Saturday, October 31, 2009

The toughest seven miles so far

Last week's relay had me thinking a lot about both my potential and limits for distance running. This weekend's NY Marathon has me thinking a lot about the fact that around 40,000 runners will start that race on Sunday morning. I don't think runners need to qualify for NY like they do for Boston but I suspect that most people who go through the process of signing up (there's a lottery that limits the number of entrants) probably have designs of at least finishing the race. That's a lot of people who can run 26.2 miles in a single day, usually within 4.5 hours. During last week's Cape Cod Marathon relay I was observing the marathon runners (who could be differentiated from we relay runners by the color of their numbers). When I resumed the race for my second leg at mile nine I looked for signs of fatigue amongst those committed to the full course. I couldn't imagine needing to cover another 17 miles (I got to roll off after 5.7) and I wondered what goes through the head of person who knows they'll be running for three, four or more hours without stopping. I guess it all comes down to expectations and conditioning. I knew after my 9 miles last Sunday that even doing 13.1 would be a struggle. As for running 26.2 miles in one shot? Unlikely.

All the same I really do want to break the ten mile barrier so upon AG's suggestion I decided to focus one weekend day on distance and location and the other on either speed or recovery. In terms of location, the idea is to get out of the neighborhood and see more interesting things than houses and cars. I headed over to Bethpage State Park that has long paved bike paths, trails and a cross-country course that overlaps through soccer fields and (possibly) golf courses. When I arrived I saw numerous yellow buses and groups of high school age students running in packs. There was some sort of XC meeting happening so I decided to head to the bike paths because the crowds seemed to be avoiding those. The entrance to bike trails starts with a steep but short hill and I felt fine through the first few miles of rolling hills. I'd decided to run about 30-40 minutes in one direction and head back at that point. The first 3.5 miles were fairly easy despite some frequent hills at the beginning. Most of the rest was either level or downward-sloping. I appreciated that in the moment but dreaded the hills for the return. I passed most runners that I encountered on my southern leg but on the way back I was passed by three very fit (and friendly) runners, one of whom I encountered again upon his out-and-back as I was coming in near the finish.

I averaged 9:20 for the first half and 9:40 for the return, covering 7.1 miles around 9:30/mile. With all those hills I was happy to make the pace that I did and I was exhausted from the workout. As far as being able to cover 10 miles in single run I still have work to do. When the time comes to tackle that distance I hope the route is less challenging than today's tough run.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NY Marathon Expo - so many booths, so little time.

I was thinking about my progress as a runner over the last year and I'm fairly pleased. I can't say that I'm completely satisfied with where I am because I think there's more that I could be doing to improve my level of conditioning. I had little trouble covering my 9 miles last Sunday in the marathon relay but I recall thinking during the race that I'd wished I'd done more hill and speed work prior to the event. I guess it comes down to why we run. There are those who get out and do intervals, tempos, fartleks and hill sprints once or twice a week. These people are probably much stronger for it and it helps them run paces that would seem unlikely or even impossible for a runner like myself. Every time I go out to run I think about training rigorously and while I do occasionally switch up my pacing my primary intention remains focused on the enjoyment of the experience. I went out this morning dressed for cold and I wasn't disappointed. After a slow start I picked up the pace in the middle and maintained it long enough to average 8:58 over 2.6 miles. It was fun to run at a quicker pace today but at other times comfort prevails.

Yesterday was the first day of the NY Marathon Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC. For those unfamiliar with Javits, it's a huge conference center on the west side in the 30's that, for some reason, was built far away from any public transportation. The closest subway will still require a 15 to 20 minute walk. The way the event planners get around this limitation is to run busses all day from local hotels. The buses are free and the system works. The only issue I have with it is that buses + mid day traffic = long wait times to get to the place. I anxiously checked my watch concerned that by the time I arrived I'd need to get back on another bus in order to return for a 2:00 meeting. As it happened I was able to spend about 40 minutes at the Expo. Upon arriving I was puzzled to see that the main event was a technology security conference which would normally be of interest. I couldn't see anything resembling a marathon expo. Finally, another person who was also looking spied the far away entrance and we headed over. The Expo was huge compared with any I'd seen before it. Every shoe, apparal, technology and health/exercise company had booths (although I don't recall seeing Nike which was fine with me). The ASICS booth was so huge it could have been an Expo on its own. I spent time talking with some people promoting their races, chatted with someone representing Newton running shoes and then headed back to the office with lots of pamphlets and a few samples.

I wish I had more time to revisit the Expo today. I encourage anyone to go - it's free!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Running hot and cold

The transition to cold weather running has been fairly abrupt this season. I was still dreading the heat and humidity a few weeks ago and now each time I venture out I question whether I'm dressed warmly enough for the weather. On balance I'll always prefer the cold although once the temperature drops to the teens I'll yearn for the hottest days. I'm not sure I could have asked for better running conditions than last Sunday's in Falmouth. I'm sure there's a place somewhere where it's always mid-50 temps, dry and partially sunny. Throw in some beautiful running trails, nice people and good schools and I'm there. Of course where I live in LI it's pretty much what I described except that these ideal weather conditions last only about six weeks.

I shouldn't complain about the weather or my location though. One thing I've discovered is that running is more interesting with variables. Perhaps if I lived at the foot of a redwood forest in the northwest with trails leading out from my backyard I'd wish for more diversity: "Gee, if only there was a place with lots of paved streets where I could run by houses and cars for an hour." Who knows, maybe I'd end up missing that.

After my 9 miles on Sunday and 6.6 more since then I decided to try an elliptical session this morning. 25 minutes at mid level resistance felt very good and I saved time by not needing to take the usual 25+ steps I follow prior to my morning run. It was a good workout but I missed the running experience. Back to the street tomorrow, no matter what the weather.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rainy anniversary day run

It was raining pretty hard when I got up this morning and I decided to wait to see if the skies would clear up within my window of running opportunity or if I needed to do an indoor workout. I haven't been on the treadmill in months or on the elliptical in weeks and there's a reason for that. As I've mentioned before, I find time spent on the treadmill to be extremely tedious. I'd prefer to run in driving rain than to run indoors on a noisy machine that will dump you off the back should you take one false step. The elliptical is also tedious but at least I can watch TV while I'm on it and I don't need to stay hyper aware of my safety.

At around 7:45 AM the rain had slowed enough for me to venture out. It was only about 50 degrees outside so I wore compression shorts under long basketball shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt and my ASICS light raincoat. Despite all those clothes I was still cold throughout much of my run. The rain picked up after about ten minutes but I was determined to get in at least 30 minutes of running time before starting my day. I ended up covering 3.28 at 9:17 per mile. I ran with my Adidas Response 15 trail shoes that are very comfortable and perform as well on pavement as they do on the trails.

Today is my anniversary so I took a mini vacation this week, starting with our trip to Cape Cod this past weekend. Despite the rain my wife and I got out for a nice lunch along with some other planned activities. I'll be back to the office tomorrow but the weekend is just a couple of days away. I really hope to get some trail time in at least one of those days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Post race recovery run

After taking Monday off to recover from Sunday's race I set out this morning for a short neighborhood run. I have a busy day scheduled so I limited my distance to make enough time for my first appointment. It was still dark when I left the house at 6:45 AM so I wore my headlamp and reflective vest. I'm used to running these streets almost three hours earlier in the morning so it surprised me at first to see cars, recycling trucks and workers at the middle school as I ran past. I wore my ASICS GEL-1130's that I'd been using as my office running shoes but since Labor Day I haven't had the time to run in the city so I brought the ASICS home to occasionally trade off with my Brooks GTS-9's. The two shoes feel similar although the 1130's feel less stable on the toe-off compared with the Brooks. The difference becomes greater when I'm running longer distances, as I did on Sunday. The Brooks are really good shoes and have never given me a problem regardless of distance or conditions. The ASICS were a good choice for an occasional run (and the price was right) but there's a difference between $100+ shoes and more economical models.

Before I ran this morning I used the Active Wrap in heat mode on my quads since I was still sore from Sunday despite taking Monday as a rest day. As I made my way around the middle school I was amused to see that orange cones had been set up along the perimeter of one side of the parking lot and along the front driveway. It was like a moment of deja vu as I followed them, just as I had done on Main Street in Falmouth on Sunday morning. It took a few minutes to fall into a comfortable pace and I decided to run whatever distance I could cover within 30 minutes. It turned out to be 3.27 miles that I did at a 9:09 pace. It really does make a difference when you run among others, especially in competition. The first leg of the relay was approximately the same distance as this morning but I ran that segment a half minute faster per mile even with a couple of challenging hills.

After my run I tried a bottle of the EAS Myoplex Vanilla Cream nutrition shake that we got in our goody bags at the race. To be honest I was averse to drinking it because it contained sucralose and I really can't stand sugar substitutes. However, it tasted fine, although there was a slight medicinal quality to it. I found it convenient compared to having to prepare a recovery breakfast and it helped reduce the time between my run and my shower. I'm not sure if I'll make a habit of Myoplex but I do have another bottle that I'll try after my next hard workout. Tomorrow I'm going to try to take advantage of having one more day off this week and do a longer run. After all, my next race is but 31 days away!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cape Cod Marathon race report

As I mentioned last night, the Cape Cod marathon race weekend was an amazing experience. Heading to Massachusetts always makes me feel like I'm going home and the Cape is a special place for me because our family spent many a summer there as I was growing up. We arrived on Friday night in the dark and cold and barely had time for anything before getting to bed. Saturday morning was overcast, cold and rainy but that didn't matter because we weren't running until Sunday. My wife and kids explored the hotel while I organized my gear. When I opened the shades to our room I was happy to see the ocean view and it reinforced that we were actually here on the Cape for the relay.

We met up with Adventure Girl at the Expo where we got some guidance from the race organizers on where things would be happening and where my family could situate to watch the race. The Expo was fun and I tried on a few pairs of ASICS and Mizuno running shoes that were temptingly priced but I didn't bite. I still have a some miles left in my Brooks. AG went off to drive the course while we went into town and had lunch at Liam Maguires pub. We met up with AG for a little time before we headed back to our hotel. We all met up again later for dinner at the British Beer Company where we had a great meal and AG and I had a pints of stout and porter respectively in the name of pre-race carb loading. Later that evening the kids quizzed AG for one of her mid term exams and during that time we got a call that one of our teammates was diagnosed with Swine Flu and he would not be able to make the race. AG reassigned our routes, swapping my second leg to the 3rd segment instead of the 4th. This way it ensured that AG, me and MM (our third teammate) were all able to run by the ocean at some point. In so doing AG took on legs 4 & 5 so she ended up running close to a half marathon.

We met as a team on Sunday morning at 7:00 AM and tried to stay warm. Despite the 57 degree temps it felt chilly. Soon AG and MM went off to locate exchange #1 where I would hand off to MM. My wife and kids stayed with me and situated themselves in front of the Black Dog on Main Street. I got into position on the starting line and at 8:30 they fired the cannon to start the race and I was happy to high-five my family on our way up Main Street as I headed through my first leg. I came into exchange #1 after running about an 8:30 pace. The end of the leg has a big hill but that effort was mitigated by the most beautiful view of the ocean. The road split to allow relay-ers to do their hand-offs without interfering with the full marathon runners. I handed off to MM and AG then drove us over to exchange #3 where I picked up the baton for my second leg of 5.7 miles. That route was very rolling with a number of hills but I felt great and after passing under Route 28 I knew most of the big hills were over. Around that time I started talking to another runner, MG, who was not registered for the race but was running it as a practice for a marathon she's running in a couple of weeks. She was a strong runner and she helped me keep a good pace through the end of the leg. MG continued to run after I handed off to Adventure Girl and the two even ran together for a bit. MM and I made our way back to the start/finish area and waited for AG to come in and finish. My wife and kids joined us just in time to see AG coming through mile 26 and my kids took off with AG all the way to the finish while MM and I followed behind.

We ended up with an overall time of 4:03 but for some reason our team wasn't posted in the results. It was probably related to a problem reading the tracking chip on AG's shoe. It didn't matter, we know what we did and we had an incredible experience along the way. We headed back to the Lawrence School that served as HQ for the race and Expo. They served a great lunch featuring New England clam chowder (an Emerging Runner favorite). Pretty soon it was time to say our goodbye's and we went our separate ways. I can't wait to run again, this was so energizing and fun. We need to find another big event to run next year and I have a feeling I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

26.2 miles, three runners, a fantastic weekend

Wow. That's the best word I can think of to describe this weekend. We had a fantastic time in Falmouth, MA, at the Cape Cod marathon both on and off the race course. I've been so busy the last two days I haven't been able to post since Thursday. I'm planning to share details tomorrow but until then I'll just share some headlines:
  • We found out late Saturday that our 4th team member was diagnosed with H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) which forced us to split the five legs among three people.
  • The weather was perfect - 57 degrees and sunny at 8:30 AM
  • I did the first and third legs (8.75 miles) and AG did the last two (11.3 miles). Our third teammate did 6.15 miles.
  • The course was challenging, lots of rolling hills, some memorable. The scenery was beautiful, fully memorable.
  • We finished in just about 4:00 hours.
  • We celebrated with a great lunch that was put on by the race organizers.
  • It was a great weekend of food, friends and family!
More to come!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Decisions and anxieties

I just checked the extended forecast for Falmouth, MA on Sunday: 58 degrees and a 30% chance of precipitation. In my perfect world it would be a little colder than that but 58% with clouds could work just fine. I have a lot of decisions to make between now and Sunday at 8:30 AM:
  • What clothes should I run in?
  • Should I change between my first and second leg (legs 1 & 4)?
  • What gear should I bring along (HRM, Garmin, iPhone, gloves)?
  • Which running shoes should I wear?
  • What pace should I target for each leg?
  • How will I handle hydration?
  • How can I keep my legs flexible between my runs?
  • Should I do a practice run on Saturday or take advantage of rest?
I'm also concerned about following the course and not getting lost. I think the race people mark the route with CCM labels spray painted in prominent spots. I hope so because it would be humiliating to leave my teammates stranded due to a navigational snafu. I worry that I'm not worried about the first leg and too worried about the second. In the end it's just a race and I'll figure everything out or things will get figured out for me. Like I've said in previous competitions, I'm just going to run my race and hope for the best. In the end, if it isn't about having fun just why am I doing this?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Energy low, three days to go

Each morning when I get up to run it seems inconceivable, in my groggy state, that I could engage in an activity more challenging than sitting up in bed. However, in the fifteen minutes between fetching coffee, putting on running gear and heading out the door I transform from sleeper to runner. Most days things work well and by the time I reach the street I'm usually feeling 100 percent the runner. Today I felt like I'd left the best of me at home. I never felt like I found my stride and though I wouldn't complain of weakness I lacked the normal energy that I expect at the beginning of every run.

I mentioned yesterday that my aerobic balance has improved and this carries the day for me. My endurance is no longer affected by breathlessness, these days my limit is the range between body strength and weakness. This morning I figured that I just wasn't up for a hard charging workout and my numbers reflected that: 2.3 miles at 9:19. I'm supposed to be tapering this week but as my weekday runs are already limited by time I don't see the point in cutting down my running in any measurable way. I'm probably going to rest tomorrow and do an easy 3 or 4 miles in Friday. Saturday is a question - run or rest? AG is planning a run by the ocean and I must admit that has appeal. At the same time I need to do everything I can to be ready for Sunday's race. I guess I'll decide what to do closer to Saturday.

One last thing. My colleague KWL is in Hong Kong right now and he sent me his MotionX GPX and KMZ files from his run along the eastern harbor near Sai Wan Ho. He also sent me this picture (left) that he took along the way. I can't imagine how beautiful that must look in person.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why I used to hate running

During this morning's run I thought about the reasons why I used to be so negative about running. Back in the early '90's I would get up and do a daily run through the streets of NYC, come back, shower and head to work. Those days I was working at a newspaper that published six editions, the first going out at 8:00 PM and the last around 3:30 AM. I'm not sure when I slept because I was often in the office by 11:00 AM and I didn't usually get home until 4:00 AM. With a run between sleep and work it could have been a positive thing but trying to make progress through the city streets at 9:30 AM on a business day was often frustrating if not dangerous.

Looking back, the other reason I think I disliked running is that I never mastered the use of aerobic energy. Most of my runs were collections of sprints punctuated by stoplights where I'd run in place waiting for the cross signal. In between the experience was somewhat like trail running except instead of dodging branches I'd be dodging foot traffic, strollers, dogs on leashes and cars doing illegal lefts on red. I'd return to my apartment each time asking myself what it was that I enjoyed about this routine. Eventually I stopped altogether and now when I think about it, for good reason.

I finished my 2.55 mile run this morning in a little over 22 minutes. I realized during this run that my ability to balance aerobic and anaerobic energy has made a big difference in my enjoyment of running. It's not always easy and sometimes it's quite hard but I never return home questioning why I run.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Relay race ruminating

I was looking at information about the Cape Cod Marathon last night and read some comments from people who characterized the course as fairly challenging. Given the elevation profile they list on the marathon website I'm willing to believe that. I guess it would be brutal to face all those hills over 26.2 miles. As I ran on Saturday and Sunday I thought about that fact that I'm training for a marathon relay. If all goes according to plan on Sunday I will have run more miles in a single day than ever before. Still, my two legs only add up to a little more than a third of the marathon distance. As I attacked those hills on Sunday I thought about the 1,000+ people on race day that will need to run every foot of the course. That takes a combination of fitness and commitment that I cannot match at this point. Running a full marathon would involve some significant weekly distance although, according to the website Cool Running, you can get by with the 20 or so miles per week that I do now. I don't buy that since there is NO WAY that I could run 26.2 miles in a single day, let alone within 4 hours.

I'm thinking about next year's running goals and a half marathon is definitely under consideration. I will need to expand upon my personal distance record of 7.6 continuous miles and that, perhaps, is another goal for 2010. I'm planning to run about 8 more miles before Sunday and give myself one rest day before the race. I've learned a lot in the four races I've run this year and I hope to apply this experience and knowledge on Sunday. I'm excited for a lot of reasons including the fact that I'll be competing, for the first time, in my home state.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Over the Moon(s)

This morning I was determined to get out and do hill training despite calls for wind, rain and flooding. I dressed appropriately, including a great ASICS lightweight running jacket that I bought at the Expo before my 5K race in April. It felt much colder than 44 degrees when I stepped out to run. The skies were dark gray and I could not get a lock on a GPS signal with MotionX but I hit start anyway, then pressed go on my Garmin and headed out. I made a bee line to the industrial park and chose the steeper circuit running counter-clockwise which takes you uphill about 2/3rds of the run and downhill the other third.

I had planned on doing a couple of circuits and heading back since the weather was getting worse every minute. I had brought along a package of Luna Moon Energy Chews, described by the manufacturer as
"provid[ing] women athletes with essential carbohydrates, electrolytes and vitamins for increased energy while exercising." I bought them at Target despite the gender bias of the packaging since the only gender-neutral choice was Sharkies. In comparison, Sharkies Organic Energy Chews contained much more sugar per serving.

I had been thinking about how I typically feel tired and depleted after 30 minutes but usually rebound after five minutes or so. I experimented with the energy chews, trying 3 about midway through my run. I can't say how much they helped as I felt no energy surge after eating them but I did a third circuit up the hill and I don't know if I would have been able to do that unaided. I was feeling tired and soggy by the time I finished the third loop but happy the hills were behind me for the day. I headed back home and saw that I'd completed 4.75 miles at 9:09, a good part of that uphill. I used the Active Wrap on my quads this morning (heat) and I'm thinking that helped loosen up my muscles that were still recovering from yesterday's 6.5 miler. Today was probably the last run I'll do over 4 miles until Sunday's race and I feel good about my conditioning going into my final week's taper. I'm curious to know what weather conditions we'll face on the 25th. If it's cold and wet I know I can handle it. Hot and humid, that's another story.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The short and the long of it

I learned a valuable lesson Friday morning about checking the temperature before heading out for my run. As I prepared to go out it felt warm, even humid, although the heat didn't seem to be on. I skipped the compression shorts I've been wearing under my running shorts on cold mornings and when I stepped outside and got hit with the 20-something degree wind chill I knew I was in for a frosty run. As I set off I realized how cold my hands were and I questioned whether I'd manage to break a sweat in the 22 odd minutes I allocate for this workout. I didn't want to push speed because I hadn't had a chance to stretch prior to the start. I was tempted to throw in some sprints to get my heart rate up and try to get a little warmer but I was concerned that could lead to a muscle pull. Along with the cold, there was some light precipitation and I soon realized that it was, in fact, snow. The outside temperature, with the wind, was in the high 30's so there was no accumulation although the streets were wet. Given the distractions of cold and wind, the run went by very quickly and I completed 2.4 miles at about 9:13 per mile. By the time I reached home my hands were really hurting from the cold and from the sting of the wind and the rain. I won't forget my gloves again.

This morning I got out by 7:00 AM and the weather was mild compared with yesterday but it was still pretty cool. I bought some tight running sweats at Target last weekend and I wore them with a double layer of tech jerseys. I also wore gloves and it was a perfect set of gear for my run. I wanted to cover more than five miles to reinforce distance as I move closer to the race on the 25th but I had no specific plan. After running north to Jericho Turnpike I headed west and ran about a mile in that direction before ducking into the western edge of neighborhood #3. This is a big neighborhood and I have no familiarity with the layout of the roads so I headed south and guessed where I was in relation to my own neighborhood that's separated by a busy road. I ended up guessing well and crossed the road, heading south along the main road to the highway service road. I was little past the three mile mark and I felt some fatigue along with some pain in my right quadricep. After some time I cut over to neighborhood #2 and I realized that I often hit a wall at that point and today I decided to ignore it and wait for a second wind. I did a loop through neighborhood #2, passing a number of people who were out walking their dogs. I headed back to my neighborhood and reached home feeling strong after covering 6.53 miles at 9:11 per mile.

After my post-run shower I iced my right leg quad and calf with the Active Wraps. The unit fit well and my leg felt pretty good. I'm planning to try it with heat later today. Tomorrow I may head to Stillwell for some trail time although I'm wondering it it would be better to practice for memorable hills in the industrial park. I'll decide tomorrow. Tonight I'll just enjoy the fact that I had a very good run.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

That's a wrap!

The folks at Active Wrap sent me samples of their award-winning heat/cold wraps for knee and leg and for foot and ankle. They are constructed from quality materials and use Active Wraps non-migrating heat/cold packs that distribute their material evenly compared to a typical economy gel pack that pools away from the point of compression. I'm thinking that the heat and compression will be ideal for my layover between legs of my race where I'll need to stay limber for about 2 hours between my first and second run. Perfect timing to receive these wraps, I'll experiment with them this weekend before and after my long runs.

I have completed much of the work that's been taking me away from running this week and I can't wait to hit the street tomorrow. Despite my toe problem I will run because it isn't debilitating and I don't think running hurts it further. My goal for this weekend is two long runs, each over five miles. If I can, I will try another two-fer, with a three mile run, 2 hour rest and second run of five or six miles. I'm hearing that we may get a nor'easter by Saturday so I may have to go back to the dreaded treadmill after literally months away. It will have to be pretty darn wet and cold to get me back running indoors. I'm hoping the weather reports are wrong because I really want to hit the trails at least one of the two weekend days but not if they're full of mud.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Toe Woe

The issue with my big toe continues and after a night of pain that had me up at midnight searching for ibuprophen I decided to skip my morning run. I briefly considered alternatives such as an upper body workout or even the elliptical but I chose to rest until 5:00 instead. It's the season to be busy in the office and that takes its toll mentally and physically. I'll admit to feeling a little guilty about doing nothing today knowing that tomorrow, with an even earlier workday start, will not allow enough time to run. On the other hand, with 11 days left before the marathon relay, these rest days can be considered part of my taper.

The materials with instructions for the relay indicate some complex logistical challenges. The race circles the town of Falmouth and with a couple of thousand runners there is much to coordinate to ensure that the streets are clear of cars at certain points and times. The exchange points need to be reached a certain way and there are restrictions where the team car can be parked. The Woods Hole exchange, which is where the last leg begins, has no parking so the 5th leg runner will need to get there before 9:00 AM and keep himself occupied for about 2.5 hours before the 4th leg runner (in this case me) comes by for the handoff. AG, our captain, is less concerned about it than me and I'm taking that as a good sign. She captained a 182 mile, 36 leg, 12 member relay team earlier this year so this probably seems fairly simple to her.

I'm hoping that by Friday morning my toe affliction will have improved enough for me to go out for another fast early morning run, followed by some hard training on Saturday and Sunday. With only one weekend standing between now and the race I really need to make every workout count.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Energetic morning run

I must have had a good night's rest last night because I woke up ready to run this morning. It's not always that way. I do end up getting out and doing my mileage each day even as I fight sleep while I change into running clothes. Today felt different and despite what felt like a swelling in my big toe (my son has struggled with that problem for months on and off) I couldn't wait to hit the street. This weekend I bought a generic version of "Breath-right" strips that are designed to help keep nasal passages open for sleeping or athletics. My sinuses often bother me when I run so I thought this may be a good way of managing that problem. I bought "small to normal" size and it seemed a little small although I don't think my nose is that big. The adhesive didn't work as I'd expected and while I did get it positioned and noticed a difference in my air intake the strip eventually detached during my run. I'm thinking I may upgrade to the brand name and go up a size.

As I said above, my energy level was good as I started my run and I tried to keep a decent pace as I varied between normal and fast segments. I tend to run slower at 4:00 AM than I do at 7:00 AM so when I finished 2.5 miles at 8:48 per mile I was pleased with the outcome. My toe problem was not a factor and now feels close to normal. The cold air continues to support my energy level on these morning runs. I'll continue to experiment with the nose strips and gauge the effectiveness of the energy chews during this weekend's runs. Anything that provides a competitive edge is worth considering. 12 days and counting, I almost wish the race was this Sunday.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I relay want to go fast

We're getting closer to race day and all I can think about is getting through this week. Between budgets and industry presentations I'm very oversubscribed. At least running provides a good channel for dissipating stress. My work colleague, whom I'd mentioned in Saturday's post, ran the Baltimore half marathon in an impressive time despite her leg injury. I'll need to ask her how close she kept to her race strategy. I'd be thrilled to come anywhere near her pace in the relay.

AG gave me race info today (she's the team captain). We got our race number and lots of other info about race day. I'm thinking about going out fast (for me) for my first leg since it's only three miles. I'll have 90+ minutes to recover before my second leg. AG is planning to pace me on the six miler and that will help because at that point I may have trouble motivating myself. She will be running about 11.5 miles in total. Almost half a marathon and I'm worried about doing nine! Of course AG has previously completed three half's and is a far more experienced runner than her teammates. That's why she's the captain!

My plan tomorrow morning is to get out and run some tempo paces. I read in Runner's World that decreasing distance (during tapering) while increasing speed/pace is an effective way of improving performance on race day. With the early morning cold temperature a little fast running will be a great way to keep warm.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

6 miles run around a lake - what could be better?

I was psyched to see the temperature on LI was 38 degrees when I watched the news at 6:00 AM this morning. In the last year I've learned that I run much better when it's cold and I enjoy the experience more. That is until the temperature drops into the teens and then I love it a bit less. Still, I'll take 18 degrees over 88 anytime. The plan was for me and my nephew to run Stillwell Woods, a local preserve that has many twisty trails and variable elevations. These trails are really meant for cyclists and you see many of them there, often when you don't expect it. The experience of running Stillwell can be amazing as the scene changes from moment to moment and the challenges can go from modest to ridiculous. It's two weeks until the Cape Cod Marathon and I knew I needed to focus more on distance than terrain so we decided to go with a Plan B instead: Belmont Lake State Park, home to the Dirty Sock 10K.

The trails at BLSP are straight and the elevations are modest and few. Most importantly, the course is much more measurable and measuring distance against my readiness was my goal. We both appreciated the cool air and the absence of humidity when we arrived. As an experiment we ate a couple of Luna Sport Moons to get some start up energy. The pomegranate flavor was good and between that and the beautiful day I was really ready to get going. I was concerned that a strong start would lead to a weak finish but that was not the case. We headed north along the main trail and it was nice to experience the course again without the competitive edge of a race. DaveADK and I ran this route a couple of weeks before the 10K and it was a similar feeling. Knowing the route somewhat I expected it to seem longer but it was very much the opposite. My nephew maintained a strong pace alongside me and when we got to the north lake I told him about some of the experiences I'd had at that point of the race. I remembered thinking that getting around the lake was going to be tough but today it was fairly easy. In fact today's run was remarkably smooth. At the 4 mile mark I had another Luna Moon to see if it would give me a boost. It's hard to say if it did but my lack of difficulty throughout the latter part of the run indicates it may have helped. I'll be bringing some along during the marathon runs.

We ended up covering 6.13 miles at 9:22 but our pace felt faster than that. Although the course is flat for a wooded trail it does have surfaces that inhibit performance so I'm equating 9:22 to about 9:07 on the street. I really think we could have pushed it harder, especially near the end, but we elected to just enjoy the experience at a pace that felt good. I'm pleased with my progress as I move closer to October 25th. Today reinforced that I can cover 6 miles at a credible pace without pushing close to my limits. I have a feeling that facing 9 miles on the marathon course will test those limits.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Marathon relay training with 14 days to go

I'm thinking about one of my work colleagues who is running in her first half marathon today in Baltimore. By now the race has already been run and I'm hoping she is celebrating a great experience. Last time I spoke to her she was concerned about an IT band injury. She was concerned about how that injury would affect her performance. She told me that her doctor discouraged her from getting a cortisone shot. The advice was that she should be able to feel the injury and, therefore, know when to stop or protect it if things got worse. I have a feeling things went well.

I'm less than 15 days from my marathon experience in Cape Cod. Not quite a half but longer than I've ever run in a single day. I keep thinking about the pluses and minuses of running two legs totalling 9 miles versus running that distance at a single time. I'm starting the race with a three mile leg and then running the fourth leg (six miles) after my teammates complete about 12 miles in between. Depending on how quickly they cover their distance I'm guessing I'll have 1:30 to 2:00 hours in between my runs. While I'm happy to have a rest in between I'm worried that my endurance will be affected by the lapse. The concern is that I will build up so much lactic acid after the first leg that my legs will be dragging halfway through the second. I suppose there is a strategy to help lactic acid dissipate sooner, probably through stretching or massage. I'll happily take guidance and suggestions.

I was feeling a little weak yesterday after my run and throughout most of the day. I had hoped to run five+ miles today on the street to ratchet up my conditioning as I move closer to race day. I've averaged 20 miles a week over the past couple of months but I've stepped it up to 23 miles the last couple of weeks. I felt okay when I went out this morning and headed straight for the industrial park because I need to train for "memorable hills" and there are some long steep ones there. I split off into neighborhood #4 and then tracked further east into the next town. I felt good although I did hit the wall somewhat at 33 minutes but I knew that I could endure it. Since I'm going to be on the trails at Stillwell Woods tomorrow I didn't want to burn out today so I redirected home and finished with 4.75 miles at a Gmap verified 9:09. I felt good about today's effort because my level of conditioning transcended the weakness and fatigue that I'm experiencing today. I hope this continues tomorrow, it's been weeks since I've been on the trails and Stillwell is no place for weakness.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Re-committing to my GTS-9's

I'm interested in running shoes because they are the one thing that separates me from the road, trail, track or treadmill when I run. I own five pairs that I use interchangeably but the alpha pair are my Brooks Adrenalin GTS-9's. Those who have read this blog over the last year know what a complicated relationship I have with these running shoes. I regretted the purchase as soon as I brought them home and wished I had chosen the other pair I liked: ASICS GEL 2140's.

I chose the Brooks because, in the store, they felt better than the Saucony and New Balance models that I'd tried on that day. It was a tie between the ASICS and the Brooks and I chose the Brooks because they felt infinitesimally better. When I got home I tried them on again and noticed the tongue position caused discomfort at the top of my feet when the shoes were tightened. I also felt that the shoes lacked the bounce ands spring that defined my Nike Turbulence 13's. After boxing them up, taking them out and trying them on again and repeating that over the next couple of days, I finally decided to keep them and in the long run that was a good decision. Yes, they still dig into the top of my feet when tightened too hard and they don't feel as energetic as some of my other shoes but they very quickly undid the damage that my Nike's were causing me before replacement. The cushioning of the Brooks is appreciated on longer runs and this morning I tightened only to the point of stability. No pain and a very good ride.

The cushioning properties of these shoes have made me think a bit more about moving to a lighter, less protecting pair. I'm a lot lighter myself since I started running last October and I'm intrigued by the minimal style shoes that take mass out of the mid-soles for weights in the 9-10 oz. range as opposed to the 12+ oz. weight of stability shoes like the GTS-9's. I read a shoe review in this month's Men's Journal that covered minimalist running shoes. The top rated shoe was the NB 1225 that happens to be the model my friend CK just bought. He's had some serious foot problems so I'm surprised that he'd want something so austere but he loves them. Apparently they are the best of breed for light (12 oz.) motion control shoes. Another highlighted pair were the Brooks Ghost 2 that weigh in at 10.8 ounces. I picked one up in a running store once and it felt weightless. I'd like to try that shoe since I am firmly back in the "I like Brooks" camp now.

I covered 2.5 miles at 9:03 this morning. The time flew by and I found myself a bit farther away from the house than I'd planned so I needed to put some effort into the last half mile to meet my schedule. It all worked out fine. Tomorrow I'll try for 5-6 miles on the street and Sunday I'm running Stillwell Woods with my nephew. It's been a while since I've hit the trails so I'm looking forward to the experience and hoping for cool weather.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Strategic rest

This has been an exhausting week and it took its toll this morning. I went to bed tired and woke up the same way. Although I planned to follow my usual schedule and elliptical today I decided to try to gain an extra hour's sleep instead. Yesterday I forced myself to run in the rain because I was feeling strong but conditions seemed unfavorable. That did not constitute a good enough reason to skip the workout. It would have been easy to get on the elliptical machine and sleep walk through a session this morning. I'm sure I would have benefited from the exercise but sometimes rest provides the bigger benefit.

I'm glad I listened to my body rather than following my routine out of habit and guilt. I plan to be back on the street tomorrow at 4:00, hopefully more rested and ready than today. From the business perspective it's a stressful time. Sometimes it's hard to know whether running or resting is the best response to these situations.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dark windy rainy running

My first thought before I changed into my running gear this morning was how easy it would be to skip my outside run and spend 30 minutes on the elliptical machine instead. Not that I'm so much a creature of habit that I can't occasionally deviate a little from my routine (Thursdays are normally my elliptical days) but a decision to not run would indicate a lack of discipline. While I proceeded to change I noticed some sounds outside that made me wonder about the weather. At 4:00 AM it's very dark and difficult to see much out the window. It sounded like wind so I chose a long sleeve tech jersey for its more thermal properties.

As I watched the garage door rise to reveal the conditions of the day I saw that the driveway was black with rain coming from a moderate downpour illuminated by the street lights. I rethought my plan to run and reconsidered the elliptical but decided to go for it despite the rain. I have been fortunate to avoid rain for months on these morning runs but I knew that some day that streak would end. I started the Garmin and headed out thinking I could always head back home if it became too unpleasant. As it turned out my experience was great. The air had a strong ocean smell, the temperature, while cool, was still comfortable. The rain helped maintain the coolness and I was pacing briskly.

During the run the rain started falling harder but let up soon after. Between the wind and the trees I got plenty wet but it wasn't unpleasant although the wicking properties of my running clothes were quickly overwhelmed. My jersey probably accumulated 8 ounces of rainwater during the 20+ minutes I was out running. I came home after covering 2.3 miles at 8:48. I thought I was running better than normal for that time of day and the numbers showed that to be true. I'm not hoping for rain tomorrow but if it comes I'll know how to make the best of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Moonlight Paranoia

I awoke seconds before my alarm went off and stared in disbelief at the clock that flashed 3:50 AM. I went to bed last night exhausted and as I headed to the guest room to change into running gear I had to remind myself that running is something that I choose to do. By the time I finished preparing for the run I had transitioned from sleepy to semi-awake. I retied my right shoe and soon regretted that action when I took my first steps into the street and felt a sharp pinching at the top of my foot. Since I'm on a tight schedule in the morning I chose to run with the pain rather than stop and restart. I figured the shoe would eventually loosen up enough to displace the pressure.

That worked out okay and while I dealt with the pain I was distracted by the shadows cast by house floodlights, street lights and secondary shadows that came from the almost full moon. I'm already a little paranoid running around the neighborhood in the dark at 4 AM. The effect of two asymmetrically placed shadows, one ahead to my right and the other just in sight slightly behind me, created a sense that I was being closely followed. The quiet of the night punctuated only by the spitting sound of sprinkler systems and the thwacking sound of my own running shoes is both creepy and serene. With the addition of these shadows it was even creepier and much less serene. All the same I didn't worry much about it once I figured out the source of my paranoia. It helped that my shoe loosened up enough to make the majority of my run pain free.

I ended up covering 2.5 miles at 9:07 and I felt very good during the run. I'm discovering that hills and long elevated stretches are easier to take when it's 50 degrees outside. I'm really hoping for cool weather on October 25th. I have a feeling my experience at the marathon will be shaped as much by the conditions of the day as by my own readiness.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Two a day, but not running

I ended up only running once today. There was too much that needed to get done this morning for me to run, wait and then run again. But I am posting twice! Yesterday I covered 6 miles with a run that started in neighborhood #4 and then moved along to neighborhood #2 before I did a few loops within my own neighborhood. Today I set out for a run around the perimeter of my neighborhood, first tracking west along Jericho Turnpike and then south on the main road that borders us to the west. It was a fast run and I covered 4.25 miles at 8:58. Both runs this weekend totaled about 10.25 miles and my average pace overall was under 9:00. I am pretty happy about that since I'm in the final weeks of training prior to my marathon relay.

The cooler weather definitely helps my effort. My Runner's World co-bloggers have convinced me that a hot and sweaty run of the same distance and speed of a cool and dry run is more work. That means I need to up my game as fall progresses and not accept the status quo of summer performance metrics. I purposely looked for challenging elevations today in anticipation of what the marathon website calls "memorable hills." This morning there was a segment on the news about the ING half marathon and they had a sports doctor who was promoting plyometrics as a training technique. I tried a few activities in my den until my son pointed to the mini trampoline that was sitting a couple of feet away. Sometimes I miss the obvious. I'll try to incorporate that into my training as well. I'm looking forward to continued coolness for my morning runs although you'd never know it was fall today with temperatures hitting 76 degrees.

Six miles in the morning, party in the afternoon

I heard from Fred Haslett, the president of the LIRRC, the running club that organizes many races on Long Island. Fred said that they had sent out email and set up a hot-line as well as putting information on their website to tell participants how to deal with the triathlon that interfered with access to the 4 mile race on September 13. I guess once I participate in an LIRRC race I'll get put on that email list and get a heads up on conditions. I appreciated Fred's comment and I look forward to participating in their run series.

Last week I received my SpiBelt (SPI = small personal items), a runner's version of a fanny pack. It's a nice design, basically a zippered compartment made of stretchy material that can hold money, keys, ID, or even a cell phone. The SPIbelt is built to hug the runners body at the belt line and does not interfere with running motion or balance. I took it with me during a six mile run yesterday and included some cash and my identification card. I completely forgot about the SPIbelt while I was on my run. That's certainly the idea. I was thinking that I may put some GU in it for a boost during the second leg of my relay at the upcoming Cape Cod Marathon. I'll be covering my experience with the SPIbelt in greater depth on Runner's Tech Review after the marathon.

After yesterday's long run we headed to out to Adventure Girl's housewarming party in New Haven and had a great time. With the kids, we arrived early and left early but by the time we left the place was filled with Yale grad students, good friends and family (some four legged). Quite a few runners in that group. The great food and home-made desserts will hopefully power me through my runs today. My plan is to try a two-fer again, but not too long in terms of distances. I'm feeling a little sore after yesterday's run so a little stretching is probably advised before I head out for today's workout. Only 21 days to the marathon relay...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Running cold is no sweat

During Wednesday's run I noticed a chill in the air but even with a short sleeved jersey and running shorts I was comfortable. I ran my distance and worked up a decent sweat. Yesterday the weather was even colder during the day and as I prepared my gear for this morning's run I included a pair of compression shorts and a long sleeved technical jersey. That was a smart move because when I stepped outside the temperature was 39 degrees. I know that by December my sense of what's cold will differ. Right now 39 degrees is darn cold. After wasting a couple of minutes waiting in vain for my iPhone to acquire a GPS signal I hit the start button on my Garmin and set off on my run.

Now the great thing about running in the cold is that it motivates you to work harder so that you'll warm up faster. Usually, in the summer, I would start to noticeably sweat around the one mile mark. On humid days that would happen sooner. This morning I completed 2.4 miles in a little over 21 minutes and returned home barely sweating. I felt strong and energized and regretted my time constraint because I would have preferred to cover much more distance. It made me wonder how a run like that compared to Tuesday's when the temperature was closer to 60 and I finished hot and perspiring. Do two runs, of approximately similar lengths and finish times, require the same effort if one run leaves you damp as a wet noodle and the other leaves you wanting more? It seems like when you push so hard that there's nothing left at the end it means you've engaged in a higher level of work. But if the numbers don't show a difference then perhaps it's really the same work being done. If that's the case I'll take 39 degrees anytime.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My first year running anniversary

I didn't intend today's post to be another rant about technology but, through some glitch I can't really understand, I've lost the post I wrote for today. The iPhone strikes again. That's all I'll say about it.

So one year ago today I completed my first continuous run of any measurable length (more than a mile but just barely) after six weeks of fitness walking. That led to workouts that included walking with some running that then switched to running with some walking. On October 1, 2008 I just ran and that's been the case ever since.

Over the past year I've reached speed and distance goals that I would have never thought possible last October 1st. I've learned to love trail running and I've explored city running in ways I'd never experienced before. Running has become part of the family lifestyle and we're all active. My wife, who inspired my return to running through her tenacious and consistent daily workouts, has continued to inspire me. My kids enjoy my running and they have started to make it their own. Adventure Girl, my city running partner, has returned to school but she has left me with the spirit of adventure that I maintain through solo runs in Central Park. My friends and accomplished runners CMc and CK continue to view my progress with amusement and provide invaluable lessons on technique and expectations. People, like my dad, patiently listen to my running stories and genuinely seem to care about my progress. and Runner's World Loop readers have provided guidance, information, support and friendship that has helped to motivate both my running and writing. Thank you all for a great year.

Today I chose to do an elliptical session rather than a symbolic run to commemorate this anniversary. I chose to go this way because running has simply become part of what I do, like taking the LIRR into the city each day. Although I suffer less when running. There are still many trails to run and adventures to be had. I hope I am as excited and motivated next October 1st as I am today.

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