Monday, November 30, 2009

What's a run worth?

What is a training run worth? Is it worth risking your life? Of course it isn't, yet I am constantly surprised to see runners who take chances or make choices that could easily lead to tragedy. Yesterday afternoon I went out to do some errands and drove along the service road that borders my neighborhood to the south. This service road is a two lane, one way street that connects traffic that comes off the highway. Cars often consider the service road an extension of the highway and whiz along at speeds approaching 60 MPH.

Yesterday, as I drove it, I encountered a runner heading in the same direction as the traffic running to the left of the shoulder stripe, within the right car lane. I found this horribly naive and stupid. Cars coming around the corner are not expecting to see runners, walkers or bikers. There are no sidewalks because the road is not intended for pedestrian traffic.That runner assumed that cars would see him and move over. Bad assumption. I looked behind me using the mirror after I passed to the far left and saw a white SUV fly by the runner and sharply move into his lane just a few feet in front. I wonder if that made him think.

When I got home I went for a 1.25 mile run with my daughter. She just got a pair of running tights and wanted to give the a try. We had a great run through the neighborhood, staying on the sidewalks just to be safe.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm ready to race - please tell me when!

After yesterday's race we found a pamphlet on our windshield promoting the upcoming GLIRC Ho Ho Ho Holiday Run in Bethpage, NY. It looks like fun but I'm going to pass on it because we have other things scheduled that day. Besides that, I'm looking at racing a little differently than I did a year ago and I now expect to have a special reason to run a race. I love the excitement of racing, the opportunity to compete and the energy one gets from running with others. Like politics, all racing is local. Make that most racing is local. The big races in the city put on by the NYRRs and others with big sponsorships and thousands of participants probably feel very different compared to those I've run. Even the Cape Cod Marathon, with a couple of thousand runners, felt like a small town race. I mean that in a good way.

Looking ahead to 2010, I hope to try some new things and return to some that I really enjoyed. I've looked online at the LIRRC, GLIRC and even the NYRR websites to see what has been scheduled for the coming year. I've been surprised to see there's very little visibility past February. I would think that since many of the races I've run happen every year it would be easy to schedule them for next year. If so these races aren't showing up on any calenders that I can find.

With the notion that races must have some meaning I'll share my thoughts for new races and the likelihood that I will repeat any from this year.

  • Marcie Mazzola 4 Mile race. This was my first race as the Emerging Runner and it was fun except for the big hill at the beginning and the smaller but unexpected hill close to the end. It's a great cause and I do have sentimental attachment so I'll put it in the maybe category.

  • LI Marathon 5K. It was a fast course and up until yesterday it was my fastest pace for a run. On the other hand it wasn't very picturesque and the field of runners was small. I'll consider the 10K for 2010 but I won't repeat the 5K.

  • The New Hyde Park 8K. This was mostly a neighborhood run with parts that went along a highway service road and another main road. I came out way too fast and paid a price near the end when I had expended most of my energy by the 4 mile mark. I'd call this a no unless my friend who lives in that town really wants to run it with me next year.

  • Babylon Dirty Sock 10K. A great race and a great venue. I didn't have my best run that day but it was a great weekend for family and friends. Definitely a must for 2010.

  • Cape Cod Marathon Relay. Another great experience involving family and friends. A beautiful course too. The only issue is the trek which involves many hours of driving from Long Island. Next year it may be possible to see some friends and family who were out of town the weekend of the race so I have to consider it for 2010 for the opportunity to see them.

  • Bridie Goldstein 5K. It was the epitome of a small town race, close to home, on streets I know well. Super convenient location and a fast field. On the other hand there are a few other races that happen around this race so I'll need to consider them as well, unless I'm willing to race twice in a period of two or three days.

I'd also like to compete in a NYRR race in Central Park next year and find new, interesting, races within a reasonable distance from home. I'm thinking six in 2010 makes sense. It was a perfect number of races this year. In the meantime I hope the running clubs start posting dates past February so I can start to plan ahead.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bridie Goldstein 5K - an Emerging Runner PR

RACE RESULT: Bridie Goldstein/MercyFirst 5K - 25:50 (PR)

The weather report said temperatures would be in the high 40's with winds gusting up to 50 MPH at the start of today's race. I was curious to see how that would translate in terms of running conditions. The weatherman said it could feel like freezing temperatures when the wind was that high. My wife surprised me on Wednesday with a gift of a Nike long sleeved running shirt and a pair of high quality compression running pants. I am no fan of Nike's shoes but I think their apparel is top notch. On Wednesday I was thinking that these clothes would be perfect for December's cold but this morning's weather made me think that today would be a good day to put them to use. I wore my Zoot short sleeve jersey over the new long sleeved shirt to ward of the sharp chill from the wind.

The race was was so close to home it only took us 5 minutes to get there. The winds were strong and it felt cold. Fortunately registration and the exhibits were set up inside the school so me, my wife and kids were able to stay warm up until a few minutes before the start. This year they had a category that included runners and their dogs so there were many woofs heard among the runners. Smartly, they had the dog participants leave two minutes after the two-legged start. It was chilly at 10 AM and we got off fast because the course starts downhill. I was careful to maintain a moderate-to-brisk pace as I had learned a lesson in previous races that a fast start can lead to a painful finish. The length of a 5K gave me some latitude for pushing hard compared with a 5 miler or 10K and I did make my way by a number of people over the first mile. Unlike other races, I didn't get the feeling that what lay ahead would be painful. However, I was concerned that so many cars were driving on the main roads while we ran alongside. Happily there were no close calls.

The course had a few hills that I thought might prove difficult but I came through them comfortably and even passed a few people during those segments. At one point, when I was a mile from the end, I started wishing the race was longer because I was enjoying the experience so much. I did get passed by a few people including some very fit runners who had dogs on a tether. After starting mid-pack I finished in the top 20% so for once I enjoyed the experience of passing more people than passed me. At the end I sprinted the last 100 yards to beat out two runners to the finish, one of whom had overtaken me right before that. As I ran past the finish line I saw my family waiting and cheering loudly: my payoff for that extra effort.

So November Emerging Runner beat May Emerging Runner by a decisive margin today. I'm pleased by that and proud of the six races that I've run this year. Next year I will likely race at some distances I ran in 2009 and I'll have a chance to beat myself at 4 miles, 8K and 10K. But today I'll enjoy the 5K 'victory' and will revel in the fact that my performance is going in the right direction.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I am the man to beat

I'm kind of happy that my race this week didn't fall on Thanksgiving Day. Although there's a good chance that I'll do a bigger race next year on the holiday (Garden City or Prospect Park Turkey Trot) this year I could look ahead to two separate events, Thanksgiving with family and the Bridie Goldstein 5K on Saturday.

Among the many great things that come with running is the framework for self competition and the events behind that. Races are fun because they allow people to test themselves in a way that's hard to duplicate elsewhere. We gauge our success in business different ways and rarely do we get to see direct results from single activities. The opportunity to compete in a race is appealing because the stakes are low but the rewards are high. I don't really care how I do against the people that line up with me on race day. It's fun to pass people and annoying when others pass me in a race but in the end these folks are really just background color. The real competition is with myself.

Tomorrow's race will be the first time I compete at a distance that I've previously raced. I'll be looking to challenge my PR of 8:33 per mile. I really don't know how I'll do since most of my runs are at a slower pace and I am usually pleased if I'm able to break 9:00 per mile. I've typically done better than that during races and I attribute it to the instinctive process of keeping up with traffic. Yesterday I ran 3.6 miles at Stillwell on the perimeter trail of the open field. I managed a pace just under 9:00 per mile which is good because I tend to run more slowly on dirt than on pavement. Tomorrow's weather is supposed to be high 40's with strong winds. Those winds can both help and hurt. Either way I'll be facing myself on Saturday for the first time. May the best man win.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2.6 or 26? Feels the same to me.

It's Thanksgiving Day morning and I've spent some time thinking about whether I should finish my race-taper with a final run, an elliptical session or simply take two days rest. Yesterday was a busier day than expected, my son accompanied me to the office and at lunchtime we spent a lot of time walking around mid-town. I was wearing my new loafers that lack arch support and also rub against my small toes so my feet were in tough shape when I got home at 5:00 PM. I didn't run that morning because I'd originally thought I'd get home earlier in the afternoon and I'd do a run then. When I did get home I felt tired and largely unmotivated to run. After some self-debate I decided to go out for a few miles in the hope that exercise would stimulate some energy. I set out for a neighborhood run and covered 2.6 miles at a mid-9 pace. Through most of the run I felt like I was running uphill carrying a pack, my legs felt weighed down and I was genuinely fatigued. When I arrived back home and looked at the time and distance I saw that I covered the same distance as a typical 4:00 AM run but it felt far longer. It's an exaggeration but you could have moved the decimal point on my distance reading one position to the right and I wouldn't have felt much different.

I've decided to head over to Stillwell Woods a little later this morning to do some laps around the big field. Four times around equals 3.4 miles, a perfect last run before my race, on a forgiving surface. This morning Adventure Girl will be running in the Turkey Trot in Prospect Park in Brooklyn with a friend from the 182 mile Ragner Relay race team she captained earlier this year. I would love to do that race some time. I understand Prospect Park is an amazing place to run and that the event is really well done. Today I'm happy to just get out and enjoy the Stillwell course. I'll rest on Friday and then run the Bridie Goldstein 5K on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Best guess how to dress

This weekend I played around with the Runner's World feature that provides suggestions on how to dress for different weather conditions. I was curious because I sometimes underestimate how many layers I should wear during a run in the cold. Since I'd rather be too cool than too hot my default has been to wear clothes that will be comfortable for most of the run, even it that meant a chilly first mile. This has worked most of the time but I've been fooled once or twice when the wind turned a mildly uncomfortable run into torture. I thought that the RW "What should I wear?" widget would be a helpful way of determining the right set of gear. My experience with the app was mixed. Though it did represent a logical set of clothing and accessories based upon specified conditions it seemed like there was little difference on recommendations whether the temperature was 15 degrees and mild versus -15 degrees and windy. From experience I know those conditions require a completely different set of gear.

I went out this morning for an easy 2.3 miles. I wore both short and long sleeve tech jerseys and tight running shorts with my Brooks lightweight running hat and gloves. That was probably more than the RW app would recommend  but it was comfortable for the 48 degrees. I plan to run tomorrow and then do a final 30 minute+ run on Thursday, rest on Friday and race on Saturday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

So exercise and healthy eating is not enough?

In reading through New England Runner Magazine I came upon an article by a nutritionist about the balance between activity and diet. The writer's point was interesting, summed up with this quote: "[M]any runners burn far fewer calories than they realize, they are actually couch potatoes the majority of the day." Her position is that the average person sits over nine hours per day and even competitive runners exist in a cycle of activity, rest and recovery where R&R may be proportionately much higher than exercise. According to the article, a study of senior citizens showed that one additional hour of exercise a day with no additional food intake yielded no reduction in body fat. Supposedly the subjects failed to lose weight because they slept more and were more sedentary throughout the day.

If this is truly the case I'd expect to see more runners with weight problems. Perhaps there are. It's hard to gauge the fitness of other runners by sight. Aside from the ripped Ironman tri-athlete types who clearly focus on constant activity it's challenging to know just by looking. I'm thin and run with what I think is good form but I've been passed in races by people who I would never guessed were runners (and competitive ones at that).

So fitness is clearly more complicated than exercise and diet. All the same, I did lose a good deal of weight that way. I suppose I could introduce even more activity into my daily routine to better balance the sedentary/active ratio. In the end it would only mean my new pants, shirts and suits would need to be replaced yet again. Frankly, I'd prefer having a percentage point or two of body fat over another round of clothes buying and tailoring.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happiness on the Stillwell trails

Click Replay to watch my route animated

I was bound and determined to break out of my neighborhood for a run this weekend. Yesterday's run was great but I've been missing the trails a lot. This morning I headed over to Stillwell Woods for a change of pace and I figured that a few hills could only help my conditioning. For those not familiar with Stillwell, here is a nice pictorial that I found online. The weather was beautiful, mid-40's with sun and no wind. I set out with only one goal: to go farther north than I'd ever gone before on that course.

Stillwell is a dense collection of tracks with many turnarounds and many technically challenging ascents and descents. There are lots of areas within the preserve that have different surfaces (sand, rocks, dirt/mud). I don't have the greatest sense of direction but I can guess fairly accurately based on the position of the sun and the time of day. At least I thought I could. I consciously focused on my start position in relationship to where I was headed. The trails split often and taking a left fork will often as not wrap around and take you completely in another direction after a few hundred yards. Despite my guess that I was heading northeast, I was on a southeast vector until I recognized a trail and changed direction.

Eventually I headed east and north and achieved my original goal. I chose a number of single track trails that I would have avoided in the summer because of the narrowness and overgrowth. I encountered some steep rocky hills that my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards dispatched with ease. It was quite by accident that I came so close to the northeastern corner because I thought I was heading back to my point of origin (west) as I made my way east. I stopped after about three miles to let a bunch of mountain bikers through a tight area and I checked my compass to discover I was far off from where I expected to be.

After heading back I reached the large open field that sits west of the treed majority of the preserve. After all that dense woods and uncertain navigation it felt like I was on a plane that had broken through heavy cloud cover to reveal the airport below. I felt so strong and energized that I ran past the exit to the athletic field in favor of tearing across the open field for a mini-cross country run. I ended up running around that open field one more time and I used a runner in the distance to pace me until I exited where I'd originally started. In all I covered a little less than 5 miles and still felt like I had more to give. I'm really fortunate to have an amazing place like Stillwell so close to my home.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A recovery run turns speedy

I had a tough day on Friday that included lab tests from my annual checkup. As the day went on I realized that I was too worn out to do my daily run. After getting a decent night's sleep I woke up early and considered my running options: long or short, street or trail, near or far. I've wanted to run at Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Neck which is drivable in less than 15 minutes (and probably much less at 6:00 AM on a Saturday) and thought today might be the day. On further thought, with yesterday's blood tests, I was concerned about pushing too hard while running alone so I decided to stay local and just run in the neighborhood.

My thought was to run at whatever pace felt okay because I wanted to cover at least four miles. I wasn't interested in any hill training this morning so I set a course through my main neighborhood with the thought that I'd do some loops close to home and expand my distance based upon how I felt. I did a five minute elliptical session prior to the run to gauge my energy level and I think that served as a nice warm-up to my workout. For a change of pace I took along my iPhone and ran MotionX to capture the route via GPS. I started by trying AllSport GPS but I couldn't acquire a signal so I switched apps. The MotionX did an okay job but, as usual, it was off because it cut corners. My Garmin said I covered 4.4 miles at 9:00/mile and I Gmapped the run and that said the route was actually 4.53 miles for a pace of 8:46. That's more like it. I liked the feel of the run and I felt that I could have gone a bit harder if I needed to. Perhaps the energy of the race will allow me to pick up 15 seconds per mile next Saturday for a new PR.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on my upcoming 5K

I'm working from my home today and due to my schedule I was not able to run this morning. So far this week, even including Sunday, I've run less than ten miles. I don't know if I'll have a chance to get out today so this will likely be a low mileage week. That may be a good thing since I spent most of last week feeling tired during my runs. I'd really like to go out for a long trail run this weekend for a change of pace but I also feel like this is the last chance I'll have to train for my 5K. I looked up the layout of the course and saw that it's relatively flat but there are a couple of good hills along the way. It may be a good idea for me to try some hill training at the industrial park at some point. I also plan to get home early on Wednesday so perhaps that's the time to do that as a last hard workout prior to the race.

Saturday will be the last time I race in 2009 and it will be the 6th time I've participated in an organized race this year. Saturday's 5K will be the second time I've raced that distance this year so I have an opportunity for a new PR. The last time I raced a 5K I did it at 8:33 and won 2nd place in my age division (it clearly wasn't a competitive field) so I'd really like to beat that time if I could. On the other hand it might be fine to go out and just have fun and enjoy a race close to home with my family there to cheer me on. Right now my competitive spirit is winning so I think I'll do that hill training. I need to look at the race calendar to see what's happening in early 2010.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Easy does it, apparently

I'm thinking about how best to use the nine remaining days before my 5K on the 28th. I've had some second thoughts about this race that I've chosen over two others: the Garden City 5M Turkey Trot and the 5K Rob's Run (XC) 5K Race that's run by the GLIRC. I believe all three races are held on different days but I'm not yet at the level where I can run two (or three) races within days of one another. I chose the Bridie Goldstein race because it's local but, most importantly, because I didn't feel ready to run it last year at this time. My view of a 5K is much different now but I still see it as a challenge because I want to do better than my previous 5K pace of 8:33.

I celebrated a year and a day of the Emerging Runner with an elliptical session this morning. I wore my Garmin and HRM to see how a moderate workout on this machine compares with my daily run in terms of pulse rate. It turns out that it doesn't, despite ratcheting up the resistance I averaged about 15% lower overall compared to a typical run. I guess elliptical work is easier unless you set the machine high and maintain a faster speed than I normally attain. Maybe not as rigorous as a run but I still worked up a good sweat this morning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yeah, I'm STILL a runner

One year ago I posted my first entry for the Emerging Runner website. The headline was "Yeah, I'm a runner" which was a bit tongue and cheek because, at that point, I was about as much a runner as I was a blogger. In that first post I said "Actually I'm not much of a runner at this point but I want to be much better...I'm going to use this blog as a journal to remind myself of my progress and my definitions of success in the early stages of running. I'll talk about the technologies I'm using and the goals I'm setting." One year later I can, without irony, call myself a runner and a blogger.

It's been an amazing year since I first began documenting my experiences as a returning runner. Since November 18, 2008 I've participated in five races (plus a Fun Run), ran from NYC to Brooklyn and back, from NY to NJ over the GWB, followed the loops and the bridle trail in Central Park and traveled the Hudson bike path from midtown to Chambers Street. I've seen deer grazing as I ran the trails along the Old Croton Aqueduct and have been fortunate to discover great trail running close to home at Stillwell Woods, Bethpage and Belmont Lake. I've experienced the most beautiful ocean views during runs at Rehoboth Beach and on Cape Cod and I've seen Boston and Cambridge at dawn from the Harvard Bridge on the Charles River. I've run with friends and I've run alone and I've loved it both ways.

Along the way I've met great people through and through the Runner's World Loop. My humble site has grown to include columns by the Sedentary Man and Adventure Girl's Running Gone Wild. We even have a running product site with Runner's Tech Review that has gained some good readership. So 378 posts and 11,000 visits from 84 countries later, the Emerging Runner dotcom moves into it's second year. To commemorate that I've changed a few things because change keeps things interesting. It's been a great year and I have many people to thank for that. I'll start with my wife and kids for being so interested and supportive about both my running and blogging. They are great running partners in so many ways. I'll thank Adventure Girl for everything she has taught me and for helping me make the city my second running home. Thanks to my brother who has been a faithful reader and commenter, to my dad for indulging me in my running stories and to my friends who make me feel good about what I am doing and what I have accomplished.

So a year has gone by and I'm still running. I ran today at 4:00 AM and enjoyed the peace and energy of the experience. The suffering not so much. I see running differently one year later but the core of it remains the same. Yeah, I'm a runner and I think that's a pretty good thing to be.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The call of the running club

I picked up a copy of New England Runner on my way home last night. I read this magazine for the first time after the Cape Cod Marathon where they gave out copies at the Expo. It's an interesting publication that serves a good purpose: covering the many local races in NE with some overlap into NY, including LI. The writing is secondary to the subject matter, more like a newsletter than a magazine, although they do have some feature articles. It really demonstrates how many people run and race and how much of running involves a community of runners. I have not joined a local running club because I'm concerned that it will take up time that I want to spend with my family. All the same, there may be reasons to do it. If my family thinks it's worthwhile I will consider doing that next year.

I got out this morning for a run. Conditions were just right, cold but not freezing, breezy but not windy. I'll credit the treadmill on Sunday for one thing - it forced me to pay attention to pace. I've defaulted to running at equilibrium, whatever pace felt right was the one that I maintained. The problem is that to improve performance it isn't about feeling right. It's about pushing to the point of suffering. I went out at a brisk pace and although I didn't switch the display on the Garmin to "pace" I knew I was pushing faster than usual. In the end I covered 2.3 miles at around 9:00/mile which is good for me at 4:00 AM.

With 11 days to my next race I need to keep pushing. 9:00 per mile works fine for early morning running  but I want to do a lot better than that for my 5K.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Save the date

Although it seems much longer than a year, November 18 will mark the first anniversary of The Emerging Runner. I've been able to remember the date because it's the day after my brother's birthday. With the feeling that the years go by faster and faster (helped along by the increasingly early marketing of the winter holiday season) I'm pleased to think about all the nice time I've spent over the last year. It seems like a very long time since I hit the "publish" button and began to share my experience as runner returning to the sport. I'll write more about this on the 18th. I don't have any big surprises planned for the occasion but there are still a couple of days to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sedentary Man is updated

Please make sure you check out Sedentary Man's latest column. The blog roll is not properly updating on this page but there's some new content up there. As always, SM amuses.

The Treadmill: once every five months sounds about right

It's been over five months since I last stepped on a treadmill. That date was May 27, 2009 and up until then I was doing all my weekday runs indoors. I grew increasingly weary of the treadmill process. The tedium of running without going anywhere with only the clock s-l-o-w-l-y ticking off the minutes to distract me just got to be too much. After complaining about it on a daily basis AG suggested that I try running outdoors instead and she lent me her headlamp to try it out. I did my first 4:00 AM run on June 2, 2009 and I've never looked back. That is until this morning when I ran 3. 31 miles on a Precor treadmill at our hotel in Boston.

My wife is a dedicated treadmiller and she manages to get through a rigorous workout just about every day. I admire her dedication and effort and I'm amazed that she's able to reach a zen-like state that requires no distractions to get through her daily efforts. I need my view to change, and change often, which is one reason why I never do the same route twice and why I love the trails. This morning, as I ramped up the speed on the Precor, it all came back to me like a bad dream. The heat and humidity of the fitness center. The lack of visual stimulation. The fear of a misstep on the tread. The #$%^& safety button that I hit three times during my run by accident that caused the motor to abruptly slow until I frantically restored my speed. On the positive side I had some fun playing with the excellent incline features and by toggling between the pace, speed and distance displays that distracted me to some degree. I pushed my speed pretty well, maintaining a pace between 8:15 to 8:45 per mile.

Our trip was really great and we saw some good friends as well as my brother, sister-in-law and their two great kids. The weekend went by fast but that's because it was one great moment after another. In all I only covered 6.75 miles over the two days but the runs were great in their own ways. I'll be so happy to be back on the road for my next run. High-end treadmills notwithstanding, there's nothing like seeing the world go by while you're running.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pre-travel run

I'm excited to be traveling to Boston this weekend to see friends and family. My kids are especially excited to see their two year old cousins (one of whom is a dedicated Emerging Runner reader). We were in Massachusetts just a few weeks ago for the Cape Cod Marathon relay event and it always feels like going home.

Since the day will be taken up with travel and social activities I decided to get out early for a run. Although the temperature said 53 degrees on the news this morning I've learned by now that the level of cold can be deceiving, especially with the strong winds we've been experiencing this week. It was dark when I went out so I wore my headlamp and took along my ASICS lightweight windbreaker/raincoat in anticipation of the cold and light rain. It stayed dry but the chill was there in force. It was an interesting experience in terms of wind, direction and effort. I had the strong wind at my back when going uphill on some long roads and the reverse on others. I was wondering if the two balanced out or if one condition was more of a factor than the other. All told I covered 3.5 miles in about 32 minutes at 9:20. I thought I was pacing a bit better than that so maybe the wind was more of a factor than I realized. The good news is that I felt great throughout the run. I may find myself on a hotel treadmill tomorrow morning. This would be the first time I'd run on a treadmill in memory. Seriously, I'd have to go back to my records to see the last workout marked "treadmill" because its been that long. Well, if I must go that way at least it will be on a high-end unit. A little change might be fun. That's what I'll keep telling myself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My favorite app (hint: it has something to do with running shoes)

Without a doubt my favorite iPhone app is the Runner's World Shoe Shop. This free app has a simple interface that enables quick navigation across the 250 or so running shoes reviewed by the magazine. The company that created this app, NearbyNow, has a holiday gift guide featuring items from retailers and fashion magazines that works in the same way as the shoe app but the content isn't very rich. I give Runner's World a lot of credit for its elegant implementation that includes some nice store and price finder features.

I don't know exactly why I like running shoes so much. It may be due to my interest in technology or the fact that there seems to be so many interesting differentiators between models and brands. I'll never be a competitive runner but I want to do the best I can and it all starts with the shoe. I think it's interesting that when I made my commitment to running a year ago I simply put myself at the mercy of a Foot Locker sales person who sold me a pair of Nikes with no conversation about how I run or whether I pronate. Those shoes worked okay until I reached 300 miles where I began to have problems with my left leg. Those problems exacerbated to the point that I debated running a 5K in trail shoes to avoid further injury.

Looking back, those Nikes were decent shoes and I did end up running the 5K in them, coming in 2nd in my age category. I retired them the next day once I purchased the Brooks GTS-9 Adrenalins. The Brooks did not impress me right away but after almost 400 miles they've never given me a problem (except for the occasional pinching issue at the top of my foot). I check in with the Runner's World Shoe Shop on a daily basis looking for information that will guide me to my next pair. I wish it had more updates and covered more of the specialty brands like Newton but I'm still very pleased with what they offer today. Plus, the price is right.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tired of being tired

This morning was only a few degrees colder than yesterday but the dry air made it seem much chillier when I stepped out to run. The winds were back and particularly biting when they hit straight on from the north. I put my head down and headed out despite the feeling that, once again, I could use rest more than exercise.

I was talking to a friend at work on Tuesday about an ex-colleague and highly accomplished runner who used to take a full week out of every month off from running. It clearly worked for him but I suspect that in the other three weeks of the month he trained far harder and covered far more distance than I do in four. Since I ran this morning I've felt a little tired, head-achy and slightly dizzy. I've tried the coffee cure (double shot from the Keurig machine, repeat as necessary) that has resulted in a slight improvement but I can't shake the feeling that I'm coming down with something.

A number of years ago I frequently caught colds and at least once a month I was taking cold medicine to battle the symptoms. At that time I was single, living in NYC and keeping crazy hours. My sister gave me some vitamins and told me to take them for 30 days to see if I saw any improvement. The result was 30 days without a cough or the sniffles and I've taken a daily multivitamin ever since. The combination of that plus being in very good condition has helped me ward off most everything over the last year. I'm concerned that my immune system is just delaying the inevitable and what feels like something small is really the flu trying to take hold. I'm probably making more of it than I should but I was disappointed to feel weak and tired today after taking two rest days on Monday and Tuesday. I may take another rest day tomorrow if I wake up feeling the same way. Maybe my colleague had it right by folding much more rest into the mix. It seems worth a try.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good rest: Good run

I'm hoping I've finally broken out of my fatigue cycle and that I'm finally in balance in terms of early morning and late day energy. I got to bed at a reasonable hour last night and woke up seven hours later feeling rested. It took me a little longer than usual to get ready for my run but I hit the streets by 4:05 AM feeling okay. The local news was posting a temperature of 54 degrees so I dressed accordingly. I included an extra top layer that came in handy within the first 30 seconds when I turned up a street and was hit with a wall of wind. It felt slightly humid outside and I expected to sweat. Accompanying the strong wind was a fine misty rain. It actually felt nice to be outdoors and I made my way around the neighborhood, keeping a moderate pace.

I try to vary my routes daily and the trick is managing the time and distance so that I finish up at home, on schedule. I occasionally find myself a little too far away when I'm reaching my time limit and this requires me to really push for the last half mile or so. I ended up covering 2.5 miles this morning in around 23 minutes. Not my greatest run but a credible effort that told me my energy levels have been fully restored. After really crashing at the end of the day yesterday I'm less of a believer in FRS although I probably need to give it more time to provide tangible benefits. Without a doubt, I've found a good night's sleep to be the best energy supplement for running.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thinking about 2010 running goals

I'm not sure if it's due to a lack of rest or if my weekend running pushed me past my limits but I have been mighty tired over the last couple of days. I didn't plan to run on Monday because that's always been my rest day. I instituted that early this year as part of my 2009 running goals and I have stuck to it with beneficial results. After falling asleep on the train ride home last night I decided to string two rest days together and skip my workout this morning in the name of true recovery. It was the right thing to do and I got an extra hour's sleep plus another 30 minutes on the train ride in. I had my second can of FRS this morning and I feel alert and ready for what should be a very busy day. I noticed that each 11.5 oz can contains only 25 calories so I looked more closely at the ingredient list and saw that FRS contains sucralose. I guess I'm okay with that since the stuff tastes fine and it isn't cloyingly sweet.

I've started thinking about my 2010 running goals now that we are in the last two months of the year. I may have made the current year's goals a little too easy since I achieved them all by August so I'll need to throw some "stretch goals" into the mix. One goal will definitely relate to pace and another to distance. One should include a new running experience of some kind. I'll think more about it and will post 2010 goals in December. I'm still not sure about whether to take on the challenge of a half marathon and if I do I'll need to figure out how to do that without adding more training time. The most important thing to do is keep an optimal balance between work, family and training. So far, so good.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tempted by choices at DSW

Four days out of the week I wear a suit to work but on Fridays I usually wear more comfortable "business casual" clothing. I usually wear a pair of Bass loafers on those days and I noticed some scuffing recently that prompted a visit to DSW to look for a new pair. DSW is a huge shoe store that sits imposingly high above the other stores in the area. Downstairs are hundreds of women's shoes and bags on display. My wife told me, amused, that they were selling a pair of shoes "discounted" to $800. Overall, the prices were actually very good and most everything else was priced well. I headed upstairs to look for new loafers but the athletic shoe section caught my eye and I spent some time with my son looking at and trying on some nice models from Saucony, ASICS, Brooks, Mizuno and others.

These weren't the low end models that you always find on sale at Sports Authority. They had ASICS Kayano-14's for $89.00 (but not in my size) and Brooks Trance 8's for $99 that were in my size. I tried the three Mizuno models, some Saucony trail shoes (really nice fit) and a few assorted others. It's obvious why the shoes were cheap - they were last year's models or older - but if I was ready to buy I would have been happy with the choices. My son, the 10 year old grownup, finally laid down the law and made me look at loafers. I found a nice pair at a good price and left happy. I would have liked those Trance 8's too. Maybe next time.

Later in the day we all headed to the track. My wife didn't have an opportunity to fit in her workout that morning and my daughter wanted to run. I took the opportunity to run some easy laps that I alternated with faster paced segments. I also did a few 200m "sprints" at around 7:15/mile. It was a far quicker pace than I normally run but slow enough to prevent any injuries. Overall it was a very nice weekend for running and the cool, maple-scented air added much to the experience. I'm thinking of taking tomorrow as a rest day and then start focusing on my readiness for my 5K race on the 28th.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

FRS Healthy Energy fueled run

My experience with energy drinks, while limited, has been fairly negative. I've tried Red Bull once and had no reaction except to be surprised by its vile taste. I tried a sample of Max Muscle Barracuda that was included in my goody bag from the Dirty Sock 10K race that resulted in a sluggish run at Stillwell Woods. More recently I've followed a few runs with Myoplex shakes that were included in the goody bags from the Cape Cod Marathon and found it to be a nice recovery supplement.

Yesterday, while we were out, I spotted a four-pack of FRS Healthy Energy drink that was on sale for $5.99, $2.00 off its regular price. I was interested in this product because magazines like Men's Journal have touted it as different and better than the other energy drinks out there. The company claims that its key ingredient, quercetin, is a powerful antioxidant and the other supplementary ingredients provide energy without the "roller-coaster" effect brought on by drinks that use caffeine and taurine to create an energetic rush.

I tried a can of cold FRS in Low Cal Wild Berry flavor. It was pleasant tasting and I didn't see any artificial sweeteners in the ingredient list. I gave myself about 20 minutes before setting out and I did feel pretty good as I started my run. After about a minute I needed to stop to adjust the tongue and laces of my right show that were uncomfortably pressing on the top of my foot. It's a problem I often have with my Brooks and although I love the shoes I really need my next pair to have a longer and wider tongue to spread the pressure to the sides. Once corrected I restarted and made my way to neighborhood #4 and beyond with part of my route through a four inch layer of dry fallen leaves that were fun to run through but made quite a racket in the process. At around the 15 minute mark I began to feel a little fatigued and my breathing was a little off. This was unusual because my breathing has become very consistent over the past year and I usually never think about it. I figured correctly that I'd get my second wind at around the 22 minute mark and I proceeded to cover about 3.3 miles at around 9:10 min/mile but I was fairly breathless after a semi-sprint for the last quarter mile.

I'll continue to experiment with the remaining cans of FRS and I think it is supporting an enhanced post-run energy level. The lesson I've learned is that, for me, the best pre-run energy drink is a cool glass of water.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The great (internal) debate

I've been reading the December issue of Runner's World and I'm finding a lot of great stuff. I love this magazine and I'm always excited when I get a new issue. There's a lot in the front section about preparing for winter running. I'm interested in that because I want to get through the season without losing any fitness but I am extremely adverse to treadmill running. I'm concerned about days when I'm greeted with a blanket of snow on the ground and 18 degree temperatures. I'm thinking about purchasing some Yak-Trax so I can go outside on days that would normally require an indoor workout.

I've had some tough runs this week and AG, who is the best coach I've ever had regardless of sport, suggested that I skip this weekend's runs so that I can fully recover from the Cape Cod Relay and last week's seven mile bike trail run. Skipping a run during the week is always a self-debate but ultimately an easy decision. My weekend runs mean something different to me and I really look forward to them throughout the week. In the past I've only skipped a weekend run day when resting for a Sunday race. Still, since AG recommended it, I needed to take that seriously. While I read through Runner's World this morning I saw a piece that reinforced the idea of maintaining a consistent running routine with the point that to maintain fitness the workout can still be easy.

The pleasure of a Saturday morning run plus the RW article tipped me toward running and I set off with the intention of going 30-35 minutes without regard to pace or distance. I dressed warmly since the temperature was 30 degrees and I didn't want to be tempted to run fast to warm up quickly. I felt very good and actually worked hard to keep my pace moderate. I covered parts of my neighborhood and parts of neighborhood #2 going 3.9 miles in about 37 minutes. I was surprised that my pace was mid 9:00 because it felt slower but I verified the distance on Gmaps. It was the best run I've had since the relay and although it wasn't taxing it produced the requisite level of endorphins to reinforce the value of the workout. I think I characterized this type of running as "comfort food miles" and that's how they felt today. I'm considering a very brief speed workout tomorrow (4 x 800m) if I feel strong. Otherwise I may just rest. Hopefully AG will approve!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cold and snag season

Although I should be used to it by now I'm still surprised to see TV commercials promoting Christmas shopping this early in the season. This week I'm starting to see a lot of them and it's only a few days since Halloween. I was still waking up to the expectation of heat and humidity on my run as recently as mid-October. Suddenly it's the holiday season and the morning temperatures are reinforcing that point, certainly with today's run. I've started to add layers to my usual outfit of running shorts and short sleeved jersey and I'm thinking that I still could use a thermal top for when things get really cold in January. The Champion tight running pants that are/were bargain-priced at Target are a good weight for now but I will need to switch to my Nike compression pants when the temperature drops. There are always regular running pants but I don't like using them until the weather gets really cold.

I had a couple of snags this morning, one literal, before and after my run. When I put on my reflective vest I saw that the plastic clip on one side had broken off so I had no easy way to connect the front and back. I ended up wedging an adjacent plastic piece into the receptor but that fix didn't hold for long. I stepped out and realized that the 37 degree temperature was misleading because there were some strong winds kicking up leaves and providing a chill that made it feel much colder than it was. I took off anyway and hoped I'd warm up quickly from running. The wind dislodged the clip on my vest so it became unstable and flew in front of my face each time I got a direct gust of cold air. I said to myself that today was about getting through the workout and I ended up covering 2.4 miles in a little over 22 minutes. Like my two other early morning runs this week I felt sluggish most of the way through. I wonder if I'm not well enough rested to do these runs this week.

When I returned home, I slipped through the garage into the den and one of my new ASICS gloves got snagged in the door of the mud room. I had to struggle to detach my hand from my glove in time to disarm the security alarm before the 120 decibel klaxons went off waking my family and the neighbors. Fortunately the delay provided enough time for me to do that. The last thing I needed was a discussion with the police who'd have been dispatched by our alarm company if the alarm actually did go off. I still need to figure out how to fix my vest for next week and I'll know to be very careful with my glove the next time I come back in from a run.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New running gear cures all ills

Yesterday I took a rest day from both running and posting. This has been a tough week for my company and I think it caught up to me on Wednesday both physically and psychologically. I felt exhausted when I woke up and I thought that there would be little to gain from running. My workday was busy and I considered writing a post over lunch but instead I decided to head over to City Sports to look for a couple of needed items. It was exactly what I needed to break out of my week's malaise. My morning runs used to be a perfect respite to the hot summer weather. I could count on cooler temperatures and, of course, no sun at 4 AM. Now it's darn chilly in the morning and while I have the gear to keep me comfortable there are a few things that could improve.

When I got to City Sports I noticed that they had really nice cold gear from ASICS, Brooks, Mizuno, Adidas and others. I'm always tempted by this stuff but I know that my less compelling but functionally competent cold gear would carry me through another season. What I really needed were a mid weight hat that would cover my ears but not affect the position of my glasses when I run. I found a Brooks Vapor 2 racing cap for a very good price and I was pleased to accomplish at least one task. Along the way I found a pair of ASICS Winter Run Hybrid gloves marked down to less than $10 (from $28) so I was happy about that. I spend a little more time looking at running shoes and saw they had some of the new ASICS models. They also had some excellent bargains on shoes in their clearance section. As much as I'd have liked to buy a pair of $140 shoes for 35% off it wasn't the right choice for me. I returned to the office happy with my purchases and felt better overall.

This morning I used the new hat and gloves on my run but they certainly didn't help my performance. It may be that I am fighting a cold or just over tired but through the entire run I felt like I had a tether holding me back. I couldn't generate much speed and I ended up covering 2.4 miles at a mid 9:00 pace. All the same I did get back out today and despite my sluggish run I liked the way the new cold gear performed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Daylight savings time doesn't help at 4:05 AM

The hype has calmed down around the NY Marathon but yesterday it was fun to see so many runners in city exploration mode. I figured that the group of Italian-speaking men on the subway wearing matching jackets and wearing high end running shoes had participated in the race. I saw many other people wearing their finisher's medals as they strolled around Rockefeller Center and I thought how great it must have felt to be exploring the city after accomplishing a marathon the day before. It's not the same but I carried a lot of pride and elation the week following the Cape Cod relay. This morning, on my way to the train station, I spotted at least three runners along the way. They may have been inspired by this weekend's events or were taking advantage of daylight savings time that allowed them to run with a lot more light at 6:00 AM than they had the previous week.

At 4:05 this morning it looked the same as it does every day although today I was helped by a full moon. It was 40 degrees and dry when I went out to run and ended up covering only 2.25 miles in 21 minutes. I went out slow and didn't speed up appreciably throughout the run owing to tiredness. All the same it was better than not running and I'll file today's workout under "maintenance run." I'll go out tomorrow and aim for a better pace. I should be running closer to 9 minute miles on a regular basis, especially without the excuses of heat and humidity.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween weekend running - no tricks, just treats

Compared to my usual weekly distance, I've covered a lot of miles this week including over 11 this weekend. I'm thinking that between now until the 28th (the date of my next race) that mileage will be less important than speed conditioning and leg strength. If I want to make a 5K PR I'll need to do better than I did yesterday. This might also be a good time to return to core exercise to strengthen my glutes and work on my right quad that tends to cramp on runs that exceed five miles.

It was a very fun Halloween weekend for the family and I was happy to relax and watch the NY Marathon coverage on DVR between other Sunday activities. At around 4:30 my daughter asked me to go for a run and despite the fact that I was psychologically finished with running until Tuesday I could not say no. We did our usual loop of 1.25 miles at a ten-something pace. Perfect for me because I could run at that speed without breaking a sweat in the 50 degree weather. As usual, we had a ball, the running was fun and the conversation was great. For the rest of the month I'll concentrate on speed instead of extra miles - unless the miles include other opportunities to run with my daughter.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Marathon day training run

After yesterday's fairly long and challenging run I thought about skipping it today in favor of an elliptical session or simply resting and running on Monday instead. After watching the coverage of the NY Marathon that started at 6:00 AM I knew I needed to get out and run, even for a short distance. I pre-planned a 5K run around my neighborhood and hoped to maintain a sub 9-minute pace. My route followed the boundary of my neighborhood until I cut into the streets about halfway around. I felt far better than I'd thought I might considering the length of yesterday's run and I consciously pushed myself to keep a brisk pace. Along the way I encountered a group of teens who were dressed for running and I hoped they would continue in my direction. I figured that a group of 17 year old runners would be great for pacing but they went a different way so I needed to pace myself the best I could. I checked my watch after 20 minutes and hoped that I was within seven minutes of finishing.

I ended up covering my distance at an 8:45 pace after pushing hard in the last quarter mile. I was actually surprised that my time was as slow as it was because I'd tried hard to move quickly throughout the run. It may be that I've put in a record number of miles since Sunday (28!) and I just didn't have enough left to draw upon today. I watched the marathon after my cool down and shower and was pleased to see that Meb Keflezighi, an American, won the the men's race. For the first time I appreciated watching this race with the perspective of a runner who has experienced competition. I don't mean that my experience is anything like those who covered five boroughs over 26.2 miles today. I hope, with a little rest and a lot more fast training runs, that I can be competitive in my upcoming 5K at the end of this month.

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