Running quote of the week

"If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it." - Priscilla Welch

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bunnies, bikers, planes and hills at Stillwell

Low flying craft over the Field of Dreams
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.75 miles

It was off to Stillwell Woods for me this morning. I had a great time there a few weeks ago with SIOR and wanted a shady route a this sunny day. I managed to get my gear in gear and hit the trail before 8:00 AM. Conditions were cool (70°) and felt even cooler in the canopied woods.

My one negative about Stillwell Woods is that some mountain bikers ride aggressively without regard to what may be around the bend. I've had my share of encounters, near misses and resentful riders who acted like the bikers owned the trail. Today was different. There were numerous bikers and everyone was careful and respectful for my safety.

Also in abundance today were cottontail bunnies. I stopped counting after ten. Some of them were as big as raccoons. There was a lot of stuff to look at besides the fauna, including a group of glider enthusiasts who had assembled in the center of the big field. These gliders have wingspans of 10' or more and they look huge as they float above you while you run.

I took a couple of detours off my normal loop, one of which put me in front of a very steep climb. I managed it well, and I'll give much credit to my Brooks Cascadias for getting me over that hill. My detours took me through some rough winding paths that had so many sharp edged rocks it felt like I was running over a herd of stegosauruses. That's one of the reasons I love Stillwell. If you want scenic, hard packed trails, there are plenty to choose from. If you want extremely technical terrain, be careful what you wish for.

Forty feet to the top
The Emerging Runner family Skyped with Adventure Girl later in the day. She and a friend had spent their afternoon running trails up a 6,000 foot mountain outside Missoula, Montana. Adventure Girl got bitten twice by a dog during that run.  As wild as that all sounds, it was just a typical Sunday for her. My run up a 40 foot rock covered hill at Stillwell can't compare with that, but in the moment it felt like a mountain.

I'm glad I got away from the neighborhood for today's run and it felt good to be challenged with some difficult terrain. If the summer is as hot as it's supposed to be, I think I'll be spending a lot of weekends in those woods.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Interrupting a run to do a good deed

Am I a hero? You decide.
Today's run (street): 4.1 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 2.7 miles
Thursday (elliptical): 30 minutes

My daughter graduated from high school on Wednesday and we followed the ceremony with a late night visit to a diner. I stayed up way past my bedtime, but I'd planned for that and worked from home on Thursday. Although I had more flexibility without the commute, my work day was starting early and I opted for an elliptical session. That saved me time on a morning where every minute counted.

Friday morning was equally tight, but I got my act together enough to go out for a short run. I consider three miles to be my minimum distance, but I had less than 30 minutes to run. I came up 10% short of target, but it was better than forgoing a workout. My workday schedule was jammed, starting with a 9:00 AM video meeting, so I was glad that I took the opportunity to get outside before things got crazy.

This morning provided me the first opportunity to pause since last weekend. I got out around 7:45 AM when the temperature was in the mid-60s. It felt very hot under direct sun, probably due to the high humidity. I kept to the neighborhood and added a few extra roads to my usual route and looked for shade wherever I could find it.

I was rounding the corner of a long street when I heard someone shouting, "Excuse me, excuse me, sir?" I looked back and saw a man standing in his driveway next to an SUV. I stopped and asked him what he needed. He said he had to return a power washer by 9:00 AM and asked if I could give him a hand loading it into his vehicle. I was glad to help.

Right before we lifted the machine, the man asked me if I had any back issues. I thought about the herniated disc I'd struggled with a year ago, but I figured that I could handle it. On a count of three, we lifted it up and my lower back didn't seem to notice. I realized later that his house was the exact place where my ego got the best of me trying to outrun another neighbor and igniting last year's disc problem.

My neighbor was very appreciative and said he'd be happy to return the favor, so I asked him if I could borrow his power washer. I didn't really ask him that. I told him it my pleasure to help a neighbor. With that, I was back on the road, feeling good about my good deed and grateful that I didn't re-injure my back.

This week's workouts have not been individually impressive, but I am pleased that I'm managing to get them done. And if that means solving problems everywhere I run, so be it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Three encounters with mister speedy

Post-run non-stretching moment
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

Happy Father's Day to all you running dads. Also to you non-running dads. I like running on holidays because they are usually days when people sleep late and I can run around the neighborhood with a lot less cars on the road. That was the case today. I got outside around 8:00 AM and picked a direction. I had no planned route and decided on the spot whether to go left or right as I reached the end of each street.

After almost eight years of running my local roads, I pretty much know the other runners around my neighborhood. There's one guy I encounter on almost every weekend run. He moves along and covers a lot of ground. I usually criss cross his route at least twice and we always wave the first time and laugh the second time.

Sure enough, mister speedy was out there today and we ran into each other twice. Happily, we were going in opposite directions both times, so I didn't experience the humiliation of being overtaken along the same road. I did what I could with the heat and humidity, but I didn't break any speed records today.

Near the end of my run, I saw my neighbor-runner in his driveway doing post-run stretching. Maybe that's why he's so fast. I'm pretty sure I've never ever stretched after a run. Maybe when I ran with Adventure Girl. She taught me many good running habits, most of which I've stopped following.

We had a very nice Father's Day after my run, capping off a nice weekend of celebrations. I may work from home a couple of days next week. If so, I'll have the opportunity to get in an extra run during the week. I do need to get my volume back to where it was a year or so ago and I know I should do some sort of a workout before my commute. I can do more. I just need to get back in the habit.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Unfrozen and back on track

You're pushing it Garmin
Today's run (track): 3.4 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.2 miles

It's almost the end of the school year and there's a lot going on. My daughter is graduating from high school on Wednesday and it also happens to be her birthday. With that conflict, we decided to celebrate her birthday today. Due to those plans, I had to get out early for my run. Even with that, I was pressed for time and decided to run laps at the high school.

Last night, after I'd downloaded Friday's run from my Garmin, the watch froze and it wouldn't respond, no matter which buttons I pushed. I tried to shock it back by hooking it up to the USB and then the wall charger. Neither attempt worked, so I left it for the morning. I figured I could run with a stop watch if the Garmin failed to respond.

When I got up, the Garmin was still frozen and I began to entertain the idea of replacing my six year old FR210 with a newer model. Things are starting to break on it and I noticed one side of the wrist band is beginning to separate. Before giving up on it, I looked online and found a video that showed how to unfreeze my watch. It worked.

The track was almost empty when I got there. Just me and a guy who spent a lot of time stretching while I circled the track. I was eventually joined by another runner who circled the track much faster than I did. I was prepared to count the number of times I got lapped but the guy quit after a couple of times around.

Lapping it up
The stretching guy eventually made his way onto the track. He was wearing one of those elevation training masks and started doing intervals. Or should I say, one interval. I ran four more laps before he did his next one. By then I was finished with my workout.

We had a great birthday celebration and I managed to get in a lot of Fitbit steps throughout the day. Tomorrow is Father's Day and I'm going to try to get out early again to maximize celebration time.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A good day to have run with water

This seemed more organized while I was running it
Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

I've been trying to get out early on weekends and managed to do that most of the time. I wish I got an earlier start this morning. By 7:45 AM, the heat and humidity were already raging. I'd considered trail running which is generally cooler, although it can be very buggy on days like today. I ended up staying local, but mostly avoided my neighborhood. My route ended up looking a little strange.

I thought about taking water with me, but my Ultimate Direction water bottle is cumbersome and has a tricky valve. I should get another Amphipod Hydraform bottle. My old one got me through many training runs at Bethpage. According to Garmin Connect, the temperature was 81° during the time I was out. It didn't show the humidity level, but I'm guessing it was about two thousand percent.

Although I did my best to choose shady sections of road, there was a lot more sun. I was surprised to see a lot of other people running this morning. Most were moving quickly, at least compared to me. But that didn't bother me because I was getting in my miles. I'd hoped to run four and, despite conditions, I covered even more. By the time I got home, my clothes were completely soaked.

The torture continues
You'd have thought I'd learned my lesson about connected home technologies, but I went to Home Depot this afternoon and bought the Wink hub. The setup went much better this time and I'll know at dusk whether the programming worked. Even so, with this morning's tough run and a better experience with the lighting system, I feel like I accomplished something.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A long run and an unconnected home

Along the Bethpage trail
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 5 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.2 miles
Sunday's run (street): 4.4 miles

Last Sunday I wasted so much time on a home technology project that I ran out of time to write about my run. I barely recall the workout and had to look at Garmin Connect to remember the route. It was around my neighborhood and not very memorable. Later in the day I took on the challenge of adding the internet of things to my home network, involving a linking hub and programmable LED bulbs. I expected that to take about 45 minutes. After resolving all the technical issues, it ended up taking over three hours.

As much as I wanted to run on Wednesday or Thursday, my work schedule didn't allow for it. I didn't have bandwidth to do a workout until Friday. I worked from home and wanted to get out around 6:00 AM. That's when I typically leave for work and I often see runners around the neighborhood. I was curious if I'd see the dummy who runs in the middle of the street and never moves over when I'm behind him in my car.

The runners I did see were self aware enough to to keep to the left side of the street. I had a little more flexibility in my schedule yesterday, but decided to stick with my usual Friday route. It's always a struggle resuming my running after not running for four days. After a couple of minutes I fell into a comfortable stride.

Weather conditions during my run
I had a early task this morning that delayed the start of my run. I ended up going to Bethpage for five miles on the northern end of the bike trail. The weather was near perfect, perhaps a little warmer than I'd have liked. I did fairly well on the hills, although I did get passed by a guy pushing a jogging stroller up a steep a section.

But not very well
I'm not sure where I'll run tomorrow. It's supposed to be very windy, although the weather reports aren't talking about rain. Hopefully I'll get to some other home projects on my list. I ended up sending back the bulbs and hub because the app used to control the system was pretty useless. Being a technical masochist, I'm planning to get a different brand and try again. Just like running, you can't stop just because of one bad experience.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

SIOR and ER take on Stillwell Woods

Post run selfie at the trail head
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.2 miles

It's been a long fun day that started with an excellent run on the trails at Stillwell Woods with running buddy SIOR. This was one of Life Time Athletic's bi-weekly meet-ups, and we waited at the trail head for others to show. Unfortunately, people seem to have trouble getting up and out on a Saturday morning. After giving it a reasonable amount of time, we decided to head into the woods on our own.

SIOR had never run at Stillwell, so it was up to me to play guide. That's easier to do as a leader, rather than a follower, but we worked it out. I warned her about the mountain bikers who go full tilt and come up fast from behind and pointed out certain sections of trail that harbored hard to see roots. For someone who runs primarily on pavement, SIOR proved quick and nimble on the trails.

Action selfie courtesy of SIOR
We followed my usual loop that's less technical than other sections at Stillwell. This two mile route is mostly packed dirt, but it does have a few challenging features. We moved along from trail to trail and SIOR would wait for me to catch up at crossroad points. We had different interpretations of what constitutes left, right or straight when I called out directions.

After we completed our initial loop, we took a different route on a southern trail that brought us up to a steep, scree covered hill. SIOR scaled it as if flat and I scaled as if walking. I had a tough time with the humidity and pollen and took a few short breaks when I caught up with SIOR each time she waited for me. Despite our different running speeds. we managed well and I throughly enjoyed the run.

I think SIOR really liked the change of pace of trail running and I was very happy to be able to show her Stillwell's charms. We decided we'll do the next Runsketeer event there and (possibly) cover some of its more challenging sections.

The rest of the day was focused on my daughter's high school graduation party with her friends, along with an end-of-school year festival at the high school. This morning's run was a great start to a long and fun day. I really recommend that people take advantage of these Life Time runs. There aren't many opportunities to run with a certified running trainer, and it's free!

Monday, May 30, 2016

An entire post about a little rubber loop

If you look closely you can see my perfect repair job
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

I've had my Garmin FR 210 for over five years and I've been pretty happy with it. Sure, it sometimes takes more than five minutes to grab a GPS signal and a close look at the GPX file on Google Earth shows why there's always a margin of error in the reported distance. Those things can be managed. It's why I Gmap every run I do for exact measurement. However, there's one thing about Forerunners that gives me pause. If the strap wears out, it can't be replaced.

There are hacks I've seen online that address this flaw, but they're a little complicated. So far my strap has held up, but the retaining ring has broken twice. The first time it happened I was able to fix it with electrical tape because it broke down the middle. Today it broke again, this time along the edge where it's harder to wrap tape or otherwise secure it. I did my best to repair the loop, but it looks ugly and I worry that it will break and I'll lose my watch.

An online forum had a poster who suggested using a plumbing O-ring. But I'd have to go to Home Depot for that! Amazon sells one for $4.49. Maybe I'll make the investment, since they're offering free shipping. Based on all the posts about these things wearing out. I'm wondering why Garmin doesn't include a replacement.

I suppose I could go super low tech and use a small rubber band, but anyone looking closely at my watch may realize that I'm not quite the style icon they thought I was. For now, it's being held in place by a whole lot of tape. If it breaks, I'll have an excuse to buy the Forerunner 630 with a color display.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lost and found running in the Bethpage woods

Excuse me, where am I?
Today's run (Bethpage State Park trails): 3.6 miles 

I really like long weekends that follow a work-from-home Friday. That's eight times I don't have to deal with highways, bridges and stop and go traffic. Plus, I get to be with my family. So far, the weather has been clear and that's allowed me to get in runs over the past three days, including today.

I was fairly exhausted when I got home from yesterday's run. My wife was in the backyard painting the deck in the blistering heat. She asked me to run to Home Depot to pick up another can of paint. I heroically got back into my air conditioned car and drove over to get another gallon. Our deck now looks brand new, thanks to me. She washed the shed and deck around the pool area today and I would have gone back to Home Depot if she needed anything, because that's who I am.

Mrs. ER's masterpiece
I was ready to help at a moment's notice
This morning I drove over to Colonial Road so I could run the path to the trail head at Bethpage. I cut in near the new building that has a water fountain and also appears to have rest rooms. Those facilities must be extremely clean, because I've never seen the gate open to the public. I paid careful attention to the trails I was on because I usually get lost when I run there. Within twenty minutes I was lost, but I knew I'd eventually come upon familiar terrain.

That was actually true. I did not one, but two loops that landed me in the same spot close to the big field. It didn't really matter, but my random direction running looks a little crazy on the route map. It's ever crazier when you look at the animation in Google Connect that traces the route you ran from start to finish. Besides going in circles, there are a few abrupt changes in direction and one dead end at Plainview Road.

I didn't realize the Greenbelt ran through this park
Bethpage's trails are well groomed and the running experience is less treacherous than at Stillwell. Like Stillwell, there are lots of little critters running around the woods. In one case, a cottontail rabbit jumped into the path directly in front of me. Instead of darting into the woods, mister bunny stayed the course, zig-zagging from one side of the trail to the other for a few hundred feet until he cut away into the bush.

Once I felt I'd spent enough time in the woods, I looked for the route that would connect me back to the bike trail. This wasn't as easy as I hoped and I ended up doubling back a few times until I found my path. The last half mile on the paved trail was rough, as the sun was beating down and the route was mostly an incline. It wasn't my best run, but I enjoyed the experience.

Tomorrow I'll probably be stuck indoors on the treadmill. But due to the holiday, at least I'll have an extra day to run.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Street running without giraffes

Giraffes would have made this run memorable.
Today's run (street): 4.2 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.2 miles

Happy Memorial Day weekend. So far, my running has been anything but memorable. Yesterday's run was awful from start to finish, with a combination of tired legs, low energy, sun, heat and humidity. I plodded my way through my neighborhood and frequently reminded myself that I was getting closer to home. I hoped that I was getting the bad stuff out of the way and that today's run would be better. It was not.

I tried to stack the deck in my favor this morning by putting on my lightest gear and getting out early. I didn't feel as fatigued as I did on Friday and the cooler temps got me off to a good start. My plan was to run over to a different neighborhood that's directly south of mine. I moved along at a steady pace. Make that slow and steady. Actually, just slow. Really slow. It wasn't Friday's torturous experience, but I didn't feel good about a mediocre run following a bad one.

The one good thing about today's run was the interesting route map that was created by my Garmin. I couldn't resist getting my AI robot buddy CaptionBot to weigh in on it. I definitely would have enjoyed this run more if I ran into giraffes along the way.

Monday's weather is supposed to be stormy, so I'm looking to get out of the neighborhood on Sunday. I may head to Stillwell if I'm up to the challenge or to Bethpage where the trails aren't as technical. I really hope that I'll break out of my current performance malaise soon. I'll be stringing four runs together in four days, something I haven't done in a month. Perhaps by Monday, I'll have made some positive progress.

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.
 

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