Running quote of the week

"Running is meant to be enjoyed, not endured." - Catherine McKiernan

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Learning to love the run (again)

Friend of the devil
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles
Saturday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

We spent most of this weekend in the city and that somewhat altered my running schedule. We had to get downtown fairly early for a college tour, so I did a quick elliptical session before we headed out. I figured that the amount of walking we'd do would compensate for a longer run I would have done this weekend. I'm not sure that's true, but we certainly covered a lot of ground up and down the streets of Manhattan. This morning we visited Madam Tussaud's. Touristy but fun. I even got to hang with my buddy Jerry Garcia.

SIOR and family were also in town last night taking in different sights. It would have been fun to run into them. She did eight miles yesterday and 15 today. When I expressed my view about running that many miles (ugh) I was sharply rebuked. I decided to try to see her point and view summer running as a positive. When we got back home I decided to cap today's city walking with three miles of afternoon running.

I had in my head that it would be an easy workout. It didn't feel too hot when I started and I immediately began thinking about the experience. Was I enjoying this run or was I doing what was necessary to maintain my fitness? I realized then that I am coming up on seven years as a runner and wondered if my current view of running (necessary but not particularly fun) coincides with that span of time.

Is there such a thing as the seven year running itch? The point where you're pretty much the runner you're going to be? There aren't a lot new experiences and surprises when you've run the same basic route 1,000 times. SIOR has been running a lot longer than me and she still looks forward to fifteen mile training runs. How do I get there?

I ran my route and, like always, thought about my arm position, stride and cadence. I still care about how I run and that was an important realization for me today. The heat and fatigue from a busy weekend eventually got to me and, although the run was short, it couldn't have ended sooner. Perhaps I need to rethink my running goals and even sign up for another half marathon. It's not about the race. It's about the training that I need to do to look at 10+ mile runs as fun again.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Short of time and business attire

 
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

This is going to be a bad weekend for running. I'll be tied up all day tomorrow and throughout most of Sunday. I don't think I'll be able to fit in a workout during that time, but I'll be doing a lot of walking. Any chance to pick up extra miles today were dashed by a tight work schedule that limited my running time.

Not running all week and then starting up again on Friday is a bad habit that I need to break. Instead of feeling well rested at the start, I usually feel out of shape. I don't struggle through these runs because I typically keep my distance under four miles due to time. However, feeling out of shape, at least for the first half mile, usually does not motivate me to push my performance.

Just before I sprayed on sunscreen, my cellphone rang and I had to deal with a work problem. That put me further behind. By the time I left the house, I had only 40 minutes to complete my run and be back in time to shower before my call. Otherwise I'd have to do this call wearing my sweat soaked running shorts.

And that's just what I did. I tried to imagine what the people on the other end would have thought if they could have seen me rather just hearing my voice. I love working from home! Although I had to wind myself up at the start, I ended up in a good place by the end. I even pushed past my comfort zone throughout the last mile and greatly improved my pace over the prior two miles.

It turned out to be a busy day so I was glad I got in a workout. I may end up doing a late afternoon run on Sunday if I feel up to it. That could be a nice way to end a very busy weekend.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

High visibility bargain

Orange you glad I bought this
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

I spent an awful lot of time talking myself into running this morning. If I'd just headed out early, before all the heat, sun and humidity, I would have been a lot more comfortable. By the time I was ready to go, we were hit with a deluge of rain. I had another cup of coffee while I waited out the storm. Once the skies were clear, I was able to go out. But by then, I just didn't feel like running.

Somehow I managed to make my way out the door. I planned to keep it simple and follow my one-mile loop as many times as I could stand it. As it happened, I could only stand it once. I changed my route and followed Jericho Turnpike west, going past restaurants and shopping centers before cutting back into the neighborhood. By the way, if you're looking for a bargain, Rare 650 is offering a steak special for two - only $99.99!

Speaking of bargains, I found a better one at SA Elite this afternoon. It's my favorite running store, full of great discounted running clothes and shoes. For some reason there's never many customers and every time we go there I expect to see that it closed. My wife found a hi-viz ASICS packable running jacket for $16. Although I have a decent running raincoat, it's a size medium and a bit snug. It functions better as a waterproof windbreaker and I always keep it in my work backpack. I ended up buying the ASICS jacket in orange  -- size large.

I was glad that I managed to talk myself out the door this morning. Even though it's been a low mileage week, I felt good about all my efforts This is going to be a busy work week and I'm hoping to fit in another mid week workout. And if it rains, I'm covered.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Moving lower on the dizzy scale

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

After another good nights sleep I'm functioning a little better than on Friday. I woke up today without feeling dizzy. Even after my run, I haven't experienced any problems. I still feel blocked on my right side around my ear, which may be due to fluid build-up. It's possible that I got water in my inner ear from being in the pool last weekend. That could explain my occasional dizziness over the past week.

I had some time pressure to get my run done early, although I still took my sweet time getting outside. I like to take it easy on Saturday mornings, leisurely drinking coffee and watching the news, although those aren't conditions that motivate me to run and sweat. I do eventually get there. According to my Garmin data, I didn't actually start my run until 8:43 AM. Fortunately, the weather was still a balmy 77° with an 8 MPH breeze and only 57% humidity.

Since I skipped my workout yesterday, I considered covering a little extra distance today. I ended up keeping my run to around four miles because I didn't want to overdo it. That was a good decision and I ended up having a good, energizing run. The run itself started as it typically does, with the first few minutes setting the tone for the entire workout. I usually start off feeling uncomfortable, probably due to the high degree of anaerobic breathing that happens before my body switches over to aerobic.

The rest of the run went fine and I was back home in time to stay on schedule. Today has been busy and I was happy to get my run in after missing it yesterday. I'm glad the dizziness has gone away. I just hope it stays gone.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nothin' doing

I don't know why, but I've been tired and dizzy over the last couple of days. It may be due to an inner-ear thing, or possibly caused by a sinus infection or allergic reaction. I haven't suffered from allergies in the past, but I think I may have recently developed some pollen sensitivities. Whatever the cause, this condition has sapped my energy this week.

I was looking forward to a good week of activity and had enough energy on Wednesday afternoon to do an elliptical session when I got home from work. I was a little dizzy before that workout but seemingly fine afterward. Thursday was rough because the dizziness came back and my schedule was filled with meetings and presentations. Somehow I got through it.

I got a full eight hours sleep last night and expected to go out for a run this morning before I started my work day. Unfortunately the dizzy feeling and fatigue returned and I elected to wait until later, hoping that I'd snap back. By late morning I resigned myself to making this a rest day. I'm hoping I feel better tomorrow. No matter what I do, at least I won't be leaping across and jumping from buildings like SIOR will be doing on Saturday.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

First foray up and down the Massapequa Preserve trail

Uphill in both directions
Today's run (Massapequa Preserve trail): 6 miles

This morning the TV weather people were having a field day about how hot and humid it would be today. Hot and humid are two of my least favorite words when it comes to running weather. It was no surprise, since they'd been talking about that since Friday because of the the NYC Triathlon that was happening today. I knew I'd also need to deal with those conditions, as I planned to meet up with SIOR to run the second half of my six miler in the Massapequa Preserve.

Running with SIOR, even when she's doing her easy long runs (14 miles today), is really more like running after SIOR. Still, misery loves company and it was fun to meet up on the trail and run for a few moments together. She waited up for me a couple of times and we had a nice recovery pause at one point. Although we only talked for a few minutes, we managed to cover some pretty gross subject matter. You have to know SIOR to understand that's not at all unusual.

During my half marathon training periods, I would frequently run as far south as the Preserve, but I'd never made it to the start of the trail head. Today, that's where I started. I parked in the Massapequa train station lot and quickly got onto the bike trail. My hope was that the expensive Ultimate Direction water bottle I'd bought a couple of years ago would be just the thing to keep me hydrated. I remembered having trouble with the bottle's bite valve when I first got it and tested it today before I left the house. FAIL. I brought along a couple of Poland Springs water bottles instead.

The start and finish point
The Massepequa trail is verdant and has lots of dirt side trails. It also has tenth of a mile markers, unlike the Bethpage trail. I started my run shortly after 9:00 AM and the trail was already full of people. Many more cyclists than I'm used to seeing on the northern end. The trail seemed pretty much uphill until I reached Linden street, located just south of the Southern State overpass.

Once I cleared that challenging rise, I ran another half mile until I saw SIOR coming from the other direction. In order to get her full 14, we ran north another quarter mile and turned around. SIOR said the last three miles were mostly downhill and that made sense because it seemed pretty much uphill until that point. Here's the thing I noticed about Bethpage (and apparently the Preserve): it always seems uphill, no matter which direction you run.

On the way back, I kept expecting to see the path sloping down gently and easing me through my final three miles. Strangely, the trail seemed mostly uphill the whole way back. It was like an MC Escher painting come to life. I knew there was nothing to do but run until I came to the end of the trail. Once I saw the bridge over the pond, I knew I was getting closer. When I saw that I was mere tenths away from the trail head, I was thrilled.

SIOR was already in her aircraft carrier-sized SUV when I caught up with her. She offered to drive me over to my car and the blast of AC that hit me was extremely welcomed. I must have looked like hell because she kept asking me if I was alright. She and her family were heading to the beach and I was heading home to spend time with the family in the pool.

TPP was in NYC because her paramour/trainer JC was participating in the NYC Tri (as was our friend KWL). Both of them did really well. We missed TPP, but then again we always do. I'm hoping the Runsketeers can all run together soon. It's almost August and we agreed to do it once a month. So far so good.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Crabby on Friday, better today

Don't eat at Joe's
Yesterday's run (street): 3.5 miles
Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

I work from home most Fridays and that experience (no commuting or multiple meetings) usually provides a nice segue to the weekend. My responsibilities have ramped up in recent weeks and Fridays have become a blessing in terms of catch up time. Except for yesterday, where I started at the crack of dawn and didn't stop until close to the crack of dusk.

My one concession to the Friday workday madness was to break away for a short time to do a neighborhood run. Once I was satisfied that I addressed some overnight business issues, I quickly changed into running gear and headed out the door. The humidity and temperature were both surprisingly low and I looked forward to a pleasant experience.

It's much nicer running on Fridays without  buses and school drop-off traffic. But the recycling manics remain. These guys drive their ten ton truck around my neighborhood streets like it's a Porsche, exceeding the posted speed limit by 20 MPH and ignoring stop signs. Whenever I hear the roar and rattle of the truck, I make a beeline to the sidewalk. Even though there are 5+ miles of road in the neighborhood, I always end up encountering them at some point on my route.

Except for the truck, the run went fine. I had some slight breathing issues when I tried to push my pace, and I'm thinking that my aerobic threshold may have dropped over the last couple of years. If that's the case, it would explain my measurable reduction in speed. I had hoped last weekend's intervals would have gained me some improvement, but perhaps a mile of repeats at around 92% of max heart rate was not enough to make an impact.

Even with decent weather, I ended up feeling depleted. I had a fast shower and then it was back to work for the rest of the day. We had planned a family dinner last night at Joe's Crap Crab Shack which recently opened in our area. We'd gone to one in Orlando years ago and had a great time. We all looked forward to this dinner.

I don't know if I happened to be getting sick (perhaps my hard run and the long day standing in front of my laptop were responsible), but by the time we left the restaurant, I was feeling awful. The experience at Joe's was interesting. Here is my recommendation: Don't eat at Joe's Crab Shack. At least don't eat at the one in Westbury, NY.

We arrived at the place before the busy hour and although the room was more than half empty, we were told we'd have to wait for a table because they didn't have enough servers. My wife wanted to leave, but we were all hungry and chose to stay, since they managed to "find room" for us in the back. This back area resembled the dining room of a highway truck stop circa 1973. The photo at the top shows the room full of invisible diners we needed to walk through to get to our table.

The greasy fish I had was terrible and no one else liked what they'd ordered. By the time we got home, I was feeling sick and had to lay down for a few minutes. I rallied enough to go out back for our Friday night fire pit and even managed enough of an appetite for a S'more. We have seen some interesting things on these nights, like an extremely porcine raccoon "sneaking by" atop the fence. Last night we were again dive bombed by a bat, who perhaps thought the pool was a pond.

This morning I was time-pressed because we had an early appointment at a local college. I probably could have fit in a short run, but I was still feeling iffy and decided to do today's workout on the elliptical. Despite my opening windows on both ends of the room for air flow, it was humid as heck. Even so, the workout was pleasant. Some people don't like the elliptical, but I do, mostly because it's not a treadmill.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Massapequa Preserve to meet up for a Runska-run. I'm hoping that I'll be in ready shape for the six miles I plan to cover. The heat and humidity are supposed to be off the charts, so I'm not planning to do these miles very fast.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hills, heat, humidity and a failure to Triumph


The route
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 5 miles

Yesterday's track workout inspired me to get out for another "destination" run this morning. By that I mean a run outside the confines of my general neighborhood. Since I pushed my efforts on Saturday, I figured today would be best spent running easy on the Bethpage trail.

ISOs: pretty, but not this editor's choice
I decided to try the Saucony Triumph ISOs again to see how they perform now that my stride has begun to normalize. While I was recovering from the disc issue, my left foot would mash up toward the front of my running shoes and the ISOs seemed to do it the most of any of my running shoes. These highly cushioned trainers won the Runner's World Editor's Award and I had high hopes that they would become my primary shoes. I'm concluding that, for my arch type, lower is better. That's why I've reverted back to using my Vitarras even though they have a sizable amount of wear on the out-soles.

The cyclists were out in force this morning with less runners than I usually see on the bike trail. My hope was that I'd feel energized from yesterday's intervals. That wasn't the case, but I said, "What the heck" since I planned for this to be a recovery effort. I cruised along the sparsely populated path and at one point I was passed by a fast moving runner with whom I tried to match strides. No such luck. She quickly disappeared into the distance.

There's usually a lot of fauna on the trail, mostly birds and bunnies. Today I saw an actual jack rabbit crossing the path about 20 feet ahead of me. In silhouette it looked a lot like the eponymous character in the Jackrabbit Sports logo. Although the humidity was supposedly low, it didn't feel that way to me. The temperature was 81° and the sun was baking down. The combination of weather and hills on the north end of the trail did me in and I was ready to throw in the towel once I reached 5 miles.

A towel would have been great to have when I finished. When I looked at the Garmin's stats and saw it report 51% humidity I shook my head. The work week starts again tomorrow, and I hope to get in some type workout before next Friday. I was glad to get away for a couple of non-neighborhood runs this weekend and pleased that I finally worked in a speed workout. As for the Triumphs, I don't think I'll ever be happy with them. That's unfortunate. I could always wear them as weekend casual shoes, but they are a bit too vivid to wear in public unless I'm running.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Beefs and intervals on the track

Making great strides
Today's run (track): 3 mile run, plus 8 X 200

Although my pace throughout last Sunday's Bethpage run was s-l-o-w, I was encouraged to see my speed improve once I started running with SIOR. Unfortunately, my speed dropped again once she who was out running brought her pace back to target. Left to pace myself, I'd defaulted to a lower performance level.

My orthopedist told me that my ruptured disc won't return to its prior state on its own and he warned me of pushing my speed too hard. I've been very careful to avoid circumstances that would aggravate my lower back and my recovery has been excellent. The near trip I experienced during a trail run last weekend didn't cause a relapse, so I decided it was safe to push the envelope a bit this weekend.

My morning schedule was tight so I needed to get out for an early, fast workout. When I arrived at the track there was the usual mix of people -- mostly walkers and others who were alternating between running and walking. I had no plan, other than to run intervals that I would start after some warm up laps. I ran clockwise, on the inside (right) lane, to help counter-balance my usual running position on the left side of the road.

GPS inaccuracy: I swear I stayed on the track the entire time
After I'd completed my second lap, I noticed a guy wearing a singlet on the track about 100 meters in front of me. He looked like he was about to start his run, but pulled up short behind a man who had been walking laps. Once I reached them, I heard the runner arguing about the walker's rudeness. In the seconds that I passed them, inferred that the walker had bumped into the other guy and failed to apologize.

I continued on my way but noticed that they were still in a heated conversation when I circled back toward where they were standing. I was prepared to give them the, "C'mon guys, let it go" speech but they stopped on their own before I reached them. I continued rounding the track until I'd completed twelve laps and saw that the singlet guy had started running 200's. Instead of taking a short rest or running a slow jog before resuming, he slowly walked 200 meters to the next starting spot and rested a few minutes before resuming. I ended up doing two 200's for every one that he did.

My feeling of superiority was quickly dashed. A young woman, who was also running strides, overtook and passed me like I was walking. At that moment, I was running a 7:15 pace. No matter how fast you run, there's always someone faster. In my case, that's usually everyone else.

I'm pleased that I got in some speed work today. I haven't checked Garmin Connect, but I think that was my first interval session in 2015. It was a pleasure to see the histogram on Connect that showed my cadence firmly in the green zone throughout most of the workout and my average stride length ten percent longer than usual. Mostly, it was great to see a mile split in the low 8 minute range for a change.

Friday, July 10, 2015

As exciting as it gets on a neighborhood run

And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper
Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

I was berating myself at the beginning of this morning's run for being such a sloth and not working out since last Sunday. Then I remembered that I was home for the extended July 4th holiday on Monday and did an elliptical session that morning. I don't remember how long I worked out (35 mins?) but at least it was something.

I was up at 6:00 this morning and spent almost three hours working on business stuff. It suddenly occurred to me that if I didn't get outside soon, I'd lose any opportunity to run today. My schedule had me on calls and virtual meetings from 10:00 through the end of the day. Instead of stalling, I quickly changed into my running gear and got myself out the door.

The temperature was 72° and if the humidity was high I didn't notice. The wind was blowing briskly and that kept me cool throughout most of the run. The strong breezes made the uphill sections a little tougher, but I kept my mind on my stride and my breathing. I tried to focus on diaphragm breathing (versus chest) as suggested by a recent Runners World post.

Friday's are my weekend kick-off runs and I usually keep them between 3-4 miles. That's a perfect distance for me psychologically, short enough to feel quick and manageable (especially since I'm usually time constrained), but long enough to feel like a decent workout. Since the schools are closed now, the roads were pretty clear except for the army of landscaping trucks and their gardeners riding on the street between homes on industrial strength mowers. I still prefer that to avoiding school buses.

There's only so much to talk about when describing a neighborhood run, so I'll just say I ran on lots of roads and saw lots of houses and cars. There were people out walking, but no other runners that I could see. The big excitement came from a tree removal company that had set up a huge chipper and was griding up trees. A group of neighbors had gathered to watch the spectacle despite the 120 decibel roar.

I didn't stick around, but I assume they eventually ran out of trees and switched to chipping up trash barrels and lawn furniture. That's what I would have done. I managed to get through the rest of my run in time to shower and make my first call of the morning. I'm not sure what my morning schedule looks like tomorrow. If I'm able to get out early enough, I may head over to the track to try some intervals or head over to Bethpage for another crack at the bike trail..

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Runsketeer run at Bethpage with SIOR

If she ran 12 and I ran six, why do I look twice as tired?
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 6 miles

As they say in baseball, this is a rebuilding year for my running. I'm accepting the precipitous decline in my performance and, although my ego has taken a hit, I still enjoy the running experience as much as ever. I ran with SIOR this morning and admitted to her that I was a little intimidated by her speed. Usually TPP serves as the performance buffer, able to keep up with SIOR for the majority of the time while I languish behind. Today I had no buffer.

I mentioned my concerns about that to SIOR after our run and she was completely supportive of the effort I put in today. She is training for an upcoming marathon in Utah and following the Hanson training method that includes slow runs. Of course her definition of slow is my current definition of 5K pace. I was really happy that we were able to run together for much of the last three miles. The way it worked was for her to slow down a lot more and for me to speed up a little.

SIOR's schedule called for 12 miles today and I was aiming to do about six. We worked out our plan so that SIOR ran six miles out and back north of the Bethpage lot and then three south where she'd rendezvous with me. From there we'd run our last three back to the lot together. We met up on the path just as planned and made our way north.

Today's route
While I know I can run faster when I have to, I tend to default to an easy pace. Post workout, we discussed the fact that my breathing sounds labored during my runs and we wondered if my bout with pneumonia in 2010 has had a long term effect on my lung capacity. I wasn't much faster when I ran with SIOR, but I did improve by a couple of minutes over the first three miles.

Once we'd finished our run, we headed over to Starbucks™, the official run recovery spot of the Runsketeers. We missed our buddy TPP today. She was with JC in Connecticut running with the Iron Cowboy to support his goal of running 50 Ironman distances in 50 days for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. SIOR and I covered a lot of subjects including her upcoming marathon and the challenges of high altitude running.

I had a great time with SIOR and realized later that today's six miles was my longest run so far in 2015. In past years I would have already run a 10K and/or a half marathon by this point. My experience today motivated me to try to push a little more next time. I look forward to our next Runsketeer run and I'm going to try to keep up with SIOR and TPP a little longer than I have. After yesterday's near trip that (happily) did not re-aggravate my disc issue, I'm think I'm ready for some intervals next weekend.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wishing for an Independence day from mountain bikers

Welcome to Stillwell - but beware
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.75 miles

I often feel that trail runners get less respect than hikers and mountain bikers. Most articles I read about trail activities emphasize hiking and biking and rarely, if ever, mention running. Last year I donated to the Rails to Trails Conservancy which (I've concluded) spends most of its budget sending emails and letters to patrons asking for more money. Whenever RtTC writes about trail usage, it's only about cycling.

My town has a great Preserve called Stillwell Woods. Described on the nassaucounty.gov website as: "A 270-acre preserve and multiple-use area, Stillwell Woods offers a blend of old field and oak barrens communities, the latter of which includes plants and animals that are more typical of habitats farther east on Long Island." It also mentions (I've bolded relevant text): "The Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail for hikers runs through the preserve; there are also bicycle trails and equestrian trails."    

So why does mentioning or not mentioning running matter? It matters because of the mindset of the people who use the Preserve. 270 acres is a large area and there are many paths to travel. There should be plenty of room for everyone on the trails and everyone should acknowledge that. But, except in rare occasions, bikers ride the trails with abandon with little regard for anyone making their way around on two feet. I've had enough encounters with mountain bikers to sense the resentment that many have for trail runners.

I arrived at Stillwell around 8:00 AM this morning for my Independence Day run and saw a few people preparing their bikes. It seemed less crowded than usual and I assumed I'd have a nice peaceful run. I did not. Almost from the start, I was in conflict with mountain bikers. My first turn off the trail head was partially blocked by two stationary riders who were chatting until I'd passed them to enter a side trail. 30 seconds later, these riders came up from behind, forcing me off the narrow single track so they could get by.

I had a few other encounters with bikers after that. In each case I would hear someone just seconds before I saw them. The bikers didn't slow down, apologize for making me jump off the path or bother to warn me that more riders were coming up right behind them. In one case, a second rider appeared so suddenly that I had to leap out of the way to avoid them. I snagged my foot on a root and it almost took me down.

My body whipped around exactly like it did a few months ago when I tripped on broken sidewalk during a run. I wrenched my back when that happened and the resulting pain was so bad my wife had to come get me. I didn't run again for three full weeks. Today was a different story. Once I righted myself, I expected the sharp pain that I'd experienced from my ruptured disc. Besides feeling slightly shaken up, I was fine, with no discomfort whatsoever.

Looks a lot more peaceful from this height
I carefully made my way out of the woods after that and continued running past the trail head for another half mile. Stillwell is always an experience. The continuously changing terrain provides an interesting and challenging workout. I'm planning for a Runsketeer rendezvous at Beg Hog (my new name for Bethpage) tomorrow and I'm happy that I'll be able to get a fourth run in on Monday. I will be dealing with cyclists on the bike trail, but they seem to be a more thoughtful breed than those at Stillwell.
 

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