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, December 31, 2012

2012 ends today but the Hangover starts tomorrow

Almost done
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

The year is nearly over and, for that matter, so is my vacation. In past years I've taken time to reflect on the previous twelve months and set my goals for the coming year. 2012 had its ups and downs and I won't be too upset to see it go. I will say that it's been fine year for running although I can't point to any particular moment that stands above all. If I had to pick, I'd say it was my experience running the half marathon in May, when I hit my stretch goal in terms of performance.

Counting a two day business trip that I took prior to the break, I have been away from the office for eleven days. Tomorrow will be my last day off before returning to work on Wednesday. I'll cap the vacation and celebrate the start of 2013 by running the Hangover 5-miler in Eisenhower Park. The Fun Run starts at 9:30 AM and I'm going to try to time my arrival so that I minimize the time I'll need to wait in the 25 degree weather.

Although I usually take Monday as a rest day, I decided to trade it for Wednesday when I return to the office. I'll be back to rising before 4:00 AM and I'll appreciate being able to skip my workout without feeling any guilt.

Today's run was a good rehearsal for tomorrow's event and I paid attention to how long it took to go from comfortably warm to hot and sweating this morning. Tomorrow I'll be covering almost two more miles than today, so I may opt for one less layer up top. I'm not thrilled that my vacation comes to an end on Wednesday, but at least I'll have this event to send me on my way.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Taking the warmer option on a windy and chilly day

Today's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

It's been a busy day catching up on errands and taking care of things around the house. The winds have been blowing hard all day, and the temperatures have stayed below freezing. I decided early in the day to follow my wife on the treadmill, where I did 3+ miles (I always question the accuracy of the treadmill's display) at a decent clip.

We're heading out shortly to see some friends for dinner. I'm going to try to convince my buddy to do the Hangover Run with me on Tuesday. Even though he's a runner, I don't think he'll want to deal with the early hour or the cold. I am looking forward to the Fun Run  and may do a short run tomorrow as well, since the Hangover isn't a race and I don't feel like I'll need to take a day to taper.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kicking cross-training to the curb

BH Fitness X1: it was fun while it lasted
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

The snow began to fall as I ran through the streets of my neighborhood this morning. It didn't amount to much, although I'd hoped to see some accumulation during the time that I ran. The streets remained clear for the thirty or so minutes that I was outside. Since then, the snow has mixed with rain.

Earlier in the day, I took on the task of disassembling our BH Fitness elliptical machine. This was a disappointing end to a machine that promised both quality and durability when we made our purchase. It was probably a mistake to buy this unit, rather than opting for the cheaper Schwinn model that we liked at Dick's. After nine months waiting for parts that never arrived from BH Fitness, we had no choice but to give up on the machine.

Had we bought the Schwinn, I'm fairly sure that it would still be working today. Further, if it did break, the manufacturer would have surely provided the necessary parts. BH Fitness and Fitness Showrooms (where we bought our elliptical) will never see another dollar from us. Still, I'll be sad to see the X1 sitting on the curb, waiting for the sanitation people to pick it up.

We're hoping that the stores will have some post-holiday sales on fitness equipment so we can replace the X1. It's been almost a year since I've had a weekly cross-training option and I miss the variety. At least now we know the value of buying equipment that can be easily repaired.

I've continued to fight my cold head-on by running every day since Tuesday. It was a chilly 30° this morning but that didn't discourage me too much. Today's run was about getting in some miles and raising my heart rate, but performance wasn't a priority. I probably overdressed but the short distance prevented me from overheating. Tomorrow may be the last opportunity to get in a trail run before I return to work on Wednesday. If the weather improves I'll head over to Stillwell. If the rain and snow continue, I'll probably take a pass on the trails.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Running through a headcold is usually the best medicine

Today's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

Without fail, I always experience some health related issue during the week between Christmas and New Year's. With the exception of the accounting team who are called upon to close out the the year, my company pretty much shuts down during the final week. I usually take this week off and, in the past, have suffered the flu, pneumonia or colds during this time. This week it's a mild head cold and I hope it stays that way.

The fourth quarter of the year is usually the most stressful, and I'm sure that's why I get sick when things come to a halt. I started taking flu shots a couple of years ago and that's probably paid off more than I know. Since my current cold is limited to stuffiness, sneezing and an occasional cough, I've chosen to ignore the symptoms and keep my running schedule. I've already covered 14 miles this week and the weekend is still to come.

We needed to get out fairly early this morning, so I returned to the treadmill to save a little time. I'll admit that when News 12 stated that it felt like 20° outside with wind-chill, I decided to "protect my health" and run indoors. I didn't push too hard at the beginning, but I steadily increased my speed and finished running with my heart rate at the low end of zone 4.

I still haven't got out of my own neighborhood to run this week, like I usually do when I'm on vacation. Maybe I'll do a trail run this weekend and I'll look forward to the LIRRC 5-Mile Hangover fun run on Tuesday at Eisenhower Park.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Harsh weather, a tough run and a happier mind

Lots of protection from 5 little ounces
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Last night's wind and rain carried over into morning and the world looked dark and dreary when I got up. I hadn't thought much about running except for the hope that the weather would clear. I really wanted to avoid another indoor workout if I could. The gray skies and slick roads did little to motivate me so I waited a few hours before deciding to head out.

The cold had prompted me to put on a couple of top layers, but I didn't realize how nasty it was until I finally stepped outside. Conditions were chilly, wet and windy and I immediately returned to the house to grab my running windbreaker. I'd bought this ASICS Serpent jacket at a race Expo four years ago and have always found it effective against rain and wind. My only issue with it has been its tendency to trap heat. Today that worked to my advantage.

I've been fighting the beginning of a cold and set out at an easy pace, running into headwinds and a spray of light rain. My gear selection: three top layers, City Sport winter weight running pants, gloves and an over-the-ears wicking hat, kept me surprisingly comfortable over the first mile. As I moved through the streets, the wind began to pick up and the rain got heavier. I laughed at the unpleasant conditions but chose to keep going. I hoped that things would improve, but they never did.

The winds were challenging and, at times, it felt like they undercut my speed by half. After three miles the conditions had become exhausting and the rain made it increasingly difficult to see through my glasses. I hurried home through the final set of roads, pushing as hard as I could just to get to the end.

Despite the harsh conditions I was very glad that I did this run. I wasn't in the best mood in the morning and had considered taking a rest day. My wife wisely (and strongly) suggested that I get out, saying that a run would change my perspective. Once again, she was right. Tough runs often lead to a far better outlook.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Run delayed by vapor lock

30 amps of LIPA-less power
Today's run (treadmill): 35 minutes

Hurricane Irene knocked out our power for six days last year and Sandy had us down for eleven. We figured enough was enough so we ordered a Generac 5500 watt generator to be delivered to our home. Weeks later, we saw that the unit hadn't even shipped. We decided to buy an alternative unit at Home Depot (a 5700 watt RIDGID) and picked it up this morning.

We felt it would be best to get the generator early in the day, so we headed over to the store before 8:00 AM. I planned for a quick setup and start-up before going out for my run. I thought, naively, that I'd be on the road by 9:30. The setup went fine, but I couldn't manage to keep the engine running for more than 30 seconds before it stalled out.

I tried every suggestion in the manual and called the 800 numbers for RIDGID, Yamaha (maker of the generator's motor) and Home Depot. The others were not especially helpful, but Home Depot said to bring it to them and they'd get to the bottom of it. They quickly diagnosed the problem (vapor lock in the fuel line) and had the unit running smoothly in minutes.

Playing around with the generator took over seven hours, from initial pickup to a final (successful) test at home. I am definitely not a late-day runner and the weather was getting worse by the minute. I considered skipping my workout, but decided that the day's frustrations needed an outlet. I turned to the treadmill and ran for 35 minutes. I'm pleased to have completed my workout, but I'm especially happy to finally break our full dependency on LIPA.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Change of pace on an Xmas morning run

Shoe of the day
Today's run (street): 4.7 miles

Today is Christmas day and the neighborhood was quiet in the morning. We had sleet and snow overnight and the streets were shiny from the rain. I'd originally planned to go to Stillwell Woods but I didn't feel like dealing with wet rocks and muddy trails. I figured that most people would be hanging out at home and I'd have the streets mostly to myself.

It had been a couple of days since I last ran and I hoped that the break would be energizing. Just to mix it up, I selected my Spira Stinger XLT's that I've neglected for months. I dressed for the 37° weather, stepped outside and observed that the clouds had given way to sun. While my Garmin searched for a signal, I saw a familiar runner passing on the street to my left. I wanted to follow him, but the GPS was being a little too poky. A minute later I was ready to go.

The Spiras were a nice change from the Kinvaras. I love the fit and comfort of the Sauconys, but the Spiras, almost as comfortable, return a little more energy. The one criticism I have of the Stingers is that the "Wavesprings" are noticeable underfoot. I recall feeling them during the half marathon training runs that I was doing earlier in the year. These shoes are great for shorter runs, but I wouldn't want to cover more than ten miles in them.

Like last Saturday, I was able to sustain a good level of energy throughout today's run. I only intended to run 4 miles but I got caught up in the experience and extended my route. I don't know how much credit I should give to the Spiras, but I covered my distance a minute faster than I thought I would. As much as I downplay performance, it's always fun to beat expectations.

I hope to get to Stillwell or another park at some point this week. Today the streets of my neighborhood were just what I needed to get back to into my running routine. Happy holidays to all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thinking about tomorrow's run

I've been tied up since Sunday morning and that has kept me from running since Saturday. Many people will be celebrating Christmas tomorrow, but I'm thinking about finally getting back to the road (or trails). Depending on how I feel in the morning, I'll either run the neighborhood or head over to Stillwell Woods. The weather is supposed to be cold and sunny and I'm looking forward to a quiet and peaceful run.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Defining a long run


Goodbye Boston, hello vacation 
Today's run (street): 5.6 miles

For all intents and purposes, my business year has ended. I finished things up with a trip to Massachusetts on Thursday and Friday and I'm now - officially - on vacation. It was a necessary excursion, but the travel logistics and schedule were tough. Shortly after leaving South Station, I took this shot of the gloomy conditions that I was leaving behind.

I wasn't able to run during the time I was away, so I looked forward to getting outside this morning. We have plans that will prevent my running on Sunday and Monday. I wanted to get in at least five miles before taking my next break. The other night I was asked whether I considered five miles to be a long run. I wasn't sure how to answer that, but I finally decided that five miles represents the dividing line between short and not-short.

I went to bed early and took the opportunity to sleep a full eight hours. My wife and kids had early morning activities so, after they left, I got ready to run. The temperature was in the low 30's when I stepped outside. Although I wore layers to stay comfortable, the five minutes it took to acquire a GPS signal forced me back into the garage to stay warm. I hoped that the first few minutes of my run would help me generate some body heat.

Prior to leaving I'd mixed a packet of chia seeds with an ounce of watered down coffee. I think that chia can make a difference. Chia seeds may not enhance performance, but they do seem to provide some sustainable energy. It could also be that, after taking two days off, my body was rested and ready for a run.

I covered the neighborhood as much as I could without duplicating too many streets. I kept waiting to feel fatigued throughout the run, but I felt almost as strong at mile five as I did at the start. My route took me to the northern part of my neighborhood so I extended the loop and finished with a little extra distance. I ran the last half mile briskly and that helped put my overall pace within normal range.

I felt great on today's run and I regret that I won't be back on the road until Tuesday. Still, I'll have some vacation days that will provide me the opportunity to run longer distances, leading up to the Hangover Run on January 1st. 5.6 miles may not be a long run, but it's the longest run I'll be doing for a while.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hitting the running reset button

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Today is my last day in the office until after New Year's. I have a short business trip on Thursday and Friday and then I'll be on vacation through January 1st. Due to travel and weekend plans, I'm looking at another low mileage week. That's okay, because I plan to get out as much as I can next week.

I've gotten into the habit of running on the treadmill in the morning, rather than hitting the streets with a headlamp and reflective vest at 4:00 AM. I'm finding it easier to manage my time that way and it's making me really appreciate my outdoor weekend runs. I probably won't get a chance to run again until this Saturday and then I'll need to take another break until next Tuesday. I'm not pleased to be taking so much time away from running, but I'm looking at it as an end of the year reset.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The schadenfreude of running haters

Today's run (treadmill): 26 minutes

I've been a fan of the NY Times Well blog for years, especially the articles written by Gina Kolata (I wonder how many times people have teased her about her name). The Well covers the subjects of health and science and it often focuses on the subject of running.

Yesterday's column was entitled, "Recipe for Resentment: Claims of Running Prowess" and it was about the fact that non-runners often view runners in a negative way. Quoting Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist and exercise researcher at Hartford Hospital, “people love to find studies that support the bias that too much exercise is bad.” In the story, the writer says, "Running appears so easy — anyone can run, it seems. Anyone can finish a marathon, even Oprah Winfrey did it. So those who do not run can feel a little defensive."

Many years ago I practiced a form of Okinawan karate called Uechi-Ryu and reached the rank of black belt. I found that some people (males in my age group, mostly) liked to disparage both my abilities and the usefulness of my skills. One co-worker used to pretend to shoot me with his finger as if it were an imaginary gun. It was his way of suggesting that karate is an ineffective form of self defense. I finally asked him if he'd like to see what I could do to him with my finger. That ended  that, but I always felt bad when those conversations happened.

I'll concede that I can talk at length about running technique, experiences and performance. It's energizing to relate with others who feel the same way. But for those who don't know the difference between a foot pod and a fartlek, running talk can sound pretty boring. I'm fortunate that most of the people in my life support my running and the worst anyone ever says about it is that running hurts their knees. I've learned enough to keep my mouth shut rather than lecture them on how mid-foot running will solve that problem for them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hoping seasonal happiness is just a trail run away

We are only weeks away from New Year's Eve, but I'm not feeling the holiday season like I have in prior years.With last Friday's unconscionable violence in Connecticut, and worries about an impending "fiscal cliff" that could drive us back into recession, it doesn't seem like the best of times. On the bright side, I'll get to spend some good vacation time with my family next week. I'm also looking forward to running the LIRRC Hangover Run on January 1st.

That's the thing about running. No matter what's troubling you, you can always look forward to your next event. Over the past few years, I've found that an upcoming race can help offset negative thoughts and motivate me to train harder. Thinking about running on the trails at Stillwell or Bethpage has helped me through more than one difficult work day. Unfortunately my schedule will prevent me from doing any off-road running until later next week. But when I do, I hoping to finally recapture that elusive holiday feeling.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chia powered run pays off

Don't know if it helped, but it didn't hurt
Today's run (street): 5.1 miles

I went into the weekend thinking I'd do at least one run away from home. Unfortunately,  I never managed to travel beyond my neighborhood. At least today I was able get out of the house. Yesterday's five miles on the treadmill was a better experience than I'd hoped for, but I just couldn't face the treadmill again today.

The weather reports keep describing today's conditions as gloomy, with low dark clouds and occasional drizzle. I suppose if I were attending a lawn party I'd wish for brighter skies, but as a runner, I was pretty pleased when I stepped outside. I detected a few drops when I started, but it never actually rained. I wanted to cover five miles or fifty minutes, whichever came first.

While I was getting changed for my run, I noticed that my Garmin FR210 was out of charge. I grabbed the FR60 to use as a stopwatch, since the foot pad hasn't had batteries since I switched to the GPS-enabled 210 in May of last year. I generally average 9:30 miles on these weekend runs so I used time as an indicator of distance.

Prior to starting, I consumed a small packet of chia seeds that FS gave me from her NYC Marathon package. My experimentation with chia has been inconclusive, but I figured, "what the heck." I mixed the seeds with a small amount of water that went down much better than the Chia Surge gel I'd tried months before. I think it actually provided some useful energy.

My run went well. There was some wind that made the 46° weather seem much colder, but I wore two layers on top that provided adequate warmth. I didn't know how much distance I'd covered, but I had a good idea based on the time I'd run.

It seems like my encounters with bad drivers always seem to happen during the final minutes of my run and today was no different. As I was making my way to the last long street I saw an SUV coming from the other direction. I guessed correctly that the driver would turn right in front of me (no signal of course) so I paused while waving my hands to get her to see me. I yelled, "You're supposed to stop for pedestrians!" as she passed by. Maybe I need to invest in an air horn.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Running against tragedy

I'll keep this one under wraps
Today's run (treadmill): 5.1 miles

Yesterday's senseless shooting in Connecticut upset me deeply. How can kids ever feel safe at school with the knowledge that sick people, with ready access to guns, can so easily hurt them? Coincidentally, our own town was conducting an emergency dismissal drill at the time of shootings. Let's hope that if anything good comes out of this, it will be a call to action to address the NRA's paranoid and obstructive agenda. Easy access to guns have made these scenarios all too common.

I'll admit that I know very little about the details of yesterday's event. I'm usually on top of the news, but I've avoided watching or reading anything about this tragedy. I haven't even been able to bring myself to take the newspaper out of its wrap. I think I know everything I need to know.

Due to our schedule today, I was kept at home in the morning and couldn't go outside for run. Later today we have a party, so my options were limited. I look forward to weekends, because they usually give me the freedom to run outside for as long as I wish. Since I was place-constrained but not time constrained, I decided to do a longer run on the treadmill.

I'd normally put the news on the TV and watch it as I ran, but that wasn't going to happen today. Instead, I put on one of the music channels at the upper range of the cable spectrum and pumped up the volume. I set the incline at 1% to keep it interesting, and increased my speed periodically in order to get my heart rate to the targeted zone. I had plenty of energy for the run, but I felt very tired when I finished. The good thing about a hard workout is that it lifts your spirits when you're done. I really needed that today.

Friday, December 14, 2012

No Ho Ho Holiday run

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I'm not exactly sure why I've veered away from racing for the time being, but I've decided against running in tomorrow's Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K in Bethpage. Good thing I didn't prepay that $20, huh? I know if I did choose to participate, I would enjoy the race a lot. Racing provides many layers of experience: the chill of the morning air, the throngs of runners gathered for the start, the exciting first steps of the race and the combination of relief and exhilaration you feel after (finally) crossing the finish line.

Of course the time spent between the start and finish of any race is the reason why you are there. My experience during that time has ranged between sheer joy and sheer will. I've had at least two experiences when running 5K's, when I actually wished the race was longer because I was enjoying the experience so much. On the other hand, my first time running a half marathon (plagued by injury) and my second time running Cow Harbor (with oppressive heat and humidity) could be best described as voluntary torture.

Another event that happens tomorrow is the NYRR Ted Corbitt Classic 15K that's run in Central Park. Friends FS, CG and KWL will be running this 9.3 mile race that's almost two times around a loop that goes between 61st to 104th Streets. The course this year avoids the Harlem Hills, but that doesn't mean runners will have an easy time. There's still Cat Hill and they have to climb that twice. I'm rooting for my colleagues and hope they have a blast.

I still need to decide where I'll run tomorrow. I may try to get onto the Bethpage bike path from one of the connecting roads if the park entrance is still closed. I know I'll be missing the excitement of tomorrow's race and the feeling of accomplishment that comes at the end of a competitive run. On the other hand, choosing my own venue allows me to set my own pace and distance and I can sleep in a little later in the morning. Right now, that seems to be the better choice.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good data can make you thin

BodyMedia, FitBit, Withings
Tuesday and Wednesday's workouts (treadmill): 50 minutes (total)

Yesterday was a busy day for me and I didn't get a chance to post. During the first part of the day, I attended a session on the future of journalism that was put on by the MIT Media Lab. I've been representing my company at MIT for over a decade and I always find it interesting to hear views on the direction of media from students and faculty. The theme that repeated throughout the dozen or so talks centered on the way data and data visualization is shaping news reporting.

On the same theme, I just read an article in the November issue of Men's Journal called, "Living By the Numbers" that examines how targeted data can directly contribute to personal fitness. The writer used tools like BodyMedia, FitBit and the Withings Body Scale to capture and track calories and performance metrics.

For some reason I expected the article to present a negative view of these devices, but  it actually supported their use. The writer started off at 195 lbs with a BMI of 25.7 and ended up losing over twenty pounds by the end. He didn't specify the time period for when that happened, but my own experience tells me that your weight can come down quickly once you've committed to a program.

An important point that the writer made was that interest in these tools diminishes over time. He likens it to the infatuation stage of new relationship that gives way to a more realistic viewpoint. In addition, the process of tracking certain things (like calorie intake) can become a real burden. The key point is that good data helps an athlete maintain awareness of diet and effort, and that can lead to improvement.

This may all seem self evident, but the way data is acquired and the way it's applied can make a big difference. In the end, it's not the gadget that puts us into better shape, it's the effort that we put into the process. However, good data seems to provide the type of feedback that will help keep us on track.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The introverted runner

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I was thinking the other day about running clubs and why, after four years of considering them, I have never joined one. I happened to be looking at the Huffington Post on the train home last night when I read an article that helped me understand my reluctance. The article is entitled, "Nine Signs That You Might Be an Introvert" and it described me to a T.

I already knew before reading that article that I fall on the introverted side of the spectrum. My company used to administer Myers-Briggs assessments that placed you into one of 16 personality types. I recall my profile came out as INTP (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving). I'd challenged the introversion assessment at the time, arguing that I was a person who interacted a lot in public, so I couldn't be an introvert. It was explained to me that introversion is not the same as shyness, although they are not opposites.

Realizing that I'm a classic introvert explains a lot about why I prefer to run alone rather than participate in running club activities. I like people, but not situations when I need to interact with big groups. Small groups are much more comfortable for me. Races are the exception, I love the energy of the pack and the shared experience of driving towards the finish line. Perhaps it's because racing lets you interact with others while maintaining a comfortable level of privacy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Net present value of running the Ho Ho Ho 5K

$5 compounded over five days, carry the one...
When I studied economics in college, the concept of time value of money was often discussed. In a nutshell, it's the idea that money available today is worth more than the same amount of money in the future. In consumer terms, the longer you hold your cash, the more you can grow its worth. So what does this have to do with running?

Next Saturday is the Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K run that is held in Bethpage. I ran it last year and had fun. I almost broke 26 minutes and enjoyed seeing competitors dressed up as reindeer, elves and Santas. I've had this race on my schedule all year, but in the last month, I've decided to take a break from competing until 2013. Now I'm considering it again but I'm still not convinced that I want to do it.

This brings me back to the time value of money. If I signed up today, it would cost me $20 and that would be that. However, if I waited until the day of the race and then decided to run, it would cost me $25. So the price of indecision would be $5. Although five bucks isn't much to save, it can still buy you a couple of slices of pizza at Mario's.

But here's the thing. If I spend $20 to save five, and then decide on Saturday that I don't want to race, I'm out four times the amount I'd "saved." For that reason (and the fact that my wife may have already told me that we have plans for Saturday), I'll bite the bullet and take the $5 hit on race day. That seems to be the most economically sound strategy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Confirming normality after yesterday's tough run

Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

I'll admit that I was nervous about today's run because I was concerned I'd struggle again like yesterday.  I had hoped the lethargy and weighty feeling in my legs was due to having a large lunch prior to running. The paranoid part of me was thinking that my problems at Caleb Smith were a sign that I'm fighting a virus or my level of conditioning has dropped. 

After stalling for 45 minutes, I finally got into (running) gear and stepped outside. The weather this weekend has been in the high 40's but the occasional rain made it seem colder. I dressed a little lighter than yesterday and hoped I wouldn't regret it. As I stood outside waiting for my Garmin to acquire a signal, I noticed that there was a moderate breeze coming in from the north.

The moment of truth came when I headed up the first road and compared my level of energy to yesterday's start. Despite the wind, I was pulling strongly up the slight incline and it was clear that I was back to strength. It felt like I was carrying fifteen extra pounds through most of yesterday's run, but today I had no such issues.

Once I understood that things were back to normal, I focused on covering my planned distance. I've definitely hit a lull in terms of weekly mileage and my base has dropped a little. Without any races on the calendar I'm seeing my performance curve dropping. It's reminding me why I compete.

I rounded the neighborhood at a pace near the high end of my average. I was comfortable and had no fatigue,although my legs felt a little rubbery. I'll take rubbery legs over legs that feel weighted down so no complaints there. By the time I reached home I'd raised my heart rate into zone 4. I finished the run feeling worked out but far better than I did at the end of yesterday's run.

The best part about today's run was that it confirmed that yesterday's struggles were an aberration with an attributable cause.  This will go down as another low mileage week (15!) but I expect to resume base building next weekend. I'd really like to get back onto the Bethpage trail and run for a while.

Caleb Smith trails: bad conditions for both run and runner

Hazards abound on the Caleb Smith trails
Yesterday's workout (Caleb Smith State Park): 3.4 miles (run), 1 mile (hike)

It was a busy Saturday for us, and I didn't get a chance to post about yesterday's activity until this morning. Yesterday afternoon we headed over to Caleb Smith State Park where my wife and kids participated a candle making workshop while I hit the trails. Hurricane Sandy had done a lot of damage to the park, but they'd just re-opened the yellow trail. The blue, green and red trails still remain closed.

Prior to leaving for Caleb Smith, we'd stopped for lunch at Moe's. That was a mistake on my part. Lunch was fine, but I didn't give myself enough time for proper digestion. I thought I felt fine when we arrived, but soon after I'd started toward the trail I could tell that's the going would be tough. I pressed on hoping that I'd begin to feel better as time went on.

After a mile I couldn't ignore the discomfort. It wasn't a stomach issue, but I felt lethargic and my legs felt heavy and unresponsive. I decided to walk it off and covered a half mile before resuming my run. The trail was in poor condition, with branches strewn along the path by the storm and thick mud from the morning rain. The parts of the trail that were covered by leaves were the most run-able.

I felt marginally better after a half mile hike and resumed my run for the next mile. I had looked forward  to this trail time, but I wasn't enjoying it much. The trail markings were a little inconsistent and I found myself on the closed paths once or twice. In most cases I could keep going until I reconnected to the yellow trail but once or twice I had to double back.

At one point I thought I saw another runner through the trees, but couldn't really see much, except that it clearly wasn't a squirrel or a fox. I thought it was odd that someone would run off-trail, especially with the current conditions. During my next loop around, I detected the same movement and saw that the "runner" was actually a deer. I noticed two or three others soon after. They kept their distance but didn't run away when our paths came together at a clearing.

I ended up running over 3 miles, though not continuously. I was happy to be finished and vowed not to repeat my mistake of having a big lunch prior to an effort of that scale. After my run, I spoke for a while with a ranger whose team maintained the park. He told me it would be some months before the cleanup was completed. There's a lot of tree damage that they can't get to with heavy equipment so it comes down to a two man crew that uses old fashioned methods to precision cut and remove damaged trees.

I'm planning to do a neighborhood run later this morning and really hope that yesterday's running difficulties don't carry forward to today. I'd rather have yesterday's lunch to blame than to be dealing with a bigger issue related to being ill.

Friday, December 7, 2012

If running wasn't healthy would you still run?

Take your pick
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

My wife mentioned a conversation she'd recently had with our son. They were talking about the motivation for working out. A question they'd pondered was, "If running wasn't healthy, would people still do it?" It's an interesting thought, because most people will tell you that they run for enjoyment. In my opinion, it's much more likely that most people run for the health benefit. Occasionally they'll enjoy  the experience.

Would I run if the benefits weren't clear? That depends on a lot of things. In this scenario, is running harmful or is it health-neutral? If we suddenly learned that running does not contribute to health, I know I'd mothball the treadmill in a second. But, unless it caused harm, I'd probably still run trails. The point is moot, because I've realized big health benefits from running 20 or so miles a week. While I sometimes dislike the work, I always feel great in the end.

There are people on the other end of the spectrum, those who run ultra-long distances or compete in Ironman competitions, who may actually do themselves more harm than good. I wonder if these people accept the risk and choose to run for hours because they love the experience. I suspect that many of these athletes view endurance sports with a distorted lens: if a little running is healthy, a lot of running must be even better. Unfortunately  anorexics tend to look at eating (or not eating) the same way.

I ran on the treadmill this morning and thought about the enjoyment vs. health question. I decided that the only reason I was running (while most people were still sleeping) was to fulfill the commitment I'd made to stay in shape. But this weekend I'll be viewing my running a little differently, with a planned trail run at Caleb Smith State Park. That's my definition of fun and it just happens to be a healthy thing to do.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Staying healthy by not running

Last night I was concerned that the headache and dizziness I suffered from last week was returning. I readied my gear for today's run but prepared to abandon my workout if I wasn't feeling 100% by morning. Last week's strategy to run despite feeling run-down turned out to be a bad gamble. I wasn't going to repeat that today if conditions were the same.

I resisted taking pseudoephedrine when I went to bed because I don't like taking medicine unless I'm really hurting. I figured that if I woke up in the middle of the night feeling awful, I'd reconsider. It turned out that the headache never came, but I still felt weak when I got up. I decided to forgo my run and take the extra time to relax. I think it was the right choice. It's hard to give up a workout, but skipping a run can sometimes be the healthier option.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I have a trust issue and you should too

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

As I've said in a recent post, I don't trust drivers when I'm out on a run. I am constantly flabbergasted by what I see while I'm out on the road. Cars driving 50 MPH in my neighborhood that has a posted speed limit of 30. No one using turn signals or coming to a full stop at stop signs. By believing that drivers will always do the wrong thing, I'm able to manage safely.

Last weekend I was running along a road when I spotted a woman four houses ahead getting into her car. I had a suspicion that she wasn't going to be careful and as I came closer, I saw her backing out quickly without looking. Had I not been hyper aware, she might have hit me - or come close to it. I was up and over the curb before the situation became dangerous. That didn't stop me from screaming, "Hey, did you look before you pulled out?! Do you ever look?!" I could tell she felt bad or was freaked out by my screaming at her. Either way, I'm hoping she won't forget the lesson.

This morning I ran on the treadmill because it was raining slightly and that meant conditions outside would be dark and slippery. Nothing interesting to report about my indoor run, but when I left for the train a little after 6:00 AM, I found myself in the position of being the driver pulling out with a runner passing by. Even though it's dark and quiet at that time, I was careful and looked both ways. The runner was hard to see because he wore dark colors and was running on the right side of the road. He either assumed I'd see him or was planning to thread the needle and run past my car once it cleared the end of the drive.

I saw him after taking a careful second look to my right and hit the brake before backing out. He passed by unscathed. I wanted to yell to him that he's invisible and was taking a risk by running in dark clothes, but I've learned by now that people resent being told these things. The only reason I didn't hit this fool was that I double-checked both sides before I backed out. I don't trust drivers when I run, and I don't trust runners when I drive. Trust must be earned and so far, no one's earning.   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When metrics matter less, the run matters more

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

When you first begin to run, it quickly becomes obvious how much you need to learn. I look back at my early days and realize how many bad decisions I'd made (sprinting without a warm-up,  buying Nike shoes, wearing cotton socks, etc.). Once I understood that wicking clothes were de rigueur and finally learned what "PR" meant, I started to focus more on performance metrics and the technologies to capture data.

As I mentioned above, I first bought Nike running shoes, but it was primarily because I didn't know brands. But I also bought them because they had a storage well under the insole where I could put my Nike+ chip.With the Nike+ chip and Sportband, I was able to capture interesting data about my runs including time, speed and distance. Until the Sportband display corroded (I actually went through three Sportbands, each with a MTBF of 3 months) I was able to see my pace in real time as I ran. It was exciting to monitor my progress.

I switched to Garmins after that, and studiously recorded my metrics. I analyzed my performance and tried to understand why my average pace improved or worsened from month to month. The numbers were important to me. Over the last year, I've noticed that I've stopped checking my pace as often when I run. I watch my distance and monitor my heart rate but the speed that I run doesn't interest me much anymore. I can't say that I've given up on performance (it's always great to see when I'd paced under 9:00) but that's not what's important right now.

I can't help thinking about the recent WSJ article that correlated fast paces to negative health in older athletes. Maybe that's part of it, though my decreased focus on speed (except when racing) has been a long time coming. I ran my usual route today about 15 seconds slower than average, but I was happy because I did the run. It took years to feel that way. I wonder how long it will last.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My first 100K (it's not what you think)

A unique feeling
When I started this blog four years ago, my only goal was to document my experience as a runner. I'd run in the early '90's but never documented my progress and I regretted that. I thought a daily journal might motivate me to get out and run so I'd have something to write about. Although I felt committed to both, I couldn't help wondering whether I'd tire of writing or running and, if so, when.

I noticed that the Emerging Runner site odometer has recently passed 100,000 unique visits. I used to look at hits, pageviews and other metrics and even thought about going beyond the rudimentary SEO that I'd set up for web discovery. After a while I decided to just focus on the content and let the audience build organically. Still, I appreciate every one of those 100K visits.

At some point I'll go through my large collection of posts and select some favorites that I will share. I've found a lot of value from this archive as a gauge of my running progress. But more than that, it's been a great way to capture the daily occurrences of my life (albeit with a running bias) that would normally be lost over time.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My motivation to race is at an all time low

Today's run (street): 5.2 miles

Lately, I've been struggling a little with motivation, but not to the point where it affects my commitment to running. After having two of my favorite races canceled in November, I think my competitive spirit has gone stale. The next race on my schedule is the Ho Ho Ho 5K Holiday Run that takes place in Bethpage. I ran it last year, but I'm considering skipping it this year.

5K's require speed work, but I'm not that interested in doing tempos, fartleks or intervals right now. I recognize the benefits of a hard workout, but I think the moderate training runs I've been doing provide the same value. The idea of of lining up on a cold morning for a race doesn't appeal to me at the moment. I'm thinking that the LIRRC 5 mile Hangover Run on January 1st will be my next organized event.

The Hangover Run appeals to me because it's non-competitive. There's a timer but no timing chips. In fact there's no registration at all. Just show up, run and record you own time. But if I run my fastest time during this event, I will certainly claim it as a PR.

My big issue today was a feeling that I'd be bored on today's run. Yesterday's run around the neighborhood was a bit tedious and I was planning to go out even longer today. I started thinking about running with other people and how much I used to enjoy my workday runs in Central Park with Adventure Girl, JQ and others, or my runs at Bethpage and Belmont Lake with Dave and Brian. It made me reconsider joining a running club.

It turned out I wasn't bored after all today. The lactic acid buildup in my legs was gone and though my performance was average, I felt great throughout the run. I do like running on my own where I can determine my preferred route and speed, but the experience of running with others also has great appeal. Perhaps I'll find a weekend morning meet-up in the area. Running with a group might be a good step towards regaining my racing spirit.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I run in the 2nd best shoe (umm, make that sneaker)

Best sneaker ever? Highly debatable
Today's run (street): 3.75 miles

Prior to this week, I had never heard of The Sneaker Report. But after a few mentions by people I follow on Twitter, I checked out the site. The reason why people have been tweeting about Sneaker Report is because of a post called The 100 Best Running Sneakers of All Time. Any list that ranks people or things will be debated, and I'm sure that's the case here. Their choice for number one is a Nike model from 1995 (Nike Air Max 95) that looks like a cross between a Skechers Resistance Runner and the shoes the Apollo 11 astronauts wore when they walked on the moon.

The original Kinvara, better than the 3
Redemption came with the choice for number two: the Saucony Kinvara 3, that happens to be my preferred running shoe right now. But as much as I like the Kinvara 3, I like the original Kinvara more, because it was groundbreaking and (in my opinion) a little more responsive. The other choices seemed odd to me and many appeared to be selected for the way they look. I shouldn't be surprised since the site refers to running shoes as "sneakers."

After battling pounding headaches and exhaustion earlier in the week, I'm almost back to my old self. I took it easy on the treadmill yesterday in terms of speed but I set the incline at 2% to get my heart rate up a bit. Today I planned an outside run and though the temperature on the local news station showed 41°, I bundled up with extra layers. That turned out to be a good decision because it felt far colder than low 40's, especially when the wind was blowing. My Kinvara 3's did little to insulate from the cold and I'm wondering if I need a winter shoe.

Since I'm not fully back to strength, I decided to keep my distance in the 3 to 4 mile range. I felt fine as I ran but, after a mile, I noticed that my legs were feeling heavy. I was running a high 9:00 pace and my heart rate was low, so I just kept moving. I can't say I enjoyed the workout, but it wasn't like I was suffering. Once I reached three miles I started to follow roads that headed back toward my house.

This has been a week of moderately easy running and I'm fine with that. I'll probably target 5 or more miles tomorrow. I'm certainly not in speed or performance mode these days. After reading the WSJ.com article last Tuesday, I'm not so concerned about performance. At least I'm not this week.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Are male runners more competitive than female runners?

The 4 hour cliff 
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes - 2% grade

If you are a member of Athlinks you may have received an email that shows a graph of 2012 marathon times (above). The graph shows 2012 finish time distribution frequency, and it clearly illustrates that marathon times peak right before the four hour mark (I inserted a blue arrow to highlight that point). Not shown here was another graph that compared times by gender. That graph showed that 58% of men (vs. 42% of women) finished faster that 4:00. One might conclude that men approach these races more competitively than women. The sharp spike between 3:50 and 3:59 times indicates some very tactical planning.

I can't speak to how women view racing, except through anecdotal conversations with female friends who race. I wouldn't say that women are any less competitive, but they may carry a different perspective on their performance goals. Many men (including myself ) simply pick a targeted time and  focus on beating it. Women (more often it seems) will view their finish times as secondary to the experience of running their best. They are no less competitive than men, but they don't seem to be as discouraged if they miss a specific time target.

It would be wrong to say that women don't care about hitting performance targets. That spike on the graph at 4:00 represents a lot of female finishers. But I would say, generally, that woman view and value performance differently than men. One approach is more quantitative and the other is more qualitative. In the end, I wonder who's more satisfied with their results?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Incomplete recovery is better than none

Yesterday's troubles continued through the night, and I got to bed early in hopes on sleeping off my pounding headache. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling no better, so I took some pseudoephedrine and Advil and went back to bed. When I got up, my headache was far less noticeable and the heavy fatigue I'd carried most of Wednesday was gone. Still, I knew better than to try a run. I learned something from yesterday.

Headaches of this type are really debilitating and, when they finally leave, the world feels so much better. But even with that improvement, I wasn't out of the woods. I felt well enough to go into the office but some slight dizziness and a mild headache remained. Sudafed saved the day, but it wasn't a complete victory. Another dose this morning brought further improvement.

I'm not sure what's behind these headaches but the only way to get rid of them seems to be a combination of sleep, NSAIDs, and pseudoephedrine. Missing a day's workout, like I did today, would normally bother me because it will make it harder to reach my weekly goal of 20 miles. But an article from Tuesday's WSJ.com sent to me by FS, says that (for older endurance athletes) it's better to keep weekly mileage below that number. Older endurance athletes that run 7:30 paces or faster that is. So I guess I'm good with my 20.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Debating "You'll never regret a run"

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I often quote the line, "You'll never regret a run" to make the point that the effort to exercise is always worth it despite how you might feel. Just this morning my wife said the same thing to me about her workout. Ironically enough, I may have found the exception to the rule today, having completed a treadmill run and suffering the consequences of that decision.

It's hard to differentiate between feeling tired because you've just woken up and feeling fatigued for other reasons. This morning I went through my routine of preparing for the treadmill (30° outside temps made that an easy decision). Though I felt groggy, I expected that feeling to pass once I got going. That happened, but soon after I'd cooled down I was ready to return to bed for more sleep.

Since my schedule is tight on weekday mornings, I had to ignore the dizziness and feeling of weakness. I left for the train, hoping that I could get a decent seat and take a nap. The LIRR is running less trains due to Sandy-related issues and the cars get very crowded, but I managed to secure a good spot and slept for 20 minutes.

I'd hoped that would solve the problem but my fatigue continues. Despite some strong coffee and analgesics I'm still hurting. I don't know if running on the treadmill was best thing for me this morning. Had I not done that, I could have taken an extra 30 minutes to rest and avoided the physical impact of running. If I skipped my run, I'm wondering whether I'd be feeling any better. Or would I feel worse due to the guilt of missing a workout? I'm taking solace in the thought that while I may regret today's run, I would definitely have regretted skipping it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our BH X1 is a bad houseguest

BH Fitness X1: down for the count?
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

This weekend we had guests who stayed over in our spare bedroom. It's actually a misnomer to characterize this room as a spare because, next to the kitchen and den, it is easily the most utilized room in the house. Besides being the staging area for my morning runs, the guestroom is also where my wife does her daily treadmill workouts and it occasionally serves as my home office.

The guest room is fairly large and, besides having a bed, side table, armoire, wall unit and work table, it also contains a treadmill and an elliptical machine. The elliptical has been dormant, awaiting parts since March. Still, with all that stuff, the workout section of the room can seem a little tight. If we'd known back in March that our BH Fitness X1 was going to be out of commission for seven months (and counting), I'm sure we'd have either moved it to the basement or kicked it to the curb. But it sits there every day, mocking us for naively thinking BH Fitness will some day send us the needed parts.

I really miss using the elliptical and we had high hopes when our local service person (unaffiliated with BH Fitness) informed us that that replacement parts had come in. Unfortunately, once the technician arrived, we learned that they'd sent the wrong parts. I'll try to be diplomatic here and just say that BH Fitness machines are overpriced, seem to wear out quickly and you can't get parts. On the other hand, if you live on Long Island and need your home equipment fixed, I'd certainly recommend Busted Fitness.

We hope to learn soon if the correct elliptical parts will ever come. If the answer is no, we'll have to decide whether to buy a new unit. If we do, I'm not sure what brand to buy or what level of machine to get. With our experience with the X1, I'm thinking the most important question is, "If it breaks, how quickly can it be fixed?"

Monday, November 26, 2012

A different perspective on running ability

Running strata as viewed by a newbie
Over the weekend my son and I were looking at some posts dating back to late 2008. That was around the time when I started to run in a dedicated way. Most of my early posts were about discovery and understanding. One post that my son really liked was an unscientific assessment of running abilities. The above graphic shows the levels that I'd defined at the time to differentiate between newbies like me, compared to long standing runners.

In December of 2008, I put myself between "beginner" and "intermediate", though in retrospect I should have used "advanced beginner" to describe my abilities. At that time, I viewed runners who covered distances between 16 and 24 miles as "established." My 20 mile per week average puts me right in the center of that range. I guess after four years I could claim to be at that level.

But distance (or even speed) aren't really the best way of describing a person who runs. Both of those measurements have as much to do with age and circumstance as they do with experience. Today, I'd characterize it differently and say that anyone who regularly practices the discipline of running (regardless of how fast or how far they go) is a runner. That's all people really need to know.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coffee powers an out of cycle run

Today's run (street): 4.1 miles

I got out a little late this morning because I wanted to spend some extra time with our house guests. I'm used to early morning workouts and I always anticipate a tougher time when I run outside of my preferred window. It may have been the three big cups of coffee I had throughout the morning, but I felt ready to run when I headed out close to noon.

After yesterday's change of scenery, where I covered some roads north of Jericho Turnpike, I was fine staying closer to home today. My energy level was high and my pace felt fluid, but stiff winds coming from the northwest brought the wind chill down to freezing. Running directly into the wind was uncomfortable, but a slight change in direction brought sudden improvement. I maintained good energy throughout the run, despite getting a late start. Hooray for caffeine.

I had planned to run four miles or 40 minutes, whichever came first. For performance sake, I was hoping it would be the former. I ended up covering a little more than four miles while coming in under forty minutes. This put me at 22 miles for the week, two miles over my weekly target of 20. The time off due to Thanksgiving contributed to a higher mileage week. Still, I need to start focusing on longer distances for my individual runs.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A whole new world to run, right across the street

Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

The holiday week continues with our weekend guests arriving mid-morning. I wanted to get in my run before they got here so I headed out early to try a new route. I got out of the neighborhood today, but I didn't travel too far from home. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I'm  reluctant to cross major roads when I run. Doing that on foot is risky, but but it would unlock a number of available routes. For safety's sake, I decided to take a short drive and park on the other side of Route 25 to start my run.

I've run on Jericho Turnpike near my house a number of times, but always on the southern side. Today I ran on the opposite side, allowing me to track north to Jackson and mimic my daily drive to the train station. I often see runners on my way to the train and envy them for running while I head to my commute. I was always curious to experience this road, but after a couple of minutes I turned into a neighborhood and followed a street that wrapped back to Jackson. This road had some rolling hills that I appreciated after running the flat streets of my neighborhood.

I eventually ran past the train station and headed east before turning back for the second half of my run. I enjoyed the change of scenery and the chance to break out of my large, but ultimately contained, neighborhood. I reached my car and made the two minute drive back to my house. This was another nice change from the 15+ minute drive I often make to and from Bethpage.

I'll probably run in the neighborhood tomorrow to save time and get it down before our house guests wake up for breakfast. New venues are always fun, even if they're less than a mile from home.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shopping-free Black Friday run

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

I love weeks like this when I get an extra day to run without my usual time constraint. It's the day after Thanksgiving and I would have expected to see other runners on the road, working off yesterday's big dinners. But it was surprisingly quiet at 7:30 AM. Perhaps people were sleeping in, or already out at one of those ubiquitous Black Friday sales at the mall. Good luck to them. You won't find me at a mall until after New Years.

Yesterday's turkey trot was a fun event, but the way I ran it could hardly be considered a workout. Still, there were some big hills and forty minutes of moving faster than walking pace has to count for something. This morning my goal was to cover four miles and to work up a sweat while I did it.

It was 36° when I set out for my run. I'd dressed for slightly lower temperatures and was concerned about overheating. Despite that concern, I remained comfortable throughout the run. Besides a couple of cars and a sanitation truck, I had the roads pretty much to myself. My wife was in the process of making pancakes for the kids when I left. Although I could have easily gone for a couple of extra miles, thoughts of breakfast guided me back home.

My run wasn't particularly fast, but it was in the range of acceptable. It was a pleasant enough experience, but I'd like to run in a place more interesting than my neighborhood this weekend. Bethpage State Park's website is still saying that, besides the tennis facilities and golf courses, the park remains closed. Most alternatives involve a lot more driving and that's about as appealing as a trip to the mall.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Family run at the Nissequogue River Turkey Trot

Scene at the finish line

Today's run (Nissequogue River 5K Turkey Trot): 3.1 miles

It's Thanksgiving and, for the third year in a row, the Emerging Runner family ran in the Nissequogue River State Park Turkey Trot. It's an event that draws a big crowd. With some races canceled due to hurricane Sandy, even more people gathered for the race. Me and my daughter ran the course and my wife and son walked it.

Clearing the path before the Fun Run
After the 1K Fun Run for kids that was led by a guy dressed head to toe in a turkey costume, we all made our way toward the starting line. The race is not very well organized and the start often runs late. Much of that is due to the high number of race day registrants who are still in line at gun time. Today the start was only six minutes late, which was a nice surprise.

The size of the crowd prevents any fast running at the start, but it worked fine for me and my daughter. We fell into an easy pace as we made our way along the first, mostly uphill, mile. It's a different experience running easy during a race instead of pushing for a PR. I enjoyed having my daughter by my side and we were happy to reach the turnaround at the halfway point of the race. We saw my wife and son, who were moving along briskly, on the other side.

The last mile is mostly downhill and we cruised along until we reached the finish line. My wife and son came in about six minutes later and we quickly headed to our car. The exit line from the race gets backed up fast and we needed to get home in time to shower, change and head to our Thanksgiving dinner.

The rest of the day was spent with family and we're all a little beat, but it was great to participate in a race as family. Tomorrow I'll go out for a nice long run and burn off some calories from today's feast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A chilly run today and a Turkey Trot tomorrow

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Most big holidays start earlier than their date on the calendar because people often day before off to travel. That's certainly the case with Thanksgiving. The LIRR continues to be plagued by ongoing signal problems in the East River tunnels (due to Sandy) so there are less trains, more stops and big crowds. It was a pleasant surprise to board the train this morning and have my choice of seats. And for that I am thankful.

My office will be very quiet today because many of my colleagues are doing this day-before travel. I really do like my co-workers but, without any meetings, I'll be able to make good progress on some projects. We'll close the office early so I'll get a little extra free time as well.

Nissequogue course map
Tomorrow morning Team Emerging Runner will become Race Team Emerging Runner, as we run the Nissequogue 5K Turkey Trot for the third year in a row. We won't really be racing, but it's a race. Last year my daughter and I ran it while my wife and son did it as a run/walk. That's the plan for tomorrow as well. After that will be Thanksgiving with family and then more family arriving over the weekend.

I really didn't want to go out into the cold this morning, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I dressed warmly because I was concerned that the wind might make conditions even more uncomfortable. There was only a mild breeze but the warm layers were still necessary. I started out easy but picked up speed in response to the cold air. Once I get to a certain pace, between steady and brisk, I tend to hold it. I completed my route slightly faster than I normally run it.

The weather for the rest of the week is looking promising and I'm optimistic that I'll exceed my 20 mile average with some longer runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's been a long time since I've raced, so I'm really running out of habit and not training for anything in particular. I do have a 5K coming up in December but that seems a long way away. For now, it's about running for fun. Tomorrow's event should be just that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rejecting rest is easier when you have options

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

This morning was a time of quick compromises. I set out my running clothes last night anticipating a cold morning run. Occasionally, I'll wake up an hour before I need to get up and then struggle to fall back asleep. I usually win that struggle, but the ensuing sleep cycle puts me out until my alarm buzzes. This leaves me groggy and without much energy.

Today I had one of those mornings. My first thought was how much preparation time I'd lost by sleeping to my alarm. I usually wake up ten minutes prior to that and take the opportunity to start earlier. The time it takes to put on layers of clothes, a hat and running shoes (plus my SPIbelt, reflective vest and headlamp) is longer than you'd think. Add to that the wait time needed to acquire a GPS signal, and suddenly I'm up against my time budget.

After waking up this morning, my mind went first to the easy solution: a rest day. Sleep induced logic argued that I'll be off on Thursday and Friday leaving me time to make up the miles with longer runs. I then remembered that on Thursday we're doing the 5K Turkey Trot and I'll be running that at an easy pace with my family. Knowing that I'd lose another hard workout on Thanksgiving, I rejected taking a rest day.

The next best option was to run on the treadmill. Running shorts, shoes and a HR monitor were all I needed and in just a few minutes I was off and running <smile>. I started easy and it took almost ten minutes of speed increases to get my heart rate into my targeted zone. By the end, it felt like a good workout and I managed to salvage about five minutes of additional downtime before my shower. A quick compromise was better than an impromptu rest day. At least it was today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Something more fulfilling than running

Setting up for the many in need
Last night me and my family spent a few hours helping to provide basic items to families in need. Some of the recipients were facing difficult economic circumstances, while others were still disrupted from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Our task involved handing out vitamins, baby food and supplies to people. My wife possesses great process and organizational skills and she had me and the kids working seamlessly to serve the many dozens of families that came through our station.

We found out about this volunteering opportunity through Island Harvest, a food bank on Long Island. I was happy to help, but I never expected to feel so good about what I was doing. When you offer things of value to people for free, you'd expect a little greediness. I was amazed by how so many asked only for what they needed, and were so gracious about receiving it.

That experience made me think about how racing and charity are often tied together. Just about every race has some cause attached to it. In some cases, the race is explicitly about the charity, like breast cancer or multiple sclerosis. Other races, like the ING NY Marathon, raise a collective $25 million by allowing teams of charity runners an opportunity to run in the race.

My family has a particular attachment to the Marcie Mazzola Foundation race that is held every April, because it was my first-ever race and it's all about the Foundation. Other races I run are less clear about the causes they serve and some are not tied to a charity at all. I've decided that, in the future, if I run in a race that that has no clear connection to a cause, I'll donate money for every mile I run. But as good as it feels to donate money, I've learned that it's even more gratifying to donate time.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Four years emerging and a trail run to celebrate

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.2 miles

Four years ago today, I published my first post on the Emerging Runner. I had made some unsuccessful attempts to run in the past, but in 2008 I fully committed to running as a lifestyle. I'd also started a few blogs before that time but never managed to keep them going. My hope on that day that I published that post was to break that cycle. After four years, I think I can say that I did.

In the October issue of Runner's World magazine, Captain "Sully" Sullenburger was featured in the section called "I'm a Runner." The interview is short, but interesting. I especially liked this quote, "I'm not a good runner, but I'm better than someone who doesn't do it at all." That statement sums up everything I've written over the last four years.

Over the past four years I gone from being someone who faced every run as a difficult challenge, to a solidly mid-pack race competitor. I was talking to my brother yesterday about my four years as a runner, and how I struggled so hard on my first runs. I remembered hoping for the day when I'd be able to run and think of something besides discomfort and pain. Soon enough, my runs became my best process for thinking through any problem.

If not for Hurricane Sandy, I'd be spending most of this post recapping the Long Beach Turkey Trot that was scheduled for this morning. The hurricane devastated that city and destroyed the boardwalk that is almost half of the 10K course. I love racing in Long Beach for its ocean views and flat, runner friendly roads. I hope the community gets back to normal quickly, not for the runners, but for the sake of the residents. 

High visibility on the trails
Today called for a change from the neighborhood roads that I've run since returning home after our power was restored. Stillwell Woods was the perfect choice and I headed over with a plan to run my favorite two mile loop a couple of times. I'd recently bought a nice, high visibility running shirt at TJ Max for the bargain price of $7.99 and thought Stillwell would be the perfect place to use it.

The mountain bikers were out in force and most shared the trails very well, politely warning me when they were closing in. I'm sure the bright orange shirt helped them see me in plenty of time. I took it easy on the trail and was careful to avoid branches that had fallen on the path from Sandy. It was difficult at times to see the trail because the rising sun was hitting me head-on. I got whacked in the head a couple of times by overhanging branches but my hat protected me from any damage.

It's been a nice fourth anniversary of my running/blogging life so far today. Later on, the Emerging Runner family is heading to East Northport to assist in an effort to get food to elderly and housebound people whose lives were disrupted by Sandy. Next week is Thanksgiving but I am thankful often, especially today when I am able to help myself and help others. The decision I made to run in 2008 has much to do with that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Autumn running brings front loaders and pumpkin bread

Today's run (street): 5.3 miles

A runner's reward
 I needed to drop off my car for inspection this morning and that delayed my run until 9:00 AM. That was no big deal, but the world is far more awake at 9:00 than at 7:00. People who are awake tend to drive their cars, so the streets were busier than I prefer. Worse, the tree trucks and front loaders were also out in force, attending to the remaining pockets of destruction caused by Sandy.

On weekend runs in the neighborhood, I usually stay fairly free-form in terms of my route. That way I can run distances as they play out: 4, 5, 6 miles or more, depending on where I am when I decide to head for home. Today I pre-mapped the streets I'd follow, because I wanted to cover at least five miles. With a couple of exceptions, my run went fairly well.

The temperature was in the 40's but it still felt cold, probably because there were strong winds blowing from the north. The combination of wind and a slightly rising road made for a tough start. At one point something - a leaf, twig or small acorn - hit me in the face, right above my brow. Fortunately, my glasses had prevented it from hitting my eye.

Along my route I encountered crews of workers that were blocking the road with their trucks and equipment. I saw a few large sanitation trucks that were picking up some remaining debris. I avoided a couple of streets that looked impassible, and stayed on the sidewalk while I managed around a particularly big work operation. I ended up running my distance a little faster than I thought I might. I wasn't concerned about speed, but it was nice to see that I beat my performance expectation.

When I got home, my wife and kids were in the process of preparing their famous pumpkin bread that they bake every year around Thanksgiving, for friends and family. To a ravenous runner, the smell of pumpkin, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon was intoxicating. After a quick shower, I was treated to one of the mini-muffins that were baked from the batter. Recovery food doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Observing transformation on my morning run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

One day can make a dramatic difference. During my run this morning I saw that most of the downed trees were removed some time yesterday. Some scary looking wires, artfully draped over a busy road for the past two weeks, were back up on their poles. The streets were clear of residual brush, and it looked like we'd never even had a hurricane.

This morning was colder than yesterday, but only by a few degrees. I wore my prized City Sports running pants and a lightweight 1/4 zip top with an short sleeve jersey over it. This combination worked well for the near freezing weather. Had I run longer, or pushed myself harder, I would have felt overheated. I ended up covering my route a minute slower than yesterday, although the effort seemed about the same.

I'm thinking about this weekend's running and I was disappointed to see that the New York State Parks website said that, besides the clubhouse, tennis facilities and golf courses, "Other areas of the park will remain closed until further notice." I need to find an alternative to Bethpage for my long weekend runs. Perhaps I'll head to Stillwell Woods tomorrow to do some trail running. It's been a long time since I've gone off road and I really miss that experience.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Running in Sandy's spooky aftermath

The shadowy world of a 4 AM runner
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Hurricane Sandy is more than two weeks gone but the after effects will remain for a while. People have been saying that it's just too soon for Thanksgiving to be happening. One of my favorite times of the year is the period between mid-October and early December. That's when the leaves turn, the air smells like fall, and Halloween and Thanksgiving kick off the holiday season. Hurricane Sandy interrupted that whole experience. On the other hand, having our power restored and not sitting in gas lines will be top of mind when we give thanks next Thursday.

As I made my way to the top of the first street on my morning run, my headlamp revealed what looked like two cords of wood stacked on the curb in front of a neighbor's house. If I had a wood-burning stove or used our fireplace, this would be a good time to save money on firewood. Running through the neighborhood is a little eerie these days, especially on mornings like this when there's little moonlight. My headlamp and the occasional streetlights played off the huge trees, downed by the storm. In the dark at 4:00 AM, it looks like a scene from "Where the Wild Things Are."

In the days between Sandy and today, we've seen temperatures drop, especially in the early morning. I dressed accordingly and appreciated the extra layers as I made my way around the neighborhood. The cold air definitely helps motivate me to run a little harder and I found myself pacing faster than the day before. The spooky shapes created by the storm were a fun distraction and my run seemed to go by quickly, even though I only beat Wednesday's time by 32 seconds. Sandy overshadowed Halloween this year, but I got it back a little today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Athlinks bemoans declining race times

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I had a funny exchange yesterday with Troy Busot, the founder of Athlinks. This website aggregates race results and allows members to compile a rich racing history. Athlinks members can comment on their race experiences and compare their performance to "rivals" (other members who have participated in 2 or more of the same races that you've run).

The reason I contacted Troy was that he'd sent an email that, in a tongue and cheek way, chided runners for what he called, "an alarming decline in U.S. racing performances in distances across the board." He compared average finish times for the most common race distances plus Olympic, Half and Full Ironman Triathlons. He made his point but I noticed that his times for half marathons were exactly the same as for 10K's, an obvious typo:

Average Times for Leading
Race Distances from 2009-2012

Distance20092012Change% Change
5K Run30:3031:47+1:17+4.04%
10K Run1:01:011:02:28+1:27+2.34%
Half Mara1:01:011:02:28+0:18+0.15%
Marathon*4:33:184:33:13-0:04-0.03%
Olympic Tri2:52:532:55:55+3:02+1.73%
Half Iron5:59:436:05:49+6:06+1.73%
Ironman12:49:4413:11:39+21:54+2.77%
* Marathon times were the only notable improvement.

Troy quickly fell on his sword after I sent him a note about it and he gave me the correct figures for 2009 and  2012, which were 2:15:16 and 2:16:40 respectively. Troy wrote, "Yep, I have quit the company in typo-shame." I've never run a full marathon but I have run the other distances. In every case (except my first half), I've beaten the average, both for 2009 and 2012. So perhaps I'm not as average as I thought, although my scores would not be so favorable were the comparison more age and gender based.

Speaking of average, my pace this morning was exactly that. The temperature was 35 degrees with a noticeable breeze, and I wore some extra layers anticipating the cold. I stayed comfortable throughout the run and didn't really have a clue how fast I was going until I looked at my heart rate near the end. I saw that I was at 80% of Max. I tried to get it to 85% in the remaining quarter mile, but I didn't quite get there. Even so, my average morning run still gets me around the course 45 seconds per mile faster than the 5K average!
 

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