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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Loopy and leafy run

Today's loopy course
Today's run: 5.75 miles

After two days off from running I headed out again this morning. My cold improved enough that I got through last night without waking everyone with my cough. Soon after our weekend guests departed I prepared for my run, dressing in a long sleeved top and compression pants. It was in the high 40's but with strong breezes so I wanted a little extra protection from the cold.  I wore my Kinvaras because I wanted to reinforce a mid-foot stride and the low and flat Kinvaras help me do that. I knew full well that I wasn't going to perform as well as I do at full strength so my strategy was to cover 5 to 6 miles to get back into the rhythm of running.

I started with a north to south loop in my neighborhood after which I cut east all the way to a local business park that has some decent hills. I traveled one time around the park and headed into neighborhood #3 where I ran the outside road until I reached the outlet to Woodbury Road. I followed Woodbury Road all the way past a local pumpkin farm and then headed back in the same direction. I always enjoy running Woodbury Road, not for the view which is predominantly commercial buildings, but for the fact that the sidewalks are usually covered with a thick layer of fallen leaves. It reminds me of trail running and the crunching underfoot is a seasonal treat. That section did slow me down but I wasn't viewing this as a performance run. I can't say that my experience was completely unaffected by my cold but it wasn't an issue save for an occasional cough.

I finished up after covering 5.75 miles and I was pleased with the changes of course and scenery compared to my usual neighborhood excursions. I'm glad to complete a low mileage week with a decent length run. Better still, my cold seems to be retreating despite today's workout.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Resting easy

I chose not to run yesterday to help my recovery from this cold. There are few things I dislike more than a hacking cough but that's been my experience since Thursday. Yesterday my wife and I went on a brisk hour walk in the neighborhood and I wore the SRRs which seem to contribute well to the workout. I'm becoming less skeptical as I use them. I think less is more when it comes to running shoes but as a training tool they seem to be helping me strengthen my upper hamstrings and glutes.

My mother and her friend are our weekend guests and we're planning to head out for a hike after lunch. If I can't run then at least I can get some activity in. Tomorrow, if it's clear that I've begun to recover well, I plan to go out for a 5 or 6 mile run. If not I'll continue my rest. It's the longest I've gone between runs while not tapering for a race. Another day of rest will probably benefit me more than running right now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Anniversary day run and 700th post

Today's run (street): 3.55 miles

Today is my anniversary so I took a vacation day and spent some great time with my wife. It's also the 700th post on this blog. I wanted to get a few extra miles in this morning because I skipped Tuesday's workout. With a little more time to run I had more opportunity to cover distance than I usually do on during the work week. This morning's run was very tough. It felt harder than an 8 miler in the July heat. I'm hoping that my experience had something to do with this cold that continues to plague me. I want to avoid the need to call this blog the Emerging Complainer so I'll just say that my legs felt like lead and my form felt unbalanced over the entire run.

I wore my Brooks GTS 10's because I wanted a little extra cushioning since everything that can hurt was hurting prior to hitting the road. It was a strange sensation when I ran. I felt that my stride action was numb and that my glutes on the right side (where I usually have an issue) felt extremely weak. I always vow to resume my core workouts when I experience these feelings but I haven't been good about doing that. I don't exactly why I'm having so many sluggish runs these days. You'd think the fact that I run most days would contribute more to continuous improvement. I know things will snap back into place once I get rid of this cold. Despite the difficulty of today's run I beat yesterday's pace handily so I know I can move along if I need to.  I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow for an activity because I am home on Friday and that will provide time for a longer workout. I'm hoping for less pain and more gain. I'll be happy with less pain (I couldn't resist one last complaint).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Morning pity party

Today's run (street): 2.25 miles

I don't often skip two days in a row but I've been fighting a cold all week. I usually run well after resting two days but this morning's workout was taxing. I'm thankful that my cold it isn't any worse than it is. This time of year whenever I  feel run down I worry that I have the flu. You'd think I'd get a flu shot. When I got up my legs were hurting in unfamiliar ways and I attributed it to cold induced body aches rather than running. My pains ranged from my ankles to my upper hamstring and included shin and knee pain. Since I hadn't run in two days I wasn't concerned that the pain was related.

Today's rain was just starting when I stepped out and for the first half of my run it remained a drizzle. It was far warmer than when I went out on Sunday but not too uncomfortable. Strong winds were blowing from the south as I headed out the door. My leg pain dissipated as I ran but my legs still felt heavy and my pace was ponderous. I was glad to be back on the road but I wasn't really enjoying the experience. It felt like I was running with ankle weights. The rain picked up substantially after ten minutes and running into stiff winds didn't help. I was anxious to get through the run so I could relax with a cup of coffee before I hit the shower. My overall pace was abysmal but I did succeed in logging my first miles of the week. My head cold remains but I don't think running did me any harm. I'm hoping that tomorrow's workout will be a better experience.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What do you want to see on emergingrunner.com?

New look coming
At the advice of my wife I decided to forgo my usual workout this morning. I suffered through yesterday with cold symptoms and worried that it would turn into something major. I got to bed early last night and it seems like the extra rest has helped. I still have some vestiges of a cold but my energy level is much better. I would have liked to run a few miles today with the SRRs to work out the residual soreness in my legs from Saturday's run in Northport.  Still,  another recovery day makes better sense.

#It's still October but I'm coming up on my second anniversary of "The Emerging Runner" that will happen on November 18. Including today, I've put up 698 posts to date, my first post being a tongue in cheek declaration that I'm a real runner. Like last November, on the site's first anniversary, I'm planning to give the blog a new look. My son thinks I should have a slogan for the site so perhaps I'll add one. If anyone else has suggestions for new features for the blog please feel free to write a comment or send an email to editor(at)emergingrunner.com.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good timing for my weekly rest day

As energetic as I was on Sunday morning, today I am very much the opposite. Last night I began experiencing slight cold symptoms and a decided lack of energy. I'm hoping it's a quick cold and not the flu. After my bout with pneumonia in January I don't dismiss concern that easily. I didn't bank any sleep over the weekend so it could be weakness due to lack of rest. I put in some decent mileage over the last few days but I doubt that would wear me out to this degree. As expected, my calves are aching after finally getting over the shock of running up the James Street hill on Saturday. My office schedule is tight today so I need to get through that. Tomorrow morning I have to give a talk to an industry group and I'm concerned about losing my voice before then. I'll rely on lots of coffee, my time-proven  miracle drug, to get me through the workday. I'm hoping to be back to the road tomorrow,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Last year a baton, this year a DVD case

Today's run (street): 4 miles

I was surprised to feel as well as I did after I got up this morning. Despite yesterday and Friday's hard runs and a later bedtime last night I was up at 4:30 this morning. I waited a few hours to run and by then the temperature was heading to 60 degrees. I didn't plan to go out too far today so I targeted 5K to 4 miles for my distance. We'd taken out a couple of DVDs this weekend so I followed a route that passed the library so I could return them. As I ran along holding the DVD cases I realized that exactly one year ago I was running in the Cape Cod marathon relay. Instead of a DVD box, that Sunday I held a baton as I worked to complete my second relay leg (6 miles) and hand it off to Adventure Girl who ran the final 11. We all had a great time that weekend and I believe that event still represents the most miles I've covered in a single day.

After swinging by the library's outdoor drop bin I turned back into the neighborhood  to complete my run. I didn't feel as strong as I did during yesterday's Cow Harbor do-over but I had more than enough energy to cover my distance. I ended up running about 9:30 per mile, mostly due to a steep drop in speed on mile 4. I guess the Central Park and Northport runs finally caught up with me. Between Friday afternoon and this morning I've covered over 15 miles. Most were run with hard effort. I really do need to put a couple of 6+ mile runs together next weekend to get back in line with my distance goals. I felt good this morning but tomorrow I may feel differently. It's been my experience that the pain of running Widow Hill can take a couple of days to manifest.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

James Street, we meet again...

Today's starting point. No cow costumes or elite runners this morning
Yesterday's run (Central Park). 4.5 miles
Today's run (street): 6.35 miles

I've had a lot of energy this week to channel toward running and I'm happy with the results. Yesterday I ran with a friend in Central Park, covering the lower and upper loops plus one circuit around the reservoir. The weather was optimal, high 40's, no humidity and no direct sunlight.  We felt the cold as we headed up to the park -- I always say, "You should dress for your third mile, not you first." Soon we were into the run and I was surprised at how effortless it felt to attack that first hill, given that we were moving at an 8:45 pace over the first mile. Unlike recent excursions on these paths, the focus was fully on speed and it took little time to reach the steps leading to the trail around the reservoir. We were quickly passed by a woman who must have been pacing in the 6-7 minute range. So much for feeling fast. It didn't matter in the least, we continued our way back after covering 4.5 miles and averaging just a tick over 9 minutes a mile.

This morning I met BJS (Brian) in Northport where we reran the Great Cow Harbor 10K course. Neither of us were happy with our performance on race day and I figured the cooler temperatures would result in an improvement in my time. I didn't get dramatic improvement I wanted but I did do slightly better today than I did on race day. We began on Laurel Ave., close to the starting line of the race. I felt far better than in September when I raced this course and when we hit Scudder I was concerned about going out too hard before the rough stuff both on Woodbine and James St. Once you pass by Main Street you need to prepare for about a mile of misery as Woodbine is hilly through its length and James Street is a monster. Getting up Widow Hill wasn't pleasant and I think my saving grace was knowing I'd scaled it successfully a couple of times before. By the time we reached the top we were hurting but we also knew we had almost two miles of recovery road ahead before the lengthy Waterside Ave. incline.

In retrospect it may have been better to charge down hills whenever possible to save precious seconds but I'd chosen to conserve and Brian was gracious enough to stay at my pace. I suspect he was willing to push the speed more on downhills but we stayed together. We ran on sidewalks as much as we could and that was tricky in spots due to the surface unevenness and angle. Except for some moments on James Street I never felt overtaxed and when we reached "Pumpernickel Hill" I was pleased to know it was the last hill to breech. We didn't fly all the way down Main Street but we steadily picked up speed as we came closer to our finish.  Brian put some distance ahead of me in the last quarter mile and we finished after running a little over an hour. A careful mapping of our run revealed that we actually covered 6.35 miles, so technically I ran the Cow Harbor length in 59:18. Not great by any measure but on the better side of an hour.

As we walked from our finishing spot back to the waterfront area we passed Woodbine and I asked Brian if he wanted to run James Street again. He was ready to do it but I was only joking. Once was more than enough, thank you. I think Brian is going to do the run again tomorrow with Bailey, his Lab. I wonder what she'll think of Widow Hill.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Emerging Running Club

I'm planning to run in Central Park this afternoon with Steve, my banker friend. There's something nice about ending the work week with a NYC run, especially on a cool fall day. Steve and I haven't run together in a while so it will be good to catch up. I've been running more with friends these days and I really like the experience. It's the variables that make it interesting. Last year I ran primarily with Adventure Girl and that set the bar high. We covered a lot of territory around NYC and ran with performance in mind. It was always a fun challenge keeping her pace.

When I run with my friend CK in the city I know it will be a workout that pushes me well past my comfort zone. Yet I still enjoy the experience. My runs with BJS and Dave are not "all out" although we do run hard. It's a great balance between work and social and I learn a lot from both of them. My weekly runs with JQ are a treat. He's a fascinating guy, the kind of person you'd pay to listen to. Our runs are relaxed and it's as much about the conversation as it is about the activity. I've had some great runs recently with KWL who took up the sport when I co-organized a Fun Run last summer. He's primarily a cyclist but he's surpassed me in terms of speed. I had enjoyed an advantage on longer distances but he recently ran a 10K race on a Saturday and a Century (100 Mile) bike ride the next day. We usually run 8:30-8:40 miles but they don't seem that hard. In most cases, running with a friend makes time go by faster. Hard runs just seem easier. It's all about the company.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pace expectations and the online calculator

Your guess is as good as mine
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Thinking about two of my planned races in November, both 10K's, I decided to analyze my performance at other race distances to help me manage my expectations. My PR for a 5K is 25:50, or 8:19 per mile. Both times I've run 8K's I've averaged 9:00 per mile. That means that adding 3K (1.86 miles) caused my speed to degrade by 8.2%. That's a big drop for not much incremental distance. Averaging all my 5K's, my pace is 8:31 meaning that I generally lose 6% when going from 5K to 8K. My 10K track record is spotty because I've only run one of them on pavement but my overall pace averages 9:32, or almost 12% higher than my 5K average. According to the calculators that you can find online that factor in age grading, V02 Max and other formulations, I should be averaging 8:50 per mile on 10Ks. That pace is based on my 5K average. It's a nice thought but I'm not sure how to get there.

For now I continue to focus on distance first and speed second. One thing that seems obvious is that adding more length to my runs and maintaining a consistent pace will bring my power curve forward, past the 3 mile mile mark. I've run 8 miles at 9:15 so I know I can improve on my current performance. I'll keep that in mind this weekend when I rerun the Cow Harbor course in Northport.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cow Harbor, take 2

Today's run (street): 2.75 miles

It's almost November but the experience of September's 10K in Northport still haunts a few of us. Few local races set expectations and cultivate strategic planning like the Great Cow Harbor race. Despite predictions of a cool and dry morning, race day at Cow Harbor was sunny, hot and very humid. You can control a lot of variables when you run but you cannot change the weather. This weekend should be far cooler and drier than it was on September 25th and BJS and I are planning a Cow Harbor do-over on Saturday. No packed crowds, costumes, cow bells and water stations. No coverage on News 12. Just us and the course. Bring it, James Street hill! Waterside Ave., you don't scare me! I really hope I can beat my race time.

This morning's run felt very different than Tuesday's. Yesterday I ran with the Resistance Runners that are quite a bit heavier than the Kinvaras that I wore today. It's comparable to putting a weighted donut on your bat when you're in the on-deck circle and going to the plate without it. Yesterday's run was all about getting by despite the shoes and today it was only about running. It was a far more comfortable run today and with the temperature in the high 40's I barely broke a sweat for the first ten minutes. I tried to incorporate some strides within my overall pace and felt good in terms of form and energy. It didn't translate into a fast run though. Far from it -- a mid 9 minute pace. In the end I felt really good and that feeling has followed me all morning. I'm planning another Central Park mid day run on Friday with my banker friend. That's always a nice way to bring home the work week. Today was great but I'm going to need more speed this Saturday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An ambiguously positive run

Today's run (street): 2.35 miles

I'm not sure if there's a term for phrases like "not unpleasant" but there should be. I believe that many would call it negative reinforcement but I'd prefer to call it "positive ambiguity." Actually, That was my thought as I ran through the neighborhood this morning under light rain and cool temperatures. I normally avoid running in the rain because, with glasses, it can be difficult to see. Adding to that is the 4:00 AM darkness. I gave no thought to the weather until I stepped outside and saw that the driveway was wet from a light rain. I wore the Skechers Resistance Runners (SRRs) again to maintain variability in my running conditions and I wasn't about to head back upstairs to run with them on the treadmill. The rain was light and, with no breeze, my hat proved sufficient for keeping moisture off my face.

The SRRs are beefy and you notice them when you run. It reminds me of the articles I've read about soldiers who run marathons with a field pack and combat boots. The shoes are clunky and the stride is a little awkward, yet I found myself appreciating them for this purpose. I could feel the shifting pressure on my legs and calves and I noted that my right upper hamstring did not feel as sore as it has of late. That may not be related to the shoes but it's clear that the SRRs do distribute force differently than a standard shoe. Between the rain and the heavy running shoes I might have expected to dislike this morning's run. Instead, I found the cool temperatures and light rain refreshing, as well as the feeling that I was gaining some additional training benefits from the more challenging footwear. I guess "not unpleasant" is a pretty good way of putting it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Variety is the spice of running

Over the past four days I have experienced a broad selection of running conditions. I rested today, as I usually do on Mondays, and noticed that my legs feel great this morning. I believe that the diversity of my runs contributed to this. It may be worthwhile to continue to keep variability in my training program.

Last Thursday I was in Philadelphia and chose to stay indoors for my workout. I did a short but fast (for me) treadmill run. On Friday I ran in my neighborhood wearing the Skechers Resistance Runners that provided a different road experience with the unstable mid-sole that proved challenging even on a relatively short (3 mile) run. Saturday I ran just short of 5 miles in my Kinvaras that, despite their minimal construction, are beginning to edge out all other running shoes in my collection. Yesterday I was back on the trails and attacking short steep hills over different surfaces.

I don't do as much cross training as I should, mostly just a weekly elliptical session. Perhaps by varying the way I run I can focus on different muscle groups and achieve some benefits that are lost when running on pavement 90% of the time. I'm planning to run two 10K races in November, one week apart, so I need to get into race training mode. It will be interesting to see how diversity and distance training will affect my performance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stillwell run with BJS and Bailey

BJS and Bailey. No pets allowed, good thing dogs can't read


Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 5.1 miles

This hasn't been a long mileage weekend but I've had a couple of really nice runs. This morning I met BJS at Stillwell Woods for some trail running and he brought along his usual running partner, Bailey, a black Lab. Technically, you aren't allowed to bring dogs into Stillwell but many people do. To their credit, most people who run their dogs there have trained them well. Over the last couple of years I have had only one problem with an untethered dog at Stillwell. My daughter was walking with me and a few others when a big dog jumped up on her and almost knocked her down. The dog was running with a mountain biker who had not trained this dog well. Besides that, I've run by dozens of untethered dogs that kept close to their owner's side and didn't act threatening in the least.

Bailey is an energetic, gentle dog but BJS decided to keep her on a leash when we ran because he didn't know how she'd do with the other dogs. We made our way into the woods and followed my usual route. About a mile in I decided to lead us east through more challenging trails. BJS and Bailey had no trouble with the conditions that varied between packed dirt, loose rocks and sand. We ended up at the far east end where the trail terminates at a public road. The trails that took us there were a little rough and we needed to retrace them west. One path we followed was as steep as Widow Hill in Northport, but thankfully not as long. I didn't get lost, or I should say, as lost as I usually do. I managed to get us over to the southern trails that eventually lead back to the main path near the trail head. We finished our run with one circuit around the big field and headed to the athletic fields after covering 5.1 miles in about 50 minutes.

I wore my ASICS 1130's instead of trail shoes and they did well on the multiple surfaces at Stillwell. Unfortunately, either my insole or sock was bunching in a way that dug into the bottom of my right foot. It wasn't too painful but it did make me concerned that I was putting too much sharp pressure on my plantar tendon. BJS would have been happy running longer than the five miles we covered but I started to feel concerned that I could be enabling a problem if I continued. I think that was a good decision because my foot feels fine now. It was an enjoyable run that went by quickly, so often the case when you are running with good company.  I think BJS and Bailey both liked the Stillwell experience and I'm sure we'll run there again. We talked about running in Sunken Meadow State Park where many high school XC teams train. I've heard that's a challenging course. Sounds good to me provided that I wear the right shoes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Off schedule run

Today's run (street): 4.8 miles at 9:21

I had appointments all morning and after that we spent the day celebrating my son's birthday. That threw off my running schedule and I didn't get out until a little after 5:00 PM. I'm definitely a morning runner in terms of energy peak but I've read numerous articles that claim performance is generally better between 4-8 PM. This is supposedly true for everyone, regardless of when they normally train. I was curious about that when I set off in 50 degree weather that was ideal but for the strong breezes coming from the west. I followed a different route than normal, just for the change.

Despite being somewhat tired from the day, I was moving along well and was surprised by how quickly I reached the first mile. I managed to string together enough roads to total 4.8 miles before finishing. Not too many people were out at this hour and those that I did see were walking their dogs. I was happy to have completed a Saturday run but I felt bad that I didn't even cover 5 miles. I could have easily run another quarter mile but when I got close to home I decided to call it a workout. I'm planning a morning run at Stillwell tomorrow and I think I'll aim for the more distance. I may also take on some of the challenging paths that I've avoided the last few times I've run there.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First impression: Skecher's Resistance Runners

Today's run (street): 3 miles at 9:30

I'm working from home today and I thought I'd take a few extra minutes for my morning run. It was dry and clear with no rain in sight so I took the opportunity to wear the Skecher's Resistance Runners (SRRs) for the first time on a run. I walked around with them for about 30 minutes prior to heading out to make sure they felt sufficiently stable. The last thing I need is an injury caused by footwear.  I'll do a full writeup of the shoes on Runner's Tech Review but I'll relate my first impressions below.

When running with shoes of this design it is important to set expectations. The things I'd expect from a conventional running shoe just don't apply. It is as unfair to ask a dog to turn vegetarian as it would be to ask the SSRs to move with the foot like Brooks Adrenalins or Saucouny Kinvaras. The SRRs are designed to purposely introduce unstable movement into the running process. I understood that as I stood in the driveway and felt the gentle rock of the shoes that is caused by the asymmetrical mid-sole. The SRRs are not comfortable but they aren't made to be. They also run a bit narrow and short for their size. It was an odd sensation when I took off on my run. I'm used to the Kinvara's flat, minimal presence and the SSRs made me feel like I was running with half a tennis ball baked into the bottoms. The SSRs are far heavier than the Kinvaras, or any of my other running shoes for that matter. I kept telling myself "It's okay, they're a special training device, think of them that way."

I can't say I enjoyed the ride but I did feel like I was getting a workout. It may have been the design or merely the extra weight but I felt it in my legs. I couldn't tell where my foot was landing but I tried to focus on the mid to front range. I did notice that when I allowed the shoe to heel strike the energy return was pretty good. Too bad I'm trying not to run that way. My pace began to suffer noticeably after the first mile and I'm sure it was due to the extra work the shoes required. I finished after three miles feeling like I'd given my legs a good workout but not feeling like I'd exerted myself too much overall. I can't see ever switching to this shoe as a regular trainer but it may yet provide some training benefit. I'm going to put them in the rotation for a while to see how they feel after a few more workouts. In the meantime, I'm still questioning whether they fall into the category of training resource or gimmick.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Treadmill knows best

Today's run (treadmill): 2.4 miles at 9:01

I've been traveling on business the last two days so I needed to adapt my workout to my location. I attended a conference in Philadelphia and stayed in a hotel located on Market Street, about a half mile from the Schuylkill River. I had hoped to do some picturesque city running but I questioned the safety of the area in the early morning darkness. That left me no choice but to use the hotel's fitness center that was well equipped with treadmills and elliptical machines.

I got down to the center at 5:00 AM and was surprised to see the room empty. It's rare when I find treadmills readily available in these places. I usually need to wait or I just go for a run outdoors. The treadmill immediately frustrated me. I simply wanted to start, get up to speed, and run my time. Unfortunately the treadmill would have none of that. I finally got it started and punched in my speed but the machine had decided it was going to let me run for only 20 minutes. It was a fast 20 and I ran my last six minutes under 8:30 per mile. After 20 minutes the machine kicked into "cool down" mode and I stabbed at the speed button to get back to my pace. After a few minutes it shut down and I gave up. Too bad because I had run well and would have liked to continue.

I'll be happy to return to the road on Friday provided the rain stops. if it doesn't, I'll have my first experience with the Resistance Runners on my guestroom treadmill.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hard to resist trying the Resistance Runners

I don't yet know about the shoes but the packaging was impressive
After regretting my run on Tuesday morning and realizing that I needed some rest, I decided to forgo my planned elliptical session today. I'm glad that I did because I've been dealing with slight pain stemming from either my upper hamstring or my glutes. I don't think I'm hurting it when I exercise but it will heal better with an occasional break from those activities.

The only regret I have today is that I'm going to have to wait to test my newest running technology:  Skecher's Resistance Runners. Despite my earlier post where I poked some fun at gimmicky running shoes including these, Skecher's still offered to send me a pair to test. I'm used to companies that understand runners and running shoes but Skecher's seems to still be on the learning curve. When they asked for my shoe size I told them 10.5, D width. I soon received a call saying that they don't make them in a wide sizes so would I want to go up to an 11? I straightened her out on the fact that D is standard width but I wished I had chosen size 11's after I tried them on last night.

The shoes arrived yesterday in a huge box that was quite impressive. Cool materials, fancy overlays and lots of marketing hype about the benefits of the shoes. I don't know if this what you get if you purchase them retail or whether this is special packing for journalists who test their products. It was very different from the boxes you get from Brooks and Saucony that are made for easy recycling. The shoes aren't as silly to look at as I thought they'd be. I can certainly wear them in daylight hours but I won't be using them in a race. That is, unless they make me an 8 minute/mile runner. My initial impression was that they are snug for their size, especially at the toe box, and that the purposely unstable mid-sole is interesting. Interesting good or bad is yet to be determined. I'm traveling today through tomorrow so I won't have the chance to run with these shoes until Friday. I'll admit to being more curious about these shoes than I'd imagined I'd be.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Which friend do you want to be?

Today's run (street): 2.6 miles

I know a person who runs about 40 minutes every few days. The time is arbitrary because he doesn't wear a watch. He thinks that he runs about four miles each time he goes out but he's not really sure. My friend has little idea of his pace but guesses he runs around 10 minutes per mile. I know another person who cycles through a weekly regimen of training: intervals on the track, tempo runs, strides, Fartleks and distance runs. He knows his paces for all these activities. He usually hits his desired numbers. These two people enjoy running, but the way they engage is very different.

I'm somewhere in the middle in terms of activity and expectations. I do care about my distance and pace but I don't devote much time to the core training activities that help make one faster or better prepared for tough conditions. I view my running satisfaction against two criteria -- performance and experience. Performance is defined for me very specifically: a pace as far below 9:00 per mile as possible or covering a challenging distance. Experience is much more arbitrary. That's defined by how I feel. Some runs are relatively slow but feel great. That's a successful experience. Other runs hit the mark on performance but the price paid is pain and/or injury. Not so successful. As a recreational runner I look for equilibrium between these two criteria. When that balance is reached I am a happy runner.

Today I was not a happy runner. I took my usual rest day on Monday and by last night I was feeling ready to run. We had kinetic storms overnight with wind, thunder and lightning and I feared I'd be stuck on the treadmill today. It was slightly rainy when I got up at 3:45 and I decided to go for it. From my first few steps off my driveway I could tell that I would have trouble on this run. I couldn't generate the leg turnover I needed to get to my desired speed and I felt a bit tired. I hoped that initial fatigue would give way to a boost of energy after a few minutes and while things did improve, it wasn't by much. I ended up running for 25 minutes and only covering 2.6 miles in total. Sub-par performance against my expectations and a fairly miserable experience in the process. On one hand I did go out under rainy skies and did my workout long before most of the world was thinking about waking. If I was friend #2 I'd be furious about my poor performance. If I was friend #1 I'd probably think "That wasn't as much fun as usual, maybe next time I'll feel better." I think friend #1 makes the better point.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kinvaras as a daily trainer?

These cool Kinvaras are becoming my everyday shoe
The transition to fall weather makes me happy. Although it will take some time to adjust my running gear so that I don't go out under-dressed like yesterday, I still welcome the change. This morning the temperature where I live is 51 degrees, perfect for a run but quite chilly when standing on the train platform. I always wish for this weather when enduring the heat of summer or the frigid cold in January. I'll enjoy it as long as I can.

I wore my Saucony Kinvaras during yesterday's run and I've started to really appreciate them. Lightweight but not insubstantial, they are minimally constructed but still reasonably supportive. The Kinvara is a neutral shoe and I thought I'd have trouble with it because I pronate when I run. I've had some 8+ mile runs with them without experiencing any problems with my knees or legs and that brings me to question the idea of stability shoe engineering. I suspect that because the drop off between heel and forefoot of the Kinvara is only 4mm, compared to 12mm, (common for standard trainers) the shoe facilitates a more natural mid-foot landing. This would logically neutralize the effects of pronation. I continue to rotate through my other pairs and still consider my Brooks GTS 10's my everyday shoe, but the Kinvaras are forcing me to rethink that these days. If I do move primarily to the Kinvaras I'll need to consider their durability and the thermal properties of the barely-there uppers compared with the Brooks' more substantial build. After all, it's getting colder out there these days.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Finally, a cold morning run. Wish I dressed for it...

The ducks were out at Caleb Smith this morning
Yesterday's run (street): 4 miles at 9:08
Today's run (street): 7.4 miles at 9:28

I waited until about noon on Saturday to run, mostly due to my reluctance to work up a sweat in the morning without the option of showering afterward. I spent the last 36 minutes strapped to my doctor's HRM in order to capture Saturday's workout. It was a pleasure to finish the run and end my 24 hours with this unit that was attached to me by four electrodes. I was still a little tired from Friday's stress test when I hit the road and though I managed a decent pace I felt like I was running in low gear the whole time. It felt as though I had a tether attached to me that prevented me to maintaining my desired cadence. My goal was to go out for a quick three miles but I ended up covering four. Upon returning home, I happily detached the electrodes and packed the HRM for return to the lab.

This morning I left early for my week's long run. My neighborhood boundaries limit my options for running real distances, after that I need to cross some traffic to prevent repeating the same roads. It was a chilly 38 degrees at 7:00 AM, far colder than I'd planned for the way I'd dressed. I did wear my best long compression pants but I didn't bring gloves nor a long sleeved shirt. I regretted my lapse when, after two miles, my hands were still semi-numb. Besides all that my run was pleasant, starting with a loop through my main neighborhood before heading into neighborhood #2 for a few miles. I stayed conscious of my pacing and tried to keep in the low 9:00 range. Despite the cooler temps my overall pace shows that I lost about ten seconds on each split. Although the numbers don't show it, I still felt like I ran better today than yesterday.

After a greatly appreciated (post run) hot shower we headed over to Caleb Smith State Park for a late morning hike. It's a really nice preserve with well marked trails. Every time I go there it reminds me of how much I'd like to actually run there. My wife, daughter and son did do some running while we were there but I chose to hike. I don't like running in jeans and my legs were fairly shot from the morning's seven miles. Despite missing my usual Friday run I still managed to get some good miles this weekend. The cold weather is definitely to my liking. I just need to be smarter about how I dress for it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Doctor's orders: more stress


Yesterday's workout (Stress test): 4 hours

Having a top ranked physician as your doctor has its pluses and minuses. On one hand you know that you are getting the best care that medical insurance can buy, but it also means that you are monitored closely and forced to take tests to confirm that everything remains normal. I'm not fanatical about my health but me and my family meet annually or (semi-annually) with our doctors and dentists just to confirm all is well. Yesterday, as a follow up to August's physical, I went through a stress test that involved a number of activities. The process is time consuming and not particularly difficult but in the end it is exhausting.

Soon after my arrival I was injected with Thallium 201, a trace agent for monitoring blood flow through the imaging process. No big deal except for the idea of having a radioisotope coursing through your veins and arteries. The half-life is 73 hours so I won't be boarding any airplanes this week. I was assured a number of times that it's extremely safe. I guess I have to take their word on that. The first activity was a full body scan on a flat imaging bed that required keeping absolutely still for about 15 minutes. Running has taught me much about patience while enduring discomfort so that was a piece of cake, despite the need to hold my arms far forward and holding my head at an unnatural angle. After that I was hooked up to a bunch of electrodes and put on a treadmill that increased in speed and tilt angle over a 20 minute period. Being a runner helped me there, though I'll admit that the apex of speed and elevation became challenging. Still, I never reached the point where I was sweating profusely.  Halfway through the process I was re-injected with Thallium while I was in motion. That was a little weird.

The next part of the test was another round of imaging that seemed longer and even less comfortable. I was then brought into another room for a sonogram of both carotid arteries. During the treadmill and sonogram testing I was asked why I was being tested because my results looked fine. That was good to hear. The final step was to be fitted with a heart monitor with four electrodes that would record cardio-activity for 24 hours. I'll get to take that off at noon and I'm looking forward to that. I can't shower until it's off so I didn't run this morning. I'm deciding whether to run with it just prior to removal or to wait until I take it off. I'd be interested to know how my heart rate varies when monitored by a more sophisticated instrument that the Garmin's HRM but I doubt the doctor will show me the raw data. However, they might share the highlights. The best part of having completed the stress test is that, unlike yesterday morning, I'm now allowed to drink coffee. I missed that a lot yesterday. I far prefer it to Thallium 201.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Will this brand Thriv?

Thriv's Path Crew running shirt

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.1 miles
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It's no secret that I like running gear and that I'm interested in technologies that help a runner achieve their best performance. I appreciate the innovations that come from the big running shoe companies so long as they provide benefits and aren't just selling marketing hype. When I see something new I pay attention, especially when it represents innovation. Over the weekend we stopped into Sports Authority to find a gym bag for my daughter and I noticed they had a new line of running clothes under the brand name Thriv. The Thriv shirts, apparently made in India, were very appealing. They were soft like cotton and colorful, but not garish. The labels claimed great wicking capabilities through their combination of organic cotton and bamboo and the prices were competitive. I bought a red "Path Crew" jersey in size large (no medium choice) because this particular model was discounted to $20.

I wore my new Thriv shirt on my run in Central Park with JQ yesterday. It was dry and cool, with some sun, and we followed our standard three mile route while enjoying the park and maintaining our usual, lively discussion. The shirt was very comfortable and the fit was generous. I would have preferred it to be a size smaller but it was fine for a workout of this type. Since we were running a couple of minutes per mile slower than my usual training pace I didn't generate my normal level of perspiration but I did sweat some and the shirt wicked it fine. However, the Path Crew didn't do a good job of evaporating moisture compared with my experiences wearing the Nike Sphere and Brooks Rev T jerseys. I'd put Thriv in the middle of my running shirt collection in terms of effectiveness, better than the C9's and REC Tech's but not at the level of the ATAYNE, Adidas, Nike and Brooks shirts. For $20 it's a decent addition to my athletic-wear collection. Still, I'll probably stick with the brands that provide both innovation and performance, even if it costs me more.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Relays and races

Last Sunday's Newsday carried a story about a team of runners that participated in the annual Ocean to Sound Relay that's held each year on Long Island. The course is 50 miles in length, starts at Jones Beach State Park and ends at the Sound in Oyster Bay. Each leg of the race is between 5-7 miles. I ran my last long training run for Cow Harbor at Bethpage State Park the same day of this year's race and encountered numerous relay runners who were coming through at that time. It reminded me that my experience running with a relay team in happened almost a year ago. It was the Cape Cod Marathon Relay in Falmouth, MA and our intrepid team of four (actually three as one member had contracted H1N1 virus) covered the 26.2 mile course. It was the longest distance I'd ever run in a day, 9 miles, with AG leading the charge by running 11 miles straight through. It was a great weekend and a very fun experience and I hope to participate in another relay of that type someday. I'm considering fielding a team for next year's Ocean to Sound race. It might be a great training exercise for the 2011 Cow Harbor race that's run the following weekend.

In the spirit of running two races on consecutive weekends, Dave and I are looking to run a 10K in Babylon on November 14 (Run for the Warriors) and then race in the Turkey Trot in Long Beach the following Sunday. It's really great to have a race on the calendar because it gives you something to train for. I love the whole race experience, the nervous energy before the start, the race itself and the great feeling of completeing another test of one's capabilities at the finish. I don't always like how I've performed but I've never finished a race and felt my time would have been better spent doing anything else. I'm planning another midday run in Central Park today. I'm hoping that the weather holds and that the rain that's been predicted doesn't show up at noon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inspiration from the Cross Country Kid

Today's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles at 9:15

I had every excuse not to run this morning but somehow I managed to get it done. I'd gone to bed late, didn't sleep well and had trouble getting moving when I woke up. I really considered resting, knowing that taking two days off in a row would yield some benefits. I'd covered about 13 trail miles over the weekend and didn't feel compelled to run just for the mileage. I then thought about my daughter who on Monday, despite the cold and rainy weather, ran in her first cross country meet. She did great and covered that 1.5 mile course faster than her usual pace. Her team has another meet on Thursday and on top of the rigorous schedule of classes, assignments and tests that make up a middle-schooler's daily activities, I thought "If she can do that, I can do this."

I quickly dressed and headed outside, only to see the rain coming down, lightly but steadily. I returned to the guest room and fired up the treadmill. It's been months since I've used this machine (May 19, actually), though my wife runs on it daily. I had a problem with a slipping belt the last time I used the treadmill and I was a little gun-shy about getting on it today. The Sole technician has serviced the machine since then and after a few minutes running at speed I was happy to pronounce it stable. I've often complained about the tedium of treadmill running and nothing has changed to make me feel differently. I got started with a moderate pace and steadily increased my speed until I was running a little under 9 minutes per mile near the end. There's something about the moving tread that semi-terrifies me and a 9 minute treadmill pace sometimes feels closer to an 8 minute street pace. I know people who say they can run faster on the treadmill. Not me, give me the road or the trail for that.

Tomorrow JQ and I will return to the park for our weekly lunchtime excursion. I'm looking forward to that and I hope that the weather will have cleared by then. I'm taking a stress test on Friday because it's been a few years since I'd done that. Although part of the testing involves a treadmill, I'll be pleased to do it this time. Things have changed a lot since the last time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reflections on my first race

My daughter has her first cross country meet today. She's a bit apprehensive about it. I understand that completely, recalling how I was both excited and nervous about my first race. It was the Marcie Mazzola Memorial, a 4 miler held on April 19, 2009. Although I had read a lot about racing prior to the event I didn't know how things would look or feel when I was a participant. How soon before the start does one line up? Is the front of the line reserved for the fastest runners? Do you talk to other racers while waiting for the gun? What if I finish last?

I remember being confounded by the water station. How do you drink water while you're running? Should I even take water for a short race that's happening on a cool spring morning? I was confused by the others on the road with me, some flying by and others well off to the side, practically walking. I do remember thinking, "Should I be passing people so early in the race?"

By the time I'd reached the other side of Main Street I had figured out most of my questions. The large hill that one encounters soon after the start of this race had taken a lot out of me and I was concerned that I'd have enough energy for a big finish. Even though I came upon another hill at the end I managed to push hard enough to finish with a decent time. I had my first experience crossing the line and seeing my family cheering at the side. I must have liked that because I've run ten more races since then. My daughter will experience the same anxiety that I did, followed by the exhilaration that comes from finishing a race. I said to her the same thing I've said to many others, "You only have one first race. Pay attention to every detail."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kinvaras perform on the trail

Today's run (Belmont Lake): 6.7 miles at 9:46

Belmont Lake out n' back
It has been an all-trail running weekend. Yesterday I ran at Stillwell Woods in the morning and returned with the family in the afternoon for a little kite flying and some low key trail runs. This morning I went to Belmont Lake, home of the Dirty Sock 10K race, for the pleasure of running its well groomed trails in the cool high 50's weather.

I wanted to cover some distance today but I just couldn't face another run through the surrounding neighborhoods. I decided to return to Babylon to run the out and back course that includes a trip around Belmont Lake and also follows the south end of a large pond. My intention was to run the Dirty Sock course but to start at the trail head instead of going 100 yards further into the woods where the race begins. I've run this course half a dozen times and I'm now familiar with many of its features. I still get a little disoriented when the trail splits but I managed to stay on course for most of my run. I wore my Kinvaras because I was curious to see how they performed on a non-paved surface. Adventure Girl ran a tough 13.1 mile trail race in her Kinvaras and spoke highly of their performance so I thought, "What the heck." Today's course is mostly dirt with gravel, sand and a small amount of paved road. I knew by the time I crossed under the Rt. 27 overpass that the Kinvaras would provide enough support for this course and I reached the lake with no issues of traction or stability.

There were a lot of dog walkers, a few runners and some cyclists along my path. When I reached the lake I heard music and saw tents and booths being erected for a fair that was associated with walk-a-thon that was also going on. As I circled the lake I was tortured by the extremely loud music coming from the fair. What made it worse was that the song they were playing. "Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel, is one of my top five most hated songs, ever. I actually felt relieved when I heard the next song starting. Soon enough I was on my way south, past the lake, and back onto the path I'd followed earlier. I felt great although did I begin to tire a little around mile 4. I soon perked up and made sure I stayed on the Dirty Sock return route, especially when my path would split. Along the way I cut farther east to make sure I didn't miss the perpendicular left that takes runners along the southern end of the pond. It was here where I thought I'd gone off course because I didn't recognize the right that takes Dirty Sock racers on the path to the finish line. I ended up retracing my route along the pond and rejoining the original trail, finishing where I started, after covering 6.7 miles of trails.

I've always enjoyed running this course although the two times that I ran the Dirty Sock race I was overwhelmed by the heat, humidity and a dearth of electrolytes. When not bombing down the path at speed for almost an hour it's a really relaxing experience. It's also a great place to run with a buddy. I'm pleased with my distance running this weekend and thrilled to have had two days of great local trail running. Now I won't feel so bad about returning to the neighborhood next week.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cool running at Stillwell Woods

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 1 hour (approx. 6.2 miles)

After all the rain and humidity that we experienced last week, this morning's temperatures had finally dropped into the low 60's. I headed out to Stillwell Woods for the first time in almost a month with a plan to run for an hour. An article in the current issue of Runner's World made the point that trail running is more about the time you run than your actual distance and pace. With all the different conditions that a runner can encounter over a period of an hour -- like stepping around or over obstructions or getting up a steep rise covered with scree or sand -- the range of speed can be broad. I just wanted to run in the woods and enjoy the cool air while getting some distance in.

There were many mountain bikers getting ready to head to the trails as I started out and not long after I made my way to the primary trail I was overtaken by two bikers who came up fast. At least they had the courtesy of warning me that they were approaching. Most mountain bikers will do that. The ones that don't seem to be the reckless type, making the it even more dangerous because you're not expecting them and they don't seem to anticipate anything that may be in their path. I encountered a few downed branches along my travels and ran into some prickly plants and hanging vines. You take the bad with the good, especially when it's all good.

I saw lots of animals, most notably a rabbit the size of raccoon that was planted in the middle of the trail. It hopped away heavily when I got close and I thought it was a sitting target for any predator that may lurk within the woods. I took a rarely used trail off my last loop and wondered where it would take me. It started as a fairly established single track but as I went on the dirt gave way to low grass and it became hard to distinguish between the trail and the woods. This trail terminated at a fence so I quickly turned and headed back to the trail that fed it. I covered about 6 miles according to the Garmin. I'm not sure  of the distance because I had my HH Trail Lizards that are not currently matched with the Garmin foot pod. It could have totaled 6.3 miles or even 5.9. I don't really care either way, today was about the experience, and not the metrics, of the run.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Torrential rains are just fine AFTER I run

Today's run (street): 2.45 miles at 9:07

My wait at the train station, all eight minutes of it, began with a little rain and a moderate breeze. By the time the train came the winds had picked up measurably and the light rain turned into a downpour. Or should I say "sidepour" with the wind coming in horizontally. This resulted in half my clothes getting soaked while the other half remained dry. It was far different from when I went out this morning to run. Last night I'd set my expectations low for an outdoor morning workout and thought positively about how I might play with the elevations on the treadmill and also see how my Kinvaras performed indoors. In truth I despise treadmill running and secretly hoped for a weather miracle that would keep the rain away from western Long Island.

I heard no rain against the skylight when I got up and decided that it was worth trying an outside run. The winds coming in from the south were strong but there was nothing coming down. I set a route that would keep me fairly close to home in the event that the skies opened up in the middle of my run. The air was very humid so the winds provided a nice respite when they did hit. And they hit hard. I came around one corner into a headwind that nearly carried off my hat and headlamp. I managed to grab them in time but I soon took them off and carried them after another big wind swept through. Knowing that I might need to cut the run short if it rained I pushed the speed a little and tried to stay in the high 8 minute range as much as I could. I didn't break 9:00 but I liked that I was close. I was fortunate that the rain held off, allowing me to complete a decent weekday morning run.

The predictions of weekend temperatures in the low '60's have changed to 70's and that will be fine with me if the air dries out. Going out early will also mean that I'm running during the coolest part of the day. I'm still thinking long run or trail run for Saturday. My daughter wants to run as well so I may go out twice that day. It will be interesting to see how well I do keeping up with the Cross Country Kid.
 

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