Running quote of the week

"I often hear someone say, “I’m not a real runner.” We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner." - Bart Yasso

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Track run and a come from behind story

Lapping up the miles
Today's run (track): 5.3 miles

It was helpful to have today's workout already planned so I didn't waste time determining where I'd go and what gear to wear. As expected, there was light rain falling when I got up. I decided to give it until 8:00 AM to go out, hoping that the wet weather would soon move off. By 8:15, the rain had turned to a light mist and I headed over to the high school track.

Although the temperature showed 54°, I felt chilly in my short sleeve shirt and shorts. I'd taken along the running raincoat that I bought to replace my dog-mangled jacket and wore it for the first two laps. Even with an unventilated top, I stayed fairly comfortable, but I was starting to sweat. The rain had completely stopped at that point, so I ditched the coat.

At the time I arrived, there was only one other person on the track. This was neither a walker nor runner. It was a pied piper with a rolling speaker that was blasting out an energizing mix of music. As I ran by this man, I saw a group of high school aged girls gathering around him at the top of the oval. I realized he was the track coach and practice was about to start.

It's always tricky to do a track run when a practice is going on. I did my best to stay out of their way, keeping to the outside lanes as much as I could. I like to alternate running direction every six laps and, the first time I ran clockwise, I saw the girls practicing 200's. While they took a cool down lap, I noticed the distribution of runners. There were a few at the front, a larger group in the middle and a couple of others running ten feet behind the middle group. Further behind was a final runner and she didn't look very happy. I felt badly for her.

When I came around on my next lap, I saw the coach lining everyone up to do an all-out 400. Two runners quickly broke away, leaving the rest of the pack behind. I was surprised to see the straggler from the cool-down moving up to the front. She pulled ahead and it was like watching the Preakness again. This girl ended up finishing well ahead of the others and I was happy for her.

I lost count of my laps, but had 5.3 miles on my Garmin by the time I finished. I felt almost as strong at the end as I did at the start, making for three good runs this weekend. Not only that, I hit 15K steps both yesterday and today. I probably should start using a heart rate monitor again to help me differentiate between real and perceived effort. It may help me push harder if I see that I'm training in a lower zone than I realized.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Neighborhood run around

Old neighborhood, new directions
Today's run (street): 4.75 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.25 miles
Sunday's run (Bethpage): 5.1 miles

Another busy work week resulted in a zero workouts between Monday and Thursday. Last Sunday I went to Bethpage and ran along  the northern end of the bike trail from Haypath to Washington Ave and back. I worked from home yesterday and got in a surprisingly brisk run around my neighborhood. This morning I planned to meet SIOR at Massepequa Preserve for a group run, but I had an unexpected issue that delayed me from getting out early enough.

Everything worked out and I considered a number of places to run (the track, Stillwell, business park...) but ended up sticking close to home. My one  concession to routine was to run without a planned route. I picked a direction and chose lefts and rights at random. After seeing the route map on Garmin Connect, I realized that it looked pretty much like my usual pattern. What was different was the order and direction that made it seem like a different experience.

Only so many ways to cover these streets
Two years ago this weekend, me and my buddies ran the Brooklyn Half. There's no way I'd be ready to do that today. I want to start working on my base and hope to get in five or more miles tomorrow. According to the latest prediction, the weather should start to clear around 8 AM.  I may bite the bullet and go out earlier even if the rain is still coming down. Maybe I'll run at the track. If the rain gets too bad, I'll never be more than 200 meters from my car.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Heroism by the book

A worthy sequel
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles
Thursday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

I'm reading an interesting book by Chris McDougall called Natural Born Heros (NBHs). McDougall wrote Born to Run, which launched the minimalist running movement. That craze has since given way to maximalist, pontoon-like trainers from Hoka and other shoe companies, but I still love my Kinvaras. Natural Born Heros is about athleticism and self defense that is developed through practical need rather than controlled competition.

The through-line story in NBHs is about how Churchill's special agents worked with Cretan shepherds and farmers to significantly disrupt Hitler's progress toward Russia during WWII. Like Born to Run, McDougall writes a lot of about physiology, especially the role the fascia plays in energy efficiency and power. I'm only halfway through the book but I understand running technique is discussed further in the story.

This was a particularly busy work week for me, so much so that I ended up going into the office every day. I count on my work-from-home Fridays for one of my weekly runs. Knowing that wasn't going to happen, I did an elliptical workout the night before. This morning I needed to get back to the road, but that didn't go too well. I can't explain it, but I couldn't really get going this morning. I tried to appreciate the pleasant weather and the fact that I wasn't stuck on the treadmill. All the same, I was glad when the run was over.

If I'm up to it, I may head to Bethpage tomorrow and would like to cover at least five miles. My running buddy SIOR is up in Kennebunk for the 2016 Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon. She's running it with a friend who's doing his first marathon. I'm wishing them both lots of fun and I'm hoping she breaks 3:30!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day soaker run

Gray skies are gonna clear up
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

Happy Mother's Day. In the spirit of the holiday, I got going early so I could get my run out of the way before celebrations ensued. These celebrations included gestures of giving, such as making the bed before my wife could and putting up a shelf that resembles a surf board for my daughter. That one was trickier than it sounds. I plan to empty the dishwasher too. But don't hold me to that.

It was dark and gloomy before 7 AM and I thought about using the treadmill for a nanosecond. I quickly decided that running in the rain would be a preferable choice. Out the window, the precipitation seemed minimal, although the weather report warned that Long Island would be getting more rain. I put on my new running rain jacket, the Spira XLTs that I use in wet weather and some wool socks that came in handy during the run.

Predictably, the rain started to pick up the minute I stepped outside. I mapped a route that looped around my immediate neighborhood. I figured that if the weather got really bad, I'd never be more than a half mile from my house. I put on the jacket's hood and took off. Despite the 49° temperature and the high humidity, I still felt a little chilly. I knew that my jacket, with its lack of venting, would warm me up as I went on.

My 1.2 mile loop
I expected to be the only one on the road this morning and was surprised to see people out walking and riding bikes. I suspect those people scurried for cover once the skies opened up. The humidity began to fog my glasses. Between that and the rain, my forward visibility had been reduced to to less than 30 feet. But 30 feet was all I needed.

Around mile two, my fogged view prevented me from noticing some pooling at the intersection of two connecting roads. I cursed when I felt the water saturate my right shoe. The only thing worse than running in the rain is running with soaking shoes and socks. Fortunately, I had a pair of Ballston socks that can get soaked and still provide warmth and blister protection. It wasn't the most pleasant feeling, but neither is running in the rain in general.

My three loops totaled 3.5 miles which I thought was a decent effort on such a miserable day. Had I waited a few more hours, I would have been running in sunny, but windy conditions. But I got my run done by 8:00 AM and my Fitbit captured over 7,000 steps in the process. Time for more Mother's Day celebrating. For the record, I did empty the dishwasher.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fitbit fits and multicolored running

These colors do run
Today's run (street): 3.6 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I really liked my Fitbit yesterday, because it showed that I had reached 6,500 steps after my morning run. I really despised my Fitbit this morning when I checked post-run and saw that it didn't record a single step. What a waste of exercise. The saving grace is that my Garmin captured my run and, using the SPM metric and elapsed running time, I estimated that I ran about 6,400 steps. My Fitbit will never know this. Adding insult to injury, I expect the Fitbit to put a message on the display tonight shaming me for moving so little today.

After eight straight runs over my vacation break, I had a long layoff. My return to the office resulted in no running until yesterday. I was able to determine that my average step count during a work day is about 5,500 and I've been adding about 5,000 more when I got home. If I can't fit in runs Monday through Thursday, I need to generate more steps at work. I've been using a stand up desk in my office for the last year and that's better than sitting, but it's impolite to stand during meetings and worse to pace around the conference table.

The weather this week has been cold and rainy. Yesterday I stayed inside and used the treadmill. As I ran, I thought about how much I dislike the treadmill experience. I tried to think about the positives - the softer surface, no wind resistance (except for the fan), no broken pavement, no cars, and no hills. I had the TV to distract me and I could just set my pace and zone out. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way for me. I usually turn off the TV after a few minutes because it starts to annoy me. The lack of true forward progress feels futile. My only thought is that every step gets me incrementally closer to finishing.

This morning started with rain, but I had to bring my son to the high school and wouldn't have been able to run before then anyway. By 9:00 AM the skies had cleared, and I got outside for a neighborhood run. There was a lot going on for us, so I wasn't able to cover that much distance. I appreciated the cool air and the cloudy skies. My run almost felt automatic. It was as if I was riding along, rather than doing any work.

While my son was getting through his SAT and I was running through my neighborhood, my wife and daughter were at Citi Field participating in the Color Run. This is a non-competitive run where participants get sprayed with colored corn starch along the way. The "race" starts in the corridors under the ball park and winds through the playing field and then around the stadium area. It was a fun pre-Mother's Day activity and definitely more fun than taking the SATs.

Tomorrow is officially Mother's Day so I'll need to get out early. I hope the rain will stay away long enough for me to get a few miles in.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Running eight days running

Crowded lanes
Today's run (street): 3.6 miles
Yesterday's run (track): 3.5 miles
Thursday's run (street): 3.2 miles
Wednesday's run (street): 3.4 miles

Today is the eighth day of my vacation and I've run every day since it started. I've covered 28 miles since last Saturday, including today's 3.6. The last time that I covered over 25 miles in one week was during my training for the 2014 Brooklyn Half. On top of my running miles, I've also managed to fit in a couple of hikes, the second one happening yesterday. I'll credit my new Fitbit for motivating me to move more.

I planned to do at least one run at Bethpage this week, but I ended up staying local, except for when I ran at the track. I've purposely kept my run distances in the three mile range because I knew I'd be accumulating mileage through the break. Saturday to Friday's total was 40% higher than what I'd typically run within seven days. I've heard that training volume really shouldn't increase by more than 10% in a given week.

Wednesday and Thursday were neighborhood runs and the streets have been quiet because it's school vacation. I've seen a couple of news articles this week touting the idea that ten minutes of high intensity exercise is as beneficial as a moderate 45 minute run. That may be true but I prefer running. I'm not ready to trade that for Tabata-like workouts. Still, I have been incorporating more anaerobic effort into every run I've done this week.

Oval by Garmin
There was a lot going on when I arrived at the track on Friday. The Syosset baseball team was practicing on the adjacent field and they were blasting country music from a big speaker. I was concerned that it might disrupt my peaceful run. The music itself was weirdly anachronistic for suburban Long Island but somehow it worked. There were a few track teams taking up the inside lanes while I ran, but we managed to peacefully co-exist.

Later in the day, my son and I went to Trailview State Park for a hike. Trailview has a hiking trail and another that's supposedly reserved for biking. On our way back we followed the bike trail and found it much more interesting. It wound around in different directions and seemed to go on forever. Just at the point where I thought it was taking us farther away from our starting point, the trail head came into sight. It was a nice second workout of the day and helped me get to almost 14K steps on Friday.

I considered taking a rest day today but we have plans for an end-of-vacation breakfast tomorrow. If I'm going to run on Sunday I'll need to do it early. Knowing that, I decided to get out again today to keep the streak going. I ran okay and covered some streets I haven't run in months. I wasn't under time pressure and thought about adding a few extra miles, but I didn't want to tempt fate and invite injury. My sciatica returned earlier in the week, this time it was on my right side. I was concerned that my herniated disc had been re-aggravated, but I've been pain free over the last three runs.

I'm happy to have the Fitbit and I'm curious to see how much distance I actually travel during a typical work day. I'll find out next week. My work calendar will be even worse than usual because I had the audacity to take a week off and that means lots of catch up meetings starting Monday. I'm hoping that all the walking I do in between meetings will add up to more than 10K daily steps.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Run, hike and Fitbit

ER and ER Jr taking on the trails at Bethpage
Today's run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.25 miles
Sunday's run (street): 3.5 miles

It's nice to be out of the office this week. We've had some great days so far. Since work often gets in the way of my weekday running, I try to take advantage of off days to fit in extra workouts. That's been the case so far on this vacation. I've been able to run every day since Saturday.

I can barely remember Sunday's run around the neighborhood, other than that it was windy and a little cold for the short sleeves and shorts I wore. Like Saturday, I had good energy and I felt I moved well. Yesterday I got out fairly early and enjoyed the quiet roads, courtesy of school vacation that kept both buses and parents off the roads.

Yesterday afternoon, my son and I decided to do an impromptu hike in the woods at Bethpage. We parked in the northeast corner of the lot and entered at the trail head at the far end of the picnic area. We followed the main trail that parallels the bike trail and then cut to a path that led us to the big field. We ducked back into the woods and began to take side trails, one of which led us to the paved path where the short but very steep hill begins.

We stayed on the bike trail for about three quarters of a mile before going back into the woods. We followed a winding path that eventually brought us back to where we'd started out. It was a good hike with some nice climbs and I was glad to get a second workout in on Monday.

Post-run selfie, Sunday or Monday. I've lost track.
We had buckets of rain this morning starting at around 4:00 AM, but conditions cleared up by about 9:00 AM. Even though the rain had stopped, I decided to save a little time and stayed inside, covering 3.3 miles on the treadmill. It was a good progression run and, like the three before it, I finished my last mile running a fairly fast pace (for me).

I'd given my wife my Fitbit a couple of years ago because I got frustrated with it. Not that it didn't work, it was just that I'd frequently leave it on my dresser instead of transferring it to my next pair of pants. And everyone knows that a run or walk that wasn't captured by a device technically never happened.

My company just did a wellness challenge and every participant got a Fitbit to track their contribution to their team. I didn't participate, but I became envious of people when they'd announce their step count. I decided to get back into the Fitbit game and ordered a new one. The building where I work is humongous and every meeting I'm in seems to be as far from my office as physically possibly.

I'll be curious to see how much I actually travel during the workday. I wish I had it now so I could track my progress during this vacation week.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A blooming good run

Where have all the flowers gone? In my mouth.
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 21 minutes

Today is day one of my vacation. Eight days, plus what's left of this one to do whatever I want everything my wife needs me to do. Actually my list is fairly light and I like having projects. I'm happy to avoid five days of commuting and excited to have more time to run during the week.

I worked from home on Friday and would normally have gone for a 3+ mile run in the morning. An exhausting work week left me low on energy so I ended up doing a short elliptical session rather than doing nothing. That turned out to be a good compromise, because that short targeted workout helped my energy level throughout the day.

This morning I was feeling ready to run, but the wet weather was encouraging me to stay inside. We had early plans and I wanted to get my workout started as soon as possible. The clock was ticking and my wife was doing her treadmill run. The rain started to let up, so I put on a short sleeve shirt and running shorts and got the heck outside.

Today's route
I had no route planned so I picked a random direction and took off. That direction took me around the middle school and then through the northern part of my neighborhood. I headed south from there and followed a few roads that used to be the main part of my daily run. I felt great and, although it wasn't an impressive performance, everything (breathing, stride, energy level) was working well.

The wind picked up near the end of my run and that caused the only problem I encountered. The breezes were shaking blooms off the sycamore and dogwood trees and the effect was like white and yellow snowfall. It was pretty, but the tiny flowers kept getting in mouth. I forced myself to breath through my nose and that worked fine. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have an allergic reaction to all this flora.

I was glad to cover almost five miles today and I hope to go a little longer tomorrow. If the weather stays good, I'm going to try to get out for a run every day of this vacation.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A detour on the path and a pain in the knee

Detour at mile 3
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 5.1 miles

I headed out to Bethpage this morning around 7:45 AM. It was a little later than I'd hoped to run, but I needed to stick around the house and help my son get ready for today's science fair. I didn't help with the actual project, that is so complicated and sciency that I can't understand anything in his research reports and display board except his name. My contribution was to help him tie his tie before he boarded the bus to Great Neck.

I don't have an Empire Passport this year so I didn't go to the park to start my run. I probably could have got in for free because the guy who works the entry booth sometimes lets me park without paying. He's a great guy and a really good judge of people. Instead, I parked on Colonial Road which is located about a mile north of the Bethpage lot.

My plan was to run north so that worked out fine. I usually start on the bike trail at Haypath and run to the LIE overpass on Washington Ave and back. That's just about five miles. Today I decided to get my five a different way with a detour up Old Country Road.

I did not get off to a good start. My legs felt heavy and my stride felt awkward. I really hoped it was something that would change as I warmed up. I loosened up eventually, but it took a couple of miles of running for that to happen. There were many runners out today, mainly groups. At one point I saw so many people running that I thought there was a race going on.

I turned around after two miles and ran south until I reached Old Country Road. I then ran west almost to Plainview Road and then back to the bike trail. I ended up covering my targeted five and got to see other sights off the beaten path. Actually the path on Old Country was pretty beaten. So much so, that I feared I'd trip on the many torn up slabs of concrete sidewalk.

Profound statement from CaptionBot
When I got back to my car I noticed some pain at the top of my knee. It only hurt when I put pressure on it or turned it when pushing up to stand. I looked up the symptoms online and they seem to match something people call patellofemoral pain. One site suggested ice, elevation and compression. I put on my ACE knee brace that got me through a meniscus tear without surgery many years ago.

I'm fortunate to work with experts in health and physiology and I plan to seek their advice tomorrow. I'm hoping that the brace and a couple of days rest will help in the meantime.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Running in circles while my friends ran at Bethpage

I forgot to mention the invisible airplane on the track
Today's run (track): 4.1 miles

Due to a science fair scheduling conflict, I needed to run extra early this morning. That was fine, as I'm trying to go back to early day running. The downside was that I missed SIORs run-palooza at Bethpage this morning. This was another Life Time Run Club adventure and today's group included both TPP and KWL. Long before they all went out, I was at the Syosset HS track getting in 16 laps. The Runsketeers had a great time and I'm very jealous.

I always hope that the track will be empty when I arrive, but there's usually someone there before me. That was case today. It was mostly walkers, but there were a couple of guys running intervals and one person run/walking wearing a pair of big studio headphones. I tuned everyone out for the most part rather than construct back stories of every person on the track like I usually do. I just wanted to get through the workout and stay on schedule.

I'm going to need to go out early again tomorrow. I'd like to do at least five miles so I'll probably run somewhere outside my neighborhood. I can't go too far or too long, because I need to be ready for yet another science fair. But no such problems next weekend. After Monday, science fair season will be over.

Friday, April 15, 2016

CaptionBot sums up my run experience

 
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I used to be very disciplined about my running and would usually get out before the sun came up. In recent years I've slipped from typical 6:00-ish start times to a more indulgent 8:00 AM. Later starts led to later finishes that cut deeply into my weekend mornings. I've been thinking it would be good to return to earlier runs, starting today.

Although earlier starts were already part of the plan, I needed to be back in time for an 8:00 AM video call today. Having my running done by 7:00 AM gave me more time to get things done this morning. And I can always use extra time.

Being out at 6:30 AM was a different Friday experience for me. No recycling trucks or parents speeding down the road on their way to dropping their kids off at school. It was a chilly 38° and the glare from the rising sun was blinding, but I enjoyed being out there. I ran okay and covered my usual 5K Friday route. When I got home I took a selfie on my driveway to memorialize my multi-colored outfit.

After I downloaded the picture I stumbled upon Microsoft's CaptionBot site where you can upload a picture and it captions it for you using artificial intelligence. The results are above. For the record I wasn't exactly feeling "grinning emoji."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The data behind the pace

Open the stride and quicken the cadence
Today's run (street): 5.5 miles

Conditions were chilly this morning and I had to dress like I was going out for a winter run. I feel like it's payback for all those weeks of unseasonably warm weather that we had in March. Somehow I picked the right combination of gear and set out for a run in a nearby neighborhood. I started out with a loop around a local business park that has one hill that I always dread. I did another half loop before moving on to run in what I call neighborhood #3.

Once around the park
My run was fine and, although I thought I was doing a good job introducing speed at times, I ended up running fairly slowly. When I looked at the data from today's run, I noticed that my current pace hasn't degraded that much since mid-2014. It was interesting to see that my training paces were often 2 minutes per mile slower than my race paces. That gave me hope that I could get back into race shape if I wanted to start focusing on performance.

I decided to do an analysis that compared three data points from my run history: pace, stride length and cadence. I randomly selected thirteen runs between 2013 and today that had data captured via my Garmin foot pod. Pace is measured in xx:xx time format, stride length is typically between .8 and 1.1 meters and cadence usually falls (for me) between 160-180 SPM. Those disparities required me to index the metrics so they could all be displayed on the same scale.

My first reaction when the data was visualized was that faster paces are clearly correlated to longer stride length and faster cadence. Not a surprise. I know that 13 data points doesn't yield statistically significant findings, but it's enough information to be directional. It shows that if I want to get back to 9:30 training paces, I'll need to average between 172-176 SPM and stride lengths between .98 to 1.0 meters.

I have work to do to get to those numbers but at least it's a baseline target. I need to decide whether to focus on cadence and let my stride adapt as needed, or if I should try to open my stride before taking on the tougher metric. I'd prefer the latter, but messing with stride length is tricky because over-striding is the gateway to injury.
 

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