Fooled you. Fooled me.

I went to bed at 10 last night after a light dinner with some noodles in it. I figured sleeping in would be nice.

4 a.m. I am awake. I kept my eyes closed until 430 and decided time was a-wastin'. I got up to run.

I moved quickly to be across town by 530. Dress. Eat. Pack Gatorade and water on ice. Drive. I arrived before Jason came outside and David arrived. These guys ran Miami with me in January and will run Chicago in three weeks. I was gambling that Jason - the precision expert - would know exactly when I could drop off from their 20-miler and get my 15 in. He sure did.

We moved out in the dark on two 8-mile loops of College Park in Orlando. Jason is in better condition than the last time I saw him. Dave is the firebrand rabbit he always is. To my advantage neither one of them was going to outrun me today because they had four extra miles to do after the two loops.

We disected all things related to public schools, other principals who run, the rise in real estate listings and marathon prep. The water stops worked out well. The construction port-a-potties were in the right place for one of us who ate a lot last night.

Last week when I ran two 10-mile loops with Sue I suggested we run the second loop in reverse, which made the scenery very different. Jason and Dave bought into the same suggestion today and it was a welcome variation, in my opinion.

In the last mile I was feeling very peppy - as if I could go the 20 with them with no trouble. Then I thought about how training is designed to prep you for the race, not tomorrow's training run. So - I told Jason and Dave I was going to turn it up on the way back to the corral. They said go for it.

It was awesome. I moved out, turning my legs over faster and stretching my stride. I had all the stamina I needed and, in about 3/4 of a mile, I put a minute between me and the guys; and I could have still gone on.

Jason said it was 16 miles. He said our time was 2:45, more than 10:00/mile, but about 15 seconds faster than on last week's 20. Which remnds me ... something I remember from last Saturday with Sue was the quiet synchonized pace we kept. For long periods our footfalls were identical in the early morning whispers of a waking town. I marvelled at the sense of common purpose and effort.

I went with the new Kayanos today, favoring them for race day too. What I have to do is stay out of the old shoes. Nothng hurts and Sherlene will make it even better on Tuesday.


New place

For some reason my laptop cannot pick up the wireless so I am at the old fashioned desktop piece of junk my younger son loathed. It works okay for me and he's away at school, so I am fine with it; except I do not have my excel spreadsheets to tab to for details on my Thursday run.

Here's what I remember: I stepped outside and it was cold. Somewhere south of 70F (maybe 69F). I went back in and put on a shirt. Can you believe it? And wouldn't you know that by the end of the run my nips were tender sore knobs. Hey! When you never run in a shirt these things happen. I guess I better train for that now too.

I wore the clown stability shoes again. They actually felt good for some corrective reason. I ran hard throughtout the 5-miler cussing my 10K best time like a mad mother. 8:30 pace my butt-tocks. I managed about 8:45 and came in at 44:04, a 4th best time for the route. 42-something was my best ever.

Project Runway sidebar - what a great show last Wednesday. Jeanne sent me a link to a boff interview with Laura. Bug her for it if you want.

Orchestra sidebar - stopped by the high school lst night to find a mom with a phone number I needed. While looking through the crowd I did not watch the kids playing - just listened. Damn, they were really good. Nary a wrong note and very sweet music. I'll have to go back when they are joined by the band and chorus in some big extravaganza in November.

My training bud principals all have long runs tomorrow (20 or 22). I only have 15 so it looks like I'll chill until Sunday and go with the 7 a.m. crowd. I feel like it'll be easy. How wrong could I be? Tune in Sunday night.


Almost meeting target pace

Alright; now I have an idea what this training plan means. The target paces for my interval, tempo and long runs are geared off my "best" 10K race time pace. Did I ever write about how ridiculous I found those to be? Maybe not because it's embarrassing. I was always way off. I am still not there but Tuesday morning was different.

Let me first recap my complaints: since last Thursday my left side adductor has been causing soreness all the way down to my calf. I have been stretching like a La Nouba acrobat. I have been conducting meditative stretch sessions where I am "one with the leg." Interesting exercise in paying attention, by the way.

To reduce all causes of pain born by shoes I put on my Evolution motion controllers ... and clown nose. I ate breakfast and went out the door to do 12 x 400 intervals at the track.

I wish I had had a camera. You cadet porn lovers might have appreciated the shots I could have taken of the Army company out on the infield doing their PE routine.

While they rolled around in the morning dew I put down 12 laps with a mission to "finish them all." Previous efforts had me fine for 7-8 circuits before I slacked off. Today I kept every one of them at or under 1:50.0. Only the last lap read 1:50. I dropped the mile pace average to 7:12 from my previous best of 7:20. The target pace is 7:05 according to my training table. I am closer anyway.

Lessons learned: 1. Get your race head on and keep pushing. Maybe the meditating stretches helped with focus. 2. Run when the military is there. MCM in five weeks. Check. 3. Keep stretching. The adductor is still tight but the calf has loosened up. Progress. Sherlene in two weeks for final tuneup.

Now, can I do a 5-miler at 8:30 pace on Thursday? Come back and find out.


8 and 20

8 - Thursday I got up early after a decent night's sleep (thank goodness Project Runway was not on Wednesday night) and laced up my oldest pair of Kayanos. I had eight miles to cover and I thought there were plenty enough miles left in those AK1s as I call them. In mile 6 my left calf started screaming. Whether it was the old shoes, lack of cross training at the gym on Wednesday or something else, I was a hurtin' puppy.

All day Thursday and Friday my upper inside calf was tight. I massaged it, Icy hotted it, rolled it and ibuprofinned it. My bestest massage therapist friend in the world gave me a telephone assessment so I stretched my adductors good and hard yesterday and this morning before running 20.

I feared the worst. I almost cancelled when my car wouldn't start after work yesterday. I needed to go buy Gatorade and beer! I jump started it and found it had an electrical problem. It sits at the shop as I write.

20 - I had breakfast early and met up with Susan and Patty on Park Avenue at 5:40. We hadn't run together since April. They were glad to do something different than what they have been doing and I was happy for some new company.

I led them on two 10-mile loops around town. Patty fell of our pace at about 8 miles so I pushed Susan as hard as I dare. There were plenty of water, Gatorade and Gu stops along the way. We chatted the first loop and worked hard and mostly quiet the second loop.

Our time was 3:33 for 20 miles. Good for her. Fine for me. I sprinted into the finish area which gave me confidence about the MCM finish and further training.

The adductor doesn't hurt too bad. I stretched well. I took another ibuprofin.

A cheeseburger lunch with a beer made my day complete.


How did I run 7:24?

It was August 13, 2005. The first mile of a 5K race in the doggest month of the year. 80F and sunny. My first mile was 7:24.
I am amazed.
The rest of the race (7:33, 7:43 and change) contributed to my 5K PR of 23:26.
I haven't done a measured mile in less than 7:45 since except for mile 4 of a November 2005 10K race that I ran just before its sister 5K (doin' the "double"). Boy, I felt great back then.
What has happened?
I had never run more than 15 miles before that double. I did over Thanksgiving and for some time after that as I ramped up for my first marathon - Miami.
Now I am training for another and even in the 1600 intervals I cannot get close to 7:24 much less flirt with 7:45.
Today was 4 x 1600 and I felt fine (although I skipped eating again) and ran 8:00, 7:51, 8:07 and 8:07. I love the speed work but I am not finding speed. The form feels right (low shoulders, arms down and hands moving to and fro, lower back loose, legs turning over, etc.) but the juice is sour.
What to do?


The next best thing

I realized after my 15-miler today that the next best thing in the world for me is a hot shower or bath after a long taxing run. There is just something about that flow of hot water down my back that is superb.

I really was not in the mood to run long this morning. I made unconfirmed plans in my head in preparation last night (what to eat, when to go, what to pack, what to wear), so when I got up this morning I fixed a bagel and put my secret blueberry jam on it. Then I got to reading very interesting blogs off Derek Rose's site and almost missed my time to go.

I jogged up to the Park Avenue (2 miles), met Jack, Ed and Dave, and started off on the 10 mile loop. Not far along we ran into Chris and Tim who turned around and joined us.

Thank goodness for Tim. I hadn't seen him in a few weeks. He's training for NYC Marathon, 2-3 times a week, which boggles me that he can get ready on as few as two runs a week. He had done 22 miles on Wednesday.

Anyway, Tim and I surged off ahead of the rest of the group and ran together the whole way. If I had not had my running buddy, it would have been a long morning.

We ran into Kim and Mary and a few other folks. It was your typical fall marathon training Sunday morning. I took Gu, water, Powerade at all the right spots and felt good coming home. I saved my hills for the last two miles so to simulate MCM. I hope they'll help.

The rest of the day has been sunbathing, jumping in the pool, eating hotdogs and mindless thinking. Is there football on? I wouldn't know.

Have a good week everybody. [So what is the best thing?]


Runway to Rundown

I stayed up late last night to watch Project Runway. The drama of having two already dismissed designers come back for a win-or-leave challenge was intriguing but the assignment was not so special nor were the resulting designs. Nevertheless, I was hooked to watch it until the end.

So at 11 pm I closed my eyes and they opened next at 6 am. Seven hours is usually enough but I woke up in a state that said "rundown" and "stay in bed." I pondered that briefly, considering quite vaguely what I thought was my schedule for the day. I could not remember exactly but did know the weather forecast was wet.

I got up, put on my shorts and clown shoes (the Asic Evolution stability shoes) and went towards the door. I had a glass of water on the way out. No breakfast. I paced along nicely at about 9:00 miles wondering all along whether I could still run on an empty stomach. Did you ever have a spell when you thought you ran best on an empty stomach in the morning? I did for the first year or two of running (starting in 1999). I think I have damn well gotten over that foolishness.

Anyway, at mile 3 of 5 I just ran out of gas. I debated whether it was the tiredness, clown shoes or lack of food. I decided it was all three and that I did not need to die today, so started walking. How could I pound out 18 miles one day and be so pooped four days later and not finish a 5-miler?

So the day was a drag all the way through. When the COO was heading for the door at 5:55 and said, "Time to go home," as he usually does, I finally agreed with him.

At home I mowed half the lawn and then it rained. That's all she wrote for Thursday. Oh, I did watch Katie Couric for the first time. Not bad. I still prefer NBC of the big 3.


Interval day

I never thought I'd finish my 8 x 800s this morning. That was on the 3rd 800. Somehow I kept plugging away and when I was done I felt like doing some more running so I aired it out with a set of four 100 meter sprints. That got all the crinks out. [What's a crink?] Honest to goodness they felt great.

My 800 times were pedestrian; somewhere between 3:55 and 4:02 for the most part. I thought it might be the Kayanos I was wearing. They were not my new ones. They were not my old ones either. They were my really old ones that were too narrow at one time. I loosened the laces up all the way and retied them so that I have no compression crimping my forefoot. They have 350 miles on them but that's about the same as my old Kayanos. I thought I might sneak a few more runs in with them to save tread on the newer ones.

I am starting to think I am slower than last year. Last year was a PR year all across the board. Harder training made a difference. Following a plan made a difference. But I seemed to have plateaued for the time being, if not aged "gracefully." I wonder if it's from LD training and not as much short stuff and 5Ks which used to be my bread and butter.

I am also five pounds heavier than I was the first half of the year. I probably look better but I may not be as lean and mean as I once was. Or I could blame it all on my dog. I can't decide which dog but I promise I won't kick either one.


How did I do that?

I adjusted my running this week since the "race" was Monday. I just moved everything back one day and after today's long run, I am back on track.

Friday I had an easy 3 miles on the menu. I wore my Asics support shoes which feel like clown shoes, pushed pretty hard and still came in at a slow 26 minutes. I have learned to stick with my Kayanos when it matters.

Saturday I got up at 500 to join my friend Kit who was driving over to Titusville so her two high schoolers could run in the first cross country meet of the year. After hanging around the program since 1999 I am a veteran and now an alumni parent. It was fun to watch all the kids race and not have the anxiety of worrying about how one of mine performed.

After the races we were treated to the sight, roar and ground shaking of the shuttle Atlantis taking off from the cape just 10 miles away. It was a clear day and we could see the ship distinctly for a few seconds. It was cool.

Today's long run was to be 18 miles. I planned. I went to bed early. I took it seriously.

For a warm up I left the house at 545 and planted a cooler with Powerade and water behind a wall where weekend runners usually stop for breaks. I took a four mile jaunt down through Baldwin Park and back, had a sip of Powerade and jogged up to downtown Winter Park to meet the Sunday morning 700 crowd.

On the way over I stopped at the college for some water and a Gu pack. I arrived a little early at Park Avenue but it did not have an adverse effect when we did start running. I was joined by Dave, Jill, Chris, Jack and Ed. There were at least a dozen other runners milling about either finishing, refreshing or starting like some of my mates.

I kept to the slow pace the group set so we could chat a few miles. At the 4 mile water stop I had some Gatorade with everyone else. When we restarted we went down through a glen of cooler air. It was slightly down hill too. My legs just started churning and I pulled away from the group. I went another mile and hit a water cooler for a second Gu. Everyone was still behind me.

Dave caught me about a mile later and passed. A few other runners came up on me but none others from my group. I was flat out pushing with no effort. At the seventh mile of the 10 mile loop I caught up to the four people who passed me. We all commented on the heat and I had some Powerade from my cooler.

I was the rabbit and was the first to move on. I was feeling so good I did not want to slip into a slower pace with tight calves. I kept ahead of all of them for another mile or more before they passed me again. I was happy to be their pacer to catch.

I made it to the 10 mile loop finish and then jogged home to finish my 18. There was no stopping, walking or cramping. It seems I did very well with the Gu, energy drinks and water. When I got home I enjoyed a Cliff bar and bottle of water while cooling off in the pool.

It was a very satisfying 18 miler, covered in 2:54. [I'm gunning for you Michelle!]


Repeat after me

Two days after the race and I am back on the track to pump out some 400 repeats. I did a dozen of them and at a quicker pace than the last set of 400s I did a month ago. Last time I did 10x at about 1:50-1:55. Today they rolled in from 1:45-1:50.

I pushed the repeats hard today too; especially after I dropped off from running with Michelle in New Haven. I used to think of us as equals on the race course but she whipped me Monday and I am now more motivated. The speed is important and next will be the endurance.

This weekend there will be no lolly-gagging through the 18 miler. I will be focused with a plan; sort of like that crazy Dianna is on race day. I have to plan the route, the planted water, Powerade and Gu stations, the pace and whatever else comes to mind - oh, and shorts-socks-shoes combo. No need for a shirt.

Michelle got my attention in New Haven when she asked me to confirm what she already knew: Marine Corps Marathon is in eight weeks. Yikes!


Up and Back

[Running related write ups in blue]

Since I last wrote I have been to Rhode Island and back. That involved a couple of windy days on the beach with mostly cloudy skies, an 8-mile run, two days of Ernesto churning up worse weather than in Florida, some great surf, parties and friends when the sun came out and a 20K run in New Haven.

I salvaged my Labor Day weekend plans by changing flight reservations last Monday from Wednesday night to Thursday morning. The forecast for Ernesto proved true when all Wednesday flights were cancelled. Those who waited too long to re-book couldn't get to Providence until Saturday.

By noon Thursday we were on the beach eating a grinder and soaking up a little sun. Friday was more of the same but with more clouds and the beginnings of Ernesto's northern audition. I managed to orchestrate a dinner for 12 that evening at the local Italian-Mexican restaurant (interesting blend).

Friday morning I turned out at 630 to run a warm up for the 20K race on Monday morning. I left the house and headed to the beach along A1A/Shore Road. I saw seven wild turkeys about 15 feet away from me as I approached the Langworthy Farms light where I turned left and ran down to the Weekapaug breachway, then along the coast to Spray Road and all the cottage/mansions. I took a Gu around then, in small doses that I let my saliva break down to reduce the clumpy feeling in my stomach. Back up Noyes Neck Road I saw a rabbit fly out of a bush faster than hop-hop and, moments later, understood why. I saw a red fox zip out of the same bush - the first one I've ever seen.

I kept going, then east back to Shelter Harbor, down Gounod, through Kiss Corner and home for almost eight miles. I wore my new Asics Kayano XIIs which I gambled on to be broken in by race day. They passed the test.

Saturday and Sunday were a loss as far as the beach scene. My son T from West Point came down and we drove around sightseeing some neighboring towns. Saturday night I executed the Plan B dinner party. I had originally scheduled it as the culmination of a fun beach day at the cabana. Instead we went to the largest house among us (Tobin's) and had a party for 24 folks.

Sunday night another neighbor had us to their house for a beef stroganoff dinner. The noodles served as my carbo loading food source. I exited early so I could prepare for the next day's race and get some sleep.

Monday morning I was on Billy J's front curb by 6:40 a.m. He was ready with a mug of coffee for me but I'd already stoked up on the 30 minute drive down. I continued as the driver and we made it to New Haven in 45 minutes on a relatively empty I-95.

We found a nice parking spot three blocks from the race and headed over to start area. We hit the port-a-potties first thing then found Dianna at the pre-arranged church location. By the time we had gone off to get our race packets and come back Jon from Michigan had arrived; then April Anne and Michelle (with Maggie and hop-a-long John) right behind. Dan and his friends from the Bronx showed up as did Beth from Connecticut.

Holy RBF Meet-Up! There were eight of us. Needless to say I took lots of pictures much to April Anne's dismay. And much to her delight, I'm sure, she will be glad to know I managed to erase ALL the pictures before saving them to the hard drive. Doh! I especially lament losing the Michelle family shot.

The New Haven 20K is a great race. The date is good. The support is first class. The neighbors embrace it and turn out to cheer you on. The course is more scenic than you would expect of a port town like New Haven, CT. It is well run except for the inevitable food shortages. But they do have beer and it does not run out; whoa - I am getting ahead of myself.

The weather was outstanding again. About 58F and partly cloudy skies. Light breeze. Good crowd but maybe not as many 20Kers as last year.

Dianna did what Dianna does. She was wired and wound up for the usual assault on PR times following sage advice from coach jeff. April Anne was favoring a knee so she ran with Billy J. the entire route. They practically crossed the finish line holding hands. It was cute.

Michelle, Beth and I ran the first mile together in a heavy traffic 9:45. Michelle and I are on the same training plan for the Marine Corps Marathon so it was good to be running together, aiming to run the same pace. We wanted 8:30 mile averages. That first split set us back.

We picked it up right away on mile 2 and lost Beth. Michelle and I stuck together through the 10K mark at 53:40 or so. In the next mile I felt a need to let her go so told her as much and met up with her at the beer stand.

I tried Gu before the race and twice during. The third pack, with 3 miles to go, was well worth it. I felt very good coming in the last 1.4 miles compared to last year. There was a marked difference in running a familiar course vs. one I've never seen before.

My splits were all over the board. I think the first mile jam up cost me a PR but I really wasn't expecting one. I had lower expectations so the end result was surprisingly good.

After the race we grabbed beers, cameras and food snacks. I took a picture of Jon's truffles but, of course, they didn't last nor did my picture survive. Before April Anne and Michelle came around I placed a call to Susie to giver her the race report. Answering machine :( So Jon, Dianna, Bill and I all left a message. Next year she better be there. You only get one year excused pass between races. That goes for Lara too.

When the crowd and beer line died down we bid good byes with hugs and best wishes. Bill and I jumped back on I-95 and by lunch time I had dropped him off back in Mystic and made it to the beach for one last grinder and mingle with the Shelter Harbor gang.

Now I am home in Florida and it is 20 degrees hotter here than it was the whole time in RI. 75F vs. 95F. There you have it. Up and Back.