New town, new workout: Bridge repeats

This week found me traveling to various cities throughout Europe.  First Switzerland—Zurich and Basel, then Germany—Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.  It’s a part of my job about which I have mixed feelings.  While I enjoy seeing new places and like the variety it offers, I also missed home.  Luckily I was thinking of the kids as I left Switzerland…just in time for the chocolate.

Our work schedule was hectic and busy, so I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing.  I also didn’t have much time to work out, so I managed to slip in what I could.

Yesterday we arrived in Frankfurt earlier than planned, so we had a bit of extra time.  I dumped my stuff in my hotel room, unpacked my running clothes and got out for as much time as possible, which turned out to be just over an hour.

Frankfurt sits on the Main River in Germany.  After a few wrong turns, I made it to the river.  It reminded me of Boston or Philadelphia—crew teams rowing boats, people sitting by the river enjoying a beautiful spring day.  A bunch of bridges span the river in the downtown area.  It was beautiful.

At that point I wished I had a real camera (other than my cell phone).  It was really cool.

I was feeling as good as I’ve felt in a while.  My original plan to run at a low intensity was fading in favor of a hard workout.  After all, it would be short.  I figured I’d just run the way back to the hotel at a high intensity.

Then I looked at the bridges again and it hit me—bridge repeats.

I decided that my run back to the hotel would be over all the bridges.  When I hit the start of each bridge (usually steps up to the bridge), I’d run as hard as possible until I got to the other side of the bridge.  I’d snake my way back to the hotel over the bridges, running hard on the bridge spans and using the distance between bridges as recovery time.

It was a fun workout.  The combination of climbing steps  quickly, then running hard up the bridge incline, then running hard on the downhill was challenging.  I did seven repeats, one on each bridge that spans the Main River in downtown Frankfurt.  On average, I was running hard for about two minutes per bridge.  I also got a chance to see the city and the river from a lot of different angles, which was neat.

This was just the kind of workout I needed–spontaneous, fun, different, but also with some intensity.   It was a great way to wind down from a hectic trip.  I have no idea how that bridge workout found its way into my brain, but I’m thankful that it did.

I know I need to get ready for Pikes Peak, and I need to build specific strength for that race.  But I also want to continue creating these kinds of spontaneous workouts that are fun.

After all, if I don’t enjoy running then why in the world would I do it?


When to not run

Recently I’ve started to ramp my weekly mileage up.  The past two weeks I was in the 65+ mile range.

My personal history suggests that 65+ miles per week is about when I start to risk injury, so I’ve been paying more attention than usual to how I feel.

Sure enough, on Thursday morning (the morning after an 18 mile trail run), I woke up with a bit of pain in my right foot.  The pain wasn’t too severe, but I have been conservative.  I rode my bike Thursday morning, which didn’t seem to affect the pain at all.

Friday morning – it hasn’t gone away.  I scrapped my planned run.  At this point, it isn’t worth risking more injury just to get another run in.

I’ll ride on Saturday, then take another checkpoint on Sunday.

I’m not willing to risk another injury just to get a run in.  Perhaps I’m starting to learn something?


On another note related to not running, my 7-year-old Caitryn (figured it was time to start using her name) decided to quit the track team this week.  After speaking with my wife and I, she concluded that she didn’t really like being on the team.

My wife and I actually initiated the question of whether she really wanted to be on the team.

For the past 3 track practices, Caitryn had experienced ‘injuries’ that kept her from running.  The most recent ‘injury’ was the strangest – it struck right before we left for practice.  At practice she could only walk the warmup and do the running drills.  Nothing else.  The injury (miraculously) healed in the car on the way home, to the point where she was excited to run up our driveway, a 30-40 foot elevation gain over a tenth of a mile (not trivial).

It had become pretty clear that she just didn’t want to be on the team.  She also recently decided not to play soccer this fall.

That’s perfectly fine with me.  Track, and actually any organized sport these days, just isn’t for her right now.  And I don’t want to force her into something and cause her to end up hating it.  We did wrestle with the concept of quitting vs. making a commitment.  We wanted to make sure that Caitryn understood what it means to make a commitment and keep it.  But in the end, the concern over Caitryn hating running was too high – we decided to teach her the commitment lesson another way.

Also, it is still important for her to be healthy, fit and strong.

So instead of track team, we’re going to have some fun.  We’re going to do more play…things like playgrounds, bike riding, walking/hiking, maybe even a trampoline in the back yard.

As a parent, it’s easier for me to schlep my kid to a 2-3 hour track practice twice a week than it is to take an active role in her daily activities.  Sometimes I think organized sports is more useful for me as a parent than it is for my kid.  And I’ve been a coach as well as a parent.

Well, we’re trying something different now.  Now we’re spreading the 5 hours per week we would ordinarily spend at track practice over the course of a week.  Maybe adding more hours.  And taking a more active role in getting out with the kids and having fun.

Today we’re going to a high school softball game that is located in the same place as the track meet that Caitryn would have run if she were still on the team.  Ironic.

I’m really looking forward to it, more than if she were running in the meet.

Week in Review: April 2-8, 2012

Mileage was the key theme for this week.  This week offered more opportunity to put in some time – my wife and kids were out of town and work was slow.  I put the time to good use:

  • Running:  5 runs for 73 miles, 11+ hours
  • Riding:  1 ride for 64 miles, just under 4 hours
  • strength:  1 strength workout (not counting Saturday)

Together with last week, this represents the highest mileage I’ve logged in a long time.  And I have been feeling fatigue and some aches.  But it doesn’t seem serious.  I should feel better as my body adapts to the mileage.  I could also get a lot of benefit by improving my nutrition and rest/recovery.  It hasn’t been terrible, but I know I’m not eating well enough or sleeping enough.  That will become a bigger and bigger constraint over time until I fix it.

I’m thinking through the balance of mileage and intensity that I need/want to go for.  This higher mileage has been almost exclusively at a lower intensity.  With Pikes Peak just under 19 weeks away, I think I need to start increasing my intensity.  I will probably start adding intensity in the coming weeks.  In last week’s review, I also suggested that 55-65 miles per week was about right for me.  I still think that’s accurate, especially when I’m at higher intensity.

One positive aspect of this week’s training were the back-to-back runs.  I managed to sneak in runs on Monday and Tuesday (this was three in a row considering that I ran Sunday), then again on Thursday and Friday.  Each set of back-to-back runs covered 28+ miles.  On the other hand, my running performance has been worsening over time.  I’m not sounding an alarm bell on that yet…there are too many things changing, especially the mileage (which keeps going up).

I could see next week being either another relatively low intensity week with lots of mileage.  Or it could be lower mileage and higher intensity.  I’ll just have to let it play out.

I’m watching a replay of Paris-Roubaix.  I don’t know what people think of pro bike racers, but I’ve got to give them credit for riding this race.  It’s vicious.

Details of this week are below.

Monday (April 2)

Treadmill “hill” workout.  The treadmill starts to take on an increased importance for me in the coming weeks.  I don’t necessarily like it, but it’s the best way for me to get the effect of a big uphill.  This run was 12 miles, with the last 11 miles coming at grades between 9-15% on the mill.  I was really happy with this, especially since yesterday’s workout was on a hill.  Two hill workouts in a row.  HR average 145, 2 hrs, 23 minutes.  That’s a long time for 12 miles, but it was a pretty steep incline.

Tuesday (April 3)

On the rocky trails in Schooley’s Mountain Park again.  Cool but not cold.  Breezy.  Perfect spring day.  This will need to be another staple run for me–to help develop technical skills.  It’s obvious that I need some work on the trails.  I fell a couple times towards the end…when I get tired, it gets harder for me to clear the rocks and roots.  This was 4 loops on a 3.5 mile loop.  Add the distance to and from the park, and the total is 18 miles.  2 hours, 34 minutes.  HR average 143.

Post-run:  Body weight leg strength workout.  Five iterations of:

  • Jumprope:  50 both legs, 20 each leg (single), 50 both
  • 20 step-ups each leg
  • 20 prisoner squats

Not sure what to expect tomorrow.  This body weight workout usually makes me feel bad.

Wednesday (April 4)

Felt better than expected getting up today–I must be getting a bit stronger on the body weight strength workout.  Glad to get on the bike today.  This was a new route that covered 64 miles, give or take a couple (I got lost).  Rode into Pennsylvania.  Really happy with this.  Even as I get more fatigued, I’m feeling stronger and stronger on the bike.  This has to be a good sign.  3 hrs, 57 minutes.

Thursday (April 5)

Easy running in Schooley’s Mountain Park, with 12 short hill sprints in the middle.  Took the dog and was able to let him off leash.  He’s like a pig in slop when he’s running off leash in a park like that.  He’s great to run with…stays close and is really a joy to watch run.  7 miles, 1 hr 6 minutes.  Did not wear the HR monitor.

Any time I can get onto a trail, it’s helpful.

The hill sprints didn’t feel great, but I wanted to get a bit of intensity going.

Friday (April 6)

Long run today…Columbia Trail to High Bridge.  This is a very different trail than the one in Schooley’s Mountain Park.  This one is flat and smooth.  The one in Schooley’s Mountain Park is hilly and super-rocky.  While this run didn’t help me develop trail running skills, it was nice to get off the asphalt and onto the crushed gravel.  Mostly flat (except the beginning and end).

I decided to kick up the intensity for about 2.5 miles towards the end of this.  Instead of my usual HR range near 145, I increased the intensity to an average of 156.  The running felt labored, even though I was trying to relax.  I felt really bad after this; the rest of the run was terrible.

21 miles in 3 hrs, 17 minutes.  HR average 146.

Afternoon:  Donated blood.  Wondering if I should work out on Saturday…was encouraged not to do anything “strenuous” for 24 hours.  Does a MAF run count as “strenuous?”

Saturday (April 7)

Woke up feeling weak and sore.  Felt better (as usual) after stretching.  Debated a ride, but decided against it.

Instead, decided to do a heavy bit of yard work.  4+ hours in the yard, divided pretty evenly between splitting fire wood and moving a large pile of rocks.  At some point I’ll take a picture of my yard.  I’ve got just over 3 acres.  One “benefit,” if you could call it that, is that I’ve got plenty of rocks to move around in case I want strength work.  I just go outside and lift some rocks.

Although I won’t log it as a strength workout, I don’t feel bad about taking the day “off” in the form of 4+ hours of outside work.

Sunday (April 8)

Debated whether to ride or run today.  I felt good enough to do either.  In the first 6 days of this week, I’d run 58 miles and ridden 64.  I get nervous when the running miles start to hit the upper 60s.  But I decided to run anyway.  The big driver for the decision to run was actually the coming week.  It’s setting up like I’ll be running Tuesday and Wednesday, so I reserved my ride for Monday.

Easy 15 miles, very careful not to risk  injury.  2 hrs, 18 minutes.  HR average 145.  Another beautiful day of weather.

Long time gone

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog.  Going to make an effort to get back after it.  May not post every day, but hopefully every post will be interesting for one reason or another.

I have been busy over the first couple months in 2012.  Here are some highlights.  I’ll probably expand on some of these over the coming weeks.

  • In 2012, I’ve run 22 times for 259 miles.  My best weeks running were the last couple of weeks in January, with 76 and 61 miles respectively.
  • I have been walking in an air cast / removable boot for the past few weeks.  So I logged zero miles running from February 5th through February 25th.  The good news is I was out for 8 easy miles today and felt pretty much no pain.
  • In 2012, I’ve ridden 13 times for 779 miles.  This has been really, really fun.  I cranked up my riding in response to this little foot pain problem.  This riding includes a century which was hard but fun.  Lots of climbing too.  Maintenance-wise, I managed to replace my chain on my own.  This may not sound like much, but it’s pretty good for a guy who’s not allowed to use any power equipment inside the house.
  • I joined a YMCA, mostly because I love taking the kids swimming.  But now I have the opportunity to swim, deep water run and use some weights.  I did this “swim and gym” session once and am looking forward to more of that.
  • I got a job.  It’s a large software vendor based in California.  The founder is a pretty eclectic dude who’s into boat racing and some other stuff.  Real work starts again on Monday February 27th.  I haven’t been this excited about work in at least 10 years.  I actually had to remind myself how my alarm clock works; I haven’t used it in about 6 months.
  • I am listening regularly now to the Endurance Planet Ask the Ultrarunner and Sports Nutrition podcasts.  These things and the research I’ve done as a result have increased my knowledge a lot and given me a ton of ideas on workouts.
  • My nutrition / eating habits still suck.  I’m working on these though and have new ideas on how to deal with them.

Not to jinx anything, but the weather in New Jersey has been awesome this winter.  Very manageable and great for outside workouts.  We’re almost into March, so things are looking good.

So a bunch of stuff, mostly good.

I feel like I’m ready to have a good streak here.

Real excited.

Friday in the park

11 miles in Schooley’s Mountain park today.  Trail running.

I can easily see this workout evolving into a tempo run as the spring arrives.  Today I did two loops (3.5 miles each).  In the spring I can see making it 4 loops with a short rest in between.  It would be a great workout to simulate what I might feel at Pikes Peak.

I was surprised when I clicked my watch – the time was faster than I expected.  Right now I’m not paying much attention to time.  I’m more tuned into how I’m feeling.  I didn’t wear my HR monitor and I probably should have.  Maybe next time.


Catching up + Motivation

Didn’t post for the past few days, but I’ve been consistent in making the time to work out.

Tuesday…15 miles running, hard uphills, about 25% of the run was hard uphill

Wednesday…7 miles running, including 10 downhill sprints that were just under a quarter mile

Thursday…50 miles riding, somewhat easy but with 2,300 feet of vertical gain

Lately I’ve been mapping out some new routes for my rides.  Today I came across this sign.  I thought it was a good sign for the start of 2012.

I also liked this on motivation vs. follow-through.  I’ve posted here before about the notion that I know what I should do and I even plan to do it.  But when the moment comes, I shrink away.  I’ve thought it was motivation.  Maybe not.  Maybe I need to shut my brain down a bit.

I was at the library a couple days ago with my 2-year old, and on a whim I picked up ESPN:  Those Guys Have All The Fun.  For the past few years I’ve been reading mostly classic fiction and business books, so this year I decided to branch out a bit.  The book is thick (~750 pages), but it’s a fast read.  It’s told mostly through interview snippets with direct quotes from the big ESPN players over the years.  I’m curious to see how the authors weave the story lines.  Right now I’m just at the beginning, where ESPN is starting out.  Very interesting stuff there.

Saturday running, thoughts on strength training

Went for a short run today, more of a scouting expedition.  Definitely feeling some fatigue so I wanted to take it easy.  Just over an hour, call it 7 miles.  I was looking for a few things:

  • a soft surface with a very slight downhill over a quarter mile or so
  • a really steep hill or two

I found both of what I was looking for in some local parks.  I plan to use the downhill for fast running.  I want to be able to teach my body learns the feel of fast running.  Neuromuscular stuff.  The steep hill will be used for steep hill sprints, essentially a form of strength training.  I managed to locate two steep hills, one that I could run in about 12 seconds and the other that would take about 30 seconds.

The steep hill sprints had me thinking more about strength training.  I  know it’s good (probably mandatory at my age), but I can’t wrap my mind around just lifting weights.  I’ve never done it consistently, and it was one of the main reasons I quit football in high school.  I didn’t want to be in the gym.  I think back then it was more because I was self conscious.  Now I just think there are so many other interesting things to do.

For me right now the strength training will happen, but it’ll take a few different forms.  The first will be the steep hill sprints I mentioned above.  The second will be just outside work.  I have rocks and trees all over my property, and I think I can get a great leg strength workout by moving those.  One example—I could load up my yard cart with fire wood and drag it up my driveway.  I could also see myself moving heavier branches and logs across the yard to my outside fire pit—I could figure out a way to work squats into that mix.  It would accomplish a few purposes…getting me outside, building strength, cleaning up the property…all good.

I also switched up my pre-run ritual today.  Most of the time I like to stretch (I’m a bit obsessive about active isolated stretching) before I run.  It’s more of a mental thing at this point; almost everyone agrees that you don’t need to stretch before you run.  Today I did something different….jump rope, the lunge matrix and some aspects of the myrtl routine.  It was good to get a quick warmup and then get going, and I could see myself doing these things when I get home.  I am neurotic, so I did manage to sneak in a stretching session later in the day.

Speaking of steep hills, I was fascinated by this video which describes some stuff that Blake Griffin does.

“If you can run up a 60 degree incline in sand with a 60 pound weight vest then running 94 feet down the court on a flat surface should be easy.”