Running quote of the week

“It’s an honor to hit the wall… If you hit the wall you know you gave it everything.” – Lauren Fleshman

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Second tier race with a first tier price

Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

I got an email this morning from the organizers of the Long Island Festival of Races urging me to register for the events that will happen in early May. I've run the LI Half Marathon the last couple of years, so I'd consider doing it again. However, registration for that event closes in a week and I don't know if that's enough time for me to decide. I was thinking that the 10K may be fun to do as an alternative. I can always find another half to run later in the year.

When I looked at the Long Island Festival of Races website to register for the 10K, I was both surprised and amused to see that the cost is $37.00, plus a $3.53 convenience fee. What the heck is a convenience fee? Together, it will cost me $40.53 to run a second tier race. I apologize to those who disagree with that viewpoint, but the LI Festival 10K is just not in the same league as some other Long Island 10Ks. For example, The Great Cow Harbor 10K, Long Island's best race, has a registration fee of only $25. And no "convenience fee". I rest my case.

All of this was going through my mind this morning during my run around the neighborhood. The skies had cleared by the time I went out and the temperature had just nudged past 40°. I had plenty of energy, but I still felt a little stiff-legged. I wondered again whether I should have rested more after the race, or at least done some leg stretches. I enjoyed the workout, but never reached the point where my stride felt flexible. 

I'll give it a couple of days before I decide to spend the money for the Long Island 10K. I'll look for other 10K's around that time to see if there's a better choice. I only have a week left to register for this race. Considering the event doesn't happen until May, I don't find that very convenient.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Overnight surprise, courtesy of the Fitbit

Early to bed, early to rise. And rise and rise...
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

There was no question that I'd run inside today. It poured overnight and throughout the morning, so I headed upstairs to the treadmill after the kids left for school. Every time I use the stairs I think about the fact that the Fitbit is recording that metric. Yesterday I recorded over 14K steps, climbed 28 floors and traveled 7.4 miles. More interesting than that was what I learned about last night's sleep pattern.

The Fitbit has a wristband that holds the device while you sleep, allowing you to record your sleep and wake time. It also records the number of times you woke up during the night. According to the numbers, it took me 12 minutes to fall asleep and my total sleep time was 6 hours and 36 minutes. Now for the surprise: the data said I'd woken up 13 times between the time I put the device into record sleep mode and when I got up for the day. Strangely enough, the readout said I'd had 91% sleep efficiency. Really?

Perhaps we all wake up multiple times during the night and don't realize it. I do recall waking up a few times and looking at the clock before quickly falling back to sleep. The histogram shows that wake patterns seem to be grouped together, so that three or four "wake-ups" could happen in as many minutes. Either way, I didn't come close to sleeping through the night.

Despite the intermittent waking periods, I seem to be getting sufficient rest. Perhaps that speaks to the efficiency rating. Compared to my "pre-retirement" schedule back in January, I'm probably getting at least one hour's more sleep every night. In the days of 3:30 mornings, I used to have to steal naps on the train. With the 7+ hours of bed rest I've been getting overnight, I feel I have good energy throughout the day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sixteen staircases on the Bethpage trail

This morning it was full
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 4.2 miles

The next couple of days look to be windy and wet, so this morning I figured I'd go someplace where I could enjoy the outdoors. Although the warmer weather has melted most of the snow, I didn't want to deal with the muddy trails at Stillwell just yet. I decided to go to Bethpage and hoped that the gates were open.

When I arrived, I saw a large maintenance truck parked in front of the gate and feared that access would be restricted. I then saw that the gates were open, and as I made my way in, I noticed a couple of people running on the path. The trail head was blocked off with a webbed fence and a sign saying "entrance closed."  Like everyone else, I ran around the sign and headed up the hill toward the original trail.

Despite seeing two runners as I drove in, the trail was almost empty. That wasn't a surprise, as it was a Tuesday morning, not the weekend when I usually run there. I liked the quiet but I wasn't loving the run for the first mile. My legs felt leaden and I wondered if I should have taken an extra day's rest after my race.

I started the day with my Fitbit and was curious to see what data it would capture during my workout. After I reached the one mile point, I turned around and headed back in the other direction. I wasn't looking forward to running up the big hill, but at least I'd be doing it while I was relatively fresh. Once I made it to the top, I continued east and reached the entrance to the new section.  I had covered two miles and my legs still felt like they were carrying ankle weights.

Bethpage is hilly and the route is rolling. Most of the time you are either running uphill or down. The first segment of the new trail has a series of hills that are individually short, but collectively challenging. I ran down these hills until I reached three miles, where I turned around and went right back up. Once I got past the worst of it, I noticed that my legs were feeling a little more flexible.

Once I finished my run, I looked at the Fitbit and saw that I'd covered about 7,000 steps and climbed the equivalent of 16 staircases. The activity meter on the Fitbit (a flower) was full to the top. It also captured my distance accurately, along with calories burned. I liked that the Fitbit, unlike the Garmin, is always on and ready to capture activity at any time. But the Garmin provides valuable data that the Fitbit doesn't record, so I'll use them together.

After lunch, my wife and I went to a local park for a walk and I picked up enough steps for me to modify today's goal to 13,500. My wife already has me beat, and I can see it will be hard to keep up with her. But today was a great start.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ready to be One with the Fitbit

"Be healthier & get more fit."
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

I was excited to see that my Fitbit One came in the mail today. It's a great device, but the packaging copy writers should work on their grammar. My wife has been using hers for almost a year and she finds it an invaluable tool for documenting her activity. It's also a great motivator to reach her daily goal of 12,000+ steps. I love measuring my performance and I'm looking forward to analyzing the data. The software offers lots of features and even a smartphone app. I'll report on my experience soon.

Now that I'm no longer commuting into the office every day, my morning routine has changed. I'm usually up at 5:30 AM instead of 3:30, and the pressure to complete my run on a tight schedule is gone. I now enjoy my morning coffee at my leisure and I spend a little time with the kids before they leave for school. I haven't wanted to run while the middle school and high school buses are on their routes, so I've been waiting until 8:00 or 8:30 to get outside.

Today's run was my first workout since Saturday's race and, despite yesterday's rest day, my legs still felt heavy. I moved along comfortably, maintaining my equilibrium pace. My distance target was three miles and I followed a different route for a change of scenery. I hoped that my race-day speed would carry over to today, but that wasn't the case. In terms of performance, it wasn't all that bad, just not especially fast.

I wore my Kinvaras this morning and tried to compare them to the Spiras that I wore in the race on Saturday. I chose the Spiras because I thought they'd provide more response on toe-off than the softer Kinvaras. I didn't find that racing in the Spiras (for the first time, BTW) provided that much advantage. I probably need to start thinking about replacing the Kinvaras that have 455 miles on them. I'm wondering if I should start looking at performance trainers.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shakeout run postponed

One of my favorite types of runs is the "Day after race shakeout", when I go out easy and rid my muscles of built-up lactic acid. Weather conditions were better this morning than they were yesterday, and I looked forward to a few recovery miles. I had a rough night's sleep and woke up with sinus headache this morning. These headaches are annoying, because they make me feel draggy and tired. I considered downgrading my neighborhood run to an easy treadmill run, then realized that skipping my workout was the best choice of all.

I've never liked taking medication, but when these headaches come the only thing that helps is the "Sudafed" cure. That's 60 mg of pseudoephedrine, along with a dose of ibuprofen. When the cure takes, it's a night and day improvement. It took a second dose later in the day to eradicate the pounding and dizziness and I'm feeling much better now.

I read recently that runners should take a day off after a race for every mile they ran. That seems extreme, but one day's rest after a race makes good sense. I've just preferred to do my easy runs instead. Now that I have no time pressure to make my train in the morning, I can go on longer runs during the week. I will hopefully sleep better tonight and make up some mileage on Monday.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Race report: Long Beach Snowflake 4 Miler

The finish line
Today's run (Long Beach Snowflake race): 4 miles - 35:00 (8:45 pace)

This morning I ran the Long Beach Snowflake 4 mile race for the third consecutive year. After the devastating effects of hurricane Sandy, I was sure the race would be postponed this year. But the spirit of the city was evident today and the race went on. The course was different than prior years, but the experience felt similar. Weather conditions were far from ideal, but it could have been much worse.

The view beyond the finish line
The race was staged at the Lindell Elementary School, nine blocks north of last year's location. I arrived at 7:45 AM, hoping to beat the crowd in case parking was an issue. The school actually had plenty of parking and I found a spot close to the building. There were 129 less participants this year than last year and I was especially glad that I'd signed up. Although I live 30 minutes from Long Beach, I felt an obligation to participate and support this city that has been through so much.

Pre-race crowd keeping warm
 After picking up my race bib and shirt, I took in the sights and sounds of the growing crowd as we moved closer to start time. Every race is different, but the pre-race energy always feels the same. The school gym kept everyone warm and comfortable until a member of the race crew ushered us to the line ten minutes before the start. I was glad that it was almost race time, but the cold winds made me wish I was back in the gym.

The crowd assembled behind the starting line as the race director organized people so that the faster pacers could start at the front. I stood a few rows behind them, because I like to be swept along by the speediest runners for the first mile. After some inspiring statements about Long Beach's recovery from the storm, and a quick review of the new course, we counted down to the start.

The course went directly south for half a mile, turning east on Broadway for the next 1.5 miles before the turnaround. I didn't realize that Broadway was so close to the old boardwalk. I'd expected to turn left after passing a couple of blocks, not ten. I was being passed left and right, despite my attempts to keep up with the faster crowd. I felt some relief to make the turn at Broadway, but I knew I still had three and a half miles to go.

There's a point in every race when I feel that I failed to train properly for that event. It usually comes after the first couple of miles, when I begin to question my ability to sustain my race pace. Today was no different. I came through the first mile in 8:06. A good pace, but it was almost 15 seconds off last year's mile one split time. I hoped to stay below 9:00 for the remaining splits and I managed to do that, although mile three recorded at 8:59 on my Garmin.

It's always a fast crowd in Long Beach and getting passed can be disheartening. It wasn't until I made the turn at mile two, heading west, that I saw the large number of people behind me, still running east. Instead of feeling happy, I worried that they would all eventually overtake me. This race felt hard, probably because I haven't gone all out in race mode for months. Still, I felt that I could handle the pace I was running, and I ended up finishing in the top 35%.

I settled into my stride at three miles, coming through a few seconds under 26 minutes. It seemed to take forever to reach Lindell where we took a right, heading north for for the last half mile. By 9:30 AM, cars were trying to cross the course at some intersections. Traffic control did their best, but I actually saw a couple of cars impatiently cutting through with runners still crossing the box. I had no incidents, but a couple of cars made me nervous.

I finally saw the finish chute when I had a block and a half to go. I tried to muster more speed, but I was at my physical limit. It would have been nice to cross the line earlier, but I left nothing on the course today and ran the best pace I could maintain. I was very happy to cross over the line. I felt all four hard miles at that point, yet I also felt strong.

Why am I smiling? The race is over
After the race, I watched some runners come in before downing a Gatorade and taking a few pictures. I was disappointed that my friend Steve, who ran this race with me the last two years, couldn't participate today. I'll tell him what he missed. For me, it was a validation of my fitness and a pretty good effort. I may not have loved every minute of the run, but I sure loved the feeling when I finished.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wondering how we'll weather the weather

Right now, Weather.com is saying there's a 30% chance we'll see precipitation tomorrow morning. That's the start time for the Long Beach Snowflake race. On top of that, the wind chill will make it feel like 32 degrees outside. Last year conditions were similarly miserable. Despite the weather, I still had a great race.

I've rested the past couple of days and trained fairly hard during the week. I have no real expectations for tomorrow, except that I'll do my best to be competitive. This will be the first time I'll race since last October, so I'm excited to be back in the game. I'm hoping all goes smoothly and that the odds stay in our favor, as running in the cold and rain isn't a great way to spend a Saturday morning. We can control many things in life, but there's not much we can do about the weather.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Coping well with my taper

 
Oh no! I'm done with my race training and I have to rest now! That is so awful! Instead of running outside in 20° temperatures, I am forced to stay in my warm house and drink coffee.

It's hard to believe that anyone would view tapering that way. According to a survey that I saw on Runner's World, there are percentage of people who hate the taper's rest period. To quote someone from a recent runner's forum, "[It's] biochemical, like withdrawal from an addiction." 

Hey, I like running. I'd better like it because I do it almost every day. But the opportunity to have a couple of guilt-free rest days is a gift, not a burden.  I'm going into the city later today for a couple of meetings and I'll probably cover 3 or 4 miles by foot in the process. While I am taking a rest from running, I don't plan to stop moving. Some good relaxing walks will be the perfect penultimate tapering activity. Tomorrow I can truly rest. You can bet I'll enjoy that coffee.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One last run before rest and race

Not exactly an ocean side paradise
Today's run (street): 3.65 miles

I'm no longer getting up at 3:30 AM. On average, I'm getting an additional two hours of sleep every night. That means seven to eight hours, versus the five or six I had before. I would often supplement my sleep with a 20 minute nap on the train in the morning, but all together, my net rest time is far improved. The downside is that I'm still getting to bed around the same time as before so it's been taking me longer to fall asleep.

Mornings feel very different these days. Instead of the blur of activities that began with the bleating of my alarm, followed by a fast change into running clothes (and then a run), I can enjoy the morning at a leisurely pace. The quiet darkness at 5:30 AM goes well with a cup of coffee and the local news. The only downside is that it takes me forever to actually get outside or on the treadmill if I don't have the pressure of the clock.

This morning I spent a long time preparing for what was my last run before my race. My wife couldn't believe how much I was stalling. It wasn't that I didn't want to run. It was just so cold and windy that I didn't want to go outside. I decided that I'd finish the taper with an easy run and I used that as license to wear extra layers to stay warm.

Running the neighborhood at 8:00 AM is a different experience than when it's still dark. There are far more cars and school buses to avoid. I took it easy from the beginning and ran my distance at a fairly slow pace. The battery in my HRM must have run out of power, because I wasn't getting any readings. I sweat a minimal amount across the almost-four miles, but that may be due to the near-constant winds. I am glad that I'd bundled up and worn a wind-blocking layer.

I'm finished with running until the race, and I'll enjoy resting until then. I may do a light elliptical workout and/or a core session during this period, but I'm done with hard stuff until I'm at the starting line. Right now, they're predicting 25 MPH winds and a 70% chance of rain in Long Beach on Saturday. Cold, wet and windy. Sounds like fun.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Running shoes retire too

End of the line
Today's run (street): 3.75 miles

In today's NY Times Well section, there is an article entitled, "When to Retire a Running Shoe." It's a subject of great debate, because the answer can be different with every runner. The article doesn't provide an actual answer, but it does support my view that a shoe's cushioning level makes little difference in terms of protection. Golden Harper, the man who created Altra running shoes, suggested that a runner knows when it's time to replace, “You get a sense for it,” he said. “Nothing hurts, but it is going to soon.”

I think about that as I consider which shoes to wear during my upcoming race. My Kinvara 3's are nearing 500 miles. Though they have held up exceptionally well, I know that this was when my original Kinvaras came to their useful end. The other concern I have about the Kinvaras is that, despite their light weight, they're a little soft as a racer. I'm trying to decide whether to run in the Spira XLT's that are a little more responsive (but have their quirks), or the Brooks Pure Drift prototypes that I use primarily on the treadmill.

Today I ran in the Kinvaras around the neighborhood and I felt like I was running close to top form. The numbers didn't back that up, but I still did better than average. It may have been the stiff winds coming from the west that slowed me down, or the fact that I left a little in reserve through most of the run. I plan a more aggressive approach on Saturday. I'll run tomorrow then rest. I hope this rain moves out by morning so I can finish my taper with a street run.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Treadmills aren't always portals to boredom

Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

For all my complaining about the treadmill as a portal to mind blowing boredom, I'm sure spending a lot of time on ours. Back in 2011 I managed to go almost six months without using the machine. This was a well timed period between spring, summer and fall when it never seemed to rain at 4:00 AM. On those rare occasions where the weather interfered, I'd default to the elliptical machine.

Once again, the weather kept me inside today. 22 degrees plus wind chill made for an uninviting outdoor running experience. I could have bundled up and gone outside but I wanted to focus on my speed. I don't run as fast with lots of layers and I'll need to figure that out for the race on Saturday. I'm hoping for a mild turn in the weather and I'll stay inside the registration area as long as I can to minimize the amount of time spent in the cold prior to the start. Those five minutes waiting for the gun can get downright chilly.

This morning's treadmill run started fast and I didn't let off my speed until I'd finished. I increased pace incrementally over the last five minutes, pouring it on at the end to simulate the finish of a race. I'm feeling primed at this point and I'm looking forward to returning to the road tomorrow. I'm still not a treadmill lover but, with these speed focused runs, I'm rarely bored.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snowflake looms so no backing down

Speed play and HR % of MAX
Today's run (treadmill): 5.2 miles

I was up at 5:30 AM this morning and the winds were howling. The news stations were talking about wind chills in the teens and I decided to return to the treadmill rather than face the bitter cold. I'm hoping that by next Saturday the weather will be milder. Many races provide no warming shelter prior to the event. I'm happy that the Long Beach Snowflake race is staged in a school gym located across the road from the starting line.

Yesterday's run was done a little faster than my normal training pace, and I debated whether I should take down the intensity today. I decided to go the other way and started at a brisk pace, maintaining that speed until the 15 minute mark. I increased it 8% at that point for about five minutes. I then backed down to my original pace and held it until I surged again for the final five minutes of my run.

I often question the accuracy of the treadmill's display because the effort required on the treadmill seems greater than an equivalent pace on the road. That's okay, I'd rather have it under-count the distance than gain a false sense of my performance. So my 5.2 miles was hard earned and likely lower than the actual "distance" I'd covered.

I'll probably run tomorrow through Wednesday and rest the two days prior to the race. I've read about the benefits of moderation in terms of weekly distance and the frequency of workouts, so I have no problem with that taper plan. I'm running well but I haven't raced in three months, so I'm not really sure how competitive I'll be. I'm not expecting to beat last year's PR, but I do have a target that I hope to beat. In reality, it's just nice to be back in the game.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Timing is everything with the Fitbit

Little bit, lots of Fit
Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

In life, timing can make a big difference. The big news that I'm leaving my company after 20 years was followed two weeks later by the yet to be confirmed news that my company is in talks to be sold. I'm unbelievably glad to be leaving before that happens. At the other side of the good timing scale, my company is (once again) offering staffers the opportunity to purchase Fitbit trackers at a sizable discount (80%). If I'd left a few weeks earlier, I wouldn't have scored that discount.

The first time they've offered this, I bought a device and gave it to my wife. The Fitbit One is simple to use and it captures a copious amount of performance data. Among the metrics are steps taken, staircase climbs, calories burned and it can even track your sleep patterns. My wife uses it daily to track both her workouts and her daily steps. It provides fun feedback and motivation on its little display.

I decided to try using it because I'll no longer be in an office where I am constantly moving from place to place. My wife pointed out that, even though I'm good about doing my morning workouts, I risk falling into a sedentary lifestyle the rest of the day. I've learned in business that tracking indicators (of things you can control) helps to optimize desirable outcomes. So there you go. I hope to see my new device some time next week.

This morning I went outside for a run for the first time in two weeks. I couldn't believe that was the case until I checked my Garmin Connect logs and saw all the treadmill (and a couple of elliptical) workouts dating back to February 2nd. After checking the weather, I dressed for the cold and made my way outside. I had a slight concern about the residual snow that covered my main escape route, the sidewalks. I figured that if I felt any concern for safety, I'd do a dive into a nearby snowbank.

It turned out to be a very safe run with very few cars. The cars that were on the road maintained a respectful distance and drove slowly. Still I was hyper-vigilant because I don't trust drivers under even the best conditions. I wore a bright orange outer layer on top to maximize my visibility to drivers. I probably could have done with one less layer underneath, but I was fine overall.

My run went well and, despite 14 MPH winds, I managed to beat my average training pace by about 10 seconds per mile. If not for the winds, I may have improved that by another five percent or so. As I ran, I thought about next Saturday when I'll be racing in Long Beach. Last year the temperature was slightly above freezing and there was a mix of sleet and snow falling. I wore my ultra-minimal Hattoris and my toes went numb. But I still ran my fastest 4 mile race that day.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Goodbye office, hello treadmill

See ya
Wednesday's run (treadmill): 2.4 miles
Friday's run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Although I have been only intermittently engaged with my company in the last two weeks, I was still going in the office a few days to finish up business. Yesterday was the culmination of that. I boxed up my personal items and bubble wrapped the artwork that had hung on the walls of the ten offices I've occupied since joining the company in 1992. It wasn't a dramatic exit, much more, "See ya soon" than "goodbye." But, a day later, I'm already missing my co-workers.

The night before I was graciously treated to dinner by some industry friends who took me to an excellent and very trendy restaurant not far from my office. It had already been a long day by the time I met up with them. The conversation flowed and the evening went long. I didn't get home until nearly midnight. I had to to go into the office early on Thursday morning, so I skipped my workout to allow me to sleep an extra hour.

Wednesday morning I got up at 4:30 AM and did a treadmill run. I knew the day would be long and that I'd be covering a number of sections of the city on foot. That said, I still wanted to get in a workout. I don't remember much about Wednesday's treadmill run except that I had trouble maintaining an aggressive pace. I did manage to get to targeted speed in the final few minutes, but it wasn't a high performance run.

This morning my wife and I had to run an early morning errand and when we returned home, I headed upstairs for a treadmill run. I'm only a week away from the Snowball race so I didn't hesitate to set a fast pace from the start. I was running in my optimal time window and that helped me sustain speeds that were a little too tough on Wednesday morning. I increased the pace until I'd reached my initial heart rate target.

It's funny how runs can vary from day to day. Today everything went smoothly and I was pleased with my performance. It would be great to get to Bethpage this weekend to take advantage of all the hills. You'd think that in 2013, technology would allow me to know if the gates to Bethpage State Park are open before I drive all the way over there. I suppose the best way to confirm that is to use a technology that was invented in 1876, the telephone, and call the park's maintenance office.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Frustration mounts with the ProForm CE 6.0

Hey elliptical, you've gotta screw loose!
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Today has been busy. This morning was filled with meetings and this afternoon I presented a technical paper at a W3C conference. I'd had a much different expectation about early retirement. Tomorrow will be even busier. 

This morning I decided to use the new elliptical while my wife ran on the treadmill. It was my second time using the machine and, once again, I was disappointed. I had hoped that this ProForm, that looks a lot like our old X1, would perform in similar way. Aside from the fact that they both provide elliptical motion, the user experience is far opposite.

The difference is in the quality. The X1 had its challenges, but it was a sturdy beast. The ProForm CE 6.0 is a wobbly contraption that squeaks and squeals. The display shows your distance only in revolutions (huh?) and there's no way to pause the timer during a workout.

Why would need to pause the timer? One reason might be that the bolt that attaches the arm to the center post tends to work its way free. I had to jump off the machine this morning at one point and tighten it with an Allen wrench. Lucky for me, I'd removed the decorative plastic collar last week to get to this bolt. I needed to break the collar's connecting tabs when I did that, so it's not going back on.

The rest of my workout went without incident and the bolt stayed in after my mid-session triage. While I consider the CE 6.0 far inferior to the unit it replaced, I still ended up with good workout that got my heart rate to target. It will be back to the treadmill tomorrow. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually looking forward to using it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Housebound, but still pushing race pace

Today's run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Warming trend
 The roads have been cleared but they're still too narrow to run. The sidewalks are completely inaccessible. So, once again, I hit the treadmill this morning. I wasn't very excited to do another indoor run but I had little choice. Yesterday I went for 5 easy miles, but today I needed to step it up.

We had late morning plans so I had a limited time to run. I figured that I'd go about 30 minutes, a pretty short workout for a Sunday. To get over 3 miles I knew I needed to push my speed. That meant starting at a pace close to where I normally finish and building speed further through the last mile.

Despite yesterday's restful workout, my return to speed went seamlessly. I had no trouble maintaining a brisk pace throughout the 30 or so minutes that I was on the treadmill. I ran hard, covered my distance and finished feeling like I'd been racing. The difference between today's effort and a race effort was about 20 seconds per mile. I didn't want to go all out, but I did want to get my heart rate up into zone 4. I ended up just about there by the end.

With this snow, I'm not sure when I'll feel comfortable going back to the streets to run. I'm hoping for warmer temperatures and sunny skies over the next few days. According to the weather reports, I may get my wish.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Loathing this makes the treadmill more tolerable

Pretty sure I remember this happening before
Today's run (treadmill): 5.2 miles

Hey, has anyone notice that it snowed? Seriously, the news stations are treating this blizzard like the second coming of Sandy. For most people in the area, it was just a bunch of snow. But I do have sympathy for the thousands who lost their power last night. Sandy happened at the end of October when temperatures were generally in the low 40's. Freezing temps + no power = misery.

I was thrilled to see that we still had our power when I woke up this morning. The roads were covered in deep snow at 5:00 AM. My town supposedly received 18"-24" and I was glad that we'd chosen to let our landscaper plow the driveway, rather that go out in shifts every few hours to shovel. I actually enjoy the whole shoveling experience, but this seemed a more practical way to move that much snow.

The snowplows went to work around 7:00 AM and I decided that the streets were no place to be. I debated between the elliptical and the treadmill and chose the latter. Today's goal was five miles that I would run at a moderate pace. After a string of intense workouts, I wanted to ease up a bit while I still got some miles in. I wasn't running outside, but the view from the window was postcard pretty.

I have trouble hearing the TV when I'm on the treadmill so I usually watch the news. That's because it's more visual with lots of readable information on the screen. But today I just couldn't stand the repeating stories about the storm. Is it really that fascinating for people to hear that snow had fallen? Perhaps so. Instead of the news, I put on one of the commercial-free music channels provided by our cable company.

I started my run listening to really bad music. Most people like songs that connect them to positive experiences. For example, the music that was playing on a first date or during a fun event with friends will provide more meaning. Sometimes those songs are bad, but you love them anyway. The channel I chose was playing that whiny, tuneless rock from the 90's that is usually described as grunge. I dislike it, but I kept listening, because it helped distract my enmity for the treadmill.

It turned out to be a very good workout and I was glad that I picked a run over the elliptical. It looks like street conditions are not going to support safe running for the next few days so I'll remain inside. That being the case, I hope the TV news becomes more interesting. Or the music gets better.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blizzard conditions outside and hard running inside

Ready or not, here it comes
Today's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

The snow is upon us and, as the local weather guy just said, "You ain't seen nothing yet." The wind is blowing and I'm worried about losing power. Despite all the contingency planning, I have little reason to believe LIPA and National Grid will be up to the task. I'm glad we have a generator that can power a hot plate and heater (plus TV, laptop, phone, and coffee machine) but I'm hoping we won't need to do that.

It wasn't snowing when I was ready to run this morning, but conditions had already turned unpleasant. The wind was building and there was intermittent rain. My wife did her daily treadmill workout and I followed her once she'd finished. Due to the weather, I had no intention of going into the city today. I was able to conduct a lot of business from the comfort of my home office/guest bedroom/fitness room.

I got right into my run, starting at a brisk pace and speeding up further as I got closer to the end. It's true that the more you run faster paces, the easier it is to maintain them. I don't think the treadmill display is close to accurate. A 9:30 pace feels super fast and a 9:00 pace feels like a sprint. Technically, I ran a 9:19 pace, but it felt harder than the 8:45 I ran outdoors a few days ago.

I may do a combination elliptical and treadmill workout tomorrow. If we don't have power, my only option will be the elliptical without display or resistance. I'm hoping that we'll get through this storm free of disruption to both power and running.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Severely concerned about my outdoor running

The quiet of my mid-afternoon train heading out from the city was replaced by the squeal of a dozen cellphones that had just received the same Severe Weather Alert. The message was terse: "Blizzard warning this area. Prepare. Avoid travel. Check media." After Sandy, Long Island does not kid around when it comes to severe weather events.

I decided to take a break this morning after considering either a run or an elliptical session.  I've been pushing myself rather hard of late and I thought a day's rest would be the most beneficial path. I just gave up my monthly LIRR pass in favor of individual tickets. That meant that I'm also forgoing my monthly metro card. So on the days I came into the office this week, I walked from Penn to midtown and back rather than paying for a ride. It's not a substitute for a workout, but it's a couple of miles at a fast walking pace.

I'm hoping the dire warnings about a blizzard are more hype than reality. It's not that I don't like snow, or shoveling. It's actually the opposite on both counts. But large amounts of snow interferes with outside running (How I wish I'd bought snowshoes last year) and it can bring LIPA to its knees. Of course we now have the generator in case we lose our power. Unfortunately I don't have a 15 amp extension cord that will reach the treadmill on the second floor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Early morning run at a more reasonable hour

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Today has been an interesting day. It was my first time back in the office since last Wednesday and I was definitely in a different mode. I can't say that I miss the old schedule. Waking up at 3:30 every day is (hopefully) a thing of the past. I had so many great conversations today that I barely made a dent organizing my office materials. I'm sure I'll make much better progress tomorrow.

This morning's workout happened at a far more reasonable hour than normal. 5:00 AM is early for many, but it allowed me almost 90 minutes more sleep than I'd usually get. Once again, I hit the treadmill hard, starting at a speed that I usually wouldn't reach until I'm five minutes to the end of the workout. I've found that when I'm consistently running faster paces I establish a new benchmark for my normal speed. Somehow, over time, I always end up reverting back to my equilibrium pace.

Still, today was another great run and I'm not sure if it has more to do with a renewed focus on speed or simply getting more rest. It's probably a little of both. I'll probably do another treadmill run tomorrow (or an elliptical session) and get outside for Friday's workout. That's contingent on whether we get the 6"-12" of snow that's predicted to fall prior to the weekend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fast paced run despite a Bethpage lockout

Snowed out again at Bethpage
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I had a great run today, but it wasn't the one I had planned. I headed out early to Bethpage to run the bike trail and to take on some hills. When I arrived, I saw that the drive leading into the park was locked and gated. I thought at first to drive to Haypath Road and park where the Greenbelt trail continues north. Along the way I noticed that the bike path had a lot of snow, so I headed back home.

My neighborhood roads had some icy patches this morning. I'd initially dismissed the idea of running in my neighborhood, but when I returned from Bethpage I saw that the streets looked much clearer. I figured that since I was already dressed for an outdoor run, I'd be better off outside than on the treadmill. After minutes of standing out in the cold, my Garmin acquired its signal and I was finally off.

Today's plan was to run hard, and that's what I did. There was still residual snow on the far right and left sides of the streets, but I felt that I had enough room to maneuver to maintain safety. Traffic was sparse, so I was able to focus on the effort at hand. For the longest time, I've been running at what I call "equilibrium" pace. That's the speed I go when I just tune out and run, usually between 9:30-9:55 per mile.

The speed and effort curves crossed to the left of normal today and I came through the first mile in the 8:30. I didn't record a single split above 9:00. Following my 8:30, my timing went 8:59, 8:58 and 8:26 (for the partial). My overall pace was 8:45/mile, making it my fastest training run in ten months. My heart rate stayed exactly where I wanted it, topping out about 5 BPM below max.

The shorter distance prevented today's harder effort from causing me undue fatigue. In fact I've felt more energized than usual since the run. The challenge will be to maintain that level of focus going forward, at least until race day. Not every run needs to be speedy, but that will be my bias between now and the 23rd.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Preparing to run the Snowflake

Even though I've been away from the office since Thursday, this has probably been the busiest week I've had this year. I'm not complaining, but my plans to run today needed to be postponed. I was planning to go into the office tomorrow, but that's also going to have to wait a day.

I may head to Bethpage on Tuesday morning to enjoy the peaceful experience of running without the weekend crowds. I am definitely in the mood to take on some hills and push the pace. Even though the Snowflake Race will happen on the pancake-flat streets on Long Beach, I've found hill training to be a great way to improve my speed.

My friend Steve, who has run this race with me the last two years, won't be able to join me this year. He has two reasons, one good and one bad: paternity leave (good), knee injury (bad). I'm anticipating a very cold morning on race day and a very big crowd at the starting line. I have done pretty well at this race and, last year, I achieved a 4 mile PR. I don't know about this year, but I plan to be competitive. I may be busy, but not too busy to get out and start training tomorrow. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Icy roads lead to double fun

So many running shoes, few compelling choices
Today's workout: treadmill (30 minutes), elliptical (20 minutes) 

My plans of participating in a GLIRC group run this morning were dashed when I woke to see more than an inch of snow on the ground. Normally I would have put on trail shoes and dealt with it, but the wind-chill temperature was 17 degrees and the road surfaces were icy. I didn't want to run on unfamiliar roads under those conditions, so I chose to stay inside for my run.

The elliptical provides another good option for indoor workouts. The AC adapter arrived yesterday so my wife used the elliptical this morning while I ran on the treadmill. We both went for about 30 minutes and when she finished, I hopped on the elliptical. I'd pushed hard from the start on the treadmill and increased my speed to the point where I was running at race pace by the end.

As soon as I finished, I quickly switched to the elliptical to keep my heart rate from dropping too low. I put the resistance at 40% and tried to get into a fluid rhythm. The built-in fan did a surprisingly good job of cooling my face and the elliptical, while bare bones in terms of features, provided a very good challenge. My wife said the same about her session.

Ravenous Lite
Later in the day we ran some errands, including a stop at one of the large discount shoe places in the area. My wife needed to exchange some winter boots, so while she and my daughter took care of that, my son and I looked at running shoes. There wasn't much that interested me, but I did try on a pair of Columbia Ravenous Lite trail shoes that were priced at $60. They were really nice. Very minimal for trail runners. But I couldn't justify buying them, with plenty of miles left on my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards.

After my last couple of runs, I feel like I'm heading in the right direction in terms of performance. That's good because I need to get ready to race. I saw on the GLIRC events list that Long Beach is planning to do the Snowflake 4 mile run on February 23rd. After the devastating damage from Sandy that wiped out the boardwalk, I expected this event to be canceled. I'll be there to run one of my favorite races and support the people who organize this event.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A small step towards social running

Trying out the social thing
Today's run (treadmill): 4.1 miles

After spending two long days practically connected to my laptop, I'm happy that the weekend is finally here. I am extremely grateful for all the good wishes I've received over the past few days and the many ideas presented by colleagues. The temptation to re-explore the working world is great, but I've also liked the extra 90 minutes of sleep I've the last two mornings. 

I've decided to consider participating in running club activities, starting with an event that is happening this weekend. I'm curious to see if a release from daily work stress will reverse my tendency towards social introversion. I already have plans to run with some friends who I haven't been able to see because of my tight schedule. The prospect of doing this more is appealing. 

This morning, both of my kids did elliptical sessions while my wife did her daily treadmill run. I followed her on the treadmill today, rather than brave the 19° temperature outside. It's going to feel like 17° with wind chill tomorrow morning, so I'll just have to deal with it. I was proud of my kids for doing their workouts and I hope they stick with the program.

I still haven't used the new elliptical yet, because I've been waiting for the AC adapter to arrive. The unit will work without power, but I need the console to control resistance and display data. I am looking forward to using the machine and getting the upper body exercise that I can't get from running.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A big change provides more time to run

If it's all the same, I'd prefer a Garmin 610
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

After 20 years with my company, I am about to take early retirement. While I'll miss all my office friends, I'm excited to be in a position to retire while I'm still in my prime. My big decision now is what to do next. I can do something completely different, or stay in familiar territory. I'm in no rush to decide. Besides having more time to spend with my wife and kids, I'll be able to run longer distances on weekday mornings. No more train schedules to meet.

Yesterday morning, the winds were still blowing at speeds over 25 MPH. I decided to stay indoors and did a progressive speed run on the treadmill. Today, despite the cold, I got outside and ran around the neighborhood. It may have been the lack of work stress that pushed me along today, or the fact that I had to be home in time for a business call, but I achieved my fastest overall pace in two months.

I've been overwhelmed with correspondence and calls related to this change, so it hasn't exactly been relaxing. But it has been energizing. Perhaps I'll restart my Runner's Tech Review blog now that I'll (possibly) have more time. I'm going to need a new pair of running shoes soon. Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, are you listening?
 

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