Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beets, 60 miles, hashing debut

Professional distance runners regularly put in over 100 miles per week in training for such esteemed races as the Olympic Trials, the Boston Marathon, or the Krispy Kreme Challenge.  Ok, maybe not the last one, but 100 miles would help me work up one hell of an appetite to down those donuts. 

For the 99.99+% of us who are not paid to compete and whose heads are not half of our body weight, over 100 miles a week is a practical impossibility without landing in a wheelchair, hospital, or a mental asylum.

For years, 40 per week was roughly my limit, and the thought of putting in anything close to 100 seemed absurd.  The need was also never there; all of my best times from the mile to the half marathon were set regularly putting anywhere from 25 to 40 per week.  As it turns out, that is usually good enough for being slightly better than mediocre at anything short of a marathon; unfortunately that distance is the monkey I need to get off my back this fall.  I've had one decent marathon (New York) but none I would say were great.  40 per week isn't going to cut it if I want to hold a solid pace throughout the whole 26 and change.  I needed to find a way to get in at least twice the distance of the race regularly per week if not close to 60 down the stretch.

The week after Christmas last year, training for the Uwharrie 20 while on end of the year PTO, I decided to 'experiment' as a professional runner just to see how high I could push it.  I hit 60 miles in a week, only to find myself sidelined for the next few months.  As it turns out, going from a weekend warrior to even 60% of the bottom end of what most elites regularly do is not a good thing to do over Christmas break.

After 6 months of regular training, I finally hit 60 miles again this week.  How?

1) As mentioned, it took a long buildup over a period of months (not weeks) to get up to this level confidently.  In June I was in the 30s, July hit the 40s (this was the most painful stretch), in August got to 50, and then averaged 55 through September.

2) I still take 2 days off a week - usually Mondays and Fridays.  Recovery is still needed.  I'd rather average 12 miles per day I actually do run then 8-9 every day of the week with no breaks.

3) That still leaves the middle part of the week to put in some decently long runs.  To be clear, my hours extend well beyond a 'typical 9 to 5' so getting time off from work to run is a laughable idea.  It took waking up at 5 AM some mornings to get into the office early, so I could wrap up by 5:30 to get a few 10 mile runs in during the week, and then catch up at night on emails, etc...  I could have never imagined doing this 2 or 3 years ago.  This makes me a really boring and agitated person after about 10 PM.

4) Finding good running partners for at least one or two runs a week.  Thankfully I have several of these here in Durham.

5) Having good iPod playlists.  Some of those runs end up being solo runs or on a really lousy day, like this morning, on a treadmill.  Through the last few months, some of my favorites have been parts of Archers of Loaf's Icky Mettle, Polyphonic Spree's The Fragile Army, Hot Chip's In Our Head, Smashing Pumpkin's Oceania, Fun's Some Nights, The Cranberries' No Need to Argue (in Ireland), The Rapture's In the Grace of Your Love, and all of the great or even not so great 90s alt rock that I remember listening to when I first started running.

6) How else was this possible?  Beets.

I can't take credit for this idea.  I stole it from the running down blog.  And Dwight Schrute.

Over the summer, I started to cut out most forms of refined carbs and dairy from my diet (I've relapsed some and admittedly could never give up a few beers on a Friday/Saturday night).  The salad bar in my office cafeteria became my daily lunch, and there are only so many ways to eat salad before you start getting creative.

One day I decided to give beets a try, vaguely remembering something about this in a running blog.  No one else ever ate any, so there were always plenty left.  This went against 30 years of culinary conditioning -- beets were the one food I absolutely refused to eat as a small child.

 My thoughts on beets: 82' to summer 2012

As it turns out, I didn't hate them.  If you add them to spinach, and with some chicken, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette, they aren't half bad.

I had beets Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch.  Tuesday I ran a solid 10 miler on the newly paved ATT in South Durham despite the relapse back to summer heat/humidity and then came back the next day and ran a tough track workout at UNC.

I was traveling on Thursday, and had no beets.  The run that day was arduous and slow.  Common sense would say that was due to the two hard days preceding and the quick trip back and forth to/from Atlanta, but I blame it on the beet depravation versus the soul sucking nature of Hartsfield Airport on a Thursday afternoon.

The morning before my last long run of the training cycle this week -- 23 at Umstead?  You guessed it.  Beets.  

And the run went well, just under 3 hours.  If I added another 3 miles of single track, I would have essentially just done the entire Umstead marathon course, having left the out and back on Turkey Creek and Cedar Ridge in my wake.

Now is the fun part - the taper.

* * *

In other tangentially related running news, I participated in my first "hash" last weekend down in Tucson, Arizona.  My friends Tim and Linda had a wedding down there, so we traveled down for a quick weekend.  They met as part of the hashing group in DC, and for those who aren't familiar with this concept, it is basically following a pre-marked trail (notably, running, but apparently walking is allowed too).  Alcohol is usually served at some point.   In this case, the route was around downtown Tucson and a few miles in we stopped for mimosas (it was the morning of the wedding).  There are all sorts of other 'traditions' that I still don't really get with hashing, maybe I'll learn more about these if I go out and do this again, maybe after my marathon.

Congrats to Tim and Linda!

Creative, and yes they did change before the wedding

I was also glad to catch up with my sister Pari, who moved out to Phoenix in January as well as some college friends.  As alluded to above, however, waking up before 6 AM on the East Coast meant I was 'sleeping in' getting up at 4 over there... and the quick trip meant I never really adjusted.  I need to make it back out there again.

That's a big cactus

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