Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rain, rain come and stay

If I could choose the weather for Saturday's race it would be just like today's: cold and dry. Unfortunately the extended forecast is indicating wet conditions for Saturday with rain storms likely. The good news is that the day's predicted low (usually the morning temperature) is below 50. So at least it should be cool.

People have told me that they hate running in the rain. I actually think it's fun (within limits) and preferable to oppressive heat and humidity. The last time I ran in rainy conditions I made the mistake of wearing a light waterproof jacket that did a good job of keeping the rain off me but also trapped heat and moisture which made me very uncomfortable. No matter what, I will not be wearing rain gear during Saturday's run.

This morning I concluded my training for the 5K with 21 minutes on the elliptical using moderate resistance. My intention was to keep a relatively fast pace without straining. While I did build up a sweat by the end, I considered today to be a light workout. My leg pain is still present but dissipating and I wanted to minimize impact but also work on flexibility.

I think I accomplished my mission and by taking a rest day tomorrow I should be set for Saturday's 8:00 AM start. So what if it rains that day? It may give me a competitive advantage against my hydrophobic rivals.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Turbulence about running shoes

I've been paying attention to running shoes lately because I know I need to replace my current pair. Despite my attempt to preserve my Nikes by substituting the insoles I've learned (thanks to some helpful advice via the Runner's World Loop) how to assess a shoe's true condition. I've moved past the denial stage and have gone back to my original insoles. Although the Turbulence 13's felt great with the replacement insoles (after I cut them to fit) the difference in heel height made me worry about the possible effect on my knees since I'm a mid/front foot striker. I'm hoping that I can get one more great run out of these shoes at Saturday's race.

With the original insoles intact I did what should be my last run before the 5K. I started at a moderate speed because I still have some upper leg tightness and wanted to warm up before stepping up my pace. I increased the treadmill speed every minute until I reached my target. Overall I covered 2 miles at 8:41, a pace I attained by running the last few minutes at about an 8:00/mile.

I've decided to go somewhat high end for my next pair of running shoes. Adventure Girl and others have advised me to look for shoes at running stores because those places carry better performing shoes than retailers like Foot Locker. My wife found some very good shoes at a Foot Locker as did I with my original Nike purchase. AG also told me that sometimes higher priced shoes cost more because of non-functional design elements. I don't care what my shoes look like but if I can get 5 seconds per mile faster on them I'm happy to pay.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This weeks's Sedentary Man

This week Sedentary Man writes about inefficiencies related to the way dogs drink water and the way humans hit golf balls. SM only has a solution for the latter. Read it here...

Not exactly heart insole

I was really hoping to publish today's post with the headline "Heart insole, I fell in love with you" after running with a replacement pair of insoles for my Nikes. I've been concerned that my shoes have accumulated too much mileage and that has contributed to the leg pain I've experienced over the last six weeks. The shoes still look pretty good so I don't know how to ascertain their true condition. Since the insoles, which take direct impact with every step, are easily replaced, I did just that.

The insoles I bought are Spenco Poli-Sorbs that retail for about $20. They come in size groupings so you can cut the extra material for a custom fit. I didn't do that and I suspect that's part of the reason I was disappointed.

Though I wear a 10 1/2 shoe and these insoles fit up to size 11's I was able to fit them into the shoes fine. The shape of the replacements are different than the originals but they're close. When I put them on they felt good, the extra padding at the heel was welcomed. There was slightly more material at the top but it didn't seem like it would get in the way when I ran.

I had a hard run covering 2 miles at about 8:52 per mile this morning. It was extremely hot and I suffered a bit until getting an energy boost at around 1.5 miles. The shoes felt okay as I ran but my upper leg pain was noticeable. Unlike when I ran with the other insoles, the pain persisted even after I'd warmed up. After I'd finished I noticed that the extra material had put enough pressure on the top of my foot to cause some slight abrasion and blistering. I can take care of that by trimming the insole but the real problem was that my leg hurt a lot after my run. I ended up wrapping a compression brace around my upper leg and that helped quell the soreness.

Now I'm wondering whether I'm better off cutting the insoles for a perfect fit and trying another run or just reverting back to the old insoles and hoping for the best. The race on Saturday is only 5K so it's not like I need to prepare for an arduous distance. The other choice is to run in my NB trail shoes. That's starting to sound like an interesting idea.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Running shoe anxiety

I have 5 days until my next race and I'm beginning to worry about my shoes. I mentioned yesterday that I've had some issues with my feet that seem to relate to my Nikes. This morning I switched to my New Balance trail shoes for the elliptical and they were much more comfortable. I really don't want to race with trail shoes on pavement but I also don't want to continue pushing my luck with the Turbulence 13's.

I have a busy schedule at work this week so it will not be that easy to get to a store at lunch to look at new running shoes. I want to avoid buying a pair in haste without considering other options just because of Saturday's race deadline. I have been reading reviews and talking to friends and I'm thinking this is the time to invest in a higher end pair. AG told me about a few stores in the city that have treadmills so staff can watch you as you run and help recommend the best shoe choices for your running style. If I'm looking to pay a lot for a pair of running shoes I don't want to buy the wrong thing and be disappointed.

I've looked at the removable soles in my Nikes and, while they look okay, I have no idea how much cushioning and flexibility they've lost in the eight months that I've had them. I'm thinking about trying a pair of cushioned replacement soles to get me through the race on Saturday. If they do the job, great. If not I'll be paying a visit to a running store on Sunday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not so Long Slow Distance

I must have slept through spring because summer is here on Long Island. Actually the temperatures are very summer-like but happily the air is still spring dry. I'm a cold weather person and a morning runner but yesterday was busy and I wasn't able to get out until 5:00 PM when the thermometer read 84 degrees. I ran late afternoon on Friday so this was similar in terms of timing. However, our Central Park run was much cooler.

I made the mistake of not properly wrapping my small toes prior to the Friday run. This is a technique I started over a decade ago when I lived in the city. Those days it wouldn't be unusual for us to walk from Battery Park to the Upper West Side, across town and then home to Murray Hill, all in one day. I used to get tremendous blisters from this and discovered that wrapping a small piece of plastic wrap around my first and second toe would ward off most of the damage. I'm beginning to suffer from this problem with my Nike Turbulence 13's and it's making me think that they're due for replacement after over 400 miles of excellent service. By yesterday morning my feet were hurting pretty good and although I wrapped them for Saturday's and today's runs they are a little raw. Tomorrow I'm planning to elliptical which has far less impact on my feet and I'm hoping they bounce back quickly.

My running over the past three days has been a mixed bag. I thought Friday was a very good run although the numbers don't reflect that. Yesterday's afternoon run was about the same distance (3.2 miles) with a pace just under 9 minutes. This morning, with only 15 hours separating me from yesterday's workout, I took the LSD approach (you can argue whether 3 miles should be considered "long") and my pace reflected it, closer to 9:20. But let me tell you it was hot and, in terms of conditioning, a real workout.

Overall, I covered close to 10 miles between 5:00 PM Friday and 9:00 AM Sunday. The weather reports are encouraging, predicting closer to 60's than 80's for next weekend. I'm pleased that I was able to manage some taxing runs late in the day with some heat and I'm happy that I'm only covering 5K and not 4 miles at Saturday's race. I'm excited about this race because I know more about what to expect. After all, you only experience your second race once!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Product review - MixMyGranola

After putting it to the test, the Emerging Runner Advisory Board has reviewed MixMyGranola, a website that allows customers to custom blend their granola mixes. MixMyGranola can be described as Web 2.0 for food. Consumer generated content on the web that you can eat. Interesting yes, but is it a good experience? I took it to the Emerging Running Advisory Board to see what they thought about this product. The raters were me, Sedentary Man and Adventure Girl and our rating criteria were based on quality, taste, freshness and value. You can read the full review here on the Emerging Runner Laboratories product review page.

I'm looking to do a couple of training runs this weekend. Last night AG and I had a great run in Central Park after work covering about 3.25 miles. The weather was perfect and there were a lot of people in the park. We hit traffic at spots, between the pedicabs and roving bands of clueless walkers who obstructed the running paths, we had to slow down and even stop for a second at a few points in our run. But we kept a good overall pace and we both felt it it was a great workout. I'm a week away from my next race so I hope to make some progress on speed today and tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hot weather, cool advice

This weekend is supposed to be very warm and temperatures are expected to reach the 80's. I'm hoping that nature will come to its senses for the following weekend so I won't need to deal with those conditions for my race. Of course, with an 8:00 AM start, there's a chance it will still be comfortable for running.

One of my friends, CK, is an accomplished runner who has given me great advice and encouragement since I started running again last September. After I'd debriefed him on my 4 mile race he gave me the following advice for training for the 5K:

1. Stay on the road as much as possible (if not all the time) when training for this next race.

2. Start your runs faster than normal, but slow down after two or three minutes to a comfortable pace.

3. Push hard the last ½ mile (or 4.5 minutes) during training to acclimate yourself to race conditions.

4. Consciously push/kick off hard during the last part of the run (last minute or so).

5. Try to incorporate some hills.

6. Stretch before and after (especially if you are doing hills).

Some of this differs from other guidance I've received. For example, in item #2, he advocates a fast start leading to a comfortable pace. I've usually assumed the opposite; start slow and build speed as you go. A couple of months ago I started a run at a much faster than normal pace. After about a quarter of a mile I felt spent and feared that I would not be able to make my planned distance. I did recover and it turned out to be one of the longest runs I've done to date. I'll try that technique this weekend and see how I do.

Also related to training, my dad sent me a link to an interesting article that ran in the NY Times this week about using a trainer as a way to improve speed. The article states that ", if done right, is the ultimate performance enhancer..."

This afternoon I'm participating in an end of the work week run in Central Park. It will be warm by then so I'm hoping for the best.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

State of my weight

I weighed in today for the first time in weeks. I'd assumed I stabilized but the scale showed I've lost almost three pounds since last month. I've been disappointed with a number of technologies that I've used for quantifying status and/or performance (inaccurate HRMs, failed displays, etc.) and I've discovered that my digital scale falls into that category. I've learned not to trust the first result but instead step off it and allow the scale to reset before stepping on again. Most of the time the first result will under count and I sometimes repeat my weighing 4 or 5 times before I'm confident that it's returning a consistent number.

After all that weighing I determined that I've actually lost about a pound since the last time I measured. I'm really fine with that although I don't want to go much lower since I've already been through a round of suit tailoring and clothes buying. I've reduced my weight significantly since September (when I took up running again) and I can roughly correlate my weight reduction to pace time improvements. I'm not interested in losing any more weight simply to improve my speed so the next wave of performance will have to come from strength and speed training.

This morning I did a 20 minute workout on the elliptical using one of the built-in training programs that simulates big hills. It was tough at times but, unlike running uphill, I was able to use the arms of the machine to help my progress. I mapped the upcoming 5K on MapMyRun and it doesn't seem to have elevations like my last race. All the same I figure that hill work can be helpful for endurance and leg strength.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Training as the clock runs down

It's less than 10 days to my next race so I'm pushing as much as I can to prepare. I had a shorter window to run this morning so I tried to make the best of it. I've declared a goal of running my upcoming 5K under 26 minutes and since I don't have very long to prepare for that I'm focusing every workout on a specific aspect of the race.

Today I focused on speed - not tempo level speeds - but I tried to maintain a faster pace than I normally achieve during my weekday workouts. I only had 18 minutes to run this morning and I needed to build in a few minutes for cool down so I ended up running 15:22 for 1.79 miles for an overall pace of 8:35. It wasn't as hard to do this as I thought it might be. My first 5 minutes were actually a little slow, closer to a 9 minute pace, but I ran the last mile around 7.4 MPH. I'll admit that running fast for less than two miles on a flat surface is not the same as running a 5K under road conditions, but I think I can build on that.

Tomorrow I plan to follow the hill climb program on my elliptical. I don't know how the grades will be on the 5K course but I don't want to find myself struggling on hills like I did last Sunday. This weekend I'm thinking about a long street run on Saturday, perhaps expanding to neighborhood #3 for the first time and attacking those hills. On Sunday I'd like to go to Stillwell Woods and run the trails to take advantage the softer, more challenging surface.

AG said that Lululemon is sponsoring another group run in Central Park on Tuesday so that may be a good opportunity for a post-weekend long run before May 2nd.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Goals for my 5K

Today was Day 1 for training for my 5K run on May 2nd. The 2nd is a Saturday and the start time is 8:00 AM so I only have one more weekend to focus on long runs. I haven't seen an elevation map of the race course so I don't know what I'm up against in terms of hills. I'm glad for the early race start because I suspect it will be warm. From what I see on the website map it will be mostly open roads with little shade.

My pace goal for the race is 8:39 per mile. It is definitely a stretch for me as I rarely beat 8:45, even on shorter runs. The reason I picked this target relates to one of my 2009 running goals: to maintain that pace for at least 3 miles. If I get a good start and the course is fairly flat I do think I have a chance at a sub 8:40 time. Like I said, 8:39 is a stretch. My other goal is completely ego driven: to pass more runners than I get passed. I'll start the count after a couple of minutes to let the 5, 6 and 7 minute speedsters get by. In truth, I mostly care about those who pass me near the end, a mile or less before the finish.

I ran a couple of miles at 8:48 this morning. It was a relatively hard run considering I'd taken Monday as a rest day. The warm weather is already noticeable and I remained concerned about running in real heat this summer. Later this week I plan to do some speed drills on the treadmill and do some high resistance workouts on the elliptical for hill training.

I also realized I have no races scheduled after the 5K. I need to do something about that!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lessons from my first race

I indulged myself this morning by skipping exercise. It's not that racing 4 miles yesterday really required me to rest today. I considered going on the elliptical but then I decided to create separation between my first race and my second: the LI Marathon 5K on May 2nd.
Tomorrow I will start my training for that event and while the distance is shorter I am not assuming the race will be easier. Despite reading articles, posts and comments online and hearing first hand from friends who race, I didn't fully understand the experience until it happened. Here's what I learned:
1. There's a lot of positive energy on race day. Everyone is competing but mostly with themselves.

2. You need to ask a lot of questions: "How do you attach your bib number?" "Where are the bathrooms?" "Where do we line up for the start?"

3. No matter how cold it is at the start, it's worth dressing lightly because you're going to get very hot very quickly.

4. It's really hard to drink water from a paper cup while running. It's also hard to grab a paper cup from a table while running.

5. Hill training is not an optional technique if you plan to compete.

6. Familiarity with the course is more helpful than just knowing distance in terms of gaging progress.

7. It's amazing to see people who you'd never guess could even run around the block pass you, quickly.

8. The toughest 100 feet are those leading to the finish line.

9. The cheering, fatigue, heat and crowd at the end is very disorienting. I forgot to stop my Garmin so it continued to record long after I had finished the race.

10. You may get very hot during the race but you'll cool off fast. Put on more layers as soon as possible.

Those are the things that I remember the most. I'm sure, after my next race, that I'll have a few more to list.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Not the worst way to spend your birthday

This morning I completed my first race, a 4-mile run through and around Huntington, NY. I had anticipated this for quite a long time and the excitement built as I edged into the weekend. My goal was to finish with an overall pace below 9:00/mile and I was pleased to have done that. I ran the course at 8:50 per mile and I finished the second two miles slightly faster than the first two.

The day began with a Kid's Fun Run and both of my kids participated. It was about a quarter mile race that ended at the same finish point as the big race. All the participants received medals and I was proud that my kids were part of the event. As soon as the Fun Run completed, I made my way to the starting line that first involved a trudge up a big hill. When I got to the line I saw that this steep road was actually the route off the line, so at least the start would be downhill. As we lined up and waited I spent time looking at my co-runners, wondering who had raced before and who (like me) was racing for the first time. I also noticed the outfits that people were wearing. Asics and New Balance were definitely the most popular shoe choices and I was surprised to see so many people wearing jackets and multiple layers since the temperature was in the high 40's. I was originally planning to wear a Nike Fit Dri shirt that AG had given me but I had washed and air dried it and it was still damp when it was time to leave. Instead I wore a different technical shirt and my new running shorts. I was cold but I knew that after a mile I would start heating up.

I had a tracking chip from the race around my ankle and I brought my Garmin foot pod which helped me keep track of my progress as I ran. Coming off the starting line downhill, many people were whizzing past in what seemed to be unsustainable paces. That's relative to their conditioning but I had decided to run my own race and I held back in anticipation of the BIG HILL that I knew would come at the half mile mark. I learned today that I had not properly trained on real hills, this was quite a challenge both because of the grade of the hill and the fact that we would be ascending it for close to a mile. I was glad that I had studied the course before the race so I knew what to expect in terms of path and direction. Although my Garmin told me how much distance I had traveled, it was the understanding of where I was on the course, relative to the finish, that underscored the amount of work ahead.

Volunteers along the course shouted out cumulative distances at each mile point and I was encouraged to know that I was beating a 9:00 pace, which was my goal. As we drew closer to the finish I considered pouring it on with everything I had but then, like a cruel joke, I encountered another big hill with a little more than half a mile to go. It was a struggle getting up that incline but somehow I managed and came around to the sound of spectators cheering us on toward the finish. I was really ready to stop by that point and as I came around the last corner I pushed it up the slight rise that led to the finish line and crossed the line to the loud cheers of my wife and kids.

I was immediately asked for my timing chip as a race volunteer handed me a bottle of water. Some minutes later we saw that they had posted the results and I made my way over to see how I did. It wasn't a big field of runners and I finished mid pack but I did place in single digits for my age group. The thing that matters most is that I ran my race, achieved my goal and had the strong support of friends and family.

Plus, I won a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant because it was my birthday!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

From the Emerging Runner Laboratories

This morning I went to a running store in Northport, NY (Cow Harbor Running + Fitness) that is providing the T-shirts and goody bags for tomorrow's race. The store is small but they have some very nice stuff and I bought a pair of Pearl Izumi Infinity shorts while I was there. I was disappointed to find that the store wasn't distributing the runner's bib numbers or tracking chips so I'll be lining up for that tomorrow morning. My countdown clock is down to just hours at this point.

On a different subject, I've recently heard from a few companies that are looking for ways to publicize their events or products. While this blog is not commercially focused I am not opposed to recommending or highlighting things that may be of interest to readers. I don't accept payment for any of this but if I ever move in that direction it will be in the form of an ad and I will be very clear about that relationship.

One of the two items I am mentioning today is about a movie called "Beyond the Epic Run" about a couple from Switzerland who sold all their belongings to literally run around the world. The trailer for the film is above this post. Runner's World Loop readers can see it here. Running isn't the subject of too many movies so why not check it out?

The second item to mention is a company called MixMyGranola that built a business around custom blended granola. It's a clever idea. You go to the site, choose a base, choose your other ingredients and a couple of days later you'll receive a pound of mix. I've gone so far as to choose, order and receive my mix. I will soon publish a full review from the Emerging Runner test kitchens.

In the meantime I have some stretching and resting to do before my 8:30 AM start time tomorrow. I followed the race course by car today and there are some impressive hills over the first mile and a half. Well, as my son pointed out, what goes up must come down.

See you at the finish line!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trip summary

This has been a busy week, so busy in fact that I didn't even have time to post on Thursday. Due to the fact that my access to a PC has been limited I haven't posted to the Runner's World Loop in two days. Being a media person I certainly respect the need to publish so I'll summarize the last couple of days.

I'm up at the MIT Media Lab for the spring meetings for the CE 2.0 Working Group (creating best practices for consumer electronics usability and connectivity) and the Digital Life Consortium which focuses on media, technology and society. My role as liason to MIT is one of my favorite parts of my job. My wife and kids came by the Media Lab on Wednesday and interacted with some very cool stuff including singing robots and WII enabled guitars.

The theme of yesterday's meeting was Smart Sustainable Cities and there was much discussion about innovative directions on energy, housing and healthcare. Hugh Herr, who directs the Biomechatronics group at the Media Lab, spoke about advances in prothesis designs that can help amputees regain their ability to walk to the degree that their gait and balance are indistinguishable from a non-disabled person's. Hugh also showed a running shoe that he and his team designed that gave a measurable advantage to the runner. The shoe had a carbon fiber spring that efficiently stored and released energy to the degree that a marathon runner could gain 8 minutes over the length of his or her run. Hugh also showed some exoskeletal designs that would help an able bodied runner gain 30% efficiency in his or her running. I would love that for Sunday's race.

My colleage Adventure Girl is very focused on environmental science and sustainability and she also came up to Cambridge for yesterday's session. We met at the fitness center of the hotel where I completed my last workout before my race on Sunday. AG ran on the treadmill while I worked the elliptical. It was a fairly low impact session for me but she ran almost 4 miles while we talked. This morning I'm at a different hotel and my first thought was to go down to the fitness center and run. I then remembered that I'm resting.

Being from Boston I always try to catch up with people when I travel there. Last night my wife, kids and I visited some very good friends and this morning we're seeing my brother and his family. Tomorrow I will rest and stretch and as for Sunday, well you know about that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

End run

I closed out my pre-race run training this morning with a 3 mile treadmill run at my hotel. Since I don't belong to a health club it's rare for me to exercise with strangers. I'm always amused by the subtle dynamics that occur when other people (typically men) line up next to you on the treadmill. What should be a singular and personal experience becomes implicitly competitive: "Oh, you're running? I'll run faster." "You're going 30 minutes? I'll run for 40."

Maybe it's me just being competitive but I'll admit that I do get sucked into it. I didn't know how far I would run this morning but, having people on both sides, I knew I wouldn't quit until they did. In fact that was the case.

I had originally considered running four miles but kept it to three due to the reoccuring soreness in my right leg. I'm pretty sure that this injury is nerve related since it has not worsened over time and continues to respond positively to anti-inflammatories like Aleve. All the same I'm planning to give it a rest after tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Short and sweet

I'm heading to Boston this morning, getting an early start so I can make a mid day meeting. Since my kids are on vacation I'm taking my family with me on this trip. My wife went to college in Boston and she loves to show the kids around the city. I'm a native Bostonian who now lives in New York so I always enjoy being back to a place where I can safely wear my Red Sox hat.

In the scramble to hit the road as early as possible I had to tailor my workout for maximum benefit. I started with a quick elliptical warmup and then ran a fast (for me) mile on the treadmill. I ended up running an 8:28 pace which was helped by my warmup. Since I began having this leg pain and stiffness I've experienced relatively slow starts over the first quarter of a mile. This morning, without that stiffness, I dialed up the speed right away. It also helped that I knew I was only going to run a mile so I pushed it more than I would were I doing my usual weekday distance.

Tomorrow I will do a longer run, my last before the race. On Thursday I'll finish my training with an elliptical workout and then rest until Sunday morning. That sounds about right.

Monday, April 13, 2009

This week's Sedentary Man

In this week's column, Sedentary Man discusses breakthroughs in artifical limbs and the relationship between our bodies and our minds. He describes a view of the future where the physical body becomes increasingly less important. It actually reminds me of an old song by Zager and Evans. Read his new column here...

Just give it a rest

I had planned to do a light elliptical workout this morning to minimize the impact on my knees and leg. When I got up I thought about my weekend workouts, especially yesterday's, and decided to give my legs a complete rest. I ended up doing an upper body workout with my elliptical which I do facing the front so I can stand while grasping the arms of the machine. I've done this in the past and even with resistance set moderately low, it's a great way to work on arm strength. I would really prefer to do this workout facing the front of the display so I can track progress and control resistance. As it happens, the pedal width is slightly too wide to straddle comfortably so I really can't do it that way. Overall, the forward facing method works very well and when done at a fast pace it provides a very good cardio workout.

I appreciated the respite from leg exercise this morning and my soreness is much less noticeable. I'm planning to run hard both tomorrow and Wednesday and finish my taper either with an easy run or an elliptical workout. My son signed up for the Kids Fun Run (1/2 mile) the day of my race so we'll both be participating in Sunday's event. My daughter is also considering running and we're hoping that she decides to join us.

The weather for next Sunday morning is supposed to be mostly cloudy, in the low 40's with a 20% chance of precipitation. That sounds ideal and I'm hoping it's accurate. 5 Days, 13 hours to go...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Racing season

I'll start this post with a shout out to Adventure Girl who ran the NYRR 10K Scotland Run in Central Park on Saturday. Despite the driving rain and cold temperature she ran a strong race at an impressive pace. She told me that the energy that came from running with such a big crowd (over 7,600 finishers) helped her performance. Considering that (until recently) she was away from running for months recovering for a soccer injury I think this is a great return to competition.

I'm in my final week leading up to my 4 mile race and I've tried to get some mileage in before the work week. This week will be mostly travel so I'm not sure how much street running I'll get to do. Yesterday afternoon my wife and I decided to do a second workout. Although I did some tempo runs that morning I didn't feel as though I had taken enough time to work on endurance. My wife did a second elliptical workout as I ran on the treadmill. I didn't want to overdo it so I kept it to two miles with an overall pace of 8:51.

Today we all went to the track. It was busier than I would have expected since it's Easter Sunday. My kids did a little running and a lot of playing. There were a few serious runner types doing tempo runs and they all passed me very quickly. A number of runners came and went while I did my 4 miles. I may not have matched their pace but I outlasted them all. My intention was not to run fast and I paid no attention to my pace. I ended up running 4 miles at a mid-9 pace and I felt good that I could cruise at that speed even with stiff headwinds over half the track.

I am planning to do a light elliptical workout tomorrow and then possibly one more long run before my race. 6 days and 17 hours to go.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rain, pain go away

My running goals for the weekend were to run speed drills today and run trails tomorrow. The rain was coming down hard by the time I headed to the track and I considered staying in and pushing my pace on the treadmill. To me, running outdoors is always preferable to indoors and I decided that a little rain couldn't hurt. Make that a lot of rain combined with fairly cold temperatures and some wind.

When I arrived at the school there was a truck parked on the track and a man was removing hurdles and other equipment and placing them into the truck. He told me he was setting up for a lacrosse game that was supposed to start in an hour. I decided to get my running in quickly before the throngs arrived. Of course, with this weather, most of the game attendees would likely be either players or coaches. I wore my new trail shoes as a hedge against the rain, a long sleeve technical shirt, a pullover light rain jacket and my bamboo running pants. My hands were freezing and I wished I'd also brought gloves.

I did 4 x 400s, running at as fast a pace as I could maintain without risking further injury to my sore leg. I was very surprised by how difficult it was to do this. While I have come far in terms of aerobic conditioning I finished each 400 meter segment feeling more winded than I do when I run five miles straight. It clearly comes from the amount of work being done relative to the distance. According to my Garmin, my overall speed for 1600 meters averaged 7.8 MPH which translates to a 7:41/mile pace. This may be true but I ran 200 meters at an easy pace in between speed segments so that 7:41 does not represent a contiguous mile. It sure made me appreciate other runners I know who regularly break 7:30/mile over multiple miles.

I somewhat regretted how much I pushed myself today, especially after I got home and noticed that the pain had returned to my leg. I stretched and felt better but I need to keep that injury protected over the next three weeks. Today's speed session was not a full workout in terms of total exercise time so, time allowing, I may run a couple of easy miles on the treadmill later in the day. I hope the rain stops early enough to allow the trails to dry sufficiently for a Sunday run. But if a little rain didn't hurt today, a little mud won't hurt tomorrow.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Emerging Runners, Jr.

My kids are on spring break from school and today my nine year old son is coming in with me to work. He is, as they say, a "serious young man" and he's dressed for the office, tie included. We used to run together on the weekends but after injuring his toe (non-running related) he took a hiatus. We've been talking about returning to the track together and he's also interested in trying the trails. My wife and daughter are also interested and I think a run/hike might be a fun activity to plan for later this spring.

Right now I'm very much in race mode so my running activity this weekend will need to be primarily about that. I have received a lot of good advice in preparation of the event. These are a few essential points:

1. Rest two days prior to race day.
2. Moderate hydration and good carbs pre-race.
3. Dress as lightly as possible.
4. Don't go out too fast, save enough energy for the end.
5. Pay attention to everything and enjoy the experience.

I'm feeling prepared and my biggest concern is pulling a muscle or causing an injury during speed training this weekend. I have another race (a 5K) two weeks after the upcoming four miler. The 5K event will also feature a Kid's Fun Run so there may be an opportunity for me, my son and my daughter to experience racing together.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bonus miles

I'm home from work today, which gave me an opportunity to run longer than I usually do on a weekday. It may be the full moon, the atmospheric pressure, a cold or an allergy but I woke up feeling tired, weak and headachy. I announced last night that I'd do my morning run outside at 6:15 AM (celebrating the fact that there's now good light at that time) but that was over ambitious and I didn't actually set out until after 8:00 having had more than a few of cups of coffee.

I am in the narrow part of my training cycle and I want to put in as many miles as I can before I go into my 'quiet period' two days before my race. I've had a few recent conversations with other, more experienced, runners and they have kindly provided guidance in terms of preparation for the event. What they don't say (because they're nice) is "Four miles isn't a very long distance so you don't need to do too much to prepare." That is probably true but you only get one first race experience and they respect that.

I didn't set a distance goal for today's run but I'd hoped to do at least 5K. I headed quickly to neighborhood #2 to get a couple of miles down before circling back to my main neighborhood loop. I felt good as I ran but I didn't quite trust it since I was feeling very low just a few hours before. I dressed well for the weather (low 40's) but the sun did get warm near the end. When I reached one of my either-or points on my route (where I decide to take either a longer or shorter leg to the finish) I was happy to note that I had just passed three miles. I wasn't running especially fast but it seemed to be a good pace. I ended up covering 4.1 miles and calculated that I'd maintained an overall pace of 9:06/mile. I could have easily broken 9:00 minutes if I'd paid attention to the Garmin and picked up the pace for a few segments. I'm pleased with the results and glad I traveled more distance than I'd expected to cover. I have the weekend to work on strength and speed and will probably do one more long run early next week while I'm away on business.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tapering on

A couple of weeks ago AG asked me about my "taper plan" for my upcoming race. Being a race newbie I didn't understand the phrase. I actually thought it had to do with taping my foot for support. She explained that runners often reduce, or taper, their running routine during the weeks leading up to a race. The object is to build an optimal balance between rest and conditioning.

With my race less than two weeks away I've been thinking about the best way to prepare myself for competition. Last weekend (counting Friday) I did longer runs for three consecutive days for a total distance just short of 12 miles. In deference to a slight but persistent leg injury, I have folded in a few elliptical sessions this week which provide less strain on certain affected muscles. I'm out of the office on Thursday and I'm hoping to do a long run in the morning plus longer runs over the weekend.

Next week is when the tapering will start. I'm going to be traveling on business for most of next week so I'll need to work my routine around that. Happily I'll be up at MIT and if weather and schedules cooperate I'll get to spend some quality time running near the Charles river. I'm traveling back on Saturday and I'm not planning to do any running that day. In fact I'm thinking of resting on Friday as well, perhaps only doing core stretching.

Will it make a great difference to rest a couple of days before the race? I'll let you know on the 19th.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trail shoe, meet treadmill

This morning, before my run, I realized that the foot pod for my Garmin 50 was still attached to one of my new NB 460 trail shoes. The effort to remove and then attach it to my regular shoes is minimal but just time consuming enough for me to think twice about it. As I've mentioned before, every minute counts in my early morning routine.

In the interest of time I decided to run with the 460s on the treadmill. I figured they performed well on the street so it wouldn't matter too much if they weren't made for running on a treadmill surface. Starting up was a little tough which I attributed to both the tread of the shoes and to some residual stiffness I have in my right leg. I'm planning to visit my orthopedist after my May race to get to the root of that problem which, at the moment, involves some slight pain and restricted mobility when starting a walk or run.

I got up to speed fairly quickly and the 460s, though not especially heavy, felt like I was running with comfortable work boots. As usual, my treadmill display shut down after about five minutes (as a technologist I am horrified by the failings of most running technologies I've used. But to be fair the treadmill is over a decade old) so I pushed the speed control blindly until the Garmin registered 7 MPH.

I ended up running 1.81 miles at an 8:50 pace. Although the use of these shoes on the treadmill was not ideal they're proving themselves to be a great buy. Tomorrow I'll aim for the same distance with the Nike's to compare experiences. I'm betting that under the same conditions, with the right shoes, I should be able to improve on that pace.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Treadmill and elliptical, Viva la différence!

I reverted to the elliptical this morning and welcomed the lower impact workout after three days of long runs. While the net benefit of a 22 minute workout may approximately equal that of my usual weekday treadmill run I never feel as though I work as hard on the elliptical. I read an article some months ago that compared the differences between treadmill running and elliptical workouts. Besides the obvious differences in leg motion and the involvement of the arms with the elliptical, the article maintained that the two activities were approximately the same.

If that's the case, why does the elliptical seem so much easier? According to research I've done, while the two workouts burn approximately the same amount of calories per hour (assuming treadmill speed and elliptical resistance are equalized) the lower impact on the user's joints with the elliptical creates a perception that the user is doing less work. That makes sense to me. What also contributes to the difference is that the treadmill sometimes seems a barely tamed beast. At speed, the user must maintain a precise pace and correct position on the tread or risk a serious accident. The noise from a treadmill can also be very loud and that can contribute to tension and perceived effort. The percussive motion of running can cause vibration, so much so that my clock often turns or even falls off the night table when I turn up the speed.

On the other hand the elliptical is whisper quiet (except for mine that occasionally makes a clacking sound when it becomes unbalanced at certain speeds) and this allows the user to watch television or listen to music at a normal level. You can even close you eyes and drift into an alpha state as you operate the machine. Try that on a treadmill. I also find that on longer sessions I can spread the pain a little by making minute adjustments between the efforts I put to the leg part versus the arm part as I maintain a certain rate. It's much more civilized.

At the end, even as I completed my workout this morning drenched with sweat, I still felt that I was missing something. Perhaps it's that running is more aerobic and just plain harder to do. I love that I have a choice between the two machines. The treadmill will always be the preferred challenge and the elliptical will always be a great compromise in terms of doing a workout or taking a rest day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A well balanced run

My usual routine involves two longer weekend runs and then either an easy run or light elliptical workout on Monday morning. Since Friday was the start of my running weekend I should have made today's exercise more like a rest day. I mentioned yesterday that I bought a pair of NB 460s and I wanted to see how they performed. I thought about heading over to Stillwell Woods Preserve to test them on the trails but I was constrained for time and I really wanted to get a feel for the shoes on the street.

I dressed light and it was cool but not too cold when I started out. I chose an uphill road as my first leg to help with my warm up and to take advantage of the energy that comes at the beginning of a run. I was very pleased with the feel of the 460s. They are roomier than the Kutus with a higher toe box and, with the exception of some slight slipping at the heel of my right foot, they felt great. I was moving very well as I crisscrossed through the neighborhood streets but then I came upon some stiff headwinds coming from the west. I remember thinking how nice those winds would feel later in the run after I'd heated up a bit. Although I'd planned a relatively short run I was feeling good and decided to run four miles since I'm just 13 days away from my 4 mile race.

I felt as though the Garmin was over-calculating a little and a mapping on Gmaps confirmed that. I ended up running about 4.2 miles with an overall pace of 9:07, which I thought was good considering that I was completing over 11 miles within three days. I learned on my Stillwell run and confirmed on Friday that softer surfaces and hills are still a challenge for me. This signals an opportunity to build up those muscles. I think next Sunday I will run some trails as a conditioning exercise one week before my race.

Emerging Runner News: I am happy to report that the Emerging Runner was the number one blog on the Runner's World Loop in March.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

When all else fails blame the shoes

After watching the ever-changing weather yesterday we made a decision to head to Central Park at the end of the workday. It was still a bit misty and somewhat cool as we walked to the park and it seemed to be great conditions for a run. Adventure Girl led the way taking us on the Bridal trail along the western side. With respect to the weather I wore a light but non-breathable windbreaker over a short sleeve jersey and a hat. That turned out to be a mistake because the weather cleared soon after we started and I began to overheat very quickly. I also wore my Nike Kutu trail runners because of the rainy conditions and it was a good idea to have trail shoes since the running surface was muddy and uneven. I never really liked the Kutus that much, I bought them too small and while they are okay for shorter runs they aren't so good overall. Consequently, I had a tough time almost from the beginning and AG was gracious to stick with me even though I was maintaining a glacier-like pace around 10:00 per mile.

She had joked about being concerned about keeping up with me before we ran. That was not an issue and I have many things I could blame (clothes, shoes, heat, time of day) for my slow pace. In my defense it was a hilly course and I'm just not used to a surface like that. The intended course was about 4.5 miles but I had to stop at 4.3 miles (ave 9:53/mi) with the last half mile on a paved surface. My legs were tired during most of the run but I wasn't winded. We walked back to the office and it felt good. I had a great time and I wish I was a better running partner but now I know what I need to do in terms of preparing next time.

This morning I decided to do a relatively easy run to assuage my damaged ego and did a 3-mile run through my neighborhood. I felt pretty good and the difference between the Nike Turbulence 13s and Kutus was evident. I ran slowly compared to recent street runs finishing with an overall pace of 9:10. We went out to do some errands and while my wife shopped with the kids for summer swim clothes I tried on some running shoes. The place we were at had some good brands but not the high end shoes. I decided to pass on buying any of the shoes I tried although they were inexpensive but at the last minute I saw some New Balance 460 trail shoes on sale so I tried them and really liked the way they fit. I'm going to run with them tomorrow to see if they feel good running. If that's the case I might keep them at the office. I'm thinking about buying some shoes to replace the Turbulence 13s which are rolling up to 400 miles. I don't know if that's necessary since they still feel pretty good.

Today Adventure Girl is conducting a training session with her relay team on the trails in Prospect Park. I'm not sure she even broke a sweat yesterday so I think she'll be fine for that rigorous activity. My wife ran 30 minutes today which is very impressive and I'm hoping that we can get to the track again soon. I'm targeting at least 4 miles tomorrow. It would be great if these new shoes feel as good on the street as they do in my den.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Weather or not

Anticipating a long run later today in Central Park, I skipped all forms of exercise this morning. It was an odd feeling to watch the news at 4:30 AM with neither the sweat nor endorphins that usually follow a vigorous session on the treadmill. I'm really hoping that the weather cooperates this afternoon although it isn't looking too good right now. As of 6:30 it was raining and that is supposed to continue throughout the day. According to it should be 57 degrees with thunderstorms, 74% humidity and windy at 4:30 PM when we plan to start. The only element I can think of to make conditions worse would be the addition of a sandstorm. The thing that will determine whether we run is the intensity of the storm itself. Rain, heat and winds are challenges to overcome but lightning is something to avoid at all costs.

As I look out my office window onto 6th Ave. (above) it's not looking too good: dark, gray and rainy although I'm not hearing any thunder. Tomorrow and Sunday I'm hoping to do a couple of long runs but we're supposed to get some rain and 25 to 35 MPH winds. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it but I'm planning to cover at least 8 miles this weekend, weather notwithstanding.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Running for office

Over the past few years I've noticed another commuter who always gets up from his train seat as we head into the East River tunnel and then proceeds to do calf and leg stretches as we come into Penn Station. When the doors open he's already moving, bounding up the stairs on his way to work. I've recently noticed that this man wears running shoes and despite the fact that the rest of his wardrobe (coat, suit and tie) is all business I'm guessing that he runs to his office each day.

Although running to my office each day from Penn (approximately 1.3 miles) presents an opportunity to add more miles to my weekly total I don't think I'll follow his lead. There is merit to the concept but I don't need to show up at my building each day looking like a damp washcloth. I did a great pre-workday city run a few weeks ago but that was in cooler weather and we wore real running clothes. Tomorrow afternoon Adventure Girl and I have planned a run in Central Park late in the day. It's a 4 mile route that includes the reservoir. It sounds like a great way to end the work week and a good jumpstart to my weekend training. I'd like to start a running club with colleagues and members of my team because so many people from my office are runners. We've even joked about doing a staff meeting as a group run. Of course, it would be great if my company had showers available to people who wanted to break up their day with some exercise but in these days of cost cutting that's not likely.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This week's Sedentary Man

In this week's column Sedentary Man explains the rules of HORSE and also recognizes Carl Yastremski's little known contribution to fitness in Major League Baseball. SM told me that as a Bosox fan he thought I would like that mention. His column is an encouraging message to those of us who plan to run past retirement age. Read it here...

In addition, I have been the featured blogger on the Runner's World loop community page. It's not much more than a goofy picture but you can check it out here before I'm replaced by another community member.

19 days and counting...

My race countdown clock is now at 19 days. What was once an abstract, future date is now just three weekends away. Many runners I know have competed for years. They have t-shirts, running bibs, PR's and stories. Aside from a corporate challenge I ran in 1992 that is disturbingly fuzzy in my memory, I am a complete newbie.
I do appreciate the encouragement that I've received from more accomplished and experienced runners. Unlike other sports where I've competed, ice hockey, karate and, yes, tennis, there seems to be little in the way of trash talking among those who run. The Runner's World Loop community is an interesting and eclectic group of runners at all stages. Some are new to the sport and others are quite experienced. I often see RW Loop blog posts from people who run 6 and 7 minute paces and wonder what they think of those (like me) who brag every time they break a 9:00 mile. My guess is that they think "good for you" based upon the encouraging comments I've seen on mine and other's blogs.

I weighed in today exactly where I wanted to be. I ran 1.8 miles at 9 min/mile and, by stretching before I ran, I had minimal leg soreness. I'm ready for my first race. In fact I wish it was this upcoming weekend. But since it isn't happening for 19 days I'll take the opportunity to refine my performance a little more. I hope to maintain or exceed an 8:50 pace for the 4 miles. I've heard that racing provides extra motivation and adrenalin and I'm counting on that for meeting this goal.

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