Running quote of the week

“We run because it makes us feel like winners, no matter how slow or how fast we go.” – Florence Griffith Joyner and John Hanc, Running for Dummies

Monday, April 30, 2012

Kinvara 3, Spira Stinger faceoff

Kinvara 3's - a worthy successor to the original
Spira Stinger XLT's - light, fast and comfortable
With less than six days until the LI Half Marathon, I'm still undecided about which shoes to use for the race. Six months ago I wouldn't have hesitated to go with my Hattori's, but I haven't run with them much over the last two months. I'm not sure how those flat, non-cushioned shoes would feel after 13.1 hard miles, especially with my recent issues with mid-foot pain.

It has really come down to two shoes to wear - the Saucony Kinvara 3 and the Spira Stinger XLT. The Kinvara 3 is a minimal running shoe that I'd anticipated for a year, only to be initially disappointed when I finally ran in them. My issues, it turned out, were not with the shoes, but with the foot inside. An acute pain along my left mid-foot was actually a slight injury that has since healed.

The other candidate shoe, from Spira, has been a delightful surprise. I agreed to evaluate this model on Runner's Tech Review, thinking they were the type of gimmicky running shoes I often lampoon. It turns out that the Spiras are one of the most comfortable and runnable lightweight shoes I've ever encountered. As far as their promise of slicing 15 seconds per mile off my pace, I'm not so sure I'm seeing that benefit. But the Stingers have carried me well over many 8+ mile runs.

I wore both pairs on my runs this past weekend and I'm definitely leaning toward the Kinvaras. While the Spiras have their energetic "Waveform" technology, the Kinvara 3's feel like my original Kinvaras, the highest compliment I can give to a running shoe. Saturday's 12 miler was grueling, but my feet felt great. The light weight and low platform of the Kinvara 3's have almost convinced me to go that way. Almost.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ultimate booster may solve my gel problem

Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

4 ounces of energy
My new Ultimate Direction water bottle has arrived, and it came with a small gel flask (with a bite valve) that might fit into the pocket of the carrier. If it does, I may fill this bottle with G2 01 Prime, which would be easier to manage than a gel during the half marathon. Both bottles are in the dishwasher right now. I'll take the Fast Draw out on my next run to see how it feels in my hand.

I followed yesterday's long run with an almost-four miler this morning. I tried to keep my pace easy because I was out there for recovery, but my natural competitiveness prompted me to push a little harder over the first two miles. I finally settled down and ran slower, but I'll admit that it was more due to fatigue than anything else. I was definitely wiped out by the end.

Whenever I struggle on a run as short as this, I begin to question my stamina. Along the way, I realized that I was following a 12 mile workout with very little rest. It made perfect sense to feel tired. I'm officially on my taper and I hope to restore my energy level throughout the week. I'll rest on Monday, run on Tuesday, and refrain from running again until Sunday's race. I plan to do some strength training and core work between Wednesday and Saturday. One week to go. I hope I'm ready.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Psychological struggles on the Bethpage trail

Six down and six up
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 12 miles

Unless you are an elite runner, or someone who covers 70 training miles a week, 12 miles is a long distance to run. It's 92% of a half marathon and it felt very much like a full marathon this morning. I know a good number of people who run marathons and half marathons, and I am privately amazed by their confident view of these races. To me, a half marathon is an "Event" that takes many weeks of tough training and still guarantees to beat me to a pulp. My friends certainly give their training its due, but they don't seem as intimidated by the challenge.

It was a chilly 34 degrees when I started this morning's run at Bethpage and I decided to start with a lap around the large parking lot before reaching the main trail. I thought that front loading some distance would give me a psychological edge, making my long miles on the trail seem a little shorter. Unfortunately I miscalculated a little and paid for it at the end.

I ran without water because my Amphipod bottle is not usable and my Ultimate Direction bottle had not arrived. I could have run with bottled water but I decided to go without, rather than deal with the need to carry a bottle without a hand grip. I took along a GU gel in case I needed a boost later in my run. I ultimately chose not to take it because I didn't want to consume it without water.

My extra distance at the beginning of my run provided the surprise of reaching the 4 mile point earlier than I expected. My milestone for that distance is a point just south of the Southern State overpass near the Linden Street crossing. Before long, I was running in the Massapequa Preserve where I planned my turnaround after six miles. That was a mistake.

Bethpage is a rolling trail that does a good job of torturing me at certain points in my run. There are some hills to manage during the first few miles, but it isn't until I reach the Southern State overpass where it becomes hard. The section is steep, but not too long, and I get over it fine. The problem is knowing that I'll soon face it coming back, the northbound section being longer, with two difficult inclines.

I like the Massapequa Preserve because the path is macadam, not concrete, and everyone on that section of the trail seems to be friendly and smiling. I cruised along well but I did begin to feel fatigue as I approached the six mile mark. I considered having the GU, but I didn't want to deal with the stickiness without water to wash it down. That won't be the case for the Half where I'll run with water or take GU at a water station.

Once I cleared the Southern State I tried to feel good that I wouldn't have to deal with big hills for a couple of miles. For some reason I began feeling down and was questioning why I was subjecting myself to this long boring run. I knew even then that much of running is psychological and that I needed to get my head straight if I was to cover the next five miles without going insane.

I did recover from that malaise, but my boredom was soon replaced by dread. I was facing the two big hills near the end and wasn't feeling very strong. I again considered taking my gel but decided that I'd almost be finished with my run by the time I felt any effect from it. As I approached the Quaker Meetinghouse Rd. crossing, I seriously considered taking a break. The wooden bench looked tempting but, when I reached it, I just kept going.

The first of the two dreaded hills was easier to handle than I'd expected, though I knew I was running pretty slowly. Another runner passed me and disappeared into the distance and I cringed before looking at my Garmin to check my pace. The last big hill was harder than expected, but I knew once I passed it I'd soon be done.

Wrong!

In my decision to turn around at six miles, I failed to consider that I'd run about half a mile prior to starting on the bike trail. That meant that, by the time I reached the parking lot, I'd only covered 11.5 miles. In order to reach my 12 mile goal I needed to circle the entire lot. While the parking lot is flat, my mind was set to come off the trail and trot over to my car, stop the Garmin and rest. Instead I had to make that last loop, trudging through final half mile as I wistfully viewed my waiting car.

I was beat up pretty badly, but I succeeded in reaching all my training goals for next weekend's race. I will definitely take gels when I fatigue and stop at the water stations or carry my own hydration. Next Sunday will be 1.1 miles more than I covered today. I know it will be hard, but at least the LI Half race course doesn't have Bethpage's hills. That's what I kept telling myself this morning.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Finding my ultimate direction

Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Extreme
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

It rained overnight so I finished my work week training this morning with a treadmill run. I no longer despise the treadmill, but I don't particularly like it either. What's good about the treadmill is the control that it provides. I can better manage my schedule, because it takes half the time to prepare for a treadmill run compared to an outdoor run. Running outside often requires more layers, along with the extra gear like a reflective vest and headlamp.

The treadmill also allows me to lock into a fixed pace or set an incline at will, and I never have to worry about running out of time when I'm half a mile from my house. On the other hand, running indoors provides little visual or atmospheric stimulation. Inside and outside running both have their pros and cons, but I still prefer to run outdoors when I have that option.

I'll be going out for my last long base run tomorrow and I'm hoping that I have a better experience than last week, when I only covered 9 miles. I ordered an Ultimate Direction water bottle after researching opinions on the web. This model has an insulated wrap and, supposedly, a better designed valve on the top. I won't be able to test it until it's delivered next Tuesday. I'll need to decide whether to go with it, or whether to run without a bottle.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Emerging Runner meets emerging technology at MIT

Fascinating group at the Media Lab this week
Tuesday's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles
Thursday's run (street): 2.5 miles

I'm back to NYC after three days in Cambridge. Normally I'd have run my favorite loop along the Charles River and over to Boston and back, but my schedule at the Media Lab was just too tight. That, plus the early morning weather was chilly and raw and I only packed running shorts and short sleeve jerseys. The events at MIT were great, and I got to rub shoulders with people like Peter Gabriel and Reid Hoffman, among other high profile artists and techno-geeks. But I did miss the experience of crossing the Longfellow Bridge at sunrise.

Virtual meets physical
There wasn't much new stuff that related to running, but I did see a couple of interesting projects that connected physiology to technology. One demo showed a way to train or do physical therapy using an animated virtual trainer. The subject performs tasks like kicking a ball towards a target. The closer the ball comes to the designated spot, the better they have performed the movement.

Much more than a fashion statement
Another technology that caught my eye came out of the Affective Computing Lab. It's called the WristQue, a sensing device that goes far beyond the capabilities of wrist-based devices like the Nike Sports band and the MOTO wristband. It captures the usual metrics as well as bio-indicators like galvanic response. It can even respond to your environment, changing ambient lighting as you move through an area. Cool!

I was pleased with my treadmill run on Tuesday morning. I seem to be able to sustain much better paces on Life Fitness treadmills than on my home unit. I covered 3.1 miles under 9:00/mile and felt strong throughout the session.

Wednesday morning was a washout, I didn't have the time to run (plus I had a pounding headache) in the morning. Today I got outside and covered my route in around my usual time. I was careful to notice my form and how I felt. I'm hoping that I can maintain a credible pace over 12 miles this weekend, my last long run prior to the LI Half. I'm still undecided on which running shoes to use for the upcoming race.

It's been a very busy week and it's only Thursday! Tomorrow morning I'll go out again and finish my training program this weekend, as I start my taper.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cambridge days

I'm up up at the MIT Media Lab this week. It's always a great experience and helpful to my day job. There's a strong running community at and around the university. Sometimes the combination of running and technology leads to some interesting projects and ideas. If I see anything that is of interest I will be sure to share.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Running faster than the rain

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

We're going to get a deluge of rain tonight, but you wouldn't have known that this morning when I started my run. The skies were clear, but that quickly changed to clouds. I was surprised to encounter stiff winds from the north and was glad that I'd worn long sleeves, despite the 51° temperature. My plan was to run easy and conditions seemed to support that.

The day after a long run, like Saturday's 9-miler, I like to do a recovery run at a slower pace. Ostensibly, this type of running helps repair muscle damage and depletes built up levels of lactic acid. It's easy to get myself outside for these runs because I like to be outdoors and I know that the workout won't be too taxing.

About a mile into the run, the sky began to darken. I picked up the pace because I wanted to get in at least four miles before it started to rain. Running faster was easier than I expected, and I quickly reached three miles before I felt the first raindrops. The rain was light and I hoped it would stay that way for the next ten minutes.

Fortunately, the weather held until I reached my house. The rain was nothing more than a steady drizzle by the time I reached my driveway. My timing was great. Not long after I got inside, I saw that it had really started to pour.  The upside of rushing through my run was that my overall pace was a minute faster than I'd planned.

Between yesterday and today, I covered almost 14 miles. Not quite what I had been covering in prior weeks, but a good return to base running after last week's race weekend. This upcoming weekend is my last opportunity to train for the LI Half. I got a note from a friend who'll be running that race with me on the 6th. He ran the Hook Mountain Half Marathon this morning in 1:55. I'm impressed with his time. I hope two weeks will provide him enough time to recover for the LI Half.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Empty bottle syndrome

Amphipod Hydroform: leaky top
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 9.1 miles

This has been a tough week by any measure, and I'd hoped to address my sleep debt by getting eight full hours last night. I didn't quite make that, but I did manage seven. Even so, I still felt a little off this morning. I was glad this wasn't my half marathon weekend because it wouldn't have gone well.

My plan was to run 12 miles today. Over the past six weeks I've done base training at Bethpage on Saturdays, going from 7 to 11 miles by adding a mile every week. Last weekend I broke that cycle, because I was resting on Saturday for Sunday's 5K race. With only two weekends left to train for the LI Half, I knew I needed to go out for long run today. Sunday is likely to be a washout with heavy rains expected.

I had a late morning appointment so I tried to get out early, but I didn't quite succeed. I determined that I'd run out of time if I stuck to my original plan, so I cut my distance goal to 9 miles. I had bought some Gatorade G Series Prime Fuel, it's sort of like a gel in liquid form, and added it to the water in my Amphipod hand bottle. I wanted to test that combination for use during the half.

I dressed lightly for the low-50's temperatures, but I should have worn an even lighter top layer because it was HUMID.  Almost immediately after I started my run, I noticed that the hand bottle was leaking and sploshing red-tinted liquid all over my hand. I had wrapped a paper towel around the bottle for insulation and dryness but that quickly soaked through. I wasn't even a half mile into my run when I decided to dump some of the contents to minimize the spillage.

I wore my Brooks Adrenaline to help prevent further aggravation to the sole of my left foot. Prior to putting on my sock, I had rubbed some capzasin cream onto the area that has been giving me trouble. I don't think it did much to help, but it didn't hurt to try. By the time I finished mile one I knew that my foot wouldn't be my biggest problem on the run.

There were many runners, mostly in pairs or groups, along the trail today. Almost everyone greeted me as we passed. I had hoped that all my base running and recent speed focus would make today's run easier, but I really struggled throughout most of the way through. By the time I reached the steep incline leading over the Southern State, I was concerned about having the strength to complete the entire out-and-back.

I only went .75 miles into the Massepequa Preserve before turning back and facing the climb over the parkway from the other direction. Once I came down I knew I had less than 4 miles to go, but I knew the last two miles would be very difficult.

By the time I was ready to drink from my bottle I saw that there was nothing left to drink. This was a disappointment and the lack of hydration, combined with glycogen and electrolyte depletion, made me grateful that I didn't attempt the full 12 miles, as originally planned.

I ran the first half of today's run a minute per mile faster than the second half. The humidity didn't help an already tough situation. As I slogged through the last two hills, I kept visualizing the final downhill section that would lead me to my car. Nine miles this morning was far tougher than the eleven that I ran two weeks ago.

Due to the Amphipod's failure, I wasn't able to assess the effectiveness of the G Series Prime Fuel as a supplement to my water supply. Worse, I am now without a useable water bottle for the race. I hope to find something this week that I can test next weekend. I'm traveling next week so I'm not sure when I can do that. One more week to train and then it's time to run the LI Half once again. At least I've trained hard for it, so far.

Friday, April 20, 2012

An inspiring birthday present

My new inspiration board
Wednesday's run (treadmill): 15 minutes
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

This has been quite a week, especially the last three days, and I'm truly thinking: TGIF. I was proud to receive a nice industry award on Wednesday night and my wife and kids came into the city for the event. That, combined with an all day meeting, made for a very long day. In anticipation of that, I limited my Wednesday morning workout to 15 minutes, so I could get some additional rest that morning.

Yesterday was my birthday and my wife surprised me when I got home, with a board displaying a selection of my race bibs from over the past three years. She included some finish line pictures as well. I'm going to put it up in the guest room next to the treadmill for inspiration. What a great present!

This morning I returned to the road and covered my usual route, taking about the same amount of time as I normally do. I didn't push myself too hard, but the run felt faster than the actual elapsed time. I plan to go out for 12 miles tomorrow so I was careful not to strain anything today. Two more weekends to train for the LI Half. This Saturday should be my longest run prior to that race. I'm hoping for clear skies and cool temps in the morning.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A lack of time but no lack of heat

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

After all the rest and downtime that I got during last week's vacation, I've returned to an especially busy time at the office. All day off-sites and industry events will keep me busy throughout the week. That said, I wasn't even able to post yesterday, and I'm probably not going to be able to post again until Friday.

This morning I decided to do my workout indoors to save a little time. We've had a heatwave in the NY area and, after a few minutes on the treadmill, I was regretting my decision to stay inside. I didn't want to push too much since I'd run hard during Sunday's race, so I kept the pace moderate and ran solely for time.

I was glad I got a workout in today, as I may skip tomorrow due to a tough schedule. I'm looking forward to a weekend free of work frenzy. 12 miles is planned, I hope the heatwave will be gone by then.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Race report: 2012 Marcie Mazzola 5K

The big finish
Today's run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 3.1 miles
26:48 (8:38 pace)

Once again, Team Emerging Runner headed out early on a Sunday morning (6:55 AM) for my fourth running of the Marcie Mazzola 5K. Although the race starts at 8:30, we like to get there before the crowds, because the parking lot gets filled quickly. We arrived to see things in full swing with dozens of volunteers dressed in the race's signature purple shirts. 

I got my race number and we settled in for an hour's wait until the start. I've participated in this race for the last four years and my wife and I recognize many of the people from prior years. This race attracts runners across the spectrum, from the very young, to those in their 80's. There are always lots of people from running clubs and corporate teams, but the total number of participants was still a manageable 440.

Colorful crowd prior to race start
We were concerned about the weather, because conditions were dark and cloudy when we left the house. The news stations were reporting light showers throughout the morning. By race time, things had brightened up and we lined up to the start under partly sunny skies. I chatted with the runner next to me while we waited. He asked me if my Hattori's (yep, decided to go with a reliable favorite) hurt my knees. I told him, with a mid-foot strike, that they are actually kinder to my knees than cushioned shoes.

Seconds after the horn, we turned onto Woodhull, which the race announcer described as being 5/8ths of a mile in distance. I ran it more aggressively than last year and expected my first mile split to be better than the 9:17 that was called out by the race volunteer. But it is a big long hill and last year I spent 9:35 covering the same distance. Once we crested, the road began its downward slope and I pushed hard to make up some time.

I ran well over the second mile and passed a good number of runners. I do believe all the long runs I've been doing are helping my speed. My 2 mile split was 17:30, which brought my overall pace down to 8:45 at that point, a half minute per mile improvement. With that progress and the feeling that I had sufficient energy to sustain my pace, I thought I was in for a PR-challenging run.

Once I crossed West Main Street and reached Prime Avenue that borders Heckscher Park, I knew I'd soon be challenged on the turnaround that leads to the final streets toward the finish line. About an eighth of a mile before the end sits a short steep hill that I always dread. I wanted to preserve whatever I had left for my final sprint, but I needed to spend precious energy getting past this hill.

Hard charge around the final dogleg
With no choice but to charge up the hill, I poured it on and hoped for the best. Seconds later I passed mile 3 and made my way up a less challenging hill, past the cheering crowds, where I saw my family waiting along the final dogleg leading to the finish chute. I had given it everything I had, running a 7:40 pace as I crossed the line.

Road ID - It wasn't for performance but I won!
We hung out after the race to watch the award ceremony and then waited for the results of the raffle. My kids always hold out hope of winning one of the prize baskets, but it didn't happen this year. There's a raffle just for the runners, and I was fortunate to win a gift certificate for a Road ID. Timing is everything, because I just got one a couple of weeks ago! But this one will be put to good use.

Long line for Mr. Softy
Like last year, the race organizers hired a Mr. Softy truck to hand out soft serve cones to race participants. It was a welcome treat again this year, and that one cone made its way through the entire Emerging Runner team.

It was another great Marcie Mazzola race, my second race of the year, and a good break from my weekend long runs. I would have liked to break 26 minutes and I thought I was on track to do that, but it didn't happen. Still, I improved on last year's time by 44 seconds - not too bad.

Tomorrow it's back to the office and next weekend I'm back to long base running. I'm happy with this morning's race and now it's all about the LI Half in May.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Waiting for the Marcie, once again

Last year's Marcie 5K, just before the big hill
My vacation is drawing to a close and the last item on my list is tomorrow's Marcie Mazzola Memorial Foundation 5K. It will be the my first race since February's Snowflake 4 miler. Given the extremely mild winter, it might have been nice to run a race in March. On the other hand, I've been able to use the time to train for the upcoming LI Half Marathon.

Prior to this week, most of the runs I've been doing have been more LSD than PDQ. The surprising result has been that long slow running has provided enhanced stamina that is helping my speed. After months of morning runs where breaking a 9:00 pace was a rarity, I've done it three times in the past week.

How will this affect my performance at tomorrow's race? I'm hoping that some hard running this week, followed by two days rest, will translate into a good run. The Marcie Mazzola 5K is a nice race and this will be the fourth time I run it (my first year the distance was 4 miles). The community feel, and the fact that it was my first race, makes it a sentimental favorite with Team Emerging Runner.

Hopefully the rain will have moved out by the 8:30 AM start and we'll have clear conditions for the race. Not much to do at this point but think about my strategy, gear, nutrition, hydration and shoes. All good distractions. Race report tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Montauk tapering to the end

Montauk: The End
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 4 miles

Montauk is a beautiful and relaxing place, especially during the off season that is devoid of both crowds and intense sunlight. The East End has a vibrant running culture and I struck up a conversation last night with a local woman who'd noticed my LI Marathon running hat. She has run the LI Half a number of times and will again participate on May 6. We noticed lots of runners along the Montauk Highway and other local roads. I just wish these people would run against traffic!

With the gorgeous surroundings and long straight roads, it would have been fun to do a run by the ocean. But the weather was raw at 7:30 AM, with cold winds and threatening skies. I opted for the fitness center that had a nice selection of high quality Life Fitness machines. I hopped on a treadmill and set the speed to 6.6 MPH to start. The solid platform and wide tread encouraged me to pick up the pace and, by the 5 minute mark, I was up over 7 MPH. I felt great and decided to extend my run from 3 to 4 miles.

About halfway through my workout, two guys came in and got on elliptical machines. They didn't seem to familiar with the concept and I was amused to watch them struggle with the motion and controls. I would have helped, but it wasn't a practical option. Before long, I had reached half my planned distance.

I continued to increase my speed and finished the last couple of minutes in a sprint. The machine had a "cool down" button that dropped the speed in increments. It was a strong effort, not that far off from race pace, and a perfect way to finish my taper. I'm feeling ready for Sunday's race.

Getting high (up) in the Hamptons
Later that morning we headed to the Montauk Lighthouse and climbed the 137 steps up and down. It was a nice bonus workout and a wonderful view from the top.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Inclined to train with a treadmill taper

Sunny skies at the end of LI
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

We left for our trip today, but I got in a treadmill workout this morning. I debated the type of run I'd do, first thinking I'd focus on speed, but then realizing I'd pushed pretty hard yesterday. I ended up splitting the workout between an incline segment and a progressive speed run.

Sunday's 5K course begins with a hill challenge so I set the machine to a 6% incline and ran that for the first mile. I brought that down and upped the speed every couple of minutes and finished my run at a high 8:00 pace. Between the incline and the speed progression, I was pretty worn out by the end. I was pleased with the workout, one more to go before Sunday.

We're enjoying the early season sun in Montauk and I'm trying to figure out how I'll finish my taper. If there's a route by the water, I'm there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My speed is back, and just in time

Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

After weeks of focus on distance, I've turned my attention more towards speed. Yesterday's weight exercises were a good first step that provided direct benefits this morning. I decided to run in my Hattori's today. Between the colder weather and testing out new shoes, I haven't been wearing the Hattori's much and I've missed them. When I set out for today's run, I once again appreciated their simplicity and fit

Sorry Meb, they're nice, but not for me
We had stopped by Famous Footwear yesterday morning to get my son some new shoes and I took the opportunity to try on a pair of Skechers Go Run's. I've been intrigued by these shoes since Meb Keflezighi committed to them and the good reviews from both Running Times and Runner's World. I don't really consider Skechers a serious brand for running shoes, but this model seemed different.

My impression of the Go Run's was primarily positive except for a raised part of the mid-sole that helps facilitate a mid-foot strike. I appreciated the spirit but not the execution. For some who are looking to transition to a more minimal shoe, the Go Run may be a nice option.

The Hattori's inspired me to move and I came through the first mile at around 8:50. I maintained that pace through the second mile and then shifted into race mode until the end. I finished the 5K+ run with an overall pace of 8:32. Throughout my run, I used rapid arm motion to regulate my leg turnover and that produced my fastest training run so far this year.

Today's run reinforced my training plan and I feel good about my preparation going into Sunday's race. A little more speed and some end-of-week rest should get me there.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Upper body ignorance is no longer bliss

Getting pumped
Today's workout (light upper body): 25 minutes

Mondays are typically my rest day and I had no intention of running this morning. I felt some energy and that inspired me to try a little upper body work. I've read many articles about the benefits of strength training, not only to improve running performance, but also for the way it helps maintain bone density. Many runners ignore their upper body thinking that it's all about their legs. But there has to be a reason why Usain Bolt has arms that would make most gym rats envious.

In terms of upper body development, I'm about as far opposite to Mr. Bolt as one can get. I'm not without muscle or (surprisingly) definition, but I have much room for improvement. That improvement did not come today, but it was a start. Instead of counting reps, I selected something distracting on the TV and did bicep curls with alternating arms (8 lb. each arm) for 10 minutes. I followed that with 10 minutes of reverse curls and finished with some isometric exercises.

It wasn't a lot of weight and my workout was hardly difficult, but I did break a sweat. After ignoring my arms and wrists for so long, I wasn't about to injure myself by over-training. If I can do this workout once a week, I'll bet I'll see some results, after a while. I know that arm speed relates directly to cadence, and if stronger arms will lead to more steps per minute, sign me up.

We'll be in Montauk for a few days and I'm hoping to get some runs in near the water. Fast running with an ocean view. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Recovery + speed, a good combination

Today's run (street): 3.7 miles

My biggest motivation to get outside the next day after a tough workout is that I know I'm in for an easy run. The word I use is recovery, although I'm not sure that's how other runners may define that term. For me, it's liberation from the stopwatch, an opportunity to proceed at a comfortable pace, so I can focus on the sights and sounds of my surroundings.

A funny thing about these recovery runs is that I often introduce a little speed play into the mix. The relaxation eventually becomes an energizing force. Today's run was like that. I dressed with more layers than I'd have chosen for a performance run and set off for a trip around the neighborhood. I took it easy and followed a different route than normal, running around the nearby middle school where a boisterous game of adult flag football was being played.

When I changed direction for the first time, I was hit by some fairly strong headwinds and was doubly glad I had dressed on the warmer side. Today is Easter so the streets were quiet, and I enjoyed the lack of cars on the road. There weren't many people outside either, so I had the sunny streets all to myself.

By the time I reached three miles, I was ready to turn to home and I followed a route that had a long, but moderate, incline. Once I cleared that section, I poured on the speed and completed the last half mile at a pace 20 seconds faster than my overall average. That last burst of speed put my time within the range of a training, rather than a slow recovery, run.

I finished the weekend after logging almost 15 miles (25 for the week) and added yet another mile to my longest run (so far) this year. I may do some intervals tomorrow, even though I usually take Monday as a rest day. I'll need to wrap up my taper for Sunday's 5K by Friday. Right now I'm in great shape for long runs, but I'm not sure my 5K speed is ready to tap.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eleven miles at Bethpage, without fuel nor water

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 11.2 miles

I had plans to run with my buddy Dave today, but he had a scheduling issue and needed to postpone. The plan was for Dave to accompany me on his bike while I ran. Last February, I wrote a post about Dave's racing nightmare when he suffered a heart attack during a 10 mile race. Since then he has responded well and has been cleared for runs in the 2-3 mile range. It shows that even if you suffer a heart attack, being otherwise fit will certainly accelerate your recovery.

The temperature was in the high 30's when I went out at at 8:30 AM, and I'd purposely under dressed knowing I'd be generating heat over my long run. I wasn't that uncomfortable, even at the beginning, and by mile two I was glad to be in running shorts.

I wore the Spiras thinking they would minimize the possibility of foot problems, but I detected the slight pain in my left foot that I'd assumed was specific to the Kinvara 3's. After a few miles the pain decreased and I thought I had it licked. Turned out it wasn't so simple. By the end my feet were very uncomfortable.

The only nutrition I took for the entirety of my run was a GU gel that I had prior to the start. I took along a GU Roctane for refueling later in the run, but I didn't feel as though I needed it. I also brought a water bottle but didn't take a sip during the run. I wasn't being macho by denying myself nutrition and hydration, I just wanted to test whether I needed it. Did my body use fat as an energy source after glycogen depletion?

After many weeks running the Bethpage bike trail, I've become familiar enough with the route that I know how far I've gone without looking at my Garmin. I also separate the course into stages, based on landmarks. That helps me psychologically, especially as I increase my distance each week. Today I ventured within a mile of the bottom of the trail, located in Massapequa Preserve. I may end up doing an end to end run next time.

On my way back I was happily surprised that my energy level never fell too far and when it dropped a little, I quickly rebounded. I saw many runners, walkers and cyclists today and one sap who was walking along the trail, smoking a cigarette. Why do something healthy like that and smoke?

I did experience a drop in energy with about 2 miles to go. I knew I was facing the toughest part of the route and resigned myself to the work. Running the penultimate hill was easier than I thought it would be, but the final hill was a bear. Still, I finished 11.2 miles feeling in better shape than I did when I ran 9 miles a few weeks ago.

I'm on vacation this week and next weekend is the Marcie Mazzola 5K (on Sunday). Due to that, I'll skip my base run as I taper. From now until then, speed will be my focus. I'm curious to see if all this base building will help me push the pace over a decidedly shorter distance.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The declining accuracy of my Garmin FR210

I'd add 3% just to be safe
Today's run (street): 2.53 miles (Gmaps measured)

I'm not sure why, but my Garmin FR 210 has been under-performing lately. It was especially bad this morning. I generally run the same route every day at 4:00 AM and, after careful measurement, I know that the distance is exactly 2.53 miles. The Garmin's margin of error is generally -3%, which means that it under-counts to that degree fairly consistently. Since it is consistant, I accept that variance and correct for it in my pace calculation.

It's no mystery why this happens. Looking at my run captured in Garmin Connect, I can see that the watch will vectorize corners and straighten out curves. This is due to the capture time between GPS signals (approximately one sample per second). If the signal was captured continuously, the course would be displayed accurately, with no corners cut, etc. When it's cloudy, the signal can get interrupted. When that happens, the watch interpolates the distance between signals as a straight line. Enough of those and your accuracy really suffers.

Lately my FR210 has been under-reporting by about 5% and this morning it came in at -7%. It was cloudy, but clear enough to see some stars. My run could only be described as slow, and with the under-counted distance, my watch recorded my pace as glacial. Correcting for the true distance, it was still the slowest 4:00 AM run in memory.

I'm puzzled as to why my Garmin's GPS has become less accurate of late. Perhaps it's just going through a bad spell. The GPS accuracy tends to be better when I run a mostly straight course like at Bethpage. I'll see how it does tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tedium reducing treadmill technique

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

As unlikely as it sounds, I was looking forward to doing a run on the treadmill this morning. I usually break up my training week with an elliptical session on Thursday's, but our machine is down. Our treadmill, that had been down for the last nine days, was put back into service yesterday. At least we have one indoor option as we wait for the repair person to get the elliptical working again.

With a new motor and tread replacement, the treadmill felt like a brand new unit. While this model (Sole F63) isn't whisper quiet, the sound level was noticeably better than the last time I'd run on it. I'm assuming the repair person performed a calibration because I felt that my perceived effort matched the speed that was displayed.

I followed my usual treadmill routine, starting at a moderate pace and increasing the speed every couple of minutes. Speeding up the pace actually made it a better experience because it broke down the activity into two minute periods. Focusing on the intervals between speed increases helped reduce the tedium of the experience. The time went by quickly and before I knew it, I was done. As much as I liked today's workout, I'm planning to go back outside for tomorrow's run.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Of all my running shoes, these were the best

GTS-10: like chicken soup for the sole
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My feet have been bothering me lately and I'm not sure what to do about it. My wife suggested that my tendency to switch shoes, rather than sticking to one pair, may be causing the issues. She may be right. The question is which pair to use? I've struggled to find my perfect running shoe and I haven't been too successful. But is the act of trying different models undermining the process?

I've tried a lot of shoes in the three-plus years since I've been running. Most were fine, some awful and a few great. But the great shoes also had their flaws. My two pair of Brooks Adrenaline's have never disappointed (I retired the GTS-9's after 700 miles, still using the GTS-10's), but they are old school in design, with a high platform and ramp angle. I run with the GTS-10's for recovery or if I detect a knee problem. A few runs in them seems to correct any issue.

The original Kinvaras were my second great model. They felt like the perfect shoe from the first time I tried them on and maintained that feel, almost to the end. But something happened and my last few runs resulted in knee pain that coincided with last year's Half Marathon. I'm hoping the new Kinvara 3's are sufficiently improved to ward that off after I've covered a few hundred miles in them.

Surprisingly, the best shoes, day in and day out, have been my Saucony Hattori's, a shoe so minimal it lacks a mid sole. But they are incredibly runnable, comfortable and responsive. The downside is that the uppers are ripping after 300 miles. I can still wear them, but time is running out. My second pair of Hattori's, that should feel and perform identically, don't fit correctly on my left foot and I've given up on them after 67 miles. It makes me wary of getting a replacement pair for my good Hattori's.

Right now I'm really pleased with the Spira Stingers, but I am experiencing this foot pain. I really don't think it's coming from these shoes and I'll run with them exclusively until Sunday. If my foot problems improve, I'll credit the Spiras. If they don't, I'll do a few runs in the GTS-10's and hope for a quick recovery.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This passport will get you places

Oh the places you'll go...
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Over the weekend I purchased my 2012 Empire Passport that allows me entry into any one of dozens of state parks in New York. I was looking at the pamphlet that was attached to my receipt and read the listing of places on Long Island that honor this pass. Besides some of my favorite venues, like Bethpage and Belmont Lake State Parks, there are arboretums and botanical preserves like the nearby Planting Fields. At $65 per season, it's a bargain. I'll get my money's worth just from my visits to Bethpage, so everything else is a bonus.

It's been a while since I've done any trail running, but I'm on vacation next weekend and will take the opportunity to do some off road training. This morning I did my usual run after taking my weekly rest day on Monday. It was 35 degrees outside at 4 AM and that motivated me to move along briskly. Even with a slow start, I ended up pacing a bit faster than normal. The Kinvaras performed well, but I still felt slight pressure under my left foot. I'll try them again on Wednesday and see if there's any improvement.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stingers, Kinvaras or Hattori's? A hard choice to make

Hard to argue with success
I'm less than two weeks away from running my fourth consecutive Marcie Mazzola race.  The first time I ran it was in 2009 when the distance was 4 miles. The course was shortened the next year to 5K to increase the number of participants. What didn't change was the big hill on Woodhull Road that makes up a good part of the first mile. After three races along that course, I'm actually looking forward to the hill challenge this year.

Once runners get past the big hill, the course reverts to a net negative elevation, providing some great opportunities to let loose on the downhills. I'm on the fence about which running shoes I'll use for this race, but I'm thinking it may be between my latest two pairs: the Spira Stinger XLT's and the Saucony Kinvara 3's.

I've done my last two long runs in the Spiras and they have performed exceedingly well. I was prepared to dismiss them as a gimmick when offered the opportunity to test them on Runner's Tech Review and I'm glad I stayed open minded. Make no mistake about this shoe - it's lightweight, comfortable, supportive and responsive.

The Kinvara 3's are also very nice. I loved my original Kinvaras but found the Kinvara 2's less appealing each time I tried them on. To be fair, I never ran in them, so I don't really know how they'd have performed. I do know that the Kinvara 3's feel more like the original and, with their 4mm ramp angle, suit my preference for a lower platform. I have had noticeable irritation in one foot when running in these shoes, but I suspect it's as much a foot issue as it is a shoe problem.

It's hard to determine which of these shoes would serve me better for a fast 5K. Perhaps I'll simply opt for door #3 and run with the venerable Hattori's. These shoes, despite over 300 miles on their thin soles, still deliver one of the best running experiences I've ever encountered.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Base training has its benefits and so does peppermint oil

Today's run (street): 4.8 miles

Happy feet guaranteed
One of the benefits of base training is that it redefines the scale of a challenging run. For instance, over the winter the average distance of my weekend runs dropped to about 3.75 miles. That meant that any run greater than four miles was an envelope pusher. It didn't mean that I couldn't run 6 miles or more, but it would have felt like a lot of work to do that.

My training plan has me covering one extra mile on my long weekend runs each week. I'm building up to a final base run of 12+ miles prior to the half marathon. Yesterday I ran 10 miles and today I covered 4.8. I went out with the intention of running between 3 and 4 but it felt so easy (I wasn't really pushing the pace) that I extended my route to almost five miles.

While these longer Saturday runs are making my Sunday recovery workouts feel easier, my feet have begun to protest. It's been a long while since I covered the equivalent of a half marathon over the period of a weekend. I've done just that over the past three weeks. Foot soaks with peppermint oil soap have helped a lot. I recommend it to anyone.

I'm feeling more prepared for the Half than I was last year. Eleven miles is on the schedule for next Saturday. Hope it doesn't rain again.
 

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