09 April 2011

Hills, Speed, and Endurance (or the slow return of the last two)

Since my last post, I've had an interesting time running. I spent 4 days in a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg sits at roughly 5400' above sea level, about 300' lower than where I live (Nairobi, Kenya), a difference that is basically inconsequential as far as running goes. And, much of Jo'burg is hilly, so I really don't normally feel any difference. However, the venue of our meeting was in a relatively flat spot in Jo'burg. I ran 3 of the mornings and I don't think there was more than 40' difference between the lowest and highest point of my routes.

I also got to run with a friend from Madagascar. I warned him that I was slower than the last time we ran together, 2 years ago. He assured me that he was, too, because the heat and humidity of Madagascar takes it out of him. So, off we go the first morning — my Garmin's watch died, I kid you not, 33' into the run — it did tell me the battery was low before I headed out. Oh, well. Michael, though, had started his watch, so we had the time and Gmap-Pedometer provided the route distance. I knew we were pushing it just a bit but was surprised to find that we had run at a pace of 9:05 mpm — these days I'm doing more like 9:30 mpm or slower. I chalked it up to Michael being about 12 years younger. The next morning, we were a little slower at 9:12 mpm. Then, Saturday morning, Michael didn't run so I figured I'd be back to 9:30's — not so — I ran at 9:01 mpm. Couldn't blame Michael. So, the only thing I can figure is that the hills make a huge difference. I knew they were bad (for me) in Nairobi, just not how bad. That was actually a pretty comforting revelation — maybe I haven't slowed up quite as much as I thought.

Well, back to Nairobi last week and back to more normal pacing. But, it has been a little faster until today: 5.5 miles at 9:34, 4 miles at 9:23, 5.1 miles at 9:26, and 5.5 miles at 9:45 (today). Today's run was really hard. Part of it is that I've average over 5 miles per run this week (4 runs, 20.26 miles), about .75-1 mile longer than previously. Part of it may be that I changed my fueling.

I have been downing a Gu before any run of 4 miles or longer. However, I'm running low. Gu isn't sold (that I've found) in Kenya, so I can't get any more until late July. So, I have to conserve or figure something else out. So, this morning, I ate a banana about 45 minutes before heading out and then took a jug (22 oz bottle) of Gatoraide with me. The Gatoraide didn't seem to do anything except leave a sweet taste in my mouth and I felt like I was dragging. So, who knows.

I do know that my fitness is coming back, slowly. My average heartrate has dropped 2-4 bpm over the last couple of weeks and I don't think I've hit a peak of 164 bpm in a couple of weeks. My distance endurance is slow — it may be mental — but I did do 3 5+ miles runs this week and that's more what I consider normal. Oh, and while it was only a 1/2# change, the scales registered lower this morning than any time in the last 10-12 months.

At any rate, I'm more encouraged than discouraged. I would still like to run at least one more half marathon in under 2 hours (preferably under 1:50) and would like to set a 10K PR of sub-45:00. I turn 57 in less than a month — don't know if it's possible for me or not, but I'm not giving up just yet.

Run well, y'all,