Sunday, September 22, 2013

An Experiment in Strength Training … ...

This morning I ran the 2013 5th Avenue Mile along Central Park in Manhattan. I ran it in 5:49 (AG 66.18% – not bad!). While far from a PR (which was 5:19 in 2009), this race determined a lot of good things for me as I consider running it again next year.

First of all, I haven’t really been running. The interest in running the race this year came when I was actually shooting a commercial for a large NYC race that I’m not supposed to name. For the commercial, I would jog by the frame of the shot with a bunch of other actors. I noticed that several of the actors would then start sprinting. I got “sprinting envy” and asked if I could join them. Soon enough I was sprinting along with them and keeping up with them! This surprised me because I hadn’t run in about a month and a half — but I had been working with a personal trainer at my gym, building muscle. So, I was encouraged to see if these short bursts of maybe 200 meters coupled with strength training might equate to just as fast of a 5th Ave. Mile as in the past, or — gosh! — maybe even a PR?! I wanted to see.

Today I started out at about 185 lbs. This is heavy for me, about 8 lbs. heavier than I race at my heaviest! Rather than fat, though, presumably some of the weight is muscle and my physique seems to tell that tale. I was feeling good at the start of the race. It was a gorgeous day — sunny, about 62 degrees with an imperceptible 90% humidity, and there was a crosswind along the streets that cut across 5th Ave. that may even have been a headwind. All in all, it felt cool out. I was excited, felt good, and not very anxious, and I had a general strategy to go out hard, have fun, and push myself, while, again, having fun. I knew to be anywhere near PRing I had to hit the 1/2-mile marker around 2:40. And I figured out before my race that it takes about 15-20 seconds from passing the last street to make it to the finish line (even though it looks to be “right there” from 61st Street). This was good to know in calculating my finish time as I approached — and to know just how much I’d have to give in case I really needed to give.

Before my 9:55am heat, I lightly jogged up from 60th Street the mile to the starting line. For one or two blocks I did a test by sprinting a little bit, and things seemed fine in the legs. I had, though, run the 2013 NYC Pizza Run the day before, and maybe my legs were a wee bit tired from that 2-mile race — certainly going to bed last night they were surprisingly a little sore. This morning I  had three eggs and a Pro-Scuplt beverage with 200 mg of caffeine in it plus l-arginine, whose effects I weren’t sure of in racing. I had that around 7:30am. At 9:40am, just before entering the corral, I had a 2x caffeine Tangerine PowerGel, which I understand equates to 50mg of caffeine plus sugar.

When I got into the corral, I was maybe four guys deep in the center of the road. When the gun went off, I crossed the start line maybe one second later. I decided to push myself on the downhill this year, which was counterindicated by most people who advise this race — but not counterindicated by last year’s self-prescription, which said basically “have fun.” Immediately as I began this race, I realized I wasn’t sure what the best breathing strategy was. I quickly decided to go at it with pretty reserved breathing, doing about three strides then one exhale. This seemed more controlled, to guard against getting all crazy in the breathing and just melting down.

The strategy didn’t help much. I noticed before 74th Street (where the hill begins) I was getting passed by a nice number of gents. This proved to be much of the race for me, though I was giving it my best and keeping pressure on myself. At the 1/2-mile mark I logged about a 2:46 I think, which meant that I probably would not be able to PR this year. It also meant that in my current shape, it was going to be tough! I felt slow (or maybe just looked slow with so many guys passing me) but kept at it, reminding myself through the strain to “have fun.” It helped my psyche. Around this time my friend Sharon Eckstrom, who was watching from about this mark, saw me and snapped a few photos. She said my face looked pained, but she said that others did, too, so I didn’t feel so bad about that!

When I zeroed in on the finish, I tried to sprint after passing 61st Street. It didn’t feel like the fastest sprint in the world for me, though I’m pretty sure I passed a number of guys in doing so.

Am I happy with finishing with this time? Largely yes, and a little bit no. Fortunately the “no” isn’t a very big deal. The “no” comes from wanting to PR, and also from wanting to be a lot closer to my past finish times rather than be my slowest 5th Ave. Mile to date. But the “yes” comes from a number of considerations. I’m happy to learn that strength training without running training is not going to be my ticket to faster times. That is, strength training needs to have running in the mix to mean something. Furthermore, cardiovascular training for more extended periods of time — probably while running — may make the biggest difference. I felt labored in my breathing this year, so more cardiovascular shape may have led to a better time. (My cardio now comes from swimming and biking, which probably isn’t that big of a deal. The only running I’ve been doing is warm-up runs on a treadmill, and, while fast, are only for 4-6 minutes.)

Also, happiness comes from actually pulling off this sub-6:00 time without really any running training for the event! Usually I’m in the midst of marathon training when I’m running this race, so I’m benefitted by that training. This time, not one bit.

Afterwards I watched some of the heats with Sharon. Sharon was then going to do some running in Central Park, and I asked if I could join her. We ended up doing about 6 miles together, and I finished having run 7.15 miles. This, after having run a mile up to the start line and a mile sprint back to the finish line! So, for not really having run, it was surprising to comfortably log 9.15 miles today, and 11+ miles in two days considering yesterday’s race.

Here’s what my Garmin charted when Sharon and I ran together. She and I split off very near the conclusion of mile 6.

Cheers for now!


This entry was posted on Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 at 3:29 pm and is filed under 1-Milers, Races. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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