Running quote of the week

“I love track running. There’s something about that red 400-meter circle that lets my brain switch off—no roads to cross, no bikes to watch out for.” – Kate Carter

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moderation has its advantages

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.1 miles
Today's workout (elliptical): 24 minutes

I'd considered a run this morning even though I'd gone to bed thinking about taking a rest day today. Yesterday I had my second noonday run with JQ and found it energizing. My Central Park runs, especially those I run alone, tend to be intense. I'm usually pressed for time and have a distance goal in mind. The hills play a part, I try to run them as close to my overall pace as I can. All this adds up to a fairly vigorous workout and I return to the office wet and somewhat spent. It can also feel great but with an afternoon of business activities in front of me I occasionally face an energy crisis. Yesterday's run was exactly what I needed in the middle of a busy day. Between the conversation, the surroundings and the moderate activity itself (I did generate a sweat) I came through the afternoon focused and refreshed. More importantly, I was motivated to do a hard run today.

This morning's driving rain and blowing winds prevented any outdoor opportunities when I got up. I decided to follow my normal routine with an elliptical session rather than messing around with the treadmill. I set the elliptical for medium resistance and maintained a fairly good pace rate, exceeding 2 miles in around 24 minutes. Not my most intense session but like yesterday, energizing. I'm concerned that the rain will continue through tomorrow morning, giving me no option but to do a treadmill run. I'll deal with that then. I'm really thinking trails for Saturday but I'm not decided on venue. My daughter has been running trails at Stillwell and Bethpage with her cross country team. She's starting to really like trail running and we may do a run this weekend in the woods. I couldn't be happier about that.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Literally in a fog

The train platform is shrouded by darkness and fog this morning. For some, that is a depressing combination. Of course I'm thinking, "Great running conditions!" I didn't run this morning because I plan to go for a park run at lunchtime with JQ. However, I always appreciate the surreal experience of a foggy run in the 4:00 AM quiet. I'm glad it's only fog and not rain today. I'm fortunate that my running over the last few days has coincided with breaks in the weather. Reports for this weekend call for temperatures in the low 60's that will be perfect for a long run on Saturday. By now you're probably thinking, "Is this a blog entry or a weather report?" Now let's go to the national map!

DailyMile friend Run DMC told me I could watch a replay of my Cow Harbor finish on one of the interactive cable stations. I'd forgotten to DVR the race so I thought my dramatic mid-pack finish would be gone forever. We found the part where I came through and it was fun to see me in my banana yellow running shirt making my way down Main Street and crossing the line amongst a crowd of others. Not quite as dramatic as the Trafeh-Braun photo finish that had happened many minutes prior.

I'm still thinking about resting tomorrow but I'll see how I feel after today's run. I want to go for some distance runs, 9 or 10 miles during the weekend. The only problem is finding the time to do a run that will likely take 80-90 minutes plus prep, drive and recovery time. Perhaps I'll do a long trail run instead. It's been a while since I've ventured further into Stillwell's more challenging terrain. 62 degrees, dry and broad tree cover makes that an inviting proposition.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Well at least it didn't rain

Today's run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:50

I lucked out this morning because my window of running coincided with a break in the rain. I feared that with all the overnight rain I'd be forced back onto the treadmill. The streets were wet but the skies were clear when I set out at 4:05 AM. Although I work to avoid repetitious activities I do tend to follow the same pattern on my morning runs. I mix in different loops each time I go out but I usually follow the same basic course. I do this for practical reasons. With only about 25 minutes to run, I need to time the activity so that no matter how far I go I've got enough time to return within my designated workout period. More than once I've made the mistake of losing track of the time and have found myself a mile away with only 5 minutes left in my workout window. Only an elite could have pulled that off and I am far from that these days.

I know Saturday was a tough run and my slower than desired pace could be explained somewhat by the conditions. Sunday was a recovery run and I wasn't even thinking about how fast I ran it. Today I hoped to get back on track. I went out with a goal of covering 2.6 to 2.8 miles within my time span and I took a completely different route than usual. My energy level wasn't near where it should have been, but I thought I was moving along well. Without running my measured mile for my first loop I felt out of sync not knowing (without looking at the Garmin) when I'd passed that distance. It seemed to take longer to get there than it should have and I knew that meant I was running slow. My form felt sloppy, and while I had been considering running the South Bay 10K next weekend, I decided that I wasn't up to racing again so soon. Along the way I must have completely zoned out because I found myself in a different place than I expected to be at a certain point and was disappointed that my distance was falling short of my goal. I finished up and tried to understand why today's run was so underwhelming.

Some runs are just like that I guess. I probably need more than one day's rest and I may take Thursday off this week instead of doing my elliptical session. I'm not going to race on Saturday but I'm hoping to cover some distance. I want to run a 10 miler. Perhaps Saturday is the day for doing that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On the road for recovery

Yesterday's run (street): 3.75 miles at 9:34

The race on Saturday was exhausting due to the heat and extremely high humidity. I learned that seven runners had been taken to the hospital by ambulance for dehydration. I took a brief nap after returning home from the 10K and had probably slept 10 minutes before being awoken by a ringing phone. When I looked at the clock I had a classic moment of panic. It was 11:40 AM and I thought "OMG, I slept through the race!" I guess I really did need that nap.

Sunday morning was a little cooler than Saturday and I was pleased with how my legs felt a day after taking on the big hill on James Street. A few weeks ago, after our practice run, my calves were quite sore the following day. I decided to do a neighborhood recovery run to shake out the built up lactic acid in my leg muscles. I don't know if that's really what a recovery run does but it sounded cool when I read it somewhere. I had no planned route or pace in mind but I wanted to move along faster than I did on Saturday. I wore my Brooks as a favor to my feet and appreciated their support and comfort compared with the Kinvaras from the day before. It was hot but without the intense humidity the weather felt fine at the start. I did my standard first mile measured loop to gauge how well the Garmin was calibrated (almost perfectly). I then went west a bit before reentering the neighborhood from the southern end.

Along the way I was passed by a fit looking guy running along the same service road. The man said good morning as he swiftly passed by and I wondered what pace he was running. I continued straight and he turned right and I thought I detected a stutter step from him as if he were slowing or stopping. I followed the road north and circled around for another half mile when I saw the same guy walking, looking exhausted. When he saw me he started running again but I caught up and passed him saying "We meet again!" before I headed to another part of the neighborhood. Poseur! I finished my run after covering 3.75 miles and I felt good at the end. This morning I woke up to see that my calf muscles were tight and sore and I remembered it's always the second day when you really feel it. That works fine because it's Monday, A.K.A, my rest day.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cow Harbor 2010 race experience

Here's an excellent video that captures the 2010 Cow Harbor 10K race. The focus is on the elites but you can see the course and experience the James Street Hill.

Race report: Great Cow Harbor 2010

Seconds after crossing the line (in yellow)
 Yesterday's run (Great Cow Harbor 10K): 1:00:56.6 (9:49 pace)

The 2010 Great Cow Harbor 10K has been run and it was truly a new race experience for me. I'll admit that I was disappointed with my performance when I saw that I missed my target finish time by over four minutes, but a day later I'm okay with it. I was surprised to see that an hour had passed before I crossed the finish line and I'm not sure that I fully understand why. Yes, it was hot. But it was hot for the many runners who finished before me. I did still beat over 2,100 other runners, not including the DNF's,  leading to yet another mid-pack finish. It was still an incredible experience and I wouldn't change a thing about how I ran the race. So like I said, I'm okay with it.

T-Shirt pickup at registration
 The experience started Friday night. After a long day at work I headed to Northport to pick up my race number and timing chip. Heading there at the height of rush hour was a challenge and as I made my way through downtown Northport I began to understand the scale of this race. Cars and people everywhere. At the Laurel Avenue School the scene was a madhouse. A thousand cars looking for parking spaces. People everywhere. I found a spot near Main Street and hiked up the hill to the school. Once I was in the building I was very impressed by the organization and the kind patience of the many volunteers. There were many people and it was fun to spot a few of the elite runners among the crowd. After pickup I headed outside behind a small group of young men and women who were in from other parts of the country. They were single number folks -- those that started in the first wave and probably finished before I got to Widow Hill. They all seemed like nice people. One woman asked "Is Cow Harbor an actual town?" It sure was this weekend!

The innovative staggered start
Team Emerging Runner headed to the parking lot at Northport HS at 6:15 AM on Saturday morning. My kids were sleepy but great sports about giving up a weekend morning. My wife (and team manager) had everything organized and on track as usual. We boarded a bus that took us to Laurel Ave. where the race would start. It was early but the crowd was building and the excitement was tangible. The long bank of Porta-Potties was well used and the runners organized themselves into lines. This race is masterfully produced, every detail considered and managed. Along the way we ran into some of our kid's teachers from their old elementary school. Two of them were racing for the first time. We also ran into Dave and chatted with other runners we'd met that day. I headed to my designated corral (the race has a staggered start to accommodate the thousands of runners) and BJS found me. He was his usual smiling self, happy and excited to be running Cow Harbor once again.

Looking good on Laurel Avenue
The staged start was interesting. Each group held a separating rope across the front of the line and we were moved up after each report from the starting gun. Once we reached the line a person in a cow costume challenged us to make noise for the "Moo Meter" and soon we were off and running. Despite my two days of rest my legs felt heavy within the first few minutes and I hoped it would pass as I adjusted to my pace. Following the strategy I'd read, I held back on the mile 1 downhills to reserve energy for the hill on James Street. When we reached Woodbine there were hundreds of people standing along route yelling and moo-ing. The runners were still clumped together so I had to be careful not to jostle people too much or step on people in front of me. My timing chip on my ankle was beginning to dig into my skin and that plagued me the entire race. I ended up with big cut at the strap line. Once we turned onto James Street I went into hill climbing mode, keeping a steady pace and passing many other runners and loads of people who chose to walk "Widow Hill." I didn't love the work but I was proud how well I came through it. I thought the worst part had passed. I was wrong.

My Garmin, which seemed accurately calibrated the last time I ran with my Kinvaras (I wore them for the race) was wildly off compared to the mile markers. I knew from my elapsed time that I was running about a 9:20 pace at the 3 mile mark but I'd hoped to make up some time on mile 4. That didn't happen, I actually lost time struggling up the long incline on Waterside Ave. There was a point where the heat was becoming intolerable, my ankle was throbbing and I was stuck next to three women running side by side chatting loudly about their kid's orthodontists. I couldn't stand it so I used every ounce of energy to put some distance between us. At four miles my energy level was nearly empty and I gobbled my gel in an attempt to restore my glycogen level. It didn't provide the boost I'd hoped and I took water as well but felt really depleted as I rounded the corner of Main Street and attacked "Pumpernickel Hill."

Crossing the finish line (yellow blob center right)
 Along the way I passed more walkers but I also got passed by numerous other runners as we reached the final mile that is mostly downhill. I had hoped that the last part of the course would allow me to surge but it merely kept me in motion. I could see the finish line, like a mirage, way ahead, and I couldn't believe how long it took to get closer. The crowd was deep as I made my way to the finish line chute and I crossed the line well after my hoped-for 57 minutes. I immediately saw Team Emerging Runner along the sidelines and then saw a few people I knew who had finished around the same time as I. We walked to the waterfront area where there were thousands of runners going around the many tables and booths that were handing out energy drinks, juice, coconut water, carb snacks, protein bars and freshly baked cookies. After taking it all in we boarded the bus back to the High School and soon we were on our way back home.

The rest of the day was extremely busy. We had a family event that required some car travel and the long day and evening was exhausting for us. It was a great day though and we all slept well last night. I got a note from BJS who ran a few minutes off his goal time but still finished under an hour. I'm planning to do a recovery run some time this morning. It's much cooler than yesterday and probably much less humid. I wish I'd finished closer to my goal time but that's not the way it worked out on Saturday. I still think I trained well and I'll continue to focus on distance even though I don't have a race on the October schedule. I'm not giving up on achieving a decent time on a 10K. Perhaps with the cooler fall weather that can happen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cow Harbor morning

Too much happening today to post a summary of Cow Harbor. A great experience and lots of fun. Full writeup tomorrow. Moo!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deconstructing the Cow Harbor course


Moo-ve along runners!
I'm done with my taper and now on my second day of rest from running. This is my standard methodology when preparing for a race. I assume that a marginal day of recovery is more beneficial than a marginal day of conditioning. Anyway, that's the plan. Since I'm not running today I feel especially energetic. It's psychological of course. At least I think so. It would be disappointing to reach my peak on the day before a big race.

I've reread BJS's notes on his practice runs along with an article from a local newspaper that broke down the race mile by mile. Cow Harbor seems like a series of mini races aggregated into a 10K distance. Mile one is more downhill than up - a trap for those who look to bank time early by ripping through the streets at maximum speed. Mile 2 is the infamous Widow Hill where those who came out too fast quickly regret that decision. Mile 3 is for recovery and I need to be careful not to push too hard knowing the worst hill is behind me. Mile 4 provides an opportunity to gain time lost early on the hill and mile 5 is more challenging because it's a slight incline along Waterside Ave. that can wear you down by the end. Mile 6 has another hill but compared to earlier, it's more about annoyance than intimidation. After the hill it's a toboggan run to Main Street and then the finish line. This last part is where I hope to have enough left in the tank to keep my goal time on track.

I'm planning to do my race number pickup tonight to save a little time tomorrow morning. I'm excited for this race and looking forward to the experience. I'll need to set up the DVR tonight so I can watch myself cross the finish line on the News 12 broadcast. See you at the finish!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great expectations - Estimated finish times for Cow Harbor

The Cow Harbor website has a link to a list of registered participants that includes projected finish times. There are over 5,500 people on this list so the range of estimates is very broad. I noticed that a dozen or so runners have listed projections in the 27 minute range. This struck me as pure hubris as the current course record is 28:22, set by Ryan Hall in 2006. I recognized some names among these confident racers from Running Times and Runner's World and it looks like I'll have some competition on Saturday! I am sure that the elite runners submitted these record breaking times so they would be included in the first wave to go at the start. If I ran in the 5 minute mile range I'd do the same. Anything to get out ahead of people (like me) who are likely to be around mid-course at the 27 minute mark. I'm enjoying the lead up to the Cow Harbor race. I like the strategy, the excitement and the fact that so many people I know are planning to participate. It feels like a big deal and it's probably the biggest race that I will run unless I move up to a half marathon distance.

Yesterday my daughter ran with her cross country team on a training route through Stillwell Woods. She enjoyed the experience and I'm really hoping that she develops an affinity for trail running. It would be great to have her company when I run there on those early weekend mornings. A recovery trail run with the Cross Country Kid this Sunday would be a perfect post-race workout.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Training is over -- bring on Cow Harbor!

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.2 miles at 11:36
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 8:57

Yesterday I headed to Central Park with JQ for a refreshing run around the lower and upper loops below the reservoir. The plan was to take it slow and we did. It was a nice change to my normal CP runs where I start fast and hit the hills aggressively. JQ runs intermittently and is looking to increase his frequency. He's no newbie, despite this being more work for him than for me he had no trouble conversing throughout our 3+ mile excursion. Coming at the end of some of the hardest training that I've done prior to a race, yesterday felt somewhat like play. Great conversation and midday exercise without too much sweat made for a pleasant afternoon in the office.

This morning I returned to the street for my last run prior to Saturday's race. I wore the Kinvaras that I'm favoring right now and sped along the streets of the neighborhood at a brisk pace (for 4 AM). If I had any real hills in the neighborhood I'd have attacked them hard so I targeted roads with inclines as much as possible. I'm fairly tuned for the race at this point but, in retrospect, I may have benefited by running the race course more than once in practice. I'm not sure another practice would have made a big difference except to gain confidence by summitting the James Street hill more than once. I don't know how I'll do on the 25th but, no matter what, I've done my best to prepare for what's to come.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Decisions, decisions

My dashboard display read 50 degrees this morning as I drove to the train station. The weather reports are predicting temperatures in the low 70's around noon today, great conditions for a lunchtime run. My Cow Harbor training cycle is near its end and I think I'm in good shape for next Saturday's race. It's too early to tell what the weekend weather will bring but the reports right now seem promising. I won't count on that. I remember being promised a "beautiful Sunday" the day of the Dirty Sock Run in August. It didn't turn out too beautiful with the heat and high humidity and rain coming down near the end. No matter, the Dirty Sock was still a great event.

With the highly changeable conditions of early fall weather it's hard to know what gear will work best on race day. I'll go with one of my short sleeved wicking shirts and racing shorts but I'm not sure which shirt and shorts to bring. Historically my race day clothes have been chosen by Team Emerging Runner, usually for their color and design more than for their performance attributes. I'm biased toward lighter weight stuff for Saturday and I have some ideas about what may work best.

I'm still on the fence about which running shoes I'll wear. The Brooks GTS 10's always deliver but they aren't as light as some of my other pairs. I've raced in the Saucony Grid Tangent 4's once (NHP 8K) and had a fine experience with them. I'm wearing them on today's Central Park run to help me decide if I should call on them again. I'm also considering the Kinvaras that I wore on Sunday when I did interval training. The Kinvaras are great, lightweight and comfortable, but they don't have any stability correction. I need to decide if that's important for a run barely over 6 miles. The last time I ran with them was on the third long run over a three day weekend. I developed some heel soreness in the last two miles so I'm slightly sensitive to the lessor cushioning they provide.

Finally, there's all the other stuff: My hat (probably my Jackrabbit model), my gel (the Orange Mandarin GU) and water bottle -- Amphipod, an 8 oz Poland Spring bottle or just rely on the water station? I won't decide  any of this now. That's what Friday night is for.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why race if you're not gonna win?

Well this is it -- race week. Five days to the start of the Great Cow Harbor 10K. I don't know what it is about this race that fascinates me but I've thought a lot about it since I signed up in August. Racing is a curious thing. Unless you are very fast, the chances of placing overall, or even in your age group, is statistically very low. So if it's not about winning, why do we race? The easy answer is because it's inexpensive fun. You register for a event and you have weeks to enjoy the anticipation. It's all upside until you reach that inevitable part of a race where you are pushing to your limits and questioning your decision to enter in the first place. No matter what, once you cross the finish line everything is fine and the pain is forgotten. Bananas and bagels never tasted so good, water was never so refreshing. Even Gatorade is palatable. I'm sure there are aspects of racing that tie into our natural instinct to compete, although most recreational runners are really competing with themselves. I honestly hope BJS and Dave do great even if that means beating my own time. I'm not just saying that because it's likely that they will.

I was going to do a hard run with a friend at lunchtime but my schedule won't allow it. I'll need to defer that to October. It's just as well on this taper week that I don't push as hard as I normally might. Saturday and Sunday were both great and different workouts. I guess I'll take a page from the quote of the week and savor the rest. My friend FS ran the 18 mile pre-marathon tuneup yesterday in Central Park. She was remarkably unfazed when I saw her this morning. Three times around the park means three times over the Harlem Hills. No matter what I've put myself through of late it won't touch that effort. I'm looking forward to my run tomorrow with JQ. The weather should be cooler than today with less wind. I think we'll keep the pace moderate but the hills on the lower and upper loops will keep it interesting. Today I'll just enjoy my rest.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to the track

Good conditions for speed work on the newly redone track
Today's workout (track intervals): 6 x 800 (ave. pace 8:23) plus 1.62 miles of recovery runs (4.62 total miles)

Along with all the distance training that I've been doing over the last few weeks,  it was important to fold in some speed work to my training for next week's race. I headed over to the high school track this morning with the intention of following a Runner's World plan for a race week taper. The track was redone over the summer and recently painted and it looked brand new as I stepped onto the pristine surface to start my warm-up laps. The plan was to run six 800 meter intervals with 2:30 recovery jogs. I was pleased with my energy level at the start. Considering my 8 mile run on Saturday, I was still able to maintain a mid 8 minute pace on the speed sections. As time passed I saw more people on the track, mostly walkers, but a few runners showed up near the end. I ran through my segments, not pushing too hard, but keeping my pace below 8:30.  I wore my Kinvaras and they felt great. I averaged 8:52 overall, with the interval segments averaging 8:23. In the end I felt satisfied with the workout.

In the afternoon we headed over to the outlets and I visited the Adidas store where I tried on a pair of Marathons. The fit was good and they reminded me a little of the Kinvaras but I actually prefered the Sauconys. At the Reebok store I tried on a pair of ZigTech's that just felt awful on my feet. I'm no fan of Nike but since I was at the Nike store I tried the LunarGlide + (not for me) and the Moto 5's that actually felt very good. The wrap at the arch was excellent as was the heel to toe transition. They also had the the 6's and 7's at the same $75 price point. I tried on the 7's and didn't like the fit or the feel at all. That's the problem with Nike's, not a lot of consistency between the fit of the shoes from update to update.

Tomorrow I plan to run in Central Park with my friend CK to put in five hard miles. Tuesday I'm running with another colleague, JQ, who is looking to get back into running. We'll take that slow and I'll look at that as my penultimate workout before the Great Cow Harbor 10K.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making it through with Hydration and GU

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 8 miles at 9:49 (variable terrain)

I wanted to put in some mileage this morning but I couldn't face another long run around the local roads. I'll probably be back on the street tomorrow but this morning I needed a break. I set out for Bethpage early under cloudy skies that felt like they could give way to rain. I decided that was fine because much of the bike path has decent tree cover. By the time I arrived, the skies had cleared but not to the point where the sun came out. I was happy for that. Running with sun is fine in winter but this time of year I prefer cool and dry with gray skies above.

There were numerous walkers on the bike path at the start of my run. I made my way up the short steep hill that gives way to a long downhill section that almost catapults you through mile one. But it's a little like having desert before your meal. Easy as they are to manage at the start, those hills are a bear to address at the end. Soon enough, I was into the wooded part of the trail, trying to gauge my readiness to complete an eight mile circuit. I brought along my Amphipod water bottle to see how things would go with some in-run hydration.

I'd also brought along a GU energy gel (Mandarin Orange flavor) that I plan to have for next week's race. My last experience with a gel pack (Honey Stinger chocolate flavor) did not go well but I still like the idea of having restoring carbs during the second half a longer run. I still don't love the Amphipod bottle because it's very cold to hold at the beginning (filled with ice) and it sloshes as the water supply depletes. Still, having water made a difference and it made my gel experience much better than last time. I ate the gel at the 4 mile mark and it helped me enough to maintain my first half pace over the last four miles. I took a few side trails that run parallel to the paved path. My turnaround point at four miles went around a small pond that was also ringed by a dirt trail.

There were numerous runners along the way wearing team shirts and on my return leg I noticed mile markers along the bike path. It wasn't until I was near the Bethpage Parkway circle that I realized the Ocean to Sound Relay routed through this course. I really wanted to participate in that race but I couldn't get a team together. That's probably for the best because I'd prefer to focus on the Great Cow Harbor 10K next Saturday. About a mile from my end point I was surprised and happy to see Dave coming from the other direction, one mile into his run of the day.

Later this afternoon my daughter and I did a run around the middle school field. She really ran well and maintained a decent pace throughout our run. I think her training is making a difference. I'm hoping mine is too.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The taper begins

I went to bed last night feeling ambivalent about running this morning. Though I usually run on Fridays I thought that resting prior to the weekend might be a better way to prepare for some long runs. Over the past few weekends I've driven up my distance running and I'm feeling stronger at the 6+ mile mark than I have in a long time. Last Sunday's run in Northport helped me understand my limits and after running the Great Cow Harbor course (supplemented by BJS's notes) I think I'm mentally prepared for the race.

My plan for this weekend, as I begin my taper, is to reinforce my stamina so I can sustain my goal pace throughout the 10K. Besides compiling lots of quality miles I'm going to need to do hill repeats. There aren't too many hills in my area that can stand in as training resources for the James Street challenge but I have some ideas. It may be worth paying the entrance fee at Bethpage State Park to run the hilly bike trail. That trail is long enough to allow me an 8+ mile out-and-back run that culminates with a large hill right before the exit to the trail head. I always dread that hill, especially because it often comes after an hour of running in the heat. This weekend I will embrace the hill knowing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or in this case, a ton of prevention for a megaton of cure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Cross Country Kid

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes - high resistance

My daughter has joined her middle school cross country team and yesterday they had their first practice. The coach had them run laps around a field that I know from personal experience is plenty big. My daughter and I had discussed running strategy in the past and she put it to use at the practice. While the others (especially the boys - it's co-ed) took off fast she stayed at the back of the pack to conserve energy for the duration of the run. Due to her smart running, she ended up finishing with the front of the pack and she's excited to get back out there again today. I honestly wouldn't care if she ended up last as long as she enjoys the experience. Cross country training will get those kids into great shape. How long will it be before she can outrun me?

Speaking of training, I focused this morning's workout on a high resistance elliptical session. I more than doubled my usual resistance level and tried to stay within sight of my usual pace rate. At the 10 minute mark I was soaked with sweat but I knew this low impact workout was exactly what I needed. I ended up going for 25 minutes and I'm sure I did more work than I have on any 25 minute run of late. I'm really looking forward to my long runs this weekend. Maybe I'll do a speed run tomorrow morning. Either that or rest. I'm beginning to believe strategic rest is the best way to hold the gains.

There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal about running in Central Park at night. Some of what's said reminds me of my own 4:00 AM running experiences. As much as I like Central Park, I don't think I'd be willing to run there at midnight. Safety first!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Resisting Paragon's bargains


Running shoes 4 cheap at Paragon Sports
 Today's run (street): 2.6 miles at 9:22

Yesterday afternoon I paid a visit to Paragon Sports in Union Square. They are having a warehouse sale all week long and I thought a trip there would be a nice break from a busy day. I first checked out the running section to see what they had and was surprised to see some brands of running clothing that were new to me. Paragon had some 20% off deals on good stuff from Brooks, ASICS, Adidas, Craft, New Balance and Saucony but I didn't see anything that I really needed. They also had big displays of Nike and UA clothes but I can find that stuff anywhere. The warehouse sale was predominantly about shoes. Bins of shoes separated by gender and size filled up most of the room. The clothing choices were sparse for running although I did see a nice, long sleeved Adidas jersey at a genuine bargain price but I didn't need it. I tried on a pair of Brooks Cascadia 4 trail shoes that were priced low. They fit well except for my left foot where it was snug in the toe box. I knew this would be a problem on the courses I'd run with them so I took a pass. The place was mobbed with people looking for quality stuff at 50% off. Amazing how price drives demand.

This morning I wanted to run fast but I didn't. I felt like I was doing everything right -- urgent pace, good form, mid foot landing, but in the end the numbers told a different story. I read an article in Running Times about recruiting your intermediate fast-twitch muscles to gain aerobic speed but I clearly didn't learn enough. I'll admit I was disappointed today considering I ran with my Saucony Grid Tangent 4's that used to provide some speed advantage. Maybe it was the early morning hour or mid-week fatigue. Tomorrow I'll take on the elliptical and Friday I'll try again for some speed. This weekend will be about distance and hills. My legs are still feeling the effects of the James Street incline from last Sunday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When negative is a positive

Today's run (street): 2.8 miles at 9:01

Yesterday afternoon I caught up with CK, one of my running advisers, and we talked about what it takes to run negative splits, especially over distance. I've had experiences in races where I'm overtaken on the last mile by people who seem to come out of nowhere. Though I struggle to keep from being passed I'm not usually successful. I told CK that my speed tends to degrade along a linear slope and that my end pace is often 30 seconds (or more) per mile slower than when I start. CK said that if that's the case I'm probably going out too fast and that a slower start on longer runs will provide a stronger finish. He also said that once a week I should do shorter distances (e.g., 2 miles) and run at race pace to build my speed.

I thought about that this morning as I prepared for my morning run. My calf muscles are still very tight from Sunday's practice run and I wasn't sure whether to start fast and finish fast or experiment with the "Start slow, finish strong" idea. About ten steps in I knew that I could handle some speed and after a minute I picked up the pace. My form felt misaligned during the first mile and that prevented me from settling into an efficient rhythm but after about eight minutes things seemed to come together. I planned to run more than two miles so I tried to keep aware of my speed and cadence and, as I moved past the two mile mark, I picked up my pace even more. The result was a credible 9:01 but, better still, I tracked negative splits after the first mile. I don't consider today a speed workout but it was directionally positive. Tomorrow I'll focus even more on my pace and leave stamina building for the weekend. CK and I may do a lunchtime training run in Central Park on Monday -- five miles including those hills above the reservoir. I can't say I love the idea but I need to be prepared for the James Street challenge.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cow Harbor 10K -- it's about the experience

On September 25th there will be 5,300 people in Northport, NY, lining up for the Great Cow Harbor 10K race. To date, besides the Cape Cod marathon relay, the biggest fields I've run against have been measured in the hundreds. Cow Harbor has a staggered start to keep things manageable but with that amount of people, all crammed together, I'm wondering how long it will be before the runners in my corral spread out enough for me to run at my planned pace. I imagine that the hill on James Street serves as a natural filter point to hold off the crowds but I could be wrong. Friends who participate in NYRR events in Central Park tell me how the sheer density of bodies often disrupts a well paced run.

The huge field of runners also negates any hope of an age category placement. I've placed second in my category in a total field of 300, but statistically, I have no chance of doing that in Cow Harbor. Last year there were almost 300 runners in my age group and the winner ran a sub-6:00 minute pace. My best hope is to finish within the top 50% of the pack. I don't mean to imply that I'm already giving up or that I'm in any way negative about this race. It's really the opposite. I'm in awe of the scale and thrilled to be.part of it. I love that truly elite runners will be pounding the same pavement as me on that day and will similarly dread the challenge of Widow Hill. My leg muscles are a bit sore this morning and that's telling me that hill practice will be on my training menu next weekend. All the same, I'm looking forward to revisiting the Great Cow Harbor course, surrounded by thousands of others who feel the same way about this event.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Cow Harbor practice event

Cow Harbor 10K challengers (left to right), Ocha, BJS, me, Dave

Today's run (street): 6.41 miles at 9:23 (per Garmin)

Some runs are so tough that from the moment you start all you can think about is finishing. Other runs are just the opposite -- you'd run forever save for the practical need to meet the day's schedule. Today was much more of the latter. I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed a challenging workout as much as today's Great Cow Harbor 10K practice run.

BJS, Dave and I met near the dock in Northport and BJS drove us to the starting point of the race on Laurel Avenue. We began by running south on Laurel at a decent clip. The first mile has a small hill but is predominantly flat to downhill, and by the time we reached the end of Main Street we were moving along nicely. It was at that point where we ran into Ocha who was also doing a practice run for the race and he joined our merry band as we made our way up Bayview Avenue that led to James Street (aka, "Widow Hill"). There's a famous runner's quote that if a hill has a name it's probably a pretty big hill. I'd say this one certainly deserves a name and we made slow but steady progress toward the top. The hill crests and then serves up an extra steep portion before flattening at the 2.5 mile mark. I didn't think that was the biggest hill on the course because I'd thought Widow Hill came later than that. When BJS, who played pace master and course guide for our group said we'd completed the worst part I didn't believe him.

At around the three mile mark I ran with Ocha who had never raced a 10K and claimed to only run 6 miles a week. If that's the case I'd like to see what he'd be like running 20. He led the way during our practice run, including the end when we scaled the final hill challenge, ("Pumpernickel Hill") and then finished the last mile's mostly downhill path. BJS and Ocha both showed some good speed and I watched them grow increasingly smaller as they headed for our endpoint. I came in about thirty seconds behind them with Dave following me closely. We then walked over to the dock area where Ocha ran into a couple of runners he knew and we asked them to take the above photo. It was a great day for running and there were many others out on the road this morning. I was very happy to run with BJS, Dave and Ocha and learn the course. I'm better prepared for what lies ahead two weekends from today, Widow Hill notwithstanding.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11

Today's run (street): 5.35 miles at 9:20

Yesterday morning I felt run down so I decided to forgo my run. I thought about a city run later in the day but since I planned to leave the office early I deferred that too. I thought about sneaking in a short run when I got home but ultimately decided that resting when I felt tired was the best thing to do. We had an early obligation this morning so I had to wait until 9:30 before I could go out for my run. I wasn't there mentally and I was still feeling a little tired but I was determined to cover at least five miles.

Today is September 11 and as I ran through the streets of my neighborhood I thought about my experience nine years ago, sitting around a table in my office and seeing my workmates stream by the door on their way to the corner conference room to watch the events on TV. A colleague popped his head in and said "Do you know what's going on right now?" Later I stood in an office on the 40th floor and looked downtown at the surreal clouds of smoke covering the southern end of the Manhattan skyline. I also remembered how sad we all felt a long time after that day. I didn't think things would ever feel normal again.

I wish I was a runner back in 2001 because running would have been a perfect method of sublimating those emotions. I certainly appreciate running today, and no matter how well or difficult a run may be I almost always get something out of the experience. Today was tough from the start but I focused on my form, my stride (using Kenley's can stomping concept to help maintain a mid foot landing) and my pace. I didn't feel very strong so I conceded some speed in the middle of the run. I picked up the pace over the last half mile and was happy at the end with my result. Tomorrow I'm doing a practice run on the Great Cow Harbor 10K course with BJS and Dave, both of whom are veterans of this race. I hope I have my normal energy restored by that time because there's a lot of challenging hills to face.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 running goals -- progress report

Today's workout (elliptical): 26 minutes

Somehow it's already September and it has been months since I've done a check in on my 2010 running goals. My year started out tough with my recovery from pneumonia through most of January. I still feel like I lost a month but I'm certainly back into the fold these days. A quick review of my goals that I set in late January shows I'm fairly well on track. I think there's a good chance that I'll make most of them.

Progress report on 2010 goals

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style.
I've been spending more time with my Saucony Kinvaras, shoes that help me land on my mid-foot rather than off my heel. Still, I prefer my Brooks for longer distances as well as my Grid Tangents that have a more conventional build. I'd say that my style is generally mid and forefoot oriented but a full transition has not happened and may not by year's end.
2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating per race mile.
So far I've raised $130 (I've also had an anonymous donator) and I should be adding $30 more after Great Cow Harbor. That will leave $40 to raise (eight more race miles) between then and New Year's. I believe this is highly possible.

3. PR in a race - preferably in a longer distance than 5K (but I'll happily take a new 5K PR!).
Well, technically, my XTERRA trail race in March was a PR because it was a new distance but I won't take credit for it as a PR. This is because the race distance was modified just prior to the start and it's almost a given that I won't run a race with that unique length again. I had my chances on the Marcie Mazzola 5K, the New Hyde Park 8K and the Dirty Sock 10K but didn't do better than last year. Cow Harbor will provide an opportunity to beat my 10K PR although the deck may be stacked because my prior 10Ks have been on a dirt course.

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.
I guess I can't take credit for my Colorado park running so I'm 1 for 3 having run in Muttontown Preserve. I have my eye on Caleb Smith this fall so that leaves one more -- Bear Mountain or the Gunks in New Paltz would be awesome.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.
My personal distance record is still 8.15 miles although I have been working toward more frequent long runs that will prepare me for an eventual 10. Ten under 9:30/mile? That's another challenge.

6. Participate in at least 5 races. Bonus points for running one in NYC.
So far it's four with one on the calendar and another planned for November. I'm looking for races in October and December to make it 8 for 2010. Maybe one in NYC?

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.
Definitely on track for this one!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Memo to self: Check elapsed time on the Garmin

Today's run (street): 3 miles at 10:14

I don't know how it happened but I ended up running for much longer than I'd intended this morning. My heel problem seemed much less noticeable last night and I gave little thought to it this morning until I took my first steps running. Once again I felt the pain -- not sharply -- but there it was. I briefly considered turning back but I chose to keep going at a much slower pace than I normally run. I wore my Brooks that offer great protection and focused on landing on my mid foot and avoiding direct heel strikes. This is easier to do with the Kinvaras that are almost the same height between heel and forefoot but I'd chosen to wear the Brooks  this morning for their superior cushioning.

I knew I was running slower than usual but I didn't want to exacerbate my injury. I mapped out (in my head) the route I would follow and figured that I'd cover a little less distance than usual given my slower speed. Somehow I got caught up in the rhythm of my run and didn't pay any attention to my time or distance. When I finally arrived home I looked at my Garmin and saw that I'd covered 3 miles in a little over 30 minutes. This actually shocked me because I didn't notice that I'd run eight minutes longer than usual. I was not surprised to see that my pace was a minute slower than average. It was the trade-off I made for protecting my foot this morning. I was disappointed that I lost eight minutes of recovery time between my run and my shower but I still had enough time to finish my coffee. I'll probably do an elliptical session tomorrow. That will be kinder to my foot and hopefully I'll recover from this heel problem before the weekend.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Distant thoughts

I'm back to the office today after being away for almost four days. It felt like a mini vacation as we said goodbye to summer. We put away the pool furniture and the kids did their final preparations for returning to classes today. Over the Labor Day weekend I covered 19 miles, the longest distance I've run within 48 hours. When you begin to accumulate distance you start to notice the amount of time it requires. Covering 19 miles took me three hours, plus prep and recovery time. I now wonder how people who train for marathons manage to fit in all the long runs necessary for training. Despite the time it took cover my distance I was pleased by the way I recovered from each subsequent run. No next day aches and pain even though I was running two or three times the length of a normal morning workout.

Running five times a week, averaging 4 miles per run, has been a good formula for building an aerobic base and for keeping me in decent shape. I know now that these shorter runs have prevented me from suffering the injuries that often befall  higher mileage runners. I may have stepped into dangerous territory yesterday when I went for almost an hour wearing my minimalist Kinvaras to cap off my weekend of running. A twinge of heel pain revealed how unready I was to cover so much ground, especially when wearing shoes that provided so little impact protection. It was in that moment that I fully appreciated the statistic that 66% of runners suffered a related injury in 2009. I had thought I was somehow immune to common injuries and that my running style or my shoes would prevent them. My heel pain is almost gone today but it's not forgotten. I'm still going to focus on distance as I train for my next race but I'll be far more respectful of the problems that can come from higher mileage running.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Need some time for my heel to heal

Today's run (street): 5.52 miles at 9:38

Long weekends are always welcome, especially when the weather is as nice as it's been over the last three days. Today is Labor Day and, among other things, it signifies the spiritual end of summer and the emergence of fall. My kids return to school on Tuesday and they're ready for anything. I'm back to work tomorrow and looking forward to taking a rest day from running. Between Saturday morning and this morning I've covered over 19 miles and I fear I may have pushed a little too hard.

The running plan for the weekend was distance and I think I succeeded with that goal.  However, I may have injured the heel of my left foot this morning and I'm hoping that a day's rest (or even two if necessary) will be enough time to restore things to normal. My morning run started well with an easy loop along the service road that borders my neighborhood to the east before heading west and then south until I re-entered along the eastbound service road. I had no particular distance in mind but two miles went by very quickly so I thought I'd keep going for a while. I reached four miles still feeling fresh despite the 13+ miles I'd put in the previous day. Almost as soon as I checked my distance I felt a pain in the heel of my left foot that I hoped would pass quickly. I knew right away that this was more than a temporary jolt due to a misaligned landing and I thought about walking the rest of the way home, a distance of about 1.5 miles.

The pain remained but it got no worse so I maintained my route feeling surprisingly strong. With about half a mile left to go I experienced an interesting dichotomy -- my legs felt tied down with sandbags but my overall energy level was still very high. I forced my speed and picked up my cadence enough to attain my first negative split since mile 1. At the end I still felt fine and if not for concern for my heel I knew I could have gone on for a while. I iced my foot when I got in the house and wore my Brooks with a pair of Smartwool socks for the rest of the day's activities (today's run was in the Kinvaras).  My heel is feeling much better as a result but I'm going to watch it carefully and continue with ice and rest for the next day, at least. Overall I'm very pleased with my Labor Day weekend running and I think I've turned a corner on my stamina issue. This bodes well for the Great Cow Harbor 10K but I still need to do some speed work if I hope to reach my timing goal.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

10K morning at Stillwell Woods

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 6.2 miles at 9:35

As soon as I got up I started debating my strategy for today's run -- go out long again or keep it short and treat it like a recovery run from yesterday's 7+ mile workout? I decided that length would still work if I ran on a softer surface like the Stillwell trails and maintained a moderate pace. Still, I didn't intend to run 6 miles, 4 to 5 was more my target, but conditions were perfect and I wasn't under any time pressure today. I wore my old ASICS 1130's that I've used mostly on the elliptical over the last year because I intended to keep away from the technical trails. The 1130's did fine over the root-y and rutty sections and it made me realize how well road shoes work on most trails (as long as you don't mind getting them dirty). Even during some close encounters with fast moving mountain bikers the shoes allowed me to agilely shift to the right without breaking stride.

I reached three miles faster than I expected and felt strong despite the longer distance that I covered on Saturday. Perhaps the spate of 6+ mile runs I've compiled over the last few weeks are contributing to my conditioning. It's all a matter of what you're used to. The Running Geek, who wrote a great review for Runner's Tech Review, considers 13 miles a short run. I still haven't broken ten and when I do, I know I'll feel it for days. I was rolling along through the woods, not looking at my Garmin, but noting the chirp it provides at every mile. For some reason I thought I was at 5 miles and working on 6 (and deciding whether to go for 7) when I glanced at my watch and it said 4.51 miles. Whoops,  delusions of grandeur. No matter, I still felt like I could go for a while longer and I continued on until I reached six miles and added another .2 as I ran out the trail, back to my car.

A perfect trail 10K on a cool and comfortable Sunday morning. I watched a men's soccer game while I re-hydrated and then headed home to shower. Next weekend BJS, Dave and I are going to do a practice run of the Great Cow Harbor course and this distance training should help me keep up with them. They've both run Cow Harbor at speeds faster than I expect to run but perhaps my recent conditioning will make me a little more competitive on race day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stung by Honey Stinger's energy gel

Today's run (street): 7.4 miles at 9:52

As planned, I went out for a long neighborhood run today with a target distance of at least 6 miles. I've only covered that much distance a handful of times over the summer but I know I need longer sessions to build more stamina. This morning's route included my primary neighborhood, the nearby business park and neighborhood #3.

Hurricane Earl turned out to be a non-event for us and the morning brought in some cool winds from the west. It was neither humid nor hot when I set out for my run and after thirty seconds on the road I could tell that yesterday's rest day prepared me well for today. I purposely kept a moderate pace and I lost about ten seconds per mile between miles 2 through 5. At the five mile point I pulled out a Honey Stinger gel pack that my friend KWL had given me after his 10K race a few weeks ago. I was curious to see if I'd see any benefit from this carb blast and judging by my pace over the last two miles of my run I think it did provide a small benefit. Despite that slight energy boost I found the gel to be problematic as it burned my throat going down. I managed to recover from the shock of that experience but six hours later I'm still coughing from the irritation.

I felt pretty good when I finally reached home and thought I still had a couple of slower miles left in me if I wanted to keep going. It was great to cover the distance but I do regret my experiment with the Honey Stinger gel. After running and showering we headed to NYC to see the Blue Man Group to cap off the kid's summer break. Back to school on Tuesday. But Labor Day provides an extra weekend day for me and I'm hoping to cover 6 or more miles at least once more before I return to the office on Tuesday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Earl-y day

The weather is unsettled and so are my workout plans today. I decided last night to forgo a Friday morning run even if the skies were clear. For my upcoming race, I'm clearly better off doing more longer distance runs even if my run frequency drops to 4x per week (plus one day of cross training). I'll let the storm decide what I'll do today. I'm forgoing my usual Friday Central Park circuit but if conditions are favorable this afternoon I may go out for a long run nearer to home. If we are seeing driving rain and 30+ MPH winds I'll accept this as a rest day and use that recovery benefit tomorrow morning when I plan to go out for an hour or more.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about ways to facilitate longer runs. Routes that put me on a straight path for long periods seem to work better than those that force me to change course every quarter mile or so. You'd think it would be the opposite because change can help fight off boredom but those long straightaways provide an opportunity to "float" and focus on my surroundings. It would be great to live somewhere like Colorado, California or Oregon that enabled long runs that didn't intersect with traffic. The Bethpage bike path is really the only paved route around here that provides me the opportunity to just run straight ahead. for long distances. Belmont Lake State Park (home of the Dirty Sock 10K) also provides a fairly straight path and it has the extra appeal of being a dirt trail. I'm going to think about my options for longer distance runs over this weekend. Maybe I'll come up with something new to try.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One out of one doctors say running is good for your heart

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I spent much of yesterday at doctor's offices. My appointments were routine (annual physical, etc.) but the process, especially the waiting, can be exhausting. I was glad I ran in the morning because the rest of the day was understandably sedentary. I asked my doctor about an article I'd recently read that said running could pose increased risk to the heart. I wasn't that concerned because the greater risks were with higher mileage, performance focused athletes. My doctor is a nationally ranked cardiologist and I trust his opinion over a newspaper columnist's.  He flatly dismissed the risk and said "running is the single best thing you can be doing for your health." That's good enough for me.

I followed my usual schedule this morning and did 25 minutes on the elliptical machine. It was hot and humid but I didn't mind it much today. I selected a higher than normal level of resistance and was able to maintain my usual pace even with wattage output close to 100 (vs my usual 80). I was well soaked when I stepped off the machine but I felt I'd worked as hard (or harder) as I do on my daily runs. It's nice to engage different muscles and to include my upper arms for a change. That's why I devote one day a week to the elliptical. I should probably use it more frequently but if the choice is between running and the elliptical machine it's rare that I'd choose the latter. I'm hoping to run tomorrow but we're hearing that Earl will come close to Long Island tomorrow and (hopefully) move well off shore by late Friday night. If conditions aren't good I may end up on the elliptical tomorrow after all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pre-hurricane run

Today's run (street): 4 miles at 9:20

I'm out of the office today and that allowed me a little more time to run this morning. We're back to seeing temperatures in the high 90's after a string of cooler days but, happily, it was still below 80 degrees when I went out at 7:00 AM this morning. If I had more time to run I would have liked to go out for 5 miles or longer. I'm hoping that the Labor Day long weekend will provide the opportunity for a few longer distance runs but hurricane Earl may get in the way of those plans.

My route around the neighborhood was similar to my daily course but I ran a little longer today and there was enough light to see without a headlamp. I saw many neighbors out walking or riding bikes and had to remind myself that it was the middle of the work week and not a Saturday morning. Although it was 77 degrees and rising, I didn't feel at all uncomfortable during my run.

I wore my Saucony Kinvaras as a change from the Brooks and I'm beginning to favor them over most of my other running shoes. Still, on runs greater than 6 miles, I'm concerned that the Kinvaras will provide enough protection for my feet. I'm still dealing with the effects of the Dirty Sock race from two weeks ago that left my feet swollen and the tip of my left-middle toe black. I've been primarily wearing the Brooks since then and that's helped my foot to recover. The Saucony's uppers are gossamer thin and the toe box has enough volume as not to create further problems on shorter runs like today's so I'm now rotating them with the Adrenalins.

I want to get in a few long runs between Friday and Monday but with the storms coming through I'm not sure that will be possible. I don't mind running in a little rain but I'm going to stay indoors if I see "Hurricane Warning"scroll across the bottom of my TV this week.
 

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