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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Layering up for the Hangover

Too much?
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

The old Scandinavian proverb, "There's no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing" is especially true for runners. This morning was so cold that I considered staying inside for my run. My wife was on the treadmill at the time so I would have needed to wait for her to finish. We had morning plans, so to save time I decided to brave the weather and dress "appropriately."

I added another upper layer just before heading outside. It's always tricky to find a balance that works. Races are hard, when you're by yourself and there's no place to keep warm before the race begins. I generally dress for my second mile. That can be uncomfortable unless I'm able to park close to the starting line and stay in my car until race time. Training runs, like today, are easier to manage because you can start as soon as you step outside.

That extra layer kept me comfortable from the beginning. I wasn't looking to run at race pace which would have put me into overheating territory. It wasn't until near the end that I really began to heat up. Flipping back my glove mittens to expose my fingers helped introduce enough cooling to counteract that heat. That got me through the remaining half mile.

Tomorrow is New Year's day and, for most people, it's a recovery day after staying up very late. But for me and my two other Musketeers (and possibly a fourth) we'll be gathering in the morning at Eisenhower Park for the LIRRC Hangover Fun Run. The distance is supposed to be 5 miles but we may be going for a few extra. Our speediest-keteer is looking to cover ten.

I've done the Hangover event for the past couple of years and both mornings were very cold. The temperature at tomorrow's 9:30 AM start is predicted to be 27°, with winds making it feel like 19°. Since this isn't a race, I'll probably error on the side of too many layers. Just as the Norwegians say, "Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Conditions not ideal at Stillwell Woods

Tough going along the big muddy
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.25

After a string of indoor workouts, I was ready for an outside run today. The news stations were predicting heavy rains starting mid to late morning and that helped get me out the door early. I quickly dismissed a run around the neighborhood (too dull of a route on an already gray day) and decided to visit the trails at Stillwell instead.

Stillwell's lot was fairly empty when I arrived, and I thought that people might be avoiding the woods and the fields due to the imminent rainstorm. I'm always happy to have the trails to myself and felt excitement as I headed toward my favorite route. Once I took a left off the initial trail that leads to the black trail, I saw that my usually well-groomed paths were frozen and muddy. The packed single track was scored and deeply rutted by mountain bikes.

Due to these conditions, I needed to constantly switch from one trail edge to another because the thawed sections of mud were too unstable. I'm always concerned about tripping on a trail, but in this case it could have resulted in a face full of mud or an injury from the frozen terrain. As I made my way north, I started to think about which section might be free of mud and followed a trail that is usually covered in leaves.

That trail was much more stable, and while it gives way to a sandy section, that was preferable to mud. I was surprised to see some hikers on the trail, as well well as mountain bikers. I was the only runner as far as I could see. I didn't do my usual two loops because the thought of repeating that first muddy mile was unappealing. That gave me the opportunity to follow some different trails that I've somehow avoided over the past year.

Even the better trails had mud and ruts, so after three miles I decided to head back. I'd originally planned another loop around the open field that would have added another mile. When I got close to the trail head, I saw a group of ten mountain bikers coming into the woods. One of them told me that I was very visible (I was wearing my bright orange long sleeve jersey) and I called back, "That's the idea!" As peaceful as it is to run in Stillwell, the danger of being mowed down by a biker is always there.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A weekend of Yin and Yang

Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles
Today's workout (treadmill): 40 minutes

My workouts really varied over the last two days and were as different as Yin and Yang. Friday morning had us doing last minute preparations in anticipation of a house full of guests. That, plus calls related to a big business project, almost forced me to cancel yesterday's run. By 9:30 I was able to break away and switch to workout mode. With little time to run, I opted for the treadmill.

For my Yang run, I decided to go full tilt from the start and set the speed at 6.6 MPH. On my treadmill, that speed feels much faster than a 9:05 pace. Though I feared it might be a hard rate to sustain, I quickly settled into the pace and was able to hang on for the duration of the run. I would have liked to have had a longer recovery period after I'd finished, but I was soon out of time.

Our guests started arriving around noon. My brother and his family were down from Vermont and my mother and her friend were in from Florida. The remainder of the day was spent on non-running activities and after a big dinner and desserts, me and my sister-in law took a walk around the neighborhood. We moved along at a brisk pace, but it was relaxing compared to my run that morning.

I wanted to spend as much time as I could with our guests this morning so I delayed my run until everyone had left. After a busy afternoon, I decided that I needed today's workout to be more Yin than Yang. Running hard late in the afternoon would probably not have positioned me well for another run tomorrow morning. I'll admit that I felt too lazy to put on cold weather gear and the thought of an easy workout on the treadmill seemed far more appealing.

I set the treadmill's incline to 3% but gave myself a break on speed. I eventually brought down the incline when I felt some leg burn. The intention of this workout was not to push to the level of discomfort. Although it's still only Saturday, it feels like it's been a three day weekend. I mean that in the best way.

My brother brought me a Keurig brewer and sent some coffee to go with it. I'm looking forward to having a cup of Kenyan to fuel my morning run tomorrow. Good coffee and running, yet another perfect Yin and Yang.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good friends and good food force a high resistance workout

You're getting sleepy...
Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes, high resistance

Yesterday's run was tough, but things got better as the day went on. We spent a good part of the day (and night) with some friends who were hosting a Christmas Day party. Their kids and ours have known each other practically since birth and everyone had a great time. I had what was probably my fifth - and last - beer of 2013. It was an exceptional Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter that (happily) didn't make me sleepy. When it comes to alcohol, I'm a real lightweight.

An evening of food and fun made me reconsider taking a rest day today. High calorie desserts come at a price and I had to pay the piper. I decided that the elliptical would be a nice alternative to another freezing run outside, or a boring treadmill run inside. Yesterday my legs felt heavy and I thought the elliptical, with its resistance dialed up, could tax my muscles in a different way.

We will have a full house this weekend, with my brother and his family and my mother and her friend staying at Chez Emerging Runner. I'm going to try to get 4-6 miles in tomorrow and that will leave only six more to complete before Tuesday, in order for me to reach my 900 mile target for 2013. I'm excited to have our guests coming and I'm also looking forward to running the LIRRC Hangover Fun run with the other two Musketeers on 1/1.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A little Xmas contribution to my 2013 mileage

A white-ish Christmas
Today's run (street): 3.3

It's Christmas day and even though it's a Wednesday, it really feels like a Sunday. That being the case, I was prepared to go out for a long run this morning. When my wife mentioned the combination of 20° temperatures with a wind chill making it feel like 11 degrees, I considered an indoor run. But I had counted on running outside today along the quiet, snow-dusted roads, and I decided to deal with the cold by adding extra layers.

I thought about how wearing compression pants under track pants, along with three upper layers, might slow me down. Since I wasn't planning to go out for a fast run today, a little speed restriction didn't bother me at first. I made my way through the first few roads at a jogging pace and encountered some bundled-up couples who were taking a Christmas morning walk. They greeted me happily when I went by. My present was not giving them a lecture about walking on the wrong side of the street.

The conditions made the going tough and my face was beginning to freeze. It can be very uncomfortable running with glasses in the cold, especially when the wind is hitting head-on. I own a balaclava, but it restricts my breathing and traps moisture that causes my glasses to fog up. Besides that, the tightness at the sides creates a fit issue at the temples that can tilt the lenses and distort my view. I haven't worn contact lenses in 20 years, but days like today make me miss them.

At around the one mile point I began to tire. I was running easy so I didn't understand it, but I definitely lacked energy. It could have been the cold or the extra weight of so many layers, but I just couldn't generate much speed. I toughed it out and ended up covering 3.3 miles. I'd planned to go longer but I was glad to finish when I did. It was nice to run without needing to share the road with cars, trucks and buses, but I was somewhat disappointed with my performance.

Mileage history (2013 projected)
My speed and stamina have taken a dip since the Hot Chocolate 5K and I wonder if I need to take a few days off to rest. I may do that tomorrow, but I need to get back to schedule after that. I'm 12 miles short of hitting 900 miles for the year, which means I'll need to cover at least that distance in the next week. Even so, I'll end up running 41 less miles in 2013 than 2012. But that would still be 100 more miles than I ran in 2011.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Oh, possum! A return to the road

Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

Today was my first run since Saturday, when I suffered through a few miles with a pounding headache. A couple of day's rest followed and I felt I was ready to head out again this morning. We're supposed to get some very cold weather by Christmas day, but News 12 was showing 34° when I went outside this morning. That temperature was misleading because the wind chill took that down another ten degrees.

The freezing wind made running north uncomfortable and caused my eyes to water. I followed a different route than usual, cutting around the middle school before reconnecting to my local roads. Even though Christmas Eve day isn't a holiday, it was very quiet throughout my neighborhood. I enjoyed the lack of cars and especially the lack of school buses.

Two day's rest and recovery from my headache should have provided some extra energy, but it only helped get me through the run. After a while I got used to the cold and I settled into my stride feeling a little stronger. My reverie was disrupted when I came upon a dead possum laying in the road. I gingerly sidestepped that horrific scene that resembled a gray feather duster with a pale pink tail.

The rest of my run was marsupial-free and I ended up covering 4.3 miles, the longest I've run since the the GLIRC event I did with my friends on the 14th. I'm looking forward to getting out tomorrow morning when it's likely to be even quieter. It's supposed to be chilly and possibly even snowy on Wednesday, so I'll need to plan accordingly. A run at Stillwell may be a nice place to spend the morning.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

All trails lead to Mount Olympus

Back to the woods
Last night, sometime between the start and finish of dinner, my headache disappeared. My daylong discomfort and exhaustion were suddenly lifted. I don't know if it was the Ibuprofen, or the nasal decongestant that did the trick. I'm guessing it was neither. My theory is that my fresh New York bagel, full of carbs and covered with real butter, cut through the migraine. Forget Imitrex, this is the cure.

Relief from that headache completely changed my level of engagement and I felt like a human being again. The rest of our night was great and I was able to give full attention to our guests. This morning I woke up headache-free, but I delayed my workout until after our guests had left. At that point, I thought about the benefit of resting versus getting in a run. I decided on rest, but not completely.

Around mid afternoon, my son and I decided to go for a hike at Trailview, a park that connects the Greenbelt Trail north of Jericho Turnpike. The skies looked dark and there was a little rain coming down. We put on hooded jackets and headed into the woods.

A stop along the way
Trailview, unlike Stillwell, is a simple layout with two paths. The segment between Jericho Turnpike and Syosset-Woodbury Road is closely contained so it's virtually impossible to get lost there. Still, Trailview's paths are interesting, with twists and turns and some steep inclines and descents.

The view from Mt. Olympus
We saw a few other hikers braving the light rain, as well as a couple of trail runners. We ended up at the overlook where Woodbury Rd and Syosset-Woodbury Road meet. Crossing that intersection brings you into the south side of Stillwell Woods. For some reason, we've dubbed that "the view from Mount Olympus." At that point we headed back, talking the whole time about the history of PC's, handheld calculators and gaming systems, along with discussions about sentient computers and our common fascination with the movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey."

A hike in the woods with my son beat a run on the streets by a mile. The trails posed a few challenges, but nothing we couldn't handle. I got my workout without pushing so hard as to invite a relapse of yesterday's headache. All in all, a pretty good day. I'll have to decide whether to take tomorrow as my usual rest day or go for my first Christmas week run.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Deflated by my run

I know that feeling
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Yesterday I wrote about my tendency to always get sick at the end of the year. I made the mistake of saying that I've avoided that situation over the last few years. This morning I woke up with a painful migraine-like headache that has kept me exhausted throughout the day. No amount of analgesics, decongestants, running or showering has helped the situation. All I can hope for is relief after a good night's sleep.

We have guests staying with us this weekend and this headache hasn't helped my sociability. I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances. I thought a run might help the situation, but when I went out this morning I immediately regretted the decision. After a half a mile I knew it would be a struggle to get through even a three mile run. I had the opportunity to cut it short when I looped around to a road that's close to my house, but I couldn't bring myself to head home.

I ran as fast as my leaden legs could carry me. My head was pounding and the relief that I thought might come from aerobic breathing never materialized. Along the way I noticed how many lawns were covered by deflated Santas and snowmen. Apparently these large balloons are the new decoration standard. I'm guessing that people wait until dark to inflate them as part of their Christmas display. It amused me to see house after house with what looked like colorfully dressed people passed out on the lawn.

I was happy to end the run, but I felt no better after the workout. In fact I felt worse. The rest of the day has been filled with activities and my participation has been on the low side. I regret the timing of this annoyance because I only see our guests a few times a year.

The Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K happened today and, because of our schedule, I've had to miss it. I guess that worked out in its own way because I would not have been in shape to race this morning. The Petite Pacer ran it today and I'm betting she had a much better running experience than I did today.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not all traditions are good

Wednesday and Friday's runs (treadmill): 3.2 miles

Vitamins no, flu shot yes
I've been busy this week, with a few days where I worked straight through from 5:30 AM to 7:30 PM. Due to that, I didn't run on Thursday. Worse, I barely moved at all yesterday. I did get in some treadmill runs on Tuesday and Wednesday and again this morning. The icy roads and a lack of time has kept me indoors. We have weekend guests staying with us, so I'm not sure how much mileage I'll get over the next two days.

We're coming up on the end of year holidays and that makes me happy because my kids get a long break from school. I've always taken the week between Christmas and New Year's off. That's because my company would fundamentally shut down during that time. It was nice to be away knowing I was missing nothing at the office. Ironically, I'll be working on some project items next week that I need to complete before the year closes.

A less positive tradition that I seem to follow is getting a year end cold or flu (and four years ago, pneumonia). That's always undercut my ability to enjoy my time off. I've managed to dodge that bullet the last couple of years and, interestingly, that coincides with when I started taking flu shots. I haven't taken a vitamin since I read about their lack of effectiveness on Tuesday, so I'm probably playing with fire. I want to stay healthy for the LIRCC Hangover Run on January 1st morning. I'll be running it for the third year in a row. That's the kind of tradition I want to follow, especially now that my buddies will be joining me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sorry doctors, but I'm ignoring your advice

Today's run (treadmill): 3.4 miles  

Back in the early '90's, when I first moved to NYC, it seemed like I was always battling a cold or virus. One weekend my sister confronted my constant state of illness and asked me whether I took a multi-vitamin. I said that I didn't think they provided any real benefits. She guaranteed me that if I took a daily vitamin for a month, my constant sniffling and coughing would go away.

I figured it was worth trying, if only to prove her wrong. Thirty days later, I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a symptom. Ever since then, I've taken a daily vitamin. Except for a very very bad week, I've been pretty good at fighting off illnesses. My wife and kids have also taken vitamins on a daily basis and they rarely get sick.

When I saw on the news today that the Annals of Internal Medicine had published an article entitled, "Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements", I had to disagree. After all, what makes these doctors, with their years of training and expertise, more qualified than me to decide if vitamins are good or bad? Not only are these doctors saying vitamins don't help, they are saying that taking vitamins may pose certain risks. Does my sister know??!!!

Seriously, I'm conflicted by this news. I've taken a daily vitamin for over 20 years and have a healthy immune system. But I also run 20 miles a week and eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So is it my diet or the daily supplement? It's not quite as paradoxical as Schrödinger's cat, but it's pretty hard to prove one way or the other.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 running goal scorecard


Today's workout (elliptical): 35 minutes

Every January I like to post my running goals for the year and review the results in December. This has been an interesting year, starting with a big lifestyle change in February that affected my ability to hit a couple of my goals. Here's my assessment of 2013.

1. More weekday running diversity.
Goal: Run outdoors at least once a week before work. Establish at least one alternate route to take every other week.
Result: Not having a regular morning commute has meant more options during the week. Most of my weekday running still happens in my neighborhood, but the route often differs and my average distance has increased 20% this year.

2. More NYC running.
Goal: Monthly runs in Central Park, with or without a partner.
Result: While I regularly travel into the city, there are few opportunities to run there and there is no "home base" to change between business and running gear. No NYC runs happened in 2013. Perhaps this should be a 2014 goal tied to a specific event.

3. Break the neighborhood running habit on weekends.
Goal: One run outside of my neighborhood every weekend (weather permitting).
Result: I'll consider this goal met, with one and often two runs away from the neighborhood every weekend. 2013 has seen many more runs at Bethpage and Stillwell, along with local runs that expand outside my immediate neighborhood.

4. Return to racing.
Goal: Run at least one race prior to April's event. Bonus: Run a different half marathon than the RXR LI.
Result: Success, but no half marathon bonus. Race date changes and disruptions from Hurricane Sandy led to a diminished race schedule in late 2012. I participated in the 2013 Hangover run, and the February Snowflake race before the Marcie race that was rescheduled to June. A full race schedule followed for the remainder of the year.

5. Participate in a group run (club organized or otherwise). 
Goal: find a an open meet-up, local club run or organize one myself.
Result: Success. Participated in Hangover run in January and started an informal running group with two great people. Ran the GLIRC Clubhouse run and will probably join GLIRC in 2014.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seven miles of fun on the GLIRC Clubhouse Run

Group shot just before the start
Photo courtesy of SIOR and GLIRC
Today's run (GLIRC Clubhouse run): 7.4 miles

Well the snow came a little earlier than expected, but it didn't interfere with today's club run in the least. I arrived at the Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) office just before 8:00 AM this morning and saw that I was almost late to the party. My friends TPP and SIOR were there among the assemblage of colorfully dressed participants. After some quick hellos and a group picture, we were all off and running.

The three of us followed the group and headed out of the business park onto the bike trail. It's a hilly section from that point to the turn onto Washington Ave. Although I had good energy at the start, I worried about how I'd be feeling after many more miles. SIOR and TPP are both speedy runners, but they maintained a pace that I could sustain with some effort.

We chatted with other runners as we made our way south and came under the LIE overpass at Washington Ave. We crossed the road and found ourselves on a wooded trail that roughly parallels the bike trail. The snow had covered the sidewalk that led to the paved path, so it was confusing where to go. A little diversion into the woods was unexpected and appreciated at different levels by the three of us. The ice and roots on the path made the going treacherous.

We came out at Old Country Rd and continued on the paved path that rose for a while and proved a little challenging for me. Unlike the last time we ran together, today was more of a workout (though not much of a challenge to my friends). I found it hard to maintain a conversation at times, but we did have our moments. We took the run past Old Bethpage Rd and as far south as Haypath. As we drew close, many of the returning runners warned us of black ice further down.

I struggled to keep up with my friends who were gracious about waiting for me to catch up from time to time. They were probably running one or two minutes slower than their normal training pace, except for periods where they opened the throttle for a few minutes. I was challenged but I didn't reach the point where I felt I was over matched or wished the run was done.

When we turned north from Washington Ave I knew we were close, but I also knew the toughest hills were coming. I took on the first hill with a pace slightly better than a fast walk. SIOR had no trouble burning up that hill as well as the ones that followed. TPP stopped to walk and I stopped with her. She will occasionally do that for 30 second periods and it's a good strategy. I probably delayed her a little, but once we saw SIOR at the top of a hill we returned to running form.

TPP and SIOR took on the remainder of the hills at a brisk pace and I followed. We reached Sunnyside Boulevard and made our way back to GLIRC HQ where they hosted an amazing spread of post race goodies. After indulging in some high carb treats, TPP, SIOR and I headed over to Starbucks for coffee and conversation. Given the greater effort on today's run that made it less conversation-friendly, we still had a lot to catch up on.

Post run - (from left), SIOR, ER, TPP
Photo courtesy of SIOR
It was a really fun time and it's the perfect way for me to do group running. The next adventure for "The Three Musketeers" will be the LIRRC Hangover Run at Eisenhower Park at 9:30 AM. It's a timed five mile run that goes around a one mile route. No bibs, tracking chips, or winners. In this event, everyone's a winner. I'm looking forward to this event as I do every year and it will be more special because my friends will be joining me.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This stick is a real pain in the neck

Great gift indeed
Today's run (tempo): 3.2 miles

Yesterday's workout wasn't that intense, so I decided to step it up a little this morning with a tempo run. I woke up with a neck ache that I'm sure was caused by my Brookstone Shake Weight. This is a weighted balanced stick that you shake to (supposedly) build muscle via "dynamic inertia." I used it a couple of years ago but started getting back aches. I grabbed it out of the closet the other day thinking it might be a good way to work on arm strength without weights.

Whether it was the shake stick or something else, my neck was in pain. It felt like a pinched muscle but it didn't hurt so bad that I couldn't do my run. In deference to the discomfort, I decided to keep it fairly short. I started the tempo about a minute slower than training pace and held that for about 15 minutes, gradually increasing every quarter mile until I finished near my current 5K race pace.

After I'd completed my run, I took an Aleve. Even after putting some heat on it, the pain is still there, although it's not as intense as it was this morning. I'm hoping that a good night's sleep will get rid of it for good. I'm excited to be doing the GLIRC Clubhouse run tomorrow morning with my running friends, the Petite Pacer and SIOR. I'm really excited about that. As for the Shake Weight, it's either back to the closet or bound for the trash.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another run on that thing

 
Today's run (treadmill): 40 minutes

Not long ago, I was having lunch with some business friends who also said they ran. I espoused trail running and another friend mentioned how much he loved running in Prospect Park. Our other colleague said that he did a five mile run every day on his treadmill. I asked him if he ever ran outdoors. He said that he lived adjacent to a wooded bike trail, but still preferred running on the treadmill. I couldn't understand that at all.

To be fair, my wife does 45 minutes on the treadmill almost every day and it works for her. Time is important and the treadmill is very efficient. No ten minute process to put on layers and other gear when it's cold outside. There's even a timer to help her keep her schedule to the minute. Knowing this, I should have been more understanding of my friend. But he has a trail in his back yard.

Yesterday was devoted to meeting a tight deadline and that meant starting at 5:30 AM to ensure that I'd complete what was needed by 5:30 PM. There was no time for a run and I was okay with that. This morning I had more flexibility and planned to go out in the 24° cold, but my wife warned me that the roads were extremely icy. I have enough concerns about sanitation trucks, school buses and bad drivers in my neighborhood that I don't like to increase my risk with slick roads. So it was back to the treadmill.
 
I think the treadmill seems harder because it forces a higher cadence relative to stride length. In other words, if I require 174 SPM to maintain a nine minute pace on the road, I may need to run 177 or more SPM to manage the same pace on the treadmill. It's a lot of extra work to get to the same speed. Still, training at a higher cadence might yield a benefit that I can leverage outdoors. Until they put a bike path through my backyard, I guess I'll be stuck on that thing from time to time.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little snow can't stop a run

My view from the treadmill
Today's run (treadmill): 3.3 miles

This is the season for snow, although we really haven't seen too much this year. We knew we'd see some snow today and I planned to get outside before things got out of hand. My schedule was tight with some deadlines looming. By the time I was ready to run, there was a coating of snow on the road and I opted for the treadmill.

I hadn't run since Sunday when I went out for an easy four miles to recover from Saturday's race. The treadmill is my least favorite workout but I knew I had to step it up today. I decided to start fast and see how long I could sustain it. I was surprised how easy it felt and wondered if my legs were still tuned for racing speed.

Even with the TV to distract me, the run became increasingly tedious as time went on. My perception of easy running gave way to wishing I could get off the treadmill. I helped things along by increasing my speed for the last five minutes. It was a good run and a fairly hard effort. By the time I finished there were at least two inches of snow on the ground. With lots to do on Wednesday, I'm not sure if I'll have time to run tomorrow. I'm glad I got in a decent run today, even if was on the dreaded treadmill.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I swear I didn't run through my neighbor's houses

I love data visualization
Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

The sky is as white as paper and the temperature is dropping. We're supposed to get two inches of ice and snow by late afternoon. Nothing so far, but I can tell it's coming. For that reason, I made sure I got outside early to get in a few recovery miles before conditions got worse.

I had no intention of running as hard as yesterday and had to throttle my speed a couple of times. A recovery run is supposed to be done well under anaerobic threshold to help flush lactic acid from leg muscles. I used my heart rate monitor to guide my pace, averaging 75% of HR max throughout the run. It was a nice relaxing workout, although my (gloved) hands got surprisingly cold.

No actual yards or living rooms were entered
I've written a lot about the variability of GPS as a measurement tool and today's margin of error was particularly egregious. Not only did the Garmin show me starting the run three blocks from my actual beginning point, the accuracy was laughably bad throughout the entire route. The Garmin route map (see above) makes it look like I ran through many people's yards and houses.

Distribution of pace times through the year
Reflecting back on 2013's racing season, I charted my race paces to see if there were any obvious patterns. The data doesn't show any trends that would explain my performance, as times were all over the map. I'm hoping that next year will yield faster times and more consistency. At least I finished the season in a good place.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Race report: 2013 Seaford Hot Chocolate 5K

Post-race with SIOR
Today's run (Seaford Hot Chocolate 5K): 3.1 miles (8:54 pace)

Today's Seaford Hot Chocolate 5K was my last race of the year and I wanted to make it count. After some disappointing racing experiences throughout 2013, I was happy to cap off the year with some decent results.

I had never run the Hot Chocolate race before, but I heard it was big. With over 900 participants, numerous volunteers and a large group of Seaford HS band members playing in the main hallway, it felt like an event. I ran into a few people I know along the way and found my buddy SIOR at the registration area that was set up in the main auditorium.

The plan was for the "Three Musketeers" to run this race together, but unfortunately the Petite Pacer was dealing with both a bad cold and an overheated car. We were disappointed that she couldn't make it today, but after running four races in the last month, resting was a smart move.

SIOR and I got to the starting line and before we knew it, it was 9:00 AM. I was so caught up in our conversation that I didn't experience my usual starting line race jitters. Soon enough, the start was called and we were on our way. I tried to match SIOR's cadence for the first minute, until she disappeared into the distance like a royal blue apparition.

I felt good at the start and hoped that I would be able to maintain a decent pace throughout the run. The Hot Chocolate course is a big rectangle and the first mile comes up near the corner of Mill Rd and Washington Ave. I was a little surprised to see the first mile clock showing 10+ minutes when I passed it. For a moment, I questioned my ability to judge my own performance. A look at my Garmin showed I'd covered the mile in 8:33. Apparently that clock time reflected the earlier start of the physically challenged participants.

Washington Ave seemed to have a slight slope and I tried to take advantage, but lost about 20 seconds on mile two. I was surprised to see us passing the rear of the high school so soon, until I remembered that this was a 5K. After two recent 10K's, it was nice to know that I'd be getting through this course a lot quicker.

I did something today that I've rarely done this year - pass a lot of people. I was able to maintain my speed fairly well and, before I knew it, I came to the turn onto Seamans Neck Rd. At that point I said to myself that SIOR had probably just crossed the line. Still, it was the last, straight shot to the finish line and I worked hard to stay on pace.

I thought I was tracking toward a 27 minute finish when I saw the chute far off in the distance. I stepped up my effort and even passed a few people as I drew closer to the line. Once I could see the clock, it was already reading 27:xx. I thought I had a chance of keeping it under my targeted 27:50. I was pleased when I crossed the line and saw that the timer read 27:37.

Post finish "action" shot
Photo courtesy of She Is Out Running
SIOR greeted me after I'd crossed the line. She finished four minutes earlier than me and picked up yet another age division podium spot. We looked at the readouts posted on the timing truck and then headed into the high school to get some hot chocolate, the real purpose for running this race. We were hoping that the award ceremony would begin soon after so she could collect her medal while I cheered. Unfortunately, we both had family obligations that required us to leave before the ceremony started.

Nice race shirt
I had a really nice time this morning and was happy with my performance today. It was great to hang out with SIOR and to experience a new race under good weather conditions (I'm still slightly traumatized by the Long Beach Turkey Trot experience). My next event will be the LIRRC Hangover Run that takes place in Eisenhower Park on New Years Day morning, followed by the Long Beach Snowflake run in February.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is 93% of max the magic number?

Not far from 180spm, so where's the speed?
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

I'm a little disappointed with today's run because I could not generate any speed. Despite clocking my first mile in 8:57 (easy for many, but hard for me lately), I ended up averaging an unremarkable 9:29 pace over 3.5 miles. After a good start, I'd lost time on mile 2 and then tried to make up for it over the last 1.5. I felt like I'd made a good effort, but according to Garmin Connect, my heart rate across the whole run ranged only between 77-85% of max.

I took a look at my race history and compared my pace performance with my average heart rate. Since I've only run about a dozen races using a heart monitor, this wasn't a statistically significant representation. Directionally, it seemed to indicate that my best times happened when my heart rate averaged 93% of max HR or greater.

Does this mean that I'm somehow holding back, even as I work to push my speed during a run? The numbers seem to point to an opportunity to unlock some speed by adding even more effort. My cadence rate has actually improved over the 5+ years since I've starting daily running, but that hasn't translated to speed. I will do my best to hold the effort on Saturday. I'm not asking for much, but beating 27:50 would be nice.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The little workout that could

Today's workout (treadmill): 35 minutes

A little resistance
Work distractions prevented me from getting out this morning and the busyness continued throughout the day. By midday I'd resigned myself to missing any kind of workout. Around 5:30 I was fully caught up, so I decided to do something that resembled activity. The treadmill provided an easy, quick and low key alternative to a run on the street.

I didn't feel like a run that late in the day, but 35 minutes walking on the treadmill didn't seem like enough of a workout. I put on some ankle weights, grabbed some hand weights, and set the treadmill's incline to a 2% grade. I picked an easy running pace and ended up with a far more beneficial workout than I'd originally planned. Judging from the level of sweating I'd done, this was the equivalent of a much faster run done with no incline or weights. I didn't wear my HRM but I wish I had. I would have liked to see how hard I'd actually worked today.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Running through the neighborhood hive

The neighborhood was abuzz
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

The Monday after Thanksgiving week starts like a cold diesel on a freezing morning. It's hard to get back into business mode after four days of leisure. My first meeting of the day wasn't until mid morning and that gave me enough time to ease into the work week after getting in a run.

Mondays are normally my rest days. Since I got a good workout done on Sunday, I could have stayed with the schedule but I'll be resting on Friday ahead of Saturday's race. Continuing my workouts and not taking the rest day seemed to make sense. If I'd been more focused on getting out this morning I might have had time to head to Bethpage. With only 90 minutes to run, recover and prepare, I was left with no choice but to stay in the neighborhood.

I rarely run between 7:30 and 8:30 AM because I don't want to deal with all the school buses. Today I had no choice and I discovered that buses were just one reason to avoid going out during that hour. My fun started as soon I stood on the driveway and saw two huge landscaping trucks pull in front of my house. These trucks discharged a small army of workers who were there to start our fall cleanup. I guess today was the day to do that, because once I was clear of my own road, I encountered at least a dozen other crews at work across the neighborhood.

Buses scare me and landscaping trucks really scare me when I run. I spent more than my usual amount of time running on the sidewalks today. It was amazing to see the amount of activity playing out before me. Who knew that 8:00 AM is when every car backs out of its driveway, every parent with a grade school kid congregates at a bus stop and every town truck (maintenance, garbage, recycling) is rolling and stopping along the street.

As I made my way towards home, it all played out in front of me. Cars stopped for garbage trucks, Bobcat loaders blocked school buses and people walked their dogs. The neighborhood was like a hive of activity and I was just trying to get through it unstung.

Considering all the hazards, I had no close calls. I was glad to get back home and away from the frenzied streets. I missed the days when I ran at 4:00 AM and the only vehicle I would ever see was the guy who drove around and threw the NY Times on people's driveways. Since I have more time flexibility now, I'm not willing to go out so early. But going forward, I'm going to do everything possible to avoid that 7:30 AM hour.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A hard workout inspired by a movie

Hey Hollywood, I have an idea
Today's workout (Elliptical): 40 minutes

I never think that elliptical sessions are as difficult as running, but occasionally I'll finish a workout that has my legs vibrating like a tuning fork. That was my experience today, although I didn't plan it that way. We had early morning plans that threw off my run schedule and I almost took today to rest instead of tomorrow. I felt off-cycle most of the day and by mid afternoon I was ready for some type of activity.

The temperature had risen measurably since yesterday and I considered doing a neighborhood run. But the convenience of the treadmill drew me upstairs. Before I reached it, I was distracted by the elliptical. It's been a while since I've used the machine and since I'm tapering for next Saturday, I thought it would be good to work on a few different muscles. I set the resistance to medium and hit start.

It took me a few minutes to start sweating and that inspired me to work a little harder. About halfway through my session, I noticed the display metric that indicated the amount of energy being expended. I decided then that I would not let it drop below a certain number (a la the movie Speed). Happily, maintaining that level distracted me from the effort I had to expend to do it.

I set an even higher target for the last five minutes, hoping to simulate the anaerobic experience that comes at the end of a race. The last two minutes felt endless, but I kept the effort meter above the danger zone. After I finished, I moved to the treadmill to cool down for a few minutes at an easy pace. My legs were definitely worked out and I was glad to have completed a vigorous training session. I'll go out for five or six miles either tomorrow or Tuesday before stepping down my taper before the weekend,
 

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