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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Running eight days running

Crowded lanes
Today's run (street): 3.6 miles
Yesterday's run (track): 3.5 miles
Thursday's run (street): 3.2 miles
Wednesday's run (street): 3.4 miles

Today is the eighth day of my vacation and I've run every day since it started. I've covered 28 miles since last Saturday, including today's 3.6. The last time that I covered over 25 miles in one week was during my training for the 2014 Brooklyn Half. On top of my running miles, I've also managed to fit in a couple of hikes, the second one happening yesterday. I'll credit my new Fitbit for motivating me to move more.

I planned to do at least one run at Bethpage this week, but I ended up staying local, except for when I ran at the track. I've purposely kept my run distances in the three mile range because I knew I'd be accumulating mileage through the break. Saturday to Friday's total was 40% higher than what I'd typically run within seven days. I've heard that training volume really shouldn't increase by more than 10% in a given week.

Wednesday and Thursday were neighborhood runs and the streets have been quiet because it's school vacation. I've seen a couple of news articles this week touting the idea that ten minutes of high intensity exercise is as beneficial as a moderate 45 minute run. That may be true but I prefer running. I'm not ready to trade that for Tabata-like workouts. Still, I have been incorporating more anaerobic effort into every run I've done this week.

Oval by Garmin
There was a lot going on when I arrived at the track on Friday. The Syosset baseball team was practicing on the adjacent field and they were blasting country music from a big speaker. I was concerned that it might disrupt my peaceful run. The music itself was weirdly anachronistic for suburban Long Island but somehow it worked. There were a few track teams taking up the inside lanes while I ran, but we managed to peacefully co-exist.

Later in the day, my son and I went to Trailview State Park for a hike. Trailview has a hiking trail and another that's supposedly reserved for biking. On our way back we followed the bike trail and found it much more interesting. It wound around in different directions and seemed to go on forever. Just at the point where I thought it was taking us farther away from our starting point, the trail head came into sight. It was a nice second workout of the day and helped me get to almost 14K steps on Friday.

I considered taking a rest day today but we have plans for an end-of-vacation breakfast tomorrow. If I'm going to run on Sunday I'll need to do it early. Knowing that, I decided to get out again today to keep the streak going. I ran okay and covered some streets I haven't run in months. I wasn't under time pressure and thought about adding a few extra miles, but I didn't want to tempt fate and invite injury. My sciatica returned earlier in the week, this time it was on my right side. I was concerned that my herniated disc had been re-aggravated, but I've been pain free over the last three runs.

I'm happy to have the Fitbit and I'm curious to see how much distance I actually travel during a typical work day. I'll find out next week. My work calendar will be even worse than usual because I had the audacity to take a week off and that means lots of catch up meetings starting Monday. I'm hoping that all the walking I do in between meetings will add up to more than 10K daily steps.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Run, hike and Fitbit

ER and ER Jr taking on the trails at Bethpage
Today's run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.25 miles
Sunday's run (street): 3.5 miles

It's nice to be out of the office this week. We've had some great days so far. Since work often gets in the way of my weekday running, I try to take advantage of off days to fit in extra workouts. That's been the case so far on this vacation. I've been able to run every day since Saturday.

I can barely remember Sunday's run around the neighborhood, other than that it was windy and a little cold for the short sleeves and shorts I wore. Like Saturday, I had good energy and I felt I moved well. Yesterday I got out fairly early and enjoyed the quiet roads, courtesy of school vacation that kept both buses and parents off the roads.

Yesterday afternoon, my son and I decided to do an impromptu hike in the woods at Bethpage. We parked in the northeast corner of the lot and entered at the trail head at the far end of the picnic area. We followed the main trail that parallels the bike trail and then cut to a path that led us to the big field. We ducked back into the woods and began to take side trails, one of which led us to the paved path where the short but very steep hill begins.

We stayed on the bike trail for about three quarters of a mile before going back into the woods. We followed a winding path that eventually brought us back to where we'd started out. It was a good hike with some nice climbs and I was glad to get a second workout in on Monday.

Post-run selfie, Sunday or Monday. I've lost track.
We had buckets of rain this morning starting at around 4:00 AM, but conditions cleared up by about 9:00 AM. Even though the rain had stopped, I decided to save a little time and stayed inside, covering 3.3 miles on the treadmill. It was a good progression run and, like the three before it, I finished my last mile running a fairly fast pace (for me).

I'd given my wife my Fitbit a couple of years ago because I got frustrated with it. Not that it didn't work, it was just that I'd frequently leave it on my dresser instead of transferring it to my next pair of pants. And everyone knows that a run or walk that wasn't captured by a device technically never happened.

My company just did a wellness challenge and every participant got a Fitbit to track their contribution to their team. I didn't participate, but I became envious of people when they'd announce their step count. I decided to get back into the Fitbit game and ordered a new one. The building where I work is humongous and every meeting I'm in seems to be as far from my office as physically possibly.

I'll be curious to see how much I actually travel during the workday. I wish I had it now so I could track my progress during this vacation week.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A blooming good run

Where have all the flowers gone? In my mouth.
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 21 minutes

Today is day one of my vacation. Eight days, plus what's left of this one to do whatever I want everything my wife needs me to do. Actually my list is fairly light and I like having projects. I'm happy to avoid five days of commuting and excited to have more time to run during the week.

I worked from home on Friday and would normally have gone for a 3+ mile run in the morning. An exhausting work week left me low on energy so I ended up doing a short elliptical session rather than doing nothing. That turned out to be a good compromise, because that short targeted workout helped my energy level throughout the day.

This morning I was feeling ready to run, but the wet weather was encouraging me to stay inside. We had early plans and I wanted to get my workout started as soon as possible. The clock was ticking and my wife was doing her treadmill run. The rain started to let up, so I put on a short sleeve shirt and running shorts and got the heck outside.

Today's route
I had no route planned so I picked a random direction and took off. That direction took me around the middle school and then through the northern part of my neighborhood. I headed south from there and followed a few roads that used to be the main part of my daily run. I felt great and, although it wasn't an impressive performance, everything (breathing, stride, energy level) was working well.

The wind picked up near the end of my run and that caused the only problem I encountered. The breezes were shaking blooms off the sycamore and dogwood trees and the effect was like white and yellow snowfall. It was pretty, but the tiny flowers kept getting in mouth. I forced myself to breath through my nose and that worked fine. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have an allergic reaction to all this flora.

I was glad to cover almost five miles today and I hope to go a little longer tomorrow. If the weather stays good, I'm going to try to get out for a run every day of this vacation.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A detour on the path and a pain in the knee

Detour at mile 3
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 5.1 miles

I headed out to Bethpage this morning around 7:45 AM. It was a little later than I'd hoped to run, but I needed to stick around the house and help my son get ready for today's science fair. I didn't help with the actual project, that is so complicated and sciency that I can't understand anything in his research reports and display board except his name. My contribution was to help him tie his tie before he boarded the bus to Great Neck.

I don't have an Empire Passport this year so I didn't go to the park to start my run. I probably could have got in for free because the guy who works the entry booth sometimes lets me park without paying. He's a great guy and a really good judge of people. Instead, I parked on Colonial Road which is located about a mile north of the Bethpage lot.

My plan was to run north so that worked out fine. I usually start on the bike trail at Haypath and run to the LIE overpass on Washington Ave and back. That's just about five miles. Today I decided to get my five a different way with a detour up Old Country Road.

I did not get off to a good start. My legs felt heavy and my stride felt awkward. I really hoped it was something that would change as I warmed up. I loosened up eventually, but it took a couple of miles of running for that to happen. There were many runners out today, mainly groups. At one point I saw so many people running that I thought there was a race going on.

I turned around after two miles and ran south until I reached Old Country Road. I then ran west almost to Plainview Road and then back to the bike trail. I ended up covering my targeted five and got to see other sights off the beaten path. Actually the path on Old Country was pretty beaten. So much so, that I feared I'd trip on the many torn up slabs of concrete sidewalk.

Profound statement from CaptionBot
When I got back to my car I noticed some pain at the top of my knee. It only hurt when I put pressure on it or turned it when pushing up to stand. I looked up the symptoms online and they seem to match something people call patellofemoral pain. One site suggested ice, elevation and compression. I put on my ACE knee brace that got me through a meniscus tear without surgery many years ago.

I'm fortunate to work with experts in health and physiology and I plan to seek their advice tomorrow. I'm hoping that the brace and a couple of days rest will help in the meantime.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Running in circles while my friends ran at Bethpage

I forgot to mention the invisible airplane on the track
Today's run (track): 4.1 miles

Due to a science fair scheduling conflict, I needed to run extra early this morning. That was fine, as I'm trying to go back to early day running. The downside was that I missed SIORs run-palooza at Bethpage this morning. This was another Life Time Run Club adventure and today's group included both TPP and KWL. Long before they all went out, I was at the Syosset HS track getting in 16 laps. The Runsketeers had a great time and I'm very jealous.

I always hope that the track will be empty when I arrive, but there's usually someone there before me. That was case today. It was mostly walkers, but there were a couple of guys running intervals and one person run/walking wearing a pair of big studio headphones. I tuned everyone out for the most part rather than construct back stories of every person on the track like I usually do. I just wanted to get through the workout and stay on schedule.

I'm going to need to go out early again tomorrow. I'd like to do at least five miles so I'll probably run somewhere outside my neighborhood. I can't go too far or too long, because I need to be ready for yet another science fair. But no such problems next weekend. After Monday, science fair season will be over.

Friday, April 15, 2016

CaptionBot sums up my run experience

 
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I used to be very disciplined about my running and would usually get out before the sun came up. In recent years I've slipped from typical 6:00-ish start times to a more indulgent 8:00 AM. Later starts led to later finishes that cut deeply into my weekend mornings. I've been thinking it would be good to return to earlier runs, starting today.

Although earlier starts were already part of the plan, I needed to be back in time for an 8:00 AM video call today. Having my running done by 7:00 AM gave me more time to get things done this morning. And I can always use extra time.

Being out at 6:30 AM was a different Friday experience for me. No recycling trucks or parents speeding down the road on their way to dropping their kids off at school. It was a chilly 38° and the glare from the rising sun was blinding, but I enjoyed being out there. I ran okay and covered my usual 5K Friday route. When I got home I took a selfie on my driveway to memorialize my multi-colored outfit.

After I downloaded the picture I stumbled upon Microsoft's CaptionBot site where you can upload a picture and it captions it for you using artificial intelligence. The results are above. For the record I wasn't exactly feeling "grinning emoji."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The data behind the pace

Open the stride and quicken the cadence
Today's run (street): 5.5 miles

Conditions were chilly this morning and I had to dress like I was going out for a winter run. I feel like it's payback for all those weeks of unseasonably warm weather that we had in March. Somehow I picked the right combination of gear and set out for a run in a nearby neighborhood. I started out with a loop around a local business park that has one hill that I always dread. I did another half loop before moving on to run in what I call neighborhood #3.

Once around the park
My run was fine and, although I thought I was doing a good job introducing speed at times, I ended up running fairly slowly. When I looked at the data from today's run, I noticed that my current pace hasn't degraded that much since mid-2014. It was interesting to see that my training paces were often 2 minutes per mile slower than my race paces. That gave me hope that I could get back into race shape if I wanted to start focusing on performance.

I decided to do an analysis that compared three data points from my run history: pace, stride length and cadence. I randomly selected thirteen runs between 2013 and today that had data captured via my Garmin foot pod. Pace is measured in xx:xx time format, stride length is typically between .8 and 1.1 meters and cadence usually falls (for me) between 160-180 SPM. Those disparities required me to index the metrics so they could all be displayed on the same scale.

My first reaction when the data was visualized was that faster paces are clearly correlated to longer stride length and faster cadence. Not a surprise. I know that 13 data points doesn't yield statistically significant findings, but it's enough information to be directional. It shows that if I want to get back to 9:30 training paces, I'll need to average between 172-176 SPM and stride lengths between .98 to 1.0 meters.

I have work to do to get to those numbers but at least it's a baseline target. I need to decide whether to focus on cadence and let my stride adapt as needed, or if I should try to open my stride before taking on the tougher metric. I'd prefer the latter, but messing with stride length is tricky because over-striding is the gateway to injury.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fashion backwards at Stillwell Woods

At the top of a rise
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.6 miles
Yesterday's run (Street): 3.2 miles

Hot couture
This morning's run was delayed due to a fashion-related protest by the female representatives at Emerging Runner Inc. I have long been in the camp that men aren't meant to wear running tights without shorts. I've done it a few times during races, but that's different. There are numerous shorts/tights posts in online forums and Runners World did a survey that favored the more modest combination. I wanted to run at Stillwell today and the weather seemed too cold for trail shorts and too warm for track pants. I decided to go with some lightweight running tights.

I knew I'd be running in the woods and thought that would be a situation where shorts-over-tights wouldn't be necessary. After seeing my outfit, my wife and daughter insisted that I add shorts or lose the tights. I was fine with that except that it added an unnecessary layer. I don't think it improved my look. When I got ready to leave, it felt much colder than the 42° that the local news station reported.

Once I adjusted my outfit to match the temperature, I headed over to Stillwell. There were baseball games going on, but the parking area near the trail head still had spots. As usual, there were a few mountain bikers preparing to ride and I zipped in before that happened.

I usually cut left toward the Black trail but decided to run the CLIMB bikeway trail instead. I soon encountered a couple of high school age girls coming from the other direction. About five minutes later I heard them coming up fast behind me. I sped up, mostly because that part of the trail was so narrow that passing would have been difficult. I managed to stay ahead of them until the trail split and I went right while the girls went left.

The downside to going right was that I had to scale a 50' rise at a steep angle to get to the next section of trail. I've taken on that hill many times in the past and was grateful to be wearing my Brooks Cascadias because the surface is mostly sand and loose rocks. People say that you can run trails in road shoes, but this hill is nearly impossible to manage without good trail runners.

Today's route
Once I passed that point, I was on my usual loop. The decision to wear shorts may have made me more presentable to the critters in the woods, but they did restrict my stride. After the initial encounter with those girls I saw few other runners or bikers today. I didn't run well or get into a comfortable rhythm until I was close to finishing. However, I did enjoy the experience of running in the woods.

Later in the afternoon my son and I watched The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young on Netflix. The race involves running five 20 mile loops (that are actually closer to 26 miles each) in some of the most rugged terrain in North America. The total course has more than 54,000 feet of vertical climb (and vice versa). Many years there isn't a single finisher. After seeing what those people went through, it's hard to complain about the 50 foot challenge at Stillwell this morning, even though I was forced to wear shorts.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A great treadmill experience (finally!)

ER and SIOR take the indoor option
Today's run (Lifetime Fitness treadmill run): 4.5 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.25 miles
Friday's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

I continue to battle a tough work schedule that makes it hard for me to fit in a fourth weekly workout. This week was no exception. There's a lot happening at the office and it's causing more meetings to push me past my usual departure time. I don't get home as late as I did when I worked in the city, but post-dinner running doesn't generally work for me. So it was three runs this week. All three on the treadmill.

I planned to run outside on Friday and put on my new running raincoat due to the misty conditions. As I prepared to go out, the skies opened up and my options switched to the treadmill or the elliptical. Since I didn't do a mid-week workout, I opted for running.

I hadn't run since last Sunday and I expected to have a tough time getting going. I was surprised to quickly find my stride and the minutes rolled by faster than my usual treadmill experience. I had limited time and cut it short after 3.2 miles. I played with tempo over the last mile and was able to get down to a decent pace.

Saturday's weather was equally miserable, so it was back again on the treadmill. I didn't have the same energy level as I did on Friday, but I pressed on. The minutes ticked by more slowly than on Friday and I didn't start my progressive paces until I had 3/4 mile left to go. Still, it wasn't as bad as some recent indoor runs.

This morning's plan was to meet SIOR at Bethpage where she would lead the Lifetime Fitness group run. Unfortunately, the weather had gone from wet to worse overnight and plans were changed to running on the treadmills at Lifetime. As much as I dislike treadmills, there's something I like about fitness center models and something I really dislike about running outside in 50 MPH winds.

When I met SIOR at the gym, she'd already completed a few miles. While she alerted the front desk that the workout was happening upstairs, I went to the locker room to take off my non-running layers. SIOR and I headed upstairs and I saw the huge gymnasium that had basketball courts and a rock climbing wall.

We found side-by-side Life Fitness treadmills and started them up. SIOR resumed watching a Netflix documentary about the Barkley marathons while I tried like heck to navigate to a watchable cable station on the monitor. I really didn't need my screen because there was so much else to look at. The gym is enormous with lots of opportunities for people watching and lots of video screens that provided good distraction.

Treadmills as far as the eye can see
If Friday's running felt easy, then today's run felt effortless. Some of that was due to starting slowly. But even as I blipped up my speed every tenth of a mile, the run never felt difficult. I stopped when SIOR finished her planned ten miles and I ended up covering 4.5. SIOR had more training to do and I had to head out for a brunch. Before we said our goodbyes. SIOR showed me more of the gym, including the area with all the weight machines.

I wouldn't have expected a treadmill workout to be so enjoyable but it was nice to be able to run along with SIOR. I really hope Lifetime gives her more resources to publicize these weekend events because it's a great way to showcase the gym and attract new members. If our schedules work out next time, it will be fun to have the other Runsketeers on the run.
 

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