Running quote of the week

“Running isn’t a chore to fit in, but a privilege … I’m not trying to figure out the least I can do to keep up with my goals, but the most I can get away with.” – Jonathan Beverly

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Short & sweet threshold run

Today's run (Threshold): 3 miles

This year's racing experience has been a mystery. After a decent start in February, my performance has really tailed off. I'm not sure if it has to do with my change to a less structured schedule this year or less intensity in terms of training. Whatever the reason, I haven't been satisfied with my results. November has always been my best month for achieving personal bests, but that's not been the case this year.

The Hot Chocolate 5K happens next week and I've hoped that the two 10K's I've done in November have put me in racing form. I debated whether to go to the track today to run intervals or do a threshold run. I decided a run in the neighborhood would more closely duplicate race conditions.

It was another cold morning with mid-20's temperatures. I was chilly at the start, because I wore fewer layers. If I was going for speed, I didn't want anything inhibiting my progress. I took off fast up the road, looking to get into high gear quickly. The street has a slight incline that gives way to an equally slight downward slope. I knew I was moving faster than I do on a normal training run and my Garmin shows I covered my first mile in 8:25.

I didn't have a set distance for this threshold run. It was more about running a short (but not too short) loop with some urgency. I lost some speed on the second mile, but came back fairly strongly by the end of the run. I wasn't paying attention to my distance, but after I'd stopped I saw that I'd covered three miles at 8:46. Not too bad considering my HR only averaged 85% of max.

A year ago I might have done that run 25 seconds per mile faster, but I won't complain about today's performance. I slightly regret not monitoring my Garmin and completing the full 5K distance. I doubt the numbers would have been much different. If I can hold my pace below 9:00 next Saturday, I'll consider it a successful effort. I'm hoping I'll do better than that and certainly no worse.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Running and thinking at Stillwell

Stillwell: Mind and Body
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.25 miles

It occurred to me that I haven't run the trails in a while, so I looked it up on Garmin Connect and saw that my last Stillwell run was eight weeks ago. After thirty runs on pavement and treadmill, I thought it was time to head back to the woods. Trail running is far different than street running, both in terms of experience and expectation. On trails, the terrain underfoot can change by the second and the hills and drops are frequent and occasionally treacherous. Not all trails are as technical as Stillwell and that's probably a good thing.

A trail run was the ideal way to burn some extra calories after last night's Thanksgiving dinner. We had fun and were given the choice of both normal people food and vegan offerings. Another guest cooked most of the vegan dishes and I give credit to my sister-in-law (who hosted) for preparing excellent vegan acorn squash stuffed with toasted quinoa and cranberries. I had tofurky for the first time and thought it was really good, like well marinated seitan.

Stillwell Woods Park was fairly empty when I arrived. A group of men were assembling to play touch football and a few others were busy preparing mountain bikes in the lot. There were light winds that made it feel like 26° but I had prepared for that. The trails were clear and the ground was frozen for the most part. I enjoyed being back on Stillwell's paths and its ever changing surroundings.

I'd recently read an article that said, "If I am thinking at all when I run, this is a sign of a run gone wrong." I think the writer's point was that if you can think, you haven't given yourself fully to the effort. I strongly disagree with this and suggest the opposite. I feel that when you reach a state where you are thinking about anything except for the run, you have succeeded. When I'm running in the woods I am able to detach from the physical world in a way that's nearly impossible to do while running on the street.

I enjoyed every foot of the 4+ miles I covered today and thought about many things, all of which I've since forgotten. I know I need to work on my speed this weekend and should probably have gone to the track today, instead of the woods. After all, there's always tomorrow and Sunday to do that. Today was about the mind, and tomorrow I'll worry about the body.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey trot not

Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

Happy Thanksgiving. This is many people's favorite holiday, mine too I guess, because it is so inclusive. No divisive factors such as religion, culture or politics at play. As long as you don't think about what really happened on or around the first Thanksgiving (SIOR recently made the point that the original dinner was anything but inclusive), you can enjoy a middle of the workweek break. We're heading out for Thanksgiving dinner soon. Rumor has it that our hosts are cooking a lot of vegan food, but there WILL be turkey.

Thanksgiving time is a runner's paradise, because of all the local Turkey Trots that happen around the holiday. I had a good time, under miserable conditions, while running the Long Beach Turkey Trot last Sunday. We were signed up for this morning's Nissequoge 5K, but we decided to forgo our plans in favor of doing something else. We've run that race for the past three years as a family, at a very easy pace. I've never run a competitive race on Thanksgiving day, but I'm thinking of changing that next year.

Instead of a Turkey Trot, I settled for a neighborhood run this morning. With 12 MPH winds, it felt like 21° outside. I probably overdressed for the run, but the Long Beach experience was still fresh on my mind. Even so, when the wind hit head-on, it seemed to pass through every layer I was wearing. I was feeling okay about my progress until I encountered another runner coming from a connecting street who turned onto the road behind me. He passed me a few seconds later, before taking a right while I kept going straight.

I sometimes have trouble understanding why people run faster than me. This person seemed to be maintaining the same cadence as me and his stride was not particularly open. Yet he moved at a faster rate than me. Puzzling. I know that, in reality, his cadence was faster and his stride was longer. It just didn't look like that.

Today feels like Sunday, but the weekend is yet to come. I plan to address the speed issue on one of those weekend days by running intervals at the track. Perhaps that, and a continued focus on increasing my average distance, will help me achieve the elusive sub-9 pace that I used to expect when I raced. I like to think that I would have saved 30 seconds per mile on Sunday if I wasn't running into 29 MPH winds. But that may just be wishbone thinking.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yet another reason to run

Newsflash: Running is good
I haven't done a single thing today that would fit the definition of a workout. But that's okay, because according to an article in the NY Times Well, my consistent adherence to an active lifestyle keeps my blood sugar control robust and prevents my fat cells from exhibiting "potentially undesirable alterations in gene expression", as compared to sedentary men. I'm happy to know that my genes are expressing desirably.

The point of the article, based on a study conducted at the University of Bath in England, is that exercise not only fights the accumulation of fat in our bodies, it also protects us from when we "overfeed." It may seem self evident that an active lifestyle will help regulate insulin levels and facilitate metabolic balance, but this study proves that.

I may yet get on the treadmill later, but not because I read this article. I really believe that runners feel deprived when they miss a workout (though not to the extent of those fake crybabies who claim that tapering is torturous). It's touch and go in terms of whether we'll run the Nissequoge 5K Turkey Trot tomorrow. The weather is due to be cold and windy and the crowds are supposed to be 3X greater than last year.

I'm sending good Turkey Trot wishes to FS, SIOR, The Petite Pacer and other runner friends who will be lining up for races tomorrow morning. I hope that if weather conditions are tough, they'll take comfort in knowing that their running will enable very desirable gene expression.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Race, rest and hot chocolate

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles 

I usually rest the day after a race, unless it's a 5K that's held on a Saturday. In that case I might go out the next day for an easy recovery run. Mondays have been my defacto rest days since 2009, when I made the decision stop running 7 days a week. So taking the day off after a Sunday race is perfectly timed with my schedule. I always expect to run faster after a race, because racing primes your leg muscles similar to speed work. In reality, I usually end up with a pace that falls between mediocre and satisfactory.

I once read an article that said you should take one day off for every two miles raced. That means three days rest for a 10K and a full week off for a half. That seems a little too extreme for me. I took three days off after running my half marathons and thought that was the right amount of time. I'll occasionally take two days after the Dirty Sock 10K because that event is especially grueling. Otherwise, one day seems about right.

Before I headed to the city this morning, I got outside for a four mile run. It was 37° and overcast and once again I had hopes of leveraging the fast twitch muscle fiber I'd (supposedly) cultivated at the race. There were no 29 MPH winds to slow me down today. I felt like I was running well, but I ended up closer to mediocrity than satisfaction. I was very surprised to see how long it took me to cover that distance.

 
My next (and probably last) race of the year will be the Hot Chocolate 5K that's held on December 7th. I'll admit that, compared to other years, my 2013 race performance has been sub-par. The best race I ran was the first, the Long Beach Snowflake. If I properly train for speed, the Hot Chocolate could provide some redemption. If not, at least there will be hot chocolate at the end.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Race report: 2013 Long Beach Turkey Trot

The new boardwalk
Today's run (Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot): 6.2 miles - 1:00:53 (clock time)

Dear Long Beach Turkey Trot,
There's no easy way to put this, so I'll just say it. I don't think I should run you anymore. I know we've had great times together, including a few 10K PR's, but your behavior today was unforgivable. It's not your fault - blame climate change - but it just isn't working. You've come back strong since hurricane Sandy and I admire you for that. And this doesn't mean we can't still hang out. I still plan to run the Long Beach Snowflake race in February. But for now, I think it's best that I do other races. It's not you, it's me. Actually, it is you.
Sincerely,
The Emerging Runner

Okay, that might be a little over dramatic, but today's Long Beach 10K was the definition of difficult. The weather people were reporting temperatures in the high 20's with 25-29 MPH winds resulting in conditions that felt like 11°. I wore a base layer with a heavier half-zip and compression pants with track pants over them. I double layered my socks, wore mitten-gloves and a warm hat. This, with a winter coat, kept me comfortable enough in the five minutes it took to pick up my number and race shirt.

2013 Race shirt
I saw The Petite Pacer when I arrived and we hung out in my car to stay warm and free of the sand that was being thrown around by the heavy winds. We headed to the boardwalk about five minutes before the the start of the race and tried to keep warm as we found our way to the starting line. The start itself was loosely organized but we were sent off right on time.

The race started east to west and I naively wondered if it was intended to minimize how much exposure we'd have to the fierce winds. I figured they were running the old course backward which would have provided a mile or so into the headwinds with the balance of the race with the wind at our backs. Not quite, but it was nice to hope that was the case, rather than know what laid ahead.

The winds we encountered were so powerful that they played havoc with our balance. The noise of hundreds of fluttering, safety-pinned race bibs was deafening. I kept checking that my own bib was intact from the violent force of the wind. I reminded myself that once we were off the boardwalk, we'd have the wind to our backs. I came off the ramp onto West Broadway heading east and the difference in comfort was palpable.

The wind worked to our favor as we continued east. I was maintaining about a 9:15 pace and felt like I was on track for a decent time. I was expecting them to divert us north on Magnolia and then over and down Washington, so I was surprised that they had us continue straight. If we didn't do that loop and instead had followed the old course backward, we would have come up a mile short.

Soon after passing mile three, which I reached in 27:50, I saw that they were wrapping us around and sending us west on W. Broadway. I thought, "Those bastards!" Suddenly I was facing a wall of frozen air that hit so hard that it looked like I was running, but it felt as slow as walking. I was hating the run at this point, but determined to make it through. I got passed a lot between miles 3 and 4. I couldn't understand how these people were able cut through the wind resistance.

Although I knew I was losing time, I decided not to give up. As miserable as I felt, I kept telling myself all races end and this one will too. I was freezing and becoming increasingly exhausted. Surprisingly enough, my heart rate was locked in at around 87% of max, indicating that I had another gear to call on. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it.

I was thrilled when I finally reached New York Ave. and ran up the ramp back to the boardwalk. I knew from prior races that just because I reached the final stage it didn't mean I was all that close to the end. The wind was mostly to our backs at least, save for some unwelcome blasts that hit head-on in some sections. I put myself into autopilot and checked my Garmin to see that 9/10ths of a mile remained.

I recovered enough to step up the pace. My only goal at this point, besides reaching the line, was to finish with a pace under 10 min a mile (actual pace = 9:48). Happily the finish gate came within sight, but it seemed to take a very long time to get to it. About 100 feet before the line I saw the Petite Pacer in vivid neon and she ran the final 50 feet with me as I crossed the line. She'd finished about six minutes before me and was probably freezing waiting for me to come in.

The new course
Despite the wind, my cadence averaged 172 SPM
It was so great to finally stop. My face was so frozen that I literally couldn't speak correctly. It took almost 15 minutes warming up in my car before I could speak clearly. After Petite Pacer left, I downed some more Gatorade and a banana and took off for home.

It's hard to smile in a sandstorm
Later in the day, my family and I went to a food pantry where we volunteer on behalf of Island Harvest. My job was to carry boxes filled with canned goods to people's cars. I'd done it a few times before but the combination of race exhaustion and the number of boxes I carried caught up with me. I reached a point where I could not carry another set of 30+ lb. boxes.

Those boxes are heavy, especially after a 10K
I certainly got a full body workout today and I'm really looking forward to my rest day tomorrow. Sorry Long Beach Turkey Trot. I think I'm going check out Garden City next year. I hope you'll understand.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Close call for Sunday

Last night I supplemented my morning workout with an easy 30 minutes on the treadmill. Whether that will help my leg conditioning is unclear. I'll know better tomorrow morning as I try to generate speed along the course. About halfway through my second treadmill session, it occurred to me that I may have forgotten to register for Sunday's race. I'd never signed up for October's TOB Supervisor's 5K and needed to use my emergency cash to pay on race day.

I was concerned that not only had I forgotten to register for Sunday's Turkey Trot, I might have missed the opportunity to do it. Once off the treadmill, I looked for a confirming email from Active, but came up short. I was relieved to see that registration was still open and quickly signed up.

The cost of the race was still $20, no penalty for being late to the party. It's a great deal, especially for a 10K. This race is well managed and almost half of the course is run on the boardwalk parallel to the ocean. Compare that to the LI Festival of Races 10K that totals over $40 with "convenience fees" tacked on. On top of that, the LI 10K's course is as dull as dishwater.

The Long Beach Turkey Trot was cancelled last year due to hurricane Sandy. With the newly restored boardwalk, I'm guessing there will be a record number of participants this year. It's supposed to feel like 12° tomorrow morning, so I have to think about what to wear for the race. I checked the Active site this morning to get the proper start time and saw that registration was closed. Good thing I thought about it last night. I'm excited that I'll get to participate, but I may regret my good luck once I'm standing around in freezing temperatures.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Walking the walk because of the work

Love the concept
I'm wondering if my intense focus on work this week is what's causing my leg heaviness when I run. Last week, all my runs had good energy leading me to believe I was heading in the right direction in terms of race readiness. Both Tuesday's and Thursday's runs were disappointing and uncomfortable. I blame this week's work process because, in terms of activity, the past two weeks have been very different.

Last week  I spent every day moving, with a couple of high mileage days walking in the city on top of my running. This week it's been mostly conference calls and working on my laptop in my home office. It's important that I do it, but it's terrible in terms of movement. After a few days of tense muscles and not enough exercise, it's no wonder that my legs feel this way.

This morning I took a mid morning break and used the treadmill (it was cold and rainy outside). Instead of running, I set the speed to 4 MPH and walked about 40 minutes. No stress and no sweat, but it was a good way to shake out my leg muscles without straining them. The day grew intense after that, so I'm glad I took the opportunity when I had it. I'm thinking of doing another 30 minutes as I wind down the work week. There's a fine line between conditioning for fitness and honing the fitness that you have. I'm hoping that this taper strategy works for me on Sunday.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hill grinding on the Bethpage trail

Not much happening at Bethpage this morning
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 6.4 miles

I've been keeping busy on a big project that's required long days on the laptop and phone. A combination of meetings and deadlines on Wednesday related to the project stole my scheduled window to run. I'd planned to go out for six miles as a final base workout prior to Sunday's race. The idea was to end my taper with this run and spend today focusing on core or upper body. Losing my run window yesterday meant moving my last taper run to today. It was probably for the best, as I probably wouldn't have done that core work anyway.

Running a six mile route around my neighborhood was not appealing, so I headed off to Bethpage to hit the trail. The weather was really cold when I arrived (29° degrees per my car's display). I'd definitely dressed for freezing conditions, so I was comfortable at the start. As expected on a cold Thursday morning, the park was mostly empty. I took off south to start and noted that I felt good, but my leg muscles were a little tight. I hoped that would work out along the run but unfortunately it just got worse.

Despite yesterday's break from running, my legs began to feel like lactic acid containers. I ran a mile south and then turned back the other way, reaching the big hill at around the 1.5 mile point. I'm sure it was due to my uncooperative legs, but climbing that hill seemed especially tough today. Once I passed the point where I started, I continued north to the newer extension.

I often complain about hills, so much so that a friend once told me to do more hill training and less whining. It was a little mean, but good advice. I like to think when I run at Bethpage I am training on the hills. On good days it feels rolling. But on other days (like today) it grinds me down. I went as far north as Old Bethpage Rd. before turning back toward my start and covered 6.5 miles in the process.

I don't know why my legs were so unresponsive today. I was glad that this was practice and not a race. If I can I bounce back by the weekend, I may be able to improve on my performance at the Hope for Warriors 10K two weekends ago. Tomorrow I'll try to do some walking to shake out the built up lactic acid that made today's run so tough. I'm glad I put in some real mileage today. Hopefully it helped reinforce my 10K base for this Sunday.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Light the candles and go for a run

 
Today's run (street): 3.1 miles

Five years and one day ago, the Emerging Runner was launched with this post. 1,826 days and 1,663 posts later, I'm still running and writing. I don't know what's more amazing, that I've continued to blog and run, or the fact that I've managed to write so much about something as simple as running down the road. My goal for the blog was to keep a simple running journal, but it's turned out to be much more than that.

I thought about all this on today's run which was, by any definition, unremarkable. I was on auto-pilot for the most part, but I did manage to cover the distance slightly faster than expected. My time was limited due to my schedule, but I got my workout done. 3.1 miles in a little over 29 minutes isn't really worth mentioning. But had I done that on November 18, 2008, you can bet everyone would have heard about it.

Running and blogging have been pathways to great friendships and experiences. The two disciplines drive each other. When I run, I think about what I'll write about. When I blog, I think about my running life. I know people who have run for decades that still get excited to talk about their training and their hopes for another PR. Half a decade after declaring myself an emerging runner, I wish for the same.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A typical run, except for the walrus

Today's run (street): 4.75 miles

After yesterday's social run that was high on fun but low on performance, I felt I needed to go out faster today. My Saucony Virratas were still damp from Saturday morning's rain, so I opted for my Brooks Pure Drifts that have sat dormant over the past couple of months. I'm trying to decide what shoes to wear for next Sunday's race: the Virratas, the Brooks or my Spiras that I wore the last time I raced in Long Beach.

Once I had the rest of my gear selected, I was off. The temperature was 58° but it felt colder than that when I got outside. I started off running about a minute a mile faster than yesterday and I maintained that pace for the next 30 minutes. I stepped it up further for the remainder of my run, the last mile being predominantly uphill. Well, if not uphill, then at least "upslope."

I did today's run in my neighborhood and it was business as usual until I suddenly came across what looked like a large naked walrus standing on the sidewalk in front of a house. On second look it wasn't really a walrus, but an overweight shirtless man with a long walrus mustache. I didn't understand why he was standing there or (un)dressed that way in 58° weather, but I didn't bother to stick around and find out.

With my next race happening next Sunday, I need to figure out my workouts from now until the weekend. I'm thinking that a speed session and perhaps another 6 mile run, followed by two days rest, is a good taper plan. I'll also try to pick a route that's free of walruses, human or otherwise.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My favorite running club

From left: ER, SIOR, TPP
photo courtesy of the Petite Pacer
Today's run (Eisenhower Park): 6.1 miles

This morning I had the pleasure of running six miles with two great people who I've gotten to know through the running blog community. I joined the authors of She is Out Running (SIOR) and The Petite Pacer (TPP) at Eisenhower Park, under cloudy skies and light rain. I'm no fan of running in the rain, but I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to spend time with these two fun people.

I'd met TPP in October at the Oyster Bay 5K and saw her again last Sunday at the Hope for Warriors 10K. Neither of us had met SIOR in person before today, so it was exciting to finally get together. You can tell a lot about a person by their blog, so I was not surprised to find them both to be fun, smart, thoughtful, interesting and kind.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle by the time we set off on our run. TPP had suggested that we start at my pace and then switch it up to hers followed by SIOR's. Since the idea was to run together (I would have had trouble keeping up with them), we agreed that it was better to follow the most common denominator (me). We ended up running an overall pace that even I'd consider slow. But taking it easy helped us freely converse. And converse we did.

Eisenhower Park is under construction, so we needed to reverse direction once we reached a fenced off area. We ran the planned route backward and turned around at the southern side of the construction zone. Usually when I run six miles on my own, the tedium  starts early. I was genuinely shocked when I looked at my Garmin and saw that we'd covered 1.68 miles. At that point I was checking to see if we'd completed the first mile! Time (and distance) flies when you're having fun.

Today's route
We'd passed five miles as we grew close to the parking lot, but we wanted to keep going. We decided to take our second loop around the pond and then finished after either 6.12 or 6.19 miles, depending on if you believe my or TPP's GPS. My Garmin usually under counts by 2.5-3.5% so I'm guessing the actual distance was closer to 6.3 miles. Whatever it was, it seemed to go by faster than any six miles in recent history. That includes last week's 10K.

The icing on the cake was our post-run coffee at a nearby Starbucks, where we continued the conversation for another hour. I don't think any of us wanted to end our morning experience but the day's obligations required it. We agreed to try to do this again, perhaps on a regular schedule. That would be really great because this would be the first running club I'd actually want to join.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Being a down to earth runner isn't always good

 
Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

This week has been a challenge, but I'm not complaining. I'm working on some interesting projects that have required me to spend long days in the city. I'm hoping all the walking I've done this week has provided some conditioning benefit. My running frequency has suffered a bit, but in terms of mileage, I'm not too far off track. Last weekend I decided to move my minimum training distance from three to four miles, so I've done over 8 miles coming into the weekend.

This morning I went out in 40 degree weather for my first run since Tuesday.  I started easy and picked up the pace about midway through. At one point I started thinking about the way I run. Elite runners are fast because their form keeps them off the ground most of the time. In comparison, I find that I spend a lot of time on terra firma. In the moments that your foot is touching the ground, you're not moving. That explains a lot about my speed.

I experimented with opening my stride hoping that it might make a difference. After reviewing my Garmin's performance data, it looks like it did improve my pace from that point forward. Tomorrow I'm excited to run with the authors of two excellent blogs: She is Out Running and The Petite Pacer. They are both great runners and I hope I don't hold them back too much. I'll try to convince them of the benefits of long slow distance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Headlamp failure saved by the treadmill

Light's out
Today's run (treadmill): 4 miles

I spent the day in the city, so I'd planned an early morning run. It's been nine months since the last time I ran in the pre-dawn darkness and, not unexpectedly, my Black Diamond headlamp wasn't working. I put in new batteries but the lamp kept going off, just like my old Petzl unit. I don't understand why it's so hard to make a headlamp with a stable battery housing.

While I wasted time trying to get the lamp to stay on, my daughter told me it was raining outside. Running in the dark, in a mix of rain and snow, was not going to happen. Instead, I got on the treadmill and hammered out 4 miles at a fairly good pace. I worried that I'd pushed too hard, considering all the NYC foot travel I was facing later in the day. I ended up doing fine.

I ended up walking pretty far today and the result was a substantial blister on the bottom of my left foot. I'm hoping it will miraculously heal overnight so I can get out on the road tomorrow (weather permitting).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Data visualization drives a decision

Downward slope
I downloaded my Garmin after yesterday's race to get a breakdown of my run. I'm a big fan of data visualization. When I looked at the cadence chart the data showed exactly where my base training had come up short. At 3.2 miles (almost the exact distance of my daily training runs) my average cadence had dropped from 89 to 85 SPM.

The shortcomings of my running routine could not have been clearer. I wasn't putting in enough distance in my daily training. I've always prided myself on the fact that I usually run six days out of seven. While the frequency is high, the distance is middling. It's a healthy routine, but not one that produces great race performances.

I'll admit that it's hard to break a running routine that's been a way of life for five years. Clearly a change is due. I'll continue to aim for longer runs on weekends, and try to increase my weekday distances. I'll aim for the same 18-20 miles a week, but will only run three days instead of four. If I could get closer to a 5 mile average run, my performance might proportionately improve.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Race report: 2013 Hope for the Warriors 10K

Seconds before the finish
Today's run (Hope for the Warriors 10K): 6.2 miles - 58:56 (clock time) 

I'm not sure that it signals a move toward improved performance, but I ran my fastest 10K of 2013 this morning at the Hope for the Warriors race. Although I'm pleased that I finally broke an hour, today's time was measurably slower than my two prior Hope for Warriors efforts. The upcoming Long Beach Turkey Trot will tell me if today's performance was positively directional.

Team ER on race tee and bib duty
We arrived early because my wife and kids had volunteered to work the registration area. Their job was primarily focused on handing out race tees, but they also handled some of the bib distribution. I spent much of my time trying to stay warm over the three hours between arrival and race start. I tried to find spots in the crowds that had direct sunlight.

Chillin' (literally) before the race
The wind was brisk and that contributed to the chill. I regretted my decision to leave my calf sleeves home. Beside their energizing effect, they would have provided some additional warmth. I also regretted wearing running shorts instead of pants. However, I was glad with my gear selection once I was running.  

The armed forces were well represented, as always
The 5K starts first and they line up those participants ahead of the 10K bunch. A few years ago, everyone started at the same time and it was a mess getting past the 5K walkers in the first few minutes. Now the 5K starts 15 minutes before the 10K and the road is clear until we catch up with the 5K tail-enders on Wellwood Ave. It was hard to find exactly where the 10K start was going to be. There was no mat to capture starting time, so everyone was tracked by clock time. My net time might have been a little more favorable were that the case.

At race start (directly to the right of the giant head)
Shortly before we started, I ran into the Petite Pacer. She went to say hello to another friend so I didn't see her again until I saw her come up the right side, moving swiftly. She had a great run today and a 10K PR. She was very kind to video me as I made my way through the final meters and over the line. I found her after the race and was able to introduce her to my wife and kids.

The Hope for the Warriors 10K course is the least remarkable thing about this race. It's a big box with few notable characteristics. Without scenery to distract me, I kept my mind on my stride but I purposely ignored my Garmin's display. I wanted to run the race by feel and perceived effort. I was surprised that there were no clocks or split announcers along the route. I did have a basic understanding of where the splits were located and that was reinforced by chirps from my watch.

The first two miles went by quickly and I felt like I was moving well. I ran the first mile under 9 minutes but I was in the 9:10 range by the three mile point. My performance slipped a little after that, although it improved once I cleared the on-ramp from RT 109 to Sunrise Highway. Coming up that on-ramp was tough and it threatened to take the fight out of me. I tried my best to maintain speed once I hit Sunrise for the last half mile.

Happy to be finished
Me and TPP who ran a great race
I wasn't sure whether I'd trained well enough for this race and my struggles in the late miles made me wish I'd done more base work. Overall, I was fairly satisfied with today's performance. I'll be interested to see how it goes in Long Beach, two weeks from today. Tomorrow is a rest day!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

No expectations, but plenty of Hope

 
Last year I participated in a race that was put on by my division's parent company. Before the race even started, one of my colleagues shared the tweet he planned to send after he finished. I told him that I never write my headline until I'm done with the race. Too many things can happen between the start and the finish lines. I don't know what my friend ended up tweeting, but I still hold fast to that policy. I ended up having a far different race experience than I'd anticipated that night.

Tomorrow is the Hope for Warriors 10K and I've set no expectations in terms of how I might do. I've done this event twice and have a good understanding of the course. Two years ago, I attained a 10K PR at HFW, after almost skipping it because I hadn't really trained. 2011 was a year of personal bests. I got a another PR at the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot, just one weekend after Hope for Warriors.

This year has not produced many race highlights. My best performance came early on at the Long Beach 4 mile Snowflake race, where the Petite Pacer beat me over the line in an impressive burst of speed. Since then, I haven't broken a 9:00 pace in a race, even in 5K's. I'm going to run the best race I can tomorrow. As always, I'll wait until I finish before I compose my headline.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Taper breaker on an off week

Hard to resist
Today's workout (elliptical): 35 minutes

This has not been a good week for running, but that doesn't mean I haven't been active. After taking my usual rest day on Monday, I spent all of Tuesday in the city. I Gmapped my walking routes and it came out to eight miles. I got a run in on Wednesday, but Thursday started too early and ended too late to get my workout done. However, I did cover another eight miles on foot. Normally I'd have taken today to rest so I'd be fresh for Sunday's 10K. With just one run this week, I felt like I needed to do something today.

That something turned out to be a mid-morning elliptical session that I did at 90% resistance. Every time I use the elliptical, I'm reminded how beneficial this workout can be. Even done at a moderate pace, the resistance taxes under-exercised muscles and the no-impact motion gives your knees a rest. The lack of motor noise (compared with the treadmill) is also appreciated.

What started out feeling like an easy workout got tougher as the minutes passed. Our elliptical is a pretty basic unit so the amount of data on the display is limited. Unlike our old BH Fitness unit, our ProForm doesn't report distance. Along with displaying elapsed time, the ProForm shows total number of revolutions as well as a metric that indicates level of effort (in watts?). I tried to keep that effort number as high as I could. Despite the high resistance, it didn't drop much near the end.

So tomorrow I'll rest. My wife and kids are volunteering at the race so we need to be there by 6:30 AM(!). That will be a lot of waiting for me, since the 10K doesn't kick off until 9:45 AM. But it's a great event and I'm happy that my family will be there to support me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Serf of the road

 
Today's run (street): 3.7 miles

It was only 39 degrees outside, but it felt very much like winter this morning. I wore layers top and bottom and was comfortable throughout my entire run. Had I pushed harder, I probably would have overheated. I was in the city yesterday and covered 7 miles on foot. After that, and two moderately tough runs over the weekend, I kept my heart rate around 80% of max for today's workout.

I've been reading a newly published book called, Kings of the Road, that's about how Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar helped popularize competitive running in the '70's. As I ran today, I thought about my paces versus theirs. In one part, one of these runners described his 4:45 pace at the Falmouth Road Race as "easy."

I know that elite runners train so that they are able to sustain high speed over long distances. But how do they mentally prepare themselves to run sub-5:00 paces over 26.2 miles? For that matter, how do 7:00 or even 8:00 milers do it? Is running a half marathon in an hour as hard for Galen Rupp as breaking 2 hours is for me at the same distance? If these elites put everything they have into their races, why do they look so fresh after they cross the finish line?

Most people who compete in races push way past their comfort zone. All things being equal, a 4:45 pace, while impressive, is relative to the runner. I have my race targets and it's always great when I meet or exceed them. There are many factors that determine performance on a given run, but lack of trying is rarely one of them.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hill running on marathon day

The long and windy road
Today's run (street): 4.6 miles

It's marathon day in NYC and I got an early start on the coverage. I didn't take advantage of the extra hour's sleep from DST, because I wanted to have my run completed prior to the marathon pre-show. There wasn't much drama in today's race, but it was still fun to watch. I was hoping all my friends who ran it had great experiences. I thought about them on my run knowing I'd be covering far less distance today.

Today was my last chance to do a good training run prior to next weekend's 10K. I decided to head over to the Greenbelt bike trail and run south so I could take on the long hill along Sunnyside Boulevard. It was cold enough for long pants and sleeves, but I remained comfortable (except when the wind hit me head-on). The Sunnyside hill is just long enough to wear you down because it gets increasingly steeper along the last half mile. I just kept reminding myself that I'd get to run it downhill on the way back.

Today's run went well and I'm hoping I've built my fitness to handle a brisk pace over 6.2 miles next Sunday. This will be a busy week with early mornings into the city. I'm not sure how I'll handle my taper, but I'll figure it out. Although the Hope for Warriors course is fairly flat, this weekend's hill heavy training should yield some conditioning benefit.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Running views and visualizations

Sure looked like fall along the trail
Today's run (Bethpage): 6.25 miles

The Hope for Warriors 10K next weekend prompted me to head to Bethpage this morning for a base run. I've plateaued on distance since Cow Harbor, having completed only a handful of 5+ mile runs since that race. After a week of rainy and windy conditions, today's clear, dry 57° weather made a run at Bethpage very appealing.

More scenes from today's run
When I arrived I saw that the right side of the lot was fairly full. There were lots of people with bikes and I wondered if there was a cycling event planned. I don't think it was anything that formal, although there were a lot more bikers on the trail than I usually see. Considering the density of cyclists on the path, along with many runners and a good number of walkers, I encountered few reckless riders.

With my headache and sinus pressure gone, I felt good energy along the trail and felt less intimidated than usual by the big hills. That isn't to say that I particularly enjoyed them. My plan was run 5K south and turn around at the 3.1 mile mark. It works for me to break a middle or long distance run into parts. For that same reason, I like to familiarize myself with a race course before running it for the first time. It's always valuable to understand the challenges of the course before you face them for real.

New Garmin Connect cadence graph
I didn't dog the pace but I wasn't looking to simulate race conditions either. The purpose of this run was to get a 10K distance under my belt close to the real thing a week from Sunday. When I downloaded my Garmin after the run, I saw that they'd changed the data visualization on Connect and added a new metric: average stride length. Better still, the site has a pop-up that helps explain SPM and running dynamics. I felt good when I read this in the explanation: "The data values in the green, blue, or purple zones are typical for more experienced or faster runners."

Good context on cadence
Ideally, I'll see less green and more blue data points as I work to increase my cadence. Races tend to bring out our best performances (my recent history excepted) so I might even get myself into purple territory next week.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Running happiness in a squeeze bottle

Doping the right way
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

Oxymetazoline HCl is my new favorite drug. I've recently found that a minimal dose of this OTC nasal spray provides a lot of relief to my pressure headaches. Using it seems to negate the need to take ibuprofen or pseudoephedrine. I don't like to take either of those, especially when I'm planning to run. I get these headaches during certain weather conditions and they are tough to treat, but a couple of sprays have put me back on the mend.

This morning's weather was windy and rainy. Fallen leaves on the roads made for slippery conditions and I resigned myself to another treadmill workout. I'd used the nasal spray as soon as I got up and felt instantly better. I was ready to push hard today and I set the speed a full MPH faster than yesterday. Today was warmer and more humid than Thursday, yet I felt much stronger throughout the run.

The good thing about running faster on the treadmill is that you get through your planned distance sooner. I had plenty to do today so that was a bonus. The nasal spray, unlike decongestant tablets, doesn't make me dizzy or tired. Treadmill running is scary enough without having to deal with those concerns.
 

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