Running quote of the week

"Running is real and relatively simple–but it ain't easy." - Mark Will-Weber

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.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Conditions good, gear low

Gateway to the Middle school (literally)
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

I've been both run and workout free since last Sunday and only have myself to blame for it. I should be doing runs or an elliptical session before I leave for work. I often think about running a few miles after I get home. For the most part I've done neither, so most weeks I end up cramming it all in between Friday and Sunday.

On Fridays I usually feel pressure to get out early. I work from home on those days and I need to be fully focused on business by 7:30 or 8:00 AM. My company was closed today for Independence Day and our holiday extends through Monday. That took away the pressure of an early run and triggered my tendency to procrastinate before getting outside. I managed to stall until almost 10:00 this morning. Fortunately, the temperature and humidity were still very comfortable.

I usually keep my Friday runs between 3-4 miles to save time. Today I had more flexibility. Despite that, I ended up doing a short run. I started well, but soon had difficulty with my stride. I couldn't get out of second gear and the effort felt very hard. There are some runs that are so enjoyable that we resent the practical need to end them. This wasn't one of those runs.

It wasn't all bad. The streets were empty, probably due to my late start and the fact that the school year is over and the buses are no longer running. Although I didn't feel I ran well, I was happy that I got out on such a beautiful day. I've changed my route lately to finish through the middle school and that loop provides the opportunity to add another quarter mile to my regular course.

The weather on Saturday looks to be cloudy (my favorite running conditions). Humidity levels seem lowest between 8:00 and 9:00, although I'd like to get out earlier. I'm thinking that a visit to Stillwell Woods might be just the thing to get me into another gear.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Predictions variable, but not the humidity

Foggy as humidly possible
Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

Once again, Saturday night predictions of Sunday morning thunderstorms have turned out to be wrong. I was thrilled because I REALLY didn't want to spend any more time on the treadmill this weekend. It looked pretty iffy outside when I was getting ready for my run. I opted to stay local just in case it started pouring and I had to dash home.

I did a quick check out the door before choosing my gear and noticed it felt cool and a little breezy. The local station was showing 63° and I picked a long sleeve hi-visibility shirt to go with running shorts. The low clouds had darkened the sky and I wanted to make sure I was easily seen by drivers.

While I stood waiting for my Garmin to acquire its GPS signal, I caught a flash of yellow in the corner of my eye. I saw that my next door neighbor had started his own run and was bolting down the street. I didn't even know he'd taken up running. He headed south, then west through the middle school, while I went northeast. Even though our neighborhood has dozens of streets and side roads, I predicted I'd see him at some point on my run.

My prediction came true after I'd completed the northern loop of my route and was on my way to the southern end. I saw my yellow-garbed neighbor in the distance coming back towards the school. I don't think he noticed me and I was too far away to catch up to him. I put my focus on catching up and passing a number of walkers who were making their way along the road.

 Today's run conditions per my Garmin
What promised to be a cool and energizing run turned out to be a very humid one. My long sleeved shirt ended up being a bad choice. Even at 94%, the humidity wasn't completely oppressive. This was probably due to the clouds blocking the hot sun. But the humidity fogged my glasses throughout much of the run. Not enough to impair my vision, but enough to be annoying.

I was fortunate to have clear conditions to run outside  this morning and, even with my busy work schedule, I managed to get in over 2 hours of running this week. I really do need to figure out how to consistently get in an additional workout during the week. When I complain about my declining performance, I have to remember that I used to run six days a week without fail and that I'd typically cover over 20 miles in a week.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What I've learned about running from non-runners

Credit: http://www.runnersworld.com
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3 miles

Have you ever started a conversation about running with a non-runner and ended up regretting it? Like politics, religion and parenting, running is a subject that generates strong opinions. Generally speaking, most runners -- even those at different ends of the performance scale -- will agree on running related topics. Whether we run seven or eleven minute miles, we all sweat, have to deal with weather and wish we were faster. But discussions with non-runners can sometimes go like this.

Non-Runner: What did you do this weekend"
Runner: I did a couple of long runs on Saturday and Sunday.
NR: Wow. I'll bet your knees are hurting today.
R: Running doesn't hurt your knees. In fact it's been proven that running is good for your knees.
NR: Tell that to my my friend [sibling, spouse, friend of a friend, guy I work with...] who used to run until it ruined their knees.
R: Do you run?
NR: No! I don't want to hurt my knees and besides running is so boring!
R: Nice talking to you.

If you think I'm exaggerating, I had this conversation with someone at work this week. Others have warned me of other potential maladies, including heart attacks. I will say that the majority of conversations I've had with non-runners are positive. I've heard just as many people tell me they admire runners and wished they had the patience or discipline to run themselves.

I haven't been much of a runner this week myself, as my increasingly busy work week has cut into my workout time. I took a vacation day yesterday so I could go out east to the Atlantis Aquarium in Riverhead. We needed to get on the road early and I opted for a treadmill session to save time. Conditions were humid, so I did what I could to move air around the treadmill room. I used the big floor fan and set the built-in fans on the treadmill console to full power.

That helped, but only so much. Although I only covered three miles, it felt like six and I was wishing for a nap on the way to the Aquarium. We had a great time in Riverhead, and Atlantis is always a good experience. After a tough week, it was nice to do our first family activity since the kids began their summer break.

This morning conditions felt more like spring than summer. It was 65° when I went out and the humidity was far lower than on Friday. I've felt ambivalent about my workouts lately, but today everything worked. The air felt cool throughout my entire run and I was pleased with my stride. I've been reading an article excerpted from Meb Keflezighi's new book and tried to do some of the things he recommended to improve to my form. I felt that today's run was one of the best I've done this year.

Scattered thunderstorms are expected to start tonight and continue through most of Sunday. That's disappointing. But you know, weather conditions are just one of the many problems we runners face. I know a few non-runners who would tell you that.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Triple celebration after a sweltering start


Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

Today was a triple celebration day: Father's Day, my daughter's birthday and the first day of summer. Since we celebrated Father's Day yesterday, there wasn't much going on related to that. Celebrating summer is a passive thing unless you are a Druid, so today was really about my daughter. Except for the kids spending time in the pool midday, most of our celebrating happened indoors or out at places. A good idea considering the August-like humidity.

Loopy
The day did not start in a promising way. The torrential rains and heavy thunderstorms predicted by the weather services turned out to be less intense than expected. However, it was enough to discourage the Runsketeers from going out early as we'd planned. My friends switched the run to later in the afternoon, but I couldn't join them due to birthday stuff. I'm truly sorry to miss that, but the 90° heat and 90% humidity would not have been too enjoyable. I'm curious to hear how that went.

I thought I'd be doing today's workout on the treadmill and had considered doing a faux brick (30 min treadmill, 30 minute elliptical) to minimize my treadmill time. By 8:30 AM, the rain stopped and I went outside to run. My plan was to run loops around the neighborhood that would keep me close to home in case the skies opened up again.

Although it was overcast when I started my run, I thought to wear my sunglasses and that turned out to be a good decision. Over the course of my 50+ minute workout, the sun broke through the clouds and made for a sweltering experience. I kept my effort below anaerobic threshold to keep things tolerable. After three 1.2 mile loops, I expanded my route to ensure that I would cover at least five miles. That course turned out more circuitous than expected and I ended up adding another .4 mile to that total.

It was definitely 5 miles the hard way, and though I felt depleted and dehydrated, I was happy that I got out this morning. My motivation before my last three runs was very low, but each time I rebounded during the run. I'm almost as proud of myself for getting myself out there as I am for getting my runs done.

So happy summer, happy birthday and happy Father's Day. With the 13 miles I've covered over the past three days, I think I worked hard enough to justify the birthday cake we'll be having tonight.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Early run on an early Father's Day

Obligatory selfie at the business park
Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

Although Father's Day is officially on Sunday, we always celebrate it on Saturday. That gives my family an entire day to spoil me without the specter of the workweek starting the next day. On top of that, my son is still studying for Regents and finals that he'll finish on Tuesday so Sunday will be a big review day. So today is Father's Day (observed).

We had lots to do before lunch and I thought I would miss out on a chance to run in the morning. Like yesterday, I got out early and managed to get my miles in by 7:30. I'm planning to run with my buddies tomorrow morning and I'm targeting about 6 miles for that. I decided to cover less distance on today's run to ensure that I stayed on schedule.

I got my GPS signal and went directly over to the business park to run a few loops. Although the elevation loss and gain is the same in either direction, I prefer to run this route clockwise. That allows me to get most of the gain out of the way in the first third of the loop. I did two full and one partial circle before turning back for home.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm still struggling to generate speed. The perceived effort I'm putting in feels higher than the numbers I'm producing. Today's weather was as good as I could ask -- 70°, moderate wind and relatively low humidity, so I would have expected a little better performance.

We had a nice lunch in Huntington this afternoon and more Father's Day things will happen tonight. I'm looking forward to seeing the Runsketeers in the morning, although I may be seeing them through sheets of rain.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Getting my head around running faster

 
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I missed my mid week workout and hadn't been on a run since Sunday. Working from home on Fridays provides an opportunity to get in a few miles in the morning. An early business call provided a scheduling challenge. Despite my chronic tendency to procrastinate before running, I managed to get out before 7:00 AM and was rewarded with a cloudy sky that kept the temperature down. The humidity was another story.

My running experiences have gone from being exciting efforts that occasionally produced performance breakthroughs to embarrassingly slow cookie cutter efforts. I've used the excuse that I have to watch my speed to prevent further issues with my lower back. Even I don't buy that anymore. I think it's come down to the fact that I've lost the will and the knack for running fast.

The thing is, I haven't consciously backed off on the throttle. Most of the runs I do today feel as difficult as the ones I did three years ago. The difference between now and then is measured in minutes per mile. Every time I go out for a run, I think about going to the track and running repeats. I don't have any hope of managing 52 second 200's as I've done in the past, but it would be great to break a nine minute mile once in a while.

I keep telling myself that increasing base past 6 miles will make it easier to maintain speed on shorter runs. I know from half marathon training that there's some truth to that. But I haven't felt the motivation to push beyond a certain perceived effort. The mind has to accept the challenge before the body can perform.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Distance and dehydration

I should have bought water at the farm stand
Today's run (street): 5.75 miles

I managed to get out a little earlier this morning than I did on Saturday and it felt cooler and less humid. That was a good thing, because I ended up doing my longest run of 2015. I didn't really have a distance target, but I knew I would be spending time on  roads east of my neighborhood that would easily get me to 5 miles.

I'd originally thought that I'd cut through the area I call neighborhood #3 to get to the northern point of the Bethpage bike trail in Woodbury. I changed my mind during the run, opting instead to head for the business park to run the main loop. I did one rotation before making my way to neighborhood #3 and then followed Woodbury Road to my usual turnaround spot at Piquets Lane. I tagged the pole and took a selfie in front of a local farm.

By that time, I had passed the 40 minute mark. The heat and sun made me regret that I hadn't brought water with me. I was pretty dehydrated and a little hungry. A gel would have been nice at that moment. I often bring a bottle on my long training runs at Bethpage, but I rarely do that when I'm running on local roads. With temperatures in the 80's, I need to get in the habit of bringing water every time I run.

Today's rambling route
I took it a little easier on my way back and had to be careful to avoid some slippery patches of mud on the sidewalk on Woodbury Road. I was surprised how quickly I made my way back home from there. I saw that I was approaching six miles, which would have been a good distance target. I didn't make six, but I did come close.

I ended up covering 14 miles running this week, and also did a 30 minute elliptical session. It wasn't the 18 miles I've averaged through the years, but I'm gaining distance every week. Next week I'll look to go even longer. The Runsketeers are doing our June run next weekend. It's always easier to cover long miles with my buddies.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hot and soggy but not too sloggy

Mush!
Today's run (street): 4.7 miles

The needle on my motivation meter was firmly in the off position this morning. I watched the  temperature rise as the minutes ticked by. I couldn't decide where to run and no option was particularly appealing. I went upstairs to change into running clothes, hoping I'd find some inspiration through that experience. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on local roads so I headed over to neighborhood #2 for a slight change of scenery.

I'd watched the local weather report before my run and they made a big deal out of the low humidity. LIARS! The temperature was in the low 80's making the soggy atmosphere feel like hot soup. There were many people packing up their SUVs with beachy gear as I ran by. They had the right idea. I compromised on my pace and floated my way south to the other neighborhood.

I followed an extended loop and stayed on the shady side of the street when possible. My easy pace kept it from being a slog but I regretted waiting so long to go out today. I ended up covering more distance than I'd originally planned and it turned out to be a decent workout.

When I looked at the map of my run, I thought (after rotating the map 90°) that it looked like a person driving a dog sled. I may have created a new category of artwork - design by GPS.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Judgment day for hybrid running machines

Left to right: $2,000, $3,300, $9,300
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

Wednesday afternoon I participated in a debriefing session with fellow testers of the hybrid elliptical running machines. The machines had been removed from the testing lab a couple of weeks ago and I missed them. I was happy to see they were all back in place so we could refer to them in the discussion. It was interesting to hear what my my co-panelists thought about them since we were unable to share experiences during the test period. While we didn't share the same opinions on everything, most of us agreed on the machine we liked the least.

A few young and very fit people complained that they couldn't generate enough intensity on the machines to get a good workout. I rolled my eyes remembering my own experience unfolding myself from the units like a wet noodle after most of my testing sessions. I made the point to the group that I didn't think any of the machines actually duplicated a real running experience. Most people seemed to agree. That isn't to say that machines won't provide a great workout. I personally couldn't justify the exceedingly high cost of a fitness machine that isn't much different from my rickety Pro Form CE 6.0.

I was so inspired by Wednesday's discussion that I did an elliptical workout when I got home. I like ellipticals because I control them dynamically, unlike treadmills that have a mind of their own. After 30 minutes, with an outside temperature of 92°, I felt like I had all the intensity I could manage. Better still, the mild sciatica that I'd had through mid week seemed to be gone after I finished.

This morning I got out fairly early so I would beat the heat. I worked from home and needed to be back in time for a meeting that was being held using a Google Hangout. That meant I needed to look presentable even though I participated from the comfort of my home office-slash-fitness center. Early was a good call, because the heat really intensified over the short time that I ran.

I usually see other runners in the neighborhood on Fridays and weekends and today was no different. Besides the one young guy I always see no matter what day or time I run, the other runners were older (note to SIOR - even older than me. It's possible). I reached a road at the same time as another man and we headed in the same direction. Unlike that time in November when I "won" the race and triggered six months of disc related pain, I didn't take the bait. Instead I tucked in behind him until I reached my turnoff.

I'd like to think it was a relief for this guy not to have this hot shot runner on his tail, but he may not have even noticed. Owing to both the increasing heat and my limited time, I kept my distance to 3+ miles. I was almost home when I heard the familiar sound of my cell's ring tone. I chose to ignore it, but when I finished my run I saw that I'd missed an important call.

Rather than take the time to shower or even towel off, I returned the call from my garage. It was amusing to have a deep business conversation while standing in my sweat soaked running clothes. But that's what's great about working from home. You can alternate between business and non-business activities when you have to - and wear running shorts while you're at it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Near witness to the Pauli Exclusion Principle

Haypath Rd. trail head
Today's run (Bethpage trails): 5 miles

This morning I was reading Trail Runner magazine's trail shoe review and decided, that's it - I'm going to run on a trail today. Although it was early, I wasn't sure whether Stillwell's lot would be packed with cars, due to the dozens of soccer games that are played there on Sunday. I was also concerned about taking on too much technical terrain after yesterday's basketball hoop assembly.

I seemed to have avoided damage from putting so much pressure on my lower back yesterday, although I felt slight discomfort in my upper hamstring during today's run. It was nothing that would limit me, more like a message from my body reminding me to be more careful.

Since I wasn't looking to do a full trail run this morning, a hybrid of trail and pavement would be a good combination. The best place I could think of to do that was the Bethpage trail just north of the park. I headed over to Runsketeer base camp (sadly with no other Runsketeers today) to park near Haypath Road.

Dirt path going north, paved trail going back
I quickly got a signal on my Garmin and ran over to the eastern trail head off of Haypath to begin the first half of my run. The dirt trail parallels the paved bike path, but it feels like you're in the middle of the woods most of the time. The path is largely straight and it reminded me of Trailview in that respect. But Trailview is more technical, while this trail was mostly packed dirt. I encountered some gnarly roots that jolted me momentarily, but I didn't come close to actually tripping.

I followed the dirt trails all the way to Washington Ave., jumping over to the bike path only to cross Old Bethpage and Old Country roads. Once on Washington, I ran to the 495 underpass that leads to the part of the bike trail that runs parallel to the Sunnyside Boulevard exit. I turned around at that point and followed the bike trail back.

There were lots of cyclists and walkers on the path, but not that many runners. I encountered some trail bikers on the wooded path. They appreciated that I moved over for them and each rider told me how many others were behind them as they passed by from the opposite direction.

On my way back, I ran into perfect conditions for an accident. A group of women walking together (and blocking most of the bike trail) were 20 feet ahead of me. I saw two cyclists heading toward them at a high rate of speed and another biker coming up from behind. I could tell the single biker planned to thread the needle to the left of the women. What he couldn't see because of the curve of the trail, were the two other cyclists who were planning to pass through the same gap from the other side.

The Pauli Exclusion Principle states that no two identical particles can occupy the same space at the same time. I expected to see that theorem tangibly proven all over the Bethpage trail. Through some miracle, the two riders coming from the south got through about ten seconds before the rider who was behind me got there. I was astounded by this. The women were blissfully unaware that they came very close to becoming a 7-10 human split.

The rest of my run was happily drama free. I completed five miles, satisfied that I got in some good trail time. With Wednesday's elliptical session and three decent runs, I'm pleased with my progress this week. I'll aim for another weekday workout next week, perhaps an afternoon neighborhood run. There aren't that may spring days left and I'd like to take advantage of them as much as I can.
 

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