Running quote of the week

“I love track running. There’s something about that red 400-meter circle that lets my brain switch off—no roads to cross, no bikes to watch out for.” – Kate Carter

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Adventure running is where you find it

Adventure starts here
Today's run (treadmill): 26 minutes

I used to be an adventurous runner. By that I mean I didn't do 90% of my runs within two miles of my house. I'm far less adventurous nowadays, because I have far less time and fewer opportunities to try new experiences.

My job used to be located in mid-town Manhattan and that opened the door to my love of city running. At least once a week I'd run in Central Park, across the Brooklyn or GW Bridge or up and down the West Side Highway. I'd often run around cities that I would visit on business trips. I ran wooded trails whenever I could find them, and I found a lot of them. I even did a marathon relay race on Cape Cod as part of a family vacation.

My frequent running partner (Adventure Girl) introduced me to a lot of different running venues. After she moved to Montana (where she does trail running in the woods with real live bears) I was left on my own to run in the city. Although I found other running buddies, I pretty much stuck to Central Park. On weekends I'd venture out to Belmont Lake to run the Dirty Sock race course or to other local but interesting places. Now it's mostly just Stillwell Woods or the Bethpage Bike trail.

This morning I was able to fit in a short, humid treadmill run before I started my day. As I was taking out my heart rate monitor, my long dormant running headlamp fell to the floor. I picked it up and thought about my daily adventures running the streets of my neighborhood at 4:00 AM. Not an exotic locale, but in the 300 or so runs I did in the dark, I saw a lot of very interesting (and occasionally scary) things on those runs.

This past weekend, my Runsketeer buddies had a Facebook discussion about an adventure marathon that takes place in Utah, with a course that starts at 4,000 feet above sea level. Before I knew it, they were talking about flights, rental cars and accommodations. I think they are serious about doing this race. While that race is not for me, it made me think about broadening my horizons. I think I'll check the batteries in the headlamp and see where that takes me.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The weird stuff I saw on today's run

The Dark Knight visits the suburbs
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

One of the reasons that I love trail running is the ever changing scenery and the opportunity to be surprised by things I see on the route. I considered a trail run this morning, but for some reason, I chose to stay local. I'd just read in Running Times about the benefits of Long Slow Distance (not to be confused with involuntarily running slow as I often do) and decided to do a neighborhood run at a pace that would keep my heart rate between 70-75% of max.

I started out at a very easy pace - one that I felt I could hold for a long time. Running Times said that for proper LSD, you should run at a pace where you can easily carry on a conversation. I had no one to converse with, so I quietly recited the things on my to-do list and hoped no one thought I was deranged.

Even though my route was unremarkable, I did see some interesting things. About a third of the way through my distance I was coming up a road when I spotted a bright pink placard hanging from a pole that held a speed limit sign.

As I got closer, I saw that it had a graphic of a anime monkey and the word "Justice." It was odd to see what seemed like an edgy street culture message - the sort of thing that you might encounter tacked up on a light pole in the East Village. Later I looked up Justice, saw the graphic, and discovered it was actually referencing Victoria Justice, who isn't even edgy to 12 year olds.

Despite my easy pacing on this run, I began to feel fatigued. This was not the first time I'd had that experience after starting so slowly. I sped up the pace slightly and felt better. From that point I maintained a HR closer to 80% which carried me through the rest of my run.

The last part of my route took me to the westernmost part of the neighborhood. I turned a corner and did a double take when I saw what looked like the Batmobile parked on the street. I stopped the Garmin and pulled out my phone to take a picture. This car was enormous, the length of a stretch limo, which I'm guessing was its purpose. Weird.

A minute later I ran by another house that had put up early Halloween decorations in the form of malevolent-looking clowns standing in the yard. It was amusing, but I felt sorry for the people who live across the street and have to look at it for the next month.

I ended up running my last half mile at a decent pace, but overall my time was pretty slow. I did get my 5+ miles in as planned and saw some interesting things. I didn't even have to run in the woods to see something completely surprising.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Running against the clock

Home with time to spare
Today's run (street): 3.7 miles

Fall is a busy season, especially on weekends. All summer I could usually count on having enough time on Saturday mornings to get out for a five or six mile run without having to start at the crack of dawn. Lately, that's not been the case, and I did the best I could with the short time I had to run this morning.

I usually run against a distance target, but today I needed to get my run done by a certain time and live with the mileage. Instead of setting the display on my Garmin to show elapsed time, distance and mileage, I kept it on the clock. I knew that no matter where I was in the run, I needed to be back before 7:15. I was fine with this because it was nice not having my average pace flashing at me every time I looked at my watch.

I was cruising through the neighborhood, feeling liberated from the Garmin's judgement, when the watched chirped, indicating that I'd reached my first mile. I realized then that even though I didn't have the distance display up, the Garmin was keeping track. I looked at the time and saw what was left and felt pressure to accumulate some mileage before I had to be home.

I can't say that I significantly increased my speed once the Garmin announced my progress, but I did gain about ten seconds on each mile that followed. I managed to get home a minute sooner than my deadline. If I was late, Mrs. ER would not have been pleased.

Tomorrow I'll try and take advantage of having more time and get out for at least 5 miles. Fall may be busy and disruptive to my running schedule, but the weather is far more running friendly.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Great weather, great run, weird cadence

Curious cadence
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

This morning's weather was nearly perfect for a run. I needed to go out early due to today's business schedule. It was still dark when I got ready and I considered starting my run with a head lamp. I managed to stall long enough to do without it. I was out the door a little after 7:00 and ready to run.

I had a lot of trouble falling asleep last night. It was probably because I drank so much coffee that morning during breakfast. With that, I expected to be tired. Instead, I was fully energized and was able to maintain a decent pace from the beginning. I give most of the credit to the weather that kept me cool and dry. Perhaps some credit goes to all the standing I've been doing while working.

I ended up with the best performance I've seen in weeks. While I'm encouraged by this, I know it could be related to the circumstances of the day. I ended up with some puzzling data about my cadence, as Garmin reported my SPM to be less than 30% of normal. Not only that, Garmin reported my average stride at 3.15 meters (10.3 feet). Perhaps it's time for a new battery in the foot pod.

Tomorrow morning's schedule is busy and I'm left with little choice but to do another early morning neighborhood run. I'm hoping that I can finally get together with my Runska-buddies on Sunday, but it sounds like we may need to wait until next weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taking my run inside

Not quite
Today's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

I held off on my usual early week run this week because I knew I'd be off from work today. What I didn't know was how much the rain would interfere with that plan. Today was a Thursday that felt like a Saturday, so we went out for breakfast to start our day. By the time we got home it was pouring out, so my workout was relegated to the treadmill.

There's little to tell about my indoor run. The route is always the same and the only thing that ever changes is the news on MSN. Tomorrow is supposed to be a much better weather day and I plan to go out early before I start my work day. At least I'll be working from home on Friday and that provides more time and the opportunity to cover a little more distance.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Running on a "Beach Day"

The world through my glasses at the end of my run
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

If yesterday's weather was perfect for running, today's was perfectly-awful. My Garmin, which somehow seems to know these things, reported 97% humidity during this morning's run. Today's planned speed workout had to be deferred in favor of a "git it done" neighborhood grind.

When I stepped outside at 8:00 AM, I detected some slight rainfall - drizzle really - that I expected to stop. I expected this because my favorite News 12 weather woman said it would clear up and become a final day of summer beach day. I tend to believe her because she's a runner and therefore wouldn't mislead other runners. Well, it rained.

I dealt with the ever steadier rain for the first mile that looped close enough to my house that I could have just gone home and finished my run on the treadmill. By then, the rain's intensity had dissipated and the sun was poking through. Soon there was no rain, but the enveloping humidity continued the unpleasantness.

One the reasons I don't like running in rain is that it collects on my lenses and obscures my vision. Humidity has its own way of doing that by fogging the lenses from the inside, rendering the world like a Gerhard Richter painting. When I tried to clear my lenses with the bottom of my sweat drenched running shirt, it just made it worse.

As I ran, I thought about stopping and resuming later when the "beach day" weather arrived. I decided to tough it out, which was a good idea because the skies never cleared and the humidity never dropped. I had hoped that today would be the kickoff to a more focused approach to performance running.

I really want to run - and race - with my buddies (see SIOR's Cow Harbor recap and the Petite Pacer's latest post). Before I can join them at the starting line, I'll need to find another minute per mile in my race pace.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A run apart

 
Today's run (street): 4.8 miles

I didn't run the Dirty Sock this year and  was fine with that. After hearing about the great experiences (and great times) achieved by my running buddies this morning and watching all the Cow Harbor race coverage on News 12, I feel like I missed out. But after a pleasant, but non-competitively paced run this morning, I know I was right to sit it out.

My initial plan was to go to Bethpage and run there. I thought it might be quiet (in terms of runners) because a good percentage of the Long Island running world would be in Northport. Our morning plans required me to get my run done early so I stayed local to save time. I did most of my miles in the neighborhood directly south of mine just for a change of pace. Unfortunately, it didn't change my pace.

I've continued to work standing up since getting my new desk two weeks ago. I use it during the weekend, at night and when I work from home. I haven't seen any tangible performance benefits from doing this, but I have to believe it's strengthening something. With so much written about sitting being the new smoking, it's a good thing to do. I do believe that my running form has improved and my stride has felt more fluid in the past couple of weeks.

 I had the same great weather that my Cow Harbor friends enjoyed and that kept my run enjoyable. I forgot to wear my HRM so I don't know if I exceeded 80% max range but I suspect I did near the end. Interestingly, I kept most of my splits within 10 seconds of each other, with slight negatives each time. My last mile was 30 seconds better than the first four.

I may do a track workout tomorrow to force myself to deal with speed and the harder work that comes with it. I was on the right path back in March and April when I was following the Hal Higdon Half plan that included weekly speed and tempo runs. A little success may go a long way towards breaking out of my current routine of easy runs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cow Harbor regrets and race day tips

Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

I expected to feel ambivalent about skipping Cow Harbor this year but I don't. Racing used to be a big part of my running experience and I typically ran a race every month. This year I've only competed three times - a trail relay, a 5K and a half marathon. The excitement of looking at the race schedule and deciding which race to run has ended, at least for now.

Tomorrow is the Cow Harbor 10K and I know a lot of people that are running it this year. I regret not seeing them and having that shared experience, but I'm happy not to have to drive to Northport HS in the dark, take the shuttle to Laurel Ave and spend an hour trying to keep from freezing before the start. As I write this, I'm remembering the fantastic energy and excitement that pervades that event and that is prompting a little more regret.

For those I know who are running tomorrow, I wish you the best. I won't be joining you, but I'll share my tips from the times that I have run the race:

1. Find a spot inside the school to stay warm until 20 minutes before the start.

2. Resist temptation to fly down Scudder Ave's steep hill for the first mile. Save your energy for what lies directly ahead.

3. Don't underestimate Bayview Ave. It's a steady uphill section with rough and broken pavement leading to...

4. James Street which surprises first time runners who stop in the middle of the road and start walking. If you aren't careful you'll run into someone. Running around these people is like playing Frogger and expends extra energy.

5. Once you get to the top of James St. you still have an incline so you'll need to wait until you get to Ocean Ave before you can really recover.

6. Mile 4 is mostly flat and downhill. You can recover and still maintain target pace.

7. Waterside Ave seems like an endless upward slope, but it does have a couple of spots where it's nearly flat. Take advantage of water stops because if the sun is out, this is where you'll feel it the most.

8. Pumpernickel Hill is a lot shorter than James Street but it's not a trivial challenge at that late point in the race.

9. After the hill it's pretty much downhill until Main Street. This is where you can capitalize on an energy reserve (see point #2).

10. Don't be disheartened when you are on Main Street, see the finish chute, but don't seem to get any closer as you run. I think it's the longest quarter mile I've ever run.

I'm rooting for you all and a special shout out goes to buddies Aimée and Celia. Can't wait to read about your Cow Harbor experiences.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Running after a big green dot

Heads up
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

Glasses are annoying, especially when running in the rain. I've worn glasses most of my life, although I switched to contact lenses between the 1980's and early '90's. Sometimes I wish I still wore contacts. Besides the rain thing, it's a lot easier to find sunglasses. Best of all, contacts don't fall apart in the middle of a meeting like my glasses did last week.

Being 40 miles and six highways away from home when your glasses disintegrate can be a problem. I always keep an old pair in my bag but I've discovered that the prescription is different enough to provoke a headache. At least I could see well enough to drive home.

My schedule has been so tight that I haven't been able to get a replacement pair. I worked from home today so I could get out and see my optometrist. I went through the exercise of choosing new frames today, but for the time being, I'm stuck with my old pair.

I took advantage of my non-commuting day by going for an early run. I needed to get out before the rain started and I timed it perfectly. The cold air felt great and I had no trouble getting to a brisk pace. The sky was full of threatening clouds, but there was still an opening for the sun that acted like a laser beam at certain angles. When that happened, my clip-on sunglasses reflected off my glasses' lenses and created the illusion of a big green dot hovering at eye level, just out of reach.

I was amused and distracted by this optical curiosity that looked like a heads up display or some application you'd run on Google Glass. As the clouds grew and spread, my dot eventually disappeared and the sky grew darker. I spent 3/4 of the run on the sidewalk because the early middle school drop-off cars were aggressively making their way through the neighborhood.

When I reached home, I noticed the first drops of rain. That quickly increased to a downpour, but not before I was safely inside my house. I was glad to get a weekday run in today, especially when the weather was cooperating so nicely. I've adjusted to my old prescription at this point so I'm going to need to go through another transition in a week. Until then, I'll focus on catching the dot.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Underdressed and overburdened

Warmer gear was out of reach
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I could tell before I went out this morning that I'd have a difficult time, but that didn't actually happen until I was on my last mile. It's been a busy weekend and I (once again) got outside before our guests awoke. The temperature was 54° around 7:00 AM and I wanted to wear a long sleeved running shirt. Unfortunately, all my running gear was in a cabinet behind the guest room door.

Prior to the arrival of our visitors, I'd taken two sets of running clothes from the cabinet. With the relatively warm weather, I didn't anticipate the need for warmer choices. I have many long sleeve race event shirts in my bedroom, but even with a temperature in the 50's and 72% humidity, I didn't want to wear cotton. I decided to tough it out and go with short sleeves and shorts.

Stepping outside, I was reminded of the feeling I get the morning of a fall race. The temperature felt chilly, the way it often does when we line up for the start, under-layered to help manage the increasing heat later in the race. I was tempted to push hard to build some heat, but I wasn't feeling energetic enough to do that. Last night's high carb dinner failed to translate into a hoped-for glycogen payoff.

It didn't take long to get used to the cool air and I ran comfortably through the neighborhood until about the 2.5 mile mark. At that point I encountered a woman who was running north slightly ahead of my direction and I tried to stay on pace with her. After a few minutes I realized that she had an eight cylinder engine working at max capacity and I was a steam engine that was almost out of steam.

I managed to recover enough to resume my pace, but I was ready to return home short of my originally targeted distance. In a way, I lucked out by running with lighter clothing than I thought I'd need. The persistent chill likely energized me through this run.

I'm getting a little tired of under performing on my runs. I realize that I have to put some hard work into my training to get to prior performance levels. I can't face intervals, fartleks and hard tempos these days. I'm hoping that the increasingly cooler weather will motivate me to do those things.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lots of company on a neighborhood run

The neighborhood gang
Today's run (street): 5.3 miles

My schedule this week threw off my options for weekday morning runs. I've committed to running at least once during the week, plus on Friday mornings when I generally work from home. Yesterday required a trip into the office, so I missed that running opportunity. The only workout I've done since last Sunday was Thursday's 20 minute treadmill run that I did at a 4% grade.

I got home early on Friday and considered doing a run. We were expecting guests later in the afternoon so I decided not to do that. I didn't want to get sweaty and have to shower so close to when people were arriving. We had a nice evening that included my wife's college friend who she hadn't seen for almost 20 years.

This morning I got out early, happy to see that the rain would hold off until the afternoon. The temperature was in the low 60's and the heavy cloud cover blocked direct sun. These conditions brought out a lot of people, including dog walkers, run-walkers, walker walkers and runners. I saw the same woman in pink four different times along my route. It seemed as if she was running my exact route from the opposite direction.

I was pleased with the feel of my run. As usual, I started easy and picked up speed after a couple of miles. I'd planned to run between 3-4 miles so I'd be back before our weekend guests got up, but I felt so good I decided to run five-plus.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a better day weather-wise, and I'm looking forward to another early run. We have a big family event happening tonight so I'll have plenty of carbs to fuel my morning workout.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Do you have running amnesia?

Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

I think about many things when I run, but I rarely remember the details once I've finished. I've heard the same from others, that thoughts while running evaporate soon after a run is completed. It may be due to the fact that we aren't paying attention to our thoughts when we run. It's similar to dreaming. When we dream we're actually experiencing a situation, not creating a memory.

Today was no different and the only things I remember clearly were those situations where my attention was disrupted. I was really looking forward to getting out today after seeing the weather report that said the temperature was in the sixties and humidity was way down. I started my run a little after 7:00 AM when the sun was still low in the sky. That created a blinding glare when facing east and I was careful to pay attention to the possibility of cars whenever I turned in that direction.

I had a few surprises. The first was when I reached the top of a street and saw an unleashed dog coming out of the bushes and heading directly at me. People in my neighborhood are generally good about keeping their dogs leashed, so I was a little alarmed when this happened. The dog was not dangerous - just curious - and its owner soon appeared, saying something like, "He's friendly." I just looked at her and moved on.

Soon after that, I turned left onto a road where my vision was suddenly obscured by the brightly shining sun. It was like a thousand lumin spotlight and I couldn't see a thing. Due to that, I missed a large sprinkler run-off puddle that was directly in front of me and my left shoe got completely immersed. That meant I'd have to do the rest of my run with a soaked foot.

Besides those two experiences, I don't remember much more about the workout and that's fine. If I ever think of something important on a run, I'm sure it will be memorable. I ended up covering just short of 20 miles this week - something I haven't done since April. I seems that my running/working balance is improving.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bethpage running, followed by an assembly

Avoided the hills on the north service road.
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 5.15 miles

I went out to Bethpage this morning for a change of scenery and a little elevation. Except for a few streets with noticeable inclines, my neighborhood roads are mostly flat. I don't like running up hills and - despite what some friends have told me - I will never learn to like them. But I recognize that hills exist, so with regular training my hill-bilities may improve.

I don't actually go to Bethpage State Park anymore to start my bike trail runs. I didn't purchase an Empire Passport this year and that means I'm subject to the $8 entrance fee every time I go there. I know the money helps pay for the upkeep of the park, but I give back in other ways. Besides, If I park along the trail further north, I'll avoid the need to run up a big hill.

I knew it would be humid today, but I was not prepared for what I encountered on the trail. My Garmin data said humidity was 94% at the time that I ran. I had my wife's car today, and did my best to protect the interior from my saturated clothes (I have sweat-proof liners that fit over the seat). However, I forgot about the seat belt. My wife went out for an errand after I'd returned home and was horrified when she put on the still-soaked belt. No one should have to experience that.

My run was pleasant and straightforward. Although the humidity was high, the clouds shielded me from direct sunlight and the temperature remained a reasonable 75°. I dealt with the hills and did better on them than I'd expected. Did my five hours standing as I worked yesterday help there? I doubt that's the reason, but it didn't seem to hurt my performance.

Owing to the humid conditions, I limited today's distance to 5 miles. When I got home I took on the task of assembling my stand up desk and I'm using it now to write this post. With all the standing I did yesterday, the humid and hilly run this morning, and the hour or so of aggravation that comes from assembling an item of furniture from Target, my legs feel remarkably good.

I'm excited about the possibility that standing while working on my laptop could yield some running benefits. It's too soon to tell, but I think it might.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Trying to be a stand-up guy

I'll soon be making a stand
Today's run (street): 4.1 miles
Tuesday's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles

My neighborhood is a great place to run most of the time, but at 7:30 AM on a weekday, it should be avoided at all costs. I sort of knew that, but I didn't really have a choice. I work from home on Fridays and that gives me time to fit in a run before I start my day. If I'd tried a little harder, I could have got out at 6:00 and avoided the chaos. I'll have to remember that next week.

7:30 AM is the witching hour for my neighborhood, when school buses are rolling, recycling trucks weave from side to side across the road, landscaping trucks create narrow passageways and sprinkler systems soak runners who take to the sidewalk to avoid all these hazards. I ran cautiously and got sprayed a couple of times.

It was very humid this morning which set the tone for my run. I thought I'd only go out for three miles today, but I started feeling more comfortable as I ran. I added another mile by taking a few more roads and would have done more if I hadn't run out of time.

I spent the day standing at the kitchen island while working on my laptop. There's been a lot of articles written about the hazards of sitting and I tend to do that when I work from home. My office is located in a big wide building with weird architectural features (it used to be a copier factory). There's a long ramp that is used as the main route between floors and steep staircases with 18 steps. I go from one end of the building to the other, multiple times a day. That minimizes sitting time during the week.

Today I received the stand up desk that I ordered for my home office. I'll put it together over the weekend and use it when I work from home on Fridays. After about five hours on my feet today, I felt fatigued. I guess that means it's doing some good. I'll be curious to see if this helps build up my glutes. If so, it could improve my running performance. I can only hope.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Laboring through another humid run


Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

It's been years since Labor Day weekend signaled a return to classes for me, but ever since my kids reached school age the holiday invokes some anxiousness. My kids have had a great summer and they're prepared for tomorrow. They're excited to see their friends, but not for the sudden return to early mornings, long school days and evenings full of homework. This is the last weekend before we close the pool and that always makes me a little sad. But the kids have enjoyed every minute of the day.

September 1st is still summer and the humidity is abundant (94% today). I got out this morning and did a short, flat run around the neighborhood. After yesterday's similar weather, I had no performance expectations on the run. I kept to shadier roads and appreciated the slight breeze that came from the north. Though still slow, I ended up running half a minute per mile faster than yesterday.

I've run every day since Friday, totaling almost 18 miles. No special venues or social running this weekend -- I stayed local but mixed up my regular routes to keep it interesting. I'll likely rest tomorrow and do a treadmill run on Wednesday. Tomorrow is just another work day, but I'm feeling the back to school vibe. I'm hoping everyone has a great day tomorrow.
 

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