Running quote of the week

“I felt like I was breathing like a freight train and everything hurt, [but] somehow it didn’t bother me. The joy of moving and getting started overwhelms the negativity.”– Lauren Fleshman

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Close encounters on the trail

 
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.5 miles

This morning I went out for a trail run at Stillwell Woods for the first time since late November. I'm still dealing with pain from sciatica and hoped that running on softer terrain might provide some relief. The temperature was in the high 20's and Stillwell's trails were mostly frozen mud. Even so, it provided a more forgiving surface than pavement.

When I arrived I saw a few groups of high school aged runners entering the woods. I wondered if I'd run into these speedsters on the trail. I ran by the first group who were standing around planning their workout. I followed my usual route, going north before turning southeast. When I came around the bend, I saw a couple of guys sprinting toward me on the narrow path. That was disconcerting because the protocol is to follow that section of trail in the direction I was running. I'm glad I heard them a second before they appeared so I could move over and give them room to get by.

I had a few other situations when my path crossed a group, but had no more close calls. I was disappointed that the soreness I've been having was present throughout the run. The pain was minor and my concern was more that running (instead of resting) was enabling the problem. But a runner's gotta run, run, run, run, run so I decided I had to shake it off.

I'll be resting tomorrow and going out next on New Years day with my buddies for the LIRRC Hangover Run. In the meantime, I'm putting heat on the source of the problem and using the massage stick often. Next week I return to work and that will mean a reduction in volume. Usually I'd be unhappy about that, but I realize that it's probably the best thing for me right now.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The two dimensions of running speed

Sample combinations
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I was looking at the metrics of today's run on Garmin Connect and thinking about the factors that determine pace. I recently put a new battery into my foot pod so I can capture my cadence as well as time, pace, heart rate and elevation. Besides steps per minute (SPM), the foot pod also shows average stride length. After looking at new and past data, I'm seeing some correlation to pace.

When you think about it, running speed is controlled by two factors -- how far you are propelled with each step and the frequency of these steps. As an example, last year I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K averaging 178 SPM, but with an average stride length of 1.03 meters. That translated to an 8:46 pace. A month later I did the LIRCC Hangover Run averaging 172 SPM and .95 meter stride length and averaged 9:50. Fairly small differences translated into almost a minute difference in pace.

Interestingly, my data shows when I run intervals, my stride length drops to half a meter. However, average cadence jumps up to 188. That usually results in an 8:00 pace or better. I've read that, to improve performance, increasing cadence is a better approach than increasing stride length. I'm sure that's due to the danger of over striding which can put excessive pressure on the knees, tendons and ligaments.

Today both my cadence and stride length were middling and I ended up pacing in the mid 10's. That was by design as I wanted to minimize wear and tear on the muscles that may be aggravating my sciatica. Once I'm past this annoyance I'll start playing more with cadence and will try to make my way to the ideal (180 SPM). I'd like to run some intervals this week get that started, but I want to make sure I don't do more harm than good.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Running along the Shining Sea Trail

Watch out for turtles!
Yesterday's run (Shining Sea trail): 4.2 miles

We've just returned from a mini vacation to Falmouth MA. This is a favorite spot for the Emerging Runner family and we've been going there for years. The last two times we've visited the Cape, I've taken advantage of Falmouth's Shining Sea Bikeway that goes 10.7 miles from North Falmouth to Woods Hole. Yesterday I covered 4.2 miles of the path and saw some beautiful sights.

The trail was created along the former Plymouth and Vineyard Sound Railroad line that was built in 1861 to run trains from Sandwich to the southern tip of Falmouth. Train tracks are usually constructed on level terrain so the converted bike trail is fairly flat. While the trail did gradually slope up and down at various points, the grade was small. This made the shifts in elevation barely noticeable.

Park and run
Getting to the trail is easy with numerous access points along the way. Last year I entered at the northern trail head and ran a five mile out and back route that brought me through a few cranberry bogs. Yesterday I entered the trail farther to the south where I could park my car and jump right on the path. It was similar to how I access the Bethpage trail after parking on Colonial Road. The Bethpage trail is scenic, but the Shining Sea Bikeway provided some truly stunning views.

I want that shirt
Soon after I started, I saw what appeared to be a dog sitting on the side of the trail wearing a yellow jersey. When I got closer I realized it wasn't a real dog. I was amused to see that jersey was an event tee from the famous Falmouth 7 Mile road race. Not long after that, I saw the first of many ponds and marshes that appeared along the trail. The areas that didn't face water were densely lined with trees on both sides, making the experience more intimate than Bethpages's more open space.

Swans and ducks on Oyster Pond
I imagined that this all looks pretty much the same as it did 100 years ago to people riding the train to Woods Hole. There were a lot of people on the trail yesterday morning walking, riding and running. My route took me to the mid-point of the trail, where I turned around and headed back. If I'd had more time, I would have added a couple more miles. The straight flat trail made me feel like I could run all day.

The only downside of this workout was that it amplified the soreness I've had over the past few weeks. We did a lot of walking yesterday and I was concerned that I had re-aggravated my injury. Instead of running when I got home this afternoon, I went for a 3 mile walk around the neighborhood. So far so good.

If it's better tomorrow morning, I'll try to go out for a few miles in the morning. I have an early obligation so I'll need to get out before sunrise to fit it in. I wish I could run on the Shining Sea Bikeway again, but that will have to wait until our next Cape Cod visit.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday spirit and safety scrooges

How hard is it to understand?
Today's run: 5 miles

Although I don't celebrate Christmas, I do appreciate the holiday. This involves enjoying all the decorations, watching the movie Elf on Christmas Eve and trying to be more patient with people. It was in that spirit that, on today's run, I tried to warn people about the dangers of walking in the street with their backs to traffic. The responses I got indicated a fundamental lack of said spirit.

I usually hold my tongue when I see people walking on the right side of the road (often two abreast), trusting that drivers are paying attention. I've found that people don't value my safety guidance and tend to react negatively when I suggest switching to the other side. One conversation went like this:

Me: You know, it's a lot safer if you run facing traffic.
Woman runner: I've been running in this neighborhood for 20 years and never had a problem.
Me: People didn't text and talk on cell phones 20 years ago.
Woman runner: Pfffft

Since then, I've kept my mouth shut. But today I decided to try again. The first offenders were taking up half the road, making it necessary for cars to move into the left lane in order to pass them. I told these people that walking that way was risky. They told me to mind my own business. The next conversation happened when I was closer to home. A man was walking his dog in the street and I said it's safer to walk facing traffic. He snorted, "Yeah, right" so I responded "Have a good day!"

I get that people can react badly when they get unsolicited advice. My hope is that they'll think about the situation and realize later that what I'm saying is true. So far, I haven't seen evidence of that. If I was more noble, I'd continue to warn people despite these reactions. It's a nice thought, but I think I'll wait until next Christmas to try it again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

T'was the day before Christmas

My view of the world
Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

T'was the day before Christmas and boy did it rain,
   And running in showers is really a pain;

My new ASICS raincoat turned out to be good,
   Mostly because it's equipped with a hood;

I took all precautions so that I'd be visible,
  My outfit was flashy and probably risible;

My route was kept local in case it was pouring,
   Three loops near my house, but it never was boring;

There were few on the street, all due to the raining,
   Just me and the roads, but I wasn't complaining;

The weather got soggy, so after a while,
   I capped off my run at just under four miles;

Tomorrow is Christmas and less rain would be fun,
   With conditions ideal for a Christmas day run;

I hope Santa is listening on this gloomy gray day,
   That bright sunny skies are really the way;
 
I plan to get out no matter the weather,
   But after today it just has to get better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Late start on a rainy day run

Back in business
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Our guests were leaving mid-morning, so I delayed my run until after they'd left. The intermittent rain made it an easy decision. I got out around 11:00 when the rain slowed to a mist. I only planned to run for about half an hour and thought that short period of time would help me avoid the next downpour.

The sciatic pain has eased considerably and didn't restrict me much on the run. I'd forgotten that today was Tuesday and not the weekend. I was surprised to see so much activity on the road. When I came to the top of the first street, I encountered a gaggle of town trucks blocking my way. This caused me to change direction and follow a road that I rarely take. It was a nice change from my usual route.

The run was fine, but it seemed to take a lot longer than 32 minutes to complete. I put a little more into the second half and was pleased to see that I was maintaining about 80% max HR. If I wasn't so concerned about re-aggravating my sciatica, I would have pushed even harder. The rain didn't stop, but it never got any worse.

Later in the day I finally got around to replacing the battery in my foot pod. I haven't used the pod in a number of weeks so I'm happy to get it back working. Next time I go out I'm going to be able to capture another important performance metric - cadence - and use that, along with heart rate, to help me amp up my speed.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Throwing caution to the run

Gimme shelter
Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

We have guests staying with us until Tuesday, so I've lost my running locker room (AKA the guest room) for a few days. I got my stuff together early so I could go out before our visitors arrived. My goal was to run about 5 miles. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way.

The soreness I've experienced over the past two weeks seemed to be going away and I had high hopes that I'd be free of it by next week. When I started my run, the pain was even more noticeable than it was at the beginning of yesterday's run. My plan was to do a couple of loops around the business park and then add some miles in an adjacent neighborhood. After running a mile in my neighborhood, I felt concern about overdoing it and modified my route in the name of caution.

I ended up staying on my local streets and kept it moderate. As I warmed up, the pain began to minimize and I wondered if I should do some extra dynamic stretching or put direct heat on the sore area right before my next run. It was chilly this morning so I had a couple of thermal bottom layers that probably contributed to my fast warm up. Along with that, I wore my new-old running vest and an actually new ASICS PR Shelter beanie that I got last week.

Even though I cut it short, I was glad that I was able to get in a run this morning. Better still, the soreness has diminished throughout the day. I'm hoping that means the inflammation that is triggering my sciatica is lessening. I'm continuing to run easy, even though I want to start picking up my training pace so I can prepare for racing in early 2015. I just have to be a little more patient.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New life for some old gear

Aging like fine wine
Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

I was recently in SA Elite looking at their holiday sale items. They had ASICS running vests for 20% off, but the price still seemed high for a jacket without any sleeves. Since then, I read a piece on winter running that mentioned the benefit of keeping your core warm on very cold days. A warm core helps keep your extremities and the rest of your body warm.

I didn't buy a running vest, but with this morning's wind chill, it felt like 28° outside. Rather than put on two long sleeve layers, I put on an acrylic fleece Sports Illustrated promo vest that I had from my Time Inc. days. The vest is lightweight and has a mesh liner inside. After a decade using it to keep warm in my office, it had a new use.

After choosing the vest, I needed to pick the shoes I'd wear on today's run. I'm no longer concerned that the Kayanos are causing my sciatica, but I decided to go back to my Sauconys to see how they felt on a run. The appropriation of the vest as running gear inspired me to pull my ancient Brooks Adrenalin GTS 10s out of the closet and use them instead. The 10s probably have 1,000 miles on them, but they are still viable.

I've always worn my Adrenalins when dealing with minor injuries because they seem to correct whatever problem is plaguing me. My shoe size has increased in recent years and the toe box is too tight for longer distances. If they were a half size bigger I'd put them into the rotation. The soreness in my glutes was there when I started, but it wasn't as pronounced as it was at the beginning of yesterday's run. I was hoping for a further reduction in the pain once I began to warm up.

Some mild discomfort remained throughout the run. Surprisingly enough, I found the pain to be a good distraction from the boredom of my neighborhood roads. I decided to be cautious and keep the run under five miles today. I may go further tomorrow. I'm out of the office until January 5th so I'll have a lot more days to run during the week. I'm really hoping to be free of this soreness by the time me and my buddies do the LIRRC Hangover run on January 1.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Acquitting the Kayanos

Not guilty
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I've been worrying all week that my persistent soreness might be caused by my new Kayanos. In the past, I developed an injury that related directly to a pair of running shoes. In that case, the shoe had almost 700 miles and the outsole was worn down to the point of imbalance. Although the Kayano is a stability shoe, (which should probably help a problem like this) adapting from more minimal trainers could still cause an issue.

In terms of pain, I've been reading an article in Running Times (RT) that says soreness lasting more than 72 hours could signal a chronic injury. I'm going on two full weeks with mine. This morning I had to make a choice to try to run or find some other form of activity. All week I've been using the massage stick and doing both dynamic and core stretching. I had less pain when I got up, so I figured I'd try a run.

I wore the Opedix Knee-Tecs that promote stride alignment and also provide warmth. I needed the former to help with my injury and the latter to deal with the chilly temps. Due to my concerns about the ASICS, I probably should have worn my Virratas. I opted instead for the Kayanos to see if the problem got better or worse after the run.

I felt trepidation after my first few steps. The pain was radiating back to front but not to the degree where I had to consider stopping. The RT article said if pain decreases during a run, the injury is probably less serious. I hoped the pain would minimize once I began to warm up. At the half mile point I began to feel some pressure on one of my arches and started to question the shoes again.

I thought about how unfortunate it would be to discard these $160 running shoes (which I saw for $99 at Sports Authority last weekend and actually bought for $64). As I ran further, the pain had reduced to minor discomfort and the arch pressure had gone away. The big question was how I'd feel when I got back home.

I finished the run and concluded that the Kayanos did no further harm. I used the massage bar, iced the tender area and was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt better than before I left. So far so good. I'll try to step up the mileage tomorrow and I hope to continue seeing improvement. After some success pushing speed last weekend, I'm anxious to get back to faster paces.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I think I have a syndrome

So far, December has been a very low mileage month. Some of that has to do with my schedule, but this week it's mostly due to a persistent soreness that may or not be sciatica. Sciatica's root cause points to scary sounding things like lumbar spinal stenosis, isthmic spondylolisthesis and Piriformis syndrome. As bad as they sound, most relate to disk compression or misalignment. I think Piriformis syndrome, when the sciatic nerve is irritated by inflammation, is the most likely culprit.

I bought a massage stick and have used it frequently since Sunday. It helps me put pressure where I feel the most pain but I suspect that I'm not really getting to the source of the problem. I get relief immediately after using it, but the next morning the soreness returns. Despite everything, this ache hasn't lessened much since the last time I ran. That's frustrating because I want to run tomorrow, but I'm very concerned that will worsen the problem.

If I was smart I'd take this opportunity to shift to a form of cross training that provides cardio benefits without aggravating my injury. But that would require me to use weights or do push-ups or something. The elliptical is a possibility, although my hope is that I'll wake up tomorrow pain free and ready to run.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gaining SKLZ to beat the pain

Sticking it to sciatica
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

Dedicated runners often endure discomfort for extended periods of time. That's a great attribute, but it's always important that they listen to their bodies closely enough to distinguish between good and injurious pain. This can present a dilemma - when is it okay to run and when is it best to rest? I thought about that today after waking up with the same soreness that plagued me since last weekend.

Pushing hard during yesterday's race was the likely reason for the return of this pain. I like to do a recovery run on the day following a race and was anxious to get outside this morning. Although my hamstring/glute area remained tender, there was no sharp pain. I weighed the benefits of running easy with the possibility of exacerbating the problem. I decided to go for it and gauge whether I was doing more harm than good as I moved along.

My start wasn't encouraging. Yesterday I came across the starting line with a lot of energy. This morning my legs felt heavy and my stride felt out of sync. The soreness was there, but I didn't feel as though I was making it worse. I'd committed to an easy pace and was concerned that I'd be tempted to pick up my speed as I went along. I watched my progress carefully to make sure that didn't happen.

The pain subsided as I warmed up through the run, but it never fully left. I would have liked to cover more than 4.25 miles to get a little more distance into my weekly volume. I chose to cut things short rather than invite further injury. Hours later I'm happy with that decision.

This afternoon I picked up a SKLZ massage bar that is similar to the "Stick" and other muscle rollers. I liked this design because it has some heft and the rubberized roller turns more smoothly than other devices I'd tried in stores. I put it to work as soon as I got home and it definitely provided a pinpointed soft tissue massage experience. Whether it will help my muscle pain still needs to be determined.

Tomorrow is my usual rest day and I'm going to extend that at least through Tuesday. At this point I'm pretty sure my soreness issue is sciatica. It's still uncomfortable but I'm hoping that a combination of rest, heat, ibuprofen and massage-barring will help address that quickly.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Race report: 2014 Jingle All the Way 5K

Post-race coffee club (L to R: ER, TPP, SIOR)
Today's run (Jingle All the Way 5K): 3.1 miles - Time: 28:20 (9:08 pace)

After many months of resisting the call of competition, I returned to racing at the Jingle All the Way 5K in Seaford today. Joining me on this chilly morning were fellow Runsketeers SIOR and TPP, both of whom finished first in their age groups. The early results showed TPP at #1 and SIOR in the top three, but later she was bumped up to first as well. I'm sure there was no bribery involved in that decision. Well, pretty sure.

I didn't podium, but I had my best race performance in a year, finishing 5th in my division. This meant something to me, because my performance has suffered since January and I'd lost confidence in my ability to attain a credible pace (even on a 5K). There's still room for improvement compared to past years, but I did beat my expected time by over a minute.

I arrived at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford around 8:00 AM and missed the registration area as I drove through the park. I ended up parking about a quarter mile away because I saw a group of people, some of them running, and figured that was it. That turned out to be a soccer game, but I was quickly redirected by some kind spectators and made my way to check-in.

I dropped off my toy (the event is sponsored by the John Theissen Children's Foundation), got my number and found SIOR. She and I headed back to my car so I could store my jacket and affix my bib number. Unfortunately, the package contained no pins, so I ended up back at registration to get some. Along the way, we ran into TPP who was doing a warm-up jog and the reunited Runsketeers all headed toward the start.

This race is fairly small, with only 222 people participating, but they did a nice job, including placing wood burning stoves where you could toast marshmallows (and keep warm in the 30° temps). The downside of that was the possibility of smoke inhalation. After they played the national anthem, we were ushered toward the road for the start. I got a fairly forward position because there was no timing pad at the starting line and I wanted my net and gun time to be as close as possible.

That position probably helped me overall today, because I kept up with many people for the first mile, which turned out to be my fastest. The course itself is not that interesting. It's a lollipop-shaped route with a turnaround at the bottom of the "stick." Heading toward the turnaround, I first spotted SIOR among the leaders. Not long after that I saw TPP and soon rounded the bend to start my way back to the top.

My biggest concern about this race was being able to hold a brisk pace for the duration. Even though it's not a long distance, I've done very little to prepare for prolonged running intensity. Last weekend I played a bit with speed, but suffered some glute, hamstring or sciatica pain afterward. I decided to push harder than I normally would on a training run and see how it turned out. The course was relatively flat, but there were some elevated sections, including one that had us running directly into the wind.

Once I got to the circular part of the route I knew I had only about a mile to go. I maintained my speed, but didn't overdo it. Had I looked at the Garmin, I may have upped the effort enough to make up the 25 seconds I needed to average in the 8 minute range. As I got closer to the finish, I saw TPP's boyfriend JC who was on his bike, cheering us on. JC shouted some words of encouragement as I passed by and I soon entered the finish chute where I saw TPP and SIOR watching and cheering me in.

JC left to do a two hour bike ride (he's a hardcore triathlete) and SIOR and TPP located a Starbucks for our traditional post-run coffee break. SIOR was taking her daughter and her friends into NYC for an important birthday (13) so she needed to leave first. TPP and I hung out and caught up for a while before we headed off to start the non-race portion of our day.

I'm very pleased with today's result and proud of my buddies who led their age groups. I checked to see what I needed to pace to have podium-ed today and saw that there was a lot of distance between my finish time and the third place runner. I'm going to have a low mileage week but that's okay. I wanted to give my "injury" time to heal. I did feel soreness during the race, but it was minor.

Tomorrow I'll do some easy miles. The weather is supposed to be warmer and I'm looking forward to a nice recovery run. I'm not sure if I'll race again before January, but at least I'm back in the game.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Paying the price for running too fast

 
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Yesterday afternoon I started experiencing muscle pain from my left side glute down to the hamstring. The pain isn't sharp, but it's noticeable. My first thought and concern was that the new Kayanos were throwing off my gait. I realized that was unlikely because my only prior run in them was on Friday, when I covered a scant 3.3 miles. I took ibuprofen before bed last night and hoped the ache would be gone in the morning.

That wasn't the case. When I got up, the pain was there. No better or worse than last night, but it was enough to notice. I've been injury-free for over a year and I was puzzled by this condition. It felt more like sciatica than a muscle or tendon tear. However, if that was the source then analgesics should have helped.

My opportunities for running are skewed to the end of the week and the weekend, so missing a Sunday run for rest would have an effect on my weekly volume. I decided to go for a very easy run and carefully monitor the pain. The last time I had something like this, it quickly went from moderate discomfort to bad pain. So bad, in fact, that I needed to abandon a run after a quarter mile and limp back home.

I wore the Kayanos again because they have stability features that would provide a correction for a pronator like me. I generally ignore that need because I prefer a neutral trainer. My old Brooks Adrenalins, which had a firm medial post, would do a great job of solving issues related to gait.

I took off with a conscious focus on the sore muscle and soon realized that running wasn't going to exacerbate the problem. At the same time, my quads and hamstrings felt tighter than normal and I knew I had no chance of matching yesterday's speed. It was then when I realized the pain I felt was probably due to those episodes of fast running during yesterday's workout. It's been a while since I've pushed my pace so hard for so long.

Nice weather we're havin'
The other factor that worked against me today was the weather. According to Garmin Connect, conditions during today's run were 37° temps with a 23 MPH wind. The wind chill made it feel like 26° and at times I felt like I was running last year's Long Beach Turkey Trot. I had no illusions of meeting my performance target. Besides that, the purpose of this run was recovery.

I expected to cover about 4 miles - less if my pain grew worse. Since that didn't turn out to be the case, I hung in for an extra half mile. When I was done I was ready for a nap. Hours later, my muscle soreness remains, but it's no worse than when I got up this morning. Rest has always been my best approach to injury, so I'll be doing that for the next couple or days (at least). This doesn't seem to be the same type of pain I had last time. I hope so, because that injury took me off the road for over a week.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Taking on all comers

Five loops with one variation
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

Things looked fairly bleak this morning when I looked outside to gauge weather conditions. It was raining, not a surprise, but I was still disappointed. I'd prepared myself for that possibility and my plan was to run outside as long as the rain remained moderate. I put on water-friendly running gear, including my ASICS running rain jacket and C9 running tights before heading out the door.

Once outside, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rain had completely stopped. I didn't know how long that would last, so I planned a route that kept me close to home in the event of a spontaneous downpour. I'd run this 1-mile loop a few times before. The first half has a 2% net incline and the second half has a 1.5% downward slope. I like it because, though modest, I get most of the elevation done by the half mile mark.

Since I frequently whine about the lack of visual stimulation I get from running in my neighborhood, you'd think following the same loop five times would be especially tedious. Surprisingly enough, I like this route because the cycle is so compartmentalized. Push through the first half and cruise through the second. No time wasted thinking about whether to turn left or right. Follow the loop, repeat as required.

I did vary one loop a little just for a change, but the rest were the same. I had a couple of situations when another runner entered my path, going in the same direction. In both cases, I was faced with the challenge of either passing them or being left behind. My competitive side kicked in and I took off in hopes of putting some distance between us. I was able to gain a lot of ground both times, especially when I was on my last mile and I pulled out all stops. I kept my pace in the mid-8 minute range for the last half mile.

It never rained during my run, but the skies opened up soon afterward. Despite that couple of faster segments, I didn't end up with a great overall pace. Some of that may be due to my failure to stop the Garmin when I finished my run. By the time I discovered that mistake, a minute or two had elapsed and this distorted my data.

Even so, I was pleased that I was able to turn up the jets when the situation required it. Of course it's easy to beat someone in a foot race when the other person doesn't know you're racing them. Can I maintain that intensity throughout the whole 5K next Saturday? Probably not, but when it counts, some tactical speed could come in handy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

First impression of the new Kayanos

So far so good
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

It wasn't until I was ready to put on my running shoes that I remembered I had a brand new pair of ASICS Kayanos sitting in a box in my gear cabinet. I was excited to try them out and experience a very different platform. After years of low, minimal running shoes, I'm returning to a more cushioned trainer. It's a little like going from a sports car to a luxury sedan. Both are great, but for different reasons.

Today was going to be busy and long and I was grateful not to have to do my long commute. I got myself out the door early enough to keep on schedule but (unfortunately) it was just in time to play "dodge the school buses and recycling trucks" in my neighborhood.

Once my Garmin got its signal I was off. The Kayanos definitely felt different from my Virratas. It wasn't the pillowy float that I had expected. Instead, my impression of the shoes was a combination of comfort and purpose. The shape of the mid-sole facilitated a good rolling gait and that meant something today. My legs were not feeling too springy.

I really liked the Kayanos but, as short as it was, I didn't enjoy the run all that much. It may have been due to all the things I needed to do once my workday started, but it was probably more related to how I felt. Despite being far below aerobic threshold, I had some labored breathing during the first half of the run. Warming up corrected that, but I began to feel some leg fatigue near the end. Some days are like that, even on shorter runs.

I ended up pacing decently - still below target, but better than prior weeks. I think the responsive Kayanos actually helped me today. I'm disappointed to read that rain is expected overnight and into the morning. I really don't want to face the roar of the treadmill, so I'll run with my rain jacket if it isn't a downpour. If that's the case, I won't be wearing my new shoes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Faint praise for the elliptical

ProForm CE 6: I look different in workout clothes
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It's been another busy week, but at least tomorrow is Friday. Today was my first opportunity for a morning workout and my intention was to do a treadmill run. I got up this morning and decided that I couldn't deal with the treadmill's racket, so I fired up the elliptical instead. Although I've never warmed to this unit (it's far less substantial than its predecessor) the Pro-Form does provide a good cross training alternative.

Compared to the treadmill, using the elliptical is a breeze. Besides the fact that it's self propelled and quiet, the elliptical doesn't make me constantly worry about a bad slip and fall. In fact, you can use the elliptical with your eyes closed. That's something I'd never recommend doing on a treadmill. I ended up getting a decent workout and avoided a noise-related headache.

I always look forward to Friday's because I can get outside in the morning for a few miles prior to starting my working day from home. Tomorrow will be extremely busy so I'll need to get out early to fit in a workout. I'm getting mixed messages online about Friday morning's weather. One prediction calls for morning rain and the other calls for cold but dry conditions. I'm hoping for the latter.

I'd like to avoid the treadmill if possible. And as much as I appreciated it today, I'm not in the mood for another elliptical session.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kayano say good deal?

My bargain babies
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Thanksgiving break seemed like it would go on forever but Sunday is finally here. We had morning plans, so I went out for an early run. Although I didn't intend to run with a lot of intensity, I kept my max HR between 81%-91%. This produced a nice speed improvement over yesterday. I'm still outside my target zone for performance, but I've brought my pace down almost a minute over my last four runs.

There were two factors that held me back today: a miscalculation in terms of dress (too many layers for 50°) and an 11 MPH wind that hit head on during a couple of long stretches. In neither case was I particularly uncomfortable, but I did wish for shorter sleeves and a gentler breeze. The smell of burning leaves enveloped the neighborhood and inspired me to push a little harder. In fact one of my splits was my fastest mile this year, not counting track intervals. I'm sure the Garmin was confused to see me running in the eight minute range.

The real news of the day happened after my run, when we did some end of break shopping at the Gallery at Westbury Plaza. After some awesome Thai coconut curry at Noodles & Co., I stumbled upon one of the biggest running related bargains I've ever seen. My daughter was looking for some new running shoes so we stopped into Famous Footwear to see what they had.

I usually view Famous Footwear as an outlet for low end models and slow selling remainders, but they do occasionally surprise me. As I scanned the shelves in the men's section, I noticed a pair of ASICS Kayano 20's with a sign that said $64 | regular price $159.99. I knew that ASICS had introduced the 21s, so I would have expected to see these discounted (at best) to the $110-120 range. $64 seemed way too good to be true.

Note the $95 "price conflict"
I found a pair in my size to try on. I figured that if they fit as well as Kayanos usually do, I could ask the actual price and see if it was still competitive. I was slightly ambivalent when I put them on, but after a few quick steps at the back of the store, I wanted them. I asked the assistant manager for the actual price and she said, "$159.99." I showed her the shelf tag and she said I could have the Kayanos at that price - that it was their error. She was really nice and even let me use their deal of the day (buy one pair and get another at half price) to buy my daughter her shoes.

Needless to say, I'm very excited about this purchase. After five years wearing lighter, more minimal running shoes, I've been thinking lately about the industry's pendulum shift toward more substantial and cushioned models. I'd considered the Hoka Cliftons as well as the Brooks Transcend and the new Adrenalin 15s, among others. The Kayano is THE classic stability trainer and I'm curious to see how I'll do in a shoe that weighs 25% more than my Saucony Virratas. I suspect I won't miss the lightness at all.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jingle on the way

Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

There are sure a lot of Christmas themed 5Ks on Long Island. I ran the Ho Ho Holiday race a couple of years ago and last December I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K with SIOR. There's also the Jingle Bell run, Stuff the Sleigh, the Toy Trot and the Holiday Fun Run. It's been months since I've raced and I'm feeling ready to return to the starting line. I'm excited to be running the Jingle All The Way 5K with my buddies on December 13.

I used to avoid 5Ks because it took a lot of time and effort to do something that goes by in less than 30 minutes. 10Ks were my favorite distance because they're short enough to require tactical speed, yet long enough to require a smart pacing strategy. However, after many month's hiatus from racing and little performance focused running, a 5K seems like a good way to restart competition.

This morning I woke up with a pain under my arch and I wondered if I'd bruised a tendon during yesterday's rough trail run. I'm always concerned that I'll develop plantar fasciitis, which is the fourth most common running injury. I debated whether I should take a rest day to help my foot recover. After having some coffee and walking around the house, the pain diminished and I decided to go out for a few miles to see how it held up.

It was very cold this morning, so I went with the Opedix Knee-Tecs once again for warmth. My objective was a 3-4 mile tempo run. I planned to start easy and increase speed after a couple of miles. If my foot pain returned, I figured I would keep to the original pace or shut down the run. After 15 minutes without pain, I stepped it up and maintained a faster pace until the end.

I ended up improving my second half pace by a full minute over the first. It still wasn't to the level of performance I'm hoping to attain on the 13th, but it's going in the right direction. I'll see if I can maintain a higher intensity in my runs leading up to the race date. There's nothing like having a race on the calendar to motivate you to try a little harder.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Post-Thanksgiving Stillwell trail run

Taking the "More Difficult" path
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.7 miles

Unless you work in retail, the day after Thanksgiving is like an unofficial holiday. Much of the world went shopping for bargains today but I chose to go out in the freezing cold for a trail run at Stillwell Woods. I'm not sure why runners choose to be uncomfortable, but it's a factor in every run. You know you're going to sweat, feel the burn in your legs and (if you did it right) end up both exhausted and depleted.

I thought about that after the first of many close calls at Stillwell this morning. I was running on a muddy trail in 33° weather when my toe caught a root and I nearly lost my footing. I somehow kept upright through that and promised myself I'd pay closer attention to obstructions on the path. Besides the slippery mud, the trails had long sections covered with leaves that hid potential hazards. My Brooks Cascadias provided great protection and traction - far better than any other trail shoes I've owned.

Stillwell was almost empty. I didn't see any mountain bikers until I was taking my last steps leaving the trail head. There was a young couple running briskly toward the woods when I arrived. We crossed paths twice and they gave me big hellos both times. If there were any other runners today, I didn't see them.

Just for fun, I deviated from my normal route a couple of times and encountered some steep terrain. Due to the grade, I actually did better on the uphills than the downhills. One trail had lots of packed sand and many sharp rocks the size of softballs. Once again I was grateful to have the Cascadias that have both a rock plate and a beefy toe guard.

Today's route
I tried to be careful but my toe would occasionally catch something on the path, forcing me to prepare to hit the ground. I was fortunate that I didn't fall once. It would have been a muddy mess. I wasn't aiming for a long workout today and made my way back after I'd covered about three and a half miles. I finished feeling like I'd worked off some of yesterday's calories and the ever changing (but forgiving) surface of the single-track made my legs feel energized.

I'm probably going back to the road tomorrow, but I haven't decided where. Rob's Run is happening at Stillwell on Sunday. I'm sure that would be fun, but I've had my fill of those trails for now.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey day morning run

Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

Happy Thanksgiving! It's so nice to be on break from work and being able to spend time with friends and family. It's also a treat to have time to go out for runs (weather permitting) every day. Yesterday's running plans were disrupted by the freezing rain, but this morning's conditions were much more favorable.

It was 33° and cloudy when I got my gear organized. My daughter decided to join me for the first part of my run and I was excited about that. We waited outside in the cold while my Garmin locked in on its GPS signal. It has been taking longer and longer to acquire a connection and I hope that doesn't mean that I'm going to need a new watch. Actually it would be great to get a new toy, but I've been very happy with the FR210. Once the display came ready, we were off the driveway and on the road.

Our route was a clockwise loop around the roads adjacent to my house. We moved along at an easy pace and chatted away. Once we completed the circle I left my daughter at the house and continued on to complete my run. A few minutes later I began to notice some snowflakes fluttering down and I loved the effect. That, combined with the crisp air, the scent of wood burning and the aroma of Thanksgiving cooking made for a very pleasant experience.

There weren't a lot of people out at 8:00 AM, but those I saw were in a friendly mood. I wasn't the only person in the neighborhood who was trying to get in a holiday run. I crossed paths with three other runners by the time I wrapped up my workout. The rest of the day has been filled with holiday activities and LOTS of food. Still more fun to come on that.

I plan to get out tomorrow to burn off the all these calories. I'm not sure what I'll do, but the weather is supposed to be sunny and cold. Congrats once again go to TPP who put in yet another great race effort today at the Town of Oyster Bay turkey trot. One of these days I'm going to return to the track and work on speed. Maybe tomorrow will be that day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rainout workout

 
Today's workout (elliptical): 1 hour

Today was halfway between work and play. Like most of my office colleagues, I decided to work from home. That kept my calendar relatively clear and I'd hoped I could work in a morning run before I got down to business. We heard that we'd be getting some weather, but I didn't expect it to start so early. I was willing to run in light rain but not in the frozen mix that was coming down.

I had hopes that the rain would stop long enough to let me get out for 30 minutes, but it eventually became clear that wouldn't happen. Instead of digging into some of today's objectives, I'd remained on hold. I thought about deferring my run, but the hourly weather report confirmed that the rain wasn't going to stop. I considered and rejected the treadmill and opted instead for the elliptical.

It had been a while since I'd done an elliptical workout. Although I appreciate the quietness of the machine compared with the treadmill, I'm always somewhat ambivalent about it. I usually end up feeling like I got a good workout but I'm never sure how an elliptical session compares to a run. Our Pro-Form doesn't provide a lot of information on its display and the little data it does show has no context in terms of performance.

I finally got some work done after that long elliptical session but we had a family friend come by and that put an early end to my workday. He's a nationally ranked power lifter and has more muscle in one forearm than I have in my entire body. Our friend has a background in physiology. As always, I took every opportunity to get advice on sports nutrition. It was a nice start to the Thanksgiving long weekend.

The rain should be gone by tomorrow though there's a chance of snow showers. No turkey trot this year but I'm going to get out unless conditions are too treacherous.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A quiet, non-turkey related run

I didn't run this one either
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

Today was going to be a busy day so I opted for a tour of my local roads rather than a more ambitious venue. One year ago, I ran the Long Beach Turkey Trot but decided not to participate this year. TPP, who ran with me last year, soloed today and came in first in her age group. Awesome job TPP! SIOR was going to run the Turkey Trot with her, but she had a geography-related mix-up with her registration.

It was much warmer this morning than it was on Saturday and felt much more like fall than winter when I stepped outside. I appreciated that the milder conditions allowed me to wear less layers today. No Opedix on this run. There isn't much to relate in terms of the run and nothing special in terms of performance or experience. But some runs are like that.

The rest of the day has been spent taking care of household needs. At one point, me and my daughter (who just started her own blog where she talks about sneakers) went over to H&Y to pick up some items and sample all the Korean food they cook in the isles. It was a fun thing to do on a day that has been primarily filled with errands.

Despite a crazy work schedule, I'm pleased that I was able to tally almost 18 miles this week. I'm looking forward to the coming week, where I plan to be doing less commuting and a lot more running.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Escape from a neighborhood run

Apr├Ęs run selfie
Today's run (Bethpage Trail): 6.25 miles

It took me a while to decide where I'd run this morning. The easy choice was to stay in my neighborhood but I'm getting bored seeing of the same roads, houses and cars. I considered Stillwell Woods because I haven't been on the trails in a few weeks. My goal was to run at least six miles today, so I figured I'd go to the Bethpage trail where I do better on longer runs.

It was "wicked cold" this morning (as we'd say in Boston) so I needed to gear up properly. Running in cold weather usually doesn't bother me except in cases when the wind chill causes my glasses to freeze on my face. Today's weather was fairly calm and I wore plenty of layers. That included my new Opedix Knee-Tecs that I scandalously wore without a top layer of shorts.

I parked in the Bethpage lot and ran up the hill toward the trail. I then decided to head north so I could follow the mile markers to the 5K point. Turning around there would get me my planned six-plus mile distance. I didn't have the same level of energy today that powered me through yesterday's surprisingly good run. Even so, I felt strong enough to take on the ribbon of hills that awaited me.

The temperature during my run was 34° with a 10 MPH wind from the west. Since I traveled north for the first half and then south for the second, I didn't experience much in the way of resistance. It did feel chilly and I didn't see a single runner, cyclist or walker until I reached my second mile. I run at Bethpage so often that I recognize a lot of people on the trail now, and based upon their greeting when we pass, I assume that some of them recognize me back. There's one woman I see every time I run there who always gives me a big smile and wave.

Today's route
Today's run was more LSD than PDQ so I wasn't disappointed that it took over an hour to cover my route. Overall, I was pleased with the run and happy that I didn't settle for another workout around my neighborhood roads. I may do that tomorrow, but at least today I got to experience some hills and look at scenery that didn't include a bunch of boring houses and cars.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Running performance is a weighty issue

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

There's an article in a recent issue of Running Times that correlates weight and performance. There's nothing surprising or revelatory in the article, but they make the obvious point that carrying extra pounds will not help your speed. I've been exploring every reason why my pace has declined over the last couple of years and have ruled out health issues. After reading this story, I wondered if weight is a factor.

I've kept my weight under control over the last six years and I continue to watch my diet. Running 16-20 miles a week certainly helps. Still, I've wondered if I've become lax in terms of sugar intake and portion control. I hadn't stepped on a scale in months and decided check to see if I'd gained weight. I hoped that I had because I can deal with that. Just lose a few pounds and go back to 26 minute 5Ks!

I pulled out the scale and saw that I was only 3.5% over my ideal healthy weight. That didn't provide much opportunity to trade pounds for performance. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that the only way to improve is to commit to a higher level of training. Running buddy TPP has proven that really works.

I went out this morning for a cold weather run that felt even colder due to strong winds. I spent almost ten minutes waiting for a GPS signal before the watch showed ready. I took off and noticed that I felt a little stronger than usual. However, I didn't expect a great performance because of the strong winds. The wind chill was in the teens and my face felt frozen.

It wasn't until I got back home that I realized I'd done my fastest run in months. I was happy to see that, but I'm not exactly sure why. I may start paying a little more attention to my diet and bring that 3.5% down to target. Every little bit helps. Especially for those of us who are happy to stick with their current level of training.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Heat, exhaustion and a failing treadmill

Torture chamber. Why did I wear a sweater?
Today's workout (treadmill): 25 minutes

I spent most of the week in an airless conference room filled with computers that raised the temperature into the intolerable range. We were piloting some new business processes and technologies and I spent a lot of time managing the participants and capturing issues on a whiteboard. The heat, lack of ventilation and fumes from the dry markers wore me out.

This morning I celebrated a return to normal working conditions. I hopped on the treadmill at 3:45 AM and hoped to raise my heart rate and ingest cool air that was devoid of marker solvent. I hadn't run since Sunday and was ready to go. I'm no fan of the treadmill but that didn't bother me today. Once the machine started up I changed my mind about that.

The F63
Our Sole F63 has not lived up to its reputation as a top rated machine. In the four years that we've owned it, we've had to rebuild the motor once, fix multiple problems with a slipping tread belt and replace the display console four times. Despite regular maintenance, our technician told us a few months ago that the treadmill is nearing its end. Based on the cacophony of sound I heard today, I thought the end would come today.

The Sole was never whisper quiet, but compared to the 14 year old Pro-Form unit it replaced, our new machine was nearly silent. Now the F63 is making worse noises than the Pro-Form. The motor has grown increasingly louder and the belt rollers are making sounds like gunshots. The belt also feels like it slips when I increase the speed past a certain point.

I managed to get through my workout, but I'm not sure how many runs are left in the machine. I do 3/4 of my running outside, so I can manage without the treadmill, but my wife does all her running on it. It's going to be cold tomorrow morning, but I'm very much looking forward to a quiet outdoor run.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Perceived effort was not enough

 
Today's run (street): 4.6 miles

Yesterday's run in Old Westbury provided a great hill workout. Today I thought I'd keep it simple and keep my running to my local roads. It wasn't as cold as Saturday, but it was still pretty chilly. I wore the Opedix again, along with three top layers. It wasn't until I took my first steps off the driveway that I knew my legs had recovered well. I had high hopes for a performance improvement and I sure gave it a try.

After we finished preparing for our runs this morning, my wife said, "Okay, let's get our runs on!" We were both ready to get going - she to the treadmill and me to the street. I was psyched knowing that I would be dealing with less distance and lower elevation today. My plan was a four mile run with negative splits.

The temperature was 35° and there wasn't much wind. I was comfortable in my gear and I felt good from the start. I'd left my HRM home and though I had my Garmin, I decided to run by feel instead. The first mile went by quickly and I was convinced that I was beating Friday's moderately brisk pace. I avoided looking at the readout on my watch because I didn't want to be discouraged, or overly encouraged, by what I saw.

I'd started around 7:30 AM and there were few cars or people around, although I kept crossing paths with two other runners. I felt like I was moving a lot faster than yesterday and was hoping to finish with a big surprise in terms of time and pace. I was surprised, but not in a good way, Running by feel did not generate the speed I'd hoped for. I did achieve negative splits, but my pace was 30 seconds off of Friday's.

On the positive side, I put in almost 20 miles this week, had some good workouts and got to run and hang with my friends. I'll take that over performance anytime.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Runsketeers provoke a priest

We should look a lot more tired
Today's run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

This morning the Runsketeers took on the hills at SUNY Old Westbury for an energizing run on a cold morning. We also angered a priest, but I'll get to that later. SIOR, TPP and I (founding members of our prestigious running club) invited new members JC and KWL to today's group run. JC is Celia's coach and paramour and KWL is a good friend of mine who knows SIOR and TPP from our Brooklyn Half adventure.

The plan was to meet in the parking lot of a church that is located diagonally across from the entrance to the Old Westbury campus. We'd then run the (approximately) four mile loop a couple of times. Eight miles was a little longer than I was aiming to cover today, so I figured I'd do my miles independently of the group and catch up with them at the end.

It was great to see my friends since we haven't run together in a number of weeks. I was wearing my new Opedix Knee-Tecs for the first time and we discussed the increasingly high cost of good running tights. SIOR mentioned that the Knee-Tecs retail for $225 and JC said no running clothing is worth that much money. He may be right, but I liked the Opedix a lot and thought they provided great support, warmth and energy return. If I race again this winter, I'll be wearing them.

We all started together, but soon split up when KWL and I crossed over to a road that had facing traffic. I don't like running with cars coming up from behind. We lost sight of the others when they continued on the northern side and followed the road in the other direction. The hills at Old Westbury are plentiful and a few seem to go on forever. KWL was a good sport and he followed my pace, even though he could have gone a lot faster.

Despite the frequent hills, I was able to converse well with KWL and we caught up on a lot of things. As expected, we crossed paths with JC, TPP and SIOR who were running counter-clockwise during our first loop and again as they completed their second. At that point KWL joined the others so he could ramp up his speed. I continued on alone with a goal of covering 7 miles.

I stayed on course and turned around at Store Hill Road and followed the drive back to Cedar Swamp Rd. I crossed the street and ran a loop around the church before returning to my car to wait for the others. Or should I say before not returning to my car. This is the part about the priest.

As I made my way closer to where we parked, I saw a person walking around the cars and thought that my friends had beaten me back. I saw that the person was dressed in church vestments and he was putting flyers under our windshields. Being the brave soul that I am, I continued running instead of risking a scolding. In fairness, I was at 6.97 miles and wanted to make it to seven, so I had an excuse to continue. I ended up at 7.06.

Today's seven
Once the priest returned to the church I bravely sneaked back to my car and read the flyer:

Forgive me Father, for I have parked
I completely understood that the church didn't want people taking up spaces in the lot. While I felt badly that we'd broken the rule, our four cars were the only ones in the lot. We weren't putting anyone out unless their hearts were set on parking in our particular spaces. But the message was received loud and clear and we plan to park at a lot within the SUNY campus next time.

My friends eventually made it back to their cars and we headed over to the Starbucks near Whole Foods in Jericho. Since I wasn't able to run with everyone today, it was great to spend time relaxing over coffee. JC and KWL are both avid cyclists and triathletes and they compared notes on bike gear and races. The five of us had plenty to talk about. I loved the run, but I loved the post-run just as much.

Running seven miles today was easier than I expected, even with the hills. Although KWL and I maintained a fairly easy pace, I still managed to stay in the 10:00 range overall. Since I've already completed 80% of my weekly volume I have a few options for tomorrow. I could go over to the track and run intervals or head to Stillwell for a change of pace on the trails. Even if I end up staying in the neighborhood on Sunday I can still say it's been an interesting week of running.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Layered up for a surprisingly good run

Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

I had the opportunity to get out early today, but I squandered my time and ended up sneaking in a run between business calls. I got a lot done before I went out, but came very close to missing my window for a morning run. I'm an early-bird and really didn't want to have to go out late in the day. After seeing that the current temperature was hovering around 35°, I piled on the layers and scooted out the door.

It was chilly, but not freezing, when I finally got outside. I was afraid I'd dressed too warmly and would later regret the hat and gloves I was wearing. I ended up keeping them on and (happily) never felt overheated during the run. It's supposed to get even colder this weekend.

It wasn't until I reached my first quarter mile that I realized I had decent energy. I spotted a runner a few hundred feet ahead and realized that I was going to pass her quickly. I wasn't setting the world on fire this morning, but I was moving faster than usual. I ended up improving 40 seconds per mile over Tuesday's run. A couple of fartleks near the end helped that along.

I considered wearing my new Opedix Knee-Tecs today, but I'm saving them for tomorrow when I meet my buddies to take on a particularly hilly course. My friend KWL, who ran a strong race at the NYC Marathon two weeks ago, will be joining SIOR, TPP and possibly others. I know it will be a challenge for me to stay with this fast crowd, but I'll try my best.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Garage squatter and Knee-Tecs

Opedix (L), ER version (R)
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

The possum saga continued last night when I pulled into the garage and saw this little fellow sitting cozily at the back of my garage. I tried to coax him out but he wasn't having any of that. He scooted under an alcove and hid there until my son and I were able to gently nudge him out with a broom. He scrambled outside and across the lawn and I'm hoping he's found a more hospitable place to nest.

It's Veteran's Day and my company is closed for the holiday. Last night (before the possum incident) I went out to dinner with a work colleague and although I didn't get home especially late, I woke up feeling very tired. I didn't want to miss an opportunity to get in a mid week outdoor run, so got myself out the door and hoped for the best.

What should have been a recipe for a tough and uninspired run turned out to be a very pleasant experience. The temperature was close to 55° and, for once, I wore the right gear, including shorts. Humidity was high but instead of feeling uncomfortable, it felt good. Just as I've been doing during my recent runs, I put my best effort into the last mile and covered it 45 seconds faster than the previous one.

It's going to get very cold going into the weekend and I need to start thinking about winter gear. I've agreed to test a pair of Opedix Knee-Tec tights that are supposed to be thermal and also provide (per their website), "dynamic alignment, improved mobility, stability and optimized joint function." I'll be putting them through their paces and will likely be wearing them in SIOR's preferred style. Stayed tuned.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hope for the Warriors, but not for my speed

Flag dedication at Hope for Warriors race
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

This morning was spent at the Hope for the Warriors race in Lindenhurst, NY. For the first time in four years, I didn't participate, but I came to support my family who served again as race volunteers. Last year my wife and kids manned the registration desk while I ran the 10K race. I decided to skip the race this time, for the same reason I missed the 2014 Dirty Sock, Cow Harbor and TOB Supervisor's run. I've lost interest in competing.

I don't know exactly why the thrill of racing is no longer there for me. I used to love the experience of training for a race and reaching the point where I knew I could hold my own. Between 2009-2012, I generally finished in the top 25-30% of the field in 5Ks and usually in the top 50% at other distances. My performance has been steadily slipping since then. It's hard to get motivated to race under those circumstances.

The frustrating thing about it is that I can still run fast when I really try, but it takes much more effort than it used to. I'm sure my speed decline is partially due to training easier than in the past. When I was commuting into the city I would get up and run at 4:00 AM just about every day. Those runs focused on speed for practical purposes. I had only so much time to run my route so that I stayed on schedule to make my early train.

My weekly volume at that time was about 20 miles a week and I would regularly break 9 minutes a mile. Today, I am covering 15-20% less distance per week and 60% of that is done as longer, slower runs. Except for those rare times when I do a speed workout, I haven't broken 9:00 per mile in over a year.

Today, after we'd returned home from the race, I did a neighborhood run and pushed especially hard on my last mile. My split was 9:37 and it felt like I was running at 5K pace. In fact, 9:37 was my pace at my last 5K.

Due to the earlier activity, I didn't get out for my run until 10:30 AM this morning. While I ran, I thought about the experience of being at the race but not participating. At one point, three young guys had walked by me talking about the 5K they were about to run. I'd forgotten the 5K race was an option and, for a second, I regretted that I didn't just sign up for that.

Being among the runners this morning did not rekindle my excitement for racing as I'd hoped, but it did motivate me to try to train a little harder so I could put in a credible performance in a 5K before year's end. It's been a lot of months since I ran the Brooklyn Half, which is the last race I've run in 2014.

Congrats to TPP, who absolutely rocked it at Hope for the Warriors today, attaining a 10K PR and (yet another) age group placement!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Running off the grid

 
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 6.2 miles

My morning run didn't go quite as expected, but it all went fine. My plan was to park in the Bethpage lot and run south to Merrits Road, just past Hempstead Turnpike. That would give me about 10K overall. When I arrived at the park, I saw that they were collecting entrance fees despite a sign that said that no admission would be charged after November 3rd.

I probably would have been waved in by my friend who runs the booth, but that would have made me feel guilty. I decided to turn around and park further north off Haypath Road. Once I arrived, I tried to start the Garmin, only to discover that I wasn't wearing it. I remembered that I'd set it up to charge on the kitchen counter and forgot it was there. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to capture the metrics of my run, but I also liked the idea of a no tech experience.

It would have been good to check the time when I started, so I could back into my pace after mapping my distance. That didn't occur to me until my run was underway. I cold have dug my phone out of my SPIbelt but I couldn't be bothered. Not tracking my time or distance felt liberating.

Since I started north of Bethpage Park, I figured I'd run a northern route to get my planned distance. I can't comment on my performance since I had no way to record it, but I didn't get passed by a single runner today. When I reached Old Bethpage Road, I had to wait for a few cars go by. I automatically reached to pause the Garmin, but found only my wrist. The one thing I needed to worry about was staying on the path, so I could accurately Gmap my run later.

It was chilly out and I'd dressed for the high 30's weather. The wind was moderate and it came from the north. Since I was doing an out and back, with the second half going south, I knew I only had to deal with it temporarily. When I arrived at Washington Ave, I saw that I had to go to all the way to Sunnyside Boulevard if I wanted to meet my distance goal.

The section between Washington and Sunnyside is one of the hilliest parts of the Bethpage trail and I often avoid it by turning around at the LIE underpass. Today I decided to suck it up and go for it. The first hill is the toughest, as it starts fairly steeply and continues for close to half a mile. What goes up comes down so I was able to recover until the last rise that goes to Sunnyside.

The second half was psychologically easier. Although there were plenty of hills, the elevation and length were far less than what I had already covered. I followed the trail back to Haypath and turned around to run the short distance back where I started, across from where I parked. Without my Garmin to tell me my mileage, I still managed to reach my targeted distance.

Tomorrow morning I'll be at the Hope for the Warriors, but I won't be racing. I'll probably wait until we get home to do my own run. I'm still just fine with my decision, but I'm starting to think about my next race.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Windy run with wildlife

Hi neighbor!
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Somehow it's gotten to be November and the weather is beginning to hint at winter. I've already started planning business for next year. This week, in a moment of insanity, I agreed to a new contract with my present employer for 2015. It's not that I don't love what I do. The company is great, the people are wonderful and my work is both interesting and challenging. But the commute is enough to drive a person insane.

All the same, I do enjoy the freedom I have to work from home when it makes sense to do that. Most Fridays I do, including today. Last week I needed to go into the office and that prevented me from getting out for what I think of as my weekend kickoff run. Consequently, I only managed to eke out 12 miles for the entire week. Part of that was because I fell short of my planned distance on Sunday due to the ferocious winds.

Today's weather was more cooperative, but there was still plenty of wind to deal with. I wore layers to stay comfortable and they came in handy while I waited ten minutes for the Garmin to find all its satellites. I don't understand why it has trouble acquiring a signal under a cloudless sky, but that has been happening frequently.

Once the GPS was ready, I was off and running (hah!) and I found myself pushing against a fairly stiff wind from the north. Not as bad as Sunday, but enough to slow me down a little. I wondered if I'd get a speed bump when I reached the top of the road and returned in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, having wind at your back never enables progress the way head-on wind inhibits it.

Nothing remarkable on today's run. The usual negligent drivers and a few dum-dums running with their backs to traffic. I did cross paths with a possum (or is it opossum?) who was waddling across the road as I approached. It looked up at me with its rat-shaped snout and beady pink eyes, but didn't seem too concerned to see me. It scampered off once I got within ten feet. 

This weekend is the Hope for Warriors 10K, a race I would normally run but I'm still stuck in competitive abstinence mode. My wife and kids will be volunteering again at the race, so I feel a little guilty about not participating. I think my running buds are going to do the Hot Chocolate 5K in December. I'm going to join them and I'm hoping it will reignite my interest in racing.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing this weekend in terms of training, but I need to make up for my poor showing last weekend. I didn't even crack 6 miles on Saturday and Sunday was a disappointment. No more admission fees at Bethpage until spring. I may park in the lot and run the southern route tomorrow.
 

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