Hello, all. Last week, I took a break from whining about my own medical issues in order to rant about jerks. I wish I could tell you that everything is sunshine dust and rose petals now, but unfortunately, there are unresolved medical issues still. The issues stem from the EKG the cardiologist took before my stress test. While I got through the stress test with flying colors, (maintaining a heart rate of 195 beats per minute for 4-5 minutes and still carrying on a conversation) the cardiologist decided that while my EKG's variables are all within the normal ranges, he wants me to get a goddamned MRI of my heart. He signed me up and billed my insurance without getting my consent for the procedure and then told me I was at risk to just keel over and die during a run when I asked him if athletic hearts could give abnormal EKGs (which I knew could happen, since that's exactly what my old cardiologist back home told me the last time I was tested). Well, this esteemed graduate of Harvard Med (which I knew because every surface in his office is emblazoned with the Harvard crest) frowned when I asked that and said "look, I'm on your side here- your coach needs to back off." As if the only reason I could possibly want an unnecessary, expensive, and time-consuming procedure was because Bruce was snarling at me to run in one of the mini-meets! All in all, it's been an extremely frustrating process dealing with this office. Once I accepted that the doctor was going to hold the clearance letter over my head until I get the damn MRI, I asked him about the procedure and was relieved to hear that it would take about a half-hour, tops, and then as long as they didn't find a giant hole in my heart, I would be fine.
Welllllll that's not exactly how the process works. The hospital where the procedure would be done called me to go over the procedure- it's an all day thing. First, they inject you with this radioactive dye to make the heart show up better on the display. Now, I know some friends who have had this dye injected in for bone scans, so while I'm not thrilled, that's not a huge deal. The huge deal is that I spend TWO HOURS in the MRI machine. Not 20min, as Dr. Rice estimated. Not a "half hour, tops" as he threw out. TWO HOURS in one of those stupid metal coffins. I was told "oh, it's not that bad- they let you listen to music." Oh, I can listen to music? Well, never mind. In fact, I often lock myself in a wooden box, throw on my ipod, and lie there motionless for hours!
I realize that this sounds like I'm bitching about a procedure that very well may save my life. Well, I'm not. The recommendation for this procedure came on the basis of an EKG that is a little abnormal for the average person. It was not compared to EKGs taken of other athletes doing approximately 2 hours of reasonably challenging aerobic exercise a day. I would imagine that if I was a nonactive 50 year old, my EKG would be troubling. Then again, if I was a nonactive 50 year old, my resting pulse of 48 and the amount of ice cream I eat in a wek would probably be troubling too. Doesn't mean I have a hole in my heart!
What does all this mean about my running? Well, nothing much, actually. I am not cleared to compete. Dr. Rice, the cardiologist, doesn't even want me to get my heart rate up for any reason because he's concerned I'll up and die on him. However, I know that he has to cover his butt. I also know that my abnormal EKG is 99.9% likely to be because of my activity level and not any secret defect the stress test and sonargram they did of my heart. Thus, I have a delicate line to toe: I'm going to push ahead and train full time and try to avoid getting any of the very supportive and understanding coaching staff here at BU in trouble, because they have been great about this whole situation (especially Bruce, who has had to deal with me raging in his office too many times) and have exerted no pressured on me whatsoever to do anything but make sure it's safe for me to train. I'll confess: the week of my negativity rant, I ran 32 miles, including a very easy fartlek. All, of course, unauathorized and on my own. This past week, I hit 61 miles, including a secret, late-night 3xmile session averaging 5:00 or so (total workout, with rest included, was 4mi in 21:24, so not a bad aerobic effort) and a solo 12-miler this morning before work. I feel reasonably back into the swing of things now- the last two weeks, unfortunately, where full of midterms and papers and other stressfull school related things, but with this week's Veteran's Day breaking the week in two, I plan to start doubling and expect to hit about 90 next week.
Bruce has said that once I am cleared and allowed to train again, he'll wait to race me until either the Terrier meet at the end of Janurary or possibly the week before that. Thus, I have basically a huge block of time to cash in on my cross country fitness and get scary, scary fit for late indoor/outdoor track. Now I just need to get this stupid MRI out of the way so I can stop the sneaky sham!

Healthy hearts to all!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

I want to take a moment from my own irritations with my cardiologist to write for a moment about the title of this week's blog and the role it has in running. For whatever reason, our sport seems to be rife with pessimists. Rather than support our elite athletes, so many so-called "fans" of running love to trash on our elite runners and predict doom and gloom no matter what an athlete has run. What's worse is that these arm-chair coaches seem to be more than a very vocal minority (though, of course, it's likely the amount of hatred stirred up on a place like letsrun is a few people using many different handles).
Take, for example, Meb's stunning upset victory in New York this morning. In the pre-race coverage, all I heard about Meb was how he was too old, washed up, and a drain on the fragile economy since he wasn't doing anything "of value to society." It's an attitude I've never understood. Likewise, most of the predictions I saw regarding Jorge Torres' debut suggested that not only would Torres fail to debut under 2:18, it was unlikely that he even had the capability to run under 2:12! Jorge was the first guy-ever- to qualify for the Footlocker Championships all four years of high school. At Colorado he was a National Champ in cross country. Since college, he's run 13:20 and 27:42. His coach, Steve Jones, is the former world record holder in the marathon and has recently resurrected the career of Jason Hartmann. Who on Earth could believe that a runner with the talent, resources, and mental toughness Torres has displayed since he was 15 years old wasn't capable of breaking 2:15! For that matter, since when did failing to hit a goal become so shameful that as runners, we set these tiny little wimp goals and mercilessly trash on people who try to do great things?
Ron Clarke once said something to the effect that it was important for young athletes to try to do something completely over their heads and not feel like they've done something unforgivable if they failed or lost. The greater shame, Clarke insisted, was that an athlete become so afraid to lose that he not even bother trying. And yet, how often does Clarke get trashed for "never winning when it mattered?" We've all seen the quote from Teddy Roosevelt about those who dare to fail greatly. Why is it that, as runners, we have such a hard time taking that to heart? The sub-culture among runners is a culture of shame and absolutism.
You see it all the time in race previews- "well, so-and-so should win, and so-and-so has no chance because he's only done x lately, and we're not even sure why so-and-so is even bothering, because he hasn't run well in a year," and so on and so on. As it was once explained to me, a good runner is like an old-timey steam locomotive: if you know what to look and listen for, you can see one coming from a long way off. Yet great performances get labeled an "upset" because, hey, the guy wasn't supposed to win. The odds said this, the results from past courses said this, the other competitors were too this. But the reason we run the races is because competition is not a math test. You can't factor in which athletes will have a career day, or what guys will react to the cheering crowd or, honestly, who is just going to get damn lucky. All 17 guys in the lead pack at the halfway mark of New York today had a chance to win. If you run the 2nd half of that race ten times, there would be ten completely different outcomes. Does that cheapen Meb's victory? Of course not. Yet, if we reduce Meb's situation to the kind of message board pleas we're all familiar with, how likely is it that he would have gotten any kind of encouragement whatsoever? Here's what it might look like:
"Hi guys, I was wondering if anyone could help me. About two years ago, I fractured my hip during a marathon. I couldn't walk the next day and I had to take off 14 months from running. I've been slowly getting back into it and over the last year I've gotten my mileage back up to where it was before the injury. I've been feeling great in workouts but I'm a little worried about running a marathon again-- do you guys think I could break my old PR, set a year before I broke my hip? I'm in my early 30s and haven't PR'd on the track for about five years."
How many positive responses would that post get? Maybe a few, but then someone would feel the need to "be realistic" and let the guy know that he's too old, too broken down, too injury prone. Maybe he did too much mileage and he's permanently damaged, maybe he's just a wimp. Fortunately for American distance fans, our elite runners don't feel the need to consult our nabobs. In fact, I'll say that in my limited experience with talking to world-class athletes, the number one thing that sets them apart from the rest of us is the confidence they have in their abilities. Perhaps the biggest embodiments of this confidence are the handful of Kenyans I've met. If one of them bombed a race, he would smile broadly and say "It is ok, I'll do better next time." If one of them ran well and still lost, he would say "Oh, I must train harder- but it is ok, next time I will win."
In the past, I've been criticized for setting very ambitious goals. The thing is, though, I would rather fail because I dared greatly then be happy to settle for tiny, incremental improvements. I will use my junior year of high school track as an example: as a sophomore, I had ran 4:32 for the 1600. When people asked me my goal, I said "oh, under 4:20, for sure." A few teammates tried to explain to me that taking off ten second chunks from your PR just wasn't realistic, that I should focus on breaking 4:30 first, and so on, and so on. Well, I ran 4:20.22 that outdoor season and, technically, failed. But if I had run to break 4:30 and run 4:27, would I be expected to be praised for my "success?" It's only a very little example- my point, though, is why be realistic? It never occurs to some people that they might fail- because it shouldn't matter. Just for another example, one of my teammates, Eric, knew last winter he could break 4:05 in the mile. How did he know that? He ran a mile the week before in 4:10, going through the 1000m in 2:31 and dying horribly. Did that race tell him that he couldn't handle a fast pace? Did it suggest his kick was poor, or he was mentally weak? Nope- although he could have drawn any of those conclusions from his race. Instead, he decided that with competition to pull him through and going out closer to 2:34, he could run 4:04. 6 days later he ran 4:03, a seven second personal best and his first sub-4:10 mile. Again, I'm not saying that either Eric or I are by any means special in this regard- I just want to emphasize the importance of belief is. As Bruce once told me, "you know, it's not the worst thing in the world to have a terrible race- sometimes, you learn valuable things."
Since I'm sick of writing about my own medical issues, I'll leave it at that for this week. This entry is long enough as it is!