Running quote of the week

"You don't need anything but your own two legs to run. You don't even need shoes, according to some people." - Marc Parent

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Take this snow and shovel it

Storm of century year month
Today's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

I'm keeping our weather experience this week in perspective since my friends in Framingham, Massachusetts had to deal with 34" of snowfall between Tuesday and Wednesday. Considering the media hysteria about the "biggest storm ever" coming through Long Island, we only ended up with 16 inches of the fluffy stuff. No complaints here.

Our philosophy regarding snowstorms is to keep up with the volume so you never have to shovel more than 4-5 inches at a time. My wife and I both like to shovel and now our kids are at an age where they can contribute, so it's not a big deal to go out every couple of hours. That is unless the schedule requires shoveling after midnight in blizzard conditions. My neighbor stopped by yesterday to let us know that he saw us out at 2:30 AM and thinks we're insane.

I'm hoping all that shoveling provided more benefit than a clear driveway and amused neighbors. Perhaps a little upper arm development? All told, I went out and shoveled six times, doing my best to push the snow rather than lift it. Still, there were still plenty of occasions to throw shovelfuls of snow over the ever-growing snowbanks. The interesting thing is that I have no soreness from all that work. Perhaps those post-run push ups have paid off.

I worked from home today and managed a short treadmill run in between morning meetings. I had a nice view of our snow covered backyard. That slightly reduced the tedium. The tread jerked so much I felt like I was running outside on the snow covered roads. With more snow likely to come, we really need to get a new treadmill. Otherwise, I'm going to have to get a new pair of Yaktrax like SIOR.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter workouts, shovel and machine

Yesterday's workout (elliptical) 25 minutes
Today's workout (treadmill): 4.3 miles

I awoke Saturday morning at 5:00 AM to a coating of snow on my driveway. The neighborhood looked very pretty from an upstairs window and the streets were still untouched by foot, car and plow. I briefly considered getting out and trying a run before the world woke up. As tempting as it looked to run on this virgin snow, I knew it would look less appealing at ground level.

The weather reports called for late morning rain followed later by more snow. I wanted to get the driveway cleared before the rain so I wouldn't end up with a sheet of snow and ice later. I put on my snow shoveling gear (double lined track pants, Timberlands, new Rails to Trails hat...) and opened the garage door to see what I was dealing with.

That snow, that looked so pretty from the guestroom, turned out to be pretty saturated with water. Unlike the fluffy snow that I can push across my driveway with moderate effort, this stuff was pure slush. I approached it strategically, moving small amounts with each pass. I got into a rhythm, but it took a long time to get through it all. My daughter came out to help but the snow was really too heavy for her. She stayed outside and kept me company and that made the time go quickly.

When I finally got inside, I considered whether pushing a few metric tons of slush constituted a real workout. I decided it did - but only to a point. I gave myself a break and did a 25 minute elliptical session, following that with 10 push ups. I would have liked to do more, but enough was enough.

Neither the rain nor snow ever came and I was hoping that SIOR, TPP and I could do our planned timed mile on Sunday. Although the snow wasn't happening, we acknowledged that the track would be in poor shape. I wasn't feeling all that well and questioned whether I'd be up for any workout today at all. We decided to reschedule the Runsketeer Mile until next weekend.

This morning I felt well enough to do a moderate treadmill run and had the brilliant idea to use earplugs to suppress the treadmill's noise. The Sole now sounds the same as standing 20 feet from a 747 at takeoff. Those plugs made a big difference. Although it didn't result in a whisper-quiet experience, it reduced the noise to a tolerable level.

Considering that I went 1.3 miles beyond my mental threshold for enduring the treadmill, I did fairly well with it. In fact, I carefully increased my speed in tenth of a mile increments and managed to get my HR to 87% of max for the last third of my run. Pushing pace on the Sole is tricky, because the tread slips and jerks more as speed is increased. Here's a tip: don't buy a Sole treadmill. Even if it's on sale.

We're supposed to get a ton of snow starting tomorrow night. That will provide the opportunity for another upper body shoveling workout. I'm predicting that I'll need to work from home on Tuesday based on reports. That could give me the chance to do a weekday treadmill run, unless we also lose our power during the storm. At least the elliptical is self powered.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The man I most envy

 
Today's run (street): 4 miles

Envy is one of the "Seven Deadly Sins" and it relates to many aspects of running. Unless you are an elite runner, there's always someone faster than you. For the most part, I don't begrudge the running achievements of others. In fact, when I see my fellow Runsketeers PR and podium, I'm sincerely thrilled. A lot of that has to do with the work they do to get there. It's far more than I'm willing to do.

When it comes to running, the person I envy most is me. Huh? Let me explain. I don't envy myself while I run. That would be more like self pity. For instance, this morning's run was really cold and I was very uncomfortable. I tried to get some speed going, but my lower layers were restricting my full range of motion. My eyes were watering from the wind hitting me in the face.

It was then that I started to envy myself. Not the me of the moment, but the future me. The me who, thirty minutes later, would be sitting in my warm dining room with a hot cup of coffee and a Kind bar. Oh how I envied that lucky bastard as I ran along the uneven and unyielding sidewalk so that I could avoid all the cars, recycling trucks and school buses.

Just to be clear, I don't always envy my future self. Running can be hard, but it can also be a great experience that's looked back on fondly by future me. While envy is a sin, it can provide great motivation. How many of us have stepped up our pace during a miserable run just to get through it faster? Technically, that's impatience, which I don't think is a sin. But that impatience does lead to the fifth Deadly Sin, "Feet that are swift to run into mischief."

Monday, January 19, 2015

BMImpossible

Off target
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

It's always nice to have a three day weekend, because it gives me an extra day to run during the week. If I'm lucky, the weather will cooperate. Unlike yesterday when the rain chased me indoors, today looked sunny and clear. Except for the near freezing temperature, it looked like ideal conditions for a run.

I dressed for cold but didn't put on too many layers this time. I stepped outside and confirmed that my gear matched the weather. I noticed that the driveway, that was covered by a shadow, had a thin coating of ice. When I reached the sunnier road I was happy to find it ice-free. That happiness was short-lived. By the time I reached the half mile point, I was dealing with patches of ice where the sun didn't reach the road.

It wasn't bad enough to stop, but I needed to be careful. I put aside any thoughts of performance and focused on landing on my mid-foot to maximize my stability. I didn't have any close calls like yesterday, but it didn't make for a very pleasant experience. For a fairly short run, it was exhausting.

I've continued to watch my portion sizes and have already lost a few pounds (I believe this is the primary reason women resent men). Based on the advice I recently got from a nutritionist, I did 12 push ups after finishing my run. I considered doing 15, but didn't want to invite upper arm soreness on top of of my diminishing (but still present) sciatica. Fellow running blogger Renee recommended the Matt Fitzgerald site to calculate my ideal racing weight and BMI (see graphic at top). Will I get down to 14.8% body fat? That would be a no.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Slipping and sliding, inside and out

Unstable on every surface
Today's run (street/treadmill): 5.1 miles total [1.5 street, 3.6 treadmill]

Per yesterday's post, I've fallen into a distance rut by keeping every run in 2015 (but one) under 4 miles. Some of that is related to the sciatica I've recently developed and my concern about aggravating its root cause.  Other excuses factors included a very busy period at work and a tight schedule on weekends.

I was determined to cover at least five miles this morning. The early weather reports said that today's rain wouldn't start until after 10:00 AM. I figured that starting at 8:00 AM would mean dry and clear roads. That was true for the first few minutes, but then a light rain starting falling. I was okay with that, but the 35° temperature made the road slippery underfoot.

I tried to tough it out, but the risk of falling increased as the rain fell harder. I decided to head home rather than deal with a dangerous, unstable surface. Disappointing, but a practical move. I immediately headed upstairs and got on the treadmill to complete my workout. The 1.5 miles outside warmed me up enough to start fast. Unfortunately, like the road, the treadmill presented a slippery situation.

Our Sole F63 has a lot of problems and one of them is that the tread belt jerks randomly, especially when the speed is increased. My desire to get through a treadmill run as quickly as possible is limited by this issue. Slipping at race pace can be scary. As a consequence, I keep the speed around 6 MPH and deal with it.

I managed through 3.6 miles on the Sole on top of what I covered during my outside run. I exceeded 5 miles for only the second time since New Year's day. We haven't had nearly as much snow this January as we did last year, so I may catch a break next weekend and put in some mileage. I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow, but I'll do something.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Too short to be endless runs

January volume to date
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

Yesterday morning I ran for the first time in four days. It had been a busy work week culminating with Thursday, where I had to give presentations five times in a single day. The week was exhausting and it left me no time for workouts. Friday morning was freezing cold, but I knew I needed to get back outside and get my run in.

The cold has gotten to me more this year than it ever has in the past. I used to look at 21° runs as a fun challenge, bundling up, but not so much that I'm overheated after a mile. This year, I've been especially sensitive to cold (especially my face) and I've been layering so I'll be comfortable at the start. I almost always regret that by the end.

I'd hoped that taking four days off from running this week would provide me good energy on Friday. Initially it did. I moved swiftly through the first half mile and felt relatively strong, although I was colder than I'd wished. At some point, my gear began to work against me. As my body temperature rose, I considered passing my house so I could discard my outer layer. Unfortunately, I didn't, and the ensuing heat made my short run seem endless.

This morning we needed to head into the city, so I fit in an early treadmill run. It was 16° outside (which didn't seem to stop SIOR and TPP from tearing up the Run to the Brewery course today) and I wasn't going to subject myself to another freezing workout. Despite the climate controlled environment, my experience was similar to yesterday. Endless, until it ended.

My weekly volume has really dropped since the New Year and I need to correct that. Running 3-4 miles at a time (as I have) isn't going to get me there. I need to start putting some 5+ mile runs on the board soon. Tomorrow is supposed to be very rainy, so I don't know whether I'll be able to get outside for a long run. 6 miles on the treadmill isn't going to happen, but I'd consider a dual workout with both elliptical and treadmill.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The good and the bad of weight loss

Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

Weight and running are often linked together. Many people run either to lose weight or to keep their weight at an optimum level. Some serious runners starve themselves to the point of emaciation because the less weight you carry, the less work is required to hold a pace. I took up running in 2008 when my weight slipped into the unacceptable range. By improving my diet, reducing portion sizes and running almost daily, it only took a few months to reach my target.

Over the past six years I've held my weight steady. Except for a period in 2010 when I lost a lot of weight due to pneumonia, I've stayed close to my original target. But over the last year I've put on a few pounds. Not enough to require me to go up another pant size, but enough for me to re-assess my diet.

I plan to reset and drop back down to my ideal weight. My question is how low do I go? From a running perspective, I would probably see better performance if my weight were 3-5% lower than my current target. I can get there, but I'll pay a price. When my weight drops below normal, the first fat to go is in my face. I end up looking wan and drawn. So much for my maintaining my boyish good looks.

For now, I'll work on getting back to normal and decide whether to go lower when I get there. The Runsketeers will be doing mile time trials next weekend, so I'll see if I can make some weight reduction progress over the next eight days. I may be naive to think it could make that much of a difference, but you don't see too many elite runners who resemble Homer Simpson.

I'm sending good thoughts and wishing for good weather for SIOR and TPP at tomorrow's 10 mile Run to the Brewery. You guys will rock it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

You need to run 600 yards to run a mile

1,800 feet of hell
As far back as elementary school, I've struggled with running fast paces over long distances. I really did try. In fifth grade, I ran the 50 yard dash for the track team and even placed first in my town for the standing broad jump (still the apex of my athletic career). These events were part of the Presidential Physical Fitness test that every kid had to take to pass gym class. Running 150 feet and jumping six feet was relatively easy. It was the 600-yard timed run around the field that haunted me all the way through high school.

I wasn't alone. We all dreaded the “Six Hundred”, a seemingly endless distance. Now that I have some perspective, I realize that 600 yards is a mere third of a mile. One and a half quarter repeats! I actually remember my high school time (2:12, the temperature of boiling water : ) that put me right in the middle of the pack. What was regarded then as a mediocre time actually calculates to a 6:27 pace. If only I had more perspective back in those days. At the time, all I could think about was the painful burning in my throat and the relief that it was finally over.

A recent suggestion by my running and blogging buddy She Is Out Running brought back memories of the Six Hundred. SIOR proposed that she, TPP and I do a timed mile run. I thought that was a great idea. I've come to terms with my race times slipping over the past few years, but I’m still achieving credible times when I do repeats. A mile distance is a great way to see how far I can push my anaerobic capabilities.

Intervals (for most of us) are a combination of short but intense bursts of speed, followed by a similarly short jog or rest. The biggest challenge of running a flat-out mile will be to sustain that intensity for a much longer period. I can go full speed for 200 meters and maintain a 180 SPM cadence through a full quarter. After that I begin to fade. Maybe that was why running the 600 as a sprint was always so difficult.

The fastest mile I can remember running was a 7:51 at Long Beach that led to my 10K PR. I'd started at the front with all the hollow-eyed ectomorphs who took off at the gun like whippets. I was passed by a lot of people and thought I was having an off day. When I saw the Mile 1 timing clock, I realized those speedsters were running six and seven minute miles. So that's why people use pacers!

Maybe speedsters SIOR or TPP can do a pace lap for me when I do my timed mile. I'd return the favor, but I fear my 6:27 days are far behind me.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snowy, icy Bethpage run

Stretching the definition of "great shape"
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 3.75 miles

This morning I looked out the window and determined that the roads were too messy for running. With the temperature stuck below zero since last Thursday's snowfall, there was still ice along the curb and snow on the sidewalks. I'd heard a tip that the dirt trails at Bethpage were in "great shape." That got me out early for a run in the park.

It was very cold so I wore numerous layers, more than I needed as it turned out. When I arrived at Bethpage, I encountered a group of runners making their way downhill along the main driveway. Seeing people running off the trail was my first sign that the paths were in pretty bad shape.

The lot was barely plowed but I parked in one of the few open spots. I decided to run up to the north path extension and then cut over onto the dirt paths at the first trail head. There were a surprising number of runners braving the thick coating of icy snow on the paved trail, but no one followed me into the woods when I turned in.

Off the snowy beaten path
From what I was told, I'd expected the paths in the woods to be in better shape than the main trail. In fact, they were a mess, with thick snow along the edges and rutted ice at the center. Neither easy nor safe to run. I followed the route back to the main trail and then headed south on the snowy paved path. My plan was to head back toward the lot and run on the road as that group was doing when I arrived.

No chukkers in the snow
Before I made it all the way there, I noticed that a path leading into the soccer and polo fields was clear. With nothing to lose, I followed it around and saw that it looked clear all the way to the golf course. I'd been chased out of this area in the summer because no running is allowed during the season, but I had little concern about that this morning.

View from the 12th hole
The path continued southeast and I followed it all the way to its termination point on Round Swamp Road. There were a few steep downhills that became noticeable hills on the way back. When I reached the south side of the polo field, I saw that I could continue on the clear path southwest. I stayed on that until I reached a wider snowier road that took me back to the north trail head and ultimately back to the lot.

Looking north from Round Swamp Road
I crossed paths with the same group of men and women at different points during my run. They were moving along well despite the snowy surface. I last saw them entering the woods as I was getting into my car. Based on all the places I spotted them, I'm guessing they were covering close to ten miles. All my layers contributed to overheating, except for my face that was freezing for most of the run. I had hoped to cover at least four miles today, but conditions were ultimately difficult.

Later, when I got back to my neighborhood, I spotted a few people running on the road. The streets looked clearer than when I looked in the early morning (probably due to the sun) and I realized, if I'd waited, it probably would have been safe to run them. No matter, I got to run some new parts of Bethpage Park on a combination of trails, pavement and golf cart paths. I may not have covered my targeted distance, but I had a great workout. When I got home I did ten push ups. Just because I could.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Emerging altruistic philanthropher

Running prohibited
Today's run (treadmill): 45 minutes

I get a lot of junk emails (don't we all?) that I usually ignore or delete. If you ever sign up for something online and don't forget to opt out of marketing, you're going to see some unwelcome emails. Worse, those companies sell your address to other companies, forcing you to unsubscribe to mail lists you never joined in the first place.

I don't know what I did to get on the railstotrails.org list, but they sure send a lot of emails. And guess what, it worked. I am now a member of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. The reason I took the bait was a series of emails that had subject lines like, "Your trails at risk...like Bethpage Bikeway" and contained dire warnings like, "Next year, our elected officials could slash funding for great walking and biking trails!" Those awful, irresponsible elected officials! How could I stand by and watch them do this to my beloved path!? So I made a donation.

As a result, I am now the proud owner of a Rails to Trails membership card that, as far as I can tell, allows me to make more donations to the Rails to Trails Conservancy and buy Rails to Trails Conservancy merchandise. Along with this card, I received an electric blue winter cap and my first copy of rails to trails magazine that seems to suggest that these paths are only for cyclists. Seriously, every story is about biking.

My wife looked at the hat and said two things. 1. "Bad color." 2. "Are you really going to wear that?" Of course I am! The cap may be vividly ugly, but it's also visible. If I ever get to run outside the house again before spring, I plan to wear it.

This morning I'd hoped to do a neighborhood run but the streets had too much ice. I made a query on the GLIRC Facebook page to see if anyone knew the condition of the Bethpage trail. Perhaps I should have emailed Rails to Trails since they seem to know so much about about the Bethpage path. I probably would have received a response like, "Dear Mr. ER, please let us know what type of bike you ride and we'll let you know if trail conditions support it..."

I received some helpful responses from GLIRC members that I don't know personally and some unhelpful responses from GLIRC members I do know. Those members, SIOR and TPP, were going to SUNY Old Westbury at noon. My schedule didn't allow me to join them. I hope they had fun running that freezing, hilly course.

I kept inside for my workout today, running about 45 minutes on the treadmill. The machine is ridiculously loud, but it seems to have moved past its tortured screeching metal phase. It sounds more like a wooden roller coaster now. You can think of it as the least fun ride at Adventureland.

My run was fine and, although I had some sciatic pain over the first half, things eventually settled down. Happily, the soreness did not return after my run. In keeping with my one fitness resolution for 2015 (that I'd stop completely ignoring my upper body) I did ten push ups when I got off the treadmill.

One of the GLIRC posters said that the wooded trails at Bethpage are in good shape so I may head there tomorrow and do a trail run. The mountain bikers should be able to spot me before they run me over because I'll be wearing my new hat.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Snow good reason to run outside

Pretty snow. Awful run.
Today's workout (run): 1.2 miles, (elliptical): 25 minutes

Just a snow flurry moving quickly through the area, nothing to worry about. That's what they were saying at 6:00 AM when I started planning my morning run. The news stations began reporting heavy snowfall had started in NYC around 6:30. I naively assumed it wouldn't reach Long Island for a while, nor did I think we'd have much accumulation. Wrong.

After a cup of coffee, I made my way upstairs to change into running gear. I saw that my wife was already on the elliptical. I also noticed that the snow was coming down pretty hard. No problem, I'd dress for bad weather and wear my Cascadias for traction. After all, running in snow is fun, right? I took one more look at the elliptical and considered that option before heading out into the winter wonderland.

This was to be my first run since New Years Day. I'd resisted the temptation to resume workouts once my sciatica pain began to lessen and targeted today to start. The soreness remains, but it's minor. I knew that the inch-plus of snow would slow me down and provide a softer surface than pavement. I hoped that both factors would help minimize the chance that I'd re-aggravate my injury.

The temperature was in the mid-20's with moderate wind. I made my way through the neighborhood, keeping to the sidewalk for safety. Between the spongy snow and uneven sections, that seemed equally risky. By the time I reached the top of the first road, my feet began to feel numb. The volumes of snow blowing around made it hard to see and I felt sinus pain where my freezing glasses touched my face.

I'd intended to run about three miles but the growing discomfort changed my mind. I redirected my route and returned to my house after covering 1.2 miles. By the time I returned home, it was almost white-out conditions. So much for a fun run in the snow. Even with my Opedix and under-layer, three top layers, a waterproof running jacket, headband and cold weather beanie, I was uncomfortably cold.

I quickly headed upstairs and shed most of those layers before jumping on the elliptical. Compared to the cold, slippery conditions I'd just left, the elliptical experience felt great. I completed a 25 minute session and capped it off with ten push ups. We had a nutritionist in the office yesterday and I talked to her about fat burning efficiency with aerobic, cardio and weight bearing exercise. The nutritionist told me that strength focused workouts are the most effective way to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass. Thus, the push ups.

Tomorrow should be free of snow but still still extremely cold. It warmed up into the 30's this afternoon so there's a chance the roads may be clear of snow. Last January there was so much snow that I was forced to use the treadmill for over 70% of my workouts. The current condition of our treadmill makes that an unappealing option. In the meantime, I'm back to running and that's the progress I've been hoping for.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Good pain and bad pain

Here's a recap of my running since last Thursday:

Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 0 miles
Sunday: 0 miles
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles

Despite that, I'm extremely sore all the way from my hamstring to my upper arms. I'm fine with the upper body soreness because it's the result of exercise. I decided to act on my new resolution to add strength training to my routine and did a 45 minute workout on Sunday. Don't be impressed. I used two 10 lb. hand weights and barely broke a sweat.

I didn't want to overdo it, because the last time I worked with weights, I ended up straining my back. The fact that a light workout has resulted in so much soreness tells me that I need to spend much more time on upper body training. All the same, it's nice knowing that this discomfort is due to effort, not injury.

The soreness I'm feeling in my glutes and hamstring is not making me very happy. I've always coped with minor injuries by taking a few days off from running. A short rest usually had me back on the road within a week. The pain I felt during last week's Hangover Run wasn't debilitating, but it was a clear signal that I needed a lot more recovery time.

It's been five days since my last run and I think I'm going to take a sixth day off tomorrow. The pain has dulled, but a quick jog down the hall tells me more mending time is needed. I'll probably try an elliptical session on Thursday morning to gauge my progress. Depending on that result, I'll either plan for a Friday morning run or make an appointment with an orthopedist.
 

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