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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Runsketeers induct a new member

The Run Crew: ER, KWL, TPP, NIMC, SIOR
Today's run (track): 3.25 miles

Today was a Runsketeer reunion run that coincided with TPP and her sister NIMC racing Rob's Run, a 5K trail race that takes place at Stillwell Woods. SIOR was considering racing, but she was dealing with a head and chest cold. She decided instead to run with me and KWL across the street at the high school track.

KWL, SIOR and I met up at the tennis courts on Southwoods Road and did a warm-up jog to the track. Warm-up was the operative phrase because, according to Garmin Connect, the "feels-like" temperature was a chilly 34°. I'd brought a fleece vest to stay warm before my run and ended up wearing it the whole time. We reached the track and ran a few laps together before spotting TPP and her sister heading our way. It was the first time we'd met NIMC who was instantly inducted into the mighty Runsketeers.

NIMC lives in Minnesota and came to LI to spend Thanksgiving with family. She's a very active person, an accomplished runner and frequent racer. It's clear that speed runs in the TPP family. The two racers made their way back to Stillwell and the non-racers continued to circle the track. I decided to run clockwise after a while, because I do so much of my running on the left side of the street and I thought that might counterbalance it. I also did it because it gave me an opportunity to communicate with KWL and SIOR at least once a lap.

I ended up covering 12 laps, plus an additional .25 miles at the beginning. We then headed over to Stillwell to meet up with TPP and NIMC and watch them start the race. It was freezing and I could tell that TPP was anxious to get moving. I tried to manage her expectations that the huge crowd of runners (600 estimated), combined with narrow single track, would produce a slower time than a typical 5K run on pavement. Turns out I was wrong. NIMC PR'd and TPP ran sub-9:00 pace.

Rob's Run start
SIOR, KWL and I headed to Starbucks after the racers took off. We managed to find a place to sit despite it being somewhat crowded. Soon after, TPP and NIMC joined us, looking like they'd barely broken a sweat. We had lots of discussions about running form, destination marathons and running at high elevations. SIOR wants to do the Maine Coast Marathon in Kennebunkport, KWL and his wife are going to run London and Berlin, and NIMC wants to run Athens. TPP and I are not hopping on the marathon train.

Selfie courtesy of  magnetic theory (and TPP)
Perhaps the funniest moment of the morning was at the end, when we were getting ready to go our separate ways. TPP was leaning her iPhone on the ridge of a column outside Starbucks to do a timed group shot. The column turned out to be metal and TPP has a magnetic gadget on the back of her phone for a car mount. That made it possible to stick the iPhone right on the column at the perfect height for a perfect selfie. That's our TPP!

It was great seeing my buddies and meeting TPP's sister today. Thanks to working at home on Wednesday, I was able to string together an elliptical session and four runs. SIOR has organized her army of friends to do a running streak (at least one mile a day) from Thanksgiving to New Year. So far, I'm on track, but unfortunately my streak will end tomorrow. I do hope to do at least four workouts per week whenever possible. That should count for something.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pre-run generator attack

Now I have two reasons to hate this thing
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

It's never a good sign when you get injured before you even run. That was the case this morning when I was preparing to go out for a few miles. I stepped outside and turned on my Garmin to get a GPS signal before walking to the end of my driveway to get the empty recycling bin. As I put the bin back in the garage, I caught the edge of my reviled generator, opening up a 1" gash on my knee.

The wound looked serious and I ran inside to dress it. After dousing it with rubbing alcohol and Calahist lotion, I put on a large bandage and secured it with surgical tape. My wife had just finished her treadmill run when I came upstairs to get the tape. She saw my bandaged knee and said, "Did you trip again?" I explained that it wasn't running related and headed out the door.

The temperature was mild and the sky was overcast, nice conditions for this time of year. I wasn't motivated to do a long run today, so I did a variation of my regular route. I had initially thought about heading to the high school to run the track, but I didn't want to deal with people clogging up the lanes. Happily, my neighborhood streets were quiet and I only saw a couple of walkers and one cyclist.

My knee held up fine and I ended up with my third run this week, along with Wednesday's elliptical session. While they were all under four miles, there's something to be said for frequency. Later in the afternoon, my son and I did a long walk around the neighborhood. By then the weather had turned rainy, but we wore our hooded running raincoats and stayed dry and comfortable.

We wrapped up our walk by cutting through the middle school and came upon the scene of an accident. A minivan must have hopped the curb and taken out a street light. I don't think anyone got hurt (just a bored looking cop, tow truck and no ambulance) but it was a weird thing to encounter. Tomorrow is the last day of Thanksgiving break. If I feel up to it, I'll put in some longer distance.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stillwell Woods: good running and bad parking

Standing in the Field of Dreams
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.3 miles

I had a tight morning schedule but I really wanted to run the trails this morning. As soon as I was able to break free, I headed over to Stillwell Woods hoping that everyone was out Black Friday shopping and I'd have the place all to myself. When I arrived I saw that some cars were parked near the trail head. It wasn't crowded, but there were two SUVs whose owners had randomly parked sideways, taking up seven spaces between them. Obnoxious.

Nice parking buddy
 I'd dressed for cool weather and wore my Zensah calf sleeves although it turned out to be mild. Still, I appreciated the compression on some of the steeper sections. I said hello to a few mountain bikers who were getting their bikes ready for their rides and then slipped into the woods.

The temperature was in the low 50's but the single track was relatively firm except for a few places that had direct sunlight. In those places, the dirt was rutted with tire tracks and I carefully ran along the edges to prevent a slip in the mud. I followed the path along my regular loop and crossed paths a few times with groups of runners from the local high school.

I kept it relatively short and enjoyed the change of pace from running on hard pavement. I finished with a loop around the "Field of Dreams", a large open area that sits west of the woods. Although I didn't cover much distance, I still felt pounded by the terrain. Stillwell's trails can be tough on the legs.

Shortly after I returned to my car, the owner of one of the carelessly parked SUVs rode up after finishing his ride. I stared at him, watching him struggle to get out of his now-tight spot between me and another car that was parked closely on the other side of him. I'm sure he wished I'd back out to make it easier for him, but I wanted to teach him a lesson.

Once I got ready to leave, I noticed this sign was posted in front of me. SIOR and TPP will be at Stillwell on Sunday for Rob's Run, a 5K cross country race that is staged there every year. 700 participants battling along the same narrow path is a bit too tight for me. I raced the Xterra Run at Stillwell about five years ago. With only about 90 runners, that seemed like Stillwell Woodstock.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey day run before the turkey

Time to ring the dinner bell
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

My Thanksgiving day run is done, but there's no turkey trotting for me this year. Hooray for Runsketeer buddy TPP who had a 5K PR this morning in Oyster Bay. Had she finished ten seconds earlier, she would have averaged sub-8:00. TPP just keeps getting faster and I'm at the point where I'm happy that I'm not getting any slower.

I have day confusion due to the mid-week holiday and keep thinking it's Saturday. I worked from home yesterday and kept confusing it with Friday. But it isn't and it wasn't and I'm happy to have a nice string of days off where I'll get some workouts done. Yesterday was a busy morning at the office and that required me to participate in a few Google Hangout meetings. I sneaked in an early elliptical session to kick off my week's activity.

Despite the fact that today will be a major meal, we went out for a get-together dinner last night. It was really great, but social rules forced us to all order dessert. I felt like a stuffed turkey by the end and decided that I'd skip dessert today. Ya, right. There's homemade bread pudding, pecan pie and turkey cupcakes (happily not made out of turkey) in the refrigerator. Those are just the treats I know about.

In the spirit of burning calories, I went out this morning in fairly chilly (39°) weather. I'm not the biggest fan of running in my neighborhood, but it's a very civilized experience on holidays. No aggressive drivers dropping off their kids, road-hogging school buses, landscaper rigs or sanitation trucks forcing me onto the sidewalk. Just the quiet of a late fall day.

According to my Garmin data, my first mile and last half mile were my fastest this morning, even though I'm still plodding along for the most part. Despite that, my run seemed shorter than the distance I'd covered and I was thankful for the hot shower that followed.

Dinner will be served soon and I was excited to see what my wife and daughter cooked up for today's feast. I would have helped them, but there's a perception that I tend to get in the way. Besides that, I have to entertain. A lot of people are out of town this year, so our guest list is fairly moderate and I'm glad for that. You could even say thankful.

Tomorrow is Black Friday but I will avoid the stores and take advantage of another (hopefully) quiet morning. I keep thinking about the trails and may go out early to Stillwell or Bethpage. Happy Thanksgiving to all and good luck to all you turkey trotters and streakers (I mean you SIOR). I'd write more, but dinner awaits.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A run through the park and a stop at the Depot

Getting around
Today's run (street): 4.6 miles

I was feeling a lot better today and went out early to cover a little more distance than yesterday. I wasn't ready to take on seven miles, like I did last week, but I planned to break out of the confines of my neighborhood. After a loop around the local streets, I crossed through the middle school and made my way toward the adjacent business park.

I did my usual clockwise loop around the park and double-backed at the end to gain an extra half mile. I added more distance along a stretch that runs west of neighborhood #3 and finished up with a dash down the middle school parking lot. I haven't looked at the Garmin data to see how I paced, but I did throw in some fartleks throughout the run.

Later in the day I went out to take care of some errands and stopped into the Home Depot to buy a couple of small items. While I was there I became mesmerized by rack after rack of tools and I remembered that I needed a large pair of tongue and groove pliers. I felt extremely macho evaluating the selection and decided on a rugged Crescent 12" unit that I took home and fixed something on my to-do list.

I'll take the one in the middle
So, despite a bad start to the weekend, I managed a decent run today. And I got to play with a big wrench.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pumpkin bread day run

Aromatherapy
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 2.25 miles

Once again the Emerging Runner household is enveloped with the aroma of baking pumpkin bread. Every year, since our kids were in kindergarten, my wife has set up a bakery to produce dozens of her (now) famous breads that she gives to family, teachers and friends. It's a sure sign that Thanksgiving is near when I see her and my daughter in the kitchen organizing the mixing bowls and ingredients.

I'm looking forward to having some later, even though I've felt ill since yesterday morning, I had a tough work week that continued through Friday. I worked from home yesterday and had an early meeting via Google Hangout. I was feeling pretty low and considered skipping my workout. My wife said the weather was perfect and that I should go out for a short run. So that's what I did.

It was warm enough to run in short sleeves and shorts and I did a couple of loops that totaled 2 1/4 miles. My minimum run distance is three miles, but I made an exception yesterday to accommodate my schedule and condition. Even though I only covered 70% of my typical Friday distance, it felt like a full workout.

This morning I still felt sick, but ignored that and prepared to run. It was more than a head cold and I considered the "neck up run, neck down rest" rule, This was not going to be a long run either, so I figured I was safe. A quick check of the weather prompted me to go with long sleeves and shorts. That was a good idea, as the 9 MPH winds made the temperature feel like high 30's.

I felt good throughout most of my run, but near the end I felt tired. I took a recovery nap after showering and that helped me rebound well enough to socialize with some visitors in the afternoon. I'm still feeling fatigued and wondering whether I'll be up for my Sunday long run. I'll play it by ear and see how I feel in the morning. I'm sure a little pumpkin bread will help.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Personal distance best at Bethpage

Hardly sweating after seven
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 7.1 miles

I was determined to make progress against my distance goals this morning and set my sights on the Bethpage trail. I targeted seven miles to make this my longest run this year. The chilly, high 30's temperature compelled me to pull my Opedix Knee-Tecs out of storage as well as a mid-weight quarter zip. All geared up, I headed out early because I knew it would take a while to get through this run.

I didn't bother to drive to the park because last week they were still charging to use the lot. I went to our regular rendezvous spot and immediately took off south. I do most of my Bethpage runs north of Haypath Road, but lately I've been missing the old trail. I took off south and quickly got past the short, steep hill that greets runners about a third of a mile into that route.

This morning I read an article in Runners World that encouraged hill-haters to embrace them for their conditioning benefits. I tried to keep an open mind as I encountered one hill after another. The Bethpage bikeway is rolling, with a few challenging hills and a lot of elevation changes. Sometimes these lesser hills seem like bumps and other times they seem mountainous. It may have been the mindset I got from the article, but none seemed that bad today.

Record breaker
My longest run in 2015 had been about 6.4 miles, so my plan was to turn around after 3.5 to guarantee my seven. Since I went out early, I had the path pretty much to myself. I appreciated the sights, sounds and maple-y smells of the late fall morning. The few who were out on their runs were friendly, although there were two teams of three cyclists who didn't quite get the concept of sharing the path. One of them passed me pretty closely and almost got the concept of my sharp elbow.

Despite my layers, I remained fairly comfortable as the temperature rose to low 40's. It struck me that today's run felt no more taxing than yesterday's, even though that was less than half the distance. With four workouts this week and my personal best for distance, I'll consider this a good week of running.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A good way to use a run

Je suis pissed
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

Were this was a political blog, I would be writing a few hundred words about how disgusted I am that a group of cowards killed a bunch of people in Paris last night. But this is a running blog, so I'll keep it related to that.

I worked from home on Friday and had an early call, so I opted for an elliptical session to save time. I set the resistance higher than usual and really felt the effect of the workout by the time I finished. Another reason I'd stayed inside on Friday was the very high winds that made outdoor running unappealing. I was glad to see that conditions were milder when I got up this morning and looked forward to getting out.

After a couple of cups of coffee and and an hour watching the news, I felt deflated and unmotivated to run. It's been almost 15 years since 9/11, but I felt the same way I did after all that happened. I got my act in gear just before noon and went outside. The winds had picked up, so I dressed as if it was 10 degrees colder. That turned out to be a good choice because I remained comfortable through the entire run.

Running is therapeutic and I appreciated how it distracted me from the news. I followed my usual Friday route (although it's Saturday) and, despite dealing with some wind resistance, I got through my miles fairly quickly. The post-run lift put me back on track, and that has carried me through the day. I really hope to get out early tomorrow so I have time to cover a lot more miles, although the today's three were really appreciated.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Be the first on your block to have a running Interocitor

L to R: Alien, Tom Servo, Mike, Crow, Interocitor
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

Black Friday will soon be here, and it's time for the barrage of holiday catalogs to land in our mailbox. I ignore most of them because I don't really care about kitchen tools, home furnishings or women's sportswear. However, I came upon something called Hammacher Schlemmer, America's longest running catalog. This is not a running catalog, but rather a social experiment to see if people will pay $129 for a cotton bathrobe just because it's described as "Turkish."

As I read through the pages, I became increasingly appalled by these products that looked like Dollar Store rejects marked up 5,000 percent. That is, until I reached page 41 that featured the "Exotic Virtual Adventure Run." This item looks like the Interocitor from "This Island Earth" (a film famously mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000) attached to a treadmill. The description states that the system will provide a "virtual adventure in some of the world's most exotic locales."

Operators are standing by
The treadmill in the picture was a Matrix, so I wasn't shocked to see the $8,000 price. I was surprised to see that this silly looking product does not even include the treadmill. Assuming you have an iPad, that money would buy 2,000 different runs (assuming that many are available) for the Outside Active Virtual Runner app. This catalog also offers a $25 cheap looking plastic tire gauge with "digital readout" and an incredibly spindly looking Elipti-Go knockoff for $999.95.

I had no special gadgets on this morning's run, unless you count my Garmin. I went with short sleeve shirt under long sleeves along with running shorts, because the local news station was showing 50° in the lower right corner. I was afraid I'd overdressed, but once I stepped outside and felt the 14 MPH wind, I was grateful for the extra layer. It wasn't raining, but there was a lot of mist in the air, making for a cold and gloomy experience.

Today's run was a bonus for me, made possible by the Veteran's Day holiday. Due to the miserable conditions, I decided to cap my run at around 3 miles. I was glad to get in the workout and happy when I finished. I suppose I could have accomplished the same thing in the comfort of my own home, had I purchased the Exotic Virtual Adventure Run.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rolling along at Bethpage on a perfect fall day

Pretty, hilly 
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 6.1 miles

I've been thinking about my running this year. Even though I haven't competed in a race since last December. I'm not missing racing. However, I do miss the discipline that comes with race training. As a result, my longest run this year has measured only 6.5 miles. When I was training for 10Ks and half marathons, my typical Sunday run would extend seven or more miles and go as long as 12. I'm not ready to commit to a half, but if I train like I'm going to run one, I may feel differently.

SIOR suggested a program called "Run Less, Run Faster" that is geared to people like me who have limited time to train during the week. I'm going to look into that plan, but I suspect it will expect me to run lots of intervals and hills. I did run some hills today and did fine with them. Intervals are okay, but I only enjoy them once I've finished.

My goal is to exceed my personal distance best (13.1 miles) that I've done on my half marathons. Technically, I would beat my personal best by running 13.11 miles, but my target is 14. People who run marathons may look at 14 miles merely as a stop along the way to 26.2. But every time I've finished a Half, I know I wouldn't have been able to run that additional tenth of a mile.

I kicked off my long distance training this morning at Bethpage with a 6 mile run along the bike trail. I naively drove to the park thinking that they were no longer charging admission to the lot. I don't begrudge the fee, but I didn't have any cash so I turned around. My friend who mans the booth would probably have let me in, especially since I wasn't with his sworn enemy SIOR.

I ended up parking on Runsketeer Road and ran south on the trail. I turned around at the point where the bike trail intersects with the main driveway into the park. I had already taken on the short but steep hill south of Haypath and was soon running up the big hill in the park. The crisp fall air, bright foliage and crunchy leaves on the trail made the climb tolerable. The bike trail is rolling, but that hill was the biggest challenge of the run.

I'd targeted 6 miles today, but I could have gone on a lot longer. I decided to stick with the plan and noted my distance as I passed my starting point. I did the math to determine how much farther I'd need to run before turning back. I ended up covering a little more than six miles.

If my schedule cooperates, I'll go for seven miles next weekend. Perhaps the Runsketeers will join me and show me how it's done.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Why we spend $100 for running shoes

Run away!
Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

My new reality is long busy work days. I'm not complaining (well maybe a little) but my work schedule did take a bite out of my running this week. I made it into the city on Thursday for an industry meeting and saw my buddy and fellow Runsketeer, KWL, who ran the NYC marathon last weekend. I probably covered 20K steps that day, so at least I burned some calories.

We had to go out east this morning, which required me to get out early for my first run of the week. Even though it's early November, the temperature felt more like late September and the cloudy skies helped keep things cool. I had no particular route in mind when I took off and ended up circumnavigating the middle school before heading to the north end of my neighborhood. There was a little humidity, but otherwise conditions were fall-perfect.

We spent much of the day in eastern Long Island and we stopped at Target before we headed home. While my wife and kids looked for stuff on their lists, I ambled over to the men's section that has the Champion C9 line of athletic clothes. They had some nice, lightweight vests that would be perfect with a long sleeve running shirt on a 30° morning, but the price was higher than I was prepared to pay.

Out of curiosity, I looked in the shoe section, where they sell C9 running shoes for $29.99. Most of the big running shoe brands have entry level models that Dick's and Sports Authority sell for $50-$60. These shoes may not have the advanced technologies and features of their flagship models, but they generally provide a decent fit and feel. I decided to try on a pair of the C9 Drives to experience the difference between them and the ASICS Kayano 20s I was wearing.

Drive this off a cliff
The C9 shoes did not seem junky and I wondered what they'd feel like on my foot. After realizing they ran a half size bigger than most of the shoes in my collection, I found a smaller pair and tried them on. My first impression of the Drives was that they had almost no cushioning. That isn't a show stopper for me, because I like a minimal shoe. But when I stood up and took a few steps, I realized why I typically spend $100 or more for Sauconys, ASICS or Brooks.

The lack of cushioning and a poorly constructed mid-sole resulted in a lumpy, uncomfortable foot bed. I suddenly understood the difference between quality brands and cheap $29.99 knockoffs. I've been fortunate to either receive shoes for testing from the manufacturers, or find great discounted running shoes at places like SA Elite or Famous Footwear. Believe me, paying $60 for a pair of $100 running shoes is a much better deal than paying $30 for "bargain" trainers.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Marathon day but not a marathon run

I ran 1/6th of this distance today 
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

After yesterday's horrible run I was a little gun shy about going out again this morning. Daylight Savings Time allowed me to sleep until 6:30 AM and still get up at 5:30 and I was hoping the extra rest would help. I think it did. I told my wife that I was worried about having another bad running experience but she dismissed the thought, saying every run is different. I managed to get out of the house early and my Garmin quickly acquired its signal. I wasted no more time thinking about how I'd feel once I got going.

I usually think out my route and distance before I run. Today I took off in a random direction thinking I'd figure it out as I went. I soon determined that yesterday's struggles wouldn't carry over to today and I focused on getting through the run as quickly as possible. I was anxious to get home so I could watch the NYC marathon coverage on TV and track a number of friends who were running.

I felt much better today and it was enough to improve my overall pace by 42 seconds per mile. There was a pronounced wind that both helped and hurt depending on which direction I was going. The temperature was 59° but I began to feel the heat due to the 72% humidity. I'd paid no attention to my time or distance and thought I'd only gone about 3.5 miles when I got back to my house. I was surprised to see that I'd run more than 4 miles.

It was fun to watch the the coverage of the elite runners when I got back. I had a half dozen people that I wanted to track and I was excited to find that FS was also running when I looked her up. I enjoyed being able to follow people's progress by laptop and wished that the network spent more time covering non-elite participants.

Watching the marathon was fun and I keep waiting for the racing bug to return for me. For now I'm happy to run on my own terms. I'm more interested in training to beat my PB for distance in a single run (13.1 miles) and I plan to start on that next weekend. Once I get my base up, I might be looking at 10Ks a little differently.
 

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