Running quote of the week

“It’s an honor to hit the wall… If you hit the wall you know you gave it everything.” – Lauren Fleshman

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Emerging Runner: A look back at 2015 - Part 1

Today's run (street): 3.25 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes
Monday's run (street): 3.4 miles

As the year comes to a close, I thought I would take a look back at my 2015 running year. Okay, it was really SIOR's suggestion. She's doing one as well. For the record, when we are both writing about the same thing, my version is the correct one.

2015 - A look back from January to June

Hangover course
The year begins with the 2015 LIRRC Hangover Run, a timed "fun run" with a suggested length of five miles.  Me, TPP, SIOR and her daughter, SIOR Jr met up in Eisenhower Park before the run and shivered until the 9:30 start. We circled the one-mile course five times and then regrouped at the start/finish line. I was dealing with a herniated disc which slowed me down a bit. That problem got worse before it got better, leading to a week of non-running in the middle of January and a few other non-running periods in the months to come.

Sole F63, kicked to the curb
It snowed a lot in January, leaving me no choice but to use the treadmill. That was until the treadmill finally stopped working in early February. I recorded its final moments for posterity but the Sole F63 wasn't finished torturing us, gouging holes in the wall as it was carried away by the installers of our new machine.

This was not real fun
I loved our new treadmill so much I managed to aggravate my then-undiagnosed injury to the point that I needed to switch to elliptical workouts for the next 23 days. I saw an orthopedist who put me through x-rays and an MRI and determined that my problem was, in fact, a herniated disc. I ellipticaled a lot over the next few weeks.

Reunited with the 'sketeers
After some bad winter weather and abstaining from running most of February, the Runsketeers got together for a Bethpage run in April. It was a tough run for me due to the disc related pain, but hanging with my buddies more than made up for it. SIOR gave me a SPIbelt as a birthday present. That was very sweet of her. I use it on every run.

We did most of the testing in space
While I continued to recover, I shifted from running to running-like workouts and was part of a panel at Consumer Reports that tested and evaluated "Alternative Cardio Running Machines." These units seemed like weirdly mutated, expensive (one unit was priced more than $10K) elliptical machines. The timing of this testing was perfect. I got to do all my workouts during office hours and benefited from the no-impact "running" motion. I also got a stand-up desk for my office that I like so much I haven't used my chair in months.

Love this thing
Me, TPP & SIOR after all the unpleasantness
Mid-May was the time for our next Runsketeer outing, again at Bethpage. I ran far better than when we got together in April, but I was still hurting from my disc problem. SIOR may have been off her meds during the May run, because she was hallucinating friends on the Bethpage trail and later started a fight at Starbucks. That may be a slight exaggeration of what actually happened.

Dogsled route
June was a hot and humid month and I mostly kept to local roads. In order to fight the tedium of neighborhood running, I switched up my routes and discovered that some of the GPS maps looked like pictures. Around the same time, TPP was starting to run some routes in her neighborhood that resembled bunny rabbits. I wanted to do a run that spelled out a word but I never got around to it.

That's it for the first half of 2015. I'll post second half highlights soon!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Running and workout at Hotel d'Emerging

"Feels like" 52° only in one direction
Today's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes
Yesterday's run (street): 3.3 miles

This weekend I bookended a couple of workouts around a family visit. Yesterday morning I got out before our guests arrived and covered 3.3 miles in the time I had to run. It actually worked out to 3.333 miles according to Gmaps. So basically I ran 1/3 of ten miles. It sounds better when I say it that way. In that spirit, I paced 1.333% more than an 8 minute mile. That sounds much better.

My Boxing Day run was even quieter than my Christmas run. I'd expected the neighborhood to be overrun by people heading out to the stores to return gifts and shop for bargains, but I guess they all decided to sleep in on Saturday. No complaints here. I assumed the 52° temperature meant mild conditions and I wore short sleeves and shorts. That worked great when I was heading south and west, but running in any other direction was darn chilly.

We took our guests to the Orient, a local place that the New York Times calls the best Chinese restaurant on Long Island. If you live on Long Island you should go there. When you do, say hello because I'll probably be there. Holiday visits are usually about food and there was plenty to be had, along with some great conversation.

Once we bid our visitors adieu, I considered a run. The weather couldn't decide if it was going to rain, so I elected to stay inside. Since I've done some form of workout every day since last Tuesday, I thought I'd take it down a notch and do an elliptical session.

I know people who think that the elliptical is harder and/or more boring than the treadmill. Not me. Even when I set the resistance to high, I actually find the workout relaxing. That's probably because (unlike the treadmill) the elliptical is quiet and it's not likely to act like a giant body sander if I slip.

I've really enjoyed being out of the office this past week and I'm looking forward to another week of vacation. I'm hoping to maintain my workout streak all next week, into the new year. I'm going to try to get to Bethpage one morning and perhaps run Stillwell another day. The more I run, the more I want to run.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Non-traditional Christmas day run

Wacky weather: roses on Christmas day
Today's run (street): 3.75 miles

Nothing says Christmas like 94% humidity on top of 57° weather. That's okay, at least it was dry and clear for my morning run. As expected, there were few cars on the road when I went out. I only saw one other runner and a few people out walking.

As I made my way around, I saw people packing cars with gifts or arriving at houses to drop them off. I could hear people's voices and Christmas music coming from homes as I passed them by. The warm weather didn't match the holiday, but everything else felt like Christmas. I pretty much floated through my run and was disappointed with my overall pace. This run was really more about the experience than performance, so I didn't let it bother me too much.

Before the stir
Since we don't follow Christmas traditions, like having a big family meal with turkey, ham or fish, we went a different way. My daughter and I made tofu stir-fry which is more modern vegetarian than old testament traditional. It was a big hit and we finished with homemade frozen banana sorbet with chocolate truffle sauce. Time to start watching calories again.

I'm not exactly streaking, but I have strung four nice workouts in a row and I plan to continue that through New Year's, if possible. We have guests coming to stay this weekend and I'm hoping I can get in my runs without disrupting our plans. I just need to get out and back before everyone wakes up because I'm the only one who knows how to use the coffee machine.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A little tradition and a lot of food

All I want for Christmas is a towel
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

'Tis the day before Christmas, one of my favorite days of the year. Office worries are set aside as people look forward to a few days of fun and family. Although the holiday falls on Friday, we celebrated today, with a special lunch and our annual viewing of the movie Elf. Christmas isn't a religious holiday for us, but we love it all the same. There's still more to come with dinner, however, I'm not sure I'll be ready for another meal until tomorrow's breakfast.

I'm not due to return to the office until January 4th. That seems like a long time from now, but I know it will go by quickly. It's only Thursday, but I've managed to get in three workouts already this week. I was on the fence about my run this morning, thinking I'd keep it to just a couple of miles. I know I'll have plenty of opportunities to run during my break. I ended up covering more distance than I planned because it felt easy. The weather (61° and cloudy) would have been perfect for running but the humidity bordered on oppressive. That's something I've rarely experienced on December 24th.

I'll get out for an early run tomorrow morning. It's a tradition I started in 2008 and I always look forward to it. My neighborhood is usually so quiet that I cover my entire route without seeing a car. My other Christmas day tradition is to remind people I encounter on my run to be careful if I see them walking with their back to traffic. That didn't turn out so well last year so I may give into the scrooges this year. In the meantime, I wish my friends, family and awesome Runsketeer buddies SIOR, TPP and KWL a wonderful holiday tomorrow. I hope Santa brings you great running in 2016.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A run in the brume

Can you see the oncoming bus?
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

As the song goes, it's the most wonderful time of the year. In terms of working, it really is. I worked from home both yesterday and today and my office will be shut down on Thursday and Friday, I'm also taking next week off. All that time translates into more time for running. This week got off to a good start with an elliptical session yesterday and a nice run this morning.

I knew we'd get rain today and it looked pretty gloomy at "sunrise." I planned to do something but I figured I'd be doing it inside. At around 7:00 AM, I verified no rain was coming down. I dressed for the 49° temperature and headed outside. As the garage door rose, I saw that my neighborhood was enveloped in thick fog. Fortunately I'd worn high visibility gear.

Running in the fog was an ethereal experience. Like freshly fallen snow, it made everything look a greeting card photo. I appreciated the visual effect, but I needed to be careful because visibility was measured in feet today. If I couldn't see school buses, they couldn't see me. The roads were reasonably clear, but I did need to detour over to the sidewalk a couple of times.

A year ago, I was doing my Christmas week run in much colder weather. It's supposed to hit 71° on Friday. Me and the Runsketeers will be carrying on our New Year's day Hangover Run tradition on January 1st. It's really fun to hang with my buddies before the start, but we're usually shivering up until the horn goes off. I won't complain if this weather hangs around until then.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Making strides on the track

Part one of today's workout
Today's run (track): 4 miles plus 4 x 200s

My legs exploded off the line, firing my fast twitch muscles and propelling me 200 meters at breakneck speed. That was the experience I was hoping for, but not quite my reality. My plan this morning was to do some speed work so I headed over to the high school to run measured intervals. I did get in some repeats, but most of my workout was track mileage.

When I arrived at the school I was excited to see that I had the place to myself. I decided to take advantage of the clear lanes and do a two mile warm-up before switching to strides. The flat track helped my performance and provided me a half minute per mile improvement over yesterday's pace. I wore my new buff around my neck and pulled it over my head when I encountered strong winds.

The track doesn't provide a lot of visual stimulation, but I liked watching the bright sun coming up over the horizon while I made my way around. I decided to keep running after I'd covered my first two miles and ended up doing a full four before moving over to speed work.

I only ended up doing 4 x 200s with 30 second recoveries, averaging 59 seconds per repeat. Not exactly explosive speed, but I haven't done anaerobic training in a long time. Still, it worked out to 8:00 per mile, a pace I haven't seen for months. If I could sustain that speed for more than 200 meters, I'd be pretty happy. The answer is clearly more intervals, more often,

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Running hot and cold

Wool I buy more?
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Yesterday's pleasant weather gave way to freezing cold today. I happen to like cold weather running so I didn't mind facing the chill. The 13 MPH winds weren't inviting, but I dressed appropriately with windproof track pants and two layers on top. Plus gloves and an over the ears running hat. That outfit kept me toasty at the start and during periods when I was running directly into the wind. When the wind stopped, it was more like a sweat-suit in a sauna. You can't have it both ways.

How dare we have December weather in December? 
I was planning to run intervals, but I thought the wind might make that difficult. There's something about the location of our local track that seems to amplify wind. I've had situations where the wind was so bad in the winter that I had to remove my glasses to avoid total face freeze. I elected to run locally, a loop around my neighborhood and a loop around the business park. I followed that with another loop around an adjacent neighborhood. My pace was disappointingly slow, but I'll blame that on the wind.

This morning's running ensemble also included some great Ballston wool socks that my wife picked up for me last night at Marshall's. Great socks make a huge difference and nothing beats wool in the winter. They were a great bargain and I want to go back and buy five more pair on top of the two she bought. In the meantime, I'll be wearing the other pair tomorrow. If it's not too windy, I'll be heading to the track.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Perfectly pleasant, yet forgettable run

 
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I usually stall before I run on Friday mornings, but I got out early this morning, The rhythm of my neighborhood shifts from minute to minute. Leave too soon and you risk running into a caravan of middle school buses. Leave too late and you're dealing with the maniacs driving sanitation and recycling trucks. I managed to time it just right today.

Someone described perfect racing weather as 50° and overcast. Those were the conditions this morning. I felt strong from the start, and enjoyed the peaceful experience running along quiet roads. Without the distraction of traffic, I was able to mentally prepare for my first video call of the day. It was just me, the sound of my footsteps and the bare December trees to keep me company.

I made my way around my route and felt as good at the end as I did at the start. It was a completely pleasant run, but so indistinct that, hours later, I'd forgotten whether I'd done my workout. I'm not sure where or when I'll run this weekend, but I'm glad I got a few miles in today. It may be time to get to the track for some intervals. If I want to break out of my "easy does it" running habit, I need to work a lot more on anaerobic conditioning.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Warmer and slower one year later


Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

I'm not sure what it was, but I wasn't feeling too great this morning. I had a brief moment when I considered a lesser workout or even skipping it altogether. Then I remembered that I felt a little off before my run with KWL yesterday, yet I still ran okay. Encouraged by that, I dressed for my run (short sleeves and running shorts today) and headed out with no route in mind.

I took it very easy and thought about the fact that the last race I ran was exactly a year ago: the 2014 Jingle All the Way 5K. I had recently developed a disc injury, although I didn't know it at the time, and ran a decent race. As I recall, SIOR and TPP both won their respective age divisions. They tend to do that. In fact, SIOR just became a certified trainer. Contact her through her site if you want to learn how to dominate your age group.

I also thought about the early fall-like weather today and compared that to a year ago when we had 9 MPH winds making it feel like 31°. We'd spent most of our pre-race time huddling near the large fire pits that were placed around the registration area. My objective was to cover a little more distance today than yesterday, but not at the cost of making myself feel worse than when I started.

I did not come close to the pace I ran a year ago this morning, but I wasn't going for performance. I'm hoping that I can fit in a couple of extra runs this week. It's almost Christmas week and, if things start winding down at work, I may be able to get them done.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Head tubes, trail running and pigs feet

Post-run at Stillwell
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3 miles
Thursday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

Another busy work week is over. I needed to go into the office for some important meetings on Friday and didn't get my usual run in that morning. I did fit in an elliptical session on Thursday. This morning our friend KWL came by to run and have lunch with us at Beijing House, a new and very authentic Chinese restaurant in our town. By authentic, I mean that many dishes featured tongue, tripe, intestines and pigs feet. We stuck mostly to vegetarian options.

In the buff
KWL generously brought gifts for us and the kids, including "head tubes" made by his sister Hetty. These cylinder-shaped items are similar to buffs that I've seen sold on running sites. You can use it as a hat or a thin balaclava, something I plan to do when I run in 20 degree temperatures. The material is soft and stretchy and I can tell it won't obstruct my breathing when I wear it across my face.

When KWL arrived, he was wearing running tights and a half zip, That prompted me to change out of my running shorts in favor of my Opedix. I later regretted that, because it got pretty hot by the time we were done. We ended up going over to Stillwell Woods to run among the throngs of mountain bikers who were there when we pulled in.

I had my Cascadias but KWL had his Hokas, so we kept to the hard packed single track. I led the way, pointing out roots along the path. Fortunately, many of these hazards were painted red from the recent Rob's Run 5K. I was running well -- KWL actually suggested that I slow down a little -- and I realized that I'm doing better on trails than roads these days.

We followed my usual loop that has a couple of modest climbs, and took a different path back to the trail head. We encountered some bikers, including one that almost ran us down when our paths crossed. The temperature seemed to rise by the minute and we kept it relatively short. It still felt like a good workout.

It was great seeing KWL today and the ER family appreciated having him with us to identify western-friendly choices at lunch. Although it's mid-December, it felt like early fall today. I'm going for more than three tomorrow. I don't know where but I do plan to wear shorts.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Feeling low and staying low

Declined to incline
Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

There are days when I know when I'm in for a good run and other days when I strongly consider other workouts. I wasn't feeling it this morning and my instinct was to explore options such as strength training, elliptical or core. Rather than decide, I took the easier path and ran. Not that the running was easy. It was not.

Yesterday's difficult run could be blamed on overdressing or overeating (or both). I had a decent night's sleep and chilly weather in the morning. Both are positive conditions for a good run. However, I lacked my usual energy and that accounted for a change in plans from my original route.

I was going to run to the top of the Bethpage bike trail at Woodbury Road and follow the path to the LIE overpass and back (red highlight on map). By the time I reached that road, I decided that I wasn't up for that long incline and elected to follow Woodbury Road to Meyers Farm and back. My run along Woodbury Road turned out to be harder than expected as the path was covered in a thick layer of leaves.

Despite lacking energy, I was able to hang in for a couple more miles. Like yesterday, I was pretty worn out by the end. Not a great week for mileage, but I did manage to get in four workouts. I'm hoping I'll rebound by next weekend.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Runs interrupted, for different reasons

Today's run (street): 3.5 miles
Yesterday's workout (run): 1.6 miles, (elliptical): 30 minutes

Yesterday's run did not go according to plan and I ended up cutting it short. I like to work from home on Fridays because -- after four days of commuting to my office north of NYC -- I need a break from the road. Every Friday I naively go out for a run before the start of my work day. And almost every time I'm out, I get work call on my cell. Yesterday was no exception.

After spending an hour catching up on email, I geared up and headed outside to do my usual loop. I struggled initially, but started gaining strength near the end of my first mile. I thought I was in for a decent run but, like clockwork, my phone began to ring. I fished  it out of my SPIbelt and saw it was a call I needed to take.

I work for a media organization and the caller was the Editor and Chief. She loves to call me while she's driving into the office because she knows I'm at home on Fridays. I always tease her about sabotaging my running routine. She offered to wait for me to call her back, but we usually cover things quickly and I figured I'd be done and running again in few minutes. Yesterday the conversation went longer. Much longer. I stood on the corner of a random road in my high visibility running clothes, talking on my phone and nodding to my neighbors as they walked by.

Once that was done, I saw that my window of opportunity had slammed shut. I made my way back home as fast as possible to ensure that I'd be showered and ready for my first meeting. I ended up 50% short of my targeted distance and felt so guilty that I did an elliptical session after I'd finished my work day.

This morning I had an early dental checkup and didn't feel like going for a run at the crack of dawn. I made the poor decision to have lunch rather than do a late morning run. I finally got out around 2:00 PM. It had been chilly in the morning and I neglected to check the weather before I dressed for my run. I wore track pants and a long sleeve shirt, too much clothing for the 52° conditions that I encountered.

Worse than the heat was running so soon after lunch. I quickly realized that I hadn't given myself enough rest time. I developed a cramp after about 15 minutes and tried to remember what I'd read in Runners World about dealing with them. Nothing came to mind, but I wasn't going to cut another run short. I took down the pace and pressed on. Eventually the cramping went away.

Things didn't get much better after that, but I finally got through it. I felt ready to hit the sack when I got home but recovered well after a quick shower. I hope today's experience was due only to bad timing and bad decisions. I plan to go out for more distance tomorrow and I will do my best to keep cramping off the menu.
 

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