Running quote of the week

"Running is a big question mark that's there each and every day. It asks you, Are you going to be a wimp, or are you going to be strong today?" - Peter Maher, Canadian Olympic marathoner

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An early run and another SA Elite bargain

Can't resist SAE markdowns
Today's run (street): 5.3 miles

This has been a very full day. So full in fact, that I can barely recall the details of this morning's run. My wife and son had planned an early venture into the city while my daughter and I had other plans. I headed out for a neighborhood run before 7:00 AM with a target of covering at least 5 miles.

What I can remember about my workout was the ideal weather for a July run - overcast sky, relatively cool temperature and moderate humidity. I try to do at least one run outside of my neighborhood every weekend. Due to time constraints, I had to settle for my local roads. I criss-crossed a number of different streets to keep things interesting and threw in some fartleks every mile because the cool conditions were so energizing.

At one point in the day, I stopped into SA Elite which was near the place where we had lunch. I can't resist a good bargain and found a lightweight Brooks long sleeve running shirt with an appealing old school graphic. It was $25 with discounts applied. I know I'll get a lot of use out of it.

It was a great day and another good weekend of running. I may try to do a treadmill run Tuesday morning to get back into at least a 4 x per week running schedule. That would help me get closer to my weekly targeted volume.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Numb Runner

Distance lost
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

Instead of heading out this morning with my running buddies, I was at the dentist having a broken filling repaired. I like to get out as early as possible on my weekend runs, so I can cover longer distances and still have my day. If I scheduled the dentist any later in the morning, the inevitable backups would have taken too much time. That's why I'd asked for the first appointment of the day.

It's been years since I've needed to get a local anesthetic at the dentist, so that was lots of fun (not). My dentist talked to me about Cow Harbor. She lives in Northport and has run the race a couple of times. I told her I'd run it this year if she does. I'm pretty sure I will participate either way, so I can run it with SIOR and TPP. I'm still on the fence about Dirty Sock though.

Since I have so few opportunities to run these days, I knew I had to get out today. The weather was ideal, mostly overcast, with temperatures in the low 70's. One side of my mouth was still unpleasantly numb when I set off from my driveway. Almost immediately after starting, I was flagged down by a man on a bicycle who asked me a question about the neighborhood. I stopped my Garmin while I chatted with him, and thought I'd restarted it once I resumed running.

I had covered about 1.5 miles when it occurred to me that I hadn't heard the one-mile chirp from the Garmin. I looked at my watch and realized that it wasn't recording time or distance. I restarted the timer, figuring I could determine my mileage when I got home by mapping my route with Milemeter. Since I had started off with the Garmin recording my start time, I was able to back into my pace by subtracting the "chat" time from total run duration.

Surprisingly enough, my mouth was still a little numb by the time I got home and that prevented me from having my usual post-run refueling. I did drink about 24 ounces of water to re-hydrate. Within an hour, the numbness had thankfully worn off. Between the dentist and the run, I was fairly wiped out, so that came at a perfect time for lunch. I was glad to get in some decent mileage today. I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow, because the family has early morning plans. Maybe a 6:00 AM run is in order. That might help prepare me for even earlier workouts on weekdays.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hiatus from racing

 
Today's run (street): 4.6 miles

The Dirty Sock Run happens in 30 days and I'm thinking of skipping it. In fact, I'm also considering skipping the Cow Harbor 10K in September. I've always enjoyed these two races, so this would represent a big gap in my racing schedule. Although I continue to look forward to my runs, I've become disinterested in racing.

I'm only running half the days that I did prior to my return to commuting and this disrupts my running schedule. It also undercuts my excitement about competing. My performance has definitely taken a nosedive and that's probably contributing to my lack of racing spirit.

I got out this morning for the first time since Sunday and had a nice run. We've had a respite from the rainy, humid weather and it felt good to be outside. I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow because I have an early dentist appointment. I'm planning to go for a run after that. I hope it doesn't get too hot.

I'm going to try to return to workday running at 4:00 AM, starting with a 25 minute treadmill run one morning a week. If that works out, I can expand the days and maybe even go back to early neighborhood runs.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Soggy and buggy on the Stillwell trails

Just me and the mountain bikers today
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.75 miles

The summer sun, heat and humidity can really wear out a runner. Friday afternoon I ran in extremely hot weather and dragged my way through four tough miles. Yesterday was a little better, because I ran in the morning and the temperature was still moderate. Besides my lethargy that was probably caused by caffeine deprivation, I also had a sinus headache. I'm sure that was related to Saturday's high pollen count.

I had a tough night's sleep last night and at 2:00 AM I was wide awake with a pounding headache. I took two Excedrin, the only analgesic that helps with these sinus-related migraines. The Excedrin did the trick and I slept until 6:15. I was hoping I'd feel refreshed and invigorated, but I had to settle for being headache-free.

I couldn't deal with any more sun and heat this morning, so I headed over to Stillwell Woods for my run. It was a cloudy day, 75° and already humid. I counted on Stillwell's tree cover to block the sun, were it to make its way past the low cloud cover. I arrived at 8:00 AM and was concerned that the parking lot would be packed due to soccer or Little League games. Happily, I only saw a handful of SUVs, most with bike carriers on the back.

I followed my usual route and cut into the woods after a minute on the main trail. I listened for bikers who commonly use the same entry point. Despite the SUVs in the lot, the trails were empty, save for a black snake that slithered across the path as I made my way east. My Cascadias did a great job of handling the terrain, especially in areas with loose gravel or rutted and root-covered paths.

I did encounter bikers a couple of times. They gave fair warning when approaching from behind and I moved over accordingly. The tree canopy gave good shade, but the humidity made it extremely uncomfortable. In addition, gnats buzzed constantly around my face, causing me to swat as I ran. That's the downside of summer trail running.

Usual route with a modified loop
I departed from my standard loop and went south a bit, where the trails are rougher. Again the Cascadia's rock plates provided good protection as I made my way over grapefruit-sized stones and other trail hazards. I would have covered more distance had I stayed on my original path, but the shorter route required a lot more effort.

After I finished, I realized how humid it really was. Sweat was pouring off me as if I'd just been soaked with a hose. I didn't manage a 6+ mile run this week, which is a goal I have with my current, limited, workout schedule. Still, it was almost four miles in tough conditions over difficult terrain. I'll consider this a good running week.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Undone by a mis-selected K-cup

Dear Bro: can GMC increase the font size of its decaf label?
Today's run (street) 4.2 miles

Our trip provided three days of high energy fun but rest time was at a premium. Last night, it was a treat to finally sleep in my own comfortable bed and I looked forward to waking up feeling refreshed and ready for good long run. I got up a little before 6:00 AM and made a cup of coffee to start my engines. Instead of feeling rested and energized, I felt like going back to bed. I decided to relax for the time being, even though I wanted to get out early to beat the heat.

I couldn't understand why I felt so tired, but I managed to gather my gear for my run. I had been thinking about a six miler, possible at Bethpage, but I couldn't shake the feeling of fatigue. I decided to stay local and modified my targeted distance to three miles. I figured it would be better to do something, rather than not running at all.

The sun was still low in the sky when I finally took off at 8:30 AM. I kept an easy pace that I knew I could sustain. The humidity wasn't as bad as it was during yesterday's afternoon run, and I knew I could get through a short workout without much problem. I thought about the track workout I did with SIOR and TPP a few weekends ago when I logged some decent 400's. I tried to duplicate the turnover I used to make those sub-8:00 quarters, but the speed didn't come today.

Surprisingly enough, I was able to beat today's shortened goal. In fact, I covered more distance than yesterday, when I barely got through four miles. Still, I was unusually tired after I finished, and that fatigue continued after a cooling shower and lunch. I decided to have another cup of coffee, hoping that would wake me up and help me get rid of a dull headache. That's when I discovered the probable cause of my lethargy.

When I removed this morning's spent K-cup, I realized that I'd accidentally put in decaf version of Green Mountain Dark Magic. I had been operating caffeine-free all day, no small thing for me. I don't need much caffeine, but I definitely need it in the morning. One cup is all it takes to return me to the world of the normal. I quickly made a cup of leaded and, within ten minutes, I was energized and headache free.

Tomorrow I'll try to break out of my four mile range with a longer run. I'm not sure where I'll go, but you can be sure I'll be starting my day with an extra strong cup of caffeinated brew.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Boston fun and a scorching run

Field of dreams
Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

Although I've lived in New York for over two decades, I'll always consider myself a New Englander. My wife went to college in Boston and also loves the city, so whenever we visit Boston, it's like returning home. I've never warmed to NY sports teams, especially the Yankees, who I am genetically predisposed to despise. The Red Sox are a religion in Boston and it was gratifying to see almost
A Yankees Hater cap
everyone wearing some type clothing that had the Sox name or logo.

It was fun to stay in Kenmore Square, directly adjacent to Fenway Park. We could see the Green Monster from our room. Better still, I got to bring my kids to see their first Sox game and watch the Red Sox beat Chicago in extra innings. We had a great time, although I didn't get a chance to run while I was away. It was probably for the best, due to the sun and heat.

I considered doing a run in the Fitness Center this morning before heading back to Long Island, but there wasn't enough time. In our travels, we'd stopped into the Boston Marathon Experience store in Faneuil Hall where we were able to take pictures "finishing" the Boston Marathon. The next day we saw the actual Boston finish line on Boylston Street that's located next to Marathon Sports running store. I got a Boston Strong shirt for SIOR who actually ran (and finished) the marathon this year.

Nice try ER

The real finish line
After we arrived home, I started to feel guilty that I had not run since Monday. Although I don't like running in the afternoon (especially on such a scorching-hot day), I put on my running shoes and made my way around the neighborhood.

Mid July is not the best time to go out in the afternoon without cover from the sun. The humidity was ridiculous, but I figured I could get through a few miles. I was fine for a while, but the conditions started to wear me out and I could hardly see from the sweat pouring into my eyes. I targeted 4-5 miles but decided to stay at the lower end as the sun, heat and humidity became practically intolerable.

When I got home I saw that my kids were in the pool. After setting aside my phone, Garmin, HRM and Road ID, I jumped in with my running clothes. The instant cooling felt fantastic. Better still, the pool water rinsed me clean of my sunscreen that had become very greasy under the hot sun.

It's been a great "mini" vacation since Wednesday, and I'll try to get out early tomorrow to prevent another high humidity run. I would have loved to do a run in Boston while I was away, but I'll admit that Long Island is also pretty great when it comes to running experiences.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The paradox of high humidity and faster running

Part of today's route. Pretty. Humid.
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Happy 7th of July. For some reason, the company I work for has made both the 4th of July and today company holidays. That, plus working from home last Thursday, allowed me to run for five consecutive days. Counting this morning, I've covered 21 miles in that period. I wish I could do that every week.

Even though I was up before 6:00 AM today, I managed to squander the early hours and didn't start my run until a little after 8:00 AM. When I stepped outside it didn't seem all that humid. There was a slight breeze from the north that combined with the mid-70's temperature, creating what seemed to be comfortable conditions. That was an illusion.

The neighborhood looked very nice under sunny skies and the first mile of my route was fairly shady. From then on, the temperature seemed to rise by the minute, along with the humidity. I mixed up my route in an attempt to break the boredom of my local streets and found myself running up what passes for a long hill in my neighborhood. Between the treeless road and the thickening air, I moved into direct drive mode. That's when I put all resources toward getting through the distance.

I often forget that when I put a little more power into my stride, my running efficiency (speed benefit as a function of expended energy) increases. This is the trick I occasionally use when a faster runner begins to overtake me in the neighborhood or on the Bethpage trail. By lengthening my stride and increasing cadence a little, I can lower my pace by a mile per minute for short periods without feeling like I'm working that much harder. 

About half the time I can hold back speedy challengers until one of us turns off to another road. Running harder, despite the humidity, helped get me to the 4 mile mark faster than I expected. The only issue is that I usually reach a point where I can no longer sustain the greater speed. Fortunately, I was able to maintain the pace and I even took it up a gear for the final 200 meters.

When I went inside to cool off before my shower, I realized that my level of sweat was equivalent to having jumped into the pool. In fact my running clothes looked like I had just done that. I have a different schedule this week that will involve some travel, so I don't know when I'll get a chance to run again before the weekend. If the timing works out favorably, I may be able to fit in a couple of mid week runs.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two runs and a Runsketeer party

What the Runsketeers do when they don't run
Saturday's run (street): 5.2 miles
Sunday's run (street): 3.5 miles

This week has been a throwback to April. That's the last time I was able to put four runs together in as many days. I worked from home on Thursday and, since then, I've have been on a 4th of July break. My company also makes Monday a holiday, so I expect to extend my streak to five tomorrow morning.

It's been a fun long weekend and yesterday we hosted running friends TPP and SIOR (and family) for a late day summer fĂȘte. Although the "Runsketeers" get together for runs fairly often, we usually don't get an opportunity to converse until after our workouts. Those post-run Starbucks breaks have become our valued tradition. The only downside is that we're usually all pressed for time at that point. That's why it's great to get together on non-running days (more below).

I went out for a run on Saturday morning and the weather could not have been better. It was 64 degrees and sunny without the humidity we'd had a couple of days before. I wanted to cover at least five miles so I took a detour from my usual route and went west along Jericho Turnpike and then South on S. Oyster Bay Road. Due to fast moving traffic, I always stay on the sidewalks when I run on those roads. Jericho's sidewalks are well maintained, but the ones on South Oyster Bay Road are in very poor condition. It's almost like technical trail running, but instead of root hazards, it's broken concrete and mud.

I turned back into my neighborhood around the two mile mark and ran on the street from there. The average length of my local roads is a quarter mile, so it takes a lot of streets to cover five or six. When that's my goal, I usually go somewhere else for my run. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to do a destination run that included driving. Overall it was a nice workout - energizing but not overtaxing.

Our guests all arrived together and we hung out poolside for a few hours before heading inside. The kids, who ranged in age from 2 to 16 (including our two) had lots of fun and did not stop until after 8:00. I am proud to say that I had half a beer (that I split with SIOR's husband) and didn't fall asleep or lose my ability to converse. We had lots of food, great desserts and lively conversation. Even though me, my wife, TPP, SIOR and Mr. SIOR are all runners, we left that fun activity to the kids. It was great having everyone here and we really enjoyed the day.

This morning we had plans to get out early, so I agreed to cap my run at 3.5 miles for the sake of time. Weather conditions were again optimal, and I took it a little easier than Saturday. Despite the pizza, chicken, fruit salad (courtesy of TPP) and chocolate mousse cheesecake (courtesy of the SIOR family) I felt great on my run. Maybe it was the half can of Cold Smoke Missoula Scotch Ale that provided the energy (thanks again Adventure Girl!).

Friday, July 4, 2014

My Garmin lied and the truth hurts

My Garmin made up most of this route
Today's run (street): 3.75 miles

Halfway through today's run, I glanced at my Garmin and saw that I had covered two miles in about 17 minutes. That would have put me on track for my best training run in memory. I was puzzled because my perceived effort was nowhere near what I'd expect for that pace. I tried to rationalize the reasons for such a dramatic improvement in my performance compared to yesterday. It was 10 degrees cooler and cloudy, but could that account for running over a minute per mile faster?

When I got home and saw my time and mileage on the Garmin, I thought I'd rocked it. Maybe I was turning a corner with my training. After all, I used to regularly average 8:45 paces on my daily runs. Breaking 9:00 minutes on a run these days is a notable achievement for me. I hoped it was accurate and not some weird Garmin fail.

Despite that wishful thinking, it did turn out to be a badly confused GPS. For some odd reason, the Garmin put my starting point 3 miles north of where I began my run. Looking at the run data through Garmin Connect, my course appeared to have frequent 50-foot elevation changes. That's definitely not the case for my relatively flat route. I'm guessing that the low cloud cover may have interfered with the GPS signal and caused it to skip.

I Gmapped my route and was disappointed to see that I'd only covered 3.75 miles, rather than the 4.35 that the Garmin said I'd run. I wanted to run 4-5 miles today and thought I'd met my objective. The good news is that I beat yesterday's pace by 42 second per mile. The other good news is that it's a long weekend and tomorrow we're hosting a Runsketeer pool party. If the weather reports are accurate, the skies will be clear and I'll be able to get in a longer run in the morning.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The downside of minimal running shoes

Minimal shoe with maximal wear
Today's run (street) 4.1 miles

I was looking at the latest Runner's World shoe guide and noticed that the average weight of running shoes has begun to rise. The recent minimalism movement prompted most running shoe companies to develop lighter, lower and more flexible shoes to meet the new demand. I was an early adopter, switching from my heavier Brooks Adrenalins to the then-groundbreaking Saucony Kinvara. I went even more minimal with the Hattori and a pre-production pair of Brooks Pure Drifts.

The pendulum has swung the other way and new companies like Hoka are building market share with 12+ ounce ultra-cushioned models. These trainers remind me of 70's era platform shoes and I wonder about their stability. I like to stay as close to the ground as I can when I run. The downside to staying in the minimalist camp is that, when you buy less shoe, you'll likely wear it out faster than a conventional model.

I just noticed that my year old Saucony Vittaras (now with 425 miles on them) are starting to show some serious heel wear. These are low platform running shoes, with a 4mm drop and are very lightweight because the out-soles are mostly soft EVA with a small amount of carbon rubber. I love the shoes, but I'm concerned that this wear will lead to a shift in the way that the shoes land. That could affect my stride and possibly lead to injury. I'll need to replace them soon, but I'm not going to move to the Hokas.

I ended up working from home today which allowed me to get in a rare Thursday morning run. I didn't get out as early as I should have, and it was 80° and very humid by the time I set out. I could tell from the start that this would not be a performance run. Although the air was thick, I had no trouble breathing. I didn't feel weighed down, but I couldn't generate the will to push very hard.

With hurricane Arthur making its way up the east coast, I'm not sure what my options will be for running on Friday. I can always use the treadmill, but the machine (like my Virratas) is wearing out quickly. Since the treadmill is my wife's running method of choice, I don't want to contribute to its demise. With such a limited window for running, I may be forced to use it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Taking on hills and challengers at Bethpage

Halfway there on Sunnyside
Today's run (Bethpage bike path): 6.4 miles

It was back to Bethpage this morning, where I went for my longest run of the week. I arrived early and parked in my usual parking spot near Haypath Road. It was the beginning of another beautiful day and there were already plenty of people out on the trail. My Garmin acquired its signal very quickly so I was off and running seconds after locking my car.

The Bethpage bike path is isolated, but in a good way. With trees on both sides of the trail, it sometimes feels like a paved path through the woods. I felt good, but I wasn't sure how I'd hold up through my 6+ targeted miles. I have an aversion to hills and, as a result, I tend to avoid certain sections of this path. I originally planned to run to the route 495 underpass and turn around there. Instead I decided to take on the worst of it by following the trail all the way to the top of Sunnyside Boulevard.

Rise along the bikeway north of Washington Ave
What's tough about the section from Washington Ave to Sunnyside Boulevard is the roller coaster-like changes in elevation over a mile and a half span. I figured that if I wasn't going to burn up the trail with my speed today, I might as well challenge myself with some hills. I kept reminding myself to run the mile I was in instead of dreading the other hills that I would soon encounter.

I was about a mile away from finishing when a runner came off the road and fell in behind me on the trail. I felt a need to step up my pace so I wouldn't get overtaken. It was a good test of my fitness and I was determined to hold him off. After a while I stopped hearing his footsteps. I don't know if he fell back or went off trail (most likely) but he never passed me. No surprise, that was the fastest mile of my run.

We had guests coming midday, so I needed to wrap up quickly and head back home to take care of a couple of things. Today's experience went a long way towards restoring my running excitement. Too bad I probably won't get back on the road until late next week.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Running excitement waning, but not the commitment to run

Today's route
Yesterday's run (street): 4.25 miles
Today's run (street): 5.6 miles

I just passed 1,800 posts and it took me a lot longer to get to that milestone than I would have expected. That is due to a drop in my blogging frequency and it relates directly to my reduced number of runs per week. This year has brought changes to my running, both in terms of outlook and performance. It's not a matter of losing interest, but my level of excitement has definitely waned.

Yesterday's run in my neighborhood was the first I'd done since last Sunday's trail run. I went out only because I had to. My schedule allows just three days a week for running and I need to make those runs count. But instead of feeling the joy of the run, these days I'm only feeling the obligation. Still, I didn't hesitate to prepare and get outside. While I no longer question my commitment, I miss the excitement and anticipation of the experience.

This morning I targeted five miles and went a little longer than that. I couldn't face another run through my neighborhood. After a loop around some nearby roads, I headed over to a nearby business park. My level of engagement was higher today than yesterday. The weather at 7:00 AM was nearly perfect. I did a couple of loops around the park and noticed a wooded section that reminded me of the Central Park lower path.

I ended up running through an adjacent neighborhood before returning home. Tomorrow I hope to run a little longer, perhaps at Bethpage. I do like running there and with the long straight trail, I can detach from the run and think about things (or, better still, not think about anything). I usually gain back more interest in my running by the end of my Sunday workouts. Too bad I have these long gaps between Sunday and Friday.
 

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