Running quote of the week

"Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don't have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism." - Amby Burfoot

Friday, August 29, 2014

Good with my running right now

Give me a Boost?
Tuesday's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles
Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

Happy Labor Day weekend. It's been a busy week, but I was able to get in a treadmill run on Tuesday. But after a long day at the office on Wednesday, I was in no shape for a Thursday run. That leads me to this morning, when I went out for a pleasant neighborhood run before starting a busy (though holiday-truncated) day working from home.

Conditions were superb at 7:00 AM - 60° and not very humid. With the sun still low in the sky, it felt a lot like fall. Friday morning I'd driven through Bayville and Seacliff and counted at least a dozen runners along the way. I envied their freedom as I made my way towards the Cross Island Parkway on the way to work. I appreciated that today I got to be one of the people running.

I covered no new ground on today's route, but still enjoyed the experience. I thought about my current state of running, definitely slower than it was a year ago. I usually beat myself up at the beginning of each run, thinking about this difference. Am I not trying as hard as I used to? The effort feels the same, even if the speed has dropped. After going through both a stress test and physical that revealed no underlying issues, I don't have much to blame it on besides age.

I decided today not to care. I'm not interested in competing right now, so speed isn't that important. I'd like to get back to my previous level of performance and I think I can if I focus seriously on speed. Right now, I like my running for what it is -- a way to maintain mental and physical fitness. I ended up running a little faster today than I have in recent weeks. I attribute that to the cool weather and a good night's sleep.

I cut my day short since the office closed early for the holiday. The Emerging Runner family went out to finish our back to school shopping. We stopped into Dick's and I tried on a pair of adidas Boost Response trainers. I've been curious about these shoes because they have adidas' Boost foam that supposedly returns 30% more energy than EVA.

The fit was great and the shoe had a nice rocking effect that facilitated a rolling gait. I'm not quite ready to replace my Virattas at this point, so I put the shoes back on the shelf. In a few months I'll be looking more seriously and will give them another go.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Morning run and Trailview hike

            Today's route on an old school map
Today's run (street): 6 miles

I came into the weekend with two expectations for running - one that I'd do a speed oriented run and the other that I'd run someplace more interesting than my neighborhood. Neither happened, but I did manage to cover almost 12 miles.

This morning I waited too long to get out and started my run at 8:30 when the temperature was already 68°. I started out easy and figured I'd pick up the pace once I'd loosened up. Afterward, I was surprised to see that the Garmin showed my first mile to be the second fastest of the run. At around the 30 minute mark, I checked my heart rate and saw that it was at 75% of max - too low for what I'd hoped to get out of the workout. I pushed further until I reached 80% and tried to hold it there.

There was a time when I'd comfortably average 85% max on a training run, but holding it above 80% today was hard to sustain. Despite the higher effort, I did enjoy the run. I wanted to cover six miles and did exactly that, with my last mile clearly my fastest. Overall, I beat yesterday's run by 30 seconds a mile.

The Emerging Hiker, Jr.
It turned out to be a beautiful day, so my son and I went over to Trailview in the early afternoon for a hike. That section of the Greenbelt trail has some steep inclines and descents and we took them on without a problem. He and I have been hiking that trail for years and he always wants to follow the toughest routes. He's almost my height now and when we run the trails, I can't keep up with him. But I can still outlast him.

I'm satisfied with the weekend's running even if I didn't end up following my plan. The unplanned hike was a fun addition and helped make up for all the hills I missed by staying in my neighborhood.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Memories of an Autumn run

Top of the office park hill
Today's run (street): 5.6 miles

The gremlins that were messing with my mind and body on Friday seem to have moved on. I was prepared to cover more distance today and looked forward to running some roads I haven't traveled (on foot) in a while. After starting with a short loop in the neighborhood, I decided to run over to the local business park and follow that loop with a tour of an adjacent neighborhood along a stretch of Woodbury Road.

I wasn't feeling energetic enough to push pace today, but at least my gait felt smoother than it did yesterday. I got the uphill part of the business park loop out of the way first by running clockwise where most of the elevation happens over a half mile stretch. The park is a pleasant place to run on a Saturday morning if you like industrial landscaping and brick office buildings. To me it's a perfect place to zone out and run without having to think about my route.

I wasn't alone during that part of my run. There were a couple of other runners going in the opposite direction and I stopped briefly to help someone who needed directions. I considered doing two loops, but chose to head south instead, and ran through the neighborhood known as "The Knolls" until I reached Woodbury Road.

The section of Woodbury Road between Sunnyside Boulevard and Piquets Lane always reminds me of the fall. A few years ago I had a spectacular autumn run that included that stretch of road. The smell of maple trees, the cushion and crackle of their fallen leaves and the crisp morning air made for a memorable experience. There were no leaves on the sidewalk today, but the spirit was there.

I enjoyed today's run much more than yesterday's, and though I could have focused more on performance, I was fine with how I did today. I keep promising myself that I'll do an anaerobic workout soon, but I tend to default to my comfort zone. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if I decide to compete in September, I'm definitely not in racing shape.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Attitude problem

 
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

I took a step backward this week by skipping my Tuesday morning treadmill run. I'd set up my gear the night before, and fully intended to do the workout. When I woke up, I felt exhausted and decided to skip my run. My schedule didn't allow for any running on Wednesday and Thursday, so I was excited to get back to it today. I shouldn't have got so excited.

Although my legs felt heavy and sore before I went out today, I expected to snap out of that once I got going. I headed out through the neighborhood, but couldn't generate much speed for the first few minutes. My stride was constricted and I felt a little queasy. I was uninspired and it didn't take long to realize that I was in for a tedious run. So much of running comes down to attitude, and this morning I had a bad one.

The thing that got me through today's run was knowing that I only needed to cover a few miles. I tried to think positively about the circumstances; the weather was good and I appreciated being back on the road. Yet, when my Garmin chirped at mile one, I didn't feel like I'd made much progress and I knew I had a lot more ground to cover.

Eventually my form improved and I began to feel better physically. I haven't checked the data, but I think I ran faster as the run went on. Even so, I was disinterested in the workout and only looked forward to getting back home. There are days when the experience of running turns around a bad mood and provides a great feeling of accomplishment. Today was not one of those days.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Great weekend runs despite the hills and rain

Today's run (street): 5.2 miles
Yesterday's run (Bethpage trail): 6.25 miles

It's been a good weekend for running, starting with Friday's morning's fall-like conditions. Yesterday I decided to break out of my neighborhood's boundaries and headed to Bethpage to run the bike trail. It was a little warmer than on Friday, but very comfortable in the shade. I got a late start and didn't arrive until 9:00 AM, and the trail was packed with happy looking cyclists, runners and walkers. I picked the northern direction, running towards Sunnyside Boulevard.

It's been some weeks since I've run the undulating hills at Bethpage and I felt every one. The stretch between Washington Ave and Sunnyside was the toughest section of my route and I felt some relief once I reached the top of the last hill. The rest of the run was easy and I was almost sorry to stop when I reached my endpoint.

Later in the day we hosted a dinner for friends and, by the end of the evening, I was ready to sleep where I stood. I worried that I overdid it on my run and that I wouldn't be able to go long today. I ended up getting an earlier start this morning and took off under dark cloudy skies. Around the two mile point it started to rain, and I thought about turning back home. I decided to keep going in the hope that it would soon clear up.

My gamble paid off, and the rain stopped about ten minutes later. I ran another 20 minutes before completing 5.25 miles. Running only four times a week (these days) requires that I cover at least ten miles on weekends. Less days mean longer distances per run, and his has helped me establish a pretty good base. My speed is still well below target and I think that's due to an utter lack of anaerobic training on my part. I plan for a speed workout some time next week and try to get  that back on track.

Friday, August 15, 2014

To Cow or not to Cow

 
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Running conditions this morning could not have been better, and I am not exaggerating when I say that it felt like autumn. When I stepped out a few minutes before 8:00 AM, it was 60° with very low humidity. I was so comfortable that I didn't break a sweat until after my first mile. With only 25 minutes on the treadmill since last Sunday's six miler, I had been looking forward to getting out and running today.

The route I followed intersected three times with a middle aged man, his college age daughter (I'm guessing), and a dog (definitely a dog). They walked along the right side of the street when they weren't walking right in the middle. I saw a FedEx truck nearly drive over the left curb to avoid hitting them from behind, although they appeared oblivious to the whole thing. I probably should have said something, but I've learned by now that people don't want my safety advice.

Despite my continued frustration with those risk-taking fools, I really enjoyed the run. I thought about performance training, versus plain old running. These days, I'm far more interested in the health aspect of running compared to the idea of competition. I'm sure my decline in speed over the last couple of years is a factor. If I don't focus on pace and just run hard enough to feel like I'm making a good effort, I enjoy the experience a lot more.

Which brings me to Cow Harbor. One one hand, I consider the Great Cow Harbor 10K Long Island's premiere race. Plus, I've never run it with my blogging buddies and I know they're in. On the other hand, I can't commit to that race without also committing to doing some serious training between now and September 20. SIOR said that the entry fee rises to $40 on September 9, so no matter what I decide, I'd better do it before then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Treadmilling before the crack of dawn

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I think this early treadmill workout thing is beginning to stick. This morning, for the third week in a row, I got in a few running miles before starting my work day. I went to bed intending to do this run, but I'd forgotten to prepare for it. When I got up, I saw that I hadn't laid out my running gear or put towels down for my brief post-workout recovery period. It doesn't take that long to do those things, but in the morning every minute counts.

Time was my friend today. I got up before my alarm went off. Even with those extra preparation steps, I was on the treadmill before 4:00 AM. The bargain I make with myself is to cap these early runs at 25 minutes. That's a short enough time to seem manageable before the crack of dawn, but long enough to provide some benefit.

The run went well from beginning to end. I guess I could have pushed harder, but I knew I had an hour-plus drive and a full day's work ahead of me. I finished feeling like I'd worked reasonably hard, but I still had plenty of energy. I probably won't have a chance to run again until Friday so it was nice to have a couple of miles in the weekly bank. I've felt really good on my last few runs. I hope that continues.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Persaid at Stillwell and six miles on the road

 
Today's run (street): 6.1 miles

Last night we went out late to Stillwell Woods to watch the Persaid meteor shower. Unlike last year, when it was too cloudy to see much of anything at Sunken Meadow, the skies were clear on Saturday. Stillwell is a lot closer to our house, and its relatively light-free location would normally provide an optimal viewing experience. As luck would have it, the "super moon" lit up the southern sky last night, making it difficult to see any stars. However, facing north, we were able to view some exciting celestial fireworks.

My wife and son saw one that looked like this
SOURCE: NASA
Staying up late to watch shooting stars is fun, but getting up early the next morning to run is far less enjoyable. I downed my coffee, ingested a small amount of carbs, and took off before I could fully realize what I was doing. I didn't suffer from heavy legs or feel particularly tired as I ran, but a short night's sleep undercut my interest in pushing my pace.

Along the way, I thought about next weekend's Dirty Sock run and my decision not to participate this year. My interest in competing is still low and I was glad not to be preparing for that race. I know I could run it for fun and not worry about my time, but that doesn't work for me. If I'm going to take it easy, I'll do an easy run on my own. Besides that, my narcissistic side doesn't want a slow time added to my Athlinks racing stats.

I'd considered driving over to Bethpage this morning, but instead chose to stay local. My route wound all around the neighborhood and I kept my speed moderate. About four miles in, the run began to feel easier and I stepped it up to take advantage of my increased energy. The last two miles were easier than the prior miles and I was happy to get through my sixth feeling energized.

It's not the first time that I've ended up having a good run (or a good race) after less than a full night's sleep. I read recently that you don't really pay for sleep debt the next day, it's more often the day after. That's good because I'm resting tomorrow. If I can get a good night's sleep tonight, I should rebound well. There's supposed to be more of the Persaid shower this evening, but I don't think I'll be staying up for it. If you are able to do it, I recommend the experience.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stillwell Woods and wildlife, but not together

Long view of Stillwell, the woods lie beyond
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.4 miles

This morning I went for an invigorating trail run at Stillwell Woods. It was cool and comfortable at 7:15 AM and the trails were empty. I'm always concerned about getting mowed down by a maniac mountain biker, so it was nice to have the woods to myself. While I was happy for the lack of humans on the trail, I had hoped to see some of the local fauna.

Rocky raccoon just passing by
Fired up
In the past, I've run into deer, foxes, snakes, rabbits, possums, chipmunks and birds of all types. With the exception of a little gray bunny that hopped across my path, there wasn't much wildlife today. That wasn't the case last night when we made s'mores by the fire pit. Once it got dark, the whole backyard filled with fireflies and we were visited by a raccoon that lazily passed by atop our back fence. We were sitting by the pool and a bird kept swooping down to the water. When I saw it in contrast to the twilight sky, I could see it was a bat.

I followed my usual route at Stillwell, but took a few side paths along the way. The cool, relatively dry air prevented the gnat cloud that I usually endure on hot and humid summer days. My Cascadias easily handled the challenge of steep, scree covered hills, and I'm always grateful for the protection they give from sharp rocks and high roots.

Near the end of my run, the bikers began to show up. I couldn't see them through the trees, but I could hear them. I knew that we would be contending for the same trails in a matter of minutes, so I increased my speed to put additional distance between us. As I approached the trail head, a group of high school-aged boys were coming in. I was glad to be exiting at that point.

I ran by time, not distance this morning, and had hoped to cover five miles in the woods. I didn't quite get there, but I got a great workout. I'd like to cover six miles tomorrow - at least that's the plan.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Doing the wave on a friendly Friday

Howdy neighbor!
Today's run (street): 4 miles
Tuesday's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles

In the scheme of things, adding a couple of miles to your weekly volume doesn't make a lot of difference. However, when you are only able to run three days a week, adding another workout day provides some psychological benefit. Or perhaps it lessens guilt. Same thing. So for the past two weeks, I've dutifully risen at 4:00 AM to up my weekly run count to four and get my mileage a little closer to where it used to be.

The rest of my week's running happens between Friday and Sunday and I kicked that off today with a 4 miler around the neighborhood. I work from home on Fridays and that saves time from my long commute. I try to get outside early so I can finish my run and start my business day at my usual time. Since I prefer early running, this works out fine. Today it worked out great.

I've written dozens of posts complaining about running the same streets of my neighborhood, day after day. I thought about that this morning as I covered a section that I've probably run more than 800 times over the past six years. But every one of those runs has differed in some aspect. There's always a story.

Getting out early provided great weather conditions with temperatures in the mid 60's and humidity at its lowest point in the day. As I ran, I noticed some people in business clothes walking out to their cars, ready to start their commute. Perhaps it was a TGIF mindset, but almost everyone waved or said good morning as I ran by. I crossed paths with a couple of runners and they gave friendly waves as well. Even people in cars waved as they passed. Lots of waving today.

That pleasantness carried over to my run. I felt good enough to push my pace and ended up averaging about 20 seconds per mile better than my current training pace. I had hopes that it would be even faster than that, but I'll take what I can get. As much as I enjoyed my friendly neighbors today, I'm looking to get away from my local roads over the weekend. The Bethpage trail would be an obvious choice but since I'm not planning to run Dirty Sock this year, I may go to Belmont Lake and run the course.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Running never gets easy

 
Today's run (street): 5.4

It was just about six years ago when I decided to get serious about my diet and fitness. I wasn't planning to start running. That happened after a few weeks of morning treadmill walks leading to longer walks around the neighborhood. At one point during a walk, I decided to run to the end of the street. I remember how difficult it was to just do that. I figured that running would get easier, and then finally become easy.

Six years later, despite building fitness and developing an aerobic base, I still think that running is hard. Unless I'm doing long slow distance, I usually experience some level of discomfort during a run. Over time, I've learned to manage - even embrace - a certain degree of suffering. If I had known that this would be the case six years ago, would I have continued to try?

With yesterday's hot, hard and humid five miles on the treadmill, I was prepared to struggle today. The first mile reinforced that. As I ran, I felt frustrated with the level of effort that I was expending so early in the run. It was humid and cloudy, but fortunately not that hot. I headed to "neighborhood #2" for a change of scenery and to eat up some distance along one of my favorite straightaways.

After a while, my effort started to feel easier. I took the opportunity to increase my pace and ended up running negative splits. I thought it was interesting that, during the run, I'd reconciled myself to a laborious effort only to experience a rare easy training run. I'm also happy to report that I nudged closer to my targeted 18 miles week. That 4:00 AM run on Wednesday did the trick.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hot August treadmill

Rain, rain go away
Today's run (treadmill): 5.3 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.4 miles

I'm an early riser and my hope was to get out for a long(ish) run before 7:00 AM. The morning sky was dark gray and I tried to look outside to see if it was raining. It was too dark to see outside, but the steady thrum on the skylight confirmed a downpour. I considered putting on my running windbreaker and going out anyway, but the jacket isn't vented well for humid conditions. Besides that, I really don't like running with soaking shoes.

I considered my options: the elliptical, core and strength training, or the treadmill. I opted for the treadmill but I needed to wait for my wife to finish her run. While that happened, I had another cup of coffee and a small snack to top off my glycogen level. That turned out to be a good strategy and, though the humidity level this morning was off the charts, I experienced no energy drop throughout the run.

I worked from home yesterday, and it turned out to be an extremely busy day. I had to get out early to keep my schedule and I hoped that meant the humidity would be at a minimum. I was fooled by a breeze that, combined with the 73° temperature, made it feel relatively cool. But by the time I reached the half mile point, I could tell that it would be rough going.

I needed to get home in time to shower and prepare for an early call, so I capped my run at 3.3. miles. August humidity has always seemed the worst to me and that was certainly the case on Friday. Considering the oppressive weather, I ended up pacing a little better than expected. If the rain doesn't return in the morning, I'll aim for either a trail run or return to the Bethpage path.

It's good to be putting in more mileage as my weekly volume has dropped 15% since May (when I resumed a commuting job). I don't feel like that's resulted in a loss of fitness, but I need to up my game if I'm going to be ready for fall racing.
 

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