Running quote of the week

"My effort in the race didn’t result in a record or an award. It didn’t feel good. But it gave me the chance to feel good about myself." - Jonathan Beverly

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Yelling nice things on my runs

Weekend route triptych
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles
Yesterday's run (Bethpage bike trail): 5.1 miles
Friday's run (street): 3.2 miles

Every once in a while my enthusiasm for running ebbs a bit. I'd guess that most runners experience peaks and valleys over the years but sticking with it is the thing that defines us. I am doing better these days in terms of stamina, but, right now, I view running mostly as a means to retaining fitness. I'm not detached from it, but I don't think about it as often as I usually do. I know my enthusiasm will eventually return.

Even so, I am getting my workouts in. Friday I ran around the neighborhood before my workday started, covering my usual 5K route under very humid conditions. I'd hoped to defray some of the heat by getting out early enough to avoid direct sunlight. Unfortunately, the sun had other plans and it ended up being a hot and soggy run.

Yesterday I headed over to Bethpage to run the bike trail. I started about 8:00 AM which was probably two hours later than I should have gone out. Running in shade made it bearable. I've minimized my  sugar intake for over a month now. Besides losing ten pounds, I've also come to expect easier runs. For the most part I have, most noticeably in the way I feel at the beginning (no more starting struggles) and at the end (plenty in the tank for finishing fast). Yesterday, that was the case, except when I had the dual displeasure of dealing with big hills and baking sun.

At one point in yesterday's run, I was coming down past the water fountain south of Haypath when two guys started calling to me. As I got closer I heard one of them say, "Is that Greg? We thought you were our friend Greg." I said, "No, but I'll bet he's a good looking guy!" (yes they laughed).  Later on, after I'd turned around at Bethpage Park, I saw a guy who was dressed like me: white hat, sunglasses, reddish running shirt and gray shorts. I wanted to yell, "Hi Greg!" but I didn't want to freak him out.

This morning I managed to get out a little earlier because I wanted to be back in time to watch the start of the Olympic men's marathon. I was really happy to see Galen Rupp get the bronze, but disappointed for Meb who had an issue mid race that put him far back in the field. The other American, Jared Ward, finished 6th. Go USA!

I stuck close to home for today's run, and changed up my usual route. I was coming down the hill on Jericho, past a Starbucks, when I saw a guy walking out to his car eating a bag of chips. He looked at me as I went by and said, "You're making me feel guilty for eating this for breakfast." I shouted back, "There's no bad time to eat potato chips." I'm such a wit.

I ended up covering 3.4 miles, a little more than I planned. I was also extremely lucky because the moment I finished my run, the skies opened up to a downpour. Like my prior two runs, I didn't know my distance until I'd finished. That's because I have to stow my Garmin in my SPIbelt due to the broken strap. As much as I'd like to continue to run with the FR210, it's impractical. I need to decide whether to replace it with a new Garmin or look at models from the numerous competitors that have come into the market with reasonably priced GPS watches since I bought mine in 2010.

We're supposed to get some relief from the humidity next week and I would welcome that greatly. Perhaps the cooler, pre-fall weather will restore my enthusiasm for all things running.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Running blind to time and distance

One lacks GPS, the other lacks a strap
Today's run (street): 3.75 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 4.5 miles

They ran the Dirty Sock this morning and I cannot imagine how those poor runners managed through 6.2 miles of hot and steamy air. Make that wet air. Air that you can feel without a breeze. The humidity today and yesterday could only be described as brutal. Despite that, I did get out Saturday and today, although there was nothing about my running that could be mistaken for a racing level effort.

Yesterday was the first time I ran without my FR210 on my wrist since I bought it, and it was disconcerting not to be able to monitor time or distance. I put the watch in my SPIbelt and tried to listen for the chirp that indicated mile splits, but I was unable hear them. Without that information, I had to guess my mileage based on the route I was running. I was surprised at the end to see that I'd covered 4.5 miles in sweltering conditions. I got home and jumped in the pool wearing my running clothes. Learning from past errors, I carefully removed my phone, Garmin and Fitbit before diving in.

This morning I'd planned to get out before the direct sun added to the already hot day. Unfortunately, I didn't actually start until 7:40 AM. By then, the air felt like a steam bath. After yesterday's experience  running without either distance or time indicators, I decided to put a new battery in my old FR60. At least I'd have a stopwatch to reference.

Equipped with phone, Fitbit and two Garmins, I set off into the heat and humidity. I still couldn't monitor my distance progress unless I pulled my GPS watch from my SPIbelt, not an easy thing to do while running. I felt like I ran more than 3.75 miles, but in this weather, that was more than enough.

Running with 1 1/2 watches is going to get old real fast. My FR210 wristband has further disassembled past the point where I could repair it with this cool hack. I should probably buy another GPS watch, but that seems wasteful because both the watch and GPS part of my FR210 still works. I'm open to suggestions.

In term of this weekend's running, my paces today and yesterday were glacial. Still, I enjoyed the fact that I'm getting through every run without worrying when fatigue will kick in. Even though conditions were suboptimal, I never once wished these runs would end. If I had run the Dirty Sock today in this weather I would have gotten through it. But not very quickly.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Short and sweat

All the kings horses and all the black tape...
Today's run (street): 2.6 miles

So very hot and humid this morning. I probably should have stayed indoors, cranked the AC, and set the treadmill and floor fans to max. Instead, I decided to brave the mid-August swelter. I can usually endure any type of weather for three miles (or in today's case, something less to that) and would have done 3+ today, but I had very little time to run and shower before my first meeting of the day.

Gimme swelter
Despite conditions, I was eager to get outside,. When I picked up my Garmin, the bottom half of the strap separated from the top, despite the awesome repair work I've been doing with electrical tape. My sister-in-law told me about some material that will fix rubbery plastic like this wristband, but I fear it's too late to save the FR210.

I ended up taping the watch all the way around and that secured it well enough to get through 2.63 miles. I really don't want to do that every time I want to take it on a run. The watch itself works fine so I guess, for now, I'll stick it in my SPIbelt. There is a hack to fix a Garmin that suffered wristband failure, but it requires that the first two loops that connect to the watch case be intact. One side is beginning to rip, so maybe not.

So what to do? I can continue carrying it with me or I could buy another watch. I've had this Garmin for about five years and it has served me well. I don't like replacing technology that still provides utility, but in this case it wasn't the technology that failed me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

O Canada and fitting in some running

Land of maple leafs, moose and fun
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles
Sunday's run (treadmill): 20 minutes
Friday's run (street): 3.25 miles
Wednesday's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

My running over the last week has been a blur. The only clarity being today after we returned from a trip. I worked from home on Wednesday and did a treadmill run. I got outside and around the neighborhood on Friday. I needed to fit those workouts into busy work days and didn't do a good job of tracking my treadmill mileage.

View of the Green Mountains
We headed to Montreal on Saturday and made a stop in northern Vermont to see my brother and his family, along with my mother who was visiting from Florida. We were only passing through for a few hours, but we made the best of it and the kids loved spending time with their cousins. All too soon we were on our way to Canada.

Cool happenings at Place des Arts
We stayed near McGill University in area that was adjacent to a lot of nice restaurants and close to the Place des Arts. I did a treadmill run in the morning on a machine that was not up to my standards for a fitness center unit. I was tired from travel and struggled to get through 20 minutes at an easy pace. Well it looked easy on the display, but it felt much faster. I ended up covering 16,000 steps that day, so I didn't mind the short workout.

Swim, Bike, Run in the Old Port
We met up with friends who live in the city and had a great time with them. While we were in the Old Port we stumbled into the middle of the Montreal International Triathlon. There were runners and cyclists flying along sectioned areas and swimmers in the St. Lawrence River. We needed to sprint to get past at the cross points.

Montreal has a lot of energy and it reminds me so much of Europe. My brother had mentioned that Les Habitants "didn't get the memo" that smoking is pas bien. Unfortunately that proved to be true. On the positive side, we covered a lot of interesting ground and had some great meals. We were sorry when we had to head back home.

When we got back, I went out for a run around my local streets to cap off a really nice mini vacation. My running was back to where it was prior to that hotel run and I did well considering the heat and humidity of the day. I really would have liked to run outside when we were away, but the timing didn't work out. The next time we go back - and we will - I'll definitely do my running on the rue.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Giving unwelcome advice on a humid run

Bravely enduring high humidity in the business park
Today's run (street): 5.2 miles

Today's humidity reminded me of the last time I ran the Dirty Sock 10K, a trail race in mid August where the temperature and humidity often exceed 90%. I knew conditions would be unpleasant, but I wasn't about to run five miles on the treadmill today. My objective was to cover more distance than yesterday. In these conditions, I acknowledged that I wasn't going to do that too quickly.

I did a loop within my neighborhood before heading to the business park for the bulk of my run. I was surprised to see that other runners had come out on such a humid morning. Later, I crossed paths with a few more runners, none of whom seemed friendly. Perhaps they were using everything they had just to get through their miles.

I had no problem with the weather, but I didn't push myself much today. The air was extremely moist and the heat really started to rise as the clouds burned off. An occasional breeze provided a little relief but it didn't last long. I was making my way around an adjoining neighborhood when I saw a couple taking up half the road, pushing matching strollers. When I ran by them I said, "You shouldn't walk on the street with your back to traffic." I encountered them again about ten minutes later and they were still walking on the right hand side of the road. People never listen.

Sure didn't feel like 75°
Today was an absolute sweat-fest and my running clothes wouldn't have been any wetter had I jumped in the pool before I ran. Not long ago, I would have finished exhausted, but not today. An increase in stamina is the biggest change I've experienced over the past three weeks. It's making running fun again and I'm very happy about that.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lighter but no faster

Running route or AT-AT?
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

Yesterday morning's rain forced me onto the dreaded treadmill, but there was nothing to dread. We've been having an issue with the treadmill tread bed being stuck on incline. Even when set on a decline, the angle was elevated. My wife uses the treadmill daily and has not enjoyed running uphill her entire workout. I played with the controls and somehow got it unstuck.  

I know my evangelizing about minimizing sugar is getting tiresome, but I can point to it as the reason for a string of good runs. My last treadmill experience had been at the fitness center in our hotel in Boston. I ran very well that day, partly because I'd been off of processed sugar for a week and partly because I  fitness center treadmills. Despite using our far less exotic Free Motion machine, I felt rock solid on Friday, without the fatigue (some of it mental) that I usually experience when I run on it.

I got out early enough this morning to avoid direct sun. I decided to change up my route and followed Jericho Turnpike down to SOB Road so I could check out the newly paved path from beginning to end. Although the heat was moderate, the humidity was rising. Those conditions would normally be enough for me to consider cutting my run short. I didn't cross my mind and, in fact, I ended up adding another half mile to my four mile target.

I'm not sure how much of my running improvement has come from the physical response to a change in diet. I'm sure some of this is due to being six pounds lighter since I started paying attention to sugar and simple carbs. Despite all that good stuff, I'm still as slow as ever. I did try to focus on speed a number of times but I couldn't sustain it for more than a couple of minutes. Once I'm confident that I can tap into my newfound energy, I'll pick up the pace.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Around the track without a buzz

Hey, you, get offa my track!
Today's run (track): 4.1 miles

I did my best to get out early today and I made it to the track by 6:30 AM. The sun was still low in the sky and the temperature (73°) and humidity (69%) made for decent running weather. As I made my way down the drive toward the track, I looked over and  saw there was a runner making his way around. I was disappointed because I really hoped to have the place to myself. I'm not a misanthrope, and I love to run with my friends, but I do enjoy the solitude of the empty track. Oh well.

I started out easy, but I didn't feel the energy I've come to expect since reducing my sugar intake. I worried that the lift I've been getting was a short term gain, and that my body has since adapted to the change. I did feel stronger as I ran, but still had some residual fatigue. I got through my intended laps without a problem, but stopped short of finishing the workout with a set of intervals.

Could this be less obvious?
When I got home, I grabbed a K cup from the same box I'd used for my morning coffee. I noticed that I'd mistakenly made decaf. So this morning's track run was done with neither carb loading nor caffeine. Knowing that made me feel better about my run. Especially at the end, when I poured it on for the last 200 meters and had plenty left in the tank.

I suppose I could also consider reducing my caffeine intake at some point, but I've read that caffeine is actually health positive in moderate doses. I'll stick with managing complex carbs and sugar for now.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

No longer running like a broken down car

Out and back on the north trail
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 4.4 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.2 miles

Going back into the office after two vacation days was a challenge. I didn't get back into workout mode until yesterday. I'm happy to report that I've maintained my nutritional discipline, cutting out the bulk of processed sugar in my diet and avoiding conditions that may spike blood glucose and insulin response. The results speak for themselves. I've lost some weight, gained more energy and I'm handling work stress far better than before.

As far as running, there has been impact, but no tangible performance gain. Using automobiles as a analogy, I would compare my running a month ago to one of those cars from the '80s or early '90s that I often see on my daily commute. These junkers sound like they need mufflers, transmissions and valve jobs and struggle just to keep up with traffic. It takes everything they have just to get where they're going. That was me in June. I struggled through every run at paces that were 2-3 minutes per mile slower than I used to go, just a couple of years ago.

Using the same analogy, my current running is more like me in my car. I can keep up with traffic without struggling. If I want to drive faster, I can. The only reason  haven't pushed the pedal any harder is that I'm enjoying running for the first time in a long time. I now look forward to getting outside instead of dreading the effort. The question is, when should I shift to focusing on pace?

Yesterday's run around the neighborhood was easy and I threw in some speed at times. I'd gone out around 6:30 AM before the sun was baking hot and the humidity reached 90%. That would have been a good idea this morning, but I didn't get to Bethpage until 8:00 AM when the temperature was already in the mid 80s and getting hotter.

I had the same energy at the start that I've experienced since my diet change, but I did have some trouble loosening up. It took about a half a mile before my stride felt fluid. The trail was fairly shady and it made a big difference when I was shielded from the sun. I didn't feel as strong as I did on Friday, but the difference in temperature probably had a lot to do with that. Despite weather conditions making it tough, I still felt like I could cover more ground today.

I considered running past Washington Ave which would have extended today's run to five miles. I had the energy, but I hadn't fueled properly and didn't want to overdo it. Better to run well and appreciate the effort than to go too far and regret it. The trail was full of cyclists today, many more than usual. Curiously, there three or four dead mice on the trail, something I rarely see. I also saw a fair number of bunnies who were happily hopping around.

If I can get my act together I may get out really early and run at the track. I'd like to do a few intervals to activate muscle memory and push myself out of my current pacing. I'm looking forward to running tomorrow, no matter where I go or what I do. That's a great change in a very short time.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Running the SOB route

At long last
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

As the old proverb goes, nothing succeeds like success. In my case, this means good running experiences are changing my attitude about running. In a very short time, my view of running has greatly improved. Rather than dragging myself out the door because I know I should, I now look forward to every run.

It was cooler this morning (75°) than yesterday, but the humidity was ferocious. I wondered how I'd do under those conditions. Things started out well, although I did feel a little taxed as I made it to the end of first rise. I quickly bounced back and had no further trouble, even on bigger hills. I was going to follow one of my usual routes, but then I remembered that the sidewalks along South Oyster Bay Road had just reopened. Or I thought they did.

I've complained for years that the sidewalks along SOB were a disgrace. The concrete was in such disrepair that it was even hazardous to walk over its broken slabs. Running on it was downright dangerous. I made my way over to SOB Road at my first opportunity and saw newly paved concrete and brick stretching as far as the eye could see. I also saw a sign showing the sidewalk was still closed to the public. I decided it didn't apply to me.

It was nice having another route option and I followed the sidewalk all the way to the library where it was again blocked off. I would have kept going but there was a police officer standing on the corner of the fire station driveway. Instead, I cut through the library lot to the service road and ducked back into the neighborhood from there. The thought of finishing never crossed my mind and I headed north to pick up another mile before heading home.

In terms of performance, today was a little better than I'd been averaging a month ago, but not especially fast. I know I can run faster, but right now I'm just enjoying, rather than dreading my workouts. I don't want to push too hard or heighten expectations too quickly. My goal now is to be able to do a Runsketeers run and stay with my buddies the entire time. SIOR injured her knee and KWL is in Asia, but when the recoveries and travel are over, I look forward to seeing them and TPP who is spending a LOT of time riding with her bike group.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A run in the woods and a few days in Boston

Welcome to Marriott. How was your stay?
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.4 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

The last three days have been really jammed packed. I took Thursday and Friday off and the Emerging Runner family headed to Boston for some college tours and interviews. Boston is my home city and I love being back among the Red Sox nation. While I was there, I snagged a very nice Bruins jersey and had fun visiting friends and some familiar places.

Friday morning I got up early and headed to the hotel fitness center for a treadmill run. I had the place to myself at 5:30 AM and set the speed to my normal pace. I was curious to see if my improved running experience would continue, and it certainly did. I felt strong and somewhat unchallenged so I stepped it up a few tenths and waited for higher effort to follow but it just seemed the same. I continued to increase my speed every fifth of a mile until I was running 1.5 minutes per mile faster than my starting pace.

After I finished, I felt like I'd worked hard, but I also felt energized rather than exhausted. I'm pretty convinced that my change in nutrition habits has yielded a new level of performance. Following that run was a long day walking around a college campus under the hot 90° sun. Despite that, I continued to feel great.

That evening, we got together with some friends that I've known since my primary school days. We all had a great time and I did my best to maintain my nutritional standards. I rarely eat red meat but the smell of barbecue was too tempting and I gave in and had a burger. I balanced that with a tofu dog that was pretty darn tasty.

We all went to bed exhausted from the long day, hoping for a good night's sleep so we could get an early start home this morning. Around 12:30 AM I was awoken by the sound of an extremely loud alarm and flashing yellow lights in the hotel room. I was confused and thought it was the room alarm clock, but it was actually the hotel's fire alarm. The family woozily made their way outside the building where we watched three huge fire trucks roll up and dispatch some serious looking firefighters.

The whole thing turned out to be a false alarm, so we were let back into the hotel to finish our night's sleep. I decided to forgo a morning run so I could grab another hour of bedtime. I hoped I'd have the energy to work out later, but when we arrived home it was too hot and steamy for a neighborhood run. I decided that the shade of Stillwell Woods was the only way to go.

Stillwell was quiet when I got there and I got under the canopy as quickly as I could to escape from the mid-afternoon sun. The trails felt cool, but I was accompanied by a cloud of bugs most of the time. It wasn't as bad as you'd think, but a few made their way into my mouth. Fine. Better protein than refined sugar.

Today's Stillwell route
Stillwell usually beats me up, even under much cooler conditions, but today was different. Like Friday's treadmill run, I was strong from start to finish and I only stopped because of the heat. I'm hoping that this is the new normal.

During the run, I noticed a lot of wildflowers that looked a lot like Giant Hogweed. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, Giant Hogwood is a "Federally listed noxious weed. Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness."

Please be Parsnip, Please be Parsnip...
There were a lot of these flowers, which raised concern because I am not a fan of irritation, blistering, scarring or blindness. Fortunately, the flowers were situated far enough from the trail that I didn't need to worry about making contact as I ran by them. I took this picture so I could look it up later. I was glad to see that the flowers at Stillwell are more likely Cow Parsnip.

So Stillwell Woods seems to be a safe place to escape from the sun on 85° days. I'm going to try to get out very early tomorrow and get in more miles. If conditions are better on Sunday, I may head to the track and test out my speed.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bethpage's hills didn't scare me today

Where bike trail meets dirt trail
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 4.3 miles

I'm discovering that my new approach to eating has yielded some improvement. As I mentioned yesterday, a measurable reduction in processed sugar intake and longer breaks between meals has given me more clarity and energy. Although it has been less than two weeks, I'm noticing positive changes, physically and mentally. It's too early to know if these changes are producing real results or if the improvements are more of a placebo effect. It may be a little of both.

I got out to Bethpage this morning and parked at Runsketeer HQ off of Haypath. I usually run north to Washington Ave., but today I decided to go south toward Bethpage State Park. Like yesterday, I felt great from the start to the end of my run and I truly believe it has to do with reducing refined sugar and minimizing insulin response. While this change is exciting, my performance hasn't improved.

Great run despite 88% humidity
Today's pace was fairly typical compared to what I'd normally run for four miles. The difference is that maintaining that pace is now far easier. I normally grit my teeth to get through my runs and focus on the end result: finishing. There was none of that today, even though I took on some challenging hills between Haypath Road and my turnaround point on Picnic Polo Road.

So what about performance? If I continue to feel the way I did on my last two runs, I can start focusing on speed. That's something that I haven't done in a long time. Either way, I'm enjoying, rather than enduring the experience in way I haven't in quite a few years.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

How Dr. Phil (not that one) is helping my running

I'm sweet enough already
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles
Yesterday's workout (Treadmill and elliptical): 40 minutes
Tuesday's run (street): 3.5 miles

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so bad for you. I recently read Christopher McDougal's newest book, "Natural Born Heros" that at one point focused on Dr. Phil Maffetone whose methods have helped many elite athletes increase performance. The key takeaway for me is that most assumptions about fueling athletes are incorrect.

Two examples of this both relate to hydration. One, that runners are at much higher risk of dying from water intoxication than from dehydration. The point being that humans are made to endure long periods without water and that's why we are successful hunters. The other example is that hydration drinks like Gatorade, that contain large amounts of sugar, provide little benefit compared to the damage they do. High sugar drinks will spike both glucose levels and insulin response and can contribute to disease, inflammation, depression and increased body fat.

A lot has been written about how processed foods, especially those with refined sugar, are quickly stored in the body and become very difficult to burn. I started thinking about my own diet, which is pretty good compared to many, but it's higher in sugar and simple carbs than it should be. I decided to address this in a logical way that doesn't require a big change. I believe this has already yielded benefits.

I currently eat a vegetable-rich diet and that won't change. I get protein from high quality sources (mostly chicken, turkey, nuts or tofu) and that won't change either. But I am reducing the amount of refined carbs I ingest (far fewer) and sugars of any type that have anything more than a low (value of 10 or less) glycemic load.  An important aspect of these changes is that I am increasing the amount of time I wait between any meal and any snack that follows it. This is to prevent insulin spikes that promote the conversion of glucose to stored fat.

It's been about 10 days since I made these changes and I believe there's something to it. I haven't sacrificed much except cutting a few hundred sugar-heavy calories from my daily intake. I've lost a couple of pounds and my energy level is noticeably higher, while my crankiness level is lower (Mrs. ER debates this but I know better). Work pressure is high right now, but I'm feeling far less stress than I usually would.

That's all well and good, but here's the best part. Today I had my best run of the year. It wasn't my fastest, and it certainly wasn't effortless, but not once did I wish for the run to end. I felt like I did back in 2011, when my running was at its peak. I took a few opportunities to throw in speed during the run and snapped back without feeling overtaxed when I resumed my natural pace. I felt great in both mind and body.

Will I feel the same tomorrow when I run? I hope so, but I know that every run is different and I've had bad runs follow good ones. I may not achieve today's level of energy and spirit, but I think these practical changes have yielded real results. It's hard to believe such a simple change could provide so much improvement. It will be interesting to see if I feel this way in a couple of weeks.
 

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