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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Performance is down, but excuses remain high

Ready or not, here it comes
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

My running has slid back into the questionable range. I had a tough time running a very slow 5K on Sunday. That may have been due to over-training last week, shoelace malfunctions or something less obvious. This week was the start of my new job and, after taking my usual Monday rest day, I skipped Tuesday as well. This morning was a return to 4:00 AM running and it didn't go particularly well.

After 20 years of commuting on the Long Island Railroad into NYC, I had a break over the last year. I didn't miss riding the the train and I still don't. But instead of the train, I'm now driving 75 miles a day to and from my new office. Driving is not fun and I've decided to head out around 6:00 AM to minimize the amount of traffic delays on the LIE, Route 95, etc. Consequently, the window for early running before my commute is short. And unlike train commuting when I could take a seat and sleep, I need to be 100% alert when on the road.

I happened to have an all day meeting in the city today, so I got on the treadmill at 4:00 and ran for 25 minutes. It was one of the toughest workouts I've had in a while, and I'm wondering why. Since I'm making plenty of excuses about my sub-par 5K performance, I'll make more by saying that two days of driving on highly trafficked roads, plus full days in the office, have exhausted me. I'm hoping it's just that. Brooklyn will happen soon and my running confidence has taken a big tumble since last week.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Race report: 2014 Marcie Mazzola 5K

Coming in to the finish
Photo courtesy of The Petite Pacer
Today's run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 3.1 miles (29:55) 

This morning I ran the Marcie Mazzola race for the sixth consecutive year. This was my first race after returning to running in 2008 and it's the only one I've never missed. In terms of performance, it was not only my slowest Marcie time, but my slowest 5K ever. That was a disappointment, but not to the point of discouragement.

I've definitely lost speed over the last couple of years and I'd hoped that the structured training I've been doing for the Brooklyn Half would reverse that slide. My speed training last Tuesday went well and made me hopeful for a sub-28:00 finish today. Running this race two days after covering 19 miles earlier probably didn't help, nor did some lacing issues I had during the race.

Although the temperature at race time was mid-forties, it felt very cold when we arrived. Even with a pair of track pants and a jacket (that I planned to take off prior to the start) it felt too cold to stand around outside. We ended up hanging out for a while in the lobby of the Huntington Y. At 8:00 we went over and watched the kids fun run and, fifteen minutes later, we walked down to the race's starting point. With only short sleeves and running shorts, I was anxious to get going so I could warm up.

The start on Park Ave.
Unlike most race day mornings, I was not particularly excited to compete today. I was almost in denial that I'd be racing, until reality hit when the horn went off. We were quickly dispatched up Park Ave on our way to Marcie's biggest challenge, the hill on South Woodhull Road. I saw my wife and kids cheering just before I made the turn on Woodhull. I took my first steps up the hill and told myself to focus and prepare to work.

The long run up Woodhull
Photo courtesy of The Petite Pacer
I thought I was doing well and passed a lot of people on Woodhull. I was hopeful that all the long runs I've been doing on hilly routes would pay off. I did start feeling the effort about 2/3 up this long hill and did my best to hold my pace. My Garmin chirped before the Mile 1 marker because I'd started so far back that it took me 20 seconds to get past the starting line. When I heard the volunteer calling first mile times in the 10 minute range I was shocked.

The second mile went by fairly quickly, with enough downhill sections to help make up for that slow first mile. My laces had been cutting into the top of my ankle before the race and I'd retied them a little looser to alleviate that pressure. That was a mistake. About halfway through the race, my right lace untied. I tried to ignore it, but the laces were whipping my legs and I was afraid of tripping. When my shoe began to slip, I decided to pull over and re-tie the lace. That cost me at least 30 seconds, but I wish I'd thought to tighten my left shoe at that time.

Lacing problems 
I made up as much time as I could from there, but when I crossed Main Street at Heckscher Park, my left lace untied. With less than a mile to go, I decided to risk the dangers of tripping and slipping and did my best to avoid a spill. I know this course pretty well and I anticipated the final challenge, a fairly steep rise where Sabbath Day Path connects back to Main Street. I was very ready to finish the race and plowed ahead. I knew that once I got past this hill, I was less than a quarter mile from the end.

Rounding the dogleg to the finish
The race ends with a run up the driveway of the YMCA and I put everything into getting past the incline. I saw and heard my wife and kids right before the dogleg that leads to the finish chute and saw that I still had a chance to come in under 30 minutes. I crossed the line and didn't even see TPP who was taking race pictures that she posted to the GLIRC Facebook group. She did a great job, just like last year.

In the end, I was glad that I ran the race. Although I would have liked to have cut a couple of minutes off my finish time, I felt I put in an honest effort. We hung out afterward for the raffle and went back to the Y building so I could get a cup of coffee. We ran into my friend Mike who was there to swim laps in the pool. Mike ran Marcie with me last year but suffered a heart attack right before this past New Year's. He's recovered well and is back to running and other sports. In fact he's planning to do an Olympic-length triathlon in May.

Post race food and recovery
We didn't win anything at the raffle, but that didn't matter. I saw my time posted on the Start2Finish truck and realized that I'd averaged in the mid-9:00 range. Small consolation, but I'll take it. Despite all my training thus far, I'm clearly not on track to PR at Brooklyn. What probably matters more is that all the base running I'm doing will make covering 13 miles a far more realistic challenge than it was a month ago.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Angry workers and the endless trail

My view of the trail today
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 9.7 miles

With the Marcie Mazzola 5K happening on Sunday, I needed to figure out a way to get my long run done this week. On Wednesday I logged six miles and was planning to run 10 or 11 on the weekend. I didn't want to run that much the day before a race, so I decided to cram it in today. I'm wrapping up a lot of things as I prepare for a new role on Monday, so my schedule was tight.

I decided that the bike trail was my best option, so I drove to the small lot that sits on the bike trail north of Old Country Road. I quickly started running north until I reached Washington Ave and turned around to run south. My target was 10 or 10.5 miles and I felt great. The weather was perfect and the setting serene. I must have seen thirty cottontails along the path and countless birds. Not too many people though.

I did fine through the first five miles despite the hills that came about every quarter mile. My only concern was time, because I needed to be home (and hopefully showered) before a business call that was happening mid morning. Once I'd traveled south of the Bethpage lot and down the big hill, I started to feel a little fatigued. I'd swapped the sock liners in my Virratas for gel insoles and that turned out to be a good idea. However, the softer landing probably made me work a little harder on the hills.

By the time I reached seven miles, I became concerned that my progress was not fast enough to meet my timeline. I was really feeling fatigued and the trail seemed endless. I also realized that I did bad math in terms of turnaround point and I wouldn't quite make ten miles. Oh well, it was only a 3/10th of a mile difference. The only disruption to this placid experience was when I reached Old Country Road near the end of my run.

Before I'd rounded the corner to the street, I heard loud male voices screaming at each other. It was mostly expletives. These were town or county workers who were fixing the bike trail at the point where it met Old Country Road. I was mildly concerned because I needed to run between them to get across the street and more concerned when I saw that one of the arguers was driving a huge front loader.

I think they realized the danger of interfering with a civilian, so they stopped while I passed through. Immediately after, the guy in the front loader started yelling, "I !@#$% quit!" By then I was on the trail on the opposite side heading to my car.

Even though today's distance was almost the same as last Sunday's, today's run was far tougher. I'm hoping it had to do with running almost ten miles after running 6 just two days prior. For some, that would have been a non-issue, but it was only about five weeks ago when I was struggling to complete 4 miles on this same trail.

Tomorrow I will rest and Sunday I'll race. What I'll do for training next week is still up in the air. I'll have to see what my schedule holds.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Run interrupted, for a very good reason

You just can't escape it
Today's run (street): 6.25 total

This morning I planned to go out for six miles, but circumstances caused me to break the run into two parts. I've been trying to run at least 6 miles mid-week to reinforce my base. The news was reporting 40 MPH winds so I went with running pants and two top layers, including a heavier weight half-zip. It turned out that the winds weren't anywhere as bad as reported.

I started off well and I was looking forward to covering my distance at a comfortable pace. I was almost at my first mile when my cell phone rang. I always check to see who's calling, in case it's an emergency. I recognized the number as a big client, but I couldn't answer the phone in time. I listened to the voicemail and headed home to call them back.

Although my run was interrupted, it was worth it. I'm keeping my consulting practice, but now I'll also be taking on a full time position. This will be the first time I'll be commuting to an outside office since I left my old company in 2013. I'm very excited about this new opportunity, but I am concerned about how it will affect my training over the next few weeks. In order to be ready for the Brooklyn Half, I'll need to maintain my current mix of speed and base running.

Once all the paperwork was signed, I went out to complete the balance of my run. In between the first and second part of today's run I had lunch and I wondered how I'd do running on full stomach. The weather had turned cloudy and it looked like it might rain. I was grateful that my distance dropped to five miles, since I'd already done a mile earlier in the day.

There was more wind the second time I went out, but I appreciated it because I thought it might help simulate the effort needed to take on the first big hill at the Marcie Mazzola 5K on Sunday. I moved along fairly well, but the Garmin was showing paces that were at least 30 seconds slower than perceived effort. After calculating true distance, it turned out that I was running about 15 seconds per mile faster than what the display said.

Overall, I met my distance target, although not all at once. I recently read that two-a-days are actually a good training strategy, but I can't remember why. I'm supposed to taper at some point for Sunday's race although I'm not sure I can afford to reduce volume at this point. Maybe I'll rest tomorrow and go long again on Friday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boston is back and back to the track

Tracking Marathon friends on BAA.org
Today's run (track intervals): 
6 x 400's plus 1 mile warm up/cool down

Yesterday was a big day for running, with the 118th Boston Marathon taking place (thankfully) without incident. Both SIOR and TPP's sister ran great races, and it was fun to watch their progress using the tracker on the BAA website. How perfect that Meb Keflezighi won the men's race. I'll never look at Skechers the same way again. I was disappointed when Shalane Flanagan dropped back after leading for so long, but she scored an American course record while finishing seventh overall.

The marathon would have been great inspiration for a Monday run, but I held to my rest day to ensure I'd recover from Sunday's long distance. Speed work was on the calendar today, and since the schools are closed until tomorrow, I went over to the track to run intervals. I've done weekly speed workouts all throughout my half marathon training cycle, but I hadn't done a single set on the track until today.

The temperature was 55° when I arrived at the high school. Although I was wearing shorts, I was concerned that having two top layers would cause me to overheat. With the 6 MPH wind, it felt chilly enough to keep them both on the entire time. The high school cross country team was assembled at the southern end of the track infield and I wondered if my workout would happen alongside a crowd of much faster runners.

My HRM now takes 5 minutes to sync
It turned out that I didn't need to share the track at all. The coach was having the team run laps barefoot on the grass, first slowly, then at speed. While that was happening, I started my workout with two laps around the track at around 8:50/mile followed by 6 x 400's at 8:00/mile. I finished with a half mile cool-down that I ran at a mid-9 pace.

It was good tactical workout. I probably could have added another two quarters, but I wanted to keep it light today. I'll try to cover much more distance tomorrow. With the race on Sunday, I'm not sure what to do about my weekend long run.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bethpage run: Making friends along the trail

I really want that chocolate bunny
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 9.5 miles

Today is Easter and I hope it's a good one for those of you who celebrate this holiday. I don't, but I'm certainly celebrating the great weather we're having this weekend. Sunday is when I do my longest run and the distance gets extended each week as I build up to half marathon distance. Last Sunday I ran eight miles and today's plan was for 9. Depending on the training schedule, today could have been a ten miler, but I was reluctant to jump 20% from week to week. Though it was an accident, I ended up with a good compromise distance.

My Runsketeer friends are both in Boston for the marathon that's being held tomorrow. SIOR will be running it and we are really excited for her. She trains really hard while taking great care of her family (4 kids!) and she has the athleticism to make it a memorable performance on Monday. No pressure, just qualifying for Boston is a victory. TPP is there to support her sister T, who is also running tomorrow. T is another high performer. That, of course, is a prerequisite for getting entry into Boston.

As a native Bostonian, I would have loved to be there to watch them run through my old home town of Natick, but I'll be here on Long Island tracking their progress through the baa.org site. In the meantime, I have my own race training to do with the Brooklyn Half coming up mid-May and the Marcie Mazzola 5K next weekend. I'm very curious to see how I do in terms of speed in the 5K and whether all these hills I've been running will provide a performance payoff.

Today's run was split into two experiences, one being a pleasant but uneventful solo effort for about five miles and the other a highly enjoyable almost-five with an other runner on the path. I parked near Haypath Rd. again and got right on the bike trail going north. I followed the trail up to Washington Ave and turned around once I reached the underpass of the LIE.

I maintained the easy pace that I need to cover long mileage while I rebuild my endurance. I got to the five mile point and had stopped at Haypath to watch for cars when I saw another runner to my left. We exchanged hellos and crossed the road. I suspected that he was faster than me and was surprised that he hadn't taken off and passed me at that point. Instead, he (I'll call him J) pulled alongside me and asked how many miles I was doing. He was planning to do about the same, we're both training for different long races and his will be in Vermont.

Today's elevation profile
J turned out to be a very good and interesting guy who also works in the media technology space, but not in publishing like me. He set a slightly faster pace than I was running and I was very surprised that I was able to hold up my end of the conversation. J is a tall athletic guy and I'm somewhat older than him. He could have easily run two or three minutes a mile faster than the pace we held and I was grateful that he didn't. He really pulled me along, especially on the hills.

The time spent with J went by much faster than the previous five miles. Just like when I have group runs with SIOR and TPP. Good company is a runner's gift. I left J to finish on his own once we returned to Haypath and I felt remarkably good after covering almost ten miles today. All this focused training is making a difference and it demonstrates that there is no substitute for putting in the work. When the work is made easier with friends, it's simple to understand why we do this.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Short and steep running at Trailview

Trailview welcomes you
Today's run (Trailview State Park): 2 miles

Today is my birthday and it's been a good one so far. I'm not much for big celebrations and my family and friends respect that. I did enjoy a nice lunch at the Lemonleaf Grill (spicy Panang curry), the great cards, thoughtful and fun gifts, calls and emails. And there's still more to come!

I had looked forward to today's run which I planned to do at Stillwell Woods this morning. I haven't been on a wooded trail since March's relay race in Bethpage and I thought a change would be nice. When I arrived at Stillwell, I saw that the enormous set of athletic fields were packed with tents and people who were there for some lacrosse-related event. I drove into the lot despite the hundreds of cars, many double parked along the drive. In the past I've been able to find spots way down near the trail entrance, but today there wasn't a space to be found.

If I wasn't wearing my H/H Trail Lizards, I would have driven to the nearby high school and run on the track. Instead, I decided to head home and take a birthday rest day. When I reached Jericho Turnpike, it occurred to me that I could run the trails south of Stillwell (i.e., Trailview) that probably had plenty of parking. I was there in two minutes and, while the lot was crowded, there were still plenty of spaces.

I wasn't looking to run long today, so Trailview was a good choice. The loop is an out and back measuring about two miles, but with its steep, gnarly, rocky climbs and precipitous drops, you can get quite a workout. As soon as my Garmin captured a signal, I was (literally) off and running, mostly because I wanted to get to the starting point ahead of a large group of hikers.

The short run seemed to go by quickly and I was very happy with my response to the hills. I actually liked going up more than going down, because I feared catching a root and tumbling down 20 feet of rocky trail. I maintained a fairly high heart rate which has been my goal for my current training. I always forget how challenging Trailview can be.

Later in the day, the family headed over to Syosset-Woodbury Park for some other activities. There are some great hills and I took on the biggest a couple of times. I got outside a couple of times today but didn't overdo it either time. I'm planning to cover 9 or 10 miles tomorrow and need to reserve a little energy for that.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cadence increasing, visibility high

Artist's rendering using Google Maps street view
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

I missed Tuesday's run and needed to make it up today, although the Higdon plan called for a rest day. I felt ambivalent about today's workout and whether to go easier this morning after yesterday's semi-fast run. My motivation for speed was low, so I decided to let my level of intensity play out as I ran. Once I got the door I noticed the cold, but the winds that made Wednesday's conditions feel like 24°, were no longer a factor.

My Garmin hasn't performed well lately in terms signal accuracy, making my real-time pace data suspect. I've been running by feel and heart rate which seem to provide more useful feedback. The type of workouts that I've been doing over the last five weeks have helped me increase my cadence. As a result, I'm finding it easier to hold a decent pace on shorter runs. I kept my heart rate around 85% today and ended up running my distance in the high 9's. That's exactly what I wanted to do.

Today's run was unremarkable, except at one point when I was running down a long road near my house. I spotted my wife's car heading in my direction. She and the kids were going out to do errands and when they passed me, the windows were down and they were cheering for "The Emerging Runner." They saw me from a distance because I was wearing a bright orange running shirt. High visibility isn't just for safety!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Introducing some speed into Brooklyn Half training

Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I skipped Tuesday's speed workout due to a timing conflict but I put it back on the schedule for today. According to my training plan, this was supposed to be a tempo run that peaks at 10K pace. I've gotten out of sync on my speed work and thought I'd do intervals instead. Although this morning's weather was very nice, I was running behind schedule and elected to save time by staying indoors.

It wasn't until I got on the treadmill that I decided which workout to follow. Thinking at first that I'd run intervals, I began with a warm up at half marathon race pace. I wanted to go into the repeats with a harder than usual effort to prime myself for speed. Once I got going, I considered the tempo idea. I then thought about SIOR's suggestion that I introduce some sustained speed into one of my weekday workouts for a couple of miles. I decided to continue with this half marathon pace for the duration of the run.

Except for intervals, I have not done many runs lately at sub-10 paces. This is because I've focused on endurance and distance rather than speed. I was surprised to find myself comfortably running at a mid-9:00 pace this morning. I wondered if I could keep this pace the entire way through and it turned out that I could. All this distance and hill running are clearly helping my stamina.

It's scary to think that I only have four more training weeks before my taper week. The longest run I've done so far this year is eight miles, but I did fairly well with that. I'm hoping that I'll continue to progress as I move into double digits. My average HR finally exceeded 85% of max today. If I can push a little harder and sustain it, I should start seeing my speed improve as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Winter running in mid April

Thick frost on the lawn this morning
Today's run (street): 6.25 miles

Yesterday's schedule was rough and it involved an early morning drive to a client north of the city. This meeting and other obligations disrupted my training schedule and they caused me to miss my weekly speed work. I considered doing those repeats today and moving my long run to Thursday, but I didn't want to space my base training runs too close together.

I was surprised to see that the temperature was only 32° when I got up. At least yesterday's driving rains were gone, so it was just a matter of bundling up. I've gotten used to running in 40 degree weather so I was concerned about a possible recurrence of cold-related breathing issues, but they didn't materialize. I dressed for the frigid temperature and set out to cover 6 miles or so.

Complex route
Longer runs in my contained neighborhood are hard to do unless you don't mind covering the same streets multiple times. I mentally mapped out a route that would minimize these redundancies and took off running at an easy pace. I knew that it would be cold, but I didn't count on the stiff breezes that accompanied it. According to my Garmin data, the winds were at 14 MPH, making it feel like 24° outside. Nothing like pushing your way up a long sloping road with freezing wind buffeting you the entire way.

The run itself was fairly easy. I have no doubt that the Brooklyn Half training is contributing to my endurance. I picked up the pace on the last mile and ran it almost a minute faster than the previous 5. That told me two things: I can run faster when I need to do it and I can find speed at the end of a middle-long distance run. Speed is a relative term of course. My "fast" pace today did not match race target. But it is progress and I'm all for that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

8 miles at Bethpage, but parking was the toughest part

X marks the parking spot (map and picture)
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 8 miles

Today was my longest run of the week and I knew I'd be doing it somewhere on the Bethpage bike trail. I just didn't know when or where I'd start. GLIRC had a clubhouse run scheduled for this morning and I considered joining them for that. Those runs start at 8:00 AM sharp in the parking lot of the GLIRC office in Plainview. I wasn't in the mood for running with a big group, so I decided to skip that event and do my long run solo.

TPP was also doing her long run at Bethpage today and I'd hoped to cross paths with her at some point. We did end up finding each other on the trail (she was easy to spot in her vivid pink running gear) and we ran together a bit. TPP was having a tough time this morning and decided to head back to her starting point. Despite that, she ended up covering almost 8 miles.

The Hal Higdon plan called for 8 miles today, although my ER plan had me down for 9. Since I ran 7 miles last Sunday, I decided that eight was enough <smiley face> today. I recall from my last half marathon training cycle that the challenge of going from 5-6 miles to 8-10+ took some acclimation. I was concerned that I'd hit the wall after 45 minutes or so, but I never felt depleted. I stayed around 80% of max HR throughout the run, largely due to maintaining an easy, but steady, pace.

Before I took my first step on the Bethpage bike trail, I had a frustrating experience trying to find a place to park my car. I'm planning to get a 2014 Empire Passport so I didn't want to pay the Bethpage parking fee today. I was hoping that they weren't charging for entrance this morning, but when I arrived I saw that the toll house was open for business. I thought about other options and turned around. I then drove to the small lot that is located off E. Bethpage Rd near Old Country Rd.

When I arrived at this lot, every one of its ten or so spots was filled. So much for that. I was 30 minutes past my planned start time and still had no place to park my car. I was going to park along Haypath Rd. but I wasn't sure that was okay. I then noticed some cars with people who looked like runners parking along Colonial Rd and found a spot near them. I took care to see any signs restricting parking along the street. Seeing none, I parked and crossed the road to the bike trail.

It was only a few minutes after that when I saw TPP. Despite her claim that she was struggling, she looked strong as I watched her coming south in my direction. I wanted to follow the trail north all the way to Sunnyside Blvd. After a few minutes of running in that direction, TPP decided to head back to the lot where she'd parked. She's really cut down on simple carbs and sugar and has been having trouble maintaining her targeted performance levels. I'm confident that will soon change.

I wasn't thrilled about covering the section of trail north of Washington Ave because it has a series of long hills. It was no picnic, but I did better than expected. I'm sure last weekend's hilly workout helped prepare me for today's. The only difficult times were when I was coming up steep hills against 12 MPH winds. I maintained the best pace I could, shortened my stride and got through those situations fairly well.

Today's route, with out-and-backs at both ends
It takes a while to cover eight miles and I ended up needing to go south of my starting point to pick up miles 7 and 8. That took me close to the start of the north trail. I kept waiting for my energy level to drop but it never wavered, except when I was a couple of tenths away from my finish point. That was obviously a psychological response to almost being done.

This training program has been nudging my weekly mileage beyond my average of 18. The past couple of weeks were 21 miles and this week I covered 23. That was with two rest days instead of my usual one, meaning my average run length has increased measurably since I've started training for Brooklyn.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Low mo leads to slow go

GPS margin of error
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

Usually, after a rest day, I'm more than ready to get back outside for a run. Today was one of those near perfect running days with plenty of sun. The temperature was warm enough for shorts yet cool and dry enough to keep sweating to a minimum. Despite all these positive conditions, I found myself unmotivated. My half marathon training schedule only required a 3 mile race-pace run today, yet I was mentally unready to do it.

I didn't sleep well last night, and that probably explained the lack of drive I was feeling this morning. I didn't consider skipping today's workout, but time kept slipping by. We had people coming over in the early afternoon and I needed to get my run completed in time to shower and finish lunch. I decided to dial back the intensity and just do my mileage at whatever speed I could sustain. That got me out the door.

I set a pace that felt sustainable and changed up my route to keep it interesting. While I consciously avoided focusing on speed, I did successfully keep my cadence within my targeted range. I ended up running three minutes longer than I would have if I'd followed the race-pace plan. Although the skies were clear and sunny, my Garmin did a poor job of tracking my progress today (see comparison above). Further, I had no way to gauge my actual performance while I was running, because the readout was based on flawed data.

Tomorrow I'm due to run 8 or nine miles. I may participate in the GLIRC Clubhouse run in the morning if I feel up to it. Otherwise I'll probably head to Bethpage a little later and do it on my own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's JavaScript's fault that I ran slow

What I've been staring at 
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I have a consulting practice that focuses on digital media business and technology. I'm in the process of expanding my portfolio of services. That involves including more strategic partners and re-branding my website. I'm spending time on the development site whenever I can fit it in. Although I get input from my partners, I'm handling both the web design and the technology. This is fun for me, but staring at HTML and JavaScript code for hours really wears me out.

I'm hoping that will explain the gap between my perceived effort (PE) on today's run and my actual performance. I didn't expect to see impressive numbers when I checked my Garmin after my run, but I ended up running over a minute slower than how the run felt. It was a more challenging workout than I'd anticipated. It was also a sign that I haven't gained back as much speed as I hoped I would by now.

It was interesting to see that the Garmin data showed that my average cadence was up measurably, compared to my last few runs (174 vs. 168 SPM). So my turnover was good. Had I opened up my stride a little more, my pace time would have likely reflected my PE. It's something to think about on my next run. But I won't be thinking about it until Saturday, because Hal gives me a rest day tomorrow. Great, more time to code my site.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It's been four months and we still don't miss you

Vitamins or diet? She's on the case!
Today's run (street): 5.9 miles

Back in December, I wrote about a study that was reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine about the efficacy of multivitamins. According to their findings, taking multivitamins provided no preventative benefits related to cancer, heart disease or any other chronic illnesses. Unlike medicines such as ibuprofen that show benefits within the hour, we've all taken it on faith that multivitamins work. According to the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (Centrum vitamins) marketing department, "Multivitamins are intended to be used as part of an overall healthy lifestyle and can help fill the gaps in one’s diet to help ensure people get the recommended amount of key vitamins and minerals needed each day."

So do they actually help? Well the Emerging Runner family decided in December that those findings were a good enough reason to stop taking them. Almost four months have passed since we last took our daily doses. Besides a few days of sneezes and sniffles in February, we haven't missed them at all.

Our family eats well, with plenty of whole grains, vegetables, salads, lean meats and plant-based proteins. I'm betting that our diet provides sufficient protection. Therefore, I'm going to conclude that multivitamins are unnecessary, at least for healthy eaters. I did have a rough patch with my running this winter, but I attribute that to poor training rather than to either diet or the lack of a multivitamin.  

And those horse pills are no joy to swallow, either.
Men's Journal had an article in the March issue that restated these findings and offered other evidence that vitamin supplements don't work. I'd be curious to know how these conclusions have affected vitamin sales, or if most people continue to take them just to be safe.

This morning I had a very nice run around my surrounding neighborhoods. Now that I'm regularly exceeding five miles when I go out, I can feel a real difference in my endurance. Curiously, I started to feel a drop in energy around 30 minutes in, but within ten minutes, I felt as strong as I did at the start. This structured training seems to be working. Why did it take me six years to start following a plan?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Treadmill repeats, a little faster and a little better

Check this box  if you are tired of seeing my HR charts 
Today's run (treadmill repeats): 2.5 miles - 6 x 400 plus 1 mile warm up / cool down

My Runsketeer buddy TPP has been focusing on cutting back on her sugar and carbs. Reducing your sugar intake is a good idea (provided there are no underlying issues related to hypoglycemia). Moderating simple carbs is always smart. Most of the time we don't need that sugar, but our cave-person genetics force us to crave it. The one exception is when you are 40 minutes into a 10K and you need energy right now.

I used to use GU gels frequently on my runs, even when I ran relatively short distances. Now I rarely use energy boosters, or anything like it. I've now reached the point in my half marathon training program where I'm approaching double digit base runs. That means I'm running for 80 minutes or more at a time, long enough to (supposedly) deplete my glycogen stores. So far I've avoided using supplements during this training. I took a GU gel along on Sunday, but never felt like I needed it. Then again, despite all the hills, I really didn't push myself that hard.

I'm not Brooklyn race ready yet, but I've definitely moved the needle in terms of endurance. Running seven easy miles, as I did over the weekend, would have been a struggle four weeks ago. But I felt great on Sunday. This morning I ran another set of 6 x 400 repeats, this time on the treadmill. I prefer to do this workout on the track or at least on pavement, but it was raining fairly hard outside this morning.

Considering the challenge I had running 220's a couple of weeks ago on the treadmill (at a slightly slower pace), I can see progress. Today's quarters were run at 7.2 MPH, book-ended with half mile warm up and and cool down runs. I was very pleased to see my HR reaching 85% of max by the final seconds of each interval. I plan to take the speed up to 7.3 MPH next time I do treadmill repeats.

Tomorrow is my mid-week base run, which by my formula (80% of Sunday's long run) should total 5.6 miles. I'll try to run at least two of those miles at Half Marathon target pace, per the advice of SIOR. This will be the first "bridge" workout where I partially combine a speed and distance run. I'll be interested to see if I've restored my fitness well enough by now to manage through it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Runsketeer Sunday on the mountains of Westbury

The concrete roller coaster
Today's run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

What goes up must come down. That is an apt description of the loop I ran today at the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. SIOR, who discovered this beautifully torturous running venue, described the course as "hilly." She certainly wasn't kidding. With the exception of the short drive that connects the campus to Cedar Swamp Road, I don't think there was a level section on our route today.

SIOR was unable to join us this morning, so it was left to TPP and I to conquer this undulating beast. She wanted to run 11 miles today and I had had 7 scheduled. Our timing was almost perfect. I arrived a couple of minutes before our designated meet time and I could see TPP heading in my direction. She was probably half a mile away, but her neon yellow running jacket made her easy to spot. TPP had already run 30% of her planned distance and would cover the balance while I did my seven miles.

We headed west toward the loop running against traffic. There were a lot of cars on the route because the college was having an Open House. Fortunately there was plenty of room for the many other runners and cyclists we saw today. I followed TPP who is a very focused runner. I had to constantly occasionally remind her to get over to the left when cars were heading in our direction. Apparently her friends from the Selden Hills running club are frequently called on to do this for her during their group runs.

Elevation chart from today's run
We encountered the first of many hills soon after we'd started. We were running easy and took it on without much trouble. Every hill was followed by an equivalent drop, making it the least fun roller coaster ever. But the run was fun, because our pace allowed us to carry on a conversation most of the time. I've never been able to speak when running at my regular training pace, but I did okay today.

I had been concerned about being able to cover seven miles over what turned out to be 600 feet of elevation. We decided to walk parts of some hills, but I stopped my Garmin during those times because I wanted to make sure I recorded 7 full miles of running.

I'm looking at today's run from a couple of different perspectives. On the positive side, I had a great time running with a friend, made my targeted distance and ran a lot of hills. On the not so positive side, I probably fell short on effort, as evidenced by my heart rate that averaged only 75% of max. I think this is a signal for me to start pushing my speed a little more on my long runs. SIOR suggested running a couple of miles at targeted half marathon pace on training runs and I plan to do that during next Wednesday's run.

Raising HR should raise performance
I want to get my heart rate up to at least least 80% of max on long runs and average at least 85% on more speed-focused runs. This is a tough change for me because the harder I push, the less I enjoy the run. But I always feel great afterward.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

High winds and slow paces

 
Today's run (street): 3.1 miles

There was a point in this morning's run when I told myself, after calculating my final pace, to remember how windy it was today. I know from many track workouts how wind can restrict speed. I once ran 400's where my pace varied by over 15 seconds depending on which direction I was running. Today's run, in terms of perceived effort (PE), felt much harder than Thursday's, but I ended up running 10 secs per mile slower.

The purpose of today's run to was to maintain my targeted half marathon pace over the prescribed three mile workout. That's exactly what happened on Thursday's 3 miler, but I barely broke a 10 minute pace today. During the few times on this run, when the wind was at my back, I felt like I was moving. That made me feel good about my form. I'd like to be running the easy 3-milers at around a 9:20 pace, but I'm not there yet.

The Runsketeers are doing a long run tomorrow morning. For me it's seven miles, TPP is doing 11 and SIOR is doing 16. We're trying to coordinate our rendezvous so we can all run together. Between our different paces, start times and meeting points, it's an interesting math problem. The route we chose will be hilly (I'm told). Seven miles of that should help me make progress on my endurance, but I'm expecting to be sore by the end.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What female runners like to blog about

Image courtesy of MilesToBlog
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

In addition to my normal publishing channels and RSS, I post on a private Facebook group page called "Miles to Blog." This is a group of active bloggers who write about their training, motivation and races. The writing is uniformly good and some of these people are very funny. I've found it interesting to read what's important to this group of predominantly female runner/bloggers. Please don't take this as sexist, but I'm amused by the one subject that seems to dominate. Is this a runner thing or a gender thing? Can you guess the subject?

Moving to a different subject,  I got out today for my Hal Higdon prescribed 3 miles + strength run. The strength stuff is still pending. Does carrying the clean laundry upstairs for my wife count? I'm in the fourth week of Hal's intermediate Half Marathon training program, the first formal training program I've ever followed. I've been wondering if it's working and had an interesting experience today that answered that question.

My two challenges for the Brooklyn Half are: 1. Getting my endurance back to the level where I can cover the 13.1 mile distance and 2. Developing the stamina to sustain targeted race pace. The Higdon method involves increasingly long base runs, timed tempos, track intervals and shorter runs. Plus strength training which I'll get to at some point. The idea is to bring the base and speed training together over the 12 week schedule so that the runner is at his or her peak on race day.

I was curious to know whether, in the fourth week of this training, I had gained any speed as a result of this long/slow and short/fast run combination. I was in the second mile of today's run when I broke my rule about checking pace on my watch. My Garmin showed an abysmal pace that was disheartening because I felt like I was running much faster. I took up the effort a little, but a few more checks of the Garmin showed that I was still over 30 secs per mile slower than my target. When I checked my time and distance after the run, I saw that, overall, I'd exactly met my targeted pace.

One thing I learned was that I shouldn't assume that the Garmin is providing accurate real-time pace information. The other thing I learned was that this training is helping (although it took that scare to get me to pick up the pace). Nothing motivates like progress. I just hope it continues.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Half training is coming together but I'm running out of road

Today's run (street): 5.8 miles

Busy route
I had hoped that yesterday's speed workout would spill over to today's base run, but that didn't happen. Right now I'm experiencing a gap between speed and distance. I can do one or the other, but not both. I'm trusting that it will eventually all come together. Today I focused on getting in my miles and had another good run. Good, but not fast.

Now that I'm getting beyond my usual training distances it's becoming harder to plan longer routes in my neighborhood.  I got around those limitations on Sunday by running the same loop multiple times. I couldn't face doing that again, so I played it by ear and hit almost every road, some of them two or three times.

It wasn't a particularly stimulating route but I did see lots of Town of Oyster Bay workers fixing roads. I guess it really is spring. I also ran by a woman sitting in her car brushing her teeth and spent the rest of my run wondering what that was all about. I ended up running longer than planned, but not by much. Tomorrow's workout is 3 miles plus strength training. I may not be hitting my ideal pace on long runs yet, but I'm feeling good about my training right now.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fast times on the asphalt track

Cadence drops throughout the run 
Today's run (intervals): 1.6 miles - 6 x 420m

I was extremely unmotivated this morning and decided that this whole running thing has finally played out. I've decided to quit and take up golf instead. April Fools! Fear not, I have no plans to stop, but if racing as we know it turns into this, I will reconsider it. Running through tree pollen is tough, but it's something we deal with. Running through clouds of rainbow colored corn starch is another thing altogether.

Happily, there was no rainbow dust in sight this morning when I went outside for my Tuesday speed session. Due to the weather, I have been doing repeats on the treadmill. Today's weather was so perfect I wanted to go outside. I'd picked out a stretch of somewhat straight road and adopted it as my track. Due to a lack of USATF measurement resources, I had to rely on Gmaps to define my start and finish points. This lack of precision resulted in a little extra distance per run, but really, what's a tenth of mile across six repeats?

My "track" has one property that is different from our local high school track: elevation change. It's not a big height difference overall, but I calculated the second half to be a 3.8% grade. Not exactly what one wants at the end of an all-out run. That's why tracks are supposed to be flat. On the other hand, the grade worked in my favor when going in the other direction.

I didn't know what to expect in terms of the speed I would maintain on these intervals. Hal Higdon instructs you to run at 5K or 10K pace for this series, but I ended up running a little faster, averaging 7:56 for the set. I found that sustaining a fast pace felt easier as I moved through the repeats, although a look at the numbers showed that I slowed down a little on the last two. Cadence was highest in the first third of each repeat.

Tomorrow I'm scheduled for my 5.x miles that I will do easy. I'm pleased with today's faster workout and I'm growing optimistic that the combination of performance running and base runs will prepare me well for Brooklyn.
 

blogger templates | Webtalks