Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fred's Half or How to Run 13.1 Miles without Really Trying

Heading into the Fred Lebow Half Marathon on the 25th, I kept hearing the same thing from the people running it: “I’m not ready.”  I was in the same boat.  I’d worked out three times since the NYC Marathon in November.  Once was the Rocky 10K, then once at White Plains High School and once at the gym.   I prayed for snow but not enough fell at the right time.  If I hadn’t already completed the distance, there’s more than a decent chance that I would have skipped it.  Instead, I went out and ran.  It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be (actually got a pretty good sweat going) and barely cramped while employing a run walk method. 

Initially, I was going run 3 walk 1 but there was a point towards the middle where I moved to walk 1 run 1.  I feel right now like I need to exercise my toughness more than anything because there were times when my body felt like it could go but my brain just didn’t want to.  It wasn’t the slowest half I’ve ever finished either which was surprising.  I felt sore for a day or so before returning more or less to normal.  Returning to normal didn’t get me into the gym though.  Still working on that aspect of my running. 

I did get to check off 3 things with the race though.  I ran a race in Fred’s honor, I got credit towards my 9 + 1 and I got credit towards the 4/6 for the Manhattan Half Marathon in 2016.  I also got off my ass and had to do a work out.  That should probably be the most important part.  Your first race of the year is usually a baseline run where you see what you need to work on and set a time for you to beat next time.  Generally though, you do it with a 5K or 4 miler, not a half.  I have shown several things in my running career and will fit this into unconventional/too dumb for my own good.

My time was 3:42:12 or 16:58 per mile.  That’s the baseline.  So for the 4 Mile race yesterday, I set a goal for myself of 15 minutes per mile.  It was a 2 minute jump but I thought that cutting 9 miles off the distance would translate to a much quicker per mile time.  I also believe that during the half marathon, I completed the first 4 miles in about 1:05, so I really only needed to shave 5 minutes off that time or about a minute fifteen seconds per mile.  Very doable.  Unfortunately, I didn’t stretch/warm up enough prior to the run starting and struggled through a slow first mile at 17:05.  Could I have pushed it?  Definitely.  Did I?  Nope.  I made up some time on mile 2, lost some on mile 3 and finished right around where I should have been the whole time on mile 4.  Total time of 1:02:03 or 15:31 per mile.
Basically I missed my goal because of my first mile.  Where does this leave me?  Annoyed.  On the other hand, I’m not totally disappointed because I know that I could get there with just a little work.  For next time, I need to stretch/warm up.  I found such a breakthrough last year by running a few miles the day before a long run to get my muscles moving.  I need to get back to that now, particularly in the cold weather.  If I’m doing a warm up run the day before, it also implies that I’m working out in between my races which I have not done yet this year.  In addition to being more limber and having muscles that are ready to respond when I command them to work, it also develops the mental muscle which I’ve been lacking.  The harder you work between races makes you less likely to give up or take it easy during races.  You’ve worked too damn hard to let that guy beat you.  You know which guy I mean.

So I know have 4 weeks in between today and my next run which will always be Coogan’s to me although it appears they aren’t sponsoring it anymore.  Tomato, tomahto, it’s still a 5k on a somewhat hilly course that goes into Fort Tryon Park and up and down the streets of Washington Heights.  This is one of my favorite races.  Part of it is that it is the first race I did with NYRRs but I also enjoy the entertainment.  It’s called Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks Run or something like that and that’s what you should be expecting.  You are getting a mariachi band on one corner, bag piper on the next, electric guitar on the third.  Always something to keep you interested.

Goal for Coogan’s?  45 minutes.  It won’t be my fastest 5K but it will be a big improvement for me.  What have I done thus far to achieve said goal?  Not a damn thing.  Nothing except walking to and from the train station every day.  It’s about a mile and a half round trip.  When people say it’s “Better than nothing,” this is precisely what they mean.  I did however research a new gym membership at my old gym and am going to rejoin.  Last summer, I got the brilliant idea to cancel my membership to the gym I really liked and join one of those 10 dollar a month things.  My thought was that I needed to save money because the gym I like is really expensive.  The last thought I had before I signed up was “For 10 bucks a month, how bad can it be?”
1.       1. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

So I signed up for the gym while they were running a special.  To get in on time, I signed up online (huh?) without SEEING the gym (dumbass).

2.      2. Never join a gym without actually walking into it.  If you can go at the time you think you are most likely to frequent the gym, even better.

On my first time to the gym, I was a little surprised by how small and cramped it was.  I circled the gym like the dirtiest lurker ever thinking I’d missed something but it turns out I hadn’t.  There was, in fact, no squat rack.  There was nowhere to do deadlifts.  A hang clean most likely would have gotten me escorted out of the gym because it would knock over half the machines and most of the people.  I thought to myself “Hey, you are always talking about training Rocky 4 style.  Look how ripped he got while training using only a pile of rocks, his chubby brother-in-law and a beard.”

3.       3. No matter how monosyllabically you express yourself, you are not Rocky.  And training outdoors emphasizing functional strength is not the same as working out at a gym where they just don’t have equipment.

I had much stacked against me.  I was not motivated by the thoughts of avenging Apollo’s death.  I didn’t have a beard.  Any my brother-in-law is decidedly unchubby.  The lack of equipment in the gym didn’t inspire me to be creative, it just made me depressed and stay home.  I felt like somebody had bought a bunch of old weights at a tag sale and decided to open a gym.  I remember thinking that if this gym worked out, one day it could be a real gym.
I don’t want to keep beating up on this gym because clearly it is too weak to defend itself but it was nowhere near the experience that I needed it to be to keep my inspired.  So I’m going to pay a bit more (but still not as much as I had been paying) and go back to my old gym.  True, I did almost sand my knee off there once in 2014 but I also got into pretty good shape a couple of times there.  At least in the beginning, I’ll be excited for the change of scenery.

I’m excited to incorporate weights, particularly exercises like squats and deadlift back into the routine.  I’m stuck with the joints, tendons and cartilage (or lack thereof) that I have.  I can’t change or improve that stuff (if I can, someone let me know) but I can strengthen the muscles around those areas.  By building bigger muscles, I can take pressure off the knees and hips which will help and makes me excited.
My next plan is to work out a work out schedule.  I need to know what I’m doing to know whether or not I should be doing it.  I can make an awesome color coded calendar for 2015.  I need the discipline, need to work on the mental muscle.  I don’t want a repeat of last year when I was getting passed in the chute to finish the race and not have the competitive streak to fight it off.  I want to pass people at the end.   And at the beginning too, if possible.

Final thought re: training.  I’m going without headphones.  I got to a point once in 2014 where I was running without headphones and I ran my best race for NYRR (Portugal Day—5 Miler with 13:23 minutes per mile).  It’s a great experience but you need to work up to it.  I’m trying to work up to it.