Running quote of the week

“I finished Boston last year with my hands over my eyes wiping away the tears. The people lift you up the entire race.”– Sam Ryan

Monday, January 31, 2011

Coming to terms with the treadmill

With another storm coming tomorrow I'm resigned to doing this week's training runs indoors. This winter's snow has put me on the treadmill much more frequently than ever before. I've become more comfortable running on it but I still dislike the experience. My small toes were sore from friction burns after yesterday's run, a rare experience with my Brooks Adrenaline's. As a result I'm giving my feet a break today. I had considered an elliptical session this morning (my usual rest day) to front load my taper since I'll likely be resting Thursday and Friday ahead of Saturday's race. However, I didn't think a workout today would make much of a difference and I wanted to avoid exacerbating my foot problem.

I'm pleased with this weekend's running, 9 miles, all on the the treadmill. Some may find treadmill running easier than outdoor running but I find it hard. When I'm running at 6.5 mph (9:13 pace) it feels harder than when I run 8:45 outdoors. I no longer try to match my outdoor paces indoors, instead I start at a comfortable pace and after 10 minutes I'll increase my speed every few minutes. I usually end up running the last few minutes between 7.1-7.4 mph and that brings my overall run pace into the high-normal range. I'll run tomorrow and Wednesday morning and either rest or do a light elliptical session on Thursday. Friday will definitely be a rest day. Saturday's race should be a chilly one and today's weather report said there may also be some snow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Forget the "shots", I'm happy with my GU

Today's run (treadmill): 5 miles

Such a deal
Somewhat related to Friday's entry, I saw an article this morning on nypost.com that reported that those ubiquitous energy "shots" that you often see on store counters near the register are "nothing more than slightly caffeinated, sour-tasting water."  It surprises me that so many people would pay $4 for 2 oz. of a product that has no FDA approval and (in some cases) doesn't list its active ingredients. It never fails to amaze me how people spend their money and use "herbal" medicines that lack clinically-proved efficacy or safety testing. My experience with Max Muscle Barracuda energy drink that came in a goody bag at one of my races was enough to dissuade me from trying any more products of that type.

I do believe in gels because I know what's in them and why they work. I had a GU "Expresso Love" packet 20 minutes before I started today's treadmill run. The extra caffeine would be a good boost for my planned 50+ minute workout. I started well and held an easy pace. This would be the first run of any distance since last weekend. The best effect of a gel is the way it helps me power through the first few minutes of a run while I transition to aerobic breathing. Before I knew it I had covered a mile and the effort to that point was low.

Five minutes later the treadmill abruptly shut down because I'd inadvertently hit the stop button. I managed to resume my run in less than 30 seconds and I upped my speed for good measure. By the time I reached three miles I'd started weakening due to the heat of the room and the small toe on my left foot was beginning to hurt from the friction of running. I decided that I'd cap my run at 5 miles so I increased the belt speed once more and powered through the next two miles before stopping the Garmin and reducing my speed to a walking pace so I could cool down and lower my heart rate.

This may be the longest run I'll do prior to my 4 mile race next Saturday. The snow has disrupted my access to the roads and trails and, with only the treadmill and elliptical as options, I haven't trained the way I usually do for a race. I'm hoping my conditioning and the short distance will help me get through the Snowflake Run. It will be fun to race for the first time since Thanksgiving week. Hard to know how I'll perform, but no matter what, I'll be glad to be running on something besides the treadmill.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Earmuffs make awful headphones on the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 4 miles

Hot tunes
I got an early start on my workout this morning due to the day's agenda. With the narrower roads and obstructed views of traffic in the neighborhood (all due to the huge snow banks) I thought it best to run indoors. Knowing that this would be a longer treadmill run than my usual weekday morning workout, I took my iPhone and some ear buds to keep me company. I'm not a fan of running with music for outdoor runs because the ambient noise on the trail or street is a far better sound track. That, along with safety concerns, prevents me from doing it. Indoors is a different story and I thought it might be a way to distract me from the tedium of the treadmill experience.

I can't wear Apple's white ear buds because they don't fit my ears so I jury-rigged headphones using a pair of 180's earmuffs. I loaded Pandora, started my music and then started my run. That worked well for about 20 minutes but the heat of the guest room plus the additional warmth from the earmuffs made it untenable. I removed my "headphones" and played the iPhone using its external speakers but between the sound of the treadmill, the fan and the music I found it too distracting. I spent the balance of my run without music and by the fourth mile I was really ready to stop. Treadmill runs are hard for me and I'd played with elevation and speed which made the challenge even greater.

I'm not confident that today's above freezing temperatures will melt enough snow to make it safe for a street run on Sunday so it's back to the treadmill for me tomorrow. I picked up a set of behind-the-ear headphones today so I'll give them a try if an indoor run is my only option.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Omega man


Fish power
 Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I was corresponding with my aunt who lives in France and she mentioned a homeopathic supplement called arnica that the local runners use. I think arnica is used primarily as an anti-inflammatory rather than for performance. In the January issue of TrailRunner magazine, columnist and ultrarunner Bernie Boettcher writes about how some supplements are merely everyday things that are packaged to appear extraordinary. His example is coffee. Bottling coffee and selling it under another name at a higher price might yield to some profitable sales. It's legit -- coffee and caffeine are proven to enhance performance, so people would be getting what they pay for. They'd just be paying more than necessary. I know that caffeine works but I don't know of too many other legal performance enhancers that do.

I've started taking fish oil on a regular basis, not for performance reasons but because Omega-3's supplied this way seem to be universally recommended by health care professionals. I've noticed that Scott Jurak endorses Udo's Oil, an Omega supplement that supposedly enhances stamina. With that in mind I've noticed that my own stamina seems to have improved since I've begun taking fish oil daily. It could be coincidence, the placebo effect or a boost that comes with a good change in diet. I've experienced performance improvements in the past that come from changing my routine or gear (my pace on my first few runs in the Kinvaras was noticeably faster than with my GTS 10's) but things tend to reset soon afterward.

This week I've run on the treadmill a few times and today I used the elliptical. In each case I performed better than usual. Not measurably better, but enough to notice a difference. It could be a lot of things but I'm hoping it's the fish oil. Since I'm taking it anyway, why not enjoy the benefit?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Does this count as a 60 minute upper body workout?


14" added to the base. Hey, I can finally dunk a basketball!
 I woke up to 14" of new snow and a pile of icy chunks 3' high, 4' deep and 20' wide at the end of the driveway (courtesy of the town plows). My wife and I got out early and spent an hour digging out as much as we could. Even after that point it seemed that we'd barely made a dent. I am happy to shovel for hours but I wanted to wrap up before my neighbor came out with his snow blower that spews a toxic mixture of gas and oil. A couple of roving shovelers happened by and my wife and I decided to hire them to get through the rest. It turned out to be a good investment. The Long Island Railroad canceled many trains and suspended service a few times so I elected to work from home today.

I'm not sure this morning's shoveling constituted a workout but I did work up enough of a sweat that I shed my jacket to help me cool down. I'm thinking about doing an elliptical workout at lunchtime if my schedule works. The irony of working from home is that I often over-schedule calls and I end up with less time than I do when I'm actually in the office. I love the snow but the frequency and volume we've received this year has forced me to run indoors a lot more than I'd like. Worse, I haven't been able run the trails since December and I miss that a lot. I wish I had invested in snow shoes before the winter season. While I'm thinking about it, it would also be nice to have an efficient, environmentally correct snow blower.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happily, not all treadmill runs are the same

Today's run (treadmill): 2.41 miles

Despite the inherent lack of variables of the process, not all treadmill runs are the same. Yesterday's run was very different from today's. For one thing, I wore my Brooks Adrenaline's instead of the Karhu's and realized how much the right shoes matter when running on the treadmill. Second, I had no issues with fatigue this morning and I jumped into a faster pace from the beginning. The biggest difference between today and yesterday is that today I felt like I was running. Not running in the treadmill sense, where your are physically and mentally constrained within an area no wider than a 22" tread and no longer than the safety cord allows. I was able to focus on my form and actually pictured the streets in my neighborhood as I ran along. If nothing else, it helped pass the time. For me, anything that speeds me through a treadmill run is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back on the Karhu Fast 2's

Karhu Fast 2 -- I wish they ran as good as they look
Today's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles

I didn't want to deal with dark and icy roads this morning so last night I set up my gear for a treadmill workout. As much as I prefer running outdoors I do appreciate the time that I save in the morning by staying inside. I would usually choose my Saucony Kinvaras for the treadmill but the soles were caked with grime -- a combination of road salt, sand and mud. I wore the Kinvaras on Saturday after the snow plows and the residue from the street made them unsuitable for the tread belt. I decided to give the Karhu Fast 2's another chance. I was curious to see if I liked them any better after a few week's layoff.

I was tired this morning and needed my alarm to wake me up. I knew from my energy level that today would be a maintenance run and nothing more. I started slower that usual, around 6 mph, and gradually built my speed to 7 (an 8:34 pace). The Karhu's did fine but they just don't feel ideal for my stride. It may just be the height of the mid sole. Its "fulcrum" feature also may not well with my mid foot landing style. That didn't mean the shoes failed to perform, in fact they took everything I threw at them. It was really about the feel compared to my Kinvaras and GTS-10's that move more naturally with my foot. I had a decent run this morning and I managed through the treadmill experience despite the combination of boredom and terror that comes with that. I may treat myself to the elliptical tomorrow depending on the weather.

Monday, January 24, 2011

5 degree weather is cramping my style

It's extraordinarily cold today. The display in my car showed 27 degrees in my garage and by the time I reached the train station, seven minutes later, it said 5. I usually rest on Mondays so I didn't have to suffer through a treadmill session this morning. My threshold for morning runs is about 14 degrees. After that it's the treadmill or elliptical machine.

It's been a tough winter for running. We've already had more snow in December and January than what we usually average for the entire season. I like snow but it reduces my choices for running venues. I won't be running any wooded trails for a while and I'm sure that the Bethpage bike trail is snowy and icy right now. My choices are either indoor running or around my local neighborhood. Make that a subset of local streets because the snow and ice has limited access to some key cross points. More snow is coming this week which will exacerbate the problem but at least the temperatures should rise. It looks like I may be doing much of my race training indoors unless we see a big thaw soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A difficult run on a cold winter's day

H/H Trail Lizards -- great on snow - not so much on the road

Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

My streak of energizing, feel-good runs was broken today with a 3.8 mile run that felt much longer. I was surprised to hit the wall so hard on this relatively short run. Learning from yesterday's experience, I wore my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards because there is still much snow and ice (and ice covered snow) on the roads. Things started out well, I moved right along, hardly slowing down for the snowy-icy patches. The Helly's provided great grip and stability over these areas for the most part though there were some spots that I preferred to dodge rather than run straight though.

My first hint of trouble happened on my first turn into the westerly winds that made the 18 degree temperatures feel much colder. I really wished at that moment that I'd worn my balaclava. On top of the force of the wind, the touch of my glasses against my face grew increasingly uncomfortable. Once I turned another corner that problem fell away and I felt like the worst was over since my body was warmed up, making straight-on winds less of an issue from that point. That much was true and I progressed well but I started to get tired as I neared the 25 minute mark. It may have been the cold or the fact that the Helly's don't run very well on pavement but I began to experience signs of bonking.

My level of effort (using the Daily Mile 1-5 scale) moved quickly from two to three to almost four in a period of five minutes and I decided to re-point my route back towards my home. Despite this difficulty I forced myself to maintain a reasonably fast cadence and came in with a respectable mid-9 overall pace. The runs today and yesterday were not typical street runs as the snow, ice and slush made them more trail-like. Perhaps it was the harder work coming from running the Trail Lizards on the road instead of the trail where they shine. It doesn't matter why, only that today's run was tough and hopefully the next one will be better. Even as I slogged through the difficult last mile I thought to myself how much I loved this crazy sport.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Garmin foot pod calibration - one of life's mysteries

Today's run (street): 5 miles

The action of calibrating my Garmin's foot pod is hit or miss. The best way to do it is when you run an exact distance and it calibrates automatically. Another method is to adjust the foot pod based upon a known factor, such as the percentage between what was recorded and what you actually ran. The third way is the worst way and of course it's the one I usually follow because it's also the the easiest. In this case, when I'm consistently over or under recording my distance (compared with Gmaps) I manually compensate by arbitrarily increasing the the index until I get close. Sometimes this works great and the foot pod will report accurately for many runs. Since I often switch the foot pod between pairs of shoes it's usually off by some factor anyway and that's why I Gmap my runs.

Easier said than done
This morning I adjusted the foot pod thinking that a .05% decrease would compensate for over recording would get me to the 1/100ths of a mile accuracy that I often observe. When I went out this morning on the freshly plowed streets I was moving well. Except for on the spots that were still covered with packed snow my pace was fast and my stride was good. I often follow the same exact route for the first mile to gauge whether the Garmin is ahead or behind my real distance. I must have been confused today because I came through the first mile thinking that the foot pod was under recording, when in fact it was probably off by 3% the other way. I'm still fuzzy about when it chirped and where I was when that happened but when I finished my run the recorded distance was .23 miles greater than what I mapped using Gmaps.

I find it hard to believe my calibration was that far off and I have a different theory. Much of the roads were covered with a combination of slush and snow and my form differed greatly when I ran on those sections versus the open pavement.  It's possible that this difference in stride, cadence and lift may have thrown off the foot pod. I won't ever really know but I'm planning to reset the foot pod to 100% index value and start again. If I thought that a GPS watch would be more accurate I'd probably buy the Garmin 210. Most of the time I'd be better off just running with a stop watch and calculating pace later, after I'd Gmapped the route. The only problem with that is when I run the trails or on the treadmill and the foot pod also provides excellent data that I value, including split times and cadence. I guess I'll just keep calibrating and hoping for the best.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A tropical change of pace

Sunset over the Gulf coast

Yesterday's run (southern FL): 4.1 miles

I've been at a conference for most of this week and due to travel and meetings I didn't get a chance to run on Wednesday. Thursday morning I met up with my friend CK for a run before the conference activities started. I was giving a talk in the afternoon and knew that this would probably be the only time that I could fit a workout into this trip. CK and I headed out from the hotel tracking south along a straight, palm tree-lined road. It was fairly early when we left and there was little traffic. The sun seems to rise later in southern Florida and the light at 7:00 AM was still at low intensity. Florida gets hot, even in January, but it was a cool 58 degrees with very little humidity when we started.

Compared with my recent paces, CK and I moved along at a moderately fast clip and I was pleased that I could hold up my end of the conversation even as we pushed against my comfort zone. We continued south for two miles then turned around for the return. On the way back we threw in some minute long tempos and before we knew it the resort was back in our sight. We ended up averaging 8:55 per mile for the run and it really seemed effortless.

The conference went well  and despite the 5" of snow that fell in New York this morning I was able to return home pretty much on schedule. I've only run about 6 miles this week so I'm hoping to make up for that this weekend. With all this fresh snow it looks like I'll be once again confined to neighborhood running on Saturday.  My next race is coming up in few weeks so I'll need to focus on training for that. Running with a high performer like CK showed me that I'm in good shape but I still need to step it up to be as competitive as I'd like to be. I want to achieve a new PR for 4 miles and this race takes place at the same location as my 10K PR so prospects are good. Performance will be my focus for now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heading to warmer climes

I'm sure I'll find someplace to run here
Tomorrow morning I'm heading down to Florida to give a talk at a conference. The weather in NYC is miserable and it looks like that may continue into Wednesday so I'm hoping I don't encounter too many travel delays. According to my colleague KWL who arrived there today, the conference resort has some great places for running. My friend CK will also be down there and we have plans to get together for a run. My schedule is so tight that I'm not sure when I can fit that in but I expect that we'll figure it out. The weather where I'm staying is mild, ranging between 60-78 degrees so I'm packing light. No long sleeve running shirts or cold weather compression gear. I'm not a fan of business travel but the chance to run someplace near the water gives me at least one reason to like it. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Running Goals


Here it is, January 17th, and though I've already identified my business goals I still haven't published this year's running goals.  The following items represent my hopes for this year:

1. Run a half marathon
This challenge would have seemed completely out of reach when I restarted running in 2008 but now it feels like a logical and viable step. I don't have a half marathon identified but I'm likely to run the one during the RXR LI Festival of Races because the timing works and it's conveniently located.

2. Score settling
Run my best times ever on the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K's. Beat my time in the New Hyde Park 8K (44:42 two years in a row!).

3. Running tourism
Run outside of Long Island at least six times. Bonus for competing in a race outside of LI. 

4. Hit those trails
Add Caleb Smith, Sunken Meadow and one more state park to my trail running experience.

5. Performance
Run 1 mile under 7:50/mile or 2 miles under 8:00/mile.

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Today's run (street): 5.3 miles

Today is Martin Luther King Day that caps off a very nice long weekend of running. I was again constrained to my neighborhood so I tried to minimize the boredom by changing my route a little. My plan was to run an out-and-back course where I'd go for 25 minutes and then turn around and follow the route back home. Once again I had good energy and was cruising along when I felt a slight pain in my knee at almost the same moment that I was thinking how I never get knee pain. The pain increased and I worried something happened. I was starting to hobble and realized that I was at least two miles from home.

Since I'd done nothing to cause this sudden problem (except to think about knee pain!) I decided that it was likely that it would disappear just as quickly as it came. Every once in while I'll feel a sharp pain in my ankle when I walk and I just work it out with a few steps. This knee pain seemed to be the same sort of thing and after slowing down a little, the pain passed and didn't return.

Once the phantom injury was over I re-focused on my route but had gone a little off my planned course that made the out-and-back distances asymmetrical. I ended up adding some extra loops to ensure I surpassed 5 miles and I ended up with another third of a mile as a bonus. I'm hoping to get a chance to run while I'm traveling this week but my schedule is tight. I did cover almost 15 miles over the long weekend and I like the way I'm running right now. Maybe I'll have a chance to return to the trails next weekend. Hope so.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Good run on some roads less traveled

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

After getting out for my run somewhat later than planned on Saturday, I focused on an early start this morning. The local and NYC news stations finally agreed on the temperature -- about 30 degrees -- and I went out expecting conditions to be noticeably warmer than yesterday. I dressed a little lighter but today actually felt a little colder. No matter, except for my hands that took 20 minutes to feel warm, (I wore running gloves instead of my ASICS glove/mittens) I was comfortable for the duration of my run.

I ran 25 seconds per mile faster than yesterday and this was because I focused on speed in certain segments. I've read that running a little faster than your normal, comfortable pace sometimes yields a more energetic response and actually enhances stamina overall. I think there's truth to that and I've noticed that running briskly on the treadmill and then dropping speed by 15-20% does not make my running any easier and it sometimes makes it seem harder.

I mixed up my route today, running streets that I normally avoid because they don't easily integrate into one of my standard loops. It was a nice change and the flow of the run was excellent. I ran the last mile faster than the first three and finished strong, averaging close to 9:10/mile overall. Two good runs in the chilly air have made this a great running weekend.

Finally, I heard from my running buddy Brian who told me about a friend (and Emerging Runner fan) who ran Cow Harbor while she was pregnant! That was the toughest race I've ever run and I can't imagine running it under those conditions. I'm sure that baby will be running Cow Harbor some day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Running cold and hot

Today's run (street): 5.2 miles

How cold is cold? 30 degrees? 20? How about 13? That was the temperature that News 12 Long Island had at the bottom of the screen while I dressed for my run this morning. A switch over to channel 4 in NYC showed a significant difference: 28 degrees. I wasn't sure what to believe. I geared up for sub-20 degree weather wearing half compression shorts under compression pants, calf sleeves and four top layers. I wore my warmest fleece hat and my ASICS glove/mittens and thick acrylic socks with my Kinvaras. It felt cold when I stepped outside but not really too uncomfortable. Cold minus wind is usually tenable until you get to the single digits.

I started the run by focusing on a shorter stride that allowed me to maintain a cadence in the high 80's. This did not translate into any great speed but it got me warmed up quickly. About 30 minutes prior to my run I had a Cliff Gel that contained 25mg of caffeine. I have found that consuming a gel 30-45 minutes before a run makes the first mile a little easier. Once I hit my stride (pun intended) I decided to extend my planned route because I was really enjoying the run. I criss-crossed the neighborhood and as I got nearer to the end I was fairly warm. I wished at that point that I'd only worn three top layers. By my last mile I was pleased to note that I had enough energy to maintain a brisk pace. I still feel that my base is not as solid as it was in November when I could manage over 8 miles without a thought. I can do the mileage but my performance tends to degrade around the 6 mile mark.

I have a race coming up in three weeks and though it's only 4 miles I want it to be four fast miles. I have tomorrow and the Monday holiday to get in some distance runs and it would be great to run some trails. This week's snow will prevent that but I'm hoping to get to that soon. It was a good running start for the long weekend. I'm not really sure how cold it was on today's run but I wouldn't mind duplicate conditions tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A compelling reason to run on the treadmill

Frigid temperatures on Long Island this morning
Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

The news stations were reporting 18 degrees in NYC with colder temperatures in the suburbs this morning. The widget on my iPhone shows 14 degrees where I live. If not for the still icy roads, I would have liked to run outside today because I find really cold temperatures energizing.  But 14 degrees is not my idea of a good running experience.

Instead of the street, I ran on the treadmill this morning. I wore my Kinvaras that were a nice change from the Brooks GTS 10s that I've been using outdoors because they do a better job of keeping my feet warm. At this point I'm really convinced that a minimal running shoe is the key to better form. Of course with the chilly winter weather more substantial shoes have a certain appeal. I didn't run too intensely this morning but I brought up my speed after my first mile and bumped up the pace every few minutes from there.

My judgement of treadmill runs follows a different scale than outdoor runs. My starting point when running outside is generally positive and if the run is good things are even more positive. My starting point on the treadmill is the opposite and the best thing I can say about a treadmill workout is that it didn't suck. Today's run didn't suck, so yay! I'm really hoping to get some outdoor running in this weekend. Next week is supposed to be warmer but with rain and even some snow. I'm traveling to a warmer climate mid week so I may get to run outdoors in shorts. That would be a welcome change.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anticipating my return to the road

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Despite all the snow shoveling from yesterday's storm I felt remarkably free of any aches or pains this morning. I decided to use the elliptical machine today instead of the treadmill and I'm happy that I did. The elliptical provides a decent workout and with impact to the knees and hips it's nice alternative to a run. Plus it's quiet and human powered so I can zone out and not fear that the machine will punish my lack of focus the way the treadmill might.

It's cold this morning and that will continue through tomorrow. I'm resigned to a treadmill workout in Friday and though I don't really like the experience I like the convenience of starting my run so quickly after I get up. Unlike outdoor running that requires lots of layers, reflective vest, headlamp, etc., I throw on shorts, shoes and a shirt and I'm running. I'm hoping to catch a break on the weekend that will allow me to safely run outdoors on Saturday. The cold dry air, snow covered lawns and early winter sunrise make for a satisfying experience. Can't wait to get back outdoors.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2.75 tons of workout fun

It seems much heavier once you do the math
Today's workout (Shoveling): 2.75 tons

I didn't do a formal workout today but worked hard to clear the snow from my driveway no less than three times.  I decided to estimate the amount of snow I moved off the driveway and street, basing my calculation on the dimensions of my driveway, the height of the snow and the weight of water: 7.48 gallons per cubic foot. Compensating for the snow moved by my wife and factoring in the heavier density snow piled high at the end by the snowplows (three times!) I came up with the above number. As impressive as it sounds, most of my technique involves pushing rather than lifting snow and I barely work up a sweat even after 90 minutes. But work is work and we did work.

Speaking of work I ended up staying home and working out of my guest/exercise room/home office using all the tools available to the 2011 business person including laptop, iPad, iPhone, VPN, IM and Webex. It was a very productive day and I thought I might work in a treadmill run or an elliptical session but I found myself without the time to do it. The town did a good job of clearing the streets but they are still too snowy and icy for an early morning run on Thursday. I'm planning to use the elliptical in the morning unless I feel more like running. In that case it's back to the treadmill and hopefully no more shoveling.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Last outside run before the blizzard

Today's run (street): 2.6 miles

Snow is coming. We're not sure how much we'll get but estimates for my area are in the 8"-12" range. I like snow but I don't like the commuting problems that come along with major storms. My other issue is that snowstorms make the roads and trails impassible and that forces me to run indoors. On the bright side, I can look out the window and watch the snowy scene as I run on the treadmill.

Knowing that tomorrow's run will likely be indoors, I made sure I got outside this morning. At 3:50 AM the temperatures are usually at their lowest point of the day and I'm often tempted to overdress to prevent the initial shock of transitioning from 68 degrees in the house to 20 degrees outside. I got it right this morning and went out feeling cold, but comfortable, starting slower than normal but picking up the pace by the minute. Unlike Sunday I remembered to start the Garmin and had even adjusted the calibration on the foot pod before my run. After reaching what I was sure was a mile I glanced at the watch that only showed .91 miles and that surprised me. I later mapped my route on Gmaps to see that even after the calibration adjustment I had covered 5% more distance than the Garmin recorded. I was actually happy to see that because it meant my overall pace was in line with the way I felt while running.

Today's run actually felt very good. I had none of the leg heaviness or low energy response that plagued me on Saturday and at the beginning on my run on Sunday. I'm holding out hope that the snow will wait just long enough to let me get out for another run tomorrow morning. The chance of that happening is low but you never know.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Running off the grid

Yesterday's run (street): 4.6 miles

It was a surprisingly busy weekend, especially on Sunday. I didn't have time to post but I was able to work in a morning run. After Saturday's unusually tough four miles I'd hoped Sunday's would be better. It's been cold since the turn of the year and yesterday morning the temperatures were in the mid 20's with wind chills making it feel like the teens. I've learned that until the temperature approaches 10 degrees that smart layering will hold off the cold long enough to to keep things tolerable until my body warms up from the run.

I thought yesterday's run would be a repeat of Saturday's. My legs felt a bit stiff over the first mile and I anticipated that things would go from bad to worse. With nothing to lose, I decided to pick up the pace to see if it would make a difference. That actually helped a lot and my stride began to feel more natural. I took a different route than normal so after running a while without hearing the chirp of my Garmin I looked at the watch to see that I'd never turned on the foot pod. I fortunately remembered my start time and paid attention to my finish time and after Gmapping the route I figured out my approximate pace. In the past I would have been upset to have run without capturing the metrics on the Garmin but once I realized I was untethered I actually felt very free during the run.

Neither run this weekend was very long but at least yesterday's turned out satisfying. With more snow on the way I'm thinking that I'll probably be constrained to the treadmill and elliptical this week.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tough going on snowy roads

Today's run (street): 4.1 miles

With all the attention that I've been giving to running a half marathon you'd think I'd been working hard to build up my base mileage. Between August and November I was doing a good job of mixing distance runs into my weekly training schedule and I credit that work to achieving consecutive PR's on my last two 10K's. I had a few high mileage weeks between Thanksgiving and early December but since my 10.2 mile run at Bethpage on 12/11 I've only done one run that exceeded 6 miles. I can blame that (somewhat) on feeling under the weather mid December after my flu shot and then dealing with actual weather obstacles (snow) between Christmas and New Year. The snow prevented easy access to higher distance locations like Bethpage and Stillwell on the weekends.

I went out this morning with the intention of covering 3-5 miles. After yesterdays snowfall the streets are fairly clear for cars but it's still somewhat icy for foot traffic. I figured I could run safely without a sidewalk escape path if I was extra vigilant and I had no issues with the local traffic today. It was 25 degrees outside when I started my run and I dressed appropriately. I took the first mile slow, partially because I didn't feel that energetic and partially due to the icy, snowy layer underfoot. I think that the constant but slight adjustments for balance tired me out quicker than I'd expected. I found a pace that I could sustain without too much trouble and after winding through a number of streets I reached my house after covering 4.1 miles.

It was one of the toughest 4 mile runs I can recall, far more taxing than some I've done at twice the distance. I hope the temperature rises above the freezing mark and melts the ice enough to make tomorrow's run a little more stable. Of course we're hearing about more snow tonight so I may end up working out indoors on Sunday. I'm really hoping that won't be the case.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A snowy day and a Snowflake Race

Snowy dusting of the holiday display outside my window
Today's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles

Last year I got off to a late start for racing but still managed to get in eight races between March and November. Since I'm (thankfully) not forced into a running moratorium like last year, I'm targeting my first race of 2011 for February. It's a 4 mile run in Long Beach, the same location where I ran the 10K Turkey Trot in November. This event, dubbed the "Snowflake Race", is shorter than that but, like the 10K, part of the race is along the boardwalk. My friend and running partner Steve is also signed up. It's his first race and I have the feeling he'll be going all out. I've only run one prior 4 mile race, the 2009 Marcie Mazzola Memorial (now a 5K), so I will have a chance for a new PR. Maybe I'll use Steve as a chase rabbit.

This morning I used the treadmill again although the streets are still clear. There were some reports that today's snow would start early so last night I decided to prepare for an indoor workout. There's never much to tell about running on the treadmill. I've already complained about my dislike for the machine (nothing personal Sole F63, I abhor all treadmills) and today was no different. The positives are that I get a great workout because it's just so hard for me to run this way and it's also a good way of practicing patience.

Unlike road or trail running, treadmills provide no visual acknowledgement of progress except for the little track diagram on the display. I've got fairly good at switching my mind to a zen/alpha state that helps me get through the bulk of these runs. Of course I still need to watch my step because a treadmill can be dangerous to those who fail to pay attention. For me, the best part of a road run is usually experienced during the run itself but the best part of a treadmill run is when I finish.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Half marathon: get with the program already

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I've been reading an article in the January issue of Runner's World that focuses on the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. This project is actually an Olympic training program created by two brothers who have partnered with Brooks running to help train runners of all types. Or as they say "Elites to mid-packers." Being a solid mid-pack finisher in most of my races I was naturally intrigued. I'm not particularly interested in most training programs and methods because they are so structured. One reason that I like running is the freedom that it provides. I like that I can make "in the moment" decisions about how I'm going to approach a run: fast, slow, long, short, with hills, trails, etc.

The reason I might consider following a structured program relates to my goal of running a half marathon this year. I've managed to self-train adequately for races up to 10K but I think I may need some further guidance when taking on over double that distance. My friend FS followed Hal Higdon's marathon training program and was pleased with the results. Higdon also has a half marathon program so I will consider that as well. What struck me about the Hansons-Brooks method was the focus on quality miles rather than pure volume. They are also strong advocates of training in groups. Since I am so constrained in terms of time for training I need to find a way to be ready on race day after having, at best, 25 mile weeks. I'm still not sure that I have the desire (and discipline) to follow a formal program. Perhaps a hybrid approach will work. Of course I still need to find a half marathon to run before I start any structured training.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The right decision was to run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

The great debate raged on this morning as I poured my coffee before heading back upstairs to change for my run. I've had trouble with my sleeping patterns this week and woke up feeling too tired to run today. But feeling tired is only one factor in my decision to take an ad hoc rest day. At 3:50 I was undecided and at 3:55 I was sure that the benefits of resting another 45 minutes were greater than the benefits of a marginal run. By 3:58 I'd decided that a run was the better choice and quickly dressed before the devil on my other shoulder talked me out of it.

As a compromise to the way I felt I began at a deliberate pace and picked it up after about a mile. It was cold this morning and even though I wore two substantial layers I still felt a chill in my upper body. My faster second half of the run helped to warm me and by the end I was sweating. My splits were almost a minute apart with my second 1.25 mile paced around 9:10. I was glad that reason (and guilt) drove me outside for today's run. I am definitely in need of better sleep but I'm feeling fine two hours later so no harm done this morning.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Saving time via the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 2.41 miles

I have a tight schedule this morning so I decided to run on the treadmill to save some prep time. Instead of putting on multiple layers, a headlamp, reflective vest, hat and other items  I geared up with just a shirt, shorts and shoes. I've been a little tired since coming back to work this week and I think it's mainly due to rising again before 4:00 AM. This has been hard after "sleeping in" until 5:30 while I was on vacation. I needed to get finished with my run before 4:30 AM today so I got up to speed quickly on the F63 and kept a moderate pace that felt challengingly brisk.

Treadmill workouts are far different than outdoor runs for me. Treadmill runs are endured while outside runs are enjoyed. I usually spend my first four or five minutes on the treadmill telling myself  "I can't do this" before I settle into the grim task of completing my planned time. It was hot and I was sweating but miraculously the timer passed 20 minutes and a ran a few more before finishing on schedule. If nothing else, today's treadmill run will make me appreciate tomorrow morning's street run all the more.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 goals scored

It's time to start thinking about the year ahead in terms of running goals. A quick review of my 2010 goals shows that I hit most but not all. Here's my take in terms of percentage achieved:

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style.
Score: 85% - Mostly successful but not complete. I do much better when I run in the Kinvaras

2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating $5 per race mile.
Score: 100% - Running donations were close to $300

3. PR in a race - preferably in a longer distance than 5K.
Score: 100% - Two 10K PR's in consecutive weeks!

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.
Score: 66% - Muttontown Preserve and Eisenhower Park. This should have been an easy one but I never got around to running at Caleb Smith as planned.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.
Score: 75% - Exceeded the distance (10.2 miles) but not the pace.

6. Participate in at least 5 races.
Score: 100% - Ran eight (7 competitively).

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.
Score: 100% - If anything I'm more engaged than when this goal was set.

I'll be posting 2011 goals soon!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Foggy puppet-footed New Year's run


Today's run (street): 5.6 miles

Perhaps I should explain the title to this post. After taking Saturday (New Year's Day) to rest, I thought I'd make my 2011 debut at Stillwell Woods. In the past I've run Stillwell after a snowstorm and discovered that much of it was runnable as long as I wore the right shoes. I planned to wear my Helly Hansons that make short work of rough surfaces and packed snow. I got up early and waited for the sun to rise before heading out. When it became light enough to see the streets I noticed a heavy fog enveloping my neighborhood. The surreal view of the roads, combined with mid-40 degree temperatures, made me change my mind about Stillwell. I decided instead to run on the local roads.

That explains the foggy in the title. The puppet footed running relates to the mid-foot style of landing that I've followed as much as possible when I run. I still have trouble consistently landing either mid or front footed and I need to think about ways to make my feet fall forward more naturally. A technique that I've adopted is what I think of as "puppet feet." Just like the way the feet of a marionette seem to  drop when the figure is "walking", I think about bringing up my knees and let my feet fall. I'll usually land mid-foot and I can do this at a fairly brisk cadence (85-88 SPM). This technique also works well for me on inclines and small hills.

I ended up running a very pleasant 5.6 miles, enjoying a different view of my neighborhood and feeling good about my first run of the new year. Tomorrow I'll return to the office and the work week routine: 4:00 AM runs, the commuter train, schedules, meetings and earlier bedtimes. My kids return to school from holiday break on Monday as well so we're dedicating the rest of today to doing some fun stuff. The first run in the new year is completed and I enjoyed it completely. Happy running to everyone in 2011!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!


Happy New Year! For no particular reason I chose not to run today. I was caught up in New Year's activities this morning that carried into the afternoon. By the time I was ready to run I'd decided to forgo my workout. I'll defer my first run of 2011 to tomorrow morning.

Ideally the paths at Stillwell will be runnable on Sunday. I've been happy for the opportunity to run outside this week a couple of times but the snow has limited me to my main neighborhood. It's wonderful to have local streets that are safe for running but following the same course does get tedious. I wish there were web cams at Stillwell and Bethpage (and Belmont Lake for that matter) that showed conditions in real time. That would save me a trip if the snow is still too deep for running. I'll probably head to Stillwell first, because it's closest, and check that out. If things don't look good I'll probably return home and have my first run of the year around the neighborhood. Either way it will be a celebration of running in good health in January. I'll never take that for granted again.
 

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