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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Elliptical ambivalence

I like you, but as a friend
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I went on the elliptical this morning for a change of pace and was once again surprised by the depth of the workout you can get from this machine. For some reason I think of the elliptical as my "easy workout", a break from the pavement pounding of my daily run. But it's really just as hard, if not harder. Running probably does focus more work toward your legs, but overall, I'm not sure that it yields a higher fitness return than the elliptical workout.

I know that when I'm finished on the elliptical machine I'll have the same elevated heart rate as I do after a run. It also generates a lot more sweat since I'm indoors and staying in one place. On the plus side, my knees, hamstrings and glutes usually feel less sore throughout the day, compared to an equivalent run. This is probably because it's a lower impact workout. Does this mean I'm going to increase my frequency on the elliptical at the expense of running? Not likely. Until I can figure out how to get the X-1 to work on the trails, I'll be staying with plan A.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Barefoot but for my shoe

Today's run (street) 2.6 miles

I was reading the blog of a runner who I follow on Twitter who is just beginning to run in the Hattori's. Like me, he prefers to run in socks but he found that running sock-less really improved his experience. I had considered doing a sock-less run in the Hattori's but I didn't in fear of abrasions and blisters. Inspired by this blog post, I put on the Hattori's this morning without socks and got ready to head out for my run.

Before I reached the door I realized that the counter of the shoe on my right foot was pressing uncomfortably against my upper heel. I quickly slapped on a bandaid and headed outside. The Hattori lacks a removable insole but the material that's there is soft and porous and contains no scratchy stitching. My feet felt okay and the fit was better than with socks. I did miss having another layer between my foot and the shoe but it wasn't a problem.

As I ran, the notion of socks became less of an issue. I ran neither better nor worse. Around the mile mark I began to notice that my foot was sweating and sticking to my foot while slipping slightly in the shoe. It was slight but it was there. By mile two I felt a hot spot on my left instep that I hoped wouldn't turn out to be a friction burn. With a short run like today's I headed off blisters but my instep, after the run, had a red mark the size of a pencil eraser.

It was a better run than yesterday's and I ran the last half mile fairly quickly. I'm glad that others have had good experience running sock-less in their Trail Gloves, Minimus, Green Silence and Hattori's. I'm sticking with socks. It's more comfortable and, with sweating, far better for the shoe.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Not so welcome back to work run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I got the prize today
No return to work would be complete without a commuting disaster and the LIRR never fails to provide one. The consequence of that was a 2.5 hour trip home last night. While I was able to find a seat on my very crowded train, the long ride aggravated some soreness in my upper thigh. Not a pleasant experience and I'm concerned about this. Running with a mid-foot stride is supposed to eliminate injuries but I still have tenderness in my right knee and now this soreness on the left.

Usually, after two days rest, I'm rewarded with an above average run. That was not the case today. Although the temperature was in the mid 70's the humidity was sky high and I felt the weight of that from beginning to end. I struggled to get any semblance of speed. Although I did better on the second half of my run, it was still a crawl. Tomorrow morning is supposed to be better so I'll chose to ignore today's mediocre experience and hope for some big improvement on Wednesday.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Zombies? Lifting? Obstacles? Isn't running hard enough?

A friend of mine is considering a race called the Civilian Military Combine which is described as the "ultimate test of your strength, endurance, and agility." According to the website, the CMC competition "is broken down into three components to test strength, endurance and agility. Race day structure will consist of “The PIT” (lifting element) into a 7 mile mountain race with 7 strategically placed massive military obstacles." Sounds like fun!

In the same vein, I recently got a press release for another event called Run for Your Lives where "Runners [will] navigate a series of 12 obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies." This sounds less rigorous than the CMC, but knowing how I feel after only running a 5K I wonder if it would just be too much.

I'm looking forward to the Dirty Sock 10K in August. No strength tests or obstacles, just 6.2 miles through steamy woods. Both times I've run it I've practically needed an IV with electrolyte fluids at the finish. I know my limits. I wonder about those that don't.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saucony Hattori's: read all about it on RTR

New on Runner's Tech Review
Today is the last day of my vacation. It's been very relaxing and I've had lots of fun with my family and done some great runs. I'll be taking another week off in mid-July when we head to Maine and spend some time at Acadia National Park. I can't wait to run on the carriage roads that are adjacent to the ocean and the mountains.

We've posted our latest shoe test on Runner's Tech Review. Me and the Harrier of the Night both provided our perspectives on the Hattori's after a month's use on the road, track, trails and mountains. I'm on the fence whether I'll go for a run or go out on my bike today. I may just enjoy this last day of vacation by skipping my workout. A little more recovery prior to returning to work couldn't hurt.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Initiating my friend to trail running

Today's run - notice GPS drift between loops
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.75 miles

I'm back to the routine of frequent runs at shorter distances these days. I had been doing a lot of 6+ mile base-building runs up until my half marathon but then I switched to a more middle distance focus as I prepared for the NHP 8K. I've been on vacation this past week, but the time has been dedicated to preparing for a big upcoming event and some necessary house projects. That has prevented me from indulging in too many 90 minute runs.

Still, every run, at any distance, has value if you are running quality miles. That's been the case for me over the last eight days. This morning my friend Steve came by and we headed over to Stillwell to run the trails. Steve and I both work in midtown and we often run together in Central Park. He's never run trails so I initiated him at Stillwell Woods, the place where I first ran off-road.

Stillwell can be a rough place for runners, with steep inclines, sharp drops and unstable terrain. I didn't think it would be fair to drag Steve through the rocky, twisting, hilly Black Trail his first time out. Instead, I took him along a loop with flat, packed dirt pathways that works well for running. This loop does have a couple of loose rock and sand-covered climbs so it still presents a challenge.

Steve did well the first time around but at the two mile mark I could tell that the extra work was beginning to take its toll. We circled the trail a second time and, to Steve's credit, continued to maintain close to the same pace, averaging 9:40 overall.

We'd started with a little fog and cloudy skies but by the time we came back through the trail-head it was sunny and hot. That's another reason why I like Stillwell in summer - the canopy shields the trail and keeps the temperatures ten degrees cooler. It was another quality run and my third trail run this week. Soon enough, I'll return to my neighborhood roads for my daily runs. It sure was nice to spend a little more time in the woods today.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A different type of workout today

Today's workout (treadmill, various speeds/elevations): 35 minutes

I was on the fence about today's workout and considered taking a rest day this morning. I've only skipped one day over the last ten so it wouldn't have been a bad thing to take some recovery time. My wife got on the treadmill for her daily run and I kept her company while I decided what to do.

As much as I prefer outdoors to indoors for my workouts, I decided to follow my wife on the treadmill for a low speed run, using different levels of elevation. I started slowly with a 2% incline. After three minutes I started increasing my speed every two minutes and my elevation almost as often. By the time I reached the 15 minute point I was running at a 6% grade at around 6 MPH. I maintained that balance for 15 more minutes and then dropped the incline to 2% and increased the speed to 7 MPH for the last five minutes.

By the end of the workout I was soaked with sweat. I was happy to have met the challenge of maintaining my run with a decent incline for over 30 minutes. One benefit of running with elevation is that it takes some pressure off the knees.  I'm noticing it hours later. Tomorrow morning I'm running with a friend at Stillwell Woods, my third trail run of this vacation. It's been a good week for running, with some interesting variety along the way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can't afford Hattori's or Vibrams? Try pool shoes

$15 minimalist shoes - and you can swim in them!
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

Almost a year ago I went on a 2.2 mile run in my pool shoes to understand the minimalist experience. Overall, I found these shoes to be a credible alternative to running shoes but with some serious caveats. First, I ran without socks and the subsequent friction came close to producing blisters on my mid-foot. Secondly, I had not spent time adjusting to mid-foot running and going from my Brooks to this shoe on a daily basis would have been a recipe for injury.

A year later it's a different story. I'm happily transitioned to the Hattori's that provide a level of minimalism close to the water shoes but are measurably lighter and designed for stride efficiency. I do wish the Hattori's weren't so snug on my foot but that is becoming less of an issue as I use them. Perhaps they are beginning to stretch.

This morning I decided to revisit the "pool shoe as trainer" idea and went out for a 3.5 mile run in the neighborhood. I wore thin running socks to prevent the friction issues I'd experienced the last time. I needed to be careful this morning because elementary school graduation was happening and I had to be vigilant with hurried, distracted drivers streaming up and down the road. Closer to the school I observed many people jockeying their SUV's for a closer parking spot. God forbid they should walk more than 100 feet.

I stayed on the sidewalks as much as I could. The pool shoes allowed me to nimbly avoid buckled concrete around the trees that are planted in front of most houses. There was no doubt that my feet were doing their part to cushion my footfalls and I had no unpleasant landings on my heel. I knew I wasn't moving very fast but I maintained a mid 9:00 pace throughout the route.

Running in pool shoes did create more work than an equivalent run in the Hattori's. In terms of comfort, the Hattori's come out on top, being lighter and better shaped, with much higher quality materials in the liner and mid-sole. I'm looking forward to my next Hattori run so I can complete the comparison. I'm expecting that to be a much more comfortable experience.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Running the great trails at Bethpage

All around the woods at Bethpage this morning
Today's run (Bethpage State Park trails): 4.6 miles

Today is both the last day of middle school for my kids and my daughter's 13th birthday. Yes, I'm the father of a teenager. The kids were released by 10:30 AM so I needed to get out fairly early to prepare for the morning's birthday activities.

I couldn't face another neighborhood run and I really wasn't in the mood for another run along the Bethpage bike trail. It then occurred to me that Bethpage also has some very nice wooded trails. I arrived a little after 8:00 AM and headed in through the main trail head. I often lose my way when I run the paths at Bethpage because there are so many trails to choose from.

I followed a path that runs northeast and appreciated how nicely the trails in this park are maintained. I decided to continue until I ran out of trail so I stayed on the same path until that happened. At one point I crossed another wide trail that was groomed so well that the fresh loam felt like a carpet. I was determined to return to that and run it to the western end.

I'd taken a Hammer gel that I'd bought for $0.75 at REI a few weeks ago (it was a featured sale item) and it seemed to provide the necessary energy for a fairly vigorous run. I wore the Mirages that I'm now considering my defacto trail shoes for non-technical trail running and I moved along well. Once I reached the western end I encountered the twisty, windy, sandy, hilly sections and I did remarkably well through that terrain.

Trail head on the southern edge
One of these trails ended at the southwest side of the parking lot so I ran along the bottom before ducking into another trail head on the opposite corner. From there I reconnected with that wide groomed trail and followed it until I intersected with the path that would take me back to the main trail head. I exited the woods from there and ran through the field all the way back to my car.

I ended up covering more distance than I'd planned and I quickly moved on because I wanted to be showered and ready for the kids when they arrived back home. The timing worked fine and soon we were off to lunch and other activities. Soaking rains moved in soon after that but the sun came out again and the kids are now swimming in the pool, the first of many summer vacation afternoons.

I had a great run today and I'm very glad I remembered these beautiful trails. Any trail runners on Long Island who live in eastern Nassau or western Suffolk counties should take the time to run Bethpage. It's a great way to spend a morning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making plans for summer racing

It looks like we'll be experiencing hot temperatures and daily thunderstorms this week. I'm resting today for the first time since last Tuesday. If the skies remain clear we may head over to Bethpage State Park to ride bikes. It's been a few weeks since I've done a 7+ mile run so perhaps that will be a goal for Wednesday or Thursday.

I'm still on the fence whether I'll race in July. I've never competed in July, mostly because it's such a hot month and there aren't any essential races. I'll look again at the LI race schedule to see if there's anything that seems fun. If not, perhaps July will be dedicated to training for the heat, humidity and seemingly infinite last mile of August's Dirty Sock 10K.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sudafed, insomnia and a surprisingly good run

Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I got up early this morning but didn't get out for today's run until almost 1:00 PM. I had a rough night's sleep, probably because I'd taken pseudoephedrine before I'd gone to bed. Sudafed is a great decongestant but it tends to keep me up at night. By 4:50 AM I knew I wasn't going to fall back to sleep and I considered going for a run with my headlamp. However, I was feeling the sleep debt and opted for coffee instead.

Before long, our morning's schedule took priority and I considered just taking Monday as a rest day. I usually skip my workout on Mondays but vacations can change things. Tomorrow's schedule starts early so I questioned whether I'd be able to get out at all on Tuesday. Despite feeling a little tired I changed into my running gear and headed outside, targeting about 30 minutes to run.

I'm happy to say that my sinus headache is gone but I thought I'd have a tough time between the late start time, hot sun and high humidity. The first couple of minutes felt harder than normal but by mile one I'd literally hit my stride. From there I cruised through the rest of my run, taking a different set of roads than I normally follow on a weekday run.

I can't explain why today's run went so well but I will give some credit to my new stride and strike. It's always nice to have a good run when you expect to struggle. It's a far better experience than when it goes the other way.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dirty fun on Father's Day

Mirages on the trail: great performance from a road shoe
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.15 miles

Happy Father's Day! It's great to be able to celebrate the day with my family and not face an early morning commute tomorrow. Vacation week awaits. The only downside is that I've been suffering with a sinus headache since yesterday morning. It's the the kind of pain that doesn't really respond to analgesics like ibuprofen and the only relief I've had since it started has been a clear head for an hour or so after my runs. I made a trip to the drug store and picked up some decongestant with pseudoephedrine -- the good stuff you get from behind the counter. Even with that, plus a short nap and some headache medicine, I'm still feeling some pain and pressure.

It's been over a month since I've hit the trails so I headed to Stillwell Woods this morning for a change of scenery and surface. It was still below 70° when I started out among a large contingent of mountain bikers who were readying their equipment while I ran by. The shade of the woods kept the air fairly cool and I ran well. Not especially fast, but with good form. I wore my Mirages because the course I chose was not especially technical and I wanted a shoe that was low to the ground to help me maintain my forward foot stride.

The Mirages did really well with that and they even handled the sandy, scree laden hills that I ascended a couple of times. The sections I ran without tree cover revealed that the heat was rising but it still felt less humid than yesterday. Through the run, I was passed a couple of times by bikers. They gave fair warning and politely thanked me for moving to the side.

The recent wet weather has produced an abundance of grass and plant growth. This was most apparent on the dirt path that rings the open field, connecting my route back to its starting point. In winter and fall this trail is clear and open but this morning I literally had to run it by feel because of the high grass on each side overgrew it. It wasn't a problem but I checked for ticks afterward.

After two loops around my route I headed back to the trail head and noticed the parking area was thick with cars. Today was the end of the kiddie soccer season and people were aggressively swooping in to park wherever they could find room. A woman in an SUV saw me and clearly understood that I needed a few minutes to recover from my heated run. She politely said, "If it's okay I'll take your spot when you're ready to leave. Take you time." I quickly gave her the spot and then spent 20 minutes working my way to the exit. It was quite a circus, complete with tents and a bounce castle.

My run at Stillwell was great for a couple of reasons. First, I felt really good on my run and enjoyed the feel of the trail underfoot. Second, my more upright, mid-foot stride felt easier and I was better able to appreciate the beauty of the woods as I ran through them. I even got a respite from my headache while the endorphins rushed in, affirming the reason why we runners love to run. Hours later, I'm happy to have this pseudoephedrine to get me through the rest of this sinus pain!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Great day 1 run, broken pavement notwithstanding

Bad sidewalks were no problem for the nimble Hattori's
Today's run (street/variable terrain): 5.5 miles

It's day 1 of my vacation and I thought I'd get out early to beat the heat. I ended up skipping my run yesterday morning and the weather negated any later opportunities for an outdoor workout. I figured I'd be able to cover lots of ground over the next nine days so I felt fine resting. It was comfortably cool when I left my house and the extra day's rest, combined with a good night's sleep, made it easy going for the first couple of miles.

I planned a route that took me through the neighborhood and out to the busy road that borders the streets on the western side. I went north along this road, over sidewalks that are in truly abysmal shape, with broken concrete and large sections of mud and grass. I was concerned about the way the Hattori's would work on theses surfaces but they did well. Landing mid-foot provided good stability, and my biggest concern was that I'd get my shoes muddy.

Once I reached Jericho Turnpike I headed east along a stretch that gains about 200 feet over a third of a  mile. I usually run this section the opposite way but today I felt like I needed some hill challenges. There aren't a lot of of choices for hills on the local roads. Once I crested that hill I turned back into my neighborhood and ran another 2.5 miles before returning home.

I thought a lot about my form and strike during the run. The efficiency of mid-foot running provides an easier running experience. My friend FS, who is a prolific runner, surprised me recently by saying that she enjoys cycling far more than running. I think that's because recreational biking provides more opportunity to be a spectator than running. Since I've switched my running form I really do feel as though I observe more and focus less at the job at hand.

I finished my run by pushing the pace for the last half mile and was pleased to note that I could have tacked on a few more miles without much trouble. The humidity was rough and the temperature had risen over the 50+ minutes it took to complete my route. It was a good solid run and a nice change of scenery. It's great to be able to focus on more than the road these days.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Should I get on The Stick?

I'm only in the office for morning meetings and then I'll head out at mid-day for a week's vacation. It was raining when I got up this morning so I postponed my run. I'll have many more opportunities for longer runs while I'm away so I figured I'd defer today's run rather than deal with the treadmill. If the weather clears up later I may get a short run in or head over to Stillwell for some trail riding.

For those who prefer their compression delivered segmentally
I was talking to another runner yesterday about my recent leg soreness and he suggested "The Stick", a simple looking device that's used to "segmentally compress and stretch muscle." Sounds serious. I've seen it advertised in magazines and sold at places like City Sports and at race Expos. I've always gotten the impression that it's just an expensive toy. The website lists eight adult models (there's also a model for kids and one for dogs!) that range in length and firmness and cost between $28 and $54.

The two models that I'd consider are the 24" Original ($42.50) or the 20" Marathon ($31.95). It's hard to justify the cost for something that looks like a pole covered with plastic curtain rings but if it works and you use it every day, that expense can be amortized quickly. I have some City Sport bucks that are going to expire soon. And it is Father's Day on Sunday. Hmmm.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Does a mid-foot strike mean no more bad runs?

Today's run (street): 2.55 miles

Since I've transitioned to mid-foot striking I've rarely experienced a bad run. Some runs are are better than others but it's been a long time since I'd described the experience as akin to having sand bags strapped to my legs. This morning I had pronounced stiffness in my lower legs and my knee felt slightly tweaky so I moderated my pace and went with that. The result was a slower than normal overall pace but I still kept it in the 9:00 minute range.

The key to a better running experience seems to be landing on my mid-foot which negates any pronation tendencies. I've noticed that I run more upright with a straighter line from head through my hips and this seems to make my running easier. Plus, this opens up my center which facilitates easier breathing. It all seems to add up to a more efficient process. I'm fairly convinced these benefits are for real.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When the little hand is on the 2, go back to bed

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This morning started an hour earlier than planned because I woke up and misread the clock. It took me a minute to realize the error but I caught myself before heading downstairs for coffee. I'd felt exhausted by the thought of going out for a run but as soon as I realized the clock said 2:50, and not 3:50, I felt wide awake. So awake, in fact, that I barely fell back to sleep. After an hour's tossing and turning, I needed to face my workout for real.

Given my tired state, I decided to stay indoors so I wouldn't need to deal with all my running, reflective and illumination gear. I looked back and forth between the treadmill and the elliptical and chose the latter because it's a quieter piece of machinery and quiet was preferable. I was significantly more alert by the end of the session and I'd worked up quite a sweat in the process. I'm hoping that this energy boost will carry me through the day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Running beats resting (at least it did today)

Making the better choice
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I've felt tired this week. It's as if I haven't adapted yet to my weekday sleep schedule. I was glad to have an excuse to rest on Monday and I slept for most of the train ride into the city yesterday. I was still feeling fatigued last night as I readied my morning running gear and I hoped that a good night's sleep would produce some energy when I awoke. That wasn't the case and when my alarm went off I had one of those "Are you serious?" moments as I considered my options.

By the time I collected my coffee and changed into my running clothes I felt a little more alert. As I turned to leave the guestroom, I looked enviously at the bed and wished I could take an hour's nap rather than head out for a run. It had rained a little overnight and the temperature was a cool 61 degrees. The Garmin locked in quickly and off I went.

Once I hit the street all signs of fatigue had left me and I focused on my stride and how my feet were landing. I followed my usual route and the run felt effortless. This was probably an opportunity to throw in some speed play but I decided to maintain this moderate-but-steady pace. As tempting as it seemed, there was little chance that I would have chosen the guestroom bed over my run today. That's good, because I would have missed a really nice run this morning.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Runner's World got it wrong on the Hattori

I'm happily in the middle
Yesterday afternoon's workout (Cycling): 4.6 miles

After a year of trying to adapt to a mid-foot stride I am finally sure that I've actually done it. Not everyone is comfortable running this way but (fortunately for me) my transition was fairly painless. The Saucony Kinvaras helped that a lot. I'd assumed, after running in the Kinvaras for over a year, that I'm landing closer to my mid-foot. However, the 5-6 mm ramp angle of  both the Kinvaras and the Mirages made it difficult to know that for sure.

Every sharp rock that I land on with the Hattori's (as happened on Saturday) confirms that I'm landing on my mid-foot. Sunday's run of almost seven miles in the Hattori's showed me that heel cushioning and forefoot padding aren't necessary for middle distance running. A mid-foot stride lets your foot's natural shock absorbers -- the arch and the ball -- disburse the pounding.

Experiencing this, I was dismayed to read Runner's World's characterization of the Hattori as a "trainer for efficient runners to use as cooldown shoe or for speedwork drills on grass." This bias surprises me. I'm certainly not an efficient runner when running in highly constructed, stabilized and cushioned running shoes. But when I run in the Hattori it's a whole other story.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Good long run on cloudy Sunday morning

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.6 miles

Yesterday's experience landing on a sharp rock made me concerned that I would end up with a real injury. My foot felt tender after that run so I iced it for about an hour before we all headed out. I wore an old pair of Brooks Adrenalins in hopes that the cushioning would protect the bruise as I moved around. I didn't give it much thought after that and I went to bed hoping my foot would be back to normal by morning.

I woke up at 4:00 AM to the sound of driving rain and wondered if my morning run would be a washout. I returned to bed and when I woke up at 5:30 I saw that the rain had moved out. I watched the local weather report to be sure that was the case and headed off to Bethpage State Park for a run. My plan was to go out for about 5K and come back for a total of 6+ miles. My foot felt okay and I hoped that would continue once I hit the bike trail.

It actually felt chilly when I stepped out of the car and I did some dynamic stretches while the Garmin 210 acquired its signal. As soon as the satellites locked in I took off, attacking the first hill that begins right after the start. Soon I was bounding down the long hill, maintaining a mid-8:00 pace. I knew I was running harder than planned because my breathing was labored and I slowed down until I felt more comfortable.

As I've mentioned before, the Bethpage bike path feels like it's a predominantly uphill route no matter which direction you run it. My foot felt fine and the Hattori's were doing their job. I watched my form and felt energized on the hills. With cloudy skies and the early hour there weren't a lot of runners on the trail.  Every few minutes I'd encounter clumps of people either walking or running together and an occasional cyclist.

I concentrated on the way I was running (arm position, posture, strike) and decided to block out the final hill from my thoughts. I'd deal with it when it came along, no sense wasting effort dreading the inevitable. By the time I reached that hilly stretch I was feeling a little tired but I put in some additional effort and did my best to surge on the steepest part of the hill. I'm not sure if it made a difference but I am definitely becoming less intimidated by that final challenge.

It's been a good week of running despite taking two rest days and I credit the Hattori's which have noticeably improved the experience. I'm pleased with my form and I'm hoping that it will translate into better efficiency (and therefore speed). Even if that's not the case, I feel like I'm running better right now than ever before.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The NHP 8K course measures up

Today's run (street): 5.5 miles

I heard from Greg, one of the organizers of the New Hyde Park 8K, about the distance of that race. In my June 5th post I'd questioned the accuracy of the course, saying that it seemed longer than 4.97 miles (8K). Greg pointed out that "The course is measured along what runners call the "Tangent". That means it is measured along the straightest line possible." So the course really is 4.97 miles but "No runner can run the exact distance the way the course is measured. Everyone running a race will run a little extra distance." Makes perfect sense to me.

This morning I got out early, after it had rained, and did a local neighborhood run. I originally planned to run at Bethpage but the weather reports indicated the possibility of another rainstorm and I figured that I'd be better off staying closer to home.

Today's route
There was a lot of humidity in the air and I took it easy, covering the first mile in the mid-9:00 range.  About a half mile later I had redirected south into neighborhood #2, where I hadn't run in some time. I saw a woman running about 100 feet ahead of me into that neighborhood and thought that I could use her as a pace target but she went right where I planned to go left. After wrapping around the neighborhood I made my way to a long straight patch where I landed on a large piece of gravel.

Ouch! I ignored the pain but it caused quite a bruise on the lateral plantar opposite my arch. I continued my run for a while and even covered some sections I hadn't ever run. After returning home and icing it, my foot still hurts quite a bit. I'm hoping this is only a temporary thing. As much as I love the Hattori's (and I surely do), I can't forget that minimal also means minimal protection.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Opportunity lost

Damn you gorgeous weather!
It's a beautiful day outside, the sun is shining, it's 75°F and the dew point is dropping. I was on the fence about a morning workout last night and didn't prepare my gear for my usual 4:00 AM run. I'm doing half days on Fridays when I can and today is one of those days. My wife suggested this morning that I quickly pack my gear so I could do a run in Central Park before coming home. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time and didn't do that.

I'm feeling guilty for not taking advantage of today's surprisingly nice conditions. I suppose I can run when I get home, but by mid afternoon I fear it will be uncomfortably hot. It wouldn't be the worst thing to skip a day out of sequence and get some additional rest. Especially if I'm doing a long run tomorrow. Still, I can't help thinking what a great run I would have had in the city today.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guilty pleasure

Elliptical, Bikram style
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It was hot and humid when I got up this morning and I seriously considered skipping my workout. I didn't take my normal two day's rest following last weekend's race and I've been feeling tired this week. But by the time I took my coffee upstairs I'd already decided to go ahead with my planned elliptical session.  Once again, guilt, the world's best motivator, saved me from a day's worth of regret.

In deference to the oppressive heat I selected a more moderate level of resistance on the elliptical machine. I figured that in place of high wattage I would work on cadence. Even though it was hot, I was able to exceed my typical "distance" by 4% without feeling like I'd pushed too hard. I felt great by the end and was glad that I did this workout instead of taking the easy --  if justifiable -- alternative. No regrets today.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The shoes are minimal but the benefits are not

Today's run (street) 2.65 miles

Today is supposed to get very hot with temperatures in NYC reaching 95°F. It was far cooler at 4:00 this morning and I took a different route than normal just to break things up. I was also able to take advantage of a slightly earlier start than usual. Today's run felt much like yesterday's although I didn't push as hard as Tuesday and ended up running about 18 seconds/mile slower. But I covered more ground than my usual early morning distance and, once again, felt that the Hattori's provided me with a much more efficient stride.

The biggest difference between these shoes and almost every other shoe I've run is the way they feel on hills. Credit goes to the mid-foot strike and the lightness of the shoe. It's almost like downshifting for extra power and torque. While I don't look forward to hills, I'm not looking to avoid them. At one point I thought the Kinvara was the best shoe I would ever experience but the Hattori's seem to have an even more positive affect on my running style.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Surprise encounter at 4:00 AM

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I've probably done close to 250 runs at 4:00 AM. Through that time I've seen a handful of walkers or people leaving their houses. A couple of years ago I was spooked to see what seemed to be a race walker pass me like an apparition one morning. There was no acknowledgement of any kind from this person who slipped by less than two feet away from me.

This morning I had my second close encounter and it was a different experience. I was running well and had just reached the halfway point of my route when I noticed movement about 200 feet ahead of me. It was very dark and this person was out of headlamp range, but I thought it might be someone walking in the opposite direction. Suddenly, as I rounded a bend, I saw it was another runner, heading my way. A young guy, teens or 20's, no reflective wear or headlamp. Not even a shirt. We got within ten feet of each other before he reacted with a startled sideways jump and a gasp.

He quickly realized that I was just another runner on the road and I yelled a friendly "Good Morning!" and he responded in kind. He must have been in the zone not to notice me until we practically met but I understand that as well. 4:00 AM running can be a little hypnotising until you get used to it. I'm hoping that my shirtless friend learned a lesson today about staying alert. Perhaps the next time I see him he'll have his own headlamp and reflective vest.

Monday, June 6, 2011

No regrets

Yesterday afternoon's workout (cycling): 4 miles

When I look back on a race I often think about the things I wish I'd done differently. Sometimes I lament the way I'd paced my run and other times I'll regret that I didn't do enough focused training. I can usually identify at least one problem that I wished I'd corrected prior to race day. But, for yesterday's 8K, I can happily say that I wouldn't have changed a thing.

The important point I took from this race is the knowledge that I'm capable of running a mid-8:00 pace for five miles. Even at the finish I felt strong. I had been concerned that I was losing some of my edge because my average training pace has degraded some over the last couple of years. I realized yesterday that, for many months, I'd backed off too much on performance in favor of having more comfortable runs. Only recently have I persistently focused on performance, including speed work on the track and extra workouts from cycling.

If yesterday's performance is an indicator of  how I trained then there's not much I'm going to change. Even so, although I was happy with the way things went at the race, I can't ignore that I finished solidly mid-pack and toward the back of my age division. There were a number of speedy middle-aged club runners on the course yesterday so I understand why I placed where I did. Maybe next time I can be a little more competitive.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Race report: 2011 New Hyde Park 8K

An 8K PR for the ER
Today's run (New Hyde Park 8K): 5 miles at 8:40/mile

As they say, the third time's the charm and that was the case for me after today's race. I had hopes of beating my prior finish time of 44:42 that I ran in both 2009 and 2010 and I certainly did that. Last year I went out much slower than the prior year and picked up my pace later in the race. That resulted in a better experience than 2009 (when I went into energy debt by mile 4) but my time ended up exactly the same. But that's ancient history -- the better story is today's race.

TEAM EMERGING RUNNER
Form doesn't always follow fashion
Although my wife and kids try to join me at every race, for some reason they could not attend prior to this year. It was a great psychological bonus to have them with me today. We arrived early and were able to park at the school, unlike last year when I needed to park some blocks away. I saw many familiar faces, this is very much a running club race, and I knew that it would be a fast field. The scene was familiar and, per tradition, the race tee was, umm, aesthetically interesting. But it is 100% polyester so I can run in it.

Registration was well organized, as usual
PRE-RACE PREP
We watched the mini run for kids and then made our way towards the starting line. I was feeling good and my Hattori's felt light on my feet and ready to race. What had started out as a cool and cloudy morning had turned sunny. Thankfully, it still wasn't all that hot. I took a GU Roctane gel 30 minutes before the start. I also carried a small bottle of water in case I needed to refuel near the end of the race and wanted some hydration along with the gel.

Off and running
START
We started on time with a field of almost 300 runners. I hit start on the Garmin 210 and took off quickly, happy to see my family on the sidelines. I felt good knowing that I'd see them again in about 45 minutes. I had prepared well for this race -- two day's prior rest, a reasonable taper, core exercises the day before, my favorite gel in my system and adequate hydration before the start. Plus my excellent Craft running shirt and those Hattori's.

THE RACE
When my Garmin chirped at mile one it took me by surprise. Interestingly, the FR 210 indicated that mile a few 100ths sooner than the official mile station. I've been a little suspicious of the measurement of this course because my Garmin FR 50 and 60 always over counted and my prior mapping of the course on Google Earth put it a tick longer than 5 miles. Since the GPS never over counts it makes me wonder a bit.

More importantly, I felt great after mile one and that continued as we headed north on New Hyde Park Road. Mile two comes along the service road on the LIE and I found myself passing people instead of being passed (as was my experience last year). I was still feeling strong at the third mile and decided that I didn't need an additional gel to get me through the duration. By mile four I knew I was on track to beat my prior time but knew I still had another mile to cover. I went against instinct and surged on the uphills, surprised to find I still had energy when I got to the top.

When we turned into the neighborhood that backs the school I knew I just needed to maintain a decent pace to finish under nine minutes a mile. I was feeling good until a race volunteer yelled "Just over half a mile to the finish!" For some reason that made it seem like I had more distance to run than was in my head but I knew that soon it would be less than a half a mile.

THE FINISH
I finally saw the yellow street sign and green lawn of the school a few hundred feet ahead. At that point a young woman pulled beside me and said "This is it" before dropping into gear and leaving me in the dust. I kept up my charge and when I hit the lawn I sprinted toward the finish line. I noticed my son and daughter running on the sidelines in my direction and I looked for my wife who was getting ready to photograph me crossing the line. It was the first time I ever got a picture of me finishing that race (top photo).

My Garmin recorded the race as 5.05 miles and I'll take a look at the route it captured when I upload it on Garmin Connect. I knew I beat my prior time and was really happy to see that I achieved a pace that I'd even consider good for a 5K. After grabbing some water and walking off some post race energy I checked the posted times and verified that I had a new PR.


EMERGING RUNNER COMMUNITY
I was very happy to meet another runner, Paul (below right), who told me that he's an Emerging Runner reader. Paul was running in Saucony Mirages and they worked for him, helping him to a sub 7:00/mile finish. Amazingly, Paul had raced the previous day and he told me that he races about once a week. No wonder he's so fast! I was really glad he stopped to talk and I'll look for him at other races, but I know I won't be able to keep up with him once the gun goes off.

Two runners: one fast, one emerging
I'm very pleased with today's race for so many reasons. It was my best race performance this year and it reinforced to me that my training and preparation are on track. I loved the Hattori's and I don't want to run in anything else now. I don't have any more races on the calendar until the Dirty Sock in August but I'm tempted to find a 5K to run in July.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm 40% short of "good"

With an emphasis on "hard"
Today's workout (core and strength training): 20 minutes

I'm being tortured again by the beautiful weather. Just going outside to put up a new clock in the pool area has me itching to go out for a run. It's sunny, 64° with 54% humidity today. Maybe I'll allow myself a very easy bike ride later.

This morning I ran through my standard set of core exercises and added some other elements. I never feel like I work hard enough after completing a core session even though I add more repetitions than what's specified in my instructions. I started reading the current issue of TrailRunner magazine and saw an article about improving your strength-to-weight ratio. The article includes a chart that lists the amount of push-ups that a person should be able to do based on their gender and age.

The ideal core strength-to-weight ratio (CSSWR) is 4 (or below) with 4+ to 8 categorized as "adequate." I missed the ideal by quite a bit and while I got close to doing 20 push-ups I'm still about 40% short of being "good." I'm guessing that these categories are based on tuned, not recreational, athletes like me. But I like a challenge and now that I have a benchmark I'll see how well I progress against this index.

Tomorrow I'm running the NHP 8K for the third consecutive year and I go into it feeling relatively ready. I'm planning on wearing the Hattori's for the first time in a race and that will be interesting. In terms of performance I'm hoping that I'll beat my prior time but I'll be happy just as long as I enjoy the experience.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Will rest and core work beat heat and humidity?

Why is it that on the Friday before a race the conditions in the city have to be so perfect? 57° with 45% humidity is ideal but I won't be running in Central Park today (or anywhere else). While I'm sure that running hard the day before a race probably affects my performance on race day, I'm not convinced an extra day's rest helps all that much. I took two rest days before the 2010 Dirty Sock and still struggled mightily at the end. The Great Cow Harbor 10K was a rough ride even though I followed my two day rest policy. However, both of those races occurred on days that were extremely hot and humid and perhaps those factors trumped the benefits of resting.

The two best races that I ran in 2010 were the Hope for the Warriors 10K and the Long Beach Turkey Trot 10K. These races were run in cooler temperatures than the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K's. In both cases I rested two days before and did a 20 minute core workout the day before each race. I won't fool myself into thinking the core exercise made the difference but it may have helped. Weather predictions for Sunday are showing high 50's to low 60's with relatively high humidity and possible thunderstorms. I can't control the weather but I can control my training, so I'll do my core workout and leave the rest to nature.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Achilles scare

8K race = 4.97 miles
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

With this morning's run I ended my taper for Sunday's New Hyde Park 8K. This race, that I'll be running for the third time, represents an interesting challenge. In 2009 and 2010 I finished with exactly the same clock time despite running two very different races. The 2009 race was extremely difficult for me because I went out hard from the start and paid for it later. Last year I went out at a moderate pace and tried to maintain a steady speed throughout the run. In the end it worked out the same although it was far more enjoyable to run steady than to almost flame out at the 35 minute mark as I did in 2009.

I decided to follow my typical route this morning and my run was fine but, at the start, I had a slight feeling of soreness from my Achilles. This made me concerned that I was not quite ready for daily runs in the Hattori's. I kept my pace moderate and hoped that when the tendon warmed up the pain would disappear and that's pretty much what happened. I have no residual soreness as a result and it could have simply been one of those early morning aches and pains I get due to my sleep position.

Now it's time to rest. I'm always tempted to run after I've finished my taper and I'll miss my lunchtime run in Central Park tomorrow. I may indulge in an easy bike ride on Saturday but I won't push it any further than that. I'd like to beat my previous time for this race but I may not be able to do that. I'll be satisfied with my time no matter what, as long as I did the best that I could.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Following a different route

Today's run (street) 2.35 miles

I've gotten into the habit of running the same route every weekday morning so I decided to break free of that today and follow some different streets. My normal course is a measured distance of 2.52 miles and it allows me to manage my time and compare known distances to the Garmin readout as I run. The problem with changing my route is that I lose all my benchmarks when I follow other roads. That's fine almost any other time but at 4:00 AM I only have 25 minutes or less to run my route. Taking the wrong street can put me way behind.

Today's run took me along some streets I rarely run so it was a nice change of scenery, not that you can see much with just a headlamp. I ended up hitting the one mile mark close to where I normally reach that benchmark but, instead of following the standard route for the remainder of the run, I followed a different direction. My ad hoc route brought me home sooner than usual so my distance fell short of normal. I ran the last mile fairly quickly, at around an 8:40 pace. One more training run to go before the race.
 

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