Running quote of the week

"Every day is a good day when you run." - Kevin Nelson, The Runner's Book of Daily Inspiration

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A quiet, non-turkey related run

I didn't run this one either
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

Today was going to be a busy day so I opted for a tour of my local roads rather than a more ambitious venue. One year ago, I ran the Long Beach Turkey Trot but decided not to participate this year. TPP, who ran with me last year, soloed today and came in first in her age group. Awesome job TPP! SIOR was going to run the Turkey Trot with her, but she had a geography-related mix-up with her registration.

It was much warmer this morning than it was on Saturday and felt much more like fall than winter when I stepped outside. I appreciated that the milder conditions allowed me to wear less layers today. No Opedix on this run. There isn't much to relate in terms of the run and nothing special in terms of performance or experience. But some runs are like that.

The rest of the day has been spent taking care of household needs. At one point, me and my daughter (who just started her own blog where she talks about sneakers) went over to H&Y to pick up some items and sample all the Korean food they cook in the isles. It was a fun thing to do on a day that has been primarily filled with errands.

Despite a crazy work schedule, I'm pleased that I was able to tally almost 18 miles this week. I'm looking forward to the coming week, where I plan to be doing less commuting and a lot more running.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Escape from a neighborhood run

Apr├Ęs run selfie
Today's run (Bethpage Trail): 6.25 miles

It took me a while to decide where I'd run this morning. The easy choice was to stay in my neighborhood but I'm getting bored seeing of the same roads, houses and cars. I considered Stillwell Woods because I haven't been on the trails in a few weeks. My goal was to run at least six miles today, so I figured I'd go to the Bethpage trail where I do better on longer runs.

It was "wicked cold" this morning (as we'd say in Boston) so I needed to gear up properly. Running in cold weather usually doesn't bother me except in cases when the wind chill causes my glasses to freeze on my face. Today's weather was fairly calm and I wore plenty of layers. That included my new Opedix Knee-Tecs that I scandalously wore without a top layer of shorts.

I parked in the Bethpage lot and ran up the hill toward the trail. I then decided to head north so I could follow the mile markers to the 5K point. Turning around there would get me my planned six-plus mile distance. I didn't have the same level of energy today that powered me through yesterday's surprisingly good run. Even so, I felt strong enough to take on the ribbon of hills that awaited me.

The temperature during my run was 34° with a 10 MPH wind from the west. Since I traveled north for the first half and then south for the second, I didn't experience much in the way of resistance. It did feel chilly and I didn't see a single runner, cyclist or walker until I reached my second mile. I run at Bethpage so often that I recognize a lot of people on the trail now, and based upon their greeting when we pass, I assume that some of them recognize me back. There's one woman I see every time I run there who always gives me a big smile and wave.

Today's route
Today's run was more LSD than PDQ so I wasn't disappointed that it took over an hour to cover my route. Overall, I was pleased with the run and happy that I didn't settle for another workout around my neighborhood roads. I may do that tomorrow, but at least today I got to experience some hills and look at scenery that didn't include a bunch of boring houses and cars.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Running performance is a weighty issue

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

There's an article in a recent issue of Running Times that correlates weight and performance. There's nothing surprising or revelatory in the article, but they make the obvious point that carrying extra pounds will not help your speed. I've been exploring every reason why my pace has declined over the last couple of years and have ruled out health issues. After reading this story, I wondered if weight is a factor.

I've kept my weight under control over the last six years and I continue to watch my diet. Running 16-20 miles a week certainly helps. Still, I've wondered if I've become lax in terms of sugar intake and portion control. I hadn't stepped on a scale in months and decided check to see if I'd gained weight. I hoped that I had because I can deal with that. Just lose a few pounds and go back to 26 minute 5Ks!

I pulled out the scale and saw that I was only 3.5% over my ideal healthy weight. That didn't provide much opportunity to trade pounds for performance. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that the only way to improve is to commit to a higher level of training. Running buddy TPP has proven that really works.

I went out this morning for a cold weather run that felt even colder due to strong winds. I spent almost ten minutes waiting for a GPS signal before the watch showed ready. I took off and noticed that I felt a little stronger than usual. However, I didn't expect a great performance because of the strong winds. The wind chill was in the teens and my face felt frozen.

It wasn't until I got back home that I realized I'd done my fastest run in months. I was happy to see that, but I'm not exactly sure why. I may start paying a little more attention to my diet and bring that 3.5% down to target. Every little bit helps. Especially for those of us who are happy to stick with their current level of training.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Heat, exhaustion and a failing treadmill

Torture chamber. Why did I wear a sweater?
Today's workout (treadmill): 25 minutes

I spent most of the week in an airless conference room filled with computers that raised the temperature into the intolerable range. We were piloting some new business processes and technologies and I spent a lot of time managing the participants and capturing issues on a whiteboard. The heat, lack of ventilation and fumes from the dry markers wore me out.

This morning I celebrated a return to normal working conditions. I hopped on the treadmill at 3:45 AM and hoped to raise my heart rate and ingest cool air that was devoid of marker solvent. I hadn't run since Sunday and was ready to go. I'm no fan of the treadmill but that didn't bother me today. Once the machine started up I changed my mind about that.

The F63
Our Sole F63 has not lived up to its reputation as a top rated machine. In the four years that we've owned it, we've had to rebuild the motor once, fix multiple problems with a slipping tread belt and replace the display console four times. Despite regular maintenance, our technician told us a few months ago that the treadmill is nearing its end. Based on the cacophony of sound I heard today, I thought the end would come today.

The Sole was never whisper quiet, but compared to the 14 year old Pro-Form unit it replaced, our new machine was nearly silent. Now the F63 is making worse noises than the Pro-Form. The motor has grown increasingly louder and the belt rollers are making sounds like gunshots. The belt also feels like it slips when I increase the speed past a certain point.

I managed to get through my workout, but I'm not sure how many runs are left in the machine. I do 3/4 of my running outside, so I can manage without the treadmill, but my wife does all her running on it. It's going to be cold tomorrow morning, but I'm very much looking forward to a quiet outdoor run.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Perceived effort was not enough

 
Today's run (street): 4.6 miles

Yesterday's run in Old Westbury provided a great hill workout. Today I thought I'd keep it simple and keep my running to my local roads. It wasn't as cold as Saturday, but it was still pretty chilly. I wore the Opedix again, along with three top layers. It wasn't until I took my first steps off the driveway that I knew my legs had recovered well. I had high hopes for a performance improvement and I sure gave it a try.

After we finished preparing for our runs this morning, my wife said, "Okay, let's get our runs on!" We were both ready to get going - she to the treadmill and me to the street. I was psyched knowing that I would be dealing with less distance and lower elevation today. My plan was a four mile run with negative splits.

The temperature was 35° and there wasn't much wind. I was comfortable in my gear and I felt good from the start. I'd left my HRM home and though I had my Garmin, I decided to run by feel instead. The first mile went by quickly and I was convinced that I was beating Friday's moderately brisk pace. I avoided looking at the readout on my watch because I didn't want to be discouraged, or overly encouraged, by what I saw.

I'd started around 7:30 AM and there were few cars or people around, although I kept crossing paths with two other runners. I felt like I was moving a lot faster than yesterday and was hoping to finish with a big surprise in terms of time and pace. I was surprised, but not in a good way, Running by feel did not generate the speed I'd hoped for. I did achieve negative splits, but my pace was 30 seconds off of Friday's.

On the positive side, I put in almost 20 miles this week, had some good workouts and got to run and hang with my friends. I'll take that over performance anytime.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Runsketeers provoke a priest

We should look a lot more tired
Today's run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

This morning the Runsketeers took on the hills at SUNY Old Westbury for an energizing run on a cold morning. We also angered a priest, but I'll get to that later. SIOR, TPP and I (founding members of our prestigious running club) invited new members JC and KWL to today's group run. JC is Celia's coach and paramour and KWL is a good friend of mine who knows SIOR and TPP from our Brooklyn Half adventure.

The plan was to meet in the parking lot of a church that is located diagonally across from the entrance to the Old Westbury campus. We'd then run the (approximately) four mile loop a couple of times. Eight miles was a little longer than I was aiming to cover today, so I figured I'd do my miles independently of the group and catch up with them at the end.

It was great to see my friends since we haven't run together in a number of weeks. I was wearing my new Opedix Knee-Tecs for the first time and we discussed the increasingly high cost of good running tights. SIOR mentioned that the Knee-Tecs retail for $225 and JC said no running clothing is worth that much money. He may be right, but I liked the Opedix a lot and thought they provided great support, warmth and energy return. If I race again this winter, I'll be wearing them.

We all started together, but soon split up when KWL and I crossed over to a road that had facing traffic. I don't like running with cars coming up from behind. We lost sight of the others when they continued on the northern side and followed the road in the other direction. The hills at Old Westbury are plentiful and a few seem to go on forever. KWL was a good sport and he followed my pace, even though he could have gone a lot faster.

Despite the frequent hills, I was able to converse well with KWL and we caught up on a lot of things. As expected, we crossed paths with JC, TPP and SIOR who were running counter-clockwise during our first loop and again as they completed their second. At that point KWL joined the others so he could ramp up his speed. I continued on alone with a goal of covering 7 miles.

I stayed on course and turned around at Store Hill Road and followed the drive back to Cedar Swamp Rd. I crossed the street and ran a loop around the church before returning to my car to wait for the others. Or should I say before not returning to my car. This is the part about the priest.

As I made my way closer to where we parked, I saw a person walking around the cars and thought that my friends had beaten me back. I saw that the person was dressed in church vestments and he was putting flyers under our windshields. Being the brave soul that I am, I continued running instead of risking a scolding. In fairness, I was at 6.97 miles and wanted to make it to seven, so I had an excuse to continue. I ended up at 7.06.

Today's seven
Once the priest returned to the church I bravely sneaked back to my car and read the flyer:

Forgive me Father, for I have parked
I completely understood that the church didn't want people taking up spaces in the lot. While I felt badly that we'd broken the rule, our four cars were the only ones in the lot. We weren't putting anyone out unless their hearts were set on parking in our particular spaces. But the message was received loud and clear and we plan to park at a lot within the SUNY campus next time.

My friends eventually made it back to their cars and we headed over to the Starbucks near Whole Foods in Jericho. Since I wasn't able to run with everyone today, it was great to spend time relaxing over coffee. JC and KWL are both avid cyclists and triathletes and they compared notes on bike gear and races. The five of us had plenty to talk about. I loved the run, but I loved the post-run just as much.

Running seven miles today was easier than I expected, even with the hills. Although KWL and I maintained a fairly easy pace, I still managed to stay in the 10:00 range overall. Since I've already completed 80% of my weekly volume I have a few options for tomorrow. I could go over to the track and run intervals or head to Stillwell for a change of pace on the trails. Even if I end up staying in the neighborhood on Sunday I can still say it's been an interesting week of running.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Layered up for a surprisingly good run

Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

I had the opportunity to get out early today, but I squandered my time and ended up sneaking in a run between business calls. I got a lot done before I went out, but came very close to missing my window for a morning run. I'm an early-bird and really didn't want to have to go out late in the day. After seeing that the current temperature was hovering around 35°, I piled on the layers and scooted out the door.

It was chilly, but not freezing, when I finally got outside. I was afraid I'd dressed too warmly and would later regret the hat and gloves I was wearing. I ended up keeping them on and (happily) never felt overheated during the run. It's supposed to get even colder this weekend.

It wasn't until I reached my first quarter mile that I realized I had decent energy. I spotted a runner a few hundred feet ahead and realized that I was going to pass her quickly. I wasn't setting the world on fire this morning, but I was moving faster than usual. I ended up improving 40 seconds per mile over Tuesday's run. A couple of fartleks near the end helped that along.

I considered wearing my new Opedix Knee-Tecs today, but I'm saving them for tomorrow when I meet my buddies to take on a particularly hilly course. My friend KWL, who ran a strong race at the NYC Marathon two weeks ago, will be joining SIOR, TPP and possibly others. I know it will be a challenge for me to stay with this fast crowd, but I'll try my best.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Garage squatter and Knee-Tecs

Opedix (L), ER version (R)
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

The possum saga continued last night when I pulled into the garage and saw this little fellow sitting cozily at the back of my garage. I tried to coax him out but he wasn't having any of that. He scooted under an alcove and hid there until my son and I were able to gently nudge him out with a broom. He scrambled outside and across the lawn and I'm hoping he's found a more hospitable place to nest.

It's Veteran's Day and my company is closed for the holiday. Last night (before the possum incident) I went out to dinner with a work colleague and although I didn't get home especially late, I woke up feeling very tired. I didn't want to miss an opportunity to get in a mid week outdoor run, so got myself out the door and hoped for the best.

What should have been a recipe for a tough and uninspired run turned out to be a very pleasant experience. The temperature was close to 55° and, for once, I wore the right gear, including shorts. Humidity was high but instead of feeling uncomfortable, it felt good. Just as I've been doing during my recent runs, I put my best effort into the last mile and covered it 45 seconds faster than the previous one.

It's going to get very cold going into the weekend and I need to start thinking about winter gear. I've agreed to test a pair of Opedix Knee-Tec tights that are supposed to be thermal and also provide (per their website), "dynamic alignment, improved mobility, stability and optimized joint function." I'll be putting them through their paces and will likely be wearing them in SIOR's preferred style. Stayed tuned.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hope for the Warriors, but not for my speed

Flag dedication at Hope for Warriors race
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

This morning was spent at the Hope for the Warriors race in Lindenhurst, NY. For the first time in four years, I didn't participate, but I came to support my family who served again as race volunteers. Last year my wife and kids manned the registration desk while I ran the 10K race. I decided to skip the race this time, for the same reason I missed the 2014 Dirty Sock, Cow Harbor and TOB Supervisor's run. I've lost interest in competing.

I don't know exactly why the thrill of racing is no longer there for me. I used to love the experience of training for a race and reaching the point where I knew I could hold my own. Between 2009-2012, I generally finished in the top 25-30% of the field in 5Ks and usually in the top 50% at other distances. My performance has been steadily slipping since then. It's hard to get motivated to race under those circumstances.

The frustrating thing about it is that I can still run fast when I really try, but it takes much more effort than it used to. I'm sure my speed decline is partially due to training easier than in the past. When I was commuting into the city I would get up and run at 4:00 AM just about every day. Those runs focused on speed for practical purposes. I had only so much time to run my route so that I stayed on schedule to make my early train.

My weekly volume at that time was about 20 miles a week and I would regularly break 9 minutes a mile. Today, I am covering 15-20% less distance per week and 60% of that is done as longer, slower runs. Except for those rare times when I do a speed workout, I haven't broken 9:00 per mile in over a year.

Today, after we'd returned home from the race, I did a neighborhood run and pushed especially hard on my last mile. My split was 9:37 and it felt like I was running at 5K pace. In fact, 9:37 was my pace at my last 5K.

Due to the earlier activity, I didn't get out for my run until 10:30 AM this morning. While I ran, I thought about the experience of being at the race but not participating. At one point, three young guys had walked by me talking about the 5K they were about to run. I'd forgotten the 5K race was an option and, for a second, I regretted that I didn't just sign up for that.

Being among the runners this morning did not rekindle my excitement for racing as I'd hoped, but it did motivate me to try to train a little harder so I could put in a credible performance in a 5K before year's end. It's been a lot of months since I ran the Brooklyn Half, which is the last race I've run in 2014.

Congrats to TPP, who absolutely rocked it at Hope for the Warriors today, attaining a 10K PR and (yet another) age group placement!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Running off the grid

 
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 6.2 miles

My morning run didn't go quite as expected, but it all went fine. My plan was to park in the Bethpage lot and run south to Merrits Road, just past Hempstead Turnpike. That would give me about 10K overall. When I arrived at the park, I saw that they were collecting entrance fees despite a sign that said that no admission would be charged after November 3rd.

I probably would have been waved in by my friend who runs the booth, but that would have made me feel guilty. I decided to turn around and park further north off Haypath Road. Once I arrived, I tried to start the Garmin, only to discover that I wasn't wearing it. I remembered that I'd set it up to charge on the kitchen counter and forgot it was there. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to capture the metrics of my run, but I also liked the idea of a no tech experience.

It would have been good to check the time when I started, so I could back into my pace after mapping my distance. That didn't occur to me until my run was underway. I cold have dug my phone out of my SPIbelt but I couldn't be bothered. Not tracking my time or distance felt liberating.

Since I started north of Bethpage Park, I figured I'd run a northern route to get my planned distance. I can't comment on my performance since I had no way to record it, but I didn't get passed by a single runner today. When I reached Old Bethpage Road, I had to wait for a few cars go by. I automatically reached to pause the Garmin, but found only my wrist. The one thing I needed to worry about was staying on the path, so I could accurately Gmap my run later.

It was chilly out and I'd dressed for the high 30's weather. The wind was moderate and it came from the north. Since I was doing an out and back, with the second half going south, I knew I only had to deal with it temporarily. When I arrived at Washington Ave, I saw that I had to go to all the way to Sunnyside Boulevard if I wanted to meet my distance goal.

The section between Washington and Sunnyside is one of the hilliest parts of the Bethpage trail and I often avoid it by turning around at the LIE underpass. Today I decided to suck it up and go for it. The first hill is the toughest, as it starts fairly steeply and continues for close to half a mile. What goes up comes down so I was able to recover until the last rise that goes to Sunnyside.

The second half was psychologically easier. Although there were plenty of hills, the elevation and length were far less than what I had already covered. I followed the trail back to Haypath and turned around to run the short distance back where I started, across from where I parked. Without my Garmin to tell me my mileage, I still managed to reach my targeted distance.

Tomorrow morning I'll be at the Hope for the Warriors, but I won't be racing. I'll probably wait until we get home to do my own run. I'm still just fine with my decision, but I'm starting to think about my next race.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Windy run with wildlife

Hi neighbor!
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Somehow it's gotten to be November and the weather is beginning to hint at winter. I've already started planning business for next year. This week, in a moment of insanity, I agreed to a new contract with my present employer for 2015. It's not that I don't love what I do. The company is great, the people are wonderful and my work is both interesting and challenging. But the commute is enough to drive a person insane.

All the same, I do enjoy the freedom I have to work from home when it makes sense to do that. Most Fridays I do, including today. Last week I needed to go into the office and that prevented me from getting out for what I think of as my weekend kickoff run. Consequently, I only managed to eke out 12 miles for the entire week. Part of that was because I fell short of my planned distance on Sunday due to the ferocious winds.

Today's weather was more cooperative, but there was still plenty of wind to deal with. I wore layers to stay comfortable and they came in handy while I waited ten minutes for the Garmin to find all its satellites. I don't understand why it has trouble acquiring a signal under a cloudless sky, but that has been happening frequently.

Once the GPS was ready, I was off and running (hah!) and I found myself pushing against a fairly stiff wind from the north. Not as bad as Sunday, but enough to slow me down a little. I wondered if I'd get a speed bump when I reached the top of the road and returned in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, having wind at your back never enables progress the way head-on wind inhibits it.

Nothing remarkable on today's run. The usual negligent drivers and a few dum-dums running with their backs to traffic. I did cross paths with a possum (or is it opossum?) who was waddling across the road as I approached. It looked up at me with its rat-shaped snout and beady pink eyes, but didn't seem too concerned to see me. It scampered off once I got within ten feet. 

This weekend is the Hope for Warriors 10K, a race I would normally run but I'm still stuck in competitive abstinence mode. My wife and kids will be volunteering again at the race, so I feel a little guilty about not participating. I think my running buds are going to do the Hot Chocolate 5K in December. I'm going to join them and I'm hoping it will reignite my interest in racing.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing this weekend in terms of training, but I need to make up for my poor showing last weekend. I didn't even crack 6 miles on Saturday and Sunday was a disappointment. No more admission fees at Bethpage until spring. I may park in the lot and run the southern route tomorrow.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Daunted by the howling winds

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

I cannot believe that tens of thousands of people ran the NYC marathon this morning. It's not just that the marathon distance (26.2 miles) does not compute to me (it doesn't, but that's for a future post). I'm more amazed that people spent so many hours running the course while facing 20-40 MPH winds. I will admit that those conditions were too much for me to deal with this morning. Feeling like I was running into an invisible wall wore me out and I ended up cutting my run short.

The unrelenting sound of wind whipping through the trees prompted me to dress warmer than I normally would for 46°. Things started out well and I had high hopes for getting in my planned distance. I decided to first run the perimeter of my neighborhood that includes Jericho Turnpike and South Oyster Bay Road. I briefly considered crossing one of those main streets to open up my route to different options.

I ended up staying on South Oyster Bay Road and enduring the cracked and buckled sidewalk that was especially scary because it had a layer of leaves that hid potential tripping points. I made sure I kept my step high to avoid any mishaps. By the time I re-entered the neighborhood from the south, I started to get frustrated with the wind that reminded me of the miserable experience I had at last year's Long Beach Turkey Trot.

I struggled to make it to the mid point of my neighborhood and planned to make a beeline home. Along the way I saw a yellow recycling bin being blown across multiple yards, trash cascading from containers and leaves flying in every direction. Despite that, I decided to take a detour that added another half mile to my distance. I was disappointed to fall far short of today's goal, but I didn't see the sense in battling the wind monster any further.

As I ran, I thought about friends who were waiting on Staten Island for their wave to be called. The news showed thousands of people patiently huddling under makeshift blankets trying to remain warm. Once they were able to go, they faced the same conditions that I did, but would need to run over seven times the distance that I covered today.

Congratulations to my friends who braved the weather and the marathon course. You are probably very tired, but you did an amazing thing. Even under perfect conditions, this would be a tough race. I hope the celebrations will far exceed the pain.
 

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