How Far Was It Really?

Tom and I watched our friend Liz finish the Danskin Women’s Triathlon last Sunday. We stood against the fence that defined the corridor that took the runners the final 100 meters. They came around a curve that emerged from the trees and bushes in Genessee Park and charged over the sunny grass to the finish. I was so thrilled for all of them, and so inspired! As I watched the different running styles, different degrees of tiredness, different ages and facial expressions, I envied and admired them all. A daydream—a visualization, you might say—bubbled up in my head: I’ll finish my run with a cartwheel.
What? I can’t swim and I hate running. But I can’t get that image out of my head!
Today I spent some time researching how to train for a 5k run, which is what the Danskin finishes with. I learned that it is useful to estimate your 5k time and pace, and to use the pace in various ways as a basis for training workouts. Calculate the estimate by running 3 x 1600 with a one-minute rest between each. Take the average of the three times and multiply it by 3.125 for a 5k estimated time. It took me about an hour and several emails to Tom before I understood all of the details behind that—for one thing, you’re using a 400-meter track, which doesn’t go evenly into 5000; and ultimately you’re finding a pace in minutes per mile for a metric race and metric workouts. Wha?
Anyway, I thought tonight I’d run the 3 x 1600 and find my estimated 5k time. Our nearest high school track is torn up as the whole place is under construction; our next-nearest high school track, where I went on my scooter tonight, also turned out to be unfinished. I had gotten the nerve up to go work out in an unfamiliar place doing something I’m not accustomed to, which took a whole afternoon of self-persuading, so I didn’t want to go straight home.
I went to Seward Park, which has a beautiful paved 2.5-mile loop around the edge of a wooded peninsula on the lake. Lake views all the way around on my right, forest breezes from the left, peaceful lapping water on the shore. The problem: 2.5 miles was even less intuitive for calculating anything useful than was 5k divided into miles. I decided I’d just time myself running all the way around it from where I parked the scooter, and then continue on past for whatever felt like another half mile. At that time I was thinking the loop was 2.6 miles (as I’d read online), so adding a half mile would make it 5k. (Right?)
For my own future reference, detailed notes on where I stopped: going counterclockwise from the shore parking area east of the tennis courts, I continued until the trail bent noticeably to the left and there were three conspicuous, straight, narrow, parallel, white trees on the right between the trail and the water. There were lots of trees but three narrow straight white ones stood out. Okay. So to reach that point, my time was 27:40. This is right within the range I calculated based on timed mile runs I’ve recorded in the past year or so. Maybe it was 5k, maybe I didn’t go far enough.
The run felt fine and I had no trouble completing it. From time to time I focused on what Dave has described as feeling like shortened steps and a pedaling motion (as opposed to reaching out with the heel to lengthen the steps, or scuffing the front of the foot to shorten the steps). I concentrated most of the time on: breathing into the diaphragm to push my stomach out; relaxing my midsection so it wasn’t too stiff; and keeping my shoulders down and relaxed. I’m really happy with how this went, and the surroundings were beautiful. I treated myself to a barefoot wade in the lake when I finished running.
As I walked back, retracing the extra part of my route, I finally noticed that there was a mile marker along the trail. It said 2 on one side and one-half on the other side. D’oh! If I’d known those existed, I could have started in the right place and could have known when I hit three miles. The next question was where is the first marker, the one that marks the start?
I wandered around for a while and I think I found it by the main parking area and building where the clay studio is. I’m not 100 percent sure because although it’s the same style and same stone, its lettering doesn’t say “loop starts here” or anything clear like that—instead it says “the mile markers were donated by the Friends of Seward Park,” states that it is a 2.5-mile loop, and shows where you can usually see blue herons and so on. I guess I’ll start there next time, go all the way around, and continue to the half-mile marker so I’ll know I ran three miles. But 5K is 3.125 miles. I won’t be able to know when I’ve run that extra eighth.

No Hip Replacement Please

I’ve wondered if all the exercising I do with weights and running and jumping is leading me to hip or knee arthritis at the same time as it’s making my muscles and heart stronger. Could hard exercise be good for the muscles but bad for the joints?
I was happy to read this today in an article about cyclist Floyd Landis and his upcoming hip replacement:
“While it may seem as if all that bike riding before and after the accident contributed or even caused Landis’ problem, surprisingly, experts say this is not the case. ‘Cycling did not wear his hip out. There has never been a scientific study showing that any sport leads to arthritis of any joint. Injury is what leads to arthritis,’ says Michael Bronson, MD, chief of joint replacement surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Moreover, he tells WebMD that continuing to ride may have actually helped the problem, allowing Landis to maintain a significant range of motion, which in turn allowed him to function better than if he were a couch potato.”
I hope this is correct. I know of way too many middle-aged people who have had, or have been told they should have, a hip replacement or two.

Max Effort, Min Result

Last Saturday we had the second Maximum Effort Day, to follow up on our max effort in May and see how much we’d improved. The two max effort exercises were the deadlift (max weight) and dips (max number of reps). In May, I lifted 110 kilos and did 14 dips. I was hoping last weekend, after a little bit of extra deadlift training (but much more general-fitness stuff that we always do) to be able to lift 120.
The problem was that I was at the gym the night before and the workout was extremely strenuous and leg-intensive, with high reps of a kettlebell complex (sort of a unique form of clean-and-squat) and running. So on Max Effort day the next morning, I could not even lift my previous max and only lifted 100 kilos. I was disappointed. I should have stayed home on Friday night. But in the past every time I’ve tried for a new max I’ve gotten it, so I foolishly took that for granted.
I managed 16 dips this time instead of 14. I don’t recall any special emphasis on dips training since the May max effort day. The dilemma of CrossFit is that it’s designed to develop general fitness and is pointedly not designed to specialize. So if all of a sudden we want to focus on improving our deadlift, it’s hard to do when the whole orientation is to generalize.

Back Squat

Last night we did eight rounds of 3 back squats. I did a bonus ninth set of 1 rep with 80 kilos. At 176 pounds this is a new max. I should have tried one more at 85 kilos. I felt like I still had something left, and I just found out my old max was 175 pounds back in December 2004 at another gym. If I had known that last night, I would have tried again for sure.

Retroactive post

Approximate 800-meter run (twice around the building) when tired from a workout: 4:18. Desired benchmark time for various reasons: 4:20. Whew. I wonder what my time was for exactly 800 meters; twice around the building is probably more like 808 meters.
Vertical jump: 17.125 inches. Desired benchmark: 7 inches (I think). No problem. This was measured against a wall: first how high you can reach (marked with chalk on the fingertips), then how high you can touch the wall when you jump.
400-meter run after three slow ones: 1:30. Desired benchmarks for same various reasons: 2:04. No problem. But can I get that down to 1:09? Not without a lot more concerted effort than I’ve been making.
The “various reasons” for the benchmark times are that these drills are part of a long list of benchmarks Dave has developed in order to gauge people’s fitness in detail. I’m almost done with meeting all the Level 1 benchmarks. I just have to run a mile in under 9 minutes and I’ll get a Level 1 T-shirt.
The hardest thing on the Level 1 list is the 10-second L-sit with straight legs. Nancy and I tried this one day when we were not tired and we succeeded.