Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Running technology rant plus a little about running

As a technologist I am usually willing to accept inconsistent results from the technologies I use. I understand that consumer electronics are designed and built to meet the often contradictory requirements of
functionality and low cost. Some technologies have established themselves as chronically unreliable and yet we accept this. I no longer get surprised when my office computer spontaneously reboots because it reaches some threshold of memory and needs to stop RIGHT NOW. That usually happens when I'm deeply focused on a presentation or spreadsheet and therefore have not consciously saved it every few minutes. I accept that but I don't like it. I have discovered that Apple, even with all its cool designs, marketing and innovation, really makes bad stuff. My iMac shuts down so often that I'm surprised when it doesn't. The funny thing about it is that I love it before that happens and I love it afterward. But when it happens I really hate it. I'm starting to feel that way about my iPhone. I'm on my 3rd 3GS in as many months and I like almost everything about it but it except for:

1. When it dies and then comes back to life a week later.
2. When it runs slower on WiFi than on 3G.
3. When, despite its showing five bars for connectivity along with 3G or WiFi, I can't connect to the web or make an outgoing call.
4. When I set up a GPS app like MotionX, see the signal is acquired, hit the button to start my run, and finish the run only to find that it stopped recording after six minutes.
5. When I try to do a post using the Blogger app and the keyboard decides to change the default to caps and provides no obvious way to change it back.

So I'm really hating my iPhone this morning. I so want to count on it to capture my runs but it fails far more often than it succeeds. One technology that works pretty well is the Garmin 50 and I'm grateful to have had that as backup for the many runs I've recorded (or tried to record) using my iPhone.

Okay, now I'll talk about running. Since I've returned from Rehoboth Beach I've had two early morning runs that felt great, largely due to the cool temperatures and low humidity. Over the past couple of days I've covered about 5 miles and maintained close to 9:00 per mile for pace. I'm thinking a lot about the upcoming marathon relay and I'm concerned about how I'll handle over 9 miles. Although it's broken into segments of 3 and 6 miles I'm not sure a couple of hours rest in between will help or hurt. The best I can do is try. And if I don't do as well as I'd like I'll have only myself, not technology, to blame.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Free to be free of Nike Free

Yesterday I awoke to the sounds of torrential rain and percussive surf and thought I'd miss my opportunity to run in the morning. I considered the idea of running even under those conditions but I knew I wouldn't really like it. About an hour later the skies began to clear and I optimistically changed into running clothes hoping that the rain would pass. My wife and kids had already headed across the boardwalk to the beach and I came by to say hi before heading south. I had my Adidas trail shoes on so I stayed on the sand for about half a mile before deciding that I much preferred the boardwalk as a running surface. I decided to run from end to end a few times since, according to a sign on southern end, the boardwalk measures 1 mile. In the space of that mile the area changes from neighborhood to hotels to tourist traps and then back to hotels. The one thing that's consistent is the beautiful and inspiring water on one side or the other. The rain came back in the middle of my run but it was light and cooling. The only negative was that my glasses fogged and limited my ability to see much beyond the immediate distance. In all I covered 5.2 miles under 9:00 per mile. What pleased me about that was that the beginning part of my run was relatively slow because of the sand yet I still maintained a decent overall pace.

Later that day, after we all showered, we set off into the town for lunch and then hit some stores including Nike and Under Armor outlets. At the Nike store I saw they had the Frees so out of curiosity I tried on a pair. When I put them on I noticed they felt more like a slipper than a running shoe and when I walked on them I was surprised by how unnatural and unbalanced they felt. Maybe that's the point but no thank you. After that we headed to the Under Armor store and I tried a pair of Apparition running shoes, also out of curiosity. At least this shoe felt supportive and balanced. I'm not really interested in UA shoes and I didn't think at $90 that these shoes felt as good as some competing brands. I don't really like the UA brand anyway, I'm sure the clothing is top notch but I don't care for the hyper-competitive edge they convey in their marketing.

On the other hand my daughter happily picked up a running shirt on sale and later got a t-shirt elsewhere that said "I am a girl, I am an athlete, and running is my sport. Well said.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beach run

REHOBOTH BEACH, DE - We arrived at our weekend getaway and immediately went out to explore. Rehoboth Beach is a nice ocean side town that caters to vacationers and there are plenty of stores and restaurants. Most of the stores are dedicated to selling t-shirts. After some assorted small purchases including a half pound of fudge and a tub of pomme frites we headed back to the room to change for afternoon activites. For my wife and kids that meant beach clothes and for me, running clothes. I had my eye on the boardwalk from the moment we arrived and I couldn't wait to get out for a run.

It was a cool 68 degrees by the water and very windy. I took off in a northern direction to see how far the boardwalk extended in that direction. It felt good to run on a such a forgiving surface and walkers were sparse at that end. I eventually reached the end but kept going into the bordering neighborhood until I started to feel too distanced from my intended route. I turned around and ran to the other end, at one point passing through the main tourist area that smelled of cigarettes, cigars, ketchup and funnel cakes. I tried to hold my breath through there but my anaerobic conditioning still needs some work. I cut a little into a side street before resuming my boardwalk travel. I passed a few runners, some cyclists and many walkers. I in turn was passed twice by another runner who was comfortably circling the area at what I guess was a mid 7:00 pace. I held my own around at 9:08 for a total of 4.5 miles. When I finished I headed to the water to find my family on the beach. The kids had jumped into the water and their beach shoes were covered in sand. They had a great time.

It's raining pretty hard this morning but I'm hopeful that it will clear and I'll get to go out again today. A little rain can make for a nice run and looking at the water along the way makes me happy. I brought my Adidas trail shoes so I'll probably run in those. I tried to include a picture but it's hard to use this interface when posting from an iPhone. If I'm unsuccessful you'll just have to believe me when I say it's a beautiful place to run.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Down at the boardwalk

I'm pleased that I got three morning runs in this week plus a good elliptical session. I went out this morning for a tidy 2.3 miler and appreciated the cool temperature and low humidity a lot more after Wednesdays hot and steamy conditions. I've been trying to average over 20 miles a week and that's sometimes hard to achieve with my schedule. When I was running on Fridays in the city I could usually count on 14+ miles between then and Monday. That meant I only had to find six more miles during the rest of the week to make my distance goal. Now that fall has arrived, bringing with it meeting-packed Fridays, I'm discovering what a luxury it was to have that time for my running adventures. I could still do a weekly city run but that would require my arrival at the office before 7:00 AM or a later trip home in the evening. Neither is an appealing option as my days are already long.

We're going away this weekend and staying at a place near the water. Our hotel faces the beach, which is nice, but I'm also excited that there's a boardwalk that runs along the beach. I've only run on boardwalks a few times but I've always liked the cushioned effect and the springy response from the wood. Much of running (for me) centers on the places where I run (hence my love of trails and extreme dislike for treadmills) so I'm really looking forward to looking out at the water on what will be - hopefully - a cool dry morning. The Cape Cod marathon may give me another opportunity to run by the water but I'm not sure if my two relay legs include sections of the ocean. I sure hope they do. In the meantime I'll enjoy this weekend's waterfront experience. I just hope it doesn't rain.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two-a-day training for my marathon relay

Back when I started running I would often go out two or three times a day. This activity was performed primarily on weekends as my daily run was often limited to 15 minutes on the treadmill. On weekends I'd go out early and do a mile. I'd often try to stretch that to two miles but it took some time before I got there. Later in the day I'd do another short run (or two) so that I'd cover a total of 3 miles on Saturday or Sunday. Stretching out the time between runs was essential to that because in my early running days I'd need a lot of rest between activities. More recently, as runs have become longer and my conditiong has improved, I'm less apt to do multiple runs in one day unless the second run is a modest two mile jog with my daughter on a Sunday afternoon.

Training for my marathon relay brings back the idea of two-a-days and in my case that means two runs within two hours. Last Sunday was an interesting experience because it revealed my limits very quickly. My first segment went fine, a 3.1 mile run that would normally serve as a typical weekend distance (at the shorter end). I stayed in my running clothes to simulate the conditions for the race. I'm not expecting that I'll have access to a changing room during the actual event although I may change into a clean jersey in the team car. After toweling off I did swap shirts and then had a bowl of cereal with dried fruit as I waited to run my next segment. Exactly 120 minutes after I finished my first run I set out again for the second leg. The lesson I quickly learned was that two hours rest allowed me to recover well enough to go out with some energy but the wall comes up hard 30 minutes later. I struggled to continue at that point and came up short of my 9 mile total distance goal.

I have about four weekends left to train with these two-a-days. The biggest concern I have for the race relates to the unknown elevations of the course and the level of heat and sun that day. I'm going to assume it will be hot and hilly but I really hope I'm wrong. 9.05 miles, even broken up into two segments, would still be a record distance for a single day. I'm up to the challenge and hoping for the best.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Anticipating the weather

Every morning when I go out to run I anticipate the weather. As the garage door pulls itself up to reveal the morning conditions I brace for what I'll see. This morning I saw that the driveway was spotted with rain and the air felt extremely humid. The past two weeks have been cool in the early hours and I've enjoyed that. I even needed two layers during a run last week. I set out with no particular route in mind, hoping that the rain had passed for good.

Around ten minutes into my run I began to feel some drops. I laughed about the fact that the rain always seems to come when I'm at the farthest point from home. I didn't really care as long as it stayed at a drizzle. Anything more and I begin to worry about my watch and my phone. Plus I don't like to get my shoes wet. I mentioned yesterday that my headlamp didn't throw enough light to illuminate my path when I'm running in total darkness. I stand corrected, all it took was a quick on-the-fly angle adjustment to solve that issue.

I ended up covering 2.5 miles at 9:08 and considering how slowly I started it turned out to be a decent pace. Worrying about beating the rain can definitely motivate you to hustle. It never really rained during my run so my luck held once again. I'm anticipating the day my garage door opens to reveal a layer of freshly fallen snow. Treadmill or trail shoes? What would you do?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shoe tie, don't bother me

Last December I poked a little fun at Runner's World for running this tease on their cover. I shouldn't have been so quick to judge because I had an un-tying incident during this morning's run that was distracting and potentially dangerous. Although I love early morning running there are some issues with the darkness on moon-less nights. My headlamp,  a Petzl Tikka Plus, does a good enough job but it doesn't really throw very far. My concern is that someday I'll miss seeing a rut in the road or the sidewalk and I'll turn an ankle (or worse). 

The Tikka Plus does have a ratcheting swivel head that allows the user to aim the light but I find that I often need to put my head down in dark areas to properly see the road. The combination of a dark morning and the unraveling of my shoelace put me a little on edge. This is what passes for drama at 4:15 AM! I was reluctant to stop in the middle of a run to tie my laces so once I established that my shoe wasn't slipping I decided to just bear it the rest of the way. The resulting distance was covered without incident but I was more concerned than usual that I'd trip on my un-tethered laces. Except for the constant whipping from the loose pair against my shin the rest of the run went without incident.
The key reason my laces became untied had to do with a recent problem I'm having with my Brooks GTS 9's. The top of the laces are positioned exactly where my tibia meets the upper tarsal and there are two large nerves that run through there. When I tie my laces too tight it pinches and hurts. I've always had this issue with these shoes although the severity of the pinching can vary. This morning I must have tied them too loosely. I don't have this issue with my other four pairs of running shoes so it may be connected to the design of the Brooks. I have a different pinching issue with my office pair of Asics 1130's so I wonder if it's the design of my foot and not the shoes. Either way, when I look for my next pair of everyday trainers, tongue and collar comfort will be an important criteria.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The information gap in racing

I was thinking about how I stumbled upon that 5K race yesterday and the fact that in this age of ubiquitous connectivity to the web how often information about events doesn't reach runners. Yesterday's 5K,
whose route came within blocks of my home, was unknown to me and would have remained that way if I hadn't gone in that direction on Sunday's run. The bigger events, like the Long Island Marathon Series, are well promoted and documented. They even had course maps on their website to provide runners an idea of the route. The LI Marathon website itself was marginal with pages that went nowhere and lots of missing information. All the same, with their booths at fairs, festivals and at other races, along with a complement of newspaper ads, the event was hard to miss.

I've run four races this year and have at least two more scheduled. In two cases there were course maps available, one easy to find and another that required some Google skills. I was extremely curious to
see the course for the New Hyde Park 8K race last June but the site had no map and little information about the race itself. In fact, online registration wasn't available until about a week prior to race. Before that the online registration had been set up for 2008. On race day the organizers were working diligently to trace and print course maps using Gmaps and I wondered why they waited until an hour before the race to do that. It was a great event but it would have been better had they made this information available earlier. My most recent race, the Dirty Sock 10K, was really well done and their website had everything I needed to know to prepare for it. I tried to participate in an LIRRC race last week but the information gaps did me in. Another event the same day blocked access to the race start that was defined on the LIRRC website and I wasn't familiar enough with the park to find my way in time.

I was online yesterday and came across the USATF site that has a page that lists certified courses with hand drawn maps. I found the New Hyde Park race included in this direction. It would have been a simple thing for that races website to point to it. With MapMyRun, Gmaps, Garmin Connect and many other mashups to Google and Microsoft's mapping applications you'd expect to find a lot more course information available online. If I had the time I'd create a "MapMyRace" site to allow runners to see the course and its elevations to help them with their training strategy. I realize that maintaining a website is challenge and keeping one up to date is tough when it isn't your core point of focus. It's situations like yesterday that make me wonder couldn't they have tried a little harder?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who put that 5K in the middle of my run?

I'm training for the Cape Cod Marathon that takes place on October 25th. Impressed right? Barely a year under my belt as a runner and I'm already tackling 26.2 miles! Well, the race itself is that long but my participation is limited to two legs out of five and I'll be sharing the course with three teammates. I'll be the starting runner covering 3.05 miles before handing off to a teammate who will be facing 6.15 miles. The next leg is 5.7 miles then the baton comes back to me for six more before I hand off to the last runner who needs to cover 5.3 miles to finish. The course winds around Falmouth and appears to have sections near the water so it could be a visually beautiful race. As a matter fact the website states that "Runners' World called this race one of the ten "Most Scenic" marathons in America." I've got concerns about covering my distances competitively so I officially started my training today.

My plan was to simulate the effect of doing two runs within 2 hours of each other. Based on a nine minute pace I'd have about an hour and forty-five minutes to rest between legs. I went out around 8:30 AM and my plan was run the nearby industrial park because it has a long uphill stretch. From what I saw of the elevations of the course it looks to be hilly and I want to be prepared. I had a surprisingly difficult time during my first race, a four miler, that had a long hill near the beginning of the run. That challenge took a lot out of me and I never want to be caught like that again. I made my way to the Park and as I came around the corner towards the main road I saw a row of orange cones and a bit further on were people setting up what seemed to be a water station. As I got closer I saw signs that the "Angels on the Bay 5K" was happening this morning starting from Sysosset-Woodbury Park. I was tempted to see if I could sign up but there really wasn't time and I wanted to follow the training plan I'd worked out. I was frustrated that with all the time I spend looking for local races this never came to my attention. I think some better marketing would draw a bigger crowd next year.

I ended up covering 3.4 miles for my first "leg" this morning and came home to re-hydrate and have a small breakfast. I went back out at 11:00 hoping to cover at least 5 miles and I felt good at the start save for some sharp pressure on the top of my ankle from my Brooks. I stopped to re-tie that shoe after a quarter mile and reset my Garmin and my MotionX back to 00:00. I ran with the Nike+ chip on my earlier run but I hadn't calibrated it so it thought that I was running 20 minute miles. I decided to leave it home for the second run. Once I restarted I took off in a different direction than this morning and felt very good until I reached the 3 mile mark when I started to fade. Fortunately I was far enough from home that I was forced to extend the run and I ended up covering 4.55 miles (not counting the .25 before my reset) for the second leg. All totaled it was 8.2 miles, not the 9 I'd hoped to cover today. I'm still pleased with the training and I'll build on it over the next month. I feel very good after all that but I'm looking forward to bedtime tonight.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

People plus and Nike minus

One of the greatest things about my work life is that I work with some cool and interesting people. A lot of that has to do with the company itself, it takes a lot to get hired here so those that do get in tend to be the leaders in their field. It's great to spend your days with people that you respect and also like. Not surprisingly, I met my wife here. Readers know about the amazing Adventure Girl and the Sedentary Man also has many fans. Another colleague who personifies this profile is KWL, a man with more sources of interest than J.P. Morgan Chase. I won't go into his professional bona fides but I will say that he is my inspiration when it comes to blending activity and technology. KWL made me aware of how applications can leverage the GPS capabilities of the iPhone and it was during our division Fun Run when I first saw MotionX in action. He's an avid cyclist and uses MotionX to record and map rides that can go 50 miles or even longer.

Now that I'm back on a - theoretically - stable iPhone (my third 3GS in two months) I'm looking to resume using the many GPS apps I have that record and map running data. Last week KWL brought me a Nike+ chip and receiver that he'd just picked up for his new iPod Nano. He went for a run with it and was impressed. I was impressed that, as a non-runner, he is capable of spontaneously pulling off 2+ mile runs whenever he feels like it. KWL suggested that I try the Nike+ app on my iPod as I ran this morning. It seemed pretty cool and when I plugged the receiver into my 3GS this morning my iPhone showed a message saying I didn't need it, that the phone would communicate with the chip automatically.

Before long I had established a communication link with the chip that I'd attached above the laces on my right foot making it a twin with the Garmin foot pod on my left. I assigned some music to the workout, hit start and hit the street. I didn't select a distance so the built in training didn't encourage me to speed up or affirm my pace but the app seemed to run okay. When I got to the end I stopped the Garmin and the Nike+ app. I then hit "End Workout" on the iPhone and that seemed to delete my run because I haven't been able to find the data ever since. That's too bad because I never got a chance to review the Nike+ data against my Garmin that showed I ran about 5K at 8:58.

I'll go back and read the instruction to see what I did wrong and try the Nike+ again tomorrow. I'm curious to see if it's accurate but my hopes aren't high for the technology. After my Nike+ wristband experience my expectations for it are very low. But if KWL likes it it's certainly worth another try.

Friday, September 18, 2009

From bedroom to street in 28 simple steps

Last night, as I was preparing my gear for this morning's run, I realized just how much I need to do just to get out the door. I've often wondered why, when I arise at 3:50, that I'm not on the road until 4:08. Thinking through all the individual steps I'm not surprised that it takes so long.

Consider this routine:

1. Head downstairs
2. Start coffee machine (set up done the night before)
3. Turn on cell phone and place in arm band
4. Take vitamin
5. Pour coffee
6. Grab energy bar
7. Head back upstairs
8. Change out of sleeping attire, put on:
9. Supporter
10. Running shorts
11. HRM
12. Compression t-shirt (it was chilly this morning)
13. Running jersey
14. Reflective vest
15. Running socks
16. Running shoes
17. Flashing tail light
18. Running hat
19. Head lamp
20. Garmin 50 watch
21. Arm band
22. Consume 1/3 of energy bar
23. Drink 1/3 cup of coffee
24. Head back downstairs
25. Step outside
26. Do quick set of flexibility stretches
27. Prepare and start Garmin
28. Hit the road

It's no wonder that my running time is barely longer than my prep time. This morning I covered 2.6 miles in 23:04, a mere eight minutes longer than the time I took to get ready. If not for all the work I do the night before to set out my clothes and gear that gap would be even closer. I'd like to run longer distances in the mornings but I'm not sure how to gain more efficiencies. Perhaps if I put all my gear downstairs I can save a minute or two by changing into running clothes while my coffee brews. Or I could sleep in my running clothes and forgo my coffee until I come back from my run. Alternatively, I could become a 7:00/mile runner and cover about 5K every morning in the same period of time. I'm all for aspirational pace goals but I think I'm just going to have to adjust to running without a caffeine boost if I want to get more time in the morning.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Motivation please

Today is a rest day. I usually take Thursdays for recovery so there's nothing unusual about that. In reality there was no reason to rest today except laziness and I'm disappointed that I took the easy way out this morning. Prior to August I rested on Thursdays to prepare for my weekend distance that usually started with a long city run on Friday. Since AG left for school I've only done a few of these runs by myself and, due to my schedule, I'm not planning to run in the city tomorrow. So a couple of miles today and a couple more tomorrow, early, would have been the right thing to do. I'd hoped that my 7.6 mile PDR on Labor Day would motivate me to run longer distances but since that run I have not had another good (long) one. This weekend was a disappointment as Saturday's run was purposely kept to around 2 miles because I was tapering for Sunday's race. Since I ended up not racing I did my long run in the surrounding neighborhoods and I only covered 3.9 miles. After that (not counting my run with my daughter) it's been a couple of early morning 2+ mile workouts and one 25 minute elliptical session.

Tomorrow I will get out and run regardless of how I feel. If I have to draw on guilt to get me out the door I will. I'm training for a marathon relay so on Saturday I'm hoping to get a long run in, perhaps on the trails. I have a jammed schedule that day so I may need to settle for 4 miles or less. On Sunday I will attempt to run 3 miles and then another 6 a couple of hours later to simulate my legs in the race. I may aim for 2 and 5 miles respectively since I don't know how I'll feel and I don't want to encourage an injury. I'm looking forward to doing that because it's different and it's also a realistic challenge. I hope I'm feeling positive when I wake up tomorrow. I'm learning that attitude is everything when it comes to achieving good performance on my runs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thinking about my next pair

It's been about five months since I bought my Brooks GTS 9's and I'm thinking about when I'll replace them. I already have five pairs of running shoes although three of them are for trails. My other pair of street shoes are Asics 1130's that are perfectly serviceable but I noticed they pinched a little the last time I ran with them on the bridle trail in Central Park. The past two days I've done my 4:00 AM runs and noticed that I still have an issue with the way they fit at the tongue. It's too bad because they are great shoes but I don't know if I'd buy another pair. A friend of mine just picked up a pair of New Balance 1225's and I started thinking about what I'd look for the next time I consider a replacement of the Brooks. At different times I vacillate between the idea of investing in a pair of high end cushioned stability shoes like the Saucony ProGrid Hurricanes or the Asics GEL-Kayano 15's or a pair of lightweight trainers like the Mizuno Wave Universe 3. I run between 20-25 miles per week with my longest runs ranging between five and seven miles so I don't know how these trainers would hold up in terms of comfort and support.

The mature thing to do would be to swap my low mileage Asics that I keep in my office with the Brooks that are getting close to 400 miles. I could put off my next street shoe purchase for a while if I did that. But what fun would that be!?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The economy tanked but my running's improved

It was a year ago today when I was in Boston to give a talk to an audience of Wall Street analysts and economists about emerging media technologies. I went down to the fitness center in my hotel early in the day to run on the treadmill. At that point in my running routine was: walk a lot, run a little, then walk some more. I remember being excited to use a high-end treadmill with features that included a heart rate monitor and programmed courses that provided variable elevations and speeds. The treadmills also had individual television sets in front of them and, as I ran, I was horrified to see news that my NY office's next door neighbor, Lehman Brothers, had filed for the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The Dow fell 504 points that day on its way to a low of 6,470. Things are still tough but at least, for now, it seems to be heading in the right direction.

Thinking about that moment put the last year into perspective for me. From a business perspective there's little good to say. In terms of fitness it's been a very good year. While the Dow dropped another 40% after that day in Boston, over the last year I've managed to reduce my weight by 20% and increase my average weekly running distance by over 75%. In 2009 I've accomplished all four of my running goals:

1. Participate in at least four local races.
2. Run a complete 10K course (individually or in a race).

3. Run three miles under 8:40/mile.
4. Incorporate one rest day into my weekly training schedule.

It's still only September and my chances of making such dramatic performance gains (compared with this last year) by next September are slim. I'm already beginning to think about 2010 running goals and I'm even thinking of adding a couple of more goals for 2009. While I don't plan (and hope not to) lose any more weight I would like to see my weekly average distance improve. I've been doing my 4:00 AM runs for a couple of months now and those runs have added at least three miles to my previous weekly numbers. I'll also need to make some changes in my training to make real progress on my pace. That will probably mean integrating tempo runs and speed work once a week into my training. I'm fine with that since the last time I ran intervals I thought that they were a lot of fun. When it's a weekly activity my perspective on that will likely change. All things being equal, for the next 12 months I'm hoping for some great running experiences and a much better outlook on Wall Street.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday and Monday

I topped off yesterday's activities with a neighborhood run with my daughter. We've gotten into a nice routine of running our 1-2 mile course before dinner on Sunday nights. Although it's only a once a week thing for her she has improved greatly since our first time out and she can usually cover our distance with only one or two short stops along the way. I suspect it won't be long before these breaks become unnecessary and I'm anticipating the time when she pushes the pace instead of me. Until then I will fully enjoy the experience as it is.

This morning I awoke conflicted about my workout. As I made my way down for coffee I weighed three options: run, rest or elliptical. Mondays are usually my rest days but with only a couple of miles logged on Saturday and a moderate amount of distance on Sunday I knew I should do something. I decided to elliptical because I was suffering a little sciatic pain and thought a low impact workout would be preferable. I think it was a good choice since I've been pain free since then. I've said before that the elliptical workouts never seem to be as much work as running and today was no exception. That said, I did feel it was time well spent and I am raring to get back out on the road tomorrow morning.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

False start for my LIRRC 4 mile race

I've had some frustrations this weekend starting yesterday when my iPhone, once again, went completely dead. I have the worst luck with Apple products (my iMac has a history of abruptly shutting down with no warning, my first iPhone 3GS arrived D.O.A. from the factory and my
current iPhone has failed twice). I've concluded that Apple just makes poorly designed hardware. It's hard to rely on the iPhone as a business tool when it is so unreliable. I really wish RIM made iPhones (I guess the Blackberry Storm is their equivalent - so no thanks). I traded in my third Blackberry for my company issued iPhone and went from fantastic phone service (Verizon) and reliable hardware to a quirky device with poor integration to email and calendar, a poor texting interface and shoddy construction. Of course the other capabilities that come with the iPhone make up for most of the aggravation. But today I'm ready to throw it out a window.

Compounding my frustration was my race day experience this morning. I didn't race today because I had too much trouble finding the race. I'm sure that the LIRRC is a fine organization and it is dedicated to the sport and its constituents. I've been frustrated with the LIRRC website
because it doesn't have a lot of the information that I look for when I'm considering a race (e.g., details about the individual races, course maps). What the site lacked today was anything to tell race participants that the directions to the race were wrong because the 2009 Trek Women Triathlon Series event was going on and access to the race was blocked all over the park. Despite multiple attempts to get to the Main Field House I kept running into Park police who were blocking off traffic from every direction. We arrived early enough to absorb the first setback
when my wife dropped me off where we thought the race would start, only for me to discover that it was the triathlon area. The triathlon seemed like a great event. As I looked for someone who could tell me where the LIRRC race was being held I found myself getting screamed at for walking on the running course. I didn't understand why there wasn't a single sign showing where to go for my race.

We eventually set off for a different part of the park and encountered another big road block. I asked a Park police officer how I could get tothe location and she said I couldn't, not by car. We ended up parking far away and started to walk over but by then time was running out and I
decided it wasn't worth the aggravation. I ended up heading home and running at a local park. I extended my run into neighborhood #4 and into the adjacent industrial park. In all I ran 3.66 miles, not the four miles I would have covered had I raced and I averaged 9:00/mile overall.
It wasn't my best run and the humidity and sun were in full force. I'm very disappointed with the LIRRC for its lack of communication and signage but I'm sure most people found their way and ran today despite the obstacles. I'm still considering the LIRRC 5K that's scheduled two Sundays from now. However, if there are any other local races in September I'll choose them instead. Fool me once...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Soggy taper

I really blew it by acknowledging my incredible luck with the weather in my last post. My window of opportunity slammed shut yesterday when I decided to forgo my early morning run in favor of a city run later in the day. Had I got out at 4:00 AM on Friday I would have avoided the rain that fell over the rest of the day. Plan A, a 7:30 run in Central Park, was washed out with the wind and rain as were Plans B & C to run at lunch or before I left for the day. Plan D was the treadmill at home but I'd conceded to a rest day by dinner time.

The reason I wanted to get in a run yesterday was to complete my tapering for my race on Sunday. I considered just skipping today as well to go into the race with plenty of rest. It was either guilt or good strategy that got me out this morning for a short but brisk run. I figured that anything under 20 minutes would have minimal impact on my readiness for tomorrow and I set out with the intention of covering a couple of miles at a leisurely pace. Like last Monday's long run, I felt very strong so I went with that and pushed harder covering a little over two miles in the high 8:00's. Helping that along was a steady rain that started about halfway through the run. By the time I made my way home it was pouring and though I found it a little hard to see I didn't experience the disorientation I felt the last time I found myself in that situation.

I don't know too much about the course we're running tomorrow so I don't know what to expect for surfaces and elevation. I know that Eisenhower Park has some hilly areas but I don't know whether they are on the race route. I'm surprised with all the resources available to map and share courses that the LIRRC has not done this. I'll find out tomorrow and deal with whatever I encounter. I'm hoping for cool weather and a flat course. A little less rain would be nice too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Elliptical reunion

It has been so long since I used the elliptical machine that I couldn't even remember the right buttons to hit as I started my session this morning. I have become anti-machine oriented but for all the right reasons. I value both the elliptical and treadmill for their utility but when there's an opportunity to run outside I can't bring myself to stay inside. Looking back at the summer I realize how incredibly fortunate I have been in terms of weather. Although I run or otherwise exercise six day s a week I have not had occasion to miss a day's activity due to rain. I have dealt with a few stormy situations but the skies cleared up or stayed clear in time for my planned runs either early in the morning, during the work day or over the weekends. I hope I haven't jinxed myself by recognizing my fortune.

Once I figured out the controls, I made my way through about 25 minutes of ellipticalling using a moderately high resistance level. Although it was cool and dry outside this morning and I could have easily slipped out for a run I'd decided to go for an easier workout today. I'm in the final days leading to my next race and I figured a little cross training couldn't hurt. Despite the cool outside temperatures my guestroom felt like a sweatbox and I appreciated that because I sometimes feel like I don't do enough work when I'm on that machine. If work is measured by sweat I've certainly acquitted myself well today. My plans for tomorrow are up in the air. We have finished with "Summer Fridays" so I'm planning to be at my office for the whole day. Right now my options are doing a 4:00 AM run, a longer Central Park run as soon as I get in or a mid-day run at lunchtime. I can probably cover more ground mid-day because I'll have more time but it will be hotter and I really prefer running in the morning. Of course if it rains that could change everything.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fear of looking down

When I was a kid I would watch cartoons on Saturday morning and puzzle over certain behaviors. For example, characters would run off a cliff or off a building and keep going until they looked down and realized there was nothing underfoot. They would then plummet straight to the ground, the law of gravity finally taking hold. I used to wonder "What if they hadn't looked down?" It made me appreciate how people can defeat themselves by over thinking what works for them.

After almost a year of dedicated running I still find myself in the same tenuous place as those cartoon characters. The idea of being a competent runner is still aspirational and even after ticking off 7+ miles on Monday I still feel that my progress will evaporate if I think too hard about what I'm doing. It sounds crazy but I sometimes feel like I've fooled myself into thinking I can run the distances that I run. That if I really start thinking about it I'll revert back to where I was last September when running a continuous mile was my most challenging goal. I think back to my previous running experience when I put off a run one day because my running partner was out of town and didn't return to the road for sixteen years. I fear looking down because I'll always see that it's easier to stop than to keep going.

I got out this morning at 4:00 AM although I still had some residual soreness from what was (for me) a long run on Monday. The air was pleasant, not as cool as the last time I did this early run, but far less humid than in August. I covered 2.4 miles at mid 9:00 pace and thought about the forces that would make me stop running and head back home for a hot cup of coffee and a warm bed. If I learned anything over the last sixteen years it's that a little suffering can pay off in big ways. I don't know if I'll ever lose that fear of looking down and seeing that I'm really not the runner I think I am. Maybe that's okay because I achieved a personal distance record this week. Things are looking up.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rememberence of a back to school run

It's funny but even after decades away from the classroom I still feel that back-to-school anxiety on the first Tuesday after Labor Day. Some of it surely comes from my kid's return to school and amping up the tension this year is my daughter's move into middle school. Both she and my son have handled things with aplomb and I'm hoping they have great first days back.

As I ran yesterday morning I was reminded of the transition to fall and all that goes with it. I thought of a run that I did in Cambridge on Labor Day before the start of my senior year in college. It was cold for September and I vividly remembered the smell of the air and the light of the sky that seemed so different from just a week before. I wasn't a runner then but I was in good enough shape to keep up with my friend who was fairly dedicated to the sport. I recall thinking how beautiful it was to run along Memorial Drive and how great it was to run simply for the sake of running. I'm sure I had every intention of continuing that experience and I recall that we did a few more runs together over time but it didn't stick with me. Perhaps it's for the best or I might now be one of those guys who says "I used to run but I can't anymore because of my knees [hip, foot problems]..." Maybe it was smart to start at a time when shoe design has evolved sufficiently enough to protect runners from such afflictions.

I restarted my running last fall and I was fortunate to ease into it at a time when the weather supported the experience so well. I'm looking forward to a few months of cool temperatures and low humidity before the mercury drops to the point that I will (shudder) need to get back on the treadmill for my weekday runs. I can't wait to step outside tomorrow morning and feel the chill, knowing that the worst of the hot summer is likely behind us. I'm hoping that early morning in Eisenhower Park during next Sunday's run will evoke the same feeling that I had in Cambridge so long ago.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I had read that performance is often tied to attitude and I wondered if there was any correlation between my mental state and some disappointing runs I've had over the past three days. Friday was a tough run, mostly due to my physical state. I'm not sure what was affecting me but I was tired and I struggled to cover the 3.9 miles I did in Central Park. The Central Park run should have been a great experience with my side trip through the Rambles but I didn't really enjoy it and it felt a lot like work. Saturday's neighborhood run was really just maintenance and I clocked 5K with little in reserve by the time I got back home. I tried to break the streak yesterday with a run at Stillwell Woods. Trail running has become a passion and I anticipated the experience but I lacked strength and feared the hills instead of embracing them. I ended up covering 3 miles but it felt unsatisfying. Later that day my daughter and I ran 1.25 miles and that felt great and I realized that much of the reason was that she was by my side. My head was in the right place for running for the first time all weekend.

This morning I woke up feeling great. Perhaps it was a good night's sleep or the cool temperature and low humidity but I set out on my run this morning with the right attitude. I didn't plan my route except for the beginning section that I call neighborhood #4, a departure from my usual course that would provide a good distraction. I'm a bit fed up with the GPS apps on my iPhone so instead I relied solely on my Garmin to track distance and used Pandora on the iPhone for music.

At about the 20 minute mark I realized that I still felt very strong with more energy than I had at the beginning of my last three runs. After covering that initial neighborhood I did a loop around my own, covering the south, west and northern roads until I passed the five mile mark. It was at that point that I realized I could probably do 6 miles for the first time since the Dirty Sock 10K. Once I reached that point I decided to go for a personal distance record which, for me, was 6.62 miles. I re-routed my direction to get another mile between me and home and ended up covering 7.4 miles @ 9:31 (by Garmin) or 7.58 miles @ 9:18 (by Gmaps). Either way it was a personal distance record for the Emerging Runner. Better still, it was validation that my training was going in the right direction and that my conditioning was where I wanted it to be. I guess all it took was a good attitude.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Brown bagging

I've been busy reading the Runner's World 2009 fall shoe guide on the Runner's World iPhone app (as well as on the site and in the August print issue). After wondering whether I have flat or normal arches and if I really should be in a neutral shoe versus a stability shoe I decided to try the "wet test."

My kids and I filled a pan of water, put out a paper shopping bag and tried the test. My impression showed my foot to be somewhere between a low arch and a normal arch so a stability shoe like the Brooks Adrenalin GTS 9 was an appropriate choice. I've come to like this shoe although I wish it felt a bit more responsive off the forefoot. Given this test, I can probably get away with less stability so I'll consider that when I'm ready to replace the Brooks that now serve as my primary road shoe. My daughter did the wet test and was horrified to see that she has flat feet but I explained that there's no right or wrong to it. She loves her Saucony's so they must be the right shoes for her. My son and my wife both had classic normal arch profiles and no one had a high arch.

Later in the day I headed to Stillwell to run some trails. I haven't done that in a couple of weeks and the last couple of days have been tough runs for me. I was hoping that change from pavement to trails would improve my performance but I am still suffering some residual fatigue from Friday. I didn't push too hard and avoided most of the tough hills (although I did run through a section dubbed the "Snake Pit") and I ended up covering a little over three miles. I have not been happy with my running for a couple of weeks as I feel like I'm making no progress on pace (despite the interval work I did last Sunday) and my endurance is off. I'll attribute this lack of strength to the fact that I'm still fending off a slight illness. At least I hope that's why. I'm wondering if missing a couple of weekly runs with AG has softened me a little. Without her benevolent push I may be getting lazy. I'll see how I do this week. Next Sunday morning I'm lining up for a 4-mile race.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

For the love of Sudafed

Things were looking up for running over the long weekend. I anticipated a long city run on Friday to start things off followed by some trail runs on Saturday and Sunday. My plan was to get into the office yesterday and run 4-5 miles in the Park before the workday. The day before a holiday weekend is usually quiet and I thought it would be an easy morning and an early escape home to greet our weekend guests who would be arriving mid afternoon. I felt very tired on the commute into the city and by the time I got in my head was pounding and I feared the worst - Swine Flu or some other debilitating affliction. As I waited to feel better my window of opportunity slipped by and I needed to focus on what turned out to be an unusually busy morning. By noon I felt plain awful and figured that a run might be the only thing left that could help the way I felt. I changed into my running gear and headed up to Central Park to put in a few miles.

My plan was to follow the lower loop and stay straight to the upper loop, cut across the Great Lawn and head back south. Soon after I crossed over I found myself following some of the inside paths and eventually found myself in the "Ramble", a 36 acre section of the park that consists of paths and trails with stone bridges and great views of lakes and streams. I was working hard to get through my route and although the scenery was magnificent I was growing exhausted. I found my way back to the main route and continued back to my starting point after covering 3.9 miles. By this point I was feeling weak and my headache, while duller than at the start, remained. By the time I got home I was ready to crawl into bed for the evening but I needed to be present for our guests. I did lie down for 30 minutes and that helped quite a bit.

After a difficult night's sleep I awoke with a splitting headache that I attacked with Ibuprophin and strong coffee to no avail. I had decided that the trail run I'd planned to do before everyone got up for the day was going to have to be postponed. I then took a Sudafed decongestant and 30 minutes later I began to feel like my old self, good enough to try a neighborhood run. The air was relatively cool at 9:30 in the morning when I went out and although I still felt a little weak I decided that I'd do at least three miles. I followed the roads that bordered my neighborhood to the north and west and cut into the internal streets to complete my route. I launched MotionX GPS on my iPhone at the start to track the run but it wouldn't acquire a signal. I switched to AllSport that also had trouble finding a signal but I hit the 'go' button knowing it would eventually begin recording. I also used the Garmin which gave me my accurate distance: 3.14 miles.

So although I'm not feeling my best and didn't get to the trails I'm glad that I've covered 7+ miles since yesterday. If I still feel better tomorrow I'll head over to Stillwell and get in some hill work. Next time I'll take that Sudafed a lot sooner.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Close encounters at 4 AM

I was not surprised but still delighted by the cool temperature as I stepped outside this morning for my run. I skipped both running and posting yesterday due to my feeling a bit run down and also due to having an incredibly busy work schedule that cut into my morning commute. That's when I write most of my posts. As I took off for my run I noticed that I was still feeling a bit sluggish and was glad I'd skipped yesterday's workout. I struggled a bit for the first half mile but then seemed to regulate to normal. As I covered the neighborhood, quiet but for the spitting of sprinkler systems and free of other people, I actually felt like I owned the neighborhood as I ran through it. My personal playground at 4:15 AM.

I had two surprises this morning during my run. The first was an unexpected encounter with a sprinkler that came on suddenly as I rounded a corner. It hit me full on between my neck and legs. A few weeks ago, aside from the disruptive surprise, I would have welcomed being dowsed by cold water during a sweltering run. This morning it was not too fun because the air was cold and the water was colder. All the same I carried on and headed for home. As I made my way towards the middle school I thought I heard something and I came around the corner to see another runner heading in my direction. Unlike me, this runner was without a headlamp or any reflective gear. He (I think it was a he) had on a big gray hooded sweatshirt and his running motion was odd, sort of between running and run-walking. We passed within a few feet of each other and I gave a wave but he (it) didn't return it. Maybe I scared him with my bright LED headlamp.

I ended up once again with a mid 9:00 pace after covering 2.3 miles. Considering the way I felt at the start and the fact that I built strength through the run I was fine with that performance. I was very surprised to see another runner on the road, a first. I guess it's nice to have company but I'd prefer the notion that I own the streets between 4:00 and 4:30.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Well I can't blame the weather

Suddenly we're a week away from the kid's return to school. They're the lucky ones as many children are already going back this week. It's tough going back to class when it still feels like summer. This morning at 4:10 AM it sure felt a lot like fall. I didn't realize how cool it was before I stepped outside for my run and was excited to feel the crisp air instead of the wall of humidity I've come to expect.. I dressed in my usual summer gear that, as minimal as it is, usually has me sweating by the five-minute mark. I welcomed the chill and remembered back to the late winter when the cool air, energized by the wind, would keep me sweat-free for at least a mile. I woke up a bit tired and groggy and after half a cup of coffee I still felt sleepy. Despite the cool air that I'd hoped would fuel me as I began to run, my pace was lagging. I did feel better with every step and did not suffer from my "Have I only been running that long?" reaction I've experienced of late after checking the Garmin. Around halfway through my run I began to think about my running form and I consciously picked up my pace hoping to post a decent overall run time.

I have been reunited with my iPhone but since its sudden failure last week I'm far less focused on it as a fitness tool. Fool me once, etc. I did use the AllSport GPS app to track my run and it was off by almost 7% for distance. About 2% of that variance was due to the application not tracking distance until I had run a few hundred yards. This was disturbing because it was indicating a strong GPS signal as I started the run. My Garmin 50, like a champ, was less than 1% off on distance. Score that: RFID 1, GPS 0. I ended up covering about 2.3 miles in 51 degree weather and despite my hope that I broke 9:00 per mile I came in at an anemic 9:20 overall. This morning I had the weather in my favor but it didn't do me much good. Perhaps with a better night's sleep tonight I will put it all together tomorrow. Maybe I should have more coffee before I run.

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