Sunday, July 31, 2011

Me and Dave on the Bethpage trail

Start of the Bethpage bike path and its first big hill
Today's run (Bethpage bike path): 6.3 miles

This morning I finally caught up with my running buddy Dave, who I haven't seen since the winter. He'd just come back from a long vacation in Greece with his family where he had many opportunities to run. We had decided to cover about six miles today, the first time I've done a run over 6 miles since mid-June.

We started at 7:20 AM while it was still fairly cool. The humidity hadn't risen much and we were sheltered by the bike path's tree cover that starts about a mile into the route. We maintained an easy pace and, before I knew it, we'd passed the 30 minute mark. We then turned around to complete the second half of the run.

Along the way we saw a number of people running in groups, perhaps in training for an upcoming race. There were the usual cyclists, most of them polite, but one rider overtook us on the final hill and screamed "Move over!" before he passed. Not too cool since there was plenty of room for him already.

Between the relaxed pace and the interesting conversation the hour-plus run went by very quickly. I had brought my Amphipod hand bottle, filled it with crushed ice, for hydration. The contents stayed cold as the ice melted and it provided a cool supply of water throughout the route. We finished the run feeling like we'd had a good workout and had the sweat to prove that. I was really pleased to break the 6 mile barrier after many days, along with great company, a nice course and near perfect weather.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend video report: running huaraches

video

Today's run (street): 3.55 miles

No, I didn't do today's run using the Invisible Shoes huaraches but I did manage to get them laced up for a short run in the back yard. The website for the shoes provides videos with detailed instructions on how to prepare your huaraches. You can choose between full DIY, where they send you a square of Vibram Cherry material that can be cut to size, semi-DIY where you receive shaped soles based on a supplied foot measurement, or custom made huaraches created from a tracing of your foot.

I went the middle direction and had to punch a hole for the toe area and then lace up the shoes using the supplied material. Adventure Girl went with the custom options and she and I will be putting up our review of the Invisible Shoes huaraches on Runner's Tech Review in the coming weeks.

After preparing the huaraches, I made a few rounds in the yard, running on grass. I think I understand why this form factor would appeal to barefoot wannabe runners, the 4mm soles deliver plenty of ground-feel while providing some protection from things that you may want to avoid with bare feet. While this is almost as minimal as you can go, I couldn't get comfortable with the feel of the laces between my toes. I will do some runs in these huaraches to inform my review but I'm probably not a candidate for transitioning from running shoes to this platform.

When I put on the Hattori's I couldn't believe how luxurious they felt compared to my run in the huaraches. An ASICS Nimbus couldn't have provided a better sensation of security and cushioning. The funny thing is that the Hattori's actually provide no cushioning, but the way they hold and guide my foot makes it feel as though they do. The Hattori may seem to be a very simple shoe, but Saucony has put a lot of engineering into that design.

I did a relatively short run around the outside of my neighborhood, going clockwise to maximize the hill challenges I'd meet. Much of the run was shaded by trees and this was good because it was hot (82 degrees) and humid, according to the electronic sign at the local fire station. I'm planning on a long run tomorrow morning and, since we're going out early, I'm hoping we'll miss some of the heat. I'll write more about the Invisible Shoe huaraches when I try more runs in them. But tomorrow, I'm going out with my much more comfy Hattori's.

Friday, July 29, 2011

30 more minutes of sleep yields a better run

Today's run (street): 3 miles

I'm going in a little later this morning and bringing my son with me. Both he and my daughter have been doing this since they were about two years old. They get their own workstations and they even get work assignments. It's fun for them and they get an understanding of business life. We have some interesting things planned for the day, both in the office and at the local museums.


Since we took a later train I gave myself an extra 30 minutes of sleep and was still able to cover three miles on this morning's run. I was determined to beat Wednesday's pace by a minute per mile and I managed to accomplish that. It was humid at the start and lightly raining at the finish and I tried to maintain a decent speed by thinking about my cadence and stride. It felt faster than what the Garmin showed to be a mid-9:00 pace.
I'm hoping to take the new Invisible Shoes huaraches out for a run tomorrow and I'm meeting my running buddy Dave on Sunday morning, for what should be my longest run in many weeks.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I've talked about 600 things

600 words about one thing
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

As unbelievable as it seems, I'm coming up on my one thousandth Emerging Runner post. Based on my publishing frequency, that milestone should be reached some time in mid-September. What's interesting is that post number 1,000 will also coincide with the third anniversary of my return to running. I guess that makes sense since I started this blog as an online journal to record my new experiences as a re-engaged runner.

A quick review of the site's subject categories shows approximately 600 descriptive terms for the 950 posts to date. The most frequently applied tag is (no surprise) pace. 600 tags is a lot, and I think it shows that running is surely not a one dimensional subject. It would probably be interesting to create an actual taxonomy to reveal the true richness of the sport. But then again, I'd rather spend my time running.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pain and loathing at 4:00 AM

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I ran so poorly this morning that I almost regretted the workout. My first steps onto the street signaled that I was due for a sub-par run and, after a couple of minutes, I considered turning back. I decided to just go with it and ran my usual distance, but not my usual route. I ran so slow that it took me almost two minutes longer than normal to complete the course.

I can't explain why my legs lacked energy today. I know that bad runs surface every once in a while but I am disappointed with my performance. I experienced some intermittent sharp pains on the medial side of my left shin that concerned me as I ran. I also felt pain at the top of my right hamstring. This has been a chronic source of low level pain for a while, but usually only when sitting.

I might have been better off resting today but I don't think I did any harm by struggling through today's workout. Well, no physical harm at least.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My running hauraches have arrived


The first pair of running shoes I ever received in my mailbox
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

A few weeks ago I was provided an opportunity to test a pair of running huaraches made by a company called Invisible Shoes. These shoes, provided either ready-made or in kit form, are copies of the sandals worn by the Tarahumara natives that were featured in the book "Born to Run." I decided to try the kit option which involves punching a hole in the supplied 4mm Vibram rubber outsoles and threading the laces to achieve a correct fit.

These huaraches will provide an even more minimal experience than my Hattori's and while I was confident that my transition from Kinvara to Hattori would go smoothly, I have some concerns about how I'll do with these sandals. It's not that the huaraches provide zero cushioning that concerns me, it's the form factor. I don't like open shoes or flip flops and I worry about the lace rubbing against the inside of my toes as I run.

In the past I thought that the lighter the shoe I wore, the faster I'd run. I've since changed my viewpoint and I'm not expecting to run faster with these huaraches. This morning I returned to the road at 4:00 AM and ran my usual course wearing the Hattori's. My pace today was no faster (actually a bit slower) than my normal pace, despite the fact that the Hattori's are half the weight of my Mirages and almost a third the weight of my GTS-10's. Despite these differences I usually run at about the same speed. Perhaps the huaraches will surprise me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Running daily beats fried clams

Some people think this stuff makes you gain weight
I'm back on the work week schedule and, after two weeks, I'm taking my usual Monday rest day. It was great to be on vacation in New Hampshire and Maine. Although being away from home often presents situations where the availability of healthy food choices is low, I managed pretty well. I believe that is due (at least in part) to running every day while on vacation.

Although I've seen articles that claim that running isn't an effective method for losing weight, I strongly disagree. I lost almost 20% of my body weight in the three months after I returned to running in 2008. Aside from suddenly being very active, that change was also due to focusing on portion sizes and better food choices. Today, as a 20 mile per week runner, I eat smart but I don't diet. No matter what, my weight generally stays within a pound or two of my targeted range.

As long as my clothes fit I never really think about my weight. But after a week of fried clams, chowder, pizza and other "vacation" foods, it's nice to finish in the same shape that I started.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My workouts by the numbers

Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

I did my last workout of this vacation today; a mid-morning run around the neighborhood. It was the thirteenth day in a row where I've either run or cross-trained on the elliptical machine. A check on Daily Mile showed that I've done 24 workouts over the last 27 days. You'd think I'd be in better shape!

Although my activity frequency is high (90% days per month), my running distances have mostly stayed under 5 miles over the last few weeks. I blame the heat and some exceptionally busy weekends this summer for that and I know I'll need to get my base back up to 6+ miles as I prepare for the Dirty Sock  and Great Cow Harbor 10K's.

This morning the sun was less intense than yesterday and that helped me move briskly over a route that took me around, and then through, my local streets. I tried to focus on my form and to notice if my arms crossed my chest, which I now know is a sign that I'm reaching the point of fatigue. All systems seemed to be working well today and I finished up with a sprint on the final quarter mile that left me panting and soaked by the time I reached home.

Tomorrow means a return to the train, the subway and lots of meetings. My vacation has been great and, with a diversity of activities that included our visit to New Hampshire and Maine, it felt endless. But there is, of course, an end and I'll experience that when my alarm jolts me awake at 4:00 AM tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Emerging Runner's Weekend Video Report

video

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.1 miles

The heat continues into the weekend and although I don't always enjoy the pool as much as my family does, I'm loving it right now. My plans for getting out early for a run got derailed and I didn't arrive at Stillwell until after 10:00 AM. It was hot, but not as bad as yesterday, when the temperature display in the car read 113°. I hoped that the tree cover would make the trails a cooler place to run than the road.

Later, the display showed 114°
There was plenty of activity in the woods as I followed the trails. I had chipmunks and rabbits cross my path multiple times and, at one point, a bird flew in front of me along twisty trail, tracing the ground like a cruise missile. Less engaging were a few mountain bikers who didn't seem to care about others on the trail, flying by without giving any ground to runners.

Even with the coolness of the canopy's shade, the heat and humidity started to get to me and I diverted to a different path on my second loop that brought me back to the trail head after 3 hard miles. I've been thinking about adding the occasional video to this blog and, perhaps, adding video to my reviews on Runner's Tech Review. My first "Weekend Report" is above. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sweat equity

Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Nature's sunlamp
"Brutally hot" is the only phrase that came to mind when I stepped out this morning for a run. The sun was baking, the humidity was thick and it wasn't even 8:00 AM. I'd convinced myself that, despite the heat, I could get in a good workout by running at an easy pace.

Anticipating the worst, I wore a Colombia Omni-freeze PFG hat that is both light in color and weight and has sweat wicking technology that helps keep you cool. I also wore my Craft running shirt and Pearl Izumi racing shorts. This combination gave me my best chance at staying comfortable in temperatures that will exceed 100° today. I set out for a three mile (or so) run, looking for shade wherever I could find it.

I made my way up the first long street that rises through its length before leveling off  at the end. I knew I was moving slow and checked my Garmin to confirm that fact. I'd forgotten that today was a weekday until I encountered all the cars, recycling trucks, camp buses and landscapers along my way. I even crossed paths with another runner who looked at me but made no acknowledgment of my presence. I'm not sure if it was rudeness on her part or heat stroke but she looked extremely exhausted.

I felt fine for the first mile and a half but the sun, heat and humidity did start to get to me. By the end my running form felt similar to my last miles on the LI Half Marathon. Unlike that run, this morning I had no knee pain and I still had some energy in reserve. It made me think about the humidity and heat I'll face next month at the Dirty Sock 10K.

The last half mile of my run seemed to take as long as the previous three and I welcomed the sight of my driveway as I came around the final curve. I thought about running into the backyard and jumping straight into the pool but I didn't want to soak my best running gear in chlorinated water. Tomorrow is supposed to be similarly hot so I'll probably go out earlier than I did this morning. Even though I didn't run fast today, I certainly feel I earned the workout.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Homecoming

The Shore Path, a gravel trail that runs north of Bar Harbor
Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes
Yesterday's run (Bar Harbor): 3.5 miles

We are home after almost six days travel between New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. It was a great trip where we saw and did many amazing things. We originally planned to finish up with a couple of days in Portland but were disappointed with the location of our hotel which was adjacent to art museums (good) but surrounded by scores of seedy looking people (pretty bad). I asked the desk clerk about running in Munjoy Hill and he did a double take and said "I guess you'd be okay if you are running." After realizing that this assessment was based on his thinking that the hotel's location was safer, I decided I'd use the fitness center.

We attempted to walk to the waterfront area on Commercial Street but the parade of inebriated looking people (being kind here) made us reconsider our stay. We ended up leaving the hotel and heading home. An already jam-packed day turned into a longer one. We hit the road around 5:30 PM and reached Long Island about 6 hours later.

Earlier in the day, we'd spent time around Bar Harbor. I did my third run along the shoreline and through the town and soon we were on our way to Portland. Before we reached our destination we stopped in Freeport to visit L.L. Bean and have lunch. I looked around the Patagonia and Horny Toad outlets but didn't bite. I thought outlets were supposed offer bargains, but there were few to be had.

I ran every day while we were away and the change of scenery was welcomed and fun. The hilly challenges of northern New England roads felt motivating and energizing. The hikes and runs in Acadia were incredible and the sights of beaver dams, majestic trees, mountains and ocean were inspiring. We played mini-golf, drove go-karts and hit a water park. We even went to a cheesy (but very fun) lumberjack show.

Portsmouth New Hampshire and Bar Harbor Maine are great places to vacation with kids. I already miss both Acadia and the shoreline of Bar Harbor. I think I'll need a shot of the Bethpage trails before I return to the working world next week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another day in paradise (Acadia)

Today's run (Bar Harbor): 3.35 miles

It's been another great day at Acadia. This morning we explored different parts of the park and stopped at Thunderhole where we watched the fascinating rush of water that blows back after being channeled against the rocks through a natural tunnel.

Later we spent time at Jordan Pond where we went out on the rocks and then followed one of the many nature trails. After lunch we went out for a walk along the shore path that runs along the coast. I've included that in my running routes the last two mornings.

I got out early again this morning and started with a run along the shore path before cutting north through downtown and then along some back streets. I went to the eastern edge of Main and came back to the hotel. The streets are gently sloped but it adds up to a pretty good workout.

It's interesting to run around here with such a diversity of things to look at along the way. At 6:15 AM I see merchants readying their stores and smell the coffee brewing from the open-door cafes that are already serving customers. My favorite view is the water, rocks and the mountains across the cove.

Tomorrow we head south for our next adventure in Portland. Hope the running is as good as Bar Harbor.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bar Harbor running and hiking

Sunday run (Portsmouth, NH): 3.75 miles
Monday's run (Bar Harbor, ME): 3.5 miles
Acadia National Park hike (morning): 5 miles

It's been a busy vacation and I've found blogging on my Android phone almost as frustrating as I did with the iPhone. That said, I'm keeping my entries short and will post pictures when I return. Here's a summary:

Sunday morning: ran a duplicate route to Saturday's in Portsmouth, NH. Enjoyed the trees and New England homes and the very early morning quiet.

Monday morning: ran around Bar Harbor, along the coastline to the harbor and then through the streets of town. Some good hills, excellent views and interesting sites along the way.

Later in the morning we did a family hike at Acadia near Witch Hole Pond. My son and I ran a bunch of that carriage road back to the trail head. The views of Hull's Cove were fantastic. We'll be back later in the day to do more Acadia exploration. Last night we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain. 1,500 feet never seemed so high!

So far it's been a great vacation. The running conditions have been perfect and the park is even more amazing than I'd hoped it would be.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Portsmouth running

Downtown Portsmouth, NH

Today's run (street): 3.35 miles

I went down to the fitness center at the hotel this morning at 5:45 and saw that it didn't open until 7:00. I went to the lobby and asked to be let in early but the guy had no one to watch the desk so I asked him to plot out a route adjacent to the hotel for an outdoor run. He mapped a course that, out and back would cover about 3.35 miles.

I wrote a long post with pictures but my phone and Blogger managed to lose it so I'll just say it was a great run and we had a great day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pre-trip run

Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

We're on our way to New England to spend a little time in New Hampshire and Maine. I'm looking forward to the experience, too bad it takes hours of tedious driving to reach our destination. Hold on, I need to get around this car. Just kidding, my wife is driving.

I got out early this morning and covered a little more than three miles. I wanted to get some exercise in before today's long journey. The weather was perfect, cool and dry, and I ran well. I would have liked to cover a few more miles but I didn't have the time.

Unlike Colorado, I didn't research trails or running routes at any of our destinations except Acadia. I'm hoping there are some traffic free areas and off road options. We'll soon see.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Acadia dreaming

Today's workout (elliptical) 25 minutes

Take me home country roads
The temperatures and humidity have dropped and today would have been a good day for a run, but I opted for cross training in preparation for vacation next week. We're heading north, to Maine, where we'll spend time at Acadia National Park on Mount Desert island near Ellsworth. There are great carriage roads for running and places to hike along Cadillac mountain. I think we'll forgo the bikes but we'll get plenty of exercise on this trip.

It was a year ago that we visited Colorado and I had the opportunity to run at altitude for the first time. I had some good experiences running in foreign terrain, the hotel had some rocky trails behind it that were lined with cactus scrub. Garden of the Gods had paved trails that wound through magnificent sandstone rock formations. We also visited Bear Creek Regional Park where I was able to run beautiful green trails accompanied by deer and other indigenous animals.

We'll also visit Portsmouth NH and Portland ME on the trip and I'm sure there will be great places to run at those locations. My biggest concern is packing enough running gear to make it through the week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Runner's World moment

Emerging Runner: "Don't quit your day job"
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Besides my occasional Central Park runs, my "day job" has nothing at all to do with running. Yesterday these two worlds collided (or at least touched) at an industry lunch event. A small group of us had been invited to discuss digital media and sitting across the room from me was David Willey, the editor of Runner's World magazine. Despite the temptation I didn't ask him if I could write a guest column.

My run this morning went fine. The humidity is supposedly lower today, and that may be true, but lower is a relative term. I was already drenched in sweat by the 1.5 mile mark but in certain directions the cooling breeze worked as effectively as an air conditioner. I chose a completely different set of roads to run, yet completed today's run in exactly the same time as yesterday's. I am consistent if nothing else. C'mon Runner's World, give me a shot!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Should I release my inner Tarahumara?

What Hattori's aspire to be
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I received an offer to test a pair of  huarache running sandals whose design is based on the shoes worn by the Tarahumara runners in Mexico. My first reaction was "Why not?" since I'm a fan of minimal shoes. I would like to try these shoes that got so much play in the book "Born to Run" but I am definitely not a sandals kind of guy. I would never have made it as a gladiator. I'm still deciding and if I go for it I'll write up my experiences on this blog and on Runner's Tech Review.

This morning I got back out on the road and probably had one of the best running experiences a person will have today. It's not that I ran especially well (though I didn't do badly), it was the cooling breeze and temperatures that were still in the low 70's. It is supposed to get oppressively hot so if you were hoping to run today you probably should have done it by now. Perhaps it would be a little more pleasant if you were running in sandals.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hard on the body, easy on the mind

Yesterday's run was really therapeutic, yet I almost missed out on it because I was so exhausted from the weekend. We'd had a special event for our daughter that involved many visitors from out of town and much entertaining around the house and pool. My stamina for running far exceeds that of talking (and worse, listening) so, after the last of our guests headed home, I debated whether to run or rest.

Since I didn't have time to run on Saturday I felt a little guilty about resting, yet again. Guilt won out and I made my way out the door with a target of covering about 3 miles in the hot and humid late afternoon air. The difference in temperature between sections of tree covered road versus areas without shade was noticeable. I tried to pick roads where the shade was predominant on the left side and had no illusions that I'd have a high performance run.

By the time I made it home I felt energized and the stress of the weekend and the upcoming week was far offset by a feeling of relaxation and accomplishment. It's sometimes counter-intuitive to force yourself to do something taxing when you are already feeling stressed. However, when you do it, the end result is almost always positive.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A late day run after a busy weekend

Today's run (street): 3.35 miles

It's been a very busy weekend seeing lots of friends and family. I didn't get a chance to run yesterday but I got out late this afternoon and ran a little over 5K. Temperature is posted as 82° but it feels much warmer. The humidity also felt higher than the 60% that's listed on the Weather.com. Considering that I'm a morning runner who likes the cold, I managed a credible mid-9 pace. It's going to be a busy week at the office so I'm glad I was able to get in a hard run today to help me transition from play to work.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stumbles, both technical and physical

Today's run (street) 3.75 miles
As a person who makes his living pushing technology change, I'll admit that I sometimes fail to follow my own mission when it comes to changing the technologies that I use every day. I logged into Blogger to write today's post and saw that the interface has been completely changed. I'll be interested to see if any of these changes provide a better experience. So far it appears to be only cosmetic - just different colors, fonts and rearranged tools. Of course that's also the case with Microsoft Office's latest and the end result is a confusing mess.

When it comes to running I've reduced my use of technologies to a degree. No more weird electrolyte tablets or running with smartphone tracking apps while listening to music. Just me, my minimal Hattori's and a Garmin FR210 GPS watch with a high-sensitivity receiver and barometric altimeter. Ahh, the simple  life.

This is a big weekend for my daughter and we have guests in all weekend from out of town. We're hoping the weather holds so we can keep today's activities outdoors. It's still sunny so we're hoping for the best. I went out a little before 8:00 AM for a run and, since it's Friday, I was surprised to see so many walkers and other runners on the road. But in the summer, Friday is sorta like "pre-Saturday." It sure felt like that.

At one point in my run I noticed a young woman running on the sidewalk on the right side of the road. I was curious to see how our paces lined up and soon realized that I would overtake her. Almost at the moment when I passed her (running on left side of the road I'll note) this woman stumbled and fell. I was about to run over to see if she was okay but she got up quickly, saw me and sheepishly said "I'm okay, I'm okay." I suspect that she tripped on the uneven sidewalk and this is why I run on the far left side of the street except when there are cars.

It was very humid out there and I conceded to a less than stellar pace. While I felt I was running slower than yesterday it turned out I was running 2% faster. Not much of a difference but it made me happy since I ran more distance in hotter, more humid weather. I'll probably need to skip tomorrow's run and go out early on Sunday morning before our guests wake up. Anyway, that's the plan for now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A good experience saves an unexceptional performance

That seductive smell of salt and rotting fish
Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

This morning I had my first street run since Saturday. Sunday's workout was done on the track and Monday's on the trail. Yesterday I stayed in and used the elliptical machine. My performance on Saturday was sub-par (actually, in golf terms that would have been a good thing) while Sunday's speed work happily went the other way. I kept things easy on Monday's run at Stillwell and anticipated some decent performance today. I figured that the speed work would have primed me for that.

When I stepped outside I could feel the humidity but what really struck me was the sharp scent of the ocean that comes with living close to Long Island Sound. I moved along well with none of that leg weightiness that plagued me most of last week. I thought I had a chance of recording a decent overall pace. Early on in the run I landed on a sharp piece of road gravel that confirmed my mid-foot strike, but no damage done.

Despite what I thought was a brisk workout, I only ended up averaging a mid-9:00 pace. I guess I could have worked harder but I really did feel like I was pushing my pace. I don't really care that my performance wasn't the best; the run felt good and the air smelled like summer on Cape Cod.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Buying the (W)right socks

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I may care too much about socks
I decided to give my calves a break from running this morning and used the elliptical instead. I figured that the change would be helpful and not put more strain on these already aggravated muscles. It was hot and humid this morning and I went all out, increasing my rate of speed by 6% over normal. I figured if I was going to sweat I'd make it worthwhile.

I'm planning to get back on the road tomorrow and I'm looking forward to wearing my new WrightSock SLT's that I bought for a good price (thanks to the use of City Sport dollars). They are ultra-thin, unpadded, wicking socks that I'm hoping will work well with the Hattori's. I'll know soon enough.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The dreaded Day 2

Aleve and compression are good for the sole(us)
I should have known that Sunday's hard running would eventually catch up with me. Usually I'm fine the day after a vigorous workout but then I pay for it on the second day. I'd fooled myself into thinking that running in the Hattori's had sufficiently built up my gastrocnemius and soleus muscles but by early evening my calves were screaming. Perhaps bleating would be a better word. Yesterday's semi-tough trail run probably contributed to that as well.

I took an Aleve before heading up to bed and wore my Zensah compression sleeves overnight. I had previously verified that it was okay to do that. This morning my lower legs still felt like they were fused to my ankles and making my way down the stairs required a tight hold of the banister. After an hour my muscles had loosened up. They were feeling far better by the time I made my train.

I've got a couple of errands to run around lunch today so I'll have a chance to shake out the residual stiffness as I cover the streets of the city. I'm really hoping that things return to normal in time for my morning run.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July on Stillwell's Black Trail

Fun times await you on the Black Trail
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.8 miles

Happy 4th of July! It's been a great long weekend and today's weather is holiday perfect. We have a busy day planned, including a cookout and some time by the pool. I headed out to Stillwell first thing this morning to get in my last run of the weekend. It was already hot at 7:00 AM when I arrived to see mountain bikers staging their gear. I was surprised to see so many people out at that hour, especially on a holiday.

After yesterday's hard training I had no intention of pushing my pace today. I watched the shaded paths unfolding in front of me and took a left onto a trail marked "More Difficult." I've gotten into the habit of running my safe, standard loop at Stillwell that isn't that hilly. More importantly, I know that trail well enough by now that I don't get lost.

The trail I picked today did not seem too challenging as it wound around trees and large rocks. I soon recognized that I was running the Black Trail, that served as the primary course for the 2010 XTERRA 6K trail run. As soon as I made that connection I knew what I was in for and 50 yards ahead the path dropped sharply into tight switchbacks that came back up as fast as they'd dropped. I remember, during the race, seeing runners going down, then up, as the path weaved across the woods like nature's bank teller line. I knew today that my reward for reaching the top was 100 feet of flat trail before I'd encounter another climb.

I wasn't running all that fast so the extra work didn't bother me much. After 20 minutes of hard running I peeled off to a path marked "Less Difficult" that eventually intersected with my normal route. I decided to take the easier choice and finished the run after covering 3.8 miles.

Going off the beaten path (pun intended) put me in the cross-hairs of the mountain bikers who seek out the most difficult parts of Stillwell Woods. I had expected the park to be deserted but I encountered almost a dozen bikers along the way. At one point I was coming through a tight, winding section of singletrack when three mountain bikers suddenly appeared in front of me. The lead biker yelled "Runner!" and we yielded to opposite sides. I liked that -- I am a runner!

I was a wet noodle by the time I left the trail head and reached my car. I headed right home, forgoing the car's AC, and changed immediately into my swim trunks when I got home. A quick jump in the pool cooled me off better than any shower could. We'll be out later for more swimming but that was about as good as it gets. Enjoy your holiday, I've had a great start to mine.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fast and furious today - could it have been my diet?

The Garmin missed it big on first lap
Today's run (track): 4.25 miles (3 mile tempos plus 8 x 200)

My running experience on Saturday was disheartening and my poor performance caused an alarm after I started reading the July issue of Runner's World. This issue's theme focused on people who use running to raise money for cancer research and on those runners who are coping with the disease. One story quoted a runner whose running performance was unaccountably slipping and a checkup revealed some horrible affliction that is (happily) now under control.

I'm not really a hypochondriac so I didn't take any of that to heart, but I was still puzzled by my bad run. Paul, a local runner who I met at the NHP 8K, suggested that my diet may have left me depleted of needed carbs as an explanation for my failure to generate speed during yesterday's run. He knows his stuff and suggested trying more complex carbs the night before a long run. He competes a lot and tunes his pre-race meals according to distance and time of the day.

I took Paul's advice and (for dinner) had a modest portion of Garden Delight Penne Rigate with roasted chicken, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower mixed in. Earlier that day, I had a recurrence of the sinus headache that plagued me a couple of weeks ago. Around 4:00 AM this morning I got up and took two Pseudoephedrine and went back to bed. I woke up at 5:30 feeling great. After a couple of cups of coffee, I headed for the track.

My plan for today was to generate some speed after yesterday's tough run. It was humid, but not too hot, and the cloud cover was thick. I started with a mile warm-up at a brisk pace (7:50 min/mile) and then ran 8 x 200's averaging 6:50/mile overall. For me these were blistering paces. The Hattori's performed well on the track, my landings were much more front than mid-foot and neither my feet, ankles nor calves balked at the strain.


I followed the speed work with two miles of "easy" running, maintaining an 8:20 pace through that distance. I haven't managed that pace over two miles in a long time, clearly the speed work had activated those fast twitch muscles. What a difference a day makes. I'm no longer feeling that I'm on an unstoppable performance decline and I'm thinking that I need to do speed work more often than once every three weeks. Perhaps a trail run tomorrow will be a great coda for this 4th of July long weekend. Speed's not an issue on Monday -- I have nothing left to prove.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fast twitch recruiting failure

Today's run (street): 4.6 miles

No problem with that, bud
The leg weights were doing their job as I made my way around the hilly loop in a nearby business park this morning. I tried for speed but my legs wouldn't -- or couldn't -- respond. I reached the apex of the hill and tried to let loose. My speed improved but not measurably. The weights just overwhelmed me. But here's the thing: I wasn't wearing weights.

All week I've experienced a lack of responsiveness in my running. I've thrown in some fartlek's along the way but the result, at best, has been fast lumbering. I planned to start off at a brisk pace this morning to see how my legs felt but I struggled to recruit anything resembling a fast-twitch fiber. I managed through the first mile until I found my rhythm but a glance at the Garmin showed me that I was not moving very quickly.

I'd had an extra hour's sleep last night and even took a GU gel 30 minutes before my 7:00 AM start.  Even with that, the fluidity and power that I counted on never showed up. After I completed the business park loop I turned into the adjacent neighborhood and ran those streets. A glimpse of my shadow revealed my static motion and it showed that I was hardly lifting my legs as I ran.

When I turned left to exit that neighborhood I passed one of those safety signs that parents put at the end of their driveways to alert drivers that kids are playing nearby. The big letters on the sign said SLOW and it made me laugh. I don't think I could have moved any slower. Yet, through it all I didn't find the run taxing in the least and I'd wished I'd worn my heart monitor so I would know how hard I was actually working.

I'll blame 25% of my performance issues on the high humidity and 50% on my failure to push myself harder. The remaining 25% is mystery. I wish I had actually been wearing weights so as to provide a reasonable explanation for my glacial pacing. I'm thinking of doing a bike ride later today and I definitely plan to do some speed work tomorrow. I'll recruit those fast-twitch fibers even if I have to bring back the draft to do it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kinvara reunion


Hello darkness my old friend

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It was surprisingly cool this morning when I stepped out for my run at 4:00 AM. I'm guessing that the temperature was in the high 50's and the dark skies helped to exaggerate the cold. There was a little humidity to soften the air but overall it felt more like early spring than summer. I wore my Kinvaras just for a change from the Hattori's. I expected the Kinvara's to feel like an old friend, but instead, I found them tight on my mid-foot. I wondered if the Hattori's flat, arch-less, platform had changed my perception of how a foot bed should feel. Interestingly, I have no such issues with the Mirage that has a 1-2 mm higher ramp angle.

Once mobile, I observed the way I was landing in the Kinvara and curious to see if I would strike closer to the heel than in the Hattori's. It seemed like I was landing on my mid-foot but it felt different than it did prior to going ultra-minimal. My energy level was okay but my form was not fluid. This has been the case all week. I felt that I was moving along well this morning (and I was compared to Wednesday) but my overall pace was still 30 seconds per mile slower than I would have liked.

The long weekend is almost here and I think it's time to get back to speed work. Perhaps my fast twitch muscles need a wake up call.
 

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