End of the Off-Season

First came the leg injury, and then a bit of a cold that was a real linger-er (I only felt really terrible for a couple days, but the cough and congestion lasted over two weeks, and still isn’t totally gone). This all annoyed me, of course, but I chose to treat the down time like an off-season. Rest. Heal. And get excited about workouts again.

But now the off-season is over.

I’ll have more on goals later, as well as more on my Running Science inspired 5k plan, but I already know that I have two 5k goals:

  1. Finally break 20 minutes (as per my own odd standards)
  2. Hit 19:30

(Yes, I know the second goal would cover the first. But 20 minutes is such a nice round number that I have to get excited when I hit it, yet at the same time I’m only a few seconds away from that now, so it isn’t really enough of a goal for the “season.”)

And one other goal that beats them all:

0. Stay healthy.


And the results are…

Pretty much what I expected. 22 minutes flat, which was 7:06/mile, or almost 40 sec/mile slower than my recent best.

The good news:

  • I didn’t collapse. The temperature was in the mid 80s with humidity to match, and I had at least ten coughing fits as I was warming up, but I made it through the race vertical.
  • The leg injury didn’t bother me at all (yay! – This is a big one)
  • The guy who barely beats me in most races had a terrible race, and so he… barely beat me.
  • I actually feel decent now. Still have the sickness fatigue, but I think I’m actually coughing less. Maybe the running helped that final clear-the-lungs stage of the illness.


The bad, or at least kind of annoying news:

  • Bad splits. I faded pretty badly at the end, which has been unusual for me. I blame the illness. Or the heat. Or something.
  • It was a small crowd, and had I run my best I might possibly have been the overall winner (except for the 18 year old bandits and their 17-something times).
  • I could certainly have beat my nemesis had I felt decent.
  • And most of all… The course was EXACTLY 3.1 miles according to my Garmin, so had I felt okay I might have actually been able to get that coveted, official (by my own standards), sub-20 5k I’ve been aiming for.

So the quest continues. Hopefully by Monday I’ll be back into training, and on to the next part of the Unofficial Running Science 5k Plan for Old(ish) Folks.

A Race I Shouldn’t Run

It’s been two weeks since I’ve run at all. Four weeks since I’ve run even somewhat hard. And eight days since I came down with a cold that has now devolved into the coughing-fit-every-ten-minutes-and-feeling-kind-of-weak-all-the-time phase.

And I have a race tomorrow.

It’s just a 5k, but I’m no marathon elitist; a 5k at full effort is tough. Of course, I could just take it easy, but unless my body makes me an offer I can’t refuse, I know I won’t be able to hold back. Plus, it’s the first run in the McAllen Sunchaser four race series, and there’s a prize for best overall times for all four races. If you run all four races, that is.

The good news is that my leg injury might be healed. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

My goal: 7:00/mile, or just over 30 sec/mile off my most recent time.


Unauthorized 5k Plan for Old(ish) folks, Key Workout 1: Circuit Intervals

Running Science is big on strength training: whole body to start, then moving to more running specific and explosive drills. Strength is always a good thing, but drills like this are great for an old(ish) runner like myself because they combat the tendency to lose muscle with age and also help prevent injuries (like the one I’m recovering from now, hopefully).

The book has two straight strength sessions (and really, let me here again suggest you go get the book yourself!), but in the 5k section there’s a circuit session that is combined with intervals. Unfortunately, that plan is built around a track (i.e., do a 400, do three exercises, do another 400, etc), and I just don’t want to go to a track; I want to run in the park near my house. Plus, the park has those little fitness stations.

So this post is going to be about turning a highly organized and scientifically proven circuit training plan into something I can do at the fitness stations in my park, situated on a .7 mile trail, and likely designed by a city worker during the lunch hour.

And before I start, let me say the book’s plan would be a bruising workout. For instance, there is no recovery time at all—or rather, the recovery time from running is spent doing the strength circuit, and the recovery from the circuit exercises is spent running. So I’m going to have to tone it down, I can tell already.

As I see it, the big issue is how to fit in the 400s. If I run a 400, I’ll miss half the stations. If I hit each of the stations in turn, I’ll never run much more than about 100-200 meters at a time. And there’s no way I’m running a full lap, almost 1200m, between each station. For the moment, I’ll just have to settle for running from station to station.

So my first try—a “still-recovering-from-injury-and-also-still-not-in-shape-for-this-circuit-thing” try— should go something like this.

  1. 2.5 mile warmup
  2. 400m at current 5k race pace (about 98 seconds, or 6:30/mile right now)
    • Then do each station below, running at 5k pace between them (a total of .7 miles)
  3. Push ups (15)
  4. Chin ups (5ish) (man I hate chin ups)
  5. Monkey bars (I’m going to skip this one for another few weeks while my shoulder heals)
  6. Pogo hop (short quick straight-leg hop, driven by ankles)
    • This isn’t a station, but I’ll do it instead of the silly ladder-climb thing they have
  7. Sit ups (with Russian Twist) (20?)
  8. Leg lifts (laying on back – ab exercise) (15 each leg)
  9. Leg lifts (standing – quad/hip exercise) (15 each leg)
  10. Step ups (15 each leg)
  11. High Lunge (10 each leg)
  12. Hop over low bar (12)
  13. Jump up to high bar (15)
  14. Run one lap (.7 miles)
  15. And then… another???
  16. Cool down run – 1.5 miles

I’m missing one-legged squats and bench dips from the book plan, so I’ll have to work those in later


And a day later, the results:

I made it around. Once. Or, phrased more positively, I made it through steps 1-13, plus step 15. Also, I’m still slow from the injury so I didn’t hit 5k race pace.

All in all, it is absolutely astounding how tiring these exercises are!  I always thought runners were the only ones panting with exhaustion after a workout, but how wrong I was! Going straight from one station into a fast run… Wow. This is an oxygen intensive session! I was probably breathing a bit harder after my 30/20/10 sprint session, but then again I had to cut this circuit round short with the injury.

On the bright side, I’ve got plenty of room for improvement.

The Unauthorized Running Science 5k Plan for Old(ish) Folks

I’ve been reading Running Science, by Owen Anderson, and am freshly inspired. The book is pretty technical at points, digging into the biological processes of lactate conversion, for example, but I appreciate that. It’s a book built on research, not on lore.

Unfortunately, while it does have a nice half marathon training plan (26 weeks!), it doesn’t have a 5k plan. It does have several 5k specific workouts, though, so I’m going to build my own plan. Call it The Unauthorized Running Science 5k Plan for Old(ish) Folks.

The next few posts will be devoted to each of the key workouts, and eventually to putting them all together into some sort of sequence. Look for the first one on circuit training soon.

Easing Back In

Two runs so far this week, and the injury seems to be getting better with each one.

After almost two weeks off I’m most terrified of returning too fast and ending up with another forced rest, so Sunday was just three miles as a leisurely 8:30/mile. Any faster–any longer stride–and I could tell that adductor would have become quite unhappy. So a slow run, but still a run. And best of all, the leg actually felt better after.

This morning I started slow again, planning to keep to my slow pace but add a couple more miles. At one point, though, in the grips of strong tailwind, I glanced at my Garmin and saw–miracle of miracles–a 7:30 pace, but no pain at all. (Okay, almost no pain.) I could finally speed up a bit without the leg telling me “NO” in its special unavoidable way.

So more of this slow-ish and steady-ish running this week. Then next week a vacation, where I’ll be lucky to squeeze in two or three short runs. And hopefully that will be the end of the injury. Two weeks hurt but still running easy. Two weeks totally off, once I realized the “keep on doing what you’re doing” approach to injury was not a smart choice. And then two final weeks of easing back in.

Then a new plan, details forthcoming.

White Collar Privilege

Come Tuesday I’ll have been sidelined from running for two weeks, and from tennis and any other activity that uses my right shoulder for one week. And it’s made me realize how profoundly lucky I am.

These are both overuse injuries, made worse by the fact that 48 year old bodies don’t heal like 25 year old bodies. So I have to lay off strenuous exercise for a couple weeks.  Annoying, but nothing more than that.

Imagine, though, a 48 year old making a living doing the sort of physical labor (landscaping, for instance) that I’ve done in the past. Overuse injuries would be inevitable. And what happens when this person can’t lift a shovel, or bend down to pick up a roll of sod. Missing work for a few weeks isn’t an option; these jobs don’t pay enough to give the financial cushion for that sort of thing. And sick leave? Nonexistent in most such professions.

So I’m profoundly lucky that my injury has no impact on my earning. Everyone should be so fortunate. Really. I mean we need to work to make sure our nation ensures everyone has the same comfort of knowing that a pulled muscle isn’t going to mean their children go to bed hungry or they can’t make the next rent payment. This starts by maintaining the systems we have: workers’ compensation and social security disability coverage just to name a couple. But they aren’t enough, so the work isn’t finished.